Get Shafted at Christmas!

Just a reminder to those local Sendai-ites (Sendai-ians? We need to come up with a name for us.) Friday, December 22nd is Echophonyk's Xmas party. So put on a stupid Santa hat or a pair of Reindeer antlers and come on down. Any type of Santa-related costume will get you 3 drinks instead of 1 with your 1500¥ admission. I'm pretty sure, we'll accept Kwanza, Hannukah, Festivus outfits, or even Mr. Hankey (but I wouldn't count on anyone dancing with you.)

Details can be found in this incredibly amazing flyer (created by yours truly) below.


Attack of the Barberaians

Most everyone else has commented on the demise of Joseph Barbera. The "Pitchman" for Hanna-Barbera productions. Everyone I know grew up with his work, from Oh My Darlin' Huckleberry Hound, That Smarter than the Average Yogi Bear, Snagglepuss, Exiting Stage Right, my personal favourite, El Kabong with his sidekick Bubbaloey, the Yabbadabbadoing Flintstones, of course, and the Futurama of 1962, the Jetsons. Check out this galaxy far away for a parallel universe of Mr. Spacely's own lackey, George.

My least favourite H&B creations are Scrappy-Doo (who ruined Scooby) and that ubiquitous duo, Tom and Jerry. Maybe some of the Academy Award winners of the 40's were okay, but primarily it was just the same plot over and over again. (Hey, wait a minute, that sums up all H&B toons.) Joe Barbera was the Ultimate huckster for his creations. Fred was a shill for cigarettes before Pebbles came along. Then they sold Jam and pretty much every character of the 60's was featured on a cereal box. But I digress, I'm talking about Tom & Jerry.

A little known fact for those outside of Japan is: "Banks here use cartoon characters to entice people to put their money in their vaults." Snoopy, Hello Kitty, and others want you to invest your hard-earned sheckles in their Financial Institution. So who's the spokespersons for my bank? Well, none other than Tom & Jerry (as if you needed to guess.)

The last thing I want to mention about H&B is about the Action/Adventure series of the 60's. I loved Space Ghost, BirdMan, the Herculoids and the toon that introduced me to Jazz, Jonny Quest. (Charlie Brown's Vince Guaraldi helped a lot, but Hoyt Curtin started the ball rolling. Hoyt did the Jetsons and Flintstones themes too.) Here's the theme song...


You bet Jurassic.

Dinosaurs and Christmas. Is there a better combination?

A bumper crop.

An ex-Sendaite who now lives in Toronto sent me these Bumper Stickers. Most of them are pretty amusing and alas all too true. Since I can make no wise political statement of my own, it's always much better to steal from others. So here goes. (Followed by a Christmassy toon by Mike Peters of Mother Goose & Grimm fame.)

That's OK, I Wasn't Using My Civil Liberties Anyway

Let's Fix Democracy in This Country First

If You Want a Nation Ruled By Religion, Move to Iran

Bush. Like a Rock. Only Dumber.

If You Can Read This, You're Not Our President

Of Course It Hurts: You're Getting Screwed by an Elephant

Hey, Bush Supporters: Embarrassed Yet?

George Bush: Creating the Terrorists Our Kids Will Have to Fight

Impeachment: It's Not Just for Blowjobs Anymore

America: One Nation, Under Surveillance

They Call Him "W" So He Can Spell It

Who's God Do You Kill For?

Cheney/Satan '08

Jail to the Chief

No, Seriously, Why Did We Invade Iraq?

Bush: God's Way of Proving Intelligent Design is Full Of Crap

Bad President! No Banana.

We Need a President Who's Fluent In At Least One Language

We're Making Enemies Faster Than We Can Kill Them

Is It Vietnam Yet?

Bush Doesn't Care About White People, Either

You Elected Him. You Deserve Him.

Impeach Cheney First

Dubya, Your Dad Shoulda Pulled Out, Too

When Bush Took Office, Gas Was $1.46

Pray For Impeachment

The Republican Party: Our Bridge to the 11th Century

What Part of "Bush Lied" Don't You Understand?

One Nation Under Clod

At Least Nixon Resigned

1/20/09: End of an Error



I went to Ron Davis' site and discovered a groovy tune on YouTube. Check out his ivory tickling...



Every year, I manage to get wrangled into being Santa for 2-6 gigs. Believe me, it takes a lot of arm twisting to get me to do it (not!) Since JC and I share a common birthday, his particular holiday has superseded my celebration. So I get my revenge by portraying his emissary in the Red & White garb as often as possible. Last year, I actually got paid 300 bucks to play Kris for a weekend and had my own modeling agent!

I had a few other opportunities as well, but one of my longest standing Santa portrayals has been with the Tohoku Canada - Japan Society. In his role as lackey for Tokiwagi, Alex portrayed Santa for TC-JS before I arrived, but once I pulled into town, my rotund physique was a natural to take his place. Alex cheerily became my trusty sidekick, "Treeboy", and we would dish out prizes to the masses via a Bingo game. As the years have gone by, I missed out as Mr. Kringle once or twice, but I think I've HoHoHoed my way through 5/7 times.

Treeboy's lovely wife and daughter (Yuko & Kaede) also attended. Kaede is a few weeks shy of her first birthday and I'm very proud to be the first Santa that she lays eyes upon.

For the first time that I recall, the now-retired vice-principal of Tokiwagi (Kikiwada-sensei) was not in attendance. Nor was there any Tokiwagi presence there (apart from Alex) at all and what makes this unusual is, that for all previous years, music has been provided by members of their school band. One year I horribly botched "My Way" accompanied by a sax player and pianist. This year's entertainment was provided by "The Ron Davis Trio". Ron is a pianist who hails from Toronto and I recognized him from somewhere and more surprisingly, he recognized me. (If any of my friends out there know the connection, please enlighten me. I probably heard him play at the Rex Hotel in Downtown TO sometime years ago, but neither of us could figure out the familiarity.) Anyway, with some Bostonian cellist named Brent Nussey and a ripping Japanese drummer (whose name I can't read) played 4 tunes. #1 was an original tune entitled "D'hora" (a quote from Apocalypse Now perhaps?), "It Might as Well be Spring", "Silent Night" and "Santa Clause (sic) is Coming to Town" rounded off the set. I liked them a lot and I'll try and see if he's playing in Toronto next time I'm there. http://www.rddavis.com/

Save a spot for me there next year. Good grub, a few presents worthy of re-gifting and an opportunity for me to make an ass of myself. A perfect night out.
Santa Cross is Coming to Town.

Many moons ago when I lived in Tokyo, a co-worker told me that he had seen a picture of Santa hanging prostrate on the cross as part of a Department store window-dressing to celebrate Christmas. I took him at his word and being a neophyte in this wild and wacky land, began to regale my friends with this same story. Now maybe he was just having me on, or he had sincerely heard this myth himself. But so begins yet another Urban Legend. With but a few Googling clicks, here are a few of the documented cases over the years recounting this same tale:

1. A few Decembers ago a Japanese department store, desperate to appear Westernised, mounted an extravagant Christmas display, featuring a life-sized Santa Claus, crucified upon a cross.
2. The granddaddy of cultural faux pas occurred just after World War II, when a Ginza department store rolled out its elaborate Christmas promotion: a smiling Santa nailed to a crucifix.
3. A Japanese department store reputedly once put up a big Christmas cartoon which had a Santa Claus prominently displayed on a crucifix. Whether or not this story, which has been doing the rounds in Tokyo for some years, is true or just another urban legend, is unclear.

Well, as far as I can tell, it's all a load of hooey but I can share with you photos of another Santa, who may not share Jesus' fate, but does share his birthdate.

Presenting Santa Jones or Michael Claus, take your pick...
Tokyo Woes.

I've had a busy week, so my postings have been sporadic (and lazy) ones. Primarily YouTubings, so here comes another one.

One of my pet projects had been finding and posting anti-Japanese propaganda from WWII, and I've found a doozy. This has to be one of the most RACIST depictions of my adopted land to date. Mel Blanc can do many great voices, but his Japanese does tend to have a Speedy Gonzales-Mexican twinge to it. And to clear up a few of the stereotypes here, not every Japanese person wears incredibly thick glasses have huge protruding teeth. Most wear contacts and the British have much worse teeth! (Tongue placed firmly in cheek.)

So here goes a Warner Bros. Cartoon produced for the Navy with a little-known character by the name of Mr.Hook. It was directed by Bob Clampett of Bugs Bunny fame. So sit back, put your brain on neutral, and "enjoy" this cartoon. (Apart from the racism, there are some funny bits here, I love the "Zoot Suits" worn and when the Sad Sack gets boobies.)


Putting Off the Ritz.

Sad news today when I read of the untimely demise of Peter Boyle. Since Everybody but me Loves Raymond, I have only seen the show once or twice (I think by force on an airplane) and the only time I cracked a smile was when Mr. Boyle was on the screen. Everytime he showed up in a movie role, I was enthralled (Taxi Driver, Yellowbeard, Outland, Where the Buffalo Roams, The Conversation...these are off the top of my head) but of course my favourite character has to be Frankenstein's Monster.

So without further ado, here is Peter as Frank tripping the light fantastic. (Sort of.)


Scrap Happy Duck.

Here's a treat for you. A war-time Daffy Duck, black & white Frank Tashlin Looney Tune. We rarely get to see the B&W toons and this is Daffy at his daffiest. It's primarily about the Germans (Hitler as a horse's ass!) but there is a shot of the Japanese Emperor if you look quickly.

I'm marking the last of my exams and watching cartoons again. Sinfully decadent, ain't it?

Good luck in naming all of the scrap items at the beginning!


Tomorrow World.

Last Thursday on Men's Day, I went to see Flags of our Fathers. A nice looking picture, pretty good action scenes but ultimately it was dull, dull, dull. You know that the movie you're watching is uninteresting when you notice, "Wow, the costumes in this movie are great. They're sure to be nominated for an Oscar." I plan to see the "sequel" next week, "Letters from Iwo Jima." I hope the Japanese characters will be more interesting than the American ones, even if all the dialogue is incomprehensible to me.

But the evening was not a total loss, for I had a few hours to kill before the flick, so I watched another movie. I love メンズデー because movies are only 1000 yen. I saw とゥモローワールド, the Japanese title for "Children of Men" based on the PD James novel about a dystopian future set in 2027, where no child has been born for 18 years. This was the most depressing movie I've seen in years and I loved every minute of it. The future of a devastated world where terrorism reigns and England is the only sovereign state still in existence was truly bleak and there wasn't a single redeeming character in the movie.

Guernica by Picasso is one of the few works still in existence in an art gallery for the rich.

Michael Caine portrayed a retired Political Cartoonist who grows his own ganja and he was the only one with an ounce of humour about him. Word of advice...Don't pull his finger!
Frosty Strikes.

My apologies to all of Sendai for prematurely speaking about snowmen a few days ago. For we had our first snowfall of the winter today. It didn't stick around but it has been pretty darn cold all day.

Here's a pic of a Snowman schedule book with stickers that I picked up with a "Smile set" from KFC the other day.
Buddha's Achievement.

Yesterday afternoon, all the students trekked over to Sunplaza for a Buddhist ceremony called 成道会 (Joudou e.) Like many of these events, I didn't know what was going on, nor could anyone adequately explain it to me.

It started off with some dancers in white flitting around and then they lit some candles. Then a number parents and students filed up and lit some incense. Then one of my 3rd year students prepared a Tea Ceremony (茶道=sadou) (which took a long time and it was all very mellow and incensing so I had my first catnap of the day.)

The school band performed a song that was very melodic and hymn-like but pretty tough to sing along to. (Out of my range, don't you know. It had nothing to do with the complexity of it.)

Then they introduced a guest speaker, a retired principal from Osaka, 安井里謡道良道 (Yasui Ryoudou), who gave a speech about the trials and tribulations of becoming a monk. Apart from the rigours of climbing up and down a mountain for 10 days, one must also fast for 9 days. On the 9th day, you're given a mouthful of water to gargle with and if you swallow it, you lose out on your monk-hood. In case you're wondering, they measure the water afterwards down to the millilitre, he demonstrated the method for us.

I never did get an adequate explanation of what Buddha achieved, but I suspect that if one could listen to the entire 80 minute rambling without nodding off, you'd be in the right ballpark. Everywhere I looked there were teachers and students in blissful slumber. I did my best to get my jodo working, but I too, succombed to the Sandman's Land of Nod.

(btw...Photos have been removed)



Scary Mary has come for your children...

Doh! -My dear, Poppins is here.
Ray -She'll get you with a gun.
Meat -The name she'll call yourself.
Far -Away, you'll want to run.
Sew -Your eyes shut when you're dead.
Raw -The way your corpse'll go.
Tea -The drink she fill's with dread.
And it brings us back to Doh!...She's...com-ing!

I challenge anyone to do something with A Spoonful of Sugar!



A snowman in Japan is called a 雪だるま, which is basically a two-balled figure with a face. They only have the the two balls (no dirty thoughts please) because their form resembles the tumbler doll of Daruma san.

Dharma dolls (達磨=daruma) are hollow and round Japanese wish dolls with no arms or legs, modelled after Bodhidharma. The doll has a face with a moustache and beard, but its eyes only contain the color white. Using black ink, one fills in a single circular eye while thinking of a wish. Should the wish later come true, the second eye is filled in. Because of the low center of gravity, the daruma doll will return to its upright position after being tilted to the side. As such, it has become symbolic for optimism, persistence, and strong determination.

This is MY Dharma doll, that was given to me by a co-worker ages ago. As you can see my wish has been made, but it hasn't yet come true. As soon as it does, you all will be the first to find out!

Right now Kentucky Fried Chicken (referred to as "Kentucky" over here) is giving away plates with the Snowman character popularized in book form by Raymond Briggs. The cartoon version of the story has been a staple of British television viewing every Christmas. Though I was familiar with Briggs' work (Fungus the Bogeyman, When the Wind Blows), I had never seen The Snowman prior to my arrival in Japan. It's a charming piece of animation with a catchy tune, "Walking in the Air" and a Scottish soft drink called Irn Bru has done a spot on parody of the toon.

A Poster Post.

Unfortunately they chose Ben Affleck to help avenge.

Most Japanese men I've met are too shy to do this.

My memories of King Kong vs Godzilla differ from this poster's version.

Fangs for the memories.

Doing one's part for recycling.

Pretty Horrific, eh?

A slice of life.

Mickey has got out of hand at DisneySea.

Alas, this sentiment is still around today, albeit with a different enemy.

This Dali-esque painting is called "The Sowers" by JT Benton.

Stop ME from posting any more of these!
Iwo Jima: From both sides.

A few weeks ago, Flags of Our Fathers was released over here and it ends next week. On Saturday, a follow-up picture, Letters from Iwo Jima premieres here. Clint Eastwood has done an admirable job of telling the story of the flag raising from both sides of the picture. I've got to go see Flags and Letters before they disappear from our shores. (In an unrelated aside, I'm watching Kelly's Heroes starring Clint as a gung-ho commander who robs a bank of 1.6 million in gold bullion behind enemy lines. Unofficially remade as We Three Kings in my opinion.)

But good old Clint is in the minority of directors who portray the Japanese in a positive light. He approached Councilor Shindo Yoshitaka in 2005 with the intention of telling the story of the flag-raisers. Mr Yoshitaka (who has a personal stake in the project: his grandfather General Kuribayashi Tadamichi, was handpicked by Emperor Hirohito to lead the defense of Iwo Jima) had grave concerns about the Republican Dirty Harry making this picture. Will it be another rehash of Sands of Iwo Jima starring another Hollywood tough guy, John Wayne (who never served a minute in the military) or something different for a change?

Reviews have been positive, so I'm looking forward to making a judgement for myself. Stay tuned...

But forget all that for now. Let's sit back and reminisce about simpler times. When the Japanese were portrayed as buck-toothed, begoggled savages and the Americans as the heroes come to save the day...Yup, it's time for some more Propoganda Posters from WWII. (I mean, tomorrow is Dec 7th and we all know how that ended up for the Yanks don't we?)


Bert Can't Be Far Behind.

A chap named Ernie from London opened a bar in Kokubuncho several weeks ago and its "Living Room Style" atmosphere (throw in a little rumpus room) is very relaxing. Come for the cheap drinks, then stay for the free darts and big-screen TV. It's across from the Richfield Hotel and if you have a 二次会 (nijikai post-party party) after your 忘年会 (bonenkai year-end party), drop in here with a dozen or so friends and stay until 5:00am. It's all the rage.

Ernie is the handsome dude with the dreadlocks in the bottom corner of this pic. (That's the right-hand corner...the left-hand corner is a dart board, dummy.)

email: erniesbar@yahoo.com
tel: 022-265-2118
Maid in Toronto.

Toronto now sports an authentic-esque "Maid Cafe" -- a Japanese cafe where women dressed up in anime maid outfits and wait on patrons with lavish attention. It's out in a part of town I rarely frequent (Scarborough: at McNicoll Ave and Kennedy) but maybe I'll have to make a special trip for Christmas.

For hours, menu etc., check out Maid Cafe

Just so my Japan readers don't feel left out, here's one in Tokyo (I have yet to find one in Sendai.)

Makes Me Cry Just To Look At It.

This post-it pad looks like an onion; each textured sheet is slightly different. Peeling a sheet off feels like taking a slice off a purple onion. The design won the grand prize at the Japanese Kokuyo Design awards. If I find them, I'll have my stocking stuffers all taken care of.

I Want to Ride My Bicycle...

I want to ride my bike.

I promised myself that I'd try not to blog at work, but I'm in the middle of marking over 400 exams and was watching this video while doing so (thus I've made an exception.) Ages ago, I made a top-ten list of bicycle mishaps and joys and this little documentary encapsulates everything wrong about bike-riders in Japan. I've never seen anyone signal, begrudgingly licence their bike out of necessity, rarely tune or brighten their bike, often seen double riders, always watch people riding every which way on a street, only ride on sidewalks and seldom does anyone wear a helmet (though that particular oversight is not mentioned in the clip.) (I also must admit that I, your hypocritical narrator, bend pretty much all of these transgressions as well.

Warning: this video is over 14 minutes, so only view if you've got some time on your hands or if you can multi-task and do something else at the same time. Don't watch this while riding a bike!

I love it that nobody stops for their fallen comrades and I adore the cute little tails on the otherwise ugly monkeys.

This video is from around 1963 and was shown to school children as an instructional guide to bicycle safety. When we grew up in Southern Ontario, we got "Elmer the Safety Elephant." He was never as morbid as the narrator of this tape (Edward Everett Horton of Fractured Fairy Tales fame) though I wish he had been. He's much cuter in this link, but for a more recent safety lesson go here:



Yesterday, I was invited to a mini-festival by my friend Motoko. She was working at this center located in a school on Kimachi Dori. So I took a bus to Kotodae-koen and since it was only 1 subway stop away and I had plenty of time, I hoofed it. After a while, I asked for help at a convenience store and he told me where the "Kimichi-dori shimin center" (木町道市民センター) was. I followed his directions and ended up at a completely different "shimin center" (which I think means "Civic center"). The nice people there gave me a map and I eventually made it to Kimichi.

Motoko and several of her college friends were helping kids make little sculptures out of foliage and a glue gun. I made a little head out of a chestnut and was very impressed (exaggeration.) Much later I went back and made a "Flying Gamera" out of a woodchip, a few acorns and some maple leaves. This creation I was impressed by!

I also listened to a very nice a capella choir who sang some upbeat Christmas Carols and they ended with "Oh Happy Day!" I'm convinced that it is impossible for a Japanese choir to warble tunes without including a number from Whoopi's Sister Act (1 or 2).

I also ate some わたがし (watagashi = cotton candy) which was overly sweet, so I shared it with staff and kids. Perhaps my taste buds have changed over the last many many years, but I do remember liking that webby substance as a kid.

Since Motoko and her gang were going to be there for a few more hours, I decided to hoof it back to Kotodae-Park and save the 240¥ for the subway. I was pointed in the right direction and walked. And walked and walked and walked. The area was beginning to look familiar, so I kept going until I ended up in Saiwai-cho which was the area of Sendai in which I lived 6 years ago as a Tokiwagi teacher. Now that I had my bearings, I realized that I had another hour's walk ahead of me, so I hopped on a bus and headed to my destination (driving right past Kimachi-Dori I must add.) The good news is that I got a lot of exercise and the bus ride was only 180¥ so I saved 60¥!


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