2006-07-28

Best laid plans...

I am definitely more mouse than man, for my plans go awry quicker than you can say Mickey! I have been procrastinating all week, as I usually do when it comes to packing, with the knowledge that I can always pack on Thursday night.

Well, who should call with an invite to say HI, but my old friend Markie-poo. I couldn't exactly ignore him...he's just returned from a honeymoon in the Maldives & Sri Lanka and I wanted to hear the juicy details. So throwing caution to the wind, I trekked down to his place for a quick hello and then I'd be on my merry way back to my apartment to complete (read: START) my packing for Canada.


Well, a chat led to dinner, but dinner was delayed due to overcrowding, so we had beers and then we had dinner with a few more beers and then came the sake and then they found out a marriage had occurred and thus came the bubbly, and so on, and so on and so on. (Nice run-on sentence, eh!)

So my 20 minute diversion became a 4 hour one, and now instead of packing, here I am typing away at a blog. I leave at 10 tomorrow morn, so I MUST leave by 9 to guarantee catching my train, so if I get up at 7, that'll leave me lots of time to pack...(too bad it's NOW 1:40am!)

The good news is that it was a terrific meal at a terrific restaurant in the company of terrific people! If you want to go there yourself, call up SHUUHEI (near Itsutsubashi station) @ 022-261-8839 for details. It might be best to call ahead, for we had to wait 2 hours (and many beers) for our table.

GOOD NIGHT!

2006-07-27

I'M OUTTA HERE!

I'm off to Canada for 10 days to annoy my family and friends, so the postings will be sporadic at best.
In the immortal words of Governor Arnold, "I'll be back!"

Celebrate TANABATA the Echophonyk way!








Unfortunately (or fortunately) I won't be there, but next Friday (August 4th) is the time for another Echophonyk, this time with a TANABATA theme. So come on down, listen to some great tunes, dance your little hearts out and wish for good luck-Tanabata style!
The usual gang of DJ's will be there, (alas, minus DJ Mokugohan who's in Canada) spinning away from 9:00 onward and it's only 1500¥ to get in. If you can figure out how to print this flyer, you get an extra drink! (ps. I created this flyer. Isn't it awesome?)


Shodo is the way to go!

書道 or shodo (Japanese calligraphy) is painstaking work and a lot of fun. I spent the morning creating kanji combinations for my friends and family and then the afternoon painting them.







What do you think?

2006-07-26

Dinosaurs at my desk!


One series of collectibles I enjoyed gathering were of these multi-coloured dinosaurs from various soft drinks at "Lawsons". They came with a power card that can be used to compete with others in a Pokemon/Magic the Gathering kind of way.





But even better are these Dinosaurs that Pepsi promoted to coincide with the King Kong opening. Very detailed depictions of several scenes from the movie but I don't recall ever seeing that giant piranha-type fish. Maybe it'll be on the DVD.
Matrimony or monotony.

It seems that anyone can marry anyone these days in Canada. Is Britain far behind? Apparently not, according to this video.



Did you know that over 25 years ago, my father married my brother, but he died before he could marry my sister.
RIP: Mako.



Who is Mako? Born Makoto Iwamatsu (岩松 信 ); December 10, 1933 − July 21, 2006. He has played roles as the token Asian in many films including the thief in the Conan movies or the Korean master in Remo Williams and also showed up in Pearl Harbor as Admiral Yamamoto. But more importantly his distinctive voice was the Narrator for Dexter's Lab and the terrific turn as the malevolent Aku on Samurai Jack.





I always liked his work and will miss him.

ps. Aku 悪 means EVIL!
This is why Samurai are cool.

2006-07-25

I cracked Da Vinci's code!


I didn't really crack the code, but I did complete a 204-piece, 10/14.7 cm mini-jigsaw puzzle yesterday.
It looks pretty cool, but it's so tiny, you can barely see the Unicorns in Da Vinci's Last Supper.

(Warning, obscure Monty Python alert!)
Wallace and Gromit.





Okay, I'm cheating a bit here, because these didn't come from a bottle, but a box. I managed to collect the entire series from a convenience store, each box came with a pair of figures from the movie or clay-mated shorts, a trading card and a candy (which I gave to my students.) But they are crap at my desk, so I guess it counts.





Wallace & Gromit are the main characters in a series of three British animated short films and a feature-length film by Nick Park of Aardman Animations. All the characters were made from moulded Plasticine modelling clay on wire frames, and filmed with stop motion clay animation.

Wallace is an absent-minded inventor, cheese enthusiast (especially for Wensleydale cheese), and companion to the dog Gromit who appears to be rather more intelligent than his master. Wallace is voiced by veteran actor Peter Sallis; Gromit remains silent, communicating only through body language.

I've seen all the short subjects, mainly in Animation Festivals ages ago before they were released to the public or won any Academy Awards, and I saw the movie last Christmas...brilliant. I have several stuffed animals of Wallace, Gromit and other characters at home that I caught via UFO Catcher. But that's a whole other blog area!
If the Smurfs mutated into oval blobs......

...they might look like this.


Barbapapa is both the title character, and name of the "species" of said character, of a series of children's books written in the 1970s by Annette Tison and Talus Taylor, who resided in Paris, France. The books were originally written in French, and were later translated into many languages. As short cartoons of a length of only five minutes, they reached a broader audience via TV.

Barbapapa himself is a generally pear-shaped, pink shapeshifting blob-like creature who stumbles upon the human world and tries to fit in. After various amusing adventures, he comes across a female of his species (more shapely, and black-coloured), named Barbamama. They produce seven children, known as the Barbababies, each a different colour.

If you really want to, you can go to the official site at:
Barbapapa.

Pictured here is Barba-bright, the lover of Science.



I must have been really thirsty to pick up this character. I quickly gave it to a co-worker who squealed, "Kawaiiiiii!" (Cute--カワイイイイイ)
Relax-Bear or リラクマ!




Rirakuma or Relax-Bear is the trademark character of Ito-en brand Tea. Apart from some ケイタイ or keitai (portable phones) straps, I also acquired some stamps with various sayings on them. I can now embellish my students' papers with sayings such as おめでとう omedetou--congratulations, ありがとう arigatou--thank you, なかよし nakayoshi--close friend or よろしく yoroshiku--?

Yoroshiku has no literal translation into English, but it's heard everywhere, all the time. Basically, it means "I humbly beg you" or "I ask you kindly". In this ultra-polite society, it can be used to preface a minor inconvenience or a huge commital on one's part. This statement is a polite way of asking for a favour when it is clear what that favour is. When addressed to a person one has just met, the favour is understood to be something like treating me well in the future. More formally, it is どうぞ宜しくお願いします douzo yoroshiku onegai shimasu, but is often simplified to just yoroshiku.

So, you see, some of my obsessive collectibles have a purpose as well!
Paddington Bear.





Paddington Bear is a fictional character in children's literature. He appears in 14 books written by Michael Bond and illustrated by Peggy Fortnum and has evolved into a franchise. The illustrations show him more as a teddy bear than a real bear, in the original style of Winnie-the-Pooh.

Paddington speaks English and wears a battered hat which he refuses to part with. When found, he wore a Duffle Coat, and wellington boots. He is always polite and well-meaning (though he inflicts hard stares on those who incur his disapproval), likes marmalade sandwiches, and has an endless capacity for getting into trouble. However, he is known to "try so hard to get things right".

Why is he popular in Japan? I haven't seen much of him around, but I managed to collect all 8 characters from cappucino-coffee bottles. I believe he's ripe for mass marketing here after too much POOH-saturation (ew!)
National Geographic presents...







These characters are collected from various bottles of water. One series offers bird nests, others fish and others insects collected by a famous Entomologist (Jean H. Fabre). Unfortunately, my photos are very tiny, but the detail on the animals are amazing.
Of the bugs, we have a Scorpion (サソリ), Moths (ガ), a Wasp (スズメバシ) and a Scarab Dung Beetle (ヒジリタマオシコガネ). The fish is a ヤマトイワナ some kind of trout. And the birds are a ライチョウ(snow ptarmigan) and a ホシガラス (a sea-crow).

I have lots more at home, collected over the years. Not bad for a ¥110-150 bottle of water, plus you get to quench your thirst!
Not Monkey Majik, but Magic Monkey!



Back in the late 70's, there was a live action TV series called "Monkey".
It's based on one of the great quest stories, a 16th Century Chinese epic called "Hsi Yu Chi" (Journey to the West). The series recounts the tales of MONKEY (ソンガク), a brave, humourous and resourceful hero who helps defend a Buddhist priest against demons and monsters en route to an Indian temple.

I just got a cool Monkey-themed screensaver from this site:
Monkey Magic and you can too!

From the tv show...















Collected from a soft drink. (I didn't get the whole series before it was discontinued...Do you know how frustrating that is?)







"Always look on the bright side of life!" (NOT from "Life of Brian", rather from the MONKEY TV show.)













Here is the theme song and I believe our pals Monkey Majik borrowed/stole their name from this show/song.

Songoku
Ore wa jiyuu ni ikiru Songokuu da yo
Kirakuna mon dayo
Yono naka iro iro aru keredo
Ore wa kankei nai ne
Moshi mo atama ga yokute kitai wo saretara
Soitsu mo tsuraine
Ue mirya ikura mo ue ga aru
Amari ue nado mirunayo

Motto Ookiku kokoro wo hirogete
Yono naka nagamete goranyo
Omotta yori warui tokojanai
Kono yo wa kekkou tanoshii

They call me Magic monkey
They call me Magic monkey
Yukai na koto sagashinagara
Ikiteru ore dayo
Magic monkey

Ore wa jiyuu ni ikiru Songokuu dayo
Tanoshiku yatteru
Nanika ni tsunagare ikiruno wa
Doumo dameda ne ore wa
Moshimo yononaka tsurakute nakitai toki wa
Kono ore mite miro
Shippai bakari no renzoku da
Dakedo kini nado sinai ne

Dare mo karemo ga iiko ni nattaraba
Yononaka tsumaranaku naru yo
Hito wa hito sa kimi wa kimi nanda
Hitomane nanka yamero yo

They call me Magic monkey
They call me Magic monkey
Yukaina koto sagashi nagara
Ikiteru Oredayo
Magic monkey

English translation:
I'm a happy-go-lucky Songoku
I see many troubles but they have nothing to do with me
If you are too smart and expected too much
It's a pity, I say
There's always somebody above you so don't aim too high
Take it easy and take a look around you
It's not a bad world as you think
They call me Magic Monkey
They call me Magic Monkey
Always looking for some fun
Magic Monkey

I'm a happy-go-lucky Songoku
Having a good time
I don't like to be bound by anything
If you are having a hard time and feel like crying, just look at me
Everyday is a mess, but I don't care a bit

Suppose everybody gets wise, what a dull world it would be
You can't be someone else, there's no point in imitating
They call me Magic Monkey
They call me Magic Monkey
Always looking for some fun
Magic Monkey
CRAP At My Desk.

Those of you who know me, know that I'm an obsessive collector of the odd, obscure and cool. To help assuage my need, I get a daily fix by buying soft drinks, coffee or water. How does that help, you may ask? Well, I only get drinks that come with an interesting figure or character. If there isn't a figure affixed to a drink, I go thirsty until I find a convenience store with one. Once I get a complete collection, I move on and all the doubles and triples that I've accumulated end up as gifts to students, friends or as very cool お土産 (omiyage or souvenirs) to people back in Canada. Occasionally, I sell the figures to a Comic book store, who then sells them to his customers and I make a tidy profit.

So over the next little while (at least until I go to Canada on Friday), I'll be showing you photos of "CRAP at my desk" (patent pending). You'll remember that yesterday, I showed you Kinnikuman, well you ain't seen nothing yet!

Miscellaneous:

A bento from Hokkaido and a motorcycle. 2 wrestlers and a panda.

Star Wars Theme on a Banjo...

It's pretty self-explanatory.

2006-07-24

Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi













This is my final foreigner as Japanese posting for a while. It was the incentive for running these in the first place, for it is the MOST RACIST portrayal of a Japanese I have ever seen committed to celluloid. I've never sat all the way through "Breakfast at Tiffany's" but it was on the other day and I caught a few minutes of it. When I saw Mickey Rooney with the bucked-teeth and coke-bottle eyeglasses, it inspired me to write about the portrayal.

Apparantly on the dvd, the producer (not the director, Blake Edwards) apologizes for the portrayal yet I'm sure Mickey is quite proud of his work.

I don't have any video clips of Mickey as Yunioshi, but I do have something even more racist for you (I'm definitely NOT condoning this clip!)



On a positive note about Mickey, I saw him perform in "Crazy For You" about 15 years ago, and he was quite spry for a 70-year old.

If anyone has any more gaijin as nihonjin portrayals they can recommend, I'm all ears.
Spiderman meets the Saturday Night Live Players.


To showcase how popular SNL players were in the late 70's, they teamed up with Spiderman in issue 74 of his team-up comic. I had the issue and, though very silly, it was taken very seriously within the Marvel Universe. John Belushi in his Samurai role had received an ancient ring and the villainous "Silver Samurai" shows up wanting the ring. I hope I still have a copy, I'd like to re-read it for authenticity!
ジョンベルシは侍のパン人です

Here is a script of John as Samurai Baker with Buck Henry again as the customer.


Samurai Bakery

Mr. Dantley.....Buck Henry
Samurai.....John Belushi

[ open on Mr. Dantley entering bakery, baker at counter with back turned ]

Mr. Dantley: Afternoon! Could someone help me?

[ Baker turns around behind counter, revealing himself as the Samurai, complete with puffy baker's hat atop his head ]

[ dissolve up title card ]

Announcer: It's time for another episode of.. "Samurai Bakery"!

Mr. Dantley: Boy, am I glad you're still open! You know, my brother is getting married tomorrow; I'm the best man, and like a dope, I forgot to order the wedding cake.

[ Samurai extends his sword angrily, pointing at the "Take A Number" ticket dispenser ]

Mr. Dantley: Oh, okay. [ tears a number ticket and waits ]

[ Samurai clicks machine to reveal Number 97, and repeatedly calls out the number in Japanese gibberish; when no one responds, Samurai clicks to Number 98 and calls out ]

Mr. Dantley: Yeah! Now.. I need a wedding cake.. [ notices a beautiful graduation cake on the counter ] Oh, ooh-ooh - that cake would be perfect! Listen, can you just.. take the, take the graduate off the top, and.. and.. and put on a little bride and groom?

[ Samurai points to his watch as he speaks in Japanese gibberish ]

Mr. Dantley: Ah. What time were they supposed to pick it up?

[ Samurai points to the 6 on his watch to indicate six o'clock ]

Mr. Dantley: Ooh.. ooh, what a nice watch! That's great looking! Swiss! I have a Seiko, myself. It's one of those Japanese-

[ Samurai spits in disgust and pulls his eyes back into a squint; he makes a Swiss cuckoo sound and points to the superiority of his own watch ]

Mr. Dantley: Yeah. Well, I know what you mean. [ points to his watch ] Look, look - it's after six o'clock now. Why can't I have that cake? It's real important, honestly.. No, huh? [ pulls a large bill out of his wallet ] Well, uh.. I guess you wouldn't be interested in, uh.. say a.. bribe of some kind, huh?

[ Samurai angrily expels his sword, slicing the graduate peg from the cake, and carefully replaces it with a bride and groom peg; Samurai then wipes the excess icing off his sword with a cloth ]

Mr. Dantley: That's good! It's going to make a young couple very, very happy! [ helps Samurai slide the cake across the counter, onto another flat surface ] I can't believe that my brother is getting hitched after all these years. You know.. I introduced my brother to his fiancee.

[ curious, points from Mr. Dantley to the bride peg on the cake ]

Mr. Dantley: Mmm-hmm..

[ Samurai squeezes glaze from the tip of his sword, decorating the top of the cake ]

Mr. Dantley: Oh.. oh, that's real nice! [ continuing his story ] As a matter of fact, I not only introduced him to his fiancee.. I used to go out with her myself.

[ intrigued, the Samurai motions his sword up and down in his case to congratulate Mr. Dantley on his former relationship with his brother's fiancee ]

Mr. Dantley: [ laughing ] Well, that could be our little secret! By the way, what kind of cake is that under all that whipped cream? Is that chocolate?

Samurai: [ shakes head ] Mmm-mmm.

Mr. Dantley: Devil's food?

Samurai: [ shakes head ] Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Dantley: What?

[ Samurai motions his hands in a foppish manner ]

Mr. Dantley: Oh, fruit cake! My favorite! Boy, it's really a beauty. You.. you are a master baker!

Samurai: Hmm?? [ looks up, insulted at what he thought he heard, then relaxes ]

Mr. Dantley: How much do I owe you?

[ Samurai determines the price on his sword, giving the total to Mr. Dantley ]

Mr. Dantley: Terrific. [ pays up ] Now, listen, here's the problem. How am I gonna carry that cake home? Because I have to walk six blocks to get to my house.

[ not a problem for the Samurai, who who grabs the cake in one hand, and flat, unopened boxes wrapped with string in his other hand, then tosses them both into the air, extracting his sword from his holder and swinging at the cake and boxes as they crash to the floor; Samurai then reaches behind the counter and pulls up the cake, now individually boxed by layer and ties with string ]

Mr. Dantley: Ah! Thank you!

[ dissolve up title card ]

Announcer: Tune in next week, for another episode of.. "Samurai Bakery"!

[ fade ]
John Belushi as Samurai ~~.





One of my favourite all-time portrayals of a foreigner as a Japanese was the series of Saturday Night Live skits with John Belushi as a Samurai. He was Samurai Tailor, Samurai Delicatessen owner, etc.

Here's John (who's Armenian by the way) as Samurai Deli owner, talking his usual Japanese gibberish with Buck Henry as the customer. I admire his authentic style of returning the sword to his belt and his desire to commit 切腹 or seppuku (ritual suicide or "Happy Dispatch") when the order isn't perfect. (And you get Turkish subtitles!!)



And here he is in Samurai Garb performing with Frank Zappa!
KINKY, MAN!

These are some photos of mini characters that come on top of a can of coffee. They are wrestling characters called キン肉マン or "Kinnikuman". It's a Wrestling manga/anime from the late 80's and is still popular today.

What gets me is that these positions they've chosen for this promo are SOOOOO GAY! (Not that there's anything wrong with that!) What is more disturbing is that the name translates as "Golden Meat Man"!





2006-07-23

A very lazy Sunday post.

Have done some housework today, but for the most part, I've been very lazy. So here is a post that takes NO effort on my part. (It is pretty freaky though, I first saw it during the Stanley Cup playoffs at the lead singer's place.)
Enjoy.

2006-07-21

#5 Ricardo Montalban as Nakamura



In another Brando movie, Sayonara (1957), Red Buttons (who died only last week) was a fighter pilot stationed in Kobe who married a local Japanese woman. When ordered back to America without being able to take his wife, they committed suicide together.

Ricardo Montalban (a Mexican) portrayed a Kabuki actor. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of him (but it was likely more realistic than Marlon), but it must have been a Fantasy role for him.

Here he is in Star Trek as KHAN.
I Coulda Been a 競争者!






And the next odd Hollywood star as a Japanese person is Marlon Brando as Mr. Sakini the interpreter in "The Teahouse of the August Moon".
Is it just me or did they not even try to make him look Japanese?
I can can-can, can you?

I was feeling kind of bored, so I went for a walk around the school and I came across the Shodo club 書道部 (calligraphy). There were several students practicing away at their kanji so I decided to join them. After practicing the word for "Smile", I thought I'd try something more challenging and went and retrieved my HANKO (判子, personal seal).

{A hanko is something that all Japanese use frequently; for example, I "punch in" everyday by stamping my seal on a calendar OR you must have one to open a bank account or sign important documents. This hankers back to the days of yore when seals were set in wax to keep important papers from being compromised. These days, when you can buy a hanko at the 100¥ Shop, I don't see them as being all that secure.}

My personal hanko was designed by the vice-principal at my old school, Tokiwagi and he put a lot of thought into what kanji to use for MAI-KERU. He finally came up with 舞蹴 which means "high kick/ dance". And this is what I came up with:





When I came back, all the teachers were starting a box lunch (bento 弁当), and much to my surprise and chagrin, they were eating UNAGI!
Happy EEL Day!

Doyo no Ushi no Hi 土用の丑の日 (which falls on July 28th this year) is a special mid-summer day devoted to eel-eating. The Japanese believe that eel helps the body combat heat-induced lethargy, prompting many older Japanese to join 500-metre queues to lunch at the city’s more famous eel houses. Expect demand to be particularly strong in central Tokyo, which is hotter than anywhere else in Japan. (Surprisingly, today is a rainy day of only 20℃ today, not the hottest day by any means.)

鰻・ウナギ Unagi (eel) has been consumed in Japan since the 17th century. It used to be expensive food, but Unagi can be reasonably purchased nowadays. Unagi is rich in protein, calcium, vitamin A and E, and it's believed to give people stamina. So, unagi dishes are eaten the most during the hottest time of the year.

A common unagi dish is unagi no kaba-yaki (grilled eel). Prepared unagi meat (the main bone is removed) is skewered and grilled with sweet basting sauce. It's similar to teri-yaki. Most people in Japan buy unagi no kabayaki 蒲焼 at stores instead of making it themselves. Before eating kabayaki, you only have to reheat it with kabayaki sauce.

Kabayaki Sauce
INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
1/4 cup sugar
PREPARATION:
Pour all ingredients in a pan. Stir the mixture well. Put the pan on low heat and simmer for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and cool the mixture. Store the sauce in a clean bottle in the fridge.

When unagi is grilled over charcoals, the fat from unagi drips and burns, causing smoke. The smoke adds a great flavor to unagi. The smell coming from an unagi restaurant tends to invite many customers.

Commonly, unagi no kabayaki is served over plain rice as a main dish. It's called either una-juu ウナじゅう or una-don ウナどん. Clear soup (すいもの suimono) made from eel liver is called kimo-sui 肝すい and is served on the side.
I can't wait to go home next week...



Canada's murder rate shot up last year to its highest in nearly a decade, putting the country's peace-loving reputation on the line.

Statistics Canada said 658 people were murdered last year, meaning the homicide rate was up 4 percent from 2004. It gave no reason for the increase, which followed a dramatic 13 percent jump in 2004.

The national homicide rate was 2 per 100,000 population, Statscan said. That is relatively low by international standard and less than half that of the U.S. rate, which was 5.5 per 100,000 in 2004, according to the FBI.

Canadians were shocked last year by a spate of shooting deaths in Toronto, where the homicide rate jumped 9 percent. However, Edmonton, the capital of the western province of Alberta, was the most murder-ridden place to be last year, with 4.3 homicides per 100,000 people.

Another high-profile case involved four Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers being shot dead in March last year as they investigated a farmhouse in Alberta. The gunman killed himself.

The growing number of shooting deaths has put pressure on the government to clamp down on handguns.

Other serious violent crimes such as attempted murder and assaults with a weapon also rose last year but the overall crime rate fell 5 percent because fewer non-violent crimes were reported.

The national crime rate has been relatively stable since 1999.
(From Yahoo News in Ottawa.)
Anime of Green Gables.



A few posts back (July 14th), I linked to the opening Credits of Akage no An (アカゲのアン OR Anne the redhead). Here is a link to download 50 episodes of the series. It's a Bit-Torrent site, so I don't know if you have to pay for it or not, but it'll still be cheaper than a DVD.

Enjoy.

Here's a description of Anne from Nippon Animation studios:
"Anne Shirley is a freckle-faced, red-haired girl, who grows up in an orphanage having lost her parents at a very early age. Anne is always cheerful and fun-loving despite being brought up without love or affection. When she turns 10, she is adopted by the old farmer Matthew Cuthbert and his sister Marilla. Anne starts her new life with Matthew and Marilla at a farm called “Green Gables”, but actually the Cuthberts wanted a boy who could help with their work on the farm… Overcoming many hardships and meeting many friends and people, Anne grows up to be a strong-minded woman."

It has been exported to neighbouring Asian countries and also to Europe (Anna dai capelli rossi in Italian, Anne la maison aux pignons verts in French, Anne mit den roten Haaren in German).

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