Things You Don’t Want to Have Happen on a Date #763

Dinner date tonight.

But let me digress. I have terrible teeth. My teeth are so bad people sometimes think I’m British. Last year, visited the periodontist and he listed a bunch of things I need to get done and said the total cost (to be done by a dentist, not by him) would probably be somewhere around HK$40,000. “Couldn’t I go to Bumrungrad in Bangkok to get it done? It would cost 75% less there.” “I don’t think the dentists there have the skills for what you need to have done.”

Okay, so found a million reasons not to do it. Until a year later, when I said, “okay, let’s get it on.” Went back to the periodontist today; he informed me it’s been exactly a year since my last visit. Going to get started as soon as I get back from Tokyo next week.

So. Dinner. Sitting there chatting at a semi-fashionable Soho venue. As we’re talking and eating, I feel a cap starting to come loose. I want to excuse myself from the table, hit the bathroom and check it out privately. But she’s in the middle of something and I don’t want to appear rude. She’s going on and I feel it getting looser and looser. Finally when she pauses for breath, I leap in and say, “Sorry, excuse me for a minute, I need to go to the bathroom.” And on the “th” in “bathroom”, the cap goes flying out of my mouth, landing right in the chili sauce.

And she’s so sweet, she says, “it’s all right, don’t worry, I’ve had the same thing happen to me.”

And we did spend another hour after dinner talking, although as you can imagine I was lisping horribly. But the fact that she didn’t run away when she had the chance suggests that there could be another date with her. I hope.

More reasons why getting old sucks

Growing older sometimes seems like a series of reductions or subtractions. You hit this point where you start to realize that you can’t always do the things you took for granted any more.

#1 Milk

My stomach has been kind of weird ever since my Shanghai trip last month. I went to the doctor last week and he wondered if I might have become lactose-intolerant and suggested that I cut out milk products for a while and see what happens. I don’t drink milk but cannot imagine life without cheese!

#2 Alcohol

(“I never drink water; fish fuck in it.” W.C. Fields)

In my college days, I could really drink. In my senior year, I stopped doing drugs for a spell and went for the bottle and often drank at least a pint of Cuervo Gold per day, still able to function and no hangover the next day. That was 30 years ago.

Tonight, dinner at Harlan’s. It’s been good each time I was there but tonight was the best, in terms of both the food and the service. It didn’t hurt that the hostess was flirting with me all evening and that, when we said we were too full for dessert, she sent over some cheesecake and ice cream because she “wanted us to try it anyway.” I was with a person from my company who is in town for a couple of days, and the two of us put away the better part of two bottles of wine. After dinner, it was all I could do to make it home and pass out. And then I woke up at 2:30, worshipped at the throne of the porcelain goddess for a bit, and now it’s 5 AM and I’m wide awake.

So that’s life, innit?

(When discussing how he manages to stay on the road doing a hundred or so concerts per year despite being 80 years old and in somewhat failing health, B.B. King commented that he has three great doctors who keep him in shape – Dr. Viagra, Dr. Cialis, Dr. Levitra.)

Then again, this weekend I’m off to the Udo Rock Festival in Japan, where I will indulge in the nostalgic sounds of Santana, Doobie Brothers, Jeff Beck and The Pretenders, amongst others. If I can figure out some way to stretch out the trip, the following weekend is the Fuji Rock Festival, which includes Franz Ferdinand, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Scissor Sisters and dozens of others. It’s gonna be very hot and I expect there to be a lot of talent at the concert, not all of it on stage….

So far this ain’t my fucking day

First stop – HSBC. I’ve been starting to get my financial “house” in order and was thinking that I might wanna invest in some HK stocks or a mutual fund, maybe a little piece o’ China as well. The woman at HSBC spent an hour with me. First she weighed my wallet. Finding it suitable, she then determined my Risk Profile (TM). And then we went over prospectuses (prospecti?) for a variety of funds. After an hour, she went to fetch the paperwork to get the account started. And only then did it occur to her to ask my nationality. And then I found out something I didn’t know … that as a US citizen I’m apparently not allowed to purchase stocks or mutual funds through an HK bank. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, probably she doesn’t get Americans walking through the door every day, but still, she knows I ain’t Chinese, presumably she’s had some training (her card reads “Financial Planning Manager”), you’d think she could have asked that question at the beginning and saved us both an hour?

Second stop – walking through CityPlaza shopping mall, I was stunned to see a shop selling CBGB t-shirts. They even had a photo of the place in the window, with something in Chinese explaining its importance and a list of some of the bands that played there. It was a hangout for me decades ago. I even used to manage some acts that played there. So I thought, “sure, why not” and entered the shop. But guess what? They don’t carry “fat white guy size” at CityPlaza.
Third stop – Mix, a vaguely healthy fast food chain in town. I stood there looking at the different sandwiches and wraps in the glass, refrigerated counter. And as I was trying to decide between a “Bombay Beef Wrap” and some sort of Lebanese lamb concoction (now that would have been ironic if I’d gotten that one given my last post), I saw two cockroaches scurrying around the “power pretzels,” just having a grand old time. Kind of lost my appetite at that point.

Four – a very frustrating phone conversation with the woman I’ve recently been dating. I’m starting to get the feeling there’s no future there.

Can’t wait to see what comes next ….

Elsewhere in Asia

For the most part, newspapers seem to be showing a lot of photos of the bombings in Beirut, which to me is presenting a one-sided picture of a horrendous story. The BBC web site has shown some of the devastation caused by Hezbollah’s nonstop rocket attacks in Israel. I’ve read blog entries from westerners and Chinese expressing anti-Israeli feelings and it just completely puzzles me. While it’s nothing new, news media outlets seem to slant their stories towards the better graphics. Firestorms sell papers, draw ratings, draw people to web sites. If you look at the NY Times web site right now, the main photo is of Muslims grieving at the death of a terrorist. You don’t see the terrorist or his acts, you see people looking very, very sad and naturally that attracts your sympathy. Where are the photos of the families of the 8 people killed in the bombing of the Haifa railway yards?

Interestingly enough, some Arab leaders are publicly condemning Hezbollah – and not Israel – for the events of the past week. This almost never happens. The odds of Arab leaders pointing fingers at other Arabs are almost as astronomical as the odds of Simon Patkin turning off his air conditioners when he leaves his house.

The reason is relatively simple. Israel, if left alone, would be a good neighbor. Hezbollah, on the other hand, receives a large amount of its funding and weaponry from Iran, and will spread terror throughout the region in an attempt to spread its fanatical version of Islam. Moderate Muslim countries would not be safe from them.

So leaders from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and other Arab states have said that it’s Hezbollah’s actions that are not acceptable. Meanwhile, leaders of the G8 have blamed both Hezbollah and Hamas for attempting to destabilize the region and frustrate the painfully slow peace process.

Except, it seems, for France. The BBC says Chirac spoke out in defense of Lebanon. I haven’t seen a transcript/translation of his speech. But I am wondering how you can defend a country that gives shelter to a terrorist organization – hell, they more than shelter them, their coalition government includes these terrorists. Lebanon ignored a UN directive to disarm and control Hezbollah and is now reaping what it has sowed.

“President” George Bush, pocket pal of the al Saud family, once argued that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would lead to peace in the region and more democracy. Three years down the line, Iraq threatens to be engulfed by extremists and terrorists, Hezbollah is continues to commit international atrocities and the Palestinians elected a terrorist organization to run their government while Iran elected a president who might be even more insane than Bush. “I just love it when a plan comes together!”

Random Listening

Sitting in Mes Amis, watching the world go by, the place was kind of empty and it was dusk, so the streets weren’t too busy. Some guy walks by and compliments me on my Clash “London Calling” t-shirt. From the looks of things, he was probably born the year the album was released, whereas for me, it came at a time when new releases from my favorite bands were major events and this was one album that surpassed all my expectations.

Anyway, thinking about stuff and while it’s really hard to censor myself and not blog about it, I’m determined that I will no longer wear my heart on my sleeve, or on my blog, as it were. Anyway, I realized what I wanted most (well, maybe second most) was different music from what I was likely to hear in any HK bar. So went home, got this playlist of some recent favorite tracks, just let it run through in alphabetical order, some of what came up ….

Killers – All These Things That I’ve Done
Doves – Almost Forgot Myself
Foo Fighters – Best of You
Chas Jankel – Ai No Corrida
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californification
Kasabian – Club Foot
Gnarls Barkley – Crazy
Franz Ferdinand – Do You Want To
Mylo – Drop the Pressure
Gorillaz – Feel Good Inc
Elbow – Forget Myself
Paul Weller – From the Floorboards Up
Razorlight – Golden Touch
Jose Gonzalez – Heartbeats
Robert Plant – I Believe
Arctic Monkeys – I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
Kaiser Chiefs – I Predict a Riot
Oasis – Importance of Being Idle
Depeche Mode – John the Revelator
Arcade Fire – Neighborhood #2
Cream vs. the Hoxtons – Sunshine of Your Love
Hard-Fi – Tied Up Too Tight
Kaiser Chiefs – You Can Have It All

Yeah, okay, for some of you, this is probably a list from hell. For me, it’s working just fine …

Hello Again, Naturally

A non-stop torrent of emails spanning several different accounts. The cynical amongst you may think that what I was searching for was a pat on the back, an “atta boy,” a validation of what I’ve been doing. I can’t deny that would play into it. After all, who doesn’t have an ego that likes being stroked? And I will also admit that I have taken a lot of pride in whatever small accomplishment the old blog does (or doesn’t) represent.

But I got tired of worrying about the blog. It was becoming a millstone, a figurative albatross around my literal neck. Talking with friends, trading emails with acquaintances, sitting around and thinking about it, I realized I was introducing unnecessary levels of stress.

So, figuring that I would keep on doing this, but just refocus the content away from the more personal aspects of my life. If I lose readers, if the hit count doesn’t ascend as quickly, so be it.

Next decision was in which format to continue? Stay with Blogger? Move to another hosted service? Get my own domain? The key word is “lazy.” I know how to use Blogger’s crap and it does pretty much everything I would want, at least for now. (I haven’t ruled out squarespace yet, but have to investigate the features further and decide if I want to pay to do what I’ve been doing for free for so long.)

Am I back too soon? Should I have played the blushing virgin longer? I’m sure some of you will say yes and leave the arbitrary nasty comments. Like I care.

So ….

Superman Returns. Problematic.

Superman was always the white bread of super heroes. He’s never had the dark undercurrents of Batman, the angst of Spiderman, the hip appeal of whomever is hip at the moment. In short, he’s kind of boring. Add to that the fact that the last two Superman movies were horrendous and the problems just compound.

After a decade of tinkering, we have the latest version. Brandon Routh plays Christopher Reeve, Kevin Spacey is Gene Hackman, Kate Bosworth is Margot Kidder and Parker Posey is Valerie Perrine. I put it that way because it seems that the actors are consciously channeling their predecessors, and it limits them, especially Posey and Spacey.

And we have Bryan Singer, who somehow has gone from semi-adult fare like Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil to being the king of comic book movies. Singer is a very talented film-maker – if you have any doubts, watch what he did with the first two X-Men movies, then look at the third one. Hell, compare X3 with Superman, which may not be great but at least manages to effortlessly tap emotional wells that are far beyond the reach of X3.

Singer plays it restrained for the most part, and that may be part of the problem. He downplays the “cute” lines – they’re there but not emphasized. When Lois is rescued not by Superman but by her husand, and he says he flew there, there’s no wink, no close-up, no rimshot, the line is there for some to notice, some to pass over. Also, while Brandon Routh doesn’t embarass himself on screen, he is nowhere near the talent that Christopher Reeve was – CR had so much fun with the comic edges of Clark Kent’s persona and Routh doesn’t seem to possess those dimensions.

And the film doesn’t end on a rousing high note. The last 15 minutes or so are quite downbeat. And I think it’s those 15 minutes that haven’t led to great word-of-mouth. People want populist film making for their comic books, they want to see Superman squash the villain and fly off with the American flag in hand, and this doesn’t have that kind of ending. Is it Singer trying to say, “yes, this is kiddie crap but I’m still an artiste”? It wraps up the plot but leaves enough lose ends for a sixth film (coming in 2009).

It’s also too long at almost two and a half hours, and the length makes it ponderous.

Overall, a vast improvement on Supe 3 or 4. If you ain’t a comic book movie fan, this isn’t the one to convert you. If you like your super heroes, then it ain’t exactly Spiderman, but it ain’t Daredevil either.

A more proper, less cryptic farewell.

I’m driven to write – and to express myself. That’s one reason I started the blog. Another reason is that I wanted to write about a lifestyle that I didn’t see covered anywhere else. Comments on the blog have been okay – on rare occasions, some have “made my day” and, despite the best attempts by some, nothing has really hurt me. Having once served time as a professional writer, I enjoyed having an outlet for my thoughts and seeing the reactions.

The question I have been asking myself recently is: why I am so relentlessly publicizing my private life and what benefits do I receive from it? Okay, that’s two questions. But I could not come up with answers strong enough to continue doing what I was doing. Meanwhile, the list of potential negatives just kept growing and began to far outweigh the meager positives.

In part, one commenter hit the nail on the head. Writing “I went to this bar, I fucked this hooker” repeatedly gets really old after awhile. But that’s just a part of it and I don’t care to go into the other parts.

To those who have enjoyed this tiny little corner of the blogosphere, I do plan to keep writing. I’ll have a blog that will be everything that Hongkie Town used to be, with one major exception – I will no longer be writing about my personal life. I’ll continue to write about music, movies, TV, travel, politics and life in Hong Kong. Maybe I’ll be as twee as those bloggers who write entire entries that read, “I had a splendid day today, hope you did too!” Um, maybe not.

I just have not decided on the details yet. Will I keep this URL or go someplace else? Will I still be “Spike”? Right now I don’t know.

Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to write – both positive and negative. See you soon.