Friday, February 29, 2008

Kuriyama Chiaki...

People here sometimes ask me why I'm so into Kuriyama Chiaki (if they even know who she is, that is). The reason is when she's not doing this:

... she's doing this:

... and this:

The first clip is from Azumi 2: Death or Love starring Ueto Aya, and while the scene gets off to a slashingly gory start, its climax is a letdown. Far from one of the best sword battles I've seen. But it does illustrate one thing- Chiaki dies in just about every movie she's in. It's one of her trademarks. The next clips are Japanese TV commercials for Morinaga Aloe yogurt. These plastic squeeze packets are fairly commonplace here; go to any convenience store and you'll see them containing ice cream and Weider Fitness health drinks, too.

I have no idea what Morinaga Aloe yogurt does. Maybe it makes your skin as pretty as Kuriyama Chiaki's? Whatever its effect on the body, the singer of the upbeat jingle uses the Japanese pronunciation, "ah-RO-ay." Yeah yeah yeeeaaahhhh!

"Kiss Me" by Sixpence None the Richer... in Japanese!

Lovely song, cool language, bad video. I prefer the Paris version where she puts her "he loves me/he loves me not" flower on filmmaker Francois Truffaut's grave.

Still... Japanese lyrics add mysterious beauty.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Watching Crappy American TV Shows in Japan Is a Unique and Enjoyable Experience!

There's an episode of Walker Texas Ranger (which I only like in an ironic, campy way) on TV. It's so funny to be watching this in Japan. It's not even subtitled. I wonder if there's a Japanese audio track. Holy shit! THERE IS! Walker is now talking in perfect, native-speaker level Nihongo! How delightfully weird! In Nihongo, his name is "Wa-ka." Which sounds like "WAWKAA."

Anyway, I mention this because the reason I started watching it was there was a computer hacker battle on it earlier that was fascinating in its verisimilitude. The awesomely supreme Michael Ironside, bad guy from Total Recall, was bossing this nerd guy in some high tech evil hideout to control a plane and Waka and this really cute bespectacled nerd girl (what can I say? I have a weakness for cute, bespectacled nerd women, especially if they have deliberately bad haircuts like this girl's) were fighting them from another computer at the Texas Rangers headquarters.

How do hackers in Waka's universe wage online wars? They type a lot at their keyboards. They say something along the lines of "I've accessed the main database subroutine and now I'm going to route the DSL lite through the mainframe system" and then type really really really fast!

The dialogue ran along these lines:

EVIL NERD: We're getting interference from another source...
TOTAL RECALL GUY: Can you block it? Lock down the firewall.
EVIL NERD: I'll try. But she's good... she's very good...

Lots of keyboard typing. On some side monitor off camera, the Walker Texas Ranger key grip is reading the screen and it says "GKLDNGEKEWINGNEOIGVKJDFKJNBVOIEHE#IHGKJNBEV(HE#$*(#)TG)(#."

By the way, in Texas the police can beat you indiscriminately with kung fu and karate even if you haven't done anything. Then they can search you totally without probable cause- unless your having been the victim of a savage beating by the police constitutes probable cause in the state of Texas- and prosecute you for whatever they find. Even if they were there for other reasons.

Welcome to America, Mike Huckabee style!

Also, Mr. Chuck Norris, while you can certainly roundhouse kick, you and your well-groomed beard cannot sing. Your "Ranger" theme song is horrible. You, sir, are no Clint Eastwood circa Honkytonk. Bruce Lee kicked your ass and I'm glad. I hope he comes back from the dead and kicks it again. If the bogeyman checks in his closet for Chuck Norris, then Chuck Norris looks under his bed for Bruce Lee.

But Bruce Lee is EVERYWHERE, baby. EVERYWHERE.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

What Must They Think of Such Things?

I just watched Little Miss Sunshine on Stars. Wow! Wonderful movie. I have to think about it a little more, but it absolutely pressed all my buttons for Things I Enjoy. And another thing I just enjoyed?

Well, there was a preview for the much reviled Wayans Family comedy Little Man, which may be one of the worst things humanity has ever produced. An artifact so foul, so thoroughly ugly and hateful it should be preserved for all eternity as a sort of anti-Sistine Chapel. Proof that in our human endeavors we can produce both the sublime and the Wayans Family comedy Little Man. Proof of the divine extremes our creativity can reach.

After clips of Marlon Wayans with his head grotesquely computer-imposed on a child's (or midget's) body, making crude sexual overtures that pass unnoticed by the oblivious women semi-involved and then a long... and I do mean long because they showed the entire scene... clip of Shawn Wayans getting hit in the nuts by a line-drive hit by Little Man himself, Stars cut to one of their hosts, a lovely young woman in fashionable attire, sitting in a chair in what appears to be a comfortably appointed living room for her reaction.

Which wasn't a grimace, exactly. And not a smile.

Just a wry screwing up of her lips followed by a noncommital "Hmmm..." as if she felt reluctant to let her true feelings be known. As if she wanted to warn the viewers Little Man is something to avoid as you might a particularly foul-smelling hobo walking around pantsless but she couldn't because of her job as a television presenter.

So just, "Hmmm... make up your own damn minds."

Usually they tell you a little about the movie in case you might have been intrigued and want to watch it. Not this time. Just "Hmmm..." and then they jumped right into the next clip (Casino Royale).


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Butcher Strikes!

I don't really like to post about work incidents here, but this is one of my rare exceptions. Sometimes my personal and professional lives- which I dilligently keep separate- merge in hilarious ways. Ah, one of those times.

Yesterday, I was teaching a lesson about occupations. You know, jobs. We read a list of common jobs, one of which was butcher.

After we finished, one of the students asked me, "Do you know the wrestler the Butcher?"

I thought for a moment, then told her, "I... think..."

A wrestler called the Butcher? That seemed vaguely familiar, so my mental harddrive began whirring away, trying to access the information. Which was somewhere among all the other files, but in degraded form. The Butcher. Bill the Butcher, from Gangs of New York? Sam the Butcher from Brady Bunch? The Butcher... the Butcher. Butch Patrick. Butch the fighter from Pulp Fiction (which has been on Stars Classic a few times recently, by the way).

Then it hit me. "Abdullah the Butcher?"

"YES!" she said, laughing. "Abdullah the Butcher!"

Everyone else was confused, but we quickly ran down a few storied names. Abdullah the Butcher, Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Jesse "The Body" Ventura. She knew all of them. I briefly told them about my all-time favorite, Mr. Wrestling #2. I don't know why Mr. Wrestling #1 wasn't more than enough for Georgia professional wrestling, but I thank God he wasn't. Otherwise my childhoood would've been deprived of one of its seminal figures. A demigod occupying a pantheon of greats that included Evel Knieval, Muhammad Ali, Ed Podolak, Willie Mays, O.J. Simpson (oops), Dale Murphy, Hank Aaron, Gen. George S. Patton and Captain James T. Kirk among others.

An eclectic assemblage of august personages, to be sure.

I also briefly described the superhuman figure known popularly as Dusty Rhodes. The American Dream, possessed of the Atomic Elbow against which no mere mortal could contend.

You can never guess what's filtered through from Western pop culture into Japanese. Just when you think you have it all figured out, someone surprises you. It's little moments like this that can turn your whole day around.