Archive for January, 2013

Terry Fox Run 2013

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

This morning we got up early and went to the Terry Fox Run at East Coast Park, a 7:00 gathering and an 8:00 start. Good music pumping us up, I ran 10 km in good time (about 55 minutes), Zen ran 5 km, and Naoko walked 5 km. It was fun!

Feeling fresh before the run

Feeling fresh before the run

Feeling fresh 'n' sweaty before the run

Feeling fresh 'n' sweaty before the run

Making it official

Making it official

Making it official

Making it official

Making it official

Making it official

Zen guitar

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Yay, Zen got his last birthday present (a few weeks late), it’s a Motif slim classical guitar, made by La Patrie, which is owned by Godin Guitars.

I also found some cool old pictures of Zen with guitars that I thought would be fun to post here too.

Here's Zen with his new guitar; he's singing "Jamaican Farewell"

Here's Zen with his new guitar; he's singing "Jamaican Farewell"

Here's Zen with his new guitar; he's singing "Jamaican Farewell"

Here's Zen with his new guitar; he's singing "Jamaican Farewell"

Papa guitar, mama guitar, baby guitar

Papa guitar, mama guitar, baby guitar

Zen's not in this pic, but we took it in 2010 when Naoko got her guitar

Zen's not in this pic, but we took it in 2010 when Naoko got her guitar

Papa guitar, mama guitar, baby guitar - March 2008

Papa guitar, mama guitar, baby guitar - March 2008

Of course, at that time Naoko and Zen were just posing with my guitars; it is only now that all three have their own.

Zen finally outgrew my guitar in September 2008

Zen finally outgrew my guitar in September 2008

Zen was still a drummer in November, 2006

Zen was still a drummer in November, 2006

November 2003, our first year in Singapore

November 2003, our first year in Singapore

December 2002, when we were still in Japan

December 2002, when we were still in Japan

I wonder what song I was singing…

Our wonderful weekend at Marina Bay Sands

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

January 19th was mom’s birthday. A few months ago Naoko and I did a visit to Marina Bay Sands while Zen was in Beijing to “test it out” and see if it would be a good place to take mom and dad to (and to have a nice getaway for ourselves). Actually, I planned it on my own and surprised Naoko; she loved it, and we did the same for mom and dad and they loved it too! It was very good throughout – good service, good facilities (afternoon tee, cocktails, water show, evening walk through Gardens By The Bay, a complimentary birthday cake from the hotel (delicious!!), morning walk through Gardens By The Bay, superb breakfast, swims in the infinity pool each day, good food, friendly service (mostly), and lots of peace and quiet. I wore my Rush t-shirt throughout, and one security guy even recognised it – we sang a few phrases of “Tom Sawyer” together. It was a fantastic surprise weekend for mom and dad, and we had a ball!

Here’s the evidence:

The birthday girl got flowers from her man

The birthday girl got flowers from her man

Singing Oma a birthday song

Singing Oma a birthday song

Oma's birthday, Marina Bay Sands

Oma's birthday, Marina Bay Sands

Afternoon tea at Marina Bay Sands

Afternoon tea at Marina Bay Sands

Yay!!!

Yay!!!

Flight deck

Flight deck

On the 57th storey of Marina Bay Sands

On the 57th storey of Marina Bay Sands

The view from the top

The view from the top

Exploring the rooftop

Exploring the rooftop

The happy couple 50 years in

The happy couple 50 years in

Yummy cocktails!!!

Yummy cocktails!!!

Peter and Naoko - Yummy cocktails!!!

Peter and Naoko - Yummy cocktails!!!

The view from the top

The view from the top

The view from the top

The view from the top

The view from the top

The view from the top

The view from the top

The view from the top

Hangin' out on the observation deck

Hangin' out on the observation deck

Checkin' out the light and water show

Checkin' out the light and water show

Checkin' out the light and water show

Checkin' out the light and water show

Checkin' out the light and water show

Checkin' out the light and water show

Oma's birthday cake - happy birthday Oma!!

Oma's birthday cake - happy birthday Oma!!

Oma's amazing birthday cake!!!

Oma's amazing birthday cake!!!

A night stroll to Gardens By The Bay

A night stroll to Gardens By The Bay

A night stroll to Gardens By The Bay

A night stroll to Gardens By The Bay

Night flight to venus!! (ground view)

Night flight to venus!! (ground view)

Night Flight To Venus!!! (ground view)

Night Flight To Venus!!! (ground view)

Night Flight To Venus!! (ariel view)

Night Flight To Venus!! (ariel view)

Night Flight To Venus!! (ariel view)

Night Flight To Venus!! (ariel view)

Night Flight To Venus!! (ariel view)

Night Flight To Venus!! (ariel view)

Night Flight To Venus!! (ariel view)

Night Flight To Venus!! (ariel view)

Checking out the Gardens By The Bay

Checking out the Gardens By The Bay

Checking out the Gardens By The Bay

Checking out the Gardens By The Bay

Checking out the Gardens By The Bay

Checking out the Gardens By The Bay

Checking out Marina Bay Sands from the Gardens By The Bay

Checking out Marina Bay Sands from the Gardens By The Bay

Checking out the Gardens By The Bay

Checking out the Gardens By The Bay

Checking out the Gardens By The Bay

Checking out the Gardens By The Bay

Checking out the Gardens By The Bay

Checking out the Gardens By The Bay

Zenzilla - king of the monsters!!!

Zenzilla - king of the monsters!!!

Checking out the Gardens By The Bay

Checking out the Gardens By The Bay

Checking out the Gardens By The Bay

Checking out the Gardens By The Bay

Checking out the Gardens By The Bay - OUCH!!!

Checking out the Gardens By The Bay - OUCH!!!

Checking out the Gardens By The Bay

A big fat Marina Bay Sands breakfast!!

A big fat Marina Bay Sands breakfast!!

The bathrobe gang - going for a swim on the 57th storey infinity pool

The bathrobe gang - going for a swim on the 57th storey infinity pool

Going for a swim on the 57th storey infinity pool

Going for a swim on the 57th storey infinity pool

Going for a swim on the 57th storey infinity pool

Going for a swim on the 57th storey infinity pool

Going for a swim on the 57th storey infinity pool

Going for a swim on the 57th storey infinity pool

Going for a swim on the 57th storey infinity pool

Going for a swim on the 57th storey infinity pool

Oma and Opa in Singapore!

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

Oma and Opa have come to Singapore to stay with us for five weeks, we’re going to do a lot together, and also to celebrate Christmas, Oma and Opa’s 50th wedding anniversary, and finally also Oma’s XXth birthday on January 19th.

Here’s a picture of all of us together on January 7th, our first evening together, when we did our gift exchange.

Oma Opa Peter Naoko Zen

Oma Opa Peter Naoko Zen

Here are a few other recent pictures:

Peter, Naoko and Zen in our new Ramones t-shirts!

Peter, Naoko and Zen in our new Ramones t-shirts!

Peter and Naoko at the Bukit Timah Nature Park reservoir

Peter and Naoko at the Bukit Timah Nature Park reservoir

Opa at the Bukit Timah Nature Park reservoir

Opa at the Bukit Timah Nature Park reservoir

Opa and Opa at the Bukit Timah Nature Park reservoir

Opa and Opa at the Bukit Timah Nature Park reservoir

Japan visit 2012-2013

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

I had a great trip to Himeji, Japan this year-end (December 22nd to January 5th. I didn’t do much there besides eat, drink and sleep (I saw some friends, and did a bit of shopping too, but only on some days). It was pretty relaxing. No TV that I could watch, no movies or DVDs, no internet, no email, no cell phone… it was pretty cold, so no snugglin’ either. A very minimalist experience. But, also, no work distractions, so who can complain? Batteries fully recharged, I returned to work, and the experience of welcoming mom and dad to Singapore, Christmas gift exchange with the family, and a new year at work!!

Christmas cake, with Zen, Yaeko and Hiroshi

Christmas cake, with Zen, Yaeko and Hiroshi

Daichi Haruhito

Daichi Haruhito

Daichi Nanaka Shiota Haruka Yuuta Zen

Daichi Nanaka Shiota Haruka Yuuta Zen

Yaeko Nanaka Yuuta Shiota Haruka Peter Naoko Zen

Yaeko Nanaka Yuuta Shiota Haruka Peter Naoko Zen

Peter Zen

Peter Zen

Peter Zen

Peter Zen

Peter Naoko Zen Hiroshi Yaeko

Peter Naoko Zen Hiroshi Yaeko

Peter Naoko Zen

Peter Naoko Zen

Peter Naoko Dave Satchiko

Peter Naoko Dave Satchiko

Naoko Zen Yaeko

Naoko Zen Yaeko

Naoko Zen

Naoko Zen

Naoko Yaeko Zen

Naoko Yaeko Zen

Naoko Yaeko Hiroshi Zen

Naoko Yaeko Hiroshi Zen

Nanaka Yuuta Zen Shiota

Nanaka Yuuta Zen Shiota

Masayuki Nanaka

Masayuki Nanaka

Marina

Marina

Kyoko Yaeko Naoko Yumiko

Kyoko Yaeko Naoko Yumiko

Kani seijin

Kani seijin

View of Himeji from Megayama

View of Himeji from Megayama

View of Himeji from Megayama

View of Himeji from Megayama

View of Himeji from Megayama

View of Himeji from Megayama

My typical Himeji pose

My typical Himeji pose

Prince Zen

Prince Zen

Zen with Ninja

Zen with Ninja

Great name for a store!!

Great name for a store!!

Kimchi cream cake, in Osaka's Tsuruhashi district

Kimchi cream cake, in Osaka's Tsuruhashi district

The Terminator of kimchi, in Osaka's Tsuruhashi district

The Terminator of kimchi, in Osaka's Tsuruhashi district

Peter and Zen

Peter and Zen

Welcome home feast

Welcome home feast

Peter, Yaeko and Naoko at Osaka castle

Peter, Yaeko and Naoko at Osaka castle

Peter, Naoko and Zen at Himeji castle

Peter, Naoko and Zen at Himeji castle

Naoko and Zen, at the top of the mountain

Naoko and Zen, at the top of the mountain

a typical activity

a typical activity

Zen and the octopus

Zen and the octopus

Gloria Mansion?

Gloria Mansion?

Motchi Zen

Motchi Zen

Snake gate, with Naoko and Zen (born in snake years)

Snake gate, with Naoko and Zen (born in snake years)

Naoko with Himeji Luminarie

Naoko with Himeji Luminarie

Naoko and Zen and Hiroshi on Megayama

Naoko and Zen and Hiroshi on Megayama

Zen Shiota Yuuta

Zen Shiota Yuuta

Zen

Zen

Zen Erika Marina

Zen Erika Marina

Zen Erika Marina Dave Satchiko Naoko

Zen Erika Marina Dave Satchiko Naoko

Yuuta Zen Shiota yaeko Peter Naoko Nanaka Haruka

Yuuta Zen Shiota yaeko Peter Naoko Nanaka Haruka

Yuuta Shiota Nanaka

Yuuta Shiota Nanaka

Yaeko Peter Naoko

Yaeko Peter Naoko

Hiroshi Zen - best picture I took on the trip

Hiroshi Zen - best picture I took on the trip

Zen and Naoko posing for a portrait

Zen and Naoko posing for a portrait

Reviews of stuff I got over the year-end

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

I got a whole ton of stuff over the year-end, some of it for Christmas, but most of it from shopping in Japan. Books, CDs, DVDs, even a watch. I also bought a funky new backpack (Under Armour… sounds like underarm ha ha ha ha…) that has all the sorts of groovy pockets that I need, some cool stickers, a cool button (to go on my backpack), and a great black and white guitar strap for my black and white Stratocaster. It makes my life near-complete.

Here’s a pic of all the loot, man:

the LOOT!!

the LOOT!!

DVDs:

Monterey Pop

Monterey Pop

The Complete Monterey Pop Festival, the Criterion Collection – A great three-DVD set, which contains the original film with commentary and extras, the second one is Otis Redding’s Shake film, along with extras.

Disc One – the original film: The film opens up with funky montage of credits, of psychedelic imagery, and the names of the band, mixing the artistic and the commercial. Groovy, even as we see a few neckties, some stage setting-up, some cops on patrol. Lots of cigarettes are smoked by many young people (no joints in view, of course). Hippy chick is quoted about peace and love (and acid), while the camera strays over the groovy acid. Nice koi nobori (hey, it’s San Francisco, with a large Japanese community) flying over the scene. Kesey’s bus!! Montage of groovy sights, David Crosby digging the technology (“Finally, a good sound system!!”). First songs are recordings – “Are You Going To San Francisco” and “Creeque Alley”, before hitting The Mamas And The Papas singing “California Dreaming.” Hells Angels sit patiently in the metal folding chairs lined up nicely in a row before the stage. Medium-sized seating area, fairly intimate (unlike the gigantic Woodstock and the unruly Altamont show of the following year). Canned Heat does a wild, wild show, before Simon and Garfunkel tone it down with a sedate “Feelin’ Groovy.” There’s the weird (and exciting) Afro-beat jazz of Hugh Masekela making things exciting. Jefferson Airplane has two songs, and we get a sense of how all of the members of the band contribute (it’s not all Grace Slick’s show here). Next up – Big Brother And The Holding Company’s “Ball And Chain”, with Janis Joplin ripping the ceiling off the night (Mama Cass was in the front row, staring in awe, mouthing “wow”). The footage is so clear that we can very clearly see how bad Janis’ skin was. Eric Burden And The Animals follow, playing some weird fiddle music, before breaking into “Paint It Black”, with an image of Brian Jones himself wandering the audience. Next up is The Who, and the band blows it away with a fantastic version of “My Generation”, with Roger Daltry belting it out, unfazed when Pete Townsend decides to smash his guitar; we also get to see one of Keith Moon’s drumsticks shatter as he pounds the skins. Country Joe And The Fish follow with a very cool Pink Floyd-like song called “Section 43″, wild guitar stuff happening here. The Mamas And The Papas are back, with “Got A Feeling”, Mama Cass lookin’ kinda hot here. She was lovely, although the band looks stupid in their wanky galaxy trooper outfits. After the Mamas and the Papas we warm up to nearly 20 minutes of Ravi Shankar, the first seven minutes devoted to only crowd shots. Lots of hot blondes, lots of loving young couples, a monkey, some face paint, some car paint, some guitar paint… Lots of scenes of the audience in sync and really grooving with Ravi, deep in meditation and prayer, or just plain spacing out. Even Jimi is grooving!! After a while, we get a good sense of the deep interaction between the sitar and the tabla, and there is some great playfulness. When the piece ends – by far the longest in the film – the audience gives a standing ovation. And this ends the film itself. In the credits, we see that Albert Maysles was on the crew, Chip Monck did the lights.

Ravi Shankar died only one month ago.

The DVD comes with plenty of extras that are very exciting: a 30 minute interview with DA Pennebaker and Lou Adler (they also provide the commentary – John Phillips was supposed to be there but couldn’t make it… actually, he was near death’s door at the time, and died in early 2001, around the time that this set was being prepared); a “scrapbook” contains the programme as well as photos from the three days (and a 12-minute interview with photographer Elaine Mayes; there are interviews with John Phillips, Cass Elliot, David Crosby and Derek Taylor, and a 2:42 theatrical trailer that is mainly edited from the opening segment; finally, there are radio spots, and also some technical information about the transfer. There are radio spots focusing on the performance of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin (2), Otis Redding and the Mamas and the Papas. The Adler and Pennebaker video goes on for nearly 30 minutes and is a bit dull. Both are from Chicago, Pennebaker interviews Adler at the beginning, then they pick up the conversation more throughout. They find out that they are both from Chicago and reminisce, Adler talks about knowing Herb Alpert (he knew Alpert’s girlfriend first, while Alpert was in the army – awkward!). Curious throwaway sentences like “We were at Cass Elliott’s house and Paul McCartney was there…” The commentary continues throughout the movie as well. They mention how Otis only got the second night headlining gig when the Beach Boys dropped out (they regretted it, but hey – they knew they were too light for the crowd anyway). As many people as were there, many also weren’t – the Beatles weren’t there (given up concerts), the Stones weren’t there (legal problems) although Andrew Loog Oldham was on the board of The Foundation. There are anecdotes about how both of them throughout their lives later also ran into people who were at Monterey, like a traffic court judge who did Pennebaker a favour, and other things. The cameraman at 1:02:00 with the leather hat was not one of Pennebaker’s. The Mamas and the Papas gig was one of the last they ever did. At the end, with the Ravi Shankar gig, the guys get really excited about camera shots, film stock, and all of the parts of capturing a really great performance, with the hand slapping and toe tapping of what Ravi Shankar himself called one of his best ragas – he had told Pennebaker that it was a religious moment in an un-religious setting (aren’t those the best, though?).

The photos of Elaine Mayes are also very nice, they are broken down into topics and have very good labeling, although sadly there aren’t really very many pictures at the end of the day. She also gives a 12 minute talk about the art of photography and her memories of Monterey which was very nice. She complains about being in the photo pit in front of the stage, where she was looking up at the musicians.

Disc Two – Jimmy Plays Monterey, and Shake! Otis At Monterey: Jimmy Plays Monterey starts off with a clip of John Phillips remembering Jimi, giving some background to the man and his London experience, including a scene of him playing “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” just a few days after it came out. And at Monterey, the celebrities all came out to see Jimi, as it was his homecoming of sorts. “We’re really nervous, but we love you all, man. Because this is very groovy, man. Monterey is very groovy, man, this is something, man. This is our generation, man. All you people, we’re all together, man, and it’s groovy. And dig yourselves, because it’s very groovy.” There’s a cool Monterey song. Pete Townsend and Jimi Hendrix, friends from London, nearly came to blows over their order of appearance John Phillips flipped a coin for them (in another part, Townsend remembers how upset he was about this, since Jimi was out of his mind on acid at the time). Brian Jones gives a really terrible intro to Jimi, then Jimi pulls out all strops from the 12 minute mark. “We’re gonna do a little thing by Bob Dylan – that’s his grandma over there – it’s called ‘Like A Rolling Stone.’” Plenty of onstage gibberish, including another reference to Bob Dylan’s grandmother later on (apparently, “Bob Dylan’s grandmother” was Noel Redding)! Still he protests “I’m not losing my mind!” Switches guitars for “God Save The Queen/Star Spangled Banner/Wild Thing”. Jimi brought his own Marshalls, so he had the best sound. Chords link “Wild Thing” with “Like A Rolling Stone,” which the directors in their commentary note was at the time “an act of tremendous cultural audacity. And he pulls it off perfectly.” He shows Mike Bloomfield how to pull it off. Hendrix copied Little Richard. “He looks like a Brazilian pirate who’s just plundered a ship bound for the Portuguese aristocracy. Hendrix showed Dylan a little bit how to perform his own music, but he did it with respect. Hendrix in 1955 with the Yardbirds’ lead singer and Marc Bolan on Ready, Steady Go. Tim Rose did “Morning Dew”, the Byrds did “Hey Joe.”

Pete Townsend’s commentary is interesting, and he re-tells the story of the coin flip, mentioning that later Jimi forgot all about it and their friendship was back to where it was. He also praises the Filmore as the first real venue. “The Filmore defined the way they were going to work from then on.” The Who, Jimi Hendrix and Cream broke at Monterey.

Shake! Otis At Monterey is a short set of sizzling R&B. The commentary gives some context, saying how Otis patterned himself on Sam Cooke, but he was energised by a visit to Europe where he was welcomed with open arms, and none of the racism he’d encounter in the US. His set was introduced by Tommy Smothers (!?!?). Monterey was his adoption by a white audience; funny how the commentators claim that in 1967 Otis didn’t know who the Rolling Stones were.

Disc Three – the Outtake Performances: The Association’s robots do their schtick to “Along Comes Mary”. John Phillips gives an intro to Simon and Garfunkel, who play “Sounds of Silence” with a full band. Plenty of new audience shots here of freaky people, although plenty are also recycled from the original movie. Electric Flag were very good. Freak doing upside-down cycling in the aisle. The three Byrds songs are just great, and David Crosby gives a freaky speech about John Kennedy, as well as the unionists song “He Was A Friend Of Mine”, and a very raunchy and violent “Hey Joe.” The disc also contains a whole whack of songs by the Mamas And The Papas, finally representing the main organisers of the show. There are also some fantastic new songs by Country Joe and the Fish, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane (“Somebody To Love”!!), another song by Big Brother and the Holding Company, Buffalo Springfield (with David Crosby playing in a second band, probably to cover for Neil Young), and The Who. Great!

Booklet:

The set includes a really beautiful 64-page booklet that is full of pictures, essays, and vital information. On the cover is the piece of art that the Beatles created and signed to say “sorry we couldn’t make it”. The book’s dedication is to John Phillips. It also contains the original review of the festival by Jann Wenner for an April 1968 edition of Rolling Stone.

The film includes many who died tragically young: Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin died at 27, Otis Redding died at 28, Cass Elliot and Keith Moon both died at age 32 (in the same room, but on different days).

W

W


Woodstock, 40th Anniversary Edition, Director’s Cut – Four discs of madness, including the original movie and commentary cut over two discs, and two more discs of outtakes.

The original movie: The movie rating “Restricted” goes up in smoke as the movie starts (hooray!!!). Quoting an old timer, “I had no problem with the kids. This thing was too big, too big for the world.” Hippies on horses, Porsches rolling in, dune buggies. Bronze, young attractive stage hands building stage. Painted buses. Yogi hanging out. Nuns flashing peace signs. Twilight dancers stripping, couple going off to make love in the bushes, it’s a miracle of editing. Gerry Garcia is the first musician we see. Bill Graham talks. Bob Neuwirth on camera. “I gotta split.” Grace Slick Joe Cocker, Janis Joplin, Gerry Garcia. “Marijuana – makes you behave.” Yogi doing his thing. Cool announcements. “Ellen Savage, please call your father.” Brown acid warning. Ritchie Havens’ foot in closeup, he gets the crowd to clap hands with his great rhythm and kazoo mic, he runs offstage still playing his nutty guitar. During the Canned Heat set some guy comes up to the vocalist Bear, takes a Marlboro Red off him, hugs him, stolls off stage. Bass player is right into it, man. Joan Baez pregnant, tells about her husband in jail. Sings “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” a cappella. Great camera editing at the beginning of “See Me, Feel Me”. Pete Townsend with long hair, Daltry’s extreme fringe jacket. Daltry gets lost in lyrics at the end. Lousy shots of Keith Moon. Pete throws guitar up in the air and catches it for solo. Throws SG into the audience!! Sha Na Na looking’ very very gay. California hippy gives a yoga lesson from the stage and in the field. Joe Cocker doing air guitar. Star boots. WHo was his guitarist? “Mad Dogs And Englishmen”. Stoem’s coming. “Hey if you think real hard, maybe we can stop this rain,” call to crowd. “Please move away form the towers.” “No rain” hang. “eep thinking it.” Great weather drama. Naked hippies in rain interview, they are just about getting clean and keeping their clothes dry. “The mud’s a hassle. It’s a drag, it’s a bummer. It’s fine, it’s all right.” Conspiracy theories abound. “Why are the fascist people seeingg the clouds. People of unknown origin are seeding the clouds.” Tribal chant, mud slide hill. White shirt in rain. Peace chant. “These people are communicating with each other, that rarely happens any more. Pass the joint mortgage, roll-a-pipe. “I was rapping with the fuzz, can you dig it,” says Arlo Guthrie. Ten Years After’s Alvin Lee has a very cool leather wrist band. Other guitarists wearing watches. Watches!! “Interfuckingmission”

DBLACBGB
Dead Boys, Live at CBGBs 1977 -

CDs:

APB

APB

Aerosmith, Pandora’s Box -

MSHB
Maher Shalal Hash Baz, L’Autre Cap – A strange lo-fi release on K Records by an old school Japanese alt rocker, singing in English, with a horn backup, some guitars, and Jim O’Rourke. Two discs, 27 songs per disc, one is the “studio album”, with songs as short as 0:30 and as long as 9:03, the second disc is a live version of the “studio” album. Nice music, and the horns add a nice touch of chaotic noise, but overall it’s a bit too same-y, always giving the feeling that the songs were played in one single well-rehearsed session (the sound is very uniform). Oh well. “Portland Town (Derroll Adams)” is a mopey song for voice, single horn and guitar, with some weird noise thrown in. “Kamakura” is a nicer song, more ramshackle, with the horns deeper in the mix, and a bit of drum coming in here. “First Love” is all about vocal effects and making really weird sounds. “Misaki” is a spooky and beautiful song that sounds near Cohen-y (the live version is extra good, and a bit longer too). The music is extra strange, but somehow after a while the languid horns do grow on you, especially on songs like “Shoigamori” that have a bit of tunefulness to them. “Moving Without Ark”, the longest song on the album, is a beautiful thing, just rambling on and on, timelessly, tunelessly, wonderfully. It’s like Sister Ray, or one of those great shamboling drone songs that has true harmony and great weight. Wow!

After this long song, the remaining songs are all very short and hard to notice, although “A Mere Form” has a weird, horn-y Violent Femmes charm. “Giving Birth To You” has cool grooves.

The live album sounds just as same-y as the “studio” album, but maybe a bit more boom-y. It gets pretty funky with the drums on “Portland Town”, the live versions are alive with weird nervousness, and are recorded impeccably. Love it! “Way Out” is superb, with its big horns and nutty rhythms, “Miserable Men” is a showcase for badly-choreographed horns (yuck!!! but cool!!!). “Misaki” is wondrously nutty and warm, with good interaction of on-beat with tone-less… nice!! “Giving Birth To You” is wondrous cacophony, with full noise and zonality. Love it!

NYPP
Neil Young, Psychedelic Pill – A great new album by Neil Young, and a worthy follow-up to La Noise. The opening song, “Drifting Back”, kind of goes on and on for 27 minutes, starting out with a groovy acoustic sound before clumsily galloping up into electric mid-stream, several verses widely dispersed with rambling electric jams. Even the ending is goofy and drawn out. Awesome. “Psychedelic Pill” (which also comes with an alternate mix), is funky, psychedelic and washed out with flange. Love it – short and sweet at only three minutes! The alternate mix is slightly shorter, uses a bit less flange and more echo on the vocal – choose your favorite. “Ramada In” is another one of those “long haul songs”, but this one is only about 16 minutes long. More zany Crazy Horse goodness roaming along and along and along. Aces!! “Born In Ontario” is exactly the hokey thing that you’d imagine it would be, folksy and rootsy. “Twisted Road”, which opens disc 2, tells groovy tales of listening to Bob Dylan, youth, discovering music at the start of a “twisted path” that leads to the present day. “She’s Always Dancing” has that goofy Crazy Horse backing vocals with the wild wailing guitar. Nice. “For The Love Of Man” is a chilled out old song with a very light touch (a bit dull, actually). “Walk Like A Giant” saunters out of the gate, with whistling from Neil and the Crazy Horses, sounds exactly like something that would have come out many many years ago. Wow.

Neil is very generous and has created official videos for all of the songs on this album! Here’s the album:

Driftin’ Back

Psychedelic Pill

Ramada Inn

Born In Ontario

Twisted Road

She’s Always Dancing

For The Love Of Man

Walk Like A Giant

SO
Spitz, Orutana – It is usually around the second time through a new Spitz album that you figure out which songs are outstanding, and which songs are merely great. This “odds ‘n’ sods” collection contains 14 songs, all of them either B-sides, new mixes, or tracks that appear on compilation albums. The first track “リコリス” is a pretty average Spitz song, with a nice acoustic intro, a catchy few verses and a great chorus. The production is a bit dated, although it only came out in 2004 (the choruses sound a lot cleaner than the verses, which are a bit murked-up). That’s followed by a cover version (one of three on the album!) of an Okuda Tamio song, “さすらい “, which appeared on an album of covers of Okuda’s songs. The Spitz version of this song sounds fairly close to the original, with the standard Spitz choruses spicing it up; the cover is appropriate, because if there was ever a rocker in Japan who simply excels in songwriting the way Spitz also does, it’s Okuda. The third song, “ラクガキ王国”, is a pretty rockin’ song, it’s hot! Love this sort of song – the chorus is relatively flat, there’s a pre-chorus, and a really wicked chorus as good as any the band has ever sung in a fast song. “14番目の月 (おるたな Mix)” is a Yuming song that appeared on her 30th anniversary tribute album, and it is a nice little thing that combines quiet acoustic parts with big fat electric bits. “三日月ロック その3″ is also a very good rock song, while “Time Machine” by 原田真二 is a pretty little ballad.

AICJOF

AICJOF

Alice In Chains, Jar Of Flies – Alice In Chains was never my favorite band, as I did find their up-tempo songs a bit corny, but I did very much enjoy their mellower EPs, which showed great musicianship and songwriting and are sufficiently gloomy for my taste in general (Sap, which I can’t find on CD, also has great collaborations with Ann Wilson of Heart, Christ Cornell of Soundgarden, and Mark Arm of Mudhoney). “Rotten Apple” starts it off right, with a cool bass line, and dirty talkbox guitar. “Nutshell” just oozes great feedback-driven guitar, and a sloping, languid pace. Fantastic. “I Stay Away” is an overproduced song with a sweeping chorus, and lots of fake strings. “No Excuses” is a bit more natural-sounding and upbeat, generally fairly chilled out. “Whale And Wisp” is an over-produced instrumental number, with majestic orchestral guitars (big sound), while “Don’t Follow” is a great acoustic number that has some harmonica in it, that has no drums in the beginning but later builds up after a while to a nice buzzer with wicked vocals – best song on the album. “Swing On This”, the album closer, is a cool number with a walking bassline and some cool vibes. Love it!

ZP
Zabriskie Point, Music From The Original Motion Picture – Many, many, many great and very cool guitar songs from Pink Floyd and Jerry Garcia. There are a few with vocals, and also a few oddities thrown in (“Tennessee Waltz”, for example, and a few other blues rags).

This will probably be of most interest to Pink Floyd fans, as it contains great numbers such as the Stones-y blues rag “Love Scene Version 6″ (sounds exhausting), which is full of light drumming, some funky piano, and some searing guitar (and quite different from Jerry Garcia’s “Love Scene” piece, which made it into the movie). “Heart Beat, Pig Meat” is a found sound experiment with some strange, acid dream atmospherics, “Crumbling Land” has a bit of CSNY harmonics as it barrels through some soft hippy grooviness, albeit accentuated by some pretty cool organ at parts. “Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up” is the well-known original version of “Careful With That Axe, Eugene”, the version with the least gruesome scream. “Country Song” is a simple, folky little song that electrifies for a loud-ish bridge. “Unknown Song” is a spare, simple acoustic groove-along with a bit of blues soloing. Nice.

There are plenty of one-offs. The Kaleidoscope sings “Mother Mary”, a CCR-ish ukelele rocker. There’s a two-minute excerpt of The Grateful Dead’s “Dark Star”, a section of jazzy guitar noodling, The Youngbloods offer “Sugar Babe”, a groovy little piece of hippy fluff. Roscoe Holcomb’s cheeky “I Wish I Was A Single Girl Again” is pretty hilarious, and a nice dixie rag. “Mickey’s Tune” by The Kaleidoscope is some acoustic fiddlin’ madness (why?), while “Dance Of Death” by John Fahey is sweet guitar pickings and strummings.

The set also offers some solo Jerry Garcia music, mainly the “Love Scene” acoustic guitar piece, as well as four versions of the “Love Scene Improvisation”. “Love Scene” has some very groovy, fluid soloing, which includes a bit of bass and overdub in parts. The versions are equally noodly; all of them are very long, between six and eight minutes, and they are the longest songs on the soundtrack.

Books:

LF
London Fields, by Martin Amis – Supposedly Martin Amis’ best book, this is a hodge podge of ideas about all sorts of nutty stuff. An American author with writer’s block does a house swap with a successful London writer, and somehow enters his world, crossing paths with one of his lovers, a nutter set on becoming a murder victim, a thug, and a twitty titled bankers. All of them are in their early thirties, the London men with wives and young children, all of them fall victim to the murder victim’s games. A very weird book.

Along the way, we get treatises on darts, various London underground misadventures, hints at kinky sex (Amis’ prissy but tough style leaves much to the imagination), and there’s some sort of meta-writing going on. It’s all very po-mo (ish), and a bit of a slog to get through. Happily, it picks up somewhat in the last five pages.

LMA
Anagrams, Lorrie Moore – Lorrie Moore’s strange little book about a trio of strangely unsympathetic midwest middle-aged vagabonds. She starts the book off experimentally, giving alternate “What If” versions of our three heroes (a man and a woman, with her closest friend). In true literary fashion, you piece together what’s really happening as the book progresses, and you also get the odd factoid of back story (the dead ex-husband, etc), oh, here and there. None of the characters are really sympathetic, and you begin to wonder why a supremely talented writer can’t tell a good tale.

CWWTH
The Cat Who Went To Heaven, Elizabeth Coatsworth – The tale of a starving artist in medieval Japan whose housekeeper brings home a cat; she bought the cat rather than buying food for herself and her master (the starving artist), and the idea is that this act of mercy will lead through karma to other good fortune. And the cat does inspire the artist to create great works as he receives an important commission from the temple to draw the death of the Buddha. As the tale proceeds, we get to learn lessons from the life of the Buddha as they’re drawn into the painting.

Ultimately the tale is a bit hokey and twee, but it’s still a nice story. My 11-year-old didn’t finish it, and I can see why – it’s a bit too “full of mystical lessons” for kids to really dig, and there is an aura of devoutness about it, with only the rare snatch of playfulness. I guess you also have to really be a cat person to sympathise with the poor little kitty.

CKIV
IV, Chuck Klosterman – This is a collection of older and not-so-older writings, including one where Klosterman experiments with his diet, subsisting for one week on nothing but Chick McNuggets (and, in his revised notes to this edition, claims “I thought of it first” rights off of Morgan Spurlock. The book tends to write more about music than any other topic (North Dakota also features quite prominently in the book), and there is hardly anything about sports in it; this is fine by me, since Klosterman’s sports writing is my least favorite of the regular topics he writes on (and Klosterman’s aware that there are writers like me – I do read through all of his sports pieces in the hope that I will learn something). Some of the pieces come off as very commercial, as he was writing for Details, Spin, and other mainstream publications.

The better pieces are about Metallica, U2, Radiohead, and… I forgot. He also wrote some so-what articles about Britney Spears, U2, Radiohead… the best one is probably on Val Kilmer, although it is as much about how Klosterman got to the interview as it is about Kilmer himself.

The book is also peppered with the weird, short, mildly annoying hypothetical situations/questions he used in Sex, Lies and Cocoa Puffs. After I read Klosterman, I fantasised about what his books would be like if he would let Denis Johnson edit them; Johnson, known for his spare prose, would probably chop about 75% of Klosterman’s text out of it; yes, Klosterman over-writes, and could use a more assertive editor (or self-edit a bit better), but in a way this is part of his character and charm, so it’s not really that big of a deal, actually…

The book also has plenty of footnotes, most of which are actually quite helpful and educational, especially when they return things to context if something comes along after their publication to change his opinion on something. Some of the pieces, which had been heavily edited upon publication (such as the article on the coyness of Brittney Spears), are seen here in their full original versions. There are also some of the fluffy pieces that he wrote when he was still living in Fargo, and other desolate places around the US, that show just how far his writing has come.

Plonked somewhat self-consciously at the end of the book is a pretty good piece of fiction about a young reporter in rural America (Fargo?) who smokes angel dust, has a strange boyfriend-girlfriend relationship with a stalker chick, whereby he drives a few hundred miles to another state on an errand for a friend, runs into a mishap. Bang, that’s it.

JBTOAFGN
Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing, Judy Blume – The great Judy Blume classic. I hadn’t read this since I was in a fourth grade nothing myself, and when I found it on my 11-year-old’s school reading list I made sure he got a copy. Naturally, he devoured it, and laughed out loud several times while reading it (there’s no better sound in the world than hearing a kid laugh purely). I found it a very very quick read, with several funny episodes stitched together, the most memorable being at the end.

M
The Mezzanine, Nicholson Baker – An amusing short story, with extended footnotes that bring it close to novel length, about a man who rides an escalator. A sort of shortened modern-day version of Marcel Proust’s In Search Of Lost Time that recounts the thoughts of an office drone as he rides an escalator, and thinks a million billion thoughts about life in general, about his day so far, about the various small office interactions and daily rituals that he has in life, including a trip to the gents, the signing of a birthday card, obervations about the office building’s cleaning staff, notes on the sunlight hitting the atrium windows, reflections on the purchase of dairy products, and just general stuff about plastic bags, packaging, straws (why do they float when put into soda pop and what implications does this fact have for the consumer?) and a million other things that come to mind. The book is scattered with footnotes, long or short, about these matters. I chose to skip the footnotes, since I’ve made the mistake in the past of reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest and all of that book’s many MANY footnotes (I was not the better for it, I’m afraid). Not willing to be fooled twice, I just read the bloody story.

NM
Nobody Move, Denis Johnson – A great crime noir, that I could just picture as a Tarantino movie, with the intriguing storytelling device of skipping over a crucial bit of plot development at the beginning (a shooting) so that you can learn more about it by analysing the context of what is described after the event. It reminds me of an exploded version of one of the more negative short stories in the first half of Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, like the one where FH drops by a farmhouse where a guy has accidentally been shot, and all of the mad chaos that happens around that, and the dead emotionality of all the participants. Here, Johnson takes a bit of time to expand the story, indulging perhaps a bit too much in the protagonist – a washed out gambler who is being hunted by some very bad men intent on revenge – lingering around the very bad men’s stoping grounds, forcing us to beg the question “why didn’t the guy just get while the getting was good”? Oh right… there was a few million dollars in it for him. Once a gambler, always a gambler.

Read it… it’s good.

LP

LP

Liar’s Poker, by Michael Lewis – A very good and very well-written book by a guy who was in a very interesting place at a very interesting time. What Lewis does very well is explain complex situations – major financial trends, macro-economics, wall street politics, the psychology of sociopaths, avarice and greed – in a very compelling and easy-to-understand way. He talks about how the US Federal Reserve Bank created a situation for mortgage bonds to blossom, and how the Salomon Brothers were the first investment bank to start a mortgage bonds desk, how they had a monopoly on the product for many years before their greed caused them to leak valuable staff. It’s not covered in the book, but Salomon is now gone, absorbed by Citi, which has gone through its troubles as well – there’s no way the old Salomon could still be intact, having gone from a partnership to a listed company with its strange culture and weird bureaucracy. Nice stuff.

The book is so well written that there were whole passages that I wanted to copy out of it for this review, but my dad returned my copy to the library without me asking him to – thanks, dad (no big deal, actually, ha ha…).

SC
The Spiderwick Chronicles, Holly Black and Tony Diterlizzi – A great real world fantasy tale (meaning that it’s set in our world, but there are meetings with the fantasy world) that can be read in its five component books or in the collected volume (recommended). I’d been interested in it, since I’d heard good things about the series, but had never gotten around to reading it. When I found it on my 11-year-old’s school reading list I made sure he got a copy; sadly, it was a bit too slow-moving for him, and he didn’t have the patience to hold on until it got interesting, which it quickly does towards the end of book one.

The book is very well written, with the introduction of three sympathetic lead characters – twin boys (one is very serious about animals, the other has no hobby and is quite awkward), with an older sister who is studying fencing (handy when battling goblins). They move into an ailing relative’s strange old mansion (Spiderwick Hall) after their parents’ divorce (sounds pretty cliche so far, right?), and then get around to learning quite a few interesting secrets about the world around them after discovering their long-lost uncle’s Field Guide to the world of the fairies. The tales of how they learn about the magical world around them are exciting and the action moves along well, presenting moral dilemmas at turns (should they not get rid of the magic items and hope they can live the rest of their lives in peace? should they not be more grateful to the magical creatures that help them? etc). They are captured and escape, they cheat death, they make mystical friends (a hobgoblin, a brownie, a griffin, elfin lords, etc), before the final showdown with a particularly awful ogre. Yes once again kids manage to save the world while the adults are blissfully unaware. Oh well…

A word must be said about the wonderful illustrations of Tony DiTerlizzi, which have a lot of magic and life of their own.

The large chronicle edition that I got has two lost chapters, which may have been written after the fact as they definitely wouldn’t have fit in the book anyway (the brownie’s early days in Spiderwick Manor), which are also quite delightful. There are also tribute illustrations at the back by other illustrators of the Spiderwick characters in action, some of them in unique situations, and DiTerlizzi also provides his early sketches wit extensive notes that show the evolution of the look and feel of the characters. Love it.

Excellent, especially for fourth or fifth graders.

Films:

DS
Dark Shadows – A cool little Johnny Depp film directed by Tim Burton, with all of the dark dramatics. Depp plays a vampire whose family has been cursed by a spurned lover (she was a witch). The story is fun, and at times funny, with a groovy setting in the 1970s. Unfortunately, there are a few times when Burton misses a chance for humor, like when the vampire feasts on hippies (shouldn’t he get stoned, and maybe loosen up a bit?). There’s a hilarious scene of supernatural wall climbing, ornament-smashing ultra-sex (think Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone in The Professional, but with super powers). Nice appearance by Alice Cooper, singing his “Ballad Of Dwight Fry”, which is the inspiration for one of the characters’ back stories.

ROA
Rock Of Ages – I saw the previews for this film, and wanted to gag at the thought of Tom Cruise writhing on stage like Iggy Pop; turns out that the film is actually a lot more fun than I’d envisioned, as it goes through your typical Purple Rain sort of story, but in an LA rock setting in the late Eighties. A few genuine surprises (during the “I Can’t Fight This Feeling” sequence), and some very cool rock club sequences as our heroes seriously get the lead out! The rock ‘n’ roll weirdo scenes are pretty funny, if you think about it, and somehow the relatively sophisticated plot threads do come together fairly well in a not-necessarily-based-on-impossible-coincidences sorts of things happening. But hey, it’s only rock ‘n’ roll… and I like it!

On the negative side, it is a bit grueling listening to Tom Cruise singing “Paradise City” and other rock classics, and the girl vocalist’s helium singing can be jarring at times. Still, you have to credit the film for really embracing Eighties rock, some of which hasn’t aged well (Night Ranger, Pat Benatar) and putting it right up there on the pedestal.

Best line of the movie happens when the boy and the girl are comparing their misfortunes:

Girl: “I mean, jeez – I’m a stripper.”
Boy: “Well… I’m in a boy band.”
Girl: “Okay, you win.”

MK
Moonrise Kingdom – Another wonderful Wes Anderson film that, like so many of his other films, contains a few wonderful elements:

- geeky kids
- a cutaway of the characters’ living environment
- a wimpy fight sequence near the end
- some sort of natural calamity

Not so sure about the last one, but all of these happen in Moonrise Kingdom, which does its best to re-create Waris Hussein’s 1971 puppy love comedy Melody (also known as Sealed With A Loving Kiss), but with his inimical ironic style. Set in rural America in the 1960s, it also has a soundtrack of quirky little musical gems, such as April March’s “Les Temps De L’amour”, and Benjamin Britten’s famous ” The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (Introduction/Theme; Fugue)”, as directed by Leonard Bernstein. A strange young orphan and an odd girl run away from home, get married, and build up a posse of other strange youths, most of them fellow boy scouts, and a sympathetic police captain played by Bruce Willis (?!?!). Harvey Keitel makes a cameo appearance as a grizzled old Scout master, and there’s all sorts of bizarre Scout politics involved (John Cusack is a scout leader who, initially disgraced when he loses his squad, who manages to redeem himself). Tilda Swinton is also resplendent as a very serous social worker. A really wonderful film.

Other:

BNTDLC
Ball Night Train – Every couple of years I splurge in an expensive watch, and this is what I got this time. It’s darn cool, and all black except for the time-indicating bits, which also contain little tubes of glass that glow. During the day it is the easiest watch in the world to read, no-nonsense black and white, and at night it lights up like a ferris wheel and is just as easy to read; one small complaint – at night all of the hour and minutes are clearly lit up, while the hour and minute hands only have narrow glowing bits; it would have been more logical to do it the other way around (i.e. make the hour and minute hands more prominent at night), but this way the effect is much nicer. It also has all sorts of shock resistance, scratch resistance (diamond-like coating), antimagnetic properties, water resistance and accuracy. The strap is thick, rugged rubber, which smells a bit like lollipops. It is automatic, which means that if I don’t wear it for a day it stops (not so great), but I’m really very happy with it.

LPM

LPM

Zen has been learning classical guitar in school, and he told Naoko that he was keen to also take guitar lessons. Naoko was too, so they took lessons together and practiced on her folk acoustic. This made Zen lose interest a bit, as he preferred playing the school’s classical guitar to Naoko’s folk acoustic, so we got him a real classical guitar. Happily, my friend Patrick’s company makes guitars, so I finally had a good reason to buy one from him. Hooray, we got Zen a La Patrie Motif, which is a full size guitar but has a slim body that’s good for little kids with their short arms, no problem strumming comfortable, and the soft nylon strings feel nice on the hands. The guitar doesn’t sound great when he strums it – why should it, as it’s a classical guitar – but sounds just lovely when he plucks individual notes, and he’s able to do so with ease, considering that he’s just started. He’s playing “Ode To Joy” and it sounds perfect. Just yesterday he told me “papa, thank you for buying me a classical guitar.” Now that’s music to my ears!

Master Zen and his guitar...

Master Zen and his guitar...