Thursday, October 26, 2006

I Still Know What You Didn't Blog About This Summer

Alternate title:
Summer 2006: A Photographic Retrospective To Make You Laugh and Cry

I did a bunch of things this summer that didn't get covered in Chorus, Isolate, Confirm. Naturally, with those previously un-blogged events go some previously un-blogged photos. There are quite a lot of pictures I meant to post but never did because I was too busy writing important stuff like that world-shaking article where I blew the lid off Chronicle of Dungeon Maker. So here's a look back at the last few months, distilled down to five of the best photos I took during that time.

August 7, 2006

In August it was so hot, I became a cooking pot. Cooking soup, of course. Why not?

Maurice Sendak. Chicken Soup With Rice. Had you no childhood?

My mate and I (see, he's Australian, so I call him "mate," see?) hiked to the tops of Mt. Mitake and Mt. Otake, located near Ome City in Tokyo. It was a most excellent adventure, ending with some good Korean food and beers in Shin-Okubo and resulting in much leg pain the next day.

I took a lot of nice shots on the hike, but decided to show off this waterfall shot above all else. There were a number of spots like this on the way to the peak.

August 10, 2006

It wouldn't be summer in Tokyo if I didn't experience the agoraphobic thrill of attending a fireworks display. Watching fireworks in Tokyo invariably entails riding a capacity train to a capacity station, not to mention jostling through streets that are also packed to capacity. The upside to all this is that about 50% of that capacity crowd is made up of cute girls dolled up in their nicest summer kimono. Girlfriend and I donned our festival clothes (she looks nice in hers...I look like an Edo Period sleepwalker in mine) and witnessed the hanabi on the Tama River in Seiseki-Sakuragaoka.

August 31, 2006

At the end of August, Girlfriend and I flew to the American midwest for a short visit. We made stops in Oshkosh, WI (my hometown, and shut up already about the overalls) and the lovely Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN.

Downtown Minneapolis was my home for two years before I moved overseas and I still have a soft spot for its signature skyline. Here are the IDS Building and Wells Fargo Tower in Minneapolis, as seen from the historic Foshay Tower's open-air observation deck. I used to work for the owner of Foshay Tower but was disappointed to hear, upon visiting Foshay on this trip, that the entire building was under purchase agreement and in the process of kicking out all its tenants in preparation for a conversion to a high-class hotel. Memo to self: Steal a whole bunch of towels from that hotel.

October 15, 2006

Okay, so now we're kind of leaving the realm of "summer pictures," but whatever. I'm a blogger. I can do what I want.

The two pictures below are from a visit to Tokyo Tower, which stands majestically...defiantly...very, very bigly...over the office buildings of Minato Ward. This was my second visit to the Tower, and my first time to pay the money to go all the way to the top (it's cheaper just to go half-way, and just about as scenic).

The gaudy, colorful letters you see on the Tower's mid-level observation deck are part of an attempt to promote Tokyo as the host of the 2016 Olympic Games. Tokyo and Fukuoka fought bitterly for the title of Japan's nominee city, and it's my estimation that Fukuoka lost the nomination because they failed to slap colorful letters on one of their landmarks. That, or maybe somebody pointed out how badly American commentators would butcher the pronunciation of "Fukuoka."

The bottommost picture shows the Tower's view of the Ginza district, which is more fun to look at than to actually visit.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


On Tuesdays I work with fellow ESL blogger Sleiman. Every Tuesday for the past month our downtime at the workplace is dominated by discussion of the Transformers.

The Transformers franchise was, in its many incarnations, an integral part of my childhood. I watched avidly as Starscream tried to usurp power from Megatron every week on the cartoon show. I worked hard on my impersonation of Soundwave's voice. I ran around pretending to transform, saying, "ee-er-ar-ur." It was a simpler day.

What first comes to my mind when I think of the Transformers today is Prowl. Prowl was a police car that could transform into a robot with twin rocket launchers mounted on his shoulders. He was a hallmark of the Transformers' awesomeness, until the franchise spiralled into madness (characterized by nonsense such as Astrotrain, a foolishly designed robot/locomotive/shace shuttle).

There is much buzz about the new Transformers movie coming out next year, and if Prowl doesn't get a cinamtic treatment worthy of Portrait of a Badass in that movie, I'll be disappointed...especially after his lackluster role and unceremonious, one-hit death at the hand of some lame Constructicon in Transformers: The Movie (1986).

Technorati: Transformers / Portrait of a Badass

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Oh Yama Gata

Last night two things happened:

1) I spotted "Powerful" Kana Oyama, remarkably tall star player of the Japan Women's Volleyball Team, outside Shimokitazawa Station. It was my first time to see a famous person "on the street" in Tokyo (something I'm sure would happen more often if I could recognize more Japanese celebrities). I might have had a chance to speak to her if it hadn't taken me so long to figure out why she looked so familiar.

2) Yamagata, my beloved betta, submitted to a terminal case of swim bladder disorder. At least that's what I, Dr. Jesse Jace Fish MD, think it was. He was found dead at the bottom of his aquarium around 9:30 Saturday morning. The memorial service was solemn and respectful, with a reverent toilet flush replacing the usual 21-gun salute.

Technorati: Oyama Kana / 大山加奈 / betta care

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

North Korea

The US government's refusal to pursue any meaningful action against North Korea's nuclear proliferation proves that "weapons of mass destruction" were never the objective in the US invasion of Iraq.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Technorati: North Korea

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What Is My DJ Name?

I was asked a couple weeks ago what my DJ name is. I answered, "I'm not a DJ." Nonetheless, my interrogator persisted with, "Yeah, but you have to have a DJ name anyway."

How do I determine my DJ name? Is it anything like figuring out your porn name (out of the question, by the way, since my porn name sounds distinctly female)?

I'm under the impression that about one out of every four people on earth is a DJ now (or at least claims to be), so all the cool DJ names must be taken. I'm going to have to stretch the limits of my creativity. Help me brainstorm, will you?

DJ Parking Meter
DJ Lasagna
DJ Broken Hip
DJ Pocari Sweat
DJ Sabre-Tooth Marmoset Deathtrap
DJ Magazine Subscription Card
DJ Ham Sandwich
DJ Transmission Fluid
DJ Leonard Nimoy

I'm off to a terrific start.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

PSP Review: Chronicle of Dungeon Maker

Japanese customers of are showering Taito's ill-titled PSP game Chronicle of Dungeon Maker with praise. They love building their own dungeons room-by-room, and running through the dungeon hundreds of times over to exterminate all the monsters that loiter inside. The game follows a rather suspect premise: the player, as a generic knight-in-armor type, must build a dungeon (a gulag, if you will) outside the town. As soon as the first rooms are completed, however, a group (perhaps I should say "an insurgency") of monsters start to appear and the player must fight them over there so that he doesn't have to fight them over here. Before you know it, the player is bogged down in a seemingly inescapeable quagmire of extremist goblins and slime-o-fascists.

As fun as it should be to clean out the same slowly growing dungeon over and over again, hoarding valuable items (like, for example -- oooh! -- yet another pair of fur pants!) so that you can sell them to the funny-looking weapons shop owner and use the money to buy more dungeon parts, I can't help but feel that dungeons, by their very nature, are boring. The dungeons in this game are no exception. Sure, the player can build his own "dream dungeon," but he is limited by rigid adherence to right angles and a selection of room and hallway types that is far more limited than it should be.

In writing this review, however, I face a dilemma because, while the dungeons are boring, the music is stupid and the monsters are not much more imaginative then the standard RPG rabble of skeletons and bats, I keep playing. The same ultramagnetic draw that keeps audiences coming back for Animal Crossing, The Sims and other "games" that seem more like work than play seems to be at work in Chronicle of Dungeon Maker. I am probably a fool for playing this game as much as I have.

Technorati: Chronicle of Dungeon Maker, The Sims, Animal Crossing