Archive for February, 2005

What shall we do about us?

Saturday, February 26th, 2005

Hery hery… another week has passed. And what has we done? Sunday we chilled out. I don’t remember too well what we did. Could somebody remind me? Oh yeah, we chilled out at home, I did some music mixing on the iMac with Garageband loops, it sounds pretty good already. In the evening we went out for dinner in Coffee Club. The food was OK, the beers were cold, but the service was not so swell. Walked around Holland Village a bit, it was nice. Monday was a regular day at work. I had a crisis in the morning as I tried to call a cab to get me to the TV station for a news commentary sort of thing – one crisis after another until the cab finally came, but I was l ate for the spot and had to reschedule. Ugh. Worked all afternoon, then I think I came home at a regular time. Tuesday was a bit different – worked hard on a story and finished it at around 10, had dinner, went to sleep. Wednesday was a regular day at work, got home early and went to the pool for wine with Naoko and Zen and Mum and Dad. Zen had a great time playing ball with some Korean girls and their mum. Zen was already saying “mama and papa and oma and opa drink wine, Zen drinks yakult.” He knows! Thursday I forgot exactly what I did at work, but I made sure to get back home early to have dinner with mum and dad – their last dinner in Singapore before heading off to Vancouver via Tokyo for some skiing. Nice, fun, lucky! They took Zen for a walk, then back here for cheese cake. Lucky Zen, he loved it. Then off to sleep, and goodbyes. It was sad, but we spent a lot of time together and we’ll probably see them back here in a few months anyway – next Christmas is just around the corner. Friday was a pretty busy day at work – off to lunch with a new-to-Singapore senior banker here to set up an Asia operations. Friendly guy, interesting, good food, and we did an interview. Then off to coffee with a tech guy, and back to the office to do a bunch of writing stuff. Finished up around 7:30, then hung around talking with the boss and colleagues about stuff until 8. Thene on the bus to the Esplanade library to return books and DVDs, I got four more – Tales From Gimli Hospital, 32 Short Films About Glen Gould, Buck Rodgers (original Buster Crabbe stuff) and Schoolhouse Rock – the full series and other stuff. Very interesting movies indeed. Stayed up late drinking Campari, watched 3 of the 12 Buck Rodgers episodes, some Schoolhouse Rock (Conjunction Junction, I’m Just A Bill, Lolly Lolly Get Your Adverbs, etc.), and also four Superman animated episodes from the ole 1941 series.

DVD review – Logan’s Run: very weird movie – sweaty faces, blippy soundtrack, good acting, but way-out theme. A world where nobody knows their parents, no one marries, everyone chases a hedonistic lifesyle until they are 30 when they are called to join this freaky “ceremony” that will determine if they are to be called to continue on or to be “reborn” in heaven or something. Shades of Soylent Green. Sexe Shoppe scene quite bizarre, cool underground set, sexy computer voice, Farrah in New You (dumb – not nearly as sexy as her co-star Jenny Agutter) getting burned, Michael York as Logan the Sandman (now better known as Basil Exposition in the Austin Powers movies, but looking handsome in his groovy ’70s hair). Flooding, origami killer robots and popsicle humans, Sanctuary and the ankh, discovering graves, “beloved husband, wife – what does it mean?” “Don’t go in there. You can live. There’s life past 30.” Dumb ending with styrofoam rocks.

DVD review – Cat Ballou: Wacky sexy Jane Fonda movie feels more like an Elvis movie starring a girl than anything else. Indian and Hebrew jokes, lots of crackling funny dialogue. “I ain’t responsible for what my people did to General Custer – I was just a baby at that time.” “I ain’t never seen a man get through a day so fast.” “I ain’t running a dude ranch for misfits and unemployables.” “SOME gang of cutthroats and murderers.” Lovers diaogue crackles. “You’ve no right to think about me what you’re thinking about me.” The dressing of the gunfighter should be a classic of film history. Nat King Cole is great as the singer who is part of the Greek chorus that narrates what’s going on, and Lee Marvin is fantastic as a drunken gunfighter on a mission to eradicate an enemy. Still, Jonny Guitar is a better film. Sighhh…

DVD review – Buck Rodgers: Found the original 1926 Buck Rodgers film series in the library. Horribly bad sets and special effects are actually not bad considering that Logan’s Run in 1976 was still using basically the same technology. In suspended animatin for 500 years. Robot helmets, referernce books still exist in th e25th century. “Why don’t you take a nap, Wilma, I’ll take over.” “After them in the other ship.” Parallels in plot with Marix Reloaded – journeying to the other world to ask for help, etc. “I never figured you to be the kind of guy tolet a pal down.” Buddy’s “gee, gosh” tone will irk after a while. Attack of the Clones city jumping is interesting. “Now what, Buck?”

VCD review – Superman (1941 animated TV series): Surprisingly high-quality 8-minute animated episodes are exciting and fun. Lois Lane is about the sexiest animated character since Jessica Rabbit. Being a 1941 series, the world is at war and the enemies are the Japas and the Nazis. In one episode Superman fights Japanese saboteurs (the episode is called “Japoteurs” – in a different episode Superman is in Yokahama and this time HE’s the saboteur), and in another he goes to a desert island where he saves a primitive tribe from Nazis masquerading as temple priests. Funny – Superman’s fighting is kind of wimpy, and he can’t fly – he just hops long distances like the Incredible Hulk. In only one episode does he use x-ray vision, and it’s made out to be a big deal. In nearly every episode he needs to rescue the intrepid Lois Lane as she takes on bad guys. Cool to see Lois firing at gangsters with a machine gun. Very Indiana Jones-ish. Robot like the Lupin robbery robot. Interesting stuff.

Things Zen does: today I put on Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones on the radio. Zen said “I like this music.” I said “This is Bob Dylan, do you like Bob Dylan?” He would answer earnestly “yes.” Then later, when Angie was playing, he asked “What’s this?” I said “This is the Rolling Stones. Do you like the Rolling Stones?” He again said earnestly “yes.” The kid has good taste. I wonder how many 3-year-olds have discovered Bob Dylan… Zen finished off his Christmas calendar this week. Oma told him it was all gone, he said “no,” and walked to the kitchen and pointed at the freezer. Smart kid – somehow he knows that there’s another one in there!!

Sunday, February 20th, 2005

the weekend

Sunday, February 20th, 2005

Hey ho, it’s Saturday, the lovely weekend. Friday was a busy day, of course, with lots of office work, and some writing. Went off to the Esplanade at lunch time to return DVDs and to get new ones. I realized that I had left one in the office, bummer, so that one will have to wait until Monday or so. Got the Testamanent of Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang), Cat Ballou (a young Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin), and Logan’s Run (buldada!!). Worked late, went to a bank results meeting, munched a bit, hung out with the lads in the office. Cool! Got home at 9, Naoko was still out with her friends. I ate dinner with Zen and Mum and Dad, then showered Zen and read him to sleep. Nice evening. Watched the Testament of Dr. Mabuse and drank Martini, went to sleep at 12 or so. Saturday we all jumped into a cab and went to the zoo! Saw barbary sheep, camels, wolves, gibbons, noisy howler monkeys at the gate, orangutans, rhinos, lions, leopards, jaguars, ocelots, and komodo dragons and gila monsters. Also went around the cool snake pavilion for the first time – saw cool green slim Singapore tree snakes, pythons, cobras, and a green anaconds! Went off to the kids area to hang out and play on the swings and stuff. Saw a lame barnyard animals show with Mr. Cheerful presentating. Crazy. Walked around some more, saw the penguins and the manatee, elephants, kangaroos, tapir, hippos and warthogs, and finally the splendid trio of white tigers. Gorgeous. Took a cab home, ate lunch, and everybody napped and read the paper. At 6, Zen woke up, so we went off to do some swimming. Got to other pool, saw Sean and everybody, discovered that there was a turd in the pool. We decided to go to the OTHER pool instead. Still it was nice. Gearing up to eat dinner now. Gratin – yummy!

In the walkman: lots of Sonic Youth, but mainly the new one “Sonic Nurse.” Thurston Moore, the Stooges, Big Star, the Rutles, Thin Lizzy, and ZZ Top.

DVD review – the Testament of Dr. Mabuse: A bizarre tale of a criminal genius dictating new killings from his prison cell, and the gang out there tasked to fulfilling his task. Fritz Lang’s classic is genuinely frightening, outlandish, stylish, and crisp. They sure don’t make movies like this any more, even with huge budgets and a well-oiled mechanism. A brilliant roadside assassination. Parallel scenes of two parties escaping capture. The ending is similar to that of Roman Polanski’s the Tenant, just as the water escape is similar to the Drowning Pool.

DVD review – Logan’s Run: Freaky ’70s film about cults, hedonism, totalitarianism and mass denial. In a future city where nobody grows old, creepy assassins called “Sandmen” go around terminating people who are escaping the social order. Wild ’70s vision of future fashions, cool electronic beats (reminiscent of the much-later Liquid Sky) and the world’s crappiest sci-fi city set (the old 1030s Buck Rogers sets were probably just as crappy, but at least the black and white made them look a bit better). Fans of the original Battlestar Galactica series should definitely check this one out. Lots of sweaty faces, including Michael York who now plays Nigel Exposition in the Austin Powers films. Sexe Shoppe scene pretty barfy. Sexy computer voice. Farrah Fawcett-Majors plays a near-retarded bimbo who works for cosmetic laser sculptors in New You. More flooding. Cool underground set. Origami robot and popsicle humans. Discovering graves. “Beloved husband, beloved wife – what does that mean?” “Don’t go in there. You can live! There’s life past 30.!!!” Dumb ending with styrofoam “rocks.”

Zen 'n' Oma 'n' Opa

We're a warthog family

It's a tiger!!!

We're NOT a warthog family

‘lo, hey!

Friday, February 18th, 2005

It’s Thursday, and I am writing this NOT a week after my last entry, but just four days later. Wow! What happened recently – Monday was a busy day, but I left work early and got home to my family. Had a lovely St. Valentine’s Day meal with my parents and Naoko and Zen, with beer and everything. Yummy. Naoko gave me a cool black Jean Paul Gaultier wallet with a silver dragon on it. Cool! Watched some episodes of The Outer Limits in the evening. Tuesday was a busy day – went to a cool lo hay party at lunch held for media by one of the banks. A lo hay is a Singapore tradition – they have a salad with salmon sashimi, corn flakes, ginger, sweet plum sauce, and a bunch of other things, toss it around, people go in there with their chop sticks and stir it up, make a mess, lift it up as high as they can to stir up their good fortune for the year. Cool. Then they eat it. It is sweet and not that great, but is usually followed by yummy food. Had black pepper steak and abalone vegetables, quite yummy. Nice present to take home at the end of it too! Got home late, ate, watched some DVD, went to sleep. Wednesday I got a bunch of new tasks, OK, took care of them, did work, got a call at 5 to come on TV the next morning, so I did a bunch of preparing. Sheesh! Got home kind of late… Watched the 400 Blows, a Truffault film. Fantastic! Thursday was one of those days of doing lots of things. Happily I managed to go to another great lo hay, this time with Irish food following the yu shen salad tossing, and Kilkenney beer – yum!!! Got some work done in the afternoon, and even wrote 1000 words, yay! Got home early-ish (7:10), mum and dad were out at a concert, Naoko and Zen and I ate Rocky’s pizza, delivery from down the road. Yummy!!! But no beer. Boo. Went for a walk with Zen, got tired out, I did some video editing. Great.

DVD review – Bob le Flambeur: littering in Paris, french fries, hot hot chick, everybody smoking, the Moulin Rouge, Um Thurman, George Clooney, Michael Imperialani to be cast for remake? Processes shown, like lock picking. Black jazz musicians, xylophone, Chinese restaurant, Russel Crowe as Bob, Tom Hanks as inspecor, Catherine Zeta Jones as the wife. Mercy to all fools. Cool heist flick with the inscrutable Bob cutting through absolutely every scene. Dishy chick is very sexy indeed. She knows men like her. Fun, funny, great.

DVD review – the 400 Blows: Mother’s kiss, smoking cigars in bed, laughing watching the puppet show. Kids will be kids, Alain has nothing but his destiny, he had no choices in life, just cruel fate. Stolen typewriter. Same streets seen at night from the back of a paddy wagon, spooky. Freaky French processes. Little girls in cage, fantastic final shot!!!

DVD review – the Outer Limits (Season 2): never seen the Outer Limits before, I only watched four episodes – one had William Shatner in it, another had a young Robert Duvall. yet another had a young James Doohan (Scotty from Star Trek) speaking without a Scottish accent, but I didn’t watch much of that one.

Lock ‘n’ Loll

Sunday, February 13th, 2005

Friday Friday is a good time to shine… Took a cab in early, the family all asleep. Naoko and Zen both off school and work, lucky… Did my TV spot at 7:30, that was fun, flaked out at Starbucks with breakfast and coffee reading Shogun, then off to work by cab again. Hmmm… Was the first to arrive, of course, then others came and opened the door for me. Cool. Got some work done, then went off to the Esplanade at lunch time to rent movies. Bob Le Flambeur, the 400 Blows, Johnny Guitar, and the Outer Limits entire second season (17 episodes, 14 hours long, obviously too long for me to watch in the 7 days I have, even without the other three movies. Went home at 6:30, made it home really quickly, had a nice dinner with Naoko and Zen and mom and dad. Wow. Stayed up late watching Johnny Guitar, it was fun. Here are two nice pictures from our Thursday outing at the Istana and Pasta Fresca da Salvatore.

two at Istana

three at Pasta Fresca da Salvadore

Saturday was a so-so day. Went for a walk in the early morning with Zen and Naoko, got back to the apartment and then Naoko and Zen went off with mum to do the grocery shopping. I got started on DVD editing – Coa and Ultra Bide live at the Mushroom Club on April 27th, 2003, my last live before moving to Singapore. Oh, but those were different times. Mum and Naoko and Zen came back from shopping, Mum had all of this stuff in double bags. The hefty Lehman Brothers bag we always use for carrying heavy stuff had three bottles of beer in it… also in plastic bags. I think the concept of taking your own bag to the grocery store to reduce the number of plastic bags you take home is somewhat lost there. Oh well. Had a nice lunch, after lunch went off to the pool for a nice swim and to drink shandies. I was still feeling a bit sick with a head cold, so I stayed off to the side reading Shogun. Naoko and Zen had a very long swim. Zen was running all over the place. Then once he walked down the stairs into the pool without his inflatable life preserver around him – absentmindedly forgot, maybe? – and we all raced to save him in the shallow water. It was pretty scary, he went under, came up, went under, came up, and we had him. He was crying and scared, but ultimately he still went back into the water. Yoiks! Went back home, and Zen took his nap… and slept until 6:30! We gave up our plan to go to the Chinese garden, and chilled out poolside with a bottle of wine, I played a lot of soccer with Zen. Nice. Fun. Went to sleep early. Sunday morning we had our ritual pancakes, then went off to see the lion dancing. Nice. I held Zen up high so that he could see the lion. He loves lion dancing so much!!! This year it wasn’t so great, there was lots of banging, two lions came out briefly, then one lion danced around and around, went up high once to collect the money and salad, then threw a few oranges out of its mouth and into the crowd (for good luck) and that was it. Got a goodie bag, and went home. Hot and irritable, we got changed into our swimming gear and went back for a swim. This time I went in. It was lovely. Noon is the best time to go for a swim here, I think.

Lion Dancing 1

lion dancing 2

Zen thee swimmer

Ritz cracker Zen

Zen and Papa at the pool

After the swim, back home for lunch. Zen slept from two to four, then he woke up. I got a lot of little work things done. Cool. Then had a lovely dinner, and off to the Chinese Garden by taxi. Nice. Wandered around there, saw the tower with the guys in it singing fun songs, the pool with the bizarre inflated fish, the kids park where Zen played on plastic alligators with local kids, and the weird turtle museum, and the big Tsai Shen Ye that says “gong xi fa cai” five times when you put a one dollar coin in it. Weird. Nice Chinese New Year music in the taxi on the ride home.

DVD Review – Johnny Guitar: not so much guitar in the movie, beyond the first 20 minutes or so, but still an engaging western film that is a bit offbeat. All of the usual elements – good guys, bad guys, lynch mobs, stagecoach holdups, bank robberies, secret hideaways, saloons, gunslingers, tough broads – but a bit off center, with the feiry Joan Crawford as the hero of the film, with the not-so-wimpy-either Sterling Hayden supporting her. Fights ‘n’ arguments. “That’s justt about the most toughing speech a woman’s ever listened to. I’m OVERWHELMED.” “When a fire burns itself out, all you have left is ASHES.” “What’s keeping you awake?” “Dreams. Bad dreams.”

the Zen Report: Zen says “you’re welcome” very well now. He’s enjoying swimming a lot more. He’s also totally engrossed in “the Last Emperor” – he wants to watch at least part of it at least once a day. He repeats what we say a lot too, “oh, Zen’s very cute, right?”

Happy CNY

Thursday, February 10th, 2005

CNY is “Chinese New Year,” not “Cosby Nash and Young.” Tuesday night was lunar new year’s eve, and there we were, drinking gin and watching the Last Emperor. The first day of the year of the cock we… hung out in the morning, and then went off to the botanical garden. It was pretty OK – we went to the entrance to the orchid garden, then when Mum and Dad went into the garden, we walked off to have coffee at the visitor’s center, where there is always a good buzz on weekends. We decided to go up to the top of the park, so we walked walked walked. Saw that the evolution garden is finally finished, and it looks good; but trying to leave the park to the north we got trapped by a massive new construction project – oh great, another one – and had to walk way way out of our way to get to the stupid bus stop. The botanical garden has frustrated us once again. Such a shame – it used to be our favorite place to go any more, but now I doubt that it will ever be a nice place to go to. Got home, had lunch, Zene went to sleep, then I spent a lot of time working on editing a DVD – the KBCC*7 concert that I went to just before coming to Singapore. Getting easier to do this editing stuff. Should be making a bunch of DVDs over the next few weekends, need to process the stufff I have in the hard drive. Went to the pool, Zen and Naoko swam while I sat in a deck chair and sneezed and snoozed. Zen is a great little swimmer now. Had dinner, watched the rest of the Last Emperor – Zen loves it, calling it the “Chinese boy movie” – and had some wine. Zen went to sleep at 10:30, and I finished watching Team America by myself. Funny flick. Thursday we went off to Istana, which is the official residence of the President of Singapore, open to the public six times a year on national holidays. Basically it is a gorgeous golf and country club built on a hill on Orchard Road right downtown. Great park, pool, and tree-shaded driveway. Very nice. But it had the crappiest “Japanese garden” that I’ve ever seen. Nice swan lake with savage swans that like to snap at the fingers of young girls. Cool palace, with a receiving room and state dining rooms, things like that. A cannon, in case the masses of Orchard Road shoppers ever get rowdy and storm the palace, then also a presidential playground where Zen had fun playing with other kids. Cool souvenirs for sale for charity, a Queen Victoria statue in an open-air pavilion by a pond, and a 9-hole golf course. Cool! Took the bus up the road to Pasta Fresca da Salvadore on Bukit Timah Road, where I had a lovely pizza – yummy! Drank beer, ate well, and left an hour later. Took the bus home instead of a taxi, even though we were hot and sweaty and tired, and I was sneezing, after being out all day. Oh well, that’s what public transport is there for, right?

Things Zen Does: Zen’s Japanese is pretty good. He’s becoming a bit pedantic, though, ordering people to do this or that. He always wants to march at the front of our group when we go places “Zen first.” He also commands people to “say sorry” when things don’t go well. Like when water is spilled, he commands people to “say sorry to the table,” or if you step on his toe, “say sorry to Zen’s toe.” Crazy. He can count down from ten. He knows how to spell “Peter,” “Naoko,” “Oma,” “Opa,” and of course “Zen.”

In the walkman: Godflesh, Pitchshifter, Brutal Truth, Melvins, Godflesh, GWAR, Warrior Soul, Stormtroopers of Death, Ministry, Nailbomb, Corrrosion of Conformity, Tool.

DVD review – the Sopranos, Season 4: Not the best season of the Sopranos, still some earth-shaking events. Interesting justaposition of Uncle Junior’s eye with a horse’s eye (!?!), Junior falling seven steps, Paulie’s mother a “tattletale,” and the priest quoting Sympathy For The Devil “when Jesus Christ had his moment of doubt and pain.” Dead horse. Chrissy always being interrupted when he shoots up – funny or disgusting? Adrienne throws up on the FBI agents. “On The Waterfront.” Christopher battered with a xylophone. AJ at Furio;s “why do I always have to come here?” “I know what it’s like to lose a pet.” Paulie recovers Tony’s horse pic. AJ’s teacher assigning Billy Budd, then Death In Venice.

DVD review – the Last Emperor: The classic tale as we know it, but with a few extra scenes that we don’t remember, particularly the tale of the wet nurse as she enters the employ of the imperial palace, and also Peter O’Toole’s character as he approraches the palace for the first time. “I”m a spy, and I don’t care who knows it.” Amazing how the two stories, past and present, parallel each other, then converge.

DVD review – Team America: Puppet tale that works surprisingly well on a technical level – the puppets actually look OK, and are somewhat expressive even – check out the death scene! Tries a bit too hard to satirize the typical love relationship cliche stuff from your typical blockbuster plot, which is so-so, the “dick, pussy, asshole” analogy thing is really quite funny! Kim Jong-Il and Alec Baldwin – what a match!

in front of Istana

two-fisted eater

busy busy busy

Wednesday, February 9th, 2005

What a busy week it has been. Ugh. Last week was a blur. I don’t really remember much of what happened, although it seems like last Monday I did go to a lovely luncheon, hosted by Citibank. I also watched Season 4 of the Sopranos. So-so. Apparently it’s not considered one of the best seasons. Not much happened that was very interesting, just some heavy stuff that will be important for Season 5. Oh well. Last Friday was a monster – I stayed untl past midnight to get three articles done – ugh!!! I got all obsessive compulsive about tidying the place, spent hours putting books and printouts away. Weird. I heard dad swear this week too – we were talking about the biggest countries in Africa, then reading from the CIA filebook about African countries, then about Canada. The CIA says that money laundering happens in Canada’s lax banking system, and dad says “bullshit.” I guess it hurt his Canadian pride. Saturday Naoko needed to work, so I looked after Zen. We went on downtown by the scenic route – went to Clementi by bus, then from there to Orchard by train. Zen was pleased. Got to Orchard, killed time by going to Borders. Saw my boss on the way in having a coffee in the sun. Talked to him about trains a bit, then went in. Couldn’t find the new Low CD, bummer. Looked in the Apple Centre, saw a Citi girl – gee, all these work related people today downtown! Went off to Naoko’s work, to see her and to see her new office. Very nice. Went off to eat lunch in this fun-looking place near the Apple Centre, but it sucked bad. Oh well, we won’t be back there again. Bought a nice keyboard to use with my computer, that will be nicee. Got some Birkenstock shoes for Zen. Took the bus home. Zen didn’t fall asleep, and when we were at home at four he still didn’t sleep. In fact, he stayed awake until nine o’clock! Crazy kid. Had some gin and watched Sopranos until late. Sunday I stayed around the house doing work. Yuck. Monday I stayed until eight getting things done. Nothing special. Busy. Tuesday was supposed to be a half day of work, but I stayed untnil three o’clock anyway getting things taken care of. Busy. In the evening, had a nice dinner, watched the Last Emperor with the whole family. Zen was very quiet and actually watched more than an hour of it. Great, Zen. He was asleep by 9:30, so I watched a bit more, then saw half of Team America, one of the DVDs I got in Beijing.

The Zen Report: Just yesterday, very suddenly, Zen began swimming!! He takes a rubber ring and swims with it, even in deep water. He used to bend his legs at the knees, and just splashed around without going anywhere fast, but he quickly learned how to kick properly. He loves the water now, where he once was quite ambivalent Naoko takes him to the pool a lot more now – she seems to have regained an interest in swimming as well. Zen’s been having a lot of fun singing a nice Chinese song – “di da da, wo lai zhu lao ba,” or something. He definitely doesn’t understand what he’s singing, and neither do we. We should ask his teacher what the song is about. Recently Zen has become fascinated with the Learning Ladder, a day care centere that is much closer to our home than the one he goes to. Funny.

Peter Pants

Tuesday, February 1st, 2005

Hey ho, another week has gone by. And what an eventful one at that!! Sunday night I took a cab off to the airport, sad to be leaving my family for five days, but also excited to be going back to China to snoop around in the Chinese banks. Took a 1:00 AM flight, they served breakfast at 1:30, and I was sleeping around 2:30, the plane landing at 5:30, out of customs at 6:00, checking into the hotel just after 7:00 AM. Yoiks! The prettiest thting that I saw was the full moon at 30,000 feet, like a beacon casting moonshadows on the billowing clouds below. In the airport I was surrounded by touts trying to get me into a taxi. I tried to find the magnetic levitation train, which gets you into Shanghai at 7 AM – when it runs – but it wasn’t operating at 6 AM actually. I eventually got a taxi from some tout, but I didn’t seem to be over-charged, they used the meter. Weird. The hotel I checked into in Shanghai was the Peace Hotel, an institution in Shanghai since 1912. Great old art deco interiors, heavy wood, and lots of classy fixtures, the place is very well kept. Peace Hotel is on the Bund, an old part of Shanghai done in heavy European style. The Shanghai Pudong Development Bank building is a massive structure with grand staircases, a huge bank lobby, mosaic cielings, marble columns, heavy wood desks with only a few books and a laptop on them, nice. ICBC is fantastic, and BOC is being gutted otherwise that might be nice to look into as well. But checking into the Peace Hotel at 7 AM was not all that glamourous – what few guest there were were all checking out, the girl was surprised to see me checking IN, really. Oh well. Got into the room, considered calling Joanna, but I thought it would be too early for her. I dozed, and SHE called ME 45 minutes later. D’oh! Oh well. Napped a bit, showered, walked around the neighbourhood, saw the local “adult products” shop. Seem to be a few of these in China, actually. Met up with her at noon, ate a huge Sichuan lunch set that is supposed to serve four, but it was just about enough for the two of us. Nice beef tongue soba. Went off to our only interview of the day, then back to the hotel to chill out for a while. Went off by taxi to meet Joanna and her husband for dinner. Had some good food and talk and a few local draft beers, then home to sleep – I was dead tired. Still, did my duty and checked out th famous Peace Hotel band, listening in from the front door. Nice – next time I’m in Shanghai I’ll have to actually have to go in. Tuesday I got up at 7, wandered around looking for a good place to eat. Nothing. Shanghai was rainy nearly the whole time I was there, and it was so bloody cold, right through into my bones, and Tuesday morning was no different than Monday morning or Monday night. So I ate in the hotel restaurant, had a crap meal that I was over-charged on. Oh well. Met Joanna, went off to two busy interviews, checked out of my hotel, then ate McDonalds in the taxi on the way over to another interview, which went really well. Went off to the airport, checked in to our flight to Shenzhen, then yummily off in flight to another town, where we land, move off to the hotel, go through internal customs – normal Chinese people can’t just pass into Shenzhen just like that, although now it is easier then before, we just got waved through. Check in to the hotel, it’s now quite late, we go off for our dinner walking along the wide Shenzhen boulevards, feeling the warm air. Some suspicious looking youngsters lurking about, but not too bad. Shenzhen is a young town, a newsly developped working town, a bit different than other parts of China mostly. Home of at least two big banks. I notice the absence of bank ads when I got to the airport – HSBC has plastered ads all over Shanghai, including the loading tunnels for the airplanes, and Citibank is the first thing you see when you get into the arrival lobby at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, and Beijing is also full of ads, including a huge Standard Chartered Bank ad that straddles the highway, but Shenzhen is different. We walk down the street, eventually finding a cantonese food shop. The girl working there seems a little dim – I ask her what “French fried rice” is, as it says on the menu, she doesn’t know, she goes off to ask, comes back and still doesn’t know. Bad sign. Oh well. We wonder if we should go out looking for the “Colors” pub after that, like we had been advised by our new friend Michael in Shanghai, but in the end of course we didn’t. Back to the hotel and some sleep. Wednesday we had breakfast buffet at the hotel, which was cheaper and nicer than the Peace Hotel’s breakfast, but we still got ripped off. Of course. Had two good interviews, and I was even asked to do a videotaped message “happy new year” to the bank and all that. Nice.

Sunflower Pete

Went off to eat lunch, gorgeous Shaanxi and Sichuan food, nice. Back to the hotel, pick up luggage, fly off to Beijing. Got to Beijing, checked into the place. Beijing is freezing, but it doesn’t FEEL as cold as Shanghai, probably because it is at the edge of a desert and very dry. Joanna had plans to meet a friend, so I was on my own. I tried to use the computer to check my emails, but the darn thing wouldn’t work. I mentioned it to front desk, they recommended I try another room, this didn’t work either (and it didn’t work until the next day, when we got an incompetent technician to come and figure it out, and even he took a while to get it going – same guy later on couldn’t get Joanna’s phone to work. I’m never staying there again). So, no Internet, I went out to bar Mix, which Joanna said it was good. Paid 15 RMB to get there, then 30 RMB to get in, and it was boring hip hop and R&B, nothing recognizable until that Kris Kross song “Jump” came on. I found a spot on the dance floor and stayed there, watching the others twirl around me. Not really fun. Young kids, not so well dressed. Went into the other room, an older crowd and a few Russian hostesses, or something. Not my scene. Went out, there was a cab driver waiting right there. Took a ride with him, he told me all he knew about Canada, Norman Bethune, and Singapore. Nice guy, knew a lot about the world outside of Beijing. Probably reads a lot and takes note of what he reads. Thursday there was a morning appointment. We had a nice McDonald’s breakfast (coffee, eggs, buttered muffin, jam) that was OK, although I sensed that the butter was a bit off. Took the subway to the first interview, but started off going in the wrong direction in a crowded train. Oops. Corrected ourselves, and then on we went to the interview in a massive, new, shiny building. Very nice. Went off by cab to another interview, only to find out that it was cancelled. The next interview was cancelled too. So we suddenly found ourselves with 5 hours off. Then our 4:00 appointment became a 5:00 appointment. Cool. Ate Xinjiang Muslim food for lunch in the cool Red Rose restaurant near the Worker’s Stadium, where there was lamb pile (chunks of bony lamb on top of bread), lamb kebabs, and some other cool stuff. Walked around behind the restaurant and discovered a funkier version of the same restaurant right there that we hadn’t noticed earlier, which is more like a beer hall, and where the belly dancers would perform (at night). Oh well,next time.

Xinjiang restaurant

Went back to the hotel, got coffee, surfed the internet and checked emails for a while, then went off to a final interview which went really well. Then, a quick taxi ride to Joanna’s favourite Beijing pub to meet some friends, nice. The pub was an old country and western place on the old pub street, which was being torn down to make way for an all-new pub street. OK. But at least the Nashville was still standing somewhere in that construction site. Ate a hamburger and talked Chinese for a long time, this annoying businessman came in and tried to make our acquaintance, then finally wanderd off on his own. Later there was live music in the other room, I watched Chris from the Philippines play, very excellent, talked to a young English-teaching couple from Virginia, and the next thing I knew there was Mickey, who had tracked us down and was coming along to have a drink with us. I guess I impressed him with my dancing in Shanghai last time. We talked business, talked Texas, talked music, and eventually had to get going. Stepping out onto the dark street, eyes adjusting to the dark, car oncoming with big headlights, we move onto the sidewalk to avoid the car, all of a sudden my foot goes through an open manhole that had been covered over with a thin piece of board. OUCH!! I was down, and then I was up, my hand and leg all sore. Got to the street and into a taxi, then I saw that there was no blood, but my hand was already very swollen. Ouch! Back at the hotel, I briefly contemplate my original plan, which was to go see what was happening at Banana disco just around the corner, but in the end I decide to just to chill the hand with a few beers and go to sleep. Friday, woke up in slight pain after a fitful sleep, got showered, and went off to my first interview of the day, which went fairly well. Nice stuff. Then off to eat lunch with a law professor, a very nice, interesting, intelligent, highly qualified guy, only 2 years older than me, excellent English, excellent Chinese of course, ate Peking duck (so-so) and Sichuan fish (great, but lots of small bones) that had been broiled in chili oil and a sea of floating chilis – ouch!! But it wasn’t too spicy. Washed down with tea instead of beer (for nearly the first time this trip – I wasn’t feeling too well). Went off to the hotel to check out, were nearly charged for a half day, but got out of that one. Joanna went off to a sales meeting, and I had some time off, so I went to the Tower of Heaven, south of the Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City regions (and also south of our hotel – we were just off Tiananmen by a bit), which is one of the only major Beijing sites that I hadn’t seen when I was in Beijing with Naoko July 1 to 11, 1997. The park was nice, although the trees were bare. A cold wind whistled around and blew up dust. I wandered along, marvelling at all of the retirees who go to the park to hang out, sell handicrafts, and play classical Chinese instruments, but mostly, it seems, to play cards. Or do lame exercises in the children’s playground area, like rub their various body parts on the metal poles, etc. OK, whatever. Wandered around a bit, ten got to the Tower of Heaven, which was two thirds covered with scaffolding – d’oh! But it was a crisp, clear, beautiful day, and somehow the scaffolding makes it all look pretty surreal.

tower of heaven

There were also super-nice forests flanking both sides of the Tower, as well as a minor tower, as well as a “platform” of sorts. There was a special collection of trees in one area, including two “brother trees” which were of different species but had grown together, as well as a “nine dragons” tree, where the wood had formed into “ropes” of bark going up the sides, very striking and all very cool. I walked in the east gate, I walked out the west gate, an entry to the Tower that we had visited in 1997. Cool, but now I notice that a whole swath of huts has been wiped away and replaced by some sort of road project. Wow. Some development project, probably financed by one of the big state banks, now a non-performing loan. Oh well. Walked up the road a bit, thinking I could soon get to Tiananmen Square for a quick look before I went back to the hotel to collect luggage and then go off to the airport to meet Joanna… but of course it was too far. I grabbed a cab, but not before I found a shop that sold DVDs, picked up a copy of Medieval Dead (i.e. Evil Dead III, Bruce Campbell vs. the Army of Darkness, or just the Army of Darkness). Well, whatever. Got to the hotel, collected luggage, took the same taxi on and on to the airport, checked in, flew with Joanna to Shanghai, said goodbye to Joanna, then off to Shanghai Pudong International Airport and a mignight flight to Singapore. Flew all, nothing eventful, then got to Singapore, bought my bottle of duty-free gin, as is my duty, and greeted the Singapore Saturday morning on two hours of plane sleep. Took a cab home, got home at 6:00 AM, got another two hours of home-sleep, then was woken up by Zen. Naoko had to go to work, so I was looking after Zen as mum and dad went off grocery shopping. After we saw Naoko to her bus, Zen wanted to go to the park, so we walked off for a while in the hot sun, coming back home to eat onigiri and watch Thomas the Tank Engine. At 11:15, took the bike to the clinic, waited over an hour. Zen got antsy and wanted to leave, so I said I’d drop him home and he could stay with Oma and Opa and I’d go back to the clinic, he said OK, but when I got him back home, he didn’t want to leave me, he wanted to go back to the clinic with me, so in frustration I went back with him, only to find the doors closed. I thought that the people might be inside still, but I was fed up, so I went home to have lunch with mum and dad. What a time-waster. Luckily, Zen fell asleep at 2:00, which is when the clinic opens, so when I got there I was queue numbere 5 and only had to wait an hour to see the doctor, who referred me to a hospital, so I went off by taxi to the luscious Alexandra Hospital, very nice, and did all the necessary waiting and bouncing around between attendants and physicians. Sigh… Finally, three hours later, I was all patched up with a tetanus shot, an x-ray with confirmation that nothing is broken, only a slight fracture, antibiotics and painkillers and antiseptic creams and ready to go home, the day shot. Stayed up until 9 or so, then passed out into a gorgeous 11-hour sleep!

train floating above the treetops...

Sunday was a chilled out day. I don’t remember what we did, but it wasn’t much.

DVD review – “Army of Darkness”: from Sam Raimi, a sequel of sorts based on the Evil Dead storyline, this time Ash is transported back in time where he must steal the Necronomicon ex Mortis in order to get himself back to his own time. Yeah, whatever. Seems like the story was built up around a pun – the Medieval Dead, instead of the Evil Dead. I don’t really dig medieval stuff too much, considering swords and sorcery a bit boring, but Raimi manages to inject some fun into all of the drizzle and mud that you associate pictures like this with, and there is great slapstick, surreal moments (such as the birth of “bad Ash”), and all sorts of other goodies. The film falls apart at the end, as man promising films do, by showing a lot of useless “hero saves the day” kind of stuff, while going light on the humour, but at least the ending is saved by some very dark irony. Ash – what a dumbass. I hear that Bruce Campbell is going to resurrect Ash to create a kind of film franchise, a la Freddy and Jason and all that, so let’s see what develops. Bruce Campbell, the indie actor who almost was.

The Zen report: Zen is a very clever boy, very well behaved, and recently he has sprun a proper appetite! He is in love with Thomas the Tank Engine, so every night before he sleeps he reads two Thomas books and the Osaka trains book. That is invariably what he watches on TV now, since Christmas when he got the DVD, and he sings the songs, or follows the dialogue as much as he can. He also still watches the Shinkansen video tape we bought at a garage sale for peanuts. Last night he ate ice cream, but told Naoko it’s too cold, requesting that we warm it up in the microwave. He likes the doctor, so the other day when he woke up from his nap and didn’t see me, mum told him that I was at the doctors, Zen said he wanted to go too, saying that his knee hurt, pointing at an old sore that is now well healed-over. I don’t really like that he mentions the doctor so much, I hope he doesn’t become obsessed with doctors and hospitals and clinics. Should be OK. He is very loving, and gives me big hugs when I come home from work, also gives mum hugs in the evening and morning like he never used to do before, being a shy boy. Yesterday he asked us for a haircut, so we gave him one. How unusual for a kid to ask for a haircut. He has nice, thick, wavy, shiny brown hair and it looks good long, or as a Beatlesesque mop-top, but I can understand that it is hot in this weather, and it gets stinky quickly.

In the walman: (China trip) Machines of Loving Grace, Pop Will Eat Itself, Atari Teenage Riot, NIrvana box, Mekons, Godflesh, Pitchshifter

in the bird park with Fifi and Heidi