Bach Processing

Today is the last day of work during this “baching it” period for the Cosmic Buddha. Goddamn, how time flies. It seems only yesterday that I started off eating strange chili concoctions out of the pan and declaring atomic jihad on the world. Fast forward through two blurry weeks of the flurried singledom that defines my bachelorism process to this morning, where you find me eating kimchi & eggs w/leftover pork out of the same pan.
Sometimes using my pan as a plate and the spatula as silverware makes me yearn for the good ol’ dormitory days at Tenri U… Then I remember finding rotting fish carcasses half-flushed down the crapper by the Chinese students, constant hazing by karate club senpai that left one Korean-blooded boy brain damaged for life, heinous Japanese lessons from moronic gaijin teachers (forever mentally entrenched in a time when they were revered as gods A.K.A. the “impale yourself on white penis” period of Japan), and all the other bullshit that defined daily life then. I’m much better off now getting paid to deal with similar shit. But as far as life in Japan goes, shit is a constant that must be dealt with or duly ignored. You know what they say, “Same shit, different flies.” Wow I went from food conveyance to waste excretion in one paragraph – truly a healthy movement, no?
Anyway, anyway – My girlfriend is coming back on the 2nd. I must clean the house enough not to get yelled at. I recently discovered that we have been out of laundry detergent from before she left. I will no doubt forget to buy some on my way home tonight, and will be forced to use dishsoap or baking soda or another “field expedient”. Also, I am at a loss as to why indoor plants are so GODDAMN WIMPY. What’s two weeks of drought to, say, a cactus or dandelion in the wild fer chrissakes? These limpwrist plants up and died on me, man! And they died rather grisly deaths, I fear – their twisted, brown, hardened skeletons are a karmic vote for my next life as an abandoned ficus. It ain’t my fault, I say; nobody told me they weren’t self-watering! Just great. Now I gotta find similar ones at the nursery and transfer them to our planters. (I wonder if this will darken any future experiences I have switching a healthy goldfish for a bloater for my kids. Maybe I’ll just tell them about death right off the bat, despite any crying over dearly-departed Nemo, nightmares about an ominous beyond, and sleepless nights of hand-holding solace… Nah, scratch that. I’ll replace Nemo with sea monkeys and teach them about evolution instead.)
Note: Thanks to my truly adoring fan Jen (even if she is one of my friends having a great time impersonating a truly adoring fan at my expense, although I will kick your ass soundly if this is the case) for the link that enabled the photo editing.

Your ass ain’t worth it

I spoke with a friend about this the other night and we did some rough (read: beer-inspired) calculations to estimate how much money every Japanese taxpayer paid for the release of the Japanese hostages in Iraq this month: about 2,000 yen. I do not vouch for the accuracy of this figure, but I want to make it clear that I do not agree with the decision to pay for their release, no matter what the cost. They chose to go where their country told them not to, and tear-jerking death threat footage aside, the burden of consequence should not fall on our shoulders. 2000 yen per taxpayer for the whole country is way too much to pay for 5 people’s ransom, for that matter, so is a single yen. I bet you I’m not the only one who feels this way, either.
The anti-government views of the hostages are obvious, and there are rumours about their possible collusion with enemy forces – that the whole incident including abduction, videotaping, etc., was a set up. Obviously, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this, either. The situation is being looked into, and hopefully the truth will eventually come out. I won’t pass early judgement, but if it turns out that those taken hostage were, indeed, working with the enemy, I think they should be punished, harshly.
That a portion of my tax money is now most likely being used to prolong the insurgency in Iraq is almost more than I can bear. I would like to think it affects the average Jiro the same way, if he would only stop to think about it.

I blame it all on Portishead

I placed a down payment on a theremin yesterday. I have no idea what it will end up looking like, but this is for the best, I feel. For this particular instrument (which I have never played before BTW), not knowing how it will turn out creates a certain excitement I could never attain by simply ordering online or through a music catalog. This was only made possible by hiring an otaku to do the job. Kasama-san is a nice guy, a most skilled bassist, Taro’s business partner (they sell antique condensers, specialized mic shields, and other maniac music shit), and one of the most functional denki-otakus I have ever met.
When I found a loose circuit board connection to input RCA connector jacks inside my 500 watt amp, I used what tricks I could to keep it working temporarily. Unwilling to be without decent sound in my car for even a short time, I never even considered having it fixed at a professional shop since they generally take forever just to tell you (approximately) how badly you will get raped for repairs. I looked around for a decent replacement instead, but couldn’t find a good deal before the connection got a lot worse and basically made my amp unuseable. So I turned to Kasama-san, who I knew at the time as a tinkerer of guitar amps, and he replaced the part I needed on the board for a pittance – so I tipped him well. The skills he possesses are very special in our modern world of cheap throwaway electronics. Like some of the engineers at work, he can read the circuits on a PCB like a roadmap, and tell you where you can find shortcuts, bypasses, and hidden paths, among other things. This is a very valuable skill.
Anyways. Theremin of unknown specification and design will be mine in a couple of weeks, and I take great comfort in knowing that the creator has spent countless hours worrying about each subcomponent, optimizing it as a whole system, and tweaking it to perfection with the cold twisted love of electronica.

Cheesecake Factory?

Well, Slate followed up the wonderful variety meat article with one written by a food critic weenie from England, of all places. Perhaps his wittiest assertion in comparing London’s Chez Whiteys with their counterparts in Los Angeles is: “The reason the food is better at London’s top restaurants is that Britain is closer to France.” Although I kind of doubt that the American chefs would accept losing to kidney pie slingers very graciously. The critic’s self-proclaimed noobosity (18 months on the job) is proven with the following:

However, once you drop down a couple of notches, L.A. knocks London into a cocked hat. The restaurant I’ve been most impressed by so far is the Cheesecake Factory in Brentwood. I had a cobb salad there last week that was every bit as tasty as the cobb salad I had at the Ivy, yet it was brought to my table in half the time and it was a quarter of the price. In Britain – indeed, in France – there just aren’t any midmarket restaurant chains to match the quality of the Cheesecake Factory. And there are dozens of similar chains in this country that are equally first-rate. When it comes to this kind of food?good, solid, dependable fare at reasonable prices?America leads the world.

Cocked hats aside, I think I see where this is going – that’s a big know your bloody place you yankee dogs only half-assedly disguised as a compliment. He’s only admitting that average American chain restaurants make American food better (even though the Cobb is also known as the King of Salads and the Crab Louie Salad, it originates from and was made famous by the west coast). Yeah, well I can only retort that the “average Brit’s ability to skillfully open doors is only offset by their tendency to run their bulbous noses into them first.”
That said, this is a pretty fun article to read. I like the guy’s writing. I just can’t understand why he has such a hard on for the Cheesecake Factory (and for the uninitiated, said restaurant’s cheesecake leaves a lot to be desired).

la cucina povera

I’m all for this. As anyone I’ve ever gone to yakiniku with can attest to, my fondness for what even what a lot of Japanese won’t eat. Slimy cow guts taste goooood when they’re fried nice and crispy. And nothing beats a crispy fried pig’s tail.

Pig’s foot Milanese is pounded so thin and breaded so thickly that the flavor of the pig’s foot is not readily discernible through the fried bread crumbs. Beef cheek ravioli are delicious, light and pillowy, with only a hint of fibrousness to the meat and a telltale chalky aftertaste. Lamb’s brain francoboli are so heavy on cheese and so light on brain that they taste almost vegetarian. While all of these dishes are delicious, the question inevitably arises: If the recipe requires that you camouflage the central ingredients, why use those ingredients at all?

There is only one answer: Because it requires the slaughter of a pig, cow, and lamb, respectively, and flips a big fiddle minger to PETA.
Reminder to self: Post pic from restaurant in Khon Kaen here later.

BB King

Look at what they’re finally confirming:

Japan Offers by Far Fastest, Cheapest Broadband Services: OECD
April 21, 2004 (PARIS) — Japanese firms are offering by far the cheapest and fastest broadband services of companies operating in 30 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), according to the first such report compiled by the international organization.
The survey, which was conducted in October 2003, shows Japanese companies leading the pack with KDDI Corp, NTT East Corp. and usen Corp offering throughput of over 100Mbps with their fiber-optic networks.

This really trickles my bits. My pal and I talked about this happening over three years ago, when Korea was still the place to be for broadband, and I was paying about 18,000 yen per month for dual channel ISDN (including both ISP and telco charges) service out here on Awaji Island. Since then my upgrade path went from 1.5 Mbps ADSL to 8Mbps ADSL, and finally to what I use now, 100Mbps FTTH. I am really sad because now there is nowhere to move up from here (maybe I can hope for that laser-based transmission technology next). In fact, I am planning on moving down, as far down as I can possibly go: dial-up. That’s right, the shrill screeching of analog modem handshakes will keep me company once again. I wrote about it in this post around when I started this blog, and Thailand still has no viable plans for broadband in sight. Things move slower there.
This passage was very interesting:

It has been difficult to conduct a comparison of telecom services offered in various countries, since there is no fixed worldwide definition for broadband. The OECD report defines a broadband service as one offering round-the-clock Internet connectivity and a download speed of at least 250kbps.

If this 250kbps standard was adopted worldwide, I think a lot of people in the US would be angry that the ADSL service they pay for isn’t even considered broadband. I was really shocked by the number of regular computer users in the states who say they don’t need broadband or can’t afford it. That’s a crying shame. It really should be made a lot cheaper and a hell of a lot faster than it is now.
Then again, why am I worried about you guys back home? When I’m checking line polarity before jacking in somewhere along the Mekong in a year or so, I will envy all of you. I do not relish the thought of reverting from the instant gratification of always-connected mode to a dial-up frame of mind: No downloads. No multiplayer games. No mindless clickfests. Oh, well. I guess I’ll spend my time finding other things to do. Maybe I’ll get my laughs by training an army of pocket monkeys to fling feces at passing water buffalo riders, or something.
Gecko racing, anyone?

For Monks Only

MonksRedux.jpgThis was taken at Phuket Airport. These monk only-designated seats (3 in total) were next to the benches for people who take showers and don’t beg for money at airports (I’m not being mean, monks really are smelly leeches!). I really wish I had taken the time to use my Coolpix for this photo, but it was hot and humid, and I was on vacation. What else can I say?


HALVES.jpgOK this is Japanese Translation humor, so it may not be of interest to 99.999% of the world, but I have 100Mbps FTTH so here we go:
Setting: Terminal for high-speed ferryboat (hydrofoil, to be exact) in Sumoto City, Awaji Island. (The ferry shuttles between my island and Kansai International Airport and the terminal is a 10 minute walk from my front door. 45 minute ride to KIX. Convenient as hell.)
Photo is of a button on a vending machine for buying a ferry ticket for children. The kanji characters are pronounced “kobito”, literally, “small person”. It’s more commonly used for “dwarf” than it is for “child”, which is the first reason I think this is funny. Can you imagine a ticket machine with a button for “midgets”?
Secondly, whatever Einstein decided on the kanji also decided to make a stab at the English labeling. Instead of “child”, he decides on “HALVES”? Hmm…
Just in case you were wondering, the smaller kanji in the greps reads “katamichi”, meaning “one-way”. However, the “HALVES” probably does not refer to “half of a round-trip ticket”, because on the button above this one it says “ADULTS” in the same location.

Romance that ass

Romance, the toilet paper for discriminating wipers.
Do your “rhoids” scream at the sight of the sandpaper-like rolls stocked in public bathrooms?
Do you enjoy reading on your “throne” long after “making a deposit?”
Have you ever fantasized about alluring encounters with strangers -in the (water) closet?
If so, you may be in for a surprise… Introducing: ROMANCE Toilet Paper with Silky Smooth Aloe Vera treatment and Tiger Balm Infusion!
– Available soon at your local drugstore. –

Fido’s Assmaker

The main reason I didn’t feel like posting until today was:
This isn’t me by the way, I just took the picture. As you can see, I must have made a fine pinhole camera out of a beer can. Not that I remember it that well. As a week early birthday present, we took Bill away from his bar in Nara in order to take him to, you guessed it, another bar. Tramp’s bar in Osaka, where I hadn’t been to for years, but where happy hour is still 180 minutes long. It was a great night, but reminiscing about it in detail still makes me slightly ill. To make a long story short, I think we discovered a shit hot way to feel like Fido’s ass for days on end. A recipe for it would look something like this:
Official Recipe for Fido’s Assmaker
Mediocre beer (we used Asahi Super Dry, the MGD of Japan)
Cheap tequila (they only had Cuervo, but anything will do as long as it’s warm – this is important!)
Ouzo (also warm – not that it matters with this shit)
B-52s (no comment)
Baked cheese fries (sprinkled with paprika, no garnish – this is completely irrelevant)
Show up late for happy hour with an empty stomach.
Pacing yourself against the end of happy hour, after which prices double (not a joke in Japan), inhale as much beer and tequila as possible in a 1:1 pint-to-shot ratio. Note that lack of refrigeration multiplies the nastiness factor of cheap tequila to the point where you can almost forego the salt and lime (heresy, I know). At the halfway point of the evening, pound the Ouzo. Regret it, both instantly and for days hence. At this point, cleanse the palate with cheese fries and beer, and allow the walls to blur quite nicely.
If you are sitting next to guys who insist on staring at your group and making loud comments about you because the possibility that you just might understand their language hasn’t entered their minds, try ignoring them for a while. If their voices rise to more irritating levels because the noise in the bar is getting progressively louder, give them them the look. You know, the crazy gaijin’s gonna stick his foot in your ass and make you his little geisha boy look. Even racist fuckwits deserve fair warning, after all. If they persist, however, and you start fantasizing about escalation and how nice it would be to “accidentally” elbow them in the face on the way to the pisser – sit back as your friend takes the initiative and starts an ad hoc lesson in foreign affairs. Note their shock at your friend’s fluency in their language with smug satisfaction. Prepare for some serious entertainment because you’re just sure that he’s gonna take the piss out of them (it’s time for PAYBACK, baby)… Then watch in utter amazement as he chooses not to do so, and ends up chatting with them like old friends for the next couple of hours. In retrospect, that was the right thing to do, of course, but it would have been so much more fun to write words like, “hamlike fist,” or “smashing right hook,” or the time-tested “tiger uppercut.” Ah, well. I didn’t have my camera, anyway.
Additional Tips:
If you try this recipe in Japan, like us, make sure you hit the bar on open mic night. It’s a whole new world of irritation to hear a guy alternatively moaning “hey mannn,” “oh maaaaan,” and “hey maaaaaannnnnn,” with a Japanese accent into the mic for thirty minutes, but luckily, the tequila should help take the edge off your nerves. Speaking of which, I must reemphasize the importance of using warm tequila. I am fairly sure that this was a major factor in the earth-shattering headache I experienced the next day. And of course, the Ouzo did its job by making me feel sickly for a few days.
I may have gotten off lightly, though. I received the following mail to my phone the next day:

From: xxx
Date: Sun, 18 Apr 2004 10:40:35 +0900(JST)
To: Justin Yoshida
Subject: ouch
woke up in an alley behind my local train station..must have taken a cab…

The poor guy doesn’t remember that I put him in it, and that he couldn’t tell the cab driver his whole address because he kept falling asleep after reciting the city, Higashi Osaka. After the third try, the cab driver agreed it would be best to let him sleep it off some and ask him again after getting to the general vicinity. Guess that didn’t work out too well…

Long recovery

To William Gibson, who I have never met but who may find this post while vanity googling for, say, “mnemonic osaka blackice bbs standover tokyo burningchrome nagoya underground fleshpuppet keiretsu pattern blackmarket translation monalisa oyabun”: I’m back.
Last week was a milestone of sorts for this weblog, the product of several weeks of consistent posting and increasing traffic from other sites, so I would like to thank all of you for reading. I wish I could keep up what other bloggers consider to be a normal pace – posting at least once every weekday – but I just don’t have the time, and I will not post for the sake of posting. That would make it seem like work, and believe me – I already have enough of that.
Speaking of which, every day this week I have come to work in the morning and ended up feeling like wilted produce – harvested by migrant farm workers and then left in the back of a truck for hours under the glaring midday sun as the driver impatiently chews a toothpick and waits for clearance at the border. That is to say, it is hot enough for crotchpot cooking, with no relief in sight. The building managers haven’t turned on the air conditioners yet, and I can’t help but wonder if they receive some type of bonus for every day they put off flipping the switch. Or maybe they just don’t get out much from their offices in the basement, where it’s ten degrees cooler. I might collapse with heat stroke if I keep ranting much longer, so I’ll switch gears and tell you another reason why it took so long for me to post again.

Proper Forum

The other day I wrote a fairly long reply in the comments after derailing my own train of thought and forgetting whatever it was I originally intended on saying. It was in response to something my mom wrote in the comments about cleanliness being next to godliness. Since a couple friends and I have since hijacked that comment thread for a debauchery support group meeting this weekend, I figured it was only fair to bring that long comment out and let it stand on its own out here in the light:
Cleanliness: Diligence in keeping clean
Godliness: Piety by virtue of being a godly person
I can say with some confidence that these are fairly inaccurate descriptors for me. Need proof?
I’ve forgotten to dry the same load of laundry for two straight days now; I go home after work and upon tossing my sweaty clothes in the washing machine, I see that there is still a damp load in there from the night before. Not knowing the proper course of action, I simply start the washer again.
I can hear the merry sounds of rinse, spin, and drain cycles in the background as I make dinner or watch the news on tv, but by the time the machine is finished, I have invariably forgotten about it again. Not just for a few minutes, though. Not even for a few hours. No, I generally remember that I have to hang the clothes to dry right before I step out the door the next morning – by which time I am in a rush to get to work and will stop for nothing. So I curse and go to work and think about the ball of damp clothes fermenting in my washer at home periodically throughout the day. And I go home and the cycle starts anew…
This is not a big deal as of yet this time. My girlfriend has been gone for only two days, so we are not into a scary duration or anything – YET. Last time, she was gone for 19 days and I finally remembered to dry the laundry on the 18th day. I know what you’re thinking, I only remembered because I ran out of clothes, right? Wrong. You forget that I am a man. A normal man. And as such, if there are no clean clothes, I will recycle dirty ones for multiple uses without washing and never think twice about it.
The truth of the matter is, I only remembered on the 18th day because she called and specifically asked if the house was clean, the plants watered, the laundry done, etc., etc., etc.
Now, any man in his right mind would answer “yes”
in this situation:
– A cleanly man could truthfully say “yes” (but probably wouldn’t be asked in the first place.
– A godly man would have said “yes”, but later may have whispered “help me lord, I need a miracle.”
– I lied quite bluntly by saying “yes”, and in a total frenzy, attempted three weeks of laundry, dishes, and cleaning in one night.
She wasn’t fooled for a second. I guess it must have been pretty obvious with closetfuls of clothes hanging out to dry. This time, I know better. I am prepared. I will answer, “no.”


MOTHRA.jpgTaro always goes on and on about this movie we saw about moth-monsters killing people in abandoned subway tunnels; he used to run around saying “Mimic-san, mimic-san”whenever a moth would fly in the house… Hence the title of this post; the movie title was MIMIC here in Japan, but maybe went under a different name in the states (Country-specific movie titling is common in all countries. Well, maybe not in Luxembourg.). The title stemmed from the young autist who used spoons to create moth-like sounds to attract the monsters.
Obscurity of the day: The moths might have gone aggro if someone played track 8 from Soundgarden’s SUPERUNKNOWN album. (Google it you lazy bastard!)
This photo was taken at a highway rest stop at night, when 2 moths of the type shown were attracted to the white glow of an Asahi Beverage Co. (non-alcoholic) vending machine.