blacklilly: (Angsty)
Hmm.  Not being Japanese?  That's pretty hard, though liberating in equal measure.

No, I think the hardest thing for me is having to deal with practical things in Japanese.  I can hold a conversation with most people, but when it comes to getting the electricity turned on, or dealing with residence tax, I can't do it at all.  It's partly a nerves thing, partly that I ended up with some form of linguistic PTSD after dealing with estate agents to get my apartment.  After that exercise in torture I'm rather inclined to let someone who knows what they're doing help me out.

And that's Day 14.  I'm still chipping away them!!

I still feel a little numb about the Peace Boat.  Occasionally, I feel excitement approaching.  Then I think of all the forthcoming hassle of vaccinations, embassies and pre-departure training, and the excitement goes away.  Plenty of other people are excited for me though, so hopefully it'll become infectious.

Last night's vegetarian interview was wonderfully catered.  I had a vegetarian sausage roll, vegetarian cornish pasty and veggie lasagne - none of which I've eaten for YEARS.  The tofu scrambled egg salad with delicious and the chocolate cake for dessert was lovely and squishy.  During the interview I also managed to get myself a writing and photography gig for one of the upcoming issues!!  Go me.  Yesterday was a good day!
blacklilly: (Takoyaki!)
Well, finally, some excellent news to tell you about!  I just found out this lunchtime that I have been offered a teaching position on board the 73rd Peace Boat voyage.  What this means is that I will be travelling around the world for 3 months whilst working as an English teacher on-board a cruise ship!  This plan has been in the works for a while - I've been planning it since last summer - and last weekend I went for a full-day teaching demo and interview session.  I came out feeling that I'd cocked it up, and so was hoping that the fact that I called on my friends who've worked on Peaceboat to recommend me would sway the decision.  Well, something worked! 

They've actually got a specific role for me on board.  As a teacher with more exam experience than most, I will be teaching the TOEIC classes on board.  TOEIC is actually my least favourite exam to teach, but I'm going to accept the challenge and try to devise a way to improve people's TOEIC scores without boring myself to death.

I feel like I should be dancing around the place, kicking things and generally shouting a lot, but I just sat on my sofa and felt a bit numb after I finished the phone call with the co-ordinators.  I've been waiting since December to see which way my life is going to be heading this year, and now the decision has been made I guess I've gone a bit blank.  There are now so many things to organise.  Do I keep my apartment while I'm gone?  Do I come back to Japan and stay until my visa runs out in November, or do I move on somewhere else?  Moving to another country could only do wonders to my love life, I suppose...  Anyway, thoughts thoughts and lots of thoughts.

The cough and gravelly voice stuck around until Saturday.  I didn't feel much like getting out of bed for most of Saturday, but I had to get motivated to shoot this bunch of growly, screamy, heavy beasts called Reivier.  They played at AREA in Takadanobaba, which is a mere 15 minutes from Asagaya, so I didn't even have to go very far.

Following on from my musings about Visual Kei in my previous post, I was highly amused to note that the mosh pit at a VK gig is the only place  you will see people hanging out in slippers - only changing into their shoes to go skipping off to the toilet.  It's also the first time I've seen synchronized hand-banging in full force.  I noted that head-banging in Japan is much more fragrant (as it's mostly girls) and you are at a near-statistical impossibility of losing your teeth, owing again to the girls, and the fact that everyone knows what the moves are - there's no miscommunication, as a certain Fox news presenter would say - though I doubt synchronized moshing proves the existence of God.

I was down in the mosh-pit for part of the show, then hung back on the raised section with my zoom lens to catch the encores.  The band were pretty good live, which is good, as their tracks (the ones on Youtube, at any rate) actually suffer from the opposite of my normal gripe -  they don't sound well-produced enough.  They need someone with a good grasp of mixing metal to get their sound spot-on.  If they want to crack the overseas market, which they really could do, they need a good producer.  They were thoroughly entertaining, and certainly seemed to be having a great time themselves.

After the show, the editor of the VK magazine and I interviewed the band.  We slunk through the dressing room and found the guitarist Koh, who had arranged our press-passes. He corralled everyone into a corridor backstage and so we all stood in a circle and talked. They were all quite sweet and friendly, and were much more approachable than the last band I was involved in interviewing.  Mid-way through, the lead singer started de-robing himself, and stood about in his tight underwear and smudged eye make-up. 

Speaking of interviews, tonight I'm actually being interviewed by a magazine about being a vegetarian in Japan.  Three of us vegetarians, plus the owner of a vegan cafe in Kichijoji, will be discussing the trials and tribulations of our dietary choices over a FREE veggie meal.  I hear there will also be a camera there, so I should try to pretty myself up before I go out. 
blacklilly: (Amelie)
Despite my best intentions when I returned from Bali to make a little more time for doing nothing, which means actually relaxing at home with a good book, I have had remarkably little time to do so this month.  The weeks have flown by once again, and there seems very little to show for, although a far deal of stuff was done.

Back at the end of December I shot a goth fashion show in Harajuku, which featured X-Japan's guitarist Sugizo giving a live performance on both guitar and electric violin.  The shoot was for an online magazine, for whom I have written some album and single reviews. The magazine isn't live yet.  It was meant to come out last week, but it's now looking like sometime this week instead.   How I ended up writing for a Visual-kei magazine, whilst knowing almost nothing about the genre, is still to be discovered, but booze cruises in Tokyo have quite a lot to do with it.  I'm thinking of trying to research Visual-kei a bit more, as it's a genre of Japanese music which drives me slightly potty.  Potty, because they bands almost never look like they sound...or how I think they should sound, at least.

Let's use Daizystripper as an example.  Observe these lovely lovely young men to the right.  Rei (the bassist on the left) is rocking the cut-off t-shirt with his teeny-tiny waist, and the other all look thoroughly cute.  My problem was what they sounded like.  Looking at them, I was thinking something along the lines of the early grunge scene - you know, when Alice in Chains were more glam.  And then of course, I listened to a song.  Whatever song it was I cannot remember, but it didn't impress me much.  The music was fine, I just felt that the whole thing was overproduced and far too clean sounding.  And then I saw them in concert, which made my jaw drop.  Yu-giri getting on stage and growling and screaming earned huge amounts of rock points in my little world.The energy of the band was excellent, and I found myself bopping along in the photographers' pit.

You can watch a video here.

In other news, I am looking after a rabbit for 6 weeks.  He's super cute, but doesn't like to be handled too much yet.  He runs in circles around my feet while I'm cooking, which is pretty hilarious to watch.  He also has an unhealthy relationship with an orange ball.  I had to take it out of his cage as the raping of said orange ball was freaking me out.  His name is Cecil.

Apart from that I've done some photography at a couple of shows -art shows and rock gigs,  but haven't yet put the photos up anywhere to see.

Next week I'm being interviewed by an eco-lifestyle magazine about being a vegetarian in Japan.  I get a free meal in one of the best vegan cafes I've been to in Tokyo (I was there last night, actually) and can wax lyrical about being poisoned all the freaking time.  I actually ate a piece of meat by accident on Saturday night, which pissed me off a bit.  I'm getting really fed up of telling the restaurant staff I'm vegetarian, only for them to forget about it as soon I've ordered one dish. Being vegetarian applies to everything I order.Rabbits
blacklilly: (Default)
I was down by the river taking a walk this morning and saw a few things that set Japan aside from others:
  • a woman running along the path wearing a t-shirt that read " I am not a virgin"
  • a guy sitting on a park bench, headphones on, cigarette in mouth,  doing stretches
  • three women hugging a tree
  • a guy walking down the street misting his hair with a plant spray bottle
Dubiously en-sloganed clothing is everywhere in Japan, and I'm always surprised that no one actually checks the meaning of whatever's on their t-shirt or bag, or jacket.  Some of the best ones I've seen include - "I came here to fuck your ass", "I LOVE SEX" a la Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Frankie says RELAX" t-shirt, posters on classroom walls that say "Let's Fuck" and a guy in Harajuku with "Fuck You" written in gothic script across his back.  Not, that this doesn't happen outside of Japan.  I translated the kanji on a friend's t-shirt which he thought looked really cool, but when he discovered that it said "Punk Rock Girl" he decided that maybe he didn't like it so much any more.  I think I should invest in more clothes containing dodgy language.

if it's one thing about Japan that I love, it's the odd eccentricities that people have, which seem to be tolerated.  I just don't see anything of these things happening back in England (well, tree-hugging and bench stretching are not too unrealistic, I guess).  I'm not making fun of these people at all.  I'm always on the look-out for the unusual, and Japan just brings me something everyday that gives me a smile...or the creeps.
*           *           *
I held a vegetarian Thanksgiving party at my house today (I know - an English vegetarian holding Thanksgiving - odd). We'd actually been invited to another party, but it was too far, and there was a baby there (why would I want to go to a party where I wasn't the centre of attention;)), so two of us were not up for it.  I like an excuse for a vegetarian get-together so we all brought something different:  mashed potatoes, green beans, cheese and potato bake, devilled eggs, veggie lasagna and I made pumpkin samosas.  The guys brought booze and snacks and we had chocolates for dessert.  it was a good afternoon/evening and now I'm beginning to think I may have drunk a little too much. 

I feel like another break from drinking is in order soon, as I seem to be having a few too many parties of late.  In fact, I have another party tomorrow night, and some gigs next weekend.... when am I going to get this done???

One month until I go to Bali.  Can't wait to leave the country for a bit!!

Tomorrow I'm heading back to Japanese class for the first time in 6 months.  Am looking forward to getting back into a regular study routine as the past 6 months I've not had any chance to actually study, though I've spent a ridiculous amount of time discussing major issues like ice-cream flavours with small children.

I'm also considering going to try Bikram Yoga, though I'm a little afraid of the amount of flesh on show in those classes - yoga at 100 degrees = bikinis.  I'm still mulling over yoga clothes too - need a top that's not to slide around all the time and pants that don't fall down.  Plus hoodie.  I want that hoodie.  (edit - I was very naughty and bought the hoodie in bright purple, rather than the pink and black I wanted).

Well, bed time for me I think.  Need to give my brain some rest before tomorrow's lesson!  I shall leave you with a picture from a walk last week that I took on my Holga and got x-processed:

blacklilly: (Default)
See here.

My neighbour has just kicked off a bout of something noisy.  I may be on here again later...

blacklilly: (Default)
Back in October I wrote about my vegetarian moral dilemma  It was all very, "Oh! What should I do!" before having an attack of the vapours and having to lie down (by which read "melodramatic").

Today I'm just going to have a rant. But first I'm going to show you a picture I found somewhere.

Veggie Alien

On my last trip to Whitby, Lou and stayed in a B&B I'd previously visited.  The ownership had changed hands.  When I informed the landlady that I was vegetarian she shouted down the stairs to her husband (in your head you should say this with a thick Yorkshire accent:

" Hey Chris!  We've got one o'them!"
" One o' what?"
" A vegetarian!"  She turned back to me and continued: "I knew you were vegetarian."
" Oh really?" I replied.  "How?"
" You've got a nose ring."

Which is bit like saying, I knew you were a terrorist because you had a mysterious mark on the third fingernail of your right hand.  At least she didn't feed me quiche.  Which is another thing.  Why quiche?  "Oh, a vegetarian's coming to tea.  What do they eat?  I know, quiche!"  Why?  I once went to some sort of Weight Watcher's meeting with my mum when I was about 14 or 15 (because you really need to develop an eating disorder at that age).  The second week I went back and hadn't lost any weight, and the woman weighing me smiled and quipped: "Too much quiche, eh?"

Fucking retards.


Of late, I have been assulted by meat. Yesterday, for example, I was in an omu-rice restuarant in Gifu with Rachel and we ordered two different dishes.  I ordered what looked like the non-meat omu (and yes, I checked the ingredients listed), while Rachel ordered one with tarako sauce (that's fish eggs). When I started digging into mine I found little pink pieces of meat, which turned out to be bacon.  Rachel (who will eat anything), didn't have any meat in her dish.  It appears that in Japan bacon is not classified as a form of meat, or indeed food, as it wasn't mentioned at all in the list of ingredients.  In fact, anything pig like doesn't seem to warrant a mention in any dish. 

Let me give you more examples.  In a cafe I ordered a cheese and mushroom sandwich, after checking the ingredients for meat.  I bit into it and found huge lumps of bacon.  At dinner with one of my students I ordered an aubergine dish from the VEGETABLE menu, and it turned up swimming in meat sauce.  NOWHERE was meat mentioned!!!  After ice-skating the other week we all went to a restaurant for lunch.  I tried to order the Vietnamese fresh spring rolls, they had pork in them.  The Korean chijimi?  Pork.  The mozzarella and tomato pizza? Pork.  The only items which weren't laced with anything porcine were the chips and the crab and shrimp pizza.  So you can guess what I ate. 

This begs the question as to how many times I've eaten something I thought was meat-free but which was actually laced with meat. 
So what am I to do? I'm considering going extreme and just not eating anymore food unless I've cooked it. Rachel suggested that everytime I go out with anyone I insist on going somewhere which has vegetarian options.  I think I may just not go out.  Or find somewhere accomodating.  Dai, who owns my local bar, is quite happy to rustle me up something vegetarian.  Even when I lived in Ina people would adapt things for me.  The other night in my favourite bar in the whole world, Keiko made me vegetarian manju dumplings, and adjusted everything else at the party (apart from the chicken) so that it didn't have meat in it.  And you know what?  No one missed the meat.  No one.

And another thing which is pissing me off, is people telling me how much I'm missing out by not eating meat.  "Oh Laura, we're going to eat Sunday lunch.   You should eat meat just this once so that you don't miss out".  Miss out on what?  I just don't see it as that.  I enjoy the food I eat.  It just so happens that I don't consider my meals to be incomplete without meat in them.  People are always attacking me for being vegetarian, yet I don't criticize anyone for eating meat.  Next time someone does it, and it'll probably be someone I work with, I'm going to inform them, in no uncertain terms, to fuck off.  See, I'm getting myself worked up now.

Alright, one more quick story.  I'm pretty sure this actually happened, and Lou must correct if I'm wrong as I recall her telling me the tale.  There was a choir who toured regularly around England and Europe.  They were vegetarian.  Everywhere they went they were fed quiche.  Everywhere.  Eventually they got fed up and had it stated quite clearly on their contracts that they were not to be fed anymore quiche.  I need one of those.

Right, anyway.  It's 10.30am, I'm still in my pyjamas.  Later I'm going to a vegan macrobiotic cafe in Yokohama.  Hurrah!!!!

blacklilly: (Default)
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.
blacklilly: (Default)
I've been monitoring with mild amusement the current hoo-haa going on in England about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Chicken Out campaign, and Jamie Oliver's own show on the same subject. Alas, I've been unable to actually watch these shows, so my thoughts can only be based on the responses I've read to them in
The Observer and various other sources, none of which I seem able to locate at the moment (The Guardian etc).

The basic message in these campaigns is one of animal welfare. Intensively farmed animals do not have a good quality of life - they live in cramped and unhealthy conditions, which if applied to human beings would be comparable to concentration camps. Despite the assertions of intensive chicken farmers that animal welfare is of paramount importance, the picture of the intensive farming industry presented by the media is not good. I don't doubt that there are intensive farmers who do care for their livestock, however, I cannot condone the conditions in which they live. One of the reasons I became vegetarian 14 years ago was in part caused by witnessing the trafficking of animals to slaughter, and the realisation that the meat on my plate was in fact an animal. Perhaps one of the reasons this issue has caused such a fuss is that it is calling for people to make the conscious connection in their heads that the clean, neat packaged meat bought in the supermarket actually comes from a sentient being.

However, somewhere in this debate the message has become lost. In a article on MSN talking about HFW, the headline made more explicit his Etonian education than the focus of his campaign. Can a posh-talking "foodie" who lives in the idyllic surrounds on Dorset convince us normal people to pay more for our chicken? And this really seems to be what people are most upset about. Whilst Jamie Oliver's "School Dinners" campaign was in motion, no one brandished his upbringing or education as a weapon against him. In fact, his lovable "Mockney"-rogue accent and attitude seemed to work in his favour. What people (or at least the media) dislike is being told what to do by someone they consider to be "posh"- the issue is not about the chickens, it's about class prejudice.

Which brings us to the issue of money. Posh people have money, the plebs (allegedly) don't, therefore the demand for a chicken at £2.99 is justified; HFW was presented with just such an argument on his show. I wouldn't know from personal experience, but I can make my own assumptions that a £2.99 chicken is probably equal in taste to rat burger (and we wonder where these urban legends come from). No wonder then that cheap chicken is nuked in grease and sold as gut-bustingly unhealthy fast-food, any other method of cooking might reveal the truly woeful nature of its meat. The argument that a £6 bird is better than a £2.99 one is unarguable in the taste department, but the need for cheap meat is harder to attack. The poverty gap in England is ever-increasing and people do need to eat. But, do they need to eat chicken? Some have suggested that poorer people should go vegetarian. Whilst I am one of those filthy, funny vegetarian fusspots most people love to despise, I see no sense in having to become vegetarian because you can't afford to be otherwise. Being vegetarian is undeniably cheaper than being a carnivore, and it is possible to get all of your nutritional requirements from a well-balanced vegetarian diet. However, isn't being vegetarian somehow associated with a certain class of people in England? You know, the pot-smoking-flare-wearing-pseudo-hippie student types who by default of their university education are "middle-class". There's a stereotype which still persists about us lentil-munchers, and it's not just concerned with the smell of our farts.

In Japan I can usually eat for a week on about £15, and vegetables here are not cheap. Adding meat to my diet would significantly increase the weekly expenditure, so I can appreciate the money argument. However, there are ways to stretch food, not least one of them being just to cut down on the sheer amount of food people eat at one sitting. HFW does some interesting costing on meals in this video:

The comment from the guy at the end neatly points us in the direction of another issue involved in this argument. If vegetarian's are considered fussy, then they have nothing on the modern attitude towards food and cooking. This (podgy-faced, weasel voiced) guinea-pig of HFW's states that cooking is a stone-aged practice. I fail to see what is so very neolithic about making chicken-stock from chicken-bones and veg. I guess he's never considered where the box of stale Oxo cubes in his kitchen cupboard comes from (though perhaps we shouldn't go there). There has been a cooking revolution of sorts in England over the past few years, and I highly commend the various chefs who have championed the need to get people cooking. Alas, it appears to be against tight competition as sales of "ready-meals" continue to increase, and a seeming backlash against "foodies", whose sin it seems is to care about and enjoy their food rather than mindlessly fork a load of microwaved toss down their gullets.

I could go on and on. The other issues brought into connection with the chicken debate have included global warming and population control but there lies at least another thousand blithering words. My concern is that as people begin to associate everything with global warming that not only will the individual causes suffer, but that we will continue to be bombarded with warnings until there is nothing left but a sense of ennui and powerlessness towards an issue which suffered a similar fate about 16 years ago.

The chicken debate is fundamentally about chickens - not class, or education, or the welfare system, or anything else. We need to maintain a sense of perspective on all this. As a famed nation of animal lovers it seems about time we stopped condoning the cruel treatment of animals whose very lives are in service of our own.

Oh, and to lighten the mood after my little rant, here's Charlie Brooker on Jamie Oliver:


blacklilly: (Default)

April 2011

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