Archive for August, 2005

instant aging

Monday, August 29th, 2005

hey, after a few days of the computer being down, we’re back in action and having fun!! Have a lot of pics today, mainly because we had a fun weekend – I took Zen to the Science Centre and we picked up a year membership for five, so I signed up with Naoko and Zen, and put mum and dad down too. They’ll be here for a few months over Christmas again this year, so they’ll get full value from that. We’ve already, in two days, ridden it for about a quarter of its monetary value. So what happened thits week? Monday was a regular day, Tuesday nothing special, although I did go out for lunch with some nice people… and while I was there saw my boss eating in the same restaurant, also the CIO of a local bank – nice. Wednesday was a busy, regular day, but again I had lunch with nice banking people. This time it was in the Republic Tower at Raffles Place at something called the Tower Club, and we had nice fish on the 62nd floor with a stunning view of the city. Wow!! Thursday I rushed home an hour early so that Naoko could go out with her friends, ex-colleagues, one of them just had a baby a month ago, long time reunion. Must have been nice, but apparently the baby cried a lot, and Naoko stayed with the one friend while her other friend, the baby’s mother, tended for the kid. The baby’s mother is the most girlish woman I’ve ever met – a helium voice, 15-years-old-looking, hard to imagine her with a kid, but that’s the way life is. So it was just Zen and me and we had fun hanging out and being friends. Friday I worked at home, which is usually a better place to be to write articles, but not really in this case – I only got 1/3 of my article done, although I did plenty of other non-writing work. Ducked out for an hour at lunch to go visit the Canadian International School, which is just down our street, to check out the possibility of sending Zen there when he is schooling age… provided we’re still in Singapore. The school is nice, of course, with small classes of 17, with a teacher and an assistant, and international kids all over the place. Nice. My colleague Benny came over in the evening to eat dinner with us and to watch the TV spot where he appeared on Monday, his international TV debut. It was only 10 seconds, for which he stood 30 minutes in the sun in his suit to do the taping, but he was justifiably proud of his moment. Hung out with Naoko and Zen for a while, then went off to drink more beer at the hawker centre. Got in late, then stayed up until about 2 working and stuff. Saturday it was just Zen and me, so we went off to the Science Centre, and I got talked into buying a membership for a year. It’s a good idea, since the place is airconditioned and not far from where we live. Cool. We watched the kinetic sculpture for a while, then went in to look at the helicopter and airplane and other stuff, then went off to the IMAX theatre to see the India movie, which was good but we were shivering cold and left with just a little left. It told the story of an 11-year-old boy who wandered off on a 7 year odyssey around India to become a yogi around the year 1750. Amazing, and they get a rubber-limbed beautiful young boy to play him, which is nice. After that we wandered around the garden, looked for a toy airplane to give to Zen as a present before he goes off to Japan on Monday, but didn’t find one. Took the bus home, had lunch, Zen slept, I did some Internet and work, such as looking into designing original t-shirts online, through and, which was interesting. Zen woke up and we went off to see the train, which was fun as always, and then Naoko came home, we had dinner, hung out, I went to sleep late again. Sunday we hung out at home in the morning, watching Charlie’s Angels and reading, took a picnic lunch to the Science Centre and ate there, then wandered around inside the place. The Science Centre is heavy on optical illusions, which are cheap to put up and maintain and lots of fun as well. There were lots of really interesting ones, such as the “head on a platter” optical illusion that Zen and I tried out, and some cool illustrations and photo manipulation. At 1:00 there was a display of a tesla coil, which was interesting of course, and very LOUD!! Also saw a jacob’s ladder electrical thing, so it is all just like in the Frankenstein films. Went to see the IMAX movie about the crazy people who rafted down the Nile (and the Blue Nile), a ferocious river that goes through Ethiopia, Sudan, and of course Egypt. Then got some beverages at McDonalds, Zen enjoyed an ice cream (which they’ve increased from 25 cents to 50 cents!!) and then went back in to explore some more. Saw the tesla coil exhibit again, and then tried out the wacky computer simlations that takes a pic of you and then ages you to show you what you’ll look like as an octogenarian, and makes you younger to be a baby again. Weird. Took a cab home, and then took Zen off to see the trains. Happily, we saw one come by us going into town, and another one going out of town as well! Sometimes that happens, actually. Went home, had dinner, gave Zen a shower and looked at all of our recent videos and pics, then put Zen to sleep at 8:30. No nap today, so he was tired. We need to get him to sleep early, tomorrow he and Naoko fly off to Japan for a month in the old country with grandma and grandpa and the clan. Should be fun for them. Now I’m updating my life, with pics!

Our heads on a platter!

heads on a platter

the safest copter in town – grounded!

flying in a copter

hands up, baby hands up…

hands up, baby hands up...

Naoko Hoflich – muscleman!

Naoko Hoflich - Muscleman!

Zen now

Zen now

Zen later

Zen later

Peter now

Peter now

Peter in 35 years

Peter in 35 years

Peter 35 years ago

Peter 35 years ago

Zen and the train – is this kid happy or what?

Zen and the train

My hero – Kikko-man, the soy sauce superhero!!


black sunny day

Monday, August 22nd, 2005

Hey ho, another weekend gone, oh well… Saturday night we all went over to Sean and Mihoko’s place to celebrate Kai’s 4th birthday, which was nice. Ate lots of sushi and pizza, drank beer, then hit cocktails. The kids had a great time plaing – Kai, Hana, Mattheiu, and Zen – and we hung out with Rafaela and Mario from next door. Saw Rafaela’s paintings, very nice. The kids went to sleep early, like around 9:00, and Zen played with stuff and we stuck around until 11:00 drinking cocktails and listening to David Bowie. Nice. Zen got to sleep after 11:30, and I fell asleep in his bed, went to my own bed at 3:00 AM. Sunday was a mellow day – woke up after 8:30, Zen was so happy to be able to watch new Shimajiro videotapes, we hung around the apartment a lot watching TV, listening to music, hanging out. Not too ambitous, just so-so hanging out. Went swimming at 11:30, and it was quite nice, although dark and overcast and a little rainy. Ummm… Had lunch, Zen went to sleep, I checked out movie previews, downloaded sludge core like Monster Magnet, Eyehategod, Kyuss and Crowbar. Weird stuff. Tried to book hotel rooms in Copenhagen, modestly successful – there is stuff out there, but not too much. Oh well. Gonna work more at it tomorrow. Zen woke up and we went down to the train station, I saw Craig on the way out and told him about the 6:15 train, dropped my shoes off at the supermarket for fixing, then to the train station just as it started to rain more. Got there, and saw Craig and his boy Landon, they had dropped by to see the train as well. Heard from Craig about how his friend had an idea to turn the Bukit Timah train station into a restaurant, but it didn’t work out. No reason why the Malaysian government needs to go along with that crazy idea, of course. Saw a little engine come down from the Woodlands side, which was exciting. Then the regular train came along. I got it all on video, happily. Great!! Lucky too – the tape was nearly at the end, and the batteries were nearly empty!! Went home, had dinner, Zen played with Xavier, and the night wound down. School and work tomorrow. Sad – the last week of us all together, then September we are separated. Looking forward to October already, and then in November Zen turns four years old!! Oh well..

Zen riding a motorcycle. Good thing he’s wearing a helmet, you never know what might happen!

on the bike

The train crew!

the train crew

Sunshine’s been keeping me up for days…

Saturday, August 20th, 2005

Hey, another fun and busy week. Wednesday was a tired day of aching muscles after the Slipknot concert, nothing too exciting happened. Went home about 8:30 or so, stayed up really late catching up on computer commitment stuff – blogs and all that. Tired… Thursday was a busy, frustrating day with lots of agonising flight-booking nonsense. Sheesh. Ate lunch at the river, which was nice, because the great great great Jazz Burger was so YUMMY!!! Stayed late trying to book flights, went home in disgust having failed at the task. Talking it over that night with Naoko I realized that the massive cost of the flight that I desired, and squeezing in all of those stops, was getting rediculous, and that it might not even be possible to arrange it all – any one missed flight would be a disaster, and stringing so many different flights together was a bad idea. Also, my contact with people in New York was not getting any of the response I had desired. And then I realized that if I took a shorter leave, and spent time with my relatives in Europe instead of rushing away from them and on to Toronto and NYC… I haven’t seen most of them for nearly 8 years. Wow – 8 years! Also, the conference at the end of September is another problem, so I’ll go back to work on the 19th of September instead of the 24th. Yes, that’s right, I’m booked to fly to a conference on a Saturday… at midnight. Wow, what a month September is going to be. Friday was an OK day, with lots of errand-running and stuff like that. Went with my colleague to the TV studio to keep him company while he did a TV spot, very nice. Looked into accommodation in Copenhagen, which was interesting – may be a nice “luxury” bed ‘n’ breakfast for us to stay at there, har har har… Went home, drank a beer, set Zen to sleep, fooled around, HAR HAR HAR!!! Saturday was a mellow day, woke up, ate, Naoko went to work, cleaned the house from top to bottom while Zen watched Charlie’s Angels for the umpteenth time (“This is hostile, y’all!!”). I turned my attention to the fish tank, worrying about the dirty water but also the food scum that is filling in the cracks between the gravel at the bottom. Yuck. Did my best to clean it, it took forever, then went off to buy groceries (milk, beer) and fish supplies. Bought a simple battery-operated vacuum cleaner for aquarium scum for S$13, very nice, and 9 new striped fish. Very cool indeed – the fish tank looks like a whole new place! Took Zen swimming, lunchedd, then he went to sleep. Awwwww….!!!

Things Zen Does: Zen will spontaneously say to me “papa, I like you.” He has all sorts of funny, bossy expressions such as “cannot do that,” “I put away properly,” “why you do like that?” And of course the famous “so FUNNY!!” Recently he says “I’m so slow and so fast.” He can sometimes take an hour to finish a slice of pizza, which irritates us who want to move on with things, so we tease him that he’s slow. He hates being called slow, and he says “I didn’t do that!” Then he walks slowly 2 metres away, turns around, and then runs quickly and say “see – me, I’m very fast.” He uses funny phrases like “I did it by my own self.” I wish we could teach him to say “my bad old self” instead,” but that might be weird.

Wow… Slipknot!

Thursday, August 18th, 2005

Hey, ho, it’s Wednesday!!! Monday was a regular old day with a long meeting in the morning, writing and interviewing in the afternoon, and on my way home at night… where we… chilled out and watched TV perhaps? A bit of a blurrrrrr… Tuesday did a lot of office work… until 7:30 when my boss and I took a taxi to Fort Canning Park to check out… Slipknot! Very fun for me, being my first concert in Singapore, my first ttime seeing Slipknot, and my first “big event” concert for a really long time! Happily, I had been able to get free tickets by a happy opportunity of coming across the promotion event of the concert by the concert’s sponsor, in this case a yucky strong ale maker. This company makes beer that tastes kind of like soy sauce with a high alcohol content – eight percent or so. Kind of yucky, kind of good, produces a slight buzz and a strong headache. Oh well. So the deal was you buy five cans of beer at a regular price and you get a ticket, a pewter mug, and a Slipknot pin. I bought ten cans. I was trying to figure out what the catch was, but when we got there that night, they just let us in without any hassles. Wow – cool! Ironically, the line for complimentary seats like ours was much shorter than the line for people who bought tickets for $100. The concert event was the “lawn” under some sort of big palace kind of building that is part of Fort Canning Park. Up on the palace balcony there were VIP seats, where we imagined the Barron’s guys were camping out, a masseuse on hand to help them energise their weary VIP bones (of course, five minutes into the show, when they begin to grasp in horror what it is that they have brought to their lovely island, they leave in disgust… and turn the seats over to their kids and grandkids, who have a fine old time). I wonder, now that these Slipknot guys are actually in Singapore, what sorts of “meet the VIPs” events they have to go to. I had a cool fantasy that Citibank would organise a “Meet the Slipknot guys” for its genteel gold card holders. Anyway, on the sloping hill in front of the palace (and the VIP seats) was the open area where people all gather round. We went right to the back of the crowd and had a great view from a spot that had quite an elevated view of the stage. Great! So we chilled out, drank some strong ale (hooray – a concert that serves beer!) and waited for the show to begin. A bright near-full moon inched across the sky. We took a moment to observe the people standing near us – a group of Chinese teens wearing black, a short Malay girl and her friend, a woman wearing pink and white who may have been a nurse, two hansome Korean guys, and a midget, not to mention the usual happy Malay boys. Nearly everyone was head to toe in black, and like any hard rock concert it was practically all guys there. Of course, I was fascinated with the few girls who were there – this chick likes Slipknot? (Reminds me of Chia, the super cute drummer for Depth in Japan, the first person I knew who liked the band) I was wearing a white Bikini Kill t-shirt, and my boss was wearing a white t-shirt that said “Africa.” Metallica played over the PA. Suddenly, the Metallica CD gave way to weird spooky mellow sounds – possibly a song by Stone Sour, the “other” band of the group’s vocalist; the stage filled with fog, and we waited for the band to actually come out, then… silence. Something blew a fuse. Within seconds I could hear the Chinese guy with the thick mainland accent talking about whether they’ll be able to get refunds. Less then five minutes later it started up again; the fog had blown away by now, so the machines cranked up with new fog. Then eventually, these nine thirty-something, married with kids guys wearing masks came out and turned up a ferocious roar!! Nine guys in masks jumping around on a stage like wild men, very… interesting. And very strange band-makeup – elevated was the drummer, but also the turntablist and the sound effects guy. Then at each end of the stage were identical percussion kits – I understand that one of the two percussion dudes is a welder who creates these sets for the band. Interesting… Wild wild vibes, thunderous, anonymous tunes, and friendly, positive onstage banter from lead singer #8. Stuff I remember was “it is a great honour and a priviledge to play in Singapore. They said it would never happen. Before we came onstage they gave us a laundry list of things we weren’t allowed to do. I’m surprised we were allowed across the border, but nothing could stop this from happening. Don’t forget, that if someone goes down in the pit you have to look out for them. When we’re here for this short time tonight we’re one big family. Thank you my friends” He called us friends a lot, which made me feel good. I think he also told us that Singapore was the best crowd they’ve ever played to – yeah right! I did a bit of heckling – when he said that Singapore is hot, I said “of course it’s hot – Singapore lies very near the equator.” When he said “Singapore, do you know what time it is,” I said “it’s 9:30.” Later in the evening, when it seemed like they were going offstage to finish the evening, I yelled out “this is where the band pretends that the show is over, but comes out five minutes later to play an ‘encore,’ where the play their big hit single which they haven’t done yet.” When the crowd chanted “we want more, I yelled out “we want GWAR!” There seemed to have been some Slipknot-baiting going on by the GWAR guys a while ago after Slipknot made some condescending comments about GWAR, an older masked band that I actually quite like. Anyway, it was fun to bob up and down, even if I didn’t have the long hair of the Slipknot guys who could spin their heads around, with their hair going like propellors. Being on a slight incline was probably not the greatest, because it wasn’t so easy to keep my balance and keep from smashing into the petite ladies near us, especially at the time. Funny how his lyrical style made me think of Chuck D. of Public Enemy during “Pulse of the Maggots.” Cool. Saw strange people walk guy, like that one dude in the black skirt, or the gentleman who looked like the “healer” guy in the Reader’s Digest posters you see in the subway these days. There was a tall skinny blonde high school girl there with her boyfriend, every time I looked over at her she was mouthing the lyrics for the song that was on – amazing! Must be a pretty serious Slipknot fan… and I do mean she was pretty! The two Korean guys near us were very funny – taking pictures of each other with the stage in the background, posed like cool guys with beers showing prominently, or exhaling smoke. Seemed pretty gay (no, I don’t mean pretty in that way this time…). Lots of picture taking, either from mini-cameras, from tripods, or with cell phones. I guess security wasn’t really doing much of a job. Of course, the band played through all of their big hits like “Left Behind,” “Wait and Bleed,” “Duality,” “Purity,” “Wait and Bleed” (encore), “Pulse of the Maggots,” “People = Shit,” and a bunch more. I noticed that they were making an effort to control their language, and in the one song where the song goes “fuck you, I’m all out of enemies” (or soooooomething like that) they wanted the crowd to sing – nothing. I was yelling my head off about it, though. My boss had a great time – bobbing his head the whole time, he spent the first 30 minutes of the show SMSing everyone he knew who WOULDN’T have heard of Slipknot. In fact, most of the people in our company haven’t heard of the band. I’m surprised I have heard of them – I’m pushing forty! Anyway, it was a good evening, and we filed out and went down the hill and headed towards Boat Quay for food and some beers. I took off my shirt, which was soaking wet, and wrung out some of the sweat and walked shirtless for a while, which felt good. Got back walking and hit the road, went back to Tanjong Pagar and I took a cab home from there. Ugh – tired, wet, sweaty, thirsty. But what a fun nite!


new pics

Sunday, August 14th, 2005

Hey, another Sunday, we decided – after coffee and toast – to go to the botanical garden. Nice, pleasant breeze, hung out meeting people and their dogs. Went off to drink coffee at the visitor’s centre and kicked the ball. Seeing lots of interesting people. How nice. Took a few pics of Zen at the old train station clock tower thingy there that says Singapore and Vancouver on it, columns like sealing wax palm.

swami Zen

Zen wrapped on the bus

Nako and Zen at the botanical garden visitors centre

Zen and Naoko

Funny faces from Naoko and Zen

Zen and Naoko grimace

Zen grabs hold

Zen climbing the pillar

And now some pics from National Day and our boat ride:

Zen at Harry’s Bar and Grill

Zen at Harry's

the Merlion seen from the water

Merlion from the water

Peter and Zen on the boat

Peter and Zen on the boat

Harry Potter and the Confused Narrative

Saturday, August 13th, 2005

Hey, not too much new since Monday. Tuesday was OK – it was a national holiday so I spent the whole morning cleaning up the apartment, went swimming with Zen so that he would have some exercise, that was fun. Ate lunch, Zen slept, then some time chilling out. I went to the pool at 4 with my guitar and my Harry Potter to save tables, I grabbed ten chairs and three tables for our guests, and as it turned out that was EXACTLY how many we needed. Whew! They turned up at 5, I got Zen and some more stuff for dinner, and we ate and chatted and drank beer and then lots of yummy vodka orange, which was great. Cool. Zen had lots of great fun playing with the other kids near the pool, and we ate, drank, played guitar, had fun. It was very nice. I took Zen home at 10, got him to sleep by 11, and then went to bed myself. Tired… Wednesday was a regular day at work, but very quiet. Had a headache, probably from the vodka. Went off to the results meetings at 4:30, then home after that. Nothing exciting. Thursday was quiet too, went out for coffee with a bank investments advisor for my personal portfolio, which was OK. Hmmm… Cool. Stayed late transcribing CEO interviews. Finished the new Harry Potter book, now I have nothing to read. The book was so-so, at least it was better than the previous one, but a lot of unfulfilled potential – she spends the whole book building up one plot thread, neglecting to mention all of the other interesting stuff that surely must be happening around the school. Friday was mellow and relaxed – I stayed at home all day writing articles, which was nice. Took Zen to the 6:15 Malaysia train, he was so excited because this time the train stopped very briefly to pick up something, so we ran along beside it. Hmmm… a bit dangerous now that I think of it, but I was holding Zen’s hand tightly in mine. Zen was so excited. Went home and chilled out. I was so tired, I effectively went to sleep at 10, and slept until nearly 8 AM on Saturday. Took Zen downtown to ride the bus with mama, then walked along Orchard. Nothing interesting there, of course. Then took the MRT to Clementi, hoping we’d find a shop that sold fish for our aquarium, of course not. Once there were five such shops in our neighbourhood, now there are only two crappy shops. Bummer. Went home, ate lunch, now it’s time for Zen to sleep… Later we’re going for a bicycle ride, then meet mama for dinner somewhere… The evening was kind of boring – ordered pizza, drank beer, went to sleep at ten. Zen was very strange – it took him ages and ages to finish just one slice of pizza. It seemed that he didn’t like pizza, but we asked him “do you like pizza,” he always said “yes.” Anyway, it was nice getting ten hours of sleep again. But that’s two days in a row I’ve succumbed to sleep early – what’s getting in to me?

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Book review: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, by R.K. Rowling – The sixth book in the series is better than the fifth, but not as good as the fourth. The story develops at its usual pace, with the standard mystery unravelling and a mystery villain revealing him/herself, and a riddle solved, a tragedy of sorts, and all sorts of character development, plus the standard “new teacher on staff.” The Harry Potter books have now very solidly established themselves as a formula, but a pretty good one it is after all. Nice touches in this book are a return to a bit of humour of sorts, and the horror of earlier books oddly takes a retreat of sorts, as do the political developments in the outside world… Actually, this is probably a criticism of sorts, ultimately, since I found myself wondering… if so much is happening in the world at large, why are we following events at Harry Potter’s school so carefully. Weird. Chapter one and chapter two take place outside of Hogwarts Wizarding Academy (or whatever Harry’s school is officially called) and the rest happens inside. Oh well. So, that said, it was a pretty good book after all. Stitll, I was thinking that it could have been much better than it was, with so many things tantalizingly introduced into the plot for obvious future use. If Rowling uses even half of them, she’s going to have one helluvan action-packed final book, especially if she breaks away from her formula. If she doesn’t use many of them… or isn’t able to… it would really be a shame. But maybe that’s what fan fiction is for. Urk!!

Boats in the Singapore river

Tuesday, August 9th, 2005

Listening to a lot of Dido. Wow. Yesterday was a fun day – sorta. At least it ended fun. I was supposed to be on the news program in the morning, did a lot of prep for it over the weekend using my personal time, then got up at 6:00 AM to be ready, but as I was eating breakfast it started raining buckets. I knew this was trouble, so a few minutes later as I was trying to call for a cab all I got was wait-wait-wait signals. I tried for nearly 30 minutes, then gave up and called them to say there was no way I could make it in. What a disappointment and waste of time – next time I am supposed to go in that early I will book a cab the night before. The rest of the day was your usual business. Had arrangements to meet Naoko and Zen in the evening, so I jumped on away at 6:30, met them at Tanjong Pagar station and went on to Raffles Place. Zen was so happy to see me on the platform, and glad to be watching trains. He and Naoko had spent the day together hanging out, which is nice – there was no school for him that day, teacher-development day or something… So we went out and tried to find some Hakka food place. We didn’t find it, and I got irritated after a long day of work, and Naoko got irritated that I was irritated, so I tried to buck up and wander around looking for a needle in a haystack with a smile on my face instead. Eventually we found it, but it was closed, so we walked along again to the next place, through construction sites, along busy streets, crossing roads swollen with traffic, before getting to the oasis of Harry’s Bar and Grill, right on the Singapore river, with bum boats going up and down, not to mention the joy of having a full pint of Guiness next to one of Harry’s famous jazz burgers! Fantastic!! Went along to the great old boat cruise, with a 15 percent discount and no charge for Zen either! Of course he loved it, and we went downriver to get a good look at the Merlion, then downriver to Boat Quay, which was nice. Great lit-up skyscrapers, nice lights, and fun fun running. Great! Took a cab back home, which was fine, and then to sleep. Stayed up late doing this and that, slept in the next day. Lovely.

Website updated!

Sunday, August 7th, 2005

Well, it took a lot of will power, but now it’s done – the website is updated! No more messages saying “newly updated August 6, 2003.” Also a bit of a different look, an updated pic, and some information on Octopus Sun. All I had to do was re-download Mozilla and use the fantastic Composer stuff. Cool, free, effective. I used to have a lot of problems making the pages, but today it seems to be working better than ever. WHOOSHH!! So what happened this week? Well… nothing great that I can remember, except that I finished a book, listened to the Cure b-sides box set on the commute, and watched the Office in the evenings. Last night I had a laugh looking at the celebrity playlists in the iTunes Music Store – lots of interesting things from people like Robert Rodriguez, whose kids request “Crazy Train” on long drives, but I especially liked Frank Black’s: a breakdown of the songs of Burl Ives. Trust this guy to do something nobody else is doing. Bobby Brown’s was funny too – half of the songs were his own (self-promoter!) and the comments were idiotic. Like “That’s the way love goes.” “Everything is real and keep it real.” Regarding one of his songs “Sunday Afternoon,” he says “self explanatory. It’s about happiness,” and “another song that I love from my album. For the most part I produced the whole thing. I worked with a lot of good peoducers Tim & Bob.” On “My Prerogative,” “the best song in the world written by me. My song, not Britney’s.” Is this guy for real? Monday was a pretty regular day. Tuesday I worked hard writing two stories for the e-newsletter, then was out the door at 6 to meet up with my ex-colleague from the Assumption days, Chad, in town with his family. Wow. Went to CHIJMES for pizza and beer, which was pretty nice of course. Talked a lot about the old school, and our old colleague who was struck down suddenly with cancer. He went of with his family to the night safari, so I went on my way home, and watched more of The Office. Wednesday was a pretty regular day, although I was happy to get some good news – two of my e-newsletters were the most popular of the month, and I got good feedback on the e-newsletters that came out that day. I also went off to the news station to do a three-minutue interview bit that went fairly OK. Got to do another one on Monday morning. Seems like my boss and I are going in to the TV stations at lesat once a week these day. Thursday was a pretty regular day. I was feeling good because I finally got a lot of those little things done and out of the way. Yay. Friday, the end of the week. Stayed late doing little tasks, and got a nice transcription of a CEO done. Weird how some non-native English speakers can express themselves better, in more impressive voices, than most native speakers can. Stayed up quite late surfing the Internet, playing music, stuff. Saturday we went off to Great World City to play some badminton and meet up with office colleagues and friends. It was fun to hit the shuttlecock around a bit, and I think Zen enjoyed it too. Then we went off to Great World City to pick up some lunch and do a bit of shopping, and in the end bought pies and sushi, took it home to eat. Yummy. Zen went to sleep from 2:00 to 5:00, and I got down to the business of fixing up the website. I thought that there would be some webpage building software in my existing stuff, but sure enough there was none so I downloaded the trusty Netscape Mozilla, with its wonderful Composer tool, and there it went, much better than last time! Zen woke up, and we went off to see the Malaysia train, cool. This time there was a yellow repair car in the station, with lots of guys milling about and having a laugh. Cool. Zen enjoyed the train, and then we went home, I cleaned the aquarium and put in a new filter, had dinner, did more website stuff, got Zen to sleep, and now it’s late in the evening. Yawnnn…

the Grasshopper King

Book review – the Grasshopper King, by Jordan Ellenberg: a book written by a Princeton professor of mathematics acquaintance of one of my colleagues at work, about the Gravinics department in a small university in a small American town. Gravinic, and Gravinia – all fictional stuff for a work of fiction, and the book tells the tale of the town and its founder, the university, the birth of a Gravinics department, the story of the main protagonist and his family, his girlfriend, the head of the Gravnics department, and all sorts of other weird jazz in between. A well-written tale, but not anything terribly exciting or eventful. More like a short story that has been beefed up and expanded with some more background stuff.

the Office

VCD review – the Office (first season): thoroughly depressing BBC comedy about the mediocre denizens of some office somewhere in the UK. Very funny, in a sick way, where you laugh at these people, not with them. Hmmm… David the boss is a psychopath, a liar, a buffoon, infatuated with himself just as much as his sad existence. Gareth is simply weird. Tim is normal, but clearly frustrated. Dawn is a sweet little thing, more an observer than anything else really. Episodes are farcical and build up around things like redundancies (i.e. people getting fired), office training, hiring, pub night, quiz night, and stuff. Brutal honesty from some of the office workers, and the mock-reality show/documentary feel of the show if fun. First season only has six episodes, so it seems a little skimpy. No matter – nothing much happens anyway.

the Cure

CD Review – Join The Dots, the Cure, B-sides and rarities: When I was in Europe in the summer of 1989, one of the things I had with me was the “Standing On The Beach” cassette, which infamously had a second side of B-Sides from the singles that were on the A-Side of the cassette. It was a great idea, and the cassette made me popular with the Irish girls working there who were into the Cure and were always borrowing my cassette. Well, not that ppular, but I was glad I had it with me, especially since everybody seemed to like the B-Sides as much, if not better, than the regular A-Sides. Some time after that, a tape-recorder ate the tape, and I lost access to those songs, altough the normal Staring At The Sea CD with the singles is not so bad on its own. A few weeks ago I found the Connect The Dots 4-CD box, containing all sorts of B-Sides and rarities, including the songs that were on Standing On The Beach, but then also tons more on top of it. In my mind, some classics like “10.15 Saturday Night,” the B-Side of “Killing An Arab,” and “Mr. Pink Eyes” and “Another Journey By Train.” Some of these songs are truly spooky. But others are very good, nice fun. Weird echoing vocals and psychadelic guitar in “I’m Cold,” weird piano and harmonica on “Mr. Pink Eyes,” groovy bop on “Another Journey By Train,” spooky atmospherics on “Happy The Man” and “New Day,” weird drum machine. “The Exploding Boy” is kind of like a Talk Talk song, with trumpet, jangling guitar, and corny keyboards. The covers are so-so – Purple Haze, Hello I Love You, and Young Americans – but the thing I like is remix versions of The Forest, one of those real overlooked gems (I note that Nouvelle Vague have chosen it among the nuggets that they give the bossanova treatment to). Seventy songs on this set, well worth buying into, and nice picture book in the middle. The text is a little dull, but they do give nice anecdotes on what was going on when the songs were recorded, as well as some nice insight to the early days of the Cure when they were actually as broke as they looked.


Monday, August 1st, 2005

Busy week. Monday I had a typical normal day, and as far as I can remember Tuesday and Wednesday were good too. Ummm… Been trying to work on letters to prepare for my New York trip for ages and ages, this week progress was mind-numbingly slow. Monday night maybe I did something, Tuesday for some reason I went home late and there was no time left to work on it. Wednesday I got home early, but then we realised we had to go to the doctor’s office. We got there before nine, it was over an hour before we could see the doctor, and then it was just a false alarm and nothing was done. Sheesh. Got home, Zen wouldn’t sleep, exhausted. Thursday I went to a press event in the morning that started at 10:30, so I worked a bit at home and then went in to the event directly. Then to the office, then to the convention centre for a conference. Heard a bunch of speeches, met some interesting guys – bankers who are ex-marines, ex-secret service, cool stuff like that. In the evening I was so pooped – partly because I was frozen through by the Arctic air conditioning, partly because I was dehydrated – so I just went home. Hung out at home, fell asleep with Zen at 10:00 and crawled to my own bed at 1:30 or so. Friday I went to do a TV interview, then to the convention for a great lunch with cool people, then speeches and getting interviews, arranging meetings with other people, then to the DBS Tower 2 to hear their results. Very nice, then back to the convention centre to meet people for drinks. Only one round, and then home, although Naoko’s angry with me for not telling her I wasn’t coming back for dinner. Sheesh – one slip… Saturday I took Zen to Ikea, although he made the journey there inconvenient by insisting that we take a bus AND a train. I took him to Redhill MRT, then suffered as he made his way to IKEA at a snail’s pace. I got him there, annoyed, and tried to leave him in the kid’s play room, which is full of plastic balls that the kids can splash around in. He was uncomfortable there, and not taking to the environment, so I couldn’t get away and let him have fun. Weird – I remember the ball room from when I was a kid and I went to IKEA with my friend Rob DeKorte and his parents. Wandered around the IKEA fantasy world, only picked up shower curtains and reading lamps (which are badly needed!), then took a cab home in the pouring rain. Ugh. Got home, Zen slept, I installed the lights and shower courtain, did laundry, did work, when Zen woke up took him to the Bukit Timah train station, then bought a video tape cleaner console thing, beers, bread, got home, had dinner with a grumpy Naoko, drank beer, did dishes, Mum and Dad phoned at 9 so I had to have Zen showered and ready before that, had a nice talk with mum and dad, then tried to get Zen to sleep, but he was too excited from playing Thomas the Tank Engine/Bob the Builder on the computer, then I read him the Richard Scarrey’s Things that Go book with Dingo, Officer Flossy, and the Goldbug, he got all worked up, it took him an hour of tossing and turning to get to sleep. I got really irritated with him then, my third time that day. I’m really becoming impatient, but I had to put up with a lot of nonsense that day, yeesh… Zen woke up from time to time after that, and I worked until 1:00 AM on my letters, it was a hellish night. Sunday was better – I got some work done in the morning, Naoko took Zen off to ride the trains in a loop, then I got my letters done and took them to the shop to have them printed nice, then buying a few things we need, back home to fix and glue things, the landlord came to fix the toilet, Xavier and Sun-woo came over to play with Zen, we had lunch, I swept the floor and cleaned the bathroom, folded the clothes, got my letters in their envelopes and stamps on them – sheesh, all tidying and chores. Zen didn’t nap, although Naoko did, so when the kids went home he got sleepy, but we kept him up since it was nearly 5:00, took him to the train station, then home for dinner – he nearly fell asleep on the back of the bicycle when we just got home, scary!! Had dinner, watched Thomas the Tank Engine VCD, then took Zen to sleep – he was gone in 5 minutes. Whew!!

Bought a few CDs recently that I haven’t reviewed yet, maybe this is a good time. Many of them are best-of, or b-sides-and-unreleased-rarities, or acoustic sets of some sort or another. I note, happily, that acoustic versions are very fashionable right now. That’s just fine with me, actually – plenty of good songs have been salvaged by acoustic versions (although having said that, I must say I’m not so impressed with the Foo Fighters acoustic version of Learn To Fly).

Nick Cave

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – B-Sides and Rarities: Since I have all of Nick Cave’s releases, it was no surprise that I’d want this as well, a no-frills packaging 3-CD set that was only 30 bucks!!! Chock full of great songs, and hot on the heels of a great double album The Lyre Of Orpheus/Abbatoir Blues, fans that were a little dissatisfied with Nocturama from a few years ago have nothing to complain about any more!! Lots of these songs I’ve heard before, such as the sountrack bits and the covers that were on the CD of Kicking Against the Pricks, but in fact there are really too many fantastic songs to mention in a short review. Again, nice acoustic versions of Deanna, Jack the Ripper, City of Refuge, and the Mercy Seat, the funny God’s Hotel, a Neal Young cover Helpless, songs with Shane McGowan like Rainy Night in Soho, another vewsion of Lucy, then a bunc of other murder ballads, including four new additions to the endlessly morbid O’Malley’s Bar!! Great piece with the Dirty Three called Time Jesum Transeuntum Et Non Riverentum, and other spooky stuff. Could not be more highly recommended!

Elliott Smith

Elliott Smith – From A Basement On The Hill: Sadly Elliot’s last album, but still full of the sad numbers that he made so famous. The opener Coast To Coast is quite hard and rockin’, but others are just as gloomy and wistful as you’d expect. Sad to think that there won’t be any more Elliott Smith albums…

the Very Best of Elvis Costello

The Very Best of Elvis Costello: there’s a single CD version, or a double CD, nearly the same price, so I paid the 2 bucks more and got the deluxe. Full of great songs including the very familiar (She, Watching the Detectives, Every Day I Write The Book) and the not-so-familar (Veronica, Alison). Great songs like Indoor Fireworks and Brilliant Mistake really astound, and I also like his cool jazz standards like Almost Blue and My Funny Valentine, which he renders in a way you could nearly compare with Chet Baker. Fantastic.


Seal – Best 1991-2004: Sure the songs are great, but how about that fantastic voice!?!?!? This one is a dream come true, considering the fact that most Seal CDs are a little uneven (the not-so-great numbers are a bit dull), and this one comes with a second CD of acoustic versions. Sure, not all of the acoustic versions are really fantastic, but at the very least they strip away the instrumentation a bit and highlight Seal’s to-die-for voice. Having Crazy, Kiss From A Rose, A Prayer For The Dying, and Future Love Paradise on the same disc is a bonus already and worth the price of admission. I also like his funky cover of Fly Like An Eagle, a ’70s nugget from the Steve Miller Band which he, not surprisingly, does quite well.

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash – Cash Unearthed: Less than a year since the great man died comes five CDs of his music, four of them previously unreleased. Highlights are probably too many to recount, but there are numerous pairings and covers, including the stunning Father And Son sung with Fiona Apple. Amazing how Johnny Cash could improve on already-great songs!! His Glenn Campbell songs Wichita Linesman and Gentle On My Mind are great, and the song with Tom Petty, the Running Kind, is also great. Some covers, like Neil Young’s Pocohantas and Heart Of Gold, or Leonard Cohen’s Bird On A Wire, are not so great in my mind, but the set is so rich it’s impossible to find fault really. Understand Your Man, sung to the tune of Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, is pretty cool too. Oh yeah, and the liner booklet is great too – lots of pictures, a pretty good essay on the man, and notes to each song by Johnny Cash, and others like Rick Rubin, Rosanne Cash, his son, Nick Cave, and others.