December 31, 2007
I just saw this, and was thinking, wow I'm not the only one?
Did the Akihabara thing today. It kinda sucked. Den Den Town in Osaka has much cheaper merchandise, and is not nearly as sleazy. Tried to go to a maid cafe, but the line was too long. Saw a foreigner maid though, that was interesting; she had Japanese maid hair, if that makes sense.
Things would be easier if I had buddies around. The other people at the hostel are mostly quiet Asians that travel in groups and don't really need to talk with others, but I got to talking with a girl from Hong Kong. She was interesting; wish I had more time to ask about her city.
Oh, and totally flubbed a chance for a date in the big city before I leave. A girl gave me directions (without me asking, she just saw me looking at a map), and asked "Are you traveling alone?" among other things. That is sooo code for do you have a girlfriend? is it not? But I didn't notice and said goodbye once we got to the place I was going. Blarg. A date could have cheered me up too. And don't give me that crap about she was just being nice. A guy has to dream when in the city.
December 29, 2007
I spent all day angry. Someone owes me an apology, or at the very least, "that was a really not cool thing to do." But I won't be getting that apology, so I'll just sit on my raw booty and fume a bit.
Don't worry. Despite grumbles, I'm having a fabulous time. But not gay fabulous. Well some of the girls in the clubs could be gu... never mind.
Kind of a depressing night, can you tell? I think I am just tired.
Also, Californians are a little weird. Just throwing that out there. They're nice though.
December 27, 2007
My feet are sore! Lots of walking. Yesterday Asakasa, and today Ueno Koen. Traveling is not too hard; Tokyo station names are so indelably mixed with pop culture that I recognize all the station names, and thanks to 2kyu, I can match kanji with pronunciations. Digital camera is turning out to be an excellent map-holder.
Don't know what tonight will hold in store, hopefully I can meet with a certain blogger.
December 26, 2007
I am hosteling up in the dodgy end of town. Literally droves of homeless people here; quite the change from the rest of Japan in that regard; they are usually not seen (just their tents around Osaka-jo and such), but they were numerous and I dare say have a community.
So they say no good deed goes unpunished. I watched a really drunk girl wobbling about. Then slowly she melted into a prone position. I kinda shook her--no one else seemed concerned-- and asked if she wanted a cab. She didn't respond at all. So I asked where the cops where and went to their box, all the while keeping that grim saying in my mind. And wouldn't you know it, that cop woke her up (just let her walk away), but took my name and phone number. Why? I don't think they are gonna send me a good Samaritan award.
PS, they choose some intimidating foreigners to get people to go to clubs. Does that really work?
December 23, 2007
Perhaps you have seen those Japanese commericals where the guy has to choose which life card to play.
This site gives you cards based on your name. And the life involved is a little different; if you speak Japanese, you are laughing at me right now.
The cards are: 9 thighs (or neither regions?!), 9 thighs, homosexuality, or 4 thighs. No matter what name I put in, it seemed to give cruel results.
orz. But if someone could describe better what it means to have 9 thighs, in as little lurid detail as possible, I'd appreciate it.
December 22, 2007
Let me just say, it is a really bad translation. To whoever is reading this, I want to warn you that my message is not properly conveyed by google's tranlation services (but if I warn you and you translate the warning, how will you ever know? Conundrum). Though they are good for a laugh. Oh, and when it translated the post that already had Japanese: priceless!
If only there were some kind of reverse rikaichan plugin for my Japanese readers... pity.
December 21, 2007
My feet got wet today and I had to do the year end comments in the gym barefoot. My speech was simple and short, and I got to make fun of the second years, so that was all good. The teachers realized I speak Japanese again because of that; it should wear off in about a week and then it's back to normal.
December 19, 2007
December 18, 2007
Also, I nominated Deas for his tireless dedication to translating lolcats to Japanese.
December 16, 2007
Anyways, the 豚骨ピストンズ are a really good band. Very much in the same vein as the HIGH LOWS. I'mma recommend you go here to see their video. Which btw goes double for Colin, who always orders nama beer for toriaezu.
December 14, 2007
じゃあ、きょうの表現はBob’s your uncleだ。
例文！(trying Japanese first today)
A: Will it work?
B: If you do it like this, Bob’s your uncle.
A: Can we make a pizza?
B: Sure! Just use some salt and cheese, and Bob’s your uncle.
A: How do I get there?
B: Walk down the street, turn at the third light, and Bob’s your uncle.
December 13, 2007
So that didn't help too much when I had to give my presentation to 50 old people today. I talked about my home state of Wyoming, and somehow managed to make it look interesting (thanks, Yellowstone!). My bosses wanted me to speak Tara-ben the whole time, but it is hard enough to remember to use keigo, which we previously established I don't use. Cause of tacos--No! But yeah, lots of doubly finished sentences today, like, "雪がよくふるっ--ふります！”So local dialect was right out. I'm not sure how to mix it with keigo anyhow; there is a Saga-ben equivalent to the masu-form, but I've never heard it out loud.
In my insomnia I turned to a pirated online version of the Space Farmer. Despite it's crappyness, not even this brought me sleep. I laughed during his first failed launch though. Not so much when he decided to risk everyone's lives by doing it again. And where did the money come from?! Bad movie.
December 12, 2007
December 11, 2007
Also, it is available via googledocks here. You may be able to subscribe to the changes.
December 10, 2007
But I almost got in a fight last night. I was coming out of karaoke with a couple of Japanese girls that I am just getting to know when I saw three people. Touching my car. And what the-- bending my antenna?
I threw out a fairly tough "ホイ！何をしているんだ！" (elementary kids give one a lot of opportunity to say this when they start poking digits where digits don't belong). The culprit was a typical ヤンキー, with long blond matted hair and a beer mug (not can) in his hand. He dumbly looked at me, an angry foreigner out of nowhere twice his size. I pushed him firmly but fairly unconfrontationally and said, "Go away."
"ゴアワイ？" he replied.
I said "行け", but he kept up the dumb act. After a few rounds of me telling him to leave, I said, "曲がったやろう？ and pointed at my antennae. At this point his friend jumped in and apologized as he bent it back into place.
After he did that I had decided this is not something I wanted to fight over, so I opened the passenger side for the ladies. The repentant friend said,"Ladies first かっこいよ！ ごめんね！"
I mumbled a gruff もう大丈夫," and got in.
The guy that I was truly angry at played dumb to the end. As I got in, he was saying "ゴアワイ？ゴアワイ？"
But the interesting thing to me is my adrenaline never really rushed during or after the whole thing, though I was prepared for that beer mug to come at me any time. I apologized to the girls, but they didn't seem fazed. Overall, an interesting three-someish impromptu date.
In other fights, I recently had a heated discussion with a teacher about my lack of keigo. I realized afterwards that really, deep down, she seems to hate me. So I wrote a "lets be friends" type letter and left it in her shoe-box. She won't even look at me today. Maybe she feels guilty. Maybe she is infuriated by letters, but hey, I am shy. And we've established I don't use keigo when speaking.
December 6, 2007
December 5, 2007
Well. It's like I had been in a pretty intense relationship for the past three months. I felt like I was working hard to make it work. But in the end I got a cold slap in the face and had to watch the JLPT walk off with some Chinese* transfer student cause he has the smarts to make a future.
I was actually kinda depressed in the aftermath that is Monday-back-to-the-real-world-work. I studied a little, but it just wasn't the same. It was a hollow lie. The language didn't love me and never would.
But I perked up a bit when I realized I had gone through another sub-piphany. You may recall that is my term for when I realize I suddenly know a bunch of new words and can hear them all around me. I may not be able to find gainful employment with my language skills, but at least I now understand the office gossip--which is about me-- all that much more.
So what I'm saying is, even knowing how things turned out, JLPT, baby, I don't regret a minute of our time together.
*that seems a really random thing if you weren't at the test. Basically, there were way more Asians than other varieties of foreigners there; most of them seemed to be high school exchange students.
December 2, 2007
November 30, 2007
Ganbatte！ An English announcement script.
(yeah I know; this script is from the future! Oooooh.)
November 26, 2007
November 22, 2007
A: Do you play baseball?
B: Play it? It's my bread and butter!
A: Is fishing popular in Tara?
B: Yes, you could say it's our bread and butter.
November 20, 2007
November 19, 2007
November 16, 2007
今日の表現はLast time I checked...
A:Are you American?
B:Last time I checked I was.
A:Can you speak Spanish?
B:Last time I checked I could.
A:Didn't she dump you?
B:Yeah, last time I checked I was indeed dumped, thanks to your meddling.
November 13, 2007
A: Billy, take out the garbage.
B: No way! I’m playing video games!
A: Won’t you date me?
B: No way!
A: Are you going to fail?
B: No way! I’ll definitely win!
Unrelated: I like this picture.
Also, I am going to try to hook my ipod up to the school announcements and play some golden eggs.
November 9, 2007
Said throat (view discretion advised).
EDIT: Mum says thrush. Maybe I should give up school lunches... or at least the rice.
November 7, 2007
One kind of liquid.
One bottle of iodine.
I have fungus. And bacteria. In my throat. Ironically, one of my medicines is penicillin (fungus) based.
Japanese drugstores have a funny routine when they give you your medicine. They go, "Oh, your throat is sore, isn't it?" "Yes? Well take these after meals." "Oh, and your chest has an interesting sensation, right?" etc.
Making you want to say, "Just gimme my medicine. And validate my parking."
November 6, 2007
All-in-one gestures (disable all unused guestures) Right click and make a squiggle. I use it to close tabs.
greasemonkey You need it for the scripts in the scripts part of this article.
rikaichan (with names dictionary, press return to switch) The best tool on the net for reading any Japanese webpage. Or even mine sometimes.
submit to tab
Scribefire Useful when I post for wordpress blogs like Japanprobe
foxmarks Syncs my
GButts All your google pages next to the URL bar or wherever.
Resurrect Pages Useful for dugg-to death pages.
tab history New tabs have the history of the page that spawned them.
tab mix plus Essential.
Context search Lets one search highlighted text with any search engine they have installed into the search bar.
google cache continue
google MP3 Puts a little play button next to MP3 links you can listen with.
Textarea backup Essential for not losing stuff you said or want to say again.
November 5, 2007
November 3, 2007
November 1, 2007
The kids thought it was hilarious.
When the teacher finally noticed, she thought it was sacrilegious. She sternly said, "We don't do that," and erased it. Then she turned to the class and said something quickly with the word "joke". I'm not sure if she was covering my actions or denouncing them.
So a couple of factors go into my surprise, and my やっぱり "I shoulda known" feelings about the matter.
Factors that made me think it was okay:
The Japanese aren't religious. They often seem pretty proud of how religious they aren't.
I was talking to the other teacher before class, and she joked about how if you don't honor your deceased grandma with a snack offering, she will turn into a vengeful ghost. So I had it in my head at the time that one can joke about that very thing.
There are many scenes in animes and comedies where I have seen people joking about funerals. Please see this video for what I am talking about with the funeral funnies.
The kids seemed to think it was funny.
Factors that should of let me know that things would suddenly take a turn for "I'm sorry I just insulted you and your entire culture":
The Japanese are religious, or at least ceremonial in a Confucian way. Even though many of them proclaim no religious beliefs, almost everyone still has those home shrines. All the festivals, save our Saga balloon festival, have religious overtones.
Funeral stuff is taboo. My students were shocked when we had a discussion in which I stated that sticking your chopsticks in your bowl and standing them that way is not rude. Shoulda foresaw that related stuff would be bad too.
That teacher takes everything I do seriously. For instance, I described a guy as a "the one that is a little chubby" when at a loss for a name, and she heard me across the room and was like, "What did you say?!"
A funeral is not the same as a home shrine. Once again, I am too culturally ignorant to know if I depicted a shrine as I intended, but in any case, I don't know some of the taboos going on, so while it may be okay for comedians on TV (afore-posted video link), there are rules to the comedy I might not get.
The children are aliens. No, seriously, any middle school teacher in Japan will tell you that. Ask them about the alien thing. What it boils down to is the children may have thought it was okay to laugh because they are not yet indoctrinated.
The Japanese are superstitious. Usually only in a "this will bring me good luck" way, but still.
So, yeah. Sorry bout that Japan.
October 30, 2007
October 29, 2007
October 25, 2007
October 23, 2007
October 19, 2007
October 11, 2007
1. Use Anki.
It's free. You can adjust the scheduling. Tip the guy if you pass, or just on principal. I have been covering around 300-500 words a day for the last week or so. I got through all the words, and am now concentrating on the sticklers.
2. Use online resources to populate your Anki deck(s). Some I have used include:
grammar and other grammar
I supplement this with a good book, cause these grammar sites be missing the nuances that make grammars corrects.
The nice thing I discovered about Renshuu.org is that the compact lists have tabs (spaces Anki can understand) built in. You can cut and paste these to a text document and then import it into Anki. I check words (to make sure I am not studying unnecessary words) against this online list, and tag cards I don't currently need with "suspend"
3. Suppliment with Kakitory-kun.
Note: Kakitori-kun is not real study per say, but quite useful for remembering the differences between similar kanji. I skipped ahead to the sixth grade after finishing the 1st grade (I only do 熟語ドリル).
4. Test yourself to know your weak points.
All three aspects of the JLPT can be self-tested here. It helps you know how far along you are (my kanji is currently in passing range, the other aspects not so much, but I know I have time to bring them up).
5: Study for about 15 minutes at a time.
Fellow mac users, I recommend the timer feature of Alarm Clock 2 (freeware).
Then do some exercise between study sessions.
BTW, this program is really cool. It can get you up on time on test day to the itunes song of your choice.
6: Get out.
My head is swimming with Japanese right now. I need to see people, just like on the TV shows that are so popular these days.
7: Collapse your feedreader.
View your feedreader in collapsed (list) view to save time. Internets love to stealses our precious timeses!
8: Don't blog too much.
Especially don't waste your time making lists.
October 2, 2007
I say replace these artificial speeches with speeches people have actually given. Instead of talking about Martin Luther King Jr., give his "I have a dream" speech.
September 30, 2007
Also, a Japanese photojournalist was killed, and Mutant Frog has a good assessment of the Japanese reaction.
And Steve, who worked right on the border (the place in Thailand where I volunteered) and so has a good perspective on things in that region, has a good post about things too.
September 27, 2007
Almost forgot to embed this one. But you would know that if you were subscribed.
BTW, are internet friends too lazy to leave a simple "happy birthday" comment these days? I don't even expect a real one... My shallow facebook profile got more messages. *grumble grumble*
September 23, 2007
There was a while where I thought people in the English speaking world where horribly selfish and bad. But Colin and Cassie restored my faith in people without ever really knowing it. Thank you guys. One of the best presents since childhood, when I could get really excited about a Ghost Buster action figure.
Oh and thanks for the cookies, Zara!
September 22, 2007
Anyhoo, it helped me fine-tune my studying a bit. A while back, Alex introduced me to the program Anki, which has improved my vocabulary tons. Well, I am currently deleting the English (production) side of most of the cards; only grammar points have been deemed important enough to keep bilingual. Also, I am not worrying about simpler words; I don't even have to really comprehend what I am reading, but rather I have to know how to read my 2kyu kanji and the words they make (lower vocab won't be tested outright). Besides, at this point I can guess pretty accurately/already know about the lower vocabulary. Finally, I'm not so sure the lists at renshuu.org are complete, so I will be perusing my other resources.
If you are interested in taking the JLPT, get Anki and go look through my links on the far right column of this blog. Good luck to us all.
September 21, 2007
Looks good, but it's only 20 inches, and that is the biggest on the site.
September 20, 2007
In case you are wondering, I had the Japanese connection when I was in America, that's how I got to play this.
Reminds me, when I visited America, Benny had a NES and we played Mario bros. I was dying left and right; the controls just didn't feel natural.
September 19, 2007
I feel really bad for non-native English speakers who try to read the blog; this entry will probably do more harm than good.
September 18, 2007
September 17, 2007
September 14, 2007
September 12, 2007
September 5, 2007
September 4, 2007
September 1, 2007
August 31, 2007
the good news: tons of these are already in my anki list and have been studied. Many of the kanji and their nuances aren't new to me.
the plan: Make kanji-only cards for anki (no definition backwards card pairs) to facilitate fast assimilation.
Soon a little bird called kakitori-kun will arrive to help me in my new goal to take the 2kyu Japanese test in December. But 1kyu is looking improbable right now.
August 30, 2007
August 29, 2007
August 23, 2007
August 20, 2007
August 18, 2007
Half a japanese pumpkin, sliced thin
Green and red peppers
Short, twisty pasta or bowtie pasta
Cook the vegies on med-low heat, using oil.
Boil the pasta. I found a brand that cooks in two minutes.
Drain the pasta, stir it into the veggies with oil and spices
sprinkle in lemon juice
Enjoy. I find the sweetness of the pumpkin compliments the lemon.
August 14, 2007
The children have heads crowned with leaves. I am told that they are gods. They look more of Greek or Roman than of Japanese deity ilk to me.
"The fire is sacred; a symbol of friendship and unity" says the eager college student.
"What do they call this kind of fire?" I ask.
"They call it... a campfire."
"Oh." I think back to earlier when a teacher laughed at me for saying that if I went camping with even a couple friends, we would have a fire. Campfire: mundane katakana word, bigger ceremonial implications. The fire week cook our food on is much smaller, separate, and surrounded by cement.
This article helped me understand ritual in everyday Japanese life a little bit better. It also helped me understand why I have to come to an empty teachers room every day during the summer.
I was going to write about how the Japanese are obsessed with harmony, but that will do for now, pig, that'll do.
August 8, 2007
August 7, 2007
The goats meme: an image to hide from
Using this knowledge, turn the kanji into a picture with your imagination and bam!: horrible mnemonic that is stuck with me forever, just like the original image.
If you don't get this post, trust me, you don't want to. Don't google it.
Other bad mnemonics:
皮膚= HI (he) has FUgly skin.
床= YU KAn't park a tree on my floor.
芝生=SHE BUfFUs up the lawn.
August 2, 2007
July 30, 2007
So I said, "Uh... 'Tara: the moon's effect is strong here...' or something?"
It wasn't until later I realized they were making this translation into a t-shirt.
Not only have I contributed to the Engrish phenomenon, but the shirts will give everyone who reads it the impression that the residents of this town are lunatics (the entymology of lunatic is one who goes crazy as the moon becomes fuller).
July 27, 2007
Sorry, Japan, you know it's true.
July 25, 2007
July 23, 2007
It is really hard to make something that matches me at the Simpsons movie website. Everyone in the show has receding chins! Got the eyebrows right, if my screen captures on my youtube profile are any indication. Do I have the frowny eyebrows that much in normal life too?
July 20, 2007
Basically, they are boards where the candidates get equal face time. But I thought the board looked woefully unrepresentative of the international mingling that is supposed to be happening in Japan.
And besides, I could beat these guys in a race.
So I decided to make my own campaign poster. The caption says どんと来い, meaning "bring it on!" Only I had a brain nap and forgot the い.
It 's a little small, but I don't want to waste any more of the school's resources. Despite that, this pic looks pretty good if you zoom in.
Oh you'd better raise your hand, lady. In fear. To ask for help from the unstoppable juggernaut that is my raised eyebrow.
Vote for Clay!
I quickly took my poster down; I am not sure if this is legal. I'll put it up in Kashima maybe.
This is not the first time I have joked my way into a campaign. In high school, I ran unannounced and made my own campaign posters. In the boy's room, above the latrines, we had signs that said "How's it hangin? Vote for Clay!" In the weight room, the sign read: "When you are doing your clean and jerk, think of a nice, clean jerk, like Clay, for president." There was also, "Vote for Clay and he will give you ten dollars.* *:Clay will not give you anything."
July 18, 2007
But on a more serious note, I think my summer is gonna be major boring. I canceled a trip to China, because the man was keeping me down. But maybe I will go to somewhere else with the gf.
July 12, 2007
July 11, 2007
July 10, 2007
Just when I thought I had "～てもらった" pegged as "I had him ～for me", I go and run into a new example to confuse me.
Today, a teacher said, after he looked up and realized I had written an example sentence, "Mr. Bは前に黒板で文を書いてもらった."
I thought to myself, Wait, you didn't have me write that for you, I did it of my own volition; independantly.
After some discussion, I think I may extend the interpretation of "～てもらった" to "He did something (～) that I/we needed/required (whether we requested that thing or not is irrelevant)."
July 6, 2007
July 4, 2007
But I am a little irritated at the teachers who reported me for the stark crime of laying on my side to watch a comedy show in the gym on a hot and humid day. They want me to act according to rules I have no way of knowing, to play along, to be a chatty person (in Japanese?), to pretend to be as busy as them, and yet they don't really let me into their group nor try to understand why I am doing things in a way they aren't used to, and they never will.
Clay, quit your bitching and put on a happy face. That's tatemae.
July 3, 2007
今日の表現はEarth to ～
So then I… Hey! Earth to Bill! Wake up.
July 1, 2007
June 29, 2007
The best part: using darwin remote and my Wiimote, I can play like the old-school style game it is!
June 27, 2007
I think about the idea often, especially when I watch the new Doctor Who episodes. I would say outside of the return of The Master, this season has been mind-numbingly silly. Seriously, villainous weeping angel statues? But I have been watching a lot of the older doctors' episodes lately, thanks to this site, and it drives home the fact that the show was always really bad, and cheesy in the best way. That and Sara Jane was hotter than I ever remembered.
It's all good though, because it's entertaining, and I stand by that.
Anyhoo, you may want to take a look at this article, which argues that true Star Wars fans hate Star Wars. That's something I can get behind!
I know this idea was controversial the first time I brought it up, but have you come to share my point of view, or do you still defend your media?
June 25, 2007
This is a screen shot of the time-consuming task of converting a bunch of files to unicode 8 text so that I could put them on my ipod. Also, I used an OS X application called book2ipod to get the files to the right size. But it's all worth it; as you may know, Clark is my favorite author. But if you want to find his stories, my old link no longer works (I'll get it later). Better look in the heart of the internet*.
I think maybe over the summer I will give myself a fun challenge and start translating his stories to Japanese. I am gonna have to find a way to sound kind of smart, verbose, poetic, and archaic in Japanese... maybe a read-about into old ghost stories is in order.
After that, I wonder how I can let Japanese people have access to the stories...
June 24, 2007
June 23, 2007
Oh! Mikey: not just a funny/creepy series about a foriegn--and incidentally manequin-- family living in Japan, but the twins' speech (sixth vid in this playlist) is a good exercise in the nuances of saying certain things that are close in meaning to each other.
June 20, 2007
June 18, 2007
Tara has a nice little park up there, with the word ホタル in its name. Which means it's a place for viewing fireflies.
The site of fireflies blinking in unison over a river in the valley between two mountains is quite magical. Like a strange fictional wonderland. Too bad the season will soon be over.
Then I saw this morning another town in our prefecture has made the Mainichi news for the same thing. I was at the town last year; it had a longer trail but fewer fireflies at once when compared to Tara. If you go to Ogi, you have to go deep into the mountains to get a good view, or so I hear. But anyways, there is a photograph in the article, so check it out. I may try a night shot with my camera tonight and see what happens.
BTW, fireflies make for excellent dates ;)
June 16, 2007
Shrines have little evocative wooden tablets; usually prayers, wishes, and horses adorn them. But Sangaku were euclidean-geometry puzzles painted onto such tablets, and set out for those merry 参る者* to solve.
Most of them seem to involve circles. But anyway, here are some examples, and here is a concise history with good insights into the cultural background.
Also, this is at a shrine in Fukuoka; I want to find it, but it is from 1984(?) with Arabic numerals.
*:totally just made up a term for shrine-goer.
June 14, 2007
"The default, lowest-common-denominator American accent that newscasters try to imitate. Just because you have a Midland accent doesn't mean you're from the Midland."
I confirmed what was giving me the willies pretty early on, with the site of my neighbor. She is one of a few little old ladies that lives around me. But I saw her, out in the yard, trying stupidly to claw her way through the chain link fence. It took me a good thirty seconds to put it together: the clouded over eyes; the blood on her hands and nightgown; the old man, barely in view, laying very still on the tatami beyond their open window. This woman was a zombie.
I got my shovel. It was really hard. Cause you second guess yourself in such a situation. You wonder if you aren't crazy, when the world is. I made a mad dash to the supermarket after that; did some breaking in and looting; there are already a few bodies strewn outside, some of them twitching. I kicked one into the river on my way out. There was a very confused man in the market; some worker. I tried to convince him of what was happening; why the banging was so incessent on the shutters, and that I had a reason for my ransacking. But he wouldn't believe me, and I left him behind.
Has it spread abroad yet? The TV stations that are on are issuing generic emergency signals. Thank goodness we are an island nation. But how long can I and the other survivors hold out? Gotta go. Pray for me and be safe.
(update: apparently there is some info and news about events here).
June 12, 2007
June 11, 2007
June 7, 2007
Anyways, back to the top three concept. In Japanese baseball, they sometimes say "神様！仏様！～様！" Where the ～ is replaced by an awesome player. You can use this in other contexts to cool effect.
June 6, 2007
Then I go there today. The videos were there, but there was something... off about them. After a few hours it hit me: those ladies aren't wearing clothes. And this flashlight... it's all strangely shaped, and it doesn't light up at all. Waitaminute, this must be one of those burlesque videotechs the dandies talk about!
So I guess I found the town's Olde Sex Shoppe. That was... interesting.
And I guess DVD stands for Deviant Video Distributor.
Yet it warms my heart, in a strange way, that even a super small town such as mine could have such a place.
June 4, 2007
May 29, 2007
May 28, 2007
Taste of Tea
Dead or Alive 2
I thought about Ringu as well, but the Japanese don't seem very connected to their horror traditions in every day life.
May 25, 2007
May 22, 2007
Sorry, I gotta practice my saxophone.
I’ll practice you!
Pass me the ketchup.
I’ll pass you!
May 19, 2007
May 18, 2007
What do you tell people when they ask what you do?
It’s never easy and confuses most. About half the work I do is translation, mainly film subtitles for Japanese films into English and the occasional American film like Southpark into Japanese.
The other half is film coordination. I own a production company (Local 81 www.local81.jp) acting as the line producer. Local81 is the source for experienced, bilingual, award-winning filmmakers specializing in music videos, documentaries, commercials and features shot in Japan. We assist overseas directors/producers. We recently did a NIKE commercial with Traktor and are doing the world premiere/press junket for SPIDERMAN 3.
This is the point people’s eyes start to glaze over or look at me like I must be making this all up. Oh, and then I have the acting career too as well as being a dialogue coach, directing actors for computer games and dubbed versions of Japanese commercials. My dad laughs at me because I have to produce television shows for corporations like the Discovery Channel so I can afford to work on Japanese features. He also laughs at me because in college I got offered a job with the CIA and he still thinks that’s what I really do.
Is there any job that you identify more with, or feel the most comfortable with?
I feel pretty comfortable as a line producer. But feel even more relaxed as an actor and director. The long term plan has always been to write and direct a feature. I have always written and always wanted to direct. I never thought it would be possible hence I started out on the producer track. I have directed a music video and a short that was shown at RESFEST and ONE DOT ZERO film festivals.
But damn, if making a dime doesn’t consume your life in this town. At least I have worked with and hired many of the people I want to make my film with. I thought I’d direct by 30 then 35, now at 38, I hope it’s before 40. The biggest problem now is finding the time to write.
This post continues after the jump. Also, be aware the language gets a little blue.
How did you break into the biz?
Dumb fucking luck really. A girl I went to Sophia with was working for an Australian film producer, Charles Hannah, who was running a co-production feature between Australia and Japan. She was leaving, wanted to know if I was interested. When I got that call it was like “Are you high? Of course, I am”. I worked as his assistant interpreter for meetings with the Japanese distributor as well as all the other projects we were doing like development, completion bonds, distribution, etc. Later, Charles went back to Australia and worked for Becker Entertainment a television production company. He introduced me to their production team for the first television show I ever coordinated which was a Lonely Planet show about soccer. Charles was recently the executive producer of The World's Fastest Indian starring Anthony Hopkins.
I started acting through translation and directing. I was doing South Park and set to direct the voice actors. I had been schooled in distribution, producing, production, directing but never acting. I got accepted to United Performers' Studio run by Narahashi Yoko (associate producer for THE LAST SAMURAI, casting associate BABEL) and studied method acting 18 hours a week for a year.
In a sense, I broke into acting through translation. I had been doing subtitles for SUPER MILK-CHAN. The director was planning a feature. The only problem is that he hates dealing with actors and always hires models. I was talking to the producer while we were checking the subtitles and told him about my experiences through acting and that I’d love to audition. Two years later, the same producer’s company was doing JAM FILMS: Justice. He called me and asked me to audition for the part of Robert, the teacher. After I got the role, I found out they had already auditioned 60 people for the role. Since the director was busy, they videotaped the audition which took place in a coffee shop. The audition was playing the scene where Robert asks about the writing on the desk, goes nuts and finally throws the kid out of the class. I found out later that the person playing the student was the main producer. At the end of the audition, I told the cameraman to let me do one more thing and said, “This is for you Yukisada (the director). I took off my shirt, exposed my T-shirt where I had written “seigi” (justice). I turned around showing that the shirt said “heiwa” (peace). I raised the t-shirt exposing my chest where I had written manko or “pussy” in Japanese. I asked my manager at the time, “How’d I do?” She said, “I could have done without the last part.” But that was really what the director liked. He even wrote about in the behind the scenes book for the making of the JAM FILMS series. And he keeps casting me in his movies.
Did you have some lucky breaks, or was it an uphill battle?
It’s an uphill battle as an actor not having an agent or being associated with a big talent agency. Most directors find me through my work or contact me via a friend of a friend. Japanese film doesn’t really audition in the overseas entertainment sense. The hardest thing is convincing Japanese directors that a foreign actor can play more than the pedestrian English teacher, white guy role. Of course, I never try to take such a role or give such a performance. With JUSTICE, I walked like a goose stepping Nazi with fake glasses and all. I talked as fast as possible. Only an American English teacher would think he could recite something and expect his students to be translating it in sync. And gave a hint of my crazed, hidden, ashamed because of the Catholic church inner longing for buruma panties. I said Jesus several times on purpose too. I did a similar thing in PAVILLION. I am quizzing the girl on pronunciation and listening checking “right” and “light” but in the end, I mess it up on purpose as I get close to touching her tits. In SUKIYAKI WESTERN, my English is the least comprehendible once again on purpose.
Any secrets you are ready to pass along to other foreigners wanting to work in Japanese films?
First and foremost, learn to not only speak Japanese but to read and write it. From there, I’d say focus on what side of filmmaking you want to be a part of. If you want to be a producer, bang on the door of a person who makes films you like and ask for a job. If you want to direct, find a director and offer to be an assistant director. Then get prepared to make nothing or next to nothing. The fourth AD on a film set usually has no experience, runs the slate and works for free. For at least 18 hours a day, you can make nothing working as a “minarai” or about 10,000 yen per day. Of course, you get free food which is where the expression “kutte ikeru” (can you make a living literally can you eat) probably comes from.
There is no overtime paid on Japanese features and most television. All salaries are on a gross amount. It’s kind of a gaman taikai. No one sits down on the set. No one paces themselves to rest. When a film wraps, people often get wheeled off to the hospital. Most films are shot in three weeks under 4 million dollars; what America calls a down and dirty. In terrorism-for-sale-inc or why-does-the-world-hate-us, these films are generally direct to video crappola fare. Here, it’s high-end features.
But if you want to work in production, at least you’ll get paid more than actors. First time extras usually get the luxury of spending a day on set as well as lunch/dinner. Extras – now these are trained actors mind you – might come for the day for 5,000 yen. For my first role in JUSTICE, I was paid the whopping sum of 50,000 yen for two days. Tsumabuki probably got 1 million yen and his managing company HORIPRO took at least half.
Of course, this leads to the dilemma of being an actor in Japan. Features pay very little so most actors must do TV dramas. Everyone hopes for commercials as the appearance fees are staggering. But when you watch TV, ever notice that the show itself is pretty much a commercial especially when it comes to variety programming? But then you think, so-so talent, she’s on so many shows, she must be popular, her fee must be high. Nope. She’s just cheap that’s why they book her so much. That’s why TV is dominated by comedian acts because they are cheap to produce and can talk so no need for a script, kind of like reality TV in the US. Is it 2 AM and have I had a few rum and cokes? You’re damn tootin’!
Is Takashi Miike as crazy as his movies?
Not at all. He’s totally sane; totally talented. On IMPRINT and DJANGO, I often felt I was working with one of the greatest directors of all time. Recently, his sunglasses were broken and you could see his eyes throughout the filming. He has the sweetest, most compassionate eyes complete with long eyelashes.
How do you feel about working with him, and will you do it in the future again?
I love working with him and the entire Miike team. It’s great to be with top professionals. I started with GOZU doing the subtitles, then did ZEBRAMAN, then IMPRINT, then SHONEN A and now DJANGO and recently did subtitles for the SEGA game turned feature: RYU GA GOTUKU.
On IMPRINT, I spent about 90% of the film right next to him by the monitor. He listens to what you have to say and even uses ideas. I spent just as much time on DJANGO learning what I can. He’s made so many films that it’s all in his head. The script for IMPRINT was only 30 pages. He’d arrive every morning and write out a shot list while having coffee.
What makes the man so wonderful is that he can make films without a script. Any Hollywood director or music video director turned feature director can make a film. You get a story which you have to follow anyway to get the project green lighted. You break it down, you budget it, you get money – too much most of the time -- and you hire people. And all of this is done in a very film friendly environment. In Japan, getting cooperation to film in locations takes weeks of preparation and loads of clearances. In LA, you just throw money at someone. In Japan, despite being an economic power, money doesn’t mean everything. Being part of a film means even less sometimes. We were scouting on a studio roof the other day for a commercial photo shoot and were told that we couldn’t use strobes after dark as it would offend the neighbors.
That all being said, it’s still damn hard work. At least 15 hour days often 20 sometimes 24. We shot IMPRINT in 21 days and DJANGO in two months. But no one feels like they are being treated like slaves. They feel part of a grand vision. They don’t get ordered around and told to do things the LA way by a foreign production. Get this…as of ZEBRAMAN, Aikawa Show had the leading role in 100 films. Now get on IMDB.COM and take a look the number of films the flavor of the year actor has made.
Speaking of extreme and possibly crazy Japanese directors, have you run into Shinya Tsukamoto?
Never. Like him as an actor more than a director.
When you were working on the Masters of Horror imprint, did you think it would be banned from Showtime like it was, or did that come as a surprise?
It came as somewhat of a surprise. But the real reason was probably to boost DVD sales. With headlines like “Miike – Too Extreme for Showtime” I think they got what they wanted. I still applaud Mick Garris’s vision to let directors make their own films without any interference from distributors.
What is your latest role like? Will we be able to recognize you? I ask because your appearance looks different in every publicity shot.
I play the town preacher and act as a mouthpiece for the mayor (Ishibashi Renji). You might know him as the crazed ballet teacher in AUDITION or the yakuza boss who liked to sit on spoons in GOZU. I’m the only non-Japanese actor other than Tarantino so I think you’ll be able to pick me out. I also speak the worst English in the bunch.
Do you do loose interpretations when you translate, or do you get pretty close to the literal meaning?
I try to get as close to the literal meaning as possible but making sure that I convey the writer’s vision. If he wants a laugh in a certain place then people better damn well at least chortle. In cases like this, I often “transwrite” by substituting words or jokes that will play better. In KOI NO MON/OTAKU’S IN LOVE, the main character lives in an apartment that looks pretty scary. The visiting girlfriend says, “Pretty excentric looking room.” The boy replies, “yeah, the plumber said it looked like Osorezan.” Osoresan, literally Mount Dread, is a mountain temple in Northern Japan associated with spiritual mediums. So for the subtitled version the boy replies, “The plumber called it "Blair Witch".”
I often have to render colloquial Japanese into English subtitles which is fairly easy given my dialogue coaching background.
What's your craziest anecdote from working in Japan?
You asked so…spending more money in one night than my monthly salary at a hostess bar with the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. Me, I would have settled for a bowl of ramen and a raise. Later not getting my contract renewed and realizing the freedom of working for myself. Meeting former AUM devotees and then getting prank calls for months. The guys had a sense of humor. They played THE LAST WALTZ by THE BAND. Explaining to customs at Narita what AMERICA’s NEXT TOP MODEL is and getting the contestants through the next day. Hiding film in our production manager’s house until final payment was made on a music video. Washing cars for a month with my chinpira friend in Saitama. Being threatened by corporate ad tools who don’t realize that we have escaped the weight of our corporate logo and have no appreciation for the fact that we did all their creative work for them. Crashing for three hours a tele-kura with Jeff my production cohort while our client slept at The Okura and wouldn’t pay for our room or any other moment spent with the man. Sharing a double bed with Junya another production friend in a business hotel/production office for over a month while the client of course had a suite. Being one-on-one for a week with Paul McCartney and Wim Wenders and realizing that anyone else is a complete poser. But most importantly, having the privilege to not only be with Miike but everyone else on his team and to be a part of that group.
Where you happy when you where an English teacher?
Yeah because I was fresh off the boat and everyday was a learning experience. I had a huge revelation when I realized that despite my Japanese ability or deep cultural understanding or later to come Japanese wife and eijuken, that when I got on the train I will forever be the tourist. But then I realized that all Japanese people suffer this same loss of identity. The same guy that pushes you is the corporate president who doesn’t get called “shacho” until he walks in the door at work. So enjoy the train. Realize why the SONY Walkman was developed in Japan.
Get local. Make friends in your region hood and your professional hood. I’ve run into Suzuki Seijun, Fukusaku Kinji and Seiji Ozawa on the train and introduced myself realizing that none of the other Japanese passengers have any idea of who these great men are or were. And when you get down on your life, think about driving in your car in America in traffic and the extreme loneliness associated with it. Then think that loneliness is a universal concept. Coming to Japan didn’t cause it. Then as Jung said embrace your grief for there your soul will grow. For years, I’ve been listening to THE BAND sing WHEN I PAINT MY MASTERPIECE which is of course a Dylan song. “Some day everything is gonna sound like a rhapsody, when I paint my masterpiece.”
So find your rhythm or your curious groove and get on with it. Hell, I’ll even let you listen to J-POP if it will get you motivated and stop you from blaming Japan for how you feel. Everyone in this world is fuckin’ crazy man. Do you want to be a happy crazy or a sad crazy?
Do you find you are able to get past culture barriers, fluent as you are, or does discrimination and/or misunderstanding still get you down at times?
I've evolved beyond the realm of my homeland. In my absence, I've have been freed from the dailies. Not only do I not care about the latest gossip in town, I am unaware of it. Indifference is even more detestable than hatred according to some. I'm willing to make that sacrifice. But sometimes I say to myself, "Motherfucker. Am I gonna end up like Bill Bixby?!"
Otherwise, fuck everyone who doesn’t get you. Be glad you are not forced to talk about Monday night football or the weekend’s baseball games and always, always request to ride the fatass, handicapped motorized carts at Walmart on your return to the dirt that spawned you! Oh, and when you go through US customs and get accused almost belittled for living overseas as their subtext reads, “Why would you want to live anywhere else then our fine nation of freedom?” Please reply, because I am not brainwashed.
I recently got a housing loan refused on the grounds that I paid my taxes late the last two years. The total in late fees was about $70. But if banks gave loans to people who paid their taxes late, no one who even pay taxes. The system exists in any country.