Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mad Men

On Saturday I started watching season 1 of Mad Men. I just finished it this evening. Now I know what everyone's been talking about. I like it. Very much. In fact, I'd almost forgotten that a straight-forward, gimmick-free TV drama could be this good.

I suppose some might say that it's a period piece, which can be its own kind of gimmick. But I'm not buying any of that. Mad Men may take place ever-so-slightly beyond my memory's fingertips, but I was alive then and I have memories of other people's memories... Period piece my ass...

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park: Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students

Kagoshima Aquarium: Crab

Yeah, it's as big as it looks.

Friday, August 27, 2010

TV Eye

I haven't posted any Iggy for a while...

Somewhat "square" presentation. Beats the shit out of American Idol...


Sunflower Kirishima: Bon Voyage!

For the first leg of the trip we took a few weeks ago we had to take a two-hour drive to Shibushi in Kagoshima in order to drive onto a car ferry (the Sunflower Kirishima) for an overnight trip to Osaka. It's actually possible to take a similar ferry ride from here in Miyazaki, but that ferry was booked solid when we (i.e. my wife) were planning the trip.

This was the part of the trip I was looking forward to the most. I really enjoy being out on the water, and this was my first overnight trip on a ship since crossing the Atlantic with my mother when I was about 2 or 3 years old (we were going to live in Germany for a few years). It's not possible for me to become bored while traveling on water. I wasn't bored this time.

The Sunflower Kirishima is a pretty big ship, and we had our own private room. Just like in Titanic! I joked to my wife. I wandered around for hours, smoking cigarettes and taking pictures. That's what I call "relaxing"!

Later in the evening I wandered down to a common area where there were vending machines and a smoking room. The vending machines served beer and shochu. (Have I ever mentioned what an absolutely civilized place Japan is?) I smoked some cigarettes and drank a couple of beers between my wanderings of the outside decks. Each time I came inside to get a beer I noticed a couple of older Japanese guys sitting by the vending machines drinking and talking. About when I had decided to get my last beer and make my last rounds of the ship, I returned to the vending machine area. After getting my beer, I glanced over at the two Japanese guys, who were still there drinking and talking. As soon as they noticed me looking in their direction they motioned for me to go over and join them. Now, normally I'm a bit reticent about getting into conversations with Japanese people I don't know, mainly because of the horrid state of my ability in the language. One of the wondrous properties of alcohol, however, is that it allows one to wax loquacious in pretty much any damned language you'd care to mention, so I went right over and plonked myself into a chair...

We must have talked for a while (about what, I don't actually remember), because the sun was coming up as I stumbled back to the room where my wife and daughter were sleeping. I vaguely recall (probably a dream?) some angry words from my wife. It seemed that I had no sooner put my head on the pillow when my daughter was shaking me, saying, "Wake up Daddy! We're in Osaka! Let's go have fun at Universal Studios!"

Yes, I thought to myself. Let's go have fun at Universal Studios...

Self-Portrait (Not Mine)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mountain Pirates

Seen at Irori Sanzoku in the Shimonoseki region of Yamaguchi Prefecture on our recent trip. We had some incredibly delicious grilled chicken at an outdoor restaurant in a mountain forest. Avast!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Unrelated Segments

Hmm... Let's see... I need some tunes for this... Yeah, OK, Devo again...
For the past two days I've spent my afternoons at the beach with my daughter. At almost 10 pm on a Saturday, I'm exhausted. Yesterday we found an unsupervised stretch of beach that has some nice waves coming in to the shore beginning mid-afternoon. They're not really big enough to interest the surfers, but for little girls and their dads... I wonder if it's just my kid, or do girls (and boys?) all over the world, having discovered something fun (waves), find it necessary to indulge that pleasure, to the exclusion of anything else, until Dad has had enough (after, like, several hours) and then has to put on the black hat of parenthood and point out that, hey, it's been about a week since we've eaten or slept (kids have no concept of time, so you can get all hyperbolic on their asses), let's go? [Grammar Nazis are advised to re-read that sentence before questioning the question mark at the end. Dig? Hmm... "Questioning the question mark?" There's a paper there...] Anyway, after two consecutive days at the beach with my kid we come home this evening and my wife gets annoyed with my "beer magnetism." Beer magnetism is when you walk in the door and your beer flies out of the fridge to greet you. Every one of them. In rare cases various other, non-tinned, types of alcohol have been known to show similar properties. You walk in the door and they fly through the room and greet you. They say, "Hi Rick, you look thirsty. Have a drink!" [Note: They might not call you "Rick" if that isn't your name.] Some (i.e. wives) might be skeptical of this scientifically proven phenomenon. But the fact that it's true means that it's both scientific and proven. So there. Anyway, I love my beer coat. It cools me off in the heat. It quenches my thirst. And it washes down potato chips like nothing else ever could.
The recent stuff about the (ahem) "Ground Zero Mosque" has got me to thinking: I don't live in New York, should I be concerned about this, and if so, should anyone in the whole fucking universe give a shit about my opinion? [For those who may need help: the answer is NO.]
Some time ago I promised a couple of (well, OK, two of the five) readers of this blog I would say something about the final episode of Lost. Here goes. I think the final show did a pretty good job of tying things up for most people. I'm a skeptic and an atheist, and I'm also a bit of an existentialist. I would have been both pleased and shocked to see a major network TV show end with... I don't know. I don't know what the end of life is, so I have no expectations. They didn't write that ending for me. They wrote it for people who expect some sort of afterlife. They did a good job of that. I really liked Lost, but I honestly think the writers had their hands tied (or perhaps tied their own hands) for the ending. We will never get anything done in this world as long as people are pre-occupied with the next world. Sorry, but that's how I see it. Loved the show, though...
I was just informed by my wife that today, further down the coast (i.e. in real surfer territory) a child drowned because of a big wave. I don't know how to say this without sounding like some kind of whack job macho idiot, but it's a fact: I would jump into any sea after my kid, off of any cliff after her, if only to keep her from dying alone. It's my job.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Winston "Scotty" Fitzgerald

My homesickness, when I get it, takes strange forms. I'm disappointed that there are almost no videos of Winston "Scotty" Fitzgerald. He was an old time fiddler my parents used to listen to. Celtic music, of course:

I hear that and the hairs on my arms stand up. My heart begins to pound. It's one minute. Listen!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Guze Jibo Daikannon

On the final leg of our trip last week (Fukuoka to Miyazaki), we passed through Kurume in Fukuoka Prefecture. We were tired and didn't really have any time for sight-seeing because we had to pick up the dog when we got back to Miyazaki. My wife was driving and I was basically zoning out in the back seat when something caught my eye and got me to yelling for my wife to stop the car, now! This is what I saw:

My wife muttered a kind of "oh yeah... I forgot about that," in Japanese (she'd briefly lived in Kurume a long time ago) and, as I mentioned, we didn't have time for a real visit, but I did jump out of the car long enough to get these pics.

I later found out that the statue in the above pics is, at 62 meters, among the tallest in the world. It's of a type of Buddhist artwork generally known as Kannon (personifying compassion), and more specifically Jibo Kannon ("compassionate mother"). Apparently Kannon is generally considered male among Buddhists in India, Tibet and Southeast Asia, but feminized forms became somewhat common in China and Japan from the 11th-12th centuries. In Japan, the feminine form makes Kannon more compatible with Shinto, in which reverence for the female element has a long history.

There's also an interesting side note to this. The image of the "compassionate mother" and her baby also has a long tradition in Christian iconography. In Japan, during the Tokugawa (Edo) Period (1603-1868), there was a ban on/persecution of Christianity. During this period hidden Christians began disguising statues of the Virgin Mary as Kannon. These became known as Maria Kannon. [There's more info at the links. Dig in!]

Anyway, the next time I go to Costco in Fukuoka, I'll try to make a side-trip and see if I can get some better pictures of this statue. After all, there's more to life than just buying stuff...

On Deck

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Miyajima (2): In Black and White


I've seen this sign posted on other sites before, but in case you haven't seen it, here's my version:

Taken on Universal City Walk just outside Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park: A-Bomb Dome

We went to quite a few spots on our recent holiday, and I took a crapload of pictures. It would probably take me a couple of weeks to write about and post all the pics I'd like to, but I've decided against doing any kind of running, blow-by-blow kind of travelogue. Instead, I'm just going to jump around and post stuff as I feel like posting it--pretty much randomly. When I'm finished with everything, anyone who wants to put the pieces together can just click the tags at the end of individual posts. This also lets me post about other stuff as it happens along.

On Monday of this week we visited the Peace Memorial Park in the city of Hiroshima. It was my second time there, and I've also visited a similar memorial in Nagasaki a couple of times. (I assume that I don't have to explain the significance of these places to anyone, especially today.) Visually, there's a real contrast in these two cities. Hiroshima has a real "modern" look to it (I don't mean that as some kind of sly joke BTW), while I imagine Nagasaki doesn't look so different than it did 65 years ago. And, although this is nothing more than a personal impression, the cities, their people, and how they've dealt (and continue to deal with) the singular events that took place at the end of WWII have a character of their own. Nagasaki strikes me as a much more easy-going place that seems to have come to terms with the past--at least as well as could be expected of a place that was destroyed by a nuclear bomb, and still has people there who remember it. Hiroshima on the other hand still seems still to be grappling with the past. It has adopted a somewhat political anti-nuclear stance and has made the eradication of nuclear weapons its mission. Again, these are just the impressions of an outsider who has spent a bit of time in both places.

I'm not personally very big on dwelling much on the past. What's done is done, time to move on, blah, blah, blah. That's my regular schtick. I do think, though, that there are devastating events that need to be "remembered". Back in Canada, every November when Remembrance Day rolled around, there were always people whining about the "old farts" putting on their old uniforms and medals and telling their old war stories and making a big deal out of the past. But anyone who's ever sat down and spent a few hours with one (or more) of these "old farts" and listened to some of their stories soon realizes one thing: these guys don't "remember" these events; they can't forget them. Listening to some guy tell you about how, when he was 18, he was pushed out of an airplane in the black of night, with bombs exploding around him, bullets winging past him, his friends screaming, while he's heading down towards fuck knows what kind of even worse horror--listening to this you begin to get the picture. I can only speak for myself, but this kind of "remembering" has a lot more impact than some prick in a suit on the TV telling me that "war is bad." No fucking shit.

So, we're at the park commemorating the first-fucking-time-in-history-ever dropping of a nuclear bomb on people. It has my attention. There are several monuments in the park, and I'll be posting some pics of a few. The one below is of the "A-Bomb Dome." This structure was almost directly under the hypo-center of the bomb when it exploded. It was one of the few structures in the entire city that wasn't completely obliterated. There's also a fairly large museum attached to the park. It's got pictures of stuff that was blown up, it's got actual stuff that was blown up, it's got stuff that people were wearing when they were blown up... I probably could have taken a few pictures if I'd wanted. I didn't want to. There are also a lot of written recollections of people who actually lived through the blast. They all remember exactly what they were doing when hell rained down on the earth. Like the boy who was about to trap a butterfly in his net when suddenly there was a flash... All the rock concerts with all the great bands in the world proclaiming "no nukes" are nothing more than (possibly great) rock concerts. One person listening to one person "remembering" what he can't forget...

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Miyajima (1)

Just returned a few hours ago from the trip I mentioned a couple of posts ago. I'm only going to do a quick pic-post this evening because I'm tired and have some beer to drink and am still officially on holiday tomorrow (although I will probably have to go in to work for a bit tomorrow afternoon).

We arrived on Miyajima late Sunday afternoon. This place has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and with good reason. It was my second time here, but the first since I've started taking pictures. I quickly became obsessed with it and couldn't stop snapping.

In late afternoon the sun is shining almost directly into your camera from just about any angle (the tides don't help much). I'll post some pics later, but they'll probably be mostly black and whites. At night, well, shots at night are always a roll of the dice for those of us who don't have pro-gear. I got a few that might be OK. You'll see those later.

For the shot below I got up at about 6 a.m. (our hotel was about a 10 minute walk away). There will be more of these coming as well. Anyway, for now, I kinda liked this one: