Thursday, July 31, 2008

Nuke The Fridge

While I've only hinted at it before, I have to admit that I was sorely disappointed with the newest Indiana Jones movie. I wanted so badly to like it but, it just felt wrong. It totally lost the feel of the first 3 movies. It was shot differently; too much Gaussian blur, too much CGI. Worse, not only were the special effects less-than-spectacular, but they were often the entire focus of a scene. Awful. The whole movie seemed forced.

It was like, instead of trying to create something spectacular and original (they only had, what? 11 YEARS??), George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg just made a giant homage to all of their favorite films. And, I don't mean other peoples' films. I mean their favorite films.

"Let's just take some 'Close Encounters', throw in some 'Star Wars', add a dash of 'Always', maybe a little 'Howard the Duck' and BAM! You've got yourself a movie!"

The only films of theirs' that they didn't pay tribute to were the Indiana Jones ones.

And look, I'm an actor and movie geek which means that I've spent way too much time reading old scripts and watching all of those DVD extras that normal people ignore so you can't fool me. I know that some parts of Indy 4 were nothing more than scenes they'd been smart enough to edit out of their earlier work. One scene in particular occurred near the beginning of "Crystal Skull":

After a few minutes of "American Graffiti" (hey, a car race and "Hound Dog". I get it... it's the 50's), there's an unbelievable (and, not in the "awe-inspiring" sense of the word) scene of (Spoiler Alert!) Indiana Jones surviving a nuclear blast... hiding in a refrigerator.

Now, in the original "Back to the Future" script (which, I'm sorry to say, was rather painful), the climactic scene did not revolve around Marty using lightning to power a DeLorean time machine back to 1985.

Actually, it had Marty leaving the "Enchantment Under the Sea" dance to take a road trip with Doc to Nevada where they snuck onto a restricted military base so Marty could hide out in an empty test house (with a TV playing "Howdy Doody", see a pattern here, folks?) before using a nuclear explosion (and a bottle of "Coke", in an act of really blatant product placement) to power his trip back to 1985... in a refrigerator.

Come on! When I first read that, I thought "Thank God they were smart enough to change that".

Cut to 30 years later, George and Steve are brainstorming. George says, "You know what I'd like to see? A low-angle shot of Indy's iconic silhouette in front of a massive, growing mushroom cloud. If only there was a way we could justify that." And Stephen says, "Well, you know... I've got this great scene we cut from a little time travel movie I produced back in the 80's. It involves... a refrigerator."

And yes, OK... visually, that scene was cool. But the setup just made it impossible for me to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy it. Instead, my brain kept shouting "But, he'd be dead! What about radiation? Why are they having a nuclear test now? I mean, didn't they find all of those dead guards? How much did I pay for popcorn?"

The whole movie just got worse from there. The low point, of course, being Shia LeBeouf (which I think is French for "stealing the beef") swinging on vines with monkeys.

So, it is with great pleasure I present to you Nuke The Fridge:

(via Video Jug)

I love that #4 touches on my biggest problem with the very first Superman movie, too. (I was literally talking to somebody about this 2 days ago.) Seriously, they had the entire, rich history of Superman comics as their source material and they had to go and end the very first Superman movie with a cop-out, deus ex machina like Superhero TiVo?? Why even try anymore when you can just keep doing things over?

"You say Lex Luthor shot the president? Why, this looks like a job for... spinning the planet backwards!"
"Oops, I missed 'Friends'. Rewind."
"What that, Lois? You're pregnant? I'll be right back..."

(THIS Is How To End a Movie) UPDATE:

...rumble... (Part II)

Just got back from jogging Green Lake. (Still not sure if I'm ready to swim it.) Kept catching glimpses through the trees of the Blue Angels buzzing the horizon as they were warming up for this weekend's Seafair Air Show. Pretty cool. (Hope the weather holds up.)

I went and watched them take off and land at the Museum of Flight for the final show of Seafair last year. Impressive. I'll try and get the details and, hopefully, some video posted of it tomorrow morning.

Parents and the middle brother will be here for a week from tomorrow. Posting will probably be light while they're here because, well... it is my parents visiting so chances are good I'll be getting home late, tired and slightly drunk.

74 Year Old Japanese Sex Machine

I don't know how I missed this (via Time Magazine):
"Besides his glowing complexion, Shigeo Tokuda looks like any other 74-year-old man in Japan. Despite suffering a heart attack three years ago, the lifelong salaryman now feels healthier, and lives happily with his wife and a daughter in downtown Tokyo. He is, of course, more physically active than most retirees, but that's because he's kept his part-time job — as a porn star."
Apparently, this story has even made its way into the mainstream media. (via Although, I guess I can see why:

"In other news, gas prices have hit record highs thanks to a recession and two wars in the Middle East but, hey America! (jingles keys) Look over here! It's an old Japanese guy having sex for a living! Icky!" (cue Viagra commercial)

Over a thousand years of culture in Japan and all we hear about it over here is wacky game shows and senior citizen porn. (And to think I don't own a TV.)

Two things from the article surprised me (aside from that whole part about a 74 year old being a porn star).

First was that the guy's wife and daughter apparently don't know about it. That's got sitcom written all over it.

The other was this quote:
Japan is repeatedly found to be one of the most sexless societies in the industrialized world.
Most of the people I worked with (myself included, can I get an "amen"?) found it hard not having sex in Japan. (What's that? Oh... hi mom! I, uh... that parenthetical was, uh... you know, hypothetical. I mean, I imagine that's what it would have been like were I, you know, not saving myself for marriage and all. ahem.)

So, it turns out that we weren't particularly attractive or charming, it's just that the Japanese were really, really desperate.

Anyway, here's the Daily Show clip that alerted me to the story...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Epicenter of L.A. earthquake: George Lopez

There was an earthquake in L.A. this morning.

Minutes beforehand, Disney released the full trailer for Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

I won't say they're related but my guess is that God is angry.

(I Hope This Wasn't A Publicity Stunt) UPDATE: Speaking of bad timing, I wonder how well this Disney film will do in Brazil?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Roundtrip Ticket To Japan: $250

Number of airmiles used: 60,000
Length of stay: one month
Time that will have passed since last leaving Japan: 2 hours and 35 minutes short of exactly two years.
Heart rate at time of pressing the "Book Now" button: 140 beats per minute.

Getting back to Japan after way, way too long: Priceless.

books r gr8

Ah, nothing like the irony of reading on the internet about the decline of reading due to reading things on the internet:

Published: July 27, 2008
Is the Internet the enemy of reading, or has it created a new kind of reading, one that society should not discount?
As teenagers’ scores on standardized reading tests have declined or stagnated, some argue that the hours spent prowling the Internet are the enemy of reading — diminishing literacy, wrecking attention spans and destroying a precious common culture that exists only through the reading of books. But others say the Internet has created a new kind of reading, one that schools and society should not discount. The Web inspires a teenager like Nadia, who might otherwise spend most of her leisure time watching television, to read and write.
And yes, I also see the irony of creating a blog (an enemy to reading) to promote my book (which is best consumed by reading). But, you have to give me some credit. When I blog, I try to use complete sentences and proper grammar. It's the same thing with emails and text messages. Not only do I capitalize letters and punctuate sentences but I seem incapable of not double-spacing after a period and I don't think I'll ever be able to bring myself to use an "lol". Heck, I may even close with a "sincerely".

Of course, while all of this would make my former English teachers proud, it doesn't do much to encourage people to reply without fear of getting graded.

But one shouldn't worry. I grade on a curve.

Good-bye, old friend...

Published: July 28, 2008
There was a funeral the other day at the Manhattan offices of book publisher Hachette to mourn the passing of what it called a “dear friend” — the cassette tape.
Whatever'll I do for road trips?

Consistantly, Belatedly Cool

I do have a bone to pick. The following quote from the article in the last post got me thinking:

Despite these efforts, Nadia never became a big reader. Instead, she became obsessed with Japanese anime cartoons on television and comics like “Sailor Moon.” Then, when she was in the sixth grade, the family bought its first computer.
Back in the early 90's - when grunge was king and cassettes were still available at Tower Records - I was quite literally the only guy in my dorm with a computer in his bedroom. (My PC was a glorious Packard Bell with Windows 3.11 for Workgroups. RIP.) People couldn't seem to understand why I needed to own a computer and, as can be expected when people encounter things they don't understand, they mocked me.

Mocked me, I tell you!

I was also one of only a handful of people on campus (perhaps, in the world) with an email address (which I actually had to go the the basement of the science department to sign up for). Back then, I was a nerd. Plain and simple.

Now?  Everyone's got a computer and everyone's online. It's perfectly cool.

In middle school and high school, I used to read comics. Then, I was a nerd. Now, all the cool kids read comics. (And since when did making a movie based on a comic become something the studios actually wanted??)

WHAT is the DEAL with all of the stuff I liked as a kid becoming something people no longer had to be ashamed of??

Well, if past is prologue, then expect to see people getting really into Japan and anal-retentiveness.

You're welcome.

Nike+ Receivers: Disposable No More!

It does seem a bit counter intuitive to follow up a post about the death of the cassette with a post about iPods but this information was much too useful not to share. As you know, I love the Female Spoken Feedback voice Nike+ iPod so it's nice to see that, with a little ingenuity and a few supplies, the product doesn't have to be so disposable.

Replace battery in Nike receiver for under $5
My Nike+ receiver recently died and after looking around the web I found that they wanted $20 to replace it! So instead, contrary to what others on the web seemed to say, I took it apart and found the process very simple and it only took 10-15 min. and a $4 dollar battery.

Sharp knife
Pliers (optional, but handy)
Small philips screwdriver
CR2032 Battery
Electrical tape
Crazy glue
That's SO much better than what I used for my first attempt:

Replace battery in Nike receiver for under $5 [via Lifehacker via Podophile]

Sunday, July 27, 2008

WHEW! That was close...

Look what I found at the supermarket today:

For a second there, I was worried I might have to assemble my crack team of (imaginary) lawyers.

[Cha Dao Tea Company]

Friday, July 25, 2008

Speaking of DeLoreans...

Now all you need is a little plutonium.

[via ThinkGeek :: Stuff for Smart Masses]

(GREAT SCOTT!) UPDATE: They're all sold out.

Women + DeLorean = Hot

Came across this article while researching my book:

Ask Me About My Flux Capacitor - New York Times
Photo Credit: Mark Rabiner for The New York Times
Published: April 6, 2008
THINGS happen when you own a DeLorean, the sports car turned ultimate time machine in the “Back to the Future” films.
“Having a DeLorean is like 5 percent being a rock star,” said Lauren J. Reilly, a bubbly 31-year-old producer at the Deutsch advertising agency who owns a 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 — the only model DeLorean built (and for just two years).
“One time I was down in Philly, and behind me I hear this megaphone from the cops,” she said. “They’re like, ‘Pull over!’ ”Before Ms. Reilly could comprehend her violation, an officer delivered one of the film’s famous quotes over the police car’s loudspeaker: “One point twenty-one gigawatts!” (She also gets a lot of “88 miles per hour!”) The officers watched her car while she and a friend got cheesesteaks.
It's funny but it's true. That car was such a huge hassle but it got everyone's attention. When we finally got to use the DeLorean for the Doc Brown show, my director and I joked that we wouldn't even need a script. (Sadly, what we ended up writing would really put that theory to the test.)

I was only 7 when DeLorean (the car) started being produced and not much older when DeLorean (the man) was arrested. Since cars, drugs and bankruptcy were at the bottom of my list of interests at that age, these events passed without my knowledge.

It wasn't until I was 11 when “Back to the Future” came out that I got my first glimpse of the DMC-12. From that moment on, as far as I knew, that was what a time machine looked like. Aside from in movies, I'd never seen that kind of car anywhere else. To this day, I've seen maybe two that weren't owned by Universal Studios and I don't think I've ever seen one on the highway. That car really does have a mythic quality to it.

There were only 8563 built. One of them was cut in half for the production of "Back to the Future". One sits at Universal Studios in California. One in Florida. One in Japan. And one, I got to drive for a living.

It was like hanging out with a movie star.

[Special thanks to Ken T. for having the foresight to take such a cool picture of the VIN plate.]

C'mon In! The Water's... Ouch!

Divers recover more metal spikes from Green Lake
(via Seattle P.I.)
"A team of divers recovered 41 more metal spikes, some of them with hooked ends, from the bottom of Green Lake early Friday, for a total of more than 80 such jumbo skewers."
Makes me glad I only jog at Green Lake.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thanks For Indulging Me

Hey, I just wanted to thank you for putting up with my last post.

For that, I give you... a Japanese kitten on a laptop.

You've earned it.

I Am A Doughnut

I really don't want to get political on this blog.

I'm serious.

I don't want to debate politics here nor do I want to use this site to tell you who to vote for. In fact, I'd rather we all just chat about my book and traveling and all of the wonderful things in the world. Nothing but good, old-fashioned, self-promotional happy talk.

It's not that I don't care about politics. I do care. More than I should, actually.

In fact, my very first blog was a politically-themed one. I started it in Japan and called it the "Oversea-er". Get it? Because I was "overseeing" thing from "overseas"? Layered, I know. (OK, it was a misspelling.) Anyway, after all of 2 posts, it died a very quiet death. I like to think of it as a mercy killing.

Why didn't it last? 3 reasons. One, I'm lazy. Two, no matter how good my intentions were nor how carefully I picked my words, I couldn't help but feel like anything I wrote would piss off half of the people who read it. Whether I like it or not, politics is just too divisive a topic for someone who hopes to attract a large audience.

Third, if you really want good political insight, I'm probably not your best bet. Honestly, there are tons of other sites out there that do a much better job than I ever could. So, if you're up for a heated political discussion, hop on over there. Or, better yet, take me out for a drink. I'll talk your ear off.

The thing is, I just don't want to talk about it here. Think of it as kind of an unwritten rule. (Ignoring the fact that I just wrote it.)

You don't cuss in church. You don't spit into the wind. You don't pull the mask off that ol' Lone Ranger and you don't discuss politics at Black Coffee and Green Tea. (Ba doot a-doot da dat dee dee da dee dee dee.)


(C'mon, you knew there was a "but" coming.)

The following touches on just too many of the themes of this blog for me to ignore it. (Hey, even a priest gets to say "hell" every now and again.)

So, let me get this out of my system. I'll try to keep it short and relatively preach-free. And I promise we'll be back to our regularly scheduled blogging soon. Here goes...

It's a big world out there. With lots and lots of people. When you're in the U.S., it's easy to forget you're part of larger picture and that the rest of the world really and truly matters.

I'm not saying if it's right or wrong, I'm just saying.

I arrived in Japan one week before the U.S. invaded Iraq. (Despite what you may have heard, I can tell you firsthand that the rest of the world was scratching its collective head at that one.) Over the next 3 1/2 years, I watched as America's reputation overseas went in the tank.

Being overseas, I spent as much time as I could with foreigners. Often, I was their only real access to America. This made things particularly tough because I usually found myself in the awkward position of having to explain things about my home country which I didn't understand or, worse, being asked to justify actions that I not only disagreed with, but felt were unjustifiable.

And, while I strived to be a worthy representative of my country, any small step I made in improving America's image overseas was wiped out by a tsunami of swagger, bad policy and ill-conceived comments coming out of D.C.

It was embarrassing and frustrating as hell.

So, with that in mind, can I just say how incredibly, freakin' awesome it is to have somebody representing the U.S. - even just as a presidential candidate - who not only inspires other countries but actually cares about the other 6,366,540,000(ish) people on the planet?

(via Crooks and Liars )

Obama in Europe: “People of Berlin. People of the world. This is our moment. This is our time.”

Senator Obama delivered a soaring speech today in Berlin before an estimated crowd of over 100,000 in which he called for a renewed trans-Atlantic — indeed, trans-global — alliance to fight the common threats we all face. Appealing the ideals America was founded on and has tried to promote since it’s inception, Senator Obama stated that whether it’s terrorism and global warming, or genocide and disease, there is no problem we cannot overcome nor enemy we cannot defeat when we are united in common purpose.
If you get the chance, click through and check out some of his speech.

It thrills me to see him projecting the very image of America that I worked so hard to project. He's talking to people with respect, like an adult. Treating others the way he'd like to be treated. (What a great rule! Why, it's almost... golden.) It's hard to not feel like I'm watching history in the making with this guy. It's pretty cool.

And it's damn nice to feel proud again.

There have been a lot of comparisons between this visit to Berlin and another one years ago. I will agree that the two speeches do have one theme in common.

That, no matter how different we are, we are all the same. We are all one.

We are all doughnuts.

70% how you look, 20% how you sound, 10% what you say.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Great Day For Blogging

It was cloudy and I drank too much coffee.

Anyway, aside from knocking out a handful of new posts, I finally got around to finishing my post on what this blog is about.

Also, I made some changes to the layout today. Originally, I had all of my tags in a list. Like so:

But the list was getting pretty long so, as you can see, I've changed it into a "Label Cloud". The bigger the word, the more posts in that topic. The whole "cloud" takes up less space and is pretty cool looking.

At least I think so. What do you prefer? Am I compromising functionality? (Am I talking to myself?)

There's a lot more I'd like to put in the sidebar but it's already rather lengthy. Eventually, I'll try and add a third column to help balance the blog out a bit but, well... don't pressure me.

There're only so many cloudy days.

[Special thanks to phydeaux3 for the code.]

Four Sweater Vests!

It's a good thing they've made the "Dr. Horrible" episodes I mentioned the other day available on iTunes before they pulled them off the site. I've consistently had at least one of four songs from the show stuck in my head the past few days now.

As for why they pulled the videos, it's all part of an effort by Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy and Firefly) to change how TV is distributed.  I read an interview with him recently and it reminded me of what I've previously said about how TV is going to be presented.

Anyway, if you liked Dr. Horrible enough the first time you saw it, or if you're dying to know just what the hell I'm talking about, spend the 4 bucks for the "Season Pass" and get all 3 episodes. Think of it as supporting... the future.

Teaser from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog on Vimeo.

And speaking of the future of media, check out what Stephen King's been working on:


I Want That Hat

August 4th is Salute to Japanese Baseball Night at Safeco Field. The first 20,000 people get one of these:

A Mariners cap... written in Japanese. Almost makes me want to pretend I follow sports!

Maybe I can convince my parents to go during their visit that week. (Because what I really need is more clothing with Japanese writing on it.)

[Japanese baseball cap-tip to Flex]

Release The Spiders!

Just letting Technorati know I exist.

Here's my profile.

(Feeling Small) Update:
My current ranking... 4,510,194.


Snooty Turns 60

Wow, this is a blast from the past. (via
A manatee milestone: Snooty turning 60 Snooty, the mascot of Manatee County, will soon mark his sixth decade.

I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Florida so it was inevitable that at least one school trip a year was dedicated to seeing Snooty. During one particular visit, I actually got the chance to feed Snooty. If I remember correctly, I held the piece of lettuce over the water and waited as the giant shadow of a legless cow made its way across the pool towards me. The first thing to break the water was his beak which, thanks to his whiskers and two huge, winking nostrils, resembled a hairy, gray bowling ball missing a hole. His mouth then, kind of... unfolded in way that made me picture him as a giant, chubby plush toy version of the alien from Predator. It was amazing. That marvel lasted until Snooty's breath hit me. I must have blocked the rest out. Or fainted. Either way, I'm guessing that's why there aren't many manatees in captivity. Anyway, it's cool to see such a fun part of my childhood make the national news. Snooty was even on last night's Oddball... 


Happy Birthday, Snooty! (And You Thought His Breath Was Bad) Update: "Best Line" goes to The Herald-Tribune when explaining why Snooty can't have cake:

Given to titanic flatulence in the best of circumstances, all-vegetarian, all-natural, nonfat Snooty would likely not react well to refined sugar and eggs.
Heh-heh. "Titanic flatulence".

Eel Merchants Fear Sales Slide

On what is traditionally one of their busiest days of the year, eel sellers fear their profits are slipping away amid soaring prices and damaged public confidence in their product.

Eels, which are said to ward off the effects of summer heat, are eaten from late July to early August as part of a tradition called Doyo no Ushi no Hi (literally, mid-summer Day of the Ox).
They're blaming it on high prices and mislabeling.

Um, yeah... that, and they're eels.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Say What You Mean (Or: Why I, Like, SO Don't Like "Like". Like, You Know?)

So, like, I was, like, walking around the UW campus yesterday, right? And there was, like, this girl who was all like using the word "like" like every third word. She was all like "he was like this" and "they were all like that". Like, at one point, she actually said, "I, like, think he like likes her". I tried to, like, keep track of, like, all the times she, like, said "like", but I, like, totally ran out of fingers.

It was, like, annoying.

UPDATE: Love it...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Two Degrees of Separation From Batman (Yes... Batman)

Went and saw The Dark Knight today. Despite nearly being too long, it was an excellent comic book movie. Full of memorable scenes, a strong story and a great performance by Heath Ledger. (Any reservations I'd had about him having been miscast were quickly dispelled.)

But the highlight for me was in the credits where, pretty much smack in the middle of the list of stuntmen was the name of my friend, former co-worker and my very first Doc Brown counterpart, Chris Nolte.

Here's a picture of us from my first week in Japan:

Like looking in a mirror.

Notice how the only thing we have in common is how much neither of us look like Christopher Lloyd.

Chris was also in the first Batman film so I was thrilled to see he'd made it back on the set for the second one. There are some cool pictures of his experience (and all of his hairstyles) on his MySpace page.

Congratulations, Chris!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Food Pyramid Can Kiss My Ass

After writing my last post, I googled "corn vegetable" and the first thing that came up was this article:
Corn: Vegetable, Fruit or Grain?

Lawmakers waded into the treacherous terrain of botany last week.

This year, Senator Michael F. Nozzolio, an upstate Republican, introduced legislation that would make sweet corn the state vegetable. (The bill originated as a class project by students at the Dana L. West High School in Port Byron, N.Y.)

But when the bill came up for debate in the Senate last Tuesday, it quickly earned the disapproval of Senator Martin Connor, a Brooklyn Democrat.

“As everyone knows, corn is a grain,” he said. “And I would propose that we make sweet corn the New York State official grain.”


Technically, Mr. Connor is correct, said Marvin P. Pritts, chairman of the department of horticulture at Cornell University.

“The criteria is whether it comes from the reproductive part of a plant or the vegetative part of the plant,” Dr. Pritts said. “If it comes from the reproductive part of the plant, it’s a fruit. If it comes from the vegetative part of the plant, it’s a vegetable.”

Botanically speaking, corn is a caryopsis, or dry fruit — popularly known as a grain.

Dr. Pritts allowed that corn, like a tomato, is eaten like a vegetable, “so to a normal, everyday person, it’s a vegetable.”
Unless, of course, you're Japanese. (Or a Brooklyn Democrat.)

Surprising to me, this whole corn debate seems to be pretty common. The interweb is full of threads about this very topic. (I thought the best explanation I found was "If corn is eaten while the kernels are soft, it is considered a vegetable. When the kernel is dried it is considered a grain." That seems to be confirmed here.)

Oh, and people who say stuff like "corn's a grain. End of story", I say "don't be a prick. Corn's in the produce department".

Also, once again, let me refer you to the food pyramid...

[UPDATE: For the record, I can now understand your skepticism of the Food Pyramid since, according to "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy", it's just plain wrong and, according to "The Omnivore's Dilemma", it's all part of a U.S. Government plot to sell you - you guessed it - more corn.]

But, I will admit, the more you look into food classifications, the more things start to get a little fuzzy.

OK yeah, I understand that potatoes ARE vegetables, but they're like the red-headed step-child of 'em.

And yes, tomatoes are fruits.

And fine, broccoli is a flower. (With mayo.)

So, to cut through the B.S. and to help make your life simpler, I say "screw the Food Pyramid"! Here are my own, easy-to-follow, food definitions and classifications:

Group 1 - MEAT STUFF
Meat: former animal
Poultry: former feathered, flappy animal
Seafood: former swimmy animal

Group 2 - CARB STUFF
Bread: stuff that's, uh... bread. An important part of a balanced sandwich.
Starch: Potatoes and rice. The white portion of a meal.

Vegetable: a plant acting as a side dish with meat and a starch.
Fruit: something that could be conceivably be cut up and put into cereal. (Strawberries, yes. Bananas, yes. Tomatoes, ew.)

Milk - made from a drink that comes out of cows. (Also moms and a handful of other animals but, dude, gross.)

You're welcome.

Corn = Vegetable?

I recently had an interesting and surprisingly frustrating "debate" with my Japanese tutor, Yuka. Not since I argued with Australians over the pronunciations of "oregano", "aluminum" and "Adidas" have I felt such frustration.

Conversations like the one we had are destined to end poorly because, when you've spent your entire life being told one thing, it's hard not to take it personally when someone says otherwise. And, since there's no way to be right, you just keep repeating your point with increasing emphasis and volume...


Twenty minutes later, nothing's been accomplished and you've just ruined a friendship and a perfectly good Italian dinner.

Anyway, Yuka and I were chatting during a Japanese lesson at a coffee shop the other day when I mentioned Japanese mayonnaise.  For the record, Japanese mayonnaise is - hands down - the best on the planet. (Particularly, Kewpie brand.)

Our conversation reminded me of another one I'd had with my Japanese girlfriend my first year in Japan. It went something like this:

Me: I miss vegetables! Real vegetables. There are no good vegetables in Japan.
Her: Hai.
Me: You know what I want? Broccoli.
Her: Hai?
Me: Yeah. Fresh, green broccoli.
Her: Mmm.
Me: First, I'd get me a bunch of broccoli...
Her: Brokkori, hai.
Me: Then chop it up...
Her: Choppu, yes.
Me: Then, steam it...
Her: Steamu, yes!
Me: Pile it on a big ol' plate!
Her: Then, mayonnaise!
Me: Yeah! Wait... WHAT?
Her: Mayonnaise!
Me: Ew, no.
Her: Mmm... mayonnaise...

I thought this was hilarious because the last thing steamed broccoli made me think of was mayonnaise. But that's Japan for you.  So, I went to share this story with Yuka and only got as far as the part about Japan not having any good vegetables when she interrupted.

"There are lots of vegetables in Japan."

OK, yeah... I was making a generalization. There are vegetables in Japan. Why, occasionally, along with the main course, there'll be a nice, small side of pickled spinach sprinkled with sesame seeds (all of which could easily be mistaken for something that hadn't rinsed off the plate during washing). And, I'm sorry, but a pile of shredded radish is not a salad.  But Yuka kept insisting.

"There are lots of vegetables in Japan."

This was starting to upset me.  Here was someone who is currently my only local source on Japanese culture telling me something that contradicts my personal experiences in Japan.  It would be like Columbus confiding with his navigator, "Man, I can't believe there are people who still think the earth is flat" and his trusty pal would be all like, "Yeah, I know, right? Especially since everybody with half a brain knows it's triangle.  I mean, duh."

Besides, I ate in Japan. A LOT. I know food.

But I didn't want to argue with Yuka so I conceded, "Well, you CAN get some frozen vegetables like peas and corn."
She laughed, "Corn not a vegetable."
"Yeah. Wait... WHAT?"

So now we were debating the vegetablity of corn.

"Corn is a grain, Matto-san!"
"It's in the vegetable section!"
"It's still a grain!"
"Never mind..."

Geez, I can't imagine why I would think corn is a vegetable...
See?? "Vegetable Group!" I'm not making this crap up!
And look at the food pyramid!

That, my friends, is a corn cob in the "VEGETABLE Group".

Why, even the funky new pyramid covered in stairs and large-headed children has it!

Corn! Right there! Climbing up the green "VEGETABLES" stripe!!

After a few minutes of arguing, I told her I thought that the following meal - while far from being the healthiest - could be considered a healthy and relatively balanced one: grilled chicken breast, side of rice and a side of corn. Her reaction to this would have been appropriate had I said "a bowl of partially-hydrogenated bacon grease topped with Oreos and deep-fried salt-water taffy".

"EHHHH?? What?? Oh no, Matto-san!! No, no, no..." She laid her head on the table in embarrassment.

If I hadn't been on the defensive before, I was now.  And I was getting concerned.  I'd always had assumed that was a healthy meal!  Was she right? Have I been mistakenly eating poorly for years?

When I left for Japan in early-2003, the Atkins Diet was getting popular. (Dr. Atkins. British guy who believed that meat was good, carbs were bad. Bacon, OK. Bread, not so much. Died of a heart attack.) So it amazed me to find that, in Japan, all anybody seemed to eat was carbs. I mean rice with everything. And, remember, this is the same country where you can buy a "Spaghetti and Corn Sandwich"!

Or a pizza like this:

Yes, those are sausage rolls in the crust.

And on the cheese rolls?  Maple syrup.

Yet I hardly ever saw a fat person in Japan! If too many carbs were bad, Japan didn't get the memo.

Based on those observations, I came to the following conclusion:
  • Americans had an abundant variety of food and knew what was best to eat. We just choose not to.
  • The Japanese - who were also fully-aware what was healthy (and that corn was a vegetable, dammit) - were healthy despite a diet seriously affected by location and lack of space.
Therefore, I assumed that Japanese people were skinny because of smaller portions, less focus on meat and a healthier, more active lifestyle.  Yet the more Yuka and I talked about the concept of a Japanese meal, the more we were in disagreement.

The disagreement started to spread into other areas.

I'd say something like, "Japanese people are so active."
"No, Japanese people are lazy," she'd counter.
"But, Japanese people walk a lot," I'd elaborate.
"No, they don't."
"Yeah they do! To work and stuff."
"No, they take the train."
"Ah-ha! BUT they DO have to walk to and from the stations."
"No, they take scooters."
"What?? I've never seen a scooter in Japan!"
"What?? Everyone has scooter in Japan!"
"Maybe where you were from. Where did you live?"
"Near Osaka."
"That's where I lived!"

Even worse, while she wasn't being mean, every thing she said was done in a sympathetic tone that came across as, "Oh, you poor misguided foreigner. How little you really know..."

I started to wonder if she was just disagreeing with me on purpose but, then it hit me: while I had done so much in Japan, I was still severely limited in what I could do. My entire perspective was from the viewpoint of someone who could never, ever blend in; someone who wasn't raised in Japan and didn't grow up eating dinner with a family. And, despite my active pursuit of a Japanese lifestyle, it seems I had barely even scratched the surface.

And I'm supposed to be writing a book about this country??

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Behold! The power... of TEA!

Japanese woman overpowers thief with tea and sympathy:
A Japanese woman and her six-month-old baby escaped unhurt from a knife-wielding thief this week after the mother calmed him down with a cup of tea and a chat.
If that's not Japanese, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Perhaps I'm Not So Crap After All

(Sorry, Ira.)

First Postcard of the Week, now this!

I just got home from an evening at the bookstore to find that Laurel Moorhead from Everywhere Magazine referenced one of my photos on the magazine's blog. A good sign! Here's what she wrote:
...and Matt Herold's And More Food! where he snapped a vendor cooking up some tomorokoshi (grilled corn soaked in soy sauce) in Japan, looks delish!
Here's the picture:

If you haven't already, check out their site or pick up a copy. It's a great magazine. (And I'm not saying that because they actually acknowledge me.)

Still... fighting... urge... to... build... up... hope...

NPR's Ira Glass Says I'm Crap

But that's perfectly normal. (At least I have really good taste.)

So much for my post about tortillas.

In all sincerity, that video is a great explanation for why I started blogging. Aside from my missing having an audience, I knew I needed deadlines and an excuse to write a lot. Blogging has really helped with that.

So, if you, too, would like to help me get past my crappyness, just keep checking in. The more you expect from me, the harder I'll work. I'll try not to let you down.

I'm fierce. I'm a warrior.

(And heart to heart, I'll win. If I survive.)

Ira Glass on Storytelling #3 [via Lifehacker]

Monday, July 7, 2008

What It's All About

So, now that I've been blogging for a few months, I've noticed that my posts seem to be falling into one of a handful of topics. So, to give you a better idea of what this site will probably be about, here's a list:

1. Japan - After 3 1/2 years of living and working in the Land of the Rising Sun, I've got tons of stories about my time there. Aside from performing at Universal Studios Japan as Doc Brown (and a handful of other characters I look nothing like), I also traveled extensively, visited all four of the main islands, was on TV and in magazines, was stalked by schoolgirls, and even had a sandwich named after me.

On top of sharing some of these stories with you, I also plan on writing about other Japanese-related things that interest me: current events, pop culture and the big ball of confusion that is the Japanese language.

[Note to potential, future agents and/or editors of my book: First of all, has anyone told you how nice you look today? Well, you really do. Second, don't worry. While I'll be writing about my experiences in Japan, I won't be giving too much of my book away. Trust me, I've got a lot of stuff to write about.]

[Tags: Japan Stuff, USJ]

2. Writing about Japan - This is different from Topic #1 in that the focus is more on the "writing" part than the "Japan" part. Sort of a chronicling of the chronicling of my time in Japan, if you will.

Join me in panic as I try to figure out how to fill up a book.

The good news is that I brought back with me 6 boxes of notes, 12 journals, 30+ gigabytes of pictures, hundreds of voice recordings and every single email from that period of time so I've got lots of stuff to choose from.

[Tags: Articles, Publishing, Writing]

3. Getting organized - The bad news is that I brought back 6 boxes of notes, 12 journals, 30+ gigabytes of pictures, hundreds of voice recordings and every single email from that period of time so I've got way more crap sources of valuable information than I care to go through.

Alas, a big part of my life right now is trying to get all of that stuff organized, distilled and eventually published. It's going to be a lot of work and, any tips or tricks I learn (or can be taught) along the way, I will share with you, my dear hypothetical reader.

[Tags: Productivity, GTD]

4. Back to the Future - One of the benefits of being hired to play Doc Brown for a living was that it was basically my job to have to watch the Greatest Movie Trilogy Ever, repeatedly. This also meant I was being paid to memorize lines (in English and Japanese) and watch all those DVD extras that nobody pays attention to.

I even got to teach myself stick shift on a DeLorean Time Machine. And not a "time machine" that some “Back to the Future” fanatic sacrificed his time, energy and any chances at a stable relationship to recreate, no. But an actual DeLorean Time Machine, built by the very movie studio that made the movies. And, just like the one in the movies, it had a Mr. Fusion, a flux capacitor and a tendency to break down at the worst possible times.

But the best part of all this was that it never got old. No matter how may times I've seen those movies, I still watch them for pleasure and I still get a thrill every time I hear Alan Silvestri's score. I may not be a "Back to the Future" expert, but I'm awfully close. And I'll always be a fan. Hopefully this blog can be a meeting place for other fans as well as your inner-geek.

[Tags: Back to the Future, Doc Brown, USJ]

5. Distractions
- A big part of being a writer is, well... not writing. I'll share with you some of the better things I've come across when I should have been working.

[Tags: Distractions, Observations, Things I Like]

Living in Seattle
- The Emerald City has been a great ally in helping me overcome my reverse-culture shock and ease back into American society. Located halfway between my home state of Florida and my adopted home of Japan, Seattle's been a great transitional place between East and West. A place where I can get my black coffee and my green tea.

In an effort to keep things from getting stale and to keep my writing fresh, I'm trying to treat my time here like travel and, along the way, I'll share with you any noteworthy experiences I have in this great city.

It's Metronatural!

[Tags: Around Seattle]

- Everything I do is so I can travel again.
I love it.

[Tags: Travel]

8. Photography - My second love. I feel naked without a camera slung over my shoulder and I feel like I'm missing out when I can't record what I'm seeing. Not only do I pay more attention when I keep framing things through a viewfinder but I really do enjoy something more when I think about how great it will be to share the pictures I'm taking with others.

Consider this the sharing and you, the others.

[Tags: Pictures, Photography]

9. Mass Media - I suppose this could fall under distractions but, it seems to be forming a category of its own. I graduated with a degree in Mass Communications so I've taken classes in all of the major forms of media. This gave me a well-rounded, broad prospective without ever teaching me anything specific enough to get me hired anywhere. (Course, it would've helped if I'd actually applied somewhere.) Plus, I've worked both in front of and behind the camera so, hopefully, I've got an interesting perspective. I'm highly critical of movies and television but that's because I love them so much.

[Tags: Music, TV, Movies]

Shameless self-promotion

Well, at least I'm honest, right?

Actually, as I've mentioned before, this site is a chance for me to get some writing out and, if I'm lucky, build an audience and refine my writing style. I hope you'll find something you enjoy among these pages.

Even better if it makes you laugh.

You maniacs! You blew it up!

Yes, as you can see from the pictures I posted the other day, I spent Fourth of July on the Planet of the Apes.

OK. Actually, it was a giant, inflatable Statue of Liberty head.


Take your stinking paws off of my bottle rocket, you damn, dirty ape.

(Special thanks to Flex for his Photoshopping prowess.)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July

July 4th Fireworks from West Seattle, 2007

Slept until noon today. Now that's a holiday.

Time to grill some meat.

Decided at the last minute to bike up to Gas Works Park to catch the fireworks tonight. Didn't have a chance to get a great spot but still got some decent pictures. Enjoy!