Mike buys a camera!

MJG Uncategorized 6 Comments

What with all the blogging I’ve been doing recently, and posting photos and icons with every post, and recently buying a headset mic for doing podcasts and just generally gearing up, I figured it was about time I bought a half-decent camera.

I’ve been shooting so far with a Sharp 910 camera phone. For a phone, it’s a pretty good camera. 4x optical zoom, 5 mega pixel. But because it’s so compact, the lens is tiny and junk, little light gets in, and it performs abysmally in anything less than bright day-light.

Recently my buddy Canadian Mike got married (post on Japanese wedding ceremony coming soon!), but I felt too embarrassed by my crappy camera phone to pull it out and take many photos. Then at the more relaxed after-party, of course there were many photos I wanted to take, but I knew the Sharp couldn’t handle the light conditions.

So, I present to you my new Canon Powershot A650 IS!

Choosing new tech gear is always a challenge, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. So, I bought my trusty tech savante Jason along with me to advise. I knew I wanted something in the 30-40,000 yen range (150-200 pounds), because I understand that you pay for quality, and that’s what it costs to get out of the really compact cameras. Of course, I already have a very compact camera- the Sharp.

So we looked at several. The A650 stood out for its weight (300ish grams), high pixel count(12 mega pixel), Canon’s good name (lots of cool focussing tech), a x6 optical zoom, a nice overall design (two-tone, good grip), and a super-handy flip-out viewer:

The viewer rotates round so I can hold the camera above or below normal eye level, and angle the viewer so I can still see the shot. Plus it really plays into my love of anything that can transform. Like pants with zips at the knee that can transform between full-length pants and shorts. Awesome.

So- expect a bump in image quality around here. Plus (gulp) film! I’ve no knowledge of how to edit film yet, but I’ll get on it, and surely will put up some footage in the next few days.

Gundam Statue

MJG Architecture, Japan 5 Comments

I’ve always loved Transformers. Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Hot Rod, the lot. When I was a kid I collected them, once narrowly missing out on an original Megatron (used of course) at the Corn Exchange in Manchester due to not having the requisite fiver, though I partially made up for that by hunting out several of the Dinobots hidden deep in the shelving on the second floor of Boydell’s toy store in Bolton.

Once in Boston, MA I found a used Soundwave (tape recorder) and snapped it up at once, along with I think Ravage the puma-tape, but I’m not sure, maybe it was Laserbeak (the pterodactyl).

Anyway. Gundam (war story) are not Transformers. They are not NEARLY as good as Transformers, because they don’t transform. But, they are the next best thing, and in robot form at least look remarkably similar. So- when I heard about this bronze 3 meter tall statue of a Gundam robot in front of a nearby train station: Kami Igusa (upper soft reed) in Suginami-ku (cedar avenue city), I knew I had to make the pilgrimage.

So I hopped on my bike, and pelted out. Unfortunately, the first time I’d mis-read the kanji and ended up in Shimo-Igusa (lower soft reed, dammit!). So the next time I set out with a friend and the correct Kanji, and hunted him down!

Here he is hailing a taxi.

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Rock Band!!

MJG Uncategorized Leave a Comment

So a few months back I bought Rock Band, the new game where you get to play at Rock super-stardom by karaoke-ing along to the onscreen tracks with guitar, microphone, or drums. I blogged it on my old journal a while back, but included no photos. This time- there’s photos, and video!

Just one glance at us rocking the hell out ought to convince you we rock as HARD as any band, even the mighty FOO FIGHTERS (who I went to see incidentally last week).

And when we actually PLAY a FOO FIGHTERS song? Well, the time-space continuum shreds under the awesome rock pressure we apply. It’s like a rock tornado inside my house every Sunday evening after Frisbee. We could power the whole city, or at least Toshima-ku, on our raw rock might.

That’s me in the middle, Can Mike on the left, and Jason on the right. We’re a little blurry not due to low light or poor camera conditions- but due to the fact that our rock arms and voices are moving FASTER than the speed of light, so no earthly camera is capable of catching us UN-blurry.

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Celibate Jayne the Hammerhand @ TQR

MJG Books, Jabbler's Mons, Stories 2 Comments

My story Celibate Jayne the Hammerhand has just gone live at TQR, after months of discussions and rewrites. Wahoo!

It was nearing high-tide on the Sheckledown Sea when Celibate Jayne the Hammerhand finally bashed his way out of the belly of the whale. Ashen face covered with gobbets of blubber and gut, he slithered down the black rubber side of the beached leviathan, a river of purple slime showering down on his head.

He gasped, coughed up a wad of bloody kelp and brine, then slumped himself starfish-splayed on the beach.

Read the full story at TQR.

Walky Walky!

MJG Food / Drink, Japan 3 Comments

I know when I take my hippo for a walk I entice it along with chocolate.

My buddy Canadian Mike does a great line in posts about Kooky Japan- it’s fun, people like to read about it, and it drives traffic (come ye millions with your ad-traffic!), so I figured I’d give it a shot.



Walky Walky


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Taro Okamoto’s Museum

MJG Guides, Japan Leave a Comment

So a few weeks ago I went on an art museum-ing jag, partly because I like modern art, and partly because I was looking for ideas for stories.

Perhaps the best museum I went to was the Taro Okamoto Museum of Art. Of course I couldn’t take photos inside- but here’s a few pictures from outside:

This is a bunch of guys trying to catch a zeppelin.

This is a minotaur Mr. Potato Head with its face taken off.

At the bottom is a picture of the Tower of Sun in Osaka. I wanted to buy a print or poster of it in the museum gift shop- but they don’t sell them! Crazy.

Onto Taro Okamoto. To be honest- his art didn’t do much for me. It’s all splashy colors, abstract, bright, with evocative titles and some recognisable motifs. The sculpture I liked- but again, just one or two ideas (for example: the moon-sun face from the Tower of Sun is very common in his work).

I think I’ve seen a lot of this type of thing before. He says he was inspired by Picasso and Dali, and I could clearly see that. He’s similar to both of those, only- dare I say it- not as good. He’s like Picasso but messier, and like Dali but not nearly as photo-real or imaginative.

He’s also like Miyazaki, who makes the Studio Ghibli films, especially in the faces of monsters. You can peruse his site to see more of his work.

The thing I like best was an exhibition of the winning pieces from a recent modern art competition. The idea for my story Flatland came from a piece of sculpted art that was basically Flatland- a miniature elevated world with a skyscraper in the middle. The idea for another story ‘The Giant Robot and the Myna Bird’, as yet unpublished, came from a giant khaki robot arm surrounded by khaki tanks and jeeps at the entrance.

There was a guy there asleep in a bed, with a film of his night time antics running on the wall over his head. The film showed him doing wacky things like lying down on bicycle signs painted on the floor and pretending to ride them. Fun. If you rang the bell, he woke up and chatted to you.

I wish I had photos or links to this stuff- but sorry, nothing. Useless gift shop! Use your imagination 😉

And as promised- the Tower of Sun, from Wikipedia:

If you like this post- check out other ancient/modern slices of the Japanese cultural pie in the culture/events gallery.

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Mike buys a bike!

MJG Uncategorized 4 Comments

Last weekend I finally bought, after months and months of deliberation, a new bike. Part of the problem was having a similar bike back in the UK- but the cost of shipping it was prohibitive. A tricky situation, since I have a hard time spending money.

Why is that? Is it the Puritan ethic I was raised with? Is it me trying to save the world by minimizing my carbon footprint? Is it that I don’t want to consume any goods as that encourages little kids in Asia to work in sweat shops? Who knows.

Anyway- here it is:

Trek 7.3 FX

She’s a beauty. I name her- Talulah!

It’s a Trek (Talulah the Trek) 7.3 FX, which means it has 7.3 different types of special effects- like cross-fade, fade-out, and bullet-time like in the Matrix. I can control them from a handset mounted on the handlebars.

It cost a pretty penny- 72,000 yen for the bike, then gear cost another 50,000, which adds up to about $1,200, or 800 pounds. It’s expensive, but I think it’s a solid buy.

Jason and I went for a 66km ride the day that I picked it up. We basically did a loop all round the city, up towards Saitama, round to the East and a park in Chiba by Tokyo Bay, then up through Ginza and Tokyo.

It was good. Exhausting though. The ride down the Arakawa river was against a severe headwind. Very hard work- never getting any momentum. All the joy sucked out of going down hills, as the wind stole our inertia.

We made it home around 6pm. 3 hours 10 minutes actual riding time. Maybe 5 hours for the whole journey. We didn’t stay in the park long- it was freezing down there with the wind off the ocean.

Caterpillar Man

MJG Stories, Surreal 2 Comments

I fell in the hole on a Tuesday.

The hole is a hole in the road.  It’s not such a busy road, sure.  Maybe 50 people walk by a day.

I fell in by accident and now I can’t get out.  The sides are steep, and there’s nothing down here for me to eat but this damn banana tree and rat bones.

There’s a lot of dry and dessicated rats down here.  It doesn’t make any sense to me.  But, I have to eat, so I crack the bones and slurp down the dry marrow.  It’s like molasses, but not as sweet.

I see people walk by above me.  I’m reminded of the man in the well in the Murakami story.  Even in the day-time, I can see stars.


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