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All Hail the Monorail
21 November 2007

Been a bit slack with updating lately, because I've been having ADVENTURES. Once again I shall be abusing my administrative powers and, in LiveJournal fashion, chronicling my latest cross-country excursion to Sydney this weekend past. Yes indeed, Sydney was so awesome last time that just about any excuse would do to go again.

For those who want the quick version: There was lots of monorail riding. The monorail is just great. Brisbane needs a monorail. Monorails are the WAY OF THE FUTURE, and have been since the 1980's. It was an effective means of both getting around and sightseeing at the same time, until we figured out that it was cheaper to walk, and that the distance between the stops was not nearly so far as the monorail made it seem. So after that it was just a matter of following the monorail tracks on foot, so that we could still bask in the glory of the mighty monorail above. It was rather convenient, really, as it stopped very close to almost everywhere we wanted to go, and all spooky alleyways seem to eventually lead back to a monorail station.

To think, if it were not for a near unstoppable desire to travel down cool alleyways, we might have never found the monorail station.
Common sense says 'do not enter', but who can resist such a classically spooky and ominous alleyway?!

Monorail shenanigans aside, we really didn't do the proper tourist thing. The only reason this felt weird is because I have to admit that it didn't really feel like we were actually in Australia. This was sort of cool, as it made it feel like were on a holiday overseas rather than just on a weekend city trip. Sometimes it was China...

Ominous stairs to perhaps a hidden basement where a demon is sealed?!
We admittedly did hang around China Town a lot, which was probably the source of the sensation.

...And sometimes London.

This felt like the sort of place where well-dressed storeowners would politely ask you to leave for not matching the dress code.
That clock starts messing with you after a while. You cannot quite shake the sensation that you must be upside down.

In upper class London, we also found what had to be the most incredible Christmas tree ever. It was over THREE STORIES TALL. The scale was almost frightening. I am not exaggerating the size. It was impossible to get a shot of the tree in its entirety, so we instead journeyed up several flights of ye olde escalators to get a full look at it.

Very pretty.  Might have been more impressive outside when you could actually see all of it.
Apparently sponsored by Swarovski, the highly suspect crystal store that is everywhere but never actually seems to sell anything.
Most fake tree ever, though.  Didn't even try to pretend with the trunk there.
Three separate levels. And they were tall ceilings, too.

The legendary shoe shine machine was gone, thus Books Kinokuniya once again turned out to be highlight of the trip. Lots of books were bought and then dragged around the city to the detriment of both our bags and skeletons, even though we knew that would happen. But when confronted with such a wide array of books that just can't be found anywhere else, WHO CAN RESIST? Admittedly, there was preparation and planning for the purchase of books, but it gets progressively easier over time to forget how heavy multiple hardcover books can be. It�s like that extra binding is made of lead, and then the words printed in a lead-based ink, on paper that was made from trees which grew in a forest next to a polluted port.

Next to Kinokuniya, though, I have to say that the next most awesome place was GatchaStation.

It is like gambling for children.
All your Gashopon are belong to us.
..and Gashopon dispensers, too. LOTS OF THEM.

I utterly FAIL at SkillTesters, but Gashopon dispensers? AWESOME. And that sort of specialisation is definitely commendable. We tried to come back the next day to spend the rest of our change, but our wallets were spared when the place was closed. It was located in what I am going to call the Haunted Abandoned China Town Mall of Whiteness. It looked like it might have just been brand new and thus lacking in stores, or was perhaps just BRIMMING WITH POTENTIAL? Though admittedly the GatchaStation manager seemed surprised to have customers. Maybe it was just the time of day. The standard opening hours in Sydney do seem to be delightfully in line with those of the more nocturnal persuasion, with most stores opening after 10, and others opening at midday and staying open until 10 at night. Truly a vampire-friendly city.

Aside from the unusual shopping sprees and excessive monorail riding, eating was the other major facet of the adventure. There was much eating to be had. The number of dining establishments was quite extraordinary.

Disclaimer: We didn't actually eat here.  But we WANTED TO.

Some of the food was good. Some, not so good.

Art kindly provided by Hypnopixel's resident vandalising baker of delicious poison cookies.
Airport food has become somehow worse than airplane and hospital food combined. Washed up comedians, take note.

Perhaps the most important food-related revelation was that KRISPY KREME IS OVERRATED. Recently in Brisbane, a couple of 'Dreamy Donuts' stores opened up and started selling incredibly delicious donuts that made the only fare previously available (the plastic-covered rolls of sugary dough provided by Donut King) taste like stale dog food by comparison. It has been causing something of a donut revolution locally! However, many people have decried their success, stating that Krispy Kreme donuts from Sydney were even better, and likened eating them to a religious experience. We finally had the opportunity to try these legendary Krispy Kreme donuts that apparently are the Holy Grail of all baked treats, and while the donuts were indeed tasty, I can say with some confidence that Dreamy Donuts are better. This is a good thing, as Dreamy Donuts are local and thus I need not travel some thousand kilometres to enjoy them. But still, what's the deal? Dreamy Donuts are light and fluffy and practically melt in your mouth, whereas Krispy Kreme donuts, while still excellent, taste exactly like a better than average donut. MYTH BUSTED.

While all of that was quite exciting, the part of the trip I�d originally intended to write about was actually Eminence�s �A Night In Fantasia 2007: Anime Edition� concert held on the Sunday, with Yuki Kaijura as a special guest in attendance. For the anime-ignorant, Yuki Kaijura is a rather well-known music composer from Japan, counting the soundtracks to Noir, .hack, Le Portrait de Petit Cosette, Madlax and Tsubasa Chronicles as just some of the many popular titles she�s scored. She has a very distinctive style, and for more information you can just look here on wikipedia like everyone else.

There was a signing at Books Kinokuniya the day before the actual concert. I admit to getting suddenly star-struck and shy when actually given the opportunity to meet Yuki Kaijura. I own a great number of her soundtracks and have been following her career with rather close interest, so getting to meet her in person was quite the opportunity! So of course when the signing at Books Kinokuniya came around, everything I was going to ask/say to Yuki Kaijura just flew out of my head, and I wound up just proffering a CD for her to sign, then squeaking out a nervous 'Thanks!' before scurrying away with my prize.

Never been a big believer in autographs or signatures, but now I understand - it is EVIDENCE.
Photographic proof!

I managed to stalk a photo after the concert the next day, though, before we left for the airport.

I'm sure I must have looked like a strange and crazy person taking this, but then, that's the great thing about travelling to other cities for concerts!  No chance to repeat encounters!
Though with the bad angle and terrible focus, that could admittedly be anyone.

As for the concert itself, my opinions about it are somewhat mixed. I love live music, and I thoroughly enjoyed all of the pieces played, and it really was an excellent performance, but it was still mildly disappointing. Even knowing in advance that it wasn't a full symphonic Night in Fantasia, the ensemble was still much smaller than what I expected, with just one representative of the major instruments and no brass or choir whatsoever. The encore, 'The Song of Storm and Fire', just wasn't quite the same without the amazing choir. They did an excellent rendition of it for such a small ensemble, but the main theme for 'Le Portrait de Petit Cossette' wound up being my favourite piece of the afternoon simply because it was bombastic yet still well suited to such a small group. It seemed to be the one the musicians enjoyed the most, too. That poor Oboe player looked so sad and bored for most of the time!

Though handing out a program before hand sort of destroys the surprise and suspense, doesn't it?
They do make lovely tickets and programs, though.

The track list was as follows:

Xenosaga II � Opening Theme
Tsubasa Chronicle � The Dreamers
Tsubasa Chronicle � Femme
.hack//Liminality � Mai
Xenosaga II � Lamentation
Evangelion � Fly Me to the Moon
This one I thought was pretty dodgy, as Fly Me to the Moon is hardly an Evangelion exclusive, and marketing the event as featuring music from Evangelion was thus a little dodgy, as this was the only Evangelion track in the entire list, and it wasn�t even composed by Shiro Sagisu.
Le Portrait de Petit Cossette � Main Theme
Probably my favourite piece of the concert. The musicians seemed to actually enjoy playing this one, too, and it suited the arranged ensemble quite nicely. A wonderful melody.
Noir � Melodie
It was a rather odd choice, and a bit of a strange mix, this one. The piano and xylophone were quite nice, but the drums overpowered it.
Tsubsa Chronicle � Hear Our Prayer
Xenosaga II � Sakura
Elfen Lied � Lillium
Another one that really needed a choir, even though the violin did a beautiful stand in for it.
Noir � Lullaby
I liked the concert rendition far better than the original for this one, so props to Eminence for that.
Porco Russo � Porco Russo Medley
Probably the second best performance of the set. Rather jaunty and upbeat compared to the rest of the moody, romantic pieces.
Tsubasa Chronicle � Break the Sword of Justice

Not listed on the program was �The Song of Storm of Fire� from Tsubasa Chronicle, which was an incredibly obvious encore. It was good that they played it, though, otherwise there probably would have been blood drawn. This was the piece of music that fooled you into thinking you were actually enjoying watching Tsubasa Chronicles, after all.

As you can see, quite a small ensemble.
Photo obviously sans musicians. From the interval.

Surprisingly, Yuki Kaijura didn't perform at all, which was a bit weird for a special guest. She must be more of a composer than a performer. She did come out for a question and answer session, even though most of the questions asked were stupid and could be found through Google. The one that probably took the cake was the 'What sort of fashion do you like?' and she ostensibly pointed to what she was currently wearing.

I was impressed with the level of Yuki Kaijura's english, actually! She seemed to speak and understand a fair amount, and probably could have managed without any translator at all. Very quiet and serious-looking all the time, though. It was a little intimidating. Though I wonder if maybe she just wasn't having much fun? When I saw how few people turned up to the signing and the first concert (though that was likely mostly due to poor publicity), she might have been a little unimpressed. I certainly was. Eminence needs to find a new publicity machine. Perhaps the people from the Capitol Theatre promoting Billy Elliot.

Seriously, guys, we get the point. You honestly could not turn your head in inner Sydney without seeing that kid.

Conclusion: Sydney is great. But Dreamy Donuts is better.