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.