Phoning It In.

Woohoo! I got a new cell phone. It's half as heavy as my last phone, has a slightly bigger screen, and tons more functions. (Old=green,new=blue)

It has a built-in Japanese-English dictionary, Global functions, a better camera & movie capability, emails, net access, bar code reader, etc. etc. etc!

It'll take me ages to figure all these functions out, but I AM excited!

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that with a sale price plus all the points I'd added up, the phone was free!!
Furthermore, I finally ditched my old cell phone email address since I was unable to cure my SPAM problem. That means no more ads for Rolex knockoffs, Cialis, Viagra or penis enlargements. Now I'll have to seek out those products on my own!
Que Sarah, Sarah.

A Happy Birthday shout goes out to Sarah McLachlin who turns 40 today.

Someone has placed her tune, "Angel" as a backdrop to トライガン or Trigun. The visuals don't exactly fit the lyrics, but I wanted some kind of Japanese connection to Sarah.

Bear Necessities.

I've always intended on going to the 恩賜上野動物園 (Ueno Zoo) but never gotten around to it. Now that they have started showcasing a hibernating bear, it might be worth my while to make the journey. What could be more exciting than watching a snoozing ursine?

If the Fox network gets its way, the exhibit might go something like this:


Salt of the Earth.

Today's incredibly lazy Saturday post is the latest KitKat craze. White Chocolate with Salt from Lauren, France! It tastes like you'd expect a KitKat with white chocolate to taste like, only with a mild aftertaste of salt. Somewhat odd, but not as repulsive as it sounds.

As an added bonus, here's a KitKat ad I found on the back of an Archie Digest comic from the early 80's. Pretty wacky!

Speaking of the 80's...

I've shown this before, but to save you the trouble of going through my archives, that was 宮沢 りえ or Rie Miyazawa back in 1985. It may have been her debut commercial, and she helped popularize KitKat in the 80's. Much later, she starred in The Twilight Samurai which was nominated for an Academy Award back in 2002.
が製造するチョコレート菓子. (Have a break, have a KitKat)


It Burns Me Up!

Today is Robbie Burns Day and since I wrote about it and Auld Lang Syne last year, I won't go into great detail.

Since I've been teaching recipes all week to my students, I'll attempt a haggis recipe in Japanese! (UPDATE: I've cleaned up my crappy Japanese {my Crapanese}with the help of a friend!)

Recipe for Haggis: ハッギスのレシピ

Ingredients: 材料

Sheep's stomach bag, liver (100 g), heart and lungs  羊の胃袋、肝臓(100グラム)、心臓と肺
2 onions タマネギ(2個)
Beef suet (50g) 牛脂(50グラム)
Salt and black pepper 塩、黒こしょう
Toasted oatmeal (75g) 焼いたオートミール(75グラム)
Gravy from liver (250ml)  肝臓のグレービー(250ミリリットル)

Method: 作り方

1. 羊の胃袋を十分に洗う。最初、冷たい水、次に暖かい水で洗う。
2. 前夜から、ポットに冷たい塩漬けにした水に浸す。もう一回、洗う。2時間沸く、気管はポットの横を排水する。500ミリリツトルのストックを作ってあく。
3. 気管を切放す、余分な脂肪を取り去る。心臓と肺を叩き切るまたは小さく刻む、最もよい部分(半分ぐらい)の肝臓をおろす。
4. タマネギを湯通し、切る、オートミール、脂、塩、こしょう、ストック一緒に混ぜそのまましばらく置く。
5. 混合物は胃袋の中にいれる、ぶくらむまで待つ。3時間煮る、一面に小穴を規則的にあける。

When ready to serve, the cook, accompanied by a bagpiper, presents the Haggis to the host. The host should then recite, "Address to a Haggis".

Dig in and have plenty of whiskey to help keep it down!


Living on the EDGE.

Ever since I was a wee lad, I've loved creepy crawling creatures. Spiders, snakes, all kinds of bugs, but my favourites were always the amphibians. When on a picnic or camping, we'd scurry off into the forest or nearby river and start looking under rocks. I remember once catching a mudpuppy while fishing in the Etobicoke Creek (a local creek that ran behind our house-good for frogs, toads, & crawdads) but I haven't seen a salamander in the wild since I was about 10.

Here in Japan, the rice paddies and ponds are a haven for several species of frog and a main source of food for flocking cranes & herons. I've seen
うつがえる (utsu-gaeru = bullfrogs) as large as two fists and others such as the モリアオ-ガエル (mori-ao-gaeru or Forest Green Tree Frog as small as my thumbnail.

We have a species of
オオサンショウウオ (oo-sansho-uo =Giant Salamander) that lives in Osaka. I definitely need to check out this Hanzaki festival someday.
Another species is the
ブチサンショウウオ Buchi Salamander), blotched purple primitive amphibians found in the forested mountainous regions of Japan.

Good old BoingBoing has posted a link to EDGE, Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered, and environmental agency dedicated to preserving exotic & endangered species.

The 6th creature that they talk about is the aoxoltl which just happens to be the name that I've used as my email nom de plume for over 10 years. They are lungless salamanders of Mexico (highly endangered salamanders that do not have lungs but instead breathe through their skin and mouth lining.) If you check out this
video below, you can see them swimming around at about the 2 minute mark:

Help save our amphibious friends!


The Killing Joke.

By now you must have heard of the death of Heath Ledger. My first thought upon reading this first thing this morning that they'll be one shy at the next LOTR reunion. Until I realized he wasn't in LOTR. I saw him in Brokeback Mountain, The Patriot, 10 Things I Like About You and A Knight's Tale but can't really blame him for those roles. I did like him in Brothers Grimm but that's about it. I know nothing else about him. I know he has a daughter and won't be there to help raise her and I can conjecture that he had a drug problem or was depressed but none of that matters. I do hope he kicks ass in the role of the Joker because right now I can't get that worked up about his loss.
(Damn, that was the most cynical thing I've written in a long time.)
An Enigmatic Statement:

I think the Riddler did it!


All Bagged Out.

After a lovely 6-game losing streak, our Leafs managed to win 3 in a row before losing yet again today (granted it was to a Devilish team.) One of my reporters, dug up this recently published team photo of our favourite Maple team. (Click on the pic to super-size it.)


Spanking the Monkey.

Last night was a raucous Echo anniversary party with former Echo DJs like Mark Saito and Kyo making an appearance and kick-ass sets by one and all (especially Echo-founder Mokugohan.)

I even liked Dita's set for a change, that girl is improving monthly.

J-Loop played a wicked set as always and lives up to his rep as coolest DJ ever.

I did not recognize this guy, Aron T, from the flyer. Now he has hair. Played a good set, but it was somewhat derivative of Mixture's mixes, I thought.

One high point (though to me it was a low point) was Ernie's appearance for he did his patented scat while birthday boy Mixture spun.
(A low point because he stole the mic from me and then completely upstaged me!)

As always, I cuddled up with some of the lovely lasses.

Michiko dropped by for the first time in ages, along with Ikuko whose name I finally remember.

A couple of Mokugohan's former students dropped by and, since they just turned 20, could attend legally.

Nori dug up three blondes. Where does he get these women? (By the way, check out his buddy's new hair salon & cafe.)

This one is from Texas. Amazing accent, but I suspect it's phony.

A blurry Mark poses for the camera. Great to see him again!

Lowest point for me was this caterwaul by some new techno/thrash/slash/trash DJ who just played utter crap, cleared the dance floor and caused my ears to bleed. I do hope he is not invited back!

Highest point was this incredibly ugly monkey-thing that was given to me by Mark & Yuko that they picked up in the States. It is just so hideous, I adore it! Here's to 8 more years!!
Trio of Death!

Sad to report the death of one of my favourite character actors, Allen Melvin who the
obit states was most famous for his role as Sam on the Brady Bunch, though I remember him moreso as Barney on All in the Family. The ubiquitous funnyman cameoed in pretty much every sitcom in the 60's and Mark Evanier has a great anecdote about him. While watching pretty much any HB cartoon in the 60's & 70's, one could recognize his voice in the background. A few of his leads, included Magilla Gorilla, Drooper on The Banana Splits or the villainous Electro on Spider-man & His Amazing Friends. His voice was prevalant on Flintstones and others, but I'm going to embed this one, only because it shows a really racist portrayal of Atom Ant's adversary--Karate Ant. I'm not really sure who Melvin portrays, but it could be any of them (except for the eponymous insect.)

Another favourite of mine, Suzanne Pleshette, succumbed to cancer this week and though she'll be best remembered as Emily Hartley, I just loved her demise in Hitchcock's, The Birds. Her Japanese connection? Her very first role was in a Jerry Lewis movie called Geisha Boy and one of her last voice roles was as the characters Yubaba & Zeniba in the dub of Sento no Chihiro (Spirited Away.)

Don't blink or you'll miss her in this movie with her then-husband, Troy Donahue, though I was pleased to learn of her late marriage to the late Tom Poston in the 90's.

Though I can't dig up another dead actor this week, I'll throw in my two yen worth about Bobby Fischer. I was a half-assed chess player in High School (my buddy was the Canadian Chess Champ of '76) but we all admired Bobby when he beat Spassky. He's had a rather controversial life in his later years, including an arrest and detention in Japan for travelling with a false passport and engagement to Miyoko Watai. I'm recently playing a little chess again at school, though none of the students can beat me, a few have come close (since I give them a rook handicap.) There is NO way, I plan to challenge them to Shogi/GO, they are damn good!


Attack Bubble Gum!

It sort of sounds like Attack No. 1 and I came across this すっぱいプラム (suppai puramu = sour plum) gum from Morinaga. There were several different comic snippets on the wrappers and, I must say, quite a yummy candy.

For an earlier post on アタック No.1 and the opening theme click away.

But for a sexier live version of the theme, I serve you with this:

While I'm chatting about snacks, here's a Pocky update. I haven't opened this Marbelous version of
マーブルポッキー (Marble Pocky) yet, but it certainly looks scrumptious.

Furthermore, this カカオ bittersweet flavour marketed for Men is Cacao-chocolate, for we all know that only men would appreciate the bitter taste. For a profile of one of the spokespersons for this product, you can always check this out, though I question his manliness somewhat.

An appropriate tongue twister I coined for my students is, "For better batter, you'd better use bitter butter."


Thimble Theatre Presents:

Popeye the Sailorman, circa 1929. He made his debut in the above strip starring Olive Oyl and her odd family. I've always loved the little spinach-eater but surprisingly, I have very little paraphernalia with me. Somewhere I have some Popeye erasers that came as prizes with a Kid's meal from the Popeye Chicken that we'd frequent way back in the early 80's. I also loved his Pinball and Video game back in the day. Cartoon Network showed some of his early Fleischer toons in their original form a while back and I sure miss 'em.

If you want to see his first episode, check out ARF, but since I haven't shown any Propaganda in a long time, here is one of his nastier shorts...

For a few free downloadable cartoons that are not as racist as the one above, go here. For Japan's famous eponymous magazine, you can always subscribe.


Has Spring Sprung?

I'm all for encouraging winter's expulsion (without prompting Global Warming of course) because it's frick'n cold in my apartment. But I think the marketing people are jumping the gun a bit. Here is a Kitkat with cherry blossoms adorning it. Maybe I'm naive, but I don't think it's Spring yet anywhere in Japan, so what's up with the さくら (sakura=cherry blossoms)? (All right, I stand corrected. If you click on that link, it'll give you a map of Japan with Cherry Blossom sites. Cherries start blooming in Okinawa in January. Go figure.)

Okay, enough of that. Let's talk about something more important, such as Echophonyk's 8th Anniversary on Saturday, which'll include this special guest, DJ Aron T from England. (Echophonyk has now become your center for balding DJs.) It'll be your chance to Sing "Happy Birthday" to DJ Mixture, Captain Canada (Rob) & Aussie Ando. I predict hijinx on a grand scale.

A few details...
(Echophonyk's 8th Anniversary Party at Shaft on January 19th, 2008)
□GUEST-LIST□ ¥1500 1 Drink
If you wanna get put on a guest list and party-partake for a lot cheaper, EMAIL to:
□DOOR□ ¥2500 1 drink
¥2000 1 drink (With Flyer!) You can print the flyer from this page for a discount!

To conclude, here is an amazing site scammed from the pages of writer Mark Evanier.
I don't think it's German, but it looks like some Scandinavian language. Just wait for it to download and then look at the screen. Pretty addictive! (Bonus: a purty picture of Cherry Blossom Potato Chips!)


Don't Sigh!

On my way home from the Dress-up party, I happened upon a festival taking place near my home. At our local Shrine, Yakushido (薬師堂の神社), several stalls had been set up selling all manner of snacks and goodies.

But more importantly, there was a huge bonfire and all of the locals tossed in their New Year's decorations. It was a cozy blaze to warm-up the chilly night, but there was a slight hint of burnt plastic in the air which prompted me to soon depart.

This festival is called どんと祭 (donto sai) and according to this is "... a ritual in which residents bring New Year's decorations such as pine trees, sacred ropes and daruma dolls to local shrines and pray for business prosperity, good health and protection from disaster while burning the decorations over a large bonfire."
Unfortunately (or fortunately), I didn't get to observe the
裸参り (Hadaka Mairi = Naked Pilgrimage), maybe next year.
It's Dress-up Time.

Last night I attended a "Dress-up" Dance (sponsored by the Pirate people) that wasn't so much a dance as it was a gathering. Men wore suits or similar expensive garb and I started to get worried by the complete absence of the fairer sex. My worries were soon abated as several ladies entered dressed to kill in Kimono. Men still outnumbered the women by about 25-15, but I managed to chat up almost all of the lasses. Since yesterday was 成人式, a good come-on line was "Oh, did you celebrate "Coming of Age Day" today? This was unamimously met with a titter and occasionally a 胡麻する. (Goma suru is an expression similar to "ass-kissing" where one mimics the grinding of sesame seeds in their palm acknowledging that you're paying them a false compliment.)

Elvis dropped by, belted out a few tunes karaoke-style which provided the opportunity for dancing. VERY few people actually danced, yet it could've been the fact that 40 people were crowded into a small room. Still, of course, I tripped the light fantastic with a few ladies and was met with praise from each of my partners. Here's Elvis posing with my lady-friend, Akemi!

Akemi and I. Not a bad looking couple.

All in all, a fun time, good promotion for our next Echophonyk event (THIS SATURDAY) and I got to chat with some lovely ladies. (I love it when I'm the only foreigner in the place. Interested parties flock to me, disinterested parties shun me.)

Here are a few more pics for your perusal, forgive me if I can't recall who is whom.


Happy Coming of Age Day!

成人の日 (Seijin Shiki no Hi) is the annual event celebrating teens who turn 20 years old and thus, Come of Age. 20 is the legal age for drinking, smoking and voting. Younguns get all dolled up, the lasses in 着物と振袖 (kimono with furisode = traditional silk gowns with long flowing sleeves) and the lads in 着物と袴 (dark kimono with hakama) or suits and gather for a ceremony, whereupon they are lectured on the responsibilities of Adulthood. They then go out and get pissed and cause all manner of havoc.

Tonight I'm going to a formal dance with lots of people dressed up in kimono but since I don't own one, I'll just wear a suit. Details to follow...
Oz and Ends.

I finally got around to reposting the pictures from オズの魔法つかい or Ozu no Mahoutsukai from a while back. Since I've reposted, the pics now have to be read from Left to Right, which is rather appropriate considering the source.
This charming page is a bio of Frank L. Baum, but it'll take someone with better skills than mine to translate it for you.

The above page is from a DVD set with accompanying stories that I gave to Kaede and family over Christmas. It includes part one of
フランダースの犬 (Flanders no Inu or Dog of Flanders), 母をたずねて三千里, Haha o Tazunete Sanzenriand or 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother) あらいぐまラスカル (Araiguma Rascal or Rascal the Raccoon) with different series focused upon in subsequent collections. The first issue is cheaper and then future editions are about 10 bucks more! I didn't succomb to this ploy (this time.)


Klonk! Pow! Thwack! Zwapp!

On January 12th, 1966 a young 8 year old Blogger named Michael Jones got his first whiff of action when the Batman TV show debuted. I was caught up in the antics bi-weekly after school for 3 years and was just starting to get some active hormones when Batgirl was introduced. Yowza! (Click on that link to hear her theme song!) BTW, I know that this picture is from the movie, so don't send me any nasty letters. I scanned it from the DVD.)

When I met Batman, in his disguise as the mild-mannered Adam West, he refused to do the Batusi for me but did agree to sign this photo, for a minimal fee of course.

Hey, did you notice that there's another team in that photo? This postcard that came with the Green Hornet DVD clearly shows who the star of that show is. "Bruce Lee in Green Hornet", who really cares about Van Williams, we all know that Kato is the one everyone came to see. Impossible to believe that Robin actually held his own against him on the TV show.

Unless you've been hibernating somewhere, you've undoubtedly heard that there is a new Dark Knight movie (a sequel to
バトマンビギンズ) coming. Here is the trailer for you...I am SO there!


Moomin On Up!

Prior to my arrival in Japan, I had never heard of ムーミン (Moomin )and his cast of characters. But because they're cute little Hippos, Japan is all over Moomin-mania.

But over the years, I too have acquired my fair share of Moomin goodies, some of which I have given away as Christmas presents but much of which has been stockpiled in my ever-growing mound of crap. I also gave this lovely napkin set to Akari for a house-warming present. (Don't tell her that I picked it up at a Rummage sale for about 50 yen!)

I had initially ignored this little premium given away with Evian water. I mean, who really wants a tiny Evian bottle to hang on your cell phone? (Ever notice that Evian is Naive spelled backwards?) Then I looked more closely and, lo and behold, inside were wee Moomin critters trapped in the bottles. Dang, I wish I had noticed them sooner but I came across them near the end of the promotion.

Of course, Lawson has had those "buy a random scratch card for 500¥ and win some cheap or cool crap" offers containing Moomin merchandise in the past, and they are pretty irresistable. For example, I got 2 out 4 of these shell-shaped plates.

And 1 out of 2 of these ニョロニョロ (Nyoro-Nyoro) or Hattifattener spoon sets.

KFC is one of the few non-McD fast food outlets that has Happy Meals. They call them "Smile Sets" and this is half of a Moomin towel treat.

I also use this soap dispenser daily. There's something about soap oozing from a hippo that makes you feel clean all over.

FYI: As per Neil Gaiman's blog, I've learned that there are collections of Moomin comic strips and, wow, are they charming. (You can always click on the link in Bully's mention of Moomin to buy your own copy.)

Finally, here's the opening and closing themes to the Japanese TV show:

Had enough yet? No? Well then, try out these Moomin games. They may be a bit tough to master with no knowledge of Japanese, but I think you'll catch on.


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