Archive for September, 2004

Thursday, September 30th, 2004


Hump Day

Thursday, September 30th, 2004

Hey, cool, another Wednesday. A busy week already. Monday we had our long meetings, and then we got to work. Boss took us out to an impromptu lunch at the nearby hotel, buffet with great seafood, also two bottles of wine. Got to feel like we were bankers or someething. Lots of good laughs, and getting to know new friends. it is rare for all of us to be in the office at the same time, what with people travelling a lot and all, so it was very nice. Had a busy afternoon, but a bit lazy after the wine and the rich food. Got home and watched Leni Riefenstahl documentary, the first part. Tuesday I got down to writing articles, also went off to the Esplanade library to pick up some videos, in this case I got another Zatoichi, the Fearleess Vampire Slayers, and the Producers. Got home and tried to watch some of the Leni Riefenstahl, got too sleepy, though. Wednesday I got to work, then headed out to Hunan IT Mall at lunch break to pick up a cable for the computer, to connect the digital camera to the new computer so that I could download videos onto the computer for editing, burning to DVD, all that good stuff. Am already encountering some problems, like the power shuts off on the camera suddenly, which is not so good. I hope that isn’t a persistent problem.

The Zen report: Zen is getting good at going pee pee by himself. He also digs brushing his teeth by himself, although he sometimes takes a very long time to do that. We are trying to get him to sit and do a poo poo, but no such luck yet. He is usually not interested in eating dinner, it took him 90 minutes to do so tonight. Sigh…

Zen’s Reading List

Every kid should have a reading list. These are Zen’s favourite books:

1. Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman
2. I Am A Bunny, by Richard Scarrey
3. Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown (thanks Uncle John)
4. The Steam Stain Crew, by Andrew and Janet MacLean (thanks Uncle Ralph and Aunt Nicole)
5. Kapai’s Capital Visit, by Uncle Anzac (ditto)
6. “the yellow book,” which talks about trains and buses in Osaka
7. Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb, by Al Perkins
8. Harry MacLary (from Donaldson’s Dairy), by Lynley Dodd
9. Komm Her, Kleiner Nasenbar (thanks Uncle Ralph and Aunt Nicole)
10. Curious George and the Bunny, by H.A. Rey

Wish list: Outside Over There, Where Tthe Wild Things Are, anything by Dr. Seuss, Three Billy Goats Gruff

…and then what?

Monday, September 27th, 2004

Hey, another weekend over. Sigh. Yesterday we… hung around, Zen slept until 6, so I diddled around on the new computer a bit figuring out how to do a bunch of things like upload music from CD and CD-ROM. It was interesting. The reference tool is fantastic, so much imagination went into it, not to mention all the information and facts! SEXY!! The neighbours knocked on the door and invited us over to the nearby HDB park and we watched some incredible lion dancing. Those guys – one in front, one in back, covered with a blanket, jump around on posts that are about 2 metres off the ground – four clusters of five posts. They jump back and forth between the posts, which have a disc on the top the size of a dinner plate. Amazing – the front guy jumps up and is held by the back guy, then the back guy leaps and carries both of them over onto the next one. Amazing. It was one of the most impressive athletic displays I have ever seen. Zen and Xavier and Sunwoo had a great time and we were pretty amazed too. Zen went to sleep after 10, and I watched Triumph of the Will. Crrrrrreeeeeeepy….! Sunday we were woken up very early by Zen. He got up at 6, I got up at 7, Naoko got up at 8. We went grocery shopping after 9, and were back home at 11:30. It rained, I did computer, Zen napped, he woke up and we went by bicycle to the park – first time in a while. That was interesting – played on the jungle gym, Zen took off his shoes and tried to walk on the pebble path for foot reflexology, and I got some exercise. Xavier came over with some old toys that he has outgrown for Zen, how nice of him. Thanks, Xavier. Had a yummy fried dumpling (hand-wrapped) dinner, and I took Zen for a long walk. Got back and uploaded pictures onto the computer. Now it is nearly 10 and time for Zen to go to sleep. I am fully prepared for work tomorrow, just gonna watch that documentary the Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl, or maybe read the Neil Young biography.

The Zen Report: Zen is getting really good at cycling, I have to run to keep up with him and to watch he doesn’t wipe out. He is careful at times, but reckless at others. But he is generally quite well-behaved for such a little kid. I wonder if he is very mature – he enjoys things that probably not a lot of kids his age would, like subtle humour things we see on TV, etc. He is speaking in nearly full sentences, and is learning better how to say “can I help you,” and “can yo help me.”

I mac, you mac, he mac, she mac

Saturday, September 25th, 2004

Hey ho, another few days have gone by. What is new? Since – gulp – Monday. I was exhausted at 10, so I went straight to sleep. Wonder why so tired… Tuesday I… worked from home, fine tuning stuff. Sean came over in the evening and we watched Carnival of Souls together – excellent. I stayed up until nearly 1:30 watching th extras and stuff. Wednesday I… went to the office. At night I watched “Money No Enough.” Thursday I… went to the office (why is all this such a blank?). Oh, no wait, I remember – Thursday at noon I went to the library and borrowed a buncch of cool films – Young Frankenstein, Zatoichi (the old series) 2, Triump of the Will, and the Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl. Thursday night I watched most of Young Frankenstein, then went to sleep.

Friday I worked from home, which was nice – that means I got to take Zen to school by bicycle (quickly) avoid the commute, and have lunch at home. At 8:50 I watched my colleague go on news TV to talk about Korea, glad that that isn’t me for a change. Did some work, watched Young Frankenstein at lunch, and worked in the afternoon. Got a call that my iMac would be ready for pickup on Saturday – hey, that’s tomorrow! Cool. Prepared some food for the dinner event at Zen’s school, then waited for Naoko to come home. We went off at 6:30, and had some fun at the Autumn Festival at Zen’s school. Cool – they set up lanterns and had food and little kiddy chairs to sit in. We were supposed to do a lantern parade procession, but it started to rain so we walked 100 meters along the sidewalk and then came back. Funny – it stopped raining right after that. We went to the school and did “candy hunting,” then they had activities for the parents. They called “three strong men” to tear the husk off of pomelos, which are Autumn Festival seasonal fruit. Nobody was volunteering, so I joined and ripped the top off, then ripped strips off the sides, and got that husk off in nearly no time at all. I got the prize, which was a nice little photo album. Cool – now I have to make sure I print some photos. Then they had some sort of funny “husband holds hands behind back, wife feeds him moon cakes” eating contest, which is a way to get rid of moon cakes, since everybody is sick of them by now. Ate nice pizza, hung out, watched the kids play. Zen was riding his favourite red tricycle. A naughty boy said “hey, Zen, let’s play in this playhouse together,” so Zen got off the bike and ran after him, but then he doubled back and stole Zen’s bike from him. Zen went in and played there anyway. The boy’s parents took him aside and scolded him for 20 minutes, telling that he did something wrong, then they took him home. Poor kid. Zen was quite unphased by it all, just like in the morning when all the kids were laughing at me wearing a Superman shirt when I dropped Zen off at school – unfazed. Nice. So he rode rode rode along for over 30 minutes, always going in a circle on his bike. Sometimes he got off and played in the sandbox, some other kid took the bike and he got another one. He must have ridden 4 different bikes that day, but he definitely liked that red bike the best. Left at 8:30, walked down the hill, got beer, and then took the bus back. Zen got upset that we took the 77 bus and not the 173 bus. Got home, showered him and got him ready for bed, he was sleeping at 10:10 and we went to sleep. Tired… But got up and watched Zatoichi 2 (from the old series) with Naoko. Very interesting, although short and ended abruptly. Did we miss something here? Went to sleep…

Saturday woke up at 6:00 and couldn’t sleep. Naoko woke up at that time and we… had an “intellectual discussion” as they say in Young Frankenstein. Zen was up soon after that, and we did our tidying and cleaning and laundry and tidying (today it is the day to wash the PILLOWS!), then off to Holland Village to eat breakfast. Nice ham and egg sandwiches, then we went off to the bank to pick up some money (big bills – to pay for the computer), my first time handling thost big $1000 bills (there are also $10,000 bills in Singapore), which was interesting. Went downtown so that Naoko could get some yummy Japanese groceries at Isetan for us, Zen and I went to HMV to buy some CDs – Sonic Youth “Sonic Nurse” and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds “Abbatoir Blues” and “the Lyre of Orpheus,” a double album. Zen was cranky because he wanted to buy (or steal?) the Spiderman VCD, even though he has one at home. Walked up Orchard Road to Borders Books where we hung out for a while. Read a wonderful book by the same author as Zen’s Favourite “Goodnight Moon,” that is very sweet – about a bunny and his mummy. Also read those old Dr. Seuss books. I guess my favourite would have to be “And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street.” Of course, there are plenty of other great books by him, or Richard Scarrey, and others. Got on the bus, went to the Apple Centre, forked over the dough, then went home and watched as the work guys installed our new cieling fan. Wow, so much activity today. Zen went to sleep around2, is still sleeping now, and I am playing arorund with my new iMac. A bit puzzling, but I am getting used to it.

In the walkman: Unknown Frequency, Zeni Geva, Wolf Colonel, …And They Wll Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Jad and Jason, Won Wons, Free From Disguise, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Sonic Youth, Timers.

DVD review: Carnival Of Souls – The classic 1962 psychological horror that has a lot in common with at least three modern horror films and their “twist endings” that I really shouldn’t say any more (save saying that their respective stars are Tim Robbins, Bruce Willis, and Nicole Kidman). A woman emerges from a car wreck that should have killed her, leaves town, then on a road trip is drawn inexplicably towards this spooky old wreck on the shore of the Great Salt Lake of Utah. The creepy old Saltair was a real place that the director happened accross. It was a booming holiday resort place, but had been shut down when the waters of the Salt Lake receded (then it burned to the ground, and was rebuilt, and the waters of the lake rose. Nutty). Wile, one-setting morality play is gorgeous, and had been the only feature film independently produced by some Kansas industrial film makers. The star of the film, Candace Hilligloss, is stunning in a really unusual way, sort of like Geena Davis but with a lumpier face. Not only is this movie great, but the extras area fantastic as well – a documentary of the 27-year cast reunion, made around the time that the film was “rediscovered,” as well as a short piece on the scenes in Kansas where the film was made. Great outtakes reel that plays like a gorgeous mini-movie on its own, full of fantastic, moody scenes. Also some industrial films made by the same studio, but I didn’t get time to watch that one.

DVD review – “Money No Enough”: Singapore film that shows the lives of 3 venal losers, money-grabbing guys, childhood friends, where it chronicles their lives, “loves,” and other problems. Although there are some genuine yucks, particularly at the expense of the funny-looking one, the film comes off merely as a Hong Kong comedy rehash where they are speaking the strange Singaporean blend of English/Malay/Hokkien/Mandarin/and Tetchew. I was a bit surprised to learn that not many Singaporeans are English-literate (?), but I guess that is the fantasy environment of this film.

DVD Review – Young Frankenstein: Funny movie that probably everybody has already seen. The funny thing about this film is that, although it has the excellent casting (Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Terri Garr, Madeline Kahn, Gene Hackman, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman, and Kenneth Mars), it doesn’t really have a great script. No matter, though, all the comedy comes through in the amazing delivery that the talented cast has, as well as the whiff of the rediculous in the idea of a black and white horror being shot in 1974. Great darts scene, nice fiddling, great googly eye action by Marty Feldman, the young Terri Garr is scrumptious, and it is quite amusing to see Madeline Kahn incorporate her character from “What’s Up Doc” AND “Blazing Saddles” (except it is Terri Garr who has to don the stupid Germanic accent this time).

The Continuing Tale of Zatoichi (Zatoichi 2) – DVD Review: Zatoichi is wandering the countryside, minding his own business, gets thrown into the water by a bunch of thugs, gets attacked by a man from his past, and corrupt samurai try to kill him for knowing their secret – of course, anybody who tries to do this becomes dead meat. Zatoichi carves, falls in love, seeks retribution for a fallen comrade, all sorts of good stuff. Weird ending to this one. Zatoichi 3 picks up the tale where Zatoichi meets up with his former teacher, falls in love with his sister (Zatoichi is like Bond or Jones – different woman in every film).

The Zen Report: Things that Zen does – well, he is good at doing wee wee on the toilet, although he hasn’t figured out how to do woo woo. He requests Madonna on the stereo, he has taken to The Marx Brothers, he is riding the bike (with training wheels), and tons of other stuff.


Tuesday, September 21st, 2004

Monday, another Monday. Got to work, went to my meeting, knocked around all afternoon fulfilling various chores. Cool. Got home early, first time in a long time, and had dinner with Naoko and Zen. Zen then went off to play with Stephanie and I played guitar. Fun. Wanted to watch a film in the evening, but I was exhausted. Oh well, tomorrow.

In the walkman: Can Can Heads, Circle, Kroko, Konsuumun, Pan Sonic, Radiopuhelinet (all Finland), Teem, Ultra Fuckers, YDESTROYDE (all Japan), April Nine, Parade, Henry Rollins (spoken word), Low, Galaxie 500, Twin Peaks/Fire Walk With Me soundtracks, Spitz (Japan).

Buckaroo Banzai

Sunday, September 19th, 2004

Hey ho, an overcast Sunday. Gloomy outside, with dark clouds overhead and cool breezes wafting in, napping with blankets at 2 PM, a few drops of rain, but otherwise we wait in anticipation. Guests have come, mothers and kids, and I have escaped to catch up on my blog.

Thursday was a pretty good day. Did the usual administrative stuff, wrote a piece for the e-newsletter, then wrote another quick piece for the print journal. Cool – 2 articles in one day. Stayed around until 7:30, then went home. Got home and… forgot what I did. Friday got there, wrote yet another article for the journal. Funny how this works – I wrote 4 articles for one column, each one on a different theme. Personally, I thought one of the four wasn’t so good, but the other three were fine. For the first two, some of my colleagues liked them and others didn’t, but the last one is probably the best and will go in. Funny how the creative process works like that. Went to the library at the Esplanade to get more DVDs – got the Criterion Collection version of “Carnival of Souls” (I had taken it out on tape the week before, but no time to watch it), “Blazing Saddles,” “Buckaroo Banzai,” and a Singapore film called “Money No Enough.” Singapore has produced a few films worth watching, apparently, but I haven’t watched any yet. Should be fun watching films in a familiar setting. At 3 I got a call to go on TV to comment on banking, then at 4:10 I was on for the usual 3 minutes. Funny. After that I waited around for a while to talk to the boss about an article. Waited… waited… waited… Got talking, talked talked talked, and I wrote out the notes, left the office late at 9:45, but not after he brought me some yummy popiah to eat. I don’t always like popiah, but this one was good! Got home at 10:45, Zen was just falling asleep, watched the end of Blazing Saddles and drank beer – great. I had seen the first 30 minutes on a flight, but then it was landing and we got cut off. Started to watch Buckaroo Banzai, but only saw 20 minutes of it. Interesting concept, but… Saturday I needed to write my article in full, so I did that from 11 to 2:30. Got up at 8:30, hung around having a nice breakfast, did some cleaning, went over to a neighbour’s garage sale and picked up some cool stuff – a garden gnome mini flower pot that I will use as a pen holder, three Disney videos (classics – Winnie The Pooh, Snow White, and Bambi, I’ve never seen any of them), an Anpanman toy for Zen, a bowl, some cockroach killers, and a little car for Zen. Grand total – $11. The little car was $1 and much better quality than the one he bought a while ago for $6 at a junk store. Funny how that works. We have gotten lots of great stuff at garage sales. After that Naoko took Zen out to Holland Village to run some errands, they also passed by the post office and picked up a package I had been sent, yet another one from Matt – 20 cassette tapes of music! Thanks Matt, I guess you’ve been cleaning out your closets in Tondabayashi. Noako and Zen came home, I had my lunch of leftover noodles from Friday night, and finished my article, Zen was napping at that time with Naoko, so I went off to the Apple Centre nearby to order my 20 inch iMac with extra RAM, it will have 160 gig hard drive and 768 kb RAM. Hope it runs well. The software seems cool, if a little basic. I wonder how much I am going to spend on software for this puppy – I have never spent on software before, but looks like I will have to for this one. Borrow some from other Mac users, or download off the internet, let’s see how it goes. Got home, snuggled with Naoko, then when Zen woke up we went off to the east coast to join Stephanie’s party. That was fun – lots of Japanese guys, some Japanese girls, and a few Chinese and Singaporeans. I was the only westerner, just as I was last year at Stehanie’s birthday party. Funny… Drank a lot of beer, ate just a few satay sticks, then people started getting thrown into the pool. Some soap opera drama as well, Naoko drank more beers than she usually does, and I was asked the same questions by nearly everybody there – where are you from, how long have you been in Singapore, etc. Took a cab home at 11 or so, tried to watch some more Buckaroo Banzai when I got back, but was too sleepy. Sunday, today, we woke up at 8 with headaches, hung around, went grocery shopping, had lunch, Zen slept at 1:30, then our friends came over at 2:30. Coffee and cookies and now we are going out shopping. Cool.

Went shopping, bought a bunch of stuff at the $2 shop (everything $2) and also in ten minutes selected a cieling fan for our living room, it will be installed next Saturday. Cool – on one weekend we took care of our computing and ventilation needs, something that has been unresolved for quite some time. Went off to eat dinner at the banana leaf restaurant again, and then back home to hang out, play guitar, watch the kids play. The kids took a bath, so all 3 of them were in there playing and having fun. The ladies and kids drove off around 9 PM and then Zen went to sleep. I stayed up late finally watching the end of Buckaroo Banzai, that intolerable film…

Lots of birthdays these weeks – my colleague Dorai, my friend Sean, my dad, Naoko, Stephanie and Takefumi, and who knows who else.

Communication breakdown – I have been having really strange cases of communication breakdown recently. One of them at the mall today went like this:

(to a guy coming out of what seemed like a newly opened or renovated hair dressers)
Peter: Is this a new shop?
Guy: Huh?
Peter: Is this a new shop?
Guy: This is a barber shop.
Peter: Is this a new shop?
Guy: No, we’re just renovating it.

I also had a strange conversation in the car with Mitchan, who knows me quite well.

Peter: I know these streets, although I don’t drive.
Mitchan: You don’t drive?
Peter: No, I don’t drive.
Mitchan: You don’t drive?
Peter: No, I don’t even own a car, how could I drive.
Mitchan: You don’t drive?
Peter: No, I don’t drive.

There seems to be some sort of connection between these two conversations, but I have no idea what it could be!

Book review – the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: A first person tale told by an autistic boy about his personal problems (mother dead, living with father) and his encounter with a dead dog. Being a fan of Sherlock Holmes, the boy sets out to discover who killed the dog, since nobody else is interested in finding it out. Along the way, we learn a lot about how he thinks, or at least how we must imagine autistic children to think, and a lot of interesting factoids about perception and mathematics. Lots of good quotes like “Now if I don’t know what someone is saying I ask them what they mean or I walk away.” “I saiw I wasn’t clever. I was just noticing how things were and that wasn’t clever. That was just being observant.” And another surreal conversation: “You’re Mr. Thompson.” “I’m Mr. Thompson’s brother.”

DVD review – Blazing Saddles: A classic comedy that is somehow funnier than it has any right to be, considering the wimpiness of Gene Wilder and also the wonky script set, ho hum, in the wild west. Anachronisms are used sparingly, and Mel Brooks appears twice in really excellent roles. Madeline Kahn is superb in a Marlene Dietrich sendup. Cleavon Little is great as a fish-out-of-water sheriff in a small town in the midwest. And there is the guy, what’s his name, who played Higgins in “Magnum P.I.”

DVD review – Buckaroo Banzai: A wretched excuse of a film, utterly disjointed in a way that not even “Last Action Hero” or “The Fifth Element” can compare to. Weird conversation like “you remind me of someone I knew a long time ago.” “Was she beautiful?” Stunningly bad dialogue: “the President of what?” or “You forgot your thruster” or “remember – no matter where you go, there you are.” Terrible soundtrack music, and Peter Weller running around in a grey suit, red bowtie, and white sneakers. Aliens in suit, rasta man in spaceball. Masks made of bubble wrap (no budget money?), nonexistent SFX, Jeff Goldblum in wonky armour, and an “Independence Day” ending. Oddly enough, since the worst films seem to have the best goodies, this one has little momentoes like the original trailer, a CG trailer for a proposed late-90s TV series that was so-so, and the original beginning which was sorta like the Incredible Hulk, with a Mojave Desert testing thingy, whatever. Hello Jamie Lee Curtis, I bet you aren’t too sad your scenes were cut from this disaster. Funny to see the proposed BB sequel “Buckaroo Banzai against the world crime league” never materialized. Poor Ellen Barkin, utterly wasted as a crying wench who is kidnapped and tortured.

Sooo busy – Wednesday

Thursday, September 16th, 2004

Hey ho, busy busy busy. I broke off last Saturday. What did we doooo then. Saturday afternoon we tidied up the house, cleaned the computer room and put the old stuff away – monitor and keyboard and mouse and main box, then … did some translation, Zen slept until 6:30, then went off to the pool to swim with Zen. In the evening wanted to watch a movie, but the neighbours came over for a chat and I played guitar and Zen played with 2 other kids and we all had a great time. Zen went to sleep at 10:30, and we were tired too, so no movie. Sunday we woke up, hung around, then took the bus downtown to do some shopping. Wandered around a bit, saw the massive GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) book in the window of the Adidas building, saw someone riding around on a Human Segway Device for Citibank (my first), then went to Borders to buy books (“I Am A Bunny” and “Are You My Mother” for Zen, the collected Edgar Allen Poe for me, and the “Flight 718″ Tintin VCD for all of us), some Birkenstocks for me, some Clio Blue jewellery for Naoko, some undershirts and socks for me, and… something else, but I forgot what. Went home, Zen slept a bit, I finished my translations, and we hung out and watched the Buster Keaton documentary for “the Railrodder.” Zen went to sleep, and I watched Scary Movie 3. So-so. Monday I woke up early, went to work, met 2 new colleagues, did some work work work, hung out, forgot what else. Got home, looked after Zen and all that fun stuff, then stayed up late watching “Out Of Time” and writine the 3 DVD reviews for First magazine. Fun. Tuesday I finally finished readiny “A Man In Full,” started a new book that I should finish quickly. It was Naoko’s birthday so I gave her a huge kiss. Zen sang her happy birthday 10 times before breakfast, and we went off to work and school. Work was OK, with no stress or business. At 4:30 I went off for an interview, and at 6 I went off to Holland Village to meet Naoko at 6:30. Naoko and Zen were late, but they got there at 7 and we went off to have nice food at Crystal Jade, a chain restaurant for Chinese food, but the table we had provided a very nice view, the service was excellent and the food was even better!! Then we went off for beers at Wala Wala. Zen ran around, which was OK because the road was blocked for car traffic, very nice, and he could stroll around and around. At one point he was across the street walking up and down, we were watching him carefully. At one point, though, he seemed to be lost, and was looking around for us, starting to panic. We laughed, and called him over. Funny. Got home, started to watch “What’s Up Doc,” but could only get through about half of it before we were too tired to watch any more. Ouch. Wednesday morning we were so sleepy, both of us, we could barely get out of bed at 7 AM, but up we went and off to work. I worked, not so intensely, all morning, then off to the Keppel Train Station to catch a train to Malaysia. The occasion – a press launch of a new internet banking platform from a local bank. Wow, fun – the train was going to another country. We had 4 hours on the train with hundreds of people, narrow aisles and confined spaces, food and drink and red wine at 3 PM, shaky floors, wood panelling, plush seats, clackety clack… At the back of the train an open-air space to kick back and watch Singapore melt away. We went through the jungle, and then I saw Bukit Timah station go by and I knew I was in my neck of the woods. How nice. Crossed the border, met dozens of people, and then we were squeezed into a room for a press conference and Q and A. Hung out, asked questions, ate, drank coffee, drank champagne. They had actors come through and role-play the parts of vain/lazy/self-centered/materialistic stereotyped Singaporeans, trying to be funny but mostly just a little embarassing. Gave us cool gifte – an MP3 player/thumb drive, perfume soap and shampoo, notebook, some other stuff. Got back to Singapore, said goodbye to my new friends, my head now buzzing with champagne, and then back home. Got back around 8, had yummy curry dinner, and hung out with my lovely family… although I spent part of the time writing this. Sorry Naoko and Zen.

In the Walkman: Today I listened to Sigur Ros.

Zen’s First Joke – Zen told a joke today. We got a ride down the street with my neighbour Craig, and the following conversation occurred:

Craig (cheerfully): So, Zen, how do you say ‘good morning’ in Japanese?
Zen (deadpan): Good morning in Japanese.

Isn’t my son a genius? Not even 3 years old yet!!!

Book Review – A Man In Full, by Tom Wolfe: A long tale, slow in development, that follows the lives of three Atlantans – white bankrupt real estate developper Charlie, black lawyer Roger, and white San Francisco nobody Conrad – as well as a few incedental character, as they live through… some sort of tumultuous period. Wolfe is a meticulous writer, so when Connie has a bad day, we learn every detail of that bad day from the burned toast to the pimple growing on the end of his nose. Tom Wolfe desperately needs an editor, and always has. The tale is good, and grows more and more interesting as it reaches the ultimate climax, and I must say I liked this book better than anything I have read by John Updike or John Irving, but the sad characters with their dysfunctional relationships never get my sympathy, and ultimately I can’t really say I think this is a great book. Too bad, though, because on many technical levels Wolfe is still a good writer.

DVD Review – Gil-Scott Heron documentary: Gil-Scott Heron may or may not have invented rap, but he sure was a cool DC dude, and this “documentary” offers an hour of concert footage with some rap time as Heron raps to us about the state of the nation. The box says something like “never before has a musical artist been so well-represented in a documentary,” which I would disagree with totally (watch “Let’s Get Lost,” or nearly any other music documentary for that matter) but it is nice to see a bit of rare coverage on this forgotten genius.

DVD Review – A Day At The Races: Marx Brothers classic that is high on plot, and not as funny as “Duck Soup,” but still has lots of fun. Chico’s destruction of a grand piano is out of this world, and Groucho is more tolerable in this film than the otherwise-funnier “Duck Soup.” Inexplicable musical numbers make the film a little longer than it should be, but Harpo gets a lot of the best scenes, including the great “horse tip” scene. The ballet dance scene is very impressive, as is the black musical number that seems a bit of a surprise considering th eyear it was made (or am I being naive?). Interestingly, the finale is a stunning bit of work, showing wild horse racing that has to be seen to be believed, and the ending is clever and unexpected. Zen loves this scene and laughs his head off in any scene that features Chico.

DVD Review – What’s Up Doc: Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal in a screwball comedy. Comes off a bit stilted at first, with uptight O’Neal being loosened up by free spirit Streisand (is “Along Came Polly” a remake of this film?), but gets better as it goes, with better lines and a wild San Francisco chase scene that makes me wonder if it inspired the ground-breaking scene from “Bullitt.” And even Higgins makes an appearance – this guy had more bit parts than most people in Hollywood put together!

DVD Review – “Buster Keaton Rides Again” and “the Railrodder”: the former being a documentary on the making of the latter, one of Keaton’s last films. Fairly rudimentary documentary on the old Keaton making yet another film, this one features the same narrator as one of my favorite National Film Board of Canada films “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen.” While it is not as good as the Cohen documentary for many reasons, it is still charming to see the legend at work, taking a train across Canada and filming scenes along the way for the Railrodder. Keaton is funny, tells interesting stories, and is quite a good guitar player. It is quite odd, however, the way they get into biography just in the last 5 minutes of this 55-minute long film. “The Railrodder” is OK, with some good gags, as Keaton steps onto a railroad maintenance buggy on the coast of the Atlantic, then gets off on the coast of the Pacific where… something surreal and ironic happens to him.

DVD Review – Out Of Time: Cornball Denzel Washington rehash of “Body Heat,” or “Wild Things” really sucks bad as a film. Washington and a cast of nobodies make a film that tells a tale not worth telling, with no real suspense, bad characterizations, and no motivation. Some interesting close calls, as Washington’s character evades getting discovered covering his tracks as his police force colleagues try to find a suspect in a case he is being framed for, but the whole thing about his wife being the main investigator is too coincedental for me. Silly waste of time.

DVD Review – Scary Movie 3: Pokes fun at the Ring, Eight Mile, and the Matrix films, so it seems like these people are really running out of ideas if they are using non-horrors like Eight Mile as their source material. A few good gags, particularly the “hidden aliens on video tape” scene and the popcorn scene, but otherwise a bit painful to watch.

busy week

Saturday, September 11th, 2004

Hey ho, another busy week. Lots of things I want to mention on this blog, but will most likely forget. Only saw one film – Zatoichi 3, from the original series, over 2 nites because I was sleepy. Bought A Day At The Races, the old Marx Brothers classic, which Zen loves and calls “New Duck Soup,” because he used to watch that and he also loved it. A Day At The Races is not as good as Duck Soup, but it is OK. Also borrowed 4 new DVDs from the Esplanade DVD library – Carnival of Souls, What’s Up Doc, The Railrodder, and Buckaroo Banzai, cult classics all of them. What went on this week? Monday… very very very busy, putting out the challenging Monday e-newsletter as well as a newsflash and working on my big article, left work at 9. Tuesday… very very very busy putting out a story and also finally finishing up my story and turning it in, leaving work at 8. Wednesday did my work, busy busy, then went off to have drinks with bankers. It was OK, but there were dozens of PR people there and I only met 2 bankers and an economist. Strange. Drank wheat beers all night long. Met up again with the banking community’s most gorgeous PR girl, which was fun for about 2 minutes. Got home and slept. Headachy the next day… Thursday was a regular day, it was also my colleagues’s birfday so we took him out to eat Korean food. Nice – he also took me out on my birthday. Met up with Jason from the film magazine, he gave me Scary Movie 3, Starsky and Hutch, and some new Denzel Washington (ugh…) DVDs to review, cool. Friday was a regular day. Left work at 6:30 on Friday, met Naoko and Zen on the 173 bus, we transferred to the 67 bus and went off to eat at the Banana Leaf restaurant. That is a great place to eat – they bring out a real banana leaf, slop on some vegetable stew and some briyani rice and some fish gravy, all of it excellent and very cheap. Add to that some masala chicken and some fish croquettes, wash it down with a beer – aaaah, I can feel myself unwinding after a tough week. Got home, showered, put Zen to bed, then went off to Sean and Mihoko’s for some drinks and to hang out with all of their friends. It was Sean’s birthday, so I took one of the Spiderman DVDs for him and that was his birfday present. Lotta birthdays – next week Naoko and my dad too. The party was fun, we ate snacks and drank cocktails, and I got drunk enough that my voice rose just a bit. Fun, funny. Got to sleep at 2:30, awake at 8. Went grocery shopping around 9:30, then I got back and unplugged my computer so that I could take it off to Bukit Timah Mall to get it checked out. Sure enough it is broken beyond repair, and the guy suggested that I can get a “box” to slip the hard drive into for my next computer – transfer my files that way and have an external backup drive – good idea.


Now Zen is sleeping, I am procrastinating and putting off the translations I should be doing – 10 German and French articles, music reviews of some sort or another, classical music. I will surely be paid handsomely for that! A wind just blew up, it was really gusting something fierce. Now the air is really cool, the sky black but the sun shining. What strange weather!!

Naoko’s funny story: Naoko and Zen were riding the bus recently and this strange-looking woman was sitting across from them. After a while the old woman spoke up, said something in Hokkien, which Naoko couldn’t understand, so Naoko just said “I don’t understand.” So the lady said in English “no Singaporean?”
Naoko: “No Singaporean.”
Lady (in Chinese): “From China?”
Naoko: “No.”
Lady (in Chinese): “From Indonesia?”
Naoko: “No.”
Lady (in Chinese): “From Malaysia?”
Naoko: “No.”
Lady (in Chinese): “From India?”
Naoko: “No.”
Lady (in Chinese): “From China?”
Naoko: “No.” (in Chinese) “I’m from Japan.”
Lady (in Chinese): “Oh, so you’re from China.”

Zen is doing lots of funny things now, but I forget what they all are. He gets really excited when he reads the train book, saying “OOOOOHHHH-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha” or something, also laughing hysterically at the Marx Brothers. He is saying “excuse me” and “thank you.” He loves to answer the phone, and recently he loves running – he used to dawdle on his way to school, or insist I carry him (and cry if I didn’t) but now he counts to 10 (or 20) and runs off like a shot. Cool, gets to school on time then.

Sunday Night

Monday, September 6th, 2004

Hey Ho, another weekend passed, with some fretting about articles. Oh, the phone is ringing, I bet that is Oma and Opa. No, the phone rang twice, but we didn’t hear any voices. Now there is no tone. Strange. Anyway, it was a good weekend – Yesterday I did some work, some Monday morning prep work, not any real article writing. Let’s see, what happened. Zen stayed awake all afternoon, watching Tintin again and again with Naoko while I worked. Around 5 Zen got really frisky, so I took him out so that Naoko could collect her wits again. We went downstairs with the bike. Zen said “I like this elevator.” I guess he likes a lot of things. It is nice knowing that he has a concept for “I” now. We went downstairs and I noticed for the first time that he knows how to pedal in full circles – it used to always be half-circles. So he can pedal fast, even up small inclines. We went to the park to play with Xavier and Sun-Woo and Matthieu, then Zen wanted to go along to Jalan Jurong Ketchil to see the buses, but then only stayed there a few minutes. Went back up and at the poolside he rode bikes for a while with Tyson and had a lot of fun. Went back home reluctantly and had dinner. Put on Tintin after dinner and Zen fell asleep almost right away. Sure, no nap! I did a lot more work, then at 9:30 began to watch the Thin Man, that was pretty good. Sunday morning we got up at 7:30, went shopping around 9 and got everything done early. Bought a toy VW Minivan, but the doors broke off almost right away. Nice looking retro thingy, but poorly made. Oh well. Went to the pool and swum around for a while. The pool was almost empty, not too hot or bright or sunny, the water warm and comfortable, Matthieu was there and we played with him a bit, Zen had a really fun time kicking in the water. He is gathering up the courage to jump into shallow water, good for him. We went back, had a big udon lunch, and Zen fell asleep watching Tintin again. He slept, I wrote 3000 words in my big article, and when he woke up it was dark and stormy. Didn’t go anywhere this time, just hung around the house. Naoko cooked really fantastic pizza, we ate that with beer. Olived, yummy.

DVD Review – the Thin Man: One of my favorite Dashiel Hammett books, the Thin Man is also a classic film starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. While Hammetts other books are scary, dark, hardboiled affairs, the Thin Man is light and witty, and Nick and Nora Charles are among the screen’s classic couples. There is a crime, although nobody is really sure what the crime is… until bodies start piling up. Nick Charles, a former investigator now busy living the pleasant life of a guy who has married money. He picks up on the investigation as an after thought, somewhere between martinis, and in the end solves it in a kind of lucky, haphazard way. Kind of a Marx Brothers film with a believable plot and no slapstick, the dialogue from this 1934 film is just as fresh as if it were written yesterday and is a lot funnier than much of what is being put out these days. The film was so successful that they made 5 more Thin Man films, eventually introducing Nick Charles Jr., played by a 10-year-old Dean Stockwell (!!!). The DVD comes with the trailers of all 6 Thin Man films, so it is interesting to see how the actors age, how their roles mature (in the fifth film it looks like Nick and Nora are close to divorce!!), and how plot elements are recycled.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday

Saturday, September 4th, 2004

Hey ho, another busy week. Thursday was a busy day of course, I hoped to finish my big article but with all the distractions I only just started it. Got home late, went to sleep. Friday Zen had no school so I didn’t need to take him. I left the apartment, got a ride with my neighbour Dominic to the MRT station, that shaved 20 minutes off my commute – thanks Dominic. Got to work early, rounded up my research with a few more interviews and got some regular work done. For lunch I went off to the Esplanade to meet Naoko and Zen, which was great – we ate pies and gulasch in the cafe attached to the library, then searched for DVDs. I got a cool Gil-Scott Heron documentary, the Thin Man, and another Zatoichi film. Great. Also got Erik Satie piano pieces. So simple, so lovely. I found these great box sets – Nuggets 2, Roxy Music, Billy Holiday, many more, but they are for in-library listening only, not to sign out. Pooh. Took a cab back to work, did a phone interview, then finally got started on the article. Wrote 2000 words all afternoon, in addition to taking care of a few other things. At 7:30, we went out to grab a bit of prata, then back to try to work more, but got little done. Left at 9, went down to a pub to meet up with an ex-colleague and a current colleague for a beer, but the ex- went off quickly. So Elena and I chatted a bit, and I left, getting home around 10. Zen already sleeping, I took a shower, and we watched the last episode of 24, Season 2, together. Drank beer, played guitar, went to sleep at 12:30. Saturday, woke up at 8:30, what a long sleep. Left the apartment, got on the bus and went to MacRitchie Reservoir. Walked along a different path, found a nice picnic spot. Have to keep that in mind. Didn’t walk too far, then went along to the Apple Centre. OK. Found out that a cool new iMac will only cost me 4,400 bucks with all the stuff in it. OK, why not. Have to find out a bit more from my Mac-using friends, then maybe my Mac-using colleague about getting software for it and all that. Cool. I haven’t had a kick-ass computer… ever, really. A 20-inch flat screen… sigh. Took the bus home, and Zen DIDN’T sleep!!! So I was bone-tired, rested a bit, then fired up the laptop from work to get started on some work, but… haven’t yet. Been taking care of other things. Like this! Now, get to work!!!!!!

TV series review: 24 (Season 2) – Some like Season 1 better, but I like this one a bit more actually. Season 1 was broken up into 2 distinct parts. The kidnapping in the first part was exciting, but I got sick of Kim and Terry after a while. I also didn’t like Nina Meyers character much. In this season, a lot of David Palmer, which is good, less of Sherry Palmer, also good, and two good new characters – Kate and Shelly Warner. Nina is in this series, but appears less in a stronger role. Good. Tony Almeda is OK, but I don’t really like him too much. Jack Bauer, great, but a little too amazing the way his body is put through hell like that and he is still on his feet 24 hours later. Nice set-up for Season 3, as well. We almost never watch TV series, but next to Twin Peaks, the Sopranos, and Kingdom, this is superb. Gonna watch the American TV remake of Kingdom now, Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital, but not expecting too much….