Monday, December 31, 2007

love the sinner

in the context of the 2008 presidential contest, andrew sullivan once again discusses constitutional amendments, same-sex relationships, and religion in a way very few others can. i may not be a fan of his hillary-bashing, but on this subject, no one is better.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

"...since the dawn of time."

last november i posted this about a new amendment to the wisconsin state constitution, banning gay marriage (59% of voters supported the amendment, compared with 41% against it.) i was surprised to find that it's author, rep. mark gundrum, attended catholic memorial high school, a place i'd worked off and on for nine years, way back when. not sure if i ever ran into mark when he was in school. but i'm certainly still close with many of his classmates.

rep. gundrum believes that marriage is and should only be between a man and woman. "that's what it always has been since the dawn of time."

anyway. here's another wisconsinite, uw-oshkosh professor bill mcmonkey, standing up and saying "hold on". (something he's done before -- bill's got a bit of a history of political activism.)

i'm happy there's at least someone who isn't standing idly by.

UPDATE / 11:15 pm -- another wisconsinite who is standing up. one of my political heroes, actually.

UPDATE / 12.31.07 -- as long as we're (i'm) on the subject: when promoting his amendment, rep. gundrum used a recent new jersey state supreme court ruling to help justify (scare?) the folks in wisconsin into voting for it --

"today, the new jersey supreme court handed down a ruling that changes the definition of marriage and orders the state of new jersey to begin marrying same-sex couples. once again, an activist court has imposed its own liberal agenda on citizens who get no say in the matter."

problem is, gundrum's statement was patently false. that's not what the new jersey supreme court did. in fact, even conservative groups in new jersey realized that, and began pushing for civil unions as opposed to gay marriage. from the associated press, nov. 28:

TRENTON, N.J. - conservative groups in new jersey are pushing a proposal that would grant the rights of marriage - but not the title - to gays, siblings and others involved in domestic partnerships. the plan comes in reaction to a landmark supreme court ruling last month that said gay couples in new jersey should have access to the same rights and benefits as married couples. whether to call those rights marriages, civil unions or something else was left up to lawmakers.

in december 2006 the new jersey state legislature passed a bill providing for civil unions, it was signed into law by governor jon corzine, and the "civil union act" came into effect on february 19, 2007.

UPDATE / 12:47 am -- okay, plenty of others stood up in wisconsin.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

snippets pt. 1

part of a conversation i just overheard, between an employee at gnc and a customer:

gnc: where were you?
customer: atlanta. for a week.
gnc: wow.
customer: i know. and i couldn't wait to get back to new york.
gnc: really?
customer: ohmygod yes. i mean, they're's just different there.
gnc: different?
customer: yes. i mean, i couldn't wait, you know, to get back to new york and the dirt and the trash on the streets, and the people here. just rude, you know? i love it. i love new york.
gnc: uh-huh.
customer: people in atlanta, they look at you. and i'm like "stop lookin' at me!"
gnc: they look at you?
customer: yeah. they, like, look at you and say hello and shit. i couldn't wait to get back to new york.

Friday, December 28, 2007

dear jeff

my friend jeff has his own blog too. it's really great.

there's about fifty times more stuff on his blog than there is on mine. widgets and gadgets and...stuff. some irish music that drives me batty. and lots of pictures of brett favre (jeff is a little obsessed with brett favre - something i totally understand.)

i sent him an email tonight, 'cause i miss him. jeff. and after writing it, i thought, "hey, why don't i post this email to my own blog?" and since i have nothing else to say right now, i'm going to. here it is:.

hey dude.

i've been thinking about you a lot lately. hope you're well.

your blog is so jam packed with stuff...i can't read it all. i love your obsession with favre though. gotta say, you know i'm not the biggest sports nut in the world, but he's a pretty hot guy. i mean hot in a gay way, too.

AND he's a pretty great guy. and pretty. man, he got some pretty lips. he got a pretty mouth, too.

I MEAN he's really inspiring. and i'm really proud. truthfully now. how seldom is it that a super-athlete like him comes along, who is not only, well...a super-athlete...but also a super human being. not super human like he can melt steel just by looking at it. but super, like...great.

he's a super, great, pretty guy, that brett favre.

and fuck those bears.

now, if i had some balls, i'd copy this email and post it to my blog.

come visit soon.
and happy new year friend.


by george! pete who?

not terribly surprising, these results (from our first official online poll.) interesting that both george and ringo are at 11%. also interesting (to me, anyway) that no seemed to know who pete best and george martin are. (george martin is widely considered to be the "fifth beatle". and pete best actually was a beatle...albeit for a short time.)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

men singing together

one last holiday post...

telling reactions

pakistani opposition leader benazir bhutto was assassinated near pakistan's capital, islamabad, this morning.

within moments, rudy guiliani had released an official reaction. soon after, the other presidential candidates, republican and democratic, began issuing their own statements.

read them here, and as you do...try to find one (maybe two?) that doesn't tell you to be scared. try to find one (maybe two?) that offers heartfelt condolences. try to find one (maybe two?) that doesn't tell you how this woman's death will affect "america".

then read this political blog's headline and tell me about the sad state of politics in this country.

UPDATE / 11:41 am -- the above mentioned political blog - chris cillizza's the fix - has since changed that headline. earlier this morning it read: "could bhutto's death help giuliani?"

UPDATE / 12:17 pm -- and then there's this video from msnbc's joe scarborough (via josh marshall's talking points memo.)

UPDATE / 2:19 pm -- the reactions continue. this from andrew sullivan (the discussion, he admits, seems absurd to him. but he still jumps in.) at least he first posted this quote (and this video.)

"if it means sacrificing our lives, if it means sacrificing our liberties to save pakistan, then we are prepared to risk our lives and we are prepared to risk our liberties, but we are not prepared to surrender our great nation to the militants." - benazir bhutto.

UPDATE / 9:12 pm -- don't miss this wonderful (and frightening) play by play from fellow wisconsinite ann althouse.

UPDATE / 12.30.07 -- the washington post rates the candidates responses to bhutto's death:

"one candidate, democrat john edwards, passed with flying colors. another, republican mike huckabee, flunked abysmally. democrat hillary clinton and republican john mccain were serious and substantive; republicans mitt romney and rudy giuliani were thin. and barack obama -- the democratic candidate who claims to represent a new, more elevated brand of politics -- committed an ugly foul."

Monday, December 24, 2007

for the dogs

my family does a christmas number.
p.s. yours can too...

bored christmas googling

pretty strange, this.

in a feeble attempt to find something...ummm...interesting to post for christmas, i googled my own name (don't tell me you haven't) along with the word "christmas".

literally the first image i found was this photo, from it's an irish shipping vessel called "the irish poplar", bound from geelong to dublin, christmas day 1958. the life ring the men are holding shows the name of the ship, and "waterford" -- where the ship was registered. waterford, wisconsin is my hometown. there are three apprentices aboard, shown kneeling in this photo. the one furthest to the left is tony "clem" clements.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

christmas with aunt barbara

with a list of special guests like this, aunt barbara's holiday special would be required viewing at my house. (more aunt barbara here and here.)

Friday, December 21, 2007


it's your patriotic duty to vote in our online poll.
(it's in the dark green sidebar over there to the right.)

don't take your time. don't consider the choices.
don't look at each candidate clearly and objectively. don't do any of that bullshit.

snap judgement. ready, go.

and no -- i'm sorry but you can't pick two, even though i know you want to. and wait a minnit...our poll? right. like there's a staff of writers sitting in my living room. who am i kidding?

UPDATE / 12.28.07 -- oops! too late, too late! voting has ended in this poll. you can see the results here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

xmas lights

today we're listening to frank, tina, nancy and frank jr. sing "i wouldn't trade christmas" (one of my all-time favorites.) plus "i'd like to hitch a ride with santa clause" by the andrews sisters, "christmastime" by aimee mann, and "nigh bethlehem" by singers unlimited.

and stringing lights on the tree.

just in time.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

what did you like most about japan?

i've tried to answer this question about a half dozen times in the past couple of days. through my jet-lag haze (it is SO much worse coming back) i don't know how coherent i've been.

but this recent post on ann althouse's blog got me thinking.

no matter where i went in japan -- big city tokyo, small town masuda, temples, shrines, airports, train stations, restaurants, post offices, hotels, the seven-eleven -- every person i came into contact with was kind, courteous, and helpful. every person. the teenage girl working at the convenience store takes such pride in her job. imagine that. (and p.s. the japanese don't accept tips. many japanese people consider tipping to be rude.)

"...every person i came into contact with was kind, courteous and helpful."

we all did better than most with the language. but when we couldn't speak enough japanese to get by? no one mocked us. no one treated us differently.

okay, wait. that's not true. they did treat us differently...

when we were trying to make arrangements for ten of us to have dinner at a small restaurant in tokyo and no one on the staff
spoke enough english to actually help us, a waiter called his english-speaking friend on his cell phone to translate.

when blake and tobi were lost, looking for a specific local eatery, they stopped an older man riding by on a bicycle to ask for directions. the man didn't speak english, so he phoned a friend. the friend didn't know the restaurant, so the man on the bike took blake and tobi to a nearby police station and explained to the policeman where blake and tobi wanted to go. the policeman then drew a detailed map.

contrast those experiences with this one: at JFK last sunday, our cabbie looked at our five huge suitcases, looked to the back of his taxi, and pointed -- as if to say "i ain't pickin' those up." and at the end of the ride home the driver announced angrily, "that'll be $49.50...PLUS TIP!"

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sunday, December 9, 2007

airport sushi

before this trip, i’d never eaten sushi.

sure, i’d had an avocado roll, or a shrimp tempura roll. but no raw fish. it all goes back to a warning i'd heard years ago, about runny eggs, raw fish, and immune systems.

well. when you’re in japan, and you visit the tsukiji fish market, i’m not sure you have a choice, really. it’s probably the freshest fish in the world – why wouldn’t you eat it? and as a friend said to me, “isn’t that just like you?! you don’t eat sushi until you’re in the best place in the world for it”. yeah. that’s just like me.

so on our layover at tokyo’s narita airport today, we had time enough for a “last meal” in japan. what else would i have?

it got me thinking about the other interesting foods i’d eaten in japan, that i’d never eaten before. like…

  1. ramen/soba noodles. ramen – wheat noodles. soba – buckwheat. simple. easy. served in fish or pork broth. not very adventurous. but good.
  2. eel pie. crispy, sweet, cookie like. made with ground up eel. i’m bringing some home.
  3. eel. delicious. one of the best meals i had in japan.
  4. eel liver. in soup. eh.
  5. yuzu. a citris fruit about the size of a tangerine and very tart. i enjoyed it as yuzu-cha, or yuzu tea. the rind is chopped and mixed with honey to create a syrup. about a teaspoon of the syrup in a cup, mixed with hot water, makes for a delicious, comforting treat that brings to mind the holidays.
  6. katsu-kare. a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet served with rice and japanese curry sauce. yum-diddley-yum-dum. blake ginther’s fav.
  7. octopus. as the japanese would say, “maa maa”. which means “so so”. not bad, but sort of what you’d expect. raw, rubbery, chewy. not a lot of flavor.
  8. sushi/sashimi. most of the sushi we ate in japan was quite different from what you find in the states. not a lot of typical rolls (makizushi) that you might order on 93rd and amsterdam. a small hand-formed clump of vinegared rice is topped with a bit of wasabi and a good size piece of raw fish – tuna, salmon, amberjack, snapper, mackerel. this is not sashimi (slices of raw fish served without rice) which we ate as well. some of my favorite was from conveyor belt sushi. small plates with one piece of sushi each travel around a diner-like restaurant on a conveyor belt. as they pass your booth, you pick up what you want, and pay at the end according to the plates you have left. sort of genius, actually. and often cheap.

  9. natto. this is something every japanese person wants you to try because, i think, most americans react badly to natto (fermented soybeans which, when stirred, create an incredibly sticky, semi-sweet paste with spider-web like strings.) i can’t say i’m craving it, but i didn’t hate it either.
  10. bean paste. none of the sweets in japan are as sweet as an american palette expects. the cinnamon rolls are not cinna-bun-ee. they are light and…ah…gentle. but i was surprised to find donuts i expected to be raspberry or strawberry filled, to be filled instead with bean paste. it is exactly what it sounds like – a sweet paste made of beans. i grew to…like is not the word…i grew to not be disappointed to find bean paste used in many ways.
  11. cold kidney beans. speaking of beans, dessert last thursday night was a dish of local sweet potato ice cream, chewy rice balls and kidney beans in a light syrup. cold, kidney beans. yummmm.
  12. pig’s ear. this is not what i give my dog as a treat (or is it?) it is the cartilage of a pig’s ear (in okinawa the saying is “we eat every part of the pig but the oink”.) it is almost like small, somewhat crunchy noodles served in a peanut sauce. again, not craving it. but it wasn’t bad.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

to my japanese friends...

we are done. it is 2:42 a.m. we leave for the airport in okinawa at 9:30 a.m. first we fly to narita airport in tokyo; a bit of a layover; then it's on to jfk. a total of 16 or so hours in the air.

i will miss the many friends i've made here. i hope to see them all again soon.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

reggie hates snowmen

this is charlie. the mass of tan hair charlie is hugging is our dog reggie. with some help from his mom anne marie and his dad starmer, charlie's been taking care of reggie while we've been out of the country.

anne marie sent this email update today:
so it snowed here yesterday, and quite a bit by deleware standards. a few inches of accumulation. charlie and starmer made a snowman, which is charlie-size (that is to say, two and a half feet tall.) and reggie did something so funny last night i had to share.

i was going to bed at about midnight and reggie was standing by the back door growling. he had just gone out, so i wasn't sure what he wanted, but i let him out again, at which time he sprinted (yes, sprinted) down the stairs and headed over to the snowman and let loose. just barked, barked, barked.

he hates that snowman.

actually, i think he was guarding us. he is our guard dog against two and a half foot snowmen. i couldn't get him to stop and come inside...i had to get starmer up and out there to drag reggie away from the snowman. too much. i'm still laughing about it this morning.

good boy reggie. good boy.



japan just got beachier.

dewa mata tokyo

the view from our window at the tokyo dome hotel this morning was somehow more colorful and vibrant and bittersweet than it has been over the last two months. it also included a stunning view of mt. fuji -- strong, quiet, and enormous -- bidding us farewell.

it was our last morning in tokyo. as i write this we are flying to okinawa for a couple of days off. on saturday we have two concerts. sunday it’s back to the u.s.

i think we were all a little more nervous than usual for last night’s performance at suntory hall. the crowd included not only important execs from disney, but several audience members wiping away tears. that surprised us (the tears, not the disney folk) and it’s easy to be flip about it, but people were clearly moved.

this morning, the weather forecast for okinawa was 68 and sunny, a welcome change from the blizzard we left in aomori on monday.

our time in japan is nearly over.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

adding on

for the last eight weeks we've been performing with a fifty piece orchestra -- much of the tokyo philharmonic -- as we traveled from fukuoka to tottori to masuda to kobe to nagoya, singing "someday my prince will come", "a dream is a wish your heart makes", "once upon a dream", "belle", "be our guest" and more.

for tomorrow's performance at tokyo's suntory hall, the orchestra will grow to about eighty pieces. the rehearsal yesterday at tokyo opera city was at times overwhelming and awesome. (how exactly did i get here?)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

a kobayashi issa haiku for today

a world of dew,

and within every dewdrop

a world of struggle

Friday, November 30, 2007

pants man!

the only thing that concerns me about this training video is that none of the adults are warning the kid about this. and p.s. is the dad tony the tiger?

you got that lamb stink on ya!

after the show tonight, back at the hotel, a young couple got in the elevator who stunk like smoke and meat. "sapporo brewery," we all said.

we recognized that smell. last night we joined some of the d.o.c. orchestra and crew for dinner in the sapporo brewery biergarten -- a "genghis kahn style" barbecue of all the fresh lamb you could cook, and all the sapporo beer you could drink.

you're given plastic bags for coats and sweaters, and encouraged to wear clothes you are not fond of, as the smell of smokey, barbecued lamb stays with you for days (and in more ways than one.)

as dinner ended our japanese friends looked out the window and said "yuki! yuki!" it was snowing. we ran outside, and some of us tried to eat the snowflakes, but i never eat december snowflakes. i always wait until january.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

fanny pack of lies

his name is tomoki takahashi.

he's been the heart of our experience in japan for the last two months. company manager, stage manager, travel agent, tour guide, translator, bellman, and i'm proud to say, friend. we thought he'd be with us until the tour ended and we had to head back home. but noooooo. this was just another one of the lies he pulled out of his infamous fanny pack ("the bus ride will only be three hours.") he's left us to go and take care of the count basie orchestra, and now we have to survive a week and a half without him.

no, tom! you shut up!!

UPDATE / 11.30.2007 -- by popular demand...the video:

Monday, November 26, 2007

all is not right

sometimes your friends don’t take the path you want them to take. no matter what you want for them, they have to go their own way.

take, for example, my friend rob gonzalez.

by now he should be a huge star in the music business. a couple of years back, he worked his ass off and got financial backing like you wouldn’t believe to record an album of his tunes with musical greats: producer dave way (sheryl crow, fiona apple), guitarist brian ray (paul mccartney), arranger paul buckmaster (strings for elton john) drummer kenny aronoff (john mellencamp). the result -- all is right with the world -- is an incredible album. every friend i’ve played it for wants it burned, and becomes obsessed with it.

i assumed it would be only a few months before some huge record label picked up rob, released the cd, and he was enjoying huge commercial success. grammys would follow, no doubt. and in no time, i’d be visiting my friend rob on some island in the pacific while he records his next multi-platinum selling cd.

well. my plans weren’t what rob had in mind. or…my path to get there was not what he had in mind. he had an idea about a website to distribute new music. something that would benefit the artist, and – get this – poverty. (see:

on october 13, rob’s album went on sale at macy’s stores in la crosse, wisconsin. it’s available there until dec. 31. in case you don't live near la crosse, you can always get it by joining the melvincares thing too.

it’s a really great collection of pop music. ("southside serenade" is like the elton john song i've been waiting years for.) i just want the whole world to hear it. and maybe someday…rob’s way…they will.


anyone who travels as part of their job must feel the same way i do today.

every so often, you need to have a normal day. a day when you do laundry, or stay in your hotel room most of the day. a day when you just can't feel guilty for not having an adventure. a day when, even though you're in a foreign country, thousands of miles from home, you have to stop being a tourist and just do nothing.

besides the fact that i feel a little cruddy.

Friday, November 23, 2007


last night was the annual disney on classic yamachan party.

the entire company -- crew, musicians, staff, singers (70 or so people) -- meet to enjoy lots of drinks, each other's company, and, of course, yamachan (chicken wings cooked with a spicy dry rub and a drizzle of sweet seasoning -- we've eaten yamachan dinners four times now.)

the evening started with a single toast. i imagined i would clink glasses with the few people seated around me, or at most with the people at my long table. nope. everyone got up from the floor, walked around the room yelling "kanpai!" and clinked glasses with every person present. every person.

we singers did a silly little skit (singing "it's a small world" using the only japanese phrases we know) the chicken wings kept coming and coming, and we ate and laughed and spent the evening like a big, crazy family.

the official end of the party was marked by the entire room standing and waving both index fingers in the air. then, quietly tapping a simple rhythm on only those fingers. the same rhythm is repeated with two fingers from each hand. then three fingers. four. and finally clapping the rhythm full out. i'm not sure if it was the culmination of the whole evening, or just the clapping ritual, but it was a truly magical moment that i'll never forget.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

giving thanks

i had one of the most joyous experiences of my life tonight. it involved chicken wings called yamachan, and a room full of amazing japanese men and women clapping with one finger, then two, then three...

more when i've gotten some sleep. i wish you all could have been there.

happy thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

konbanwa eel

hamamatsu is known as the home of yamaha and kawai musical instruments. i know a little something about yamaha musical instruments, having sold them for quite a few years at billings pianos and organs in another lifetime.

hamamatsu is also known for japan's best unagi (freshwater eel) caught daily from lake hamana. our visit to hamamatsu would not have been complete without a dinner of unagi, or "kabayaki" - eel dipped in a sweet soy sauce and then cooked on a grill. i looooved the sichuan pepper seasoning. blake seemed to think it tasted like mr. clean disinfectant.

ohayo gozaimasu fuji

a stunning sight from the train as we traveled from tokyo to hamamatsu on tuesday. a beautiful, clear day offered a great view of mt. fuji.

the japanese saying goes, "a wise man climbs fuji-san once; only a fool does it twice." that makes me feel somewhat better about not climbing fuji during our stay in japan.

this, from, also makes the decision easier: "from october to around mid june, climbing to the summit is highly perilous due to extreme wind and weather conditions, snow, ice and a high risk of avalanches."

maybe next time.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

lost in translation, pt. 3

well, they are the magical fruit.

i doubt the tomoguchi company is referring to that kind of talking, however.

Monday, November 19, 2007

detroit vs. troy

a few years back, when i was touring with "mamma mia", i wrote this about our stay in detroit:

"i wish i could say something to detroit.
i don't know what it would be.
in almost four years of traveling, i have learned
that there are truly great parts of any town.
every time you think "ugh...columbus",
you show up and columbus is great.
(p.s. columbus is great).

i didn't find those parts of detroit.
maybe i didn't take the time, or make the effort.

maybe i spent too much time looking at the burned out buildings,
busted out windows and sad, depressed areas of town i drove past every day on my way back to a nice, quiet hotel in the suburbs,
only a few miles from the country club.

the audiences were great. but they always are.
a little different here and there.

but the city.

i'm sorry detroit. i didn't get to know you.
or maybe i did."

after that appeared on a tuesdays post, i got a kinda snippy email from a ticked-off michigonian saying i hadn't given detroit a chance. whoops, i thought! didn't mean to offend!

see, my initial experience with detroit was the word from our stage manager that after the shows, we shouldn't walk to the parking lot alone -- only in groups. that would be the parking lot directly behind the theater. the fenced in parking lot.

interestingly enough, that angry email was from a i emailed back (apologizing for not giving detroit a chance) and asked if the writer actually lived in troy, mi (an affluent, mostly white suburb of detroit.) yup, they said. and you should see troy, it's beautiful!!

last sunday, detroit overtook st. louis as the most dangerous city in america according to "city crime rankings", an annual reference book of crime statistics and rankings. now, i'm not sure where they rank this year, but last year troy, michigan was at number five of the safest cities ranking.

maybe some of the folks living in dangerous detroit should check out troy! from what i hear, it's lovely!

lost in translation, pt. 2

'nuff said.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

nikko pt. 3: backwoods onigiri

where better to eat some mushroom onigiri than in the middle of the woods?

nikko pt. 2: monkey wa doko desu ka?

he was on my hike to ryuzu falls. he and his whole monkey family, actually. to answer your question: yes, their butts are as bright red as their faces. he's a macaque, by the way.

UPDATE / 11.18.07 --
i wonder if former senator george allen has been to nikko?

Friday, November 16, 2007

just say no

just a thought.

if you're attending a political campaign event, and some geek comes up and tries to convince you to ask the candidate a specific question?

just say no.

instead of asking the question, pretending it was your question, and then telling the media you were told to ask it.

how about that, people?

nikko pt. 1: long shadows

maybe you can hear the hint of worry in my voice.

i know for many people, this might not seem terribly adventurous. but we were in nikko -- two hours outside of tokyo -- and i was an hour bus ride from the nikko train station where i'd left rob and kimberly, and two hours by foot after that. they went to see shrines, i went on a hike to a waterfall.

it was a great hike, but there's that moment when you don't know for certain you're going to make it back from the hike before dark. once you do, you have to get on the right bus, to make it to the right train, to take you "home" to tokyo. i'd already gotten on the wrong bus to get to the trail. (at one stop, the driver turned and looked at me, sitting all the way in back, and said four of the six english words he knew -- "where are you going?" when i told him, "lake chuzenji", he shook his head and said the other two -- "wrong bus".)

all in all, it was a fantastic day. but moments of small desperation tend make it all the more real.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

my ueno has flea

who can beat a good japanese flea market by the light of kerosene lanterns?

i'd heard (or read) there was a flea market near tokyo's ueno park, but i wasn't quite sure how to find it. considering how big ueno park actually is, and how late a start i got today, i was surprised to round a corner and find these sellers still in their booths after dark.
lots and lots of great stuff. i refrained, however, from spending too much.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

bringing home kon

found this basically by accident at a flea market in kobe. it's kon omura pitching oronamin c drink, circa mid-1960's. you can still buy the drink today at convenience stores.

we're bringing him home with us. there's a spot in the kitchen, just below the pot rack...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

take back your minka

after our sushi breakfast this morning, we crashed a buddhist ceremony honoring shinran shonin, the founder of jodo shinshu buddhism, at the tsukiji hongwanji temple. the ceremony is an important occasion to "reaffirm gratitude to buddha, and to hear and receive the tembutsu teachings."

having gotten a little less sleep than normal, the chanting of the monks eventually lulled us into a peaceful meditative state (otherwise known as sleep.) we gave an offering and excused ourselves after 30 minutes or so.

we then headed to the city of kawasaki, and to the nihon minka-en, an open air museum of minka: japanese folk houses, farm houses, and merchant houses. it's like going back in time to an 18th century japanese village. tucked away in one of the houses, we found a group of women and one man seated around a fire pit. it was a beautiful scene -- warm and welcoming. we joined them for a chat and laughed mostly at our struggle to have a normal conversation.

early fish

the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. this morning. our friend kimberly irion has come to japan to visit us, so we decided to take her to the tsukiji fish market. it's one of the world's largest, handling over 2,000 tons of fish a day.

after being nearly run over by every possible vehicle just outside the market (it's kinda busy) we found our way inside and wandered the aisles checking out the fish, some if it so fresh it was still swimming. we did our best to stay out of the way of buyers and sellers, but often caught an abrupt "sumi masen!" from someone on a scooter. sushi breakfast at a nearby shop capped the morning. our day had just begun.

Monday, November 12, 2007

"i think americans are ready for substance."

"i think they want to get beyond a president who...never had a sense of complexity..."
to be honest, i don't know if i will vote for hillary clinton for president. i also don't know that i won't.

my dad won't. rob's mom more than likely won't.

what's amazing to me is the 24-hour news cycle in the u.s. and how people are talking about the tip the clinton campaign did or did not leave at the maid-rite diner near boone, iowa. not about a war, or about the cost of prescription drugs, or health care, or torture. a tip. to a waitress. in fact, andrew sullivan says that tip (or lack thereof) is "telling".

i can tell you that from tokyo, or from our apartment in new york, i don't feel the "thrill" of barack obama. i want to. but at this point i like the idea of barack obama better than i like the candidate.

i remember seeing hillary clinton on "meet the press" a few years back. around the time when she was running for senate. i called rob after watching it, and said "if this woman runs for president, i will vote for her." she was everything i wanted a leader to be. she answered questions with a yes or a no, and then went on to explain her answer. she was refreshing and warm and funny and, i thought, honest. i'm not sure i see that openness from her anymore.

eight years ago, the country thought george w. bush was someone they wanted to sit down and have a beer with, and that was a reason to put him in the white house. (many americans may get that chance soon, since bush's aspirations after he leaves office are anything but lofty.)

hopefully, we're past that silly idea. i'd like to think that we want a president who is intelligent, and prepared. i'm not sure that someone who knows "the game" is a bad idea, either. and honestly, i think i might like to have dinner with the woman pictured above.

and i just might want this woman sitting across the table
from someone like mahmoud ahmadinejad.

UPDATE / 11.15.07 --
from rob's mom:

correct, i will not be voting for hillary. quite frankly, I am not impressed with anyone running in either party. I want us to get back to the archane idea of the "citizen farmer" who takes his /her turn and then goes home. I see service to country as a responsibility of citizenship, not a career.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

my bruce and annie phase

there are two new albums (records, lps, whatever the kids call them today) i've been listening to a lot lately.

jeff ircink and brian grabowski will appreciate my somewhat limited return to writing about music, by the way. they were around for the glory days of "off the record" (or was it "on the record"?) back at the high school newspaper. they were also around for the layout parties in my parents basement.

i'll eventually get back to the whole "favorite albums of all time" thing that i started back on but for now, i just wanna say that i think the new springsteen (magic) and the new annie lennox (songs of mass destruction) are pretty darn great.

i'm big on phases. i've been thru repeated elton phases. mccartney phases. i'm deeply entrenched in a springsteen phase now, thanks to this new music. it means i pull out all the old stuff, and gain a new appreciation for it. i heard the lyric "i wanna die with you wendy on the streets tonight in an everlasting kiss" this last week, and -- i think it's an age thing -- i had to stop my ipod and just sit and think about how amazing that line is.


we were up bright and early this morning, but the bus ride to yamanishi prefecture was not quite as long as expected, so we stopped for lunch.

we walked through a sweet little market where the locals were selling pickled bamboo, pickled plums, yuzu-cha, homemade noodles, and something yamanshi is known for: grapes. they're expensive in japan (a small bunch can cost 1000 yen or more -- roughly $9.) we found them here for 700 yen. they're huge, and juicy, and NOT seedless.

we headed out the back of the market to an open air restaurant under the vines of a vinyard. there, at tables with a small grills underneath and foil covered cooking areas in the center, we barbecued our own pork and beef and onions and sprouts. it was incredibly charming, and delicious.

Friday, November 9, 2007

disney classics 2007

the translation is actually: disney on classic. we travel and work with some amazing people. crew, musicians, technical people, even the producer himself is there, at every show. tonight was another show at the tokyo internatioal forum. 5000 in the audience. pretty thrilling.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


i'm working on a list of things in japan that are different from the u.s.

for instance: there is no litter on the ground in japan, despite there being very few trash cans...well...anywhere. the japanese will carry their empty coffee cup or small bag of trash, for blocks and blocks, just to throw it away. instead of just tossing it on the ground, as it seems everyone in new york does.

here's another thing that's very different in japan, that i was not warned about.

blinking red

out my window i see hundreds of blinking red lights. on the tops of tall skyscrapers. the tokyo skyline.

we've been here for a little over a month now. we stay for another month. i thought, seeing as though they are really the reason we're here, that it might be nice for you to meet blake and tobi. if you haven't already. rob and i toured with blake in "mamma mia". then he was our broker when we were looking for an apartment in new york.

several months ago, blake called and said "what are you and rob doing in november and december? wanna go to japan?"
i thought he was kidding.

he wasn't, and we're here. and we love it. i'm seriously having pangs of "i don't wanna go home". reverse homesickness. except that i miss reggie the dog. and friends. not missing new york so much right now.

tokyo again

this photo has already appeared on, but i think it's beautiful. it's what rob and i found at the end of our hike of mount otake.

a beautiful summit, and someone's bright, clean blankets waving in the light breeze.

and serenity.