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Saturday, April 4, 2009

What Janie Found

[Ed's Note: I know you guys mostly wanted another Babysitters Club book, but I have to, have to, have to get these last few Caroline B. Cooney books out of the apartment and back to the library where they belong. But I'll try to recap a BSC book one next.]

Brief Synopsis:

At last! I'm done with recapping The Face on the Milk Carton series! We open in medias res--Janie's father (Mr. Johnson) has just had a stroke and is in the hospital, unconscious. Janie's instructed to look over the family finances and discovers a dirty little secret. It's not that exciting--turns out Hannah's still alive, living in Boulder, CO and oh yeah, Mr. J is still in contact with her. He sends her money every three months, even though she's technically wanted for kidnapping. Mrs. J is still under the impression they have no idea where Hannah is. So Janie, with the help of former boyfriend Reeve and her New Jersey brother Brian, has to decide whether to keep supporting Hannah or to track her down and sic the Feds on her.

She goes to CO to visit her biological brother, Stephen, who's away at college. Her plan, at first, is to try to meet with Hannah. She navel gazes for a few chapters, then just decides to empty the account devoted to paying off Hannah. That is, she gives it all to Hannah. Her rationale is that this way she can be rid of her. Telling the FBI would just destroy her family. Well, more so. There's also a subplot involving Stephen's girlfriend, Kathleen and her dad. (Kathleen and Stephen enjoy bike rides, long mountain hikes and raising their body metabolisms. Ah, Colorado.) On with the snark!
  • What does Janie find out? Not a damned thing, as far as I'm concerned. Hannah, why can't you join one of those cults where they do a mass suicide? Eat a spiked Twinkie, hitch a ride on Haley's comet, I don't care. Just stop showing up in every book only to disappear at the end. Caroline B., it's such a cocktease the way you keep sprinkling Hannah in front of my nose and then yanking her away. And by cocktease, I mean it's as tempting as the fatter, deader, maggottier version of Anna Nicole Smith gyrating on the lap of a confirmed homosexual.
  • So Janie's dad has a stroke. Yeah, I saw what you did there, CaroB., making it so that Janie's dad is sick enough that it's an EXCITING INCIDENT (someone was taking notes at the last Writers' Workshop Conference!). But you also made him unconscious so you didn't actually have to write him any dialogue. That's almost literary. You almost get to join the pantheon of R.L. Stine and Ann M. Martin. Almost.
  • As I mentioned, Mr. Johnson is in the hospital, busily dying and whatnot. And Mrs. J. is so incompetent (well, except at cake decorating and serving on committees) that their teenage daughter has to go through the family finances? Janie, I changed my mind. Go back to the Springs and leave Stepford mommy behind. I'm not kidding about the cake decorating, by the way. In the first book, Janie takes a class in decorating cakes with her mother because that's what you do to fill the hours in suburban Connecticut. I'm assuming that if Mrs. Johnson did find out about Hannah, her first line of defense would be to decorate a cake. No, not actually bake a cake. Just decorate one.
  • Turns out that Kathleen's dad is an FBI agent and Stephen gets all freaked out that the Feds are stalking him or something. If you guessed that this plot point involves Stephen deciding to break up with Kathleen because she cheated on him, but her father saying that he'll give Stephen confidential information about Hannah as long as he stays with're wrong. What's the matter with you? This is the series where NOTHING HAPPENS. Do you really think CaroB. wanted to take herself out of the running for Guinness Book of World Records Entry for "Longest Series Where Nothing Really Changes"? The point of Kathleen's dad being an FBI agent is...I have no idea.
  • When Kathleen hears the story of Janie from Stephen at dinner, she's positively drooling over it. (And later, she wants Janie to tell her every minute detail about the kidnapping.) Kathleen, put on a fake weave, stop working out so damned much, and let your ass go big--if Nicole in Whatever Happened to Janie? was Nancy Grace, you can be Tyra Banks. Except you didn't yell at Janie enough for not expressing her emotions and you didn't talk about how when you were kidnapped, it was by twelve Hare Krishna runaways but you still worked your magic and let your smile go all the way to your eyes.
  • Kathleen (and Stephen himself in earlier novels) makes a big deal out of how Janie actually went to go live with the Johnsons, and was gauche enough to want to be called Janie (not Jennie)--Janie was her KIDNAP name. This is reminding me of that Greg the Bunny episode where Greg renounces his "fleshie" name in favor of his Puppish name. Can I watch that episode instead of reading this book? Please? Okay, back to business. Guys, it's a one vowel difference. Would you be happier if she decided to spell it Jennie but pronounce it Throatwarbler Mangrove?
  • I'm a little surprised that Janie left to go to Colorado (using the college tour thing as an excuse) when her father was in such dire straits. What happens if dear old dad kicks the bucket and Mama Johnson has to pick out funeral attire by herself? You'll come back to Connecticut to find hundreds of decorated Entenmann's pound cakes all over the house and a decomposing corpse in the basement. Seriously, let's get this woman a new hobby. To the Build-a-Bear Workshop, Jeeves! (Yeah, I was actually talking about CaroB.)
  • There's a detail about Janie wanting cowboy boots and the rest of the gang dutifully trooping into a pawnshop. Then she can't afford to both buy plane tickets home and pay for boots (bitch, it's called flying coach!) so she pouts and Stephen gets all magnanimous and buys her the boots. Yes, Stephen Spring, the college student from a working class Jersey family. Stephen counts out his money in grease stained one dollar bills earned working construction, Janie dances around in her cowboy boots. I hum a few bars from Darkness on the Edge of Town and wonder why Janie couldn't have skimmed a few dollars off the top from her "Kidnapping Checking Account." Or at least have guilted her ex boyfriend from an Old Money Connecticut family into paying instead. You know, the one standing right next to Janie, wondering how he can make up for his past gaffe and get into firecrotch's pants again?
  • Janie gets into a snit because of how her father is supporting her kidnapper. Okay, she's probably right--that's fucked up and your dad probably broke a few laws. But Janie also acts as though she's jealous because it means her dad loved her less than he loved Hannah. If it makes you feel any better, Janie, you're probably getting the better deal. Hundreds of sweaters you don't need, a huge sleepwear collection, fancy trips to Disney World on your birthday. Sure, Hannah got to join a cult, but it was an ass backward fashion challenged cult--the Hare Krishnas aren't cool. It's not like she got to be a Moonie.
  • About Kathleen. She's irritating. Janie stays in her dorm room when the east coast trio visits. She's incredibly insensitive when it comes to rehashing Janie's kidnapping past. She asks questions that close relatives shouldn't, let alone near strangers. But the worst part is that she also wakes her guest up to go on a five mile run at 6 AM. Hey, I love eschewing carbohydrates and burning calories as much as the next average American girl, but bitch, don't encroach on my sleep time--just don't even.
  • So, during the mini marathon, Janie manages to ditch Kathleen to stake out the post office where Hannah has a P.O. box. (Kathleen runs off, unseen for a few more pages--possibly to go check out a pro-ana board.) Janie sits down on a bench outside the post office. A middle aged woman sits down next to her, and Janie realizes that this MIGHT be her kidnapper. She stares at the ground. Is it Hannah? Goddamnit, it's NEVER LUPUS--I mean, it's never Hannah. You didn't find Hannah in New York City in Whatever Happened to Janie? and it wasn't her calling in to the radio show in The Voice on the Radio. Janie looks away, the middle aged woman leaves, I pop a No-Doze and it's on with the show!
  • Kathleen starts calling Janie a "kidnapette." And referring to her as "Janie-Jennie." No, if you really want to piss her off, throw her in the back of your SUV and scream, "Hey Janie, stop kidnapping yourself, stop kidnapping yourself!" Hey, it satisfied the five year old in me.
  • Oh, gawd, and Janie, Bri and Reeve seem to think their idea of getting Hannah out of their lives is so brilliant. Reeve tells them to pay off all the money to Hannah. That's not really any less depraved than giving her money four times a year, but okay. I'll go with it. Reeve's reasoning is Janie is unkidnapping herself. Then Brian's all, "How will Hannah know what she means?" And...oh, here's the ingenius part. They--ah, I'm bowled over by it. They decide to write her a note letting her know. Wow. Guys, I think that's JUST crazy enough to work. And why does Janie need to "buy herself back," anyway? She just manipulated a poor college student into buying her a pair of boots and she's still in high school. I think she's doing just fine.
  • Do you at least want to know if Mr. Johnson survives the stroke? Well, you've been reading this far--might as well find out, even though he's pretty much the least interesting character in this saga. Oh, wait, you forgot and thought you were reading a book with the concept of closure. I think at this point, not even CaroB. cared what happened to any of them. So no, we don't know. I've never seen a series where the creator just threw up their hands and said, "Screw it, I'm bored, let's just stop" so flagrantly. Well...okay, The Sopranos. (But at least there, I can lie to myself and say it had artistic merit or something. And only because I still worship at the altar of David Chase.)

Okay, let's just pretend that this story was the imaginings of some bored network executive who needed to come up with some teen related WB show ("Uh...think Seventh Heaven meets 90210 meets the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping case except she's a redhead and not Mormon") because that's the only way I can excuse how awful this entire series was. But on the bright side, I can say a fond good-bye to all these lovable characters. Adieu, Janie "She's been living in her white bread world" Johnson. Reeve, here's hoping you either get some nookie or actually make some money off of dating and living next door to a kidnapette (aww, now I'm doing it, too!). And Mr. Johnson, I hope you--ah, I can't even pretend to care anymore.


These days every one is talking about re-branding. Hotels are renamed. Some products are re-named and re-packaged. But rebranding is more than renaming.

So I have given thought to one of my favourite drinks - tea. How has tea which traditionally come in loose form or in tea leaves been rebranded?

How has some types of tea been re-branded in the past few years? See for yourself!

tea sticks with Japanese influence.

Tea in special tins with Yoga influence.

The Mainland Chinese are magicians in their product innovation and rebranding. Here "Rejang Basin" blog owner is showing a Chinese zodiac pendant gift tied to a Chinese Eternity knot. Wow that's a lot of culture in this gift! It looks like a bronze pendant. But is it?

Many people love to bring gifts to this affable and warm hearted prolific writer. And I particularly like to spend time to appreciate artifacts and trace their origins.

This pendant is actually made of pressed tea and embossed on it is an Ox for this is the year of the Ox. It is very meaningful to me especially since I am going into my 5th Cycle of the Zodiac...oops I am getting antiquated! If I get one of this it will probably hang from my wall for eternity.

Another posting on pressed tea cake later.

Friday, April 3, 2009

DVD Review: Doomsday

Watching Neil Marshall’s Doomsday is like watching a loved one make mistake after mistake – you know what they’re capable of and the good they can create, but really because you care about them so much you have to just sit and watch them fail, because it’s for the better. Doomsday encapsulates this feeling; a pastiche of post-apocalyptic /80’s action films, Marshall pays homage, or, let’s just call it like it is – apery, to films like Escape From New York, Mad Max, Aliens, and even modern video games like Silent Hill and Resident Evil; however, the only way in which Marshall’s film succeeds is in making the viewer wish they were watching the source material that Marshall borrows from. All I can say is that I hope the failings of this film will provide Marshall with an adequate “what not to do” list for his next picture.

One of Marshall's homages -- the silhoutted infected
reminded me of the above pic from Lamberto Bava's Demons

The film opens with a virus infecting Scotland. A wall is built on the border of Scotland and England in order to isolate the infected. Evil shenanigans ensure from politicians who seek to kill off the entire city and then claim there is a cure at just the right moment. Of course, as we know with films like this, anytime that Marshal Law is declared things go haywire rather quickly.

We are introduced to the main character Eden Sinclair (great name) when she is a little girl. Her mom is trying to get her across the wall so that she will be safe. As the riot ensues (caused by the chaos of Marshal Law) shots are fired and one of the bullets strikes Eden in the eye. Her mom does indeed find her a ride out of the chaos, but Eden is left with only a letter with a return address as evidence that her mother existed. She flies off and we learn about the history of the virus and how it died off.

Flash forward many years (or as Marshall puts it “2036 NOW”) as a much older, sexier Eden dons an eye-patch (like Snake from Escape From New York, just one of thousands of John Carpenter references) and a gun, and we see that she and her partner are infiltrating a slave operation. This gives Marshall the opportunity to make references to James Cameron action films and show lots of blood. There’s even a nod to Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond with one of the nastiest looking shotgun deaths I’ve ever seen. We learn that Eden is cold and dethatched, even after her partners’ death all she cares about is that they got the job done. Word comes across the wire to her boss (the always great Bob Hoskins) about the big bad virus coming back and how they think they find a cure for it….so naturally Eden is a perfect fit for a top secret operation that involves taking a team of troops into the no man’s land in order to find Dr. Kane (Malcom McDowell) who may know about the cure.

There’s your story. Along the way we get oodles of references to Aliens (rag-tag group of military who all specialize in something, and spout off quirky lines under stress; also there is a scene, a great scene, where they search Kane’s laboratory and it evokes the great scene in Aliens where they find Newt), Mad Max, and the other aforementioned films. However, it’s about this point in the film (about 40 mins. in) that Doomsday lost me. Once the Mad Max stuff started happening and you had the torture and the psycho-punk, post-apocalyptic junk involving anarchy and cannibalism, I was just ready for the film to move forward. I don’t care how bloody or wink wink Marshall’s film is, it just wasn’t interesting.

Seriously, the entire ending is filmmed like this --nothing more than a car commercial. I half expecting to hear Jeff Bridges tell me about "the open road..."

Not only did I not dig the Mad Max stuff, but that’s only part of the film! When they escape from these psycho punk rockers the film turns into Lord of the Rings (seriously) and then turns into a weird mix between Army of Darkness, Gladiator, and George Romero’s Knightriders. You see, because the government neglected the other side of the wall, evolution took over as history repeated itself and it became survival of the fittest. Therefore you have a dystopian society with the Mad Max portion of the film, and then a call back to the medieval days with the second half of the film. This is where Eden and her crew (down to just three people now, per horror film standards about the dead weight getting knocked off, think Aliens again) find Dr. Kane as he is ruler of his “kingdom”. It’s just a strange, strange moment and I never got into it. From here the film takes another bizarre u-turn as Eden finds that Kane has been hording all sorts of goodies in an abandoned mine – these goodies include cell phones and a really nice car….after that the film goes back to the Mad Max portion while simultaneously turning into a car commercial – Marshall even films it so.

The film is a mess, and it’s a damn shame too because I love Marshall. Doomsday’s sum is never quite as good as its parts, as I was constantly entertained or enthralled, but I just didn’t give a crap about it. You see, that’s the difference between this Marshall film and his masterpiece The Descent, which was also art through imitation. The difference being that The Descent had characters and situations involving their past that we cared about. With Doomsday Marshall completely abandons the reasoning why Eden would be so inclined to go on a suicide mission, and really, only is it at the end that they call back to the fact that she constantly sought her mother’s home and to know who she was.

Many people give Quentin Tarantino a hard time because they believe he doesn’t do anything different in his films than what Marshall does with Doomsday, but I would disagree, as again, you can look no further than Marshall’s previous film and see the same style on display in Doomsday, just with more substance to it. Matt Zoller Seitz wrote a review for the New York Times when the film was released, and really his final line of the review best encapsulates what’s so wrong with Marshall’s film:

In terms of story, “The Descent” and “Doomsday” are as different as two genre films can be, but the falloff in artistic quality is still quantifiable. Where “The Descent” was a slow, quiet, exquisitely modulated, startlingly original film, “Doomsday” is frenetic, loud, wildly imprecise and so derivative that it doesn’t so much seem to reference its antecedents as try on their famous images like a child playing dress-up. Homage without innovation isn’t homage, it’s karaoke.

So it’s a missed opportunity. As I said it’s an entertaining movie, but really it never goes beyond that. It’s a gore fest and gore hounds will be satisfied, but there’s no context for the gore, so really we just see fake heads rolling around on display and excruciatingly long chase scenes that never end all because Marshall had a budget, and used every last cent of it. And that rock score, my God it thumps and bumps and blares throughout, never ceasing, not even for a quick reprieve, and really, I guess that’s a good metaphor for how this film plays. Marshall just seemed overwhelmed with all the goodies at his disposal, and it reminded me of the carefree, kitchen sink style of filmmaking displayed by Sam Raimi in the third Spider-Man film. I’m glad Marshall had fun, and I’m glad he has the budget now to do what he wants. It was a nice vacation, but it’s time for Mr. Marshall to get back to work.

DVD Review: Quantum of Solace

The newest James Bond movie definitely feels more like a Jason Bourne movie, as so many critics have pointed out, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I have never understood the backlash to the Daniel Craig Bond films (granted there's only been two, but still...) as I think it's okay to throw a tree branch into the spoke of a machine every now and then. Marc Forster may have been the wrong man to direct Quantum of Solace, though, as he often mistakes action scenes for the viewer wanting to be "in" the scene -- this kind of hyper-kinetic filmmaking really bothers me, and there's a great chase scene where Bond is trying to track down a rogue agent, and really, it could have been one of the more amazing stunt pieces of any Bond film, but Forster films it in such a bizarre, kinetic way (actually speeding up the film in certain parts) that instead of being awed by the scene and its set pieces, we're left on the edge of our seat waiting for the scene to be over. If Forster could have shown just a bot of restraint, and pulled back his camera, and shown the fight in one steady shot, then the scene would have been phenomenal.

I don't have any really problems with this new Bond that they are fashioning, I think it's kind of a relief as the formula was wearing thin with the likes of Tomothy Daulton and Pierce Brosnan (who was damn good, by the way). Craig brings a fierceness to the role never before seen; a man motivated by a revenge and duty. He's almost like the Terminator in this film.

The action is top heavy for the most part in Quantum of Solace, as most of the action takes place within the first 30 minutes. They hit you with it immediately, and then they keep hitting you with it, but then the film slows down, and although it's not nearly as good as Casino Royale (that's a Bond film that knew how to balance the action with the intriguing storyline) it's serviceable, and certainly better than the bond films we were getting in the late 80's through the 90's.

The film looks and sounds amazing on Blu-Ray (thanks Brandon for letting me come over and watch it in your theater room), and really it served its purpose: it entertained me. Highly recommended for a Blu-Ray viewing.

Dog wallpapers

The Hooting In Connecticut

Wow! Joshua Carlton

The Hoot That Skipped A Beat

image removed at request of artist :o(

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ching Ming in Sibu

I am borrowing this photo from Wong Meng Lei just in case many of you do not read Chinese.

Ching Ming in Sibu is usually blue skies and high temperatures. And as many Foochows are Methodist this cross filled cemetery scene is just so representative of Methodist Cemeteries in Sibu.

the photo reminds me of the hymn we used to sing on Sunday :

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies
For the love which from our birth
over and around us lies
Lord of all
To thee we raise
This our hymn of greatful praise. (Folliot Pierpoint 1864)

May all give a kind thought or two to our dearly departed and be eternally grateful for all that we have received.

Ching Ming Painting T'ang Dynasty

source :

Ching Ming Announcement and Thoughts of Sungei Merah

(Source : a 2007 Ching Ming announcement - San Francisco Gin Sun Association)

This is from a newspaper in San Francisco.

Overseas Chinese and most Malaysian Chinese Associations take care of the members from cradle to the grave. It is heartening that they take good care of all especially those who need hired transport for special occasions.

And this is a good example of how an association can step in to help members with good organisation.

The notice says a bus will be ready to transport members to pay their respects to their dearly departed.

This brings to mind many decades ago when Sibu-Sungei Merah Road or Queensway was so congested that many of my uncles and aunties from Sg. Maaw waslked all the three or four miles from the town to the Methodist cemetery in Sungei Merah so that they could pay respects to our late Grandfather Chui Chui and our late Granduncle Moh Moh and others as early as six in the morning so that that they visit all the graves of their dearly departed before it was noon. They would bring along hard brooms and water to give the graves an annual clean up. Flowers were not in style and fashion then. The crowd was almost shoulder to shoulder.

Sungei Merah would spring to life for a few days with almost every shop selling Ching Ming related goods. And after Ching Ming the old slow life would once more take over. Today Sungei Merah is no longer that laid back. This is almost a vibrant suburb or even a new township! But you can still see some chickens tied onto the handle bar of a bicycle or a small pig tied across a Yamaha motorbike. You can still catch sight of two baskets tied to a pian dan.

As I think of so many of my uncles' offsprings having huge air conditioned cars ( no less than Mercedes and some with drivers) perhaps it is their elders' filial piety which has brought them their wealth and success!! Or rather opportunities?

Love wallpaper


Steve Roberts

The Hoothouse Flowers

Tim Kern

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

45 years of Bristol-Sibu Friendship

I was one of the bright eyed and hopeful students who joined the Journalist Club of the Methodist School because I was not tall enough to play basketball and not slim (not fast) enough to play table tennis. I had to choose from several other clubs but finally chose to write in English.The Advisor of the club was Mrs. Wiltshire the wife of the school Principal then. She taught me more than one life long living skill.

Besides being a great mentor she opened our eyes to the world and worldly issues which we as students in Sibu could never have been able to do ourselves. Many of the club members enjoyed a long lasting friendship of more than 40 years with her! Even when they returned home Mrs. Wilsthire continued to write and encouraged us.

I in particular appreciate her kindness and friendship. And as my family grew I looked up to her as my counsellor and friend. She came to visit several times and I had visited them in Singapore and in Bristol. Their home in Bristol is full of Sarawakiana memorabilia which will make any Sarawakian visiting them feel at home immediately.

She encourages me to take great interest in local social history as she herself is researching on her own family history which stretches back more than 300 years. She writes about her garden which delights my soul. And she talks about the weather and what she sees in her surroundings bringing a European window to my hot equatorial environs.

At first it was the plain and reasonsly priced aerogramme (30 cents to the UK) We continued write each other as we caught our first strands of grey hair: hers already quite grey and mine grey on black. Her daughters grew into teenagers interested in games and music and then later got engaged to great guys while mine were learning to ride their bicycles . She and her family enjoyed eating Indian food while I go in search of a nice pumpkin to make a Dayak soup or make English scrambled eggs the way she taught me one Easter so long ago in Sibu.

though we are quite different we are remarkably the same as we believe in alleviating the plight of suffering women and supporting endangered species of all kinds. We savour the good values of our ancestors and hope for the best for our future generation.

Here's her most recent mail which brings sunshine to my garden and delight to my soul as a good neighbour could:

Right now we are enjoying full on spring, except it's a bit chilly still. Mona visited for a couple of days. We just did ordinary things together, visiting the garden centre, riding our local train, enjoying each others company.
Then Pat and David came over after a family wedding down south.Grace and Pete joined us for an Indian meal out and we are still enjoying the leftovers without the bother of making them.They'll soon have both Tom and Kate home for Easter.We had also spent Monday with Grace visiting a National Trust Tudor/Restoration style house. Lots of blue and white china and elaborate wall hangingsand rather gloomy so as to protect them

P&D invited us up to the Lake District later .Just a short local train ride then a long one and they'll meet us so we are tempted but again right now K spends 3 mornings a week volunteering at the South West Green Party European Election Office.Have you heard about the film, "The Age Of Stupid"? We have seen it premiered in Bristol.Please look it up on the web.

You may have heard that 35,000 marched in London last Sat for "Jobs ,People and the Climate". We had considered joining the March tomorrow as the G20 meet but old age and wisdom prevailed as we both agreed that if we lost each other in the crowd the other one would be very worried!.

.... We are in the throes of getting some more estimates for replacing our 75 year old original guttering and "soffits", i.e under the eaves.and planning my 75th birthday in June with a garden party with family and friends for lunch and neighbours joining us for tea.
So what are you planning to do next?

Can you recognise Mr. Wiltshire- Mr. David Johnson -Mrs. David Johnson and Mrs. Pauline Wiltshire? Grace is every inch her mother. Pete (Grace's husband is next to Mrs. Johnson)

And I really hope that every generation would be able to connect with their teachers and friends in their special ways and be long lasting friends.

Comments are free
Facts are sacred
Truth will prevail.
(Charles P. Scott)

Fashion Clothes

Wholesale Fashion Clothes Sold at Economic Prices

If you are looking for the most affordable clothing wholesale, purchase apparel stocks at Asian fashion wholesale manufacturers. Hong Kong fashion wholesalers from all throughout the world have the opportunity to shop for clothing supplies wholesale at CausewayMall.

CausewayMall is a wholesale online shopping mall, which specializes in wholesale women’s apparel. This wholesale manufacturer from Asia sells cheap, ladies, wholesale clothing. Whether you want to buy junior wholesale clothing or women fashion clothing wholesale, you will be able to take advantage of the company’s trendy styles.

For one, you can buy Japan & Korea fashion clothing. You can also shop for Hong Kong fashion clothes. Causeway Mall is a cute trendy clothes wholesaler, marketing items which are of the latest fashion. You have thousands of choices when you shop for wholesale Korea style fashion clothes. CausewayMall sells blouses, skirts, dresses, pants, clothes sets, and jackets.

Getting the Best Deals Out of Wholesale Fashion Clothes

When choosing from a long list of clothing suppliers, choose a company or manufacturer that sells wholesale fashion clothing. One such company is CausewayMall, which is a Hong Kong fashion clothing manufacturer.

This Hong Kong clothing wholesaler sells its items at an economic price, when you shop in bulk orders. Another advantage that CausewayMall offers is the utmost trendiest styles in the fashion industry. This is something that you can expect, despite the fact that CausewayMall sells its wholesale fashion clothing at lesser costs.

CausewayMall sells its apparel internationally. The apparel that provides is inspired by Japan & Korea Fashion Clothing. This implies that your clothing supplies wholesale are comprised of chic and trendy designs.

There is no way that you can get designer clothes wholesale at affordable prices. Fashion clothing usually means expensive tags. But when you shop at CausewayMall, you will be able to supply your clothing retailer shop with designer and fashion apparel without sacrificing your profit.

Cool wallpapers

A Wise Dino

A very wise retired First Admiral of the Malaysian Navy (from no less Kampong Sessang in Roban- Sarawak) sent us this picture.

A.Marzuki has sailed the seven seas;lived in Beijing for many years and is a good friend. He took little steps from his kampong and slowly made his way up. His is one of life's greatest stories. He writes better pinyin Chinese than I. (Stay tuned - story coming up)

And for some young people out there here is something from senior citizens....Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Counting Down the Zeroes: You Can Count on Me

[This is a repost from last month. Why repost? Well, because the wonderful blog Film for the Soul is Counting Down the Zeroes. Click the link for the explanation. This is one of my contributions to the ongoing discussion involving films from 2000. I'll be back later with another film (re)view: the sorta-ingenious "slasher" film Final Destination. Until then, go check out the other fine entries over at Film for the Soul.]

Almost ten years ago Kenneth Lonergan made a film about a brother and sister that seemed painfully realistic. Buried beneath the nuances was something universally identifiable for those of us who have siblings. The film had two breakthrough performances from Laura Linney, one of our finest actresses working today, and Mark Ruffalo, channeling his inner Brando (his characters name is even Terry, reminding the viewer of Brando's finest performance from On the Waterfront) and doing a helluva job never hamming it up. The film is You Can Count On Me, a small, almost completely forgotten film from 2000 that will probably go unremembered by the time all the "best of" lists commemorating the decade in film come out next year; however, it's a film of tremendous power and honesty, a film that evades every conventional emotional "gotcha" moment to deliver something honest and understated. In other words: real. Executive produced by Lonergan's friend Martin Scorsese, it's easy to see how he was attracted to such a familial story (think about the families in Mean Streets, Goodfellas, and Raging Bull), but friendship aside (Lonergan went on to help write Gangs of New York) I think Scorsese saw a film that had special elements in it: a film that doesn't play by Hollywood's conventions when it comes to a family drama.

Sammy (Linney) and Terry (Ruffalo) are brother and sister, and as the film opens we find out their parents have died. Immediately Lonergan shows great control of the dramatic action as he handles this opening scene with visual language, rather than having the characters spell it out for the viewer in a fit of false tears and overacting. A policeman comes to the door to inform the babysitter that something awful has happened. Lonergan then cuts from the police officer, who hasn't said exactly what's happened (we knows there's been a crash, but we don't know how bad it is) to a church steeple. The effect is far greater than how these types of scenes are usually handled.

Flash forward to present day and we see Sammy taking care of her eight-year old son Rudy. Sammy is taking care of Rudy by herself, and we get the sense early on that she raised Terry, too. Sammy hears from Terry and prepares for his return. There is something especially recognizable and wonderful about the way Sammy glows at the news of Terry's arrival. The prodigal son (or brother in this case) is returning.

When we meet Terry he is bumming money off of his girlfriend and telling her that when he gets back she may want to think about moving out. Terry is someone who is not sure what they want, a borderline drifter who feels happiest when he isn't challenged or asked to honestly excavate his feelings. Meanwhile Sammy is preparing for Terry's return only for Terry to tell her that he "got on the wrong bus". Terry is in town, he's just not ready to face his sister yet.

Their reunion, when it does finally happen, turn sour quickly as Terry makes his intentions known. He plans on asking Sammy for money, and then bolting the next day. Later Terry spends the night at Sammy's and learns of his girlfriends attempted suicide. This breaks Terry, and in a great scene of power Lonergan stays on the scene just long enough for us to feel something for Terry, but he doesn't dwell there; this is a special moment shared between brother and sister, and the viewer isn't meant to see the whole thing. What follows is Terry staying in town, getting to know his nephew Rudy (disappointing him along the way), and Sammy acting like an immature high school girl towards the two men (her lovers, more on them later) in her life.

What I love about the film is the way Lonergan just kind of hangs around and lets us watch these characters grow, think, mess up, and just act like normal people, not over wrought caricatures designed solely to tug-at-the-heart-strings. Linney earned herself an Oscar nomination for the film, which is amazing considering that there aren't really any "Oscar" scenes in the film. Everything is underplayed, and played for a more contemplative effect, rather than a spur-of-the-moment, manipulate-your-emotions effect.

There's one moment in particular that I'm thinking of that sums up the many layers to the film. Terry and Rudy are getting along great, and Terry is something of a positive male role model in Rudy's life, something he's never had. Terry treats Rudy like an adult, talking to him like an adult, taking him to to adult things like playing pool and such. Terry has told Rudy that he will take him fishing, only later int he week Terry is upset with Sammy because she has sabotaged him by asking the local priest to come over and see what's "wrong" with Terry and his lack of direction in life. How does Terry take out his frustrations? Not on Sammy, the person who raised him (and is still raising him), but by punishing Rudy and simply telling him, in a very eight-year old manner, that he is no longer taking him fishing. Later that night in the hallway Sammy, immediately on Terry's game, tells him that he can punish her any number of ways, she understands that he's pissed at her, but don't take it out on Rudy by canceling the one event he's been looking most forward to. Terry passively aggressively states that he isn't punishing Rudy and that after what she and the priest said he just doesn't think that it would be a good idea for Rudy to around such a poor role model. Sammy's response: "you suck", and she throws some towels at him.

It's a scene that could have been played a number of different Ordinary People type ways, ways that serve as nothing more than Oscar-bait. But I love how Lonergan writes that scene, putting an exclamation on it by having Sammy say something that is real, and actually kind of funny. Is it a crap thing for Terry to do? Yes, but it's the type of moment that happens in a lot of families, and it's not the end of the world. It's something that makes you laugh because the scene has a familiar ring to it.

Terry does redeem himself by picking up Rudy for fishing the next morning, but he continues his buffoonery and immature actions by taking Rudy to see his estranged father. This scene is a forgone conclusion the moment we hear Terry talking about it. Once again, watch the way Ruffalo acts through this scene. Always sure of what he's doing, but as the viewer we know that his immaturity will get the best of him and the scene can only end badly.

Terry isn't the only one who is immature and unsure of their life path, Sammy is also trying to figure out what she wants. Once Terry moves in we see that Sammy is now back to raising Terry, in addition to raising Rudy. Lonergan makes the obvious connection here that Terry is no different than the eight-year old Rudy. Terry tries to make Rudy aware of how bad life is and how much of a simulacrum their little town is, and that he's be wise to get out of the town as soon as he can. Terry is just as fake though, never quite knowing what it is he wants, not only does his body language and temper-tantrum moments make him no more mature than Rudy (there is even a moment when he makes Rudy "promise" not to tell Sammy about taking him to a pool hall, making Terry sound just as much the kid as Rudy), his pseudo philosophies and the way he evades deep questions by firing back at Sammy's phoniness is no better than thousands of first time Cather in the Rye readers. Terry obviously is an emotionally underdeveloped male who resorts to brat-like moments when he thinks he has been wronged. There is a scene where he thinks Rudy has gone back on his "promise" about the pool hall incident, so instead of spending the day with him he drops Rudy off at his babysitters and tells him if he doesn't want to be adult about things and tell mommy about everything then he's going to spend the afternoon at the babies house. Ruffalo is astonishingly annoying and affective in this scene as he clearly gets across Terry's insecurities and childishness.

Sammy is not necessarily above Terry, either. Her downfalls are in the fact that she has always been responsible for raising boys, whether it be Terry, her childish ex-husband, and now Rudy, she has never had time for herself. She mistakes the abrupt nature of her having to act like an adult as a free pass for her to act childish herself once Terry is there to look after Rudy during the night. Sammy's been dating a man named Bob off and on. A year ago she was probably ready to marry him, but thinking on it now she's not ready; however she still calls him every now and then for some afternoon delight. The way she rings him up and her flippant "it's just sex" attitude shows how she too is as mature as high school student. Bob eventually pops the question, and all Sammy can do is laugh. Her response is to sleep with her new micro-managing boss Brad (played wonderfully by Matthew Broderick), who is in an unhappy marriage. Her and Brad rendezvous often, and it's an added layer to Sammy's character as we see her screw up time and time again that she knows Bob is the solid one, the obvious choice for a husband, but even during somewhat of a reconciliation with Bob after the proposal fiasco she realizes that she is late for her afternoon romp with Brad, and immediately leaves Bob with many unanswered questions.

Sammy may be seen as an irresponsible mother -- bouncing back and forth between two lovers, leaving Terry to put Rudy to bed so she can go off and have a good time -- but it's in these mistakes that makes Sammy's character so recognizable. The town priest sees her as an example, a beacon of how to do life right, but when she goes to see him and tells him that she is sleeping with a married man while stringing a decent guy like Bob along, the priest (played by Lonergan) simply feels compassion for her while Sammy is looking for more of a fire and brimstone type of punishment. This is what causes the visit from the priest to sting so much for Terry. He knows she's been sleeping with Brad, so when the priest says that Terry should be more like Sammy, it hurts, because now Sammy, the closest person to Terry, has become nothing more than a contradiction, one of the phonies that Terry rails against.

Terry and Sammy (and Brad for that matter) are real character types that we know, work with, or are ourselves. To err is human, and so rarely do we get a film that understands that people screw up, and that it doesn't have to be so extreme, it doesn't have to be an intense drama about a flawed character like Leaving Las Vegas (which is a great film, don't get me wrong) or a hokey parable about flawed people who learn to right their wrongs ala Bruce Almighty (not such a good movie). Lonergan's film is filled with the emotions that correlate with dealing with everyday problems and the results of trying the best you can to work those problems out.

Through all of the muck and mire Sammy will always love Terry, no matter how many times he screws up, and no matter how many times he reminds her that she's not the saint that everyone in town thinks she is. Lonergan's film touches on something deep and true about sibling relationships: even though we may be frustrated by them, it's almost impossible to severe those ties. The ending is so subtle in its power, not to mention it's a clinic in great acting. Terry is leaving and him and Sammy sit on a bench at the bus stop. They are thinking about the events that have occurred since he's been there, and how they as brother and sister have grown-up a bit. Sammy is crushed that Terry doesn't know where he's going or when he'll be able to get a hold of her. Terry pleads with her that she just has to trust him; trust him that he cares about her and Rudy, and trust him that he is responsible to take care of himself (something that is probably hard for a big sister who raised a little brother with no parents around). Terry comforts Sammy the only way he knows how, by telling her to remember and hold onto the "thing" they used to say to each other all the time as kids. This causes Sammy to cry uncontrollably, nodding her head she hugs Terry as he continues to ask "do you remember?" Here Lonergan does the right thing by never telling us what it is. This is Sammy and Terry's secret, their moment of the past, their password that made everything okay for a brother and a sister who had their parents taken away from them. And we don't need to know it, rather the viewer is left to think about their own "moments" with their brother and sister, and Lonergan and his wonderful actors nail this scene and make it better than any kind of Chris Columbus-type scene with "We Are Family" playing in the background.

Even though Sammy ultimately roots for Terry and will always believe in him, and no matter how powerful the final scene of the film is, there is also a more ambiguous feeling to the end scene. The moment Sammy cries and pleads for Terry to stick around, he is uncomfortable, and it's fair to say that one can view the ending as nothing more than Terry pulling out cliches from his bag of tricks he's used on Sammy over the years. When Terry tells Sammy that they'll have Christmas together, you can't help but think he's trying to do anything to make the tears stop for Sammy, perhaps alleviating some of her grief over him leaving, but more than anything just trying to make the moment less awkward for him. I think the moment when he tells her to remember what they used to say to each other as kids undercuts the selfish-Terry reading, but it's definitely there, and the fact that the ending (or the entire film) provides no real major epiphanies for the characters, you have to at least consider the fact that Terry hasn't changed by the end of the film.

You Can Count On Me is a rare film, a family drama that has genuine moments shared by the characters, moments that we as the viewer are not privy to, but have an inkling of what it is they're getting at because of our own experiences with the people in our lives who remind us of Sammy and Terry. This isn't an over-dramatic, screaming sibling rivalry film that goes for the easy emotional punch; it's a film that lingers on moments. Lonergan's camera takes its time and meanders though the small town capturing real-life moments that remind the viewer of the kind of honest, documentary-like filmmaking style of John Cassavetes. This film really is a testament to what a talent Lonergan is, he uses some great visuals like the opening and the way he uses buses to show the transitional phases of these characters; not to mention the fact that Sammy has to pick up Rudy and Terry (her children) at bus stops throughout the film. But it's also a film that showcases what tremendous actors Linney and Ruffalo are. Ruffalo's Terry is a performance that catapulted him to many starring roles, and Sammy got Linney a well deserved Oscar nomination and solidified her place as one of the go-to actresses who may not grace the cover of magazines (Joan Allen and Catherine Keener are others, too), but turn in great, under-appreciated performances film after film. This was 2000's best film of the year and it's certainly an under-advertised masterpiece.

It's sad that Lonergan hasn't had anything released since this film. He did help Scorsese write Gangs of New York, but it's been a Malick-like absence from him since he wrote and directed this film. He's had a ton of issues getting his next film, Margret released. The film stars Matt Damon, Anna Paquin, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Alison Janney, and Rosmarie DeWitt, but it has yet to get a solid release date. The film was made in 2005 or 2006 and was set to be released in 2007 and has just kept getting pushed back. The film sounds an awful lot like The Sweet Hereafter, but based on Lonergan's work here with You Can Count On Me and the way he handles big dramatic moments delicately (making them almost feel too nuanced or subtle) I have faith that Margaret can be a great film.
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