Monday, February 27, 2006

Thighs that sing in the night

I nearly blew up the speakers in Jesus bar on Friday night doing an off rendition of an AC/DC song. Wasn’t properly warmed up and the vocals were well off. Just volume…too much volume. I fell asleep over a hamburger steak and chips a little while later and woke up in a diminished state on Kamil’s floor the next afternoon.

Instead of sitting in my house and making chickens 6 (which let me assure you is well planned out) I jumped on a bus, was provided with beer and sake and driven through the night and woke up in Hiroshima-Ken where I spent all day snowboarding. Random. Very random.

Jayne was along on the trip with me, Kamil and Sarah. She put me and Sarah through our paces in basic snowboarding, which was very useful. I managed to learn how to connect turns from my heel edge onto my toe edge and was comfortable putting a bit of speed down, with moderate control by the end of the day. Still beginning stages to say the least, but I advanced over my performance last time.

Living on a bus for twenty four hours in close quarters was a, um, bonding experience. Especially after a days sweating it out in spring snow season. Oh the fabulous odors we produced.

My legs are singing songs of delight after their all day workout and I have some spectacular colorations on my knees from learning how to connect turns onto my toe edge

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Castles...I want one.

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So, this is a dead porcupine fish I found washed up on the beach at Karatsu last weekend. It roughly describes how I felt the morning after Yoshi’s farewell party, as he is departing for China. I haven’t really known Yoshi for all that long, but he seemed to be a very worthwhile person to get to know in the short time I’ve known him. I told him as much too. It was one of those parties at a restaurant where the action spills out onto the pavement, as does the pre digested food and booze of a few different people, the police are called but then bugger off as the owner of the place knows them and explains what is going on. This has been the major event of the past week, except for when one of the senior students at school got so stressed out over exams she flipped and ran away, which caused general excitement around school for about fifteen minutes before she was located. Excitement stemming from the high rate of suicide in Japan perhaps? Maybe that’s just me trying to dramatize things. Again. Dramatize isn’t a real word or term is it? If it is it is a silly term and I should think up something new to describe taking things one morbid step too far.

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In all honesty I have very little recollection of this photo being taken at all and was rather pleasantly surprised when I checked my photo’s the next day. Yoshi is the man on the far left being fed and the man next to him let me ride his mountain bike for nearly a year before requesting it back due to his being harassed by the police for being a foreigner. Well, to put that in perspective he was a foreigner driving without a valid Japanese license. But they stopped him because he was foreign.

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This is the almighty Karatsu pine forest that wraps around half the bay, is infested by crows, snakes, enormous spiders and on the whole is taken straight from a Dr. Suess storybook with its bizarre twisting pine trees that loop and distort themselves seemingly on purpose. Needless to say I love the place.

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When I first learned I was coming to Saga, one of the first images I found on the web was of Karatsu Castle and I hadn’t actually managed to get there until last weekend. Here it sits above the city (think there’s an ordinance that forbids buildings to be built higher than the castle, I agree with this measure) with its Aeria of Eagles. This is cool because of three reasons. Firstly I just learned the correct term to describe a group of Eagles, Aeria, secondly, you just did as well, third and most importantly this castle has huge screaming Eagles flying around it. I’m sorry, it’s very hard to get more impressive than that.

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This is a more imposing shot looking upwards from the lower battlement staircase. Again, may I point out that bird is in fact an Eagle of some description, and they fly down quite low sometimes and scream. They are not kept, in any sense, on purpose. There are no cages, just the protected forest areas where they live. They choose to live around the Castle. They use the updrafts it generates to rise up higher and higher and then fly out over the bay to catch fish. It’s a pattern, you can see two or three of them always circling slowly up or down over the castle. They never seem to flap their wings. Just sitting, motionless in the air currents.

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This photo is taken from the beach on the other side of the castle. It took ten minutes of waiting for an Eagle to be in just the right place.

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Please be enamored of an image of me, bathed in white light, viewing the bay from the top level of the castle. I am busy surveying the realm in front of me, with a serious face, musing on heraldry and pondering the fate of my hordes of surfs who are working in the fields behind me as did the Lords of old from this very spot.

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This is a panoramic image of what I was looking at. Its seven individual shots stitched together into one. You can get the basic idea, but if you want to see a larger one in more detail, let me know by email or by commenting and I’ll send you a larger version. Not for the bandwidth impaired.

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However, the Castle itself is mostly rebuilt after it was destroyed by fire in the 1960’s, so the inside is a museum containing many relics hundreds of years old. These two blades pictured above are the real deal. These are three hundred year old Katana. They have small nicks in them from being used in war. Placed into a river, they will split a leaf if it passes over them as it runs downstream. A sheet of rice paper dropped on top of them will be sliced in two. They are still sharp. People’s lives have been ended on their edges. If you carry this blade and perchance meet God, God will be cut, and he will cry the red tears. You should be listening to the Kill Bill soundtrack while you view these. This is the kind of relic level weapon that never leaves Japan anymore. Look on them and tremble. I was and that is why there is a slight blur. No flash possible as it would bounce back off the glass of the display case. Apologies.

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On a slightly lighter note, here is a photo of me and a monkey. An old man was walking his pet monkey through the train station and it scampered over to me and Fumiko and said hello for a while. Although I have seen lots of monkeys in Zoo’s, nothing compares to the fun of playing with a monkey. They have little tiny hands! Not paws, not fins, not claws or wings but hands. Of course I knew this before, but the full reality of the concept hadn’t dawned on me until this guy was playing with the zips on my jacket with his fingers, that looked just like mine. He belonged to an old man, who looked like he had the time and money to look after a monkey properly because they need lots of attention and care otherwise they aren’t as sociable and healthy as this one was. Pete put it best when he said there is nothing like a mint condition monkey.

That was the weekend. New chickens out soon I hope.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Todays misty temple shots bought to you by...

This morning was significantly foggy and seeing as I have no classes at all today due to the students sitting exams again, I took my camera out first thing before it lifted and snapped this eye candy up at the shrine, which looked suitably mystical and reasonably Asian shrouded in the early morning fog with the sunrise trying to burn through. Enjoy.

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The path through the fields I take to school every morning, about 8:10 today.

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Tree by temple grounds.

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Part of the series of gates leading up to the Inari Shrine.

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Secondary Shrine building.

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In all it’s glory.

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Tori! Evryone’s favorite ubiquitous image of Japan, seen here with added misty spookiness.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Monday ape

Monday morning. A frost melts in the sun, which now is rising earlier and earlier each day. A weekend spent partying leads to a Monday morning persona resembling a snail with an anorexic sense of happy.

I dreamed of Damacy last night. I keep on wanting to touch small objects around the office and pick them up.

The small glowing embers behind my eyes indicate that this could in fact be the start of a detox week.

I watched a short comedy sketch this morning that was based around the premise of a new exercise system. The new exercise system entailed a medium sized, violently aggressive, half man half ape creature which attacked you as soon as you let it out of its box. The ensuing fight provides you with a full body workout ‘the natural way'.

I hate half man half ape creatures. They are probably one of the only things I find irrationally terrifying, no matter how hard I try to convince myself that they are not (in all likelihood) real. There is still a part of me that was terrified through every part of Harry and the Henderson’s (and not just by the script) and is still convinced that the next time I wander into a forest death awaits me with a swaying man like gait and short nasty, pointy teeth.

Did you know that recently a government sponsored team has begun to try and find evidence of the existence of a these creatures on Islands in Indonesia? It’s news worthy because it is the first time any public body has ever conducted serious, funded research into whether or not a missing link type creature exists. I will never ever again go into any forest without being armed if they find some and prove the existence of half men / ape creatures. They could be anywhere.

Watching me.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Sapporo Sapporo Sapporo. Many activities were packed into three and a half days of rampant holiday fun. Chief highlights included:

  1. Teaching myself to snowboard.
  2. Three meters of snow in the streets and the temperature never going above zero.
  3. The snow sculptures at the world famous snow festival.
  4. Drinking at the Sapporo beer factory.
  5. Snow fights.
  6. Throwing small squealing girls into snow drifts.
  7. Cheap karaoke.
  8. Elaborate Onsen
  9. Having a bath outside in -3 degree temperature.

I have never seen snow like that before. Just piles and piles of snow everywhere. Half a meter of ice covering the roads. Once some more photo’s come through I will do a picture post with stories as well.

Of note would be the fact I spent some time teaching myself how to snowboard. Fell down a few hundred times but kept on getting back up. To begin with had a couple of spectacular wipe outs and then figured out what it felt like just before I was going to fall over, then learned how to go down a bit safer. Incidentally this was how I learnt to control my speed and direction, by leaning back into falls, until eventually I was leaning back and balanced, then falls were only precipitated by me becoming distracted by the amazing mountain scenery. There’s just so much to write about I think I will in fact wait for some photo’s to come through (lots of people took many good photos) and when they do I’ll use them as talking points.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

One more sleep to go...

A day where timetable changes and exams have depleted me of any meaningful work whatsoever, I’m sitting in this hot house of a staff room again actually looking forward to getting out this afternoon to the elementary schools to

  1. Do some work and
  2. Not have to sit in a room with two blazing kerosene heaters.

This week has mostly followed a pattern of getting up and counting down the days until I go on holiday. This time tomorrow I should be boarding my flight to Sapporo for a few days of r and r after 5 months of relatively normal work and that whole ‘get really sick and have a shitty winter vacation’ thing. I’ll order my copy of Homeworld 2 tonight as well, so that it’s ready and waiting for me when I get back.

Things are going okay. Fumiko is apparently moving to Melbourne now instead of the U.S., a good choice in my opinion. I’m running into the good old ‘tired of this position’ grumbles that I get and know how to manage from time to time. On the one hand they take some a little effort to put aside and do the job properly, which happens and on the other hand they are justifying the decision I made last year not to re-contract for a third year here.

Decided I will look up the man who directed all the miniature photography on lord of the rings. Show him the decent work I think I’m doing with the visual look of Chickens and say that if he has any good development positions open I can fly my self there in an instant when my contract expires here. On a similar note, Chickens 4 went live yesterday. This is the final scene setting part of the storyline and finished at the very moment…well, if you want to know just click the link at the top of the page. Anyway, when I return I’ll have to spend some more time developing special effects techniques because Chickens 5 will be the first action set piece.

How to fry a chicken without depleting the ranks of your cast and not angering your girlfriend who has expressly forbidden you to even singe one hair on any chicken, because they are ‘cute’? I may have to buy a bag of fuzzy cotton dots and burn / melt them somehow? Eventually I’ll have to do the tanks as well.

Another point of note is the focal distance of the macro on my camera isn’t quite enough to get a good crisp shot of a whole tank because they are too small to come into a crisp normal focus, yet too large for the macro to get the whole machine in clear detail. There are I believe two solutions for this at present, well three really.

  1. Sacrifice visual detail. Not really an option.
  2. Buy a new camera and some new lenses. Expensive, could buy bigger models for less.
  3. take shots of the same set up at different focal lengths and composite them together.

Out of all the options three actually seems to be the most cost (if not time) effective. I’ve done some test panels and they look okay. That’s me out. See you after the snowboarding.