| < retrospect: 29 mar >


  ...of the moment  
"That lady who cut your hair in Texas -- that will never happen again."
--Passerby mother to kid in Arlington MA
Man, white people are terrible.


  ...of the moment  
Slate on mimimalsim Interesting point... minimalism a luxury item for people who can afford to keep their stockpiles at retail stores.
"'All-Purpose' flour shouldn't be able to call itself that. Terrible as a bodywash."

(2) batman's climbin' the walls

-- Every Batman-Wall-Climbing Celebrity Cameo. via BB

  ...of the moment  
Best Buy is closing some stores. Cambridge has Micro Center, but w/o a BB handy where would one test drive a laptop, say? Suspect answer increasingly is "Apple"

(2) crater face
--via my buddy Sawers -- reminds me both of my Young Astronauts in Love and that Yee + Lan story...

  ...of the moment  

Novelty oversized backpack warning commuters to See Something Say Something at Alewife Station.

"Treat all disasters as if they were trivialities but never treat a triviality as if it were a disaster."
--Quentin Crisp
"I miss Cylons."
--Amber (after watching Sucker Punch (with one scene having kinda generic shiny CGI robot ninjas)
"The truth is, we know so little about life, we don't really know what the good news is and what the bad news is."

willkommen, bienvenue, welcome, etc...

--Various rejected poster art for the Broadway revival of "La Cage aux Folles.", from this NY Times piece that has some audio about each one. I love the one at the breakfast table.

  ...of the moment  
The other day played "Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court"- what could YOU as a time traveller give history? Lena's answer: cucumber eye masks.
"I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions."
--Augusten Burroughs, Magical Thinking
"There is no substitute for good manners, except, perhaps, fast reflexes."
"There's no way I would take six years painting a ceiling. But I guess you do what you've got to do, and I just want to commend Michelangelo."
--Boston Celtics rookie Glen Davis

(11) tattooyou
So. Tuesday, for my 35th birthday, I'm getting a tattoo.

earliest known extant alien bill
It's going to be Alien Bill, on my side shoulder (right shoulder, so that he's running the same direction I'm going) not much bigger than I draw it, and covered by a short sleeve shirt.

I've thought about it off and on for many years. I've been drawing Alien Bill since 1990 or so, he was my first webdomain and my production company. There's a bit of personal mysticism with him.... I don't quite know what he's all about, if there's some cosmic or psychological significance to him always being in motion, or with the one large eye. (Though I do know he was cribbed a bit from some earlier sources.) He's not me, or my avatar, but he is my totem.

Also: I know I have trouble making decisions, of being deliberate when I feel like I'd be at fault if it goes wrong. I want to see this in the mirror and know... I made a deliberate decision. I'm sure my mom (I kind of wussed out and took up my Aunt's offer of mentioning it to her) might counter that the antidote to not making decisions isn't making bad decisions, but still: I want a reminder that I can take accountability, that some choices I make will be with be forever, but I can be something besides a pseudo-Daoist drifter.

I'm getting the work done at Fat Ram's Pumpkin Tattoo in JP, a place that has a very good reputation. Here is the artist, Alex, along with a reversed detail from Toyohara Kunichika's woodcut of Nakamura Nakazo III:
(Alex doesn't look like that quite so much in real life, still, I think the focus and concentration exhibited is a good sign.)

  ...of the moment  
One advantage of unemployment: without an alarm clock, you get that early morning doze time that can be very creative. A few days ago I realized what I really needed was a pillow that could encase the top part of my head, acting as a comfortable light blocker while still letting me breathe. And this morning I had the oddest dream where a friend of mine was really getting turned on as I dissected and grilled an old pocket watch.
Yesterday JZ and I were at Micro Center getting him a screen for his projector. We grabbed some of the energy drink "Bawls". As I was carrying the screen in its long cardboard box back to his car, the following double- (or single-) entendres followed.

"So how are you doing with that long, heavy thing?"
"Pretty good! Just keep handling the Bawls and I think we should be fine."
"You think we'll be able to get the whole thing in?"
"Well it'll take some work, but yeah... but I'll be honest with you, I don't think it's going to be very comfortable for either of us."
The arcade cabinet has become a rare site in the United States, but in their best year, coin-operated games collected quarters that, adjusting for inflation, sum to more than twice the 2006 sales of U.S. computer and videogame software.
--Montfort/Bogost, "Riding the Beam"
The store Cache at northshore mall is using live models in their storefront window. Creepy-ish!

(8) travelog of the moment
OK, I know I've written an awful lot about Japan, and this should be my penultimate entry (assuming I get to assembling the list of interesting man hole covers I photographed...) While I really enjoyed assembling each day's travelog just after it happened, I kind of longed for a summary like I had for some previous trips -- a way of telling my future self, where the heck did those 14 days go? As well as having a single URL.

It's kind of odd that each day's entry starts with three random quotes or links, but oh well.

to Japan!
Fly to Japan, via DC instead of Chicago. Josh meets me at Narita Airport and we take trains to his place in Shim-Matsudo in Chiba.

Kamakura and Yokohama
Josh and I head to Kamakura. We hike all over place and see the Zen temple Engaku-ji, the larger Shinto temple Tsurugaoka Hachiman, wash money in (Zeniarai Benten) and adore Daibutsu, the outdoor giant Buddha. After we head back east to Yokohama, go up Japan's tallest building the Landmark Tower, hop the water-taxi, and then have dinner in Chinatown.

Akihabara, Takeshita Street and Harajuku
Josh and I meet up with my college buddy Alex. We geek out at the Electric City Akihabara, taking in one of the giant stores (Yodobashi-Akiba) and the weekly street fair. Then we see super-you-threndy Takeshita Street and chic Harajuku. Finally we have dinner near the famous scramble intersection (as seen in Lost in Translation when it had the giant dinosaur on the electronic billboard.)

to Hiroshima
I head out on my own to Hiroshima, walk to my posh (but cheap) hotel and pay my respects at the Atomic Bomb Dome. After I go gift hunting in the impressive Hondori shopping arcade.

I visit the Peace Memorial Park and with a heavy heart view the displays at the Memorial Hall. Then I hike across the city and up to the Museum of Contemporary Art and check out the Manga Library. Finally a train to Kyoto.

I take a bus tour of Kyoto along with some friend Finns and Norwegians. The rainy day tour features the elegant Nijo-jo with its Nightingale floors, the Golden Pavilion shrine, and the Imperial Palace. After a buffet lunch and light shopping at the Kyoto Craft Center I switch to the Nara tour for the afternoon, getting attacked by friendly but hungry deer outside Todai-ji, world's largest wooden building and home of a Buddha even larger than Daibutsu. I paint a tile there, the tour makes one last stop at the Shinto shrine Kasuga Taisha, and then it's back to the hotel, damp but happy.

I hop the train to Osaka, the third largest and most generally easy-going big city of Japan. I go to the of Osaka-Jo, have some squid on a stick, enjoy seeing a slightly twisted version of home in America-Mura, have more great vendor food, and then witness the restaurant apocalypse that is the Dotombori district. Finally I ride the Hep Five Ferris Wheel (starting on the 7th floor of the shopping center and spinning its way up) and catch the bullet train back to Tokyo

Ginza and Asakusa
Josh and I head through the Ginza and Asakusa district and take in Sensoji Temple, with its giant lanterns and huge festive row of vendors. Then we watch two great programs of Kabuki.

Josh and I journey out to Hakone, near the base of Mt. Fuji. We take a bus over steep climbs and scary hairpin turns and do a bit of hiking. We drink in magnificent views of the lake and Mt. Fuji, as well as a visiting a few neat shops. Finally I try the Japanese Onsen, natural springs, with nary but a little towel to hide my junk and then sit folded on my hand as I decompress in the hot water

Akihabra Again and Shinjuku
Another day in Tokyo. Josh and I go back to see some stuff we missed in Akihabra then we again meet up with Alex. After a brief respite in Starbucks Josh heads home and Alex and I head to the top of the neo-Gothic Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for more great views. We then see a bit of Shinjuku and have some great conversation over some Shabu-Shabu hot pot cooking.

to Kanazawa via Echigo-Yuzawa
Time to head to the west coast on my own, this time to Kanazawa. The snow covered landscape near the Echigo-Yuzawa station is just breathtaking. I walk to my hotel, taking in some cool public sculptures and then see the Oyama Jinja shrine with its lovely rustic pond gardens. I get a feel for the city watching a video at the minimalist Noh Museum and then head to my hotel, right in the heart of the Katamachi scramble area.

A brief stop at a Shinto Shrine and then I spend hours exploring Kenrokuen Garden, arguably Japan's finest. I follow the water, see some shops, and take tea. Then I get lost in small forest of Kanazawa Castle, never sure if the storehouses I saw were all there were to see because of the construction or if I was just lost. I then experience the delight of the 21st Century Contemporary Art Museum, including the so-brilliant permanent installation Swimming Pool. A quick dinner at McDonalds (lemon pepper shaka shaka chicken is weirdly good) and then I see the Red Sox opening the season against the A's.

to Tokyo
I walk to the train station and then head back to Tokyo. On my own I hunt down the brandless brand store Muji (at last!) as well as a particular shop in Akahabra I wanted to check out for some gifts. Back one final time to Shim-Matsudo where Josh and I head out for some pizza - Pizza Hut, but Korean BBQ style!

Final Thoughts
All the things I didn't have time to fully ramble about when putting together the previous updates.

A quick postscript, manhole covers that seemed a little interesting at the time.
Bonus: Larger versions of 13 of the most visually compelling shots on Flickr.

(12) you... light up my life... or at least my desk...
So at work they rejiggered things so now the 3 new guys (myself included) are in the single "war room". Thanks to a coin flip (hint: always guess tails with American coins) I got the desk that doesn't have its back to the world.

I gotta say, though, that I will be forever bugged by people who, first thing in the morning, come into a room where people are already happily working and flip on the overhead lights. It's just so presumptuous not to ask, not to mention neglectful of the good karma of real light.

Advertising of the Moment
There's a T-mobile vendor in my building with what I find to be an amusingly out of date promotional poster. I snuck in this snapshot when the desk was unattended but the door was still open:

I mean, take a look at that phone!

OK, it's probably not as amusing here as I think, and not a great photo but still... that sucker looks like it should have an old glowing red LED display. Though maybe I should cut them some slack, the company has the word "Pager" in the title so maybe they've been around for a while.

Concept of the Moment
Bill the Splut's messageboard (all its talk about errr, "legendary" cartoonist Gonterman) introduced me to a new concept, or rather, a name for an old concept: the Mary Sue:
a pejorative term for a fictional character who is portrayed in an overly idealized way and lacks noteworthy flaws, or has unreasonably romanticized flaws. Characters labeled Mary Sues, as well as the stories they appear in, are generally seen as wish-fulfillment fantasies of the author.
Often, a Mary Sue is a "self-insertion" where the author is blatantly writing themselves into their own story.

This concept helps me label what bugs me about, say, "The Dresden Files"... decent enough fantasy/horror reads, but the main character is just a bit too-- idealized, in a kind of Post-SCA kind of way. It feels like there are a few too many carefully selected character flaws and a few too many "humble superlatives", if that makes any sense.

(6) haiku you to pieces
So during that fateful visit to FoSO's and FoSOSO's, I had, maybe for the first time...kumquats! It's funny but I think I went 30 years without 'em, but now I think they're great, I love how you can just pop one, rind and all, into your mouth, and then they're kind of like nature's version of "Atomic Warheads" sour candies that were popular back in the late 90s.

There's a bit of family folklore about this fruit, where a euphemism for having to go to the bathroom was "I gotta go juice my kumquat". So finding out how diminutive they are added a new layer of meaning to the phrase, I think it also serves as a self-deprecating remark about limited bladder capacity and having to make multiple trips...

Haikus of the Moment
In Yesterday's comments FoSO pointed out that haikus are not just defined by their syllable count but also by containing a reference to the season. (I explained the seasonal reference she had missed thusly..."Duck Season!" "Rabbit Season!" "Antihippopotamus Season!")

But it reminded me of this exchange on the Usenet group understand it, you have to know the usual followup of "motto!" after someone writes a line that is a possible candidate for a motto for this cantankerous newsgroup.... ("Hardie Johnson" wrote the final capper.)

>>>>>Haiku has pattern:
>>>>>Middle line has seven beats,
>>>>>One line has season.
>>>> Beats: five-seven-five.
>>>> But to demand a season's
>>>> Unreasonable.
>>>Complain not to me;
>>>you should tell the Japanese,
>>>as they made it up.
>> This is an English
>> Newsgroup, not ancient Japan.
>> Hactar asks too much.
> This ain't alt.haiku.
> It's
> We do what we want.

Motto, motto, mott-
o, motto, motto, motto,
motto, motto, spring.

Sigh...sometimes I think I should get back on Usenet more often.

(6) is it live or is it memorex?
Transcript of the Moment
SERVER:Customer is waiting for Response...
KEVIN:Thank you for contacting H&R Block TaxCut® Technical Support. My name is Kevin.
KIRK: Hiya.
KIRK: Still reviewing?
KEVIN:I understand thatv you have a concern regarding entering the data for Form 5498S. Am I correct?
KIRK:I think so, though I don't see "S"
KEVIN:I can assist you with that.
KEVIN:Before we start let us confirm you have the most up-to-date version of the program. Can you click on the [Help] menu on the toolbar at the top, and then choose [About TaxCut] from the list of options? The Federal and State program versions will be listed on the screen that displays. Can you let me know what version numbers display?
KIRK:6402, STDC for the Federal
KIRK:MA Standard Version 2101
KEVIN:Thank you for providing the requested information.
KIRK: I'm also unsure about the "total IRA Basis."..I don't think I got any 8606s
KEVIN:Let me inform you that if you have enter all the information correctly in the interview section you can go ahead with e-filing your return.
KIRK: So for the total IRA Basis do I just add up the Traditional IRA totals and enter it?
KEVIN:We would not be able to assist you with this, you need to refer to the [Help Center] or contact your Tax Advisor as they would be in a better position to assist you.
KIRK:you're kidding me
KIRK:you're software is so bad, i need to spend $20 and talk to someone else?
KEVIN:Do you have any further questions for me today?
KIRK:It really doesn't make sense that the "Get Ready" screen talks about Form 5498, but nothing in the built in help does
KIRK:And it's not mentioned in the interview
KEVIN:Let me inform you that you can also review your return from the professional review in H&R Block.
KIRK:So are you a robot, or just selecting pre-written responses from a list?
KEVIN:Please be inform that you are chatting with the live person.
KIRK:All right, thanks anyway.
KEVIN:Thank you for chatting with us today. H&R Block values you as a TaxCut® customer and looks forward to serving as your tax and financial partner in the future.
SERVER:Agent has closed chat session.
--I'm still not 100% convinced that was an actual person. I wouldn't recommend TaxCut, btw...its interview kind of skipped enter all these 1099s I got, I had to be a little too proactive to get it right. And they plugged extra services way too much. Bleh.

(2) that line about another man's moccasins
Thinkpiece of the Moment
Mind stretching dialog, the hypothetical correspondence of Osama and Gandhi in a piece called Why terror?, by Bhikhu Parekh. (Looks like that link might become subscription only after a while.) I think one thing we're lousy at is putting ourselves in the philosophical shoes of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. Yes, they're inarguably evil, but when you begin with some of the same starting assumptions they do (mostly religion based, which is why some people point to religious faith itself being a problem) it's a rational and almost justifiable evil, not just being bad for bad's sake. And many in this country will not acknowledge that. Some of that refusal is justified; almost any behavior that seems to reward terrorism is suspect. But we're so fond of the stick that we tend to forget about the carrot, act as if you can't address some of the problems the terrorists draw their energy from while simultaneously showing little mercy in the pursuit of the people planning to strike.

Comic of the Moment
Awesome...Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman...worth checking out.

You know, I always kind of assumed this cover was of Superman making a dramatic rescue, but, duh, no...he's shaking that car out like the bad guys were salt. That first issue covers a lot of ground: capital punishment, lobbyists working to get us involved in war...(and the other stories include a cowboy who knows jujitsu!)

Online Note of the Moment
Is it just me or has Google undergone a bit of a facelift? It's probably fairly subtle, but it's odd how jarring the change is for me.

Game of the Moment
Maddening..can you solve 2 or 3 simple mazes at the same time?

Funny of the Moment
"Buying used office chair is like being a white-collar druid. There are secret fart histories inscribed in every stinky seat."
--Metal Steve in yesterday's Diesel Sweeties.

bill the splutravaganza
Bill the Splut's The News had a terrific set of links yesterday, so I think I'll just blatantly mooch off of him today. Plenty of reading for the weekend!

Story of the Moment
Scott McCloud (author of "Understanding Comics") has made one of his Zot! stories especially for online viewing...Hearts and Minds is so good, I'm going to try to get some of the older series. The Zot! universe is one where the visions of the future from the 19th and 20th century came true. "Hearts and Minds" makes excellent use of some of the great thought experiments of the philosophy of consciousness, though it doesn't go quite so deeply as I would have like, dwelling more on ideas of mortality. Anyway, great stuff, and the entire 16 part series is available there.

Reference of the Moment
Speaking of comics, Don Markstein's Toonpedia is an amazingly wide ranging reference to Toons, both animated and from the printed page. It's incredible to try to read all the way through, seeing all the creativity (and lack thereof) that has gone on in this field. And I kind of like Markstein's refusal to be really negative about any Toon, even some of the easy targets. Anyway, I hadn't thought about Captain Caveman, shown here, for...well, at least a month.

Parody of the Moment (Good Friday Special)
"With You Always", a series of "outsider art" images showing Jesus watching over people as they act out their various professions has been making the rounds of the would be web-hipsters, but I think they're much funnier with these captions [marginally offensive link]. (You can also see the originals.)

when a plan comes together
WOW. I just found out my mom might be living in England for longer than the few months she was expecting...

Nostalgia of the Moment
In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.
--"The A-Team"

Man, I used to love that show. A while back there was an odd web phenomen: Mr. T vs, where people would make up photoplays of Mr. T taking on a wide assortment of forces of evil. Pity the fool, indeed.

< retrospect: 29 mar >