June 2007

06/25/2007

JAPAN!!!!! Appendix/Epilogue AND MoCCA 2007

by Matthew Hawkins

I?ve already outlined what happened to me shortly after my return (the vomiting and the such). And I suppose you could say that I?m back to normal; my body can now accept shitty American foods once again, which is not necessarily a good thing me thinks. Oh, and before I was massively behind on all sorts of projects because I had to push them aside due to the impending trip. And now, one month later, most of it is still on my plate. As crazy as it sounds, it?s taken this long to “recover.” But its about time I get back into the swing of things. Plus, you could say I have a renewed vigor towards certain things, such as UNLUCKY, though that might be because I now have a shitload of new stories from the trip. Plus, there’s some new stuff in the pipeline, which I really can’t talk about right now, but will at a later date.

Oh, and I?m not going to wax philosophical about the trip, nor re-iterate how amazing Japan was since I think I?ve pretty much covered all my points via this very extensive overview of the trip (again, I had no bloody intention of dragging things out this long, but hey, everyone?s been really enjoying it, so I?m glad). Besides, I?ve maybe said too much anyway. Though I will share one last picture from the trip: of all the stuff that I got! At least all the stuff I didn?t loose…

Also, if you still want to hear more about Japan (and I know you do!) and haven’t been to my other blog (you know, my “day job”), here’s what you’ve been missing out…

- Cameron and Brad shilling phones!

- That crazy personalized phone yet again!

- Pictures of awesome looking phones that blows away what we have in the State, and which we’ll never have!

- Even more pictures of awesome looking phones that blows away what we have in the State, and which we’ll never have!

- How Japanese cell phone gaming is, surprise, far more interesting over there!

- You want more cute? You got it!

- They even have cooler bar codes over there!

- A look at why cell phones might be killing comics in Japan!

- Hey, that’s Ronald Reagan!

- Cell phones + designer shirts = BEAMS!

- My God, they’ve even improved upon the now rather dead and boring Motorola RAZR!

- If you missed it before, another look at how the PlayStation and cell phones were supposed to work hand-in-hand!

- Enjoy Coke!

- And the last day, but from a cell phone’s point of view.

Be sure to check them out! Oh, and for even more pics, I’ll be posting everything that’s been passed along thus far, and the rest of the 2,500 pictures I took, over at Flickr, very soon.
________________________________________________________________________________

So… what’s been going on over the past few weeks? Nothing much really… mostly just taking it easy and resting up. Actually, I have been kinda busy (as also mentioned way back in part 1, I’ve managed to get some work done on the television project), hence why I’ve had to flake out on all sorts of social engagements, like the latest gameLab gameNight (and I never even got to check the old pad after it got extended… and I can’t even remember the last time I went to movie night). Plus the UCB recently starting doing another wrestling themed comedy show, but I’m fairly certain that none of the folks from the original WWCFW is part of the act. Sorry, no Dick Duffie, no Merican Dream, no Whorey Whorey, no Reaper, no sale.

- Though one definite highlight is from the weekend before this past one; got together with Mike, Joe (Salina), Colin, Jeremiah, and Olga at Grassroots, that dive bar at St. Mark’s which has yet to disappoint. They all got to hear my Japan stories, at least all the ones where crazy shit went down, in which I almost get killed, and it was the very first time MK had heard me speak about my efforts towards trying to meet a Japanese prostitute (again, purely for the purpose of interviewing her, and nothing more). I know she’s not the jealous type, and has me heard go on and on about how I don’t dig on Asian chicks that much and loved the white ladies more than enough times, but after reneging on my no soda forever rule on day one of the trip, I was afraid of what she might think of me.

I just loved how I managed to blow Mike’s mind by how I hung out with all the bands he listening to as a kid. Also awesome was how I finally the shirts that Colin had made for me!

- Also, went to Licensing Show last week…

… Oh Hermione….

… So I got the chance to hang out with my friend from Warner Bros at the show, who may or may not want me to say who he is, since he told me some stuff that’s pretty juicy, and because I’m so way out of the loop, I have no idea of its common knowledge. And regardless of his anonymity, if he wants me to pull the following down, I will, but till then… Apparently, the Mach Five in the new upcoming live-action Speed Racer flick was supposed to be radically different. “Updated for today” as they like to say. The original design apparently looked horrible, and nothing like the original. It was supposed to be silver at one point. But they kept changing it, and changing it, till it looked “right” and as time when on, they discovered that the original was simply the best, and just inching towards it more and more. Till they finally realized that if its not broken, don’t fix it, hence why we are getting what we all know and love. There’s actually a few differences, but can you notice them? Exactly.

Also, get this: Chim-Chim? A REAL MONKEY AND NOT CGI! YES!!! Anyway, on a related note…

… I’m sorry, but I’ve noticed that all my friends are starting to warm up to the new Transformers from the movie. Not me. They still fucking ridiculous in my book. Actually, some of them don’t look too bad, the only problem is that THEY JUST DON’T LOOK LIKE TRANSFORMERS!!! And for me, it?s even more depressing when you compare the old with the new. The new Megatron design still pisses me off whenever I look at it.

Though I will admit, Joel did a very good job of salvaging him…

But the true hotness is his rendition of Bumblee of a Mini Cooper…

… THAT is how you fucking update the Transformers people! Its all 2007 contemporary/futuristic looking, yet still boxy! Absolutely perfect. Also: see Speed Racer on how to bring an old cartoon to real life.

- The fort90forum have been actually kinda happening the past couple of weeks! It took some time, but now there’s some neat stuff going on. Such as this (sorta NSFW). Hey, I had to get just to pass along one last does of WACKY JAPPY!!!

- Back to friend’s artwork, the past couple weeks I’ve been able to check out Katie‘s paintings…

You can check the rest of them out over at Katie’s Flickr page.

And here, finally, is the first page of Toby‘s story from UNLUCKY…

Now more than ever, I can’t wait. Unfortunately, there’s only one thus far, but if you want to see plenty of pics of me acting like a drunken jack-ass, and the rest of my comics gang from this past weekend, then stroll on over to Toby’s Flickr page.

Speaking of which (and since I can’t remember what else has been going on, but if it comes to me, I’ll be sure to pass it along)…
________________________________________________________________________________

So MoCCA Art Fest 2007 just took place. I’ll be honest: I really wasn’t looking forward to it. Aside from the fact that plans for UNLUCKY #3 had bottomed out, it was simply coming at a time that was pretty inconvenient. Other than it conflicting with the Mermaid Parade, which I normally wouldn’t make a big deal about, but since it was the last one, I really wanted to check it out, the Subway Cinema Asian Film Festival also kicked off on the same weekend, and everyone knows how ga-ga I am over it (for a list of all the movies I intend on seeing, simply go here). And the thing was, I wasn’t the only one who felt that way; you just got this sense that no one was that amped for it. Maybe because last year’s was a real disappointment for a lot of people. Attendance was high and all, but not much stuff moved. Also, this year’s fest seemed to be so poorly organized to the point of frustration; comic stores that wanted to advertise the fest couldn’t because they didn’t get promotional items, like posters, till literally a week beforehand. It would seem that more attention was spent towards “mainstream” press, like the Village Voice, and everyone pretty much knows how I feel about that crowd. Yeah, sure they pack in the house, but… And, I would later learn that at least one sponsor was not treated all that well, which is pretty crummy to hear. Practically ever step of the way towards the show was just filled with an “oh God, this is going to be so annoying” kind of anticipation and dread. Which is why I had zero expectations going in…

… And as it would turn out, the show was actually totally awesome! And for many it was their best con ever, and it was, including for everyone in my little comics crew.

Things kicked off with a pre-MoCCA bash at Rocketship, which was also the release party for Paul‘s new book, the Three Paradoxes (its super awesome btw). I can’t put my finger on it, but it was definitely the best Rocketship party ever. If no one minds me bragging, I am kinda proud of how I managed to have a decent number of folks all entranced by my sordid Japanese tales… primarily because at any given moment, at least one person was horribly offended by what I was saying. And it would constantly switch; as soon as the offended person would get their minds off it and laugh at something, someone else immediately seemed pissed off/upset.

The next day was the show, and… I’m sorry, but I really can’t offer a full con report since I actually wasn’t at there the entire day like I usually am. During the early afternoon on Saturday, I ducked out to see Johnny To’s Exiled at the Asian Film Fest since it was showing only once, and I was already forgoing the chance to watch Hard Boiled on the big screen later that evening, but at least I’ve seen that one a billion times already. I’ll pass along my “review” or whatever of Exiled later on, but I will say right now that I have no idea why John Woo and Wong Kar Wai and other prominent Hong Kong movie directors have been able to established a following in America, but not Johnny To, who is easily just as good as the rest. Anyway, point is, I didn’t take in as much of the con as I normally would have (plus, also on Saturday, so many people were in attendance that it actually made the process of walking around and checking out stuff on tables rather difficult). Though I did manage to nab a few books that day, including Life Meter #2 (I’m glad I got my comp copy that morning since it was pretty much sold out by the end of the first day). I actually didn’t think it would be there after Dave had mentioned some shipping problems the previous week, but in the end the books did arrive on time, though he apparently spent a hellish six hours at UPS the day prior when attempting to pick them up (I haven’t head the full story yet, but he described it as “Matt Hawkins-esque experience”). But yeah, it turned out awesome (as expected), and I was pleasantly impressed by my own artistic abilities; to accompany my afterward, Dave decided to add some drawings I did of Ryu and the Sambo De Amgio monkey, from the covers I made when I gave him burned copies of Dreamcast games years back.

Though the very, very first thing I got that morning was from John, and it wasn’t a copy of his unicorn/dinosaur coloring book, or the latest Teen Boat (both of which I totally forgot to get!) but an old Transformers choose-your-own-adventure story book that he had as a kid and that he came across while cleaning out his attitic in Long Island. Its one of those just shat out there children’s books, that purely to cash in on a popular license; the art is done in pencil and all the characters are pretty much how they exactly appear on the toy boxes, but with their arms or legs drawn differently to suit the situation. Basically, they were illustrated by folks who were unfamiliar with or uncomfortable with drawing Transformers.

A few have complained that there was too much of the same old, and same old this time around, while I don’t necessary agree with that point 100%, I do see where they are coming from, which was why I always jumped at the chance to check out the work of someone I hadn’t seen before. For example, on day one, I met Sarah Morean and discovered her comics, which was a real treat.

Actually, personally speaking, the whole process of looking for comics at any show, whether it be MoCCA or even SPX, has become increasingly frustrating. It can get just so overwhelming sometimes; there’s often so much to see that you almost always overlook something amazing. But furthermore, its easy to miss stuff, and problems are further compounded when people issue multiple covers of the same stuff and things like that. Which is why in the end, MoCCA is more about the people than the comics for me. Its a chance to catch up with and hang out with folks like Pat, Todd, Toby, and Dalton. Even Dave Savage was in attendance! Unfortunately, Travis and Farel were not to be found…

Speaking of people, there were “celebrities” on-hand I guess, but the only one I personally saw was Morgan Spurlock, the director of Super Size Me, a.k.a. one of the most overrated, crap documentaries in recent history. I almost felt like getting into an argument with him (I really, REALLY hate that movie), but I was mostly in a surly mood due to being annoying by one of the MoCCA volunteers, one that a lot of folks don’t care for, including Toby, and it was fun to bitch about the dude with him. Though on the brighter side, my dirtnap shirt was a minor hit, at least with Marianne, aka Knife Fight, who would help spread the next big buzzword throughout the weekend!

Anyhow, the real fun went down once the show is over. At the end of day was the same song and dance: where to eat and which party to hit. Its often a messy, and annoying process. The core plan was to go to Tenka, a Japanese restaurant on St. Mark’s that’s a favorite of Katie’s, but the core group, myself, MK, Robin, Katie, along with Todd and Toby managed to make it there (unfortunately, we lost Marianne along the way). Initially I had my reservations about eating there myself, but that was primarily due to being on some high horse and having a minor issue with AA Japanese food that was reasonably price vs weeks of AAA Japanese food that was dirt cheap. But hey, you can’t beat $1.50 beers, plus their beef bowl is pretty God damn good. I didn’t even need to sneak away to the automat for corndogs (especially since had that for lunch after seeing Exiled)! And I loved our waiter; the wait staff mostly consists of Japanese kids who seem to know a little bit of English (I’m assuming they’re exchange students), but our waiter was a black guy… who spoke like a Japanese person who knew very little English. Very strange.

Oh, and the definite highlight had to be when I offered $20 bucks to Todd to put some random person in a headlock the next day, and like five minutes later, he had Robin in one!

Afterwards we went over to the Top Shelf party, forgoing the Kaiju Big Battle party since I’ve been out of the Kaiju scene for at least five years now. The place was insanely hot, and the open bar was set to close in five minutes upon our arrival, which meant getting booze, and quick like. Most of the time was spent hanging outside, with folks like Steve, Rob, Liz, and Zane. When I ran into Chris Duffy, I tried to cash in on that dinner he owed me from many years back (I treated him to dinner was and wanted to pay me back, but I always said “no worries” plus there was never really a chance), but it was too late I guess. Also, when explaining how Todd had put Robin into a headlock to Raina, next thing you know, Andy ended up putting me in one! After tussling for a bit, we made up and a kiss almost happened, which prompted Raina to say “You may as well!” But I held back, and not because I was afraid of acting gay… trust me on this one… I just didn’t want to weird out Andy.

Later on, the guys from the Indie Spinner Rack decided to throw an after-party of their own at an Irish pub around the corner and we decided to follow. While buying a round for everyone, the very Irish bartender decided to ask me who the hell we where:

“Where you all from?”

I explained that we were all cartoonists, and there was a show going on.

“Oh really…”

I guess we were okay in his book, since he ended up treating us all to shots of this weird, blue liquor that looked like, and tasted like, Windex. Though that didn’t stop me from having three shots in a row. And here’s where things got really exciting!!!

At one point, I told Pat that if he dipped his penis in a shot, I would drink it. And next thing you know, he unzips his fly, and sticks the tip in a shot, puts in on the table, and…. I really didn’t think he was going to do it, but I’m not the type of person who says he’s going to do it, and then not… I drank it. The table went totally ape-shit. The look on Jamie‘s and Jenny‘s faces were particularly priceless. When asked how it was, I mentioned it was effervescent, which elicited a nice spit take from Pat. I also left the most rambling, Nickelodeon game show referencing laden call on Farel’s voicemail ever (which afterwards he was very much appreciative of). Needless to say, I was pretty drunk that night. MK noted that it was the most she had ever seen me drink, and it indeed it was the most I had ever consumed without passing out.

Things were plain awesome till the very end. I decided to treat everyone is a cab ride home when we realized it was 1:30 in the morning and we had another day’s worth of pushing comics ahead of us. Everything was going fine until I realized that I REALLY had to go pee. So around the financial district/city hall, I gave MK $60 and told her that I had to get out of the car to pee, but here was some money for the fare, and that I would see her later in the evening. She flat out refused to let me go, fearing what would happen to me in my state of mind. So I held it in… which was pure torture, especially all the bumps on the Brooklyn Bridge. The plan was to let Robin and Katie out first, then to drop MK and myself last, but the need to urinate was so strong that I simply had to go the first chance I got, so I figured I’d just use Robin’s facilities, then hop back in.

The cab driver totally freaked out at the idea, and then yelled at me to go to a gas station that was nearby Robin’s. Not in any mood to argue for a variety of reasons, I bolted to the station. Inside were two bathrooms, one for men, the other for women. The men’s room was locked, and as much as I didn’t want to, I was going to seriously pee my pants, so I went for the women’s room door, which was wasn’t locked! But there was a woman inside, on a cell phone, who went “Its occupied!” and slammed the door shut. So I just stood there for 30 seconds, before knocking on the door and pleading her to get out and let me do my business. When I head a loud, annoyed “NO!” I simply lost my mind and barraged her with “YOU FUCKING STUPID FAT CUNT!” and other stuff along those lines. And then all of sudden, the men’s door opened!

I went in and peed, and it was the greatest feeling ever… better than sex. And then I realized, gee, I wonder if that women is pissed. And also, I wonder if she has a boyfriend. Are they waiting for me to get out and to kick my ass? So as soon as I opened the door, I bolted out of the gas station. It was a relatively clean break, but I think I knocked over some chips. And that was the end of day one.

Day two was a bit low more low key. The crowd wasn’t as heavy, so that afforded the chance to check things out with less difficulty. Which also meant I was able to buy more stuff. Including French Milk by Lucy Knisley which is a travel photo/comic essay covering her travels through France (as if you couldn’t tell by now, I love travel stories), a pair of “sexy” comics from Belgium from the international table, as well as Jamie’s new collection. Plus I finally got a copy of Escape From Special by Miss, which I had been wanting for ever since I saw the original pages at Jigsaw years back. Though the big surprise of the show as the appearance of Sugar Booger #2 by Kevin Scalzo. I got #1 way back in 1999, 2000 and was wondering if there was ever going to be a follow-up…

Like the day before, I mostly chatted with folks, including Zack with whom I bonded with via a very lengthy Mega Man conversation. You know, I always meet people who claim to be diehard Mega Man fans, so its nice to meet someone who really knows what they are talking about when it comes to the Blue Bomber. I also had a camera with me… MK’s camera to be exact, which I’m not the best with (my hands are too shaky with it), which is why I didn’t take too many (and those that I did came out, surpise, blurry). Though I have to share this one: its Todd giving Robin another headlock, and my total surprise no less (MK mentioned that for $20, I deserved a picture)…

But I didn’t stay the whole day like before as well. Both myself and MK ducked out early for… what else? The Asian Film Fest! To see I?m a Cyborg But That’s OK.

Again, I’ll do a proper “write-up” later, but all I can…. the best damn Korean romantic comedy I’ve ever seen (and they really know to make them good over there), even inching past Barking Dogs Never Bite! And can you believe its by the same guy who directed Oldboy! When I first heard that, I was sure it was a mistake. But it was a PRAK Chan-wook film alright. As insane as it sounds, the same sensibilities, the same dark humor, the same biting irony, and even the same degree of ultra violence that was in Oldboy is in all its glory in this, once again, romantic comedy. It all fits in so brilliantly. Real quick: its basically the story of kleptomaniac who is not so much a klepto than a guy who has a real knack of getting things from people, and giving it back, whether it superb ping-pong skills or pointlessness. And then he meets, and eventually falls in love with, a girl who thinks she’s a cyborg that totally wants to go on a killing spree, but is held back by her sympathy for humans, which she desperately wants to get rid off. Basically, the best damn crazy person movie ever made, among other things. If you live in NYC, and tickets are still available for the next screening, don’t just sit there, BUY TICKETS NOW.

And for those who don’t remember the first time I linked to it, a number of months ago, the movie also has one of the best sites ever.

Man… I have to wonder if it might be topped by Dasepo Naughty Girls, the high school musical featuring a cyclops and the “Instant Virgin Chip”.

Back to MoCCA, in the end, my table ended up selling a ton of books and making some good money! Naturally, my percentile of that was pretty small since I didn’t have anything new this year, plus I was never once behind the table. But there?s always next year (actually, there’s SPX, and the plan is to have number 3 AND 4 available). Anyhow, the MoCCA Art Fest turned out to a surprise success, one that reinvigorated not just myself. Can’t wait to… actually read the comics I got this year!

5 comments

06/25/2007

JAPAN!!!!! Part 20

by Matthew Hawkins

Day 11 & 12: Yokohama (the final show & the final day)

This was it, what we had been waiting for, the reason why Joe was brought to Japan, and how I got there: it was time for the Magma fest…

Here’s Joe at the merch table…

… which was located right next to the second stage….

Like in Okinawa, you had 30 bands in 12 hours, actually more, but this time there were two stages; as soon as one band wrapped up on one stage, another would immediately begin playing on the second stage. So there was plenty to listen to, as well as see, such as the always active skateboard ramp…

The Yokohama show was heads and tails better than the Okinawa show. Aside from having a proper venue, the audience was simply there. Which meant plenty of tickets were sold (at least far more so than at the first show), yet another encouraging sign. Doors opened at noon, and there were already a decent number of kids throughout the floor. Here’s one girl’s shirt which was simply too awesome to not take a picture off…

Unfortunately, that badass dude who did kung-fu on stage while signing was not at the show. But, at least there was Red Bacteria Vacuum, a punk rock girl trio. Actually, it was two girls and a dude; the drummer apparently had to bow out when she got pregnant. In her place was very cool, Abe Lincoln looking dude. Anyway, they were pretty fucking awesome…

Since I over-slept and missed out on the complimentary breakfast at the hotel, I had to content with food from 7-11… which I was more than happy to accept. Lunch was a corn-dog and a pizza bun. Imagine a pork bun, but with pizza filling…

… Sounds gross, but it was great! Like Jason said, its basically a reverse pizza. Oh, June ended up taking a snapshot of me eating a corndog from afar. Very funny, but VERY unflattering. So I’ll have to pass, sorry.

Later, and as expected, I became pretty bored, so June and I decided to check out Chinatown, which I had heard so much about from folks on message boards when asking for stuff to do and see. And it… sorry to say this… kinda kick’s New York’s Chinatown to the curb (though it looks very similar to what San Francisco has)…

Though for some reason, maybe it got knocked around, or perhaps due to overuse, but my camera started to act all strange, so many pics taken came out out of focus. So apologizes for the blurriness…

We had heard that the food was amazing, but unfortunately, we were still full from our lunches, though we did have some room for these buns, which had plum filling…

Here’s some tea from a gift shop…

And some smokes…

A love hotel sticker…

For DJs and… whomever…

No matter where in the world, you will find Michael Jackson…

Some more shellacked food on display…

Yet another temple…

We found this guy dressed as a panda at shopping center. It was pretty warm out, and I’m guessing these group of kids and their mom knew this, so they tried their best to help him stay cool…

While walking back to the show, we passed by the stadium and noticed a fair going on in the parking lot and decided to check it out. Plenty of food booths were on-hand, and virtually every single one of them served octopus in some fashion, whether it be on a stick, diced and served in an omelet, or other…

You also had squid…

And potatoes…

Plus masks for the kids! I would have nabbed the Bomberman one to the upper left if they had an adult size…

Another random thing on the street: this Jackie Chan poster…

Magma raged on, and on, and on. But thankfully, the crowd was nice and big and enthusiastic…

At one point they brought out a ladder onto the skate ramp and kids would launch from way, way high…

… And from where I was sitting, which was in the upper area, not once did I see a kid soar up the other side. Instead, I would see a board fly in some direction and a group of people laughing and applauding the attempt.

Also from where I sat, I took a nap, as did a lot of folks. Actually, most were passed out. Mostly because there was plenty of booze on-tap, and Asians don’t exactly have the highest of tolerances. In fact, there was a good number of people passed out drunk by 1 in the afternoon, just an hour into things. And that number would simply increase as things went on, and actually cause complications later on…

One interesting character that I met at the show was another American, someone whom Joe had done work for and befriended. I forget his name, but he was from Chicago and was living in Tokyo with his Japan girlfriend, whose name I also forget. Only met them once and it was brief, but I still feel pretty bad about it. Anyway, the most important part to know is that he was trying to push “man glaze”. And what exactly is “man glaze”? Well, what does it sound like? Actually, its nail polish for men. He wanted to call it “male polish” but someone already taken that name. Anyhow, Joe did the art for the label, and he was on-hand to push bottles of the stuff. When I was introduced to the dude, I went “Oh hey, the man glaze guy!” Which at that point, his girlfriend who was wearing it decided to show off her nails… and I immediately noticed that the tip of one finger was gone. And it looked pretty gruesome too… maybe it was the work of some Yakuza? I think I made a funny face, I forget. I would learn afterwards from Joe that she likes to do that since it is pretty funny. And really nice people! Wish I got the chance to hang out with them more during the trip.

Anyway, I soon became bored once again, so I decided to explore the area a bit. I ended up stumbling across that same strip mall from the previous night, but since it was much earlier, everything was still open…

… Including this place that I guess heals maladies via snake venom…

Here some street band, with small, but very interested, group of girls. They sounded really good! And a great break from all the punk and hardcore music from that day…

Some gentleman’s club near the venue…

Which apparently was looking for talent…

Just one of the many passed out Japanese punk kids on the floor from the show…

So it was like 10 or 11. The show was almost over, and by all accounts, it was a raging success. The audience was totally into the music, but more importantly, they were getting drunk and buying merchandise. Money was (finally) being made. I figured that the whole scene would at last satisfy all the angry, ass hat American musicians that had been such pains in the asses and that everyone would finally be happy. All fears of some stupid “incident” had gone away.

And then all hell broke loose.

I was up in the upper level when I noticed that one of the inflatables, one right next to the stage, was starting to deflate, and super fast. I immediately rushed to the scene, or at least tried to since the crowd was thick and hard to maneuver through. Again, “move!” doesn’t work that well when there’s a language barrier. When I arrived, I discovered that there was a tear, hence the air letting out. It was initially assumed that maybe it was some accident; perhaps someone was wearing something sharp, like a spiked wristband, and brushed by, which then got caught. Despite how the material used is super strong and thick, to handle the elements (since they’re basically the same kinds of balloons that Macy’s uses for their Thanksgiving parade, which has to withstand stuff like tree branches). But once the hole was isolated, after wrangling with the inflatable for ten-fifteen minutes, which was difficult due to all the people still crowded around it, plus it’s awkward shape, it was pretty clear that it was cut on purpose.

And I was examining the whole, that’s when Keith went “LOOK!!!” The other inflatable, the big eye-ball with spider legs from across the way was now going out of control. The big problem here was that tons of passed out kids were all sleeping at its based. And considering that each inflatable weighed a couple thousand pounds, someone could potentially be crushed and killed. So again, we all rushed across the way. This time nothing was cut, but the support lines had been tampered with. Both balloons getting messed with at the same time was fishy enough, but right when the one band whose members had been the center of the incident at the hotel the week prior took stage? It just felt way too suspicious. The band in question btw was Madball, and they exhibited true professionalism by going way overboard with their set by playing like 25 songs, practically an hour, far more so than any other act. Again, they were a true professionals. Maybe I’ll get some shit for calling them out? Honestly, I could give a rat’s ass.

Anyhow, once under control, we let the air out, even though the show was still going on, to prevent any other possible dangerous situations, which was tough since not only did it involve getting people to move (I literally had to roll one girl out of the way who was totally zonked out), but once more, its huge size and even more awkward shape meant the entire process was like half an hour, which in the end isn’t horrible, though in a less than ideal environment. As the air was being let out, some kids felt the need to jump in, but they were just having fun, and it helped to force the air out (I believe even Harley joined in for a bit).

The last act was I believe Sick Of It All. One of the very first things they did when they went on stage was complain, by stating that certain folks had “fucked up” and how they were supposed to play over an hour before. Hey, fuckface, the reason why everything ran long is because your dipshit buddies decided to hog the fucking stage! Seriously, what assholes, and sorry to anyone reading this who are fans of them or Madball or any of the other American acts I’ve said less than nice things about, but they were all seriously huge fucking douchebags (with, once again, the exception of everyone in Murphy’s Law and Harley’s War; those guys at least weren’t acting like spoiled children or bitching about stupid shit at every single turn).

Here’s a shot of the stage, during the last song, with everyone on stage. Everyone in the shot looks super happy, and I bet they were, though myself and my party just wanted to get the fuck out of there…

On the cab ride to the hotel, I got a snapshot of this…

… Some weird building, which I thought was maybe a hotel with a bear motif. I had to find out more, and I told this to Joe and June when we got out at our hotel. Joe mentioned how I was nuts and asked if I had noticed all the shadiness walking the streets. And I confessed that I really wasn’t paying attention; I apparently missed a bunch of white dudes, all of whom where part of the fest, picking up prostitutes. But I also really didn’t care; it was my last night in Japan, which meant one last chance to take pictures.

That’s not to say I didn’t play it safe; I figured if there was any chance for shit to go down between myself and the angry punk rockers, that would be the night. So before leaving, I changed the SD card in my camera; if I got beat up and my camera smashed, I’d be pissed if I lost any of the pictures I had taken. But with a fresh card, I had nothing to lose! Not really, but you know what I mean.

One of the first things I stumbled across was… a maid cafe? So strange; I had assumed that they were only in Tokyo, where it was more urban and such a demand for such services existed. I decided to check it out. And it appeared to be like all the other maid cafes I had already encountered, but slightly different. Each cafe always featured pictures of the women on-hand, all decked out in their uniforms, and looking all sweet and innocent. But this time, the girls looked like… skanky. So I took some pictures of them, which were posted on in the outside display. I then noticed additional pictures in the outside hallway, and since there was no door, I figured I’d step in a tiny bit, snap some shots, and be on my way. But as soon as I entered the space, I triggered an electronic doorbell, you know, like that “bing-bong” you hear whenever someone enters a 7-11? At that point I realized that maybe I shouldn?t be there, so I quickly took my pictures and walked away swiftly.

About a half a minute later I heard someone running towards me and yelling. And like a total idiot (hey, when you?re someplace where you can?t understand anything or anyone, your instincts get dulled), I just turned around and stood there, to watch the guy catch up to me.

It was a guy from the caf? and despite not appearing to know much English, he was pretty clear throughout our exchange. He first asked “Camera? Take Pictures?” And when I said yes, he then simply said “Erase.” Which I was totally willing to do it, since I had encroached upon territory that I shouldn’t have been at. But before I even got started, he pulled out a switchblade knife out of his pocket, activated the blade, and shoved it right in my face. “Erase. Now.” And the thing was, he was clearly nervous, which made him a hundred percent more dangerous. So as nice and as calm as possible, as to not make him nervous or scared, otherwise, he might have slashed my throat, I erased every picture on my camera, and I did it nice and slow. After each pic, I would go “See? Erased.” And when that was done, he put the blade away, turned around, and ran back. Believe it or not, I wasn?t scared. It wasn?t till much later when I finally thought about the whole situation and went OMG, OMG, OMG, I ALMOST GOT KILLED! But at the time, I was fairly cool and relaxed. Funny as it sounds, I think it was all the adrenaline going through my system that kept me level-headed.

I was still on a mission, and damnit, I was going to get what I came for: another picture of that bear! So I went further, up the sketchy street that I had been previously warned about, and which had gotten a knife in my face about two minutes in. And it was hella sketchy alright. The further I went, the more women of the night popped up. And at pretty much every single point of the trip, no matter where I was, or whom I was dealing with, everyone seemed so nice and friendly. But these women, they looked surly as all hell. They wanted something… well, my money, obviously, and weren?t too happy to be denied. I quickened my pace and soon wondered what the fuck I was doing and what I had gotten myself into. Eventually I found my target, but it then dawned on me that perhaps this hotel with a bear theme was maybe a bordello in disguise, much like the maid caf?, and if I tried taking a pic, some guy in a bear costume would come running out with a samurai sword. But also, by this point a bunch of prostitutes were all glaring at me, the stupid American tourist that doesn?t want to have sex but instead take a picture of a fucking bear. Which is why I only tool one pic. Its blurry, but I just didn?t feel like taking more for “insurance”…

I decided to go back to the hotel as quickly as possible, but via zigzag fashion and I also constantly switched side streets, to whatever looked empty (I felt like I was in a zombie movie, and I was being followed, just slowly). In retrospect, that could have been more dangerous, but I clearly wasn?t thinking. At least it explains why in horror films, people go down a path that seems “obviously” dangerous. But, I would not be denied by prize, so from what I though was a caf? distance, I managed to snap one far away exterior of the maid caf? that was probably a whorehouse?

I soon went back onto the main drag, where there was plenty of lights and traffic. And I knew I was okay when I saw cutesiness on the walls once again!

Though by this point, I knew it was time to call it a night. Maybe it was this angry monkey?

The next day was my last day in Japan. Or so I wondered; when I met everyone in the lobby, there was no clear cut idea of what the plan was; all we knew was when our flight was leaving. Again, I had this feeling that there might not be any tickets and that we?d be stranded in Japan. A week before, there was talk about hitting Harajuku before taking off, for one quick glimpse of all the crazy cosplaying teens on parade, but by that point, we just wanted to make sure that we got to the airport on time, since we had no real idea what was in store.

While sitting around in the lobby, Harley showed up, and he was pissed. Word was, none of the bands got paid. The thing was this: all the disorganization and apparent lack of funds was acceptable, at least in my mind, to a point. But things were clearly past that point; the final show was over with, money had clearly been made, which is why everyone who was owed money should have gotten it afterwards, as per the original plan (plus that?s just how it works in general, from what I understand). By that point, in the morning, everyone should have had no further reason to bitch. But there was. Actually, some people did get paid, not just everyone, hence why Harley was pissed. One particular person, the aforementioned trouble maker, the guy that tried to get everyone all pissed off and practically start a mutiny, the one who was nice to Hide one minute and trashed in the second he was out of ear shot, as well as the one with five year old that wants “beer” and “bitches”, well that guy got paid THREE times because he was in three different bands. And Harley, as was raging in the hotel lobby, mentioned that even though he was best friends with the guy, he so wanted to kick his ass (as did Harley?s wife). Needless to say, we were all cheering for Harley.

Eventually we decided to make our way to the airport ourselves, instead of waiting for a lift that may or may not come (or be super late). The trip involved taking a cab to a bus station, to then catch a shuttle to the Narita.

Despite the previous night?s dangerous encounter, I was still in the picture taking mood, so here I am riding shotgun in the cab. I?m mostly showing this picture because the driver was super nervous, and I think you can tell from his ID that he?s just the nervous type.

We drove alongside an underpass that was decorated by various artists. It was pretty awesome and I believe it stretched for at least a mile, maybe two. Here?s one section, that looks like some huge angry masked Mexican wrestler…

Here I am at the bus station, with my ticket and my very last soda of the trip (and it will remain my last soda till the next time I?m in Japan)…

And here?s some shots from inside the tinted windows of the bus…

The airport was such a nightmare, at least for me. As feared, my suitcase exceeded the weight limit. Thankfully, I brought a spare bag with me, one that MK?s mom had given me for Christmas, but it was part of what was keeping all the contents from shifting around. Plus I got into a minor confrontation with some asshole who got pissed when I thought I cut in front of him at the ticket counter (when I went to re-arrange my stuff, I was told I could come straight to the front). Plus everyone was just cranky; even though we had all loved Japan, it was clearly time to leave.

And the plane ride back? A nightmare. I?ve been on rocky flights before, but it was totally ridiculous. The amount and degree of turbulence made everyone super scared (as well as nauseous). I too thought the plane was going to fall apart and crash. And it hit early on, and I simply prayed that the plane would be turned back around (making things worse was how it was clear skies outside, so all the moving and shaking made zero sense). And you?d think at a time like that, the captain could make announcements explaining what was happening, or at least assure us that everyone was okay. Nope. He made announcements alright, but just to let us know that available for purchase were plenty of great duty free items! And then, to add to the confusion and frustration, some of the male flight attendants were dressed like the captain! So here we are, thinking we are going to die, and the dude that you think should be flying the plane is trying to sell booze. At least my TV set worked throughout the flight; unfortunately, half the people on the plane couldn?t get theirs to work till the system got rebooted three times. And normally I would say people who can?t watch television on a plane should just deal with it, but on a thirteen-hour flight, there?s reason to bitch. I myself made the mistake of trying to watch all three Lord of Rings film back-to-back. I never want to see Frodo ever again.

Once we arrived in America (we had left 1:30 on a Sunday afternoon, and we arrived? 1:30 on a Sunday afternoon! Actually, more like 2:15, but you get my point), we were not greeting cute cartoon characterss but by the ultra rude and incompetent Newark airport staff, and it just made us feel all that better to be back in America.

The trip, and the party, was over.

2 comments

06/25/2007

JAPAN!!!!! Part 19

by Matthew Hawkins

Day 10: Yokohama

It was the day we had all been waiting for… and pretty much dreading as well. It was finally time to head to Yokohama where the second, and final Magma fest show was taking place. And not just because we were all having such a blast in Tokyo, being left to our own devices; we simply did not want to deal with those fucking annoying, whiney ass, punk rock/hardcore guys.

The morning began like all the others: woke up, washed up, packed, and while waiting for checkout time, watched some TV. This particular morning I tuned into a news program that was dealing with Chinese knock-offs. First they had a guy with a hidden camera go into some bootleg DVD shop and buy a movie (Death Note), with the director of said film in the studio to gauge his reaction (Japanese television LOVES the picture-in-picture, reaction shots). And then they showed a fake Tokyo Disneyland, somewhere in China…

… I don’t know why, but that dude trying to be Doraemon comes off kinda creepy.

As previously stated multiple times, Pirates of the Caribbean 3 was a BIG deal there and here’s some pics from the big premiere event. Here we have Davey Jones sneering, and I believe also whipping the audience, which reminded me of Chocky, the midget wrestler from Mexico who dresses like Chucky from Child’s Play, that likes to come down the ramp, lunge at kids in the audience, and stab them with a rubber knife.

Anyhow, before our ride to Yokohama arrived, we had some time to kill, so we all went had breakfast as some “European styled” cafe. Along the way, we passed this quaint little temple…

June and I had traditional Japanese dishes while the rest of the gang had more “American” fare; by this point, Joe, Keith, and Anney were starting to miss the taste of the red, white, and blue, whereas June and I were still both ga-ga for curry and rice. Also, I had already tested some Japanese takes on American food earlier in the week and knew that its can be pretty bad, which also meant I avoided getting sick like everyone else (except for June of course). Though one a side note, I forgot to mention in my previous entry that I had McDonald’s as a late night dinner (hey, I was a bit drunk, and McDonald’s is great after a few beers); I tried the regional Tamago Double Mac, which I had been curious about since day two of the trip, and it was actually really good! Wasn’t so much the egg, but the sauce. Oh, and it goes without saying that the service in Shinjuku blows away the service in any McDonald’s that you’ll find in NYC, but I’ve already beaten the “things are just so much better in Japan” horse to death about 18 times now. Also, just one small snippet from the illuminati meeting from the night prior: apparently, rumor has it that Burger King is “finally coming back” to Japan, and there’s a great deal of “excitement” over it.

Once we got back, we still had some time to kill, plus Keith wasn’t feeling too bad, so he decided to put on his cat costume one more time and walk around a bit…

Hide and Katzu both showed up in a van… a tiny one, of course. It was mentioned that there was a lot of equipment to pick up, meaning there wouldn’t be enough room for us people, so we were given instructions on how to get to Yokohama via the JR Train. And after loading the van with our luggage, off we went…

Some more examples of how crazy clean, as well as how crazy Japanese people are in general. Remember that picture of the building that was under construction from the previous day’s snapshots on the way to the train? Well we passed by the base, and it was boarded up of course, but instead of being plastered with random flyers and posters like in NYC (which is often some upcoming rap album from who the fuck knows), you had bizarre concept art, like an orchestra made of doctors and patients, or giant robots scaring/about to crush people. The future?

Anyway, we were soon on our way…

… As much as I had loved Tokyo, I welcomed the change in environment. Almost immediately, we noticed the difference, and Yokohama felt somewhat like Suzuki, but a bit more laid back, and that was rather nice. The big task at hand was to set up for the show, which I was hoping would be quick and easy, like it was in Okinawa, so we could check out the huge ferris wheel in just a bit…

Hell, even catch a game at the stadium if one was going on; I’m not a big fan of baseball in America, but I have a feeling it isn’t nearly as obnoxious in Japan. Plus, I was dying to know what stadium dogs are like in Nippon…

Alas, we would spend the ENTIRE day setting up. At least the venue was 1000% better than the previous show’s…

It was a proper concert hall, one that also hosted numerous other events, mostly wrestling. A picture from their hall of fame…

There were numerous posters all around for upcoming events…

But yeah, it was not only nice but very encouraging to see a real deal stage, with real deal lights…

As well as the skating ramp that was promised at the last venue…

… It was hoped that, with things finally feeling “legit”, maybe the bands wouldn’t be so fucking moody and agitated. After-all, we had a long plane ride to share with them.

Here’s a little, but strong, bit of sunlight that managed to get inside…

Which June and myself decided to exploit for the purposes of arty-farty/fuckin’ around pictures…

The one question that Joe constantly asked Hide and Taka was “So, where are the inflatables?” These were the huge balloons based upon the characters he had created for the show. The point of origin was Wisconsin or somewhere in the mid-west and were supposed to have arrived for the Okinawa show a week previously, even though nothing could have been done with them anyway due to that venue’s small size. And when they didn’t turn up, Joe as well as myself wondered throughout the week as to their whereabouts and if they would actually show up (given how a lot things had no gone according to plan). But they did finally arrive; there were two in total, which was more than enough, because they would be BIG.

Here’s the first one, right after its been unraveled. And to get them inflated, we would need this…

… Which turned out to be the source of all or stress and frustration for the entire day. Each inflatable had its own, which would blow up the balloon and then be kept on for the duration of the event. Problem was, there was miscommunication somewhere along the line; they had European, not Japanese-styled power plugs. Which meant getting an adaptor/converter. First Joe, Keith, and Taka went all around the neighborhood for a hardware store to acquire them; such a store was found, but it didn’t have what was needed, though the guy working there knew exactly the parts in questions and where to get it… Akihabara. Which was like two-three hours away. Plus its not like one could use the train since the adapters were apparently big and heavy. But cars were out of the question since traffic that day was really bad (hence why our luggage hadn’t arrived, and it was five hours later by this point), and regardless of the congestion, the cab fare would be astronomical. But that’s not all! Each converter would cost about $400 American. And two were needed…

Needless to say, we were fucked. June said she would handle the expense herself, since it was pretty clear that the festival was dead broke and couldn’t fork the cash (which explains all the hotel hopping, among other things). And this is after she already paid for all of our hotel rooms once already. I should also maybe mention that I didn’t do nearly as much shopping as I was originally planning to (I was going to get, among other things, a Super Famicom, a bunch of games, including Radiant Silvergun, plus much more than just one BEAMS shirt) since near the end, I seriously wondered if there would be return plane tickets waiting for us, so I set aside money for “just in case”. Thankfully, the electrician at the venue came to our rescue, who redid the wiring and allowed the units to plug into Japanese power sources. And as advertised, one the switch was flipped, it look less than five minutes to get this…

And here’s the second one, from start to finish…

So the inflatables were taken care of, but there was still the matter of our luggage. The hours passed, yet they were still missing, and I was starting to freak out. I guess because I had almost lost my laptop, then I had just lost some stuff for real, things I had acquired but misplaced due to the constant moving. The sitting around and doing nothing was also driving me nuts, especially since I was in a new part of Japan and I really wanted to check it out. Also, even if I just wanted to go straight to the hotel, we couldn’t since the luggage also had the merchandise, so we the set-up was also on hold. I kept asking Hide, and I was simply told that Katzu was stuck in traffic, but after a while I began to wonder if it was total bullshit (come on, traffic couldn’t be that bad), though I didn’t dare press the issue since it was clear that the stress of the show had really worn him down. No longer was he the chipper, cheerful fellow from before, even when punk rockers were bitching and moaning at him. His head was down for the most part, and he spoke very softly and slowly. It was clear that the guy hadn’t slept in like five days. All I could do was tend to the monster blisters that had begun to form from all the intense walking I had done all throughout the trip. Thankfully, June had needles, Purell, and bandages handy. Eventually… more like the entire day actually, about six, seven hours later… our stuff arrived. And once the set-up complete, it was time to check in. Here’s hotel room number #8 I think?

Yeah, I know. It looks EXACTLY like the last one. But the sheets are different! And the kimono was more comfy, plus internet actually worked this time around. Another bathroom shot, just because…

Again, just like before. Afterwards, I met up with Joe and June, to hunt for food, and again, I ran into Ben from Murphy?s Law, who thankfully was the only real exchange with an American musician from the show that day. As in the past, he pointed out stuff to check out, which in that instance was a street fair that was taking place just around the corner. Unfortunately, it was kinda late, around ten, by then, so things were closing down…

… You could still get some skewered octopus though. I’d find out that octopus is Yokohama’s main dish.

So we decided to explore the area a bit, since the moon was out and weather was really nice…

There were lot of traditional looking restaurants in the vicinity…

As well as plenty of wacky things hung about…

Hey, its MK again!

Their crosswalk signs were a bit creepy if you ask me…

The entire neighborhood was decorated with stuff like this all over and high above…

Eventually we came to a strip mall. Most of the stores were done for the day, but a few were still open, like a couple of game stores. I almost got Gran Turismo Prologue and few PSone titles (like this one). There were numerous arcades handy, of course, and I managed to check them out, of course. One place had yet another “I can’t believe I’m seeing this” title, a shmup no less: Xexex!

The same place also had a number of machines with no joystick set-ups…

Since there were no full-on keyboards, and they certainly didn’t appear to be music titles, I’m guessing they were quiz games?

And there were a few h-games here and there…

Another arcade seemed to be all into Tekken…

Just around the corner of our hotel was some physical therapy clinic, that of course had cuteness written all over it…

Television that night consisted of a new report featuring some robot kid with super human-like levels of expressiveness…

Aftewards was a show that I simply could not make heads or tails of. It started out with some five year old boy being snatched off the street and kept locked up in a dingy looking bedroom. All he did was cry and constantly draw circles with crayons in dingy coloring books that I’m guessing his captors supplied. Next was this older kid, in his early teens, who instead of being wide eyed and innocent like the young boy, was all mean and surly. I think they showed him punching a classmate, a girl, right in the face during class! Then a woman was introduced, one who must have had acid thrown on her face or something and was therefore disfigured. She was shown in some police interrogation room, and was constantly being grilled. Maybe she killed the person who scarred her? Maybe she did it to herself and tried to sue a potentially innocent party (or maybe an ex-lover, for revenge?), and the cop saw through the bullshit? Anyhow, point is, the show felt ultra heavy and sadistic. And two men appeared to be the stars, the center of it all. Who? These guys…

… These totally goofy looking, and goofy acting guys. As you can see, one has a comical looking pompadour, similar to Ace Ventura, and the other which you might not be able to tell has a moustache that’s actually just really long nose-hairs.

Also, occasionally was this weird Mafioso looking dude, who was also a new reporter, along with a ditsy girl, I’m guessing someone he’s banging, and a really snobby person…

Here’s a scene later on, in which the two dudes are at a strip club. One guy tried to open up, but the other is distracted. And when the second guy hears something and is knocked out of his trance then tries to respond, the first is then distracted. The background music was Whitney Houston’s I will Never Forget You. Talk about emotional…

Next was a Reno 911-type comedic cop show that was all light-hearted and goofy in the beginning, but got all melodramatic near the end. I really couldn’t make heads or tails of what was going on, but the only reason why I didn’t take my eyes off the screen was this one girl…

… Who was insanely cute, as well as awkward and goofy, which made her even cuter. Imagine Allison Hannigan’s character from American Pie but all kawaii. Easily the cutest thing I saw in Japan my entire trip. And remember, I don’t “dig” Asian chicks! Okay, by the end of the trip, my stance has softened, at least towards Japanese girls, but I still don’t go all crazy over every Asian girl that crosses my path, like most white guys I know.

And finally, a bunch of rockabilly types doing some line-dance….

I tried taking some snapshots of the anime I was watching, but my batteries were dead again and it was getting late. Had to get up early the next day… success or disaster, tomorrow would be BIG.

To Be Concluded…

1 comment