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in arts and media |

Need some escape from real life. Luckily the hunt is on. No, it’s not some walking dead program from the zombies’ pov. It’s a on bbc and a nature program focused on predators hunting their prey. Exec producer Alastair Fothergill:

the kill itself isn’t interesting, because once animals have killed, the story’s over. What is interesting is the build up, the strategies adopted by both the predators and prey


It’s not just lions and polar bears, the big predators. There was a sequence of the sparrowhawk hunting small birds and another on army ants, the most successful predator in the forests. Brilliant as only the bbc, and David Attenborough’s narration, can be.

I haven’t been able to catch all of the series so far. Knowing BBC Earth, it’ll repeat. If only iPlayer works outside the UK. Seriously, I’d pay a subscription, like I do to my cable company, to get iplayer.

in arts and media |

Found out too late (although, we were travelling) that there was a one-night showing of the last night of the proms in some US cinemas on 14 October. The actual last night was on 12 September so it was a recording. Hope the event was well attended, there’s lots of magic at the proms.

in arts and media |


We went to see Kristen Chenoweth in concert at the Chicago theatre. I don’t get many chances to see live concerts, and I think this is the second concert I attended in a theatre setting; I remember seeing kd lang in singapore when I was travelling there a lot. Oh and I saw Fleetwood Mac at Wembley when I was in college, that was it.


It’s also the first time I’ve been inside the Chicago theatre. It’s such an iconic landmark, especially in the city of its name. We had nice stall seats, about 2/3rds of the way down. A slight incline meant I was able to see the stage with no problems.

The concert was great. A 11-person band including string and brass sections. The musical director, Mary-Mitchell Campbell played wonderfully on the piano.

Ms Chenoweth herself. Ahhh. What a voice. We were treated to Moon River, Somewhere over the Rainbow, Popular and an emotional Bring Him Home. She was personable, lively and had great presence. She sipped from a Cubs cup and told of her steak dinner at Gibson’s, conncecting her with the audience. During her tour she always sings For Good with a member of the audience or an invited guest—this time she had a young local singer Jess Godwin, who is certainly destined for a great career. She also invited a group of local youngsters to join her for the last few numbers. And she shared the stage with them, generously giving them credit and attention.

Pics not allowed, so here’s a youtube video of her singing.

in arts and media , how the day went |

I went to bed at 9pm last night, so no surprise that I woke up at around 5-6am. Had cereal bars and a nice cuppa. No particularly plans today, relaxed till almost lunchtime. Went to the laundrette then to the cinema.

I hadn’t been to the cinema for ages. Can’t even remember the last time, probably also at Crestwood. We saw Sicario. I’m so out of touch with what’s on that I haven’t heard of this film at all.

It was a very intense film. Set in the chaotic lawless world of Mexican drug gangs on both sides of the border with the US. Emily Blunt is the FBI agent who was volunteered into an interagency task force led by a dubious flipflop wearing Josh Brolin and a mysterious Benicio del Toro who was clearly involved but not from law enforcement. Blunt gave the audience their POV and we felt for her when she realised that things weren’t as black and white as she had previously believed. What the drug gangs were doing were certainly illegal, but what the taskforce was doing was too, so who was the bad guy?

The film was violent, very much so. But that’s realistic because we’ve all read about the mass killings and the missing schoolkids and the turf wars. It’s also realistic that conventional policing methods may not be effective against gangsters who were above the law or even controlling the police.

The performances were brilliant. Emily Blunt was a perfect blend of tough FBI cop and naïve citizen expecting law enforcement to follow the law. Josh Brolin, I didn’t recognise. He reminded me of surfer dude Jeff Bridges. The best performance IMHO was from del Toro, wonderful wonderful wonderful.

By the end, some of the problem had been solved but it was the tip of the iceberg. Other issues, especially Blunt’s character’s conscious, are unresolved at the end. That did not detract from the enjoyment of the film. It’s the sort of film that makes you think afterwards. As EW said in its review

Sicario is a brilliant action thriller with the smarts of a message movie. And the message is this: Are we willing to bend the rules and sell our souls to fight a war that will probably never be won?


Dinner was homemade beef taco. Minced beef, taco seasoning, refried beans, shredded cheese. It was nice, and hit the spot.

in arts and media |

Spotted via digg, a graphical visual representation of Chopin’s Etude opus 10 no 12 in C minor. There are so many others in the same youtube channel, not only Chopin but Bach, Brahms and even Beethoven symphonies.

The project and software is harmonic colouring, a method for assigning colours to musical pitches. They use 2 methods to assign colours. The first is the simple scale that starts with C:

C, C-sharp, D, D-sharp, E, F, F-sharp, G, G-sharp, A, A-sharp, B, back to C

The second is called the circle of fifths is based on frequency of pitch classes where the frequency ratio is approximately 3:2:

F, C, G, D, A, E, B, F-sharp, C-sharp, G-sharp, D-sharp, A-sharp, back to F


I understand the first method but not as familiar with the second method. Anyway, using these methods, a wheel of colours is determined. Then it’s just a matter of assigning colours to a score. They use a software called music animation machine. It’s really fascinating. This is Brahms’ piano quartet op 60 in C minor:


Talk about a symphony of senses.

in arts and media |


Everyone is looking forward to episode 7 when it comes out in December. I’m sure the build-up and the anticipation will be felt all the way across the Empire. The prequels will be, thankfully, not directed by George Lucas. I’m in the camp that thinks he messed up ep 1-3. So much so that I’ve pretty much blocked most of those films from my mind.

Some people are more generous. There’s an extensive essay, star wars ring theory, that argues that he used a technique called ring composition in the films, where themes and images are repeated. Some of the argument, and images in the essay, were put together by filmmaker pablo fernandez eyre who made a stunning video that shows the places where ep 1-3 echo ep 4-6. Fittingly titled, Star Wars Poetry:

I watched the video, then I watched it again. Then I watched frame by frame so I could take in both the top and bottom screen. And I try to remember the good things about ep 1-3, but can only come up with Darth Maul. I try. Mostly I remember Jar Jar Binks, the trainwreck that was Anakin and what the hell were midi-chlorians in relation to the Force? So I went back to the beginning of the video, where George Lucas says

you see the echo of where all is gonna go. It’s like poetry, they rhyme

and I almost believe he knew what he was doing and planning, and I forgive him a little. May be even feel sorry for him, that he’s misunderstood.

Thanks, gizmodo, for putting poetry in my feed.

in arts and media |


Cough is still bad, so stayed in all day. After lunch, mm came over to visit me to exchange souvenirs—from my trip to nola and her pilgrimage trip. She got me a fridge magnet from la verna, a shot glass from sicily and a cute holy family decoration from assisi, in addition to biscotti and my order of parma ham. I’d reminded her of directions to get to the friendly deli we visited in assisi to get the ham. She also brought me a mug from the book fair and a jar of manuka honey from her place. I got her a nola fridge magnet, big bag of popcorn from costco and biscotti from rubino’s. Naturally we will share my whisky and bourbon; total currently is 78 bottles.

We watched a dvd of Chiara di Dio, a musical dedicated to the life of St Clare, filmed at a performance at San Damiano itself. We loved that we were able to identify the location and rooms at San Damiano. A very moving story and fantastic performances from the young cast. It starts with Chiara on her deathbed, asking for a cherry, It’s August and cherries are out of season so how will the sisters get a cherry, unless with a miracle? With flashbacks, we see her story, from her life as a young girl in a rich family to her meeting with St Francis, her escape from her father’s home on the eve of her wedding, her consecration and the spectacular encounter with invading Saracens. In the words of the writer/director Carlos Tedeschi, the musical

brings out the humanity and the modernity of these two young people, Chiara and Francesco, an example for the youth of today despite eight centuries having passed. A model of how to break the mold, with the power and passion of youth without compromising its integrity

She cooked me dinner of pork ribs congee made with oatmeal in place of rice, what a great idea. We watched food and travel programs on tv and had a great time laughing and making fun of the inept presenters. How do these people get presenting gigs? One girl was cooking Indian food and seemed to be reciting a script: “add a little sugar, some flour” with a complete lack of passion for food and cooking. Yes, she was wearing a bright red cocktail dress and was a pretty face. Another one visited a safari park in Japan and her vocabulary seemed to be limited to amazing and interesting. “Oh the giraffe is so tall!” she’s definitely no David Attenborough.

in arts and media |


We went to see Kinky Boots the musical today at the Cadillac Palace theatre. I’d never seen it before, and I know it’s opening in London soon. The biggest draw is that the score is by Cyndi Lauper and it won 6 Tonys including Best Musical. The story is simple: a young man inherits his family’s shoe factory, finds out that it’s on the brink of closure, meets a new friend and saves the factory by producing a very niche shoe while in the process becomes enlightened and accepting.

The kinky boots in question take the form of said niche shoes, thigh-length sparkling boots that are sturdy and aimed at the drag queen market. The idea comes from the new friend, from the outside a flamboyant drag performer by the name of Lola, who is in fact Simon from Clacton. The young shoemaker, Charlie, together with his gruff factory colleagues, are initially uneasy in the company of Lola, but at the end they become a family.

Seems like we’ve been there before. The premise comes from

a line of charming but formulaic British screen successes, in which economic hard times and battered self-worth were alleviated by such means as a brass band (Brassed Off), a male stripper act (The Full Monty), ballet (Billy Elliot) and menopausal nudity (Calendar Girls)

Although the story may be considered predictable, the music is anything but stale. Cyndi Lauper did a great job, the tunes were poignant, catchy, beautiful and grand. The singing was all kinds of wonderful too. A lot of the action took place in one set (the factory) and at times the actor was the only person on stage. The solos were also spread out, with several characters given the chance to shine, and they did.

The only minor negative was the audio. The mics were uneven, sometimes too loud and screechy, sometimes not loud enough that we couldn’t hear what the actors were saying. The accents were inconsistent too. The setting is East Midlands, with some London and Essex. Some of the actors managed British accents better than others. Once I got over it, I focused on the story and music. Accents aren’t noticeable when someone is singing anyway. I noticed small non-British things that shouldn’t be there—a sign in Northampton won’t say “Northampton, England” (emphasis mine) and you can’t give only two weeks’ notice to fire people like in America—these aren’t negatives, just observations.

I was tapping and humming along throughout the musical. At the end, they got the audience on our feet and clapping along. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

onyourfeet01oriental onyourfeet02curtain

Task #7 of 101.1001 is to go to a new musical. Today I went to see on your feet at the oriental theatre in chicago.

There are so many new musicals that I’ve lost touch at what is showing and which one is new. On Your Feet is a show about Gloria Estafan and her husband Emilio: how they met, how they worked to become successful in the music business and how a bus accident almost derailed their lives and careers. Some reviews likened it to a feel-good tv movie. Although there are similarities to a tv movie, the energy, the music and the overall production pushed the standard much higher.

I can’t name a single Gloria Estafan (with or without Miami Sound Machine) song, but I could recognise the bigger hits when I hear them. And I did, the bigger hits. The songs I hadn’t heard of before were a revelation to me, I enjoyed them too. The dancing was great and the energy was infectious.

The singing. Wow, the singing. Ana Villafane plays Gloria, looks like Gloria, and sounds like Gloria. Superb. The other cast members were memorable too, from Josh Segarra who played Emilio and the family members: Gloria’s mom, grandmother, father and sister all excelled. The boy who played both her son and a dancing bar mitzvah boy was wonderful. At the end of both acts, the audience were on their feet, clapping and dancing, that was how much everyone enjoyed the show.

in arts and media |

After almost 9 years away, Mike Shinola and Fort Minor released a new single, Welcome. It’s available as a free download** or a paid mp3 (wonder how many people will go for the paid version vs getting it free). The 360º video is of Mike painting a giant mural made from 1000 blank vinyl jackets, which will be signed and sold as limited edition vinyl records. I’m not a huge FM or Linkin Park fan, but I can imagine there will be lots of interest and demand for the vinyl.

In Mike’s own words:

I didn’t intend to write a new Fort Minor song, it just kinda happened. It’s not part of a new album. It’s a song that I knew I wanted people to hear right now.

His full handwritten words:


I like the song. I think LP is too loud, but I’ve always enjoyed FM’s one and only album. Their big success Where’d You Go was one of my first running playlist songs. I’m adding Welcome to the playlist. I hope there is a new album somewhere down the line. It’s long overdue. Almost 10 years on hiatus, they really do practice what they sing:

Where’d you go
I miss you so
Seems like it’s been forever
That you’ve been gone

**the free download is available on their website, upon submission of a working email address. It’s of course for marketing purposes. I use a disposable email service for stuff like this.

in arts and media , in the news |

8.5km 1.12.30hr 8.32min/km plus 1.5km walking

I took advantage of a little breeze and cloud cover to go to the park. It was still a bit of a struggle as the temperature was high and I was dripping with sweat very quickly. Argh.

Need something positive, and I came across an article in medium called the superhero runner. The author’s son (age 5) is British and was born in Japan and lived there till he was 2.5 years old. Naturally he feels a connection with Japan. His parents are also avid runners so when his homework was about his own personal real-life hero, he wrote about Yuki Kawauchi, the “maverick” civil servant runner from Saitama.

Kawauchi is fast, very fast. 2:08 at the 2011 Tokyo marathon, multiple victories in a year and a member of the Japan world championship team. He is also one to buck the system. In Japan, professional runners are part of a coporate or university team. Kawauchi still has a day job as a government clerk, pays for his own expenses and generally does things his own way.

Great role model for a 5 year old.

Even better news is that after his dad tweeted his homework, the folks at Japan running news passed on the image and Kawauchi sent a response:

I’m not quite the fastest in Japan yet but I’m very happy to hear that English children know and value that I try to be competitive and to never give up. I will keep trying to really become the fastest in Japan. Thank you.

in arts and media |

This one has been doing the rounds lately, it’s Eminem’s Lose Yourself interpreted in sign language. It’s incredibly cute and uplifting. From the comments, it seems that the interpreter doesn’t always sign every single word, but rather signs the meaning and context, which is rather important in rap, where words machine-gun by very fast. The great thing about this video is that the interpreter Shelby adds her own movements and expressions to enhance the experience.

Even more uplifting is to find out that signing at concerts is nothing new. I’m so glad that deaf and hard-of-hearing people can also get to enjoy concerts.

As an aside, Eminem is my secret guilty pleasure. Great running songs.

in arts and media |

My dad didn’t used to like watching tv, he even didn’t like us watching tv when we were younger. Recently, he seemed to have a change of heart. Or it’s because we are watching more travel and food programs and he’s interested in those.


He was the one who reminded us that it was the final of AGT last week, and we all sat down to watch the finalists. Very deserving win for shadow dance group El Gamma Penumbra from the Philippines, with their touching tribute to mother nature. Performance until around 2:30, then it’s judges’ comments which can be skipped (unless you’re a fan of Mel C).

in arts and media |

mm keeps sending me videos with a religious theme, I don’t click on all of them. This one I did. I googled it too, the song You Raise Me Up even though it sounds like a traditional Irish folk song was actually from 2002. The street performer was Martin Hurkens, who won Holland Got Talent in 2010.


When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary
When troubles come and my heart burdened be
Then I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit awhile with me

You raise me up so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

It’s like Katherine Jenkins busking on the tube, even though it looks to be an official music video rather than something spontaneous.

in arts and media , being healthy |

London Marathon on Sunday. 35th anniversary of the first one, how time flies. And I remember the two winners at the end crossing the finishing line together holding hands, even though I can’t remember their names. I’m annoyed that it, like most major races, has been hijacked by charities. I recognise the need for charitable giving but forcing people to cough up or raise thousands of pounds as a condition of entry is ridiculous.

I didn’t watch the livestream, so I’m browsing around people’s home videos and interviews. The biggest moments for me are those of Paula Radcliffe. Starting with club runners, the first female club finisher at 2:36:55. No one cared that much about her time. The story of how a running store ran out of women’s running shoes after her world record in 2003 is one example of how she inspired so many to run.

I hope against hope that marathons don’t become over-commercialised and too focused on charities. The argument is I could race in lower profile races. That’s true. I do still want to experience the crowd and buzz of London one day.

in arts and media , going places |

flickr / conny liegl

Current musicals in London that I am interested in, and today’s availability at the “half-price” tkts booth at Leicester Square:

  • book of mormon at the prince of wales — not sold at tkts, there are more expensive seats available direct at the theatre
  • charlie and the chocolate factory at the theatre royal drury lane — £18.50-50.50 no discount
  • let it be at the garrick — £32.50 with discount
  • matilda at the cambridge — £36 no discount, I saw this in 2012, I definitely want to see it again and definitely think mm will like it
  • miss saigon at the prince edward — £28.50-38.50 no discount, saw it when it first came out (lea salonga!!), will be interesting to see it again
  • sweeney todd at the london coliseum — not at tkts, limited run closing on 12-apr; cheapest tickets are £86, I love Emma Thompson but…gulp
  • women on the verge of a nervous breakdown at the playhouse — £22.50-39.50 with discount

There are others playing I’m less interested in, like Beautiful, the Commitments, Gypsy, Jersey Boys, Lion King, Molly Wobbly, Once, Seven Brides; others I’ve seen already like Billy Elliot, Cats, Les Miz, Mamma Mia, Phantom, Wicked. The two I do want to see, Kinky Boots and Damon Albarn’s, are not on yet.

My personal preferences: the Book of Mormon, Matilda, Women on the Verge. The ticket booth doesn’t have tickets or offer discounts for the more popular musicals, not even on the day. Disappointing. I’ve always thought of the booth as a tourist attraction anyway, and now even more so with the new look booth and the twee phone box next to it. Seriously, apart from escort services, who uses phone boxes?.

Anyway, I think we’ll probably end up seeing Matilda, if we were to go to the West End. Which is more than fine with me.

in arts and media |

Spotted via adweek, a clever ad by AIS London for Skoda. Watch till the end. The black flashes are normal.

I mean, Skoda isn’t exactly attention grabbing. Which is why this ad was clever. It plays to the image of Skodas as the opposite.

Spoiler space:

in arts and media |

Was at mm’s to look at the travel books she borrowed from the library. She practiced the piano whilst I was reading, it was a nice background. The piece she’s learning now is Schubert’s Impromptu op 90 no 1 (d899). I always think Schubert is difficult and kinda boring, but this wasn’t. I like it. I like the C minor key.


Looking at the score, it’s difficult. Then again, everything that mm has been playing is difficult for me—she’s past grade 8 and I’m at approx grade 3 level.

in arts and media |

An upset stomach together with niggly aches and pains provided the perfect excuse to skip running today. I wasn’t entirely delinquent, I did 45mins on the stationary bike. Someone, somewhere posted that we should substitute elliptical or stationary bike for running by doing around the same amount of time with similar intensity. So, 6km was approx 45mins.

I tend to watch mindless discovery shows while on the bike, because it’s so old that the sound of the belt covers a lot of the sound from the tv. The shows tend to involve small groups of people fighting against each other in auctions to buy stuff cheaply, they then fix them and hopefully sell for a profit. The stuff range from old cars in Texas, houses in Arizona or abandoned storage units in California.

One theme that runs through these programs are how nasty most of the buyers are. There’s a lot of trash talk and boasting. Probably exaggerated for the cameras but by and large I find people on US reality tv to be rude egomaniacs. Of course everyone wants to win or get a profit, but they can’t seem to do that with even a modicum of manners.

Ambulance in Motion
flickr / benjamin ellis

If I can catch it, I watch 24hrs in A&E, which is as different to those trashy, trash-talking US reality shows as night is to day. It’s described as a medical documentary and is filmed in an A&E department round the clock for 28 days straight.

First of, it’s filmed at King’s. I’ve long ago gotten over the fantasy that I could have studied medicine there rather than chemistry. Some of my undergraduate friends lived at KC Hall over at Camberwell, so I know the area well. Even with gentrification, this is still a working class, gritty area. Not the posh Britain of Downton Abbey or Sloany Britain of Ab Fab or Privileged Britain of Sherlock.

One theme that shines through is the dedication of the staff, even though they are working in a busy, underfunded inner city hospital. I love the end when the patients are interviewed, most of them obviously having recovered. It’s been described as exploitative, then again which documentary, especially one that takes a fly-on-the-wall approach, isn’t? The patients and their friends & family are shown sympathetically. This snippet about a 5 year old with burns [youtube, can’t embed] brought in by her dad is typical of the realness and the professionalism of both the production and the staff at KCH.

in arts and media |

If there’s one creative thing I like doing and wish I were better at it, it’s graphic design. I can play around with photoshop to make decent-ish posters and templates and such like. I’m not confident enough, I feel a little intimidated and insecure because I’ve never had any training. I’m also a little hampered by old software. I try my best, and people seem to like the results.

designcard01mad designcard02keming

One thing that I’ve learned is the importance of layout. So I find myself nodding at these graphic design pun cards I spotted via adweek. Anyone with an eye for aesthetics will get the joke, and I especially like the one about keming.

designcard03comicsans designcard04helvetica

Probably my favourite font ever is frutiger. Like most people, I hate Comic Sans, which should only be used for children’s birthday parties. For day to day use, I stick with Helvetica or, gasp, Arial. I’ve even taught myself how to tell the difference:


in arts and media , being healthy |

It’s January. People make resolutions which inevitably include losing weight and exercising more. Newspapers and magazines are full of articles about the 10 ways to start running or 5 foods to eat instead of cake. The intentions are noble and grand; the tone of these articles at times seem condescending, but if it inspires someone, then it’s all for the good.

Except, apparently, women in the UK aged 14-40 are not exercising. Sport England conducted extensive research to find out that 2 million fewer women than men regularly participate in sports. Worryingly, there doesn’t seem to be such a big disparity in other European countries. They heard that one of the main reasons is that of body image and fear of judgement. With that in mind, they launched a campaign called this girl can:

to inspire women to wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgement is a barrier that can be overcome

The campaign includes videos showing real women of all ages, shapes and sizes exercising and enjoying the exercise. The beat of Missy Eliott’s Get Ur Freak On is combined with catchy inspiration quotes like “I jiggle, therefore I am” and “hot and not bothered” to get the inactive off their couches.

There are criticisms for the campaign. The ads have been described as clumsy and and having some of the worst typographic design you’ve seen in ages. The Guardian is disappointed that the campaign still plays into the norms of objectifying female flesh by referring to women of all ages as girls and using the familiar video formula

where highly mobile, athletic female bodies are performing for a male audience

I think that any campaign that gets people exercising and watching their health is a good thing. Healthcare shouldn’t be just about curing illness; it should also focus on improving health to prevent illness. Not enough money, resources or focus goes to the latter. With binge drinking in women increasing at an alarming rate, any effort to get them from the pub to the gym is worthwhile.


Will the campaign succeed? Let’s hope so. It needs more positive images and messages. I guess they had to use innuendos like “I kick balls” to grab attention when they should have focused on the friendship and camaderie of participating in a team sports. I like the one of the cyclist lapping everyone on the couch. I also like the one where a mum exercises in the living room with her kids [youtube]. There should be more emphasis on the benefits of exercise besides looks.

Will it change people’s attitude towards body image? That’s a longer battle to fight. I never understand the issues behind body image concern, although I know plenty of people who are worried about how other people see and judge them. I’m puzzled at why, for instance, mum spends so much money on eye gel, goes for dubious skin treatments and stands in front of the mirror for what seems like hours before going out. I try to tell her that no one on the street will give a damn about how her, and why on earth is she bothered about what the shop assistant thinks. I’ve come to the conclusion that people believe certain things and act in certain ways because they themselves are like that—people who are afraid of being judged on how they look are the ones who are guilty of judging others. This type of attitude is what needs to change.

Anyway, I have 6 miles to run this weekend. In my tatty t-shirt and cheap shorts. I will end up covered in sweat with my hair like a rat’s nest underneath my cap. I won’t look at anyone and I don’t think anyone will look at me.

in arts and media |

I just spent an hour or so voluntarily making myself cry (or weep silently) over a few ads. Of course they are heart-wrenching, they are the British Christmas ads, which are like the superbowl equivalent.

Top of the class is, as always, John Lewis. This year’s Monty the Penguin. John Lewis never, ever fails the GBP (great british public), they are as dependable as, well, John Lewis. Three tissues. (John Lewis is a well-respected, well-loved employee-owned department store. If I need something for the kitchen, or linens, or electronics, I will go to John Lewis first.)

Second is the gingerbread stall, a story of overcoming shyness, from Waitrose. One tissue, I think. BTW, Waitrose is a part of the John Lewis Group.

The Tesco, Boots and Mulberry ones are good too. I tried to like the Sainsbury’s one about the famous WW1 football match, but felt my emotions were too manipulated. Check out the rest at mashable.

Well, Happy Christmas anyway. I always say Happy Christmas rather tha Happy Holidays / Hannukah / Solstice / [other festive occasion in December]. Christmas is Christmas. It’s a time for families, food, presents, reflection and rest. The guardian had an article about new arrivals’ first Christmas in the UK and one of the interviewees, an Indonesian, said,

although I am a Muslim, I celebrate Christmas because it’s an important part of British culture and I feel it is respectful

Embrace the occasion. Forget unnecessary political correctness.

in arts and media |


I used to love Bones. I still do, but I don’t watch it often enough. To celebrate the 200th episode, dedicated fans made an amazing infographic that shows the 10 seasons by the numbers. For instance there have been 83 punctures, 67 gunshots, 57 bludgeonings, 28 poisonings, 26 suffocation and 92 unknown causes. Brennan tried to tell a joke 30 times, B&B kissed 36 times and “King of the Lab” was mentioned 27 times.

This is only a small part of the infographic. Full size here or at official site.

in arts and media |

When episode 4 came out, people saw the trailer at the cinema before the regular feature, that was it.

When episode 1 came out, people again saw the trailer at the cinema, but I think it was also on tv shows as the actors and George Lucas did the media promotion rounds. Not sure if it was available online, media companies were much more cagey about sharing stuff in those days. Plus people would have had to contend with dial-up speed. If I looked around, may be some geek would have posted about it on the then brand new livejournal site.

Episode 7 is coming out next year. The first teaser, on the official youtube channel has been viewed 9 million times as of today, and shared an enormous number of times on social media. Everyone watched it multiple times within minutes, hours of it being released. Each frame has been scrutinised and dissected. There are even fan adaptations, like this lego version, itself with 1 million views.

I must admit, I love it. It feels much more like classic ep 4-7 than stupid ep 1-3. Stormtroopers, X-wings, a Tatooine-like landscape, new faces that don’t look annoying, and look at that lightsaber! (still prefer Darth Maul’s double sided one.) I can’t not share this, right? One more year to wait.

in arts and media |

I’m so glad TAR is back. And the fan shout-outs celebrating 25 seasons. Phil in season 1, ex-racers at the starting line, re-visiting tasks. And at least a few racers who know the race, rather than generic YDC / models recruited by production.

I have pre-race love for the food scientists, the cyclists and the high school sweethearts. Looks like the dentists and surfers are strong racers who may go far. Let’s see how far they go.

Wow, 25 seasons. So many great memories. The slide in quality the middle seasons. The end of twop. Thank heavens for previously. I’ve decided to rewatch s1 on youtube. Sigh, so sad to see Nancy of Momily. RIP.

in arts and media |

New downloads from noisetrade. Free (optional tipping) music and books to discover new artists.

A sampler from sleeping at ast, aka Ryan O’Neal from chicago (no, not the actor). Comparisons to radiohead and nick drake, which is how I got to them through search on the site. I thought he sounded more like coldplay, which, depending on point of view, may or may not be a good thing. Personally, I like coldplay so I’m keeping the sampler. He’s also performed a few songs for films and tv.

On the homepage and top of the downloads list is delta spirit, similar to the shins and my morning jacket. A bit too loud for me.

A great new discovery is the rival, comparable to keane, the killers, MGMT and U2. No surprise there. Run Run, the first song from the album was actually the iphone 5 launch song and a pretty good addition to my running playlist.

in arts and media , being healthy , sports active , techtalk |

via giz

Imogen Heap is awesome. Not only is she a great musician, she is also working on an app called Run Time that customises a run. It takes ambient sounds like breathing, footsteps, traffic and even birds and layers them with a pre-recorded electronic track. The best thing is that the runner can adjust the tempo of the music according to stages of a run: slow warm up, walking, running, acceleration and deceleration. She demonstrates this perfectly in her video.

Run-time, the song is based on the app. The album Sparks will be released on 19 August.

The app is still in development. Depending on how much it is, I will likely get it. Although, I won’t lope around NYC like a crazy person the way she did.

in arts and media |

nick drake
ben dylan / flickr

A new book about Nick Drake, Remembered for a While, is coming out. Edited by Nick’s family and friends,

This is not a biography. It is, rather, an attempt to cast a few shards of light on Nick Drake the poet, the musician, the singer, the friend, son and brother, who was also more than all of these.

The book is £35, the deluxe edition at £150 includes a 10” vinyl of tracks from a 1969 John Peel session, photographs and other goodies. The guardian has one of the tracks available for listening. It’s brilliant and haunting and sad. Another great musician who died young. There are no known live recordings of Nick’s performances, so we only get to listen.

in arts and media |

We went to a concert by music lab, an orchestra of young and enthusiastic musicians. The concert was billed as multimedia, and there were slide shows and videos of artistic works created by other young people on a large projector.

The program opened with the orchestra playing Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune by Debussy followed by the Mother Goose Suite by Ravel. Good playing, and quite enjoyable. Then it was Ms Nancy Loo playing Rhapsody in Blue, she is a well known solo artist and teacher at the APA. The finale of the concert was KJ Wong playing the Asian premiere of Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky-Naoumoff. I’ve heard the piece before, but not in its entirety and it sounded very technical and difficult to master.

The main attraction of the concert was undoubtedly KJ, a sort of music wunderkid and the subject of a documentary when he was still at school. He is now in his early twenties, and presents as a mixture of arrogance and uncertainty and talent. Surrounded by almost screaming fans, of course.

For more on KJ, check out his channel or listen to him playing Etude by Emile Naoumoff. There are a few videos of other pianists playing plctures at an exhibition too, This one, audio only, is played by the master himself, Vladimir Horowitz.

in arts and media , going places , techtalk |

I’m working on sorting the cruise/Seattle/Vancouver trip pictures. From almost 3000 photos and videos I’m down to around 1600. Seattle set is uploaded and part of Juneau is uploaded. I have to wait till I get home to upload the rest because mum’s internet is too slow.

I made a few panoramas, not having the latest camera or iphone means I have to do it the old fashioned way in photoshop. I also wanted to make something interesting of margerie glacier calving. We were lucky the break was right in front of us when we were on deck, and with the camera in sports mode I was able to capture the action.

It’s easy enough to make an animated gif in imageready, although it’s been so long since I did it, I had to google the steps. With modern technology, everything that can be done with expensive software can be done with an app, usually free. So I made another one using gifmaker, the only downside is that gifmaker couldn’t handle large file sizes and I had to resize the images to 600x450. Otherwise, no difference.

But wait, there’s more. How about turning the animated gif into a video? This is what gfycat does. They converted my 11M gif to a 2M html5 video, or gfy (“jiffy”) and I can embed it.

Okay, this post has turned technical. Turning back to the glacier. We were on deck 14, port side, and everyone on the ship had their eyes and ears out for possible calving events. We were expecting a boom, but it was more like a crack followed by scratchy noises, we knew a calving was imminent. A cheer went up when it finally happened. So pleased we were there to see it.

in arts and media , eating and drinking |

I’m a FoL, aka a Friend of Laphroaig. Each bottle of Laphroaig includes a code that entitles the holder to a small 1 square foot plot of land in and around the distillery. I think I have 3 or 4 plots in my account. Anyway, Laphroaig is definitely a unique, acquired taste and I love it especially since I had a great time when I visited the distillery.

I’m still working through my bottle of PX cask, and now they have a few new releases. The Select is a NAS aged in a combination of Oloroso sherry butts, American white oak, hogsheads seasoned with Pedro Ximenez, quarter casks and first fill bourbon casks. Very reasonable at £35. Then there is the 2014 cask strength, batch 006 coming in at 58% and the 2014 Cairdeas currently available exclusively to FoL.

They also embarked on a global marketing campaign, asking the question:

how would you describe Laphroaig to someone who hasn’t tried it before?

They filmed people (actors? real people, I’m skeptical) tasting a brown liquid poured from an unlabelled green bottle. Comments like spicy, fishy, seagull’s armpits and “I think they smoked it too long” actually describe Laphroaig pretty accurately. The fun part is to see people trying to pronounce Laphroaig, snerk.

in 101.1001 , arts and media , challenges |

As soon as I read about Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle as part of our cruise research, I knew it was a must visit. Situated next to the iconic Space Needle, the museum is a showcase for the works of glass artist Dale Chihuly. I remember seeing the glass ceiling at the Bellagio in Vegas and thought it was brilliant.


The museum is organised into separate galleries that holds pieces that are colourful, intricate and breath-taking in detail. The first gallery has an early piece, Glass Forest, with vertical blown glass lit by neon. Just beyond features a room with an American Indian feel, of large glass bowls/ baskets and a tapestry made from blankets.


Then it’s the sealife room with a huge tower of blue seaweed and golden sea creatures hidden in the swirling mass.


The Persian Ceiling gallery had flowers in all colours suspended from the ceiling. Lighting effect brings the colour to the walls and floor of the room. This was the first room where I felt a big wow.

The next gallery was even more wow-worthy. Called Mille Fiori, Italian for a thousand flowers, it was like a big garden where everywhere you looked there was something new, something to study and discover. Many different shapes including spheres and stalks and leaves. There was just enough messiness for it to feel like it was based on a real garden.


Talking about spheres the next gallery was all about them. The Ikebana and float boat had perfectly formed glass spheres apparently inspired by blowing glass into a river in Finland. After the large hectic garden, this felt more peaceful as if the rowing boats were really floating on a river.


The small room next had chandeliers, and it brought us to the Macchia Forest. The pieces shaped like bowls were actually very technical in terms of colour. Instead of simple solid colours or patterns, there were unexpected specks scattered in the glass made by rolling the molten glass in other pieces of coloured shards before blowing. Truly great.

sea313chihuly sea316chihuly

The second part of the museum was the outside garden. The Glasshouse, the centrepiece of the museum, dominated the garden. A 40-foot tall conservatory with a 100-foot long piece in autumn colours. Seen from the right, the Space Needle loomed over it through the glass panels of the glasshouse.


And then we reached the garden, with a mixture of real plants and glass plants. A new vista at every angle and every perspective. Many of the spheres reflected the Space Needle in the background, giving a different backdrop.

A great find, a great museum, so happy we visited.

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weather weather

I’m almost packed, just last minute electronics and stuff to put in. Flight’s checked in; car booked; hotels booked; even parking at the cruise terminal is booked; printed everything that I could. I got replies from a couple of hotels I sent enquiries to, but it’s too late. If I make an enquiry, don’t take 2 weeks to respond, you’ll lose your potential customer.

Looks like the weather is pretty warm, mid- to late-teens, cooler in Alaska and in the mornings. Hoping for more sunshine. Probably just shirt sleeves in Seattle and Vancouver then my fleece rain jacket for Alaska. Mum is taking warmer clothing—she feels the cold much more than me. Happiness is flying to North America, with the 2 pieces luggage allowance it’s basically double what we can take usually.

What I’m looking forward to: scenery, scenery, scenery. A different cruise company, hopefully none of disgusting passengers from we-know-where like on Med cruises. We’re sure to go looking for places that serve king, snow and dungeness crab, have identified a few restaurant possibilities.

Talking about king crab, Discovery is celebrating its 20th anniversary by showing the first episodes of their most popular shows. I managed to catch The Greenhorn, S01E01 of Deadliest Catch. This is one show I’ve followed on and off over the years, and have tried harder to catch the last few seasons. Amazing to see all the boats from the first season and even more amazing that the Hansens and the Northwestern are still here, after 10 seasons.

There’s a crab boat excursion on board the Aleutian Ballad, which has now been converted to a tourist destination with crab pot demos and such like. It’s nothing like the original boat, and I don’t think sitting on plastic seats in calm waters is the same as watching the show. It’s in Ketchikan and we want to spend our half day there exploring the town so we haven’t signed up for any excursions.

in arts and media , eating and drinking |

Went over to mm’s after her piano lesson to hang out. Pretty much doing nothing, I read travel and food magazines while she practiced then we watched sherlock holmes. Up to season 3 now. We could both have downloaded or streamed it but preferred to watch the dvds together, it’s more fun.

She requested lamb rack so I marinated it overnight in olive oil and rosemary. She has a small oven and initially I forgot to switch to upper and lower mode, but in the end it was all good. Succulent and nicely seasoned.

We were both tired, and we must have been tired because neither of us felt like or mentioned alcohol all evening.

in arts and media |


Rhett Miller was a reddit AMA recently. Now that brings back memories. My friend Mary, who I regrettably have lost touch with, introduced me to the instigator. I listened and enjoyed the music, especially Things that Disappear, but never looked him up. TIL I learned that he is a member of a Dallas band Old 97s and they just issued a new album to coincide with their 20th anniversary. The first single is appropriately called Longer than You’ve been Alive, which starts:

We’ve been doing this longer than you’ve been alive
Propelled by some mysterious drive

It’s available as a free stream and download. Click to listen and fill in box to download:

in arts and media |

Prompted by this bell’s whisky ad spotted at gizmodo, I’ve been coming across great drinks ads lately.

I don’t drink bell’s but this ad, for the south africa tv market, really tugs at the heart’s strings. Now this is what a whisky is for, to celebrate something wonderful. A couple more ads after the cut.

in arts and media , outside interests |


A new free online tool from squarespace is a quick way to make a logo. A small avatar and thousands of fonts are available. The target audience seems to be

individuals and small businesses with limited resources to create a simple identity for themselves

Took me just a couple of minutes to come up with an invisiblecompany logo. Quite clean and using similar website colours (same blue but the orange text had to be sharpened to be more visible.) Definitely great for people who want something just for fun, or others without the budget to pay for art and design. The danger of course is that these logos will be instantly recognisable as created by squarespace.

The disclaimer by the company about individuals and small businesses came after some online backlash from designers. Fair, because it did seem to encourage people to bypass using their services, but unfair in the way they mocked the exact people who can’t afford, nor need their services. As one commenter said,
Yeah, it detracts from the quality of logos out there, but these people would be using clipart or dingbat fonts for logos if they didn’t have this tool

Or, gasp, comic sans. The designers up in arms about this tool seems to have forgotten that there is a whole sector of the market who knows nothing of design, and tools like squarespace do a lot to push them gently in the right direction. I’m still seeing new websites with terrible colours and layouts that hark back to the 1990s; not that I have a fantasic website, I know I need a redesign but I also know where I may be lacking.

in arts and media |

Kottke called this apple’s best ad ever, which is very fitting for the times. How many times have grown-ups shake their head at their teenager burying their heads in their iphones. Good ending to this ad.

The fact that many videos are now taken on iphones and other smartphones mean that there is a new phenomenon, portrait-orientated videos. Personally I don’t like them, and I tend not to take portrait-orientated pictures either. The ad showed the teen shooting in portrait but the playback was in landscape, which led to a twitter discussion about how wrong it was. There’s even discussion about human fields of view and other tl;dr stuff involving a NASA paper.

Back to the apple ad. Is it the best? Absolutely not; may be second best. The best will always be the 1984 superbowl ad, back when using apple products were not mass market.

And the best christmas ad? All of the John Lewis ads, the latest one, the bear and the hare another tear jerker.

in arts and media , family first |

Christmas fair at my niece’s school. Very very crowded with lots of kids, parents and friends. The main courtyard area was all food. It being the german swiss school there were bratwurst, pretzels, ham with sauerkraut, potato salad, raclette, 3 types of beer, Austrian prosecco, Swiss wine (yay!!!) as well as other food like sandwiches, waffles and asian food.

The gym had stalls selling christmas ornaments, handmade crafts and lots and lots of food. Chocolate, stollen, biscuits, homemade cakes, brownies, jams. Business was good, I scored the last 2 bottles of gluhwein and mum bought the non-alcoholic version. Sis worked the chocolate stall and by the time she finished they were almost out of everything.

The sports hall was full of games managed by kids from each year. There were flip the rubber chicken into the basin, shoot santa with a dart gun, net the duckies from the inflatable pool and many others. Lots of kids running around, lots of noise and energy.

I had some video fun again with instagram, this was at the stalls before they ran out of stuff to sell. Edited in iMovie, and added a music track — up on the housetop via uncle dave’s free christmas tunes. I think I prefer editing and saving to flickr rather than sharing from instagram directly. Gives me more control, although I lose some of the frame due to sizing.

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Instagram video experiment #2, christmas decoration at the mall. Went to dinner with mm, cc and am at a vietnamese restaurant at one of the malls. Good food: papaya salad, green curry vegetables, yellow curry fish, roast pork, two types of rice (ginger and coconut). Plus 4 hours free parking. Great to spend time with old friends.

in arts and media , eating and drinking |

We had a curry buffet lunch at dickens bar, one of the old school pubs at the basement of a hotel. Not a fancy hotel buffet with lobster and movenpick ice cream, this one is solid with salads, 3 different kinds of curry, turkey (thanksgiving?), pasta, fruit, cakes and a too-dry chocolate pudding. Had a 25% discount with one of our credit cards.

I was there early so I was able to survey what was available before everyone rushed to the buffet counters. Perfect opportunity to instagram!! Tried out the video function for the first time, to test against vine.

Vine came out in the beginning of the year (I think) and was hailed as the instagram of video; no surprise that instagram itself added video around June. Both are dead easy to use and, by the large number of videos already posted on both services, will only grow and grow and grow. Lots of informative comparisons abound, and techcrunch kindly gave us a nice table:


What I like about these apps is the ease of use, and because of the short duration, it’s almost essential to pause then move onto the next frame. Pausing on video function of a camera means a second file and you need to use something like iMovie to edit sequences together. Although I ended up editing 3 instagram videos together, it’s not the usual thing to do, just like it’s not usual or necesssary to photoshop instagram photos.

At first glance, there are no fundamental differences between the 2 services, however, because of the way they evolved historically, the user base seem to be slightly different. Techcrunch again,

Where Instagram’s user base is mostly made up of people documenting their feet, coffees, and pets, Vine has attracted a group of users who are pleased by the challenges set forth in the app

Interesting observation. I must admit most of my instagrams are of food, so I sort of fall into that stereotype. Contrast to my first vine of engrish subtitles on a korean drama dvd, which falls into one of those “so bad it’s good” categories. This spontaneonity is what I like about vine, but I’ll probably end up using instagram more — I’m already ingrained into its ecosystem, and its ability to edit, add filters and delete frames is useful; plus I’m not into the instant sharing culture of vine and twitter. Definitely don’t like the gif-like constant looping of vine videos, videos that autoplay are a pet peeve of mine.

I’m quite pleased with this first effort on instagram. The filter, graininess and choppiness give it a vintage feel, almost like watching an old 8mm reel.

in arts and media |

Ah, Morph. Sidekick to Tony Hart. So many hours of my childhood watching them. Mr Hart passed away in 2009, but the creators of Morph, Aardman Animations, are planning to bring Morph back. They have a kickstarter project for 12 new 1-minute online episodes. The £100 pledge is interesting — 60 minute Morph masterclass at google hangouts — I think my sis and niece will be tempted.

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Saw Gravity in 3D. No need to write a summary of the story, nor to repeat the massive amounts of positive reviews a simple google search will show. I find this comment from wired interesting, the reviewer described the film as a one-room play. I thought it was very apt, to compare the film to a play — with just 2 (technically 3, but…well) characters, one of whom is only there as support, it’s highly a emotional, personal drama set as a space thriller. There have been other one room films, but this one is set in a room that is endless, and the sense of claustrophobia / paranoia imposed by the universe is just as constricting as a 10x10 room.

After the film, mm asked what was my favourite part. Difficult to pick one. Hers is when Kowalski told Stone to let go which is of course the metaphor for her letting go of the demons in her life. Mine is early on when they were happily bantering and then the voice of Houston (Ed Harris!) abruptly told them to abort mission in the same calm tone he was bantering with them just seconds ago. That in one second, with a few words, so much would change.

Anyway, the Wired review heading is:

Don’t Even Read this Review, Just Go See Gravity

so, well, please do that.

in arts and media , techtalk |

One thing about not living in the US or UK is missing the new season programs. Some we get on local cable…eventually. They tend to get scattered on various channels, which means subscribing to each one. This can get pricey. The one must for me is TAR, which thankfully I get to watch 12hrs after it airs.

Mum found a way to catch new programs. Not going into details but so far I’m at ep 2 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which makes me very happy. I’m not big on comics, I watch the films whenever I can. Great to see Joss back, it warms my heart to see the “Grr-Argh” logo at the end.

Next up, Downton Abbey, Blacklist, Orange is the New Black and the required viewing of Breaking Bad.

in arts and media , being healthy |

Saw a Horizon documentary on the plane, Eat, Fast and Live Longer presented by Dr Michael Moseley which explores how certain scientists have used intermittently fasting as a method to slow ageing and improve health. From the extreme, where he went 3.5 days on just water, black tea and a 50 calorie packet of cup-a-soup a day; to a moderately extreme method that had him on alternate days of feeding and fasting. And finally to a 5:2 diet, where 2 days a week he restricted his calorie intake to around 500-600 calories.

Seems to be the dieting equivalent of HIIT. I don’t think I can do the extreme intermittent fasting, but it may be possible to follow the 5:2 regime. Even if it’s not as low as 500 calories, 800 or so may be less painful. A normal lunch and then fruit, veg or cereal for dinner. I just know that I haven’t been running or exercising enough and I haven’t been eating as healthily as I should either.

I have nothing in my fridge after our holiday, plus a storm is coming. So time to go to the market. Bought cabbage, tomatoes, and this silk squash that is a bit like cucumber. Also minced fish, tofu and bananas. The minced fish can be quenelled and dropped into boiling water with the green veg and tofu to make a light brothy meal. No red meat in sight. Pretty healthy, if I may say so myself.

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There was a mini Iron Chef marathon this afternoon. Four episodes from the original Fuji TV series in Japan, dubbed in English. These were the eps I videotaped when I was in NYC, during the early the Food Network days in 1999/2000. The tapes are probably still around somewhere although none of us have VCRs anymore.

A little dated, especially the presentation. And with the proliferation of food and drink programs in the last 10-15 years, we are all so much better informed and come with higher expectations. Still, we were riveted to the TV for 4 hours. OMG, everyone was so young!! I saw Morimoto on a Bourdain program recently and he’s grown in girth and stature. We saw the battle of Girls’ Festival, pacific saury, pumpkin and another ingredient I can’t remember. Morimoto once, Sakai twice and Kobe once. Would have loved to see Chen too. What nostalgia.

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Probably the only good thing about being here is that I get to watch TAR again. Half a day behind the US isn’t bad either, so I’m always up-to-date. And boy, did we have a great episode this week. Idiots who got eliminated went to some poor guy’s house thinking it was where they had to do the detour; then they bald-snarked for an unknown reason; and then when it was quite clear that at the roadblock they were one of the last teams, they decided not to use their express pass. Someone asked on twop which was more stupid: being eliminated with 2 immunity idols in Survivor or with an EP on TAR.

Lots of great camera work and editing as usual, this is the Emmy episode if the producers are smart. And Phil’s “Oy vey” at the end? Priceless.

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Went to a piano recital by 20 year old Piao Xingji. Very impressive. Started with a piece by a composer I’d never heard of, contemporary Charles Griffes. Then moved onto Brahms, Prokofiev, Liszt to end with Schumann’s Carnaval Op 9. There were 2 short encores, a nice way to spend 2 hours. Highlights for me were the Prokofiev sonata No 4 in C minor Op 29, and parts of the Schumann. The only complaint was that the complimentary red wine we had at interval was undrinkable. Besides, we only had 15mins so not enough time to drink even if it were drinkable.

in arts and media |

Since I’m stuck at home, I’ve been glued to the tv and have become addicted to an idiot abroad. I’m not sure if the humour will be understood by non-Brits, but it’s effing brilliant. The conceit is that Karl Pilkington gets sent to all sorts of places by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, Karl being the ultimate reluctant traveller. It’s very much a series of cruel jokes played on Karl by Ricky and Steve. I don’t know whether to sympathetise with Karl or laugh at him. I didn’t have sky when I was in London so I missed out on seeing them first time round. So tempted to get the dvd.

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At parents’ this weekend, just hanging out. It’s great. Mum bought a few new dvds so I finally got to see Les Miserables the film version. For me, it’s mixed.

The good first. I love the musical, have seen it several times in London, the first was over 20 years ago. There is a reason it’s one of the longest running musicals in the West End; millions of theatre-goers can’t all have bad taste. Yes, it’s a tear jerker. Yes, too many people die. Yes, the music is emotionally manipulative. But it’s Les Miz. It’s probably the best musical I’ve ever seen. So, with established storyline and music, the film already has a good foundation. I liked that film gives us a lot more in terms of visual richness that is impossible on stage. The dark streets of France, the bars and houses and sewers, and finally I can see rather than imagine (through creative lighting) Javert jumping to his death.

What I liked less. Some of the actors can’t sing. I know that the singing was recorded live and not dubbed later, it means that the actors’ shortcomings are highlighted. Russell Crowe’s voice is too high and too thin; Hugh Jackman overall was good but not all the time; I didn’t like the actor who played Marius (although I loved the one who played Eponine). Lots of reviewers’ praise for Anne Hathaway, I thought she over-acted in I Dreamed a Dream. Didn’t like the Barricade. On stage it was an imposing monster, on film it was a stack of abandoned furniture on a street corner, hardly important when it came support le revolution (though may be, that was the point). I read a review that called it Occupy Paris. Remembering that the original London production was hammered by the critics, it’s kind of auspicious that the film version is experiencing some of the same bashing.

All criticism aside, I’m glad I watched it but I’m also glad I watched it at home. There are simply too many well loved songs to sing or hum along, it would have been embarrassing in a cinema. Fantine’s I Dreamed a Dream, Valjean’s Who am I, Master of the House, Eponine’s On My Own, when little Gavroche started the first line of Do You Hear the People Sing, and of course Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. At the end, it’s the music that carried the film, just like it did on stage. At every stage performance I’ve been to, there is hardly a microsecond’s pause between the last note of the epilogue sung by the company and the audience leaping to their feet in applause. I wanted to do that after the same moment in the film too.

Then again, what I really want to do is to watch the 10 year anniversary concert again. Colm Wilkinson. Michael Ball. Lea Salonga. 17 international Valjeans. Whoa.

in arts and media |


I came across a review of book 1 of a comic series called charm school. Wow it brings back memories. Charm School is a comic series set in the town of Little Salem, where good teen witch Bunny has a perfect girlfriend in vampire biker Dean, until a dark, and very insistent faerie comes along causing chaos. It’s cute and fun and, as befit the series title, quite charming.

I was an internet acquaintance of the writer a long time ago, long before social media came along and made everyone connected. I had lost touch, and am very glad to come across this mention of her work. Amazingly, book 1 is listed on amazon at over $10, and checking my copy I note that the cover price was $2.95 for the 2000 edition. How the world has changed. I have books 1-9, I think it’s time to read them again.

in arts and media , eating and drinking |

I was watching 2 different Jamie Oliver programs. The first was his food revolution program where he was in an American elementary school and kids couldn’t even recognise a fresh potato, or tomato, or eggplant, or any fresh vegetable. They could all recognise french fries and fried chicken though. The second was an old Naked Chef program where he visited his old school in Essex. He brought out some buffalo mozzarella and asked the class if they recognised it, and most of the class said yes.

The point? It is a sad state of affairs in the US, where kids have never seen nor come into contact with fresh food. Is it typical? I’m no expert, but anecdotally, I can say that America is where I have found the greasiest, most processed, hugest portions of food as well as the least adventurous eaters. I must say, I’m not immune to a big steak or good pizza myself, but there has to be a balance between fast food and fresh, home-cooked food. And NO EXCUSE for parents for bringing up kids who can’t even recognise a potato.

It’s slightly better in the UK, though it seems that the trend is alarming skewing towards obesity caused by fast and processed food. At least people in the UK are more accepting of non-British food. Chicken tikka masala is the national dish, after all (and I say this with sarcasm because it’s certainly not a true Indian dish.) McDonald’s in France feels less like fast food than in America, it’s still McDonald’s.

Which brings me to another part of the world, where palates are developed early in life and food is for enjoyment, not just sustenance. On buzzfeed recently there was an article about a Japanese toddler called Rino who loves trying new food. The youtube channel is called Rino which eats world various dishes and ignoring the slight Engrishness of the descriptions, every single video on there is worth watching. Repeatedly. The construct is simple,

a few shots of food prep — pad thai in one video, a Spanish tortilla in another — then many many shots of Rino shoveling the food in her mouth, usually with total delight

There is no need to understand Japanese, the delight is easy to see. Watch this one where she tries pho. At 2:10 when she picks up a tail-on shrimp and takes out the tail. Then at 3:40 when she claims her meal as her own. And good manners too, at 5:58 when she says thank you. She’s 3 years old and other videos in the channel show her trying bibimbap, tiramisu and tortilla. Very cute.

in arts and media |

I was watching some music programs on tv, where a young musician was singing a well known song from the 1980s. The presenter asked him how he knew about the song and he said that it’s one of his father’s favourites. Ack!! Those are the songs from my childhood, and I realised that the singer wasn’t even born when I was listening to those music. Remember making your own mixed tapes and giving them to people or playing them in the car? I still have half a box of cassette tapes in my possession, I don’t even know if I can find a cassette player anywhere anymore. Feeling old. And then I read an interview with Stevie Nicks. It’s 40 years since Buckingham Nicks. Holy moly. Definitely feeling old. Anyway, I just had to go listen to some old Mac songs.

in arts and media |

So Disney buys Lucasfilm. The news was surprising, but then again not. There’s the Star Tours ride and Indiana Jones show at Hollywood Studios; and some of the themes touched by both companies’ films do overlap.

Some fans are aghast, not wanting change, not wanting the Star Wars franchise to become Disney-like (aka childish, predictable, too much sugarcoating). I get that. Will Princess Leia become yet another Disney princess? Will we get even more Jar Jar Binks soft toys?

Personally, I think it’s a good move. I fall into the camp of original Star Wars fans who absolutely hate, hate, hate Episodes 1-3. To me, George Lucas already turned the franchise into a second rate Disney with the prequels and the Ewok cartoons. Darth Maul was the only saving grace. So my take is, it’s about time someone else takes it over, inject some new ideas and give it back its edge. Yes I think Disney is capable of producing films that are a little bit darker. Plus, I’m glad that there’s the mighty Disney $$$ machine behind it that it will continue for many more years to come.

Anyway, on the Star Wars theme, here’s a fantastic flash mob by the WDR Radio Orchestra who treated an unsuspecting crowd at Cologne Wallrafplatz with a…treat.

in arts and media |


This is a fantastic deal. The idea behind the humble ebook bundle is pay whatever you want for 6 sci-fi ebooks, available in the popular formats, DRM free:

  • Invasion by Mercedes Lackey
  • Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
  • Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow
  • Pumpsix and other stories by Paolo Baclgalupi
  • Stranger Things have Happened by Kelly Links
  • Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

There’s a sweetener, pay more than the average and get two more books: Old Man’s War by John Scalzi and a graphic novel Signal to Noise by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean.

Of the six starter books, I’d only heard of Mercedes Lackey as an author and Cory Doctorow as one of the people at boingboing. But I have heard of John Scalzi and Neil Gaiman, who are I guess the bigger draws.

I could have paid a tiny amount ($1) and gotten the first 6 books, but the average when I saw the deal was $11.95 so it was a no brainer to shell out $11.96 for 8 books. I’m sure I’ll find something to enjoy; and even if I didn’t like them, it’s $11.96 I don’t mind spending. None of it goes to Big Publishers, the buyers can set how much is split between the authors, charities such as the EFF, and an admin fee.

The current average is $12.53 so it has been creeping up slightly. Almost 44,000 purchases totalling $550,000 since launch a week ago. Linux and mac users are more generous than windows users, heehee. There’s less than 10 days to go on this deal. They also bundle games, music and movies, I’ll be keeping an eye out for future happenings.

in arts and media |

bookcover bookcoverlondoners

Looking at flavorwire’s recommended october books, it occurred to me that this is a nice bunch of bookcovers. A little aghast that my favourite is a Tom Wolfe I’ll never read. The most intriguing author on that list, to me, is Chinua Achebe, not least because I just read a small article about the memoir and it seems to be one of those important books that one reeds to read.

On a separate note, the list of 50 best book covers of 2011 is also interesting. The only book on that list that I have is londoners, although the cover that won is only for the UK edition, in the US it’s a more boring, generic cover. The publishers are not doing the reading public justice, it’s not just Londoners who will get that the colours on the cover correspond to all the tube lines, there are lots of people around the world who have travelled to London or recognise the clever play on colours. Sigh. Publishers really shouldn’t pander to the lowest common denominator. Anyway, here’s a snippet towards the end of the Introduction:

The only definition of a Londoner I followed was the people you see around you. The ones who stock the Tube trains and fill the pavements and queue in Tesco with armfuls of plastic-wrapped veg. Whatever their reason or origin, they are laughing, rushing, conniving, snatching free evening newspapers, speaking into phones, complaining, sweeping floors, tending to hedge funds, pushing empty pint glasses, marching, arguing, drinking, kneeling, swaying, huffing at those who stand on the left-hand side of the escalator, moving, moving, always moving. It’s a city of verbs.

He’s still not quite a Londoner. He should have said Tesco’s, not Tesco. It’s always the doctor’s, not the doctor’s office.

in arts and media , eating and drinking |


All the palaver about Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth, I almost forgot about the other book published this year also called Sweet Tooth. Not a spy thriller, but a sort of personal-discovery-essay-history of sweets, aka candy, by Kate Hopkins, more well known as the Accidental Hedonist.

The kindle page has no kindle version available. I can get it directly on my kindle though. Strange. I haven’t gone through with the purchase, I wonder if it will work.

in arts and media , sports active |

I missed the parade of heroes because the movers were here packing and I barricaded myself in a corner in the kitchen. They were done by mid-afternoon. The flat is now full of boxes ready to be loaded to the truck tomorrow. I’ve gone for groupage shipment so it won’t be the container that arrives in the morning. They will load my stuff into the next available container and I may have to share with other people.

The movers left the TV and bed. I looked at the schedule and there is nothing worth watching. No Clare Balding, no Lexi guide, no overly eager 5-min segments explaning the difference between the two types of rugby wheelchairs, no one running incredible races or swimming their hearts out or playing blindfolded ball games. And sob no Last Leg sob. #isitok to have gotten addicted to the most un-PC coverage of disabled sports?

in arts and media |

Took a little break from the Paralympics to catch the last night of the Proms. Always a boisterous and emotional and patriotic event, it didn’t disappoint. In a way, I wish I’d tried to get into the Hyde Park crowd, 40,000 people opposite Royal Albert Hall in a simucast with Belfast, Caerphilly and Glasgow. There was a surprise at Rule Britannia, when several members of Team GB and Paralympics GB rowing medal winners came on stage to show that Britannia does rule the waves. Perfect.

The walls are very thin here, so I have to keep the volume low but I did sing along with Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory, Jerusalem and the National Anthem.

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Had dinner with SM and AT at the Bavarian Beerhouse at Tower Hill. Had a few beers, schnitzel and sausage platters. They gave me a fantastic farewell present — this iconic London scene painted by AT herself. So thoughtful, I’m very moved.

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I never read Roald Dahl’s book, but I can guess at its quirkiness. I’ve been wanting to see Matilda the Musical for a while. It’s too popular to be in the special offer in May, and somehow mm and I couldn’t find the time for it when she was here. But nevertheless, I managed to get a ticket for myself. No, it’s not the same, watching a musical on my own, can’t be helped.

I had a good seat, upper circle second row aisle seat. Full house tonight, a good mix of adults and children. Worth the ticket price, doubled and tripled. Absolutely fantastic show — the kids were just naughty enough to be endearing, the adults despicable caricatures, the story moving without the emotional blackmail that goes with this sort of tale. And oh, Lara Wollington as Matilda tonight really shone. Like everyone in the house, I was entranced by her story of the acrobat and the escapologist (kudos to the sound and lighting effect, there was one scary bit when I was scared too). No big huge production number, all the songs were great. The highlights were Naughty and When I Grow Up.

It doesn’t matter that mm hasn’t seen this, it took me years to manage to show her Wicked, I’ll make sure she gets to see Matilda one of these days. It’s one show I won’t mind seeing over and over again. Highly recommended.

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I saw Wicked in Chicago in 2005. When mm came to visit me, the show had already ended so I couldn’t take her. It’s always been my wish to introduce her to one of the best musicals I’ve ever seen, so I took advantage of the get into london theatre offers and got us some tickets early. £40 for stalls, good price.

Spent most of the day resting at home, only ventured out at dinner time. Had dinner at the café rouge at victoria station, trying to retain some of the french holiday spirit.

Our seats were good, and I hope she liked the show. I think she did.

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When Line of Duty started 5 weeks ago, I watched the first episode. A bit confused. A bit bored. A bit addicted. There were intriguing terms, like “laddering” where easy suspects were convinced to own up to more crimes than they’d committed to bump case resolution figures up. Or picking and choosing cases to tackle the ones that promise a higher solve rate. This wasn’t a traditional good cop vs bad guys drama; in modern policing the lines between good and bad were very blurred. I wasn’t sure if I would watch it again.

Episode 2, and I watched it. And kept watching. There are twists, and at the end the message is that there are degrees of goodness and badness. That the police organisation is just like any large corporate enterprise. Bottom line, metrics count. In corporations it’s P&L, in policing it’s number of cases solved. Put lots of people together and there is politics. Add on power and there is corruption. What motivates people is different. Makes you think. The article by writer Jed Mercurio is pretty interesting too.

in arts and media |

Oh my goodness. This is the definition of quality. I’d seen the film and was underwhelmed. My smart theatrical friends told me that this is a must see, because of Imeda Staunton (and Michael Ball.) They were not wrong. So I went out on a hot Monday evening to the Strand to see Sweeney Todd at the Adelphi.

This version of the Stephen Sondheim’s musical was dark and chilling. The chorus was menacing and the occasional screech of the steam whistle heightens the sense of unease. Remember Michael Ball as the babyfaced Marius at Les Miz? Now he’s scary and broody and still sings like an angel. The real star of the show, for me, was Imelda Staunton, which isn’t much of a surprise. I tried unsuccessfully to watch Superstar, the only thing I took away was the in musicals acting ability is just as important as singing ability. Imelda Staunton brought comic relief and masterful acting ability to her portrayal of Mrs Lovett.

The first half started slowly for me, and I was waiting for the next big scene or next big number. The second half though, I was at the edge of my seat, totally riveted. I remembered that almost everybody died at the end, but even so the way they met their ends were just as gruelsome as I expected. Wonderful production.

(This video is from the run at Chichester last year, with the same London cast>)

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Patriotic ad from British Airways. The message is “Don’t Fly. Support Team GB.” And coming from the national airline it’s kinda of an oxymoron.

It’s now almost 10 days to the Olympics. Running to Regent’s Park today past Lord’s they’re already beginning the preparation. Giant concrete anti-terrorist blocks along the entrances, official cars disgorging officials lugging boxes into the site. Archery is at Lord’s, and it’s one of the earliest sports to begin.

Sigh. I’m NOT getting the Olympics spirit yet. Far, far too many stupid ignorant tourists around town. Standing still blocking almost the entire pavement while they look up, or look at maps. Not knowing to stand on the right on the tube. Getting off the bus from the front! Making my teeth grind and wanting to just wring their necks. I wish I had made plans to leave the country.

On the other hand, apparently aside from Olympics visitors no one is coming so it’s easier to book restaurants. Well true, I just managed to get a reservation for one of the hottest new restaurants, Dinner by Heston for August. Small silver linings.

in arts and media |

Musical #3 this summer, Chicago. On my own this time, and matinee at an odd time of 5pm. I’d gone to Hawksmoor to grab a lobster roll for lunch and ended up staying there till almost 3pm drinking their best bourbon, heehee. Anyway, I opted for the cheapest £20 upper circle tickets, this is a musical that I feel like I’m supposed to see rather than me chomping at the bits to see it. Truth is, I hadn’t even watched the film till this week, and only because I knew I was coming to see the show and I want to get familiar with the story.

I got to the Garrick early and made my way up to the top floor. At which point one of the officials informed me that the upper circle is closed and if I would follow him to the box office he’ll give me a new seat. Wow. They gave me 4th row stall, on the aisle. Nice seat. It was full house, I wonder why they closed the upper circle.

I won’t compare with the film, they are two different animals. I am glad I watched it to get a sense of the story, it’s kind of surreal and needs a bit of imagination. Enjoyed the performances, thought it was strange that there weren’t costume changes (policemen and doctors tend not to be bare-chested or wear see-through tight shirts). The principal casts were great, if not outstanding. To my amateur eye, the dancing was better than the singing. All in all, as I said, an enjoyable performance. Should have bought my ticket for next week, Robin Cousins join as Billy Flynn for Olympic season.

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The London production of Singin’ in the Rain opened in February after a run at Chichester last year, and is one of the tickets RM and I got during the May discount season. We managed to snag the second row and our tickets had the warning that people in the front stalls may get wet. Ha! May?

First the production. Excellent. Excellent dancing. Excellent choreography. Singing was good, though none of the solos brought the house down. Liked that they used the whole theatre, including the aisles at the stalls. The screening of the Duelling / Dancing Cavalier at the back of the stage made us feel a part of the filmmaking. It had enough merit on its own without comparisons to the Gene Kelly film.

The best thing was the theme song at the end of Act 1, and there was real water!! Adam Cooper as Don Lockwood was dancing his way on stage with real water. And kicking the real water towards the audience. Some people came prepared with raincoats, but I think the fun part is actually getting wet. Throughout the intermission, we watched a team of people mop the stage dry, in its strange way it was mesmerising. The company repeated the number at encore and there was even more splashes. We were drenched, completely drenched. It was brilliant.

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I saw Les Miz a couple of times in the early 1990s in London, it was a huge hit then. It is still a huge hit. Earlier in May, there was a theatre offer where tickets for London shows were offered at big discounts, RM and I managed to get mid-stalls for £40. It’s the first time I’d seen Les Miz at its new home at the Queen’s Theatre on Shaftesbury Ave, it is smaller than the Palace, but it’s still a huge hit.

The storyline, the music, and spectacle have all been well documented. I had forgotten quite a few of the songs, so I watched the 10th anniversary concert on youtube beforehand. Oh yes, I had forgotten. There were so many opportunities for solos, everyone on the stage could shine. Geronimo Raunch from Argentina was wonderful as Valjean, but it is always the Javerts that steal the show, and tonight it was Tam Mutu. Samantha Dorsey is making her professional debut as Cosette, I think she needs more experience. Craig Mather as Marius, well he did Michael Ball proud

So many favourite songs. The one that always bring misty eye is Empty Chairs Empty Tables. This video is Michael Ball and Alfie Boe singing, ignore the scenes with Nick Jonas.

in arts and media , in the news |

I’ve been catching up on the jubilee festivities. The pageant on Saturday was a bit boring to watch on iPlayer, but I watched the jubilee concert on Sunday in its entirety. Super production, very moving, all the performers, comedians and 600 support staff. Shows the world how it’s done, and I think I’m like a lot of people trying to avoid saying something like “Gary Barlow did a good job, take that!”

This is Sing, written by Barlow and Andrew Lloyd Weber and performed by the Commonwealth band/choir and the Military Wives. All (?definitely most) of the performers are not professionals, but their voices are simply magical. Beautiful song, beautiful performance.

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There was a free event Dickensfest today, a whole day of talks and readings to celebrate Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday.

Okay, I confess. I like Dickens and all, but I’m not really that literary a person and can never imagine going to a day of talks and readings. Except I did go. And all because it was at King’s. The last time I was there was when I graduated and I wanted to see how much has changed.

I did go to a little bit of the Dickensfest. The talks were all in the Great Hall, which hasn’t changed one bit. At first I felt like it was another one of those AKC lectures where attendence was the only criteria, but it quickly improved. Michael Allen spoke with authority and interest about Dickens’ time at Jonathan Warren’s blacking factory where he worked when he was about 9 or 10, sticking labels and washing bottles of blacking. I have no idea what blacking is, or was, but it sounds like terrible work for a young child. What I did take away was that Dickens’ childhood experiences would translate to so many of his books, and that he of all the classic writers was the one who wrote most, and most sympathetically, about poor children in that era. There was also a short reading of Oliver Twist, and I left after that, to explore my old haunts.

Wow. Everything has changed. Not surprised, it has been many years. The corridors are newly renovated. The 6th floor is now informatics not chemistry. But the lecture rooms are mostly unchanged. I visited 1B06, where most of my first and second year lectures were; and 1B27, where mm and I met. Tried to walk over to the Macadam building but it was locked. There was also a café on the first floor of the main building that didn’t used to be there.

There were posters of famous King’s alumni outside. I’m not one of them (not famous, that is) but it is a place where I spent a good 7 years of my life and it was nice to be back.

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Avengers premiers in the UK next week, 26-Apr, one week ahead of the US. Here, it’s known as Avengers Assemble. I don’t usually go to a movie on its first day, or even first week, but I’m tempted to make an exception. Looks great. I mean, it’s Joss. And RDJ, and the rest.

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I’ve been following the progress of Dancing with the Stars on Car’s blog. One of the favourites is Katherine Jenkins, the local (well, if you’re Welsh) girl. One of my colleagues was lamenting why she is on US DWTS and not UK Strictly. I guess it’s all about conquering the US market and exposure.

She really has a beautiful voice. She has 8 albums (plus 3 best of) out, and Car joked about how much it would cost to buy them all. So I went and did a simple comparison of amazon UK and US. To get the 8 cds in the UK is just over £40 ($65); getting them in the US will be $110. And since I’m going to GCLS in June, I can bring them over. So she said yes, go for it and I ordered them. And they arrived today. Beautiful.

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I did a (relative) massive amazon mp3 download today. Both US amazon, where there were albums for $3.99 and UK amazon, with 2 for £10 offers. Some newish music, but also quite a lot of catch up.

Brookville — Broken Lights. What can I say? Under-rated, little known indie band. Love Andy Chase. I’m less of a fan of the Ivy, I like this Brookville incarnation better. Atmospheric and just very nice music.

Marlon Roudette — Matter Fixed. This guy will be big. This is New Age, which has already conquered a number of European charts.

Take That — Progressed. Catch up. This was released last year. Take That are from my younger days, and I’m so glad to see them return to triumphantly.

Samantha Ronson & the Undertakers — Chasing the Red. This is Love Song. Sam Ronson is famous, or infamous, for being Mark Ronson’s younger sister and there was this period of insanity when she was associated with, of all people, Lilo. I get the feeling that her work could do with a bit of Mark magic, but it’s still a pretty decent effort.

Mumford & Sons — Sigh No More. They are really worth a listen. Seriously.

What else did I get? Adele’s 19 and 21. Maroon 5, an old Nick Drake and Amy Winehouse: Lioness. All good stuff. My itunes will like me.

in arts and media |

I was telling mm about a newly discovered lost composition by Mozart that was supposed to have been written when he was 10 or 11. It was recently premiered by pianist Florian Birsak on Mozart’s own piano in Mozart’s home. I’m not a very good musician, but mm is, and she’s learning a Mozart piece right now, so good timing.

in arts and media , eating and drinking |


Watched riveted as Masterchef champion was announced after weeks of gruelling competition. Remember this name: Shelina Permalloo. She was born in Southampton and lives in Tooting. Her family is from Mauritius and her food was described by Gregg Wallace as

sunshine on a plate


a restaurant waiting to happen

She was consistent, joyful, and calm. She never made bad mistakes and she was always on time in tasks. And her food. Wow. In the beginning, like all amateurs, it was great tasting but did not have professional presentation. By the end, oh wow again. This was her octopus salad starter from the final — beautiful and apparently full of flavours. If she opened a restaurant I’d be there in a flash.

in arts and media , eating and drinking , going places |

Over the weekend i caught up with The Very Hungry Frenchman, the new bbc2 program where Raymond Blanc travels back to France and explores the cuisines of various regions. The series started with him going home to his parents’ house. How lovely to see his mother’s garden and kitchen, it’s no surprise that he learned a lot from her. This clip shows him making comté soufflé. Wow, oh wow.

Thus inspired, I looked at packages at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, his 2 Michelin-starred hotel restaurant in Oxford. Pretty expensive is an understatement. There are midweek and weekend packages as well as one the combines a day at his cookery school. For example, the Decouverte Experience includes:

  • room varying between luxurious to super deluxe suite
  • welcome drinks, flowers, chocolate
  • 9 course dinner, which has dishes like confit de foie de canard, wild brill with caviar, roasted venison and vacherin with truffle & honey
  • french breakfast

will costs at least £800. Gulp. Talked it over with mm, and even though it would have been a fantastic visit, we decided it’s too expensive.

in arts and media |


Imagine a freezing, bitingly cold day. Imagine huddling underneath the scant shelter of a bus stop, stamping your foot waiting for the stupid bus to arrive. Imagine being tired, hungry and cold. What do you feel like? How about a freshly baked potato? Hits the spot, right?

TV chefs have talked about smellivision for years, that their cooking is so great and smells so good that they wish viewers can partake in those smells too. Now, McCain, maker of oven chips are promoting their oven ready jackets, baked potatoes ready in 5 mins in the microwave. And how are they promoting it? By mimicking the smell of baked potatoes in bus shelter ads. Press a button on the side of the shelter, and the smell wafts out. Took them 3 months working with a scent specialist to get the smell right. Clever.

in arts and media |


Something different, that is not running or food or macs. Spotted via flavorwire, very interesting twisted mashup by illustrator John Woo, of Star Wars characters in modern hipster outfits. Padme looks no different, and Darth Vader looks oh so coquettish in a Band of Outsiders suit. But my absolute favourite, is Boba Fett in Comme des Garçons. So fetcing. So dreamy. Even after all these years, I still hanker after his helmet and flight jacket.

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It’s Tuesday so it must be Biggest Loser. At last I find another of my favourite reality shows here. The contestants are not quite as large as the US group, most of them hovering under 20st (280lbs). (Love that weights are still in stone.) The biggest contestant was at 32st though, over 450lbs. The format is the same, but with a nicer presenter and 3 very tough-looking trainers. Looking forward…

in arts and media |

There is a flurry of activities planned to commemorate the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens next year. In advance of that, or for other reasons, the BBC brought us a new adaptation of Great Expectations this week. Not sure why it’s on the week between Christmas and New Year, but whatever.

The most recognisable name on the cast was Gillian Anderson. I didn’t quite like her portrayal in episode 1; too young, difficult to shake Scully off my mind. One of the newspapers, Guardian, Indy or Telegraph, I can’t remember, likened her Miss Havisham to an adult Luna Lovegood and I thought it was fitting. She grew on me though, and by the end, I thought she brought enough lunacy to the role.

Young Pip played by Oscar Kennedy was my favourite. Amongst the adults the actors playing Magwitch, Joe and a special shoutout for David Suchet as Jaggers. Extremely disappointed at adult Pip and Estella. Neither had presence nor acting ability. Douglas Booth playing Pip was apparently a Burberry model and was too pretty and too wooden. Vanessa Kirby playing Estella looked too modern.

It’s been a while since I read the book or watched any adaptations so it was good to refresh. It was strictly an adaptation, there seemed to be bits missing from the book version. There is a film version coming out next year, it’ll be interesting to compare.

p.s. People forget that GA, though American, went to school in the UK. She does both British and American accents, speech patterns and vocabulary like a complete native. Amazing.

in arts and media |

Staying in Japan, and casting back to a cartoon made 25 years ago. The amazing and wonderful Laputa was recently aired on Japanese TV and it completely broke the tweets per second record. 25,088 tweets per second, annihilating the previous record held by Beyoncé’s pregnancy announcement, which had a mere 8,868 tweets per second.

in arts and media , eating and drinking |

Can’t believe that a generation ago, Japanese food was not very well known outside of Japan. Now, it’s so widely available that it’s hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know how to use chopsticks.

That said, Japanese food outside of Japan suffers the same fate as any other world food that is transported out of its origin country. It becomes bastardized. Which is why I’m so looking forward to this forthcoming documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi,

the story of 85 year-old Jiro Ono, considered by many to be the world’s greatest sushi chef. He is the proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station. Despite its humble appearances, it is the first restaurant of its kind to be awarded a prestigious 3 star Michelin review.

Just watch the trailer, and make sure you have a napkin handy.

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Both Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly are in London and will be for a while. Ms Gless in A Round-Heeled Woman, which moved from the Riverside studios to the Aldwych this week (and with the 3 times price hike upon the move to the West End). Ms Daly will star as Maria Callas in Master Class at the Vaudeville come January. I’m really, really not a theatre person, so I’m not sure I will go to either. I went to Love Never Dies with mm when she was here, and I want to see if I can book Matilda for when she is here next summer.

Anyway, back to the inimitable ladies. They were also at the BFI earlier this week to celebrate 30 years of Cagney and Lacey. Ack, I missed that, would have been interesting to attend.

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Notable miscellaneous music news:

  • Leonard Cohen new album in January, yay! This is Show me the Place, it’s been a long long time to wait for a new song from him
  • Elvis Costello says don’t buy his new boxed set as it is too expensive, buy Louis Armstrong instead
  • I’d never heard of Ra Ra Rasputin before today, but they have released a 3-track EP for free download until 6 December — I listened to Forward and I thought it’s pretty good
  • Snow Patrol tour dates, they will be in London in Feb. Very tempted. Even more tempted after reading Gary Lightbody’s highly intelligent essay on huffpo. I mean, I can’t imagine any of the X-Factor / BGT / AGT brigade, or Justin Bieber, or even Lady Gaga, using words like fecund (I had to look it up, myself) and not as an alternative to some other salacious swear word. Mr Leonard Cohen may know the word. Ah, but I digress…read that essay, and tell me you know a song by Snow Patrol

in arts and media |

This is the John Lewis Christmas ad. Of course it’s meant to be an emotional blackmail, meant to tug at our heartstrings. All the other ads are the same (the Guardian has a nice essay and collection).

But, this is John Lewis! No other retailer has the same place in our hearts as John Lewis. Where else do you buy your duvets, your vacuum cleaners, your oven gloves? They, plus to a certain extent, M&S, are allowed to tug at our heartstrings. So I watched this again, and again, and again. And there is a lump in my throat every.single.time.

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video link:

I spent most of today catching up on Strictly Come Dancing. The ballroom, set decoration and program sequence are almost identical to Dancing with the Stars, even the theme song is the same. Different people in British accents of course. The hosts are Sir Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly who are both better than their US counterparts. There are 4 judges: Len, Bruno plus a lady called Alesha and a guy called Craig. Alesha does the typical “rah rah, you’re great!” role and Craig criticizes technique and doesn’t smile. He gave people scores of 1 and 2 in week 1. Celebrities are the usual actors, singers, breakfast show hosts, boxers, footballers, “legendary” celebrities, politicians etc.

I’m up to week 2. Jason Donovan and Holly Valance (heh, Neighbours!) are the front runners and very impressive. But to my surprise I found myself rooting for short, chubby, cute, campy Russell Grant.

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youtube link:

Our department went out for a farewell party for one of our colleagues. Dinner first at the forge at covent garden. I had roasted vegetable risotto, steak diane, and crème brulee.

Then it was onto the Garrick Theatre on Charing Cross Road to see Respect La Diva. It’s only on for 3 weeks, and I thought it was a musical that included songs from the great divas — Ella Fitzgerald, Dusty Springfield, Tina Turner et al. Actually it was more like a straightforward concert of tribute singers singing those songs. The singers were all very good, but the show could have been tighter and had a bit more of a storyline. It’s a very small theatre that doesn’t seem to have an orchestra pit so the band was on stage. This meant not a lot of space for the performers (especially the dancers) to move around. Some of the audience members were really enjoying themselves and the majority of the house stood up and clapped for the finale.

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youtube link:

As part of the ads leading up to the opening of Westfield Stratford on 13 September, this is a cool video of 100 years of East End fashion.

in arts and media , on the relationship front |


I wanted to take mm to the southbank real food stalls to try the roast hog but there were no pigs there today and we didn’t feel like anything else. Walked back towards Piccadilly Circus and ended up at another old favourite, Stockpot. Had the lunch special — grilled halloumi, mm had fish and I had roast beef, then we both had apple crumble with extra custard. Can’t beat Stockpot for value although I think it’s now less of a poor student’s haunt and has been taken over by the tourist guide crowds in search of a cheap meal. We were surrounded by out-of-towners, the French family next to us ordered steak and kidney pie.

The afternoon was spent ambling around town. I showed her the new M&M store, and we had an absolute blast there. Onto Foyles to look at music books for mm (I escaped to the basement to read finance exposés). Tea at what I now realise is a gay café bar but at the time it was the first one we came across. Early dinner of roast duck noodles in Chinatown. She continued her piano playing stint at a digital piano store and there is such a huge difference between a digital piano and a Steinway (duh). She was a tad unhappy at herself for not playing very well, but we were cheered by the sight of a rainbow at Covent Garden. More blessings.


So, onto yet another highlight of our week, the final performance of love never dies. Reviews haven’t been kind, but we really enjoyed it! I couldn’t afford stall seats so we were up at the upper circle, right in the middle though. We were riveted throughout the performance; the music was good, most of the performances were impressive (some hamming up by Ramin Karimloo notwithstanding), and, well, the audience was overly rambunctious. I even got 2 for the price of 1 for my interval drink — I’d only paid for 1 beer, but they had 2 bottles laid out when I went to collect, ah well. Andrew Lloyd Weber said a few short words at the end and I think they deserved every minute of the standing ovation. We even had a good laugh at the plot holes on the way home.

in arts and media |

Harry Potter 7

Did my weekend run, laundry and grocery shopping yesterday so I had time today. Finally go round to seeing HP7b. It was very, very moving. I wish I watched part 1 beforehand to remind myself, but it didn’t matter, I was gripped from the start. The flashback to when Harry first went to Hogwarts, when he was under the sorting hat, wow. Everyone’s grown up, and the grown-ups held their own. Special mention to Neville! Awfully sad to see it end, I stayed all the way to the end of the credits.

in arts and media |

When mm is here in August I’m determined to take her to at least one musical, we love musicals. There are so many choices, but it’s a done deal when I read that Love Never Dies is closing on 28 August. Originally I thought we’d go on the Monday, but after listening to Ramin Karimloo, who doesn’t perform on Mondays, we’re going Saturday. Shame that mm is leaving on Sunday, otherwise we can catch the last show.

in arts and media |

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Samantha Ronson & Jimmy Messer — acoustic cover of Enrique Iglesias’ Tonight, NSFW for language. There are naturally 2 versions of the original:

I’m not 100% convinced that SR is going to be a huge singer, but with her family connections and notoriety you never know. It’s a nice acoustic version, slower and more emotional.

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hrc4007kaiser hrc4013killers

I was at hard rock calling tonight. It turns out that it’s the event’s 40th annversary. I got to Hyde Park around 5.30pm, just in time to catch james, followed by kaiser chiefs. The main attraction was the killers, which is now the only band I’d gone to see twice. They hadn’t released anything new (except Brandon Flowers’ solo album) since Lollapalooza 2009, and their set was full of familiar songs. Doesn’t matter, the crowd sang and cheered along with Spaceman, Somebody Told me, Some Like You Mean it and positively roared with Human and Read My Mind and All These Things.

The day started sunny but for most of the five hours I was there it rained non-stop. I was glad I wore my Timberlands and brought my cap. The ground was soaked but thankfully not quite Glastonbury-level of muddiness. I found myself near the front but stuck behind people taller than me. It didn’t matter. There were fireworks, a quiet rendition of Moon River and closed out with Jenny and more fireworks. Here’s the video of Human, although the sound quality isn’t good. There are a few more pics on flickr.

in arts and media , on the relationship front |

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mm sent me this, an old hymn called “I know who holds tomorrow” from the album by Alison Krauss & the Cox Family. I’m not as religious as mm, this was very beautiful though.

and each step is getting brighter
as the golden stairs I climb
and every burden is getting lighter
and all the clouds are silver lined
and, over there the sun is always shining
and no tears will ever dim the eye
and the ending of the rainbow
where the mountains, they touch the sky

in arts and media |


No lollapalooza this year, so it’s hard rock calling instead. No 3-day ticket deal, and the line up is so much smaller. It’s a different sort of event really. The choices for headliners for the 3 days are: Killers, Bon Jovi and Rod Stewart. No brainer isn’t it. I actually thought that it’s a Killers only concert before I realised it’s a 3-day event. Tickets go on sale tomorrow, but as a vodafone customer I’m able to order 48hrs in advance, so I have my ticket already.

If it weren’t so expensive I’d get a ticket for Sunday too. I have zero interest in Rod Stewart, but Stevie Nicks, Rumer and Lighthouse Family are also playing. Then again, no one goes to a concert to see the supporting and guest acts, do they?

in arts and media , being healthy |

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Talking about commercialism, this feels propaganda-y and cliché-y, and they have a less than stellar reputation but I’m a nike fanboi anyway. This ad was “recycled” from old ads, and is part of the nike better world campaign. If we can get the world to a fitter place, or if we can help a potential athlete achieve their dream, then it doesn’t matter how and what is the ultimate motive as long as it harms none, right?

When I was migrating to the mba, I looked at some pics of me just 3-4 years ago and I was appalled at how unhealthy I was. Running played, and continues to play, a big part in making myself better. If I can help just one person do more sports, I’d like to believe I’m earning my keep in the world.

in arts and media , easily amused |

I think this deserves its own post. We saw diving pigs.

in arts and media |

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London is arguably the best city in the world for theatre and we’re big fans of musicals. We thought of going to see love never dies but when I got home, mm was curled up on the sofa, trying to keep warm. It was too cold to go out, so we stayed home again. We love staying home, so it’s not a hardship. Anyway, we’ll get another chance at London, we hope.

in all about people , arts and media |


Noted via kottke that Grant Achatz’s memoir is coming out in March. Chef Achatz’s restaurant, Alinea, is ranked best restaurant in the US by Gourmet magazine and is bikeable from home. Home being Chicago, still.

Much to my regret I never managed to make it to Alinea, or any of the top Chicago restaurants with the exception of frontera grill. Will I ever? I can only hope.

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When mm was visiting me in October, we spent a lot of time at home watching bones season 4 which I netflixed. Before I left I thought about buying the whole series and discovered that it was cheaper in the UK. We then saw that it was on sale for £80 at HMV, and even better when I checked on amazon last week that it was a special sale item for £32. That’s just over $50 for 5 seasons. Ordered it immediately and received it today. We watched 2 episodes already tonight.

in arts and media , outside interests |

Santa Lucia (or St Lucy’s) Day is celebrated in Sweden and other Scandanavian countries on 13 December. Thursday I went with J&R to the harcourt arms, opposite the swedish church for a short Santa Lucia Day recital. The main attraction was the choir singing the santa lucia song. The girl at the top of the procession wears candles on her head representing the fire that refused to take her life when she was sentenced to be burned.

in arts and media |


I was thinking about it yesterday, that it was amazing race final and I was missing it. I can’t watch it off cos it’s not available outside the US. Tonight I tried to proxy but didn’t like all the ads and stuff I saw at proxy sites. So I did what I had planned to do anyway, downloaded it off itunes. $1.99 per ep isn’t bad, especially since the team I had been rooting for since the beginning won. The docs will likely enter the TAR hall of fame on par with Kris & Jon, John Vito & Jill and the Bald Snarks as the nicest pairings in the show’s history; and certainly the nicest winners. And now it’s safe for me to visit twop, as I was very careful not to spoil myself on the winners.

Looking forward to future seasons. It doesn’t look like I can get it on TV here, so it’s either buy it ep by ep, or wait till the end and buy the whole season. I doubt I can wait till the end of the season. May be it’s time to investigate apple tv or google tv.

in arts and media |

So on fb there’s this meme to change your avatar to a favourite childhood cartoon. I changed mine to Mr Benn. Mr Benn wore a suit and bowler hat, and he visited a costume shop where the shopkeeper gives him different costumes to try. He then goes into the changing room and off to an adventure dressed as that costume. It was a simple, escapist cartoon that I used to watch when I was very very little. Oh, the memories.


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Saw HP7 part 1 today at Navy Pier imax. Absolutely brilliant. Would have sat for 5hrs without moving for the whole thing. July 2011 can’t come early enough.

Haven’t read the book yet, I think I’m still on HP5. But it didn’t stop me from appreciating the story, the acting, the special effects…everything about it. Now I’m wondering if I should go see it again before I leave.

in arts and media |

After work, we went to see billy elliot at the Oriental. First time at the Oriental was when I saw Wicked, and the theatre is still imposing. We drove and parked next doors.

The show wasn’t full, about 25-30% capacity only. I can still remember the film, and it was good to see the musical version. The Billy for the night was JP Viernes, and overall the show was good. Not outstanding, still enjoyable. Lots of memories on the miners’ strike, I doubt many people in the audience understood or were there for that.

in arts and media , being healthy |

I’m still thinking about Sunday’s race so indulge me for another marathon post please. If I hadn’t been running, I would probably have been watching the whole race on TV. And watched in wonder at the final 1k battle between Sammy Wanjiru and Tsegaye Kebede. Wow!! The way they ran, it looks like they’re sprinting and not having run 41km. Sammy’s kick at the end…I’m awestruck now.

On another topic, I met a guy today who’s run Chicago, NYC, London, Paris, Rome, and a Swiss marathon (Zurich? Jungfrau? I have to look it up). And he came in at 5.17 on Sunday. I feel I didn’t do too badly.

Learned a new phrase today on the forums — redemption marathon. While we’re still at good fitness form, go run another marathon soon after this one, especially if the performance wasn’t ideal. For example NYC on 7 Nov is a perfect opportunity to redeem for Chicago. Hmm.

in arts and media |

Even though hecklerspray called it crap, I’m still gonna buy Brandon Flower’s new album. Just because.

in arts and media |

I finally sat down and watched season 7. I know exactly what happened, what with recaps and online videos, but didn’t get round to watching the whole season till now. Sigh. It was as expected, and disappointing. Well, I expected it to be disappointing.

It was so boring. I couldn’t wait till it all ended so I could put the box away. The episodes bled into each other, and the First, Bringers, Potential, General!Buffy storyline was dragged on for far too long.

Buffy was obviously suffering from paranoia, depression and all sorts of trauma. Giles was a bumbling idiot. Willow the most bumbling idiot of them all. I mean, just because she’s afraid of her powers doesn’t mean her IQ should disappear, right? And that’s what they did to her, took away her intelligence. And poor Xander, sidelined. Anya did her best. Andrew was meh.

The bright spots for me were Dawn, Faith and actually the Potentials. I enjoyed watching the Potentials, they did a good job even though there were so many of them and they were fighting with each other for screen time. Faith brought it, as usual. And Dawn. I used to hate Dawn, but she grew backbone and MT did a great job making her convincing. I also liked Kennedy. I know why people are against her in principle, cos she’s no Tara. But on her own, she had a credible storyline and IL gave her just enough spunk.

The ending was complete crap. All of a sudden the Guardians appear? Willow remember how to do a spell? The scythe was the most plastic looking weapon ever. They used to have good weapons (see Faith’s knife) and surely could have done better.

I’ve deliberately left out Spike. HATE. One second of screentime was one second too much. I should have been glad he got killed, if only I didn’t know he’d come back on Angel. Spike and Spuffy totally ruined the show for me.

That was a big negative rant. All I feel is a whopping “is that it?” If I’d watched it during 2003 it would have turned me off the show completely.

in arts and media |


Transformers 3 has been filming in Chicago for the past few weeks. La Salle and Wacker have been closed and helicopters circling in the sky occasionally.

This week my normal car park near the office was closed “for a special event”. On Monday when I walked past, I saw a couple of huge trucks, Optimus Prime sized, as well as an awesome red fire truck and a whole line of Hummers at the back. The security guard said no photos, but whispered to me that he’s told to say that and if I kept moving he won’t do anything. So I quickly took one of the red fire truck.

Wednesday when I left work there were about 10 people at the entrance openly taking pictures. So I took a bunch. Optimus Prime was still there, but the line of Hummers were gone. There were a few other cars, like a taxi and a black SUV. But no Bumblebee. Bummer.

Managed to take 12 pics at the car park. I haven’t been able to catch any of the filming. Set here: flickr.

in arts and media , easily amused |

This was all over fb a few weeks ago, so I thought I’d bring it out again.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

Bongwater is Michael Hornburg’s first book, published in 1995. It tells the story of 3 twentysomethings in Portland. Courtney burned down the house she shared with David and ran away to New York. David had a crush on Jennifer and Jennifer ran away to New York to join Courtney. In the meantime, David met Mary and went on a road trip with her to visit his weed-growing friend Phil.

Nothing much else happens. Arguably David and Courtney are the main characters but they don’t meet up again till the end. Jennifer is the glue. Mary is somewhere in between. David crashes with two gay guys who steals Jennifer’s underwear. Courtney and Jennifer does a round of New York clubs and comes back to Portland.

The characters are cynical and innocent at the same time. They do drugs and each other. But no one judges. It just is. The end of the book doesn’t have resolution; instead there is the hint of a beginning.

I get confused between Gen X and Y. Of course I’m reading this book 15 years after it was published, and I think about those days in the early 1990s with nostalgia. Now I identify with them — not the drugs or alcohol or sex or partying, the sense that we are just observing and living our way through life.

Reviews are mixed. Some readers get it. Others find it boring and without plot. Even others dislike the prose. I liked it. It feels superficial, but is deeper than it appears. Was Mr Hornburg sending life lessons? No, of course not. It just is. I get the feeling that there’s a large autobiographical element in the book. Nothing wrong with it. It just is.


in arts and media |


I turned down afterwork drinks to go home and watch the biggest loser finale. I enjoyed this season, the contestants were generally likable and it was encouraging to see them become healthier. Is a 4-month bootcamp with a focus on weightloss the best way, probably not. But for this group, it’s a good start.

The F3 were a revelation. Orange Daris turned into a very good-looking young man, and a runner too! He did a marathon in just over 4 hrs, wow. Pink Ashley has such a wonderful personality, everyone underestimated her in the beginning and she ninja’ed her way to F3. The winner, White Mike, started as the heaviest man ever at 576 pounds. He was a little unpopular in the beginning but won me over with his hard work, losing 264 pounds. Wow, that’s like, 2 of me.

Missing drinks was worth it.

in arts and media |


Bret Easton Ellis’ seventh novel, Imperial Bedrooms, comes out mid-June. It’s a follow up to Less than Zero, to coincide with its 25th anniversary. Gulp. Has it already been 25 years? Next I know, I’ll be needing reading glasses. [heh, don’t be so cocky. that day will come soon and you know it.]

Less than Zero is arguably my favourite book. Something spine-tingling and deep comes over me whenever I read it (unlike spine-chilling when I read American Psycho). I’m not sure how I feel about a sequel, because they never live up to the hype of the original. And reading the excerpt, which I assume is the beginning, I’m still leery.

They had made a movie about us. The movie was based on a book written by someone we knew. The book was a simple thing about four weeks in the city we grew up in and for the most part was an accurate portrayal. It was labeled fiction but only a few details had been altered and our names weren’t changed and there was nothing in it that hadn’t happened.

Clay is now a successful screenwriter and returns to LA from New York. The characters are still there — Julian (RDJ, who died in the film), Blair, Trent. I suspect parties and craziness still abound but it’s probably a bunch of people pushing 40 who don’t want to grow up.

I’m being unfair. I haven’t read the book yet and here I am dissing it. The reviews on amazon are mixed. It’s 100% certain I will buy it so I must reserve judgment.

in arts and media , being healthy |

On the livestrong forums is a thread on top 5 running songs. Till I Collapse by Eminem seems to be a favourite, but I find it too loud and hard to run to the beat. Doesn’t mean I don’t like rap, I run to 8 miles and Lose Yourself, which would make my top 10. So, top 5, in no particular order:

  • mgmt — kids
  • ben lee — afterlife
  • killers — read my mind (or human, I can’t decide)
  • uh huh her — common reaction
  • muse — uprising

Honourable mentions: chris rea — auberge, lindsey buckingham — did you miss me, lady gaga — poker face, fort minor — where’d you go (or remember the name).

in 101.1001 , arts and media |


Milan Kundera is perhaps best known as the author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I hadn’t read that; nor actually seen the film. My impressions and perceptions prior to reading was that it would be thoughtful, philosophical and may be even melancholy enough to be not too heavy.

Identity was written in 1996, the author’s second book after moving from Czechoslovakia to France. I read the English translation, having had this one on my shelf for something like 10 years.

This was the story of two lovers, Chantal and Jean-Marc, which started while they were on holiday on the Normandy coast. She arrived before him, and each in their own ways were thinking about themselves. About who they were. (Hence the title.) Gradually, parts of their lives and personalities were revealed, like layers of an onion. The book moved from purely situational to having some sort of a plot when she started receiving anonymous letters complimenting her and yet was stalkerish. In fact, he wrote them. The conflict was when she didn’t tell him about the letters, and they started second guessing each other. Finally she walked out, got on a train to London. And he followed.

I guess it’s too philosophical for me. I was waiting for something to happen, and then i realised that it wasn’t that sort of book. The structure, with no chapter titles, only short vignettes almost alternating between the characters’ pov, was like two parallel streams of thoughts occasionally intersecting. The part I enjoyed most was towards the end when unwanted visitors arrived, children misbehaved by trashing her room and she unceremoniously kicked them out. It had little to do with the main story, and the only tenuous connection was that it made her though about her son, who died when he was five. Nonetheless, when Chantal broke down and Jean-Marc was left throwing his keys into the Seine I finally felt like they had awoken from author-induced intellectual stupor.

I’m at the margin of this world. You, you’ve put yourself at the centre of it.

Even though both Chantal and Jean-Marc found out more about themselves during the course of the book, at the end I felt like I’d only glimpsed a part of their journey. That there was more to come. The end was both ‘fade-to-black’ and sudden. I can’t decide which, because I was flipping the pages too fast to get to the end. I also can’t decide if I wanted to know more about what happened next. Basically, I can’t decide if I like this book, or I was bored by it. It’s strange. Perhaps it will permeate and brew more in my head.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |


I could have gone to see a musical I hadn’t seen, yet I decided to go see wicked instead. May be if it hadn’t been on the 101.1001 list? Hmm. No. It’s been a few years since I last saw it in Chicago, and I wanted to see the London company perform. Must admit it was strange yet refreshing to hear dialogue and singing in British accents. It’s been a long time.

Enjoyed the show very much. I had to stop myself singing along. It wasn’t superstar gasping level, I was happy I got a centre stalls seat. I hadn’t heard of the cast — Rachel Tucker as Elphaba, Louise Dearman as Glinda, Lewis Bradley as Fiyero — the ladies deserved the standing ovation they received at the end.

in arts and media |

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Wow. Best. Move. Ever. Parvati Shallow, I bow to your survivor expertise. This is worth watching over and over.

in arts and media |

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I have the itinerary for london, ticket will be issued tomorrow. I’ll be there on bank holiday Monday, so time to plan some activity. It so happens that drones will be showing as part of the sci-fi london festival. I reserved my ticket. £8, plus 60p booking fee. Not too bad.

in arts and media , photography is life |

The Sandpit by Sam O'Hare

Talking about Chicago, here’s a fabulous tilt-shift video of New York, via kottke, including a link to how it was made. Tilt shift makes me swoon.

in arts and media |

Daniel Merriweather’s latest, love & war came out last June. In the UK. I waited and waited and waited for it to become available here, or at least available for download. But no, it didn’t show up. Boy, was I tempted to get it elsewhere. Luckily, when I was on home leave I made a point of going to hmv to get the cd. It’s as good as I expected. And I noticed it’s just come out on amazon US. This is the first single, Change featuring Wale, which reached #8 on the UK charts.

I heard about Daniel Merriweather on twitter. I follow Mark Ronson, who produced the album. I didn’t realise he’s from Australia — guess he’s another transplant. His style has been described as r&b, with a mix of pop. I like it, I have the whole cd and every song deserves its place on the iphone and nano.

in arts and media |

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Perfect timing, Jeff Bridges wins this year’s Oscar, and the first trailer for Tron Legacy comes out.

I was the absolute right age for the original Tron. I loved, loved, loved it. Who didn’t? Even almost 30 years later, it doesn’t look its age. There was something magical about the film that’s hard to describe.

Man, December seems soooooo far away.

in arts and media , random words |

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If/when I become published I want to design my own covers. I won’t be able to paint or draw them since I’m an awful painter, but I can photoshop and I have definite ideas about what visual elements I want in my book covers.

I have a long way to go and much to learn though. This time lapse video from Lauren Panepinto, the creative director of orbit books shows the amount of skill needed, condensing 6 hours of work into 2 minutes. There’s even a brief interview about her approach. My awe of designers just went into orbit (pun intended).

Comments at bb rightly pointed out how effective this was as a marketing tool for the book. I must admit I am not bought into video trailers for books but based on this particular video, I can see myself checking out the book (due out Sept 2010 and is part of a series). Of course it helps that it’s steampunk and has vampires in it.

in arts and media |

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Went to an amateur improv show tonight. It was okay, the main purpose was to support one of the performers, and I enjoyed the show.

All I know is that, I will never be able to do it, I simply aren’t quick-witted enough and my comic timing is in the negatives. Nowadays when I think of improv, I think of the antics of improv everywhere, who have

caused [over 100] scenes of chaos and joy in public place

in arts and media |

Paris, Texas is being released in HD and blue-ray tomorrow. It’s strange, I don’t remember the story, but I remember very well the mood. It was written by Sam Shepard after all.

in arts and media |

I went to see Avatar on IMAX 3D, it was awesome. The special effects were seamless, Pandora was so stunningly beautiful it’s difficult to describe. It’s as of today the second highest grossing movie behind Titanic, and it’s for sure that it will be the highest soon.

Of course, there’s a lot of media hype and every one and their uncle seems to have a different spin on it. Right wingers are up in arms because it cuts too close to the truth about corporate interests, indiscriminate use of force and disregard for other cultures. Others have picked up on its racist undertones. It’s even said to have caused depression.

Yes, the story is clichéd and the underlying warning message delivered to us by a giant hammer unlike, well, what District 9 managed to do. But D9 was made by a South African, and Avatar is so utterly American. I can’t help but think that giant unsubtle hammer is the only way of delivering these political messages nowadays, and all power to James Cameron to do that, and entertain us in the process.

But anyway, back to the film. There is nothing to fault. There are so many colours and light and surprises on Pandora. My first impression was that it’s like a combination of Endor and Laputa, but it’s much much more. So much care has been put to create landscape, plants and creatures in such detail it is hard to believe it’s all in our imagination. The theme of nature-energy-force-we-are-all-connected-to-mother-earth theme is nothing new (I half expected someone to say ‘midi-chlorians’), and yes I cringed when they started doing voodoo-like chants, but at the end it’s all so, so good. I want to run and jump and fly and shout like a hunter-warrior. I want to sleep in those pod-hammocks. I want to ride the Toruk. I want to touch Eywa herself. For such an unsubtle film, there is an unexpected depth. I’m still thinking about it, and mulling over my experience. I won’t forget this film in a long time.

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I know I post this last year, but I can’t go through Christmas without listening to this on a loop. It’s my total favourite Christmas hymn.

in arts and media , being healthy |

something arrived in my mail today that I haven’t seen for long time — a print magazine. runner’s world to be precise. One of the perks of joining cara I suppose. It’s an interesting magazine, a few good articles like the one about running safely on the road, which is especially relevant in the winter when it gets dark too early. Runner vs vehicle, runner loses almost 100% of the time.

There’s also race calendars, a survey on the best marathons (most fun = NYC; best value = Fargo, ND; best destination = Big Sur, CA) and in general lots of encouragement. I visit the rw forum occasionally, but they seem too elitist and hardcore for me. It’ll be a change, to have a magazine to read in bed.

in arts and media |

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I caught the Cirque du Soleil cake challenge on the Food Network, which introduced me to the trampoline finale of la nouba. Wow. I mean, wow. It was mesmerising to watch this video — the precision, the control of the acrobats on trampolines, “walking” up a building cube and shooting themselves inside the windows. La Nouba is showing at Walt Disney World. I wonder how long it will be there, because if it’s still showing during gcls week, I’d want to go see it.

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This is a clever ad by doubletwist for an update available from tomorrow. A play on the original famous 1984 apple superbowl ad. Not the first time this has been copied or parodied, I’m not sure how the apple fanboi in me feels about this.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |


Peter Mayle is famous for his autobiographical A Year in Provence. I haven’t read it, nor did I see the film, but I’ve always been aware of him. Mr Mayle was a sort of expert on Provence, and France in general. And France is where this little novel, Chasing Cézanne is partially set it. It’s one of those books whose characters think nothing of stomping all over the world. It starts in New York, makes several visits to the south of France, the Caribbean, the English countryside, and of course Provence.

The characters fit the globetrotter type too — our MC, a “dashing” photographer who works for a glamorous magazine, his agent/soon-to-be girlfriend, a powerful editor who constantly reminds me of Anna Wintour, the villain with the Germanic name and the eccentric art dealer who acts as both catalyst and tour guide. Add a scandalous art scam and a little romance and we have the ingredients of a light-hearted comedy romp.

Some reviewers on amazon complain that the characters eat out at restaurants too much, or that Mr Mayle is too keen to show off his knowledge of French cuisine. Blah I say, that’s the point of the book. It’s not supposed to be War and Peace deep, people. If anything, I find the “elaborate” restaurant meals kinda boring, and want even more descriptions. I guess that’s the effect of the passage of time. The book was first published in 1997, those were the days when photography was still done using film, people were beginning to travel as opposed to just laying on the beach, and food programs on TV were mainly instructional (think Delia Smith and how to boil an egg). Foodie terms like velouté, sabayon, amuse-bouche and ceviche weren’t part of our everyday lexicon then, but have become oh so familiar (well, to those of us who are dedicated followers of the food network anyway). In other words, the readers then weren’t as sophisticated as we are now, and were more likely to be wowed by a French word by virtual of that word being French alone.

The art scam itself is pretty unremarkable and the resolution did come rather too quickly, almost like our villain has run out of steam, or has become so bored with the proceedings that he decided not to be a villain any more. It’s still a decent enough book, easy to read, and mostly enjoyable. Mr Mayle does know his food and France, no question. And for the record, I, an amateur cook, have made sabayon and if need be, can produce an amuse-bouche or two, but not in 1997.

in arts and media |


I had to get home by 7pm today to catch the return of TAR. It was a 2 hour premiere!! Although at first when the contestants were running out I was like why are there so many YDCs?? [not a spoiler cos the cast bios are on the cbs site] But as the race got started, it naturally redeemed itself. Can’t wait to read the recap.

I was keeping track of the programs I have on my must watch list:
mon — none
tues — biggest loser
wed — top chef
thurs — survivor
fri — dollhouse
sat — none
sun — TAR and Iron chef

I also keep an eye on project runway whenever I remember though I have very little interest in american idol, dancing with the stars or any of the “talent” shows. So apart from dollhouse, it’s all reality tv. Oh wow, I really am a reality tv junkie.
[t-shirt from redbubble]

in arts and media |

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Even though there were tons of people around, we made sure to catch ep 1 of the new dollhouse season. It was a Joss written and directed ep and it showed. Very intriguing, very great, it’s gonna be a good season.

in arts and media |

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This song rotated to the top of my running playlist and it’s such a great song to start a run. I mean, I adore fleetwood mac and (almost) everything they do and Lindsey is a huge, huge part of that love. Yes, he gets disparaged — think the joke about the lindsey buckingham paradox — but even then he’s recognised as a genius.

This is did you miss me from his 2008 album, gift of screws, which has been very well received, albeit not much attention given by the mainstream press and radio stations. It’s a shame. This is a perfect top 40 song, with a catchy hook and the usual killer unstated guitar playing.

oh, while googling the LBP, I came across this:

sudden onset Stevie Nicks syndrome: a serious disability that may be accompanied by Lindsey Buckingham


in arts and media , wheels in motion |

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As a new owner of a sports car, I can safely say that yes, I look at other sports cars. And covet the models I didn’t get — Porsche 911 GT3, antique green MG, BMW M3. And this, the Audi R8. drool

in 101.1001 , arts and media , random words |


I read Michael Ridpath’s first book, Free to Trade, when it came out in 1996. It coincided with the beginning of my career in financial services, and it was unspoken required reading. It painted an exciting, if superficial, picture of what it was like to be on the trading floor of one of the bulge bracket firms.

This one, The Marketmaker, was his third book and set in the world of Emerging Markets. The MC was a Russian scholar who found himself needing money and employed at the premier EM Fixed Income brokerage in the City, specialising in Latin American bonds, but aiming to expand into Eastern Europe.

I had it on my shelves for since it was published in 1999, and it was interesting to read about the markets then. It was before the term BRIC was even invented; before the LTCM failure; and just after the Asian financial crisis. Those were the days when the words banker and excess were synonymous, before all the scandals that eventually brought about Sarbanes-Oxley. It was also interesting to remember that the bulge bracket was bigger then, and there were more players on the street.

Our MC started all starry-eyed at the broker. There was a charismatic owner / mentor; a dodgy enforcer type with hints of mafia links; a best friend who had to make a choice between friendship and own gains; a beautiful, smart heroine who the MC fell in love with; even a cockney, pudgy East End boy. He was in turns fascinated by the City and angsty that he’d sold his soul. Then he discovered by accident something suspicious, and a series of seemingly unrelated circumstances only heightened his suspicion. He and his colleague-new lover were kidnapped, and he managed to escape himself but leaving our heroine in the clutches of evil kidnappers. In keeping with the “financial thriller” theme that the writer is known for, there were thinly disguised i-banks to give the feel of authenticity and much technical name dropping. I couldn’t help wondering if Bloomfield Weiss was Goldman Sachs and there’s no prize for guessing who the large Dutch bank KBN was named after.

The first half had some exciting trading scenarios and a touching philanthropic initiative. The beginnings of the romance was always hovering as a possibility. Unfortunately the financial backdrop faded to exactly that, a convenient background. The kidnap was a little too drawn out, and the solution to the story a tad too incredible. I was sympathetic towards our MC at first, but the Like (fb term) didn’t stay. I felt the writer was checking off cliché after cliché, the characters and story was pretty formulaic. Towards the end it read like an airport thriller and while there is nothing wrong with that (airport thrillers tend to be best sellers), the twists and resolution were pedestrian and I couldn’t wait to get to the last page.

in arts and media |

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I’ve only recently come across the use of trailers to promote books. Seems a little disjointed to me, books are text only but videos need sound and graphics. To be honest I have only seen a handful of book trailers that I liked, the others are too forced.

Until this. Leviathan is labelled as a Young Adult book, this trailer makes me want to order it straightaway. Of course, it helps that it’s an illustrated book. And OMG STEAMPUNK.

Important: Simon & Schuster is giving away Scott Westerfeld’s earlier book Uglies, but only for 1 more day. Get it quick.

I’m still on the fence on trailers for books.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

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Bat for Lashes was the first act I stopped to watch at Lollapalooza, just because it was the first stage I came across, and because the music kinda grabbed me. There was a pretty, dark-haired girl and a voice that was, even at an open stage, ethereal. I filed the band’s name away in my head, and went off to see the likes of the Airborne Toxic Event, Vampire Weekend and the Killers.

So at the weekend I decided to browse amazon for their music, and I ended up buying both albums, fur and gold and two suns. Bat for Lashes is actually Natasha Khan, the practice of calling oneself a band continues, in the NIN and Badly Drawn Boy tradition. She’s from Brighton, looks a little like Lily Allen, has a hipster new wave fashion style. She’s been compared to Kate Bush and Bjork and has opened for Radiohead. Thom Yorke is a big fan.

I find her music clever and just that bit whimsical. Descriptions abound from reviewers like magical, dreamy, luminous. I actually can’t stand Kate Bush or Bjork, but Natasha isn’t grating like the former or batty like the latter, she manages to balance pureness of voice with pop; cute whimsy with solid musicianship. She’s indie without trying too hard, if that makes sense. Someone to watch out for, definitely.

in arts and media , easily amused |

Rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen movies you’ve seen that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag fifteen friends, including me because I’m interested in seeing what movies my friends choose. I hope you participate, even if you didn’t get tagged.

  1. Star Wars
  2. Lord of the Rings series
  3. Casablanca
  4. The Great Escape
  5. My Fair Lady
  6. Reality Bites
  7. St Elmo’s Fire
  8. Streets of Fire
  9. Ladyhawke
  10. Chance
  11. Il Mare / The Lake House
  12. X-files: Fight the Future
  13. Blade Runner
  14. In the Mood for Love
  15. When Harry Met Sally

in arts and media |

Rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends, including me because I’m interested in seeing what books my friends choose.

  1. Pride & Prejudice — Jane Austen
  2. Catcher in the Rye — JD Salinger
  3. The Belgariad series — David Eddings
  4. Less than Zero — Bret Easton Ellis
  5. I am David — Anne Holm
  6. Hood - Emma Donoghue
  7. The Sun also Rises — Ernest Hemingway
  8. Bright Lights, Big City — Jay McInerney
  9. Down there on a Visit — Christopher Isherwood
  10. From an Inland Sea — David Harsent
  11. Pzyche — Amanda Hemingway
  12. Deverry Series — Katherine Kerr
  13. American Psycho — Bret Easton Ellis
  14. Hitchhikers’ Guide series — Douglas Adams
  15. Little Women — Louisa May Alcott

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

I’ve had this book since it came out in 1997, together with Goodbye Johnny Thunders and Elvis Has Left the Building, Tania Kindersley’s other books. She was someone in my generation, catching the end of the yuppie 80s, the generation for whom it was almost easy to achieve success and wealth, provided we went out to look for them.

This book chronicles the friendship of a small group of young people, from their undergraduate days at Oxford to their burgeoning careers (or not) as they found themselves entering their thirties. The focus was on the narrator, Ashley, and her best friend, Virge.

One of the most noticeable things about this book is its atmosphere. I look for atmosphere in books, in the same way that I look for plot in films. The poignancy reminds me of another “atmospheric” book, Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, which I return to again and again when I’m in search of those quiet, deep moments. There are shades of Jake Barnes in Ashley; and a lot of Brett Ashley in Virge.

That the characters are privileged and indulgent and petulant is no question. However, they oh so charming and nonchalant about it, because they didn’t set out to be arrogant. This is a generation that reinvent themselves on a whim, and has very little patience for those who can’t keep up. A side character described Virge as” shallow and fey and smug” but Ashley never felt it. She was upset and angry, but her response to that jibe was that the person could feel whatever he feels about Virge. In a way, Ashley doesn’t feel any need to justify Virge, and by extension herself, to anyone.

Ultimately, it’s about growing up and leaving the comfort of college to face the outside world, which they do in various shades of success.

“No one has told me,” said Virge with sudden violence, “that it was this complicated. Why do they never tell you that?”

Here the atmosphere evoked is This Life, so much so that the characters could almost interchange.

The blurb is that the story is all about friendship. Ashley and Virge are opposites who attract. We hear mainly Ashley’s voice, about her feelings for Virge,

and because i didn’t believe in coincidence, I felt utterly unsurprised that she should be here, back from America on the very day that I had fought my way out of the months of darkness and despair and self-doubt, because she was the one person in the whole wide world who always made me feel that I was lovable and desirable, and good enough.

And later on,

“You do know, Ash, don’t you,” said Virge, “you do know that you are the one I love best. I never loved anyone so much as you.”

I keep waiting for them to cross the line from friends to lovers, which they never do. Perhaps I’m projecting, or perhaps the writer intended this as the pure, unconditional kind of love that can never be tainted, even by sex.

As is life, nothing is perfect and golden forever. Throughout the story, the copious reference of looking back suggests to me that Something Big will happen at the end. And again, to mimic life, it’s not one big event that gives ample warning — it’s a series of littler events that chip away at the perfection, and then finally, something explodes.

The events at the end were actually not unexpected, though just as tragic. The last pages were sad and, again the word is poignant, but it seems to me that a page has been turned. What is past is gone, and there is a future that is more mundane and less rose-tinted.

Don’t ask me why, but that’s just how life is, isn’t it.

in arts and media |

So, we went to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read the book, I know i need to finish the series. I didn’t mind that the film would spoil the book. Wow, the kids have grown up. I want to see it again already, it was awesome.

in arts and media , objects of desire |


The first Walkman was launched 30 years ago this week. Wow. I had one of those original monsters, and still have this 1987 WM-103 in my drawer.

The BBC asked 13 year old Campbell Scott to trade his iPod for a Walkman for a week, and his account made me feel old. OTOH, it’s amazing how much technology has advanced over the last 30 years, that he has absolutely no idea what a cassette tape is.

It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape.

Oh my! Cassette tapes! I still have a couple of them at the bottom of drawers. Remember making mix tapes for friends and swapping them? Blah RIAA.

in arts and media |


I went to Amber Benson’s signing of her book Death’s Daughter today. The event started at 4.30pm, but I got there after work at around 6pm. I could have brought a whole collection of her stuff for her to sign — Chance and LLL dvds, Chance poster (hmm, that one is already signed), my 2 limited edition Ghost of Albion hardcovers (hang on, those are signed too), or any of her comics. Or Buffy stuff. She’s got such a varied body of work. While I was queuing someone at the store asked me was there a signing. I said yes, and he asked who? He didn’t know Amber (travesty!) but I heard him tell his friend “it’s an author.” Little does he know she is more.

I guess there was a reading, which I missed. The queue for the book signing was long, snaking all the way to the back of the store. I wish I’d brought some water cos it was a hot day and I felt dehydrated. It took the better part of an hour. but it was all rewarded when i finally reached the front, because she was warm and friendly. She greeted every single person like a friend, and was genuinely happy to speak with each of us. I didn’t really have anything to ask or say to her, just asked her to sign my book, and another copy for Car.

I took a picture of her and the books. There’s also one with me, but I’m doing the hiding being invisible thing again so that pic isn’t available in public.

in arts and media , techtalk |

There are tens of thousand of iphone apps available. This one, Brushes, created a stir last week, as it was the app used to create the June cover of the New Yorker magazine. Of course, artistic talent had a lot to do with it.

in arts and media |


Ever since the story broke about the Kuzuis’ intention to reboot Buffy, ostensibly to take advantage of the current Twilight-fueled obsession with vampires, there has been no shortage of fan outrage. Joss’ response was a diplomatic:

I hope it’s cool

which says absolutely nothing.

From the response I’ve read all over the place, and the ones from my fb friends (a large proportion are Buffy fans), the overwhelming response is that a Joss-less Buffy is a Very.Bad.Idea.

Me? On the one hand, I’m cautiously excited about any (re-)appearance of the Buffyverse, OTOH I share many fans’ skeptism and trepidation that the slayer as we know it will be completely ruined.

So with perfect timing, via kottke is a long article on the star trek reboot. We are reminded that Star Trek, Batman and James Bond are among the franchises that have gone through reboots, some more successful than others.

The author came up with some thoughts on how to successfully reboot, among which is don’t abuse the audience goodwill:

If you’re doing a new version of a beloved old property, that means you need to figure out what it was people liked and make damn sure it’s in there. That doesn’t mean you have to do it the same way every time, you just have to do it. James Bond movies have been retooled a number of times, but we never lose the license to kill, the exquisite stunt work, the Bond theme music, or the cool cars and hot girls. There’s about a million miles of difference between Moonraker and Casino Royale, but they’re both recognizably Bond movies and they were both successful, because they met the baseline audience expectation of what a James Bond movie would give them.

Who’s to say that we won’t get another director who ‘gets’ buffy as much as we do? That perhaps we are lucky enough to get the equivalent of a Christopher Nolan or JJ Abrams for our beloved verse? The cynic in me says no, because the Kuzuis’ haven’t shown much wisdom (apart from giving Joss freedom to work on the series), but I can’t join the chorus of disapproval. At least not until more details emerge.

in arts and media |

Evelien Lohbeck is a Dutch artist who makes videos, commercials clothing, posters, and a ton of very very cool stuff. I’m always in awe of creative people. This is called “Noteboek”.

in arts and media , outside interests | | comments (1)


gama-go are the people who made the boing boing hoodie, which I missed. :( They’re now doing the boing boing t-shirt, but I’m not interested. Instead, I entered into thehoodie roulette in which I sent in $40, and they sent me back a hoodie. The fun part is that I didn’t know what the design is until I receive the package.

It turned out, I got #61/360 of the pastoral dirty bird design. Pretty cool.

in arts and media |


Wow, free CDs seem to be the newest thing. From Darren Hays (remember him? from Savage Garden) and Robert Conley comes We are Smug, the name of both the band and the album. Download the full 10-song album. FREE.

in arts and media , in the news |

The concept of extreme opinionated news reporting baffles me. News, by definition, should be neutral. Now of course people can’t help but to have views. But, shouting? We have people screaming on ads — I can’t put these on mute fast enough, otherwise my ears will burst — and i don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the shouting and dramatics on American news shows.

Anyway, this is the astute Charlie Brooker on the difference between US and UK news.

Sigh. Americans [/Giles]

in arts and media |


Starting tomorrow 15 May, Coldplay is giving away a FREE DOWNLOAD of their latest live CD, leftrightleftrightleft, recorded over the Viva La Vida tour.

This coincides with their North American tour. Those who are lucky enough to make it to the tour will also receive a free copy of the CD. Tracklisting:

  1. Glass of Water
  2. 42
  3. Clocks
  4. Strawberry Swing
  5. The Hardest Part/Postcards from Far Away
  6. Viva La Vida
  7. Death will Never Conquer
  8. Fix You
  9. Death and All His Friends

in arts and media |

When I lived in NYC, I remember watching some Julia Child. I had no idea of her significance or influence on Americans, just that she seemed important in a Delia Smith sort of way. This film looks really really good. I even checked out julie powell’s current blog.

in arts and media , family first |

neena07bean neena16cta

I did flat stanley for my niece this week. flat stanley is inspired by the children’s book by Jeff Brown. Poor Stanley got squashed and became flat as pancake. Undeterred, Stanley takes advantage of his flat state to go on many adventures around the world and even to space.

Many schools initiate Flat Stanley Projects in which children make their own Flat Stanleys, and take him to activities with them for a few days. They record the activities in a journal. Then the fun part starts:

Flat Stanley and the journal are mailed to other people who are asked to treat the figure as a visiting guest and add to his journal, then return them both after a period of time.

So my niece’s flat doll, whom she named Flat Neena, has been making the journeys. She’s been to her grandparents in West Sussex, and our cousin in New York so far. And this week she was with me. I took her to Sears Tower, the Arts Institute, the Bean, downtown, and on a ride on the brown line. She’s now on her way back to my niece. It’s been really fun.

Full set: 17 (15 public) on flickr

in arts and media |

from the award-winning documentary,playing for change, stand by me performed by musicians around the world adding their part to the song as it travelled the globe.

in arts and media |


An interesting article in the new yorker magazine on ereaders. I read it, and disagreed with most of it. Originally I was just going to post a link on fb, but I realised I had more thoughts on it. Not many, but a tiny bit more than just a 1-2 liner that accompanies a link.

The author references, and I think is trying to debunk, a recent WSJ essay that, inter alia, postulates that as more people use e-readers, reading may one day be a social networking activity.

As you read, you will know that at any given moment, a conversation is available about the paragraph or even sentence you are reading. Nobody will read alone anymore. Reading books will go from being a fundamentally private activity — a direct exchange between author and reader — to a community event

I like that idea. Already I know i search online in blogs or amazon reviews if I want to buy something, or have an idea. I love reading comments for posts and articles and get disappointed if an article (in, say, the online version of the NYT) didn’t have comments turned on. The idea that I can click out of a passage in an ebook and see comments from readers is simply fascinating.

But Thessaly La Force at the New Yorker doesn’t share my enthusiasm. He sites the example of the Project Gutenberg books, and how much discussion there are [not] on the books. Well, I counter that the books there aren’t of sufficient interest to elicit discussion. All of the books there are in the public domain, and are either a) obscure or b) books we’ve read in school. I looked at them, and frankly dismissed them. I still have 50 books from the free Sony classics library I am entitled to get, but I don’t care either way if I forfeit my right cos I know I’ll not read them.

The other point made in the article, that e-readers aren’t as sexy as real books,

that guy reading an electronic device at a restaurant by himself? He just looks busy. The same guy reading a crumbly paperback? Attractive and approachable

I dunno. I disagree with that too. When I was flying back from LGA, I had my 700 out in the plane happily reading away while the rest of the plane got on (advantages of boarding first, heh) and I got noticed! A couple commented “is that the Kindle?” and I said no, it’s the Sony and we had a quick chat about the difference. A young guy and his girlfriend just behind them chimed in and expressed interest. They had to move on cos they couldn’t block up the aisle. My point is, the ereader does get you noticed. Perhaps as a gadget, but increasingly other people who have an ereader or are thinking of one, will bond over this common interest. And that’s how social interactions start, right?

In many articles about ereaders, and where authors bashed the kindle, sometimes there’s a comment about whether the authors themselves own, or have used extensively, these devices. Yes of course at the back of my mind I long for an Apple e-reader (just like I want an Apple netbook) but I’m happy with my Sony right now. I recently cancelled a book order on amazon cos I decided to get the ebook instead. I have a big feeling this is the way forward and there’s no turning back.

in arts and media |

Dream, by Priscilla Ahn.

i listened to this on the plane. Three times.

in arts and media | is having a radiohead fanatic fortnight. Enter the draw for Special Collectors Edition of Pablo Honey, The Bends and OK Computer.


in arts and media |

Wow. nine inch nails. jane’s addiction. street sweeper are touring together. There’s even a great 6 track free EP for download on the nin|ja 2009 site.

in arts and media |

Novel-I Am NEW Video f. f/ Ben Folds, Talib Kweli &Spree Wilson

For some very odd reason I like rap better than, say, country. Some rap anyway. This is “I am” by novel.

in arts and media , techtalk |


Apparently it was just a display issue, and my account was credited with 100 classic books. I looked through the ebookstore today, and even though there are over 900 books, it took me a whole day to come up with 66. Jane Austens, Shakespeare comedies, and a bunch of Dickens. But there were many from authors who are obscure, like Charlotte M. Yonge. And for some like Trollope, they’re not offering his most popular books. They have just one or two of each series, like just Barchester Towers above, but not many more. Actually the entire list looks like it was gakked from project gutenberg and if i wanted i could just download them free from there and convert.

in arts and media , techtalk |

I have to register twice for the ereader — once at the sony website for the device itself, and a second time via the stupid PC only software at the ebookstore. The first went fine, cos I did it on the mbp. The second wasn’t so smooth. The device had been authorised before to another user. What? It became obvious that I had been sold a returned product, as new. This is very annoying.

I emailed Sony, following the instructions on the faq. The fact that they had the answer to that question is disconcerting.

I got a reply within a few hours. They gave me 2 codes, each for 50 free classic books. I entered the code one at a time, and hey presto! Only one code worked. My account has 50 free books, but the other 50 was missing. I’ve emailed again, and waiting for the answer.

This is becoming ridiculous and a farce. Am I not supposed to have bought it? Was someone thumbing their nose at me for getting the 700 instead of the more popular 505? Should I have been more patient and ordered direct from Sony instead of getting from Borders?

Very bad taste.

in arts and media , techtalk |


so I was visiting Car this weekend, and she’d told me during the week that she’d ordered the sony ereader and it was expected to arrive on Friday. And when I got there Friday it was there, all tiny and thin and cool looking. How possibly can I resist such a toy? I had myself during the week went over to the Borders at Michigan Avenue to look at them in person, and i was amazed at how small they are.

Instead of ordering and waiting, I just decided to go get it. Originally I thought I’d go during the week when I’m back in town, but Car very kindly offered to take me to a nearby Borders. The one we went to first was further away, in a large shopping complex. I queued up at the till and told the person there I wanted to buy a sony ereader. She gave me a blank look for a few seconds before something snapped. she was still a bit clueless, first having to ask a colleague, then offering me the 505 when I specified the 700. Eventually i found myself at the information desk, and a VERY helpful lady told me they actually have one and was bringing it out. Then it turned out the they didn’t have it, but she continued her helpfulness by calling another store nearby and holding it.

Backtrack. Why not the kindle 2? The main reason is the DRM — I want to buy books from sources other than amazon, and the conversion process put me off. The k2 still looks like a toy to me. I will probably use the iphone, when i get one, perhaps on a daily basis. I wish I had gotten more into ereaders last year when I was travelling so much. Why the 700 and not the 505, at $100 cheaper. One word: touchscreen. I’m a big sucker for geeky things I can touch. When I was playing around both the 505 and the 700 at Borders, I’d finish with the 700 and was poking at the screen of the 505 expecting something to happen.

Okay, back to the buying adventure.

The other Borders (at 95th and Western) turned out to be elusive to find. First off, it started raining heavily, then there was zillions of traffic. We ended up at the mall, but it wasn’t inside the mall. Finally we got there, and I queued up again to buy my ereader. The helpful lady at the first store had told us, “it’s behind the registers” which we first thought it was the store that was behind some “registers”. Hee. Anyway, i paid for it, got suckered into getting a Borders card, and off we went back home.

Close. But the story doesn’t end there.

I carefully opened the box, fondled my new ereader, and then discovered the usb cable was missing. It’s a fairly standard cable, and i have a couple at home just like it, but still…it was missing so we should get the whole package. i called the store, and was fairly inept at the whole explaining thing, but finally i found out that i could go back and exchange it.

After a dinner of “shit on a shingle” — i was too concerned with my ereader to take pictures of the new food — we headed back to the store to exchange my ereader. Actually it ended up at the store assistant ripping apart a 505 package and giving me the cable. LOL

So i sit here, it’s happily charging up. The only hurdle to overcome is Sony’s STUPID decision to make their software PC only. Then again, they make vaio’s so they don’t want to be associated with macs? As i said, stupid, and it rings a sour note. But i’ll get round it somehow.

in arts and media |

I have zero comics / graphic novels cred. I want to be all geeky about it, but alas I never got round to it. This looks absolutely fascinating.

in arts and media , eating and drinking |

meme #12. Tagged by Bobbi.

Instructions: A list of every movie to ever be nominated for a BEST PICTURE Academy Award follows. For each year, the film to actually win the Oscar is listed first. Mark every film you have seen, total them up, and divide the total by your age.

Very long list behind the cut.

in arts and media , easily amused |

meme #11. Tagged by Car who, together with airlines, provides me with film entertainment.

SUPPOSEDLY if you’ve seen over 85 films, you have no life. Mark the ones you’ve seen. There are 239 films on this list. Copy this list, go to your own Facebook account, paste this as a note. Then, put x’s next to the films you’ve seen, add them up, change the header adding your number, and click post at the bottom. Have fun.

( ) Rocky Horror Picture Show
(x) Grease
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest
( ) Boondock Saints
( ) Fight Club
( ) Starsky and Hutch
(x) Neverending Story
(x) Blazing Saddles
(x) Airplane
Total: 6

( ) Napoleon Dynamite
(x) Labyrinth
( ) Saw
( ) Saw II
( ) White Noise
( ) White Oleander
( ) Anger Management
(x) 50 First Dates
(x) The Princess Diaries
( ) The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement
Total so far: 9

( ) Scream
( ) Scream 2
( ) Scream 3
(x) Scary Movie
( ) Scary Movie 2
( ) Scary Movie 3
( ) Scary Movie 4
(x) American Pie
(x) American Pie 2
(x) American Wedding
( ) American Pie Band Camp
Total so far: 13

(x) Harry Potter 1
(x) Harry Potter 2
(x) Harry Potter 3
(x) Harry Potter 4
( ) Resident Evil 1
( ) Resident Evil 2
( ) The Wedding Singer
( ) Little Black Book
( ) The Village
(x) Lilo & Stitch
Total so far: 18

(x) Finding Nemo
( ) Finding Neverland
(x) Signs
( ) The Grinch
( ) Texas Chainsaw Massacre
( ) Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
( ) White Chicks
( ) Butterfly Effect
( ) 13 Going on 30
(x) I, Robot
( ) Robots
Total so far: 21

( ) Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
( ) Universal Soldier
( ) Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events
( ) Along Came Polly
(x) Deep Impact
( ) KingPin
(x) Never Been Kissed
( ) Meet The Parents
( ) Meet the Fockers
( ) Eight Crazy Nights
( ) Joe Dirt
( ) King Kong
Total so far: 23

( ) A Cinderella Story
( ) The Terminal
( ) The Lizzie McGuire Movie
( ) Passport to Paris
(x) Dumb & Dumber
( ) Dumber & Dumberer
( ) Final Destination
( ) Final Destination 2
( ) Final Destination 3
( ) Halloween
( ) The Ring
( ) The Ring 2
( ) Surviving X-mas
( ) Flubber
Total so far: 24

( ) Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
(x) Practical Magic
( ) Chicago
( ) Ghost Ship
( ) From Hell
(x) Hellboy
( ) Secret Window
( ) I Am Sam
( ) The Whole Nine Yards
( ) The Whole Ten Yards
Total so far: 26

(x) The Day After Tomorrow
( ) Child’s Play
( ) Seed of Chucky
( ) Bride of Chucky
( ) Ten Things I Hate About You
( ) Just Married
( ) Gothika
( ) Nightmare on Elm Street
(x) Sixteen Candles
( ) Remember the Titans
( ) Coach Carter
( ) The Grudge
( ) The Grudge 2
( ) The Mask
( ) Son Of The Mask
Total so far: 28

( ) Bad Boys
( ) Bad Boys 2
( ) Joy Ride
( ) Lucky Number Slevin
(x) Ocean’s Eleven
(x) Ocean’s Twelve
( ) Bourne Identity
( ) Bourne Supremecy
( ) Lone Star
( ) Bedazzled
( ) Predator I
( ) Predator II
( ) The Fog (the original)
( ) Ice Age
( ) Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
( ) Curious George
Total so far: 30

(x) Independence Day
( ) Cujo
( ) A Bronx Tale
( ) Darkness Falls
( ) Christine
(x) ET
( ) Children of the Corn
( ) My Bosses Daughter
(x) Maid in Manhattan
(x) War of the Worlds
( ) Rush Hour
( ) Rush Hour 2
Total so far: 34

( ) Best Bet
(x) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
(x) She’s All That
( ) Calendar Girls
(x) Sideways
( ) Mars Attacks
(x) Event Horizon
(x) Ever After
( ) Wizard of Oz
(x) Forrest Gump
(x) Big Trouble in Little China
(x) The Terminator
(x) The Terminator 2
(x) The Terminator 3
Total so far: 44

(x) X-Men
(x) X-2
(x) X-3
(x) Spider-Man
(x) Spider-Man 2
( ) Sky High
( ) Jeepers Creepers
( ) Jeepers Creepers 2
( ) Catch Me If You Can
(x) The Little Mermaid
(x) Freaky Friday
( ) Reign of Fire
( ) The Skulls
(x) Cruel Intentions
( ) Cruel Intentions 2
( ) The Hot Chick
(x) Shrek
(x) Shrek 2
Total so far: 54

( ) Swimfan
( ) Miracle on 34th street [the original]
( ) Old School
( ) The Notebook
( ) K-Pax
( ) Krippendorf’s Tribe
( ) A Walk to Remember
( ) Ice Castles
( ) Boogeyman
( ) The 40-year-old Virgin
Total so far: 54

(x) Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
(x) Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
(x) Lord of the Rings: Return Of the King
(x) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
(x) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
(x) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Total so far: 60

( ) Basketball
( ) Hostel
( ) Waiting for Guffman
( ) House of 1000 Corpses
( ) Devils Rejects
( ) Elf
(x) Highlander
( ) Mothman Prophecies
( ) American History X
( ) Three
Total so Far: 61

( ) The Jacket
( ) Kung Fu Hustle
( ) Shaolin Soccer
( ) Night Watch
(x) Monsters Inc.
(x) Titanic
( ) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
( ) Shaun Of the Dead
( ) Willard
Total so far: 63

( ) High Tension
( ) Club Dread
(x) Hulk
( ) Dawn Of the Dead
( ) Hook
(x) Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
( ) 28 days later
( ) Orgazmo
( ) Phantasm
( ) Waterworld
Total so far: 65

( ) Kill Bill vol 1
( ) Kill Bill vol 2
( ) Mortal Kombat
( ) Wolf Creek
( ) Kingdom of Heaven
( ) The Hills Have Eyes
( ) I Spit on Your Grave aka the Day of the Woman
( ) The Last House on the Left
( ) Re-Animator
( ) Army of Darkness
Total so far: 65

(x) Star Wars Ep. I The Phantom Menace
(x) Star Wars Ep. II Attack of the Clones
(x) Star Wars Ep. III Revenge of the Sith
(x) Star Wars Ep. IV A New Hope
(x) Star Wars Ep. V The Empire Strikes Back
(x) Star Wars Ep. VI Return of the Jedi
( ) Ewoks Caravan Of Courage
( ) Ewoks The Battle For Endor
Total so far: 71

(x) The Matrix
(x) The Matrix Reloaded
(x) The Matrix Revolutions
( ) Animatrix
( ) Evil Dead
( ) Evil Dead 2
( ) Team America: World Police
( ) Red Dragon
(x) Silence of the Lambs
( ) Hannibal
Grand Total: 75

in arts and media , my inner science geek |

must watch video. Absolutely amazing statistics. Everything is going exponential.

in arts and media , easily amused |

meme #8, tagged by Kerry. Apparently the BBC reckons most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.

1) Look at the list and put an ‘x’ after those you have read
2) Add a ‘+’ to the ones you LOVE
3) Star (*) those you plan on reading
4) Tally your total at the bottom
5) Put in a note with your total in the subject

  1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen x+++
  2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien [I tried, but i just can’t get through them]
  3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte x
  4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling * [i’m stuck on book 5]
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee x
  6. The Bible [the whole Bible, not so much]
  7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte x
  8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell x
  9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman x
  10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens x+
  11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott x+
  12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
  13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
  14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
  15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
  16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien [see #2]
  17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
  18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger x+++++++++ [:P]
  19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
  20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
  21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell [no, never]
  22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
  23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
  24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
  25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams x+++
  26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
  27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck x
  29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
  30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
  31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
  32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens x
  33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
  34. Emma - Jane Austen
  35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
  36. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis
  37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
  38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
  39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
  40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
  41. Animal Farm - George Orwell x
  42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown [i got may be half way, then lost interest]
  43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
  45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
  46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
  47. Far from the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
  48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
  49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding x
  50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
  51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
  52. Dune - Frank Herbert x
  53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
  54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen x
  55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
  56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  57. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
  58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
  59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
  60. Love in the time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
  62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
  63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt x+
  64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
  65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
  66. On the Road - Jack Kerouac
  67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
  68. Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding x
  69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
  70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
  71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens x
  72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
  73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett x
  74. Notes from a Small Island - Bill Bryson
  75. Ulysses - James Joyce
  76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
  77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
  78. Germinal - Emile Zola
  79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
  80. Possession - AS Byatt
  81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens x
  82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
  83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
  84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro x
  85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
  86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
  87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White x+++
  88. The Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom
  89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton [why these and not the Famous Five?]
  91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
  92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint Exupery x
  93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
  94. Watership Down - Richard Adams x [really boring]
  95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
  96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
  97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas x [though, i think it was an abridged version]
  98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare x
  99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl x
  100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo x [this was definitely an abridged version]

Total 28, of which most were required reading at school. Those I like I put more than one (+) and of the ones I haven’t read, I intend to finish the Potters, that’s it. I wanted to read Atonement, but after seeing the film, not so much.

I tried to look for the origin, and I think the meme grew from a 2003 search for the nation’s favourite books that resulted in the Big Read. When i said grew, there are post-2003 books in this list, so perhaps it’s morphed.

in arts and media |

new cds today:

  • Coldplay: Viva la Vida — I bought the download already, but this was a bonus cd with the Prospekt’s March EP
  • Beyoncé: I am…Sasha Fierce — I’ve only listened to If I were a Boy, and this has changed my mind about Beyoncé, I used to be indifferent now I’ll take more notice
  • The Killers: Day & Age — I bought it for the outstanding Human. One song can make me buy a whole cd, yep
  • Franz Ferdinand: Tonight — no intro needed
  • The Script: eponymous — and the indie rock cd gathering continues, this is a new Irish group that is in the same vein as the above
  • Mark Ronson: Version — I think this will be interesting
in arts and media , techtalk |

25 years ago, on 22 January 1984, this ad showed once during the Super Bowl.

The rest, as they say, is history.

in arts and media , in the news |

Tony Hart has died. It’s probably difficult for Americans and younger people to comprehend how utterly devastating this news is for me. I feel like Mr Hart watched me grow up, with programs like Vision On and Take Hart taking prime place in my childhood viewing schedule. I’ve never been able to draw, but watching him was inspiring enough. There’s a longer bbc tribute, but embedding has been disabled. Watch that video in addition to this ITN news item, if you have any love for children, art and fun.

in arts and media , eating and drinking |

Watched Anthony Bourdain all night, and tonight it’s Andrew Zimmern. Love the Travel Channel, especially when they have great food programs like these.

in arts and media , easily amused |

I never watched it’s a wonderful life but I understand it to be Christmas related, and not to make wishes you didn’t mean.

This flash animation was originally at itsawonderfulinternet but the website seems to have gone. I found it elsewhere and videograbbed it.

It’s one for the Christmas season.

in arts and media |

The San Francisco Chronicle has an article about updating music libraries. Basically comparing 80s or 90s musicians with the current crop. I can’t say I agree with the choices.

If you like…

No Doubt “Tragic Kingdom” (1995)
The Orange County band’s hyper, unrepentantly fun breakthrough set sold 16 million copies worldwide on the back of rocket-powered pop singles “Spiderwebs” and “Just a Girl.”

… then try

The Ting Tings “We Started Nothing” (2008)
Singer Katie White doesn’t sound remotely like Gwen Stefani, but this heavily accented drum ‘n’ guitar duo does an incredible job channeling her group’s relentless, ska-propelled energy on its primary-colored debut, which includes the iTunes jingle “Shut Up and Let Me Go.”

Other comparisons include Rolling Stones—>Kings of Leon, Mariah Carey—>Leona Lewis (okay, I can see that) and Beastie Boys—>Girl Talk. But the comparison I most disagree with is,

If you like…

Paul Simon “Graceland” (1995)
Venturing into apartheid-torn South Africa and working with local musicians, Simon returned with dazzling, tuneful evidence for the case of taking world music seriously. It won a Grammy for album of the year.

… then try

Vampire Weekend “Vampire Weekend” (2008)
These well-groomed Columbia University alums launched their Afrobeat revival from the less dangerous environs of their dorm rooms, appropriating Simon’s fluid rhythms and featherweight melodies with a whiff of collegiate humor (“Who gives a f- about an Oxford comma?”).

The first tape (yes, I’m old) I got was from my aunt with Carpenters on one side and Simon & Garfunkel on the other. I can’t stand any of them too much now, Paul Simon in tiny tiny doses is okay, but I’ve yet to listen to a full song of his lately. Vampire Weekend is totally different, just because there’s a little hooting on “Oxford Comma” doesn’t mean they’re similar to Paul Simon. They’re way less self-conscious, way less earnest and (this is a compliment) less polished — there’s still a “newness” edge to them.

in arts and media |

JJ Cale is set to release his first solo record in almost five years. Legendary.

Watch and listen to Cale and Eric Clapton so effortlessly play After Midnight.

in arts and media , easily amused |


via mefi, pride and prejudice told facebook newsfeed style. It’s funny as hell, I grinned like an idiot reading it. Funny bits further down:

Lydia Bennet and Kitty Bennet joined the group 1,000,000 Strong Against the Officers Leaving Meryton!

Mrs. Bennet joined the group Widows of Men Killed in Duels.

in arts and media , easily amused |

via kottke, mcsweeney’s break down 50 years of popular songs intoone simple sentence.

The Beatles “I Want to Hold Your Hand” — I want to do it with you

Led Zeppelin “Whole Lotta Love” — I want to do it with you

James Blunt “You’re Beautiful” — I want to do it with you

Frank Sinatra “Strangers in the Night” — I’m drunk and I want to do it with you

Patsy Cline “Crazy” — I want to do it with you so much I’m going fucking nuts

Kate Bush “Wuthering Heights” — I’m an 18th-century fictional character and I want to do it with another 18th-century fictional character

I’m, um, sensing a theme here. Writers of pop-rock music seem to have one thing on their mind.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

Matt Ward (M. Ward) is an indie singer-songwriter from Portland who manages to combine country, blues, pop, and folk into a unique package. He’s toured with Bright Eyes and is mentioned in the same space as the Decemberists, the Shins and Feist. I keep expecting to see his name on the Garden State, or some other Zach Branff film, soundtrack.

Zooey Deschanel (awesome, awesome name) is an actress who has small roles in films like Almost Famous, and increasingly larger roles in films like Elf, and was Trillian on Hitchhiker’s Guide.

Matt and Zooey met on The Go-Getter, in which they sang a duet together. Some correspondences led to the formation of She & Him and their first cd Volume One. The first single, Why don’t you let me stay here, is kinda bouncy and folksy. Another of my favourites is their cover of Smokey Robinson’s You Really Got a Hold on Me, when Zooey channels some serious Patsy Cline.

She has a distinctive voice, he has a way of arranging the music that is simple and effective. There’s a cute, retro, kitschy feel to the songs. Paste magazine said in their review,

the 13 songs on Volume One are lovely throwbacks to blissful 60s pop, tastefully arranged and produced by the uber-talented Ward

They should know, they just named She & Him — Volume One as their best album of 2008.

in arts and media , easily amused |

via bb, a weird, strangely mesmerizing, out of senses…flash platform game by the name of I made this, you play this, we are enemies. The creator, Jason Nelson, who tells us “don’t try to get it”, calls it,

an artwork/game/digital poem/world of scribbles and ideas from the back of my brain, way-way back in a storage room for contextual whims

Cory Doctorow calls it

brilliant and terrible all at once

Broken down, it’s basically a flash platform game using famous webpages as background and incorporating random words and graphics. But I think it’s more than that, just like poems are more than just a collection of words. Or graffiti spray paint. It has attitude.

I freaking love it, the freak that i am.

in arts and media |

via stacia seaman, an editor at BSB books. Interesting, her answer on romance books.


What’s your name? heh, you’re kidding me, right?

Do you read a lot? yep

What’s your favorite genre? modern fiction, adventure, fantasy


Do you prefer fantasy or science fiction? fantasy

What’s your favorite fantasy book/series? the Belgariad

Who’s your favorite fantasy author? David Eddings, Katherine Kerr, Anne McCaffrey

What’s your favorite science fiction book/series? it’s been a long long time since I read good sci-fi: Foundation series, Hitchhiker’s Guide

Favorite sci-fi author? Asimov


Which do you prefer: a puzzling mystery, or a terrifying thriller? mystery, i get too scared of scary stuff

Do you have a favorite mystery novel? probably more adventure, Desmond Bagley, Frederick Forsyth

A favorite horror novel? i’ve never finished a horror novel


Do you read romance novels? yep, i can’t stay away even though I get really disillusioned reading them

How about gay romance novels? uh huh

What’s your favorite? all bella, spinsters ink, bsb authors, the standard is very high


What’s your favorite children’s book? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Encyclopedia Brown series, Three Investigators series, Hardy Boys series, Famous Five

Is it the same book that was your favorite when you were a kid? these were the books i read as a kid

What’s your favorite YA book? I am David

Did you actually read it as a YA? i read it when i was 12, so probably it’s should have been classified as a children’s book

In general, do you prefer children’s books over grown-up books? i think i’ve outgrown children’s books. classics now classified as children or YA books — Jungle Book, Alice in Wonderland, the Count of Monte Cristo among many — i haven’t read and find it hard to motivate myself to read


What’s your favorite classic novel? Pride and Prejudice

What about general fiction? Classic: The Sun Also Rises; Modern: Less than Zero

What classic novel do you just not get? Moby Dick

Do you have a favorite play or drama? Macbeth

What do you think of Shakespeare? some are okay, like the comedies and tragedies. i don’t get the heavier war plays


Could you pick a favorite poem? don’t know any poem, let alone picking a favourite

What about a favorite poetry collection? see above

Who’s your favorite poet? see above


Do you read comics or graphic novels? i’ve read a few: Buffy, Oldboy, Doraemon, but not a lot

Do you have a favorite series? nope

A favorite book? nope


Do you prefer short stories (or short novels) over full-length novels? no, i pretty much only read full length novels, which is strange because I write a lot of short stories

What’s your favorite short story? i have to think about this

Favorite short story collection? nope

Do you have a favorite short story author? nope


What kind of nonfiction do you usually read? none, unless we’re talking about blogs, travel guides or the watcher’s guides i use for reference

Do you have a favorite nonfiction book? i have a few travel photography books i treasure: the collection of Furano & Biei photos by Kenji Alsumi and the Chile photo book by Pablo Valenzuela Vaillant that K gave me for example

Read any interesting biographies? no, though when I was really young (like primary school) I read a bunch of biographies about famous composers

History books? no

Politics? no

Religious texts? no

How about books on mythology, fairy-tales, or other cultural stories? I have Mythology for Dummies on my desk for months and I haven’t touched it


What’s the most important element of a novel? Plot? Characterization? Style? Themes? Happy ending? as long as it makes sense and speaks to me. some books have no particular plot, like the Catcher in the Rye, but i get embroiled in Holden Caulfield’s mind. some have weak characters but a strong storyline, like a lot of adventure books, i get caught up in those too

What kind of plot interests you the most? ones that have that something — not too clichéd, have a combination of strong characters, intrigue, angst

What kind of characters usually appeal to you? real people; people with ups and downs; people who are not perfect; people who know what they want, or are confused about what they want; they can be twisted (like Patrick Bateman) or curious (like Hermione Granger) — as long as the writer tells me their story, and i can relate to them somehow

What is your favorite book overall? i don’t think anyone who takes this survey can answer this

+++PASS IT ON+++

What’s the last book you read? the Supreme Constellations series by Gun Brooke

What are you reading now? i’m looking at my shelf and trying to decide

What are you going to read next? probably something i’ve read before

Is there a book you would recommend to everyone on your friends list? if you want to understand my writing and the type of writer i want to be, read Less than Zero

Tag five people to fill out this meme. I don’t tag. do, or not do, it’s up to you

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

Helen Sandler used to be the editor of Diva, and still freelances for them though nowadays she’s more known as a poet. I haven’t read Diva in many years and I have a feeling my copy of this book was a freebie with the magazine. Published in 2001, it’s Helen Sandler’s proper book about “sanity, secrets and cybersex”.

Some of it seems at once to be both relevant and dated. People still IM and email and (may be) do cybersex. But there’s so much more to online life today that the protagonists would simply be overwhelmed — all the social networking, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, twitters, tumblrs and just completely conducting one’s life online — all pretty unthinkable in the early part of the millenium.

It’s a nice book to read on the plane, not too heavy and just enough humour mixed with angst to make the story interesting. The main character, Joss, tends to whinge and feel sorry for herself way too much but I suppose we all do that. Weird neighbours, well-meaning friends, boring job, a relationship without commitment are all familiar in real life. Meeting someone online and falling in love may seem a novel idea in 2001, but nowadays it’s almost a norm.

Like I said, the writing is light and funny. There are bits between chapters providing insights from the point of view of a side character that are amusing. The main characters are real enough, though in the spirit of being light, not hugely developed. Not a book that left me deeply affected, I enjoyed it.

I think I’ll try to make it a habit, read one of the bookshelf books when I’m travelling.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

I heard this song from The Airborne Toxic Event on the plane, and had to scroll back and listen again. What caught my ear was how much like Chasing Cars it sounded. And I’m big on Snow Patrol. No wonder, this LA group has been compared with The Arcade Fire and Modest Mouse. Mixed reviews, mostly with critics wanting more from them than sounding like yet another one of those bands.

But you know what? I don’t care that they don’t sound quite original, it’s the style I like and there’s never too much of a good thing with stuff you like.

and all of these memories come rushing
like feral waves to your mind
of the curl of your bodies
like two perfect circles entwined

in 101.1001 , arts and media |


I bought a stack of CDs lately, the new ones from: Kings of Leon, Jason Mraz, Keane, Airborne Toxic Event, James Morrison, Katy Perry, Oasis. I’ve gone back to buying physical CDs, for no good reason that I feel like it.

So now I have over 10,000 songs in my iTunes library. Most are ripped from CDs, quite a few are freebies from everywhere and, okay, there’s a bunch that comes from frostwire.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

Bret Easton Ellis defined my writing. I was very affected by Less than Zero and American Psycho. Not so much The Rules of Attraction but still. It’s the style, the tightness of language and ultimately the blank emptiness of his characters, his stories and his locations that got me. Deeply.

The Informers came out in 1994. My copy is actually signed, I bought it in London. Strange that it’s taken me 14 years to finally sit down and read it. I’d tried numerous times, but never got round to finishing. When I’m stuck on a plane with no access to my books, it’s a good incentive to finish.

Not so much a novel as a collection of short stories about a group of people who are loosely interconnected. Almost all written in first person and, honestly, it sometimes took me a few pages to figure out who was narrating.

Nothing of import went on. Set in opulent LA we had people doing drugs, doing each other, aimlessly going from one place to another, and not even death can pull them out of their self-absorption. The actions shock, but are not written to shock. Some of the chapters held my interest more than others. Some of the characters I could recognise — Julian, Tad, Alana and Blair from Less than Zero, or just characters with the same names. Tim was just like Clay. Sean. The characters are grotesque, in their tanned, Porsche-driving, Spago-dining ways. But they are just who they are. He doesn’t judge, or glamorise, he just paints the picture.

Now I need to read Glamorama.

in arts and media , in the news |

omg, i’m getting this giant totally inappropriate crush on Rachel Maddow. She’s so smart. She’s on twitter. She cares about technorati searches. Yet she claims to be just a normal person. Here she is interviewing John Hodgman, another crushworthy guy — he’s “PC” on the mac vs pc ads (I know, I know, Justin Long has the better hair but John is a cutie). Mr Hodgman has a new book out on fake trivia and he’s guest blogging on boing boing. All round coolness.

Back to Dr Maddow. She’s got huge attention as her new msnbc show is doing great in ratings. A whole slew of articles on her: new york times magazine AND arts section, washington post, la times and time magazine, too many to list.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

I had just over half an hour to spare today so I hung out at HMV listening to new releases. The station that had the new James Morrison and Daniel Powter also featured someone I’d never heard of before, Jason Mraz. I listened to We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things and immediately picked it up, as well as his previous CD, Mr A-Z.

I can’t find a lot of articles on him, but it doesn’t matter. A peek at his website confirmed my first impressions — quirky, fun, nerdy and downright left of centre. The Hawaiian influence reminds me of Jack Johnson except I’m liking Jason Mraz whereas I can’t get into Jack Johnson at all.

I tend to listen to too much depressing indie rock, this cheerfulness is a nice change.

in arts and media |

It’s not that often that I read through all my digg feeds but I’m glad I did today, because there was a link to 7 unexpected moments of guitar awesomeness. I mean, Lindsey Buckingham on there is enough for me.

But their #1 is Prince’s solo at the George Harrison Tribute. He totally outshines Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne. Dude.

in arts and media |

Found on the guardian, Kaiser Chiefs’ single Never Miss a Beat from their new album which came out this week. I’m only slowly starting to discover the Chiefs, having heard their name in my subconscious now and then but never quite registering enough attention. I’m liking this song, it’s kinda catchy. Disturbing video though, kids in halloween masks running rampant around a decrepit council estate scaring off the residents and then ending up in some sort of surreal Fame groupdance routine. Huh. Will reserve judgment till I hear more.

in arts and media , in the news |

oh. my. lord. I’m watching the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

It’s spectacular.

in arts and media |

xfiles jurassic

Ignore the fact that mm had to work over the weekend. We’d originally (or rather, I’d begged and begged) planned to see the X-files movie sometime over the weekend. But when I got back I found out that it was on for a week, then disappeared. Either The Dark Knight was too strong, or the people here too stupid to remember. I suppose I have to be resigned to waiting for the dvd.

I’m reminded of this strange article in the USA Today a couple of weeks ago. Most of the article was blurb about the film, which appeared with all the other blurbs out there. But the bits about the Museum of Jurassic Technology inserted into the article were truly weird, like they were trying to be as weird as the show in the early days of the mythology and it ends up seeming forced.

Unfortunately the reviews of the film were pretty harsh. Perhaps Chris Carter was trying too hard? Trying to satisfy the formerly faithfuls while trying not to confuse newcomers. It’s like trying to park a car with 2 open spaces, you’re never as focused as when you have only one space available.

I dunno. May be I managed to convince myself that the film wasn’t worth the hype and anticipation cos I missed it. I may have felt differently if we’d gone and seen it. May be. I hope they aren’t too disappointed and bounce back with a third movie. After all, we still haven’t used the tagline The Truth is Out There.

in arts and media |

Quiet reading day today. I hadn’t done much reading during the week between eating out, jetlag and watching the travel channel. I got through 2 books before dinner (okay, that includes last night).

We spent a little time persuading Gram to come watch Mamma Mia with us and were pleased when she agreed finally. It wasn’t a wasted trip cos she was laughing and humming along.

I saw the musical with mm a few years ago and the film followed the musical pretty loyally. The reviews have been mixed but my reaction to the film is that it was very enjoyable. Sure, Meryl Streep was extra twitchy, Pierce Brosnan can’t sing, Colin Firth was hideously underused and there was an uncurrently of cheesiness to the whole endeavour. But I suspect the viewers weren’t supposed to take it too seriously, and the reviewers who trashed it were probably those who didn’t know how to let their hair down and just have fun. I really wanted to sing along with the songs but was too shy, heehee.

in arts and media |

Less than 2 weeks from the opening of the one film I’ve been looking forward to all year, the New York Times tells us that Chris Carter has a message for us.

CHRIS CARTER, the creator of “The X-Files,” has a message for anyone who, some time during the show’s nine-season run, threw up his hands trying to figure out exactly what was going on with the extraterrestrial abductions, the black-oil aliens, the metal sinus implants, the Syndicate, the Cigarette Smoking Man, Mulder’s sister, Scully’s baby, Mulder’s father, Scully’s cancer, the colonists, the Lone Gunmen, Deep Throat and all the rest of the show’s staggeringly complex and often murky mythology:

You can come back now.

I love that all the players are back. The producers, the stars, the back-to-early-seasons standalone type story. Great article. Must read.

in arts and media |

I got a chance to watch an old musical, Brigadoon on stage. The venue was the Huron Playhouse, a part of Bowling Green State University of Ohio. This is the 60th anniversary year of the theatre and they are putting on 5 productions, as per usual.

The theatre itself is the auditorium of a local school, but it was a full house! All 500+ seats were sold, and many of the audience have season tickets to watch all 5 shows.

I liked the show. The cast and crew are mainly students and this is a sort of educational / semi-professional production. It’s not 100% professional of course, and there were some outrays, but it made it charming. All the credit goes to the company and the director for getting it all ready in 2 weeks. It’s a 5 hour drive from Chicago and I’m glad I was invited.

in arts and media |

I had missed the headline, which read: “Two-Hit Wonders!”

Oh, that.

It’s a list I have shown up on fairly often recently, so I had almost gotten used to it. Of course, he’s right, and it’s demeaning — it makes me look as though somehow I managed to squeak out those two songs and then shuffle back to being a receptionist, which isn’t true.

A satisfyingly long and unsurprisingly well written piece by Suzanne Vega, deconstructing the making of Luka, reminded me of how much I loved her music. It’s great to see that she’s a regular NYT blogger, and I will follow her writing closely.

Like the hundreds of commenters on that post, I disagree that she is a two-hit wonder. She isn’t even a three-, four- or five-hit wonder in my books. Yes, Luka and Tom’s Diner dominate; but there’s Solitude Standing, Left of Center, Small Blue Thing, Marlene on the Wall, Undertow, 99.9F and many others. I remember watching her in concert, a long blue coat, small and thin, a quiet voice that sang deep songs. She’s one of the influences for my teenaged self that inspired that teenaged self to write poetry. Imagine.

in arts and media |

Death Cab for Cutie’s new single, from their album Narrow Stairs. Very rare to come across a single that is over 8 minutes long. Fantastic intro. Even before Ben Gibbard starts singing, the girl in the video has been around the world already.

You gotta spend some time, love
You gotta spend some time with me
I know that you’ll find, love
I will possess your heart

in arts and media |

I have no idea how much time I’ve spent waiting for mm. So when we were trying to arrange to meet after her church, I left plenty of time. She said 12.30pm, so I said 12.45pm, knowing that it means her 12.40pm at the earliest.

But by a strange type of luck: a) she was done early and b) I left my cellphone at home. So she got there really early and got tickets. I got there my usual 15 mins early and I got tickets.


With some persistence we were able to exchange the tickets for Price of Caspian in a couple of weeks’ time. Phew.

We were at the cinema to see Ironman. It was awesome. All that gadgetry … drool. But accomplished dramatic actors as Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges brought sensitivity and acting — who would have thought the 3 of them in a blockbuster superhero film. The CGI was flawless, there was enough story to add to the action, and so what if some of the technology was too fantastic? It’s a superhero film!

Definitely comparable to Transformers.

in arts and media |

I spent most of the day reading quietly. For some reason, I’m reminded of something I find on kottke before my trip. Here’s sad kermit singing Needle in the Hay. He does Creep and Johnny Cash’s Hurt too.

in arts and media |

I see it all the time, even though I don’t watch a lot of TV anymore. It’s always intrigued me, and apparently other people have been wondering too. It seems that it’s called Rolex: A Crown for Every Achievement and is attributed to a Brit by the name of Vince Pope.

What is it? The music for the Rolex commercials. It’s classical, strong, and encouraging. There’s not a lot of online information, surprisingly. But some enterprising people have made compilations. Nice.

in arts and media |

It’s official, the X-files 2 movie will be called X-files: I Want to Believe. Chris Carter said, “It’s a natural title.”

It won’t deal too much into the mythology, but rather will be an earthbound standalone story aimed at both die-hard fans and newcomers. Chris Carter has a good point:

“It has struck me over the last several years talking to college-age kids that a lot of them really don’t know the show or haven’t seen it. If you’re 20 years old now, the show started when you were 4. It was probably too scary for you or your parents wouldn’t let you watch it. So there’s a whole new audience that might have liked the show. This was made to, I would call it, satisfy everyone.”

I don’t know about other fans, but my first reaction was that if they wanted to use a familiar phrase, they really should have used The Truth is Out There, unless they wanted to save it for film #3. That said, I don’t give a damn what they call it, 10 years is a long time to wait for the second film and July can’t come quickly enough for me. There are so many unresolved issues, like the baby, like what happened at the end of Fight the Future, the baby, and most importantly:

Are they gonna kiss properly?

in arts and media , techtalk |

Can the Cellphone Help End Global Poverty? asks the New York Times Magazine this week as they cover the work of Jan Chipchase, an anthropologist-designer working for Nokia whose job is to live and understand how cellphones means for people in Tibet, Uganda, Ecuador etc — in other words the other 4 billion people on earth who don’t have access to a mobile network.

Yes, ultimately the likes of Nokia and Motorola are there to make money but what strikes me as inspiring is that they are making an effort to learn about unique local needs in the developing world. These are potential customers for whom a cellphone isn’t just another gadget or device .

Something that’s mostly a convenience booster for those of us with a full complement of technology at our disposal — land-lines, Internet connections, TVs, cars — can be a life-saver to someone with fewer ways to access information. A just in time moment afforded by a cellphone looks a lot different to a mother in Uganda who needs to carry a child with malaria three hours to visit the nearest doctor but who would like to know first whether that doctor is even in town. It looks different, too, to the rural Ugandan doctor who, faced with an emergency, is able to request information via text message from a hospital in Kampala.

Given resources and the right motivation, people are fantastically inventive. That’s why some humanitarians favour the bottom up approach to aid rather than top down — empower and encourage entrepreneurship rather than telling aid recipients to wait for money to filter down through bureaucracy or corrupt agencies. An example is what Grameen Phone Ltd in Bangledesh offers:

Women use microcredit to buy specially designed cellphone kits costing about $150, each equipped with a long-lasting battery. They then set up shop as their village phone operator, charging a small commission for people to make and receive calls

In the Philippines, pre-paid cards double as currency and gives an alternative way of sending money to far away relatives. Monks in Mongolia are unbelievably tech savvy. In India locals want cellphones to tell them about the weather because they have no access to TV or radio. In Ghana locals are given a chance to test some new Nokia designs:

“Hellllloooooo,” Chipchase said, smiling broadly.

“Helllllooooo, Brudda,” she said back in English.

“We work for Nokia. You know Nokia?”

The woman said nothing, but reached down and from the folds of her wrapper produced a Nokia phone. “Not good,” she said, shaking her head disparagingly. “You call. It switches off.”

Chipchase enlisted the interpreter to explain that her problem sounded like a network problem and not a Nokia problem. Shrugging, the woman went on to inspect the prototype phones, testing their weight in her palm, pressing them against her cheek, punching buttons. She pooh-poohed the stylus phone but said she liked the one-button model if it meant she didn’t need to use a lot of numbers. “Brudda, how do you charge it?” she asked. From his bag, Burns pulled another still-conceptual design, this one a thin metal cylinder with a whirlybird antenna on top. He showed the corn seller how to rotate the cylinder in small circles, causing the antenna to swing, which, he explained, in 15 minutes or so would generate enough power to charge her phone battery.

The woman picked up the futuristic gizmo and began to swing it; the antenna whipped around and around. She let out an enthusiastic whoop. Then a friend of hers who’d been sitting in the shadow of her umbrella started to laugh. Another woman, a spice seller perched on a stool next to small mountains of turmeric and cumin heaped on canvas cloths, began to laugh also. “Very nice,” the corn seller said to Burns and Chipchase, swinging the antenna like a toy. “It’s good!”

in arts and media |

Spotted via kottke, an article I’d never have noticed except it was about something called the Lindsey Buckingham paradox. Heh. What is the LBP?

The Lindsey Buckingham Paradox is what happens when otherwise brilliant musicians decide they’re better than their bandmates (creative differences, natch), strike out on their own with solo “careers”, and somewhat curiously never again manage to grasp his or her own genius in the way we all know is possible.

Lindsey is a goddamned genius. He strives for constant musical evolution, always pushing the creative envelope, and is unto himself an origination point on the great conceptual flowchart of musical evolution in the last 40 years. But, solo? Mania. I mean, oh dear god, concept albums. He’s a one-man Plastic Ono Band, all by himself.

It is when Lindsey Buckingham’s lunatic genius is tempered by Stevie Nicks (and even Christine McVie) that the magic happens, because the whole of Fleetwood Mac is so much greater than the sum of its parts.

Among the top 10 artists who suffer from LBP are Glen Frey, Peter Cetera, Paul McCartney, and Sting. I think about Lindsey’s solo stuff and, yeah, there’s a BIG case for the existence of LBP. Just look at this…um, i don’t know how to describe it…video of Trouble.

in arts and media , techtalk |

The strangeness that is my mind. I saw the periodic table poster on thinkgeek and my first thought was: “I wonder if someone can make a steampunk version.” I guess it’s the greenish grey background.

I find it not an exact science to define steampunk. It’s science; it’s fantasy; it’s history; it’s animation; it’s an attitude and a mood. It’s Jules Verne and laputa and Firefly.

Just watch that video, the guy’s work is so intricate.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

I cannot believe it’s taken me this long, have I been living under a rock or something? A Popstars phenomenon since 2003, their success can’t be attributed to simply being manufactured fake reality stars. Seventeen consecutive Top 10 singles in the UK can’t be scoffed at.

So anyway, I heard Call the Shots on the plane and thought, “hmm, very catchy.” I had to wait for a second cycle to catch the band’s name and I had to write it down on my bookmark. And that was my introduction to Girls Aloud.

The more I listen, the more I like them. Yes, they’re pure pop. Yes, they sell glamour. Yes, I can’t tell the girls apart. So what? Like my first impression, they have catchy songs and that’s enough nowadays. I went out and bought Tangled Up and I’m enjoying it. It appeals to the part of me looking for instant gratification, ice cream and something different from the broody music I’m usually drawn to. The appeal of girls aloud is loud and clear.

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

He’s been around since the 1980s, so it hardly qualifies as new. But I’ve never truly gotten into Nine Inch Nails, or more precisely Trent Reznor. I find the music a little too electronic, a little too industrial, for my taste even though peripherally I know I need to explore the music more.

I was glad to be given an excuse when Ghosts I-IV was released. Definitely setting a great example of how the way music should be distributed in this day and age, the album is available in a variety of formats and prices. Tracks 1-9 are available for free download; the whole album for $5; a double CD for $10; a special edition for $75 and an ultra deluxe limited edition for $300. Needless to say, and as an affront to the RIAA, the $300 edition sold out quickly.

I was perfectly happy to pay $5 for the 36-track digital album and also happily found a review that included a little summary of each track. Very useful, especially for an instrumental album like this, where it’s easy to lose track (heh, no pun intended) of the tracks. One reviewer on amazon suggested listening to each section separately, but listening closely for the first few times then letting it wash over me works better for me. I’m at the listen closely stage and liking the variety as well as the different mood that each piece strikes.

in arts and media |

Another advantage of being in the US is access to the iTunes music store. Although I’m wary of purchasing anything from iTMS because of the fairplay DRM, I live in hope that in time it will fade away due to consumer demands.

I was glad to read about the free album offer at tunecore. Free download at iTMS of 34 songs, definitely a good bargain. It was very easy, just click for a special code at tunecore and redeem it at iTMS. The offer is valid till September and includes music from the likes of the Dandy Warhols, Public Enemy as well as many more I’d never heard of. Good way of sampling new music.

in arts and media , thing-a-day |

One of the best things about being in the US is having access to Pandora again. In fact, I deliberately didn’t bring my external hard disk cos I knew I’ll have lots of music at my fingertips here. Yes, I know I can access pandora using other methods but it didn’t seem worth the trouble.

Anyway, first thing this morning after getting online is setting up a few new personal stations. I added one for the music from Once, let’s see what it brings me.

in arts and media , thing-a-day |

I found a Japanese kimono dolls origami kit at the bottom of a drawer. This must be at least 10 years old, the way they look so at home at the very bottom of the drawer.

kimonodolls01 kimonodolls02

So I thought I’d give it a go, knowing full well I’ll make a mess and it’ll look like crap. No shred of artistic creativity. Just as well that the instructions are illustrated cos I couldn’t make heads or tails of the Japanese. Also, very nice of them to enclose a sample. Took me forever to get it done, including looking for glue in my rarely opened stationery drawer.


The one on the left is my attempt; the one on the right is what it should look like.

in 101.1001 , arts and media , thing-a-day |

One of my 101.1001 tasks is to learn flash. I guess it’s like photoshop and illustrator, the basics are straightforward to learn, once you grasp the toolbar system and understand the concept of layers and timeline. But with such a complex program, to get any good takes a long time.

So I followed an informative video that shows how to create a simple animation with falling text effects in flash. It was fun.

in arts and media , thing-a-day |

badly drawn doodle
Over on the main site there are drawings and crafts that are so creative. So just to reinforce my knowledge that I have not a single artistic cell, here’s my attempt at art. This was created, not very creatively, at online sketchpad.

in arts and media , thing-a-day |


So yeah, we’ve been a little ebook crazy lately. And I finally bought ebook studio for $26.95 (I found a 10% discount code). It’s dead easy to use, it can read txt, rtf, html — the more stripped down text formats and conversion to pdb takes one minute. Of course, to add more features like images, page breaks, table of contents will take longer but the basic action takes a minute.

So for my thing-a-day today I made a video of me converting lamplight to ereader format to show: a) I made an ebook and b) it really only takes a minute.

in arts and media |

What do balls, paint, bunnies and ribbons have in common? Ingredients for a kid’s party for sure. Miscellaneous items found in a garage too. But there is a sequence to these — these are the themes for a series of Sony Bravia commercials. I usually skip ads on TV but I’ve taken to watching it whenever it comes on.

This is the 4th in a series of colourful and creative Bravia ads, all are worth spending a few minutes watching, for no better reason that they were all filmed “real”:

  • balls (2005) — 250,000 brightly coloured rubber balls bounced down real San Francisco streets
  • paint (2006) — 70,000 litres of paint, 1,700 explosions, one Glasgow council estate
  • bunnies (2007) — or sometimes called play doh this featured claymation rabbits, cubes and shapes given free rein of the streets of New York
  • pyramid (2008) — the Great Pyramid in Egypt is covered with ribbons

Good stuff. As the guardian said:

Simple, catchy, different, endearing, brilliant

in 101.1001 , arts and media |

When I read about layer tennis I thought: “okay, it’s a bunch of designer-bloggers doing their small clique thing again, to show off to the general public why they are so cool and why other uncool people can’t get into their club.”

Well okay that was a little harsh. The idea of layer tennis is that at a pre-determined time (usually 2pm Central time on a Friday), two contestants

swap a file back and forth in real-time, adding to and embellishing the work. Each artist gets fifteen minutes to complete a “volley”

The file is published to online viewers and a third person provides commentary. Most matches are played in photoshop but there’ve been matches played in after-effects, flash and illustrator. It’s really a test of visual design skills in a short period of time rather than how well they know how to use photoshop filters.

There’s been 15 sessions so far, this weekend’s featured two simultaneous matches and it was touted as a “finale” so I’m not sure if it’s the last scheduled or what.

Do I understand it? Yes I do. And I’m pretty impressed with the creativity and ideas. This is from one of my favourites, between Veerle Pieters and Cindy Li on 11=Jan-08.

layer tennis01

layer tennis02

It was also interesting to read the participants’ thoughts on the match: Veerle Pieters | Cindy Li. Of course there was a large dose of inside jokes, as they know each other. Not a huge amount of technique commentary, mostly thoughts of how they arrived at each volley. Seemed like fun was had by all.

in arts and media , techtalk |

Ever since the kindle came out I’d been having on and off thoughts about getting an ebook reader. I’m still not sure about the kindle. I’m with Philippe Starck, it is a little sad. No, it’s actually pretty ugly, expensive and the wireless all but useless for me. I wonder why ebook reader designers insist on using a one page portrait orientation. I’d prefer a device that shows 2 pages on a screen, landscape — like an actual book.

But ebooks aren’t just for handheld devices. ebook software has existed for a long time, and I can’t believe it took me this long to download ereader. I have the free version now, but the pro version is only $5, which is…nothing.

Car did all the research, cos she’s the one who likes reading on the screen. There are so many places to download ebooks, one of the early favourites is manybooks with they claim almost 20,000 titles, mostly from project gutenberg. The books come in all sorts of formats including: kindle, palm, iPhone, pdf, even newton. Most of the titles are public domain classics and with so many available, it’ll be a long time before anyone is tired of their selection. Here’s how Pride and Prejudice looks on my screen.


For fanfic closer to home, there’s pdafiction, and Susan has converted a number of stories on the muse to ebook format — it was weird downloading my own stuff. Hee.

Ease of reading is very high. I can choose one page, two-pages and full screen. There’s a range of backgrounds, fonts and sizes — these may be pro only features but like I said, $5 is a doddle. I can pageup or down using my arrows. There’s also links, annotations and a dictionary. No complaints here. For $29.95 I can get ereader studio which allows me to create ebooks. Oh boy, I can see days and days of fun.

in arts and media |

I just finished watching the final of TAR12. It was very exciting, and for once it was 3 likeable teams. Most of the comments on twop from last week’s ep was how no one minded who won, because in their ways they all deserved it.

I was mad, because there was a tiny header in the NYT which spoiled it for me about who finally won. Sigh. That was the first time I was spoiled. (Apart from catching up on TAR1 and 2 a few seasons after they aired.) In any case, I enjoyed it. And that’s why TAR is my favourite reality program…favourite program in all classes actually.

in arts and media , family first |

It’s a family tradition, that we all go to the yacht club to enjoy mulled wine and minced pies, then watch the choir sing the christmas carols before sitting down for christmas eve buffet. This year sis invited her friends Win, Po and their son Josh. I had something like 4 glasses of mulled wine but only a few bites of the minced pies. Mum put probably 20 of them in a ziploc bag for home.

I do enjoy Christmas Carols very much. I don’t broadcast this all over the place but deep down I’m a fairly religious person and I like the meaning that carols bring. Ignoring how commercialised Christmas is, step back and think about the origins of the day, and listen to the words in the hymns. I’m not so keen on the overly jovial ones like Joy to the World or Jingle Bells. My favourites are Once in Royal David’s City and Silent Night sung very slowly. This year, I have O Holy Night on my mind pretty constantly the last couple of days. I mean, how can anyone not be moved by the chorus.

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices
O night divine, O night when Christ was born

There are literally dozens of versions available online. I’ve listened to pop stars and opera singers on youtube but this one is absolutely stunning! Michael Crawford with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Don’t let this Christmas pass without listening to this at least once.

in arts and media |

I have a soft spot for charming, off-beat, Sundance-type of films. Sideways, What’s Cooking, Before Sunrise (but not Before Sunset), Oldboy, an obscure French film called Nanou, and I’ll admit it…Reality Bites are ones that I remember long after I’ve seen them.

I watched Once on the plane. It won the World Cinema Audience Award at this year’s Sundance. And well deserved, it was absolutely charming and wonderful. A simple story — an Irish busker meets immigrant woman and they find music, friendship and love. There’s a lot of chemistry between the 2 leads, who are more musicians than actors; and for a short film the character development was fantastic. A sign of quirkiness is that the characters were never named, just going by “Guy” and “Girl”; it also has the type of ending I enjoy.

The film starts with a man and a guitar. My first thought was, it’s another Chance! No offense to Amber Benson, but this is what Chance tried, but couldn’t quite get to be. Conceived by director John Carney as a “video album” much of the film was just the leads singing some songs. And what songs! Wow. A commenter wrote on the Time Out London review wrote:

The kind of film which overwhelms me in its breathless scope. Genuine, big hearted, generous. It touches at our romantic notions if we have them. I wanted them to be together. I wanted to listen to the songs over and over again with my own sense of resonance with my own meaning in perception of it. I felt emotional but I didn’t cry, I just recognised my own experience of life through this film.

The official website streams the songs endlessly and I’ve been listening to them all night. There’s an official soundtrack but Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová also recorded a cd of songs called The Swell Season — some of the songs are on the film, some are not.

I shouldn’t put 2 videos in one post but I simply have to. This next one is of Glen and Markéta performing “If You Want me” my favourite song from the film. I actually rewound a couple of times when i was watching to listen to it again.

ETA: some stats. The film cost $160,000 and has grossed over $14million worldwide as of 6-Dec-07. The soundtrack was #1 on the iTunes soundtrack chart. There’s low level Oscar buzz too.

in arts and media |

it was with great sadness that I read that Karlheinz Stockhausen has died. I don’t know his works that well, finding some of it in the Very Weird and Needing to be in A Special Mood to Listen category.

I was in a weird mood tonight so I thought it may be a good opportunity to try the new Deutsche Grammophon online store, with its giant catalogue of DRM-free, 320kbps mp3s, including its vast store of out-of-print albums. Alas, the only offering was a mixed CD containing one Stockhausen piece sandwiched between two by György Kurtág.

Lucky enough, he has his own website and an impressive collection of mp3s and videos. This youtube video is of Kontakte, written in the 1950s.

in arts and media , techtalk |


The third new book from yesterday’s big book order is a nice story about government, the President of the USA, a writer and 3 kids. It’s also set in year 2020-ish. Looking at the publication date, first published in 2001 which means probably written during 2000 or earlier.

Though a well-written story that flows easily and with likeable characters, I can’t help but smirk at some of the “advanced” technologies that we thought in 2000 would be in place in 2020.

  1. voice activated computer and media systems with voice authentication, as in “Computer, start playback on disk, code 123456” where you had to use your activation code Every.Single.Time you issue a command — um newsflash, voice activation is a hassle and stupid; and needing to speak a code as security is worse than no security
  2. taking pictures on a film camera — i mean, who uses film anymore?
  3. paper newspapers — I won’t be surprised that by 2020 paper versions of newspapers and magazines would be overtaken by electronic versions
  4. people using the phone to contact each other albeit with holographic images, no mention of IM, sms or anything using the web

I’m not deriding the book, in fact the tech part is small and only incidental to the story. I’m just kinda amazed at how quickly technology has advanced and how writers have to think very far ahead when writing a contemporary story set in the future. There were hardly any blogs in 2000 and certainly no facebook or skype. Again, amazing.

in arts and media |


The big 15-book order I placed using the voucher Sis gave me for my birthday arrived yesterday. I was so excited when I opened the box, it’s been more than 4 weeks since I put the order in. I didn’t have to go out today cos of timing and miscommunication with mm (nothing bad, just confusion about times) so I stayed in and read like crazy. I finished the book I’d been reading before, read one of the new ones and am almost done with a second one. I’m likely to start a third new book tonight. It’s wonderful.

It’s strange, some time during the last year or so I picked up reading books again. I’m now reading less intense, and not generally fantasy books, but they are enjoyable nontheless. Add to it following 70+ feeds and writing here on the website, I’m doing more reading than anything else. Including writing. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, I guess it’s good.

in arts and media , objects of desire , techtalk |


There’s been a fair bit of attention on amazon’s kindle lately. At first I skimmed past all the articles but today I sat down and read a few of them. First impressions? Very mixed reception and boy, is it ugly. Conclusion? No thank you.

I’ve never considered using an ebook reader at all, although I can see the benefits especially when travelling, or for students who are carrying around too many heavy textbooks already. The demo video on the product page sure is enticing, and it tempted the gadget-geek in me for, oh, about a second.

why I might buy it

  1. it can store hundreds of books in one book-sized package — saves lugging lots of books around

  2. as of launch, almost 90,000 titles available from amazon at a lower price than paper books

  3. amazon name, especially the book selection

  4. eliminates expensive shipment fees

  5. built-in wireless means instant shopping gratification

  6. subscriptions to newspapers, magazines and blogs

  7. dictionary and wikipedia

why I won’t buy it

  1. oh lordy, is it ugly or what

  2. $400 for the reader alone — there’s comparison with iPod pricing, but thing is … music requires a widget, be it walkman, boombox or iPod but books don’t need no hardware, dude

  3. monopolistic — it can only read the proprietary amazon format, cannot load other formats, no connection between the book on my shelf and the ebook

  4. DRM — who’s ever heard of DRM-ing books? Once bought, it’s mine and i should be free to do as I please with it, including sharing with my friends

  5. although cheaper than paper books, $9.99 for best sellers is expensive — the publishers don’t seem to be passing along the vast amount of savings from not needing to physically publish and distribute books

  6. charging consumers for books in the public domain doesn’t seem right

  7. charging consumers for stuff they can otherwise get free is ridiculous — $0.99 per blog per month? Kidding?

  8. omg, black & white screen?

  9. what is the keyboard doing there? why isn’t it a slide-out panel?

  10. the so-called built-in wireless uses EVDO, which for those of us who live in non-caveman networkland is something unknown — apparently it’s a CDMA (omg!!!) based cellular wireless network that is provided by Sprint. In other words it’s completely and utterly useless outside the US

  11. I said ugly already, right?

I want to like this device. I’ve not thought of using an ebook reader but I’m intrigued. I read enough books to want something small that can hold more — I took 6 books with me on my 2 week trip, imagine the convenience with a kindle. I can imagine the convenience of having loads of travel guides when I’m on holiday.

Many people, including the newsweek cover story likened the kindle to the early iPod. Not apples to apples, I’m afraid. Yes even though the analogy is there, there is one HUGE difference — the consumer can happily use and enjoy the iPod without ever going near iTMS. I mean, I like amazon and order a hell of a lot of books from them so it’s not a huge problem that the content is tied to the hardware. But it’s too closed. What if a book I want isn’t on amazon but is available from say a niche publisher? So my choice is limited, isn’t it?

The iPod sold us something we never thought we needed before, but can’t live without after. There’s no such buzz with the kindle, for me it’s meh at best. It’s a great idea, and I hope amazon will continue to improve the product. Until then, I’ll stick with traditional books.

And really, they have to do something about the dismal design.

in arts and media |

Ever since Pandora fell under the wrath of money-grabbing selfish music industry dictators, I’ve been missing it. I still have it on my toolbar, in case they make a triumphant return one day.

Not as sleek-looking but there’s now hope. lifehacker calls it Pandora on steroids — formerly known, deezer is an awesome way of listening to music online. It lets users search for songs, create playlists and randomly stream songs. Though it’s still a little raw — it may not have all the songs one would typically search for, songs in an album aren’t listed in order and the stream is sometimes broken — but these are small things.

With a smart playlist, it will play similar songs the way pandora used to. I haven’t tried it yet — that feature requires registration and I haven’t gotten round registering. Still, the features for a non-registered user are nice enough. I listened to a few albums today.

There are discussions in the lifehacker comment thread, about saving the streamed mp3s. Turns out that the streamed versions are only 32kpbs, okay for streaming but not worth keeping. They seem to have worked out a way of pacifying the music industry, which is a good thing. I do still miss pandora, the recommendations were great and I like how the player popped into a smaller window.

in arts and media | | comments (1)

This is Not Pretty Enough by Kasey Chambers.

Am I not pretty enough
Is my heart too broken
Do I cry too much
Am I too outspoken
Don’t I make you laugh
Should I try it harder
Why do you see right through me


in arts and media |

Staying with the music theme, here are some of my recent purchases.

The Invitation — Thirteen Senses
Contact — Thirteen Senses
If You’ve Never Been — Embrace
This New Day — Embrace
Out of Nothing — Embrace
Tin Lily — Jeff Black
Love Travels at Illegal Speeds — Graham Coxon
Another Fine Day — Golden Smog
Blood on the Slacks — Golden Smog
From the Decker House — The Rosewood Thieves
Feeling the Fall — The Village Green

I was also listening to videos of Death Cab for Cutie on youtube. Further surfing led me to barsuk records and a very generous collection of free mp3s of their musicians.

in arts and media |

Yes I’m a britpop and britpop-influence junkie. My iTunes library is full of Coldplay, Keane, Travis, Starsailor and the like. Here’s my newest discovery, Thirteen Senses from Penzance. Their song Into the Fire was featured on both Grey’s Anatomy and the 4400. This one’s called Do No Wrong and it’s really really good.

Do No Wrong

Satellites contain us
Traffic lights control us
Rockets shoot us up into the stars
Rockets shoot us up into the stars

Letters keep us posted
Numbers calculated
Nothing picks us up when we are down
Nothing picks us up when we are down

Complement the atmosphere
Fill the ground with all our tears
Dry them up to make it clear
Do no wrong
Complement the atmosphere
Fill the ground with all our tears
Dry them up to make it clear
Do no wrong

Strange surrounds each corner
Stains pollute the water
Something for us all to think about
Something for us all to think about

Summer sun protects us
Winter rain affects us
Now it seems to me we can’t be free
Now it seems to me we can’t be free

Close the door before it’s late
We were born to love and hate
Turn it down for our own sake
Do no wrong
You fill your ears with every note
Direction seems the only hope
Its crowded lets create now
Do no wrong

Common sense protect us
Everything affects us
To the outside light its paradise
To the outside light its paradise

in arts and media |

We went to see Transformers mainly at my behest. I kinda wanted to see a film and there weren’t so many choices. I’ve heard of Transformers as toys and a cartoon when I was young, but I was never into it. I mean, I’ve seen my fair share of Japanese giant robot cartoons, but I didn’t obsessively follow them, nor found them memorable.

When the film started and the military base was being attacked, mm was scared and I was afraid she wouldn’t like the film.

Then the action got bigger, and everything got bigger. (Come on, it’s a Michael Bay film after all.) I was flabbergasted at the CGI effects — so seamless, to make the solid mechanical transformers move so fluidly. Wow, ILM really did their stuff. mm was getting into it too, so that was a relief.

We thought it was a very enjoyable film, one of the best we’d seen in a while. Yes the dialogue was clichéd and exposition-like at times; some of the human characters were extraneous and parts of the film were plain corny. But it’s not high drama — it’s a action film that’s based on toys! The main characters are the robots, there isn’t supposed to be a great human story there.

Like one of the critics said on rotten tomatoes: “there is so much action packed into every second of Transformers that by the time it’s over, you may be tempted to go outside and give the box office another 10 bucks.”

in arts and media |

Found via mefi and totally dugg, a great sequence of movie scenes and quotes, counting down from 100 to 1.

And the maker very nicely gave us the answers too.

in arts and media , techtalk |

Lifehacker reports on some fantastic people who lists possible methods of accessing pandora from outside the US. I haven’t tried them all, but the most obvious public cgi loads, but is slow. Kudos for them for trying to help.

in arts and media |

Warning: If you haven’t watched the TAR final, don’t read.

So, probably the most meh non-team ever wins TAR. Not the most unsatisfactory, because the despicable Mirna could have won and I would not want to hear her talk about “overcoming prejudices” and preaching about stuff (oh wait, she did that too). When the race started I wanted JVJ or Romber, but by the beginning of the finale I found myself rooting for the BQs. The tasks were interesting, the kayak looked very tough and they had helicopters overhead watching all the time. The know-your-partner task was better than a lot of physical or eating tasks we’ve had in the past.

Still, in all the TARs I’ve watched (and I’ve followed it live since TAR3, and watched the old ones on repeat) this ranks at the top 3 of sucky finishes. TAR:FE is still way out there in #1.

in arts and media |

Finally I watched a couple of episodes of the Catherine Tate Show. It’s a series of sketches with recurring characters and themes, like the foul-mouthed granny Nan Taylor and her best known character Lauren “I ain’t bovvered” Cooper. Lots of Lauren videos on youtube, including the one with Tony Blair. Gets a bit formulaic after watching a few of them in one go, but still funny. I like this one with David Tennant best.

in arts and media , techtalk |

Talking about Pandora, the day after I decide to listen to it more, it will no longer be available to non-US users because of some crap-ass licensing issue. It was always intended for US users only but they were okay about users supplying any zip code.

Pandora operates under Section 114 of the DMCA, which gives them a clear process for paying rights holders in the U.S. There is no international equivalent of the DMCA, and so to operate legally in other countries, Pandora must sign deals with rights holders directly. That means separate deals with labels and publishers for each song, an extremely difficult and time consuming task.

You really gotta hand it to the music industry don’t you. They’re gonna kill their own industry all by themselves. If it weren’t for Pandora, I wouldn’t have discovered Brookville, Ivy and a whole slew of artists. And today I went to HMV looking for The Village Green! (Didn’t find them, I’ll probably order from amazon.) How are less well known musicians going to have this sort of exposure? Pandora is easy to use, has great recommendations and is not intrusive. And now they’ll lose a large chunk of their users because they live in the wrong part of the world. The world, and especially the internet world, is global nowadays, when will greedy businesses ever catch on to that?

in arts and media |

I’m listening to pandora again and one of the recommendations was from The Village Green. Most google searches came up with the Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society. This Portland band isn’t anything like the Kinks, though I like what I’ve heard from them so far.

This song is called When the Creepers creep in, which is very apt because I’ve been playing desktop tower defense. Again.

in arts and media |

via bboing, a 1977 video of Jodie Foster singing in French, for a rare film called Moi, Fleur bleue. I’m impressed at how fluent she is.

in arts and media |

Sometimes, not even rap or heavy metal can cut it. Sometimes, you need classical music. The mood called for something wrenching, and deep, and bone-crushing. So I put on my classical collection. I’m not a huge fan of symphonies, and definitely not chamber music. But concertos hit me big time. And what better than Rachmaninov’s #3? So I was watching and listening, and it’s indescribable. Vladimar Horowitz, New York Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta, 1979. I have the Ashkenazy version, but Horowitz … genius.

The audio and video is a little out of sync but who cares? Here’s the second movement and third movement.

in arts and media |

It’s weird to be posting a rap video, cos I’m not into the whole hip-hop thing at all. Aside from a little Eminem, I don’t know any. This is from Fort Minor, which is a side project of Linkin Park’s Mike Shinola. What makes it interesting is I, um, don’t like Linkin Park either. Nice guest vocals from Holly Brook and Jonah Matranga.

Where’d you go?
I miss you so,
Seems like it’s been forever,
That you’ve been gone.


in arts and media |

Watched episode 1 of TAR All-Stars. I was cheering and clapping my hands, I’m not too prudish to admit that. :)

The best thing was knowing all the teams, usually it takes a few eps to remember racers’ names but not this time. Some teams didn’t deserve the “All-stars” title — Dave & Mary, BQs and Eric(who?) & Danielle (who?) didn’t make an impression the first time they were on, and even less this time.

Uchenna & Joyce, Asshat+wife were meh tonight. I didn’t like the Frats as much as I thought, why are they whining so much?

Mirna & Chirna — stop talking please, both of you.

love love love — Guidos (boy they look so great), Romber (yes, I think they’re cool, so?).


So why the bittersweet? JVJ. Sniff, I’m gonna cry now.

Gimmicks like All-Stars don’t work most times, but this one is gonna work. I can feel it.

in arts and media | | comments (1)

mm and I finally saw Casino Royale on saturday. It was one of the best Bond films I’ve seen, and I like Daniel Craig as Bond, very much. Not since Connery has a Bond had this much grit and cool menace. Much closer to Ian Flemming’s Bond than Roger Moore (blech) or even Pierce Brosnan (too suave).

The action sequences were brilliant, absolutely brilliant. And I like that they relied less on gadgets (no Q, even). The foot chase was much more exciting than any car chase I’ve seen, and mm was so engrossed she was clutching my sweater! Heehee.

Oh, talking about James Bond title sequences. Via bb, some dude put together all the Bond title sequences. Another dude put together lots of Bond trailers. Ian Fleming would be proud.

in arts and media | | comments (1)

mm and I went to see My Fair Lady today at the theatre. It was a production by a local amateur company. Although it wasn’t bad, we were hard pressed to find any overly enthusiastic words unfortunately. Top marks for effort, the ensemble did well and the director worked well with a large cast who seemed at times to be crowded on a tiny stage. Ultimately there just wasn’t enough chemistry between the actors. I did enjoy myself, the songs were familiar and the atmosphere very nice.

in arts and media |

via me-fi, a phenomenal Christmas ad from Irn-Bru, entitled fittingly, “Phenomenal Christmas.” Now I haven’t had Irn-Bru for a long long time, cos it’s really very very Scottish, like scotch eggs and the legendary (read: urban legendary) deep fried Mars bars. Anyway the ad is a cheeky and nicely animated take on the famous song from The Snowman. The ad also features Scottish landmarks.

Official site and lyrics:

we’re walking in the air
i’m sipping on an irn-bru
my chilly snowman mate
says he would like some too

i tell him, get your own
he looks like he’s going to cry
i tell him once again
that the irn-bru is mine

now i’m falling through the air
i wonder where i’m going to land
he nicked my irn-bru
and let go of my hand

in arts and media |

Loved Encyclopedia Brown as a kid, loved loved loved. Via metafilter, a modern day re-telling, with a twist. Nice stuff, must read.

in arts and media |

I was looking for videos of Sleigh Ride when I came across an awesome performance of a group of marimba playing Japanese kids, playing Sleigh Ride. The little one is soooooo cute.

There’s more. Here’s an even more awesome video of them playing Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance.

in arts and media |

I’m feeling a little rich today, so I went and bought a few cds. I can’t remember when was the last time I decided so quickly.

  • in the clear — ivy
  • life in the shade — brookville
  • 100 broken windows — idlewild
  • I sincerely apologise for all the trouble I’ve caused — david ford

And then I get home and remembered I should have looked for some more, like guestroom by ivy and some enon / gusto. Next time.

in arts and media | | comments (1)

Someone, whose name shall remain anonymous but shall be known simply as The Garbo (heehee) introduced me to pandora, an intelligent internet radio station thingie. Enter an artist or a song and it tries to select songs or artists that have similar attributes like accoustic instrumentation, meandering melodic phrasing, downtempo influence (seriously, I kid you not). There’s a sense of artificial intelligence in this. Listeners can help build the knowledge base by voting whether a song fits the criteria, and the system remembers the vote.

Rhapsody has something similar (“James Blunt Radio”) but isn’t as clever, and no voting system. I also like how in Pandora I can build different stations, it’s like a never-ending playlist.

Oh, um, it’s only supposed to be for US residents. They ask for zipcodes when registering.

in arts and media | | comments (2)

I officially don’t have cable anymore. I haven’t watched it in ages. Well, I hardly watch TV anymore.

Doesn’t mean I don’t have channels. I had both cable and broadband TV, but since my favorite channels are also on broadband TV, there is no point having both.

So, yeah. I hardly watch TV. So when my trusty 9 year old 25” died why did I buy an expensive 37” LCD? Heh.

in arts and media |

I was surfing around youtube when I came across this. Subsequent searches on google, limewire and myspace were not succesful, so I’m putting it here. I hope that this song becomes more widely available soon. It’s called Lightbulbs by Sam Dillehay.

in arts and media | | comments (1)

I know I should be writing more about my day, or how I think about an issue, or current affairs, or even more mac love. Posting youtube vids isn’t really posting. But K introduced me to this song and it’s really really good. So now I have 2 current favourites: I don’t care what you call me by David Ford and Waves by Mono Band. There is so much similarity with the 2 sounds.

in arts and media |

From decaffeinated. Heh, I read the article a couple of days ago and had problems finding it again.

I have a second generation 20GB clickwheel firewire iPod, the pb1 still runs iTunes 2, even though the mbp is update as far as iTunes is concerned. I’d like a new iPod but I’m not allowed any more big expenses this year.

I’ve been listening in shuffle mode ever since I got the mbp. After reading the article, I sorted the play count of my 6,400+ songs. I’ve played Over My Head by the Fray 15 times, yet The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony has never been played. It’s kinda a travesty isn’t it.

Shuffle gets up my nerves sometimes. Nirvana followed by Mozart then Faith Hill is too weird, my mood doesn’t change that quickly. Listening to artists alphabetically gets stale, and I don’t classify by genre. Making playlists is getting tiresome. I used to have every single song in at least one playlist, but it’s no longer possible. So it’s like a bolt of lightning striking me, to listen alphabetically by album. There’s sufficient randomness but keeps me in the mood of one singer / artist long enough. And I have tons of songs from one album only, so makes a good break.

So now when I power up iTunes, I randomly select a letter and play from there. It’s nice.

in arts and media |

I came across the trailer for Heart of Gold, Jonathan Demme’s concertmentry of the premiere of Neil Young’s Prairie Winds concert at the Ryman Auditorium at Nashville last year. What caught my eye, well ear actually, was one of the new songs, “It’s a Dream”, which was really moody and beautiful.

Someone did a video of scenes from Cape Cod using it as a background. It’s relaxing viewing.

What cracked me up also, was the google ads that were on the page. I searched for “Neil Young dream” and got Wales and San Francisco? Weird.

google ad

in arts and media |

via metafilter.

Love Love Love The Office. Now MS has hired David Brent, the ultimate incompetent manager, as a management consultant. Oh wait, Microsoft hired Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant to make a training video, I’m getting the characters mixed up. Oh who cares because OMG, FUNNY!

Two videos available on ifilm: video 1, video 2.

Did I say funny?

in arts and media |

15 Book-to-film adaptations that live up to the source material.

Don’t agree on all of them. Haven’t read all of them. Loved Charlotte’s Web as a kid. Loved American Psycho as an adult. Note to self: read more books.

in arts and media |

This is a spoof version of “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt. LOL.

My job is stupid,
My day’s a bore,
Inside this office,
From 8 to 4.

Nothing ever happens,
My life is pretty blank,
Pretending that I am working,
Pray I don’t get canned.

My cubicle, my cubicle,
It’s 1 of 62,
It’s my small space,
In a crowded place,
Just a six by six board booth,
And I hate it, that’s the truth.

When I give a sigh,
As the boss walks by,
No one ever talks to me,
Or looks me in the eye,
And I really should work,
But instead I just sit here,
And surf the internet.

And my cubicle, my cubicle,
It doesn’t have a view,
It’s my small space,
In a crowded place,
I sit inside there too,
And sometimes I sit here nude.

in arts and media |

Enid Blyton’s books are being modernised, and not in a good way.

The rigid gender divisions in the Famous Five and Secret Seven series have also been swept aside, with both sexes expected to do their fair share of domestic chores.

“I say” has been replaced by “hey”, “queer” with “odd” and “cookies” replaces “biscuits” in an attempt to appeal to the American market.

I find that so wrong on many levels. Of course, compared with now, they were very old-fashioned and some of the concepts (racism, sexism) even unacceptable. But isn’t that part of the charm of the books? I read them when I was young and even then I recognised the stereotypes. Doesn’t mean I followed her thinking. They were great books just to read, the adventures and the innocence of the characters were engrossing.

I’m kinda of upset that the publishers are taking that away in these new editions. Miss Blyton’s biographer said aptly, “I just wonder where it will stop. Do we start updating Jane Austen next, or Dickens? I would call on publishers just to think about it first, and not make changes willy-nilly.”

in arts and media , easily amused |

NSFW for very naughty language.

By now, everyone should know that I have a mac chip embedded in my head. So it may come as a surprise that I laughed my socks off at this mac parody. May be it’s reminiscing at the days of switching. Or the old system sounds. Ahhh, sosumi.

Blue screen of death

Here’s another one, a bunch of others, more, animated versions, Will Farrell, and even Han Solo.

in arts and media |

via metafilter, the work of Chicago artist Cayetano Ferrer, who paints images on street signs that make them look transparent and show the scenery behind them. This is my favourite, more examples at his website.


Reminds me that I need to take photos of the window behind my mbp so that it appears that I have a transparent screen.

in arts and media |

via wired.

For a series that ended 3 years ago (4 if you are one of those who feel very strongly about a certain issue), Buffy’s fandom has remained strong. True, it’s not as huge as Star Trek or Doctor Who, but there are still fanatical communities.

Cherub is a tongue-in-cheek, HILARIOUS fan parody of Angel, which “airs” on the Caution Zero network. It tells of Cherub, the evil vampire who was cursed by gypsies, given a soul and bunny slippers. His soft spot is Muffy, the vampire chiropractor and if he experiences a moment of perfect spinal adjustment, he loses his soul and his bunny slippers become evil. Like I said, HILARIOUS! Click on the banner to view the trailer.

cherub banner

Elsewhere, um Australia to be exact, a 17 year old has written, directed and gotten together with a group of her friends to make their version of BtVS season 8. The first three teasers of the first ep, Forgotten Memories, are up at youtube. It’s funny. Mostly I’m happy that the fandom is alive and still going strong.

Teaser 1

Teaser 2

Teaser 3

in arts and media |

What a coincidence. I bought a 20 CD collection of Blues music and have been loading them to iTunes. Some of the artists, like Elmore James and BB King, are familiar to me. But there are others with strange names like Howlin’ Wolf and Canned Heat whom I’ve never come across before — I was a bit puzzled at their names.

Seems like early bluesmen had their fair share of single word names too — could Leadbelly be the first such trendsetter? Setting an example for the likes of Madonna, Prince and Bono? LOL.

And guess what I came across today? Billy Bragg re-recorded Leadbelly’s protest song “Bourgeois Blues,” changing the lyrics and calling it “Bush War Blues.” What’s more? It’s available for free download.

in arts and media , techtalk |

From iPod observer via Matt, the Microsoft designs iPod box parody was actually made by MS. Don’t know what to make of that. Applaud MS for having a sense of humour? Be suspicious that they only made the announcement after seeing the publicity they were getting? Apparently it was “an internal-only video clip commissioned by our packaging [team] to humorously highlight the challenges we have faced re: packaging and to educate marketers here about the pitfalls of packaging/branding” and they didn’t intend to release the video to the public. Yeah, like MS ever releases anything they don’t want to. Come to think of it, Apple too.

Still think it’s one of the best videos I’ve seen this year.

in arts and media |

Via Metafilter, a video by this guy called Mark Ronson, set to Radiohead’s Just. Remember the Creep video? Not as breath-takingly memorable but still very good.

radioheadjust01 radioheadjust02

Just - Radiohead

Can’t get the stink off
He’s been hanging round for days
Comes like a comet
Suckered you but not your friends
One day he’ll get to you
And teach you how to be a holy cow

You do it to yourself, you do
And that’s what really hurts
Is that you do it to yourself
Just you and no one else
You do it to yourself
You do it to yourself

Don’t get my sympathy
Hanging out the 15th floor
You’ve changed the locks three times
He still comes reeling through the door
One day I’ll get you
And teach you how to get to purest hell

You do it to yourself, you do
And that’s what really hurts
Is that you do it to yourself
Just you, you and no one else
You do it to yourself
You do it to yourself

You do it to yourself, you do
And that’s what really hurts
Is that you do it to yourself
Just you, you and no one else
You do it to yourself
You do it to yourself.. yourself.. yourself..

in arts and media |

LJ is full of memes, there are so many quizzes out there, I even subscribe to blogthings on rss.

So well, here's a movie quiz -- have to guess the title from just one image from the film. The images are a bit dark and blurry and some of the movies seem too obscure for me. The great thing is the answer box goes green when the correct answer is put in. There's a part 2 too. And they're not giving answers, it'll be frustrating. I'm keeping a running tab on how I'm doing so far.

part 1
part 2































well actually, there are answers: part 1, part 2.

in arts and media |

You know what they say about healthy competition. If Singapore has theirs (actually one, two of them), then Hong Kong should have its own anagram remix transit map too.

Here’s the full-sized version with all the stations on the MTR.

Here’s the original map.

Yes, I know a bunch of city subway systems have been remixed. And I’m usually not a follower (really?). But this is too much fun NOT to do, especially since it’s the weekend and I’m at home doing nothing much.

in arts and media |

I came across this last week, Thatcher the Musical played for a short run at the Warwick Arts Centre. Mrs Thatcher is played by 10 different actresses, all representing different stages of her life, starting from life as a grocer’s daughter to one of the most respected prime ministers. Key moments include the Brighton bombing, the Falklands war and the miner’s strike.

Reviews were not wonderful. The Independent gave it one star out of five and says that it’s “so relentlessly superficial, so innocuous, that it rouses only apathy.” The Telegraph was more sympathetic, call it an “enjoyable romp” and “grateful that someone in the theatre world has finally had the decency to acknowledge her seismic role in British politics.”

The plastic wigs (left) are reminiscent of the Spitting Image puppets (right). I guess we’re supposed to take the musical as seriously as we took Spitting Image. That is, not at all.


in arts and media |

I borrowed about 20 CDs off Mum, she has different taste from me, but I’d borrow her CDs and listen to her stuff occasionally. So now I have a stack that contains: Patrizio Buanne, Faith Hill, Il Divo, Norah Jones, Diana Krall, Lobo, Shania Twain, Hayley Westernra and a bunch of mixed Musicals. See the pattern? I’m more indie that that.

In other news, we can now trade old CDs for iPods. 45 CDs get the basic 512MB Shuffle and 175 CDs get the 60GB Video. Although the price of 175 CDs is more than enough to buy the 60GB Video. It’s a good way of getting rid of old CDs though.

Like these criteria: CDs must be originals including jewel case and liner notes (duh) and “if the CD is a CD that nobody else would buy or take then it is probably not acceptable.”

Sigh. Now if only I can sell my complete X-files boxed set VHS. Know how much they’re going for on ebay? Not enough for a big mac.

in arts and media , mind babble |

D. Keith Robinson wrote about “the items or ideas that can spark off a serious idea storm.”

A creative person is someone who can make something from nothing; who expresses originality and have oodles of imagination. Despite popular belief, creativity is difficult for me. I have zero artistic and musical cells, and it’s a wonder that I am able to write. I keep discussing it with my writing group friends, that I am clueless about my own creative process. I can’t analyse my writing style or method because I don’t have one. I must be using a part of my brain that I can’t consciously access.

I am not an idea generator. I function best when some other (more creative) people have come up with fresh ideas, then I can help build on them. I’m way better at execution. Which is why I am able to enjoy the type of writing I do now, since the setting and characters are already familiar.

So what inspires me?

  • movies and books and music, the usual suspects
  • when I’m travelling, like on the bus or driving
  • talking, brainstorming or joking with my friends
  • the moment just before I fall asleep in bed
  • this one is unusual, but is proven to work — in the bathroom

On the subject of creativity while in the bathroom, here’s a neat gadget, a waterproof notepad that can hang on the shower wall, perfect for those flashes of inspiration that always hits us when we have no access to paper or keyboard. From popgadget.


in arts and media |

A recent interview with Bret Eatson Ellis. It’s a long article which I have to read carefully another time, when I’m less tired.

I must have read Less than Zero a million times. Well, not a million. May be 30. More often when I was young and when it first came out. It had a quiet sense of rebellion / impending doom / coolness to it. It was the first and only book I wrote a student newsletter review on (I have the review on hardcopy, hence not linked here). American Psycho gives me the chills every time I read it. Haven’t read his more recent books as many times. I like his style of writing, it’s subtle and he uses an economy of words.

I really need to get back to reading books.

in arts and media |

Sharing smokes with the holy spirit.

This is about 2 months old already, but I read it again just now and it struck a chord. I don’t know why.

“Hey! Remember—I am the Holy Spirit. A lot of people think Jesus Christ is my father, but that’s not it. Read the Bible. Christ was born of the Holy Spirit.” Thumping her chest with her thumb, she says, “I’m his mother. My name is Patty.”

Like I said somewhere, I’ve often wished I were more spiritual and introspective. But I don’t know why I want that.

in arts and media , easily amused | | comments (2)

terra sent me this a couple of weeks ago, but I couldn’t get it to play properly on PB1 (old Quicktime) or the dell (now this is strange … probably graphics card). So I did a view page source (sorry, t) and stole, um, saved the file. No wonder, wmv, grrr. Converted to quicktime, it should be easier to play now. 3.02 minutes.

This is confirmed, it’s not a series of photos stitched together. The display was the 2004 Christmas version from the home of Carson Williams of Mason, Ohio, consisting of 16,000 lights that were controlled via a software called Light-o-Rama.

The music is called Wizard in Winter, from The Lost Christmas Eve by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It is transmitted via FM and people are advised to tune into a particular frequency on their car radios when they visit the display.

Apparently making spectacular Christmas lights is a hobby shared by a few other people.

The latest news is that Mr Williams had to shut down his 2005 display as it was causing traffic congestion. I guess his neighbors were relieved, but it was impressive while it lasted.

Technical note: I wrote up how to embed a quicktime movie in the technical section. Tested on Safari, Firefox (Mac & PC), IE5 (Mac), IE6 (PC). Needs the more recent versions of quicktime and modern browsers. If you don’t have the latest browsers, you should think about getting firefox. Seriously. Also, I find I have to disable adblock in firefox.

in arts and media , easily amused |

Can’t remember where I found the link, probably metafilter, someone’s Greatest internet moments:

From one web page to the next, I saw people proclaiming this as one of the greatest music videos ever made.

From low morale, a series of flash animations about one mediocre office worker’s struggle with work. A bonus extra animation, set to an acoustic version of Radiohead’s Creep, is so, pardon my french, fucking brilliant. I can’t stop watching.

Watch it, NOW.

low morale creep

Creep - Radiohead

When you were here before, couldn’t look you in the eye
You’re just like an angel, your skin makes me cry
You float like a feather
In a beautiful world
I wish I was special
You’re so very special

But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doin here?
I don’t belong here

I don’t care if it hurts, I wanna have control
I want a perfect body, I want a perfect soul
I want you to notice, when I’m not around
You’re so very special
I wish I was special

But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doin here?
I don’t belong here, ohhhh, ohhhh

She’s running out again…
She’s running out, she runs, runs, runs, runs… runs…

Whatever makes you happy
Whatever you want
You’re so very special
I wish I was special
But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doin here?
I don’t belong here
I don’t belong here

in arts and media | | comments (1)

I hardly ever write about people in the media or gossip or stuff like that, mainly cos I’m always behind, and I’m not that interested in these people at all. I mean, I’m not even that interested in my own friends colleagues.

That said, I have to report on this article in reuters.

Jodie Foster opened Flightplan, which has grossed $72.5m in the US alone since it opened there on 23 Sept. Nowadays, Jodie Foster and Julia Roberts seem to be the only women actors who can open a film consistently. The article says,

She has built her stardom not on her looks but on her brand identity. Audiences actually believe that when she’s in a movie, it will be good. That’s because she rarely lets them down.

She is smart, flies under the radar and her name means quality, because you feel that she has given a lot of thought into the roles she accepts. It’s interesting to note that the role in Flightplan was originally intended for Denzel Washington or Sean Penn, another two actors with the same depth and thoughtfulness as Foster. But a true testament of her ability that she can carry an action film the same way as two male stars.

We went to see it tonight. The atmosphere builds up, and it makes itself out to be scarier than it actually is. I kept having to remind myself it’s PG-13 so I didn’t get too tense. It’s basically a good thriller with a simple plot but intense acting. The plane setting is claustrophobic and you can’t help believing what the captain and crew thinks — how can a little girl be lost in an enclosed space? Their suspicion that they have a hysterical delusional woman is very realistic.

The cabin interior is the most realistic I’ve seen in a film, even though it’s still too glamorous. I love the “underside” of the plane, the small shiny spaces accessible via hidden panels in the ceiling or behind the food cart. A little unbelievable, there’s simply too much space. The computer room looks a little like 2001, I don’t think the servers are arranged in a circular pattern, I expect them to be just lined up in a boring way.

But no one goes to see the massive double-decker plane, the sleek underparts, the plot or even the dashing captain (good stuff by Sean Bean btw). The sole purpose, at least for me, of getting out of the house and facing off crowds of people, is Jodie Foster. She carries the film, and looks sooo good. Her acting is understated, teetering on the edge of despair without being overly dramatic; smart without being Mary Sue about it; brave but flawed. Attention inevitably turns to her every time she’s on screen. Can I say she’s hot too? Like I really want her to give me attention type of hot. Her face, her eyes, the turn of the mouth, the fitness level … just right.

The ending was a little clichéd and rushed, but there are some nice touches too. Can’t complain, I sat through an hour and a half of a very satisfying film. For a change, I wasn’t spoiled and I’m glad.

in arts and media |

From jwz via boing boing. Seems like I’m getting a lot of interest stuff from there at the moment.

This animation is creepy, but in a can’t-tear-your-eyes-away-from-it sort of way. I watched it a few times before I could fully absorb it and remember that it’s a combination of stop-motion nature filmography and so nifty computer animation. It’s so seemless. And the music’s cool too. Damn these people are good. There are some other robot/alien animations available at that site, it seems to be something they do.


This is one instance where I’m tempted to pay for Quicktime Pro so I can keep a copy myself. She came into the study while I’m watching it and she says she’s gonna have nightmares all night. To which my reply “then you just have to lean on me”, heehee.

in arts and media |

I’m re-reading Desmond Bagley’s The Freedom Trap. I’ve read it like 30 times over the years, the Bagleys on my shelf date back to the 1980s, he’s clearly my favorite adventure author. A shame that he never achieved fame on par with Alastair Maclean, whom he has been compared with. I love the combination of Running Blind and The Freedom Trap, even though they aren’t exacly sequels, they share a common villain / not-so-innocent bystander.

I remember my sadness when I heard of his death at age 59. Surely too young. The early books were less polished, but his middle books were just brilliant. The last few started getting formulaic, but were still gripping.

I’ve always been amazed as the places he’s lived in, and the detailed research he did for each book. I learned more about the Tuaregs from Flyaway than anywhere else. And what about the electronic device that did nothing? Hee.

in arts and media |

On the plan back I watched Sideways. Originally I wanted to watch Closer but my colleagues were talking about Sideways last night and they said it’s good.

And it is. One of those little gems that doesn’t do a lot, has no big message or action sequence. The 2 main characters, and the 2 slightly less main characters, are all excellent, carrying the film throughout. I only now realise it’s over 2 hours, it certainly didn’t feel like it, no sparse moment, smoothly going from scene to scene.

It’s the sort of film that makes you feel like you really do know these people, and at the end when the credits roll, you just want to put your arms round them and go off for another round of drinks.

Lots of wine references, the vineyards and vintage shown really look great. Love the dissing of merlot and the redemption of chardonnay.

Was drinking airline wine, quality of which is no way close to the wines sampled in the film, but it’s ironic in a way.

in arts and media |

They’re showing Original Star Wars on TV tonight. Thing is with the hotel room is, the desk faces the window and the TV be actually behind me so I can’t see it. Another reason why I watched so much football, no need to watch, just listen.

Anyway, back to Episode 4. I’m sitting here at the desk as usual and I’m listening. And I can imagine every single scene, know the dialogue and even the score.

Yeah, so I’m an original SW geek, but not Episode 1-3, okay. Only Episode 4-6, I’ve seen those so many times I really can recite the whole film in my sleep.

in arts and media | | comments (1)

There’s too much reality tv on, and I get hooked into them. Whole night tonight has been American Idol, Amazing Race. Later in the week it’s Survivor and The Apprentice. It’s too addictive, a cheap form of entertainment. A far cry from the high art, like BBC dramas or even animal documentaries. But it’s difficult not to get involved, laugh at the hilarity of the casts, the stupidity of the tasks.

What did I read somewhere a long time ago? Television is a medium because it’s neither rare nor well done.

in arts and media |

I was walking around the Esplanade today and on a whim, decided to see what's on. There were 2 concerts, one Beethoven, the other kd lang. I did end up getting a ticket, no prize for guessing which one.

kd of course.

What a voice. Accompanied by her own band — a fabulous jazz piano, a solid bass, a subtle drum and master guitar. And backed up by the local chamber orchestra.

Can I just say fabulous jazz piano again?

She sang some old favourites, Miss Chatelaine, Constant Craving, Simple, Don't Smoke in Bed. Plus some from the new album, which are covers of other Canadian artists. A couple from lesser known artists, but she really shone through with Neil Young's Helpless and oh my god, Hallelujah. So different from Jeff Buckley's version, and sounding so good live.

A bit of banter with the crowd, silly ballerina dancing and lots of applause. The concert was too short, including 2 encores was only 90 minutes (no intermission), and it was quite expensive at SGD90. But it was interesting and I don't regret coming.

in arts and media |

Went to a french film festival. There was a bit of drama because the theatre the film was supposed to be showing had a fire and it had to be rescheduled to another cinema an hour later, so we didn't start till 10pm.

The theme and name of the film, 5x2, isn't obvious until the end, is 5 scenes about 2 people's lives, told in reverse chronological order.

We start off in a lawyer's office, where a couple's divorce is being finalised. It's drab, dull and drone, probably intentionally so. The divorce is surprisingly amicable — wife to get house and son, visitation rights defined, share assets, no alimony. It's the next part that throws us, is it before or after the divorce? Because next we see the same 2 people walking down an ugly hotel corridor and entering an equally ugly room. They undress awkwardly and lie naked in bed next to each other.

Didn't they just get divorced? Even the man says, they're not married. So what are they doing? He makes advances at her and at first she's ok but then she tries to stop him. He doesn't relent and forces himself on her. Is it rape? She went to the room with him willingly. But then she says stop, and stop is stop. So yes, it's rape.

He tries to talk to her and even asks if they should try again. She walks out without answering, to hammer home the message of how bad the relationship is.

Act 2 throws us off in the beginning, because they're at home together and it's a dinner party. It's sometime in the past. The guests are his brother and his brother's young lover. They talk about infidelity and the young guy says he doesn't believe in it and the brother supports him because he always come back.

The man reveals that he cheated on her once, but the way he says it, that he participated in a drunken orgy while she watched, seems like she approves. Though he says it's only once, there's an undercurrent of disbelief, that he's strayed other times.

The strain in the marriage is already showing, she can't stand him touching her, they don't communicate, he can't sleep and retreats to their son's room. It's these little signs.

Act 3 starts with her walking along a hospital corridor, heavily pregnant. There's a bit of confusion, is she pregnant after the divorce encounter? Is this in the past? Turns out it's the birth of their son and she has to have an emergency c-section and he's born premature. Even though she calls him immediately, he continues working, holds his calls and stops for lunch, he arrives at the hospital 3 hours later. Why? Apart from the fact that he's a bastard, it's evident that he loves her so the behaviour is puzzling.

Act 4 is their wedding and it's the only time that we see them truly happy. But events on their first night together, married, already sow the seed for failure. He falls asleep in the bed before they can get intimate, she goes out for a walk and ends up having semi-rough sex with a stranger. On her wedding night, no wonder she always looks depressed.

Act 5 shows how they meet, in an Italian seaside resort. He is there with his former girlfriend of 4 years and notices this girl he knows vaguely from work, there on her own. Even the ex-girlfriend notices him noticing her, and she knows something is wrong.

We end with the couple on the beach together (while the girlfriend is out hiking) and walking into the sunset.

What a contrasting image. They don't get the happy ending that walking into the sunset implies, but at that point in time, they don't know that, though we're all too aware. Such is the power of hindsight.

It's a thoughtful film, not fantastic but worth seeing. I'm not sorry I stayed up till nearly midnight for it. The imdb review compares it to other reverse- or mixed up- ordered films like Memento and 21 grams. While Memento has attained cult status by being the one most recognized and revolutionary in its days; and 21 grams' story packs a bigger punch, 5x2 is just a simple tale of a marriage gone sour, it's nobody's fault, there's no big murder scene, or mystery to solve, it's complexity is its simplicity.

in arts and media |

I can't stop listening to Elliott Smith and Jeff Buckley. I'm thinking of getting From a Basement on the Hill. Hmm.

What's the allure of songwriters who depart before their time? Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain although I find Nirvana way too loud.

Who's next? Nick Drake. Of course.

in arts and media |

I've been adding to my iTunes collection, after nearly 6 months. Don't think I've done much since I got into the weblogging business (and hidden doors). It's hard to divide up the attention I guess.

Besides, where I used to do a lot of downloading, drumbeat, is gone. I know the trick now is to get IRC, but I have to get the time.

Upgraded to a newer version of limewire and found more, much more, available than before. The feature I like best is browse host so I can see what other's have got. Neat.

in arts and media |

The DVD set is finally out (except I saw a set last weekend in one of those dodgy DVD/VCD shops, before the official launch, what's up with that?). But I don't have a great urge to go buy it, not cos of the price, but I'm reading people's take on it and there's a part of me that's disappointed at the changes from the original version.

  • Han and Greedo's blaster fight — they seem to fire at the same time, why even make that change?
  • Jabba appears
  • Naboo appears
  • Cosmetic changes to the Emperor's hologram and the white face of Anakin just before he dies
  • Hayden Christiansen at the end of Jedi that's really terrible

The 1977 version of Star Wars wasn't perfect, looking back the effects were rather shabby. But it appealed to the imagination of whole generations. And is appreciated, warts and all. It's a bit like airbrushing models. I'm sure the DVDs look really really good. All up-to-date CG effects and all. But does it mean that in, say 2 years time, when we have even better effects that it's time to update?

Sometimes the fun of watching the original films is to appreciate what the filmmakers were able to do at that time, with the technology and resources available then.

in arts and media |

eventually come to an end. Especially since I get into them, having yet again discovered them late in the day.

Belle de Jour is hanging up her weblogging boots (or would that be 4-inch stilettos). It's one of the frankest diaries out there, and one of the more controversial, with more than its fair share of critics. Though there's been speculation that it's all fake, I took the writing at face value and enjoyed it all. I'm just sorry I didn't come across it earlier, only finding it after reading the Guardian article.

A few days ago I read that psimetis is going on hiatus, may be even permanent hiatus, in order to get back to RL. So, no more Brave Eyes, no more veracity-verse, no more Master Will or Master T or Nazi Buff. And to think that between June and now I must have read Brave Eyes more than 6 times, to learn that there was originally a Part 2 but now it's probably never going to see light of day. Sigh.

Devastated? May be disappointed. Resigned. But these writers did it all for nothing, no more than an intense interest, and probably a big chunk is for themselves. They don't owe us readers anything. Zippity zip. We just have to be grateful for what they've shared and hope that they can return someday.

in arts and media |

I was looking at my shelf and I realize I've had the Buffy season 7 DVDs for a few weeks but haven't even started. I don't want to. When the credits for Chosen roll, that's it. The end. No more. I can't bear the thought. I know the series ended more than a year ago. I'm still in Egypt.

So it sits there unattended. I go back and watch S1-6 (well, up to Seeing Red anyway), don't know how many times. My favourite season, a toss-up between 2 and 3. S2 was brilliant, how can you top Surprise, Innocence, Passion and Becoming? Then again it had Inca Mummy Girl and Reptile Boy. When it was good it was genius, when it was bad, not so good.

S3 was more consistent, I don't think there was a dud between Band Candy and Graduation Day. Earshot, if I have to name one not-as-good ep. I mean, in S3 we get the Wishverse. Gasp. Tough Buffy. Vamp Xander. Vamp Will. Hot Vamp Will. Hot Vamp Will and Fluffy Will in the same room. Nuff said.

S4 was pretty much downhill, luckily it picked up a bit after the piece of heaven that was Hush. And the kitten in me will always treasure the early witchy duo days. The soda machine, the big O spell, the extra flamey candle. I was watching Wild at Heart yesterday and boy do they pull on our heart's strings. We have Chipped Spike, but at least he wasn't centre stage, I can barely tolerate that. But we also have Boy Scout Adam and Surgeon General Riley, yeah right.

S5. Blah. Dawn is the Key, yawn. Glory, she's our big bad? Wait, Ben is Glory? Still, we had The Body and The Gift. Death should have been Joss' gift to the Buffyverse. We could have ended on a high note with Episode 100.

Instead we got Marti's Season Sux. Would I rather not have the musical but a more even season? Much as I adore OMWF I would willingly sacrifice it for not having all those in-between eps where I can't remember their name let alone their order. And definitely if I'm spared shirtless Spike. Spike, yuck, period. I watch the first 30 minutes of SR, cos I'm a sucker for the warm fuzzy feeling of 2 people making up. But I get to Spike entering the bathroom and I stop. I can't watch anymore. The gunshot that is ridiculously illogical and Willow going crazy is something I can't face either.

So I'm left with Season Sux Even More (™ someone else). General Buffy. Hokay. Nameless SITs, look, I started watching Buffy, the vampire slayer. When the chosen one became the chosen two it was interesting cos of the way they did it. Kendra is all by the book and Faith so full of charisma. But all these stupid SITs? Kennedy? Gimme a break.

in arts and media |

She's right, I am restless. I was short with her, I'm impatient and inconsiderate.

I've stopped trying to psychoanalyze myself so I don't really know what brought the state on. All I know is I'm even less interested in anything than normal which means I have this consistent nagging at the back of my mind that I need to be doing something else. Like, anything else.

We watched Collateral yesterday. It's ok, not fabulous but not as superficial as I expected. There seems to be some philosophical messages trying their best to get through. But it doesn't delve deep enough and, by the way, a film about a professional assassin isn't the right vehicle for philosphical life and death discussions.

It's a Michael Mann effort afterall, so the film looks good and has the pre-requesite moody bits. The metallic look, as I found out, is because it was shot almost entirely in digital video.

For some reason, I felt a touch of Into the Night, or even After Hours, but that could be just me. Tom Cruise does ok as a bad guy, but his trying to look like Richard Gere falls short of distinguished. Jamie Foxx as the cab driver was way better and makes a more sympathetic character.

The end was predictable though and a little anti-climatic but I'm a sucker for stories that just end, I don't need big finales or exposition endings.

in arts and media , in the news |

Orange, the mobile phone services provider, is at odds with the easyGroup, of easyJet fame, over the use of the colour orange. This from bbc news.

Does a company “own” a colour? The issue of names, logos and images is very contentious in the global marketplace. Trademarks mean firms have a right to protect “shapes, sounds or colours if it's distinctive as part of their business”, according to an IP lawyer interviewed.

This usually means as long as Joe Public can distinguish between the different branding it's companies are protected. Example is Cadbury's distinctive purple can't be used by other chocolate makers, or Heinz with its turquoise colour, Toblerone and triangular chocolate boxes. But it can't stop, say hat makers from making hats in Cadbury purple.

The issue came about because easyGroup is expanding onto Orange's turf, with its new easyMobile service. Orange is claiming that if easyMobile uses orange in their branding it will cause confusion among customers and damage its business. Orange has the trademark on the colour registered as Pantone #151.

Hmmm. Can I claim ownership to the colour white please.

in arts and media |

Disney has been on our minds a lot recently. So it was interesting to come across an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about how "Disney has colonised the imagination of the world's children ... without the aid of God."

This is from a new book, The Gospel According to Disney: Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust by Mark Pinsky, who argues that Disney has managed to convey the message that good will always prevail over evil even though Disney's animated features are (perhaps deliberately) devoid of religious figures and themes. And even goes as far as subverting orthodox Christian views on magic, paganism and promoting other religions.

According to his daughter, Disney himself was very religious, but “he did not believe you had to go to church to be religious.” Interestingly, the films' theme of self-reliance, compassion and loyalty has often been used by the church in its teachings.

The Disney gospel is all about “me, my dreams, my will. When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.” It's as simple as that. May be too simple. The review on amazon says that “the book bogs down amidst the massive Disney canon”, and Pinsky “seems torn between admiring Walt's dream to communicate lessons to children across cultures, and debunking its uplifting, family-friendly fare as a sentimental notion — naïve at best and disingenuous at worst.”

Say what you will about the corporation, profit-minded, self-righteous, and according to Southern Baptists, subversive (they tried to promote a boycott of Disney products after the company introduced equal rights for gay employees and their partners). It's a global corporation, its aim is to make money and generate profits. If in the process it has managed to entertain people, taught children about being self-belief and promoted world harmony, then it should be left in peace to continue what it has been doing for over 50 years.

in arts and media , in the news , techtalk |

The Guardian has a weblog, of posts by their journalists I guess, short "interesting" pieces of news. Much like the weblog of a real life blogger. Except it only has a date and name of poster, no comments, no trackback, quite static in feel.

Getting on the bandwagon much? All the politicians, pundits and celebrities are doing it. Soon it'll be like the iPod, the novelty factor, the sense of uniqueness, ok the superiority complex, of being an iPod owner, quickly disappears as it's invaded by the masses. Every day hundreds, thousands of new weblogs are created and millions are updated.

I'm certainly one of those masses, joining the party late. I'm still amazed that no one I know seems to be aware of this global phenomenon.

Back to the Guardian weblog. What caught my eye was a week-old post, that Countdown has been renewed by Channel 4 for another 5 years. Truly, it's a wonderous program, the first to be shown on Channel 4, and continues to be as fantastic as ever. Even now that the presenters have become celebrities, they continue with the tradition. I remember watching the first Countdown and whenever I'm back in the UK I try to watch it. I don't think I'll ever tire of it, it's so simple yet intelligent, that's a sure sign of good programming.

The second funny tidbit about this particular post is that the Guardian links to the story on the Independent. Perhaps because the Guardian missed on the story? Or trying (too hard?) to look and feel like any old weblog.

I like the Guardian's weblog, they've been at it for 3 years, so they must be doing something right. I just wished the Independent had one too, sigh. I've been disappointed with the Indy recently, with the change to tabloid format and a boring website — you have to type in the www, just typing doesn't work, in this day and age it's not acceptable — it's not the Indy I used to be fanatically loyal to.

in arts and media |

Watched Prime Suspect 6 in one sitting. Over 3 hours.

I remember the original Prime Suspect, it was quality TV, riveting story development, real characters, enough twists and turns to keep audiences at the edge of their seat. Towards part 4/5 it slipped and got tired. It's been off our screens for 7 years. To its credit it was as if it never left. The characters and plot as great as ever.

We didn't notice that 3 hours had passed by, it was that good.

Not watching so much TV anymore. At one stage all I did was watch TV, back when I was heavily into twopping, but not anymore. I even missed a couple eps of ER and 24, previously must see tv, and I wasn't bothered. May be a quality issue, programs get old and really need to retire, most don't know how to do it gracefully.

Also, too many reality programs. Some are ok, most are crap, compulsive crap but still crap. I remember the first season of Survivor, it was fantastic, it'd be the only topic of conversation the next morning. My office buddy Larry even talked about entering for the second season. It was new, it was exciting, it was real people and a lot at stake.

Since then it's been too much. The only good one is the Amazing Race but I've watched Big Brother, For Love or Money, Joe Millionaire, The Apprentice and America's Top Model. These are the ones I remember. I don't follow any of them, just nice for background noise.

Does Queer Eye count as reality program? Hmmm. We've had these makeover programs in the UK for ages, and now the Americans are catching up. But Queer Eye? Brilliance. What a coup to get this unique group of presenters. That Carson, he's the works. But <small voice>I like Ted best</small voice>.

in arts and media |

Easter Sunday. What better than to watch The Passion of Christ. What did I feel after it finished? Long, and slow. Violence and goryness for the sake of seeing lots of blood. Too much telling, not enough showing.

Everyone knows the story. I know Jesus was beaten up, sacrificed his life for us. It's a powerful, moving and extremely important story. It's a story I already believe in, have passion over, and was all prepared to shed tears over.

But the film didn't touch on any of the drama, meaning, depth. I sat there thinking about how they got the bodysuit special effects done, wondering about the names of the characters and waiting for something to happen that would grab my attention. Ritual beatings and lots of fake blood wasn't how I want to remember this. But unfortunately that's how it has remained.