Dancing Tintin

I’m currently in full Tintin mode, in anticipation of the upcoming animated film (it opens in Tokyo on December 1), and I’m currently in the process of re-reading the entire series. Tintin is a special series for me, having grown up reading the books — I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve read each. But it has been quite a while since I read any, and so it’s been quite enjoyable — and nostalgic — to go through the series again. I did skip the first two (I don’t consider Soviets to be a true album, so I mean Congo and America), and started with Les cigares du pharaon (Cigars of the Pharaoh).

One thing I’ve been enjoying is spotting the odd panels when Tintin dances with joy — what can I say, it gives me great joy too. Above is an entended sequence fromL’étoile mystérieuse (The Shooting Star), and top left you have a drunk Tintin (from wine fumes) in Le crab aux pinces d’or (The Crab with the Golden Claws) and top right is from Le secret de la Licorne (The Secret of the Unicorn), which is one of the books adapted for this new animated film.


Mount Tanigawa in the Snow

The last time I went to Mount Tanigawa, during the summer, I got the worst sunburn I’ve had since I was a kid, but this time it was all about the snow. Me and my wife went yesterday and were greeted by quite a bit of snow — no worries though, as that’s what we were expecting. Although we had a tiny trail of hardened snow to walk on — thanks to other hikers — if you walked off it you would literally have both legs completely buried in snow. Some bits were slippery too, but we had our ice spikes on, so we were fine. In this post I’m including a few photos I shared on Instagram, and I’ll put up a few more sometime this week.

This is what it looks like when you’re sitting on the very first train of the day, at 5:02, leaving on the Saikyo line at Ikebukuro Station. To be fair, there were actually quite a few people who were catching the first train to get back home after a night of partying (this was Sunday morning).

We took the cable car to go up to one part of the mountain, and then hiked the rest, just like we did on our last visit. I believe it is possible to climb from the very bottom, but it would take a very long time (you would need more than a day), and some parts are quite dangerous.

There are two peaks, both are close by, and this is the post on one of them, which indicates an elevation of 1963m (the other peak is higher by a few meters).

Nothing like having your lunch when you’re on the top.


PechaKucha Night Vol. 87 and PauseTalk Vol. 56

Just a reminder to everyone that the two event series that I’m involved in will have their final edition of the year over the coming week. First up, this Wednesday (November 30) is PechaKucha Night Vol. 87 at SuperDeluxe(doors open at 19:00, presentations start at 20:20), and it will indeed be the final PKN of the year here in Tokyo since December is always a skip month (because of the holidays). Also, I should maybe mention that my wife will be one of the presenters.

Then, this coming Monday (December 5) sees PauseTalk Vol. 56 at Cafe Pause (from 20:00, although people usually start showing up from 19:30). It’s also the last one of the year, since I always skip January for the same reason (holidays), and so hope to see many of you there — consider it a creative bonnenkai (year-end party).


Cars on My Mind

I’ve never really considered myself to be a car guy. Sure, when I was a kid there was a time when I had a few car posters in my room (I recall a Porsche 911 and a Ferrari Testarossa, and I think one more, but can’t remember what), and I do love the act of driving, but I’ve never really cared much about owning one (I briefly had a Toyota Corolla, when we moved back to Canada for a year) or lusted over any. But these days, because of a game called Forza and three British dudes, I find myself with cars on the mind quite a lot.

It’s no secret that over the past few years I’ve come to accept the fact that racing is one of my favorite gaming genres. It’s funny, because I never particularly was attached to any racing game growing up — I think my favorites though would be F-Zero and Wave Racer — but since this latest generation of consoles, I really have come to love the act of driving in a game. Truth be told, this goes even beyond racing games — I actually love the driving parts in non-racing games too. While playing L.A. Noire, I actively drove to every single area, even though I could have fast-tracked instead, because I absolutely loved moving through that city in the different vehicles I would find in the game. It’s also one of the reasons I dislike the Halo series so much — what at first sounds great, riding around in a Warthog, becomes an exercise in frustration because of the silly driving controls.

I also always disliked sim racing games. My motto used to be, “if you have to use the brakes, then it’s not for me.” What I liked were arcade racers, and I just couldn’t understand what the fun was in driving around “carefully” on boring race tracks. But the first game that “evolved” my taste in racing games was Project Gotham Racing 3. Although not fully a sim, it was a nice sim-like game to get you started, and the realism of the cities — racing around in Shinjuku — was an absolute blast. I lovedProject Gotham Racing 4 too, and became quite attached to the in-cockpit view.

Then came Forza. I remember getting Forza 2 (which I bought used), and not really liking it. I played maybe 20 minutes or so, and just felt that it was too realistic (and the track was boring). Then Forza 3 came out. I tried the demo, and the in-cockpit view (which wasn’t inForza 2) completely sucked me in. It was enough to get me excited about the Forza world, and while waiting for the release of the game (which was only coming out a few weeks later), I put in Forza 2 and ended up playing 20-30 hours. Another aspect of modern sim racing games that appealed to me was the racing line — I want to feel like a pro racer when I’m playing, and this gave me a chance to properly learn how “racing lines” work, and when I need to start braking. The Forza “rewind” feature also assured that I wouldn’t get frustrated with the game if I did a stupid move late in a race.

And that brings us to now, with Forza 4, which I’ve been obsessing over ever since I got my copy. The big revelation for me this time is the “Autovista” mode, which not only lets you explore every aspect of some of the cars included in the game, but more importantly, includes reviews by Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear. I ended up enjoying these so much that it made me check out the show for the first time — never in my life had I been interested in checking out a “car show” — and I’ve been absolutely hooked, and am going back through the series, season by season. As most fans of the show know, what makes it so great is not just that they cover exotic cars, but it’s the humor in how they do it, and the fun personalities of the three hosts.

So am I a car guy now? I don’t know, I don’t think so, but I sure love playing Forza 4, I really love watchingTop Gear, and recently I’ve been getting a kick out of spotting some of the cars I’ve been driving in-game out in the real world — like that Audi R8 pictured above, which I spotted last night as I was leaving the office in Ebisu. In a city like Tokyo, you can see a lot of luxury and sports cars on the road — even seeing a Ferrari drive by is not that strange (I even spotted one this afternoon, while walking my dog).

I’ll finish this by adding that last night I watched the Ayrton Senna documentary, Senna, which I thought was fantastic. The only time in my life that I ever followed racing was Formula 1 during the Senna era, and it was something that I stopped after his death. So watching the documentary was not only interesting because of the amazing story that was his life and accomplishments, but it also provided a nostalgic trip to my youth.

Update: Here’s an addendum to this post.


Cars on My Mind (Addendum)


I’ve always liked how Craig Mod writes “satellite” articles to his main essays, and after my post on cars was up, I realized there were a few things I forgot to add, and it didn’t feel right to just shoehorn them in. So consider this an addendum.

After I tweeted a remark about watching the Senna documentary last night, my friend Jairo Neto (@jaironeto) — who is also organizer of the PechaKucha Night series in Sao Paulo — replied with a few remarks that I’d like to share.

man, did I cry with this documentary
the most important thing that he did was that he showed that you could be a winner with discipline and focus..
and that was something unique at the time. Brazil was just coming out of a military dictatorship, people were stunned by Senna
yes, and by that time, he was investing in his Institution for children, so there was a comic book character called “Senninha”
so for young kids (like me) he was a real living hero

Arcade Racers
I think that what I wrote makes it sound like I no longer play arcade racers, but that’s not true at all. One of my favorite games of recent years is Split/Second — I loved it so much I played through it twice — and I’m a huge fan of the Burnout series. I also quite enjoyed last year’sNeed for Speed: Hot Pursuit — it was a blast alternating between the speedsters and the cops, and also trying to beat the times of my friends (which usually ends up being CheapyD, who’s my only friend who likes racing games as much as I do). And after playing the demo for Need for Speed: The Run, in which avalanches are happening all over the place as you speed through a mountainous road, I’m looking forward that too. It reminded me of Speed Devils, which was my favorite racing game on the Dreamcast.

Forza + Top Gear
One of my favorite things to do these days is to take the cars that I see featured on Top Gear for a drive in Forza 4 — even better, I can actually try them out on the Top Gear test track, just like The Stig does, since it’s one of the tracks included in the game.

Pagani Zonda Cinque
My favorite car to drive in Forza tends to evolve the more I play — especially as I discover new cars to drive — and my current fave is the Pagani Zonda Cinque. It drives suprisingly well (tight controls) for a car that has that much power.


On Design for November 2011

My “On Design” column is a week early this month, appearing in today’s edition (Tuesday, November 22) ofThe Japan Times — or you can read it online here. Pictured above, 15%‘s Ice-Cream Spoons.


A Happy Kitchen Life

Pictured above is the typical fried egg breakfast I cook myself on weekends, either Saturday or Sunday morning (I often prepare French toasts on the other day). Not the healthiest of meals, absolutely, but it sure tastes good — and it’s pretty much the only real breakfasts I eat all week, with my regular morning food intake taken up by a small cup of yogurt.

I’m also the person who cooks most meals at home — my wife, although not a bad cook, doesn’t tend to do it much — and it often ends up being very simple things, or things that I’m just used to making. That’s going to change.

Although I should have kept this for a New Year’s resolution, I want to start being more creative in the kitchen — and by creative, I simply mean preparing and eating a wider variety of meals. And I’d like them to taste better too.

If you have good yet not overly complex (especially in terms of required ingredients) recipes to suggest — or websites/apps — please do so. I’ll be digging out a few cook books I’ve collected over the years — dusting them off, as they’ve barely been used — and I’ve got the Epicurious app downloaded, as well as the Real Simple Recipes: No Time to Cook? app (from which I’ve already picked out stuff).

Here’s to a better diet, and a happy kitchen life.


iA Writer for Mac

I’ve taken quite a liking to writing in iA Writer for Mac. Although the app has been out for quite a while — and despite the fact that I was a big fan of the iPad version — I never picked it up because I really didn’t think I had a use for it. I’ve been an enthusiastic user of Google Docs for years now, and there are many aspects of using that service that I quite like that iA Writer doesn’t do (sharing documents, having a good search engine for all my archived documents, etc.)

But with the recent sale on the iA Writer app — in preparation for the upcoming update that will add iCloud support (the sale may be over as you read this) — I decided to give it a try just for kicks, and I must say I’ve really fallen in love with it.

The reason for this love affair is a mix of a few things, including simplicity (functionality is barebone, just what you need), focusing (both because of the a full-screen view that hides everything else, and the app’s “focus mode”), and strangely enough, its support of Markdown.

I must say I’ve never used Markdown in the past, but I’ve taken quite a liking to the way iA Writer formats the text when I use the various elements. As an added bonus, the app I use to write blog posts (the ScribeFire extension on Chrome) supports it, so I’ve taken to writing new posts in iA Writer, in Markdown, and then copy/pasting it in ScribeFire.

Now, it’s not necessarily for everyone, especially if you need to format text for printing, but all I’ve ever needed in a text editor is a blank slate and a word count, and so it works for me. I would like it to support some sort of auto-syncing with Google Docs though, so that I can easily save all of my documents there, especially if it’s something that I need to share with others (for now, I copy/paste it in Google Docs, once I’m finished writing it in Writer).


Happy 7th, TAB!

I’d just like to take the opportunity to congratulateTokyo Art Beat on its 7th anniversary, which was celebrated in style last night with a terrific event at Dictionary Club in Shibuya. I’ve been one of the biggest cheerleaders of TAB since its start — I’d rather not remember what it was like trying to find info in English on art/design events before its existence — and I’m so happy that not only is it still going, but that it seems to be in great shape. So again, congratulations to the TAB crew, as well as to the AQ crew for all its tech and production support.

Pictured above, a mini burrito from Libre at the party — it was really good, and so I definitely recommend you go check out the proper Libre shop in Aoyama. And I must say that the Dictionary Club is a really nice event space, and I’m hoping I’ll get to see more stuff there.


PauseTalk Vol. 55

Big thanks to everyone who made it to tonight’s PauseTalkVol. 55. As has been the norm over the past few months, we had some really nice discussions, and this time it felt like a continuous one — starting from thoughts on Tokyo Design Week, which lead to a general discussion on the state of design and then events in Tokyo.

Below, the participants who signed the attendance list. For quite a while now I’ve been wanting to develop a better — and more useful — way of sharing details on those who attend, and I hope to have something to share in the coming weeks, maybe by the time the next PauseTalk comes around.

That next edition (Vol. 56) will be held on December 5, and please note that not only will it be the final PT of the year, but it will also be the last one until February, since January is always a skip month (because of the New Year’s holiday).