Saturday, May 31, 2008

Trick Art / トリック・アート

Keeping my balance / バランス良いでしょ

Space Cadets?


Coming out of the picture.


Help! I'm being flattened! / 助けて!つぶされる!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Find the animals of the Chinese Zodiac / 絵の中に干支を探せ

This was a picture featured in the trick art gallery we stumbled upon in Chinatown. See if you can find the 12 Chinese zodiac symbols. Because the picture isn't exactly centered, I can let you know the snake can found to the right of the tree. Now you must also look for a mouse, an ox, a tiger, a rabbit, a dragon, a horse, a sheep, a monkey, a rooster, a dog, and a boar. Darn, Mikako and I can't seem to find the boar (even though we checked the little answer sheet that was provided at the gallery).

この絵は中華街とトリックアートギャラリーにあった絵です。絵の中に12の干支が隠れてます。見つけますか?写真は左寄りで取ったので、蛇の場所だけ教えます。大木の木の右側にあります。あと探すべき干支は鼠、牛、虎、兎、龍、馬、羊、猿、鳥、犬、と猪。あ~僕と美香子が正解も見ましたが、猪がどこにあるか忘れてしまいました。見つかりません ‐ 悔しいです!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

And more Chinatown snacks / 中華街で買った飴 3

I haven't tried either flavor so I can't give you an opinion on it yet!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More Chinatown snacks / 中華街で買った飴 2

What's the difference you ask? Look closely. You will see that one is chili flavored drops while the other is curry. And they're both very spicy. I just love the package design.


A Walk around Yokohama's Chinatown / 横浜中華街の散歩

It was a beautiful day on Monday so Mikako and I decided to head out to Yokohama's Chinatown. We reached Chinatown around noon, so the first thing we did was search for a place to eat. Oh my, trying to decide where to eat in Chinatown is no easy matter. Almost all the restaurants looked inviting. We decided on a Sichuan restaurant (but I will save that for another post). After lunch, we did some more walking while I took pictures of things that caught my interest.


We then spent some time in the Chinese Museum pictured above. Inside, there are shops selling souvenirs, Yokohama and Chinese micro-brews, China dresses. One floor is full of different restaurants featuring Chinese snack foods and desserts. There were massage and fortune telling. And there was also a floor that featured trick art. We spent a lot of time there taking a bunch of pictures featuring the art (which I will also save for another post). After enjoying ourselves in the trick art room, we bought some dessert. I had a mango pudding while Mikako ordered an-nin tofu. Yummy!


From Chinatown, we walked to Yamashita Park where you can get a great view of the bay and the Yokohama Bay Bridge. We walked the entire length of the park and then continued on to an area called the Aka renga souko which translates to the "red brick warehouse". The warehouses have been converted into a mini shopping mall with many stores and restaurants.


Yokohama Bay Bridge / 横浜ベイブリッジ

Aka-renga Souko / 赤レンガ倉庫

Monday, May 26, 2008

Chinatown Snacks / 中華街で買っ飴

The Panda Drops are bamboo grass flavored hard candy. The drops in the red can are anin-dofu (sweet tofu) flavored drops. Mikako and I found the Panda Drops to taste better than the an-nin drops even though we both love an-nin dofu.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Heroes / ヒーロー

Mikako's hero - Superman!!

My hero with his enemy / ウルトラマンとバルタン星人


I know its been quite a while since I wrote about the various films I've watched (except for the really short blurbs I write on MySpace and MIXI), and those posts are not open to the public at large. For one thing, I haven't been watching anything in a while except for whatever is on the tube. But this past weekend I watched a handful of movies which has precipitated this post. You must forgive me if I've already talked about a few of these flicks before because I may have seen some of them more than once. I also felt the need to write a movie review so I can hear from my friend Rob who doesn't always agree with my assessments - especially when it comes to films by Wes Anderson (and I still haven't gotten around to renting "The Squid and the Whale" and I still haven't watched "The Darjeeling Express" - Sorry Rob!). Anyway, here is what I watched between the end of March until now:


1. LILO AND STITCH (2002) - I believe I've already written something about this flick in the past as I own a copy of the DVD. However, it was broadcast on network television so I watched it again even though it was dubbed in Japanese. Oh, Disney animation flick for those of you who are not familiar with it. Young Hawaiian girl gets older sister to get her a pet dog which turns out to be an escaped alien from another planet. You are not overburdened with saccharine sweet songs in this film either.

2. HEART AND SOULS (1993) - It's another one of those films that was released when Robert Downey, Jr. was at the height of his career. Anyway, four souls die in a bus accident at the same time Thomas (Downey) is born. They become his guardian angels (that only Thomas can see). When people start to think there is something wrong with him, the angels decide that Thomas should no longer be able to see them which is very painful to Thomas. Thirty years later, they appear to Thomas again because they learn that they have unfinished business on earth and they need his body to complete their tasks. Cute movie. Much better than the pathetic "Pick-Up Artist". But still, I seem to have a weak spot for the movies he was in from the late '80s and early '90s - "Tuff Turf", "Weird Science", "Back to School", "Johnny Be Good", "Air America", etc. I never did see "Less Than Zero" though but I am looking forward to seeing him in "Iron Man".

3. THE TUXEDO (2002) - One of Jackie Chan's lesser quality movies. Taxi-driver turned chauffeur Jackie wears his employer's "special" tuxedo and finds himself becoming a secret agent with the help of it. It's mostly a spoof on spy movies. Also stars Jennifer Love Hewitt. Fun to watch and much better than "The Medallion".

4. FRANK MILLER'S SIN CITY (2005) - Based on his own hard-boiled graphic novel and is also directed by him along with Robert Rodriguez. This movie is violent, grotesque, and yet, cinematically pleasing. If you don't mind all the gore (flying limbs, severed heads, bloody piles of people) then you may find this quite entertaining. You might even want to watch it with Frank Miller's "300" - another CG enhanced movie with lots of blood and gore. Oh, but the cast - Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Elijah Wood, Rutger Hauer, Benicio Del Toro, Jessica Alba and of course my personal favorite - Devon Aoki. And if that still doesn't inspire you to watch it, this was also nominated for the Golden Palm award at the Cannes Film Festival.

5. BEHIND ENEMY LINES II: AXIS OF EVIL (2006) - It's another one of those sequels that really didn't need to get made but got made anyway. With the fall of the Soviet Empire, Hollywood needed a new baddie and who better to fill that position than North Korea. But to be honest, I actually found this sequel quite entertaining. Yes, I did. A team of Navy Seals are on a covert mission to take out a missile site in North Korea to prevent a potential nuclear war; however, their mission is abruptly aborted stranding four soldiers in the DPRK. Ooh, American soldiers attacking North Korea, probably one of President Bush's ultimate wet dream!!

6. FINDING NEMO (2003) - By far the best Disney/Pixar production to date. It was on television so I watched it again. And of course Nemo reminds of all the fishies I saw while snorkeling in the Maldives (sorry, just had to taunt y'all again!).

7. HIGH SCHOOL MUSIC (2006) - Made for television movie, specifically for the Disney channel, so you're guaranteed to have a happy ending. Saccharine sweet movie where boy meets girl at a New Year's Eve party and our forced to sing together and find they enjoy it. Then they go their separate ways. But wait...this is Disney. Girl has transferred to the boy's school and finds out he is the captain and star of the basketball team that's on their way to a championship game. But drama club is having an audition for a musical and boy wants to sing with girl again, much to the annoyance of his father, teammates, and friends. But because this is a Disney movie, I'm sure you can figure out the rest.

8. THE CALCIUM KID (2004) - If you check the IMDb website, you will find that Orlando Bloom was in three movies in 2004 and starred in two of them (this being one of them). The other movie was "Haven" - really bad except for the locale (it was filmed in the Cayman Islands). He was also in "Troy" which didn't get really good reviews but I haven't had a chance to see it so I shall not judge it. All this a year after "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl". But this, now here's a cute little movie - an English version of Rocky (sort of). Orly is a milk delivery dude that works out at the local gym. When he spars with the current British champion, the champ breaks his wrist on Orly's head (and this before a bout with the current U.S. champ). But the trainer doesn't want to cancel the fight and decides to give Orly a chance at the title (much to the annoyance of the British champion). He gets really popular until he follows all the advice of his manager/trainer at a press conference before the fight. Now people think he's a fascist and nobody wants anything to do with him. But the Brit champ doesn't care about any of that. He still thinks Orly doesn't deserve a chance at the title and locks the Brit champ and Orly in the locker room before the bout setting his own stage for a bout with the U.S. champion.

9. FINAL DESTINATION (2000) - Another flick on television where teen dude has a vision of a plane crash and persuades his friends not to board. Plane blows up. But then, his friends start dying in absurd, unusual and gory ways (this is a movie after all). It appears that the Grim Reaper didn't take kindly to dude saving souls who were destined to die in the first place. Oh, and the FBI thinks dude is responsible for the explosion of the plane. Well, at least there weren't any Freddie Kruegers or Jasons around. The kind of fare you would most likely see at a drive-in (if there were still any around).

9. DEATH PROOF (2007) - One half of the Grindhouse double-feature tribute to B-movies of the '70s by Tarantino and Rodriguez. This one is the Tarantino directed flick with fast cars, skanky women, and bad dialogue. Gotta love it! Stars Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike who gets his thrill from killing young women with his "death proof" car.

10. CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE (2005) - I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy this after the whole plethora of fantasy movies based on classic and bestselling novels were made- "Lord of the Rings", "Harry Potter", "Eragon" but because it was aired on network television I gave it a chance. And because I watched it on television, that means I watched it dubbed in Japanese. One reviewer (of a free English language mag) said he couldn't stand all the Christian references - d'oy, did he not know this was written by C. S. Lewis? I read this series quite a while ago (I think I bought the series for my sister, then read it myself anyway) and I must say, I quite enjoyed the movie. I probably would have enjoyed it more with an English soundtrack, and even moreso if I watched it on the silver screen. Hm, guess I'll have to give "The Golden Compass" and "The Spiderwick Chronicles" a chance too whenever they become available for rent. I've read "The Spiderwick Chronicles" but haven't attempted the "His Dark Materials" trilogy yet. I am looking forward to seeing "Inkheart" though even if it is based on another children's fantasy series.

11. PLANET TERROR (2007) - The other half of the Grindhouse double-feature with Robert Rodriguez at the helm. Oh my! This was totally disgusting but fun to watch. It's a combination of "The Toxic Avenger" and "Return of the Living Dead". And don't forget the fake preview for "Machete". Too cool!!

12. AEON FLUX (2005) - I imagine this is loosely based on the animation shorts that were featured on MTV back in the early '90s. I didn't watch it regularly but enjoyed it when I did. I read somewhere that on the animation series Aeon Flux actually dies at the end of every episode - like Kenny in "South Park". Anyway, as to the movie - it's part "Logan's Run", part "Ultra Violet", and just a tad of "Biohazard" or "Resident Evil" for you - my American friends and readers. The difference being nobody turns into a brain eating zombies. This storyline is actually fairly intelligent. As to who is the better looking babe - Charlize Theron as Aeon Flux or Milla Jovovich as Alice in the "Biohazard / Resident Evil" movies, you will have to decide for yourself.

13. BRITISH ROCK ICONS (2008) - Well okay, this isn't a rental or a bootleg, but came as a freebie with the latest issue of England's "Classic Rock" magazine. Oh, but the 15 artists featured are enough to make any fan of British hard rock salivate. The picture quality is quite good too. So who and what do you get to look forward to seeing performing? First up is The Who with "Pinball Wizard" taken from "Live at the Isle of Wight 1970". Next up is a classic from Clapton featuring the Derek and the Dominoes song "Layla" taken from "Live at Montreux, 1986". You can see Phil Collins playing the drums too and the stage features art work by Keith Haring. Next is one of my favorite bands - Deep Purple with "Black Night" taken from "Live at Montreux, 1996" which means no Richie Blackmore - you get Steve Morse instead. Next up is Gary Moore with "Parisienne Walkways" from "Live at Montreux, 1990". I love that song!! Then it's former Free frontman Paul Rogers with "All Right Now" from "Live in Glasgow". I wasn't familiar with the next song though, "Albatross" by the Peter Green Splinter Group taken from "An Evening With". Followed by Jethro Tull with "Living in the Past" - once again taken from "Live in Montreux, 2003". Next is a song that reminds me of my high school prom date (not Rob who was part of our threesome date back in the days). This was a favorite song of our prom date - "Nights in White Satin" by the Moody Blues - taken from "Live in Montreux, 1991". Next up is Procol Harum with their big hit, "A Whiter Shade of Pale" - taken from "Live at the Union Chapel". Next we have the original members of the first Asia incarnation (Geoff Downes, Steve Howe, John Wetton, and Carl Palmer) performing "Heat of the Moment" - taken from "Fantasia: Live in Tokyo". Oh my, the guitarist looks like a hard rockin' grandpa! And then its a 1977 performance from Rainbow with "Long Live Rock and Roll" - taken from "Live in Munich 1977". Rainbow at its best with Dio singing - that's my opinion. Next clip is taken from "Live at Knebworth, 1990" with Status Quo singing "Rockin' All Over the World". I was only familiar with the name of the next group - The Stranglers with "Golden Brown" - taken from "Friday the Thirteenth". The next to the last cut is an excerpt from Emerson, Lake, and Palmer with "Pictures at an Exhibition" - taken from "Birth of a Band: Live at the Isle of Wight, 1970". And the last track on the DVD is Yes with "Long Distance Runaround" - taken from "Live at Montreux, 2003" - you get a second look at hard rockin' grandpa who was an original member of the band, which would be Steve Howe by the way.

Sorry about getting carried away on the freebie disc. And there you have it. As the weather forecast calls for rain tomorrow and the day after, I already have another batch of films lined up ready for watching. Now, if only I had a popcorn popper.