Archive for May, 2004

mighty mighty weekend warriors

Monday, May 31st, 2004

Friday – a fun day at a conference. Heard some good speeches, saw some familiar faces among the Singapore and Hong Kong banking community (I am beginning to feel like an insider!), met a nice China bank head, hung out with the cool NY-based conference organizers, did a few interviews, ate some good food, washed it all down with some beer at the end of the day, and was the last to leave. Entered the weekend feeling good. Watched a new episode of “24″ Season Two when I got back, and got to sleep early-ish.

Saturday woke up with a sore throat. Felt pretty yucky all day. Wandered around the grounds, picked up a few things from the local grocers, Zen slept from noon to 3:30!! When he woke up, we went off to Holland Village to hang out with Ailing, look around, drink a coffee, and enjoy life. Got home, Zen was perky until 10 PM. The weather has been cool and breezy all day, which is kind of nice, considering how hot and windless it had been for a few weeks. Learned how to play a few Chinese songs on the guitar.

Sunday morning, another surprise – Zen slept until 8:30. What is going on with is sleeping patterns? We went to the botanical gardens and hung around, looked at fish and turtles, saw two dogs fighting, went into the cactus garden. I just learned how to say “cactus needle” in Japanese, “toh-gay.” It sounds like the word for “pinnacle”, which is “toooh-gay.” I was telling Naoko that pinnacle was “toh-gay,” and she was confused. I can understand her confusion – although they sound similar, pinnacles have almost nothing to do with cactus needles. Went off to West Mall (or is it East Mall?) near our house to eat lunch in Delifrance, then Naoko and I went shopping while I took Zen to some places where he could easily see trains and buses. Got home and tried to get Zen to sleep, but he was too worked up, it was already 4:15, so I took him out for a bike ride, then off to Sean and Mihoko’s to play with Kai and Hana, then home. Zen was in a bad mood from 5:30 to 6:30, probably sleepy and hungry, so I got him showered and fed and his teeth brushed, then he dropped off at 6:40. Hope he sleeps till morning.

Got an email today from an old friend Jake with the first musical request – Roadrunner. Thanks, Jake, for picking the easiest song there. Have to look after that one of these days. Maybe Wednesday, a national holiday.

Zooooooooommmmm!!!!

History shows again and again

Friday, May 28th, 2004

Hey ho, another few fun days. Yesterday, Wednesday, I got home at 7. Zen and Naoko were waiting at the bus stop, had been for 30 minutes. Zen just wanted to get out and watch buses. Then I got off and saw them. Nice. We got home and had dinner, Zen took agest to eat, take a shower, get to sleep. By the time he was sleeping at 10:10, I was exhausted and fell asleep myself. It was a dull evening, basically.

Thursday. Got a lift to kindergarten with my neighbour, thanks Dominic. Zen was back in school for the first time in a while, he returned gracefully and didn’t make a fuss, thanks Zen. Off to work and some office stuff, then off to a conference and an interview. Very interesting stuff, got lots of fun freebies like a pen that has a laser pointer in it, a travel pouch, golf balls, a golf marker, a note pad, more pens, more note pads, a book, a horse, a cow, a car… Ate a good lunch, chatted about language and interaction and what we know and what we don’t know, where we have travelled to, fun stuff like that. Got back to the office, then off to another evening thing. That was not so great – like a scripted interview event about stuff that didn’t directly affect me, but luckily before the event I met a cool guy, then after the event… much later after the event… I met a few other interesting people. Yeah, OK, right.

By the way, I notice nobody took up my musical challenge offer. Thanks a lot, people. This either means that nobody reads this blog, nobody wants to hear me sing, or nobody loves music. Depressing either way you look at it.

I also have to tell you more about the picture below. Zen was chewing on some chop sticks, so I thought it would make a good piture. This one turned out OK. What you can’t see is that we were eating okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes) in one of the coolest restaurants in all of Japan. The place is run by a guy who makes the best okonomiyaki in Japan, and only charges a small fee for his masterpieces. He serves beer in ceramic beer mugs, much loved by southern Germans and Austrians (I believe), and is a really great guy. There is always good music playing there, even if it is the Doobie Brothers (the Doobie Brothers never sounded so good as when they were played there, is what I am trying to say) and he has a wall of photos of patrons that he took himself with his classic camera, the kind that you look down into and has an umbrella flash. The guy himself is so mellow and likeable. You walk out of his place and it is a quiet street where kids can play, a stream running behind the place that leads up to Ako castle. Oh, and he also has a guitar for people who want to play. What more can you ask for?

Hashi Zen

E’n'g’l'i’s'h

Wednesday, May 26th, 2004

Hey ho, another few days have gone by. My computer’s fonts are going funny again, this happens every now and then. Blame Windows Japan for this one, Not much new here except that Zen has had a cold and a fever since Sunday. He has been acting fine, but coughing a lot and hot. He also doesn’t seem to be able to sleep properly, waking up a lot at night to cough and whine. Today he got some medicine from the doctor and has been sleeping nearly straight through since 4 PM. Wow!!

Peter and Zen on the futon

hubbly bubbly

Monday, May 24th, 2004

Fun? Weekend? Friday night I stayed up late and drank some gin. Saturday I was sleepy-headed most of the day – looked after Zen all morning because Naoko had to work, then meet friends. That was fun – first I went over to Sean and Mihoko’s and Zen played with Hana and Kai while I flipped through a few of Sean’s old magazines. Then we went off to check out the new book box that the management has set up at my suggestion, a la the book box at Gloria Mansion in Nishinomiya in Japan. We found that there were already a few books and magazines there. I grabbed a recent issue of the Economist that was there, it had articles on economic reform in China and e-commerce, two professional interests of mine, and went back. Zen met Matthieu, the funny little Italian boy, and they played around the play area for a while. Matthieu told me he was thirsty. I told him he could drink something from the drinking fountain near the pool; he complained it was far. He was angling to get invited to our place, so in the end he did come over. Clever kid – gets what he wants. He enjoyed our drinks and Zen’s toys, brought some sticks over too, but forgot to take them… Matthieu went home, we had lunch, and Zen went to sleep at 1:00 or so. I read and took a nap, hung out, Naoko came home, we tidied the house, then went off to Sembang in the north. Took the crowded 66 bus into Little India, then the new line up north to the second-last stop. Got a cake for our friend Ai-Ling, Ate cold barbecued food (they only had the pit until 6, we got there at 7) but it was fantastic. Yummy shrimps and scallops and squid in curry leaf, salad, chicken noodle tofu, and tons of other stuff. Forgot all about Chinese economic indicators. Zen played with the little girl, and we all had a nice chat over football. Zen fell alseep at 9, we left at 10:30, got home at 11. I was so tired, I fell asleep in Zen’s bed as I put him to sleep, crawled back to my own at 2 AM.

When I was woken up this morning, I was so dizzy… Went shopping for groceries, which was fun and nice, Zen pushed the cart around – he is getting better at that. Got home by taxi, had leftover barbecue, hung out. I read the Economist as Zen didn’t get ready for his nap. He finally slept at four, too tired to watch any more Anpanman. I mopped the floors, then went for a swim – that felt nice, my first swim in three weeks, then tried to do some computer. Hah! Zen woke up at 6:00 and we went for a cycle. That is, I put him on the back of my cycle for a ride down the hill, but what he really wanted was to ride on his own cycle. We went for a little ride around, me mostly pushing him, sometimes trying to teach him how to pedal. Got home and had dinner, then Zen’s fever picked up and he got sleepy and fell into a drifting, reluctant sleep, waking up every now and then. Tonight might be a tough night. Let’s see how it goes.

Tonight I finally went through my Spitz guitar book, which teaches how to play Spitz songs. Found about fifteen worth trying, including my favorite “ashita umi wo ni ikoou.” And this gave me an idea.

Here is where the blog becomes intereactive. The basic idea is that I list the songs that I know how to play on guitar, you request from them from me. I video a one minute clip of me singing and playing that song and send it to you by email attachment. My email address is peter@hoflich.com. Keep in mind that I am not the world’s greatest singer. Still, it could be fun!

Songs that I can play for at least a minute are:

Roadrunner (Jonathan Richman)
I’m A Little Dinosaur (Jonathan Richman)
Never Talking To You Again (Husker Du)
Suicide Is Painless (Johnny Mathis)
Apeman (Kinks)
Lola (Kinks)
Mad World (Tears For Fears)
The Story of Isaac (Leonard Cohen)
Suzanne (Leonard Cohen)
Seems So Long Ago Nancy (Leonard Cohen)
So Long Marianne (Leonard Cohen)
That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (Leonard Cohen)
Famous Blue Raincoat (Leonard Cohen)
The Old Revolution (Leonard Cohen)
The Mercy Seat (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds)
A Boy Named Sue (Johnny Cash)
Hurt (Johnny Cash version)
Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash)
A Boy Named Sue (Johnny Cash version)
Long Black Veil (Johnny Cash version)
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)
Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (Gordon Lightfoot)
Find the River (R.E.M.)
The One I Love (R.E.M.)
Man On The Moon (R.E.M.)
Wendell Gee (R.E.M.)
Wind of Change (Scorpions)
Redemption Song (Bob Marley)
The Scotsman’s Kilt
Long May You Run (Neil Young)
Hey Hey My My (Neil Young)
After the Gold Rush (Neil Young)
Like A Hurricane (Neil Young)
Pocahontas (Neil Young)
Out on the Weekend (Neil Young)
Turn The Page (Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band)
Ashes To Ashes (David Bowie)
The Man Who Sold The World (David Bowie)
Across The Universe (the Beatles)
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (the Beatles)
Alice’s Restaurant (Arlo Guthrie)
My Sister (Juliana Hatfield)
Ciao! (Lush)
Ame agari no yosora ni (R.C. Succession)
It Ain’t Me Babe (Bob Dylan)
Positively 4th Avenue (Bob Dylan)
The Tomato Song (Stompin’ Tom Connors)
Tillsonburg (Stompin’ Tom Connors)
Juanita (Gram Parsons)
Dead Flowers (the Rolling Stones)
What Goes On (the Velvet Underground)
No New Tale To Tell (Love and Rockets)
Express Kundalini (Love and Rockets)
The Boxer (Simon and Garfunkel)
Jane Says (Jane’s Addiction)
Wicked Game (Chris Isaac)
Highway Patrolman (Bruce Springsteen)
Me amd Bobby McGee (Kris Kristofferson)
Fire Water Burn (the Bloodhound Gang)
Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)
Brimful of Asha (Cornershop)

Oooookay… That about does it. Hope you find something in there that interests you. This is an experiment, not a self-promotion tool, so… take it with a grain of salt. Looking forward to your feedback!

Finally, here is a recent pic of Zen.

Zabuton Zen

Funny?

Friday, May 21st, 2004

Hey ho, nothing happened today. I got on a half-empty bus, then a half-empty train, got to work a little late but was nearly the only person there. Was it a national holiday and nobody told me? No, it was just one of those days. Had a lot of funny ideas today, ideas for comics and short stories… but no ideas about banking-related articles. Actually, I did write an article, and I organized myself completely, which is nice, and things are looking up. I am a productive member of society. And like my boss says, “it’s not for you, it’s for the good of mankind.”

Haruka loves Zen loves Haruka loves Zen loves Haruka loves Zen loves Haruka loves Zen loves Haruka loves Zen loves Haruka loves Zen...

Belle and Sebastian

Thursday, May 20th, 2004

Hey ho, another two days have passed since my last entry. Na wie schon dass keiner noch 2 Wochen warten muss bis ich wieder schreibe. For those of you who haven’t checked out the bizarre Poot Poot mirror site to this, please check out this link. Based on the wise words of the Swedish Chef, a la Muppets fame.

Yesterday was a day of some meetings. I went to an 11:00 press briefing in the offices of JP Morgan, our famous run sponsor, a short walk away from the office in the huge and ultra-modern China Club Tower. Wow – cool. Semi-interesting briefing by three guys on investment banking in Asia. Unfortunately, my favorite countries – China, Japan, Taiwan – were not part of the discussion. Bummer. Nice guy giving the talk, and we chatted a bit about insurance in China. I dashed off to a lunch with my colleagues where I ate “peranakan food.” Tasted a bit like local hawker centre fare, a bit better of course, but ten times as expensive. Lemon juice was drunk by all. Don’t worry, Peter, fun parties will surely come again. Meetings in the afternoon, some work, some organizing of stuff. By tomorrow I will be recovered from two weeks out of the office. Last night we… just did the usual routine stuff. I finally got to listen to my beloved Nagisa Nite’s new CD. Will have to review that eventually.

Today was a funnish day. Went to a Citibank press conference at lunch. Listened to a “why Citibank is great” speech, then it was Q&A time. Fun. Did a bit of lingering, then went to lunch. I was sitting at the table with the cool, fun, perky media chicks. Lots of funny conversations with gorgeous women. Yes, really! I teased Citi about losing Japanese-customer data tapes in Singapore, a tape that potentially has my information on it since I am a Citibank customer (shhhh… don’t tell anybody) in Japan, but… OK. Ha ha ha ha ha. Did an interview with the credit cards big shot, then back to the office for more tidying. Went off at 7:30 with my colleague to part 2 of the Citibank card relaunch – the night club party!!! Off to a bar called Ink that was packed solid with boring but attractive party people. Where did all of these non-bankers come from? Drinks were very thinly distributed, and at one point the power went off. The Citibank VIPs gave short speeches that nobody could hear, then some joker came on and gave a vogue-ish show of models. Guys with six-pack stomachs with angel wings and boots and armbands pretending that they were cool standing around. It was very strange. One of the lady models in a gorgeous gold dress had this exquisite Mona Lisa smile, and every time I looked her way it seemed like she was smiling and looking right at me. Then I realized that it wasn’t really me she was looking at, it is just that she had perfected the winning scmile and the luscious gaze, free for all. I never realized quite how creepy models really are. The party was OK, but there were quite a few technical difficulties. What it all needed was a gay 6-foot tall French guy in a turtleneck to come wandering in, snapping his fingers and saying “no, no, no, zees is not good at all. I am very un’appy. Change zees and zees and zees. Quickly!” And it would have all been OK. Elena and I escaped with a Canadian writer called Floyd and went and had pizza, talked about Leonard Cohen and Stompin’ Tom Connors. Of course, we’re Canadian, right? Left and took the bus. Looked over my shoulder and saw a guy sleeping on the grass next to the sidewalk next to the highway. I wonder if he has any gold in his life. Got home and chatted with Naoko about our days, then went in and saw Zen sleeping like an angel. He had a little open-mouthed curl on his lips as he slept, the object of serenity. Such a beautiful thing…

CD review – Belle and Sebastian. Belle and Sebastian is a cult band that I managed to ignore for a few years before finally discovering them early this year. I quickly learned that this unique band combines quirky lyrics with mellow accoustic sounds and pleasant vocals and catchy harmonies. They combine it all to create a strange headspace. Lyrics like “On your own/ And if they follow you/ Don’t look back/ Like Dylan in the movies.” Get it – Bob Dylan made a movie called “Don’t Look Back.” Then… when I went to Seoul an interesting thing happened. My friend Scott Bug and I met for the first time and he took me out drinking in the university district. I had a bunch of beers and let Scott take me to an underground pub that was located in the basement of an apartment building. One of those top-ten-of-all-bars, where there is great music, great decor, cool bartender, and lots of beer. Believe me – this combination is amazingly elusive. Pretty soon the only people left were the three of us and one Korean woman. We found out that she worked for a record distributor that brought the music of cool underground bands like Pavement to Korea. We swopped business cards, and when I got back to Singapore I sent her a “hi how are you” email. Then last week I got back from 2 weeks away and found a package from her on my desk – she had sent me a copy of the Korean release of Belle and Sebastian’s newish release “Dear Catastrophe Waitress.” This fine CD comes with Korean lyrics (although the band only sings in English). The new CD is of course a pleasant experience from end to end. Sometimes I wonder how the musicians can have fun playing music this mellow, and some songs on this CD are pretty boring (even by B&S standards), but somehow there is something so appealing, so engaging about the little worlds that they create through their songs. “Dear Catastrophe Waitress” is a pretty cool title, kind of like Bauhaus and “Terror Couple Kill Colonel” coming to mind, and the title track is a great three chord wonder. Some of the songs are like really dull Eagles songs. Then others are stellar. Not so much female vocal, and lots of horns and finger snapping on some songs. Double entendres (sex, that is) in “Step Into My Office, Baby” (no need to use the imagination there). Great lyrics like “If I could do just one near perfect thing I’d be happy/ They’d write it on my grave, or when they scattered my ashes/ On second thought I’d rather hang about and be there with my best friend/ If she wants me.” Love this band.

handsome kid

Two weeks

Tuesday, May 18th, 2004

I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Friday night I went out in Osaka, Saturday Hong Kong, Sunday Singapore. What a jet-setter I am. Here is a pic of my friends in Hong Kong and I – Laurence, me, Yvan, and Francoise.

Laurence, Peter, Yvan, Francoise

So what REALLY happened? Monday the 3rd of May was a regular day at work, albeit with more rushing around than normal. Monday night I… forgot what I did. I know I didn’t watch a movie with ten of my rowdy friends, though, I never do that.

Tuesday we flew to Hong Kong – that is me and seven of my colleagues. Got to the airport at 6:45 AM. What an adventure. I was the first one there, of course, then Elena, then the others trickled in. Got through check-in for our Cathay Pacific flight (best airline in the world?) with our 200 kilograms of baggage, had to pay a bit extra. Of course, we were scattered throughout the whole plane, I was in the very very very back. Sheesh. Didn’t even bother to watch the movie. Mystic River was playing, but I didn’t want anything that intense. Got to Hong Kong, took a cab into the city, found the suite in the Hyatt I was staying in with my boss – classy, great view, 29th floor, free cocktails on the 30th floor every night from 5:30 to 7:00 (too busy to take advantage of them, of course) and breakfast there too. Strawberries and chocolates in the evening, bowl of fruit at all times, fax machine and business centre in the room. Went off to Kowloon to meet Suzuki-san and get my ticket for my next trip – Hong Kong-Osaka-Hong Kong. Bustled about doing errands, like changing money, then got back to the hotel for the meeting. They were setting up the hall events, which was cool. I was helping out in the office, people were asking me to sing songs, so I did. In one of the theaters they were playing Van Helsing for the press screening, so I sat and watched about five minutes of one of the werewolf scenes. It was totally stupid, as I suspected. How could any remake of Ghostbusters be good anyway? When Hugh Jackman is not Wolverine, he’s not really himself, is he? Out in the lobby there were tons of dumb Van Helsing posters. Yawn. Had an 7:30 to 10 meeting with the boss in the lounge on the mezzanine, the one with the great view. At 8:10 all of a sudden all these fireworks went off from the roofs of the surrounding builings, I could only marvel that I was sitting in the lobby of a five-star hotel with a perfect view, watching it all. Ate finger foods, washed down with a beer, then went back to the room to do some research after munching on some 7-11 sandwiches. Yuck again.

Wednesday, got to work early and met a big shot from the IMF. And when I say big shot, I mean BIG shot. He was nearly 8 feet tall, and a super nice guy too by the way. Drifted around and tried to make myself useful, then sat through speeches and speeches and speeches. Lots of blurred worlds, so what do I remember of my time in Hong Kong? Good speeches, bad speeches, moderators, boderators, happy times, rushing around, eating muffins, drinking coffee, finding cake, trying to meet interesting people, chatting for a polite ammount of time with boring people, having a few cocktails, eating leftover sandwiches and snacks and cakes for dinner several evenings, writing reports late into the night and getting few hours of sleep. The next morning I would always hear about how my co-workers got even less sleep than I had. I wish I could remember more about the highlights of the days events. I had a great time, even though I was working so much (8 AM to 11 PM for 4 days that week). Coming at the end of my loneliness of being on my own for three weeks in Singapore it should have been really tough, but it did get my mind off of thing in a way. It also helped that it was really well organized, and that people had put in so much work to make sure it went off really well. Wow.

Wednesday afternoon I went off to have an interview with a big shot in an investor group, Thursday and Friday I interviewed big shots from Chinese banks, Thursday and Friday I had breakfasts (coincedental meeting) with the same IMF big shot – such a nice guy. It was a helluva trip. Finally had a meal in Jollybee, the Philippine version of MacDonald’s that is like a national symbol or something. Rode on the MTR and watched people use Octopus cards. Funny.

Friday was the big end of the event. I sat in on three payment events, and even “moderated” the last one. It didn’t go so great, but I had three very different guys among the group and they were quite interesting. One western woman asked one of the guys a question. He answered the question civilly enough, but in the end reared up on his hind legs and bit her head off anyway. There was a closing keynote speech, and then we were done. But no – there was still the report to write, so we got to work and finished at 10, experiencing great giddy relief. At 10:30 we were having dinner in a local restaurant. Great Hong Kong seafood, I ate and ate and ate. It was my first real dinner the whole week. Breakfast and lunch had usually been good, but dinner never was… until Friday. Went out for drinks in the lively gwailo drinking area. A hilly neighborhood that had been shut off from traffic, everybody carrying their drinks into the street. We got there, the ten of us, and had drinks, listened to the Philippino band do Queen covers, then went to a quieter place. Some of us got drunk and made passes at each other, others fell asleep. I was pretty sober by the end of it. I got back to the hotel, went to sleep, woke up at a good time, had a five star breakfast, and checked out. I realized that I had lost my sweater, though – damn, nothing warm to wear on the flight. Took a cab. I asked him to take me to the train station, but he said he could take me to the airport for the same price, so I said – OK, man, take me away. A little mistrusting that he wouldn’t turn around and demand the full price of the taxi fare anyway, but then he was good to his word after all. Checked in to my Air India flight. Everything went well, until it was time to board. Then I found out that I had to sit in business class. COOL! Air India business class is way better than Cathay Pacific economy class any day. I flew to Osaka in style, with a lavish dinner and neverending beers. They showed the film Paycheck, which I found not such a bad flick after all despite the presence of the cursed Ben Stiller – entertaining, modest in its ambitions, and I liked the guy who played the sidekick. Funny how you can still see a film on the wall in business class, and not on those crappy little digital screens with the multiple crappy movies that always run into difficulties. They ran out of blankets, though. I made an unhappy face at the attendant, who said “I’m sorry sir, we’ve run out of blankets. I have asked the captain to turn up the cabin temperature. I know it’s not the right thing to do, but it’s the best we can accomodate you right now.” What can you say to that?

Got to Osaka, got through customs quickly, got a bus to Kobe quickly. In the bus I asked a guy to borrow his cell phone to call Naoko. That worked well. Got to Sannomiya station, got a train almost right away, and got to Himeji at 6 PM. Naoko and Zen and my father-in-law picked me up by car. Zen didn’t quite recognize me for 10 seconds after he saw me, but he quickly clued in and ran into my arms after all. How nice. Got home, had a nice family dinner, drank lots more beer, then went off to see Aki and Kimi-chan and Hayao-chan. Slept together with my family again for the first time in a while. Here is a picture of Zen and his favorite cousin Haruka.

Zen and his favorite cousin Haruka

Sunday we went off to Ako to see our old friends there. Trevor and Ewan picked us up from the station. We went for a little drive around the city, like to see the new Oishi jinja, finally complete and looking glistening new after a year of reconstruction. Since I don’t really understand the concept of a new-looking shrine, it did look a little odd. I guess it needs a few decades to break in. Oh well. Went off to the great Okonomiyaki shop to eat and drink, which was fun. Ewan played a bunch of songs, including some Pixies (!?!) songs, and that was cool. Found out that Trevor had my Top Secret tape and asked for it back (and he actually sent it a few days later – thanks Trevor!) so I could show it to my co-workers, mutual Top Secret fans. Yeah! Went off later on to see Ono-san’s new house, which is really swish!! All wood, plenty of flat screen plasma TVs, a bunch of expensive dogs, very nice. Went home and… had a family meal with all the brothers and sisters. Fun. The kids played happily, and once piled on me!

Monday was a rainy day. We took bikes to Uniqlo to buy some clothes. Got there too early so killed time in a local game centre for a while. The Anpanman bonk-a-baikin was broken, so we made print club stickers and hung out. Strange place. Got some nice clothes, though. Evening we ate… some food. Watched the Ring. Will review later.

Tuesday we went to Nishinomiya in the afternoon. It was OK – got there late in the afternoon, went off to see Keiko and Sayoko, I walked around and met Chris and Tadd. From the third floor of Gloria Mansion, I spotted Zorro in the field below. I yelled out “Zorro, Zorro,” Zen yelled out “Zorro, Zorro.” The cat looked at us for a while, then disappeared. Later we went for a river walk, Seamus was not around the pub so we went back and had dinner with Sebastian and Keiko and Jason and Yukiko instead and had a wonderful evening. Went off to sleep at Aki’s, Zen got to sleep at 11:30, very late. Hung out with Aki drinking beer until 1:00 AM. Here is a picture from Tuesday night:

Tadd Mikkiko Zenn

Woke up at 8 or so, hung out with Aki in the morning for a while, she went to work late, then walked off to the old Gloria Mansion to hang out with our old landlord Kawamura-san and play with Tadd and Chris. Had a mini picnic at the riverside, which was nice. Took the train back to Himeji and spent the evening hanging out, watching sumo, Hanshin Tigers baseball, and a movie – My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Review later.

Thursday. What did we do. I took care of some visa business. I went to Kimi-chan’s to write emails. I later went downtown to look at CDs or something. In the evening we watched Terminator 3.

Friday I went off to Osaka to meet Matt. Lots of fun stuff. I left Himeji at 3, got to Osaka at 4, went to Shinsaibashi and walked around the street and record stores, marvelling again at the beauty of trendy Japanese women. How I had forgotten that. Of course, it is all illusionary, but what do I care after only a week back in the country. Went to Pipe 69 live house to catch up with Shane, that was cool. Pet were there too, Yokk-oi!! Met Matt in Tower, then went off to Nature Burger for some food and then 7-11 for some onigiri, then to Alchemy Records to chat with Masonna and buy a Garadama/Pain Jerk CR-R. Nice stuff. Masonna gave me some Nagisa Nite calendars from 2002. What a cool guy he is. Went off to Pooka Pooka to hang out with master Take Damone and watch Aerosmith videos as we drank beer. Cool people hanging out that night, including a manga-assistant guy in a shirt and tie. Funny. Later went off to Ganja pub to drink and hang out more, the bartender was the singer from the Orhiri Pen-Penz, so we listened to some of his music. Then the manga-assistant guy showed up again, and it was a laugh. The master put on the Garadama CD, cool stuff. NOISY!!! Matt needed to leave pretty early, so we got to the station and said goodbye. I went off to Tocca a Te to have a final beer of the evening and to say hi to Steve Yamaguchi, which was short and sweet. Barely talked to him 2 minutes, he was busy. Did talk to some horribly boring guy from some newspaper, thogh, not so fun. Rushed off to the last train, read the JapanZine and KTO and listened to my walkman as I sped to Himeji. It took an hour. I got there at 12:40, collected my bike, got home at 1.

Awake again at 6, but with no hangover. Got the bags together, prayed that they would not be overweight, then got into the car and sped off to the airport. Nice. Took over two hours. Checked Naoko and Zen in, hung out for nearly an hour, then hid as they checked in so that Zen would not cry too too too much. It worked, although apparently he figured it out a few hours into the flight and began to bawl anyway. Smart kid.

At the airport

family all

Mr. and Mrs. Fujino fled right away, so I was on my own in the airport. Had ramen and potstickers for lunch, then had the bad luck of overhearing a boorish guy ask for western tea in the ramen shop. At least, that is what I think he was saying. The waitress had no idea what he was talking about. “Tea, tea, it’s international, isn’t it?” Actually, it is, but what kind of an idiot orders western tea in a Japanese restaurant? What happens when you try to order matcha in MacDonald’s? The Air India flight to Hong Kong was OK this time around, although I wasn’t bumped up to business class. Since the flight was empty, the crew didn’t have to work too hard, and most of the time were seen lounging around, disinterestedly reading newsapapers and magazines. Only the Japanese stewardess appeared to be actually bustling about. They showed a funny Hindi film – four young touts go to Mumbai from the rural areas, accidentally kidnap a high powereed gangster, who is like the Indian Mickey Rourke, who is in love with a dancer who is like the Indian Catherine Zeta-Jones. I am sure these people are superstars in India, I just wish I knew their names because they were fantastic. I think the film was called “Ride.” Air India is good. The best think about it is that they don’t have those fussy little video screens, and also when you ask for a beer the bring TWO. Every time. I drew a lot on the flight, since I couldn’t tolerate the book I had with me. The inflight material was no better. Editorials by famous Indians in the in-flight magazines about how they love Air India. Hilarous. Got to Hong Kong and took the train off to Central, then a bus to Taikoo to meet Suzuki-san and Takako. A show and a change of clothes later, we are eating dinner with Jackie Iori, a juku teacher who had contemplated a move to Singapore but turned it down. Good food. Later we went out for drinking – Suzuki-san and Iori-san to meet another friend, and me with Francoise, Laurence and Yvan. Nice. Fun. Got home late at night, then to sleep.

Saturday we got up and had some dim sum. Nice. Phoned Naoko and Zen. Took a bus to the airport, had a lot of time to wander around the airport, then went on the flight. Cathay was OK this time, and I watched Along Came Polley on the flight. It was not a great film, but it benefitted from more than a few laugh-out-loud-funny parts. Great. Got to Singapore, took a cab home, saw Naoko and Zen. Unpacked, went out for Indian dinner, slept a great deep sleep.

Monday. Pressure meeting in the morning, another meeting from 2 to 3, then lots of catching up and getting down to work. Great nice stuff. Some bad news at work nonetheless, so it was an eventful last week, but it is nice to be there again.

Film Review – the Ring. The American film version of the ring is OK, basically worth seeing but nohow is it better than the original. Many things changed, and none of them improvements. Horses committing suicide? Horses? The opening scene is way too long, and the son is a bit too creepy. OK, maybe that is better than the original. Naomi Watts is good, though, but her ex-husband is not so great.

Film Review – My Big Fat Greek Wedding. A great little film about a mousy Greek-American woman with no real problems in life beyond an eccentric family. Great acting, lots of funny, charming scenes, and a good romantic thing. It is sometimes hard to believe that Greek-Americans are really that eccentric, though, and having a strange family is not really like being actually oppressed (i.e. drunken/runaway father, sadistic single mother, whatever). In a funny way, it reminded me of my own situation. I come from a small family, I married into a large family. Same as in the movie.

Film review – Terminator Three. So so. Nothing about this film was really great except for Arnold Schwartzenegger. Weird how a Terminator needed to steal a gun to kill people with – doesn’t she have enough weapons of her own. I think the budget for this film was way less than for T2 and it kind of shows. Oh well, I’ve seen it, now I can move on with my life.

Film review – Along Came Polly. I wasn’t expecting too much about this film. The plot is the kind of thing you have seen a million times already – White Palace, etc. etc. etc. But with a few laugh-out-loud scenes of its own, it’s basically worth seeing. The basketball scene with the fat hairy guy is probably a mini-classic of its own. “Uh, excuse me, could you put your shirt back on sir?” Ben Stiller is the new Woody Allen. Jennifer Aniston… is not.

Sun Day

Monday, May 3rd, 2004

Hey, a nice weekend. Woke up late, spent the morning finishing the Da Vinci Code. So so. Got to work, finally, on the submission packages for fiction and poetry – worked all afternoon and evening and now have 28 packages together. More work to do – at least 50 more available to send out, with more if I get to work on the editing. Mother! Went swimming in the morning and evening, which was nice, also watched the end of Small Soldiers again, since I was… a little… drunk last night when I watched it. Ate rice and Indian pickles for lunch, then pasta for dinner. Boring. I will eat better food again soon. Played a little guitar. It rained all morning, then was windy and cool all afternoon. I love these windy afternoons, so nice.

Book Review: The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown. Dan Brown has 3 books on the INTERNATIONAL bestseller list. The Da Vinci Code is there, so is Angels and Devils, in English and in the German translation. He is a bit of a hack of a writer, though, with crap prose and bad jokes throughout the book. What he says about the art world is fascinating, and I learned lots of interesting tidbits – Mona Lisa as a she-male, a female taking part in the Last Supper, Sun Day being a pagan thing, iconography behind pentacles and the Star of David, etc. But the narrative reads a bit sticky, and several of the mysteries I could figure out way before they happened – a sign of a not-so-master-storyteller. Projecting a bit? And the central event, where a man is able to set up clues all over the Louvre in the last fifteen minutes of his life as he bleeds to death from a stomach wound is a bit… doubtful. And what did he do it for in the end? One preposterous scene where mirror text is mistaken for elfin by reknowned historians, cryptographers, and iconographers. Yeah, right. The jury is still out on Dan Brown, but if this Indiana Jones stuff keeps up we will probably have another Tom Clancy/John Grisham on our hands.

Movie Review: Small Soldiers. OK, so Joe Dante directed this. Joe Dante directed Gremlins. Small Soldiers is a sort of morality tale on the nature of war toys, so in that way it is the farce that Toys should have been (Toys still gets my vote for the crappiest movie I have ever seen). It is a bit Gremlins, a little Toy Story, a bit Night Of The Living Dead, Leprochaun, and all of those other stupid evil toys films (Chucky, Puppet Master, whatever). Some funny stupid stuff, but it would be funnier if we hadn’t seen it a million times before. A very strange film, actually, considering that the GI Joe toys are actually the villains. Funny war film references, and the fact that the voices of the opposing sides are the Spinal Tap gang vs. the surviving actors from the Dirty Dozen, just makes it funnier.

one more week

Sunday, May 2nd, 2004

Hey ho, another week. I… Saturday I hung about finishing articles for work, jerked around a lot, wasted time, hung out. Went swimming a bit, and suffered a bit of a gin hangover from Friday night. Oh well. Sunday I hung out, went downtown in the afternoon for some nice movie watching with Elena from work – Zatoichi!!! Great film. Monday was a regular day at work, the journal went to print which was nice, but after work at 6 I went off to Kuala Lumpur for my Tuesday morning press conference. Lots of hassles getting to the airport, checking in, getting on the flight, first time in KL airport, all that. GOt to the hotel late – tired and hungry and thirsty. My room is a suite at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, very classy!!! Went out for a walk around the neighbouring Petronas Towers, very interesting. Very hot. The towers are all lit up frosty white and very attractive. Had a beer and a plate of nachos at a ground level pub, that was OK. Went back to the hotel and had a deep sleep.

Next morning drew a bath, but the stupid tub was still too short for my long body. I still prefer the Japanese “barrel” type baths, where you are always underwater, and the water stays warm longer. Went to the press conferrence, it was interesting. INterviews, and rapid filing of stories by cell phone and pay phone, fun. Afternoon free – my flight was at 9:45!!! I met Joe Kidd, the punk rocker and activist and all around cool guy. Talked about Husker Du and the Philippines and Chile and music all around, then went off to the KL office of my company and then took a train out to the airport. I slept in the train some, was way early for the flight so I wandered around the airport, then got in the flight. I slept for most of the 45 minute flight, which is a first for me (sleeping through an entire flight) and then took a cab home. Bone tired.

Wednesday was mellow and slow – I worked a bit, then at 5:30 we went off and did a JP Morgan corporate run, which was fun. We got there late, and as a group entered the pack at the end of the queue… i.e. with all of the walkers. We got speeding through all of the walkers and it was more of an obstacle course than a fun run, but that was OK. Saw lots of lard and cellulite, people walking along in jeans and sensible shoes. I finished at the same time as my fit colleague Mark, 5.6 kilometers in 31.30 minutes. Fun. I walked back with my boss, we did some talking, and later went out for Japanese food. I got home after 12, slepttttttt….

Thursday was a day of… no memory.

Friday went to a press conference on the new release of a polymer $10 note for Singapore, hooray. HOpe it catches on. If Singapore becomes a cashless society by 2008 like it wants to that would render the polymer notes usless, but that is another matter… Also went to a bank results meeting, that was OK. Nice free food, and the second in command is such a nice guy!

Saturday, tidied the house, went cycling to cash checks, buy groceries and other stuff, then back home to hang out and have lunch, then downtown to see Hellboy. So crowded downtown on Orchard, I nearly can’t believe it. Once again I am shattered by Singapore women, who always wear skimpy tops in air conditioned environments. Hellboy is OK, then I go to do some more grocery shopping before I head back and spend a solitary evening typing away on the computer. Sigh…

Book Review – Tales From The Boom Boom Room: whatever you may think about the dumb title, this is a book about sexual harrassment in tht ’90s in the brokerage companies in the USA. Although sexual discrimination was being dealt with on a corporate level in America by the ’90s, the brokerages hid behind legal clauses and it was allowed to continue in this business. The first half of the book is full of shocking instances of adult American men behaving like neandrathal men, or at the very best like “college men,” with their female colleagues, the second half of the book is about the legal battles that the cases resulted in and the sniping that went on between the lawyers and the class behind the suit. Interesting book that somewhat falls apart, oh well. Amazing to read about how many psychopaths have positions of influence in American brokerages. Like… total raging psychopahts.

Film review – Zatoichi. Zatoichi is the name of a blind masseur who is also an invincible swordsman. Originally a TV series, it was recently remade into a film by none other than Beat Takeshi. The film is good and iconoclastic, with plenty of good swordplay that will give Kill Bill a run for its money. Essentially, it is like those great Akira Kurosawa/Sergio Leone films where someone wanders into a town where there is criminal law, and plays the sides off against one another, before the final showdown. Some corny plot elements, so it is not perfect, but some very clever effects nonetheless, and more physical comedy than we have seen in any recent Takeshi films. Odd that there is no explanation given WHY Zatoichi is such a great fighter even though he is blind (although there are goofs on that at the end). Does Zatoichi have an origin? Does he need one? Do all Japanese know it? Is this a film or an episode in the Zatoichi series? Is this a Kurosawa tribute/remake? All these questions. Asano Tadanobu has a cameo as ANOTHER invincible swordsman, and he does a good job. Their first film together since Gohatto, perhaps?

Film Review – Hellboy: Comic book remake that everybody has seen previews of. Again, all the best scenes are in the preview. Not sure what is necessary to see in the film itself, except perhaps the “love story” part, as well as all the stuff about Hellboy with long horns. I am reading The Da Vinci Code at the moment, and am getting the scoop on devils with horns, but who cares – it is all in good fun. Four villains don’t really add up to one Darth Vader, but who cares – Ron Peralmn as Hellboy is still the coolest thing about the film. Maybe this is a film ABOUT Darth Vader, instead of a film with Darth Vader as the villain. Cool, huh?