Jay Chou blowing my socks off at the LA Sports Arena – January 8, 2011

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This past weekend, I got the opportunity to watch one of my favorite musical artists perform. I don’t go to concerts very often and rarely am I willing to pay money to listen to singers perform except for a very select few artists. Jay Chou falls into the “select” few. I drove up to LA from San Diego and met up with one of my really good friends who is also a fellow Jay Chou fan and has been following Jay longer than I have.

There are many things I love about Jay, but one of the things I respect and love most about him is how meaningful and deep his lyrics are (in addition to the amazing compositions of those songs with absolutely wonderful melodies which is his strong suit). My mandarin is definitely not very strong, but I can understand his message and the passion that comes through with his songs. Don’t ask me which one is my favorite, because once I start, I may not stop in giving you an answer 🙂 For those who are unfamiliar with Jay, he is a huge mega star from Taiwan, who is not only a singer, but the most amazing composer, pianist, rapper, and actor. In addition to playing the piano, he can also play the cello, the Chinese flute and zither, guitar and seems to be accumulating more talents throughout the years. He is currently trying to make his first Hollywood breakthrough with his debut as Kato in The Green Hornet, which I hope will be very successful (because I am a bit biased).

I haven’t really been able to listen to music much in the past year due to personal issues that would make me cry while listening to them. Also, I find Jay’s slow songs melancholic. So when his new cd was released, since I didn’t want to wallow in self pity or sadness, I didn’t really listen to the songs except for the very first time (though this was months after its release). Given that, I wasn’t sure how I would react when at the concert – if I would start to tear up (… I only did once, in Tornado, which is one of my absolute favorites, if not depressing as heck). Jay sung some of his songs from his latest Era cd, but he sung plenty of oldies and goodies with a good variety of upbeat songs (including one of my favorites from his last cd, ???? “Mr. Magic”) and slow ones.

The concert started off with a bang, with 4D effects, of a small ball of light that becomes Jay playing the guitar in the center of the dark arena. After a slow build up, fireworks went off and you could see Jay standing in the center, very dramatically, starting off with his first song.

Courtesy of Brian Y.

Throughout the concert, as one would expect, Jay showed off his various talents, from dancing, to a magic trick, with a bit of beatboxing (which knocked my socks off), and of course, a segment where he played piano (with an incredibly cool design I might add – it was white and looked very futuristic). He improvised “Flight of the Bumblebee” and put on a different twist to “Super Mario Bros”, both of which segued into two of his songs. The whole concert had a very “tech-y” feel, all of which highlighted his singing. He had several guests too off of his record label, including Cindy Yen. The duet was nice though, despite my not being fond of Cindy all that much.

One of my absolute favorite songs “Fragrant Rice” or (Dao Xiang ??), turned out to be the best clip I managed to grab. In the middle of his performance, he tells those that when they are working or studying abroad and miss home, to listen to this song. In general, it’s just an incredibly uplifting song, and will help those that are going through a difficult time in their life to try and keep things in perspective, that you can always go and think of home.
My Video:

Translation of Dao Xiang

My favorite segment that didn’t include him singing was the set of video clips he put together as his way to thank his fans throughout the years – those that were with him from the beginning or joined at some point in the past decade. It showed important firsts for him – first song, first movie, first directorial debut, and now his first Hollywood debut in addition to important roles and songs that he was a part of. Jay survived the many ups and downs in the last ten years, and he will continue to fight because he is Jay Chou. I was rather moved by this segment and thought it was really well done.

Jay had about three encores, and here is ~the setlist he did (not positive on the order):
Dragon Rider, ???? Lóng Zhàn Qí Shì (From: Capricorn, 2008)
The Era, ??? Kuà Shí Daì (From: The Era, 2010)
Snake Dance, ?? Shé W?, Featuring Lara Veronin (From: Capricorn, 2008)
Love in B.C. ????? Ài Zài X? Yuán Qián (From: Fantasy, 2001)
I’m Not Worthy, ??? W? Bú Pèi (From: On the Run, 2007)
Hip-Hop Stewardess, ???? X? H? K?ng Ji? (From: The Era, 2010)
William’s Castle, ???? W?i Lián G? B?o (From: Fantasy, 2001)
Mr. Magic, ???? Mó Shù Xi?n Shèng (From: Capricorn, 2008)
Black Humour, ???? H?i Sè Y?u Mò) with Cindy Yen (From: Jay, 2000)
Fragrant Rice, ?? Dào Xi?ng (From: Capricorn, 2008)
Sunshine Homeboy, ???? Yáng Gu?ng Zhái Nán (From: On the Run, 2007)
Flight of the Bumblebee mix into
Tornado, ??? Lóng Ju?n F?ng (From: Jay, 2000)
Super Mario mix on the piano into
Fireworks Cool Easily, ???? Y?n Hu? Yì L?ng (From: The Era, 2010)
Free Tutorial Video, ??????? Mi?n Feì Ji?o Xué Lù Y?ng Dài (From: The Era, 2010)
Time Machine, ??? Shí Gu?ng J? (From: Capricorn, 2008)
Dad, I’m Back, ?????? Bà, W? Huí Lái Le (From: Fantasy, 2001)
Simple Love, ??? Ji?n D?n Ài (From: Fantasy, 2001)
In the Name of the Father, ???? Y? Fù Zh? Míng (From: Ye Hui Mei, 2003)
Can’t Utter a Word, ???? K?i Bù Li?o K?u (From: Fantasy, 2001)

Give Me the Time of a Song, ???????? G?i W? Yì Sh?u G? Dè Shí Ji?n (with beatboxing in the middle – so cool :P)
East Wind Breaks, ??? D?ng F?ng Pò (From: Ye Hui Mei, 2003)
Hero, ???, Zhou da xia (From: Kung Fu Dunk)
Rooftop, ?? Wu Ding with Lara
Nunchucks, ??? Shu?ng Jié Gùn (From: Fantasy, 2001)

I liked that the mixes of the song sounded so different than it was on the CD, and it was clear that Jay was definitely not lip syncing due to all the improvisations and sometimes he just wouldn’t sing a few of the lyrics. It’s strange, listening to the concert again on youtube, I noticed that he sounded sometimes out of tune (in a few places), but from where I was sitting, it sounded mostly perfect. I think it’s a fault of the device recording it. Jay sounds stronger live than on those recordings.

Courtesy of Brian Y.

There was a special point in the concert where he used some sort of projection device so it seemed 4D. It is really hard to describe, but it was fantastic. It would seem like he was there, but not, and then the projection would change, the “windows would flip around”, and there he was, inside, singing. Very creative, all around. I totally loved the bits where he performed using one of his awesome skills – one song with the use of a Chinese flute, another with his guitar, and of course, the improvisations on the piano. Plus, he even used his nunchucks! I became a bigger fan of Jay that night, and I didn’t think at that point that was possible.

The last time Jay graced LA with his performances was 2007. This year I wasn’t sure if I was willing to pay the crazy price points and gave some thought about it before I finally decided to go for it. Well, having said that, I will say that in the future, I won’t be thinking twice before purchasing tickets for a Jay Chou concert (unless I’m broke :P) He was an absolute JOY to watch in concert, and though I suck at reading chinese and singing chinese, I had a damn good time.

Flight of the Bumblebee (totally awesome) into Tornado:

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All That Skate LA: Finally, a skating show that delivers!

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Michelle Kwan, Winter Song
Anyone who knows me, knows that I used to love figure skating. There was a period in my life, from the 1988 Olympics up to 2004 that I absolutely adored figure skating. From the 1988 Olympics, there were the classics, “THE era” of figure skating that dominated the airwaves with the likes of Katarina Witt, Kurt Browning, Brian Boitano, Brian Orser, Kristi Yamaguchi, Gordeeva and Grinkov, and so many other wonderfully and classically trained skaters. One skater that stood out for me was the now legendary Michelle Kwan. In the past four years, skating has been dry and uninspiring to me, with the new COP judging system and what seemed to be all the same old routines over and over again. At one point, I would tape skating every time it was on. Now, I have no idea when it is on, nor could I care less. The shows that stations broadcast now a days are focused primarily on the singers or celebrities and don’t emphasis what skating might have to offer.

The weekend of October 2-3, about two weekends ago, marked Michelle Kwan’s return to the ice on home soil. It has been a little more than 4 years since Michelle last skated for her friends and family, and her return was in the form of Yuna Kim’s ice show “All that Skate”. I didn’t have many expectations going in, as I had sort of seen what the shows were set up to be like when they were done in Korea. I just cared that Michelle was skating, and I paid money to see her. To my surprise, and to those of my friends, “All that Skate LA” went beyond what we had expected. It was a classy production, with pyrotechnics – lighting, fire, fireworks, and with three Olympic gold medalists and first rate skating by some of my favorites. (Ice dancers Virtue and Moir, pairs Shen and Zhao, Yuna Kim, Patrick Chan, Stephane Lambiel, S&S – of which I would butcher their name if I attempted to spell it, Belbin & Agosto, Johnny Weir, and US National Bronze Medalist Ashley Wagner.) The group numbers were hip, with popular catchy (but not really trashy) music. What was most evident was that the skaters themselves looked truly happy to be there and looked to be having a lot of fun. Michelle for instance, looked as though she was simply oozing happiness with a consistent grin plastered on her face. It’s hard not to smile when it’s obvious that the skater you’re watching is having the time of their life enjoying what they’re doing. Surprise favorite for me was Stephane Lambiel. This Swedish guy was definitely something to watch. NBC unfortunately did not broadcast his William Tell program, but it had the crowd going for the last 15 seconds of his program.

NBC broadcast-ed it this past weekend, and though about half of the performances (except for Michelle and Yuna’s – both were included) were cut, it included great camera work. I still think that the classiness of the show was not fully projected well on the screen, and as with most things, a lot better live, but in comparison to the previous shows we have seen in the past, NBC did a good job with its editing. I give this show a thumbs up, and recommend people to attend this show when it comes back to Los Angeles next year. It’s too bad it already aired, but you can catch a few of the best performances on youtube : )

Here are a few of my favorites:
All that Skate LA, NBC Broadcast, Opening “Get the Party Started”

All that Skate LA, NBC Broadcast, Michelle Kwan’s “Winter Song”

All that Skate LA, NBC Broadcast, Stephane Lambiel’s “Let the Good Times Roll”

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JDrama Review: Kamisama mou sukoshi dake (God please give me more time, 1998)

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Takeshi Kaneshiro,  Kyoko Fukada

Takeshi Kaneshiro, Kyoko Fukada

Director: Takeuchi Hideki, Iwamoto Hitoshi
Cast: Kyoko Fukada, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Kato Haruhiko, Nakama Yukie
Screenplay: Asano Taeko
Broadcasted: July 7, 1998 – September 22, 1998

Let me try this again. I had written an entirely comprehensive review without saving when the power cable of the computer I was using to write the review was loose and therefore turned off. So, I will attempt to rewrite this again, though the second time never seems to be good and as fresh as the first try.

Masaki (played by Kyoko Fukada) is a bored, listless and purposeless girl who hangs out with a group of friends who are part of an escort service and whom occasionally prostitute themselves for money, but she has never done it. She has managed to get tickets for her and her best friend Asami to a concert put on by her favorite composer Ishikawa Keigo (played by Takeshi Kaneshiro) and singer Kaoru (played by Nakama Yukie). Unfortunately, she misplaces the tickets. Due to some misfortune and unfortunate circumstances, in order to get the money to repurchase the tickets Masaki ends up prostituting herself for 50,000 yen.

After the concert, while Masaki and Asami sit in a taxi rethinking their experience at the concert, they find themselves next to Keigo’s van. Masaki decides to leap out of the taxi, running along side, getting soaked in the rain, runs up over the bridge and displays “I love Keigo” banner for Keigo to see. Keigo decides to take her back to his apartment, subsequently spending the night together. However, Masaki at this time, has already contracted the HIV virus from her night of prostitution.

It is then, when Masaki discovers she is HIV positive where her struggles begin. She must find a purpose and meaning to life and find what it means to live with HIV/AIDS. Keigo, living more like the dead than the living, having experienced death in his past, discovers what it means to be alive, realizing slowly it is not only that Masaki needs him, but that he needs her.

* Possible major spoilers ahead *



Before going into the positive aspects of this drama, I will first address what I feel are the failing points of this tearjerker. First and foremost is the lack of addressing the use of protection in preventing the spread of disease. Instead, I felt that the drama focused too much instead on the aspect of “do not prostitute”. Though I agree of course with this view and do recognize that it is a problem within the Japanese society, I felt that it was a mistake having never mentioned by no one in the entire drama that if she had used condoms, she might not have gotten sick at all. And not only that, she wouldn’t have needed to worry about passing it to someone else.

However it isn’t only that. I thought of course what Masaki had done was unbelievably irresponsible and self-deprecating, but it isn’t until towards the end, when the scriptwriters had Keigo do something that was just plain stupid and mouth dropping that I could only shake my head. It is a disservice to the subject of HIV and AIDs. For a drama of its time, the subject of AIDS and HIV is definitely to be commended to have taken the risk, but I felt that the drama really dropped the ball on not mentioning protection, which for me, detracted from what would have heightened it from a great drama to an excellent quality drama.

At first, the implausibility of a famous composer falling in love with a fan girl bothered me, but then I realized it was more of the fan girl falling in love with the composer that I had a problem with, since I didn’t know whether or not it was infatuation or truly love. I also felt the Keigo when he first meets Masaki is a different one after she confronts him on whether or not he has the HIV virus. He seemed open to the idea of seeing her, liking someone, and then when she arrived at his door, crying, he became different, which didn’t fully makes sense to me.

And then later on, it seemed as though Keigo went from cold to hot with just a flip switch. Though I did appreciate that you could see how he thought about her when he was alone, was tormented by thoughts of her and the amount of running he did to find her, help her and save her in this drama (which i thought was quite funny… but I’m not complaining…)

However, negatives aside, the strength of the drama is clearly the two actors. Kyoko Fukada was 17 when she took on this serious role, the same age as the main character. She portrayed the naive, happy Masaki and the transformation she made to find purpose and happiness in her life (despite all the tears) very well. Takeshi’s Keigo – brooding, subdued, sometimes cold manner balanced Kyoko’s Masaki so she wasn’t too overpowering. I’ve read many complaints about Masaki’s crying. But honestly, given her situation, and being still in high school, I really can’t fault her. She puts herself in a horrible situation, is shunned and picked on by her friends due to her illness, her family life isn’t good, her mom is having an affair, and she feels she can rely on no one when she needs people the most. People decieve her and she is the cause of Keigo losing her job, her friend and brother getting picked on, I’d say if I were in a position I’d be crying a lot too. Out of all the roles I have seen her take on, she does an excellent job here.

As for the role of Kaoru, I have never hated a character more than I did when she was at the airport and bold faced lied to Masaki. I don’t know how someone could be so completely selfish when it is clear that this man who has been suffering a long time due to the death of her sister has finally found happiness. And it’s even more cruel in that every day, every moment might be the last. She took away three years of their life together, and not only took away time, but shortened the life of Masaki, due to her weakened and sad state affecting her immune system. I would have been quite content had the series ended with Masaki and Keigo going off to the US.

Instead, the writers torture us even more, writing this segment of three lost years. Then in addition, losing another six more months because Keigo has to go back to the US to finish his tour. If one were to tally it up, they weren’t even together for a year.

I’ve read some reviews saying that the ending left them content, but for me, it left me nothing but. It left me empty and distressed. Perhaps I’m handling it worse than Masaki did, but throughout the series, I really didn’t see where they really had the time to fully enjoy each other except in the six months after their daughter was born. They have Keigo encourage Masaki and ask her whether or not she wants to see Sachi grow up to walk, to talk, to have even more of a desire to live longer. Sadly however, the story reaches the end by having Masaki die in the subsequent scenes. I don’t know, but that leaves me empty. However I will say I do appreciate they had her die in the manner she did “dying in his arms”, and without it being in a hospital bed (which is typical of AIDS victims). Masaki dying in Keigo’s arms struck a chord with me because this is what he said to her on the bridge. That if she was going to die, that she should die with him holding her in his arms.

The soundtrack simply adds to the etheral, melancholy theme of the drama, and it successfully blends the scenes and the ups and downs of all the characters’ emotions together. Luna Sea’s I For You particularly sticks out, and its lyrics work perfectly as the theme song.

If there’s any indication as to whether or not a drama is good, I’ve always thought that if the show/movie/drama can cause me to have emotion and feel for the main characters, then it must be at least good. So what do I say about a drama that got completely under my skin? I’d have to say it was excellent. It’s by no means a perfect drama, but I was to the point where I was completely affected and bothered by what was happening to Masaki and Keigo and the people around them that it left me thinking about it for several days after.

I know this was a drama where the message was to never take your life granted, and to live life to the fullest, regardless of how much life you have to live whether you know it or not, but it got to the point where I thought Masaki never got cut a break and it just became too depressing. I think I hate and love this drama at the same time. I hate how it got under my skin, how depressing it is, but it’s so good that I love it. I think its heart wrenching, despite all the problems I have with it, and I kept on hoping and wishing for more time for this wonderful couple. After all, when it comes down to it, it’s really just a love story.

I think the viewers know what the ending will be, due to the cloud that looms over the entire drama; that there is a clock slowly ticking away. I think it would have been great even without the ending, and it sure would have saved me that horribly empty feeling I had after watching it. It just made me feel hopeless knowing that she died so soon after Keigo found life again and had to leave the daughter she so wanted to have. I didn’t tear up very much while watching it, but instead, felt something deeper – a depression if you will, as though you are carrying something heavy within your heart.

The one nice feeling that I walked away with was realizing just how much I appreciate Takeshi Kaneshiro’s acting. I’ve seen much of it in the past, but being able to see him develop a character for 12 episodes really shines a light as to how expressive Takeshi is, simply by using his eyes. (mind you, I do think he smokes too much =P) He delivers one of the best lines at the start of the drama. I don’t know if it’s after or before Masaki, but I really like how it starts the drama. Before I began watching, I had always assumed it was Masaki who speaks the title line, but for some reason, it hurts a lot more when I realize that it’s Keigo.

Some people have hated this drama, but most people have loved it. I highly recommend it. Only you can decide for yourself if it will pull your heart out and squash it like it did mine. It’s one definitely for the ages, one where I’ll be able to watch over and over again…

You can watch it at mysoju: http://www.mysoju.com/kamisama-mou-sukoshi-dake/ or at crunchyroll: http://www.crunchyroll.com/library/Kamisama_Mou_Sukoshi_Dake
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My rating: 4.8/5

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TW Drama Review: Devil Beside You

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Devil Beside You

Devil Beside You

The story starts out with Qi Yue (played by Rainie Yang) wanting to give a love letter to Yuan Yi (Kingone), a fellow classmate of hers. However, in the midst of giving the letter to Yuan Yi, she runs into Jiang Meng (Mike He) “the devil” who ends up picking up the letter and later threatens to make copies and throw it off the roof for the whole school to read unless she becomes her slave.

Qi Yue complies, but later, after getting tired of being under Jiang Meng’s hold, she decides to tell Yuan Yi she likes him, finding her feelings are being reciprocated. At the same time she discovers that her mom is dating the school’s president and is horrified to discover that the bully is indeed the president’s son.

However, Qi Yue is surprised to discover that she holds feelings for Jiang Meng and admits her fault and truth to Yuan Yi and breaks it off. But with the pressures of Jiang Meng’s reputation of being the president’s son, their relationship must be kept a secret from most because of the impending marriage of their parents.

I was surprised to find that I enjoyed the series very much. I have to admit that it’s quite unbearable sometimes, especially at the beginning of the series, where the silliness is at its max and I find I have to force myself to sit through the first few episodes before the series settles down to a light-hearted drama. The characters seem to be very exaggerated, especially Jiang Meng. Though I’m not sure if the story comes from a manga as it reminded me of Japanese characters, I felt I was watching an anime come to life.

I’m not normally a fan of Rainie Yang but her facial expressions and her portrayal of Qi Yue really drew me in and I actually enjoyed her acting. It is quite a change from “The Love Book” in which I thought her character was mopey and unlikable. I usually find there’s something off about Rainie that I can’t exactly pinpoint why I don’t enjoy her acting, but I was able to overcome it for the most part while watching this series. Qi Yue is a strong though sweet and honest character who always wishes the best for everyone and admits her fault.

As for Mike He, I hadn’t realized he was the same actor in “Love Contract” which I did not watch all of (nor enjoy — especially the ending!) or that he played a part in “Yes, Love Enterprise.”. One shallow note: I much prefer his hair down than him in that crazy hairdo of his. I wasn’t wholly pleased with his exaggerated acting but perhaps that is what the director wanted. His unhappy-kill glared looked ridiculous to me and gave me the creeps not because it scared me but it was so bad it was laughable and annoying at the same time. However, when he is acting more “normal”, I came to really enjoy his acting and I may actually give “Love Contract” another try. Especially now that I know that Mike He was in it.

Overall, the story told is a very simple one, and the intermediate stories between their friends are just as entertaining. I found myself caring about all the characters and not really hating any of them (surprisingly enough.) The chemistry between most of the characters work, especially Qi Yue and Jiang Meng. Especially the glove scenes.

I had expected this series to be a more serious drama judging by its cover (ok ok, so that is wrong :)), but it had just the right amount of seriousness mixed with laughter to make it an enjoyable addictive ride. Don’t expect anything tragic to happen. If you need a change of pace from watching one of those sad and depressing Korean dramas, this is the drama to watch. Needless to say, I am now a bigger fan of Mike He and I can even accept Rainie Yang.

The story is probably what sucked me in the most. It’s quite a simple story, and I have to admit, I’m a sucker for romantic comedies, which I would consider “Devil Beside You”.

If you have never seen an idol Taiwanese drama, I would probably start off with Meteor Garden and wait to watch this series. The silliness exhibited in many Taiwanese dramas these days are something someone living in North America who have never seen an Asian drama would have to get accustomed to and might get put off or scared off. With ease, one should be able to grow into this series.

Rating: Recommended, Four/Five Red Gloves 😀

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