November 29, 2004

Uplink. Exception handled.

So the weekend was pretty rockin'. It mostly involved me riding around southern saitama on a motorcycle, completely lost. But that's fun.

Also I got onto the Tokyo-Gaikan on saturday. It's $4 but pretty worth it, I think. I guess it runs around tokyo in a circle... at least, it was tangential to tokyo when I got on it. It's like 4 stories high, for some reason... even if it's just going over rice fields, they keep it super-elevated. And it's walled off on both sides into a kindof pseudo-dome. Crazy.

So I'm tearing down this gai-kan, the city far below me, the orange-hazy sunset, and the massive shadow of mount fuji looming ahead of me on the horizon.... pretty awesome.

I also have begun contruction of my really hack lighting setup in earnest. I made a softbox out of a shoebox and tin foil and shopping bags. Yeah, professional. But hey, it seems to do the job.

Here is a test photo. With this setup. Still needs work, of course, but I am getting f/22, so I should be able to use the 4x5. I got a flash meter for $10 at hard off. It looks kindof like something made in the 1950s or so, but it does seem to work, and actually it's pretty accurate.

Anyway I'm back at elementary school this week, which is in many ways pretty out there. I think people are just more highly variable when they're little kids, and they tend to get kindof homogenized, at least in their outward appearances and behaviours, as they get into middle school and stuff.

Today some 4th grade girl measured the top of her head as coming to my elbow or so, and started laughing. When I went "huh?" and gave her an inquisitive look, she pointed at me and said "Big!" then at herself and said "Small!" then ran off laughing.

Actually this is the same girl whose question was "smile" so she's definetly one of the smart ones. Atama-ga-ii, ne?

Also I'm trying to figure out whether to go home for christmas. I think a lot of people are in other countries too, so I don't want to go home and just sit around by myself for a week. So, I dunno.. if lots of people will be there, maybe I'll head back for christmas.

Posted by tadge at 05:20 PM | Comments (120)

November 22, 2004

Uplink. You're either for us or against us.

Well the weekend came and went. There was *some* wackyness, but not as much as there has been in other recent weekends. The Urawa Reds won some championship match, and so everyone here went crazy and was parading through the streets and such. I slapped about 50 peoples hands walking by, and shouting "we are reds!". We are, we are.

That night I was dragged into this restaurant by some dudes, which was also pretty weird. One of the guys we sat with was kindof a mule, though. He spoke english pretty well. He said he lived in america for a year, and "Had an american girlfriend. That is the best way to learn the language!" This in mind, he offered advice on how to succeed with japanese girls: "Tell them, 'I like you!' Maybe it will not work, but probably it will."

Which sounds like as good advice as any.

Sunday I was kindof dead. They wanted me to run a marathon but I would have none of it.

I did go into akihabara looking for a laptop. The one I'm writing on right now is not doing so great. The hard drive makes strange grinding sounds and freezes, but that's nothing new. What's fairly new is the slowly growing black region on the northeast corner of the monitor, that shimmers and expands whenever I open or close the thing. And rainbows of chromatic scanlines scintillate outwards from it rather often.

Anyway today I'm supposely doing the first installment of my photo-club with kids here. We'll see how all that works out. Before you know it I'll have these kids cranking out masterpeices right and left.

Posted by tadge at 06:44 PM | Comments (81)

November 19, 2004

Uplink. Where it's always a New Horizon.

So, so so so so so. They say that a lot here.

Still at elementary school. Pretty crazy, I'll say. But the kids are fun. Today's my last day here this week, cause tomorrow is some monthly meeting, where we do prettttttty much nothing. Nnn.

So tuesday I hit up the ramen joint. Oishkatta. Yeah, it's about $5 for this totally huuge bowl of ramen. And in case there's any confusion, this is not the same idea as the stuff you buy in 25 cent packs at the grocery store in america. This stuff has bigger noodles, all sorts of unknown vegetables, chunks of pork... and other stuff that I'm not sure about. And often an egg, but I steer clear of that.

The ramen joint is also kindof a cultural thing. All are equals at the ramen shop counter, humbled before the giant bowl of noodles. From the cheap-suit-wearing salaryman to the louis-vouitton-bag-toting-20-somethings (girls, and guys) to the foreigners in beat-up grey leather jackets, none are given preference by the ramen chef.


Anyway, I bought some more laser discs. Note that I haven't actually WATCHED any of these, cause I'd feel very weird watching a movie by myself. So I'm just amassing them, figuring that maybe someone will want to watch em with me. I got 2001 and Indiana Jones and the last crusade. I was thinking oh getting temple of doom, so I'd have the whole set, but.... I've never seen it and pretty much everyone tells me it's awful. So maybe I'm better off in the dark on that one.

And again, nobody else I live with here expressed even the slightest interest in these movies. I just don't understand how you can not like indiana jones. I mean... even the name is awesome. Harrison Ford is awesome. The whole idea is awesome -- he's an archeologist, but also an action hero that stops the nazis from taking over the world.

And 2001, well, I don't really know. I think I saw some of it on TV once, and it didn't make any sense. It's got that famous music in the beginning. Though I'm not sure if that music was composed for the movie, or just popularized by it. I'll have to watch it at some point.

If there are any cool movies coming out in america, you're all going to have to let me know. There are movie theaters here, but they cost like $20, and you get assigned seats and other ridiculous stuff, so it seems like I'd just as soon pass on that. Nnnn. There are definetly some things I miss about the US, and the wackyness of movie theaters is certainly one of them.

Posted by tadge at 12:34 AM | Comments (148)

November 16, 2004

Uplink. Question the answers.

So - I'm at sho-gako. To those of you not in the know, that means elementary school.

... whoa. My laptops screen just ... kindof.. pow. Now there's a big rainbow on the right side, and a big black looking crack. I'm not sure if that's hardware or software or something in the thousand crispy layers between. Hold on here.

Ok, rebooting didn't help. Looks like that's some kind of crack in the screen or somethin. Huh. Well that's too bad.

Oh dear, it seems to be spreading or growing or something. I'd better stop touching... OK now we've got some horizontal bars going across. I'm just gonna slide this window down into an unobstructed region, and type this out there, and try to ignore that flickering organo-cyber-plasma-nexus that's encroaching on my thin-film-transistors.

OK, so, elementary school. The kids here are really little. I guess that makes sense, but still. And they know english about as well as any of the kids in my middle schools. THey are far more curious however, asking me countless questions on topics as disparate as Wheter I had watched the athens olympics to whether one could climb up the statue of liberty. (Yes, and, I believe, yes, respectively. Although I'm not sure that the statue is done being renovated, any NYC dwellers know?)

Yeah. Even though there are tons of these kids, and they're like 10, you can still tell who the smart ones are, or at least the ones that will end up smart. Cause they're the ones who are good at simon says. I'm actually starting to get in to that game. Here's the secret: start out with a non-simon-says command, and immediately you'll lose like 90% of the kids, right off the bat. Brutal, but effective.

In class today there was a girl who basically would crack up any time I looked at her. At the end of class, they had a chance to ask me questions. They were all in japanese, but simple enough japanese that I got it. Her question was probably the best one of all. Raised her hand, and said, "smile." So I did.

Maybe not really a question in the traditional sense, but I still thought that was pretty awesome.

So that's sho-gak so far. It's out there.

In other news. I bought a laserdisc player. Duff found this odd, saying "Um, but you like small stuff." Au contraire, mon frère. (Get it?!?) I like big things. Like america, and 4x5 cameras, and the earth's atmosphere. Well, I like small things too.

But anyway, here's why I got a laserdisc player. Well, most of it was completely irrational and impulsive. I was like "I need a laserdisc player!!!" and ran out and got one. No, really, that's pretty much accurate. But it's cool, cause laserdiscs are like CDs, but they're totally huge, like records. And you think that cause they're basically big CDs with video, that they're digital.... but they're not!!! The video on them is analog, and the pickup from the laser on these things feeds a composite video signal. No digital anything involved. Crazy.

That's all well and good, but here's the deal. Laserdisc was never popular in either America or Japan. But it did a bit better here, selling I think 4 or 5 times as much over its lifespan. But it was always super expensive in either country, and aimed at the high end market. And rightly so -- it looks vastly better than VHS, which was its competitor. But here's the key: movie buffs, the dudes who buy the high end stuff, want subtitles. They don't want dubbed. So almost all the LDs of american movies here are still in english, with japanese subtitles. Also, these movies are about $1-$2. And at any junk shop or used shop, you'll find hundreds of em. What's even more fun is seeing the original price tags they came with, for like $78.
To me, that's a good deal. So far I bought "alien" which I intend on watching at some point, and "the snowman", which I vaguely remembered waching on channel 2 one christmas when I was maybe 10. It's still just as cool now.

Oh, yeah. Also friday was quite hilarious, with unprecedeneted events occurring at the local bar. I generally go there with the other english teachers on fridays, and get french fries or something. This time, two japanese girls were sitting with us, and one of them, Aya, seemed to take quite an interest in me. At one point, she turned to the other girl (her sister), pointed at me, and said, "Kakoiiiiiiiiii!!!". Which was funny, cause I of course know what that means (roughly "coooool!!!!")

So she was quite intent on where I was from, when we could hang out next, etc, until the subject of age came up. Once it got out that I was 22, she hesitated. When she confessed that she was 25 (and for her, this was truly a confession), she pretended to cry. So with that, there was clearly no hope. And then she said that she had a boyfriend. OK. She still seemed conflicted about it though, insisting, as she was leaving, that I e-mail her, and laborously working on this scrap of paper, giving it to me with a very serious look. Scrawled upon it were not one but two totally uninteligible addresses, random, lenghty jumbles of letters, numbers, symbols, and ... dates? Who's e-mail address contains "October 10th, 1909"????

Needless to say I haven't tried to e-mail her back. But maybe I'll see her again at that bar sometime, and the hilarity can resume.

Posted by tadge at 07:11 PM | Comments (74)

November 13, 2004

Uplink. Storm's a brewin.

Well, not much to report on. Another week of school. Actually, I got access to the "darkroom" at this school, which is pretty neat. The place hadn't been used since... sometime in the mid-80s. Needless to say, it was pretty gross, with crusty chemical spills dried up and things like that. But I cleaned it all out. So, yeah, got a darkroom now. Pretty rad.

There's no, uh, equipment in it though. But whatever. So I'm trying to start a photo-club with the kids here. I figure we can make photograms, or make pinhole cameras, that kind of thing. There's actually a lot you can do without an enlarger. Heck, photography was around for decades until someone thought about enlarging.

It is, however, really difficult to recruit kids. They all are supposedly already in clubs. So in theory they're already busy every day after school. But, in reality, they basically just sit around with their friends, and talk or draw pictures or whatever in their "club". At least that's what english club is, as well as science club. So I figure they'll have time.

But also, in a middle school with over 800 kids, communicating with anyone is pretty tough. Nevermind that they all speak japanese -- how do you contact someone? They don't have phones, they don't have emails, they're just like 7th graders. So basically I just run into kids and go "Hey, you should come to this shashin-kurabu thing, dude!"

It won't be happening until the week after next, though, because next week I'm at an elementary school. Crazy. I have no real idea what to expect. Well, maybe I do -- I expect there to be an inordinate amount of small japanese kids, and they may very well be quite loud. Beyond that, there's only one way to find out . . . . .

Posted by tadge at 01:22 AM | Comments (89)

November 08, 2004

Uplink. Takai, ne?

So... it was lazy, warm weekend. It still hasn't gotten cold yet, and is still hitting 70F pretty much every day. I was bored saturday and went into "Koenji", which I had been told had cool thrift stores and punk rockers and stuff like that.
After getting there and wandering around a bit, I had decided that the place had little to offer me. There were some photo galleries I stopped in, but they had really lame prints up. And there were one or two like hippie / harvard square stores, but nothing worth taking a train for.

But, before I left, I checked out south of the station. There were a few stores on one street with names like "Super Old" that were much more interesting. Some had really, really cool leather jackets. The best... no, worst really, was this one ... a blue and white leather racing jacket with the suzuki logo. Inside it was a breathable nylon mesh... and it fit perfectly. As I tried it on and looked in the mirror, I knew exactly who had worn it before I. The year was 1969. Man was poised to land on the moon, and Richie Granger, blue-eyed, blond-haired California native, was about to race Suzuki's new prototype GS-500 motorcycle.

And the price of this jacket? Oh, only... FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS. Nn. Needless to say I walked home empty handed. Maybe when I get really rich... somehow.

Also I had my first ramen since I got here. First?? Yeah. Nobody ever wanted to go, and I didn't know any places that would be good. But, theres a place I've been by a couple times, and it's always had a big line of people waiting outside. So I went there saturday, stood in line for half an hour, and got some pretty rockin' ramen. I shall return. Not quite as crazy as the ramen shop I went to with charlie about 2 years ago, but... that was a little *too* crazy for regular use.

Posted by tadge at 05:58 PM | Comments (54)

November 04, 2004

Uplink. Doth distance soften the blow?

Yeah dudes. Tell me how you guys are over there. Course will be stayed, for sure. I can offer you no good news from this side of the pacific, as surely as you can offer me no good news from yours.

I did have tuesday and wednesday off. I didn't particularly do much with them, as after being rather inconsiderately run off the road tuesday my bicycle was out of commision. The bumps and scrapes didn't annoy me nearly as much as the $200 or so it will cost to fix. Skin costs like zero dollars to heal.

Then again wednesday I was remarkably sore when I got up, and didn't feel like doing much. So one of the kids here has cable and gets CNN, so we all hung out and watched the election. It wasn't too awesome. By 5 or so in the afternoon (3am EST), the place was littered with bags of chips and cookies, discarded ice cream wrappers, microwave burrito casings, and plenty of empty alcohol containers as well. We had initially planned to go out to dinner, but no one had the appetite nor spirit to do so.

So yeah, you could say I'm not happy about how the election went, if only cause the guy I voted for didn't win. But more than dissapointing, to me it's really puzzling. Unfortunately I've never had a chance to have an intelligent conversation about this stuff with someone who supports Bush, because almost everyone I know is opposed to him. But there are smart dudes out there voting for him, and they've definetly got their own well thought out reasons for doing so. One must concede this point -- you don't get fifty million people voting for you without a fair share of thoughtful, coherent, respectable dudes in there.

What's perplexing is that to me, Bush seems to have failed in many aspects of his presidency, and failed spectacularly. Not me, but failed his supporters -- I voted against him 4 years ago, and didn't expect him to do much of anything I'd approve of, so he can hardly be said to have "failed" me as a president. But even the most right wing military hawk Bush supporters can't be happy with the situation in Iraq... can they?

I read the Wall Street Journal every day in college, which was more or less the first term of Bush's presidency. And I've never heard it claimed that the WSJ is a particularly liberal institution. But all the print seemed to tell the story of an arrogant leader, plunging his country into whatever situation he deemed nessecary, heedless of the lessons of history. There were brilliant historical articles about the british attempts to subdue and control what is modern Iraq, and the invitable failures they faced. There were disturbing reports of rampant pillaging in Baghdad, and countless "terrorists" fighting back against an invading army, and even attacking those in their own country who would associate with them. The abuses in the US run prison system, the newly coined "illegal enemy combatants", all were nicely set into six columns per page and read on the bench in front of Doherty Hall. Warlords in Afghanistan, a record heroin crop, the entire debacle of "WMD", the "axis of evil"... and to sum it up nicely, the term "shock and awe."

From my vantage on that bench, I didn't see how the people who elected Bush could be happy with all this. Of course the people out protesting on the streets of New York, the people who hated him all along before he even did anything, well of course they were just livid. But they wouldn't have liked him anyway. Had Iraq capitulated in a day, and fallen quickly in line with our democratic ideas, and indeed become an utopian pillar of freedom or whatever shining amongst the darkness of the Middle East, the guys with dreadlocks and greenpeace shirts would still hate him. They would not grudgingly admit that he was right, that maybe the ends, in this case, sortof justified the means. No, they would decry the "imperialism" whatever the outcome had been.

Perhaps so, too, Bush's supporters stand by him, whatever the outcome of his bold actions. That could be a reason he was just re-elected. The other possibilities, that his supporters either think things are going well in Iraq, or think it just isn't important, are simply misinformed, or disturbingly isolationist, respectively. But could some people just "not care" about "that whole Iraq thing"? You read statistics all the time about about such-and-such-preposterously-high percentage of folks think that weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, or that Saddam funded the attacks in September, 2001... and maybe people are just sadly uninformed, or maybe they have better things to do than sit around and read the paper and worry about some country 15,000 miles away.

But no... I can't concede that about my countrymen. I can't sarcastically, bitterly, dismiss the population as "stupid". That's pretty juvenile. "Everyone in America is stuuupid. I said so. I said so infinity. Uh-uh, infinity plus one!"

I can, however, concede that they're stubborn, and will stick by their decision even under mounting evidence that it was the wrong one. Cause a lot of times it doesn't seem like valid evidence, especially at first. And no one wants to admit mistakes, and were anyone who felt this way to read this, they'd contest that they were even mistakes in the first place. That I can live with.

This said, I'm hardly enthusiastic about what the next four years may bring. If anyone wants to come wait it out for a while here in Japan, you're welcome to; I'll show you around. And I offer my condolances to the kids out in Ohio, who were working to get Kerry elected... that must be really rough.

So yeah. What do you guys think about the whole thing?

Posted by tadge at 04:51 PM

November 01, 2004

Uplink. Ions are people too.

Welcome to november, the month where the whole time hangs *you* out!
Or something.

So I went on a boat saturday. It was appropriately weird. There were rather portly japanese ladys in nonspecific eastern european getups playing polka on an accordion and tuba. Riiight. It probably really expensive, but they still haven't asked me to cough up the dough.

I tried explaining that "dough" and "bread" can mean money today, to one of the english teachers. I don't think he got it.

Uplink now has a little message at the bottom, reminding you to use uplink responsibly, and visit our sponsors. Yeah, without flimshaw industries this thing would either be a lot slower or a lot less reliable, or both, or actually more likely I just wouldn't have bothered to get it working at all.

Some 7th grade girls just walked by. Have I told you guys about the playboy thing? These girls... they have socks with the little playboy logo on em. Or like pencil cases or whatever. But mostly socks -- there are SO many playboy socks. I'm like, OK you clearly don't know what that means, and your parents definetly don't either.

But then, I guess it's like 95% of all the english / american stuff here. To them, it means nothing. But they love it despite... or maybe because of that.

Yeah, so while I had school saturday, I now have a weekend starting tomorrow, with tuesday and wednesday off. You know, for a people so supposedly all about rigidity, regularity, schedules and stuff... they sure seem to have wacky days off. I won't complain though.

Oh, there was a girl in one of my classes today and her name was "Hyomori", the kanji for "Ice Forest". That's a pretty awesome name I think. I want to be named Ice Forest.

In case anyone is wondering, it's November here and yes, it's still raining. Although, my cell phone weather thing says that it's currently sunny. Keep thinking happy thoughts, little ketai! I, on the other hand, have come to accept my meta-aquatic life here in Japan, where saying that the weather is wet is about as redundant as saying is "air-based".

Ok, well I clearly have nothing interesting to say. If you haven't checked, I put some photos from the road trip I took this summer on a few days ago, so check that out if you haven't yet. There's a link down there somewhere.

OK, hope y'all had a good haloween, let me know how much candy you got.

Posted by tadge at 07:15 PM | Comments (67)