AXN Anime Fest 2003: First Impressions
Oops. Almost forgot. I was among the bazillions of people crowding MidValley Exhibition Centre's Hall 3 for the first AXN Anime Fest to be held in Malaysia. Well, actually me and all my siblings. Yup (we're all otaku). So there I was (a little late but not too late) with my 2 sisters and brother in tow. I don't think crowded even began to describe it. It was like a madhouse. A friend of mine who was there earlier told me that the moment the gate rolled open, this huge tide of mankind rushed into the opening, despite the best efforts of the staff to contain the 'flood'. And flood it was. And then I got there.
I'm going to have to make this short, but pics will be on the way soon.
1) Cheap original Anime DVDs (courtesy of Anime-Tech). Yaaay!
2) Plenty of merchandise (at least when I got there)
3) Charlie's Angels style sumo!
4) So many female (read: gorgeous) anime fans! Yay!
1) The Hall's bloody small! Do it in PWTC next time!
2) The Hall's bloody small!!
3) Get an MC who at least knows his anime! The Cosplay (Costume Play) contestants barely got introduced.
4) Again about the Hall size.
5) Bloody "action" kids who were boasting they knew better katas than the samurai performers on stage and that their cameras were the most expensive, and thus they should sit in front.
6) Mad parents who insist on shoving their 3-4 year old kids onto the stage.
So there it was in a nutshell. We crawled out of there early since we were all tired..but I sincerely hope (on behalf of all the anime fans) that we'll see it again next year. Thanks AXN, and keep up the good work. Oh, and if it's on next year, look out for the Resident Evil Zombie in the Cosplay Competition. That will be me.
Sunday, September 28
AXN Anime Fest 2003: First Impressions
As much as I'd like to avoid it, it's already Sunday! And that means I'll be off to the Crown Princess soon. Expect little to no updates till the 3rd, and hopefully I'll be hanging around KLCC a lot after the sessions end each day. So until I come back. have a good week ahead, and God bless!
Friday, September 26
The Crassness of It All
So now we have another cutesy, lovey little ad campaign going on. You know which one I mean. The one that goes "There's this girl in college. Pretty, but..."
Eww. What is the deal with all these whitening ads?
"And then I saw her, light playing on her FAIR, rosy face.." Oh yeah. Stick it to us with a blunt hacksaw why don't you.
Regardless of personal preference, this whole 'fairer is better' craze has to stop. What, we'll have to spend bushels of money just to get somewhat 'rosier'? What if you're dark all over? Does this mean you have to slather the miracle cream on your whole body? I'd be damn spooked if my partner had a white face and dark everything else.
Fairer, whiter, rosier..this has to stop. This whole ridiculousness has to stop. But then again I'm just me. Thanks to their masterful marketing strategy, I'm sure the product will do very well.
Can I just do it one more time?
What The Hell?
I'm bloody pissed. What's the point of asking Linkin Park to come down if they're only allowed to act like N' Sync? Can't someone make these people grow brains? Are we doomed to only have the likes of the Scorpions and Modern Talking perform? Did the Cheeky Girls' butt-touching song hypnotise the Ministry (or God knows what forsaken body) into letting them perform on our National Day? Talk about hypocrisy. Oh, and by the way, might as well call up the boys from MLTR. God knows they need the work.
Way to go, Malaysia. I'll be surprised if they decide to turn up at all.
(Thanks to the nicster for the link)
Thursday, September 25
It's almost midnight, my head's spinning, and I'm reading blogs. Long, long week, which will spill over to the next. As I look at the stuff I've bought these few days, it occurred to me that however nice the suit, wonderful the game console or funny the book, I'll only have myself to enjoy it with.
I know I shouldn't complain, especially after watching Children Of Heaven. Considering the circumstances, I'm not too badly off. Sure, I'm not filthy rich, but then again I don't know what I'd do if I was either. Small steps at first, I tell myself. So then I ask myself 'what's with all the stuff, man?'. The answer's pretty obvious. They're replacements. Surrogates, if you will. The most mouth watering dish fades into nothing if you have no one to enjoy it with. A funny line in a book? Ditto.
Of course, I've got my friends (and thank God for them too). But still..
So people ask me, "Why don't you get off your arse and FIND someone?"
I ask myself the same thing.
And then it always occurs to me that I don't even know if I WANT a relationship anymore. I've stopped thinking about it so much (partly due to the mountains of work) that it doesn't even appear as an option. I used to feel longing. Now I just don't feel. Except for the odd twinge of jealousy when intertwined couples pass by. Do I really want one, or am I just going to go through the motions? I probably COULD start something, but for some reason there's no drive.
Work, read, game, sleep.
It's a comfortable little cranny I've stuffed myself into.
Wednesday, September 24
Mc Sex: The New Dish on The Block
Got this article from rense.com. Purportedly written by an editor for Cosmo, it highlights what may be a worrying new trend among single females. An interesting read. Here are some quotes:
"...Why else would we cram our feet into the worst-quality but most expensive heels? Because we're dedicated followers of fashion and right now, it appears, 'Sex is the new black'..."
"...It's these conversations that disturbed me the most. We spoke to a 27-year-old who'd had sex with "about 40 men" this year but never had an orgasm. We spoke to a woman vomiting on a beach as the sun rose. Was she happy?
"No, I just want to go home," she replied but when her friends arrived minutes later to pick her up she told them what a great time she was having. We spoke to women who described the sex they'd had the night before as "actively unpleasant..."
The article can be accessed here. Let me know what you guys think, especially in light of what's been happening in Suara Malaysia and Najah's blog.
(Hint: That's blatant bait, so bite it, you-know-who.)
Tuesday, September 23
A Very Ashamed Ox
Really. Ask anyone who's known me for a few years (at least). I rarely spend on anything for myself. Really. The last big tech buy I made was for my Palm m130 (which has served me tremendously well) about a year ago. Well of course there's the odd game or two, then books (glorious books!) and maybe a DVD if there's anything worth buying. But yesterday..yesterday I think I went bonkers. The meeting scheduled for Monday morning was cancelled and seeing that I'll be having a very packed week, I decided to hop over to KL and get my suit (while peeking at the Xbox of course).
Thanks to G2000, THAT trip was fairly short. With their sweet "buy-one blazer we throw in a pair of trousers" deal, I walked out of G2000 a very happy puppy..with every intention of coming back Thursday and picking up some shirts as well. Until I went over to Mr Wong's (my friendly Sg. Wang gameshop) and I saw IT. There I was, with money to spend, and months of planning/drooling/dreaming echoing in my brain. I looked at it. It winked back. Taking a breath, I remembered my walk-away point (established not too long ago) for buying the Xbox:
1) If it costs more than RM 1200 including the games and another controller, forget it.
2) If the must have games I want are not available immediately, forget it.
3) If 1 and 2 are don't apply..buy it.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I am now the proud owner of Microsoft's not-so-little black box. And I didn't even have to break my walk away rule either. Of course, I had the pre and post buying jitters. I recognised them a mile away. Only now, I didn't feel so bad after buying the devilish console. I wonder why.
In case anyone's interested, here are the games I got free with the console:
1) Halo (of course!!)
2) Shenmue II
3) Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic
4) Hunter: The Reckoning (sweet multiplayer action)
5) DOA 3 (not to be confused with DOA Beach Volleyball)
Oh, and I'll still be going back to KL Plaza on Thursday. It's to pick up the suit (post alterations) and some shirts. Hell, maybe even another pair of flat-fronts.
Monday, September 22
Coming Soon : Romero-Fest
Okay. I think I'm a schmuck. The reason being while trawling through some DVD shops last night I chanced upon a copy (you know what I mean) of George Romero's final installment in the Living Dead Trilogy: Day of The Dead. Me being me, I decided for some weird reason not to purchase it, knowing full well it would be the last time I'll see it on a shelf anywhere in KL (and don't get me started on waiting for Speedy-weed to bring it in). Oh well, I suppose I'll find it again when I'm NOT looking for it, as is usual. Right now though, I keep thinking: What if??
Oh well, I suppose I can wait until I can afford to order the whole Special Edition from Amazon or something. Not much fun working your way backwards is it? I used to contribute a lot to DVD Malaysia, a forum for DVD fans here to share tips, tricks and news on the DVD and Home Theatre scene. Haven't been there in awhile, mostly cause I had to stop my collecting due to some (ahem) unforeseen law enforcement, hehehe. In any case, I expect I'll be getting my hands on the DVD soon enough (knowing me). For the uninitiated, the Trilogy kicked off with Night of The Living Dead (1960, 1990), continued with Dawn of the Dead, and ended with Day of the Dead. Although you may call them sequels, they don't feature any continuing characters. Instead, the films show a progressively decaying world where the dead come back to life, and humans are scattered all over the world in small pockets. I think I posted on this some time back, and I'll try to link it (if I can ever find it again that is). I'll be sure to post reviews as re-watch these films, so for those Horror aficionados out there here's what you can do to tide you over while you're waiting:
1) Watch Clive Barker's Candyman (or read the short story first).
An intriguing look into urban legends and the power of belief. Done much better than the pseudo-smart schlock that was Urban Legend (1999) and its even more insipid, uninspired sequel. Tony Todd (Final Destination) is THE Candyman. Maybe you dare to say his name five times in a mirror?
2) Watch Night of The Living Dead (either version)
Interesting social commentary on the paranoia in 1960s America. Never before have zombies become so thought provoking.
3) Play the Simpsons Hit and Run on the Xbox/PS2
Imagine GTA, but with no guns. And plenty of humour from our favourite yellow skinned sitcom family. Guaranteed fun to be had.
Right. Back to work!
This Is A Work Related Plug
Hello people. Just got back from the vastly tiring Family Day Sunday afternoon, and am now in the final stages of organising what we like to call ITSIM '03. Being a good member of the faculty and stuff, I thought I'd post a plug about it here:
International Symposium on Information Technology 2003
Date: 30th September to 2nd October 2003
Venue: Crown Princess Hotel, KL
Theme: Challenges and Innovations in Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management
There'll be a Pre-Con Workshop on the 29th with the topic Making Knowledge Management a Reality- The IBM Experience. More details can be found at the official site. Yours truly will be firmly ensconced in the hotel starting Sunday afternoon, so expect little to no updates until it's all over, unless of course I can find some way to blog from there. So anyway, have a good Monday and a great week ahead. The Ox needs to get himself a suit and quick!
Friday, September 19
Friday, And I'm Off To The Beach
Hello folks. Tomorrow's the faculty Family Day, and as head of the activities committee, I'm off to Port Dickson this afternoon to set things up. Tons of things to do, but at least I'll have people I trust around me (to do the job properly, at least). Now I only hope the weather holds. I should be back on Sunday barring any complications. So again, to everyone out there in the blogiverse, bookiverse or whatever passes for your home, have a good weekend and DO try to be safe.
Oh, and I'd like to use this space to wish an early Happy Birthday to meesh. Have a good one, dearo and be sure to take piccies. And yes, we still owe each other coffee.
Right. I should be off now, since there are things to do, the world to save etc etc.
Thursday, September 18
..And The Saga Continues
Just got home after an impromptu meeting with the dean, regarding plans to further our studies. Ended on a mixed note, with some people very visibly dissatisfied. Here's the gist of it:
The dean came up with a list of lecturers he intends to send abroad (sponsored by the uni). Me and my mates took up the first 7 places. The reason for this being that as Temporary Lecturers (a make believe status the uni came up with at the last minute) we have no tenure, and are exempted from any and all benefits (including any eligibility for loans etc etc). Additionally, any work we do will not be counted in the years of service. Now someone tell me that doesn't suck. Now in order to remedy that (and to make sure we don't run away) the uni puts us on top of the list so that we'll be bonded for another 7 years the instant we come back.
Which could be good (if you don't have that itch in you that says there's got to be more to this). However, the decision doesn't sit well with some of the senior staff who've waited 2 years or more for their name to come to the top of the list. Totally understandable, and they didn't pull any punches in showing their dissatisfaction. Of course, all this could have been avoided if only the uni had awarded us full lecturer status. We'd have been happy to wait (out my present bond, heheh) and there wouldn't be any contest on who goes first or what not.
Still, that gives me the inklings of a plan. Hmm. Keep tuning in, folks, as I attempt to sort out this mess that is my career.
Wednesday, September 17
So This Is How It Goes
Finally back after yet another long day at the office. The faculty family day's on Saturday, and guess who's sitting high up on the organising committee? Anyway, yours truly will be departing KL on Friday to make all the necessary arrangements and setup for the big day. Since this is the first time we're handling such a large amount of people, the committee hopes it'll go well, even with the inevitable hitches. Planning can only take you so far. And after that it's the Crown Princess from the 28th September to 4th October, as I'll be handling the International Symposium on Information Technology 2003. God willing (and equipment, too) I'll be covering the keynotes and parallel sessions in situ. Here's just hoping they have net access.
Got confirmation that finally they're moving up my pay from Tutor to Lecturer. What this means essentially is that I can afford to breathe a little easier every month, and maybe even buy a piece of clothing or two every other month. This Ox doesn't ask for much, and he's happy with what he's got. For now. It's that time of the month again, when the Ox entertains some serious doubts about himself and his career. I find that I go through these periods every few months or so, and they get worse if there's additional stress factors. For now, again the defining question is: should I go and continue my studies under the uni sponsorship (and get bonded for another 7 years in the process) or should I wait out the current bond, and strike out? Regular readers will know that these questions pop up quite regularly, and if you're tired of em, so am I. As I told someone close to me today, I'm getting stressed because it's my future, and unfortunately I only have one. Some may argue that there are an infinite number of parallel universes where all possible futures pan out, but I'd rather concentrate on the here and now, thank you.
One door opens, and another closes. Life is like that, and I'm perfectly happy accepting that I'll never be able to move on if I keep asking myself too many what-ifs. It's still scary though, knowing that once I make this one particular leap, I'll never be able to undo it. No Control-Z's in this particular piece of software, folks. It's the ultimate in Role Playing Games, and once you start, there's only one way to stop. Welcome to Real Life, the only RPG you'll ever need (and get). Truth be told, I'm feeling very very crabby (urgh) and I hate it when that happens.
Oh well. Enough self pitying drivel for one night. Have a good midweek (and weekend ahead, folks) and don't forget if you can't be good..be careful.
Signing off for The Insane Ox,
Tuesday, September 16
Of Anger and Photos (Warning, Profanity Ahead)
I. Am. Bloody. Pissed. Again.
(sigh) This does not bode well, friends. Here I am, barely 2 days into my work week after 1113km on the road (and that's exact!), and already I find myself getting bloody irritated by the walking abominations that claim to be humans and worse still, educators. I don't generally whine about my workload. Okay, that's another lie. I complain every once in awhile, but honestly I wouldn't know what I'd do with myself if I didn't have so many things to do. Give me a task, explain to me what you want, and I'll be happy to do it. Really. Teach, organise a seminar, tutor a new subject, anything. Really.
What I can't stand is when some people think they can get away with just dumping THEIR work on me and washing their hands of it after. Now that's just plain bad form. Let me illuminate. This is an excerpt from a REAL conversation, in a REAL meeting:
Evilcolleague1: Of course you'll have to handle the MC-ing, since well..you know, our English is not that great.
Evilcolleague2: And besides, we're married!
Me: Puzzled look (Thinking: what the hell does THAT have to do with anything?)
Evilcolleagues in unison: And of course during the tour of the city, you'll be the designated guide, since we're married and can't possibly entertain those Mat Sallehs! *Titters and giggles* Besides, it's good exposure for you!
Me: Right. (Thinking: Ookay. Be calm. Please for God's sake do NOT strangle these loathsome creatures.)
2 weeks later: Another meeting.
EvilC1: Oh, and before I forget. We're not going to be there for the tours and all, you know. We have to run back ASAP, since we're married. By the way, could you also get a case or two of mineral water for the day trip?
Me: (Sputtering) Why can't (you lazy c**** get it your fucking selves) you just get it at Warta in Bangi?
Them: Oh, Warta? Okay then..as long as you go get it. And use your money first, yeah?
Me: (Voice raised slightly.) My dears, I've just come back from a trip that nearly cost me a thousand ringgit, alright?
Them: Oooh! We're sure it's no big deal. We'll pass some cash to you, as long as you buy it.
Can someone tell me what is wrong with this picture? Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I have no problems with buying mineral water, scrubbing toilets or anything else for that matter. God knows 10 years in boarding school teaches a guy to tough it out and make the best out of anything. Call me an idealist, but I've always been taught to be responsible, and to a greater degree, accountable. When you're given a responsibility, it's perfectly alright to delegate duties. I believe in teamwork very much, thank you. But dumping it all on one person and at the same time using the lame excuse of being married to wash your filthy hands of it..that is just plain...rude. And no, it doesn't only happen to me. I've seen some of my younger colleagues actually burst into tears. It's like just because of some perceived, invisible seniority, you get the pick of who to humiliate. It's difficult to talk about it, in a blog entry. Maybe some of my friends will be unlucky enough to hear of it from me mouth.
And then you have the gall to ask us why we don't write research papers, knowing full well it's your stupid blinking irresponsibility that prevents us from spending our time actually DOING something constructive. You, who call yourselves scientists and researchers in the field of Information Science, too blinking blinded by your half-failed marriages to even realise that the technology has gone way, waay over your heads. You who wouldn't know a blog if one came and kicked you in the fanny, and who think email publishing is still the wave of the future. Well wake up and smell the dust, grannies. It's ALREADY the freaking future, and you're a disgrace to the whole community. Need I mention the glee on your faces as you proudly boast of spending 4 years in the UK and not improving a smidgen of your English? Your scoffing jokes as the University spends thousands of dollars to send you to conferences and courses to improve your teaching?
Oh, and one other thing. Just a small thing, really. How the hell does being married prevent you from MC-ing a c***fion (function, and that was de-fucking-liberate)/acting as a tour guide? Afraid the esteemed visitors from abroad will want to fondle your nonexistent breasts or do the nasty with you on the bus seats? Grow a brain, and get a life. Opportunities to better yourselves served on a silver platter, and all you can do is run home. Well you all do just that, then. Us new batch of lecturers (we have the same freakin title, for God's sake), we know how it goes. And we'll work our arses off to make sure our uni stops producing floating shit like you (if you MUST know, healthy shit sinks) and that maybe someday, we'll be proud of ourselves and the work we've done.
God willing, we'll make something good yet. Amen.
P/S: In the meantime, check out my fotopage for something a little less stressful.
Monday, September 15
My first book review! Yay!
In case anyone's interested, my first book review is online and can be accessed here. In the meantime, I strongly urge anyone who likes to read to help contribute to the wonderful effort towards literacy that is The Book Review Blog. Kudos to Grace and the others!
It Sounds Goood
Dolby Labs has come up with yet another sound standard, dubbed (forgive the pun) Dolby Pro Logic IIx. It will allow for playback of six channel audio or even lower on an eight speaker system. Yeah you read it right folks, eight freaking speakers. Seems like Dolby's really pushing the envelope. Barely 2 years since Dolby Digital EX 7.1 and already they're prepping for eight channel surround sound. This piece of news comes to you direct thanks to IGN.
If any of you're interested in more specs, check out the FAQ courtesy of the soundmeisters themselves.
Slobber and drool.
Movie Monday: The Italian Job Review
Ahhh. Another Monday, and I am back behind my grey desk at work. Since I have a meeting to go to in about 15 minutes, I thought I'd share with you all some of my observations while watching The Italian Job yesterday. Yet another remake (or reimagining, if you're Tim Burton) of a previous film, The Italian Job is a decent popcorn flick with some likeable characters, so-so acting and madcap Mini racing action. Right, so that's the sum of it. You can go catch it now if you like, or you can hang around and read the rest of my review :-P
Director F. Gary Gray took some great risks in adapting the Michael Caine original for this new outing. I was very young when I saw the Brit classic for the first time, and I can remember only bits and pieces of it. But don't worry for you absolutely have no need of any knowledge of the former to enjoy this one. The story revolves around a motley gang of thieves led by John Bridges (Donald Sutherland) who specialise in pulling off extremely well planned heists. The other members of the crew are Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg), Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), Left Ear (Mos Def), Lyle The Napster (Seth Green, to great comic effect) and Steve (Edward Norton, being his usual bad self). The premise is simple enough. Charlie assembles the team for one final job: 35 million dollars worth of gold bricks in Venice. They pull it off perfectly with no hitches except for one thing: Steve decides to keep the gold for himself. After killing John and forcing the others to a watery grave, he then escapes. What follows is your standard revenge tale. The surviving members of the team recruit Bridges' daughter, Stella who is conveniently an excellent safecracker (played by Charlize Theron), hatch a plan to get the gold and get back at Steve. In between we've got the obligatory blossoming romance between Charlie and Stella, expository banter between various members of the crew (such as how Lyle is the real Napster) and of course the infamous Mini Cooper chase scenes.
Overall, the movie is a tight little package, with good editing and a nice clean wrapup in the end. Which is perhaps one of its biggest flaws: the whole film's a bit too neat, in this reviewer's opinion. There's never a sense of the characters being in real danger, and everything flows a little too smoothly for my liking. Of course, you could argue that it's because Charlie's such a master planner..so it's really up to the viewer how much he wants to suspend his disbelief.
The acting's pretty much two dimensional, but serviceable. You've got the explosives expert, the cool-leader with a conscience (Wahlberg reminds me so much of his role in The Big Hit), the Brit hero driver, and the uber geek (Green). All in all, it has to be said that Seth Green really steals the show here. His comedic relief is well done and provides a good counterpoint to all the macho/cool posturing the rest of the team provides. Theron and Wahlberg don't exactly send sparks flying, but as I said, they're OK.
All in all, the Italian Job is an alright popcorn flick that should have made it here months ago. It's not as empty headed as Full Throttle, but the action (and the cool Minis) should tide any moviegoer's appetite for fun at least till the next LOTR sequel comes along. Sit back and let Charlie's crew take you for a (mostly) enjoyable ride.
The Ox gives The Italian Job a 3.5 out of 5.
Sunday, September 14
Shhh. It's a Beautiful Sunday Morning
It's Sunday..and the Ox is still recuperating. It's nice to be able to wake up and not rush off to some unknown location 100 km away..but at the same time I kinda missed it all. Being on the road's not too bad if you can get used to the solitude. It's still early..it's peacefully quiet, and I can't bear to let this morning float away. For some reason, Sunday has a certain..special impermanence to it. I guess maybe it's because you know it has to end soon. Memories of lazy Sundays past...hmmmm.
I've got loads of blogs to catch up on, and dunno where to start. Anyways, I'd just like to give a quick shoutout to all the people who've helped me on my trip. Thanks a lot guys/girls..you all really made the long and winding road easier to travel.
Oh well, I guess it's time to hit the sack again. Or at least vegetate in front of Astro..cause God knows it's going to be a busy day ahead. Oh, and one more thing. I managed to persuade a non-blogger friend of mine to start blogging! Yay! He's still working on it, and I'll link to him here. Enjoy your Sunday, folks!
Back in Subangville,
Thursday, September 11
All Your CC Are Belong To Us
Okay. Managed to find a working CC in Segamat..and am typing amidst the sounds of people getting blown to bits and gunfire. Yeah, almost feel like one of those fake war correspondents the US makes Fox send every few days. In any case, the sounds of CounterStrike and Warcraft III are a welcome change from the dull hum that is my room airconditioning. And did I mention that today I had the displeasure of checking into the suckiest hotel room ever? Maybe I should bring the brochure and its enticements back, so we can all huddle and have a good laugh, eh?
Right now, I'm sweaty, smelly and in desperate need of TLC. As I mentioned on phlogger, watching Harry meet Sally is very very disheartening when you know you have to come back to an empty house. (Sigh) Unfortunately, all I have is an uninviting bathroom (people who know me will know just how freakin' particular I am about that). Ugh. I take small consolation from the fact that I'll be heading up north again tomorrow..but still it's been an interesting trip to say the least. Driving almost 700 km (and spending God knows more than that), seeing the things I see...gives a guy some perspective. And I've got loads of time to talk to myself since then. Not that I don't do it every now and then, but trust me, nothing beats enforced solitude on the road to instill a bit of steel in a guy's back.
I expect to be suitably tired and exhausted come tomorrow...so I won't even think of catching up on all the blogs I've missed this week. That can wait till Monday. And I think, you can too, my friends.
P/s: For those Jap movie fans, Takeshi Kitano just won an award at Cannes for his remake of Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman. He rawwks!
Regards from Segamatville,
Sunday, September 7
Hi Ho, SIlver!
Okay folks, this will be the last post from the Ox for the next week or so. Early next morning, I'll be on my solitary journey to Johor. Scary, when I think of it..mostly because I'll be alone, and I've had ample time to be with myself these past few months. Oh well..a guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do. Hotel bookings are made, car's serviced, clothes half packed..and all that's left is to actually begin the bloody trip. So for all of you out there, have a safe week. I'm gonna miss you lot (honestly) so keep up the good work I'm sure all of you're doing..and I hope there's not too much of a storm after I leave, eh? Wish me luck, and I'll be sure to tell you all about my leetle trip down south (with help from my Powershot, of course).
Till next week, Cheerio!
P/s: I'm sad to announce that the KL Motorshow is a disappointing event (IMHO). I took more pics of the babes than of the cars (of which there weren't THAT many). Oh well..maybe I'll be putting them in a photoblog. Bye!
Friday, September 5
Freeeky Friday: Ju-On Review
The Japanese have done it again, folks. After the original Ringu and Dark Water, not many films managed to creep me out like Ju-on did last night. After the general crappines of Kakashi and Ring 2, last night was a welcome surprise. There's just something about Japanese horror in general that just strikes a chord in me, and amplifies the fears I've always had but never talked about..but I digress. Back to the review.
Ju-On (The Grudge) is actually a theatrical release of a made for TV movie of the same name released earlier in Japan. Due to its success, it spawned a series of sequels (including a second cinema outing) and is reportedly still going strong. The title refers to a haunting attached to a specific time or place, caused by spirits of people who have died horribly. This is explained in the opening expository crawl. The version I saw had Indonesian subtitles, but they were surprisingly accurate and managed to convey the meaning of the dialogue effectively. In Ju-on, director Takashi Shimizu manages to take the concept of the haunted house story to a new level, in which he introduces what may be the male counterpart of Ringu's Sadako: the boy Toshio. The story itself is told in short vignettes that jump about in time, in a very creative yet effective manner. Shimizu ignores the usual narrative flow in favour of a more surreal, almost Memento like convention. And it works. Fans of Dark Water, rejoice. Plenty of elevator, toilet, television and bedroom scares here.
In the film, a social worker, Rika is entrusted with the duty of visiting a house and checking up on the occupants. When she gets there, she finds the house in a mess, and an insensible old woman lying helpless, surrounded by her own waste. The woman doesn't seem to respond to her questions, so Rika cleans up the house and gets the lady to rest. As she's cleaning, Rika hears a sound coming from one of the upstairs rooms and finds a boy duct taped inside a closet, his face and body covered with cuts. She learns that his name is Toshio, and that his parents are missing. Concerned, she makes a report to the welfare agency and continues her work. That is, until she checks in with the old woman only to see something....
From that point, the story takes us on an eerie, jagged and scary journey as we uncover the secrets of the Saeki house and its ghostly occupants. We learn of its bloody history, and the gruesome ways it takes its victims. The ghosts of Ju-on are malevolent, and they don't spare anyone. Ever had a scary dream that made you hide under the covers? After watching Ju-on, you'll never think of hiding there again. Felt alone and scared at home and switched on the TV to make you feel better? Ju-on'll show you that it doesn't help. And these are only two of the many ways the movie will freak you out..I'm also happy to report that while there are many cats in this movie, not one of them jumps out of the closet, or gets thrown into the protagonists' lap, thus saving Ju-On from the Spectacle of The Jumping Cat. The director makes the most of his actors, and thanks to a good script, they don't behave TOO predictably. Of course, they still go up creaking, creepy stairs alone to check out a sound, or go to a quiet toilet in a deserted office building. But still, they're clever enough to call the Police when faced with a dead body and throw a phone away when it starts making freaky noises. The characters in Ju-on are more believable, in a fashion..and this further elevates it from being just another horror flick with a high body count.
Which brings me to another good point. Lots of people die in this film, but Shimizu wisely tantalises us with only glimpses of the victims' gory fate. There is hardly any physical violence, which leaves the audience to imagine what gruesome deaths the victims suffer. As usual, moderation works best, unlike some Western hororr outings that insist on showing exactly what happens. There are sometimes weird jump cuts that made me think the editing was faulty, but I realised later that it was all intentional.
Of course, the film DOES have its drawbacks. Shimizu works very well when there's an implied presence, and the sight of Toshio and Kayako (his ghostly mother) full on often detracts from the overall effect. Some people may also find his storytelling style distracting and confusing. Nevertheless, there's enough good stuff in here to make it worth a watch (or even two)..and I can't wait to get my grubby hands on the sequel.The cinematography lends itself very well to the movie, with brief glimpses and flickers that remind me of Brad Pitt flashing on and off in The Fight Club. Shimizu knows what works, and there are plenty of scares that use the set-pieces wisely, even where there ARE no shadows.
The audio is also spot on, with creaking, ominous rumbles and the characteristic sound he uses to signal the entities' presence. Music is used sparingly, but to good effect. With these elements in place, Shimizu is assured of a place in any horror buff's collection, right next to Ringu, Audition and Uzumaki. All in all, Ju-on is a solid entry in the Japanese horror genre, and I can only hope the sequels make it here as well.
The Ox gives Ju-On a 4 out of 5.
Thursday, September 4
Freeeky Friday Teaser Alert
I've managed to get my hands on a bootleg copy of Ju-on (The Grudge), the latest horror feature to come out from Shimizu Takashi (Kairo, Charisma) and screenwriter Hiroshi Takahashi (the original Ringu series). My friend (whom I got it from) says it's an interesting and scary take on the haunted house story, although he DID warn me of the subtitles. In any case, keep your eyes glued to this spot, as the Ox watches and reviews Ju-on tonight! The cover looks promising, with a picture of a pasty skinned boy with dark eyes. Something tells me I'm in for a good time tonight.
It's going to be a Freeeky Friday night, indeed...and Japanese horror is on the menu. Yay!
Discovery Travel and Adventure
Just got off the line with my friend in NTV7, saying that they're still going ahead with Edisi Siasat. I wish them the best of luck. It's Thursday, and I'm wrapping things up before leaving for my Johor trip (finally) next Monday. Due to the students' making me put off my trip for the past few weeks, I'm now facing the fact that I'll have to drive down there and back alone. There are 8 students to check up on,
and their locations are as follows:
Been trying to plan a route that will be most time effective, since I know from personal experience just how far each of these places are from one another. Would really appreciate it if anyone could drop any hints as to which place I should tackle first. My tentative schedule would be as follows:
Day One: KL - Kota Tinggi - Kluang (sleepover)
Day Two: Kluang - Mersing (sleepover)
Day Three: Mersing - Batu Pahat - Segamat (sleepover??)
Day Four: Segamat - Tangkak - KL
I intend to stretch out the travelling as much as possible, since I don't want to over tax my car. In any case, if anyone's interested in keeping me company during the lonely drive down, please let me know. Food and lodging will be paid for, and in return I'll be glad to have someone to talk to and look out for landmarks on the way. I dunno if anyone IS free..but I figure it's worth a shot.
Wednesday, September 3
An Amazing Thing
My good friend Grace, formerly of You Are Stupid, has come up with what I consider to be a brilliant idea: The Book Review Blog. In her own words:
The goal of TRBR is to gather all sorts of book / literature reviews of almost any kind at all on a community blog thats accessible to almost anyone at all with a blogger account to contribute. As you have observed it's hosted on blogspot - I intend to get hosting and move to a proper content management system but yeah, we'll wait and see how the response is like first.
Since I'm sure many of us are avid readers, I hope you'll contribute (as I will soon do) or just spread the word to your friends. The bookiverse (my own term) is a wonderful place..hope to see you there!
An Angry Ox is a Dangerous Ox
I am pissed. Seriously pissed. Not drunk, mind you.. but angry. It's very rare that I am ever incensed enough to post while angry, but this is one of those rare, priceless moments. The reason for this is twofold: after almost 8 months of waiting, I've been told that my long awaited/desperately needed check "sedang diproses, so sabar lah ye?". I am so tempted to just rush off to the Bursary and give the old geezer there a piece of my mind. It's been "minggu depan, ya" for far too long. Why bother telling me it's next week when it's not even on the way? There's only so much I can take, and someone has to pay.
Okay. Next thing. Apparently the KDN has threatened to ban the popular news show Edisi Siasat (aired on NTV7) unless they stop airing sex related stories. This I think stemmed from the fact that the past few episodes focused on the sexual acts committed in public by Malaysian youths, and our society's preoccupation with sex aids and the like. Add to the mix some other very sensitive comments on an episode on stealing soil, and you know some people are getting a little hot under the collar.
So why am I riled up? Simple. Here's an excerpt from the article in Berita Harian yesterday. Mind you, this is from a deputy minister, regarding Edisi Siasat.:
“Kita akan bekerjasama dengan Kementerian Dalam Negeri (KDN) dan Kementerian Tenaga, Telekomunikasi dan Multimedia bagi memantau adegan ganas dan terlampau seksi yang disiarkan televisyen..Ini kerana adegan seperti itu jelas menyalahi budaya masyarakat negara ini serta mempengaruhi moral terutama remaja,” katanya.
First off, these are not "adegan" or scenes in a teleplay. It's actual footage. The acts shown weren't scripted in any way. Secondly, what's this talk of the show actually influencing the morals of youths? Face it, these things have been going on for a long while even BEFORE Edisi Siasat came on air. I'm sure many of us have received at least a few pictures of these "adegan" in our inboxes. In my opinion, airing the show in no way encourages these youths to try it, unless they really happen to be thrill seekers. This is a typical knee-jerk response from officials who've come to realise that they've run out of carpet to sweep the doo-doo under. In other words, ladies and gentlemen, the sh*t has hit the fan, and they're all in damage control mode.
It's amazing that we insist on being incredibly naive, even when we're so proud of being 46 years old. Ladies and gentlemen, your youths have (unprotected?) sex in parks, alleyways, parking lots and under staircases. If not that, they tape themselves in various stages of the act using webcams/digital cameras. I've received pictures in the past of them in flagrante delicto in a forest reserve, a hotel room.. you name it. Celebrities, Datins with gigolos...we've come a long way.
These things DO happen, and we can't keep ignoring them, hoping they'll go away. As long as we maintain this whole hush-hush attitude towards our sexuality, we'll always be shocked(?) everytime something like this makes the news. I understand some views that say by broadcasting this footage, we're irrevocably damaging the participants' reputations. Well, think of it this way. If they'd thought about what they were doing, there wouldn't even BE anything to show in the first place. Don't even let me get started on which particular racial group is dominating the whole affair, as evident in an interview with a self-professed "kaki skodeng" (peeping tom). Personally, whatever you want to do with your time behind closed doors is your business. I won't intrude. Human beings are sexual creatures, among the few species who actually enjoy sex, and we use laws/religion to moderate our desires. To each their own.
In essence, here's the gist of what I'm ranting about here. First, as much as some of you may like to disbelieve, Malaysians are very "advanced" sexually. Second: censoring or banning any news programmes that show footage of lewd acts won't work. Third, if you're in power and don't know what the hell's happening and are too scared to ask, STEP DOWN. Fourth, ever since the broadcasts, I've yet to see a single iota of concerted INTELLIGENT action being taken, except perhaps to establish more and more committees.
Let's all grow up, shall we? We're forty-bloody six years old, for God's sake.
Tuesday, September 2
Blogging on Lunch
First off, some sad news. Charles Bronson is dead. The former action hero passed away due to complications arising from pneumonia at age 81. Though never as popular as Bruce Willis or (God forbid) Ben Affleck, Bronson indelibly left his mark on the action genre. Starting with a role in The Magnificent Seven, he was better known for his portrayal of a Dirty Harry-esque vigilante cop Paul Kersey in the Death Wish movies. I remember watching a lot of those many times during my childhood. The films may not be that great, but it is sad to see another familiar face go. Here's to you, Charles. Thanks for the magic moments. I know I'll miss you, in a way.
Secondly, I watched Identity this weekend. Starring (get this) John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Jake Busey, Amanda Peet, and Rebecca De Mornay, this film boasts excellent pacing and cinematography as well as brilliant performances from all the players. Here's a short summary of the movie, courtesy of IMDB.com:
Ten strangers with secrets are brought together in a savage rainstorm: A limo driver, an '80s TV star, a cop who is transporting a killer, a call girl, a pair of newlyweds and a family in crisis, all take shelter at a desolate motel run by a nervous night manager. Relief in finding shelter is quickly replaced with fear as the ten travelers begin to die, one by one. They soon realize that, if they are to survive, they'll have to uncover the secret that has brought them all together.
That's James Mangold's slasher/psychological thriller in a nutshell. The script may not be heavyweight, but it hooks the viewer into the story..and forces him to wait until the eye-opening finale. Interspersed with the gory proceedings are scenes of a panel deciding the fate of a serial killer, and incongruous as these may be, the viewer knows that it's all tied together somehow, if he can only find the link..the why of it. John Cusack's cool driver cum hero Ed provides a counterpoint to Liotta's violent (and dangerous) Rhodes, while the rest of the cast are adequate in their roles, and make good use of the script. Some say the ending's predictable, but I'll have to say it's not so much predictable as...logical. Eerily so, perhaps.
Definitely recommended if you're a fan of psychological horror.
***UPDATE: If anyone's interested in knowing just why I love Neil Gaiman's work so much, check out these two articles, courtesy of IGN. I wish I could have been there to thank him in person, and a big round of thanks goes to Peter Sanderson for his extremely wonderful coverage of ComicCon 2003 San Diego. You'll also be able to read of the follow up to Coraline, the Graveyard Book. Imagine Kipling's story, only with the boy being raised by dead people. Am I excited? Very. And finally, you'll also be able to read of Gaiman's latest work for Marvel, 1602. This new series puts familiar superheroes in Elizabethan England, and should be out by the time you read this.
More Japanese TV Goodness
Have you been here yet? If not, by all means, please do..especially if you're among the few people who've yet to see the infamous Matrix Ping-Pong skit. Go! Now!
Dancing on a Blade of Dreams (Borrowed title)
Dammit. Sleep has been interrupted once more, ladies and gentlemen, for my muse has seen fit to inundate my head with words and pictures that I need to put down, else I forget. Perhaps it's the overdose of Silent Hill and Sandman these past few days..but whatever it is I feel compelled to write it down. May not make much sense come tomorrow, but maybe there's a story in there somewhere, or a poem..or anything. Some stories find their own tellers.
The alley loomed before him, dark and mysterious, as alleys are wont to do. Behind him, the scratching noises were getting louder. That and the wet slimy sound of things dragging themselves closer and closer (oh God they wore out their nails scratching their way after me they don't have eyes oh God) and he jerked out of his semi-coherent state. There was nowhere else to go. It was either in there, where it was dark and deep and there might be lurking things (you know, the kind of things you wish you would never ever see near your bed, peeking through your covers hoping they'll go away, pasty and faceless and waiting for you to peek out) or out here, where they were coming anyway. His arm throbbed where the nurse cut him, blood oozing through his sleeve. The pain had lessened to a steady beat, constantly throbbing and dull like the beating of those jungle drums in the old Tarzan movies. He willed his feet to move, but they just stood there...He wished he'd never woken up in that hospital, never woken up that morning, never..
They were getting nearer. The nurses, and the things. Jacob ran.
The old man's face had a sly little grin on it. The kind that says yeah, I know what you came here to get, but you ain't getting it, mister. Jane plonked herself unceremoniously on the sofa, letting the chill breeze of the air-conditioning unit soak into her skin. The room was small and sparsely furnished, although not uncomfortable. A generic print of a ship hung on the wall opposite the door. Books lay stacked on the shelves, some overflowing onto the floor and settee. The TV set was old, and she suspected, rarely on. She breathed deeply of the cool air and looked straight at him.
"Unsettling, isn't it?," his voice was calm, measured. "Care for some tea, dear?"
"What is?," Jane shrugged, ignoring the invitation. She wasn't going to let him get to her, oh no sirree.
"That you expected Death to be ominous and cold. A Being of some sort. Instead, you find a shrivelled old man who looks like he can't even dress himself properly, much less take lives. I suppose I ought to sound like age old tombs being opened, that sort of thing. It DOES get tiring, you know, the whole rigmarole. I think He enjoys it, though," he chuckled, eyebrows raised in a blasphemous wink.
Jane laughed, despite herself. "Well, consider yourself lucky then. I was told to bring you a message."
"Time to pack up, old man. It's the end of the world."
As the knife sliced into her face, Jenny smiled, even as her mother screamed. "It's alright, mama..I just wanted to show you how beautiful I am inside,"
"Like you always told me."
There's a tapping on my windowpane.
It's three A.M and I'm alone and awake.
There it goes again, daring me to turn to my window and look, tap-tappity-tap.
It's only a gecko, I think. I close my eyes, as if that act alone could silence it.
Louder now, and more impatient.
I think I'll have to look.
Monday, September 1
There and Back Again
Hey people. It's Monday, it's a public holiday, and the Ox is back. Finally. I started out early to beat any possibility of a jam, and was pleased to encounter very few vehicles on the road. That's the way I like it best: morning drives. In any case, have tons of errands to run (chiefly cleaning the house after being absent 3 days) and am expecting to be reasonably pooped tonight. Oh well.
Merdeka at home was as I expected: quiet. In a politically divided town like mine, one can't be too careful (sigh). Long story, and one I'll divulge perhaps over coffee (anyone buying?). However, there were some pleasant surprises, noticeably my brother's sudden aptitude for the piano. I remember him taking lessons way back when, but I never figured him for the type. I was awakened from an afternoon nap on Saturday to the sounds of Coldplay's Clocks. Apparently the boy's been downloading music sheets from the net and teaching himself how to play. Amazing (to me at least). And then he finished with his rendition of "Return to Zanarkand", a piece from FInal Fantasy X (which is quite complex, judging from the notations).
Like any good brother should be, I'm proud of him. Would have left the PS2 for him and my sis at home, but with the SPM trials weeks away, I figure I'll keep it with me a little longer, and give it to him when he's done. I should be able to get an Xbox by then.
Well, there's a house to clean, and cats to feed. See you folks later, and have a good Monday cuti!