Wednesday, April 21, 2004


If you were a regular reader, and not necessarily for the events, you can e-mail me for my other blog address. It isn't the Super-Secret Blog I keep talking about here, but rather a new not-nearly-as-impressively-secret blog that's also open to my Tokyo acquaintances. It'll be my main weblog from now on. And the Super-Secret Blog will just be used for when I want to talk shit about you guys. Just kidding.

Or am I? Pfft.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Image Forum Festival 2004

"Fancy plans...and pants to match."

I keep meaning to abandon this weblog because no one really uses it. Except me. But let's face it: I'd do just as well writing all this information on the back of old receipts as I would posting it here. And at least it'd be portable.

So if this is my last post, let it match my first. The Image Forum Festival is coming back. There isn't much info there right now, but I was excited to see that James Benning (mentioned here before) will be one of the judges. I'd like to attach myself to his leg and absorb some understanding of his vision through osmosis because I can't afford the tuition at Cal Arts.

The festival will be at Park Tower Hall in Shinjuku from 27 April to 5 May. And if it's anything like last year, the audience will be sparse, the seats will be plentiful, the tickets will be cheap, the films will be (mostly) good, and I still won't be able to convince anyone to come with me.

Fine. More for me.

In the meantime, I need a different excuse to write...

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Elephant Man


Freak show. The Curse of the Elephant Man will be screened at Uplink Factory [map] on the 22nd and 23rd of next week. I have to see it because it reminds me of my brother. Then again everything reminds me of my brother; his interests are wide and varied. But in this case, I remember a book he had (and I coveted) on freaks. We'd flip through the pages, gasp at the pictures, guffaw at the stories and be a little too amused by the abnormalities. That "I am not an animal" line took a long time to penetrate, I suppose.

These days, my conscience has been getting the better of me, so I shall go to Uplink Factory under the guise of scientific interest. The film brings together an international team of scientists to analyze Joseph Merrick's DNA and that of his living relatives for the first time ever, in an effort to put an end to the mystery of his severe deformities. Says the press release, "The programme draws upon the disciplines of forensic archeology, genetics, genealogy, radiology and surgery. It's a powerful human story, reliving Joseph Merrick's tormented life, and a ground-breaking medical mystery."

Since they're going to force me to be a grown-up about this, I thought I'd put on my "serious" glasses and read up on Merrick's medical condition through the Discovery site, but I found myself distracted by the Freaks Quiz. And you know what? I scored six out of seven. Kick ass.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

2004 Coachella Valley Music Festival


No news today because I've spent all day staring at the Coachella Music Festival site and cursing them for this killer line-up. I don't think it's safe to have all that talent in one place. An earthquake could swallow that particular part of California some time around the 1st or 2nd of May, and then where would we be? We'd have to look to second-rate musicians for inspiration. Avril Lavigne would be the edgiest thing going. (Don't argue with me. I'm being deliberately obtuse.)

Anyway, shout out to Yoshi for his extra Death Cab ticket last night. Andrzej and I had fun...except for that part where I got irritated with everyone because I've been in a bad mood for the past two months.

A note to bands: if you're going to do an encore, don't stay backstage for five minutes, milking the applause. The houselights haven't been turned on; we know you're coming back out, so come back out already. And don't act like we forced you to play another song when you do. And if you really don't want to do an encore, fine. Just turn the lights on so we can get out of there.

Ahem...and thus concludes my bad mood.

By the way, Yoshi doesn't read this site, so I can't quite explain the shout out. Think of it as an excuse to mention his band. I saw them back in October and thought they were fab, so I periodically check his site for upcoming gigs. His BBS is helpful too. Yoshi's got wicked good taste in music.

Friday, March 12, 2004

SKIP CITY International D-Cinema Festival


The good news: From the 20th to the 28th of this month, a digital film festival will be screening seven features and eleven shorts by independent filmmakers from around the world.

The bad news: The festival is all the way in Dasaitama and the weekday schedules were made for people who don't have day jobs.

The SKIP CITY International D-Cinema Festival will cater its language requirements to Japanese and English speakers for the features and shorts programs. But you're on your own at the Kawaguchi Special Screening. (Still, they're just short films. How bad could your Japanese possibly be?)

Films from the Feature Length Category:
Devcatko/Girlie by Benjamin Tucek of the Czech Republic
Eddie by Piotr Trzaskalski of Poland
Etegami/Pictorial Letter Nobuteru Uchida of Japan
Toji/The Coldest Day Xie Dong of China
Salt by Bradley Rust Gray of Iceland
Wilbur Begar Selvmord/Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself by Lone Scherfig of Denmark

They're also showing Makoto Shinozaki's Inu to Arukeba... but I can't find anymore information on that specific film. Shinozaki gained acclaim with the understated and earnest Okaeri in 1995, so you'd think more attention would be paid to this latest one. But I guess it's still too newish.

As for the rest of the festival, it's not all fun and games. D-Contents Market takes place from the 25th to the 27th, "establishing presentation booths for young creators and production companies. We hope it will give an opportunity for them to meet lots of people and develop new business opportunities." This? Could get ugly. But if you're a DV filmmaker and you're not opposed to schmoozing, start practicing your fake smiles now.

Schedule, ticket info and map are available at the festival's bilingual site.

Thursday, March 11, 2004



This is neato mosquito. BookCrossing is a project that tracks the adventures of books around the world. Participants register books from their personal library, strategically leave them somewhere (on a train going out of town, on a park bench, etc.) and cross their fingers for the book to find a new appreciative reader. Hopefully, the new reader will see the BookCrossing ID, visit the site and let you know that they found it.

You can also have a little fun with it. Leave a copy of Dubliners somewhere in the vicinity of that St. Patrick's Day Parade, or a copy of Coin Locker Babies in a coin locker.

The site also provides a way for you to hunt for books in your own city. So far, only a couple of people are releasing books around Tokyo, and they're not me. But if you check back later, I promise to start after this weekend. And I promise not to release a bunch of crap. Think of this as a very ambitious international book exchange.

(link from Tavie)

UPDATE (12 Mar): I've registered 10 books this morning. If you're interested in any of them and want to do a trade before I set them free, please send me a private message. Thanks.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Landscape Suicide


Feeling restless. Just the facts because I'm sick of myself (unlike most days, har).

You know what would make me feel better right about now? A film about murderers.

It's rare to come across a James Benning film; his work has never been made available on VHS or DVD. But on 11 April, Landscape Suicide will be screened through Image Forum's Cinematheque. The piece examines the psychological motivations of two killers, Ed Gein (a multiple murderer in Wisconsin) and Bernadette Prott (a California teen who stabbed a friend to death over an insult), presenting their stories as a slice of Americana. As far as I know, this is the only film in which Benning uses actors on screen. He's not strictly a documentarian, however, and he does tend to blur the line between non-fiction and fiction, especially with his earlier work.

Schedule, price, etc. here.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

St. Patrick's Day


I feel myself getting stupider and stupider, just like in Flowers for Algernon except minus that part about becoming super-smart first and having an impressive peak from which to fall. I had to look up St. Patrick's Day because I forgot when it was.

Anyway. Did you know that I'm part Irish? It's true. But just barely. My mom's mom's dad was Irish and my mom's mom's mom was Chinese. They never married and my mom's mom's mom died in childbirth, so my mom's mom was one of them thar ill-ur-jih-tuh-muts and was raised by her aunt and got all screwed up by religion and, well, it's a long story that's reminiscent of Carrie without the telekinetic powers. Where was I? Oh yeah. The Ireland Festival 2004.

Since we're in the middle of this festival, your weekend can be saturated with Irishness. There's, of course, the Emerald Ball on Friday night, Irish Sports Day on Saturday (is Tug of War really an Irish sport?) and the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Harajuku on Sunday, "the biggest Irish event held in Japan." According to the site, this year's sub-theme is Irish literature, and the event will include a project featuring the works of Yakumo Koizumi (who doesn't sound too Irish to me, until you remind me that he used to be Lafcadio Hearn), some guy named James Joyce, and a certain troublemaker named Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde. A literature-themed parade doesn't strike me as any kind of rip-roaring event, but it's okay since I can' go anyway. Ha! You're going to have to join the literati and tell me how it was.


Monday, March 08, 2004



Get ready for another geek-out:
Da-da-daaaa DA! Da-da da-da da-daah!

Quick! Guess what song that is.

Quitter. It's the beginning of the Overture from Candide, composed by the lovely and talented Leonard Bernstein. I love that operetta. Love. It. I'm not talking about the dialogue. It's crap. The original script, written by Lillian Hellman, was met with pans and was replaced years later by Hugh Wheeler's version, which was met with shrugs. (And to be fair to Hellman, who penned some great plays in her time, I've only seen the Wheeler version.) However, the score? Fantabulous. The music manages to be equal parts lush, elaborate, playful and stimulating, while Bernstein gathered a group of talented lyricists to attempt to do justice to Voltaire's wit. Namely Stephen Sondheim, John La Touche, Dorothy Parker and Richard Wilbur (one of the better translators of Moliere's plays).

Bernstein and Hellman began collaborating on Candide when McCarthyism was wreaking havoc in the United States, and Hellman and many of their acquaintances were being threatened with blacklisting. The result of their efforts is this "satire of the parochialism of America in the 1950s," which, come to think of it, is not that foreign a concept today.

The production that's coming to the Tokyo International Forum in April will be the same one translated by Kunihiko Hashimoto for the 2001 production. I think. Maybe. Don't take my word for it. I didn't see any information about the translator on the official site, which makes a point of mentioning the original lyricists, but I saw Hashimoto's name on other sites. It's also worth mentioning that Hashimoto translated Into the Woods, which will be at New National Theatre Tokyo this summer, directed by the same guy as Candide, Amon "He's-Kinda-Famous" Miyamoto. Although Miyamoto also brought us the first Japanese version of the operetta in 2001, don't expect the same ol' same old this time around. The Forum's site promises "there are some refurnishes of being even more musical and entertaining." Right on.

Candide is running from 26 April to 11 May at the Tokyo International Forum's Hall C. Tickets range from 6300 yen to 12,600 yen. And you might want to check the schedule if you care who plays Cunegonde. While Avery Fisher Hall in New York will be getting an enviable cast with Kristin Chenowith in the role (and Sir Thomas Allen as Pangloss—I'm going to faint), we get to choose between up-and-coming coloraturas Eri Unoki and Hiroko Koda. Koda is the slightly more established of the two, having tackled the technically challenging roles of Olympia and Zerbinetta in Tokyo. But Cunegonde's showy aria, "Glitter and Be Gay," has been part of Unoki's repertoire for years.

Ahem. Yeah, anyway. I'm sure I'm the only one who cares about this.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Moses, Jesus and the Dandy

dandy and moses

I've been swamped with work all week, so I've got nothing but babble for you. Sorry.

I found out that, if you go to Google, type in "pictures of Jesus's tomb" (sans quotes) and hit "I'm feeling lucky," you get swept on a magic carpet ride to me. How weird is that? Well, not that weird, considering. Now that I've brought it up, I should note that you can get information about the Mahikari, organization at their website. They're the ones who believe(d) that the Takeuchi documents were genuine. But you might be better off at Mahikari Exposed, a site maintained by former members, which gives details of the organization's connection to the Jesus and Moses stories.

Anyway. I just realized that, while I wrote a summary of my Moses trip for my Super Secret Blog, I never shared it on this public one. So here it is: Moses and me. I didn't really get into the spaceship museum or the Oldest Rice-ball in Japan. Another time.


So you remember how that Time article said, after visiting Moses Park, "In town you can buy Moses pomegranate wine and Moses pomegranate jam"? Well, I have news for you: there is no fucking "in town." None! I walked for hours—days—and I couldn't find a single store.

Well, no, that's an exaggeration. Close to the (unmanned) train station, I did see a couple of store-like places, but all they sold were gravestones and logs. That's it. Just gravestones and logs. I don't know how people survive in that area. They must have to churn their own butter, even.

So, yes, I did fulfill part of my Grand Religious Tour of Japan this past weekend. I stayed at a ryokan in Kanazawa and took the train up the Noto peninsula on Sunday to visit Moses, the spaceship museum and the Oldest Rice-ball in Japan (nothing to do with religion, I just thought it was cool). When I got to Hodatsu, the closest station to Moses Park, it was still before noon, and I was feeling fresh and energetic from a big breakfast and lazy morning. I walked in the general direction of the park, not really knowing exactly where it was, but having a vague idea from one of the maps I saw a few weeks ago.

I wouldn't say that the area was populous, but I encountered about a dozen people doing various late morning activities on my way. After crossing a major road (major for that area anyway), I spotted a little green sign that read something like "Moses Park hike" in Japanese. It had an arrow pointing right, so I followed it, still giddy from the prospect of seeing the burial site. (I felt kind of like Kevin McDonald in that Headcrusher skit with the "Girls, Girls, Girls" signs, following arrow to arrow.) All the people I saw thus far were either farming or gardening—there wasn't a great variety of things to do—and they kept looking at me. I knew they knew I was going to see Moses. Some smiled, others just stared.

When I got to the park, it was a lot bigger than I thought. Think Griffith Park without the horses. Lots of green. Lots of hills. And absofuckinglutely no people. I was the only one there— the only one in the entire park. I could have been murdered by Jason, and nobody would have been the wiser. At the same time, it was pretty damn neat! Very clean, very peaceful. I checked out the map and made a note of where the burial site was supposed to be. It looked like this:

I guess that's supposed to be him. The site itself looks nothing like a burial mound. There's just a big plaque that tells you the legend in both Japanese and English, and there are benches around it, like in the little cartoon above, so that you can sit there and stare at the plaque as you mutter to yourself, "that's all?" Just behind it is a small trail that leads you up to two steep mounds. If you climb to the right, you'll see a small circle of trees and a view of everything below (more trees). The mound on the left had the grave of Romulus, whom the legend claims to be Moses's son. Heh. There was just a long wooden stake marking the grave with the Star of David and some Japanese writing (in Magic Marker or something). At the base were a few empty flower pots and stones, and I stopped to take pictures. That's when the bugs started to attack. Mosquitoes mostly. It's probably highly unlikely, but I thought I was going to get encephalitis, so I escaped them by climbing down the other side of the hill.

When I got back to a gravel path, I saw those green signs again, the ones with the arrows. "Lucky me," I thought. "Maybe they'll lead me to the Moses wine." Once again, I faithfully followed one arrow to the next, thinking myself adventurous and daring because I am an idiot. This must have lasted about half an hour before I started to wish I'd reach the end already. I was expecting to see a final sign that read, "And thus concludes our tour of Moses Park." But you know what? Nothing. The last sign I saw pointed left, so I walked and walked and walked without seeing another arrow, eventually walking my way into the middle of a huge rice field. I looked in all directions for another green sign, but didn't see one. Nor did I see anymore people or cars. Just rice fields and a desolate road. Oh, and crows. Lots of crows. Symbolic of death in most movies.

"I'm a survivor, damn it. Follow your instincts!" I told myself. Sadly, my only instinct was to hail a cab, but there weren't any around.

Just then, ever so faintly, I heard bells. Not death tolls, mind you. They were the kind of bells you hear when a train is crossing a street and the gates are coming down. I walked briskly toward that sound and ended up at the train tracks. Standing on them, I looked in one direction and then the other. No station within eyesight. Following the tracks (in the wrong direction, I later discovered), I finally ended up at a train station (one past Hodatsu) almost two hours later. Had I walked in the opposite direction, I would have reached Hodatsu station within thirty minutes. It's moments like these that my parents should be glad I'm an atheist. Otherwise, I would have been cursing god for that; instead, I'm forced to blame myself.

So I sat at that wrong station for another two hours, watching the paint peel off of the walls, and spiders go in for the kill. It was just like a nature documentary, except totally boring. The place reeked of neglect. But I had to take a few pictures because, despite my bug bites, tired feet and possible melanoma, I thought the entire situation was hilarious. I snapped and giggled, snapped and giggled, checking my watch to make sure I could still make it to the UFOs before closing time.