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


Friday, July 31, 2009

What in the worlds?

My eyes feel like they're on fire - it's really just the results of not enough sleep and being stuck inside with florescent lighting all day. And perhaps the 2 hours of commuting I did today. I love the school I work at on Fridays, everyone there is really sweet, even the little brats are downright angelic. But I got to thinking about how, when all is said and done, it's something close to 100 hours of my life I will have spent on those trains, just for one day of work, in a year. Crazy.

But I keep myself occupied. I've been listening to a Professor's series of lectures on Viking history which has me intrigued. Learning a little about Norse mythology, to say nothing of its immense impact on Tolkien, all kinds of fiction and popular culture as a whole, is really interesting, and makes me want to learn more. I've always had a kind of fascination with oral tradition, and I think undocumented story-telling is still an amazing and under-rated kind of art form. I do it quite a bit, on the job and off - Although some may call them anecdotes. They are hardly epics, anyhow.

MMbbeeewwe.e I have 3 more working days until vacation. Almost home free, except for the not going home part. (Not till Xmas) I survived unhealthy amounts of overtime, and I'm thinking of how to pick up some part-time shticks on my vacation... am I insane? Possibly. Do I enjoy the idea of saving for Graduate school? Probably. Do I ask an unnecessary amount of rhetorical questions to push this entry along? Poweruply.

I have been taking note about some really interesting Japanese loan words, words taken from English, that somehow didn't retain their original meaning. Examples include:

kaninngu, from cunning. In Japanese it means a cheater. I found out by incorrectly using it and almost hurting some poor lady's feelings in the process.

yubikitasu, from ubiquitous. It is strictly used for Ubiquitous computing, something I knew nothing of until Wikipedia enlightened me on the subject.

puchi. Petite. This one means the same thing, it's just a funny adaption.

That's just a small part of the mysterious pandora's box I opened when I began studying Japanese. When asked to explain my passion for the language, I overuse the term snowballing to be certain. But it fits. Who knew it would snowball to such great heights as it has, slingshotting me halfway across the freakin world, Where on earth would I be now if I hadn't taken Japanese on a whim thanks to Rich's suggestion and my anger at buying Yu Yu Hakusho VHS tapes on ebay with Chinese subtittles. (That's a partly true story)

I'm going to a shabu shabu party tomorrow night. Shabu shabu is a kind of thinly sliced meat boiled quickly and dipped in a sauce, and is also a kind perverse Japanese slang which I won't get into.

I hope this entry has been entertaining. I feel like so much of my energy has gone into other things, this blog has lost some of it's luster. I can get it back if I put some effort into it though. Sweet dreams, world at large.

"This time I won't let em have anything from me." - Guns Up!

"It was only a kiss, how did it end up like this?" - The Killers

"Then against my better judgement I went walking out that door
I smiled at one person then I nodded to three more
One man asked me for a dollar, I asked him, "What's it for?"
He said, "I have seen them" I said, "OK, it's yours"" - Clutch

Monday, July 20, 2009

Little worlds

"Little worlds inside pages
save us all from each other
from the speech of another.
Little words inside places
without substance disguising
our discontent rising,
we hold fast to the pages."

For a change of pace, there's something I wrote to start off the entry. Like it or leave it, I know I most likely couldn't be bothered to read someone else's poetry. Maybe that's why I usually write short poems, and have usually failed at short stories or novels... or maybe it's my short attention.... span.

The other day I came home to an unexpected guest. Or rather several dozen of them. But let me backtrack: The week before I had seen a cockroach rear its ugly head in the corner of my room, and sprayed him down with the quickness of Apollo. This foe was simpler and slower, but much more ubiquitous and took some thinking to kill. That's right readers, after a long day of work and such I came home to find around 40 or 50 tiny black ants mulling around in different places on my floor. I only noticed one or two at first (I had seen a few the day before, but had foolishly thought little of it), but when I sat down at my desk and felt one crawl onto my foot, I knew it was a problem that require immediate attention. I began frantically squashing them one by one, until finally I found the source: A tiny hole, perhaps the size of a pencil point, behind my dresser (I live on the 2nd floor of my building). I gassed the hole with my roach-killing spray, and after a quick trip to the convenience store came back and glued the thing shut with super industrial glue.

The only problem was I did this last bit too hastily and glued some small pieces of tissue paper to my fingers. Wah Wah Wah. I managed to get them off with some hot water though. All crisis averted. There's your anecdote of the month.

Things I've been reading:

-American Psycho. A thoroughly disgusting but intriguing book. Could have done without the graphic descriptions, both of people being dismembered and of suit jackets and name brands. But it was interesting to see where the movie came from, and some of the dark humor was particularly amusing.

-The People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn has been an informative and enlightening learning experience for me (big props to my favorite blog, Audiobook Corner, for providing the goods). It focuses on the rebellions, the Government corruption, and everything else they try and make light of in textbooks. Despite having been brought up in a post-"Cowboys killed Injuns because they were bad" society, I know my school history books were bias, as any are. Zinn said something along the lines of: "Any history that portrays a people's mentality as united is disguising inner conflicts and struggles of ideology." He denies the idea of the consciousness of a state, and basically tells history from the lesser heard voices. While inevitably romanticizing the plight of some of history's less fortunate, it's definitely well-worth reading, and reminds us all of the important academic, but also real world-applicable lesson: Never trust just one source.

-Lord of the Rings. An awesome version on audiobook I'd recommend to any fan. Just been doing a few chapters a week after the gym, really helps clear my mind of crapola.

-Various manga, probably not worth delving into in detail: Eyeshield 21, Yotsuba, Azumanga Daioh, Higanjima (a vampire horror manga that my friend turned me on to), and some others in a monthly manga called Gessan (Get the Sun) that my friend also has generously lent me. Thanks Dayn.

- Textbooks. Grammar, Kanji and Vocabulary textbooks. Can't I just know like 20,000 words already and get it over with?

-Dialogue boxes in Dragon Quest 9. I keep my dictionary handy at all times, but general comprehension is pretty good!

I'm almost done with this month of 6 day weeks, and in roughly 2 weeks my 2 week vacation will start!! I'm earnestly looking forward to all that. And band practice next weekend. Speaking of the band, I had my last lesson with Kana last night before her big TOEIC test this week, and I think she'll do well! We've been doing lessons for something like 6 months now, maybe longer? Also speaking of the band, I should really record and mp3 these song ideas before I forget so we can have a more productive practice next week. じゃね!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

points points points

This humidity is sucking the life out of me. I arrived at the tail-end of it last year, but man, I was in no way prepared for this nonsense! Rainy season is over and the blistering heat is coming out in full force. 90 degree weather during the day. Right now it's almost 1am, and the humidity is 94%. Utterly disgusting!

But one has to pay to play. And play I have - I've been restricting myself to Japanese video games lately, as an attempt to study study study because the JLPT (Japanese Proficiency Test) that is looming closer in December is not by any stretch of the imagination an easy one. But, if I keep at it every day until then, I feel like I'll have a good chance of passing it, or at least doing well enough that by July it would be a breeze. (The test is given only twice a year) The criteria is as follows:

"The examinee has mastered grammar to a relatively high level, knows around 1,000 kanji and 6,000 words, and has the ability to converse, read, and write about matters of a general nature. This level is normally reached after studying Japanese for around 600 hours and after completion of an intermediate course."

I already know more kanji than that!! And I've been studying for 3 years. I don't keep track, but I sure feel like I've put more than 600 hours into Japanese-related activities. And my grammar is all coming along well, but vocabulary is my biggest weakness. It's like every sentence is a puzzle, where I know the outline, and the shape, and even the tone and the inference, but not the subject, or perhaps not the object. Consequently I spend a lot of my time studying new vocabulary, in hopes of succeeding. I can feel the hard work paying off, although days like today: 2 hour gym sessions, 4 hour study sessions and 6 hour work shifts leave me totally wrecked. But wrecked in a good way that makes me feel accomplished. And I sleep pretty well.

I didn't even mention: Dragon Quest 9, the latest in Japan's most popular gaming franchise ever - yes, even moreso than Mario - came out last weekend. It's awesome and I'm playing it with a dictionary in hand at most times, and only getting about 50%-60% of the dialogue, but it's still really good fun.

Lots of good shows around the corner - Madball, Acacia Strain & xBishopx, and Terror, all in the next few months. And some shows coming up from F.I.D. in the near future for sure. Speaking of which, here's a picture of me and the band:

That's Kanako (bass) me (duh) Tomoko (drums) and Makiko (vocals), respectively.

And that is just about that. I'm trying to beat the heat, and survive the brutal Tokyo summer, but having a good time doing it. Also looking forward to my 2 week paid vacation, less than a month away!

"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." - Bilbo Baggins, Lord of the Rings

"I had a dream of a wall that was 21 stories tall" - Bad Religion

"You're all the same, hollowed out for the piper to play." - xBishopx

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Archery, ping pong and fencing in a one room apartment.

I picked up Wii Sports Resort this weekend, and I am really satisfied with it! The new "wii motion plus" controls definitely make up for where it was lacking before - now movement is less constricted and more natural. And I can finally have a sword fight in my dinky room!

Yesterday I had these students who come every week - they are two middle-aged women who laugh at almost everything that is said for no real reason. They're both very pleasant and we talked about Wii Sports Resort and the last One Piece movie (that's a super-popular anime/comics franchise in Japan). One of them was saying how the "voice actor" for Chopper and Pikachu is the same. Total nerd stuff, but only in Japan would you hear housewives saying something like that! My own otaku-like interests often give me good talking points with students. I had an 8 year old bring up Bobobo yesterday, and I asked her if she liked manga. "Yes, but my parents won't let me read it" is roughly the equivalent of what she said. I've also met other parents who say they don't let their children read comics at all. I find it surprising, and although some kids out here are so obviously spoiled rotten, others really have to earn their chips, to make the grade. Otherwise they won't get their new life-size gundam or samsung 50-inch t.v. or designer 5000 yen t-shirts.

I read an article that Tokyo is "the most expensive city for expatriates." Yea, but it's also one of the coolest places to live! Even if the trains smell like... unmentionables. And since the economy is generally strong, the yen is also worth something compared to the dollar, unlike the Korean Won or Chinese.... what do they use?

Hmmm. Well that encompasses everything I wanted to say. I have Japanese class today, then work in bustling Shinjuku. So here's hoping that today is a good day like yesterday. As I'm sure I mentioned before, this month is all 6-day weeks, so between work and studying I'm on the run a bit. Feels good to be busy. Good night America.

"I wish I could be the name on your lips, for only one moment of bliss. I wish you could see the paper thin-scars" - Blood Has Been Shed

Saturday, July 4, 2009

4th of Ju-wha?

I had completely forgotten about Independence Day until literally 2 days ago. It's understandable, me living over here on the other side of the world where there are no July holidays except "Marine Day," but still mildly disconcerting. I suppose it was never a very exciting holiday anyway - the best part was watching fireworks from my Ma's back porch, or in the street since we lived on a hill. And eating hamburgers. But I was never too big on the celebrations anyhow.

There are also August fireworks for O-ban (summer festivals) I am thinking about attending. Maybe an adequate substitute?

Regardless, happy 4th of July my fellow Americanos!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Looking back.... almost 1 year of "Escape from New York"

So maybe only John Torn has been with me since the beginning, but I've been doing this blog for almost a year. What does that mean? It's an accomplishment of sorts, to have kept writing steadily for a year. It also means I've almost been living in Japan for near on one whole year, which is both humbling and scary at the same time.

I took a few minutes to go back and read some of my first posts on this blog this morning. How have my opinions changed, how have I changed? Not so much as I had expected, or at least not noticeably. Though I suppose when one is around oneself all the time one cannot detect the minute differences, can one?... Ahem. But it did make me feel nostalgic about playing in Damnation Alley, my last music project in NY, and one of the funnest bands I've ever done. And JT, if you're reading this, weekend tour, when I'm home, some time between December 13-January 3rd, MAKE IT HAPPEN BRO. Me and Rich are on board!

Anyway, here's a snippet of what I'm talking about: (god I can feel the pretentiousness just oozing from me by quoting myself)

"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 things for the better. ...although past projects have had rather underwhelming results they have all meant the world to me, and been some of the most fun that I have ever had in my life."
- from this dinosaur of a post.

I still rage all the time, yet sadly, don't attend shows nearly as often as I'd like. I can't wait to be doing it the right way, where my band plays the show so I don't have to fork over 3500 yen at the door. And comparing Damnation Alley, my last band, with F.I.D., my current band, is about as apples and oranges as you can get. Two totally different styles, totally different genders, totally different cultures. But they both shared one thing, and that's the fun of writing and creating something - oh, and they're both composed of stand-up dudes and ladies.

Even more embarrassing is looking back on my very first post (you don't want to, trust me) and to see what my goals were. Did I keep the blog free of whininess? As much as possible, but a guy has to complain now and then. Did I keep it un-work related? As much as possible, but work is such a huge part of my life, it can't just be totally ignored. Did I keep it true to my feelings and has it been an outlet that makes me feel a bit more connected with my loved ones back home, and the random people who read it but never say anything? That is where the greatest success has been, for sure.

I have lost my train of thought. Um. I am in a bit of a rush this morning, second Chinese lesson, then I'm going on a quest to find Frank's Red Hot or some facsimile thereof at a foreign food store, and finally work. It's gonna be a full day, I already know that. So let's stop here for now.

"It's an old trick, writing of life as if you really had an angle on it. I do it myself. I even admire my own piss when I'm pissing... piss and writing, we're closest to our own." - Charles Bukowski, "Piss and Shit."

"Another day, another year, so what's the hurry?" H20

"I never want to feel that way, I never want to hear those words again" - Skycamefalling

P.S. I keep forgetting to click the "publish" button when I read my comments - so if you're wondering why yours haven't shown up, sorry! I really like hearing from people through here. :)