Friday, 31 July 2009

New Roomie

No sooner have I moved into my new appartment than I get a new room-mate:

Jesi is covering every inch of Japan that she can before she flies back to the states, so this leathery blighter has come to stay with me for a while. His real name is Kame-san, but while he's staying with me I'm calling him Dinosaur Jr. Isn't that right Dinosaur Jr?

Shut up, I put you behind the chair where you can't even see the TV. Anyway I'm a little sad to find that he doesn't really do any tricks, unless you count being able to kill a man when dropped from a fourth storey window as a trick. As soon as my new place is tidy enough for him to walk around without hiding in some impossible to reach nook I'm gonna dry him off and let him walk around. And hope that Jesi's right that he has no taste for human toes.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

What year is it? Where am I? WHO'S THE PRESIDENT?!?

No, this time I'm not going to go back and fill in the blanks. That was a week or so break necessitated by setting myself up in a new flat and finishing out my current employment. Which was a metric assload of hassle, but I'm hoping will prove well worth it, and I'm very lucky indeed to have some time off. I promise not to squander it.


What does that picture have to do with anything. What doesn't it?

And while you're looking that one up poindexter be sure not to forget to carry the one.

Know what I'm saying?

Relatively sane, balanced posing will recommence tomorrow. Until then, be excellent to each other.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Sapporo Food: RaRa

Don't look now, but I'm pretty sure I'm gonna bust a restaurant post over yer head:

RaRa is an Indian and Nepalese food restaurant on Hokkudai Dori, and it was very good. The reason we went there was rather arbitrary - while driving around yesterday visiting more used appliance stores than is healthy to in one day, we stopped at the lights next to it. I've taken some liberties in half translating this conversation:

Alex: What's this place? Oh, it's Indian and Nepalese.

Yuki: Curry? I love curry! Oh, this place is famous.

Alex: (watching someone tearing a nan in half through the window) Goddamn that nan looks incredible!

So when we were finally burnt out on looking for homewares we headed back there.

That's yer Chicken Butter Masala there, with the nan peeking into the corner of the picture as solely the tip of the iceberg. The nan was great, and the curry was great too, spicy but still with a lot of flavour and just as rich as I demand my butter curry dishes be.

I'm gonna mark this one on the map and I recommend it wholeheartedly, but it was a touch pricey. And for my money the best Indian style curry in Sapporo is still Mohan Dish in Kita24, which I've been to like six times in the last two months and forgotten to write about every time. Yuki said she thought Mohan Dish was started by people who originally worked at RaRa, which would be interesting. RaRa's interior is gorgeous, where Mohan Dish could charitably be described as... shabby. Still, better, chunkier, more satisfying curries at Mohan. The nan at RaRa may edge it though. That was bloody great.

There are other Indian Restaurants in Sapporo of course, many in fact, and hopefully I'll add them into this cage-match at some point. Probably not the famous place Taj Mahal though, last time I went there it was expensive and not very good.

Indo-Curry Deathmatch!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Japan Bans The Best Things

I can only imagine the trail of destruction and carnage that led the Hasegawa homeware store to put this sign up on their front door:

You know roller shoes right? Look like trainers but they've got a hidden wheel in the heel and seven year olds use them to look like they're flying down the street. Every kid I've seen using these things has seemed to be at Olympic proficiency level, tracing effortless circles around their tired looking parents. But I can imagine a lack of concentration; a painstakingly erected pyramid of crystal champagne glasses; a red faced manager; the need for a prohibition sign.

Kids. Pfah.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Comics Stuff : Daniel Way and Deadpool... again.

Daniel Way's Deadpool:

Still kicking ass and taking names. It's a sign of how well Way's doing on the series that I'm looking at the other recent Deadpool minis, one-shots and... another ongoing series? really? that seems like a terrible idea... and thinking about how they're just hopping on Way's coat-tails rather than how he's ripping off Joe Kelly's earlier take on the character. Because he's doing a pretty good job of making it his own.

Also, the Wolverine movie isn't out here yet (or if it is, I've missed it - also possible) so I haven't had a chance to see Ryan Reynolds doing Deadpool. I mean, I like Ryan Reynolds and I love Deadpool... but I haven't heard good things about his role in the movie...

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Real Life

I should've posted something to say that this will be one of those sporadic weeks. I figured I'd be busy sorting stuff out for my new flat (yeah! new flat!) and there'd probably be a couple of days internet crossover time when I wouldn't have any web access at all (the thought makes my heart shiver). Oh, but that was until I realised that in all probability I'll be having a sporadic month as torrential rain this weekend revealed that my otherwise perfect appartment has the slight flaw of LETTING THE FUCKING RAIN IN. So they have to fix it before I can live there and the snap verdict was that it would take "some weeks". I am far from amused, and eagerly awaiting more details of what they are going to do to cheer me up a little tomorrow. I'm just lucky I found this out the day after I started renting the place and not after I'd made it into a home.

The three-day-downpour also rained off the Toyohira River Rafting Festival which some of my friends were taking part in, and which I was heartily looking forward to watching and blogging about. They had to build a fucking raft, then take the damn thing apart again, in the rain, without sailing it at all. So it's not like I was the only one who had a sucky weekend.

And I did have a productive old weekend picking up a lot of the furniture and appliances I need for not too much money... It's just that I probably can't even use them for weeks so...


Friday, 17 July 2009

Love Game... Over

I posted recently about my slight, but unchecked, affection for Love Game - the TV drama that gives over-acting its bad name back.

Well after thirteen episodes the first series of Love Game came to a conclusion last night in a fittingly overblown fashion involving such shocking events as poisoning, stabbing and cabbage throwing. Allow me to recap the plot of the episode for you, otherwise I know you'll feel left out.

The Love Game this time focussed on a seemingly good hearted bento girl, who slaved humbly away in her bento shop saving for the cheapest wedding dress to marry her boyfriend of some years. The challenge: a zillion yen (or whatever the amount is, I forget) if she can marry him within 24 hours. The twist? That he's actually got another girl on the side, the rich daughter of a politician, that she didn't know about. The other twist? That during a scuffle in a park the previous year he killed a homeless guy by accident, so the good hearted girl, even though she's good hearted, decides to blackmail him into marrying her and dumping the rich girl as she (the humble, good hearted, working her fingers to the bone girl) is the only one who knows he killed the homeless guy.

Remember, my Japanese isn't good, Yuki translated a little for me every now and then, but I probably missed some subtleties. Still, the show's only half an hour and this plot seemed... somewhat squeezed in considering everything is paced to allow for inordinately long dramatic speeches and about six commercial breaks.

Then the politician reveals he knows about the humble girl, and the boy who's in the middle of all this realises he has to make a choice... and says he'll marry the good hearted, humble, salt-of-the-earth girl - secretly intending, of course, to kill her.

Oh yes. Murder, the only rational solution.

The mysteriously beautiful Love Game woman realises this and steps in, trying to stop the humble girl from going to the chapel, since she'll be killed. The humble girl says - I know, but this boy's all I got, and since my whole life's come apart since you offered me this deal - I'll let him kill me.

Oh, and before that the Love Game woman went to get all enigmatic at the bento shop and the humble girl threw cabbage at her. Just thought I'd mention that. At this point the politician has been forgotten and his daughter was only in the show for two scenes.

But even now it's not so simple, that's why I'm writing all this out, it was like The Outer Limits with social-climber Tokyo-ites and infidelity.

The events at the chapel were the icing, the filling and the cherry on top. The plot was torturously revealled, but I'll break it down so it's easy for you mouth-breathers to follow.

The boy's at the chapel with a flick knife in his hand and murder on his mind. The girl arrives bearing secretly poisoned bento with which she (surprisingly) intends to do him in. He suddenly realises that she must have poisoned his bento, so he switches it for hers while her back's turned but actually, although she had been intended to poison him, she had a change of heart at the last minute and decided to poison herself. Hence, the poisoned bento had been hers and he ends up eating the bad one. She finds the knife... they struggle and he ends up with it and she says - you might as well stab me since I've poisoned myself anyway. At that point he starts coughing up blood.

Later he also stabs himself for good measure.

It was quite something.

All this fun reminds the mysterious Love Game woman of the boy who bled to death in her arms (on that roof top she wakes up on in the closing credits, I knew that had significance) and she resolves to unlock all the missing parts of her memory. The final Love Game... is hers.

Indulgent? You're welcome.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Who says the Japanese are law abiding citizens?

Well, as the old Goon Show joke goes - just about everybody. But when it comes to bicycle parking - and if you'll excuse my language - fuck that shit:

This is the subway exit I have to walk past everyday on the way to work and that heap of bikes is only an average day. On a sunny Saturday the narrow passage will be almost impassable with steel frames and rubber tyres. This happens all over the city and every now and then the police come through and cart away every bike that isn't strictly within the lines but I guess people just live with it and bail their pedals out if they get nabbed. Luckily I haven't had my ride "towed" yet, but since it's not even registered (your bike should be registered, and if it's not the police can stop you and confiscate it while you're riding on suspicion that it's stolen) I think I'm pretty lucky.

Of course I also believe that my bike is currently protected by a magical charm, since after my first flat tyre a few weeks ago I happened to push my "chari" past a bike shop where they fixed the puncture for a song. Good times.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Greatest Bands Ever #652: Future of the Left

Yeah, yeah - Mclusky'll be in there too, but I just picked up the new Future of the Left album Travels with Myself and Another and it's phenomenal:

This is off their first album:

And so is this, although here it's a piece of hilariously loud, jerky phone-cam footage:

I went to Tower to see if they had the new album and not only did they but they also had the live album that I'd completely forgotten had come out for a prince's ransom. Seriously, I opted for just the new album and went and ransomed me a prince instead. He was kind of grateful but he fucked off pretty quick.

Wish I'd bought the live album now.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Alex's Book Club - Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner

Well, that was disappointing.

I was kind of looking forward to Freakonomics for a long time. The basic idea of someone sifting through data to find out the truth's about modern life that other people overlook is an enticing one, and I read so many little glowing reviews that I figured once I got round to it, it would be a very satisfying read. Sadly it was mostly trivial and annoying, with a few nice bits of insight but almost nothing that raised the proverbial eyebrow. Or, my eyebrow should say, nothing very proverbial about it.

I'd recommend it if you haven't really... y'know thought about the world much before. In that case I reckon it'd probably make you "hmmm" and make you "ooooh" and all that. But really it's pretty common sense stuff backed up with figures. It's a pop-economics presentation of Levitt's work I guess; he's a hot young thinker fella and someone had the smart, bankable idea of putting some of his famous theses into an easy to read book. I'm not sure I'd really argue against any of the points he makes here. It's the book itself that really pissed me off.

Because even when I think about it being written specifically to be easily accesible, I think of shortcomings. Later in the book they go (wisely) into the difference between causation and correlation, and throughout the book they chastise other writers for confusing the two. But some of the points earlier in the book are much too quickly or flippantly expressed - it feels like they're substituting their own pat, conventional generalisation for the currently accepted pat, conventional generalisation. And in doing that it sounds like they're mistaking correlation for causation. I'm sure they're not, I'm sure Levitt's covered his ass on that, but reading the book there were a few times when I thought - but why is your reading of the data "causative" while their reading is "correlative"?

And their claim that there is no underlying theme. Well, as others point out, there kind of is and it's about incentives and what people do to get what they want. But even so the chapters just feel so messy, just a random series of statistical patterns that stick with the same general theme, but at times switch clumsily to explore a new area of that theme. The constant two bit oratory too - "crack is like nylon stockings! and here's why!" I found it very grating.

Oh, also the final chapter on kids names. Man, I just read Steven Pinker's The Stuff of Thought where he covers the same topic, and it was amazing. This was essentially saying "Poor kids' names and rich kids' names are different! And they change in trends!" Pinker did a much better job of trying to analyse why this happens.

But, by far the most annoying thing in this bloody book is the stuff about Levitt himself. I'm sure he's all that they say and more, and a helluva guy, but I was sick of being told what a genius he is the first time it came up, by the end of the book he was perilously close to making it onto the list of people I want to punch in the goddamn face. Seriously, he's the co-author of the book and yet there are numerous excerpts from other publications describing him as a genius, a demi-god, yet humble and possessed of a mind and spirit unlike anyone else. I'm putting two fingers down my throat and making comedy wretching noises right now. It must be the co-author Dubner who wanted to put that stuff in, and man, it's horrendous. There is no justification for padding out your book with chapter breaks that tell your reader how amazing the man whose ideas they're reading is. Don't tell me he's amazing, show me! Blow my socks off with data based revelations that will shake my view of the world!

Freakonomics certainly didn't do that for me. I don't recommend it, and if you want to read it, I'd say check out the Digested Read of it on The Guardian first.

Monday, 13 July 2009

That one movie with Corey Haim and Corey Feldman...

... you know the one. No, not Lost Boys.

So, as I was saying, last week I dared to dream, aimed for a driving licence and was turned away for not being able to prove that I lived in the UK for long enough. Oh wells, we live and learn, well I don't know about you, but I certainly did - picking myself up and dragging myself across town in the rain to give it another shot at this place:

The Unten Menkyo Shiken Jo - The Driving License Issuing Centre. The weather was the diametric opposite of my last visit, switching from dry, blazing heat to constant rain that stuck around all day. Last week I was left with the impression of the last sorting office before you hit death valley; this time I could take in the verdant jungle peak of Mount Teine and the delights of a very simple cafeteria that served quite simply the worst coffee I've had in a long time. Oh my word. Ouch.

It was a pretty long process, but thanks to the deal that the UK and Japan share regarding driving licenses, a pretty easy one. No practical test thank God, and no written one either. I shuffled between desks and eye-tests and photo machines, confirming details, buying payment stamps and signing forms between nine and twelve, then waited two hours while they made my license and I was on my way. I finished two books, chatted with a pleasant American, ate lousy onigiri and poked around the place a little.

That's the test course, and one of the test cars waiting for it's next meal.

I mean victim.

I mean applicant.

Whatever, as I was finishing the first part of the procedure lots and lots of people started gathering in the main area of the building. I had no idea what was going on, at first I thought people were queueing for something, I was like - should I be queueing? If they start giving out ice cream I'm gonna be pissed that I didn't queue. Luckily it was only the results being given on the big electronic board:

That seems kind of dramatic, especially for Japan. They don't just say "pass" or "fail", you have to wait with all these other people for this dramatic unveiling, and while some people spin away flinging their fists in the air, if you didn't cut it you have to bite your lip and try not to cry. Sucks!

Anyway, turns out the new Scott Pilgrim's really awesome. Who'dve thunk? And then I got my Japanese Driving License:

Man, I'm getting just too legit to quit here. Where am I gonna drive to?

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Are you an Oily Boy?

Well, are you?

Oh hey, thirty three years and still going strong!

I'd be really curious to learn the origin of that phrase for a men's style quarterly though.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Alex Recommends Comics! Morrison & Quitely's Batman and Robin

Hey! Happy 400 posts everyone! Let's look at comics again!

That is a picture of Robin (as in Batman and Robin, yes) getting kicked into a wall by a siamese triplet martial artist. "SMASH". It's from the second issue of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's new Batman and Robin comic book. You can't buy it in actual, regular, non-niche bookshops at the moment, it's still being published as floppy issues and only two have come out so far, but I'd hazard a guess that once it's collected it'll be one of the finest Batman stories in a heavily oversaturated field.

I don't want to get geeky about this (n.b. this is a lie, I absolutely DO want to get geeky, but my self control is... just astonishing, I'm like fuckin' Ghandi or something) but this is a book in which Batman himself... doesn't actually appear. This is about someone else taking up the Batman name while Robin is the real Batman's psychotic son. And of course, normal service will eventually be resumed, but this book is so good at the moment that I'm not really looking forward to that. Reading this comic for me was sheer comic book joy - no scratch that, sheer joy. Everything is wonderful, the action and the pacing, the toying with the coventions of the medium, the characters and dialogue... Morrison and Quitely are so at the top of their game that they are the game. That barely even makes sense, and it sounds like something Fiddy Cent would come up with, but I don't care. This is amazing.

Friday, 10 July 2009

The Japanese TV Times? Love Game

I like Love Game, because it's ludicrous and cheesy even in comparison with other ludicrously cheesy TV dramas. Bunny and I watched (what turned out to be) the first episode when we were in Tokyo, and were hypnotised. Then I couldn't remember what day it was on, or what time, or what channel so I lost track of it completely... only to find it popping up on a Thursday night when I was channel hopping a couple of weeks ago.

And a quick internet hunt brings up a site where you can stream or download an English subtitled version of the first two episodes! You're welcome internet. Now you can "enjoy" it along with me!

Love Game's premise is simple. A mysterious, beautiful woman (mysteriously beautiful or beautifully mysterious? It's never made clear) offers a hundred million yen to some poor dope if they do something... to do with love. Like seduce someone, or lie to their wife, or fuck a porpoise - you get the idea. Of course the offer seems creepy but relatively risk-free, they can tell the truth about the game after they've got the money and put things right, so they accept. Oh, but little do they know that it's all an elaborate set-up to reveal some crushing secret about their own life that they were unaware of. And no-one wins... the Love Game.

The Love Game target in the first episode is this schmuck:

Notice the meaningless "LOCK ON" thing there. I mean, it's not like they're gonna fire a missile at him or something. However I guess they do have an unexplained and improbable amount of surveilance following everyone around relaying the pictures back to the mysteriously beautiful woman's wall of TV monitors. I mean, it's like there's a TV camera crew wandering about these people's houses that they've forgotten to ask about. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, this guy's on surveilance LOCK. No getting away for him.

All he has to do is get his wife to sign divorce papers within 8 hours and the money is his. After that they don't have to get a divorce, he can just tell her the truth and tear up the paper and they can take a long vacation to Hawaii or something.

Of course this is where he really ends up:

So emotionally devastated that when he attempts to turn around and walk he falls over his own feet.

Oh, spoiler warning! In case you actually do want to watch that link above. To be honest I don't recommend it. I mean the show's only thirty minutes long, and fun and cheesy but you could spend that time stirring chilli or whittling. There are better things to do.

See, he has a ploy to get his wife to sign the divorce papers, but one thing leads to another and it turns out that his otherwise prim and proper wife ("a real Japanese flower" we're told) was actually his brother's psychotic stalker. When his doctor brother (who's twice the man he'll ever be) cut off their affair she skewered herself to his desk with a scalpel and ended up being carted off by the cops. Since she couldn't get near the older brother she tracked down the younger one and... next thing you know they're married and they've got a kid. And now that our "hero" is fully aware that she's a complete lunatic she assures him that he's the one she loves now and she'll be by his side... forever.

And all that's left to say is:

Oh, and then there's the end credits where Beautifully Mysterious wakes up all post-coital in her nightie on an urban rooftop:

Answers on a postcard for what that's all about. It's possibly back-story to explain why she's wrapped up in this whole emotional-trauma racket, but equally likely is that it's a TV producer who thinks that chicks in night-dresses on rooftops is way hot.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Product Review: Kit Kat Sports Drink

Oh man. I know I keep bleating on about this subject, but this one's a peach. Check it out:

Kit Kat "Sports Drink Flavour"

I mean seriously, they've gotta have three guys hot-boxed in a little glass bubble, ripped to the gills sending little vacuum sealed notes down in pneumatic tubes to the Flavour Lab where the boys in white coats do their very best.

Sesame, Sweet Potato and Honey

Sports Drink

Anchovy Stuffed Olives

Lemur Fur

The other option is that it's the other way round. The boys in white coats just keep dropping chemicals into a petri dish in different combinations, apply the results to a stick of kit kat and send it up to the lads in the bubble. If it doesn't kill the poor sods they hold a debriefing:

Scientist: What about sample eff-four-eight-slash-two-five?

Taste Tester 1: Was that the pink one?

Scientist: That's right.

Taste Tester 2: It tasted like... friendship.

Taste Tester 1: Like... if your friends made you some really good cookies...

Taste Tester 2: Yeah, like pecan...

Taste Tester 1: ... like pecan and maple cookies.

Scientist: It tastes like pecan and maple cookies?

Taste Tester 3: It tastes like shame.

My actual review of Sports Drink Flavour Kit Kat? More like chemical tang kit kat. It's pretty nice, these things always are, and when I ripped it open it did smell like Aquarius or Pocari Sweat or one of those other Japanese sports drinks. But once it's in your mouth? Kinda citrusy and tangy, I reckon you'd have to be told that it's meant to taste like sports drink to arrive at that conclusion.

Bunny sent me some animal shaped frozen lollipop makers, which I put to good use:

It's a chocolate and mint flavoured bear! No, he's not dead, he's just lying down. In his weird, plastic sarcophagus.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

TV Times? Berry & Flucher's Snuff Box

I have like, this huge man-crush on Matt Berry. I mean, mostly it's that voice - both honey-roasted and salted at the same time - but also he seems fairly darn talented.

I finally got to see Snuff Box that I believe was one of those amazing pieces of culture that Britain held onto until I left the country just to gyp me.

It's wonderful and insane and disturbing and is one of those comedy offerings that at times is so obtuse that you doubt whether you're even watching a comedy show. Again it hits my buttons because of the maleable internal logic that is sometimes strong as steel, sometimes as weak as jelly.

I cannot recommend it enough, nor the other works of Matt Berry. Oh gosh, I just found out he has actual albums! There must be some way to get ahold of them...

God damn you Matt Berry. And God bless you too.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Alex Recommends Comics! Enki Bilal's The Nikopol Trilogy a.k.a down the Nikopol Hole

In a way, my love of comics is all the French's fault. I mean, I have a single Spider-Man comic drawn by Erik Larsen which my parents bought me as a kid and which accounts for my love of that guy, but when I was in my formative years the books that I repeatedly got out of the library and read again and again were the Asterix and Tintin books.

So put the blame on French language publications (as if you weren't already).

Enki Bilal's Nikopol Trilogy (ususally published as a single volume, but a check on Amazon looks like the English language version is out of print right now) is much more "grown up" than Asterix and Tintin, but equally awesome. Also, his name is awesome - it's Serbian, though he's French. C'mon say it. Enki Bilal. Enki Bilal. If you were called Enki Bilal (whether you're a boy or a girl) you'd be getting a lot more action - if you know what I mean.

Roughly, it's the story of an astronaut who was frozen and shot into deep space as some kind of punishment and who returns to a future-fascist-dystopia-Paris only to be possessed by the Egyptian god Horus who wants to use his body to take over the world. But in the Nikopol Trilogy, no-one's plans ever progress smoothly. There's mistaken identity, double crossing, poltical machianations and a violent god who solves every problem by zapping people's brains with his god powers. Most of all there's a sense of utter chaos on fast-forward. In fact, I'd guess that could be one criticism levelled at it. Bilal has so many ideas and his world is so perfectly realised that at times it feels like you're just being given a tour of his imagination and the characters trapped inside, vivid though they are, are just being bounced around like pinballs. For me that wasn't so much of a problem, I just loved the whole batty rollercoaster ride.

It reminded me a little of Grant Morrison's recent work too, in that it demands the reader keep up and doesn't pander at all. At many points we join the story in progress, and an apparent narrative gap is half explained with a throwaway line that makes us do some of the leg work. I like that, and it adds to the sense that everything is a little out of control in this world.

Even though the narrative is twisted and spiralling and doesn't exactly have a particularly neat ending, apparently this trilogy of graphic novels that was published over ten years in the 80s and 90s was recently adapted into both a computer game (Nikopol: Secrets Of The Immortals) and a movie called Immortal. The movie, directed by Bilal himself just shot up my ones to watch list even though it apparently got mixed reviews. It's based on this stuff, it's gotta be crazy as a box of nuts.

Also also also - there's chess boxing. Chess boxing is a crazy futuristic sport that Bilal includes in the final part of the trilogy - a game where people box, then play chess while beaten and bloody - and some genius decided to make it into a real sport. Man, seriously, I pray that life imitates art and in the 2200s that's the most popular sport on the planet. The ultimate test of brains and brawn.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Blog Breakdown! Apologies! Frustrated Errands! Hello July!

Matthew actually "bone-to-pick-ed" me about not posting here for going on a week now, and certainly I've got a lot to answer for. I will however use my time machine (a.k.a. alcohol - Oh! I kid! I won't touch a drop for at least another week) to go back and fill in the last five or six days I haven't posted with some business or other. Be sure to check it out! I'm sure there'll be some real gems in there!


Despite blogging here almost daily for almost a year now I'm still fairly skeptikal about blogging in general. That is, I want to blog daily, almost as a challenge for myself, but I don't want to just contribute to the ailing lifespan of a meme, limping its way through the internet, or keep chuntering along on reposts of found material. So last week I ran out of steam and anything I thought I wanted to write about, I quickly second guessed myself into dropping.

While I love writing I'm also aware that people like pictures more than words in some cases (internet browsing being one of those) so I generally hold off on posting unless I've got something to illustrate my post with. That's kind of come round to bite me on the ass though, because I probably end up writing less and using the pictures as a kind of crutch. Also I never remember to take photos of things. I meant to do an assload of restaurant reviews, but every time I go out I completely forget to snap the restaurant or the meal. Anyway I've put aside some time today for writing - any kind of writing - and this'll do as good as any, pictures or no pictures. I'm still stricken by the fear of vanishing into even more of a snivelling parody of a twenty-something indie-ish caucasian male though, so I also don't want to write too much about my day-to-day life. That's the kind of blog-work of which Chris always used to say "Why the fuck should I care?" Never a truer word and all that, but I think I'll have to relax a little bit.

Today I got up early-early and caught two trains and a bus to get out to the Unten Menkyo Shiken Jo - the driving test centre in Teine. Teine isn't that far from where I live, but there's no connecting bus routes from here, so I had to take two trains and a bus to get there. I went there to get a Japanese driving license, hopefully I can do so without taking a test because the UK and Japan have a reciprocal driving license scheme going seeing as we both drive on the left. I brought a veritable portfolio of forms, documents and IDs only to find that I'd still slipped up. I needed to prove that after having obtained my British license I had lived in the UK for at least three months and though it was pretty obvious, both my passport and driving license have been renewed while I've been in Japan so there's no actual written proof that I lived there. I could have got my license in the UK (11 years ago) and then fled the country immediately afterwards, spending the intervening time in Guatemala or Austria for all they know. It's a pisser, but you cannot (really, I didn't even bother, and I'm sure that I came out of the situation much better than if I had) argue with the rules in Japan. So I'll take my old passport and driving license and go back next week. I'll take photos then I think. The shiken jo feels like it's out in the middle of nowhere, and the pounding sun, the dying grass, the crowds of people aimlessly moving between innumerable counters and clerks made it feel like some kind of holding facility for lost souls who weren't quite bad enough for hell.

Next disappointment was at the post office. I'd already tried to post this sodding box to Bunny once, but it was 150g too heavy for regular parcel post. I took out a couple of inessential things and took it back, still 38g too heavy. So... one more time for the world.

The rude ladies at the bento shop Sazae (I used to think it was coz I was foreign, but my coworker told me they're rude to everyone) were marginally less rude than usual when I picked up onigiri for lunch.

OK! To the time machine...

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Moments from Manga: Kinnikuman

This Sunday post is brought to you by the following Monday and the slow realisation that you forgot to put pants on before you left the house this morning.

My favourite move from the Kinnikuman manga that James got me for my birthday? The Global Brain Spin:

Seriously, Kinnikuman's so tied to it that after it fails the first time he tries it again:

Translation of bottom left speech bubble: "Wooooaaaahhh!"

It works the second time of course, Kamehame is in Kinnikuman's arms, weeping then suddenly the weird mask thing on his chest posesses his whole body and they fight again. It's basically a single two hundred and fifty page wrestling match.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Japanese Stationery Terror!

This Saturday post is brought to you by the following Monday and the smell of a freshly mown lawn.

OK, so there's a lot of crazy / creepy / "cute" stationery out there in Japan, but in Tokyu Hands the other day I was handed this and was so mesmerised that I could not leave without buying it.

Immediately I thought "Oh, I'll send it to Bunny" but quickly decided that no, this is mine. The sheer terror of the other children being attacked by a personified baby's ass, the realisation on the face of the baby of his horrible alter ego... there's a solid internal logic to it that really appeals to me.

Also, on the back:

"Hello! Hello!"

"Run away!!"

I'll probably use it for accounts or something.

Friday, 3 July 2009

J-Pop (Noisy Art Pop Punk Type): Midori and Ni-Hao!

This Friday post is brought to you by the following Monday and the fraction 7/13.

So Midori are playing at Rising Sun again this year. Last year I saw about two minutes of their set and it looked insane. From picking up their CD in stores I always thought they'd suck, but actually they're pretty darn good. Piano punk!

And Andy posted this Ni-Hao video I'd never seen before (but which is too good not to share):

There's a video for another of their songs where they're dicking around in a clothes shop and it's amazing, but I can't find it online. WHAT THE HELL? Isn't every recorded video ever available online by now? Hurry up internet!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

TV Times? True Blood!

This Thursday post is brought to you by the following Monday and the colour pink:

Christ-in-a-Pedalo that's a great title-sequence. I don't think I'll ever get tired of sitting through that. True Blood as a whole though, comes and goes for me. I never really knew much about it until my friend Victoria started harranguing me to watch it, and I had no idea it was Alan Ball - celebrated creator of Six Feet Under - who brought it to the big time small screen. Actually many people seem to have tried it because of him, thinking that the stories are going to be fang-strewn codswallop but that he'll make some kinda magic out of it.

Actually, after watching the first series (where overall the good stuff outweighed the bad stuff) I have a feeling that it works because of a strong set up and some nice plots, which I assume come from the books, while the actual execution (other than that stellar opening) is kinda slipshod. The acting is certainly nothing to write home about, the script is terrible, the episodes feel alternately too slow or too rushed, the cliffhangers falling at rough, arbitrary moments and thus feeling forced - the televisual aspect of it overall isn't that great. But for most of the series the set up (vampires trying to integrate into a world that now knows of their existence) and the tight plotting where one event leads naturally to another, to another driving the whole story on make it really fun to watch. The end of the series almost lost me though, with characters suddenly making decisions in order to drive the plot, and that shit pisses me off.

Also, the special effects whereby you speed up the film to make it look like the Vampire is moving really fast? Laughable in Twilight and laughable in this. In a bad way.

Also also, if vampires are so organised and cool as to have "Magisters" and "Sherrifs" why do they hold their trials in the car park of the Thunderdome from Mad Max?

So thumbs... wavering in a horizontal position so far.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Alex's Book Club - The Cutmouth Lady by Romy Ashby

This Wednesday post is brought to you by the following Monday and the letter "P".

The Cutmouth Lady is definitely my favourite collection of coming-of-age short stories with a lesbian twist in which the main character is an American schoolgirl going to catholic school in Japan. I mean, I'm not sure I've ever read another book that fits into that particular pigeonhole... but this was very good.

I bought it at a used book market in Ueno, Tokyo where I walked every single aisle looking for English language books and this was one of the few I found. It was only a few hundred yen, so like last night, when people were offering me books for free, I found it hard to refuse.

The back cover copy is pretty lurid ("a perverted gaijin schoolgirl in Japan") and when you boil it down in the corny way I did above it sounds pretty sleazy, but it was way better than I expected it to be because it stayed away from being too shocking or outrageous. The stories unfold in a wonderfully unhurried way, and the way the core theme of wanting something that you don't even know you want pulses away below the surface of it all is really well done.

I found a glowing write up of it here (I'm not sure I'd go so far, but it is good) and probably you can get hold of it here I reckon.

Thumbs... up!