Last night at 10, I was seized by the irrational urge to own a good notebook (preferably leather) and kickstart some useful writing. I should mention that I was seized at 7 by a corresponding urge to protect my new iPod in a preferably leather case, but managed to fight it off. So I ran out and took a cab down to town, all the while debating the differences between Moleskines, Ciaks, and Miquelriuses. It’s not an easy snap decision!

Long story short, I ended up with (not settled for, mind you) 2 handsome pocket-sized black leather Ciak Notos. I’m convinced they’re better than Moleskines for several reasons, but I can’t yet be sure. But strongly in their favour: 1) Italian leather bound, 2) flexible covers, 3) horizontal elastic (holds pens), 4) thicker paper, 5) more of it.

See for yourself: Ciak

Review: Lupin III – Castle of Cagliostro

castle of cagliostro comparison

Fans of Hayao Miyazaki (director of most Studio Ghibli films, including Spirited Away & Princess Mononoke) don’t always know about his first feature-length animation: The Castle of Cagliostro. The 1979 movie features a master thief known as Lupin (the third), which translates to ‘Wolf’. The name Lupin III will be familiar to anyone who’s ever trawled an anime fansite or read a book on the history of the form, but I had never seen any Lupin prior to this film and it didn’t hurt my enjoyment of it.

Here’s a brief synopsis:
After raiding a casino and making off with 5 billion (dollars?), Lupin and his accomplice discover that the notes are counterfeit. So well made that even the casino was unaware. They decide to go to the source of the money, a small Monaco-like country called Cagliostro (Cal-ee-os-tro). There, they get tangled up in a web of political intrigue and a quest for hidden treasure that can only be unlocked by the fabled union of “light and shadow”.

Well. It’s a little over-the-top, a little crazy, a little Indiana Jonesish. But it’s fantastic. It’s a riveting and astonishingly well-animated movie that defies its place on the timetime. Looking at my review copy of Manga Entertainment’s recent Special Edition DVD release, I couldn’t see any signs of it having been made 27 years ago (apart from the drawing style). The colors are rich and vibrant, there’s no film noise or sign of ageing, and the sound has been remastered into a new 5.1 soundtrack. It’s the anime equivalent of Star Wars’ Special Editions, without the new CGI ‘enhancements’. See the full-sized view of the above comparison for an example of how much sharper and brighter it is now.

Animation aside, the story is the best thing about CoC. A printed blurb on the box says that Steven Spielberg has called it “one of the greatest adventure movies of all time”. There are sources online which claim this quote has been misattributed, but even so, I don’t think Steve would mind because it really is that good. It’s a high point for the entire adventure genre, animated or not. It’s the perfect movie for satisfying all your campy ’60s spy movie needs, along with your Jewel of the Nile treasure-hunting itches, your madcap Woody Allenesque physical comedy aches, and your Studio Ghibli shakes to boot. And yes, it is unquestionably a Miyazaki film, despite its early positioning in the canon. It’s funny and charming, just like its lead character, always thrilling, and there’s a sense of exoticized atmosphere about the country of Cagliostro (a mishmash of Western European cultures with the mystery of old world Morocco) that keeps things interesting.

I have yet to check out the special features, but they are listed as such:

  • Interview with Animation Director Yasuo Ohtsuka.
  • Complete Animatic – Storyboards with Feature Soundtrack;
  • Imagery from Original Storyboard
  • Original Character and Set Drawings;
  • Fans Gallery;
  • Trailers

At the RRP listed above, I don’t think you could ask more of such a meticulously crafted special edition. It’s a pity that Manga doesn’t have the rights to produce one of these for Nausicaa, which now belongs to Disney.

Pocketmod Powerpack returns

I’ve been receiving some emails and comments about the missing Pocketmod Powerpack on this site, in an old blog post. I haven’t used a Pocketmod in a long time because I’m always glued to my desk, and I tend to scribble things on lots of loose papers which then get typed up into a note database.

But since some readers have been good enough to remind me that I once made 7 Pocketmod templates customized for every need and situation, I may yet give it a go. I’ve also uploaded the missing files again, at the aforementioned page, so if you’ve been wanting them, there you go.

More purchases

I’ll admit it, I’ve been terribly weak with the product resisting lately. A couple of days ago, after the Showtime announcement, I plonked down money for the newly ‘enhanced’ 80GB iPod with video. And because I’m such a daring and unconventional Apple loyalist, I even got it in newbie Black. The decision was prefaced by several hours of White-or-Black, 30GB-or-80GB meandering. In the end I decided on black because I’ve stopped using white earphones. Ridiculous.

And now I’ve gone and bought into the stupid Tasty TwentyFive MacZOT that’s currently running. Long story short for those who don’t visit MacZOT, I’ve thrown USD$25 dollars into a mysterious fire, with no idea what I’ll be getting for the money. I won’t know till 3pm on Monday, at which time I fully expect to be overloaded with work, anticipating a heads-will-roll meeting 3 hours later. And the bloody iPod won’t arrive till maybe next Friday.

Why am I only blogging such mundane things? Should I mention the flowers that have been put up on Orchard Road? Have I already? I don’t even remember. I’m not interested in the implications of the IMF/World Bank meetings here, and I don’t expect to be until something explodes.

A house down the street from me is being built from the ground up. They’ve gone as far as to erect a two-storey structure, but it’s still just bare concrete pillars in a boxlike shape. I’ve decided to take a photo of it from the same spot every other day when I pass, and at the end I will be able to put together a video of it. I expect it might be an anticlimax as buildings nowadays are skeletons one moment and fully painted the next.

Next Monday will mark the end of my first three months at my first real job. It’s taken over my life a little more than I’d planned to let it, but it’s an infringement I still manage to enjoy, albeit at the cost of time with family and significant other. Well, you’re either mediocre and unmotivated at your job or you’re not, and I don’t intend to take it too easy just yet.

Something I bought, something I want

I got myself another pair of Sennheisers yesterday, this time they’re headphones. The PX100s are relatively cheap, and awesome. It’s just that maybe my head is a little too big for them. I am told by many colleagues that I have a big head, and there’s reason to believe they also mean it dimensionally. I bought them mainly for use at the office, to plug into my Mac, but I’m beginning to think they are far too good to leave at work. Anyway you should try them out if canalphones like the previously-mentioned CX300s are not your thing.

Which brings me to this fantastic Japan-only coinbank that could actually get me saving. There’s a little monochrome screen on it, with a cartoon man living inside. Everytime you deposit money, he benefits, and you can watch his spartan apartment slowly grow into a luxury yuppie hellhole complete with BeoSound systems. Ok, I was kidding. TokyoMango describes it better.