April 2007 Archives

Chinese indie post (finally)

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The other monkey (aside from the driving test, which I passed with flying colors / unknown score on first shot) that I want to get off my back this week would be the Chinese indie music post that I may've been telling people I'd make (or at least, telling myself that I'd do it). Well, for the past week, been gathering lots of albums, including some which I received by mail yesterday from Yesasia, and which I'll mention with selected tracks down here...

大頭佛 - 膊頭斜
- I got into Chinese indie through HK duo "My Little Airport", after I noticed their cover art for their "toddle at zoo" album. But the story doesn't say that I also got another album at random because of its cover art (who says presentation doesn't matter?), that of 大頭佛 (Tai Tau Fat), whose logo imitates that of HK fast-food chain 大家樂. They defined themselves as cutie rock. Wishing to find more infos about them on Google, I found that my entry on them was ranked #1 on Google for them, and that their site was down, which suggests that they've disbanded ever since (their last release was in 2004, so).

自然卷 - 99滴眼 (99 teardrops) - From Taiwan band "自然卷", also known as Natural Q. Their sound is tropical, evocative of warm weather, a panama hat, and convertibles on the seaside. This is the first track of their first album, "C'est La Vie".

旺福 - 有星星的晚上 (starry evening) - I discovered 旺福 off the Chinese Indie last.fm group, which is also the case for many of the artists below. 旺福 or "wonfu" as per their website url's romanization (it's actually more like wangfu in hanyu pinyin... maybe it's Taiwanese dialect?). They dress and sing like a 60s band! They've a track "DoReMi" in Taiwanese and Mandarin versions, which is totally lovely, as they rime "DoReMi" with "Wo Ai Ni".

順子 - 寫一首歌 (write a song) - From Shunza, with a half in English, which shows her decade and more spend in America. This is a soft ballad with acoustic guitar. The track was taken from the Simple Life music compilation from the urban festival (presumably in Taipei) of the same name. The album art features a booklet with 20-something pages of low-key artistic pictures processed to yield this 70s feel (it's rather cliche, but I can't name it). Compilation also has big names like Karen Mok, Fish Liang Jing Ru, and boys bands Beyond and Mayday.

亞里安 - 下一站德國
(next stop, Germany) - From out-of-print compilation "Pretty Happy & Gay" released by HK indie label People Mountain People Sea (人山人海 - A Chinese expression to mean "tons of people"). Not a favourite, but chose it b/c of its title, and the fact that it does indeed have a feel of German electronica. XD

Pixeltoy - 说说看 (say say look) - High-energy song from experimental/electronica duo Pixeltoy, with at17 as backing vocals, I think. The music video is on Pixeltoy's website (if you can find it). This is part of the newer compilation released in 2006 by the same People Mountain People Sea label, and is strong on electronica.

at17 - Don't Worry - at17 seems ubiquitous in HK. They're related to well-known songwriters, are themselves songwriters (I think) and are on the cast of TVB music show Jade Solid Gold. This is one song by them that I like a lot. Bought the album. It came with a DVD with music videos.

跳房子 - Try to
- at17 collaborated on the soundtrack of a 2004 HK movie called Butterfly, which features an exceptionally interesting soundtrack from independent artists. The group included Hopscotch, otherwise known as 跳房子 (literally "jumping houses"), a Mainland band signed by Modern Sky. The lead singer of the band also plays one of the two protagonists in the movie. Chose a track from their album Wishful Way, which isn't in the movie, but would perfectly fit its self-destructive mood.

陳綺貞 - 孩子 (child) - From Cheer Chen, 陳綺貞, one of the well-known indie/folk singers from Taiwan. Is my favourite songs of the moment. Would describe it as a Sunday morning after torrid night of love, but that only my bias from watching the MV (or hanging out all Saturday afternoon w/ the one you love). The guitar at the beginning is very last-years-of-Beatles-ish. Makes the emo side of me claw leather chairs. Man, too much.

曹方 - 城市稻草人 - Cao Fang. Discovered through a post over at My Randomness. She is dubbed the Mainland Cheer Chen, but I think she sounds like Faye Wong (well, then again, everyone sounds like Faye Wong). This track, City Scarecrow, sounds like the more grave type which I heard from Faye Wong, as rendered by the guitar fiddling, off-vocal moans, flute solos w/ middle eastern overtones.

The metro to Laval is opening next Saturday, so I'll grab on to the occasion to launch this:

http://www.metroboulotresto.com/

For all transit system geeks who happen to be foodies (or foodies who happen to travel by metro), this is your ultimate destination for restaurant reviews! It's a reimplementation of xanawu's restaurant page (who will also be a main contributor of this site - once she gets back from HK, I suppose). We will be adding stations profiles eventually, but for now, please take a look and drop us a line if you have comments/suggestions/questions! (The site is also bilingual English/French, if you click on the sub-headers.)

Fried calamari

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With tempura batter.

IMG_1343

IMG_1342

Fisherman's Life

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Part of my evening was spent at the Chinese Family Service of Greater Montreal (shown in collab with the Sierra Club), watching a short documentary following the lives of fishermen in small-town Taiwan called “Fisherman's Life", (河口人). It was not even in Mandarin/Guoyu, but in Taiwanese dialect, and the subtitles were in Chinese. It was nonetheless easy and straightforward to understand: the adoption of modernity in an indirect way forces the reluctant ones out. One could argue that you could indeed not give a damn about globalization et al., and just uproot entire communities and impose them an urban lifestyle, and make their family plantations into corporation-owned ones, or their fishing activities into vast pisciculture operations. But of course, the idea is that freedom of choice remains the foremost value in these societies, and that if they want to live in small villages, they can, and should be able to do so.

I‘m probably a little desensitized. In our society, the only couple of things worth something is a vote, and the power of money, or that which you have of choosing to support the causes of those you deem worthy of.

The film's director (I think?) has a blog. Even if yours truly couldn't understand most of what was said or written during the movie, it remains very beautiful visually, and eye-opening, giving one a new perspective of Taiwan.

Lu Mama

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Lu Mama

Went to Lu Mama, the new "in" place in the Concordia area it seems. Was told about it in two separate occasions in the past two weeks or so, and it opened just three or four weeks ago.

Lu Mama is the new occupant of the location that used to house Arirang, the Korean restaurant that had a fabulous Bi Bim Bap. Lu Mama is branded as "Asian fusion", and also, I don't know if I was told that, or saw it on a sign outside, as a Taiwanese-style restaurant. Indeed, it was "fusion", but in the sense that it served several types of dishes from all over Asia, from Japanese-style Curry to Chinese-style cold noodles. I think that the Taiwanese rice was the most noteworthy dish. The ingredients list was identical to La Maison Du Nord's famed pork sandwich, substitute the flat crispy bread for sticky rice (there is a variant on the menu with regular rice too), and namely pork fat, shredded pork and fresh coriander; with a soy'ed egg. Nothing special there, but you're talking to the same person who raves about Northern-style dumplings. XD

From recounts of friends, I preconceived Lu Mama as the type of upscale fusion restaurants they have in Asian metropolises where they sell you overpriced non-authentic, but still very good, Japanese-style food (it has raw fish). But no, none of that. Except for the Japanese menu that is as usual more expensive, the Chinese items on the menu were at prices more than reasonable, and a surer bet.

The chicken popcorn was had by the two groups of people who recommended the place, and we had it too. It was perhaps a rebranding of something I seemed to have had a million times at various bubble tea places, namely bite-size chicken (in mystery spice mix - I suspect ramen noodles soup base) fried with basil leaves.

The mussels grilled with cheese is also a novelty in Montreal, and not bad at all. I suspect that it is mayo mixed with something sour, but the taste is so familiar that I must've had this stuff (w/ or w/o the mussels) before somewhere. It is the closest that it gets to HK-style sai chaan grilled cheese langoustine.

The Taiwanese with garlic looked like an interesting pick for a next visit.

With the dim lights and lit tri-dimensional screens between tables, the setting is a tad intimate and perhaps upscale/intimidating. An entree, main meal (not Japanese) and dessert comes to 15$/person, all included.

Lu Mama is located on Ste-Catherine, near St-Marc. It's across the street from the Soupe et Nouilles with the little Nissin boy logo.

(Was told by Chris DeWolf, who had a chat with the owner (a twentysomething), that the restaurant was family-run, and that the mother runs the kitchen, thus the name of the restaurant.)

Met up with Alex at Magic Idea near Concordia after my calligraphy activity in Chinatown, and late lunch / early dinner at Kam Fung. Bars in the area being full at that point, I thought that one's best option remained bubble tea places, as they have relatively cheap food/drinks, and tellies (namely 6 or 7 of them at Magic Idea alone). The first Higgins goal was met with loud "Yessss" from our table, but we were soon joined by others as the goals on the Montreal side started to pour come second period. The late Toronto goals were met by equally loud "tabarnac" (to make it perhaps the Canadian-Chinese experience in both official languages, and now, national identities). The party on Ste-Catherine we were expecting never materialized.

My own interest in hockey stemmed from the 2001-02 run of two rounds, when the Habs upset the top-seeded Boston Bruins in six, then losing an emotional battle to the Carolina Hurricanes (the same who would break our hearts in 05-06), dropping the last two with large margins, following a bench penalty assessed to Michel Therrien, then Habs coach, and current one for the surprising Penguins. Toronto may've missed the playoffs last year, but they went to the conference finals in 01-02, whereas the Habs have never gotten there since their last cup in 1993 (also the last one by a Canadian team).

A playoff run by a Canadian team really absolutely changes a city. Habs flags were already starting to float above minivans in one's neighborhood, and people were preparing to wear their Saku Koivu jerseys to work. Quickly as it appeared did the excitement disappear. It's amazing how the Calgary Flames are now squandering their 12-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche and bringing upon themselves their own ultimate game, to be played away, tomorrow in Denver. We decided that we'd root for Vancouver and Ottawa.

(Ow man, I was just told that the Avalanche squandered a 1-goal lead into the third, such that the Flames qualify per the other team's incompetency!)

Death match, it is

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Rk Team Pts Sat Sun
8. Montreal 90 @ TOR -
9. Toronto 89 v MON -
10. NY Islanders 88 @ PHI @ NJD

If we win, we get in. If we lose in OT, we get in if the Islanders lose one game, or two in OT. If we lose in regulation, then we lose.

It is the most exciting race for the playoffs for at least the past five seasons. Three spots, 6-7-8, and five teams (although the fifth team, the NY Islanders, is a longshot).

Rk Team Pts Thu Fri Sat Sun
6. Tampa Bay 92 - v FLA @ ATL -
7. NY Rangers 92 v MON - @ PIT -
8. Montreal 90 @ NYR - @ TOR -
9. Toronto 89 @ NYI - v MON -
10. NY Islanders 86 v TOR - @ PHI @ NJD

For Montreal and Toronto to get in...

  • Toronto must win both games. If not, then they would not have either more points (92+) or wins (41+) than TB (92/44) or NYR (92/41), if either lost their two last.
  • Montreal must beat the Rangers, if TO wins on Saturday, because they cannot finish ahead of TB unless they have three points (and if TB lost its last two). The TO win on Saturday must then be an OT win, because Montreal lose the tie-breaker (nb of wins) to TB (44 vs 43).
  • If NYR loses its last two in regulation, then Montreal can afford to lose Saturday versus TO in regulation. If NYR were to win just a point from its two last games, then an OT win for TO on MTL would do it, as MTL wins the tie breaker with NYR (43 vs 41 wins), and TO also wins its tie breaker (2-1-1 versus NYR this season), with all three teams at 93 points.
  • If TB loses its last two in regulation, then an OT win by Toronto does it.

Montreal is in the playoffs on Thursday...

  • If it wins against the Rangers, and Toronto doesn't win (one point or less), or loses in overtime and Toronto loses.

We have a Montreal at Toronto deathmatch on Saturday, and...

  • If Montreal is still ahead by one point after Thursday's game, then Toronto must win in regulation. Montreal must hope for a tie at end of regulation or better.
  • If both teams have the same number of points, then obviously the winner takes all.
  • If Toronto is now ahead by a point, then the same situation applies, as an OT win by Montreal places both equal in points, but Montreal ahead in the tie-breaker (43 vs 40 wins).

We don't care about the Islanders, but...

  • Montreal must still win one game to eliminate them for good.
  • Or eliminate themselves by losing a game in regulation, or two in OT.

And then I'll know whether I'll be watching the Sens / Canucks / Flames this Spring, or go line up at the Bell Centre for ticks next week...

*ded*

Casio pop band par excellence, My Little Airport released two new singles since the beginning, freely available on their website. The first one, "sad merchant", sounds like a game of pinball with lyrics, and the second one, "unemployed", is a cacophony of naive pop. The lightness of My Little Airport, I think, is what makes them so interesting (by no means unique, I'm sure).

I've yet to make a full Chinese indie post (been talking about it for two months) with some of the stuff from the queen of indie in China, miss moderntime, as well as from the general stuff that was ordered/bought/downloaded since my luck encounter with My Little Airport in Cafe Kubrick, Yau Ma Tei, HK.

In the meanwhile, I do recommend My Randomness, and the non-linear world, as two excellent English-language blogs specialized in Asian/Chinese indie. One of my current favourite songs is from this post, and played by 水母 (Jellyfish) which is, by the look of their e-mail, a band from the Mainland.

After my Linux/XP install last week, I managed to throw in Solaris into the blend. It wasn't simple, because a Solaris install had to be on a primary partition (you are limited to four with a standard msdos partition table) and it also had the side effect of rearranging your partition numbering.

On my first install, I decided to scrap a previous Ubuntu install, only to find out that Solaris overwrote my MBR, which I couldn't then restore to the GRUB boot loader.

What I did was to start over, starting with Solaris. WinXP is on a separate SATA hard drive, so I did not have to deal with it. The Solaris installer doesn't allow you to create Linux partitions. When I got to partitioning the drives, I created three empty DOS primary partitions (approx sizes -> 200Mb + 500Mb + 100Gb), plus the Solaris partition (20Gb). I let the installer do its deed, rebooted to check whether it was fine.

After this, I installed my four Linux distributions, accordingly to the last manipulation. With Ubuntu, the first Linux distribution installation I did, I reinitialized the partitions to Linux using the "cfdisk" command. I went through a normal Ubuntu installation, which also allowed me to repartition the largest of the Linux partitions in four equal parts of 20Gb (for each distro). I installed the other distros, making sure that /boot and /home were not rewriten.

When I finished installing the Linux distros, and rebooted the second time from the Solaris system, my GRUB boot loader had disappeared! I took out an Ubuntu CD, and repaired the MBR by mounting /dev/hda1 (/boot) to /mnt/boot, and then issuing "grub-install --root-directory=/mnt /dev/hda". Here is a copy of my menu.lst.

In Solaris, support for my network interface did not came "out of the box". It is a network adapter on an ASUS K8N-E Deluxe, which has a nforce3 chipset. I downloaded the free nfo driver, and burned the tar.gz on a CD. I followed the instructions in the readme, using amd64 as my architecture, and suncc as the compiler. For the network interface configuration, I followed this how-to for setting up a Solaris DHCP client. The driver loaded, but I did not have any connectivity. After changing a few things (by not configuring the driver under /kernel/drv/nfo.conf, and removing a few parameters to get from the dhcp server - configured on the last line of /etc/default/dhcpagent), I was able to configure my interface and access the external world.

After using Solaris for a while, I find its desktop environment (it is definitely gnome, or rebranded/modified gnome) to be slow to react. Maybe it's the graphics driver, as it isn't fglrx (with dual screen setup, like on the Linux installs). I've read reports that it is possible to have dual screens with the "ati" free driver (ATI doesn't have a release of its proprietary driver "fglrx", but I think it might be possible to make it work on Solaris if it does for Linux?), but I'm not planning to do it.

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