Moncton Boys

The Moncton Boys will soon be together again.

I first came to Asia (to China) in 1997, and then in 1998 I moved to Tokyo. That year, I started what would now be called a group mailing list with friends from back home (my hometown of Moncton in Canada). It was simplified in the sense that we would just send our messages to everyone’s individual addresses, and then “reply to all” for the follow-ups.

In January of 2006, I used Google Groups to make it easier for us to continue sending our messages, creating a group I called “Moncton Boys,” and we’ve continued to use it to this day — although we’re certainly not as active as we used to be.

What I just realized now when I checked the group to find out when I had started it, is that every single message we sent is archived there, which as you can imagine is an interesting way to look back at what was being said over the years.

With my upcoming trip in August — the one I need an FM transmitter for — I decided to organize an old-school get-together at my parents house, inviting all of the “Moncton Boys” (we’re a dozen) over for some drinkin’ and chattin’, listening to tunes, and basically catching up. Luckily, most everyone will be in town — 3 others had fled like me.

The one thing that won’t be the same is when we end playing billiards, as I imagine we will. My parents have long had a pool table at home, and using it was a staple of hanging out at my place. One thing that possibly enhanced — but in reality, distracted from — the playing was that the second dog we had — a Shetland Sheepdog named Zarico — had the extremly odd behaviour of constantly running around the table whenever a game was being played. Never stopping. If he was near a pocket when a ball went in, he would let out a bark.

Zarico passed away quite a few years ago. Our games of pool just won’t be the same.

Woof.

Taking Flight with Facebook

I sure like Facebook these days.

That’s not a very popular stance, I know. Most people seem to refer to the site in the past tense these days, keeping an account there just to be able to see the occasional non-public update posted by friends or to be able to log into sites through Facebook Connect.

For the past few years I’ve preferred using Twitter, with all of my tweets automatically reposted to Facebook, and then my interactions pretty much limited to responding to any comments that were made there. Then, in early June, I decided to quit Twitter. By quit, I mean that I stopped reading other people’s tweets, but continued to check for replies sent my way — which I really needed to do oncethis post went live. My tweets now act as a heads-up when I have a new post up, or when a new episode of the Codex is up — this compared to the 20-40 tweets I used to barf out daily.

But during this time, I’ve found myself using Facebook more and more. I’m not just writing the equivalent of my old tweets there, but have come to appreciate the fact that I can write a proper thought or opinion on something. Yes, I really am over the 140-character limits that Twitter imposes — what I used to enjoy for the brevity it enforced has turned into a feeling of unsatisfaction of always having to discuss things or express myself in barely formed sentences.

With the longer “status updates,” I also find that I really enjoy the discussions that happen with the comments (again, with no limit on length) that follow. And because I’m strict with my “friends” list — I’m sorry, but for me, Facebook is only useful and manageable if I keep my “friends” to just that, a list of friends — it’s coming from people I really do like to engage with.

Will I continue my Twitter exodus? Although I don’t want to restart tweeting like I used to, a friend today suggested that I should whittle down the list of people I follow to a minimum — I do still have a lot of friends who share much more on Twitter than on Facebook — so that I can still read but not feel like I’m spending too much time on it. I also think that this sabbatical of mine has helped me realize that it’s not necessary to read every single tweet that goes out by people I follow. I used to be bad about that, starting each day trying to catch up on all of my Twitter reading. I do appreciate the function of Facebook’s “Newsfeed” in that it has trained me to not care whether I see every single little update that are done by friends — and even if I do have a limited number of friends on Facebook, that still makes for a lot of little updates.

Oh, and if you are interested in what I write on Facebook, even if I don’t “friend” you, I do have all of my settings at a very public level — which is the reason why my wife won’t “friend” me — and so you can easily subscribe to my status updates.

If anything, all of this social network experimentation as made me pause and think about what it is that — at this point in my life — I want to put in and get out of these social networks, and that’s something that really needed to happen.

Facebook, Twitter, or whatever else we use, in the end, it’s all about finding the right comfort level to then enjoy all of the virtual interactions that the net — and the act of being connected on a global scale — allows us.

Bosnia. They don’t have roads, but they have Facebook.

A Super-Hero Weekend

I just had a super-hero weekend.

With this being a massive super-hero movie summer — The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises — I got in the mood to do a mini super-hero filmfest at home over the weekend, made easier since it was a long weekend (thank you, Marine Day, for your fluid non-work love).

I started by re-watching The Watchmen – the “Director’s Cut,” which is not the massive “Ultimate Cut” that incorporates the animated Tales of the Black Freighter — and I’ll say that I enjoyed it a whole lot more than I originally did. I think knowing what to expect coming in helped a lot with that — it couldn’t fall below my expectations — and the fact that I’m senile (I really am, sadly) resulted in an ending that still surprised me a bit (not the who, but the why).

I think re-watching this is also going to help me enjoy the “Before Watchmen” books that have been coming out more than I was, since I had honestly forgotten most of what happened in the original series.

This was followed by the animated adaptation of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Batman: Year One (from the original “Year One” story arc in the Batman comic book). A lot of these DC Comics animated direct-to-video films tend to be pretty good, and this is one of the better ones, featuring the inspired casting of Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) as Jim Gordon.

I was of course going to watch Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, and re-watching these made me realize just how much I really do want to watch The Dark Knight Rises to find out how they follow the storylines from the first two films, and how this story is going to end — which is, to be honest, something new in that I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to seeing a super-hero film because of the story.

My plan was also to watch Sam Raimi’s trio of Spider-Man films, but movie watching fatigue forced me to stop after the first two. I didn’t really enjoy the first one much — Willem Dafoe dealing with his dual personalities is just painful to watch, and that Green Goblin helmet of his is still too ridiculous.Spider-Man 2 is much better, mainly because of the terrific action sequences and the fact that Doc Ock is a cooler villain, but having to endure Peter Parker’s inner doubt for most of the film was such a bore, I just really couldn’t wait for something exciting to happen.

I will watch the third Spider-Man film next weekend — and I will not fast-forward the silly dance sequence (which I really should) — as well as the two Iron Man films, which I expect I will still enjoy as much as I did the first time around (especially the first one).

Is somebody there?
Somebody?
Who are you?
Don’t play the innocent with ME — you’ve known all along!
Where are you?
Follow the cold shiver running down your spine… I’m right HERE!

Office DJ

I get to be a DJ at the office every day.

I need to listen to music constantly, throughout the day. That’s how I work, that’s what feeds me, that’s what energizes me. When I worked from home it wasn’t a problem, of course. Then, as I started spending more time at the office — the PechaKucha HQ is at the offices of Klein Dytham architecture— this meant spending my day with headphones on, which I realize is not the most social of things to be doing in an open office space.

Then, about a month ago, they introduced a Libratone wireless AirPlay speaker to the office. The idea is that anyone can send music to it through AirPlay. That’s easy enough to do from any app on an iPad or iPhone, and if you want to do it from something other than iTunes on your desktop, you can useAirfoil (which is what I use, because I play music from the Spotify desktop app).

So now I get to play the DJ every day — and my co-workers too, of course. I do worry about monopolizing the airwaves, and sometimes I’m in the mood for something that I think isn’t suitable to play out-loud for everyone — and so on go the headphones — but in general it’s good fun.

Today saw the day start with Cannonball Adderley’s Somethin’ Else — I tend to start off the day (10:00) with jazz — which I then followed up with Tito Puente (The Essential Tito Puente) for some summertime vibes. After lunch, I started with The Do’s Both Ways Open Jaws, and then continued with Stereolab’sChemical Chords, followed by the Dirty Projectors’ new album, Swing Lo Magellan. I sometimes play myCodex playlists too.

It’s not a bad idea this speaker thing.

Blocking My Fun

Game, why are you blocking my fun?

I was recently playing an old point-and-click adventure game called Broken Sword — a remake rather, the Director’s Cut — and although I was quite enjoying it for the first 1-2 hours of gameplay, I then hit a wall: a lame-ass puzzle that has nothing to do with the point-and-click adventuring that I had signed up for.

I’ve experienced this in many games, and it always frustrates me. In this case, it was a sliding block puzzle kind of thing that is something I just do not enjoy, and just the act of spending 5 or more minutes and not solving it made me stop playing. That was a few weeks ago, and I haven’t gone back to it because I know what awaits me. A lame-ass puzzle (in case you forgot).

Want another example? The second episode of the 1112 adventure game on iOS has a sudoku puzzle. Yes, nothing else than a plain ol’ sudoku puzzle — which is later followed by an even more complex version of it. The saving grace here is that I knew I had zero interest in spending time on it, and so went online and got the solution, but still, it felt ridiculously tacked on, and didn’t bring anything to the game’s flow.

So why do these things? To add length? Lack of imagination?

I really want to get back to Broken Sword, as I was really digging the early part, but at the same time, I don’t feel like subjecting myself to any more block sliding.

My request to game developers: make your game fun, and consistent with the gameplay we came to engage in.

PauseTalk.org

PauseTalk is now an .org, officially.

I don’t know why I waited so long to do this, but I finally went and got the domain pausetalk.org for PauseTalk, and that’s where the site now resides (instead of as folder on this site). It doesn’t really change things much, but there’s something satisfying about having it be its own thing.

The series is on its summer break right now, what with August being a skip month (the next event is set for September 3), but I do have some PauseTalk-related things I want to get to during this time, first of which is to update the site. I don’t plan on changing the design much, but I will be moving it to theSkeleton framework (which I’m using on this site), in order to have it be more mobile-friendly (i.e. responsive).

Another thing — and it’s something I’ve mentioned a few times — is my desire to let PauseTalk go out in the wild, to let anyone do one, and the first step for that is to put together a little document — a manual or sorts — that will act as a resource on how to organize one. It will be very simple, and will be made up of a few guidelines to help you start one up.

The other thing is that I’ve been wanting to start a mailing list for PauseTalk, as a better way to remind everyone about upcoming events — since the move from group to page on Facebook as made it impossible to send messages to those who follow it there. I’ll be using Mailchimp, and you can sign uphere — the first one should go out in a week or two, once I have a few subscribers.

And that’s about it for now. Michael Holmes was under the weather this month so didn’t make it out to Vol. 62, which is why we don’t have a new batch of photos, but I’ve adorned this post with an oldie but goodie from March’s Vol. 58. You can of course see all of Michael’s photo galleries from the eventson Facebook.

So to stay updated, subscribe!

1982

E.T. phone home.

A couple of months ago I found myself back in 1982. I managed this feat through the easiest form of time travel available to us: film. After reading a piece in a recent issue of Wired on the Alamo Drafthouse — the movie theatre of my dreams — and its 1982 summer blockbuster revival program, it inspired me to do the same at home.

Looking at some of the top money makers of 1982 this year does make some sense considering the anniversary it marks (30th, which also reminds me that I’m not as young as I’d like to think I am), but more than that, it’s fascinating to revisit the summer movie experience at a time when it was on the cusp of the blockbuster era — and yes, I know that Star Wars is considered to have kickstarted that era, but in 1982 we’re still finding an industry that is not completely lost in the vapidness or cookie-cutter template that characterizes most blockbusters these days.

Some of those big movies from 1982 are weird, or somehow still have an indie vibe to them — and by indie vibe I mean that they show originality in a way that we only get from indie films these days.

You can take a look at what the box office results from that year looked like, and then also see what is being shown as part of the Alamo’s program. I’m not done watching all of the films that I want to watch — after an initial burst, I felt like I needed a break — but I did get in quite a few, and reacted to them in a variety of ways.

First the good. Although not from the summer, Blade Runner is probably the best thing 1982 had to offer, and to this day, it’s still an amazing experience to take in — and the current blu-ray release of the film is absolutely stunning. I also loved revisiting The Thing, and the crisp version made it feel modern, and it was especially great being able to compare it to last year’s remake (which I did enjoy).

Surprisingly, I really quite enjoyed Rocky III. It’s a smarter film than I remembered, and not because of a great script or story, but because of the way it manages to poke fun at itself — the scene where Rocky is training in the gym, open to the public, while someone is playing the Rocky theme on the mandolin in the background is absolutely priceless.

Richard Pryor: Live at the Sunset Strip is fascinating as a snapshot of the comedy sensibility of the time. I didn’t find myself laughing much — and to be honest, I was surprised at how underwhelming, and almost awkward, I found Pryor’s set to be — but I did enjoy watching it.

The only film I watched that was a chore to finish was Poltergeist. I was in fact surprised when I realized I had never watched it — I was still familiar with all the classic scenes though (“They’re here”). It started out fun, with that 80s vibe that we just don’t see anymore — that mix of naivety in what is being portrayed, dosed with unrealness/surrealness — but as it became more about the ghosts/spirits, the special effects — which have not aged well — really brought it down.

Do you hate Rocky? No, I don’t hate Balboa. I pity the fool, and I will destroy any man who tries to take what I got!

Through Wind and Rain

Wind and rain did not stop me from climbing that mountain.

With plans to go trekking up in Yatsugatake this past weekend, I got worried when my wife popped up on chat Friday night — we had reserved tickets for a night bus that would leave later that evening — with a link to Yahoo! News that warned of terrible rain (let’s call it a storm, even) the following day. She still wanted to go (“mountain weather is unpredictable, anyway”) and so with our rain gear packed — which, to be honest, is always packed when we head to the mountains — off we went.

As we started the hike early Saturday morning (5am), the sky was cloudy but rainless, but then a few hours later we had to take out our rain gear and persevere through the rain. Then we started the real climb. Enter the wind.

Did I mention I have a fear of heights?

I believe the photo above does a good job of referencing the absolute joy I felt as I climbed up to the top of Akadake. Or maybe it doesn’t. Or maybe I wasn’t feeling much joy. (I wasn’t.)

I did make it to the top, hands on wet rock, holding on to a chain for my life. We got to the top at about noon, and entered the hut where we would be staying the night. During the day, our friend Ono also made it up, and then he and my wife started planning what route they would like to take to get back down. It involved walking along the top of the range, with a path that was barely the width of a human being.

I would not be taking that route.

The next day we left the hut at 4:30am, and I came down by myself (I would meet up with them at another location) the way I came — which I was still nervous about doing, but ended up being fine when I realized that being able to see what was around me (it wasn’t raining at the time) made it less frightening.

So how’s that for a weekend?

Jinbei

How do you spell relief during summer in Tokyo? J-I-N-B-E-I.

The jinbei is the sort of short, light yukata that men wear in the summer, at home for the most part, but it’s also something you’ll see being worn at summer festivals (where I women will sometimes wear them too). I’ve always had an aversion to non-Japanese people who wear traditional Japanese clothing — it always comes off as trying too hard — but in the comfort of my own home, I’m all about the jinbei (I will venture out to a nearby vending machine if the need arises).

The secret is in the oversize fitting of the 2-piece outfit — usually made of cotton or hemp — and the very loose stitching in the underarm area. It means that although dressed, you feel like your body is being aired out — and I’ll say that I definitely feel much more comfortable wearing one over a t-shirt and sweat shorts. My ritual when I get back home after work is to quickly put it on (sometimes I’ll immediately take a shower first, sometime I’ll wait later) — this is often accompanied by a cold beer.

The jinbei has become quite popular of late, and even Muji started selling a rather large collection of them when summer was on the horizon — they’ve sold them in years past, but not in the extended variety that they do now.

If I wasn’t about to leave for the mountains for a weekend of trekking, I’d be wearing one right now.

FM Transmitters

I don’t go back home for a visit very often, but when I do, I need music.

Next month I’ll be going back to my hometown for the first time in four years, and the visits I’ve done before that have always been at intervals of 2-3 years. One of the things I look forward to the most when I’m back home is taking my mother or father’s car out for a ride. I’m happy to live in a city that has such an amazing public transit system, but I do miss the act of driving. But not just driving, I miss going out for rides and listening to music.

Since I was very quick to move over to MP3s as my musical platform of choice, that means that computers and the iPod have been my music players for a decade now. What to do when I go back home and need a decent selection of music for when I go driving? Thank god for the FM transmitter.

So yes, not only has an iPod FM transmitter been my saving grace on every trip, the fact that so many years would pass between visits means that I have had to buy one before each visit, to work with the latest device.

So from original iPod to iPod touch to iPhone, today saw me ordering my 3rd or 4th FM transmitter, to assure proper musical satisfaction when I hit the streets. I ordered the Audio-Technica AT-FMT900(black) from Amazon Japan — I honestly don’t know much about it, and my choice was based on price more than anything else (it was between that and the iBuffalo FM Transmitter).

Slicing up eyeballs, I want you to know. Just one more month…