Spent the morning in an MRI machine having my knees scanned. Surprising how cozy an experience it can be, having the atoms in your body spun around and shot at with high frequency radio waves. I spent most of the 40 minutes drifting in and out of a near sleep state. I could understand maybe only 2 out of every 10 words spoken by the technician, but how difficult is it to understand, "lie there and don't move". And it was very comforting to be wrapped in this big white tube of empirical certainty.
On the other hand, my knees are kind of f*cked...
I went in because my left knee has been quite verbose lately, clicking out a little tap every time I take a step. I figured when your knee starts talking, it's probably trying to tell you something. But I decided to also have my right knee looked at. I hurt it several years ago snowboarding (actually during one of my visits here, pre-move) and since it happened during one of my several gaps in health insurance coverage (ah, the joys of freelancing in America...) I somehow neglected to ever have a MRI taken of it. I knew it was a pretty bad injury and it seemed to never quite heal properly. It has a tendency to give way when I put weight on it from a certain angle, it just buckles. Kind of a drag on stairs.
Well, as it turns out the left knee is slightly damaged, a little tear in the meniscus. But the snowboarding injury in the right knee, that one snapped one of the cruciate ligaments.
This is the left knee, basically fine.
But the right one is just a gnarled mess.
We're still figuring out what to do. The injury is old, and I've basically learned how to live with it. But dang! it's nasty looking in there.
On the other hand, because Japan has such good national health care, it only cost me $60 to take a look.
There's a commercial (or "CM" in Japanese) that's been on the air allot here lately. The setup shows a concerned father rushing his suddenly ill child into a hospital emergency room. But in his haste he's forgotten to bring cash.... doh! But no problem really, as we are informed by a trio of dancing nurses who bust out into song and sing "Byoin demo, Visa ga skaimasu", which basically means 'Even at the hospital, you can use Visa'. Ah, if only this were the case.
Perhaps you can you use credit cards at (some) hospitals, but lord knows, you can hardly use them anywhere else. We find ourselves constantly baffled by how often, for what would be very common (even logical) transactions back in NYC, our cards are now just inert squares of plastic. The magic is gone. Even Miyuki, who had gotten used to the convenience, hell, the necessity of using plastic, has been shocked at how many places don't take cards. I'm not talking about the corner deli (or in this case conbini AKA "convenience store"), this is in major commercial venues. Case in point: when you arrive at Narita Airport, the MAJOR international hub for Tokyo and by extension, most of Japan, if you want to take the express train to Tokyo it's a cash only transaction. It would be a little like if Amtrak only accepted cash. BTW, there's a travel tip here... Bring cash on your trips to Japan, lot's of it.
So if using your card to get into the country is hard enough getting out can be just as troublesome. Recently, Miyuki using a credit card, tried to buy airline tickets for our upcoming trip to NYC (mark your calendars folks, 4/25 to 5/9). She contacted a major travel broker, a big player with both print and TV campaigns going, not some retired real estate agent looking to keep busy. They will allow you to research and book your flights online, but, wait for it... they don't accept credit cards. A bank wire transfer is required. You have to go to the bank, stand in line, complete the necessary paperwork and then wait for the tickets to be mailed to you.
We eventually found a broker that took credit cards. But damn! this is a country of robotic pets and talking vending machines, not to mention cellphones that have video-on-demand... why, oh why, are the banking practices still stuck in the pneumatic tube era?
Oh yeah, if you'd link to see the Visa ad above click here (WMV format).
Say hi to my new Osama bin Laden keitei (cellphone) strap. This is one of my more noteworthy purchases from our last visit to Tokyo. Actually I found this little gem in a vast shopping complex in Yokohama. It was the last one left on the rack, guess it must've been a pretty swift seller. It's shocking... and a must buy.
Buying it is not endorsement of murderous radical Islamic fundamentalism. And I don't feel that it's shocking to buy some piece of kitsch like this. I was shocked however to find it being sold at all, and next to Hello Kitty and Dragonball Z paraphernalia at that. It's shocking for a number of reason's, one certainly being that it highlights how the market place has absolutely NO inherent morality (which really isn't a surprise) but more striking for me is how it illustrates the distance here from the current climate in America. The whole thing just seems so absurd and distant here. I mean Al Qaeda frogmen?!?!? Are you serious? Back in America, the coastlines are being fortified against a non-existent threat and here? it's dangling from my keitei. It's just about the scale of the response.
OK so we're back. Actually we've been back for a couple of weeks now. Been lax with the blogging, but right after we returned, a friend from NYC (hey Dave!) surprised us with a visit. Much eating and drinking ensued, fun had by all. And blogging is a bit like exercise... it's kind of a chore and when you've stopped for a while it's hard to start up again. But you always feel better afterwards.
Now I was all ready to come back on here and provide a breezy recap of all the cool sh*t we saw down in the big TKO, including an unexpected Osama bin Laden purchase (huh?) in Yokohama (more on that later). But then I came across this:
To see why my knickers are in such a twist, see my previous entry below.
This is a RADICAL reworking of the piece I submitted. Now in the normal give and take of art director and illustrator during the commissioning process, it's not unusual for the A.D. to ask for some alterations to a piece; and for the illustrator to gripe. Sometimes the changes are for the good and sometimes not. I know, having been on both sides of the equation.
And it's NOT just a little "tweak". Tweaks are OK... slight adjustments in size to fit the layout, shifting the color slightly to match the page, etc. As an A.D. I've done all of that, but only after consulting with the illustrator first. But the act of vandalism above was done without my knowledge or consent. It was done after I submitted the piece and got approval for it. It indicates a vast disrespect on the part of the A.D. for what I do.
I wouldn't normally use this forum to bitch about biz stuff, but this is too MUCH. Also I posted already about this illo, so there's some reasoning behind bringing it up.
It's too late to do anything about what got printed in the paper. I'm just hoping the link to the image above (and the image itself) will be gone in a few days, expunged from the archives and no longer have my credit associated with it.
I know I have been totally lax in blogging lately, but I've been BUSY son... swamped with work! And now we're off to Tokyo for a week. I hope to post some while we're there, but all I'll have access to is dail-up and... it's too painful to continue.
In the meantime, here's something new, a quick job I did for the Village Voice. Should be out this week, I believe. The joys of short hair cuts, y'know, typical "before and after" stuff.
mckible (aka "mckibillo") in nihon...
Hence "mckib in nihon" (go figure), where I'll strive to provide the occasional, piquant observation on the life of a gaijin in the mountains of Japan.
Since November 2004, adding to an already crowded field of ex-pat observation.
is Josh McKible. I'm an illustrator living and working in Kanagawa, Japan. My work has appeared in the New York Times, Esquire, GQ and many other publications. For more information please visit my portfolio site. For commissions, collaborations or just to say "hi" please email me. Thanks.