Friday, November 27, 2009

Captain Zooey Dedalus’s Cultural Portal to Japan

Picture of the Month
The gateway to the world-famous Takeda Shrine in Kofu, designated by the Japanese government as one of the 489 most important cultural shrines in all of Japan. Japanese people of all ages come here to take pictures and buy good luck charms to help them pass college entrance exams.

Greetings and Salutations, loyal followers! It is I, your ever-adventuring guide to adventurous adventures, Captain Zooey Dedalus. It is my goal to present Japanese cultural explorations that highlight the most fascinating aspects of their culture, and I hope to singlehandedly bridge that ever-widening gap between East and West through open communication and a minimum of childish name-calling. As we all know, the true calling of any social scientist is to experience as much adventure as possible no matter what the cost, and your humble narrator is no exception. In this blog I shall analyze the varied aspects of Japanese culture ranging from tea ceremony to tentacle porn for the good of all humanity and with no expectation of personal gain.

But first, I must draw your attention to this cultural anomaly I witnessed just the other day at Yamako supermarket. Though this may appear to be a typical shelf of natto and other bean products, the trained eye of the cultural anthropologist will surely notice that something is amiss. Some careless shopper, having changed his or her mind about his or her shopping itinerary, has lazily deposited a four-pack of medium eggs on this shelf instead of returning them to their proper location. And why is this act, so common in American supermarkets, so important, my devoted readers may ask? Because Japanese people will always, without exception, return an item to its original spot on the shelf after changing their minds, always. (This just happens to be the one exception.)

Last month I took a trip to Tochigi and Ibaraki prefectures, in a region of Japan occasionally referred to by locals as the Kanto (I am not sure of the meaning of this word, but according to my Japanese dictionary, it may be derived from the word kantoku, or film director). Above you can see a cultural snippet of Japan from Oyama city in Tochigi, where electricity races down the wires faster than attractive girls fleeing a cosplay convention. Tochigi is famous for its gyoza, a small dumpling-type food that was probably brought over from China a long time ago (like most things in Japan that aren’t anime or co-prosperity spheres). We sampled gyoza with mushrooms (kinoko), shrimp (ebi) and cheese (chizu), among others. They were all really good, though I couldn’t really tell the difference between them.

In my travels, I also encountered one the most important hallmarks of Japanese culture, a phenomenon that has had more impact than flower arrangement, calligraphy, ukiyoe, kabuki, and J-Pop music combined. I’m talking about Love Hotels.

Love Hotels, quite simply, are small hotels catering to clandestine romantic rendez-vous (rendez-vous is a French word meaning meeting or appointment) and providing the ultimate in both secrecy and idyllic ambience. Access to the Hotel Crossway in Mito (which looked innocuous enough except for the neon sign outlining a stiletto heel) is obtained via an underground parking garage or through a cleverly hidden entrance at street level. In the interest of privacy, customers select their room by studying photographs on a large board, then buying the appropriate key from a vending machine. The gray d├ęcor spotted with more neon images of stiletto heels combined with the lack of human contact combined to unnerve your normally fearless narrator. Without buying a key, we managed to gain access to an upper floor where I snapped the above picture of a vending machine selling various marital aids. My companion and I then beat a hasty retreat when we spied an elderly Japanese gentleman vacuuming the hallway.


That is all for now, loyal readers! I assure you that in this blog, I will continue to bring you authoritative reporting on the cultural and anthropological aspects of Japan and the rest of the world. I am devoted to experiencing the whims of adventure regardless of the perils of my financial situation, and am determined to keep going with only my wits to guide me; though of course its also helpful to have my 15.1 megapixel camera, a sturdy leather backpack, my iPod, laptop, adequate changes of clothes, a Blackberry, a nice fine-tip pen, some books to read in case I get bored, Nalgene bottle, Western deodorant, handkerchief, a nice cell phone, my lucky socks, a Japanese phrasebook, an extra watch, that cool Lawson’s button I found, some Alfort, extra batteries, emergency Ranch dressing, and my little stuffed manatee that spins around in a circle when you pull the string and let it go.

Stay tuned for more adventures!

Captain Zooey Dedalus

The Author would like to note that his name has been compiled from several obscure literary sources and intends no infringement therein. The author would like to thank everyone involved with the creation, production, and management of this blog, but he really can’t because he did it all himself. All material in this blog has been the result of painstaking research, and the appropriate Wikipedia articles have been cited when appropriate.

Current Mood: Adventurous!
Current Music: Theme from Neon Genesis Evangelion

Friday, November 20, 2009

flannel in the park

Plaid Garment District thrift store shirt, navy-blue Lee jeans, Rockport casual leather shoes, 100% cotton t-shirt with English non sequiturs, hemp necklace from the JD Collection, and elliptical Mr. Dandy eyeglasses.

It is getting colder here. I wear my scarf every day now. Soon it will be winter and I will have to pull out my black peacoat. I cannot go to the park to eat lunch now, and instead go home on my long breaks and stick around the office awkwardly during my short ones. The Japanese staff is always brushing their teeth after eating lunch. It is cute.

Also, I am getting fat.

Current Mood: Whimsical
Current Music: Too many to list here

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Hands Are Tied

It’s been a while since I posted anything here, but its been a rough few days. Loads of worry and self-loathing creeping up on me. A friend suggested recently that honesty at any cost was the secret to strong relationships, and that it was damaging to hold back the truth just because you’re afraid of hurting people’s feelings. Not only that, but hiding truths from yourself acts as a barrier to self-improvement. Thought-provoking words there, but they don’t make it easier when everything comes crashing down all at once, I can’t sleep, my mind keeps racing about the day’s events, and just making my lunch was a challenge beyond my power.

I won’t even get started on the thing with my parents.

Understandably, this combined with some other engagements I shan’t mention here have made it difficult for me to me to work on anything of substance, or even scribble random ideas for later. I thought the November internet parodies project would keep my work focused as far as this blog, but so far I haven’t gotten a lot done—no work on the meme, my self-righteous rant idea still lacks form, and today I found out that my camera doesn’t have a timer. And fuck, it’s already the 13th.

Work on Carcrash Parker has also slowed since I started devoting more of my mornings to Japanese study (which continues to kick my ass on a daily basis). Finished the first round of revisions on paper a few weeks ago, and have begun to laborious task of transferring those edits to the computer. I’ve been trying to work in more jokes (with Mike’s help, as his ideas lend the script more of the silliness we’re aiming for), more details describing our protagonist’s plight after high school, and expanding a secondary character’s post-college struggles. Have some ideas for more cut scenes to make this work, but dialogue’s never been my strong suit, and it’s hard to fit in much-needed exposition in a way that sounds natural. Thankfully, my friend Sam from Bennington has graciously agreed to draw some Sierra-style cut-scene stills for the game later down the line. Sam’s a talented artist whose illustrations have never failed to impress, and having her onboard adds some much-needed artistic credibility to our project. Plus she likes making fun of Larpers even more than I do.

Apart from the adventure game, my old FWT employer George Packard from the Warner documentary project recently posted one of my observational essays on Japanese life, this one about the hole-in-the-wall vegetable markets tucked away in the back streets of Japan’s aging cities. George’s blog centers around his quest to tend the ultimate garden, with various forays into rural New Hampshire life, and I recommend checking it out if you’re looking for a change of pace.

Finally, I friend recently introduced me to the old “Charisma Man” comic, which, for those not in the know, is an incredibly observational superhero parody about a gaijin English teacher in Japan. I haven’t enjoyed a strip this much since I tore through every collected edition of Matt Groening’s “Life in Hell,” and recommend it to both ex-pats and those still at home. You can read some old strips here and here.

That’s all for now. Probably should try and get some sleep tonight, though who knows if tomorrow will be a productive day by any stretch.


Current Mood: Emotionally fragile
Current Music: Cranberries and Lemonheads mix

Thursday, November 5, 2009

25 Random Things About Me


Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to "notes" under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

1. I am 6’2” tall.
2. In metric, this works out to about 188 centimeters.
3. I weigh approximately 180 pounds.
4. My hair is blond.
5. I wear my hair parted on the left.
6. To the observer, my hair appears to be parted on the right.
7. I have blue eyes.
8. My eyesight is bad and I wear glasses to correct it, though I do not know my prescription offhand.
9. My right eye is worse than my left eye.
10. I wear size fourteen shoes.
11. I last clipped my nails six days ago.
12. I have had all four of my wisdom teeth removed.
13. I have a cap on my upper left lateral incisor (tooth #10 per the Universal Dental Numbering system).
14. I have had two fillings.
15. I have not lost any of my appendages to accident or injury.
16. My hands measure 21.5 centimeters from my wrist to the tip of my middle finger.
17. My forehead droops slightly over my right eye.
18. My blood type is O Positive.
19. I have no known allergies.
20. I cannot make a four-leaf clover with my tongue.
21. I can, however, spread out my tongue like a dinner plate.
22. I still have my both my tonsils and my appendix.
23. I cannot wiggle my ears.
24. When I was a kid I had an older sister I don’t talk about very much. Her name was Sharon. When I was four years old we were playing at our house in Bridgeport, and our mother went inside to use the phone. Sharon and I were tossing a purple rubber ball back and forth when one of us (I cannot for the life of me recall who) let it bounce into the road. Sharon dove out to get it and was instantly struck by a brown van careening around the corner, her limbs twisting brokenly around her brittle body as her blood spattered a line across the pavement. (The image of her flying helplessly into that cracked road haunts me still when I see cars braking abruptly on urban streets.) In a panic I screamed and ran into the house where I was unable to explain to my mother that my sister had been suddenly killed and was never, ever coming back. I wonder what my life would be like if she was still alive.
25. This list contains twenty-four truths and one lie.

Current Mood: Mischievous
Current Music: Cake—Tougher Than It Is