Friday, August 28, 2009


I loved Macau!

Too tired to get into all the details but the Turbo Jet ride over was fun; the simple egg-and-tomato sandwich with milk tea lunch was perfect; and the two films we saw at the Cinema Alergia were not bad: Kungfu Cyborg: Metallic Attraction was two-thirds fun and a third tedious and On Her Majesty's Secret Service was exactly the sort of HK throwback fun flick I needed to see -- even if I had to see it in Macau!

Dinner at Fernando's and now to bed!!!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

One Nite (Afternoon, actually) in Mongkok

It was hot, humid, and I'm a bit thinner for it, but I explored Mongkok today.

Didn't see any triads or celebrities but I did see Carina Lau looking stunning in a store display in a mall earlier in the day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Vengeance in Hong Kong

No, I didn't take vengeance on anyone -- though I want my revenge on the heat! -- I saw Johnnie To's Vengeance in Hong Kong!

Seeing Simon Yam and Anthony Wong on a movie screen in a theater in Hong Kong was an exhilirating feeling even if the film disappointed me a tiny bit -- not as good as the similar Exiled IMHO.

Ah Gil greeted us from the billboard!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hong Kong! (Or, I Survived The Flight!)



Dear God in heaven, I was prepared for pollution -- skies not too bad actually -- but the heat is like New Orleans-on-overdrive!

I hit the Avenue of Stars today. And got accosted by Indian tailor touts IMMEDIATELY as I left my hotel lobby.

I better save money for laundry service; packing double clothes was a good idea but if I go out more than twice a day, I'm going to be soaked with sweat each time.

I think I'll probably lose weight on this trip no matter how much good food I eat.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mandalay Restaurant, Fine Burmese Cuisine in Maryland

Well, I've posted on Anthony Bourdain's episode in D.C.; on the fine Vietnamese Four Sisters Restaurant in Virginia; and even on Penang Restaurant in Bethesda where I experiment with Malaysian cuisine, so it's about time that I finally posted about what is surely my favorite restaurant in the whole area: Mandalay Restaurant and Cafe in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Not only is this honestly one of my favorite eating establishments, it is conveniently located a mere block from my current place of employment.

I first went to Mandalay in its old location in College Park. At that time, the atmosphere was a bit cramped, and the interior not as fancy, but the food was just as interesting. In this area, there are two Malaysian restaurants, one Indonesian place in Northern Virginia, and now at least two Burmese restaurants. However, only a few years ago, Mandalay was the only place in this area where one could sample the cuisine of Myanmar (Burma).

This is a restaurant where I've never had a bad meal. Honestly. The family-run feel is still present and there's usually someone available to help navigate the menu -- or steer a regular into something new based upon that regular's preferences.

One of my favorite dishes is V08, Pe Pyoke Kyet Thun Gyaw which is a yellow bean -- Vatana -- mixed with scallion, onion, and perhaps onion powder. It comes with white rice and tastes just as good in the "mild" version as it does in the "spicy" version.

It's a must that I also get a "black ice tea" which at Mandalay means Iced La Pet Yay (number BG01 on the menu).

According to experts, Mo Hingar is the national dish of Burma and it's also a tasty addition to any dinner order at Mandalay. Mo Hingar is rice noodles in fish soup with cilantro and lime on the side (S02 on the menu).

Follow all of that up with Shwe Ji for dessert. Shwe Ji is cream of wheat, raisins, sugar, milk, and poppy seed topping baked golden brown in the oven.

I am not a great food writer so hopefully my pictures will convey the deliciousness of my favorite local restaurant.

Check out Mandalay here and the vegetarian menu is worth highlighting as well since some of this meat-eater's favorite entrees are on that page!

Frankie and The Heartstrings - 3 More Free MP3s and Saturday Gigs

As I posted last week, I'm a big fan of new, unsigned Brit band, Frankie and the Heartstrings. I first listened to them due to the presence of Pete from Kenickie on keyboards but, honestly, I think they are the sort of band I'd like even without that connection.

And my post last week offered 3 free MP3s to enjoy and, at the bottom of this one, there are 3 more free MP3s to enjoy!

(I fixed the old post's links as it seems that is down for another two weeks!!!)

First off: if anyone in the UK is reading this (and there are a few, I'm sure): the band are playing a few gigs this August weekend -- some "Saturday Gigs" to paraphrase Mott The Hoople:

(From their MySpace page)

"08/22/2009, 4:00 PM at Notting Hill Arts Centre
Clash Saturday Social (matinee show)
21 Notting Hill Gate
London, London and South East W11 3JQM

Cost: free!

Afternoon show with Tigers That Talked, Youves, Swimming."

And the same night:

"08/22/2009 8:00 PM at The Victoria, Bethnal Green
110 Grove Road, Bethnal Green
London, London and South East E3


Our evening headline show. we're the only band on, and it's free. As it's an evening show, we'll be working 'blue'
Map here;"

You can download "Possibilities" here.

You can download "Want U Back" here.

You can download "Fragile" here.

Check out the band's MySpace page and on Twitter as well.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Liam and Libertines...and Bernard Sumner

Well, the NME is touting their big Liam Gallagher cover interview and while I thought the last Oasis album was their worst yet, I still appreciate Liam as a sort of professional character; even on an off day, he's still more entertaining than the po-faced Coldplay or the humourless careerists that make up other innumerable indie bands on British and American shores.

That said, the NME has also provided a link to Liam's 50 Funniest Quotes along with some great pics of the singer -- he's still fun to read about.

And Pete Doherty is promising a reunited Libertines for next year's festivals in the UK -- provided he can get an agreement from Carl Barat.

I have purchased both of Barat's albums with Dirty Pretty Things, both of Pete's Babyshambles albums as well as his singles with Wolfman and Littl'ans and his solo album from 2009 and I can say that these guys need each other like Lennon and McCartney.

There are some great individual tracks on those above albums -- DPT's "Bang Bang You're Dead" is as good as many Libertines singles, and Babyshambles' "Deft Left Hand" is still in heavy rotation in my car -- but, clearly, they work better together.

And finally, Bernard Sumner from New Order has a new band, Bad Lieutenant, and he's posted some tracks online, according to the NME and other sites.

The single sounds like one of Monaco's best known singles -- Bernie is now copying his former New Order mate's 2nd spin-off band?

Lower your expectations accordingly before listening.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cherie Chung - Two Semi-Obscure Films

Mr. Mistress

How did Cherie Chung go, in the space of a few years, from near-classic films such as Peking Opera Blues and Hong Kong Hong Kong to crap like 1988's Mr. Mistress? This film is a mess!

Cherie Chung plays Alice Chung, an aerobics queen -- which in this film seems to mean a sort of dancer/exercise instructor/businesswoman -- who is visiting Hong Kong from America with her randy associate, Peter Tsang (Eric Tsang) in tow.

The film starts with a glimpse of lovely young couple Peter Ho (Hoh Sau Sau) and his wife (Nina Li) -- who also happens to be an aerobics instructor. The sequence is meant to show what a perfect little couple the two are, but Hoh Sau Sau is such a lifeless leading man in this film -- and Nina Li so vapid; like the poor man's version of Amy Yip -- that it was impossible for me to care about them as characters.

(The abundance of aerobics nonsense in the film's opening sections makes me guess that this film was made in the aftermath of US films like Perfect and Flashdance; the cheesy Conrad Nagel-esque posters in most of the interior scenes don't date too well either.)

So, Eric Tsang's character imagines drugging Nina Li and having his way with her -- a sequence that is supposed to be funny but is as unfunny as the laziest scene in any Wong Jing "comedy". Eric then accidentally drugs himself as the real-life version of this fantasy plays out and he dresses up in Nina Li's lingerie and hams it up a bit.

The film then abruptly switches tone to a more serious marital drama where Peter Ho's businessman, while attempting to seal a deal with Alice Chung, somehow thinks she is a hooker trying to seduce him in a hotel.

There is some "Three's Company"-style cases of mistaken identity and the couple bond a bit.

Then Nina Li gets jealous, Eric Tsang is fixed up with her cousin and so on.

A really tedious affair that, at 1 hour and 42 minutes, abuses even the most dedicated Cherie Chung fan's patience.

The only selling point of this film is Cherie Chung in a few sexy outfits in a few dance/aerobics sequences. However, if that is the purpose of your viewing, Maybe It's Love delivers on that angle -- and it's a somewhat better film.

The DVD I watched is a new remaster that at least looked decent in most places -- anamorphic widescreen -- even if the subtitles contained a lot of errors.

18 Times

If you ever wanted to see Eric Tsang's bare ass, this is the film for you!

In fact, I should warn any potential viewers that the barrel-like Hong Kong mainstay comes dangerously close to a full-frontal nude scene as well!

With that warning out of the way, I can report that this slight 1988 Cherie Chung film is not a total failure, due in large part to Cherie's scenes with Kenny Bee; it's abundantly clear that the two actors have great chemistry -- a chemistry that I recently enjoyed in The Flying Mr. B.

Cherie plays the unlucky-in-love Gigi, whose many lovers seem to die as soon as they marry the woman. The film is largely a series of vignettes of a few of these incidents until Gigi meets up with Kenny Bee's Jack Wong late in the film.

Gigi seems to be living off of the money she gets from these husbands and is accompanied by her assistant Chi (Hong Kong singing legend, Teresa Carpio).

Cherie's hapless young woman hooks up with a career protester (John Sham) and then Eric Tsang who is a kind of prop comic on the HK nightclub circuit. Maybe it was the faulty subtitles on this DVD, but he's not particularly funny. But it was interesting to see the actor with more hair and playing an almost normal character (apart from the comedy bits on stage).

Unlike his early roles where he was frequently manic, or his recent roles in many cop films, here Eric is a tiny bit more naturalistic.

A tiny bit.

Then Gigi gets involved with a gang of criminals that features an undercover cop, Hi Lo -- I think that was the name -- played by Lowell Lo. The gang's lead heavy is Hong Kong cinema legend Shing Fui On. This sequence is loud, confusing, and not very funny.

And then, finally, the final third of the film involves Kenny Bee's rich playboy, Jack Wong. These scenes almost feel like they belong to another film.

The scenes of the couple's courtship are almost charming and the antic "comedy" of the earlier scenes is more dampened until the finale of the entire film.

This film is not a classic but Cherie is quite appealing as she seems to be playing this much the same way that she played her role in Peking Opera Blues; no one could do that kind of sexy, wide-eyed innocence quite like Cherie could.

Director Joe Cheung is probably more famous as an actor (according to his filmography) but he also directed a few famous Hong Kong films (Bet on Fire and Pom Pom and Hot Hot).

Look for Shaw Brothers regular, Paul Chun as Gigi's psychiatrist. Fellow Shaw actor, Wu Ma is somewhere in this as well.

You can order Mr. Mistress on DVD here.

You can order 18 Times on DVD here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Frankie And The Heartstrings - Free MP3s to Enjoy! *UPDATED*

As anyone who's ever received an e-mail from me in the last 12 years could tell you, I loved Kenickie. And, as this post explained a bit roughly, the kenixfan e-mail addy is a paraphrase of a Kenickie flipside (from their single, "Nightlife"), and not a paean to actress Kenix Kwok.

So, as a Kenickie fan, and simply as a fan of good British tunes, I'm happy to share with you some MP3s to download from new band, Frankie and The Heartstrings, featuring Pete from Kenickie (back then he was known as Johnny X).

Side note: You should also check out Pete's solo incarnation as George Washington Brown. Catbird Records released an EP earlier this Spring and you can buy it as a download for only $3 here.

Frankie and The Heartstrings, like Kenickie and even the Arctic Monkeys on their early releases, have distinct influences which you can hear at first listen.

However, that's not an insult as, like Kenickie and the Monkeys, Frankie and The Heartstrings have already managed to turn those influences into something unique.

A song like "Hunger" may sound a tiny bit like Dexy's Midnight Runners -- or even classic single "Just Got Lucky" by JoBoxers -- but it has an earnestness that makes it much more than just a set of empty references to another era.

And "What Goes Around" opens with a keyboard figure that makes me think of Pulp's "Pink Glove", but the song quickly kicks into something closer to an exuberantly upbeat rewrite of Josef K's "Endless Soul".

As I said to someone dismissive of the Pipettes based upon their stage-show and look, the songs work with or without all that stuff; you can enjoy the songs even if you don't know the antecedents but, if you do, you might appreciate them even more as they are mixed into something fresh for modern listeners.

It's the same here, clearly; these are cracking good tunes.

At the moment, the band are unsigned but playing a ton of gigs in England.

*UPDATED* (with fixed links)

You can download "Hunger" here.

You can download "Tender is the Night" here.

You can download "What Goes Around" here.

Check out the band's MySpace page and on Twitter as well.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Kung-fu Instructor with Ti Lung *UPDATED*

The Kung-fu Instructor (1979)

Despite a magisterial performance from Ti Lung, 1979's The Kung-fu Instructor was a disappointment for this viewer. A sort-of remake of Kurosawa's Yojimbo, The Kung-fu Instructor finds Ti Lung as a -- you guessed it! -- kung-fu instructor caught in the middle of a turf war between the Meng and Zhou clans. The leader of the Mengs, played by Ku Feng, is the main villain of this piece. He bristles at the thought of Ti Lung's Master Wang training Zhou clan member Zhou Ping (Wang Yu). Zhou Ping's training has a few moments of comedy but not enough to keep the film interesting.

The problem with this film was that I didn't know about, and so didn't care about, either clan or the clan members. The characters are underdeveloped and Ti Lung's Master Wang remains just a commanding kung-fu master figure, willing to preach honor and train those who are worthy while providing a beatdown at every opportunity.

According to the Celestial DVD packaging, this was the first Shaw Studios film to use a Steadicam. I didn't notice anything exceptional about the camerawork. In fact, I'd say that the freeze-frames and slow-motion bits were highly distracting and seemed out of place in a film from 1979 -- they looked like early 1970's tricks to me.

Ti Lung's fighting scenes almost all involve the Shaolin rod -- the wooden staff that he carries -- and he does command our attention in these sequences.

But, after a few of them, I didn't really care who he hit as, obviously, he was clearly the unstoppable hero of the piece, fighting off nameless, faceless clanmembers without much motivation.

Angie Chiu is a woman caught in the middle of the two clans who provides the beginnings of some sort of romantic intrigue but that plot point is quickly abandoned.

Check out this news story on Angie Chiu who apparently has a role in the new Stanley Kwan film, Energy Behind The Heart, which I briefly briefly posted about last month.

You can order The Kung-fu Instructor on DVD here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Listen to the New Album from The Big Pink for Free

Until August 10, you can use the link/ad below to listen to the new album from The Big Pink.

Based upon my 1980's slavish devotion to the label, I still have a soft spot in my heart for any band on the 4AD label.

I don't know much about The Big Pink but I liked a song I heard on ex-Kenickie frontwoman Lauren Laverne's BBC Radio 6 show a few months ago.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Here Comes The Fear Again

A few people offline have asked me if I'm excited about my upcoming trip to Hong Kong.

As I've been on a bit of a Jarvis Cocker kick recently (see yesterday's post and this clip from the otherwise execrable Jimmy Fallon show), the first thing that came to mind in my attempt to answer the question is the opening track from Pulp's vastly underrated 1998 album, This is Hardcore

I think it pretty much says it all better than I could.

"The Fear", live on the BBC's Later with Jools Holland -- Pulp

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Silent Swordsman

The Silent Swordsman (1967)

A swift-moving 94-minute romp that had less to do with Chang Yi's titular swordsman and more to do with treachery on China's border, The Silent Swordsman was a pleasant surprise for this viewer.

Kung Fu Cinema has a thorough review that covers the plot and the historical significance of the setting. But, like with most of the Shaw wuxia films from this era, historical accuracy is not the priority of the filmmakers; it's like expecting historical accuracy from an Errol Flynn pirate picture.

No, the priority is a fun film and -- for the most part -- The Silent Swordsman delivers.

In a nutshell: barbarians are invading the country and warlords on the border are refusing to send for troops to protect the country. Instead, the warlords are hatching deals with the goal of becoming stronger despots in the future. Chang Yi wasn't even in the first third of the film as the action centered mainly on the clans and a series of double-crosses. Eventually, Chiao Chiao's noble father is ambushed and he flees only to seek solace in the compound of Tien Feng's Master Wu. Wu's little son soon betrays the hiding place of the nobleman to the dastardly Wong Chung Shun who has been pursuing the man across the countryside.

Chang Yi's Shen Bingyi and Daiyun (Chiao Chiao) are dispatched on a mission by the leader of the Sun Moon Club (Yeung Chi Hing) to gather support, presumably.

At this point, the film takes on a lighter tone as Chang Yi spies the skinnydipping daughter of Uighur (I think) chieftain Cheng Miu. There's a surprising (for 1967) bit of rear nudity of the daughter, Mengmeng (Shu Pei-Pei). But Mengmeng is not the only attractive Uighur girl: she has an older sister, Sisi (Shirley Hui/Yue Wai). There are a few songs, a feast, and some tiny bits of comedy as the two sisters soon both vie for the affections of Chang Yi's swordsman.

Eventually, Sisi becomes a nun to allow her younger sister more of a chance with the hero, which interjects some sudden drama into this section of the film.

The film is a weird mix of history and action. I think the brisk running time probably helps to keep things interesting. Those expecting Chang Cheh-style swordfighting are in for a disappointment. There are action scenes but the focus seems more on the larger plot and less on the prowess of any participants in the proceedings.

Look for Shaw regular Goo Man Chung as a duplicitous warlord.

And Lo Lieh makes an appearance in the final two minutes of the film.

Like other Shaw films of this era, the ending comes rather abruptly -- I found myself asking: "How can they wrap up all this if there's only 3 minutes left in the film?"

You can order The Silent Swordsman on DVD here.