Friday, February 27, 2009

Why the Japanese Hate the iPhone

"Besides cultural opposition, Japanese citizens possess high, complex standards when it comes to cellphones. The country is famous for being ahead of its time when it comes to technology, and the iPhone just doesn't cut it. For example, Japanese handset users are extremely into video and photos — and the iPhone has neither a video camera nor multimedia text messaging. And a highlight feature many in Japan enjoy on their handset is a TV tuner, according to Kuittinen."
Japanese phones have forever ruined me on any American phones. Yes, even the iPhone.

And this doesn't help.

UPDATE: OK, Nobuyuki Hayashi (who was quoted in the article) has clarified his view of how the iPhone is doing in Japan. Turns out they like it after all.

And, who am I kidding, I bought an iPhone.

And I love it.

Anyway, total hypocrite.

A finger-swiping, 3G connected hypocrite.

UPDATE II: "72% of the Japan smartphone market"?? Yeah, we take it all back.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Happy 1st Birthday, BC & GT!

On a dreary, gray afternoon exactly a year ago today, I did my very first post here. (Has it really been a year already??) See this blog's rather unspectacular start here.

In honor of today, I went back and checked out some of my old posts. Here are a few (ordered chronologically) that had the unique combination of being predominantly original content and not entirely sucking:
And of course, there's always my historic live blogging of the 53rd anniversary of Marty going back to the future (starting here).

Speaking of anniversaries, another interesting thing about today's date that I don't think I realized when I first created this blog is that it's also the anniversary of my last day in the U.S. before heading to Japan back in 2003. That's right, tomorrow will be the 6th anniversary of my flight to Japan to work at USJ. Crazy.

Anyway, I've been so caught up will putting my book proposal together that I haven't been able to put a lot of time into the blog the past week or so. Polishing up some sample chapters and making an outline is taking longer than I thought it would. But, since I've been reviewing a lot of the stuff I wrote about my first few weeks in Japan, I may post some of the more moderately humorous anecdotal stories onto this blog over the next few days to mark the anniversary of their occurrence.

Stay tuned! And thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hoping We're Not Related

It's rare to find somebody who spells his or her last name the same way as I do.

Rarer still is when a person who shares my last name gets on the news because her pet chimpanzee chewed somebody's face off.

Sandra Herold, Chimp Owner, Interviewed About Attack:
"Sandra Herold, owner of Travis the chimp, the chimpanzee who was killed by police after mauling a woman and nearly killing her, is speaking out about the horrific attack. NBC interviewed Herold, where she described trying to save her friend by stabbing the 200-pound animal, who Herold thought of as her son, with a butcher knife."
Awful news. I hope the woman who was attacked can make as full of a recovery as possible.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Japan's Economy Shrinks


Japan's economy shrinks 12.7% annualized in third fiscal-quarter - MarketWatch:
"Japan's economy contracted at its sharpest pace since 1974 in its fiscal third quarter, raising the prospect the Bank of Japan may unveil additional stimulus measures this week to combat a darkening economic outlook in the world's second-biggest economy."
Since 1974. And this is after their whole "lost decade" in the 90s. Scary stuff.

Course, it doesn't help having this guy as your Finance Minister:

(That was fast) UPDATE:

He resigned.
"Japan's finance minister resigned on Tuesday after being forced to deny he was drunk at a G7 news conference, but the move may be too late to save unpopular Prime Minister Taro Aso or the long-ruling party from voters' wrath."
That's one thing I'll give the Japanese, they sure know how to resign.

Monday, February 16, 2009

10 Best Budget Tips for Traveling in Japan

Some good tips from Fodor's Travel Guides:
"Even in these difficult economic times, far-away destinations are not out of reach. We were curious to hear what our community might say about frugal travel to Japan, a place that is as full of fascinating sights and sounds as it is expensive. Here is a collection of just a few of the many tips shared during the conversation, from visiting an out-of-the-way island in the Inland Sea to deciphering the pastry labels on convenience store breakfasts."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Twitter: Disrobing, 140 Characters At A Time

Good to see I'm not the only one.

Steven Levy on the Burden of Twitter:
"Guilty. I feel guilty that I have a blog and haven't contributed to it for seven months. Guilty that all my pals on Facebook post cool pictures, while the last shots I uploaded were of Fourth of July fireworks—from 2007. Guilty that I haven't Dugg anything since, well, ever.

It's not that I don't like social networking—I adore it. I love the way it transforms my ragged circle of contacts and acquaintances into something approaching a community. Every site becomes a personalized small town where strangers don't stay that way for long. I'm fascinated by the quirks and preferences my 'friends' reveal through comments, status reports, and alerts.

That's where my guilt comes in. Because of time constraints and just plain reticence, I worry that I'm snatching morsels from the information food bank without making any donations. Instead of healthy, reciprocal participation, I'm flirting with parasitic voyeurism.

So, driven by guilt, I try to pitch in. I post Facebook status reports, send iPhone snapshots to Flickr, link my Netflix queue with FriendFeed. But as my participation increases, I invariably suffer another psychic downside of social networking: remorse.

The more I upload the details of my existence, even in the form of random observations and casual location updates, the more I worry about giving away too much. It's one thing to share intimacies person-to-person. But with a community? Creepy."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

USJ Makes List of Asia’s Most-Visited Tourist Sites

Hooray, former-employer!

"Amusement parks make a strong showing on the Forbes Traveler list of Eastern Asia’s most visited tourist attractions. From Universal Studios’ outpost in Osaka, Japan, to the Happy Valley theme park in Shenzhen, China, roller coasters and fantasy-themed lands draw millions annually."
According to this site, they came in at #6:
"This Osaka outpost of the Universal Studios theme parks welcomed 11 million visitors in its first year of operation (2001). In 2007 the movie theme park, home to Snoopy’s Sound Stage Adventure and Hollywood Dream: The Ride, was visited by about 8.7 million people."
Take that, Forbidden City!

(Course, Tokyo Disney totally kicked our ass.)

Universal Studios Hollywood Backlot to Reopen

Good to hear!

(via Lifthill):
"The Universal Studios Hollywood backlot that caught fire on June 1 of this past year will reopen after nearly a year of reconstruction. The fire was accidentally started by Universal employees doing repair work in that area and caused massive damage to surrounding buildings and props as it spread over almost four acres. Backlot access has been closed to park guests since the incident as Universal began construction to repair and replace damaged sets and facades."
Related Posts:
Save the Clock Tower!
The Downfall of Universal Studios

'Candy Land' Coming to Bigscreen, Tens of People Rejoice

Because, you know, I've always wanted to see what Gumdrop mountain really looks like.

'Candy Land' coming to bigscreen
(via Variety):
"Universal Pictures is sweet on 'Candy Land.'

Studio has set Etan Cohen to write and Kevin Lima to direct a live-action feature based on the enduring Hasbro board game.

Project is the first film to emerge from the deal U made last February with Hasbro, whose properties are the basis for the summer tentpole films 'G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra' and 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.'"
G.I. Joe, Transformers, Candy Land. Way to run with a trend, guys.

I'm still waiting for Chutes and Ladders.


It has arrived!

Best part? It's got footage from the ride! In ENGLISH!

More bonus footage over at

Or on the DVD!



Monday, February 9, 2009

USJ Swamped by 1,800 Job Seekers

Great Scott!

(via The Japan Times Online):
"Universal Studios Japan said Saturday that about 1,800 people lined up the same day to apply for part-time jobs this spring — twice as many as last year.

The push is part of USJ's annual recruitment drive. It needs about 1,200 people to fill 26 types jobs ranging from store clerks to park guides.

'This is the largest number of applicants we've had since the opening of the park,' said a USJ official.

'It's probably because of the recession,' he said."
Ya think?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

An Open Letter from Doc Brown to Marty McFly

And I thought I was an bitter, old Doc Brown...

An Open Letter from Doc Brown to Marty McFly:
"Dear Marty-

Having recently reviewed the surveillance footage of the events of the night you went back to 1985, I couldn’t help but be slightly taken aback by your spurious reasoning of only allowing TEN FUCKING MINUTES to SAVE MY GODDAMN LIFE. Ten minutes??? Really. You actually thought that you could get from the Courthouse to Twin Pines Mall (I’m sorry, I mean LONE Pine Mall now–way to run over a tree, fucknut) in ten minutes."
Read the rest over at Nerdist.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Back To Clam Future

And I thought I was the worst Doc Brown...

(hat tip to Ken. I think.)

Why Marty Didn't Invent Rock 'n' Roll

And I thought I overthought this stuff...

(via Overthinking It):
"Everyone is familiar with the classic “Johnny B. Goode” scene from Back to the Future and the accompanying controversy: how dare the filmmakers insinuate that a white kid (Calvin Klein/Marty McFly) actually invented rock & roll instead of a black guy (Chuck Berry)? Haven’t white people stolen music from black people enough already?"

Friday, February 6, 2009

Transformers to Hit Universal Studios Singapore

(via InterPark Magazine):
"Transformers will be making its debut as the theme park mega-attraction at Universal Studios Singapore come 2011, fusing 3D-HD media, mega special effects and stunning robotics with a ride system designed to forever transform our perceptions of a theme park experience.

The first-of-its-kind attraction is scheduled to make its debut in Singapore even before it appears in Universal Studios Hollywood in the US."
Still not excited about this. (And am I the only one out there who has no interest whatsoever in the Transformers II movie??) I can only hope this ride is not popular enough to make its way to Universal Studios Japan. While they could probably use it to replace the Backdraft ride, I fear that "Transformers: The Ride" will be the end of "Back to the Future: The Ride".

Hope I'm wrong.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Mediocre Man... In Japan??

The Backstory:

Mediocre Man and The Mean Average
The Misadventure Continues

The Profile Picture Debate Continues!

So last month, based on a suggestion from Samantha (one of my darling and loyal readers), I posed a question to you, my (well-dressed and intelligent) virtual audience.

Namely, should I change my profile picture from this:

To this?

My original rationale for the current profile picture was that it was just so god-awfully bad that, when people saw it, they would (hopefully) want to stick around to see what this little blog was all about. Also, I liked that the blue backdrop matched my blog's color scheme. Finally, I was hoping to build some sort of "cross-platform brand recognition" so that I could eventually feature that picture prominently in the submission packet for my book. Heck, maybe even use it as the author's photo. And for future driver's licenses.

I pointed all of this out to Samantha and her response was that "Doc Brown - though interesting - is not as hot as 'not Doc Brown'". A good point, and one I did not take lightly (especially considering I don't want to drive away my key, core demographic: sexy ladies).

Anyway, I ended up getting a surprising amount of feedback (surprising to me, at least) and the overwhelming answer so far is: neither.

(Sorry, Sam. Sorry, Matt's Cuban-Style Roast Pork Sandwich. Sorry, bad Doc Brown picture.)

Several reasons were given. (My favorite being from a reader who thought that, while my new picture looked good, it was an odd way to hold a slice of pizza.) But, overwhelmingly, people still wanted to see me as Doc Brown. Just not a Doc Brown that was so - as Shannon (a ravishing and provocative new reader) put it - "poopy pouty face".

Faced with the task of finding a new profile picture, I couldn't help but think about how much easier the whole process would be had I performed in a country heavily populated with high-tech, top-of-the-line camera-toting shutterbugs who would take pictures of me several times a second from every possible angle and then frequently present those pictures to me as gifts.

And then I remembered I'd worked in Japan.

So, I busted out my massive box of fan pictures and started searching. Some of the fan pictures were, quite literally, "fan pictures":

These, while humorous (and useful on hot days), would not make very good profile pictures.

Most of the other pictures were scary. A remarkable number had me with my mouth open. But, there were a lot of good ones. So, I picked a nice handful, scanned them and I present them to you now. There are a lot in this post but it's because I tried to include a large variety. These were taken at various stages of my Doc Brown career. Different shows, different wigs, different levels of tolerance for my Japanese superiors.

So, if you don't mind and if you've got a few seconds, take a look and let me know what you think. If you'd like a closer look, click to biggify them. I did touch them up a bit to try to get rid of the dust and the yellow of time but, bear in mind, most of them are scans. Once I have an idea of which ones you all like, I can probably track down the original digital copies.

So, without further ado, let the competition begin!

This first picture was taken by my (ever-so-handsome and talented) brother and I'm currently using in the background of my Twitter page:

Back from the Future

A few suggested that I should be smiling. This one feels a bit forced:

"I love my job. Honest."

Here's one that's a bit more natural:

Smiley Profile

It was also suggested that I use a picture of Doc doing the very-Japanese "peace sign pose". Here are two that I found:

Peace Doc #1

Peace Doc #2

Here are a few shots from the "Doc and Robot" show:

Doc and IB4E
(don't worry, the Japanese
didn't find that name funny either)

Doc and remote

This may not make a great profile photo but, I love this picture:

From the look on her face, I'm either being really funny
or I'm sexually harassing her.

Here are a few pictures from the DeLorean show:

Doc's model pose.

"I need fuel!"

Doc considers buying a Mac.

"Great Scott!"

And some from the "In Search of the Fifth Element" show:

He's got the whole world...

Goggle Doc

Conductor Doc

Doc and Megaphone

Two pictures with the Segway:

Segway Doc #1

Segway Doc #2

And finally, a couple of random poses:

"You talkin' to me?"

Can I get a what what?

Doc and Einstein

So, what do you think??

[Special thanks to Ken, Ai, Mai, Yoshiko and Asako for the pictures, the applause and the memories.]

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My Writing Process

A few people have recently asked me what it's like spending all day, nearly every day, locked in my apartment trying to write.

Well, when I'm deep in the creative process, I'm a lot like a 7-year-old after dental surgery.

Is this real life??

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Brief (and Welcome) Return of Bill Hicks to Television

This is amazing.

My brother and I were walking around Green Lake on Friday and our conversation turned to the topic of stand-up comedians. This inevitably got me talking about how great Bill Hicks was and how welcome his voice would have been these last 8 years.

I had watched the Bill Hicks Live DVD the night before and couldn't get over how funny it was and just how well his material has held up. What also struck me was how humble and genuinely upset David Letterman sounded in the documentary portion of the DVD for having cut Bill Hicks's last performance from his show (unaware, of course, that it would be his last performance).

And, man... what I would have given to see his last Letterman performance.

So, guess what played later that evening?

Bill Hicks on Letterman, Finally
(via TV Eye):
"A 1993 standup performance by Bill Hicks on David Letterman that was cut from the telecast 15 years ago finally saw light of day on an unusual episode of 'Late Show with David Letterman' on Friday.

Suddenly awash with guilt for cutting the performance in its entirety, months before the edgy comic died of pancreatic cancer, Letterman not only showed the entire performance, he also invited the comic's mother, Mary Hicks, on the show so he could say how sorry he was for the whole thing.

'Let me again apologize for the heartache and sadness my decision caused your family,' Letterman told the white-haired lady.

'I appreciate you saying that,' she said."
And I thought Letterman seemed humble before.

I'm not sure how long it will be online but you can see a video of it here. (The site doesn't give the option to embed.) I won't comment on the material so you can enjoy it on your own (we can discuss it in the comments if you'd like), but I will say 2 things:
  1. When I watched it, they preceded it with a Christina Aguilera Target commercial. Does anyone see the head-shaking irony of including that before a Bill Hicks clip?
  2. Can't lie, hearing the David Letterman of 2009 say "Here's the very funny... Bill Hicks" got me all choked up.