Friday, April 30, 2004

Mental brouhaha part deux

Still a little hung up and hung over from last nite's largely unpleasant experience. Too bad you can call in sick at work, but you can't call in "sick & tired." When I left office yesterday, I yelled "a day." My co-workers wondered what I was doing. I told them I was calling it a day.

Somehow I remembered the following dialogue by Mike B. But it's so contrived I needed to get it out of my system or to torture the reader.

Mike B.: I was dating this girl whose high school roommate used to be Liv Tyler. She hated her so much she wouldn't watch any movies with Liv Tyler in it. Too bad I was dating her the whole time Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was playing. I guess I just have to catch it on DVD when it comes out.

Me (being a smartass): Well, I guess any Aerosmith CDs are out of the question, then.

That was the best comeback I could come up with.

Moving right along, I was charmed by this harmless little article written by Woody Allen (for New Yorker) called "When the universe is expanding it can make you late for work." Praise the Lord someone's still got a sense of humor.


My mental brouhaha

Was informally invited to a happy hour at Gazuza tonight. After some sloppy cost-benefit analysis, I decided to skip the otherwise pointless Ivy League single mixer and Swizzle and see if I could gain anything from this "experiment." I arrived at the hip joint at 7:45, but my pen pal/heroine was nowhere to be found, Instead, I ran into some unexpected people: Casey, my first year law-school buddy to whom I haven't spoken in two years, and Mike B., who claimed he has dated 32 girls since the last time I saw him.

I learned a few things from this lesson:

1. Expect nothing from anybody.

2. You know who your real friends are in cases of emergency.

3. Casey's wedding ring was gone. He appeared to have given up his marriage for his career.

4. The people who brag about relationships the most are pretty much losers at the game.

5. As time goes by, fewer words are exchanged among old friends.

6. The yuppie scene at Dupont Circle is getting yuppier.

Some chick picked up Mike B. while Yoko arrived. Yoko told me she was being mistreated by a Talipup and I told her you can never trust those Talipups. At the end of the happy hour, Mike B. was nowhere to be found. Me and Yoko had dinner. She told me more about the Pup and I told her to forget about the Pup.

Bill Heid wrote:
Some kind of pup
It was some kind of pup
When I saw that towel
I know it wasn't Colin Powell
It was some kind of pup

What words of wisdom.


Thursday, April 29, 2004

Love hurts...

Here comes the divorced husband.

Best revenge story since Kill Bill Vol. 2. Make sure you read the description because it's hilarious!

Bloody brilliant!


Justice prevails...


Next up: Bush!

Please, America, please! I implore you.


Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Freudian ecstasy

Due to a malfunctioning of a keyboard button and my absent-mindedness, my initial reaction to Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind published somewhere in early April was accidentally erased. And to complete a completely existentialist experience, I totally forgot what I had written. There's always room for clean slate, but wasn't that Freudian by definition?

Maybe I rely too much on my written words (like note pads, diary, the blog) ever since I started writing again, just like after we punch in people's phone numbers in our cell phones it's the end of the story. Of course, if we lose our cell phones, we lose all our contacts. All those brilliant hours picking up girls at Whole Foods and Cheesecake Factory are wasted. Back to stage one: loneliness, emptiness, nothingness. Only if we could memorize some of the numbers! Damn it!

And ever since I started writing in this blog, my language became ever more careful, meticulously calculated, as if I was trying to impress my reader, or writing a news article, or perfecting some of my inherently flawed ideologies (Notice I don't use w/ or b/c anymore; I spell out the entire word). The hell with it! From now on, more power to spontaneity. More power to my random, darkly comic, and incredibly intelligent thoughts, that made me who I am.

So forget I ever wrote this entry, because it doesn't really matter. What matters is if you enjoyed what you just read or even laughed out loud. Well, treasure that experience. Whenever you feel sad, try to retrieve that feeling or near-feeling so you can say yourself, that was just beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

P.S. Being prolific is not being rewarded anymore. That's why Quentin Tarantino has only made four movies up to this point, strictly speaking.


Diana Krall CD reviewed

While most reviews focus on how her recent marriage with Elvis Costello and her mother's death affected her new CD, I want to focus on the music. I personally prefer Krall do covers of jazz standards because there's something special about her delivery of those tunes - be it swinging, expressive, playful, and sassy, she's got it all down!

The first thing that struck me about The Girl in The Other Room is Krall's relatively weak songwriting. Not to say she's a bad songwriter. But at times, she's too consciously thinking about "I wanna be the next Joni Mitchell" she loses track of what songwriting is all about. The result of some of her original songs is superficial and unimpressive (the last 3 tracks). Her husband, Costello, isn't helping either. My vocalist friend Pam Bricker says of Costello, "Finally, his pretentiousness will shine in Krall's next album." True enough, Costello is known for his academic pretention and pseudo-jazz knowledge (take his album North for example). This time around, his artsy-fartsy, grandiose lyrics only make things worse. On some of the already unmelodic tunes, Costello's ostentation renders them sound like funeral marches.

OK, the album isn't all bad; it's actually more good than bad. One of Krall's compositions, "I'm Pulling Through," is actually pleasant, and it flows like "Two Lonely People." The rest is Krall's strong suits, covering Mose Allison, Joni Mitchell, Chris Smither, and Tom Waits brilliantly. Notably on "Love Me Like a Man," Diana can sing and swing the blues effortlessly, with strong rhythm support from Christian McBride and Jeff Hamilton.

I think what makes Krall different from the rest of wanna-be jazz singers is her ability to swing hard!! The album lacks that aspect and is filled with meticulously calculated boredom. If you're into that and long space, you are entitled to think it's a good change for Krall. However, in my book, I like it best when she swings her ass off as in Live In Paris.

I heard from an inside scope that the best and most authentic French restaurant in DC is Bistrot Lepic on Wisconsin Avenue. Has anybody tried it? What's your rating?


Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Seemed like a good idea at the time

Before Sunrise, one of my favorite movies of all-time: thoughtful, spontaneous and dialogue-oriented, is having a sequel. I just love hearing smart people talk. Not pseudo-intellectual bullshit. Just creative, natural conversations that spark unconventional wisdom. Check this out:

Celine: You know, I have this awful paranoid thought that feminism was mostly invented by men so that they could like, fool around a little more.

Celine: No, then it sounds like a male fantasy. Meet a French girl on the train, fuck her, and never see her again.

And the movie was...I hate to use that word....romantic. Nowadays, I pretty much despise all Hollywoodized romantic comedies, even though once in awhile some good ones came along: e.g., As Good As It Gets, High Fidelity, Kissing Jessica Stein. Romantic feelings should be unforced and they're conveyed when the two protagonists are having meaningful conversations, usually near a bridge.

The sequel is entitled Before Sunset when Ethan Hawke and Julie Deply meet nine years later, at a book reading in Paris. Usually, I'm not in favor of sequels for this type of movies. But this time I kinda anticipate it, because I care about the characters, and the ending of the last one leaves everything in the open. We knew Jesse and Celine would meet again, but how? and what might happen?

Which leaves me to this theory: I believe there are certain special people in our lives that we have previously lost touch whom we'll run into again. We don't know how and when we're gonna see them again, but we will. And it'll probably be at a record store or a bookstore. And you'll talk about recent events and reminisce old times. Then you'll connect, once again, and it's up to you to make the next move. If you're a pragmatic person, you'll ask for his or her number and say "Let's have lunch some time," (although you may not call necessarily). If you're a passive person, you'll leave it to fate again and hope you'll meet again in the future.

The point is: There's a short window of opportunity where this type of thing happens. Imagine you're Jesse and Celine because you may not see each other again. Like Claude Sautet (director of Nelly et. M. Arnaud) says of two lonely people, "Maybe they can see each other again. But certainly not right away. Maybe. Maybe. It's open."

Fate is 70% chance and 30% free will.

Before Sunset comes out in July. Let's see if my theory holds true.


Monday, April 26, 2004

Being prolific on the blog....

...runs the risk of nobody commenting on it. Mine is a perfect example. How pathetic!

Kudos to the women (and men) who participated in the march yesterday for good cause. I should've been there, but ended up in Baltimore instead. Cost-benefit analysis dictated me to hang out with my brother rather than to be within crowds during my anti-social state and re-live my post-Phish concert paranoia. Half-jokes aside, I really do applaud your efforts! Thank you.

Weather's still dreary, seems like spring was never here. I'm definitely not in favor of skipping spring and dive straight into summer, but looks like it's inevitable. T-Bone Walker was really a genius for writing: "They all it stormy Monday, but Tuesday's just as bad..."

I've been hearing zillions of people testify that this orkut thing is the coolest thing ever. Is it true? Does any orkut member want to invite me so I can see it for myself (Use Is Friendster still hip or what? Does anyone still use ICQ? Is it still the Nixon administration? I'm growing old. Real old.

On a positive note, I received in my snail mail today a demo CD from this bass player from Worcester, MA. One of the tracks features guitarist Ronnie Earl...things like this make me appreciate the simple pleasure of life.


Sunday, April 25, 2004

Your mind's on vacation and your mouth's working overtime

A non-musical weekend for me, which was refreshing and nice. I even skipped the Meridian Ensemble Arts concert at Library of Congress. So it was a great opportunity to clear my head, rethink my priorities, and reminisce about old times. This is my seasonal anti-social mode, which usually happens after tremendous fun or remarkable defeat. When I was a kid, I didn't understand what "mood" was, nor did I acknowledge its existence. I just knew it was some kind of chemical trying to wrinkle my heart. Now, I have a much better control of my mood; but sometimes when moodswing hits, there ain't nothing you can do.

How ridiculous the media is focusing on Beckham's cheating affair, John Kerry's presidential candidacy, or who is getting snubbed on American Idol. I can care less about any of the above. Everybody I know is in a state of anxiety: final exams, job search, trying to get by this crazy weather (sudden drop of 30 degrees in temperature). Ed's career move to England didn't work out. Now he's living in Ireland with Sven. Life is so uncertain. I started to read Dharma Bums hoping to be slightly enlightened. Also rented some of my favorite films like Before Sunrise to try to capture some old feelings that I've lost. I regretted I never did anything crazy at a time where I was supposed to do something crazy. For me to do it now would be unthinkably nuts. Maybe I'm trying to re-live my youth, but that's not it.

In midst of ennui and lack of motivation, I did find myself sipping a cup of coffee and having some fancy dessert in Cafe Luche in Georgetown. While everyone requested a seat outside (close to the sun), I insisted on sitting in a booth inside, enjoying the A/C, reading my Kerouac novel, and laughing at pretentious people who try to discuss politics under the umbrellas. In my mind, tank-tops, tube-tops and flip-flops began to emerge with Chad & Jeremy's A Summer Song playing in the background. And then I thought about my San Francisco trip, people who I went to high school with, and my first time in DC (back in 1994).

At the time of publishing this entry, I received an e-mail from a lady who said she was delighted to get the CD I sold on eBay, because it reminded her of her Hawaiian honeymoon. Ed also wrote this:

"i have been brokenhearted but on recovery.
kissed my first girl after my breakup last night.
sven and i went to this 70's party in dublin, and i met this italian girl
who wanted to kiss me. her lips were beautiful...
overall, it was a good night, and i needed one of those nights.
i haven't had that in a while."

DC is such an unromantic place.


Saturday, April 24, 2004

MOCA vs. Bogart

Don't be misled by the title. It's not a court case name, nor is it two new college basketball teams. It refers to a Larry David-esque episode I encountered this afternoon.

I went to Georgetown to check out the David Lynch Exhibit. Since the MOCA website gives awful directions, when I arrived on 31st Street, I didn't know where to go. So I went into a stationary store nearby and asked a lady inside. The conversation went as follows:

Me: Do you know where MOCA is?

Lady: Yeah, walk past Blues Alley, make a left, and it'll be on your left on Wisconsin Avenue.

Me: OK, thanks.

I followed her instructions, walked past Blues Alley, made a left, walked past a tea shop, a sex toy store, and a small river. MOCA was still nowhere to be found. So I walked back to the stationary store.

Me: I'm sorry. I couldn't find it. It's not there.

Lady: It's there. Right on Wisconsin.

Me: No, I looked at every store. There's no MOCA.

Lady (yelling): MOCA? You didn't say MOCA, you said Bogart.

Me: I know what I said, lady. I said MOCA.

Lady: MOCA's downstairs.

I don't think my pronunciation is all that bad. MOCA and Bogart involves very different syllables. I think DC people have a problem (1) listening and comprehending what other people say and (2) giving simple and accurate directions. I have had few good experience asking for directions. Usually they send you to the wrong place or do not know about the location at all. In other words, they are not helpful.

So next time when people ask you where MOCA is, first make sure they're not looking for Bogart.


Friday, April 23, 2004

The last scene in Kicking & Screaming

OK, I have seen this movie way too many times, but everytime I see it, I'm moved by it the same way it moved me the first time. Samantha wrote a scholarly article analyzing the film and it's well worth a read.

The last scene:

Grover: Ok, the way I see it, if we were an old couple, dated for years, graduated, away from all these scholastic complications, and I reached over and kissed you, you wouldn't say a word, you'd be delighted, probably, but if I was to do that now it'd be quite forward, and if I did it the first time we ever met you probably would hit me.

Jane: What do you mean?

Grover: I just wish we were an old couple so I could do that.

I just find that pretty romantic.


My analyst told me that I was right out of my head...

Scatting is an art. To scat skillfully is to bop like Charlie Parker on the saxophone. Your voice has to land exactly on the notes with punctuality and extreme accuracy. It's hard to be good at it. Ella Fitzgerald was the best scatting artist I've heard. Another group that brought scatting to the forefront of jazz was Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, who was popular in the 70's.

The landmark scat song is "Twisted," written by the group's very own Annie Ross, who penned lyrics after Wardell Gray's famous blues tune. I first heard "Twisted" in the beginning credits of Woody Allen's Deconstructing Harry, and it was perfect:

My analyst told me that I was right out of my head
The way he described it he said I'd be better dead than live
I didn't listen to his jive
I knew all along that he was all wrong
And I knew that he thought I was crazy
But I'm not, oh no

...They say as I child I appeared a little bit wild
With all my crazy ideas, but I knew what was happening
I knew I was a genius
What's so strange
When you know that you're a wizard at three
I knew that this was meant to be

...Now do you think I was crazy
I may have been only three, But I was swinging

These lyrics are so clever and they flow like water with the melody. When you dig deeper to the lyrics, you'll also find that they capture the self-gratification and narcissism of high-strung and neurotic people. Like words one whispers in one's head.

Compare the lyrics to the following popular song:

she bangs, she bangs
Oh baby
When she moves, she moves
I go crazy
'Cause she looks like a flower but she stings like a bee
Like every girl in history

That era of cool is long gone...


Family man's ode to wife, daughter, and lost friends

I've been a Jacky Cheung fan for many years (my brother is even a bigger fan). JC hasn't released a Cantopop album for 3 years and his new release Life is Like a Dream is long awaited and anticipated by fans. This time JC has changed his musical direction - he composed all of his songs. While I'm not a big fan of Jacky's old compositions, the hit song "Tell You," dedicated to his wife, is surprisingly melodic and his vocals skills are aptly shown. Other tracks are written for his daughter and old friends Leslie Cheung & Anita Mui. I can't wait to listen to this CD, because I believe it'll be one of JC's most important albums in his career (a more detailed critique coming soon upon listening). Coupled with the positive reaction as a special guest at Teresa Caprio's concert last week, all I have to say is: he's back! You can buy the CD on


Thursday, April 22, 2004

A tiny tribute to Steve Novosel, aka Mr. Cool

I watched Jane Monheit's Live at Rainbow Room DVD last night, and I almost burst into tears. Not because I was touched by her singing, but because she was surrounded by such coolness. This is a 25 year-old girl who just loves to sing, and she is backed by a super rhythm section with Ron Carter on bass and Kenny Washington on drums. The spotlight and attention were on Jane in one of New York's most prestigious rooms. What more can you ask for as a jazz singer? Without commenting much on Ms. Monheit's singing (I wrote a review in 2002), I must say she has improved as a singer and her phrasings have never been better. But who wouldn't be in heaven when Ron Carter's coolness emerged as the pillar of the performance?

Steve NovoselThe closest thing to Ron Carter I'll ever play with is the irreplaceable Mr. Steve Novosel, whose history came in a close second to Mr. Carter's. Recorded with Shirley Horn, David "Fathead" Newman, Rashaan Roland Kirk, Donny Hathaway, and played with everyone from Sonny Stitt to Dizzy Gillespie, Steve's past was as exciting as it was dark - just like what a jazz musician's past should be. Not to mention he also had a short-lived and painstaking marriage to "Killing Me Softly's" Roberta Flack.

I had the honor to have sat in with Steve, both at Fino, once with Bill Heid Trio and once with Chris Grasso Trio. Whether Steve is playing a walking bass rhythm or a melodic bow solo, he conveys more feelings than a Carson McCullers book, as if he was telling his life's story. Watching him play a solo is a jaw-dropping experience.

Though laconic & taciturn, when Steve talks about old times, he will not stop. "The stories they told about Charlie Parker are largely folklore," Steve said, "he's never flamboyant. How could he be after having consumed so much drugs? He was mainly in his own little sphere." And then, after moments of silence, he turned to me and said "Henry, why don't you get your harps and we'll play a blues?" What an honor!

These days, I'll try to catch Steve whenever I can. You don't hear this type of music anymore. At 64, Steve plays with more energy and youth than most of the younger, self-proclaimed jazz bassists. I salute you, Mr. Novosel.


Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Smart, sexy, single yuppies united

I've been invited to attend an Ivy League single mixer at Childe Harold on April 29. First, I wonder whether I should go. Aside from the extravagant $30 cover charge, there's a chance that these people aren't gonna be attractive. Stephanie told me that last time she went, it was mostly old people. How many people are actually both intelligent and good-looking in the real world? I mean really... Second, why single out Ivy Leaguers? Alright, if you want to be elitist, why not just have the eight Ivy League schools participate? Why throw in wannabe's like MIT, Chicago, and Stanford?

As a Cornell graduate, I hereby advocate an Ivy League single mixer group that consists of ONLY Ivy League graduates under the age of 30. Participants must be able to recite the Ten Commandments and the first 10 Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. They must know which President corresponds to which dollar bill. They must also have their own theory of who killed Kennedy. Flip-flops optional. Oh, and there will be no cover charge. Sounds like a winner?


Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Lynchian enigmatic fantasy

Please indulge my chronic boredom.

If I were to pick two geniuses of modern filmmaking, they would be Quentin Tarantino & David Lynch, the latter's Mulholland Drive blew me away. While I admire Lynch's status as an artist due to his unique vision, I have yet to check out his artwork. Some say his art resembles Francis Bacon on crack. I don't know what I'm gonna get, but Lynch's name alone grabs my attention and is well worth a visit. David Lynch & Co. is on view from 1 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, to Saturday, May 1, at MOCA, DC.

I may go check it out this Saturday afternoon. Any DC people care to join?


She's an errand girl for rhythm...

Jazz purists criticize her for being too pretty. Other piano players don't think of her so highly. Well, lemme tell you somethin' - I saw Diana Krall live at Kennedy Center, and she swings harder than you ever did in your cradle. She never purports to be Ella Fitzgerald or Oscar Peterson. Rather, her style is reminiscent of the late great Nat Cole who led a cozy trio in the 40's and 50's. In fact, Ms. Krall dedicated his second album All For You to the mighty trio. While many self-proclaimed jazz musicians are shamelessly ruining or marginalizing the genre (e.g. Keith Jarrett), at least she's paying homage to the great American songbook. In live concerts (Live In Paris), all she does is swing her ass off and make people have a good time.

The new Diana Krall album (see above) arrives next Tuesday. It contains covers by Mose Allison, Bonnie Raitt, Tom Waits & Joni Mitchell. The rest is a few Costello/Krall collaborations and a Costello original "Almost Blue" made famous by Chet Baker. I can't wait to give it a first listen; you should too.


Finally...the grand opening of my blog

After lots of hassle, I am proud to announce my blog has been born.

Thanks to those who have been supportive to my writings and Jaime for helping me figure all this out. I have finally decided to host this on instead of the unfriendly FTP.

Let's hope that this will last for awhile.

"We're the world, we're the children..." - M. Jackson


Life recap in the last 72 hours

Sat 4/17: Had a really pleasant studying session wiyh Ryfie at Common Grounds. She's busy preparing for her final projects/exams. She said she forgot to eat. I then added, citing the song Blame In On My Youth, "If I forgot to eat and sleep and pray, blame it on my youth..." It put a smile on her face.

Re-read 50 pages of Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. Discovered my own comments on the margin that I placed 6-7 years old. Realized I was more imaginative and adventurous in thoughts back then.

Received in the mail Tommy Chung's new CD Blues Time. Pleasantly disappointed. There's something wrong with the synchronization. Harp work is lukeworm.

Sun 4/18: Went to Baltimore to watch Kill Bill 2 with my brother. QT has outdone himself again. This is a film for movie lovers and the mish-mash of B-movie ingredients makes Thurman and Carradine shine like supercool heroes.

Mon 4/19: Had a flood on Rockville Pike. My office building evacuated. Spent afternoon on a legal project and took a nap. Woke up, played backetball and ran. Not feeling upbeat because I had a brutal rejection today. Had a good phone conversation with Lara. Hope we'll meet up soon.

Heather and I debated whether flip-flops have sexual connotation. The score is 1-1. Any tie-breakers?


Comeuppance revisited

Once again, I messed up. These devices are never too friendly with me. It's karma, I guess. See if this works. If not, I'll just quit blogging as a whole and write my perverted thoughts in my journal.


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