Thursday, May 25, 2006

License to Consume

I have fallen victim to a classic method of predatory marketing: The creation of demand as a result of limited supply.

Two months ago if you had asked me if I was planning to buy a Nintendo DS, I would have said no. And I would have had two reasons: 1) A lack of games that appeal to me and 2) that goofy stylus pen which looks to me like a lame gimmick. But you take that DS, shrink it down to a DS "Lite," and -- oops! -- don't produce enough of them to satisfy initial public demand and suddenly everybody and his grandma just has to have one.

Sure enough, after months of noticing that the DS Lite was constantly out of stock at Bic Camera in Shinjuku, something weird happened in my head when I walked in one day and noticed a line of people buying the DS Lite. Suddenly I felt that, if I didn't get one for myself, I'd somehow be "missing out" until the next shipment came in...and who knows how long that could be? So I found myself wandering up to the cash register like a George A. Romero zombie and saying, in a voice that was not my own, "Yes I'll take the navy blue one yes this will be cash yes and could I also get a copy of Mr. Driller please."

After admonishing myself for getting sucked into Nintendo's manufactured retail hype, I must admit that playing Tetris DS against Girlfriend has been a load of fun. It turns out our Tetris skills are quite a close match for each other.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Please Permit Me to Rock You

After nearly three years of saying, "Yeah, I hope to start playing gigs soon," I will finally do so. I'll open for Missing Scene (fronted by one of my co-workers) at Heaven's Door in Shimokitazawa on Wednesday night, May 31. It is a momentous occasion, but don't try to buy me a beer to celebrate. I can't drink alcohol, take long baths or exercise until my root canal treatment is finished (as soon as it's done, I plan to do all three of those things simultaneously).

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Comedy Writes Itself

Driver mistaken for internet music downloads expert on BBC News 24

What kind of blogger would I be if I didn't pick up on this? This week taxi driver and BBC job applicant Guy Goma was mistakenly introduced as Guy Kewney, editor of, whereupon he delivered a geniune comic take to the camera (pictured above; the text is my estimation of what he must have been thinking at that exact moment). Tonight's bilingual news on NHK showed that take no less than four times in slow motion. And it was funny every time.

[click for the video]

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mental Dental

It's something of a cliché to blog about one's visit to the dentist in Japan. Everybody does it...enough, at least, to discourage me from doing the same. But as nothing else exciting is happening lately...

A while ago I started having problems with one of my front teeth. It looked a different color than my other teeth, and it was becoming sensitive to cold fluids. Taking into account that I hadn't visited a dentist in nearly three years, it occurred to me that I might be due for some real work. I considered my symptoms and made a little bet with myself that the tooth was dead and I needed a root canal.

Today I had my first consultation and found out that my self-diagnosis was correct. I won the bet, and paid myself the money (which will come in handy when the $1,000 dentist bill comes due).

I've read a lot of Japan dentist horror stories, but I think they must have all been written by people who just wandered into a random clinic in their neighborhood because so far, my experience at the dentist's office has been fine. I'll wait until my treatment is finished to give the final verdict. (One often-made point that I cannot refute; what is normally accomplished in one or two visits to an American dentist requires three or four visits to a Japanese one.)

If you see me in the next few days, don't hit me in the face. My tooth is stuffed with cotton and it feels fragile.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Normally blogs containing poetry would be the subject of a Piss Me Off essay. But I wrote this in 1994 for my friend Tami who passed away on Tuesday, May 2, 2006. She was 29 years old.

"O Embattled Soul"

O embattled soul
I often see you
And you look quite sad
This is ironic
Because more often
Than anything else
You make me happy

Friday, May 12, 2006

Honors and Awards

Amy and Doug, the hosts of the Planet Japan Podcast have named Chorus, Isolate, Confirm their Blog of the Week for the week of May 10, 2006. It was awfully nice of them to recognize this blog and I thank them for that. I gave their podcast a listen and it's a lovely mix of golf, sushi, porn and cows (the last of which makes me wonder if they weren't Wisconsinites in a past lifetime).

By the way, Planet Japan was first observed by Galileo in 1609. It has a central core made of cultural news and its atmosphere is roughly 60% comedy, 30% satire and 10% nitrogen.

Piss Me Off: Commas

I apologize for hitting you all with two linguistic Piss Me Offs in a row. I had a nice Golden Week vacation but now it's time to get all worked up again.

So I'm at work today, writing an exam. The exam is for my university ESL Conversation class which uses Cambridge University Press's Interchange Third Edition as a text. As such, I'm writing questions based on material from Interchange when it dawns on me: This textbook is poorly written.

So I turn to my co-worker and I say something to the effect of, "This textbook is poorly written." And my co-worker responds by pointing to the name on the cover and saying, "He's rich, you know." The name on the cover is Jack C. Richards, who is a self-described "renowned specialist in second and foreign language teaching" (and a Jesse Jace-described "charlatan with a truckload of ill-gotten money").

Witness, for example, this sentence from a grammar review exercise in the back of Interchange 1:

In your e-mail message, you asked me: "What do I do everyday?"

This sentence is very telling. It has one of the aforementioned extra commas, to say nothing of the idiotic "What do I do everyday" part. And four of the next seven sentences in the passage also contain at least one extra comma each.

I know the average English speaker doesn't use commas correctly. Hell, I know my own faults. For one, I over-hyphenate (but that hyphen I typed just now was necessary, okay?). Then again, the average English speaker isn't making a ton of money off his own badly-executed attempt at language education and website whose URL contains the word "professor." Being a New Zealand native is just one more strike against him because...well...have you ever talked to someone from New Zealand? When they say the word "mouse" it comes out sounding like "mayouse" or some such nonsense.

Jack C. Richards (the "C" is for "commas") has fallen out of my favor, just like Mona Stiles before him. If I ever meet him I'm going to write on the back of his hand in permanent marker: WHEN IN DOUBT LEAVE IT OUT.