Archive for October, 2005

Traveling on the Edge

Friday, October 28th, 2005

Hey ho, another boring week is almost through. Monday was a bit dull, I wrote three articles and stayed late. Tuesday was fairly dull, I wrote three more articles and edited a fourth. Wednesday I worked from home all day, which was a bit dull but OK. Took Zen to school by bicycle, wrote 3000 words all afternoon, then later took him to see the Malaysia train also by bicycle. Got a call to go on TV to talk about the China Construction Bank IPO, which goes live on October 27th, wow. Had trouble pre-ordering my cab. Two companies couldn’t get me a cab, and a third reportetd that they couldn’t get me a cab but reported that they could get me one by morning… and so the ydid. Thursday a busy day – went to do one TV spot at 7:30, then another on the same topic at 11:30. How convenient. Was nervous for the first one, but by the second one I was well into the swing of things. Spent the afternoon battling fatigue (stress?), wrote 1000 words, then went home. Kai and Hana were over to watch “Howl’s Moving Castle” with Zen, which was sweet. They had fun playing, then Kai wouldn’t go home, so he is sleeping over. Zen’s first sleep-over!

Zen Hana Kai grimacing man Zen and dinosaur happy camper on the train

Graham Greene

Book review: Traveling on the Edge, by Julia Llewellyn Smith: in which the intrepid young authoress, revealing a few details about her personal life, takes us on a trip around many of the places Graham Greene (the author, not the actor) lived and wrote: Brighton, Haiti, Cuba, Vietnam, Sierra Leone, Mexico, Paraguay/Argentina, and the town of his birth called Butterworth (or something…). Not a promising start, since the chapter on Brighton is not so extraordinary (this is where scenes from Brighton Rock occur, this is different, this is the same, etc.) and she has the annoying habit of telling the entire plot of his books (I haven’t read all of them), but the chapters on the other countries are fantastic, particularly on Sierra Leone – she describes the desperation, the brutality, the beauty of living in Freetown under siege by child-warriors. It’s a freaky, psychadelic nightmare I would imagine, living with psychotic aid workers, and under the slight threat of a violent death, among corruption and depravity, but also people trying to live their lives with as much dignity as possible. And hey – she meets colourful characters, describes the horrible political situations of some of these places, and seems to have a good time. And by the end I suppose we do get some insight into what a strange fellow Graham Greene (the author) must have been.


DVD review – Howl’s Moving Castle: A new Miyazaki Hayao film about a young girl (check) who turns into an old woman (check), meets magicians (check), walks through the air (check) saved by a handsome magician (check) and chased by mysterious flying bad guys (check) in an unnamed European-looking town (check) inhabited by kindly people (check). This one isn’t as good as Spirited Away or Kiki’s Delivery Service, the two films from the Miyazaki canon that it most closely resembles – in fact it isn’t as good as any of Miyazaki’s films. Still, it has a magic of its own, and it’s fun to watch. Howl is voiced by SMAP superstar Kimura Takuya.

boring week

Tuesday, October 25th, 2005

Hey, another very boring week. Don’t know if I can remember what I did… Well, last week I didn’t watch any movies, or read any books. I didn’t travel anywhere, or have any very interesting lunches, parties, or dinners. Did a lot of transcriptions, made some phone calls, wrote many many emails. Friday was a little more interesting – went out to Kallang to talk to a client, then back into town by taxi to go to a going away party for a colleague who was moving back home. The bar served great big gin ‘n’ tonics for only $5 during happy hour, so I was… happy. Left just after 11, could take the bus home, nice. Saturday woke up feeling just a wee big hung over, but never mind. Took a taxi down south to where the Japanese kindergarten is, and then watched them do their curriculum. Zen enjoyed the finger paint room and the newspaper room, where he was showered in shreds of ripped newspaper. But most of all he enjoyed the train ride, which goes in a loop at 1 km/hr. He rode it three times, and watched it twice. There was some kind of a lame concert, with teachers coming out singing and pretending that they were pre-schoolers. Somewhat… disturbing, really. Zen became really cranky, mostly because he hadn’t eaten more than a slice of toast for breakfast. Quite stupidly, we had forgotten to pack any snacks with him. D’oh!! Went off to Ginza plaza, a mall full of video game salons for Singapore’s otaku-nation, then to some crappy Formosa restaurant. The waitress couldn’t speak English, smile, or use common sense, poor thing. The food was pretty crappy too, maybe among the worst I’ve had in Singapore. Went home, Zen slept, I pretended that I was writing my article on pro wrestling, but really I was just reading wikipedia about the history of pro wrestling for the last 20 years or so. What a crazy world those people live in, those familes that are mainstays in the sport, and whatnot. Fascinating! Zen woke up and we went off to see the trains. This time we were lucky and saw two of them, yay. Went home, Zen was really cranky and wouldn’t eat much of his dinner. We got angry with him twice, and he cried. Then at 9:00 he said he was sleepy and we took him to sleep, but soon after that he woke up crying complaining that his ear hurt. At 11:00 we took him to the clinic by taxi, and it turned out that he had an ear infection! Poor kid, no wonder he didn’t have any appetite at dinner time, sniff… Got home at 12:00, and he fell fast asleep. Sunday morning went jogging for 40 minutes until it began to rain. Ate breakfast, then a maid was coming over to clean our place, so I took Zen to IMM to kill time. He seemed to be fully recovered from his ear infection, which is nice. I wanted to take a cab, which would have taken about 5 minutes, but Zen insisted on taking the bus, which took an hour. At least it was nice to see the joy in his face as he rode the bus. In the place we went up to Best Denki and I bouht a Nikon camera. Took me only about five minutes to decide on it. It’s 5.1 megapixels, Nikon Coolpix S1, with 3x zoom and a whole bunch of functions. It’s very small, flat, with a nice big colour screen. I wasn’t happy with the other electronic camera, built into the video camera: not only was it bulky, but the pics look waxy when you print them out. They look fine onscreen, but somehow they look waxy when you print them out. At first I thought this was the fault of the print shop, but I now know that it is the camera because I printed photos that had been taken with another camera and they all looked fine. So there! Went home by taxi, ate lunch, and Zen fell asleep watching TV for the first time in ages. Turns out that the maid never did come, and when Naoko called her to find out what happened, the woman just said “sorry sorry” and hung up!! Loser. In the afternoon I did some computer “work,” but I was hardly working. Took Zen off to the train station, then home, then play, then sleep.

Pic of Zen in the camera shop

Zen at Best Denki

an uneventful week

Sunday, October 16th, 2005

Hey how, this week was so uneventful, I doubt I can really add anything except for what films I saw. Monday was a total blur as I had my meeting, I wrote an article, and I did a few other things. Sheesh. The evening was a little interesting – I went to an event that some US trading association put on, which was really more of a schmoozing session for the day traders that use it. I spent three hours there drinking wine and eating yummy Vietnamese food. YUMMY!!! After that, went with the boss to meet friends at a wine bar on Orchard road, one of his favourite haunts but my first time there. Got home late by taxi. To work the next day, my legs are sore. Too much Friday night fever, i.e. dancing up an aggressive storm with my disco friend and colleagues. Well, the road to recovery is long, and we must persevere. Wednesday afternoon there was another nice bank event related to the trading community, we sat around drinking wine (no snacks) and marvelling at the empty spaces, and I think that a story is forming here somewhere. Thursday the new magazine came out and I’m sweating to think about how the next one’s stories are going to come together, sweat sweat sweat… Friday I worked at home, got some stuff done, then it was the weekend! Picked Zen up from school, drove him off to the train station to see the Malaysia train come by, and then home for a lovely dinner. Yay. Played ball with Zen on the landing, but the ball sailed over the edge and got stuck on the rooftop below. Bummer. Saturday got up, went to the management office to find out about getting our ball down, then took Zen off to the Science Centre by bus. Fun to watch him enjoying the bus rides. Got there, wandered around, admired the many many construction areas that are popping up there, possibly for next month’s Star Wars exhibition thingy. Watched the lame power demonstration – a lighting zapper, then some person sitting in a cage that was zapped by electricity (so what?!?), some inane announcements. Happily, the electricity demonstration in the centre area, that we saw in August, is much better. Catch that one next time instead. Also explored the eco garden, which turns out to be not so great after all. Took the bus to the hawker centre, had lunch, got beer for the party tonight, then home. Zen slept for a while, I did computer or something, when he woke up we went to the pool to catch up with everybody for the nice big dinner party that Sean and Mihoko organised. Some fun swimming with kids, some food, some beer, some wine, some champagne, some conversation, at 8:30 the party moved to Sean and Mihoko’s place, and we ate and the kids played and cocktails were made. Nice time, went home at 11:20 or so, very tired… Sunday we hung out – I did a few chores, took Zen cycling to the park to play soccer and run around, then back home to chill out, have lunch. It began raining, and didn’t stop all afternoon. It’s still raining, in fact!


DVD review – Vibrator: No, this movie has nothing to do with vibrators. It is a Japanese drama (sorry, could only find a film title from the Korean release… not that everybody would notice) about a strange girl who notices a guy she likes in a convenience store, after a pique of “white day” down-on-love nihilism. He’s a truck driver, and she catches his eye too. They fool around, then drive off together. Most of the film is about their few days on the road, he relates a few stories from his past, she relates a few from hers. Crying in the bathtub, puking in the gas station, scenes of rural Japan. The Japanese exclamation “sugoyi” is translated as “That was fucking brilliant,” although I’d simply say it would be better represented as “wild!” or “cool!” Part of the self-exorcism is about how she deals with her alcoholism and bulemia, but it’s also about two people who just really like each other a lot. Simple. Painless. Non-violent.

Memories of Yesterday

VCD review – Memories of Yesterday: I thought that this was a Miyazaki Hayao film, but it turns out that (according to alldaychemist tadalafil usa) that he was only the executive producer. Oh well, never mind – it tells the sentimental tale of a 27-year-old office worker who, counter to what most 27-year-old office workers tend to be into, she likes to spend her vacations in the countryside digging around in the dirt with the wholesome farming community. While there, she strikes up a tender romance with a local like-minded guy, although the romance is so tender they hardly even recognize it. At the same time, the narrative is spiced up somewhat with memories of her childhood: fighting with her two older sisters, going on vacation to a hot spring with her grandmother, and the family’s first encounter with a pineapple.

Sideways again

DVD review – Sideways: Fascinating character study, well-scripted “adventure” of two guys who are total opposites (reminds me of me and one of my best friends), one if a failed writer and the other is an over-the-hill (career-wise) actor. Good in a Woody Allen/Wilt Stillman way, but set in sunny California instead of New York. I saw a Malaysian version that has amusing subtitles “You are a snake to change of.” “It’s just a snack.” Unfortunately, the version also shut down mid-way, just as things were getting good and there was a little action… I’ve heard that the second half is also laugh-out-loud funny. I guess I’ll have to catch it some other time…

Intimate Strangers

DVD review – “Intimate Strangers”: French film, involving a woman who walks into a man’s office and, thinking it is the office of the psychiatrist that she has already made an appointment with, bares her soul. Sure, there is a shrink on that floor, but she’s ended up with a tax attorney instead. While the premise is far-fetched, it’s more or less quite adequately explained away; what’s more convincing is the poor drip of a tax attorney, played impeccably by Fabrice Luchini, who begins to look forward to the odd encounter that has fallen into his lap. The “doctor” may be sicker than the patient, wit his obsession for tin toys. “You are not master of everything. Free to buy me lunch.” “He needs me, I’m his only patient.” Listening to tiresome clients. Nice translation of an ultitmatum: “dump her, or hump her.” Nice irony – wanted to be a novelist, now she shelves books. “Only death can part us.” “L’amour est un maladie incurable.” “Love is an incurable disease.” She wears the same clothes a lot. Becomes more and more confident, perhaps slightly deranged, as the movie progresses, very noble beauty but somehow unsexy. Wears new dress, hates light, Maltese Falcon, The Beast In The Jungle, he’s suggestible, use of blurring, moody music.

the Dancer Upstairs

DVD review – the Dancer Upstairs: An intriguing political thriller directed by John Malkovich and set in South America (probably Peru under threat of the Shining Path, but may als be Argentina) that defied all of my expectations, even after reading the back description and checking it out on Rotten Tomatoes, where it seems to have overall good reviews. “The country gives me a rash sometimes.” “You mean the countryside?” “That too.” Billie Holiday narration opens the movie, a very unique feel because you don’t really know what is going on exactly. Chief of police interrogates him. “Are you the Gary Cooper type.” “Do you have a delicate constitution?” Film creates moments in life we should experience in truth, but must be satisfied to accept as vicarious episodes. Very impressed with the great actors in the film. An action thriller that you can believe, a story of a man falling in love with the wrong woman in spite of himself, and for no reason. Great use of a Nina Simone song, by the way. Nina.

the Quiet American Brighton Rock second try

Book Review: “Brighton Rock” and “the Quiet American”, both by Graham Greene: I’m a big fan of Greene’s “the Power and the Glory,” and I’ve read and enjoyed “Stamboul Train” and “Journeys Without Borders.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t make hide nor hair of “Brighton Rock” so I gave up after 100 pages. Happily, “the Quiet American” was just what I thought it could be. Now a movie starring Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser, superbly cast I’m sure. The book tells of the torment of an aging journalist in Vietnam in the era of French colonialism, that hints of the troubles of American colonialism to come. To say too much about the novel would be to take away some of the interest for people who have not read it yet, but hope to, suffice it to say that Greene’s unfolidng of the story, mostly in flashback, is masterful. The interplay of the three characters, and the many minor events alluded to, is storytelling at its finest, but the significance of the troubles in Vietnam to this era, or to any era, are just as valuable. Great!

apolitical debate

Sunday, October 9th, 2005

What a week. Monday was a busy day, I wrote most of the perspectives that went out, did a bunch of other stuff, long meetings, getting home early-ish. Stayed up late watching a movie. Tuesday I was incredibly busy writing a risk management email article, based on went to an evening event held by a local bank. It was a speech from a famous fund manager to the priority banking clients of that bank, and it seemed like there would be cocktails and mingling with rich people before the event, but when we got there we found that the press was slated for dinner with the bank’s PR people in the restaurant downstairs. So it was a mellow hanging-out session with gin and tonic, nice feta cheese appetizers, and great great tuna steak. YUM!!! The speech/presentation was OK, with some interesting points that I’ve forgotten… and off home late. Wednesday was my first non-breakneck day since I got back from Beijing, so I got down to all that cleaning up post-event stuff. In fact, that’s what I did for most of the rest of the week!!! Thursday I went to two events, one was on Shenton Way in the morning and it was back with a lunch event. The Shenton Way one was not too far off, and I thought I had enough time to walk over, but in the end decided that I might as well take a cab – good decision too, since I still only got there one minute before it was supposed to start!! I went from the first one directly to the second one at the China Club… only to find out I was in the wrong place. From the China Club it was not too far back to the office, so I rushed over and checked my email and found out that it was the TOWER Club, not the China Club. That was also walking distance from my Shenton Way appointment… but in the other direction!! I was now late, so I jumped into another cab and got there 45 minutes late, but no big deal. As it turned out, it was a private room where 6 of us media people were hanging out with a senior banker talking about treasury issues. Interesting. Good food too!! Got back to work, did some tidying up, went home. Friday was a busy day of this and that and this and that, but of course the highlight was in the evening when we were all going out for dinner and dancing for the so-called “Valen’s Party.” First off, the battle was to get out of the office at 6:30, like we were supposed to. Of course, it was around 6:40 before we were out, then about 45 minutes to get from the office to Geylang, where the restaurant is. Next door to the Gay World Hotel, the restaurant was quite OK. We were put in a small-ish room with terrible acoustics, they served us fish and frog and crab and shrimp and pork and chicken. The frog was nice, yummy like chicken (yummier, actually) with thin little bones. The boss was coming late – he had skipped most of the dinner because he has simming lessons (?!?!) – so we saved him a few mouthfuls of food, and a fish head. Since he LOVES eating fish heads, we got to watch him mange away. Then in the car, and off to the disco for dancing – this one is called Bar None, and is in the basement of the Marriott Hotel off Orchard Road. Nice place. Didn’t have a table at first, but then got one just next to the stage, which turned out to be the partiest place in the house once the Filipino house band started playing and people hit the dance floor. Meanwhile the DJ spun some tracks. I went up and requested the Beastie Boys or Public Enemy. After a few songs, Public Enemy came on “Shut ‘Em Down” (coincedentally, PE is now playing on my iTunes) and I hit the dance floor, the only one boogying. Then this weird foreigner ossan came out and danced with me for 0.5 seconds and headed back to his seat at the edge of the dance floor. Later he said to me “so, did you win your bet too?” Seems like somebody bet him to go out on the dance floor and boogie with me! I said to him “no bet, I love that song. Public Enemy, best of their class and haven’t been outdone since. It’s so rare to hear good music in Singapore clubs. I requested that song.” Dork. Our table filled up with staff coming late, and all of my female colleagues looked great dressed up, nice. The boss ordered food to fill the table, and we had two bottles of whiskey with plenty of ice and mixer. Nearly 5 hours later, I took a cab home, showered the sweat off my body and passed out. It was a great evening – lots of dancing, laughs, partying, and I danced like a madman. The band played about four sets, and did a great job. I can’t remember which song of theirs suprised me the most, but they did play “Sweet Child ‘o Mine,” which I requested (it went over really well that time in Shanghai when the Filipino band there played it). Saturday was a tough day – Zen woke me up at 8:00, and I dragged myself out of bed with a bit of a headache and plenty of thirst. Naoko had to work, and I had to look after Zen, so we bundled off downtown so that I could open a bank account for Zen. The bank is just next to Naoko’s building, so it worked out well, but when we got there we went up to the counter, they took my name and asked me to sit down AN HOUR LATER I was pretty fed up so I went to ask how much longer it would take – seems like my name wasn’t written on any list even!!!!!! I got service right away, but it still took 45 minutes to open an account. Jeez!! Went to Borders to see if they have any Wallace and Gromit short films on DVD, no no no. Took the MRT to Clementi, ate lunch there, then taxi home, then to the daycare centre to see their presentation on teaching things, and presentations. I would have rather gone home and sleep, totally exhausted. Ate strange local food, met the new administrators, saw presentations, began to nod off, went home, watched Ultraman, Zen was sleepy but I wouldn’t let him nap. Naoko came home, ate dinner, tried to get Zen to sleep early, but still it was after 8:00 before he finally went to sleep. I tried to go to sleep at 8:30, but was woken up several times. Exausted. Finally slept from about 9:30 PM until 8:00 AM. Rested, happy, it’s Sunday!! Time to sweep the floor, wash, clean, go buy coffee, go swim in the pool, it’s sunnier now, ate pasta lunch, read a book to Zen, going to sleep, write blog.

See the Sea

DVD review – “See the Sea”: Bleak film by Francois Ozon, who recently directed “Swimming Pool,” which I didn’t see but many who did said it was so-so. Nice poster, though. Anyway, hard to say anything about this film without giving too much away, but it is about a bored British woman, married to a French guy, with a baby, living alone in a house on a French island somewhere. A female drifter comes by and pitches a tent in her yard, and a strange one-way friendship forms between the two. The film is largely about the housewife, trying to overcome her boredom and dissatisfaction and frustration of being a first-time mother, but it is also about her self-centeredness and selfishness. It is also very very very dark, my colleague who lent it to me could only watch half of it, and it’s not a long film – about 80 minutes. On the same disc is a short film by Ozon, called “the Summer Dress” which can best be described as “a delightful anecdotal short film about a gay man who is bi-curious.”

the man from Elysian Fields

DVD revoew – “the Man From Elysian Fields”: I wasn’t expecting much from this film, partly because I had never heard of it (and assumed it was a straight-to-video B-movie), and also because it has Mick Jagger in it. Also the “down-on-his-luck guy intrigued by mysterious rich man who comes into his life” premise seems a bit over-done these days. In other words, chances were good that it would be just as awful as “Playing God” was. But in the end it was very good, and fine performances from nearly everybody in the film (yes, even Mick Jagger). So Andy is a down-on-his-luck writer (ouch) who can’t support his family, so he becomes a gigolo in Mick Jagger’s gigolo company. Many interesting episodes later… well, can’t give that much away, except to say that it was a decent film. I saw an opportunity for him to very cleverly get revenge when he was (predictably) stabbed in the back, which they didn’t exploit, but hey – that would have been another film! Director George Hickenlooper also directed “Hearts of Darkness” and “Sling Blade.”

Open Water

DVD review – “Open Water”: Normally I wouldn’t have been interested in a shark movie, but my friend who lent it to me told me that it was moroe of a documentary than a Jaws-like shocker, so watch it I finally did. And good it finally was. “Based on true events,” the film tells the tale of a loving couple who go diving in the ocean… and are left behind by the careless crew. YOIKS!!

the attack of the PSYCHADELIC WARRIORS!

Saturday, October 1st, 2005

Hey, all of a sudden I have a ton of great Japanese underground CDs and a DVD to review. Thanks, Kawai – you’re the best!!

Psychadelic Warrior

CD review – Ultra Fuckers “Psychadelic Warrior”: A wonderful thing happened yesterday: I was working from home, and the door rang – it was the mailman and he was delivering a package from Japan. It was from Kawai, the personality behind one of Osaka’s most outrageous groups, the Ultra Fuckers. Kawai and I are pretty good friends, and I often send him stuff when I get a chance, and he gives me stuff too. I once swapped him a Nina Hagen CD for the band’s “Beyond the Fuckless” EP, and I gave him a few GWAR cassettes (i.e. store-bought cassettes like they used to sell in the “80s, and still do in some parts of the world), which he had never really seen before… and certainly not from GWAR! The Ultra Fuckers were the band I saw more than any other when I was living in Osaka, actually, more often even than Coa and Depth and Nagisa Nite. Go figure! Anyway, their recorded output is usually quite experimental, and very scummy, so that when you see them in concert you really can’t be prepared for what they truly are. With “Psychadelic Warrior,” a limited release of 500 that features ex-UxFx member Mob Norio (who has become famous recently for writing a novel that won the prestigious Akutagawa Literary Prize) the band finally has a studio album that reflects the songs they typically play live, which is wonderful. The release also gives us a chance to know the actual song names of those songs which we’ve heard so many times, which is good as well. “Yakamarahinen” is the weird vocal thing that Kawai does, “D.A.F” is standard guitar, drum vocal rock, “Bandee Jump” is that crunchy punk rock number. “Mescalinbe Drive” is that song that sounds like an early Suicidal Tendencies song. “Ahhha Uwwww” is the number they do on the toy guitar with all of the screaming and start/stop guitars. “Hanson” is a very fractured cover of “Mmm-bop” by the Hanson boys. “Scene Death” is your usual fast punker. “(Seena) Ringo” is the weird song that starts off with “da da da da” whispers, feedback, and then grows into a big old ode to Sheena Ringo, a very popular Japanese singer. “Opopo” is a crunchy weird rock number – all fractured sharp distorted guitar chords. “Prince of the Land of the Rising Sun” is another popular number that they do live, previously recorded on the “Tribute To Nippon” CD with all of the other Osaka musical legends. This one is a bit rougher. Are the lyrics different? How should I know? Starts off mellow, becomes a feirce guitar duel. Practically already a punk rock anthem – fun!! “King of Heart” is one of those wild guitar bang songs – with a bit of everything including scary ST guitar sounds – Rocky George and Mike Muir forever!!! Of course, this one has cool trumpet blasts and also the “woh woh woh woh” reprise of “Human Cannonball,” the Butthole Surfers song, on it. Yay! “B.B. Gun” is the famous song where Kawai says “I want a B.B. Gun” over and over again. The first time they played this live they had a toy B.B. Gun that they passed around and we all shot pellets at each other. I aimed a few at the guitarist, and he got really pissed off – sorry Izumi! Of course “B.B. Gun” is full of electronic shooting sounds. The final song “Progressive,” which is a “bonus track” (i.e. a “Japan only bonus track”?) is a party mix by ENE, and it’s your usual UxFx studio doodle doodle doodling and not one bit like any of the other songs on the release! Nice total album, great album art, and a fantastic testament to the power of independant ultra-fucking! I wonder, now that they’ve put this show on record, what is next for the Ultra Fuckers. I heard that their guitarist left the band, so I wonder if this is a move in another direction.

Hyper Dimension

CD review – Ultra Fuckers “Hyper Dimension” demo: Well, the Ultra Fuckers have made all sorts of strange sounds in their career – their recorded stuff is pretty experimental, while their live set is full of their trademark goofiness and punk spirit – but this could mark a new direction for them. Credits are Kawai on “guitar and electronics, voice,” Tom Nagata on “drums and electronics,” while Izumi Headache is marked for “absence”… which probably means he’s really left the band. Recorded in April 2004, the sounds seem to come out of Kawai’s recent DJing experience. What I hear is droning electonic beats, upon which is layered progressively aggressive drumming – beats, thrashing, cymbols. It reminds of Boredoms spinoff AOA, or even Finnish electronic minimalism like Circle. As a career direction it is similar, somehow, to the change in course that Malhavoc made on their last album “the Lazarus Strain,” going from an electronic death metal-ish sound to being more techno and trance. Very nice, fun stuff. “Hyper Dimension Pt. 1 (short)” is the longest track, at 11:10, and a very fine, fun thing.

Free From Disguise

CD review – Free From Disguise “Urei Ue’to na Fujintachi to”: Ultra mellow bluesy folky music from Roco of Hellicoid 0222MB; recorded in August of 2005, so it’s pretty new. Four sweet lovely medium-length (4 to 6 minutes long) songs, very mellow, slow, hazy, bluesy, rocky, aggressive, nice. “Call’n” is just female vocals over breezy instruments, while “Hana ni Tetsu-ho” is the sort of bluesy jazzy Roco vocal stuff that sounds very professional lounge, like on the first demo as well – very polished and tastefully done indeed. “Babylon Rubber,” the closing song, is a funky sassy cool rocker with heavy Moogs and fuzzed out guitars. Cool bluesy guitar, nice vocals – that’s it!

VCD review – Scum Nite Marth 20th at Namba Bears, Osaka: Scum Nite is an institution at the legendary Bears live club in Osaka. These events often feature Ultra Fuckers and Surfers of Romantica (as this one does) and a long list of usual suspects. In the manner of Japanese live show introductions, let’s describe the units according to which full bands the members have appeared in: Ultra Fuckers, Suspiria (ex-Spasmom, Jellyroll Rockheads), Surfers of Romantica, Atsushi Tsuyama (Omoide Hatoba, Acid Mothers Temple, Paraiso UFO, etc.). Ultra Fuckers – only Kawai and Tom Nagata come out, Tom on drums, Kawai in front of a low electronics board with an electric guitar, boring electronics, moaning, echo psychadelic guitar, then the drum mpicks up, the psychadelic guitar picks up. Much more like their “Hyper Dimension” stuff than their “Psychadelic Warrior” stuff. We notice the illuminated ladder and the rolling drums; the bag comes off Kawai’s head, he speaks into a vocorder, screams into the mic, goes nuts, vintage Ultra Fuckers. Then, suddenly, someone new comes out of the audience, playing the guitar with wild thrusts (some punk from the audience, or a musical living legend perhaps?) climbs the stepladder, then climbs on an amp, getting carried away a bit here… Kawai wandering the audience. Suspiria is a wild sort of funky thing with a cellist, electronics, drums, and crazy psychotic Japanese guy rapping – very good and not your usual stylin’ posin’, more like the breathless psychotic inner trance thrust; great screaming and pulsing; a very fun band that must have been totally intense to see live. The cello works really well, much better than Apocalyptica (harrumph), because it meshes with the drums and acts like a super bass, and the vocalist is totally in sync with this horrible mess. Really sweet stuff!!! Acapulco olympic gold!!!!!! Surfers of Romantica – Every time I see these people they try something different. First time it was all-out Boredoms trance-noise assault, the second time it was Misfits-like wrestlemania, and now it’s kind of… Sigur Ros? No, not really, though – six people onstage doing some kind of world-beat haze and reflux, albeit somewhat Boredoms-like (Vision Creation Newsun) with strange noises over smooth keyboards and funky bass, mellow trumpet, funky bongos, great vibes, a real be-in onstage. Some sort of Metallica “One” riffin’ stuff happening, but just general nuttiness abounded. The show climaxes with wild souts and whistles, then a strange funky scratchy refrain begins, also a love-in. I see my first-ever stage-dive at Bears – the stage is only 6 inches off the ground, so not exactly the riskiest undertaking! Atsushi Tsuyama – solo guy on acoustic guitar that is feed-back drenched acoustic fluttering, fingers flying along the fretboard in a unique raga-rock flamenco of sorts. Non-stop 16 minute guitar jam, highly fascinating. Fretboard shimmering with the stage lights – beautiful. After sixteen minutes, he pulls the plug – this sort of thing could go on forever, I suppose!

five days in China

Saturday, October 1st, 2005

My long trip to China was… quite long! Saturday was quite a day of running around, really busy, hard to get dinner together, took a cab to the airport, colleague late, checked in with trouble for overweight, jump on the flight all night, busy busy, try to sleep. Got to Beijing, it was Sunday. Took my two colleagues through customs, got picked up by another colleagues, had breakfast in our five-star hotel, went into the room, slept for a while, but got up for a meeting, then lunch in a nice Urghur restaurant called White Rose. Chinese beer, OK, and nice lamb stuff. Totally stuffed. Ran around the hotel sorting out what we really need to do, then for cocktails at 8:00. Should have been a 30 minute meeting, but it stretched for about three hours. Who was I kidding that it could wrap up in 30 minutes anyway? Good conversation, though. Went out for lamb kebabs on the street, which was fun, then off to sleep. Monday was a relatively mellow morning, because the meetings just started at 2 PM, but there was stuff to do all morning anyway. At least we had a leisurely buffet breakfast. The day went reasonably well, with only a few small hitches, and everybody was happy. After-meeting brief, then staff off to a lovely “speaker’s dinner” which was being held for the speakers at the event, which was fun – it was held in an old palace that is off of the main Forbidden City palace, build for the 20th son of emperor Kangxi of the Tang Dynasy (Kanxi apparently had over 50 official children) about 400 years ago. The flooring of the place is still the original installed floring. The palace was converted into a Sichuan restaurant in the Deng Xiaoping era and was frequented by Deng, who was from Sichuan. Met many lovely people, and had a good time. Stayed up a bit after the event writing a brief piece about the event. Tuesday the event began – registration, main speakers, buzz buzz buzz, and lots of fun times. I took furious notes and recorded, since I was writing about the event, and had a good good time. Skipped lunch from business, and went to a bunch of sessions, I was the house MC guy, had to speak in Chinese, which was a bit blinding, but I got compliments and made friends, and it was fun and nice. There was a cocktail session afterwards, and I got a few interviews in that time, and then there was a staff meeting, and then we were off to our crazy Sichuan restaurant to eat for 2.5 hours. I would have gladly skipped it, since I had articles to write, but I went anyway because – hey, who can resist spending time with friends when there is work to be done? Nice spicy food – spicy with red peppers, pepper oil, and green peppercorns that numb your lips and tongue – and plenty of weak Chinese beer. Had nice laughs, then back to the hotel to write my article and get the pictures off to the office. Went to sleep at 2 AM. Wednesday – last day of the event, had a breakfast, went to the speaker’s room to meet the morning speakers, went to the sessions, had a lunch (nice) with a senior banker and a bunch of other nice IT people, then went into the afternoon sessions, did my Chinese announcements, set up for the closing session which ended on an optimistic note, then off to a staff meeting, nice pictures, cleaning up, then off to a self-congratulatory dinner. Should have gone dancine, but I had a story to write and so I stayed in the room for the next 2.5 hours writing and checking pics, then finally to sleep at 2:30. Thursday was just one of those days – woke up at 9:30, breakfasted until 10:45, cleaned up my bags, then discovered I could check out as late as 3:00, so I went back up to the room and read, watched TV (Okaa-san to isho) and slept. When I woke up, I checked out for real and went off to wander around the high value galleries that are under the Traders Hotel. Gucci, D&G, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, and all the other brand name stuff. Weird! Hung out at the skating rink, got propositioned by a plain-looking Chinese girl who might very well have been a delegate at our conference (“Hello, where are you from? I like you – I can give you a massage.”). I said simply “no,” she apologized, and quickly retreated up an escalator that went up to surface level. It was a rainy day – where was she going? I kept walking around, and later saw her again anyway. Went to the freezing-cold hotel lobby to read my book, “Marrying Buddha,” to kill time. Met my colleague (90 minutes late) for dinner, then off by taxi to the airport to check in, another colleague 30 minutes late, onto our overbooked flight to get a few of the last seats (lucky) and then off to Singapore. Drink three beers, sleep, wake up, get bags, take a cab home. It feels like Friday – well, I flew all night, and it still feels like Thursday, actually it IS Friday. Get thome, see Zen and Naoko sleeping in our bed, the sweetest scene I’ve seen all month, so nice to be home. Kissing and hugging, and eating breakfast. I take Zen to school and it’ts nice to do this. Back home, hang out, do work, eat lunch, pick up Zen to take him to see the trains. On Thursday Zen was not so happy to be in school, and Naoko had to stay with him for a while, and he cried a lot that day, but on Friday he was very happy and seemed like he was sweaty from playing so much with the kids, which was nice. At the train station, we meet Michcael and Matthew, the other train daddy and his 2-year-old, and we chat a bit. The 6:15 comes by at 7:05, and a freight train is on the side line waiting. Zen is happy he has seen two trains, but we need to go home. Eat a curry dinner, get a call from Oma and Opa, then watch videos, hang out shower, go to sleep. Zen is exhausted – he is gone in 2 minutes. Get to experience a bit of Zen’s new temper – he hits and kicks and pouts. I hope I can temper this.


five cousins with elephant Zen with train swinging with Aki Zen and Tadd 1 Zen and Tadd 2 plane Zen

Mary Bud

Book review – Marrying Buddha, by Wei Hui: Not a great book. One of those “novels” that is called “semi-autobiographical,” but which really doesn’t deserve the “semi.” So Wei Hui is Coco, she’s just written an internationanl bestseller (apparently through no fault of her own), and now she’s got a new guy in her life. The back cover description makes you think there are two guys in her life, but it’s just a distraction. Well, really it’s all just about her and the clothes she wears and other wee little things. There’s a memorable birthday-sex session, and some “Sex-In-The-City geekishness,” there’s a little bit of flakey Zen mysticism (Coco is Chinese and has a Japanese/Italian lover teach her about tantric positions) and too little insight into anything of imporance. Even cheap thrills are few and far between. I took this book out at the same time as two Graham Greene novels, but I thought I’d read the new author on my trip to China before I tried the classic writer. Jeesh…