Archive for April, 2009

Birthday Party

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Well, I turned 40.  I didn’t exactly have a “party”, but it felt like a party, because it was such a great day.

I had taken the day off work, as I am wont to do on my birthday, and I woke up at 9:00, Naoko and Zen came over to me and woke me up with kisses and wished me a happy birthday. Yay. First good news of the day was that one of the agents that I had written to wants to read my manuscript, wonderful. I did some work in the morning, while Zen did homework, and we had lunch. After lunch, Naoko gave me the present from my parents, which she had been holding onto since they left in February. It was very well wrapped, so I didn’t know what it was, but I opened it and it was a bottle of gin! Yay!! And a shirt!!! Yay!!!! We jumped into a cab and went to Vivo City to go see Detroit Metal City. Wow, Vivo City was empty, and we nearly had the theatre to ourselves. The movie was funny, and a few times I laughed out loud. After the movie we bought a new iPod. It’s not really a birthday present for me, since I already have an iPod Shuffle and don’t need a new one, but Naoko wants to have one, so now we need one more. The new iPod Shuffle is very nice, but it actually has a few features that are not as nice as the old one! Basically, when I sync it into my iTunes, it doesn’t update the information of “last played”, a feature I like and use. I can’t figure out how to change this in the settings, and it looks like there is no option to allow it. Odd. After that we did a bit more shopping, and I bought a new pair of jeans, a new pair of shorts, and a new shirt. Took a cab to Fair Price where we picked up a cake (free – I had a voucher) and some groceries. Funny – the bill came out to $40.04. Got home, Zen came, then we all took the buss to Bar Bar Black Sheep on Bukit Timah Road for burgers and fries and beer. Yay! Got home, called Oma and Opa, then I went to sleep late.

The rest of the week was super busy. But I got a lot done – I wrote 14 articles, which will come out in the next two magazines, which is great.

Movie Reviews:

Detroit Metal City – This was a real treat, since you don’t often get to see a movie about Japanese rock ‘n’ roll, or about death metal. The story is about a young songwriter who goes to Tokyo to make it as a musician, but gets caught up in a band that is the opposite of what he wants to do musically. The songs he writes for himself are totally silly “trendy” love songs, whereas the songs he does with the death band Detroit Metal City are about killing, death, demons, rape, murder. Both of them are over the top and caricatured, and he’s a bit of a silly twit really. The best parts of the movie are when Sir Johannes Krauser is onstage in his make-up, because that’s when it gets really outrageous.

The Sun
The Sun – One of the strangest movies I’ve seen in a very long time, it is about the final days of World War II and the life of the Japanese emperor Hirohito. I am not sure if he really spoke in a strange, affected way, or if he always made an O with his mouth and jutted his lips out, but that’s what you see in the movie. Made by Russian director Alexander Sokurov, the film has a small cast and limited locations, making it feel like a stage play.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time – Yet another movie about sensitive girls and time travel, the story is exactly like the title describes. Makoto is a sensitive tomboy who hangs out with her two male buddies, playing baseball after school. Through an accident that is explained later, she develops the ability to leap into the air, causing her to return to a moment in the recent past so that she can solve some small problem or other. They are generally quite trivial, but she does save a life or two. She also engineers relationships, while also learning about her own love.

Book Reviews:

Loop, by Suzuki Koji – The sequel to Ring and Spiral, Loop is not really a horror story like the other two, but some sort of medical mystery that plays with alternate realities, destiny, medical proof of the existence of god. It creates a fascinating world, which is set in the year 2040 although you would never realise it if it weren’t stated explicitly. Of course, when you get someone creating such a fascinating world, the problem is that there are so many possibilities of things that should have happened, or been explained, and there are many avenues that the book doesn’t go down. The resolution is also quite silly, and a bit too hopeful to be realistic. This may be the reason the book has never been filmed – movies based on Ring and Spiral were released in Japan, but Ring was a hit and Spiral was a flop. This makes sense – Suzuki’s grand plan to move the story towards the events of Loop were a bit confusing to viewers, and the low budget knockoff sequel to Ring, called Ring 2, proved to be fantastically successful. Of course, with the movie world of Ring shifting away from the grand scheme Suzuki had in mind, there was really no going back and filming Loop. Probably better this way – I think that a film version of Loop would be more popular than even Spiral had been.

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman – I’ve never read anything by Neil Gaiman, and I’m not sure that this is a good start. A kids book, the story follows the life of a young boy whose family has been slated to be wiped out by a secret society. He escapes the fate of his family and is adopted by a graveyard full of ghosts who protect him and nurture him to adulthood. Having grown up in a graveyard and raised by ghosts turns him into something of an odd little fellow, and he has a few adventures and misadventures, the most interesting of which occur when he resolves to go to a school. The book is also well-resolved, but by rushing through 15 years of history, it does feel like Gaiman passes quickly over many many interesting episodes that could have been fleshed out. This could have easily become a full novel, but as it is it’s just a nice, quick read.

Singing Opera

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

Wow, I just saw the most amazing YouTube video.  This is Susan Boyle singing on Britain’s Got Talent.  Just watching the looks on the judges face change from one of cynical amusement to genuine astonishment is, in itself, worth watching the video for.  Of course, it does seem a bit staged – did she audition, or is this the audition – and the debate over “why are we so shocked that someone homely-looking can actually sing is a legitimate one, but try to watch this without shedding a tear nonetheless.  The YouTube link is an internet sensation – the New York Times reported on April 17th that it had 21 million hits, and when I watched it on April 18th it had well over 22 million.  Interesting how they’ve disenabled comments – there’s probably been an obnoxious overflow of things people want to say about all this.

Of couse, they discovered a similar talent a few years ago – Paul Potts.

Hey, dad, look – it’s Bruno!

Friday, April 17th, 2009

the Bruno movie Trailer
Uploaded by truman_show85

the new Music Start website is up!

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

Happy news – I got my new website up! It’s to promote my new novel, since I’ve finished the manuscript and am now trying to find an agent. It’s called Music Start.

Other than that, it was a boring three-day weekend, although I must say that it was fun doing something I usually don’t on weekends – read a lot of fiction. Friday Zen went with his buddy’s family to the zoo and we hung out at the house, I did some errands, Zen did homework, I took him to the mall. Naoko and Zen watched “Saiyuuki”, and then after Zen had gone to sleep Naoko and I watched Murakami Ryu’s “69″. Saturday we were invited to an Easter egg hung on Sentosa, so we went by public transportation to Vivo City nearby Sentosa to hang out for a while. When we were there we got word that the party was off, meaning that we didn’t really need to go even to Vivo City, since we accomplished nothing there except to get out of the house for a few hours. While we were there we had a massive torrential downpour that was quite scary, but we eventually bought our sushi and snacks and went home and ate in front of the TV, a picnic, something that we’ve probably never done. Later we all watched “Bubble e Go!” Zen was complaining about a headache and a fever coming on when he went to sleep. Late at night, we discovered that he was sleeping and very hot with a fever, but we gave him some medicine and luckily when he woke up he was fine again. Sunday we just hung out at home and Zen went to his softball and his swimming lesson.

Movie reviews:

Bubble e Go! Time Machine wa Dorama Shiki – a silly movie about time travel that aims to save Japan’s economy by preventing the bursting of the asset price bubble in 1990. Somewhat ponderous about Japan’s banking problem, with some pretty funny/trivial time travel sequences – the boom of the bubble with money everywhere is contrasted sharply with 2007 when average people are chased by loan sharks because money has become a huge problem. Cameos by Ijima Ai, possibly her last before she died in late 2008, and Ijima Naoko (no relation), two very famous names in Japan who were just starting out in 1990.

69 – This film covers about 69% of what happened in the brief book by Murakami Ryu, his autobiographical follow-up to his brilliant “Almost Transparent Blue.” The book is very funny in the way that it veers between teenage reality and teenage fantasy in 1969 in a small town next to a US army base. Main character Ken is after girls, fame, and rock ‘n’ roll, which means that he has to find a difficult balance between doing what’s right for his friends and classmates (and the pretty girls in school), and what’s going to make him cool in their eyes. Leaves out lots of the interesting bits of the book, such as the wooing of the girl, the organisation of the rock festival, but the parts about the uneasy truce with the town gangsters and the high school communist cells is interesting.

Ju-on – A creepy horror story about a haunted house. Yes, that’s all. That’s the only thing this movie is about. People enter the haunted house, and bad things happen to them. No background, no story, no history, no resolution, no plot, just bad things happen. Kind of like it would be in a real nightmare. The haunted house is very scary itself that you don’t really even care about the reason why the ghosts want to hurt people. Which leads to the weakest part of the story, which is when one of the characters stays away from the house… and the three zombie schoolgirls hunt her down. Where did the zombie schoolgirls come from anyway?

Book review:

Catch 22, by Joseph Heller – Why did this 570-page book take me a month to read? Is it because I only read on the commute, is it because I often had work-related stuff to read on the commute, or is it because it’s a tricky book to read? Paragraph by paragraph, Catch 22 is probably the funniest book I’ve ever read, some really hilarious bits. It’s difficult to describe its hilarity, somehow, but the example below provides a pretty good description of its general wackiness. This is from a scene when the chaplain is being taken away by a colonel and a major and he asks “What have I done?”

“Why don’t you keep your trap shut and let us ask the questions?” said the colonel.
“Don’t talk to him in that say,” said the major. “It isn’t necessary to be so disrespectful.”
“Then tell him to keep his trap shut and let us ask the questions.”
“Father, please keep your trap shut and let us ask the quesiotions,” urged the major sympathetically. “It will be better for you.”
“It isn’t necessary to call me Father,” said the chaplain. “I’m not a Catholic.”
“Neither am I, Father,” said the major. “It’s just that I’m a very devout person, and I like to call all men of God Father.”
“He doesn’t even believe there are atheists in fox-holes,” the colonel mocked, and nudged the chaplain in the ribs familiarly. “Go on, Chaplain, tell him. Are thre atheists in foxholes?”
“I don’t know, sir,” the chaplain replied. “I’ve never been in a foxhole.”
The officer in front swung his had around swiftly with a quarrelsome expression. “YOu’ve never been in heaven either, have you? But you knnow there’s a heaven, don’t you?”
“Or do you?” said the colonel.
“That’s a very serious crime you’ve committed, Father,” said the major.
“What crime?”
“We don’t know yet,” said the colonel. “But we’re going to find out. And we sure know it’s very serious.”

Taken as a whole, it’s a bit hard to figure out what’s going on, although by the time you get to the end of the book you do start to realise that the reason why it doesn’t make sense is that he tells some parts of the story backwards: you’ll learn an outcome that puzzles you because it came from out of nowhere, but throughout the rest of the book it’s referenced often enough that you begin to piece together what actually happened. Heller’s thesis is fascinating, if a little adolescent: everything and everybody is insane, especially during war. But because he takes it to such an extent – you’d have to be crazy to want to fight, you’d have to be crazy to want to kill, you’d have to be crazy to fly air force missions, you can only get out of the war if you’re mentally unstable but if you were rational enough to want to get out of the war you could not claim insanity; also systems are insane, bureaucracy is insane, commerce is insane, the military system is insane – it provides him with so much material that he has no problem filling a whole book about the insanity of a single army unit. In the end, it seems that I enjoyed the book in spite of myself. Now I want to see the movie.

Happy Anniversary to us

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Well, another weekend gone, another month behind us, another season gone to the wind. Today was Naoko and my wedding anniversary, 12 years of togetherness and laughter and blissful memories. We started the day off right and had breakfast, lunch, some work, some swimming, and then went out to dinner at Bar Bar with Zen. Wonderful.

The happy couple. Photo by Zen.

Zen ‘n’ fish ‘n’ chips.

Double burgers

Lookin’ great.

BBC article

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

&color1Cool, I got mentioned in a BBC article this week.

What a week – I came home at 7:30 on Monday, 9:30 on Tuesday, 11:00 on Wednesday, after midnight on Thursday, and Friday I got a break – I came home at 10:00. But it was fun – Monday Peggy and her friend came, Tuesday other friends came for food and drinks.

I listened to a lot of Butthole Surfers this week. It was magical. I lost my mind. Check out this magical “Buttholes in Bed” video. Part 1 is a harangue by Gibby, which is entertaining in its own right, but this one is more interesting, in particular for the five-part harmony on the acronym “L.S.D.” I like how it cuts off on my favourite word…

This one is interesting too. I uploaded a bunch of songs onto YouTube recently, and one of the guys in one of the bands I uploaded sent me a note. Here’s a video of Love Love, his main gig, in action:

Also, here’s the video for “Summer Breeze.” It’s a Seals & Croft song, but I’m haunted by the Type O Negative version (minus the last two minutes, which seem a bit unnecessary):

Movie reviews:

Charisma/Karisum – Don’t, don’t, don’t watch this movie. It is stupid and pointless. It is about an evil tree, $10 million, scientists, forest rangers, cults, detectives, non-sequitar violence, guys who say “oh…” a lot, and plenty of other totally pointless stuff. Your two hours will be better spent watching random YouTube clips. I haven’t seen a sillier movie since “200 Motels.” It makes “El Topo” look like a plot-driven blockbuster. Memorable lines of dialogue go like “this is totally stupid,” and “this makes absolutely no sense at all.” Kind of like the movie. I’d recommend “Showgirls” over “Karisuma.” But… if it came to a tossup between “Battlefield: Earth” and “Karisuma”, I’d probably pick… “Karisuma.” It’s bad, but… actually… it’s not as bad as… “Battlefield: Earth.”