Archive for April, 2008


Tuesday, April 29th, 2008


CD release day – today Madonna, Boris, and Portishead released CDs. I went to meet my friend Roger for lunch, so on the way back I bought Portishead’s new disc, “P3.” Yay. Got home, ate dinner, played guitar with Zen for a while, then he went to sleep at 9:00. I only read two paragraphs of Harry Potter and he was already snoozing. What a lovely boy.

CD review: 

Portishead – P3: I loved Dummy, that first Portishead. It really takes me to a special place. When I heard that the band was releasing a new album after 10 years of silence, I was immediately intrigued. Yay, Portishead, had to pick this up the day it was released – anything to hear a bit more of Beth Gibbons’ voice… The first listen to the album at work I wasn’t so impressed, but that could be because of the environment (no comment). The first song starts off with some sample of a Spanish radio DJ saying something I can’t understand. The song, “Silence,” starts off with fast-paced drums and guitara chords and some keyboard. Lovely feedback, very soundtrack-y. Two minutes into the song Beth’s voice comes in. Lovely. For some reason the song ends very abruptly. “Hunter” is very mellow, has nice feedback guitars in it. Songs become soundtrack, then there’s “The Rip”, which sounds like the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” as re-interpreted by Daft Punk, or perhaps Tangerine Dream. Nice stuff. Lots of snazzy drumming. “We Carry On” has Moog organs, trumpets, and Sonic Youth guitar wrangling, it is one of the more “challenging” tracks on the album. Yes, the beats are definitely a lot harder, sort of industrial compared to the old shuffle beat of “Dummy.” Challenging, indeed.

Movie review: 


Iron Man – I could already tell this movie would be a lot of fun from the trailer, but I was surprised just how good it really was.  This could easily be one of my favourite Marvel Comics movies, better even than Spiderman or X-Men (forget Daredevil or Electra).  Robert Downey Jr. is the perfect casting choice, a la Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.  Marvel movies are usually well casted anyway, with the exception of Toby Maguire as Spiderman (he’s popular, but I’m of the opinion that James Franco would have been better as the image of Peter Parker from the comics) and Daredevil.  Jon Favreau, the brilliant writer of Swingers, clearly has as much fun with the character as Sam Raimi has with Spiderman, and Tony Stark is very well fleshed-out and real.  Comparisons would abound with Batman – both were born rich, have reputations as playboys, lost their parents, head giant corporations, have no super powers of their own but are good at stocking up on useful gadgets -  but this film is better than any of the Batman flicks for my money.  Great background story of how Stark became Iron Man, and also a fantastic technology sequence where Stark is perfecting his machine.  The battle at the end is not bad, although not as cool as the fight scenes in Matrix 2, and the movie has the best ending/closing line of any movie in recent memory.  I also loved the use of the song “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath in the closing credits of the film, spot on.  That is now also Zen’s favourite Black Sabbath song.
DVD review: 
The Early Years

Iron Maiden: The Early Years (DVD) – I read online how good this was. When I found it in my local CD shop, my curiosity got the better of me and I bought it. Five hours of early Maiden, great great great. I watched snatches of it late into Monday night and it was fascinating. Iron Maiden’s two main guitarists, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, are magicians and really awesome to watch. When I was a kid, I loved listening to this stuff; as an adult, I have to admit that I still love listening to this stuff, but now I love watching it just as much! I’d never seen the band play. Dave Murray always plays a black Fender Stratocaster just like the one I have, and Adrian Smith sometimes also plays a Les Paul like I have (although he’s probably playing a top notch version, while mine is an el-cheapo Epiphone Les Paul Studio). Paul DiAnno is an awesome frontman, and I love his voice, although the studded wristlets are a bit much. Bruce Dickenson, while a very intelligent person with a great voice, is a bit of a cheezy showman, and his outfits are a bit cheezy with the red tights (Steve Murray also seems to favour tights). Well, they make great music, forgive them their fashion faux pas. The documentary on the second disc is really good fun, it looks like Steve Murray managed to get a dozen ex-Iron Maiden members down to the pub one afternoon and interviewed them one by one while the others hung about. That’s interspliced with pics and live clips to put it in context, but it only backs up the impression that it’s impossible to think of Iron Maiden without thinking about – love him or hate him – Steve Harris. Sure, why not, he started the band, and has been the only one who has been with it throughout, and he seems to write most of the songs as well.

Happy Birthday Danella

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

Another week gone by. Last week was quite gloomy somehow, not much fun at work, very quiet, I got home early most nights. Naoko and Zen were still sick a bit still this week, so it wasn’t so fun. Everybody always went to sleep early, I worked late some nights, other nights I was just too worn out and went to sleep around 11 as well. I lost a bit of weight, and am down below 77, five kilos less than my top weight, which is interesting. Next week promises to be more interesting, and there’s a national holiday on Thursday, so that should be fun.

Tonight Zen and Naoko and I went to one of our favourite places to eat downtown. I picked up my guitar from repairs (no charge – that’s always nice) and went to eat. Sitting in that restaurant I was just so happy, not quite sure why but I just felt great. Thought about my friend Danella – the 26th was HER actual birthday, and we were celebrating my belated birthday on it, how funny. Wanted to go to one or two places afterwards for drinks, but Zen was so pooped. We were in a bus home by 20:00, and he fell asleep almost right away. He was a good boy almost all day today, which was fantastic. He did a lot of studying and has done a great job in math and English reading and spelling.

Naoko and I did something unusual tonight – we watched a DVD called “Keeping Mum.” I’d never heard about it, but it was pretty good.

Sunday was mellow. Did homework with Zen in the morning, did housework, ate lunch, showered, then headed out to “Boat Asia”, which was in Keppel Bay marina. There was an exhibit, and we went onto four boats that were “grounded” for viewing, also walked around and saw little booths. Then went over to the marina itself to see boats that were in the marina, stayed there from 2:30 to 4:00. The sun blazed down hotter than I’ve ever felt it before, amazing. Most of the boats were really huge and amazing in side. Of course, I couldn’t imagine what I’d do with one if I owned it, especially with the cost of fuel so high. I like not owning a car or a fuel-burning device, and plan to keep my carbon footprint small as long as I can. Went home around 4:30, got Zen ready for his swimming lesson, then had a yummy pizza dinner. This was one of the best pizzas Naoko has ever made, and it tasted even better with beer.

Captain Zen!
Boat Asia 2008

Captain Zen again!!
Boat Asia 2008

Peter and Zen pretending they are boat owners!!!
Boat Asia 2008

DVD Review


Keeping Mum – A strange combination of “Mrs Doubtfire” and “Serial Mom,” and it’s about a murderous mum coming back into the lives of long-lost family members. Odd casting Kirstin Scott-Thomas as the mum of teenage kids and the wife of a country vicar. Patrick Swayze is in the film in a horrible, cheezy role (he’s 55 years old!!), there’s Rowan Atkinson, and also Maggie Smith, best known as Professor McGonnagall in the Harry Potter films. The final scene is a killer. A very clever, interesting comedic film, but still nothing really new.

Bryan May’s Starfleet!

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

Not a nice weekend. Zen was sick, so we didn’t go anywhere at all on Saturday. Poor boy, I hope he’ll be fine tomorrow. I spent a lot of time listening to music and chilling out.

Ordered a Rush CD/DVD package and the new Boris CD. The US$ just keeps dropping, buying stuff from Amazon is getting more and more affordable, especially for good deals – the Rush thing is 2 DVDs, 2 CDs, and some other stuff, for $35.

Reading up on things on the Wikipedia I was reminded of one of the strangers musical projects of the 1980s, which was the Star Fleet Project with Brian May and Eddie Van Halen. So you get not one, but two legendary guitarists involved in something that sounds like a reject Moody Blues song married with one of the many Star Wars spin-offs (remember Battle Beyond The Stars?). The video is very Team America.

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

We had a great weekend. Friday was interesting for me, as I went out to the Esplanade with my boss, a colleague, and my boss’ friend to see “We Will Rock You,” a musical based on the music of Queen. It was really good fun. Enjoyed that, went to Chinatown to a salsa club, left after a while and went home. Yay.

Saturday we mostly hung around the house and I did some studying with Zen. We went downtown in the afternoon for Zen’s first Kodomo Club lesson after a long break. It was nice to see the kids and the parents again. After that Naoko and Zen and I went to eat downtown. We wanted to eat Japanese food at the Esplanade, but then we found out that the restaurant had closed!! So we ate at “Makan Sutra Glutton’s Bay,” which is a bunch of food stalls with an open-air eating area. It was rowdy and good fun, and nice to eat in the open air with a picnic feel to it. We went down to the harbourfront just next to where we were eating and saw a local band play at the grandstand there, London Fog. Nice “retro” rock. Went to walk around the Merlion area, then back to the bus stop to go home. Zen fell asleep halfway there, we had to carry him from the bus stop into the home. Wow, he’s getting heavy…

Sunday we mostly just hung out at home. The most interesting thing that happened was that I played Monopoly with Zen for the first time. It was Spider-man Monopoly, so it is “theme Monopoly.” I bought lots of property while Zen was more prudent with his money. He ended up paying me a lot of rent. I would have done very well if we’d played another hour, but we stopped playing after three hours. Zen went to his swimming lesson, and I continued to read Harry Potter. Nice weekend nice night.


We Will Rock You! – The musical was really great fun. Besides the fantastic music of Queen, which needs to be appreciated in a grandiose setting, the musical featured a libretto by Ben Elton, who is the guy behind a lot of Rowan Atkinson projects like Black Adder and Mr. Bean. So it was funny as well. The plot is about a day in the future when music is outlawed and people have forgotten how to rock. But a savior arrives like Luke Skywalker/Neo/Harry Potter to inexplicably teach everybody how to defend people from the clutches of the killer queen. Yes, the plot isn’t fantastic and it seems to have been lifted from Styx’s “Kilroy Was Here” (which was probably lifted from somewhere else), but it is good fun for all of the jokes and musical references. And of course the music is fantastic. Unfortunately, the lead dude is not very commanding, but plenty of the other cast were really good. Yes, they did rock me.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – The book’s been out for a while, but I finally got a copy from my colleague and gave it a read. Yay, good fun, the seventh and final Harry Potter book. After a not-so-great fifth and sixth book, I didn’t have my hopes up too too high, although there was a lingering suspicion that she was using those as vehicles to set up a really awesome ending. The general consensus has been that the series ends quite magnificently, so I knew that there was hope. It didn’t start off very well, with a lot of bloody attacks and hopelessness, and our three heroes setting out on an aimless quest in the wilderness. One of the worst things about Harry Potter is that, despite the fact that we’re all rooting for him and sympathize with his terrible plight, we still have to settle for the fact that he’s really not the brightest bulb. This is displayed amply in the first part of the book where he just sort of stumbles along, and has to get rescued, repeatedly, by others. Poor kid. Another irritating thing is how so many things in the story begin to remind of other stories. There’s the aged mentor struck down by an enemy, there’s the point where the sidekicks fight and split up only for the disillusioned sidekick to come back in the nick of time to save the day, as well as the whole thing about the evil magical relic that they must destroy so that it doesn’t flood the world with evil. But it is nice to finally be reading a Harry Potter book that doesn’tfollow the pattern of other books – finish a Durley summer then go to Hogwarts and meet the professors and then have an adventure involving Hagrid and magical creatures. There’s also no more of this tiring “nobody believes me when I say that Volemort’s come back” stuff because he’s obviously come back, which is nice. The book picks up remarkably about two thirds of the way through when the mysteries that Rowling has set up throughout the first half of the book – and throughout the series, for that matter – start being explained. The ending is more or less satisfactory, although in the end Voldemort is somehow made to seem like the one who’s not a very bright bulb, which is also somewhat disingenious. I also found the last chapter a bit corny. But in the end it doesn’t really matter, because IT’S OVER!! IT’S OVER!! IT’S OVER!! IT’S OVER!!. Now I just have to start reading the series from the beginning with Zen, that’s all…


Monsters Inc.

– good fun. It takes a while to imagine a world-on-its-head situation where horrible monsters are terrified of cute little kids, or to comprehend a world where baby screams can produce electric power. The monster world is as charming as Bedrock in many ways, and the voice actors are all fine – John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn (James Coburn! Flint!!) and others. Happily, the film is not too long, and picks up after the first 30 minutes or so. Sure, 30 minutes is a long time to sit through intro, but other films take even more time to get going. But this film is really more for the kids, with very little for adults to dig, unfortunately, since Pixar films usually specialize in having something for both.


Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – I thought that this was just about the most repulsive movie I’ve ever seen, and not just because it was a musical! The blood and guts were a bit much and all of the throat slitting and waterfalls of blood was repulsively excessive, not to mention the awful, soulless “songs” that they sang! I thought it would be good fun watching Sacha Baron Cohen in a movie where he wasn’t Borat or Ali G, but the “duel” that he “fought” with Sweeney Todd just didn’t make any sense. Helena Bonham Carter, who is very attractive, is difficult to look at when she’s made up in Marilyn Manson corpse make-up. I thought that Tim Burton would try to infuse at least some sort of dark humour into this story of a sort-of-sympathetic serial killer, but I’m not sure he even tried this time around since the film is really as gothic as it wants to be. Not recommended.


Sunday, April 6th, 2008

Hey guys,

Not so long since my last blog. Maybe I’m getting back into it again…

This weekend was okay. Friday I worked very late, took a cab home late with the lilies that I bought for Naoko for our wedding anniversary (see pic below). They had stunk up the whole office all afternoon, and they smelled the cab up nicely too. Stayed up a bit reading, and then went to sleep. Saturday Naoko didn’t need to go to work, Zen didn’t have Codomo Club Japanese lessons, so we chilled out, had breakfast, Zen went off to play with his friends, we did some tidying up, napped a while in the afternoon, at 6:30 headed out to Bar Bar on Bukit Timah road to eat burgers and drink beer. Zen was not in a good mood mostly, kind of grumpy from lack of sleep. We did a lot of reading and homework with him on the weekend. It was good, we got a lot done, but we didn’t go anywhere or do anything special.

Sunday was mostly spend taking care of homework things and stuff like that. Tried to watch Monsters Inc. in the evening, but nobody was interested. Naoko is watching Death Note, the Japanese film. Zen watched Pokemon. I had fun reading old Spiderman comics. I can’t believe I didn’t get anything accomplished this weekend.

But I did do one thing – I got Zen onto YouTube. Watch out!! So here he is singing the national anthem in Malay (which is, after all, the official national language).

Zen’s new haircut:
Zen haircut

Peter and Zen’s new haircut, with lilies

Peter and Zen haircuts, lilies

Cossack dancers performing at a party:
Cossack 01

Cossack 02

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

Made some new musical discoveries today – Witchcraft, and The Sword. Witchcraft are the more remarkable. They’re young retro rockers who released this song in 2005, but make it sound like something from 1971. Wow…

Witchcraft – “Chylde of Fire” – I think I spotted a Fender Stratocaster in there somewhere, and an Orange amp

The Sword – “Freya” – can’t see much of the band, but they do seem to have a Gibson SG in their arsenal

Wolfmother – “Woman” – screaming rock, White Stripes derivative

Spitz – “Hotaru” – Japan’s best guitar pop band, like Coldplay but not nearly as dull. Their guitarist plays a Gibson Les Paul