Related Posts with Thumbnails

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

RoadWorks Cake

There's all types of 'Rocky Road' desserts, but here's introducing:

RoadWorks Cake

The little bumps are the workers who fell in...
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Monday, 1 September 2008

E6n1's Tough Guide To Writing: Overcoming Writer's BLOCK

Photo credit: Wikipedia
I have received numerous requests (not including those from the voices in my head...) for the following post. Only because last month, I turned professional- as in writer (and not wrestler). I am happy to share what works best for me.

The proverbial writer's block differs for anyone who has sat down in front of a blank screen/A4 sheet to string words and sentences together. The block maybe monolithic and impassive like that alien enigma in 2001: A Space Odyssey, or a gauntlet of barriers, uniforms , spot checks and flashing lights like a border police roadblock during the Cold War. Both inspire the same daunting feeling of, "ARGHHH!! HOW DO I GET AROUND THIS?!!!"

To quote Rudy Guiliani, the former mayor of New York, "If the ends don't justify the means, I don't know what does." Do whatever it takes, of course within reasonable limits and consideration for your personal health and sanity. After all, *you* are the one crafting a written work of art, or meeting an important deadline.

I find music works for me, mainly the music I used to listen to when I was 8-16 years old. Only because it recalls a time when I was open to new ideas. Perhaps it could work for you. Don't want alot of cheese on your mp3 player? Well, it's *your* mp3 player, hence the name 'Personal Stereo'. Put on more music that you like, than music that you'd like other people to see when they browse through your playlists.

The other method I use, is baking. It has many parallels to writing: Your first few attempts will be pitiful and laughable. You will cringe, curse and swear never to leave out key ingredients or add them in the wrong order. You will learn the value of aquiring the proper equipment and not cutting corners. You may vow never to let your creations see the light of day, but when you do, the reception will invariably be, "It's not too bad...". And in the end, your efforts will be rewarded.

Unlike written FUBARs, baked FUBARs are never totally indigestible or unusable. If you have burnt the dough mixture into blackened carcinogenic lumps, and back to carbon (C), use as aquarium charcoal.
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Monday, 18 August 2008

Management For Arsehole Bosses

Arsehole bosses: we all have them at some point in our working lives (the bosses, not the arseholes). Articles and books abound on the subject dealing with toxic bosses, but who merely wants to *deal* with them? You want to crush them underfoot! You want to deflate their pathetic power-tripping egos like a cruise missile puncturing a circus tent! You want to make them as miserable as they make you....

I'm not advocating murder or grievous bodily harm, as a criminal record looks worse for your career than a bad performance review. Also, I do not encourage technological or psychological sabotage. Deleting precious files on purpose, 'misplacing' and "forgetting" to write an urgent report, circulating details of various porn sites your boss browses during lunch hour or general counter-backstabbing will only temporarily satiate you. Arsehole bosses also come with a posse of yes-men, hangers-on and toadies. Let's not have the possibility of getting caught hanging over you like the Sword of Damocles.

The Greek legend of the Sword of Damocles symbolizes the imminent and ever-present peril faced by those in positions of power (look it up, if you're unfamiliar with the tale...)

You too can be inspired this legend!Begin by displaying the following quote somewhere on your desk/workstation, 'METUS EST PLENA TYRANNIS' (The tyrant is filled with fear), where you can easily see it. Don't fret, unless your boss learnt Latin during his days at some top-notch public school, besides if he did, he wouldn't be sitting where he is now....

Repeating the quote to yourself can make you feel better, but remember: The fear or nowadays, stress/pressure might explain your boss' behaviour, but it doesn't JUSTIFY it. It is never acceptable to abuse your sub-ordinates. On your part, it is perfectly acceptable to engage in behaviour that plays on your boss' fears and insecurities as solely defensive strategy.

Arsehole bosses fall into the following types:

1) The Bundle of Nerves (BONs)

This type is more volatile than a packet of Semtex rattling around in a butane cannister. You cannot change their explosive natures, but you can harness them to your advantage. During the next meeting, feign an annoying but common physical tic or habit: blocked sinuses, use of asthma-inhalers, sneezing, complain about the air-conditioning every 2 minutes. Yes, BONs blow up but allow them to. They never quite recover their loss of face and credibilty.

2) Condescending, Utilitarian, Nay-Saying Types (CUNTs)

You may be familiar with this type- everything they say, do and throw at you is, *gasp* for "your own good". Any ideas or proposals you put forward are received with superficial praise, followed by systematic rubbishing and garnished with condescension: "Yes, you have raised some important points, as someone of your qualifications should, but however...". Do unto them as they have done unto you: Preface future ideas and proposals with, "Before I say anything, I'd like to hear your valuable insight into this..." and keep nodding, smiling and shaking your head in slow exaggerated gestures: "That's absolutely right except...". CUNTs tend to be smarter than the average BON, and should get the message after your sly parody of their behaviour.

3) Shameless Sonofabitch (SSOB)

Some bosses don't care for basic social etiquette, they flout workplace rules while their motto is 'Do As I Order You Not To Do, Not Do As I Myself Am Allowed to Get Away With.". The less harmful SSOBs got their jobs by way of string-pulling and connections, whereas the extreme ones engage in verbal and sexual harrassment while playing solitaire on their PCs. In dealing with SSOBs, I quote the Dalai Lama in encouraging, "A necessary display of force". Show your SSOB not to f**k with you, or he/she will be verrrrry sorry. Specifically, 'secretly planted laxatives-in-morning-coffee' sorry.

4) Surveillance Freaks (SFs)

Where did you go during lunch? Why did your take an extra 15-minutes of lunch hour? How come you didn't come back to the office after meeting clients? SFs ask too many questions, hence react by providing too many answers of the unplesant kind. Any combination of the following words should suffice: 'Proctologist", "Emergency" "check-up" "re-curring", "diarrhoea", "gynaecological", "piles", "internal bleeding" and "vomiting".

Recommended Reading List: (Good enough for army generals- great for disgruntled subordinates)

1) 'The Art Of War', Sun Tzu
2) 'The Prince', Niccolo Machiavelli
3)'Seven Pillars of Wisdom'- T.E Lawrence
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Friday, 8 August 2008

"Memory Man"- Aqualung

For the uninitiated, 'Aqualung' is the stage name of English singer-songwriter, Matt Hales. He is usually lumped together with Coldplay. Comparisons that are rather puzzling, for the resemblance is only in passing; the frail but winning vocals, tinkling piano-playing and enigmatic, plaintive ballads.

Commercial sucess eludes Aqualung, even after scoring hits with 'Strange And Beautiful', soundtracking a Volkswagen Beetle advert in 2002, and 'Brighter Than Sunshine' in 2003. Perhaps a move to Columbia Records, USA will change Matt Hales' fortunes for the better. But for now, look to his 2007 album, 'Memory Man' for gorgeous,swirling, wistful music that could fill up a stadium as well as a concert-hall, in atmospherics, if not in audience. He also broke out the hard, rawkin' guitar, feedback, vocoders and breakbeats, so *take that* to all those knee-jerk Coldplay comparisions.
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Thursday, 3 July 2008

The Unlikely Lads

Set up your campsite outside the nearest multiplex my fellow bloggies! Summer is here again and the blockbusters are all lined up and ready for all discerning moviegoers-well, the ones that possess vision anyway....

We are seeing instances of off-kilter casting in big-budget action flicks this year. Despite their varying degrees of success, don't hold your breath for another studio film summer as interesting as 2008:

1) 'Indiana Jones And the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.'
Harrison Ford wears the same Feodora but he is far from old hat. A laudable, CGI-kept-to-a minimum effort although Indy maybe carrying his senior citizen's bus pass along with that bullwhip. Cate Blanchett plays a cool sexy Russian villainess- is there no limit to the woman's range?

2) 'Wanted'
James Mcavoy goes from period drama tortured hero in "Atonement" to Arse-kicking, toned-up, mentalist sexy assassin in 'Wanted'. This writer in still in post-orgas....ermmm, shock. Angelina Jolie also plays a sexy assassin..hang on, that's not a surprise...

3) 'Iron Man'
Middle-aged ladies man character actor with looong history of substance abuse, playing a middle-aged millionaire ladies man cum superhero? Not just *any* middle-aged character actor cum ladies man with looong history of substance abuse: ladies and gentlemen, please give it up for Robert Downey Jr!

4) 'Batman: The Dark Knight'
(Think back to 2005, 'Batman Begins) Mid-30s character actor specializing in difficult roles cast as a millionaire playboy cum superhero? Christian Bale reconfirms his action credentials this summer. Heath Ledger gives audiences a final highlight of a brief but worthy career.

5)'HellBoy II: The Golden Army'
The villain looks like Rick Wakeman from the prog rock band Yes but no, it isn't him. Under the white wig, gold contacts and pancake stik, it's former Bros band member Luke Goss!
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Saturday, 3 May 2008

The Wedding Whinger

Urghhh! I've had it up to here with well-meaning (how can it mean well?) people who suggest that I get married and settle down soon.

How utterly rude and obnoxious...but fret not my fellow bloggies, if you find yourselves in a similar situation. Console and justify your irritation and disillusion with the proponents of the matrimonial institution with the following list of The Worst Songs To Play At A Wedding. Not merely the annoying or overplayed songs , but tunes so inappropriate that you are guaranteed to get ejected (and shot) by both sides. (Feel free to suggest more songs when you leave a comment):

1.'Love Will Tear Us Apart' : Joy Division
Sounds like four funerals at a wedding. Including your own funeral, if the relatives ever catch you cranking this dirge up.

2. '25 Minutes': Michael Learns To Rock.
A mawkish and inappropriate double whammy of a pop song. "25 minutes! I was 25 minutes too late!" wails the singer to the newlywed bride in the song. The title also refers to the window of time you have to escape, before the bridal party hunts you down.

3. 'The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow): The Jam
Most likely to get you into a jam at the wedding, because of the possible blowback: Depending on your sex, you either identify with Paul Weller's betrayed lover persona or the object of his vitriol, walking down the aisle at the beginning of the song. Blame this tune if the best man's drunken speech suddenly turns (ahem!) bitter.

4.'Imperial March, from The Empire Strikes Back' OST : John Williams
Do not attempt to play this for the couple's entrance, unless both bride and groom are hardcore Star Wars fans. Even then, you may unleash everyone's inner Rancor.

5. Stalker Songs
'Every Breath You Take' by The Police is the obvious culprit. Also try, 'If You're Not The One' by Daniel Bedingfield, Sinead O' Connor's version of 'Nothing Compares 2 U",or "You Could Be Mine",by Guns N' Roses. With that last song, you will get your share of actual guns and funerary roses.

6.'The James Bond Theme': Monty Norman
Hey you, the best man! You may feel smart and rakish when suited up, and it may have been your idea to include this theme tune in the wedding playlist, but do not invoke the presence of 007, secret agent and ladies man, at a wedding. For your ears only.

7. 'D.I.V.O.R.C.E': Tammy Wynnette
You may get lynched for playing this song but don't stop let the country theme stop there, pardner! Also try, 'Before He Cheats': Carrie Underwood and 'Achey Breaky Heart': Billy Rae Cyrus. YEEE- HAWWW!

8. The Smiths
Do not invoke the hoary 'irony/tongue-in-cheek' excuse if you want The Smiths played at a wedding. Bet your bridal bouquet that Morissey will sing and ruin the mood like the Pope Of Mope. I recommend, "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out", "I Know Its Over" and "Girlfriend In A Coma". Top it off with "How Soon Is Now",  and you should clear the hall in seconds.

9. 'Sex Dwarf': Soft Cell
You will turn faces red with this salacious song. The sleazy synth riffs, squealy sound effects and blatant lyrics about bondage and exhibitionism! If the couple are open-minded enough, they may find this tune amusing, as it maybe soundtracking their wedding night. I wouldn't vouch for their relatives, though.

10. 'Girlfriend' Avril Lavigne
Run for cover! This song sounds like a bitchy chorus of all the groom's ex-girlfriends gatecrashing the wedding. Hang on, that is exactly what they are doing.

11. 'Weird' Al Yankovic
His better-known pop song parodies and polka-medley covers will only provide mildly amusing diversions during the dinner and dance. For guaranteed mayhem, turn to 'Weird' Al's original songs. They are hilarious twists on the cliched love ballad, such as 'I Was Only Kidding' and 'One More Minute', which contains the unforgettable lyrics:"You left me at the gas-station of love and now I have to use the self-service pumps"!

12. 'This Is Not A Love Song'/ 'Death Disco', Public Image Limited
Former Sex Pistol John Lydon does dub, sampling, and dance, all accompanied by Jah Wobble's seismic bass and Keith Levene's distress-call electric guitar. Lydon is not strictly a singer; his vocals are more like 2 parts attitude mixed with 1 part banshee, with generous lashings of paint-stripper. These two songs should get those emo teenage cousins who never wanted to attend in the first place, dancing before the cake is cut.

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Friday, 4 April 2008

"Grab-Bag"- Results of Record Shop Impulse-Buying Spree.

"Never buy things you don't need on impulse."
"Always go shopping with a list."
"Set a budget before you go shopping."

Repeat after me: The above rules of accepted wisdom do not apply to buying music.
And this does not include downloading (legally or illegally). Just as vinyl and the analogue cassette still endure, the record shop remains. Buying your music off the Net tends to diminish the pleasure of drifting into a shop and thumbing through the racks of CDs, asking the assistant, "Hey, what's playing now?" and testing the CDs.
To hell with browsing and testing, some consumers may say, that's why we prefer to download, and skip going to the noisy shop, getting ripped off and ripping off our fingernails while trying to unwrap CDs when we get home. We like it fast, easy, cheap (or gratis) and straight into our Ipods.

Well, before you turn into a complete Pod-person, i.e develop potato-like 'eyes', rhizomes and put down roots in front of your PC, try the following experiment: Walk into the record shop and buy 5 records that quickly (within 10 minutes) catch your attention. 'What if I don't like the records?' well, you don't know until you've listened to them, right?

Here are my findings:
1. The Complete Adventures of The Style Council (1998-boxset)
I could not resist the glossy white embossed cardboard packaging, it resembles the posh packaging of gloves or ties from a high-end haberdasher or menswear shop. On paper, The Style Council should suck like one of Stephen Hawkins' theoretical mega-blackholes: ex-Jam frontman and Rickenbacker aficionado Paul Weller doing politically-tinged soul, jazz, funk and more soul? The music is stellar, and after all that new-wave shouting and mod guitar-crunching of The Jam, who knew that Paul Weller could really sing lovely haunting summertime ballads such as 'You're The Best Thing.' and 'Long Hot Summer'?

2. James-The Best Of (1998)
The quasi hippie/kindergarten class coverart intrigued me. James are best known for their Student Union jukebox staple 'Sit Down', and this compilation of 18 tracks spans their career from Smiths jingle-jangle contemporaries to baggy marginalised indie group. For an impulse buy, sheer value for money.

3. Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Trip The Light Fantastic (2007)
Say what you like about Sophie Ellis-Bextor, but eight years is a long time to have lasted in dance-pop. It may surprise you that I don't already own this. Don't let the pseudo-Tamara Lempicka artwork put you off, it is not a case of style over substance with her latest album.

4. Gotan Project
La Revancha Del Tango (2001)

The album cover seemed like a most cringeworthy visual pun, (puh-lease! 'Go tan' project? Tattooed on some model's chest!) then I realised that this was the debut album of the French trio's tango dance/ambient hybrid. You get ten eclectic tracks, which will put you in the mood for a sensual pas de deux along Pont Neuf, without getting arrested by any passing gendarmes.
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Sunday, 9 March 2008

The Migraine-Inducing Reading List (Or:What NOT to Read When Hungover...)

1. "The Man In The High Castle"-Phillip K. Dick

A book-within-a-book subplot worked into a quixotic slice of alternative history: what if the Axis Powers had won World War II? Can you handle it?
If not, and if you really really need your dose of quality Dick (snigger!) go and watch 'Blade Runner' or 'Minority Report'. Do not complain that movie adaptations do not do full justice to PKD's literary vision- there's a very good reason why. Film studios are not be held responsible for disintegrating the brains of screenwriters, directors and test-audiences into puddles of steaming goo.

2. "Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings" - Jorge Luis Borges

The stories in this volume have been likened to philosophical Chinese-box puzzles. Borges' genius is indisputable but what happens when you try to solve any puzzle with a migraine and/or hangover? You give up after two minutes. Return to Borges when you are back under the influence, even at the risk of forgetting any insights when you sober up or come down.

                                                      3. "Ulysses"-James Joyce

*Such* a weighty tome! Here's a heavy book
in all senses of the word. I recommend the annotated edition- only because I get a sadistic thrill from thinking of all you poor migraine/ hangover sufferers trying to read obscure footnotes and keeping up with definitions. Save yourself the trouble and bash yourself over the head with this one. It won't cure your headache but you'll forget all about it if you take aim and apply enough force.

4. "Only Revolutions" by Mark Z. Danielewski

It's hard enough trying to read in a straight line when you are chugging down Panadols and Alka-Seltzer. All the text in this novel goes up and down, in two-toned curlicues and in mirror-image. The book title is apt enough- you'll be seeing spirals when you try to read this. If this book makes sense to you or the spirals are big green pythons that are talking to you about the postmodern tropes in this book, then your problem is bigger than a hangover or a migraine.

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Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Variations On A Local Theme (A. Parody)

Here be the type of local literature poems you wished they taught you in school:

The Haunted Village

The village is haunted
Beyond the lallang fence
are graves full of old bones.
Tombs are looted
by modern-day robbers.

There is a ghostly entity
in this gutless village:
Of a girl
Strangled behind the mosque,
Violated into eternal pain.
Now she howls after every sunset.

The Constipated Village
The village is constipated.
Behind a corroded iron fence,
In use through out the long day,
Toilets are occupied by the villagers.

There is no toilet paper
in this crowded village.
The small stream behind the toilets,
cannot flow into the drain.
Now clogged up with old newspapers.

The Horrible Village
The village is horrible.
There is a head on the barbed wire fence.
Coming home from school.
kids are murdered by busy housewives.

There is no judiciary
in this lawless village.
The poisoned stream behind the mosque,
chokes itself on hidden secrets.
Spewing out the undead.

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Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Deprival Symptoms

I did a wee musical experiment over the last month- I removed all tracks by Madonna, Elvis Costello, Depeche Mode, Joy Division/New Order, The Smiths, Peter Gabriel and Aztec Camera/ Roddy Frame from my Ipod, and did not listen to them for four weeks.
Of course, you may ask, what did I listen to in the meantime? Lots of 90s grunge, Britpop, techno, baroque and film soundtracks .

The aim of my experiment was to see how I fared( in body,mind and soul) without my favourites, and here are my findings-

1) *I will never do that again*.
2) *Nothing* (no matter how good) will ever replace your favourites.
3) I have forgotten some of the lyrics to the tracks on 'The Queen Is Dead' (sacrilege!)
4) In the pub discussion of 'Greatest Guitarist Ever?', I have moderated my stance on Johnny Marr (blasphemy!)
5) I momentarily failed to recognize the intro of 'Somewhere In My Heart', when played on 'Red FM' (She's lost control!)
6) During the fourth week, I developed a raging viral fever and was in bed for 3 days.
7) Not listening to the music that sountracked your teenage angst and growing pains is a sign of deep denial and non-reflection and should never be mistaken for new-found maturity.
8) Your favourites got you through life, to jettison them is to lose your bearings.

This writer is currently doing penance- by watching videos of her favourites on Youtube, for a start.
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Friday, 15 February 2008

Book of the Month

"Looking For Jake And Other Stories"- China Mieville

What is it about the genre, 'fantasy' that tends to put the average female reader off? The incessant noodling on the ins and outs of sorcery and dragonlore? The lack of convincing female characterizations? The constant quests that take the heroes across more terrain and culture-clashes than an average season of "The Amazing Race"? The male hegemony that governs the lands of fantasy?

Hats off then, to London-based author, China Mieville a two-time winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award, for Perdido Street Station (2001) and Iron Council (2005). He eschews the cliches of modern fantasy- no swords, no sorcery, no wizards and warriors, and no array of mythological creatures improbably co-existing on the same plain. His weltanschauung is urban, dark, paranoid and grotesque. Dip into this book and be richly rewarded for your courage.
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Culture Vulture Speaks! #2: 80's Music Redemption

Culture Vulture is flapping his wings and asking me to lay down a few ground rules concerning 80's music, in today's post:

1. Don't hate music because of the era from which it came from. The 1980s gets reviled as the decade of sartorial disasters, such as shoulder-pads, mullets, day-glo pants, spandex and violet eyeshadow. If the image and fashion sense of 80's artistes bothers you, well, then close your eyes but open up your ears.

2. Don't hate music of a particular era because your parents listened to it. (The exception applies to Engelbert Humperdinck...). Before the Internet, Ipods and mp3s, I admit, there wasn't much going on. But it wasn't a complete Dark Ages: there were record shops, walkmans, vinyl garage sales and music charts. Listening to music was a more tactile experience- you had to get the disc out of the sleeve/ case and into the player and you had to read the sleeve/ CD booklet for lyrics. Fandom was abit troublesome- to find out more about your favourite artiste there was no Myspace page or Wikipedia, you had to go to the library or bookshop and refer to hefty tomes such as "The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Rock" or "The Faber Book Of Pop". (quelle shock! Horreur!). There was no Google image finder if you wanted images of your favourite artistes, you had to spend some of your pocket money to buy magazines.
This is why your parents get misty-eyed or excited when they hear a certain song on the radio.This is whhy they start exclaiming things like, "Ooohhh I remember this!", "Ohh I used to have posters of him/ her/them all over my bedroom wall!". Just wait in another ten years, you'll be saying the same about EMO or American Idol winners (maybe...)

3.Don't close your mind to music of a certain era because of the instruments used on the tracks or the production. Would you hold production against Vivaldi, if recording equipment was available during the 17th century? 80's musicians didn't have 'Garage Band' software or digital recording techniques but they made the best out of what was available. So what, if the slap-bass makes you giggle, the synths sound cheesy, and the drums sound like wasps fighting in a biscuit-tin? That was all part of musical history. You'll never hear the likes of them again.

Redemption of 80's Artistes

1. Madonna- She wasn't always about Kabbalah and motherhood. She was a veryy naughty girl when she started out in 1982: ripped hemlines and conical bras, fruity song titles, such as "Like A Virgin",and "Into The Groove.". She was controversial but at least the songs measured up to the hype.

2. Rick Astley- . Before he became the infamous 'rickroll'd' internet phenomenon. Perhaps if he had been less cute and his videos less focused on his awkward dancing and tailored suits, he wouldn't be the easy choice for 80's music whipping boy. But this boy had a set of soul-singer pipes that could whip Michael Buble anyday.

3. Nik Kershaw- Another obvious choice for 80's artiste whipping boy, because of his Macgyver-mullet and Brooke Shield eyebrows. If you get past his anaemic vocals you will discover his formidable songwriting talent for putting weighty highbrow (no pun intended) subjects into smart pop tunes. He is the only artiste who has written a pop song about "Don Quixote".

4. Sting- (as above for Nik Kershaw, except for "Don Quixote"). In addition: He wasn't always this crappily safe, MOR and boring! He managed to sneak a song about stalking, "Every Breath You Take" into the Top Ten.

5. A-ha- There's more to them than "Take On Me'. They have been making beautiful if somewhat austere Scandinavian rock/pop since 1985.

6. Simple Minds- Listen to their output before 1985, before the activism and charity concerts. And ("Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Oohhhhhhhh..." ) Don't youuuuu complain about the lyrics. I know they do not make sense, but in a smart enigmatic way. Simple Minds never churned out radio-friendly love songs. They did have a hit with 'Love Song' in 1982, which isn't a love song at all but a sort of polemic against americanization.

7. Duran Duran- I'm sorry, there is no redeeming Duran Duran. The lead singer sounds like an elk going into labour, the other band members look like they failed the auditions for Japan, and "The Reflex" has not one but *two* godawful choruses
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Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Introducing: Culture Vulture

Just as the North American Indians, Inuits and African shamans of olde had power animals and spirit guides, I have adopted a 21st century power animal. I call him Culture Vulture. He sits ready and poised, to peck and dismember those narrow-minded dullards who have (you've guessed it...) no sense of high, low or popular culture.The ancients did not revile the vulture, because it is an emissary between life and death.The vulture subsists on carrion, thus clearing away dead matter and making way for new life.

People always say that I am being abit too harsh, but it is ironic that in the present day of increased media, more people are more unaware. Normal casual conversation is impossible when the following simple questions cannot be answered:

Q: What films have you seen recently?
(Stock Answer) : Dunno/ Can't remember/ ehhhhhh...

Q: What are your favourite movies/ songs/books?
S.A: Dunno, I go to the cinema I watch whatever.../I listen to what's on the radio/ I only read newspapers and magazines...

In such cases, I normally restrain Culture Vulture from swooping down and baring his talons. But in cases of wilful, blind assumptions resulting from unawareness and ignorance of general knowledge, I give Culture Vulture the all-clear. Such as:

Nik Kershaw is *not* some Anglo-Malaysian singer from Kelantan!
Sean Penn is not the capitol of Cambodia or Laos.
Roddy Frame is not the name of a piece of furniture or wall decoration available from Ikea.
JFK is not a fashion designer, like JPG or YSL.
The lead singer of Depeche Mode, David Gahan, is not dead.
"Depeche Mode" is *not* pronounced, "De-peach Mode" or "De-peck Mode"
Peter Gabriel is not some gospel singer.

London is a city in England, it is not England per se. When I tell some people I studied in York, UK, they ask, "Oh is that in London?" or "You mean London, is it?"

The "g" and "h" in 'Van Gogh' are silent. He was never a "Van Gog" or a "Van Goth".

The reason why art contains so many depictions of the nude women is that since the dawn of time, artists have always appreciated the aesthetic beauty of the female form. It does not mean that these artists were, "hum-sup" or dirty-minded.

YES! For sooth Shakespeare hath penned a surfeit of tragedie. Because tragedies put more bums on seats in those days.

For special cases, the Bearded Culture Vulture is available. She will rip out the stale innards of those who:
a) Mistake Al Pacino for a Starbucks Special Brew,.
b) Have never seen Stars Wars-AT ALL.
c) Would rather undergo a triple root-canal than watch a foreign-language film with subtitles.
d)Only heard about Leonardo da Vinci because of Dan Brown.
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Monday, 11 February 2008

Choose life...choose "Trainspotting"

I think you can tell that I've seen "Trainspotting" too many times and read the book until the spine gave way- and *still* refused to replace that battered movie tie-in edition only because it has Ewan Mcgregor on the cover and the uber-cool orange and white lettering done by Stylorouge, famous record album sleeve designers.

Yes, I know it's a movie and book about junkies, addicts, psychoes, HIV and desperate and degraded lives. When first released in 1996, "Trainspotting" suffered from being accused of glamourizing the subject matter that it tried to comment upon. It was charged with starting that late 1990s 'junkie chic' fashion movement, which is a bloody laugh, there always have been drugs in the dressing-room, behind the catwalk and at fashion shoots. ( May I refer you to the life of early 80s' supermodel Gia Carangi...).

If you want a movie about drug addiction to show your Moral Education class, perhaps "Trainspotting" is not appropriate, because it shows that the protagonist, Mark Renton, has managed to break out of his social situation by ripping off his friends. The more suitable movie for an anti-drugs Moral Ed lesson is 'Requiem For A Dream' (Darren Afonosky, 2000).

But great cinema and literature provides its audience with a wealth of memorable quotes for pop culture, and usage of such quotes by audience members. I have found Mark Renton's monologue (reproduced on the theatrical poster) to be invaluable over the years. Especially when busy-body family members ask me:

"Wahh! Still not married, ahhh?"

(Me, in a Scottish accent) : Chooose laiffe....choooose a joab....choose a kaireer...chooose a famleh...choose a fecking biiig telei-vih-shun....

At which point, those enquiring think I'm possessed and never ask me that question again. Woo-hoo!
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Thursday, 7 February 2008

That's Entertainment

Chinese New Year-Day 2

Greetings to all faithful blog readers- how is your holiday so far? Did you wake up ready to greet the Year of the Rat with a laugh, a smile and a merry quip? Those who did are the fortunate ones- I was rudely awakened from a blissful dream involving Alex Kapranos and light gauge electric-guitar strings (sorry, too much information...) by a horrid wailing that issued from the living-room. I stumbled to the source, unsure if my previous dream had segued into a nightmare state. No such luck-reality proved to be much worse.

The source of the infernal caterwauling was a cheong-sammed female songstress on a Chinese variety show, belting out oldies in a paint-stripping falsletto. Now, before certain parties level charges of cultural bias and prejudice at me due to the language barrier ("You were born in London and don't understand Mandarin/ ! Of course you don't like Chinese songs!"), let me categorically state that the singer was singing an English song. I recognised it as, "I Left My Heart In San Francisco". (Pity she didn't leave her voice over there as well) Bad singing requires no language to make itself understood, and by extension finds a very wide and captive audience. Something which is supported by the proliferation of numerous reality shows and boy-bands.

The same audience of Chinese variety shows are intractable in their ardour. My attempts to lower the volume were met with an instant backlash- "Oy! We are watching that!", "It's an old song!", and "Let us watch, it's Chinese New Year!". As the banshee in a cheong-sam vacated the TV stage for the next act (a chorus of garland-waving schoolchildren), I told myself that if this be nostalgia, then give me neuralgia at any time of the year.

The vehemence that my volume-reducing efforts met with only confirms that violence lurks beneath the festive veneer. Movies shown on TV during Chinese New Year are of the Kung Fu pugilistic type such as, Jackie Chan in,"Police Story: Mr. Nice Guy Drunken Master's First Strike" or Jet Li in, "Once Upon A Fearless Time In China The Fist of Legend Fong Sai Yuk Must Die." Parallels are found in the British Boxing Day James Bond movie TV screening, " You Only Live and Let Die Another Spy Who Loved Me From Russia With A View To Her Majesty's Secret Golden Gun For Your Living Daylights Only." Why are action movies staple holiday viewing? Do we enjoy abit of vicarious violence when surrounded by our nearest and dearest? ("IF AUNTIE SO_AND_SO ASKS ME ABOUT MY SINGLETON STATUS AGAIN I SWEAR I'LL EAGLE-CLAW PUNCH THIS WHOLE STACK OF EMPTY ANG POW PACKETS DOWN HER LAYER CAKEHOLE...!") Or hemmed in by the confines of the filial home or visiting other people's homes, and lacking any emotional space we are grateful for any semblence of activity and assertion? The answer is both, according to Adorno and Horkheimer:

'The enjoyment of the violence suffered by the movie character turns into violence against the spectator, and distraction into exertion.'
(The Dialectic of Enlightenment, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkeiheimer, 1944)

I wholly agree with Adorno and Horkheimer, as my interrupted dream turned out to have a satisfyingly rousing climax last night. (No, not in that way, all of you with gutter-mentalities...) After comparing types of electric guitar strings with AK, I joined him, a youthful Elvis Costello and a militant Joe Strummer onstage during a Chinese variety program. We proceeded to punk up and new wave traditional festive songs, smash our guitars onstage to the horror of the audience and made cheong-sammed banshees and rosy-cheeked schoolchildren quake in their dressing rooms. 

Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen and goodnight
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Year Of The Rat-ta-to -ille

Happy New Year to all faithful blog readers. The annual exodus back to my parents' hometown happened with the grim inevitability of lemmings leaping off a cliff. Which could be connected to the Year of The Rat. My cousin is improvising dischord on the living room piano while her elders are marvelling at her latent musical talent. She should enjoy while she can; it won't be so adorable once she hits 10 years of age when the very same family members will be telling her to sit down and eat her food.

Ahh food, the staple of any festive season. Food lubricates the merrymaking machine, along with alcohol ( for Chinese New Year, its always Hennessey XO or Jolly Shandy), providing a sense of familiality and communion. However, as I gaze upon jar after jar of pineapple tarts, love-letters and mini deep fried prawn rolls, I realise that the festive machinery has started to be rendered obselete by modern methods of crass production.

Take the pineapple tarts, for example, or rather, don't take them. Especially when you get the type that are shaped like stuffed dormice and the jam filling looks like jellied hamster turds instead of golden dollops of sweetness. Mini prawn rolls fare no better when they are compacted and deep-fried to an unbelievable hardness. The riot police will be using prawn rolls instead of plastic bullets to disperse unruly crowds. Love-letters are aptly named- after being stored in a lined Milo tin for two or three days, they fragment into forlorn shards, and you are left to pick up the pieces while all your aunts tactfully inquire, "Waah! Still not married yet?".

The quality of foodstuff is not strained; it droppeth like the gentle rain from heaven. I am not asking for manna during any festive season but I protest the wanton proliferation of substandard manufactured traditional foods. Whereby mass production churns out copies of copies, until the originals are rendered meaningless and forgotten. Why do we eat pineapple tarts during Chinese New Year? Who invented the pineapple tart? When was the first recorded pineapple tart consumed? These may seem like inane and pointless questions but at least mull over them when you unscrew the red plastic lid off the pineapple tart jar. Perhaps, once upon a time, a single pineapple tart contained a whole pineapple, as prawn rolls must have contained whole prawns before being downsized to their modern pellet-shaped incarnations. Love letters used to stand the test of time (until Chap Goh Meh) despite being shaken and stirred in a metal tin.

The obvious solution against crass production would be to make your own festive tidbits, but that is unfeasible with time-pressed modern families. As I watch my cousin bang away on the piano, I declare that we should also ( try to) enjoy any festive season while we can, and insist on quality over quantity. It sounds like a dreadful cliche but you do not want to be saddled with jars of stuffed dormice, riot pellets and shattered love letters after Chap Goh Meh. Particularly when you can't give them away for Valentine's Day.
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Monday, 21 January 2008


I have recently devised a new scale that measures how excruciatingly painful or vexing is a certain something or situation. I call it the Teeth- Pull Factor, or TPF. It is measured on a scale of 1- 32, according to the average number of teeth possessed by an adult human being. It is based on a hyperbole I've been recently employing, for example, "Visit relatives during Chinese New Year? I'd rather have my teeth pulled out one by one!". Incidentally (haha, sorry couldn't resist that corny pun...) seeing my relations has a TPF 30. Yes, it's that horrid. Conversely, seeing my relations but with the promise of mucho lucky red packets reduces the TPF to a more palatable 11. (Geddit? Palate...)

However some things on this plane of existence are beyond the measure of the TPF scale. Such as having to listen to a certain radio station whilst at work. It shall be referred to as 'Shite FM'. A few songs from 'Shite FM' are fine and dandy but when it is on for 8 straight hours, the TPF exponentially increases to an abominal level. It reaches way past 32, off the scale and into the area known as, 'Complete upper and lower maxilliary removal'.

Some will say a knowing, 'aahh...' and tell me that it's a generation gap thing, that I don't like old songs but this station plays easy listening favourites for those long and short in the tooth. Here's a special request going out to all DJs: Stop playing song covers by Celtic boy bands! Pap is bad but recycled pap is excreable.

Elvis Costello aptly sang that formatted radio seeks to, "...anesthetise the way that you feel..". That sweet mellow feeling becomes somatic and addictive. Some might say, change the channel or turn off the damned radio but someone else seeking their fix of E (as in Easy-listening) always restores the channel to Shite and Queasy, because you need 'soothing relaxing favourites to get you through your workday.' or so the radio ads purport.

This smug peddling of a pseudo- psychological aural panacea is what really pushes the TPF into the realm of the unknown. If the hard-disk on my PC crashes, I don't need Skeeter Davis blubbing about 'The End of World' to get me through my workday, as I hurl the contraption out of the window. For all those working overtime or during the graveyard shift, you don't need Elvis Presley crooning, 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?'.

I wouldn't presume to suggest what we all need to listen to in order to get us through our workday. However, I do feel that each one of us should define what we want to listen to and not let the airwaves dictate to us. I'll still have an intact set of teeth and the radio in the office will not be petrol-bombed.
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4.5 Songs

Hello everybody, today I am feeling adventurous- I shall start the first in a series of the ubiqitious 'song analysis' blog. . Hats off to Nick Hornby, who highlighted in his seminal book, 'High Fidelity', the predominantly male preoccupation with lists, song analysis and compilations. Nick Hornby also published '9 Songs' in 2002, which was a collection of nine musings on nine songs of his choice, thus here I present my '4.5 Songs':

1. "Somewhere In My Heart" Aztec Camera (1988)
In a 1990 radio interview, Roddy Frame the writer of this song, called it, 'a scuzzy little pop song'. This is a slight injustice, but when you hear the 5 note horn intro segue into a chirpy late 80s' drum pattern and some rather omnious lyrics about it being, 'Summer in the city, where the air is still/ A baby being born to the overkill': the tone is not so much scuzzy as muddled and elliptical. But all is redeemed when the anthemic chorus kicks in ( bizarrely accented with what sounds like Christmas chimes...?), Frame's impassioned declaration that, 'the closest thing to heaven is to rock n' roll..' at the middle eight, all topped with a guitar solo that soars, seemingly to heaven.

2. "Mack the Knife" Bobby Darin (1955)
I first heard this on the soundtrack to Quiz Show (dir. Robert Redford, 1994) ,obviously selected as a quintessential '50s song but it still sounds fresh and contemporary, as proved by the insipid covers of Michael Buble, Jamie Cullum and even Lyle Lovett . Bobby Darin's definitive interpretation is simultaneously tongue-in-cheek and all-knowing, in recounting the unsavoury exploits of Mack the Knife, a character from The ThreePenny Orchestra by Bertolt Brecht. Kudos to Darin for revamping a Pre-war German showtune into a hit with bobbysoxers, and sneaking it in under the pop cultural radar of '50s post-war America.

3. "Boredom" Buzzcocks (1979)
Ever the bunch of self-contradictions, the Buzzcocks came up with this gem that eschewed punk's three chord thrash and anti-establishment sentiments. "Boredom" rails against, well, boredom and sounds hilariously incensed. The two-note guitar solo that tails off (most likely out of ennui) is a classic but the caustic lyrics still cause this writer much thigh-slapping mirth, for example: "So tell me who are you trying to arouse?/ Get your hand out of my trousers!!"

4. "Respect" Aretha Franklin
A big song sung by a large lady. Do not trowel any proto-feminist readings onto this tune and just revel in the sturm und drang of Aretha's vocal.

5. "Born To Run" Bruce Springsteen (1974)
Here's the .5 song as promised in the title of this post. It may sound sacrilegious but 'Born To Run' should be played from around the halfway mark (2:37): then you'll avoid the overwrought lyrics about youths on the beach stuck in a deadend town in the midst of the American Dream gone sour. After the halfway mark, its Springsteen at his most life-affirming and evocative, "Baby we were born to ruuuuuuuuuuuun!!!!!", even on the way to work in the morning. And on the way back.
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Blood and Guts: A Quick Guide To Epic Movies

I luurve epic movies!- The ones with lots of clashing swords, whizzing arrrows, duelling armies and flying heads. Ever since "Gladiator" cleared a path (with a chariot) to the box office for epic movies in 2000, audiences are treated to at least two epic movies a season.

But I shall endeavour to help you navigate the battlefield of recent epic movies. This is to ensure that you end up making a victorious viewing choice, and not a defeated waste of time and money.
Follow the key abbrieviations:

1. Blood Quotient (B.Q)- (in order of increasing severity) Pinprick, Stab Wound, Arterial, Geyser

2. Head Count- Measured on a scale of 1- 100. N.B.This does not refer to the number of heads chopped off in the movie. It refers to the number of heads that you feel like chopping off after you watch the movie. Only because a good epic movie should stir up your bloodlust.

3. Number of "Lord of the Rings" (LOTR) alumni in the cast.[LOTR Alumni No.]- Acting in the LOTR movies opens up more (of the same) acting opportunities!

4. Old Fart Numbers- The number of prominent, theatrically-trained and often British and Australian actors and actresses exponentially increases with running time. They add a sense of grandiosity to the movie, and make up for the lack of acting talent displayed by the younger and beefier cast members.

5. Running Time (Numbers in brackets)-  The length of the movie. It could also refer to the number of times that you have to run to the toilet during the movie.

Gladiator (2000)
Only Russell Crowe could wear a leather skirt and look as hard as nails.
Bloodshed: Stab Wound. There's alot of stabbing and spearing but surprising little spilt blood.
Headcount: 80.
LOTR Alumni No:0 (But only because LOTR was released in the following year...)
Old Fart Numbers: 3. Richard Harris, Derek Jacobi and Oliver Reed (who died during filming)
Running time (150 minutes)

The Lord of the Rings (2001) The Fellowship of the Ring. (2002) The Two Towers,( 2003)- The Return of the King

Total running time- 540 minutes (Its a trilogy - don't panic!)
B.Q- Arterial (If you are an Orc...)
Headcount- 60. 'The Return of the King' is very disappointing and brings down the average headcount of the trilogy. But 'The Two Towers' still makes me want to lay seige to my noisy neighbour's front door.
LOTR Alumni No.- Not applicable.
Old Fart Numbers- 4. Ian Mckellen, Christopher Lee, Bernard Hill (King Theoden) John Rhys-Davies (Gimli)

Troy (120 minutes)
B.Q- Pinprick. The battle scenes are sloppily choreographed and the CGI/modelwork unconvincing.
Headcount-1. This number may refer to the head of the director, Wolfgang Petersen.
LOTR Alumni No. :2. Orlando Bloom and Sean Bean (Boromir of Gondor in LOTR)
Old Fart Numbers: 1. Peter O' Toole.

Kingdom of Heaven (140 minutes)
B.Q: Stab Wound. But most of the casualties in this movie come from catapults, arrows and boiling oil.
Headcount: 50. It is a low number but only because this film provokes some sobering thought about contemporary religious and cultural conflict.
LOTR Alumni No.-1 Orlando Bloom (AGAIN!)
Old Fart Numbers: 2. Liam Neeson, Jeremy Irons

Alexander (180 minutes)
B.Q- Pinprick. It's not a good idea to have Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins) narrate the movie, like an overlong Greek history lecture- too much detail and not enough action. Wasn't Alexander called 'the Great' because of his ingenuity on the battlefield?
Headcount- 0. I had such a refreshing nap that I felt no need to decapitate anyone for invigoration.
LOTR Alumni No.- 0 (Orlando Bloom was busy, I guess...)
Old Fart Numbers- 25 (Alexander's council)

300 (115 minutes)
B.Q- Glorious geyser! Why were the Spartans such an effective fighting force in Ancient Greece? They fought in their underwear, which would be enough to make any enemy army lay down their weapons- and laugh themselves to death.
Headcount- 300. (Including some elephants) Grrrr! Non-violence is for wimps!
LOTR ALumni No- 1 David Wenham- he played Faramir of Gondor in LOTR.
Old Fart Numbers- 30. (The council of Spartan Elders)

(Coming Soon April 2010: Clash of the Titans)
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Friday, 18 January 2008

The Adventures of the World's Dumbest Drug Dealer

She tried to smuggle in 30 condoms of coke- by stuffing them in her earholes. And it was diet Coke.And her husband tried to snort it.

When authorities asked her, "Are you in possession of any dope?", she pointed to her husband.Then he was arrested for *being* 80kg of dope.

She stopped selling animal tranquilisers- because the animals couldn't pay up.

Also, she stopped peddling Special K to clubbers- becaue she was sick and tired of providing them with spoons, bowls and milk.

Her stint as a school-nurse was disastrous- she thought PCP was a brand of antiseptic lotion.

She thinks heroin is a male 'heroine'.

When she tried to smoke hash, she ended up with burnt minced meat, onions, potatoes and spices.And don't mention the cold turkey...

Since she got pregnant, she has been so excited about ,'a parent's right to smack.'

When she was asked to smuggle crack, she said no thanks- She already has one between her butt cheeks.

She asked her husband what Columbian cartels were- he said that they were football teams. She thinks they are horse-drawn caravan hotels.
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Songs To Play When Your Boss Is Leaving

I am assuming that those glancing at the following song suggestions are glad that their boss is leaving.If you are lucky to have a wonderful boss then, well, you are either extremely lucky or very good at kissing posterior...

I will not apologise if this post comes across as juvenile-remember, possessing maturity is also knowing when to unleash your immaturity.

Some songs are better known as break-up songs, and a bad boss leaving is not too dissimilar to ending a toxic relationship.

Mix and match from the lists below:


Tell your (ex)boss how you truly feel after all the long hard days and grinding hours of working together side-by-side (and there is no such thing as *too* obvious):

Since You've Been Gone (Kelly Clarkson) : Ouch! Burn! Direct hit!

I Hate Everything About You (Ugly Kid Joe) : Oldie but a goldie.

You're History ( Shakespear's Sister): Three minutes of pure schadenfreude.

It's Like That (Run DMC)

Walk Away (Franz Ferdinand): If only for the refrain, "I love the sound of you walking away."

Problems (Sex Pistols) :Let Johnny Rotten and co. stick up two fingers if you can't do it yourself for legal reasons.

Banging On The Drum (Todd Rundgren): Your boss' head as a percussion instrument? Excellent idea!

Hole In The Head (Sugarbabes): Your personal Greek chorus of spiky, bitchin' girl pop.

I'm Not Missing You (Stacie Orrico): as above.

Indirect Glee

Extra points if you can work these songs into the farewell office party playlist or karaoke session.

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye (Soft Cell): So camp and theatrical that you won't need those glycerine tears.

Closing Time (Semisonic): College rock but full of timely lyrical advice, such as, "You don't have to go home but you can't stay here."

Con Te Partiro [Time To Say Goodbye] (various opera artists): The only time you can use a touching operetta as a backhanded parting gesture!

Don't You Forget About Me (Simple Minds) : Refrain from thumbing your nose at your (ex)boss during the 'La-la-la" outro.

Don't Look Back In Anger (Oasis): 'Don't look back' only because you are all thumbing your noses...!

Don't Dream It's Over (Crowded House): Caution: May cause blubbing amongst toadies and lackeys.

Goodbye My Lover (James Blunt): Be a sadist and inflict this on the office party. Also gains extra meaning in light of any soured office romances.

Private Glee

Songs to play to yourself after hearing the good news.

Now We Are Free (Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard, 'Gladiator-OST'): It's a shame that gladitorial games are defunct, you'd pay good money to see your boss thrown to the lions.

Last Goodbye (Jeff Buckley): Too unnerving for the farewell party, a bizarre yet euphoric combination of Led Zeppelin and The Smiths (speaking of which...)

Frankly Mr. Shankly (The Smiths): "You're a flatulent pain in the arse", so sings Morissey to the titular character...

You Just Haven't Earned It Yet Baby (The Smiths)

Free-Fallin' (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers): For the drive home.

A New Day Has Come (Celine Dion): For the drive to work.


When you really don't give a flying puck and feel like square-dancing amongst the cubicles and down the corridor.

Elevation (U2)

Song 2 (Blur): Jump up and punch the ceiling in time to the chorus', 'WOO-HOO!".

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