The bloggings of an Upstate NY-born Tokyoite. Now with 20% more verbosity!

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Spicy food, tattoos and youtube scandals

Wow, so first off I'm impressed with the number of hits I've been getting as of late - it's either the same people checking everyday or new viewers randomly finding their way here, or both, and in any case thanks for reading! It gives me a little more motivation to do this.

Secondly ,we are going to talk about my avid love of all things food-related: Eating, cooking (although I am still a n00b), tasting, hell I'd probably even screw a girl if she was covered in virtually any edible substance, that is how much I love food. I also come from a family of big eaters on both sides, so it's in the blood.

Today at work, I decided to try the stuffed hot peppers......more like stuffed death peppers! Three of 'em had my tear ducts running (which does NOT count as crying, by the way) and I just caved and tossed the other two. Still, I had to at least try.















This, my friends, is how you study Kanji (Japanese characters).



















Sheer morsels of fire.


Part of the reason I am excited to go to Japan is the food. I have always loved fish, but living so far inland it's always way to expensive and not very good. I actually have a hard time finding much of anything I don't like eating, except maybe eggplant and cucumber. Anyway. I'll be sure to take some cool pictures and give reviews of food and or eateries I come across in Japan, especially the weird stuff, ya know, like 河豚 (fugu, Japanese blowfish that is 90% poisonous).

Thirdly, I am busy. Very, very busy. Tomorrow is just a work day, but Thursday, I go up to Saratoga to get tattooed by my good friend Humplik. (Singer of Gaining Ground, one of the best active New York bands so check em out!) What am I getting done? Well, hopefully a couple things, but here's a picture of what is definitely getting put on my left shoulder:




















It should be enlarged to fit over my shoulder cap, and of course still remain hidden for all professional purposes. I'm pretty excited about this. The emblem comes from a collection of Joseph Conrad short stories I picked up at a local library book-sale, the ONLY way to buy books. But yea it's from an old book for school children from something like the 1930s in Scotland. Neat.

Lastly, since my eyes kind of hurt and I might fall asleep in my chair if I go on much longer, here's a special present, a video-tour of my soon-to-be-vacant room:





MY FACE IS ON TEH INTERWEBZ?!!11

Countdown to D-Day: 20 Days.





"I wanna run for president, and focal-point when I'm campaignin' is to put FEMA to work on a plantation in Camp David" - Immortal Technique feat. Diabolic

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Slight meloncholia.... (And never bring a watergun to a tazer fight)

Feelin a little bummed today. If you don't know me already, than I'll warn you that I tend to fluctuate between hyper/silly and mellow/blah on the regular, and it might be reflected in my bloggy here. The pizza-business has been shitty lately, just making enough to spend, not save. Although I can't deny I love the chill people I work with, it's a very lax environment. And the food is free. :)

I also think about how much I'll miss everyone and how there will be people I don't get to hang out with before I leave. I also really hate it when you leave people messages and they don't respond, it's a personal peeve of mine. There are also those people who you make plans with and almost always bail, making you wonder why you bother trying to make plans in the first place.

But anyone can complain, more importantly I am:
  • Going to NYC in a few days to solidify my working visa with the Japanese consulate - more fun paperwork I spent a few hours doing today
  • then going to hang out with Naomi, old friend who lives down that way and go to a party with a bunch of artsy-fartsy people
  • Working my last days as a pizza delivery man (THANK GOD), it's all over in about 9 days.
  • Going on a sweet roadtrip to VA Beach with Rich, Laura and Gabe to see some old friends, hit the beach, and see The Sleeping, a post-hardcore band that has really grown on me lately. It will also be my last show in America for a while.

On the subject of shows - there are those of you who don't share my taste in music and that's fine, but if you know anything about anything, you'd be annoyed too if you found out OVERCAST, DISSOLVE, TERROR, DYING FETUS and KATAKLYSM were all playing within a month of your leaving.... that's like 5 sweet shows in a month, after such a dead summer. But, as my friend Ed said: "For everything you miss over here, there'll be something equally as cool over there." Well I hope so!

Finally received an e-mail from my J-employers: I'll be living in Nerima, about 30 minutes east of Shinjuku prefecture in Tokyo by train, but only temporarily. I'm staying at a "guest-house" (what does that mean, really?) for a month due to all the apartments being full. I guess they are waiting for people who worked their year to not renew contract, but how can you really plan something like that? Whatever. When I finally arrive in Japan, after all this hard work and red tape and waiting and everything else, I'm going to be somewhere between shock and utterly estatic.

Still have to pack. Still have to clean things up here at home before I go. I also have about a million things I'm leaving behind, a good chunk of which I should sell on ebay for $$$, however I am (a) lazy (b) a packrat.

In other posi-news, I've been jogging roughly 2 miles a day around scenic hampton manor lake, only about a mile from my house, it really is a beautiful little spot. Trying to get my lower body in shape so I can walk anywhere/everywhere in Japan, since I can't ride a bike to save my life.

MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE POST: I found the myspace of the kid who took pics of my band, Shane, and this picture represents mine and Chris's contempt for humanity nicely:



























(Am I casting a palm-muted spell?!??)







Countdown to D-Day: 23 Days.

"I know you're just like me, together we share our misery" - Starkweather

Friday, July 25, 2008

Living in Japan

With the clock winding down on NY-time, I've been hastily getting my shit together in an effort to properly prepare for the trip....

....is what I'd like to say, however, I took a much needed "mental-health day" (as my Mother used to call them back in elementary school) yesterday and am feeling much more focused now. Amazing what a good nights sleep can do for you.

Today's topic: LIFE. IN. THE. COUNTRY. OF. JAPAAAAAAAAN.




















Hmmm, not quite. Although you have to appreciate the incredibly fancy muwashi (that's the diaper-lookin' thing) that he's wearing.










Oh Bill Murray, how terrible that the Japanese can't appreciate the true greatness of your dead-pan humor. [From Lost in Translation if you were not aware, excellent film]






Ok, my life in Japan, really, is bound to look something more like this:














Yea-huh. Most likely I will be living in a complex of crowded apartments, although maybe I'll get lucky! It's also a big change-up for me in more ways than one, even besides the fact that I've never even been to Japan before, I am used to living in scenic, green and suburban Upstate New York. I mean I've been to New York City, and thank the good lord that Tokyo is supposed to be about 100x more clean and less crime-ridden.

In other words, I'll be going from this:
















(Ok, so this was taken in Potsdam, NY - But there are places this nice very close to where I live now)







To this:














(Shinjuku Prefecture, one of the many area of Tokyo I could end up in!)











In which case I should probably end up looking like this:




























Man, I loved that movie when I was a kid. Anyway, let's get a little more serious. What is the living situation going to be like for me, really?

  • Either a single, small apartment like I requested, or
  • Living with 2 other random teachers (eep) and sharing kitchen and bathroom facilities.
I have an icky feeling that the latter is more likely, although I know a girl who just this past Spring requested roommates and ended up on her own, so who knows. Either way the company is setting up living arrangements through a reputable housing company, but if I don't like where I end up I still have to live there anyway for at least 5 months. Yikes.

Which brings me to my lastest find, oh thank you Internet for all the added fear you bring into our lives on the daily. I got this one from Japan Probe, an interesting news blog I've been checking recently. Observe:




[Foreign Termites invade Japan] - Just watch until the end, the last 15 seconds show the inner-workings of a termite colony. Gross!

And that's just a taste of what is to come, for me and for you, the reader, who gets to laugh, cry, stand up and fall over with me as I bumble my way through a country full of people who are on average 6+ inches shorter than me. :)

But for now, I go on here in boring old East Greenbush, New York. Until next time folks.





Countdown to D-Day: 25 days.


"Inner city life, inner city pressure
The concrete world is starting to get ya
The city is alive, the city is expanding,
Living in the city can be demanding,
You've pawned everything, everything you own,
Your toothbrush, jar, and a camera phone
You don't know where you're going
You cross the street
You don't know why you did,
You walk back across the street."
-Flight of the Conchords, "Inner City Pressure"

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Creator. [A Short Story]

There once was a boy who did not have any friends. He had his family, his food and his shelter, all the physical things a boy could ever need, but there was gnawing void within his heart. One day this boy, fed up with his consistent isolation and unable to grasp a reason for it, created his own world. He made up people, gave them names, made up places, gave them names, made up stories, gave them names. He was like a God to those of his own world, instead of a lowly person in a world ruled by a cruel God - which he must be, to have left the boy feeling so despondent and desperately alone.

Then, one day, as the boy had just finished a fantastical story in which one of his people built something amazing and fruitful and good for the sake of the town, only to be eventually corrupted by his own power and annihilate almost everything, the boy made a friend. He wasn't a very good friend, but the boy didn't care because this boy was willing to be his friend. And so, over the course of time he came to think less and less about the world he created, and moreso about his friendship and how it related to the world outside. Leaving behind his title of lone master of a Universe for a comparitively menial role in the real world didn't make logical sense to him, but it felt right. There was something that the subjects of his world couldn't give him, something that they lacked horribly, which ultimately made him feel devastatingly more alone when he came out of his trance and realized that none of them were real to anyone but him, no matter how hard he had wished them to be.

Eventually this world was forgotten. The boy made more friends, grew up, and left behind all that he had created, scantly giving it a thought whilst his head rang full of bustling ideas. Money and women, and the act of balancing them with the rest of his life, seemed to take up most of his cognitive function. Many years past, and the boy turned into a man who turned into a married man who turned into an old married man, with children and grandchildren and so on. By degrees he became sickly, some said even demented in his old age, especially after the loss of his wife. There, sitting in his bed, he seemed to no longer recognize the faces of his children, and even the hints of recognition were hazy and wrong, as he often mistook his grandchildren for his children. Unaware of time, he regressed not unwillingly into the dusty regions of a world he had so long ago created. The people there had aged none, and awaited his instruction, his direction, his narrative, his creation. He lamented whatever it was that had kept him so long from such important duties as that of maintaining his own universe, and become more inwardly focused as each day passed. On the day his body fell listless and unmoving, to the dismay of some shadowy figures of which he was now unaware, he managed to push out the word "pencil" from his lips. Taking the writing utensil in his shaky, withered hand, he wrote: "I will always be with you, I created you, and a creator cannot die."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Awesome"

awesome | adjective - extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear.

I understand that awesome has taken to mean something totally different in the modern world, but I think it's good to realize that it originally stood that which is awe-inspiring, to the point of fear and over-stimulus.

Just a little rant for today. Nothing much exciting here at camp Belcher, ate a piece of apple pie at Denny's last night and felt as if a thousand little men with pick-axes were hacking away at my intestines. Note to self: Don't eat Denny's ever, ever again. I have not quite felt myself all day and despite going to the gym for the first time in a whole week (a long break by my usual standards) I can't shake this splitting headache.

I studied some Japanese at work while we were slow, and picked back up a book on Plato's philosophy. Both are subjects I want to further myself in but have neglected. I want to become bilingual, and I also want to be well versed in classical and modern philosophy, since language and arguing about shit that can't be proven are two things I will love to the grave.

Heard a bunch of sweet Japanese hardcore bands thanks to my friend and future band-mate Ian. Upon listening to Ensavegement, I said to myself: "I will mosh in Japan." I plan to do more than one musical project, and although I've been a guitarist for 10 years I really want to just do vocals for a hardcore band. If I can get a bunch of Japanese hardcore kids singing along with me in broken Engrish, I will be estatic.

You might say music is awesome, but I disagree. That which we can't understand, the underlying questions such as "how do we know that we know" and "what is our purpose and life" are awesome. That, and this clever Lovecraft spinoff video: (I'm on a big kick with him right now, it won't last forever.....probably)


Many LoL's to be had. I still think about leaving everyday and the pressure to do what I want and what I need are converging into a growing tension that I need to shake off. I'm going to go do something relaxing, I think. Until next time my fellow internerds.


Countdown to D-Day: 27 Days.


"We are entering dimensions beyond space." - In Flames

Monday, July 21, 2008

2008: Summer of Love, a.k.a. The Longest Post in the History of the Interweb

This will be a thick entry, rife with pictures, text, emotions, and pictures, to keep you interested. Doper and Geebert are calling this one "a triumph of the human spirit," so don't miss this summer's most explosive post!

.......You don't have to pity-laugh, it's OK (That stands for Oll Korrect, by the way, fun factoid of the day). This post is going to be a rare, excessively long and chronological post so bear with me, you won't get many of these unless I feel it is utterly necessary. I mean, what kind of boring story-teller tells a story in order anymore?

Friday was a fairly mediocre day at first: I attended the Midnight Metal Cruise after working a sub-par shift (which was still exciting if only because I have two more days working for that crazy alcoholic boss of mine), and it greatly exceeded my expectations. For one thing, Ironweed killed it, an awesome groove-rock/metal band with the former front-man of the best metal band from Albany ever, Held Under. Very fun stuff. The second band was Dead and Dying....Breed....one of the few bands still known as "troycore," and if you don't know what that is, well, you aren't missing much nowadays.

Anyway, the point isn't so much the bands that played as that it was on the Dutch Apple, a medium-sized boat that does cruises of various sorts. After some intense thunderstorms passed, and I had a few beers with some friends, I silently observed with renewed awe the city of Albany drifting by at a nice, comfortable speed. I saw the State building I worked at for a summer as a paper-pusher, with its green windows and its persianesque dometop; I saw the undersides of greenish-black bridges with supports that are older than me; The black water so calm and our boat humming steadily as she pushed on through, with the smell of fuel sauntering lightly on the breeze, all the while as the boat gently rocked. I had forgotten how much I really enjoy traveling by water, and I greatly look forward to my first trip to South Korea from Japan, which is relatively short distance by boat, and it's cheap too! I will of course be going to visit Yun, Kaitlin and Jaemin, as well as attempting to converse in broken Korean.

Woo, tangent. I had a great time on the metal cruise. I spent the latter hours trying to reel in some fishes, but none were a-bitin'. So, me and Eddy (a man with integrity and a healthy passion for life and questioning EVERYTHING, whom I have neglected to mention in my blog thusfar) perused a few bars and got some completely unnecessary late-night eats at Cafe 217, because it's a nice little joint. I ate Nachos with chili, not only because I had been drinking, but also for another, more pervasive reason: Apparently, while Japan is an acclaimed "eater's paradise" the one thing they can't do right/don't have a decent number of is Spanish/Mexican eateries. While I understand the geographical and cultural gaps which are only part in parcel of the cause for this, it still greatly upsets me since spicy foods are one of my reasons for living. I know there's curry, but c'mon, it ain't the same as a delicious burrito with mega-hot sauce!!!!!

So, following my 4am meal I awoke promptly at noon to meet with my dear friend Sarah for lunch (actually breakfast for us both, but we did not mind) at El Loco, another cool place to eat in Albany. I proceeded to eat delicious burrito with mega-hot sauce, while we talked about our lives, aspirations, yada-yada. The important thing here is that she is just one of many on my list of approximately (and I quote) 239 people I will sorely miss hanging out with. Here is a terribly blurred picture from that day:















After we said our goodbyes (and I had better see you again soon before I go!), I did less memorable stuff like go home and sit around in my underwear with a fan on me to dodge the heat, went to work, and went straight to Troy to pick up Justin, a younger guy who was in (ironically enough) a troycore band, who I've always gotten along with as he is chill and enjoys a lot of the same music as me. Before I explain anything else, I'm Fast Forwarding and loosely quoting my apparent drunken wisdom: "We are dudes who like metal. People don't get it, unless they listen to metal, so we go around being somewhat introverted and keep to ourselves, unless of course we are around someone else who likes metal."

The reason I picked him up was to see the epic Burning Human, a 10+ year old band whose latest cd has been produced by James Murphy of much fame, a band who pre-existed Shadows Fall and still have Jay Bittner as their drummer, a band that is from troy but not troycore so much as rip-your-face-off death metal. They only play once a year now if at all, and I've never seen them before. The other bands were forgettable; But Burning Human, who everyone came and paid an ominous $13 to see, had an absolutely crazy set which included these things, with absolutely no exaggeration whatsoever:
  1. A guy jumping off the stage backwards within 10 seconds, and no-one catching him.
  2. At least half a dozen different fights - not that I'm a fan of this at shows, because I'm not, but as a wise man once said, "anything is funny if it's not happening to you."
  3. Two or three people knocked out cold from sheer mosh madness, also kinda uncouth in my opinion but I was in no way involved.
  4. Firecrackers set off in the middle of the pit
  5. General mayhem and troycore debauchery.
  6. An awesome band with completely devastating tunes.
This might not seem all that appealing to some of you out there; However, if you don't already know, I like metal, therefore I am different from roughly, oh, 93% of the population. If I am surrounded by chaos, violence, and loud, aggressive music, and especially if I get out of it fairly unscathed, I feel cleansed of my demons and really fantastic. Music is therapy, after all.

I proceeded to drop Justin off at some party, upon which made this discovery:















A truly epic night. I also had the extreme pleasure (or Schadenfreude, if you will) of watching a cop pass me and pull over the guy in front of me. I also proceeded to eat at Taco Bell, and came home to crash in at roughly 2am. The point here being that I have a stomach of steel and can take anything, even the beaniest of combinations.

6:52am: I was awakened by Jessica. Background: Me + Jessica is B.F.F., in the truest sense, we've known each other our entire lives. Jessica, her boyfriend Mike Legendary and I all left about an hour later to visit Mountain Creek in New Jersey, a water-park that I have never been to before. Apparently it had some rather unflattering history and an infamous record for injuries and deaths when it was known as Action Park. An interested read, and whoever approved a water-slide with a loop is on some hard drugs, a dead certainty.












Now I wonder why this one didn't last...
















I was so tired I don't even remember taking this picture.

We met up with Ace, a friend of Mike's, at Traction Park and proceeded to our doom - er, um, fun. The very first "ride" wasn't a ride at all but a 20' cliff jump into a big pool of water. Here's a fact that will never change: I am afraid of heights. I manned up and stepped forward to take the plunge, and just as I did so the staff-guy said: "no arms out, no diving, no dying." I immediately jumped without looking down, and it was an awesome rush. Probably the closest to cliff-diving that I will ever get. I love water-parks, and on a hot day like today I got more sun than I have so far all summer, excluding my slick driver's tan. I also ended up with my back and shoulders a nice and crispy shade of red by the end.

Anyway, we went on many great rides, and other than NYC- and Jersey-kids being complete douchebags and blatantly cutting long lines, the apathetically pathetic staff, the somewhat crowded conditions, the overpriced food (of which I ate none at all, all day, for the sake of time money and health) and the lack of water fountains, I had a shreddin-good-time. It was a day to remember, to say the least.




















We are some classy people, lemme tell ya!

And here I am now, 1:07am, tired as all hell, still chlorine-zonked and burnt out from a busy and awesome weekend. I have so many plans tomorrow that I can tell posting will not happen, so I prioritized this for the sake of retaining all the quirky details.

Real quick, because I'm equally as excited about this, here are a few choice band pictures and the coup de grace of this whole entry:














































































































Damnation Alley - Just Fine. The first material by my band to hit the internet, please check it out if you like metal! :)

That is all from deep space. Tomorrow should include many things, including setting up my technologically-impaired relatives with webcam technology, hanging out with Josh one last time before he makes the move, seeing The Dark Knight, and having our first band practice with the new Drummer, Chris of Recon-fame. I really never used to be this busy, but I like it. Over and out.


Countdown to D-Day: 29 Days.




"Wake up wake up, we're losing everything! Wake up wake up, we are Fixtures.... Do we really want to face reality?" - Achilles

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Saying good-bye!

This is, in all cases but especially involving friends, family and people you've known for many years, a damn hard thing to do. I got lunch today with Fran, which is awesome considering she is only back in town for one day, and she lives in D.C. now so we don't get to hang out often. Probably won't see each other again for a few years at least, so let's step into the time machine:

Rewind to when I was 16, sophomore prom, and the only remaining picture I have from then:













Ah, to be young again (LOL)

Fast Forward to 23, and this is deliciously awkward photo of the two of us in Albany on this ungodly hot day:















(and now that I've figured out how to send pics from my phone to my computer, expect a slew of randomness in the next month)

Anyway, this post isn't just amount Fran in her awesomeness but all my sweet friends who are going off to bigger and better things: Josh, Kerri, JT, the list goes on and on. Even those who are sticking around home, I don't blame you, it kind of rules in Upstate Jew York. Stay close via teh interwebs, please.

Coming soon: Ben's Guide to Getting Hired in Japan - the how's who's and why's.


Countdown to D-Day: 32日.




We're all doomed, what's the use? So fuck the world and pass the booze, treat the end with self-abuse 'cuz either way you fucking lose! Nothing really left for us to do! - Toxic Narcotic

These are two of my favorite things



From the old (mystery science theater 3000)



to the new (Rifftrax)


Screw time, comedy heals all.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Video games, anime and rabid j-pop culture fandom...

...are NOT how I roll, baby. Yes, I got into anime from Akira back in the day (thanks Gabe), yes I beat Mario 1 when I was 4, and yes the Japanese seem to be on the cutting verging threshy threshold of everything, but I don't really obsess over any of these things. I'll admit I used to, to an extent, before my health reforms I would consume mass amounts of anime in a daze of noise, colors and subtitles, but that isn't me now. My anime-watching has gone down to virtually nil in the last year or so, since somehow knowing that I would move there one way or another prompted me to observe American cinema with a fresh eye again. I was the supreme dork to end all dorks of video games (i own at least 8 different consoles) but now find little time to play much of anything, or rather I think of better things to do while I am still in New York. Do I still like these things? Yes, of course, like so many I am sick with J-fever, BUT I am actually pretty interested in Japan's historical and cultural facets beyond just the technology and entertainment... although most historical dramas have been turned into manga...

Manga. The big center topic of this post. For all you J-n00bz out there, manga = Japanese comics. Comics which are ridiculously cheap (something like $3 for Shonen Jump, with 400+ pages) and promote a healthy love of reading, and a literacy rate of 98% to boot. Now, do you wonder why this is exactly? Why aren't comics as popular in America? Long story short, McCarthyism in the 50s directly linked comics books to juvenile delinquency, thereby blacklisting both authors and publishers alike, hence us being left with the utter drivel that some call "the funnies." It only took us until the 00's for Hollywood to figure out, "hey these are like story-boards, and we can make MOVIES out of them!" *slaps forehead* Newsflash to all you comic-adaption-screenplay-writers out there, THE JAPANESE HAVE BEEN DOING THIS FOR 30+ YEARS.

Woo, rant. So yea, the Japanese do some things better, mainly comics, seafood and not veering so far from patriarchy and tradition that we lose any semblance of what entails gender. (and for all you feminists out there, I'm not taking it back). Of my original Japanese obsessions, one of the few that remains intact is One Piece, a masterpiece of a comic, and not a bad anime either. That, Berserk and Gantz are the only manga I still follow. Because you are all dying to know.

I finished that Lovecraft story (mofo was flippin crazy) and am moving on to some Poe, until my eyes fall out or I fall asleep, whichever comes first...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

T.I.P.S. - To Insure Proper Service?

Fun Japan Fact of the day: Tipping is almost non-existent in Japan. While it is the biggest non-mandatory income in the United States (and I'm sure in other Western countries as well), apparently it does not live up the seeming importance of the original acronym.

Why do we tip people at all then? Two words: cultural conditioning. And thanks to that, I've made some $$$ over the last year or so I couldn't have otherwise. Is it strange then that I look forward to being relieved from tipping? Even though I always tip well at restaurants, bars etc., because that's how I made my money, maybe we are the ones who are backward here?

There is also the whole mystery element of working a tip-based job - the excitement and nervousness of wondering if today will be a great day, a good day, or just plain awful. You are at the mercy of your customers (and dumb luck), I simply wear a dopey smile and act overly polite and try to make them laugh when possible....so it's like practice for teaching English in Japan! :) But really, I do look forward to working a job with a solid level of income, not one that fluctuates so randomly. I'd rather be rewarded in time by keeping regular students/attracting new students, then be handed $8 tips from people in trailer parks and $1.30 tips from people in mansions.

Numbers. The metric system. Do I know it? NOPE!

I'm currently on a rampant hangout-with-everyone mission, it's going decent so far. Hung out with my ex from high school last week, some old friends, and even received a nice little "shout-out" from a friend who knows I'm leaving - whose band is awesome, and probably one of the longest running/hardest working ones from this area, After the Fall. Not my usual style but some good heartfelt lyrics and excellent riffage.

Speaking of band-related stuff, the last show with Josh who is moving to G-Damn Oregon was a great success, will post youtube videos later (thanks to grizloch for driving out and videotaping). Without going into too much detail, it was one of the funnest shows I've ever played, I'm going to miss this band!

Off to work. Epic local metal legends BURNING HUMAN are playing Saturday, stoked on that since I missed their initial reunion last summer. Getting closer to the last Albany show, closer to the end of the grace period, closer to something that will change my life forever.

Countdown to D-Day: 34 Days.




You're all so important to me, and I won't forget how much this life and this music meant to ME. -After The Fall

Sunday, July 13, 2008

If you're already there well, you prolly don't know

I don't know the purpose of this post, I will be honest. There is no direction, no control. NO CONTROL.

Spent the day doing band stuff, working, then a pleasant trip to my good friend Richard's house on Dyken Pond, where we kayaked the awe-inspiring man-made lake and basked in the setting sun. Truly a beautiful place, the trip out there reminds me of my love for Upstate NY scenery, every stinkin' time. Also did some brutal workout training, a program called P90X that is probably the coolest and most efficient way to tone yourself up, highly recommended to you fitness freaks out there.

For a little background, Rich is a long-time friend, an excellent writer and a silly motherfucker. We are planning a trip down to Virginia Beach to hang out with our good friends in Loss of Reason about a week before I depart from the country. Should be an excellent time.

As far as friends go, you know how there's acquaintances, good friends and then your true-blue, take a bullet for 'em type people? Well, Rich is that last one for me. People who are that down to earth, creatively inclined and fun to hang out with are hard to find. Check out his wacky blog at www.richardlives.com.

Went through some digital pictures I have long neglected, for myself but also to reward you, the reader, for sticking with my random post thusfar. The blog default picture on your right was taken in a tube station (subway) in London. I found the wording funny and relavent. Yes, yes I did.















This was me, next to a smart car. !!!















Me and my Mom in the bitter English cold. She's the strongest and most brutal woman I have ever known.















Me and my sister Barbara in Scandonavia.......or Disneyland. I forget.















Me and my fellow stringed instrument-players in a college studio just outside Boston, MA. Very fun times.















Not sure why but I really like this picture. Me and John Torn, manmythLEGEND.

















J-O. To the left is a man soon to be leaving on the Oregon trail.

That's enough with the pictures for now. I don't know why, but I enjoy posting them here more than myspace/facebook. That gets into a whole different discussion about the flaws of social networks in general, but I'll spare you all the blah-dee-blah.

On the subject of Japan. There are all sorts of documents I should probably be concerning myself with as far as taxes, traveling insurance, packing, difficult-to-find foodstuffs, but meh, whatever. Sometimes I feel better knowing I have work waiting for me, as strange as that may sound.

I am currently reading random and obscure Edgar Allen Poe stories. I recommend "Angel of the Odd" to anyone who enjoys macabre fiction with a sardonic twist. Also plowing my way through H.P. Lovecraft's "The Dream-Quest to Unknown Kadath," and so far it is EXCELLENT. Like, cats-flying-to-the-moon-to-kill-fungus-creatures-and-slaughter-excellent. I am a reader, it's one of my passions, and I figure no matter how lost, confused, disassociated or disillusioned I may feel at times in Japan, I can always pick up a book and go to the same places that I did back home....READING RAINBOOOOW.




A final little bit, Save Yourself covering One King Down at the Shelter Skate Park in Albany. If you don't already know, OKD were huge and a real fiery ember at the hearth of the Albany Hardcore scene, and playing this set goes in my top 10 my fun shows ever, easily. (If you want to see the rest, youtube it)



Countdown to D-Day: 37 days.





To answer the question It'll probably take more If you're already there well, you probably don't know Well, we were the people That we wanted to know And we're the places that we wanted to go -Modest Mouse

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Driving to Cohoes 8 times in one day can do this to a man.

I hate my pizza delivery job. It's summer, I should be swimming, instead I'm frying in a 2-ton metal box with working air-conditioning that I can't afford to use. I made $113 today in tips, but only after a 12 hour shift and some serious bullshit. I'll spare you the trite details. Everything in that "Italian Restaurant" (LOL) looks, smells and feels greasy, the food is all greasy, I feel like a ball of grease....y. I'm going to burn my clothes now and bathe myself in holy water. Although I am tired I will more than likely procrastinate sleep, and watch the Departed, since I never have before.

There is also the whole issue of contributing to destroying the environment. I am greatly looking forward to not owning a car, and at this point in my life I don't feel I ever want or need to own one again. It's a luxury we can all do without, if you think about it. Watch the movie Wall-E, it's surprisingly melancholy and prolific for a Pixar film, they've really out-done themselves this time. The point is hard to miss.

The lady who watches my mentally retarded sister twisted her ankle, (not surprising considering that 80% of her flabby existence is above her waste, if you follow me) causing my mother to have to switch hours in order to watch my sister. My father isn't able to help, according to what he told me, and inevitably I get caught in a "your father is and always was a jerk" conversation, which is a rare and disconcerting happening. Quite frankly it makes me feel like some kind of faulty progeny that shouldn't have been, and completely disillusioned that two people can actually ever be happy together for an extended period of time.... or am I just being over-dramatic?

Work tomorrow, then band practice, THEN a date with a cutie. I'd almost rather stay home, these things take time and energy! And women make me nervous. Gawrsh.

Well, lots of stuff will be left in the ashes of the wake of my departure. It will still exist, but, out of sight out of mind...much like Cohoes, Watervliet or Rensselaer is on a good day.

Countdown to D-Day: 41 days.



And I wanna conquer the world, give all the idiots a brand new religion, put an end to poverty uncleanliness and toil, promote equality in all of my decisions -Bad Religion

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

"Do you know Japanese?"

A simulation of conversations I have had with approximately 234535624 people:

"Oh yea, well, I can't do X because I'm moving soon"

"Oh, where are you moving to, Cohoes, Albany?"

"Japan."

(gasp of surprise)

"Really? Do you know Japanese?"

"I took it for 2 years in college as a minor, so I can ask the important questions and get around painlessly enough. But there's a lot I still don't know."

"Why are you moving?"

"To teach English. The market is much better in Japan than over here, since you can actually TEACH with just a Bachelors, and usually make more money than you would teaching in public schools. So, more money, less college loans. Although South Korea pays more..."

"How are you going to teach without knowing Japanese?"

"Well, almost all "Eikaiwa schools (英会話の学), or English Conversational schools, don't want you speaking any Japanese at all. The reason being that Japanese people have a grasp on the English language, but schools only focus on writing and reading, primarily. So Eikaiwa schools exist to augment people who want to increase their English language knowledge for whatever reason. The point being that-"

(by this time usually the person is either pretending to still be interested or making obvious signs of boredom)

"they just need direction and positive reinforcement on proper pronunciation, grammar and word usage. Now teaching children is different, and rather intimidating in my opinion, since you have to keep kids attention and make everything look like a game. Even more extreme is if they are total novices, you basically just play an intense game of charades, trying to get them to associate an English word with some sort of action."

(at this point I hang my arms like a primate, say "oo oo aa aa" and scratch my head while lumbering around, and if the person is still paying attention, they laugh and get the idea)

--

This concludes the beginning of my blog, a triple-post on my one day off since I work 60 hours a week right now to try and save money (a recommended $3,000 in moving and initial living expenses, in fact) for the big move. Sayonnora!

Roadtrips, recording sessions, and really ridiculous ragers. [warning: very not-Japan related]

I would like to introduce this blog, as the little warning so succinctly states, as a testament to my friends, my bandmates both current and former, and anyone and everyone who has shared with me in the past a love of hardcore music and shows. My life is approaching some huge changes, and although I'm already making premature plans for starting some projects in Tokyo with my friend Ian, nothing will ever be the same as New York. So, from a guy who has been going to shows since he was 14, ran and indexed a website with pictures of local bands for 4 years, and has quite literally felt his life heavily impacted and changed by hardcore music and the people involved with it, this is my current story and a nostalgic gander of appreciation to the past, with a tinge of blind hope for the future.

Roadtrips-

Some of the best and worst times of my life have been roadtrips. The roadtrip is by nature an unpredictable animal. If you really think about it, you're flying down 100s of miles of pavement in a metal box with several other bio-organisms like yourself, all equally succeptible to injury or fatallity at the hand of an irresponsible driver, whether he's in your car or not. But then again, risk is one of those things that just makes life exciting, now isn't it?

Traveling to Hellfest 2002 in Syracuse, my first real roadtrip with John Torn (an enigmatic character whose personality may only be described as indubitable) to Glens falls in his "spaceship" van in 2001 to see Locked in a Vacancy if I remember rightly, and all the trips in between from Pennsylvania to Virginia Beach to Rhode island have been memorable experiences for me. The worse ones include people falling asleep due to heavy ingestion of White Castle at 1pm before leaving New Jersey, and the fact that we would have all died several times had I not be forcefully holding my eyelids open as the others slept in the back, and the driver almost slept at the wheel.

The roadtrip I took yesterday is one I personally hope to never forget, as it was with a unique group of individuals whom I've had the privilige of writing music with over the last 7 months. Former band members of a previous project I was involved in called Save Yourself include Chris and the aforementioned JT are both creative individuals, the former being the best bass player I've ever got to write with, the latter a maniacal lyricist who actually believes in passion and genuineness of his verse, a rare quality nowadays. Our drummer Josh I've known for many years although not nearly as well as I should have, he has much like myself truly come into his own writing style and "leveled up" quite well over the years. Finally Dave, who unfortunately couldn't play on the record due to a pinched nerve (a guitarists worst enemy next to carpel tunnel and tendinitis) was good enough to come along anyway, and I'm certainly glad he did.

If you don't already know, I've played guitar for almost 10 years, self-taught, not a by-the-books musician by any means. I love my ESP LTD and my 5150 head w/ mesa boogie speaker cabinet almost as much as life itself.

Our trip was to Brookline, just outside of Boston, Massachussettes, where former guitarist of One King Down (A straight edge/animal liberation-themed hardcore band of the late '90s from Albany) Mike Scoville, a talented individual and man I greatly admire, was kind enough to produce our demo for one of his classes in Sound Engineering, and for lack of a better word, it ruled.


Recording sessions-

I've recorded 4 times before in my life, and it's always an experience full of mixed affect: love, hate, frustration, relief, over-analysis, and ear-strain. We arrived at 3pm, and after about 2 hours of setting up drum mics (if you've never been in a studio before, that's incredibly fast for setting up mics,) something like 18 including 5 aerial microphones which greatly excited me, we began to lay down drum, guitar and bass tracks. We pushed on far into the night around 12:45 before we actually left for home, and I can't stress enough the saint-like patience of individuals who gruellingly review the same 3 seconds of music dozens of times or with dozens of takes to "punch in" a proper take of a musical track. It's no easy task and one I don't think I could ever do myself.

After many, many takes and corrections we actually hammered out all 6 songs we wrote, plus one super-secret cover song, and even though we're going back in a month to finish lead guitars, vocals and mixing, we definitely accomplished an impressive amount.

Really ridiculous ragers-

Rager: (As defined by me) The expression or outlet of volatile emotional discharge through a creative process that may include singing, screaming, playing an instrument, or many various physical and mental activities. The result leaves you feeling cleansed of repressed emotions, devoid of previous overwhelming frustration, and altogether better than before the rager.

This process of raging is how I'd like to define all the music I've ever written, but especially this last project, possibly my last New York-based band for a long time. We had so much fun writing and hanging out together, that it almost feels a shame to stop now. But, with Josh moving to Oregon in 2 weeks, and me moving in 5, it's time to say goodbye to the NY music scene, which is basically the same as saying goodbye to family and friends. I've made so many great friends along this wild ride. It was in hardcore music I found people I could finally relate to, words that meant something to me, and inspiration to stop taking life as it came and start changing thigns for the better. Every single person who has been involved with me in music project, and every single friend who I've even only ever seen at shows, have all impacted and inspired me with their individuality and desire to just be themselves, and not conform to what is easily accepted, normal or expected. And so with this post I begin the end of my "music career" in New York, although past projects have had rather underwhelming results it has all meant the world to me, and been some of the most fun that I have ever had.


Some info and links:

My current band: Damnation Alley (free downloadable demo coming in August)

Previous band that was my favorite: Save Yourself (R.I.P., and Josh Turner start a new band already, please)

First post.

Hello world. My name is Benjamin Belcher, but you can call me Ben. There are those of you that know me, and those that don't. However, I invite anyone and everyone to check out this blog if they so desire to. I'm only giving a heavily truncated version of my life thus far in this post, merely a few important things you need to know about me and the purpose of this blog.

Still with me? Cool.

I am 23, a recent English major graduate from SUNY Albany, and I leave in 43 days for Tokyo (prefecture to be announced) to become an English teacher. I'm going to keep this blog as far away from my job as possible. The focus here is to record my adventures in a foreign land roughly 6700 miles from home. I've lived in Upstate New York all my life, and as much as I love the places and the people, it's time for a change. For better or for worse, this blog will record my ups and downs, trials and tribulations, mishaps and culture gaps, with fun pictures of my travels and a personal record of how I felt along the way. Primarily this blog is for me, but as it is 100% public it's also for the enjoyment of friends and strangers alike, so that you might get a glimpse into my life, and understand what it is like for a 6'1" white caucasian male to move to Japan. It's all been said or done before, but not my way.

What this blog is not:

This blog isn't a place for me to cry for attention. It's not a list of whiny complaints (at least not most of the time, I promise you) about how much I miss home or can't stand crowded trains or miss Snyder's Pretzels™. It's not a place for me to complain about my job, because quite frankly, you don't shit where you eat. A reputable company has chosen to employ me, and the least I can do is separate business and recreation. This blog is admittedly amateur, but I will do my best as an anally retentive English obsessee to keep it grammatically correct, well-written and quite simply enjoyable to read. I've been reading and writing a long time, so I promise you all my best on this.

Now that we have long-winded introductions done with, welcome. Enjoy your stay in my slice of cyberspace. Updates may be sparse at first as I am preparing for my move (more details on this and all its crazy facets later), and also when I first move as setting up internet can be a timely process, from what I understand of other peoples' accounts.

Countdown to D-Day: 43 days.