Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Big Walk This Sunday

Weather permitting, my 20-kilometer urban hike across central Tokyo will take place this coming Sunday, April 3, 2005. If it rains, my only other option is to do it the following Sunday, April 10.

Persistent Vegetative States of America

Somehow my last Schiavo post was deleted. Might have been my mistake...or MAYBE my blog was hacked by Jeb Bush! What ever the reason, sorry to temporarily deprive you all of this wonderful, funderful image.

Log Blog

This evening, after a scrumdiddliumptious dinner at Tenkazushi, I saw a young woman fall down an entire flight of stairs. From my position on the street, I heard a "kyaa!" and turned just in time to see an apparently drunk girl, rolling sideways down the steps of of an izakaya like a log. Seriously, an honest to goodness, used to be a tree, Ewok village booby trap log. Everyone around me had a startled look, as if thinking, "Oh jeez, she's falling, I hope she's not hurt, wonder if I should I help her, wow I can't believe she's still falling, will she ever stop?" Eventually she did stop, picked herself up and scolded her boyfriend for letting such an accident happen. I expect tomorrow morning she'll wake up with a hangover, a dirty jacket and shattered tibiae.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Holy Mama, It's Otaku Friday

This isn't really a traditional otaku thing per se, but let's be flexible. This image, which I have lovingly plagarized from an online martial arts paraphernalia dealer, showcases the store's ninja costumes. To quote the item description:

"Ninja uniforms are made of top quality fabrics. These are real Ninja uniforms, not cheap costumes. Available in black only. Includes 2 piece hood, hand gauntlets, top, and pants. Sizes from 0 to 6."

Now, I don't claim to be an authority on ninja culture...but if these are real uniforms, does that mean were there toddler ninjas, like the ones pictured here, running around feudal Japan? And did they really carry bright red plastic nunchucks? Because those, paired with the black pajamas, really make them hard to see against that authentic ninja golf course in the background. All in all I'd have to say that these "real ninja uniforms" are about as Japanese as a can of Chef Boyardee in Chuck Norris's pantry.

A closer look at the item page reveals that, true enough, they are not cheap costumes. At $47.99 a piece, they are decidedly expensive costumes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

You May Harm Yourself

I generally don't like to make generalizations, but generally speaking, Japanese people put a lot of money and effort into looking good, generally. A unique aesthetic is reflected in all things here, from the looped recording at Shibuya Station telling you not to "run up or down the escalator; you may harm yourself and/or others," in a voice that sounds more hopeful than cautionary, to pop songbird Ayumi Hamasaki (right), who often appears on TV hawking digital cameras and is regarded by many as "beautiful" (but is regarded by me as "E.T. with hair extensions").

As the illustration at right...uhr, illustrates, Japan will soon have one more weapon of mass destruction in the war on homeliness. Following a recent trend in South Korea, Johnson & Johnson is set to release OneDay Acuvue Define, a cosmetic contact lens that increases the apparent diameter of one's iris. Now you, too, can look like Astro Boy.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Is the Whole World Backwards? (No, Just Washington.)

Republicans are working overtime this weekend to make new sweeping, blanket-like laws for the purpose of keeping Terri Schiavo alive. Well, thank GOD, because if I'm anything like the religious right, I just can't get enough of telling other people what's best for them and their loved ones. When viewed side-by-side with their foreign policy, I cannot help but assume that being a conservative means spending the most energy to protect the most futile causes, while devoting similarly large amounts of effort towards destroying people whose lives won't be spent hooked up to feeding tubes.

Another example is Congress's recent display of "concern" over whether Mark McGuire uses steroids. He obviously does. Will the Secretary please introduce the next item. Call Congress and make your disgust known. Just kidding, Congress never answers the phone. But here's some cool trivia: The toll-free number for Congress is 1-877-SOB-U-SOB. True story.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Otaku Friday

I think these are meant to be Mega Man characters, although the only one I recognize is...well, I don't recognize any of them, actually. But they sure look like they know how to dance.

(Now I'm going to see how long it takes until some conventiongoer reads my blog and calls me a hypocrite for posting images of game characters while simultaneously making fun of the people who take their video game fandom just a hair more seriously than I do.)

Snake? Snake! SNAAAKE!

This week my walking regimen suffered setbacks. Monday March 14 was White Day, the day when men in Japan are meant to reciprocate on the Valentine's Day chocolate they received from virtually every woman they know. So after work I had a little shopping to do, and subsequently no time for walking. On Tuesday and Wednesday, circumstances* conspired to prevent me from walking before work. And on Thursday, it rained.

*Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Sword Rights NOW

On Saturday, a Wisconsin man exercised his Second Amendment right to kill a whole bunch of people for no reason. When will the Constitution be amended to ban guns forever, in favor of the right to carry a buster sword? Write your congressmen.

[the story]

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Tokyo Walking Adventure: Proposal

As mentioned in an earlier post, I plan to undertake a 20-kilometer trek across central Tokyo this spring, for the purpose of seeing as many cherry blossoms as possible. My route will begin at Setagaya-Daita Station, heading east to Yoyogi Park, then northeast to Shinjuku Gyoen. I will then most likely head directly east to the Imperial Palace East Garden, possibly via Hanzo Hori (if accessible), curving northward past Tokyo Station, Kanda and Akihabara. I will make one more stop at Ueno Park before finally cutting east to Asakusa, where my walk will end at the front of Sensouji.

Yet to be determined is whether I'll take the Ginza Line back to Shibuya when my journey is done, or ride a Sumida River boat to Hamamatsucho and then take the Yamanote Line homeward. Or, for that matter, whether or not I'll collapse before I even get half way. Cherry blossom season is usually around the first two weeks of April, and my work schedule (plus the fact that the Imperial Gardens are closed on Fridays) effectively means I have to do this on either April 3 or April 10.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Otaku Friday

Taking a cue from my sister, whose blog is one of several featuring a random iPod-generated weekly top 10, I'm starting a new (and much more condescending) weekly tradition of poking fun at otaku gaijin (which is Japanese for "foreigners who like anime a little too much and are too bubble-headed to understand that the word otaku is not cool, but rather has the uncomfortable nuance of words like 'child molester' and 'serial killer with a sock fetish'").

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Don't Tell Mom Dad's Dead

Three elderly siblings. One mummified father. The adventure of a lifetime. Coming to theaters this summer.

Japanese language accounts of this item mention that the siblings brought food to their father on a daily basis, never stopping to wonder why he wasn't eating. How the western news media failed to pick up on this savory bit of sensationalism, I'll never understand.

[click here for the article]

Monday, March 07, 2005

Turbo Men

Arnold Schwarzenagger, you are an idiot!

Am I the only person who remembers Arnold Schwarzenagger talking himself up (while simulatenousely saying "Steroids ah for loosahs, so I dun't yoose dem. Eeyaaiiii!") in the 1980s? I can't find any record of this, but I'm sure he said something to that effect. And now he says, "I have no regrets becahs steroids were new bahk den, and now I am de govenah of de Kalifornia. Eeyaaiiii!" Note: I don't really have a strong opinion about steroid use. If athletes want to bring shame on themselves by using illegal performance enhancers, let them. Mostly I just needed an excuse to post this still from Jingle All the Way.

In other news:
Sam Johnson, you are an idiot!

AP reported Saturday that 74-year-old veteran and Congressman Sam Johnson (R-Texas...where else?) made remarks in February about wanting to personally drop two nuclear bombs on Syria. Afterword he explained it was only a joke. Aren't old people funny?

The Rolling Chopstick Phenomenon

There is a Japanese phrase to describe the ease with which adolescents are driven to giggling: "Hashi ga korogattemo okashii toshigoro" ("the age where even a rolling chopstick is funny"). But, as members of my family will testify, I have been at "that age" for most of my life, often driven to sudden, inappropriate laughter by my own thoughts at the worst moment possible. I'm sure I'm not the only person who has this problem. Certainly there was at least one time in your own life when you went to get a haircut, and you started chuckling at some dumb thing that popped into your head, and had to explain to the stylist why you were laughing. Well, here are some real-life examples of the Rolling Chopstick Phenomenon (or RCP) happening to me:

My family's dentist was located across the street from a carwash. For something like eight years straight, the carwash's changeable marquee carried the same message: "FOA MY BRUSH." The inexplicable space in the middle of the word "foamy" would prompt a booming voice in my head to yell, "Fo' my brush!" This, in turn, caused me to laugh during my fluoride treatment, and I had to explain to the hygenist what was so funny. (Or not so funny, depending on your point of view.)

Similarly, I was driven to laughter by a plaque on the wall of my optometrist's office. The plaque commemorated the doctor's receipt of a Jaycee honor called the John H. Armbruster Memorial Award, and sported a relief carving of Mr. Armbruster, a frumpy, old man with glasses. At first glance I misread the award as the John H. ArmBUSTER Memorial Award, which naturally lead to a mental image of the frumpy, old guy breaking people's arms. The optometrist's reaction to my laughter was very similar to his reaction six months earlier, when I told him that I had permanently messed up my vision by watching the entire Superbowl through a pair of 3D glasses.

Most recently, I bit my lip to stop myself from laughing during an English lesson, when I suddenly remembered a line from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, completely out of context:

MRS. GLOOP: You boiled him up, I know it!

Incidentally, there have been many other times when Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory planted "the seed of silliness" in my brain, usually via some twisted revision of the Oompa Loompa song, or the idea I had a few years ago for an alternate ending where the Wonkavator transforms into a deadly missile that homes in on and destroys Charlie's house. I am also reminded of the part where Mr. Wonka says something like, "Don't lose your head. We wouldn't want anyone to lose that...yet." The "yet" really got my hopes up. I waited and waited for Charlie and the Chocolate-Induced Decaptitation Rampage...and I'm still waiting.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Minnesota Welcomes You (And Then KILLS You)

Here are a couple of glistening, golden links to material from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Minneapolis was a gracious host to me for two years, but through no fault of its own, became the backdrop for one of the darkest periods in my life so far. (Let's put it this way: If my life were the Star Wars Universe, Minneapolis would be Dagobah.)

Friday, March 04, 2005

Judgement: BAD

I'm surprised the margin was so narrow, but my theory is proven. Bush is bad. And I don't mean like a Michael Jackson "I'm bad / I'm bad / You know it / (We're gonna make your mom look like a crack whore)" kind of bad. I mean bad like an asbestos sandwich.

Thursday, March 03, 2005


Okay, sorry about the political stuff. I've put my high horse in the closet so I won't be tempted to get on it for a while.

This is a Morinaga kiosk in the upper level of JR Tamachi Station. Morinaga is the company responsible for the candy Chocoball and its avine mascot, Kyoro-chan (for whom this "Kyorosk" is named). See the clock? Each hour on the hour some wacky music starts playing and those four Kyoro-chans on the front of the kiosk start twisting to and fro in a strange, diabetic dance. On seeing this, many of the business people walking past regard the kiosk with an expression that seems to say, "Wow. That's goofy, even by my stilted Japanese standards of goofiness."

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

WARNING! Politics ahead!

A US federal judge has ordered that alleged enemy combatant Jose Padilla must be released within 45 days, after being held since June 2002 under suspicion of (but not charged with) conspiring to detonate dirty bombs. Whether or not he was really a terrorist before, I don't know (the record shows that he tried to be one, but I'm trying to be a ninja to no avail). But after being imprisoned for more than two and a half years with no access to an attorney, he's probably considering becoming a terrorist very soon. And who can blame him? Nice going, idiots.

[the story]

Get Broke Quick Scheme

I have been receiving, with increasing frequency, various con art emails from Africa. You know the ones I mean. They always involve some "untimely death" and bank transfer to Nigeria. Today's reaches new levels of creativity. Here's an excerpt:

I am Mrs Fatou Robinson from war ravaged SIERRA LEONE but presently domiciled in Abidjan Ivory coast with my two sons. My Husband Mr Gilberth Robinson who before his untimely assassination by the rebels was the Director of SIERRA LEONE Diamond corporation.

I don't know what constitutes a timely assassination of one's husband, but that's neither here nor there. It then goes on to explain that I should act as an intermediary for the transfer of funds totalling $15 million into various investments and blah blah blah, and oh yeah, of course I'll earn a sizeable commission for my efforts. But this con artist made several glaring errors. For example, appeals like "for the sake of God and humanity give an immediate positive consideration" are wasted on people like me, who don't think so highly of God and humanity. Not to mention that the claim to being a widow of the Director of SIERRA LEONE Diamond Corporation doesn't do much to bolster my sympathy.

Getting emails like this fills me with a contempt I haven't felt since I sat on the receiving end of endless credit card fraud phone calls at the Eastbay call center. (Worst job ever, by the way.)

I thought about responding with the following email, but ultimately thought better of it:

Dear Fatso Robinson; So sorry to hear about the dead guy. At least you have the diamonds to fall back on. I'm not sure who told you I'm an expert at money handling and investments, but here's something you should know: I failed Financial Accounting twice. So maybe you need to quit being a little skinflint and channel some of that ill-gotten diamond blood money into a professional who can do that for you. Say hi to "the rebels" for me.