From the time I was about eight, half of everything...

Tachometers, photography and making things work

From the time I was about eight, half of everything I did was to impress my dad. I maintained a multiyear renewal on two of the three books on computer programming we had in our small elementary school library. I’d spend mornings and nights sitting in front a screen full of animated, blinking display menus for our IBM clone, trying to create life in the ASCII character set. I kept all of the briefcases he outgrew filled with empty file folders and simulated documents, inventing imaginary companies like “Ventura and Son Enterprises”, drawing structural diagrams displaying all the branches in our corporate hierarchy. Greeting cards to electronics, we did it all. And as he updated his business best so did I with the next round of hand-me-downs: threadbare corduroy blazers and oxfords missing buttons from a thousand applications of heavy starch.

My impulsive attention span grew to new limits as I watched him again and again laying on a remnant carpet dolly under the engine of one of our many Honda Accords. The coveralls, the stained Old Milwaukee nylon jacket, the decaying Nike’s and a quartet of Lawn Boy push mowers all in pieces along the back wall of the garage. Row upon row was every metal screw, washer, latch, and DC motor imaginable, housed in a vast array of hardware store bins. Toolboxes, cut pieces of heat pump hose, ban saws, shoe polishing kits… the inventory of a man who could do anything himself and would have the resources already at hand if the occasion arose. His office was a network of yellowing loafer boxes and fine felt tip pens bound by red rubberbands in a myriad of Minute Maid orange juice cans I’d wrapped in construction paper. The bin for his highlighters was even made out of ten dozen popsickle sticks glued together like an ark. The need to keep everything in case it may be useful later was tempered by his near obsessive desire for order, catalogue, and file.

Steed.

The older I got, the more things I took apart or modified (and collected), building crude workbenches out of scrap wood to mimic his own hobby rigs. When I got a car and eventually my trailbike, I tried harder and harder to emulate the level of quality and discipline he had in everything he did- from changing the oil to using a straightedge for block lettering VHS tape labels.

In high school I often bitterly complained to my mother that he didn’t understand me or care about my feelings. During college my vague angst hardened into repressed stress, fighting against what I thought was conformity and he called “growing up“. But as the chemical imbalances in my body began to ebb I grew complacent, or tired, and I found I no longer felt the need to overimpress my father or resist him. He just was, and so was I. But I realized that so much of the latter was due to the former, and I came to respect the man who said so little but meant so much.

Sometimes I wish I had been better at sports when I was young, so I wouldn’t exasperate or embarrass him, and we could have a relationship like every other father and son. But then again, if we had a relationship so traditional, would I have grown into things so unique? Everyone has a father, and whether they love him or hate him, whether he cries openly or never says a word, he’s so much a part of who they were, and who they will become. And I think we can’t feel anything but deep reverence for that.

Be careful what you say, when you’re writing...

Be careful what you say, when you’re writing on the wall

I got a reality check yesterday morning that the internet is indeed a public place, and I’m not the only one that reads what I write [see hit counter below].

Upon awakening in a shivering, grouchy stupor, I discovered I had received an email from one of my old elementary school pals who happened to be Googling herself and came across last July’s blog. In the words of Clark W. Griswold, �gIf I woke up tomorrow with my face sewn to the carpet I couldn�ft be any more surprised than I am now.�h

It’s nice that the internet brings people together, but now I really gotta make sure I don’t call anyone a pumpkin (even though censorship sucks).

“Compassion” (and not knowing what one...

“Compassion” (and not knowing what one is doing)

I noticed a cat sitting in the sun by the stairs of my apartment last Thursday, and our relationship has quickly evolved from there.

First, she was just a cute cat. Very thin, but cute. Then last Saturday, she was a cute cat with a dime-sized gouge in her flank. Shocked by the sever gore of the scene, I ran to the convenience store and returned to clean her wound with gauze and antiseptic. On Monday I thought I should take her to the hospital, and nearly attempted it Tuesday morning until it became apparent how resistant she would be to the ordeal. The wound began to close, and I left it at another cleaning and fed her. She wasn’t crazy about being kept in my room, even for a few minutes. After I got out of the shower I came back to find her as I expected standing on my desk.

At first she got defensive. She made the slightest beginnings of a hissing, but after I pet her and gave her another can of food, she just sat in front of my door and meowed and then looked at me. I think leaving her alone in a closed space makes her angry. If I tried to keep her in my room at night to keep her warm I’m sure I wouldn’t get a wink of sleep. She has quite a bit of independent spirit; I guess all stray animals do. She doesn’t trust me enough yet to want to be with me all the time. However, when I let her out, I opened the door to the stairs, and she walked out and then turned around and waited for me. As I started closing the door, she stuck her head inside and looked as if maybe she would come back in on her own. But I made a clicking sound and gestured for her to go outside and she left.

Wednesday I got a workout biking all over Shinjuku procuring and administering a round of topical and oral treatments I got from a veterinarian. At night I came home exceptionally late but no sooner than I closed the door I heard a loud meowing outside. Sure enough, she was in the stairwell begging for dinner. I was happy to see her at night for the first time, because it meant I could give her the medicine again, but it wasn’t long before the least of my fans who lives at the end of the hall stuck her head out the door and gave me a hell of a razing. “The cat is filthy, it’s not my responsibility, I treat animals better than I do people, it’s a disgusting thing that doesn’t belong around here…” etc. The cat’s wound had opened up some more, though not completely. I figure it’s virtually impossible to get an animal to not stretch, prod and lick at a wound. Worrying for its health and safety (given the negative atmosphere developing around the building), I asked Mikiko to call one of the volunteer rescue services so she could be picked up and given attentive, professional care.

This morning I didn’t see or hear her on my way out, and so was left another unused dose of her medicine. I hope she finds a family soon.

The takeaway at this point is though I may be well-intentioned, I feel like I’ve handled this whole thing terribly. I probably should have gotten experienced help for her last weekend when I first noticed the injury. Good thing I’m not a doctor, or a parent.

my shoulders hang with cats and cameras, bills and...

commuter’s hymn

rattle and rock, i am asleep
on the 9:34 express train.
eyes heavy, sweater warm,
my shoulders hang with cats and cameras, bills and what i didn’t have for dinner last night.
from the tunnel, stop at sasazuka.
my breath frosts puffs, and i beg for the door to close.
but i leave off my coat because it makes me feel stuffy- so many gone mornings pumping the gas and waiting for the engine to warm.

want for bed, want for blankets. want for- hot chocolate and the smell of my lover’s cheek.

but i’m still here, in a frozen, metal box. with suits and dresses and uniforms and newspapers…10 cars of eyelids heavy with cats and bills, all missing hot chocolate. so i pull on my coat and walk off the train- to another day full from fighting the quality of my life.

Well, it seems I could survive for a full seven...

Back in the saddle

Well, it seems I could survive for a full seven days without a camera. How I lasted that long I have no idea. So, after consulting with my good friend Collabi, I decided that Canon’s Digital Kiss was an overkill and may have been more trouble fiddling with than it was worth (+$1000). I instead went with the much-praised entry to their “high-end” line, the Powershot S-50. Over 30 different visual modes, manual aperture, focus, priority, etc., etc. for me to screw around with. I’m already on page 38 of the 186 page (downloaded) English manual. Kind of like the microKORG, which employs a similar gargantuan PDF tome.

Behold the power of 5 megapixels

Here’s my second shot with the deal. The little baby links to a half-size (yes, 1400×1050 is half-size) JPEG version. uhhhuhuhuhuh…

It’s been the second day in a row that I&#...

The saga continues

It’s been the second day in a row that I’ve pounded it at work. This no music, no breaks; no normal breathing gives me a pain in the neck, but I impressed my manager with mad progress. I even got a less thorough than usual checkover for my work (it may not have happened at all if I hadn’t asked).

I kinda feel like the good son, and guilty for it because my twin in seniority seems to draw misfortune for my every advance. He’s been working on the same project for longer than I have on any of mine (given a brief period of false completion). Whereas I work on three projects or more in a week, he seems fated to pore over the same Konami cell phone port, day after day. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t know the right words in English, but I feel like our manager is quite often more stern or exasperated with my partner than myself. Still, there’s a certain unmistakable tone in a person’s voice in any language that expresses frustration. I find that I form a lot of my opinions on myself professionally by comparison to others. It may be good to admire those more adroit than oneself to a small extent, but for the most part it has to be about the goals I’ve given and how well I accomplish them. There should be no shame in being the first to leave since I’ve finished all I was asked for the day.

I don’t take for granted being able to leave on a 12-hour day, but I wish I had the patience to stop for a real dinner. Unfortunately, the feeling of satisfaction and inner-quiet I get from watching my nightly Next Gen is just too great.

BTW – anyone know a nice webcounter that doesn’t involve some gaudy extra text to look at?

Today marks the end of an era. A lot of eras....

End of a century

Today marks the end of an era. A lot of eras. The end of me and a very successful swing at Mario and Luigi, and the end of the oh so efficient train blog. I’m back to graffiti, carpal tunnel and typos as I use the stylus for this entry. However, the most saddening end is that of my beloved and much admired [and scorned] Casio Exilim S-1. The kind-hearted soul who saw fit to reclaim my poor bag helped himself to all of my electrical appliances before casting old blue aside in the lavatory. There’s something about me and Jansport bags that just don’t jive [I’ve had two stolen and emptied]. I’m probably most heartbroken that gone is the personal carrying case to the camera, made from Nobue‘s father’s tie, leaving my treasured relics from her at my kimono bunny, silk incense satchel, and my never-removed silver leaf earring. It’s not the estimated four hundred dollars of goods gone to a greasy individual that makes me humble, it’s the end of the first gen. techno booty won in the land of the rising sun… the end of my innocence in Japan.

Upon reflecting, this might be more karma for a lost Jansport bag I took from the shores of Ocean City, MD during senior week in high school when I was young and unethical myself. I guess there’s no insurance for stupidity.

I’ve been away awhile and had quite a weekend...

It was nice while it lasted

I’ve been away awhile and had quite a weekend. Got my annual fortune at temple (dai kichi…the best!), [potentially] found an apartment, built a sub- 700$ PC, went drinking with Sony, and managed to find enough time to lose my beat raver bookbag, only to have it discovered after a day of stress at Kanda station. However, chances are it is devoid of the much expensive technocery I carry with me to all locations (camera, GBA, PDA keyboard). Ain’t that a kick in the head? ::sigh::

In Japan, in theory, Friday night is a special time...

It’s Hana-kin, damn it!

In Japan, in theory, Friday night is a special time, much like in most parts of the world. Everyone supposedly leaves work early to go drink. So in my case, instead of going home to a convenience store smorgasborg for Next Gen at 11, I liberate myself at 9:30 for dinner at one of three favorite restaurants: Pasta Diece, Tanne, and One’s. However, I didn’t feel like putting up with another hour and a half of lost Windows messages and seg faults, so I snuck out in a random burst of chaos at five after eight. Yeah. Damn the man.

Anyway, tonight Mikiko and I are going to Pasta Diece to welcome a weekend of apartment hunting, computer building, and imbibing. I may just even go to Velfarre tomorrow on this DJ high I put myself into last night.

As I’m sure I’ll be talking about music quite a bit in the next month with all the release parties for Yoji Biomehanika, let me tell you about Pasta Diece.

Here’s a place on just about the only thoroughfare to a border between skyscrapers and shrines. It’s in a hole below a private realtor, contains enough space for three tables and two bar seats, and seems to carry business hours of sometime in the afternoon to 10:00 five times a week. Obviously, this guy doesn’t need the money. It’s usually 60% full (that’s two of three tables), and is staffed by one chef, presumably the owner, and a girl who forgets when you ask for water. However, credit to him, it’s probably the best damn food I’ve had in Japan, period**. The wine is good, the gorgonzola pizza is mouthwatering, and the penne arrabiata will make you want to go out in the street and get hit by a car, just so you end your life in love.

I don’t know how he does it, the waitress doesn’t know how he does it (though I can’t tell if she cares), but somehow he does, and it makes you realize the simple things in life are certainly the best. It’s not even expensive, really. The guy must just enjoy making food a couple times a week. I’d pat the guy on the back, or make him a birdhouse or SOMETHING to let him know how good a job he’s doing, and to keep it up. However, this is Japan, and I’ve never even sensed the guy has the _ability_ to smile, much less take a compliment. So I’ll just keep paying the bills and removing every droplet of sauce from my plate.

**my former girlfriend’s mother does indeed make a fried pork cutlet worth fighting a war for, and may defeat iron chef Italia

If you know anything about the electronic music...

Too many “DJs”

If you know anything about the electronic music scene, you know there’s way too many DJs. DJ Liquid, DJ Icey, DJ Galvatron, DJ Papa Smurf [okay, maybe he’s just not on the net]…the list makes like Orbital‘s Halcyon and goes On and On and on and on…

I guess it’s because there’s so many cool DJ names out there. I mean, I can think of at least ten that I’d want to be if I really had any talent…(more precisely, if I practiced)

DJ Dream City,
DJ 2a03,
DJ Tokyo (I’m SURE this one’s already taken),
…DJ Alive

That one’s probably my favorite. I’ve even made trippy rave flyers for nonexistent parties with that name on it. Totally rezzed out photographs I took of some stupid thing some where and Photoshopped it to the maxx. DJ Alive, The Best to Breathe. I like the sound of that.

Originally from a DJ Rap concert in Pittsburgh

Well, until the KORG and I learn to communicate beyond the “this is the power button, push it” level, I might as well be DJ Sucks Ass.

It’ll happen…and one day, I’ll grow so big I can even get by on my real name, like Paul Oakenfold. Or maybe go even farther and not have to, like Ferry Corsten, I mean System F, Moonman, and Gouryella. [You REALLY got to check out this last link!!]

On Sunday I went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum...

Happy Birthday, Nintendo

On Sunday I went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography to see an exhibit on the twentieth anniversary of the Famicom (Japanese version of the original 8-bit Nintendo). It was pretty good. I’d heard about it on Video-fenky or slashdot— I was pretty excited to go after over a month of waiting. Through some extraordinary scavenging, the curator had managed to get every piece of (licensed) Famicom software for the exhibit, 1252 titles. They were displayed by the dozens in glass cases lining a dimly lit room, with special arrangements of hardware and peripherals at several islands. There were a couple cross-shaped arrays of LCD screens displaying lifesize interviews with some of video-gaming’s pioneers, including Shigeru Miyamoto (whom I’ve met) [see below] and Yuji Naka. Also present was a “making of the Famicom” documentary and an array of baseball games from the past two decades. I tried my hand at Dig Dug on a large projection screen (very reminiscient of Mo’jox, but without the physical activity). I knew I could break the paltry high score of 103000, but the controller was worn out from lots of little kids whamming on it, so the best I could do as 40k. After instinctively shouting as I screwed up the last time, I realized where I was and how many people were watching me and hurried out the exit.

My hero...
Figure 1. See: awesome.

Luckily, there wasn’t any wait when we arrived, but by the time we left there was a line extending out the door and up the stairs to the first floor. It’s amazing how many different kinds of people were there…men and women, old folks and young; and it wasn’t just parents being dragged around by their kids– a good time was being had by all. Entertaiment usually associated with young guys in the US just seems to have more universal appeal and acceptance here. It’s probably lame but I get so happy seeing chicks with a game controller and computer t-shirt.

I got a pretty nice book from the gift shop on the way out. It contained not only photographs of all 1252 pieces of software, but also adorable Engrish translations of the summaries and interviews. Baree goodo!

It’s Tuesday morning, a much better morning...

It’s Tuesday morning, a much better morning to start the work week on. Of course, perhaps even better is when the work week ends on Thursday. Michelle has off every other Friday;I remember hearing about such a plan when I was at DSR back in northern Virginia. It must be nice, but I suppose it’s a different kind of economy. Most people in games find very little rest.

I spent the three day weekend doing lots of stuff. I guess it was the most productive weekend I’ve had since first settling last summer. Unfortunately productive weekends are rarely restful ones.

Mikiko and I spent most of Sunday and Monday in real estate offices looking through thick books of faxes for apartment listings. First off we went to Tokyo Chintai House in Shibuya, looking for a larger realtor with presumably a wider selection. It sure felt like a big company, and though we came up with about a dozen possiblities, all but one were shot down for various reasons involving my race and gender. I learned a lot though about how many jo (standard Japanese bedroom mat size) approximates to square meters, what age apartments are suitable, sunlight ratios for certain stories in the Tokyo skyline, etc. In the end we had one sizeable place in Ichigaya for about the same I’m paying now. Not bad..in fact the place itself was actually really nice. However, it was in a business district and didn’t feel much like home outside the front door. No grocery stores, no children, no pubs, not much of anything other than tall corporate offices and early-closng coffee shops. [And the extreme right-wing nationalist temple in a stone’s throw.] I did see that Tecmo was literally around the corner and across the street. In the end, as temptng as it was to find such a big place cheaply in central Tokyo, I turned it down because I had a feeling I’d end up being lonely and isolated rather quickly.

After leaving our big time realtor and the first place we looked at, we went back to Iidabashi to revisit a small, secluded realtor that we’d happened by on chance while walking around earlier. The office was old, and piled high with books and aging office equipment. Seated behind the sole occupiable desk was a middle-aged man, slightly portly, with a thin pate of hair, boxy glasses and a smiling face. There were three little stuffed kangaroos on his desk, each wearing a pair of glasses and smiling with squinted eyes. The resemblance between the four of them was quite strong, and I wondered if whoever purchased the dolls was aware of it. Following more traditional Japanese business custom, he served us two cups of steaming green tea, which were greatly appreciated as Mikiko had inadverrtantly bought cold milk coffee from a vending machine at the station.

I learned quite a bit from our new agent in a short time, namely which parts of the city were best avoided do to an an abundance of printing shops and the Chinese mafia. Also, I further convinced myself that a warm and inhabited burrough was more important to me than close proximity to Porsche and Prada. He highly recommended Kagurazaka and Ushigomecho, two areas east of Shinjuku I’d passed through before on one of my bicycle trips to Akihabara. He offered to send me relavant vacancies in the mail over the week and on Saturday show us around not only the apartments, but also the town as well. Mikiko and I both absolutely loved the guy; I’m really loking forward to seeing him again on.

Though I’m a little disappointed to have given up the apartment in Ichigaya, I think it was a smart move, both because it as the first thing I looked at, and the lack of life would probably really have depressed me. I guess you could say “Why be so picky, it’s just an apartment?” Still, I usually form a strong bond (be it positive or negative) to my living quarters, and it probably plays quite a sizable role in my contentment and ability to relax. The fact that you need to kiss goodbye to about five-six thousand dollars just to get a place may have some weight as well.

When I was in high school, I wanted to be alone...

When I was in high school, I wanted to be alone because it was cool. When I was in college, I wanted to get married, because I was afraid of dying alone. Now I’m living in a space where the only time I get to think is on late trains and Saturdays, and it’s not a matter of being alone or together, it’s just a matter of being. I want to breathe and have lily petals fall off my lips, to walk on asphalt and see stars.

Usually, the people who do amazing things don’...

Usually, the people who do amazing things don’t think they’re amazing. Some people just do the best they can really well.

There was a pub around the corner, it had a picture of a straw hut on the sign, and it said something about bamboo. They had little, plastic food, and the server was an old woman who you knew was someone’s mother. It was a little overpriced, but you paid anyway because it was a port between the ocean at work and the village called home. I rode past it last night, but the metal gate was drawn down, and the front was taken off the sign, leaving the cheap fluorescent bulbs exposed. It’s sad to think of what happens to people when they go out of business. Maybe they didn’t have enough customers, maybe they got tired. What happens to all the stores with shutters that stay pulled seven days a week? Do buildings get lonely?

I am a fighter. I live in Tokyo and make video...

With Great Exit Music

I am a fighter. I live in Tokyo and make video games for a living. I’m six-foot two, wear worn out t-shirts and play the recorder. I’ve spent the last seven years of my life wondering who I want to be and if it’s ok. Lots of times I knock the alarm off the table and roll over to face the wall, because I like living in between stretched cotton and unwashed polyester.

I used to think that life was hopeless, at least for me. Then I thought that everything had to be a movie. Now I just eat bananas and listen to R.E.M.

Lots of small things turn me on, and I want to stay that way.