Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Screwdriver Twist


Ah, the wonders of winter!
A cold or an inflamed throat ain’t one of them. 
Time to look for warmer climates. 
Till then, let’s dream. 
And what better way than a twist on a perennial classic – the screwdriver! Just substitute the vodka with rum for the topical isle feel! How about a dash of another flavor? How about that? Coconut anyone? Sure! See, the wonderful marketing people at Pernod Ricard thought about this, too. The result is the Malibu Winter Edition. Aha, that’s right my dears, coconut flakes floating in the rum - it’s a snowball with a tropical feel! 
Shake, shake, shake and pour. 
Kind of clever, if you take my 2¢. 
Since I need vitamin C… 
Aaaaa tasty!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A quick reminder

… just in case you forgot or didn’t know – these are just some of your patient workhorses that sustain: Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations this time at the U.S./Mexico border.

See at least 2:35 of the first one and all of the second

Friday, December 2, 2011

*H* Kitty

The mirth of it! Teehee.
Naked Hello Kitty! Hello Titty!
*H* —Ecchi in Japanese means “lewd”, “sexy”, “lascivious”, etc.
Thanks <3yen and EVIL PONGI

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


From Kimonos (365 Series) by Sophie Milenovich
A “thing to wear”. “Clothing”. Beguiling simplicity. When it comes to feats of tailoring, kimono might not be up there. The modern kimono (a version dating back to 1600s) is made from a single strip of fabric commonly 38 or 40 cm wide. The long strip (13.5 m) is for the most part cut along its width to create two long rectangles that will drape front-to-back (or back-to-front, take your pick), two relatively shorter rectangles of the same width as the long ones that will drape over the arms as sleeves, with only one strip cut lengthwise for the collar and front facings. Nothing goes to waste. Straight line stitches. And hey presto! Simple, ha? OK, simplicity like that can be unforgiving to a messy stitch that gathers the fabric… I know where I am coming from with those flashbacks of childhood sawing classes… So from whence comes the magic? It’s not just the furi (the sleeve below the armhole), especially when they are as long as in the kimonos of the young unmarried women. It is the entire spectrum of fabric design from the most subtle selection of single color, weave pattern or print, or the demureness of the white wedding day kimono worn by the bride for the religious ceremony to signify her “death” to her family, to the grand extravaganza of weave, print and embroidery of uchikake (a highly formal kimono worn only by a bride later in the wedding day game, or at a stage performance). See it in the flesh and you will know how fabrics can enchant. Although the kimono shape hasn’t always been as we know it now, the fabric was the key in the kimono fashion world no matter the kimono shape. Back in late 700s, the sodeguchi (the sleeve opening) was wider and layering de rigueur. The ladies of the court would wear as many as twenty-five kimonos to achieve the right look and needed to mind their color choices. The latter was not solely a function of each fabric layer complementing another, but an observance of a strict status code. Some fabrics were more equal than others… Still, “the association of colors became an extremely sophisticated art that despite the tight constraints subtly reflected seasons, virtues, or sentiments, in addition to a taste or talent for demonstrating one’s personal sensitivity.” (ref.Irome no kasane. And good luck moving in all that exquisite garb! Then again, what was a lady to do, but to sit tight and inspire? Sei Shōnagon was inspired – to dispense some Fashion Police advice. She “numbers among her list of depressing things a "red plum blossom dress in the Third or Fourth months," a gaffe on the order of wearing white shoes before Easter.” (ref.) Tragic indeed…

Recommended reading:
Trusty Wikipedia: Kimono (here); The Book of Kimono: The Complete Guide to Style and Wear by Norio Yamanaka (here); Kimonos (365 Series) by Sophie Milenovich (here); Kimono at JapanZone (here)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cats in kimonos

A birthday card from my parents. Perfect!

Photograph by Satoru Tsuda
© Group B / Satoru Tsuda and Group B Company Ltd.

Kill Bill O-Ren Ishii Scene

This blog would not feel complete without it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mystery beauty product

The joy of going to a market either in a foreign place or, for those of us that could not travel, to the so called “ethnic” markets closer to our homes, is the plethora of products that to a native of the given ethnicity either seem banal or are a reminder of their roots, but to the rest of us look utterly exotic. Such is my fate. And I don’t mind. Suddenly, any product looks more appealing, because the packaging is different and IT is by default different. More often than not, only the first is true.

So here I am, after impromptu foray into Mitsuwa, with a mystery beauty product in my hand. What’s my excuse? As my friend said, “Hiragana even makes warning labels very attractive”, and this one looked innocuous enough. The stuck-on label on the back is in English and tells me that I am holding “Face Milkly Lotion” [sic]. Yes, exactly that, plus the ingredients and warnings about stopping the use if a rash develops, and then a simple use instruction “Apply moderate amount on face”. Period. This shouldn’t be an issue, but in the current beauty market it is customary to have a simple line or two about what the product promises to deliver. That sales line is in hiragana and, I am sad to admit, I cannot decipher it. Internet to the rescue!

Mitsuwa website is kind enough to provide descriptions in English and, although I didn’t find one for my product, they go something like this: “W steadily penetrating deep into the essence of the stratum corneum, the combination of isoflavones, such as elasticity gives the thump and overflowing” or “The burnished skin full of moisture with firmness. The rich feel, latex skin leading to buoyant.” Sure, I should learn hiragana, but… The oft used digital translators may be to blame. They have a long way to go, and I should know. Alternatively, could the “Big Wigs” select the people in-the-know that work for them to do the translations properly because they really can? After all, isn’t that what kids are for, too? It is the privilege of the immigrants, or parents who send their kids abroad, to use those “ungrateful little bastards” to provide great translations in exchange for the new or better home their elders have delivered them into or the education they allowed them to have. Just saying.

Anyhow, I found the exact product description eventually – “This facial milky lotion contains rice ceramide to soften and nurish your skin. Fast absorbing and non-sticky formula. No fragrance, colorant, and mineral oil. General order to use skin care products Cautions: Do not use if you have scars or rashes. If you notice irritation or any other skin problems using this product, stop using immediately and consult a doctor. Symptom may get worse if you keep using it. Do not store in a high temperature of in direct sunlight. Rinse immediately if it gets into your eyes. Keep out of the reach of children.” Thank you! Now let’s see if this is more than pretty exotic packaging with nifty hiragana.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Edamame soup

12 oz frozen edamame beans • 3½ cups konbu stock • 1 teaspoon salt • 2 teaspoons soy sauce • shredded nori, optional • Boil the edamame beans in salted water for 5-10 minutes, then drain and cool with cold water • Blend the edamame and konbu stock in a food processor until smooth; in batches unless you have a processor with a BIG container• Pour the mixture into a saucepan, add soy sauce and simmer for ~4 minutes • Pour the soup into serving bowls and garnish with shredded nori • いただきます

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Left Brain. Right brain.

Left Brain Right Brain
Logical thinking | Sequential | Rational | Analytical | Objective | Looks at parts | Accuracy | Exact Computation | Direct fact retrieval | Grammar | Vocabulary | Literal | Written language | Spoken language | Linear information processing | Plans ahead | Recalls people’s names | Punctual | Prefers formal study design | Prefers bright lights while studying | Speaks with few gestures | Verbal | Present and past | Math and science | Acknowledges | Order and pattern perception | Forms strategies | Practical | SafeRandom • Intuitive • Holistic • Synthesizing • Subjective • Looks at wholes • Aesthetics • Feeling • Creativity • Approximate computation • Intonation • Accentuation • Prosody • Pragmatic • Contextual • ‘Un-ordered’ information processing • Impulsive • Recalls people’s faces • Less punctual • Prefers sound or music background while studying • Prefers frequent mobility while studying • Gestures when speaking • Visual • Present and future • Philosophy and religion • Appreciates • Spatial perception • Presents possibilities • Risk taking • Daydreaming

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Yoko Ono vs. May Pang

Yoko Ono | Japanese May Pang | Chinese-American
February 18, 1933
Tokyo, Japan
October 24, 1950
Manhattan, New York
Before Lennon
From a well-to-do family
Attended exclusive schools
Lived thru Tokyo fire bombings in 1945
Lived through poverty
Dropped out of studying philosophy at the university
Moved to New York after the war
Longed for and eventually joined the “Bohemia”
Married Toshi Ichiyanagi in 1956
She was 23
A suicide attempt and a stint in a mental institution at some point
Divorced Toshi and then married Anthony Cox in 1962
She was 29
That was annulled for technical reasons
and then went ahead in 1963
Had a daughter together – Kyoko – she was 30
Divorced Cox in 1969
She was 36
The custody mess started… and never really resolved…
to this day Kyoko and Yoko cannot get together
Throughout she was well and truly part of
the NYC art world “scene”, especially the avant-garde

Chinese immigrant family
Did college
Wanted to be a model but deemed too “ethnic”
Receptionist at ABKCO Records
(yes, here is the Apple Records and Beatles connection)
With Lennon
Met November 9, 1966 at her exhibition in London
She was 33
She was his muse and collaborator
The gateway, the key and the catalyst to the avant-garde
Married March 20, 1969
She was 36
And continued
Then separated in 1973
She pursued her career in NYC
He lived in LA having his 18-month “lost weekend”
with May Pang
Reconciled in 1975
Had a son together – Sean - she was 42
Witnessed at a close range John’s murder in December 1980
Became a widow at 47
Throughout she was a practicing artist in her own right
adding music to her repertoire
Asked to help John and Yoko
with a film project in December 1970
Became their personal assistant in New York in 1971
She was 20
In 1973, after the decision to separate,
Yoko suggested May become John’s companion
Yoko “orchestrated” the match
In October 1973, May and John left for LA
to promote “Mind Games” album
The “lost weekend” began
May was 23
In June 1974, they returned to NYC
Adopted two cats
Early 1975, Lennon almost bought a house in Hamptons
for him and May to hang in
“You know Larry, I may have been the happiest I've ever been...
I loved this woman (Pang), I made some beautiful music
and I got so fucked up with booze and shit and whatever."
She was his companion, “nurse”,
occasional muse and collaborator
But then he reconciled with Yoko…
May was 24
But May claims her and John… until 1977
After Lennon
Had a bout of seclusion after John’s murder
Then continued her art and activism
A very busy woman!
Faithful and collaborators abounded and still do
Worked as a PR manager for
United Artists Records and Island Records
Married a record producer in 1989
She was 38-39
Had two kids
Then divorced in 2000
She was soon 50
She is still in contact with “Lennon’s crowd”
Talked about it
She could have not escaped talking about it
even if she tried;
people keep on asking!
Book: Loving John (1983)
Book: Instamatic Karma (2008)
In her own right
Artist, musician, film director, peace activist, designer,
continual muse and avid artistic collaborator
All-around Grand Artiste status
Personal assistant, production coordinator,
jewellery designer, author, volunteer for Animal Haven,
internet talk radio show co-host

Nyan Cat, or WTF?! - Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya!

Original, seriously sped up, super slow, relaxed, metal and smooth jazz versions, followed by a full on attack and a hell kitty, ... ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
This is insane!
To quote two YouTube comments regarding the original,
"I want this song on my iPod and a full sheet of lyrics"
"Mniam Mniam Mniam Mniam Mniam Mniam."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

tastejive: wines in your language™, or selecting wine based on what you desire

This is the deal: if you do not want to choose your next vino based on a recommendation that gives you a historical background and then says the given wine is “a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah [and] The three varieties are aged 20 months in new and used barriques and large puncheons, to emphasize fruit purity”, then tastejive is for you. Get a recommendation that matches the experience you are after, mood or occasion, and fires off quips such as:

“Overrated, and with a checkered past; Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton in a bottle.”
“Big and muscular like meat on a stick, with a man on the side.”
“Joan Holloway, walking, or, whatever.”
“… like a mouthful of sparklers putting on a show for your tongue.”
“Shaplier even than Pippa Middleton’s bum. A classy, full-bodied affair that won’t settle for second fiddle. Show it off to your friends.”
“With curves in all the right places and legs that just don't quit, this wine will stop you in your tracks like a half-naked super model”

Ha! They even have an App for your iThingy billed with “Remember the last time you tasted a wine you liked? Can't remember its name? Don't worry, 80% of people don't remember, either.” Except that you will have to log on to the Facebook to use it, and I find that annoying…tastejive is a nice concept though.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The ultimate office survival kit

Photo © MAK
Just the required
or mellowness 
one might require 
to be jazzed up.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Live every day as if it were your last and then some day you'll be right. ~ H.H. "Breaker" Morant

Steve Jobs' 2005
Stanford Commencement Address
“I can say this to you with bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept. No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make the way for the new. Right now, the new is you, but some day not too long from now you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it’s quite true. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinion drown out your own inner voice, and most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
– Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” – Final issue of Whole Earth Catalogue

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The origin of O-Ren, or what might not pass the censors in flesh might as anime

When “Kill Bill” came out, it was a dizzy visual offering that borrowed and acknowledged those unique parts of the film library, the film genres and films gone by, for the cinematographically obsessed. The Asian influence was unmistakable. The use of anime to tell a background story was a welcome surprise, and a very appropriate approach considering O-Ren Ishii’s ancestry and birthplace. The gore would have passed the censors in a non-anime form (as shown later in the tea house scene for one), because for some reason gore is deemed less corrupting to our souls (but don’t you think the anime style gave it a peculiar edge?). What would have not passed was the young O-Ren’s method of getting closer to Boss Matsumoto to exact her revenge. If filmed in flesh, it would have made most of us squirm, feel very uncomfortable and challenged to make a leap into “but this is part of the plot/art”, alas unsuccessfully. I know I would have been all those. After all, I did not see the point of reading Nabokov’s “Lolita” – I simply did not care to understand Humbert Humbert’s madness (I drew the line on my liberalism there, but you won’t see me picketing…) – and seeing Stanley Kubrick’s take on that story did not make it better (as much as I love Kubrick’s stuff). Also, why do you think Adrian Lyne’s adaptation pretty much went straight to rental? Pedophilia does not work for most of us. This is why it is interesting that when delivered as anime not only did it pass the censors as an appropriate vehicle for providing character background, but it elicited barely a blink from the viewers. You might ask, do I have a point here? The things that make us squirm, uncomfortable and disgusted happen; therefore, there is always a place for them in literature, film and any other artistic media that draw from life. I think we should react to what we read, see and hear no matter how unnerving it is. As much as I like anime, I worry when it removes this distress with its gloss.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sukiyaki and Chips: The Japanese Sounds of Music

1995. Took a note to have some period reference to where the West was at. The top five hits of 1995, according to the Billboard Top 100, were: 5. “On Bended Knee” Boyz II Men, 4. “Kiss from a Rose” Seal, 3. “Creep” TLC, 2. “Waterfalls” TLC (was a good year for them, obviously) and 1. “Gangsta’s Paradise” Coolio. When it comes to albums, same source, we had: 5. “CrazySexyCool” TLC, 4. “Hell Freezes Over” The Eagles (Really?! C’mon people! A 70s band?! Whatever…), 3. “II” Boyz II Men, 2. “The Hits” Garth Brooks and 1. “Cracked Rear View” Hootie & The Blowfish. If memory serves at all, I was somewhere in the territory of Pearl Jam, Silverchair, Alanis Morissette, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Nirvana, Green Day, Oasis, The Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, Björk, Nick Cave … you get the idea.*

Now that I set the scene for the ‘back in the days as I think it was’, you will understand why my eyebrows arched 1:32 minutes into “Sukiyaki and Chips”. Harajuku Park, Tokyo: Japanese rockers looking a bit à la Danny Zuko, with added variations on that style, dancing away in what seemed like freeform Twist to rock’n’roll. But it started to make sense when the girl said, “This is the best place in Japan for me. I can forget all about what I’m supposed to do or be and just loose myself in the rock’n’roll.” I stood corrected. Who was I to scoff at this?! Wasn’t this what it’s all about?!  The “this” and “it” being music and freedom that comes with music, or vice versa – take your pick regarding the order. Hell, take your pick whichever way! I had to put my ethnomusicologist / sociologist / anthropologist / cultural studies /journalist / keen-observer / for-once-open-minded-individual, or whatever it should’ve been, hat on for this documentary.

Next was the phenomenon of Lollipops – short term pop idols that were truly a flash in a pan. Groomed here, gone tomorrow. The disparaging teenager commentary voiceover encapsulated this music “scene” to a T. But hey, such is still the lot of pop music, I say. As it turned out, the prime customer base for Lollipop music was more clued in that it might’ve seemed at first. Actually, Japanese of all ages were aware of their escapist tendencies. As the barman said of the videos screened in the bars to keep the customers drinking, “Of course, I like naughty things. I like pornography. Soft porn, that is. So do most men after all. I think porn is about the most popular entertainment of all around here.” The voiceover added, “In some places is highbrow stuff. Expensive. For businessmen or foreign tourists. They take medieval classics and turn them into striptease. Very Japanese. These are a mixture of medieval and modern, in both story and music.” Cue in a hard rock track to a piece by kimono garbed, geisha-shogun coiffed performers emulating a sex scene. And the boobs came out. Then she gingerly hammered the bell to traditional music while stark naked.

Shift. Dr. Tsunoda had an explanation for why classical Japanese music sounds different. Something about the brain wiring that had to do with the uniqueness of the Japanese language. Left brain listens more. Even to Beethoven – the example of western music. More or less, that is. He threw in what I saw as a challenge – that westerners find Japanese classical music hard to understand. Ha! So rests play a huge part. OK … This was just his opinion all around anyhow. Cue in an avant-garde musical performance by one with many instruments. Admittedly, seeing it being done made it more fascinating. Just like any ‘challenging’ piece – from east or west, north or south. Bravo to the finale – a cow sound toy! All inspired by the sounds of Japan, its traditions, the silence … somehow … or so she said.

Ah, Yamaha pianos. Start learning music at 4! Embrace electronics! After all, they want to get to your “heart and soul.” Yamaha hoped to move the human race forward, at least musically, with the help of these new electronic instruments. Doof doof for world peace? Venture into space age sounds? Well… Just faster production of pop music for “the Japanese public [that] is so terribly limited in its taste.” Turned out that thinking about the musical wants of the Japanese public would’ve compromised, not so much the artistry, but the ability of some musicians to have a job they like and to express themselves as products of their environment. That’s if you are a pop group that can afford such notions (see Yellow Magic Orchestra in the studio below), because as everywhere around the world, the lot of Japanese musicians upholding the traditions was tough. Poor pay, fickle audiences wanting mainly some entertainment in the music hall, or reflections of their lives to sing to. They chose. Hell, they could make their own entertainment in the karaoke taxi while on the way to work! You better serve! They were the stars, in their spare time.

If you think I have spilled a lot of detail, fear not. If you pay attention, “Sukiyaki and Chips: The Japanese Sounds of Music” is dense with clues and information as to why Japanese music and music scenes were just so. The variety was there – whether up to your taste or not – and the music is everywhere, even in the most mundane.

*Disclaimer: Although stamped as a 1995-production, the “Sukiyaki and Chips: The Japanese Sounds of Music” footage turns out to be all 80s. That explains a lot. Me and 80s have a strange retrospective relationship. I draw a blank as to what I listened to back then as far as the entire decade is concerned. Madonna and Kylie Minogue featured somewhere in the second half … So much for my feigned alternative music snobbery.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Beauty sleep

Photo from Beauty Fool
I am the last one to argue for sleep to be a waste of time. Maybe back in the days, I saw all those precious hours as time during which so much could be done, but no more. Nowadays, sleeping is my hobby. Aha. Anything that would maximize its benefits I am up for. Enter the idea of silk pillow cases. Some would say they have plenty of beauty benefits like preventing frizzy hair, development of zits and wrinkles to name the classic few. Old wives’ tale this maybe, but if nothing else the superficial luxury of tossing in the silk for all those hours has my vote. Beauty sleep either way.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In search of the best sushi in the world or as you like it II

“Best sushi in the world goes to the highest bidder”
“How to eat sushi sustainably”
 From Vanguard: Sushi to the Slaughter (Season 5, Episode 3 here)


Monday, September 19, 2011

Englishman in New York

Every now and then I deviate from the usual topics, but this song is too appropriate.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cat Hot Pot – Neko Nabe

 ( “Neko Nabe: A Tale of Cats in the Northern Provinces”)

By 奥森すがり (Okumori Sugari)
2007 (Japan)

“No, we’re not suggesting you poach your kitty! A clay donabe maybe the perfect vessel for preparing hot pots, but Japanese felines have their own idea: cleverly repurposing this cookware to create the cat equivalent of a four-poster bed. As pet owners across Japan can attest, something about the bowl shape of a donabe makes it irresistible to sleepy kitties. So instead of chucking a cracked or chipped pot, they leave them out for the ole Tiggers in their lives (the pots for cooking stored safely out of feline reach, of course).”

Man: What is this?!
Woman: It’s neko nabe (cat pot)!
Man: Oooh. Neko Nabe!
Narrator: Once very popular, 
we’ve prepared a lot of Neko Nabes. 
We are attempting a mass neko nabe! 
I wonder, if they’ll go into them…
Woman: Ready? Start!
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