Saturday, August 29, 2009

Some More Tetrapods

Old Man

[Yeah, we knew the old bastard couldn't last a Friday night without posting some lame-ass old crap...]

It may shock some readers to know that I'm actually not old enough to have been around back during the days when folkies congregated in coffee shops. I've heard about such things, though. And being a rocker at heart, I've never been much into the singer/songwriter thing generally. That type generally reminds me of wankers at parties who'd turn off the stereo in order to inflict me (yes, me--it was the 70's, right?) with their notions of love and all that other boring shit. Attention whores.

There were exceptions, though, to things as I imagined them. There were (and are) a handful of people who could keep me nailed to a seat for an hour or two with nothing more than a guitar or piano and their own voices. The fact that most of that very small group come from Canada is, to me, less a sign of any kind of Canadian superiority in these things than it is a sign of how well Canadians know American stuff. (There. The secret's out. I'm a traitor to Canada! I won't be asking for asylum In America, though. I'm in Japan! Hahaha!)

Where was I? Oh yeah. Neil Young. I'm afraid if you don't like Neil Young, then you truly are a wanker of some sort (don't ask me which--you think I'm some kind of wanker expert, or something?). There has been a shitload of old Neil Young performances released in the last couple of years. I'm not sure what this video is taken from, but it's very high quality. It's also incredibly stunning.

Remember Neil Young's voice?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Black River Killer

Wow. Good video, excellent song, very good band. I just "discovered" Blitzen Trapper this week. (Yeah, I'm a bit of a slow geezer, but I get there eventually.)

Very dark tune, reminds me a bit of No Country for Old Men (which was a very dark, excellent movie). This is from their 2008 album Furr. Just in case I'm not the last guy on the planet to have heard this, check it out:

The Hazards of Love

Although The Decemberists are not really my usual kind of thing, I've been listening to and following them for about 5 years now. As a friend put it to me recently, they don't seem capable of making a bad album, just some that are a little better than others. Maybe a folk band at their core, they manage to cover a lot of ground between very catchy pop, prog, and even folk-metal (The Tain EP, which is how I initially discovered them).

Here's a nice live recording of "The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All)" from their 2009 album The Hazards of Love:

Some Tetrapods

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Last week I had a brief post about Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis/The Creation Museum) coming to Japan to spread the creationist/ID gospel.

By a strange coincidence...

The other night I went to the convenience store with my daughter to pick up some ice cream. On the way back she surprised me a bit by suddenly asking me how come there are no dinosaurs any more. After a bit of discussion on the topic, she then turned to the matter of "monkeys" and humans (she's only six so, like a lot of grown-up people, she's still a bit fuzzy on the monkey/ape distinction). "Did people come from monkeys?" she asked. "How?" She seemed satisfied with my very brief and very basic version of natural selection/evolution, but it's clear to me that I'm going to have to brush up a bit, and fast!

I'm absolutely thrilled to hear her ask these kinds of questions. I let her know it, too. (I think she gets a kick out of asking me stuff, as well.)


Returning to Mr. Ham, this week we find him "Reporting from Japan." Here's the first thing he writes:
As I looked out of my hotel room in Tokyo on Friday morning, I thought of the 13 million people or so who live in Tokyo—and the 130 million who live in all of Japan—most of whom do not know the Lord.

Caught up in Shintoism and Buddhism, Japan has probably only 0.1 percent Christians.
The guy has just traveled halfway around the world to Tokyo (Tokyo!), and he can't even step out of his own blinkered worldview long enough to wonder just how it is that the Japanese have managed to do so much with nary a thought of Jay-sus. What a fucking hick.

In fact Ham has nothing of substance to say about Japan at all, and shows not even the slightest interest in the Japanese as Japanese. To him they are only pagans or potential Christians, nothing more or less. (I'd express in more detail how contemptible I find this idiot to be, but I've already sworn once, and I'm trying to cut down.)

At the end of Ham's "report," he informs us that:
Making such presentations is very tiring for the translator and the presenter. I have to summarize the concepts but keep the talk flowing logically. The translator then has to put it in sentences that make sense—and it is a difficult job when I use terms that are a little out of the ordinary for such meetings (e.g., natural selection, genetics, mutations, etc.).
Read that again, friends, and tell me if it doesn't sound like a bunch of gibberish. Granted, it's no doubt difficult to give a clear presentation through a translator. But, how on earth could terms such as "natural selection, genetics, mutations, etc." be viewed as "a little out of the ordinary" in a discussion ostensibly trying to disprove "natural selection, genetics, mutations, etc."? What kind of double-talk is this?

Or (again!), does Ham somehow think the concepts themselves are beyond the ken of the Japanese, that they don't even have the vocabulary to discuss them? Pathetic. That's all I have to say about that.


My little girl knows the English names of all the planets, and can recite them in order. She understands what a planet is, and that the earth is a planet, so the idea of something big hitting the earth and messing things up, while maybe a little scary, doesn't seem impossible to her. She knows that the stars are suns, only very far away. She knows that Japan is a country, and that there are other countries, some far away. She's seen a couple of them herself, with her own eyes! She knows that in Canada people speak differently and often do things differently than people in Japan.

At six years old she's already an infinitely more interesting person than an idiot like Ken Ham.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Back to Normal

Tracks in Sand

Some Summers They Drop Like Flys

Required viewing. Seriously, if you don't know Dirty Three from Australia, you've gotta watch this. There's this kinda hip music going around these days called "post rock." These guys have been doing it since, like, forever.


Wake Up

Sometimes I worry that maybe I give the impression that I think all "new" music sucks, or something. Quite the contrary, actually. I like a lot of new bands, new albums, etc. The Arcade Fire's Funeral was, I think, an outstanding album. Probably one of the best made the year it came out. Unfortunately, for me, I'm afraid this band will go down with Television (Marquee Moon), Gang of Four (Entertainment!), and other groups whose first albums were, for me, the climax of their careers. The first album had such an impact on me that anything else they do just seems like shit. I still love the first album, though...

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Shot in the Arm

After spending two weeks in Tokyo with relatives, my little girl is coming home tomorrow. Yeah, it's been nice having a bit of extra time to relax in the evenings after work. But, honestly, things have been a bit dull around here the past couple of weeks.

I'm a bit nervous, though, about seeing her tomorrow. Little kids have this plasticity about them that, almost literally, allows them on a daily basis to morph into different people. It's easy (well, relatively easy!) to deal with when you see them every day. After two weeks (in Tokyo!), though, I have no idea whom I'm going to meet at the airport tomorrow. Well, she's only six, so she probably won't come back looking like this, or anything. Still...

I remember the last time I went two weeks without seeing my daughter (last year). She'd gone into the countryside of Miyazaki to spend time with her grandparents and relatives visiting from Tokyo. When she came back home, the first thing she did upon seeing me was to give me a big hug and then punch me in the arm! I almost burst into tears on the spot. It was a token of love that I will never forget.

Cause I Sez So

I'm not entirely sure, but I think David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain might be the only surviving members of The New York Dolls. Nice to see they're still rockin'. And in style, too. This is from their 2009 album, Cause I Sez So:

Oh yeah!

Once Bitten Twice Shy

I'm in a YouTube-y kinda mood tonight. I'm pretty sure I've posted this before, but you can never have too much of a good thing.

Ian Hunter is about 70 now, and he's still cranking out good albums. His latest, Man Overboard, is no exception.

Ian was a bit younger when this was made, and Mick Ronson was still alive. Great live performance of a classic tune.


Two Birds...


Wayne County and the Electric Chairs:

I struggle sometimes, wondering: am I getting old, or is everything else just getting lame?

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Please Show ID at the Door

This oughta be good. Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis (the ID/creationist group behind the Creation Museum), is coming to Japan!

From AiG's website:
At the end of this week, I will be flying to Japan to speak six times Friday and Saturday. This visit is under the auspices of AiG’s Worldwide division and is for the purpose of taping and producing videos of our lectures in the Japanese language [...]
Each year we try to visit one country for the express purpose of having a number of our basic presentations translated into the native language of that country [...]
Please pray for these lectures in Japan [..].
Mr. Ham even has a spiffy PowerPoint presentation all ready and set to go. Here's a sample slide:

[Hat tip: J-Walk helpfully points out that "he left out CON, CRAZY, and COO-COO."]

While the Japanese will no doubt be impressed by the effort Mr. Ham put into making his PowerPoint slides, if he really wants to win them over, I think a cute-looking mascot would probably go a lot further.

I found this comment (from the article) amusing:
In a few days, I will try to send some photographs (assuming good Internet access) and reports on the conference.
"Assuming good internet access"? Mr. Ham, the entire developed world has better internet access than you do. You do know that Japan is a developed country, right? Or, wait, are you coming over to show us the wonders of your modern civilization and its "science" and religion? Gambatte, Mr. Ham.

Oh, and while you're here, don't forget to check out Christ's Tomb!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


With my daughter still visiting relatives in Tokyo and my wife gone up to her hometown for some kind of school reunion, I've just been sort of kicking around the joint this weekend. I've been in Japan too long now to seriously consider having a drink before dinner (even on days off), and the laundry was all folded and put away (etc.), so earlier today I was feeling a bit out of sorts. I decided to rent a few movies to ease the drudgery of my existence and to kill some time until it was socially acceptable to start drinking (it's that time now, friends!). And I'm here to tell you that, after the crap I've been watching today, I could use a few drinks.

It being the weekend and all, there wasn't much of a selection to choose from down at the local video shop. I ended up coming home with a couple of modern re-makes of classic genre films from the 50's and 60's: The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Haunting. Movie fans will already know that the original versions of both were directed by the great Robert Wise.

[For some reason, my wife has her cell phone set to redirect unanswered calls to our land line at home. I just had to deal (in Japanese) with some drunken woman wondering why the hell I was answering her friend's (my wife's) phone; who the hell was I and what had I done to her friend? It's going to be one of those nights... I'm "fortified," though!]

Where was I...? You know, up until the time they started to really suck, I was always a big fan of horror movies. I got it from my mother, I think. When me and my sisters were kids in Winnipeg, my father often had to leave home as part of his duties in the Canadian Army. In the summer especially, I can remember my mother getting us bathed and into our pyjamas and packing us into the car to go to the drive-in for an all-night horror fest. My sisters were usually asleep halfway through the first movie, but I almost always stayed awake and watched every movie. It's more fun to watch a scary movie with someone else, and those drive-in trips with my mother and (sleeping) sisters are very happy memories for me. Boris Karloff and Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, all those incredible Hammer Film Productions... I tell you, those "B" movies had it all over the dreck served up (mostly by Hollywood) today.

I'll never forget watching Robert Wise's The Haunting on the TV with my mother late one night. My mother had (I think) a pretty good attitude about letting us watch scary stuff when we were kids. If it got too scary we would stop watching. Well, my sisters would stop. I never would. But we're basically talking about 60's monster movies, so there wouldn't normally be much to leave permanent mental scars on a typical kid. I remember when Psycho premiered on TV she forbade me to watch it. Now that I'm a parent myself, it's clear she was absolutely correct in that decision. I'll let my daughter watch almost anything, but there are certain images I don't want her to see at 6-years old. In fact, I'd probably qualify that a bit: there are certain juxtapositions of images I don't really want her to see. A slashing knife and a naked woman in the shower would be high on any list of examples.

Anyway, it's late one night in the 60's and I'm watching The Haunting with my mother. This movie, I think, somehow slipped under her radar. If she'd known how awesomely scary it was going to be, she never would have let me watch it. By the time she had it figured out, she was both too engrossed and too scared shitless to send me to bed. My memory isn't perfect, but I'm pretty sure that we were both holding on to the other several times through the movie. And what a movie! Lesbians! Heh, my mom had to give some creative "glosses" for a couple of my questions early in the movie! Not a drop of blood spilled--a rarity in a horror movie. No actual (or at least proven) ghosts or monsters. My 10-year-old mind was trying to wrap itself around the fact that a) I was scared shitless, and b) there didn't seem to be any actual entity to be scared of. And the sounds! The fucking pounding in the hallways of the house. Christ, that would drive anyone insane! To this day, The Haunting remains the scariest movie I've ever experienced.

Now, it would be unreasonable for me to expect any movie to re-create the experience I've just described. What's disappointing, though, is that the remake of The Haunting doesn't even try. It's just plain boring. Christ, my daughter wouldn't be scared by this movie. I'm sure somebody out there is making good horror movies, but this isn't one of them. Can't Hollywood scare us any more? Or is it that people are just afraid of different things these days? Is being held prisoner by some maniac moralist who forces you to choose between torturing yourself or someone else such a fear these days? [Damn, when stated like that, maybe it is!] Personally, I'm not really into the Saw-type stuff. The old Hammer movies knew where to draw the line at sadism. In fact, the "Gimp" scene in Pulp Fiction was a lot closer to horror than anything in Saw because it had the stink of reality on it. Nobody (at least no sane, balanced individual) imagines some puppet master manipulating them into some horrific situation. We've all opened the wrong door, however...


The other movie I watched today was the re-make of The Day the Earth Stood Still. It sucked, like most recent Hollywood re-makes, like pretty much any recent Hollywood treatment of classic SF. I watched the original of this movie just a couple of weeks ago on the web (for free). The re-make has the unfortunate handicap of having Keanu Reeves playing Klaatu, the alien emissary. Michael Rennie's Klaatu seemed like a guy who'd actually studied Earth and was able to converse with its inhabitants (from children to scientists). Keanu Reeve's Klaatu, even after a gratuitous scene that shows us he has human DNA, arrives on Earth and acts and speaks just like... Keanu Reeves! If there is a more wooden actor in Hollywood, please advise...

The anti-war theme of the original was replaced with an environmental theme. Bleh. You know, I can't talk about this piece of shit any more. It sucked. Hollywood has sucked the life out of so many beloved pieces of SF that it's not even worth focusing on any particular example. I, Robot, I Am Legend (Will Smith is going for the "played in the most crappy SF films" championship--a shame, because he deserves better), Starship Troopers (has no right to claim any kinship with Heinlein; did you know that the novel may have been the first classic SF book to have a black protagonist? ), and on and on.

I grow weary...

Dog Days

Thank You

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Yeah, I'm a sinner. But I'm on holiday right now...

Nina Simone-Sinnerman
Alt. Link

No sinnin' from me for at least a couple of days!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"What this blog is about"

Just for laughs, every once in a while I check out this blog's ranking at Technorati. I see today that this blog has maintained its recent slide into irrelevance and obscurity and is now the 1,121,801st ranked blog on Technorati, with an "authority" of 2.

I'm not especially bothered by this (really, I'm not, I'm not bitter about it at all, OK?), but I guess it's only human to desire a little popularity. I wonder if maybe this blog has an "image" problem. Notice the graphic below:

The first thing anybody sees is "What this blog is about: a bunch of fucking retards." Now, personally, I'd be quite interested in a blog that's about a bunch of fucking retards, but I'm willing to accept that not everyone shares my taste in websites. Perhaps some people might even be offended by the notion of a blog about a bunch of fucking retards. There's no accounting for taste, after all.

So, the problem is clear. One unfortunate tag is giving people the wrong impression about this blog's content (or at least the wrong right impression, or something...). Hmm... What to do?

I know...

Monkey Business

Last month I posted this bit of snark about Ben Stein.

Then the other day I came across this: Pitchman Ben Stein Gets Economist Ben Stein Fired.

I love it when I'm right (it happens so rarely!).

Another Cloud

This one reminds me of some giant monster who's just noticed me...

... an interpretation which no doubt means I'm a sociopath, brought to this sorry condition by the childhood trauma of my mother flushing my dinky toys down the toilet, or something...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Trip to Costco

With the kid away visiting relatives, my wife thought it would be a good opportunity to drive up to the big city (Fukuoka) and do some shopping. She wanted to go to this place that she'd heard about--from friends, TV, the web, I don't know; she wanted to go to Costco. Since I'd never been to a Costco myself, I was interested and agreed to go.

It might seem strange to hear someone from North America say that he's never been to a Costco. Fact is, until my last trip back to Canada a couple of years ago, I'd never even been to a Walmart before. There is, I think, a pretty simple explanation for this. By the time these entities had started becoming common all over North America, I was a) well past the age where I'd be living at home with my folks, b) a poor, struggling student, and (most significantly) c) without a car; anything's possible, I suppose, but taking the bus to Costco seems a bit odd somehow...

And speaking of cars, it was only after living in Japan for a few years that I finally got a driver's license and bought a car. I did these things in Japan the same way any Japanese person would. I even went, like most Japanese, to a driving school here before obtaining my license. Having little or no previous experience to refer to, there was (for me) nothing particularly odd about experiencing these things in a Japanese context.

Anyway, I was talking about Costco...

Home of the 5lb. bag of potato chips.

You can't really tell from the picture above, but there was not nearly enough parking here to accommodate all the shoppers. This is a problem all over Japan. In fact, I'd guess that it's a problem for drivers anywhere outside the US/Canada/Australia, for reasons too obvious to waste space here discussing it or complaining about it.

Of course, before we could go in and start buying things as God Himself designed us to do, we had to become Costco "members." This meant shelling out 4,200 yen before we even set foot in the door. As my wife is filling out the papers, I'm thinking about the gas we used in the 300 kilometer ride from Miyazaki to Fukuoka, and doubling it for the trip back... Thinking about all the stuff that was waiting for me inside, however, kept pushing such practical trivialities from my mind.

I thought it was a nice touch when, having been granted membership and making our way into the place, we were presented with our own jumbo-sized shopping cart. (I looked, but I couldn't find our names emblazoned anywhere on the cart--probably done with micro chips or something these days...)

I've read that the great churches were designed to elicit a big religious WTF! when unsuspecting believers entered them. So too, the Costco's and Walmarts of today fill modern worshipers with a sense of awe and power--economic power, for surely you wouldn't be there if you didn't have any money!

This place didn't disappoint...

As far as the eye can see... Stuff!

Like the guy in Jaws, when he first sees the massive shark and tells his shipmates that they need a bigger boat, I turned to my wife and asked if she thought our shopping cart was big enough. My wife gave me one of those looks that wives have been giving husbands while shopping since time immemorial. I went outside and had a cigarette.

When I went back in my wife was nowhere to be seen, no doubt consumed by a frenzy of consuming. The place had swallowed her up. She was somewhere deep in the bowels of Costco. Well, you get the picture. I couldn't see her anywhere. I decided to wander around and have a look at what was there--all of it, mine for the buying! Hey, that's a good deal on mini DVD's for the video cam. I scoop up a 5 Pack. 3,500 yen for a pair of Levi's!? In my size? I sling them over my shoulder. Whaaat? A two-pack of French's mustard? You can't get that stuff in Miyazaki. I pick it up. OMFG!! A 12 pack of Campbell's chicken noodle soup? For 900 yen!? After about 30 minutes or so I'm beginning to look like some kind of hermit crab, festooned with all manner of consumer goods, stumbling around looking for my wife, who's got the goddamned shopping cart.

When I finally find my wife she gives me an odd kind of look. I'm not sure if it was a look of pity, or a look of contempt. (Nietzsche, you know, thought they were the same thing...) And what does she have in the shopping cart? Some clothes for our daughter, some cleaning supplies, and a small coffee machine (the old one is broken). I slowly begin to walk backwards...

And so ends my tale of our trip to Costco. I got to keep the soup.

Yeah, but is it art?

Done with Mirrors

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Blue Sky Sunset

From a couple of evenings ago.

[Added: Been driving most of the day and I'm too tired to post anything except a lame sunset. Later this week (maybe tomorrow!) I'll tell you about my first visit to Costco in Fukuoka.]

Saturday, August 08, 2009

You Don't See This Every Day

Well, maybe you do. Who am I to say?

[Note: Dirty jokes are not really my blogging area. I only post what I see. But feel free to have a go at it in the comments...]

Friday, August 07, 2009


Something light and cheerful. And the drummer not only sings, he has a full beard! The Soundtrack of Our Lives: a band from Sweden whose album Communion is one of the best of 2009 so far.

[Added: Oops, that's not the drummer, it's the singer playing a cowbell! The singer has a full beard!]

I really like this band and where they're coming from musically. I might add that it would be perfectly fine with me if all music videos were as simple and straightforward as this one (B&W or color, I don't care--show me the band doing "band-ish" things; like playing their fucking instruments...).


Tomorrow our little girl is off to Tokyo for a week visiting family, checking out Disneyland, and (no doubt) generally being spoiled rotten. She's been bouncing off the walls all day in anticipation of her first plane ride alone (well, not really alone--there will be very nice airline staff making sure she's OK from the time we say goodbye till the moment she meets up with relatives). I know she's going to have a lot of fun in Tokyo, and it'll be pretty peaceful around here for the next week. I might even enjoy the first couple of days...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


In my office...


Just sitting here at work eating my lunch and felt a minor earthquake. I wonder how bad it has to be for work to be cancelled...?

Y'all Come Back Now, Ya Hear?

For some reason, this post from last week (on those Evony ads that seem to be all over the web these days) has been responsible for the biggest spike in traffic in the entire history of this humble blog. Yesterday completely smashed my previous single-day record for visitors. (Hey, I'm talking like, way more than 30, OK!? Heh.)

This likely had more to do with the timing of the post than with its actual content. In fact, not one of the hundreds of people who clicked through from Google left a comment, and very few stayed for more than a couple of seconds or checked out anything else on this blog. Of course, the fact that I mocked Evony and anyone who would be interested in it might have something to do with that particular detail.

It's so hard to make friends...

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Vending Machines, No. 74

An Update

I haven't posted anything about our band for a while. We're playing downtown Miyazaki this Sunday for a local festival (Erekocha, for the search-inclined). We continue to improve.

On Music

I caught a few minutes of High Fidelity on TV the other day. I'd seen this movie before, and it's OK, but I thought Nick Hornby's book was much funnier (and more honest). In both cases I found myself identifying pretty strongly with the main character. Really, how can you guys listen to that shit?