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Over 458 Served


3/22 Horror!

Ok, I feel a lot better now. When I was younger I used to go up someplace high and yell out whatever was bothering me into the evening sky. Then I could just forget. Since I’m too old to do that now, I have to continue the tradition by writing in all-caps on my blog. Is there no finer metaphor for growing up?

So, now it is spring, the air is pleasant, and I am happy! But like all things, happiness comes at a price. With my happiness this week comes . . . horror! And, Japanese horror at that, complete with scary little kids. To make up for the dearth of decent Asian horror movies lately, I’d like to take this time to relay the top three real-life horror moments I’ve experienced in the last week.

3) A little boy of maybe three running around with a butcher’s knife! I was at the preschool to watch graduation practice and one of the little kids was playing with a knife. On further inspection I noticed the knife was thick and most likely a toy. Still, little boys running around with butcher’s knives are scary enough. When later he emerged from the bathroom entirely naked from the waist down still clutching that knife, then I knew it was horror!

2) Hana-chan. This weekend everyone in the board of education worked at this major ski contest held at Matsunoyama Ski Resort. When I show up at the meeting area, a little girl is playing with her toys at our table. My boss introduces her as Hana-chan, who is most likely a first grader in elementary school, and who’s mother is nowhere to be found. Hana is quiet, seems not terribly interested in talking with us, and keeps her face down so that her long black hair covers her eyes. Ignoring this, my boss notices that Hana is playing with a Cinderella toy set and strikes up conversation. “Do you know the story of Cinderella? “ she asks, but Hana does not respond. Boss continues, “Once upon a time there was a beautiful young princess that lived with her mother. However, one day her mother died and . . . “ I interrupt, “I don’t think Cinderella was a princess. “ Boss pauses for a second to think, and in the silence Hana states in her quiet little kid voice, “Cinderella killed her mother. “ I look at my boss, and then we reply, “naruhodo. “

1) More little girl horror. I’m prepping for the coloring contest and I notice one of the girls has drawn a picture of herself on the back of her coloring sheet. It is ungodly cute, so I decide to look closer when I notice some little kid writing on the edge. Straining my eyes to decrypt her script, I see, “I’m “ then some stuff I can’t make out, then “you. “ Then I solve the puzzle, “I’m watching you. “ SHOCK! HORROR! My boss assures me it really says, “I’m watching flowers, “ but SHOCK! HORROR!

3/19 Hashitte!

I’m back from another action-packed weekend in Tokyo for a busy week of holidays and projects. Monday was White Day, which I hear refers to the marshmallows us guys are supposed to give to girls though I guess it could equally apply to white chocolate. However, there seems to have been a mix-up--White Day does not refer to random post-season blizzards!

This week I’m wrapping up a St. Patrick’s Day coloring contest I sponsored in town. I finally got the displays up today and holy bejeezus are they cute.


The contest was for pre-school and elementary school students in Matsunoyama. These are the winners, in order from left to right (or top to bottom), for preschool, elementary school 1-3 grade, and elementary school 4-6 grade.


Though I have to profess a soft spot for these two:


And we gave the winners pots of gold as prizes:


Other than that, to tell the truth I’ve been feeling really nervous about life, which I well know is absolutely ridiculous. For the time being though, I just want to get this out of my system so please indulge me. It all started last week with my job interview. I’d been working on this 28 page translation project for the company and was hoping to use it as leverage during contract negotiations. In short, I was really looking forward to the interview, and yet when the interview concluded we hadn’t spoken a word about my contract. From then on, I’ve been feeling the persistent (but not to overwhelming) feeling of dissatisfaction. I’m confident it seeped out of me during the rest of the weekend when I was meeting with Yuriko, Takayo, and Kei, and I ended up just complaining the whole time. I hate that part of me. So, I’m sorry Yuri, Yogurt, and Kei.

I feel like life is passing me by. Nearly every year I’ve found myself on a new continent, starting my life over. Which, again, is silly, I’m moving to Tokyo (and if luck holds permanently) in August, and I love my job and what I do. Yet, I’m nervous about having to start everything over again. I’m going to be 25 years old (!) this year, and for the past four years I feel like I’ve been doing nothing but waiting. Waiting to graduate, waiting to find a job, waiting for experience, waiting to find another new job, waiting to find a girl. I love the opportunities I’ve had, and I am being the best person I can possibly be, but, does being the best person I can be really require that there be no single women anywhere near where I live for two years? I used to think I was afraid of growing old, but the truth is that I feel I should be, and I want nothing more than to be old, married and rooted firmly in a family and job. I want to kiss my wife and kids goodbye when I rush off to the train for work, and when I get back, I want to know that they’ll still be there. I feel stupid saying all this because it’s just a matter of time before this is all resolved, and a lot of it is being solved now. But once I start again in Tokyo, start again with a new (hopefully, the right) girl, and get married, I’ll be at least 28. And, if you’re related to me you should probably cover your eyes for a second, but, JESUS FUCKING CHRIST I’M SICK OF WAITING. OK, blah blah blah, The Smiths, blah blah blah welcome to my livejournal. Ok, new topic.

I’ve been watching and thinking about music videos a lot lately. Yesterday Guns n’ Roses’ “Patience “ came on the radio and I was reminded of its seldom-shown video. I don’t think most people liked it, but I’m completely in love with that part where Slash smashes his phone on the floor. That! is a video I can agree with.

Then today I was watching my UA music video collection today and it occurred to me that if my life were a TV show, the opening would be just like the video for UA’s “Private Surfer “ except it would be me running by Sancha through the rain in slow-motion with the voice of UA soaring, “Itsu datte, oyogenakutemo, tobikomeru yori. “ ( “Someday you’ll jump in . . . even if you can’t swim “) Which is to say, to draw another lyric from the fantastic song, “Kizutsuita tsubasa wa / mou oshimai to iu keredo / dakara koso bokura ga / isogiashi o, yame ni shiyou. “ Yeah, and just a little patience.

Anyway, next time I promise specifically not to whine, so stay tuned!

“Taiyou te ni, tsuki wa kokoro no ryoute ni . . . hashitte “ -UA

2/16 Szkandelous JPop Diary, Day 4

Dan here, back for another installment of the JPop diary. Today I’ll be featuring two similar artists walking down unique paths. Sort of the Ryu and Ken of JPop if you will.

First off is Misia. Singer for Singer is almost exactly what I expected: lots of weepy ballads and a little pop-funk. The ballads are the soaring, dramatic numbers you come to expect from JPop. In her less dramatic moments, Misia is indistinguishable in both voice and musical feel from another Japanese artist, Bird. The similarity is uncanny; I am tempted to say they are the same person, distinguished only by the ratio of ballads to pop-funk songs on an album. As a Bird fan, I have to say that I prefer the non-mega-ballad Misia tracks. Still, Singer for Singer is a decent album for the light R&B fan or those familiar with Bird’s Double Chance album.

Our next artist reminds me of Misia in some parallel universe where she stayed underground. Pushim nearly exclusively works in the Japanese reggae underground, collaborating with other famous Japanese reggae artists like Keyco and Home Grown (and, for that matter, the mostly non-reggae UA). Where Misia is the Shibuya-jousama with the Marley haircut and Mariah songs, Pushim is the girl with the normal hair, Shibuya-jousama voice, and Marley songs.

Working Girl, the Pushim album I’m reviewing now, is a collection of her works on other people’s albums. Since the songs are all collaborations, they contain the influences of a variety of different artists. As a result, we as listeners, get to hear a different facet of Pushim than we normally hear on her solo works. Some fans may be disappointed by the scarcity of reggae songs on the album, but I find the variety of songs refreshing.

2/15 Szkandelous JPop Diary, Day 3

With Yuzu out of the way, the experiment is going much smoother. Before I continue with my reviews I’d like to introduce a theory of mine.

Szkandelous JPop Theory 1: The quality of a JPop band is inversely proportional to the amount of dancing they do in their videos.

While I’m sure there are plenty of talented choreographers in Japan, the dances that show up in music videos are uniquely and invariably silly. If whenever you sing there are three boys with hair straight out of a hair salon catalog (or alternatively, three bored-looking girls) kicking, clapping, and rolling around on the floor behind you a la hip-hop dancing 101, chances are you should reconsider your career. If, heaven forbid, they make you dance the same way while singing (see W-inds), look forward to a long future as the punch-line to some hipster’s joke.

With the next artist, I’m pleased to announce that I have never seen her perform the dance of bad JPop death.

I’m coming to enjoy Utada Hikaru. I don’t think Deep River is one of those albums I’d throw on intentionally; however, I find she works well in a mix. For lack of a better word, there’s something really small about her work. Whenever I hear Ayumi Hamasaki I think of this image of her getting out a limousine, hair flying in the wind while she meets with a bevy of photographers. With Utada Hikaru, I see her setting a table or cleaning a house (I believe this may have been in one of her videos). I can’t exactly place the feeling, but she reminds me more of the subtle and everyday pleasures of home than of the glamour of pop life. I have to respect her for that, though I don’t think I’ll ever buy Deep River.

Today’s other artist is Tokyo Jihen. I’m torn whether I like this Tokyo Jihen album more than I like their singer Shiina Ringo’s solo work. Kyouiku is more funky/rocky than say Shouso Strip. However, the funk rock parts end up sounding a lot like recent Red Hot Chili Peppers (see the song “Omatsuri Sawagi “), effecting the originality of the production. Still, Kyoiku is a great album for any fan of edgy JRock or Shiina Ringo. The only thing really lacking is Shiina-san’s snarling and rolling of the Rs.

Well, that wraps up today. Come back tomorrow for more fun in JPop land!

2/14 Szkandelous JPop Diary, Day 2

It’s Valentine’s Day and here I am listening to JPop and eating chocolate by myself. Then again, here you are reading about me eating chocolate alone on Valentine’s Day, so we’re a good pair. We can transcend this holiday!

However, I don’t seem to be able to transcend my cold. Maybe it wasn’t JPop that was making me feel weak. Alternatively, maybe it’s JPop that made me sick again!

In that case, Yuzu is my pathogen du jour. I’m going to get this over with as fast as possible so I can remove them from my playlist. Their skill at making effortless pop music is remarkable. However, their true coup de grace is their talentless singer. Think bad visual-kei, think buddy-buddy lyrics, think cheesy pop. Then, go Van Gogh on your ears and you get close. Never, ever, ever listen to the song “Shumi no Haba.” Ever. My iPod seems enamored but I guarantee that you will not be.

They have one saving grace in the mediocre title track “1.” Ignoring the title for a second, the song sounds like late 80s U2. I’m going to take advantage of my fair use rights as an American citizen and give you a clip:

Where the streets have no name”--oh no wait, I mean “1.”

Other than that though, they are ear-destroyingly terrible. Just when you find an instrumental song intro a little interesting, the singer kicks in, destroying everything. Like you and me and Valentine’s Day, they transcend the limits of effortless pop, breaking right through the description of funny to land in the category of weapons of mass destruction. Listening to Yuzu is a transcendental experience.

OK, now I feel like I have to give you another sample. This is from the song “Yume no chizu.” When you’re listening to the terrible a cappella intro, WATCH OUT OF THE JACKSON 5!!! I swear, the Jackson 5 always show up at the worst moments.

Anyway, more tomorrow (with good music, I swear!) so come back soon.

“Oh baby I was blind to let you go / But now since I see you in his arms (I want you back)” -Jackson 5

2/13 Szkandelous JPop Diary, Day 1

Captain’s log, day 1: Today marks the start of a daily journal where I keep track of my trials listening to JPop for a week. Next Friday I have a job interview at an online CD/DVD retail company in Tokyo that specializes in JPop and anime, so, in order to brush up on my long-declining knowledge of JPop, I rented a stack of CDs at Tsutaya. It is my goal to study for my interview by listening to these CDs as much as possible in the time before my interview. My pain is, as always, your gain!

I tried to find as many new albums that seem remotely interesting as possible or try out the newest CDs from artists I’ve been meaning to check out. The cast:

Misia--Singer for Singer
Utada Hikaru--Deep River
Tokyo Jihen--Kyoiku
Tommy February6--Tommy Airline
UA--Petit (OK, I’m cheating for the next three . . . )
Pushim--Working Girl
Home Grown--Time is Reggae
Yuzu--1~One~ ( . . . but make up for my cheating here)

Day 1, Results: I feel like I’m making headway with my journey into JPop. Tommy February is surprisingly good--I could see myself getting her first album. On the other hand, Yuzu is like the sweet summer rain falling on your expensive stereo equipment.

I feel like the JPop is mellowing me out due to it’s distinctive lack of edge. It gets me all silly-emotional and melancholic--I can’t say I appreciate that. The worst part it gets me thinking about The Girl, whom I met for the first time in a year-and-a half a couple of weeks ago (which was really, really good), and I’m trying my hardest not to think too much about her right now. It’s hard though, tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day and I’m listening to songs with titles like “I still love you boy” and “Holy Hold Me.” I will survive . . . for the sake of JPop!

. . .Must listen to Hifana. . . this is a terrible experiment. Anyway, I’ll go more in depth tomorrow so come back soon!

“Odore! Odore! Mori agare! (Odorasete yo ne!)” --Hifana

1/14 You’ve Got To Know Your Chicken

Hello everyone, akemashite omedetou gozaimasu and welcome to the “year of the chicken” on Szkandelous.com. I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about dinosaurs.

Have you ever really thought about dinosaurs? Since dinosaurs have been extinct for many epoch, children grow up gleaning sunny bits of information about dinosaurs from whatever literature and films they come across. Admit it, when you were a kid you thought they were cool too, right? Man, if I could see a real dinosaur it would be radical!!!

But when you think about the truth of dinosaurs, you realize how horrible living with them would be. A dinosaur alive today might smash through your house or go to sleep in the middle of a freeway causing massive backups. And, I think we’ve all seen Godzilla.

I mention this because, for me, snow is exactly like dinosaurs. Snow does not exist in my home town in California; in fact, it has snowed precisely once there in my lifetime. Growing up, I read about snow in books or saw it in movies. Songs like “White Christmas” would play in the background and I’d think, “wouldn’t it be cool if it snowed here.” I always wanted to throw snowballs at my little sister or build a snowman.

But great scott! After moving to Matsunoyama I discovered the truth. Last year was bad, but this year, is ridiculous. In the mere three weeks of snow we’ve had so far, a pile of snow over nine feet high has piled up in front of my house. In the back, where the snow slides off my roof, the snow has piled up so high it obscures a good half of my second story window. The dinosaur comparison isn’t merely academic: cars and houses are sagging under the weight of this year’s freak snowstorm and the roads have become deadly, thin pathways full of half-a-foot-deep potholes and backwards cars.

If snow were dinosaurs I’d be living in the raptor pen of Jurassic Park.

Snow 1Snow 2

So, you may be wondering what I’ve been doing during the site downtime when I’m not shoveling snow from my driveway or blowing a strut. I through my annual Thanksgiving party at the beginning of December, saw Wong Kar Wai’s latest film 2046 and bought a used Fantom-S keyboard. Then I wanted to edit the rhythm setting on the Fantom in realtime so I wrote an application to do just that:

The Fantom Tollbooth

This update’s getting long so I’ll save the photos and reviews and explanations of software for later. Take care in this year of snow, the year of dinosaurs, and the year of their distant cousin, the chicken.

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