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.

absurdity of the week – apartment building names

As I ride into work on the subway I always see a lot of construction.  But much of it is coming to a close as all the newfangled buildings take shape.  Many of them are brand new modern city apartment buildings.  First off, all of these structures are glass enclosed, fake brick nightmares that have stale architecture, no style, and look like they were designed by a logical computer program.  Probably because they were designed by a logical computer program with the intent of providing the most efficiency possible.  Once upon a time, humanity built beautiful buildings with soul.  Even the post office was meant to have style.  Now we get buildings that are designed off spreadsheet outcomes.

Second, all of these new apartment buildings have the most pretentious names imaginable.  One I saw this morning is called “The Gantry”.  What?  According to Oxford, a gantry is: “a tall metal frame that is used to support a crane, road signs, a spacecraft while it is still on the ground, etc.”  So other than to sound fancy, snooty, and otherwise give the impression that this particular apartment building only wishes to house stuck up assholes, why would you name your building after a metal frame?  Of course, you wouldn’t.  What I’ve written above to me is a negative trait for a building, but to the building designers it’s The Point.

The Gantry in San Francisco (not my city, yes there are several The Gantry’s in the USA [shakes head in exasperation]) says this:  “EVERY COMFORT CONSIDERED.  The Gantry Apartments welcomes you with studio-, 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom apartment homes in Dogpatch, San Francisco, all designed to meet your needs and desires for a carefree and luxurious lifestyle.”  It also uses the term “Luxe” on the website.  To steal a quote from South Park, in order to live in such a place you have to be in love with the smell of your own farts.

But don’t worry!  TAP is here to help.  We’ll take care of apartment naming from now on.  If building designers disagree, they’ll be sent to a Russian conscript training camp near Rostov-on-Don and their buildings destroyed by my Guests.  Let’s go.  Let’s fucking go!!!

1) The Gambler – We see to your every comfort, unless life’s dice roll against you, in which case we will immediately evict you

2) The Wreck of the Hesperus – Where your pride is summarily & forcefully removed via our constant vigilance towards your misery

3) As We Like It – Your every comfort is not considered, if this is a problem, you don’t have to live here

4) The Cat Burglar – All pets (particularly cats) are more than welcome at our fine establishment, just realize we will occasionally rob you for your own amusement

5) The Acolyte Politico – We have no available apartments, please kindly descend into our boiler room to tour our fine building, it is recommend your will is accurate prior to your visit

6) The Coliseum – We built our beautiful building to match Rome’s finest architecture, we also host blood sports in the penthouse every Friday and Saturday

7) Gulag – The finest of pre-revolution Imperial Russian architecture provides a backdrop to our mandate that any abject pretension detected in the building will result in severest punishment

8) The Olympian – Sports, every day, competition, we’re for the strong of all, and our building carries the boon of classic Greek architecture

9) The Hopeless – We seek to provide our residents every opportunity to consider the pointlessness of their corporeal existence, also free gym membership!!

10) The Lunatic – Why did I write this post?  Someone, please help me!  They made me do this, I need rescuing!  Please help pay my ransom.  Please kindly send cash, money order, or gold bullion to:

The Arcturus Project – Apartment Architecture & Naming Reclamation Project

C/O Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation

1794 Aguiyi Ironsi Street

Abuja 900001, Nigeria

we do epic battle with the dentist’s office

Let’s face it, it’s not likely I’ll have to prevent the local Denny’s from being overrun by zombies or some kind of unhinged coked out dragon.  Either of these options would be great, but generally I don’t walk around town carrying firearms or a mythic sword.  Instead, I’m just a loser who has to make do with surviving an otherwise routine visit to the dentist’s office.

A visit where you, the customer, are a cog in an increasingly profit driven machine where you’re herded through the dentist experience like human cattle with brutal efficiency.  The era of the single family dentist practice is dead, replaced by (like many things in our society) a system that values / tracks profit per minute, and return to investors over anything approaching actual medicine.  And you better believe more is better, because more means they get to bill the insurance company more, and more is better, because more is more money.

– X-rays: Didn’t we just do those six months ago?  I don’t think bone changes that fast unless I get punched in the face in the interim.  Which didn’t happen.  X-rays again.  Umm, okay.

– 3D scan of teeth: It feels like they’re jamming a caulk gun down your throat.  Hey you know what an awesome 3D scan of my teeth really is?  It’s called a mirror.  I see a 3D scan of my teeth every day.

– Divine offering: They felt the need to stop the visit for 15 minutes to make an offering (via a slaughtered bird) to Vlarbungard, the Norse God of Teeth, Pine Needles, and Hand Craftsmanship Using Driftwood.  I found this to be a rather odd experience.

– Water pick thing: This damn thing sets off my gums like a fire alarm.  Maybe I have sensitive sissy gums.  But I’m so desperate to get the fuck out the place as fast as possible I don’t complain.  I just endure the pain in hopes it’ll all end soon.  There’s probably a metaphor for life or cooking or whatever in this experience somewhere.

– Dry pick: But, the suffering was entirely in vain (metaphor).  Because they still broke out the dry pick anyways and used that damn thing for quite a while.  Were the majority of the Gestapo’s master torturers dentist school wash outs?  Without any research I have determined the answer is yes.

– Floss: After all that they have to floss me, what the fuck is this?  I think they just do it to encourage people to floss more on their own.  We won’t, we just won’t, stop asking us to do it.

– Dognapping: The tech came by and showed me a photograph (what’s that?) of my dog with today’s local newspaper.  My dog was holding (somehow) a sign that said: “I have 12 minutes to live.  Don’t you love me?”  At which point I was invited to spend more money on a fluoride treatment like $50 out of pocket because insurance won’t cover it (probably because it’s a scam).  I stared at the wall and said nothing.  I know my dog, by now the kidnappers have had their necks broken.

– Polish: I remember the polishing stuff used to have fruity flavors, or mint flavor.  Now it tastes like doctor’s office scum.  I’m not really into gum, or fruity flavors, I just point this out because I’m sure the polish with mint costs the dentist office 6 cents more per procedure.  So it had to go.

– Daydreams while teeth are under assault: I’m rewatching TNG, god the new Star Trek shows suck so badly.  Picard is an android now?  I guess?  WTF?  The makers of Picard and Discovery should be imprisoned.  TNG was made in like 1991, 30 years ago.  It’s superior to 98% of television made today.

– Doctor: The techs and hygienists do all the work.  The dentist comes in for like 37 seconds and then leaves.  Dude has to do this 137 times a day.  He has no real job.  I’d be ashamed if I was him, that is until the paycheck cleared.  The dentist needs a third boat.

– History: I’m reading John Adams.  You know what really sucks?  Living in an era without actual dentists.  The Founding Fathers all had garbage teeth, and they were at the pinnacle of society.  Can’t imagine what the average farmer put up with.  I think for almost all of human existence not the last 150 years people’s teeth were a constant source of pain and suffering.

things you should never say in public

I’m mostly catatonic during my morning commute. I’m just not a morning person. I sit on the subway like a zombie. Sometimes I read a little, sometimes I doze off, but mostly I just exist. But things can peak my brain. Like the time last week this guy walked right up six inches from my face and nearly screamed in a menancing way: “Annnddd how are you doing this morning?” I said absolutely nothing and stared at him like he was a sedentary empty soup can and eventually he walked away. Not sure what was up with that.

This morning I’m walking out of the station and I overhear a guy say this little gem to his buddy:

“And then I shot him in the face with a silenced pistol!”

Oh yeah, hmm, yeah that’ll yield a double take even in my fogged morning brain. I’m sure he was just talking about Fortnite, but you still need to not say things like that in public. Or at least don’t talk loudly.

While I’m on the topic, all these Fortnite or equivalent massive multiplayer shooters are all pure garbage. They’re pay for play ponzi schemes for losers.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love shooters, they’re a genre I play all the time. I have a higher video game kill count than Alexander’s partially genocidal Companion Cavalry. But if you’re going to play a shooter, skip the weak ass crap and play a real game. Play a singleplayer death machine like Doom or Wolfenstein.

I mean, just look at this cartoon nonsense:

Oh look the guy has a sword, and it seems they’re surrounded by zombies. Oh and she’s got a Warcraft style hammer. How cute. It’s like a Lego version of a shooter.

Here’s something actually worth your time from Wolfestein:

Ahhh, now that’s early morning commute stress relief.

El Paso – Franklin Mountain

El Paso is one of those few but not insignificant number of American cities that I’ve been to so much I feel like I’ve lived there when I actually haven’t. Work and fun travel will do that progressively over time. More than anything what drew me to El Paso was the people. I really miss working with those folks and their families a lot. I’ll probably never go there for work again, but whenever I find my way back to El Paso the people are always there.

Still, that doesn’t mean El Paso lacks for things to do on your own. In Franklin Mountain, El Paso has a hill that literally bisects the city, and gives it its name. It’s a good hike, and one that if done on a weekday has the always enjoyable trait of being one you can accomplish without seeing a single other human being, which always adds a nice poetic touch to the hike.

the always typical and delightful: I want to climb that.

I can’t remember what this small structure was, but I think it was a power company site back when such things were needed

east El Paso, it’s hard to tell in this shot, but this portion of the mountain has three or four feet of hiking room, with a very clear one way trip doom fall on either side of you, it was fun

it’s time for a return to bloodsports

This morning on the train a woman was absolutely out of her mind.  Likely under the influence of some mild expanding substances she was shouting nonsensical things to the train car in general.  Since the local train police are essentially nonexistent, this is not an uncommon occurrence.  Everyone ignored her.  However, what was uncommon was as she got off the train she got into another lady’s face and started yelling at a complete stranger, essentially threatening her life for no reason.

This other lady then proceeded to let the crazy lady have it, and basically shouted her down asking her in very kind, appropriate language fit for a kindergarten what her problem was and to get away from her.  Much to my surprise, this entire interaction greatly pleased the entire train car’s passengers.  It seemed to make them happy to see this altercation, made their commute more exciting.  Other complete strangers were talking about it with each other.

Why?  Well, morning commutes are boring as shit.  Plus, this crazy lady had been shouting for 20 minutes and so folks were probably pleased to see somebody hand her her ass.  But, I have a twisted mind and so my other thoughts were that folks were just happy to see some kind of non-violent altercation as pure entertainment.  It brought people together, complete strangers.

This is straight caveman shit.  This is the ape part of our brains that loves to see a good scrum.  Think evolution has solved us of this?  Wrong.  At times it seems the entire purpose of social media is to give people an outlet to express their rage at [insert anything here].  Instead of brawling with their neighbors in the market square over [insert anything here], they just output their rage on Twitter.

Not only is this unhealthy, it’s also weak.  It’s really, really easy to threaten somebody’s life over a political issue when you’re not in the same room with them.  It’s rather a different concept if you’re face to face.  Let’s take an example of this.

1) Political Cult Acolyte 1 says to Political Cult Acolyte 2 over Twitter, “Fuck you, you’re wrong, my opinion is right.  You deserve to die.  I’ll kill you and all those like you, fucker.”  A similar threat is returned.  Nothing actually happens.

2) Political Cult Acolyte 1 says the same thing to Political Cult Acolyte 2, only face to face.  Either the police are called, a fight ensues, or somebody is actually murdered.

If you ask me, (2) is more productive than (1).  (1) allows the rage to continue, let’s people live in their own narcissistic bubble, permits people to endlessly be total assholes without consequence, and in the end solves nothing.  Whereas with (2), the issue is resolved, one way or the other, immediately.

It’s time for a return to bloodsports.  The Coliseum is still standing, just slightly upgrade that venue and let’s get back to our roots.  The mandate is anytime somebody threatens somebody on the train, or on Twitter, it’s like a glove slap challenge.  If the other human doesn’t accept, they can be branded as a coward or not serious in their beliefs regarding [insert anything here].  If they accept the challenge: Coliseum.

This can be live broadcasting like the Olympics or like any number of post-apocalyptic B movie from 1987.  They don’t necessarily have to kill each other, just get the other opponent to submit.  So I’m not necessarily advocating tridents and nets.  Let them hit each other with plastic bats for all I care.  Eventually somebody will get tired of getting hit in the head and give up.  Or, we just let folks go wild and somebody can get viciously stabbed with a short sword.  Either way.

But, I guess the problem is this would instantly make these folks famous.  So folks would be picking fights on Twitter just so they could get into the Coliseum and then become #1 on Instagram.  Fuck, my idea sucks.  It solves nothing.

Hmm, how about instead of bloodsports, we adopt the ancient Mayan or Aztec custom of human sacrifice?  If two people threaten each other on the train or Twitter, they get tossed into a cenote, or have their heart ripped out on the steps of the Supreme Court?

failed train becomes graffiti

Near my place is a light commuter rail train bridge overpass under construction.  Construction’s been on hold for over a year because (shocker) the project is over budget and the government is fighting with various private companies over who pays the bill.  My bet is it takes five more years to finish this thing.  It’ll be a decade behind schedule and probably a few billion over budget.  Which seems to be how America builds things nowadays.

Anyways, since this very new and expensive bridge is essentially abandoned, people get to have a field day except for the nearby construction storage site.  That site is safe is because it’s surrounded by cameras and barbed wire.  But the bridge itself is essentially open, if you’re daring or dumb enough to climb out on the steel edges of the supporting beams.  The beams are about a person’s width wide, without a railing, and a drop of at least a 100 feet or so.  In other words, you can walk out there, but if you fall you’re done.

And wouldn’t you know it several crazy folks have done so, to spray paint graffiti on the side of the bridge.  The first guy did this months and months ago.  It was a crude word that was incomprehensible, I guess it was his art name?  I have no idea, I’m not exactly up on the graffiti scene / lingo.  This morning another artist / goon (depends on your viewpoint) put his or her tag on the bridge side next to the old word.  The new stuff was super elaborate.  It must have taken hours to spray that on there.

I draw the following conclusions:

1) Whoever did this had the mental fortitude / courage / guts of a person who in caveman times would have killed all his rivals and made ten surrounding villages his bitch.  It takes balls to stand out there with inches between life and death for hours, and to somehow spray a well composed coherent concept.

2) Like a lot of places in America, the crime rate in my local area has soared lately.  We had a carjacking the other day which is extremely rare.  This weekend the cops were back, just down the block from me.  Yesterday I had to shoo my dog along during the walk because she wanted to play with a man who made no attempt whatsoever to conceal he was dealing hard drugs.  Spray paint a bridge illegally?  No worries, the cops are nowhere to be found (for many, many reasons which we won’t get into today).

3) Despite his nighttime tactics, I’m sure the artist / goon (depends on your viewpoint) would have been visible to at least a few pedestrians and those driving in cars.  So either these folks just let him do it and didn’t care, or they called the cops and the cops didn’t show (see above).  But I guess if folks saw this and didn’t care, I’m okay with that.  Somebody spray painted a bridge, so what?  If government can’t be bothered to not completely & totally waste taxpayer money for a decade on a failed transit project why not let some dude have at it?

4) Will the most incompetent of governments take the time to paint over or remove the graffiti?  Well, like I said the one guy has had his stuff up there for months, so my guess is no.  At least not until construction resumes on the project, if it ever does.  So these dudes have their stuff just hanging out there on this steel bridge forever.

5) If I had spray painting skills, and the guts to do this, I’d spray paint the most random shit up there.  Something that would cause people near constant question marks in their heads for years.  I’d have like a woolly mammoth playing cards with a penguin, a Cossack, an elderly Incan lady, and a half full glass of water, all of them sitting on a table made of ice, next to a campfire fueled by discarded Chinese newspapers, whilst on the Moon.  It’d be great!  Losers would be searching for the deeper meaning of it for years, when there would none whatsoever.

all trees must pay, for the alter of work

A new person at work has decided that they’re going to manage everybody’s training records.  I suspect because they just got hired, nobody is telling them what to do, and they feel that have to do, like, something, anything?  Normally this wouldn’t matter to me, but now they’re after me on my training records like I work for them.  Normally this wouldn’t matter to me, but all our work training sucks and is a check in the block.

Plus, all this extra work, spreadsheets, training records, etc, is all paper printed off, signed, scanned whatever.  We go through a legendary amount of paper in this office.  It’s like it’s still 1947.  We buy paper by the pallet full.  All trees must pay, for the alter of work.  Bow down to it, or they get mad at you and put your name in red text on an excel spreadsheet.

There’s this theory going around, I think somebody wrote a book, on the era of white collar “bullshit” jobs.  Where folks think they (or actually) accomplish nothing of actual value.  They just keep the hamster wheel of their place of business moving along.  I’ve read a few articles lately about how all that’s a lie, and that much of this work actually matters, it’s just most people hate their jobs.

I would tend to agree with that, that most people don’t like their jobs.  But the idea that our super modern white collar world is not about 73% bullshit, is, well, not exactly, precisely correct.  On a given day I’d say about only 1/3 of what I do actually matters.  The rest is the hamster wheel that my boss, or his new training assistant, makes me do that has no value.

I should quit this bullshit gig and go take care of homeless puppies.  But then I’d have a bill pay problem, my dog’s kibble is expensive, beer doesn’t pay for itself.  I should quit and take a risk at value, I won’t, that’s the trap I guess.  We all got bills to pay and white collar work combined with dead trees means you don’t work in a cadmium mine 12 hours a day.

unsolicited morning cage fights are worth it

For about ten seconds as I walked to the train this morning I got treated to the joy of watching a sparrow duel some kind of bug.  They danced around the concrete as this bug (I couldn’t tell what kind) tried to get away from the sparrow.  The bug lost.

Then the sparrow flew away in a burst, likely to go hang out somewhere and eat in glory.  This will likely be the most enthralling thing I watch all month.

I had thought it’d have been great to get a video of this.  But it happened so fast.   And, as previously written about on this blog, sometimes the best memories are the ones where you don’t take a single photo or video.