Friday, August 30, 2013

Two more old Melt-Banana photos...

I took these at Shibuya O-Nest but I can't for the life of me remember when. 2009? That seems about right. There's a blog post on it around here somewhere and maybe some video as well.

Melt-Banana may have a new album this fall.  Well, yes, it turns out they do indeed.  It's called fetch and it's due in in October.  Now that they're officially a duo, I'm anxious to hear if their sound has mutated as a result.  The band will tour North America in support of the album's release.  They're calling it the "2 do what 2 fetch" North American Tour 2013, and I'm sure it will be a soul-changing event for those of you lucky enough to attend. Here's the schedule:

10-16 Vancouver at The Biltmore Cabaret (CANADA)
10-17 Seattle at Chop Suey (WA, USA)
10-18 Portland at Dante’s (OR, USA)
10-19 Boise at Nuerolux (ID, USA)
10-20 Salt Lake City at Urban Lounge (UT, USA)
10-21 Denver at The Larimer Lounge (CO, USA)
10-23 Minneapolis at Triple Rock Social Club (MN, USA)
10-24 Milwaukee at The Cactus Club (WI, USA)
10-25 Grand Rapids at The Pyramid Scheme (MI, USA)
10-26 Cleveland at Grog Shop (OH, USA)
10-27 Chicago at Double Door (IL, USA)
10-28 Pontiac at The Crofoot Ballroom (MI, USA)
10-29 Toronto at Lee's Palace (CANADA)
10-31 Philadelphia at Union Transfer (PA, USA)

11-01 Brooklyn at Saint Vitus (NY, USA)
11-02 Providence at AS220 (RI, USA)
11-03 Boston at The Sinclair (MA, USA)
11-04 Washington, D.C. at Black Cat - Backstage (DC, USA)
11-05 Chapel Hill at Local 506 (NC, USA)
11-06 Atlanta at 529 (GA, USA)
11-08 Dallas at Club Dada (TX, USA)
11-09 Austin at Fun Fun Fun Festival (TX, USA)
11-11 Albuquerque at Launchpad (NM, USA)
11-12 Phoenix at Last Exit (AZ. USA)
11-13 Los Angeles at The Troubadour (CA, USA)
11-14 San Deigo at The Casbah (CA, USA)
11-15 Pomona at The Glasshouse (CA, USA)
11-16 Oakland at The Oakland Metro Operahouse (CA, USA)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Big typhoon heads toward Kyushu | The Japan Times

Big typhoon heads toward Kyushu | The Japan Times

When it's Friday and I hear the words "taifun" and "Do-yobi" tossed about, I always do a quick Google weather search to see if a typhoon is coming.  There have been 15 typhoons so far this year, with one on its way to Kyushu at this moment.  This isn't to say it will affect Hamamatsu, but since it affects school operations if it does, we have to be aware of the possibility.

The students, of course, anticipate typhoon days the way we used to snow or ice days in Georgia.  A typhoon coming through Shizuoka prefecture means school closings, either cancelling an afternoon schedule or an entire day's worth.  For teachers it means making sure the kids get home quickly and, most importantly, safely.  Then we get to go home.  As adults, how we manage that is our own look out.

This is different from when I worked at conversation schools.  Typhoon days for eikaiwa can mean increased class loads from people who stayed home from work who have lesson tickets to use.  Yeah, too dangerous to go to work or proper school, perfect for brushing up on your language skills.  At my last conversation school, we had a set schedule every week which didn't change for typhoons, although students had more freedom to cancel and make the day up another time.  That's sensible.  We teachers still had to get there, although if situations proved dangerous enough we might have been asked to stay home.

That never happened, so I walked or rode my bike in some interesting gales.  The first was in Toyohashi, which is a windy city to begin with.  The rain that day slashed horizontally, soaking me from shoulders to shoes.  I spent the morning with wet pants and squishy socks.  My umbrella only kept my bald head dry.  The windows to our branch looked more like the glass sides of aquariums without fish.  We might as well have been in Nemo's Nautilus.  Another time, in Hamamatsu, I left work on a stormy night and found the streets eerily, apocalyptically empty.  Traffic lights signaling to no one when to stop or when to go, swaying, unseen shutters banging or awnings flapping loudly.  All that natural energy from wind and rain contrasting with the still streets.  It felt movie-like, or like a particularly atmospheric first-person video game I'd played where you had to accomplish your mission in a trailer park threatened by a tornado (if I'm remembering correctly).

These days typhoons usually mean I spend an afternoon and night without power.  This has happened twice last year, both times typhoons scored bulls-eyes on Shizuoka.  I'm predicting it will happen again this year, but with two of us being affected.

Stressed expats need, but oft sidestep real help: therapist | The Japan Times

Stressed expats need, but oft sidestep real help: therapist | The Japan Times

Moving to Japan often sounds cool.  If you're like me, you've had a lifelong fascination with Japan so living there seems the ideal way to explore the culture firsthand.  Or else you're fresh out of college and spending a year teaching English in Japan looks like a fun way to make some money, meet some friends and experience a little living-- the kind of stuff you can talk about when you get back to Australia, Canada, the UK or even the little ol' United States.  There are also people just passing through for business reasons, or military deployment.  Out of all of these people, a few from each batch really settle in and become lifers.  Ex-pats.  They build lives here in Japan and have little need or desire to move back to their original countries.

Whatever your motivation for coming here, you have to be aware that Japan-- while cool and awesome and even boring and banal-- can be a hard place to adjust to.  I've been here on and off for ten years, I have a full-time job with benefits and, best of all, a wonderful wife.  I've carved out my own little niche here, and I'm happy with it and how my life is going.  And yet even I run into things I just don't like, or freak me out.  Taibatsu, for example.  People working long hours out of obligation (although there are probably a lot of people who work those endless days because they just love doing it).  Kids in cram schools until 10pm then doping off at regular school the next day, with "sleeping" as their heart's desire and hobby.  To live here you have to learn to roll with this stuff and understand the way things happen back home isn't necessarily the "correct" way and everything else just weird variations of real life but rather the correct way for people to do things here.

People make their accommodation to life here in different ways.  Ex-pats clump together, which is only natural for people sharing an experience and the common bond of nationality or cultural background.  And language.  Don't discount the importance of being able to speak English at your natural speaking speed and with your full vocabulary.  In my city, there's a very active ex-pat social scene where a lot of people know each other and throw barbecues and have meet-ups.  But they also get involved in their Japanese communities, engaging with their neighbors, joining in festivals.  A group here organizes beach clean-ups.  Some people completely immerse themselves in Japan, pursuing traditional arts, learning hundreds of kanji and taking proficiency tests.

For me, the adjustment deal involved hitting Tokyo alone as often as possible and learning the fashion and musical groups.  I'm kind of a "half-in/half-out" person, very independent, resistant to schedules and calendar dates marked with ink.  I don't take naturally to groups and I'm happiest reading or creating art or just puttering around with a blog or editing a little movie.  Or watching movies, since I'm a cinema buff.  I observe life around me and I'm content most of the time.  But some of my best times have been just doing things spontaneously, just walking into a restaurant I've never tried before, or getting totally lost in Shibuya or Ikebukuro.  Finding myself in a surging mass of bodies at a rock show in some tiny, out-of-the-way venue, having gotten there on my own.  Walking with a friend down an alley in Kyoto on a miserably wet and cold October day and accepting the gift of umbrellas from a kind stranger in a car.  Deciding with my wife on the spur of the moment to rent a boat and cruise around Lake Hamana on a choppy day.

When you come-- and if you're interested in doing so, I highly recommend it, especially if you've read this blog post this far hoping for a little epiphany on the matter-- you have to find your own way.  I certainly don't recommend you isolate yourself, which is very easy to do if you're a little afraid.  Japan rewards those who try, those who go out and look for things.  But above all, if you find yourself down or angry a lot of the time, don't hold it in.  Seek professional help.  I even did that at one point, a few months of phone therapy with a very empathetic therapist.

It's completely okay to feel stressed.  It's not a sign you're doing things wrong here, just a sign you're human like everyone else.  A lot of people are stressed.  Hang in there, seek out what you need here and enjoy yourself.  Not everyone gets to move overseas.  You're really a very lucky person.

Some old pics I snapped of some of Melt-Banana in action...

Found these today looking for old videos I made. They're Melt-Banana performing at Earthdom in Shin-Okubo, Tokyo in 2007 or 2008. I kind of like these.

I'm not a fan of myself as a photographer, but I will always be a fan of Melt-Banana.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

It's not that often you see OOIOO name-checked at the Japan Times: Twenty years ago, Cornelius releases the track that defined Shibuya-kei | The Japan Times

Twenty years ago, Cornelius releases the track that defined Shibuya-kei | The Japan Times

My grasp of Japanese music is pretty weak, but I have been an admirer of Boredoms/V∞redoms for a very long time. Strangely enough, though, my music collection is much heavier on the OOIOO than the Boredoms.  The reason is I find OOIOO more pleasant to listen to for extended periods.  Their music kind of matches the flow of my blood or the various speeds of my thoughts, so if I start to listen to one song, I generally end up letting the CD keep playing to the end and the result is a kind of sensory immersion experience where I'm awash in sound and rhythm.  I like that a lot.

Shibuya-kei is just something I've heard of, sorry to say.  So articles like this prod people like me to get off our asses and do something about such things.  The big problem is, I'm writing this at the beginning of a workday, so I have to try to do my best here while also keeping Cornelius in mind so I can do some musical exploration once I get home.

Speaking of Japanese music, I did a few little searches for live shows yesterday.  Mostly Shonen Knife (they're off to Europe) and Puffy (they have a new single).  My all-time faves, Melt-Banana, are playing a few shows this September here in Japan, then jetting to the US for a major fall tour.  I'm very interested in seeing Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, but I'll probably have to go alone.  She's the hardest working girl in show biz right now.  Of course I'd jump at the chance to see OOIOO or any of their related projects.  And what of Hamamatsu's own Spookey?  I usually declare October to be "Spookey Month" here and on my comic book blogs as part of my month-long Halloween celebration, but they haven't put out any new material in a while.  I don't think they've broken up exactly, just other more pressing matters have interfered.

Are Toy Missile still around?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Shibuya Station 2008

I discovered today my experimental films about Tokyo have long ago been deleted from the Internet. Here's a video of Shinjuku Station I made in May, 2008.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

'Love of buses' trips up Osaka man | The Japan Times

'Love of buses' trips up Osaka man | The Japan Times

Everyone must love something.  This guy expressed his love for buses in the wrong way, which I deplore, but he did it out of love, which I applaud.  I applaud his enthusiasm.

Why buses?  Why not buses?  Why anything?  Love for an activity or enthusiasm for a hobby can make life better and possibly longer, although it may seem shorter.  That's just the way it goes when you're doing things you enjoy, be it watching movies or stealing bus destination signs.  The dragon in Grendel advised the monster to steal gold and sit on it.

I don't advise anyone to steal anything, but I do recommend you find a nice hobby and go to it with gusto.  Keep it within the limits of legality, though.

What's your all-time favorite Japanese film? | The Japan Times

What's your all-time favorite Japanese film? | The Japan Times

I'm always up for a movie discussion.  I'm no expert on filmmaking, but like a lot of people, I have a whole headful of half-assed opinions I'm not shy about bloviating over in front of my wife or friends.  I probably tire everyone out by pointing out highlights from everyone's acting careers whenever they appear on the screen.  For some reason, I have a mental database full of extensive film credits for thousands of actors.  But I also love other people's opinions on film as well.  This article from the Japan Times is way too short.  More people!  More favorites!

It's fun and interesting to me how many Studio Ghibli films show up here.  It's almost as if Japanese cinema begins and ends with My Neighbor Totoro.  If so, that's a wonderful film to bracket the rest.  The live action films cited are of a surprising vintage rather than something newer like Okuribito (which I haven't seen, although my wife knows I've got something of a crush on Ryoko Hirosue, so much so she watches Hirosue's latest drama then checks the ratings to let me know how low they've fallen).  I haven't seen Hula Girls, but I have seen the similar-in-vaguest-outline Swing Girls!

Anyway, since nobody asked, here's a list of my favorite Japanese films, heavy on the Studio Ghibli.  In no particular order and using the American release titles because I'm a philistine...

Seven Samurai
Swing Girls
Spirited Away
My Neighbor Totoro
Battle Royale
Linda Linda Linda

Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I haven't seen that many Japanese movies, but the ones I have seen have made my overall list of world movie favorites as well.  I did read that one book of Donald Ritchie's where he gave an overview of Japanese film history.  It taught me a lot.  One thing it taught me was I have a long way to go if I ever want to have an opinion on film that matters.  Another thing it taught me is I don't watch nearly enough movies.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Imoto versus the frog

Yeah, that's a pretty big frog. I guess...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

I'm a fan of Ayako Imoto

A few weeks ago, my wife was watching something on TV that caught my fancy.  I've always enjoyed Jackass-type stunts, and here was this screaming, vaguely angry-looking Japanese school girl in a sailor uniform facing off against a komodo dragon.
The question was, which is the best way to stop a komodo dragon from attacking.  One choice was to bang a washtub like a drum, another was to run away and the final one was to use a long, forked limb or pole to keep the komodo at bay.  The girl tried all of them, one time dashing up a tree followed kind of ploddingly by the komodo, which hesitated at the bottom and then started to climb.  The correct answer is to use the forked pole.

After that, she traveled to North America where she visited a cave-full of bats, literally millions of them.  Then she went somewhere else and found a mating ball of snakes, against which she didn't fare quite as well.  Apparently, her fear of snakes was such the TV production hired a hypno-therapist to help her overcome it.  Would the therapy prove successful?  The moment she returned to the mating ball we learned it had failed.  She ran away screaming (as my wife translated), "IT DIDN'T WORK!  IT DIDN'T WORK!"

This isn't that clip, but it will give you an idea of how she feels about snakes:

The Jackass-iest part was when she visited Los Angeles and donned the distinctive beret and jacket of the Guardian Angels to patrol a neighborhood.  A quick edit later the Angels called her to help them break up a rather frenetic fight in front of a nightclub.  This part, I have to admit, caused my stomach to clench from tension.  Getting involved in a fight outside a nightclub is a good way to get oneself shot.  This bold, seemingly none-too-bright girl charged in, started grappling with the other women, and within seconds had been punched in the face.  She went reeling from the melee, tearing off the Guardian Angels gear, declaring, "It's safer without this!"

What we found most spectacular though, was her South American encounter with piranha and how she dove right into some muddy waters of some tributary of the Amazon river (or a lake nearby; I'm writing this from memory and no research because it's better that way) to hand-catch a large turtle.  Or was it a large fish?  I think I'm losing my train of thought...

The safest, cutest thing she did was go to Russia where she met a chewing gum artist.  As in, an artist who uses either chewing or bubble gum to produce realistic portraits of celebrities.  The Japanese girl commissioned her to produce a portrait, and set to work chewing the 17,000 pieces of gum necessary to complete it.  I think about 10,000 of those were for the eyebrows alone.  Eight or so hours later, both the gum-chewer (looking very pissed off now) and the artist had finished a large-scale work of art.  A successful likeness working in a very difficult medium.

Anyway, it's not only her sailor uniform that adds a level of humorous incongruity to these stunts, it's also her painted-on eyebrows, thick, black arcs that go along with the giant hair-clip in her simple hairstyle to create the illusion she's a somewhat plain high school girl finding herself in these outrageous situations through thick-headed danger-obliviousness.

Now that I had identified her appearance, it seemed she was suddenly ubiquitous.  Those eyebrows are everywhere I turn.  She's so omnipresent you can read about an encounter (sorta) with her by a luckier and more interesting person than me if you know where to click.  She's so everywhere right now, the first cultural experience of Japan upon our return from the US was an encounter with her image on DoCoMo ads (or was it Softbank?) plastered all over the international arrivals lobby at Narita Airport.

Who the hell is she?  She's "Animal Hunter" Ayako Imoto.  I'm certainly not the first to discover her-- in fact, doing a few Google searches right now tells me I'm about three years late for this expedition-- but I think her shtick is hilarious.  Hilarious enough I'm about to drive all my loved ones and friends away by hammering them with Ayako Imoto posts on Facebook.

Congratulations, Ichiro!

Yanks' Ichiro gets 4,000th career hit | The Japan Times

As an American baseball fan-- although not of the Yankees-- living in Japan I tend to follow the fortunes not only of my favorite team back home (the Atlanta Braves), but also of Japanese nationals playing in the bigs.  Who among them has had a greater impact than Ichiro Suzuki, who just garnered his 4,000th career hit as a pro, split between Japan and the United States?

We were watching the news this morning and when the story on Ichiro came on, my first reaction was, "Wow, he's going gray."  At 39, Ichiro's best years are more than likely behind him, but I think he still has a realistic chance of getting to 3,000 MLB hits.  I'd love for him to make it.  After watching the precipitous fall from grace of Alex Rodriguez-- who once had a realistic chance of breaking Barry Bonds' home run record-- and with Derek Jeter also closer to the end of his career than the beginning (now there's a guy who played ball the way it's supposed to be played), Ichiro's hit total is one of the few remaining non-Braves highlights of pro baseball for me.

It's been a thrill watching Ichiro's career from both sides of the Pacific.  He's been the main topic of pre-class warm-up discussions hundreds of times in my English-teaching career and generally not because I brought him up.  I've always tried to keep my personal interests out of the classroom in favor of those of my students, but someone inevitably asks me my opinion of Ichiro and I honestly tell them I'm a fan.  He's a heart-warming source of national pride for a lot of baseball fans I've met here, plus he's practically a local boy since he was born and grew up in Toyoyama, a town in neighboring Aichi prefecture, not far from Nagoya. 

When I came to work this morning a group of students were standing around outside the building's main entrance.  One of them did a near-perfect impression of Ichiro's swing.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Restaurants' displays of fake food are real deal for tourists | The Japan Times

Restaurants' displays of fake food are real deal for tourists | The Japan Times

The end of this article cracks me up.  If you order solely based on the appearance of fake food-- which can be ambiguous; that's the whole point-- you may end up eating fish cake instead of an omelet.  No problem if you like fish cake.

Just about everyone knows about the amazingly realistic fake food on display at many restaurants here in Japan.  I'm a big fan of the kind that looks positively edible.  I've never dragged a restaurant employee outside to the display case to point, but I have chosen restaurants based on whether or not I found their fake sets appetizing.  And I'm quite taken with the idea of renting a fake hamburger for 600 yen a month.

Food mistakes through illiteracy can be fun.  My first trip to Japan back in 2003 found me wandering the streets dying for a drink.  In those days, I wasn't the kind of person who would drink water.  You'd have to give water to me intravenously before I'd accept it into my body.  No, I wanted something with flavor.  Yeah, I could have gone for a Coca-Cola.  Coke vending machines are everywhere here, and there's little chance of making a mistake when buying a Coke.  But I wanted apple juice for some mysterious, possibly pathological, reason.  Only apple juice would do.  Well, the bottle had a green label and the fluid within it looked like apple juice, so I put my yen into the machine and pressed the button.  Only it turned out to be unsweetened tea.

I like unsweetened tea, but I had prepared my taste buds for the tartness of apple juice, not the faint bitterness of tea.  I would have registered less revulsion at even sweet tea.

Flash forward a decade and travel over to Tokyo Disneyland with my brother and his daughter.  They were hungry and right in front of them was a booth selling what appeared to be meatballs.  Like many Americans-- especially those from Georgia-- they're largely carnivorous.  So they bought the meatballs only to experience their first taste of one of my faves, takoyaki.

Fortunately, their tongues took to the takoyaki better than mine did to the unsweetened tea.  Now they both love takoyaki.

Recipe site whips up English version | The Japan Times

Recipe site whips up English version | The Japan Times

This is good news for my household because we are a Cookpad loving couple, and, increasingly, I'm being asked to take up the burden of cooking.  Which I'm in favor of, only my cooking skills are pretty meager at the moment.  One thing I can do, however, is follow instructions.  I've looked up recipes online before, only to find myself flummoxed because the temperatures and stove-top assumptions are all written for the American audience.  English-language Cookpad would presumably help a great deal.

It's not enough to provide recipes.  You have to provide them written for a specific demographic in mind.  Japanese kitchens don't normally come equipped with ovens, for example.  As a result, people sometimes whip up cakes in rice cookers.  In our kitchen, we have a four-burner gas stove, a convection microwave oven and a small toaster oven.  While there are more than likely thousands of recipes possible using those devices, would-be cook novices like me need access to them.  I'm not smart enough to translate the complex chemistry involved in cooking delicious, un-burned meals from American-centric form into something usable in Japan.  I can take it the other way, however.

We'll be exploring the English-language Cookpad as it develops and evolves.  I hope it's here to stay.

Chain stores suffer part-timers' stupidity on the Web | The Japan Times

Chain stores suffer part-timers' stupidity on the Web | The Japan Times

I've seen some of the photos mentioned in this article, but I had no idea these unclean shenanigans were so widespread in Japan, at least at the moment.  That's if this isn't one of those media dysfunctions.  You know, where we think some kind of behavior is epidemic because various news outlets are making it seem that way.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Bigger Sakurajima eruption not in cards despite outburst | The Japan Times

Bigger Sakurajima eruption not in cards despite outburst | The Japan Times

This eruption provided some apocalyptic imagery on last night's news, along with some we found downright dull.  Scenes like the older woman sweeping ash into a dustpan and the middle-aged guy spraying down the walk in front of his apartment building with some perfectly clean motor scooters parked behind him.  Although thinking about it today, I feel the residents near Sakurajima are pretty thankful for humdrum.

Since we had a small earthquake here not long before we flew to the US for ten days, the impending Big One and the Mt. Fuji eruption became topics for conversation.  People asked if we're worried.  Of course we are.  We don't have a preparedness kit, though.  And anyplace you live has its own looming disaster.  The deadly intersection, the destructive F5 tornado, the dude with the 9mm, hurricane, forest fire, landslide, blizzard, war.  Even your own body, your own fleshy home, the guy or  girl you see in the mirror every morning, has some nasty surprises in store for you.  It's unavoidable.  Good luck finding absolute safety.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Nintendo brought arcade games into homes 30 years ago | The Japan Times

Nintendo brought arcade games into homes 30 years ago | The Japan Times

I literally grew up with video games.  In fact, I was a gamer before video games in the accepted sense even existed.  Watch the movie Jaws.  There's a quick shot of a primitive coin-operated game called Shark Hunter, which used light and mirrors to project a moving image of a cartoon image of a shark onto a screen.  Summers in Panama City, Florida, found me playing this game obsessively at Miracle Strip amusement park.

And it was in Panama City my older brothers and I first encountered Pong at the main office of the camp ground where we usually stayed.  Which happened to be right next door to Miracle Strip-- we could see the battered junk stowed behind the roller coaster there, a kind of eye-opening "behind the scenes" experience that took away none of the park's tawdry magic or attraction as far as I was concerned.  Once my ultra-competitive brothers discovered Pong that particular trip, though, they played almost nonstop.  I thought it was fun.  I had no idea this was the first shot in an entertainment revolution.

The way I remember it, Space Invaders soon followed and emptied our pockets of quarters.  But it was at home where Pong and target-shooting games ruled.  Even before the legendary Atari 2600 made its debut, one of my uncles gave me a home Pong unit which didn't work at all on our TV.  Or maybe I hooked it up wrong.  Because I'm from a sports-crazed family, I chose the Mattel Intellivision as my home game system of choice.  Others preferred the Atari's clunky black joystick to the Intellivision's bizarre disk-and-button gamepad, but Intellivision had superior baseball and football games.  My oldest brother excelled at video baseball (my strategy consisted of station-to-station base running and the occasional grand slam to empty them) but I was the undisputed master of football.

I became so adept at Intellivision football most of my games consisted of one quarter or a half and then the mercy rule.  I scored on almost every offensive series and intercepted almost every pass my opponents attempted.  Every so often a friend with similar skills would stay overnight and we'd wage epic defensive struggles that were never as fun as the one-sided waxings I administered to everyone else before they finally just gave up and refused to play with me anymore.

Eventually the cartridges sold for five bucks at the local Musicland and I bought the Intellivision voice module for a ridiculously low price.  My friends and I were excited at the bargains.  We had no idea the home video game industry had collapsed.  But by then we were entering puberty and had girls on the brain.  We started getting into BMX and spent a lot of our Atari and Intellivision money on expensive Snakebelly tires and weirdly-shaped seats to lighten our bikes.  The game consoles went into closets or onto tables at yard sales and we confined our gaming to coin-operated uprights at Aladdin's Castle or Putt-Putt.  Frogger and Zaxxon at Family Mart and Quickie, or Dig Dug at the gas station.

Enter Nintendo.  As far as I remember, they started showing up in the US when I was in junior college, around 1987 or so.  We scoffed when these appeared under the Christmas trees of some of our younger friends, but pretty soon we were spending entire nights playing Super Mario Bros. or Rush'n Attack. Then game the Playstations and the Segas and all that.  Tecmo Bowl in college dorm rooms, Nintendo 64 in my apartment in Athens.  Sony Playstation 2, Sega Dreamcast.  I get all those mixed up, but I've played games on every system there is.  Still, I'm a dabbler, a dilettante.  Some of my friends are truly hardcore gamers, though.  They know the exact details while I'm just relying here on my famously vague memory.  I still spent way more time reading about the Blue Sky Rangers in preparation for this post than is strictly healthy, though.

Thirty years of Nintendo Famicom?  Has it really been that long?

Japanese women and the summer chill — a love story | The Japan Times

Japanese women and the summer chill — a love story | The Japan Times

My marriage is nothing like the one described in this article except for one thing-- whenever I go to bed, my wife tells me to cover my stomach.  It seems a chilly stomach is where a lot of our health problems begin.

Japan is melting

Oh man, this heat!  You know someplace is hot when you arrive there from southwest Georgia in August and suddenly feel as if you've been dumped in boiling oil along with the souvenir peanuts.  No, I'm only joking.  We didn't bring any peanuts back.

It's so hot in Japan right now even friends of mine who never complain about the weather are complaining about the weather.  One made a comparison of the weather here with the weather on Venus.  Right now Venus is looking pretty good.

The big difference between Georgia and Japan in summer is the air conditioning.  Air conditioning exits in Japan, but in Georgia, when houses and shopping malls feature arctic-like blasts non-stop, you can almost forget the walk to and from the car felt as if you were quick-stepping across a barbecue.  My wife wore a cardigan most of the time we were there.  I don't believe I've ever seen someone wear a cardigan in August.  Atlanta, on the other hand, was downright chilly for us both.  Rainy weather brought an early autumn.  The airplane was a mobile prison of stale, freezing air.  It set us down in a Jurassic swamp.  The ground crew unloading the plane used apatosaurs to take care of their heavy lifting.

At first it was a pleasant sensation.  Fresh, warm air and solid ground!  Semi-fresh air, mixed with jet diesel and our own non-bathed odor.  When you can smell your own breath it's time for a brushing.  We started sweating that night, managed a degree of comfort in the afternoon, then broiled again last night even with two fans stirring the bedroom air.  My first taste of the outside Monday morning was like drinking hot coffee or standing over a huge soup kettle.

One last observation.  Georgia, which has had higher than average rainfall this summer, was the most startling green I've seen in years.  The trees along Miyakoda Techno Road here have already started turning brown.  I'm not sure if this is a sign of an early fall or if they're almost finished cooking.