Saturday, September 29, 2007

Summer of Doug, pt. IV - Okinawa: picture edition!

I love you guys almost as much as I love this fish...

After no less than a 1 month delay, I'm finally getting around to putting up pictures from my trip to Okinawa! As a side note though, this does not yet include the underwater diving pictures, so stay tuned for those. If you give me even more time, I might even comment on what the hell the pictures are about... wouldn't that be something!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A new milestone in the world of Japanese humor!

This day is a truly great day for Japanese people.

You see, since arriving at my new place of business a few short weeks ago I've been hanging out with this one guy in my section in particular. It only makes sense since he's the only guy on my side of the office that's my age and sits diagonally in front of me - he also knows all the younger people at work and has some interesting friends. So the language of business in the office is usually Japanese, with 2 glaring exceptions: one is my boss, but calling that English is a stretch sometimes, and the other is lunch with my new cohort. We speak Japanese in the office and out with friends since I don't want to alienate anyone else, but I know he doesn't get any other chance to practice and he's good enough to hold a decent conversation, so I don't mind it at lunch.

In fact, I've taken it upon myself to teach him some of the finer details of the English language, including humor, and I think he's catching on pretty well. I'm working hard to dispel the whole concept of the "American joke", which is basically the Japanese way of saying "I think you expect me to laugh, but I don't know what the hell you're talking about."

So I started by trying to explain sarcasm to him and am easing him in slowly - he sees what's going on, but told me that the total deadpan straight delivery I give him still throws him off some. It's to be expected. I swear a tear almost came to my eye today though as he caught me totally off guard today - the exchange went a little something like so:

(he buys an energy drink, complaining of fatigue due to playing Mahjongg too late in celebration of Hump Day, which I of course explained to him in excruciating detail a couple weeks back)

Yudai: I'm sooo tired! *cracks open drink and proceeds to chug*
Me: You know, you should be careful with that stuff - it'll make your breath wreak!
Yudai: You mean, like your mother?
Me: *remembers telling him about "your mom" jokes and struggling to stifle laughter* ...yes, YES!! Exactly like my mom!

Compared to most Japanese people this guy is a comic genius! I've met some that have spent a whole year in the US and still don't understand things like sarcasm, and this guy's telling momma jokes after just 3 short weeks! I think it might be time to up the ante and put him on the fast track. I feel some South Park and Chappelle's Show coming on in his near future.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

This just in: the new Impreza is ugly.

Oh, it's true. Don't believe me? Allow me to present exhibit A:

More crappy pictures here

So the other day I saw what appears to be the newest evolution of one of my favorite cars, the Subaru Impreza. All I have to say is I hope they have some awesome body altering kits, because this thing is about as attractive as a pug... or maybe even this dog. Ok ok, maybe that's a little harsh, but I really don't like it.

The back on the wagon in particular is hideous, while the front is just... blah. Very nondescript. You could've told me it was a Corolla and I would've believed it. I'll have to see what the rally team does with the car though as if anyone can make it look good they can. And if they can't? Well, luckily I probably won't be in the market to get another car for a few years, so maybe that'll give them time to sort things out. Or maybe I'll just get an Audi or something.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

An ode to Yul Brynner

Yul Brynner was the man. At one point he was the King, then a pharaoh. Then he just let it all hang out with his wang out in a magnificent western based on an Eastern before ending up in Westworld.

And this is where I caught up with him the other day. I was first introduced to Yul in his role in Westworld way back when by a friend, but I feel my recent reacquaintance with him garners at least an honorable mention.

Besides all his acclaims and accolades as an acting god, he also has such wonderful exchanges as:

Yul: we need some good gunmen.
some guy: well that shouldn't be hard - everyone in town's got a gun.
Yul: Sure - just like they all have... pants. (imagine this in the voice of that guy that played Elaine's boss in Seinfeld for full effect)

This is exactly what Matt and I have been laughing about for the past week since seeing the Magnificent Seven, which comes highly recommended by me by the way. Besides looking like the Rock 30 years ago and being the epitome of coolness, he's got a kickass accent that makes just about anything sound awesome. It's like he's the predecessor to Arnold, the Rock, and Bruce Willis all wrapped into one superhuman being that we can only refer to as Yul.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Summer of Doug, pt. III - Doug hits the road!

Ok, this one'll be a little long...

When we last left our hero, I finished up my year in Shichigahama on a rather busy note. Ok so that's not exactly true... my job actually left me in Narita with my old boss, and on a Friday night no less. We went out for a drink or two, and that was pretty much that. I'm drawing a blank on what happened that Saturday - I'm sure it was magical and wonderful - but on Sunday we had tickets to Summer Sonic! Summer Sonic is one of the two huge music festivals here in Japan if you didn't know, with this year featuring the likes of the Polysics, the Pillows (another kickass Japanese band), Black Eyes Peas, UNKLE, Social Distortion, and... the Offspring!!! Along with a bunch of other people. There was actually a band called Hadouken, which as cool as it sounds with all its Street Fighter goodness was rather disappointing. Maybe if they had backup dancers dressed like Chun Li doing spinning dropkicks across the stage it'd help a bit. Anyway, it was a wild and crazy time, as you can see.

From there, I took the next Tuesday off from buying stuff and settling in to meet a friend and go to the land of monkeys, Nikko! I was extremely disappointed not to find any actually monkeys, but there was plenty of monkey memorabilia to play with if you remember a certain video. The carving below shows the famous "hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil" in monkey form outside a world heritage site that is absolutely stunning. The saying in Japanese actually includes monkeys, which automatically makes it cooler than the English.

Another note about Nikko monkeys - they're known for being rather mischievous. Apparently you really have to watch your wallet or they'll swipe it, along with anything else loose in your pockets. I've heard stories of them breaking into unlocked cars and stuff too. It'd almost be worth it to be mauled by these primates just to have them waiting in my car looking for tasty morsels of... whatever. MONKEYS!! My obsession with monkeys is rather unhealthy if you didn't know. But then, if you ask me an obsession with monkeys is never unhealthy.

There was also a really nice waterfall and this crazy and awesome road known as Irohazaka (the other 2 videos previously posted) that you have to go up (and down) to get there and back. See, in Japanese there's this poem that basically contains the whole Japanese "alphabet" called the Iroha poem - 47 characters in total, all used only once including two that have fallen out of usage, to make a perfect pangram. The Irohazaka coincidentally enough has 47 turns, which are each ridiculous if you remember the pictures/video, with one character assigned to each turn. All this in one day!

So from there I go back to Yokohama, took a trip up to Miyagi one more time to finish moving all my luggage and try and sort out some car stuff (still have to work that out!! grrr....) while attending the party of the same friend that went to Nikko with me. From there I went directly to my birthday party, which was a beach bbq with jungle juice and topped off with "Gay Music" (if you don't know then don't ask... or do, whatever).

Then a week later was Okinawa... still need to get the pictures up for that one. I have about 300 to sort through, so it's taking me a while. I believe that one deserves its own post, so I'll break there for now.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Will it blend?

Long night last night... one of those late nights where you wake up in a strange place and take the walk/train ride of shame, then pass out in your little cave-like shelter from the world and it's nasty sunlight, wishing it'd all just go away and leave you alone for 8-10 hours.

So I hear word of this new kick-ass iPod touch that pretty much is like an iPhone, just without the phone and with twice the storage capacity. Looks rather interesting, but I think I'll keep my wallet in my pants for the time being. That's not what I wanted to write about though... looking around at iPod/iPhone stuff brought me to this:

What?!?!??? Absolutely dumbfounded by this quirky goggle-clad genius with his product that belongs on an infomercial at 3:30 in the morning like that guy with the question-mark tie, I click on the video and am not disappointed one bit:

"iSmoke - don't breathe this!"... brilliant!

The website can be found here - I also recommend the glow sticks (must be the old party kid in me - raverrrrz ;P) and the coke smoothie.

And for those not satisfied, more randomness is just a click away.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Spam - more than just a tasty processed meat product

My friend and roomie Matt got the following lovely morsel in his mailbox today and I had to share:

Ave, my friend

I am both nervous and exciting, and it seems to me that I could not find right words in order to express my aim, my wishes and my dreams... Why am I here? I am here in order to become your angel, to become the part of your heart, to come into your world and to stay there forever. What do I want? I want our hearts to be linked, I want to make this distance shorter with my love to you, I want our hearts to beat together, I want to make you happy with me.
What will you find with me? It will be love and care, passionate and friendship, support and understanding. Words can't longer describe my feelings and wishes, but I know that sea separates us till that special day, I know we take each breath with every beat, and always together ... as one. It is my wish, which I tried to bring
to you....
My soul and heart are waiting for you

Waiting for your response

Spam sometimes is like the stuff that dreams are made of - I don't think I could improve on this any no matter how much I tried, although I urge you by all means to try and do so yourself. The internet is a beautiful thing, and cocaine is a hell of a drug.

Summer of Doug, pt. II - closing shop in the Shich

Insomnia and ska music... sigh. For some reason, ska bands can cover just about any song and make it sound more fun.

Alrighty, so the first step in my recent exodus started about 400km away up in lovely Miyagi, which I will not soon forget. Thanks for the memories, Shichigahama peeps. Knowing that this move was coming up meant that I spent the last few months actually trying to both plan things out and make the best I could of the remaining time I had with my friends up north. Good times were had, but those last couple weeks were extremely hectic, both professionally and personally.

The big factor with that at work was that my last week of work was the annual Sister City exchange between Shichigahama and Plymouth, MA in which I was the head interpreter/liason and played a big part in planning. Every year they alternate between Plymouth and Shichigahama visits, and this year was Plymouth's turn to send kids to Shichigahama. Of course, my old boss being the natural entertainer that he was garnered quite a bit of (positive) attention from the town officials over in Plymouth, inspiring them to accompany the normal kids group and double my work load as I now had to organize two delegations instead of one. This basically meant that for the 10 days they were in the country, I was working every waking moment as I showed everyone around during the day and fought crime by night... I mean, entertained the adults. Oh, and just to add, these 10 days just so happened to overstep the length of my one-year contract with the town by 4 days, meaning that I was paid extra to stick around. Sweeeet. This also mean that for those last couple days I was sharing the apartment with the new guy as technically it wasn't my place anymore.

So what does "entertaining" mean, you ask? Well, it means that it was my job to take them out to a baseball game complete with phallic-shaped balloons that they ritually shoot off on the 7th inning stretch (mail me if you wanna see the pics), interpreting a beer factory tour complete with a stop off at the beer garden afterwards, several wild and crazy karaoke sessions, an excellent free concert with Hajime Chitose that I was looking forward to pretty much the whole week, some awesome free meals at 5-star hotels and meetings with governors and mayor-type people, and day trips all over the place from Tokyo to Fukushima to Miyagi. It was exhausting and yet some of the best fun I had in my short year there at the same time.

This took me through to August 10th, which was both my and the delegation's last day in Shichigahama. I accompanied them all the way to the airport and saw them to the gates, after which I and my old boss went downtown to share a few drinks and such along with a CIR from a few years back that's working in Tokyo... or at least is for now. He gave his boss a 2-month notice that he's leaving the country the day we met! I had half my luggage with me at the time and went straight from there to my new home here in Yokohama to sleep on the floor (and by this I of course mean a futon) since I hadn't bought proper bedding yet. I still had to go back and get the rest of my stuff which was left behind and sort out the car situation... you see, a car down here would probably be more of a burden than an asset, so it was with great pain and regret that I bid farewell to the coolest car ever and the fastest wheels I'd ever owned - the party wagon. I hope your next owner appreciates your coolness as much as I, my friend.

Ok, next time I'll pick up with the first days down here in Yokohama with its concerts, clubs, and parties.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Summer of Doug, pt. I

Ok this one's gonna be a biggie, so I'll be parsing it out over a couple posts in the next week or so. First the big news - as of Monday, I start a nice, new shiny job in Tokyo as a translator++ at a big-ass company known as the IHI Corporation! They actually changed the official name recently to IHI from the original Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries, probably because it's just too damn hard to say. So anyway, this means that over the past month or so I finished up my stint as CIR in Shichigahama with most likely the busiest 10 days I had there ever, then took the last few weeks to settle into my new environs with a whole bunch of partying and traveling interspersed between. I'm currently living in (technically) Yokohama, just south of Tokyo with my new roomie and old friend from the Chiba days, Matt.

There's a whole bunch to cover... I've been back to Miyagi, up to Nikko, down to Okinawa, and out to Tokyo a bunch with wrapping up one job and lining up things for another while moving in and all that jazz. This means that I've ridden the shinkansen 7 times, flown twice, and driven the main island of Okinawa from tip to tip, north to south with a whole bunch of stops in between for a grand total in the ballpark of I'd guess 6,000km traveled. It certainly hasn't been cheap (especially weekends in Tokyo), but it has been entertaining! And with that, I'm off to bbq today! I'll be uploading pictures from my last trip and updating you here shortly.