Category Archives: Updating

On Cord Cutting

It’s been a little while since I wrote one of these, mostly because I’ve been lazy.  I probably could have written something short, but I hate the idea of writing just because one can.  Also I did have work and personal things to do, so my time hasn’t exactly been my own recently. But something has been on my mind, and the path is a little meandering, so bear with me.

I never really got into Youtube in the same way most of my social circles and family have.  I’m a huge fan of it as a medium and how it enables people to talk about whatever they damn well please (within reasonable constraints) and grow a base of fans, viewers, haters and trolls.  But despite that, I’ve never been an avid viewer and I’ve never really understood the appeal.  This has been changing recently because of two Youtube channels: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and The Nerd Writer.

I can’t watch the former on regular TV because premium American channels aren’t available in Japan (not that I would pay for it in Canada either; my frugality is beside the point), but with the Daily Show having been handed over to a new generation of comedians, John Oliver is my preferred personality to watch from that previous generation.  Also, he was amazing to watch on Community, so he basically gets me as a viewer for life.

The latter is a recent discovery which I stumbled on while looking into the art and style of cyberpunk.  The Nerd Writer is done by Evan Puschak, a geek like myself and so many others of our generation who does a masterful job of breaking down topics in art, science, film and pop culture into interesting discussions.  His voice is very good for the tone and mood of his videos, the subject matter and writing are great for people like myself that appreciate and prefer the use of a higher level of vocabulary, structure and discussion of interesting ideas.

This comes up largely because my students constantly ask me about what I watch on TV, to which I have to constantly answer “I don’t watch TV”.  This is a bit mind blowing for them as Japan hasn’t reached that point yet where viewer numbers and dipping as the younger generation cuts the cord.

Part of this is because so many people rent prefab and furnished apartments out here that come with free cable (much to the chagrin of cable companies here who want us to pay and frequently harass us at our doors and outside our buildings), and it’s also in part that anyone who isn’t renting an apartment for work probably has a family and a house which needs cable.  Everyone has a TV and watches TV shows, and my counter culture is exacerbated by the fact that I also don’t have a phone number and I’m a foreigner.  It’s as if I’m intentionally pressing all kinds of buttons to seem more like an outsider.

Which, let’s be honest, isn’t difficult for me.  At a little over six feet, about around 95 kilos, curly brown hair and a beard, I’m a bit like the moon walking bear awareness test.  Japanese culture, and so much of Asian culture, doesn’t encourage standing out unless you’re doing it for a very particular purpose(cosplay, maid cafes, festivals, etc).  And me trying harder to stand out goes so against the flow that it’s no wonder so many are a little flabbergasted.

Wait, where was I going with this?

Right, lost my train of thought there.  Ah well, at least this talk about Japan was something different.


The Kung Fu Plumber Phenomenon

Our tale begins two months ago.  It begins, like all stories, with broken silenceA scream pierced the air and a clattering of pulled up britches greeted the concerned villagers*. The water which fed this poor village had turned icy cold, stealing what little heat could be garnered by them. But lo, there came a day when all this changed!  For it was on that day what the Kung Fu Plumber arrived to aid the desperate villagers.**  He did arrive in a whirlwind of destruction and mayhem, and tamed the wild elements with open fist, closed palm, and swinging monkey wrench.

I finally got a plumber this morning.  Basically, he came in, smoking a cig in a way that only plumbers, electricians, and carpenters can make look cool, and went to town on my bathroom.  He was an older fellow, thinning hair, and the limp fag in his mouth that spoke volumes.  I heard the clanging and whining first.  I went over to check, and I saw him, monkey wrench in hand, doing nothing.  But at his feet, lay remnants of plastic and pipe.  I returned to my chair, and then I saw the copper wiring go flying out the door.  Where copper wiring came from I have no idea, but it showed up to the party.  Then came the screwdriver so worn down it looked more shiv than screw.  Screws hit the floor with ringing sound and curses followed.  Last came more clanging, and a single foot stomp.  One cigarette, one job.  The few times I looked in, his hands were a whirlwind of motion, pulling things, slapping things, and wrenching things to his will.  Too fast to follow.  I was tempted to sing “Everybody was kung fu fighting, doo deet de doo, doo deet doot dee do, those kids were fast as lightning”.

Needless to say, the beast was stunned.  In and out in two minutes.  It was business time for this plumber, and he had his business socks.  And now, I have hot water!*

On another note, there’s a place on the wall of my bathroom that has water from outside getting to it, so it’s growing mold at a steady rate of alarming.  I pointed it out to the plumber, and one of the students explained for me that this is how they fix that: they build scaffolding up to the 10th floor(my floor) from the ground floor, and then they tear the wall a new one looking for the problem, fix it, and then throw away the scaffolding.  Bamboo scaffolding.  This is particularly worrying, because that wall faces same direction that the typhoon is coming.  I estimate the typhoon is gonna beat the repair people to owning the wall by about 2 weeks.  And also, for those of you who are curious about what my bathroom looks like:

*It was me screaming like a 12 year girl who has just discovered her terrier trying to hump her leg, because the water is nipple shrivelling cold.  And it was as such, for two long months.  60 days of cold showers.  Lemme tell you, there’s nothing funny about shrinkage.

**Or in this case, aid the beleaguered general in his pointless battle against the elements

***And there was much rejoicing

And NO, it isn’t the Geiko gecko

In retrospect, I probably should have taken pictures of my first successful home made meals.  People have requested pictures and I took some pictures of other peoples food but not my own.  I blame sapient frying pans.  Anyways, I’ve made two successful meals.  The first was congee, with some sliced meat, cilantro, and peanuts.  The second was vegetable chow mein.  Both came out well and I will probably make them again.  Now, onto more interesting things: Pictures from across the great expanse!

This was the first meal I paid for.  Alright, there was one good thing about it: I wasn’t hungry afterward.  That isn’t to say it filled me.  What you are looking at is a massive pile of overcooked rice, some stir fried hot peppers, and some, what I hope was, pork.  It was a satisfying meal in the same way a thief is helping you move your TV.  I try my best to avoid the regular cafeteria and have thus discovered the other two places that food can be gotten from.  Next!

These are two meals from parts of the cafeteria that I have since learned are the superior restaurants.  The first came from the second floor noodle place.  Great soup noodles with lettuce and bbq pork.  The second was a piece of pork on vegetables and well made rice.  All in all, the first very first meal was 4.5 yuan, and the other two were 6.5 yuan.  It should be noted that at no point during the eating of any of these meals was I not sweating my man tits and giving off a general air of uncomfortable satisfaction.  I haven’t found a way to maintain my body temperature except in the presence of a fridge with beer.  I have probably bought more beer than any other food thus far.  Which is less than back home  but still more than my dietary staple.

That is a lizard(incase you thought it be a toaster oven or a nude poster of horse).  I woke up one morning to discover this inhabitant in my kitchen sink.   He’s a yellow brown colour, very small, probably not poisonous, and I have no earthly idea of how he got in my sink.  Why he’s there probably involves a combination of colonialist fortitude and deep seated hunger for the contents of my sink.  How he got there is a whole other question further vexed by the placement of my sink on the tenth floor.  However he got here, it was probably intrepid, daring, and really stupid.  I did let him out, and he promptly took a flying leap off the floor outside my front door into the wide open air of a ten story drop.  I’m really leaning towards the interpretation that he was impressing a female lizard with his bravery and then committed their equivalent of harakiri upon discovering he’d been manhandled by an ape.

Now Broadcasting From The Tenth Floor

So I said earlier that I had more to say and I have had specific questions about the dorm.  SO without further adieu I give you the Bat Cave*!

The dorm is about 15 – 18 feet square.  Possibly larger.  No tape measure.  The walls could use a serious paint job since someone had the bright idea to leave one of the doors open during a typhoon so one of the walls is covered in mud.  I’ve seen bigger kitchens, but at least it’s clean.  It came furnished, which was really lucky.  It does lack flavour.  But I can fix that as time goes on.  Most of the lights work, the TV works, the internet is obviously working, the AC unit works, the fan works, the doors open and close properly, but the bathroom is a new experience.

It is one room with no partition between the toilet and shower.  The shower is less than three feet from the toilet, and the drain is slightly behind the toilet.  I’m told this isn’t unusual, but for me this is really bloody odd.

Also, I am introducing a new segment for you all called “Graeme Eats”.  Since I can’t read the labels and a lot of the food is going to be an experiment I have decided to share with you the food I try.  Today we have a snack food of some description.  I am going to describe these foods and let your imagination take over.  Seems like more fun.

The bag is orange, about the size of a bag of crisps.  There is a happy cartoon fellow in suspenders on the cover, and some roughly circular food stuffs that remind me of glistening popcorn.  But more gold, and puffy.  The food requirements don’t tell me much, but the order of %’s is: 27, 6, 56, 20, 33.  It contains about 70g of this substance, and there is no English anywhere on the package.

I have opened the package.  I think they are bbq flavour rice puffs.  They are pretty small and pretty salty.  Not sure if I will buy them again, they seem like a possible replacement for crisps.  Trying them again, they might not be rice.  I’m not sure I want to know they might be instead…

*This isn’t A bat cave or THE bat cave, but it is my bat cave so Bruce Wayne can go take a flying leap.