My boy Mike M. has won a Japanzine art issue award.
...this movie criticism site. I had put in my SKYPE status that I was watching Juno and thought it was one of the better movies that I'd seen in the last decade or so. After reading a review, I started to realize that I've come to ask increasingly less from films. Granted that I love escapist movies that are action-packed or otherwise allow me to turn my brain off for 88 to 93 minutes, but I came to understand that Juno isn't one of those and also isn't quite a most-of-us-are-freaky-and-therefore-freaks-deserve-some-repesentation Judd Apatow/Seth Rogen-type slap in the face of studios and focus-group culture kinda thing. It's good to know that there are people out there doing informed movie criticism and posting it up for free.
Eleven years ago, my friends got together and bought me a backpack to use as luggage on a trip 28 years in the offing. I was heading off for my year abroad in Tsukuba and was running on empty cash-wise. Anyway, it was the perfect gift and I used it as luggage until about 2 years ago as well as it accompanying me on every hiking trip since that time. Not to mention that my old roomie took it to Niger.
About a week ago, I got an email notice about a sale at Sierra Trading Post and I bit the bullet and picked up a new backpack. The sale price combined with the current value of the yen vis-a-vis the dollar made it irresistible.
Can't wait to try it out and thanks again to Todd, Amy, Rob, Lisa and Etchan for all the years of use I got out of the Mountainsmith.
Having lunch tomorrow with Kevin at ukai.
... for Todd
Some friends of Isherwood scored some tickets to the final day of the current sumo basho. We're going a bit late (3:00), but it should be a good time because both Yokozuna have one loss. The Yokozunas' matches are scheduled such that from the first day they fight increasingly high-ranked opponents until they face off with each other on the final day of the tournament. This one is special because Asashoryu has been absent from sumo since the July tournament and he has been denigrated in the press and condemned in the court of public opinion for the past 5 months.
We, unfortunately, have pretty bad seats, but the main point of the outing is to hang out with friends, drink a bunch, and then go out to a place called Andy's which is an izakaya in Yurakucho owned by a foreigner. Evidently it's pretty famous, but it'll be my first time going there.
I'd imagine that Hakuho is favored, but Asashoryu has a lot to prove and is one of the most competitive athletes I've ever seen.
It's gonna be a knock down drag out.
Forgot to mention that I recently watched No Country for Old Men. I went for it because it was a Coen brothers film and didn't realize until the end that it was based on a Cormac McCarthy novel.
Damnit. Paul was right again...
Woke up today around 8, which constitutes sleeping in for me. Checked email and worked through my newsreader while listening to the NPR 24-hour program stream. Then around 10:00 on to listening to Wait Wait. That brings us current. Now Misa and I are trying to decide what to have for breakfast brunch.
I have some studying to do for the kanken and also have to meet up with my boy Bunshi who's in town from Sapporo. He's staying in Gotanda, but I' not sure where we'll meet up yet. Usually we hang out at The Cow, but I'll have to check what they have on tap before we decide to go there. I might try to find a place in Sangenchaya. It is a really hip place with lots of eateries and drinkeries and is only a stone's throw both from the Yamanote and from Misa's place.
11:00-11:30 Filed some online reports for work.
Lunch and miscellaneous screwing around and trying to troubleshoot intermittent signal dropping on Misa's airport. That's (seemingly) fixed.
2:00-5:00 Kanji study with a small break around 3:30 to try out SKYPE
5:00-6:00 Watching Sumo
Sumo is on tv from about 12:00, but the high-ranked wrestlers don't come on until around 4:00, at which time they also start the English language broadcast on the sub-channel. This is the first tournament since the summer in which yokozuna Asashoryu is competing. He was given a two tournament suspension, but also had surgery to repair an injury during that time. He's been kinda the bad boy of Sumo for the last 5 years in spite of being one of the most dominant sumotori ever. I'm not a big fan of his style of sumo, but his ability is beyond dispute.
Just back from seeing Bunshi. It's amazing to me that we could've been such good friends for going on 7 years, as I feel like I'm just starting to understand a reasonable percentage of his Japanese. 運が良かったみたい。
Gonna watch the latest episode of Psych and hen hit the rack.
There's some weird stuff that happens over here musically. For example, for some unknown reason The Carpenters are unbelievably popular and are well represented in every karaoke songbook. Another example is that I've heard the song Last Christmas about 30 times in the last two days. Not just the original, but more covers than is reasonable for a song like that. Now let it be known that I love George Michael, in spite of his unfortunate plastic surgery, but Last Christmas? Puhleez. So many better Christmas songs around. Nat King Cole, anyone, anyone? Even the Boyz II Men stuff is worth playing before hitting that song for the umpteenth time. My personal favorite is the Bowie/Bing Crosby Little Drummer Boy.
This one goes out to Gavin 'Gava Gav' Brady, wherever he may be...
Couple of things I noticed right off:
1) All Along the Watchtower (Hendrix version)
2) American Pie
These are two songs that appear (one or the other if not both) in just about every Vietnam movie that has ever been written.
What's the significance of them being used in a trailer about a scandal from the 80s? What are they trying to say? Seems that the whole trailer <snip> seemed a little Oliver Stone-esque.
My tag line would be 'Bartlett. What's he hiding from us now.'
I'm all over it, but now I'm going in with baggage...
For a long time now I've had a bookmarks folder where I would dump everything with which I didn't have the time or energy to deal. Sort of a dysfunctional browser tickler file. I found something a little bit ago that I wanted to dump in there and thought that it might be a good idea to put my 'other' folder in my bookmark bar (rather than hidden away behind the scenes) for easy packratting of new stuff. Unfortunately in the middle of a drag I was prompted about a cookie and inadvertently dropped the folder onto the current blank tab. Well, about 40 <deny> clicks later I have all manner of sites up that've been gathering e-dust in the darkest reachest of my Camino. Master procrastinator that I am I decided to try to cull their numbers and got lost in a morass of things that I don't remember.
Lo and behold I come across a site called Spinshell.tv and there on the front page is a video that has Traci's face on it. Turns out that these folks did a nice interview with the proprietress of The Pink Cow and so now any of you who haven't been there before can get a sense of it and her.
It had been about 5 years since I went down there last, Todd having moved out of Shizuoka and my disdain for weekend train riding adding up to my only sampling the Baird goodies available through their e-store. But I'm going to the States in the Fall and the outlay of cash for that pretty much means no vacation this summer and so Misa and I were looking for something relatively inexpensive to do. Our little trip vastly exceeded my expectations and we had a blast and got a chance to unwind in unfamiliar environs.
For our transportation we used, as always, ekikara(Japanese). It's the first site that I go to when trying to figure out the best way to get someplace new and with little muss and fuss all of the different train options are displayed. Through this site we find out about a semi-express train called the Acty that leaves from Tokyo Station (we picked it up at Shinagawa) and arrives in Atami. Express speed at local train fare, win win. From Atami we took a local to Numazu and from there a taxi (@¥1000) to our hotel.
We arrived about an hour before check to find nobody at the front desk. Suihoen is a very small place and it seemed that the proprietors were off having lunch. Still encumbered with our weekend bags we walked to the Taproom. The party had only been on for a bit more than two hours, but it was in fullswing. Standing room only. There was a band playing Celtic music, a ¥1000 all-you-can-eat buffet, and all the beers on offer were ¥500/pint. We tried each of the beers and with a brief break to go and check into our room, stayed until about 10:00.
While I've known Bryan for some years, I've never really gotten the chance to talk to him much. Very interesting guy. Turns out that he went to prep school in New England and then on to Williams. Seems he knew, or knew someone that knew, my high school friend Dave Sprague. Small world, this. Also, his girls were in the house and stealing the show. He and Sayuri's oldest is 9 or 10 y.o. and the youngest about 3. They were really enjoying the party atmosphere and all of the people (old and new) that were heaping attention on them. They were all delights, but we were shocked at how different each of their personalities are. Bryan and Sayuri are in for an interesting ride.
Oh, and I met this guy. He's been living in Numazu for about 23 years and is an expert on Japanese pottery. Yellin claims that he wasn't a beer drinker until he had tried Baird Beer, and now he's a regular at the Taproom. And he has a blog.
And I met Lauren and (briefly) her husband Scott. They're two Aussies here teaching English and have a cool blog all about the haps in Numazu.
What esle? They were offering their 7-year-anniversary ale (link may expire) in bottles and we brought back 4 of those and two Wheat Kings. Hmmn. Somehow I just got thirsty.
Mark's in Japan and will be here tomorrow. In preparation I ordered up some beer from Bryan and now I just have to make a 6ft+ clumsy-person-sized hole in my crap and I'm straight.
Today I had to go to immigration to take care of some visa stuff. I've been complaining about it for years, since some time back the powers that be consolidated the formerly regional system and started requiring all foreigners in the Tokyo area to schlep to Shinagawa. My old regional office was in Shibuya, which is an area that I frequent, and so it was super easy to fold a trip there into my normal errands. The problems with the Shinagawa location are manifold: crowded as all hell, a 15-20 minute bus ride from Shinagawa station, etc. However, I've come to think differently about the place of late.
When I went there by bike about a month ago, I realized that it is actually not far by surface roads. It turns out that once on Yamate doori, it's a straight shot right to the door of the place. I got there in under an hour. Today, I had to work in the morning and then went there by scooter (moped) from Ebisu. That pretty much duplicated much of the route (Yamate) that I took by bike, but I had to come to Tamachi afterward for another class. Turns out that Shinagawa is only about 5 minutes away -- I should have known since they are consecutive stops on the Yamanote line -- and I was here before I knew it. These side trips off of my beaten path, are starting to give me a better overall picture of Tokyo, though there are still numerous areas of which I am woefully ignorant. Also, studying the map after leaving immigration also clued me in to what looks to be a more direct route home. I'm going to try it out tonight when I'm through just to make sure that it isn't laden with traffic enough to obviate any savings from the shorter distance.
Later on, well not really since I have no wifi connection here and hence this won't be posted until after it's happened, I'm gonna meet up with Don and a friend of his in 三茶. I've been consumed with working and trying to get back into a more consistent study schedule lately, and so it will be good to blow off some steam. Which is not to say that I didn't rip it up at hanami last Sunday, just that the preparations added an atmosphere of 'have-to' to those proceedings, and tonight'll be all about fun.
'Til next time...
Tomorrow we're planning to do some hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in Kinuta Koen. The pic from my last post was taken there, and it is a great place because of the many large trees.
As of now, I have no idea how many (or few) people will show, but for sure Ramsbottom-Isherwood and I will be there from about 2:00. If you're in the area, stop by for a cold beverage or two.
Map (via Google maps)
The last picture ripped from Scott hisself (and, of course, 5 years old)
Got to hang out with some old friends last Saturday. Alan is in town from Oxford en route to some fieldwork in Australia via Wellington. Nate is also back here for the next couple of years doing his dissertation field work.
While we were hanging out and preparing some nabe, Kevin played us some music (YouTube link) from the artist that he represents. If'n I can get it to work (やっぱり駄目だった）I'll try to include a sample of his music in this post either now or in an update.
Posted in extreme haste...
Chris, Alan, Kevin, Nate
Didn't feel like waiting for the Mail program to boot so...
Here's a link to info that your boy Matthiessen used to work for the CIA.
I hooked up with my friend Bunshi last Saturday as he was in town visiting from Sapporo on business. On Sunday, I met up with Oly and he, Misa, the Teradas and I went out to eat in the neighborhood. Monday was a get-together of the Smokehouse folks most of whom I haven't seen since we came back from the States. We discontinued our Monday night English lessons and so I only get to see the Teradas regularly now.
Tonight I'm hooking up with Oly and again and we are heading to Bourbon Street. It's one of the best places I've ever eaten, and I always look forward to any opportunities to go. Turns out that only he and I will be going tonight, but it should still be a good time. To be honest, I prefer going with a group because then you can order more appetizers, but oh well.
Hopefully I'll get the chance to take some pictures of the neighborhood around the restaurant.
Also, I just heard from Bhaird and Grenny that they and their roommate Ben are going to be in Tokyo this weekend. Them being here plus our friend Kiyomi's birthday party on Saturday has my dance card pretty full this week.
I wonder if I have any echinacea left?
...after taking a multi-year hiatus from grad school to live in a foreign country?
If your name is Erik Jorn, the answer is tripartite: a) go to medical school in Denmark, b) put your motorcycle on a ferry to Russia and ride through 16+ countries to get there, c) blog about it.
Rock on Erik!