Thursday, June 29, 2006

Asobi Seksu: Newton's rec, brilliant!

I have just received a message from my friend Newton, with a suberb CD recommendation. The band is called Asobi Seksu, and consists of one Japanese female vocalist (Yuki) and three American guys. They are said to be one of the best New York bands nowadays, and you can sample their last CD, Citrus, on their website! I am now listening to the tracks (samples, samples, very very short!) and loving it, so, this must be the First on my wish list now.

Newton thinks they sound a bit like Cocteau Twins, which I love, especially Yuki's voice. Still according to him, it can be compared - to some extent - to Cocteau's vocalist Liz Fraser, and I pretty much agree. Newton also mentions some simmilarity to Lush - but I must say I don't know them to agree or disagree (another group being added to my wish list, it seems!)... What I think is, if you like the style of Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine as well, this is a must-try, must-have, whatever! A must. It's really catchy and atmospheric. I am enchanted, aaaahhh... And mind you, all this enthusiasm coming just from hearing the samples.

Newton has that blog but he seems to have become a very lazy poster lately! I admire and respect very much his musical opinions, and he is always introducing me to some bands and singers I abolutely adore nowadays (Maki Nomiya and Pizzicato 5, Shiina Ringo etc). Newton is a DJ and know his stuff very well. When he started blogging he wrote a little post for me, he he! I thought it was so cool: Nonstop to Tokyo (02/08/2004). And I love the P5 pictures he selected. I followed his recommendations from the blog and became a big P5 fan in the end... Here's another of their pictures I love - stylishly kitsch, unmistakeably P5-ish, just brill...

Now, back again to Asobi Seksu... their songs by the way, are sung in both Japanese and English. I was reading in their bio that Asobi Seksu is the Japanese word for "playful sex", ahem...

Monday, June 26, 2006

"The Devil Wears Prada"

I am mora than halfway through this book, "The Devil Wears Prada" by Lauren Weisberger. It will be a film starring Meryl Streep as the abominable "Devil" Miranda Priestly, but I am not sure when it starts here in Ireland. Of course I am looking forward to it.

I am liking it. It is not hilarious though. I could indeed believe she based her book in her own experience and job (or jobs). Some parts are written with such resentment, that it is hard to imagine it not being based in real life events, painful ones for that matter.

Some parts however are quite funny and very sarcastic - and I like those. As for the character herself (the narrator, Ahn-dre-ah, like yours truly here), you can easily picture all the humiliation and embarrassment she went through in the Elias-Clark's headquarters and under Miranda's heels. It is well-described, and sometimes a bit painful to read even! But bear in mind this is not a perfect book, it has its flaws (the pace mostly), but it is entertaining nonetheless.

Bosses like Miranda do exist, I firmly believe that. It's not just a creation of a writer, no. They are for real. The closer I got to that kind of species was to a woman/boss who used to order me, literally, to wear "some lipstick" to the office. "Some makeup won't do you any harm, at least you will look healthier, Andrea". Of course, I will not mention names here, nor the company where it used to take place, ha ha! It was also well before my obsession with high-end cosmetics, of course. And that woman... She was a real tyrant though, and I was really glad when I got out of her claws, relieved, re-born, well, you can picture it!

So, Mirandas are not fiction, unfortunately. However the one pictured in the book is a very, very extreme case of ugliness and bitchiness. They do exist though. Worth having a read of this book. Not the most brilliant as I said, but funny enough to keep you going while having a cold or just a dull weekend.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Koji Suzuki part 2: a brief comment...

I am almost past the 1st half of "Loop". I was reading it last night, after writing about Koji Suzuki's work.

Actually, this book seems now rather like a sci-fi story than a horror one. Or a sci-fi-horror mixed altogether.

Right now, it is a bit like an episode of the "X Files" blended with "The Matrix". Some things are not what they seemed to be! I am a bit shaken myself!

Again, no more details on that. Go and read it by yourself kudasai!

Koji Suzuki's Books...

This scene is a classic. Taken from "Ringu" (aka "Ring"). Sadako coming out of the telly, crawling, hair on her face, bleeding nails, desperate, vengeful.

I love Koji Suzuki's books. The film (the original Japanese, of course) was very, very good, and I don't tire of watching it. From the Ringu trilogy (the films) my favourites are, with no doubt, "Ring" and "Ring 0".

As for the books, I am now reading the 3rd one: "Loop". The first two were "Ring", of course, and "Spiral". "Spiral" was quite good and you start to understand Sadako Yamamura's motivations and actually empathise with her. I did, at least. She is a fascinating character. She is very well portrayed in "Ring 0", by the way.

You see more of her in "Spiral" and there are some freaky scenes that can make your blood chill. But what I like about KS's style is the way he writes about things as a journalist would do, namely, very normal things (or apparently so). Yet suddenly you will start to feel the chill underlining every one of these normal, run-of-the mill situations, as if some time soon, blood would come out of the pages of your own book. That scene of Sadako's coming out of a TV set is quite similar to Koji's storytelling style. When reading "Ring", the book becomes your very own haunted TV set, and spectral Sadako will make her appearance pretty soon. So it seems to me. Is there anything creepier than that? I'm afraid not. The man is good. Real good.

"Ring" the film, by its turn, set a new standard for horror films: the dishevelled woman seeking for revenge. Dishevelled, hair on her face, wet, crawling, crackling almost, and coming out of some unexpected device or place (a well) or window, from a "little darkness" somewhere. As a broken puppet.

That image can be proudly put beside some other horror classics: Jack Nicholson's face in "The Shining"("Here's Johnny!"), the stabbing in the shower scene from "Psycho", Regan's rotating head in "The Exorcist" etc... And of course has influenced a countless number of other Asian horror scenes. And hilarious satyres, naturally.

As for "Loop", I am still sort of "getting acquainted" to the story and new characters. I hope Ando, Sadako and Ryuji will be there! I am feeling a bit lost without them. New characters (some interesting ones) are being introduced little by little. There's lots of science, human conflicts, emotions, diseases, conspirations etc, so far. But I cannot tell more, otherwise I may spoil it.

By the end of the year, a new book from KS will be released in the US and UK: "Birthday". I am waiting anxiously, needless to say.

(By the way I haven't yet read the manga based on KS's books. Hope to do so sometime soon though).

Saturday, June 17, 2006

World Cup Days!

Yeah, yeah, I don't care about soccer alright. But this is a great opportunity to post this:

Isn't he the cutest??? If all soccer players looked like him, the games would be much easier to watch, no? Keroro, Keroro in my heart... Ta, ta, ta, ta... De arimasu!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Doctors, World Cup games etc...

Today I will go to St. Vincent's Hospital to find out what needs to be done about my stupid gallstones.

Yesterday I went to the Bon Secours Hospital to see a 3rd or 4th (I don't even know anymore at this stage) Neurologist, about my condition. This was requested by the company where I work. They need to ensure I work in the right conditions for law purposes, blah-blah. According to that neuro (who's got the tackiest hairdo I ever saw in my entire life - something out of a 70's B movie, really bad), there's nothing to be done about fatigue. Unless I start a fitness regime, which may help. I already took all possible tablets for that and they did not really work, so, last resource would be joining a gym. Not that it's a bad thing. It is a very good thing, I think. As far as I feel up to it and force myself a bit. These days, I actually feel up to virtually nothing, I must admit.

Yesterday we watch the match Brazil X Croatia. It was boring. Not that I care about football to start with. There was a stupid Brazilian player called Adriano that made a foul (sp?) against the Croatian captain. That Adriano is a good-for-nothing little muppet, it seems. But the cute Káká scored the goal.

Look, I feel very divided with these games. I have friends in Croatia. As I have friends in Japan. So, I feel a bit awkward! At least, if Brazil doesn't win, the countries of my friends will. And that's very good too. So, either the Croatians or the Blue Samurai - that's just fine with me! Not to mention Italy, of course, which I love especially after being there and being so well received. But I don't know if they will be playing each other and when. I know nothing about these games, duuuuuhhhh...

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Mt. Vesuvius

The thing that mostly impressed me during this trip to Italy was being so close to Mt. Vesuvius. It is one of the most dangerous volcanoes of the world and its last eruptive cycle lasted from 1913 to 1944. Right now, it seems to be having a "quiet time". Thanks to the gods.

The image on the right I got from the Discovery website and their documentary "Pompeii: The Last Day". Worth checking it for more details on the history of the site.

I have selected it because I think the image does capture very well what the image of the volcano conveyed to me while driving through Naples. Three words, simply: beautiful, imposing, intimidating.

You drive through it to/from the Aiport on the way to Amalfi. All you can see is the volcano, quitely watching the towns at its foothills. And it's a bit of a shock. It's still active, of course, and there is a whole world living underneath its shadow, towns and people, life just going on. Brava gente, I would say. Of course people cannot think about what may or may not happen there. I think it's touching and courageous at the same time. It makes me admire them even more.

I remember the Vesuvius from my chilhood: watching pictures from Pompeii and Ercolano. I could never forget the photographs of those bodies, like macabre pictures taken at the moment of their (apparently) painful, agonising deaths. Actually, these people were enveloped in some few seconds, dying instantaneously from either the heat and/or gas poisoning. I remember there was a picture of a dog laying dead. And several people. I could never forget that. However those were not actual bodies, of course, but plaster casts made by pouring the plaster into the hollows left by the actual bodies (now long decomposed of course). At any rate, it was shocking to have those images captured somehow.

But there is a fun way to remember Mt. Vesuvius too. And that's the crazy witch duck Magica DeSpell! I had great fun reading the Disney magazines and Magica and Donald Duck's adventures were my favourites. Magica is a "sexy" duck villainess (a bit like Sophia Loren maybe) who tirelessly tries to steal Uncle Scrooge's "first dime". Guess where she lives? Righto! In the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius! Although sometimes she spends time in her house at Ducksburg, closer to Scrooge's, of course... Her name in Portuguese is "Maga Patalógica", and her inseparable friend was Mad Madam Mim ("Madame Min"). As far as I can remember, she wanted to get the dime and throw it into the Vesuvius for some crazy, magical purpose, a bit like a twisted version of Frodo and the One Ring! (Or maybe I am just mixing things, he he!). Of course, while driving in that region, I thought of her too! Not only the serious stuff...

Friday, June 09, 2006

In Dublin + pics from Amalfi and Ravello...

(This picture here is me playing silly in one of the countless covered alleyways of Amalfi...)

We arrived yesterday, after a pretty uneventful journey. It's good to be back. But I miss the place a lot, I mean, I miss Italy. It's not only because of the wonderful places, but people also make me feel very at home. There is something in the Italian way that is very, very similar to Brasil. probably due to the strong Italian immigration there. It makes me feel comfortable: the accent, the language, the gestures... Not that I speak Italian, no, far from that. I don't. I just can make myself understood and can understand everything when people talk to me. However it is a pity that I cannot express myself that easily, I mean, as easilly as I can understand them.

Below is another picture of me in the Bartolo shop, in Amalfi. The owner is a gem, Mrs. Pinto. I bought that top, which was love at first sight, and also a skirt, an embroidered coat, a necklace with jade stones and glass beads and a little tapestry bag. Prices were quite good too. Mrs. Pinto gave me a lovely elf-green silk scarf as a gift!

And, finally, the pictures below were taken in the Ravello gardens...

That's all for today! I will write a bit more tomorrow...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Arrivederci Amalfi...

Aaaw! This is our last day in Amalfi, unfortunately. No more time for a boat trip, but I want to stay and relax. Sitting at the Il Protontino café and having gelatti and caprese salads... And having a laugh with Patrizia, the best waitress in the world!

I am so relaxed that I could even play Pokémon Link without getting bored. I mean, it is a great game, but lately I was not in a mood for Nintendo games. But this time... Just relaxed, and I managed to do great and link lots of Pokémon, as well as getting lots of extra prizes.

But this is just a quick post, for I will only be able to post tomorrow or the day after, when I arrive to Ireland.

I want to come back here, and stay for 2 weeks or so. I love this place, and people are just amazing. This is my second visit to Italy. First time was in 1989 and I stayed in the North, near Parma, in Busseto where Verdi was born. It was amazing too. And I feel glad that it is close to Ireland and I can come back at any time!

Ciao, Amalfi! Arrivederci! I will miss you,



Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sick in Amalfi!

Yes, as usual, I got sick. Headcold, as expected. I had a bad cough attack at the Wedding yesterday, and today I stayed in bed for most of the day. But then I woke up and went with Mark to join Audrey, David and everybody at a lovely pizzeria on the beach. It was fun. I had a Limoncello after the meal, and it was just great, my first Limoncello in Amalfi! We have only 4 days left here, but I sure want to come back, when I get healthier, and not as wrecked as I have been feeling lately.

The wedding was lovely, the little church/chapel is in an old convent dating back to the XIIth century, the church of St. Anthony. As for the convent it seems that St. Francis of Assissi himself has founded it, when he came to Amalfi in pilgrimage to visit S. Andrea's tomb, here in the cathedral. Nowadays it's been converted into a Hotel, the Luna.

S. Andrea (St. Andrew) is the patron saint of Amalfi and it seems that most guys here are called "Andrea", which is a man's name alright. I am an odd exception, and when the locals learn my name, they always say: "Like the Saint!"... Mark says I must get a bit confused when I hear someone yelling "Andrea", for that happens quite often here. But I don't get confused though, of course! And you know something, I think I am in the right place and should maybe pay a visit to S. Andrea's tomb. In the end, he is my protector, it seems, and somehow I feel quite connected to this town, since I got here.

By the way, the photograph above was taken by Mark when he was wandering around yesterday. This town is like a maze, full of covered alleyways and stairs all over the ground and the hills. This photograph was taken from one of those alleys. I think it captures well the atmosphere of the place.

And the one below we took yesterday, from the "Torre Sarracena" facing the convent, at sunset. The wedding banquet took place there, and it was a fantastic spot, very romantic with such a wonderful view... It's a town where you just want to relax and enjoy the views. You become completely unable to make any plans, such is the beauty the place, amazing!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Amalfi: love it!!!

We are in Amalfi! This must be one of the most wonderful places in this already wonderful world! I have been feeling great in general, as I didn't feel for some months now. Weather is perfect: not too hot, not too cold. Mark is driving through the windy, narrow roads on the Coast as a pro. Landscape leaves you breathless... That's paradise. Like being in an old Italian painting. A miniature. Or an old sepia photograph brought by Italian immigrants from a land of dreams.

Foodwise is wonderful too. Fresh green olives, lots of Caprese salad, amazing "gelati", coffee of all kinds, "pastiera di grano", and of course nice welcoming people everywhere. What else could we ask for? Even when it rains, everything looks and feels gorgeous. My favourite spot so far: Ravello, up in the mountains, with beautiful gardens and ralaxing atmosphere.

I even bought a perfume there: "Aqua di Ravello". It will make me think of that place when back to Ireland. A nice smell of lemons, grass and sand.

For some pictures of what we've seen so far, please go to Mark's blog... I will post more later on, if not while we are here, when we come back for sure. The internet at the hotel is way too slow (no cable, unfortunately!).

Buona sera!