"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Sunday songs and cinema

All the other cool comrades and revolutionary cadres will be at the virtual Marxist-Lennonist Party HQ on Sunday for music and movies. You should be there too, tovarich -- to do otherwise would be counterrevolutionary! Join us in Second Life at The Red Zeppelin or on Radio Woodshed.
This week the Glorious People's Cinema Project wraps up out Burt Lancaster series with the story of a very American coup d'etat "Seven Days in May"

Music from 5 pm PDT/ 8 EDT, movie from 7 pm PDT/10 EDT

Friday, May 08, 2009

If it's Friday, this must be a ukulele video

(nevermind if the date up top says Saturday, I live in the future, and it is still Friday for you)

Ol' Satchmo could certainly pick a tune, and Danielle's sweet voice is enough to give any one ideas. Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

"I bet I can eat 50 eggs gyoza"

On Sunday afternoon, I returned to one of my favorite restaurants in Tokyo. You won't likely find it in any guidebook and, to be honest, I don't even know its name, but if you find yourself in the Kameido area of Tokyo, just look around near the station for a tiny dive in a side alley across from the train station with a long line outside and you will know you've found The Gyoza Joint.
It isn't much to look at. It is a dingy, slightly dirty, run-down place a little larger than your average basement rec room with a long narrow U-shaped counter running two thirds the length of the place and a raised tatami straw mat-covered platform running along the wall by the door. At the top of the U, next to the door is the open kitchen, a space with just enough room for two men to stand in front of a row of hot cast-iron pans about the size and shape of trash can lids. They don't need a lot of room for a lot of equipment

Those wooden boxes hold uncooked gyoza and they went through a stack of them that reached the ceiling in the half hour we were there. Even on a cool spring day with the doors open it's hot and humid inside. The walls are slightly sticky and the table we sit cross legged and shoeless at is cheap formica with squeeze bottles for the condiments - the holy trinity of soy sauce, vinager and hot chili oil - straight from the 100 yen shop. A stained, hand-lettered piece of card spells out the prices in multiples of 250 yen.
Remember that old Saturday Night Live bit with John Belushi as the counterman in the Greek diner? It didn't matter what people wanted, they got cheeseburgers, chips and "No Coke, Pepsi". Belushi would bellow out "cheeseburg! cheeseburg! cheeseburg!Pepsi! Pepsi!" and the cook, three feet away, usually played by Dan Ackroyd with a cigarette dangling from his lip would dutifully shout back "cheeseburg! cheeseburg! cheeseburg! Pepsi! Pepsi!" as he threw more patties on the grill. Belushi would urge chatty or indecisive customers along with "Cmon, cmon, we got to have turnover!"
Imagine that in Japanese with a couple of plump old ladies hollering "Gyoza! gyoza! beer! beer!" and you have an idea of the atmosphere. You don't even order here, except for drinks. You just wave for another plate of the finest cheap gyoza in town - five to a 250 yen plate - or another quart bottle of ice cold Asahi or a Birley's Orange Soda. (They might serve something else but I've never seen it). Fresh plates arrive like clockwork until you start to slow down and when the feeding frenzy ends, the waitress counts the plates and empty bottles and hands you the bill.

If you don't know what gyoza is, first let me express my pity. Poor you. Moving right along, gyoza are Chinese dumplings similar to shu-mai, but in Japan they are usually pan-fried instead of steamed or boiled. For those of you completely unfamiliar with asian cuisine, think of little envelopes of fresh pasta stuffed with ground pork, cabbage, ginger and garlic and then fried/flash-steamed in a pan until the bottom is just started to turn brown and crisp, and top is al dente. They are sometimes called Chinese pot-stickers in North America, I suppose because they stick to the bottom of the pot if you aren't careful.
And they are easy to make at home. We buy the frozen wrappers at the grocery store for the sake of convenience, but the wrappers are not hard to make either. This is the best recipe I've found so far.  

In Japan, you find them everywhere - in convenience store bento lunches, frozen in the grocery store or fresh made in the deli section and they are a staple item on the menu in  izakayas (Japanese pubs). They are a common item in the many sorts of gluttony contests held here all the time (Eating machine Joey Chestnut set the world record last year at 231 gyoza in ten minutes in LA) and there is even a sort of gyoza theme park where you can try a dozen different kinds of gyoza with different fillings (shrimp is delicious!)

We also went to a small festival to mark the start of the Golden Week holidays in Japan at this little shrine

There were all the usual food stalls selling takoyaki octopus balls, corn on the cob and flavored shaved ice, but the best looking was the trout-on-a-stick booth,  because everything tastes better on a stick.

(all photos by my nine year old son Kentaro, except the close up of the gyoza)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Rocket in your pocket

I've pointed out many times that Japanese Television has some very weird stuff on it you would just never ever see in North America. One popular family program is Kasou Taishou, a sort of odd costume/sketch competition that groups from across the country enter in an effort to get on television. The first clip shows some winners and its easier to show it than to explain it.

This is the latest winner in the humor category - not something you'd see on North American television.

tip of the fez to Nakaima Oh


A terrible accident, certainly -- but made worse by the name of the daily newspaper reporting the incident.

Secretary accidentally bites off boss’ penis
A SECRETARY accidentally bit off the penis of her employer while giving him oral sex in a car.
Sin Chew Daily and China Press reported yesterday that while the 30-year-old woman was performing oral sex on the man, the car was hit by a reversing van.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Failure to study stereotypes endangers teen bigot

If this kid was any kind of really serious bigot, he'd have looked past the immediate stereotype of asian immigrants as studious bookworms and looked at the older "all those people know kung fu" stereotype or the even older "godless communists for whom human life has no value" stereotype or the even older "all those people are inscrutable opium-peddling crime lords" stereotypes and steered clear. What is our nation coming to when we can't we even educate our bigots in proper racial stereotyping? I blame multiCULTuralism and LIEbrals and OMIGOD there are ChiComs under the bed! It's Mao and Ho Chi Minh! I think Fu Manchu sent them! Run for your lives!AAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

Huh? Wha...unhhhh..Where am I? What just happened?
Sorry, I think I was possessed by the spirit of Ezra Levant or Kathy Shaide or Miller Freeman or James Phelan or something for a moment there, I hope I didn't get any bile on you. Where was I? Oh yeah, the ignorant teen bigot who got pwned. I first learned of this story a few days ago and I can't say the subsequent release of further information has done much to change my opinion. The young Korean-Canadian boy should get some sort of medal for showing restraint and not hospitalizing the nitwit bully:

"He had heard his white classmate throw an angry racial slur in his direction after an argument during a gym class game of speedball, and now the student was shoving him backward, refusing to retract the smear.
The white student swung first, hitting the 15-year-old with a punch to the mouth.
The 15-year-old heard his father's voice running through his head: Fight only as a last resort, only in self-defence, only if given no choice, and only with the left hand.
His swing was short and compact, a left-handed dart that hit the white student square on the nose.
The nose broke under his fist, igniting a sequence of events - from arrest to suspension to possible expulsion - that has left the Asian student and his family wondering whether they are welcome in this small, rural and mostly white community north of Toronto, one that has been touched by anti-Asian attacks in the past."

And his schoolmates deserve the same for walking out in support when he was suspended over the incident.
On Monday, 400 of his fellow students, wearing black in solidarity and carrying signs of support, walked out of Keswick High School to rally in protest in front of their school.
Organizer Mathew Winch, a Grade 12 student, said the school has fewer than 10 Asian students, but everyone wanted to stand up against bullying and racism. The story even hit the front page of local newspapers.
After the public outcry, the York Regional Police hate crimes unit reopened the case. Although the other student has not been charged, further charges are possible, a spokesman said yesterday.

And grudging kudos to the York School Board for doing the right thing in the end, even if it took them awhile to get around to it and they were backed into a corner by the students of Keswick High School, their parents and the media. Let just hope the local crown prosecutor sees things the same way.

However, aside from the obvious appeal of the "bully-finds-out-the-hard-way-that-Clark-Kent-is-Superman" angle of the story, there was another aspect of it that caught my eye. This family of recent immigrants clearly understand Canada and the essentials of the Canadian ideal better than a few people around Keswick (and a lot of blogging tories).

The day after the fight, an older cousin of their son's antagonist approached him in the school cafeteria and uttered a similar slur, compounding their sense of despair.
"He said, 'You punched my cousin you Chinese fuck,' " the 15-year-old said. That student was overheard by a teacher and suspended.
His father explains that the easiest course would be to move somewhere else and get a fresh start for his son. But he can't do it.
"I don't want to run away. If another Asian kid comes to this school, what happens to him? Will he run into problems? Will they think they can just kick him out? I don't want to set that example," he said.
"Personally, for my kid, I should move. But as a Canadian I cannot move."

How's that for "Canadian" Raphael?

(quoted material taken from the Globe and Mail)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Hurry hard!

Not to be outdone by RossK's curling tribute, here is another song about people who spend the winter throwing rocks at houses.

(And while the post's title is common exhortation out on the slab, I still think it would make a great title for a curling themed adult film containing numerous jokes about "getting your rocks off.")