Tag Archives: n-sider

Various premium

Today’s the neon Times Square to the every-day corner bar: with about four times the screen real estate I am finding myself left feeling a little naked. Today instead of my diminutive Eee PC I’ve got my main laptop, the big ol’ Studio 15, with me here at night school, and it’s almost a little shocking to be typing a Nomaday on a full-sized keyboard instead of that cramped little wonder. The screen on this one is so vibrant and bright in this new setting that I actually had to dim it a bit to feel more comfortable.

I didn’t just lug this thing all the way out here for kicks though. Spurned on by an only semi-planned viewing last evening of A Charlie Brown Christmas, I took it upon myself to acquire said Motion-Picture in the highest of defs, and plan on showing it to my kids tonight as our final lesson until January 12th. All I want is what I have coming to me! All I want is my fair share! (This movie, upon further review, probably had more of a hand than I had consciously realized in shaping my own linguistic tendencies at a tender age.) Though the ending happens to be a little heavy-handedly Christian in its message, at least the damned thing deals with a Christian holiday. Christmas may very well be about Christ! I’m just not seeing it. Truly of all the Charlie Browns in the world, I’m the Charlie Browniest.

That said, I cannot imagine that my kids will be shocked, offended, put upon, or even aware of any sort of message that exists in the film which happens to be conveyed by dialogue, well-meaning but only-kinda-knowledgeable high schoolers that they are. This one will need to survive on charisma (and Snoopy) alone. The show is 25 minutes and my classes tonight are a shortened 35, so I’ll only need to blow a few intro and extro minutes with a bit of simple exposition (Charles Schulz invented these characters, they play this on TV every winter, it is 45 years old, yes Vince Guaraldi is the Man). Then we’ll be all set.

As luck would have it, it hasn’t been just any ordinary day that I chose to heft this weighty machine around. No, instead of going straight to work at the prescribed time, today I accomplished some most famous errands: the contest prize that I promised a lucky N-Sider reader has been verily, and tardily, sent off, with a few little toys and treats included as a bold repentance for my sins. In addition, after a somewhat linguistically baffling trip to the immigration office, I am now the proud bearer of a Japanese multiple re-entry permit, which allows me to enter (and re-enter) the country as many times as I do so wish until the day my visa bites the three-year big one. Of course to enter the country I must first leave the country, which I will most certainly be doing approximately a week from now. Hopefully in the future I’ll leave it again for at least India and Thailand, the only two places nearby that I really give enough of a shit to want to pay to visit. And at about sixty bucks for this permit I had better get my money’s worth! A final task this morning was to pay some slightly overdue bills, which I did at FamilyMart while buying a Monster Hunter Portable 3 branded bottle of soda and a piece of spicy breaded chicken in a paper envelope. (I chose the FamilyMart over Lawson specifically because I prefer FamilyMart’s spicy breaded.)

Kobe south of the station is decked out like a carnival and lit-up like Gary Busey thanks to the annual arrival of Luminarie, a massive exhibition/celebration in remembrance of the Great Hanshin Earthquake fifteen years ago. This thing consists of a variety of enormous white arches totally covered in thousands and thousands of little twinkly lights, set up over a street and ending in the community park. This has resulted in absolute throngs of people swarming the area for about a week now. I strolled through during the day today for not the first time, which provides an eerie duality: totally vacant but for the tarps of the street vendor’s tents. I haven’t been to see it at night this year, but if it’s anything like last year, and of course it is, the other side of the coin is feeling like a crayon in one of those 64-packs of Crayolas, and you’re in a case with other 64-packs, and the case is on a pallet with other cases, and the pallet is on a boat with a fucking million people slamming into you and stopping to take goddamned pictures all the time. If you are wondering, obviously I will go see it again this year, because I hate myself and I routinely do dumb crap.

Now ended, like many other things this time of year, is my Japanese class, which has shockingly improved my abilities to comprehend what others are saying while not entirely improving my ability to speak at anywhere near something approaching a conversational level above that of a broom talking to a wall. The only solution of course is to Speak More with People, but it’s hard to consciously take the mental hit and reduce yourself to broom level. As a compensation I have begun and will continue to study kanji and vocabulary, easily my weakest points. If I can read it and understand it I can interpret it and “translate” it, which is essentially endgame when it comes to my ultimate desires regarding the Japanese language. Now that I’ve turned in my acceptance form for a third year on my contract, I’m guaranteed to at least have some more chances to utterly embarrass myself in this foreign land that happens to be my home. I will never criticize anyone who is trying to learn a language again (as long as they are trying). Unless that language is Klingon.

CURIOUS THINGS
– Mitsuya Cider “THE PREMIUM,” which apparently cost me about forty yen more than a standard Mitsuya Cider, and which comes in a glass bottle with a metal lid and gold label, and which bears a label proclaiming its 99.9% naturalness percentage, and which says in cursive script White crystal sugar is used for various premium sweets, which is a phrase that not only tells me nothing but instills in me little to no confidence that white crystal sugar is actually used in this drink because they are too busy using it in various premium sweets
– Modern complex board games, namely one Arkham Horror, to which I was semi-introduced by a friend, being yet another potential hobby that promises to be expensive, time-consuming, space-consuming, and virtually impossible to seriously engage in so long as I live on this island four thousand miles from America
– Last weekend’s Chinese course meal and all-you-can-drink birthday party, which absolutely loaded me with draft beer, eggdrop soup, spicy rice noodles, chicken salad with peanut sauce, deep-fried orange chicken, Mabodoufu, hot Chinese wine, and Krispy Kreme donuts for dessert
– The ensuing karaoke fiesta, which started with six and ended up with nearly twelve people in a room the size of a hotel bathroom with a TV at the front, two microphones, two tambourines, unlimited whisky highballs, and the theme song to Married with Children
– This bitchin’ beef stew that I made last night with huge chunks of carrots and potatoes and beef and which I instinctively prepared a huge pot of rice for while thinking that “you can’t have stew without rice” and which I ate with rice anyway and which was bitchin’ like I said
– My cat, who while I slept last night, came to rest on my pillow, wrapped himself around my head, and meticulously groomed with his tongue the entirety of my visible hair, which is after my recent cut now short enough that it felt like my head was being brushed with a dish sponge, and who I tried to stop once but lacked the persistence to follow through with, and who I eventually just let go because fuck it it’s your mouth, cat (I will not be returning the favor)
CURIOUS THINGS

I’ve taken again, as I often do in cycles, to playing some games on my PSP lately instead of reading or listening to music during my commute and down time. The most recent one is a game called Half-Minute Hero, which initially consists of an RPG where you have to save the world from the Dark Lord. The trick is that as soon as the game starts he casts a spell which will end the entire world in thirty seconds, so you need to level up, buy equipment, and get to the castle and kill him before thirty seconds are up. More games should be like this, because my attention span is pretty bad alrea

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The backbone of America

This was a busier week as it seems retrospectively than as it occurred: I had essentially the entire span free of classes because of end-of-term exams.

My out-of-work free time remaining as it does normally, I did make it a point to pick up an old-style vertically scrolling shoot-em-up game for the 360, densely titled Mushihimesama Futari Ver 1.5, which (I think) translates to Two-Persons Honorable Beetle Princess (Version 1.5). You basically shoot everything and sparkly jewels fly out of them and they shoot so many bullets that the genre of game is referred to lovingly as “bullet hell” and you try not to get hit by the bullets. It was kind of expensive but it came with a limited edition 2 CD soundtrack and a fancy box.

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Other crap I bought this week:
– A bunch of Final Fantasy stuff in anticipation of the upcoming game including two tiny “trading arts” mini-figures, an electronic Chocobo which chirps when you touch its feet, and several cans of Final Fantasy XIII Elixir, a promotional beverage that you can read my review of over at N-Sider.
– A Robocop Kewpie charm for my cell phone
– Evangelion 2.0 calendar from Lotteria burger restaurant and small gashapon figure from the machines on the way out of massive toy/game/electronic/appliance store Joshin
– Two new Wii Remotes for multiplayer New Super Mario Bros. (pink and baby blue)
– Wireless adapter for my 360 so we don’t need to have a cable running directly across the middle of the apartment floor for it to be online
– Another work shirt, sweater, and some t-shirts
– A huge box of American Blu-rays during Amazon’s crazy Black Friday online sale
– A big chunk of debt pay-off from my Pittsburghian credit card

Obvious and apparent necessities that I should have bought instead of all that stuff, but didn’t:
– A couch
– A sukiyaki hot plate and clay pot
– Some self respect

Jessy has made a sort of bargaining agreement with me to the extent that if I stop buying little 300/400 yen gashapons all the time and get rid of many of the ones that I already have, I can save the money I would have spent on them and instead buy nice bigger figures that don’t fall apart and are actually capable of being (somewhat) tastefully displayed. Maybe some of you can look forward to receiving my offal in gift packages.

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Friday night we visited the Kobe Luminarie, a once-per-year ten-day-longish exhibition in memorial of the Great Hanshin Earthquake (January, 1995). This Luminarie thing is pretty impressive. They set up massive archways entirely made of lights hung over one of the big streets leading from the Motomachi area into downtown Sannomiya. Once you finish walking underneath them you enter a large area with a sort of light-castle set up and scads of booths selling snacks, souvenirs, and hot beverages. This trip was prefaced by a trip to the once-elusive Mexican cafe “Gitchi,” which we had failed to locate on prior occasions but located this time. I had the distinctly fusion-Mex Taco Rice, and Jessy had a barbecue chipotle beef taco plate. Mexican food is such a rarity here that I can hardly remember if it was even good. What it was was Mexican food, which speaks for itself.

We had the pleasure of going to a Vissel Kobe soccer match on Saturday, a day that started really cold and shitty but ended up cold and pretty nice. You may recall my last post wherein I mentioned that I might need some mental lubrication to really enjoy the game: this was true, and after a nice big paper cup full of fresh stadium Asahi Super Dry I was quite pleased to be there. Of particular note (more so than the game itself, which was a 90-minute affair during which each team scored once ending the game in a tie) were the food offerings, my favorite of which turned out to be Cup Ramen. Yes, you can buy hot cups of ramen at soccer games here, and for only 200 yen they are an incredible and delicious bargain, massively shaming the extortion-class prices for food at ball games back in the states. The brand name of the ramen we got was “NOODLE GOO!” which means basically nothing in either English or Japanese. There was even a little speech bubble coming out of the ramen on the package which proclaimed “GOO!” I have never seen this brand of ramen before in my life.

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Curious Japanese Shit of the Week:
– Five girls dressed as tall human-sized Pikachus hopping around in the Luminarie courtyard in a circle
– Passing a couple of youngish students who neither Jessy nor I believed to be ours, as they waved at us and said “hello!”
– Noodle Goo
– A man at a ramen shop we went to yesterday suggesting the garlic shoyu and then becoming so enthusiastic about greeting another patron that he proceeded to somewhat humorously sound like he was having some sort of seizure (this one is hard to describe but is surely rooted in the perceptible projection of seeming subservient to the customer re: irrashaimaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee etc.)
– Baking a refrigerated pizza at 230 degrees Celcius (447? Fahrenheit) in my microwave oven, with mayonnaise sauce instead of tomato, and teriyaki chicken, cheese, and corn toppings
– Paying 295 yen for one large pear, wrapped in weaved foam
– Beginning to watch the excellent program Mad Men and finding myself being personally alarmed at “how good their English is” (this is an American TV show)

With winter break and the closing of schools impending the question becomes exactly what will we do with our time off, knowing fully that all the other poor overworked salarymen of the country will be flocking to everywhere anyone would want to go? I don’t think either of us know quite yet, though we have essentially convergent periods of time off from around Christmas till several days after New Year’s. We indeed will stay in Japan this time around, but that’s about all we know.

As for Christmas, well. I can see no better way to spend it than with a traditional Japanese Christmas Meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken, some festive sparkling Chu-hi, and a Christmas cake (I am not joking, KFC is the Japanese Christmas food, Colonel Sanders has been dressed up in a Santa suit since Halloween).

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The middle of somewhere

This one is an irregular week, a classification of week which I endorse–often heartily. My next two days involve a “mid-year seminar” through the board of education (with generous lunch breaks and located much nearer to my apartment than my school is). The term is a bit confusing, “mid-year,” especially since I’ve only been here for three-and-a-half months, and I can’t help but wonder to which people this is the middle of anything except November or maybe one of the three school terms.

Accenting the affair is a purportedly delicious meal on the evening of the first day at somewhere called “Sky Buffet,” which I could know nothing of outside its name and still endorse, whatever ventures may be involved: it is a buffet, it is in the sky, it is a Sky Buffet. As a divine bonus, a sort of ethereal gift, Monday of next week is a national holiday, making it quite a stretch of time where Brandon doesn’t have to teach any school. The flip side is that were I still in the States I’d have the whole of next weekend unspoken for cause of Thanksgiving, which they most certainly don’t even know about, let alone celebrate, here. I drew a turkey on the board last week, and some of my students converted it into a type of egg-laying robot with lasers before asking if it was a chicken. It is fair to say I won’t be finding any turkey for my non-Thanksgiving. Jessy and I have decided to compromise in a somewhat acceptable way: I will boil some cute Japanese chicken, cobble together some kind of gravy and mix it together, throw down some homemade dumplings and stewed veggies, and try to find some decent beer. It will be a weekend feast that would only be made better if for some reason our apartment had a fireplace, and I will give thanks by raining delicious hellfire upon my kitchen and all those who enter (t)here.

I have finally become confident enough in my passive spatial awareness to permit myself to listen to music during my train-and-foot commutes to and from school without the fear that I’ll miss an audio announcement and thus, my stop. Doing so has allowed forgotten wisdom to re-envelop me: life’s a lot better with music in it. The bee’s knees of this week is an album from a totally relaxing one-man band ironically called Ohashi Trio, who sings in both Japanese and alarmingly good English with some really melodic pseudo-classical jazz type shit going on at the same time. I accidentally saw part of a video on some bizarre late-night Japanese music countdown last weekend, and sought out some samples on the Internets as soon as I could. The commute is exactly long enough one-way to allow me to listen to the entire album (his newest, called “A Bird”), and I plan on nabbing his previous effort “This is Music” posthaste. Just for kicks I might even hoof it to the Tower Records downtown and see if I can find actual copies and pay Real Money for these. Maybe.

The entertaining side-effect of music while I go is all the new soundtracks for the stuff I’m used to seeing in much the same ways every day. Different parts of different albums come up at points during my walk, which allows me to look at the scenery in fresh new ways. What’s the bridge with Eleanor Rigby? Shrine Cats to Heaven? The other day I even had an unexpected feeling of excitement upon briefly reconsidering my still incomplete Edmund story. Maybe now, having left Iowa and written one section, I can write another section having left Pennsylvania. I can feel it all gathering up back there in little bits again and I’m just left wondering when it will feel like moving its way on out. It took a few months after the last move. Maybe it’s about time.

I went to Osaka last weekend for my first Japanese gaming event, an unassuming little guy called the Games Japan Festa. Your interest in such material may be minor, but you can view the article at N-Sider here. The highlights of the trip: people dressed up in costumes like anime characters, a prize drawing in which I won stupid bookmarks instead of something awesome, and a post-show meal at an Indian restaurant where I made the mistake of assuming I was in Japan, ordering the curry “very spicy” and receiving the spiciest food I have ever eaten in my life (painful but delicious).

It’s getting really cold lately, such to the extent that I personally have actually mustered up a desire to go shopping for clothes, a relatively rare event. I need a few more sweaters, and it’s probably about time to replace my winter coat. Surely mother if you are reading this you are likely rejoicing, but know that I got a good 6+ years out of it, and your purchase was not a bad one (even if you would have had me toss it to the street years ago in favor of something new).

For the most part, Japanese clothes are great for me, because I am thin, and the clothes here kind of just assume that you are, with the largess of the European geneset being the exception rather than the rule, and no such thing as “XXL” found in any stores I’ve visted anyway. Clothing is “slim fit” almost by default, which works well for me, and the nice, well-tailored pants right off the store shelves make my old ones look like they may have been owned by one M.C. Hammer. The only problematic areas are in the shirt sleeves, which to be fair barely were long enough for my freak monkey arms back in the states yet certainly aren’t any longer here. Most dress-shirt sleeve ends rest a comfy two-and-a-half inches above my wrist, rendering necesssary a little cheating: when it was warmer I could just roll them up and tuck them, but it’s so cold now that to do so is both uncomfortable and draws light indirect criticism from my coworkers: “You must be cold! Aren’t you getting cold?!” The solution is sweaters, bigger sized to fit over the shirts, and with the beneficial side effect of longer, stretchier sleeves. Still, if I could grind a few inches out of these bones it would probably make my life a little easier, the only negative being the inevitable destruction of my basketball career.

Perhaps the postal deities heard my whining in the last entry, because Modern Warfare 2 arrived three days ahead of schedule last night. After telling Jessy she could not have the TV and to get bent, she fell asleep at eight o’clock and I stayed up for five hours playing it. The advent of the coming “mid-year seminar,” and its subsequent weekend and Monday holiday, are bold and fortuitous Winbringers which shall be filled, daintily, with as much game time as I can muster while still maintaining some illusion of daily human function. This morning, after I had just finished a match and begun to fry my traditional Wednesday breakfast gyoza, some Jehovah’s Witness people came to the door, perhaps because their beacon indicating virtual military combat went off, and said some things in Japanese. One lady spoke some English and I told her I was comfortable with my beliefs. Perhaps sensing that she didn’t have the language skills to deal with what was about to come next, she repeated my answer, to which I replied thanks for visiting me please have a nice day thank you! Then, bowing frequently like one of those water-sipping plastic cranes, I allowed my door to carry itself shut, the tiny visible slivers of the Witnesses’ cute winter mittens shrinking, shrinking, shrinking like the temperature.

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