Archive for June, 2007


Saturday, June 30th, 2007

Had a great weekend so far, after a very busy week at work. Nothing special to report, except a nice lunch with a banker friend on Thursday, and some yummy Chinese food with my colleagues on Friday. Some new faces at work, many of them quite good, so it’s definitely “one step forward” material.

Zen has been saying funny things recently:

Peter: Hey Zen, do you want to see papa’s new magazine?
Zen: Does it have Spiderman in it?
Peter: No, it doesn’t.
Zen: Then I don’t want to see it.

Zen is really into getting up early these days. When he hears my alarm go off, he jumps out of bed and rushes over before I’ve even stirred so that he can qualify as the first one up that day. He even said to me “Papa, I want to wake up even earlier. I want to go to sleep at 12 o’clock and wake up at one o’clock.” Crazy.

He also always want to become something. “Papa, I wish I could be a transformer,” or “Papa, I wish I could be Spider-man,” etc.

Today he was a really good boy. I didn’t see him much last week, since I worked so late most nights or went to Japanese lessons and came back late on Friday, so today was our day to spend the whole day together, as most Saturdays are. Naoko had plans to go out with work colleagues after work so it was really going to be the two of us together all day. This morning we went to Bukit Batok and watched Transformers. It was a lot of fun. I wasn’t that interested in seeing it for what it is, but it’s the perfect sort of thing for a kid like Zen and me to go to together. As it turns out, there were plenty of parts of the movie where I thought, “hey, this is really a lot of fun!” Of course, the plot is a bit retarded – it’s one of those “the only chance we have of saving the world is if we perform this elaborate procedure” movies – but in the end nobody really cared I suppose. It will be interesting to see what the professional reviewers have to say about this film (for some reason the film has been released earlier in Singapore than anywhere else, dunno why). I have a theory that it will become the big hit smash money earner of the year, mainly from guys my age who grew up with the Transformers (although I might have been a wee bit too old for it) taking their sons to see it. Very few mothers or daughters, sisters or aunts will be watching this flick. After the film, we went home had lunch, Zen napped, and when he woke up we played Uno and “train game,” then went to the playground, then went to the train station to see the train. We got there just as the train was pulling in, so we were only there for a minute when we went off for dinner. Ironically, the place we chose to eat was also the place Naoko brought her friends to, so we ended up eating dinner together anyway, how funny. Went home at 8:00, played some electric guitar, drew some Cars characters while Zen coloured, then put Zen to sleep. Zen sleeps on his own these days, so it’s good.

Movie Review:

Transformers - While I was never a fan of the original toys, comic books, TV series, movie or anything, I’ve been as swept up in the hype as anybody else has. Also I have a five year old boy, so there was really no good reason for me to avoid this film simply because it was a Michael Bay project. I found it very good. First of all, it started quite well, with some mystery about what the hell these things were anyway, and why they were on earth. Then the character development was actually fairly okay, although uber-geek Sam Witwicky, played by Shia LaBoeuf was a bit irritating at first. Never mind, he was introduced at the same time as the character played by Megan Fox, who has a very appropriate name. Everything about the film was fairly good, and at times the action scenes were such that I was thinking to myself, “hey, I’m having fun here.” The main problem of the film was in the editing – enough to make me wonder if the Singapore release is some unpolished version and the one that will be released on the fourth of July in the U.S. will be a bit smoother… although maybe the thought that Hollywood types would give as much attention to the plot as they would to their CG and explosions is giving these people too much credit. Some action scenes between the Autobots and the Decepticons don’t make sense (who hit whom, where are they attacking from, where was Optimus Prime when Megatron was doing this and that, whatever). Other plot points seem juxtaposed somewhat, so it’s a bit confusing. It also seemed to be a film that couldn’t make up its mind whether it wanted to be a film about people or a film about robots. The “characters” of the robot, unfortunately, aren’t very fleshed out, and the scene where Optimus Prime introduces his crew seems it was taken right out of Top Secret (“this is Duchamp, Levieus, Escargot, Latrine, Deja-vu, and Chocolat Mousse”). The human characters, oddly enough, are quite adequately fleshed out, often too much so – sure Sam Witwicky’s dad is nitpickety, but the scene when he’s trying to find something in his room while the impatient autobots are waiting outside trying to save the world, and his fussy folks are going on about whether he did his chores or not is a bit tiresome. One of the funny thing about the film is all of its wacky bits. There’s a scene where an Autobot pisses on a police officer. The chihuaua is called “Mojo,” and there’s a rather surreal scene where an Autobot is scolding him – “Bad Mojo – BAD Mojo.” Then there’s John Torturro’s over-the-top performance as a government operative, which is quite funny. Sam’s parents are also quite good, despite the above-mentioned scene, as a sort of non-gangster Tony and Carmella Soprano. Jon Voigt is in the film going through the motions as the Secretary of Defense who loses his marbles near the end. Then there’s also John Robinson, who played Stacey Peralta in “Lords of Dogtown” who has a brief role – probably got paid more here than for Lords of Dogtown. There’s this priceless bit in the end credits where they talk about “alien sightings,” and say to the effect “oh no, we live in a democracy, our government wouldn’t hold secrets like that from us.” In another superfluous scene, there’s this weird interchange like “hey – there are three scratch lines on this, like Freddie Kruger.” “No, Freddie Kruger has fouru claws, Wolverine has three.” The music is generally quite good too, although the re-use of that Kill Bill song was a bit weird. But, of course, it could have been a hundred times better – imagine if this film had been as tightly scripted as Terminator 2? Which reminds me – what is James Cameron up to these days?

CD reviews

Asteal: “Fragments of the Same Dead Star” - So far this is probably the best and “edgiest” Singapore band I’ve come across. They play music that you’d want to call “shoegazer,” but they are essentially a modern alternative band in Singapore playing mature, well-produced music for an audience that buys greatest hits CDs of ’80s pop bands. Pretty much an oasis in a musical desert, although there are still other good bands out there. Very nice female vocals, excellent songwriting, some experimentation, cool effects, nice mix of catchy riffs and feedback. Great, great, great. They remind me of much-loved ’90s bands on the Bedazzled label like An April March and Siddal, but there’s a bit of the Cure, Lush, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, Curve, all that. Excellent band that has very funky songs.

ab ba
ABBA: “Arrival (deluxe edition) – A strange thing I noticed in Singapore is that there are many “greatest hits” bands here. Certainly, all of the one hit wonders of the 80s are represented there – Spandau Ballet, A Flock of Seagulls, Alphaville – but so are mega-groups like the Beatles or the Eagles and the Police and whatever. Try to find their albums if you dare, but if you want a greatest hits package you have half a dozen to pick from. ABBA is the same thing, so that’s why I was quite happy to finally get a true ABBA release, not just in its regular version, but in a deluxe version with unreleased songs and a bonus DVD. And on top of that I got 40 percent of when I bought it! Fantastic!! Ever since seeing Bjorn Again recently, my interest in ABBA has picked up somewhat, and I wondered what it would be like to hear ABBA songs that aren’t among the 20-30 songs regularly regurgitated in greatest hits packages, or the Mama Mia song track, or even on the Bjorn Again set list. And yes, it was eerie hearing songs that sound like “Dancing Queen” and “Voulez Vous,” but have titles like “When I Kissed the Teacher” (Zen gets a kick out of those lyrics), “My Love ,My Life,” and “Dum Dum Diddle.”

Elliott Smith: “New Moon” – Elliott was born the same year I was. He’d be the same age as me, except for the fact that he died in 2004. One of those great tragedies that quite shook me, probably more than Kurt Cobain. Elliott wrote and recorded great, beautiful, classy songs, many of them quite stripped down and acoustic. Not quite similar to Leonard Cohen or Nick Cave, I’d compare him most closely to Nick Drake in sensibility, if not in style. “New Moon” is sort of like a collection of miscellaneous unreleased rough stuff, although Elliott’s “rough mixes” were probably better than most people’s finished songs. Why wasn’t this guy more widely known?

Great (Sun)day

Sunday, June 24th, 2007

Had a great Sunday today. Got nearly everything done that I wanted to. I went to sleep at 10:30 last night, so I got nearly nine hours of sleep, quite a rare thing for me ever. Naoko and Zen went to a (crappy) garage sale, and I got to work. Had a lunch, did some writing, and Zen didn’t nap but played quietly by himself. In the morning he read “Green Eggs and Ham,” his first time to read that by himself. It was tough going, but he managed to get through it. Then he did some Japanese study, which went well too. He was very well behaved today, often playing quietly by himself. I got to writing, and I just finished my goal when it was time to go off to the swimming lesson. I did a bit of swimming, a bit of reading, and enjoyed the day. Very pleased to spend a day with my family, getting things I need to do done, and tidying up and “normalising” my life. I wrote another 3,000 words in the novel, and if I can do another 1,000 tonight I will have 90 percent of the thing done, with just the 10,000 final denouement to go. Great!

Zen was playing on the Bob The Builder website tonight and he discovered that there’s a German mirror site. So he selected that and we got to hear the Bob The Builder theme song in German. I think Zen is quite truly international – it doesn’t matter to him whether the Bob The Builder website he clicks on is from the U.S.A., Canada, the U.K., Germany or Japan, he pretty much doesn’t care. Interesting…

Some pics of our haircuts:

haircut 1

haircut 100

Happy Birthday to Isabelle

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

Hey, another week, another post. This time no DVDs, books, or films to review. Not much new, really. I worked late two nights last week, and went to Japanese lessons until late on another night, so I didn’t see Zen and Naoko enough… Today did errands all morning (got haircuts, bought groceries, bought a fish for the fishtank, picked up my suit from the dry cleaners), then I took Zen to the birthday party of Isabelle, his classmate, and we had a good time. The girl’s parents had arranged a magician to come as well as a balloon artist, which was a lot of fun. The magician was cheezy, but better than the foreign guy I’ve seen before. The balloon artist was quite good too, Zen got a Bugs Bunny that was really well done, and also a machine gun of sorts. The place they stay at is really nice too, and there were lots of funky pools all over the place. Nice.

Zen and friends
Zen with his school buddies Lucas, Brandon, and Kyong-chan at Isabelle’s birthday party

Zen and Isabelle cake
Zen with Isabelle and her birithday cake

Bugs Bunny balloon
There was a balloon guy there, here he is giving Zen his cool Bugs Bunny balloon

BK message
I took this picture of a Burger King tray inlay paper just because I thought the message, if there was one, was so retarded:

“Have it your way. You have the right to have what you want, exactly when you want it. Because on the menu of life, you are ‘Today’s Special’. And tomorrow’s. And the day after that. And… well, you get the drift. Yes, that’s right. We may be the King, but you my friend, are the almighty ruler.”

It’s very nice of them to tell me that I have the right to have what I want exactly when I want it, but what if I want a million dollars? And I don’t know if it’s such a great thing to be on a menu if I don’t want to be somebody’s next meal. I know I shouldn’t take crap like this seriously, but it seems irresponsible for a company to publish stuff like this and give it to their clients. Or at least embarassing. I’m embarassed for Burger King – there, I’ve said it.

This is what Zen wore when we went to see Spider-man 3 for the second time. His new backpack is also a Spider-man 3 backpack.

magic island
I flew to Hong Kong last month, took this pic from the window somewhere over Vietnam.

Peter Building
Took this picture in Hong Kong. Nice name for a building, way better than “HSBC Headquarters” or “Standard Chartered Building.”

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

Goin’ to a go-go

Finally, that elusive creature: the near-perfect weekend. Saturday I got a bunch of chores taken care of as well as a few personal projects. We went downtown in the same taxi as Naoko, went to Singapore Airlines to put the finishing touch on our Japan bookings, all went smoothly, and then I went and bought jeans, visited Naoko, and bought a $3 toy for Zen from a vending machine. He was happy because out of the 10 available Kamen Rider toys he got the one he wanted most on the first try. We tried to see some “Xtreme sports” in front of Ngee An City – aggressive in-line skating, on-land wake boarding, skate boarding, and Xtreme BMX – but it was called off on account of a sprinkling of rain. Seems a bit silly to call anything extreme (or “Xtreme”) if it will be called off on account of light rain, but there’s hardly anything in Singapore that could ever be extreme (unless it’s “Xtreme language”). Took a bus back, had lunch, slept, ordered t-shirts, and then we had a lovely dinner. I got to write on my blog (I’m still writing on my blog on a Sunday night, obviously, but it was good to get most of it done on Saturday), I played electric guitar, and I wrote 1000 words on my novel, as well as one other thing. Sunday was a good day too – I took Zen to see Fantastic Four the Rise of the Silver Surfer, had a nice lunch, took a nap, wrote three articles for work (two short, one long) so that I won’t be as badly swamped next week, took Zen to his swimming lessons – he’s doing an excellently strong frog kick now without flotation now, and working on his front crawl – and then had another great dinner. After dinner Zen watched Cars in the living room, Naoko and I were in the bedroom listening to Leonard Cohen with her reading and me writing. It was a very comfortable family moment somehow. The weather was cool all day, so barely any sweating. Wonderful. Zen was very well behaved, and did five exercises from his Japanese workbook. What a keener. Gonna write another 1000 words on my novel before I go to sleep tonight, got to get this thing done.

Haven’t written on the blog much these days, haven’t had much to say. We booked our flights to Japan, and that means that I will fly with Zen and Naoko for two weeks, while they will be there for four weeks. Interestingly, Ralph and family will be here for 10 days right after that. Actually, Naoko and Zen won’t even be back for their first three days here, but will be back soon enough. It will be great to be a host for a change, and it’s always fun to show someone around Singapore. Zen and Evan are going to have a lot of fun playing with the trains and doing fun stuff like that.

Very busy at work, but the good news is that I’m writing articles again. In six days last week I wrote eight articles, on top of all the many other things I got done.

I was in a taxi today and I heard the Ghostbusters theme song, something I’d chatted with colleagues about recently – about what a crap song it is, and how the movie was overrated – and sure enough they had to play it. Singapore’s funny, if you took a list of 10 cool bands from the 80s (Husker Du, Black Flag, Bauhaus, Love and Rockets, the Cure, the Smiths, Madonna, whatever) and put it next to a list of really lame 80s bands (Ray Parker Jr., Alphaville, A-ha, Kenny Loggins, Air Supply, Spandau Ballet) you’d hear the latter nearly every time. I was in a store today and heard something really different, I asked the attendant what was playing – turns out it was the Killers. Finally, something new! Just in case you forgot about Ghostbusters, here’s the image below. I had read up on Huey Lewis recently. Seems like they tried to buy the tune for “I Want A New Drug” from him for the movie, he refused, they used it anyway, he sued, they settled. So in the end they used his song and he was paid for it anyway, it was just that the whole process of getting permission was bypassed. The whole story just makes me think less and less of Ghostbusters. Although he’s not hip any more (most people think he’s square), anybody who’d let it all hang out for Robert Altman (see “Short Cuts” if you don’t know what I mean) is okay in my book.

Today I ordered a few t-shirts from Zazzle. These are the designs I made (the black one will be on a black t-shirt, the lettering couldn’t be white so it will be a kind of silvery grey instead). The mad cow design was inspired by “Institutionalized,” a song by Suicidal Tendencies.

Bacon Black


I had the strangest dream the other night. The dream was all over the place, but at one point I went into the kitchen in my mum’s house and the whole sink and counter was overflowing with a big mountain of garbage. It was almost as if I had had a party at my house, but forgotten to clean up afterwards. She didn’t seem too bothered by it (this was clearly a dream – she would have not been able to keep her cool if it happened in real life), but I hated to see that pile of garbage. I started to clean up. At that point my alarm went off. My last thought as I woke up was “oh shit, if I wake up now I won’t be able to clean up this awful mess.” The next night I tried to resume the same dream so that I could finish what I started, but I dreamed about roller skating instead. Sorry, mum.
crazy cow

DVD Reviews:


Swans: Soundtracks for the Blind – The final Swans album, this one is very experimental. Some songs are long and mellow and build up to something hypnotic, others are just very… experimental… and don’t really pick up a groove. Jarboe isn’t featured very prominently, so you get a lot of instrumentals with quite a bit of Jira vocals.
Blue Alert

Ajani: Blue Alert – Leonard Cohen has been very productive recently. He’s had two albums of his own songs out in short procession, a book of poetry, a movie project, and now he’s produced an album of songs with his girlfriend, Ajani Thomas of Hawaii. The songs are pretty and jazzy, but remind a bit too much of Norah Jones. The songs are very Cohen-ish, especially “The Mist”, which is a version of “True Love Leaves No Traces” from Death Of A Lady’s Man”, also one of his best poems.

Pixies: B-Sides – Lots of great Pixies songs, although many of them, as live versions or instrumentals, don’t really offer anything new. Big surprises are “Manta Ray,” which is just as good as the best/weirdest Frank Black/Kim Deal vocals out there, while “Do The Manta Ray” is something that comes out of the mind of David Lynch, as is the Eraserhead song “In Heaven (Lady In The Radiator).” I’ve heard the chilled out “Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)” mix on the soundtrack for Pump Up The Volume, not a great movie but it had a fantastic soundtrack. Kim Deal singing “Into The White” is a bit different, but not exactly fantastic. “Winterlong” is a nice Neil Young cover, sung by Kim Deal, and David Lovering’s tribute to Debbie Gibson “Make Believe” makes you glad that he didn’t sing on more songs.


Monster Magnet: Spine of God (special edition) – Monster Magnet is supposedly the album that set off the stoner rock movement (just as Kuss’ “Blues From A Red Sun” is supposedly the album that set off the similar desert rock movement), but when I listen to this I don’t hear anything different than what the Butthole Surfers were doing. Decent songs, but I think I like other albums better.
DVD Review:


Who’s That Knocking At My Door – Martin Scorsese’s first film is a truly strange creation, although it also shows a lot of the stsylistic touches that you’d see in later films, event the tripped out Bringing Out The Dead. Harvey Keitel, in one of his first films, is a local hood who hangs out with his buddies, falls in love with a good girl – the long-forgotten Zina Bethune, billed simply as “girl” – he won’t screw, so he gets his frustrations out on hookers, a very upside-down world. Lots of interesting passages, like the 8 minutes he spends chatting up when he first sees her, or the dialogue-free freakout when they’re all drinking, a guy pulls a gun and everybody’s laughing their heads off. Of course, Harvey gets naked and you see lots of titties as well. He also used The Doors “The End” well before Francis Ford Coppola – the film came out in 1967.

Movie review:


Fantastic Four: the Rise of the Silver Surfer - Nice comic book adaptation of the Fantastic Four comic, which was always more interesting for its villains than its heroes, and this movie franchise is the same. I didn’t see the first film, but I understand that it was marred by a rushed resolution.  In this film, the threat – the Silver Surfer – is identified 30 minutes into the film, so this one is well-designed as an action film.  Quite a bit of soap opera centered around Susan Storm’s concern that she won’t have  normal life after she marries Reed Richards, boo hoo hoo, but otherwise it’s pretty straight forward and not too weepy.  It’s a kids movie, more so than any of the other Marvel adaptations, although they do manage to get in some speculation about the Thing’s plumbing nonetheless.  As far as comic book adaptations go, Jessica Alba looks better in  Sin City of course, but who’s complaining.  The Silver Surfer is very welcome in this movie, as one of the coolest characters in all of Marvel Comics, and they do interesting things with his surfboard.  One complaint – I don’t want to give too much away about the ending, but the producers didn’t really introduce Galactus – a character just as fascinating as the Silver Surfer himself – in a very satisfying way in my opinion.  Green light for another Fantastic Four movie, as well as a Silver Surfer spin-off.

May’s Over

Saturday, June 2nd, 2007

Hey, it’s already the end of May. I don’t remember too much about the last two weeks of the month except to say that I saw Spiderman 3 twice, and Shrek 3 once. It’s the year of the trilogies. I also had a business trip to Hong Kong, which was pretty fun – I bounced around town, did two interviews, then attended an awards ceremony. Coincidence – the person I sat next to was someone another person had mentioned to me a few weeks ago, as in “oh, I should get you in touch with my friend in Hong Kong, she edits an arts magazine and you should write for her.” Surreal moment of the evening – watching a purple Volkswagen Beetle pull up to the hotel and a woman step out in a purple dress and matching purple pumps. And it doesn’t stop there – I saw women in purple a few more times over the next few days. Weird. Another coincidence – I was talking to my colleague about the movie Purple Rain, and the character Appolonia, and then I walked past a shop called Appolonia! Weird, right?

I wrote a bunch of my novel, and now it’s at about 85,000 words. I can’t believe I’ve written nearly 20,000 words in 4 weeks or so. But it’s good to be back on track. The main part of it is nearly finished, with the final denouement all that’s left.

Zen’s doing really well in his swimming lessons, and he can putt around the water as much as he wants to, jumping in with confidence. Great. Tonight he also went to sleep by himself, rather than with one of us next to him rubbing his back, which we still do. But the times that he goes to sleep by himself are growing, and pretty soon he’ll have confidence to do that without whining that someone needs to be close to him or he can’t go to sleep. He’s picked up the habit of making up weak excuses and expecting them to stand…

Next up is the review section, where you will see that I see more movies than read books or buy CDs these days.

Book Review:


Ransom, by Jay McInerney – In some ways similar to the many books I’ve read about Japan – Angry Red Pajamas, Learning To Bow, the cretinous Pictures From The Water Trade, the equally cretinous the Lady and the Monk, and Thank you and Okay – this is a novel about a guy who comes to Japan to learn something that you can only get in Japan. He’s into karate, but unlike the protagonists of those other story he’s also one of these unhinged fugitive types running from something from back home. He’s had a difficult upper middle class childhood and he’s had a run-in with danger in the backlands of Pakistan. His life in Kyoto is about getting in and out of trouble, being disciplined, and overcoming the pain of the past. Ultimately, I didn’t think it was a great novel, since it has too many colossally dumb decisions (i.e. “there’s a killer stalking us, let’s split up”) for one story. But at least it starts off well… By the way, this Ransom has nothing to do with the Mel Gibson film, it’s just the name of the main character – Christopher Ransom.
DVD Reviews:

They Might Be Giants movie

They Might Be Giants – Yes, the original TMBG movie is a 1971 movie starring George C. Scott and Joanne Woodward, mainly of interest to understand why the band chose that as a name (there are probably more bands named after movies than anything else – The Misfits, Faster Pussycat, Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories, Brighton Rock, etc.). And for anyone seeking more lunacy from the man who made famous the line/promise “no more than 20 to 30 million killed – tops!” The main critical blurb on the cover is Leonard Maltin’s not-so-promising three star rating.  The premise is that George C. Scott’s character is a brilliant former judge who now thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes, Joanne Woodward is his shrink.  Together they set out to find Moriarty.  Not much to keep your interest after the first 30 minutes or so, although the scene where “Holmes” treats a man who has stopped talking by figuring out that he thinks he’s Rudolph Valentino (i.e. a silent film star). Three stars.

Sleeper - Probably Woody Allen’s worst movie, in my opinion, especially in its over-use of Dixieland jazz, which makes his slapstick/vaudeville scenes seem more of a ripoff of Buster Keaton than a tribute. Strange forecasting of the film “Demolition Man,” especially in that thing about using an orgasmatron to simulate sex, which has gone out of fashion in the meantime. Interesting sight gags, like the Gyro-Mirror (also ripped off/adapted from Keaton). Nice lines like “I got a Ph.D in oral sex.” Best moments come in the parodies, like when the people from the future try to recreate what a dinner in a Jewish family might have been like (“Stop whining and eat your shiksah”), to Diane Keaton’s unexplained mimicking of Stanley Kowalski to Woody Allen’s Blanche DuBois. Surreal. But still pretty much a waste of time.
Lords of Dogtown

Lords of Dogtown – I never thought I would be very interested in skateboarding, but this film brought it out in me. Excellent depiction of three kids who build skateboarding into a serious sport/artform, and some fantastic skateboarding shots from a crew of photographers/cameramen who have built up their skills of shooting skaters for decades. Great, great, great stuff. Nice to hear Black Sabbath in a soundtrack, although skating to “Iron Man” seems like a bit of a stretch. The extras to the film were interesting, and it was cool to see how the three guys in the film – Jay, Stacy, and Tony – interact with each other. And Heath Ledger was really good – hard to believe he’s the guy from “A Knight’s Tale.” Helluva lifestyle, though.
Gilligan's Island

Gilligan’s Island – Nice, fun stuff. Get to see the pilot episode, which shows different castaways, namely a different Professor, who is not quite as “professorly” as Russel Johnson, and two crass girls who didn’t quite have the charm that Tina Louise and Dawn Wells had as Ginger and Marianne. Also, the opening theme song was a wacky samba of sorts. Quite painful to hear in a way. Watched a few of the episodes, but the goofy slapstick is a bit weird to take after all these years. I like the Howells a bit more, Jim Backus with his Mr. Magoo-ness, and the fact that he was in Rebel Without A Cause, giving him extra cred. Interesting trivia – Gilligan is the character’s family name; full name – Benny Gilligan. And Natalie Schafer, who was born in 1900, was 64 when she played Love Howell (Jim Backus was 13 years younger).
The Italian Job

The Italian Job – Not a bad little film, although fairly misogenistic. Since most of it is about mini Coopers driving around Verona, about half of the film can be watched on high-speed scan. Good music, though.

Spiceworld – I also enjoyed this more than I thought I would. It talks about a cure for deja vu. It talks about a cure for deja-vu. Cross-dressing spice girls a nice touch – Posh going sporty, and Sporty going posh, etc. “Haven’t you ever heard the word ‘compromisation’?” The screenplay is actually a lot smarter than it should be, although there is the stupid “what should I wear?” “well you could wear your little black dress, or you could wear your little black dress, or you could wear your little black dress.” “oh, I know, I could wear my little black dress.” Cameos by Roger Moore, who spouts lines like “without something there is no nothing,” and Elton John are totally unnecessary, although having Meatloaf play the bus driver is a nice touch, although perhaps a bit of a slum for Meatloaf, who has been in the Rocky Horror Picture Show and in Fight Club. But Elvis Costello’s cameo is a bit more mysterious. Who else was in there…?
The Fallen Idol

The Fallen Idol – A fantastic film, and the first of Graham Greene’s collaborations with director Carol Reed (the others are Our Man in Havana and the Third Man). This one is hammy melodrama, with a touch of farce, as the message of misplaced romance gets picked up, as well as lesson of what can become of spinning a web of lies. Sinister friends, and the ultra-creepy Mrs. Baines at the pillow. Nice scene of a hooker in the police station coming on to a 10-year-old. “Does your father work at the embssy?” “No, he’s the ambassador.” Snakes covered up, metaphors everywhere. May have had a tragic ending, but pulls back at the last minute. Strange tale that doesn’t feel like it should have a happy ending, but somehow does in spite of itself.

Battle of the Planets

Battle of the Planets - Getting this from the library is part of my continuing mission of exposing my son to the kinds of things that I saw when I was growing up. As a bonus, this set shows the original Gatchaman episodes with English subtitles. This was the original Japanese TV series that became Battle of the Planets, but with some significant changes. The intro stuff with Seven-Zark-Seven and One-Rover-One, not to mention “Susan” on the intercom, were not part of Gatchaman, they were edited in. In the meantime, Gatchaman was actually a great deal more violent than Battle of the Planets, showing corpse-strewn helicopter crashes, or people burned to ash by the lethal rays of a giant cosmic jelly-fish lens. And in an odd way, the episodes were strangely better than I remembered. The odd presence of Zoltar (called Berg Katse in Gatchaman), and his interaction with the Luminous One (called the Chairman in Gatchaman), remind me in a strange way of Darth Vader and the Emperor. And Seven-Zark-Seven also looks curiously like R2-D2. Hmmm… another prototype for Star Wars besides Kurosawa films?
Shrek 3

Shrek 3 – Reviews of the new film have not been very positive, citing the second film the best of the series, but I found this one a lot of fun and hardly the disappointment that Spider-man 3 was. You actually feel sorry for Prince Charming at the beginning of the film, and Shrek keeps his self-pitying “nobody could love an ogre” schtick to a minimum – the line’s getting old. Justin Timberlake enters the scene as Arthur Pendragon, who may or may not be out of place – was Arthur a fairy tale creature or simply a legend. Anyway, Captain Hook, the piano player who was singing “People Ain’t No Good” (i.e. he was Nick Cave) gets a bigger role here, and we see a lot of Pinocchio and the Gingerbread Man, which is nice and fun. Hip film references were to things like “It’s Alive” and “Being John Malkovich” rather than films that have been released in the last three years, which is nice for a change.
CD reviews:

Wu Bai

Wu Bai and China Blue: “Pure Generation” – Somehow this album seems a little thin, coming after the lushness of his previous release “Two Face.” Songs are quite dull and nothing stands out, although the third song in, “Two Lonely People”, is a bit better. “Cherry Lover” is outright dull and not really in the Wu Bai class of cool rock, or even anywhere near his normally charming pop, or emotion-drenched lament. The keyboard sound on the album is also particularly bad. A lot of bands starting out would record albums as cheezy as this one. No standout songs on this album at all, unfortunately, perhaps a first for Wu Bai – usually at least half of the album would be phenomenal songwriting and performance. Odd how one of the gustier songs on the release sounds like Rod Stewart singing “Sailing,” albeit in Chinese. Naoko wonders if he’s gone in for plastic surgery – he does look a bit more like a Korean pretty boy these days than before when he had the beat-up puss of a rock and roll star. “Secret Love” is a bit better than the rest, but “You are My Flower” again starts with horrible 80s Euro-pop keyboard sounds (Modern Talking anyone?). “One Dream” is a decent fuzzed-out rocker.

Shirlyn Tan

Shirlyn: “Newfound Jealousy” – Shirlyn Tan is the lead singer of a bar band in Singapore called the UnXpected, they are a tight outfit that do great rock ‘n’ roll covers. When I request Black Sabbath they do a great version of “War Pigs,” they also do a great Pink Floyd set, “Zombie,” and some other good ones, as well as a funny version of “I Will Survive” that has lyrics about the horror of taking a guy home from a bar, only to find out that he’s poorly endowed. Shirlyn’s solo songs are a bit in the Avril Lavigne/Alanis Morissette vein, but generally very good. The title track, the third song on the disc, is quite a nice one and pretty mellow, with strings and other funky stuff to keep it juicy. It’s followed by another mellow song, “Snow,” probably the best on the album with the easy acoustic chords and sweet chorus. Great blues guitar on “You,” here she reminds me of someone, can’t place who. Most of the best songs are slow numbers, since the faster ones do seem a bit regular, they could do with a bit more screeching, howling, primal savagery, or in the absence of those extremes at least a bit of humour. Great stuff nonetheless, and great to hear Singapore producing good, gutsy musical talent. Hope her songs catch on and more people here start to realize what they have in their midst. There is a music scene here, don’t ya know?