I live in Tokyo now but most of my friends and family do not. The main idea here is that I can tell these people about interesting things that happen and are seen.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

What's Happening Right Now

I'm in a hotel in Osaka and here's what's on TV:

Japan's shortest man is sitting on the lap of Japan's tallest man, watching a guy do magic tricks.

More on that later, I guess.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Moments Like Those

Sometimes you see a stranger do something and you get this big feeling in your guts like the random thing that you've just seen is a complete summary of what is going on with that person.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, think again, because actually you'll find that you DO know what I'm talking about.

Anyway I was thinking about that after my first visit to a Japanese video/DVD rental shop yesterday. Aya took me there to get some movies since that's the sort of thing couples do when otherwise short of inspiration. This was a local shop, not a major chain - I forget the name but their store mascot was Christopher Columbus for some reason.

(What We Rented:
National Treasure - what the "Da Vinci Code" movie might've been if it had attempted to be interesting or fun. How's Nick Cage's elocution though... it's like he's balancing an invisible coin on his chin and is therefore afraid to open his mouth too much when talking.
Tremors - one of the cool things about dating a girl from another culture is that you can say "OMG YOU'VE NEVER SEEN TREMORS" and then make her watch Tremors.)

Like most entertainment venues in Tokyo, it had a couple of pachinko machines and a couple of slot machines in it, ancillary to its main purpose but nonetheless as necessary as toilets. Apart from myself, Aya, and the staff, there was one guy there, alone on a Saturday night, hitting up the pokies in a video store. I noticed him when he paused from playing to angrily stomp a cockroach that had been scuttling around at his feet. And that was one of those moments - the surroundings, his purpose, his crappy track suit pants, the exaggerated fury he vented on the roach, all said to me: "Here is the Sum of this Man"

i mean if you wanted to play pachislo why not go here, was he not man enough for the Big League

Of course, I realize that it's completely unfair to think that way. And I'm forced to wonder if and when this has happened to me - what unguarded moments have summed me up for people who will never see me again - in the street, yanking at a stuck zipper, flying half mast and failing to balance a coffee in my free hand as it spatters against the T-shirt that I've put on backwards and inside-out - "Well, there's THAT guy's life..."

Doggs, think about it and tell me what kind of moments like this you have had if you can be real about it.

Other observations:
- The porn in Japanese video stores is not segregated from the regular movies?!? When pointed this out to Aya, she explained that the "real porn" was upstairs... given that the stuff that was shelved alongside the collected works of Sean Connery was unambiguously hardcore, I can only surmise that the Real Deal is some kind of parade formation synchronized jackhammer anal with a cast of thousands, retrieved perhaps from a secret Nazi research base in Antarctica. (Fear and only fear prevented me from going upstairs to check).

- There's a whole lot of American direct-to-video releases available in Japan that I've never dared to imagine might exist?

"Snake Train" - a terrible train crash occurs when the 9:15 collides with a giant snake.
The snake was "pretty angry" but otherwise unaffected.

I am tantalized by the prospect of watching them and making fun of them, but scared of the ten-year regression in my psyche that would represent.

Friday, August 03, 2007

1 Year Anniversary

Today is the first anniversary of my arrival in Japan. Obviously, since I'm updating at home updating the blogg, I'm not celebrating tonight.

However, tomorrow I'll be hitting up the Ichikawa fireworks display, just as I did in the first weekend of August 2006, and this time instead of sitting on the riverbank alone, I'll be going with some good friends and a nice girl who kisses me sometimes. So in terms of progress, that's pretty tangible I suppose.

Here's a quick review of the year in incomplete sentences.

Things eaten:
Compressed Rice
Pig Uterus
Fish Spoof
Spinal Cord
Mince Slime w/Noodles
Marmite On Toast
1x Large Whelk (excluding Shell)

Skills got:
Speak Slowly
Catch Trains
Level 1 Linguist
Swim (Basic)
+1 to Wisdom
-1 to Fatness
Operate Inter Net
Bowling (Accuracy)
Bowling (Power)
Bowling (Finesse)
Bowling (SPECIAL ABILITY: Rhino Storm)
Speak To Americans
Imaginary Friend

Same 3 Shirts I Had When I Got Here, Plus Those $10 Hallensteins Shorts
Tiny Dictionary of Inadequacy
Triceratops Trucker Cap

Didn't write enough.
Didn't draw enough.
Didn't make enough music.
Didn't learn bugger all Japanese, really.
Still basically a bit of a lazy prick no matter what country I happen to be in.

All up, it has been a decent year, and far preferable to the hypothetical alternative in which I remained in NZ, earned reams of cash, and spent all my time gnawing on myself wondering about what I might be doing instead. So, yay for me, et cetera. If you have a choice between going to a strange country and not going to a strange country, my advice is to go to a strange country.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Un Livre Dont VOUS Etes Le Heros

Things of note today:

1) Manda Overboard has made an important stand against circumcision... and at no point does she compare the uncircumcised penis to a sea slug. It's nice to know of ONE lady that doesn't bring that up.

Apparently circumcision does make you better at not getting AIDS though.

After following the men for a year, the researchers found that for every 10 uncircumcised men in the study who became infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, only an estimated three circumcised men contracted the virus, the newspaper reported.

The study is considered significant because scientists have yet to discover an effective vaccine against the HIV virus or develop a reliable way to prevent infection other than through abstinence or safe-sex practices.

At last, an effective alternative to the jimmy hat: FETCH ME THE SHEARS MOMMA, I AIN'T WEARIN' NO GUNNY SACK!!!

Seriously though fellers, how many terrible rap b-sides do you need to hear before you just put a lid on that thing?

CONCLUSION: A man's junk is like roast chicken, though it may be less healthy, it's better with the skin left on.

2) Weird medical clip art... I found this stuff weeks ago while looking for reference material for drawing, and I've been meaning to bring it up ever since.

Mainly, I just wanted to know how to draw "child voluntarily drinking an activated charcoal slurry":

It costs sixty-nine bucks to license this image.
Child voluntarily drinking an activated charcoal slurry

The work in the LifeART collection may be stilted and weird-looking, but it's the captions that really transport it upon a lofty ledge of artistic merit, from which vantage it pisses down upon the likes of Dali, setting him cussing and spluttering, and wilting his stupid gimmick moustache, eerily and precisely after the exact fashion of one the ridiculous melting clocks in his banal, meritless paintings.

I present now a gallery of favourites:

Dang but that baby's face looks familiar
Infant lying on back without diaper; adult left hand lifts both legs
while right hand cleanses baby's bottom with clean cloth

Dressing up a shaved gibbon ain't make you a mother ma'amInjury occurs when excessive axial traction is placed across the elbow joint; illustration shows child holding hand of woman and beginning to fall with elbow of free hand extended

And who could forget this classic health science scenario?

To secure a fix, drug addicts may resort to crime, prostitution, and modeling for the Barker's catalogueOne teenager smoking marijuana while another is injecting a drug into his arm

"Ah, that old chestnut!", I hear you exclaim. Finally, a personal favourite:

His peers seem to be a pair of off-duty policeman who both contracted kidney nephritis at a young ageStuttering child trying to talk to peers

3) I recently systematized my Flickr into a set of categories that can encompass anything sufficiently corporeal to be visible on camera. Linnaeus can eat a dick! I have uploaded a few photos recently, so if you like buildings and mildly amusing Japanese signs check it out. I'm gonna try and catch up on my photo uploads, I've still got a backlog.

Tune in next time for the first in an ongoing series: "Fighting Fantasy: Memoires of YOU" (alternative title: "Of Skellingtons and T-Junctions: The Long Hard Road to Page 400")

If you've ever had your arm in a cast, you'll know what I'm talking aboutI'm sure they're tired of the obvious questions by now.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Sometimes Japan is Pretty Decent


Friday, June 22, 2007

Healthy and Pre-occupied

Well, it's either rained or been disgustingly dishrag humid pretty constantly since the last post in which I declared that the rainy season was cancelled. Chalk another one up to Man's Folly.

One of the Things that apparently Happens when you work for a Japanese corporation is that you go and get a health check, and since I now have a full-time, non-teaching job, that's what I did today.

(The above has been added to "Sentences To Not Start Your Novel With.DOC")

It was more comprehensive than I expected. They X-rayed my lungs. They tested my eyesight and hearing (in a cursory fashion - the test had a total of four tones, not counting any that I was possibly deaf to). They even stuck thingies on my bare chest like was done to E.T. and Elliot. All up it was very much like the first 42 seconds of the video for "In Da Club".

I've never had a real medical check-up before, so I was quite expecting to look at the lung X-ray and see Lucifer's face like in the 9/11 smoke. Happily, there was only two dark smudges that I'm told represent lungs that are normal - perhaps even boring. An off-white smear indicated that my heart is of a size "within normal limits, though possibly mean-spirited". Basically everything was normal and healthy-ish - barring results from the blood and piss tests that I await like a sailor's wife. The only nasty surprise is that I'm two centimetres shorter than I've been telling everyone for the past year: HEIGHT FRAUD. So, everyone: I could be alive for a while - adjust your plans accordingly.

Tune in next time for an in-depth and scornful analysis of David Bowie's 1985 hit "Magic Dance".

What kind of magic spell to use???

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summer in Tokyo Will Always Remind Me of Hotness and Buildings

Thanks to the machinations of that wily old trollop La Nina, rainy season appears to have been cancelled, here in the Kanto region at least. But the city is still hot and humid, and suffused with an old, wrinkled scent - the smell of things that have been used, over and over again, by thousands of people - a smell that always reminds me of the first time I came here and went "coo it's not like Parnell is it".

Strangers in strange lands are inevitably moved to express themselves in the medium of overwrought, ill-advised metaphorical language. I am no exception. In fact I'm probably a good example - even a classic! - and I could well be used for cautionary, educational purposes - to warn young kids off thesauruses perhaps - or thesaurii - did we ever settle that one? Oops - I ended the sentence already - there was more to be said there I feel.

So I duly set out to inflict a description upon Tokyo's summer perfume, these hints of shit and ginger that furnish me with strange and not unpleasant nostalgia. I thought I'd start with the basic idea that Tokyo is a big set of lungs that I'm walking around inside. However, extending the metaphor, that would make ME maybe 1) some dust (BORING!!!) or 2) a disgusting lung parasite, which is possibly quite apt but could lead to rather more self-examination than I'm prepared for right now - thus, I abandoned the metaphor.

So anyway the main idea was that I reckon it's pretty hot and wet inside lungs most of the time and the same is true of Tokyo.

My back-up LURID METAPHOR emerged fully-formed and naked in the world during a chat session with Amanda, and here it is:

me: it is a complicated smell that requires recourse to ever more lurid metaphors to describe
basically every surface in the city is slightly warm and slightly damp and is exuding its essence into a great urban potpourri, where the dried flowers are concrete thinly laminated in the wax of human generations, and the curly bits of coloured bark are cats with face-ulcers
Amanda: Dude
me: potpourri usually comes in a basket so i guess the basket would be Sin

Amanda is in Kyushu of course, where the rainy season is fully functional - enthusiastic, even! The misery of two weeks constant rain shall only be compounded when an enormous convoy of trucks arrives from Tokyo, and bears all their fresh water away to offset our impending drought.

Anyway! There is another thing that happens when it gets hot, apart from me sweating and also overstretching my slight abilities as a writer and snapping all the tendons in my writing bone or whatever the hell I'm trying to say. Namely: people open all their windows. Consequently I have become a member of my neighbour's lives as they reside but four inches away. Right now I can hear someone splashing around in a bath and someone else chopping up something on a chopping board - hold on - yeah, sounds like carrot. And THEY in turn are listening to me listening to Nas and typing things.
Toyko is crowded and it's the biggest city in the world and sometimes I really realize this. However this social disaster is neatly defused by the fact that my neighbours are all humble, quiet living people of a kind mainly found here in Japan, and I am doubtless far more of a nuisance to them than they to I. As one night during my recent trip home attested, it doesn't matter how big your section is if your neighbours are P-smoking maniacs.

(Sudden, shuddering thought: a union of New Zealand's legion of P-smoking maniacs, with Japan's ready supply of "SAMURAI SWORDS"?????? Let's pray that the endless churn of continental drift never squidges these nations together)

Speaking of such, and finally, and most importantly, and lest we forget -- last but not least, allow me to add -- last but not least: what's up to everyone back in NZ. I had a mad decent trip and it was crazy way too short but as they say in "That's Life" magazine: "Life is suffering".

Seriously, it was great to see so many friends and family that I'd missed and realize that by the simple expedient of vanishing for ten months you can make everyone forget anything bad about you. Hooray!