Sunday, 31 August 2008

Actually, this isn't even funny.

Sometimes I feel like with a certain amount of absurdity even the most shocking thing can be funny, but I think this one pushes the limit.

This is a Harley-Davidson branded motorcycle shop in Sapporo city centre. Sapporo, may I remind you, is in Japan.

And they spell it out in katakana underneath. Y'know just so it's clear. Wow. I would just love to know how they chose that name.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Transit Restrictions

Just thought it was interesting that Sapporo transit are trialling women-only subway cars during the morning rish hour until mid September:

This is pretty common in Tokyo I think, so it's not huge news. For me, I've only commuted at rush hour a few times so I don't really know what it's like at that time in the morning, but I do remember a hundred million charcoal grey suits, all moving as one.


Friday, 29 August 2008

Busy Works

I'm much to busy preparing for future content to worry about providing current content today. Or rather, I just spent so long wrestling with the concept of hosting, embedding and so-on that I really can't be bothered to post much more than this.

I fixed my old "Field Recordings" post where I upped a recording of the train journey into town. Hopefully now I can do a bunch more of these, stream them here and set them for download too using the joys of and Y'see, I should've just gone with the hippies to start with.

Go back and look at the post heeee-yah: Field Recordings 1

I guess in other news, last weekend Matt was cleaning out his old appartment. I went along to help transport a microwave, but all I got out of the deal was a shoe-rack and this lousy coffee table:

It doesn't even have any bloody legs, and those plastic things keep getting in the way all the time. Oh well, you get what you pay for I guess.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Spider-Man <3's The Punisher

Here's hoping Spider-Man 4 is a buddy comedy featuring the Punisher:

Again from Punisher War Journal #13 by Matt Fraction and Cory Walker. Who are both geniuses.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Alex's tiny mind is blown by linguistics!

This'll be two days on the bounce posting articles I found on the Guardian's website, but oh... holy hell I love this one so much.

Peter K Austin's Top 10 Endangered Languages

That's just heart-breaking that these languages are virtually dead, with almost no hope of revival. But just learning that they exist makes the whole world seem that much bigger and more wonderful. Seriously:

Yuchi is spoken in Oklahoma, USA, by just five people all aged over 75. Yuchi is an isolate language (that is, it cannot be shown to be related to any other language spoken on earth). Their own name for themselves is Tsoyaha, meaning "Children of the Sun". Yuchi nouns have 10 genders, indicated by word endings: six for Yuchi people (depending on kinship relations to the person speaking), one for non-Yuchis and animals, and three for inanimate objects (horizontal, vertical, and round)

Holy freaking crap! That's amazing! And if anything this is the biggest kick up the ass to learn Japanese I've had yet. If I don't hurry up and make some progress cracking the language of the country where I live, how will I ever get around to mastering a language where you have to click your tongue, or one of those ones where tones are connected to meaning?

It's interesting to see Ainu in there too. The Ainu people are indigenous to Japan, and especially Hokkaido where there are some small communities. Apparently the Ainu people have been recognised by the Japanese government at last, which is no small thing, so with any luck their tongue won't be endagered for long.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Iconic Obama

Over on the Guardian they have a great three minute video of their political cartoonist Steve Bell visiting Manifest Hope, an exhibition of pictures of Obama by contemporary artists. Ah the Guardian, doing so much for the internet and yet I still can't embed your videos? For shame:

Morgan Spurlock's in there too, and I was quite surprised at how Shepard Fairey, who's responsible for the ultra-iconic Obama image below, comes across as quite a cock. Still I was most excited to see what Steve Bell looks like since I've been loving his cartoons for years. Bearded!

Monday, 25 August 2008

Monday 25th August 2008

Just some notes from today:

An elderly man found an innovative way to strike up a conversation with me and Matt today, by falling over backwards in a spectacular fashion while trying to get on his bike. He was nice enough, though I understood maybe less than half of what he was saying.

We then cycled back to Hamburger Risa that I wrote about before. Turns out that it's even better than I first thought because you get free coffee refills. Free refills! It's not love, but I would bear that shop's babies.

And I bought a Mos Burger T-shirt from Uniqlo. It's a great T-shirt, but I am pretty much just being a walking advert for one of Japan's largest burger chains. Then again, since I eat there once a week I'm only endorsing sartorially what I'm already endorsing with my hard earned cash.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Remember that time when Spider-man revealed his secret identity and everyone knew who he was?

For all the comic fans that read this blog. Which, possibly is just me when I'm checking for formatting errors. This was my favourite moment from that brief period when everyone knew that Spider-man was Peter Parker, and he was running around in his black costume:

From Punisher War Journal #13. Matt Fraction and Cory Walker are both awesome.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Let's have a movie review! The Aristocrats (2005)

Look what I did up there, writing the year after the name of the movie. So professional. Why do people do that anyway? Is it really important? Does it place the movie in it's appropriate historical context? Jeez, I feel like a shill.

So I suddenly realised I never got round to watching The Aristocrats, and I kinda wanted to. So I watched it. Ah, a happy ending! Let's just savour that for a moment.

OK, but, y'see, it wasn't very good. The movie, as I'm sure everyone knows, is a documentary about a kinda comedians' inside joke that works by building up a shocking level of filth and depravity and topping it off with a silly, unexpected punchline. I won't go into it, it's explained in about the first thirty seconds of the movie, and the other hour and a half is devoted to people's opinions and anecdotes about the joke, and the glaringly obvious point that the reason the joke is funny is how you tell it.

That's pretty key right there: the reason the joke is funny is because of the flair, imagination and timing of the person telling the joke. No, wait, that's integral to the entire movie. And of course the movie is then edited so that HARDLY ANYONE IS SHOWN JUST TELLING THE GODDAMN JOKE. Holy smokes, I want to grab whoever edited this mess by the lapels and thrust him face first into the faeces that are so often mentioned. There are a few good laughs in there, but all the biggest ones are when a comedian is just ALLOWED TO TELL THE DAMN JOKE, THE WHOLE WAY THROUGH, WITH THEIR TIMING. But for most of the time you see punchlines, build-ups and asides spliced together in a way that somehow adds speed and kills any momentum at the same time. I understand, most people go overboard and tell the joke for ten minutes so they couldn't fit them all in, and the key performance, Gilbert Gottfried's set on Hugh Hefner's roast, would cost a small fortune to license, so there are limitations on what they were able to do; but what they ended up with is a movie that is no damn good. It's like a bunch of guys geeking out over something that I'm sure is pretty awesome, and stripping away all the magic and fun. It made me pretty mad by the end.

This extended clip of Bob Saget's piece (I assume from the DVD) tops the one they show in the film, but you can still feel that if they just put a camera on him and rolled it would be better still. Oh and STRONG, STRONG CONTENT WARNINGS! Absolute brain-searing filth from here on out:

Friday, 22 August 2008

Olympics: You're 100 years too late.

Y'know what? Screw the 2008 Olympics. If you want a truly great sporting competition you have to go back exactly 100 years to the 1908 Olympics in London.

Apparently this year the Great British team (or "Team GB" as all the papers keep saying) has done better that they have for 100 years. Bravo lads and all that, but as I'm sure has been mentioned a lot in the press back home, in 1908 we won 56 gold medals - more than twice as many as our nearest rivals the USA. How did we do this? Well partly by doing what Englishmen do best - being scoundrels.

The 1908 Olympics seems to have been one of the greatest sporting events ever held. Originally slated to be held in Rome, the Italians pulled out after Vesuvius erupted, devastating Naples. Ostensibly they no longer had the money to stage the games because they were rebuilding Naples, although apparently it is also thought that Baron de Coubertin used this as an excuse to hide the fact that they never had enough money to begin with. This BBC article describes Baron de Coubertin as "wily". Wily! Is there any greater adjective? Britain stepped in at the last minute and saved the day, and in doing so organised an Olympics where they could thrash the pants off everyone else in the world. Here's a faceful of facts for ya taken from articles on Wikipedia, The Guardian and the Beeb:

- The 1908 Olympics was six months long. No, really.

- The 1908 Olympics was the only Olympics to feature "rackets" some sort of racket-ball game only played by public school boys in England. Thus the only competitors were British, and we collected all the medals. This kind of thing happened quite a lot in the 1908 Olympics.

- We won gold, silver and bronze in the tug-of-war too, even though two other nations did enter.

- Tug-of-war was actually in the Olympics. God I would love to see that now.

- After a dispute over the rules, the American team refused to take part in a re-run of the men's 400 metres. This left only one British runner to run around the track on his own to collect the gold. Impressively this is apparently the only time this has ever happened at the Olympics.

- The marathon deserves a post all of its own. This was the first marathon to be 26 miles long, and the length was decided in some sort of bizarre battle of wills. The British organisers were determined to honour the King, after the Americans had refused to dip their flag to him, stating "this flag dips to no earthly king", so they extended the Marathon by a mile to start from Windsor Castle and finish in front of the King. That's a pretty badass line about "no earthly king" though to be honest.

- The leader into the final section of the marathon was the Italian, Dorando Pietri. However in the final straight he collapsed five times, got up and started running back the way he came. The British officials intervened and helped him over the line, but after a complaint by the Americans he was disqualified because of this outside interference. It has a happy ending though, he went on to win lots more marathons, and he was given a special gold cup because he should have won that one.

- Pietri was given brandy as he was running as a pick-me-up. The favourite, a Canadian runner, was given champagne, and collapsed after 19 miles.

Of course the 1908 Olympics was seminal to the development of the Olympics. For the next games they brought in a whole raft of improvements to make the games fairer and more sporting. So in a way Great Britain had a key role in the development of the Olympics - just by being bastards. Ah my people, scoundrels one and all.

I would love to see tug-of-war reinstated to the Olympics, though.

Thursday, 21 August 2008


A monkey appeared in Shibuya Station this morning. It hung out for a bit, then evaded a bunch of hapless looking goons with nets and made it's escape into the city. It's a "fancy that!" news story, you can read about it all over the place:

Apparently they checked with all the registered monkey owners in the capital, and no-one is missing a monkey. Which means that either this fella hiked his way in from out in the rurals, or he's been living wild and unnoticed in the middle of Tokyo. Either way, I want more than a story that raises a smirk. I want a movie, or possibly a TV mini-series; a comic book; a kids animated feature from Pixar or Ghibli - there are so many wonderful possibilities. Look sharp, Hollywood!

Wednesday, 20 August 2008


So I mentioned that I saw the V∞redoms (thank god for the copy & paste function that frees me from finding out how to type that infinity sign) at Rising Sun Rock. And I mentioned they were awesome, but here's a little more. They played first on the dance stage on Saturday, for 20 minutes longer than almost everyone else that weekend. They had four drummers with full kits (including Yoshimi P-We), Yamantaka Eye and another dude helping out on guitar, electronics and tuning Eye's farcical seven necked guitar.

Yes, the seven necked guitar, according to wikipedia called the "Sevener". Sadly I couldn't find any good photos of it online, but luckily I found a video from Portland this year. When I saw them setting up I thought: "Whoah, that things huge, he's going to need a stepladder to play it." Of course he didn't, because he just hit the thing with sticks:

It's like he thought "guitars sound great, but I just like hitting drums so much... wait a second..." Obviously beating on it with sticks tends to knock it out of tune, so for a while the other guy's job was to retune it. The sun was searing too, so Eye was wearing a huge farmer's hat too, that added to the whole... insanity of it. Seeing them was very special for me since I've wanted to see the Boredoms/V∞redoms for years now, and they actually played Birmingham, my hometown, about a month after I left for Japan. That's kinda annoying to be honest, so now I feel like the world's been set to rights a little.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

My favourite object in the world / Something about blogging.

I hereby present to you, for your... delictation and universal appreciation the Nike Air Max 90 burger, by Ole Hemmendorff:

It was created for Nike, who commissioned 8 artists to interpret a classic Nike item for a big launch in Stockholm. Considering I still don't buy Nike it's kinda weird that I've posted two items basically about how cool they are, but they are nothing if not fucking prolific - and this combines two of my biggest crushes into one repulsive, irresistable whole.

Of course, it has been posted on many, many, many blogs before, which made me think again about blogging. Well actually the list of "via"s made me laugh. (apparently this is an internet shorthand for "I'm ripping off someone else's blog" that I wasn't aware of).

I originally saw it on High Snobiety, then was prompted to use it here by seeing it on Kanye West's blog. Yeezy is kind of an asshole though, coz he never credits his sources and he rarely links out, so I googled it to get closer to the source... and here's what I found:

a blog

And amusingly that last link is to Vice magazine who seem to be organising the launch for Nike, meaning that they commissioned the artist really, not Nike.

Many blogs seem to fall into two categories: linkblogs, trawling the internet for the cream, and personal blogs writing about events in the person's life. I recently got involved with the creative groupblog Loom in direct opposition to the first of these, and I've been trying to make this blog more like the latter, with occasional internet finds and so-on dropped in because, frankly my life isn't all that interesting and I can't post everyday otherwise. Those seem to be the blogs I like - a combination of everything - and I guess I'm still feeling my way here.

So I'd like to make the following my statement of intent for this blog. "I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm trying not to be a wanker. I'm sorry."

Thank you.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Rising Sun Rock Festival 2008 in EZO

So hey! I went to an honest to god camping Rock Festival!

The last full on camping rock festival I attended was Glastonbury, many years ago, the year that David Bowie played and as many people jumped the fences as paid to get in. I still hold the opinion that while the music was wonderful, that was the worst place I have ever been in my life, so I kinda doubted I'd ever attend one of these things again. However, this is Japan, so while there are a number of things that you'll never be able to get away from at festivals (too much walking, crowds, unhealthy food, bad weather, camping etc.) it was wonderful really. The campsite was fairly quiet at night, which was symptomatic of a wider civility that the Japanese bring to rock festivals - i.e. don't act like a cock to other people. Crime never seemed to be an issue. The toilets never ran out of toilet paper. Seriously, the whole weekend... that's incredible. And although you did have to cope with using the Japanese squat versions of portaloos - think about it and that's actually cleaner and more hygenic than seated western style toilets. Do you see? I can draw you a diagram if you want.

The weather was pretty hard to stick. When we arrived it was raining, and it only got heavier while we were trekking around looking for our campsite and setting up our comically tiny tent (we had to buy one the night before as it turned out we couldn't borrow the one we thought we could). The sky for the whole first day was a dark grey ceiling that made the whole thing feel like an indoor event. The second day was glorious sunshine and inevitable sunburn.

The festival is a two day event, but the second day runs until 5 in the morning so that you can see the sun come up. This meant that at 4.30 in the morning the headliners Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra hit the main stage in gleaming silver suits and while
there were still plenty of people packing out the main standing area and going crazy, there were many people lurching around like slack-jawed zombies and praying for the first shuttle bus home.

There were lots of fun Japanese festival things like a small karaoke stage, a weirdly spectacular smoking area, an endless merch stand with a section for every artist, and collectable pin badges. This last thing was pretty interesting, there was a big row of gatcha-gatcha (bubble) machines, selling random 1" pins for 100 yen each. Every artist had a pin plus the festival had a bunch too, and collecting them all was quite a task so next to the machines was a whole tent for trading the badges, and people were taking it very seriously. As someone pointed out, it's pretty much rock-fest-pokemon.

The music was incredible too. I was pretty much desperate to go just to see Tokyo Jihen, Shiina Ringo and Zazen Boys and none of them let me down. I didn't bother taking snaps of them playing, they wouldn't have come out and they wouldn't have captured how great those artists were. Tokyo Jihen performed in robes while Ringo wore a kimono with the Tokyo Jihen logo and sang through a megaphone. The musicians were phenomenal and Ringo's extremely restrained, stylised performance was great. For her solo performance the next day she reworked some of her biggest songs for piano and string quartet, everyone dressed like doctors, and it was also great. Zazen Boys however... holy crap. I'm not too sure about their last single (their new album is out next month) so I wasn't sure what to expect, but they absolutely blew me away. Tighter than the tightest thing you can think of, their songs "Stop & Go" - as their singer joked - with brutal, thrilling intensity. A lot of Japanese rock music is in debt to western music to a large degree but Mukai, their leader, has carved out something unique and to me they have to be one of the best rock bands in the world. Yuki also became their new no. 1 fan too, that's how good they were.

Buffalo Daughter, in the lovely Crystal Palace building, were incredible too. Bloodthirsty Butchers despite the awesome, screaming guitar of Hisako from Number Girl, only reinforced my opinion of them as "pretty good". DJ Krush was incredible. The Vooredoms (Boredoms, whatever) were amazing. Mr. Children... kinda sucked.

And of course, it was a rock festival, so there was lots of hanging out with good people too, and sitting on the grass, and dozing in the shade. It was really a pretty great way to end my holiday.

My flickr set is here, for a lot more of the experience!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

There's no internet in Ishikari fields.

Tomorrow I'm going to the big old music festival Rising Sun Rock in EZO (Ezo is the old name for Hokkaido) so I'm not going to be able to post for a few days. I know, it's a blot on my copy book, but I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get internet out there and let's not pretend like I'm going to try. Let's just look at this awesome live performances by one of the bands I'm going to see and everything will be alright:

Tokyo Jihen - Himitsu (Live)

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Missied Opportunities #1: Mosdo

Collaborations. HOT. I was in a shop last week and I saw a pair of New Balance x Stussy x Real Mad Hectic sneakers with an Autumn theme... so hot they were almost on fire. They illuminated the store with flames of awesome, and of course this is Japan so they were two sizes too small, but still. HOT. Everyone loves an exciting collab, like when Eddie Van Halen played with Michael Jackson, or when Jimmy Page played with P. Diddy; but here's one to leave them all in the dust:

Mosdo. Mos Burger x Mister Donut. There's a Mos Burger 10 seconds from where I work and a Mister Donut about 2 minutes away, and I use both from time to time (Misudo usually for the coffee, which is pretty good if over-priced). They're both really pretty good at what they do for huge corporate chains, so let me tell you this was a team-up that really had me salivating. And what do the geniuses come up with? Hot chicken burger and hot chicken pie. Jesus, be still my pounding heart.

Let me tell you what I want: a honey glazed donut, split in half with a goddamn burger in the middle. Is that too much to ask? It's a burger chain collaborating with a donut chain, who bloody brought up the idea of chicken? I tell you, humanity has this... potential to be great, but it keeps squandering it like this. Look sharp humanity!

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Sapporo Food: Hamburger RISA (original location)


I should've updated this a long time ago since Hamburger RISA closed at this location a couple of years back now. I'm pretty sure I deleted it from my map... at least I hope I did... Anyway, I knew where RISA was moving to, I even went there last summer, but the place still hadn't reopened and I pretty much gave up hope. Turns out it did reopen in the second half of last year and it's just as awesome as ever. So I've done a new blog post about it, and you can just treat this one as a trip down memory lane.


Today this city just got a little bit more awesome, when I went to Hamburger Risa. Yuki and I spotted it when we were driving back from somewhere a while ago, and today it just popped into my head as somewhere to go for lunch. It’s another one of those irritatingly difficult to get to restaurants on the outskirts of town that you really need a car to get to (also, it doesn’t seem to have any parking per se), and it sits in a neighbourhood that’s dominated by a big out of town Uniqlo. It was incredible for SO MANY reasons.

First, as soon as we walked in we were impressed - the place looks incredible. In that it look absolutely awful. There are a bunch of old LPs tacked to the walls, along with some postcards and one bar where you can sit and eat. Other than that the café is a complete tip, with Jazz and Blues CDs, minidisks and Vinyl piled up everywhere, a guitar, amps and bits of other amps strewn around the place, coffee filters stacked on DVDRs and all manner of chaos going on. Everything in there from the clock (that doesn’t work) to the coffee grinder, to the fridge is vintage to the point of looking like someone spent some loving time twonking it with a hammer. We sat down. The man stared at us. We looked around for a moment for the menu, and not finding one, mumbled something about seeing the menu? Oh, he said, we only have one hamburger.
That’s it. The entire menu of Hamburger Risa is one Hamburger. Oh, and you can get Cola, Coffee, Orange Juice (freshly squeezed in a vintage Sunkist machine) and Ginger Ale (imported, but the best I’ve had in Japan, it actually has a kick like Ginger Beer). As he later commented, it’s hard for him to turn a profit – he doesn’t serve fries or alcohol, he’s not a sports bar, and he’s out in the middle of nowhere. He closes at 8pm everyday because it’s not really worth staying open later. He had a, frankly, bizarrely upbeat demeanour while making it pretty clear that he didn’t really want to be running this place, but he was stuck with it. There’s no money in Hamburgers apparently.
The hamburger was wonderful, he doesn’t add any sauces or relish to start with because he doesn’t like them, just onions, tomato and lettuce (there were a bunch of sauces on the counter you could use). The beef was excellent. It’s 100% Japanese, according to a faded, felt-tip cardboard sign, and he talked to us about how most burger joints in Japan, chain or otherwise, mix their beef with pork to lower the cost and then use bacon or eggs to hide the smell. I had no idea, so that’s some pretty valuable information right there. He said Mos Burger was ok, because they say they do it, but most other places keep it hush-hush.
This guy, the owner and cook, and I would imagine the only staff member, seemed familiar, and about a quarter of an hour after we walked in I remembered where I had seen him before. I had seen him immaculately turned out, fronting a super-tight boogie-woogie jazz sextet in the blues bar Buddy Buddy a few months ago. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him, but before we left he mentioned it to us. He’s an incredible guitarist needless to say.

The story of Hamburger Risa, as related in a kinda deadpan, stand-up way, goes like this: Hamburger Risa was founded in Fukuoka in 1956 by his mother; sadly they went out of business around about the millennium, and he was living in Sapporo at the time so he decided to open a new Hamburger Risa for his mother in Sapporo, so she could come to live up here. She moved up for three months, decided it was too cold and moved back to Fukuoka, and this guy was left with it. While I was there I also got to pick up one of these bad boys:

Hamburger Street magazine, a.k.a. Alex’s Bible. They have long articles and features about ten of the best Burger restaurants in Japan, and Hamburger Risa is one of them. Hiroshima’s God Burger, which is awesome, is also in there. It’s all in Japanese of course, but Yuki read out the highlights, including what he considers the hardest part of his job (making money) and whether he wants to keep running a burger joint for a long time (everyone else says “Yes! Of course!” he says “I want to quit as soon as I can”). I’m quite glad that I didn’t whip my camera out inside and start snapping away as he seems pretty down on that too.
I strongly recommend it, it’s North 24 and West god knows what, apparently the closest train station is 24 Ken on the orange Tozai line. We told him that his style of burgers would be really popular with our foreign friends and he shrugged and said he guessed so, but that it was so far out of the way, and they were all going to TK6 for the burgers. He pointed out that he doesn't even serve fries, but really I don't think he was too worried.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Happy Olympics Everyone!

Well the Olympics has started in Beijing, China. There was a spectacular opening ceremony that I didn't see, and now there will be some sports that I'll probably watch a little of. I'm kinda worried about the air pollution in Beijing and its affect on the athletes, and I'm certainly not impressed by the seemingly dickish attitude of the Chinese government the whole time - but I'm not well enough informed to pass any kind of judgement, so I don't mean this picture as some super-damning criticism. It is a great piece though, by the chinese photo artist Wan Quingsong:

The Glory of Hope , 240x180cm, Photograph, Wang Qingsong, 2007

I read about Wang Quingsong in an art magazine in a fancy, fancy shopping mall in Fukuoka, while I was visiting Andy this year. I don't know much about him, but I'd love to see his work in the Flesh, since his photos are so damn big! Check out those dimensions, they must be staggering!

I'm sorry if this post is a bit crazy, today I cycled far too far and played football in the sun, and ate terrible food, so my brain is somewhat broked. However we did end up inviting a guy to play who was standing around watching us, and he was a nice guy, and of course very good at football. I thought those kind of things never really happened, but apparently they do.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Stealin' from another man's blog, aka: If it's good enough for Kanye West...

You know who has a great blog? Kanye West of course! I mean, it's more like a link-log, he only pops up to talk about himself from time to time; but with his machine gun spray of design, technology, mostly naked girls, insanely expensive fashion items, and slightly less naked-slightly more famous girls - he has a pretty high hit rate.

And also a pretty high rate of almost naked girls.

Of course there's the spectre of ghost-blogging, something that he's thoroughly denied, but frankly I'm willing to let it slide anyway. He (or his online doppelganger) has brought a bunch of great things to my attention, and his blog's always worth a look. I know that almost everything he posts he's probably reposting from elsewhere, but frankly it's always nice to find a good digest.

The point being that I absolutely had to post about The Vader Project. It recently hit Japan, and now draws from a collection of over a hundred life-size Darth Vader replica helmets that have been painted, decorated, customized or otherwise mutated by "underground artists". But it's ok, because some of them look astonishing, and are unspeakably cool. A big ol' flickr set can be found here in case anyone hasn't seen these yet.

As one of the curators says:
"This could not be a timelier event, the pop surrealist/ lowbrow/graffiti/designer art scene is exploding around us." which just makes him sound like an utter wanker, but there you go.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Music Video Joy: The Fall - Theme From Sparta FC

I've been doing a lot of writing this week, so I think I've probably earned myself a slacker's music video post, especially since the song and the music video are both so batshit insane.

I mean so good. They're so good.

The Fall - Theme From Sparta FC

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Sapporo Food: Demode Queen UPDATED

UPDATE! Holy crap I should've changed this a while back. Demode Queen is long gone. Smooshed to the ground until there was nothing left. Then they built a warehouse or something. 

Something I should really have done a long time ago is start talking about places to see and eat in Sapporo. That would after all blend “blog”, “utility” and “benefit to humankind” on a scale heretofore unexplored by mortal man.
So I’m going to start now!
There’s a pretty solid argument that the Japanese do American-style burgers and fries really well, possibly second only to the Americans themselves. That’s what you get from a short period as an occupied country, and a continuing military presence on your soil I guess. There are some areas around American bases where some pretty well known burger chains have sprung up. Add to this the fact that I recently threw away my reservations and decided that the American Hamburger is my favourite food in the world, and I’m pretty happy to be here.

Demode Queen is an American style diner in the Sapporo suburbs, kind of in the shadow of the highway. Despite the anonymous, airless neighbourhood it occupies, the building is actually quite fun to look at, and the décor inside is a great example of vintage and retro guff put together to make the big interior pretty welcoming. I’m a big fan of their weird cosmic wall art, their deeply impractical light fittings, and their cool-as-fuck-and-not-as-uncomfortable-as-you-would-think fibreglass booth seats.

And the burgers are good! The avocado and egg burger… oh man, did that hit the spot. Nothing in there is too distracting, it’s a well balanced burger and satisfyingly messy. In this case, perhaps a picture is worth a thousand words…

And one for your "private time" later on...

Oh baby, yeah... with the avocado peekin' out like that... Oh you know how I like...
As for the rest of their menu, I’m not sure I’ve ever ordered anything other than burgers. I’ve been there with a lot of people though, and no-one’s ever seemed unsatisfied with anything. Their shakes kick some ass too.
And they played the Trashmen’s Surfin’ Bird, and that’s a great song.
So to get there by car is pretty easy, but by train you have to walk for about 10 minutes or so. Take the blue Toho line out from Sapporo to Shindo-Higashi station and when you get above ground head east following the towering highway, and keeping it on your left. Demode Queen is about 10 minutes walk away on your right. And their whole menu is in Japanese and English, which is always nice.

Edit! I was talking to several Americans tonight who were less than impressed by the burgers at this eatery! So it's possible that people's mileage does vary, but I'll stand by it as a pretty fucking great burger. Although not the very best in Sapporo, I'll get to those another time.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Famous Comic Book Creators!

My sister has become quite the formidable dealer in old trading cards, and recently she sourced a box of these beauties, and knowing that I'm a big comic book geek she sent me a sample pack:

That's right back in 1992 comics were such big news that they merited a trading card collection - not for the characters, but for the sub-Adonis-like (to put it charitably) guys who wrote and drew them. I reckon this was around the time that vintage Amazing Fantasy #15's and first appearance of the Punisher were going for silly money, so comics were probably in the news a lot. Still it might be thought a little absurd that you could get little pin-up photos of these gents:

Why isn't Tom Yeates wearing a shirt? Didn't they wear shirts to draw comics in the 70s? Jesus. Anyway, it might seem weird, but I think these are wonderful, especially because I got some pretty cool people and big names in my little pack. John Romita! You can thank him for a lot of Spider-man's popularity. Paul Chadwick! Everyone loves his thoughtful indie book Concrete. Well, except me, I read the first volume and it was kinda sucky. And looking good against a particularly titillating red:

Movie star Havey Pekar, creator of American Splendor! That's a keeper my friend! Not for trades or swaps!

Anyway the backs have a summary biography and such helpful stats as date of birth, place of birth, current home (creeeepy), which art school they attended, which hand they write with, and which hand they draw with! However for some of the guys who are artists but don't write at all, their writing entry is left blank so it looks like they never learned to write.

Oh, did I say that these guys were less than godlike? I stand corrected - hello Marc Silvestri, superstar penciller of the X-Men:

Ladies, FYI: "Talented Marc is one of the tallest artists in comics, measuring in at six foot, six inches." Think about it. He's probably loaded too.

You should be able to buy these pretty soon from one of Bunny's stores, but I think she's changing things over right now. Check it out at her blog: Bunny

Tuesday, 5 August 2008


God knows what's gotten into me recently, but I started contributing to a creative-collective blog a couple of weeks ago. We were inspired by this post by Warren Ellis, that observes astutely that there are quite enough link blogs, aggregators and indexes out there, it's about time people started creating their own interesting things. There are five of us in total, so we can keep it rolling and updating every weekday, and we've been going for two weeks now so there's a good amount of stuff there already. The curtain was officially raised today, or possibly yesterday, depending on what time zone you're operating in:


I'll be contributing every Thursday and so far I posted a couple of songs that you can listen to and download. Our remit is completely unspecified, but this week is acting like a kind of introduction, so you can see who is creating this stuff. My more-than-able co-conspirators have been posting paintings, photos, comics, carpentry, prose and much more. It's pretty exciting really.

Renee's painting.

Ben's loom.

Monday, 4 August 2008

J-Pop Power! Muxtape Madness!

It's hot as balls today, and I just drank a milkshake so thick that for I moment I thought the straw had run out of batteries. Here's more J-Pop!

Muxtape is a genius site that just allows you to upload a mixtape-like selection of songs that other people can then easily stream (at enormous volume) for free. No downloads now, that would be naughty.

I just set up a new one with a bunch of J-Pop a
nd rock and nonsense that I figured people should hear. Listening to this muxtape is absolutely guaranteed to entirely recreate the experience of sitting in an appartment in Northern Japan on a sunny Monday afternoon. Or your money back.

I'm insanely stoked to see some of these artists at the Rising Sun Rock festival next week, which I will write a whole heap about I'm sure. For now, just listen and please note if you don't like anything on there then it's YOUR taste that is in error not mine. Except possibly for the GLAY x EXILE track. That isn't all that great but I thought I'd post it since it's quite fun, and a pretty good example of an Explosive! Japanese! Collaboration! Sensation! Plus my co-worker loves GLAY soooo much.

They are all ridiculously GOODLOOKING too.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

J-Pop Power! Perfume - Polyrhythm

Today I bring you honest to god J-Pop from last year, none of that J-Rock, J-Punk or J-Indies nonsense, three girls, some bad dancing and a whole lot of synths. And if you're listening to the start and you think: "This is just shit", you're right, but wait until the one minute thirty mark when the looping starts, and they start creating dinosaurs and dancing in front of bulldozers:

Perfume - Polyrhythm

Wasn't that great? And when it comes back in just after two minutes, it's like the producer fell asleep on the vocoder button and the video director's LSD kicked in.

It's not like Japan has the sole rights to awesome modern girl pop either, everyone knows Girls Aloud are awesome, and here's your bonus video to prove it:

Girls Aloud - Biology

Girls Aloud: can't sing, can't dance, I don't find any of them attractive - and yet they are avatars of pop genius. Goddesses.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Sheep: Sinister, Delicious

Tonight we had Jingiskan (the spelling is pretty much up for grabs on that one, it's a loose japanized derivation of Genghis Khan) for the first time in ages. Jingiskan being a Sapporo speciality, a sort of Mongolian mutton/lamb barbecue that's pretty close to Japanese yakiniku. Also it probably evolved in Hokkaido because the island is positively brimming with sheep. Well, there are a few.

It was fantastic, but the place had actually sold out of the Hokkaido lamb, so we had to opt for the imported stuff from Iceland. Which inspired this post, because it was also delicious, but even when both kinds are on the menu the Icelandic lamb is half the price of the Hokkaido lamb.

Half the price! What do you think the food miles are on that Icelandic stuff? I'll tell you! From the capital of Hokkaido to the capital of Iceland: 4988.7 miles. That stuff had travelled almost 5000 miles, and it was half the price of the lamb from the same island we're on. And it was delicious too! Which means that either Iceland is covered from shore to shore with sheep so that they're pretty much giving the meat away, or actual Hokkaido lamb tastes like the flesh of the Gods.

Or, of course, they know that people round here are very proud of their local produce... still, 5000 miles!

In other news, sheeps eyes are freaky and unnerving.

Friday, 1 August 2008

American Cricket

Last weekend I went to my very first American Cricket game.

Oh, my mistake. Baseball. My very first baseball game.

I’m just being nasty for the hell of it really, because I prefer baseball to cricket. That knocking sound you hear is Phil Tuffnel tapping on my door with a cricket bat, come to forcibly remove my Englishman’s licence. With you in a sec Tuffers. Any game you can play for four days straight and still end up with a draw has to be some kind of joke.

I went to the, frankly spectacular Sapporo Dome to watch Sapporo’s very own Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters lose in the extra innings to Seibu Lions. The Fighters have only existed in this Hokkaido based form for about five years, and they nevertheless won the whole Japan series in their third year, so people are pretty freakin’ big into baseball here. Their star hitting-fella Inaba scored a home run, and there didn’t seem to be much between the sides. The secret of the Fighters’ success in the cold snowy north is that Sapporo Dome is entirely covered, and even on a lovely sunny day like last Sunday, there’s nary a scrap of daylight inside the actual arena. Therefore they can finally practice in the winter, rather than just sitting round at home tossing a single baseball to each other while they huddle round the paraffin heater.

I’m pretty sure that the vividly green playing surface was not actually real grass, but apparently when they play football in there they just slide the real grass football pitch in on top of it. That’s kind of a crazy concept and I’d love to see it happen.

The day was fun (albeit I was almost catatonically tired) and the four hour game didn’t really drag like I thought it would, being used to seeing so many football matches. There wasn’t too much slack between the innings, and your interest was kept spiked throughout by a great deal of American style showmanship of the kind that has started to appear in the Premiership more and more in recent years. As each home player went up to bat he had his own choice of song blasting out, each player had their own chant, some had props (giant pink gloves etc.) that people produced, and when Inaba came up to bat with the chance to score, the whole crowd kicked into this thing that involved standing up, chanting, jumping and clapping. I love seeing people chanting and moving together en-masse, so it was pretty cool. Everyone had clapping sticks too, sort of plastic mini-bats that they used to bang along with the chants, or point and wave in an, at times, alarmingly choreographed fashion.

In between they had dancing led by cheerleaders, power rangers and of course the mascot BB (a bear with a Mohawk, who had some freakin’ moves). My favourite bit was the sort of hand-jive competition where everyone had to swing their hands along to the Trashmen’s Surfin’ Bird. Man, that’s a fantastic song.

So overall, live baseball is approved, and I’m trying to organise going again at a time when I can eat till my gut bursts and actually buy beer from the poor sods who are lugging kegs of beer on their backs up and down the aisles. Ah, beer monkeys.