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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Inspiring Nexts


Unusually for him [cough], E@L was a little bit muddled a few weeks ago, somewhere in a foreign country in the middle of a conversation with someone he can't recall for legal reasons.

Hmm.

Anyway, point of story: E@L had stated that Hitachi, the company with which E@L may or not have a passing employment-oriented relationship, made Japan's Shinkansen trains.

And the other guy said, "Yeah, along with Toshiba."

E@L was certain he was unsure about this, but being always polite, did not challenge this assertion. More than that, he assented to it. "Yeah..." he said, semi-agreeing enthusiastically (beers had been consumed and the mood of the moment was positive) but quickly changed to a subject he felt he might be certain about being certain about - which is to say he shut-up and glugged another beer.

E@L's First Trip To Japan, contemporaneous with his First Fuck-up In Photoshop

~~~~~~~

It's been bothering him though, because he had probably looked this up years ago. Fuck, the past is a foreign country, which is fair enough, as most of it happens in foreign countries. And besides... He has a vague memory of someone in Japan telling him about the Shinkansen, perhaps on the ride from Tokyo to Osaka.

Certainly Hitachi made the early models, as organised by Japan Rail, he is sure about that, but did they make ALL of them. Did Toshiba kick in at some point in time and go into a joint venture, or did Toshiba even make one or more of them completely?

JFGI. JFWI.



Well yeah, screw you, Hitachi made them, along with Kawasaki and Japan Rail. All of the mainstream models are Hitachi.

Toshiba didn't get a fucking look in.

~~~~~~~

E@L thinks he's mentioned this aside before: Each year, Hitachi sponsor the Christmas lights on Orchard Rd.


And each time E@L goes through the gaudy (Singapore is nothing if not meretricious) show in a taxi, he asks the uncle if he knows who sponsors the lights. Do they even notice?

If they don't know, he tells them. If they do know, he asks them what products Hitachi make. They usually don't know any, or they say things like, "Toaster?"

One uncle said, "Diggers", which is true. "Very good. But Komatsu* better."


...going...

...gone.

Hard work that, getting out of bloody pond. Think I need a lie down."

As does

E@L

* Not that Komatsu don't get into their own spots of bother...


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Louie Louie Kaphooie!


Jack Ely, the lead singer of The Kingsmen, most well-known for their 1963 seminal hit, Louie Louie, sadly passed away on the 27th of April. RIP.

In case you didn't know (like, by not having read E@L's FB post, or the link above to the Wikipedia page) this song was investigated by no other just arbiter of morality, niceness, appropriateness, and generally good social behaviour than the FBI, for being a menace to society!

"This land of ours [USA?] is headed for an extreme state of degradation what with this record, the biggest hit movies and the sex and violence on T.V." said a concerned father in a letter to the Attorney General, no less. Gee willikers, you don't hear that exact complaint almost word for word anymore, do you? Right...?

The FBI file is most entertaining. E@L wonders what importance there could possibly be in the redacted sections.

~~~~~~~~~~
*The Controversy*



Listen to this song while you read the "explicit lyrics" dear old dad found buried in there.


E@L is certain that you too are outraged!

~~~~~~~~~~~

Now listen to again again while you read the actual lyrics...


Oh. Pretty tame really, but Jack Ely, man, what a brilliant performance he slurs out. It really does sound like he should be singing bawdy, subversive lyrics! E@L reckons he's been smokin' serious amounts of those Jamaican tea leaves prior to the recording session... E@L wishes he had been there! Except he would have been 6yo at the time, andy don't smoke.

~~~~~~~~~~~

OK, great, but apart from being famous for Ely's obviously almost unintelligble singing, the song has had quite a seminal role in what became what we know as rock music, influencing strongly The Kinks' You Really Got Me, which in E@L's opinion is the first truly modern rock song.



Brilliant. Especially the flag-waving at the end!

~~~~~~~~~~~

Louie Louie has been in a squidillion movies and TV shows (see the Wikipedia link, above).

For an example, making the most of the incompehensible lyrics with their drunken slurring, John Belushi at al have a great go at it in National Lampoon's Animal House... (set in 1962, although The Kingmen's version that's playing on the juke-box wasn't released until 1963).



Awesome!

E@L

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Battleship Vietnam


E@L is not at all qualified to speak in any depth about war.

He knows very little about either the mutiny of the sailors on the Battleship Potemkin in 1905, or the non Apocalypse Now / Deer Hunter / Casualities of War parts of the Vietnam War, but when he was looking at a series of photos a while back in, was it, The Atlantic, about the Vietnam "conflict", (which failed to mentioned its prehistory with the War of Independence against France) he came across this pic of a farmer displaying his dead son to a tank-load of South Vietnamese soldiers, which triggered something in E@L's memory of Film Appreciation 101, back in his brief fling with higher education at Uni in 1976.



Ah, of course, that's right. There is a scene at the Odessa Steps in Eisenstein's film that is for all intents, identical.



Draw whatever conclusion you like about any similarities between the Russian Revolution and the Vietnam War, but killing children seems to be what war is all about these days. What with ISIS decapitating children and killing children in schools, and Boko Haram kidnapping school-children for who knows what nefarious purpose, we have to wonder what else we are capable of.

Could it get any worse, or has it always, in reality, been like this?

~~~~~~~~~~

Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke gives ample support for this observation, that civilians have increasingly become the specified targets for warring nations during the twentieth century. Sure there has been raping and pillaging since tribes marked out boundaries, and since armies trampled through civilian areas on their way to the next staged battle, but it is the power of films and photography and YouTube that stamp these concepts into our minds today. We can see it everywhere, everyday, we don't have to look hard. Our minds explode with these images.

Soldiers might go to war, but that war comes to us, with a camera.

As Trotsky said, "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you."

~~~~~~~~~~

Some targeted children have names:

Kim Phuc (note the photographer changing film next to her in this uncropped shot)
"Colonel Alles added that napalm had a ”big psychological effect” on an enemy. ”The generals love napalm,” he said." (Lindsay Murdoch, The Age, March 19, 2013)

~~~~~~~~~

Muhammad al-Durrah

~~~~~~~~~~

Some don't.



~~~~~~~~~~

We lament our young soldiers today, the 100th Aniversary of ANZAC Day. We should mourn for everyone who has died in "conflicts": man, woman, and child.

We should wring our hands and hang our heads in shame for the human race.


E@L

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Back to Black (Benjamin)


I am doing VERY poorly on my Goodreads promise of three books a month - I keep jumping from book to book halfway through and never seem to finish one. Perhaps because I keep buying more of the fuckers, and faster than any human can read.

~~~~~

I was in Folio Books in Brisbane last week (Archives Rare Books secondhand store was earlier in the week, no Oakley Hall in the Westerns section, damn) and, while I was buying the new biography of Stefan Zweig, I saw the latest Benjamin Black (aka John Banville) on the shelf, with a picture of Gabriel Byrne on the cover, dressed up in period costume almost as he was in the movie Miller's Crossing. Obviously they (who? BBC One and RTÉ One) have started placing the shambling Dublin pathologist, Dr Quirke, into a TV series! But I realised when I looked inside the cover that I was several books behind. I thought, hey, I won't buy it now anyway because bought-too-many-books-already/overweight-luggage/double-stacked-shelves/too-small-apartment (Ha, say my friends).

Back in Singers I go to check the last of the dour Quirke sagas I have read, the fourth - A Death in Summer. There it is, correctly sited in Fiction, alphabetical Author, publishing date order... with a bookmark poking forlornly out the top between pages 220 and 221. One third through. I didn't finish it. Oh, well there are a plethora (veritable, literal, actual) of other unfinished dusty* old tomes here, no great surprise there. I was no doubt enchantedly distracted by fresh pastures of augmented literary verdancy then as I still succumb to now.

I decided to restart it on the spot, catch up to the latest in the series and then download, ahem, purchase the TV shows.


~~~~~~

Straight away, just a few pages in, I knew why I had not finished it. It was not that I had been distracted by something else. I think instead I had consciously decided not to finish it. I didn't enjoy it, it was too light (despite the grisly death) for what I was expecting from the early books. Too much sunshine, or something (not even sure if it mentions sunshine, but...). I'd given up on it. When the author is named Black, you expect darkness. Perhaps the women are too beautiful, too photogenic, and that is where the sunshine comes from. But Quirke in love with that snooty-French bitch, the gorgeous, newly widowed (Femme Fatale alert) Francoise? You've got to be joking.

Sigh. Well... The plot also seemed (and still seems) terribly formulaic, something of a pastiche, a parody, an Agatha Christie-like passionless, vaguely intriguing mystery to read on the train. It seems to steal something from every other crime mystery ever written. Oh no, it's not suicide after all! The usual suspects; the rival blustery businessman fresh from verbal with the deceased; the surly, estranged daughter; the sensitive ex-con estate manager; the ice-hearted widow due for the inheritance; the businessman's mysterious son just back from (shades of Inspector Hound) Canada... This feeling was so strong, I recall I could almost see Banville/Black surrendering to a How To Write A Crime Mystery Writer's Workshop rigidity. The mindset that forces him to use hoary old tricks to keep us reading on past the chapter breaks. Perhaps they're not so much a cliff on which to hang, as a street gutter outside a pub to stumble over, but I hate that type of overly dramatic pause with a finishing sentence that doesn't finish anything. I might just be me, I despise airport (or train journey) thrillers because of it. It's an hiatus that clangs of ad-breaks for the TV shows (ironically), so that you can rush to the toilet... I fight against it. I prefer closure to the Perils of Pauline while I hold my piss. I much prefer watching cable-TV shows or movies that are edited to be watched all the way through, rather than to the fifteen minute ad-cycle of free-to-air TV I am forced to sit through with the FLOs in Australia. And it is the same with books.

Meanwhile other novels I have dug my head into lately (and not finished either, mostly) include ones by Thomas Bernhard, Jose Saramago, and Låszlo Krasznahorkai, writers who confront you with great slabs of un-paragraphed text for many, many pages, and even in Bernhard's case a whole novel, and when so the break does come, it comes not with a short gasp of suspense, but with a sigh of completeness. That's that part of the story done, OK? Now let me tell you the next bit...

Well yes, this ad-break method is inherent in the style of the genre Black/Banville's chosen to write, that of the unputdownable (take it to the loo with you) thriller, but it makes you wonder why he is just following someone else's sclerotic old rules half-heartedly, only half-seriously when he is such a master. He still writes as well as you'd expect of a Booker winning author (maybe Noble Prize short-listed?) and has sent me to dictionary.com now and then ("louring turrets" - louring: lowering, looming, threatening, as in dark storm clouds louring. As in turrets. A very Thomas Hardy word, don't you think?), and I think back on the masterly works of Banville as Banville, how Kepler captivated me, etc...

The title of the book itself:A Death In Summer**, it reeks of a TV show, doesn't it? Mid-summer. Murder. Sort of thing. From the start you know there's only going to be one corpse. There's a bit of mystery already gone. And it is not to be confused with the more Hemingwayesque title of William Trevor's Death In Summer. Death as a concept, as an abstraction, as a slaughterhouse. (Is Midsomer Murders about a serial killer?)

B/B's going to have to do something special to get this penny dreadful plot to rise above a Dame Agatha level of two-dimensionality. The sad fact is those cliffhanger devices work best when the story is thrilling already, but the intrigue of whether Sinclair will bang Quirke's daughter or not hardly moves me to insomnia. (Of course he will. Or maybe not.)

Having said all that, we know and love the man with more troubles than all the other crime mystery heroes combined, the multi-troubled, diffident but determined, the grown man still tormented by memories of a childhood in those horrific Irish orphanages, the poorly-reformed alcoholic, chain-smoking, overly curious Dr Quirke, surely enough.

~~~~~~

- Is it himself in this one?
- Aye, it surely is.
- And is he worth the flamin' effort? Just for himself, the man, at all?
- Aye, to be sure.

~~~~

Ah well, I keep pushing on... There's sure bound to be more about child-abusing priests, and the stories of other victims of the horror orphanages who had made it out even more negatively affected than did Dr Quirke. And Sinclair will bonk Phoebe. Or if not, definitely in the next book - I can wait to find out.

I'm sure blacker things will lour up suitably turret-like and ominous once I push past last time's point of abandonment. Then I can get on with rest of them.


E@L


* NTS: must berate the FDW for insufficient "attention to detail". (The catch-phrase of my old Chief Radiographer, who'd sweep every horizontal surface of your monthly allocated x-ray room for any particles of germ carrying dust: "Attention to detail, Mr E@L, is the hallmark of the good radiographer." As it is for almost every occupation, E@L kept muttering under his breath.)

** I wrote this before I read the much, much better informed and more forgiving Guardian review - I see cliché, he sees homage and due respect. The reviewer seems at least to have finished it before putting fingertips to keyboard.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Put Your Feet Up, Not Your Socks


E@L was in Australia, 8 - Feb 2015 - 13 Mar 2015. Phew, glad that's over. Working mostly, but 10 days off as well. Perth, Townsville(!?), Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane.

To have paid so much for every drink and every meal (chicken parmagiana [sic], three types!) for all that time. Man, that country is expensive.

Expenses: big bill...


~~~~~

And then, woah, E@L comes back to pay a mere $23 for his share of a massive feast of Schezuan specialities and loads of beer (with ice) on the streets of Chinatown, Singapore. OK a lot of the dishes were vegetarian (or close to, but hey, we are talking volume here.) Awesome! Man, this country is cheap.

And the few the remaining Dionysians walk up to Ang Sang Hill Rd and E@L pays $15 for that yap for doh (one for the road). Outrageous! Man, this country is expensive.

~~~~~

Meanwhile, on the plane back, earlier that day, IKYN, he's eating his dinner of eye filet, roasted root vegetables and creamy mash with a glass of Bordeaux (what, you good people of Singapore, etc, don't think E@L flies cattle class on long hops do you?), when a sense of nausea creeps up on E@L, a slowly enfolding miasma of awful, permeating stink... It takes a minute or so to register that something is wrong in fact. E@L is just sitting there, and the meal doesn't taste right, the wine lacklustre (it is only French).

Literally, the atmosphere here is bad. It dawns eventually that he is becoming enwrapped in a fearful cloud of noisome wrongness and that something really smells!

He doesn't know where the smell is coming from initially, whom is the source, the culprit, except that stench is of human origin. No shit not, piss... FEET. Like his own feet get when he has been wearing old sandals in the rain. Pong. Pure and simple, sickening and foul.

And a roll of fawn cotton socks, monogrammed with a brand if not the owner's name, strikes him as incongruous.

Swear to God, the guys sitting next to him has taken the complementary pair of useless sock/slippers they give you in long hauls in Business Class, but rather than place them over his socks, he has taken the socks off, tucked them into a ball and plonked them ... wait for it ... on the tray for the small storage slot on the back of the seat in front of him. Right out in the open, up high.

Here: to give you an idea.


What the bromodrotic fuck?

What sort of ignorant creature would do this, you ask of E@L?

Let's test E@L's powers of description. Well, first of all he's a man a bit older than E@L (past middle-age by now); pale skin, loose around the jawline; light hair, curly and thinning; a bit of a paunch but no more than you'd expect; steel-glasses; well-dressed (second time in a few days well-dressed men have offended E@L: another story in Brisbane re: locked keys in car, need bus fare) in pale slacks and two-tone polo shirt; and he's eating the crispy skinned cod filet. Perhaps that's why he doesn't notice?

But when you think about it, why wouldn't a man who looks intelligent enough, mature enough, successful enough, why wouldn't he realise that it is simply rude, inconsiderate, and woefully ignorant to place your socks up somewhere in view while you and others are eating. This is the sort of thing a mother should have whupped out of him as a youngster.

Manners. This man is bereft of manners.

~~~~~~

The feet can be a source of great offense in Asia as you know, even beyond power to demolish the olfactory aesthetics of the moment. Typically people have outside shoes which they leave at the door, and inside shoes, or they go besocked or barefoot. Dirty, profane, disgusting, bad luck. You shouldn't point with your toes, or place your soles of your feet (or shoes) in the direction of certain South-East Asians, particularly those who are Buddhist.


[There is some interesting (to some) Japanese porn about feet - footjobs, enejaculated toes, the like. What is it with the Japanese?]

~~~~~~

E@L shakes his head. It must be the socks, of course. Yes, no doubt: This nauseating fog is a characteristic of a uniquely sock/foot emanation.

He doesn't get angry, he gets mildly offended - hey, he IS mildly offended. "Excuses me sir, are they your socks?" With a slight twist of bitter disgust at the end.

Untaken aback, he leans forward, pops them under his nose, and says, very convinced, "They don't smell."

E@L only partially stifles a guffaw of incredulity. "I beg to differ," counters E@L.

The man drops his socks to the floor, and as if to dismiss E@L, continues to eat and watch his movie.

So, E@L shakes his head again. And slowly, his appetite challenged, he chews into a chunk steak as it were cardboard, orders another vin cru bourgeois, ignores the ignorant savage right back at (or away from, it would have to be) him.

Well, yes, of course it was the socks. With them out of public view the foul air gradually dissipates and, E@L presumes, is recycled - to offend someone else in the plane, probably down at the rear end where lighter gases, such as body odour and (once upon a time) cigarette smoke, slowly driven back with the plane's slight accelerations, gather. Back where you'd think the unwashed and malodorous would typically reside and not up in the classy end where businessmen, and E@L, not to mention the jerk who was beside him, prefer to sit. Safely ensconced, unassailed by fell aromas. You'd think.

~~~~~~

After the meal, the man unapologetically but not rudely it must be said, gathered his stuff, stepped over E@L's discretely shod feet and moved to an unoccupied seat by the window at the rear of the section. Open the window man, let the stink out.

Fuck him, smelly old twat man.

E@L

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Jasons


The Singapore food market for expats and Mercedes-driving locals is Cold Storage. It's run by Dairy Farm Holdings. Now Dairy Farm is a place in Singapore, so that makes us think that it is a local company, right? But people, it's, um, not really. Not at all in fact.

It is managed out of Bermuda (as if Singapore's taxes weren't low enough), and uber-owned, surprise-surprise, by the Jardine Matheson group. Those are the charming fuckers who made it big by sneaking around and eventually usurping British East India Company's monopoly on trade (in particular opium) with the Chinese in the early-mid C19th. The drug trade caused the death and suffering of countless Chinese and was threatening to bankrupt their place, but it was raking back in all the silver the English had paid for tea and silk, so England didn't seem to care.

All this triggered the Opium Wars and, as they say, to the victor go the spoils, such as Hong Kong, and J-M haven't looked back since. Well maybe they were glancing back a little bit in the lead-up to 1997's Handover. However, to put them in perspective, it's probably accurate enough to consider them the Mexican drug cartels of those heady (woozy) times.

~~~~~~~

Cold Storage's specialty, top-end, Australians only/mostly, woah-expensive, organic only/mostly supermarket brand is Jasons Marketplace, or in some manifestations, Jasons The Gourmet Grocer. Jasons it is, note, in a Finnegans Wake sort of mythical plurality of Joyce's here comes everybody trope, calling upon the Platonic concept of the ideal Jason, not Jason's.


They now have stores in Taiwan as well.


~~~~~~

FYI, Dairy Farms' low-end, peasant-level consumables are slapped up at Seven-Eleven, and cheap, peasant-level consumable furniture at their IKEA stores.

Singapore expats, being equal with HK expats (often indistinguishable, often the same individuals) as the world's most conspicuously conspicuous consumers, love throwing away their money at the place. S$19 for a tub of strawberries? You beaut!

There's a new Jasons opening around the corner from E@LGHQ vewwwy vewwwy soon. You can bet E@L will be there whenever his recipes call for organic fennel bulbs (which used to be a giant weed growing free and untended along the riverbanks of the Barwon River in Geelong) and biodynamic rhubarb, chia seeds, or gluten free peanut butter.

BTW, the Hong Kong brand equivalent Cold Storage is Wellcome, and Jasons is known in HK, I believe, if I believe Wikipaedia that is, as MarketPlace By Jason.

They all seem to be doing very well, with 2013's world-wide total sales "in excess" (redundant*) of US$11Billion, thank you very much.

~~~~~~

However, on another little island with a more celebrated military history**, Jasons didn't really work out all that well...


Valletta, Malta


E@L

* since when has $11Billion NOT been an excess.

** the whole frackin' island was awarded the St George Cross! I bet the Maltese people, 1,300*** of whom had died as the Italians and then the Germans carpet bombed the place, were satisfied with that...



*** just over half of the number of people in the Nigerian towns around Baga killed by Boko Haram Islamists two weeks ago. (No medal awarded.)



(Point of this post? These photos of course.)

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Six Sentences


1. When Michel Faber was writing his most recent, and last he says, novel, his wife was dying.

2. Writing is a solitary career: you have be alone and uninterrupted to write, he told the interviewer from Guardian Books.

3. You can't write a novel and yet be physically with the woman you love, even while she is incrementally dying in the next room and you know your days together are limited.

4. But she wanted him to keep on and to finish writing the novel, because she loved him too and knew that he needed to finish writing it, perhaps because it was a novel about love and separation, coincidentally.

5. She offered him a compromise: That he write six sentences day.

6. This he did, and he finished the novel before she died.



(paraphrased by) E@L


[I couldn't quite place his accent - is it Australian? I had always thought him Scottish, perhaps because of Under The Skin. Turns out he was born in Holland, went to school in Australia, where no doubt that soft, ESL, accent was developed, and now he lives in Scotland. All these countries claim him as their own.]

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