UPenn campus in Transformers 2 trailer

May 1, 2009

A lot of recognizable UPenn landmarks in the new and awesome trailer for Michael Bay’s destructionfest.  Apparently Spielberg has told Michael Bay that it might be his best film ever.

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Woody Allen vs. American Apparel

April 17, 2009

American Apparel’s (“AA”) tactics in their defense against Woody Allen’s $10mm lawsuit reeks of desperation.  A synopsis: AA, sometime last year, unveiled a billboard on Allen Street in Manhattan that had an image of Woody Allen dressed as a rabbi from the movie “Annie Hall” with the AA logo emblazoned across the image.  Picture from NYT:

Obviously erected without the permission of the reticent Allen, the billboard advertisement was in stark contrast to AA’s usual ads which featured young female models in suggestive soft-pornish poses.  Allen went ahead and filed a $10mm lawsuit for damages.  AA’s lawyer’s response:

‘Woody Allen expects $10 million for use of his image on billboards that were up and down in less than one week,’ Slotnick said. ‘I think Woody Allen overestimates the value of his image.'”

Slotnick also revealed that AA is going to make Woody Allen’s personal history with regards to his wife/ex-adopted daughter the focal point of their defense.

Doesn’t that sound like the most salt-on-the-wound, below-the-belt, playground defense ever?  An analogy: Boy A kicks Boy B in the nuts.  When reprimanded, Boy A goes: everyone knows that B’s  got small balls anyway, so why would it hurt?  B, please show the world your small balls to prove that I’m right!

In response, Woody Allen’s lawyers accused AA of a “scorched earth” approach in its defense.  Let’s hope some common sense prevails here.  Go Woody!

UPDATE (5/18/09) – They’ve reached a $5mm settlement!  La-di-da.

By making an allusion to the film Annie Hall, from which the image of Allen was taken, he intended to comment about tabloid scandal-mongering. The specific scene of the film shows Allen in the role of Alvy Singer at a dinner hosted by Annie Hall’s non-Jewish family. The character feels so out of place at the table that he imagines himself as an Hasidic Jew.

Charney said his idea was to use that personification of discomfort as a metaphor for what he and his company were going through at the time during the sexual harassment lawsuits.

“The billboards were designed to inspire dialogue. They were certainly never intended to sell clothes,” he said.

Another DiaS’pura review

April 16, 2009

Boo Junfeng, one of the panelists from DiaS’pura 2:

The screening of my films happened after lunch. I was quite pleased with the crowd that came. I have always made my shorts with the Singaporean audience in mind. To be able to show them one after another to a room full of overseas Singaporeans who (probably) miss home, did bring that notion of connecting with Singaporeans to another level for me. I was quite happy to be able to bring with me the different locales that were featured in the films.

There was a general sense of displacement from the people I managed to speak with at the event. Perhaps it is inherent in times like these that people question who they are and what they want to do with their lives. As Mr Brown put it during the discussion: a recession is good for the soul. People on the fast track in their careers suddenly see a less-defined way ahead and start questioning what they’ve been doing. It is very heartening to know that there are those who have turned their attention to other things that are important in life. Perhaps it is a good time for arts and culture to thrive.

My first club DJ gig w/ Xponent: MAMBO JAMBO

April 16, 2009

Few hobby DJs ever make the transition from DJing in their bedrooms to Djing gigs in real clubs.  The pinnacle of a typical bedroom DJ’s short-lived career is a “Woweez this mix roks!” user comment on his 10-minute YouTube mix, or a fratboy’s drunk congratulations on his “awesome” mix during a Bosses-N-Secretaries-themed frathouse party.  However, within the cesspool of bedroom DJs clamoring to be recognized for their misguided self-belief masquerading as “talent”, there are a few DJs blessed with real talent: the God-given ability to listen – really LISTEN – to music, and a natural attunement to the musical zeitgeist of the future.  These are the DJs – Aldrin, Tiesto, PVD, Oakenfold, to name a few – who successfully transition from bedroom to club, from part-time hobby to paid services, from Zoukout to Ibiza.

Unfortunately, I am not one of them – so I approached my first club Djing gig with the proverbial blue balls.  Club SG was organizing DiaS’pura 2, and had promised a “Mambo afterparty” at an Olde City club/lounge.  Due to my history with Club SG/DiaS’pura, I volunteered my services, expecting a small, private party crowd in the upstairs room of a dingy Philly lounge, where my elaborate set would be met with the same enthusiasm as any random person playing the Mambo Jambo CD on repeat.

A few days before the event, the curveball came – the venue was changed to Level Lounge, which, in spite of its name, was a three-storeyed CLUB in Center City.  Worse, I would be spinning on the first floor of the club, and all partygoers  would first pass by our floor on their way to parties on other floors.  That meant that the first strains of music that these paying customers would hear upon entry would be from my as-yet incomplete setlist.  I had been prepping with the little free time afforded to me by work (Thanks to Andrea for being understanding as I was spending all my waking hours mixing), and that was inadequate for a full three hour set.  The prospect of something going terribly wrong and then having to face a jeering audience, or worse, no audience, weighed heavily on my mind.

Disclaimer: I use the word DJ very loosely to describe my mixing.  I’m not a turntablist and I don’t use vinyl, so my version of “spinning” essentially refers to a few mouseclicks to drag and drop an mp3 into Torq, and using an all-in-one midipad Xponent to mix the tunes.  I’ve DJed for two of my own house parties before, but that’s as much experience as I’ve had DJing.

Here’s a list of the gear that I lugged from NY to Philadelphia for this gig:

M-Audio Xponent
15′ Macbook Pro Unibody 2.4 GHz w/ 2 MB RAM
Stanton Uberstand
Software: Torq 1.5

All stuffed into an overpriced Xponent gig bag, which does NOT protect your Xponent from bumps/shocks at all.  The padding in the bag is way too thin, and the Xponent fits a little too snugly in the bag for my liking.  Might have to invest in a hard casing eventually.

I left the musical about an hour early to set up, which seemed like a reasonable amount of time to set up my equipment to do a soundcheck.  Without an inkling of what the protocol for a DJ at a club was, I sauntered up to the velvet rope and dropped the line:

“Hi, I’m the DJ for tonight’s party.”

And that was when I realized, dammit the success of this party is gonna fall squarely on my shoulders.  THE DJ.  For THE party.  My heartbeat went from nervous to frantic, reaching the same beats per minute (“BPM”) as the muffled thump of the bass coming from another party on the floor above mine.  The club owner dumped me in the DJ booth, which was next to a kitchen sink and had a couple of naked bulbs dangling from the ceiling as lighting.  He also left me with the most rudimentary of instructions – a few cursory introductions of the mixer and volume control, etc.  He had that “Do I look like I give a f*ck” look on his face, not unlike that of an air stewardess demonstrating how to put on a life jacket in the event of a plane crash.  Apt analogy, as the gig started to look like it would be stalled on the runway.

First, the inputs.  When I whipped out the Xponent and placed it on the deck, the owner gave me a an incredulous look

“You’re using that?”

Granted, the Xponent looks like a cheap plastic toy, but underneath the machine’s LED-studded plastic hood is an elegant and powerful engine.  However, the Xponent only has RCA outputs, which appeared to be incompatible with the club’s XLR-input speakers.  When I asked the owner how I would connect my Xponent to the speakers, he shot me the inevitable questi0n:

“Is this your first time Djing in a club?”

At that point, I decided to ditch all pretense of knowing what I was doing and asked him to help me set things up.  This is not like my job, where I can usually get away with pretending to be more knowledgeable about a subject than I actually am.  I mean, there’s no way I’d ever look cool pressing buttons on the Xponent, so I might as well fully embrace the part of the curious geek tinkering with a new toy.  Thankfully, one of the club’s resident DJs was around, so he helped me get around the RCA problem by routing all the sound through one channel in the mixer.  I turned up the volume, pumped up the bass, switched on the monitors, and was ready to partaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!

Except that the place was completely empty. And remained so, even half an hour into my set.  That was the next big problem.  I got a couple of pitiful looks from partygoers who were stopping by on the first floor to use the adjacent bathroom. The musical had run a little late, and there seemed to be a reluctance to leave the exuberance of the Sing City set behind for a crummy little Philly club.  So there I was, lone bespectacled Asian nerd, playing with a cute light-up machine and an Apple Macbook Pro paid for by the rents, spinning for a non-existent crowd of friends who all RSVPed “Maybe” on the Facebook event invite.  And we wonder why so many violent gunmen turn out to be Asian immigrants.

WTF WTF WTF looped through my mind.  The stream of people entering the club, glancing at a completely empty dancefloor and heading straight up the stairs was a big downer.  Each time I saw an Asian group of kids entering through the main doors, I thought to myself: Singaporeans!  Finally!  But I was always disappointed – they all headed upstairs.  I considered just stopping the set as a self-imposed mercy rule.  When a couple of Singaporeans finally arrived, they unpatriotically plonked themselves on the couch with winter jackets still on, seemingly engrossed in discussions about where to go next.  Urgh – quitters.

Then I went through an introspective phase in the middle of playing Robbie Williams’ “Rock DJ”.  I was mixing for a inter-state gig (sorta) in Philadelphia, all my gear was functioning properly, I was hooked up to a massive speaker system that I would never be able replicate in my own home, I had a chance to practice a full-length Mambo Jambo set – all the conditions were in place for me to have a good time.  With that cognitively dissonant boost of optimism, I focused on completing a full 3-hour set, regardless of the turnout.  After all, one or two people were starting to bob their heads to the music – who knows where it would go from there.

And then people started arriving.  It started with a couple of familiar faces from Penn, then small groups of out-of-towners.  The night reached a turning point when a guy in a suit started waving the call me/shaka hand sign in time with the lyrics of the song, “Call Me” by Spagna.  A Mambo regular!  Mambo is NOTHING without the moves!  In fact, Mambo as a concept is really cumbersome to explain to non-Singaporeans, so having people who actually knew the actions to the main songs would be KEY to showing non-Singaporeans how to appreciate the finer points of a Mambo party!

[As an aside, I have used the following words before to try to explain what Mambo is to a non-Singaporean: retro, pop, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, mish-mash, Zouk, Wednesday night, synchronized dance moves, hand actions in time with the lyrics, standing in a circle and dancing, no grinding, anthemic, conformist culture, influence of the military, lame, clubbing initiation, ah bengs, loads and loads of fun]

Of course, I still got the house/hiphop requests from some people, to which I could only reply, “sorry, the organizers want me to play this type of music.”  Turning down a request for a Flo Rida song was HUGELY gratifying.  Anyway, by that point, a crowd was starting to build – people started doing the Singaporean thing of standing in circles of 4-5 people, facing inwards and shaking the dust off the old Mambo moves that had been closeted ever since they went west (life is peaceful there).  It was also strangely satisfying when someone ran up to the booth and begged me to play “Summer Rain”, as it reminded me of the whole masochistic thing when a dog holds a stick in its mouth, begging for its owner to “please throw it!” (in this case, begging for a song to be played so that everyone can do the same dance moves together).

By the time I got through to around 125 BPM, the floor was packed.  That was also the point (1+ am) when people realized that this was it, this was the party, there wasn’t going to be any hiphop/trance/house – might as well let go of their inhibitions and follow the herd.  I was a little further from the dance floor than I would have liked, but what I saw looked like it was Sunday in a charismatic church.   A cyclone of sweaty bodies collectively raising their hands together in a trance-like state, going “square rooooo-ooooms”.  Amen!

I was done with half of my set when I realized that I had only 20 minutes before the club closed.  The second half of my set was the more experimental section (or so I like to believe – I consider Enrique Iglesias pretty “experimental”).  Another point to note is that yes, I had a pre-planned set – but it had in/out points where I could jump to other sections as need be, depending on time constraints or on the mood of the crowd (I even went as far as a printed and formatted excel table, with cue points explained for every song in my set).  After the Grease megamix, I skipped a half-hour of my set and jumped right back into the Mambo favorites, much to the delight of the floor.  “I Heard A Rumor” was met with some dude’s shrill screams of OMG OMG OMG.   Even with this clusterfucking measure, I was still unable to complete the second half of the set and was foreced to stop right after playing the perennial Kylie fav “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”.  At 2 am (it’s Philly after all – how do you stay awake after one of those cheesesteak dinners?), a burly bouncer stepped onto the dance floor, signaled to me to kill the music, then barked at the crowd that the party was over – a move which elicited a chorus of boos.  As the lights came on, people wiped their glistening foreheads, caught their breath, and lamented their sore throats/temporary deafness, all with the cheery afterglow that only Mambo + alcohol can bring.

As I had pessimistically predicted for my first DJing gig, there were indeed jeers that night.  Thankfully, they weren’t directed at me.

More Sing, City 2 videos

April 2, 2009

There seems to be a bunch of Sing, City 2 rehearsal videos on this channel.

Also some pictures and more videos of Sing, City 2 here.

More online reviews of DiaS’pura II and Sing, City 2

April 1, 2009

“Wahh. Proud to be Singaporean man!”

“I think Josh has revived ‘cockanaden’, though I’ve yet to see how I can use that in my vocabulary.”

“Hohohoho [Sekali I is the] best song written ever, in my opinion. Please watch it, die laughing at all the jokes that only Singaporeans will get, and be proud to call yourself a Singaporean :)”

The DiaS’pura 2/Sing, City! 2 AAR

March 30, 2009

I wish we’d done this during the last DiaS’pura – uploading video updates of the day’s activities.  mrbrown has quite a few good ones on his blog.  I’m sure there’ll be more to come, as I saw numerous posting of photos of the event on Facebook from various sources.  mrbrown also took the time to cover the technology in Huntsman Hall lecture theatres:

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the speaker series.  I’ve heard nothing but positive reviews so far.  I’ll post any comments/videos as they come up.

The Yaps’ musical was a two-pronged attack on the audience’s hearts and the funny bone – the incessant gushing and awwing of the audience through the sentimental bits was matched only by the gaffws though the uproarious comedy segments.  I struggled to catch my breath after the US customs scene – I had strained my diapragm while laughing slumped on the VIP couch (generously offered to seniors by Caleb Yap).  And watching the actors, some old and  some new, take to the stage singing Random School Facility (with an additional verse written for YX’s misanthropic character) felt like a raucous class reunion.  I thought I could hear Jennifer Setiawan belting “…but I got it fuuuuuuuuuurst…”

Oh speaking of the musical, Josh or Caleb has reinstated the old Sing City musical blog, which houses some of their rants and thoughts from the first musical.  Check it out here.

I had to leave without watching the last quarter of the musical, which I heard had all the best songs.  Of course, Sekali I was the highlight of the evening for most people.  mrbrown has kindly included the lyrics to the song in his video:

And of course, the old fav, Noodle Blues:

On that note, if you have any photos/videos of the event, please send them to the Club Singapore exco at exco@diaspura.org so that it’ll be included in their archives (which I assume will eventually be released to the world).

I had to leave the musical early as I had to set up for the Mambo afterparty at Level Lounge at 21st and Market st.  This was my first experience DJing for a big party, and that will be an entire rant/post in itself.  All I can say is that I’m glad everyone on the dancefloor had as much fun as I did behind the DJ booth – seeing Garett breaking out his “who says white people can’t dance” moves, hypnotizing a huge group of Singaporeans into standing in a circle and doing synchronized moves in time with the music, and feeling the relentless thump of the bass from the club’s speakers was a gratifying experience.  I have no pictures/photos though – I was so busy trying to be “professional” that I completely forgot my Asian roots and didn’t whip out the camera!!!  If you’re reading this AND you attended the Mambo afterparty AND you have ANY photos of the crowd at the event (I swear I saw some of those overhead-angled shooters at work), please let me know in the comments.

All in all, a great night spent in Philadelphia.  Hopefully more updates to come.

mrbrown is in Philadelphia…

March 27, 2009

mrbrown is in Philly for DiaS’pura 2 – it’s not too late to get tickets!  Any Penn-pals recognize the U.City landmarks below?  Kinda creepy, but you can almost map out point by point the route he describes below:

I wanted to ride the bike out but it was raining and fairly late so I just walked to look for dinner. I ended up having a Baracoa bowl from Chipotle.

Part of my travel ritual is always a trip to the convenience store to pick up a few bottles of water and iced tea for the room. So into the 7-Eleven I went.

I spotted a big bookstore nearby (this is the university district of Philly after all) on the way to dinner and made a mental note to visit it.

In the middle of the night, still up at 3am because I am not used to the 12-hour time difference, I dashed acrossed the street in 6°C temperatures to a Wawa‘s to get a hot hoagie. It tasted good but man, was it messy to eat. I felt like a housewife cleaning up my table after I finished supper.

DiaS’pura twitter stream: mrbrown is on his way to NY/Philadelphia

March 25, 2009

mrbrown just twittered/microblogged about his preparations before leaving for the big Singaporean event in Philly this weekend, DiaS’pura 2:

…and still cannot stop twittering and using the Net. Gonna be a long flight to NYC and Philadelphia but also looking forward to meeting friends, old and new, there.

…I also packed a few more warm clothes in case it gets too cold in the East Coast. By the looks of the weather reports, it’s averaging 0 to 11 degrees C. Yikes.

Buy your tickets here, if you haven’t already done so.

Durian tree murderer(s)???

March 25, 2009

From Newpaper: A white woman was found hanging from a 2m-tall durian tree in Selangor.  Sounds like a scene from a SAW movie:

The body was found at about 8am yesterday in an orchard near Serendah in Selangor.

The victim was in her 20s and is believed to be a foreigner. She was less than 1.5m tall and had fair skin and shoulder-length hair.

She was found in a white sports bra and dark-coloured panties.

Investigators could not immediately determine if she had been raped before her death.

Two wooden splinters, each about 5cm long, were found in her panties.

The body was in a kneeling position when it was found. The victim had marks on her neck and legs, and scratches on her right thigh. There were no other visible injuries.