Catacombses Pt. II – Curse of the LMDP

The Guardian unveils the vampire Lazar, spokesartiste for La Mexicaine de la Perforation: Paris’s new slant on underground movies
Personally, I think Ford should use the name Lazar for their new SUV and describe it as an “urban explorer.” Hey, if I were Eminem, I would rhyme that with “anal inducer” (Ah, no wait, he’s still stuck on rhyming “Slim Shady” with “slim shady”).
And I think a better name for this article would have been:
Parisian Window Dressers and Massons Agree: Eraserhead Experience 100% More Subversive in Sewer Theatres

Your yen ain’t good enough

This article at Time Asia might as well have been titled “Why file sharing owns iTunes in Japan”:
Where’s the Music?
This article explains the reason I download MP3s with file-sharing apps instead of paying for them online (BTW, I purchase music I like, which is not really a justification but sounds kinda responsiblish).
If you are a BitTorrent user who downloads music, you probably know that TorrentBox, TorrentReactor, and SuprNova are great sites for finding what you want. Personally I like the Azureus client. If you are after Japanese music, there is no substitute for Winny2, but you better have a LOT of room on your hard drive if you use it. Sorry, I’m too busy to link right now, but these sites are all top results if you run a Google search.

Catacombses, my precious

From the Guardian: In a secret Paris cavern, the real underground cinema
In my third year of university here, my pal T came back from a two year journey all over the world, most recently Paris, with a crazy gypsy girlfriend in tow. She had red hair and crooked teeth, and although I never caught her doing it, I swear she had a little bag of bones she would occasionally toss into the ashes with which to determine the alignment of Jupiter or tomorrow’s chance of rain, or some such crap. Actually, she was pretty cool to hang out with because she made T act like a man sometimes, which is more than I can say for his sad, sorry, married ass now (sorry T, I call ’em as I see ’em). She eventually went back to France when her Japanese tourist visa expired, and I tagged along when Taro went to visit.
Imagine my surprise when I found out she was the most normal person in her entire group of friends (let me put it this way, I was even more surprised than T was when she came to met us at the airport with a totally new hairstyle – short hair now dyed black, with shoulder-length cornrow extensions she had done at an “African barbershop”). Her friends were essentially street kids. The night we got there, we rented a car and drove into the dark heart of the city to look for them on unmarked sidestreets. We found them in squatting at some funky construction site, accessible only by climbing under a chain link fence marked with the French equivalent of “No Trespassing.” It was a reunion with old friends for T, and I got to know everybody quickly. It was a true ghetto party, complete with trash can fires and sticky balls of black sin smuggled fresh from Nepal. At some point the whiskey ran out and bottles of wine were produced, only to reveal that nobody had a corkscrew, So someone brought out a hammer and the rest of the night was spent eating cold merguez sandwiches and gingerly sipping from bottles with broken necks (when I said ghetto, I meant it).
The reason any of this pertains to the link above is that I recall a conversation regarding the catacombs beneath the city. You see, T’s friends had this squatting stuff down to a science. Apparently, after buildings are condemned in certain disticts of Paris, they are essentially fair game for a whole year. They aren’t torn down, and the police don’t kick out squatters. So these kids were moving to freshly condemned buildings from year to year, although if picking got slim, they could always sleep “below the city.” At the time, I thought they were joking, but I guess the spooky catacombs are only a part of a huge tunnel network they have there… Dim lighting and gloomy rooms painted with religious symbols, eh? All I can think is, that sounds awfully like the Mines of Moria. My inner geek is urging me to find out what T’s ex is doing these days – that would be an awfully cool trip.
So what say you, T? There’s nothing like calling up an old flame out of the blue on behalf of a good friend’s inner geek, is there?
I’ll bring the corkscrew this time.

What to do when you’re bored in Iraq

There’s a great article about soldiers fishing in Iraq over at the ESPN site:
Fishing Saddam’s Waters

“We’ve heard that Saddam only allowed his family (tribe) to fish these lakes. All others (caught fishing) were put in jail. When Palace Lake was drained (searching for weapons), they found over a hundred dead bodies in the lake.” (No wonder the fish were big!)

All of the soldiers interviewed said they didn’t eat what they caught – bodies aside, I can understand that sentiment. Adam and I have been fishing the murky waters of our local river, where we never see anyone fishing. When people see us, they invariably ask: 1. what we can catch there and 2. if it’s good to eat. Japanese fishing is so single-minded!
We don’t target yummy species because we just want to enjoy fishing for the sake of fishing. It’s a self-fulfilling luxury provided by the advent of supermarkets, ya know?

Clear Lenses

Clear or yellow-colored lenses (aka “ambers”) are one of my pet peeves, because it all seems so high school. I think Options magazine is at fault for popularizing this trend in the states as well as Japan (although I cannot truly disparage this holiest-of-holy publications). I remember my Acura Racing Club pals ordering these parts from Japan for their Integras. That was ten or fifteen years ago, so when I see how many middle-aged men put them on their cars now, it makes me kinda sick. Grow the fuck up already, ya know?.


I think I understand what the creaters were going for. GooDiet is meant to be one of those concepts that takes two (or more) words and splices them together to create a third, previously unknown hybrid. Fugly, fantabulous (coined by Del tha Funky Homosapien), vurp (Tim Allen), and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (Mary Poppins) are all good examples of hybrid words that have become, to some extent, part of our lexicon. However, GooDiet is different. Clearly, whoever came up with GooDiet was trying to impart to the consumer that the product was both “Good” and useful if you are on a “Diet”. Their splice came out as a Frankenword.
Now, I do think that a diet composed of goo would be an effective diet because no one would want to consume more goo than necessary to function. However, why pay for something that is advertised to be a disgusting product? With so many other options of gel-based squeeze pouches out there (a few include Vaam, Aquarius, and Qoo) I doubt that the Japanese consumer will choose GooDiet as the space-Jello that they will replace their meals with. As for me, I prefer Jello in bite sized squares. Eating Jello through a straw is for people recovering from jaw surgery.

Day After Songda

Although me and mine (thx Kev) were unscathed, I saw a lot more damage around town as I drove to work today than I thought there would be. Some roads were being repaired, with fallen trees and bicycles being removed first, then the actual paved surfaces being refilled in areas. As seen above, many cars can be seen with broken windows patched over by cardboard or trash bags. In the gravel parking lot I use for work, there were piles of window glass and shattered sideview mirrors all over. I feel kind of sorry for the owners of the cars, but they really should have known not to leave their cars there during a massive typhoon. Around town, many store windows were broken, and – thankfully! – my neighbor’s annoying-as-hell wind chime appears to have been blown away.
Typhoon #19 never even touched us as far as I can tell, so we came out just fine this round. Everybody is really nervous about the next big earthquake, though.

Evacuation Tip

If you are in Japan during a major disaster and need a place to evacuate, do not blindly follow the people in front of you – they are just as lost and clueless as the people in front of them. Follow the homeless, they know the best places to go. Today they are sprawled all over the massage chairs on display at Jusco, our local department store.

Typhoons # 18 and 19

The company is making us go home at an unprecedented 2:00 in the afternoon so you just know we are in for a real beating. I haven’t been this happy since the fifth grade… Just waiting for that bell to ring…
In other news, there was another magnitude 4 earthquake here this morning. It feels like the world is going to end, and all I can think about is the recess bell.

Sure Won’t Happen Here

Even more news from our future host country this week:
Follow the Leader: Israel and Thailand set an example by arming teachers.
Thailand has followed Israel’s lead by allowing school teachers in the troubled southern areas to pack guns at school. I think this is a great idea – who better to keep our children safe at school than their teachers? When I was young, my dad went to a lecture by Mel Tappan (he recorded it on cassette and I think it’s still in the garage somewhere), and brought back a paperback copy of Survival Guns. I believe that book addressed the issue of school shootings and teachers who packed firearms being the solution to “looney gunmen with AK-47” scenarios (but it might have been a different book; it was a long time ago). A lot of what I know about guns I learned from reading that book from end to end perhaps three or four times overall. My dad was obviously influenced a lot by him as well, as can be seen by the contents of our gun safe at home. I guess I speak of this fondly now mostly because here in Japan, guns are just a fading memory (except for airsoft of course). I now basically go shooting only during visits back home, or on trips to foreign countries.
I wasn’t aware that Thailand was so strict regarding firearms. I’ve been to gun ranges there (and admittedly got gouged with those heinous ammo prices – then again, for being able to try out an Anaconda, a SPAS-12, and an M-16A2, it was worth it), and my girlfriend’s dad apparently has several pieces in the bedroom for home defense. One time he apparently scared the shit out of a guy searching for lizards (to eat!) in the middle of the night. The guy was using a flashlight and when Nam’s dad saw the beam flash by his window, he opened it, pointed a gat at the guy and yelled “who the fuck are you!” The guy went home lizardless and perhaps in need of new shorts. (Now that’s my kind of father-in-law.)
Nam’s brother is going to some military academy in Bangkok as a continuation of his time spent in military training, so perhaps he can get me some range time once in a while. If worst comes to worst, I can get my cordite fix at a pay range somewhere in the vicinity. Whatever happens, I’ll have more of a chance then than I do now, that’s for sure. And that’s a good thing.
Since the last time I read Survival Guns, things sure have gotten fucked up for gun owners back home… I remember being shocked on a trip home a few years back because of the 10-round capacity limit for spare mags. That there’s some stupid shit. I heard that this eventually caused a shortage in supply for the hi-cap mags used for the US military’s M-9 Beretta – troops manually stretching out magazine springs or using ten-rounders because there were no good replacements available. That’s unforgivable in my mind.
How I ended up writing about all this gun shit, I have no idea. I think it must have been building up inside for the past ten years in kamikaze-turned-pacifist land. My term here is almost up, so I’m looking forward to being able to hold something more reassuring than my Spyderco when things go bump in the night (although edged weapons are perhaps more suitable in case of ninja attack).
This post was a product of my inner gun nut.
*Props to James Rummel for posting about the National review article.

Eating Fido

As a wannabe chef, I might have thought about making a submission to the Carnival of the Recipes #3, a showcase for recipes from all around the blogosphere, but got pretty miffed when I saw the introduction at the top of the page:

This week, we have a lot of great recipes to choose from. I am adding a rule, though – The Carnival of the Recipes will not link to any recipes involving household pets or horses, I don?t care if you live in France or Korea!

I really do not want to offend the author of the page or start any shit, but I’m sorry – that’s sounds racist as hell.
I can understand people being uncomfortable with what is eaten in other countries. Perhaps your tastes different from, say, the Marmot’s. But to specifically name countries (okay, specifically Korea – I don’t give a fuck what anyone says about France anymore and yes that’s my own prejudice speaking) kinda puts people off I think – well, then again the author says she “doesn’t care” so maybe I’m raising this issue for naught… I guess I care. It sounds too much like a dismissal of foreign food and culture. That’s kind of ironic since the author claims that she loves that they “are getting recipes from people all over the world.” So we can pretty much define “their” worldview as excluding cultures that eat horses or animals that Americans consider “pets” (a challenge in itself – I’ve had friends back in the states with pet cows, chickens, fish, sheep, and pigs, among other “acceptable edibles”). I find this a shame, because I really would have liked to share a recipe in the Carnival forum.
Note: If the author ever reads this post (and why should she; I’m a proud fucking nobody!), please do not construe this as a personal attack. I think I know what you were saying; it wasn’t a big “fuck you” to the rest of the world but rather a statement of what you are comfortable with, and I can accept that. I just needed to point out that it sounded kind of harsh from my current station overseas.
UPDATE: Check the comments. I feel really bad about writing this post now, but it would be wrong to take it down. I thought about this for a while, then I replied to Beth and John by e-mail and apologized. My recipe is for humble pie, but I’ll be damned if I can make it the same way twice… The only constant is swallowing your pride first.

Big Aftershocks

There was a magnitude 5 shaker in Wakayama earlier this evening when we were in a liquor store – all the stacks of bottles started moving back and forth, which was not the most reassuring of circumstances. A large aftershock came about five minutes ago… It was also a mag 5 but it felt a lot stronger here and they’re predicting tsunamis this time. There’s an emergency broadcast running in English and Japanese… Our little island should be okay. My place is half a mile from the coast so we should be cool. The shitty thing about living on an island is that it isn’t covered in the news… They predict tsunamis in Wakayama, Mie, and Kochi, and we live somewhere in between that plot. I guess that’s what air raid sirens are for (well, that and North Korean missile strikes). Cell phone lines are congested so I can’t get through to friends in Nara. Interestingly enough, land lines are working just fine – so to people who don’t use hard-line phones at home anymore, now’s a time to reconsider.
Shit, now they’re telling everyone living “near the coast” to evacuate. Is that very responsible for an island nation? Then again, we sat though The Endless Summer II yesterday and I have absolutely no interest in finding out what a 20 foot wave looks like coming down my street.