Friday, November 05, 2010

sad dream of the future

This morning I had a tainted movie-dream. (It was a dream that was more like a movie for me, no active participation from me. I knew on one level it was a dream, but I just saw it like a movie. This is a common dream type for me.)

In the future, medical advances and social opiating megacorporations have reduced poverty and starvation to only a small percentage of the world. The greatest percentage of the world's population live in a media haze, their basic lives sustained by their networked jobs. Games, information, violence, and lust: piped into their field of view most of their waking lives. Somehow the mass of humanity decides that poverty is a way of life, a valued aspect of human nature. It is argued that eradicating the final slums would destroy the heritage and culture of generations of slumdwellers. The slums are relocated to socially convient places and the media fixates on the pain and suffering of the slum people. 24 hour cameras are installed on the caged in ghettos walls, the last remnents of days gone by. Starvation and manufactured drugs become the rabid entertainment of a painfully dull global society, sunk deep in their media feeds.

It was a pretty vivid dream.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

sonic entertainment

A Canadian coworker has a band and he invited me and a bunch of other coworkers to come see him perform live. In Japan, most bands perform at a "live house" instead of a bar or club. These "live houses" are specifically designed for the concept of performances by small independent bands. The band getting paid is apparently hinged on how many heads they can bring in. So as a show of support, many of us descended on a dingy "live house" on the fifth floor of a nondescript building. The floors were sticky with spilled drinks, the air a bit stagnate. A small horde of people gathered in the entrance room, huddled in protection from the sonic assault of noise booming from the performance room that was behind a double door sound buffer. My coworker didn't go on for another hour. I had helped a friend of mine move her stuff into her new house all day, so I was a bit exhausted, but I made small talk with coworkers for awhile. Then I decided to venture into the inner room to get a peek at the wall of noise.

The band had an interesting mix of wild neon fashion for the lead screamer, a trucker hat for the drummer, and goth hair for the bassist. The lead screamer hammered on his guitar in lush ear splitting glory, the wall of noise was literally ear deafening. I enjoyed their oddness, but my ears were beginning to wine from the assault, so I retreated to the other room. I wasn't the only one, a large contingent of the assembled crowd joined me in the waiting room. A few bands later, my coworker's band took the stage.

They had a way more (comparatively) mellow sound. Hard rock with synthesizers and love searching lyrics. And a drum machine. They had the rockstar vibe down, but suffered from the relatively small crowd. They were the most popular band of the night though, with many guys and girls crowding around the bottom of the stage.

I couldn't help but think they might have been even better with some theatrics of some sort, but I suppose straight up rock n roll has it's place too. So after the show I was a bit drunk, but found my train home. I was a bit surprised to be sitting on the same local commuter train as the wild sonic assault band from earlier. They were clearly bummed out by the crowd reaction. They voices down, bitter small talk about how the crowd had just been "wrong" for their type of music and what not. It was a bitter-but-accustomed sound in their voices, I couldn't help but feel they rarely got the recognition they were looking for. I felt a bit sorry for them so I turned (they were right next to me) and said,
"I know this is a bit sudden, but your show was really interesting, can I take your picture?"

The happy surprise on their faces was vibrant, "You were at our show?" the lead screamer said, his voice conveying they rarely heard anything from "fans" at all. I said yes, and told them honestly that I had enjoyed their energy, and that although I hadn't caught most of the lyrics, I had fun listening to them. They were quite excited to talk to someone who had actually seen them perform, and we talked for the next 15 minutes or so until I got to my stop. They had been playing together for about 4 years total, but they often fought about the band they said. ("It's kind of like families, we just fight a lot.") They dreamed about playing overseas, but had no money for it. They had a lot of time though, they all seemed to be burned-out regular people. I guess it could be said they were True Basement Rockstars. I enjoyed our conversation, but then I jumped off the train and returned to the silence of the night.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

another day

another day
like any other
today, yesterday and tomorrow

vines of sorrow
trees of quiet solitude

another day
of scorching heat fading
into a hollow night

winter wanders down from clouds of gray
slate, ice, cold mark, midday

one hour
and then the next

somewhere beyond my eyelids
i sense the crying of the solemn rain

Saturday, September 04, 2010

jumping off point

This entry should be skipped by the easily upset. I was off to work this morning, my mind lost in a fog of morning thoughts. I usually take the express train half-way in the morning because of the obvious convenience (the train doesn't run the whole distance to work though). Our train is speeding along somewhere between one stop and the next, the outside world a distant blur. My eyes scan a webpage listing something incidental about life on planet earth, my mind is distracted. Suddenly there is a thud, and the emergency breaks slam on. The video displays light up in vivid orange, alerting passengers that the emergency breaks have been applied. The train shutters to a stop at a non-regular station. There is a heavy pause, and then the young train driver gets on the intercom. His voice is shaking slightly, he sounds unsteady. "Due to a human body incident, the train is currently stopped. Your understanding is greatly appreciated." The euphemism is not lost on any of us, someone just jumped in front of the train. In less than a minute, the first responders from the station rush towards our train car. They are looking down below us. People start to stare in our direction. One train worker starts to put up "do not enter" tape to hold off the gawkers. An old lady next to me says to the air, "The body is under us." My eyes meet a young woman across the way as the old woman says that. The young woman begins to cry, upset and grossed out. Another old man sitting on the other side of me mutters, "No way he could have survived that. We are in an express train." The emergency workers have now crowded onto the platform, from various support services. Several of them hold a large blue tarp around our train platform to shield the extraction from the other people on the opposite platform. I am surprised by the speed of their arrival, but realize we have been in the train for quite awhile. The old woman gasps, "Here comes the body!" and I look away. I think about the axiom "what has been seen can not be unseen" and decide to not look. Most of the other people in the train can't rip their eyes away. We are still in the train. Workers with sponges and buckets arrive. About this time I notice the jumper's shoe on the platform, encircled by chalk. The emergency workers had circled it to better capture it in their digital documentation of the incident. The shoe, which had apparently flown off in the impact, stood alone with it's sole next to it. Alone on the platform, the last verification of the man's jump.

Friday, July 23, 2010

nakayama's wedding

My Japanese friend Nakayama (who I have known since I was in my mid-teens) got married in Korea. Because she was going to marry a friend that I had introduced her to, they both invited me to come to the wedding.

Weddings are a funny cultural thing, and each country has it's own unique attitudes towards marriage. The Korean wedding was done in two stages, the first was kind of "Western" styles. Most Korean weddings are held in a Wedding Hall specifically designed for weddings. It was mostly in Korean, but occasionally heavily accented Japanese. The next was the "Korean" style wedding, held in the basement of the wedding hall. A lot of unique customs. Like the bride and groom holding a piece of cloth between them and the parents of the groom throwing walnuts onto the cloth bridge to determine how many kids the couple would produce. My friend got six.... goodluck! And the groom giving a serious piggy back ride in front of everyone near the end of the ceremony. Culture is fascinating.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


shinjuku in the dark of almost night [image]

I often wonder how much a city changes me. How long do you have to live in a place before the place begins to live in you? I remember eons ago the moment when suddenly, like magic, I understood voices around me. It was like adjusting the focus on a camera lens, suddenly noise twisted into words. Recently I feel like I am hypersensitive to smells. Many foreign people complain that Japanese people are picky about the slightest of odors. And I am wondering if that is happening to me. Although as if I was blind my whole life, and now I can see a bit of light, this sensitivity is a bit bewildering. Intoxicating, confusing. Aren't my senses suppose to decrease with age? Or maybe this has nothing to do with localizing, maybe it is the last push effort of my sense before fading away into older age. Or maybe a momentary peak of my awareness. Who knows. Fascinating, none the less.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

reality and what not

I find myself wondering too much about things that don't really matter. I wonder if that is the nature of being human, to get lost in mental loops of disassociated reality.

A few days ago, I rode around Tokyo with a camera strapped to my neck like a reckless necklace made of string and ducktape. It wasn't the most stylish, but I was curious to capture the biker's perspective. It had been awhile since I road a bike, and I had expected the streets of downtown Tokyo to be unfriendly to bicycles. I was happily surprised that it was quite easy to glide along the streets, pavement sliding under me like a treadmill. Me and the companion that accompanied me on this adventure, must have snaked all over downtown. Pushed by pedal power.

Text messages blasting in bursts. Silence. Views. Thoughts. Disconnected.

In pop culture thoughts: I ended up seeing the final episode of the American TV show LOST. Being millions of miles away from America, I do not see most American TV. I think I saw the first episode, and maybe parts of other episodes since then. So it surprised me that I felt like I basically understood the finale. Does that mean that fans wasted 6 years of their lives? I doubt it, it probably speaks instead to the clarity of the authors of the show. Or maybe I just dig entertainment enough I could postulate on things I didn't know based on the language of drama. Who knows.

I somehow stumbled on someone describing an interesting meme they were trying to start. (Don't you love the chaos of the internet?) As you can see by the link it was a way to generate "your own" album cover. Click here to see the final result. I followed the instructions on that site in order to come up with my own "band" (named honestly and ironically "Gelotophilia" -- the pleasure of liking people to laugh at you) and "album" (which was the last part of the quote "Don't discuss yourself, for you are bound to lose; if you belittle yourself, you are believed; if you praise yourself, you are disbelieved."). The cover shot was acquired from this random user. Oh the internet, it is pure randomness fed into the brain in bursts.

Friday, April 30, 2010

the art of annoyance

I am so pissed off right now. I was waiting for a train to take me to work and suddenly someone touched my shoulder lightly. I was surprised because people dont usually touch strangers in Tokyo. I look over and its this russian exchange student and she asks a question (in English) about the name of the line but she muddles the vowels and so I say "sorry where are you trying to go?" hoping she'll at least be able to nail the pronunciation of her destination. She pulls out an English map and says "here." I totally know the station and so just as I go to explain it to her this Japanese dweeb steps--literally-- between us and starts blabbering at her in Japanese about how to get there. Now there were tons of Japanese people on the train platform so she clearly had more confidence speaking English, thats why she picked me. But this was a nationalist geek (believe me, thats really a type in Japan) so he thought he would interrupt and "help" in Japanese but she didnt get it and his assumption I couldnt help her was uber annoying too. I said in English "Dude, she doesnt speak japanese. Let me finish explaining." She said in broken Japanese "Little Japanese speak" so I shrugged said "ok, he'll help you." and let the dweeb take over. She clearly didnt get it. He pointed to the ground and said in Japanese "Not this line, you should go down stairs." and she answered in English "Oh, take this line?" My train was coming and I would be late for work so I had to take it. So I said to the lady in English "Not this line, maybe get help at the station" (because they often have information centres, and I didnt have time to help) but the Japanese guy literally stepped infront of me to cut me off so I couldnt help her in English. GAAAD! And he got on the same train as me. As we were getting on the train, I said in Japanese "What the hell man? She couldnt understand your Japanese!" and he said "Yes she could." And I said "Huh? No she couldnt." and he replied "I was just being nice." and then we were in the train and pushed in different directions by the crowds. I was left with confused feelings. Yes, it is Japan so she should learn Japanese... and, yes its good to try to be nice to strangers. But darn it, he just butted in and made it so I couldnt help her and made her loose a chance to get help. And his attitude was so annoying. Gaaaad!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

up up in the air

I find myself currently torn behind trying out "new things" and avoiding anything new. Days like today, with rain quietly splattering outside my wind and cars running along wet pavement, I feel like I could stay in my room forever. Never call any friends, never go downtown, never do anything. But other days, I feel a desire to stretch myself out to do new things, experience new horizons. It was one of those outward bound moments that found me heading to Gunma. The prefecture of Gunma is only a little over an hour train ride from my part of Tokyo, and I passed the time with a friend (who might want to be left unnamed because of their fear to take part in the events of the day), talking in slowly rolling trains is a simple pleasure of mine. We get to Gunma, and the reality of it hits me. I had browsed a Wikipedia page on the origin of gliding in the olympics, and I had got interested in it a bit. A plane without an engine is tugged up into the air by another plane (with an engine) and then let go. The engineless plane is left to glide slowly in circles, with nothing but the sail-like wings supporting it. The day was beautiful, little yellow flowers poking out of the grass in green fields next to rural backroads. We get up to the field where the glider hobbyists are assembled in a circle. They all seem so intent on their hobby, and I felt like an outsider. The leader asks me to introduce myself and I get a little uncharacteristically short of words, stammer something about why I was there. The different characters waiting for a ride in the gliders are all chatty and unique. An older woman who owned a hang glider company; she defined her hang gliding service as local trains and gliders as bullet trains. In other words, this was the deluxe way to get up into the clouds. A female high school student from 5 hours away (there aren't many glider clubs in Japan apparently) who had met one of the pilots while on vacation by herself overseas. Suddenly a grisly old pilot called me over to his glider, and told me we were going up. He strapped me into a parachute, told me not to press the canopy eject button, and we were off. An old airplane pulling us up, up, up in to the air. It felt unreal, buoyant, and a bit euphoric. As we got higher up, and the rural rice fields began to blend together, I could see other gliders circling on the thermal vents. One came literally feet from our wings, and my pilot swore. But I wasn't even upset by the close call, I was already hurtling to the sky pulled behind another airplane by nothing but a thin rope. And then the rope was gone, disconnected, we were hanging on nothing but the wind. The air whistled past and the pilot banked in loops, pointing the shiny wing down towards the ground. The ground twirled around us, the blue sky danced along with it. It is hard to explain what it felt like, but I suppose if I had been born a dolphin it would have felt the same to swim in a beautiful ocean. And then we were landing again. Back on the ground, leaving me to search for words to explain those quick 20 minutes in the air.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

three days in taiwan

Most vacations just blur past, and my trip to Taiwan was no exception. I am sitting down here (kind of late at night locally) to confirm a rough draft of the vacation events so I wont forget quickly.

A Japanese friend of mine, who speaks fluent Chinese, invited me to go with her to Taiwan. I had never been, so I thought it would be fun. We get on the airplane and the first thing I think is a thought I have about how airplanes never seem to carefully screen the lyrics of their in-flight music. Through my headphones is Madonna belting out (in the song American Pie) "This will be the day that I die..." A quick switch of the channels provides Bon Jovi singing "Some dreams live, Some will die" Maaan. This doesn't help when you are on an old China Air flight that was stopped for TWO hours before take off due to "maintenance issues"! Oh well, at least it was cheap.

So we get to Taiwan, and the first thing I notice is the "living air" smell that is similar to Hong Kong. It's kind of hard to explain, but Tokyo has way less variety of smells floating around. But in Taiwan (and in Hong Kong) the air feels, hmm, spicy --for lack of a better word. Not a bad thing, quite a fun thing for the nose. The next thing I notice is how many mopeds and scooters are everywhere. Literally everywhere. And most drivers have a stylized smog mask over their faces, making the moped drivers seem like some sort of mass unified mob of some sort.

So when we get to Taipei, we ride the subway out to a suburb of Taipei named Danshui (which literally simply means "fresh water") and meet some of my Japanese friend's Taiwanese friends. They are all super nice, only one can speak Japanese though. And another one can speak some English, but other than that, only Chinese. My Mandarin Chinese is still way below rapid conversational, so I am mostly out of the conversations but I enjoy listening along and trying to puzzle out the meaning. They take us to a "Western style" dinner, and I am struck by how it was so close... but so far away from food someone would eat in America. Clam chowder... that isn't quite chowdery enough. Steak, with the wrong sauce. Salad with odd ingredients. And so on. I enjoy imaging that this is what a Taiwanese person feels when they eat Taiwanese food overseas.

The next day it is more walking around the city and meeting more of my friend's Taiwanese friends. We briefly go to a Japan Occupation Museum (always an interesting stop when in Asia) and then walk around Taipei 101, which is like the Eiffel Tower of Taiwan. It was the tallest building in the world until The Burj in Dubai took the "new" title of tallest. We walk around the glittery mall inside, window shopping, people watching, and whittling the time away. Sometime that day (hora! I am already beginning to forget details) my friend talks me into going to a foot massage. I had never gone to anything like that, and I suppose that is the fun thing about going on vacations with other people. You sort of get out and try things you would never try by yourself. I must admit, it is quite odd having someone rub on your feet and pull on your toes. The weirdest part is when the masseur literally punches your legs, as if he is angry about how his foot massage is going. It is a unique style massage, I must say. That evening I meet up with a friend from college who I haven't met in maybe about 7 years. Time is too darn quick, sometimes when we aren't paying attention we suddenly get a whole lot older.

The next day, we meet yet another one of my friend's Taiwanese friends (it helps to speak the language if you want to make friends) and go to his family's house for lunch. It is fun to go to someone's house and take a look around. His parents can't speak much English or Japanese, but they are nice enough. I find myself feeling a bit sorry for my friend, she tries to speak to them in Chinese, but because they seem to be nervous they give their answers to their son who translates into English and then I sometimes explain it in Japanese to my friend who answers yet again in Chinese. I know her Chinese is good enough to have a conversation with his parents, they must be just too nervous to speak directly to her I suppose. It is a weird loop conversation.

And before I know it, I am in the airport. I am in the airplane. I am rushing back towards Japan. I am at immigration. And then I am home in Japan again. From this moment, this vacation will become nothing more than yet another interesting trip abroad-- snuggled up into my mind with all my other memories.

Friday, March 12, 2010

think thoughts

Wow. Just wow. That's a new low for my whole internet diary keeping thing. I skipped the whole month of February? Just nothing at all? That's bad! I really want to keep chronicling my life, but I have very little inspiration when I am living basically the same thing--day in and day out. And when I do think of something I usually forget by the time I sit down in front of my computer. Ahh, enough of the exucses.

Well, I do have a bit of news. My first vacation in a long time is coming up. Me and a Japanese friend are going to Taiwan. I haven't ever been there, and even though it is going to be a quick trip, I am looking foward to it. And if I am lucky, I might be able to use a word or two in Chinese.

In other news, I have 47 new photos up if you want to browse. Enjoy!
(The above picture is an attempt at a globe panorama, in Asakusa!)

Friday, January 29, 2010

politics of language

A few days ago, I was walking to my train station. It was bitter cold and dark, but suddenly a woman asked me (in Japanese) "Excuse me, do you know where Komagome Hospital is?" I was kind of surprised. Often in Tokyo I get ignored because of the colour of my skin. I tend to complain about this with my friends while tossing back beers or whatever. But this felt like a beautiful colour-blind moment! Perfect except I wasnt sure where the hospital was. "uhm... i've never been there, but..." I began to offer. She looked right and left, and pointed right, "Well, do you think it's that way?" I was a bit late to meet my friend, but I decided to do my best to help this lady out. I thought I was being a little rude having a conversation with her while I was bundled up behind my hood, so I pulled my hood down and started to say that I thought she was right, but in literal slow motion I saw her see my face (why she hadn't noticed my accent I'm not sure) and her eyes literally go round with shock. She held up her hands, and said "Oh, it's OK-- I'm fine." and turned around and headed in the direction she had assumed. Oh. So much for a perfect moment.

A few days after that, I was standing at an intersection near my house. I was going to the laundry mat, and so I had my laundry bag slung over one shoulder. I was appreciating the glimmer of the cold sun (it's still winter after all!) when suddenly behind me I heard someone say in Indian accented English, "Excuse me, sir." I turn around and a kind of pudgy man sitting on a mountain bike is looking at me. I offer "Uhhh... yeah?" and he says, "Can you tell me where [midnight] is?" The word midnight was the only thing I could make sense of the word. It wasn't English, it was Japanese, but that was the only thing that registered. "Uhh, sorry, what are you trying to find?" I asked. He repeated the same thing, and I shook my head and said "Up there is police box, they might be able to help you." He looked up the short hill and said "It's too far away, and it's a hill so I don't want to go up there. I'll ask someone else." At that moment the pedestrian light turned green for me, so I wished him goodluck and crossed the street.

(Also, 88 new photos in my photo album if you wanna take a peek! Yes. I went mad. Tons of random photos [maybe too many red leaves!] from all over the place. And I haven't even finished uploading all the pictures I took so far! Anyway, enjoy.)
All original content CC 2002-2012 BY NC SA - first design from dilarangmelarang altered by neonvirus and thunderbunny.