Thursday, September 29, 2005

Smells Like......

Hey, you smell that? Yeah, me too. Smells kinda like a blog post. But..... where the hell is it coming from? Hmmm... let me poke around.

Ow, SHIT!! Bumped my friggin' head. Alright, now this is pissing me off. I'm gonna find this mo'fo if it's the last muthaf.... (fade voice)

(New computer arrived yesterday, folks. It is a BEAST. Simply huge, but in a lovable "Holy Crap! I can't believe I own this" kind of way. I'm still setting it up - us techies are not content to simply take it out of the box and let her rip. No, no - we have to erase the hard drive first and reinstall only the necessary programs while customizing it just so - but once I finish there will be posts aplenty. Stay tuned - "Murky Words II: Rewind's Revenge" is coming soon to a computer screen near you.)

Thursday, September 22, 2005


I received an e-mail from a friend today which said, among other things, "Nice effort with the blog, by the way. Shirky Words is more like it."

Piss off, Dogbert. Stop complaining about a free form of entertainment (or lack thereof.)

Here's what's up. As many of you know, I work at what could loosely be called a school. Like most academic institutions, it follows a seasonal pattern. September marks the arrival of new students and all that that entails, which is a lot. Students, as a rule, are a very needy bunch - particularly Japanese women who have never lived outside of their parents house, much less the country. So, they get here completely shell-shocked and all the employees, so as not to piss off our overlords back in Tokyo, bend over backwards for the first few days to make them feel comfortable and get them settled. For me, this involves taking all their laptop computers (yes, their personal computers), running virus scans on them, and outfitting them with wireless cards to connect to the schools wireless network. It is a very long and boring process, but one that the higher-ups have deemed necessary for reasons I won't get into here (largely financial... but then again, everything is.)

Over the past week we've had close to 300 rosy-cheeked cherubs arrive on our shores, almost all of them with laptops in hand. In addition, this semester I've also been commissioned to help make the student ID badges, due largely to the fact that the person who used to do them betrayed.. um, sorry....I mean left us for another job. My bosses, brilliantly deciding that student ID badges and systems support were like two peas in a pod (along with front desk lunch coverage), figured I was the most logical choice to assume those duties. (Coincidentally, the guy who used to make the badges? The same guy I mentioned at the beginning of the post who took me to task for not updating the blog.)

To further complicate matters, the British School of Boston (which leases space on our campus) is having their brand new building dedication ceremony tomorrow. It is an event of high prestige and magnitude, and the board members of both the British School & Showa (my school) will be present. All low to mid level employees are expected to run around and kiss their asses, and to this point I have refused to do so, but not in any overt sort of way. I simply do my job the same way I have always done, and don't stand at attention and salute when I get a request relayed to me by a board member. It DOES mean that there a whole lot more work to do, though. The school has been cleaned top to bottom and many of us were told a week ago that we had to work on Saturday, during which a board meeting will take place (They did hear from me about that one. My beloved nieces and nephews are turning 2, 2 & 4 and the family is having a birthday party for them on Saturday.... which I will now miss .)

Lastly, you may remember my bitching in an earlier post about how my computer at home has become intolerable. Things have not improved in that regard, although hopefully they will soon (i.e. I'm about to bite the bullet and purchase a new one.) But for right now, I only have one machine in which I can post updates - the one on my desk at work - and while I'm there I simply don't have the required time to devote to the "creative process."

So no, I haven't given up on the blog. I haven't run out of things to say. I haven't even run out of links to post. I just need TIME, man...... and a bottle of No-Doz. And yes, I know I'm fully expected to throw you a bone here, so this is a good time waster. Seems some gentleman in NYC (creepy place. The Yankees play there, you know) decided to place speech bubbles over all sorts of photographs, billboards, and advertisements. He let random people fill them in and then went back to photograph the results - located here. Enjoy. I'll check in again soon.


Oh, and the next person who criticizes my effort will be looked at askance while I make mental notes to badmouth them in the next post. Toodles.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Hello! My Name Is.....

Confession time. I have a deep rooted prejudice against a particular group of people. No, no, it's not against any specific race or nationality or anything like that... er, maybe it is, but I'm certainly not stupid enough to post such revelations on my blog. No, it's against people whose names don't follow the rules of spelling and phonetics.

What the hell?

Yes. Allow me to explain. Andrew Jones is the star center fielder for the Atlanta Braves. He is clutch. He leads the National League in home runs, plays a more than decent outfield, and is probably on the top of most MVP ballots this year...assuming, of course, that they can find his name on it. You see, it's not actually spelled Andrew with an 'e.' No - it's Andruw with a 'u.' Makes perfect sense, right? Wrong. Someone should tell him that Andruw is pronounced "An-druh-wuh", and that Andrew is pronounced "An-droo." Someone slip up on the birth certificate? I'm amazed he didn't manage to spell his last name "Gouwnze." (Note: you may detect a particularly vitriolic vibe from me at the moment. It's only because I find him one of the more irritating baseball players in the game. He leads off on all the telecasts and is universally adored to the point where it's as if he's the only player in the game - the only exception to this being Barree Bawns. Now THERE'S a guy who's worthy of a general disdain. Anyway - enough ragging on poor Andruw. He's actually a pretty nice guy from what I hear, and really, it's not his fault his parents can't spell.)

Want some more? Let's stick with the sports theme - It's easy enough. Take the name Antoine, or wait.. I'm sorry, I meant Antone. Er, actually Antowain, I'm sorry. Hmmm.. hold on a sec, is it actually Antwan? Nooooo... maybe it's Antowane. Yeah, Antoine - that's it. See what I mean? These are all actual first names of players in the NBA and NFL. All of them are spelled differently, yet they all are pronounced the same way - "An - twann."

Now, I realize many of you are saying, "Jeez, you've got some nerve. It's their NAME, for Yahweh's sake. They should be able to spell/pronounce it however they see fit." Fine. This is MY next sentence. Tfegreukbv hdsbch bcbkk appdhfmlcg fdiidcgcbsm hdsgvg htd d. What do you mean you can't understand it? I thought it was perfectly clear. Would a phonetic spelling help? Here: "Pleez yooz spell chek."

Why do we insist on having rules for words in a written language, but not for proper names within a language? How could I be hypocritical enough to belittle people for the way they spell their name while writing a blog post full of grammatical errors? Why the hell am I dwelling on all of this?

Because last Thursday I went to see Sufjan Stevens at the Somerville Theatre. For the longest time, I was pronouncing his first name exactly as it's spelled - "Suf-jan." It was only after a few weeks of doing this that I was rather snobbily corrected by a member of Boston's artistic elite (a college radio DJ) who informed me that it was pronounced "Soof - yawn" (like "Poof! Gone!", I was told.) Ohhhhhhhhhh, well excuse me, Mr. Hoity-Toity musician. Next time I'll be sure to get it right. Maybe you could do us a favor and change your name to Bob for the next album. But - if it disturbs you too much artistically, please don't bother.

You see, the concert was phe-NOM-uh-null. Say what you will about the gentleman's name (in fact, I already did) but he and his accompanying band (the Illinoisemakers) provided one of the best concert experiences I've seen in the past few years.

I knew I was in for something special when I heard his new album, "Come On Feel The Illinoise." (Mr. Stevens has plans to release an album for every state in the Union - an absurdly daunting task but one I wouldn't be surprised to see him finish, oh, forty years from now.) On first listen, I got the impression that this was nice fuzzy Sunday morning breakfast music which I would normally listen to... well, during Sunday morning breakfast. I'm not a big fan of the folk genre (Peter, Paul &, Mary, ruined me forever) which is what I would have pegged this album as if I hadn't given it a chance. But I did. I listened a second and third time and was slowly blown away by what I was listening to and the sheer musicianship of the entire thing. This was certainly more than some yahoo with a guitar singing protest songs and whining about the pain. In fact, it was goofy, happy, melancholy, and fun all at once. Better yet, it was just damn good, and when a friend of mine (who shall remain nameless for reasons you will see in a moment) offered me a ticket to an upcoming show I wasted little time accepting.

The show itself was a little surreal. Before it even began my friend (we'll call him Antoine) pointed to a guy in the crowd near the stage and said, "Hey, you see that guy in the brown shirt with the beard? I almost got into a drunken tousle with him at T.T. the Bears Place a couple years back. We were fighting over floor space to get a good view of the band." Ooooooh-kay. A couple minutes passed by and all of a sudden I nudge Antoine and say,

"Hey. Your man there, with the beard. He's on stage tuning up a trombone."

"So he is", Antoine replied, "he must be a roadie or something."

"He's got an odd look about him", I said. "You know those illustrated bibles you used to see in Sunday School? He looks like one of the disciples in those."

It was at this point that we started referring to him as Simon Peter, for obvious reasons, and we kept wondering what his role was on stage. Then, a few more minutes passed, the stage emptied, the lights dimmed, and the band (dressed in Illinois cheerleader outfits) came out and began to play. Not ten seconds passed before I again nudged Antoine and said, "Holy shit, dude! Simon Peter is a musician in Sufjan Stevens' band! You almost got into a fight with the friggin' trombone player. You could've ruined the album!" (As it turns out, Stevens corrected us later when he introduced the band members and informed us that the trombone players name was John. Antoine, however, rather astutely noticed that all was not lost, as John was also the name of one of the disciples, and our initial observations still proved true. We even went so far as to refer to him as "John, James' brother" as is often done in scripture (ex. "Man! James' brother, John can really play a mean trombone!" or "Look! John, James' brother switched instruments! He's playing the xylophone now.") Yes, we're dorks. No question. By the way - here's a link to a picture of the band on stage that I was lucky enough to find on a Google search. James' brother, John is the third from the right - brown shirt and beard. Sufjan is on the center mic. The photo was taken during the encore after they had changed out of their cheerleading outfits.)

The concert was exceptionally well played, and although they primarily stuck to stuff from the Illinois album, they did mix it up a little and play a tune or two off of Michigan (the release prior to Illinois.) The musicians were at the top of their game and they showed their skills by not only doing a virtual round robin with the instruments (the drummer would play the xylophone, the pianist would play trumpet, etc...) depending on the song, but improvising with those instruments as well. But above all, the music was just astoundingly full of harmony and melody that it was simply a pleasure to take it all in, poorly spelled name notwithstanding.

For those interested, I put a link to the album on the right hand sidebar. I've also included two tracks for download. The first track, Casimir Pulaski Day, is my favorite track on the album and one I've had up for several days already. I've also just put up a bonus track, Chicago, which seems to be the favorite track (or at least the most well known) of my friends who are familiar with the album. For those of you who haven't heard the album yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. Well worth a listen. Even Andruw Jones would approve.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Brow Sweat

You know how you can get so busy sometimes that if you stop to think about all the stuff you have to do you either dry heave, hyperventilate, or suffer from insomnia? Well, I'm kinda like that right now. Mind you, this is not unexpected. Work is like this every September, and this year's edition is no exception. In fact, it's been the busiest one yet, but I take comfort in the fact that it's only temporary. Still, new employment isn't seeming like such a bad thing right now.

And so, I haven't really had time to do much reading, surfing, blogging, etc... I'd apologize, but I'm too busy. All I ask is that you bear with me during this crazy stretch. When it's through, I'll update you on the state of Japanese women (and the culture as a whole), the latest and greatest links the Internet has to offer, and a new variety show featuring top line vagrants, ne'er-do-wells, and general tomfoolery.... er, whatever.

In the meantime, here's a game involving balls (check out the ranks. So far, I've managed to be both "Poo" and "Susan.")

In the more meantime, here's a link on napkin folding. Hey - I said I was busy... stop whining.