Sunday, January 29, 2006

Linkage to Signage


Friday, January 27, 2006


You may or may not be able to count on your friendly neighborhood democrats to block by filibuster Tuesday's impending vote to confirm Samuel "The Greasy Gavel" Alito as the nation's 110th Supreme Court Justice and World's Greatest Uncle...but you can count on my favorite radio personalities The Young Turks to generate some much-needed attention with their ongoing "Filibuster For the Filibuster."

The Young Turks (Cenk Uygur, Ben Mankiewicz and Jill Pike) are staging a continuous marathon of activism this weekend and broadcasting the whole thing live on their website. I'd be watching it this minute, except that my computer at home has an attitude problem when it comes to streaming video...and as fun as it was watching them on the office computer this evening, it wasn't enough to keep me at work past my already late 9:45 punch-out time. Some supporter I am, huh?

Anyway, tune in if you want to see some very dedicated (and very groggy-looking) people putting their health on the line for the sake of political awareness.

You Must Randomize

Here's this weekend's Random iPod Ten. (Do you like how I call it something different every week? Next week it will be called the Weekly Arbitrary Music Extravagnaza.) This is the second of what very well could become three posts in one day! I'm outta control.

1. Utada Hikaru / "Letters"
2. DEPAPEPE / "Ii Nichi Datta Ne"
3. XTC / "Paper and Iron (Notes and Coins)"
4. Moments in Grace / "The Patient"
5. New Order / "True Faith"
6. Ben Folds / "Jesusland"
7. The Prodigy / "Breathe"
8. Asian Kung-Fu Generation / "Rewrite"
9. Garbage / "You Look So Fine"
10. Weezer / "My Name Is Jonas"

Let's Learn Japanese: Saiaku no Taimingu

Saiaku no taimingu.
The worst timing possible.

Irony like this can only write itself.

Last night one of my students was kind enough to show me this magazine ad for Yayoi Kaikei, an accounting software package. A software package endorsed by a man whose name is now synonymous with shady accounting: Horie Takafumi (see Jibun de Maita Tane Da and Busted, below). The copyline at the top reads, "I built my company using Yayoi Kaikei."

The endorsement itself is no surprise; Livedoor has owned Yayoi since 2004, and as a result, Yayoi's president Hiramatsu Kozo took over as president of Livedoor after Horie's arrest and voluntary resignation. What's so funny is the fact that the computer magazine Nikkei Pasokon started running this ad just two weeks before the police raid on Livedoor's offices.

This may be the strongest evidence yet that Horie-mon really didn't have any knowledge of his company's dishonest financial practices. Or, it's the strongest evidence yet that the man is an overconfident moron.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Portrait of a Badass: ED-209

Character: ED-209
Actor: N/A
Film: Robocop (1987)
Badass Moment: ED gives some poor slob "twenty seconds to comply."

My Portrait of a Badass inductees until now have alternated male and female. Today I am faced with a dilemma: Does the name ED make ED-209 male? Does the inability to walk down stairs make ED-209 female? For the purposes of maintaining badass equality, it will be assumed that ED-209 is neither.

A glorious example of style over substance, ED-209 is Detroit's only hope against crime (except for Robocop, that stiff fool who walks around saying "Bad language makes for bad feelings." What a knob). ED-209 gets short shrift just because it kills indiscriminately, unable to recognize whether a suspect has dropped his weapon or not. But what ED-209 lacks in function, it makes up for by looking like a walking Audi concept car with machineguns where the mirrors should be.

Praise aside, if Detroit's crimefighting arsenal is down to a bipedal police droid with tragically oversized feet and a humanoid police cyborg with a tragically dorky walk, then all the bad things I've heard about Detroit are true, and I hope I never have to go there.

ED-209, you are a robotic badass. We must salute you. We have twenty seconds to comply.

Movie Soundtrack Fun!

Try singing along with the end title from Robocop, Jesse Jace style! The first time I saw the movie and heard the music on the closing credits, these lyrics naturally popped into my head:

He was a robot / He was a cop
He was a Robocop
He was a human / And he got shot
Now he's a Robocop!

Robocop! / Robocop!
Robocop! / Robocop!
Robocop! / Robocop!
Robocop! / Robocop!

[repeat until you lose consciousness]

Monday, January 23, 2006


An update on the aforementioned Livedoor scandal:

Horie "I Can Buy Anything" Takafumi and three other high-level Livedoor executives were arrested this evening. At this moment, the four of them are in transport, courtesy of the chihou kensatsu (Regional Prosecutors). Every TV station is currently showing off their helicopter footage of the police convoy cruising through central Tokyo.

It seems unlikely that any of them will do time, but at least Horie-mon's pop music career has been nipped in the bud.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Tokyo Snow

It snowed today, all day, non-stop. Big, soggy mega-flakes. As I type this it's already melting, but at the peak of accumulation I think we must have had four or five inches, which is remarkable. I'm no stranger to snow of course, but Tokyo is; it snows less than once a year on average in the 23 Wards. Tonight's TV news dished out numbers of snow-induced injuries by prefecture.

And now, this weekend's random ten:

1. Sebadoh / "Careful"
2. Sneaker Pimps / "Spin Spin Sugar"
3. Go Go's / "We've Got the Beat"
4. Interpol / "PDA"
5. Esthero / "Thank Heaven 4 You"
6. Chemical Brothers / "Galaxy Bounce"
7. Matthew Sweet / "Falling"
8. The Dambuilders / "Break Up With Your Boyfriend"
9. Sunny Day Real Estate / "Round"
10. Pulsars / "Silicon Teens"

I challenge you to find a song title more suggestive of a porn website than "Silicon Teens."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Let's Learn Japanese: Jibun De Maita Tane Da

Jibun de maita tane da. (Proverb)
You reap what you sow.
(Literally: It is a seed thrown by oneself.)

You may have read about how the Tokyo Stock Exchange closed twenty minutes early this week (the first such emergency closing in history), due to a sudden 14 percent drop in the value of the stock of Livedoor Co., Ltd., internet service provider and last year's "it" company. The sudden devaluation was a result of a Monday night raid on Livedoor's Roppongi Hills offices by police, under suspicion that the company may have engaged in securities and accounting fraud.

Livedoor was a news leader for most of last year, thanks in part to its young, atypical CEO Horie Takafumi (nicknamed "Horie-mon" because he allegedly looks like Doraemon, the beloved robotic cat; Wikipedia disagrees, claiming the nickname is based on a racehorse...I like my explanation better). Horie-mon (pronounced "ho-ree-eh-moan") dazzled the press and confounded business competitors with his unusually casual business attire and cavalier say nothing of his shocking attempt to acquire Fuji Television and unsuccessful run for parliament last year. (January 21, 2006, ADDENDUM: Lest we forget, he was also preparing to debut as a pop singer until the Livedoor scandal truncated that endeavor.)

Rumor has it that the police were tipped off to Livedoor's shady doings by one of Horie-mon's political opponents. Memo to Horie #1: Don't run for office when you're a high-profile CEO.

Upon hearing of the company's scandal many, including myself, were gratified; after last year's media blitz, most of Japan is pretty much sick of Horie Takafumi and his condescending attitude. Consider this quote from Horie's November 2005 interview with Lorraine Hahn of CNN, on his "shocking" business tactics:

...It's not that I'm deliberately trying to shock people all the time. I'm just doing things that are obvious to me. It's because the public doesn't understand my way of thinking that they get surprised. Sometimes, I find it frustrating, but I suppose that can't be helped. The problem is with Japan's education system.

Memo to Horie #2: Quit being a jerk. Condescending is an important duty for us all, and I do my fair share of it. But with people walking around talking like this, maybe I can afford to take a year off.

Fast-forward to this afternoon, when Noguchi Hideaki of H.S. Securities, a brokerage firm which reportedly has a close relationship with Livedoor, was found dead in his hotel room. He apparently committed suicide.

The death of that executive is a sobering thing, but it won't act to quiet the mutterings of everyone who agrees that Mr. Horie has spent enough time grandstanding, and is now preparing to pay the price. Rumor has it that he will be formally charged next month.

Memo to Horie #3: Act tough in prison.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Sony Violates Own Principles, Publishes Game That Glorifies Pirates

Once again, I'm late with the technology news. Call it my right Achilles heel. My left Achilles heel is the tendency to miss my mouth when I eat.

Sony released Level 5's Rogue Galaxy last month, prompting me to go through a two-week "should I buy it or not?" conundrum; I had convinced myself that my failure to finish Dark Chronical, another Level 5 game, was reason enough to keep my money in my wallet.

Like I said, that only lasted two weeks.

I still haven't finished Dark Chronical, but that's going to have to wait until another day, as I am now in the thick of Rogue Galaxy, a game in which an unlikely team of "space pirates" undergo a quest to stop an evil war profiteer from obtaining...something really important. (My Japanese is almost good enough to fully understand the plot.)

Interesting, isn't it? Sony, a company known for its selfish formatting philosophies and general disregard for consumers, publishes a game in which the heroes are pirates.


Apparently Sony acted in good faith that kids would understand that those walk-the-plank, shiver-me-timbers, rape-and-pillage kind of pirates are fun for the whole family, while pirates who modify their PSPs for the purpose of ROM emulation are dangerous and must be dealt with severely. Similarly, Disney was confident when they released Pirates of the Caribbean that nobody would ever mistake Jack Sparrow for the kind of guy who might rip a Toy Story DVD onto his hard drive, or raid a container ship loaded with copies of National Treasure.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

One Year of CIC

"I was havin' a good sleep in my car
In the parking lot of the Showboat Casino Hotel"
- Cracker / "Happy Birthday To Me"

One year ago today Chorus, Isolate, Confirm first appeared in its own dark, little corner of the Inner Nets. Back then it was called J-Log...until August, when I realized that the name J-Log was about the least creative name possible and decided to change my blog's name to a cryptic ESL mnemonic.

It's been a big twelve months, with posts on topics ranging from cockroaches to cosplayers. Here's a convenient recap of the year's items, conveniently listed for your convenience. You lazy piece of trash.

In January I went head-to-head with a student in a theological debate, transforming a regular English class into a circus of spiritual woe.

In February I outlined my scientific method of measuring earthquake magnitudes using a shelf full of plastic video game character figurines.

In March I wrote a very lengthy essay on The Rolling Chopstick Phenomenon, a psychological anomaly which causes me to laugh at inappropriate times (for example, during The Tonight Show with Jay Leno).

April was a big month. I walked twenty kilometers across Tokyo, taking pictures of cherry blossoms the whole way.

In May nothing really happened.

June saw the first installment of Let's Learn Japanese, which has proven to be a great learning tool for people who want to learn relatively useless bits of Japanese vocabulary in no particular order. It's like Japanese For Busy People, only better.

In July I expressed disdain for movies where people say, "Nyoooooo!"

In August I started a new tradition of excellence in the form of Portrait of a Badass. It was all I could do to distract myself from the cockroach trouble I was having at home.

In September the cockroaches disappeared and there was much rejoycing. I celebrated by treating myself to the Tokyo Game Show, where technology and social ineptitude collide.

In October I made a guy shoot coffee out his nose. It was a proud accomplishment.

In November I got really sick and missed two days of work. Whether or not my bosses believe I was really sick during those two days has yet to be revealed.

And in December, in the most sincere form of flattery, I decided to rip off my sister's ripped-off idea to post a random iPod-generated top ten list every weekend. Mmmmm. Rip-off.

So there you have it! A year went by so fast. A big thank you to everyone who reads Chorus, Isolate, Confirm, regardless of whether or not you shoot coffee out your nose while doing so.

Kotoshi mo, yoroshiku onegaishimasu! That's roughly Japanese for, "This year, please continue to honor my every whim!"

No, not really.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Random Ten for Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th passed without any catastrophically unlucky things happening to me. I didn't get my fingers caught in the doors of the train. I didn't get hit in the face by a careless pigeon. I didn't even get chainsawed by a guy in a hockey mask. I gotta say it was a good day.

Now, lest all three of those things happen to me tomorrow, I'll knock on wood fiercely. Here's your weekly random ten. Eat up!

1. 12 Rods / "Terrible Hands"
2. Moments in Grace / "No Angels"
3. Ash / "Burn Baby Burn"
4. Aimee Mann / "Calling it Quits"
5. Ishiwatari Daisuke / "Make Oneself" (from Guilty Gear XX)
6. Ben Folds / "Give Judy My Notice"
7. Idlewild / "As If I Hadn't Slept"
8. Utada Hikaru / "Automatic"
9. Ivy / "Worry About You"
10. Edan / "Drop Some Smooth Lyrics"

Seven of ten artists beginning with vowels. What does it mean?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Speaking of Which

It occurred to me after writing my last post that bragging about writing a song in my sleep without anyone being able to listen to the song was sort of cowardly of me. So last night I submitted "Next in the Campaign is Mars" for review at GarageBand.

That will probably be the last song from my first CD, Places At Night, that I submit to GarageBand. There are a couple other songs on the album that might possibly do well in the review contest, but I haven't posted them yet because either 1) the production quality is terrible, or 2) the song is full of vocal samples that would get me sued and/or disqualified.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

"DJ Planet"

When I'm not masquerading as an English teacher, I'm masquerading as a musician (and this is where I plug my page at GarageBand). I can't pass myself off as a good performer, but I like to think my musical ideas are worth realizing. And on top of that, there's this:

Sometimes I write music in my sleep.

I dream about music all the time, sometimes about already existing music, sometimes about music that hasn't been written yet. I can only think of one or two instances where a song from one of my dreams survived the transformation to an actual song. One of the songs I recorded in Minneapolis, "Next in the Campaign is Mars," started out as a memory from a dream, looping in my head when I woke up one morning. Most of the time, however, I dream about already existing music, or my brain invents a horrendously bad song that is better off forgotten.

Which brings me to the subject of the dream I had this morning. In my dream, I'm in the basement of my old house, listening to XTC's album Black Sea (1980, Virgin Records). Okay, no surprises so far. XTC was, after all, an important part of my childhood. For those uninformed, XTC is a good -- I mean, great -- I mean, legendary band from Swindon, England which, while not in time for the British Invasion, was an integral part of the British Occupation. Their long musical saga has taken them through a spectrum of genre zones including punk, new wave, pop/rock and psychedelic.

Notice: I didn't say "rap."

Yet, in my dream, I'm listening to this album, and suddenly I notice a hiphop song on it that I failed to notice before. Just kind of stuck in there, between "Burning with Optimism's Flames" and "Sgt. Rock (Is Going to Help Me)" there is a track called "DJ Planet."

Now, I can't give my brain full credit for writing "DJ Planet." The fact is, the music bears a striking (if not absolute) resemblance to the song "Funky Radio" from the Jet Set Radio soundtrack. But slapped on top of that music is the worst set of vocals imagineable. Imagine, if you can, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding belting out the following chorus, in their best imitations of authoritative "rapper" voices:

DJ Planet! / Energy!
DJ Planet! / Technology!

What? You said this sounds like the worst song in history? Yeah, I think you're right. And remember, I'm talking about 80's rap, so it's actually more like "DJ Planet! / Te-te-te-technology!" It's downright ridiculous. I'm sitting there listening to this song (and wondering why I never noticed it on the album before), and I'm thinking, "This song is retarded."

I also remember that, at some point in this dream, my dad (whose collection of XTC albums was responsible for my discovery of their music) walks in and I say to him, "This song sucks." And he's like, "Aw, come on. It's 'DJ Planet!'" What does this mean? In the course of this dream, my brain invented a crappy song, acknowledged its crappiness, and then attempted to defend it anyway?

I need professional help.

This post is dedicated to my father, who likes XTC, and would probably continue to like them even if they released "DJ Planet."

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Let's Learn Japanese: Ero-Kakkoii

Ero-kakkoii (Adj.)
Sexy and cool.

Ero-kakkoii is a new adjective coined specifically to describe j-pop singer Koda Kumi. The word is a combination of two previously existing adjectives, eroi (adapted from the English word "erotic") and kakkoii ("cool").
I'm not sure why it was decided that Koda Kumi in particular should be designated ero-kakkoii; from what I've seen in video clips and on album covers, ero-ero-ero-ero-ero would be more appropriate. But, as you can see, once you attain the rank of "SexyCool," it's only a short hop to "CrazySexyCool," and then...well, let me put it this way: Don't go chasing waterfalls.
Koda Kumi is on a mission to destroy all lesser j-pop divas, and if there's a chance she'll take out Hamasaki Ayumi along the way, then I'm behind her 100 percent.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Holiday Weekend Shuffle

YOU: "Holiday weekend?" Jesse, are you a nutbar? New Year's was last weekend!

ME: Shut up, stupid face. Monday is Seijin No Hi ("Coming of Age Day"), a magical day when every 20-year-old in Japan commemorates his or her transition to adulthood...presumeably by watching American Pie or maybe Sixteen Candles. So it's a holiday weekend here, baby!

[voice="Casey Kasem"] Now, on with the countdown. [/voice]

1. HALCALI / "Peek-A-Boo"
2. t.A.T.u. / "Not Gonna Get Us"
3. The Sugarcubes / "Motorcrash"
4. Quruli / "Hometown"
5. They Might Be Giants / "Narrow Your Eyes"
6. Messiah / "Destroyer"
7. Yes / "Roundabout"
8. Tenacious D / "Tribute"
9. Dido / "Here With Me"
10. The Sneaker Pimps / "Low Place Like Home"

Monday, January 02, 2006

Portrait of a Badass: Hatsumomo

Character: Hatsumomo
Actor: Gong Li
Film: Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)
Badass Moment: "I shall destroy you."
As I said in my September post Portrait of a Badass: Mitsuko, one fictional female stands head-and-shoulders above all others in the proverbial badass lineup. That woman was kept out of Portrait of a Badass due to the fact that she was a literary figure (not a "movielary" one). But after having seen the onscreen manifestation of Arthur Golden's serpentine geisha brat Hatsumomo in the film adaptation of Memoirs of a Geisha over the New Year's holiday, I can now add her to the list with a clear conscience.
Hatsumomo is a conceited, hard-drinking geisha with an attitude. She has secret trysts even though geisha are meant to be strictly trystless. She steals other geisha's clothes and tags them with graffiti (or, as graffiti were called back in the geisha days, "burners"). She's a firestarter, twisted firestarter.
About the debated decision to cast a bunch of Chinese actresses in a movie about geisha, I say this: Maybe the Japanese actresses who auditioned just weren't badass enough.
FUN FACT: Around the time I was reading Memoirs of a Geisha two years ago, I bought a semi-hollowbody guitar. I was so impressed with the "love to hate" factor of the book's prime antagonist that I decided to name my new guitar Hatsumomo. My other guitar is called Mercedes.
Hatsumomo, you are a movielary badass. We salute you.