Monday, October 29, 2007

Foreign Artists Exhibition 2007

As noted in my last post the Foreign Artists Exhibition in Nagoya has provided a welcome distraction from "the dark clouds" of my current employment situation.In fact being told "to wait at home and stand by" until next Monday enables me to attend more frequently.
The exhibition opens on Tuesday October 30th and ends November 4th.It runs 10am-7pm each day and 10am-5pm on the 4th.As usual it will be held in on the fourth floor of the Nagoya International Centre.

My contribution this year is again based on paper mache.The three cigarette packets are constructed from a chicken wire frame over which paper mache has been layered and built up.
Cigarettes and smoking are still very prevalent in Japan.My next door neigbour is a hard smoking salaryman.Banging shut his balcony door loudly each time he steps out on to his balcony like clockwork at 11pm and 1 am each night and again at 7am each morning clouds of smoke drift into my apartment.Paying no heed to the weather and lacking any consideration, his selfish anti-social behaviour provided the motivation to create this years exhibits.
The packets are designed to be attractive.Many of them are colourful. The colour "white" features prominently along with alluring names like "Dove" and "Peace" to entice people(particularly it seems an increasing number of younger women) to partake in this habit.
The picture shows one of my friends who helped me complete the exhibit and set it up.Thanks again Peter..

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Flash...The Rabbit Bites The Dust

"As a manager my heart is torn by grief about the fact that everyones salaries have been delayed and you are all working right up to the edge of this situation".
(Text from one of the faxes from the former CEO Nova Group).

So I wake up late this morning after a stressful,surreal week at work to a rainy Friday 26 October 2007.An email on my cellphone alerts me to the fact my company has closed its doors.In a late Thursday night meeting the former President was reportedly replaced and the company filed for bankruptcy and protection from creditors under the Corporate Rehabilitation Law.
An estimated 43.9 billion yen in debts.
Branches closed indefinitely.The government appointed receiver spoke of a month or so trying to find a new sponsor.A month.Another month without a salary payment.Trying to juggle finances.Just how long can one survive on a diet of beansprouts?

A visit to Hello Work yes Hello Work is the local Employment Agency yielded little joy either.It could take up to a month for your Unemployment Insurance claim to be processed providing you can get the relevant information from head office in Osaka.
As for jobs,these were very thin on the ground and again one would wait a month before the usual salary payment.Plus one has to factor in the added competition of co-workers also vying for the available positions.
So all in all not a good day.The only thing keeping me sane is the start of the Foreign Artists Exhibition later next week.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Jacket with Attitude

Im often amazed by the number of clothes I see bearing various obscenities,four letter words and objectionable language.The jacket above isnt the worst Ive seen but its easily one of the more eyecatching.Im still wondering why it was created and who would buy it.Obvivously theres a market for such apparel as I found it in a used clothing store.The price tag stated 18,000yen so heavens know what it cost brand new.

Autumn Japlish

Another example of Japlish seen in one of the Osu Kannon shopping malls recently.It reads "We reply the goods you want".

Osu Kannon Street Performers Festival

Over the last weekend Osu Kannon hosted its annual Street Performers Festival.About 40 odd groups and individual street performers and artists showed off their talents in various parts of Osu on Saturday and Sunday.Traditional drum teams,dance groups,jugglers,pantomime and mime artists went through their paces before the shopping masses.
As well as the traditional buskers below,more modern fare such as the koala castle above caters for younger children.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Flash...Flying Pigs

Well Friday 19th October has almost gone.Payday minus four.Still no sign of the salary that was delayed from Monday 15th.And this despite the fact that the fax sent on Monday stated "Instructors are now scheduled to be paid on Friday October 19th.

Apparently it will now magically appear on October 31st.
Trick or treat?Probably the latter.I'm not holding out much hope of getting it.

As for the photo above the pigs first appeared in the Foreign Artists Exhibition 2005.Given my current employment situation I felt it time to dust them off and hang them up at work.Seemed appropriate.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Caramel KitKats

Another addition to the Limited Edition KitKat range.Obvivously marketed for the upcoming Halloween season it comes in an orange wrapper adorned with a pumpkin.As well as having a carmel flavour theres a definite coconut taste evident as well.

I deeply regret to inform..
As predicted on Friday a fax arrived later that Friday after work (conveniently enough) informing instructors that salaries wont be paid on Monday October 15th.
To quote from the fax"Instructors are now scheduled to be paid on Friday October 19th".
Im not holding my breath.Speculation suggests that pay day may be further postponed until October 25th.My thoughts are with the new instructors still to get their first pay after six weeks and the Japanese staff still waiting for their pay and summer bonuses.
So much for the dark clouds being cast aside...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Flash...Paper Cuts

I'm due to be paid on Monday.Possibly.Or there may be a late fax asking for our forebearance.Again.Possibly.However there may be no fax and my salary will magically appear in my bank account.Possibly not.
There may be no fax and no salary.Possibly yes.
Of course the signs had been there for a long time.Too rapid growth.A move away from locations near railway stations to more suburban expensively rented space in shopping malls.The adoption of a hastily put together cut and paste error ridden textbook series that has plagiarised and pillaged other textbooks.
The cutting back of office budgets leading to a shortage of basic stationery items such as whiteboard markers and photocopying paper to the point where both office staff and instructors regularly pay for supplies out of their own pockets to cover the shortfall.
Ive stopped trying to work out the machinations of big business,share splits and warrants.
Ive stopped reading the sites that pour forth bitter invective,scorn and idle baseless speculation.
Ive stopped trying to count the number of people affected by the companys imminent demise.Instructors,students and staff.Foreigners and locals.
Ive stopped worrying about the lack of communication and unprofessionalism.
Ive stopped taking people at their word.
Ive stopped clipping newspaper articles featuring more dismal company news.
Ive stopped thinking its cool watching and participating in what could be the last months of my current position.
Ive started to look for another job.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Anko KitKats

Another Limited Edition seasonal KitKat offering graced the shelves this week.Anko flavoured KitKats.
Anko is red azuki bean paste.Azuki beans grown throughout Asia are small red beans though white,black and other varieties exist.
To make anko azuki beans are boiled,mashed and sweetened with sugar or honey.There are apparently two types of anko.The first is a smooth paste in which the beans are mashed and strained using cheesecloth or similiar material.Alternatively a sieve can also be used.Straining or sieving removes the husks and broken bits of beans from the paste giving it a regular consistent texture.
The second type of anko paste is unstrained so retains the broken bean bits and husks giving it a rougher,irregular texture.
In Japanese a number of terms are used for red bean paste including an,anko and ogura.
Locally,ogura toast which is red bean paste on buttered toast is a well known and popular item on Nagoyan kissatens(coffee shops) breakfast menus.
As for the anko kitkats above they have a subtle sweet taste and make an interesting conversation starter.

Bretagne Caramel Walnut Ice Cream

I recently sampled this offering from Dean and Deluca`s Super Premium Ice Cream range.It has a sweet caramel toffee taste.Embedded in the thick,smooth ice cream are pieces of walnut which made for an interesting mix of textures and tastes.
The only thing that puts me off eating it more often is the price. At 280 yen it really can be classed as a treat and luxury item for me.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Friday Flash..Noisette Chocolat

Noisette ice cream? Curious name.Given my carnivorous upbringing in New Zealand Ive always associated noisettes with meat such as lamb.Delicate small round boneless slices of baby sheep with a garnish of rosemary or a sprig of fresh mint atop.
A quick google suggests that as well as being a portion of meat noisette can also refer to either 1...something made from hazelnuts such as beurre noisette or hazelnut butter or 2.a chocolate made from hazelnuts.
Obviously this latest seasonal offering from Haagen Daz is chocolate hazelnut flavoured ice cream.Its very light and seems to melt faster than say the classic chocolate which is of a thicker consistency and heavier taste.
Its ok as far as flavors go but I wouldnt go out of my way to hunt another tub down during the limited time its available.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Book Review...Espedair Street

Espedair Street.Iain Banks.Abacus 1990.249pages.

Needing a diversion from work I noticed a battered paperback on my bookshelf.
Espedair Street kept me entertained over the last week as I read the account of the main characters rise and fall as a member of a rock group.
For me,what sets Banks apart from other writers such as Elton or Hornby is the depth of his characters and descriptive powers.Even minor characters are memorable such as a beer-swilling,curry eating dog.Somehow they seem more rounded and realistic.
"My eyes bulged,my nose was huge and hooked and my hair was long and thin and slick with its own grease."pg24.
Alternate chapters flash back and forth chronicling his early life and his later success.Theres a nice contrast built up between his deprived childhood and the excesses of his musical career.
Banks also uses the main character to reflect on the relationship between fans and their idols.He also makes observations about what motivates rock stars and the sddictive effect of touring and playing live.
All in all,a welcome distraction from the hot weather,work,the recent upheavals in Japanese politics and the upsetting story about the recent death of a young sumo wrestler.