Friday, April 28, 2006

$5.00 for $8.81

I've had my share of ridiculous offers - from dirt-cheap Viagra to Nigerian scams to hot girls who want me NOW! Today, I got my most ludicrous offer yet. I got this letter from this company called DSPC (Direct Share Purchasing Corporation Pty Ltd) offering to buy my AMP shares for $5.00 each. The funny thing is, those AMP shares have a (current) market value of $8.81, and it says so right there in the offer letter. The letter is a computer printout, but made out to look official - complete with a self-addressed envelope, barcode, and "Please consult your financial or other professional adviser."

This company have been mentioned in the newspapers before. It's a wonder it's still operating. From what I read, a lot of people (mostly seniors) fall for this scam. Well, they're not fooling me. This one's for you, Mr. Tweed. Unghh!!!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

You Raise Me Up, Danny Boy

It's true that you learn something new every day. I'm just surprised that I didn't notice this earlier.

I was listening to Nigel Kennedy's rendition of Danny Boy (on the violin, of course), and I found it very familiar. My sister mentioned Josh Groban, and then it hit me - You Raise Me Up.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Movie 2006.04.25 - Jibeuro a.k.a. The Way Home

A simply story about the power of unconditional love. The movie started with this mother depositing her 7-year old son Sang-woo with the 77-year old grandmother in the remote village of Youndgong, Choonbuk, so that she can concentrate in looking for a job back in Seoul. Apparently, the mother never taught her kid the importance of respect and filial piety. With his electronic toys and cans of Coke and Spam (addicted mass-mailer?), he starts bossing the grandma around, and calling her stupid and retard. I was so irritated with the spoiled brat, I almost turned the TV off. I'm not a particularly violent guy, but that time I could've smacked the boy so hard he'll fly back into the past. The grandma's so old and shrunken and stooped and frail that one can't help but want to help her in every way. But not our brat. All he does is eat and play with his GameBoy, and rollerskate inside the wooden hut, and grandma has to clean up after him. One day, his GameBoy ran out of batteries, so he steals grandma's hair clasp while she was sleeping to sell. In a bad mood for he was not able to get the batteries, he drew graffitis on the walls and hides grandma's shoes. Instead of getting angry, she took it all in stride, walking the rocky mountain paths with her bare feet. She even bought him a new pair, and he discards them. I tell you, it'll be a joy to smack that kid.

One time, grandma asked Sang-woo what he wants to eat. "Pizza, hamburger, Kentucky Fried Chicken." Grandma probably didn't know what he's talking about, but she knows chicken. So she walks to town to buy a chicken and walks back at night in the driving rain. She boils the chicken in a pot and wakes up Sang-woo who is fast asleep, probably having wonderful dreams about KFC. One look at the chicken, and he bawls his heart out. Serves him right. He eventually got used to life in the village, threading needles for grandma, hanging up laundry on the clothesline, and going to the city with grandma to sell produce. Although he did leave grandma's clothes on the clothesline when it started raining, and he abandoned grandma in the city, so she had to walk all the way back with a heavy bag because she wanted to save the bus fare so the brat can have money to buy his batteries. It was so touching, even the kid had to cry.

Most Kleenex moment of the movie? A few days before Sang-woo is supposed to go back to Seoul, he started teaching grandma how to read and write. She's illiterate and a bit simple-minded, so she can't learn anything at all, which made Sang-woo all the more frustrated to the point of tears. Now all of a sudden, why would the brat want to teach grandma? Later we see the boy hand grandma some cards that he made himself - with drawings of grandma being sick or feeling lonely with words saying "I'm sick" or "I miss you" or "I'm lonely". Grandma is supposed to mail a card to him should the occasion arise, so he knows when to come. Awwwww.

Written and directed by Jeong-hyang Lee.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Movie 2006.04.24 - The Italian Job

As with most Hollywood heist movies, the plot is a bit hard to believe. But somehow you try to see beyond that and go, "Wow, wouldn't it great if they actually pull it off?" I mean, a bunch of mini Minis racing against a battalion of motorcycles, armoured trucks, and a black helicopter in a Metro tunnel? But I'm getting ahead.

Movie is about a gang of thieves who did a daring heist in Venice and ran off with a safe full of gold bricks by blowing the floor under it. Steve (Edward Norton) and his henchmen pulled a double-cross on the group, killing team consultant John Bridger, taking the loot as his own, and leaving his friends for dead in an icy lake. In true Hollywood fashion, the guys survive and regroup to take down Steve, who's holed up in his Los Angeles fortress. The group recruits Bridger's daughter Stella, as she's an expert safe cracker. Stella manages to bait Steve, but he's no fool, and in no time, he's on to their plan. Instead of waiting around, he makes a run for it with all his gold stashed in one of three armoured truck. The good guys figured out which ones are the decoys and redirects the correct truck to a specific location (by creating massive traffic jam and controlling the traffic light system). Once in position, BOOM! They blast the street underneath the truck (just like in the Italian job). Stella cracks open the safe manually, and they make off with the gold in their Minis. Easy-peasy.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Movie 2006.04.23 - Gosford Park

Would've been easy to simply conclude that the butler did it, but this whodunit didn't make it easy for the viewers. The whole movie runs at 137 minutes. First half of the movie gives you a short introduction to the hundreds (I exaggerate) of characters - masters and servants. The murder takes place around the middle of the movie, then the rest is unraveling who the culprit is. The local police is called in, but the inspector's so incompetent, it's up to the audience to do the sleuthing.

If you're after a murder mystery, don't mind the tension between the masters and the maids. Forget about the petty rivalries among the English, Scots, and Americans. Gloss over who has an interest in whom and for what purposes. All you need to know is that Mrs. Wilson did it, and the son, too. She poisoned Sir William, so that by the time Robert walked in and stabbed his father, he's already dead. That makes Robert untouchable because there's no law against stabbing corpses. Ouch.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Half of The Lesley Garrett Gift Collection

I normally don't visit the record shops because CDs in Australia are unreasonably expensive. I prefer to get my music over the Internet. (Ahem.) I passed by a Sanity shop and went in for a look. Surprisingly, I was able to find two Lesley Garrett CDs in the bargain bin. Quite a bargain at $1 per disc, if you ask me. Found out later that they're part of a 4-disc set called The Lesley Garrett Gift Collection. A pity I didn't find the other two discs.

Talking about sopranos, I quite like Lesley Garrett, better than Kiri Te Kanawa. If you're new to Lesley Garrett, try listening to her version of The Laughing Song (from Die Fledermaus) and I Want to Be a Prima Donna (a.k.a. Art is Calling for Me (from The Enchantress)).

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Salsa Night

The dance, not the sauce.

Our company is kind enough to sponsor salsa lessons from Salsa Republic to make us well-rounded employees. That's eight sessions of salsa for only $10. I don't usually dance, and I don't usually pass up good bargains either, so I signed up.

My first salsa night wasn't too bad. My colleague told me beforehand that the dance is hot, whatever she means by that, but I don't find it so. As to be expected, the girls outnumbered the guys. Our instructor asked all the boys to stand in a circle while the girls rotate. At the end of the night, I've learned the basic salsa step, the rhumba (side-step), and the open. Not bad for $1.25.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A Day in Kiama

First thing that comes to mind when one mentions Kiama is the famed blowhole. Actually, there's lots of other good things to see in this town. Strolling along Collins Street, you'll find lots of nice cafes and interesting shops selling handicrafts, souvenir items, antiques, collectibles, and clothes. We didn't buy anything, but had a great time browsing through what's on offer.

Today was not a good day to come to Kiama because we're not getting as many water spouts as I wanted to. Yeah, the wind is there and strong enough, but it's blowing in the wrong direction. To get a nice big spout, the waves must be pushing straight into the mouth of the blowhole.

Not happy with the blowhole's performance, we decided to visit the less-known Little Blowhole, where we're told the spouts are more frequent. Got lost a bit going round and round Tingira Crescent, but we finally found it. No much luck here either. The Little Blowhole is really small. You can even stand over the actual hole. A bunch of rowdy tourists formed a circle around the blowhole, waiting for it to do its thing. They waited in vain, and left after a few minutes.

Next, we went down to see the Cathedral Rocks near the Bombo Headland. The thing looks good in the tourist guide maps, but not from where we're standing. I'm guessing we approached it from the wrong direction. Oh, well.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Movie 2006.04.06 - Mutant Aliens

An animated film that is definitely not for kids. Very weird and strange movie. Story is about a space mission that was sabotaged by the selfish Dr. Frubar. Miraculously, a lone astronaut (Earl Jensen) escapes certain death in outer space, becomes king consort in nose planet, and returns to earth together with his alien offsprings - mutant versions of a pig, a worm, a fish, an alligator, etc. Together with his daughter Josie and her horny boyfriend Darby, they have their vengeance on Dr. Frubar, and the story ends. The plot seems innocent enough. However, writer and director Bill Plympton manages to put in a lot of graphic sex scenes, excessive violence, and course language.

Movie 2006.04.06 - Garden State

Garden State is the story of a young man by the name of Andrew Lagerman, who has been away from his New Jersey hometown for a decade after being estranged from his family, who comes back to attend his Mom's funeral. Left numb by years and years of taking lithium and other anti-depressants, he found love during his short stay in the Garden State (New Jersey). I'm sure a lot of the twentysomethings out there can relate to the movie - living life but not knowing why they are living it.

This is one of those films that you either love or hate. To me, it's not tooo bad, but maybe a bit over-rated. Better than the average fare though. There's no sex or violence in the movie - just extraordinary characters living their extraordinary lives. Lots of memorable moments, both funny and sad:

  • Andrew lying on his white bed in his white room listening to the answering machine as his Dad informs him of his mother's death
  • the guide dog humping Andrew's leg and Sam (Natalie Portman) telling him to kick the dog in the balls to make him stop
  • Sam takes Andrew to her room and does her crazy dance, something "totally original that has never been done before in this location and will never be copied again throughout the rest of human existence"
  • Sam, Andrew, and Mark (Peter Sarsgaard) in their black garbage bag raincoats, standing on top of a park crane, and screaming their hearts out into a bottomless gorge
  • Sam and Andrew in the big bathtub where his mom drowned, and he reminisces about her

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Happy Birthday, Albert!

Yes, it's my birthday every April Fool's. No joke!

Got some nice "presents" for my birthday. There's the Midnight Concerto 10-CD box of classical music, volumes 1 to 4 of The Thousand Nights and One Night as translated by Mardrus & Mathers, and a big stuffed Elmo.