Saturday, November 2, 2013

Album Review: Kelvin Kwan's "Breakout"

Kelvin Kwan's star continues to shine with "Breakout", his latest and best album yet.

The singer has matured significantly over the years and found the different musical styles that fit him, and "Breakout" shows this. The 8-song album provides a mix of the angst-ridden pop rock Kelvin successfully experimented with in "Occupation", emotion-filled mid tempo numbers, and slower, sweeter songs. Kelvin shows great range in his voice and musical style without including a traditional slow ballad already so often seen in Cantopop.

A closer look...

"Breakout" opens with "手刃情人/Busting My Lover", which bears a similar feel to "People of My Generation" musically wise, but speaks of pain towards a lover. Kelvin's voice and emotions are very raw here and present a different level of intensity than his previous songs.

My personal favorite from the album though is easily second track "你永遠是對的/You Are Forever Right." The mid tempo and melancholic song shows off Kelvin's range and emotion along with a great and moving musical composition. The MV elevates the power and message of the song, but suffers a setback due to Chrissie Chau's mediocre acting.

"一體兩面/Integrated Both Sides" has a slight space-like trance from its beats and arrangement. Although slower than the other songs on the album, it boosts a very serene vibe with a hint of mystery.

"孱弱/Fragile" is a song that takes what Kelvin experimented with from "Occupation" and "People of My Generation" and makes it even better. The song starts off slow with a gentle sadness before going into an angst-ridden and emotional number. This is arguably his best single to date. A more in-depth song review can be found here.

Kelvin once again goes rock with "偉大領袖/The Great Leader", only this time sheds the excessive angst for an upbeat and catchier tune.

"隻字不提/Not Mentioning a Word" is the only song that comes closed to being a ballad on the album, but also one of the less impressive. The arrangement is still very nice and Kelvin never fails to show his range in slow songs like this.

Coming in as another personal favorite of mine is "空氣公園/Air Park," a sweet, relaxing and dreamy song. Kelvin's vocals sound very warm here, putting a smile on your face. It has a very strong calming effect with its thoughtful feel.

The album closes with "舊好/The Old Good," another slower track with a very relaxing and serene vibe. It is an uplifting song with a lovely orchestral and band arrangement, which serves as a nice and sweet way to end the album.

Overall, the album shows great strides in Kelvin Kwan as an artist. "Breakout" reaffirms my confidence in Kelvin as a mainstay in today's Cantopop industry, which is in need of someone with edge and a flair for experimentation like him. He has surpassed everyone's previous low expectations of him as little more than a washed up idol and blown everyone out of the water with his genuine talent. "Breakout" is his most mature and best work yet as well as one of the most consistent and enjoyable albums of the year. I know I will continue to be impressed by him.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Saturday, July 13, 2013

"Till the World Ends" Episode 5

Raymond quickly grabbed a seat on the couch in the dance studio. He had been rehearsing choreography for his upcoming concert for the last four hours and was eager for a break. He had just started to let his eyes close when his manager Tammy came running in.

“Raymond, you have to be at a promotional event today at 6PM,” Tammy informed him.

“What?” Raymond quickly sat up in his seat. “You never toldme anything about an event today Tammy! I thought tonight was supposed to be my night off?”

“I know and I’m sorry, but this was a last minute arrangement and the more exposure you can get before your concert, the better,”she replied.

 “Alright. I guess I’ll have to miss dinner with my friends,” he sighed, and took out his cell phone to text Myolie to tell the others he won’t be able to make it tonight.

The promotional event wasn't anything out of the ordinary. Raymond sang two songs and proceeded to listen to the host drown on and on about the organization he runs, which honestly did not sound very reputable or well-meaning as he tried to make it. Afterwards, he went to get a cocktail and quietly snuck over to a less hectic side of the room. He always enjoyed singing, but he was almost always a little overwhelmed by the grandness of everything and just wanted a little quiet to himself.

"Hey, you were great up there," a female voice said. Raymond felt a tap on his arm and escaped from his trance to see a tall, curvaceous woman in her mid 20s in front of him. Her Cantonese was highly accented, but in kind of a cute way. Must be from Mainland, he thought.

"Thanks," he muttered out of obligation.

"You don't sound very enthusiastic now," she said playfully. "Anything wrong?"

"Oh sorry, I didn't mean to sound rude," Raymond replied, embarrassed. "I just wanted a little quiet, these events can be a little much," he said.

"I hear you, my feet are killing me," she said, reaching down to rub her ankle. She was wearing spiky 4-inch heels that actually looked like they could kill her.

"Why don't you just take them off?" Raymond asked her nicely.

She laughed, handling his comment as a friendly joke. "Right, because that would look so professional in front of all these people. Not to mention, who ever heard of a model who doesn't treat wearing heels like it's second nature?"

"No I'm serious," Raymond replied, and gently put one hand on her waist and moved her farther back in the room, then stood in front of her, mostly blocking her from other people's view. "Here, now you can give your feet a break without anyone noticing," he said with a mischievous smile.

"Thanks," she said, and laughed, with a smile as sweet as honey emerging on her face. "I'm Margaret, Margaret Zhao," she introduced, extending her hand to Raymond.

Raymond took her hand and shook it. "I'd introduce myself but..." he started.

"No introduction is needed," Margaret finished with a playful smile, and Raymond smiled back.

"Margaret, we have to go, the car's here!" called a middle aged woman, who approached them. She looked down at Margaret's feet in horror. "Why aren't you wearing your shoes?" she cried.

A look of shame washed over Margaret's face. "I'm sorry, Sandy," she said, and started to put back on her shoes. "I'll meet you in the car, just give me a minute!"

Sandy looked at Raymond and suddenly a phony smile came over her face. "Oh Raymond, it is so nice to meet you! I loved your performance" she said, then turned back to Margaret and her previous strict expression returned. "Two minutes," she said, then left.

"Sorry, my manager," Margaret explained to Raymond.

"She seems like a true pleasure," he replied with sarcasm.

"She's not so bad," she said. "Anyway, it was great meeting you."

"Same to you," Raymond smiled.

Margaret pulled a pen and old business card out of her clutch. "I don't usually do this," she started. "But if you ever want to give me a call," she started, then handed the card to Raymond, which she had written her number on.

"I will," he replied, taking the card and slipping it into his pocket.

"I should get going now, before my manager has a cow," she said.

"Have a good one," Raymond said, and waved to her as she started to walk away. Margaret waved back and gave him a wink as she left.

"Cute girl," he said to himself.

Tammy peered over his shoulder. "I don't have a good feeling about that girl..." she said warily.

Raymond jumped at the sight of Tammy behind him. "When did you get there?" he shouted.

"Keep your voice down! You're so jumpy," Tammy said.

"How many times have I told you not to do that to me?" he whispered, then took out his card to show to Tammy. "She gave me her number," he said happily.

Tammy looked at the card and rolled her eyes. "Are you still a teenager or something?" she asked.

Raymond put the card back into his pocket without responding.

"Beware of her though, those Mainland models usually come with a whole lot of trouble," Tammy said.

"Yeah, yeah," Raymond said.

"I mean it! We don't need some girl walking into your life and putting your career in jeopardy," Tammy  warned.

"She's just a girl I met who gave me her number, I'm not running away and eloping with her or anything!" Raymond argued.

His eyes drifted over to the table at the other side of the room. "Ooo, chocolate fountain," he said, putting his hands together in an excited fashion and leaving Tammy by herself.

Tammy rolled her eyes again. "Such a child," she muttered, then laughed. Her thoughts drifted back to Margaret again. "I don't have a good feeling about this..." she said.


Earlier that same day, Ron was wrapping up another day working at the gym. “Alright, now do twenty sets of those,” Ron told Dan, one of his clients. It was his last personal training session of the day. He went to get his water bottle from his bag when he noticed Vincent on one of the weight lifting machines in the corner of his eye.
Ron patted Dan on the back after he finished his set and said “Great, that’s it for the day. I’ll see you on Tuesday,” then went over to where Vincent was.
“Hey, haven’t seen you around here before,” Ron said as he approached him.
Vincent looked up from his concentration. “Hey. Yeah, I just joined this gym, I used to go to the one a block away. You work here?” he asked.
“Yeah, I’m a personal trainer here,” Ron replied. An awkward silence took over for a short moment.
“I’m sorry about barging in on you and Fala yesterday night,” Ron apologized.
Vincent looked up again in surprise. “Oh, it’s fine. You didn’t barge in on anything,” he said.

Ron scrunched his eyebrows. “Really? Then why did Fala grab me by the shirt collar yesterday and yelled at me for interrupting the moment?” he said.

Vincent laughed imagining her doing such a thing, then asked “She did?”
“Alright, let’s not beat around the bush. Fala told me what you said to her before I came in last night,” Ron bluntly said. “I can tell you like her buddy, and she seems to have a thing for you too.”
“She does?” Vincent asked.
“Yes. And I’m telling you now you can’t do much better than a girl like Fala. If you’re serious about courting her, hurry up and make your move already,” Ron said.
Vincent became quiet. “Okay, since we’re being blunt, I have a question for you, and I want you to answer me honestly,” he proposed.
“What is it?” Ron asked.
“Are you and Fala more than friends?” Vincent questioned, seriously.
“Easy question, no,” Ron said.

“And do you have any feelings for her?”

“No. Don’t get me wrong, I love her to death, but as a friend, a sister, and sometimes she acts like my mother,” Ron shared, and realized what was holding back Vincent.

“If you’re worried about me, don’t be,” Ron continued. “If anything else was going to happen between us, it would've happened by now. Fala is the greatest friend I could ask for, but we know way too much about each other to ever even stomach the idea of being more than friends,” he laughed.

Vincent laughed, and breathed a sigh of relief.

“Reassured yet?” Ron asked him, and Vincent nodded.

“So, while we’re on the subject of Fala...What is it you like about her?” Ron tried to pry, sitting down on a machine opposite Vincent.

Vincent laughed nervously. “Uh...She’s just amazing,” he began. “She’s smart, funny, witty and beautiful,” he said. “And the best part is she doesn’t even realize just how awesome she is.”

“Yes, that is true,” Ron honestly answered, then rolled his eyes. “Unless you’re me and she constantly reminds you about how lucky you are to have them as a friend,” he said.

“Are you serious about her?” Ron asked him in a serious tone.

“Of course!” Vincent exclaimed.
“Good. Just remember one thing though,” Ron said.


“If you break her heart, I’ll break you,” Ron said with a straight face.
“Alright then,” Vincent said. “Don’t worry, I don’t ever intend on breaking her heart.”

Ron’s face formed into his typical goofy expression again. “Good, I’ll see you around then. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you a lot more often from now on,” he said, and playfully and lightly slapped him on the arm. Then, he started to poke Vincent’s arm.

“Hm, nice biceps,” he said.

“Um, thanks,” Vincent said with an awkward laugh, and Ron started to walk away.

“Hey, thanks for clearing it up with me!” Vincent called after him, to which Ron turned around and simply gave him a smile and a thumbs up sign.


After another delicious home cooked meal courtesy of Myolie with some help from everyone, Kate sat at the kitchen counter punching numbers into a calculator. Edwin came over to sit down next to her. "What are you calculating there?" he asked.

Kate exhaled an exasperated sigh. "Even with mine and Myolie's savings, we don't have enough money for a substantial initial investment," she said.

Myolie looked up from the dishes and said "I still have some money left over, but I'm hesitant about pulling out all of my savings." 

Ron, bored, came over to offer to help do the dishes to have Myolie slap his hand away. "You'll only make it dirtier," she claimed. Ron looked at Bosco, who was drying dishes beside Myolie, and put up his hands in defeat. Bosco laughed and shrugged.

"Oh, that reminds me," Bosco said, putting the dish he was drying down and going over to his messenger bag on the couch. He pulled out a check from the pocket and set it down in front of Kate.

"I am investing into Little Sweet Things," he said. Kate picked up the check in surprise, and Myolie scurried over to look at it.

Kate started to hand it back to Bosco. "Bosco, we can't take this," she said.

Bosco set it back down. "Yes you can," he replied.

"No, we can't," she resisted again.

"I insist," he said.

Myolie snatched the check and slipped it into his back pocket. "Bosco, I appreciate this but you don't have to do this," she said.

"I am an interested businessman who thinks Little Sweet Things has potential and is worth investing into, okay?" Bosco said, opening Myolie's hand and putting the check into them. Myolie and Kate still looked hesitant.

"How about you take this as a rather pricey early joint birthday present for the both of you," he proposed.

"My birthday was last month, Bosco," Kate replied.

"Just take it," he said, setting it down one more time.

"Just take it guys!" Ron said from the couch. "Don't act like such traditional Asians and accept it, he's not giving away an arm and a leg. I'd invest too if I weren't broke," he joked. "Me too, but I'm a reporter, I don't make much money," Fala quipped.

Kate put her hands up in surrender. "Thank you very much for your investment and interest in Little Sweet Things, Bosco," she said, as if she had just finished making a business transaction.

Ella clapped her hands together. "Hooray, Little Sweet Things is back into business!" she said.

"Thank you," Myolie whispered to Bosco.

"Of course, sweetie," he said, and put his arm around her waist and kissed her on the cheek while Myolie smiled sweetly.

"Alright, can we not make me want to throw up guys?" Fala joked.

"You're just jealous that's not you and Vincent yet," Ron said, poking her.

Ella's eyes lit up. "Who's Vincent?" she asked excitedly.

"He's just this guy at work," Fala tried to reply casually.

"Who has the hots for our girl right here," Ron finished for her. Fala hit him with one of the couch cushions.

"What? I'm just telling the truth!" he yelped.

Bosco came over and sat down on the couch beside them. "Someone's interested in our Fala?" he asked, intrigued.

"Okay, fine. I give up on you nosy people. Vincent and I were working on a story for the magazine and were getting along really well. He was about to tell me that he liked me and then Ron over here with his tiny bladder interrupted us before the poor guy could finish!" Fala exclaimed.

"I don't have a tiny bladder," Ron muttered.

"Do you like him too?" Ella asked curiously. Fala shrugged.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. "How about you get the door instead of interrogate me?" Fala teased Ella, who promptly got up to open it to see Raymond.

"Raymond, you made it after all!" Ella exclaimed.

Raymond smiled. "Yeah, I know I missed dinner but I figured since I still had some free time I should stop by and see my favorite people," he said.

"I thought your favorite people were those screaming female fans," Ron joked.

"Well, you guys are a close second," Raymond joked back. "So what are we talking about?" he asked, taking a seat on the recliner chair.

"Oh nothing, Fala was just telling us about her new love interest," Ron said.

"Oh, juicy," Raymond said. "Fill me in." Ella bent over to tell him what Fala just told them.

"Enough about me," Fala started in an effort to divert the attention away from yourself. "Meet any cute girls lately Mr. Superstar?" she asked.

"Actually, funny you should mention that," he replied.

"You player, you really did meet someone!" Ron said, pointing his finger at him. Raymond pushed his finger away.

"Her name's Margaret Zhao," Raymond said. "She's a model I met at the promotional event I went to today; she gave me her number." Ella felt her stomach sink after he said that.
Edwin searched her name on his tablet. "Is this her?" he asked, handing it to Raymond.

Raymond looked at the picture Edwin had pulled up. "Yeah that's her," he confirmed.

Ron snatched the tablet from Raymond. "Wow, sexy lady!" he said. "Mainland chick?"

"Yeah, why do people keep asking me that? Tammy said the same thing," Raymond said.

Fala peered over. "She has plastic surgery written all over her!" she said, and handed it to Ella.

The picture was of a voluptuous looking young Chinese woman, but like Fala said, it was evident that she had a lot of work done.

"Really, you guys Google her and criticize her looks?" Raymond asked.

"We're in a technological age and you just make it easier being in the public eye," Edwin replied.

"Well, she's a sweet and nice girl," Raymond argued.

"We're not saying she's not," Ron said. "But...I don't know. You should be careful. I heard those Mainland models can be a lot of trouble."

Raymond made an exasperated look. "You too?"

Kate came over and sat down on the floor beside Raymond. "Oh come on guys, let's be happy for Ray for finding a girl he likes," she said.

"Thank you," he said.

"But Ron's right, you should be careful. Not just because of the stereotypical notion that Mainland girls are trouble, but just because you've never been in an actual relationship since entering the industry. Dating's going to be different now," she warned.

"I understand, but guys, I know what I'm doing," Raymond said.

Ella looked down at the tablet at the picture of the girl who had just caught Raymond's eye in slight jealousy.


Author's Note: Two episodes in two days! New record, haha! A longer episode than normally, but it didn't feel right to end it anywhere else and I wanted to be able to focus on more than one subplot this time around and have all the characters together again. It looks like love is about to blossom for both Fala and Raymond! However, one of these relationships will turn out to be a sticky situation. Perhaps Raymond should really listen to his friends and Tammy. *hint hint*

Friday, July 12, 2013

"Till the World Ends" Episode 4

HK Lifestyle magazine had just distributed this month's issue, and Fala sat at her desk twirling her pen deep in thought about what she should write next.  She had already written a fashion critique, a movie review, an editorial about the excessive technology use of today's generation and more.  She was experiencing what every writer dreaded most: writer's block.  Vincent sat across the room at his desk scratching his head trying to churn out ideas as well.

"Fala, Vincent, can you two see me in my office please?" said their boss Maggie Jie (cameo by Maggie Cheung) said from the door of her office, breaking their train of thought and evoking curiosity.  What did she want with them?

Inside Maggie's office, Fala and Vincent sat down with their backs straight a sense of self-awareness.

"I have good news," Maggie announced.  Fala and Vincent let out a simultaneous sigh of relief and relaxed their shoulders a little, making the atmosphere much less tense.

Fala's ears almost immediately perked up.  "Are we getting a promotion?" she asked with curious excitement.  Vincent chuckled at her bluntness.

"Don't get ahead of yourself there Fala, it's not that good news today," Maggie laughed.

Fala's face turned to one of disappointment so quickly Vincent had to hold back his laughter.

"I had a meeting with the CEO Mrs. Chan over the weekend, and she has been very happy with how HK Lifestyle has been doing lately.  She especially had a lot of praise for you two and thinks you are our best writers.  The pieces you write are fan favorites!" she exclaimed.

"That's fantastic!  Praise from the big boss," Vincent said.

"Yes, and we thought that for this issue you and Fala could collaborate on an op-ed piece for the magazine that presents both the female and male perspective of young Hong Kongers.  With the unique writing style and talent you two have, it could be something cutting edge, insightful, yet humorous that the readers would love!" Maggie said.

Fala nodded in acknowledgement, thinking about the possibilities.  "What would we have to write about?" she asked.  Next to her, Vincent tried to contain his surprise and excitement.

"That is up to you two to decide, I just want to approve the idea first," Maggie replied. "So do I have your word?" she asked.

Fala and Vincent looked at each other and simultaneously said "Of course!" Who could pass up such a great opportunity?

"Perfect, I'll let Mrs. Chan know," Maggie said, picking up the phone. She signaled them out of her office.

After exiting Maggie's office, Fala turned to Vincent and extended her hand out. "Here's to a good collaboration! But be careful of pushing my buttons," she said in a mock serious voice.

Vincent laughed and shook her hand. "I'll watch my back," he said. "Shall we start brainstorming then?"

Fala nodded and went to pull up the seat of her desk towards Vincent's as he sat down because, according to her, his desk "is in the ideal position, at the center of everything," whatever that meant. To this, Vincent just chuckled.

Fala and Vincent worked together, for the most part, in harmony. Sure, there was your typical bickering. Vincent teased her about some of her weird habits, like unintentionally clicking her pen repeatedly while deep in thought and she punched him in the arm in protest to only end up turning red, realizing he was right. She would attempt to make fun of him back but much to her displeasure, only made a fool of herself in the end. Not that Vincent actually thought she was a fool of course.

Fast forward two weeks later on a Friday evening, and the final draft of their op-ed piece, which was on what people are attracted to in the opposite sex and their take on the reasoning behind it, was due on Monday morning. However, there were still final revisions and finishing touches that had to be made.

Everybody was gathering their belongings and getting ready to leave for the weekend. Fala picked up her bag and went over to Vincent's desk. "Hey, instead of trying to work this out online, do you want to just come over to my place to finish?" she asked.

"Your place?" Vincent asked, a little startled. Although they had been getting along very well, their relationship had still been confined to the office and some online exchanges here and there up until that moment.

"Is that a problem?" Fala asked. Noticing the expression on his face, she added with a smile, "Don't worry, I don't have any creepy things hanging around my apartment or anything. Well, except for Ron when he comes over. Other than that I apparently have one of the neatest apartments ever."

"No, no it's not," he laughed. "I was just a little surprised, that's all. Um, so do you want to meet tonight or...?" he asked.

"Tonight is fine by me, unless you're too tired and want to meet tomorrow," Fala said.

"Alright, I can do tonight. Just give me your address and I'll swing by my place real quick and meet you there," Vincent said.

"Sounds good," she said and looked around for a post-it or piece of scratch paper to write her address on. "Are you kidding me, how can an office for a magazine be out of paper so often?" she asked, annoyingly.

Vincent looked around noticing the sudden disappearance of paper. "Of all things this place doesn't have enough of," he said with a chuckle.

Fala took a pen from her desk and picked up Vincent's hand and wrote her address on his hand, taking him by surprise. He could feel his heart suddenly beating a little faster and smiled a bit goofily. Oh crap, I hope I'm not turning red... he thought to himself.

"Are you okay? You're not worried I'm going to give you skin cancer by writing on your hand are you?" she asked, pulling him out of his momentary trance.

"Oh no, sorry, I was just thinking about something," Vincent replied, embarrassed.

Fala rolled her eyes at him and laughed. "I'll see you in a bit!" she said, leaving him to his embarrassed self.


Ring, ring!

Fala opened her door later that night to see Vincent, who had changed from his semiformal work clothes to a more casual t-shirt and jeans. His hair was a little ruffled as always, but he looked more comfortable and actually quite attractive. However, something else seemed a little different. She wrinkled her nose. "Are you wearing cologne?" she asked.

"Yeah...too much?" Vincent replied, shyly. 

"No, it's just...since when do you wear cologne?" Fala asked, amused. 

"Oh, no particular reason," Vincent said, trying to keep his cool. "I figured since it's just us this time and not another 10 people around us I shouldn't risk smelling or else you'd think I have B.O."

Fala burst out laughing at the cute comment. "Well, don't stand there like the tall pole you are, come in so we can finish this thing," she said, signaling him to come in.

Two hours and many leftover cupcakes made by Myolie later, they finally finished their op-ed piece. 

"It's finally complete!" Fala said, throwing her arms up in the air in accomplishment. 

"This is a great piece," Vincent said. "I don't think I've ever gotten a chance to tell you this, but I really do think you're an amazing writer."

"Thanks," Fala smiled. "You know, you aren't so bad yourself. I'm sure all your female readers swoon at you with your little sensitive, understanding but humorous perspective," she said, to which he blushed.

Instead of wrapping up and calling it a day immediately though, they continued to chat. For some reason, Fala got this very sweet and at ease feeling around Vincent. She wasn't sure why he always seemed to have a goofy and embarrassed smile on around her though.

"Now, we wrote an entire piece on what we think people are attracted to in the opposite sex, but I still don't know what you are attracted to in a girl," Fala said, playfully. "So whose your ideal girl?" she nudged him with her foot from across the couch they were both sitting on.

"Hm..." Vincent looked into space thoughtfully. "My ideal girl...has to be smart of course. Someone who I can talk to and isn't afraid to be herself. She has to be genuine, sweet, funny, and beautiful inside and out," he said.

"That's asking for a little much isn't it?" Fala asked. "Not that I don't know some great girls, but..."

Vincent looked at her and something in him finally decided to do something about his irritatingly fast beating heart. "It wouldn't hurt if she had adorable dimples and was an amazing writer with a killer style too," he added. 

Taken aback, Fala put a hand to her face and felt her dimples. "Wait, are you talking about..." she started. Vincent bit his lip waiting for a reaction.

Suddenly, there was a rapid knock at the door. "Sorry, I need to get that," Fala said to Vincent and got up. Ron was on the opposite side of the door, still knocking when Fala opened it. She caught his hand, which apparently didn't realize the door was no longer there quick enough.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Ng?" she asked in a mocking tone, slightly annoyed at the interruption.

"I need to borrow your bathroom," Ron said.

"Are you kidding me?" Fala asked in disbelief.

"Well I was on my way home and I suddenly really needed to pee, and you happened to be close by so I thought I'd make a pit stop here!" he said.

"The gas station's close by too, I don't see you going there for a pit stop," Fala replied.

"Yeah but gas station restrooms are gross and your bathroom always smells like lavender," he said cheekily.

Fala rolled her eyes and opened the door for Ron to come in. Ron started to quickly run towards the direction of her bathroom when he noticed Vincent sitting on the couch, who had been watching the friend's exchange in slight discomfort, feeling as if he was the intruder.

"Hi...Vincent right?" Ron greeted in surprise.

"Yeah, Ron right?" Vincent replied awkwardly.

"Yeah..." Ron said. He turned to Fala and whispered "What's he doing here?"

Fala pinched his arm and he jumped backward in pain. "Didn't I tell you I was working on a story with Vincent?" she said, annoyed.

"Yes, yes you did, I just went blank for a second," Ron said, catching his mistake just barely in time. Fala scowled at him. "I listen to you, I swear!" Ron defended himself.

"It's nice to see you again man," he nodded to Vincent. "Anyway, nature's calling," Ron said and quickly darted to the bathroom and out of sight.

"I'm really sorry about that," Fala said to Vincent, embarrassed.

"It's fine," Vincent gave her a reassuring smile and pretended to playfully shrug it off, though a knot had started to twist inside his stomach watching the banter in front of him. He started to gather his stuff and got up.

"You're leaving?" Fala asked, disappointed.

"Yeah, it's getting late and we're all done here. Goodnight, I'll see you at work on Monday," he said, gently patting her on the side of the arm.

"Goodnight," she said quietly and closed the door for him, then walked towards the bathroom and barged through the door.

Ron looked up from washing his hands alarmed. "Hey you don't knock?! I could have still been half naked!" he protested.

"Why did you have to come in and ruin the moment?" Fala yelled, exasperated.

"What moment?" Ron said, blankly.

"He was telling me he..." Fala started, then trailed off.

"Telling you what?" he asked, then it came to him. "Oh, he really does like you!" he said.

"What? You know and you didn't tell me?" Fala said, grabbing her friend by the collar of his shirt. "How do you even know?"

"Please, it was obvious from the way he was looking at you when I came to give you lunch the other day," he said, then started to smile in a sly way. "Wow, somebody's worked up. Does Fala have a crush on someone?"

Fala's grasp of his shirt softened, as did her facial expression. She quickly realized how much her face was giving it away and wiped the smile off her face. "He's not so bad," she brushed it off.

Ron raised his finger and playfully pointed it at Fala. "Aw, somebody does have a crush," he said, then looked down. "Uh...can you let go of me now? Or do you want to take off my shirt or something?" he joked.

Fala looked down and realized she still hadn't let go of his shirt. "You're crazy," she said, letting go.

"Hey, I say that if my best friend catches a guy's eye, he must have good taste," he said to her, playfully putting his arm around her.

"Why thank you," Fala said. "That's the smartest and most sane thing you've said this entire time," she said.

"He also sure has a ton of patience to get through that whole facade of annoying to really get to know you," he added, mockingly.

"Ha, I could say the same about anyone who gets to know you!" she said back.

"Well, what can I say, we're special people," Ron stated. "I'll have to do some digging to see how this Vincent is though," he said to her.

"Don't scare him away again," she muttered.

"Alright, I'll try my best Ms. Longwinded," he rolled his eyes, then looked around. "Say, I know we are pretty weird, but why are we having this conversation in the bathroom?" he asked.

Fala looked around. "Hey, I needed to pick a bone with you right away. It's not my fault you had to answer nature's calling," she said, then turned to walk away. "I'm going to bed, you can see yourself out. Goodnight!" she said.


Author's Note: I'm back after over a half-year hiatus from "Till the World Ends"! Apologizes it's a little slow and doesn't involve many characters. It took one whole episode to properly introduce Vincent's character, but I hope people like him because he'll be around for a while. The other characters will be back next episode and I'm looking forward to writing for them again. Hope not everyone has completely forgotten about this fic and will keep reading! :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Song Review: Dear Jane's "Unavoidable"

Dear Jane makes their 2013 return with their new single "Unavoidable". Right off the bat, it is obvious that this talented band have once again given it their all into this song.

"Unavoidable" is a song that will probably only appeal to a smaller group of listeners. It possesses a softer rock sound, which fans of the band's former rougher and more punk influenced music may not be fond of. At the same time, it is not a song whose melody will immediately stick to you because it's not as catchy as their other material. However, it does not stop "Unavoidable" from being an overall great song.

This may sound strange, but in some ways this is one of Dear Jane's weaker songs, but in other ways their personal best. It's weakness consist of the reasons stated above. One must be more open minded and really appreciate music to realize this is actually one of Dear Jane's best yet. The song embodies what I love this band so much for: true passion and honesty. Howie's songwriting and composition is beautiful, personal and meaningful and Tim is able to showcase his voice and bring his lyrics to life. I'm pleased to see that Dear Jane, while conforming a bit to make it in the mainstream HK music industry, is also staying true to themselves and giving listeners the opportunity to hear something different and full of heart and substance.


Additional Notes: Against my initial expectations, "Unavoidable" is doing incredibly well! It went #1 on the iTune store as well as on HK music charts, and still high up as we speak. It is wonderful to see a song that doesn't conform to usual HK mainstream tastes garnering critical and commercial success. Congratulations Dear Jane!!!

"Slow Boat Home" Review

"Slow Boat Home" had promoted itself to be a refreshing youth-oriented and romantic lighthearted comedy. While the first half of the series did manage to be quite enjoyable and deliver many laughs, a closer look and one can easily tell that it quickly morphed into another typical TVB family drama. Although quite funny in its earlier episodes, it became yet another series with poorly written story lines weeded together and love stories that lacked a romantic factor that turned it lackluster and draggy.

The four leads all deliver, but the development and outline of their characters was sloppy.

Raymond Wong is solid as always and delivers as "Cheung Bo Jai". The character would have easily become annoying with his obnoxiousness in the early episodes, but instead Raymond made him quite hilarious. Yet, Cheung Bo Jai found himself primarily pining after Bo Bo (portrayed by Aimee Chan) and caught in the middle of family drama, lacking his own direction in life. Although he has a dream of owning his own boat, not much is ever done with this subplot until - you guessed it - he buys himself a huge yacht in the last episode.

Aimee Chan is surprisingly pleasant and very likable as "Bo Bo". She is charming and appears very comfortable onscreen due to the tailor made role and casual atmosphere. However, it is actually her character that puzzles me the most with her odd actions and behavior. She so readily settled down into life at Cheung Chau and gave up her career as a director that it was simply bizarre. I find it hard to believe Bo Bo would not return to New York when she could, had such a good attitude about working as a waitress when she was formerly a director, and so easily gave up on looking for her father (the reason she came to Cheung Chau) after learning it is not Mui Kei (portrayed by Ngok Wah).

As a huge fan of Ruco Chan, I become giddy every time I start a new series with him as lead. Now, this giddiness literally lasted all through out "The Other Truth", yet wore off for me here after just a
few episodes. Why? "Fit Wing" offers absolutely no challenge to Ruco's acting skills and range, and didn't present much more substance than that of a fool blinded by love.

Selena Li is given more of an acting challenge with "Heidi", who goes from greedy to good to being even more greedy than before and finally back to well, volunteer work doing, no make up wearing good. She does what she can with the role and it's nice to see her exercising her abilities a bit, but Heidi's character changes were abrupt and poorly done.

As said above, the love stories lack actual romance. Ruco and Selena share so much sweet and genuine chemistry, yet Fit Wing and Heidi's relationship was a constant back and forth with Heidi's regression, hurting and using Ruco as well as his loved ones time and time again, only to end with him forgiving her. And then the cycle repeats again. And again. Their relationship was dysfunctional and kept suffering the same setbacks. I feel teased that two such lovable and endearing onscreen love interests were given such a terrible love line.

Raymond and Aimee's line fared better. They were entertaining during their take as the classic bickering rivals turned couple, but I failed to see when Aimee started to return Raymond's feelings for her. Although they were fun together and shared chemistry, they too lacked romance.

However, "Slow Boat Home"'s most significant setback is how disconnected from each other the four main characters are. At first, the series seemed to tell two completely different stories, with one taking place in Cheung Chau and one in Hong Kong. Although this improved when Ruco and Selena's characters relocated back to Cheung Chau, it still couldn't hide the fact that the four were very much disconnected and lacked cohesion.

Friendship was a theme that would have been enjoyable to see develop, but the bonds beyond the two couples was not explored. Aimee and Ruco do not even share a scene together until almost halfway into the series, and Raymond and Selena had almost no interactions despite being childhood friends. It focused almost solely on the two couples and unnecessary family drama.

The most enjoyable aspect of the series though, was the bromance friendship between Raymond, Ruco and Matt Yeung. The three guys appeared very comfortable together and their friendship looked realistic, resulting in fun and warm scenes. However, these scenes were limited, particularly with Matt's minimal screen time and once again, disconnection to the group overall. Poor "Chuen So Kei" was constantly lost about what was going on between the four and almost consistently the last to find out.

Easily the most refreshing thing about "Slow Boat Home" is its location filming in Cheung Chau. It was a breath of fresh air to not see the same boring sets and filming sites yet again and instead see the natural beauty of this small town. Of course, this alone was not able to keep "Slow Boat Home" entertaining and fresh.

What becomes most evident about halfway through the series is that there is no actual point to it. There is no central story line, and just a bunch of poorly written story lines weeded together while the two main couples were pushed apart and back again and again. Not only does it become mixed with trite family drama, but allows itself to fall victim to cliched and random story lines like Oceane Zhu's and Elaine Yiu's. These subplots added nothing to the overall story (whatever that was) and seemed like they were simply included to drag out the series length. In addition, Lee Yee Man's character can probably go down as the most annoying character of the year.

Here's a fun fact: when the series was first proposed, it was supposed to have a music theme and showcase the musical talents of the cast. Ruco and Aimee were to play together on the guitar and piano respectively. Sadly, what showed up in the final script was Ruco strumming random guitar chords two or three times and no use of music as a theme. This is disappointing as it could have helped make "Slow Boat Home" more refreshing, particularly with its musically inclined cast (Ruco can play guitar and sing, Aimee can play piano, Selena can sing and compose and plays the piano, and Cilla was originally a singer). My guess is TVB backed out of this original concept to ease and simplify the filming and production process, since they love taking the easy way out. I would have loved to see music incorporated into this series.

Overall, "Slow Boat Home" is a series that starts off funny and entertaining, but its humor quickly wears off and goes down the trite family drama route traveled a hundred too many times by TVB series. All four leads are strong and likable, but either poor or inconsistent characterization keeps them from being utilized to full potential. If it weren't for the large amount of free time I have on my hands these days and the main cast, I would probably have dropped it by the last five episodes. There was plenty potential, and marketed as a youth-oriented romantic comedy, it had the opportunity to be something fresh. As most TVB series these days though, it is once again wasted potential.

Rating: 2.5 stars

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"A Great Way to Care 2" Review by Lynne

If you ask me whether "A Great Way to Care 2" is better than it's prequel or not, the answer would be no. But if you ask me whether it's a good series or not, I would say that it was an enjoyable watch. So depending on the question, this review will come out differently. For this review, I'm just going to be talking about "A Great Way to Care 2" without making any comparisons to it's prequel. (I will then later write one comparing the two.)

General Storyline: With a mixture of psychiatry and police work, "A Great Way to Care 2"'s story line weaves in between the two forces as they work together and solve the cases. From the forensic psychiatry branch: Alex Fong, Yoyo Mung, Edwin Siu, Power Chan, Oscar Leung, Eric Li, Henry Lee and Christine Kuo. The police force consists of Ben Wong and Tavia Yeung. Aside from these two main teams, other supporting characters also includes Ram Chiang, Aimee Chan and Leanne Li.

Waste of a Good Cast? I initially wanted to list all the character names of the artistes but as you guys can see, there were just too many names. Unfortunately out of that chunk, only a few were focused on. There were just too many necessary characters, or should I say, the characters were too small for the assigned artistes. With other series lacking artistes, they just had to throw a bunch into "A Great Way to Care 2". Trying to make it 'star-studded'?  Meh.  I found it frustrating.

You know what? It would've been alright if the series focused on the cases alone. But no, that didn't happen.  Instead, there were a bunch of unnecessary side-stories thrown into the script to distribute the screen time to all the characters. That's why the typical cases that are usually 1-3 episodes long stretched to 6-7 episodes. While I was okay with it in the first 1-2 cases (because they had to introduce the characters), it got on my nerves afterwards as I struggled to focus on the continuously "disrupted" cases.

Overall comments, a lot of the cast members could have been put to better use.

Characters and Acting:

Alex Fong
I was not a big fan of Alex Fong, but I've begun to like him since "A Great Way to Care". Resuming his role as Ko Lap Yan, his character did not differ much beside the huge screen-time cut! It is such a pity because I actually like Ko Lap Yan alot, and was looking forward to watching him every time he appeared onscreen.

Best scene? It'd have to be the one where he was reading Monkey's (Kate Tsui) letters. Didn't think Alex would be good in an emotional scene like this, but he proved me wrong.

Though Alex often comes off monotone, there is something about the guy that makes him interesting to watch. I cannot clearly describe it, but it's definitely not something a lot of actors can do nowadays. So despite the fact that he had little screen-time in each episode, I can still feel that he's leading the series.

Edwin Siu
His character had the potential to shine but that did not happen. If I were to define Leung Kai Wing by a geometric shape, he'd be a circle. Absolutely pointless. Wanna know his story line?
"I have a crush on this girl and is trying to woo her (lasted for half of the series). Finally got together with her! But wait, my childhood friend. I want to be there and protect her too. So in the end, who should I choose? I love both Q.Q Becomes a two-timer. Busted. Realization. Too late."
While I may have exaggerated this a bit, it's still pretty close to what actually happened.  Honestly they should have just crossed Scarlett (Christine Kuo) out of the whole picture (bias here because I actually really enjoyed the scenes he had with Aimee Chan).  Personally disappointed by how much they focused on his love life instead of his profession when he's one of the main characters.

Acting wise, Edwin is a capable actor and was funny at times in the series.  Unfortunately his story line was just nonsense.

Yoyo Mung
Don't let her position on the poster fool you. As a matter of fact, she and Edwin should switch places on that thing! Yoyo Mung barely had any screen-time and when she did, her sub story was boring and random. Maybe the scriptwriters/producers realized that they did not give her any screen-time even after the first 8 episodes or something, and so had to squeeze in that story about Franco And speaking of Franco, we never got to see his face or anything but at least we got to see his shadow right? Had an entire episode dedicated to that guy! Overall, she serves little purpose to the series and is only there because TVB wanted to push more stars in.

Putting my rants aside, Yoyo's "Cheuk Wai Kui" was pleasant to watch. I really liked her personality: stubborn and straight forward. Her relationship with her subordinates is quite cute and I love how they call her "Big Brother". And when she got "together" with Alex Fong, they called Alex dai sao (sister-in-law). Though this character is nothing new for Yoyo, I still enjoyed seeing her again (which is why I am unhappy that she did not have much screen-time).

Tavia Yeung
If there's a character worth watching for, it would be Lam Chung Yan. She first appeared as the daring and spunky prostitute who then turns out to be an undercover cop. TVB always like to surprise us don't they? Anyways, after she finished her case, Chung Yan returned to being a cop and begins to work under Chung Kwok Ban (Ben Wong). Growing up as an orphan, Chung Yan endured many hardships and there were a number of times when she almost lost her life too. But even then, she continued to live on an optimistic life. Unfortunately there is a limit to all of us and she eventually reached the level that she herself could no longer handle...

To be honest, I think a majority of the series was dedicated to Tavia Yeung. Thus she ended up being one of the very few with a decent character development. Thoroughly enjoyed Tavia's performance and notably in episode 23.

As for her pairing with Ben Wong, there was nothing special going on. Instead, I think that it would've been better if Alex paired up with Tavia since I liked the two of them together. But then, Alex would be dating another police woman like he did in the prequel. What are the possibilities of TVB copying something from the prequel into the sequel? BTW, this is within that rare percentage that they did not.

The 'Others' While I would love to talk more about the other characters, there is little to talk about due to their minimal screen-time. So I'm just going to sum it up that the rest of the cast were great with the exception of Christine Kuo.  I'm relatively easy going when I talk about newcomers (or at least I think I am), but Christine has driven me to the point where I want to bang my head against the wall.  More so than the bad acting, it's the fact that her acting is going absolutely nowhere.  Back in "Ghetto Justice 2", I understand that her character in there may have been too complicated for her to portray.  But even in here, she's still not giving me much to look out for.  Acting in 8 or so series already, I expect her to be a bit better than now.

**To make it clear I am not criticizing her accent because I do not know Canto :P  Just the acting (ie. facial expressions, body language etc).

The Cases:  I would talk about each individual case if I wasn't so confused which case is which.

While there are a few main cases that are featured in the series, there were also a lot of sub-cases within those big cases that confused me.  So I'll only talk about a few:

Otto Chan and Aimee Chan:  Wrote this in a separate post before-hand.

The Pedophile Case:  This case focused on Chung Yan (Tavia)'s childhood friends, who she considers as brothers.  They grew up together in an orphanage: Chiu, Wai, Man and Yan.  Unfortunately Man disappeared when they were young.  Chiu and Yan then ended up working for the government (police officer and the other a lawyer).  On the other hand, Wai is crippled and often went into debts.  On with the case; a few murders took place.  Father, the one who took care of them (Yan, Chiu, Wai and Man) then confessed that he was the one who killed them.  Why?  Father works as a volunteer for a kids recreation center and cares a lot for the kids.  Later, he discovered that some of the kids were being sexually abused by a volunteer, foster father etc and thus couldn't stand it and killed all those pedophiles.  Eventually, we find out that he's taking up the blame for someone else (though the true murderer is also killed for the same reason).

While the identity of the murderer did not surprise me, I liked how the case slowly unwrapped itself.  Though the subject (issue) is something that's also used in other series, the length and the pace this one went at made it even more disturbing.  Honestly, I just really wanted the case to end because as it goes on more victims would be discovered and I just couldn't handle it.  More so, as it progressed I began to think of such situations happening in reality (which I know are not rare cases) and I just felt worse from there...

There are things in life you just wish you did not know because you won't have to worry or get hurt by it.  But then if you don't know about it, you can't do anything to help solve the problem.  On the other hand, there are so many things that is not within our power to resolve even when we do have knowledge of the issue.  I find it quite ironic how Ah Chiu is the murderer even though he's a lawyer.  Though he may work in the legal field, Ah Chiu couldn't see how law can punish those pedophiles and therefore took the matter into his own hands.  Thus this case in turn displays the imperfections of our justice system (nothing is perfect).  I personally pity Ah Chiu despite his wrongdoings and was saddened by his death in the end.

***Pedophilia is actually a psychiatric disorder.  

Serial Killer Case:  A number of people are killed and the police is investigating who the murderer is.  This is the last case of the series and it was quite interesting to watch.  Though I must say that its ending felt kind of disrupt.  (Not going to talk about it anymore since I don't want to give away spoilers.)

The Unnecessary Bits:
1)  Just cross out that whole love triangle between Edwin, Christine and Aimee.  More so, just cross out Christine because I liked Edwin's and Aimee's characters together.
2)  Yoyo getting a sperm donation from Alex.  While it increased their interaction with each other, it just felt ridiculous.  Although I know that they wanted to get the two 'together', this development was too hard to absorb.
3)  You know what, there's probably more but those two up above were the most frustrating to watch.

The Ending:
Here we have two professional psychiatrists helping a murderer escape.  Sounds a bit sketchy?  I can understand why they would want to help her, but yet at the same time, their whole set up is kind of ridiculous.  More so, even if she did manage to escape from the police, how in the world is she going to board the plane?  I'm sure the police would have restricted her (passport profile) from crossing the borders (or something like that).  Overall, it just seems too irrational.  I guess TVB wanted to be creative and add a "twist" to the ending.  Unfortunately, it didn't turn out so well.

Overall Thoughts:
"A Great Way to Care 2"'s story line did not run as smoothly since it kind of jumped from one character to the next, but the series overall is not bad to watch.  It's actually one of the more enjoyable series released this year and if you have time, I would recommend it.  But if you're one of those who loved the original "A Great Way to Care", just watch this without comparing it too much to the prequel, since it focuses less on psychiatry and more on the police force.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

R.I.P. Sita Chan

Hong Kong pop star Sita Chan, at only 26 years old, was killed in a car accident this morning after she lost control of her car and hit a divider. She was pronounced dead at 4AM. Chan debuted as a singer in 2011 and had just won the Best New Female Singer award 3 months ago.

Just a mere couple hours before her death, she posted this picture of her in the studio. She was a very talented and beautiful young woman with a great voice and had a bright future ahead of her. She was probably going to make it big, but now she's gone too soon. It breaks my heart to see this young woman's life suddenly taken away from her. Rest in peace Sita. Hong Kong has last another talent. My deepest condolences to her family. Life is just so precious.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Our Little Heaven Chapter 4

 Discovering Danny  
 It's Saturday morning, and Niki had just returned from the photoshoot. "Ugh," groaned Niki as she threw herself onto her bed and kicked off her heels. With the comfort of her soft bed and her feet now free from the restricting and painful high heels, she let out a sigh of relief.

She laid there motionless while staring at the ceiling and soon she was drifting off. She had been up since 4 in the morning preparing for the shoot and had spent the entire day so far on set, so she was sore to the bone. You would think that simply posing and smiling in front of a camera would be easy, but it's less than glamorous when you're stuck doing it for 7 hours straight.

Just when she was about to fall asleep, a loud beeping sound woke her up from her trance. She rolled over to her stomach and grabbed her phone. It was the alarm that she set to remind her of her tutoring session with Danny.

Great...I forgot about Dummy. Niki slumped down on her pillow, ruffled her hair, and let out a sigh of frustration before lugging herself out of bed.

Danny's house was a short 15 minutes away by bus and soon Niki found herself standing in front of his door ringing the door bell excessively. She had been standing there for at least 3 minutes knocking and ringing the door bell, yet there was no response.

"Where is that guy! I'm sleep deprived and the last thing he wants to do is blow me off. So help me I'll..." Niki ranted angrily. In the middle of her rant, she noticed that in the corner of her eye a little boy riding past on his tricycle had stopped and stared at her wide-eyed. She let out an awkward smile and waved lightly at the boy. "Hi..." she said softly.

"Mom! There's a weird lady yelling at a door!" yelled the little boy as he peddled off as fast as he could.

Niki sighed. "Great...for my future resume I can put yelling at doors and scaring kids," she muttered.

"Don't forget talking to yourself," a voice behind her added. Startled, she turned around to see Danny leaning against the door ruffling his hair. Danny was in a white T-shirt and sweatpants. From the looks of it, he had just woken up.

Niki gave him an annoyed look. She stood there for 3 minutes and he picked the most awkward moment to open the door?! "So, what are you doing here? Besides scaring my neighbors...and my door..." Danny asked.

"I was scheduled to teach a monkey how to read," Niki said smiling innocently at Danny.

"I know how to read!" protested Danny.

"Oh! So you're the monkey?" Niki teased as she slipped by Danny and into the house. Danny closed the door behind her and gave her a scowl.

  The inside of Danny's house gave Niki quite a surprise. It was nothing like she had imagined it would be. It was a relatively small house with a square design and you could see everything form the door way. The house gave off an aura of simplicity with its plain cream colored walls decorated with only a few family photos. It was almost a complete contrast to Danny's loud and (according to Niki) obnoxious personality.

What surprised Niki the most however, was how religious the family seemed to be. Besides family pictures and a  the only other decorations were religious symbols such as: a small statue of the Virgin Mary, several crosses scattered about the rooms, and a set of bibles.

 "So...." Danny said interrupting Niki from her train of thoughts. "Umm...can you wait for me in my room? I'll catch up with you in a bit," he said.

"Ok..." Niki said, still somewhat distracted.

"My room is the second one on the left," said Danny, and with that he ran off into the bathroom.

Niki walked down the narrow hallway and into the room instructed. She continued to be surprised by her surroundings. Danny's room was no exception to the rest of the house, it was equally simple and organized. The room only had a computer desk, a dresser, and a bed. What intrigued her was the level of organization; she was half expecting to be drowned in dirty laundry and magazines, yet everything was placed neatly in its respectable place.

Niki grabbed a seat at Danny's desk and tried to take in what she had seen.

"Hey," Danny said coming into the room.

"Hey..." Niki replied giving Danny an intrigued look.

"What... do I have something on my face?" Danny asked turning to a mirror and fixing his hair.

Well, he's still normal as he can be at least, Niki thought to herself as she rolled her eyes at Danny's vain action.

"It's just that I expected your house to be something...different," Niki replied.

"Oh? Like what, studded door, provocative posters, a gun?" Danny joked.

"Yes," Niki said looking at Danny with a straight face.

Danny stared back at her and there was a moment of awkward silence.

Niki let out a chuckle and said playfully "I'm joking! But I did expect the posters."

"Well no posters, but I do have some magazines hidden." Danny replied with a wink.

"So um, where's your parents?" Niki asked curiously.

"They're at church." Danny replied "On a Saturday?" Niki asked.

"Yeah, my dad's a pastor so he's up there preparing for tomorrow and my mom's pretty religious too, so she goes up there to help," Danny explained.

"So why aren't you up there helping out?" Niki asked continuing her probing.

"Do I look like I'm into religious stuff?" Danny asked.

"No, but your room says otherwise and you've managed to surprise me so far," Niki replied, frankly.

"Yeah, I just go along with it, whatever makes them happy. If it weren't for them I wouldn't care about all this tutoring stuff and grades...That's why they can't know about what I'm like at school...They'll probably die from disappointment," Danny said unconsciously rambling off.

Niki looked at Danny and for the first time she did so with a serious consideration. He's not as childish and mindless as she thought.

"I'm sure they won't be disappointed least not DIE from it," Niki said kindly.

"Hopefully not...Anyways," said Danny, trying to change the subject. "Let's get to tutoring!...and what not."

"Sure! What do you wanna start with?" Niki replied happy to be moving on, yet still curious to know more about the new side of Danny that she's just discovered.

"Well let's see! I think my weakest subject would be....everything..." Danny said returning to his usual playful tone.

"Let's start with English, from our speaking exercise the other day I swear you were making up your own words," Niki chuckled and replied playfully.

"I was not!" Danny protested. "Really? Then what the heck was mooney (he meant money)" Niki teased.

"What! Didn't I say that right? You know mooney." Danny replied.

Niki laughed at Danny's silliness, this was the longest time she's spent with Danny (the first time she spent with him alone) and to her surprise she didn't feel like killing him. And here I thought I might want to rip his head off have way through.....Maybe this tutoring thing could work, Niki thought as she listened to Danny's hopeless English pronunciation trying not to laugh her head off.


Niki and Danny continued with their lesson while exchanging a few jokes and teasing comments every now and then. They were disrupted by the jingling of keys and a big thump; it was Danny's parents returning home from church. Only then did the two of them check the clock and realized they had spent the last 2 hours together.

"Shen De! We're home! Where are you?" exclaimed a female voice from outside in the living room.

"Oh my parents are home,"said Danny. He got up and walked out to greet them, Niki followed suit.

Niki came out to see a middle-aged couple setting their things down. The woman was petite. She wore a light yellow sun dress with floral designs and her hair was cut in a shoulder-length bob that complemented her soft facial feature. The man was quite tall and thin, his hair was neatly combed in a side part and he had his pastor's suit on.

Danny walked out into the living room to greet them and Niki stayed behind in the hallway.

"Ba, Ma. Welcome home," Danny said.

"Oh there you are sweetie," said Mrs. Wong as she sweetly pat his cheek. Danny bent down to lightly kiss her cheek.

Then Danny's dad came up to him and said, "You should've came, your help would've been appreciated."

"Oh, honey give him a break. It's the weekend he's tired from school, let him have a break." replied Mrs.Wong.

"I'll come next week," Danny said wrapping his arm around his dad's shoulder.

Niki looked in envy as she saw their closeness, her family feels even more cold in comparison.

Danny's mom looked to the side and noticed Niki standing there. She flashed a smile towards Niki and asked, "Oh hello, Shen De who is this?" she asked.

Niki returned the smile and bowed respectfully towards the couple. "Hello uncle, auntie." Niki said.

Danny's dad nudged Danny slightly and teased, "So this is why you didn't want to come."

"Danny's never brought his girlfriend home before! He rarely brings anyone home actually. I was getting worried about him," Danny's mom added, smiling sweetly. She walked toward Niki and gripped her hands lightly, greeting her.

His parent's teasing comments made Danny glow bright red and Niki smiled widely.

"This is Niki, she's my new tutor," Danny clarified to prevent any further comments.

"Oh I see, well I knew your tutor was coming, but I didn't expect such a pretty girl," said Danny's mom.

"I didn't either," mumbled Danny to himself and smiled coyly.

Niki smiled shyly and scratched her head.

"Well, we'll be troubling you with Shen De from now on," said Danny's dad.

"Oh it's no trouble uncle," Niki assured Danny's dad then turned to Danny and asked, "Shen De?"

"It's my Chinese name," Danny replied unwillingly. "Don't you dare tell anyone," he added. He's always been embarrassed of his name; "Shen De", personal virtue, of course his parents would give him such an old fashion name it was so likely of them.

"Don't worry who am I going to tell," Niki replied giving him a wink and mischievous smile.

"So how is the tutoring going? Danny's slow so you'll have to be patient with him," said Danny's mom.

"We're just about done actually. I'm going to pack up now. I should get back home," Niki replied.

"Why don't you join us for dinner?" offered Danny's dad.

"I don't want to impose," Niki replied.

"No it's fine, we insist. Right Shen De?" Danny mom said nudging Danny to support her.

"Yeah, you should," Danny said.

Niki complied and stayed for dinner at Danny's house. They had a plain meal with rice, cabbage soup, fried eggs, and marinated ribs.

Danny's dad told Niki stories about his preaching experience, Danny's mom would tease him for being so geeky and Danny and Niki would burst out in light laughter. The atmosphere was warm and comforting, something Niki had not experienced in a long time. After dinner, Niki stayed to help with the dishes and chatted with Danny's mom who asked her many questions.

"Alright, I should get going now. Thank you for everything. Danny, I'll see in school," Niki said as she stood up and grabbed her stuff.

"Thanks for coming dear. Shen De, you should walk her out," Danny's mom said.

Danny listened and got up.

"It's no problem, I should thank you for the meal. I'll be troubling you from now on," said Niki.

"It's fine, come anytime you like Niki," Danny's dad said, looking up from his newspaper.

"Well let's go, its getting late," Danny pressed.

Niki bowed to Danny's parents and said goodbye again before following Danny out the door.

He walked her out into the Main street and hailed her a taxi.

"Sorry my parents are so old-fashioned," said Danny.

"It's fine, they're really nice. It's nice how close you guys are," said Niki.

"They're really dorky and well you only get one mom and dad, no point in constantly defying them," Danny said.

Niki smiled and said quietly, "You're lucky."

Danny couldn't make out what she said, but he returned the smile and said, "Thanks for coming today, Ms. symphony probably told you my problem with tutors."

"It went better than I thought it would, so we'll see," Niki replied.

"I'll see you Monday then?" Danny asked and realized how stupid the question was considering they have school.

Niki laughed and replied,"Yeah, I'll see you Monday." Then she opened the cab door and stepped inside.

Before driving off she lowered the window, looked up to Danny, and warned in a playful tone, "Oh, and remember to do your homework; if you forget I'll beat you up."

Danny laughed and returned a threat, "I will, don't worry, and if you tell anyone what you saw today I'll..."

"What? You'll beat me up too?" Niki interrupted playfully asking.

"No...I don't hit girls..." said Danny.

Niki scoffed and stuck her head back in the taxi. She signaled for the taxi to start and said, "Bye."

"Bye," Danny replied he began walking backwards slowly, waiting for the taxi to drive off out of sight. Niki stuck her hand out and waved back at him.