Thursday, December 08, 2011

Jesse Jace (P)resents TNB

With close to four months since my last post, it has come to my attention that resuscitating Chorus, Isolate, Confirm will take more than just a couple of paragraphs about how much I like tea, or a photo of a goofy sign, or even a detailed essay on the differences between Hoshino Aki and Inoue Waka. (There are differences, by the way.) That is why I decided to make a comeback post out of the strategic demolition of three especially bad Tokyo Notice Board submissions.

In violation of my previous promise not to refer to the authors of said atrocities by full name, I have decided that there's no reason for me to be delicate with their identities. After all, Tokyo Notice Board prints the author's name at the top of every horrible, tedious essay they run. So no more pseudonyms to protect the guilty. From now on, I operate on a basis of glasnost, comrades.

Let's get this party started. My first target is called "Black Jack" by Hayden Bigree, appearing in the September 16, 2011 issue of Tokyo Notice How Bored I Am:

My friend Jane was staying in Tokyo for 3 months to learn Japanese, but the end of her stay was coming close. She loved Japanese manga and every time we went out she was always talking about Japanese manga. Please do not ask my why manga was so important to her...

After a number of these horrendous essays I've gotten quite used to native English speakers who can't spell brain-busters like the word "three," but Hayden's mysterious ellipsis at the end of his first paragraph fools me into thinking that this essay is going to be all about Jane and her manga. Unfortunately for mankind, it starts to be all about Mr. Bigree in a hurry:

Ladies and gentlemen, let me take this opportunity to declare that I do not care if somebody chooses manga over me. From the bottom of my heart, I do not care.

Hayden, your repetition of "I do not care" betrays your efforts to hide a deep sea of bitterness stemming from the rejection of your otaku friend. And your reluctance to use contractions reveals that high school English class is a memory not buried very deep in your mind. On the one hand, I'm glad you learned something in school. On the other hand, your writing comes across as sounding more posh than a cartoon butler.

I respect Manga. I really do. In particular, I have enormous respect for the legendary "Black Jack" by Osamu Tezuka. It is simply amazing. So When Jane told me she does not know "Black Jack", I was not even drunk and told her: "How dare you call yourself a manga fan when you do not even know 'Black Jack'? Do not make me laugh, that is just ridiculous. Before you leave, go to Tsutaya and buy the whole series of Black Jack you fat idiot [sic]."

A number of issues here. Hayden can't decide how to treat the title of a comic book (it should be italicized), so he alternates between quotes and no quotes. And he robs needy sentences of their commas, instead using them to splice other sentences together, which is really exasperating. But I'm glad he quoted himself, because now we know that he's not just removing contractions because his teacher told him to. He actually talks like this. And the British tendency to put his punctuation outside his quotes (you know how much I hate that) reveals that he might just be the cartoon butler I've imagined him to be. Then again, most butlers would be too polite to call their female friends fat idiots.

Composition aside, "I was not even drunk?" Quit bragging.

"How dare you speak like that to a lady!" Every beautiful female reader of TNB, I beg you. Please understand my rage. My feeling right now is like this: "Ohhhhh!"

My feeling is like that now, too. Consider your rage understood.

When I talk about Black Jack, I can not help screaming. I just can not help screaming.


Black Jack was the coolest Japanese man in the whole wide world. There is no doubt about that. He was the world's best surgeon, and he could cure any disease. He could even do surgery on himself. And he could undress any woman and insert a knife into their body. So Black Jack could have had any lady.

At this point, the realization that Hayden has idolized a fictional character based on his ability to cut women open hits us like fifty kilograms of fresh fish and we politely decline to read any more about Black Jack, thank you very much.

Moving on, then. Next we have an essay dated March 2011 by Curt Neilson, cumbersomely titled "See! Hear! And Speak Purely! Nikko Mountain Awaits!" Apparently this is going to be about the famous monkey carvings that attract tourists to Nikko. One can only hope Curt has exhausted his supply of exclamation points by cramming four of them into the title. History has taught me, however, that hope is wrong.

So, after monkeying around for nearly 2 years


So, after monkeying around for nearly 2 years, I finally went with my girlfriend in her car to Tosho-gu, Nikko, Japan. The place of the "See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil" Monkey carving at the sacred site of Shogun Tokugawa's mausoleum. As we marched upwards and upwards like some holy rite to an ancient shrine

(Curt uses an ancient shrine as a simile for an ancient shrine.)

...we saw groups snapping photos under 3 panels of wood carvings. Oh cute, I thought, monkeys. Then I looked at the center panel and it was THE ONE. Shock. Surprise. And a little disappointed.

And a lot of sentence fragments.

So small!!!

Curt produces three exclamation points from his bag of tricks to punctuate yet another sentence fragment (one that suggests Curt might be spending too much time around ESL students, their broken English perhaps rubbing off on him).

But I was also pleased a moment later as I appreciated its artistry and lack of souvenir-store. After shooting up the 3Wise Monkeys sufficiently, we visited the Sleeping Cat (maybe more famous in Japan than the 3 Wise Simians). And it was even smaller carving and it was placed over the doorway of the Temple Interior!

I have no idea why that last sentence deserves an exclamation point. It doesn't even really deserve a period.

Where hordes and hordes of pilgrims smashed it was comedy as people tried to get quick pics of blocked the way cluelessly or rudely.

My computer doesn't recognize "cluelessly" as a word, Curt. Nor does it recognize a "where" clause as a sentence. Nor does it recognize your story as entertaining.

After the Sleeping Cat we proceeded to the lair of the Crying Dragon (I guess animals need adjectives here).

Why do I get the sinking feeling that this whole essay is just a vehicle for that observation?

It was a big painting on the ceiling, think Michel Angelo).

Michel Angelo? Who's she? She sounds hot.

Pretty cool, I gotta' admit, but that damn bell/knocker thing the priest kept gonging can really rattle your brain.

Frustrated with Curt's inability to pick a noun, I leave him by the wayside and move on to my final target. And what a target it is. This essay from the November 4, 2011 issue of Tokyo Novice Blurb is called "EVERYBODY WANTS TO BE ON TELLY!" (yes, with capital letters and an exclamation point, just for good measure) by Jan Niemand. I saved the best for last. Get ready to wish you were dead.

I woke up, correction, I was woken up by a noisy japanese TV crew the other day. These kind of places seem to light up a very special interest in them, as they already visited the last place I was staying in. Both times I've kept myself out of sight, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been bothered by all the fuss. There have been some differences between these two unpleasant encounters with the mass media though [sic].

Thus begins Jan's complicated relationship with the concept of tense. Her apparently random shifting from past simple to present perfect suggests she is trying to make herself sound more intelligent than she really is (ironically succeeding only in sounding dumber than anybody ever will be).

First time [sic], back in October, they interviewed my room mate Masa inside his 2 meter long, 1.50 meter high, 1 meter wide crib. I think there was some money involved, but nobody else accepted to be in. I was locked next door, panicking they would slam into my room with TV cameras on, but they were respectful of my denial to be part of the show. Being there, and although I didn't quite understand the language yet,

"Yet?" You still don't! (We are talking about English, right?)

it seemed to me it was a sort of informational kind of interview, the classical one question one answer interview thing.

The word you're searching for is "interview."

Pretended serious journalism. Maybe it was, but talking about television, please let me doubt it. It annoyed me that I couldn't get out of my room because they were there and I didn't want to be on telly. I might be about the only one, I know. But crib and all, it was my home at that moment and being trapped in your own home, not being able to open the door
Yeah, I know what "trapped" means! God, these run-on sentences are long enough that they'd reach the Moon if they weren't so completely aimless. Point is, Jan had to go potty but the scary TV people were in the way. Next paragraph.

Second time [sic] has been this morning. I woke up to the noises and chats of somebody at 8 and I automatically cursed some crib mates for it, this time mistakenly so. A couple of days ago I found a note on my door

Oh, bad luck. Jan could have used past perfect tense just there and impressed the bejeezus out of us all, but instead she used up all her fancy tensework in all the wrong places. Shame.

A couple of days ago I found a note on my door reading that today a TV crew would be here, a note I thought similar to all the others hanging on every single door in the corridor.

I know, right? Notes. Peh! They're all the same.

Last time the cameras popped in in the evening so I thought, fine, I won't be here in the evening. But they came at 8 in the morning this time, it was them, it was TV!

Jan needs to settle down and take things one sentence at a time.

Pissed for the noise and violent awakening as I was I am a pretty polite person after all, but it didn't hit me until he said the word terebi. Do I speak Japanese? Well, chottou.

Here's where I run out of patience. Jan's eternal sentences that go nowhere are one thing. But "chottou?" That's not Japanese. That's nothing-nese.

After this, Jan goes on to make all kinds of educated observations about the sad state of Japanese television, the predictability of entertainment in general and the cultural ennui that has gripped society as a whole. Also, she types "finnish" instead of "finish," and that's when I fling my copy of Tokyo Notice Board into the night like a boomerang that I hope will never come back.
A man can only take so much.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Download my music!

Why haven't I been updating the blog? One reason, two words: Toyland Trouble. That's the title of my belated (and re-belated) second album, which I've made available as a free download.

Get it here!

(Several songs from Toyland Trouble can also be heard on my YouTube channel, in case the immediate gratification of a free album download isn't quite immediate enough for you.)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Twice" Remix

I've been working extra-hard on original music these days, but here's a quick remix of "Twice" by Little Dragon. This song was easy fodder for extra rhythm tracks, but I tried to make it interesting by changing the chord structure in the chorus. It only took me a few hours to finish.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Call of Duty Commentary

For some reason I found this funny. Not my video.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Vietnam Photos

Here are the photographic highlights from our brief trip to Ho Chi Minh City. All these were taken with the Digital Harinezumi, the only camera I carried with me to Vietnam. Click on individual images to view at 800x600 pixels.

First, a word about motor scooters. Thanks to the sheer volume of scooter traffic filling virtually every road in the city at virtually all hours of the day, riding in a Ho Chi Minh City taxi feels like trying to shake the Germans in an Indiana Jones movie. One night our cab driver actually hit someone on a scooter and knocked them over. The two drivers involved in the accident yelled at each other for about 90 seconds and then went their respective ways. Nobody was killed. True story.

Next I'd like to discuss signage.

Ho Chi Minh City is full of signs. Whether they're telling you where not to park or what socio-economic system is best, signs are many, and they are all colorful. One of my favorites was the sign outside the office of a dentist whose name is apparently Dr. Dentist:

The award for Most Terrifying Sign at Night goes to that of the Crazy Buffalo, a bar I'm glad we didn't go to.

Not far from the Crazy Buffalo, you can see this:

One afternoon I was standing on a street corner trying to grab a taxi when this guy on a bicycle-taxi (or what ever you call a bicycle with a low seat attached to the front, kind of like a rikisha that is pedaled instead of pushed) pulled up next to me. He wouldn't take no for an answer, even after I showed him the address of my hotel and told him it was too far to go by bike-shaw. When I decided to keep walking and look for a different street corner to wait for my taxi, he followed me. And he kept following me at walking speed for more than two blocks. After talking him down to what I thought was a reasonable fare, I decided to give this guy a chance.

It was a long trip back to the hotel. More than an hour, and a hair-raising ride at that, thanks to the aforementioned motor bikes that constantly swerved on either side of my "taxicle."

Along the way, the driver tried indicating points of interest to me, but I couldn't understand most of what he said. He pointed at a brewery and said, "Beer." He pointed at a statue of Ho Chi Minh and said, "Ho Chi Minh." Then he pointed at a post office and said, "Ho Chi Minh." When he pointed at a motorcycle shop and said, "Vroom," I sort of stopped listening. Here's what my vantage point from the seat looked like:

On my last day in Vietnam, I went to see the Ho Chi Minh Notre Dame Cathedral and the War Remnants Museum. Here are some exterior shots of the cathedral:

Out in front of the War Remnants Museum were an array of American military land and air vehicles:

I also met this guy:

He was selling books and DVDs outside the museum entrance. He was missing an eye and both forearms. Disappointed with how I had handled myself upon meeting the disfigured man outside Bến Thành Market days earlier, I talked with this man for several minutes and shook his elbow in lieu of his hand.

The War Remnants Museum is a solemn (and/or grim) place, but I recommend it, particularly to other Americans who might not otherwise have occasion to hear another side of the story of the Vietnam War. All exhibits therein located include English descriptions.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Embarrassing Ten - Part Two

This evening I took a break from packing for the big house move to finish this project. Here's the conclusion to my list of the Ten Most Embarrassing Songs on My MP3 Player.

Vietnam photos coming soon.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Leaving Vietnam tonight

Wife's work relocation will continue a few more days, but I will be leaving Vietnam tonight and arriving back in Tokyo tomorrow morning, five days ahead of schedule. There hasn't been much else to do or blog about for the past three days, but once I'm back I can post the photos I've taken here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Something That's Bothering Me

It's morning on the second day of our stay in Ho Chi Minh City. Yesterday we practiced resisting the advances of various vendors as politely as possible in the Bến Thành Market, a place that isn't much fun for people who dislike haggling as intensely as I do. The market was oppressively stuffy and full of nauseating smells, so Wife and I decided to escape the crowds briefly by walking around the outer perimeter of the market building.

On the sidewalk outside the market, I felt a tap on my arm and turned to see a man who was missing several portions of the skin on his face. His lips were gone, perpetually showing a full set of teeth. His nose had been reduced to a slight protrusion with two nostrils and his right eye was surrounded by raw-looking tissue that barely seemed to cover the bone. I couldn't guess his age because what skin he had left was pulled too tightly around his head to reveal any natural wrinkles. I assume his injuries were not recent, because he didn't appear to be in pain, yet the tissue showing where his skin was missing looked wet and vulnerable. He didn't look like a leper; he looked like he had just tried to eat an exploding string of firecrackers.

The sight of this man was horrifying and something I wish I could forget, but what haunts me more is the way I reacted to him. The man met my eyes and said "hi" in English. I don't recall displaying any outright revulsion or shock at the man's appearance, but my response was nothing more than a similar "hi," after which I immediately turned ninety degrees and walked away with Wife in tow, hoping she wouldn't have to see him. I don't know what reaction would have been better, and I'm sure others before my have seen this man and reacted with more obvious horror than I did, but I can't help but feel like I was horribly rude to this man whose nightmarish appearance was no fault of his own. Curt as my responses to every vendor in the market may have been, they were all accompanied by a smile. This guy only got a parroted "hi" and a quick look away.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Follow the Ho Chi Minh Trail

The French government has been quick to pull as many of its citizens out of Japan as possible during the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis. As an American, that would normally not make a difference one way or another for me. Wife, however, is employed by a French company, which has decided to move her entire team and their families to the company's Ho Chi Minh branch. And that's why this post is being written from a hotel room in Vietnam.

Neither of us feel good about this situation. Wife and I have essentially high-tailed it out of the so-called "danger zone" and left our friends, her family and many of my coworkers in Japan. Wife's family is a safe distance from the Fukushima radiation and my coworkers who have elected to stay are continuing their lives in a basically normal fashion (well, normal plus rolling blackouts), yet here we are, hiding.

Oh yeah. And I have no idea whether or not I'm putting myself in trouble with my own employer over this sudden absence, which is likely to last ten days.

The good news is that, with wife at work, I'll have nothing but time on my hands...and that means blog posts. See? Every cloud of radioactive particles has a silver lining.

I'm so tired I can barely think.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Embarrassing Ten

With Japan currently being shaken by one earthquake after another, the timing of this lighthearted video post is admittedly less than ideal. Wife and I are fine (or rather, we will be fine after we clean up all the books, CDs, papers and other things that were strewn about our apartment yesterday). I'd been working on this video for a while, and it just happens to be finished today. So, enjoy: The Ten Most Embarrassing Songs on My MP3 Player.