Archive for September, 2005

the Quiet Canadian

Saturday, September 24th, 2005

Well, another few days have gone by. Monday I wrote, after seeing Dog Soldiers. Tuesday was a regular day at work – go jogging in the morning, eat a disgustingly buttery kaya toast at the hawker centre near work, get to work 9-ish, work, have lunch, go home around 7:00, eat dinner at the hawker centre in Clementi, have Sean over to watch a Bergman film, drink sherry, go to sleep all lonely around 12:30 or so. The Bergman film was very nice, better than Wild Strawberries. Wednesday I went for a jog in the morning, but it was very very rough, difficult, no energy. Lay in bed stunned for a while, feeling bad. Terrible. Went to work, the usual work stuff, worked, had lunch, worked, had dinner. Yawwwnnn… At night, Sean wasn’t into watching a movie, so I watched the Ladykillers (the 1955 original, not the Coen Brotherrs remake or last year or so) by myself, went to sleep. Thursday, went jogging, feeling better, went to work, worked, had lunch, worked, went home. Had a strange experience in the train – at 6:00 or so, the train was packed. The people in front of me get on the train, but stand there at the edge with their back to me, seemingly not willing to go further into the train to make room for the people trying to get on after them. Sure, the train is full, but there’s always room for more, so I push my way in. Maybe I push a little too hard, because suddenly people recoil and there’s all this room for me all of a sudden. Then this lady, holding a big bunch of flowers says “you horrible man!” or something like that, while the guy on the other side of me says “sorry.” I was embarassed, and didn’t say anything, but I wish I’d laughed and said “oh, sure, but you’re lazy – isn’t it lovely that there’s all this room now for people trying to get on the train!?!?” Went over to watch “…And God Created Woman” (the 1956 Roger Vadim film with Brigitte Bardot, not the 1988 Roger Vadim remake with Rebecca de Mornay) at Sean’s, the kids were getting to sleep. Hana asked Mihoko “why is Uncle Peter always coming over recently?” Mihoko went out to friends to watch “Red Eye.” Of course the Bardot film was better… Friday was an OK day – I didn’t go jogging, went in to work, did chores, errands, worked, transcribed, wrote articles, hung out, ate lunch, worked, wrote an article, did a bunch of important stuff, went home at 8:30. Think everything will be OK for the trip to Beijing. Got home, cooked dinner, drank beer, hung out, read Ramones biography – terrible, terrible book, won’t finish it! Sleep! Saturday a nice morning, breezy, sleep in since I doubt I’ll get much sleep Saturday night. Yuck. Mum and Dad phoned at 10:00 and we chatted. They asked about the price of gas, which is something that I don’t think of much to be honest, but I’ll have to look into it. Went to West Mall to return DVDs and the crappy Ramones book. There was a Red Cross blood drive on, so of course volunteers were harassing me to give blood. I thought “sure, why not, but then I realized that I will be flying and having a tough night/weekend/week ahead. But giving blood improves your endurance in the long run, right? So I asked the girl there if the short term effects are bad, and she said “walk around and think about it” which wasn’t an answer, and I told her so; next I asked a westerner, a volunteer, wondering if he might be a medical professional, but he said “I suppose it shouldn’t have any effect at all.” Okay, this guy is just as uninformed as anybody else, so I asked for a doctor’s opinion, and he just said “no way, man.” Volunteers are the most empty-headed people around; I wasn’t so surprised to get this sort of “I don’t know, but I’ll make like I know” attitude from the Singaporeans, but I was a little surprised to get it from a westerner as well. He seemed Dutch… Went to the library, got three books – “Marrying Buddha” by Wei Hui, the controversial Chinese author who wrote “Shanghai Baby,” and then two Graham Greene books, namely “The Quiet American,” and “Brighton Rock.” Looking forward to reading all three. Had trouble at the ATM, went home, did chores, ate, read, hung out, thought about packing, went swimming, bought wine, went to the gas station to inquire about a rise in gas prices. Apparently, the price of gas has gone up 10 cents in the last month – one month ago it was about $1.80 per litrer, now it is $1.90 per litre. Fascinating! Listened to music like Rollins Band, Nina Simone, Nico, Serge Gainsbourg, Nana Mouskouri, and other cool French and Brazilian music I borrowed from Sean. Nina Simone, nice… Phones Naoko, seems like she and Zen are pretty bored in hot, sweaty Japan, looking forward to being here again I suppose. Me too, I’m looking forward to seeing them too! Went for a swim, wrote blog. Gonna go to the airport around 10:30.

Smiles of a Summer Night

DVD review – Smiles of a Summer Night: Fantastic Bergman film, his breakthrough actually, very nice and shiny and happy and friendly, four couples have absurd encounters, and there is strange anguished switching. Part “the Brothers Karamazov,” but also part “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Shakespearean wooded bacchanal, and all sorts of fun stuff. Great dialogue: “A young man loves always… himself. His self love and his love of love.” “Your body has a perfection that even perfection lacks.” Droll mother, full of epigrams. Baron shooting with his wife, lesbian bed scene, the m oving bed for the king.

“This is a historic moment – you’ve finally been hit with tremors of feeling above your navel. I am perfectly calm – can I help it if I have a temper? You long-nosed baboon! I wish that just once you’d shatter to theh core so that not a fart was left!”
“I’ve suffererd a lot!”
“You’ve suffered from what? Tight shoes? A solicitor whose head is as orderly as his desk. I’m going to speak even if I have nothing to say! You made me so furious I forgot what I wanted to say.”
“What were you going to say?”
“I forgot.”

the Ladykillers

DVD review – the Ladykillers: Droll Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers (his first major role), Herbert Lom comedy about a criminal gang that uses an old lady’s house as the base for their bank robbery. Unfortunately, it’s the last thing they ever do! Very clever, black ending, but unfortunately none of the characters ever flesh out their comic potential, except maybe perhaps Alec Guinness, who is truly wacky and even a bit fruity as the mad criminal genius.


DVD review – And God Created Woman: Classic film, Vadim’s first and BB’s fourth or fifth, it was a breakthrough for both as it showed the scandalous life of singles. BB is hardly scandalous by today’s standards, but at that time they were liable to electroshock girls deemed too horny (see “Rambling Rose”) and stuff. Great San Tropez scenery, and it seems like BB has made love with dozens of guys, two of them onscreen. Classic wedding night scene, the type that makes me yearn with regret. Nice line “the future always ruins the present” or something like that. Only after watching this movie does it really sink in that… filmed in 1956… could it be that Brigitte Bardot is now… 71 years old? SHRIEK!!!


Tuesday, September 20th, 2005

Hey, another day at work. Woke up at 5:30, thirty minutes before my alarm was supposed to ring – bummer. Got to work, first one there, had our meeting, debriefed myself slowly from my 2-week absence, went off to lunch with a PR person from a bank (rack of lamb – yummy), then back to work, writing, hanging out, chatting, emailing. Off to ride the bus with Elena and Peal to go to the Esplanade library and meet Sean to rent movies. Got Dog Soldiers, the Ladykillers (1955), …And God Created Woman (1956), and Smiles of a Summer Night. Went back by taxi (traffic lights…), had curry dinner with Sean while Mihoko went off to play tennis and the kids slept early, then listened to Elvis Costello and watched Dog Soldiers with Sean while drinking gin and lime. Home near 11:00, do dishes, write blog, shower, sleep…

Dog Soldiers

DVD review – Dog Soldiers: British horror movie, shot on a tight budget, with big-head werewolves (see also big-head aliens in “Alien,” big-head sharks in “Jaws”) stalking soldiers in the Scottish highlands. Feels like a “Night of the Living Dead” remake until a few interesting plot twists (and a few bone-headed ideosyncratic “sudden scenes” break the tension in two. Good ending too – very tight, although also a bit gimmicky – i.e. the silver object introduced in one of the first scenes plays an important part at the end of the movie.

Wild Strawberries

Monday, September 19th, 2005

Had a nice Sunday, with some hanging around – went to IMM mall in the morning to see about my watch, seems like the shop has gone, which is no surprise really, so I’ll have to fix my scratched dial some other way. Relaxed around the apartment all day, went swimming at 6, met Sean and Mihoko and family, had beers and dinner with them, then back home to do some work, then watched “Wild Strawberries” with Sean.

Wild Strawberries

DVD review – Wild Strawberries: an Ingmar Bergman film about an old man in a car voyage from one city to another, as he goes from his home, where he lives a cold, lonely life, to Lund where he is to collect an honorary degree. Kind. Pleasant. Surrealistic car rides. Dream sequences, including one about a handless watch, a horse cart catching on a lamppost and dropping a coffin (very weird motion in the seqemce) and all sorts of other craziness. Plenty of heavy dialogue too, but also some fun stuff: “I never want to see you aqgain, at least not before lunch.” (Say it with a Swedish accent) Heavy sense of childbirth in the angst-ridden year of… 1959?

long Singapore weekend

Sunday, September 18th, 2005

Hey, ho, going a bit nutty with loneliness… Got a lot of spam mail… Ate not-so-great meals, in and out.

My new haircut, and my new roommate and constant companion

new haircut Spidey...

Friday I slept in until 11:00 or so, although mum and dad did call me at 8:00 to chat – they just got back from Toronto and thought that I was going in to work. Yeah, right!! Got up, ate, went downtown by bus to do some shopping. Got out, checked out HMV – expensive!!! The Best of Iggy Pop double CD and DVD that I bought for $32 at Grammophone is $45 there!! A single Ministry CD was also $45!!! Yoiks!!!!! Went to the movie theatre, but nothing good is playing now, pity. Went to Takashimaya, bought two pairs of pants and two shirts, mostly nicen linen stuff but I saw that one shirt was a linen-rayon blend – YUCK! Oh well, it looks nice at least. Wandered around Kinokuniya bookstore, which was nice, seeing the comics and stuff. Looked at “Songwriting for Dummies,” which seems like a good new venture for me to start, but it was kind of expensive. Wonder if it’s cheaper to buy these books online – initial cost is less, but shipping will be a killer to Singapore! Hrmmmnnn… Walked around and looked at stuff, nothing interesting. Noticed how many well-dressed gay men shop on Friday afternoons, interesting. Where do these guys work? But I guess it’s okay to take a Friday afternoon off work to look after your fashion needs. Took the MRT to City Hall and checked out what’s happening there, feeling empty – so many people walking around, nobody to talk to. Went to the DVD library, signed up for another year, rented a bunch of cool movies – the Stepford Wives (1975), Wild Strawberries, Throw Momma From The Train, and Star Trek Episodes – episode 1, 78, and 99. Also borrowed a book about the Ramones, although it doesn’t seem very well-written, and is awful doting. Went home, watched Star Trek episodes, and also Throw Momma From The Train. Saturday I cycled around, went to the post office to picke up a package for Naoko, it was books from Aki. Cool day – it had rained a lot at night, and the windy morning was light and cool. Cycling was not a problem – not tiring or sweaty at all. Great! Dropped off my suit for dry cleaning, bought some groceries (mostly beverages) and got a haircut. Ate lunch, then went to explore the local malls again. Found a cool fish shop in Beauty World Centre, and also a sex shop (!!!!) in Bukit Timah Shopping Centre, but not too much else that was spectacular or moving. Went home, hung out, relaxed, did computer, napped for 10 minutes, went for a short jog, went for a swim, went home, drank lime and gin, watched City of God (excellent!!), and the Stepford Wives (1975).

Star Trek - the Cage

DVD review – Star Trek episodes “Turnabout Intruder,” “the Cage”: In Turnabout Intruder, Kirk discovers a jealous ex-flame on a remote planet (of course), she switched bodies with him and tries to take over the Enterprise. Interesting to see Shatner acting like a woman acting like a man. “The Cage,” which was the pilot episode of Star Trerk, is kind of like Solaris, where the commander of the Enterprise Christopher Pike (played by Jeffrey Hunter) is put in a cage and is manipulated by aliens into falling in love with a virtual human woman. All very cerebral, and the aliens have bulging domes. The only character in the pilot to be in the full series was Leonard Nimoy. Lucky guy! Interesting lines like “perhaps you made me out of dreams you’ve forgotten.” Semi-pornographic lines like “I can be anyone you like.” “Let me please you.” Space martinis!

throw momma from the train

DVD review – Throw Momma From The Train: seen this movie before; liked it a lot and wanted to see it again to see if my memory of the film did it justice. Turns out it was still a very funny movie after all these years. Good lines like:
Billy Crystal: “I want to make love with you… some time in the near future.”
Girl: “Why now now?”
Billy Crystal: “I have writer’s block.”
Girl: “You have writer’s block? Everywhere?”
Other lines are also good: “She’s no writer!! She couldn’t write her name in the snow.” “Just meet her – maybe she’d be somebody you’d LIKE to kill.” “Go bury him in the yard before he stinks up the place.”
Sure, Billy Crystal is quite good, Danny DeVito even better, and Anne Ramsay best of all; sure, they’re caricatures, but it’s still a very funny movie.

City of God

DVD review – City of God: This film somehow didn’t really capture my interest, but my work colleague raved so much about it (deserves all of the praise it’s been given; definitely belongs on all of the “best 100″ lists) that I had to see it. And of course, all of the praise is true!! One hell of a story, and one hell of a story-telling technique. The tense opening scene of a gang’s confrontation with the police starts off a series of flashbacks that goes back and back and back. Important characters are introduced, with the caveat “we’ll hear more about him later,” and there are mini-chapters all over the place. Certainly there are too too many murders, can life really be that cheap in the slums of Brazil? Weird to think of a slum as being literally gang-controlled – the police don’t really have authority. Amazingly, the pax romana of the gangs showed that ultimately the slum was better off with a single strongman running the show. Scary to see how a 10-year old would have such a thirst for killing. Shorty and his wife – sad, sexy. Weird thing about the banana sex/ Shaggy’s death; the Tender Trio; shot in the foot and thinking they were off the hook; the runts; Li’l Z like Hitler – no girlfriend, no sex, no love. Seu Jorge, who sings the amazing acoustic Bowie covers in Portuguese on the soundtrack for the Wes Anderson film “the Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” is in it as Knockout Ned. Nice sexiness in some scenes, including the discrete “sorry, I don’t have a guest room, you’ll have to sleep in my bed.” Apparently, journalists are not good lays! Too intellectual?

the Stepford Wives

DVD review – the Stepford Wives (1975): No, not the Frank Oz remake, the original with Katherine Ross. By the author of Rosemary’s Baby, and you sure can tell – the tension builds up in almost exactly the same way, ha ha. Long wistful silence at beginning, long musical travel/credits scene at beginning somehow telltale for movies of that era. “We’re not allowed to drink anything on the job, except beer.” Very little soundtrack music. “I shouldn’t say this, but… I just love my brownies.”
SFW: “Which one do you like?”
NH: “Oh, I don’t like either of them.”
Is it the town of Twin Peaks, or is it Stepford? “If I’m wrong, I’m insane; and if I’m right, it’s worse than if I’m wrong!” Waits until the end to start the whole “where are my children?” plot. The epitome of “hello how are you I’m fine.” Interesting documntary about the making of the film – it’s clear that the director, a very proper English gentleman, hated all of the people on the project, including the screenwriter, and the male and female leads. Must have been lots of animosity on that set, but maybe that’s needed for such a tense, creepy thriller. Apparently Diane Keaton was asked to play the lead, but she turned it down on the grounds that her therapist said it had “bad vibes.” Well, it’s no Exorcist, at least. Peter Masterson, playing the lead, is the father of Mary Stewart Masterson, who is here as a 9-year-old in her film debut. The Stepford Wives was followed by two sequels, the Revenge of the Stepford Wives (with Don Johnson!), the Stepford Children (apparently one of the worst films ever made), and the Frank Oz remake with Christopher Walken.

Iggy Pop

DVD review – Iggy Pop, live at Avenue B: reminds me of “Systeme D,” the Les Rita Mitsouka album that Iggy Pop sings a duet on (“My Love Is Bad”). Just goes to show that Iggy Pop live is ten times better than Iggy Pop in the studio, which is not too shabby either. The leathery star is an amazing 52-years-old in this concert, and he looks ten times better than most 20-year olds. Amazing movement onstage, perfect command. Cool acoustic bits “Nazi Girlfriend” and “Avenue B” which he plays on acoustic guitar while kneeling. Cool. The songs were from his (then) just-released album “Avenue B” with Medeski, Martin and Wood. All of the other songs are Iggy Pop’s greatest hits. The DVD comes with the new “A Million In Prizes” anthology.

Long Long Gone…

Thursday, September 15th, 2005

Yes, two weeks away from home and boy am I stinky!! Yes, at a conference, staying in a hotel where they charged stupid rates for laundry and then bouncing from one relative’s house to another with no time to do laundry and get it done on time – well, the first thing I did when I got home was to take a nice, long shower and do laundry. And now everything’s copacetic. Oh yeah, NEWSFLASH – I also shaved off my little beard (sometimes called a van Dijk) so that now I’m just with a mustache. Well, I don’t know if I’ll keep it this way since it looks a little odd… maybe “odd” is not the right word, but there’s probably a synonym of “odd” that I’m thinking of.

Peter head

Also, here’s an amazing headline from the US. It seems like the scales have finally fallen from someone’s eyes:


Well, I don’t know exactly what I was doing in the final week before I went to Copenhagen, besides finishing up stories and organising interviews like a madman, but it couldn’t have been as interesting as my odyssey. Naoko and Zen went to Japan on Monday morning, and I was a bachelor for a few days, which meant crappy meals eaten alone.

Our story picks up on September 3rd, when I woke up at the crack of dawn so that I could be on the good ship lollypop… er – I mean my Thai Airlines flight to Bangkok. The flight to Copenhagen from Singapore was over Bangkok, but I took it as a stopover and booked the earliest flight so that I could spend time wandering around town. Tired after five hours of sleep, wondering what made me so ambitious to desire 16 hours of wandering around a crowded Asian city. No brekky. Nice cabbie. Check-in: for no apparent reason, I was escorted to the first class priority check-in. A bitchy little girl at the desk there looked at my ticket and asked me which flight I was on (d’uh – it was printed right on the ticket she was holding in her hand). She made it clear that she thought I didn’t belong there with my economy ticket! Then my overweight baggage was a problem – she called someone about it, but got approval; then my 16 hour stopover in Bangkok was a problem (apparently they only do 12 hours – more than that you have to take up your luggage and re-check it in, which was news to me, and generally unacceptable as far as I was concerned), but she called someone else about it and it wasn’t a problem. Harumph!! With my boarding pass, I went through the special First Class Detour into the customs area that bypassses the first security check. Well, I guess that’s all just window dressing anyway. No Danish Kroner to be had, oh well. Bought “Eats, Shoots And Leaves,” the recent bestseller about punctuation (!!!). Saw a queue for the plane snaking across the hall at the end of the escalator. Dumb. Flew to Bangkok and walked around, tried out my baht in a taxi to get to Khao San road to walk around and hang out. Walked up and down, then went for lunch in one of those places. It was all right. Heard a Thai ad that uses “Three Is A Magic Number” from Schoolhouse Rock. Another ad was for “Clean Air” in a spray can. Next time I’m in Thailand I’ll have to get that. Walked around, discovererd that the temple area south of Khao San Road has been developped and is clean and nice. I’ll have to stay there next time. Cool Korean backpackers hanging out. Took a river tour, which was fun and breezy, and got out at the Sky Train station near the State Tower. Wandered around there for a while, then on the trian to Siam Centre, hoping to do some shopping but it was under renovation!! Found out where Jim Thompson House is, they told me to take the Sky Train one stop, then I saw that it was really just walking distance anyway. Got through the House, which is an amalgam of six old teak houses, custom-fitted by Mr. Thompson and full of blue china pieces, tables, beds, and all sorts of things Thais didn’t use at that time. Nice canal nearby – I crossed the canal bridge and wandered around the old Thai neighbourhood for a while, which was fun, but I wasn’t really welcome there, so I left. Then I didn’t know what to do – thought about going to Pat Pong Road, which was nearby, or back to Khao San Road, which was far away. Couldn’t get a bus at first, nor a tuk-tuk, but I finally found one that would take me, which was nice. Started raining while he was getting me to Khao San Road, and I ducked into a restaurant I had seen earlier. Ate crappy Thai food (lunch hadn’t been good either) and drank beer, then went to a pub where I met grouchy German backpackers from south Germany, and a spaced-out American guy that reminded me of John, then I wandered around Khao San again. What a change from the morning!! Lots of people, lots of Thais!! Great live music from a guy playing acoustic guitar and a girl singing, bought a Mr. T t-shirt, had a beer, admired the huge bikes of the Bangkok Harley Davidson’s Riders Club, and had a good time enjoying the buzz. Lots more clubs on Khao San Road, people don’t need to go far away any more, and the old dives that people used to sit in and watch movies and drink beer are not so popular. Good. Lots of gorgeous Thai girls hanging out in front of the clubs – paid to be there to attract guys? Took a cab (ripoff) to the hotel, paid the airport fee (ripoff) and got on the plane feeling good about my time in Bangkok (but not so good about the twin ripoffs at the end of it), and totally exhausted from my long day I slept for about seven hours of the ten hour flight. Not bad – I usually only sleep two hours on flights, especially the 5-hour night flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, or Tokyo.

The Ronald McDonald of Khao San Road


Thai river view

river tour

Harleys on Khao San


I woke up in Copenhagen. Tried to take the train downtown, but got confused about which platform to be on (and nearly took the train to Malmo, ho ho ho…). Finally got to the place, walked around the King’s New Square, first in the wrong direction – dragging my heavy heavy suitcase – until I finally found the way. Asked a couple directions – she was tall, stately, blonde, he was even taller (at least a head taller than me) with cool hair and a very fashionable leather jacket. Europeans are so well dressed! Got to the hotel checked in with the freaky weird middle-aged lady with the blah-blah-blah British-Danish accent. Strange person. The room is narrow and small and stinks of sweat, but it’s a room and I can chill out, call my ex-colleague to hang out and see Copenhagen together. I meet her at Nyhaven where there is a huge anchor, we go off to get bagels, eat at the waterfront while drinking Tuborg beers from plastic bottles (plastic bottles hurt less when hurled at your head, and they don’t smash into messy little pieces of glass), there was a big pile of Sunday-afternoon Vikings drinking there, and a leathery middle-aged woman who was obviously smashed out of her mind. Talked about stuff like life changes, moving from Malaysia to Denmark, and then took off to see the four royal palaces across the square from each other with their funny beefeater guards. Across the water from there is the massive new opera house, pass by the Maersk building, called the building with the blue eyes, another David (a la Michelangelo), then along past a big fountain and a church to the wonderful Little Mermaid, and all the dumbasses taking pictures with her. Got a bunch myself, then walked back, said goodbye to her, then went back to the hotel to chill out, drink beer, and think about life. Went for another walk around town, found the Round Tower, where there was going to be a party on Tuesday night, then around all sorts of walking areas, then up to the big old park where I saw people lounging around on the grass and enjoying the last warm days of summer. Apparently there wasn’t much of a summer this year in Europe, so it was a special treat. The garden was nice, and walking around the palace was nice too, then down through the roads back to the Russian church, Nyhaven, and back to the room again. Whew!! Went for a crappy burger dinner down the street, and back to the room. Tried to stay up for when my boss came in, but it was 8:30 and I just couldn’t keep my eyes open… At 9:00 he knocked on the door, and I had a sleepy-eyed conversation with him, then went to sleep for real.

in the square – watch out for stray beefeaters, though!!

in the square

Michelangelo’s David?


Little Mermaid, with friend

the little mermaid

down with John Christian Anderson!

down with  John Christian Anderson!

Round Tower

round tower



Monday was the first day of Sibos, which is the annual symposium/exhibition of S.W.I.F.T., the Society for Worldwide International Financial Transactions. I learned what S.I.B.O.S. stood for, but now it has changed its focus, so it goes by the name Sibos instead. First day, we wake up early, caught a train in to the place, which was a bit tiresome, other Sibos people were there too. Of course, what greeted us was a long long queue, and we lined up three times – once a false line-up, then to take our picture, then to get our badges finally. Met a nice local dude there, Peter from Nykredit, who told us that all of the hotels in Copenhagen were booked for the week, shooting down our plans to swap our cramped, stinky, over-priced (yet centrally located) hotel room for a better place. Take what you’ve got – I heard about journalists who were staying in Sweden (Malmo is only 30 minutes away) because they couldn’t get a room in town. Got in, did my first interview late from the stupid queue, then oriented myself. There were session rooms and a huge auditorium, then there were three exhibition halls – the first one was as hot as an oven, the second one was like a huge warehouse, the other one was a strange shape and had small booths that you passed as you made your way to the lunch area, a massive arena full of tables. Amazing. After getting oriented, I found the press room, met the press, hung out, had a press conference at 2 with the S.W.I.F.T. big shots, an opening plenary session with all sorts of lights and production, then a cocktail session with an old jazz band. Met more people, then off to a big bank party – met Heidi Miller, who gave the controversial speech last year, and had a few drinks. She was very sweet, she asked me a lot of questions about myself, which language I want to educate my son in, and stuff like that. Actually, that was the second party of the evening, because on the way over we passed a Sibos party at the opera house and walked in. Had some cheese, had some beer, it seemed boring, so we went to Heidi’s party, and after that we went off to a party held by a PR firm that was REALLY a lot of fun. A lot of the people I met there that first night I kept running into over the next few days, so I felt very much part of a social crowd somehow. Amazing. It was a fun party with pretty good music, very good people, but what impressed me the most was the pint glasses of wine that they served us. The party just didn’t end!! Tuesday was a relatively busy day – an 8:00 breakfast meeting, then some chill-out time, then lunch late (rushed) and a full afternoon of meetings. At 5:30 I caught a press announcement with MicroSoft, Citibank, and S.W.I.F.T., and met several of the top guys there, which was nice. In the evening I went back to the room, changed, then went off to the Round Tower for that party. It was incredibly dull, although I did meet a very nice S.W.I.F.T. techie guy. Our conversation was disturbed by this obnoxious, drunk lawyer woman who complained about being flooded in Vietnam when she was there, then the prices of mini-bar drinks in Singapore, etc. Went to the next party at Tivoli (walked nearly once around the entire Tivoli Garden on the outside just to find it). This one was fun, hung out with mostly the same people, but left after a while because the music (mostly ABBA) was getting on my nerves and it was generally anticlimactic from the day before. But in logistics it was probably the best – certainly the grandest – party at Sibos. One nice touch – we could wander out of the restaurant and into the Tivoli gardens itself, where hundreds of Danish families were having fun on a very pleasant, warm early-September evening. Walked home, and came across two long-haired buskers who were playing guitar. They were very good guitarists, and they were playing “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M., but they weren’t singing because the squad of 20-odd Danish couples were dancing in front of them, singing in perfect unison the lyrics to the song, liberally sprinkling coins into the donation hat that the guys set up in front of them. I bet they don’t get such joyous reactions to their music nearly as often as they’d like! Wednesday morning I had signed up for a fun-run, which meant that I had to be on a bus at 5:45, and run 6.4 kilometers (normally no problem), but still be at my 9:00 after a proper shower; unfortunately, nerves (or jetlag) got the better of me, and I was up at 3:30 worrying about things, thinking that it was 9:30 AM in Singapore and I should be at work (?!?) and I was coughing and it was cool outside, and I would be running in a full sweat… so I gave up my plan and “slept” until 7:00. The rest was a full day of running all over the place working on all those great, grand interviews that I had spent so much time before working on. Roamed the hall, now feeling a little more oriented than before, so that was good. Got back to the hotel, then arranged to meet my Singapore colleague’s good friend, now married to a Dane and living in Denmark, to pass her a few items I’d carried from Singapore. Met them, had a chat, then went off to do my own thing. That evening I had a choice of two parties to go to, both IT vendors, so I chose to go to the more modest operation, and closer to the hotel, which turned out to be the better one anyway. The other party was in a big venue by the train station, but it was crowded and the tab ran out before 11:00, so people were having to pay for their own drinks. OUCH!! My party was in the “NASA Disco,” which turns out to be one of the hottest places in town, and is usually open from midnight to 6:00 AM. We were there, lounging in the bright white seats and eating Thai curries and drinking beer, from 8 PM to 1 AM. Good people, good music (mostly), and no hitches – except for the obnoxious vendor guy who was hitting on all the PR chicks at the same time, and didn’t like seeing me sitting next to one of his women. Weird. Saw a woman in a short dress breakdancing – that was interesting! Thursday was another busy day. Had interviews all morning, a lunch with one of the senior guys there, then a few more interviews, hanging out in the big obnoxious Citigroup booth – obnoxious because they had amplified announcements, drumming up a draw, drawing people in, while everybody else in the other booths was classy, cooling their heels, waiting for customers to come to them, but more often than not with nothing to do. Can’t beat Citigroup for brashness. Had some beers and some satay, chatted with Citibankers about Japan, dropped my card in their bowl, and took care of unread magazines that needed to be shipped back to Singapore. Went back to the room, showered, got ready for the big party of the evening – yes, it was the Sibos closing day party, and we were all invited!! And the special guest this year were the Leningrad Cowboys!!! Big fun guaranteed to be had by all!! Got to the place where the party was to be held, and saw that it was on a big sporting track that had been covered over by a big tent, which was fun, with tons of great food and lots of wine. Ate at a table with a bunch of youthful people that worked for the same technology vendor. Yes, youthful though they were, they weren’t hip enough to have actually heard of the Leningrad Cowboys (or Slipknot either, for that matter). One guy had to SMS his brother in the US, a supposed hipster, who hadn’t heard of Leningrad Cowboys either (AUGHHH!!!) but looked them up on the Internet. So I ditched them, and hung out with the people who were wearing the “Leningrad Cowboys, Finland Tour 1997″ t-shirts. For those of you readers who don’t know the Leningrad Cowboys either (I pity you), they are Finnish rockers who wear their hair in pointy bangs and have outrageous pointed toed boots. They play party bar rock and covers, but apparently once headlined a concert in Helsinki attended by 150,000 people!!! They were also in the film “Leningrad Cowboys Go America” by Aki Kaurismaki, Finland’s second-most famous director (after Renny “Die Hard 3″ “Cut-throat Island” “Exorcist 3″ Harlin), who makes films that are kind of Guy Maddin meets Jim Jarmush. This is what they look like:

Leningrad Cowboys1

Leningrad Cowboys 2

After a while the band started, and of course they were totally outrageous. They were backed up by the Red Army Ensemble, who were very serious, but they were nothing more than a prop for the Cowboys (which is sad, in a way), and the band whirled through a flotilla of cover songs, mostly hard rock versions of things like “Like A Virgin,” “You’re My Heart You’re My Soul,” and “Pretty Fly (For A White Guy).” Lots of banker jokes, sexy dancers onstage, Russian choral backup, and four guitarrists (and one guy with a prop guitar) onstage. Crazy. In the crowd, I saw the head guy of the whole event there smoking a cigar, having a good time. It was nice, and everybody seemed to enjoy it. Towards the end, they pulled people onstage, and there was this one guy I’d met every night, a senior manager at a large IT vendor. I took a picture, now I’m going to have to trade it for something useful somehow… After the Leningrad Cowboys, the party kept going on. They had Nordic games, which meant that they had people practice driving nails into a piece of wood, they set up a series of vases that were annihilated (not decimated) by a full-on volley of flying crockery (saucers and bowls) thrown by a crazed squad of drunken bankers venting a week of frustration and overwork on a display of not-so-fine china. Very funny. Of course, lots of Viking walking around, sweating, archery contests, walnut smashing, and plenty of drunken buffoonery. The dance floor was fairly active, and I was waiting to hear “Dancing Queen,” but for once in Scandinavia I was surprised by not hearing it (I’d heard it every other night so far). Cool! Managed to get on a bus at about 2:00 AM and got back to the room to sleep. Friday, post-Cowboys depression, breakfast with my boss, packing the suitcase, shower, met another ex-colleague who accompanied me to the train station so I couldd buy my ticket to Germany; we saw a few living statues along the way – people spray-painted to resemble statues (bronze, marble, corroded copper). Bought my ticket, then took a bus to the Citadel, near the Little Mermaid, I walked back alone, passing by the dozens of mighty Danish warships anchored in front of the Maersk building, walked through Nyhaven one last time, got to the hotel, grabbed my bag, took the 1A bus to the train station, waited patiently for my train – it was late, and on another platform, so all of us had to make like mad to get over a bridge and to another place – uhf uhf uhf. Saw a Danish dude with a buzz cut and a nice long beard – braided like a ponytail and reaching down to the tip of his beer belly! Into the train, hours and hours later there we were being driven right into the cargo hold of a ferry, which took us over from Denmark to Germany!! Good, I was thinking about buying an over-priced train beer, but then in the ferry I got some duty-free, heh heh. The tour was very beautiful, there we were on top of the world, the kings of the world, sailing along, and then we got to the nice place, and kept going along to Hamburg. That’s where I had to change trains, but no time to change money!! I jumped into the new train, still with a pocketful of Kroner, and off to Hanover to meet Reinhard and Christina. Got there, not really sure what I would be doing, and there they were at the platform – surprise!! They were expecting me at 9:30 or so, but I got there at 10:40 nonetheless. Went with them for a beer, chatted, very sleepy, went to their cool place, with all of its plants and cool stuff (books, CDs), and had a gorgeous sleep. Went off for buns at breakfast, pretzels, then hang out, drive around the park, see Schroder’s neighbourhood, on the highway past Paderborn (where my boss once was for a convention – hopefully I can go next time and see more of my relatives again), to Sendenhorst, to eat lunch with Aunt Ruth and Uncle Gerhard. Amazing little garden that they have, full of Uncle Gerhard’s strange pottery creations – heads, busts, towers, balls, and especially birds like owls. Ate gorgeous, plump, ripe ripe raspberries right off of the vine. To Ahlen for cake and coffee, then later a barbeque and salads. Lots of lovely relatives there – besides Reinhard and Christina and Ruth and Gerhard, there were Inge and Manfred, Kai and Tanja, Katya and Michael, and Susanna and Jahia. Nothing to do but hang out, enjoy the warm evening and the lovely chat, beers, beef, burgers, veal, cous-cous, and all sorts of fine stuff I might not see again for a while. Talked a lot about Uncle Manfred Hoflich, how he used to ride up on his motorcycle, possibly the same motorcycle he was trying to give to us later on. Chatted with mum and dad on the phone, then talked until 2:00 AM, then all went home who was going home. I went to sleep, Aunt Inge stayed up until 4:45 AM doing dishes and tidying!!! Sunday I woke up at 6:30, then went back to sleep, woke up 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, 8:30, finally got up around 9:30. Jeez – this jetlag thing is tough! Ate a loooong breakfast, saw pics, listened to Naoko and Zen on the CD, called Japan and talked to them in person, saw super 8 videos of Reinhard and Kai when they were young, then took a bunch of pictures. Went off at 2:00 to Susanna’s place in Koln, listening in the car to Spitz, Arthur H, and a bunch of other stuff like William Shatner, etc. Nice drive. Had a great coffee and cake and chat with everybody, Roswitha and Georg and Christian and Rebecca came. Kai and Roswitha finally met for the first time. Went off to the botanical garden nearby, which was gorgeous – no construction, nice rocks, nice ponds, Lebanese cedar (huge), parrots, ran into Markus and Hannah. Jahie in action was a sight to see – friend to all the neighbourhood kids. Took pictures, lots of long goodbyes, then off to Am Rapohl where Roswitha and family live. Interesting place – full of toys and stuff, stacks and stacks of CDs too. Great stereo, nice TV, cool DVD and video tape players. Did some laundry – at Roswitha’s, people hang their laundry up in the basement, where it takes ten times as long to dry as it would if people could hang their laundry up on their balconies. Germans are pretty uptight about letting others see their drying laundry, which means that clothing must be put in dryers or, in the absence of an expensive dryer, hung in musty basements, even when it is gorgeous and sunny outside. Weird, weird, weird. Ate a late dinner of buns and stuff, drank a beer, went to sleep.

garden party!!

garden party!!

street party!!

street party

Monday I woke up in total darkness – at Roswitha’s they drop heavy shutters to block out the sun. It was 8:30 and I had slept well. Rebecca was at school, so we took Christian late, went downtown by train, settled my ticket at the central train station, met Uncle Heinz, walked to the bank to change my Kroner over, to the Dome and the gorgeous mosaics, paintings, and stained glass, not to mention gothic exteriors. Went for a nice doner kebab lunch, then some shopping where we looked at CD shops, shoe shops (no skate shoes in Koln!), and to Roswitha’s new office, to the train and the scheduling confusion therein, get kids, eat ice cream, get beer (for me), go to the garden house and plot of land that they have – admire that aspect of German culture – then back home at 7:00 for dinner (thank you Georg), hang out, watch TV, go to sleep.

two towers – Heinz and Roswitha

two towers



the Dome in Cologne

the Dome in Cologne

Roswitha and kids

Roswitha and kids

Tuesday – woke up in total darkness again… still not used to that after two nights. At 10:30, Roswitha and Christian and I went cycleing, saw the Roman tomb nearby her house, a place she’s never actually visited herself altough it’s a 5 minute bike ride away and on the way to the kindergarden almos. Discovered in the 1800s, it’s now managed by a family that owns the property, and you pay one euro and down you go – two levels of Roman necropolitious gravity. The B1 is an antechamber, then a spooky dark staircase down and it’s the real sarcophogus chamber with three gorgeous statues and an ingeniously carved sarcophogus. Very nice place indeed. After that we went on to see neighbourhoods where Roswhitha would like to live, visited the house of the nanny who looked after the kids before. To the mall to buy books – I bought “Struwelpeter” (horrific German cautionary tales) for Zen, and also Nasenbar for Christian, and Die Maus for Rebecca, since she likes that character.

die Maus


Left to get Rebecca, Uncle Heinz, off to Fritzdorf quickly by highway, bought some flowers for the grave of my great aunt, who died recently, got to Fritzdorf, saw the relatives again, hung out, ate raspberries from the vine again, and chat about old times. Now Roswitha’s kids are as old as I was when I first started coming to Fritzdorf – once regularly, now only every eight years or so. Weird. Had lots of coffee and cake (that’s lunch again), then walked to the graveyard, said goodbye to great aunt Liesbeth, then it was time to take pics, say goodbye, and drive to Cologne again. Christian fell asleep in the car, Rebecca was acting indignant towards me for some reason and wouldn’t take the book I had bought her as a present… Dropped off uncle Heinz, I went into a store to buy beers and had to deal with a lousy, snooty little girl at the cashiers again. Sheesh. “Hervorragend.” Yeah – right!! Dinner and goodbyes, Christian slept in the car for a while before they brought him up, Roswitha “borrowed” cold cuts from the neighbours and we ate buns and stuff. Georg took me to the train station. Nice guy. Saw a nice moon over the buildings, got out at Cologne and saw the Dome at night, bought breads and beers, and climbed into the train. The train guy is snooty as well, but I don’t mind too much since I have my own train compartment instead of sharing!! Very private indeed…

family in Fritzdorf

Dome at night

Wednesday, the lost day. It’s Thursday night now, as I’m writing this, and nothing has happened since Wednesday morning except travelling, a bit of unpacking, the cleansing of my body and the writing of this blog. Wednesday I woke up in a train, very private, watched Danish countryside, had the train breakfast – which I really didn’t know I had coming to me (nor did I expect for the cheap rate I paid for the train), and then had a few after-breakfast beers. Town of Kolding, Odense, 5-minute tunnel. The conductor: “Kolsch beer for breakfast?” No, just for dessert – he should know, he’s the bitch who brought me my breakfast!! What is it with the stupid people I keep meeting? Got to Kopenhagen, got off, the conducter friendlier at last, but too late for me to upgrade my low opinion of him. “Are you from Cologne?” Other Asians, Vancouverites, on board apparently, to hear it from him. To Copenhagen, walk around, the square and lots of pics, mixed couple walking into city hall, possibly to register a marriage. To Foot Locker looking for skate shoes again, “sorry, no skate shoes.” “Wow, you’ve got a lot of shoes here, though. But no skate shoes? Weird.” Wandered around, found a birthday present for Naoko (today is her birthday), took the train to the airport, long queue to check in, ate lunch, bought beer, called Japan, walked on plane – lots of Danish men of all shapes and sizes with their Thai wives. Crappy view of the screen. Fourth beer of the day. Napped. Seat next to wing. Little boy nearby with adult face. Nothing to read this time, so I am doodling in my book. Nice. Shitty food – really, really crappy. It was probably made 48 hours earlier and carried in the plane all the way from Thailand. I often hear talk about which airline is better than which airline, for example Thai is supposed to be a great airline, but it hardly merits point if the Copenhagen flight is anything to go by. So I think that ultimately it’s a pointless conversation because they’re all the same – you need to judge airlines by how fantastic their business class is, or their first class, and of course I’m a long way away from that. Well, if you’re lucky and you get a new machine, you get to see movies, but if you’re on the Bangkok-Copenhagen leg of your tour, probably your flight will suck. Too bad. Cramped, feeling bad, stuck behind sleeping people, can’t get to the WC, night swallowed away by day, finally get to Bangkok – wander around airport, see cute, short Japanese girl tourists wandering the airport, well-dressed Japanese businessmen. Bangkok-Singapore flight way better. Seated at bulkhead, staff much more helpful and attractive, nicer uniforms, fresher food. Nice. Only the steward doesn’t know how to say “quiche.” Real Men Can’t Pronounce Quiche. Got to Singapore, bolted off of the plane, whisked through customs, breezed through the duty-free, spotted my bag already coming down the stairs, got a cab immediately (I wish it was always like this!!) and got home in record time. Debriefed myself, hung out, checked email, tidied, did laundry, took a long hot shower, went nearby for dinner and shopping and dropping off my suit for dry cleaning, hung out, wrote lots of blog. BLOG BLOG BLOG!!! Now it’s late, time to go to sleep. But not yet…

Movie reviews: Thai Airways showed movies, but the view was always so crappy that I didn’t even bother to take headphones when the stewarddess came by with them at the beginning of the flight. No point in taking them out of their wrapper. I think “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” was playing, but who cares.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves

Book review – Eats, Shoots and Leaves: Hilarious book about punctuation, written by someone who might be more simlar to Bridget Jones than she cares to imagine. But think of it as chick lit for intellectuals – every point is whinging, but valid, and it’s ALL about punctuation. There’s even a lot of material on the history of punctuation, something I would never guess I could even start a research trail on… So, self consciously, I really did learn an enormous amount about punctuation; and then, in the midst of it all, another strike to Sandra Bullocks’ name (ha ha, I did that on purpose…).

the plastics

CD review – the Plastics “the Plastics” – ironic latin-influenced Krautrock (not the legendary Japanese band of the same name) that is somehow a weird blend of Gipsy Kings, Belle and Sebastian, and Bongwater. Eleven tracks, including two versions of “Rote Ampeln.” My cousin Kai, and his girlfriend, did the graphics for the thing, and they are supporters of the band – apparently they are lots of fun live, and they do a nice version of the Johnathan Richman song “Dodge Vegematic” (except they call it “Toyota Vegematic,” or something like that). Song-by-song: “So Schon” – latin-influenced, female vocal; “kreatief” – latin-influenced, male vocal, Kai and Tanja mentioned in the lyrics (Tanja is rhymed with pirhana); “jungle” – funky bossanova (in German?); “harmlos” – “we’re so harmless” funky “Sweet Jane”-like song, with Belle and Sebastien flair (but not as sweet). “Menstruation in H-moll” (“h-moll is German for “B minor) – funky sassy female vocals “both the moon and my breasts get fuller” – Bongwater-esque; “jazz is much to complicated” – ska beat, simple – sassy vocals; “beziehungswaise” – funky, heavy, male/female harmonisations like “les Elles,” funky heavy guitar; “love to fall” – funky acoustic, female vocal; “stadtbucherei” – latin-flavoured, talks about going to the library to meet good-looking, earnest young girls; “wo bist du?” – romantic, keyboards, french; “rote ampeln” (radio version) – funky french la-la-la song that is airy and light and reminds of stuff happening in oh-so-trendy Japan. Good work, guys, nice sound, good look, cool CD.