Archive for June, 2008

Review: Sex and the City

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Being dragged along for a girl’s movie, it only happens when you finally have a girl friend. The upside (this time), I didn’t fall asleep.
Since I didn’t see any of the episodes, only knowing it’s was hit series on HBO, it was kind of a surprise to me to see a movie play out in such a simple way. The story itself is utterly simple, easily described in half a line, but the dialogue and small confrontations that tries to drive this girl vehicle along, are so simple, I can’t believe it’s been on the air for 6 years. At least there are some jokes going around, but the quips are basic and not too sophisticated.
Objectively, I can say it’s not a very good movie, even though the IMDB demographic ratings breakdown is funny to watch (4.2 males/7.5 females), it just suggest females can’t be objective when they see words like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Versace, DG and Chanel flying around.4+.

Taiwan – Relaxation Update

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

No update for a while, because I was doing a lot of things not involving me sitting behind a computer. And once again, I won’t be doing that a lot, so here’s just a picture of a hotel room I just checked in.

Jealous yet ?

Anyway, more pics and post will probably follow when I’m home in a few days (Tropical storm Fengshen (Frank) willing).

Oh, and I’m typing this on my newly bought HP MiniNote 2133 (1GHz ViaCPU, 1GB, 120GB HDD, 8.9″ LCD, SuSE10.1 Desktop). Not too fast, and battery life is probably nothing spectacular (I couldn’t track down the more advanced specified models), but at least it’s small and light, so I can carry it around more easily.

Taiwan: Smart Update

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

Here are some nifty things I noticed in Taiwan.
Basically, every room has an airco unit, due to the weather patterns here. For Taipei city, you should count on some 2 or 3 million units alone. Lots of energy needed for that.
However, to compensate, I’ve noticed almost all homes voluntarily already have all their traditional glowing lamps replaced by fluorescent saving ones ones.
Here are some pictures of simple but effective tricks I’ve seen in all homes.

All light switches have a tiny light indicator if it’s off. It means if you enter a room (which is sometimes naturally dark), you can find the switch in an instant. No more walking around like a ghost bumping your knee into the kitchen table.

Most power extension blocks have individually switched connectors. Really handy, just switch off the things you don’t really need in an instant.

Here are some other saving techniques introduced. The staple-less stapler. As you can see, it’s an HP invention, and I don’t know if you can buy it or not (I got it for free from someone), but it’s really handy dandy. As you can see, it works by punching a whole and folding the newly created flaps it through the back.

Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

With exactly 2 hours to kill, and nothing else to do, I thought I would give this second chapter a chance, even though the first one was pretty horrible.
Apparently, C.S. Lewis didn’t expect his readers to grow up, and decided to write another children’s book. Of course, the possibility exists I have it at the wrong end, and the screenwriters left out the more interesting things, and in that case, they’ve done a thorough job. Because once again, there’s absolutely nothing interesting to tell about the story or characters. Other than trying to convert someone to Catholicism or to teach your kids what an empty shell is, I see no reason to see this movie.4.

Review – The Happening

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

Here we have M. Night Shyamalan at a new dawn, making his first R-rated movie.
And it does show. While still a good director, instilling chills with minimal means and forcing one’s imagination to work, this product isn’t as polished as I hoped it to be. Script and dialogue are a bit shaky, with no real depth of character or other deeper meanings. Instead we get more bloody scenes.
And maybe missing most of all, is his signature ending. As a normal scary thriller, it’s okay, just don’t expect quality as high as his first few products.7½.

Review – The Incredible Hulk

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Luckily, Tapei is so big, there are several cinemas here as big as I’m used to back at home. But that’s not the issue here.
The issue at hand here is mean green and frankly, quite bulky.
Also, it’s been only 5 years ago that Hulk was released. Now already comes a quasi-sequel/retcon.
Basically, it removes all the good things Ang Lee put in, and leaves in the action. The general public will love it (proven by a higher IMDB score), but I think it’s for the worse. Of course, Edward Norton is still a good actor, but the original Bruce Banner (played by Eric Bana) had more emotional depth to work with. Same goes for Liv Tyler (Betty Banner, originally played by Jennifer Connoly).
That’s not to say this movie isn’t entertaining, because it certainly is. The action is brutal, and there are enough setups for either a sequel or Marvel team-up.
For those who need instant superhero gratification, this is it. For those needing depth, rewatch the original.7½.

Taiwan part deux

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Some more live reporting, I noticed the current fashionable hair style for males seems to be half/semi/mid-long to girl-ish long, so consistently, that I can say with the highest certainty that I have the shortest haircut of the country.

What this city holds to the highest standard is service. In restaurants, there are always enough waiters running around quickly tending to your every need. In stores it’s the same, helping try out as many products as you see fit, eagerly opening and repacking the packages.
This level of service I’m not used to, let alone some trivial (local ?) thing as a footmassage. Check this link to see what it entails (beyond the obvious of course).
What it fails to mention is that a Guantanamo Bay detainee (terrorist suspect or not) will be more comfortable than me in one of those 6-stars establishment. Unbeknownst to me, I did not expect that so many thousands of bones and muscles could be hurt in just one foot. Now have this excruciating pain continue for 40 minutes and if it wasn’t for my gamma-radiated hardened body, I’d be out rolling on the pavement, crying like a little baby. So, be warned, because even though everything here is cheap, you still actually have to pay for this “service”.

Reporting live from Taiwan…

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Arrived safely after my first airplane flight in centuries, so I can report live what’s been happening.

Choosing the cheapest ticket from China Airline, I was suprised by the service provided, and hence to the personal entertainment systems for the Economy class, I can even review 2 movies now.

The Cleaner:
Star studded (Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, Eva Mendez, directed by Renny Harlin), yet a direct-to-DVD title. Outline seems original enough, and story moves at a considerable pace. Acting is up to par, and the thriller-y story is quite okay . For an airline movie, it’s good enough, but even for a theatrical release it wouldn’t be bad.7.

Unlike a few previous internationally distributed movies, this one stays mostly domestic, and hence I missed it. A whole string of perfect comedy action flicks made me an avid Stephen Chow fan, and here’s another full production from his hands (director, writer, producer).
The non-descriptive title doesn’t reveal much, but blind faith alone is enough to get into this movie without a hitch. It’s the same off-beat drama-ish movies you’ve come to like, and this one seems lower-scale, yet evenly enjoyable. For a fan and non-fans alike, as always, it’s a must see.8.

But actually, I was here talking about Taiwan, while expecting tech heaven (as most products are developed and released here), normal living areas downtown seem a bit old. A lot of road work is done outside, but looks like it’s done small pieces by small pieces, by individuals, a stark contrast to what most western people would expect (long stretches of government maintained infrastructure).
Furthermore, it’s heavily packed, (and dogs and cats do not fit well as pets), and parking problems do not only occur for cars, but also for the scooters.
Unknown if it’s the fines, strict control, or just plain overall respect, it’s all clear outside, no stray garbage to be found on the streets both downtown and urban areas.
Besides scooters, air-co’s are a must-have too, most homes having a unit in every room. Needless to say, it’s overly hot and humid here.

Anyway, for a picture report head over here.

Fill it up…

Monday, June 9th, 2008

…yeah, that’s what I thought. Coinciding with my trip to the far east, are a bunch of new album releases, so I thought I’d try them all during my long trip (18h) on the airplane.
Oh what a disappoint this weekend was (I decided not to try them out later, but do a quick pre-scan of the songs).

Most horrible:

Usher – Here I Stand: Of the 17 songs, the 2 worthy ones I already had before the album release ! It’s much of the same R&B you’d expect.

Alanis Morissette – Flavors Of Entanglement: Previously doing a promo tour, visiting talk shows, she would do a nice acoustic version of Underneath. Imagine my surprise with this techno-beat heavy album. It’s worse than combining all the worst songs from Under Rug Swept and So-Called Chaos. Even the bonus CD doesn’t add anything to it.

Amee Mann – @#%&*! Smilers: Booooooring.

Jakob Dylan – Seeing Things: OMGMBS (Oh my god, more boring stuff).

Weezer – Weezer (Red Album): Still with the high school prank lyrics, but now without the ability to churn out a solid song (like previously A Perfect Situation), you don’t even care if the lyrics are funny or not.


Jewel – Perfectly Clear: Going hardcore country again, previous albums mixed a poppy style to it. This one is hence less easy listening but some songs seem to be up to standard.


Leona Lewis – Spirit: An older album, but seems to be the summer hit album. Totally okay-ish pop. Save for a few slower boring ones, this looks like it’s going to be the album of the year.

Review: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Bla bla bla, predicatable kill kill kill. And I expected more from this, not just from the dark oversaturated trialer, but a movie being distributed by the Weinstein Company used to mean something (actually, just bought it in 2006, subsequently sold another company).
This one is just the same as all the other slasher movies, albeit lower budget, and less blood is involved. The same non-story is there, and there’s no further motive explained for the killer or any depth added to the characters. Pacing is also a problem, with only a handful of victims, it gets boring inbetween.
I should’ve trusted my instincts (a finished movie that’s been lying on the shelf for 2 years can’t be that good).3.

What I learned so far…

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

Now that I’m a semi-Hamburgian citizen (I mean, what else you would call me for my bi-weekly visits up north Germany ?

  • Take extra cash with ya ! Even though my trusty Aygo can go 700+ km on it’s small 35 liter tank, it’s still over a 1000km roundtrip. You have to get fuel somewhere, and it’s usually across the border. Not all PIN devices will take my cheaply Maestro only Postbankcard. Upgrading my card with an EC logo adds more compatibility (I think), but for now, I’ll just have to remember packing more money. That’s because I just got burned yesterday (already filled up my tank, then find out my card wasn’t accepted), and luckily, after aimlessly walking around a small town called Reine, I stumbled upon an ATM that did accept my card.
  • German women are beasts. Look at this mess at a Zara store downtown, close to closing time (22.00 at Saturday. Yes you’ve read it correctly, you can ship till TEN PM)
    zara sale
  • Nice radio stations. Still a bit geared towards modern pop (I prefer alt/contemp rock), and I couldn’t care less about the DJ’s, but the music choice seems better suited to me than it is on Dutch radio station. Hence my FM3 preset has already been filled, with the strongest signals (covering almost my whole German side trip are NDR2, FFH and Antenne. A nice feature is mixing in live performances in their playlist, making it pretty special, be it Lionel Richie, Pink or the Dire Straits, you will keep hearing something surprising.
    Heck, if it weren’t for the Germans, I probably never found out Rob Thomas wrote a song for the Meet the Robinsons soundtrack last year (The “Little Wonders” single was never released here of course, and I didn’t see the movie or catch the sound track).
  • (Almost) No traffic jams !!!!!