Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Let's Learn Japanese: Jouzu ni Yakemashita!

Jouzu ni yakemashita!
Skillfully cooked!

As my blog's friendly sidebar has been silently informing you over the past couple weeks, I've been playing Monster Hunter Portable whenever I find myself in a PSP situation. PSP situations are many; they include long train rides, students not showing up for their lessons and Girlfriend's recent endeavors to watch all six seasons of Sex and the City on DVD. With all these PSP situations, I'm fortunate to have one of the most time-consuming games in the universe at my disposal.

This edition of Capcom's hunting-and-gathering-centric Monster Hunter series, while pocket-sized, is packed with loads of Japanese text for me to struggle with. So much, in fact, that I was motivated to buy the 700-page Monster Hunter Portable Official Guidebook in order to help me make sense of all the "kelbi horns" and "water wyvern gizzards." Since this game's maps, stats and lists fill a book more voluminous than the Bible, I recommend all practicing Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians to consider immediate conversion to Monsterhunteropalianism.

Come on, squares. Our religion lets you kill dinosaurs and use their remains to synthesize medicinal goods. Yours doesn't even acknowledge the existence of dinosaurs.

By the way, "Jouzu ni yakemashita!" is the cheer heard in the game when the player successfully barbecues a chunk of meat to the point of being kongari (golden brown). In real life I'm lucky if I don't burn spaghetti, but in Monster Hunter I'm the Iron damn Chef.

Monday, March 27, 2006

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Ohanamigoro

The cherry blossoms in Setagaya Ward have started to open, so weather permitting, next Sunday I will do my Second Annual Big Walk. Last year's Big Walk (which was a chief reason for my starting this blog) was a great, shin-crushing success, resulting in a whole bunch of high-quality cherry blossom photography. This year's route is not yet planned; uncertainties include whether or not to include Shinjuku Gyoen or Aoyama Cemetery in my urban hike, as well as where to finish. That means anyone who sees me this week is likely to see me carefully studying my Tokyo metro atlas.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Oronamin Experiment: Day 4

The final chapter in the Oronamin saga: Oronamin C plus Kirin Draft Beer. Perhaps conceived as a way of making beer more palateable to females, Oronamin Beer tastes like -- hold onto your hats, people -- beer, except sweeter. But it didn't make beer any more palateable to Girlfriend, who took a sip and made a face like a frog. I mean a really disgusted, contemptuous frog.

I didn't learn much of anything from The Oronamin Experiment, I'm sorry to say. The whole thing did, however, go a long way to strengthen my earlier assertion that food brand websites provide no meaningful content to consumers.

Perhaps the most important thing I gained from the Experiment was an amusing warm-up topic for my English lessons this week. Walking into the classroom without even a remotely interesting topic to get the students into "English mode" can make a 40-minute lesson feel longer than a visit to Hell's DMV.


In Portrait of a Badass: Javier, I stated that Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez was a Mexico City policeman. He was actually a Tijuana policeman. I also neglected to mention that he is actually referred to in the film as a "badass" by the character General Salazar (or, at least in Salazar's English subtitles).

My apologies for the delay of Day 4 of the Oronamin Experiment. Yesterday was a national holiday and Girlfriend and I found ourselves caught up in a karaoke battle, followed by dinner at Denny's in Sangenjaya. (A word on Japanese Denny's restaurants: They are nothing like Denny's back home. They don't serve breakfast items at all hours of the day. They don't have unlimited refills. They don't have key lime pie. Stateside Denny's is the kind of junk food I miss....that, and faux-Chinese buffet.)

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Oronamin Experiment: Day 3

Today the excitement (?) of the Oronamin Experiment flagged a few degrees, as I added a scoop of vanilla ice cream to a glass of Oronamin C, creating the least objectionable results in the Experiment so far. Still, as I sampled the Oronamin Float, all I could think was, "I wish this ice cream didn't taste like grape juice and Mountain Dew." Girlfriend took a drink and declared that this was the best combination yet, but both of us agreed, like yesterday, that there was no need to drink any more. So the Oronamin Float, like its predecessors, ended up dumped down the kitchen sink.

I didn't bother to take a picture of the resulting drink this time. Just imagine a yellow ice cream float, and you get the general idea. Tomorrow is the final installment of the Experiment, and arguably the most unlikely combination of them all: Oronamin Beer!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Oronamin Experiment: Day 2

This was the part of the Experiment I least wanted to do: Oronamin C mixed with a raw egg yolk, to form the so-called Oronamin Shake. I'm not a big fan of eggs in general, especially liquid ones. Like it or not, however, life in Japan entails the occasional consumption of raw eggs*, whether they occur in sukiyaki or gyuudon. Or in an Oronamin Shake.

Stirring egg yolk into a glass of Oronamin C produces a yellow drink with the consistency of slightly diluted egg nog. But it doesn't taste like egg nog and it doesn't get you drunk, so what's the point? I tasted it once and decided I didn't need to taste it again. It wasn't particularly bad, and it was a lot more flavorful than last night's Oronamin Milk, but it was still just a sugary soft drink with egg in it. Sounds worse than it is, but isn't that good, either.

Girlfriend took a sip, made a funny face and then agreed with my assessment: oshikunai but not mazui.

[Oronamin C] + [raw egg yolk] = "Meh."

* Do not attempt the Oronamin Shake if you live in the US, or any country whose food safety regulations are similarly lax.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Oronamin Experiment: Day 1

A discussion with one of my students about last week's experience with the Final Fantasy XII Potion led to a discussion of other Japanese products that tout themselves as genki drinks (where the meaning of genki is unclear, but probably has something to do with "bringing healthiness for your happy life"). One of the most popular of those "little brown bottle" drinks is Oronamin C, a carbonated, vitamin-enriched mixture that looks and tastes something like Mountain Dew plus grape. It's not as heavy on the behavior-altering chemicals as some of the other genki drinks out there, which makes Oronamin C popular with kids and adults alike.

My student pointed out to me that the official Oronamin C Website has a page of recommended "oishii recipes" involving the drink: Oronamin Milk, Oronamin Shake, Oronamin Float and Oronamin Beer. Based on this fascinating find, my student made an excellent suggestion: To try each of these recipes and write about them on my blog.

Starting today, I will try one Oronamin recipe a day until I've done all four, or my stomach explodes, whichever happens first. Sounds like fun, doesn't it? Day 1 of the Oronamin Experiment is Oronamin Milk. Of the four recipes suggested, Oronamin Milk was seemed to be the most probable according to other students I asked. Some of them even told me they had tried it themselves. I, however, wasn't completely sold on the idea of mixing milk with a carbonated soft drink. It seemed wrong, in the same way that hating kittens is wrong.

Still, I dutifully followed the website's instructions, mixing equal parts milk and Oronamin C, yielding a result that looked mostly like yellowish milk. The amazing thing is that the two flavors seemed to cancel each other out completely. Oronamin C is apparently the olfactory opposite of non-fat milk, because their combination in equal parts had almost no flavor whatsoever. Amazing! To put it in quantitative terms:

[Oronamin C] + [non-fat milk] = 0

I'd like to point out, additionally, that the Oronamin C website also suggests slowly adding milk to a glass of Oronamin C with ice. The two are then supposed to separate, resulting in a layered mixture you can drink creatively by adjusting the depth of your straw to "achieve new flavors!" Please excuse me while I do anything but that. As if I didn't already feel that Oronamin C and milk go together like oil and water.

Tomorrow: The dreaded Oronamin Shake (hint: does not involve ice cream)!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Let's Learn Japanese: Natsukashii

Natsukashii. (adjective)
The closest analogous English word to
natsukashii is "nostalgia-inducing." The critical difference is that natsukashii is spoken daily by people throughout Japan, whereas "nostalgia-inducing" has never been spoken or even written until just this second. I am a linguistic pioneer.

This week the nanomachines in my bloodstream started acting up. Suddenly I had an irresistable urge to play Metal Gear Solid. I mean the old PlayStation 1 Metal Gear Solid. Accept no substitute. Regarded by many as the greatest PlayStation game of all time, MGS's comfortable mix of relative political erudition and tastefully colorful character design had already kept me entertained through two previous start-to-finish runs -- once in 1998 after the game's original release, and once more in 2001 when I suddenly felt a hankering to listen to Mei Ling's educational lectures on Chinese proverbs.

Thursday afternoon it suddenly occurred to me that I was long-overdue for a replay. I walked into Bic Camera, not even sure if they still sold PS1 games (let alone this one particular PS1 game). Lo and behold, they not only had Metal Gear Solid, but also Metal Gear Solid: Integral, which bundles the English version of the game along with the V.R. Missions (which, admittedly, never should have been a stand-alone title in the first place) for a modest 1680 yen.

MGS is a lot simpler than the series's current incarnation -- there's no switching camouflage or wondering, "Which should I eat, the squirrel or the reticulated python?" -- but that may have been the reason I wanted to play it again. There's something to be said for a game that's so fun, even with such horrendous enemy AI. Anyone who's judo-thrown a guard on his back and then seen him stand up and say, "Huh?" knows what I'm talking about.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Pass the Furry Drawn Butter

LINK: New crustacean looks like a furry lobster

Scientists had to create a new crustacean family and genus to properly classify Kiwa hirsuta, a newly discovered deep-sea animal that looks like a Muppet from hell.

The world's oceans are fascinating to me, mainly because they're a veritable haven of nightmare creatures. Consider the whale shark. Or the manta ray. Or Gamera. All are non-threatening to humans, yet all would prompt an equally blood-curdling underwater scream from me if I found myself face-to-face with them. As if deep-sea creatures weren't already terrifyingly alien-looking enough, now we have blonde shellfish to contend with.

Tonight I will have nightmares about furry lobsters. Soft, fuzzy, crunchy, loveable, creepy lobsters with silky, manageable hair.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Potion Update

So, after I typed the previous post, I left the apartment to have lunch and go to work. Around 2:00 the second wave of the Final Fantasy XII Potion's caffeine buzz took hold and I started to feel downright strange. My arms got twitchy and the width of my stride seemed to extend itself beyond my control. My first students of the day were treated to what, in retrospect, must have been a rather strange lesson. I stuttered, tapped my feet and bit my lip the whole time. And around 4:00 I crashed hard, as expected, suddenly feeling the urge to take a nap. By 6:30 I was pretty much back to normal.

After carefully evaluating my experience, I have decided that I cannot recommend the Final Fantasy XII Potion for human consumption.

50 Hit Points for 200 Yen

March 16 is the release date for Square Enix's Final Fantasy XII, the latest installment in one of the most hard-to-kill video game franchises in history. In anticipation of said release, Square Enix has enlisted the help of beverage giant Suntory, who is currently selling a promotional tie-in item called Final Fantasy XII Potion.

Needless to say, I had to run to the convenience store and pick up a bottle of this so-called Potion. The clear, 120 mL drink is sold in an attractive blue bottle with a label that seems to scream, DRINK ME. But I became suspicious when I found the Potion shelved with "health drinks" like Arinamin and Yunker...such drinks are popular for on-the-go business types in Japan, but they are loaded with caffeine and they usually taste like Robitussen. Determined to be "investigative" in my "reporting," however, I twisted off the cap and drank the thing a few minutes before typing this entry.

In accordance with my suspicions, the Final Fantasy XII Potion tasted awful. Like the ill-advised marriage of grapefruit juice and cough syrup. And the caffeine is making my hands twitch while I type this.

While I was doing research on the game's release schedule I stumbled on a message board where American otaku were lamenting the unlikelihood of this drink's stateside release. But those gamers aren't missing anything. This drink will not heal your light wounds. And the target demographic for American Final Fantasy fans is a group that should not be consuming more caffeine.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Drunken Zombie

Ahhhh, I see. So...is a drunken zombie better or worse at walking than a sober zombie? The answer is here! (Actually it's not, but by the time you click the link it will be too late. Sucka!)

Portrait of a Badass: Javier

Character: Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez
Actor: Benicio Del Toro
Film: Traffic (2000)
Badass Moment: Javier uses his police training and feminine guiles to apprehend Francisco Flores (see image).

This week the Oscars reminded me about how little justice there is in the world. Five years ago Gladiator, a fun film about dismemberment, stole the Best Picture award clean out of the hands of Traffic, an awesome film about exploding cars and dolls made of cocaine.

If you haven't seen Traffic, allow me to sum it all up for you, in the style of a junior high school book report:

There's this badass Mexico City cop. He's cool. He wrecks drug smugglers and hitmen. Then there is this politician guy and a stoner kid and Catherine Zeta Jones, but the cop is the best character. He's awesome.

The awesome cop is Javier Rodriguez y Rodriguez. His awesomeness stems from the fact that he shows more complexity than any of the film's other "main" characters (if you can call them that; Traffic literally begins and ends with Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez).

Everybody likes beisbol...everybody likes badasses...that's what I'm talking about, my friend.


Here's the Spanish babel fish translation of my article, courtesy of AltaVista:

Esta semana los Oscars me recordó sobre cómo la pequeña justicia allí está en el mundo. Cinco años hace de Gladiator, una película divertida sobre la desmembración, la estola la mejor concesión del cuadro limpia fuera de las manos del Traffic, una película impresionante sobre los coches que estallan y las muñecas hechas de la cocaína.

Si usted no ha visto Traffic, permita que lo sume todo para arriba para usted, en el estilo de un informe del libro de la High School secundaria menor:

Hay este poli de Ciudad de México de los badass. Él es fresco. Él arruina a contrabandistas de la droga e hitmen. Entonces hay este individuo y un cabrito y una Catherine Zeta Jones del político de la deshuesadora, pero el poli es el mejor carácter. Él es impresionante.

El poli impresionante es Javier Rodriguez y Rodriguez. Su awesomeness proviene el hecho de que él demuestra más complejidad que cualesquiera de otros caracteres "principales" de la película (si usted puede llamarlos eso; Traffic comienza y termina literalmente con Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez).

Todos tiene gusto de beisbol... que todos tiene gusto de badasses... que es de lo que estoy hablando, mi amigo.

Retranslation back to English:

This week the Oscars remembered to me on how the small justice is there in the world. Five years for of Gladiator, a film amused on the dismemberment, the stole the best concession of the clean picture outside the hands of the Traffic, an impressive film on the cars that explode and the wrists done of the cocaine. If you have not seen Traffic, allows that she adds/sinks everything for above for you, in the style of a report of the book of the High smaller secondary School:

There is this poli of City of Mexico of badass. It is fresh. It ruins smugglers of the drug and hitmen. Then there is this individual and a cabrito and a Catherine Zeta Jones of the politician of the deshuesadora, but poli is the best character. It is impressive.

Poli impressive is Javier Rodriguez and Rodriguez. His awesomeness comes the fact that it demonstrates more complexity than nobodies of other "main" characters of the film (if you can call them that; Traffic begins and finishes literally with Javier Rodriguez Rodriguez).

All have taste of beisbol... that all has taste of badasses... that is of which I am speaking, my friend.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Where Are You, Bent Corner?

Bent Corner, one of the only blogs I read regularly, has disappeared leaving behind only a grey page with the word "Goodbye!" Alas, the fleeting nature of all things online.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

2 Legit 2 Quit?

CBS News approval poll results from Monday, February 27, 2006:

Bush's approval rating is


Cheney's approval rating is


Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer couldn't get lower numbers if they were in charge. The strength of "U Can't Touch This" alone would keep them above the 40% line, and "Ice Ice Baby" and that stupid Addams Family song would probably bring the numbers above 50%.

We've got to pray just to make it today!