Sunday, November 30, 2008

Stop motion Breakdancing

Good stuff:

Break Dance Stop Motion from ben wheatley on Vimeo.

Originally found here.

Dogs = the new babies?

Ok, sometimes the way people treat dogs out here is just disturbing... albeit in a most-decidedly non-abusive fashion. Let's take exhibit #1 to ease you into this:

Now I'll skip past the fact that this woman, who's deceiving looks defy her 40-something age, is walking five little dogs at once (yes there are five), and move right onto the little guy on the right. He's in a doggy bag. I don't know if this is all just lashback from Paris Hilton or what, but you see entirely too many people toting dogs around in little bags or dog carriers, or even their purse around here. More to be found here if you're interested. Moving right along:

Ok I couldn't really find a good picture, but basically another thing that I find hard to wrap my head around is people that carry their dog everywhere. You are constantly seeing people around who will walk around carrying their dog places. What the hell is the point of "walking" a dog if you're the only one doing the walking? How are they supposed to get exercise or take care of their business? Maybe they're just poorer versions of the first woman above and just can't afford the carrier, but I doubt it. And finally:

There is just a disturbingly large amount of doggy apparel out there. It might be partially because getting a dog in Japan is so expensive in the first place (most people spend at least $1,000USD just to get a pet), but many dog owners out here feel that the natural coat that God gave them is not enough, and thus must be purtified and supplimented by the oddness you see above. I cannot imagine that any dog would enjoy having this shit forced upon them, and no it is not cute. Just stop.

My thoughts on all this have led me to believe that it's an outside possibility that maybe these people are starting to think of dogs and pets in general as child replacements. People are having less and less kids lately due to lifestyle and budgetary changes... maybe pets help them fill the void and offer a less responsiblity-laden option to kids? I mean think about it: these people are carrying the dogs around and dressing them up and stuff, is it too farfetched of a conclusion? You be the judge.

I leave you with a quote:
“Dogs now outnumber children aged 10 and under in Japan — there were 13.1 million dogs in 2006. As the number of humans shrink, the dog population is growing, research firm Euromonitor said, and so is the market for dog-related products.”

Financial Crisis in the Heartland

I've been meaning to post a comment on this article I read the other week about Heartland (for balance a good review, and a decidedly not so good one), a somewhat popular bar in Roppongi, and the effects the worldwide financial crisis have had on it.

This was apparently somewhat of a golddigger's paradise- it was where the girls who wanted to pick themselves up a rich foreign banker/investor boyfriend would go to show their wares. The banker-types, on the other hand, looked to it as a good place to flash the skrill and bag a girl that appreciates them for their money. Now with the financial crisis, all the rich bankers are either not so rich or have left to go home when their offices called them back, or they were just dropped and out of work.

I personally think of it as the place where my friend, a decidedly non-banker type guy, met his girlfriend and subsequently made her my roommate for the better part of last year. Anyway it is (or was) most definitely known as a good place to go to meet people of the opposite sex... at least in certain circles. If this article is any indication though, I doubt it's very lively now.

Heartland - sign of the times.

The Art of Toilets?

BBC had an article recently about the Japanese art of... toilets. Yes that's right, toilets. These things are totally crazy... the one in the story linked weighs in at a purported $3,000USD! And this would be above and beyond the cost for the toilet itself- that's $3,000 for the seat alone.

I don't know exactly which one makes it cost that much, but some of the crazy functions for this thing include:
  • sensors that raise the lid when you approach the toilet, including a sensor that lifts the seat if you stand in front for guys
  • glow in the dark seat
  • heated seat
  • built-in bidet
  • speakers that play classical music
  • a special tank that cuts down on water usage
  • monitor to measure body/fat ratio
My favorite quote from the article?
A poem recently published by a stressed-out salary man captured their comforting appeal with haiku-like brevity. "The only warmth in my life is the toilet seat," he mourned.
The caveat to this of course is that making these thrones a reality in your own house back home is difficult, given the needs for extra plumbing and electrical outlets that most American bathrooms are not equipped with. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Yes we can!... in Japan

As much as I'm sure I missed out on most of the excitement of the election process, what with being halfway across the world and all, what you may not be thinking about if you're in the US is how much buzz was and is going on about the election abroad. Besides being historic in nature, I think Obama has a good chance of raising the hurting image of the US in other parts of the world - check out this for what I'm talking about.

As such, this is one election that the whole world was interested in - if the rest of the world could vote in US elections then the vote would've been even more lopsided than it was. Japan is no exception to this rule either, and Obama is quite popular even if he isn't President yet.

First there was the town called Obama in Fukui Prefecture (福井県小浜市), and now there's this guy Nocchi. Nocchi is a "comedian" (a very loose translation for what Japan refers to as "tarento") who is currently making a living by going around impersonation Obama, which basically involved him getting a haircut, wearing a suit and saying "Yes we can" over 10,000 times. He even went as far as to go to the US to try and garner recognition as a look-a-like in Chicago, earning him a spot in the Tribune believe it or not. He actually got Obama's barber to cut his hair and got to shake Obama's hand after a speech. Personally I don't see him lasting much longer than the long list of one-shot, one-line wonders that pop up periodically out here, but I guess he's gonna ride the gravy train as long as he can. He's definitely better than the last one-shot wonder in recent memory, but falls way short of the best of them.

Here's some more video of the Obama guy if you're interested.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Shinkansen? Psshaw.

Well, they've been talking about it for a while now, and it looks like they're finally making some headway on talks of installing a maglev train in Japan. What's a maglev you say? Well it's basically a cross between the Shinkansen and Marty McFly's hoverboard, and it's got a top speed of something ridiculous like 581km/h (361mph) - according to the link "imagine a commercial jet aircraft flying past at full throttle at ground level."

Now my feelings on this are rather mixed... the inner nerd in me thinks it's a cool idea and would love them to push the technology forward to the point of commercial viability. The technology has been around since the 1960's, and it's about time someone's making it work right. Currently the only working specimen of this that I know of is the maglev in Shangai servicing the airport, which from what I hear is a total waste of space and is actually slower than normal travel due to the poor planning associated - a white elephant of the highest degree. There are no really nationwide-scale applications of the technology anywhere... the why comes next.

The pragmatist in me, however, knows that the reason the technology hasn't really seen widespread use is because it's frickin expensive: the Japan project tops off at a sombering 28,530,743,199 Doll hairs... in Zimbabwe. Ok, it's 5 trillion yen ($50 billion USD), but that's still a lot. And this is just to connect Tokyo and Nagoya, which means it's still got a long way to replace the Shink in practicality. It will eventually go at least to Osaka, which is a big step up.

And the payoff really isn't all that much - the Shink will get you to Nagoya in 100 minutes or so, while Osaka takes a little over 2 hours. In contrast, a plane ride from Tokyo to Osaka would take you about an hour, which is roughly how long the maglev would probably take. Ok, so maybe it would be nice to cut down on the flights in the whole gas-guzzling, carbon footprint clean technology sense, but it would probably still be quite a bit more expensive than a plane ride unless they totally redo the pricing schemes and cut Shink prices.

And the Shink has been around since the 70's... ok, so maybe by 2025 it would be nice to start waving in the next big thing. It's no flying car or hoverboard, but I guess it'll just have to do.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Halloween 2008

Well, another Halloween is in the bag. After the craziness that went on last year on the train, the police beefed up security to keep partiers from going crazy and breaking stuff while getting naked again. Seriously, I don't see the problem with having a party on the train if it's only once a year and isn't during rush hour or something, but some people definitely overextended their welcome last year and it apparently pissed a bunch of people off to the point where they may have ruined it for everyone for at least a couple years.

I am unfortunately camera-less at the moment, so it may take a little bit for pictures to make their way back to me this time - patience is a virtue, and I fully expect that this one will be worth the wait. :P

In the meantime, if you're wondering what the ad in the post is all about you can enjoy the lovely stylings of the latest and greatest Tokyo Metro ads here. I love those things.