2/25/2006 06:41:00 PM|W|P|dan|W|P|We saw Flipbook this morning at the Tokyo Media Arts Festival, which I would blog about, but I have become too addicted to drawing stickman animations. Go to the site and search for "dan" or "tokyo", and you can watch my poorly drawn UFOs kidnapping cows and blowing up houses. Have a go yourself. Brilliant fun.|W|P|114086080218987850|W|P|FLIPBOOK|W|Pfirstname.lastname@example.org/25/2006 07:30:00 PM|W|P|Marcus|W|P|oh new design. Liked you last one more. Which I also prefered to your first.
I keep meaning to change mine but can't arsed to add back in the code I've added.2/25/2006 09:32:00 PM|W|P|dan|W|P|oooh, get you. I only changed because I wanted to copy your last.fm badge thing and got carried away. I just got bored of the last one, and wanted to go back to a two column design, as I found it all too easy to clutter up the three column design and make it really messy. I think this is a bit neater, but I'll probably change it again in another few months anyway. I have the lat template stored in word if you want a copy of it - most of our code additions are the same anyway....2/27/2006 06:09:00 AM|W|P|Marcus|W|P|nah it's ok. I'm going to try something that I haven't just copied off you :)2/22/2006 10:02:00 PM|W|P|dan|W|P|Okay, we got the broadband sorted out.
We've spent the last few days settling into the flat and the new area. We seem to have done alright with the location. It's fairly low level (not that Tokyo is full of skyscrapers anyway) and green. The Arisugawa Park is just around the corner, with plenty of trees, ducks and fish, although a helpfully bilingual sign tells us to be careful of the fish, because they all have fish herpes...Our postal address is Motoazabu, but we seem to be more in the Hiroo area, which is pretty gaijin friendly. There are a lot of embassies nearby, and the camp followers they attract - international supermarkets, English language bookstores etc. The area has bit of a French feel, cafes with the little round metal tables for outside drinking, a few boulangeries and so on. It's nice.
Just like it says in every book I've ever read about Japan, vending machines are ubiquitous here. I probably pass 50 or 60 on a twenty minute walk to work. They serve up almost everything you can think of - but not the infamous used schoolgirl's panties anymore, after the mayor of Tokyo came to his senses and realised that was sick and wrong. On a similiar note, a news story a few weeks ago was about police looking for someone who been interfering with children. But not in the way a Western reader would understand that phrase. This character was stopping random small children, getting them to stick their tongues out and then licking their tongue before running off. Just. Plain. Weird. And which takes us some distance from vending machines. My main point there was that I can buy tea from one in the basement of my office building. It comes in a can, pre-milked and sugared, is served up warm and keeps itself warm for about half an hour after you open the can. Genius. That it tastes pretty vile is a mere triviality, and anyway, what would you expect from something that bills itself as "French Milk Tea"?
That these machines are always working, never vandalised or out of order, supports another of our early impressions of this country. It's another guidebook cliche, but stereotypes form for a reason, and this society really is both amazingly polite and amazingly efficient. The subway trains are always on time, and people always wait to one side for everyone to disembark before walking on in an orderly fashion entirely unlike the scrummage at London Underground stations. It can take some time for a group of people to leave a lift. Everyone will insist on letting everyone else out first, so you have a lift full of Japanese people all bowing to each other, and gesturing to indicate that please you must go first, I am not worthy of preceding you out of the lift, and I insist, while the big dumb gaijin at the back (that would be me) looks on in bafflement, as he wonders if he will get out of the lift before lunchtime.
The office life is much like it is everywhere. Meetings, cubicles and striplights. Like Dilbert, but in a language I don't understand. Working for a company that is foreign-affiliated, and one that is in the music business and fairly laid back, I've not seen some of the Japanese hierachical, monolithic, quasimilitary corporate culture that you hear about (although I found out that our security chief is an ex-policeman who took up arms against Mishima's attempted coup, which was quite exciting). There's no company song, no suits and ties, no saluting the company flag. We do have a daily ritual called the chore (ko-ray) though. The whole department gathers in the morning for an anouncement of yesterday's figures, and a summary of how the day went, and what can be done today to improve performance. All carried out in a gentle, harmonious manner. I watch and think "If you tried this in the UK, you'd still be picking teeth out of filing cabinets in the afternoon".
I am blogging to: New Model Army. Again.|W|P|114061490185198124|W|P|Obligatory Vending Machines Post|W|Pemail@example.com/21/2006 08:33:00 PM|W|P|dan|W|P|We're back online. Full updates to come, but for now be happy that there are some Tokyo photos up HERE. They include pictures of statues of a giant spider and Godzilla. Get clicking.
I am blogging to: The Once Over Twice|W|P|114052183955170393|W|P|back Back BACK!|W|Pfirstname.lastname@example.org/10/2006 09:49:00 PM|W|P|dan|W|P|We're moving into our new apartment tomorrow, so I may be offline for a while until I get a new internet connection sorted out. Unless there are any unsecured wireless networks in the area of course. Cackles, rubs hands, strokes Persian cat while laughing maniacally.
We're moving into our new apartment tomorrow, so it's time to brave the Tokyo department stores for some Japanese interior decoration. And robots. Lots of robots.
If al goes according to plan, by the time I blog again, I will have photos of me and the actual Godzilla statue that is somewhere round here.
Speaking of robots... "Gay Robot" is a fully scripted, live-action adaptation of a character featured on Sandler's comedy album "Shhh... Don't Tell." Swardson, who first brought the character to life on "Shhh? Don't Tell," reprises his role as the voice of Gay Robot, a robot created by a university professor that, after an unfortunate incident involving a wine cooler and his circuit boards, discovers he is gay. The pilot focuses on his fraternity brothers learning that robots do, in fact, have emotions which leads to a failed attempt to build Gay Robot a "date" for the homecoming dance and his subsequent turn to online dating to fill the void.". Hmmmm
I am blogging to:PiL|W|P|113957640395189675|W|P|Quickly....|W|Pemail@example.com/09/2006 09:42:00 PM|W|P|dan|W|P|Spoilers....
Well, I finished it. I'll admit my "second rate Clive Barker" comment was a little wide of the mark, and unfair. [sly wink] It's more like Hellblazer [/sly wink]. I can't really tell you whether I liked it or not. There was some very good stuff in it. I particularly liked the sequence about the expedition to Kur, and the concept of the language tattooed on the bodies of the dead there. That was where the book peaked for me. The seventy or so pages afterwards were an extended comedown, and I afraid I don't get the Evenfall, rag and bone man stuff. And what a waste of a Spanish Civil War setting.
It seems Duncan was trying to do two things, which may well be the same thing. First, he's echoing Nietzsche's theory of eternal recurrence by putting the same characters, or at least iterations of the same characters, into similiar situations, but in different times and worlds. Secondly, he's attempting to retell ancient myths in the same way, so that the Descent Of Inanna, for instance, becomes another one of the stories on Phreedom(bloody awful name that)'s merry go round, or that annoying Finnan character comes to stand for Prometheus. A lot of the book is disorientating, repetitive and confusing - I suspect deliberately so. It's like he's repeatedly showing the same things in various guises to get across the chaotic and jumbled flavour of the Vellum. From a reader's point of view though it slows down the narrative enormously - for a 500 page book, not a hell of lot actually happens.
I think, and this may be entirely my interpretation / invention, the idea is that there is One True Story, and all we can comprehend is reflections and refractions of that. Whether that true story turns out to be another War In Heaven, I don't know. Presuambly Metatron's boss is going to make an appearance sooner or later...that Hellblazer reference wasn't entirely tongue in cheek. Despite the superficial mythic trappings, this is a book just as much in thrall to Judeo-Christian theology as any of the DC mature readers titles were back in the early 90s. Look at Garth Ennis' entire Hellblazer run, and especially Swamp Thing - not only Veitch's Jesus story, but a later arc where Swampy ended up in the Garden Of Eden for no discernible reason (Sandman being an honourable exception for featuring the Norse pantheon, Bast and loads of others alongside Lucifer and the Angels*). It may be "edgy" and "alternative" and the main characters probably all wear long black leather coats, but it's still basically Bible stories.
The second book is going to be crucial. I don't know whether Ink will complete a diptych or if it's the middle volume of a proposed trilogy, but I would be hoping to see a lot more narrative thrust. The pieces are now in play, and we have to see what Duncan does with them.
*that would be a great name for a band
I am blogging to: The Gun Club|W|P|113949064719375993|W|P|Thoughts On Vellum|W|Pfirstname.lastname@example.org/10/2006 08:10:00 AM|W|P|Marcus|W|P|Very good points. I feel it's slightly unfortunate that anything that tries to base itself on pre bible stories ends up being based on the bible as the bible nicked all the best stuff and incorporated it. Quite similar to when Snowcrash stopped being Cyberpunk and got all Sumerian (or tower of babel)
So did you read and listen to the Neph at the same time? Will I ever get tried of this, what I laughingly refer to as a, joke?2/08/2006 08:14:00 PM|W|P|dan|W|P|So this last weekend, the sky was clear, the air was crisp and we could see all the way to Mount Fuji from our window. We spent some more time in Harajuku, and visited Kiddyland - six floors of Japanese toys, all the saccharine sweetness you could want, but not one single robot monkey. All the Hello Kitty tat in the world though. A lot of the shops in this area are very youth orientated. Crowds of teenagers are rushing round shops selling...well, anything really, as long as it gets teenage girls excited*. There's all kind of fashions on display, from 70s tartan bondage trousers to replica sports jerseys. The best store we found was selling accessories for your dog (small dogs are absolutley de riguer in Japan, it seems. You're no one if you don't have a tiny poodle or dachshund trotting along behind you). As you'd expect, it sold water bowls and winter coats, but also wigs and costumes for your pet, up to and including a bee costume, complete with wings and antennae. Made me think of the Mexican bee guy in The Simpsons. The Japanese anglophilia is particularly rampant around here, with stores desperate to display any English they can. One shopfront proudly informed us that it's name was "Store My Ducks". I have no idea what services they provide.**
We saw a few of the famous cosplay girls on the bridge at the top end, but apparently you have to wait till a Sunday to see the complete lineup. We crossed the bridge to enter the Meiji Jingu shrine, just off the end of the main drag of Omotesando. It's amazing how often in Tokyo you can be on a busy heaving road, and then with just a few steps be on a quiet little backstreet, or in this case the entrance to a sizeable park, with no indicaton that life is going on a frantic pace just a few yards away. The shrine is Tokyo's largest, and commemerates the Meiji Emperor. He is buried here, alongside his wife, andd worshipped by hundreds, if not thousands, of people daily. He died in 1920 and was immediately apotheosised, which gives you an idea of how seriously the Japanese took their emperors then. Can you imagine the British collectively believing that Victoria had been transformed into a deity when she died twenty years earlier? Even now, in a more secular age, the atmosphere in the shrine is very peaceful and contemplative. There's a small hut, where you have to wash your mouth and hands (in the correct order!) to cleanse yourself before praying, and a tree in the main courtyard is covered with emo - little wooden votive plaques, where people write their prayers down to be offered up. Amongst the English language prayers one that stood out was a wish for the petitioner's company to be profitable this year. Modern commerce and spirituality together.
According to our guidebook, there was a vegetarian restaiurant nearby so we went looking. And looking. And looking. Understanding addresses is no easy task here. The streets don't have names, and the buildings are numbered randomly, seemingly at the whim of a drunk guy playing darts and writing down whatever number he hits next. Must be a bugger if you're a postman. It meant we had a good look around the backstreets of Aoyama off Omotesando. On a sunny afternoon, they were very pleasant, leafy with lots of small shops and businesses. There's a Bathing Ape store there somewhere, but they're too hip to bother with signs or marketing or anything like that, so I don't know where it is.
The vegetarian cafe? It wasn't there anymore.
*calm down, Vince.
**still better than my Japanese, though.
I am blogging to: Marah|W|P|113939874782535737|W|P|Tokyo #2|W|Pemail@example.com/06/2006 10:45:00 PM|W|P|dan|W|P|Four people dead and three embassies burnt, all because someone took the piss out of their invisible friend. Wow.|W|P|113923359027828805|W|P|Guys, guys, it's just a drawing, alright?|W|Pfirstname.lastname@example.org/02/2006 05:34:00 PM|W|P|dan|W|P|Not long after I posted last night's entry the earth moved. It was about 8.30. I was sat in the lounge reading, and I felt the tremor begin. It's hard to describe exactly what went on. I was aware of being moved from side to side and I looked up to see the tall floor lamp lurching in time with me. Esther shouted out "Is this what I think it is?" from the other room, and I shouted back "I think so". The whole thing lasted about 15 seconds, I think, but it's hard to be sure. I was in a weird state, almost out of body, conscious of what was happening but not really sure what to do or how to react, observing things with a detached calm. I reacted similiarly when I was in a near miss car crash a few years ago. As soon as it was over, the detachment disappeared though, and we hugged in a shared sense of relief and weirdness. We wrote it off as one of the many tremors Tokyo gets each year at first, but a quick scan of the English language Japanese news sites, and talking to people this morning who were adamant that that was much more than we normally get, confirmed it as an actual quake. In a way, that's pretty reassuring. I'm glad that experience wasn't so commonplace that it wasn't even worth reporting or mentioning, because I don't fancy it happening daily. This afternoon, we visited the Tokyu Hands department store, and bought a boxed quake survival kit - foil blankets, bandages, torch etc.
You never got this in Basingstoke.
I am blogging to:Hope Of The States|W|P|113887007186264425|W|P|My First Earthquake|W|Pemail@example.com/06/2006 05:11:00 AM|W|P|andrew|W|P|hey dudes, glad to hear you made it okay. The quake seemed like fun. seen any robot monkeys yet? if not, whay not? -andrew2/01/2006 07:18:00 PM|W|P|dan|W|P|So, the winter weather in Japan can be just as bad as in the UK then. It has chucked it down with rain all day, just as we are beginning to get over the jet lag. We've found an apartment, we think - contracts aren't completed yet, but hopefully that's just a formality. It's in the Motoazabu area, near the Arisugawa park. It's an embassy district - our building is next to the Embassy Of Madagascar. The Embassy Of Madagascar, you may not be surprised to learn, is quite a small building.
Between the jet lag and the flat hunting, we haven't done a great deal as yet. I stopped off at head office on Monday to show my face and meet some of the people again. I've got myself a Japanese mobile as well - Western ones simply will not work over here. If you want the number email me. But please remember the time difference before you start drinking and think it'll be a great idea to call Dan. We revisited Good Honest Grub last night - a Canadian run, veggie friendly restaurant in Harajuku we found in September. If any of you make it out visit us, it's a pretty safe bet you'll be going there.
I'm reading Vellum right now. That ought to keep Marcus happy for a bit. Although so far (about 70 pages in) it's hard to keep the phrase "second rate Clive Barker" out of my mind. We'll see. On the plane over, I raced through the new Stephen King book (Cell). This is King clearing out all of that heavy mystical Dark Tower stuff, and writing a good honest B-movie of a book. It's dedicated to Richard Matheson and George Romero, which is pretty appropiate as it's a hybrid of I Am Legend and Night Of The Living Dead, set in a world where a sudden and unexplained pulse has turned everyone who owns a mobile phone into...King calls them crazies, and I suppose they're not actually returning from the dead, but they're as close to zombies as you're going to get. The first 150-200 pages were a great romp, but after that it did kind of subside into a low budget rerun of The Stand. Fun,though.
We plan to get to Shibuya tomorrow. With luck and a following wind, I may get to see some giant robots at last.
I am blogging to: Bill Hicks|W|P|113879101873908456|W|P|Tokyo #1|W|Pfirstname.lastname@example.org/03/2006 02:34:00 AM|W|P|
I was reading my way through my obligatory Christmas-book-from-parents last night "A Short History of Nearly Everything - Illustrated" (!) and, having got past the section on arrivals in Dover and obscure 70s Brit sitcoms (or was that another Bill Bryson book we once shared on a purple bus?), I reached the part on earthquakes ... and Tokyo in particular. Don't read it - it'll not settle your nerves on the quake front - although the location of three techtonic plate faults focussed into one spot might well explain all those overly-large fire-breathing lizards.
PS: Do you have an RSS feed connected to your blog, so it'll tell me when you've added to it? |W|P|Hi Dan; you made it then!