Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hip Hop is dead!

...because I'm a teenager, with a little gold...
I'm sure that all of my readers knew this already, but hip-hop as any form of counter-society movement/music is very dead...
I used to be a punk in spirit and from high school a fan of industrial music (we used to call it "synthare" = EBM-head) but what I carried with me from the punk days is an enthusiasm for anything that comes from the cracks in the side-walk and out of the ordinary.
Going back in time, this means that even though I never really got the point of hip-hop I really liked the message that NWA and Public Enemy were sending when they got political (which wasn't enough if you ask me...). 
As I liked, and still like, aggressive music, I always felt that it would be great to have the hip-hop revolutionary guys take one step further from the mainstream and just launch into the counter-culture, but instead they became the mainstream... This is not as much of a point as it is a reflection as there are few songs that I love as much as "Straight outta Compton", just that the revolution got kinda lost... In any case, the whole point of this post is that we recently had the whole senior management over here in Japan and they made a big deal out of it with fancy videos and stuff...

The thing was that in one of the videos presenting the senior management they had the whole hip-hop thing going, with scratching and everything, while presenting a couple of middle-aged white dudes... At that precise moment I felt that hip-hop, as any form of social commentary was dead...  When a few middle-aged white dudes at an american medical device company thinks it's "cool" to have a soundtrack of hip-hop beats and scratching, that means that the whole thing is dead...    

Saturday, January 28, 2012

It's cold and miserable here!

Wouldn't make a difference here...
First off, apologies for the lack of posting recently, work, Toddler Sunshine and the cold here in Japan at the moment makes it hard to find time to do any amusing or insightful posts. 

As I mention this every year, I thought I should follow through with my tradition and complain about the cold this year again. Ok, Tokyo is not that extremely cold compared to northern Europe or northern north america but it's the lack of central heating and proper insulation that makes it feel a lot worse here... Although the Salaryman base of operations is a new house and built a lot smarter to keep some of the heat inside, it still is pretty cold inside and now after the whole Fukushima ordeal electricity is not something that you want to use too much of (both for financial and general power saving reasons) making it hard to protect oneself from the cold apart from putting on another layer...

Unfortunately we do not have any temporary escape plan this year either, before babies and stuff, this would be the perfect time to take a quick vacation to a considerable warmer country in south-east asia and get to hate on the heat again before coming back to the giant fridge that is Japan. So we just have to gut through another month or so of cold before spring...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

It's completely Loco!

I wonder if anyone told him that backpacks are for dorks?
There's a select few of the bloggers from Japan that I feel some form of closeness to. As I personally don't actively go out hunt for Japan blogs much it usually takes a little time for that odd virtual "relationship" to form. The closeness does not necessarily form due to content, writing style or stuff like that, probably more out of the approach to blogging. I've never actively set out to get in any kind of blogging community or participated in Japan related message boards so it's more organic than anything.

Then there's also these bloggers that I know of and respect without feeling particularly close to in a blogging sense. One of those is Loco in Yokohama that's run by Baye "Loco" McNeil. As far as I know, he's probably been around as long as this little blog, I've been aware of the blog for a while and while not following it extremely diligently, it's still been a blog that I've enjoyed at times and always respected. But I've never really felt particularly "close" to it and there's one big difference; Loco almost always felt like a pro. He's a Writer that writes a blog because he's a Writer. Thematically and in his posts, he always felt like a pro following a path that he's set out for himself as a writer, not like me who don't particularly care about grammatical errors or plan very much about what I'm writing about a given day. So not "feeling particularly close" to my blog is not really a bad thing in that sense.

So to my not so big surprise, Loco has self-published his first book "Hi my name is Loco". It doesn't feel like a surprise but more like a logical consequence for him moving from a blog to publishing a book. Don't let the cartoony cover fool you though, it's not a collection of amusing anecdotes about living in Japan, from what I've gathered it confronts the theme of racism in Japan head on in parts. But you can click the link above yourself to check it out, read some excerpts and check out his blog to get a feeling for what the book is about.

To be completely honest, I don't really think that much of racism in Japan as I've been exposed to more mean-spirited racism living in Sweden than in Japan as a half-Japanese-Swedish guy with looks leaning towards Asian. But Loco, as a black guy from New York, coming to Japan without much knowledge of what to expect (at least that's what I've gathered) gets exposed to a lot of it from expected and unexpected corners.

I bought the book when I saw it was out and it's currently stored in the Kindle app on my iPad and am looking forward to reading it as soon as I finish up what already is queued up. I'm also quite convinced that it's ten bucks well spent as his blog kinda vouches for the quality (hey, if you check out his blog and hate the writing, then maybe this book ain't for you but then you can get on with your life without feeling like you wasted money). I might post a "review" with my thoughts on it when I've finished up with it as well.

If the above got your interest even a little, you can do yourself a favor and check out the blog and book site and see if it catches your interest., maybe it's time for me to dust off those thoughts about publishing that collection of essays and thoughts on Manpanzees that's been cooking in my head for a few years...      

Monday, January 16, 2012

Neighbourhood Vigilante

Does anyone remember "Vigilante"?
The area where the Salaryman HQ was established is a very safe area. Compared to other cities of similar size, Tokyo is a relatively safe place (but like anywhere, if you're set on looking for trouble I'm sure you'll find it) and our place in the suburbs of Tokyo is even safer. The community of houses are all new with very little around it and there's no traffic just passing through so any suspicious looking vehicles or people hanging around are sure to be noticed.

We had that one burglary in conjunction with the earthquake when all the predators and bottom feeder came out to play, but after that basically everyone signed up for private security companies (which I grudgingly agreed to as I didn't want to end up as the only unprotected house, ripe for the taking). Also, a lot of the women in the neighbourhood are housewives with small kids, so the area is quite lively on weekdays as well. The only time that I could image burglars striking would be the New Year's vacation when many houses stand empty as people leave Tokyo to be with their relatives, but that's only once a year and no burglaries were reported this time.

Despite this, our neighbourhood "council" decided to make the area even safer and initiate our own little neighbourhood vigilante squad to take turns patrolling the area. As exited I'm about joining a vigilante squad (Note to self; I need to make sure I arm myself with some menacing toy before patrolling) it feels like a completely meaningless and annoying endeavour to begin with, and the other day the chairman came around to check that the Salaryman family were up to do their part for the team. As I try to keep friendly with the neighbourhood I kept the Salaryman family's thoughts about this to myself and nodded and agreed that we'll do our part with pride. 

But as he told me the details of our duty I had trouble to not burst out laughing at the stupidity and futility of it all... Apparently, to not make thing inconvenient and make sure that everyone can participate, the "patrol" hours were set to once a day at noon, consisting of walking the maybe 50 meters of roads connecting our community to the main road and see if there's anything " suspicious" going on. Then followed by one "late" night shift once a week, but put at 5 pm to not make it too inconvenient and dark to see properly. Also, it will be cancelled on holidays as many people are away and can't be expected to perform their patrolling duties.

I wonder if any prospective burglars will show the same consideration when planning the next big heist of maybe a wide screen TV, blue ray players and some minor jewelry that a break in in our area can yield them? Will they consider that we're too convenient to not patrol during the actual hours when the burglars are roaming about?

But hey, I'll keep the peace, take toddler Sunshine with me out to patrol and spend 5 minutes walking around, tick off "nothing suspicious" one Sunday a year, but somehow do not feel one bit more secure than before the vigilante squad... If I'm going to do something completely meaningless, at least it's nicer to do it at convenient times.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Evil terrorist Swedes!

These ones are particularly Evil...
For the first time in ages (at the minimum a little over a year) me and Mrs. Sunshine managed to get a little time to ourselves to go see a movie while the in-laws watched over Toddler Sunshine. The movie we chose to go and see was "Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol" since it seemed like the best option available and a reasonably sure bet for both of us.

As expected, the movie was entertaining (the story didn't make much sense, but it was more about action scenes and exotic locations than anything else) and I almost forgot that 'ol Tom Cruise is a Scientologist most of the time. But the greatest thing about the movie was that for the first time in Hollywood history, the main villain was a Swede! I find it most puzzling that no movie until now has thought to make the main terrorist villain a middle-aged, white and slightly overweight Swedish physics professor? When you think about it, they must be the most hateful and evil people on the planet, perfectly cut out to be a believable and realistic terrorist villain as us Swedes are so well known and feared for our aggressiveness and fanaticism.

It's also a good balance to the image of all Swedes as pervert closet Nazis that the "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" David Fincher movie probably will create.    

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Day that Customer Service Died

This year we could have a quite peaceful New Year celebration, staying at home in the Salaryman HQ as Mother came to visit, it passed by with little fuss and we could avoid the worst trappings of a traditional Japanese New Year's celebration (e.g. huddling around freezing, horrible traditional "osechi" food" etc.). Although Mother is technically Japanese, she's lived in Sweden now for over 40 years and basically forgotten all the traditional Japanese stuff and has no particular craving for it either.

On the 2nd of January, things are starting to revert back to normal and nowadays most of the big sales start already from the 1st making Tokyo seem a little less of a ghost town. On the 2nd I ventured out to our local mall/department store to just check out the sale and scout a little for an additional TV that we are thinking of getting. Although everything was basically open for business the crowds that regularly haunt the mall on a weekend were nowhere to be seen and the place felt quite deserted. As I went in to the local electronic goods shop to possibly scout for a bargain TV, first checking out what was on display and waiting for one of the usually so aggressive sales reps to put his claws in me. As I was looking around, very much looking like a potential customer for a few minutes, no sales rep came around (usually they are very aggressive as they usually get incentive based on their sales, and TVs are probably one of the more attractive areas for them). Looking towards the service counter I could see three of them hanging around looking bored and tired.

As I realised that no one would come around to discuss my potential purchase, I went over to the service counter and said to one of the guys "Hey, I'm thinking of buying a TV and was hoping to get a little help?". The sales rep looked like I had put a huge burden on him, let out a big sigh and followed me over to the TV section. I pointed out one of the TVs that I had been considering and said "I'm thinking of this TV, is it available?" and without almost no delay I got back a "Nope, that one is not in stock and it'll take a while before we get in new ones" (followed by silence). In a normal case, what I would have expected here is a follow up with alternate suggestions or some kind of pitch, but the rep seemed satisfied with his response and went back to looking bored. So I followed up with a "Ok, but how about these versions that are around the same price, are those in stock?". Again met with a big sigh and a "Fine, I'll go check" as he noted down something in his notebook that probably was meant to be the product codes but looked just like doodles to me. After a few minutes he came back "Nope, those are also sold out, dunno when we'll get them back in stock". With that I gave up and left the store, as TV-less as I had been when I went in there.

On the way out, I stopped by the Subway sandwich shop to get some lunch for the Salaryman family. I've shopped there countless of times before and service is usually flawless, fast and never with any mix-ups. However this day the two girls working the counter seemed completely depressed and for the second time I was met with a huge sigh as I placed my order. The standard politeness was completely gone and replaced with complete and utter indifference. 

But in the end, I completely sympathise with these poor souls that have to work on the 2nd of January serving the few people that actually venture out when the rest of the country are chilling out at home. We went out today again and things seemed to have reverted more back to normal, but the 2nd of January seem to be the twilight zone of Japanese customer service when they can't be bothered to keep up pretences.

I'm no big fan of Japanese popular music, neither the mainstream music nor the alternative scene (I hate visual-K with a vengeance) but I must admit that the hit song "Laser Beam" by commercial electronic pop girl-group Perfume has burrowed itself down in my brain.  
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