Tuesday, 31 March 2009

No Vacancies / Vacancies

You all know what Love Hotels are right? If not, I'm not sure that I should be the one to educate you, let's let Wikipedia do that right here. Ok? Know what I'm talking about? Well there's a Love Hotel just around the corner from where I live called Hotel Royal Tomo. It's not a huge glittering place, it's anonymous enough (although Yuki told me it's pretty infamous for a murder that was commited there that was turned into a TV movie). On the way out for dinner tonight it looked like this:

See that illuminated red kanji letter? "No Vacancies" baby. Don't come a-knockin' when this hotel's a-rockin', if you know what I mean. Then on the way back from dinner less than an hour later:

Blue light - "We have vacancies". That's turnover for you. In whatever way you choose to think of it.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Rising Sun DVD... FINDS! (File Under J-Pop)

So, I've gone through five DVDs of higlights from the Rising Sun Rock Festival in EZO that I went to last year. It's cool to see some tracks from the awesome sets that I saw, but it's also cool to get turned on to some of the artists that I missed because I didn't know who they were. A lot of the straight punk music was pretty interchangeable, but I would've liked to have caught Tha Blue Herb and Denki Groove along with these three pop spectaculars:

Ego Wrappin' - Go Action! (Website)

That's an awesome video too.

Low IQ 01 & Master Low - T.O.A.S.T. (Website)

Live from the festival itself no less. This next one sounds pretty shitty at first, but it gets interstellar almost exactly half-way through so hold out for it. Great video again too.

Sakanaction - Night Fishing Is Good (Website)

I tried the big sized embeddable video this time, hope it looks ok where you are. I'ma try and pick up some of this music sometime and hope that they come back to the festival next year. Pop!

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Free Socks!

This month's issue of Smart came with free Bathing Ape socks:

Y'know, that's pretty cool. Don't mind if I do.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Movie Review: Yes Man

My first reaction to Yes Man, was a variation on the old Bruce Campbell line: "What? I needed a new boiler."

Which is to say, I just assume that even Jim Carrey needs to stoke the coffers every now and then, and that this was just the latest in a series of high concept Hollywood comedies that the big name actors put out every year to keep themselves going. Come on, Jim Carrey has to say yes to everything, hilarity ensues. It's the inevitable choice after "Jim Carrey can't lie", "Jim Carrey is God", "Adam Sandler has a magic remote control", and "Rob Schneider turns into a girl".

It's good though. I mean it's a formulaic rom com, but I like formulaic rom coms. This one comes with music from E and the Eels, Zooey Deschanel (swoon), Danny Masterson playing his character from That 70s Show (who I liked) and Rhys Darby from Flight of the Conchords.

Approval: given.

Friday, 27 March 2009

300 Posts. Yawn, whatever.

300 Posts. If I had a party popper I'd let it off. As it is I have half a brain and a work in progress:

Sleepy. Here's hoping I don't get squished by bits of North Korean rocket while I'm crossing the road to work.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Terrorist Attack - America Fights Back

Even though she's coming to stay in less than a month, my sister still found time to send me a Christmas present that arrived yesterday! Frankly, it's awesome to receive presents out of the blue and this was even more awesome considering it included tongue corroding sour sweets (oh man, I love sours) and these little beauties that I've been coveting for a long time:

1987 vintage, anti-terrorist, gun-toting, propoganda trading cards. Fuck yeah. Predating the "War on Terror" by about 14 years these cards will fucking put you straight about the threats America faced in 1987. I put in about two and half seconds research on google to find this awesome article which gives you some background to the set and how it was probably some sort of reference to the famous Mars Attacks cards that brought us that fantastic Tim Burton movie that I now suddenly really want to see again. Each card reads like a thirty second encyclopedia on terror narrated by Sherrif John Bunnell.

Here then - lest you grow complacent - are a few choice cards, front and back so that you can enjoy the pretty awesome paintings, and tremble at the prescient truth-saying. Click to embiggen of course. First up... THATCHER:

Next... MANSON:

And finally... Will It Ever End?

Answer: NO.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Mad Max. No, not that one.

I do like magazines. Y'know, periodicals, and once in a while (usually at 4am or 6am when I'm drunk for some reason) I pick up a Japanese magazine just for the hell of it. I mean, I can't read it at all, but I can usually look at some pictures of pretty sneakers and fancy clothes. A while ago though, I stepped away from the fashion section and picked up Mad Max:

Can you guess what kind of magazine it is from the cover? Yes, it's a fun mag for wannabe yakuza! Wannabe hard-drinking street toughs! Ah, it's funny when you first flick through, but you quickly feel tired and dirty. I haven't even scanned any of the interior, I will if anyone really wants me too, but I feel like I'd be spending too much time on it. There are articles on gangs who look tough, other gangs who look tough, cute girls with motorbikes, dog fighting, old crazy looking gangsters, a comic strip in a women's prison, another comic strip with ludicrous fantasy violence, some nudity, lots of tattoos. That about covers it I think. The big pink letters up there say "SHOCKING" but sadly I wasn't very shocked.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

I want Raymond Chandler to tell me more about coffee

From The Long Goodbye:

That's a man who knows his coffee.

Monday, 23 March 2009

J-Pop (Hip-Hop type)

Kick the Can Crew - Toriiiiico!

Hannya - Yume no Ato

Teriyaki Boyz - Zock On!


Sunday, 22 March 2009

Sound on Sound

I've been listening to music. From Japan. Y'know, Japanese music:

Odani Misako - Odani Misako Trio

ITEM! Website ITEM! Myspace

I've been going through some DVDs of the Rising Sun Rock Festival I went to last year and Odani Misako's track Kiero really caught my ear as something I wish I'd seen at the time. So I went out and blow me down if I didn't pick up her last album, which I think is a collection of songs recorded with her new trio. Not sure though, Kiero appears on an earlier CD too. She's a piano-pop singer-songwriter and on the whole she's very good. Her songs make me smile, and I'm still coasting on the spiralling wonder of Kiero. It's one of those songs where every movement it makes is natural and surprising and thrilling.

Boredoms - Super Roots 10

ITEM! Website ITEM! Myspace

It's the Boredoms, it's great, but yes you can pretty much guess what the boredoms sound like at this point if you know them at all. Wonderful, but not the exhillerating, exhausting spectacle I saw at Rising Sun. The Lindstrom remix is amazing though. Man, I feel like I'm underselling it. It's really good.

Teriyaki Boyz - Serious Japanese

ITEM! Website

I'm only one listen through the new Teriyaki Boyz album but it seems pretty good. It's fucking laden with big name American guest appearances but they don't make it feel like some shonky fashion project for the most part. That said, while Kanye seems into it, and Pharrell is fine, Adrock provides the intro and outro shouts and just like on the first album... he sounds a little awkward. Or not awkward, just it doesn't sound very good. Well, other than the Adrock tracks the beats seem good on a first listen, and it's a fun album. Work That is kind of shit though.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Ask the Magic Building

Magic Building, should I just take it easy and not do anything this weekend?

The Magic Building always gives its approval. It lives in downtown Sapporo and it knows all.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Hanabatake Bokujo

People really love that nama caramel:

That's Hanabatake Bokujo (Flower Garden Farm or something like that?) who opened up a couple of stores in Sapporo last month. They're like a dairy farm that specialise in, amongst other things, that coveted commodity 生キャラメル - nama caramel - really soft fresh caramel. It's a bit like British fudge but softer.

And that queue is ALWAYS there.

At both stores, the one at Sapporo Station and the one in Odori, every single time I walk past there's a snaking line and security guards present to enforce it. The stuff is delicious, but I'm astonished at this bottomless appetite for it. I assume this one is also popular for tourists, this is where they would leave for the airport from, but the one in Odori they have to queue outside. This is Sapporo, so as you can imagine it is hardly queueing weather at this time of the year.

I'm sure they sell other stuff too, but I've never been able to get inside to check.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Frowny Face Empire

I've come perilously close to abandonning this whole blogging every day thing this week, because I've just had a godawful week. But I decided to stick at it for now, insomnia and drama and fucking cracked ribs and all. That said, the posts catching me up from last wednesday to this monday are gonna be pretty skeletal - like this one for instance.

Nothing more to it than this.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Tuesday, 17 March 2009


Oh hey you guys, Tom Cruise was totally on SMAPXSMAP last night:

I trust I don't have to explain what SMAPXSMAP is. The SMAPs cooked Tom cruise an insanely luxurious dinner and he learned to say "umai", meaning delicious. Actually this appearance was notable because it marked a sea-change in my feelings about The Cruiser. Previously, while he was pilloried on the internet and generally reviled for being the Archduke of Scientology I wasn't all that down on him. I thought Mission Impossible 3 was tremendous and he rarely makes really, really bad films - his blockbusters have a lot of quality to them. Also I didn't, and still don't know enough about Scientology to just despise it in a knee jerk fashion. However last night (and I realise it was the extremely edited moments from a light entertainment show, in a foreign language to him, where a boy-band cooks for the stars) he came across as a total ass. トムクルーズひどかった, he just seemed like a jerk.

Monday, 16 March 2009

The World Baseball Classic

Here in Japan the World Baseball Classic is a pretty big deal. The WBC (yeah, I always think first of boxing) is like the World Cup of baseball. Oh wait! If you're American and reading this I mean that the World Cup is like the WBC of football.

I mean soccer.

I mean actually it isn't because America are present with a shrug and a smirk, fielding a second string team, as nicely explained here. I'm very familiar with the practice - American baseball teams find their domestic competitions much more important than competing against other nations that they - probably quite rightly - feel superior to. It was a similar thing with the recent World Club Cup thing that Man U played in.

But even if you invented the sport, even if you are the locus for all baseball activity in the world, you can't claim to be the best nation unless you've tested yourself against every other nation in a fair contest. I'm sure America would win, but until they do, then I'm gonna raise my eyebrow every time an American baseball fan gets superior about American baseball. Of course if their second stringers go on to win this WBC it'll be a pretty big sign.

Anyway, that wasn't what I actually wanted to write about. My aim was to talk about this:

That's the organisation of the WBC competition, which I looked up because I just couldn't follow who was meant to be playing who at any time. Watching Japanese news just confused me further because I can't understand what they're saying, and they used a baffling series of boards and sticky markers that they seemed to be arbitrarily moving around showing all the possible permutations. Here, I'll blow up the Asia group stage that Japan and Korea had to get through to qualify.

And the second round is a similarly tortuous flow chart of seeding and rematches.

I was just wondering... why?

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Saturday, 14 March 2009

20 Albums

Bills, that moustachioed little capuchin monkey, tagged me in what I assume is some kind of facebook meme – 20 albums that changed your life. Sadly I was too busy, like, being awesome and fracturing my ribs to write anything at the time, but realised I wanted to do it. Also I wanted to tag more people in it, because that’s how memes work right? Kind of like syphilis.

It came with a lame introductory paragraph before which I haven’t bothered including, 20 albums that changed your life, it’s pretty clear. I don’t think these are the 20 best albums, and they aren’t my favourite 20 albums either, but these are the ones that, y’know, changed my life.

Cannibal Ox - The Cold Vein

Listening to this album always makes me want to make art that could come from the future. It’s got such a shamelessly futurist sonic-palette, and on top of that sci-fi ass kicking there’s Vast Aire’s godly flow. And then, when you’ve listened to it like… a hundred times you realise that Vordul is just as good, you just weren’t paying attention because Vast was stealing the show. Then you enjoy it all over again.

Frank Black & The Catholics - Pistolero

Man, in a churlish, knee-jerk way this album made me stop wanting to write about music for a living. It was given a universally lukewarm reception, while I, and it turns out many other people, were just blown away. I love a lot of music criticism, but I realised that when it comes to something you really love… you probably can’t do it any justice describing it. That’s why so many of these entries come down to – “It’s really good!” Pistolero is straight rock music as good as it gets. It kicks seven kinds of ass.

The Young Fresh Fellows - Somos Los Mejores

This is pretty much it, the reason I wanted to play music and be in a band and all the rest of it. It’s just a sloppy best of, released for the Spanish market by the Seattle power-pop legends The Young Fresh Fellows, but the songs, the energy, the sheer joy leaking out of it, are incredible. The only song I didn’t like back when I was running around the house playing air-guitar to this, is now my favourite.

Jackson Browne - Lives in the Balance

My parents always liked Jackson Browne and his 1980s albums, specifically this one and World In Motion, had a huge influence on my… melodic tendencies or whatever.

Queen - The Miracle

I haven’t listened to this album in… maybe more than ten years. I bet I could still sing every word, even the yelps.

Frank Zappa – Strictly Commercial

A best of that I played to death. Does humour belong in music? Hell yes it does.

Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville

Sounds like nothing else, like a cheap recording studio that you want to be in.

The Beatles - Abbey Road

These are the records that changed my life, so I thought a lot of this should come from my formative years. I don’t know which Beatles album would be the best one to choose, but I’m pretty sure that singing along with this in the car on family holidays had a scary amount of influence on my life.

The Dismemberment Plan - Emergency & I

So I read a review of this on Pitchfork that sounded interesting and thought, hmmm, I bet Tempest have a copy of that. They did, and I got it and brought it back to my tiny, ridiculous bedroom that I lived in the year after I graduated. My bedroom then was the cheapest one in the house, and I crammed a double bed in there somehow, leaving me about 4ft of floor space. So I lived on the bed, and I remember sitting on it and doing nothing but listening to this album. Oh, it starts well, but when you get to that first transcendent kick in “A Life of Possibilities”… I don’t think I could move. One of the best albums ever.

The Pixies - Come On Pilgrim / Surfer Rosa

I rented this from Solihull Library, with many other things and renewed it and renewed it so many times that when I finally bought it, I was disappointed that the new CD didn’t feel like the eroded library copy I used to listen to. Now I prefer Frank Black’s solo stuff to the Pixies, and I’ve heard Angst, who were a huge influence on this sound, but this is still unique, and when I first heard it I couldn’t believe how much sense it made.

The Dillinger Escape Plan & Mike Patton - Irony Is A Dead Scene

This is a four track EP, and the last track is a fairly throw-away cover of Aphex Twin’s Come To Daddy, but in the first three tracks it becomes one of the greatest rock records ever. That’s it, it’s incredible.

Soundgarden - Superunknown

Pretty sure this was the first CD I bought for myself? And again, I listened to it more than a lot. To be honest I’m not sure what I’d think of it now, but it has to be one of the most important albums of my life.

After Dinner - Paradise of Replica

I went, on my own, all the way from Birmingham to Oxford to see some kind of avant-garde Japanese music showcase, and after the show I grabbed two or three CDs almost at random from the hundreds that the performers had brought. One of them was this, it’s from the 80s but it sounds like it was recorded another 20 years in the future and broadcast back in time for us to get a taste of what we might one day become if we’re lucky.

The Nation of Ulysses - "Plays Pretty For Baby"

Andy put this on a tape for me and about half-way through the second song I had one of those moments when the back of your head opens up and you sort of reel a little and you think – how did someone manage to make something so perfect hidden in something which is such a fucking mess? And then I realised that the fucking mess is part of why it’s so perfect. I still remember the moment he gave me this and asked me if I knew who they were, and I still remember going for walks with my walkman just to listen to it.

Oingo Boingo - Farewell (Live)

Again, I used to listen to this album so goddamn much when I was first playing in a band that I’m sure it had an abnormally large influence on the music I ended up making.

Richard Thompson - Mock Tudor

I can remember lying on the sofa in my parents’ living room with the final scores scrolling on the TV when my dad put this on. I was always aware of Richard Thompson from him already, but I lay there thinking – surely this album can’t be as good as it sounds. Which is just crazy, it is just that good and turned me on to one of the best songwriters ever.

Sugar - Beaster

Oh come on, like Tilted isn’t one of the most exhilarating rides in music history. Please. And the other four big songs on this record are just insanely bombastic, ass-kicking rock. I listened to it so much that first I wore out the tape, then the CD wouldn’t play in my computer when I wanted to rip it.

Tom Waits - Rain Dogs

Well, it was the first Tom Waits album that I got, so for a while there I had no idea where I was.

The Afghan Whigs - Gentlemen

There a moments on this album when Greg Dulli sounds like he’s been gargling with evil, he’s so completely nihilistic about love and the horrible things he’s done. Individually there are better songs and production on Black Love, but Gentlemen is a fucking one-way train to hell.

Elliott Smith - Elliott Smith

Well, for a start if I hadn't been listening to this album I probably wouldn't have met one of my best friends. But also listening to this shows you how there's no need to be loud to be heavy. It’s one of the heaviest records I can think of and it’s pretty much just acoustic guitar and voice.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Tins and Fractures

Yeah, so apparently I'm not so invulnerable. And chewing on foil didn't magically strap adamantium to my bones.

NB: This is just a google image photo, not my actual x-ray.

I went to a small clinic in the middle of nowhere, where they kept the bandages in old food tins and the x-ray machine was yellowing with age, to get verification that I cracked a rib snowboarding last week. I'm strapped up, I've got cold compresses and drugs and I'm pretty optimistic I'm not going to die.

Fingers crossed!

The old clinic was very cool actually, it was clearly well run, clean and very good, it's just that everything in it was very old. I didn't mind, it was actually quite cool to see all that vintage stuff and the doctor in his modified recliner/swivel chair thing.

And now... taking it easy.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

This seasons model: Meiji Choco-Banana-Au-Lait

From the same people that brought you the awesome Lemogre and Acerola and Lemon packaging I wrote about before:

Choco-Banana-Au-Lait. It's pretty nice for a milk drink, and I approve of the infinite regression / bunny-girl crossover they've gone with.

In weather news we seem to have entered a "Bonus Winter Stage" where the weather reverts to the same sporadic snow, freezing winds, and death-trap streets that we had back in December. I'm cool with it, y'know I love the snow, but if I'm really honest... it's been winter here now for at least four months. Spring will probably be pretty nice.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Your Quarterly Dose of Creepy

The new Super-Dolfie catalogue arrived:

It's a pretty tame affair this month, with less eyebrow-raising items than usual. Still the creepy elf people inspired by a Welsh poem are pretty odd. They look wise beyond their plastic forms. Wise and creepy.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Movie Review: James Franco vs. Ape

Kind of on a whim we rented this last night:

It's James Franco's directorial debut, adapted from a play that he co wrote and it was pretty ok. I mean really, it wasn't amazing but it was interesting enough, and interesting because of Franco himself. Another reason I wanted to rent it was the Japanese title:

For those of you who can't read Japanese that puts the title of the movie as "James Franco vs. Ape", the original title is included as a subtitle which is pretty common. I love how, in order to sell the movie on his growing "name" status, they've incorporated his name into the title and pitched him in some kind of madcap rivalry with the Ape. What's even cooler is that considering how much involvement Franco has, it actually makes a lot of sense as a title.

The movie has a lot of strengths, in the performances, the dialogue and more; but in the end the deliberately off-beat pacing and scoring saps a lot of momentum, and the ending was frankly the obvious one that I had hoped wouldn't be the actual ending. Also it never really transcends it's theatrical origins. This is always a problem for movies that come from plays, as Franco himself acknowledges in an accompanying interview, but despite his best efforts... it still feels like most of it is on a stage.

James Franco by the way. I was never interested in him in the slightest, he always seemed like a vaguely pretty up-and-comer from what I saw of him in the first two Spider-Man movies and things like that. The turning point came in Spider-Man 3 when he had that incredible scene in the cafe where he's eating cake. He was awesome there, and then I read a very flattering interview with him, saw him in Pineapple Express and now I'm really interested to see what he'll do next.

I'd also like Spider-Man 3 renamed "James Franco vs. Spider-Man" for the Japanese market.

Monday, 9 March 2009


I was poking around Tower Records yesterday listening to a whole bunch of records and these guys stood out.

Urbangarde (see what they've done there?) are an arty noise-pop band (or a noisy art-pop band, you decide) who play "Tokyo Virginity Pop". This virgin thing seems to come up a lot, it's a thematic concern of theirs that I'm not very clear on, not being to understand most of the press about them but we can assume that... they like virginity. Elements like the giant kewpie doll costume and aggressive sperm (yes I know), the red and white spots, the dripping Japanese flag all work pretty well together to make a distinctive identity and artistic message. Here's the video for the first track off their new album:

The thing is that off the bat, I don't really like Urbangarde. That sing-song intro is so Deerhoof it's untrue (and people know Deerhoof in Japan) and after that... I think I'd rather be listening to Polysics? But they've got a lot going on, and I'm certainly not going to write them off straight away. I thought they were a fun band to point out though. Instead I bought The Residents' Commercial Album for half price. Half price! I've been looking for that for years! I'm going back to aching now.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Pain from Teine

Sunday, snowboarding at Teine.

Teine is divided into two sections, Olympia at the bottom of the mountain (so named because it was used for the Winter Olympics way back in the day, that's the Olympic flame platform up there at the top) and Highland, which is at the top of the mountain. Olympia was kinda short and boring, even for me and I suck, but Highland looked interesting. However this time I found the snow unforgiving. Bruisingly so. Possibly rib-crackingly so. Ow. So, I'm in a great deal of pain today in at least... wait let me count... five places. It's not fun, but really, snowboarding was pretty fun.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

CRS - Us Placers

Thanks to Matt "The Farago from Chicago" Longarini for sending this my way.

Oh yeah.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

The Slow Torture of Being a Western Movie Lover in Japan

So I guess what, Watchmen is out in America and the UK now? Or soon? And Coraline? And all sorts of other great movies are on their way? And here in Japan... I have no idea when Watchmen will even be released. (Oh, ok, I just checked - end of March. Still, it seems to be the last place in the world it's being released, so...)

Actually, I'm having mixed feelings about that one, but I really want to see Coraline.

I've complained about this shit before, but I thought I'd hammer it home by pointing out that a lot of Japanese movies get released that look fun, that I'd like to check out, but that I have little to no hope of understanding. Okuribito (Departures) just won an Oscar for Christ's sake, but I can't see it here because it comes without subtitles, and probably the DVD won't have English subtitles either even though there are English subtitled versions available in the west. Ass.

I mean, Okuribito would be nice, but mostly I just want to see the dumb movies:

I went to see the Sushi Oji movie, and I'm glad I did, but I wish some of these would turn up with subtitles somewhere y'know? Or that I'd pull my thumb out of my backside and work on my Japanese. That would be nice too.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Movie Review: [rec]

[REC] is a simple, well-executed, Spanish zombie movie that works with a concept so catchy that an ultra-faithful American remake followed less than a year after the original. It's not at all original, borrowing heavily from any number of other movies, but it is very well done, so much so that before long you're not really comparing it to anything.

I especially liked the pacing. It's a very short movie, the cut that I saw was only and hour and fifteen minutes, which is perfect. My pet hate in almost any art form is bad editing, and people who let things run on for no good reason. Which is nothing like saying I don't like long books, movies, albums or songs; I love lengthy pieces of work when that serves the art, it's just that so often I finish a movie thinking "well, that could have been twenty minutes shorter and twice as good". The pacing in [REC] is awesome, it starts slowly, then ups the stakes with a big burst of violence, then cranks the tension, then cranks the tension some more, then cranks the tension some more, then lets it all go in a final act that seems to get faster and faster and faster before it hits the final scene like a needle hitting the run-out groove. Perfect.

Oh man, I could rant about things being too long until the cows come home. Pretty much my whole problem with Harry Potter probably comes from reading the fourth book and wondering why it couldn't have been like a whole third shorter. After that, there was no way I could've sat through another one. There's creating your world, there's adding subplots to make the structure more interesting and engage your reader, and then there's telling us a whole load of crap that we don't need to know, and describing things that you have no need to describe.

Anyway, [REC]. THUMP! That was my stamp of approval hammering down on it, so check it out.

Monday, 2 March 2009

City Snow

It was also snowing in the city.

As you can see.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Mountain Snow

Luckily I have the common sense to realise that I should favour my actual-walking-around-breathing-life over posting in a timely manner here. So I've been too busy to post for - woah! - the first four days of March. Good grief!

All I can say is that it was snowing a lot in the mountains.

As you can see.