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Update your treasure maps accordingly.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

This space for rent

Cleek has moved...

I'm now over here (

Update your bookmarks and all that.

Monday, April 24, 2006


Since Blogger was dead for most of the morning, I decided to waste some time looking at alternative blogging options. I installed a copy of WordPress on the site I use to hold the images for Cleek, and started to configure it. Looks pretty good. It's definitely more powerful than Blogger, and I like the idea of having the whole application under my control - unchanging unless I change it myself, unlike Blogger and it's constant upgrade/breakage cycle. And, after Blogger's extended downtime today, I like the idea of having it on my own servers, for reliability - I know how important this site is to you, my handful of occasional readers.

But then blogger came back up. And then my other site died - not just my site, but the whole server, and all their other servers, including the one that hosts my business site, and the helpdesk site, and the main page for the hosting company. Poof, gone. That's why all my pictures are gone right now...

So much for that theory.

I still might do the move.

Start Your iPods

This work week, the iPods starts with:

  1. Robyn Hitchcock - Flesh Cartoons
  2. Pink Floyd - Pigs On The Wing (Pt 2)
  3. Pavement - Forklift
  4. Belly - Untogether
  5. Gillian Welch - I Made A Lover's Prayer (four days till MerleFest 06!)
  6. Pavement - Pueblo
  7. Big Star - Mod Lang
  8. Cassandra Wilson - Easy Rider
  9. Rogue Wave - Every Moment
  10. Rogue Wave - "Man - Revolutionary!"

Very nice for a Monday morning (except maybe that first Pavement song - that's a silly little bit of noisy nonsense).

...and if this post ever shows up, it means Blogger is working again.

Monday Cat Blogging

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

Friday, April 21, 2006

The 50 Worst Albums Ever

OMG OMG OMG! A list! A music list!

Respectful Insolence shows us Q Magazine's "The 50 Worst Albums Ever":
    1. Duran Duran - Thank You
    2. Spice Girls - All Their Solo Albums!
    3. Various - Urban Renewal: The Songs Of Phil Collins
    4. Lou Reed - Metal Machine Music
    5. Billy Idol - Cyberpunk
    6. Naomi Campbell - Babywoman
    7. Kevin Rowland - My Beauty
    8. Mick Jagger - Primitive Cool
    9. Westlife - Allow Us To Be Frank
    10. Tim Machine - Tin Machine Ii
    11. Limp Bizkit - Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavored Water
    12. Tom Jones - Mr Jones
    13. Bruce Willis - The Return Of Bruno
    14. Terence Trent Diabolical - Neither Fish Nor Flesh
    15. Various - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band - OST
    16. Spice Girls - Forever
    17. Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead - Dylan And The Dead
    18. Crazy Frog - Crazy Hits
    19. Goldie - Saturnz Return
    20. Mariah Cary - Glitter OST
    21. The Clash - Cut The Crap
    22. Robson & Jerome - Robson & Jerome
    23. Alanis Morissette - Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie
    24. Lauryn Hill - MTV Unpugged 2.0
    25. The Cranberries - To The Faithful Departed
    26. Vanilla Ice - Hard To Swallow
    27. Destiny's Child - Destiny Fulfilled
    28. The Rolling Stones - Dirty Work
    29. Various - Christmas In The Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album
    30. Michael Jackson - Invincible
    31. Stevie Wonder - Woman In Red
    32. Ace Of Bass - The Sign
    33. Billy Ray Cyrus - Some Gave All
    34. Fishspooner - #1
    35. Puff Daddy - Forever
    36. Kula Shaker - Peanuts, Pigs & Astronauts
    37. Shania Twain - Come On Over
    38. Chris Rea - The Road To Hell Pt2
    39. Big Country - Undercover
    40. The Others - The Others
    41. Paul Simon - Songs From The Capeman OST
    42. Babylon Zoo - The Boy With The X-Ray Eyes
    43. The Travelling Wilburys - Vol 3
    44. Kiss - Music From The Elder
    45. William Shatner - The Transformed Man
    46. Oasis - Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants
    47. Ozzy Osbourne - Under Cover
    48. Milli Vanilli - All Or Nothing
    49. Neil Young And The Shocking Pinks - Everybody's Rocking
    50. Beck - Midnight Vultures

I suspect the theme of that is really "Bad albums from otherwise decent big name artists, and some novelties". Obviously, you could find some horrors in the discount bin at any record store that would make anything up there look good.

The only one of those I own is Beck's Midnight Vultures, but I own (or have owned) dozens of records that are far worse than it.

The $30 paragraph

Scot at Izzle! Izzle pfaff! muses about flying to Utah. In the middle, he writes:
    It doesn't help that I'm going to fucking Utah, the boxy state that fails even in its geometric imperative towards Platonic boxiness. This is a state that got out-rhomboided by Wyoming, for Christ's sake. WYOMING! Here's a gerund of a state, which is just pathetic, and yet it eats Utah's Platonic lunch.

Counting the five dollar words, that's a $30 paragraph - in my estimation. Not only that, I fucking love it. I wish I thought myself capable of coming up with a phrase like "a gerund of a state". Damn you Scot. Damn you all to Utah.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The spoonful of oyster sorbet in particular was magical

I thought this, the Tasting Menu from a restaraunt called "The Fat Duck", was a joke. It reads like a Monty Python sketch. Some of the choices:

  • Snail Porridge
  • Salmon Poached with Liquorice
  • Mango and Douglas Fir Puree
  • Smoked Bacon and Egg Ice Cream

Crazy stuff. But, I was wrong; it's a real place. And not only is it a real place...
    The Fat Duck Restaurant in Bray, Berkshire was described by a global panel of 600 chefs, food critics and restaurateurs, as the Best Restaurant on the Planet. (here)

Well then. I should get out more.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Gilbert Gottfried has been declared less sexy than Osama Bin Laden.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The unthinkable

I just punched my iPod.

Two Fridays ago, I accidentally dropped it as I was walking out of my office. It fell on carpet, and when I got it home, it seemed to be working OK, so I thought everything was fine. Then, last week, back at work, while it's playing I noticed little sounds in the background - like little electronic crickets, steadily chirping.

After a few day's worth of poking, I discovered that if I push down on the case a little bit, the noise stops. It's not a grounding issue, because I can get the noise to stop by putting a full coffee cup on top of the iPod, too. I also found that I can get the crickets to stop for a long time if I thump it just right with my finger. So, I'm guessing there's something slightly loose inside the iPod.

Today, I couldn't get the thump to work. So I beat upon my iPod with my fist - just once. It didn't care. And now I hate what I've become - an iPod abuser. Such a long journey from the iPod worshipper I started out as.

Start Your iPods

This work week we start with an uninspiring sampling of 3rd-tier songs:

  1. The Minus 5 - Out There On The Maroon
  2. The Police - Contact
  3. And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead... - Days Of Being Wild
  4. Califone - Apple
  5. REM - Sitting Still
  6. John Coltrane - Ogunde (live). *skip* I don't need no screeching free jazz at 9:00am on a Monday
  7. Robyn Hitchcock - We're Gonna Live In The Trees
  8. Sugar - If I Can't Change Your Mind
  9. Moby Grape - Omaha
  10. Mudhoney - Need

... except that REM song - love that one.

Monday Cat Blogging

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

Friday, April 14, 2006

Origin of Noodleous doubleous

Class, your assignment over the weekend is to read the following paper: "Origin of the Novel Species Noodleous doubleous: Evidence for Intelligent Design", by Thomas D. Schneider, Ph.D.


    Penne Rigate will spontaneously insert itself into Rigatoni (order pasta) under liquid to gas transition conditions of H2O to create the previously unobserved species Noodleous doubleous. The estimated probability of this spontaneous generation event is too low to be explained by thermodynamics and therefore apparently represents intelligent design.

There may be a quiz on Monday.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Ah ha! A Twist!

The Quincunx, in a nutshell:

There are only 30 people in all of England; and no matter how you choose them, in every group of five people, three will know each other, two will be working to kill or rob one of the others, and one will have two names; and it's been that way for a hundred years.

The plot is absurdly complex (and not just because it's tightly bound to the intricacies of 19th C. British estate and inheritance laws and procedure!) ; and every few pages the main characters have to take time out from implementing their idiotic schemes and explain the whole thing to each other - because even they can't keep it straight without periodic recitation. But when they do that, you can be assured that a Big Plot Twist is about to happen ! And that means everything they just explained will need to be revised ! Frankly, I think they probably know that's exactly what will happen and are just helping refresh the reader's memory so he'll know where to put the new information when it arrives.

But after more than 700 extremely dense pages (dense in typeface and in language), the author ends it without answering the Big Question. And I'm all like ... Now you pull out the subtlety? After 700 pages of melodramatic wankery, you decide ambiguity is the way to end this thing? What The Fuck?

But, at least I got to learn that there was a brisk trade in human flesh (from stolen corpses. for meat.) in mid-1800's London.

(And, you should really read the link I stuffed up there. It brings a whole new dimension to bad writing ! )

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Sprague Lake, CO

Nikon N80, 28-80mm, Fuji Superia 400, Grayscaled


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Rolling Rice Krispies

news from me has a link to a video of a Rice Krispies commercial from 1964, the music for which was written and recorded by the Rolling stones.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Caesar demands a building permit

The Pensacola News Journal has a story:
    It may have been built with heavenly intentions, but a judge has ruled that the creationism theme park known as Dinosaur Adventure Land still must obey earthly laws.

    Escambia County authorities this week locked up a museum building at the theme park on North Palafox Street in Pensacola after Circuit Judge Michael Allen ruled the owners were in contempt of court.

    Owners of the park, which shows how dinosaurs may have roamed the Earth just a few thousand years ago, did not obtain a building permit before constructing the building in 2002. They have argued in and out of court that it violates their "deeply held" religious beliefs, and that the church-run facility does not have to obtain permits.

    After almost four years of litigation, the judge disagreed and said the county has the authority to close the building until the owners comply with regulations.

    The judge also fined two church leaders $500 each per day for every day the building is used or occupied. If church officials continue to refuse to comply with local ordinances, the judge may decide that the building can be razed, Allen's ruling said.

    County commissioners showed no sympathy to members of the Creation Science Evangelism ministry who spoke out Thursday night at a commission meeting about the county's actions.

    "Scripture also says 'Render unto Caesar what Caesar demands.' And right now, Caesar demands a building permit," County Commission Chairman Mike Whitehead said.

tee hee.

(via The Panda's Thumb

Start Your iPods

The iPod starts the work week with:

  1. Wilhelm Kempff - Kalviersonate #23 op 57 no 2. A little of the old Ludwig Von to start the week. Ahh.
  2. Stephen Malkmus - Ramp of Death. "Ramp" is one of my favorite words.
  3. Grandaddy - So You'll Aim Towards The Sky
  4. And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead... - How Near, How Far
  5. The Minus 5 - Original Luke
  6. Codeine - New Year's
  7. REM - Moral Kiosk
  8. Led Zeppelin - Trampled Under Foot
  9. Elliot Smith - Pictures of Me
  10. David Bowie - Fashion. Oooh bop.
  11. Bonus : Wilhelm Kempff - Kalviersonate #14 op 27 no 2. a.k.a. the "Moonlight" sonata. While these Beethoven sonatas (and more) have been on the iPod for a year, today is the first day any has appeared on my Monday list. And to get two of them! Ah yummy.

And off we go...

Ah, rational discourse

Digby's sidekick, tristero, wrote a little post where he says:

    If this country so much as opens the question to serious consideration "whether first-strike nukes are justified in the present world," then we are already halfway down the path to a nuclear holocaust. All it will take to tip it over is one more major terrorist attack, and Bush will guarantee the nukes will fall. And if you don't think there will be another major terrorist attack in America, either a real one or one faked by this administration, you have not been paying attention to what has been going on.

(my emphasis)

I thought this was a bit of a stretch. It's one thing to think BushCo is corrupt, dishonest and criminal - it's quite another to think they'd be complicit in a "major terrorist attack in America". Of course, that was enough to bring out the "Bush was involved in 9/11!" gang, guns a-blazing: "explosives in the towers!", "the alleged hijackers are still alive!" Now, nobody seems to have any actual evidence that BushCo was involved in 9/11 - all they can point to are coincidences or things that are not completely understood; and those places, they claim, are where we find The Hand of Bush in action! Like Intelligent Design, with Bush as the designer, things are just too perfect for them to have happened without the hand of their favorite supernaturally-clever designer. And so Bush is both the evil mastermind and the incompetent boob - he's genius enough to have brought down the WTC while making it look, to most of the world, like the work of a handful of angry young Middle-Easterners (and evil enough to have done it at all) - he's even got Bin Laden and the rest of Al-Q playing along with the charade. And now Bush is supposedly going to start a war with Iran which will end up a horrible mess because, ya know, he's an incompetent boob - as proved by how he's handled everything else during his Presidency.

The designer invents the vast complex web of Life On Earth, and for kicks, arranges the Universe to make it look like it's billions of years old when it's really only 6,000 - but he can't come up with a reasonable human immune system or a digestive tract that can handle beans.

You just have to have faith that he's behind it all.

And for doubting that Bush is both a supernatural genius and a bumbling idiot at the same time, I get the following comment:
    Cleek. Listen closely. You'll be the first one clubbed and left hanging from the lamppost.

Now, I can't tell if that's a death threat towards me or not. If it is, I guess that means death threats aren't just for right-wing wackos, the leftiest lefties are more than happy to get down in the gutter, too. If it's some kind of warning that I'll "be the first one clubbed" because I don't see the grand conspiracy, then... well, OK - if you say so.

Either way, what a fucking crazy world...

Monday Cat Blogging

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

I'm trying to fucking sleep!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Fish out of water

Wife's in Vegas at a bachelorette party (oy). So, I was over at some friend's house last night. They had just come back from Panama (while we were in Japan) and they hd some rum that was made for sipping, not for mixing. Here I thought I was a man of the world, and I never even considered that rum was something anyone would ever drink in the absence of some sort of whipped fruit mixture. "So, you just... sip it?" I forget exactly what the rum was called (Payrat?) , but it was absolutely delicious. It was as good as the tequila I had in Tokyo. Among other things, we talked about fish - my expereince wish raw fish in Japan and their's with fried in Panama. They told me I should go to the fish market at the farmer's market in Raleigh, for the freshest fish around. So, I went there.

It took a bit of wandering and driving to find it. I took a stroll through the Nahunta Pork Center, where I got to see all the kinds of pork parts people eat - hearts? But I finally found found the seafood place. It was a smallish building, across the street from the farmer's market proper, with a gigantic counter full of whole fresh fish. They had fillets of cod, whiting and tilapia (which confused me cause I though tilapia was a south american fish), but 80% of it was. I was the only white person in the place. I puzzled that over for a bit: is it only white people who like their fish filleted ? Are whole Croakers and Rockfish something boring ol' white America hasn't caught onto yet? Why can't I find whiting at Whole Foods ? So many tough questions... Before I left, I was this close to buying a chunk of cod, even though I don't think cod has anything to do with the NC coast, when I remembered: when the wife is out of town, and you don't have to work in the morning, it's time for ribeye and alcohol! And so it was written, and so it was done, medium rare. Tomorrow I'll eat a stupid fish.

So, off to the fancy supermarket to find a nice steak. On the way I listened to the Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party and the Libertines - all relatively new British bands. Before I'd heard any of them, I'd heard on various blogs there's some controversy about who's more "authentic": the Libertines or the Arctic Monkeys. I considered myself lucky to not know WTF the discussion was about, at the time. Now, I'm happy to be able to appreciate them on their own merits, completely outside the context of British popularized opinion. I don't have a favorite of the three - they all have their individual strengths and weaknesses. They're all good with the top down and nothing specific to do.

So, I bought a monster ribeye, a bottle of wine and a potato, and had myself a feast - watching VH1 Classic and FUSE (which I guess is MTV for angry young men). They had a full half hour of White Stripes! Now, I like the White Stripes, but I had no idea they were actually really popular with the "kids". And I had no idea that they had a dozen videos - I'd only ever seen one, and that came with the iTunes download of their latest album. I don't even know where you'd find a video these days, MTV is all game shows. But, Jack White talked and talked between 15-second clips of the videos, and made himself sound a little flakey, while Meg White sat there like a lump. I guess there's a whole philsophy behind the red/white/black colro scheme and the "third man" name and all this other junk - yadayadayayda. But, I don't buy their records for their interview skills. They do a great job of stripping away all the fuiller and getting down to the guts. It's a totally different scene from what was going on the channel above (which filled-in during commerical) - the BlingBling rap channel, I think. So, I was a bit surprised to find that the Strips were popular enough to warrant a whole half-hour special.

I guess I should get out more... ?

On the other hand, we went to a club a few weeks ago (pre-Japan), where they have a jukebox that can download songs off the internet - so you can get almost anything you want. My party hogged the jukebox, played mostly speed metal and classic punk for hours. I played The New Pornographers, Pixies, White Stripes and the Arctic Monkeys and they were met with a general shrug. During the 20 minute live vesion f Inna Gada Davida (no shit, the guy who played the Misfits and Metallica played that thing) some 20 year old girl came up to me and asked when we'd be done so she could to play some "classic 80's hair metal".

Can't keep up I Can't keep up
I Can't keep up I Can't keep up
I'm Out of step, with the world.

(yeah, I finally bought some Minor Threat of my own)

Love that wine

Friday, April 07, 2006

Where were we...

Oh yeah, we were in Harajuku and the Imperial gardens. That means we're about to finish off our last full day in Japan.

We hit "Old Tokyo", which we read was supposed to preserve the character of the old city. I guess that means a crowded raucous pedestrian shopping mall, where you can get any kind of junk you want:

Sony P7


Sony P7

We were pretty much shopped-out by then, though. So, back to the hotel for a nap for the wife and some blogging for myself (I probably did the Kyoto post then). Then it was out for our final night.

We went to the last section of Tokyo we wanted to see: Roppongi. It was described in the Lonely Plant book as almost a "mardi gras" atmosphere. Well, it was nothing like that. It was another tall, bustling district, jam-packed full of shops and restaraunts. No floats or beads. But, it was hopping.

When we walked up out of the subway station, a serious windstorms was blowing through, and we didn't know exactly where we were or where we needed to go to get to ther restaraunt we were planning on: a Thai place, some blocks from the subway station. So, we flailed around in the bitter-cold wind for a bit before giving up on the Thai place and trying to find a spot a bit closer. We wandered around for a while but didn't find anything that grabbed us. Well, there was a store called, ahem, Freak Brothers that was pretty interesting - it more about the lifestyle of the Freak Brothers than the comics. But after that, we still needed some food. There was this combo:

Sony P7

...but we declined.

Finally, desperate, we decided to go to an Irish pub (the fourth). It was crowed, small, tacky and deafeningly loud. We lasted less than a minute before slouching out the door, cold, hungry and cranky. After a bit of indecision we decided on a place that had "grilled beef" on its otherwise all-Kanji sign. It turned out to be a Japanese "BBQ" place, where you sit at a counter with a big hole in it, they bring a bucket of hot coals, and you order small plates of raw food that you then cook yourself. It was both fun, and delicious! Success!

Then we went to the Geronimo Shot Bar:

Sony P7

They serve shots.

Sony P7

We had two each. Which wasn't anywhere near enough to get us on the monthly list (I think the leader was up over 200). The all-time leader was in the 2,000's, if I recall correctly. I think the shots were a little weak.

Then it was off to do karaoke, Japanese-style. That's where you rent a private room and get to sing whatever you want. They had a little notice that said "Big Echo is not a shot bar!" Don't know why they needed that. Since I utterly hate my voice, I refuse to sing. So, I stuck my wife doing it all by herself.

Sony P7

It was still fun. Then, it was off to find another bar. We wandered for a bit, then my wife spotted a sign for a bar called Agave, a tequila bar. They had four hundred different tequilas:

Sony P7


Sony P7

...and Cuban cigars.

Sony P7

Delicious! If the next day wasn't the day of the plane, we would've stayed all night.

So, back to the hotel...

I woke up at dawn and tried to get some sunrise pictures, but I was too sleepy to bother with trying to hold the camera steady.

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

And then we woke up, bummed around for the morning and started our trip home. We got to hang out in the first class lounge while waiting for the plane (free booze and chips!). Then an 11-hour flight to Chicago, on which I watched a surprisingly touching little documentary about the New York Dolls reunion.

When we got to Chicago, we immedately noticed the same thing: Americans are really fat. Then we noticed that McDonalds' hamburgers are really salty.

And three hours later, we were home again.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Imperial Gardens

Look, it's a miniature Tokyo!

Nikon D100, LensBaby

No, that's just the view from the hotel room through the magical LensBaby.

Off to the Imperial Gardens! A couple of quick subway rides gets us from our hotel to the Gardens. It's the beginning of cherry blossom season, and the place is busy. Maybe it's always busy, I dunno.

Here's the entrance:

Nikon D100, 28-80mm

The little sign said this was a dolphin. I think it looks more like a carp (those little eyebrows are on all the carp in the ponds):

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

The Imperial Palace (which the gardens are part of) is right in the middle of the city, so it's tough to get pictures of this beautifully-done garden without getting little bits of the city at the same time:

Nikon D100, 18-35mm


Nikon D100, 18-35mm

But, if you focus on little tiny bits:

Nikon D100, 75-240mm

Or if you're willing to put a lof of sky in the shot:

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

You can do it.

It's a very nice place. There are lots of cherry and plum trees; there are trees representing all of the prefectures; everything is sculpted right right, everything is manicured just right. The small pathways through the gardens are rubberized, so your footsteps are silent. The fish are happy. Very nice.

More to come...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Schrodinger’s War

Or, the state in which we are both at war and not at war.

The final days

From Hiroshima, we took the train to Tokyo, where we would squander our last three nights in Japan on cheap booze and fast women. It was a 5 hour trip, made even longer by the fact that we could only get seats on the smoking car for the Osaka-Tokyo half. Smoking is ubiquitous in Japan; even the non-smoking sections of restaraunts are more like "nobody is smoking in this section right row". Nonetheless...

We got to Tokyo and miraculously found a way out of Tokyo station, where we hailed a cab to the hotel, which the cabbie couldn't find on his own:

Sony P7

The hotel was really just the top 7 or 8 floors of the 40 story building on the left, so it was pretty small by Tokyo standards.

Went to our room, opened the window and got the reverse view:

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

Or, looking out instead of down:

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

So, that was cool.

That night, we ate at a little noodle shop up the street. No English speakers there, so we just pointed at the display items in the case and hoped for the best. Display items? In Japan, restaraunts will often have a little display case on the street with plastic replicas of the food they serve. They're often quite well-done and not as tacky as you might think. So, my wife took the watress outside and pointed at what she wanted and I pointed at the bowl in front of guy next to me, "suppu" (soup). The place soon filled up with black-suited businessmen who drank many liters of sake.

Then we found a little club up the street and hung out there, ordering drinks by randomly picking them from the all-Japanese menu. Good fun. Then we ran back to the hotel in the rain...

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

Next day, breakfast at Denny's! No, really. Denny's are everywhere in Japan, but they're not much like the ones in the States. Here's the menu:

Sony P7

You can't get salmon, or rice and miso soup, or eggs and salad, at Denny's in the US; and a side of sausage in Japan is a single sausage - though "mini hot dog" is a better description than "sausage".

Then we went to Shibuya, one of Tokyo's many shopping districts. Like Ginza, it was filled with big-name stores (a 3 story Gap) and huge malls. What we saw wasn't as high-end name-brand as Ginza, though it was still expensive ($80 for T-shirts in a little biker store that may or may not have been from the Rolling Stones' 1975 tour). We only stayed for a while, but we ate lunch at an El Toritos (right next to TGI Fridays), where we had the worst Mexican food I've ever had:

Sony P7

They were playing a Miles Davis concert from the 80's on a huge plasma TV in the corner of the resaraunt, but they were playing Mexican music on the P.A.. So, I got to watch Miles stalk around the stage in his silly 80's clothes. I just imagined he was playing La Cucarracha. Ole!

Then we left for Harajuku, a place I had previously known only from Gwen Stefani. First we went through the back-alley-esque pedestrian district, which was chock-full of girls in schoolgirl outfits, even though it was early Wednesday afternoon - don't they have school?

Sony P7

It was crazy. This section was definitely more youth-oriented than Ginza and Shibuya. T-shirt and sneaker stores (there are a lot of Chuck Taylors in Japan), alternated with old-school punk, goth, biker, surfer, skater and rock stores. All your teenage fashion fantasies can come true, in Harajuku - though the crepe vendors seemed to be doing more business than many of the stores - they smelled awesome. I bought a bunch of T-shirts. We went to a store called Snoopytown - all Peanuts stuff.

Then we went to the other section of Harajuku, which is more upscale (Louis Vutton, etc.). It was super-crowded:

Sony P7

It's a bit hard to tell, but the crowd of people on the sidewalk stretches as far as we could see - a solid mass of heads. It was like the most crowded day at the State Fair. We walked up and down the block to see what's what - but it was just more gigantic multi-story malls filled with high-end designer stores. The Japanese must spend gigantic amounts of money on clothes to keep all those shops in business.

One nice thing about those huge malls, though, is that the bottom floors are often food courts. But they aren't the McDonalds/Panda Express/Taco Bell food courts in US malls; for one thing, you almost never see seats - I guess you're supposed to buy the food and take it home; for another, the variety of foods is vast. Instead of a half-dozen fast food places all serving greasy fast food, there will be 30 different places serving everything from fresh bread to French pastries to candy to coffee to sushi to teriyaki to grilled veggies to noodles to fried everything to soups and salads. Most of it is made fresh, there. Sometimes there are multiple floors of food vendors. Ahh... delicious.

More to come...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Monday Cat Blogging

Nikon D100, 18-35mm


    "My view is that if there is no evidence for it, then forget about it," he said. "An agnostic is somebody who doesn't believe in something until there is evidence for it, so I'm agnostic."
    He = Carl Sagan

My kinda guy.

Start Your iPods

This first-monday-back-in-the-US starts with:

  1. Sonic Youth - White Cross
  2. Replacements - Hanging Downtown. Back when they sounded like an authentic punk band.
  3. Nirvana - Plateau
  4. R.E.M. - Crazy. From my favorite REM album.
  5. Arctic Monkeys - Fake Tales of San Francisco
  6. Elliot Smith - Good To Go
  7. John Lennon - God
  8. Unrest - Imperial (live)
  9. Beat Happening - Other Side
  10. Buena Vista Social Club - Buena Vista Social Club. From the album "Buena Vista Social Club"

If it wasn't for those meddling Arctic Monkeys, I couldda had a Solid Gold Oldies 10 ! (everything else is at least ten years old)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Hiroshima Aside

After leaving the Hiroshima Peace Museum complex, it occurred to me that I had visited another great WWII memorial, many years ago. When I was ten, I took a trip with my grandparents to Hawaii, and we went to the Pearl Harbor memorial, and visited all the preserved shipwrecks, took the tours, etc.. Now, it's been 25 years, and like I said, I was ten, but I don't recall any of those memorials being dedicated to the idea of Peace. Maybe that has to do with the fact that the casualties in Pearl Harbor were mostly military, and that we weren't at war at the time.


We made it to Hiroshima rather easily - just two cabs and a train. We checked into our hotel, opened the window and saw...

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

City! But, Hiroshima isn't anywhere near the size of Tokyo - we were easily able to walk to all of the stuff we wanted to see. And maybe not surprisingly, it's a pretty modern city with wide streets and lots of parks. I didn't look up the population, but it feels more like a Raleigh than a NYC - smaller, less chatoic, and just a handful of really tall buildings (we were in one of them).

The hotel was the first one with in-room internet access, so I was very excited. But because 3-prong outlets are rare in Japan, I couldn't plug my laptop in anywhere. Luckily, the hotel was next to a series of gigantic multi-story malls and so I set off in search of a 3-prong adapter. 24 floors and a proportional number of escalator rides later, I found something that would work, and suddenly, we were internet-capable again. Ahh... soothe the addiction.

Our first tourist activity was an old castle. Happily, it was just a block from the hotel.

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

Like most everything else in Hiroshima, it was mostly destroyed by the Bomb, and rebuilt in the years after. Some things survived, though. There are a handful of special trees scattered around the property, each with a little sign in front of it:

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

There's also what we assumed was a shrine on the grounds of the castle:

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

Like most places, it was busy getting ready for some big festival (cherry blossom season?) - construction crews were busy doing repairs and additions. The rest of the grounds are basically a wooded park. It looks like a nice place to spend a lunch break.

And then, two blocks on the other side of our hotel...

Sony P7

The famous "A-Bomb Dome" - the only building still around that survived the bombing. It was pretty much ground zero, directly underneath the bomb, and the walls were able to stand up to the vertical pressure. Not much around it was as lucky (lucky for the building, since nobody inside survived, of course).

Here's a picture of the original building, across the river from the current one:

Nikon D100, 28-80mm

That tall building in the background is the hotel we stayed in - maybe 500m from ground zero. Humbling.

The dome is at one end of a large park. A short distance from that is the Bell of Peace:

Nikon D100, 28-80mm

Its dedication:

Nikon D100, 28-80mm

Then there's the Peace Clock:

Sony P7

Its dedication:

Nikon D100, 28-80mm

This little guy was playing around the Bell of Peace:

Sony P7

A bit farther down the park, there's the children's memorial:

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

And in front of that, a few kiosks filled with tiny origami cranes, strung together to form and colorful strings and murals.

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

Then there's this structure, which holds, in the small chest in the middle, the remains of some of those killed. In the distance, you can see the dome. The children's memorial is in that line of sight, too, though it's hard to make out in this picture.

Finally, there's the Peace Memorial Museum. It goes through the history of WWII and before, including Japan's war with China and its enslavement of Korean workers (many of whom died in the blast as well). It talks about the attack on Pearl Harbor, the fight with the US in the Pacific, gets into the science and development of the bomb. It has a number of US military communications discussing target and date choice,
letters from US generals protesting the use of the bomb on civilian targets, letters from scientists (including Einstein) protesting the use of the bomb. There are large dioramas showing before and after models of the city, lots of photographs and film footage from the actual bombing, etc..

Then there's a big section devoted to the aftermath: stories of people who survived, people who survived only a short time, people who didn't come home that day, the effects of the heat and radiation on buildings and homes; there's the famous human shadow on concrete, bits of flesh that fell off of people, clothes, shoes, etc.. This section is gruesome.

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

But, the museum doesn't make Japan, the country, come off as an innocent victim. It doesn't try to say that Japan was sitting around minding its own business when the US dropped The Bomb out of the blue. Instead, the exhibits show that Japan was an active participant in the war, and not a kind one, either: the A-bomb was just an especially horrible part of an already horrible war. It does, however, make it clear that most of the people killed by the Bomb were civillians. And, because of that, the museum tries to show how horrible war is for ordinary people - especially nuclear war. It's a sobering place.

Nikon D100, 18-35mm

The bridge on the right of that picture was the official target of the Bomb. It survived the blast, and was replaced many years later.

But, the rest of the city, from what we saw, doesn't dwell on the bombing; all that is confined to the memorials. We ate lunch across the street from the museum, in a very good Italian restaraunt, and you'd never know we were a quarter mile from ground zero - no mention of the bomb, or the war. The city as a whole isn't devoted to that one event. Happily.

On a lighter note, the giant outdoor mall we visited the night before was the location of some of the best Engrish we'd come across:

Sony P7

Sony P7

Sony P7

Nikon D100

And here's a Japanese toilet:

Sony P7

Later that night, another Irish pub (they're everywhere), then a delicious Japanese single malt in the top-floor bar in our hotel (my wife had some Japanese sweet potato vodka - called "shochu" . yummy). They wanted a $10 per person charge to sit at one of the tables with a view, so we sat at the bar (for free) and looked at the expensive bottles of booze they had laid out in front of us: for example, the bottle of Hennessy in front of me cost 120,000 Yen, when we saw it at the duty-free shop in the airport; that's roughly $1,000 (you can buy it here for $1499). There was a pianist singing jazz standards - she didn't mess up the words, unlike the girl in Kyoto.

Though the A-Bomb stuff was moving/sobering/depressing/enlightening, and the bombing was obviously the reason we went (things don't get much more historic than that), what we saw of it makes me think that Hiroshima was a pretty nice place. Definitely worth the train ride.

To come: our last few days, in Tokyo.

Also, I should give credit here - many of the pictures in this series were taken by my wife. Usually I can tell (but not always) which are her's and which are mine - generally the D100 pics are mine, though we shared the P7. I think the majority are mine, because I always had one camera or the other on me. But, she took quite a lot, too. So, ya know - this wasn't all me. Plus, she did all the hotel and plane booking! Whatta gal.

All images Copyright 2004-2005, cleek.