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Monday, May 30, 2005

Doing "The Hustle"

OK, I know NOTHING about Japanese pro-wrestling. I know only slightly more about American pro-wrestling. But I know wacky when I see it...

While perusing the stands at Valor, our local department/grocery store, I came across this gem of oddness, "Hustle". It's the first issue of the official organ of Monster Wrestling (I think) and Team Takada. The magazine itself is gorgeously produced, on thick stock, with a lush palette, great design and lurid, carnivalesque photos.

And the illos are awesome! Cinematic, f*cked-up genius.

Ah, but the characters... wow, such incandescent weirdness. If I had to pick a few favorites (and damn, it's hard to pick only a few, but y'know, bandwidth and all...) I'd have to go with:

(From left to right) "Himalayan Bigfoot", "Hustle King", "Gama Daiyo" and "Joe-san"

What's intriguing though is that some well known American pro wrestlers show up in the roster, including Goldberg and Dusty Rhodes. How did they get in here?

You can see the rest of the characters and pick your own favorites here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


While I'm in the mood for endorsements... If your even slightly interested in contemporary Japan I suggest you take a look at neomarxisme. Marxy (aka David Marx) writes and reads Japanese fluently (unlike me) and consistently provides sometimes dire, but always interesting observations about life in modern Japan. And he seems to know enough about the place to care deeply about it.

But beyond all that, dude writes some sweet pop songs. When we were back in NYC, I stopped by Other Music and picked up his disc "Kyoshu Nostalgia". I was quite pleasantly surprised... it sounds a bit like the Beatles meets They Might be Giants with some Mario Bros. soundtrack thrown in. Not normally my most preferred mix, but it tickled me.

(So Marxy, the check is in the mail right...?)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Monster Planet

OK, today I really AM pimping something, namely an on-line serialized novel, Monster Planet. It's the third (and final?) installment of the best gottdamn, post-apocalyptic, zombies-roam-the-earth story ever released in paperless form. In fact it may be the best (well, actually only) zombie story I ever read. I initially started reading it on my kaitei because it was one of the few english content things available from winksite.com that was regularly updated. But I've always loved zombies (although unreasoning dread would be a better description) and now I'm hooked. And since I'm always in close proximity to some kind of interweb access, I'm loving the format.

So go now, click and read on in tingly dread.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Birthday roundup

taco isu

So a few weeks ago it was my birthday, May 14th to be precise. I'm old enough now (no, if you don't know already I'm not telling you) to actually NOT look forward to the marking of another year's passage. But then again, sometimes you score sweet gifts as a result of having made it thus far. This year I scored BIG. Check out the lil' beauty above... I call him takisu-chan (tako for octopus and isu for chair). It's a plaster octopus, it's a little chair.. it's both! It's the best ugly gift I ever got. Major thanks to Daigo and Yuichiro and Yumi-chan for knowing exactly what to get me.

But last time we were in Tokyo, before taking off for NYC I gave myself a little early b-day present, the Sanyo Xacti C5. It's a hybrid digital still camera and video recorder.
It uses no tape, everything is recorded on a compact flash card; a 1 gig card can hold over an hour of video. And it's tiny(!), I can keep in my front pocket. You can check out a review of it here.

As for quality, it's quite good. You can check out the results for yourself, click on the shot above. It's a clip from a short movie (my first, so be kind) I made while on the plane from Tokyo to NYC. It's from a monja cruise we took in Tokyo bay with a bunch of friends. Be warned however, they are some graphic depictions of both eating and drinking. I made it using Apple's iMovie. It was an outstandingly simple process. I know I sound like I'm pimping for both Sanyo and Apple here, but damn... that's some sweet product. When something is pleasant to both look at and use, it's a triumph of design. And I feel compelled to praise it. So there.

Sometimes it's good to have stuff. Now go look at my movie.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Backhoe etiquette

Backhoe etiquette, originally uploaded by mckibillo.

In Japan, everyone is so polite even the backhoe operators wear ties.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Props given

While I'm giving shout outs, I strongly encourage you to check in on the continuing adventures of Jenn Cross in Barcelona, Spain.

And bonny pal and magazine guru Matty Ball has updated his website with some new work. Go take a look at how they get things done in Scotland.

Neil says bye

Neil says bye
Neil Russo, bon vivant, raconteur and graphic designer extraordinaré left us yesterday, to return to the wilds of Brooklyn. But, man, what a gas we had while he was here. We love it when we get visitors (hint, hint), it gives us the opportunity to be a tourist in our own town and to do all the stuff we've been meaning to.

Neil and Julie
We met up with Neil in Tokyo, after we returned from NYC. He was accompanied by the friendly and fabulous Julie.

Sono and Ryujin
Sono and Ryujin kindly led us all on a "loser/otaku" tour of Ueno and Akihabara (where until viewing this photo I was unaware of the new friend we had made...).

Kanda Matsuri
We also lucked out in that the Kanda matsuri was happening on the day we strolled through.

Cos Cha
Winded from the good times, we stopped for some tea and cosplay at
CosCha where we had overpriced drinks served by young women wearing French maid costumes along with cat ears (and tails, even!). Sorry no photos allowed, but click on the link above to get a good idea of the place.

Neil meets caves
We met up again in Takayama after Julie had to return (unfortunately) to NYC. We took in the local sights including the extensive cave complex at Hida Dai Shonyudo, had a soak in an onsen and checked out the bugs at the Insect Museum.

It's an extensive collection and I plan on going back. There are mounted on the walls, displays of striking geometric pattern made from thousands of iridescent beetles, which are really cool... until you realize that basically you're staring at armies of what are, essentially, shiny cockroaches, at which point it all gets a little skeevy.

We also took in some hankyudo, which is a form of Japanese archery. It's located in Takayama's entertainment/bar district, the wonderfully, ironically named Asahi machi, which basically means "Morning Town". Can I just point out how cool it is that in the middle of an inebriation zone, people are trusted (encouraged actually) to arm themselves with possibly lethal weapons and shoot at little straw targets. This sort of thing would never fly back in Brooklyn.

It's referred to as hankyudo because the range is only half, or han, the normal kyudo range distance. It's about 3 meters (or 15 feet) to the targets, and still I could only manage to hit maybe 2 out of every 10 arrows. But in my own defense, we had been drinking... excessively.

But now it's back to the grind, gotta make the donuts. So thanks for the visit Neil and to all our friends who haven't made the trip yet... see what you've been missing ^__^

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Neil makes friends

Neil makes friends

with cock pops!

cock pops

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

When Neil attacks

When Neil attacks

Monday, May 16, 2005

American coffee

American coffee

Nothing like a near naked girl and a fast car for a quick pick-me-up.



SBD,(silent but deadly) Batman.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Coming and going: a report

We're back. And to my 2 regular readers (I know there's at least 2... I've seen the stats), I apologize for not making any effort to post while we were in NYC. But it was fun and I was very busy; running around seeing art directors, doing lunch, showing my book, handing out postcards. I also set up something that could prove to be quite cool, but until it launches I'd rather not publicly count my chickens (as it were).

One cool thing that did happen is I got an illo into the NYTimes. I wasn't planning on doing any work on this vacation (besides the meet n' greets) but when the Times calls... well, I answer. Besides, it's only the second time in 3 years they called, so... I'm really pleased with the way the illo turned out (big) and the whole process was remarkably smooth. The illo ran as the cover for the "Circuits" section and accompanied an article about how US cellphones are (finally) getting some of the 3G features that keitai's here in Japan have had for awhile. The new US cellphones are still astoundingly ugly, though, compared to ones here.

But what I really want to post here, before it fades, are some impressions of our arrivals and departures in NYC and Nippon.

Firstly, I fear the filth and squalor that I had expected on our return to NYC (see previous post) was mostly the result of an overactive imagination. It's amazing how only 6 months away can allow the worst aspects of a place to fester and grow in one's memory. Truth is, it's not that bad. Granted, within ten paces of first setting foot on Brooklyn soil I was confronted with my old nemesis, the half eaten chicken leg (our place on St. John's would get a daily blanket of the things in front of our stoop... like the remains of some fallen zombie chicken army) but the drive from JFK through East NY was not the soul crushing experience I had feared. It's certainly not as tidy as Japan, but it wasn't the filth apocalypse I had anticipated.

Also, what struck me is how green NYC is compared to Tokyo... so MANY more trees. And a kind of crumbly, tumble down, organic feel. Rounding the tip of Inwood (far upper Manhattan) on the Metro North train headed to my folks in Newburgh we passed under the Henry Hudson Bridge (shown above, courtesy of the MTA), I was surprised to see trees and rocks leading down to the water's edge. To
simply see under-utilized space. I never really thought about it before. In Japan, the river bank would have been concreted over and the trees replaced with advertisements of trees. Land is at such a premium in Japan and construction (and re-construction) occurs at such a frantic rate, that most open spaces are utilized in some fashion, ie: farmland or parking lots. But certainly not just left fallow. The Japanese have occupied this land far longer than the Americans have the Americas, but because of the ceaseless reshaping of the landscape here (Japan), ironically, the feel of history seems to lie longer and easier in NYC (well, that and the fact that much of Japan was bombed flat during WW2... but even the cities that escaped the bombers have lost much of the traditional architecture).

Perhaps it's the sense of history that also imbues NYC with a seriousness, a solemnity that pervades it's cityscape. A sense of civic culture built into the bones of the place; the public parks and green spaces, the wide sidewalks and plazas. All that granite and red brick and masonry; the solidity of the buildings. Most buildings in NYC retain their original purpose, an apartment buildings remains a place of dwelling, a highway remains a thoroughfare. In Tokyo, by contrast, buildings are chimeras, handling a variety of functions.

Take for example the billboard apartment building shown above. What's the purpose here, what's supporting what? Is the building a place of dwelling or commercial message?

And this... is it a highway or department store?
I didn't come up with this formulation. I'm borrowing here from the excellent guide book (and website), "Made in Tokyo". Here's a blurb from amazon.com:

A guide book to the unique modernity of Tokyo’s urban space through the architecture that architects would like to forget. Born of a functional need rather than aesthetic ideal, golf range nets span spaghetti snack bars and a host of 70 other remarkable combinations are pictured and described in this quintessential glimpse of Tokyo’s architectural grass roots."

But I take exception to the idea that you'd want to ignore or forget the buildings here... Riding back on the train from Narita, smeary with jetlag and glassine with sleep deprivation (I can't sleep at ALL on planes) the things that struck me the most, as we slid through the mixed urban spaces and rice patties, was how cheerful everything looked. Buildings here are pastel colored and smooth skinned, clad in sheets of aluminum or thin skims of concrete. And there's something virtual looking to them, like 3D computer models. They're all skin, no bones. And curiously inverted, like buildings turned inside out. All the infastructure of the buildings are on the exterior... all the heating and cooling units, the cabling; most apartment blocks have exterior stairwells and hallways and every residence has it's own balcony (the Japanese prefer to line dry their laundry to take advantage of the germ killing properties of sunlight). All the guts are on the outside.

There's just something so much more declarative about the buildings here. They all seem to have something to say. Sometimes the visual noise is cacophonous and ugly, but it's almost always cheery. The people can be famously reticent, but the buildings rarely are.

I had always thought of Tokyo as ugly, just ugly. And compared to NYC it is, but there's a ferment here, a restlessness. The buildings are squirming.