Indecent Exposure

A militant Islamic group in Indonesia has filed a police complaint against the Indonesian entry in the Miss Universe competition, accusing her of insulting the dignity of Indonesian women by posing in a swimsuit. And technically there is a law in Indonesia that makes participation in beauty contests illegal.

Either they are a bunch of complete wackos using this as a method to gain media exposure (in which case I am playing directly into their fiendishly clever plot, foolish infidel that I am) or they’re pissed off that she failed to make the finals.

This group also staged violent protests against the Indonesian publication of Playboy and encourages people to attack bars selling alcohol during Ramadan. They have so far not filed suit against Indonesians who murdered hundreds in the Bali bombing, as apparently that’s okay. Killing people good, showing cleavage bad.

Together We Will Live Forever

Ate massive amounts of cow tonight at the Tokyo outpost of “Lawry’s The Prime Rib.” Was gonna hit Roppongi bars afterwards to see if I could bump into any of my Tokyo krewe, but, well, it’s a rainy Monday night. Sitting in my hotel room, TV selection is crap, checking out new movie trailers over at the Apple website.

From Darren Aronofsky, director of Pi, a new film starring his wife girlfriend Rachel Weisz and Peter Allen Hugh Jackman, The Fountain. Watch the trailer here and then tell me you don’t wanna see this. (Hint: I wont believe you.)

Yeah, I know, the great majority of recent flicks have seriously disappointed, and this could turn out to be a lame retread of Highlander. Having seen Pi, I think not.

Also looking promising, The Prestige, directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman (again), Scarlet Johansson, Michael Caine.

The US vs. John Lennon, documentary. Quotes from the trailer: “Their [Nixon and his aides] distortion of the Constitution was the greatest disloyalty to this country.” – Mario Cuomo. “Lennon represented life and Mr. Nixon and Mr. Bush represent death.” – Gore Vidal. “Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives and I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that.” – John Lennon.

Remake of The Wicker Man from director Neil LaBute starring Nicolas Cage. Somehow I don’t think Cage will burn alive at the end. More importantly, will they recreate Britt Ekland’s nude dancing and with whom?

Not looking so hot: The Daily Show’s Rob Corddry makes the leap to lead Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story.

A movie that will never screen in HK and that I will buy on DVD the second it comes out: Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man. “My reputation as a ladies’ man was a joke that caused me to laugh bitterly through the ten thousand nights I spent alone.”

Luke Wilson breaks up with girlfriend Uma Thurman. She’s not happy. And she has super powers. My Super Ex-Girlfriend. From the director of Ghostbusters.

The Science of Sleep – Michel Gondry’s follow-up to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

I Am a Sex Addict – “autobiographical filmmaker Caveh Zahedi … comic reconstruction of his ten-year struggle with sex addiction.” Another film that will never screen in HK, another DVD I will buy instantly (need you ask why?).

Okay, enough for one night, gonna put on some music and try to get something resembling sleep.

The Outsider

…which is the title of DJ Shadow’s upcoming album.

After a weekend wallowing in nostalgia in a parking lot in Japan somewhere underneath Mt. Fuji, I’m kvelling over the fact that DJ Shadow will be setting down in Hongkie Town for one night only. (Yeah, okay, he won’t be sharing a bill with Massive Attack like he will in California in September.) Lots of DJs claim to be influential, Shadow’s the real deal.

It’s in Western Market????? Hmmm, kind of an odd venue, innit? And, hmmm, lessee, it starts at 8 PM, which means he’ll probably start spinning around 4 AM.

If I do go, I’ll be easy to spot – I’ll be twice the age of everyone else there. But he is the real deal and if I can find anyone else among the wheelchair set that’s even heard of him, I shall be there.

The Good, The Not-So-Bad and The Lucky

It is Saturday night/Sunday morning, 1:15 AM Tokyo time and I have not had dinner. My choices are:

  • Walk to the nearest open food spots, which are McDonald’s and Denny’s
  • Take a taxi to Kabuki-cho and walk through the meanest, nastiest (and funnest?) red light district in Tokyo in search of an all night ramen shop
  • Take a taxi to Roppongi where there are lots of late night restaurants (and possibly some bars?) but the taxi will cost US$20 each way
  • Order room service and pay US$25 for a hamburger
  • Sit here and stuff my face with Oreo Chocolate Pies while blogging

The last option suits me right now and I may go for the next-to-last as the night wears on.

Anyway, I’m one of those guys who buys Q, Mojo and Uncut magazines each month. And it drives me crazy to see the ads for the summer rock festivals in the UK. Every band in the world that ever existed playing in some cow pasture within a three day period. I usually think about making a trip to the UK but traveling halfway around the world just to watch some kids jitterbug to the latest fab sounds from Swinging England seems a tad decadent.

This summer I’m saved. Overdue for a trip to Tokyo, I was informed of the Udo Rock Festival so I scheduled my business trip around it. At least the airfare is covered.

So this morning, one of my staff members picked me up nice ‘n early from the hotel and we headed out towards the Fuji Speedway. Unfortunately, this racetrack does not show up on this guy’s GPS map, so we end up driving halfway up the volcano before we realize we may have gone in the wrong direction. After finally finding the place, parking the car and walking what seems like two miles to the concert stage, the Pretenders are about halfway through their set.

God bless Chrissie Hynde, still a true rocker. She’s 55 years old now but I’d still do her (like I have a shot, right?). She still looks good in tight Levis and still commands the stage the way she did when I saw her more than 25 years ago. Drummer Martin Chambers is still there but I never caught the names of the guitarist or bass player. (Thought it might be Chris Spedding but seems he’s on tour elsewhere in the world at the moment. If anyone knows, please let me know cause this guy was not bad.) The set itself was a run through of greatest hits, mostly mid tempo stuff and hard to get the crowd really going at 2 in the afternoon.

We took a walk down “Gourmet Street” – doner kebabs, “Mexican” food, some Chinese food, lots of Japanese food (mostly noodles) and then – eureka! – Nathan’s hot dogs! At the stand selling “official merchandise,” it seems that none of the t-shirts came in fat white guy size. I held one against me, the girls behind the counter said it looked perfect, and as they were darned cute, I figured okay, at least I’ll get to wear it once before it shrinks so much that it fits my maid.

Next up, the Doobie Brothers. Featuring two original Doobies, they realized there’s a mint to be made on the oldies circuit and they sort of tear up the stage as an 8 piece band – 3 guitars, sax and keyboards, two drummers and a bass. They started off strong, hitting some of their best known hits and then died a bit in the middle as they attempted some blues and one or two of their lesser known songs and found it hard to recover their momentum, especially when they tackled some of the Michael McDonald-era hits without Michael McDonald.

Scouted the crowd in search of some talent not on the stage. This was my first rock festival in Japan, after all, and I had visions of a crowd filled with gorgeous J-girls in minimal outfits. But all of these older acts were attracting an older crowd. And with the temperature around 19 degrees and the skies a foggy shade of grey, the crowd was also a foggy shade of grey. If there were any cute rockin’ J-girls in search of some fat old white rocker type dude, I never found them.

But next up was Jeff Beck, who basically gave a one hour master class in jazz rock guitar. He started by reaching way back, opening with Beck’s Bolero and just kept cranking them out. Drummer Vinny Coliuta kept working at a feverish pace, I didn’t catch the names of the guys on keyboards or bass. The crowd knew this material well and they were brought back for two encores.

Last up, the headliner for the day, Santana. Backed by a nine piece band, opening with a couple of hardcore salsa numbers before moving into some jazz before serving up the expected hits, the crowd was on its feet and dancing for the whole set. I remember last seeing Santana around 97 or so when he played at the HK Coliseum, prior to his commercial revival. Either his band wasn’t as good or he wasn’t as motivated in those days, but this show was significantly better in every way. The band was great and Carlos was clearly enjoying the band and the crowd and in top form. Midway through I called my sort-of-girlfriend in HK, who is a big Santana fan, and held the phone up so she could listen in for awhile (hooray for 3G phones).

The famous singers who showed up to duet on the last three albums were not missed at all. Instead, we were treated to a duet of a different nature as Jeff Beck came out to tear up the stage alongside Carlos for a ten minute guitar rave-up. I captured most of it on my Sony T-30 in video mode – seems okay enough on the little three inch screen; if it’s not horrendous when I check it on my PC at home, I’ll upload it to YouTube.

The encore kicked off with a blistering version of Soul Sacrifice, which also brought back one of the more unfortunate trends of that era – a great solo from the timbale player, so-so solo from the conga guy, a boring few minutes from a bass player who thought he was Jaco Pastorius reincarnated, and then a very extended drum solo (the drummer was quite talented but, really, it wasn’t anything you haven’t heard before). A couple more numbers and then the “HMV fireworks show” began as we headed back to the car.

So some of the music was pretty darned good, a little bit was great, some was mediocre, but I was just thrilled to be at this sort of concert again for the first time in longer than I care to remember.

(For those who are curious, I’m not attending day 2 as most of the acts on the bill are of no interest to me – Kiss and Paul Rodgers are headlining.)

(Next weekend is the more famous Fuji Rock Festival. The line-up includes Franz Ferdinand, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Strokes, The Raconteurs, Sonic Youth, KT Tunstall, Happy Mondays, Madness, Scissor Sisters, Gnarls Barkley, Zutons, Kula Shaker, Junior Senior, Killing Joke, Nightmares on Wax, Lisa Ono and what seems like hundreds more spread across multiple stages and tents, but I can’t extend my visit to include that. Maybe next year.)

Driving back to Tokyo, my friend’s radar detector failed him – he was clocked at 131 kph in an 80 zone. We had to follow the cops for about 10 kilometers to the next exit. One cop got out of the car and lit a flare and put an orange cone behind us while my friend was “invited” to sit in the rear seat of the police car to find out what a bad person he was.

He’s a smart guy though (I try not to hire idiots). He pointed to the white guy in the passenger seat (me), told the cops I was his boss and that I was in a rush and pressuring him to drive faster. He was facing a 30 day driving suspension, a 90,000 yen fine, 12 points on his license and the possibility of immediate arrest. Instead he received a 6,000 yen fine and a stern warning.

Not a bad day out.

Rock on!

Temporary cap in place, I’m ready to fly to Tokyo today and rock out, but I think this concert will mostly make me feel old. The last time I saw the Doobie Brothers live was 1971 or 1972. I saw the Pretenders live when their first album came out, more than 25 years ago. Last time I saw Jeff Beck live was around 1975. Santana, that’s recent, 96 or 97 when he came to HK, prior to his commercial re-emergence.

(Doobie Bros show was interesting. It was a taping for the ABC late night series “In Concert.” It was at Madison Square Garden in NYC, starting at midnight and running all night. They gave out about a thousand or two free tickets at my school, enough to fill the lower levels of the Garden, which has a 20,000 seat capacity, so that it would look full for the cameras. Also on the bill were War, Edgar Winter, Jim Croce. Before Croce came out, an assistant director came out on stage and announced, “Jim Croce is about to come out and sing his hit. We want you to give him a standing ovation. If you don’t get it right, we’ll keep repeating it until you do.” Several months later, the ads appeared: “On (date), Jim Croce walked out on the stage of Madison Square Garden to a standing ovation.” My friends and I thought he was crap but loved all the other acts, especially War.)

Anyway, not back to HK till Wednesday but will try to blog my impressions of the concert within a couple of days.

Foreign affairs

The “President” of the United States and the whatchamacallit of Germany getting along.

Scenario #1:

Him – Hmmm, German, blonde, must be a hooker! Hey baby, lemme show ya how everything’s bigger in Texas!

Her – What the fuck?

Scenario #2:

Him – German lady bad. Me no like. Me give Vulcan nerve pinch to knock her out and shut her piehole. [thanks to boingboing for the star trek idea]

Her – What the fuck?

I suspect it’s because he forgot to pack this for his trip:

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!”