blacklilly: (Crazy)
I came back to Tokyo yesterday. The shinkansen was packed, but my friend and I were lucky to get a seat. The four days down in Osaka were a much needed break from the constant anxiety in Tokyo - I stopped shaking, and despite dreaming about earthquakes for all but one night, got some rest and relaxation.  Every time I go to Osaka I wonder why I don't live there.  The atmosphere of the city seems to suit me much more.  The pace of life seems less frenetic than Tokyo, and the people much more friendly and relaxed.  There's something nice and grimy about Osaka which I like, too.  And the mexican restaurants are deeelicious.

I met up with an old friend on Sunday for lunch. Ayumi is a former student of mine from London, and she was always really cool.  She played in a punk band in London, and looked after the school principle's little boy as a part time job. She's really different from many of my Japanese friends.  We once went to an izakaya in Tokyo and she asked for a spoon.  They waiter gave it to me, and I promptly handed it to her as she had lost her patience with chopsticks for eating rice - too much time in England with mashed potato.  We went to a little omu-rice restaurant in Amemura (America-mura) and then went to buy earrings in a silver shop.  We walked past a group of young kids having a dance competition on the street.  There was a lot of silver lame, spandex and braided hair going on. Very cute.  Ayumi took off for a band practice and I took to wandering the streets, where I observed some guy getting mobbed by people and upsetting the traffic.  It turned out that he was Kid Yamamoto, a famous K1 fighter.  I had no idea who he was until I googled him after a friend also mentioned seeing him. 

So today, we've had three noticable aftershocks.  They've been 5+/6+ tremors, though in Tokyo they only registered 1 and 2.  I noticed the first one at work, mainly because I started feeling nauseous, and then the secretary called out "jishin" (earthquake) and we waited to see what would happen.  The other two have been since I got home, though I don't recall noticing the second one, which is actually a good thing.

This afternoon I headed down to a hotel near the British Embassy in central Tokyo to pick up some iodine tablets.  The likelihood of having to take them is low, as was stated when the embassy handed them over, but it provides some peace of mind for myself and the people back home.  The queue was quite long.  It took about an hour waiting to register but was pretty quick after that.  I bumped into three other people I know in the queue. 

The man standing next to me got talking, and provided a great conversational hour.  He is teaching techincal writing at Tokyo Univeristy, but has a doctorate in civilisation collapse in ancient cultures.  We talked about that, Angkor Wat, Frtiz Schumacher, and vertical farming, as well as his forthcoming book, which he says is a response to Jared Diamond's "Collapse".  I've not read Jared Diamond, but I am aware of his stuff, so will have to look it up.   This also ties in with what my friend Erik has been blogging about since last week.  Erik has some really good stuff to say on environmental issues, and he writes very well.  Check it out.  Very interesting, and very lucky that I got to talk to him, as the people ahead of us spent much of their time wailing about some sort of apocalypse, telling each other to hush up about the apocalypse, and slagging off the French.

So, apart from the continued tremors, things are slowly slowly continuing and getting back to normal.  The trains are running, though there is no set schedule running on some lines.  I had to take the subway to get the tablets earlier, so was a little nervous about doing that, but it turned out alright.  The subway is pretty empty in comparison to over-ground trains, but in general things are quiet.  Food is back in the shops.  In one supermarket they are rationing how much you can buy.  I got two 2-L bottles of water today (I guzzle a lot of water), and my friend picked up some gas canisters (1 pack per person).  10kg bags of rice at rationed to 1 per purchase, and there was no bread left, but plenty of bakeries.  So, not so bad.   There's still palpable tension about, but the Japanese are good at dealing with difficulty - mature, as Erik put it - and are battling on sensibly where others might lose their heads.

Oh yeah, I checked the BBC yesterday, only to find that we had started bombing Libya.  When did this happen??!!  And more importantly - ANOTHER war?????? 

blacklilly: (Takoyaki!)
It's 10.27am.  I'm waiting for my rice to cook so I can have breakfast,  It seems to be taking much longer than normal.

Today is one of those 3-day weekend days, though I did work yesterday, covering an IELTS class at the British Council.  It was a rubbish lesson, but that's the point of being a sub-teacher - go in, do the lesson, but don't be too good at it, else the students may get disappointed with their regular teacher.  After that, I stopped off in Takodanababa to get rid of some books at the Blue Parrot second hand book shop.  Much to my delight, they were having a 50% off sale on everybook in the place, so I traded my books in and picked up:  

George Eliot - Silas Marner (possibly my favourite book ever)
Wilkie Collins - The Woman in White 
Charles Dickens - A Tale of Two Cities
Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Love in the Time of Cholera
Carols Ruiz Zafon - The Shadow of the WInd

I've always struggled with the Victorians.  I think it comes from forcing myself to read "Great Expectations" at a young age and not being able to cope with it.  I avoided them at university too, so I'm still making up for the gap in my reading.  I must admit that going round the bookshop was a little boring.  There were so many books to choose from and not many that I could get excited about.  Must go to Tower Records and pick up some more recent stuff, like David Mitchell's new book.

HahAAAA!  The rice cooker has just chimed!!

Hmmm, rice, poached egg and kimchee and miso soup for breakfast,  Odd, but delicious.

day 11 - overrated and underrated Japan

This goes along with what a few other people have said, but the train system is hugely over-rated.  People in other countries always bang on about the punctuality and regularity of trains in Japan, but what they fail to mention is that sometimes these trains run at well over 200% capacity (capacity being defined by the number of seats and hand-holds in a carriage).  I regularly have to endure  having full body contact with a total stranger in the mornings on my way to school, which I often can only get through by closing my eyes and trying to shut down my brain for a few minutes until we hit the next station.  Getting on and off the train is treacherous as those inside the carriage push and shove their way out, often causing the people at the front, who are doing their best to get out of the carriage anyway, to literally pop onto the platform.  I saw a guy take a tumble out of the train one morning and all people did was step over him as he lay curled up in a ball on the platform until it was safe to move.  An interesting article in The Guardian on this, only the other day.

Last night trains are the worst.  The Yamanote and Chuo-sobu lines run up to nearly 1am out of Shinjuku, but from about 12pm there's only one train every ten minutes and it's very often running late at this point.  Last Friday I was out with two friends in Shibuya and we got the second to last train home (about 12.37 out of Shinjuku).  We got on the train fine, but as successive Yamanote line trains dumped people onto the platform, people kept getting on, and on and on.  My friend Erik started up asking people not to get on anymore because it was getting so uncomfortable.  I had my arms around him and was pressed up into his back so I was at least groping somebody familiar.  Eric's comments were making everyone around us laugh, as it was pretty funny, but some guy took offense and told him to shut up.  Erik asked me why I was laughing and I had to explain that it was just the guy behind who was rammed up next to me laughing.

The only good thing about this situation on late night trains is that people are usually in a good mood and more willing that normal to start up a conversation with you.  I once had a conversation with a really cute guy after he ended up within my kissing zone.  I was with my friend Saradia and commented on his earrings being pretty cool.  She said I should talk to him, but I was too shy.  As we got even more squished he said:  "Gomen nasai" and I replied: "Daijoubu", and then he said: "I hate this fucking train" with a perfect American accent.  So he'd clearly understood all that I had said about him being cute.  We had a really good chat all the way home, swapped numbers, and have never seen each other since.

In my previous post I mentioned Japanese guys being overrated, and I was going to explain why I think this, but just like them, I can't be bothered today.  Maybe another time soon, ne.

Right!  Now for a wash and a walk!!!
blacklilly: (dean you're soooo sexy)
The weather this morning was amazing.  Just as I left for work, the first rumbles of thunder were heard overhead and the rain came gushing down.  I quickly swapped into my skull-print wellington boots and headed out into the storm.  By the time I got to the station (4 mins) the rain was pelting down and the thunder overhead was AMAZING!!!  We must have been under the centre of the storm as the thunder absolutely ripped apart the sky above us.  It was all I could do not to jump up and down gleefully on the train platform, but I''m sure someone must have spotted the huge grin.  Interestingly, I'm just this minute listening to a lesson on Japanese onomatopoeia and how to describe thunder...

So I booked a holiday to Bali for Christmas.  Much as certain people may feel this is a rather rash decision on my part, given my various financial commitments, I need a frelling holiday, somewhere that isn't Japan.  I haven't had a holiday since last Christmas, and I haven't left Japan since May 2008, so I'm busting to get away.  I want to go somewhere reasonably quiet, in the mountains, and preferably warm.  As it happened, it was rather a spur of the moment decision.  I was at work mulling over what I wanted to do for the Christmas holiday, when the idea of Bali popped into my head.  It has long been on my list of places to go, but I was at a loss for what to do there, as me and beaches don't often go well together.  And then it hit me!  Yoga!!!  There are so many yoga websites I read which have advertisements for overseas yoga retreats, so I googled a few places and eventually found somewhere which people seemed to highly recommend up in the hills of Ubud.  It's a week of yoga and meditation, spa treatments and wandering about in the jungle.  Most importantly, it's going to be really quiet, especially on the one day when they run a voluntary silence for 24 hours.  I'm around for a day and a half after the retreat finishes so I'm planning to go stay in a family compound somewhere in Ubud and check out life when you're not staying in a luxurious hotel room. 

As a result, I'm limiting myself to living on 500yen per day, which is entirely doable, as long as I remember my lunch.  As it happens, I've not been feeling too hot since the weather changed, so not going out or even doing anything suits me fine.

Now, this book has totally bypassed me before, but I have been made aware of Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love" by Front Row and Women's Hour on Radio 4.  The more I hear about it, the more worried I become.  According to what I've read, Gilbert went to Bali to "find herself" or whatever, thus sparking a flood of "women of a certain age" (whatever the hell "a certain age" is) heading to Bali to meditate and attempt to find love.  Which makes me wonder who I'm going to be on holiday with...  I for one, am not a "woman of a certain age", especially as I'm still passing for 26 years old at the oldest estimates from drunken strangers (beer goggles do me wonders).  I'm certainly not going to Bali to find love.  All I want is some peace and quiet, lots of yoga, and to chill out.  And to eat all the vegetarian Indonesian food I can.  So, I may have to get a t-shirt made which says: "I do not Eat, Pray or Love".  It's a suitably grammatically dubious statement, so could pass for a Japanese creation.  Maybe I could sell it...?
*       *       *
Attention-seeking Parrot

This guy is part of a pet shop in Asagaya.  The shop is full of cats, dogs, rabbits, a giant tortoise, masturbating monkeys (it's a long story), and has a HUUUUGGGEEE dog who lols and slops about the place.  The shop absolutely stinks.  I don't know what animal rights laws Japan has in place for such places, but it would be shut down in the UK.  This guy stands outside and occasionally responds to the call "Banzai!" by raising his wings and posing.  He also loves having his photo taken, as evidenced by the following:

blacklilly: (Ero ero ero)

Now, the story in Part 1 may make one feel a tad “squicky” – (I’m taking that to be a merging of squirmy and icky), and one could well want to lament the poor state of dating form around at the moment.


This week I’ve heard a number of stories from friends and their recent encounters with “men”, veering from the pretty horrible, to the sad, to quite heart-warming.  Whilst messaging my friend [ profile] jennarose  on facefook the other day she wrote this little ditty to me:


“UGH, whinge-baggyness: I went out to dinner with an actual man tonight.
We had a lovely conversation, shared delightful food at my favorite wine bar,
and at the end of the night, we drove back to his place....
where I dropped him off and there was no kissing because it was Greg.


Who is the only single dude I know.”


It was also Kate who told me two tales – one of awful, sub-human inbreds insulting her and her friends; and another of a perfectly angelic encounter, both in the same night.


Now, much as I profess to be a hater of Disney and the other terrible bullshit that girls are brought up by society to believe in, I am actually a bit of a Romantic (blame my parents – I do).  I am actually pretty certain that there’s someone out there for most people.  How you actually locate them amongst all the human dross is a problem no one has the answer to. Gambarimasu, minna-san!!   


To help make you feel better, I will tell you a story about something else that happened to me yesterday.


I met up with a saxophone player friend of mine, who I have known for quite a while, but haven’t seen since last Halloween.  We keep inviting each other out to parties and gigs, but for reasons of money and work one or the other of us can never make it.  So we agreed to hang out yesterday. My favourite thing about this guy has always been how bubbly and flirty he is.  In addition, I once forgot that he didn’t speak any English, because I find speaking to him in Japanese so easy that it doesn’t register as an exercise in translation. 

I met him at Hachiko, to find that he’d scrubbed himself up quite nicely, and was donning a very cool pair of sunglasses.  We greeted each other, as always, with a big hug and then took off to find coffee/beer.  As we stood at the Shibuya crossing he very casually slipped his arm around mine and that pretty much set the tone of the whole evening. 

So, we found a dimly lit wine bar and chatted for a bit, and then went out to find some food.  We actually ended up in The Hub as he had a hankering for ‘fish and chips’.  I usually despise the Hub, but on this occasion it was a pretty good choice.  The place is always heaving with people, so it's easy to get lost amongst the throng, and no one can hear your conversation.  The sheer volume of the place also forces you to be virtually talking in each other’s ears.


Anyway, I had a lovely evening with a lovely guy, who held my hand all the way back to Shibuya station and saw me to my train.  I know, it all sounds a little high school, doesn’t it – holding hands?  But believe me, I can only recall the last time someone held my hand because it was such an out of the ordinary thing.  However, I should point out right now that despite the fact that he’s lovely and holds my hand, he is not, repeat NOT my boyfriend and won’t be.  Sad eh?



So, there was the mouse thing and the Polynesian sex thing wasn’t there?  Sex first.


As you do when you’re both not really too reserved about the subject of “doing it” (there may a cascade of euphemisms ahead – gird your loins), we got onto the subject of “poking hay” whilst out last night and I was told about “Polynesian Sex”  (ポリネシアンセックス)which appears to have been all the rage in Japan at some point - a bit like Billy’s Boot Camp and the Banana Diet, I suspect.  As far as I can tell so far, it seems to be along similar lines to Tantric sex, in that it promotes a much more mindful, meditative approach to the whole “banging” situation (that word says it all) which is most prevalent in Western society.  Damn you Christianity for another thing you probably got rid of when you wiped out all those ancient European cultures!

I have a habit of picking up books about "making the beast with two backs" from other people.  My mum bought me a very cool book on religious signs and symbols when I was a teenager, which contained a very interesting snippet on Tantric sex.  Then for my 18th birthday a couple of guys at school bought me a copy of the Kama Sutra (it was the £1 Penguin edition, the cheapskates).  A few years later a customer at the bookshop in Slough sang the praises of a book whose name and author I have forgotten.  I have a very clear picture of the author – a very glamorous-looking blonde woman who was a sociologist, her name something along the lines of “Shea Hait” or something like that.  I located a copy of the book in Uxbridge library and found it to be quite interesting.  So, I guess I’ll give this book a whirl.  It was even recommended by someone on Amazon who appears to be a celibate monk-type, so if he can read it, I’m pretty certain I can.


Interestingly, Prince has just popped up on iTunes singing “Sexy MF”.  I think my computer is sentient.

Oh, and the mouse.  On the way home on Wednesday night I was forced to come to a standstill when a little mousey caught my eye in the bushes on the way home.  We were on a main street, so he took me by surprise.  After a few seconds, I decided to keep walking, as it appears did he, because he decided to run into my foot, and took a bit of a skid across the pavement before hurtling towards the doors of a nearby restaurant!  I was agog, and so was the guy down the road watching me looking from my foot to the mouse, to my foot to the mouse…

blacklilly: (Default)
<table cellspacing="1" cellpadding="1" border="1" style="width: 472px; height: 323px;">
Haruki Murakami - Norwegian Wood  Brothers
Cormac McCarthy - The RoadThe Time Travellers' Wife
Russell Brand - My Booky WookInglorious Basterds
Eckhart Tolle - A New Earth  Precious   
Michael Chabon - Wonder BoysUp In The Air
Steig Larsson - The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo500 Days of Summer
 Friday the 13th (2009)
 The Hurt Locker
 The Lovely Bones
 Bright Star
 An Education
 District 9
 The Road
     Next up:  China Mieville's "The City and The City".
blacklilly: (books)
      Books                                                           Films

Haruki Murakami - Norwegian Wood                 Brothers
Cormac McCarthy - The Road                          The Time Travellers' Wife
Russell Brand - My Booky Wook                       Inglorious Basterds
Eckhart Tolle - A New Earth                               Precious                                       
Michael Chabon - Wonder Boys                        Up In The Air
                                                                           500 Days of Summer
                                                                           Friday the 13th (2009)
                                                                           The Hurt Locker
                                                                           The Lovely Bones
                                                                           Bright Star
                                                                           An Education

I enjoyed "Bright Star", mainly because it's about tragic Romantic poets and an even more tragic doomed romance - appeals to the little Gothic teenager in me who used to hang around Thomas Grey's tomb in Stoke Poges churchyard.  I can still quote chunks of that poem.  Reminded me of reading my massive English Literature anthology in the laundry room at Vanburgh College at York University - all rhyming couplets, nightingales and the smell of washing powder.

Currently reading Steig Larsson's "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", which is found out in a Guardian podcast today was entitled "Why Men Hate Women" or something similar in the original Swedish. Which makes the statistics at the start of each Part a little more understandable.  I seem to be surrounded by all things Swedish ever since I saw Opeth in Tokyo back in November.  Really must get over there sometime.
blacklilly: (Default)
      Books                                                           Films

Haruki Murakami - Norwegian Wood                 Brothers
Cormac McCarthy - The Road                          The Time Travellers' Wife
Russell Brand - My Booky Wook                       Inglorious Basterds
Eckhart Tolle - A New Earth                               Precious
                                                                           Up In The Air
                                                                           500 Days of Summer
                                                                           Friday the 13th (2009)
                                                                           The Hurt Locker
                                                                           The Lovely Bones

I'm pretty certain there's another book in there somewhere, but surveying my books is bringing up nothing else, so maybe I imagined it.  Currently reading Michael Chabon's "Wonder Boys", the film of which is one of my 'comfort movies' along with Amelie, The Lost Boys, and The Goonies.
blacklilly: (Ero ero ero)
So I began the year by reading Murakami's "Norwegian Wood".  Having heard so many people rave on about this book I had high expectations, so I was quite disappointed when it basically turned out to be a love story.  I expect to be pleasantly befuddled by a Murakami novel, not puking in my mouth from post-pubescent wallowing.  Toru Watanabe is another example of why I loathe Murakami's male protagonists - they're all passive, weak-willed "men" who retreat down wells/hide in their rooms/run away to Kyushu as soon as the slightest thing happens  to upset their selfish, navel-gazing little existences (which is usually their wife leaving them, and quite right too).  I spent the first half of the book wondering when the Murakami trinity would kick in - weak-willed man (evident from page 1); hiding in well/room/Kyushu (about half-way through); cat - just after half-way through, so I wasn't let down in that respect. 

This time I found reading "Norwegian Wood" just as depressing as when I read "Dance Dance Dance", though perhaps the violent suicidal thoughts didn't present as they did last time.  And yet, by the end of the book, I had made my peace with it, and I am able to appreciate why it was so popular upon its release.  However, in my opinion, not his best. 

So, I move on from one depression-inducing book to one which I was warned would be thoroughly misery-making, Cormac McCarthy's "The Road".  It has been sitting on my shelf for about 7 months and my inner masochist decided now would be time to read it, what with the disappointment of the Copenhagen Climate conference fresh in my mind.  And strangely, so far I find it totally riveting, only slightly misery-making and less irritating than "All The Pretty Horses".  When the world goes to shit, which isn't far off, I can see this as a very credible projection of how things will end up.   Anyway, more on that when I've finished it.

So, on to other things.  Given the extremely bad mood I've been in the past week, I'm not sure what possessed me to watch "The Time Traveller's Wife" on Saturday night.  Perhaps because it seemed to be the only functioning movie on Ninjavideo, or was it the half a bottle of wine I'd consumed by myself?  I haven't read the book, and I really knew nothing about the movie.  I liked the idea of time travelling, and I also empathized with the wife of a guy who is genetically unreliable (maybe that's just me reading my own issues into things), but it's just a saccharine, nasty love story with a devilishly impish-looking little girl chucked in towards the end for cute factor.  I could see her with a big kitchen knife in her hand, that would have been a better ending.  

I made up for this torture by watching "Inglorious Basterds" on Monday night, which was much better.

So books and films this year:

Books                                                   Films

Murakami - Norwegian Wood              Brothers
McCarthy - The Road                          The Time Travellers' Wife
                                                            Inglorious Basterds

On Sunday, Chelsey and I ventured to Akihabara to get her a new power cord for her laptop.  I spent 20 minutes lurking in the station counting otaku before she turned up.  Our quest took us to different shops, the first two of which were totally useless as none of the staff were very interested in helping us out.  Coming out of Yodobashi Camera, our second stop, we walked though a crowd of people standing and sitting outside the store.  They were totally silent. Then I realized that everyone was crouched over a Nintendo DS.  So there was a massive silent crowd of geeky men (and two pre-pubescent girls) playing on their DS's on sunny Sunday afternoon in Akihabara.  Sometimes I love Tokyo.  Which is why I live in Yokohama.

So, I'm currently sporting a particularly fetching purple-black bruise on my stomach from a little bike accident.  I publicized this event on Facebook, fishing for some sympathy as I was quite achey and pissed off at the time, but only one kind soul expressed their concern for me.  Thanks a lot everyone else, remind me to punch you in the face next time I see you.  I received said injury whilst cycling up an overpass on my way back from the Tesco in Minatomirai.  It's a steep, curving slope to the top and you need to put a lot of welly into getting up there, which is why having a bag jam in the forks on the front tyre is not quite what you want to experience.  I ended up in a sort of reverse wheelie, and it took a lot of balance and muscle to keep the bike from tipping over.  So I came crashing back down to earth, upright, but ended up slamming into my handlebars. 

Hmm, so, next time I'll walk the overpass.
blacklilly: (books)
So, according to  my very messy notebook, which is conveniently undated, this is what I read (in no particular order) last year:

(Book in italics are re-reads, books in blue I'm not totally convinced were read in 2009)

Jonathan Carroll - Sleeping in Flame
Susan Hill - Strange Meeting
David Mitchell - Cloud Atlas
Angela Carter - Heroes and Villains
Evelyn Waugh - Vile Bodies
John Berendt -  Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Robert Graves - Goodbye to All That

Dominic Hibbard - Wilfred Owen
Eveleyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
Elmore Leonard - Out of Sight (this one I picked  up at a bookshop in Ebisu whilst on a day out with a guy who could talk about heavy metal and movies all day in English, but clammed up on any other subject)
Daphne du Maurier - Jamaica Inn
Wilkie Collins - The Moonstone
Kate Summerscale - The Suspicions of Mr Whicher

Joe Hill - 20th Century Ghosts
Joe Hill - Heart-shaped Box
David Mitchell - Number9Dream
David Mitchell - Ghostwritten
Haruki Murakami - Kafka on the Shore
Haruki Murakami - Dance Dance Dance
Caitlin R Kiernan - A is for Alien
Kiran Desai - The Inheritance of Loss
E M Forster - A Passage to India (I read this book about 20 times for my A-Levels, so it was nice to come back to it with no exam looming.  E M Forster is still one of the best writers ever)
George Orwell - Homage to Catalonia
George Orwell - Down and Out in Paris and London
David Crytsal - By Hook or by Crook
Nicola Barker - Darkmans
Mark Gatiss - The Devil in Amber
Charles R Cross - Heavier than Heaven
Charlie Connolly - Attention All Shipping
Chuck Palahniuk - Choke
Azar Nafisi - Reading Lolita in Tehran
Donna Tartt - The Little Friend
E M Forster - Howard's End
Out - Natsuo Kirino (Where did this book go?  Did I lend it to Kate?)
I no longer have a train journey to and from work, so my forced reading time is dramatically reduced.  And I had a Japanese exam to study for, so for about 3 months, there was little in the way of reading, and for one month, nothing except reading in Japanese which, as it was mostly textbooks, is not included here.

As for movies...who knows.

blacklilly: (Gentleman)
I re-read "The Yellow Sign" this morning, and King's "Night Surf", and at the weekend Ted E Klein's "Events at Poroth Farm" from "American Supernatural Tales".  The latter is probably now one of my favourite short stories.

Anyway, as Halloween closes in, a little test from The Guardian on Gothic fiction.

Boring sex

Apr. 1st, 2009 09:12 am
blacklilly: (Ero ero ero)
I am rather bored of being told about people's sex lives.  Well, one person's in particular.  The only good thing is that every time he tells me this I have amusing thoughts about his "not girlfriend" getting pregnant and him having to stay in the country and trudge away at something he hates, living with a person he seems to hate half the time, and screw the rest of it.  I am also bored of hearing about downloads... Didn't I mention this all in a previous post?  I did.  Anyway, there was no stabbing yesterday, but there may be today.

I am almost out of books again.  My Mum picked up a few poetry collections at a library sale so she's sending me over some of the greats to read - Hughes, Heaney, Larkin, Armitage.  Sometimes she has uncannily good taste in books for a person who doesn't read much.  The problem with living in Tokyo, which isn't half the problem I had living in Nagano, is that one cannot just go to the bookshop.  It involves planning of the budgetry kind, train journeys and other painful forethought.  Going back to "library sales", what the hell are libraries doing getting rid of books like the aforementioned?  One wonders what actually constitutes a library catalogue anymore.  I stopped going to them because they were always bitterly disappointing.  I have no desire to read Barbara Cartland, or rent out CDs of failing opera singers, but I'm pretty sure somebody must, as that's all that ever seems to be available.  Anyway, I think I have a copy of "Heavier than Heaven" at school, and some "Death Note" numbers I've yet to get bored enough to read.

How many times have I mentioned boredom? 

This weekend coming there will be cherry blossom viewing, drinking of beer, and "Watchmen".  Not sure I'm gonna like the latter.  I've heard such mixed reviews...

blacklilly: (Default)
There are more men on my balcony this morning.  Fortunately, it looks like they're here to take down the scaffolding which has surrounded my building for the past six weeks or so.  I wish they'd clear off though.  I want to open my curtains.

Well, having finished Season 2 of Supernatural I'm now at a complete loss for what to do with myself.  The plan to get the 3 season boxset was cruelly withheld by a quite shockingly expensive trip to the see the doctor.  I can only be thankful that there's a small reprieve from bellydance payments this month.  I didn't have to break into the emergency fund yet.

On other subjects, coz all I ever do is moan about money, I've been reading Murakami's "Kafka on the Shore".  So far it has to be my favourite of his books.  Firstly, the two main characters are actually highly sympathetic (and one of them can even talk to cats, which goes a long way towards endearing me to him), and so far no one's wife has left him... unless you count Kafka's mother disappearing when he was kid, which is effectively the same thing.  Kafka reminds me a lot of Eiji Miyake in "number9dream" - probably because they're both on quests of a kind, one to find his father, the other to get away from him.  I haven't combined this book with too much alcohol yet, so I haven't been able to test the "alocohol and Murakami don't mix" theory. Projected finishing time is Thursday, which ties in quite nicely with a trip to the Landmark Tower where I can pick up some more books. 

I suppose I should get dressed and go to work.  i wonder what levels of senility I will be dealing with today - it varies from week to week.  Sometimes we don't know what the day is, sometimes we can remember everything from a lesson taught 6 months ago.  I hope the sunshine is warming up those braincells right now.

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As I write two men are on my balcony, heavy-breathing and wielding power-drills.  This would be something horror-like if I weren't sitting here lazily eating rice and miso soup and wondering what I'm going to do about getting hold of the third season of Supernatural.  There's a 3 season box set going on Amazon for £27, which with shipping will be closer to £40.  Hmmm... I'd download it, but I've got 6Gb on my hardrive and the whole series is 5Gb or so.  This dilemma has arisen because I indulged myself last night by watching the last three episodes of Season 2.  I started off with the Djinn episode, and then thought I 'd watch Part 1 of "All Hell Breaks Loose", and well, I couldn't leave it hanging like that, could I?  So, I might treat myself...though I should probably buy more shampoo, and perhaps some food, before I do that.

I didn't get round to getting any food shopping done this week, though it has turned out rather well, as my stockpiling habit is paying off.  It's quite impressive what can actually be achieved with some two-week old tomatos, a carrot, some spinach and a pot of tomato sauce I wisely froze that last time I made a batch.  I now have sag aloo sauce for the weekend (if I remember to buy potatos), kidney bean chilli for today and Saturday, and a pot of carrot salad.  Yay.  And I also have 3000yen, which I haven't spent yet.   Hurrah.

The men are dropping things and muttering "Are?" to themselves.

So, onto the ghosts thing.  In the last week or so I've had three very vivid ghost dreamsReally vivid.  Last night, needless to say, I also had a ghost dream in which I was in a house with the ghost of a child who later became a serial killer in adult life.  Is it even possible in ghost-lore for your soul to revert back to childhood?  We we walking about the house, and then dug up the bones of various animals this little girl had been killing for years.  I blame the stupid amount of horror I've been imbibing lately:  Supernatural in inhuman quantities, stories by Joe Hill, My Bloody Valentine 3D.

I should actually mention the latter, purely for comedy value.  Kate and I went to see MBV in 3D in Ikebukuro.  We got weird 3D glasses and popcorn and settled down to watch the film.  Only, as soon as it started we realised it was dubbed in Japanese... At first I was a little disappointed, but actually I probably managed to work out about 50% of what was being said.  Of course, being so well-versed in horror films means you can pretty much lip-synch the dialogue, or infer what's going on anyway, so I'm not crediting my Japanese skills for this one.  Anyway, it was all a bit silly and predictable, but thoroughly enjoyable.  Perhaps I'm a little odd for finding it funny when someone's eye is leaning out over the audience on the end of a pickaxe...

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After three birthday beers at the bar last night I got home, leaped into bed at 11.30pm and opened my notebook.  45 minutes later I was still going, which must be a record writing session after the consumption of alcohol, which normally only leads to despond and sleep.  I was working on the story about the guy who looks like he may not turn out to be quite as irritating as a Murakami-man.  Anyway, I'm a firm believer in not jinxing things by talking about them, so I should shut up.

Later, a few quick musings on Joe Hill's "20th Century Ghosts", which must be one of the most pleasing short-story collections I've read in ages.

Here, why don't you just look at my icon for a bit?  I am......

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I have a very clear memory of having a pot of Vick's Vapour Rub with me in Japan.  However, searching in the only places it could possibly be have turned up a goose egg.  I can even see the bloody pot sitting on my sink shelf in my old apartment.  Perhaps it was one of the sacrifices to the gods of house-moving.  Anyway, it turns out that Vicks is sold in pharmacies here, so we all know where I'm heading tomorrow, and it won't just be to the clinic to complain about my lack of voice.  By 10pm tonight I was barely able to open my mouth for the sad little sound that came out of it.  And all this when I finally have enough money to get a social life back on the go.  Well, I will be demanding strong drugs tomorrow in order to get me out of the house on Sunday!!

For no particular reason, here's a list of books I've read since December, the ones I remember anyway:

Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
E M Forster - Howard's End
Jonathan Carroll - Sleeping in Flame
David Mitchell - Cloud Atlas
Haruki Murakami - Dance, Dance, Dance
Susan Hill - Strange Meeting
Mark Gatiss - The Devil in Amber
David Crystal - By Hook or By Crook

I've decided that EM Forster is possibly one of the best writers ever.  Not my favourite, but really good.  I always remember Mrs Moore's compassion towards the wasp in "A Passage to India".  Every time I see a wasp I think of her, which is why, despite their inherent lack of purpose, I cannot hate them.  That and the comment from Gloucester in "King Lear" about a broken crown, of which I am always reminded when I first crack into a boiled egg.  Associations, associations.  David Crystal's books is a fascinating read, and will come in useful on Saturday, should I have functioning vocal chords.  Thanks v. much to Lou, who always select a good Xmas present.

Oh, and I had the perfect "from the hip" Holga shot this morning at the station.  Four people all neatly seated on the platform opposite, but just when I summoned the courage to take my camera from my bag, the bloody train pulled in and they all dispersed.  Curses.  Maybe tomorrow. Right.  Book and bedtime.
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I'm back from Gifu, warming up my apartment, drinking beer and hoping my washing is going to dry.  I'm also raiding the recipe stacks of to find things to eat for the rest of the month. 

I took the bullet train from Nagoya to Shinagawa and had to stand the whole way owing to it being the last day of the holidays.  The whole of Japan was going back to Tokyo in preparation for tomorrow it seems.  I've never had to stand for 90 minutes anywhere in recent memory, but it wasn't quite as bad as I was anticipating.  I had Cloud Atlas with me, which cheered me up, and was listening to MF Doom on my iPod (Laura in not-listening-to-heavy-metal shock antics!!).

Rachel put my dinner in a bag and stuffed it in my rucksack so I don't have to cook tonight.  Last Sunday night I cooked falafel for lunch on Monday and then forgot to take them with me.  I hope they're still edible!!

Things to write about:

1) Getting kicked out of the gym
2) Going to Osaka and having a fabulous time in a forest
3) Some thoughts on books and films and music
4) Err, other stuff - like crazy people on the train, how much I hate old ladies, and why old men love me.
5) Throwing myself down a mountain and bleeding copiously
6) Why being vegetarian in Japan is akin to living in the North of England, except there's no Quorn... or quiche. 

開けまして おめでとう ございます!(That mean's Happy New Year in Japanese).

blacklilly: (Default)
1) Getting kicked out of the gym
2) Going to Osaka and having a fabulous time in a forest
3) Some thoughts on books and films and music
4) Err, other stuff - like crazy people on the train, how much I hate old ladies, and why old men love me.

I went to Yurindo (that's the name of a bookshop in Yokohama) yesterday and checked out the English book selection.  I could have spent about 10000yen in there.  Joy of joys, I found a copy of the collected works of Charles Fort, which I've been trying to track down for about 4 years.  There was also some Neruda, Freud, Dickens and loads of other stuff I want to get.  However, I shall restrain myself and go to the second hand shop in Takodanababa first to swap up what I can.

I've just finished Howards End.  I'm going to try and compare it to Zadie Smith's On Beauty in an increasingly rare book report.  I'll have to dig out my notes on that before I do it.  It occured to me a while ago to start reading books in pairs - like Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, Howards End and On Beauty.  Then I became completely stumped for books which are openly inspired by other books.  Any suggestions??

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It's gone midnight here. I won't be sleeping anytime soon so I thought I'd post an update. I haven't much time of late for even sitting down. My days are still a blur of chlorinated water, train journeys, bad grammar and the throb of the last few crickets and cicadas.

At the weekends, I've been (in no particular order): going to the beach, eating cake, bellydancing, cooking, watching movies, going to Tsukiji fish market and eating okonomiyaki, drinking beer and watching movies. And reading books.

The books I've particularly been enjoying, and have finally found something for the first time in a few books that has me hooked. I started reading, after a few false starts, Dominic Hibbard's biography of Wilfred Owen, which I bought all the way back in 2003. I'd been waiting to get a set of poems before reading the biography, having decided to leave my copy of his war poems back in England, but compromised and got a set from the internet, though sadly not a full set. the first few chapters were rather dull - family history, characters who seemed to have little importance. However, once Wilfred discovered his poetic ability, started questioning his faith, and ran away to France after was may have been the discovery of some "inappropriate relationship", it all got much more interesting. Most frustrating about his life, is that his brother was very scissor happy with Wilfred's letters and had removed any hint of scandal (i.e. allusions to homosexuality) from them, taking with these "amendments" the details of two major turning points in Wilfred's life.

Having gone into a near panic at the thought of not having any new books to read (and also having a weird Murakami craving), I managed to assuage the thirst for a while by picking up a copy of Robert Graves' "Goodbye To All That". Having encountered him in the Owen biography, and owning a well-thumbed copy of "The Greek Myths" (again, back in England) I picked it up for 500yen in a second-hand book market in the basement of a department store in Shibuya. It's excellent. As a companion to the rather dry facts of the Owen book, Graves' war stories (be they from school or WW1) are often bleakly hilarious. I particularly like one story from Charterhouse where he accuses a master of "kissing" his "boyfriend". I'll quote it here sometime. I hope to locate some Evelyn Waugh next, and maybe some E M Forster.

Speaking of the Greek myths, I was thumbing through old notebooks the other day and found a dream I had written down in which I was visited by Greek, Egyptian and perhaps Norse gods. I'll dig that one out too.

* * *

Anyway, the title of this little entry relates to my moral quandary. I've been vegetarian since the age of 13. Over the years I became more lax and have gone through periods of eating and not-eating fish. I think that was related to a mixture of self-weakness and the desire to acquiesce to the disapproval of various people. I think I also forgot that I had any morals, having become rather misanthropic and introspective.

This week saw National Vegetarian Day in the UK, which tied in nicely with the deliberation I've been having. The question is not about whether I should be vegetarian or not. Unless I was facing starvation, I sincerely doubt I could ever touch meat again. No, it's how much of a vegetarian I should be. I decided after being in Japan for a few weeks, that being a full vegetarian would be impossible without becoming a social leper, so I decided to relent and eat fish whenever a vegetarian alternative was not available. However, I still feel guilty when I eat fish, and the continued guilt is starting to get to me. I also have to constantly field queries from people who think I'm even more of a weirdo than those in Yorkshire do. Why am I vegetarian? Don't I WANT to eat meat? Isn't it unhealthy?

Given that size of my arse, one may have a point with that last one. I blame my love of cheese. Anyway, I'm fed up of saying "I'm vegetarian, but sometime I eat fish". The health thing I do have the facts for - less chance of getting bowel cancer, less chance of getting cancer in general, lower cholesterol, lower rate of heart disease etc etc etc. The thing I always struggle against is the total incomprehension of people when I explain my moral position. Perhaps it's just the way I say it, too many big words like "sentient" and "suffering". In fact, I was arguing with a guy I work with about this yesterday while we were chowing down soba for late lunch. It eventually came round to whether or not I would kill a human being. I do have to admit to having slightly more compassion for animals than humans, who are quite capable of messing things up themselves.

So what to do. In the last few places I've visited for lunch or dinner, I've checked for vegetarian options. In only one place have I found a vegetarian option that wasn't "Ceasar Salad" (which isn't technically vegetarian anyway, is it?) Nowhere else has provided anything I could eat. On the up side, this would reduce my restaurant bills, but it would also reduce my enjoyment of going out, and my desire to even do so. What's the point in going to a food joint and not eating?

Anyway, if anyone has thoughts on this, they'd be welcome.

In rather nice news, I have a free ticket to see Radiohead tomorrow in Saitama. And next week I'm off to Osaka for a weekend of gabba, chip and other electronic related weirdness at the Gocha festival in a wood. Any DJ called Scotch Egg had better be good enough to pull of such an unsavoury name.
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So not only have I been visited by suicidal cockroaches (and with the amount of poison in my kitchen you may think I'm suicidal too), but last night I found a silverfish skittering about my kitchen floor. Can my apartment be any more detestable? I used to have small silverfish in the London flat, but they were tiny things and confined themselves to the bathroom and the hoover bag when they were unfortunate enough to be in its vicinity.

This one must have been about 12mm long and left quite a gooey mess on my copy of the Lush Times when I thwacked it. I feel utterly revolting. Anyway this is all leading onto the mutant silverfish story.

I was in Big Echo a few Sundays ago waiting to get a karaoke box with some friends when this giant "thing" crawled across the floor and parked itself in the middle of the lobby. We, and the other customers, all stood around peering at it. It was about 4-5cm in length, and at its widest point was about 2cm across. It had a silvery "carapace" (I don't really know if these things have carapaces or not), too many legs and some rather evil looking spines coming off of its rear legs - not the kind of thing I would wish to tread on. To my eye it looked rather like a cross between a millipede, woodlouse and cockroach. And it kept following me. Everytime I moved forward in the queue, it moved too. When I sat down to wait for our box, it followed me over to the door. Someone was brave enough to give it a nudge out the door back into the downpour outside. Urrgh, my skin is crawling.

Why have I been chosen to be the victim of these prehistoric nightmares on legs?

It reminds me of a scene from a book called "The The Light Ages" by Ian R MacLeod, where the main character's mother is sick and attracting all these mutant insects. I seem to recall them sitting at dinner while all these giant mutant silverfish slip out of a hole in the ceiling.

Hmmm, and so to work.
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Here's a interesting article on the nature of reading and readers from The Guardian.

I spent last week reading Ray Bradbury's "Dandelion Wine", which I found myself reading, but not actually paying much attention to, on numerous occasions; but equally becoming engrossed in on the train, two stops before my station. Now I'm reading "The Suspicions of Mr Whicher" which is having quite the opposite effect of being un-put-downable.

Anyway, I think I'll go read a bit more it... Back later.


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April 2011

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