Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Splashing Sensations at San Diego Seaworld

Bordering Mexico, San Diego is one of the southernmost cities in California and the second largest in the State. On what must be one of the wettest day in Southern California - where it purportedly "never rains" according to Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood - we went on a trip to the world famous San Diego SeaWorld.

Occupying a sprawling 200 acres, the marine-based attraction supposedly sets the standard for similar aquatic destinations around the world like Hong Kong's Ocean Park and our own Underwater World. It features many daily shows, thrilling rides and marine animal encounters. To date, most than 80 million have visited this world class attraction.

How was our experience there? Well, the shows were pretty nifty but we wondered where the crowds were since the place was quite desolate.

The entrance to San Diego SeaWorld didn't look as cheery as we imagined - probably due to the continuous rain and howling winds.

Good thing they sold these nifty raincoats for about US$4 apiece.

First up for us was the Clyde and Seamore show, featuring two lovable California Sealions and a human cast of "sailors" and "crew members"...

...and a lovable 2 tonned Walrus, complete with brown whiskers and tusks. Ain't he/she cute?

A hands-on encounter is always a must at these places, and here we petted some friendly rays.

Would you believe that these fat and rotund Manatees (a close cousin to the Dugong at Underwater World) were once mistaken as mermaids? Hmmm... those sailors must surely be drunk! They were pretty serene though, happily munching their lettuces like all good manatees should.

We also viewed more typical marine creatures like these fishes occupying a coral reef habitat.

Like in all good attractions, a decent F&B place is a must. Here we tucked into some great cajun-inspired cooking at the Shipwreck Reef Cafe. Apparently, there are nine restaurants or cafes to choose from! Wow.

SeaWorld also had a full-fledged 3D theatre for those who preferred a more artificial aquatic experience. We caught this show featuring the lovable characters of Sesame Street which was fun but forgettable.

Of course, the star of the show must be Shamu the Killer Whale. Shamu even has a website with a webcam dedicated to him! Here's one for the cameras...

And another one, with a big splash to boot!

Finally, one to say goodbye to the audience.

If you miss Shamu and his killer whale pals, you can bring home cuddly versions of them from the numerous shops at SeaWorld. Merchandising is naturally a big thing here.

Not to be outdone are the smaller cousins of killer whales - the dolphins. Here you can see how empty the entire arena is, and we could choose practically any seat we wished. Some braver members of the audience chose those belonging to the "Splash Zone" where you were guaranteed a wet and wild time.

Dolphins are naturally friendly creatures, and they liked to come up close and personal to humans....

P1020201 times even behaving like humans. Eerie isn't it?

After giving it up for the marine mammals, our focus turned to the more misunderstood denizens of the deep.

As you can see, they are not called killing machines for nothing. A pity though that their reputation far exceeds their actual propensity for murdering man.

This is about as close as we dared to get to those gaping jaws. On a more serious note, sharks aren't really our enemies. There is really no reason for us to indulge in shark's fin soup this Chinese New Year.

On the contrary, the real killing machines are...

these "shoals" of man killing cars, each capable of disembowelling, crushing and bloodying humans at an alarming rate daily.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Mauled" by "Lions"!

.... good thing he managed to survive and even "triumph" over the mythical beasts!

Caught this interesting lion dance performance with a big-headed doll at the Jurong Bird Park recently.

Here's wishing all of you an Ox-traordinary year ahead!!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

How We Stretched Our Dollar in these Tough Times

Want to find out how to have fun despite the recession? Or to carry on living your daily lives despite the impending austere times ahead?

Well, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade! Or, in the words of an old Ikea ad: "You don't have to be rich to be clever."

Here are some tips from my family, complete with photographs.

Party at home and go potluck. Here are members of our family clan enjoying ourselves during Christmas at a condominium function room at my uncle's home.

Be a value shopper and suss out places that offer everyday low prices. NTUC Fairprice and Seng Shiong are good possibilities. For toiletries, this shop at level 3 of Block 34 Upper Cross Street (near OG) is a good bet.

Have a cheap haircut. The Fast Forward Salon at the same block offers haircuts at just $6 for adults, and $5 for kids like Ethan. And he still looks pretty spiffy after that!

Use red packets to create Chinese New Year decorations instead of buying everything. It is a good time for family bonding and an opportunity to exercise those creative brain juices.

You can also recycle old toys like this lion dance head and drum set to be a CNY decoration piece for your home. Errmm...the Mandarin oranges are new though.

For those who yearn for some outdoor fun, you can check out special packages like this 3 in 1 park offer from the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park.

Better yet, visit the Jacob Ballas Children's Garden at the Botanic Gardens for a free day of family fun. Its tree house is a hit with kids.

Naturally, our museums - like the child-friendly Singapore Philatelic Museum here - are great places for affordable family fun. Enjoy Free Entry to all NHB museums on 27 January (2nd day of CNY) which is coming up real soon!

There are other free entry museums that you can explore too, like the Civil Defence Heritage Gallery located on Hill Street....

P1010789 well as the Air Force Museum at Paya Lebar Road.

Do you have any tips on maximising your dollar during these tough times? Feel free to share them with me.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Finally Doing My Masters

Courtesy of snipergirl

In slightly over three weeks, I will be flying off to Melbourne to continue my education. I will be reading a Masters in Arts Management at the University of Melbourne, specialising in modules related to art history, museum history and philosophy as well as audience development, finance, strategic planning, organisational management and cultural policy.

This has been made possible through a scholarship courtesy of my organisation, which comes with a three-year bond. Looking at the financial situation as it is, it may not be that bad a deal although it did take me some time to mull over it.

While I have been working in the cultural field for coming to six years, I have never received a formal education in the arts before. My undergraduate degree was in life sciences (specifically botany), followed a couple of years later by a postgraduate diploma in marketing (done part-time).

I have considered various other options like pursuing an MBA or a Masters in Communication or Marketing (which is directly related to my work). However, I believe that those options are probably too similar to what I am familiar with to do me any major good. I also needed something that will stretch me mentally while providing the right context for my work, and this course seems fine.

As US's new president Obama has chorused, we need change in our lives. With this sabbatical, I hope to engage my grey matter in a refreshing manner, and to be imbued with fresh insights on work and life in general.

Will there be any changes to this blog? Well, I am still a marketer and publicist, and will be sharing my observations of what works and what doesn't from down under. I'll be away from Singapore from mid February all the way till end December (or later) but I'll still be updating my blog, facebook accounts and checking emails periodically so you'll know what's happening in my life.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Marketing Yourself during Interviews

Everybody knows that we are now in a recessionary economy. The diagnosis doesn't look good for the months ahead, and there may be further job losses in the horizon. It is also an employer's market now and good candidates are more readily available.

Against such a backdrop, it is more crucial than ever to present yourself in a positive light during job interviews. After working so hard to secure it battling with hundreds of other candidates (and it does get this plentiful), the last thing you need is to throw it all away by being ill-prepared.

So what should you look out for?

Dress Right for the Occasion

This is probably the most fundamental rule. If you are interviewing to an actor, actress or DJ, you can afford to come in something more flashy and glitzy. However, if you are trying to work in the area of public communications or marketing, formal attire (shirt and tie for guys, jacket for ladies) would suffice.

Do Your Homework on My Organisation

One of my pet peeves during interviews is having to deal with candidates trying to "smoke" their way through. I always ask them what they know about my organisation, and I am often amazed by the answers that I receive. Of course, those who not only surfed our website but made an effort to visit our institutions would score extra brownie points.

Better Yet.... Find out What's Happening in My World

As a publicist (and an information junkie), I am almost always updated on the news, particular the areas relevant to my work. Similarly, I expect candidates to at least know some of the key developments in my sector. A generic, off-the-cuff answer won't work as I will know if you are bluffing (unless you are that skilful). This also works for other businesses and professions.

Go Beyond Answering My Questions

Another tip is to showcase your knowledge and ideas about the areas of work before I pop the question. Monosyllabic "yes" or "no" answers are a great no-no, and I much prefer to chat with you rather than interrogate you like a hardened criminal. On top of that, surprise me with flashes of brilliance.

Passion, Energy and Hunger Helps

Ever interviewed a candidate who speaks as if he or she hasn't slept for days? Or those who are so shy that they answer your questions with downcast eyes? If you are hungry and enthusiastic about the job opportunity, then show it. Body language also reveal a lot about a person's attitude towards work and suitability for the post. Of course, there are some who are academic award nominees but that's another story altogether....

Go Beyond Speaking Words to Writing Them Down

A major plus point for another candidate keen on a job is to write down their ideas, proposed plans or suggestions for the organisation. Writing engages the mind and heart in a way that speaking doesn't do, and it also shows how serious a candidate is about the job. If you are hardworking prior to the interview, it is more likely that you won't be a slacker once you are in here.

Be Confident but not Overbearing

I like candidates coming to interviews brimming with confidence and knowing exactly what they are in for. It shows in their posture, the way they speak, and the readiness in which they reply your (sometimes) difficult questions. However, don't rattle away like a LOUD machine gun and give me a verbal thesis of your thoughts. Verbal diarrhea isn't really welcome in my books.

Show and Tell Works but Keep It Brief

A good habit amongst candidates is to bring samples of their previous work, filed neatly and run through them with the interviewers. Naturally, this shows a different dimension to one's abilities in a more concrete form. However, do be succinct when doing so and not bore the interviewer to tears when he or she has obviously seen enough.

Read My Body Language

Finally, it is good if you can gauge my level of interest in you and act accordingly. Visible signs of boredom or impatience include me peering down at my handphone, or looking at clock on the wall, or flipping through the interview folders and looking distracted. As time is really not on my side, brevity in speech would be an advantage.

When the going gets tough, it is important to pay special attention to all the little things during job interviews. Your livelihood depends on it, so that extra effort works.

Monday, January 12, 2009

We'll Teach You To Skate But Not To Spell


Spotted this standee somewhere at People's Park Complex recently. I wonder how the English teacher of the guy/girl who has copywritten this must feel.

If you are a potential customer of this business - which is a possibility since the advertisement proclaims that anybody from 1 to 70 can be their client - would you be convinced by this advertising message?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

If You Think You Are Stuck in a Rut...

...then imagine how the driver of this vehicle would feel like. Perhaps its a good way to save money on parking fees? Or to test one's stunt driving skills...


Took this shot from a bus as I was on my way home with my trusty Panasonic Lumix LX-3 (the same camera I used for my US holiday shots).

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Lights, Cameras and Action!


Located at tinseltown Hollywood itself, Universal Studios is one of the must-visit attractions on any visitor's itinerary. This world famous attraction comprise both a real working film and TV studio as well as a theme park. Split over two different levels and set on a hillside, Universal Studios is considered by many to be the quintessential LA experience, although trying to catch the stars themselves probably requires a fair amount of luck. All of its rides, shows and thematic experiences are closely linked to either movies or television programmes.

Enough talk. Let's roll the cameras!

Like any theme park, brightly coloured thematic decor abounds here.

This is probably as close to some of these stars that we can get!

Our first stop for the day was the world-famous studio tours, where we encountered innocuous looking boxy buildings like these studios here...

P1010870 well as exciting movie sets and special effects. These cars actually "exploded" in flames and "danced" later.

Look out, the Hoover Dam has burst and we are being flooded over!

Movie realism never got closer than this, when an entire aeroplane was destroyed for the movie "The War of the Worlds". Even the smoke seemed authentic.

Ending off the tour on a happier note were these performers recreating a scene from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" which seemed to be the holiday theme.

To experience the secret of Hollywood's movie magic, we went on a tour of the Special Effects stage and were treated to quite a few laughs by the animated hosts.

This authentic inferno in an industrial warehouse was recreated in the Backdraft behind-the-scenes tour.

Naturally, we had to catch some of the shows and rides. First stop was the Terminator 2: 3D show which involved both real actors and a 3D movie.

Next was the multi-million dollar extravaganza WaterWorld, which impressed with real life explosions, water blasts, and even an aeroplane which came crashing through!

For the young and young at heart, there is the Shrek 4D show.

As well as the Simpsons Ride, which was one enjoyable and thrilling experience.

We also visited this House of Horrors, which featured many dark and sinister "characters" like Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, Zombies and Werewolves. Unfortunately, Ethan got really scared and we had to beat a hasty exit.

Being close to Christmas, everybody had to have some snowy fun and this was possible with a snow making machine on site.

These performers outside the Blues Brothers stage added to the yuletide cheer, involving members of the audience.

Of course, there were lots of mascots walking about. Here's Sponge Bob...

...and Dora. Two favourites among pre-schoolers.

Well, Ethan preferred somebody more "docile" and less "active".

At night, we went on tour of nearby Hollywood Boulevard, and took some pictures at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. This was the famous red-carpeted location for many glittery star-studded affairs.

We also took some photos as the Walk of Fame, where wannabe movie producer posed beside John Woo's imprints.

We finally encountered some "stars" - in this case Batman and the Joker having a friendly chat. Unfortunately, we didn't have the US$1 needed to take a picture with them (yeah these guys do this for a living).