Saturday, October 30, 2004

You rock rock.

I've never sat through an entire movie with a smile on my face and you know what? Today I did. It was everything I imagined it to be and then some. You know how people sometimes hype themselves up for something which then turns out to be completely overrated? Think the Matrix Reloaded, carb-free chocolate, fizzy water, the 21st century... Thankfully, this wasn't one of them.

People who didn't like it take it too seriously- you're not supposed to go "Hmm... yes everything in my life is connected and I'm as metaphysically related to the Eiffel Tower as my cell-phone is to Chile." OR "Suffering is inevitable, life is meaningless and I will never find a job after grad school because even if I do, what difference can I make? The trees are still dying!" The movie can't be enjoyed as if it had a message; enjoy it because it is a pure pleasure to watch. It's chaotic, energetic, dizzying, goofy, absurd, but also clever, happy, sincere and comforting. It is joy at its most sublime.

And the acting! I'm not a great fan of Jude Law or Jason Schwartzman; but Lily Tomlin, Dustin Hoffman and Mark Wahlberg (I can't believe he was ever Marky Mark...) were simply inspired. To round things off, Jon Brion's score is the sweetest icing that could top this delightful confection. Whimsical and quirky without being cloying or intentional, it makes me wonder again why soundtracks are such under-rated music experiences. Those who diss soundtracks are the same sad people who will never know the amazing sounds of The Sweet Hereafter, Magnolia, The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation- I can go on...

I Heart Huckabees has made me fall in love with movies all over again.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

A lonely little man

Someone very delightfully told me that whenever he needs a little-perk up, he'll turn to this blog and view the "I Heart Huckabees" trailer which always puts a smile on everyone's face, and a loud chuckle and guffaw thrown in for good measure. Last night, I found something else that might come close, although it may border on the offensive for some... No, actually, I take that back- I can't think of anyone who would think of something so funny, and sweet in a perverse way, as offensive... This comes from Team America, a movie I've resisted watching primarily because I find South Park uncomfortable to watch on too many levels. But this might just make me change my mind. Scroll down the page and click on "Lonely" under Film Clip (you might have to wait through the ads). Trust me- you could have woken up on the wrong side of the bed, failed your mid-terms, gotten served a lukewarm soy latte (which is just so wrong of course...), forgotten to bring your brolly out on a rainy day, come home to a house with leaking pipes, your dog could have died, and you would STILL find this funny... Enjoy.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

You can't deal with my infinite nature, can you?

For the growing fan-club of a movie that has stubbornly yet to open in Ann Arbor, this is a guaranteed 2-hour (or more) time-suck. Knock yourself out!

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Evian is naive spelled backward

No, for those of you who know the movie back to front, this isn't going to be about Reality Bites- sorry... Ok, so you know that state of coffee-induced wakefulness we find ourselves at 1.30 in the morning, where your body is convinced it's asleep but your synapses tell you you're awake? That was me last night, except it was probably closer to 2.30am. Anyway, I thought to surprise Jude with an IPod, considering I only gave him an Alice in Wonderland pop-up book for his birthday- which by the way, I highly recommend (see Random Fodder sidebar for Flash version- imagine that!). So I go into one of those free IPod websites (I'm not providing the link- if you want to get scammed, you can do it without my help...) that say all you had to do is to refer 5 friends and sign up for one on-line offer in order to get the new 20GB IPod shipped free to your doorstep.

That sounds harmless enough- between Jude & myself, we have 6 email addresses so the referrals were easily filled in without incurring the wrath of any of our friends who might not talk to us again if we SPAM their mail boxes. I chose an on-line offer for the Sunday edition of the NY Times, which is great considering 1) the ironic dearth of good journalism here in Ann Arbor; and 2) although we get NY Times online everyday, it takes alot, especially on a Sunday to sit in front of the PC going through more than 5 pounds worth of articles. And the Sunday Edition comes with the NY Times Magazine too...*yum*

Anyway, back to my original story... I process everything and then the system tells me I haven't completed all the steps necessary for the free product. They claim I haven't signed-up for an online offer, which I did. I also find out, in the infinitesmal fine print, that I only get the IPod if all 5 of my referrals sign up for offers too! Great! Now I have to go through all our email boxes and respond with 5 fake addresses and credit-card numbers? Thanks, but no thanks. I'll save up for the IPod.

To makes things worse, I come across this article from Wired.com. While it doesn't go as far as to say that the whole thing is a scam, it clearly isn't the most reliable service in the world. And so I go back to the website and try cancelling everything, and they haven't gotten back to me except with an automated customer service reply to tell me to be patient... I kid you not, it actually says, "You have to be really patient." Who's their business consultant? Grandpa Bob?

In the end, I know I really don't have anyone to blame but myself, and here's where the Reality Bites quote comes in. So now, I don't forsee a free IPod anytime soon, and I tried cancelling the NY Times subscription, but figure that even if I can't, at least I come out from this with 12 weeks worth of good journalism. Imagine the people who signed up for a trial of Ancestry.com...

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Only the lonely can play



I'd never heard of them till a month ago, I'd never seen them till 17 hours ago; but last night, Wilco became a band that rocked my world. For two-half hours, it seemed as if the world outside became inconsequential as Jude and I, together with the Hill Auditorium full of people, were swept up in one band's, or I would like to think one man's journey through purgatory, recovery and absolution.

What I know of Wilco's history I know from Jude, and now some things I found out from various websites. Lead singer Jeff Tweedy only recently recovered from a substance abuse problem and had been in rehab for a while. Having experienced record contract controversies, band members leaving him, a nervous breakdown and drug rehab, this man is no stranger to pain, and it shows. While clearly a gifted songwriter, much of last night's performance was engulfed by the Strum und Drang of the guitars and drums. The 12-minute long "Spiders (Kidsmoke)", though a showcase for drummer Glenn Kotche's virtuosity (and awesome stamina), was also I felt, the method behind Tweedy's madness. Through the seemingly chaotic track, one line stands out: "It's good to be alone"; and in "Handshake Drugs", he sings over and over, "I felt like a clown; I looked like someone I used to know...Exactly what do you want me to be?" This is not a man who rants and raves from hollow angst- it's a questioning of where and how he was where he was, and the uncertainty of this place at which he has arrived.

The difference between watching the band live and listening to them is the visual impact of them on stage. This is clearly a band that has seriously gotten a tight act together. They were technically skillful and all of them obviously enjoy perfoming which added to the already electrifying mood. It was one of the best concerts I've ever been to; in fact, critics are calling them one of the best bands in the world right now. I haven't heard the previous albums which Tweedy released with a different set of band members, but according to Jude, this present crew has been able to recreate the studio sound of earlier tracks to a T. And yet Tweedy seemed somehow apart from them, detached almost. Oh he was engaged in the performance, there's not doubt about that; but there was also the sense that he was having a private experience of his own. Through the songs and the singing, there were ghosts to exorcize and demons to vanquish. Last night, lyrics weren't just words for Tweedy- they were a secular prayer to some external god, seeking catharsis, redemption and hopefully peace. There could have been hundreds of people in the auditorium, but for Jeff Tweedy, it was a road to recovery he was walking alone.

"Be not so nervous
Be not so frail
Be not so nervous
Be not so frail
Be not so sorry
For what you have done"

- Wilco, "Be Not So Fearful"


WILCO::Jeff Tweedy (lead singer-guitarist)::John Stirratt (bass)::Glenn Kotche (drums)::Mikael Jorgensen (keyboards)::Pat Sansone (keyboards and guitar)::Nels Cline (guitar)

Friday, October 08, 2004

I'm having a Cocteau Twins moment!!!!

It has been some time since I last thought about music or even my extensive, now non-existent, vinyl collection (which I SOLD for a seriously paltry sum when I came over here...). However, I must admit to having an extended moment when I came across the Cocteau Twins website. I literally spent hours perusing through the files and reliving the days when their brand of atmospheric, dreamy pop (dare I say ambient?) reigned for the self declared indie types. Perhaps some people may still remember tracks like Ice blink Luck or Blue Bell knoll. I can still put on the Heaven or Las Vegas Album and it doesn't seem a day old to me.

What amazes me is that there is still a community of fans that gather every year at an event called CocteauFest. Let the '80s reign!

/jude/


Thursday, October 07, 2004

For Jill

Ok, so according to my cousin Jill, I don't spend enough time on this blog describing what I do during the course of the day. I was genuinely touched- no one has expressed such an explicit desire to want to know what goes on in my life. So to show my appreciation Jill, I AM going to tell you what I did today...

9:32- Woke up and called Singapore. Spoke to Dad, Mum, Sam & Sher. Talked to Dad about his reluctance to visit Swatow, our family's village in China. Wants to see Beijing & Shanghai first. Realized my father's really quite funny.
9:35- Alarm clock rung.
9:40- Alarm clock rung again.
9:45- Alarm clock rung again.
9:50- Jude woke up.
9:55- Cursed the dastardly weather but decided to have cereal/ milk for breakfast anyway because too lazy to boil water for anything warm.
10:16- A domestic moment as Jude & I had breakfast while watching the morning news about last night's vice-presidential debates. Edwards did good apparently.
10:28- Checked email. Deleted 2 SPAM messages. Wrote to 5 people. Made mental note to write to professor about research project in the afternoon.
10:52- Made coffee.
10:54- Started writing reflection paper on W.E.B. Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk for History of American Education class. Book inspired a whole generation of African-American writers including Ralph Ellison who wrote the stunning Invisible Man.
11:46- Writing interrupted by surfing for Invisible Man stuff. Read it for American Lit course in undergrad. It was an amazing book. Forgot about writing paper.
12:25- Remembered having to write paper.
12:26- Decided to have lunch first. Had leftovers from dinner. Chicken stew.
12:45- Continued writing paper.
13:35- Finished writing paper.
13:45- Went to school for group meeting.
14:03- At group meeting. Discussed classmate's Qualifying Exam question for PhD candidacy. Next 4 years flashed before me and had momentary panic attack. Recovered in time to provide constructive and what I hope were useful comments. She seemed to buy it.
15:45- Got home. Made coffee.
15:50- Checked email. Wrote to professor about research project.
15:57- Started working on research project assignment. Surfed for more Invisible Man stuff. Didn't forget about project. Opened several Windows to multi-task.
17:55- Research interrupted by UPS guy. My new cell phone is here! Sony Ericsson T610.
17:58- Fiddled with new phone. Learned how to activate it. Called Jude from it to gloat. Forgot about research assignment.
18:08- Jude hungry. Decided to buy dinner and have it at his office. Went to Wendy's. Brought new phone and manual with me.
18:30- At Jude's office. Ate double-cheeseburger with chili & Diet Pepsi. Felt immense guilt.
18:47- Fiddled with phone some more. Took picture of Jude with camera function.
19:25- Remembered research assignment but also remembered readings for tomorrow's Ed Policy class. Regretted fiddling with phone so much. Started on readings.
21:00- Made coffee with fancy espresso machine in the pantry. Made mental note: Buy fancy espresso machine when make enough money.
21:37- Fiddled wtih phone again. Realized there's something wrong. Phone doesn't ring. Made irate call to Sony Ericsson.
21:40- Nothing they could do. Made even more irate call to Amazon.com. Their cell phone department closed for the day.
21:45- Was convinced there's conspiracy to prevent me from owning cell phone. Decided to return phone and demanded Amazon for replacement ASAP.
21:56- Went back to readings.
21:57- Asked Jude what time we were going home.
21:57- Went back to readings.
22:30- Increasingly annoyed by first-year Chinese student going on about future aspirations. Become convinced that he has been infected with what Jude calls "Pico-Iyer" syndrome: anyone plagued with misplaced aspirations to be intellectual savant.
23:11- Mr "Pico-Iyer" shut up.
23:56- Decided to go home. Not done with readings.
00:10- Got home.
00:15- Checked email. Nothing.
00:17- Went back to readings. Waited for Jude to be done with bathroom.
00:38- Showered.
00:52- Watched Hilary Duff do cartwheels on Conan O' Brien.
00:55- Shared a peach with Jude. Decided still hungry; ate handful of Wheat Thins with cream cheese.
00:58- Went back to readings.
01:15- Finished readings. Enlightened about ghettoization of America's inner cities. Thought of Invisible Man again.
01:18- Proof-read Jude's Masters Thesis proposal and Lit Review on Collaborative Narratives. Reminded myself what an intelligent man I married. Patted self on back for good judgement.
01:40- Chatted with Jude about thesis. Told him I think he's on to a good thing.
01:57- Blogged.

And now, she sleeps.

Good night Jill.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

NorthWoodstock

We've finally put together the photos of our housewarming party last week. I think it went fairly well considering the incomprehensibly cold weather and the fact that there was at one point at least 35 people crammed in the house. We're sorry if the weather wasn't more conducive for playing ball as we'd planned, but there were those amongst you who felt that yes, playing volleyball and soccer in the dark, and at 40 degree temperature was fine so there you go.

We hope there was enough food for everyone- there sure were enough drinks. We have a full carton of Coors Light, a mega can of Heineken, 4 bottles of soda and a huge container of juice hibernating in our fridge, and that's AFTER people had kindly volunteered to bring home their preferred beverage, a.k.a. their favorite beer. Does anyone realize that if we pool all these leftover drinks from all the parties we have, we could conceivably never have to buy anymore for this semester? Not to mention all the chips, pretzels, peanuts and candy...

On the whole NorthWoodstock was a veritable success I guess, although apparently there were some amongst you who were reportedly visibly uncomfortable when all the girls congregated upstairs to look at our wedding photos. I shan't say who in fear of stirring up a domestic catastrophe but suffice to say that images of nooses, balls and chains were being envisioned, or so I hear. To those of you who know what I mean, don't worry, I don't think I did much permanent damage.