Category Archive: face to the world

May 12

The Hammy (Baby Photos) Broadcast System

Since this seems to be the meme of the hour, here's my entry.In anywhere from a few hours to a couple of weeks, if all goes well, I will be adding a new member to the family. I know how annoying it can be to be inundated with friggin’ baby photos and posts about babies, so I am going to restrict my posting to a non-front page category of my blog.

I was resolving not to post very much at all, but certain friends and family members have told me that they want to be inundated with obnoxious amounts of photos and posts.

IF YOU ARE ONE OF THESE PEOPLE, there are two ways you can receive these updates.

1) If you use an RSS reader, subscribe to the feed: http://squeeze-box.ca/?cat=583&feed=rss2

2) If you do not, join Google+ and circle this page: https://plus.google.com/u/0/106979346208502654045/posts (Seriously, if you’re not on Google+, this is the time to join. It is a million times better than Facebook and is worth it for my BABY PHOTOS alone.)

I will only be posting very occasionally on Facebook about my offshoot.

 

If you do not want to do either of these, you will have to periodically visit the baby section of my blog here: http://squeeze-box.ca/?cat=583

May 07

Hey Canada, WTF? Or: Wow, I Thought Getting My Passport Was a POTA!

I'm investigating registering my soon-to-be-born baby's birth with Canada so we can get the passport to visit Canada for Xmas.

Before I can do that, I need to get a certificate of citizenship (which apparently can take 6-12 months). The form that I need to fill out is… well, typical bureaucratic nonsense, but that's fine.

Here's the kicker, among the many items they require are two pieces of photo ID.

What? For a newborn? Okay, assuming I get the Japanese passport first (which I don't want to do, because we need the Canadian one to force them to use the correct Romaji), that's one piece. What the fuck other piece of ID is a newborn infant going to have? His tractor-trailer operator's license?

How would I do this if my wife wasn't Japanese and my child didn't have the potential of having a Japanese passport to travel under? Would we be stuck in Japan until Canada finished the paperwork? Am I just simply misunderstanding something?

Arg!

(This is all aggravated by the fact that I made myself a pizza tonight and then accidentally dropped it on the floor, upside down.)

Arg!

#perfectloverblog

Google+: View post on Google+

Post imported by Google+Blog. Created By Daniel Treadwell.

Apr 02

An Open Letter

An open letter to the very old man who runs the Keikyu line and is always too cold.

Dear old man who runs the Keikyu line and is always too cold,

Just because your teeth chatter and you worry about catching a chill, does not mean that the train services you run need to be as hot and muggy as the Amazon basin. I am currently standing on one of your trains. It is rush hour on a rainy day, and nearly every surface is dripping with condensation and yet the air conditioning units in the ceiling of the train remain silent. I spent the better part of the ten minutes between Kamiooka and Yokohama blind as a mole rat because my glasses were fogged up. (It was too crowded for my to get a cloth from my pocket to wipe them off.)

My sense of smell was damaged a few months ago, but at the moment I'm glad, because I thankfully cannot smell the heady mix of morning breath and wet dog that surely permeates the soup that can only be called air in the loosest sense of the word.

The only brief respite comes when the doors open at a station and some fresh air blows in.

So I beg you, please consider that the rest of us, the people who ride your trains, many of us under the age of 150, are not adapted for a temperature of 32 degrees and 100 percent humidity. In fact, most of us are wearing jackets because we just came from outside, and the morning rush hour does not allow us the luxury of space in which to remove them for our 20 – 60 minute commute on your trains.

With sincerest heat stroke,

Andrew Woolner

#perfectloverblog

Google+: View post on Google+

Post imported by Google+Blog. Created By Daniel Treadwell.

Mar 28

Bibs, Bibs, Everywhere

I've got some really generous friends. My friend +Kara MaruMaru gave me a stroller, a playpen, a changing pad, a baby backpack and more on Tuesday. Then, yesterday, my sister-in-law dropped off three enormous bags and one plastic box of baby clothes, including… wait for it… more than 15 bibs!

People with babies: you need to tell me, is it necessary to have more than two or three? (bibs, not babies)

#perfectloverblog

Google+: View post on Google+

Post imported by Google+Blog. Created By Daniel Treadwell.

Mar 20

Fucking Facebook

So, as many of you know, I run a small Theatre company, an NPO, that also provides Theatre classes. We mostly have to rely on word-of-mouth and Google searches to find students to join our classes, but recently, after some success in the fall, we've been using Facebook's advertising options.

Initially, as I said, we had some small success with it, but there are some improvements I like to see (tied in with the way FB handles events), and there are some serious problems with it.

1) First major problem is targeting seems to be somewhat ineffective. When you create an advert on the system, you can specify a geographic area and interest keywords in order to narrow down who sees your advert. I have doubts as to whether this is working. We've recently been using FB to advertise events we've targeted to a geographic area and certain interests, and we've had people sign-up who pretty obviously don't even live in Japan, let alone the city we've specified.

2) Second major problem is that FB is crawling with what appear to be bots. They click on the advertising links and join the event, but it's pretty clear that they are not real people. Their profiles are empty and their photos are cartoons.

Which brings us to the main improvement that I want to suggest.

There should be an option that requires guests who want to say "yes" to attend an event to perform an action besides just clicking yes. Like paying a fee. It's easy to get people to click "yes" on an event invitation, but much harder to get them to follow through. An obvious solution would be to build payment into the FB event system (something similar to Meetup.com), but that isn't even necessary. There could just be a message to the user with a link to click to pay (like the event admin's website), and then the admin gets a notification to approve the guest, and can do so once he or she verifies the payment is completed. As it is right now, people can click yes, but not actually commit to coming. 

The current system works relatively well if you're just setting up a small party, but if FB is going to accept money for adverts to promote your event, then they need to find a way of increasing quality. (If one wanted to be cynical, one might even suggest that it is FB itself that plants the bots/fake accounts. What other reason would the fakes have for signing up to an event than to drive up ad dollars?)

Of course, a solution would be to stop using FB adverts. Well, that may be the course I choose, but for a small company, FB's options are very cost-effective… provided they actually work. There aren't that many options out there that let me a) target well, and b) get them out quickly.

I was thinking that I'd go back to advertising a page on my website rather than an FB event, but that still leaves the problem with the faulty targeting and the bots… only now, the problem will be invisible. The bots obviously won't click through and pay, but by visiting my site at all, they still cost me money.

Those are my thoughts. Boo, Facebook.

#perfectloverblog  

Google+: View post on Google+

Post imported by Google+Blog. Created By Daniel Treadwell.

Feb 14

Tech Problem: Bright Ideas Appreciated

Okay, so for the last few weeks I've been having this weird problem on my primary PC. Almost every time I wake it up from sleep, there's this crackling over the speakers, and it's been getting worse. It happens when the machine is idle, or when it is playing an audio/video file. The video is affected too, and it stutters.

After some troubleshooting, I tracked it down to one of my HDDs. When it is being accessed, that's when the crackling and video stutter happen. This is not my primary HDD, but a large 2TB drive that I use for things like video editing scratch files. There is a piece of backup software that uses it, though, and that tends to run after the machine has been in sleep mode, which explains why that was when I was noticing the problem the most. But any access to this disk (copying a large file, for instance) will cause the problem.

I am currently running a chkdsk in Windows. Interestingly, I had to unmount the drive to do this and despite the fact that the drive is thumping away as it is scanned, I am observing no problems in audio/video playback. This suggests to me that it is not an electrical (ground) problem.

Google is coming up blank on this (may not be using the right search terms), and I'm out of ideas.

Anyone?

#perfectloverblog

Google+: View post on Google+

Post imported by Google+Blog. Created By Daniel Treadwell.

Feb 08

Thoughts on Fatherhood

So, the cat is out of the bag, and I can finally officially write about it: my first offspring is due (if all goes well) in mid-May. Sadly, my own father didn’t live long enough to meet his third grandchild.

Hammy_FixedThe photo on the right is the first (and last) ultrasound photo of Hammy I’m going to post. Frankly, I think posting a whole bunch of blurry ultrasound photos is a very uninteresting thing to clutter people’s SN feeds with. I will try to remember the golden rule that other people find your children to be about 0.01% as interesting as you do, and post accordingly.

As you can see, my stagerabbit-junior-to-be is already sporting the devil’s horns that my family have had ground off at birth for the last 1000 years or so in order to avoid being burnt at the stake.

Hammy is the womb-name that we’re using, as I think it’s bad form to bestow a proper name before the wee thing is properly detached from its mother. I’ve expressed this as “not wanting to jinx it”, but it’s more of a hedge against last minute mind-changing. You never know what’s going to happen when you look at that baby; maybe you’ll decide that “Akuma” isn’t the best name after all.

 

I have so many conflicting thoughts about the whole fatherhood thing, particularly thoughts like “oh my dog, I’m going to totally ruin this kid!”. On the other hand, I’ve got the entirely delusional “I’m going to make unconventional choices for my child that are going to uniquely prepare Hammy to make his or her mark upon the world.” And then a bunch of other stuff swirling around, including the dark thoughts that we’re just a little over halfway through the pregnancy now and there is still so much that could go wrong.

I’m already doing a lot of planning: early toilet-training, hauling Hammy back and forth from rehearsals, discipline methods, etc.  Of course, I understand that no battle plan survives contact with the… er… progeny, but is it not better to have a plan? I wonder if I have some kind of advantage because I’m coming into this later than a lot of people do. On the other hand, maybe being in my late thirties rather than my twenties will mean I will have less energy.

Also, I wonder about providing for a child. Many people I know have lectured me about the expense of having a child, but come on, really? Poor people have children all the time. Surely I don’t need to be a fucking account executive (baaaarrrrfffff)  with a rising-star IT firm in order to give my family a good life? Maybe I’ll change my mind on this and eventually have to go back to having a “real” job, but I’m going to hang onto my ideals as long as I can. I think “follow your dreams; money isn’t everything” is a much better message to give your children than: “do well in school, get into a good university, get a good job, and then crank out kids of your own to do the same”. Am I totally fucking wrong?

My parents, particularly my father, worked hard so that I would be able to make choices like that. By following my dreams, no matter the financial cost, am I maybe going to achieve the opposite result and raise a little account executive (baaaaarrrrffff)? Is that how this works? Shit. I don’t know.

In absence of gnosis on the subject, I think my only choice it to do what I’ve been doing and be true to myself.

 

Right?

 

Fuck, this father thing is hard, and I haven’t even had to change a shitty diaper yet.

 

 

P.S. For friends and family reading this; those inclined to give gifts, allow me to sound ungrateful in advance and say that we have plenty of toys and clothes already (Hammy will be the 7th child born in our combined families). What we really need are English-language books for and about wee children. When I eventually have time to think about this, I will post an Amazon wish list for this here: http://www.amazon.co.jp/registry/wishlist/1U1J9Y7UOB2YP (For now it’s just a stub.)

Jan 24

Oh fuck

Just spent ~4 hours chasing down a discrepancy between YTG's general ledger and the final budget for the last semester of classes. Finally determined that I'd overcharged a student by 6000 Yen last term.

I called her, and she was happy enough to get the money back, but I felt like a total douche. I really wish I had someone else to handle the books for me. Every time I think I'm on top of them, I screw something new up.

So much for getting it all in order today… still have a pile of receipts and invoices to plow through. Will have to be tomorrow, I guess.

I wish arts administrators were as cheap as us artists. All this gobbledygook keeps me away from MAKING STUFF. GOD DAMN. I JUST WANT TO CREATE! NNNNNNNAAAARRRRRGGGGG!

#perfectloverblog  

Google+: View post on Google+

Post imported by Google+Blog. Created By Daniel Treadwell.

Jan 21

The Ballad of Aaron Swartz

Photo credit: Fred Benenson / www.fredbenenson.comOn January 13th, I read about Aaron Swartz’s suicide in Brooklyn. I was deeply affected by it, and not just for the normal reasons.

If you don’t know who I’m talking about, you should, at the very least, read his Wikipedia page, and possibly do a bit of Googling. Long story short: among other things, he was an activist who was deeply involved in the protests against SOPA and other government and corporate actions that threatened the free flow of information on the internet, particularly public information or information that had been paid for by the public. There’s plenty of details out there, and I’m not going to write a wall of text explaining the issues—this post is about a song.

Yes. I was angry and I wrote a song. I modeled it on the protest/political action songs of the early 20th century that memorialized labour leaders, like Woody Guthrie’s “Two Good Men”, with a little bit of Billy Bragg’s anthemic “There is Power in Our Union” thrown in. Except less good.

I worked on it in my spare time in Toronto from January 13 – 15, and then recorded the version posted here on the 16th, after sending an earlier version out to friends to get feedback. This is actually very frightening for me, as I don’t tend to be very public with my non-comedic songs, and this is the first one I’ve written since probably 2003, but I felt that I really wanted this one to be out there. The sound quality isn’t great, the guitar playing isn’t great, and the vocals aren’t great, but what I’m worried most about is that the song itself isn’t very good. It usually takes me at least two or three months to figure out if something I’ve written is any good, but I don’t feel that I can wait this time.

I suppose that the worst case scenario is that people don’t like it and tell me so, I guess. Best case scenario is that someone with talent likes it enough to re-record it and make it sound good.

 

Ahem. The buildup is making this worse, so I’m just going to post it the youtube link. If you want the MP3 (why?), it’s linked below.

 

Ballad of Aaron Swartz v 1.2

 

MP3: http://aziraphale-public-folder-1.s3.amazonaws.com/Andrew_Woolner-Ballad_of_Aaron_Swartz_v1.2.mp3

 

Lyrics:

BALLAD OF AARON SWARTZ

Another one has gone:
another hero fallen.
He took things from the rich
like a modern Sherwood Robin

Why were our modern Nottingham
trying to tell us he was wrong?
when what he took on our behalf
was ours, all along
All along

He wasn’t very old
just twice twelve and two
but he risked his liberty
to liberate me and you

This can be a prison planet
on which everything’s a crime
and taking public documents
gets you 30 years of time
30 years of time

He fought for ideals
for a new enlightened age;
the freeflow of information
that would destroy our gilded cage

But those who walk the halls of power
or skulk the corridors of might
prize our state of ignorance
and won’t give up without a fight
without a fight

 
He had the glint of leadership
He was not a normal kid
He believed in direct action
So that’s exactly what he did

But prosecutor Stephen Heymann
and the vaunted FBI
strove to make him an example
and he was hounded ’til he died
until he died

 
He didn’t kill or rape
or drive families from their homes
or bet people’s life savings
on a bunch of sub-prime loans

But when the architects of misery
can dine with heads of state
then the defenders of our freedoms
suffer a very different fate
a different fate

Yes, they line the people’s heroes
up against the wall
while plutocrats and their sycophants
laugh about it all
Laugh about it all

He was only one of many
but there was only one of him
and my heart goes to his family
and to all his kith and kin

But he wasn’t the first to fall
nor will he be the last
his successors will be legion
and his enemies outclassed

But were the laws that were his downfall
made with our consent?
Do we need to blame ourselves
When we blame our government?

Another one has gone
another hero fallen…

 

Photo credit for top photo: Fred Benenson / www.fredbenenson.com

 

 

“The Ballad of Aaron Swartz” is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/. To ask for permissions not granted by this license, contact me via my copyright page: http://squeeze-box.ca/?page_id=159 (I will probably say “yes”)

Jan 18

ただいま! Yokohama Bound

I type this aboard the bus from Narita to YCAT with the low-hanging sun shining directly in my eyes. I am back in Japan after more than six weeks in Canada to deal with the aftermath of my father's sudden death this past November.

I was so busy that it really hadn't hit me until a couple of days ago just how eager I was getting to be in my own home once again. The family farmstead in Kitchener is a home to me, but it's still my mother's home, and while I can feel welcome there, and was quite sad to leave it after spending nearly three weeks there, it's not the same as getting back to my house. And my wife, of course.

Despite being busy, what did I actually accomplish? Along with my mother, I wrapped up a bunch of paperwork related to my father. I also scanned thousands of pages of personal papers, which I will be curating over the next few years/decades. I wrote my first serious song in nearly 10 years– about Aaron Swartz's death, of all things. I'll be releasing a rough recording of that soon.

I also finally wrote and recorded and shot the video one of the five songs I need to make videos for to finally fulfill my obligations to people who contributed to the fall indiegogo campaign for YTG. Another song is written with a rough recording made, but I'm still waiting for some photos from the person who commissioned it.

Yikes. I think that might be it. I won't list the things I didn't do (which includes two scripts I was supposed to finish drafting), because that list is endless. 

But no rest for the wicked: tonight I will be sending out personal emails to flog the YTG theatre classes that begin this Saturday.

And yet… happy to be back, even if it means a return to my obligations. (Among them, the obligation to lose the 4 kilograms I put on in Canada thanks to soft living.)

#perfectloverblog

Google+: View post on Google+

Post imported by Google+Blog. Created By Daniel Treadwell.

Jan 17

Goodbye Canada

Getting ready to leave. 15 minutes until the taxi gets here. Not looking forward to being up for the next 24 or so hours (can't sleep on planes and then have to stay up when I get back to try to avoid jet-lag), but I'm ready to go. I'm super homesick and can't wait to get back to my rickety house and my wife and my Japanese family.

One day's rest, and then I will be teaching a Shakespeare class.

Masochist much?

#perfectloverblog

Google+: View post on Google+

Post imported by Google+Blog. Created By Daniel Treadwell.

Jan 13

An Apology for Replication

Apologies to anyone who follows me on multiple social media feeds. I will now be cross-posting any long-winded G+ posts to my blog, which in turn (unless the recent site move has disabled it) will be auto-posted to Facebook.

I know that all my G+ posts are always available, but sometimes after posting, I would feel that they belonged with the kind of content I was writing for my blog, and I wanted to keep them together.

Also, there are still a lot of people who refuse to use G+, and giving my blog URL is just easier. So, yeah, that's what I'm doing.

So again, my deepest regrets to those of you who read what I post on here, my blog, and Facebook. Sorry.

#perfectloverblog  

Google+: View post on Google+

Post imported by Google+Blog. Created By Daniel Treadwell.

Jan 13

I knew of Aaron Swartz, but not by name

Here is another technologist and activist who deserves the kind of international mourning that Steve Jobs received, but outside of a relatively small niche, nobody knows who he is, or what his activism was trying to accomplish.

I believe in skirting or even breaking laws that are unjust and or silly. Before you frown at me: how many times have you J-walked? If J-walking was made into a felony with excessive penalties, do you really think people would stop doing it? (I believe that people would have an obligation to start doing it, in that case, in order to visibly assert their non-consent to that ridiculous law.)

One of the hallmarks of a police state is that it becomes impossible to live without breaking some law or another, giving the police ample pretext to silence dissent without actually having to have any laws forbidding dissent.

Enough of that…

Will Swartz's death do anything to stop the ridiculously harsh sentences demanded for certain types of cyber "crime"? What's the solution? No fucking idea.

In the meantime, I salute a fallen hero.

(The crime he was charged with involved the free distribution of JSTOR articles. JSTOR is involved with the the whole academic journal thing that +Jan Moren posts about occasionally.)

#perfectloverblog

Embedded Link

Aaron Swartz – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Aaron H. Swartz (November 8, 1986 – January 11, 2013) was an American computer programmer, writer, archivist, political organizer, and Internet activist. Swartz co-authored the “RSS 1.0” specification…

Google+: View post on Google+

Post imported by Google+Blog. Created By Daniel Treadwell.

Dec 14

Post-Funeral Thoughts

I’m riding the TTC back from the airport after dropping my wife off there. Thanks to the generosity of her family, she was at least able to attend the memorial gathering. (Technically, you could say that that was the funeral– a memorial gathering at the family farmstead was all my father wanted.)

image

I’m still mostly blase about the whole thing. Whether that’s because it hasn’t sunk in yet, or whether the physical distance separating me from my parents has made it easier, or that I just don’t get worked up about death any more, I don’t know. Maybe something will break in the coming weeks in Canada, and maybe it won’t. I don’t know.

Interesting side note here: did you know that it is illegal to bury human ashes in Ontario anywhere other than a registered graveyard? Spreading them is okay, and you can even do it on Crown land and waterways, but burying ashes is not. I think this is because the laws were written before cremation was common, and when they were changed to allow the spreading of the ashes, the burying part kind of just fell through a loophole. You can bury the decaying remains of your St. Bernard in your back yard, but not the biologically inert ashes of your father. Nice one, Ontario.

Dec 08

Thoughts on a Memorial

2012-12-05 09.07.23It’s the morning of my Father’s memorial gathering and I’m asking myself why I pushed to have an active part in it. Today needs to run like clockwork, and I’m involved in taking cues and doing something at least twice. Maybe three times.

 

I think the cold and wet will probably protect me from getting too emotional, but I’m certain that my mind is going to be wandering. When I’m working on shows, the hardest parts are when I’m not doing anything active; if I don’t struggle to stay engaged, I can easily wander off mentally and miss a cue.

 

*     *     *

 

We’re also all silently pretending that today is going to bring closure to everything, which is a bit foolish.

 

*     *     *

 

The memorial gathering is taking place, as my father requested, on the farm by the rock on which we have all the heritage plaques. There were problems finding a venue, but at the last minute, the nearby elementary school offered their gym. The kids had come out and my father and shown them around the farm earlier this year, so my family thought it was appropriate. Despite the fact that it’s a Catholic school and there are crosses and Jesuses and Pope John Paul IIs everywhere, I’m really happy they offered. The marquee outside the school has “Goodbye, Mr. Woolner” on it, and the kids made poster boards in tribute to him with photos from their trip to the farm.

 

The principal announced that she had “prayer cards” that she was going to put at every place setting, and I cringed inwardly (my father was an atheist), but then she brought them out, and I read them, and they were really sweet. No mention of God or “the Lord” or anything. Just a nice little poem on the back.

 

*     *     *

 

Okay, I need to get kitted (kilted) up now and prep some other stuff. Many more thoughts, but time is ticking, and the family is swirling around me now.

Nov 30

In the Air

I guess that one hour and forty-five minutes isn’t so late in the grand scheme of things, but it’s hard looking down at my watch and thinking if we were on time, we would be landing in 30 minutes.

 

I can’t believe they still have the same movies that they had when I flew over a month ago. I thought they changed them every month! I watched a couple, but then got bored, so I’ve switched on my laptop (hooray for in-seat power outlets) and caught up on my email.

 

I guess it would be a good idea, I supposed, to write something for the blog.

 

Don’t really have anything to write about.

 

I really have no idea what is in store for me for the next 60 days. Father’s memorial, sure, mother’s birthday, yes, Xmas and New Years, check. But no real idea of where I’m going to be or what I’m going to be doing. I brought along my TASCAM US-800 USB mixer and two microphones just in case I decide to record some songs or something. Forgot the AC cable for the US-800, though.

 

One thing is clear is that my father’s death changes everything and moves my life schedule ahead about 10 years… despite the fact that my career schedule is about five years behind where I’d like it to be. My remaining family needs me, and I am going to have to make more frequent and longer trips to Canada. This jaunt, thought, will be my longest one until at least next fall: if everything goes well, my spring and summer are spoken for (papoose on the way). But starting from 2014, I think I need to find a way to spend at least three months a year in Canada.

 

That’s actually a hard mental shift for me. My identity is wrapped up quite tightly in Yokohama. I also have a sense of pride about being part of my community there. My long-range plan has always included spending a portion of my time in Canada, but my prior visions had all related to my professional life: touring a show, maybe. Just going there seems weird.

 

So everything’s up in the air right now. YTG ensemble rehearsals have been suspended while I’m gone; the winter semester of classes don’t have a venue yet (except for the voice class); my Canadian family is seriously changed, and the pieces haven’t stopped falling yet… probably more stuff I can’t think of at the moment.

 

Hmm. Lights are going from blue to pink. Food service probably starting soon. Better put away the laptop and get ready.

Nov 24

The Family Strong-Man

I just spoke to my father for what will probably be the last time. My Father

 

He didn’t answer; there was just the sound of the respirator. Or something.

 

My mother held the phone to his ear and I held my phone to mine. I didn’t realize at first that he couldn’t talk back.

 

 

When my father was born, talking to a dying relative from 10,000+ miles away would have been an impossibility. Now it’s so simple.

 

 

 

But that didn’t make it any easier.

 

 

 

My family keeps vigil over him in a Toronto hospital. I drink hot cocoa and have three empty cookie wrappers on my desk. I will soon go to sleep.

 

Will they wake me when he dies? I don’t sleep yet. I don’t cry. I don’t do the heavy-lifting of being there.

 

But I am now the family strong-man.

Nov 11

The Big “C” and the Big “D”

My parents have recently announced it to friends and family, and some of my own friends will know already the purpose behind my trip to Canada last month.

 

My father had been diagnosed with cancer.LINEcamera_share_2012-11-11-22-00-43

 

When I went to Canada in October, it was clear that his condition was serious, but it was still unclear how serious. The doctors were taking (what appeared to us, anyway) their own sweet time in figuring out what was wrong with him. Now they are quite clear about what’s wrong, and the prognosis is quite grim. Grim enough that I’ve dropped everything for the months of December and January and, thanks to the generosity of my Japanese family, am heading back to Toronto. (All with the knowledge that I may have to push that trip up even earlier if things take a turn for the worse, of course.)

 

I’ll be spending my first winter holiday season in Canada since 2004, and I’m not too happy about the circumstances.

 

I’m actually hesitating to book the tickets, and I can’t even put my finger on why. Is something telling me I’m going to have to go sooner? I’ve budgeted for that, so what is stopping me from pulling the trigger on that booking?

 

We went to get my father’s watch fixed today. He bought it here a couple of years ago and it’s never worked properly outside of Japan. This year, it stopped running together (we hadn’t realized that it was a solar watch—nothing in the 100% Japanese instructions made that clear, I guess), and so he asked me to bring it back with me to get it repaired. Apparently, the shop in Canada was reluctant to work on it.

 

K and I took it in to the watch counter at Yodobashi Camera today, and they told us the repairs would be 12,500円—almost half the cost of the watch new! The guy at the shop recommended that we give it one more chance to recharge and leave it in the sun for a few days. After some quick research online, I found a blog that suggested leaving under a fluorescent lamp would be the most effective way to try to jumpstart it—with results in 12-24 hours rather than a week sitting in the sun filtered through glass. If it doesn’t charge, I’ll take it back again on Tuesday and bite the bullet. I don’t want to wait too long, because they said the repairs could take 3-4 weeks, and four weeks is all I have before I fly to Toronto again.

 

If you are, by chance, expecting some piecing insight into cancer, or into having a family member on borrowed time, you’re not going to get it here. I just wrote about a watch, for fuck’s sake.

 

I regret nothing, but I can no longer live my life at such a distance from the people I care about. I don’t mean physically: I’ve made Yokohama my home. But I’m going to need to reorganize my life so that I can play a more active role in the life of my Canadian family. I thought I had time, but I don’t.

 

So the closest thing to a useful thought comes through my head when I look over and see the button I made on tour in 2010 with my acting motto on it:

 

2012-11-11 22.21.45

Mar 08

My Take on Kony 2012 So Far

Okay, the big controversy today has been caused by Invisible Children’s Kony2012 campaign. To stop me from having to recap, here is the film they released: http://vimeo.com/37119711

 

And, trending this morning, here’s an article, reposted by Neil Gaiman on his tumblr feed, by Grant Oyston: http://neil-gaiman.tumblr.com/post/18900935579/i-think-this-is-what-im-most-comfortable-posting-on

 

Below is my response (originally written on a friend’s repost of Gaiman’s repost on Facebook):

 

I don’t know enough to endorse Invisible Children, but the critical point is that the professor giving the 31% figure is doing so because he doesn’t include film-making as programming. However, Invisible Children’s strength is that they are raising awareness about Kony, so to deny the film-making as programming is, I think, a bit off.

 

Not every charity is Charity:Water or the United Way or The Red Cross. Whether you agree with the Kony2012 campaign or not, it’s only by massive awareness that it will work, far beyond the level of awareness needed by those other organizations that I mentioned.

 

Staff salaries and transportation are also a big chunk, but keep these two points in mind: 1) the group’s activities are centered around Africa, which is far away, and 2) 8.7 million dollars is not a huge budget for an American charity doing international awareness work.

 

The professor who Gaiman reposts here seems to disagree that film-making and slacktivism can be effective drivers of change, but then seems to say the opposite by discouraging people that military intervention is a good idea, as if KONY2012 can be successful.

 

As I say, I haven’t done enough research yet to know whether direct military intervention is needed, but the fact that Kony has been able to do what he does for more than two decades offends my sense of justice. I’m not thrilled about the Ugandan military’s record either, but sometimes our decisions are between "bad" and "the worst", and the real question is: will waiting for the best solution allow the worst to continue while we waffle?

 

And one final thing: I wonder about the professor’s motives. I clicked the link to Charity Navigator in the article, and the rating of Invisible Children is actually 3 out of four stars.

 

Since then, I’ve found this article in the Independent, which I think is more balanced and has less of an axe to grind: http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012/03/07/stop-kony-yes-but-dont-stop-asking-questions/

 

JusticeInConflict also offers an opinion: http://justiceinconflict.org/2012/03/07/taking-kony-2012-down-a-notch/ One of the main points of this article is that Kony is already famous enough. I think the writer is living in a bubble. Ask someone on the street today who Kony is, or even who the Lord’s Resistance Army is, and chances are they will have no idea. The goal. it seems to me, is to make Kony as famous as Osama bin Laden.

 

And finally, I think the best writing about Kony2012 is here: http://securingrights.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/lets-talk-about-kony/

 

I really like the idea of Kony2012 mobilizing people to do something about the issue, and it’s not professor Oyston’s rather dubious criticism that deters me, but the idea that Invisible Children, in order to make the issue, shall we say “actionable”, have perhaps removed the nuance from it.

 

If you’re learned nothing else from reading my blog, you have learned that I like facts, and I don’t like when facts are obfuscated for a storytelling goal (see http://jpquake.info). It would be one thing if the video contained a link to more information on the issue and actually discussed the nuance, but it doesn’t. The website simply lets you sign their petition or buy merchandise/donate. Despite the fact that I want to get involved and strongly feel that Kony needs to be stopped (and I don’t mean that as a euphemism, I mean captured or killed, preferably the former so he can be brought to justice in front of the world), I would call on Invisible Children to make public their analysis so that people can actually know what exactly they are supporting.

 

Invisible Children: you’ve almost got me. Give me more info and I may be able to move from the role of cautious friend to an endorser.

Feb 08

Post Showcase Discussion

Last night’s rehearsal, our first since the showcase, was disappointing in some ways, and great in others. Disappointing because most of us weren’t there. Great, because Takahiko, Mayu, and I had a really great follow-up conversation about what we discussed with the audience on Saturday after the show.

 

I learned more about Takahiko in that 90 minutes than I had in the last six months of working together. I found out that he’d seen Seven Streams of the River Ota (my favourite show ever) when it was in Japan, and that he also like the same Kurosawa films that I’m in love with (Ikiru and Jigoku to Tengoku in particular).

 

The YT Ensemble performs a musical number being tested for the "Wall of Shame" show.

Mostly, though, as I said, we reviewed the 30-minute discussion we had with the audience after our showcase this past Saturday. During that discussion, I asked  the audience what they thought about two scenes in particular.

 

Both scenes were based on Rosie DiManno’s Toronto Star article entitled No Escape Valve for So Much Grief.

 

The first scene, which we called No Escape Valve, consisted of an underplayed scene playing out the events of the scene described by DiManno prior to her self-insertion into the narrative. A cub reporter for a Japanese radio station, assigned to her first story, speaks self-consciously into her IC recorder, setting up the time and place of the scene: March 19th, 2011, outside a sports stadium in Miyagi-ken. The stadium is serving as a holding facility for recovered bodies. The other characters in the scene include a woman who is looking for a relative, a stadium employee working as a guide to those coming for the first time, and the family described by DiManno’s article.

 

The rest of the scene is played out almost sub-vocally, with overlapping dialogue. We’re very conscious of not wanting to put big speeches in the mouths of victims, so the speech is improvised and not at normal performance level. As the scene begins, a man (that was me) sits at a desk, reading to himself.

 

About halfway through, as the scene in Miyagi continues to play out, the man at the desk tells the audience that he’s reading the article by DiManno and starts to read excerpts aloud to them. Initially, he distances himself from the article, but in the last few lines, he throws on a scarf and becomes the writer herself, gradually moving to a histrionic falsetto that matches the tone and character of the article. His loud voice easily overpowers the scene, and as he reads the last few lines, the other actors become aware of him and turn to look at him, puzzlement playing over their features.

 

The second scene consisted of me dressed in a headscarf and african-style wrap skirt to complete the out-of-touch hippie look, playing guitar and singing a song entitled I Will Make the Japanese Cry while various Japanese stereotypes unenthusiastically performed a broadway-style dance number behind me.

 

What I wanted to know from the audience was what their feelings were about us covering this topic. Not so much the bad journalism aspect (I think we’re all agreed on that), but about actually representing tsunami victims in the scene itself, as we did in the No Escape Valve scene.

 

Interestingly, the opinion was divided, with Japanese members of the audience feeling uncomfortable with the scene, and expats not being put off by it. There was a little more nuance to the conversation than that, but that was the general gist. On the other hand, no one was offended by the musical number (unless they were simply offended by my terrible singing and simply refrained from telling me so).

 

Since we didn’t have anyone in the audience who was actually from the affected areas in Tohoku, we were getting feedback by people who had friends or relatives there. The way people worded their concerns about the scene was interesting and mirrored what I’ve heard from others when I’ve asked them about it and what Mayu said when we first started rehearsing No Escape Valve. To wit: “we’re worried that people from the Tohoku region will be offended by this.”

 

While I sympathize with the feeling, I wonder if it’s worth worrying about. We plan to approach the scenes like this carefully, as we did with this one. The applicable section of No Escape Valve was done in what one audience member called a “documentary” style. If it’s okay to go up to Tohoku and point cameras at things and people, then my feeling is that we’re okay recreating a similar effect on stage. As I wrote earlier, we don’t plan to put any big long speeches into the mouths of tsunami victim characters or try make their lives into entertainment. (That’s not what the Wall of Shame show is about, anyway.) However, to explore the topic seriously and honestly, we certainly can’t shy away from scenes like this.

 

We still have more discussion to do within the whole group itself before we resolve this, but I wanted to post my feelings on this while they’re still fresh.

Oct 25

Facebook and My Blog

I thought I’d write a short entry on the subject of my blog’s integration with Facebook, since I’ve had some queries and complaints.

 

Facebook’s RSS feed integration is incredibly broken.  It was always crap, but there were ways for me to jog it, making my blog entries show up as notes.  Unfortunately, I can no longer to that, and RSS is hit-and-miss.  I’ve searched for other ways to automatically integrate my blog posts with Facebook, and it seems the only way to do it (that I could find—I’m open to suggestions) is to use the plug-in called Word Book, which requires me to create a custom Facebook App.  For some reason this app asks you for access to everything when you try to read a full post.  Part of the reason for this is because it allows your posted comments on Facebook to also appear on my blog site.

 

No one else has access to this App except me.  Word Book uses it as an entry point.  If the plugin is somehow abusing this, the hundreds of users using it have not discovered this.  The weird title is the name of my blog.  So you can ALLOW this APP without your account being hacked.  Okay?

Jun 10

Air Canada – B-

I’m writing this on the second leg of a flight to Toronto from Tokyo.  I am doing so because a) the seat has a power outlet for my tablet PC, and b) because the in-flight entertainment is not so great.

 

On the first leg of the journey, I took my usual watch-as-many-movies-as-possible approach, but found two hiccups in that plan:

  1. This month’s movie selections are not that great.  What I ended up watching: The Wolfman (C-), The Book of Eli (starts as a B+, drops to a D- in the last act), Percy Jackson & The Olympians (C), Dorian Grey (B), and the National Film Board’s Blackflies animated short (A+).
  2. The system is goddamn annoying!  When you start playing any item over 10 minutes long, the system forces you to sit through about seven minutes of ads.  It’s bad enough that you can’t fast forward them like you can on other airlines, but you also can’t adjust the volume.  Which means that if the volume is at max (mine was) before you watch your first movie, the adverts blast your ears.

Rest of the flight:

 

Food = tolerable.

Cabin crew = friendly and nice.  Points deducted for not asking the guy sitting next to me to turn off his PSP during takeoff and landing.  The crew on the second leg did this, but he pulled it out again right after takeoff, while we were still climbing.

 

Okay, I’m bored of this now.  I will watch another bad movie.

Jun 10

Calgary AEROPORT – Ho-Hum

Air Canada flight 10 landed about 20 minutes late at Calgary, and those of us continuing onto Toronto on AC10 disembarked, went through customs (no matter how friendly I try to be, I always piss the Canadian customs guys off—this time it was answering “I live there” when asked what I was doing in Japan), picked up our bags, went through the final customs line and then checked-in again.  The woman at the connecting flights check-in booth then told me where to go:

 

The gate was B23, but the security gate was A, due to construction.  Her directions: go out the door, turn right, go up the escalator.  I went out the door, was forced to turn left due to a partition, looked right, saw no escalator, saw all the ‘connecting flights’ signs pointing left, saw an escalator on the left, and got fucking confused.

 

There were no airport information staff, and the Calgary whitehat volunteers were nowhere to be seen (there were three of them right when we got off the plane—not sure why, because there’s only one way to go from there).  I followed a couple of women I recognized from my flight, and managed to find an escalator waaaaayyyyyy down to the right eventually, which led me to the correct security gate.  I’m shocked that the non-native speakers made it to the connecting flight, but they did somehow.

 

I got to the security gate, got through without setting off any alarms—I was told by the guy in the army surplus store in London, England that my boots were hard-toe but not steel-toe.  He was wrong, and I set off the metal detector at Narita.

 

One thing about this kind of half-assed direct flight is that my itinerary made no mention of the boarding or departure time from Calgary.  So until I got to the gate, I had no idea how long I had to, well, get to the gate.  In the end, it was a good thing I didn’t stop to use a vending machine or anything, because we boarded almost right away.

Jun 09

Toronto Bound

I am writing this on the airport bus.  I had about 5 hours of sleep last night, which is much more than I usually get the night before a flight.  Of course, today’s flight departs at 16:00, which gave me some wiggle room in the morning.

 

Not that I wasn’t tearing out the door at the last moment anyway.  Or would have been.

 

It was raining, and since I didn’t want to try to lug my bags down the three flights of stairs near my house in the pouring rain, I called a taxi.  I had been on time until I made this decision.  It took me 15 minutes to find a taxi number (I was looking on the internet while I should have been looking on the fridge) before I was able to call.

 

The  dispatch guy told me 7 minutes.  It took them almost 30 minutes.  When I called the cab company at 11:20, I had expected to be at the terminal by 12:50, on the bus by 12:05, and at the airport at 13:30, about 30 minutes later than my intended arrival.

 

I’ll be 15 minutes later than that, which doesn’t sound like much, but with Air Canada’s online check-in system rejecting me, I need to do a complete check-in.  And in my past experience, the Air Canada counter is always swarming with people by the two hour mark.  I didn’t end up having time to pack a lunch, so I also need to eat.

 

I would like to eat at the SUBWAY which is on the outside of the security area.  There aren’t really any good restaurants for invertebratarians like myself inside security, unless lunch is going to be a Starbucks frappuchino.  Given that I’m going to be eating Greek when I arrive in Toronto, that’s probably not the best plan.

 

I’m wearing as much natural fibre clothing as I can.  I’ve been watching a lot of Air Crash Investigations lately (probably not the best idea before an intercontinental flight), and I’ve decided that I don’t want my clothing to melt into my skin in the event of a fire.  So, my disintegrating O’Neils that I picked up years ago in Bangalore (cotton), and my new cotton cowboy shirt.  My undershirt is a cotton/poly blend, because I have no natural fibre T-shirts.  I’m wearing my combat boots, because I can’t fit them in my bags.  Normally, that’s a problem because I take my boots off at security to avoid getting frisked when the alarm goes off, but these are real combat boots this time, so they are hard-toed, but not steel-toed.  Or so I’ve been told…

 

Anyway, while I’m already missing my wife, I am looking forward to being in Toronto again, no matter how briefly, and seeing some old friends.

May 06

House Hunting Blog on Facebook

I am currently attempting to have my blog automatically update to Facebook.  This post is kind of a test.

 

Also, I’m using this to announce that I’ve done my best to blog the experience of buying a house in Japan (far from finished yet).

 

For the (very) few of you who have actually been reading this from the beginning, my apologies for the interruption.

 

You can see older posts by visiting http://squeeze-box.ca .

Dec 21

Lights at Meguro

image

They’ve changed the stoplights at Meguro over the weekend. Now they’re the kind that count down.

Aug 08

Shitty Curry

Went to see an art show at Higure 17-15 cas near Nippori station.  Cool stuff.

 

After the show, one of the few restaurants that was still open with a set deal was this Indian place close to the station called ‘Darjeeling Palace’.

08082009004

The atmosphere is great.  It’s obviously been decorated with 100% authentic furniture probably shipped at great expense from India.  There’s a huge-screen TV at the front playing songs from Indian movies, and, unusually, the sound heard in the restaurant is actually coming from what we’re seeing on the screen.

 

And that’s where the fun stops.

 

Our water was brought in beautiful metal cups… that tasted like you were drinking out of an eaves trough.

 

Both Kumiko and I ordered the Shrimp curry set with lassi.

 

The lassi was the best part of it, and even that wasn’t anything to write home about, so I won’t.

 

The naan was also edible, but consisted of a smaller portion than we’re used to seeing in Japan.  Tastewise, not terrible, just not special.

 

The worst curry I’ve had in Japan tasted like dirty dishwater.  The curry at Darjeeling Palace was not the worst curry I’ve ever had: it only tasted like clean dishwater.  The shrimp in it were overcooked and lacked the texture that characterises that shellfish.  Which is weird, because since I moved to Japan and started eating shrimp again, I have never tasted anything like that.  Of course, taste is the wrong word, as they were utterly taste-less.

 

The curry itself could best be described as yellow.  It had a taste reminiscent of a sink full of hot water, half a stick of butter, and a squeeze of lemon.  It wasn’t bad as a dipping sauce of the anaemic naan bread, but on its own it was simply blech.

 

All in all, a disappointing lunch to an otherwise lovely afternoon looking at art and tooling around Nippori.

Aug 07

Okay, Once More

Because this goes so well with the other video I posted… because this one is similar, except the humour is unintentional:

Jul 02

I Promise I Won’t Make This A Habit

…but if you don’t watch this, you are missing out.

Jun 25

Another Umbrella

I just lost another umbrella. This time, it was the unusually large clear plastic one that I bought the other night when I had to walk from a distant station due to having missed my last train. It was raining,and Kumiko SMSed me saying I should take a cab… but I decided that an umbrella would be cheaper than a taxi.

Good clear plastic umbrellas are hard to find.

I was at the Ward office this AM, updating my Alien Registration Card to reflect my new Permanent Resident status,and I guess I got so excited to finally be a fully documented Permanent Resident that I just left the damn umbrella behind.

Oh well, it was still cheaper than a taxi.

Posted by Wordmobi

Older posts «

» Newer posts