Wednesday, April 30, 2008

In the Sky with Diamonds

Albert Hofmann, father of the mind-altering drug LSD, has died at age 102.  His last words were reportedly, "Like wow, man!"  

On the turntable:  "The Silk Road: A Musical Caravan"
On the nighttable:  Stephen Barbar, "The Vanishing Map"
On the reel table:  "A Hen in the Wind"  (Ozu, 1948)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rough Gods

On Kojin bridge,

the scent of rape blossoms,

nearly knocks me off my bike.

On the turntable: "KCRW: Sounds Eclectic Too"

On the reel table: "Sanjuro" (Kurosawa, 1962)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sign of the Times

This week, The Japan Times changed its look.  The new layout and font makes it look more like...

... a webpage.   

Is this a psychological attempt at drawing those readers who get most of their news online?  Once again, technology trumps tradition.  


On the turntable:  Richard Thompson,  "Grizzly Man"
On the reel table:  "Yojimbo"  (Kurosawa, 1961)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Winter into Spring

I was in a hotel, around where Gion meets the hills of Kiyomizu. The hotel was a week away from opening, and its long sprawling carpets had seen little contact with human feet. It was a bit odd to be here, in a building complete but for the people it was built for. The owner of the place was a former sommelier from France, Japan born, but now morphed into something unique due to decades away. I listened to him speak of his time abroad, of the organic vineyard he owned, and how each region has its own distinct flavor, and a sip of your own homegrown can be like tasting the soil from which you have sprung. And despite the rapt attention with which we all held him, and despite my own fascination with his words, soft and nearly inaudible due to the fountain in the corner, I could feel the anger welling within me. I kept asking myself why I had been brought here, why was I not up at the dojo, or home with a film. And the anger bubbled up more, cut only by a slight smile at the thought of being a character in "The Shining," sitting at the bar in a big empty hotel, on the brink of losing my shit.

Flashback a week. Miki and I are settled in on the sofa with an Ozu film. His movies usually work on me like a hot bath, melting into the still camerawork, the slow edits, miles away from the frenetic cutting I was raised with, being of the MTV generation. Yet tonight, I found myself fidgeting, my ass unable to find the right connection with sofa, my hands busy looking for something to do.

I then realize how high my stress levels have been, how absolutely at sea I've been due to the demands of my coursework. An afternoon at my drums, for the first time since last summer, brought my full concentration to something else, something non-heady. 'Drifting too far from the shore.' For some reason that line from the old spiritual had been in my head during midterm in Vermont, and now today, it seems prophetic. I'm done. I've gotten a lot out of my course, but to carry on this last month or so, merely to get a license in something I don't really plan to use, feels superfluous. Purely ego driven. And once the decision is made, the air seems a little bluer, my breathing more free...

On the turntable: The Lemonheads, "It's a Shame about Ray"

On the nighttable: Michael Zeilenziger, "Shutting out the Sun"

On the reel table: "Flavor of Green Tea over Rice" (Ozu, 1952)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Legalize It

Japanese woman and American guy walk into the Ward Office...

...and walk out married.

The things we get up to on our Tuesdays...

On the turntable:  XTC, "Skylarking"

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sunday papers: Guttersnipe Das

‘Convenient’ is the cousin of ‘automatic’ and requires almost as little attention. This (Tokyo) is a terribly convenient city: we live with no attention at all. The most fashionable and coveted possessions, cell phone and iPod, are tools for ignoring one’s surroundings. Why not make a new ad campaign: Anywhere but here!

On the turntable: "Love and Rockets, "Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven"
On the reel table: "Clerks II" (Smith, 2006)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Forgotten Fragments from February...

...Last seen around Groundhog's Day. Their long shadows gave them away.

Seen from Chubu plains,

Southern Alps tempt me

With their white cauls

...into the embrace of a sudden snowstorm,

somewhere to the north of Kumano's wild peaks...

Someone more clever than I once said that living in Japan is like creative camping. This fact became even more real to me when I bought a hibachi as a way to beat the high cost of kerosene this winter. I like the idea of an open fire in my living room. Quick! Grab the marshmallows!

On the turntable: Little Creatures, "Radio Collective"
On the nighttable: Stephen Levine, "A Gradual Awakening"

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Holiday Leftovers

Two unwritten poems from back in December...

Matsuho no Sato Rotemburo

Awaji Ohashi gilded

like a LiteBrite set.

Colors dance on the water

as naked fishermen

enter the bath.

Kakure Nembutsu

Monks dance the forbidden dance

Bouncing from foot to foot,

clad in orange,

like atonal Hare Krishnas.

On the turntable: The Beatles, "Magical Mystery Tour"

On the reel table: "Drunken Angel" (Kurosawa, 1948)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

March of the Swivelheads

What the hell happened to March?  And why is it winter again in Kyoto?

On the turntable:  Ute Lemper, "Punishing Kiss"
On the reel table:  "My Blueberry Nights" (Wong Kar-wai, 2007)