Burt Bacharach R.I.P.

16th February 2023

On February 8th we lost another music legend, the composer Burt Bacharach.

Bacharach’s music is often categorised as ‘Easy Listening’, yet the use of Jazz-style chords, and classically-influenced arrangements elevate his songs, making him one of the highest regarded song-writers of the late Twentieth Century.

His influence is ubiquitous; film soundtracks, adverts … even Oasis used his photo on their debut LP in 1994 (it can be seen in the bottom left).

I have musician friends who play all types of styles; they would all give their eye-teeth to write a Burt Bacharach song.

I’ll end this tribute with a link to two of my favourites.

Goodbye Burt … thanks for the music.

Burt Bacharach 12th May 1928 – 8th February 2023

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

A Valentine’s blog for people who don’t get Valentines.

14th February 2023

Charlie Kaufman from the film ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (2004).

Today’s blog is dedicated to people who “feel like crap.” Join the club.

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

Korean Cinema: Shades of a Heart (2019)

4th February 2023

Director: Kim Jong-kwan

A tale of loss and loneliness, memories and dreams and the dichotomy between life and art. Various unrelated people relate their personal tragedies to a seemingly dispassionate protagonist until we piece together his own story, and the film feeds back on itself; we end where we entered but now enlightened. A trailer may be viewed on YouTube:

‘Shades of a Heart’ is a rather slow-paced movie, somewhat in the style of fellow Korean director Hong Sang-soo. The supporting characters, detached from each other, give the film a vague European, existential air, while the cinematography and use of colour remind me of Hong Kong’s Wong Kai-wai, who also explores similar themes.

What follows is my interpretation of the film and as such, I shall be writing about the film beginning to end.

Watching the first time, I did find the film a little slow in places probably because we learn so little about the main character, Chang-seok. However, by the end I knew I had to rewatch the movie. My second viewing was now informed by my first. Yes, it was well worth the time.

The film is divided into six unequal chapters, four devoted to the supporting cast, one as a voice-over, and only at the end in chapter six do we learn about Chang-seok. Most chapters take place in one location, giving the film a theatrical quality.

Imagine a black stage. We hear a male voice saying that he sees himself, from behind, walking next to an old woman. His wife ? Mother ?

Cut to Chapter One, Mi Yeong

A café that is located in an underpass or subway. A young lady is sleeping, resting against the glass, then wakes. Our first view of Chang-seok is a close-up of the book he is reading. Immediately, we have themes of dreaming and literature. Suddenly the camera angle changes, and their positions are reversed. Mi Yeong is now camera right, Chang-seok on the left. We also view them from outside the café, giving a disconcerting, distancing effect.

After apologising for sleeping, Mi Yeong (played by K-Pop star IU) asks the man why he sits with her when there are so many empty chairs. He is here to meet her; they have been set up, a blind date which gets off to a bad start when she sees the book. Mi Yeong doesn’t trust fiction, as it is made up. Chang-seok is a writer. He makes up a story for her, about a tramp who revisits a hotel where he used to rent a whole suite. Only the old bellhop remembers him. A throwaway story, but another chance to introduce themes of loss and memory.

Mi Yeong appears bored and about to sleep. Before doing so, she tells about her boyfriend, how they met in this very café on a blind date. She then warns Chang-seok not to smoke, as his father had done.

Short focus lens, representing reality and unreliable memory.

“So now you recognise me ?” he asks.

The camera cuts back to the former reverse angle, only now, Mi Yeong has been replaced by an old woman. She has been reliving her meeting with Chang-seok’s father, who has now passed away. We see her wedding ring. Mi Yeong is not some flighty sassy girl, but a grieving, possibly ill, elderly lady.

Look around the café; solitary people sit, reading books or newspapers. One man even plays a board game alone. Loneliness, literature and loss.

We cut to an street scene and get a little of Chang-seok’s backstory. He has returned to Korea after seven years, and has noticed how people have aged. His mother, we learn, will live in a nursing home. Yet, this voice-over doesn’t seem to be addressed to us, the audience, or to a friend. Is Chang-seok making notes for a new novel ?

Yoo Jin is the next character we meet. Spring, we learn, is late this year, and the colours are still deep burgundy and brown as Chang-seok waits for this young lady who works for his publisher. We learn that she worked for him as editor, so they have a professional history. Yoo Jin feels that his last novel was too personal to be fiction, even though the main character dies, which could be a reference to Chang-seok’s emotional life. Something has been lost, but we, at this stage, still have few clues, only that he feels he has no more stories to tell.

Yoo Jin is dismissive of her CEO’s work, and is referred to as ‘harsh,’ and ‘cold.’ However, when she sees a dying bird, she appears troubled and sympathetic. Meanwhile, we see a middle-aged lady talking to herself, muttering about the wind, and asking to hold hands.

A short time later, as they are smoking (Chang-seok has ignored his mother’s warning), we hear Yoo Jin tell her story, about having an Indonesian boyfriend. She got pregnant and had an abortion.

Chang-seok doesn’t immediately react and when he does, it is with a non sequitur, an anecdote about Buzz Aldrin’s book (more literature) ‘Return to Earth,’ meaning that it is harder to return than to leave. Clearly he is speaking about himself.

Yoo Jin fails to see how this connects with her story.

We cut to night scenes, Chang-seok eats in a restaurant, while some women are using sign language in the background. Communication, the need to connect. We see a bar, a close up of a ship in the window. Chang-seok decides not to have a drink. Instead he goes to a phone box, but it has been vandalised. No communication is possible.

Part Four is where we meet Sung Ha, a middle-aged man and former acquaintance. Chang-seok is working on his laptop in another café, and the two meet by chance. Sung Ha seems very upbeat, a little too much, as if it were forced. As Yoo Jin masked her pain by a cold exterior, Sung Ha is the reverse. We see he carries cyanide with him, which he will take when he wife dies.

Sung Ha’s wife has been in a coma and, desperate for any remedy, he sees a Buddhist monk and follows his instructions. Incredibly, the wife seems to have come out of the coma and has opened her eyes.

Then Sung Ha excuses himself as he has a phone call. In that time, Chang-seok takes the cyanide bottle. Sung Ha returns and says he must go to the hospital. His wife has just died.

Ju Eun is the lead in part five. She is working a quiet bar, has short black hair, wears black and has tattoos. Additionally, one eye seems lighter. She exudes an air of coolness, aloofness and indifference. Tonight is, she informs Chang-seok, her last night, so he can stay as long as he likes.

Chang-seok is writing in a notebook, and tells Ju Eun that he is waiting for someone (rather than admit to being alone), but his story doesn’t convince her at all.

Ju Eun likes that he uses pen and paper in this modern age, saying that she uses a voice memo app to record ideas, then transcribes them later. She writes poetry based on her customer’s stories. If the stories are boring, she invents a reason why they are boring.

Without waiting for the question, Ju Eun opens up, explaining that she was in a serious accident, where she lost her eye, was scared on her chest and has lost most of her memory. She offers free drinks to customers who ‘sell’ her a memory which she can record, a form of a Faustian pact.

Chang-seok’s memory story is, perhaps predictably, disappointing and uninspired, yet it pleases Ju Eun. They drink together. Ju Eun’s favourite glass is shown to be chipped, imperfect. She kids him again about waiting for a friend; she has heard all the stories. Chang-seok doesn’t ask her about her future plans

The final part is where we learn about Chang-seok. At home, on his desk, sit the cyanide. He leaves the apartment and goes to a phone box, calling his wife in England. The background music is unobtrusive but ominous.

During the conversation, the wife, who is also Korean, says she misses him and agrees to get back together.

“Soo-yeon misses her Daddy.” This stops Chang-seok, and he tells his wife that their daughter is dead. The wife dismisses this, saying that their child is sleeping next to her. However, the unemotional voice leads us to believe that she hasn’t accepted the death and still thinks the child is alive.

Chang-seok knows that both his daughter and, at least for now, his wife are gone. This can explain why he appeared so indifferent to Yoo Jin’s confession. At home, he prepares the cyanide.

We cut to the blue light of dawn, a new day, new hope. Chang-seok walks past the bar, the toy boat still prominently displayed in the window. He looks up. In the distance, an old man is helping an old lady to walk up a street. Is this Chang-seok in the future ? Does he find happiness with a new wife, or does he reconnect with his present one ?

The picture turns black and white. Suddenly the woman from the Yoo Jin sequence appears, but now she has a small boy with her. The boy is carrying the toy boat, from the bar, and the mother tells him to hold her hand, to stop him losing her.

We see Chang-seok writing. He has a new idea for a novel. He is writing about the happiness he lacks, literature is creating a life. A made up life is better than no life.

He is with his wife. They still love and care for each other after all these years. A young mother is so happy, her son is her entire life. We hear the lines from the beginning, Chang-seok sees himself from behind, he is both observer and observed.

‘Shades of a Heart’ keeps the audience guessing until the very end when we have to re-evaluate Chang-seok and his life. We know things are not what they seem when Mi Yeong transforms from a young girl to an elderly lady, but we are kept waiting until the end for the emotional release, the tears about the dead daughter, the dying mother and a mentally scarred wife.

Kim Jong-kwan has made a film that demands several viewings to appreciate its beauty, delicacy and pain.

Kim Ki-duk 1960 – 2020

2nd February 2023

Another belated obituary, this time for the Korean auteur Kim Ki-duk.

One of the few Korean films I have seen at the cinema is his ‘Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring‘ from 2003, which tells the life of a Buddhist monk in a secluded temple.

The film uses long takes to convey the slow passage of time, while the scenic lake and mountains add to the tranquility despite worldly temptations and intrusions into the retreat.

His first international success was his fourth film, ‘The Isle‘ from 2000. Hee-jin is a mute who operates a floating resort where people can live alone. One day a man wanted by the police arrives, and hides out at the isle.

The two become close although, typically in art house movies, the ending is open; we see them floating away but have to decide for ourselves what their future holds.

3-Iron‘ was released in 2004, telling about the unconventional relationship between a housebreaker, Tae-suk, and an abused housewife, Sun-hwa.

The film can be taken literally, or interpreted in several ways. A popular theory is that Sun-hwa invents Tae-suk as a way of protecting herself from her violent husband. The fact that the two never exchange even one word during the film could support that view.

The beauty of such works, what distinguishes a work of art is the very fact that the viewer has to be personally involved, almost to be a co-writer. Any theory is valid provided it can be supported by evidence from within the film.

Kim Ki-duk won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival for Best Director with this film.

Kim ki-duk made over thirty films, but my favourite is 2004’s ‘Samaritan Girl‘ which was one of the first films I watched when I began to seriously explore Korean Cinema.

The subject is teenage prostitution, one girl acts as pimp, the other provides the service until they can save enough money for a trip to Europe. I shall not spoil the plot in case you want to see the film.

At the Berlin Film Festival, the film won the Silver Bear, the second-place award.

Kim Ki-duk’s films are controversial, not just for subject matter, sex and violence, but some films show animal cruelty, which brought him into conflict with various censor boards.

I didn’t know too much about Kim’s personal life until I began to look online after I heard about his passing.

I discovered that he had been accused of physical and sexual violence. From what I have read, Kim was charged and fined for physical violence against an actress, but due to lack of evidence, there were no further charges. More details can easily be accessed online.

One has to state that these are allegations, and I have no way of knowing the truth. Nevertheless, it is very disturbing and distressing. As such, I felt I couldn’t call this a tribute. Instead, I wanted to highlight some Korean films that I have enjoyed, challenging films from a controversial director.

Scene from ‘The Bow’ 2005

A website rating Kim Ki-duk’s films may be accessed here: https://www.tasteofcinema.com/2017/all-22-kim-ki-duk-movies-ranked-from-worst-to-best/3/

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

David Crosby  R.I.P.

22nd January 2023

Less than two weeks ago we lost legendary British guitarist Jeff Beck. Today, we mourn the passing of another 60s icon, David Crosby, who passed away aged 81.

David was a member of the Byrds, playing on their first five LPs, before forming the supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash. Famous for their vocal harmonies, the group, frequently augmented by the addition of Neil Young, eptitomise the ‘California sound’ of the late 60s and early 70s.

Graham Nash said of David, “He spoke his mind, his heart, and his passion through his beautiful music and leaves an incredible legacy.”

Crosby (bottom left) in the Byrds.

The debut album of the supergroup.

David Crosby August 14th 1941 – January 18th 2023

Please Note: All photos are taken from Google Images or free photo sites, and are used for educational purposes only. No copyright infringement or offense is intended. If I have used your photo or image, and you wish me to remove it, just ask. This site is not monetized, I run it on my own dollar. Thank you.

Jingo Harleyman on Bandcamp … and it’s all FREE !

2nd December 2022

Yesterday, before work, I finally opened a Bandcamp account for my solo project Jingo Harleyman.

I am really not tech-minded, so completing anything online is a minor victory for me. I still need to add a photo and a bio but at least I have uploaded six tracks, and hope to add more today.

The address is: https://jingoharleyman.bandcamp.com/

The music, which I recorded on various phones and iPad apps, is available to download free of charge.

The six tracks are taken from the twenty-four track project ‘Hari Karachi & the Durango 4’, the soundtrack to an underground cult film.

You may watch clips from the film on YouTube:

Part 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fsmo9VDTZXw&ab_channel=Chadav

Part 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNtSgvvBLLQ&t=284s&ab_channel=Chadav

Part 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RODBAMlmg8o&t=217s&ab_channel=Chadav

Part 4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jC3p1ChzsUk&t=405s&ab_channel=Chadav

Meanwhile, I need to learn more about Bandcamp and make the dashboard more appealing. Any help, tips or advice will be gratefully appreciated.

Furthermore my band Butterfly Decal also need a Bandcamp page, as we have a number of tracks already completed.

I’m working with my old friend Niall Keohane in this band, and Niall’s technical expertise elevates the low-fi music; he makes it sound professional and epic !

Niall’s also a multi-instrumentalist, and regularly plays gigs and makes recordings.

In case you haven’t heard anything from Butterfly Decal (there are several videos on YouTube), here’s one from Niall, about the love affair between Jazz legend Miles Davis and French singer Juliette Greco:

Thank you all very much for your time

All the best from Sai Gon

Swedish Rock … and hej då to Stella.

4th October 2022

Ni Hao Stella ? How are you ?

Everyone allow me to introduce you to my favourite YouTuber, Stella, who has a channel dedicated to music :

As you can see from this screenshot, Stella discusses individual bands, favourite songs and genres of music, all in an educated yet very entertaining manner.

Her laugh is just about the cutest thing you will ever hear, as well.

I suggested Stella take a look at some Swedish rock and pop bands; not the global acts such as Ace of Bass, The Cardigans or Rednex (not to mention ABBA) but the lesser known bands, the indie rock of Stockholm, Gothenburg and my old stomping ground, Malmö.

KB music venue, 10 minutes walk from my old apartment in Malmö

What follows is the tip of the Nordic iceberg, a very mixed bag of styles and attitudes. I hope you find something of interest.

Tack så mycket (thank you very much)

To kick off, the first Swedish artist I heard, Thomas di Leva, and ‘Vi Har Bara Varandra.’ The title roughly translates as ‘We only have each other.’

Thomas was born in 1963, and achieved wide success in 1987, even being name-checked by David Bowie (the back blurb of a book on Di Leva). The main body of his work is from the mid 80s to the 90s, his last LP being released in 2013.

I think this song is so catchy, immediately infectious and memorable. I often sang it, along with the whole crowd, at festivals.

Next up is another band active from the mid 80s to the early 90s, Union Carbide Productions. My favourite song is the guitar-riff heavy ‘Golden Age.’ This one’s for you, Stella.

The band morphed into The Soundtrack of Our Lives in the mid 90s.

Now for one of Sweden’s biggest guitar bands, Kent. Here’s the video for ‘Dom Andra‘ from 2002:

The band, who broke up in 2016, released 12 albums. Lead singer and guitarist Joakim Berg also wrote for other artists, such as Lisa Miskovsky.

I saw Lisa at a free concert at the Malmö Festival, and she was amazing. This is a live version of ‘California Heart‘ from the 2006 ‘Changes’ album.

Staying in Malmö, Skilla is an all-girl band that I saw live on a few occasions. I once met Lisa, the guitarist, after a gig, and the lyricist Nina allowed me to interview her for a paper I was writing on linguistics. ‘Tragic Song‘ is from their debut album.

The next band, The Hives, had success outside of Sweden, an early album reaching number 7 in the UK charts. You may know this song, ‘Hate to say I Told You So,’ a great garage band thrash.

One Swedish band who apparently have quite a following in Japan is Mando Diao, and here’s the video for one of their early hits, ‘Sheepdog.’

Finally The Sounds, a band from Helsingborg, and ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll‘ from their 2002 debut album.

As mentioned, we have only scrapped the surface here, there are so many bands I omitted; Melody Club, First Aid Kit, The Mo, Alice in Videoland, Lisa Ekdahl, Weeping Willows, The Ark, Lykke Li, Veronica Maggio, Dolkows, Atomic Swing … I feel a Part Two coming on.

Hope you like this, Stella