Friday, February 27, 2009

My brother's big in Japan

My brother Tommy is really cool. As you can see, he's 21 years old, super tall, and has an epic head of hair. When I talk about my family during my self-introduction in elementary schools, the kids get really excited about my brother. Then if I go to erase my drawings to make room on the chalkboard, there's always a riot when my eraser approaches Tommy: "NOOO! TOMMYYY! NOOO!" Last time I left him in the corner, and when I came back to the school a week later he was still there. The homeroom teacher told me that the kids had begged her not to erase him and she ended up working around it for the whole week. Haha!

When I'm wrapping up my last class at a school, I let them ask questions about whatever they want, and 75% of them are always about TOMMY-SAN. The first three are always, "Why does he have an afro?" "How long has he had the afro?" and, "Do you like his afro?" The unanimous opinion among elementary school children in Yamagata is that Tommy is extremely cool.

Sometimes I get a really deadpan class and I'm braced for a difficult lesson, but as soon as Tommy shows up, everyone sits up and is ready to go. Seriously. It's really funny, like he's actually here with me as my teaching sidekick.

If my brother came to teach here he would probably revolutionize English education in Japan.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009



Edit: Man, the internet is bullshit. I'm sorry you can't watch that video, boy am I sorry!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Important. Re: Things I love

3. Being abroad.

2. Getting mail.

A package from Jer, including

these portraits of Bob Dylan, and of me in Yamagata.

1. Having brilliant and talented friends.

Jerylyn Brie.

You can read Jer's blog, Road to Nowhere, and see her photos on Flickr. Her letter was full of art and casual poetry and left me full of FUCK YEAH I'M DOIN IT!

I miss my creative friends. In Portland, Jer was my best companion in art+angst. Her boyfriend Johnny Le is another hip kid and talented photographer and filmmaker.

Johnny Le.

The music video he produced for "Indescribable" by Olivia Broadfield, directed by Kurt Nishimura, recently won a contest and was aired during the 2009 Grammy Awards.

My friends Mike and Frankie are film students with an amazing sense of cinematography. They're those people who pick up your camera at a party and flippantly snap some photos and then when you wake up and look through the shots you find all this beautiful light and color and shadow and shape that weren't even there until they were all like WHAT'S UP with their magical camera fingers.

Mike Gardner.

Frankie Flatch.

These pictures of Frankie and me, taken by Mike one morning on their balcony, always make me so happy.

My best friend Sarah has done tons of amazing art and film projects that I don't even know enough about to discuss because we've been painfully separated since the age of 18 when she moved to San Francisco to get fucking real and I went to do whatever the fuck I've been doing.

Sarah Millett.

Sarah and I met freshman year of high school and, true story, really did turn our redneck town upside-down in a hurricane of pissed-off idealism. In spite of death threats, glass projectiles, and constant disappointment, we kept papering every bare surface with hundreds and hundreds of hand-made posters, sticking our chins up at administrators in the principal's office, and invading the cafeteria with guerrilla "music extravaganzas," just to keep our spirits sharp and maybe sneak a little enlightenment in wherever we could, to the greatest extent we were able. We made it out alive and to this day, when combined, are the fiercest shit in this fucking generation.

Aya Nakashima.

My once and future roommate, Aya, went from Japan to Alabama to Portland, where she fell the heck in love. Over two years, she threw herself into the soul of Portland like no ho-hum hipster would believe: working in a local art gallery, meeting artists and designers from around the world, going to every indie show she could, always finding her way to the best acts, the best events, the best spots and the best parties. Her style, her taste and her brain are top of the line. Though it broke her heart, she dragged herself back to Japan this month and will start work in Tokyo in March. This month she's hunting for a 2 bedroom apartment where we can be reunited as ultimate roommates of the world. Aya's blog, Ayabean is Portlander, is so clever and entertaining.

I could go on, I'm leaving out other people I'm lucky to know who are brilliant artists, musicians, scholars, authors, philosophers, or best of all, just great fucking inspiring mad spirits. All I really want this year in Japan is to find a few more people I admire this much.

I'm not saying my life is a salon of wild intellectual and artistic activity -- it's not, and I'm always wishing it were. My oldest and most irritating habit is constantly whining that I don't know enough inspiring people. But I know a few. And if you put it into perspective for a minute, whenever you can, a few is enough to make you pretty fucking lucky.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Weekends in Yamagata

I went nuts and decided to reclaim my identity by throwing myself a true party, but all that happened was I drank my plum wine and got really tired and went to sleep at 8PM.

Meli-Melo Bakery and Cafe in Yamagata has delicious bread, sandwiches and pastries and very decent little $3 teacups of coffee (Illy). It's the best cafe I've found here. It's in Nakasakurada 19 (along the river), up the hill from the Co-op supermarket and across from the 7-11.

Sometimes I hang out at bus stops. Okay, only once. That turned into the lamest night!

I've got things to do, and I get there walkin'. That snowy road's a-callin'.


Monday, February 2, 2009

Choice Cuts in Sauce

Sunset on my way out of school today.

If I forget to look out the window before I go out, this is what I always open the door to!

Isn't this single serving jar of umeshu the most delightful little thing you've ever seen? 98 yen at the supermarket.

I love shirataki. They're the noodle form of konnyaku and have no calories or carbohydrates or fat, just a few grams of fiber. They soak up flavors and are good in lots of recipes, especially hot soups and nabemono. Tonight I simmered them with mushrooms, green onions and some kind of dried bread that I like the texture of, then stirred in a packet of miso. I used a microwave and it took me like 5 minutes and was so tasty. Shirataki = lazy diet heaven. Next time I'm having them with kimchee and tofu.

Boots, I like you and all but you really let me down this weekend. This was just a few minutes after leaving the house. It was an unusually slushy weekend, and 3 miles later my feet were submerged in sheepskin cups of cold water. Dang!