Archive for March, 2010

Goooood weekend – Lips and Robb came too!

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Nice weekend. I got home late on Friday night after work, just in time to drink some gin and tonics and watch “The Last Supper,” a concert video/documentary of the Black Sabbath reunion tour of 1999. Saturday was lazy, but Zen and I had fun throwing the ball around. I played lots of guitar. In the evening we observed Earth Hour from 7:30-8:30 PM (I think the actual Earth Hour was an hour later, but it doesn’t matter). We lit candles, sat in the dark and sipped our drinks, I played guitar, and Zen was fascinated by the candlelight. It was actually really lovely. Zen said that he wanted to do it again Sunday night.

Sunday we chilled out at home a lot, I finished reading The Namesake, climbed up Bukit Timah hill. We hoped we’d be able to see our place, but there’s no place over there that has a lookout view of the area. Too bad. Had a cheap Indian dinner nearby and went home. More gin and tonics, yay!

Got home to find that the DVD of “Anvil, The Story Of Anvil” had arrived in the mail. It’s autographed by Lips and Robb and has a bunch of extras, I can’t wait to watch it.

Pete, Rob and Lipps

Pete, Rob and Lipps

cialis 20mg 2cp

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Some interesting things came to my attention recently.

Ad portrays young Singaporeans as fey liars



I truly don’t understand this ad, from Singtel’s “Express Yourself” campaign.  There’s a smiling young Singaporean wearing a Led Zeppelin Swan Song t-shirt (can’t be seen in this photo) who is saying “I tell people my all-time favourite band is Led Zeppelin. Truth is, it’s really the Backstreet Boys.”

What’s the point here? He prefers a band that was trendy a decade ago over a legendary rock group, one of the greatest of all time? That he lies to people about his questionable taste? That he wears a t-shirt for a rock band he doesn’t really care about? And this is how he expresses himself. And what’s the connection to Singtel? That young liars should express themselves with Singtel? Probably in SMSs that say “my all-time favourite band is Led Zeppelin”? Someone at Singtel’s PR agency is seriously off his/her rocker.

Nothing happening in Singapore. Move along, move along

Nothing happening in Singapore

Nothing happening in Singapore

This is the front page of the Straits Times today. The Saturday paper is the thickest of the week and probably the single most widely read newspaper all week. The front cover this week shows a handsome young family who were born in India and have become permanent residents (quasi-citizens) in Singapore. The accompanying article “Almost Singaporean” goes into issues with reactions to changes to PR entitlements and can be read here (the article is classified in the “Breaking News” section), but it’s not the contents of the article that raises question marks for me but its choice as a headline article. Did nothing else of importance happen recently?

Flipping through the paper you’d think not. There’s an article about a woman and her father both being charged with incest, the case of Tom Jones singing only two songs of a live set before walking offstage (?!?), and something about Myanmarese cockle gatherers in Thailand.

Books, CDs and DVDs

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Wow, another pile of books and a CD to review.

CD review:

The Pinholes

The Pinholes

The Pinholes, “Acoustic Sessions” – Great Singapore funk ‘n’ roll, these four guys make some great songs. I’ve seen them live twice, and they were really great, wide-smiling fun. The second time, on the eve of their flight to Austin Texas for the South by Southwest music festival, I bought a hard-to-find CD release, “Acoustic Sessions.” The songs are sedate, which is not what I’m accustomed to. Basically, most of the songs sound like Bob Marley done at a non-reggae tempo, and there’s so much joy here. “Never Gonna Take My Life” is a beautiful singalong song with familiar-sounding lyrics and sounds, warm and loving and friendly. Well-known anthems like “Shake & Bake” and “Longlive Rock & Roll” are good fun, and songs like “Programme” have a wondrous classic rock ‘n’ roll vibe to them. I love the Pinholes, and I always will.



Sade, “Soldier of Love” – Finally another release by the most beautiful woman in show business. I’ve been a fan from the beginning and have all of her albums. All of them are stunning, song after song. This one is no different, except for the fact that it comes a decade after the last one (her album releases have been timed as 1984, 1985, 1988, 1992, 2000, and now 2010). The approximate doubling of time between releases means that we might not get another one until 2030, when Sade (pronounced Shar-day) will be 71 years old, means that this one will need to tide us over for some time. The songs are beautiful, and very focussed on her voice and the plain, simple messages that she has, more often than not with simple production values. The opening song “The Moon and the Sky” is somewhat Spanish-sounding, and it’s quite heavily-produced (but not over-produced). Melancholy. “Soldier of Love,” the title track, is very theatrical, but also hypnotic. “Morning Bird” is boring, while “Babyfather” is a pretty song about parenthood that sounds like a duo with Bob Marley, and a child’s choir thrown in. “Long Hard Road” is a simple song with vocals, acoustic guitar and drums. Beautiful. “Be That Easy” is similar, but a bit more upbeat, while “Bring Me Home” is just as melancholy as “The Moon and the Sky”. “In Another Time” sounds like something from the “Stand By Me” soundtrack and is quite jazzy, with plenty of saxophone. “Skin” is a bit sedate, while album-closer “The Safest Place” is a good ole beat-pounder to make the recording memorable for more than Sade’s hypnotic voice, which commands any song she’s ever added her voice to.

Rudra Brahmavidya: Transcendental I

Rudra "Brahmavidya: Transcendental I"

Rudra, “Brahmavidya: Transcendental I” – This band makes what could be called Vedic metal, meaning that they play aggressive grindcore with themes from Hindu scripts and legends originally written in Sanscrit. They sing in English as well as in Indian tongues (I guess maybe Hindi, Sanskrit or possibly Tamil). The CD starts off with a great track of religious singing in Hindi, gorgeous female vocals, then gets into some serious hardcore riffs and scary sounds. Lovely hardcore, but certainly every song sounds about the same, except the beautiful vedic tunes intersperses (tracks 1, 5, 13). “Amrtasyaputra” is a great pounding track, and it just gets better and better. “Hymns From the Burning Chariot” starts off with drone and tabla and male Hindi vocals, before jumping at the throat with savage grindcore. “Meditations at Dawn” starts off with guitar and tabla, with female vocals in Hindi, mellow and beautiful. “Advaitamrta” is good fun, as it rock and rolls with aggressive, growled lyrics. “Immortality Roars” is something a bit different – it’s in Hindi but Rudra’s lead singer sings it, accompanied with drone and drums. “Reversing The Current” is pretty regular hardcore, as is “Venerable Opposites.” “Avidya Nivrtti” is almost anthemic, and is pretty good, driving grindcore. “Not the Seen But the Seer” is also pretty standard grindcore. “Adiguru Namastubhyam” is something you’d hear in the temple, and “Majestic Ashtavakra” is hard and loud and a good album closer.

Book reviews:

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson – I initially bought this book out of frustration; I had a coupon to buy a book at Borders, a store I now despise, but they had none of the books I wanted to buy (Tintin and the Alph Art, Zombie Survival Guide, etc), so I bought a book from the display near the cashier, a book I had heard about and was curious about (I’m drawn into all “global sensation books”, if for nothing more than to try to understand their popularity) and was quite sure I’d like. I was right. The book follows the life of Mikael Blomkvist, who is an interesting fellow, and who bears some similarity to the book’s crusading journalist author – who I now know made it a personal mission to bring down right wingers and neo-Nazis, and who lived under death threats due to this (brave). The fact that he wrote this trilogy in his spare time simply amazes me, just as the fact that he died on the eve of the publication of the first of the three books depresses me.

The book starts off with Blomkvist on trial for a libel he’s foolishly allowed himself to be tricked into committing; this, and all the establishing stuff, occupies the first 50 pages of the book, even though it has nothing to do with the murder mystery at the book’s heart. No matter, there’s a leisurely pace throughout, and with time we eventually grow to care about Blomkvist and his odd entourage of life-friends and associates. We also meet Lisbeth Salander and slowly get to know her. The first part of the book is about him, then it’s about her, then it’s about them. Then, eventually, at its own leisurely pace, we find out about the mystery, and the aging industrialist who wants to find out what really happened 40 years ago. Great.

The book eventually boils over with thrills and chills, and it’s bloody good fun; the fact that it all takes place in Sweden, a country I’ve never explored, makes it oddly exotic.

One of the strange things about the book is Lisbeth Salander; she is described by reviewers as a fascinating, sexy, riveting creature. I’m not really impressed throughout, as she seems like dozens of pouty adolescent girls I’ve met over the years, a non-personality of sorts; of course, it’s not until the end of the book (and all throughout the next) that she really becomes interesting.

Funnily enough, I did manage to guess the central mystery of the book at some point, and that almost never happens; but what I couldn’t predict was how interesting the structure of the book is. To say too much would be to give things away, but I’d like to find out how often (other than in the Lord of the Rings) this has been done in bestselling literature.

One criticism of the book – I’m mystified why Larsson puts so many brands/product placements (7-Eleven, Jack’s Pizza, etc) into the book. Is this something he did, or is it a liberty that the publishers took knowing that the author had passed away? It would be interesting to find out, because it doesn’t seem like Larsson’s style to allow commercial concerns to have a place in his work.

The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Stieg Larsson – This was the first book in a very long time that I would think, when seeing how many pages were left before the end “I wish there were more,” i.e. “I wish I wasn’t so close to the end, I want to read more”. Just like the other book, the first fifty pages have nothing to do with the following 600. In this book, we learn less about the background story of Mikael Blumkvist and more about the mysterious background of Lisbeth Salander. We almost comprehend how a Mensa-level brain can be mistaken as a mentally undeveloped social outcast.

Once again the book begins in a leisurely fashion, telling this story, telling that story, then in a lacksadaisical fashion describing what Lisbeth Salander eats in the morning, how she hangs around her apartment, how she hacks into something, how she learns something else, how she wanders into the expose of prostitution rings, and then how she haphazardly becomes the target of a national manhunt as she’s fingered as the main suspect in a double murder.

Larsson introduces several more interesting characters into the plot, including a blond hulk (that’s HULK, not hunk), a sadistic psychologist, some bikers, some leather dikes, and a police investigative unit. While the hulk is interesting, he’s also a bit of a liability – how can an antagonist who can be spotted from a kilometer away be stealthy?

The book is episodic, and Larsson gives attention to characters, only to abandon them after only a short stretch. He also allows a plot that doesn’t quite make sense, murky motivations, and a sparse connection to the main crime of the book – the Eastern European sex trade. An Estonian prostitute is brutally murdered, but it’s not clear in the end who is guilty, except by association and some circumstantial evidence.

On top of this, we do see some expert operatives making classic blunders. For example, are we supposed to believe in a situation where a sharp mind like Lisbeth Salander can become too deep in concentration to hear the rumble of approaching Harley Davidson motorcycles. Well… I don’t think so.

But the book was better than many I’ve read recently, and I did love it dearly. I want to read the third one. I just hope its plot is a bit tighter than the second one, but I’d fear not – by the time he wrote it, Larsson was running out of time.

Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, by Phillip K Dick – Believe it or not, the first book I’ve ever read by Phillip K Dick, although I’ve seen a bunch of movies based on his books (Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck, A Scanner Darkly). The story starts off describing the life of a major celebrity and his lifestyle – casual sex partners from Hollywood hills, romps in Venice, drug indulgences and plenty of crazy, surrealistic living – before his life becomes surrealistic itself. He manages to cope with a descent into anonymity and all sorts of weird escape-the-cops-with-the-weird-stranger-who-just-befriended-you. Yeah, right. At the end, there’s an odd, cowardly encounter with the policeman of the title, and then some sort of crazy “ten years after, this is where the story’s proponents ended up” sort of thing. Groovy.

The Namesake

The Namesake

The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri – A wonderful, easy read. Well-written and not too self-consciously poetic or exotic, it tells the simple and not too-heartwrenching tale of Gogol Gangali, born to Bengali parents in a suburb of Boston who grows up relatively happily, but eventually develops the usual insecurities about his heritage and his name. One odd thing about the book, which occasionally irritates, is how each part of the book seems to be “narrated” (although it’s done in the third person) by a different character, by three of the four members of the family and then eventually also by an outsider. There they are, all the passions of young life, the hopes and the dreams, the ordinary conflicts, and the poetry of daily life. No aliens attack, there are no major catastrophes, just the rituals of preparing food, preparing for holidays such as Christmas and thanksgiving (although there are Bengali festivals as well), and the changing nature of family. Nice.

DVD review:

The Last Supper

The Last Supper

Black Sabbath, “The Last Supper” – I’ve had this DVD on my shelf for a few months, never had the chance to watch it. Finally, on Friday night, I did.  GREAT STUFF!  But how could you expect anything less…

Basically, the DVD shows a concert and interviews with the band at the start of their reunion tour, and all four original guys are there, looking a little older, but only Bill Ward noticably different – he’s chopped off most of that hair and beard and looks like a pretty typical guy-at-the-pub… except that he’s BILL WARD, the legendary drummer of the greatest band that ever played! All the members are in fine form, and the songs are great: War Pigs, NIB, Electric Funeral, Fairies Wear Boots, Into the Void, Sweet Leaf, Snoblind, After Forever, Dirty Women, Black Sabbath, Iron Man, Children of the Grave, and Paranoid.

Of course, Ozzy is amusing, but it’s also interesting – and scary – to hear about the guys talking about how zonked they were on drugs. Bill claims he can’t remember anything about the “Heaven and Hell” sessions, which is amazing – it’s a great album. There’s an interesting scene when Tony, who’s probably told the story a million times, tells the tale of how his fretting hand was badly mutilated in an industrial accident and then actually shows off the prosthetic fingertips that have allowed him to continue on as one of the really great guitarists of our time. Then there’s some pretty warm joking around, like when they make fun of Bill for claiming that Black Sabbath were poineers. Yep, that’s right, get on the chuckwagon, feed the horses, that kind of ribbing. “Life and death, man, life and death.”

Learned a few things I didn’t know yet, which is basically about how bands that the guys had been in before Black Sabbath were called Rare Breed, and Mythology. Ozzy had attracted Tony and Geezer by putting up a sign that said “Ozzy Zig requires gig.”


Sunday, March 21st, 2010

It was a busy week, I had a long business trip in China. I flew off at 3:30 Sunday afternoon, came back Saturday morning at 6:30. It was a busy trip, but good. Monday, Tuesday Wednesday I had bank meetings in Shenzhen and Beijing, and Thursday and Friday there was our own event in Shanghai. I ate great Chinese food and drank beer, champagne and whiskey. Shanghai is a nice town, and the bankers were cool.

When I came back on Saturday morning, I just slept. Zen did his homework, and because he was a good boy I gave him his present – Star Wars lego. We enjoyed building it together, it didn’t take too long. Then we went downtown and I got some new glasses. That day was the last day at Zen’s school of one of his teachers, he’s known her for over two years so it was a little sad. We got home and ate Naoko’s pizza, drank beer, had some gin ‘n’ tonics. Got to sleep before 11:00, slept until after 8:00. Got a lot done, including a bunch of work. It rained torrentially all afternoon, so Naoko and Zen didn’t climb up Bukit Timah Hill like they’d planned. We had dinner, then went for a walk, and I did some more work. What a long day.

Zen was very funny. He was joking about Manchester United, talking about “man chest hair.” Then he made fun of David Beckham, saying it sounded like “back ham.”

Here is a pic of the bread that Naoko baked today, she made it with Guinness beer!

Naoko's bread

Naoko's bread

YouTube playlists

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

This week was really weird.  I sent a journal to print, I did tons of other stuff, worked late hours. Tuesday Zen was a good boy, but Wednesday when I came home exhausted from getting the magazine done I found that he’d been a bad boy and sulked off to bed already without his dinner, I didn’t even see him that night.  Crap!

But he seems to have regretted it, and ever since then he’s been exceptionally good, blazing through his homework, polite to us, cooperative and never complaining.  Great stuff.

Friday we had a parent-teacher meeting, and we were pleased to see that Zen’s teacher is a charming, young gentleman with a great spirit, much different from the dour mesdames that have been teaching him in past years. He made it sound like Zen was his model pupil, his classroom monitor who’s very sensible, who plays well with other children but also concentrates and focuses on his work when he has to. His weakness is in Chinese, his third language, but even here he is not the worst-performer. But in his heart, he’s not interested in Chinese, so unless he has a change in heart learning Chinese will be more about going through the motions for him.

I’ve been spending some time here and there making YouTube playlists, and I’ve discovered some darn cool music is available.  Not really any videos here, by the way, just mainly static pictures or slideshows, the point is really to listen to the songs whlie you’re doing something else. Make sure you’ve got the playlist open in its own page (not its own tab) in your browser or the continuous play feature won’t work. Check these out:

Japanese band “Ogre You Asshole.” A bunch of Modest Mouse fans, for sure.

Danzig discography.

German psychedelic rock band Epitaph. Great!

Judas Priest discography. Check out the prog psychedelia of the first albums:

King Crimson’s first albums. In case you were curious:

Ministry discography. Pretty much all of their stuff except “Dark Side of the Spoon”:

Pixies discography. Yay, Pixies!

Welcome to Venice. Legendary hardcore compilation:

Saw the Pinholes!

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

Finally got a chance to see the Pinholes, finally got a chance to check out Home club on the Singapore River.

The Pinholes are going to South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, they will be playing on March 19th, and need to raise some money.  I got there just after 10:00, one of the opening acts Et Cetera were playing, two foreigners – one on drums, one on guitar – were playing and making some noise.  Some technical problems, they could have sounded better I suppose (the guitarist could have), but they have a great act and are very tight, clearly been doing it for a while.

The Pinholes got onstage and set up, and slowly, while we thought that they were soundchecking, they started to groove.  They had new members, and were not as tight as I remembered them before, but lead singer Mohjo did a great job of entertaining the audience with his patented weirdness.  He really is a great front man.  I also bought a Pinholes CD, “Acoustic Sessions.”  Check out a video I took, and a pic:

Pinholes are go

Pinholes are go!

Pinholes are go!

Zen and I got haircuts today, check them out!!

Two handsome gents.

Two handsome gents.

Naoko and Zen

Naoko and Zen