Thursday, 31 July 2008

As if to rub it in my face...

So I was complaining about "Science" and it's part in the lack of hoverboards in our world a couple of weeks ago, and now look what comes up for auction on ebay:

The auction starts tomorrow, and runs for a week, so go ahead if you've got thirty thousand dollars to splash out on a hoverboard that doesn't actually work. Jesus. Even better, the auction states that "It is in used but outstanding condition" which is just bizarre. Used? IT'S NOT A REAL HOVERBOARD! What did they use the thing for other than making the movie?

Please note, despite this... if you're out there and want to be my sugar daddy, this is a good place to start. I can be very nice.

Credit where it's due, I spotted this on High Snobiety.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Gake no ue no Ponyo - aka: Ponyo - Fish-child

Hayao Miyazaki's new movie Gake no ue no Ponyo (literally "Ponyo on the cliff by the sea") just came out here. Sadly I won't be watching it in the theatre, since it'll be sans subs; but since I (like almost everyone else on the planet except my girlfriend) pretty much assume that Miyazaki can't make a bad movie, it'll probably be pretty great.

It's about Ponyo, who is some kind of fish-child-thing who runs away from home and meets a boy who lives on a cliff. Of course she wants to become a real girl, and go walkin' around on those... Whaddya call 'em? Oh, feet. It doesn't look to be too deep, but it's probably really touching, and I'd imagine it to be close to Tonari no Totoro in terms of its overall feeling. It's squarely aimed at kids though, and of course kids have apparently been key to it's success. And how do you hook kids? Other than monkeys? With a SONG!

Wasn't that adorable? Seriously, all the kids are humming it. It's in their brains now, and it's not going away until their parents take them to the goddamn movie. Ok, maybe I'm humming it too. And now you are too. It goes:

Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyo
Sakana no ko...

Yeah about that sakana no ko thing. Ponyo is often refered to as a goldfish, and I don't want to be all churlish and whatever but that is one funky looking goldfish. She does a little like Jimmy, the Hideous Penguin Boy though. While explaining the plot to me somebody fumbled around for what she is (there is a lot of confusion, even amongst the young) eventually settling on "fish-child". Fish-child is a fair translation of sakana no ko too, so let's go with that. I'm pretty sure that her actual species is "Cute", but probably those pencil-pushing poindexter scientists don't have that in their exercise books yet. Look sharp scientists.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

I Recommend Comic Books : The Goon

Some time ago a friend of mine, a Robert Minson, recommended to me the comic book The Goon. Robert often speaks in riddles and lies, the better to vex his foes and test his aquaintances; but this time he appears to have been being straight as the proverbial. The Goon is a dazzlingly good work of fiction: equal parts creeping horror, absurd slapstick humour, beautifully weighted pathos, and sickening brutality. It's writer and artist Eric Powell has rocketed to the top of my genius pile for being able to balance the tone so wonderfully. The story of a big, surly, musclebound Goon fighting the forces of evil in a rundown backwater town, dances from grizzly violence to comic absurdity with the lightest of steps. It's an incredible feat. Plus it includes such scenes as:

I think more people should read comic books, and I certainly think more people should read this.

Monday, 28 July 2008

The Inevitable Japanese Vending Machines Post

Yes, Japan has a lot of vending machines. They line every street, making sure that no matter what time of the night it is you always have their friendly white glow to light your way home. Of course it's a sign of Japan's rampant consumer culture, but it's also pretty goddamn convenient and pretty vital for surviving the strength-sapping summer, or warming up in the freezing winter. Also the colours are so pretty! And the contents of each machine vary ever so slightly, so that I've started running over to check out unusual looking vending machines incase they have a can of Nectar of the Gods or something.

Anyway, here's a pretty perfunctory post about the joys of Japanese vending machines. Let's start off with a photo I took after the snow hit Sapporo this year. Everyone seems to love this photo so let's look at it again:

It's actually a comment on the ritual of... something... or... yeah. I got lucky with that shot.

I have never seen the used-underwear vending machine of legend. If they ever existed, I doubt they do now. Although apparently this is the chief point of reference for Japan, for those who live on the internet. Which of course tells you a lot more about the internet than it does about Japan etc. etc.

One huge difference is that in the UK we have so many chocolate and sweets vending machines, whereas in Japan they have almost none. The one time I did find chocolate in a vending machine, quite awesomely it came in a glass jar, I assume so that it could be slotted into the machine where a can should go. I kept the jar of course, it looked more valuable than the chocolate, and I like shiny things:

Here's a blog by a guy in my city who takes a photo almost every day (Monday to Friday) of the Coca-Cola vending machine opposite his appartment: It's a wonderful idea, and he's something of a hero to me, but that doesn't stop his blog being pretty soul-smashingly boring after a few minutes. Also: Coca-Cola? It's a shame it isn't a Suntory or Sapporo vending machine, I like those a lot more. His blog name apparently translates as "I take a picture of a vending machine everyday (or so.) I am sorry." It's nice that he apologises for doing it.

And here's a Sapporo Ramen vending machine that I found hidden away in the backstreets of Fukuoka. I have now found one of these in Sapporo too, but for a while it felt like this was the bastion of Sapporo-style ramen in Fukuoka - Tonkotsu Ramen City.

There's a good post about the Vending Machine expo in Tokyo here. Loads of really cool machines that I'm sure I'll never see.

And of course, another interesting thing about the vending machines in Japan is that if they were on the streets like this in the UK, they'd all be tipped over or smashed. No-one thinks to do that in Japan.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Used Clothing Coward

Dammit. Yet another name I can't use when I open my emporium of joy. I guess Electronics Moron is still free. And Shoes Pervert.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

The Three Pilliars of Western Civilization: Coffee, Rock and Wrestling

I really started to love coffee a few years ago, so this is the first of probably many posts about that dark, heady mistress. Coffee. During the week it's fuel, and my tristes with coffee are perfunctory and business like. But on the weekend I like to really spend some time with coffee, you know, lavish some attention on it. Oh coffee... come here you...

So I keep track of places here that serve good coffee, and believe me that'll be a whole series of posts in the future. While the coffee boom took root in Japan just as much as it did everywhere else, coffee here probably isn't as good as the States or Europe overall, and finding great, strong coffee isn't all that easy.

But anyway, as well as looking for coffee in the real world, I keep my antenna up online, so I immediately noted a fun story in the Guardian that Megadeth frontman (or as I like to think of him, former Metallica guitarist) Dave Mustaine had launched his own blend of coffee.

But not only that, it seems that while Mustaine gets the column inches, he's only one side of this currently three-headed hydra, as you can also get your buzz-buzz on with the help of former WCW and WWE wrestler Goldberg, and Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante.

That was the point that I realised I had to post this, because if I don't then Bunny will, and I'll have been scooped by my own sister. As it is: Hey Bunny! Goldberg has his own coffee and it's called Jackhammer Java!

I really wanted to find a review of some of these blends from independant sources, but the best I could find online was a bunch of people going "Dave Mustaine's got his own coffee! Sweet!" or "Dave Mustaine's got his own coffee! Fffnnnaaar!" Which means I'm sorely tempted to try them myself, although they are a bit dear. Anyway there's plenty of hilarity to be had by clicking around the Legends Cup Coffee store, so go right ahead, but to be honest I don't think the concept of Dave Mustaine's Coffee is all that ridiculous. Guy likes coffee I guess.

Dave Mustaine's Decaf Coffee though? That is fucking hysterical.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Seriously now, Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast... damn.

I love Salinger for how much he creates with only a few well placed observations. At times in his Gormenghast trilogy Mervyn Peake accomplishes the same feat, but sometimes he just lets the prose flow. As if he took one look at your brain and said, "Wouldn't you rather be using that for something?"

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Field Recordings 1 - The Namboku Line

Yeah, I know - daily my ass. Still I kinda had a reason, well a couple of reasons and one was trying to teach myself the internet again. God it's wonderful the stuff you can do, but actually doing it requires apparently more than just making gooey eyes at your computer. You actually have to frickin work at the damn thing, and the more crap accumulates on the internet, the more you have to dig through it to find someone talking sense.

Anyway, hopefully I'm on now, and hopefully this'll work. It might seem banal to the point of narcolepsy, but I'm pretty sure some people will get a kick out of it. I'm going to start recording 10 minute bursts of Japan and posting them here as streams and MP3s to download. It'll be places, events, things like that and will I figure be a little different to just looking at pictures.

To start with, something really basic, the underground train I get whenever I go into town. I live on the last stop of the North - South Namboku Line, and here's the ten minutes it takes to get all the way into Odori, the centre of town.

If is as great as it says it is, you should be able to download it here:
The Namboku Line

edit 29th August: and now available to download here at, because wasn't as great as it said it was. Here's the Internet Archive full page too.

Get off at 2:30 for the Best Denki superstore, a pornographic video store, and Yuka's appartment. Get off at 4:30 for a load of bars, restaurants and shops, and Matt & Ben. Get off at 6 minutes for the North side of Hokkaido University campus, and get off at 7:30 for the centre of campus. Get off at 9 minutes for Sapporo Station, you're in the city centre and you can go to the cinema, or go shopping, or catch another train from here. Finally stay on until the end for Odori, where all the big shops and department stores are.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Now that I'm updating every day, yes, you're gonna get shit like this.

When I invent a device for travelling between dimensions, you know damn well it's gonna look like this:

Also, this guy? Creepy as fuck:

From Jeff Smith's new comic RASL.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Nike: Delivering on the childhood dreams you may have forgotten you had.

There is a huge, long running and increasingly popular meme that the future in which we are living is not futuristic enough. To wit: “Where the fuck is my jetpack already?” Now at least one company has stepped forward and attempted to make our present look more like how people thought our present would look when it was their future twenty years ago.

That is Nike have finally brought out a shoe that is kinda like the one in Back to the Future 2.

The Nike Hyperdunk (only nicknamed the McFly, for fear of stepping on toes, legally speaking) is pretty clearly inspired by the sneakers that Nike created for Back to the Future 2, and it looks pretty awesome really. It’s not the exact shoe: in terms of the design, and especially in terms of the fact that it doesn’t light up (it does glow in the dark though) and the laces don’t tie themselves. I’m gonna put my neck out however, and say it probably looks better than the one in the movie, and it is after all a basketball shoe, made for sports, and the original looks kinda like a ski-boot. Some people are never satisfied though, and you can still sign the online petition to get Nike to release the real things here. I like that these guys are purists, and they ain't gonna settle for anything less than the complete and perfect realisation of their dream.

I first saw about the sneakers a while back on a… sneaker site somewhere, but CNBC actually has a remarkably comprehensive article here. Interestingly Nike’s sneaker braintrust Tinker Hatfield did patent the movie shoes back when the movie came out.

Oh, and in other news Nike’s sneaker braintrust, and the man who invented cross-training shoes is called Tinker Hatfield.

All this and still no hoverboard? Can’t you do anything right, Science?

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Japanese Packaging – So Seductive, So Sinful

Last summer I developed something of a crush on the squeezed lemon drink “Lemogre”. Put aside that the name inspires visions of citrus-trolls crushing other fruits underfoot and despoiling orchards, it was a delicious crushed lemon drink with lots of pulp too. I liked it so much I hollowed out its carcass and it’s my pencil pot now.

This year, Lemogre’s back and it’s having its ass handed to it by a far weedier Acerola & Lemon beverage.

That’s some lovely design right there, shame the drink tastes how I imagine a saline drip does.

This year’s Lemogre package is somewhat more shoddily illustrated, with a “hot manga chick”. She does however seem to be screaming insanely in one speech bubble.

“ Yheeeei!!” Is the sound I imagine a hell-harpy makes as it’s trying to claw your eyes out. Elsewhere on the packaging we learn that “Lemogre is Squeeeezed!!”

The point here being that Japanese consumables come in some wonderfully realised packaging, both in graphic design and ease of use. The downside of this being that there’s always far too much packaging, and the wastage is horrifying. A bag of cookies where the cookies are protected by a plastic tray, and further INDIVIDUALLY wrapped in more plastic? A coffee, stabilised by a card frame inside a paper bag inside a plastic bag? Are you going to toilet paper Mother Natures tree too, or are you done now?

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Ego Trip

In Kinokunya, the wonderful, big book shop in Sapporo:

I don't know which would be better: if someone did that on purpose, or if it was just the mysterious hand of fate passing judgement on the entire rack.

Monday, 14 July 2008

From Left-Eye With Love

I bought a T-shirt today for 500 yen, about £2.50. It's an eye-watering aquamarine colour, and it has "Burn the Falcons" written on it in bright pink, and a large print of Lisa "Left-Eye" Lopez from TLC looking sassy. I bought it coz it was awesome, of course, and when I got home I found that it came with a free condom:

Seriously now, I'm running out of words to decribe the world. the condom was hidden in the label's tag, in a cardboard pouch with the motto "Godspeed You!", which at first I thought might be a half-assed steal from Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but now... well...

Is this a reference to the safe-sex gimmick that TLC used when they first arrived, or is it just that this label is for "playaz" who are gonna need a free condom everytime they buy a shirt, coz everytime they wear a new shirt they look so fine that their lady has to bang them as soon as she lays eyes on them? And if it's a label for "playerz"... isn't this T-Shirt a little gay?

Also... Burn the Falcons?

Please help.