Nagasaki – Confucius Shrine

Not sure why I ended up at this Shrine, it’s not entirely popular but I’ve got pictures of it so I guess I went there for a reason. I guess?

Constructed in 1893 by Nagasaki’s Chinese residents the place has 72 statues of Confucius. It’s a reminder that Nagasaki was always the ancient gateway into Japan.

Note the differences in architecture from Japanese shrines from some of my previous posts.

Osaka – Shitennō-ji

I just didn’t take as many photos back then, I guess. Go to a temple, take only two shots? I’ve talked about how this can be a good thing. But when I don’t remember all that much about the visit, I guess it can also be a bad thing.

About an hour’s walk from Sumiyoshi-taisha is Shitennō-ji, another very old temple with a long history. It’s beyond my memory, but this is an excellent summary.

Shitennō-ji is said to be the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan but sadly all the buildings date from a 1960’s rebuild. Still worth a short visit.

Osaka – Sumiyoshi Taisha

If you’re in Osaka, you kind of just have to. Osaka’s most famous shrine, seat of all Japan’s Sumiyoshi shrines, and the subject of many legends, Sumiyoshi Taisha is said to have been originally built in 211. Founded by Empress Jingu it’s a shrine to the sea, dedicated to the Sumiyoshi Sanjin or the sea’s three gods. Back then, the shrine was right against the sea itself whereas today it’s somewhat inland.

The appropriately, galactically famous Sorihashi Bridge, one of the most beautiful and quintessential of Japan’s taiko bashi or drum bridges. This is one of my most favorite shots of all time, it was done with my old bad camera, and has its flaws but I still dig it.

The shrine’s west entrance, looking from west to east, with the gate up front, and the bridge in the background.

One of the rarest things I ever saw in Japan, a legit memorial for World War II. The shrine being dedicated to the sea, this of course makes sense. This was tucked away in a corner area and I kind of stumbled into it. I sadly don’t read Japanese in any form anymore, but this is a heavy cruiser. I don’t know the ship name or class, but the painting is an older version of the ship, I think, since the heavy cruiser has only two forward turrets instead of the later installed three.

The secondary temple.

If I’ve got my bearings right, this is the north side of the trio of the three main sanctuary structures. I always love the candid shots I get of just ordinary people happening along their daily lives, unaware or uncaring that this weird dude is taking very serious (bad amateur) photography.

New Zealand, from the top rope!

I’m often so grateful that when I first began my travel adventures the smartphone didn’t exist. I had an old school flip phone where texting was a downright marvel. Social media was a term that didn’t exist. I had my own camera (originally a very crappy one) that I used to take my shots. Essentially most, but not every travel post I’ve ever done on this blog was travel I did without a flat screen smartphone.

I wonder what beginning your travel adventures nowadays does to a young man or woman who starts out their journey, probably has a smartphone, has various social media accounts, and doesn’t carry a separate camera. I shudder to think about it. But I think the answer is this, this is from a Twitter user named Lukas Stefanko in 2018, with the caption, “The social media queue”

This is in New Zealand, and this photo makes me want to burn every smartphone and social media account on the planet. [unintelligible snickering] Yes, yes, my Guests would like me to remind you that I am in fact a degenerate, crazy, loser, blog author.

Well, New Zealand is sick of it. New Zealand has a long history of being a tourist favorite, or over favorite. There have been talks in New Zealand for years to impose some kind of tourist fee, or restrictions on visitors in certain areas because they feel so buried by the mass of humanity. But this will never happen because so much of New Zealand’s economy is tied to tourism.

But they put out this video, from the top rope, and it’s professionally shot, funny, and has a super cool message:

I like how @0:50 he gets grabby with these two actors (who are portraying total losers). But it’d be great with me if he went further, and was whacking them with a truncheon like some 1880’s drunken bobby.

Messages like this delivered with humor are awesome, @1:28 where he takes a tumble I was totally cracking up.

Anyways, have a look at the video, heed its message. Indeed, some of the best travel experiences I ever had were where I deliberately made myself never take one photo, either with my good camera, or my smartphone if I had one.

Enjoy your day!

Ōsaka-jō – and why building expensive castles usually doesn’t work

So you want to build a castle. You’re a powerful man but you have a boss. And his castle is awesome. So you want to build one that’s even better than his. So your tower is taller, you throw some gold leaf on there, and you probably think you’ve done an awesome thing.

Problem is, your boss dies, and you’re left hanging with this big, huge, expensive castle while your enemy instead has a massive killing machine of a mobile field army. Oh, and sorry, fixed defenses are generally of only limited value during a long running military conflict. Just ask China how well the Great Wall was at keeping out those dastardly Mongols.

Ōsaka-jō was built from 1583-1597 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi who wanted to mirror the digs of his boss (at the time, everybody’s boss) in Oda Nobunaga. But then Oda died. And soon the son in Toyotomi Hideyori gets Ōsaka-jō.

Then one day in 1600 this ordinary, average, nondescript guy named Tokugawa Ieyasu wins arguably one of the devastating and decisive battles in military history at Sekigahara. Toyotomi loses badly, but it takes Tokugawa until 1615 to acquire enough balance of power to finally settle the score. Tokugawa’s army of several hundred thousand men overpowers Ōsaka-jō, burns it to the ground, Toyotomi dies by his own hand, and Japan’s history is essentially written for the next two hundred years.

Tokugawa rebuilds the castle, because of course. In the subsequent centuries it does what a lot of wooden buildings do throughout history, it burns repeatedly. Gets rebuilt. Then burns again. Then the castle is rebuilt with public contributions. Then during the Boshin War it’s taken and burned again. Then it’s rebuilt, but this time as an arsenal. And so the the Americans carpet bomb the place into oblivion in August 1945.

Only in the late 1990’s is the castle itself restored. But in typical Japanese fashion, it’s done in concrete and not wood. Every time, it still gives me a lack of understanding chuckle at the lack of authenticity and reverence the Japanese have for historical sites and buildings. Nothing quite like the calm, religious experience of a glorious temple, when you can buy hello kitty right inside the door from one of my merchant stalls.

This was a neat visit, it’s cool to look at and the ground themselves are beautiful more as a garden or a park. The tower is interesting, but it feels stale and not real. Probably because it’s concrete and not real. It’s not one of my favorite Japan locations, by far, but it’s worth a short trip if you’re in town.

And also, if you have a Bond style villain demi-god level of power in your future somewhere, don’t build a castle or a god-like evil lair. Building expensive castles usually doesn’t work, see Ōsaka-jō. Or Bond will blow up your lair. Focus on mobile field armies or goons instead.

everybody died today

The news is a funny thing. Lots going on in the world, but especially people dying. I think today I saw the following people have commuted to Valhalla:

– Sigfried or Roy, I can’t remember which one, but I think this means both are now getting mauled by tigers in Valhalla as drunk mead swilling goons laugh at them

– Some Survivor contestant, which means one of like 3,487 people because for some reason that stupid show still exists

– Some actress that at least a few people have heard of that was on some show or movie I’ve never seen

I think that makes it about 1/5 of the news articles on the front pages of the news I read. I didn’t click on these articles, but there they were, in my face. And I wouldn’t say I read trash news or gossip or celebrity sites. I’ve got my beef with the media, but it’s not like I’m reading TMZ.

I’m not wishing for people to go, and it sucks when anybody dies. Well, unless you’re Hilter, Stalin, a card carrying member of Al Qaeda or ISIS, or if you love & religious profess Crossfit. But it doesn’t mean you deserve front page news when you check out to the next realm.

I mean when like Sean Connery checked out, that’s front page news. Same with Leonard Nimoy. Otherwise, back page please, let check out time come quietly for most.

apartment living is a bizarre experience

I lived in a house and then a townhouse I owned for nearly a decade. Then I sold them because I got moved around for work and frankly was tired of being a homeowner. Owning a home is a big pain in the ass. These two houses had a number of major issues. I dropped so much freaking coin to get them ready to sell. I think I essentially lost money on one and made some money on the other.

So then I got back into apartment living to shorten my commute and because after two of my eternal doggy buddies commuted to Doggy Valhalla I only had one small troublemaking shoebox dog and could get away with a small one bedroom closet.

There are a great deal of pros with this sort of life:

1) If something breaks, I don’t care, because I don’t have to fix it.

2) Significantly less square footage to clean.

3) Never have to search for where said troublemaking dog is hiding because the place is so small you can always hear her snoring and determine her location by ear (she has a smash face).

4) I have found that owning less stuff is a pro for me. My biggest source of hoarding are books and blu rays. Boo hoo. It’s gonna be a sad day for me when I buy a house again and have to own more than one couch.

5) When the ghosts come to haunt my dreams and tell me to burn things there’s only one bedroom so they’re in and out real quick.

6) Cooking smells last for days, which works for me because I take my cooking seriously. Who doesn’t want their dive apartment smelling like Spanish jamon for days on end?

7) You only have to drag your laundry twelve feet instead of up and down two flights of stairs.

8) I don’t care what any financial goon says to you, renting may have once been way, way more expensive than owning. I think this was true for our parents’ generation. I don’t much think so anymore. Granted, I don’t rent an expensive place, but I put out way, way less coin in a year into renting than I ever did into owning.

Now the bizarre cons:

1) Having to once again submit myself to the noises and antics of neighbors who will yell at one another, have party now and then, conduct a demon ritual with friends and fellow acolytes, and so on. I can sometimes hear all this inside the apartment. It bugs me and my doggy. Fortunately this is solved via headphones or the ever tasty internet white noise generator which I frequently employed when I lived overseas recently and the walls were made of cheap plaster made in Pakistan.

2) Do you like pot? It’s okay if you do. But boy you gotta keep that smell shit inside your apartment. Cigarette smoke lasts about twelve seconds. Pot smell and smoke lasts 27 years. Trust me, I ride the subway and can confirm this. They need to put a towel under their door or something. Like I said I kind of rent on the cheap so management doesn’t care. And I live in a progressive jurisdiction where a large amount of crime is essentially tolerated because nobody wants to offend anybody, do we? I’ve got not beef with the smoking pot, I’d fucking legalize every drug on the planet. Just keep it out of my apartment.

3) The incredibly bizarre experience of elderly women and homosexual men brazenly hitting on me at 1am on a Saturday morning when my dog is using the bathroom in the courtyard. Again, all good with me about anybody’s life choice, just not my thing. Plus, if hitting on people at 1am in an apartment courtyard was acceptable (among many other behaviors) then I suspect dating wouldn’t be so difficult for me.

4) The dudes who buy and have delivered their snotty higher than thou newspapers, decorate the front step with them, and then don’t collect them until 11am. I’m usually the first tenant out the door with my dog for bathroom. I gotta sweep this pile of shit aside like my foot is a broom. It’s my first act of the day, or, I guess second after snaring my dog and carrying her down the stairs (her back is gone). Even my own dear mother has stopped getting a paper newspaper except but once a week. And daily newspapers have been a religion in my family for generations. Who does it daily anymore, except as a statement of political support? It’s the new woke. “You do read the paper newspaper, every day, don’t you?” [looks intently at total stranger while fingering official woke dagger in pocket]

5) I truly, truly, truly miss having a full kitchen to cook in. I have a micro kitchen. Do you see my sad face? This is my sad face.

6) My cheap ass apartment has a hot water heater manufactured in Yugoslavia in 1984. It does not possess the capacity to fill the bathtub to full capacity. Do you know how much I miss a good hot bath after an outside winter workout? Sigh.

7) I wish I knew my neighbors, at all. I’m rewatching Poirot and at least as depicted 1935 apartment living everybody is all polite and knows one another and watches out for another. I’m an insular, quiet weirdo who my neighbors probably thinks builds bone pyramids in my closet. But even when I try and greet people, say nice things the usual response is dead silence. This was even before covid. Now people avoid each other like there’s a pandemic going on. It makes the building feel so cold and empty.

8) My cheap ass apartment has no balcony and no floor length windows. So my doggy can’t look outside and watch the world go by. And I can’t sit on the balcony in the spring or fall and smoke me a rare cigar and scotch and just exist. I miss my decks and backyards.

That is all. This will be my last apartment.

PS, if you’ve read this far, I thank you. But also wonder what’s wrong with you? I mean, I know there’s a lot wrong with me. But why are you here? I’m so, so sorry that you’re hear. Let me help you! With a virtual pandemic hug. To get your free hug, kindly send via international wire transfer, $500 to:

The Arcturus Project – Virtual Hug Project

C/O Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation

1794 Aguiyi Ironsi Street

Abuja 900001, Nigeria

oh, Dune and Matrix 4 will go straight to streaming? wait, these things still exist?

Remember, everything is a remake or a sequel. Original ideas are for suckers. Dune and Matrix 4 will go straight to streaming instead of theaters.

This is like a mercy killing. It’s where you shoot a dying shark in the face after it gets mauled by a killer orca.

1) Matrix 1 might be in the top twenty of all time. Matrix 2 and 3 are terribly awful pieces of trash.

2) I’ve never understood the appeal of Dune. I worship science fiction like the loser nerd I am. I think Dune sucks. Kiss my ass low grade, confusing, science fiction trash.

If these flicks had made their way to theaters, they’d have bombed. So now they get relegated to the sin bin of straight streaming. But in a pandemic, it’s not banned from theaters because they suck, it’s risky, rule breaking streaming. Ooo, what brave movie production companies who ban their D grade material to the Internets only?!

Remember the pandemic movie debut of Tenent? Oh, Tenent was going to save theaters but somehow it bombed? Please. Nobody cares about Christopher Nolan anymore because his formula is the same and nobody is impressed. Hey did you know Tenent has a time travel plot?! WOW! I’ve never seen that in a Nolan movie before. I can’t imagine how it bombed, even during a pandemic.

Please, do not enjoy or even watch Dune or Matrix 7. Watch something new, even if it’s terrible. If it’s an original idea, it’s worth your attention.

Unforgiven – welcome to reality, and misery properly portrayed

Misery on screen is a delicate balance.  Unless the director is insane, it’s a horror movie, a horrible movie, or you happen to be making just about anything modern for HBO or Netflix.  Did you know life is a big meat grinder?  I mean, you could die, like, right now.  Your favorite doggy or kitty is one heartbeat away from Happy Pet Valhalla.  HBO and Netflix are happy to remind of this.

Oh Amazon is in on the game too.  Did you enjoy the fun, excitement, and adventure of the original Avengers or Guardians?  I mean, before superhero films became bloated and impossible to watch noise factories?  Well, don’t worry!  Amazon is here to help you feel awesome with something called The Boys where everybody is evil and human life is expended faster than Zimbabwean currency.

We’ve discussed this concept before.  And we recently rewatched another movie that properly handles misery on screen, and it’s Unforgiven, and it’s a legendary movie.

I haven’t seen the movie in a long time.  It’s way better than I remembered it.  Hell you can’t go too wrong when you get Eastwood, Freeman, Hackman, and Harris on screen.  And with Eastwood behind the camera?  Sold.  Get these four dudes in a movie where they drunkenly argue over which used couch to buy and I’d still adore it.  It totally blows that Harris is gone and that the other three don’t have too many years left.  Fuck Clooney and his toolish modern ilk.  All these modern leading men are con man actors compared to these four masters.

Eastwood goes full on reproduction of his still awesome and classic Western roles.  The tone is a perfect other side of the same coin.  And yet, because Eastwood is a master and not a Hollywood tool, the film doesn’t come across as a pathetic, politically based, beat audience over head with a message disaster.  You can truly love Dollars I and Dollars II for what they are.  And love Unforgiven for what it is.  And you truly enjoy, understand, and agree with the messages of all three movies.

Eastwood will one day be missed as a director, in a way we can’t even imagine yet.  Even Sully, the most basic of plots that has a running time of 43 minutes, is a decent watch and well worth your time.  Eastwood is still directing, he’s gonna die on set.  It’s appropriate, a heroic way for him to go.  I just hope it’s a long, long time from now.

post election musings

– Apparently the highest percentage of the population in over a century voted in this election.  Still, it’ll likely come down to what 8K people in one State say.  Because the Electoral College is like having three of the 10,432 houses within 1 mile of yours get to decide where your dog can go to the bathroom.

– I never thought the Founding Fathers were infallible, despite knowing they built the best concrete to stand a nation atop ever.  However, the Electoral College and lifetime appointments for Supreme Court are among the more glaring dummy errors.  Anybody having a lifetime appointment to any government position is antidemocratic and has never really fulfilled the original purpose of keeping justices impartial.  The Electoral College was built for the days when only like 13% of the population was even eligible to vote.

– Good luck fixing either of these two obvious problems.  Changing the Constitution in today’s political environment?  Essentially, truly, impossible.  Anybody who says otherwise is promoting a pipe dream and needs to move to Oregon (see below).  You might as well fire a handgun into the ocean hoping to, “Take revenge upon all Fish for the crimes they’ve committed against humanity for the last 5K years.”

– The rest of Earth can still kiss my ass.  Oh, the Electoral College is dumb and America should fix it?  Kiss my ass.  Let anybody try and explain to you how Proportional Representation works in Parliamentary Democracies.  You’ll need a lot of beer, and the ability to laugh and mock at will.  Trust me.

– Think what you will about Trump, but the Democrats have only themselves to thank that he even exists.  They spent the last two elections putting up a pair of total losers who’d been in politics for the last 47 years and had zero real policies to offer.  When your only selling point to the voting populace is, “At least I’m not that guy”, then don’t be surprised when you can’t hook the average voter.

– Because of the above, and because the Senate and House remain divided, even if Biden wins expect him to accomplish absolutely nothing of actual value in the next four years.  Remember, America has a politics problem that goes well beyond what folks do or do not think about Trump.  These problems aren’t going to get solved, I’m so very sorry.

– People can now get fucked up on hard drugs in Oregon now.  Good for them.  I wish this rule applied everywhere.  Unfortunately we’ll still have to let America’s streets get torn up by a century of failed drug war policy before it’s all legalized in 2084.

– The tech freaks got their wish and California (the greatest bastion of hypocritical false values on Earth) voted to let the likes of Uber, Lyft, etc continue to treat their employees as non-union indentured slave labor.  Because nothing say big tech cares about you and the human race like dropping a cool $200M+ on lobbying cash to let a Paraguayan immigrant earn $3 an hour ferrying drunken tech bros back from their post IPO launch at the Ritz.

– Do you know who won your mayoral election (if applicable)?  Or even who your mayor is?  You should, they have 741% more influence on your life than the Prez does.

– Bad news, the TAP’s national ballot initiative to “Liquidate All Humanity, Cable News Employees/Networks, Flower Greenhouses, & Strip Mall Properties to the Sub-Atomic Level” was rejected in 49 States before even getting on the ballot.  It was then defeated by a 98% to 1% to 1% margin in Rhone Island where the remaining 1% was nothing but people writing, “What the hell is this nonsense?  Who the hell wrote this crazy, stupid shit?”