Archive for February, 2009

Rocket Men!

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Came across this great clip from Family Guy, shows Stewie’s tribute to William Shatner’s infamous tribute to Rocket Man.

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the original:

The value of research…

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Very busy week. My busiest day was on Wednesday, when I had five events. Luckily, the first four took place in three buildings that were 50 metres apart, so that was easy to manage. The first was a coffee with a banker, next was lunch with a global bank (lots of Chinese food, very noisy venue), then an interview with an IT company, then a local bank’s 2008 results (not too shabby), lastly there was a party with a big private bank in the National Museum of Singapore. That was my first time back in it since they renovated it. It used to have sleepy old world charm, but it’s been dusted off and modernized with a glass annex, escalators, all that jazz, so it’s half old and half new. Great, let’s compromise the centuries, then we’ll have the best and worst of both worlds!

Killing time, I hung out in Grammophone and made a big mistake. I found a Cream DVD at a good price and bought it without looking carefully enough at the packaging. I thought it was vintage cream from the 1960s, but when I opened it up I saw that it was from a recent reunion concert. And when I looked carefully at the cover, I saw that it has the date in 2005 of the show hidden in the hard-to-read psychadelic writing.

This is what I was expecting:

This is what I got.

Stupid me.

DVD review


Cream: Royal Albert Hall, London, May 2-3-5-6 2005 – The best thing about the DVD is the cover, which looks like an old Haight-Ashbury poster advertising a gig at the Fillmore East, the three members of the band looking in their 20s (rather than their 60s – Clapton was 60, Jack Bruce was 62, Ginger Baker was 66 – as they are onstage). Nowhere on the outside packaging does it say that the concert was recorded in 2005, other than in the cover graphic, there are no still pics from the show either on the back with the song list and DVD features.

I’m a casual Cream fan, and my interest is more in the “vintage look and sound” I expected from something archival. Knowing that I wasn’t going to get that, I still did watch about about four songs. The music is good, the sound not so good, and the sight of three aging hippies is unappealing, most especially the absurd close-up of Ginger Baker’s stockinged foot as he hits the bass pedal. He looks more like Margaret Thatcher’s late husband Dennis than a rock ‘n’ roller. Jack Bruce seems quite frail, while Clapton looks exactly as you remember him from the past 20 years – the signature hairstyle, the beard and glasses, he looks about 20 years younger than Bruce and Baker. I might skip through this to see if the extras have anything of interest, but I certainly won’t watch all of it. This is for fans only, people who remember the band when they were releasing new albums, people who maybe did see them in the day. I will probably see if someone else wants it, or just throw it in the garbage. Very disappointed. I should have done my research.

Crazy Japanese rock drama!

Friday, February 20th, 2009

I can’t believe how outrageous Detroit Metal City is. The trailer is very promising – will this movie be so totally hilarious I might lose my mind?

They have a great song, with a great title.

It sounds a bit like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, doesn’t it? “Higher Ground”? Maybe the Chilis meet Rob Zombie meet Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The UltraFuckers should do a cover of this song.

Apartment Zero

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

I can’t believe it – one of my favourite hard-to-find films is now available on YouTube!  Check it out – “Apartment Zero”, filmed in Argentina in 1988 with a young Colin Firth.  Enjoy.

Zen Blagojevich

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

I bought lilies for St Valentine’s Day for Naoko, yay.
Naoko’s lilies
Lilies Naoko Zen

It’s that politician from Illinois – Zen Blagojevich!
Zen Blagojevich

Seventh weekend of 2009

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Had a great, mellow week at work.  Had a few lunches, talked to some bankers, and my understanding of the world improved.  Finally finished the David Geffen book, and will start reading the train book that my boss gave me.  Oma and Opa went to Hong Kong on Thursday, we’ll miss them, but I have already heard from them, and they’re having a great time.

Here are some pics from Wednesday:





DVD review:
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page – No Quarter/Unledded: From the offset, this is probably the least impressive Led Zeppelin product that I own. Opening scenes are of scenery and nature, eagles crying, rivers; then, at the top of a waterfall, there appear Robert Plant and Jimmy Page performing “No Quarter.” Robert looks okay – a little old, perhaps – but Jimmy is sprawled out in a suit that looks an acre wide, and were it not for the trademark hair he would seems more like the ghost of Peter Grant than Jimmy Page. But despite all of the mock enchantment, the song seems a bit naked without the monster drums and riffs. I’m disappointed, of course – it’s one of Led Zeppelin’s best songs and probably the most drastically underestimated composition in their playbook, and they lost the opportunity to make an impact; on top of all this, it’s also a song that John Paul Jones had a large part in (so much so that it becomes the track in The Song Remains The Same that was incorporated with Jones’ fantasy sequence), which makes his non-inclusion in a project named after one of his main songs a bit of a tacky decision on the part of Robert and Jimmy.

From this slow start, the video switches to a live stage setting and the band goes into a great version of “Thank You” and the painful “What Is And What Should Never Be.” Seeing Robert and Jimmy onstage with a drummer who is not John Bonham (and who is the bass player who is NOT John Paul Jones?) is a bit odd, but you get over it soon when you hear the cornucopia of North African musicians who are playing along with them. Great, great, great. The drummer does a fine job, playing “Four Sticks” with four drumsticks (two in each hand), and other drum jams bare-handed. Besides Robert and Jimmy, the band has Charlie Jones (Robert Plant’s son-in-law) on bass, and Porl Thomson, formerly of the Cure, on guitar.

One of the surprises of the set was when the band played “The Battle of Evermore” with Najma Akhtar, an Indian singer, doing the part sung by the late Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention – it works, partially because you can’t be sure if she’s singing in English or another language. A few of the songs are performed on a hill with Welsh musicians, giving “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” an amazing Celtic feeling (probably the reworked number that turns out the best). Present at the filming is an actual black dog.

Jimmy played a couple of shiny new Les Pauls, but also a double-neck Ovation as well as a weird custom-made three-neck object (6-string, 12-string, mandolin). With these heavy instruments, he’s often seated. This adds to the appearance that he is in poor health, although for some songs when he does get up and swing the Ovation around it looks pretty awkward – maybe it’s better that he stay seated. Like The Song Remains The Same, the camera lingers perhaps a bit too long on Robert Plant… but since he is by far the most dynamic person onstage, I guess it doesn’t make sense to complain too much about this point.

One interesting thing about the DVD is that it contains songs that don’t appear on other Led Zeppelin DVDs, songs such as “Thank You”, “The Battle of Evermore,” “Gallows Pole,” “When the Levee Breaks,” “The Rain Song”, “Four Sticks”, and “Friends”. There are also some cool new songs. “City Don’t Cry” features Robert and Jimmy jamming with four Moroccan musicians in a courtyard; “The Truth Explodes” is done MTV-style (“Where The Streets Have No Name” perhaps?) in a Moroccan parking lot with some amps, and lots of local people of all ages having a great time. “Wah Wah” is more courtyard folk drone, the Moroccan musicians sing along too. “Wonderful One” is probably the best of the new songs, it’s very soulful and beautiful. Besides the disappointing “No Quarter”, another song that disappointed was “When the Levee Breaks”, which was remarkably tuneless. Others were much better: “Since I’ve Been Loving You” was so good that Jimmy cheered up and gave a big baby-faced grin (finally – it was only 58 minutes into the 93-minute video); “Rain Song” with Jimmy’s acoustic guitar and a full orchestra was lush and beautiful; and “Four Sticks” with the Moroccan orchestra and the snake charmer flute was great, the song is truly amenable to Eastern rhythms and the musicians don’t feel tacked on here the way they do on some songs. “Kashmir” was… all right, nothing special. They messed around with it a bit, giving it a quiet intro before getting into the two monster riffs that dominate the song. Nice Moroccan rock ‘n’ roll reprise at the end, which included a bit of “Rock ‘n’ Roll”.

The DVD has four extras, including an interview with Robert and Jimmy on a traffic island in London that mirrors a bit the interview between Robert and Peter Grant in The Song Remains The Same extras. Porl Thompson seems to be the interviewer (which would mean it was quite scripted), but I may be wrong. Robert is expressive, but Jimmy stutters a bit and doesn’t seem confident. They point out that “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is their best live song, and the evidence on Unledded seems to back this up (the song appears on all three of their DVD releases). “Moroccan Montage” is just that, a delightful series of video scenes from Morocco of the guys hanging out with people. “Black Dog” was performed at the ABC American Music Awards, it’s energetic but a bit cheezy as well – check out Robert’s “captain” jacket. They also tack on the video for “Most High” from Robert and Jimmy’s poorly-received “Walking into Clarksdale” (1998), a song which wasn’t performed on Unledded. The video is a by-the-numbers spooky freak show that is sort of a blend of Heironymous Bosch (see also Metallica’s “Until It Sleeps” video of 1994) and the Sadako scenes in Nakata Hideo’s 1998 Ring movie. Not something you’d expect two music legends to be happy to have their names associated with.

Book review:


“The Operator: David Geffen Builds, Buys, and Sells the New Hollywood”, by Tom King – The story of Hollywood’s richest, most influential man, is a very interesting read.  It also includes one of the most interesting introductions that I’ve ever read (when is an introduction ever interesting?) in the way it recounts the author’s challenges in even writing the book, by showing how David Geffen veered from being very supportative of the book to withdrawing all support, something which becomes a well-recognized pattern in Geffen’s life (as described by King, at least) and a thesis for the book itself. The book goes back to Geffen’s grandparents, but spends more time with his parents – where they came from, how they met, and how Geffen’s American father brought his Ukranian mother back from Tel Aviv to start a life in New York. The book shifts amazingly to Geffen’s youth, tells stories of his relationship with his brother (which gets cut off eventually), his failed attempts at school, and eventually his rise from the mailroom of a talent agency to the top of the agency, to a record company, to a movie studio, to a media group, and eventually to his foundation of SKG Dreamworks.  The story ends in 2000 afte Geffen sold Geffen Records and founded his own media group with Stephen Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, leaving off as the group struggled to make a profit.  Mentioned is American Beauty, which became the first of a string of Oscar-winning films.

The book’s strength is in recounting Geffen’s relationship (sometimes loving, often exceedingly stormy) with hundreds of media executives as well as the actors and musicians that provide material for the entertainment world. Battles, arguments, strategic maneuvers, and lovers quarrels are all recounted, often in an amazing blow-by-blow, word-for-word sequence.  Geffen’s temper is legendary, and I get the sense that I’d probably not enjoy a meeting with the man.  The book also gets into his philanthropy, and his work with Democrats and the Clintons especially.  Rahm Emmanuel is mentioned, I wonder if he’s helping Geffen do more in the Obama administration.

Geffen’s homosexuality is, of course, a large part of the book.  Struggling with bisexuality as he searches for a female companion that he can marry, have kids with, and present to the world, but of course also spending his energy on handsome young men as well.  Strange how he nearly married Cher.

Me on See Yen Be Sea

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Pete, the talking head.
See yen be sea

Here’s a nice clip of Zen reading Chinese. Oma and Opa also get a chance to show off some of the Chinese that they’ve learned in Singapore. Mum seems to prefer localised tongues like Hokkien and Cantonese, while dad is more academic with his Mandarin.

Here’s an amazing clip. I manage to separate a banana from his cojoined brother. It was a tricky bit of surgery, but the two now-separate bananas are now living happy, completely separate existences.

Here’s my newest playlist: FM’s “Black Noise” release. This is the band that featured Nash The Slash.

The young Bowie was so amazing! “All the tall short people/ all the fat skinny people”

Someone’s messing with David and Kurt. Very funny!

the Siamese banana

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

It was a quiet weekend, we didn’t do much: Zen had his softball and Japanese lesson and swimming lesson, one night we ate gelato, and we sat by the pool on Sunday drinking and chatting. On Sunday I got a haircut.

Oma and Opa came back from Bali on Thursday, so I quickly burned a DVD of the trip for them and we watched it Saturday night.

Saturday I went to IMM and finally got Naoko the green banker’s lamp that she had wanted for such a long time. Yay!

On Saturday morning, Zen and I went on a shopping expedition for his Bakugan toy and for bananas. We got the bakugan, and also a surprise when we looked at the bananas – two of them had been born joined at the seam. Conjoined twin bananas!

geeks going shopping

Bakugan and the co-joined banana

Siamese banana bunch

The “banana” with a regular one for comparison. Seems pretty ripe, we better eat it soon. I’m sure it will be yummy!
Siamese banana close-up

The Terror of Tiny Town

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Oh my God – I can’t believe that someone’s put The Terror of Tiny Town online!!!!!!

Vanishing Point… not up… must see this movie…

No need to listen to the radio or buy CDs ever again

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

I just discovered the YouTube application that I’ve been dreaming about for years (maybe not years, but at least as long as I’ve been watching YouTube). YouTube Playlists. It’s now really easy to create a playlist of songs and then listen to them one after another. As long as your connection is fast and you don’t get lags, it’s a radio-like experience, except that you can control the experience!!

Last night I was listening to The Eagles’ first few albums one song at a time. I could create a playlist and listen to the whole “album” if I wanted to. I think I’ll set that up now and see how long it takes…

Well, it took about 90 minutes to do seven Eagles albums. Not too bad. Here they are:

Eagles, “Eagles”

Eagles, “Desperado”

Eagles, “On The Border”

Eagles, “One Of These Nights”

Eagles, “Hotel California”

Eagles, “The Long Run”

Eagles, “Hell Freezes Over” (just the new tracks)

Eagles, “Long Road Out Of Eden”

Sure, the Eagles are a boring country rock band, but I don’t feel like I should criticize them too much without having listened to ALL of their songs… and it’s not like I’m going to actually go out and BUY them!!

Here’s my experimental playlist, full of rarities. Enjoy.