Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pros and Cons: Holiday in Wisconsin

2009 was, I'm sorry to say, a slow year for Chorus, Isolate, Confirm. I found myself with less time to write and less stuff to write about. I have no better excuse for my laziness from January 1 until December 22. As for the final week of the year, however, I do have an excuse.

Wife and I headed to Wisconsin to spend Christmas with my parents and siblings. It was my first Christmas in the US in six years, and it lived up to my every anticipation. Like all things, however, it had its pros and cons.

PRO: Food

Truth be told, I had been thinking about the food aspect of my holiday long before I boarded the plane at Narita. My co-worker asked me about my plans for the winter break and I answered, "FOOD." When I filled out my customs declaration form on the plane, I wrote that the total monetary value of gifts and merchandise I was bringing into the US was "FOOD." At O'Hare Airport, the immigrations officer asked me where I'd be staying during my vacation and I answered, "FOOD."

Yes, food. The cornerstone of any family holiday function. In my family, the holiday season usually entails a big potluck dinner on Christmas Eve, a big brunch and then turkey dinner on Christmas Day, and a seemingly endless stream of cookies and Chex mix in between. It's enough to make your stomach disown you, cut all ties with you and change its name and address to stop you ever contacting it again.

CON: Winter in Wisconsin

Living in Tokyo for six years has weakened my tolerance for winter. It rarely drops below freezing and it rarely snows -- and when it does snow, it doesn't bother me because I don't have to shovel it or drive in it.

Wisconsin may not technically be the "frozen tundra" that local football fans would have you believe it to be, but it's not exactly the ideal winter getaway, either. Christmas week was dominated by a particularly troublesome storm. It delayed our arrival by keeping us grounded in Chicago for two hours, then proceeded to sprinkle the entire Midwest with a disagreeable mix of freezing rain and snow. Through all of this, the temperature held steady at around the freezing mark, making for treacherous roads and driveways. In its wake the storm left bitter cold, icy winds and snow to be shoveled.

And another thing: When it's December at 45 degrees north latitude, the sun seems like it's constantly right in front of you. From the time it rises to the time it sets (granted, that's only, what, nine hours?), the sun is on a mission to blind you while you're driving and tire out your face muscles by making you squint.

PRO: Dexter

Dexter is my mom's cat. He's a big, fluffy dummy with a penchant for licking the bathtub after someone takes a shower. What Dex lacks in agility and brains, he makes up for by being least by cat standards. Dexter is a very personable cat (if that makes any sense...people are personable, so are cats "catable?").

That's more than I can say for Muppy, my dad's cat, who'd just as soon sink his teeth into you as look at you. The name Muppy is a portmanteau of "Mister Puppy," a cat name that my sister and I came up with years ago. It's entirely possible that Muppy's misanthropy is a direct result of having that ridiculous moniker.

Wife took the below photo of Muppy looking like the mild-mannered host of a public television show. But don't be fooled. He's not introducing a Hitchcock film or comparing fine wines. He's thinking about eating your face.

PRO: America is cheap

Part of getting used to life in Japan is becoming accustomed to how expensive everything is. As such, when we visit the continental US, we feel like we've just stepped into a magical wonderland where everything is on clearance all the time. Observe this bargain basement find: Parappa the Rapper for the PSP, marked down to $4.99. You'd have to pay me not to buy that.

CON: America is stupid

On the other hand, a big of shopping reveals some of America's more troubling trends. For example, the Snuggie. Wife and I first saw an infomercial for this Harry Potter-esque garb in Japan and assumed it was some failed foreign invention, brought to Japan for a second chance at commercial success. The commercial showed a family of four, all wearing matching Snuggies and looking very much like members of some kind of warm, cozy religious cult. Imagine our shock when we saw every store in Wisconsin selling the things. And don't even get me started on Snuggie for Dogs.

Speaking of stupidity and shopping, consider this warning sign of America's descent into intellectual oblivion: I was most dismayed to find that the Fox River Mall in Appleton no longer has a bookstore. I walked up and down the mall, assuming that Waldenbooks had just moved to another spot or possibly been replaced by a Barnes & Noble, but there was nothing. I checked the mall directory and found only one store listed under the "Books and Software" category: GameStop.

God help us.

PRO: The Price is Right

At risk of coming across as a hypocrite after what I just said about America's intellect, I won't go into too much detail about this. I just forgot how much I liked this show back in the day. It isn't on in Japan, so I made sure to get an eyeful of it while I was in the US.

CON: "Security"

On Christmas morning, America shed a collective tear of sorrow. Not because our security was threatened by attempted terrorism...not because our holiday was marred by news of what could have been a large loss of life. No, we shed a tear in anticipation of all the stupid crap we'd have to put up with at the airport in the name of "additional security."

After hearing about the hot pants antics of crotch bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on the news, Wife and I exchanged a look. We knew we'd be limited to one carry-on bag and no personal item. We we sure we'd have to walk through a Total Recall underwear scanner. We counted on being forced by nervous flight attendants to sit perfectly still, hands in our laps, looking straight ahead for the entirety of our 13-hour return flight to Japan.

PRO: Overbooking

Happily, none of our premonitions about came true. And on top of that, a Christmas miracle: Our tickets were magically upgraded to business class. So thank you, airline industry. I'll gladly surrender my privacy and convenience if it means I can have unlimited free champagne, lean my seat all the way back and order a BLT at any point during the flight.

Happy New Year from Chorus, Isolate, Confirm. May 2010 be a more bloggable year than ever.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Japanese FF13 Ad

This is one of several humorous TV ads I've seen for Final Fantasy XIII over the past two weeks. A teacher taking time off to play video that could ever happen. I mean...right?

Monday, November 23, 2009

When Morons Collide

In other news, an army of under-informed Sarah Palin enthusiasts were captured on video at a book signing event. They displayed -- with great fervor -- their astounding lack of understanding about politics, policy, economics and science. Let their folly serve as a cautionary tale to any and all who would contribute to Palin's overinflated self-image.

Come on, America. It's time to stop stringing this woman along. She's already had too much ill-deserved time in the limelight. Cut her loose already.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Let's Learn Japanese: Tsui ni

This evening in Osaka, Ichihashi Tatsuya was arrested in connection with the 2007 murder of British ESL teacher Lindsay Ann Hawker (which I briefly mentioned in another "Let's Learn Japanese" post from June of that year. Ichihashi had successfully eluded capture since the murder, fueling suspicions that the police didn't really care about catching him.

Less than two weeks prior to his arrest, an updated version of Ichihashi's "WANTED" photo was released, indicating that he had recently managed to undergo plastic surgery to alter his face. The renewed attention to the case is likely to have aided in his being recognized and subsequently captured.

Tsui ni is Japanese for "at last."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Who's a Pretty Car?

*Updated since initial post*

Here are a few in-game shots I took using the Photo Mode of Turn 10's Forza Motorsport 3, which will be released for the Xbox 360 stateside tomorrow. Buy it immediately.

(Click each image to enlarge)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tokyo Notice Bored

Matthew Sweet's "Ugly Truth Rock" begins with this lyric about depression and boredom:
You don't wanna die
But the living gets you down
Why the long face, Matt? Haven't you noticed the veritable cornucopia of potential entertainment that surrounds you at any given moment? Well, I have. And it's called Tokyo Notice Board.
I used TNB as blog fodder last summer, remember? I'd do so more often, except that picking up a copy of this orgy of bad writing and weird personal ads has an effect on me similar to that of a garlic-scented oak crucifix through the heart on Dracula. The essays that people submit to this rag, I swear to god...
Have I mentioned? Getting your essay published in TNB nets you ¥3000. So when I make fun of these people, keep in mind at all times: They aren't just bad writers. They're bad writers who got thirty bucks to pollute the world with their inane musings. Let's get right into it, starting on page 35 of the October 9-15, 2009 issue of Tokyo Garbage Heap.
A hapless expat -- let's call him Chames Jarlton to protect his innocence -- explodes onto the page with an essay called "Being a vegetarian is hard in Japan!" Right off the bat, there's one of those exclamation marks that TNB contributors so often love to overuse. I'll resist the temptation to make fun of him straight away for being a vegetarian; there's bound to be other reasons to make fun of him coming up shortly.

When I first arrived in Japan I struggled hard to find anything to eat, even simple things like a "vegetable sandwich" always seemed to have some meat in it, what could I do!
Ugh. Just....ugh. Really, Chames? Three sentences mashed together with commas? A question punctuated with an exclamation point? Subject-pronoun disagreement? All in the opening line of your essay?
The only word that describes my emotions right now is "ugh." Well, that and maybe, "rrrgh." Moving on:

One of the funniest situations I had
Oh lord. Get ready for a funny situation. I'm laughing just thinking about how funny it's going to be.

One of the funniest situations I had was during a stay in a mountain lodge in Nagano. I explained to the lodge owner in my broken Japanese that I don't eat meat or fish, could he prepare something different for dinner for me?
Okay, now let's get into the substance of it. I'm still not going to make fun of the guy for being a vegetarian. Some people are vegetarians, and sometimes vegetarians make special requests at restaurants. I get it. But refusing to eat fish in Japan? That's not vegetarianism....that's just being difficult. You might as well move to Norway and refuse to wear jackets.

I also want to point out that, in that last excerpt, Chames has defined his Japanese as "broken." Keep this in mind, as it will be important later.

Dinnertime came; first the "normal" meals came out, 2 slices of ham served with rice and vegetables. I was the last to get my special meal, 5 minutes passed and nothing was in front of me yet, I was so excited imagining the exotic new veggie food being prepared for me in the kitchen.
Yeah, and I'm so excited imagining giving you an electric shock for every time you misuse a comma or type a numeral when you should spell it out, Chames. And, assuming the restaurant in your mountain lodge wasn't a Burger King, I don't think five minutes is such a long time to wait, considering your request for special treatment. I feel bad for the people who invited Chames on this trip to the mountains. On the bright side, I'm sure they'll never make a mistake like that again.

Finally my meal came, a big serving of rice, some vegetables slice of ham? I thought to myself, where did I go wrong, what did I say incorrectly? Maybe I didn't make myself clear with my pigeon Japanese, so I just ate around the meat.
It wasn't bad enough that Chames's Japanese was "broken" (not that his English is in much better repair), but it was also "pigeon." Granted, he probably meant "pidgin Japanese," but I cannot ignore the possibility that Chames's request to the lodge owner consisted of a lot of cooing and bird-like head movements.

There is still more inanity to come in this essay, but I have to put it aside. Chames, you're on your own. My advice to you: Weigh your strict vegetarianism against your desire to live in Japan, because one of those two things has to go. And if you're an English teacher, god help you because you have catastrophic punctuation habits.

Next, we examine the October 16-22, 2009 issue of TNB. Here's something called "Getting a good dentist in Japan" by, shall we say, Tresmond Dotter.

Have you ever been to a good dentist in Japan?

The answer is probably, no.
No. Yes.

In ten years, I've had nothing but trouble here. My front crown mainly. At first, my friend recommended a dentist who used a pink fluffy towel on my head to avoid the pain. Sure it was painless. But the crown was refitted incorrectly and I looked like a prawn.
I'm struggling to visualize that. Do prawns even have teeth?

When it came off, I was recommended a second dentist by the same person. Again the crown was put on wrong. I went back and incredulously this dentist started his recommended treatment -- he started shaving my good tooth to even it up. Can you believe it!
Can I believe what? That you took further advice from the same person who recommended the first bad dentist to you?

When I jumped out of the chair and threatened him with a series of expletives
He called the police? You got arrested? You got deported? I mean, I'm sorry about your mouth trouble and all, but come on. Don't give your fellow foreigners a bad name by assaulting your dentist. That's just unnecessary.

Not surprisingly, Tresmond's tooth issues continue. It's almost like nature is trying to tell him that he wasn't meant to have any teeth in the first place.

This time I turned to a woman on the Inokashira Line...
Wait a minute.

...Supposedly trained in Australia...
Hey, that's my dentist! Remember my root canal story from three years ago? Well, I assume he finally got his dental dysfunctions resolved, then. She was pretty good at her job.

Supposedly trained in Australia. Where -- In the outback with a stick? He refitted the crown at the wrong angle...
Oh, it was a man? Never mind, different person. Weird coincidence, though. About ten broken teeth later, Tresmond finishes with this cryptic message:

I just hope I now eat my sushi in
In what? In bed? In terror? In a chicken costume? The story doesn't continue on the next page. It doesn't continue on any page. It just ends in mid-sentence. Well, fine. I was about ready to set fire to the magazine, anyway. Memo to self: If I see an angry, toothless prawn walking around Tokyo, that's our friend Tresmond.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sagami Lake Camping Trip

With the national holiday known as Taiiku no Hi (Physical Education Day) on Monday, we had an extended weekend on our hands. Wife and I, along with four friends, spent Sunday and Monday at Sagamiko Picnicland, a combination of campground and amusement park situated on a hill overlooking Sagami Lake in Kanagawa Prefecture.

We rented this trailer with enough sleeping space for six people. The campground also offers tent and cabin rental, but the trailers are well furnished and have temperature control -- good thing, because it got quite chilly during the night.

(All images in this post can be enlarged by clicking.)

It wouldn't be a camping trip without gigantic bugs around every corner. The Sagami Lake area was especially teeming with large mantises and spiders, but I also got a chance to practice my wildlife photography on a stinkbug.

Sunday night was the best part of the trip: the barbecue. In central Tokyo, where most people don't have their own yard, a cook-out is a rare privilege. We took advantage of the occasion by simultaneously firing up a wood-burning grill (to make seafood paella) and a charcoal grill (for the meat and vegetables). The wood burner also proved suitable for roasting marshmallows after dinner.

On Monday, after cleaning up and checking out of our campsite, we spent most of the day at the amusement park. Most of the attractions were geared towards young children, but it was still a good way to spend an extra day off.

Monday, September 28, 2009

EXILE "The Next Door (Jesse Jace Thomas SF4 Mix)"

EXILE's Street Fighter IV theme song, which originally struck me as annoying, began to sound an awful lot like potential remix material a couple weeks ago. Witness the result:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Funniest Thing I Have Seen So Far This Month

I won't waste time trying to describe it. Just watch it for yourself. I can't embed the video, so here's the link.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Stop Me If You've Heard This One

A Nazi woman and a Jewish guy go to Vegas.

You're right. It's not very funny.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Know Your Mollusks

The other day, Wife and I went to see Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (or, as it's known to the article- and preposition-challenged nation of Japan, Night Museum 2). Normally I pass on this kind of movie, but there's a theater in Kichijoji where tickets are ¥1000 all throughout your birth month, and Wife was psyched to watch yet another film in which Ben Stiller talks to animals, so our fate was sealed.

(Jeez, to think that ¥1000 for a movie ticket actually sounds like a bargain to me now....)

Now, I'm sure I've said before that people who work in marketing are prone to making astonishingly bad decisions, but the Japanese marketing of this film has been a brave, new world of nonsense. I challenge you to get your head around why the marketing people made the decision I'm about to describe. Thinking hats on.

As you may know, the film highlights a number of the Smithsonian Institution's actual exhibits, like the Apollo space capsule and the Wright Brothers' plane. One exhibit that failed to make it into the film, however, was the body of 24-foot giant squid displayed in a refrigerated tank.

What did make it into the film, on the other hand, was a giant CGI octopus.

Granted, I can imagine the scenario by which the Smithsonian's squid accidentally became an octopus. Hollywood has mistaken these two mollusks before, so it's par for the course that they do it again. Besides, at no point in the movie do they actually call the octopus "squid," so you could chalk the whole thing up to creative license and leave it at that. But what's much harder to fathom is that all the Japanese promotional material for the movie, and I mean ALL OF IT -- trailers, TV spots, printed leaflets and even a two-hour TV special designed specifically to promote the film's Japanese release -- persistently refers to the animal as a squid.

I'll do a quick Let's Learn Japanese here, just to be thorough:

tako (n.) Octopus.

ika (n.) Squid.

There, see? They're different. For these two to be confused in Japan, a country where both are routinely eaten, a country where the average child learns the difference between tako and ika in kindergarten, a country where the difference between the two is important enough that even visiting foreigners figure out how to tell them apart before they return home...well, that's just far fetched.

Like I said before, the movie itself never makes the mistake of calling this octopus a "squid." So why this concerted (not to mention downright Orwellian) effort to fool the moviegoing public? Is it out of an obligation to link the film to the Smithsonian Institution for advertising purposes? Is it just another example of empty-headed marketing?

Could it possibly be both?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Jesse Jace VS The World

Yesterday I bought an Xbox Live Vision Camera. This small USB device provides functionality for a number of Xbox 360 games, but can also easily be used with MacOS or Windows. Unfortunately, a lot of the games that offer camera support kind of suck. For example, nobody has anything good to say about the You're In the Movies series, and my own experiences with Burnout: Paradise -- in which a fresh still of the player who's just bested you appears in a corner of the screen -- have been spotty at best (who wants to be taunted by a fat dude in his BVDs?). EA Sports, however, has done an exceptional job of putting the peripheral to good use.

One of the latest offerings from the aforementioned sports game giant, Fight Night: Round 4, via a feature called GameFace, allows the player to use the camera to put a photo-realistic (if perhaps excessively forgiving) version himself into the game as a prizefighter. User-created boxers can also be easily shared via Xbox Live, used in off- and on-line modes, and captured in the game's replay editor.

To illustrate just how much fun this can be, I made this video. Unfortunately iMovie, the only video editing software I have, is not good at compression, so the picture quality is lacking.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Fun with Bill, Kim and Dick

On Tuesday night, Japanese TV news showed a video still of this week's meeting between Kim Jong Il and Bill Clinton. This same striking still also appeared on the front page of yesterday's Yomiuri Shinbun. I failed to find the still anywhere online, so I decided to scan it and post it here.

Check out the grin on Kim. He looks like a twelve-year-old girl whose birthday party was just paid a surprise visit by David Beckham. (Come to think of it, Bill Clinton sort of looks like David Beckham being forced to visit a twelve-year-old girl's birthday party.)

Unfortunately, another person who resembles a child is Dick Morris, who has blasted Clinton for "boosting" North Korea. Apparently Dick Morris thinks that the foreign policy of the United States should more closely resemble the behavior of a child who thinks there are monsters under his bed. Morris would have us pretend that North Korea doesn't exist before he would have us engage them in diplomacy -- even if the diplomacy is successful, as it was in this case.

Dick Morris wants to plug his ears and cover his eyes while repeating the mantra, "If I can't see them, then they aren't there." He also contends that the freeing of hostages Euna Lee and Laura Ling was timed to distract Americans from the health care debate.

Dick Morris is stunningly dumb.

Friday, July 03, 2009

It's That Time of Year Again

In Japan, one can always easily spot the signs of the changing seasons. You can tell spring is coming when the plum blossoms open. You can be certain spring is over when the humidity leaps dramatically and it rains every other day for a month. And you can tell that summer is on its way when a particularly unappetizing new flavor of Pepsi comes out.

Chorus, Isolate, Confirm has made a yearly tradition of blowing the lid -- or the cap -- off these bizarre concoctions. It's the closest I ever come to being an "investigative journalist." I'm your Pepsi correspondent in the field.

Last year it was Pepsi Blue Hawaii (do not mix with other cleaning agents), and the year before that it was Pepsi Ice Cucumber (for external use only). This year Pepsi continues its dynasty of beverage terror with Pepsi Shiso.

Shiso is the Japanese name for perilla, a plant normally used as a garnish for pasta or salad (and not normally used as a flavor for a carbonated drink). Like fennel and cilantro, perilla is one of those plants that doesn't necessarily taste like something that's meant to be eaten. For me, the taste of perilla brings back an ancient memory of being two years old and eating a leaf from a random plant in the backyard, just to see what would happen. As such, Pepsi Shiso sounds on paper like a flavor disaster waiting to inevitable failure that might as well be called Grass Cola.

It sounds marginally better than, say, teriyaki birthday cake or caramel-dipped charcoal briquettes.

Now for the surprising part: In practice, Pepsi Shiso isn't that bad. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it's the best limited-release Pepsi flavor I've tried so far. The shiso flavor keeps it from being too sweet, which is exactly what last year's Blue Hawaii had going against it. This blows Pepsi Blue Hawaii out of the toilet bowl, and it makes Pepsi Ice Cucumber look like Asparagus Banana Ketchup Sprite.

Does that mean I'll be buying any more of the stuff before it disappears from store shelves? No. In fact, in keeping with tradition, I'm unlikely to even finish the one bottle that I did buy.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

I Now Pronounce You Bruddah and Wahine

Wife and I got back from our Hawaiian wedding/honeymoon trip on Wednesday night. It was altogether an excellent vacation; somehow we managed to strike a balance between the busy madness of a wedding and the relaxation requisite of a week in Hawaii. Neither of us caught a cold on the plane, lost any luggage, got bitten by a shark or came back with crippling sunburn. All in all, not a bad little excursion.

Of course, while things went well overall, there were a few little things that could have been better. I've decided to highlight a few of the businesses we patronized during (and in preparation for) our trip and the experiences we had therewith, both good and bad.

The Willows [link]

We had a lunch reception at this restaurant, not far from Central Union Church, our ceremonial venue. Despite choosing the place based mainly on accessibility and affordability, the buffet food turned out to be quite good, and the staff were as helpful as could be. On top of that, this restaurant's macadamia nut pie was the single best desert item I ate during the entire trip. I think our wedding cake may have actually been a little jealous.

Ciao Mein [link]

While I'm pretty sure the founder of this much-hyped (and much-dimly-lit) restaurant came up with the idea of marrying Chinese and Italian food specifically as a vehicle for the clever name "Ciao Mein," the food we ate here was surprisingly good, if a bit too expensive. We ate a big dinner of breaded soft-shell crabs, shrimp with walnuts and peapods, and seafood lasagna with look-funn noodles (pictured below. It may not look much like lasagna, but the noodles certainly do look-funn, don't they? .....sorry). The service was also excellent. Our waiter spoke fluent English and Japanese...and for some reason, responded to everything we said with a burst of good-natured laughter. At least, I want to believe it was good natured.

Dollar Rent-a-Car [link]

I don't have too much experience with car rental companies, but none of my past experiences have been as cumbersome as our experience with Dollar was. Things were screwy from the very beginning. For example, when we failed to pick up our rental on the day of our reservation (what kind of rent-a-car office closes for the day at 2PM?), Dollar stopped expecting us to show up at all. The next day when we tried to pick up the compact, the eccentric lady at the desk told us our reservation was "deleted," and that all they had available were Jeeps and convertibles.

She eventually did give us a discount on a convertible for our trouble, but it took her something like 25 minutes of her typing and growling at her computer and complaining about the "new software system" before our rental was finalized. When we finally got the car it had, annoyingly, half a tank of gas in it. This challenged us to the guessing game of returning the car with the very same amount of gas in it, since the rates Dollar charged for missing gas were a good amount higher than the actual price.

(Unrelated to our experience with Dollar, have you ever driven in Honolulu? What an epic pain in the neck. How many one-way streets does one city need? That, combined with high price of parking, the trouble we had with Dollar and the availability of decent, affordable public transport, made me somewhat regret my decision to rent a car at all.)

Howard's Downtown Florist [link]

As the groom, my responsibilities were few in the planning of our wedding. One thing I did take responsibility for was the reservation and pickup of the flowers and petals used in our ceremony. Luckily I happened to find this idiot-proof (groom-proof) flower shop. The staff was very helpful on the phone, although he occasionally sounded surprised -- or maybe offended -- at my ignorance to the world of bridal bouquets.

Atlantis Submarines Oahu [link]

Kind of lame, I'm sorry to say. This submarine, touted as the biggest sightseeing sub in the world, goes 100 feet under the ocean to offer guests a close-up view of some artificial reefs and shipwrecks, along with the animals that inhabit them. Unfortunately, however, buying the pricey ticket to ride the sub doesn't guarantee that you'll actually see anything interesting. Sure, there were a couple of turtles and some fish here and there. But even when they do show up, at a depth of 100 feet with only natural lighting, every fish you see looks blue or black, no matter how colorful it actually is. This is a nice attraction for people who can't go snorkeling or diving...but if you're not one of those people, you're better off spending the afternoon at Hanauma Bay.

Hawaiian Bridal [link]

I won't mince words: Wedding planners will gleefully destroy your finances if you let them, and this truth is amplified when it comes to Japanese wedding planners. That's not just my jaded prejudice talking; many businesses in Japan make their money by offering a high level of service and convenience in exchange for every last yen you've got. Luckily for us, however, the hefty price tag on our wedding was (at least partially) justified by the astonishing work of wedding photographer Tomo, who also happens to be the president of Hawaiian Bridal. Tomo shot us at various locations on the day of our ceremony, including a sunset photo shoot at Ala Moana Park, and gave us all the photo data afterward -- almost 2000 pictures in all. It made for an exhausting day, but the results were very nice:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Weddings Make You Busy

Chorus, Isolate, Confirm is not dead. My apologies for the lack of updates this month. Oh, and last month. Preparations for our wedding ceremony in Hawaii have been dominating the daily lives of Wife and me. But this week those preparations will finally come to fruition.

When I come back, I'll tell you all about it.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Miscellaneous Photos

I have a handful of photos taken here and there around Tokyo over the past several months. I took each one with the intention of blogging about it, but none of them alone really seemed worthy of its own post. Now, posted together for your convenience, here they are.

Exhibit A. In my neighborhood there's a building which is apparently host to a partnership of attorneys, one of whom is a porn star.

Moving on, observe Swastika Man. He tells us, in this sign, not to run up or down the escalators in the train station. Swastika Man hopes that this sign will serve as the Final Solution to the problem of escalator-related injuries.

Ladies, did you know that you can literally roll the cellulite right out of your arms and legs? And if this little plastic roller can help, imagine what a steam roller could do!

Sorry, Burger King, but I'm a little skeptical of the claim you make in this next photo. I haven't "freaked out" after eating something in a long time...not since university.


This is a picture on a sign in a residential area warning drivers to watch out for kids playing near the road. Motorists should exercise particular caution if the kids look anything like this kid.

I saved the best one for last. This is in the front window of a motorcycle shop on Kannana Street between Shin-Daita and Daitabashi stations.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Don't Install MacCinema

After a close call with this threat to Mac OS's hitherto ironclad security, I'll be extra careful about what I install on my machine.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Yahoo to End GeoCities

Yahoo has said it will shut down GeoCities, the free website hosting service it purchased ten years ago, this year.

GeoCities was one of the most popular ad-driven hosts where people built their personal web pages back in the days before blog hosts became the easiest way to do so. It also became known as a virtually infinite graveyard of some of the most pointless, ill-looking and dysfunctional pages on the entire internet. Any time I was looking for information online and found a link to a GeoCities page, my hopes of discovering anything relevant on that page sank considerably. Most of the time the link would lead to a page that hadn't been updated in at least three years, and whose images had all vanished because the user's allotted bandwidth had been used up.

Hallmarks of GeoCities websites included random GIF animations, illogical linking, seizure-inducing color schemes and hit counters that looked like this:

(The way I'm describing it, GeoCities sounds an awful lot like MySpace...but trust me, it was totally different.)

Countless internet users, including myself, can truthfully say that GeoCities was their first ever "home on the web." The service GeoCities offered was perfect if you wanted to build a website with basically no content, and you wanted to do so for free. I took advantage of this perfect storm of pointlessness and created my first website, entitled The Hall of Crushes, in 1997. It was, as you can imagine, a high-tech shrine to unrequited love; kind of like the movie High Fidelity, only instead of my lost loves being played by Catherine Zeta Jones and Lili Taylor, they were portrayed in cute little caricatures I drew myself. It was a vigorous exercise in self-indulgence.

Aren't you glad I stopped being self-indulgent?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Mathew Chromecki: "It Wudn't Me"

I received the comment below on my August 2008 post "When There's Nothing to Write About, I Make Fun of Other Writers." It contends that the attribution of the essay entitled "Right so, what am I doing here?" to Mathew Chromecki was a failure of editorial oversight on the part of Tokyo Notice Board. In light of the possibility that I have credited the wrong person with writing so bad not even light can escape it, I will not refer to authors of bad essays by full name in future TNB dissections.

Dear Jesse,
I've enjoyed reading your blog. I'm new to making Web logs. I found yours when I was surprised to find it on a search engine list with my own name. I was then further intrigued as to quotes assigned to me I never made. After opening your page and read your comments from something I never wrote, I chuckled. You could never know that TNB accredited the article to the wrong person, could you? But this is not the first time. Imagine receiving a check in the mail for something you didn't write? It's a small publication house. Now, I wish I could tell you who wrote the article, but I don't know myself. I do, however, sympathize with your sentiments. Where there is too much "I" in an essay, it begins to sound like depression writ large; somethings are best left unsaid.
As a happy coincidence, I, the real Mathew Chromecki, am pleasantly acquainted with M. Guffin who, by my humble account, is a fine bassist and accomplished music teacher. Guffin, if you happen to read this, I hope all is well you.
Thank you for your attention, Jesse. All the best for your blog.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

My Xbox is Well Again

My Xbox 360 came back from the shop today (in about half the time I was told the repairs would take). It seems to be in good order. It will be able to eat solid foods again in about a month, but sadly, it will never play the violin again.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Fiance pointed this Flash game out to me after it became a favorite time waster with her co-workers. Use the Q,W,O and P keys to move the runner as far as you can before he falls. My personal best distance so far is 13.5m; Fiance's is somewhere around 25m.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Big Walk 2009

NOTE: This year's Big Walk report includes some terminology, denoted by orange type, which is part of a unique lexicon developed by Craig and I while we were roommates during our early days in Tokyo. When you see orange words in this report that don't exactly make sense, you'll just have to use your imagination to figure out what they mean. (Half the time, we don't know what they mean, either.)

It may not have been the ideal timing for a sakura photo trek, but Big Walk 5 proved to be just that: Big. Due to insufficient planning and note taking on my part, the actual distance of our haphazard route proved difficult to measure. Near as I can figure, Big Walk 2009 came very close to matching the distance of Big Walk 2005. In fact, taking into account the time we spent double-backing and wandering aimlessly, we very well may have outdone that distance. Here's the blow up:

We start in front of Kitasenju Station, the same place we began Big Walk 2007. It is 11:00 AM on an unseasonably cold but sunny day. According to my so-called "plan," we will cross the Sumida River and then slam west to something called Arakawa Shizen Kōen (Arakawa Nature Park). I've never been there, but it sounds rad like a pipe bomb. So we follow Route 4 southward and over the bridge.

After bashing a trick over the river our goal is to stay as close to the river as possible and follow it west. We soon happen upon a little park called Tennō Kōen, which has a few cherry blossom trees (although most of these are still budding) and an artificial pond with tadpoles swimming in it. We find our way onto a path that follows the river and brings us to our first decent sakura of the day:

Craig's a damage fiend.

At a few minutes before noon, we reach Arakawa Nature Park. We soon realize that the park is located adjacent to Mikawa Water Recycling Center. This means that, from where we're standing, we can look to the east and see this:

But if we look to the west, we see this:

Ah, nature. Just when we think we can't take anymore of the pastoral serenity of this idyllic nature park and its neighboring industrial facility, we discover this filthy bridge leading from the park, over the water filtration equipment and down to the street:

Craig observes, correctly, that this bridge would be scary at night. Oh, mercy!

After leaving through the south exit of the "Nature Park," we decide that our next order of business should be to slice our way to Nippori Station. At this point we get a little lost because none of the streets in the area seem to go in the direction we want to go, which is southwest. On the way, we capture these random cherry blossoms:

We can't figure out our location until we find ourselves on a tiny street called Shichigosandōri (Seven-Five-Three Street, apparently named after a festival for children of those ages). Thank god for Shichigosandōri. Not only does this street help us get our bearings, it leads us to what is perhaps the highlight of Big Walk 2009: Swamp Thing's House.

Killa! We stop to marvel at this epic failure of pruning (half-expecting the house to catch on fire and burn down before our eyes), and also to take artsy photos using the traffic mirror at the entrance to an adjacent parking lot.

Nippori is one of Tokyo's Korea towns and, as such, is full of Korean restaurants. On reaching Nippori Station, we're bleeding for some medicine, so we decide it's time to stop and snort some Korean food: Chijimi and bibimba. It's a napalm lunch. We smash on and head west.

On the west side of Nippori Station is a Yanaka Cemetery. Even though most of the cherry blossoms are still closed, the road through the cemetery is bustling with flower viewers. On closer inspection, we notice that a lot of people are using the cemetery as a picnic venue. Apparently it's not considered morbid or taboo in Japan to get tinned and eat onigiri in the presence of the deceased. Bang dat! If I were dead I think I might be a little annoyed that everyone is enjoying food and drink in front of me while I'm preoccupied with not even being able to manipulate my environment. Remember how Patrick Swayze's character in Ghost could only do damage in the real world if he really concentrated? With practice, could that skill be applied to post-mortem consumption of fried chicken and Chu-Hi? Anyway. Back to the matter at hand.

Our route grows more and more complex as we hook east toward Uguisudani, which is a hotbed (if you will) of love hotels and appropriately trashy-looking women. From there, we bash a completely unnecessary half-circle around Ueno Station and into Ueno Park, Tokyo's de-facto hanami location. The park is predictably slammed with scum. Defying the slow tide of the crowd, I stop to take a close-up of an especially full branch of cherry blossoms. The photo doesn't turn out because some drunk guy, a real juice bag, distracts me by grabbing my arm, pointing at the tree I'm shooting and saying, "Eh, eh, uh, eh, TOGETHER?" To that, my response is a brusque "No." Must be the rage talking. The drunk guy leaves, presumably to go home and cry himself to sleep because his well-intentioned attempt at speaking English has just been crushed like a bug. Poor guy got a dose of reality.

Ueno Park is the last place I take any pictures. We exit the west side of the park and follow Kototoidōri past Nezu Station and through the campus of Tokyo University. Then we circumnavigate Tokyo Dome and take Sotoboridōri and Yasukunidōri west, past the defense ministry where the PAC-3 missile launchers that will defend us from North Korea's "communications satellite" are deployed, all the way to Shin-J. At 6:30PM, Big Walk 2009 is finished! We hit an izakaya to celebrate the completion of our journey with a food smash.

click map to blow up