Thursday, December 23, 2010

How The Karate Kid Should Have Ended


Great, that solves everything. I'll go to the police and press charges.


Now use head for something other than target.

Roll Credits.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Because Alignment Charts Are Popular This Week. . .

. . . and because this whole Sailor Moon Movie thing was also based on something Mightygodking did (see here). . .

. . . and because my photo-editing software and skills are both zero. . .

Here's my Sailor Moon Movie alignment. . . list.

Lawful Good -- Rei Hino

Neutral Good -- Makoto Kino

Chaotic Good -- Usagi Tsukino

Lawful Neutral -- Ami Mizuno

True Neutral -- Minako Aino

Chaotic Neutral -- Mamoru Chiba

Lawful Evil -- Kaolinite

Neutral Evil -- Eudial

Chaotic Evil -- Dr. Tomoe

Friday, December 3, 2010

Because my Mind Sometimes Wanders. . .

Here's my list of hypothetical hipster bands named after the worst episodes of Star Trek ever made:

The Naked Now
Spock's Brain & The Turnabout Intruders
The Sub Rosa
The Royales
Profit and Lace
Take Me Out to the Holosuite feat. The Vic Fontaine Orchestra
William T. Riker & The Shades of Grey
Menage a Troi
A Fistful of Datas
The 37's

And my personal favourite,

The Outrageous Okonas

Actually, I could imagine The Outrageous Okonas as a sort of Austrian Death Machine style concept band, writing Irish punk songs all named after lines from the episode:

"Acting Ensign Wesley Wesley Crusher"
"You're a Droid and I'm Annoyed"
"Tip O'Neil in a Dress"
"The Lieutenant Commanders of Mirth" (Actually, I was considering this as a band name)
"Take My Worf. Please!"
"My Timing is Digital"
"Have You Seen Any Good Looking Computers Lately?"
"Excellent Vision and a Healthy Libido"
"An Easy Room"
"A Monk, a Clone and a Ferengi Decide to Go Bowling Together. . ."
"Mischievous, Irreverent, and Somewhat Brazen"
"Cad, knave, rake, rascal, scoundrel, villain, wild elephant"
"Is That a Woman's Voice I Hear?"

. . . and on and on.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Was Also Considering Calling This "Princess Sailor V's Return to Society Punch!"

Here is is! The second part of Minako Aino's spoiler-heavy backstory! My apologies for the delay. I've been visiting my parents in PG and trying to apply for part-time college teaching job, so the majority of my time has focused on those two things. Plus, this turned out to be quite a bit longer and harder to write than I imagined it would be. But never mind. . . on with the show!

If I Wrote the Sailor Moon Movie #20: The Disappearance of Minako Aino Part #2

Minako Aino had gotten used to total absurdity. She was already an over imaginative schoolgirl when, one day, a talking cat came out of no-where and told her, essentially, that she's a superhero. A superhero who wore a sailor outfit, whose magic weapons were disguised as pens and compact mirrors, and whose (first) archenemy frequently used evil celebrity idols to execute their plans. Hell, she was so comfortable with it that travelling to the north pole to fight an ancient evil kingdom, or being driven into hiding by a mysterious and powerful enemy who would see gladly see her dead, were damn near comforting ideas next to the pure mundanity of work and school. Her recent brush with reality-- living with a broken family crushed by a dying economy, like so many others-- frightened her to the very core. This was perhaps why she was able to suggest, so casually, the idea of turning her life, as Sailor V, into a manga.

Artemis-- once he stopped laughing and realized, to his horror, that Minako was completely serious-- hated the idea. A manga? A manga?! It was an idea too stupid for actual superhero comics! The best Peter Parker was able to do was take pictures of Spider-man and sell them to a tabloid newspaper, and even then readers and writers alike had to pretend that no-one would ever put the very big one and the other very big one together and figure out who he was. Ozymandias (of Watchmen) did market his superhero identity. . . but only after revealing his true identity. And yet, here's Minako Aino-- the alter ego of a hero forced into hiding by her enemies-- talking about bringing Sailor V to life as a manga character! Sure, Artemis knew that others had already tried to do the very same. He knew that a few small time publishing companies were already telling their own stories of the mysterious figure that had suddenly appeared on the streets of Tokyo (in Japan, even trademarked characters are vulnerable to blatant imitation of a kind that would elsewhere be considered plagaristic). It didn't matter. The details of these rip-offs were all utterly wrong, and that suited Artemis just fine.

Still. . . the idea seemed to pull Minako out of her depression, so Artemis was willing to tolerate it, for a little while. This would pass, he thought. Yet a few days after running away to the train station, Minako was already getting in contact with a manga artist, known affectionately by her fans and friends as "Marie-sensei." The author of the famous, long-running Aurora Wedding, Marie-sensei's own oft-mentioned life story was nearly as famous as her work: A preternaturally talented artist and writer, she was discovered in the eighth grade after submitting the first Aurora Wedding story to a competition for young manga-ka, and was quickly offered the opportunity to publish her work while she was still in school. It was an inspiring tale that deeply appealed to her fans, including Minako. Who better, she thought, to tell the story of Sailor V?

So it was that fourteen year old schoolgirl Minako Aino-- a girl who had been fired from her last two part-time entry-level jobs-- was quickly hired as Marie-sensei's assistant. The circumstances were appropriately ludicrous: she (as Sailor V) had once saved Marie-sensei's life from an evil energy-sapping dog (you heard me). In the process, she (as Minako) had been (very temporarily) hired as a "copy assistant". . . a job which, as far as she could tell, was some strange combination of editor, secretary and maid. You see, at the time Marie was in a serious creative slump, and was unable to complete the final volume of Aurora Wedding. In addition, her personal life was in such a shambles that she couldn't even keep her home cleaned up. Thus, Marie's boss, Shinrou Baishaku, in desperation, spontaneously hired Minako (who, really, just happened to be in the vicinity of Marie at the time) as copy assistant. Of course, the job didn't last. With Minako/Sailor V's help, Marie regained her confidence, completed the final volume of Aurora Wedding, confessed her love to Shinrou Baishaku, and lived, everyone assumed, happily ever after.

. . . or not. The manga business, to put it in detective novel-esque terms, is a fickle bitch. Rather than being allowed to rest on her laurels, or even to take a year's break, Marie-sensei was now under pressure to come up with a new manga. Being involved with a manga editor only added to her stress, as Baishaku-san felt the need to consistently remind her of the realities of the business. "Do you see other manga-ka 'taking a break?' Don't think for a moment that you can exploit your one and only hit manga for the rest for your life. Believe me, your readers will forget about you!" Marie's health deteriorated. She woke up every morning to find her face completely flushed. When walking down the street, she would spontaneously break out into hives; eventually, it got so bad that she needed daily injections to them in check. She needed help.

Enter Minako. Having already served at her side once before, Minako was quickly hired as Marie-sensei's new "senior copy assistant," "senior" in that Minako now had nursing duty on top of being a secretary, editor, and maid. That, and the pay was even better. Great, Artemis thought, Minako's finally making some money! She doesn't have to worry about taking care of her family anymore. . . And I don't have to worry about that stupid manga idea of hers.

If only. It wasn't just the need for money that brought on Minako's manga idea. All around Tokyo, people were making a profit off of the legend of Sailor V. But what did Minako get out of it? Nearly getting killed? Spending months in hiding? Waiting for some unfulfilled prophecy (even after the Dark Kingdom was destroyed, there was still no sign of the princess or the other warriors who were supposed to join her)? As far as Minako was concerned, Sailor V owed her a thing or two. And besides, Marie-sensei was struggling for a new idea. In a sense-- however tenuous-- Sailor V was actually coming to someone's rescue again. So Minako, as gently as she knew how, planted the idea for a sailor-suited magical girl warrior-- inspired by actual events, to boot!-- into Marie-sensei's head.

Flash forward a few years. Codename wa Sailor V is one of the biggest manga in Japanese history, even bigger than Aurora Wedding, owing both to Marie-sensei's rejuvenated artistry and the story's implied real-life basis. Marie-sensei, despite being busier than ever, and despite getting hassled a bit by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, is the happiest she's ever been. She's married, her manga (and the anime based upon it) are famous not just in Japan but around the world, and she's one of the richest women in the country. And her old "senior copy assistant" Minako, by all appearances, ain't doing too badly either, having managed to make a pretty penny of off Sailor V herself.

But how? Obviously, she couldn't exactly claim likeness rights, even if her old, fearsome enemies hadn't shown their faces in years. Instead, she earned her revenue through a more indirect, yet also strangely fitting, avenue: music. One of Minako's many, many childhood dreams was to become a J-pop idol. While it turned out she didn't quite have the voice to become a superstar, she did discover a talent for writing and composing music. So, thanks to her close relationship with the 'creator' of Codename wa Sailor V, Minako was able to secure music contracts with the producers of the anime, composing the show's hit theme song, as well as so-called "character singles" and incidental music. Owing to various factors-- the somewhat "embellished" salarys these contracts paid, the need to avoid the appearance of nepotism, the lingering negative connotations of the name "Minako Aino" (see Part #1) and, of course, the lingering (if hidden) threat of the arch-enemies who tried to kill her-- Minako adopted various pseudonyms; in doing so, she developed an appreciation for really clever nicknames.

Even though Minako continued to support her family financially, she hadn't spoken with her mother or younger brother for years-- after the night at the train station, Minako's relationship with them never quite recovered. As for Artemis. . . while he was happy to see Minako doing something for which she had a real talent, and that she was successful, he still hated the fact that she exploited her identity the way she did-- the life of a senshi is a calling, and simply being one is a reward in and of itself. What's more, Minako was so focused on her "image making" that her actual senshi duties were being sorely neglected. Artemis really thought that Minako had changed after she regained the memories of her past life, and learned the true scope of her mission-- maybe she had, at least for a little while. But now, she was as cavalier about her duties as she was as a young teen. Instead of seeking out her enemies (as she had tried to do in the months following the attack on the Dark Kingdom), she was writing songs, shopping, going to parties, and dating all kinds of different men (and never for very long). She would, occasionally, don the mask and suit of Sailor V on a few occasions, such as when she witnessed a crime being committed or, more self-servingly, when ratings and manga sales took a dip and she needed to drum up some publicity. But, as far as Minako was concerned, the mission was over. To Artemis, it seemed that after having gone through so much to remember who she was, a part of Minako simply wanted to forget.

She might have succeeded too, if it weren't for the break-in. A couple of years after the manga ended, Marie's apartment was broken into and ransacked. The culprits were never found. Marie, shocked by this crime, went into seclusion. Minako had no idea what to make of this. Was this just a random break-in? Was it an obsessive fan? If it was Sailor V's old enemies, then why break in now, years after they last met? Why break in when Marie wasn't at home? Why not go straight to Marie herself? It didn't make any sense. All Minako knew was that Marie was in hiding-- just like Minako was all those years ago-- and to degree or another, Sailor V was to blame for that.

This should have marked the triumphant return of Sailor V, back to once again seek out her foes and, this time, eliminate them once and for all. Instead, it was followed by a more devastating piece of news: Minako had cancer. Moreover, her particular cancer was of a seemingly very rare kind, resistant to all conventional treatments. If the cancer did not regress, Minako's doctors were convinced that she wouldn't last longer than a year. The first year passed. . . then the second, the cancer slowly but inevitably progressing, held back only as a result of Minako focusing more and more of her senshi powers toward combating the disease (she didn't know exactly why it worked, and she didn't much care at that point either). Eventually, so much of her own energy was focused on the disease that she had difficulty even transforming into Sailor V anymore. . . so much for finding her enemies.

Minako's disease cast a shadow over every aspect of her life. She had enough money saved up to maintain an outwardly respectable lifestyle, and she seemed healthy and vigorous enough thanks to her, ahem, "home remedy." Privately, though, she was miserable. A vague dread came over her, a sense that she was gradually losing herself. Not just in the slow consumption of her body by the weird alien thing inside of her, but in the loss of her identity. She was, in some way, forgetting herself. Her family members were either dead or estranged, her "mission" was a long string of failures and broken promises. Even as she faced prolonged and painful death, she found it somehow comforting, somehow that slightest bit more bearable, to put out of her mind the life she would be losing, the person who would soon be no more.

But then, from the most unexpected of places, hope. Hope in the form of . . . . well, that would be telling.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Camera Can Do Things

My first official credit as a cinematographer!

Seriously, my sister Naomi has formed a new band with her friend Torie, called Pocket Knife. This is their second video, filmed by me outside a convinience store on the same block as our house. I thought I'd do my part in boosting views for the video and increasing Pocket Knife's profile even further by posting it on my blog. So, enjoy!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

This is What I Do When I'm Stuck Writing One Story. . . Spoil Another One!

Hi Everyone,

As I mentioned earlier, one of the character sketches that I've been itching to write is also one that might spoil things later on in the script. Granted, all the character sketches I've written so far are spoilers in a sense, but this one contains particularly sensitive information. After scribbling out a rough draft that avoids giving away anything in a blatantly obvious way, I've decided to write up the sketch and post it. Hopefully, if you do decide to read it, it'll be subtle enough to peak your interest without revealing too much.

. . . though, now that I think about it, the very fact that I mentioned that this sketch contains spoilers may allow people to guess what's about to happen. A similar thing happened to me when people mentioned that The Sixth Sense had a "twist ending". . . I guessed the ending before I even saw the movie. Do they have a name for that? The "Shayamalan Effect?"

Anyway, be warned. Here there be spoilers.

. . . and yes, I know this come perilously close to Peter Parker territory near the end, but it'll get better afterward, I promise.

If I Wrote the Sailor Moon Movie #19: The Disappearance of Minako Aino, Part #1

Minako Aino, or rather Sailor V, barely escaped Eudial and Mimet's treacherous attack following the defeat of Queen Beryl and the Dark Kingdom. Weakened by the attack, she did not dare try to confront them immediately-- she knew that even at her peak she was no match against the combined might of her new foes. Instead, she made her way back to Tokyo, the hard way: knowing that the portal that took her to D-point would be under guard, she pushed her senshi abilities to their limit and made the 3500 kilometer journey to Japan directly, transversing the vast Siberian tundra, sneaking through the Koreas, stowing away aboard a JAL airliner, and finally allowing herself to be "caught" by Japanese customs in Osaka. . . all of it in eight days, with the Cold War still stubbornly lurching on.

Minako Aino was an athletic, attractive and popular schoolgirl-- naturally, her disappearance during those eight days became national news. Police throughout Japan, along with authorities in foreign ports of entry, were kept on high alert. Minako's school picture was broadcast on Japanese TV every day and night. Politicians and pundits across the spectrum exploited her disappearance to suit their own pet causes. To some, "Minako-chan's" disappearance (a few media figures in Japan took to addressing her as Minako-chan) was a direct consequence of the collapse of traditional family and societal structure in the face of rampant modernization; to others, it was a result of increasing police corruption and the growing influence of organized crime at all levels of society. Some even went so far as to accuse the North Koreans of kidnapping her. The cover story Minako had concocted-- that she was following a famous J-pop idol on her east-Asian tour-- did little to help matters (indeed, said singer's career actually suffered a setback as a result of the controversy). Minako Aino, affectionately known as "Minako-chan" while she was missing, was decried nationwide as a symbol of modern youth's irresponsibility after she was found.

Minako had bigger things to worry about than her reputation, though. She had travelled three and a half thousand kilometers to avoid being discovered by her enemies, only to find the national media announcing her disappearance-- one which just happened to occur on the same day as the attack on the Dark Kingdom. The last thing she needed was fifteen minutes of infamy. Knowing how intelligent her enemies were, she was sure that they would find her soon enough. . . except, they didn't. Days passed, and then weeks, with no sign of the enemy. Only after a month's passing was Minako finally certain that her enemies, for one reason or another, were not coming for her after all.

Whatever relief she may have felt was short-lived. Whether or not they were after Minako personally, they were still out there, and she needed to find them. Minako knew that the only reason she was still alive was because her enemies believed her to have been killed. Thus, "Sailor V" was temporarily retired, while Minako did her best to investigate the enemy without being discovered. Unfortunately, her enemies proved to be too cunning for her. Whoever or whatever they were, they left not a single trace of their existence. Even the portal which she had used to travel to D-point had vanished-- whether it was destroyed or re-located, she couldn't know. For all intents and purposes, they were simply gone.

Minako's search for the enemy became her top priority. Everything else came second-- family, school, friends. . . whatever semblance of a personal life she had, she maintained only as a cover for her true mission. No-one was more surprised by this-- or more disturbed-- than her mentor, Artemis. When he first met Minako, Artemis had to pressure her into performing her senshi duties. Now, she was letting her life fall by the wayside for the sake of the mission. Minako's relationship with her family, in particular, suffered heavily, much to Artemis' dismay. Minako's mother, Ikuko, had always thought her daughter was irresponsible, but she never thought she would do something as reckless as to run away from home to follow some singer on tour. Minako's aloof attitude following her return only made things worse. Does Minako not even care about what she put her family through?, she wondered. Does she think only of herself?

Minako was on the lookout for two-and-a-half months. That's how long it took for the times to finally catch up to the Aino family. The asset bubble had burst, and Japan's once mighty economy was crumbling. Minako's father Kenji Aino, a man who had studied finance in England only to become a run-of-the-mill salaryman, was one of many who suddenly found themselves without a job. He could no longer support his family, and getting another job would be next to impossible-- bad economy or not, for a salaryman to lose his job was considered deeply shameful. So, like many at the time, he did the honourable thing: he left home to live on the streets of Tokyo, never to see his family again. Suddenly, the enemies who had nearly killed her all those months ago seemed incredibly distant. Whatever had motivated her to find her enemies-- was it a sense of duty? A thirst for revenge? Fear?-- vanished in an instant. Her family needed her now.

Ikuko managed to get a menial job, but this alone was not enough to support the family. Minako was unabale to find lasting part-time work; despite sincere intentions, she ended getting fired from her first two jobs. School, she decided, was getting in her way. She decided that she would talk to her mother about dropping out of school and going to work full time, at least until things started to get better. She waited in the kitchen for two hours that night, mentally preparing for the conversation while she cleaned things up. She expected her mother to vehemently object once she revealed her plan, but then relent once she saw how serious Minako was about helping the family.

Instead, she just laughed, and went to bed.

When Minako had disappeared all those months ago, she had lied about running away from home. That night, while her mother and younger brother slept, she came very close to running away for real. The only thing that stopped her, in fact, was Artemis, who found her huddled in a corner at a nearby train station, weeping.
Not that he said very much. What could he say? "Sorry that things didn't turn out as planned"? "Yeah, I know I told you that there would be other warriors that would fight by your side, but hey, them's the breaks"? "Hey, this is what you get for trying to save the world"? So the two sat in that train station for hours, virtually without speaking. Then Minako broke the silence.

"I think I'd like to introduce you to Mom."

Artemis quickly looked around to make sure no-one was listening, and then replied, "I think we've already met. Charming woman."

"I'd like to go back home."

"That's sounds like a good idea--"

"I'd like to knock on her door, wake her up, and transform, right there in front of her. Then, I could introduce you. 'Mom, you remember Artemis, right?' Then you say, 'So nice to finally meet you, Miss Aino. How do you do? And now that we've met, please allow me to introduce your daughter, Sailor V. Surely, you've heard of Sailor V, the crime-stopping vigilante? Well, I don't mean to take up your time, you two obviously have a lot to discuss. I just thought you might like to know that, whatever you might have thought, your daughter did believe in something. She did take something seriously. Yes, she failed at it. And no, it won't be any help to your family whatsoever. You'll still have struggle to keep the loan sharks off your backs, but at least. . .'"

Even as she spoke, those few words, "won't be any help," hung in her mind. It seemed ridiculous. All those people Sailor V saved, but she can't even help her own family. She didn't quite realize it then, but the germ of an idea was already beginning to grow in her head. Sailor V had been in hiding for too long. She was due for a comeback. . .

To be continued.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On an Unrelated Note, I've Never Seen High Fidelity Until Tonight.

Hi Everyone,

It's been two weeks since my last post. My apologies for the delay. I've been trying to settle down in Victoria. Since the university and college aren't currently looking for anyone to fill any teaching roles, I've been submitting resumes to any place that's asking for them. Hopefully, I'll be at work within the next week or two, depending on things and whatnot.

On a more positive note. . . I mentioned in my last post that I'm going to attempt something new here in Canada, the specific nature of which I never mentioned. Since I'm back, and I'm blogging, and you're reading, I may as well mention it now. I've decided to write a short story and submit it to a writing contest in January. Depending on how this story goes, I may write more-- on top of my current story, I have four other story ideas kicking around. I may end up submitting my stories for publication as well.

Also, my apologies for not updating you on Sailor Moon. I want to write a new post to tide things over until the next piece of the script, but the subject I most want to write about is one that may really spoil things later on in the story. I'll see how it goes.

I'll also try to post new pictures and videos from Japan on Facebook and YouTube. I still have videos from back in July that still need to be posted, but I haven't been able to due to the size of some of the video files invovled. Hopefully, my sister's computer will be able to handle it.

Until next time.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Last Night in Tabata

Since tonight is my last night in Sakura House Tabata, and one of my last nights in Japan for the foreseeable future, I thought that I should write. . . something. Even though Sumidagawa Youth Hostel does have wireless internet and I could, conceivably, write my "last night in Japan" post there tomorrow night, it just wouldn't be the same. So I sit here on the bed upon which I will sleep for one last time, writing what will almost certainly be my last blog post from my first trip to Japan.

In case that last sentence has you worried, let me just say that the sadness I intermittently felt throughout the past month over leaving Japan has past. I had a great, productive day today. Most of my things are packed, my room is vacuumed, the AC filters cleaned, and hell, I even washed the floors. I thought it would be an all day job, but I managed to finish by early afternoon, so I spent the rest of the day walking; through Tabata-shinmachi, then Nishi-Nippori, then Nippori, then all the way to Ueno park, and then back again. At Nippori I ate a beef rice-bowl (one of my staple foods here in Japan, along with ramen, conbini sushi and the absolutely delicious katsu-don) and was complemented for my chopstick skills-- though the flip side of that is I didn't understand she was complimenting me until she had said it for the third or fourth time. Figures, I spend three months in Japan and the skill I most successfully develop involves food, not language.

Tomorrow I stay at the same youth hostel I did when I arrived. I'll likely spend the day in nearby Akihabara, visiting the Tokyo Anime Center (free!) and seeing if I can buy a watch with my 1000 yen AKKY coupon. Then, the next morning-- as early as possible in order to beat the crowds-- I head to Narita airport. Once there, I plan on checking in my luggage, and then visiting nearby Narita-san shrine. My flight doesn't leave until nearly 6 pm, so I should be okay for time. Then its a couple of hours of waiting to board, and then nine hours of likely very little sleep as I fly to back to Canada.

After that. . .

Well, immediately afterward, I'm heading to Victoria to see my sister's new band Pocketknife perform live. Then I'll spend the next week or so getting set up in Victoria, then going back up to PG to see family and friends, pack up more of my stuff, and move it back down. Oh, and somewhere in there I will find time to grab a fucking huge Taco Time Super Beef Burrito meal. And a steak with garlic butter penne. And Daddio's pizza. Seriously, there is so much pizza and pasta in Japan and none of it is done right!

But after that. . . ?

Well. . . school, and. . . work, and. . . tutoring, and. . . well. . . there is one thing I'm gonna try and do once I get back to Canada, something that could set me on the right path in life, or at the very least, be quite an experience. I'll let you know once I get back.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I Really Hope I'm Not Catching A Cold. . .

Well, it's just eight more days until I return to Canada! I closed my bank account with Shinsei almost a month exactly after I opened it (something I'm really glad to have gotten out of the way, seeing as how I felt awkward about having opened an account without ever using it), and I've gotten most of my final month "wish list" out of the way:

Yokohama & Yokosuka -- Check!

Kawagoe -- Check!

One Last Sailor Moon Location -- Check. . . but it kinda sucked. I may still do another, depending on whatnot.

Kamakura -- Check! Although there was so much to explore there that I couldn't really cover it in the half-day I was there.

Hakone, Mt. Fuji, & Tokyo Disney -- Decided not to go for budget reasons! (that technically counts as getting it "out of the way")

That leaves only one major item remaining on my wish list: Nikko*. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it's considered by the Japanese to be pretty much the most beautiful place on Earth (more or less), so obviously I must see it. I plan to go on Monday-- the morning trains will be busy as all fuck, but I'm counting on Nikko itself to be less crowded, as it's a weekday and all. Expect pictures-- after I get back. Currently I have a pretty huge backlog of pictures that I have yet to upload to Facebook, and I've decided not to bother with it until I get back. It's not like I won't be back in Canada for months and need to update people on my travels.

Aside from the big things, I'm also visiting various gardens, munching on rice bowls & ramen (the cheap fast food of Japan) as well as the exotic burgers of McDonald's Japan ("Salt & Lemon" Chicken Burgers, "Tamago Burgers" aka "Quarter Pounder with EGG!", and most recently the "Fondue Chicken Burger"), walking for absurd distances (yesterday I walked from my house in Tabata-shinmachi all the way to Tokyo Sky Tree, probably over ten kilometers round trip), and sitting at parks, writing bits of Sailor Moon The Movie in my notebook. And in the comfort of home (at least it will be until next Saturday :( ) I've been enjoying the benefits of the internet in unexpected ways:

Starting about a month ago, I started re-watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It really was a good show, though strangely enough, now that I'm watching it, I'm really eager to watch Babylon 5 (during it's run, I dismissed B5 as a low budget Star Trek knockoff, but now I'm willing to another try).

Speaking of SF, I've been reading some of the short stories of Robert J. Sawyer, posted online on his website. Sawyer was introduced to me by my thesis advisor, Dr. Mark Shegelski, who has written his own anthology of cool science fiction stories, Remembering the Future, which is now available on Kindle for $4.99. You can also find his blog here.

I've also been reading Sherlock Holmes stories on the project Gutenberg website. Did you know Holmes was a coke-head? Surprising, no?

On a final note. . . as much as I wanted to have the next piece of the Sailor Moon script up before I left for Canada, I'm afraid it'll have to wait. But for the one or two people still following the script, rest assured that big things are coming. Just you wait!

*There's also a minor item: Narita-san, a large Buddhist shrine just a couple of stops away from the airport. If I'm in good enough shape to haul my luggage there-- or if, more preferably, I can check my heavier bags at the airport and still travel there without any trouble-- I'd like to visit it. It'll be my one last hurrah, and I should have plenty of time since my plane doesn't leave until nearly six in the evening.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Oh, to be a Japanese nerd in the early '80s. . .

Back in the early eighties, Gainax-- the Japanese animation studio that would eventually produce Neon Genesis Evangelion, among many other famous anime-- produced opening animations for Japan's Daicon (lit. Big Con) science fiction convention. Having discovered these animations on YouTube more or less by accident about ten minutes ago, I must now share them with you because they are awesome.

Here's the first animated short, from Daicon III. The animation is a bit rough, but it shows the starship Enterprise getting blown up by a schoolgirl, so I have to include it.

Gainax's animation for Daicon IV is a significant improvement over Daicon III. The animation is smoother and. . . well, just watch (it really starts to get good at the 2:00 mark).

Note: the next part of the Sailor Moon script will be taking place at a science fiction convention, so consider this a warning.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Imperial Palace Grounds

I've posted two new albums on Facebook featuring pictures from my visits to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. I didn't take the guided tour through the palace itself, but since it's free (I only have to book with the Imperial Household Agency) I just might do it.

Part #1:!/album.php?aid=16006&id=100001431858698

Part #2:!/album.php?aid=16007&id=100001431858698&fbid=115176925206702

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sayonara, Nippon

Hi Everyone.

During the past few weeks I've been trying to find work in Japan, with no success. The Japanese economy has been in real trouble since the sub-prime crisis. The yen is skyrocketing, the JET program had to make massive cutbacks in enrollment (which probably played a factor in my being rejected last year), English language schools have been going bankrupt, and as I reported earlier, the Working Holiday Makers Association announced it was going to close it doors just the day before I picked up my visa from the Japanese consulate. This is not to say that I completely blame the economy. . . the truth is, I've been avoiding the fact that I was not ready to make this trip. My Japanese was not nearly as good as I thought it was, and my particular teaching experience was clearly not what the companies I applied to were looking for.

Any prospective jobs that might have been available from now on would not begin until October, and even then, the paychecks would not be given out until late October (in Japan, paychecks are given out monthly, rather than bi-weekly). As my rent was due no later than today, and my money was running out, I faced two options:

1) Continue my lease, with financial help from my family, in the hopes of maybe getting work.

2) Submit my one-month notice of vacation, use my remaining month of time to do the things I wanted to do in Japan (apart from the more unrealistic, like visiting Hokkaido, Kyoto, and Hiroshima), and come back to Canada to look for work.

A couple of days ago, I decided, with great reluctance, that would have to come home. By mid-October I will be back in Canada. From there, I will temporarily return to Prince George before moving to Victoria, where I will seek employment, hopefully at the University of Victoria, Camosun College, or as a private tutor. While there, I also plan to continue learning Japanese, most likely by auditing courses at the University, like I did at UNBC.

I was hard coming to this decision. Yesterday I revisited the Imperial Shrine grounds just outside downtown Tokyo. I came here again because I had taken some beautiful photos of the area which were unfortunately lost. Coming here again, I was filled not with the sense of adventure that I felt durig my first visit, but rather sadness. Call me a sappy sentimentalist if you want, but the truth is, after only two months of living here, I'm already sad to be leaving. This place, despite the short time, despite my inability to communicate effectively, already seemed like home to me. As late as last week, I was convinced that that's exactly what Tokyo would be, at least for the year that my visa was valid.

I want to stress that I'm not giving up on Japan; I will come here again. In the two months I have been here-- leaving aside the stress of job-hunting, not to mention the play "Imagine 9.11" which I'll talk about some other time-- I have had one of the greatest adventures of my life. I lived, however briefly, in one of the world's great metropolises. I engaged with a totally different culture-- two years ago I had not even left Canada or travelled further east than Edmonton. I witnessed Shinto festivals and massive fireworks spectacles. I climbed Mt. Fuji. I fucking met Sailor Moon. And I've only just begun.

As I said, I plan to continue learning Japanese until I achieve some level of fluency. When the time comes-- maybe a year, maybe a few years-- I will come back, perhaps with my family as a tourist, perhaps as a student, perhaps with work already arranged. But I will be back.

And as I said, I ain't leaving tomorrow, either. There's still plenty I wanna do: re-visit Mt. Fuji (I never got any pictures of the mountain from the ground, and my Mom keeps bugging me to put up some pictures with ME in them); visit Nikko; visit Yokohama and Yokosuka; go to Tokyo Disney Sea for a day (money permitting); go to a few more Sailor Moon locations; and hopefully try one more time to get a picture with Miyuu Sawai.

Stay Tuned.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sailor Moon Location Tour, Parts #1-5

Seeing as I'm in Tokyo, I've been taking the time between job-hunting to visit some of the locations that were featured in, or inspired fictitious locations in, the various incarnations of Sailor Moon. The photo's I've taken of these locations have been uploaded to my Facebook as part of my new series, "Sailor Moon Location Tour".

For those who don't follow my Facebook, I've decided to link to the first five parts of the series. I'll paste the Facebook description of each album and provide the link to the album. Additionally, I'll embed videos that I recorded for part #4. Enjoy!

Sailor Moon Location Tour: Hikawa Shrine #1

The first part of my new series, touring the real life locations featured in Sailor Moon. For this first part, I'm showcasing Rei "Sailor Mars" Hino's home, Hikawa Shrine. Well, one of them, anyway. See, there are actually THREE Hikawa shrines in Tokyo, and all three of them were either featured in Sailor Moon or somehow influenced the design of a fictional location. The first Hikawa shrine, located in Akasaka, a few hundred meters away from Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown, was used as the model for the shrine featured in the anime.

Sailor Moon Location Tour Part #2: Hikawa Shrine #2-- Motoazabu

The second of Tokyo's three Hikawa Shrines. This one, located in Motoazabu atop the real-life Sendai Hill, is apparently the shrine upon which the Hikawa Shrine in the manga is modelled. Unfortunately, it's quite a bit less visually interesting than the one in Akasaka, which is probably why it was not used as the basis for the anime Shrine.

Sailor Moon Location Tour #3: Hikawa Shrine in Shirokane-Takanawa

The third of Tokyo's Hikawa Shrines. This was (purportedly) one of two shrines used in the filming of the Sailor Moon live action series. In addition to the shrine, there also photos of a neighboring Buddhist temple and cemetary, plus cats and bugs!

Sailor Moon Location Tour #4 -- Hikawa Shrine Shibuya

The fourth of Tokyo's three Hikawa Shrines. . . yeah, it turns out there were more Hikawa shrines than I initially thought. According to the internetz, THIS is the shrine used for the filming of PGSM. I could definitely see some resemblance when re-watching act 3 of PGSM, but the fact that the shrine was hosting its Autumn festival (I think. . .) made it a little hard to tell. The place was far more crowded than any of the other Hikawa shrines I had visited. The pathways throughout the shrine were lined with kiosks selling everything from fried chicken skewers to chocolate bananas to sex toys and posters of gravure idols. . . and yes, there WERE children present. In addition, at the main shrine a Noh play (I think. . .) was being performed, and to top it all off, a Mikoshi (portable shrine) was carried into the Shrine grounds. It was quite an event to behold, especially since I stumbled onto it completely by accident. There are videos of the event as well, which I'll put up as soon as I can.

Here's the link to Act 3 (part #1) of PGSM, if you want to compare. The shrine shows up at about 6:40.

Here's the video of the play that was performed at Hikawa Shrine in Shibuya. The videos are named "Noh Theatre", but as I said, I'm not certain whether it's Noh or Kabuki theatre. If anyone DOES know, a comment would be most appreciated.

And here's the mikoshi, on its way to Hikawa shrine.

Sailor Moon Location Tour Part #5-- Pedestrian Overpass!

A new Sailor Moon location, this time from my own home ward of Kita-ku! Today's location is a pedestrian overpass in Kita-ku's Akabane-dai neighborhood. What's so special about this overpass, you ask? Well, it is ONLY the place where Usagi and Luna first meet in PGSM. And where Usagi and Ami meet. And where Usagi and Ami first meet Rei. And so on.

Here are some videos so you can compare. The first is the PGSM location tour, filmed after completion of the series (unfortunately, the English subtitles are overlayed with Spanish subtitles). The second is the first part of Act 1 of PGSM (skip to about 4:25 for the revelvent scene. . . as well as some of the most powerful acting ever captured on film). As I said, this bridge is featured recurrently in PGSM, so you'll see it in plenty of other spots in the show as well.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It's Only Been Two Months. .

Since the next part of my Sailor Moon Movie series is Rei-centric, I thought I'd point you to my latest Facebook album, wherein I visit one of Tokyo's three real-life Hikawa Shrines. I'll update the blog as photos come in of the other two shrines.

If I Wrote the Sailor Moon Movie #18: Things I've Noticed About Japan, and how they relate to Rei Hino.

The last piece of the Sailor Moon script, as you may remember, was very Rei-centric. It is for that reason, as well as the fact that Rei is the most "Japanese" of Sailor Moon's characters, that when I consider how my experiences in Japan so far will affect the screenplay, my thoughts most often have turned to Rei.


For instance, what of the racist, ultra-rightist ideology in which she was raised (in my story, not the original-- see here if you're new to all this and just had a "what the fuck?!" moment)? What have been my experiences with Japan's racism, if any? How do these affect my portrayal of Rei, or Usagi, or Japan in general?

Getting slightly off topic for a moment, the first thing I can tell you is that Rei's bigoted little temper tantrum toward Usagi from the previous part of the script will likely be omitted. If my own experiences so far mean anything, it's that this sort of thing simply wouldn't happen with a character like Rei. In polite Japanese society, anger is not something that explodes under pressure (true in polite Western society as well) but neither is it something that can be forced out in a controlled but direct way, except perhaps in very specific circumstances. Rather, emotions like anger and contempt. . . leak. Like a poisonous gas. If the metaphor seems vague, trust me when I say that it becomes much more tangible when standing in front of a clerk glaring intently at the corner of her desk because she would rather look at that than you. It's for this reason, as well, that I'll likely remove the scene where Papa Hino berates Rei in public. In all other versions of Sailor Moon, Papa Hino is distant, more passively and subtly abusive. This will not only make him truer to the original (and to Japanese culture in general), but also more threatening. After all, what's scarier-- an old man screaming at a teenage girl, or an unseen man whose public face consists of tattooed thugs in suits driving BMW's.

But back to the first main point: how does racism in Japan manifest itself? Some of the most commonly discussed ways are institutional: for instance, restaurants that refuse entry to non-Japanese; restrictive immigration policy that makes naturalization nearly impossible; or, to cite my own experience, banks that refuse to give accounts to those who have not been in the country for less than six months. In these situations and others, it could be argued that there are other factors involved besides xenophobia-- the restaurants in question are very traditional, and the skills needed to attend such places without making an ass of yourself can only be acquired by being raised from childhood in Japanese culture; a country as crowded as Japan can't afford to open its doors to new citizens in the same way as a country like Canada; there could be legitimate security concerns behind the six-month rule for banks. But in addition to these institutional factors there are, of course, the ultra-rightists, who fetishize WWII and love to brag about the length of their intestines. I myself have yet to experience that side of Japanese society personally, apart from my little informal photo-op with an Uyoku Dantai group.

My own experience with racism-- or at least something likely to be racially motivated-- pretty much begins and ends with the infamous "Stare", the intent gaze that certain Japanese, of all genders and ages, give to foreigners, and which is not broken even after said foreigners clearly know they're being watched. It's happened to me so many times that it doesn't even bother me anymore, even in those cases where it's pretty blatant, such as when a Japanese woman cranked her neck back to look at me as she walked past. For this reason, I thought it would be fitting for Usagi's first encounter with Rei to involve the Stare: Usagi, running to school, stops to take a breather, while Rei, walking past, gives her the Stare. She'll likewise give the Stare to other minorities, like the Jain Indian on the bus-- it's better than that stupid "back of the bus" joke.

(As yet another aside-- I'm beginning to realize that I have a lot to get off my chest-- I've decided that the "cultural festival" from Part #4 of the script needs to go. I knew even as I wrote it that it's a contrivance, and I've only grown more uncomfortable with it. Thus, I'll have to think of a new way to get Usagi and Rei to meet.)

As a final note on this topic, I will say that I'll probably become more aware of racism as I get better at Japanese. The foreigners I've met so far have mentioned that they grew "annoyed" with some Japanese as they learned to understand more and more of the language. In a way, my ignorance may have been shielding me.

Losing Her Religion, i.e. Rei's Powers, and How These Connect with Her Beliefs

Something else I've neglected is the question of Rei's powers. Yes, the last part of the script showed that she does have psychic powers but it didn't show her dealing with the fact that she has these abilities. The main focus of Rei's introduction was that she (alone among the Senshi) had developed special powers before becoming a Senshi. These powers lead to Rei being generally feared by the community, with only Usagi willing to befriend her.

The explanation for her powers given in all Sailor Moon incarnations is that she's very deeply into the Shinto. This explanation seemed to satisfy people, and yet it always bothered me. For one, it negates her uniqueness as a reborn magical warrior by suggesting that anyone who puts in equal time and effort studying the rituals of Shinto could acquire the same powers she has. For another, it involves a pretty weird mixing of theologies, not to mention personal beliefs.

On the one hand, you have the "Sailor Moon" theology: ancient kingdoms, magic crystals, alien worlds, superpowers, reincarnation, and even a "Messiah" (their words, not mine!). This theology is, within the context of this fictional universe, very obviously "real". On the other hand, you have an animist religion exclusive to a small archipelago nation, and yet, in the context of Rei's abilities, this belief system is also clearly considered "real". Things only get more muddled in PGSM, whens it's revealed that Rei (as well as Minako) are Christians. Thus, Rei believes that the Judeo-Christian God is the Creator and Lord of the universe and Jesus Christ is the saviour of her soul, and yet she knows that she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior sworn to defend the human reincarnation of a potentially god-like figure. One could make the argument that these beliefs are compatible, but it would be a real stretch. One could also make the argument that this is a show about superpowered girls in sailor suits and I need to chill out, but I think we're WAY past that point now.

My approach to this is tentative. . . there's a lot that I still need to learn about Shinto, and its approaches to other belief systems. Also, one of the few things I do know is that Shinto has long had to accommodate Buddhism, so the questions I'm dealing with are hardly new. My idea will require some more thought, and some more research, and will definitely ruffle a few feathers. It may even seem to contradict the core idea behind Rei. (BTW, if you're only interested in the "Japan Trip" part of this, and don't care about the story, I'll highlight in bold the part of this next segment that's based on my own experiences.) All that said, for your consideration. . .

Every day after school, Rei Hino ran as fast as she could to Hikawa Shrine so she could visit her mother. Despite a congenital heart disease, Rei's mother always managed to put in some work at the shrine. After all, it was a family tradition. On one of these days, Rei happened to spot a pair of ravens sitting on the fence just outside the shrine. The strange thing was, she knew these ravens, though she didn't know how. They were named Phobos and Deimos. Running into the shrine, Rei dragged her mother out to the fence. "Mama," Rei said, gesturing to the birds, "these are my old friends, Phobos and Deimos. Phobos, Deimos, this is my. . ."

She would never finish the introduction. Rei's mother lay on the ground, stricken by a heart attack. She died a few hours later. Rei never left the hospital-- that's how she knew her father never came by to visit. Over time, her father's absence would cause her to resent him, but at the time, her strongest emotion was not anger, or grief, but guilt. At some level, Rei truly believed that she should have seen her mother's death coming. She was told that feeling was normal. . . but no-one else really understood just how deeply serious she was in this belief.

Rei could never imagine that in the following years, she would take her mother's place at the shrine. Following the death, Rei was only just barely able to even live on the same shrine grounds where her mother had died. . . and the suspicions of some of the more superstitious members of the community did little to help. But in time, the grief, as it must, subsided, and guilt was put in its proper place. With her father almost always absent for career reason and her grandfather's mind slowly deteriorating, it was clear she would have to take a more active role in maintaining her family's heritage. And besides, it was tradition.

Tradition. That was the most convenient explanation for Rei's growing devotion to the shrine. It sounded dutiful, appropriately Japanese-- her father would have approved. But in truth, the reason Rei devoted so much of her time to religious duties was because she was good at it. For all her noble qualities, there was always a bit of vanity in Rei, a part of her that needed to feel superior in some way. Her ever growing aptitude in spiritual matters-- an aptitude that seemed, well, unearthly-- certainly fulfilled this need. She absorbed herself in the rituals and duties of a miko, far more so than the typical afterschool volunteers who put in an hour or two of work a day so they could have something nice to put on their college application. No-one was surprised by this-- she was her mother's daughter. Even her father approved; having a devoted miko for a daughter was politically safe (certainly preferable to a daughter who partied every night at Roppongi) and it kept her busy.

Indeed, this period saw a brief reconciliation between father and daughter. As they continued to bond, Rei's father decided that it was time for her to learn the truth about Japan's place in the world, and the various foreign influences who sought to undermine and corrupt the nation he loved. Rei was made to understand that as a miko, she was a guardian of Japan's cultural heritage, responsible for keeping out the barbarians. There were all kinds of inconsistencies in his supposed stance against the evils of Western modernization, but being of the tender age of twelve, she was well able to ignore them, or rationalize them, as need be. Besides, her beloved mother had always seemed ill at ease with those foreigners when she was alive-- now, at last, Rei knew why.

Rei did not remain in her father's favour for long. By the time Rei entered adolescence, she had decided that she would become head priestess of her shrine, a decision she believed her father would approve of. But adolescence changes a father's view of a daughter. Rei was now becoming a woman-- a woman who needed a husband, preferably one of influence. Thus, to her shock, Rei's father enrolled her in a Catholic school, ostensibly so that she could "weigh her options". He also provided her with a proper male in her life, someone "safe"-- after all, it was not healthy for a girl of her age not to be interested in men. Hence, Mamoru, the adopted son of a woman made modestly wealthy by certain unspecified royalty payments-- one who almost seemed like a son of his own-- became her "boyfriend", with the implicit understanding that he was to later become her "husband".

Rei hated her father for this. But, just as she was her mother's daughter, so too was she her father's daughter. She had learned by now the advantages of lying and manipulation, even though she despised it. In fact, as much as she despised it, it contributed in a perverse way to her own sense of superiority. Besides, it's not like her cynical truth telling about men, friendship, and love ever brought her anything worthwhile. Within a short time, she was the "Princess" of TA Academy. Idolized by the girls, ogled by the boys, and in a relationship with a boy who, while a bit bland, at least seemed decent enough (despite her father's endorsement of him), Rei's situation was. . . livable.

But the, one day, something changed, something that shook her out of her sense of arrogant complacency. Two things, actually. The first was the disappearance of a teacher from her school. Unlike with her mother, Rei was actually able to focus her intuition and help find her, if only in a slight way. The second was her attack on a young American girl named "Usagi", who she thought was an evil entity (other than being a foreigner). Not only was she wrong, but her attack, a Shinto enchantment utilizing an Ofuda, was utterly useless; Usagi just batted the Ofuda away like the harmless piece of paper it was.

It was stange. . . seeking her teacher, Rei once again felt spiritually connected, but putting her beliefs into practice later on proved useless. What when wrong. . . for that matter, what went right? In her confusion, Rei went to Ginza one evening. There, dozens of desperate fortunetellers and palmreaders line the sidewalks, sitting at their small candle-lit fold up tables, nodding off in the late night hours, wearing humiliating signs around their necks as they wait in vain for someone to seek their help, hoping against hope to make some money off of their one dubious skill in the midst of a horrible recession. Rei sat with one of these fortunetellers, and had the very beginnings of an epiphany. . .

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I Have Become Even More of What I Hate

After avoiding the nasty things for over a decade, circumstances (namely the need to get a Japanese bank account) have forced me to purchase a cellular phone.

Goddamn I hate this thing. It was easy enough to purchase, thanks to a nice Norwegian fellow named Martin who was getting a prepaid phone as well. I went to the SoftBank store in Shibuya because I was told they have English language service there-- I had never subscribed for mobile service before, and I didn't want to add my confusion with a language barrier. Unfortunately, once I got to the SoftBank store, they told me I had to go to a nearby discount store called Don Quixote (written in Katakana as Don Kihoote) to get prepaid phones. This is where Martin came in, guiding me to the store and serving as an interpreter, which was nice since getting a phone at this discount store when I had come all the way to Shibuya for ENGLISH SERVICE kinda defeated the point. Anyway, after about an hour, I got my phone and came home.

Setting up the hardware was pretty easy too-- slide in a chip and then put in a battery (on a related note, it doesn't come with a charger. . . dammit). Setting up the account, however, was a pain. The automated service I had to dial was, naturally, in Japanese, so I had to fumble about on the internet for a little while until I could figure out how to switch to English. This wouldn't have been SO bad, had it not been for the fact that I also had no idea how to input numbers into the menu. I spent fifteen minutes hitting the number for each menu item and pressing the ENTER button, not knowing that I wasn't supposed to hit ENTER. I only found this out by accident.

To top it all off, since it was cheap (about 3900 Yen for the phone, plus a 3000 Yen prepaid card) the thing is ugly. Take a look:

But at least it's done. Next on my to-do list is, of course, getting a bank account. I tried getting accounts at three big "traditional" banks, Mizuho, SMBC, and MUFG, but was told at all three that I need to be in the country for at least six months before they'll give me an account. Fortunately, after a preliminary job interview at Gaba, I was told that I could get an account at Shinsei bank. They wouldn't give me any trouble over my length of stay. . . but they would need a phone number. Well, with that part out of the way, I'll hopefully have a bank account by Monday.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Satoshi Kon Should Have Directed the Sailor Moon Movie

I've only just now been made aware of the death of anime writer and director Satoshi Kon. Kon, for those who don't already know, created the films Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers, and Paprika, as well as other projects. His work was critically lauded, to the point where he was hailed as the successor to Miyazaki.

To be perfectly honest, his films were, until quite recently, among the only anime I had ever seen-- at least, that I had seen at an old enough age to begin to appreciate cinema. I had seen Princess Mononoke and Akira, as well as parts of Ghost in the Shell, when I was younger-- too young to appreciate or critisise them adequately. But somehow, the films of Kon grabbed my interest in a way that other anime didn't at the time.

Anyway,the point of all this is that as part of my little Sailor Moon movie project, I was going to tentatively suggest that Satoshi Kon be the director. It would be oddly fitting, after all, for an anime director to helm a live action anime adaptation (even if the anime being adopted was far more artistically conservative than his work). It would also be intriguing to see what the money and resources of Hollywood could produce in the hands of an imaginative anime director like Kon. Plus, there's already a precendent for this sort of transition-- Hideaki Anno, director of Neon Genesis Evangelion, made the transition into live action filmmaking, directing a series a series of dark, artistic, and acclaimed live action films. . . and also Cutie Honey.

But, it's not to be. I've posted a couple of videos below, if only to give some idea of what could have been. But really, you should just go out and rent his movies.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Standoff of the Space Cowboys

This post is in response to a comment left by A.J. a few days ago:
Oh, and if you don't mind me asking what part of your Star Trek idea did the film incorporate? I think it's safe to assume it wasn't the part where they cover everything in lens flare.
The short answer: the creation of an alternate timeline, split off from the "canon" timeline, was something I was going to implement in my story.

The long answer. . .

The title of this post is the name that I was gonna give to my story. It's a silly name, loosely based on Gene Roddenberry's own nickname for Star Trek, "Wagon Train to the Stars". Nonetheless, in my mind the name stuck. The outline of the story is as follows:

A Federation Starship accidentally travels back in time to early 1960's Earth, crash-landing in the Caspian Sea. Their ship heavily damaged, and straddled between the Soviet Union and then US-allied Iran, things seem hopeless for the crew. Even if they could somehow manage to hide from the two biggest superpowers of the time, they won't last long without supplies.

However, they are quickly discovered and contacted by an oil tycoon hoping to mine the vast underground reserves of the Caspian Sea. The crew is offered protection and supplies in exchange for. . . well, they're not really sure, since the crashed ship is not all that terribly useful as an oil drilling platform. Neither is it terribly clear how an oil company, no matter how rich it is, can hide a bloody starship in the middle of the ocean from the Soviets and Americans. Still, the crew is hardly in a position to turn down his help. On top of all this, the crew has to clean up the messes they've made, like a photon torpedo landing on the border of two hostile nations, or crewmembers fleeing the ship.

Unfortunately, the ship's very presence in the twentieth century-- not to mention its contact with the oil company-- has opened up the possibility of historical alteration, destroying the timeline they know. However, the crew, initially, is in a position where they cannot be sure whether this is happening. The severe damage done to the ship's computer has almost completely erased its voluminous historical records. For instance, while some of the crew knew that an American president was going to be assassinated, no-one can be certain on what date it was supposed to happen. For all they know, the assassination that happened yesterday was supposed to happen tomorrow. As a result of this ambiguity, they cannot be certain whether their presense leads, in a hidden way, to the history they already know-- whether they were always part of history without even knowing it-- or whether history has actually changed.

The ship remains at the bottom of the Caspian Sea for five years. Up until this point, the crew has managed to adjust to their situation, and has seemed to contain any major historical changes. Unfortunately, the crew soon make what from their standpoint is a horrific discovery: a TV show called "Star Trek" that appears to be based upon their own future history.

AN ASIDE: Yes, yes, I went there. How cute of him, you all say. But aside from all the predicatable metafiction, I was always fascinated by the behind the scenes story of Star Trek. Indeed, it would be pretty interesting if they made a docu-drama TV series about the making of the show, with a title like "These Are the Voyages..." or some-such. It could serve as a sort of late-sixties companion piece to Mad Men (are you listening, AMC?).

Anyway, it's seeming more and more likely that history has indeed been changed and that the Federation, at least as it known by the crew, will never come to be. An ideological scism occurs, and the crew divides roughly into two camps: those who think that the original timeline must be restored, even if it means interference in the social and political structures of the day; and those who believe that this new history must be allowed to take its own course. The remainder of the series follows the conflict between these two camps.

That, more or less, was the idea of mine that was incorporated into the new film. There were all kinds of other aspects to this story, though. Most of them were only halfways thought through, and some might not have made it into the final version. Here are a few of those ideas, listed in no particular order:

- A powerful alien artifact stored within the hull of the ship-- this is actually what causes the time travel accident.

- A Klingon math genius who adopted the Vulcan way of life (can you tell it's fanfiction?) and is the only person who understands the artifact. She falls into a coma following the crash of the ship.

- An artificial insemination program that uses said Klingon's ova in combination with donated sperm to try and breed another math genius who can understand the artifact. This program does eventually create another genius, a young woman who is not only brilliant but also extremely volatile, due both to her Klingon genetics and her upbringing in a society that she doesn't really understand and that really doesn't understand her (she's not raised on the ship, but rather in contemporary human society).

- Remember the accused saboteur I mentioned earlier? As part of her plan to escape, she used nanobots and technobabble to change species, from alien to human. The process kills her within a few days.

- A human-Q hybrid, created to destroy the alien artifact (the artifact is like Kryptonite for "full-blooded" Q). As his powers are controlled by his human mind, he finds that many instances where his powers are used are either unconscious or occur in an almost rambling "stream of consciousness". The hybrid, very human in personality, is born in Venezuela and raised Catholic (SUBTLETY!).

- The whole series would be eighteen episodes long, and its structure would loosely be based on the James Joyce novel "Ulysees" ('Cause Bloomsday in Dublin is like a Star Trek convention-- that's my flimsy excuse and I'm sticking with it!)

That's about as far as I'll with this story for now. I know I keep promising a new Sailor Moon piece, and I'm working on it. It'll be up sometime.

Monday, August 16, 2010

They say the man who never climbs Mt. Fuji is a fool. . .

My ass.


It's taken me a few days to put this post together, mostly because of how long and difficult it is to upload large video files to YouTube, but also partly because of how burnt out I've been. See, last Wednesday and Thursday I went on a trip to climb Mt. Fuji. This climb had been on my to-do list since about a year before I left for Japan, ever since I realized that not only could the mountain be climbed, but that there were trails and stations built all the way up to the summit for that very purpose. The climbing season lasts from July to late August-- outside this time, many facilities are closed and the climb becomes much more dangerous-- and beginning Thursday of last week was the peak of the peak season, Obon week, when all of Japan would flock to the mountain and clog up the trails for hours. If I was going to climb the mountain, I had to do it soon.

So, packing a couple of bottles of water, four bags of what I assumed would work as trail mix (peanut clumps glued together with. . . honey?), and a couple of books for when I needed a useful phrase in Japanese, and an extra change of clothes into my backpack, I donned my brand new cloth jacket, borrowed a hiking stick left over in the common area of the house, and took the train to Fuji. It was four in the afternoon when I left. I planned it so that I would climb up all night and reach the summit by dawn. Witnessing sunrise on Mt. Fuji is a long-standing tradition for climbers, and since I didn't plan on climbing the mountain a second time (the continuation of the quote in the title says that the man who climbs Fuji twice is also a fool), I decided that I would climb overnight, even though my original plan was to climb during the day. Climbing at night turned out to be a mized blessing. . . actually, more pureed than mixed, but I'll get to that later.

This was my first real trip into the Japanese countryside (Mt. Takao was still kinda in Tokyo), and the sight of lush mountains and valleys was exhilarating, despite still being mixed in with a sizable amount of urbanization. I captured what I could from the train, and have embedded it below:

I reached the town of Kawaguchiko by nightfall. From there, it was another fifty minute by bus to the Fifth Station, 2300m above sea level, and the highest one can go up Fuji by car. By nine o'clock in the evening, I was off to the top. The nighttime view from the mountain, even near the start of the climb, was beautiful. The lights from the towns that surrounded Mt. Fuji filled the lowlands like lakes and rivers, and the clouds could be clearly discerned from the lights of the stars. I hope that imagery gave you some idea of what I saw, because my camera was next to useless in the dark. I tried to take some images of the towns, but they came out so poorly that they weren't even worth uploading. This is also the reason why there are no images of the trail itself, a mixture of gently sloped switchbacking trails and barely formed stairs made of volcanic boulders, sometimes so steep that they had to be scaled on hand and foot. It was slow going, due to a combination of sleep deprivation and oxygen deprivation, both of which only got worse as I went further up. It took seven hours to reach the eighth station, 370m from the summit, and by then, I knew I wasn't going to see sunrise from the summit. So, I took a seat near the eighth station's highest point, grabbed my camera, and filmed the sunrise. What I've embedded below is basically an hour of time condensed into about twelve minutes. Unfortunately, by the time sun actually comes out, the lens is covered in tiny water droplets and the image is somewhat blurred. . . but I'll get to the water droplets soon enough. For now, the video:

So that was sunrise. From there, I made my way to the summit. However, after climbing another hundred meters or so, I turned back. You may hoave noticed the ebb and flow of clouds that blocked the sunrise. Those clouds were actually forming on the mountain itself. They came in massive gusts, and when they hit, they got me and all the other climbers just a littler bit damper than before. Added to this was the fact that temperatures near the top were near freezing, if not below freezing. So, as I neared the top, saw that the winds were getting worse, that the clouds were obscruing more and more of the surroundings, and that the trail did not seem to be coming to an end, I made the decision to turn back. What was the point of going to the top if I wasn't going to see anything once I got there?

So, I made my way down. That's when things really went to hell. The clouds that formed at the top of the mountain turned into rain as they went further down the slope. . . cold, hard rain that stung skin thanks to the ever increasing winds that came that morning. What should have been a three hour descent to more like four hours, and felt even longer than the climb up. Half way down, I was soked. I had trouble walking without my pants falling down. Yeah, my pants were falling down. Laugh it up, fuzzballs! I was miserable. The trail. . . just. . . kept. . . going. Every time I thought the trail was done, that I had reached the bottom, or the fifth station, it just. . . kept. . .

Well, eventually, I made it, soaked to the core. Everything was wet. My wallet, my passport (fortunately, most of it was protected by a passport cover, but parts of it still needed to sit out and dry) my spare clothes, and my books. One of them was soaked so badly that I'll be amazed if I can ever use it again. My bus ticket was soaked, and for a while I was worried that the driver wouldn't accept it. My money was soaked, so I couldn't use the electric ticket dispensers to buy train tickets home. My camera bag was soaked, and I was afraid of using the camera when it was that wet-- hence the lack of daylight pictures.

God. . . I can only imagine how I smelled.

It was so bad at points that I simply could not imagine getting home. But I did, with very little to show for my trip. This was supposed to have been one of the highlights of my trip to Japan, but it turned out to be a dissappointment. I want to be positive about it-- after all, some good memories came out of it too, like the countryside, the sunrise, and the night view-- but given that I'm still having trouble getting by in Japanese, and the fact that I have to start looking for a job soon despite said lack of skill in Japanese, plus a few other things that have gone wrong. . .

Meh, enough whining.

I went to a party on Sunday, hosted at the Sakura Cafe in Ikebukuro. We played a game where we fished water balloons out of a pool using hooks attached to paper. Since the paper became fragile when wet, it took a lot of careful manipulation to fish the balloons out of the pool. But, somehow, I got the most balloons out of the pool and won free drinks for my team. That's something to be happy about.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I Have Become Everything I Hate

So I got one of those Facebooks. . . cause I heard it would be good for finding jobs. . . and stuff.

Seriously, I have no idea how any of this works. I signed up at around 7:50 PM Tokyo time, i.e. just before four in the morning Prince George time, and within minutes I got five friend requests! And I'm not even sure how many of these people I actually know!

Facebook. . . more like Assbook.

So, I guess, look me up under Jeremy Kavka.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Canadian Who Went Up a Train Platform and Came Down a Mountain

So Thursday I decided I need to get out of Tokyo, or at least out of downtown Tokyo. Thanks to Google Earth, I knew that the western-most portion of Tokyo Prefecture, specifically the area near the town of Takao, rather abruptly transitioned from dense semi-urban landscape to dense, hilly jungle. Expecting to do some strolling through small town streets and, maybe, a bit of of the surrounding hills, I pakced my backpack (which contained my Japanese books, a jug of water, and my camera, which I am NEVER leaving behind again!) and took the hour and a half long ride on the Chuo Line Rapid from Shinjuku to Takao.

But by the end of the day I had climbed a mountain-- namely, the 599 meter Mount Takao. It started innocently enough. After walking through the towns near Takao station, I came across a sign displaying a map of nearby trails. As I was hoping for a chance to actually travel into the forested hills, as opposed to merely admiring them from afar, I was thrilled. I arrogantly dismissed the peaks 599 meter height, the main trail's 3.8 kilometer length and the estimated 90 minute climbing time. After all, I'm losing weight I think, and I used to go sporadically to Tae Kwon Do so I have the nubile body of a long distance gymnast!* More seriously, I saw this a sort of dress rehearsal for my climb up Mount Fuji, which I have to get done during August while facilities are still open. So, I began the climb. I estimate that during the first kilometer, I climbed about half the mountain's height, an average grade of about 33%. Even assuming I only climbed a third of the height, that's still a 20% grade. Keep in mind that the steepest hills on, say, the Pemberton run are at about a 13% grade. And I was doing this on foot.

Given Tokyo's lovely summertime combination of heat and humidity, my clothes were drenched in sweat as a result of this climb. It was so bad that I actually went to a washroom, ran my shirt under water, rang it out and, while still damp, wore it. Three times. I figured my shirt is gonna be drenched anyway, so it may as well be drenched with water and not sweat.

I actually considered giving up, not knowing at the time just how hard this climb is really considered to be and just how much of an accomplishment it is to climb it, even if I am stopping every fifty-to-one hundred meters to take a break. But I realized that if I'm gonna make the leap in climbing Fuji, I'd better not quit on some rinky dink little mountain like this. So, after two hours of climbing (partly for breaks, partly for sightseeing) I made my way to the summit. As I neared the top, nearly every passerby greeted me. One lady even yelled out "HEROO!" while waving her hands enthusiatically. Was it because of special understanding, a bond, formed between those who climbed the mountain on foot? Was it tradition to greet everyone you meet along this particular passage? Was it because of the oft-noted politeness of the Japanese people? Am I just being melodramatic about this? Whatever the case. . . I kinda lost my train of thought, so here's some videos. If you really squint, you can see downtown Tokyo fifty kilometers distant in some of these shots.

*I case you're wondering, yes, that term is meaningless.
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