more japan

Today I became a reverse stereotype. Instead of Japanese tourists taking pictures of uninteresting things in America — a street sign, say — there I was this morning, standing at Tokyo Station, taking a photo of a train. (Like I’d never seen a train before.)
Anyway, that bullet train took us past Mt. Fuji and to Osaka, where we toured Sharp Corporation’s research and development facility. Learned more than I ever wanted to know about LCD manufacture. Also learned that Sharp was founded by the inventor of the mechanical pencil. (Hence the name.) Also learned from a company display that “The dream of a wall-mounted TV is now a reality.” I hadn’t realized that was one of the dreams, alongside a lasting global peace, that united all mankind. (In case you can’t tell, I’m actually [more than] a little cranky. For no good reason, really, other than irregular sleep.)
By the way, I think my Halloween costume — a traveling journalist tired of figuring out bizarre Japanese keyboards — turned out swimmingly.

japan day 2

On the front page of today’s Daily Yomiuri newspaper is a photo of a fan holding up a sign at Game 2 of the World Series, which Arizona pitcher Randy Johnson dominated over the Yankees: “It’ll take more than nine Yanks to beat our Johnson.” Apparently, the photo editors of Japan aren’t as keyed in to sexual double entendres as their American counterparts.
More meetings with important people today, one of whom I immediately fell in love with: Sakurako Tsuchiya, who is perhaps the only woman in Japan to own a sake brewing company, traditionally a very male dominated field. (Woman are not actually allowed to enter the brewing area of most breweries; they’re considered a “distraction.”) Anyway, she’s wonderfully headstrong, seems to be an excellent businesswoman — and cute and single! I’ve only got another week or so in this country, so I leave it to the men of Japan to find someone worthy of her…
It’s been interesting to meet with these VIPs; they all speak through interpreters, but you still find yourself nodding and smiling and gesturing in response to the things they say, even though you don’t have any idea what they’re saying. Don’t they say that communication is 90% nonverbal? This week has been proof.


Hitting the wall…jetlag kicking in…feeling sleepy…lengthy dinner party awaits…must not fall asleep during appetizers…

japan arrival

Some very quick thoughts before the 30 minutes of Internet access I’m paying for runs out:
– Business class was all I’d hoped it to be, although I still couldn’t sleep on the plane. (I’m a finicky sleeper, and no matter how many degrees of incline you get, sleeping on your side is still uncomfortable.) The only problem: too much food. I think I ate 9 meals in a 36-hour period. (Mmmm…Dove bars.)
– There is no less flattering light than the light in an airplane’s bathroom. I looked like an extra from some never-before-aired Star Trek episode. (More so than usual.)
– Watched “Vertigo” on the plane and was strangely disappointed. I like Hitchcock, and I’d always heard “Vertigo” held up as one of his peaks. But it seemed a bit too hamfisted, Kim Novak was awful, and even the Bernard Herrmann soundtrack was only so-so. It did help me better understand the Harvey Danger song “Carlotta Valdez,” however. (P.S. A.J. Hammer, ex-VJ on VH1, now has the job of introducing movies on Northwest flights. Not sure if that’s a promotion or not.)
– Good music to listen to on a 12-hour plane ride: Roni Size/Reprazent, New Forms; A Tribe Callled Quest, Anthology, Dismemberment Plan, Change. Not as good for plane rides, although still a great album: Tindersticks, Tindersticks (too whispery for all the plane noise).
– People who keep opening a window shade during the sleep portion of a lengthy plane ride should be immediately thrown off the flight. Hint: it still looks like a bunch of clouds out there. You don’t have to look to confirm it.
– Naturally, my laptop broke the first time I tried to use it. Gotta love toting around 15 pounds of dead weight for the next 12 days.
– Japan seems…well, I haven’t seen enough of it to say yet. I’ll get back to you on that.

saints beat rams

Reason #3,672,102 why I love my grandmother: She just called me in Japan to tell me the Saints beat the Rams. We have a tradition every week after the game: I call her and explain what happened. (She has a vague idea when something good or bad happens, based on how the crowd reacts, but beyond that, she’s a bit fuzzy.) But this week, she knew enough to know that beating a 6-0 team on the road is a big deal.

mpls airport

Service truly is Job #1 at! Here I am, enjoying the ambiance of Minneapolis/St. Paul, and I still find time to post for my beloved readers. Since being in an airport invariably means being surrounded by copies of USA Today, I’ve decided to write this entry in the dot-dot-dot style of Larry King’s late, lamented column for that fine McPaper.
John Stamos is on the cover of Biography Magazine. Alert my good friend Jerry Falwell, because the end times are a-comin’…First-class airline tickets are overrated. When I ask for a pillow, damn it, I want a pillow, not some namby-pamby excuse about being all out. This is first-class, baby! Shouldn’t they have a seamstress on duty, ready to make a new pillow from the stewardesses’ locks of hair if necessary?…If there are a better people than the Hmong minority of the Upper Midwest, friend, I haven’t met them…Jonathan Winters is such a talent — and you wouldn’t believe the work that man does for charity, unnoticed…Minneapolis and St. Paul have to rank up there with the great Twin Cities of all time. But for my money, the Schenectady-Albany-Troy tri-cities area is still the tops, baby…Surprising news: it’s cold in Minnesota in late October!…Marlon Brando is a surprisingly good kisser…

new top photo

(And for those of you who haven’t yet seen me in person, Mr. Stock Photo above is not me. The short sleeves with tie look — also known as The Burger King Assistant Manager — has never been my thing.)

ready to leave

Thanks to increased security, I leave for the airport in less than two hours: 4:40 a.m., to be precise. I finished packing a few minutes ago, only to realize that I forgot to pack any socks. (Socks aren’t essential, per se, but they’re a valued part of my wardrobe.) So now it’s time for the traditional pre-trip panic of what-did-I-forget. As long as I’ve got my passport and my tickets, I suppose I’m okay.
I’m staying up all night, primarily because I’ve had lots of last-minute things to do, secondarily because I hope it’ll get my body clock on Japan time. The downside: I might be asleep when one or more of the famous first-class/business-class perks comes rolling down the aisle. “Godiva chocolates, sir?” “Would you like your left or right foot massaged first?” “To whom should I make the check out to, sir?” Wouldn’t want to miss any of those. Hopefully, I’ll be bloggin’ atcha again in 24 hours or so.

bert conspiracy and tupac

Two quick links before I get back to work. I don’t know how I missed this guy’s Bert-as-Osama’s-signal-to-start-the-anthrax-assault conspiracy theory. It’s, as they say on ESPN, an instant classic: one of his major pieces of evidence is that the man in this drawing “appears to be dressed in the manner of an airline pilot with his coat off. The man’s hair is trimmed in the manner of an airline pilot.” Hmmm.
Finally, a good pro-rap, anti-Tupac piece in the New Republic this week. (And if you’re looking to kill a few hours, try the New Yorker’s collection of all its 9/11 and terrorism-related coverage. Some excellent stuff in there.)