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Today In CA

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Over 456 Served


5/10 Golden Week Movie Reviews

Szkandelous Dan here, fresh from a week of vacation to recount my stirring tales of movie watching.

First off, "Mizu no Onna," starring UA and Tadanobu Asano. UA stars as the lone proprietor of an old bath house who has a strange affinity for water. She encounters Tadanobu Asano, an outcast, socially inept boy in love with fire and the two make sparks fly. I think every single person who has ever talked to me about this movie has said it was fantastically boring. I can certainly agree that many of the shots are too long (the opening scene leading up to the rain comes to mind). However, I liked the movie overall, and not just in my capacity to love everything UA. The camera-work is pleasant if not overly original, the characters are likeable and the movie made me relax in exactly the sort of way I wanted to during a vacation. That being said, I think I'm just a sucker for wacky, quiet Japanese love movies. If you liked "Beautiful Sunday" (staring Masatoshi Nagase!) or "Joze to Tora to Sakana-tachi" you might like "Mizu no Onna." And seriously, with UA and Tadanobu Asano, what more reason do you need to watch it?

Next, we have the fine German-American hybrid horror film, "Alone In the Dark," based on the movie of the same name. Seriously, this is the best movie in the world, hands down. The plot holes are brilliant and assigning motivation to the characters requires cunning arts in psychological manipulation. Absolutely don't watch this movie, and if you do, don't hold me responsible. But, for those in the know, this is the best movie ever.

Finally, Fox's season one of "24." Jack Bauer saves the world from terrorists, but can he save his family? I honestly had no intention of watching this series until I received the first DVD in the series for free from CDJapan. Even then I held out until a day teetering on the brink of extreme boredom before I gave it a chance . . . and fell in love! The first DVD is subtle and believable with its characters and plot, employing a broad range of music to set the mood of each scene. And the pacing is brilliant. There are a few over the top scenes (yeah, I totally needed to blow up that plane), but on the whole the first disk was irresistible.

Which is why it pains me to say that the series should most certainly have been called "12." Towards the second and third disks the series sheds a lot of its quiet, indie feel to feel like a regular TV series, but at the same time you're emotionally invested enough in the plot to enjoy it. The betrayals are great and everything seems to flow smoothly. However, at exactly the halfway point the main plot of the series is (semi-spoiler) completely and utterly resolved. So what do they do with the other half of the series? The same thing only with a lot more melodrama and a lot less sense. By the final episode I was ready to cry.

Do I recommend "24"? I say watch it until the end of the real plot (you'll know where this is) and then go watch "Die Hard" or something. Seriously, didn't the director realize that amnesia is the tool of a complete hack?

"Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go, I wanna be sedated" -The Ramones

4/18 I’ve Got A Job! I’ve Got A Turkey!

There is maybe one person still reading this site who is going to get that title. Regardless, woohoo I’ve officially got a job in Tokyo starting in August! This weekend I went for my third interview at cdjapan in Tokyo. I finally got up the nerve to ask about wages and housing and everything and it’s official, I’m in!

I cannot convey in words how happy I am about this, but I’ll try. Last time I went looking for a job (straight out of college) I went six months before I eventually gave in and started working part time at a coffee shop. This time I did it on the second try. I didn’t make Squaresoft (though I did get an interview!) but I did get a great job doing translation and planning for a music company.

After talking about everything with everyone, I chatted with one of the guys I’ll be working with. He started by handed me a hard-copy of the fan club newsletter for Moi dix Mois, a copy of The Back Horn’s album, “Headphone Children, “ and a copy of Inugami Circus Dan’s latest CD, for both of which I’ve been doing the translations. The interview I had been translating had piqued my interested in Inugami Circus Dan, so I was happy to get a chance to see a real copy of the album. I tell my co-worker “thanks, “ and he responds “Please, take it. “ . . . OK! Then he hands me a copy of Yuki’s latest album . . . cool!

So we talk a while, and then he takes me over to the “loan rack “ where he tells me I can have anything I want. I see a CD from the ever topical band La’ cryma Christi so I poke my co-worker and without thinking go, “He he, La’ cryma Christi “ (they’d come up in an interview he helped me translate). He responds, “Please, take it! No one here like visual-kei [style of Japanese music] so take any visual-kei that you find “ . . .

When I left I had accumulated: two Moi dix Mois Madosho copies, Akiko Grace’s “Tokyo, “ a DVD of the TV series 24, La’ cryma Christi’s “Yesterdays, “ a Moi dix Mois single, The Back Horn’s “Headphone Children “ (+DVD), Inukami Circus Dan’s “Sukeban Rock, “ and a housing magazine.

On Thursday, Kei and I went to Ichigaya to scope out the location of a job interview she was having the next day (Congratulations on making it to the second!). When we passed by Sony Music, for some reason I felt empowered; I proclaimed, “I’m going to become the CEO of Sony one day! “ I think we both half-way believed it even (note: the latest CEO of Sony is a foreigner so it’s not too far fetched!) Then we ate at Denny’s.

Then Saturday, feeling thrilled from finding a job and invincible with the recent re-discovery of my credit card we ventured into one of Tokyo’s major furniture manufacturers. I knew something was up when I had to fill out my contact information before they even let me on the show floor, and by the time I saw the . . . $7000 price tags on the lesser grade couches I had pretty much sloughed off my feeling of invincibility. I believe my words were something like, “$2000 for a bed? Man, I guess I’ll take two of them! “ Then I hung my head, handed my empty ordering form back to one of the clerks and ran as far as I could.

To celebrate the new job, we went non-stop on sukiyaki and karaoke.

“Ashita wa nai kara chi hedo hakinagara inochi moyashite hashire!“-Inugami Circus Dan

4/11 The Snow God in Winter

They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Keeping with that theme, when life gives you 200 little kid pictures, it’s time to make a book.


We didn’t know what to do with all the artwork after the St. Patrick’s Day coloring contest so I combined them into an anthology. Then I took some thick paper, wrapped it in denim, and bound the covers to the drawings. Now I have a book!

So, first off, it’s finally April! Amen! And with the coming of April, Matsunoyama becomes Tokamachi! Yay!


When I spoke to Brian on the first, the day of the merger, our conversation went something like, “hey, how’s Tokamachi? “ “Great, how’s Tokamachi? “ The merge makes for boring conversations but promotes the worst aspects in we people who love bad jokes.

So now it’s stopped snowing, the birds are singing and the weather is mostly beautiful. To commemorate, I’d like to introduce my favorite man; his name is Mr Dom . . . The Snow God. This photo was taken last week.

Snow God

The Snow God is a mound of snow in front of my house. One day Brian was shoveling snow in front of my house (he said he wanted to try it once, BAKAMONO!) and I wanted to warn him not to shovel too close to the mound or it might collapse onto him so I yelled out, “Don’t wake the snow god! “ Thus the Snow God was born. Then Brian stabbed the mound with his shovel (BAKAMONO!), because he’s a namaiki no yatsu da ne.

The Snow God rules with tempest and terror, chilling those around him with his very sight. This is him at his height of power:

Snow GodSnow God

Notice the relative size of Brian in the picture on the left, and the relation of the top of the mound to the house in the background. Now then, this the world before the Snow God:

House FrontHouse Front

So now that the Snow God is in decline, I use his height to measure the time until summer. I feel like Sei Shonagon in “The Pillow Book, “ waiting for her pile of snow to melt.

In the meantime, Brian and I go to the nearby town of Nagaoka.

Chin Chin Tei

Then we go back to Tokamachi.

3/26 Stereo Zenkai I’m Fine O.K.

Tokamachi made hibiku yo. April marks the beginning of the Japanese work year and, this year, the end of Matsunoyama as it is absorbed into Tokamachi.

I just got back from the preschool graduation and now I’m all emotional. I might as well call this Kirin-gumi softly redux--ah it’s sad when your little kids grow up. I love little kids because they’re always glad to see you. They’re young so they aren’t clouded up with teenage angst yet. I like my junior high kids too, but they are at that age where they don’t want to be bothered by adults, and I remember that time too so I keep my distance. But the little kids, oh they’re so cute!

They’re just like little adults, you can see right through them to the person they’re going to be when they grow up. Full of potential, but also still full of good feelings; I see them and I think, she’s going to be the bossy but lovable housewife, he’s going to be the doting husband, she’s going to be dissatisfied with her boyfriends but will ultimately be happy.

So, seeing them graduate you get all emotional. At one point they all announce what they want to be grow up and you laugh and cry, he’s going to be policeman, she’s going to run a candy shop, she’s going be an olympic athlete, he’s going to be a physics professor. He wants to make toys and she wants to be a preschool teacher. You go little kids!

And so everyone gets all weepy. Mom is sobbing and dad tell try to tell jokes and say strong words, but half-way through his message he chokes up and hands it back to mom who collects herself and finishes the message with strength and poise. The graduating kids face their younger class-men for the last time and the younger kids take turns talking about all the great memories they have of the graduating class. Some of the graduates are starting to cry and one of them is particularly losing it. Now it’s the graduates turn to take turns talking about their memories in groups of threes and the next line, “We’ve laughed, we’ve played, we’ve cried together “ comes to the sobbing girl right as she is choking back to announce the line, and even I tear up a little.


The usually composed assistant mayor gives a speech but is caught up in losing his town, job, and now having his children grow up and stumbles through the whole thing. We’re saved by the elementary school principle who gives a lucid, great speech afterwards.

Anyway, they made me this picture:


Have I gotten prettier since I started wearing contacts? (When I first started wearing contacts the kids would ask me where my glasses went so I told, “I ate them. “ Even though they are young they still didn’t believe me, so when they’d ask again and I’d tell them, “Now I’m going to eat you! “ and chase after them.)

Like I said, it’s the end of the work year so I’ve been going to a lot of end-of-the-year parties. Yesterday was our final Matsunoyama all-public official farewell party. Since we were really celebrating the end of Matsunoyama, I thought it would be a sadder, more drunken affair but it turned out pretty genki. We held the party at this high-class Japanese inn in the hot springs district of Matsunoyama. They hit me up with crickets again, though.



Afterwards, we went to the head of the board of education’s, aka my uber-boss’s, house. There can only be one head of the board of education in a town, so since he has to leave his job we gave him flowers and then he gave flowers to his wife. They fed us a ton too.


I still remember the meeting where they announced we were merging with Tokamachi. The mayor solemnly read off the options we had before us: continue on as Matsunoyama, merge with Tsunan, or join with Matsunoyama’s arch nemesis Tokamachi. Everyone wanted to stay Matsunoyama but it was ultimately impossible because of our low population. Then he announced that we petitioned Tsunan but they didn’t need us since they have a nuclear reactor (not making this up). Then everyone hung their heads and the mayor finally announced that we were going to be part of Tokamachi. It felt like the entire town had just filed for divorce, the entire town had just been turned down by their girlfriend. Old men stood and voiced their concern that Matsunoyama would become less Matsunoyama and more like a city since we were merging with a city. I supported the merger, but even history-less I felt the weirdness in the room.

Anyway, other than that I had elementary school graduation last Thursday and the final board of education party.


“Ichinenju o omoidashite goran, anna koto, konna koto atta desho. “

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All works this site copyright D. Szkoropad, 2001-2003 unless stated otherwise. This means don’t steal it or I’ll tell your mother on you. Domo-kun copyright NHK.

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