Sunday, February 27, 2005
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
But for now, here's a little preview of the illos for this week's TimeOut NY, the spa issue. You can see the rest by clicking here.
Friday, February 18, 2005
Chicken little... not?
New Scientist Breaking News - Stockpile bird flu vaccine now
Why do I feel that we may, by living here in Japan, be next to the epicenter of what could potentially be the next global pandemic? And should I worry? Does it matter where you live in such cases? Or does it just matter that you live in a wealthy country, where vaccines can be produced, distributed and acquired fairly easily. Especially with nationalized healthcare, like they have here.
Or instead of worrying you could play "Das Partyzelt am Albanifest in Winterhur" found via Kotaku. As they describe it:
"You'll be hard pressed to find a better alcoholic flash game anywhere on the net. All you have to do in Die Wagenschenke is walk, but if you've ever been blitzed out of your mind you probably realize what a challenge that can be. In this blue-toned flash game you move your mouse back and forth, trying to maintain the balance of a staggering drunk who belches out yodels and swigs from his bottle as he marches toward you on the screen. I've made it 100 meters, but I've got a lot of real world practice."
While I've got lots of real world practice as well, I was only able to make it 50 meters. This game is a hoot and it consumes about 1 minute of your spare time... go play now.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
So I'm not too sure how much I'll be able to post for a bit... But in the meantime, today I found the perfect gift my dear bro, Adam. Bro, meet Billiken. Shall I buy, oh say, 2 dozen for you?
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Baby, baby, baby, baby... who knew?
Monday, February 14, 2005
...and baby makes three.
We hadn't really planned on it, but we're having a baby in Japan. The lil' prince or princess is expected to arrive mid-September. We're all giddy with anticipation.
Odd, unexpected, frightening, exciting, mundane, our life... part 2.
Our lil' valentine to the world. Aw shucks.
Friday, February 11, 2005
Back from Kanazawa
Kanazawa is a pleasant, very livable, slightly sleepy city on the Sea of Japan (the China side). Good food, good shopping, nice little art scene... not the urban sprawl Tokyo is by any means. But damn, it was nice being in the midst of hustle and bustle again. Well, maybe more shuffle than bustle. Kanazawa's got a slightly mellow vibe and somehow an academic feel. It's not the madness of Tokyo, it felt like a mix between Oxford, England and Sante Fe, New Mexico somehow. Can't explain it. But I could just imagine settling in for awhile.
And the stated reason for going, the 21st Century of Contemporary Art, was well worth it. It's a great museum. The building is based on a circular design, the exterior wall is one big unbroken wrap around of glass. It's a big place, but it doesn't feel overwhelming at all due to the openness of the design. We spent at least 6 hours in the place.
It's designed to be open and accessible to the public and in an innovative scheme, the perimeter of the building is free of charge. You can walk all the way round the interior wall through several galleries, a library, nursery, kid's studio, café, museum shop. To get into the central exhibition galleries, which are visible from the free areas, you have to pay.
In the public galleries there's a show of photographs by national bad boy Araki Nobuyoshi (beware, some images definitely NSFW). To commemorate the opening of the museum, he's taken portraits of local folk ala Richard Avedon- high contrast black and white shots against a white backdrop.
While I was there, one of the subjects showed up to have a friend take of photo of her in front of her photo... of which I took a photo (I've added the red circle so you can more easily identify which photo she's in).
The opening show is quite good, with a fair mix of both Japanese and international artists represented. There are too many pieces to describe any in detail. But if you're interested, click here for a further description.
The other thing Kanazawa is known for is it's fish market.
It's a rather spectacular place.
But I don't think I'd want to meet the fella these suckers were attached to.
But back in Takayama, 2 king crabs, 8 huge scallops, and a dozen shrimp made there way into our bellies by way of paella this evening. Thanks Kanazawa for the fish and memories.
Monday, February 07, 2005
Tomorrow we're off to Kanazawa for a few days. I'll submit a full report upon our return. In the meantime I thought I'd leave you with this little ditty, the "Fish Heaven" song.
In Japan everything must have either have it own character or it's own jingle, often times both. I've already posted the call of the yaki imo man , the mobile kerosene vendor and the 5 o'clock song.
But so far my all time favorite is the "Fish Heaven" song, it's really catchy. You can hear in the fresh fish section of most supermarkets. Click to listen. If you'd like to sing along, the lyrics are (courtesy of Miyuki):
sakana sakana sakana~
sakana o taberu to~
atama atama atama~
atama ga yokunaru~
sakana sakana sakana~
sakana o taberu to~
karada karada karada~
karada ni iinosa~
sa-sa~ minnade sakana o tabeyo~
sakana wa bokura o~
Which roughly translated is:
fish, fish, fish
we'll eat fish
and we'll get smarter
fish, fish, fish
we'll eat fish
and we'll get stronger
so everyone let's eat fish
the fish are waiting for me"
So I guess a fish's idea of heaven is ending up in someone's mouth. Guess they're really not so different from us after all. Sorry.
If you'd like, click here for more fish fun, including the "Fish Heaven" music video as well as dancing instructions. Also, if you'd like to check out the Hawaiian version of the song, click here (Windows Media Player file).
Also, a couple more shout outs to process. My pal Marcus from NYC and his honey Jen are now living the fabulous life in Barcelona. Seems like they've been making a thorough tour of the drinking establishments there. Providing a public service to us all. Jen's recent post on Carnival is a hoot, you can read it at detouring daily.
Marcus is no slouch either, check out the redesign he did of the Chicago Reader at jardi-utensil. He also sports some impressive chin whiskers.
Saturday, February 05, 2005
More Mahikari Madness
Before taking off for Kanazawa this coming Tuesday to avail ourselves of the cultural offerings on tap there, today we decided to sample some of the local fare. Specifically, a bit more of our neighborhood apocalyptic cult and international marching band known as Sukyo Mahikari. For a little history of the group, check my earlier post.
Takayama is not really the cult's "company town", but they've got an awful lot of buildings around here. Besides the "World Shrine of Sukyo Mahikari" and the "Sukyo Mahikari Headquarters", there's also the "Hikaru Memorial Museum", which is what we decided to visit today.
The first thing you notice is the structure itself. The museum, according to the supplied brochure, is constructed to resemble a temple complex from ancient Mesoamerica... yeah, by way of Logan's Run. Why is it that the future, the hidden machinery of god and pastel new-ageism always seems to meet back up in the 70's?
Granted, when you first see it it's an impressive sight. But, and I think this matters, it's sited in a rural mountain valley in Japan. Then again, that would be in keeping with the syncretic nature of the Mahikari religion, which seems to be a mix of Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Japanese folk tradition. However, according to the museum's brochure, in an attempt "to harmonize with the natural environs, the greater part of the museum was constructed underground", which seems to implicitly acknowledge it's disjunctive nature. Also, building something underground is fine in theory (and with adequate ventilation) but the result is that the place smells a bit like your best friend's basement rec room.
Actually, the interior of the place is well designed and architecturally impressive, in a kind of Hyatt-Disney-Dianetics kind of fashion. And the stated focus of the museum is very earnest. The 2 main halls are the "Hida Hall", which explores the geological history of the Hida region through fossils and plaster dinosaurs; and the "World History Hall", which showcases the Mesopotamian, Greek, Chinese, Indus Valley, Mesoamerican, Andean and ancient Japanese cultures in an effort to "give you an idea of how the desire to worship God manifested itself in the great civilizations of the world throughout the ages".
It's not until you get into the physical and spiritual heart of the place that you get to the real (for me at least) fun of the place, the Kotama Okada Memorial Hall. Mr. Okada is the founder of Mahikari and, apparently, the true saviorvior of mankind.
Here's what I've dubbed "Mr. Okada's Womb Room", an ovoid, sparkly space that's part Roger Dean (think old "Yes" album artwork) and part "Chi-Chi's". Actually, popping off the shots was kinda iffy as photos aren't allowed. And the place doesn't lack for true believers. Right after these photos were taken a family marched in and promptly started bowing to Okada-san's graven image... Afterwards I decided to change the shutter sound on my cellphone to a much less obvious musical chime.
In the rest of the hall various artifacts from Mr. Okada's life are preserved, from a pair of beach flipflops with "O.K." inscribed on them, to a bathroom mural depicting Mt. Fuji that he liked to gaze at, to an old yukata still redolent of the hair pomade he favored (and according to the placard, the scent still capable of curing paralysis).
Other parts of the hall cover different aspect of the religion, from a timeline of it's creation to various aspects of it's philosophy.
Here Okada-san explains how the world works.
Which I guess is kind of like how "Degree" anti-perspirant works.
Seriously, this whole effort seems to be about wrapping some reasonable, unthreatening, scientific-like verneer around what is, on closer approach, potentially a rather stinky proposition. No matter how neutral and innocuous the place may seem, it is in fact, part of the outreach program of an international cult. Which itself is a creepy mix of Christian self-loathing and Asian collectivism. There's something vaguely Kim-Jong Il about the whole place. In fact, as we were pulling into the parking lot, teams of the faithfull were piling out of tour buses so that they could shovel the sidewalks around the museum clear of snow.
They were still at it on our way out.
Thursday, February 03, 2005
Your child could be missing...
...in the almost 3 feet of snow...
...that fell over the last few days.
Well, my back's a bit sore but we seem to be mostly all dug out.
We had been planning on leaving town this past Tuesday for Miyuki's birthday (Feb. 1st, for those of you keeping count) but as it turns out I'm glad we didn't. This snowstorm hit most of Japan and where we were planning on going, Kanazawa, would've been a lot of fun if you like trudging through waist deep snow. Actually, a town not too far from us got smacked with over 6 feet of snow. Hold on, I don't think I conveyed the proper emphasis... 6 FEET OF SNOW!
We had been planning to go here, to check out the opening of the new art museum. Well, the plan's back on for next week. I'll give a report following.
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
So, no big blog entry for today. In the meantime here's a fascinating wikipedia entry all about the wonders of the Japanese toilet. And yes, that apricot above is a stunt double ass.