Published by simon
April 12, 2015
Its been close to 6 years since I stopped watching animes, the last one was Ergo Proxy, and even that took me a few months to complete. In the interim, I’ve moved on to lots of the other series, mostly American drama and sitcoms. But I’ve always wanted to come back to anime, time permitting.
So six years, some reminiscing about Fullmetal Alchemist and Black Lagoon, i started reading about new anime series. It seemed that the scene has changed a bit since my last visit, with better and more matured series.
Anyway, i started with Tatami Galaxy, partly because it was only 12 episodes, and easy starter back into the scene.
The series is a slice of life comedy drama about a college student dreaming about his rose coloured life on campus. The first 9 episodes are the retelling of the same scenario, sort of like a parallel universe version of his life. The story is always somewhat the same, the protagonist has an optimistic view upon entering college, joins a club to meet his dream girl, gets disappointed and alienated. In the process of the repeated scenarios, we are introduced to the supporting cast – a zen like master, a troubling making best friend, aloof girl classmate, hot dental assistant, etc.
Although in retrospect, the first 9 episode, though repetitive, tell a overarching storyline, sitting through it started to get tedious for me from the 3rd episodeonwards. Only from the 10th episode onwards did the plot start coming together and moving forward. I think the 12th and final episode is the strongest (the 11th is too surreal) and really shows its maturity in narrative.
On the whole, i liked that it tried to take a different approach in the anime medium. I would recommend it for a quick watch, just persevere through the monotony of first half of the series.
Published by simon
April 5, 2015
This post is much delayed, I finished the season 2 months ago during CNY, but never got round to write about it.
This season is ominous because it originally premiered in the US right after the 9/11 attacks back in 2001. There was a special to address this event, done with the best intentions but it was rather boring and preachy to say the least. The good thing was this episode was not part of the main storyline chronology.
Season 3 proper started off with the cliffhanger of the previous season, President Bartlet expectedly announcing he is running for re-election. The main storyline was the leak that the President had multiple screlosis (MS), and that he hid this fact from the public during his campaign. They did a good job in building up the momentum leading up to the Congressional hearings, but the storyline fizzled out when he avoided the confrontation by taking a censure from Congress. I was disappointed in this turn in the plot, i thought in real life rhe Republicans would not have let him go off so easily, and would have milked it for all its worth especially with the reelection coming up. The second thing was i thought it would have made better drama had the confrontation played out further.
Anyway, there was a side plot of CJ getting a love interest, and another about a terrorist from Qumar, which led to the cliffhanger for the season.
But the best bit from the season was a culmination of the reelection storyline when Barltet finally meets his Republican opponent face to face. Good TV there.
Right. So that was season 3. In the 2 months since, I’ve gone off drama in general, spending more time on books and other stuff. I’ll get back to West Wing. Sooner or later.
Published by simon
February 24, 2015
This is an ongoing review series, to read my take on the first season, see here:
After the euphoria of Season 1, I started the second season immediately. The first season cliffhanger was the shooting of President Bartlet, although we all know well nobody’s going to get seriously wounded.
Season 2 started off strong, with a flashback 2-parter, showing what everyone were individually doing before the campaign team was assembled for the Bartlet campaing. It was timely to show the backstories of the main characters, because in the course of the first season they’ve dropped tantalizing hints on how Jed Bartlett decided to run, and how the team came together. I really loved this 2-parter, and I look forward to more flashback episodes, especially on the key moments in the election campaign and victory.
But as the season moved along, I started losing interest mid-way through, so my progress slowed a bit. The latter half of the season picked up considerably, helped by key developments in the story arc – The president’s multiple sclerosis, the death of Mrs. Landingham (that was really unexpected) and his decision to run for re-election.
Overall, I thought the S2 was weaker than the premier season, even if the characters are more fleshed out. Josh Lyman and his assistant Donna are still my favourite characters.
Published by simon
January 23, 2015
So after finishing up with Jack Bauer’s 24 (read about my reviews here), I was wondering what TV show to catch up on. I was googling up on ‘Greatest TV shows of all time’, and had narrowed down a shortlist like ‘Band of Brothers’, ‘The Sopranos’ etc.
As usual, Boone came to my rescue. what about The West Wing? Bingo! I was soon on way watching.
Before starting on the show, I had a rough idea that the show is a drama on the life of the President. I assumed it was a serious drama, with heavy issues the President faces in real life. But after a few episodes, I realized, it is more of a dramedy (as much as I dislike that word), or drama with comedic moments. Kind of like Ally McBeal, or Suits.
Anyway, on to the review of the first season, starting with the pilot episode. I thought it was clever for them to talk about the President the entire episode, but not show him right until the last scene. And when President Bartlett finally makes an appearance, man, what an entrance.
The West Wing is about the daily lives of the 6 White House senior staff and the Democrat President. The supporting cast includes their assistants and the First Lady. Everyone talks fast, and is incredibly witty. Although all 7 stars get equal camera time, my two favourite characters are Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) and Sam Seabourne (Rob Lowe). In fact, my favourite parts of the show are the ‘walk-and-talk’ scenes between Lyman and his assistant, Donna. Their witty repartee is TV gold. How come my real-life assistant in my office isn’t so funny? She spend most of the time shopping online and gossiping on the phone.
The season ending cliffhanger is slightly out of character for the show with its high drama, but its good nonetheless.
I loved the first season. So much so I wanted to write about it as soon as I finished the watching this morning. Let’s see how season 2 fares.
Published by simon
January 17, 2015
There’s a quote going around FB and Pinterest about raising dogs. It goes something like “He might only be here for a part of your life but for him, you are his whole life.”
I’ve had 2 dogs in my life while growing up. They were part of my life, and for them, I was their entire lives. The very first of the 2 dogs, I got him when I was only 5 years old. I know this for certain because my dad took a picture of my sister holding him in her arms, the puppy was only a few weeks old. And my mom scratched the date on back of the photograph.
I remember the day. we reached my grandmother’s house in Melaka for our usual weekend visit, only to find a littler of 5 pups on the porch. Her dog had given birth. All them were alike (obviously), incredibly cute, and black as midnight. In later years, my dog would grow to have a thick coat of black, glossy fur, no doubt helped by a diet of rich and unhealthy food.
We took one pup, my cousin staying with grandmother kept one, and my rich aunt (then living in Kuantan) took one, the other 2 given away. I remember on the drive back home to Muar, I was thinking of a name for my pup, I was deciding between the only 2 dog names I knew – Scooby and Muttley. No surprise I went for the former. In later years when I watched American sitcoms, I was surprised how they named their dogs with human names like Fred or Roger.
So from 5 years old on, I lived and grew up with my faithful dog. he was everything you’d expect in a guard dog. He never barked unnecessarily , but was suitably fierce to suspicious people outside the gate. He never growled at us (except the one time my grandfather tried to move his dinner bowl while he was eating). He never disturbed the neighbourhood cats (unlike my other, later dog) and attacked pests and intruding vermin. One time a giant monitor lizard entered the house, and my Scooby fearless bit the body. I bet he was puzzled why his powerful jaw and sharp teeth couldn’t puncture the lizard’s leathery skin.
When he wasn’t a big dog, we’d take him to Melaka with us during the long year end school holiday when we stayed at grandmother’s house, when he’d spend his time outside his brother’s kennel looking at this other dog who looked strangely like him. His brother, named Balone (don’t ask me why) didn’t live for many years, though.
Scooby was a Doberman and Labrador mix, but he looked more Labrador. Once he outgrew his frisky puppy age, he wasn’t much of an active dog. Most of the he’d spend snoozing in at the back of the house or in the white wooden kennel we got for him. If we spoke to him, he’d give me this look that said “is this REALLY worth my time?”
But in later years, Scooby grew sick, immobile and had many visits to the vet. My mom loved dogs too, and spent a lot of money for his medicine. I always joked to my friends that my mom took better care of my dog than me, coz if ever was sick, all my mom said was “go and take Panadol lah, who asked you to stay up so late?!” At one point I had to forced Scooby to swallow his tablets, and hold him still while my mom dropped hydrogen peroxide onto his open sores.
Anyway, shortly after I left for uni, my dog died. he was 14 years old. I read somewhere dogs don’t usually live past 10 years, so I guess Scooby led a good life. he always at food from our table, was well taken care of, bathed often, and never scolded.
I sometimes wonder if it is true that all dogs DO go to heaven.
There’s an awesome webcomic by ‘Cheer Up, Emo Kid’ from a few years ago, about his dog, read it.
Published by simon
January 7, 2015
I reminisce about the darndest things while driving home. Today, i remembered about my first day in uni, 24 years ago. Good lord, has it been that long?
It was early July, only my dad came with me. My grandfather had just passed away, so my mom did not make the 3 hour trip down south. It was only my second time there, the first was for the interview a couple of months earlier. UTM back then was not part of UPU, they had their own arcane / clandestine method of selecting applicants.
I remember it was a quiet journey, i was unhappy and bitter with my dad for a number of things, some trivial, some not. I know getting accepted into a good uni is a fantastic thing, but back then i had a lot of issues with my parents.
Registration for the residential lodging was done on the first day, academic registration was done later in the week during orientation. I don’t remember much about the process, except that it was very organized – moving from counter to counter within the two interconnected mess halls. There was probably lots of forms to fill and documents to file. I distinctively remembered opening a bank account, too. There was only 1 bank on campus. There was even a counter taking registrations for PALAPES (military cadets). HAH, like hell i’m going to join something as regimented as that.
The place was filled with freshmen, with their parents and families. Chinese, malay, indian, Kadazans, Ibans, and all. Everyone was happy. I notice i was the only one who came without my entire family. Every freshman brought their own pail, just like me. I guess i had to learn this whole “hand wash” thing i heard so much about. Amongst the crowd of freshman, were some of the best friends id make in uni, like Dave and Ray, but i’d only meet them days later.
After the centralized registrations, we were directed to our rooms. They wrote it down on a piece of paper for me – L23A102B. I was fortunate to get the smallest of the 3 types of dorms. L23 is like a small semi-detached house, one side numbered A, the other B. Each side had 4 rooms on the ground floor, a small living room with settees, an empty kitchen (no cooking was allowed) and the toilet. upstairs, there were two rooms, and a small store. Mine room was upstairs facing the back.
When i reached my room, my roommate was already there unpacking. The door was ajar, but i tried my key to confirm it was my room. It clicked, and he smiled and said “roommates.”
“Can you speak mandarin?”
“Not so good”, i said. Good thing he could speak good English then.
Then when all the registrations were done, my dad left for home and i was alone in uni.
L23A had 8 freshman, plus one arrogant senior. Of the freshmen, most were my coursemates, except 2 guys doing Diploma in Civil Engineering, and two doing Aeronautical. There were 5 Chinese guys, 2 affable Malay blokes and one Sabahan (who once was locked out of his room with only his towel on). We all actually got along fine, despite coming from vastly different backgrounds.
Anyway back to that first day. We were free until dinner, where we had to were our batik complimentary (cheap) batik shirt and gather at the hall. Dinner was rice, beef and veg (with side of horrendous pineapple soup) served in one of those trays with compartments. Then we had to listen to hours of long boring ceramahs about rules and growing up etc. Little did we know it was a preview of what we would endure for the rest of our orientation week.
At past one in the morning we slumped to bed, exhausted and asleep in seconds.
In retrospect, university was a great experience for me, getting to meet good and lifelong friends in those 5 years. They say college or university is where you rediscover yourself, how very true. But without getting ahead of myself, that, was my first day in uni.
Published by simon
December 31, 2014
Today is the last day of 2014, and keeping with tradition, I’m doing a review my past year in 9 points. To understand why only 9 (and not 10) you have to go back to the first of this yearly tradition to find out why. The past editions are in the following links:
So before the year ends and the fireworks go off, let’s start:
1. Annus Horribilis in Malaysian Aviation
No matter how isolated or disconnected you want to be from our mainstream news, no Malaysian can escape the horror of MH370, MH17 and QZ8501. What on earth happened? For MH17, it shadows the fateful flight KAL 007 in 1983. As for the other two, we may never know what happened.
Our annual family trip was to Lombok (read about it here). Wonderful experience, but our last big holiday for some time.
3. World Cup!
What a World Cup, eh? Compared to the last few ones, this one I enjoyed a lot. I think everyone loved this world cup, except for the Brazilians, and to a certain extent, their neighbours, Argentina.
4. Slave to the Grind
Work was / is still work. This year I thought I’d let some work go, especially with a full team on board, but these things never work that day. But still, we achieve a few important milestones for the company.
5. Sketch up
On my art pursuits, I knew that this year it would be difficult to keep up the momentum of my oil and watercolour painting, with the demands of my job and other pursuits. So this year I kept a sketchbook in the office to sketch during my lunch hour when there’s peace and quiet. Still going strong, only problem is finding the inspiration in an insipid environment…
6. Home Furnishing Spending Spree
Towards the last quarter of the year, we started preparing for the move to the new house, so it was a lot of visits the fairs – Perfect Livin’, HomeDec, Perfect Lifestyle, and lots of furniture stores and warehouses. Not to mention the spending…
7. Road Trips!
This was definitely the year for road trips! Besides the usual 1,000km CNY travels, we did Ipoh and Seremban / Port Dickson as a family. Cell group retreat was in Avani, Sepang. We also did Bentong, Sekinchan, JPO, Morib / Tg. Sepat / Bukit Malawati with friends. Life is always better with good company.
8. 24 Marathon
Beside the usual movie and TV show binge watching (I like this new term), I decided to catch up on all 9 seasons of Jack Bauer’s 24, since I’ve been hearing so much about it but have never watch it before. What started out as something to pass the time while waiting for the early morning World Cup matches, the marathon stretch until mid December for more than 5 months.
9. And finally, still more books
At the start of 2014, I scaled down on the my reading target, preferring to read only books that I really wanted to. But 18-book target was met with 3 more months to go, so the target was raised to 21, then 24 and finally 30. Still a far cry from the 50 books I did back in 2012 and 2011.
Published by simon
December 30, 2014
I watch a lot of movies. An AWFUL lot, I’d say. For the last 10 years, I’ve watched almost the whole Top 100 movies every year as listed on Box Office Mojo, plus many other indie flicks that don’t make the list. Well, almost all, except the horror movies and some foreign language films.
Which make me wonder why I’ve never done a year end list like this.
But anyway. I’m sure you’ve all watched all the blockbusters – Guardians of the Galaxy, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Interstellar, etc. Don’t get me wrong, i like them too, but these following ones are my the standouts for me, movies that keep me thinking about them and then ones i’ll watch again and again in the years to come.
Just a note, some of these were actually released last year, but was only available (for ME) to watch this year, so lets not be a stickler for the rules.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Without a doubt, my favourite movie this year. Wes Anderson only makes a certain kind of movies, but how they are, its difficult to explain. Its quirky, colourful, humourous, star-studded, and enjoyable through and through. I think its Anderson’s best movie after Moonrise Kingdom. Do yourself a favour, watch it, and you can thank me later.
A close second is Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine starring Cate Blanchett. I have not watched many of Allen’s films, but this one made me seek out some of his older stuff. A breezy, witty movie (although a times a little irritating), with an excellent supporting cast (Andrew Dice Clay!). This movie won Blanchett an Oscar, and it is easy to see why.
Edge of Tomorrow
Every summer brings their share of action blockbusters, the pick of the crop this year is Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow. the storyline is familiar – a futuristic Groundhog Day where humans battle strange tentacled aliens. But Cruise’s journey – reliving the same day over and over again, but everyday moving a little further and further into the unknown – is gripping and filled with twists. Emily Blunt, who plays the war hero, is an added delight to the movie.
this is a black and white movie about an old man on a slow, rambling road trip across the country with his son. Yes, most people will be bored to tears, but I find it endearing – in a quirky, poignant way. I hope I get to own a pickup truck when I’m old and nearly senile, too.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
While his fellow Brat Pack buddies are reduced to making duds like The Internship, This is 40 and Delivery Man, Ben Stiller returns to form with this remake. its funny, snappy and has an awesome scene with Kristen Wiig singing Bowie’s Space Oddity (go on, search for it on youtube). Plus Stiller gets whacked in the face with a branch.
The Monuments Men
This started off really well – sort of like those old time heist movies with an ensemble of motley characters. Better still, instead of money or gold, they are retrieving classical art from the retreating Nazi, something that resonates with me. Throw into the mix George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman and the Hugh Bonneville (father from Downton Abbey). But, for all the things going for it, I felt the movie let me down halfway through. It lost it momentum, and felt disjointed. But as a whole, it was a memorable movie for me. Kinda sad for all the art pieces the Nazis destroyed, though.
Books (and movies based on books) for young adults are all the rage now. I was just talking to Patrick the other day about how when WE were young adults back then, there were hardly any books targeted at our age group, it was either for kids, or regular fiction for adults. Given that there were a deluge of movies based on YA books this year – Divergent, Mockingjay, Maze Runner, etc – The Giver is somewhat similar but much better. Its similarities are evident – a dystopian future where children’s futures are determined at an early age by a group of all-powerful, shadowy adults. But Jeff Bridges, playing the titular ‘Giver’, gives (heh) a fantastic performance, rather than just being a token adult character. While the resolution of the plot is somewhat lacking in panache, it eschews some of the cliches of the genre. Bonus for the movie – try to spot Taylor Swift’s cameo.
Published by simon
December 25, 2014
Read the first two parts here.
I thought I’d finish the review in the previous post, but it was late and I got tired, plus the post was too long.
This is the season most people thought would be the last, including the producers, I think. It centers on a President of an unnamed Mid-East country trying to sign a peace treaty in the UN, but is betrayed by his own brother and men. President Taylor has problems of her own, as she gets manipulated by Charles Logan. Renee Walker returns, gets killed and Jack goes ballistic, killing spree. there’s some side story starring Freddie Prinze, Jr. and that girl from Battlestar Galactica.
i’ll remember this as the Anil Kapoor season. Wow, what a hairdo. His hair deserves an Emmy all by itself. He did okay, (Anil Kapoor, not his hair) but the it was obvious that the overall production value of this season seems better, move movie like. Gone we the dark, grainy look of earlier seasons. the final part where Jack exacts revenge was a little over the top, but enjoyable nonetheless. Re Agent Walker, what a basketcase. Glad to see her gone. Had the show ended here, it would have okay for me, despite Jack disappearing into sunset incognito again. But no… they made ANOTHER season…
24: Live Another Day
And so we come to the last season to date, and probably the last in the series, unless Kiefer Sutherland wants to make another USD$20 million. The good thing was that this was only 12 episodes / hours, making it very compact and focused. Heller is now President, Audrey is back, both in London. Stephen Frey plays the PM, can’t take the comedian seriously as a drama actor. A family of terrorist take over US drones and threaten to blow up targets in London. And Jack saves the day again.
While this was a consistent season, the whole thing felt like it was made to capitalize on the UK market. this season stands out for 3 reasons – Jack tossing Margot Al-Harazi out the window (good way to make sure villains never come back again), beheading Cheng Zhi (ditto about coming back) and the resolution of Audrey Raines. Finally! Jack, that woman is bad for you, k?
So it comes to an end. Browsing the Net, 24 is consistently listed in the Top 10 or 20 Greatest TV shows of All time, but of course not near the top. I’d say, yeah, it deserves to be up there, its compelling storytelling is groundbreaking. But being on terrestrial TV restricts it in ways compared to cable networks like HBO or Showtime. Also the nature of the realtime gimmick limits the plot, we can see that some storylines are repeating throughout the seasons. Considering that this show started more than 12 years ago, I guess a lot of you wont remember much of the details of the earlier season. Even for me, watching it all in 5 months, the storylines blurs together at times.
So, done and dusted. What’s next? I’m starting on West Wing. Until then, Merry Christmas.
Published by simon
December 23, 2014
Well, I’ve finally finished, all 8 seasons of backlogged shows, and even finished the latest (and probably last?) season of 24. Time to continue this review, the first part can be read here, where i review the first 4 seasons.
So here we go with the rest:
Well, it started out with more of the same, Jack Bauer living incognito somewhere, and the hapless Charles Logan still president. But suddenly come the hammerblow – ex-president David Palmer and Michelle Dessler is killed. After that, its the usual diet of terrorists, kidnappings, nerve gas, etc.
My thoughts –
Despite the shock of seeing President Palmer and Michelle murdered, the season slowed down a bit in the middle third, just like it did in the past few seasons. But i do agree with the general consensus, this was one of the best seasons. And i kind of liked Logan’s wife – the boozy alcoholic. As for the cliffhanger, well, i thought it was rather unrealistic.
A series of terror attacks prompts President Wayne Palmer to bring Jack Bauer home and surrender him to the terrorists. Most of the season sees president Palmer battling with his enemies and traitors in his administration, while Jack runs around tracking suitcase nukes. Also introduced are Jack’s father and brother.
My thoughts –
Really, they made Wayne Palmer president? His vice president, Noah Daniels, while portrayed as a villain, was better suited to lead. Secondly, jack went from being tortured in China for 18 months, to super-agent again in a single day. So Jack is like Superman, then. And of course, there Jack’s brother and father. Wow, meeting them really explains why Jack is so screwed up. Also, the revelation about Audrey was pretty startling.
Season 7 is previewed by a TV movie about Jack Bauer being Father Teresa somewhere in Africa and get dozens of locals killed.
Sooo, season seven. Nearing the end, now. Things are different now, CTU is disbanded, Jack is defending himself in a congressional hearing, and the FBI is now fighting the terrorists now. And Tony Almeida plays villain, then anti-hero, and finally villain again.
Rather average season, but with 2 stand out moments – bill Buchanan dies. The other was the best quote in the entire series:
President Matobo: “Are you also with the FBI?”
Chloe : “Me? No, I’m a stay at home mom.”
Then theres a cliffhanger with Jack dying… Really, who are they fooling? Of course he doesn’t.
To be concluded.