when the brain takes over and you’re along for the ride

A few posts back we contemplated the mental doom of folks who whilst ensnared by their cell phones had their bodies physically respond by walking slower.

We encountered something similar over the weekend.  While walking back to the car I was daydreaming and unconsciously took out my keys to unlock my car and open the door.

The thing is, since my neighborhood is relatively safe, I often don’t even lock my car doors.  I don’t have anything in there worth stealing.  Unless someone wants some quarters or an old dog bed.  Or weapons grade uranium, I keep that in the truck though.

And even more, in this case I had all my windows down as Summer has begun to make its appearance.

So not only was I unconsciously unlocking a car door that was already unlocked, but I was doing so on a door with the window completely open.

My brain just did this entirely out of muscle memory on its own.  Only when I realized what I’d done did my daydream break and I started laughing.

Your brain is quiet the strange thing.  Scientists still don’t know entirely how the darn thing works.  And in many ways I hope they never fully crack the code.

Otherwise we’d been given the opportunity to experience the joys of Machine Overlord Leadership with the occasional purge.  Which would be a bummer.

little things to help start the day + trains

Friday nearly cuts the subway population in half.  This is a huge benefit when with my subway over half the train cars don’t work right now.  So say on a Thursday you get to share personal space with 173 of your best friends.  But it’s Friday and on Memorial Day weekend so I suppose a whole gaggle of people want nothing to do with the office today.  This was a nice little pick me up to get the day going where I had space enough to actually read my magazine.

In merry old England they just opened the Elizabeth Line which is one of the most modern (and expensive) train lines ever built.  But then I read that even London’s subway is still only at about 2/3 to 3/4 of pre pandemic capacity.  So it seems working from home is semi-permanent, or perhaps a lot of businesses no longer see advantages to being downtown.  Is it in fact going to permanently reshape urban transportation?

Or, with inflation, war, supply shortages, alien sabotage, etc, the economy has still not fully recovered from pandemic?  Maybe in say five years after inflation has cooled, Vlad is impaled on a spike by that Hero Comic Guy, and people can once again buy critical supplies again (like garden rakes) then the economy will blast off.  And when it does downtown offices and their supporting subways will get cracking again.  Who knows?  At this point, it’s difficult to predict what’s going to happen to the planet in say three or four days.

But we at TAP are here to help!  We can predict what will happen by next Tuesday!  Honest.  Let’s go!

1) Zombies

2) Pizza will be made illegal

3) …

Nah, nope, we’re ah, we’re just not going to do this today.  Sorry.

Enjoy your weekend, friends!

Boris will get drunk, comically push the train conductor out, and drive the train to Wales (somehow) where he will stop the train at an old Edward I hilltop fort castle (somehow) and then pass out drunk by falling through a wooden table.

who to shout to?

For some reason we feel compelled to weigh in on topics throughout the years even though we know nothing will change.  Tis the reality of the times we live in, where government and society are kind of on hold while people shout at each other instead of listening.

By who to shout to?  Let’s take the current gun control talking points and recycle them.  To the point that Beto O’Rourke has to shout at people like a child in a public meeting, instead of, you know, listening.  Oh, Beto, let’s do some basic government analysis / math here:

– House of Representative: 220 Democrats & 208 Republicans

– Senate: 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats, 2 Independents (who are Democrats in reality) w/ tying vote going to the Vice President

– President Joe Biden

In other words, Democrats control the legislative process.  Ah, but you say, the filibuster prevents progress of any legislation in the Senate.  Okay, fair enough.  But who owns that?  Joe Machin and Kyrsten Sinema.  So, um, uh, shouldn’t every gun control advocate on the planet be shouting at those two people, instead of the NRA?  Like, really, really shouting at them?  Or barricading their homes with protestors and throwing red paint on their four figure suits?  No, they won’t.  Why?  Because it’s not about gun control, it’s about political power.  And Machin and Sinema are from swing states the Democrats can’t afford to lose.

The Republicans were similarly jammed at many times in the last two decades when they had the White House plus both chambers and couldn’t move shit for legislation either.  Both parties have their eye on the long game of power politics, not specific individual issues.  So as with most things, get used to it.  Nothing’s going to change.  We’ll see another mass shooting soon.

man shouts at the incoming tide, with equal effect

pop ups are back [frowny face]

Will the Internets devolve? Is Netscape coming back to life? What about [shuffles through some old dusty velum parchments] Myspace, I think maybe they’ve got Facebook in their sights.

Well, at least we got rid of pop ups. Remember those? From like 15 years ago. It was so bad you had to download pop up blockers. But then each individual web browser began putting the blockers inherently into the browser’s code. So you didn’t have to worry about it.

Glad those days are over. So yeah, I was talking to my dog and … oh, oh

oh no

no, please no

Am I going to have to search for a pop up blocker? For fuck’s sake I might as well search for the hottest new clamshell phone. REMEMBER THE 486?!!! IT’LL BE BACK SOON!!! [throws chair]

Nara: Daibutsuden / Todaiji temple – what’s 1,270 years old is beyond comprehension

As a draw on my old photos sometimes I’ll hit upon a trip and I distinctly remember being there when my Parents visited me.  These are good memories, and not to be taken for granted.  Daibutsuden is the Great Buddha Hall in Nara.  The overall complex is Todai-ji or TodaijiDaibutsu is the largest copper Buddha in the world.  As with all major Japanese temples, this one has a tale.

Originally the site was a 8th Century temple built by Emperor Shomu to honor his infant son’s death.  This is when Nara was Japan’s capital, though the country was not totally united during this era.  The larger temple, and chiefly the Daibutsu came later, between 738-752.  It seems (by legend) that in order to finance such a grand undertaking Shomu had to cut a deal.  The Buddhist monk Gyoki would help, but only if he was allowed to teach Buddhism to the people.  This was part of a very complicated transition in Japanese religion where traditional Shinto beliefs began to evolve alongside Buddhism and they merged into a very unique Japanese version of both religions.

But as with all things religion, this transition had its opponents.  But money talks, and Shomu wanted what Shomu wanted, so he cut a deal with Gyoki who got what he wanted.  Here’s a relatively rare (my opinion) in history where an absolute sovereign and an important religious figure resolved their differences with compromise instead of bloodshed.  Contrast this with Henry II and the splattering of some random guy’s brains inside a random cathedral.

It didn’t come cheap.  Gyoki and his followers scoured the country for money and materials.  The statue itself brought financial difficulties to the entire country and gobbled up much of the country’s entire copper supply.  Weight: 500 tons, or the size of a decent sized ship by today’s standards.  Back then, it’d have been the largest ship in the world if it could have floated.

the man himself

his home

Like many temples in Japan, the original Hall burned down many times.  The current hall was finished In 1709, Great Buddha Hall, Daibutsuden, which houses the Daibutsu.  Bizarrely, it’s actually 1/3 smaller than the wooden building it replaced.  Even so, until the turn of the 20th Century it was still the world’s largest wooden building.  And like the temple, the statue itself has been repaired and redone many times over the years due to fire and earthquake damage, plus wars.

Plus it’s 1,270 years old and is thus beyond comprehension.  I’m a big believer that the human brain has limits and the idea that any one of us can properly conceive of 1,270 years inside our brains is asking too much.  It’s a long, long time, with countless lives and dreams riding along the waves of time all while Daibutsu hangs out and watches.  Bronze statues can’t talk.  But maybe if you listen, even if your brain can’t comprehend it, you can still learn from it.

Nyoirin-kannon is next to daibutsu

a pyre outside the main Hall, all these years later I still can’t shake the idea that I botched the angle of this shot

just one man, praying alone, riding the waves of time

we must obey the blood moon’s auspices

There’s an awful lot of awful stuff going on the world today.  War, inflation, celebrities, forthcoming food shortages, pandemic, Tom Brady, and the fact that Vlad Putin has not accidently stumbled into a functioning wood chipper.

But last night’s Blood Moon is what we should all REALLY be paying attention to.  After all, seeking the auspices of such a rare occurrence is surely a sign from God / nature / gods / aliens / whatever.  We must obey.

What?  You want me to follow the teachings of SCIENCE?  The Blood Moon has a perfectly rational scientific explanation and it’s known to all.  Nonsense, I say!  Humanity has only been a keeper of that sweet sweet astronomical knowledge for say three or four centuries.  That leaves 4500 years of human history to be our REAL guide.

So what’s the Blood Moon telling us?  We have no idea, but here are some possibilities:

1) That we, humanity, are total losers and a failure.  We have no choice but to crack each other’s head’s open and feast on the goo inside.  [H/T Kent]

2) You need to buy a new pair of shoes.  Even if your current shoes are brand new.

3) We must all cast Tom Brady into a cenote, to please the gods.

4) Vlad Putin did not have cancer, but possibility the Blood Moon gave him cancer last night.  These are positive changes.

5) The Blood Moon commands us to tame inflation, with fire, as in, arson.  We should totally get started tonight.

6) We must appease the Blood Moon’s anger, please snare your local squirrel, rabbit, or HOA President and sacrificially open their body to determine the color of the liver.

7) In addition to baby formula, the Blood Moon states we will all soon run out of paper clips.  The absence of which, will significantly increase the overall risk of nuclear war.

8) Quit your job, immediately.  Don’t think, just do it.

9) Hug a total stranger on the street and tell them it’s all going to be okay.  Be prepared to run fast if they object to said hug to avoid arrest.

10) The Blood Moon is actually a Batman-like signaling device to a genocidal alien race.  The signal instructs them to come here and do us in, to put us out of our own misery.  As per usual, the aliens will be too bored, drunk, and/or believe us not worth the trouble and they’ll do nothing.

Yes, Lord Blood Moon, we will obey. Yes! Ohhh yeeesss!

walking and blinky boxes

When I was growing up in the 1870’s, the story of not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time was about as complicated as society got.  Now each individual with a smartphone has more computing power in their pockets than the space shuttle had.  This makes for some interesting aspects of modern human behavior.  None more so, to me at least, than the concept of walking and actively being engaged with the blinky box at the same time.

This has always struck me as odd.  To the point I feel really weird if I ever do it.  What I usually do if I have to be on my phone for any reason is I stop walking, take care of it, and resume walking afterwards.  It’s usually only when I’m like late for something and I have to be on the phone for some reason and it just feels wrong, I feel very off about it.

But in the morning death march on the subway where thousands of faceless drones slowly work their way to their day job doom, there’s usually a good percentage of like 5% or so who are walking with their faces in their phones.  It’s always struck me that these folks walk so much slowly than everyone else.  So I guess you can walk and chew gum at the same time while being on your smartphone but it decreases your steps per minute by 47%.

I guess the brain power goes into the smartphone, and the body can’t concentrate or cope and so now your body just inherently reduces your speed by 47%.  I’m sure somebody’s done a study to confirm this, I should probably look it up, I’ll get right on that.  Honest.  Also in case there was any remaining doubt, smartphones are addictive, alter your brain chemistry, and the freaks of Silicon Valley are indeed evil geniuses and have nailed human behavior cold.

Enjoy your weekend, friends!

Samurai Gourmet – your short crash course in Japanese culture

Trying to comprehend Japan is a hard by worthy endeavor.  I lived there for three years and decades later I’m still learning.  Sometimes you run into a gem that’s both fun and helps you along the way.

Lost among the extreme amount of worthless nonsense that Netflix puts out is a 2017 short series in Samurai Gourmet.  It lasted only one season of twelve episodes, each a short bite no longer than about twenty minutes each.  It wasn’t renewed for another season because Netflix is dumb.

The show focuses on Takeshi Kasumi played by all-purpose multi-talented actor Naoto Takenaka.  Kasumi is a 60 year old recently retired salaryman (sararīman) who goes on food based adventures.

A lot of this is straight food porn, but hell so much of television is nowadays.  And I find the food aspects interesting but that’s not the real appeal.  At its core this is a lighthearted comedy about a guy starting a new (and perhaps his first) real stage of his life.  It’s also just plain darn fun, a fact I constantly have whined about on this degenerate blog as missing from much of modern television.

Kasumi is shadowed by the neat, unique concept where his alter-ego is a Sengoku Jidai era samurai (Tetsuji Tamayama) who shares the same experiences but is a badass whereas Kasumi is still figuring out who he is as a person.  Essentially if you have any interest in Japan, or food, or just want a fun comedic ride, this is for you.  But a few key points I’ll make without getting into the plot, such as it is.

1) Kasumi retires at 60 after working for the same corporation for forty years and ended at essentially middle management.  It’s typical sararīman.  At more than one point he remarks that he walked to and from the same train station every day for decades and never took a detour.  The show (wisely, because it would break the fun) doesn’t dwell on the absolute misery of the life of a sararīman.  The punishing hours, the demeaning work, the lack of independence, and absolute total deference one must show to one’s superiors regardless of their brutality or lack of talent.  When you understand what being a sararīman really is, it makes Kasumi’s adventures mean so much more.  He’s finally free to be his own person, and now that he has that freedom, he’s on an adventure to discover who that person is.

The very first episode he dwells at his anxiety that he cannot possibly have a beer with lunch, oh no, that’s not proper.  For a sararīman, beer is for late night mandatory after work events with your boss where you get plastered and arrive home after your wife’s already asleep.  But in the episode, Kasumi orders the lunch beer, it’s a release for him.  The very first step on his journey to be free, a person he actually wants to be.  In many ways, and this is where Naoto nails this performance, Kasumi is also still emotionally a little boy.  He wife (Honami Suzuki) has a remark in episode three that’s telling where Kasumi has to overnight at an inn and she’s astounded because he’s never been alone all his life.  He grew up with his parents, lived with them through university, and moved out when he got married.  Now who he is?  Sometimes they intersperse scenes from his childhood, before he became a sararīman, which is of course a perfect foil for what happened to him the past four decades.  He’s a free child, had a punishing four decade gap, and now?  That’s the core of the show.

2) The other major theme is Kasumi and Shinzuko’s marriage.  If you want to understand what a lot of Japanese marriages might be like, particularly in the sararīman theme, here you go.  There is a deep respect between the two, but essentially they barely know each other and lead completely different lives.  He was a four decade sararīman.  It’s never mentioned if they had children.  It’s never mentioned if she had a job, because she probably didn’t.  She has her own hobbies, she’s completely independent of him, and you clearly get the idea that she really doesn’t need this guy at all to be happy.  She cooks for him and helps him here and there but otherwise one could mistake this for a loveless soulless marriage.

I don’t think it is one.  They never actually say the word love, but I think it’s there.  The closest they come to it is late in the season where they go out for their anniversary.  And they both joke about how they hardly ever did this, or even went out to eat together at all.  There’s an extremely emotional, even romantic moment where Kasumi opens up to her in a way he probably never has.  But the word love isn’t there.  He simply states, nearly but subtly tear eyed (Naoto is a superb actor), “I ask for your continued support.”  And she says the same back.  It reminds me of The Fiddler on the Roof song Do You Love Me?  These two people have been together a very, very long time, haven’t had the easiest of lives, and have just somehow made it work.  They’re together and in love even if they’ve never realized it’s happening in such a way.  I think their marriage would have been explored a great deal more had Netflix not cancelled the show.

3) The samurai parts are fairly typical, but just fun.  Tetsuji is cut from cloth to play this era of samurai and it’s such a joy.  But they keep it short, and leave you wanting more.  Tetsuji is only on screen for maybe two minutes of each episode.  But each vignette is a good look at that era of Japanese culture and contains countless thoughts on war, class, etc, etc that are short but on point.

4) The food parts are the food parts.  It’s indeed modern food porn.  But if you like Japanese food you get the usual oden, yakitori, yakiniku, etc, etc.  There’s also a surprisingly large amount of times, about a 1/3 a think, where Kasumi goes and pursues Western style dishes with their own Japanese twist.  If you like this kind of food (I worship it) then this will leave you hungry as it should.  I went to a local yakitori place off this show’s cravings alone last week.  The result?  It sucked, I was so disappointed the place failed.  Why can’t I live three train stops from Shinjuku?  We need teleporters to be invented, right now.

5) A pox on you Netflix, did we really need another season of Bridgerton?  How much did that cost them to make, ~$124M?  I think the budget for Samurai Gourmet is about five bucks.  And it’s more emotionally engaging and thought provoking.  It’s been five years, so this is a dead show.  But it is very much worth anyone’s time.  It’s fun, enjoy the ride.