Archive for September, 2007

This old house…

Monday, September 17th, 2007

Went to the pub in Little India last night to play some music.  Unfortunately, my song selection wasn’t so great, so I was asked to cut it short.  But it was a fun night anyway.  So, I won’t be switching careers any time soon, but it was good fun anyway, and I have a better idea of what I should focus on next time around.

You say it’s your birthday?

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear Opa,
Happy Birthday to youuuuuuuuu…

A spring chicken at the tender age of 73.  Happy birthday, dad, hope you’re enjoying yourself.

Yee haw, today I put the finishing touch on my novel – there were only four thousand words left as of last Wednesday, but I found four occasions to sit down and hammer out 1000 words each time, and this morning was it – done! I started last March and now, 100,000 words later I have a novel!

Now to find an agent. Wish me luck.

Also tonight I’m playing my first ever live show, acoustic songs like “Apeman” and “To Love Is To Bury.” Should be good fun, although my guitar is not sounding so great. Wish me luck again.

Happy Birthday, Naoko

Friday, September 14th, 2007

This was a pretty good week, but the best was that today was Naoko’s birthday. This morning I woke Zen up first, and we gave Naoko her birthday present, a necklace Zen and I had picked out for her. She woke up and got lots of kisses from us and got her present, she was so happy. I had a full day at work but managed to get away from an event I was at and head home. A huge accident had happened on the highway, my 20 minute ride took 1 hour and 20 minutes, but I got home and picked up Zen and Naoko and we whisked off to the Brazilian restaurant on Sixth Avenue just in time for our reservation. We got a nice place near the window and ate tons and tons of yummy barbecued meat. Great! Zen was super well behaved. When Naoko was gone the waitress came out and said that she could bring us a piece of cake and the waiters would come along and sing Happy Birthday to you, and sure enough that’s what we did. Naoko was so suprised, and I’ve never heard it sung in Portuguese before, but there it was. Went home and Naoko and Zen went to sleep right away, although I am still up doing stuff.

The week was good. Last Saturday we tried Zen out at a Japanese kids school on Orchard Road to try out some lessons, one in the morning and a more advanced one in the afternoon. Zen did very well and he was very attentive and seemed to enjoy it a lot. That was great. Between lessons we slipped away, went down Orchard Road, saw Naoko, visited Singapore Airlines, HMV, a jewellery shop, and then to buy shoes for Zen, finally to the school again. Whew!

Sunday we went to see Ratatouille, and also to do lots of errands, Zen’s swimming lessons, and some other stuff.

Monday I met an old friend at the Prince of Wales after work to talk and drink beer and listen to his stories. Since I last saw him, which was at a live show in Osaka, he has become a PhD candidate in linguistics and is studying tribal languages of Southeast Asia, meeting tons of interesting people and living a very interesting life. I quite envy and have a lot of respect for him, it seems like a lot of fun, although pretty rugged. Talked to the owner of the Prince of Wales about playing a set of music at the pub, he’s asked me to come in on Sunday night. Let’s see how that goes, should be fun.

Tuesday I worked until midnight, Wednesday I worked from home, Thursday I went to Ikoma after work and got home late only to pick things up again, and today I was in the office doing things all over the place like mad, crazy. But at least it’s Naoko’s birthday.

Funny story – the other day I was playing Black Sabbath riffs on my acoustic guitar in the living room. Zen was in the other room, but he must have heard me because he came into the room and said “Papa, is that ‘Iron Man’?”

Punk Rock

Saturday, September 8th, 2007


Richard Hell: “Time” – Great and good music. “Betrayal Takes Two” is great singing and nice guitar work from whoever that is plucking away. I read a lot about Hell in “From The Velvets to the Voidoids,” so it’s good to dig up this old double CD my friend Chris Daniels gave me ages ago but I never listened to carefully. This song, at least, gets five stores in my iTunes. Very poncy, grandiose, ’50-sounding. Lots of off-tune singing, but some passion that is kind oflike funky old songsmithing from some old blues guy. Full, well-crafted songs from one of the funniest-looking guys in punk. “I Can Only Give You Everything” is good old punchy moaning and groaning with good old Lou Reed structures and loud guitar solos, Hell also sounds at times a bit like Joey Ramone singing for the Jeff Healy band.


Grails: “Burning Off Impurities” – Ethnic instrumental music, very moody. Spooky. Not much to write home (or on the blog) about, though.  I’d rather hear Pelican.
Movie Reviews:


Ratatouille – I wondered why Pixar picked this as a title for their new movie, considering that it’s a French dish and you need to educate people how to pronounce it on the movie poster itself, but by the time you’ve seen the movie to the end it becomes apparent why it could not be called anything else. Pixar seems to have been making kids movies that adults can enjoy, but this seems to me to be the first time they’ve made an adult movie that kids can enjoy. I was a bit sceptical about this film at first, since the trailers didn’t make it look very interesting – sort of ho-hum like Flushed Away or something – but the reviews were all so glowing (the Rotten Tomatoes critics poll gave it a 96 percent approval) that I had to see it. And it really lived up to those reviews. The film is about a rat that wants to cook, and while the UB40 song “Rat in the Kitchen” is never used, the idea of rats being icky creatures to be banished from the kitchen is a sqeamish thought that’s… never really addressed here.  It kind of makes me think of an essay I read in Esquire in the mid-80s about the 50 most influential people of the 20th century (so far).  One of them was Walt Disney, and the hypothesis of the essay is that Disney could take a story like Franz Kafka’s the Metamorphosis and turn it into a song and dance with a cute cockroach and melt everyone’s hearts (which they tried to do with “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”). Well, Disney put clothes on a rat and called him Mickey, but Pixar put a real, raw rat in the kitchen and asked us to be happy that he’s handling the foodstuffs without a proper de-lousing.  Well, Disney was never as bold, but Pixar has taken the step that that Esquire article warned us about.  Hilarious.  As good as Pixar is, it has gotten a bit derivative recently – the Incredibles, as good as the film was, ripped off both the Watchmen (plot) and the Fantastic Four (powers, villain).  Cars was a rehash of “Doc Hollywood,” but with automobiles.  But Ratatouille is something different.  There are bizarre non-sequitars: where are the female rats in all this, why not show more of Remy’s childhood to understand how he became so interested in cooking rather than introduce him as if he were a character in “Trainspotting,” and Linguini’s abrupt romance is a bit difficult to understand.  But never mind, the story of the little restaurant that could… then couldn’t… then could again is quite a lot of fun.  Sure there’s that icky part where the friends’ conflicting emotions cause them to momentarily betray each other (every movie needs its movie cliche), but the way the ending is wrapped up is quite impressive.  I don’t remember the last time an animated movie about rats that cook brought a tear to my eye either.

Thank you for the days

Saturday, September 1st, 2007

This was a bit of a strange week. I got down to work and caught up with all sorts of little errands I had to do, both at work and in my personal life, and am now feeling miraculously caught up. Next week just a few more things to do, and then I’ll be “home free” in a way. One of the major things that I managed to accomplish was getting Zen registered for his primary school. I fretted a bit about it, because as a foreign kid he gets lowest priority in getting registered. I found out that the school has 54 positions open, and it didn’t seem to be an “in-demand” school where parents would camp out 72 hours before registration opened, so I felt reassured. On the registration day I woke up at 5:30, got there at 6:00. There were five Korean mums and dads ahead of me in the queue, which was all right. Within 15 minutes, four more Korean mums showed up, so I was sandwiched by Koreans. At 8:00 the doors opened, and I had Zen registered by 8:40 and I was off to work.

“That’s because Peter has a hot butt!” I got an interesting comment from a senior person at work this week when I was told I had a hot butt. The context for that is that someone was wondering why the seat of my chair looks like it was seared, and this person explained that it was probably because I had a hot butt. Weird…

CD Reviews

ABBA: Waterloo – My continued fascination with ABBA, fuelled primarily by my interest in hearing those ABBA songs that are NOT on their greatest hits albums, saw me pick up their second release, “Waterloo.” I should have have bought this 20 years ago, considering the fact that I went to the University of Waterloo, but better late than never. Of course, the album begins with Waterloo, which we’ve all heard a million times, but then goes into a weird reggae song sung by Benny and Bjorn that sounds very… Dan Fogelberg. Or maybe how a song would sound if there were two Dan Fogelbergs singing at the same time. The third sond is the decidedly weird hard rock/doo-wop “King Kong Song” that hears the guys really screaming their lungs out in parts (is this the same ABBA we all know? But it was only their second album and the band was still experimenting with their sound to an extent, as is evidenced by the wild stylistic shifts from song to song. Familiar-to-everyone songs on the album include “Hasta Manana,” and “Honey Honey”, while the superb “Dance (While the Music is still on)” is at once familiar and also intoxicatingly fresh. “My Mama Said” is a sort of strange, spooky Blondie-like song that’s somehow quite intriguing. “What About Livingstone” sounds like an old-time bubblegum song that is quite good fun. “Watch Out” is sort of about heavy guitar riffs and rock ‘n’ roll drumming… and then in come in the cheezy lyrics and one of the guys singing. Oddly enough, a few songs like this prove that ABBA was the rock ‘n’ roll band where the backup girls were better than the main vocalists… so the main vocalists gave the girls the band. “Gonna Sing YOu My Lovesong” sounds like that famous Wilson Phillips song, decades before it was recorded. Very grandiose and catchy. ‘Suzy Hang Around” has a catchy Birds-like guitar riff. Sung by Bjorn, or Benny, but quite nice.

Black sABBAth: Past Lives – Yes, the mighty Black Sabbath dug into the archives and pulled out “Past Lives.”
I was wondering recently why I’ve become so fixated recently on both ABBA and Black Sabbath. It’s confused both me and others, but I think I hit on the connection one night when I was looking at the band names, realizing that the word ABBA is part of Black Sabbath (i.e. sABBAth). Weird, huh? The disc starts off with the relatively uninteresting “Tomorrow’s Dream” before jumping into a grunged down version of “Sweet Leaf” that sounds odd without the cough-cough intro. The bluesy “Killing Yourself to Live” has Ozzy in savage top form, and by following “Children of the Grave” with “War Pigs” shows the band showcasing two of its best songs. Ozzy’s hooting and hollering, especially in song intros, is good fun, and the band has an incredible energy for many of the numbers on this track. “Oh Lord, yeah.” Of note on the album is the 18 minute version of “Wicked World”, a 4:46 track from the first album that starts off with the band in its full glory before becoming its regular old bluesy self, then an extended guitar and drum solo that includes snatches of “Into The Void,” some blues song that Ozzy sings on, as well as “Supernaut”. Of course, Tony Iommi’s guitar solos are pure blues jams, with some of the obligatory guitar shredding. “Thank you, good night, we love you all. You’re beautiful.” A nice version of “Hand of Doom,” followed by a cool version of “Hole in the Sky” that has Ozzy in his full nasal glory babbling to the audience something like “quite a few guys stop me and ask me about the new album that we will have really soon, we’re going to do a little number from our new album so you may not know it, you probably don’t, even so you might like it,” before screaming “ARE YOU HIGH?!? ARE YOU HIGH!?! SO AM I!!!!” One of the cool tracks on the album is “Megalomania,” one of the gems of Sabotage. It’s not a big hit with other critics, particlarly considering the way that Ozzy’s voice cracks and goes off-key, but in a way that’s some of the appeal of this warts-and-all collection. With his voice mangled, someone else (Geezer? Tony?) steps in to rescue Ozzy. For me the biggest disappointment on the album is “Black Sabbath,” which has a sort of noodly medieval acoustic intro before clumsily launching into the three notes of the song. “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” another blues song from their first albumd, is also good fun, and the album closes with the silly ole “Fairies Wear Boots.”

Strangulated Beatoffs: Greatest Hits – For some reason, I can’t seem to find an image of this SB album online, so we’ll have to go without one. But the cover is interersting, it shows Johnny Cash and Martin Sheen together in what appears to be an image capture from a movie they both appeared in, like a cop show or something. In the recordings, which again remind of Killdozer, someone’s playing around with a drum machine and a guitar with distortion, playing strange keyboard riffs and reliving lurid, odd “alternative lifestyle” experiments. Naturally, song titles are things like “Lick my Butthole,” “Facesaucer,” “Everbod Loves the Circus,” “Beat Me With a Rump Roast,” and the real mature “Shake Your Dick.” “Exorcist III” at least provides something of interest as it goes on a doom-loop of sorts with very heavy guitars and bass, chanting and feedback interlacing the mess, it’s very much a Butthole Surfers song from the band that would be Butthole. To the point, “Porky the Pig and Bess” is a wild Butthole-a-thon. Meanwhile “Fake Eyeball” is very Hawkwind spacey. “Strangle Me” is a silly acoustic song, but perhaps not so silly considering the band’s name. The last song, “It’s A Vile, Vile, Vile, Vile World” is a remix that uses the same electronic loop endlessly, although it incorporates a soundbite from the George C. Scott film “Hardcore”, i.e. the scene where he’s watching the film and shouts “Shut it off, shut it off…”

Drunks With Guns: Drunks With Guns – Scumbag rock, listening to this CD it’s hard not to be reminded of Killdozer, which they sound exactly like. Which band came first? Cool titles like “New Wave Negro Girl” and “Beautiful Happiness” probably have nothing to do with the band’s gritty sound and general weltanschauung. Some of the songs are instrumentals, like “Cowbo,” and hence quite funky. Bonus track “A Beer” has very simple lyrics, mainly just “a beer…” repeated endlessly over a fuzzed out riff. This band doesn’t use a rhythm section for this track, and it might really just be one guy goofing around in the studio.

Zero Landmines

Zero Landmine – A charity album organised by Sakamoto Ryuichi after he read about landmine victim Chris Moon. Moon, a Scottish teacher who lost an hand and a leg while removing a land mine in Mozambique, had also run a full marthon with an artificial hand and an artificial leg. Sakamoto put the project together, writing a very pretty Sakamoto song, and this CD has six versions of that song, with lyrics by David Sylvain of the band Japan. The first version, at 18 minutes, has contributions from a wide variety of world musicians, including Kraftwerk, an Inuit child singer, music of the Dong poeople, Korean musuic, DJ Krush, Takuro of Glay, Cambodian music, Indian Tabla and vocals, Tibetan chanting with the Dalai Lama, Brian Eno, Bosnian music, a soundbite from Princess Diana speaking in Angola about landmine abolition, Angolan music with guitar backing by Arto Lndsay, Mozambique music, and a huge choir. It’s followed by a simple version of the song sung by Sylvain himself with Sakamoto accompanying on guitar. Then there’s the cello version. Then there’s the short version (with all the bells and whistles), the piano version, and finally – the VERSION. Perhaps more inspiring then the music is the booklet. Chris Moon writes that “landmines are evil environmental pollution. They lie active in the ground for decades after the fighting has stopped and cannot tell the difference between the footfall of a soldier and that of a child. Many of those injured by mines die slow, dirty deaths. Those who survive often live lives of misery, poverty and discrimination.” The good news that he reports is that the initial estimates of the number of landmines around the world is turning out to have been a bit high. A more depressing statistic is that while there are 60-70 million landmines planted around the world, there are 250 million more stockpiled and ready for use in the arsenals of 150 nations. Wow! The booklet also has a map showing where there are landmines, the countries with over 10 million landmines are Angola, Egypt and Iran. China, Cambodia, Afghanistan and Iraq have 5 million to 10 million. Of course, Cambodia’s are distributed over a much smaller area than China’s are.


Balzac / Sobut: “Oldevils / Legend of Blood” – Japanese punk rock split 6-song CD, with three songs from each band. Balzac starts off the set; the world’s most wanna-be Misfits copy band from their album art and typography to their costumes and devillocks, their first song “The End of the Century” sounds like California hardcore and not at all like anything that Glenn and gang ever did (and no, it doesn’t sound like the Ramones either). The second song is more like the Misfits with all the “woah woah woah” stuff. Third song “No Resistance 1968″ is a bit more like Japanese punk, such as the Blue Hearts, but hardly as good. The real Misfits should eat these guys alive, I wonder why they ended up recording a split single together. Earnestness from the fans?  Sobut are also by-the-numbers punk rock, the vocals are really watered down.  I wonder what these guys would sound like with a real producer, they sound technically proficient at least, and it’s obvious a lot of work has gone into this.  Actually, no, they also need a new lead singer, and a bit of an edge.


Acid Eater: “Virulent Fuzz Punk A.C.I.D.” – Yamasaki Maso, a.k.a. Masonna, put this band together. It has a retro sound, with wild ’60s guitar sounds and cheezy Doors keyboards, so it is a bit like his Christine 23 Onna project, but he has lots of screechy noise mixed in as well, and his vocals are full on Iggy Pop and very distorted.  Wild craziness.   I’ve listened to it a few times, and I can’t distinguish real songs – it’s like Guitar Wolf in that way – but it’s all good fun.
Movie Reviews

Captain America – People who thought that Ghost Rider was totally awful should catch this film, starring Matt Salinger, the son of J.D. Salinger. Worse even than the Roger Corman “Fantastic Four” (yes, I watched that one too), it has all the things you’d expect to see in a really awful B-movie comic book adaptation: horrible action scenes, love interests getting killed, bad fashion, Ned Beatty wearing over-sized ’80s glasses, people finding needles in haystacks, and bizarre plot developments – for example, Steve Rogers goes back to the lab where he turned into Captain America in 1990 and finds everything exactly as it was left in 1943, including the only copy of research notes describing how to cook secret soldier serum. At least the Captain America costume looks great – it has fake six-pack-stomach padding, as well as little wings sprouting out from the sides of the mask – but Matt Salinger’s not impressive as a super soldier considering he constantly gets defeated. The Red Skull’s make-up is passable, but for some reason he’s Italian and not German. Did the producers think it was too corny to have him be a Nazi?