Sunday, December 19, 2010

Video: Dodecamin Great

Many apologies for the long stretch with no updates. My blogging capacity has been temporarily undermined by the recent decision Wife and I made to [gulp] buy a house. We'll be moving to nearby Saitama, best known for being dasai (uncool) next spring.

I did, however, find time to make this video about Energy Drink Dodecamin Great, the product of a collaboration between Capcom, publisher of the Monster Hunter game series, and Asahi Beverage. Give it a look-see. You might even learn something.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Quick TGS Recap

Oooooops. It would seem I made promises about "covering" Tokyo Game Show and then failed to deliver. Truth is, I was going to make a video post about it, but none of the footage I took there was really interesting enough. That, and I've just been too busy over the past two weeks to undertake such a project. So here's a quick rundown of how it was and what we saw.

I was pleased to see that the Tokyo Game Show has gotten bigger since I last attended in 2005. Publisher booths are more extravagant, the fighting tournament now has its own entire room and there has been a much-needed improvement in merchandise presence.

Still, Wife and I were surprised to see foreign publishers rather under-represented. THQ didn't have a booth…EA didn't have a booth…in fact, the only major foreign console game company with their own booth was France's UbiSoft (whose smallish booth was dedicated to promoting their upcoming Wii dancing title, The Michael Jackson Experience.

The fact that it took the advent of Kinect for the Xbox 360 to get developers to start making dancing games for the Wii seems at least a little ironic, dontcha think?

Domestic bigwigs, on the other hand, showed up in full regalia. Especially Capcom, whose Monster Hunter-inspired village looked like something out of a theme park.

Visiting on general attendance day meant lines. Long ones. But between the two of us, we did manage to play Xbox 360 titles Dead Rising 2 (by Wife's request), Sonic the Hedgehog 4, Gun: Loco and Onechanbara Special for the PSP. We also watched a few minutes of a very heated Street Fighter IV tournament and passed judgment on countless costumed fans and booth girls.

In the interest of getting TGS out of the way so that I can blog about more current affairs, this will conclude my comments on TGS.

Monday, September 13, 2010

This Weekend: Tokyo Game Show

This Sunday, Chorus, Isolate, Confirm will head to the Tokyo Game Show for the first time since 2005. Wife will join me for a day of wandering around Makuhari Messe, picking up free junk, pushing through crowds of sweaty otaku and taking pictures of girls dressed as space hookers.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tunisia - Day Six

The sixth and final day of our Tunisia travels took us to the Great Mosque of Kairouan (the oldest Islamic worship site in Africa and the fourth holiest site in Islam, after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem). We also visited one more worship site, whose name and location I can't seem to remember.

Of course, no guided tour of a foreign country is complete until the guide takes you to see some kind of artisan, who promptly makes an elaborate attempt on your wallet. In our case, it was a Berber rug shop.

After patiently withstanding about 45 minutes of sales pitches from the man working at the rug shop, we went to see one more spot: the ruins of the Zaghouan Aqueduct.

After returning to Sidi Bou Said, Wife and I spent the late evening hours taking one last wander around the neighborhood. My attempt to order dinner for the both of us that evening ended up being my biggest French language failure of the entire trip (long story short: I ordered two dishes for us, one of which I thought was steak and one of which I thought was seafood...but both of which turned out to be chicken).

The next day we returned to Japan and I vowed never to speak French again.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tunisia - Day Five

On the fifth day of our trip, we went to Hammamet to visit another touristy shopping district. I didn't take so many pictures, but I did overhear an amusing exchange between a shopkeeper and the bride's uncle about a rug (which the bride's uncle had no interest in buying...and which gradually changed in price, from 90 dinars to 10 dinars). Hearing the price of that rug drop almost 90% -- with no effort whatsoever on the part of the customer -- was a shock that made me question almost every purchase I had made in Tunisia until that point.

Click each image to see a larger version.

After seeing the sights and visiting a relaxation spa (where I received a massage involving hot stones on my back), we had another party to attend. This one was an evening garden party at the groom's family's second home (!), which was also in Hammamet. There was food, live music and dancing...and, again, ululation. The pictures below were taken before the event started, which is why there are no other guests. We were unfashionably early, I guess.

My next post will be about our sixth and final day in Tunisia, in which we visited the Grand Mosque of Kairouan.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Tunisia - Days Three and Four

On the third day of our trip, Wife and I were invited to a lunch at the home of the groom's parents. There was much food, dancing and ululation. I didn't take any pictures of their actual home, which was beautiful, but these shots taken from the house's gigantic rear balcony should speak for themselves. Click each one for full-size viewing.

I also took this three-shot panorama:

The answer to the question "How did the groom's family afford such a nice house?" became apparent on Day Four, when we visited a vineyard/olive orchard owned and managed by the family near Takelsa. We took a tour of the property, enjoyed a barbecue lunch and then visited a small, secluded white sand beach about two kilometers away (visible in the background of the third photo below). This was the single most relaxing day of the entire trip for me. Only slightly less so for Wife, who found a turtle on the ground during lunch; she picked it up and it promptly relieved itself on her. The groom's brother assured us that such an occurrence was "good luck."

In Day Five, we visit Hammamet.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tunisia - Day Two

As I said, Day Two of our trip was devoted to guided sightseeing around Carthage, seat of the once great Carthaginian Empire. The strength and strategy of Carthage's relatively small armed force effectively halted Rome's southward expansion for more than a century. At the end of that period, Rome finally defeated the Carthaginian army at Zama (which wouldn't have happened if Russel Crowe had been there).

Much of the day was devoted to looking at stone ruins and my shutter finger got a serious workout. We saw graves, caves and...well, unfortunately, nothing else that rhymes with "graves." Oh wait, there were waves, too. You the sea.

Again, click the photos to enlarge them.

Due to Rome's eventual control over and reconstruction of Carthage, Roman mosaic work is also a common sight. We saw a great deal of this, not only on Day Two but throughout the trip.

The red character in that last one looks like a cross between the Statue of Liberty and a lobster. Here are a few more shots from the Digital Harinezumi to finish Day Two:

I took the bricks photo as a memento of the construction work that was constantly visible around us during our visit. If I understood the explanation correctly, the budgeting process for construction projects in Tunisia is done piecemeal. Instead of saving up enough money to build an entire building, they build gradually as the funds become available. As a result, there are half-finished buildings everywhere. But since these projects can become drawn out pending availability of funds, a lot of the "new" buildings under construction don't look new at all. In fact, it's often difficult to tell whether a building is under construction, or being gradually demolished.

In the next installment, we take a relaxing break from the oppressive heat at the nicest house I've ever had the pleasure to visit.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Jet Lag

Before we get into Day 2 of the Tunisia trip, a word about jet lag (which I have).

On Saturday night/Sunday morning, I went to bed past 3:00 AM with the intention of getting up at 10:00 AM. Instead, I slept until 2:00 PM. That left me in a difficult position. I needed to correct my sleeping pattern as quickly as possible, so as not to miss work on Monday morning.

With that in mind, I did my best to go to bed early last night. Of course, having slept more than ten hours the same day, falling asleep was an accomplishment I couldn't achieve until about two hours before my alarm went off. During those fleeting two hours, my brain concocted a dream in which I was a guest on a talk show hosted by Martin Short (wow, there's a name I don't often find myself uttering). Among the other guests on the show were a comedian named Supertrip Superspasm and a young blonde actress named Beautifuls.

After waking up, I could immediately identify Beautifuls as an original creation of my brain. But try as I may, I couldn't remember if Supertrip Superspasm was a real person or not. The name, believe it or not, really rang a bell. Somehow I had the idea there was this really popular comedian in the early 80's named Supertrip Superspasm, whose comedy was a little bit like that of Howie Mandel. This idea bugged me so much that I had to do a Google search of his name just to make sure.

Turns out, he's not real.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tunisia - Day One

Yesterday Wife and I got back from a week-long visit to northeastern Tunisia, where we celebrated our friends' wedding and did some sightseeing. The trip also entailed a great deal of photography -- so much, in fact, that at the end of the vacation, I had more than 400 photos on two cameras (the Konica Minolta Dimage A200 and the Digital Harinezumi 2++) to sort through. Due to the size of the endeavor, I am blogging about our trip one day at a time. So here is the first full day of our stay, as best I can remember. All images can be enlarged by clicking.

We stayed in Sidi Bou Said, a very Tunisian-looking tourist town that claims to be home to the World's Oldest Cafe (but who's counting?). Very picturesque, with stone roads, white buildings and those ubiquitous blue doors everywhere. A beach and yacht harbor were also accessible on foot, although the uphill return trip was quite brutal in the summer heat.

Due to the large amount of tourist traffic Sidi Bou Said gets, souvenir shops dominate the main road. One visit to a shop reminded me of something I hadn't thought about since my trip to Thailand years ago: I hate haggling with shopkeepers. It doesn't matter how good their English is, or how much of a "discount" haggling can achieve. It's a stressful ordeal every time. And for some reason, souvenir vendors kept calling me "chief" or "chef." Every time that happened, I thought to myself, If only you knew how unlike a chef I actually am.

Our hotel, the Hôtel Sidi Bou Fares, had a great deal of that Sidi Bou Said feel to it, with plaster and tile decoration in the hotel room and a nice courtyard where we had breakfast every morning. The courtyard was inhabited by a pair of turtles that hung around while we ate.

Coming up in Day Two: Carthage.