Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New England Foliage

Last weekend, Paul and I drove through New England to view the gorgeous autumn leaves- aka "leaf peeping". We rested our heads at Michael & Mary's (Paul's oldest sister) amazing purple Victorian home in Williamstown, Massachusetts, near the Vermont/New York border.

The colors of the weekend were bright and rusty, deep reds and flaming oranges and golden yellows... it was like you turned up the "saturation" level in Photoshop. (OK that was nerdy.) More photos here.

It was an "authentic" New England experience, complete with baking apple pies, picking vegetables from an organic farm, walking Mary's black lab, driving down country roads, seeing lots of red barns, and watching the World Series. We drove through Massachusetts and Vermont enjoying all kinds of wholesome hearty food like shepherd's pie, lots of sandwiches and burgers, and chicken soup. With the temperatures dropping down to the 30's and 40's at night, we were getting an early taste of what winter was going to be like!

It was nice to squeeze in some artsy fartsy stuff too. We drove out to the next town over, North Adams to visit Mass MOCA, with its beautiful renovated brick buildings and awesome exhibits like the upside down trees. We also went to an art auction that Mary (Paul's sister) helped organize. Originally we were there to nibble on the free food and drink the free wine, but ended up bidding (and winning!) this beautiful piece... delicately made with human hair...

Lots of fleece, down vests, and wool hats... Oh, and a trip to the outlets in Manchester, Vermont scored Paul and me some new clothes... (Thank you Paul for my new clothes!!!)

It was as American as... well, apple pie!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Rotten Neighbors!!!

Ha ha!!! This is one more website dedicated to people who love ranting and complaining!

This time, it's for people to gripe about their rotten neighbors!

The map uses Google's easy to use street/satellite hybrid and little red house icons indicate where people have complained.

BEWARE- this website can be highly addicting and hilarious. And, it's nice to be able to share your pain!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Japanese-style Urban Camouflage

I read articles like this and I get frustrated because people think of the Japanese as silly and naive. At one point, Japan was known as the pioneers of technological advancement- computers, cars, robots!!! But they are potentionally hurting their reputation with some of these far fetched and silly ideas?!?

Back in the day, ninjas wore all black to disguise themselves at night. Inspired by this practical idea, a young fashion designer invented a bulky full-size vending machine costume to elude assailants! One interesting invention is the "manhole bag": when unfolded and put on the street, this purse hides valuables by disguising itself as a sewer cover. Of course, the texture could give it away and to me, if you know that you're being followed, then how and when would you have time to lay this on the street without having someone see it?

This just brings back the major difference between American and Japanese culture... Americans want to protect themselves from criminals, and strike back, while many the Japanese, who avoid confrontation and self-assertion at all costs, favor camouflage and deception. I guess we all need a bit of common sense and creativity just to be safe.

Monday, October 22, 2007

DoCoMo in New York?!?

Walking through Nolita with my sister and some friends the other day, I saw a very familiar object from my past year in Japan.... The DoCoMo mushroom!

I ran in and saw a huge pile of thousands of the cute fuzzy characters that had smiled me from every DoCoMo mobile phone shop in Japan! There is a great temporary (October 19-28) exhibit by 16 up-and-coming Japanese painters, fashion designers, ilustartors and artists on these "Docomodake" (DoCoMo mushrooms).

Since I refused to have several pounds of obnoxious cell phone straps from my phone, I ended up hanging these DoCoModake "keitai sutrappu" from each of my pull light chains in my apartment... who knew I would get so sentimental?

My sister rolled her eyes and told me that they were going to check out the shoe store next door.

Monday, October 15, 2007


A few of us went to the racetracks at Belmont Park on Sunday, dressed in our finest. It was a sunny but crisp fall day with a biting wind. The beautiful fall colors and long shadows of the racetrack really made it feel like autumn...

Ray arranged for us to get private tours of the padock and entry into the clubhouse, but the real fun was in the bleachers with all the other betters. Of course, none of us really had any idea what we were doing at first, so we each picked up a copy of the program and studied it intensely, placing our bets for each race. I just am not a gambler though.

But I liked looking at the pretty horses and little jockeys and their colorful jerseys.

Belmont Park,

Thursday, October 11, 2007

New laundromat

I HATE the new place.
boo!!! hiss!!!

My old place closed down without any warning- the nice old Chinese guy and all the

First of all, I got there and it's $1.50 to wash! (didn't the old
place used to be $1.25?)
Then, i ask the ladies folding laundry for change, and they just
shrugged and pointed to the "change machine" in the corner. OH. oops.
So, I changed my $1 and got my 4 quarters.

So, here's a sidenote: I always throw my dimes and nickels in my
change purse so I can change them to quarters at the laundromat. So I
had 5 quarters in the machine and all i needed was another quarter for
the $1.50 wash- but I only had nickels and dimes left. So I asked the
folding clothes ladies if they would give me a quarter in exchange.
NO. They don't give change. WHAT?!?!?

so i went over to the lady selling pastries and sodas in the SAME
laundromat- all the way at the end- gave her the coins and asked if
she would give me a quarter. NO. She doesn't give change. WHAT?!?!?

I'm fuming, and started cussing them out, like what kind of laundromat
is this?!? I already have my money in the machine- all i need is a
freaking quarter. It's an even exchange!! it's not like I'm begging
them for the quarter.

Finally, one of teh folding ladies came over and said that this was
the only time she would do this- she pulled out a quarter in her
pocket and exchanged it for my coins.

I thanked her, but was still sooooooo annoyed. It's just an even exchange!

I guess I was used to the other place having supplied me with quarters
for all my loose change for so long.

Is that so wrong?!? Blargh.

otherwise, it was quite uneventful.
Digital times on the washers and dryers.
Fairly clean place, not so crowded, but then again, it was a Tuesday afternoon.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Japanese Music

For some reason, I have seen more Japanese music in the last 2 weeks than I did in the last year, LIVING in Japan!
I suppose the exposure and finding out about schedules is much easier when you can navigate the websites in English or whatever (and not living in the Japanese countryside helps), but anyway...

So a couple weeks ago, Paul and I went to the New York-Tokyo Music Festival in Central Park. The festival represent two extremes, as in New York & Tokyo, East & West, underground & mainstream, cool & cute, futurism & traditionalism.... Upper East riches & downtown rugrats?

The Upper East was oddly milling with skateboarders and hip hop fans, and the normally quiet park was throbbing from the deep booming reverberations emanating from the park...

It was a great lineup, with the impressive Kenny Muhammed (The Human Orchestra) as MC/performer- it was freaking amazing to watch all those sounds only coming out of his mouth! Yes, indeed, he is the human beatbox!!!

Also playing were DJ Red Alert, Pharoahe Monche, Collie Buddz from New York, and from Japan.... the surprisingly awesome and fun TERIYAKI BOYZ & DJ Uppercut. Teriyaki Boyz were like young cute colorful versions of the Beastie Boys- they had such fresh raw energy... What a shame they didn't seem to get the support that they deserved from the (young-ish) crowd...

As the excitement was building up, Kenny Muhammed announced that headlining MF Doom was not going to make it because he was in the hospital. The audience booed (and were immediately admonished for "disrespectin'"), but with Doom's mysterious personality, most of us were just trying to figure out whether we were getting tricked or not.

When his equally respectable last-minute replacement, Rakim, showed up onstage, Paul practically fainted from excitement!! Again, unfortunately, there was only a small percentage of the crowd who really could appreciate his talent, which was a shame. For him, it was like me getting to watch The Beatles live, so I could imagine what a treat it was for him...

Then, last night, we rocked out to DJ Krush on his first stop of his American DVD Release tour. We picked up a copy of the DVD along with an autographed photo! The Highline Ballroom is a fantastic intimate venue! As usual, watching Krush was an amazing experience. I think I was still smiling this morning when I woke up!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


An exhilarating preview of the gorgeous images...

Made by a good friend of mine, this is an amazing... book within a book, culled from five years of sketchbooking. All works siphoned from the world around [her]; a manner of dialoguing with art exhibits, books, fossils, architecture templates, food wrappers, RV culture, love, cats, photography, sake, childbirth, cities, graphics, origami, tape, people on the street and landscape.

Bon apetit!


Tuesday, October 02, 2007


I have been equally terrified of all animals, from puppies to arthropods for most of my life. (Are arthropods technically animals?) Fish were ok because they swam harmlessly in their little aquarium and pretty much didn't need any caretaking. I had my stuffed animals to keep me company- they were cute, didn't bite, and didn't need baths or walks.

I started warming up to dogs in my teens and 20s when my family inherited Mariko, a fluffy but yappy Shih Tzu from our Japanese neighbors. Not until I began to dogsit for my boss in San Francisco did I really learn to yearn for the company of dogs.

And then I moved to Japan where I shared a living space with lizards, frogs, mice, and many unidentifiable winged creatures. In one of my 2nd year English classes in Japan, we actually held debates on which were better: Dogs or Cats?

Cats to me, symbolized these snooty mysterious creatures that came and went on their own, with little regard or respect for people. Dogs on the other hand, were loyal, friendly, and approachable.

So, I never thought I would see the day when I would catsit. Regardless, Raylene and Ez asked me if I would be interested in taking care of Arwen, their Abyssinian, while they were away for a week. Since Paul has been outspoken about wanting to have a cat "slink around the apartment" for some time, we decided that he would host the kitty at his apartment and I would stay over and take care of her.

Well, after seeing that cute face, her beautiful and elegant poise, we both started fighting for her attention and the privilege to feed her, pet her, hold her... It was like having a cute little baby waiting at home for us without the mess, the crying, the diaper changing.

Unlike many [obese] American pets, this was one lean animal. She jumped and played gracefully and had a shiny coat, due to her very healthy and organic diet. She would softly "bonk" her head as her cute little way to show her affection for us, and purr softly as she inspected the apartment. After a week of having her around, we are now feeling a little empty spot in our hearts and Paul's apartment.

more pics of the kitty

Monday, October 01, 2007

An appeal for Manish and Emily

An excerpt from an email written by a good friend of Manish & Emily:

It's a great honor for me to make a sincere appeal to you on behalf of my dear friends, Manish, Emily and Dillan Desai.

Manish is 31 and an architect - a gifted one with a passion for design.
He and Emily have been married about six years and have a beautiful 21-month-old boy, Dillan. It's been six months since Manish was diagnosed with cancer.

The doctors are surprised that Manish is even alive because the form of cancer he has is known to spread rapidly. The cancer doctors were always clear that amputating Manish's left hand -- his dominant hand -- would be the best approach to dealing with this grave disease. Manish mourned the loss, but Emily says the day he was given the news he also started practicing writing and sketching with his right hand.

Manish is in the process of getting an i-Limb, by a company called Touch Bionics.

This hand provides precision and fine motor skills that are unmatched among other prosthetic devices, which are more hook- or claw-like. The i-Limb boasts four fingers and a moveable thumb, each powered by its own motor and directed by a central processing unit in the palm.

The i-Limb was just introduced in the United States about two months ago and there are only 30 in the country. Insurance companies are not paying for this yet, and the costs could be as high as $50,000 to get Manish set up for the first few years.

We've set up a website that will provide that information, as well as tell Manish and Emily's story for other people who may be going through similar circumstances.

Check out www.whatsleftisright.com to see the site, read their story and check out the blog.

You can keep up to date on Manish's progress via the website and his blog.
--Marshall Allen