Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Deadites On Ice

Yahoo! Sports now has a slideshow of the 2006 Torino Winter Games' worst figure skating costumes. As a special bonus, some of the photos not only feature weird wardrobe, but also grotesque images of supernatural horror:

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Let's Learn Japanese: Sukkiri!

Sukkiri! (interjection)
When you rack your brain or search for information for an extended period and then finally come up an answer, the subsequent feeling of relief is expressed by the word
sukkiri. There is no literal English translation for this, but it means something like "refreshing!"

I eat an awful lot of Indian food, considering that I live in Japan. A few months ago I was having lunch with Girlfriend at Samrat in Shinjuku (home of some of the best naan in Tokyo) and this totally catchy Hindi-sounding pop song came on the loudspeakers. I couldn't understand any of the lyrics, but the song's melody was stuck in my head all day long (along with a humorous approximation of the words to the song). The more I thought about the song, the more I wished I knew more about it. It was like that episode of The Adventures of Pete & Pete when Little Pete hears that "I was around / nobody knows" song and then spends the whole episode trying to remember how the song went. Only in my case, the lyrics in question weren't "I was around / nobody knows." They were "Totay, totay."

At first I tried asking the friendly staff of an Indian restaurant in Shimokitazawa called 2x2=8 for information about the song. But of course, I didn't know the song's title, and I could only sort of sing the "totay, totay" part...so they weren't able to shed any light on the matter for me. (Pretty funny, actually...I sang "totay, totay," and the cashier was like, "Oh yes, totay, totay.") Incidentally, they were equally unhelpful when I asked why their restaurant was called 2x2=8. If memory serves, the sign says "2x2=8," but under that there are hiragana spelling out ni nin ga yon, which means "2x2=4." Go figure.

I tried searching online for the song, but of course that was no easy task since I had no idea how I should romanize the words "totay, totay," or if I was even hearing them correctly. Then, last week, it occurred to me that the song was most likely from a Bollywood movie soundtrack, so I narrowed my search and finally found out that the song is "Dil Tote Tote Ho Gaya" by Punjabi singer Hans Raj Hans, and appears on the soundtrack to a movie called Bichhoo.


[ Listen to "Dil Tote Tote Ho Gaya" ]

Friday, February 17, 2006

Let's Learn Japanese: Kaze ga fuku to okeya ga moukaru

Kaze ga fuku to okeya ga moukaru.
When the wind blows, the bucket shop profits.

To be a teacher in a foreign country is to be a student. Wow, that was zen. What I mean is: As I teach English, I learn fascinating things about Japanese. For example, take just about any English proverb you can think of, and there is likely to be a Japanese counterpart to that proverb. Time is money; Toki wa kane nari. The grass is greener on the other side of the fence; Tonari no shiba ga aoi.

Today I learned Kaze ga fuku to okeya ga moukaru, which is the Japanese sum-up of Chaos Theory. While not a proverb in English, the nearest approximation would be some variation of "When a butterfly flaps its wings in Shanghai, you get rain instead of sunshine in New York."

So how does wind help the business of the bucket shop? Well, it goes like this: When the wind blows, dust flies. Dust gets in people's eyes, and they react by rubbing their eyes. When they do that, they damage their eyes and go blind. Blind people stereotypically play the shamisen, so an increase in blind people yields increased demand for that instrument. Shamisen are made from cat skin, so increased demand for shamisen yields a decrease in the cat population, which in turn yields and increase in the population of mice. Mice chew through your wooden bucket and suddenly you're forking your hard-earned ryo over to the okeya for a new bucket.

And then you're shit-outta-luck because you have no one to blame for your hardships but the wind, baby! Wow, that was kinda zen, too.

Regarding the above illustration: I don't really understand it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

In Defense of Sports Entertainment

I'm not in the pro wrestling target demographic per se, but pro wrestling has been a favorite video game genre for me since the release of THQ's WWF SmackDown! for the PlayStation in 2000. The lure of creating a wrestler in one's own image and using that wrestler to hit other wrestlers with foreign objects is a tough lure to resist. That and the People's Elbow, of course.

The latest installment of THQ's saga, WWE SmackDown! vs RAW 2006, satisfies those same sado-masochistic needs in its own special ways, not the least of which is the fact that yesterday I totally beat the Undertaker in a no-disqualification Buried Alive match. And I did it wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses. I mean, my wrestler, a wrestler who looks just like me, was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses. I don't have the video capture hardware necessary to prove that (yet....YET!), but have I ever lied to you?

Anyway, this post is intended as a tribute to my younger brother, who helped me to make a humorous video a few years ago, which involved footage of us playing WWF SmackDown! 2 with our own voice talents dubbed over the game's audio. Here's an excerpt from the video:

Me: Time to clean up your act! [hits brother with mop]

Brother: Ouch!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Opera is the New Punk

Opera music has gained new status as a form of youthful rebellion, thanks to some reactionary parents in Bennett, Colorado who blew their respective gaskets over a elementary school music teacher's decision to show a video about Faust in her class.

I'm going to resist the temptation to be similarly reactionary. Maybe it's ambitious to expect elementary school kids to show interest in opera. And maybe an opera about a guy who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for eternal youth is a bit on the heavy side for kids that have hitherto been exposed to nothing but VeggieTales and Digimon. Heck, the subject matter itself might have even been a little scary, even though it was presented in a video intended for young audiences.

Okay, I'm done restraining myself. Get a load of these boneheaded parents:

"Any adult with common sense would not think that video was appropriate for a young person to see. I'm not sure it's appropriate for a high school student," Robby Warner said after two of her children saw the video.

Another parent, Casey Goodwin, said, "I think it glorifies Satan in some way."

Okay. You, Casey. GET OFF MY PLANE. Faust glorifies Satan? I didn't even pay attention in Intro to Music History, but I still learned that Faust doesn't glorify Satan, at least no more so than the Bible does. Here I am, trying to make myself a better person my being less of a music snob, and then here you come, Casey, making me go back to my old ways. Stupid, stupid Casey.

And you, Robbie. Re-examine your definitions of the words "common sense," "appropriate," "young" and "high school." If, when your kids are high schoolers, your greatest fear is that their minds might be poisoned by classic works of art, consider yourself the Luckiest Parent in the World (and buy yourself a sweatshirt that says so). I'll wager that your kids, having been raised such in a stiflingly repressive environment, have to snort heroin and drink rubbing alcohol while firing pellet guns at stray dogs just to entertain themselves.

Somewhere, as I type this, a couple of kids are huddled around a record player, listening to Wagner's Parsifal in the basement whispering, "This is the part with the Procession of the Knights of the Holy Grail! Dude, we are so gonna be busted!"

[the story]

Friday, February 03, 2006

McDonald's, You've Done It Again

McDonald's, always the beacon of inspiration in the oily sea that is the fast food industry, has once again set the limbo bar in the category of "Things Done to Make Us Seem More Benign." Less than two months after I read in the newspaper than McDonald's would begin displaying nutrition information on it products in some countries, I happened to be walking past a McDonald's in Ikebukuro when I saw an eye-catching piece of trash on the ground: The paper liner from a McDonald's tray, decorated with the words "Let's Exercise!"

I double-backed for the restaurant's entrance, went inside and asked the cashier for a tray liner so that I could take it home and study it extensively.

As consumers we have long been misled to an imaginary connection between McDonald's food, in all its partially hydrogenated, high-fructose glory, and Ronald, a weird clown who is way too thin to have a lifestyle that includes McDonald's in any substancial capacity. Now that rift between product and mascot is widened by the notion that Ronald is the kind of clown who would lead a workout session. But closer inspection of the tray liner reveals the whole thing to be a thinly veiled attempt by McDonald's to escape responibility by separating itself from its increasingly obese clientele.

Ronald McDonald (or, as he's called in Japan, Donald McDonald) is shown leading a series of "exercises." And when I say "exercises," of course I mean "idiotic poses that do not resemble exercise in the slightest."

First of all, we are instructed to "go active." We live in an age where companies go global, women go blonde and fast food clowns go active. Failure to go active before exercising can result in total meltdown of your bodily funtions. My main source of distress is that Ronald does not give us any indication as to what constitutes going active. Do I just put one hand in the air like that? Because if that's all it takes, the Nazis must have been quite the active bunch.

This picture's caption reads, "With one hand in front, HAAAA!" This sentence contains a meaning so profound, so powerful, so explosive...they just couldn't risk putting a verb in it. This is the future of language, people. No more verbs. I wanted to try out this new mode of communication for myself, so I called my credit card company this morning and said, "With my monthly statement, ZOOOOM!" I don't know why it took them so long to figure out that I was requesting a change of billing address.

Next, we have one that roughly translates as "Look, far away!" I appreciate an attempt to be thorough, but...optical exercises? Does McDonald's food make your eyes obese, too? It gives horrifying new meaning to the phrase, "My eyes were bigger than my stomach."

Before we continue, I just want to make sure you're all following along and doing these "exercises" at home as you read this. If you don't, McDonald's will disavow any knowledge of your fatness.

Now Ronald/Donald tells us, "Oide, oide!" which means, "C'mon, c'mon!" I'm assuming that Ronald caught a glimpse of the Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch video for "Good Vibrations" and immediately associated Mark Wahlberg's underwear-endorsing physique with the repetition of motivational phrases like "c'mon, c'mon" and "feel it, feel it!" I, for one, can tell you that I walked around saying "feel it, feel it" for months before I realized my abs weren't getting any firmer as a result.

Finally Ronald announces, "See you at the homepage!" Forget everything you've ever heard about the importance of a "cool-down." Ronald commands you to stop exercising and get yourself in front of the computer immediately! Why are you still exercising? You have twenty seconds to comply!

Now log onto the McDonald's homepage, where you can...uh...well, I don't know what you can do there. I've always thought fast food company homepages were lame and boring and pointless, and I've never logged onto any fast food company's homepage for exactly that reason.

Before I close the curtain on this kabuki of shame, I want to draw your attention to the box at the bottom of the Let's Exercise tray liner:

The title bar reads, "What kind of exercise will you try?" And then it gives you three choices: Kids' exercise, chair exercise and hip-hop exercise. If none of those three choices appeal to your now insatiable hunger for physical activity, tough milkshake. You will select from the Ronald-approved list of three. Sucks to be you. I'm lovin' it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Dr. Jesseo

This morning I woke up with a sore throat which, by 9:00 pm this evening, escalated to what now feels like full-on influenza. Combined with the chilly rain that fell all day long today, keeping my in the apartment all throughout my day off, this pretty much pisses me very nearly 100% off. The good news is that the chances of me having avian flu are very slim. I mean, yeah, I made out with a chicken last night but she swore she was cool.

All that's left is to hope that my actual immune system is better at fighting off pathogens than I am at playing Dr. Mario. My sister and my dad both know what I'm talking about.