gambitch - now available in blue Our constant efforts to reinvent ourselves reveal how much we fear our own images.
Saturday, August 14, 2004
I haven't been posting for a couple of days now, mostly because I didn't really have anything to post. That's the way blogs work, I know, but it is reflective of how bad life is these days when there isn't really anything to report on or comment about. Actually, it's not really that there isn't anything to say, just that putting it down into organized thought, for some reason, isn't the most attractive thing to do at the moment. You can say that the life has been sucked out of me for a little while. Don't worry, it'll come back.
Michael Owen has moved to Real Madrid, or is about to at least. Last I read, he has passed his medical. Up to now I still don't quite know why Real Madrid went in for him, given that the Spaniards already have Raul, Ronaldo, Morientes and Portillo. Okay, so Portillo is still up-and-coming rather than up there with the rest. But there are still three top-class strikers who are among the world's very best. So why get Owen? And why get him for only 8 million pounds? The man they traded for him - Nunez I think - isn't that well-known. Does Rafael Benitez, the new Liverpool boss, know something I don't?
The English season starts today. I don't know how the season will turn out, but the opening match of Chelsea vs United is sure to make many drool. Except that lots of people are missing through all sorts of reasons. So I don't suppose I'll bother trying to catch the match at all. In fact nowadays I'm not bothering to do lots of things I used to bother to do. I'm not sure whether this is some kind of new state of zen or just a certain kind of growing, consistent monotony and even boredom.
Some of that did go away this morning, though, when I caught the opening ceremony of the Olympics. I didn't exactly like the fact that the local TV station decided to slot in a few commercial breaks while the national contingents were entering the stadium. Apart from that, most of the ceremony made fantastic watching. Ceremonies like these are always nice to watch, especially with all the performances on show. The curtain raiser to the Champions' League final at Gelsenkirchen was like this, the opening ceremony for Euro 2004 was like this, and the ceremony this morning was similar in its ability to keep us focused and roused. It doesn't quite feel the same as our National Day Parades, but that's because I'm a sports fan and I love watching these things, including seeing Yao Ming bear the China flag and realizing how beautiful lots of the sportswomen today look. Also, perhaps because I'm beginning to get numbed and immune to all the fanciful parade items that seem to stress the same messages year upon year.
What seems particularly interesting is this little idea the Greek organizers had, of inviting someone to deejay the music on the night. The guy was wearing his usual attire - no suits for him, thank you. And he did his job not behind some closed box, but out in the open, in a spot that looks like it was built into the seating area in the stadium, or at least between the seats and the track. Which meant that people could see him, which is important recognition (although with the madness of everything going on around the stadium, I doubt many would have paid specific attention to the deejay).
Here's to a good, successful Olympics, then. gambitch [
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
There is, I swear, nothing like The Amazing Race. Even after four seasons, there would always be opportunities for firsts. Tonight was one such case, as Marshall and Lance became the first team in The Amazing Race history to voluntarily fold. Thus, Marshall and Lance were eliminated from the race tonight. It was, I suppose, just as well, given that Marshall was physically hurting at having to do so much walking in this section of the Race. Even if they had somehow completed everything and stayed in the Race, there was no way they could just push themselves to continue - it would have been too much to ask Marshall to grit his teeth and wear his knees down to nothing.
To be fair, though, they fought hard, and proved they had lots of true grit, which isn't bad at all for two abrasive men who spend their lives running a pizzeria somewhere in America. In spite of everything, they were two very interesting men who proved they deserved their participation. It's just a pity that we've now lost the only all-male team before the halfway mark; but given the casting, it was always a matter of time. I'd wished for them to be in the Final Three, but I never reckoned about the bad knees, so what can I say?
Linda and Karen bounced back well, managing to get some money without having to sell anything (though they tried selling apples), and catching the charter flight only because it was delayed by a good two hours or so. That they're now propping up the survivors is probably as good an indication as any that they're well set to face the axe in the next leg, which could well be somewhere else in Africa (two episodes of Egypt is quite enough). Their adventures in this leg, though, serve to prove one thing - never trust cabbies on super-long rush rides, because Murphy's Law tends to apply. They thought their taxi driver knew what they meant by "Old Airport", and the taxi driver did repeat to make sure they said "old", and then he promptly drives them to the International Airport (known locally as the "New Airport"). More haste, less speed.
There isn't exactly an awful lot to write about this leg, but it's not because this leg was boring like the St. Petersburg one. No, nothing like it. It was lots of lovely scenery, and we had touching moments when Chip was marvelling about being on the Nile. I may not be Christian - in fact I'm rabidly anti-organized religion - but I feel good for Chip that The Amazing Race gave him opportunities to travel to lots of places he would never have dreamed of seeing. That's what travelling is all about sometimes, seeing what you haven't seen before. And I feel good for Chip that he has been able to go back to his motherland (a reference to his religious beliefs, not his race).
It was also good to see the ancient Egyptian monuments, like the pyramids and the temples. Having played Pharaoh before helps me see the splendour of what it must have been like to live in ancient Egypt, but seeing the real monuments on television is itself a different marvel! The only thing that can best that is actually making a trip to Egypt, but I have neither the money nor the company to do that (a trip to somewhere this far away and culturally this different warrants the presence of a friend or two). A pipe dream for now, then.
As it turns out, I was completely correct on the prediction of Colin and Christie losing their commanding seven-hour lead to an early equalizer. The Texans started this leg close to midnight, and by the time they arrived at the Great Pyramid, they found to their displeasure that the hours of operation were 6am to 9pm. And then, just to make matters worse, they complete this part and reach the Old Airport to find that they couldn't squeeze onto the 7.30am commercial flight to Luxor, and so had to wait for the 11.30am chartered flight. Leads tend to get erased by airport equalizers at just about the right time, eh?
In closing, I thought I might just mention how clever the trailer makers working for my local TV station can sometimes be. With the Olympics coming, they decided to play the theme a bit and use this opportunity to laud Charla. She is one woman with spunk and lots of things to prove, as I've acknowledged before, but it is a supremely nice gesture on the part of these trailer-makers to use this chance to salute her. And I know this isn't just a CBS feed - I've checked the CBS online trailer and it looks very different (though more in keeping with the riveting nature of the show).
In spite of all my gripes about the badness of the megacorporation of a television station, it does have one or two bright and clever employees. I just wish there were more of them to save the industry. gambitch [
Monday, August 09, 2004
I sometimes really don't understand the way people programme our television shows. This particular unnamed local channel is recently bringing in a bunch of Japanese movies that they wanted to show on Thursday evenings as a showcase for August. Which is great news for me, being the Japophile I am who keeps track of the really great Japanese dramas and movies. The only problem is, there are a couple of movies the abovementioned channel got their hands on, which so deserve to be alongside these movies, but have unfortunately been banished to all sorts of weird hours.
Japanese movies are not particularly popular, I know. A visit to the local VCD stores reveals that while Japanese dramas remain immensely popular (nearly every major chain is now carrying boxes of the historical drama Toshie to Matsu), Japanese movies have always been a different proposition. For some weird reason they have never done well in the box office, even in Taiwan (the mother of all Japophile communities outside Japan). Unfortunately this means that there are lots of great, well-written movies that have often been neglected. I guess that explains why they get all the bad timings.
Take tonight for example. Just a while ago I finished watching the movie Bayside Shakedown. Bayside Shakedown is actually the internationally recognized English title for this movie and the drama series which led to it - the Japanese title is Odoru Daisousassen. Absolutely great series, I am told, yet only because it was made in the mid- to late-90s, before the J-Pop fever in this part of the world hit its peak (which is really slow), the series has never seen the light of day here, and the movie got shafted to this terrible hour.
I'm not going to wax lyrical about the series here, because everyone else would have done it before me, and I haven't actually watched the series so it won't be fair to comment. But the thing I want to push across is this - television programmers and show buyers have got a real and serious problem when they routinely shaft such good shows to the worst of hours, and instead put for our prime-time television some of the dumbest shows that try to appeal to the lowest common denominators.
Just take tomorrow for instance - at 8.30pm, after a whole bunch of fireworks and everything else, they're going to put on TV a game show shot at a waterworld park, showcasing about a dozen television wannabes wearing nothing but swimwear and playing all sorts of games. Just to make sure we get the point, their television trailers include shots of some girls bending over and showing their not-very-ooh-la-la cleavage in the midst of playing those water games. I might watch that, but that's dumb television, and they're really not doing the good stuff too much favours.
While I'm on about Japanese shows, I also caught tonight the first episode of what seems to be the third season of Shomuni. I don't know how to translate that title into something more English, but let's just say this one is the well-known series about a bunch of Office Ladies (a rather unique product of Japanese corporate culture), you know, the ones in the pastelish blue and white tops. The one starring Makiko Esumi. Ring a bell yet? Whatever.
There isn't very much I want to say about the show, apart from the fact that it lives up to its usual comedic but inspiring standards. It feels great watching the show, of course, given this. Nonetheless, I had some adjustments to do when I caught this instalment. The first major one was getting used to seeing Kotomi Kyono (who plays the klutzy but innocent Sawako Tsukahara) having a substantially-lengthed ponytail. The second was getting to grips with the fact that Nonomura, the disgustingly excellent bootlicker of a sidekick who still gets the bad treatment from his boss Terasaki, is no longer around, because the actor Toshihito Ito died before the show could film. There'll be other little ones to come along, for sure.
There is a whole bunch of Japanese dramas I hope they will bring onto the television screens soon, and hopefully not at some pathetic hour where nobody is expected to watch them (2.30pm on weekdays, for example, is hopelessly inaccessible to youths and young adults; who does these programming things?). In no particular order, they definitely include Odoru Daisousassen, the entire collection from Furuhata Ninzaburo (another brilliant detective series, which together with Odoru Daisousassen and the super-acclaimed Hero rate as the top three shows linked to the cop side of the law), perhaps a re-run of 101 Proposals (just to show what we've missed all these years), Hoshinokinka (which introduces us to Yutaka Takenouchi), Kira Kira Hikaru... The list goes on.
This sounds greedy, and it probably is, but let's put it this way - lots of these old shows are definitely worth a re-watch, and it can be pretty surprising just how much demand there could be out there. Certainly shows like 101 Proposals will evoke plenty of memories of what it was like way back in the early 1990s (when the show first aired), when the notion of watching Japanese dramas was very new, and we got propelled headlong into a romantic tidal wave that is the world of the J-Dorama. (I've never quite worked out why it didn't work out, but I have my guesses and they aren't nice.)
Ack, I'm a softie for old things. I'm too different. And even if I asked hard enough and argued long enough, I don't think the television people will listen to me.
Come to think of it, based on what I've seen at video shops, neither would the video sellers.
And I'm too poor to buy the stuff straight from Japan. Damn. gambitch [
Sunday, August 08, 2004
Last night I was catching an episode from the fourth season of The West Wing. A replay, for sure, but given the fact that I have not watched the second or third season yet (the former I can rectify by swooping for a full set of VCDs), it does mean I am watching this series in a rather disjointed manner. Which isn't nice, but doesn't hurt too badly.
I'm not sure how many people who have watched ER were motivated to go into hospital-related jobs, but watching The West Wing really makes me wonder what it'd be like if I were to work in the White House. I can dream all I want, it isn't going to happen if only because I'm not American, but the buzz I get from watching this show is, like, wow. It's mind-blowingly exciting watching these people work, and for some reason it looks like the kind of job I want to do.
These are all frighteningly intelligent people we are talking about here, and it shows not just in their work, but also in how they talk. Aaron Sorkin has written some absolutely fantastic dialogue that is witty, intelligent, and quick on the feet. (Word has it his scripts are perpetually late, but looking at the results, it's worth the wait!) The way everything just carries, it's really fantastic.
I don't know whether I'm more of a Toby, a Josh, a Sam, or a CJ. Leo and the President are more than a little beyond me, so never mind those two, but the Fab Four of The West Wing are people we see lots of the time. All four are fantastic. I'd like to think I've got the dark wit and negative dispositions of Toby, the publicity-handling skills of CJ, the enthusiasm of Sam and the lovely colleagues of Josh (I like Donna and Mandy (yes, unlike lots of people, I like Mandy, she's interesting to work with!)).
Ah, the test results are out. I'm Toby...
Ahh, the ever-cynical and sarcastic speechwriter.
Gutsy and not afraid to speak up or clash with authority, his dry wit is amusing.
But under it all he's just a big teddy bear... and the world's biggest Yankees fan.
I'm not too surprised there. Toby's the bad guy half the time, the one who irritates the hell out of everybody, if only because he's usually got a firm point and he doesn't like to waffle and sound nice if the point is too important. I'm like that, a bit. And I hate running messes; to quote Toby from the episode The Short List, "We've been here for a year, and all we've gotten is a year older. Our approval rating is 48% and I think that figure's soft. And I'm tired of being field captain for the gang that couldn't shoot straight." Go Toby.
Okay, enough of that for now. Back to the daily grind. gambitch [