Thursday, November 30, 2006

Rock 'n Roll, a Cola War, I can't take it any more...

Raise your hand if you just hummed "We didn't start the fire..."

I happen to be a personal fan of the 1980s, and if you happen to know that Billy Joel song, you probably are too. The other day, Japan presented me with a can of carbonated awesomeness that I haven't laid eyes on since the heady days of "New Coke". I don't know about you, but while Coke and Pepsi have always been tasty ways to simultaneously feed my caffeine and sugar urges, they have always lacked a certain indescribable quality. Despite dominating the beverage market and the vending machines of my life, I always maintained a can shaped hole in my heart for the lost bit player that stood for the small town cola machines of summer holidays. A cola product, if you will, of my lost youth.

And I found it in the strangest of places. In the local foreign food supermarket in the basement of a Shinyurigaoka departmetn store, there it was. Amid a clutter of American Tabasco sauce flavours and British Twinnings tea variants, stuck in between some strange lemon drink and a case of Kool aid, I saw it...

My sweet blue canned youth!

Royal Crown Cola! It seems like it's been since 1905 that I last tasted your yummy, sugary bubbles.

I know we all have things that remind us of our childhoods, and RC Cola is one for me. be a little kid again... back when we had seriously stressful things to deal with, like who we should play with at recess, or what was wrong with jogging pants...or why the hell everyone would start declaring that you liked some girl when you didn't really even know who she was. (Oh, if I could go back and slap some sense into my eighth grade self, man, there would have been some hot PG rated over-the-clothes light petting.)

Of course, one has to remember that the trusty bureaucrats at the Fucked Up Shit Department have been keeping track of various cultural imports. And, after we saw how they dealt with the culinary challenge presented by Korea, we can assume a similarly heavy handed response. Finally, given the amount of nostalgia that is pressed into each and every can of RC Cola, the F.U.S.D. would be well aware that they would have to lay some serious smack down to best RC in the contest to become "Sweet Carbonated Nectar Of My Dreams."

Well, they did just that.

They laid the Smack down, that is.


We can always count on the F.U.S.D. to make wonderfully horrific sentences a cultural necessity.

This, ladies and gentlemen, was the actual line I used to acquire a bottle of this fun for my home collection:

Oh waitress, Can I have some more Smack please? To Go?

English Help:

I always maintained a can shaped hole in my heart
; I always kept a special place for (eg, "remembered") for RC Cola.

the lost bit player: a small company/person that tried to compete against a larger company, but lost.

the heady days of "New Coke": "heady" means exciting, as in "things are going to your head". "New Coke" was a brief experiment by Coca Cola to change the taste of their drink. It was a total failure, and Coke brought out "Coca Cola Classic" soon after.

hot PG rated over-the-clothes light petting: elementary school romantic contact. Probably kissing and not much else.

to Smack (verb) - to hit someone/something, often across the face. It has a connection to gangsta/pimp culture. So, to "lay the smack down" is to hit someone, or more commonly, to assert your authority in an aggressive manner.

a Smack: related to the above, a slap or blow. eg: She gave him a smack for looking at other girls.

some Smack: (uncountable noun) (slang): Heroin, a powerful drug.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Unrelated, but not Unremarkable



I'm posting this because a fellow of mine made something interesting, and this is the only soap-box I have. Also, I want to make fun of him. So there. Deal with it. If you want crazy Japanese stuff, er... come back in a day or two.

The subject of this post is one of my closest friends, and a man I certainly look up to. After all, he's six feet and about thirty two inches tall, so it's hard not to look up to the man. A few years ago, he found himself with a four year liberal arts degree and fewer job prospects then the brochure had promised (sound familiar, any of you?). Anyway, this fellow mustered the guts to go back to school and acquire an education that would lead to actual employment!

So he thought about all of the things he loved, and settled on movies as the top choice. Yep, he went to film school. Not the film school where you sit in a dark room, wear black, watch movies, and comment on how brilliant Orson Welles was. No, he went to the REAL film school, where you get out of the dark room, wear black, make movies, and prove how brilliant Orson Welles was.

/that was said in love. The upcoming short piece is WAAAY more colourful than "Citizen Kane".

Anyway... the fellow's name is Aizick (pronounced like "Issac" or "eye - sack", if you want), has decided to put his technical and directional* skills to work. For subject matter, he decided to go with something he enjoyed, was familar with, and which requires a reasonable amount of work in the special effects department. Also, in the interest of ensuring a wide audience, he was also smart enough to select subject matter that comes ready made with a large viewing audience.


So, any guesses? What subject matter requires special effects, demands action sequences, and includes enough in the way of popular cultural awareness that even a single word or symbol can make all but the tiniest fraction of viewers fully aware of the general setting and background for the story? *

Hmmm.... ok. It's pop culture time. What is today's subject????

Well, I can get you there with two words. Or one picture.

Yeah.... that's right. My boy Aizick put together a mini Star Wars movie. And, it's damn good too, or I wouldn't have felt comfortable mocking his skills so much.

And so, without further blathering from me.... I give you

"Days Laid Waste"

You can also watch a higher quality version at this website:

And... you can feel free to post comments for him on YouTube as well.

Bravo buddy! Way to go! Remember that this is primarily an exercise in production and technical skill, so appreciate it for what it is: a really fun way to enjoy the the process of bringing together a lot of technical skill with a lot of imagination.

Interesting trivia (aka "more blathering that's not really related):

1) If it was *my* sister in the video, she would have been performing in a turtleneck and a snowsuit, no matter how much of a hellion*. I assume she is at university. And I certainly wouldn't be encouraging her to kill people with her tentacles! Sheesh. What kind of older brother are you?

2) Aizick's last name proves that we were meant to be friends, and to balance each other out.

Let's see.... he's tall, relatively slender, and his last name is Grimman. Er... I' named....

3) This film was shot in a park right down the street from my family home north of Toronto.

4) That park is also right behind the hospital where all of the SARS stuff went down the other year.

4b) Yes I was quarantined. Shut up.

5) For the record, the words I was going to use to make the star wars connection (before I thought of using a picture) were: 1) Lightsaber, 2) The Force, 3) Jedi, 4) George Lucas

*English notes:

directional(adj): related to direction. Using it here is a joke, to make it rhyme with "technical". The correct word for planning and organizing the various camera shots and actors in a film is "directing".

hellion[hel-yuhn] (n): Someone who is dangerous and out of control. My sister probably isn't, but I like to make fun of her too.

popular cultural awareness: Pop Culture is the stuff that everyone knows. The things the mass media cover. Things like "The Simpsons", or "SMAP" in Japan. Tom Cruise and his ilk are in the pop culture "landscape" just about everywhere. People are aware of Star Wars practically eveywhere that movies are watched.

The basic meaning of the huge sentence that "popular cultural awareness" is taken from is: "Lots of people will know things about Aizick's movie because Star Wars is famous."

Grimman: "Grim" means sad and serious. The opposite of "Merry". Aizick isn't really a Grim man, but he sure is a Grimman!

/Oh... it's so very sweet to make that joke about someone else. If only we'd had a friend named Ilovebuttseckswiththeoddman.... I'd never have heard a single "You married a man?!" joke during all of elementary school.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I came home on a relatively cold day a little while ago, and I had a startling realization.

I think the "Foot Clan" was inspired by Japan.

Not in the way you think... that the fictional Foot Clan, enemies of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and Casey Jones) are based on an ancient Ninjutsu society. I'll admit that it's...possible.

But this is for real!

I mean.... I think that their appearances were probably dreamed up during the annual fall "cold" season in Japan.

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Check it out! Shredder was definitely inspired by a sick day.

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April O'Neal will go out with me if look this good. Yeah baby.

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I'm a deadly man, so watch out! My kung flu is strong!

Confused? Check this out: TMNT's Foot Clan.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Do Canadians cry maple syrup? Very Maybe.

Sometimes, you get a chance to meet someone who is truly hilarious. My ego and I consider ourselves to be a rather humourous *sometimes*, but these people go well beyond "funny". I'm not about to hurt feelings or launch careers by naming names, but you can rest easy, dear reader, as you are at or near the top of list, (or will be when I meet you). Still, over the last year or so, I have enjoyed spending time with a certain man of inordinate comic talent. He's not just funny, ladies and gentlemen, he is a master of inter-cultural comic timing, slightly limited vocabulary and more slapstick than you could shake charlie chaplin holding a rubber chicken at. I'm a big fan of the oversell, but it's hard to do justice to the original. Let's just say I pray that I have a video camera on the day he finds a banana peel on the ground.

Some time ago, I promised that you'd hear about this man... so.... without further ado, I present...


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Perhaps some background is important. I had the pleasure of meeting Takuya through two very wonderful gentlemen.

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These guys would be Nick and Atsushi, who are both great guys that spent a lot of time as the closest of clothed friends. During his time here, Nick had the distinct pleasuring of meeting a delightful girl named Maki. Takuya is that girl's brother.

The story of when Nick and Takuya first met goes something like this.

Nick was very worried about meeting his girlfriend's older brother. After all, he had never met any Japanese family, and he worried greatly about how to impress the fellow. The day finally came, and he met Maki at her house. She introduced her brother, who bowed slightly and shook Nick's hand. Nick didn't quite know what to say, but stammered a greeting...
"Hello," he said. "Nice to meet you. I'm Nick."
"Nick," said Takuya thoughtfully. "You are my dream."
"....???" Nick's entire relationship flashed before his eyes, as Maki just about laughed herself silly.
"Takuya!" she chuckled. "You want to say 'what is your dream?'"

The rest, as they say, is history. Even with Nick apologetically having departed for the shores of New Jersey, I still hang out quite often with Takuya and Atsushi. Fortunately, our good friend Atsushi is quite capable in both English and Japanese. He is thus able to rescue Takuya and I from the occasional conversation consisting of "YES! IT IS DELICOUS! I LIKE IT LOTS!" "私も!美味しいです!”

That said, Takuyua and I have managed to form our own little blend of English and Japanese. You see, his English is quite a bit better than my Japanese, but we still often resort to wild gestures and pointing to share our ideas.

For example, this is "good communication" of the concept of "Good".
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Here, we demonstrate "Bad".
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One of the things that makes Takuya such a fun fellow is the fact that he holds within him the unrivaled comic blend absolute confidence and general ineptitude. It's a simple inverted arithmetical relationship, where the worse he is at something, the more you can expect him to boast and dive straight in. So, generally, you can assume that lots of confidence means of lots of hysterical disaster.

This isn't to say that he's a cocky, overconfident ass, because that would be far from the truth and a great injustice. I'm about to make fun of him a whole lot, so I want to make it absolutely clear that his presence guarantees an entertaining night, and I do enjoy spending time with him. He's earnest, fun and a good guy all around. Thus, he makes for a ripe target. I respect his confidence, and his cheer. He just good-naturedly does his best at everything, and tries especially hard when he's... bad at stuff. I dearly love the man, and I love the fact that he smiles his way through any setback.

So... now that I've been extra complimentary, hopefully that will make up for the photographic evidence I'm about to present. Without further ado, let's dive into...




Let's start with a simple wear-a-blindfold-and-whack-a-watermelon game.

Step 1) Approach the watermelon

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Step 2) Find some psuedo-nearby dirt

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Step 3) Hit the dirt so hard you break the stick.

/seriously. He smashed the metal stick in half.


Step 1) Get into the boat facing the wrong way. That's important. It will help remind your friend to get his camera out and start taking pictures.

Step 2) Generally, a large pond doesn't have that many opportunities to hit the trees. Do so anyway.
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Step 3) Check the instructions.
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Step 4) Fold yourself into the "power" position. YOOOOOSH!!!! PULL REALLY FREAKING HARD!!
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Step 5) Gloat in boating dominance of your awesome forward momentum.
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Step 6) You'll get it eventually.
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Takuya, fortunately for governments around the world, was born without much of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol.

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er... 3 DRINKS!
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There's nothing waitresses like more than drums.
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How about now?
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Actual quotes:

"Um... Brento... Do Canadians Cry Maple Syrup?"

Someone: "What do you think of Nick being your brother in law?"
Takuya: "Um.... Very Maybe."

Eventually I will track down a better video, as I definitely put him on the spot in this case. Nonetheless, here's a video of him trying to explain that we are friends.

This could also be filed under drinking.

All the Japanese you need for this video:

"Eigo" (sounds like "Eggo") English
"Eigo De" In English
"hiyaku" Hurry up!

Best trivia: Takuya works as a High School English Tutor.

/which makes sense if you don't know a scrap of English, it has to be explained in Japanese first...

One of the things that makes Takuya so great is the fact that he gestures wildly and flails around like some crazy westerner. This is not so typical for the Japanese, but it sure makes for fun social interaction.

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/many more pictures are coming to this section.

Oh... laaaadiessss???! HE'S SINGLE!
/seriously. You should bump uglies with him.

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...and he promotes world peace.
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And... if you're into dressing up like a cartoon character, he's kind of into that too.
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They say that communication is 90% non verbal... and I believe it. Regardless of my limited Japanese skills and his unique English skills, we speak the same language.
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... it's called "being crazy"

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Help Wanted

I spotted a sweet job advertisement today.

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Apparently, this restaurant needs some floor staffs. (that would be "staff" for those of you, er, counting).

But the real fun requires you to be a bit closer...

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The English portion of the ad is quickly made redundant by demanding that patrons be able to communicate in Japanese. I suppose they are willing to take someone who can speak Japanese, but who can't read it.

And on the plus side, they also promise not to test you tooooo hard.

(Lab rats, Frankenstein's Monster(s) and Biology Majors need not apply.)

Also, I have no idea how much money they make at this restaurant, but if I could work 900 yen minutes for even one hour per day, I would quickly become a wealthy man. Unfortunately, for some reason, they seem to only pay you 850 yen per hour if you can read Japanese.

/ok ok... I'm being mean. a minimum of 900 yen per hour... but there's still no clear explanation for the wage difference.

English Help: Experience is what you often need for a job. Experiments are what you do to find out more about something, for example, cutting something open or soaking it in acid.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Cafe fun!

And, competing with that no panties bar with the mirrored floors for the title of "most exciting cafe ever", we have....

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Just remember to wear a scarf for a few days after you leave.

Friday, November 24, 2006

E Mistyree Nuethrde

Sorry, that title would be "A Mystery Unearthed", but I have chosen to spell it with the same technical accuracy of today's forces of lingustic evil.

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This is one of the major convienence stores, or "conbenies" as they are commonly known around J-land. I have always been a bit puzzled by this name, as it seems to be a bit gibberishey. At first, I figured that they were promoting the freshness of their goods, and assumed that Sun-Kus was a

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of "Sun Kiss". See, that's pretty close... just switch the u for an i, and drop an s.... makes sense, right?

Then someone told me that the "K" was actually an "R". Er... Sun Rus? Sun Rust? ... ermm....

Sun Rise?


Now, the difficulties that the Japanese have with the letter "R" are well known. One of my former students used to interchangably spell her name "Lina" and "Rina". When I asked my Japanese co-worker to clarify what her actual name was, she responded with "Both. To us, they're the same." So, I was understandably concerned that they decided to make the "R" super jumbo size.

Still...I started pondering what things would be like with "Sun Lus"

Sun Less?
...naw... too negative.

Son Lust?
I bloody hope not.

Sun Lust?
Hrmm... maybe.... but still a bit dirty.

So, I just let it go until today...when finally the the mystery was explained!


It's supposed to day "Thanks".

Readers: WHAAAAA????

Yeah... I felt that way too, so I know what you're thinking. But seriously, when the word "Thanks" is changed to Japanese syllabary, it becomes ”スンクス" (sunkusu). This happens because some key sounds are missing. There's no "Th" sound in Japanese, so they use "Su" (like "suh"). N is ok, but since all consonents other than "n" are followed by a vowel sound, you have to have "ku" instead of "k". At the end of the word, the Japanese sometimes barely pronounce the last vowel sound. So there you have it.

Su n ku s(u).

But I still have no idea why they didn't just use "Domo" or "Arigato", which are the Japanese words for "Thanks." I can understand not wanting to call it "Ari G" for fear of mixing things up with the Sasha Baron Cohen character, but they totally could have used Domo.

English Help:

1) Sorry for the L/R comments. I know that the corresponding sound in Japanese is halfway between the English L and R. Trust me, I have been trying to get my head around particles, and they totally kick my ass. Ga? Wo? What? So we're even, ok?

2) gibberishey: This isn't a real word. "Gibberish" means "nonsense". Adding "y" or "ey" to a noun can make it an adjective. eg, "Gooey" or "messy"

3) Mish Mash - this is like a blending or mix up. Think "mashed potatoes".

4) Lust - means desire, specifically sexual desire. I don't think this is such a good word to use in a name for a company that competes with "Family Mart".

5) Sasha Baron Cohen is a comedian who has a character named "Ali G". He also just released a big movie called "Borat".

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Maximum Denshitty

When someone mentions Tokyo, one of the things that comes to mind is the public transportation system. Tokyo's trains are a miraculous tangle of steel spaghetti that carries millions of people around the city with to-the-minute precision. They are operated by about ten different groups, including the metropolitan government, the national rail company, and a host of department store companies. (The department store operators are actually quite brilliant to have built train lines... all of the major transfer points are situated beneath branches of their stores, so they use the train lines to bring customers in.) Overall, there are so many train lines that you can usually get from point A to point B three or four different ways.

Maybe some maps would help.

Here's a map of the JR lines in the greater Tokyo area.
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The most crowded train line in the world is the Yamanote Line. It's the green circle in the middle of the map.

Oh, and there are also these private lines that run in the same area.

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Oh yeah...there's a third map for the subway trains. The gray line here on the subway map is the Yamanote line (the green one above)
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Keep in mind that these maps cover much of the same area. Separate maps are used because they would have to resort to using Queer Eye For The Straight Guy colours to keep all of the lines...straight. ("Take the tope line to the teal line, then transfer to the mauve one!") There are also a whole bunch of private lines that cover the outlying area that aren't represented on this map.

Apart from being amazingly well integrated into the city, Tokyo's trains are also known for being...crowded.

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This isn't always the case, and generally you can physically fit onto any given train. There are a few exceptions though. Trains can be crowded during rush hour, obviously, but the worst amount of overcrowding often happens on "Last Train". Since so many trains run each day (The Yamanote Line that circles the city runs every two minutes during peak hours, and every five minutes otherwise) they shut down the network between about 1 am and 5 am for maintenance. Unfortunately, this can mean that lots of people want to take the train...which leads to this:

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These shots are from the Denentoshi Line, which runs west from Shibuya.

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One thing I love about this situation is that these shots are from the SECOND to last train, which has has already been jammed to capacity. The sad looking people on the platform were physically unable to squeeze themselves onto the train.

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This is what they look like as the train pulls away.

On the inside of the last train, things can look a little like this.

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How on earth do you deal with this sort of situation and not go crazy or feel claustrophobic?

Well... on your birthday, the solution is actually quite easy.

Chug scotch from a bottle, and try really hard to get the commuters to join you.
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They won't, but you'll at least free up some space for your drinking arm...

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Despite the pun in the title of today's post, I actually love the Tokyo transit system. The train near my little pocket of Tokyo's "Suburbia" runs every twelve minutes at worst, and every five minutes in the morning. Riding trains might not offer the door-to-door, on demand experience of cars, but what they have to offer is much better: peace of mind. Riding trains is convenient, social, easy and sometimes, drunken. You never worry about so many of the things that make car ownership a pain in the you-know-where: parking, sobriety, insurance, traffic, gas prices, accidents, road rage.... the list goes on and on.

Take a moment and think about the pictures of the train ride above. Despite the fact that I had a rather intimate experience with about seven strangers simultaneously, I still didn't get off the train angry, or stressed, or tired. Now think about what it would be like twenty times the usual number of cars clogged your evening commute. I would guess that somewhere near a thousand people (more?) jammed themselves onto two trains while I watched, we still reached our destination in exactly 21 minutes. Now think of adding an extra thousand cars to your local highway over a ten minute span. Think you'd still get home in 21 minutes?

Furthermore, I firmly believe that the train network here allows people to be more social. Would you drive alone in a car for an hour just to meet your friend for dinner and a few drinks? Maybe, but how often? An hour on a train listening to music or reading a book leaves you energized, where an hour in a car leaves you drained.

I've always been at least a moderate advocate of public transit. After more than a year of riding the rails here, you can officially check off "rabid screaming teenage fan club" for my level level of excitement. I still haven't asked any train conductors to sign my ass, but you never know.

Oh, and for the record, I don't mind crowds. They mind me.