Saturday, December 30, 2006

New Year's in Japan

Coming, as I do, from a relatively fun-loving country (make your pitiful attempts at jokes here...!), I have to say that there is one Japanese holiday that I absolutely dread--New Year's. There 's very little I can say that can convey to you the utter boredom involved in ushering in the new year in Japan. Christmas in Japan, at least, has the benefit of being fucked-up and surreal. New Year's is the equivalent of watching paint dry, of reading your shoes waiting for the dentist to see you, of using your watch to "pace" the clock on the wall...

How wonderful that the one night of the year that I really would like to get pissed is the most deadly serious of occasions here. Yeah, they all sit home watching some stupid, worthless, shit-eating excuse for a talent show on NHK, then go to the local shrine and pray for good luck at pachinko or something. Oh yeah, the more "religious" of the Japanese will stay up and watch the first sunrise of the (er, western) new year. If you think I'm being intolerant of Japanese "religion", then let me be the first to inform you: the Japanese have only the facade of a religion, so there's really nothing to insult.

I guess I caught a bit of a break this year when the "powers that be" (that would be anyone but me) decided we would go to Tokyo this year to visit my wife's sister and her family. In the normal world we would be planning a trip to have a party on New Year's Eve in one of the biggest cities in the world. In my world, we're going on Jan. 1st. We'll spend New Year's Eve here at home in Miyazaki. I've caught a slight break here, also, because we usually go to the in-laws' place in the country, which means no cable and no internet. At least tomorrow I can check my fantasy hockey stats...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

It's a Man's Man's Man's World

James Brown has died. I guess people will argue about James Brown, the man. There can be no argument about James Brown, the artist.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Etc.

There's no way I can top Eli's choice for a Christmas music video, so I won't even try. Here's Ozzy and Jessica Simpson:

Have fun and be safe, everyone!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Great Drum Fills, Pt. 2

There's really not much out there these days for guys like me who long for new bands with that "classic" rock sound. The last really good classic rock band to come along were Black Crowes. I've heard flashes of brilliance elsewhere, but only momentarily. It's not that I've got anything against what they call "rock" music these days, mind you. Nirvana and the whole "alt rock" thing have done a lot literally keeping rock music alive during the reign of rap/hip hop (a genre that, when it's good, is very good, but which these days seems to be suffering a worse case of bloat than rock did in the pre-punk days). What has always been lacking, to my mind, with the newer generation of rockers, is a certain flashiness, the strut that makes rock rock. Why the hell don't these guys play like whether or not they get laid tonight depends upon it? For fuck's sake, can anybody play a guitar solo anymore? Yeah, I know I sound like an old fart, and I am, but mark my words (sorry, I couldn't resist), this "pretend" rock 'n' roll will lead to the end of barroom brawls and teenage pregnancy... er, whatever.

I was very pleased a couple of weeks ago to discover the band Army of Anyone. A "supergroup" in the same way as Audioslave (except a lot less annoying), Army of Anyone consists of former members of Stone Temple Pilots and Filter, with a very special ingredient: drummer Ray Luzier, who's perhaps best known for his work with David Lee Roth (of Van Halen fame). Whoa! These guys ain't kids, kids! They play rock like men(you can take that however you like, I don't really care). Ray Luzier plays drums like there is no tomorrow! If anything I've said here makes any sense to you, please check these guys out. Tonight's great drum fill:
Drummer: Ray Luzier
Group: Army of Anyone
Album: Army of Anyone
Great Drum Fill: In the song "Goodbye", at about the 3 minute 10 second mark, Luzier launches into what is really a series of drum fills, the likes of which I haven't heard on a rock album for a long time. You'll hear other, more technically proficient stuff. You'll here other, more popular stuff. You won't hear anything better.


[Updated 10/4/13: You'll find the drum fill at the 3:15 mark of the clip below.]

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Scared of Santa

Can you remember your first face to face encounter with Santa? There's a good chance that, unlike most kids who were happy to meet Santa and later grew up to be normal people, you were traumatized by the experience and are still mentally and emotionally scarred from "sitting on Santa's lap".

The Scared of Santa Gallery [link via John's Universe] is a celebration of that traumatic moment in the lives of many children when, contrary to their expectations, Santa scared the living shit out of them. A couple of samples:

Aww, now isn't this just a scene right out of a Rockwell painting? A jolly, smiling Santa and three terror-stricken kids doing their damnedest to get the hell outta there.

Occasionally it might happen that a young child is perfectly justified in being a little nervous about Santa. The Santa in this photo is clearly wrong somehow, don't you think? The mother's smile is evidence of a deep-seated pathology no doubt caused in childhood by her own traumatic Santa encounter.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas in Japan, Factoid #2: The Colonel's Recipe for Christmas Cheer!

[Note: I'm truly sorry about the poor quality of the photo on the right. You see, for one thing it was taken with my cell phone. For another, I was a bit rushed while taking it because several people were looking at me like I was some kind of dork who'd never seen Col. Sanders before. They're right about the dork part, but I actually knew who Col. Sanders was before I came to Japan...]

Many people will try to tell you that there's no traditional Christmas meal in Japan, but I'm here to tell you that they are all damned liars. I know for a fact that every single person in Japan has Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas Eve. You see, they have no ovens in their houses with which to cook turkey. And turkeys are big, whereas pieces of the Colonel's secret recipe chicken are small, and the Japanese like small things (because they themselves are small). Furthermore, anyone caught not eating KFC on Christmas Eve is hauled out of his house and shot in the street for blaspheming the holy spirit of Christmas. You don't fuck around with the Japanese when it comes to holy days...

Viagra Antidote?

[Anyone in Japan has seen this before. It's the name of a "recycle shop" (a second-hand store).]

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas in Japan, Factoid #1: Christmas Cake

At Christmas time the Japanese like to eat something called "Christmas cake". This cake is basically a sponge cake covered with whipped cream and topped with strawberries (and assorted "Christmas-y" decorations). If you ask a typical Japanese (and believe me folks, we here at Kyklops have interviewed untold millions in our quest to present you, our valuable readers, with the truth) she'll tell you that, in much the same way as driving an SUV helps one get closer to nature, eating Christmas cake is a deep, meaningful experience for her, a way for her to truly understand the meaning of Christmas. As far as deep, Christmas-y experiences in Japan go, eating Christmas cake probably lies somewhere between chowing down on the traditional Japanese Christmas meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken and boinking your boyfriend/girlfriend at a "love hotel" on Christmas Eve (we'll bring you more on these in future factoids).

Many foreigners seem to be a bit "out of sorts" around Christmas time in Japan, but thanks to Christmas cake and other Japanese Christmas traditions, this gaijin feels right at home. Yes, in Japan I can fully experience Christmas the way it was meant to be...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Great Drum Fills, Pt.1

Few (if any) of you know that I used to enjoy the lofty status of a rock drummer. That's right, I wasn't always a lowly university "professor" (someday I'll explain those quotes). I once had a job that was at least tangentially related to human happiness.
In the spirit of celebrating the rock drummer, I give you (in no particular order) Great Drum Fills, Pt.1:
Drummer: Keith Moon
Group: The Who
Album: Who's Next
Great Drum Fill: (It's Keith fucking Moon, do you need a fucking list?!?!) In "Baba O' Riley", after the lines "Don't cry, don't raise your eye, it's only teenage wasteland", Keith Moon (official Kyklops-sanctioned rock "god") blats out a drum fill that will live forever in the annals of rock.


[Updated 10/4/13: You'll find the drum fill at the 2:30 mark of the clip below.]

Friday, December 15, 2006

"Santa" Post Script

Thanks to a well-placed link from James at Japan Probe, my "Santa" post generated more page hits in two days than I usually get in two or three weeks. Somehow my story also made its way to a blog, Table of Malcontents. As far as blogs go, I'm not talking huge numbers here--a couple hundred visitors in two days. Still, that's a huge spike for this humble site. Witness the chart below:

Heh, yeah, before that link from Japan Probe it was basically family members and a few ex-students (psychos who happen to be stalking me) that visited this little blog. I have to confess, now that hundreds of people have read my blog, I'm feeling a little pressure to "perform", to keep those page hits a-comin'. Well, in case any of my loyal "old guard" readers are worried about the high standards of this blog succumbing to the temptation to sacrifice quality for numbers, I hereby offer this solemn pledge:
I, Kyklops, hereby do solemnly swear to my loyal readership that I shall:
--never make gratuitous posts about "Nude Japanese Girls!!!"
--generally refrain from any mention of "Japanese Pornography!!!" (except in the context of stories dealing with "Strange Sexual Habits of the Japanese!!!")
--never write the phrase "Japanese Girls Want Your White Ass!!!"
--make no mention of the abomination known as "Kitty-chan"

This is my solemn pledge to you, my dear readers. For you are the wind beneath my wings...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I Saw Mommy Kissing a Gaijin Underneath the Mistletoe Last Night

Now that the horror of it all is a couple of days behind, me I guess I can talk about it a bit...

One of the shitty things about living in Japan (or Miyazaki, at any rate) is that the Japanese seem to think that there are some jobs best left to us foreigners. Naturally enough, I guess, this includes stuff like being Santa Claus who, after all, ain't no Japanese. Now, you might be asking yourself, "yeah, but what does this have to do with my buddy Kyklops?" Well, in a perfect world it wouldn't have a fucking thing to do with me, but we all know the world ain't perfect, right? As some of you may know, I happen to have a four-year-old daughter. She attends kindergarten here in Miyazaki. Her kindergarten had a kind of year-end pageant this past Sunday. Each year Santa Claus visits the kids and delivers presents to them. I'm a gaijin. Santa is a gaijin. They asked me to be Santa...

The first few minutes went smoothly enough. I made my grand entrance into the hall ringing a bell and carrying a sack of presents and then made my way to the stage. While I was walking I could feel my "stomach" starting to slide down one leg of this one-piece outfit I was wearing, so I had to pause occasionally and nonchalantly (heh, yeah, right) try to "fix" myself. This perhaps sounds easier to do than it actually was. Anyway, I managed to arrive on-stage with my "stomach" intact and deliver the presents to the headmaster of the kindergarten. So far, so good, I thought. But then things got weird...

I've said here before that my Japanese ability is not very good. It's shit, in fact. Up to this point everything had been going according to script. Suddenly someone gets the bright idea to let a couple of the kids ask Santa some questions. This was definitely not in the script, but I thought maybe I could handle some simple questions in Japanese from the kids. The first kid asked me (Santa) where I was from. Hah! Easy one, I thought, as I answered in perfect Japanese that I was from the North Pole. The next one asked me why I only came at night. I thought at the time that I had done a reasonably good job of saying that I came at night because that's when little kids are sleeping. Later, my wife said that she wasn't really sure what I had said, but that it had sounded something like, "at night I get high so I can read the minds of little children and take their presents away." As you can imagine, "question period" came to an abrupt end, and after a quick farewell jolly old St. Nick was ushered off the stage...

You know, it would be nice to go through an entire day here without making someone think I'm a complete fucking idiot. On the bright side, maybe they won't ask me next year...

Monday, December 11, 2006


It's not like we really needed it or anything, but... Another reason not to have unprotected sex?

Don't forget your shower cap...
[I got a million of 'em...]

Japan-related Sites

Regular visitors may have noticed that I haven't been posting much Japan-specific stuff lately. There are a number of reasons for this, the primary one probably being the simple fact that I'm interested in too many things and don't want to confine myself to just one of them. There's also the fact that there are several sites posting full-time about Japan and in much more depth than I could ever be bothered to get into on any topic (I'm interested in a lot of things, but not that interested in any one thing!). This doesn't mean that I'm going to stop posting about Japan altogether, just less frequently, and on those occasions probably on a more personal level. And of course if I run into any of the ever-popular "weird stuff about Japan" that maybe other sites have missed, or that you simply must see, I'll consider myself duty-bound to post it here.

One site that I've recently been visiting every day is Japan Probe. James (the Admin) has a good balance of links to news stories, weird stuff, videos, and original material.
Another interesting site is Trans-Pacific Radio. These guys also have a variety of news-centered content, but perhaps the distinguishing feature of this site is their "TPR News" podcasts.
Both are worth checking out if you're interested in a more detailed, in-depth look at Japan and Japan-related issues.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Ultra Light

Damn, I could really use a smoke right now. Quitting smoking sucks. I'll stick with it, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else. In fact, I wouldn't recommend starting, either.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Italian Time-keeping

Via Chez, a very funny video. Maybe not everyone has the same sense of humor as me (or Chez), but I laughed so hard and uncontrollably at the "punchline" of this video that a co-worker in the next office came over to see if I was ok. It's a bit "earthy", shall we say, but I don't think any of my regular readers will be offended...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Demon Fuzz: Afreaka!

2005 Re-issue of an unheralded 1970 classic, with three bonus tracks. I can't say enough about how much I like this album. It was all I listened to in my car for a month when I first got it. Hmm... where to begin? From the liner notes: "Imagine a cross between the Latin rock of Santana and the funky progressions of Sly, slow it down a little, and that's about where you'll find Demon Fuzz." But really, there's more. Throw in some Osibisa, Meters, Funkadelic, very early Chicago, and a smidgen of early prog. It adds up to a delicious funky/jazzy/psychedelic blend of mind-blowing, breakbeat-laden glory. Apparently a sampling staple of UK DJs. Listen to tracks like "Disillusioned" and "Another Country" and hear the birth of 'trip-hop'!
You can listen to samples here (All Music Guide).

[UPDATE 09/07/15: You can listen to a complete song here.]

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Apparently, just as I've completed my 7th smoke-free week, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has launched an "anti-smoking wonder pill". Pfizer is the same company that developed Viagra (er, so I've just read). I wonder if anyone is taking both medications...? Surely you can see the joke potential here. Umm, assuming that you've ever smoked and..., oh, never mind...