Thursday, March 17, 2016

"Utsu Eiga" - Japan's depressing movies of doom


The US may have a virtual monopoly on the post-apocalyptic genre, which often stands in as an allegory for real-world fears - fears of loneliness, sudden poverty, and lost hope.

Japan has its own dark "genre" - really more of a movement - and it's a lot more direct. These films are all about the lurid underbelly of modern Japanese society - subjects that everybody knows but nobody talks about. Things like bullying, rape, suicide, prostitution and murder.

Japan has a long history of dark family melodramas, which explored the strained dynamics of families during wartime or under new western influences. But these modern films have some unique traits - they're more often about loners or young people, to start. Oddly enough, the first unifying trait I noticed in these films was that many of them star the same actors, almost like there's a specific troupe making them. You'll be seeing a lot of Rinko Kikuchi, Ayumi Ito and Yu Aoi if you watch all of these!

My wife and I have searched for whether there's a universally accepted term for this movement yet, and the closest we've found is "utsu eiga", which loosely translates as "depressing movies". (But yes, people in Japan talk about these films as a distinct movement too.)

You might ask "why?" Why does happy, goofy Japan - land of life-size Gundams and J-pop and robotic butts - make movies that are really dark and sad? Well, in Japan there is a saying that "the tallest blade of grass gets cut down". Conform, or else. These movies are about the tallest blades of grass.

My wife and I have watched a bunch of these (and I've even written about a few before), and many of them are beautiful, unique and inventive. They tell dark but universal stories from a distinctly Japanese point of view - not completely unfamiliar, but you might see some things in a new way.

They're also very slow, but the best are hypnotic. Don't let the pacing scare you - just go with it, and eventually you'll feel like you're riding a raft down a calm river - one with a giant waterfall at the end of it.

Without further ado, here's a list of some utsu eiga that are worth checking out - all of these are available on DVD or Blu-Ray in the US (and some on Netflix streaming):

1. All About Lily Chou-Chou
A high school student runs an online fan forum dedicated to an ethereal pop singer. Her music lets him temporarily escape his reality of bullying and petty crime. It's almost impossible to say more without giving away spoilers, since the entire film is one slow and depressing surprise after another, culminating in a fateful concert that provides a cathartic yet ambiguous ending. A word of warning: several scenes will make you really uncomfortable, assuming you're a normal human being. But the film's also ethereal and beautiful, like the songs of Lily Chou-Chou herself. I thought about this one for days after seeing it; it's probably the deepest, most complex film here.


2. Suicide Club/Noriko's Dinner Table
You know a film that begins with the simultaneous suicide of 54 schoolgirls in front of a rush hour train is going to be dark. That sets off a chain of copycat suicides nationwide, with a pop group seemingly somehow behind it. Suicide Club focuses on the police investigation into what's causing these suicides, while Noriko's Dinner Table, its companion film, goes deeper into the psyche of the individuals involved in the supposed "club". The latter film isn't a true sequel or prequel but takes place before, during and after the events of Suicide Club (in Japan, it's known as "Suicide Club 0").


3. Adrift in Tokyo
An aimless and indebted college student meets up with a loan shark who promises to wipe out his debts if he just accompanies him on a walk across Tokyo. Not knowing why but having no real choice in the matter, he agrees. They walk. Secrets are revealed. A fateful decision is made. A kind of forced but real friendship develops. This is a dark buddy movie.


4. Norwegian Wood
I'm cheating a little with this one since it's written and directed by a French Vietnamese, but it's adapted from a Japanese novel, stars Japanese actors and was released first in Japan. Some have criticized the film for cutting a lot of the 1960's radical politics out of the plot and instead focusing on the love story, but it is a tragic love story that's filled with death and loss. (It's actually kind of a "bizarre love quadrangle".) The film still touches on many different issues, including how Japan deals with mental illness (hint: not well).


5. Swallowtail Butterfly
Written and directed by the same guy behind All About Lily Chou-Chou (Shunji Iwai), Swallowtail Butterfly is about the closest Japan generally comes to a serious post-apocalyptic film. Set in an unspecified dystopian future, Japan now has a large and growing underclass, fueled by unemployed immigrants from China and elsewhere who speak a mixture of Japanese, Chinese and English. These immigrants have formed their own shantytowns, one of which is called "Yen Town" because they'll make money any way they can, including theft, prostitution, and any scam they can think up. When the citizens of Yen Town decide to go legit, though, they find it's not that easy.


6. Nobody Knows
Four siblings are left at home alone by their mother for weeks at a time, and eventually forever. They learn to fend for themselves, scraping by through begging and eventually other means. But when the oldest and most responsible sibling begins to drift away from the rest, things really take a turn. You'll think it can't get any worse for them, but it does. You'll also think "no way this could happen in Japan"... but this is the only true story on this list.


7. Battle Royale
Lots of people have compared this to the Hunger Games, but they are very different movies. Battle Royale is an allegory for high school itself, with adults in the film forcing students to literally kill each other. The implication is that adults not only turn a blind eye to high school bullying, but are in fact complicit in it. The survivors don't make it out because of the system, but in spite of it.

This is a film by Takeshi Kitano, who could actually appear several times on this list. His films often explore themes of alienation and tell stories of societal outcasts. But, well, this is probably his most famous in the west, so it's my pick here. (Also, I couldn't remember the names of any of the others I've seen!)


8. The Taste of Tea
Admittedly it's been a while since I watched this one and I don't remember it too well. But I do know that it's probably the closest film on this list to one of Japan's earlier family melodramas, in the vein of Tokyo Story or other Ozu films. Each member of the Haruno clan has his or her own eccentricities, and they're all celebrated here in a series of vignettes that adds up to a film that seems to say "we're all weirdos - deal with it."

This is technically a comedy, though I remember it as a drama and Amazon's quotes from Trinie Dalton note that it revels in "odd, awkward moments of reflection or confusion." My memory is that it's like a much slower Wes Anderson film.


9. Linda Linda Linda
I hesitated to include this on the list because in the end it is an uplifting film, but it still has many of the hallmarks of an utsu eiga. A group of high school girls forms a punk cover band, and when their singer quits, she's replaced with a Korean exchange student who barely speaks Japanese. Among the themes in the film is the difficulty foreigners have fitting in to Japanese society, especially teenagers who might not be emotionally equipped to handle it. So it's got a lot in common with some of the other entries here.

Incidentally, western directors have tried to make their own utsu eiga, set in Japan with Japanese actors, but with the exception noted above, these have generally not been very good.

This is by no means an exhaustive list - just some of the films I've seen. I'd love to hear your recommendations!

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

I'm officially a hipster - joining the vinyl resurgence

Reading my own blog post on the vinyl records I've still got sitting around inspired me. Setting this up was my day yesterday:



And no, that wasn't a planned tribute to George R. Martin - it's a cosmic coincidence.

Still gotta hide some wires, but I've got a turntable system again!

That's a Monoprice hybrid tube amp down there - a steal at $149, though it does have some transformer hum and the Bluetooth is basically useless unless you have low bit rate files. (It works fine for my wife and her older mp3's, but it skips and pops periodically with my 256k and higher files. Small buffer, I guess.) But look at those tubes!

The turntable's a cheap old Teac P-595 that's been sitting in my attic for years - I think the last time I had it hooked up was when I was in college at NYU and working at Zapp Records on Bleecker St., maybe 20 years ago. I did do the smart thing back then and put the best cartridge I could afford on it - an Audio Technica AT331LP. I'm probably going to replace this whole turntable pretty soon, but it still sounds pretty good right now. That old stylus could be digging holes in my records for all I know, though.

The speakers are old Pinnacle PN5+ bookshelf speakers that have also been sitting around, though these in my basement. Love to repurpose old stuff again! These were basically as good as it ever got for bookshelf speakers, and they still sound amazing. (You should buy a used pair on Ebay - they regularly go for $50! Just make sure you check the model number - PN2's, PN4's, even PN8's just don't sound as good.) When I was in high school and college, I worked at a stereo store, so I got to know all the good deals. These speakers were about $150 per pair and they sounded as good even at that time as some others that cost ten times the price. All my co-workers had them, at both stores I worked at.

I've bought a few new records since the post that inspired this, including that replacement copy of The Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour", which I got in Las Vegas at the Beatles Love show. This was actually the first album I ever remember listening to as a kid, when I was about five years old, so the choice here was definitely intentional. That original copy tragically met its end in a temper tantrum I had as an eight year old, in which a giant pile of records was turned into so many shards of broken black plastic. This reissue looks and feels exactly as I remember, including the big booklet and gatefold sleeve. (I remember the original one had a big green apple on the album label, though.)

There is something real about the vinyl renaissance. Having any music on demand all the time is convenient, but it's cheapened it; it's made music background noise. Playing a record brings back what it was like to really listen to music, as an active thing. It makes music seem special again. I remember when it used to be a big deal to go out to a record store and come home with a new album, then sit down and really listen to it. That record was the only thing on your turntable - you weren't going to press a button and switch to something else if 15 seconds of a song was too weird, fast, slow or quiet for you. Your attention span had to be longer.

This isn't just a nostalgia thing, it's not really about sound quality and it's also not somehow about the Rube Goldberg-like complexity of the process. It does take a little more effort to listen to a record, but every part of it's enjoyable. It's not just mashing part of your iPhone screen and hearing something pop into your earphones; even just picking up and putting down the tone arm on a turntable is a satisfying feeling. That's what it's about, and why I think this is going to last - it's about bringing back the enjoyment of listening to music.

I guess I need to start shopping at Urban Outfitters now. (That's a joke.)

Friday, February 19, 2016

I've taken my first cruise - Emerald Princess, February 6-11, 2016


Last week, my wife and I took our first Caribbean cruise. It wasn't our first time in the area, but we're normally independent travelers who do it all on our own. It was actually one trip to St. Maarten watching passengers board the cruise ships in port (and meeting a few on the beach) when I started to get a little jealous, and well, here we are.


So, was it fun? Yes! The weather didn't fully cooperate, but I love ships, I love water, and any weather too warm to snow in February is okay with me. So, any Caribbean cruise has a lot going for it in my book, rain or shine.

We took the Emerald Princess on a 5 night western Caribbean "sampler", with stops in Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios, Jamaica. That's our ship parked in Jamaica at the top of this post. It's a beautiful ship, though I somehow didn't get any close-up pictures from the front. The stern is a little weird - I do prefer a more traditional ocean liner silhouette. But Emerald Princess is still nicely balanced and kind of elegant.

Why the Emerald Princess? It really just fit our schedule. And I'm a child of the 70's and 80's - the Love Boat connection isn't lost on me. Our cruise even had a Julie! (Frenchie was our deputy cruise director.)

THE SHIP


Not surprisingly "The Piazza" is the first thing you see when you board. This is the heart of the ship for passengers; it's kind of a multi-level indoor mall complete with grand spiral staircases leading to restaurants, bars, shops and live entertainment. When we arrived, there was a guy at the grand piano down there - classy! It's supposed to remind you of first class sea travel from a bygone era, and I think it's probably pretty close, albeit juiced up with a lot of extra revenue opportunities for the cruise line. They will take your money in any number of ways.


We were pretty happy with the size of our stateroom. This is a "mini-suite" on Dolphin deck (deck 9), which has a separate sleeping and sitting area including two TV's. Of course it also has a balcony, as most of the outside-facing cabins on this ship do. Unfortunately we didn't really spend that much time there on this cruise - too chilly and wet.


Our "cabin boy" (yes they still call them that, and he himself did too!) brought us a welcome glass of champagne before we headed upstairs to watch the sailaway. Nice!


We were in cabin D730, the second to last cabin on Dolphin deck. This picture is looking towards the bow, with the ship terminal on the left. You can see that the balconies on this deck are totally exposed to the elements - not necessarily a plus or minus (some people do like to lay in the sun), but it does also rain in the Caribbean.


The ship has a sailaway party on the upper decks that starts when boarding starts and ends when the ship's at sea. That's the Celebrity Constellation next to us at port, one of a bunch of other cruise ships that left right around the same time we did.


There's the Celebrity Constellation following us out of port. If you squint, you can see the massive Oasis of the Seas next in line in our little convoy. Ahead of us was the Holland America Line's Westerdam.

I was a little disappointed that people don't really line up anymore and throw confetti and streamers over the side when leaving port, but I understand it - what a pointless environmental punch in the face that must have been! People do wave, though, both from the ship and the shore.

AT SEA

Our first day at sea was spent exploring and figuring everything out... with a little relaxation on the balcony thrown in. The weather looks nice enough in the photo above but it was a little cold to be laying by the pool or swimming in it. Modern cruise ships are so big, though, that it takes at least a day just to get your bearings. We were happy to find that we had a table for two in the dining room - and we'd have that same table every night for the next five days.


An example of dinner in the DaVinci dining room. The food was generally very, very good, and a different menu every night. Breakfast at the upstairs buffet was a little iffy, but lunch and dinner were always fantastic. We didn't try any of the extra-fee restaurants - no need.


Our route took us in a circle around Cuba. Much of the time we were even in sight of it, and at no time was I ever really nervous about being too far out for rescue in a worst case scenario. Throughout most of the cruise, we were even in sight of other cruise ships on similar routings. Probably good for a first timer, although I never came close to being seasick and I do love the water. So I'd probably have been fine even in the middle of the Atlantic.


Those first couple nights, our ship was rocking and rolling. Watch for the giant waves crashing over the bow in the distance in the video above. The weather was a little crazy - not stormy, but windy and cold (for the Caribbean). The ship channel on TV was showing 40 knot winds (about 50mph) and sea swells of 10-15 feet. That's nothing like what the Anthem of the Seas was going through around the same time, but it's still pretty bad for a cruise ship. Even on a big ship like this, you sure as hell feel the motion of the ocean. During dinner, my wife said it felt like being in a four star restaurant in the middle of an extended earthquake.

Incidentally, if you ever book a cruise yourself and you're wondering about the downsides of a stateroom at the stern, engine vibration is definitely something to think about.


You can feel this pretty much all the time. Some people might not notice it, but I did. Otherwise, you get less up and down movement at the back than you do at the front, so it's still not a bad location on the ship. Those poor people at the bow must have been throwing up that first night.

GRAND CAYMAN

Our first stop at Grand Cayman ended up on the wrong side of the island because the weather closed the harbor. So we parked outside of a little tiny dock with our tenders (aka lifeboats) taking us ashore. Later we saw the other side of the island - it's amazing how different the sea can be just a couple miles away. All was calm on this side.


We had booked a shore excursion that took us to Hell and back. Hell is an area of rock formations that even today, apparently nobody can agree on the origins of.


This is Hell. On the DVD of the cruise that we got, the guide says these are volcanic. But our tour guide said that wasn't true; these used to be coral. Grand Cayman is earthquake prone and these just got pushed up from beneath the water. The entire island was once underwater.

We also took a trip to the Tortuga Rum Cake company, the Turtle Farm, and this...


This was the highlight of Grand Cayman - literally swimming with the fishes. And not just any fishes - those are stingrays, with their barbs intact. A boat took us about a half an hour out into the ocean(!) onto a sandbar where you could stand in about 4 feet of water. The stingrays in the area are "trained" to know that when humans are around, they're about to get fed. So they swim there with you, and you can even pick them up and feed them. It's kind of nuts! I've never done anything like this before.

OCHO RIOS, JAMAICA

A day later we docked in Jamaica. It's really amazing how big these cruise ships can be these days - compare the ship to the people walking directly next to it in the photo above. And this isn't even one of the top 20 largest cruise ships anymore!


Our excursion at this stop was an "eco walk and zipline adventure". It turned out to be a pretty strenuous day of exercise, hiking up a mountain in the Jamaican rainforest and then ziplining back down! (We needed some physical activity by that point.) There are seven ziplines on this mountain, the last of which is really long and really fast. I could write a full post just on this experience.


Lots of goats in Jamaica!


On the way back, we had just enough time to stop for some lunch. When in Jamaica... may as well drink Red Stripe.

That's the Costa Deliziosa in the background, by the way. (Soon to be a character's name in the next Mad Max film.)


Real Jamaican jerk chicken. This was unbelievably good and unbelievably spicy. As it should be.

AT SEA II

The weather never really cleared for us. It was cloudy, occasionally rainy and dank pretty much all the way. We're not used to that in the Caribbean - in St. Maarten, the weather is 80 degrees and sunny pretty much every day of the year. But this was the western Caribbean, which can apparently alternate between hot and humid and cold and rainy. We got the shorter end of that stick. Never once were able to even use the pool on the ship.

Incidentally, that's the promenade deck above - traditionally this would wrap around the entire ship on an old liner (technically it does on Emerald Princess, though it's not all on the same deck). On most older ships it would be a lot wider than this, though modern cruise ships try to maximize interior space on the middle decks and use the top decks for outdoor stuff. Still, some modern ships don't have a prom deck at all, so the traditionalist in me was happy to see this. In general, as someone who's at least stayed on the Queen Mary, I was kind of surprised at how much the Emerald Princess feels like a "real" ship. It is a real ship!


Endless hallway. Almost makes you dizzy.


So what do you do on a ship when it's cold and rainy? Drink, eat and go to shows. There's something kind of magical about being able to walk through your door and be "out". People talk about "going out" back home as if it's this huge pain in the ass (and it usually kind of is), but on a ship you're "out" any time you're not in your stateroom. A ship is a self-contained floating city, and it really feels just like staying at any other hotel, but with a lot less of a walk to your destination. We don't go to a lot of bars, movies or shows in real life, so it was fun to suddenly go to multiples of each every night for five nights.


Lots of this happened on our cruise.


And this...


This...

(Yes it really was that dark. Pretty nice, actually. That was Skywalker's Lounge, or as I liked to call it, Luke Skywalker's Lounge.)


And of course this.


There's so much alcohol on these cruises, you may find the odd drink here and there trying to escape.

We spotted this in an elevator. Brand new cocktail sitting on the floor! What a waste of perfectly good alcohol...

Anyway, loads of fun, would recommend it, would do it again.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Why The Force Awakens is the Star Wars movie we've been looking for


I'm not sure if you guys have heard about this, but there's a new Star Wars movie out.

I don't usually talk about big Hollywood blockbusters on my blog, because what am I going to add? Go read Rottentomatoes or something. But this is different. I grew up with the original trilogy, and after the disappointing prequels, I was still left aching for a new movie that really "felt" like Star Wars. This is personal for me.

So first things first: The Force Awakens is AWESOME. It's everything I want in a Star Wars movie, and probably more.

I've noticed not everybody shares this opinion, though, and that's just unacceptable. I'm not sure, but it seems to me that there's something of a generational split here. So let me list the reasons why this is a great Star Wars film.

Spoilers ahead, obviously.


1. Rey. Hey, did you know Luke Skywalker was originally supposed to be a girl? Anyone who's bitching about Rey being female (really? in 2015?) needs to shut up. And I don't know where they've been hiding Daisy Ridley - so much charisma, and just the right balance of strength and femininity. If the entire story arc of these films ends up being mainly about her, I'm completely on board. (Yeah I like Finn, but this feels like her story.)

Oh, also, she's definitely Luke's daughter.


2. Kylo Ren. Such a contrast to Darth Vader's perfected Sith-ness, Kylo Ren is an imperfect, developing villain - a wannabe gangster who's prone to temper tantrums and has limited command of the Force. Even his saber-building skills seem questionable - only his own saber glows with that "dirty" light that looks more like fire, which suggests that he just doesn't really know how to build them right. This is all a lot more interesting at this stage of the game than if he was an unbeatable Vader-like badass.

Some people have complained that he's basically Annakin II, but the big difference here is Hayden Christensen vs. Adam Driver. Also, Annakin's character was a whiny little weasel-man who was nevertheless really good at being a Jedi/Sith. Kylo Ren talks a good game and looks the part, but he is currently very bad at his job. They're complete opposites, in fact. (But, you know, Vader is his grandfather, so... a little similarity is pretty understandable.)


3. The OG cast. I admit, I teared up a bit when I saw Han and Leia together again. And somehow, Harrison Ford looks younger than he did in Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. He slipped right back into the role of Han Solo - older, hopefully wiser, but still snippy, wisecracking and swashbuckling when he needs to be. And while his fate made me sad, this was still basically Han Solo's movie - and that was an unexpected treat. Meanwhile, Carrie Fisher didn't do a whole lot but her presence is pure fanservice, and there's nothing wrong with that. Mark Hamill had very little screen time (and no lines!) but man, he made the most of what he got. What a moment for him!


4. The First Order. What a bunch of incompetent fools! And that's great. This is not the Empire - this is a cult of terrorists trying to copy what they know of the Empire, and getting a lot of it wrong. It's a parallel to ISIS, Al Qaeda or other real-life terrorist cults. Lucky for them, the New Republic has demilitarized since the fall of the Empire, so it's not strong enough to crush the First Order outright. But both sides are having to re-learn everything about war - and that makes total sense at this point in the overall story.

I've seen plenty of people elsewhere online who just do not get this. They think the First Order is the Empire by another name, they don't understand why they seem like such idiots (including Kylo Ren). But not only would that be uninteresting (we've, uh, seen the Empire before, guys), it also just wouldn't be any fun if the bad guys were an impenetrable wall of death for the protagonists, who themselves were just minding their own business before stumbling into the story. None of these people are well trained, and half the fun of the movie is seeing them try their best to fight.

This is also why I have no problem with what amounts to a third Death Star. The entire point is that the First Order is (clumsily) trying to do exactly what the Empire did!


5. Mysteries are back! One of the great things about the original trilogy was that it didn't explain everything. What were the Clone Wars? How did Annakin get turned to the dark side? What is the Force, anyway? Nobody ever really explained these things, and they didn't need to - that let us have something to chew on after the movie ended. In The Force Awakens, 30+ years have passed and we only get glimpses (both literal and figurative) of things that happened in that time. We're left with a lot of questions - what actually happened between Kylo Ren and Luke? How did Han and Leia split up? Where does the First Order get its money?? Some of the backstory will no doubt be fleshed out in the next films, but some probably won't - and that's totally okay.


6. Emotion is back! The original trilogy were highly emotional films - Obi-Wan's death, Darth Vader's big reveal to Luke, the final removal of his mask, etc. All of that was gone in the prequels, which had scripts that felt like a checklist (but tried really hard to force some emotion right at the end, long after we'd stopped caring). But there were at least three points in The Force Awakens that got me choked up, and all throughout I really cared about these characters because they all seem so human. I also thought the ending was the most emotional moment of the entire series so far. Even the saber battles finally felt meaningful again - and it's that meaning that gives them weight, not how flashy or fast they are.


7. A sense of perspective. The prequels tried really hard to be sweeping epics, with a huge cast and a ton of stuff going on in every frame. But The Force Awakens has downsized the series to what it once was - the story of a few iconic characters with a ragtag fleet just trying not to get blown up. At the start of the movie, the entire "Resistance" fleet seems to consist of about 30 X-Wing fighters, plus (eventually) the Millennium Falcon. Meanwhile, the First Order controls just one planet, and while their presence does strike fear at least within their own star system, it's not because of sheer numbers but because they have a habit of torching entire towns as soon as they arrive.

And remember how in the original Star Wars, the Empire sent just four TIE Fighters against Luke and the Millenium Falcon, despite he and the stolen Death Star plans being the most important things in the universe to them? Plenty of moments like that in TFA too. You don't get the sense that anyone has unlimited resources like you did in the prequels. And it's a lot easier to care about what's going on, because every person and even every piece of equipment you see is important.


8. Real sets, characters and props. Go ahead and watch the prequels again - they look and feel like cartoons. Nothing looks real. And hardly anything was - even basic sets were almost all CGI, with much of each movie shot against full green screen. But in The Force Awakens, while there's still plenty of CGI, stuff that "should" be real is real. If an X-Wing is sitting on the ground in a shot, there is an X-Wing sitting on the ground on the set. When Kylo Ren drops his helmet, it clangs on the ground, because it's made of thick metal and it's heavy! The whole movie feels real as a result.


9. Acknowledgment of the fans. George Lucas eventually got to a point where he seemed to enjoy torturing long-time fans of the series - he hated the people that made him a multi-millionaire. The prequels were basically a giant "fuck you" to all of us, and even the original trilogy was made worse over the years in the name of Lucas' own vanity.

But JJ Abrams is one of those fans, and he's given us basically exactly what we've been asking for all these years. This series is fun again. It feels like it was made for an actual audience, not for Lucas' own personal collection as a joyless, soulless old man.

I did feel like the pacing was a little inconsistent at times - the final shot was pretty damn impactful but the ending scene itself felt tacked on until that very last moment. Events prior to it should maybe have not dragged on so long (which made that feel like the ending, and the actual ending an epilogue). In general, it is a long movie and it probably could have been tightened up in several scenes.

But goddamn, I still want to see it again. And I'm excited for whatever's coming next.

About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.

About Me

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I'm married. I like to travel. I have no kids. I have a house... that I'm bad at maintaining. I used to collect classic video games. I own a lot of musical equipment that far outstrips my ability to use it. When I was younger, I was in a band. I like gadgets, and I'm an Android guy. Someday, I would like to live on a different planet.

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