Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Mobileman II: The Return of Keitai Cinema

Best viewed by clicking on the Google Video button on the bottom right in order to watch it on a larger screen on the Google Video site.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Mobileman II Sneak Preview: With an Exclusive Interview with the Director

Title Image for Mobileman II: The Return of Keitai Cinema

Production on Mobileman II is finally complete and it has been uploaded onto Google Video, with the international release date pending verification by Google staff. 001 Mobileman II is the first in the new Keitai Cinema “double-O” series and represents a new benchmark in Gaijin for Life cell phone cinematography, characterized by a larger staff, increased funding and a higher degree of planning.

Director and Screenwriter Luke Elliot in an Interview with Mobileman II (Look Closely at the Bicycle Seat)

Gaijin for Life: What makes a Keitai Cinema film a Keitai Cinema film?

Luke Elliot: Well, I would say that in a technical sense it’s the three guiding principles of Keitai Cinema: exclusive use of cell phones for filming, using Windows Movie Maker for editing, and the five minute rule. Of course, on an artistic level Keitai Cinema remains un-definable.

Gaijin for Life: Would you say that Keitai Cinema has been faithful to the three principles of cell phone cinematography?

Luke Elliot: Well, yes, I think so. Of course, a basic exception had to be made in Mobileman II since the cell phone itself was a principal actor. For shots involving Mobileman II we used a Caplio R2 handheld digital camera, and we may use a limited number of still photos taken with conventional digital cameras in our next short, 002 . . . I don’t think these minor exceptions violate the spirit of Keitai Cinema, though. There needs to be a degree of flexibility in any artistic medium.

Gaijin for Life: Well, thank you for your time. If we may close with one final question, what is the main difference between the original Keitai Cinema films and the new double-O series?

Luke Elliot: I would have to say that the single greatest difference is the fact that I am married now. In the original series it was just me, alone, here in Kazamaura, balancing my cell phone on precarious surfaces and talking to myself. Now my wife is heavily involved as a member of the Keitai Cinema camera crew and that has infinitely increased our flexibility in camera angles and panning capability. I also think Yuko is much less likely to drop Mobileman II into a rice paddy.

Gaijin for Life: You and your wife are expecting, aren’t you?

Luke Elliot: Yes, Yuko is nine months pregnant and she was already experiencing the first pangs of impending childbirth during the final stages of filming for Mobileman II. A lovely woman; and she’s been just marvellous on the set. Expect to see her feature prominently in future films.

Gaijin for Life: Well, again, thank you, and congratulations.

Luke Elliot: Thank you, it’s been a pleasure.

Titles from Keitai Cinema’s Original “O” Series

Some of the Title Skins Originally Considered for the New Keitai Cinema Double “O” Series

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Coming Soon . . .

But not to a theatre near you . . . so stay tuned to Gaijin for Life!

Memoirs of a Very Bad Gardener

Our Daily Walk: Part of Yuko’s Conditioning for Her “Pon!” Birth Plan

My Libertarian Tomatoes Pose with the Support Poles Provided by My Authoritarian Neighbour: Who Will Win?

Honestly, I planned all along to get around to the taming of my tomato plants, but the weather was bad, I was tired from watching too many disappointing football (soccer) matches, and I couldn’t seem to find any good quality sticks to support them with. Besides, letting my tomatoes run wild was part of my secret plan to increase their surface area and nurture their self-confidence. I knew in the back of my mind that I should be worrying about what my neighbours think of my negligence, but one of them stepped in before I could mend my ways. I was out at the time, but she gave into my wife’s hands four very tall and very solid support rods and told her that the tomatoes needed to be pruned as well as supported.

This was the kick in the behind I needed in order to get my act together, but perhaps my heart was not yet ready to ascend to this higher level of gardening.

1) I cheerfully set about the task of trimming my tomato plants. What could possibly go wrong?
2) My confidence begins to wane as I realize that I am destroying #4, the weakest of my tomato plants.
3) What was left of #4 after I tried to straighten him up against the support pole (and broke his back).
4) What? What are you looking at?! This is part of my secret plan to open up space to plant garden peas.

1) With all the mist and rain and cold this past month, my earth mounds were beginning to look like the mossy rocks flanking a waterfall. My daily visits to the garden were becoming my Walk of Shame, so I took a Saturday afternoon to do some hoeing.
2) Before and After: my corn plants are still midgets, but at least they stand out more now that they are alone on their earth mounds.
3) The three tools I used in my battle to reclaim my earth mounds, all borrowed from the junior high school: a Japanese three pronged hoe, a spade, and a regular Japanese hoe. To be honest, I prefer to do all my garden work with a garden rake but the junior high school doesn’t have a single one.
4) My Lettuce Sprouts: The idea is to sprinkle the lettuce seeds over the earth and cover them with a wet newspaper and then remove the wet newspaper once they have sprouted. Apparently lettuce sprouts much quicker than corn because when I removed the newspaper two days later, it was already too late. My lettuce seeds had turned into tall albinos with mouldy feet.

Originally the idea was to plant the corn, wait two weeks until it was about four inches high, and then plant the beans and the squash. As it is, one month later, it seems highly unlikely that the corn will ever reach four inches so I have planted the beans and the squash in cardboard boxes covered with saran wrap. If they grow at all, I will plant them on the earth mounds whether the corn is ready for them or not—and if the corn plants think I am going to protect them from being strangled to death by the beans, they had better think again.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

In Search of the Rahmens: An Inquiry into the Origins of the Famous Sushi Video

Since my recent posting of Japan Culture Lab's The Japanese Tradition: Sushi has resulted in a number of unfortunate people googling their way into my blog in search of “japan culture lab ramen”, “japan culture lab”, “flash japan culture lab” etc., I feel a certain responsibility to elaborate a little more on the subject insofar as my gross ignorance and poor research skills allow. My findings indicate (indeed, they confirm) that Japan Culture Lab is in fact fake, much in the same way that Saturday Night Live's "Wayne's World" is a "fake" cable television program. The two main actors that help make "the sushi video" so hilarious are known as Rahmens (ラーメンズ) and belong to a comedy group called Twinkle Corporation (トゥインクル・コーポレーション). That’s about as much effort as I am willing to put into my "research" but, fortunately, someone else was much more diligent than me and compiled a comprehensive history of the sushi video way back in January of this year. If you are interested, you can check it out here.

A so called “sequel” to the sushi video called The Japanese Tradition: Dogeza is also available on You Tube and other video sites. SPECIAL REQUEST!!! If anyone has ever been able to find "机上の空論" (Kijo no Kuron) directed by Junji Kojima (小島淳二) online, please let me know!! (It also stars the Rahmens).

Since I am not able to offer a viewing of Kijo no Kuron, I would like to direct everyone’s attention to Time of the Soji by Yo-Jimbo Productions. Unlike the raw footage of my own “o”-series soji video Keitai Cinema 02: Cleaning Time, it is both funny and well made (although mine is a much more faithful rendering of what JETs actually witness at Japanese junior high schools).

Title: Time of the Soji
Creator: Yo Jimbo Productions (An ALT somewhere in Japan . . . probably a JET)

I found this short movie on Google Video while searching for more of Japan Culture Lab.

Friday, June 16, 2006


In Human Terms, this Hornet that my Junior High School’s Vice Principle Fought and Defeated in the School Gymnasium is a Son of Anak (Our Vice Principal is a Confirmed Smoker so He Felt that a Cigarette was the Most Appropriate International Unit of Measurement to Use Here)

Suzumebachi is the Japanese word for “giant Asian hornet” and literally means “sparrow-bee” (presumably because they are sometimes almost as big as sparrows). When I was in elementary school our teachers would often amuse themselves by telling us stories of children and old people being viciously swarmed by suzumebachi in the woods. These narratives usually ended with: “and he was carried away to the hospital in an ambulance, but it was too late. He died!” Either they forgot to mention, or else I failed to comprehend, that usually the prerequisite for these scenarios was that the unfortunate subject be allergic to hornet venom. In spite of this, I never developed the same kind of fear for hornets as I did for snakes. I guess my first bee sting when I was five years old immunized me from such fears. Anyhoo, my junior high school seems to be in the opening throes of a hornet infestation and orders have gone out that all suzumebachi sightings are to be reported to the vice principal so that he can monopolize all the fun of doing battle with them. Personally, I think that the ALT should be deputized to assist in Operation Hornet Watch because he can add an element of international cooperation to the conflict in the spirit of internationalization.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Contribution to the JET Community

Sometimes I feel guilty about not being involved at all in the JET community. I have been a good boy and attended all of the required conferences, but I have never, even once, gone to a JET social event. Whole months have gone by in the past without me seeing a fellow JET (special apologies here to Travis who only lives ten minutes away from me). Anyway, in order to partially make up for my aloofness, I would like to contribute by pointing this year’s new crop of JETs to this educational video put out by Japan Culture Lab. It’s not necessarily comprehensive, but it’s an important start and should adequately prepare even the most uninformed newbies for their first social encounters with their new colleagues.

The Japanese Tradition: Sushi
By Japan Culture Lab

Special thanks to David Emery for introducing me to this video

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Maternity Yoga for Men

Obeying the Soft, Persuasive Voice of Our Tele-Yogi
If you arrived at this page by googling “maternity yoga for men,” than I apologize. I offer no useful information here. I merely report that my wife bought a DVD and textbook of maternity yoga, and I do it with her. While I am unable to carry out some of the finer operations demanded of me such as resting my hands over my womb and focusing awareness on the child within, I find that just one week of maternity yoga has made me much less like a seventy-year-old man—and that’s a big accomplishment for a twenty-nine-year-old in this day and age. Yuko, of course, is much better at yoga than me. Her goal is that our first child will pop out like a cork with a “Pon!” This will require being knowledgeable, confident, relaxed and, above all, flexible and fit, so exercise is a top priority for us right now.

The doctor assured us that Grace’s face will not be so squished after she’s been out of the baby box for a while. Yuko says she certainly hopes not. Grace now has our maternity clinic’s official permission to be born, when so ever she chooses. Having said that, her official due date, calculated in the old fashioned way based on dubious memory work, is 11 July. The computer generated due date calculated from the size of Grace’s head is 28 June. It’s hard to say how well-informed Grace is on these dates and their application to her own life.

As I said, ready to be born.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbour's Corn . . .

Coveting My Neighbour’s Corn

My Neighbour’s Corn

My Corn

The Furrow Curving around My Earth Mounds is My Marigold Line

Perhaps the best way to describe my garden (I should no longer bring Yuko into the whole sorry affair by calling it “our garden”) is: “Left Behind.” There are a number of reasons I can think of as to why this came to be. 1) The soil of the lot that was lent to me is terrible. 2) Everyone else in the village uses chemical fertilizers and insecticides; I don’t. 3) Everyone else uses synthetic garden aids, such as plastic ground sheets, vinyl plant housing and fine mesh nylon netting. To make matters worse, it has been a cold and cloudy spring and with average temperatures hovering nearly ten degrees below the optimum atmospheric temperature for corn. Incidentally, the particular neighbour who’s corn I have been coveting the most claims that her family is the only family in the neighbourhood to successfully harvest and eat corn—all the others, so she says, lose their corn to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.

One of My Holey Potato Trees: I Should Have Planted My Marigolds at the Same Time I Planted My Potatoes in Order to Ward off the Potato Bugs

My Marigolds are Sprouting (except at the far end of the garden where a neighbour accidentally ploughed them under with a tiller)

Oh Yeah, the Students

Ikokuma Elementary School Students Release Juvenile Char into the Nearby River Under the Auspices of a Local Fishing Club (Note the Camera Crew and the Politician)

Perhaps some of you are wondering why I don’t write anything about the schools I teach at anymore. After all, this did start out as a JET blog to describe life as a JET in rural Aomori. There are a couple of reasons. First, the second year was very much like the first. I suppose I could have done a “last year vs. this year” sort of series, but that would have taken a great deal of effort—something I’ve been rationing lately when it comes to this blog. Secondly, I’ve come to realize that a great many local people visit Gaijin for Life to look at the pictures and see how their local foreigner lives, and I don’t want to get a reputation in town of recklessly posting hundreds of photos of other people’s real children on the internet.

Baby Char (It was a little difficult for the smaller kids to lean far enough over the river when emptying their buckets, so many of these young char began their new lives bouncing off the rocks—which was kind of funny . . . though perhaps not for the char)

Hebiura Elementary School takes Its Show on the Road
All three of the elementary schools in Kazamaura advertise their sports festivals by sending their marching bands through their respective school districts. By “marching band” we mean, of course, the entire student body. As they make their way down the main road with their police escort, neighbourhood grandmothers thrust festive envelopes of money into the principal's hands (since he doesn't wear a g-string).

Halftime in the Shade

In Which Yuko Teaches Her Elders to be Creative

The Sign Says: J Power Culture Course / Scrapbooking Class / Lecturer: Mrs. Yuko Elliot (Kazamaura Village)

J Power is the power company commissioning the new nuclear power plant being constructed in Oma, about ten minutes north of us. In order to show their good will toward, pacify and otherwise mollify the population that they are endangering, the power company has built a sparkling new community centre (called “Wing” or, in the vernacular, “Oui-n-gu”) that offers all kinds of subsidized programs. Yuko is, both by heritage and conviction, a staunch opponent of nuclear power but . . . they have a corner on the “culture” market, so what can you do?

“Pregnant? Why, yes, now that you mention it. Only for another month, though.”

Yuko has been a Creative Memories consultant ever since she returned to Japan several years ago but, between graduate school and working at a mental hospital as a clinical psychologist, she was never able to do anything about it beyond buying $100 worth of products a month in order to keep her status. However, now that she has been unshackled from the degrading bonds of salaried indenture (the hierarchy of corporate and/or public employment) she is finally able to enjoy Creative Memories. And Japan is a country ripe for a Creative Memories harvest. The women who came to Yuko’s class have been taking photos for decades but, like most people around here, they were just keeping all their pictures in boxes or stuffed into those free little photo holding “albums” you get at the print shop. Now they are on their merry way to creating sophisticated libraries of handcrafted, beautifully designed family albums.

Incidentally, while walking into the “Wing” I happened to catch a glimpse of what appeared to be my cousin out of the corner of my eye. On closer inspection, it proved to be a Shimokita promotional poster featuring a picture of my mother, sister, two cousins, Michael, and a number of people from Ajigasawa Chapel enjoying the Nanohana (Rape Seed) Festival. Today I discovered that the same poster adorns the hallway of my junior high school, right in front of the staff room. I’ll have to get one as a souvenir.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Shimokita: The Short, Short Tour

A drive around Shimokita can be a majical mistery toor (deliberately misspelled lest the Ghost of Beatles Past suspect infringement) but it takes a proper investment of time and a fortunate pattern of weather to make it happen. During the Itayanagi Chapel short-termers’ visit we were blessed with a magnificent misty view of the Hotokegaura cliffs, which would make a wonderful pirates lair. Unfortunately, though, due to road construction on the Kaikyo Line we were unable to visit the Wakinosawa Monkey Wars as planned . . . a stunning blow to our expedition.

Cruising through Shimokita’s Mountains in the Silver Spaceship (a.k.a. the Ghent Family Van)

Partly in compensation for the disappointment caused by missing the simian war zone, we dropped by Osore-zan where John Orme crossed the red bridge into the netherworld . . . only to be disappointed to find us waiting for him on the other side.

It was raining, but we still took a peek through the temple gates for a view of the hellish, sulphur smelling landscape within.

Perhaps I will Translate this Sign when I am Feeling Less Lazy