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


Thursday, October 29, 2009

I'm about to pass out from exhaustion

But before that, behold in all it's glory:

Yep. My first show. Gonna be awesome. Feast your eyes and ears on the youtube goodness of some of these zonky bands:

Million Dollar Boys -
Geshurekt Organ a.k.a. Kurupino a.k.a. Froglady

Gotta say, Frog Lady is my favorite.

See you in 7 weeks NY, 6 weeks test, 5 weeks show.... my head asplode?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Paradigm Shift

What happened to me? Recently I've been taking a good look at the progression of my life, and it's stranger than you might think. Those of you who only know me from this blog, or not so well in real life, might think of me as a pretty serious or straight-foward guy, possibly funny at times, somewhat eccentric and obsessive about his "work." That is me, now. But who did I used to be? The longer time stretches on the harder it is to remember. Although that person will always be a part of me, it's just that, a part. Nothing more than a percentile. A widget on a pie graph. I won't go into details about it, but I used to be a slacker, an unmotivated sack of crud in my school days. It took serious changes in the world around me to shake my foundations: sweet, sweet liberation from 10 years of anti-epileptic, concentration-destroying seizure medication, and the death in the family. These things converged violently around the time I broke up with my last serious girlfriend and started studying Japanese. Weird, right? And that was, somehow, only a littler more than 3 years ago. It feels like I've stepped into a different life, and that was some distant thing in the past. The ancient past. The Gettysburg address and 1492 past. It's almost like I have to remind myself that some of the bad things ever happened. That I was ever so numb to the world, or isolated from my peers. It's weird, strange, and too personal to go into any real details about. At the moment. Maybe some day, but probably not in blog form.

So the world spins on, and my learning has also shifted. Depending on the subject matter, I can sometimes survive reading several consecutive pages of Japanese comics without using a dictionary. Many things that would have passed me by a year ago are being reeled in by Ben's Brain - V2.0. It seems to me that we teach our brains to filter out various sounds the world makes, and a lot of this meaningless noise has gradually acquired meaning to me. I can feel the shift, slowly, but certain, and if I keep pushing until the blisters break I feel like life could be one hell of a ride.

"Keep diggin, pail, dirt, hands calloused for what it's worth." - Rick Whispers

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Please fill in all the blank spaces

Posting will definitely decrease the next few months. T-minus 7 weeks until JLPT Level 2 test. 8 weeks until my epic return to Upstate NY (for a much needed 3 week vacation). I have to put my nose to the grindstone until I have nothing left. I must succeed.

I've been getting a little sick the past week, might be the change in weather, which is actually quite favorable. 70 degrees and cool in mid-October does beat NY this time of year, I'll give you that Tokyo. Otherwise the summers here.... Lets just say that next year I'm getting some astronaut-style suit with internal cooling mechanisms or just never leaving my room. Winter on the other hand will most likely be rainy and chilly, usually in the 40s consistently which isn't so bad. That's Fahrenheit (damn you and your difficult to spell name) to any of you who didn't grow up in the States, where we still practice backwards measurement systems such as miles and pounds.

Perhaps it coincides with the sickness, but I've been feeling a bit down on life lately. This place is a "roller coaster ride," (props Nick), one day it's all love the next day it's seething hatred. I cannot make up my mind. Days like today I'd feel better just relaxing and reading some comics and having a quiet day, but it's off to work in an hour. Sometimes my job can energize me a bit though, and Tuesdays are usually good, so we'll see.

Went to an amazing Okinawa-style restaurant the other night with some friends after band practice, that was a great experience. Tried 海葡萄, or "sea grapes," a kind of seaweed with little green balls that are sweet like grapes. Really strange. The pork was exquisite though. And the end-of-meal soups are always great at these specialty izakaya places. Would go again.

Not much else to report, gonna try and throw in a few last hurrahs towards the end of the year, but things will be slow on the blog front. Duty calls.

"Don't ever think you know why" - System of a Down

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tornado of Books + Bowling Ball = .....

After much procrastination, I finally sorted out my books. Mostly Japanese comic books, the bulk of which I have yet to read. I can't believe I was quite so enthusiastic about buying them so fast a year ago - "OH MY GOD! IT'S ONLY 100 YEN, THAT'S LIKE A DOLLAR!!!!" - thank god I've calmed down.

This does not include novels and stuff, of which ther are like 50 more on my shelf.

I haven't posted a picture on here in a long time. This one is a pretty accurate symbol of my life, a swarm of information I want to absorb faster than is humanly possible. I've picked out some choice titles to focus on, like One Piece, Eyeshield 21 and JoJo, but for the moment I should really be studying for the big test in a little under two months. I'm acquiring vocabulary by reading these things, and I enjoy them, and they help my Japanese, but I'm 99% sure there will be no questions on the test with phrases like "Mind your own business," "Let's kick the crap out of 'em," or "do you mind if I throw a rock at them?"

It's amazing what a full time job working, studying 2-4 hours everyday, and trying to have enough downtime can be. Well, not amazing or anything, but throw in the band, mandatory weekly social engagement of one sort or another, and it's a full ticket. I'm having dinner with Maki and some friends tomorrow after practice, and attending a bowling party with some school people on Monday. Bowling, now that's something I haven't done in years.

I went to a school party the other night where this rather out-going gent (who, strangely enough had been half-asleep during my class) was busting out some serious 関西弁 (Kansai, or "Western Japan," dialect). I noticed it right away, as it's a distinctly different speech style from standard 東京弁 (Tokyo Dialect), although to be fair it has dozens of different forms depending on regions in the west. Anyhow, I asked this guy to teach me a useful phrase since I was interested in learning Kansai Dialect, and he said: なんでやね. His way of explaining this phrase was: "If I see a guy, and he has two pickles in his eyes, I say NANNDEYANE??" This, at the time, didn't quite click with me as a clear definition, but I looked it up later, and it can be roughly described as: "What the hell?" or "You gotta be kidding me!!"

Sometimes I go throw B.S., I work my butt off, or deal with difficult people and situations, but I realized the other day that I've become acclimated enough to this place. I passed some unseen threshold when I wasn't paying attention. I'm not afraid of leaving, but have trouble imagining what it will be like. Also, I can't help wondering what getting comfortable like this could mean if I'm going to actually follow through on Graduate school or living in another foreign country. I can't deny, if I do attain a high level of fluency in Japanese, it might be tempting to just work for a company here doing translation or international relations, assuming they don't want me doing the 11-hour salaryman shtick. Especially if I end up marrying a Japanese broad like, er, every white dude in this country. But the future is something I'm as clueless about as any of you.

Getting back to Japanese for just a second, after much work my reading has improved quite a bit, but my listening is still lacking. I started listening to news podcasts (which make me feel dumb with my 5-10% comprehension of them) and, less depressing than that is watching some Miyazaki films without subtitles. He's the Disney of Japan, and I honestly haven't seen much besides Prince Mononoke and now Spirited Away again, but I want to run through more of his movies in the next few months.

I'm looking forward to this big test-hurdle being behind me, so I can focus more on learning fun japanese and less on words I'll never use, like "registered mail" 書留 or "servicing & maintenance" 整備.

Naturally, studying my butt off and then working can both be pretty brain-draining exercises, especially when work is especially busy. So my pill to "take as needed for pain," my weed in a wrap, my cure in a bottle has been nothing less than the NFL. In the last few years I've grown to appreciate watching football as an activity that fills a primal urge of seeing people smash into each other, while being entertaining from a strategic vantage point as well. I still have a deep-seeded dislike for jocky, block-headed bullies, which of course make up a good chunk of professional sports, but I do like watching them pummel each other, I must say. 4 weeks in, and I haven't exactly enjoyed seeing the Bills offensively fall apart, but otherwise, I like the Bears and the Steelers this year.

I won't lie, by slacking on the blog I have missed out on the opportunity to write what could be some hilarious stories for you guys. My bad. At the moment all I can think of is:

-a few 10 year olds started clapping the rhythm to Queen's We Will Rock You (or should I say lock you) in the middle of class and kept it going for around 15 or 20 minutes

- teaching "nod your head" has also turned into an air-guitar-shred/head-banging session in the aforementioned class

-I met a woman the other day whose brother had moved to Mexico. When asked why, she said it was to be an amateur masked wrestler. 0_0

-There was a sort of typhoon the other night, wasn't so strong, just some winds and rain coming from many directions, but I missed the bulk of it. However, working that night some idiot slammed the the wrong pedal at a railway crossing and smashed into an oncoming train. No one was killed or seriously injured, but 5500 people were estimated to have been effected by the stopped trains. I caught a local half-way home and walked another 2 miles or so, not too bad, but the funny part is as I crossed the tracks on the home stretch, I saw my train going by. So if I would have waited, I wouldn't have had to walk. Curses!

(The accident)

Integrity is playing here in a few weeks. I'm considering going to a sports festival the same day, since I know I'd be a great asset to the tug-of-war section...

That's all for now. Writing is fun, I don't plan to stop any time soon. Thanks for reading.

"These walls are paper-thin and everyone hears every little sound" - Modest Mouse

"If I never make it home tonight the streets will swallow me whole" - Trapped Under Ice

" What are your qualifications? #2- Ah well… I attended Juilliard. I am a graduate of the Harvard Business School. I travel quite extensively. I lived through the Black Plague and I had a pretty good time during that. I’VE SEEN THE EXORCIST ABOUT 167 TIMES…AND IT KEEPS GETTING FUNNIER EVERY SINGLE TIME I SEE IT! Not to mention the fact that you are talking to a dead guy. Now what do you think? Am I qualified?" - Beetlejuice

P.S. Ian, I know you always find some spare time to get on here, remind me to return your books soon dude.

P.S.S. Reading Kafka's "The Trial" for the first time now, it's awesome, so very very awesome.