Monday, August 29, 2005

Nobody Said It Was Ise

Nobody Said It Was Ise
Monday 29 August 2005

Currently reading Syd Fields "Going to the Movies" about his life and career as a script writer.He shares his insights and experiences and illustrates his own theories by dissecting some famous movies.He breaks down each movie discussed such as Annie Hall, ChinaTown,The Wild Bunch and Pulp Fiction into its basic elements.He offers his own critical way of viewing a movie.Whether its linear or non-linear, whether it uses flashbacks or not they still have in his opinion a start,a middle and an end or resolution.He also discusses the process of script writing and his own philosphy...better to write something that can be improved than to write nothing at all.He gets his best ideas he says while lying in a hottub.I tend to get some of my ideas while swimming, I keep a notebook handy just in case i forget them.Must be something to do with the water and its creative powers..whatever..
Anyway after 2 years working as the head of the story department for a hollywood film company he read over 2000 film scripts.Of these he only found 40 good enough to submit to his companys financial partners for production consideration.
I doubt whether Field would have submitted a drab offering I watched recently"Wicker Park".With a wooden Josh Harnett and an equally uninspiring Coldplay soundtrack.After reading of the great efforts required to get a movie to the production stage I wonder why they bothered.
Similiar Sounds Different Meaning
Often students will mishear things.Sometimes comical.An example from last week." A buddy of mine " was misheard as "A bottle of wine"
Stupid People
Despite Aussie Schapelle Corbys conviction earlier this year to 20 years jail for trying to smuggle 4.2kgs of marijuana into Bali some Australians just wont learn.Another 11 await either trial or drugs charges in Indonesia.John Howard the Aussie PM,hardly a man of great intellectual standing himself given his staunch support of one George W Bush, called the drug smugglers "silly"."Its beyond belief that any Australian could be so stupid as to carry drugs into a country in Asia" he was quoted as saying in the Japan Times this week.Trust me John from personal experience it aint at all surprising.
The Japan Times article did include an unintentional pun when it described 9 Australians as having been arrested in "a joint drugs bust".Of course this is the same paper whose editorial recently pleaded for "More concrete efforts to be made to reduce the number of minor accidents in residential and shopping areas"....mmm concrete aint the most appropriate adjective surely.

Speaking of stupid people one shouldnt forget the gentle folk at Japan Tobacco either.In a last gasp effort to stop the decline of its consumers the company is offering 5kgs of gold bars and other prizes as part of a promotion for its "Smart Smoke" cigarettes.They apparently are a new reduced odourless cigarette.mmm "Smart Smoke" a great oxymoron.May the current low of adult smokers 29.4% continue to decline.
Random Thoughts
The weathers been stinking hot the last week.Nagoya avoided the wrath of Typhoon number 11 but has been basking in its aftermath...high temperatures and humidity.Bring on autumn with its lower temperatures and dry air.
Im still awaiting a reply from the organisers of the Foreign Artists Exhibition.I sent in my application some weeks again but have yet to get a reply.Ive been busy completing a couple of paper mache things in the event im successful.The humidity tends to slow down the whole drying process.If you get too impetuous and dont wait till each layer is sufficently dry and hardened you end up with a big pulpy moldy mass.Anyway Ive got till November to complete the various bits and pieces I want to display..just a matter of waiting with fingers crossed for a positive response...shoganai..

Monday, August 15, 2005


15 August 2005
Its Obon holiday week.When the locals return to their ancestral homes to remember their dead relatives.Theres a huge exodus.Trains,planes and other forms of public transport are crammed to over-capacity.Highway traffic jams extending 30km arent uncommon.
It was the twentieth anniversary Friday of the worlds worst aviation accident involving one aircraft.In 1985 a JAL Boeing lost most of its tail fin and crashed into the mountains of Guma Prefecture.20 years on its still the subject of TV dramas and news coverage of victims families making their annual pilgrimage to the crash site.Much easier recently with the building of a road within 800 metres of the memorial.
520 odd people perished.The playback of the final minutes of the pilots audio as they wrestled with the uncontrollable plane made for harrowing listening even in Japanese.It ended with the metallic voice warning "Pull Up Pull Up" and then a loud hissing noise.Some of those who survived the initial crash at 6.58pm died during the night as rescuers lacked adequate trainning in night flying and hovering their helicopters.Well it was 1985 after all.
I recently read Paul Austers New York Triology.Three longish short stories.Interesting style.Difficult to get into.Difficult to relate to any of the characters or their situations.Not sure if the style of writing was meant to keep you at arms length and dispassionate.I found it hard to warm to.
Also read Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome.A pretty easy read about boating on the canals and rivers of 1920s,1930s England.Not too taxing.The author has a relaxed almost conversational style with plenty of asides and irrelevant tho interesting bits and pieces about such things as old Roman sites and early English history.It made barging and boating seem very leisurely compared with the life portrayed in Young Adam a recent dvd I saw starring Ewan McGregor.McGregors character worked on a barge ,living with a family.It was pretty grim invoving deceit,murder and extra-marital affairs.The photography made all the characters and scenery dull,grey and lifeless.
Speaking of dvds i was impressed with Geoffrey Rush as Peter Sellers in the HBO tv film The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.As well as having a striking physical resembalance to Sellers Rush also had worked out some of his mannerisms.As one review stated Sellers was a first rate mimic and comic but a third rate human being.I recommend this, having for some reason passed over it till now.
I also revisited a personal fav of mine Dinner Rush.No real stars more an ensemble cast effort.One night in a hip New York restaurant.Character driven plots.Diners and staff providing the action.The extras on the dvd add little as such.There is a soundtrack extra which runs for an hour or so with some relaxing bossa nova, south american music.
The movies also got a surprise ending I forgot about .The kitchen scenes are shot like action scenes sometimes slowed right down as you see various cooking arts on display.Evidently the director cut his teeth on music videos and owns several restaurants including the one where the movie was shot.Again well worth a look.
Opps! Conflict of Interest?
At the moment the issue of asbestos and people dying from asbestos related diseases has raised its ugly dusty head in Japan.Despite the dangers of asbestos being known since at least the 1970s little or nothing appears to have been done here either to stop its use or provide help for those who suffer from its impact.
Whatever, last week the head of the Environment panel looking into the question of asbestos has had to resign.News reports state that the head of the panel a professor no less was an adviser to the Japan Asbestos Association,a group of asbestos manufacturers.He decided to step down as the connection would "have a negative impact on the panels image." no kidding prof!!
He even appeared in a promotional video in 1994 "Natural Resource Asbestos That Contributes to Society".I find it hard to believe a so-called intelligent man didnt consider there would be some conflict of interest and should have refused the panel appointment in the first place.

Lets Go to Shopping...More Bad English
Each Monday recently i work at a newly constructed shopping centre.It was flooded with families today.Its a holiday.Its hot.Its summer.Naturally if you are Japanese you head lemming like to your nearest retail outlet.As opposed to the beach.Ocean.Or any other healthy outdoor pursuit.
Anyway there are a couple of examples of bad english i wish to share...
"With safety,relief and the delicious meal please chosen and enjoyed your dish and drinks"
and the other glowing example of how well the english language has penetrated Japanese consciousness...
"Our professionally trained chefs create sweets ready for you to enjoy as well as simple"
If I could only just get a ladder and some paint I'd be much happier....

Monday, August 08, 2005


Monday 8 August 2005
Seems this week I`ve been targetted by pests.Both animal and human.Invaded by a force of 5 cockroaches over the week.Their hard armoured shelled bodies like mini hummers.Obviviously seeking respite from the appalling heat of the last week.The temperature drops to an average 25degrees at night.Humidity remains high.
I`ve developed this lingering summer cold due to constant exposure to the debilitating effects of air-conditioning.Sore throat.Dry eyes.Arid nasal passages.Sweaty ears.
The cockroaches give away their positions and betray their arrival with the soft pitter patter of their feet across my now fading tatami mat flooring.If I`m sleeping I awake bolt upright and swoop down full of vengengance like some wolf on the fold as poem goes.I capture the wee beastie and despatch it forthwith into the toilet or pitch it headlong over the balcony.

If only I could do the same to my human invaders.Equally obnoxious.Numerous and even less welcome.There seems to be an infestation of Mormons in the area recently.The genus I really loathe is the sanctimonious North American variety.Easily spotted.It wears ill fitting dated clothing.Its loud.It usually travels in pairs.Must be for its own protection.It has its own touchy feely vocabulary though I`ve learned not to speak to them beyond my initial and final"You're Mormon sons of Satan arent you?.
I just cant understand with so many domestic problems why they cant go soul saving in America.Doesnt charity begin at home?And why Japan why not Iraq?
I've tried reasoning with them e.g "How can you reconcile the fact that President Bush is a committed and devoted murderer and Christian or vice versa.

But what really annoyed me was the visitation last night by a particularly stupid pair.It wasnt just that they visited on a Sunday.The Lord's Day of Rest.Nor was it their hypocritical peace,love and waterbeds attitude.What really got my blood boiling was their timing.It was the day after the 60th Anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.Completely unaware.Completely stupid.So I battered them with innane questions such as " How come God lets bad things happen to good people?" and "Can you really get to Heaven even if you are a Mormon bigamist ?" before they left.
Best advice...dont open your door to them.

I braved the crowds and saw the Van Gogh In Context exhibition on Friday.Its just opened but for a limited time his Sunflowers painting is on show....once the worlds most expensive piece of canvas and oil.The "Context" part of the show has works by his contemporaries and stuff he was influenced by.Its an attempt to place him,what he influenced and what influenced him.Thus there are some Monets and Signacs paintings as well as a famous Japanese woodblock artist and prints that Van Gogh collected.
One of his Japanese style paintings is on display as well as drawings and sketches for a Paris magazine with a Japanese flavor.Unfortunately,there were no signs or information in English.Not surprising really as I was the only non-native I saw.
It was interesting just sitting and observing people.Some folk would just trot past each frame.Barely give it a glance before moving to the next one.Others took longer.Pondered,took their time to notice the brushstrokes,the patterns and swirls,thickness of paint.Others,less patient,polite,oblivious to others blocked or walked in front of others view.There was the odd cell-phone going off.Choas as the embarrassed owner is swarmed by officious gallery staff and cut down by the glares and tut-tutting of disapproving elders.Affronted that the atmosphere be tainted by such a barbarian thing.
The paintings themselves were quite wonderful.The Sunflower painting for example...the leaves of the middle flower appear almost 3d so thick has the oil paint been applied.The paint has been applied in a circular manner imitating the head of a sunflower.In some of his calmer period paintings you can see the paint has been less thickly used and the patterns themselves appear less violent.
One of my favorites on view was one of an aslyum garden.The sky was a light blue and judging by the absence of violent brushstokes and thick paint must have been completed in one of his more pleasant tranquil times.Evidently theres some co-relation.Whatever,it evoked a peaceful scene and the presence of brighter cheerful colors gave it a less sombre light.
Thank you Robert Hughes...Im no art critic.I know nothing of it.I cant get my head round Cubism be it Rubik or Picasso.I like accessible stuff,not the chocolate box stuff of Rockwell or the drippy works of Pollack.Stuff you can understand nothing abstract.Stuff that lasts.
From one extreme to another.I also enjoyed Dodgeball, the movie now available on DVD.Hardly in the class of Van Gogh.Though they both left an impression on me.
It was good to watch a movie so unpolitically correct.Its been awhile since i've heard the word "muff-diver" in a mainstream movie.Or such lines as "Its like watching a bunch of retards trying to fuck a door -handle".Starring Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller (who must be suffering burn-out or overexposure soon),it was surprisingly funny.I couldnt believe some of the things I was laughing at.Someone getting hit by spanners and wrenches thrown by their coach in practice.
Unsophisticated,but fun.Which made me wonder is one mans Picasso another mans Dodgeball?...

Monday, August 01, 2005


August 1 2005
The humidity,rain and heat of the rainy season have been replaced by the humidity and heat of summer.In addition there are the cicadas.Big cricket like insects.The size of your thumb.Ive been awaken the last few mornings by their urgent metallic rasping.It has the same effect as fingernails being dragged across a blackboard.Or sirens on Stukas.Im instantly alert unable to return to sleep,lying inert bathed in a sweat atop a soaked futon.
Summers not all that bad.As I noted last entry the summer sumo tournament is in July.As well there are numerous firework festivals and smaller local festivals to take your mind off the weather.
Tajimi, where I work had its annual fireworks festival yesterday.As usual the area in front of the train station is given over to various performers and performances during the day.Closer to the river where the fireworks are set off both banks are lined with stalls selling food,drink and other diversions.
Among summer treats you can try choco-bananas;bananas dipped in chocolate,eat soba noddles,partake of grilled eel or corn cobs or even baked octopus balls.
The traditional bowls of shaved iced make a welcome appearance.It comes in an assortment of flavors.My favorite being a thick sickly blue syrup "Blue Lagoon".My least favorite has to be a concoction that involves mixing a couple of spoonfuls of azuki beans (red soya beans) into the shaved ice.
The diversions include trying to capture goldfish with what amounts to a tea strainer.This involves a fair degree of skill as the paper scoop soon gets wet rendering it well nigh impossible to catch anything.Usually the vendors give you a wimpy little goldfish out of sympathy for your pathetic efforts.Insult is added to injury when 1 day later you return home to find said fish floating upside down in the aquarium you bought specially for it.
Anyway the fireworks at Tajimi are by all accounts modest when compared to larger cities and displays.Seems theres some kind of rivalry a Freudian pryomania envy .Whatever, the display lasts for one hour 7.30-8.30pm filling the air with gasps and cheers from admiring locals watching their taxes going up in smoke.
There are the rare accidents associated with such events.A few years ago a number of people were crushed to death after too many people got on a bridge after a display ended.Then theres the occassional mishap with explosives and spontaneous combustion.
The festivals also offer the chance to parade about in your yukata and geta.Yakata are the cheaper,lighter equivalent of a kimono and have in recent years enjoyed a popular resurgence particularly with the younger generation.Teamed with geta-laquered wooden sandals, they are the fashion item of summer.The yukata come in a rainbow of colors and the obi or waist band sets it off stylishly.Cheap imported Chinese fabric and hemp have made them more price friendly.My favorite being a purple and pink get up with a Hello Kitty motif and matching fan protruding at a rakish angle from your obi.Enough already.
Random Notes
Oceans 12...Why?Take the money and run.My God what was I thinking when I rented it?What a travesty..Id read the reviews,should have known better.Not really any plot.The running joke seems to be on the audience.Lots of dead space and scenery changes to mask how dire and threadbare it all is.
Internet Suicide Pacts
Read an interesting article recently about a morbid trend in Japan.Internet suicide pacts.You meet like minded people via websites set up for such purposes.Internet suicides usually die in groups of two,three,or four.The largest group thus far has been seven found last October.

Why the complusion to die in a group? i hear you ask.According to Yukiko Nishihara, a counsellor "the answer has to do with Japanese society and its tendency to organise itself into hierarchical groups.Japanese have weak individual identities and feel more secure losing themselves in and identifying themselves with a group." Yikes was my first reaction when i read this .If this wasnt worrying enough theres also the comment that "consistent with Japanese psychology,the rise of internet suicide has provoked a reaction of helpless panic".
Not only in this area either.One only has to think of the slow reaction after the Tokyo earthquake recently.Earthquake reports were delayed due to outdated computer programs and some officials didnt bother to answer their phones and return to work as required.
One shudders to think of a possible terrorist attack in Tokyo.The loss of life and carnage due to the inefficient buck-passing bureaucracy doesnt bear thinking about....