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July 30, 2005

Reunion

Yesterday I travelled to NW Portland to meet my Dad and Betty at Union Station, a historical landmark of a train station. Parking is pretty sparse immediately next to the station, but I lucked out and found a streetside slot opposite the entrance, with ten minutes to spare before their scheduled arrival. The train ran about five minutes late (sorry Mussolini), but given the recent performance of the airlines, this is trivial.

We took an hour to get back to Tualatin, then after checking them into their hotel, we sat and talked for awhile about how my father lived in Tualatin as a kid. He had an afterschool job as a caddy at the Tualatin Golf Course! Then it was off to find a place to eat. We did the Tualatin Outback restaurant, a place Jean and I have never eaten at despite living in Tualatin for several years. Food was pretty good, but way too much, too late in the day. We dropped the folks off and retired.

Now I'm just waiting to contact them before starting the day. Plans include the Beaverton Farmers Market and grocering, but as for what next, who knows? I don't know when I'll post next, be patient...

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:31 AM

July 24, 2005

Overnight Success

Saturday was Kelly's first overnight stay with a friend. She's been to 'away' summer camp before, and she's done an overnight stay at the YMCA, but this is her first stay with a select friend, Emily. She left with Emily and her mom around 3pm, and I left for NOVA around 4:30.

Now normally, I'd stay out after the meeting, either taking in a movie or going out for a snack with my friends. This particular evening, I had to take a pass on that, as Jean was having mother pangs. "What if they call?" she asked. "Then they'll call," I said. "Call me on my cellphone if you want me to go pick her up." But no, Jean was too nervous, so I came home after the meeting. To make up for my short evening, I stayed up til midnight watching anime. So there!

It's too bad, too. Saturday was the night that Tom was hosting a showing of Leadfinger. This movie was made by a highschool friend of Heather Hewlett, who is the daughter of Tricia, who is the sister of my friend Dan Baxter.

Heather offered to lend me a copy, but I told her that I only wanted to see it with some of the gang. She was annoyed, I think. She is proud of her friend and his film, and her role in it ("starring ... Heather Hewlett"), and wants everyone to get a chance to enjoy it. But I don't think I would if I was sitting in the family room alone watching it. These things take the synergy of a friendly crowd to really gel.

I did get to see Yakitate, my second favorite anime right now, and of course my fave, Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, Second Gig. In addition, John Jackson loaned me his copies of Onmyouji, I & II. I look forward to watching those soon. Alan returned a bunch of DVDs I'd loaned him, and I promptly lent out A Touch of Zen to John!

So back to the sleepover. Emily's mom returned Kelly to us around 10am, a little the worse for wear, but happy. I asked if Kelly had behaved and she said "pretty much." "Pretty much?" I repeated. "Expectations were pretty low with these two together." So I don't have any details, but apparently they were bad, but not too bad. And in the tradition of sleepovers, I'm told they didn't really sleep an awful lot.

So now Kelly is resting in the living room, and I'll be scooping her up and taking her out for a promised viewing of Madagascar in fifteen minutes or so. Later in the day I'll be trying my hand at pot stickers, though nearly half the ingredients vary from the recipe, so I'm crossing my fingers mightily. Wish me luck!

Update

The pot stickers were a big success, to my palate and Jean's. This even though I used different ingredients, wrong ingredients, too much of one and not enough of another. Seems potstickers are a pretty robust foodstuff.

Posted by dpwakefield at 11:01 AM | Comments (2)

July 23, 2005

Return to Routine

I picked up Jean and Kelly at the airport yesterday. Kelly and I are back to giving each other bruises . Jean and I discussed the weekend this morning, and I have a full dance ticket again! Feels good.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:48 AM

July 21, 2005

One Night in Mongkok

One Nite in Mongkok is about exactly what the title suggests, a night in Hong Kong's most densely populated city blocks, where myriad people and circumstance crop up every two or three feet.


Love HK Film.com

This was our second feature last night. It stars a large ensemble cast, with star turns by Daniel Wu and Cecilia Chung as a yokel hitman and green card prostitute who are flung together by circumstance one night in Mongkok. The story is fast, varied and at times confusing. The ending is bleak and uncompromising. This movie won a Best Director and Best Screenplay award, and was nominated for a slew of others, which is why I bought it. If I'd known how it ended, I honestly might have given it a pass. But in retrospect I'd have to recommend it to my other Asian movie watching friends.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:41 PM

July 20, 2005

Come Drink With Me

Jean and Kelly are still in Michigan, woe is me. They return Friday, and so, in what is probably my last act of bachelor defiance, I joined my friend Burr after work for pizza and movies. He is also bereft of his wife for this week, so we had his place to ourselves. We watched Come Drink With Me, my second King Hu movie experience, and One Night In Mongkok, which I'll post about separately.

Come Drink With Me stars Cheng Pei Pei as the daughter of a provincial governor. Blood will tell, and she is gifted with the almost magical martial arts powers that only manifest in these movies. She has been sent by the governor to rescue her brother, another official, who has been captured by bandits as a hostage. They want their leader freed, but Cheng Pei Pei has no plans to comply.

Throughout this movie, I was silently comparing it to A Touch of Zen, the only other King Hu movie I've seen. Overall, ATOZ is a better film. The story has more depth, and the atmosphere seems more genuine. Frequently I found myself criticizing the movie for all the conventions it displayed. Then I realized that many of these conventions originated with King Hu, and probably in this very movie. The teahouse ambush for instance, is a classic of wu xia movies, but here it is possibly realized in film for the first time. It is a charming scene.

So while I'd say that CDWM is the lesser of the two movies by King Hu I've seen, it is still better than many other wu xia movies I've sat through, and was definitely worth my time.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:33 PM

July 19, 2005

Global Frequency

Global Frequency is a comic by Warren Ellis, about a vast, 'open source' distributed troubleshooting organization, the Global Frequency. Members are sleepers, going about their daily lives, until tapped via a special cellphone, by Miranda Zero, the putative leader of the organization. Miranda has a dark past, and to pay for her sins, she's shouldered the burden of coordinating this loose-knit group of people while they clean up the nightmares of the 20th century. There are currently three graphic novels collecting the series from DC Comics.

In the last year, a production company shot a pilot for a television series based on the graphic novels. This pilot was used as the basis of a sales pitch to the WB television network, and it seemed that they would pick it up, as chronicled here. Unfortunately, the network passed on the pilot, and the show was doomed to lapse into obscurity.

Then the pilot was leaked, by someone, onto the Internet. Recently I heard about it, and decided to play the outlaw and grab it. I just watched it tonight. Verdict: why on earth did those network suits pass on this show? It's cheesy science fiction, but I could name two or three of those on the WB alone, so that couldn't be the reason. The characters behave in implausible ways now and then throughout the pilot, but again, I can name names if I have to.

And the dialog in the pilot was nifty! I just loved the throwaway lines they gave to the central characters. Okay, I'm a fanboy, but I enjoyed Buffy, Angel and X-Files (not all the same creator, I know), and this show resonates with that sort of cheerful noir, to coin a phrase. Anyway, I have hopes that some other network will pick this up, as it would have a guaranteed place on my ReplayTV schedule. And yes, I've added the first graphic novel to my Amazon wishlist.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:04 PM

July 17, 2005

Twins Effect I & II

Yesterday I went to Alan's house for the first time ever. He was throwing a little Hong Kong movie soiree, showing his copy of Twins Effect and my copy of Twins Effect II. Many other high definition video wonders were shown, but Twins Effect was the impetus. The supplied links give detailed and reasonably fair reviews of the two movies. I for one laughed myself hoarse.

These are a pair of cheesy fantasy action movies starring a couple of cute pop stars and their male counterparts. It's funny that I watched these so soon after New Police Story, as it seems that the stable of 'actors' in all these movies came from the same pool, the Emperor Entertainment Group, a multimedia conglomerate that is pushing it's pop stars into movies as fast as it can.

I won't be doing this sort of gathering in another blue moon. I was only able to do it this time as Jean and Kelly are in Michigan visiting Jean's parents. On the plus side, I have the flexibility to go to an all day impromptu film festival. On the minus side, I dropped them off at the airport on Wednesday, and I miss them a whole lot about now. And there's five more days to go!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:24 PM

July 13, 2005

Ketchup Experimentation

I recently re-read an essay by Malcolm Gladwell, one of my favorite non-fiction authors. The essay in question is The Ketchup Conundrum. In it, Gladwell explores why there are several successful variations on the theme of mustard, but the standard model for ketchup, Heinz, reigns supreme. I don't think he really answered the question, what makes mustard different, to my satisfaction. But his explanation for ketchup makes at least superficial sense. Ketchup (and here I mean the mainstream variety we generally think of when we hear the word) has nearly equal parts of each of the five basic flavor notes: salt, bitter, sweet, sour and umami (protein). In addition the Heinz formulation carefully blends these notes, so that no one stands out so much higher than the others that we can instantly recall it -- and grow tired of it.

Does this mean that specialty ketchups are inferior to mainstream ketchup? As a condiment, perhaps. If you think of them as sauces, they stand on their own, like a spaghetti sauce. But since we almost exclusively think of ketchup in the condiment role, specialty ketchups labor under a handicap. In fact, when considered solely as an artisan food, some of these ketchups seem quite appetizing. Consider Gladwell's signal example, World's Real Ketchup:

[..] He starts with red peppers, Spanish onions, garlic, and a high-end tomato paste. Basil is chopped by hand, because the buffalo chopper bruises the leaves. He uses maple syrup, not corn syrup, which gives him a quarter of the sugar of Heinz. He pours his ketchup into a clear glass ten-ounce jar, and sells it for three times the price of Heinz, and for the past few years he has crisscrossed the country, peddling World's Best in six flavors--regular, sweet, dill, garlic, caramelized onion, and basil--to specialty grocery stores and supermarkets. [...] The ratio of tomato solids to liquid in World's Best is much higher than in Heinz, and the maple syrup gives it an unmistakable sweet kick.

I might not drop several bucks having a jar shipped to my doorstep, but it does make me want to try cobbling together an artisan ketchup myself! Since Gladwell mentions a renowned tomato historian who also has written books on tomato cooking, I looked him up at the library, and found Pure Ketchup: A History of America's National Condiment, with Recipes by Andrew F. Smith. So look for my experiments in the near future!


Posted by dpwakefield at 09:54 PM

New Police Story

Lazy getting around to writing this one up. I watched most of this movie on the plane back from Expo, then finished it up Thursday afternoon. I also watched most of the DVD extras Thursday too (a behind-the-scenes feature, a making-of short, trailers and music video).

There are two kinds of Jackie Chan movies. Serious and comic. In both veins you'll see stunts and martial arts to one degree or another. The Police Story movies have been Jackie's big 'serious' works, and feature drama, stunts and some martial arts. This is not so say that humor is banned from these films, as Jackie Chan made his name with his signature humor. But he tried to establish himself as a serious actor as well, here.

Nailing down a filmography of Police Story movies is difficult, as Jackie Chan and others freely relabel his cop movies, both into and out of this franchise. So it's hard to say how many are 'really' part of the Police Story universe. But the Love HK Film review of the original Police Story links to four films, not counting New Police Story. While hardly definitive, I pretty much agree with this list:

To date, I'd have said that Police Story and Supercop were the two best movies in the cycle, and I haven't seen anything to change my mind. New Police Story is entertaining enough, to the mind of a Hong Kong action movie fan like myself, but it is not a sterling example. Read the linked reviews for more detail, but I think Jackie is finally stepping back from his stuntman, martial arts glory days. The movie is as much an ensemble cast as any he's ever had. True, some of his early work with Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung depended on teamwork, but here, the reliance is on pretty faces and hammy pose striking.

Interesting, though not surprising after all these years, were the behind the scenes documentaries showing Jackie wearing harnesses for every stunt (which were then digitally removed from the film). Jackie works with a net! Now I'm feeling my age.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:37 PM

July 10, 2005

Ugh

My modus operandi is to attend Jean's family reunion on even years, and Anime Expo on odd years. This means that the next Expo I've got in my queue is Anime Expo 2007. But now I learn that AX2007 will most likely be held at the Long Beach Convention Center. My gripe is that it just ain't as friendly a location. The pedestrian opportunities are less (no Downtown Disney, for instance) and the staff of the LBCC is pretty rude. So just 'ugh'.

Who got the Anaheim Convention Center for 2007? According to a post on the Anime News Network forums by someone claiming to be on the SPJA staff, nicknamed xstylus [okay, a little Googling turns up:Troy Williams (XStylus) -AX2004 American VIP Relations Mgr. - troy.williams@spja.org], the Shriners booked the ACC for 2007 as early as 2003. So the message is "don't mess with the Shriners."

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:13 PM

July 07, 2005

Hostess with the Mostest

At the request of Dawn, I present this cropped picture of Adam and friend, in the lobby of Ariel's Grotto. Adam gets the full, uncropped originals, and if he wants to show Dawn, she can ask him nicely.

And while I have a few other pictures with Adam, they are not with "hottie chicks". That would be a job for his "official biographer". <smirk/>

Posted by dpwakefield at 01:59 PM | Comments (1)

July 06, 2005

P. S. - I'm Back


Posted by dpwakefield at 05:33 PM

NCLEX

While everybody I know pretty much knows this by now, I'll make it official. Jean took her NCLEX test last Wednesday, and found out the following day that she'd passed! In all the confusion of my trip, I forgot to write an entry informing my scant readership. So it's official. Jean is a recognized professional nurse.

Jean, I thank you for all the hard work you've put in, and I'm immensely proud of you!

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:28 PM | Comments (2)

The Booty

I'll put all of the Hong Kong movies in my cumulative list, but I just wanted to share my acquisitions with all (two) of you:

For myself, I also got a Gankutsou T-shirt and mug. For Kelly, aside from all the Dealer's Room freebies, I got her the T-shirt, a baby-doll T with a cute picture, and a manga, called The Wallflower (which I guess I already mentioned).

Posted by dpwakefield at 04:29 PM

July 05, 2005

The Parks

Did the parks. It's pretty much as you'd expect. Only new thing for me was the Indiana Jones ride, but that was not so special. More fun was the fact that Space Mountain was open! It was in stealth mode, in that the Disney website listed it as closed for renovation, and they were not advertising it in the park. You just had to show up at the ride, and they let you line up. We only got to ride once, since when we came back during the evening, it was closed 'due to technical difficulties'. So we were on their shakedown cruise! Talking to the ride operators, we were told that the official date is supposed to be the 15th.

Dinner was at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen, and that was excellent. My meal, from the menu:

Paneed Chicken and Crawfish Cream

"Thinly pounded chicken breast dusted in breadcrumbs, herbs and parmesan cheese, paneed and served with mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables and a Lousiana crawfish cream sauce"

Posted by dpwakefield at 11:32 PM | Comments (3)

July 04, 2005

Con End

A very light day. We wandered about a bit, I bought still more Hong Kong movies, then we ran and caught Gun Sword. It was a raw Japanese screening, the first episode of a show which has not even aired in Japan yet. That sort of event is getting increasingly rare at Expo, so this was a treat.

We attended the charity auction, where James won two bidding wars, spending way too much money on a couple of Gundam character sketches. The record bid of the auction was for a sketch from Howl's Moving Castle, for $13,000!

We spent the evening at California Adventure and Disneyland. We all went and ate at Ariel's Grotto, but Ariel wasn't there! In fact, she no longer works there! Excuse me? Ariel's Grotto??!!?? In any case, I still took some character photos.

Afterwards, Dan wanted to try to experience a bunch of rides, and hijacked me as his 'guide'. We did the Maliboomer and California Screamin', and were fortunate to get four rides in a row on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. We then crossed over to Disneyland. We rode the Matterhorn, the Teacup, Pirates of the Carribean and the Haunted Mansion. Finally we'd had enough and headed back to the room.

Posted by dpwakefield at 11:15 PM | Comments (5)

July 03, 2005

Sunday Highlights

We ate breakfast at Coco's (second time) and then Dan and I went to the Del Rey Manga panel. The guy running the panel was their editor for the manga line, and he is a true believer. He ran through a number of their titles, talking each one up as he presented it. I ended up buying volume one of Wallflower for Kelly. Next we headed off to see Ultraman The Next live action movie. I grew up in Washington, D.C., and we had UHF channels that showed all sorts of crap, including Ultraman, direct from Japan. So it holds a special place in my heart, and I had lots of fun.

By that time it was time to go stand in line, forever, for the Maaya Sakamoto concert. It was a slow, mellow concert, and I bought a CD of Maaya's songs, again for Kelly. Then we ate at the Hilton restaurant, and now we're just sitting in the room. Alan is going totally nutso with faux accents, doing his best to annoy me, and not yet succeeding. We are waiting for the masquerade to finish so that we can go out and photograph the cosplayers, so until then we're gonna watch a Hong Kong movie on Jeremy's laptop computer.

Oh, and the last two nights we ate at the Naples restaurant in Downtown Disney, and at Tiffy's next to Coco's. Just for the record...

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:25 PM

July 02, 2005

Highlights

Time seems to fly even when I don't think I have a lot of activities lined up at this convention. Friday I sat in the Ugetsu Hakua panel. He is the creator of Bakuretsu Tenshi and was reasonably entertaining. I then attended Kazue Yamamoto's panel. She is an illustrator and the president of her own company. I went to her panel without knowing a thing about her, solely on her personality at opening ceremonies. She claims to be shy, but loves to talk. Someone would ask her a question, and she'd talk for five minutes before letting the translator actually translate. She's pretty cool. She is a heavy-set middle-aged woman, and looks like she'd be at home running a home-style restaurant. But very personable.

Alan and I did a tour of the con looking for good costumes to take pictures of. Alan has been doing that at several conventions over the years, and he is very blase about it. I just followed him and 'parasitically' snapped photos. I'm going to go out today and try to take some photos on my own. I havve trouble asking folk to pose. I guess I like candid photography because I don't have to talk to anyone.

One series of photos I took Friday may not look impressive, but they're pretty cool to me. I was in the dealer's room, where all the anime companies hawk their wares. I was quite impressed by the size of the place. It just gets larger every time I go. So I noticed that AD Vision had a skybox at their booth location, and asked one of the AD Vision folk "what would it take for me to get up there and take some pictures?" The guy told me they were having a meeting up there, but if I came back in ten minutes, he'd walk me up himself. So I did a round of the floor, and when I came back, he escorted me up. The resulting photos are on my Flickr page, but the banner photo is one of the better crowd shots.

Today the gang took a lazier approach to getting started. We lounged around in the room in the morning, then wandered over to catch the Geneon panel. This is a company that is making deals for some of the more popular anime, so we went to catch the clips. After that, I went to see the live action movie version of Tetsujin 28. This is the origin of one of my childhood cartoons, known in America as Gigantor. I even wore my Gigantor T-shirt.

After that, I walked upstairs to the KOTOKO concert. She's an idol singer being promoted by Geneon. It's been years since I've been to any sort of concert, so I thought it would be fun. She opened with some techno-beat J-pop, moved on to basic J-pop, and transitioned into a ballad. Around this time, the whole front section started waving light wands and glow sticks overhead. It appeared as if they'd all brought them, or been given them before the concert. Not to be outdone, other sections began to wave their cellphones and PDAs around with the backlights on. I looked around, and this was happening all over the room! I don't know if this is common practice now, but it was new to me.

I'm back in the room now, writing things up for a break. Next it's off to try to snag a photo or two. Bye!

Posted by dpwakefield at 04:20 PM

July 01, 2005

Opening Ceremony

The guests were introduced one by one. First the American voice actors, who do the dubs of American licensed anime. After Crispin Freeman was introduced, Colleen Clinkenbeard was introduced. She was clearly pleased by the volume of the applause and gave a little twirl. Then came Greg Ayres, an anime fan who has become a voice actor. He showed up with purple hair, and when he was introduced, he decided to be giggly and bubbly too, and did a twirl that topped Colleen's. From that point on, each guest did a twirl, with one exception, and the guest after him did a multi-twirl to make up for it. I was clapping and cheering whenever they did it. Spontaneous emergence of silliness really brightens my mood.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:29 PM

Concert 'Tickets'

More Expo planning goodness. I wanted to go to the Maaya Sakamoto concert, which will be held on Sunday afternoon. My ticket, it turns out, is a wrist band which was attached this morning! Any attempt to tamper with this wrist band will result in refusal to enter the concert. Any attempt? Like, oh, taking a shower? What dunderheads. They want to prevent ticket scalping, but they just don't think through the consequences.

I'll let you know if this stupid wristband survives two evenings in bed and two showers before the concert.

Posted by dpwakefield at 01:11 PM

Registration

Ohhhh, if I were king of the forest...

What a bent operation. This was the fog of war, friends. There are so many people milling around, that the tail of the snake cannot tell what the head of the snake is doing. And what the head of the snake is doing is waiting! Waiting! We were in a long winding line that snaked through what appeared to be a military grade parking garage, with maybe four football field length queues filing back and forth across the hard concrete. At the end, we went up the escalator, to another room, with more lines.

Eventually we got close to the actual machinery of registration. Ranks of computers manned by reasonably cheerful volunteer clerks. The young woman I was directed to took my printout, that I'd done a week before online, and entered my information into the computer, where it already resided, I'm sure. Then she told me to go wait at the printer area.

This area was the cause of all delays. I can't believe they had things so very badly messed up. They had maybe six printers spitting out the product of the fifteen or twenty registration clerks. Registrants were pooling in front of these printers, and eight or twelve volunteers were grabbing tags as they came out of the printers and shouting the names into the noisy throng. If they didn't get an immediate response from this mosh pit, they handed the tag down the line and shouted another name. I heard my name from the back of the crowd, but had no way to get to the front to grab it.

Using my height to my advantage, I squirmed to the right hand edge of the printer phalanx and waited for my tag to work its way over there. When I saw it lying on the table in a pile of other tags, I shouted, "that's me, Phin" and shoved my paperwork at the harried printer clerk. He handed me my tag, and I waded back through the mosh pit to get away from it all.

As a result, people were waiting in a huge backlog at the head of the snake, and the tail often experienced these long delays for which they had no explanation. Now it's time for my armchair general speech. Guys, you've got Don Wakefield standing in front of your computer, and you just typed his name in. It took about ten seconds to print out his tag. Have him wait at the computer, where you know he is, and bring the tag to him. Then send him on his merry way. Waiting at the mosh pit took ten minutes, not ten seconds! I hope someone who actually has the power to change things saw what was going on last night and makes this simple change for registration this morning, or the poor saps are really going to suffer. We were in line three hours last night! THREE HOURS. It didn't have to be this way!!!

But now we get to take our showers and then head down to try to get our tickets for the Maaya Sakamoto concert. I'm sure that'll be much better.

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:47 AM