January 31, 2006

Unplanned wonders of the world

Thought I'd direct you to a few sights. First is the shoe tree. It's quite beautiful. Next is the gum tree (not quite as beautiful, but its worth a look). Follow that up with the valley of the tires. And finally, the little known fact that the video game E.T. for the Atari was so overproduced and rejected by the public at large, that millions of cartriges were buried in a landfill in Arizona. The debacle also crippled the American video game industry for a long time, giving Japan the edge. Thank goodness; otherwise we might not have all your base. Anyways, it's the subject of a music video you should see.

January 30, 2006

Wall flowers gone wild

I made a panorama of my town in Japan. Click to zoom.
Was there ever a girl in your life, maybe in high school, and you held the opinion that they were kind of plain but you alone were able to see what cuteness they had and appreciate it and maybe you could even see yourself dating that girl if she wasn't so shy. You envisioned breaking that girl out of her shell and helping her to see just how sexy she was. You fantasized about how chaste and pure she was. You thought she was very sweet and cute when she mustered the courage to talk. Ever know her?

Did you ever meet that same girl years later and discover that she was actually a party animal and borderline nymphomaniac? I met that girl again and again and again. And now I'm meeting other people's wild wall flowers it seems.
Today, as I walked into the school, I got, "Craeyton... you are... cool!" from a Japanese school girl. Just last Friday another one claimed I looked like Tom Cruise. Both of these comments seemed to come out of nowhere to me. Maybe its the hair wax and leather jacket. Conquering the world, one school girl's opinion at a time.
More with the pictures already
Kim Jong's got game.
You have to be up on net culture to realize why this worksheet I made is funny.
I was a little shocked to see this nazi flag at a store in a mall. The swastika is not nearly as touchy a subject over here. Actually I wish it could be redeemed. It was a symbol for luck and such stuff for thousands of years before the nazis got a hold of it.
Also, one of my boys has a pencil box with a skull, swastika, and @$*! LIFE printed on it. There are things one just has to ignore...
Guess that song for old times sake:
You're not right in the head and nor am I
And this is why
You're not right in the head and nor am I
And this is why
This is why I like you, I like you, I like you
This is why I like you, I like you, I like you

Jack Sauce? What's Jack sauce?

My predecessor left a few things food-wise that well... I'm not sure what they are. So I have a refrigerator of six-month old, scary things. And despite this flash (same guys that did that badger thing), I still don't quite know what Mango Chutney is. Is this just a bachelor thing, to have strange ancient foods in your fridge, or do the ladies have stuff sitting in their fridge too?
No matter how much food I buy, it's all gone within a couple days, and I'm left with the chutney in my fridge.

January 25, 2006

I'm big in Japan, or at least Tara

So I thought they would have gotten bored of me by now, but I'm still appearing on TV. Recently, I've been playing multiple roles in the English lessons. I appear and do a semi-comical yet formal introduction. It looks a lot like this guy (thanks to Mari for that link). Then I appear in the group that is replying to the exhortations to say English together. Today, I wore a plasic geisha wig* in my secondary role.
So I can't go anywhere without people shouting at me that they've seen me on TV. It's hard to respond. "Oh, really? Um, thanks for seeming so excited to have seen me?"

*: And to think, just a few months ago I saw an older comedian (Beat Takeshi maybe) wearing a dog-dish mask(?!) and thought to myself, I would never stoop so low for fame on Japanese TV. Well... in my defence, I did refuse to wear the silly thing in my primary role. I'm enough of a class clown to the kids as it is.

January 24, 2006

Oh and she fixed my special zombie-killing leather jacket too

T and I exchanged gifts tonight; kind of a belated Christmas. I gave her The Little Prince (translated into Japanese), and she gave me a Papaya Suzuki CD (the guy with the fro from the mayonaise post), which has the song with the lyrics, "I can read kanji, but I can't write them!" I love the song, because I identify. She also gave me something I unwrapped later. It seems like a mask, but it has no eye-holes, nor any other features, and a woman is painted, Ukyo-e style, on the inside. The guys at the yakitori shop didn't know what it was.
I did really good at speaking Japanese tonight. This ronin is learning. Speaking of which, the other night I fell asleep while watching MPD Psycho (a Takashi Miike miniseries), and woke up the next morning with Japanese stuck in my head. Unfortunately, I didn't quite know what I was saying to myself; random everyday colloquialisms and such just floated in. Well, it's progress of a sort.
Turns out the orphanage I volunteered at has a web page. Visit, and find a way to donate if you feel so inclined.

Religion and other taboo jokes

I've noticed that whenever I am in a situation where a group of people get to know me for the first time, and an extended time at that, they realize I'm really funny. Usually, it takes months for someone to notice this, because I am so quiet. One day they go, "Oh, I get it now! All those things you say... You're funny!" To which I reply, "Well that's obvious. But have you noticed how incredibly humble I am?"

But even I tell a joke that's not funny every once in a while (analogous to a blog entry without a comment is the joke without a laugh). Among topics that I've discovered aren't funny: orphans dying. Okay, that should be obvious, especially when you are with an volunteer group helping orphans*, but I contend it was funny because it was so unfunny and downright blasphemous.
But ironically, I rarely find religion jokes very funny because I'm too incensed by them. It doesn't even have to be my faith. I cringe at every pedophilic priest joke. I even cringe for the Scientologists. And Tom Cruise.
My goal now is to have a sense of humor about religion, while realizing what is tactful and what is not. So no more holocaust jokes either†.
On a side note, it is very difficult to explain to a Japanese person why the chicken crossing the road joke is funny.
Now for a random semi-spiritual thought to counter the balance, from some some TV producer,
I believe that the very act of believing in something causes us to distance ourselves from that thing, thus a duality is created: oneself and the thing in which one believes. Now since we all know that in order to fully understand a thing one must be that thing -- walk a mile in its shoes so to speak -- it seems obvious that the state of believing in something inevitably causes us to not truly understand that thing in which we believe. This noncomprehension leads to all sorts of difficulties. "I believe in love" has a better than even chance of leading to divorce, while "I believe in God" seems to end in variations on the Spanish Inquisition. But -- and it's a big but -- if one were love, one couldn't help but be affectionate and caring towards oneself and others. If one were God, one would act toward all beings and all things as if they were one's own creations.
*:as were attempts to lighten the mood afterwards by alluding to how horrible a joke I had made. These are the times when I really wish I had amnesia dust, or roofies a la Arrested Development.Do me a favor, reach into my pocket and let me have one of those pills please!
†:Holy crap, I'm just kidding! I don't know any jokes about the holocaust.

January 22, 2006

Get married, get thrown, get down at the reception afterwards

What's the craziest wedding tradition you know of?
From the mainichi daily news (with minor corrections by me):
Recently married men hurled down snowy Niigata slope in time-honored tradition

Local people in Tokamachi, Niigata Prefecture, throw a recently married man down a snowy slope in a time-honored ceremony.

TOKAMACHI, Niigata -- Local residents threw two recently married men down a snowy slope during a time-honored, New Year tradition [did we mention it's time-honored yet?].

A local apprentice cook in Tokamachi, Niigata Prefecture, and a company employee from Tokyo's Shinagawa-ku were hurled down a five-meter-long, snow-covered slope in the Matsunoyama hot spa area in Tokamachi on Jan. 15.

The two men rolled down the slope to the bottom, where their wives were waiting. "I feel fantastic," one of the men said [The other simply screamed, no doubt in joy, or maybe it was the broken leg].

Later, participants in the event coated each others' faces with snow mixed with ash in hopes of health and prosperity ["The burning in your eyes let's you know it's full of prosperity," said one participant].

Local tradition states that a young man started the practice to vent his anger after a man from another area married a girl he was in love with ["No really, I'm over her now!" is also traditionally shouted].
I now have a goal: get married in Japan, and get hurled. Then go to my recently purchased island for a warm honeymoon. I wonder how many people it would take to hurl my giant self?

January 19, 2006

Stan Lee to blame for the Power Rangers?

This thing is so outrageous that you would have to assume, upon hearing it, that it cannot be anything but a joke. The fact is, somehow Japan got a hold of the Spiderman franchise and added that special, Japanesie-touch via bird-henchmen that go "Whoosh!" and a giant robot named, naturally, the Marveller. It brings to mind a common phrase that was said whenever Kit was around: Because their is nothing that can't be made better with giant robots. We all stand corrected. View the film here, and enjoy the subtitles, which are slightly embellished. Note for fellow firefoxers: I couldn't view it until I switched to Internet Explorer ;_;

Related: SMAP power rangers parody

Because this blog doesn't have enough pictures of me by far

Yoinked from Maurice's blog. That's the Takeo gang. click to zoom, obvs

January 17, 2006

Express yourself

I know there is an artist in everyone waiting for an outlet. Check out these links for your inner child's sake.

First up: Pixel Tees. Make t-shirts a pixel at a time. Then buy them, sell them, or check out other people's shirts. As long as I'm mentioning unique clothes, I feel I should tell you about Low Tee, where every swim suit is guaranteed to be one of a kind.

What about the body as art? I recommend checking out The Hand Collector. Now I know it sounds like an 80's B-flick, but it's actually a cool project that collects pictures of palms with drawings on them. This seems like a Brit kind of thing to do. Do you ever read my blog anymore Brit? The blogosphere wishes you would visit more often.
Anyways, it reminded me of shakeskin, which is sadly not for those of us that have a fetish for 300 hundred pound women on trampolines. What? Don't judge me. I've linked to shakeskin before and I still need to get around to contributing my photo.

Finally, you should visit flipbook and do some doodling. The site is in serious need of some talented contributions, which is a shame, because it is such a cool idea. And you're safe from the nun when you doodle online, as opposed to the margins your text book from your private Catholic school days.

January 16, 2006

Learning Japanese through videogames

Must be a slow day at BBC. In this article, they show the faces behind game avatars. Because we were all dying to know. Well, it's a slow day here too cause I looked at them all. The one I linked to is trying to learn, via Final Fantasy how to speak Japanese. If you wanna take the game road, I suggest slime forest for starters. It's free too. Right now, I'm working on translating Silent Hill Novel for the gba.
In relation to this entry, mom sent me a card saying "This too, shall pass (pun intended)." There was also a Hitchhiker's Guide DVD in the card. Good on ya, mom.

January 14, 2006

more pics

The rest of the Thailand group is slowly starting to put pictures into an online album. So you can see them here. Btw, I think the shutterbook system may kick flickr's butt.
Group shot.

Here I play the bard. I'm bigger than I ever realized. No wonder Badsha calls me the gentle giant.

On that page you can see the candle-lit Christmas, and the darling orphans, and the yoga cuisine, so take a look.

January 13, 2006

MAYORA (mayonnaise lova)

Okay, this page shows what the majority of Japanese television is like (which is one of the reasons I rarely switch the channel from my satellite Japanese movies), as well as what the majority of modern Japanese cuisine is like (which is why I am slowly starving to death). The captions from picture--yes, for some odd reason, Japan is one of the few countries on Earth that has decided to caption it's own language*-- roughly translates to "Us guys have gone to the Mecca of mayonnaise, the mayonnaise palace!" Yes, they are drinking mayonnaise straight from the container in the pic as well; it comes in convenient squeeze-tubes like that here.
That's right, the only thing the Japanese love more than mayo is watching other people eat mayo on TV. Okay, that's an exaggeration, the Japanese watch their "talento" eat other things too, but they do seem to like watching others eat. We won't even go over how scrutinized my reactions are at meals.
Apparently, a hot word to say these days is maiu, which is umai (superb!) said in a trendy way, and TV shows usually have a person tasting something and saying the latter. I've never seen a Japanese person not have a mouthgasm when eating food on TV.
As you can see on the page, they even have a foreigner in on the fun. I've seen these guys a few times. I call them the bumpkin connoisseurs. Count how many times they say maiu, it's a little redundant, but maybe they were going for a mayonnaise pun.

*:Now that I think back I saw that Thailand was doing it too.

Update: More info about these guys and the term maiu here.

late night thoughts

How come I constantly meet your doubles, no matter where I go?
And why don't they do it for me like you did?
An army of you.
An indifferent me.
This is my karma.

January 9, 2006

52 cards to pain

Due to Japanese winter, I've been living a rather slovenly existence, because I can't stand to leave the warmth of my Kotastu (as seen in the photo of my grungy self; kotatsus are a Japanese thing as seen in this illustration of Japanese female roleplayers).
Time to work out! There is a workout I picked up long ago from shoot fighters. They beat me up and said,"that was no fun, here, follow this workout plan and we'll see if you can put up a little bit of a fight next time." The work out is deceptively simple; the only equipment you need is a deck of cards. You flip the cards over one at a time and do an accourding exercise. Red cards mean squats, and black cards mean push ups. You do a coresponding number of repetitions equal to the number on the card (face cards count for ten repitions, aces for one), then you flip the next card. It's good for confusing your muscles. It's also good for practicing the alternate (kun) readings of Japanese numbers, should you want to ("hitotsu, futatsu, mitsu," etc), but that's niether here nor there.
If you go through the whole deck, you've done 170 pushups and 170 squats. Now, I haven't done this in years, but as I'm turning into an old man, I made a silly new year's resolution to stay in shape: Gain 30lbs of muscle (computer generated image of what Clay+30lbs. might look like here). So I shuffled the cards the other night and started.
Face card after face card came up. I only made it through about 20 cards before I gave out.
The next day, my legs were made out of wood. Really, really painful wood.
This weekend, I went to Nagasaki with the Takeo crowd (when I really should have been fixing my ruined-by-vacation sleeping schedual), and saw the sights, but man, it didn't help my painful legs to walk up all those hills and stairs. I turned into an old man as the night went on. By the end, I was so tired and irritated I fear I found a way to insult or bring down about everyone there. I really dropped the ball with a girl too, but hopefully she has something more accessable than me lined up.
The moral of the story: Start with just ten cards, and get plenty of sleep if you want to give love a chance.
Sara took lots of pictures in Thailand of Ayutthaya, which is a place I visited. So, if you want to see them (they're great!) go here.
Today's pictures of Nagasaki include:
The hearstone. If you find it, you will be happy. I'm not the one who found it...
The Nagasaki bay area.
The original Bruce Lee jumpsuit.
A Christian church in Nagasaki.

January 7, 2006

Hot cocoa recipe

Hey, if Benny can post cooking things, then so can the great and humble moi. Now I know that you're probably saying, "Clay, I thought cooking was only for attractive people, much like yourself," or, "but Clay, 67% of my body is covered in burns." Too true. But this recipe is so simple, even the homely and burned can do it (consult your doctor or plastic surgeon before beginning a new diet-cooking program).
Actually, I'm not even going to post the recipe. The real purpose of this post is to inform you that the best way to stir your hot-cocoa is with chopsticks, or as my Japanese brethren call them, poison tipped darts without poison. It sounds more elegant in Japanese. Seriously, chopsticks are much better than a spoon, because they scape the chocolate off the bottom of the mug.
Bon appétit, ugly.

January 5, 2006

Pray for us (okay, mostly for him)

I have lost something. A large chunk of my lower retainer (to clairify, I am not referring to my squire; he is quite whole except for missing some of his larger intestine due to the dasterdly deeds of Erik the Black--I'll get you yet ERIK!).I mean the thing that keeps my teeth straight. I can only guess that it broke in my mouth and I swallowed it as I slept. We'll know for sure if I feel my kidneys explode I guess.

But this post is really about my dad. He lost something much more concerning. 40lbs. That is scary, especially considering it happened within a couple months, so he's going to the doctor soon to get it checked out. On the plus side, my old man is so skinny I may be able to finally take him on.

Seriously, some prayers directed towards us would be nice. I try not to obstruct the rule of diety nor the natural universe when I pray, but to gain the strength to accept things and experience as little pain as possible. So pray for those things, if you pray. But pray mostly for dad.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must soundly beat my squire for forgetting to groom my horse. I swear, the silly boy lives in some kind of fantasy world!

January 4, 2006

For Steph

The French may be famous for losing wars (though I think Poland gave up quicker) and not bathing (this seems to have been confirmed by the cute yet pretty groady French girl who started talking to me in the Bangkok airport, but in her defense she did at least have the good sense find me attractive enough to start the conversation in the first place) but they should really be better known for their animation*. Or in this case, anime. Cool French assassin movie trailer (watch the second trailer only, and keep an eye out for yoda).
Also worth a look is the portfolio of Arthur de Pins. I particularly recommend Eau de Rose; it's very cute.

*:We won't talk of the boring movie with the animated French old women that tricked the world by storm not too long ago.

January 1, 2006

Concerning orphans and knock knock jokes

(I know it's long but read it anyway)
These are the events at the Thai orphanage. I'll go by what I can roughly remember each day:

Day 1:Meeting the others again (I had already met them by chance the previous night). We took a minivan for our seven hour journey, and watched a cheesey kung-fu flick (white dragon) dubbed in Thai. When I suggested the movie from our choices, they enthusiastically agreed, provided that we could MST3K it, and I knew these were my people.
After brief stops for weird food and looking at the river Kway (sp), we arrived at the orphanage, Ban Urak. The kids instantly glommed us.
That night, we were introduced to vegetarian cuisine, yoga style. Unbeknownst to me, yogis have a pseudo religious organization that has centers and missions around the world. We were introduced to Dada, who makes paintings (1,2) to raise money for the orphanage he is starting in his home country of the Fillipines. The orphanage was infact started by a yogi nun, named Dee Dee, who never set out to start an orphanage, but started taking care of children and kept on going. Also among the yoga cast was Abeegee (name is Sanskrit for victory), who is like the rock star of yogi charity volunteers that build houses, and play jamming electric guitar (with long rocker hair to match). Seriously, Abeegee is one of the coolest guys I ever met.

Day 2 (Dec 25th): It didn't feel very Yule-tidy when the others said "Merry Christmas" that hot, tropical morning.
We started our volunteering by making Christmas decorations. It was soon noticed that I have artistic talent and so I was conscripted to do lots of things, including building the fake fireplace for our skit (I'll get to it).
I think it was during the afternoon that I discovered the bubbly Canadian volunteer Hong didn't really get jokes.
Me: What goes "sis, boom, bah"?
Me: A sheep standing on top of dynamite!
Hong:... ... Oh.
We divided the kids up into groups to play games. I was in the parachute group, and we played with a parachute like we did in days of our elementary school PE classes. The kids didn't bother much to listen to what we were saying, and it was chaos, but I was content to flap my part of the parachute while kids ran amok.
We ended the games by singing carols into a mike. After I finished Silent Night, Hong accused me of being in a choir previously. Just genetics, really. But yeah, I proved an earlier statement in the day when I claimed to rock at karaoke.
That night, we all gathered in the dirt amphitheater to watch Christmas skits and musical performances. But first, as we were in a Yogi-run orphanage, we meditated. We all lit candles. For the first time all day, it felt like Christmas, as you can see here.
Then we performed our skit, the night before Christmas. I didn't realized I was going to be narrating some of it, but as I love the karaoke, I did fine. We had a jolly, Russian-accented Santa (Daniel, who immigrated to the US when he was 16) and many reindeer. Then we sat back and enjoyed the show. A little boy fell asleep, head rested on my thigh, for a good hour.

Day 3: This is where my memory starts to get mixed up, but I think it was the day we picked up trash with the orphans in order to promote recycling. I don't know if it worked, but oh well. After gathering garbage, we played games with trash. I and the classically beautiful (in that certain Japanese way) Annie played steal the bacon with Heineken bottles. The children understood it better than parachute.
The night found me painting a poem onto some posters for Dada's Filipino boys home. The power in the city went out, and I got some good conversation in with three of the girls by candle light. We walked home by candlelight too; it was darker than I've ever seen a city during an outage.

Day 4: Mostly rest. I went swimming. Then I saw Annie writing in her journal. She draws lots of pictures in it. Then she got a look on her face (to be hereafter referred to as the "Annie gleam of opportunity," and asked me to draw everyone in the group. So I characaturised everyone, and some were more happy with the results than others. But charactures are hard, they skirt the fine line between making fun of someone and just laughing with them.
After I started a few drawings, Hong and Annie invited me to go canooing with them. We proved to be a little inept, but we made it to our goal (a rickety bridge) and back with little incident. Except for more jokes. I discovered that Annie didn't get my jokes either. But they did both like one a lot. I retold it to Richard that night:
Me: Knock knock
Richard: who's there?
Me: interrupting cow
Richard: Interuptin--
Me: MOO!
Richard: You jerk.

Okay after this I really lose track of events.
Day 5: Dee Dee told us some of the basic beliefs of Yogis concerning fasting and body fluids and why boys are stupid cause they like girls. Then she told us her stories, how she incidentally ended up starting an orphanage and raising over a hundred children. There were sad stories too, and when she told us about deaths, a crazy thought came into my head about what I could do to help. You see, Dee dee does what she can with homeopathic medicine, but doctors are often inexperienced and expensive in this part of the world so... how could I help? Then I thought...
Keep in mind this is a just crazy thought.
Me in Doctors Without Borders. Me, a doctor, helping third world children. Now, it's only a thought right now, so I don't want everyone to think I'm going to do it, I'm so old at this point anyways (25), but still, it's something I will ponder seriously.
Our conversation was finally cut short by a dog getting hit by a car and us being impotent to help it (but I think it will live).

Day 6: I missed yoga. By real yogis. What a waste. Then I waited for a personal meditation session, something I both looked forward to and dreaded for silly reasons. As we waited, I ended up explaining about my religion twice, and explaining to Eric why Mormons don't drink. He seemed pretty impressed. Eric eats mostly fruit, so he was in heaven the whole time we were there, eating nothing but fruits and breads and coconut shakes and-- but I risk digressing if I go on about the cuisine.
Later that day, we went to another orphanage, this one just for boys. But the whole village was there for a festival. We handed out clothes and toys as fairly as we could amidst the greedy and impoverished crowd (I guarded toys). We also played capture the flag (I went down with a water balloon to my leg).

Day 7: Recovered from day 6. And that's about all I remember. I should have gone to the orphanage or something. What a lazy punk I am, to borrow a John Fugittism. I discovered that night that people who are passionately happy get passionately angry, but no big harm was done to anyone. I also did a little disappearing/reappearing act. Same old silly habits.

Day 8: Because I had to be sure to catch a bus, I had to watch everyone else leave to go elephant riding. I really will miss that group, we grew close in our short time.
I took a long bus ride to Bangkok, and a perilous motorcylce ride to the airport. Then I spent a small eternity in airplanes, airports, and Chinese customs on the way home, during which I met a Jet in the next town down.

New years found me with Tomoko, though not quite in the romantic Japanesy way I envisioned. Instead, I spent the first moments of my new year in a bar, eating outrageously priced food. Bah. We did briefly visit a Shinto* shrine and I got my fortune (a little good luck). I rubbed the fish god's ball (hey, stop snickering, it's good luck!) and chatted it up with a woman that turned out to be married to a Tokyo millionaire.

I'm still tired, but I ate a little at Mikie's house and it was good, felt a little like the holidays at home.
*: I only recently found out that if you mention Shinto to a Japanese person, they will generally have no idea what you mean. They don't percieve it as a religion at all, or an anything for that matter. It just is, and I'm not sure where the word came from.