Archive for August, 2004


Saturday, August 28th, 2004

Hey ho, another half week went by. Tuesday - busy, especially after I found out I had to start and finish a story that day. Busy. Wednesday - busy. Thursday, not so busy, but then I got asked to join a presentation for 45 minutes… well, maybe 1 hour and 45 minutes. Went for lunch at a nice spaghetti place after that and saw, for the first time, spaghetti in a parchment bag. Interesting… Today, Friday, was such a quiet day at work that I got tons of work done. Good thing too, there is a lot to do! Tomorrow, Saturday, just want to chilllllll outttttttt…

DVD Review – King Kong: The greatest beast of them all. 90 minutes of pure fun, the first 30 are all about establishing characters, including the incredibly square leading man (check out the shirt buttoned up to the top button) and the luscious Fay Wray, who really was some dish. The mysterious island of Kong awaits. The final 60 minutes are all action, with nearly every scene some sort of special effects. Even the films these days, with better technology, wouldn’t show 60 minutes of solid special effects, would they? See Kong fight a tyrannysaurus rex, then a giant snake, a pterydactyl, and eventually four biplanes as he climbs up the Empire State Building. Plenty of gruesome deaths makes you wonder if films made in the ’30s were really all that tame. Excellent from start to finish.

DVD review – The Cave of the Silken Thread: From the Journey to the West saga of Chinese literature comes the tale of the Monkey King, Sun Wukong (called Songoku in Japanese) as he and Piggy and Sandy guide the monk Tripitaka to India in search of Buddhist scriptures. Naturally, horrible demons and sexy spider princesses lie in wait, for to feast on Tripitaka’s flesh is to become immortal, yadda yadda yadda. With a whole cave full of sexy 8-armed she-devils tempting the Monkey King and his friends, lots of weak kung fu, and plenty of corny psychadelic effects, the film is 80 minutes of pure fun, with silly song and dance numbers, ingenius disguises, and some pretty racy (for the time) “nude” scenes. Fun to have playing in the background at a party.

DVD Review – Starsky and Hutch: Quasi-funny film starring Ben Stiller as the square Starsky, and Owen Wilson as the stoned-out Hutch. I never watched the original series, but expected this remake to be pretty funny regardless. Basically, though, it was pretty weak, with little real charm. There was at least one laugh-out-loud-funny scene, but at this point I have forgotten what it was. Snoop Dogg’s scenes were funny, especially with his iguana, but basically – who cares. Ben Stiller has had four films come out this year. All four could have made one good film if they had been rolled together, so why spread yourself so thin, Ben?

Zen’s haircut

Tuesday, August 24th, 2004

Hey ho, another Monday. Had a good Monday morning meeting, did a good ammount of work, pulled lots of things together, made some nice calls, talked to friendly people, had fun. Blah blah blah. Got home at 8 and played with Zen a bit, read him to sleep, got up again to write this. Sleepy tonight, going to bed. Here are pics of Zen playing with the lovely neighbour kids, Xavier and Sunwoo. Here you can see Zen’s haircut.

These pictures are a bit dark – my flash doesn’t seem to be working any more, it doesn’t go off even when I set it. Oh well.

3 kids laughing

three kids again.

working weekend

Monday, August 23rd, 2004

hey ho, another working weekend. Thursday I went out to a nice Japanese lunch with my two colleagues and a bank employee, the bank employee paid for it – nice. Came home late and jumped right into a freelance job – proofreading a translation of a German legal document into English. It was very tough and took me until 1 in the morning. One of the sentences was 85 words long!! I showed some of it to my German colleague at work, and he helped me figure out a few problems, nice. Friday was also very very busy – got home after 10, just as Zen was getting to sleep. I watched an episode of 24 with Naoko and played some guitar. That was fun and relaxing. The weekend is here, but there will be a lot of work to be done. Saturday Naoko and Zen and I walked to the Bukit Batok Nature Park for a walk around. We stood on the rocks next to the reservoir pond and watched a huge school of red fish dive and come to the surface. Saw some sort of soft-shelled turtle or eel or something surface for a split second. What was that? The park was pretty empty, it was nice. After we got back and lunched, Zen slept for a long time, so I got to work on stuff. Transferred a lot of MP3s onto MD with my new NetMD walkman, so it was nice to figure out how that is done. Some problems, but no matter – nothing is perfect. When Zen woke up we all got on bus 66 and went into Little India. Still amazed at that place – you really don’t feel like you are in Singapore. Old shop houses, people working on sewing machines on the second floor, all sorts of crazy stuff. People who don’t speak English or Chinese… Ate yummy vegetarian food in the same restaurant I went to 2 weeks ago with colleagues, nice. Got home, Zen fell asleep soon after, and I worked until 1 AM on the laptop computer I have brought home from work. Nice. Sunday we woke up late, got out of bed, had breakfast, went to the mall. I bought a Tintin VCD, which was nice, and we went home and watched it. It’s OK – also got a nice pen case with it. Zen took a short nap, and I got some work done. Then he woke up, I kept working, and at 6 we went for a nice bike ride. That was fun. Went back to Bukit Batok Nature Park – now full of people. Got home, Zen played with Sunwoo a bit, then we gave Zen a haircut, and I got a trim too. Xavier came over to see what was going on, it was fun. We listened to a Julee Cruise tape that I got from Matt, he sent it by parcel with some other books and tapes, years after I had lent it to him. Nice listening.

Yesterday Zen really wanted to wear this alligator outfit that Matt and Mami gave him over a year ago, even though it is a bit too small for him. He looks like a baby wearing it.

alligator Zen!

Action pose!!

busy busy busy

Thursday, August 19th, 2004

Hey ho, another very busy week. Tuesday was a runaround and got lots of little things done. In the evening I fell asleep with Zen and then got up to do some proofreading for my neighbour. Oooohhh… Today was just as busy, and I managed to get an article done and sent out in a newsletter, which was tough but fun. Found out that I was invited for a banking event to be held ON a train next Monday, i.e. the train that goes from Singapore to Malaysia. But then found out later in the day that the event was postponed because the product launch was being delayed. Hmmmm… Interesting. Wonder what happened there. Got home near 8:30, then went to read with Zen, which was nice. He fell asleep at 9:30, a bit earlier than usual. I fell asleep for 30 minutes too, then got up to do more proofreading. Busy, busy these days. Really!

Guess the heavy metal band – which heavy metal band is guilty of giving us the following lyrics:

Tell no truth and tell no lies
Cross your heart and hope to die
Never give what you can’t take back
Scratch like a cat
Inject your venom
It’ll be your last attack

A) Dokken
B) Iron Maiden
D) Dokken

Zen in the restaurant

Let there be baroque

Tuesday, August 17th, 2004

Hey ho, another long day. Got to work at 8:30 for the monday morning meeting, got through it quickly, smoothly, on time, very productive after not having it for a week. Had a phone interview, got some good email response, talked to people on the phone, set up interviews for the rest of the week, got calls from Korea and Japan, and was generally quite productive. Naoko and Zen called twice throughout the day – Zen was at home recovering from his fever, although he was fine and good and very energetic, so much so that he didn’t even nap. Nice and fun. Had a good lunch, then more fun. Back home by 8:00 to see Naoko and sing Zen to sleep, have dinner, and watch a DVD – Shaolin Soccer

DVD Review – Shaolin Soccer: Wacky fun by Zhou Xingzhe, the Hong Kong comedy maniac. This time, as the title would indicate, he is a Shaolin martial artist who learns to apply his martial arts, with some colleagues, to the art of playing soccer. Of course his team takes on the evil team of steroid-primed goons from the evil coach. Wild stunts, many of which are obvious computer graphics (like when people ricocchet around like pinballs), but plenty of laugh-out-loud gags, not the least of which is when the plain girl goes to the beauty salon. Must be seen to be believed. Stuck On You is the Farrely Brothers comedy that has Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon playing goofy conjoined twins trying to make a go in Hollywood. Nice fun stuff, a great soundtrack (any film that starts out with a Pixies song, and use another one later on in the film, will automatically have a special place in my heart). Plenty of great lines, like “what’s another word for snatch,” “grab”(I had to explain that one to Naoko). Raising Victor Vargas (Long Way Home) is a cute little film about wise kids in New York City over the summer holidays, sort of Kids meets Do The Right Thing. Nice walking pace about the film, lots of shirtless boys, strange grandmothers, and fat people. As the beautiful people like Victor and Judy work out their relationship, non-beautiful people also work on their relationships. There is family drama, but happily no violence, barely any bad language, and one of those rare films with a perfect resoluton. Nice. Miracle is a Disney film, starring Disney’s favorite son Kurt Russel, as coach Herb Tarlick, who put together the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic hockey team that was put together solely to work over the invincible. Plenty of screen time given to the unsteady mood of the Carter era, lots of bad haircut and polyester suits. Kurt sure is looking old. His supporting boys look good, too bad none of them can act. Final 30 minutes of the film shows the USA-USSR shootout, and what a battle it was. A dour film that takes itself seriously, but will easily draw you in whether you are a hockey fan or not.

the cat's pajamas

new PJs too!

exciting day

Sunday, August 15th, 2004

Hey ho, after all of the excitement of yesterday, today was a pretty lame day. Zen fell asleep last night at around 8:30 with a fever and slept all night. In the morning, still feverish, he slept until 10 and woke up fit as a fiddle – nearly (and I can’t remember the last time I slept until 10 AM). Went shopping, but the fever came back, Zen pooed in his pants, and whined and cried and nearly fell asleep on my shoulder. We got back home, let him sleep from 1 to 3, then he woke up feeling better and wanting to watch videos of Oma and Opa, so we put that on. I got down to some Monday morning preparation activities, and we chilled out. The neighbours downstairs cranked the karaoke, we called security to complain. This is becoming a weekly ritual. Dark and cloudy outside, so I am listening to Chris Isaac and thinking about what I am going to type today. Not much to say, so I will post an expressive picture instead. I now this picture will generate some controversy, and some may say it is totally disgusting, but there are time’s when an impulsive man’s got to do what an impulsive man’s got to do.

my left foot - the only one I have, and I'm proud of it

heavy, heavy, busy, busy

Saturday, August 14th, 2004

Hey ho, another very busy week. Nearly gone nutso from the ammount of small tasks I need to accomplish. Luckily this week had no Monday, a national holiday, so I got to miss my busiest day of a fortnight this time. Cool. Tuesday went on CNBC to talk about bank mergers in Japan, Wednesday I went on BBC to talk about bank mergers in Japan, Friday I went on CNBC again to talk about bank mergers in Japan again. The story will not be resolved for months, so I am sure to see the cameras again at some point. Thursday Naoko had a day off work at school, she spent the morning observing Zen in class – wish I could have done that too. She reports that he does very very well in his lessons, he learns Chinese enthusiastically and knows lots of words. He has also been moved up to a class with older kids, which is interesting. He loves singing so much, especially the ABC song, and has now begun to sing a Chinese song – “bu kai, bu kai, wo bu bu kai,” or something like that. “I won’t open the door.” I guess “not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin” doesn’t translate well into Chinese. Had big problems with the DVD player – we could watch Shaolin Soccer, but we couldn’t hear any of the dialogue. The same thing happened with Stuck On You, but I managed to figure it out eventually. Yay. Disc 2 of “Travelling Birds” is mucked up, unfortunately, but at least Microcosmos is fine.

Today was a stellar day – we did our chores in the morning, then got in a taxi and went off to East Coast Park. We have been in Singapore for over a year, but this is one of two or three major places we have not been yet even once (others multiple times) because it is pretty inaccessible by bus and train. So we finally took the step and headed over. Got there at 10 and rented a bicycle built for three to get around on (see picture below), that was fun. Zen enjoyed cycling, it was fun for me since it was the first time on such a device, the long waterfront route was flat, and for Naoko it was the first time on a bicycle in a very long time. We went one way, and I got to see all the places I had seen at 7:30 AM last December 7th when I ran the half marathon (ughh). Lots of people rollerblading and hanging out, some tents for campers, and a lot of families hanging out. Lots of pretty girls, some tanned Malay boys, plenty of pregnant women. We got back after 2 hours, then went off to have some cheap Indian food for lunch. It was excellent! Then off to McDonald’s to hang out and have coffee as Zen played on the jungle gym. That is a cool outdoor place to hang out for an hour, nice breezes, shade, and a very nice big plastic jungle gym for the kids. The food may suck, but the facilities are first class. Zen had a lot of fun and looked happier and happier every time we saw him. Stayed there for nearly an hour, then took a cab back. Zen fell asleep in the car and is still sleeping deeply. So sweet, little boy… He slept for a while as I did some computer work, then when he woke up we went to pick up some groceries. Some jerk cut us off on the car, and I realized that the brakes were a bit soft, so I went to the bicycle shop to tune that up a bit. Got back and went for a swim, dinner, then a long walk. Zen was sleepy and whiny when we got back, I guess he has a bit of a fever and needs to sleep.

Things Zen Does: This week Naoko bought Zen a koala cookie. But he fell in love with the cookie an wouldn’t eat it. He held on to it, and hid it in the “trunk” of his “car.” But after a few days of nibbling at it, he did manage to finish it off in the end. One of his favorite songs is “Happy Birthday To You,” but for some reason he wants to sing “happy birthday, dear BUS DRIVER, happy birthday to you.” He gets upset if we substitute someone else, or “Maria” like in his favorite children’s book “the Steam Train Crew.” Funny. Zen is a sweet boy. I’ll never forget the lovely smiles he gives me nearly every night, after I have turned off the light (with only a nite lite on) and I have sung a song for him. Wonderful.

DVD Review: Microcosmos – a documentary on bugs. Lots of interesting, fascinating shots, like a butterfly coming out of its cocoon, an adult mosquito slowly arching out of its shell, a praying mantis moving about at night in silhouette, a sticky carnivorous plant catching a fly and a spider wrapping up grasshoppers caught in its web, the wanderings of ants, and the disgusting dance of the snails. Amazing, arty stuff.

CE Review: Camera Obscura “Under Achievers Please Try Harder” – Gorgous pop in a vague Sixties crooning rockabilly style, reminds in part of Donna Hayward and James Hurley in that Twin Peaks episode. Poignant and pretty, but ultimately maybe a little boring – Belle and Sebastian might sing simiar songs with a bit more quirkiness, humor. MPEG video attached to the CD shows a video for “Teenager”, lovely scenes of the good people of the band on a picnic outing. Still, nice music to have on, to put you in a wistful, plaintative mood on a sunny holiday afternoon.

CD Review: Kodomo “Kuki Kodan” (fresh air team) – Gorgeous jazzy pop band that plays like early Arai Yuming tunes. Lovely, breathtaking, instantly lovable pop songs so well-crafted you kind of just nod your head, pleased to know that talent exists in this world that can hit it right on the head from the word go. Excellent stuff. Curious about the label – Coa Records. One of my favorite Japanese bands is called Coa, but I am sure that there is no connection. Will have to ask Coa about it next time I see them.

on a bicycle built for three

on the beach in Singapore

strange Singapore sights

Monday, August 9th, 2004

Hey it’s the holiday Monday. How lovely. Sunday was a good day. We went grocery shopping in the morning, and chilled out at home. Read the paper, found out that the big local consumer electronics chain is selling an older version of the camera I bought at a higher price: I bought the 3700 for $440, and they were selling the 3200 on sale for $450, down from $500. Now I feel vindicated – I really did get a good price after all (you can never really be sure…). In the evening we went off to meet Ailing to wish her a pleasant trip and to give her some goodies to take along for Ralph’s family. Nice. We ate good Chinese food, including a dish that was vegetable stew in a basket made of yams. The stew was yummy and so was the basket. We went to Ailing’s place to hang out for a bit, then off home. Zen went to sleep, I diddled around on the computer, Naoko watched VCDs until 3 AM again.

Strange sights of Singapore: Friday I went out to meet someone at 4 in the afternoon, an unusual time for me to be out of the office. Passed by one guy who was wearing two neckties – actually, he had his own necktie on, and was apparently tying one for the guy walking next to him, I guess they were off to a meeting. When I got closer, I saw the 2 necktie guy had tattoos creeping out from his cuffs and collar – creepy. Passed a girl who looked like she was wearing traditional Lao or maybe Thai silk. Gorgeous. Then near the station I saw a fat ugly woman, dressed head to toe in black, applying make-up as she was walking. Creepy!! Just this week I started noticing more and more Singaporean women applying make-up in public, I guess they are learning that from the Japanese. Also saw a fat guy wearing a t-shirt that says “Loved by some, hated by many, respected by all.” What is that supposed to mean?

DVD Review: Travelling Birds (Les Peuples Navigateur) – a documentary about birds, and what a gorgeous sight it is. Flying with the birds as the fly along the Seine, or around the Himilayas, or over the desert. Sometimes the birds are the object of the film, sometimes the landscape is, but each shot is stunning. See a flock of birds pass over a green-colored crop in a field next to a yellow-coloured crop, swooping along rivers, then birds flying in the backgrouns with gallopping horses in the foreground. A solar eclipse thrown in for good measure. Really something fantastic to behold. Not sure if any of the shots are faked or superimposed (I suspect the birds with wild horses shot may be doctored somehow) but even so you will unlikely look at a National Geographic film the same way again. We also got Microcosmos, from the same people, which deals with the lives of insects.

Today we bought a hula hoop. See:

Step one, and a...

one Olympic ring, four more to go...

Once Upon A Time In Singapore

Sunday, August 8th, 2004

Hey ho, another long weekend, wee hee. Unfortunately, after Monday August 9th, there are only 2 more public holidays in the year, both in October. Yoiks, not even Christmas and New Year, which fall on Saturdays this year (although I think our company honours the Saturday holiday with a real day off of our chosing, which is nice).

What did I do this week? Besides watching the Third Man again, on DVD, over three nights… not much. Friday, at least, was an interesting day in a way – put out an e-newsletter, then met my boss and we decided that it would be good to put out a second e-newsletter the same day to cover for the missing holiday Monday e-newsletter, so more work for me. It wouldn’t have been so much work, but tweaking the appearance of it took up 95% of the time. Went out at 4 for coffee with a company associate, which was good, learned a lot there and had some yummy Orange Julius orange juice (not coffee). Ha ha. Got done around 7:30, then went with five 5 colleagues and the boss to eat Indian vegetarian food in Little India in a comfortable little shop that has a diner-like atmosphere. Ate 4 different types of Indian bread/pancakes that I have never had before. Great, great, great. Lots of talk and laughs. At the end a group of gorgeous Indian ladies with their kids came in, everybody dressed in magnificent gold-thread embroidered saris, the kids with earrings and everything. Wow. Being in Little India is not like being in Singapore at all, and being there in the evenings is double the fun. After that we went to play pool near Doby Ghaut MRT station, my old stomping grounds from the days I was staying at the YMCA right around there. A room full of tables, lots of cool young Singaporeans hanging around playing, nobody smoking or drinking alcohol, everybody clean and not-dangerous-looking, a comfortable environment, nice. Played for over an hour, the bill came to 10 bucks – cheap fun on a Friday night. Boss went off to party, my friends went home, and I got on the 171 bus home. Picked up a beer at the 7-11, got home after midnight an of course everybody was sleeping… Oh well. Drank beer, watched a bit of Cave of Silk Thread, the Monkey King DVD I had bought that afternoon. Played guitar. Wild, wanky fun. Slept. Saturday we woke up late-ish, then headed into town to buy a camera for Ralph. Our destination – Sim Lim Tower in Bugis, one of the very cool shopping parts of town. Much better/different from Orchard Road, the brand capital of Singapore. Small t-shirt and souvenir shops, local eateries, and then a tower of geekdom, full of audio-visual and computer crap. Priced cameras in nearly every shop we went to, trying to suss out how low the vendors will bargain down, but everybody sticking with their first offers. Offers dropped with every shop we went to, until 100 bucks was whittled away. Met a few assholes. The second-last guy seemed nice, he was going to sell us the camera for 465 with a 16 MB chip. We went up a level, to the 4th floor, where there were barely any camera shops anymore since it seemed like a computer store. But one shop gave us a better price – 440. So we agreed to take it. As he was showing us the goods that came with it, we spotted a 64 MB chip included. Wow – cheaper AND a better chip. Glad we shopped around a bit, it sure was worth it. Went to Long John Silver’s for fish and chips. Our first time there, it was pretty good. Then took the train home. Zen fell asleep in the train, so we got a cab from Clementi to home, great, Zen slept from 2 to 5, giving us some time to relax and do sometihng for ourselves. Zen woke up, we went swimming, had dinner, then went for a walk. Naoko had an appointment to see her friends, so it was Zen and I. Folded a big pile of laundry, gave Zen a bath, then read him to sleep. From 10:30, I watched the Once Upon A Time In The West VCD and played guitar, drank beer, slept at 1:45. Naoko came home bat 4. Then Zen woke us up at 6:30. AAAAH. I rested with him a bit, then made his breakfast, read the paper, did some small errands, played, fun stuff. Yay – long weekends!

DVD review – The Third Man: One of the best movies ever made, with incredible character studies by Joseph Cotten and a thoroughly loathsome Orson Welles. The mystery is compelling, and unfolds magnificently over 90 minutes. Classic carousel ride and Switzerland speech, not to mention the grand finale in the cavernous sewers of Vienna. Go to Vienna and take a Third Man tour if you can. The Cotton/Welles relationship milked somewhat in the underrated Killing Zoe film, by the way. One small complaint – the quaint Viennese music, some famous theme, becomes a bit irritating through over-use in the soundtrack of the first two thirds of the film. Oh well, nobody’s perfect, not even Carol Reed, the film’s director.

DVD review – Once Upon A Time in the West: There are four movies. Once Upon A Time In America, China, the West, and Mexico. In descending order of excellence, with a huge gap between the third and fourth. …the West is OK, but …Mexico is just terrible!! …America and …the West are both by Sergio Leone, but …America is an incredible work of art, starring DeNiro and James Woods and a whole bunch more. …the West has great death scenes, and a memorable Henry Fonda role where he out-of-character plays a merciless killer, but Charles Bronson is no Clint Eastwood when it comes to playing spagthetti Western protagonists. Some plot about a family being wiped out, a train line being built, a young wido, and some other stuff. But does the plot really matter? This film reeks style and nearly nothing else.

a quaint idea

Wednesday, August 4th, 2004

Hey ho, another week has gone by. What did we do? Thursday… don’t remember. Friday… not sure. Saturday – ah, we went shopping downtown. I bought a MD walkman, finally, and we priced cameras for Ralph. Then… forgot. Sunday, we did errands and went around shopping and such, then our friends from Johore Bahru, across the border in Malaysia, came over. Haven’t seen them for a while, and the husband we haven’t seen for over three years, although we have seen the wife and daughter (Manae, Zen’s age) many many times, both here and in JB. Okay. Ate, drank, were merry, then they invited us to JB to eat yummy seafood. We couldn’t say no to yummy seafood, so off we went. Zen and Manae slept in the car going over. When we got to the mall, where we had to kill time until dinner, the place was so crowded we couldn’t find parking. Inside it was no picnic either. Naoko bought a nice top, and Zen and I hung on for dear life. We saw 2 ugly transvestites, then waited outside the mall for 20 minutes for our ride to pick us up. The 15-minute ride to the eating place was more like 45 minutes, then it started raining. At least the food was good, the restaurant picturesque. Going back, JB border crossing was so full of people hoping to take the bus over, we just walked. I carried Zen the whole way. Zen was wonderful – so well-behaved. Got to Singapore, took a cab home, got showered, and I started to prepare for my Monday morning. Yoiks – what a busy weekend.

Monday and Tuesday were a blur of work. Contacting bankers in Japan, working on the newsletter, articles, all sorts of other fun stuff. Then what, I don’t remember. Oh yeah, got the DVD player fixed, and appeared on the TV news. Got home near 9 tonight, had dinner, showered Zen, read 3 books to him. Turned off the main light and Zen complained, so I said I could sing him a song. He requested Spiderman of course. I sang it to him, and by the time I finished singing he was asleep. Awwwwww…

Zen breaking bus rules!