Friday, December 24, 2010

Santa Never Goes Hungry at My Place...

I guess this will probably be the last year that we go through this little ritual. If my kid still believes in Santa when next Christmas rolls around, well, I'm afraid we'll have to have a little talk about that. I'm not much into crushing the dreams of little kids, but... there's a bigger picture to consider.

Actually, I'm not especially concerned on that score, because I get the sense this year that she's already either a) employing a pretty strong suspension of disbelief, mostly out of a child's notion of self-interest (i.e. open disbelief, to her, might mean a sharp reduction in Christmas loot), or b) doing her damnedest to humor her old man. Or possibly some combination of both. Picking up my cell phone and threatening to call Santa when she won't do her homework or stop watching TV just doesn't have the same effect it once did. I tried this the other day and she rather flippantly asked if she could talk to Santa while he was on the line. I saw my future in that moment. It wasn't pretty...

Enough of that! Anyway, part of me is a little relieved that I won't have to worry about Santa next year. I'm basically the "Christmas guy" in my house, and Christmas Eve is a bit busy and stressful for me. I'm the guy who helps my kid put out a snack for Santa, who makes sure the presents are under the tree, who goes out and buys stocking-stuffers, who leaves a "thank-you" note from Santa (for the milk and cookies), and all that crap. I'm not complaining, really, but this is Japan, and it's not like there's a whole lot of outside support here! My wife helps by basically staying out of my way. What can I say? I just want my kid to have some idea of something that made me happy when I was a little kid; some small part of the place where her father comes from. Before coming to Japan I spent 39 Christmases at home with my family. Old habits die hard.

Speaking of "old habits," I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!

Goofing Around

One More from the Other Day...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Dark Twisted Review

OK, for the next hour or so I'm going to listen to the new Kanye West album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It's my first listen. I know who Kanye West is, but I know next to nothing about his music. Since everyone seems to think this is the/one of the best albums of the year, I thought I'd give it a chance. Going in, though, I should stipulate that I'm not a big fan of pop/rap/hip hop blends...

First tune, "Dark Fantasy" did nothing for me. The guy can sing/rap, the production is slick, etc. But nothing. I should stipulate that as far as I'm concerned, music without a readily discernible band has to be something wonderful before it can be elevated beyond the level of dog shit.

Some OK rapping in "Gorgeous." I guess pop artists these days save a lot of money by not having to hire actual musicians. Or do they actually have real musicians play and then make it sound like there aren't any real musicians?

"POWER" samples King Crimson. I'm somehow impressed by this. Nice drum machine beat, too, and some good rapping. This would be cool if I were wasted at a club. An old fart like me, though, couldn't be seen diggin' it at the kind of bar they'd play this at. Better to maintain an aloof sense of cool; mysterious, but not obviously drunk.

"All of the Lights" really sounds like a club tune. Annoying drum machines, over-bearing production, and that angst-ridden, boy-band-sounding "listen to me, look at me, I'm rich, pity me" kinda vocal that reminds me of guys who couldn't do gym because they had asthma. Or something. Ugh.

Hmm... the intro to "Monster" is very promising. Further in sounds more like some pure rap. Of course, Jay-Z and a few other rappers will do that for a tune. Best tune so far. No pop, just rap. I can dig this. I do dig this. I'd pay for an album of this stuff... Er... [And yeah, this geezer likes rap and hates pop. What can I say?] Oh-oh, some sappy shit near the end...

[By the way, I'm not going to say anything about lyrics unless I hear something really stupid or really brilliant. Music ain't about words...]

It was really a sad day when rappers started using fake string sections in the music. "So Appalled" pretty much sums up my impression of this tune. The beat is even limp, and that's about as damning a thing I can say about an alleged rap tune as I can think of. Christ, I just heard some lyrics... "I never met a bitch that didn't need a little guidance..." "Life can be sometimes a little ridiculous..." "I keep bitches by the twos..." "Fucking ridiculous" repeated ad nauseum... No shit.

"Devil in a New Dress" is going for a neo-soul sound that I've heard done better on old Pharcyde albums. I highly recommend old Pharcyde albums, while we're on the topic (and because I'm trying to think of something to say until the next tune). I've heard shit like this before done lots better. Whoa... is that a guitar solo? Pretty bold... I guess...

OK, "Runaway" has got some stuff happening in the intro. "Let's have a toast for the douchebags." Best line of the album! I'm looking and I see this is a 9-minute tune. This is OK, but where's the bridge!? Bunch of echo-y shit... This one note on the piano thing was a lot cooler in "Raw Power" by The Stooges. Hmm... "Raw power, honey, just won't quit/Raw power I can feel it..." Oh, shit... Yeah... Nine minutes... Whoa! Some kind of robot voice! Wow! I'm truly moved. Well, not really. More boring strings with the one-note piano thing and some kind of robot guitar shit. A minute to go. Kanye (or somebody) is breathing heavy like he's actually playing the guitar or something. Auto tune! It was just a matter of time...

Oohh! Funky bass and beat for "Hell of a Life." Good rap shit. Fuck!! Lame auto-tune shit with arpeggio-ated keyboard. Lame drum beat shit ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba... Fuck this. I hear a bunch of special effects pretending to be a song. How a song with a line like "I think I fell in love with a porn star" can suck so hard... really sucks.

Two more songs to go...

"Blame Game:" Like most everything on this album, the rapping is good. But it's surrounded by such crap. Anyone over twenty who's actually moved by this "moving" music needs to get out more and listen to some real music. Now we've got Chris Rock (?) doing some kinda shit about "pussy." He's talking while some sad, "touching" piano shit plays. Fuck, does this ever suck.

The intro to "Lost in the World" actually has a chorus of auto-tuned vocals. If there is a lower form of music (unless performed by Devo), I don't know what it is. There is quite a nice melody in this tune. Now we got some world/African stuff... Sudden ending.


Pop music (and that is all that this is) should never take itself so seriously. Pop music relegates the musician to a kind of non-status (at best), or eliminates him/her altogether. It's very status as "music" is questionable. Look, I love a good catchy tune as much as the next person (who's Frank Zappa, in my imagination), but when so-called critics claim that an album like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the best album produced in a given year, they sound to me more like industry hacks than legitimate "music reviewers."

Clear your palate with this:


Fluted [*]

[*] Thanks, Glenn.



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On the Curative Powers of Hockey

Serious case of the blahs lately... I've spent the past couple evenings watching illicitly downloaded hockey games in an effort to cheer myself up. Just watched a replay of the ass-kicking Canada laid on Russia during the Olympics. It was even better than last night, when I re-watched Canada beat the U.S. for the gold medal. I think it's working... Yes, definitely. I just smiled to myself...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010


Having spent a few days away in a foreign country... Wait. Having spent a few days away from my family, the powers that be... Wait. Never mind who or what "the powers that be" might be, they're just not me, OK? Yeah, I'm white and I'm male. But I'm not a "power that is". Or whatever.

So I was away for a few days last week. That, by the irrevocable laws that (I assume) govern families throughout the universe--past, present, and future, means I have to spend some "quality time" with my kid this weekend. The same kid who's recently taken to giving me sidelong glances whenever I speak, as if I were some hideous creature from another planet, and not the loving father who, just a few short weeks ago (by my reckoning) could do no wrong in her eyes. (She's started hanging around with friends from school lately. Girls, you know?)

Anyway, tomorrow morning I'm supposed to take this little girl-thing to the local community center, where nice community center-type volunteers are going to show us how to make our own lovely Christmas wreath. Wow! (If you imagined me writing/saying that "wow" and really meaning it, you are no friend of mine...) I know, with dread certainty, that I'll be the only man (or the only so-called "grown man") there. It will seem to me as if the entire city of Miyazaki has been somehow emptied of "men."

Times like this are almost enough to turn me religious, if only because the notion of "hell" becomes a little more plausible.

But why do I feel this way about such an apparently innocuous activity? Pleas to my wife about being uncomfortable in a roomful of girls/women fall on deaf ears. "I've never heard you complain about teaching English to class full of 18-20-year-old nursing students," she says, clearly oblivious to my professional realities. "And what about that waitress that used to come here for private lessons? You didn't seem to mind being alone with her in a room for two hours." I thought about "the waitress" for a moment...

Clearly my wife (nor, likely, you, gentle reader) will have none of my bullshit.

Fact is, I'm not a very artsy-crafsty guy. It's not that I dislike it, or anything. I just really suck at it. What I see "artistically" in my mind's eye simply will not come out through my hands. I can (or, at least I think I can) do a lot of things. But I can't draw a picture of... anything. Or make a nice Christmas wreath.

My kid can draw pretty well, though. And if she's not too embarrassed by my presence, maybe she can help me make a half-decent Christmas wreath...

Sunday, December 05, 2010


In Manila, and the rest of The Philippines, the jeepney is the most common form of public transportation. These vehicles ("jeep" + "Jitney" = jeepney) are ubiquitous.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Friday, December 03, 2010


So, I arrived in Manila a couple of days ago. I haven't taken many pics, but posting even what I have taken has become a hassle because this work-supplied, Windows 7 machine doesn't seem to like GimpShop. It's not so much that I want to edit the pics, but I generally set my camera to take photos in the largest possible parameters and then scale them down. I can't do that right now.

Manila is a bit more intense than I remember from my last visit. Or Malate is, anyway. Yesterday, just after I arrived, I was walking down the street and a couple of prostitutes approached me. I'm no prude, but I'm not the type of guy that negotiates with prostitutes in broad daylight in the middle of the afternoon. Hmm... Well, you know... They were both quite attractive, and I suspect they were both ladyboys, but "I'll do anything you like for 500 pesos" spoken out loud in the street as people are walking past is probably not the best sales pitch one can direct at a middle-aged guy with a family.

Later, in the evening, things got even more intense. There were very aggressive touts/pimps every 10 meters hawking their "wares." One guy actually followed me for a couple hundred meters yelling, "We got young girls for you! They'll suck your cock and lick your ass!" The details were, I guess, a nice touch; but fuck, what an asshole.

Seeking a bit of refuge from all of that I went to a nearby mall. I was hungry. I' d hoped to get dinner at a local restaurant, but I was tired and was growing annoyed by all the people aggressively trying to sell me stuff or ask me for money. It's especially grating being asked if I want to buy Viagra at a rate of about once a minute while I'm at street level. Do I look like I need Viagra? And worse, does everyone assume I'm here to have my way with the local women (or, worse still, the local kids)? What the fuck are all the other white guys doing here, anyway?

I figured the mall would be a bit more sedate. There was a place--not in the food court, but an actual restaurant, that was advertising "a taste of New Orleans." "Heh," I thought to myself. (Yes, I really do say "heh" in my head.) The food was actually pretty good, but I was somewhat surprised to "find out" that Caesar salad, onion rings, and fish 'n' chips were actually "Cajun" food! (Guys--you know who you are-- help me out here.) My meal, as tasty as it was, was not without an honest-to-gosh moment of utter dismay. I asked for "petite" orders of salad and onion rings, but when they arrived at my table there was enough food to feed 3 or 4 people. And my order of fish 'n' chips was gigantic. There was no possible way I could eat all of that food by myself. This would never happen in Japan, and back in Canada (and probably the States) nobody would blink about just chucking my uneaten portions into the garbage.

But, I'm not in Japan or Canada or wherever. I'm in Manila where little kids come up to you making gestures towards their mouths. I can't throw this food away. I can't. (I suppose there's some sort of criticism that could be leveled at me for feeling the way I do about this, but I really don't give a damn.) I apologized to the wait staff, explaining that if I'd known the orders would be so big, I wouldn't have asked for so much food. They offered to put it in a doggy bag, but because I was staying in a hotel that wasn't really an option. One waitress suggested that I take the doggy bag outside and give it to the first kid that approached me with the hand-mouth gesture. A ray of hope. "Do people sometimes do that?" I asked. I was assured that there was nothing strange about doing it, and that they thought I would be a nice guy if I did it. I wasn't honestly interested in looking like a "nice guy." I just didn't want to be a "bad guy."

I have to tell you that I went through a few changes as I walked out of that mall with my doggy bag. One of them: "Well, look at you, going out to feed the poor kids of Manila." Fuck. As I exited the mall I stopped for a minute and had a smoke. Then I made my way to the street. I stopped for a moment as some cars passed. Just as I was about to cross the street, a little girl, about 6 or 7-years old, filthy, no shoes, tugged on my arm. When I looked down at her she gestured towards her mouth. I handed her the bag. "There's good food in there," I said. She smiled and said "thank you." "No," I said. "Thank you".

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

At an Intersection

I thought I had a few more years before the "Daddy, you're an embarrassment!" phase, but it's begun. I don't mind waiting it out.