Just forget the words and sing along

Saturday, May 31, 2003

Oh, and add one last thing to the list of things I've had to drink in Japan: a sake cooler at a local bar. I saw it on the menu and thought, "Where else in the world am I going to find a sake cooler?" Well, probably in Australia, as there was a huge "Made in Australia" logo on the label. It was pretty good.
And now it's time for another edition of Scarecrow's Storytime Theater.

(If this were my old radio show, this is when I'd cue up a few selections of Danny Elfman's Edward Scissorhands score)

Once upon a time, a long time ago, in the magic land of Bear Valley, their was an English school. This English school was ruled over by a head teacher who really didn't want the job, and thus occasionally butted heads with a brash, young (and incredibly good looking) teacher from a distant land. It's not that they hated each other, they just had different ways of doing the job and had problems communicating with each other, so in the long run they just made their lives more difficult for each other.

One day, the brash, young (and incredibly good looking) teacher spied a bag of peanut butter cups sitting next to the copy machine, and on top of it was the note "For everyone to share." Now, he loved peanut butter cups, so he ate one. It was so delicious, that he had another one. At this point, the head teacher walked in and got very upset. The brash, young (and incredibly good looking) teacher was treated to a lecture about how they were her peanut butter cups and she put them next to the coffee machine for everyone to share and that, really, the brash, young (and incredibly good looking) teacher had really eaten more than his fair share so he should lay off.

One week later, the brash, young (and incredibly good looking) was making copies at the photocopier when he spied a letter laying next to the photocopier. It was laying face up in a bright pink font and there was no attempt made to conceal it what so ever. Being a curious young man, he leaned over and read a little bit of this letter. He spied the first page of this letter, which was half-concealed by a book. He gently pushed the book aside and discovered that this was a letter being written to the new teacher to welcome her to Bear Valley. At this point, the head teacher walked and let out a scream that echoed all throughout the valley. This was a personal letter she had left laying about and the brash, young (and incredibly good looking) teacher had no right to be reading it! How dare he read things that had been casually left laying about! The brash, young (and somewhat vain) teacher attempted to apologize, but it fell on deaf ears. He kind of didn't care anyways, as he was being banished from the valley in three days.

The moral of this story is: things left next to the photocopier along with a note saying "for everyone to share" aren't really for everyone. That, and, with brash, young men wandering around the office, don't leave personal correspondence laying around.

Next issue...the Mechanic returns!

Monday, May 26, 2003

I'm currently having a debate with Chuck over e-mail in concerns to my future. It essentially works like this. 2 days ago, I get a phone call at work from head office. They want to offer me the position of "temporary emergency teacher." What this is is, for the next month or two, I get sent out to a school where a teacher went nuts and quit and I fill in for a few weeks until a permanent replacement can be found. It's a little more money, a company apartment, and I say how long I do it. Chuck, who found it to be a great act of corporate defiance when he turned down the same offer, can't understand why I, too, am turning it down. Here's the reason:

This has happened to me a few times in the past. I get in a fight with someone. The battle goes on long and hard. The war rages. But, finally, I see that I'm not making any headway. I'm never going to convince you of my opinion. And besides, you've reduced my face to a bloody pulp and I'm three breaths away from my last. I'm in a lot of pain and tired of the fight. So, I do the unimaginable. I agree with the other person, tell them they've convinced me, congradulate them on their victory, and try and crawl to the nearest hospital. But then, this stuns the other person. They can't take the victory. They start saying, "Well, you know, maybe you've got a point. I agree with you. Come back here and let's start fighting again." But I say no, the war is over, you won, I'm going to get over it, and walk away.

A few months ago, the company told me my lessons are of "poor quality" and told me that they weren't renewing my contract. That upset me. So, I started a fight with them. I called head office to complain. Representatives were sent out to have meetings with us and observe. I followed their advice and tried to really turn things around. But this wasn't good enough for a few people. I was soon left out of the daily staff meetings. Questions I asked about students were answered with growls. Recently, my head teacher asked me why I check the schedule 6 times a day. It's because you leave me out of the staff meetings, bitch. I need to know what's going on to do my job! Shortly before I left for my spring vacation, my head teacher got very upset with me. Because I was taking a few extra days off, one of private lessons had to be cancelled. My head teacher was very upset that, when I apologized to the woman, I didn't bow in the proper Japanese style. That's when I knew my face had been reduced to a bloody pulp and I was three breath away from my last. So, the company won. They're right, my lessons are poor quality. For the past month, I've only been doing the bare minimum required of my contract with the intent of getting out quickly and quietly. But, apparently somone noticed. They want to start the fight again. No, the war is over, you won, I'm going to go get over it now.

My parents told me to go with my gut. My gut says, "Let's go home."

And in other news, I finally went to Tokyo Disneyland. I had to get up at 6 am on Sunday to do so, which isn't too bad. When I get up at 6 on Sundays, I can watch Sailor Moon. (Sunday mornings at 6:30.) It's weird watching Sailor Moon in Japan. The TV station, naturally, shows an old print of it. It has a real, "We've been playing this for 30 years" look to it. I probably shouldn't admit to my studnets that I watch Sailor Moon. I was told once that it picked up a reputation for being a show for "dirty old men" and inspired quite a few porn knock-offs.

But you can't deny that Sailor Moon established the formula for every, shall we call them, "girls adventure cartoons." Our heroine is a typicaly neurotic, awkward, teenaged girl who, one day, is told by a cute talking animal mentor that she has superpowers and must save the world. Even though she's now this beautiful super-heroine, she's still awkward and neurotic in her civilian life, especially when dealing with the cute guy she really likes. She soon leads a team of similarly super-powered teenaged girls, and there's some friction in the group. They even get joined by a 10-year old superpowered girl, who becomes the requisited cute sidekick. Eventually, she gets her act together and starts dating the cute guy she likes and, surprise, he's got superpowers too, and eventually joins her superteam. But then, the forces of darkness corrupt his soul and turn him evil, and then she must save her boyfriend from the dark side. Once that's done, she defeats the ultimate evil and lives happily ever after until the next series. Do I about have that right?

Speaking of corruption of the soul, I feel I must mention that, although I still adhere to my belief of not drinking, I have had a few drinks in Japan. This is everything I've had to drink while in Japan:

One (1) beer - Because, after a meeting in which my head teacher spent an hour and half telling me how bad of a teacher I am, I, for the first time in my life, felt like getting drunk. One beer, however, reminded me of why I don't like beer.

One (1) glass of sake - Because I sent a bottle home to my folks so I figured I should know what I was sending.

One (1) vodka martini, shaken not stirred - Because, for once in my life, I wanted to be James Bond.

One (1) glass of red wine - Because it was the welcome party for my new manager and my head teacher just wouldn't lay off about how I don't drink. One swig shut her up.

Everytime I say I don't drink, the first thing often said by someone is, "Well, then, I really wonder what you're like drunk! I WANT TO SEE YOU DRUNK!" Only one person ever stopped saying that to me, it was after my contract wasn't renewed, I was still in a fighting mood, and spewing a lot of venom about the company. My friend looked at me and said, "I don't want to see you drunk anymore. Someting tells me you'd be an ugly drunk."

I'm about done here, folks. Time to call head office and officially tell them, "Thanks, but no thanks."

Next issue...side by side with Destro!

Thursday, May 22, 2003

There's only been two occasions in Japan where I truly felt like a redneck. The first happened back in November, as I went to the mountain town of Nagatoro with some friends. We stopped at this soba (Japanese noodle) restaurant for lunch. We all chose the day's special, which included a side of chestnut rice.

Now, the rice was served in a unique fashion. It was wrapped in a bamboo leaf, and tied shut with a string. Everyone else was able to untie their string and tie into their rice with no problem, but not me. The knot was tiny and tight, and I just couldn't untie it. Even one of my friends fiddled with it, but it could not be undone. Finally, I said, "Screw it!" whipped out my pocket knife and cut the string.

(I should point out that I only feel like a redneck in retrospect. At the time, I thought it was a very practical solution to the problem at hand.)

The second time happened a month ago, as I was on vacation in Osaka. Now, my head teacher is from Osaka, and she told me I had to eat some okonomiyaki while I was there. "They make the best in Japan!" she told me. Okonomiyaki is constantly called Japanese style pizza by my company's textbooks, but it's nothing like pizza. I think it's more like an omlette. But the truth is, it's exactly like okonomiyaki.

Anyway, it was suppertime, and I wanted some okonomiyaki. Lonely Planet Japan recommended a restaurant called Chibo as a place to get a very good, very cheap plate of okonomiyaki. I easily found Chibo, but what Lonely Planet Japan failed to mention was that it was a very upscale place. So, here is this restaurant filled with men in suits and women in their finest, and in walk I. I was wearing faded blue jeans, a Hawaiian shirt, a backpack slung over my shoulder and my Tilley hat upon my head. All someone had to do was crank up Cowboy by Kid Rock and it would have been a scene from every east-meets-west comedy.

So they showed me to a seat at the bar, gave me an English-language menu, and I had a very good, very cheap plate of okonomiyaki. I walked in with all eyes on me, and I walked out with all eyes on me. I figured I should do something to fit in with the city-slickers, so I paid with my credit card.

In other news, my god, "Weird Al" Yankovic, has released his latest album, Poodle Hat. My good friend Chuck was kind enough to download the album with his high speed Internet and share his opinons with me. He figures the best song is called Ode to a Superhero and he sent me the complete lyrics. I'll just reprint the first verse and chorus for your enjoyment:

Ode to a Superhero
(Parody of
Piano Man by Billy Joel)

Poor Peter Parker was pitiful
He couldn't have been any shyer
Mary Jane still wouldn't notice him
Even if his hair was on fire

but then one day he went to that science lab
That mutated spider came down
And now Peter crawls over everyone's walls
And he's swinging all over town

Sling us a web, you're the Spider-Man
Sling us a web tonight
Cuz we're all in the mood for a hero now
And there's evil-doers to fight

Chuck just burned me a copy of Poodle Hat and mailed it off to me. He says we're practicing "new digital-age ethics: download an album to check it out, then buy it anyway."

Next issue...the Wrath of Jacana!

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Many simple things just fascinate me. Currently, it's the origins of country's names. For example, I've been in Japan long enough now to know that "Japan" isn't the Japanese name for Japan. It's "Nippon." My mother is German, and thanks to several German relatives, I learned that "Germany" isn't the German name for Germany. It's "Deutchland." So how did "Deutchland" come to be known as "Germany" to the rest of the world? Why is "Nippon" called "Japan" by the rest of the world? Anyone out there know the answer?

Another thing that blows my mind is the name game on Transformers: Armada. Yup, I'm watching it here in Japan, and I'm following the developments of the toy back home. Now, a common trend on both sides of the Pacific is to give these newer Transformers the names of old, classic Transformers, primarily to spark a sense of nostalga among collectors, and so Hasbro (in North America) and Takara (in Japan) can keep their copyrights on the names. But, what surprises me is that they don't use the same recycled name on both sides of the Pacific. About the only common ones are "Megatron" and "Starscream" (a Decepticon tank and jet, respectivly). Here are some other discrepancies:

The Autobot ambulance that North Americans call "Red Alert" is known as "Ratchet" in Japan.
The Autobot sportscar that North Americans call "Hot Shot" is known as "Hot Rod" in Japan.
The Autobot bulldozer that North Americans call "Scavenger" is known as "Devastator" in Japan.
The Autobot crane that North Americans call "Smokescreen" is known as "Grapple" in Japan.
The Autobot sportscar that North Americans call "Blurr" is known as "Silverbolt" in Japan.
The Decepticon helicopter that North Americans call "Cyclonus" is known as "Sandstorm" in Japan.

Also doing more reading up on The Matrix Reloaded. It doesn't come out until June 7 here in Japan. It'll probably be the last movie I see in this country. Sadly, the reviews aren't very good. I guess part of me isn't that surprised. I remember the last time that two sequels to a hit movie were made at the same time. That was Back to the Future Parts II and III. I think we all agree that 3 is the better movie, right? Oh, well. I'll wait and judge for myself.

Actually, what's really blowing minds right now is how interconnected the whole Matrix universe has become. From what little I've read, one of the plot points of The Matrix Reloaded is this letter for Neo from the crew of a ship called Osiris. Now, how this letter wound up in the Matrix is chronicled in the animated short film The Final Flight of the Osiris, which ran in front of Dreamcatcher and will soon be on the The Animatrix DVD. How this letter gets to Neo is chronicled in the video game Enter the Matrix, who's plotline runs concurrently with The Matrix Reloaded. In Enter the Matrix, you are the Reloaded character of Niobe, and your mission is to recover the letter. And, if what I've read is true, it's Niobe who does deliver the letter to Neo in The Matrix Reloaded. They say this raises the standard for video game tie-ins. I think it's just an interesting concept.

The job is marching forth to it's eventual conclusion. Actually, right now, I'm feeling a swell of pride. In my final weeks, we also have to take a survey of our students, so I find that I'm announcing that I'm leaving the company at the start of the class (I have to do that, so they aren't shocked when the new teacher comes) and passing out the survey at the end of class. When I collect the surveys, I just kind of scan over them, and I find that in the "Any Additional Comments" section, a few of the teenage girls I teach have been writing, "DON'T GO! I LOVE YOU!" It's a nice boost to the ego.

But then, my ego gets nicely deflated in incidents like the following. One of my private lessons has been coming to my school for just about 6 years now, and has had his share of foreign teachers. I told him I was leaving and he just blinked and said, "Oh. Has it been a year already?"

I still can't believe that my successor is in his late-40s. I half-expect to get a call from head office soon. "Yeah, Mark, can you stay for another month while we find someone else to replace you? Yeah, he's not coming to Japan now. His wife said he could have the sportscar instead."

But plans are underway now for what to do when the job ends. I decided to take a few weeks and see a few more sights in Japan before returning to good ol' Entwistle. High on my list is Nagano. I've been wanting to go ever since I found it's just an hour down the shinkansen line from Kumagaya, but poor planning has always kept me from going. No more excuses this time! I'd also like to get a little closer to the Mt. Fuji area just because, well, it's Mt. Fuji. Coming to Japan and not seeing Mt. Fuji? That's like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower, or going to Glendon and not seeing the world's largest pyrogy. Ya just don't do it. I've also got this urge to see Hiroshima. I don't know why, I just want to see it. And, if time and money permit, up to Sapporo one last time to see Chuck and L. But, first things first! In order to do all this, I had to tell the company I wanted cold hard cash in lieu of a plane ticket home, so I've got to go out and buy a plane ticket home. All this is irrelevant unless I'm back in Entwistle this summer.

And before I go, I'd just like to report on some of the latest development in evil. I don't know why, but there's this push in the industry to develop a DVD that you can watch only once. Well, I know why. It's so you can watch it just once, then have to go buy another one. The first one I read about was called "SpectraDisc." This was designed with a special coating that was burned by the laser that reads your DVD. After you'd watched it just once, the DVD is burned beyond your DVD player's ability to read it. Now, the Walt Disney Company is ready to put one on the market called "EZ-D." Once you take it out of the package, a chemical reaction begins between the disc and the air, and within 48 hours, the disc is completely rusted over so your DVD player can't read it. Disney said they did this to "revolutionize" the DVD rental industry. See, you just throw out the disc. No longer are you bothered with taking it back to the store! I still think disposable DVDs are a bad idea....

Anyway, that's all for now. Next issue...and X-Man dies!

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Nothing more depressing that checking your e-mail for the first time in 3 days and finding nothing but 100 spams.

In news only I care about, Disney has decided to speed up the production of their Platinum Collection of DVDs. The Platinum Collection is the moniker of their 2-disc special editions of their animated classics. Their original plan of releasing only one a year over the next ten years, starting in 2001, is starting to make Disney scratch their heads, as research indicates that next generation DVDs will be on the market by 2005. So, Disney will now release 2 a year over the next five years, and they have added four more titles to the Platinum Collection. Already out in the Platinum Collection are Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (2001) and Beauty and the Beast (2002). 2003's Platinum Collection is going to be The Lion King. The remaining 7 of the original 10 are Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Bambi, Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians and The Jungle Book. The four new additions are Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Peter Pan.

I was watching a little bit of Die Hard before making my excursion to the Internet cafe tonight. Nothing makes me laugh more now than those classic scenes where the hero picks up the phone to call for help, only to find that the villain has cut the phone lines. I hope very soon to see this film in some cheezy action film or cheezy action TV show:

Hero>> Quick! Pick up the phone and call for help!
(Heroine picks up the phone)
Heroine>> The phones are dead! They must have cut the lines!
(Hero tosses Heroine a small object)
Hero>> Then use my cellphone.

One of the curses I have as being a big movie buff with dreams of being a filmmaker some day is I occasionally have brilliant flashes of dialogue, but no movie to wrap around it. Had such a flash the other day. So, please, don't steal this, as it's from my soon-to-be-made-Academy-Award-winning-film:

Man and woman are walking down the street. Woman accidentally trips the man.

Woman>> Oh, I'm so sorry!
Man>> Don't be.
Woman>> why?
Man>> Because, from this angle, I can see up your skirt.
(Woman gets embarrased and moves to cover herself)
Man>> Oh, don't be all embarrased. (Man gets up) Purple's a good colour on you.

One drawback to teaching the English language along side a group of Americans. Every time I write "colour" or "favourite" or "theatre," they lecture me on my incorrect spelling.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Let me tell you a little secret.

One of my favourite things to do is to go to McDonald's, buy a cheeseburger, sit by a window and watch the world go by. I'm sure if I were a "socially responsible human being" and not "fascinated by the whole bright colourful kid world thing" as Chuck put it once, McDonald's would be replaced by a Mom-and-Pop coffee bar and the cheeseburger would be replaced with a cup of herbal tea that was organically grown in the back room. I was a socially responsible human being once, but I gave up because the world kept kicking me in the ass for being one.

In somewhat related news, the Stony Plain Liberal Association no longer exists because the new management never filed the proper year end paperwork.

Speaking of politics, I'm fascitnated by this story going on in Japan right now. One of the prefectures recently had a byelection, and a masked wrestler ran for office. He wore his mask all throughout his campaign, and vowed to continue wearing it if elected. Well, he got elected, and now he's wearing the mask into the prefecture's council chambers. The rest of the prefectural council is not impressed by this lack of professionalism and is starting to forge legeslation to force him to take off his mask.


Monday, May 05, 2003

As I aimlessly ride my bike around Kumagaya, my mind wanders. Today, it wandered onto the subject of the animated short film. Pixar frequently shows short films of theirs in front of their movies. The Final Flight of the Osiris from The Animatrix is currently running in front of Dreamcatcher. This year's Oscar-winning short film the Chubchubs ran in front of Stuart Little 2. And, Warner Brothers has even announced they're going to be making all new Looney Tunes animated shorts to run in front of their blockbusters.

Do you think the animated short is making a comeback?

Once my grandmother told me of how their would be a half-hour's worth of animated shorts in front of films. That was back in her day. But now, it's my day. Some where, the short films migrated from the big screen to television, and animated shorts became nothing but the fodder of film festivals. Even Pixar admits that they primarly don't do short films for fun, they're proof of concept pieces. (ie something to get the bugs out of the new animation software.) And I guess it's Pixar who's kinda responsible for this trend. This really didn't take off until they stuck Geri's Game in front of A Bug's Life.

The animated short is a medium that hasn't been explored in quite some time. Right now, it's probably just being viewed as a novelty; something to get the kids into the theatre. You just know that the only reason why they stuck Final Flight of the Osiris in front of Dreamcatcher was to get all those Matrix geeks into the theatre.

I guess the animated short really won't make a comeback until we get that one, single visionary animator who really dominates the field. Like back in the golden days of animation, when we had Chuck Jones doing Looney Tunes, Walter Lantz on Woody Woodpecker, and William Hannah & Joseph Barberra doing Tom & Jerry. Sure, we've got our animators today, folks like John Lassetter and Brad Bird, but they're doing animated features. The short really won't come back until we've got a celebrity in the field.

And that's all I've got to say about that.

Just bought the 2-disc special edition of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the big boxed set of the Back to the Future Trilogy. This is for my DVD stockpile. These are discs I'm buying online and shipping to my parents for my eventual return to Canada. The stockpile now includes the 2-disc special editions of Star Treks 2, 3 and 4 and Beauty and the Beast. Also, Disney's 4-disc set The Complete Goofy. My parents tell me my DVD player's been untouched since I left Canada. I'm really going to get it going when I get back....

Saturday, May 03, 2003

"Hello. I think it's fair to warn you that I really have no idea what I'm doing here. All I have is this vague idea that I want to do a show. Things are going to be rough as I figure out how to do this, so all I ask is that you be tolerant. As for who I am, you can address me as Scarecrow." - These are the first words I ever spoke on the first edition of my radio show. Seems appropirate to inaugurate this.

So, welcome to the Chaos In A Box blog. This thing won't be here very long, probably just for two months or so. This is just because my computer is fried and I need some form of creative release until it's fixed and I can pour my heart and soul back into my official website, Chaos In A Box. So, until that day arrives, meesa here.

What words of wisdom can I impart on you in this, my first blog? How about a good ol' movie review?

X2: X-Men United

Directed by Bryan Singer

Starring Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, James Marsden, Famke Jannsen, Alan Cumming, Ian McKellin, Bryan Cox, and a cast of thousands.

One year ago, I was sneaking a buddy of mine into Spider-Man. Just last night, I was standing in line in Japan to be the first to see X2. What a difference a year makes! Or three years. Way back when X-Men first came out, I was told by a friend of mine (The same friend I snuck into Spider-Man) of a midnight screening of X-Men and I hurridly called all my friends and saw it with a huge crowd of my friends and admirers. I saw X2 alone. What a difference three years makes!

The film opens with one mutant named Kurt Wagner launching an asasination attempt on the President of the United States. But, something about this just doesn't seem right, so Professor Charles Xavier sends out Jean Grey and Storm to find Wagner before the authorities do. The good Professor and Cyclops are off to visit Magneto in prison for the evening, so who's going to stay at the School for the Gifted and watch the children? Why, Wolverine of course, who's just returned from searching for his past, finding nothing but bombed-out military instillations. Meanwhile, back in Washington, General Stryker uses the attack on the President to launch an assault on a training ground for mutant terrorists - Charles Xavier's School for the Gifted. Before long, all hell breaks loose, and the few remaining X-Men have to team up with Magneto to save Professor Xavier - before Stryker manipulates him into killing every mutant on the face of the Earth. Will Magneto return to the side of good? Will Wolverine discover his past? Will Pyro get tempted by evil? Will Rouge and Iceman ever find a way to get it on? And, more importantly, what's will all these visions of phoenix-like flames that Jean Grey is having whenever she uses her powers?

Ladies and gentlemen, add this to the short of list of sequels that are better than the first films. This movie just begins and doesn't let up. It does help if you've seen the first film, though, as it really doesn't slow down for exposition. It's just lots of explosions and story and...wow. Jackman once again kicks ass as Wolverine, and McKellin is wonderfully sinister as Magneto. And Cumming as Nightcrawler is just wonderful! This film really does take things to the next level. And, unlike that other Patrick Stewart film I've recently seen (Star Trek Nemesis), you really feel something when one of the main characters dies at the end. This movie almost surpases Spider-Man as the best Marvel movie to date.

4 Nibs