Thursday, February 23, 2006

Meeting with Asmik Ace Entertainment Executive

As mentioned last week an executive from Asmik Ace Entertainment by the name of Isoda was trying to contact me concerning my involvement in the subtitling and accidental world promotion of the now infamous sushi documentary. Due to the recent frenzy of lawsuits arising from exactly this kind of "infringement," I was a justifiably a little uneasy about walking into the offices of the distributors and saying "Hey everybody, it was I that pirated your video! Come and get me!" but Mr Isoda assured me that I had nothing to worry about.

Fast forward to yesterday evening, when I turned up at the Asmik Ace Entertainment offices to proudly proclaim "Hey everybody, it was I that pirated your video! Come and get me!" - Mr Isoda did indeed come and get me, and treated me to a coffee at a nearby chain.

Contrary to any impressions people might have gotten from the harshly worded takedown notices that had been circulating the web almost as much as the video itself, he was an entirely agreeable chap with a good sense of humour and fun, and a genuine interest in the content his company was responsible for. I was also a little surprised to discover he had previously worked for my current company. Entirely as expected however, the meeting was very much an informal greeting, a chance to put faces to names, and to see if we were the sort of people that could work together. To that end, I think the result was very postitive. He also talked about some of his ideas for additional DVD projects which he'll be proposing to TeeVee Graphics in the near future, and suggested that should these come into actuality, would I take on the task of doing the subtitling - like I was going to say no?! Even if that particular role gets declined by the producers, I would be glad of any involvement, even just a visit to the set during filming would make it worth it!

So in short, nothing concrete yet, but definite significant progress has been made. I await further contact with eager anticipation!

Monday, February 20, 2006

John Kricfalusi has a blog

Animator and artist, John Kricfalusi has an artwork rich blog.

For those who don’t know, John K was the genius behind Ren & Stimpy, not to mention his ambiguous role in the creation of the New Adventures of Mighty Mouse (similarly noted for its heavily stylised animation). I was a long term fan of both productions, and look forward to enjoying more of his work. Even if it means I have to pay...

Of Trains and Bikes

Despite being resident for quite some time now, I have come to realize that you can never really get to understand a city from the inside of a train. I don't know what it is, but they seem to nurture a very surreal travel experience, as how you get there seizes to be an issue. Simply pick a node off a network diagram, pass through the ticket gate, and you magically appear at your destination some minutes later. What transpires during those minutes is all but forgotten the moment you pass back through the ticket gate and return to the real world. Despite the convenience, it is a waste of time in a very literal sense of the word. It also encourages the belief that every station is its own island, trains being the only means by which you can get from one to another.

I don't think anybody actually believes that, but at times it's very easy to forget that it isn't the case. All too often I would wander miles from a station, and naturally assume that at some point I must return to that same station, without it even occurring to me that there are probably a dozen other stations much closer. The words "waste of time" come to mind again.

This was one of many reasons I was eager to get a bike back on the road; wanting to see the real city beyond the artificial time and space warping rail network, and seeing how all these towns are actually linked together, and I must say the past couple of weeks have been quite enlightening. For example, I was checking the route to get to the Asmic Ace Entertainment offices (in preparation for my meeting Wedneday) which are in the immediate vicinity of the Almond Café, and low and behold a single road connects it to the town I live in. I mean, that's just insane! The same journey would require I change trains twice, the second time being to a completely different network meaning I get stiffed on the ticket price twice. A single road, 11 kilometers, less than half a litre of petrol, about 60 Yen tops. A return trip would cost the same amount as a canned softdrink from a vending machine. And having now run the route I see for the first time how my small flat in whatever town it is I live connects to the wider city whole. Tokyo just got bigger.

There are two things however that I failed to anticipate, and curiously they both relate directly to traffic lights. First off, they're everywhere! Every major road has a set of signals about every 50 yards or so, slowing progress to an absolute crawl 24/7. In this regard, I have to say that bikes don't appear to offer a significant advantage over cars. I may be able to filter to the front of traffic queues, and leave other vehicles in my exhaust fumes on take off, but they'll soon catch up in plenty of time before the next set of lights turns green. And the lights take so long to change I'm wondering if the bike offers a significant advantage over walking, or even just staying at home and enjoying a cup of tea. You'd get there just as fast. Secondly, and this may just be me… a disproportionate number of traffic light junctions offer no indication whatsoever as to where any of the routes lead. It's bad enough that I have no sense of direction (I was instead gifted with a fairly photographic memory and Star Wars Pitch™ - similar to perfect pitch, but only works when identifying the opening note of the Star Wars theme tune) but this lack of information ensures that what should be a simple trip into town becomes a logistical nightmare. Let's see, I wish to get to Yotsuya. I don't know what it looks like. Most junctions have no signs. Those that do don't seem to be sending me anywhere useful. If I were on the train, I'd change at Shinjuku, so maybe I should go via there. Oh bugger, that didn't work. What direction am I heading? Help! You get the idea.

That's where this rather handy device comes in useful. It's a Mio 168RS Pocket PC with a built in GPS and navigational software. This is not my first experience with a GPS navigational system as my mobile phone has the same function. I'm pleased to report however that the Mio 168RS, unlike EZ Navi, actually works, and pretty well too. The interface is a tad clumsy, which I'm no longer used to since I purged my house of Microsoft products, but once it gets going it does the job of telling me where I am and what I am doing efficiently enough that I can just pick a place to go and no longer have to think about how to get there. And as an added bonus, it's a pocket device so when I do use the train, I can follow the journey on the map in real time, which I can never do while driving! It's quite enlightening watching the little arrow float over fields and across rivers where no vehicle or pedestrian may tread, and then stop right in the centre of all the action. Yeah, trains are pretty sweet!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Gosh. would you look at the time…

It's the 21st Century already. Time to get a blog I reckon!

Actually, this is one of a number of items on my long term to-do list that I've been neglecting for about the last decade. Here's how getting a blog ranked against some of the other items.

  • Pass JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) Level 1. Did that last winter. Was surprised and possibly even disappointed with the result, as I hadn't dedicated any time to studying for it at all. I always figured by the time I had Level 1 I'd be better than I currently am. That's one Holy Grail soiled.

  • Get my damn teeth sorted. After years of abuse by British dentists leaving my teeth battered and worn, the very thought of having another one near my mouth made me shudder terribly. An unfortunate incident last Golden Week involving one of my teeth, an expired nerve, and a great deal of relentless pain encouraged me re-assess my priorities, and by luck the local dentist happened to be rather good. 4 months, 50,000 Yen, and 15 teeth fixed later, I now have a dazzling healthy smile (complete with maximum-cool polished silver ROBOT TEETH™!!).

  • Get rid of the extra fridge and washing machine. They'd been sitting on my balcony for over 2 years! Despite them both being perfectly functioning machines and possibly even worth money in some countries, here they are valued so low that I would be required to part with money to have them disposed of. Not one to give up without a fight, I eventually put a classified ad up saying "lovely big fridge and washing machine, please come and take them away!" and after a few wild goose chases, somebody did last December. My balcony is now a haven of clear.

  • Get a driving licence. It's not like I didn't have one before, just that one too or two too many brushes with the law made the endorsements section look rather incriminating in ways I didn't want immigration to start poking their noses into. Hence I always considered merely exchanging my licence for a local one to be out of the question. That was until a month ago when a trip to the licencing centre in Shinagawa revealed that they really couldn't have less interest in anything I did 11 odd years ago, and getting a local licence could be done in a couple of hours over the counter, which I promptly did.

  • Get a bike. OK, so this one is really reliant on the last item, but nonetheless, anticipating a large payout to get a licence the hard way, I conveniently had all the money I needed to get a nice hack on the road together with riders' gear right there in my back pocket. 1 week later, I'm on the road again! 

  • Come clean about my role in the Sushi thing. This was more happy happenstance than anything else, but my unintentional unleashing of a monster on the world in the form of a fan-subbed (by me) copy of an amusing mockumentary on sushi etiquette had caught the rather angry attention of the distributors. Trying to convince them that this could profit them, while simultaneously avoiding their legal wrath, was bravely undertaken by Satomi resulting just yesterday in the news that they want to talk to me. A quick exchange of emails has revealed that they may want to make more of the series, and would probably like me on board to oversee the official subtitling. Details are to be discussed at a meeting next week, but needless to say I am somewhat chuffed.

  • Get a blog. That would be the thing that you're reading.

There are still some items remaining, some of which actually have an even higher priority than half the things on this list (such as getting citizenship - the only reason I currently don't have it is because the Home Office in Britain have kept me waiting for some vital documentation for the past 6 months. Update I am now a Japanese citizen.) One thing at a time though.

One very important principle I do prefer to adhere to concerning blogs (and all other forms of personal gloss sharing), and probably the main reason I never went for one before, is that other people's holiday snaps are not interesting to see. If I'm going to dedicate time to writing stuff I want people to read, I feel I have a responsibility to make it as interesting and relevant for them as possible. After all, somebody has to. So, if I deem it not worth saying, I'm really not going to bother saying it. Please consider this formal notification that I may not update this quite as often as your average bored student.

Update Likewise, this is not a blog about life in Japan, nor an account of every cough and sneeze of my insignificant existence, nor a collection of commentless links to every piece of flotsam and jetsam that I find on the net. That I DO exist, AM in Japan, and DO find some interesting flotsam and jetsam will no doubt come accross in my writings at some level, but to make those the focus would be very boring for everybody involved. Please also don’t do that yourself. Thank you.

And a brief self-intro...
Originally from a small town near London that nobody cares about, I decided to leave the country permanently some time last century and never looked back. Since then I spent a total of 3 years living in Hamamatsu and Shizuoka before moving to Tokyo where I currently reside. I work regular hours at a well known company, and if you’re into console games then there’s a good chance you’ve seen my work. I’m not into console games.