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Month: June, 2008

LL16: My New Wife Has Balls & Curves…

Boy, Motorola sure puts a lot of effort in packaging the RAZR2 V9, the boxes in the set I received were almost more stylish than the flippy itself!

Acoustic Guitars are best because (excerpts from The Acoustic Guitar Forum)

1. They don’t complain if you bring more guitars home
2. Stroke them just right and they sing
3. They don’t complain if you don’t do it quite right
4. You can’t successfully serenade a woman with a trombone
5. Playing a Stratocaster in a canoe can be fatal
6. “Bagpipes around the campfire” is just wrong
7. There’s just something unmanly about a ukelele
8. Defending yourself from a mugger with a two handed swing of a piccolo is not an option
9. If stranded in the arctic with just a pack of matches a saxophone will not burn
10. Heaven is acoustic only – no electricity
11. They smell good and chicks love them!
12. Owning one is the only way most of us are ever going to hear the phrase he’s plucking good!”

Ladies & fellow wankers, while some crazy uncle is marrying his 4th wife & hornily preparing to add to his stable of 25 children, I’m here to present my new wife, the all-solid Lana Lang 16.

Uh, wait, I’m of course referring to officially my 1st serious acoustic guitar, the handcrafted Yamaha LL16 from the top-of-the-line handbuilt acoustic Yamaha L Series.

Okay, so naming her Lana Lang just because it’s an LL model (& since she was my old flame) may sound lame, but hey, it’s my first RM3k guitar & I’m pretty much on cloud nine right now, so screw you, if I say it’s Lana, it’s Lana you punks. After all, she (the guitar) would probably be as beautiful as Kristin Kreuk’s Lana Lang at the age of 16 anyway, but with bigger boobs & an even bigger butt of course, no contest.

Let’s start from the beginning. I’ve been scouting for a serious guitar for quite a while now, after being faithful to my old Yamaha F340 BL for over 8 years now (bought it with my own piggy bank 500 bucks when I was 14!). Now let’s be honest, brands like Taylors, Larivees, & Matons are sold at outrageous prices over here in gawddamn Malaysia. Initially armed with only a 2k budget, I went around hopelessly in search of a good, beautiful guitar but at the price I wanted. There’s no doubt the ultimate acoustic guitars come from Taylor, so at Bentley’s, while trying really hard to ignore the gorgeous T5s on display, I tried the Taylor 110 which sounded like crap but was priced at 3.6k, while the Taylor 210 was retailing at 4.6k. So when you can’t afford made-in-USA guitars, you look at the Asian made models. The Takamines G Series ranging at 1-3k just could not satisfy me either, & don’t even get me started on the apalling sub-2k acoustics from Fender & Ibanez. At Mahogany’s, they let me try a Takamine retailed at 3.6k that had a very jangly bright sound. But then that Takamine’s (like many other Takamines) finishing & physical look was so unattractive & half-baked (maybe I’m just vain). It wasn’t long before I ended up back at Yamaha.

Some of Yamaha L Series artists: Clint Lowery of Sevendust with the LJX6C, Dave Navarro has his own signature L series model, the LLX6 DN, & John LeCompt (formerly from Evanescence) uses the LJX6C

Among other Yamaha Acoustic Guitar artists: Edwin McCain uses the APX10NA, Chad Kroeger endorses the handcrafted CJX32, while Avril Lavigne performs with the APX9C

Overshadowed by what are without doubt the best pianos in the world, Yamaha on the other hand has always been associated with cheap affordable guitars just because, well, their prime market IS at the affordable range, but upon closer look, the guitars are always bang for bucks. Yamaha guitars are under-rated, simply put. In the midst of trying everything from their CPX700 to the sexy APX700, it was one fine morning when Chris forwarded me an online catalog of Yamaha’s high-end L Series Acoustics, & suddenly it brought back memories of how infatuated I was with this handcrafted series back when I was working part-time with Yamaha. I always thought they were beyond my reach (in terms of price) then, but couldn’t help but be kinda pumped-up this time around especially upon checking out the many (& I mean, MANY) raving great reviews of the L series guitars online. It did help that Marié Digby used an LLX6 when she performed at 1 Utama months back (refer back to my Digby entry). Well, Yamaha has 4 lines within the L series, the 6, 16, 26 & 36s. The 26 & 36s are handmade in Japan & retails here at an average of a whopping RM12000, but to my silent joy the bottom-of-the-barrel 6s go for around RM2290 while the 16s were retailing from RM2990, because these two lines are handmade in China/Taiwan (Yamaha moved it’s Taiwan base to China a couple of years back).

Some of the L series guitars on display at The Curve (from left, the LS16, LJ6 & LL6 Sunburst). On the extreme right is the LJ26, which retails at RM11900

The L Series also offers 3 types of body built which gives the distinction in each sound & playability. The standard dreadnought (LL) is widely touted as the most well-rounded & balanced, always associated with a bright sound suitable for both strumming & finger-picking. The semi-jumbo (LJ) has a rounder & bigger body, often suitable for strumming because of it’s better & warmer sound projection, while the ground-auditorium size (LS) is smaller in built & has a more focused midrange. Choosing a guitar based on excellent online reviews & its handmade reputation (though to what extent of handcrafting is still questionable especially for the 6 & 16s, considering their rather good price) of course is not an option, I had to try them out. To my joy the LL6 (with a solid top & laminate back & sides) was a dream to play, but then found out that for an extra 700 bucks I could upgrade to the LL16 with a FULL-SOLID body! In this moment of desperation, it was mom & someone (wink wink) who decided to pump in some financial support to finally enable me to make an order for my first full-solid handmade 900-US-dollar acoustic guitar. Purchased it at 15% off, & it took about 3-4 days for the guitar to arrive after the deposit for order was paid.

Moment of unvirginizing at the Yamaha outlet (top), & then back at home

Miss Lana Lang 16, or the Yamaha LL16, is a handcrafted acoustic slender dreadnought guitar, boasting a hand selected Solid Engelmann Spruce top & Solid Indian Rosewood back & sides (this Engelmann Spruce-Rosewood combination is also used in the 4,5-times-more-expensive Taylor 700 series). While traditionally a guitar neck is carved out of a single block of wood, the LL16 neck is crafted off the unique L series trademark 3-ply design, featuring a strip of Rosewood sandwiched between 2 layers of the Mahogany neck construction for extra neck stability. It also features a new non-scalloped 90° X-bracing construction that is designed to deliver a thick & well-focused tone. The Ebony bridge is bigger & has a bigger mass than usual Yamahas & the Ebony fingerboard has neat humble abalone rosette position markers that do not exactly shine out, but it’s acceptable. The die-cast Gold grover style tuners keep the strings in tune just fine (though I’m suspicious of how long they will remain gold), & the nut width is 1 3/4″. The flawless Hi-Gloss on the body & clean Satin finish on the neck & headstock gives the LL16 an extremely understated but alluring look, given that extra spark by its nice inlay encircling the sound hole. Feeling a little skeptical about the foam casing it came with instead of my preferred hard case, I was thoroughly relieved to find the foam casing fits her (yes, I’m referring to the guitar as a her now) like a glove & keeps her nicely cushioned.

Amboi~ selesanya…

“It’s the ballsiest sound I ever heard”, proclaimed a review online about his LL16, & though I’ve never encountered any guitar associated with the word “ballsy”, after playing her for the past few days, I simply cannot find a more suitable word to describe the gorgeous bright sound she produced other than BALLSY. Having no pick-up system or cutaway, I knew I was getting every single dollar fully invested into her sound & tone. Has a well-balanced & rich sound with great sustain, with a strong bass that does not overwhelm the sweet clear mid & highs. Though not perfect in terms of clarity & separation, it was such a joy to hear how such a physically understated, composed & simple-looking guitar can sound like it has an enormous pair of balls when aggressively strummed, though the sound has become warmer (probably due to the Yammie factory strings it came with) day by day. Many forums have mentioned how incredibly remarkable the LL16 can sound like the Taylor 400 & 600 series & kicks Larivee’s ass (some of these comments came from Americans guitarists themselves, mind you), & at a quarter of the price. Frankly, I think of it this way, if you can afford them or willing to go for broke, just buy the damn Taylors & if you can’t, like me, you find the guitar that might just match them.

The solid Rosewood grains of her back/sides & the 3-ply Mahogany-Rosewood neck (apologies for the poor photography, my place had very poor lighting)

The Rosewood grains on the back & sides of the LL16 I chose were nicely tight. However, upon peeking inside the sound hole, some minor glue marks at some edges hint at it’s China handmade origins, but I could forgive that :). The neck has a V-profile that I got used to without any problem, although I have to say the factory setup of the action & saddle is a little too high for my liking, thus affecting it’s playability. In addition, there was a little buzzing on the low E string when plucked hard (discovered this when executing my favourite “Little Wings” acoustic solo on it the 1st time). Another complain I would force out is if they had only gave extra effort in creating a more distinct looking pick guard that would suit a 3k-worth guitar, rather than the standard black dull one, & but hey, again, I’m just nit-picking at what is already an incredible guitar. The slender dreadnought curves fit snugly into my wrapped arms & the usual Yamaha straight boxy butts at the end have been rounded off for the L Series. This guitar is noticeably a little heavier when compared to my old F340.

No, I’m not being racist just because I replaced the old black one with a fairer one

From bonking heavy to light strumming to finger-picking, the Yamaha LL16 is probably one of the best guitars at this price range (I of course can’t state for certain as I’m not exactly an expert nor did I try all the guitars available). Where else can you find a handcrafted full-solid body acoustic at this price value? I tend to stay loyal to my instruments, as shown by how my brother & I stuck to our old Made-in-Japan LU-101 piano from the beginning till the end (hey, that so-called beginner piano produced two 140-distinction Grade 8 results okay?). Like many, it is likely that many of us (especially Malaysians) start off with an affordable Yamaha acoustic, & if in the future I am still unable to afford a Taylor, I just might not be surprised if my Yamaha LL16 goes well on its way towards being more than capable of being my last guitar. Ooooh yeah, Lana Lang has never been this hot.

As an addition, find out how the L Series guitars are handmade in this tour around the Yamaha L series factory in Japan at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dP0d18tFjSY. You will be pleasantly surprised at how intimate & small the factory is, with a small group of Japanese luthiers showing incredible dedication to their work. If you wanna hear how the L series guitars sound, Dave Goodman gives a solid demonstration here at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tt2FbHCWPNA.

Kevin is now officially much skinnier (yearight! His wallet actually) in this week alone due to expenditure for his car repaint, his perempuan simpanan (the V9) & Lana.

The Happening, If…

Current situation

Wenger! Get rid of Adebayor & get David Villa to put on an Arsenal jersey next season! NOW!

Currently back in his hometown for the weekend to collect his repaired & fully repainted car (thus deducting a thousand plus bucks from his pockets), Kevin is at this period of time suffering from extreme lack of sleep & therefore humbly requests for lenient forgiveness for his zombie-like appearance & extreme lag in normal communication & response during the day. He is too engrossed in supporting his beloved childhood heroes Netherlands in the current ongoing EURO 2008, or rather, now absolutely DEVASTATED that the Oranjes have been kicked out at the quarter-final stage (bloody Russians, suddenly playing so good football!). However, he is still aware enough to find the recent moanings from PAS Youth about implementing the Islamic administration at PR states & attempting to ban Mas Idayu & Ella to be flabbergastingly dim-witted.

Don’t you just hate it when during the past few days you had a whole junk of ideas to pen down, & then all it takes is a couple of depressingly stressful days at work to blatantly ruin your entire go-go mojo that you initially had, as if you’ve got someone’s foot permanently lodged into the back of your head? I do. Okay, perhaps it was not too bad since my past weekend was spent with (Joshua & Len Nee aside) Liv Tyler, Isla Fisher, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson & Zooey Deschanel.

Let’s go for a round of quick reviews shall we. Anyone remember that melodramatic green monster fiasco Ang Lee cooked up a few years back? Well, if that movie dwelled way too much on the character & inner struggle of Bruce Banner, this movie goes the opposite way & decides to throw character development out the window & smack us with an onslaught of bashing-up action sequences. Not exactly a bad thing since this is about The Incredible Hulk; it’s a boy’s dream to see the monster bashing up The Abomination as noisily & violently as what was shown, almost like sex on an overdose of steroids.

Hulk still looked too CGI’ed for my liking, & I have to state that Edward Norton tanked as Bruce Banner (Downey’s cameo as Tony Stark was more memorable, so that says a lot), as intense as he was, & he had an agonizing lack of chemistry with Steven Tyler’s voluptuous daughter. Liv Tyler was sweet & much more girl-next-door than the gorgeous Jennifer Connelly from the previous Hulk; asking me to choose 1 of them as the best Betty Ross would be a tough one. Tyler did have the best scene of the movie though when she went bonkers on a taxi driver. Tim Roth was as dependable as ever. Good kick-ass summer movie all in all, but nothing more.

I finally got to watch Definitely, Maybe on DVD; the only reason I wanted to watch this was because I really needed to know why in-a-normal-homo-sapiens-universe would women like Isla Fisher, Elizabeth Banks & Rachel Weisz even go for a wuss like Ryan Reynolds. Turns out the movie was pretty decent even with the usual predictable storyline, especially since Abigail Breslin’s captivating interaction with Reynolds anchored the plot pretty well. The 3 gorgeous actresses play pretty much standard 1-dimensional women; the cute best friend, the high school sweetheart, & the elegant ambitious one, in which between these three only Weisz manages to squeeze in something a little more outstanding of a performance. Isla Fisher was noted to be extremely beguiling though.

In line with 1-dimensional women characters, let’s move on to The Other Boleyn Girl, also indulged on DVD. This time, the question was, how do you choose between Natalie Portman & Scarlett Johansson? It’s as easy as choosing between exotic brains & a huge set of melons not as easy as you think. Well, Eric Bana’s King Henry has the answer: don’t choose, bonk both, dump one & decapitate the other. The captivating Portman & curvy Johansson play Anne & Mary Boleyn, sisters who are caught in a dramatic sequence of events with King Henry that leads to horrible aftermaths. A vivid, well-carved out story, what the movie lacked (the Boleyn sisters’ 1-dimensional characters each & lack of further development) was made up by a commanding & intense performance by Portman. Even Jim Sturgess was effective in his small role. The costumes deserve special mention for they were amazing & appropriately symbolic. The timeline was however sometimes a little blurry & rushed, only dictated by the babies that popped out of wombs (watch & you will get what I mean).

This brings us to the final movie on the big screen, The Happening. Now I’m not a film critic specialist or whatever, but I know the sad misconception of the general public that M. Night Shyamalan’s movies are about the twists at the end, often overlooking the fact that this dude has came out with pretty decent original storytelling in beautiful ways. The Sixth Sense was acknowledged as incredible, & like many, I loved it. I thought Unbreakable was slow but awesome nevertheless. Next, though initially feeling as if I got cheated into anticipating it as a horror movie, I really appreciated The Village as a breathtakingly beautiful movie (after the 2nd & 3rd viewing) with stunning performances from Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, & John Hurt, among others. The porch scene between Howard & Phoenix will remain one of the most incredibly poignant & unforgettable romantic scenes ever. I do, however, have to admit nothing could have saved the calamity that was Lady in the Water, so let’s push that aside. I thought The Happening, a movie about nature kicking humans’ asses for once, had a great concept, but was let down by poor execution & acting. I remain oddly intrigued however.

Spoilers ahead: Let me lay it down for you, the twist in this movie is that there is no twist. The movie kicks off with rather stunning sequences of people inexplicably killing themselves in several horrible ways. Within the first few minutes you see a girl explicitly stabbing herself in the neck with a chopstick up close, lines of construction workers walking off the top of a building falling to their deaths, a man intentionally setting a lawn mower to run over himself, people hanging themselves on tree branches & a mass-shooting of their own heads with a gun…you get the idea. Terrorists releasing toxic gas? This idea quickly gets kicked aside as our hero Elliot, played by Mark Wahlberg, while leading his estranged wife Alma (I love Zooey Deschanel!) & his friend’s daughter away from the phenomena, soon figures out it’s the plants that are messing with humans.

I can recall many of the movie’s flaws. As this is entirely a character-driven movie, it is absolutely excruciating to watch Wahlberg’s dreadful performance. On the contrary to many reviews however, I found Deschanel‘s eccentric portrayal of the neurotic Alma to be rather endearing. The rather fascinating idea of plants communicating with each other to teach humans a lesson gets revealed too soon without much suspense, & after that the movie seems designed to just show us the many creative & gory ways humans can think of to kill themselves, made worse by laugh-out-loud scenes like the one involving a man feeding himself to lions. The way the whole shooting-the-two-boys scene & the horrible B-grade horror part of the movie involving the crazy old lady were handled just tops it off. Though still managing to instill shock & awe most of the times, the execution of such an intriguing idea was so appalling & left much to be desired. Even Shyamalan’s usual slick camera work were missing. Thankfully, for once, Shyamalan did not appear this time around, instead he was only the voice of Joey, the guy who kept on calling Alma.

With so many misgivings, why could I not stop pondering about the movie after the viewing? One would argue that the whole concept remained interesting & thought-provoking. It reflects our times ever so accurately, as in reality men pushes mother nature to the limits day by day, that the possibility of Earth deciding one day to teach us all a lesson just seems timely & even, to some extent, appropriate. Some of the underlying hints in the movie at humanity’s ever-increasing threat to nature were so subtle it took some time to figure them out (I needed some forums & IMDb to find out some other people’s interesting takes on some significant scenes). For example, when John Leguizamo shot out that math question regarding the resulting sum if you double previous days’ pennies everyday for a month, which gives an answer of about 10 million. Some viewed this as a reference to how much we unawarely actually affect Earth everyday with our small acts that increase by day. The whole crazy-old-lady scene was at 1st glance thought as completely pointless & (due to again, poor implementation) dreadful, but after much thought, arguably, she embodied a metaphor of mother nature in some ways. Her grudgingly welcoming & accommodating Elliot, Alma & that little girl into her reclusive home (“I guess I have to invite you all in…”) & slapping the little girl’s outreached hand (“Don’t take things that aren’t yours.”) hint at how Earth had no choice but to accommodate our lifestyle & how we take whatever we want from mother nature as we please.

Of course, when the old lady started killing herself every possibility was pretty much wiped away, & the symbolic possibility hit a brick wall. The significance of the completely-plastic model home scene & the bees question were never answered or discovered, while there was something definitely going on between Alma & John Leguizamo’s character. With such a promising & rather brilliant concept, it is sad that the execution was so poor in The Happening that the positive things that remained most memorable were a couple of cool deaths & a wasted fundamental inspiration.

& the ever-deadpan-gorgeous Zooey Deschanel of course. Her eyes. Wow. Remember her as the hot teacher in Bridge To Terabithia (who still got overshadowed by AnnaSophia Robb)?

Don’t forget to catch her first studio music album as part of She & Him as well, just out this year. Oh, the order for the Yamaha Handcrafted LL16 has been placed. It has happened, I’m doing it!

Current situation, indeed

2.704…or 2.700

“Oh! Fark wank bugger shitting arse head and hole!” – Billy Mack from Love Actually, 2003.

Look, I totally understand the increase of the fuel price that we unfortunate Malaysians have to pay from today onwards. It would be utterly impossible for the wankers we have in the government to continue the same subsidy, taking in consideration the shocking current global fuel price while these dickheads continue to spurge our money on other white elephant crap & not going to the root of our problems.

Grand sale! Petrol at 40% off! Final day offer!

What I have a problem with is, the head of the wankers (some of you may refer to him as the Prime Minister) actually promised us all before the election that his government of testicles will not increase the fuel price in 2008.

B-U-L-L-O-C-K-S.

Of course, we all knew it was pre-election bullshit at that time, but now is the part where we can actually say “I farking told you so!”. These lunkheads did not even actually win the election. Take the dozens of small BN component parties outside Peninsular out of the equation, & the 1 million phantom votes, & voila! BN no more.

& that testicle still had the balls to announce that RM625 yearly rebate like it’s some sort of privilege. Yeah, like that’s gonna help a lot for the average vehicle users. After all, this is only the beginning, they are gonna increase a lot more other things. Everything goes up, gaji tarak naik, we citizens suffer, while BN wives have 9 million bucks in an account; you tell me what’s wrong with that picture. Our dear PM then goes on to compare us with neighbouring countries, when bloody hell Malaysia is an oil-producing country! What about our jaw-droppingly embarasssing public transportation system? What about the prices of foreign imported cars that are so farking higher just because you government assholes want to protect your local car manufacturers? Think about that before comparing Lah!

Before & after: Dengan RM1.00, semalam you boleh beli ini macam banyak air kencing, start hari nih beli kencing ini macam sikit saje!

As usual, our country leaders never look to the root of the problem, & just takes the easy way out. What about using our money to REALLY START improving our public transportation system to be cleaner & more reliable, for a start? What about giving more effort in promoting & bringing in hybrid cars, or encouraging NGV installations & increasing NGV stations? Anything! The list goes on and on, but really, does the government even look like they are heading plans to reduce Malaysia’s dependency on petrol & diesel? Nope, in the past 5 years we can only say we sent a man on a vacation in space while Malaysia continues to dig herself a deeper grave hole back on Earth.

Don’t they ever learn? Now a girl can’t even walk outside her home alone, a child cannot play in the playground freely, but still the leaders of our country remain the same. They continue their hopeless tradition of creating bullshit, wait for a problem to arise from that bullshit then only form committees to “discuss efforts” to find a solution. If (& that’s a big IF) problem is solved temporarily on the surface, then they wait for other problems to arise so that other “discussions” to find other solutions could be initiated.

There will be positive outcomes from this heap of baja kerbau. Perhaps, we will learn to spend more wisely, we will utilize energy more efficiently & road demons will learn to minimize over-accelerating unnecessarily. Perhaps, aunties & tuition-moms (Malaysia’s version of soccer moms) will drive using their brains for once, while soon we might see Ah Bengs in un-pimped stock Kancils & Mat Rempits on bicycles. Perhaps, the next Satria GTi race in Sepang will be replaced by the Kancil Grand Prix.

But still.

“Oh! Fark wank bugger shitting arse head and hole!”

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