Monday, November 30, 2009

Miyazaki Colors (1)

Located in the subtropics, Miyazaki is not especially known for spectacular colors in autumn. If you happen to be in the right place at the right time, however, Miyazaki has its moments.


Friday, November 27, 2009


Show and Tell

You know, I get just as annoyed as the next person when I'm on an airplane (or bus, etc.) and there's some kid who just won't stop screaming and crying. And as the father of a kid who, not so long ago, could whip up a tantrum that would send Damien himself reeling back to hell, I understand completely the urge to grab these kids, open the emergency door, and throw them the fuck out into the blue yonder. Believe me, I've wrestled with the urge more than a few times myself (even with my own kid). Most of us realize, though, that getting a kid to be quiet for your convenience and comfort is pretty much the same as trying to get a new puppy to stop pissing and shitting on the carpet, or expecting a shark to understand "please don't eat me." Little kids are forces of nature, so expecting them to act civilized when it suits our needs is a bit like looking up to the sky and asking it not to rain today.

But yeah, a long flight with a screaming kid on board can be a pretty unpleasant experience. I can, however imagine a worse experience. A much worse experience. I can imagine being on that plane sitting beside someone who, the whole time, is fussing and fidgeting, tut-tutting, whining and complaining, and generally not shutting the fuck up about it for the whole flight. A fucking idiot, in other words. Someone like Amy Alkon, perhaps:
I know, I know -- because I am not a parent I cannot possibly understand how hard it is to keep a child from acting out. Actually, that probably has more to do with the way I was raised -- by parents I describe as loving fascists. As a child, I was convinced that I could flap my arms and fly, but the idea that I could ever be loud in a public place that wasn't a playground simply did not exist for me.
Yeah yeah, these people were all raised by kind yet firm parents who taught them, from the moment they were born, about right and wrong behavior, about being good or bad little babies. These people never shit in their diapers, because they were toilet trained in the womb. These people never made a fuss when they were babies, because they were reading novels or doing crosswords by the time they started eating solid food.

These people are pathological liars. And if they're not, in fact, lying about their own behavior as 2-year-olds (because that's what we're talking about here), then you can be pretty damned sure they're lying about their parents. Fear, the great "educator" of the well-behaved.
I hear claims that some children are prone to tantrums no matter how exquisitely they are parented. If this describes your child, there's a solution, and it isn't plopping him in a crowded metal tube with hundreds of people who can't escape his screams except by throwing themselves to their deaths at 30,000 feet.
It really does come down to this: Your right to bring your screaming child on a plane ends where the rest of our ears begin.
OK, I get it. Children should be seen and not heard. Thank you for telling us so much about yourself, Ms. Alkon, however inadvertently. Show and tell is over now.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Tomorrow morning we give our presentation. This is a pretty big conference as far as these things go, although we have a pretty crappy slot--second-to last slot on the last day of the conference, on a national holiday. We have to check out of our hotel and take our luggage with us to the venue, give our presentation, and then jump on a train and head to the airport. It's a rock gig, man!

In a way I wish it could be a bit more like a rock gig. It's a lot easier to bullshit my way through a tune onstage than it is to "wing it" through a spoken presentation. In fact just today I saw a very painful example of someone who wasn't properly prepared attempting to explain... Well, I'm not sure what he was trying to explain. TEFL may not be a "science," but (for the most part) it's not (or shouldn't be) abstract art either.

It may be a personal idiosyncrasy of mine, but when people are explaining things I'd like to understand them. I prefer explanations that don't waste words in the process of making themselves clear. I'm talking about "explaining" in a very restricted, academic sense. I could probably do an interpretation of Vygotsky's ideas on the interrelation between language and thought on the drums, and it might even be pretty good to listen to, but if you really want to know anything about Vygotsky, it would probably be a lot easier to check out his Wikipedia page. I only mention Vygotsky because today I had one of his ideas explained to me with such a clear example that I'll never forget it. Whether or not I eventually reject the idea is irrelevant. The only relevant point is that I understand the idea.

[Oh, the idea? Language mediates cognition. The example was a letter to Ann Landers which didn't need a reply because the writer solved the problem herself merely by writing about it. If you don't sometimes talk to yourself, maybe you should. Or start a blog...]

So anyway, we give our presentation tomorrow. I need to practice a bit more...


Why does it always seem to be cloudy whenever I'm anywhere in the vicinity of Fuji (and therefore unable to get a good look at it)?

[I guess if I weren't such a lazy fuck I could work in some metaphor related to Japan and the inscrutable nature of "The Orient", or something. But then, I'd rather be a lazy fuck than a shitty writer.]

What would you do...?

... If you felt a shoelace beginning to come untied when you were only a hundred meters from your destination (where you'll take off your shoes anyway)? Where would you rank this on a list of slightly annoying things?


In Shizuoka for a work-related conference. Wandering around, clusters of gaijin, each doing their dutiful best to ignore the other.

When you register for one of these things they always give you a bag. Kind of like soccer players getting a cap for their international matches. I've been "bagged" several times, but I don't know if this one counts because it's in Japan. The bag usually contains a bunch of promo crap from text book companies and such. I give the pens, notepads, and other useful stuff to my daughter. She seems to like collecting my name tags, as well. (Recently I found one of my conference tags in which she'd crossed out my name and wrote her own above it. This little girl is worth more to me than the entire world.)

I guess I should be careful what I say. Not everyone is as carefree and irreverent about the theoretical underpinnings of their profession as I am. I'm a skeptic, and I'd be a piss-poor one if I didn't put what I do under the same scrutiny as I'd apply to right-wingnuttery, religion, UFO's, ghosts, and my own beliefs about anything, your beliefs about anything, and generally anything at all (well, except the primacy of the Stones).

Some ideas are better than others, but there are a shitload of bad ideas out there.

You might think that someone whose job lets him support his family and drink beer in so many cool places should probably whine about it a lot less. You'd probably be right.

I'm struggling to reconcile the notion of a restaurant/bar with hundreds of beers from around the world with Pinnochio playing on the wide screen. And Tokyo Ska Paradise playing through the speakers.

I once met a guy in a bar who happened also to be an "English teacher." He'd recently got his PhD in EFL or something. It was amusing to hear him tell me how I was "enculturing" my daughter by speaking to her in English (i.e. the idea being that language=culture; I can't honestly imagine a more ridiculous piece of shit masquerading as "theory"). I'd been telling him how I was teaching my daughter to use chopsticks...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Vending Machines, No. 85

Thank You for Smoking

In Shinjuku, tomorrow Shizuoka. This shitty laptop is on its dying legs. Went to Dubliners for a couple of pints. Didn't know anybody and nobody knew me. I wasn't surprised by this. It's always a bit disappointing, though-- going to a bar and not seeing anybody you know. Of course my buddy and co-worker Mike came later, after raiding the music shops for their prog and Norwegian jazz albums.

After Singapore/Malaysia, etc. Shinjuku just seems like a crowded Miyazaki, with a lot more shops, bars, restaurants, and bigger buildings and generally a lot more going on. Er, whatever... It might be fun if I were 20 or 30 years younger. I've got a nice 35th-floor view from my hotel, but no camera good enough to capture it.

A sure sign that I've passed some sort of landmark in my life (although I'll be damned if I know exactly what that landmark is): this is what I'm thinking about:

Had a very nice dinner at a Turkish restaurant this evening. It was a first for me. There was an amusing moment when I asked if it was OK to smoke...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Vending Machines, No. 84

Dum Dum Boys

The first time I saw
The dum dum boys
I was fascinated
They just stood in front
Of the old drug store
I was most impressed
No one else was impressed
Not at all
--Iggy Pop, "Dum Dum Boys"

It was not long after Jimmy had quit school that he started hanging around outside The Maritimer restaurant with some other guys, all more or less the same age, all more or less out of school. When they had money they'd go inside and drink coffee and smoke cigarettes. If nobody had any money, they'd hang around until someone came along that did. Mike, the owner of the restaurant, was originally from Syria. Jimmy and his friends thought that maybe he was a Christian, but they were never able to find out for sure. Mike was always coming out and telling them to get the fuck off his steps or he'd call the cops. Mike never did call the cops, not even the time Jimmy got totally wasted and puked all over the steps leading into the restaurant-- just before lunch. Sometimes Mike would give them something to eat for helping him move stuff and other odd jobs.

Jimmy and his buddies occasionally got into this or that or some other kind of shit, but it was all pretty low-key and definitely small-time. They would never have called themselves a "gang". No, they were generally quite content to hang out in front of the restaurant, smoke cigarettes, do some small deals, and get drunk on the weekends.

Sometimes things got weird. One Friday night Jimmy was hanging outside the restaurant with a couple of his buddies--his best friend Fulo, and an older guy, a glue-head named Jerry, who actually lived upstairs. It was a bit late and pretty quiet on the street when they noticed a guy coming towards them. He was walking like he was drunk or stoned, and at first they didn't pay much attention to him. As he got closer, Jimmy realized that he knew the guy. He was one of the Christers from Jimmy's old neighborhood. These were people from the countryside who, for some reason, had built a small fire and brimstone church smack in the middle of a small town neighborhood. Jimmy had always figured that the kids were alright, but their parents were a bit wacky. This guy's name was Freddy.

When Freddy got close enough to get a good look at him, he didn't look so hot. He was white as a sheet and clutching his arm. Jimmy hailed him, but he didn't respond. Instead, he took his hand off the arm he was holding onto, letting loose a stream of blood that must have shot out at least three or four feet. Jimmy, Fulo, and Jerry let out a round of shits, damns, and fucks before coming to their senses. Freddy had been cut pretty bad in some kind of scrape somewhere. Jimmy and Fulo looked at Jerry, who would sometimes rent a car and, in fact, happened to have one parked across the street on that very night. Jerry, like anyone else in a similar situation, spent a couple of seconds fretting about the blood. Jimmy and Fulo reminded him that the car was only a rental. Soon Freddy was in Jerry's rental car and on his way to the hospital.

Jimmy's buddies were generally OK guys. With one exception. Robby. If you'd asked Jimmy back then if Robby was a friend, Jimmy would surely have said yes. Jimmy feared Robby. In fact, any sane person would have feared Robby, because he was a borderline psychopath. One night at a party, Robby thought it would be fun to throw darts at Jimmy. Another time Robby decided to use Jimmy as a punching bag. He smacked Jimmy about 5 or 6 good ones right in the face. What Robby didn't know was that a punch in the face was at the bottom of the list of things Jimmy was afraid of. And really, unless you get it right in the nose, it doesn't even hurt. One time Robby, for no apparent reason, ripped all the buttons off Jimmy's shirt. When Jimmy complained about losing the buttons on his shirt, Robby got a weird look on his face and said, "You want buttons? Have buttons," and swept his arm through the air. This really creeped Jimmy out. That night he learned the word "megalomania" from the dictionary.

For all the times he hung out and got drunk and high with Robby, Jimmy didn't really know much about him (aside from his being a crazy ass motherfucker). Robby didn't talk much about himself except to brag about how big his dick was, how many chicks he'd laid, how many guys he'd beat up, that kind of stuff. Like anyone afraid of having the shit beat out of them for saying the wrong thing, Jimmy would nod and smile at his friend's tales of his exploits. Jimmy actually hated Robby, and would sometimes fantasize about ridding the earth of a worthless scumbag piece of shit...

One night Jimmy and Robby were inside The Maritimer having a coffee. Robby could be generous with people he considered friends, and tonight he was buying the coffee. They were discussing music--a common interest; Robby knew his tunes, and so did Jimmy. Somewhere in the middle of a discussion about the latest Dylan album Jimmy looked outside, saw who was there, and muttered a small "shit."


The first day that Jimmy had started high school he'd managed to get himself suspended for a week--on the first day! Jimmy would tell you that it was completely undeserved. Jimmy, in fact, had done nothing to warrant anyone even noticing him on the first day of high school. Someone, however, had claimed that he saw Jimmy letting off stink bombs in a stairwell at school. That someone was Calvin Smith. Jimmy swore revenge...

Several months later, Jimmy's hanging out with the boys in front of The Maritimer, and Calvin approaches them, asking if they know where he can score something. Jimmy gets his revenge. He arranges a small deal where he takes Calvin's money, and then laughs in his face as he walks away. Calvin is outnumbered, and helpless. He's lost his 25 bucks...


Calvin, somewhat brazenly, comes into the restaurant and delivers an ultimatum: give back the 25 bucks or get the shit kicked out of you. He's got his big brother and some other guy outside. Robby raises an eyebrow. Jimmy's not afraid. Yet.

Jimmy and Robby go outside and Calvin's big brother approaches. He opens his mouth to say something, but doesn't get the chance. Robby whips out a knife from his jacket and, leaping at the guy, takes a big swipe at him. Jimmy almost faints on the spot. This is not what he expected. He spends the next two minutes trying to prevent Robby from killing Calvin's big brother. The panic, the irony, the absurdity, none of this is lost on Jimmy...

Friday, November 06, 2009

Latin Asscape

If you don't like this, what the hell is wrong with you?

Brownout-Latin Asscape
Alt. Link

Seriously, get the hell out of here.

An Inquiring Mind

Last night as my daughter was getting into her bed, I noticed her slip something under her pillow. When I asked her what she was doing, she pulled her hand out from under the pillow and showed me a tooth.

Mildly surprised, I asked "did you lose a tooth today?".

"No," she replied. "I found it."


"With mommy's stuff." (My wife keeps her [haha! my daughter's! Fixed 11:00 PM] lost teeth in a small box. It's supposed to be secret because usually the Tooth Fairy takes her teeth and leaves her a coin.)

"Well," I said, "if you didn't lose that tooth today, why are you putting it under your pillow?"

She shrugged and said, "it's just a test."

It's difficult to properly express how amused, tickled, and impressed I was at that moment.


Aki no Taisai Matsuri (3)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Why I love Hockey, No. 1

I ask you, in what other sport could you see anything approaching the sheer awesomeness of this [image source]?

It's been fifty years since the introduction of the goalie mask. A nice round-up of the goalie mask's impact on pop culture and hockey psychology can be read here. Money quote:
But beyond the sociological aspects of the mask is a widely accepted truth: They're just bitchin' cool.
Damn straight.

Poker Face

It's a holiday here in Japan. Please enjoy Christopher Walken's interpretation of Lady Gaga.

[Via Cynical-C.]

Drain with Leaves

My daughter insisted that I take this picture...

Wondering What Everyone Knows

I'm afraid I must insist that you at least give this tune a chance.

Lightning Dust-Wondering What Everyone Knows
Alt. Link

C'mon, when was anything from Canada ever bad for you?

Monday, November 02, 2009


I Want...

...a cigarette...

Lost in Translation

Last week some kind of virus or Trojan horse or some damned fucking thing disabled my computer at home (the one I'm using right now). All I know is that I was at work when it happened, and my wife was on the computer. I, of course, am not the type of guy to engage in the "blame game."

So I take the thing into the shop, knowing that the warranty expired long ago, and sensing that something is horribly wrong with my PC. ("Blue screen"? Heh, this was black screen, baby, and the mouse was moving! Yeah...). I tell My Guy at the shop (hey, he's the only one there with enough guts to approach and engage the "foreigner"--he's My fucking Guy!) what's up. He boots my box up and sees that I wasn't shitting him. He writes a note on a small piece of paper and hands it to a chubby guy with glasses who's sitting behind some kind of master console with several keyboards and monitors hooked up into... something. His fucking head, for all I know. The cyborg takes a look at the paper and makes a very subtle slashing motion across his throat. Right.

My Guy tells me that my computer has "some kind of virus or Trojan horse or some damned fucking thing" (in Japanese), but that they can fix it for 15,000 yen. That's somewhat less than a new computer, so I say "OK!" When I inquired about data loss due to the virus and the general purging of my PC, My Guy said that I wouldn' t lose any data...

Oh... OK.

In fairness to My Guy, I don't think he was lying or trying to mislead me. Last night when I got my PC back every single file--photos, mp3s, whatever, they were all still there, intact. This was good. The bad part was that the computer system itself had been rolled back at least a year (maybe two). If you don't know what that means, well, imagine losing all, and I mean fucking all, of your settings for two years.

Still don't know what I mean? OK, you lose Firefox and any other non-Microsoft programs. You lose all your bookmarks. All your passwords/cookies are gone. Chances are, you don't have a good firewall or any anti-virus software. Every click of every web page is a reminder of what you have to update/download/whateverthefuck. It sucks.

Lamp and Clouds

Park Bench