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1999 Dispatches
Dispatches from 1998

Dec 28th - Yokohama, Japan 
Well, my
millenium disaster kit is prepared. I've got my brand new all-region, portable Panasonic DVD player with extra batteries. I've got some awesome movies. I've got my favorite CDs. I've got a couple of tins of Pringles.
And I've got my portable heater (angie). 
Ready as can
Happy New Year... 

Dec 24th - Yokohama, Japan 
Well, Merry
It's a pretty mixed bag for me...
My beloved Angie is home with her parents, while I'm
manning the Y2K guard for work. This is definitely the worst time of year to be alone. 
Not only
is it a family holiday, but it's also cold and dark, which makes it too easy to internalize the external symbolism. 
Fortunately, there's a cure. It's
called Monty Python. 
So I'll take a few and feel better
in the morning. 
If that doesn't work, Angie's back on
Tuesday, anyway. 
Have a cool yule!!

Dec 15th - Yokohama, Japan 
quick update: 
We had a pretty busy weekend.
It started with our traditional attendance of a
December concert by the Japanese drum group KODO. 
This year, the show was in Yokohama, about
10 minutes from our house. 
addition, it was the best show we've seen from them yet. It was more musical than usual, because of the use of steel drums and bamboo gamelans. The group was also even more 'into' it than usual. Great show.
Saturday Night was a 'night out', with dinner at
Chandlers Crab House. Love that whiskey crab soup... 
Then, Sunday was movie night. After a dinner in
Chinatown, we watched "South Park - Bigger, Badder, and Uncut" with Mike and Susan. How was it? Sweet... Unbelievable is the only word. 
There were
many times when I went to laugh, but was so 
that no sound came out. I highly recommend it.

Dec 9th - Yokohama, Japan
Okay. Today I've posted photos and essays of our
Okinawa trip and a Maui trip. 
You can access
these through the drop-down menu below, or through the 'Wanderings' link. I've also updated the guestbook. And, in my spare time, I've invented a new alcoholic drink for children. 
based on a popular Japanese drink called CHU-HI. 
is shochu (rice whiskey), with tonic water and lemon.
It's really good. 
My plan is to package it in
new cans, and call it PIKA-CHU-HI. It should sell very well with Pokemon fans.
What do you think? 
I think kids will love

Dec 8th - Yokohama, Japan 
Man, the past month has been pretty much a
Okinawa was great. Pictures will be posted
The best part was seeing Kina Shoukichi, the
most famous musician in Okinawa, perform with his band. It was quite a show. 
Then I had
a business trip to Kyushu. The highlight there was that
I got to eat some basashi (raw horsemeat) and some
fried lotus roots stuffed with hot mustard. It's really good. 
Then some of my friends were over from the US for the big Semiconductor show
called Semicon. So, that (eating and drinking) kept us
pretty busy. 
We also found time to watch a few movies,
the best of which was the new DVD release of "Apocalypse Now". 
But, ultimately, the biggest news is
that I've signed to stay in Japan for two more years.
That puts us here until Nov 2001, almost 9 years after
we came to Asia. I have to say that I never dreamed we'd be here for a decade. What can I say? I love it

Nov 10th - Yokohama, Japan 
I posted two more Beijing pages today.
There's one on the Forbidden City and one on the Streets of Beijing. As usual, you can get there from the drop-down menu or from "Wanderings".
Next up, an account of our most recent trip to Maui.

Nov 7th - Yokohama, Japan
Well, we're back from Beijing,China, and we had a
really great trip. The food, the people, the Great Wall.... I could tell you more, but instead, just go to the photos and essays I've added to the Wanderings section. You can use the "What's New" links below. And there's more to come!

Nov 6th - Yokohama, Japan 
saw a great new Japanese movie in the theater last night. It's called "Jubaku" or Spellbound. We were amazed to find a film here with English subtitles.
The movie was about the struggle for the soul of a bank
that's been doing illegal loans to the Yakuza (Japanese mafia). 
Cultural Economists out there might be
interested to know that it cost us 1080 yen each for round trip train ticket to Ginza, 8000 yen for dinner, and 1800 yen for each movie ticket.
Which means the total was about US$125 for a couple
to see a movie. Woooooo! At least it was a GOOD Movie... I highly recommend it.

Oct 4th - Yokohama, Japan 
summer humidity has broken, and we've been bitten by the travel bug. It's been a long time since we got a new visa, so we decided to visit China. We'll go to Beijing for a week, so I called my friend Qu Hong and arranged for her to guide us around. We also scheduled a 5 night visit to Okinawa in November. You gotta love those Frequent Flyer Miles... 
Both trips are being
funded by our friends at United! 
Last weekend, we used
our Hyatt points for a free stay in Tokyo, and used the
opportunity to pull a late night prowl of Kabuki-cho,
near Shinjuku. After a 12 course crab meal at Kani Doraku (crab soup, crab sushi, boiled crab, crab
tempura, broiled crab, crab salad, crab tofu, crab
sashimi, and more), we watched sat in the open square at Shinjuku station and watched the masses.
There were two competing Christian groups there. Each
was taking turns trying to prove that they were more hip, apparently. One group was playing some fake rock that was God-awful (oops...) and trying to dance to it.
Somehow, it didn't strike them as ironic to be
thrusting their pelvises while the lyrics are screeching about God smighting the devil.
The other group took a more 'give peace a chance'
approach, with hippy attire, tamborines, and dopey smiles. They did manage to fit in some break dancing,
though, for comic effect, I suppose. 
After that, we headed straight into the back streets, where pretty much every night is Mardi Gra - in a less organized, Japanese sort of way. Guaranteed, you will see, smell, and hear things in this neighborhood (oh yeah, touch and taste too, if you're so inclined) that you will not find elsewhere. When we hit sensory overload, we bypassed all the Jamaicans who be trying to lure us into their clubs, bra, and slipped into a quiet shot bar.
A couple of hours, and too many Long Island Iced Teas
later, we wandered our way back to the Hyatt and crashed. Pretty cool.


Oops.... I had some technical difficulties and lost all the dispatches between April and October. Damn....

April 21st - Yokohama, Japan
From the category "Things You Learn In School That Are Moderately Interesting - Though Ultimately Useless":
I'm riding on the train this morning, carrying my luggage for Hawaii. A very cute, little schoolgirl (about 16 or 17 years old) boards and stands next to me. She's got a phone in one hand, and she's playing with her skirt with the other. So, when the train inevitably jerks, she's holding onto nothing, and I get to play "catch the schoolgirl".
She smiles and doesn't say she's sorry, but instead just says thank you.
Figuring that the foreigner must be used to catching objects, she decides to let me continue to catch her for the rest of the journey - then just says "bye-bye" when we depart at Yokohama Station. For the record, it was five catches, no errors.
My point? She got to keep using both her hands, and I got to, well..... catch a Japanese schoolgirl.
A perfect example, I think, of a symbiotic relationship!
As Alan Rickman says in Die Hard, "ah, the advantages of a classical education".

April 20th - Yokohama, Japan
There's not much in this world that's better than the feeling of knowing that in 24 hours you'll be sitting on a tropical beach. Something about the smell of flowers, the taste of the sea breeze, and the sound of waves puts everything (and everyone) in the proper perspective.
So it's Maui for six days, Waikiki for four, San Jose for seven more (a man's gotta work, dontcha know!), then back to Yokohama.
While we're on the topic of tropics....
Angie and I were prowling the local shopping center the other day, curious about what the summer fashion trends might be.
Man, oh man.....
Looks like a Hawaiian street walker theme will be big this year!
Electrically bright floral prints wrapped tightly around tanned and tattooed and glittered flesh. Shorter skirts, lower shirts, taller shoes, wilder hair, and more aggressive nails.
Angie was speechless, as was I.
Can you say 'eye candy'?
Never a dull moment in Japan, I always say...

April 16th - Yokohama, Japan
Today I got a nice surprise, as Angie called and decided to visit me for lunch.
Everyone who has spent any time at our office knows that there's a Tonkatsu restaurant that is the culinary star of the local food center.
Now, if you haven't had it, Tonkatsu is fried pork.
I suspect that sounds disgusting to many of you, but let me assure you that, in the right hands, fried pork can be a saliva-inducing dish.
This shop serves thick cutlets with no fat, fried in a light, crispy batter that crunches beautifully with each bite. It's served with all-you-can-eat portions of cabbage, rice, pickles, and a tasty miso soup (for about $10).
But the highlight of this restaurant is the pre-meal ritual.
Tonkatsu is always served with a special spicy sauce, but in this restaurant, the sauce is mixed with sesame seeds. You are served a mortar and pestle with fresh seeds, and you proceed to grind the seeds to your preferred state of being, releasing the delicious scent, and teasing your palette. You then pour your sauce into the bowl, as your hot dish is served - and off you go!
And, in a rare bow to good sense, this shop even bans smoking during the lunch hour. It doesn't get much better than that...

April 14th evening - Yokohama, Japan
What a great week!
The weather is warm enough for me to start eating lunch outside, next to the Yokohama Business Park Coliseum. Nothing like the warm sun and a spring breeze to make any meal an 'al fresco' experience.
So I'm happy.
And my excellent assistant, Harada-san, who I must post a picture of soon, is happy. Her reason is that, last weekend, she won some money - betting on horses.
She's been betting for three years, and last week was her first win. So, she says, her luck is changing.
As proof, she tells me, she won 900 yen on a lottery ticket yesterday. Ever the cynic, I ask "How much did the ticket cost?" Answer - 1000 yen.
I explained to her that, in my view, she didn't win 900 yen. She lost 100 yen.
I also offered my bewilderment at the fact that they could offer a 'prize' worth less than the ticket.
But, obviously, I had entered a 'Logic Free Zone'.
Maybe I'm wrong.
Maybe her luck is changing.
One thing I do know, is that - when it comes to administrators - my luck is perfect. The three I've had in Asia (Noriko Mori, Jodi Chia, and Kaori Harada) have have all walked on water, turned that water into wine, and then laughed at my jokes (truly amazing).
So I'm the one on a winning streak!

April 12th evening - Yokohama, Japan
People are always full of surprises.
After work, I'm walking to the station with a Japanese friend. We're on our way to pick up Oshimo-san, the Queen of Kansai. As we walk down the street, talking, he suddenly jumps from my left side to my right side, and stands slightly behind me.
I turn around, expecting maybe a huge truck bearing down on us. Or maybe a Yakuza gang. Or at least an irate girlfriend.
But all I see is a row of vending machines and a cat.
As we move, so does the cat. The vending machines do not.
And my friend is sure to keep me between him and the cat.
By sheer brilliance, I deduce that he has a problem with cats.
"I hate cats" he tells me.
Had they bit him? No. Scratched him? No. Attacked him? Pissed on him? No. No. Then why? He doesn't know..
What about dogs? No problem. Deer? OK. Snakes? Fine.
Just cats. Now, I've known him for about five years, and I had no idea about this feline fear.
Well, friend that I am, I boldly fought off the killer cat, and guided my buddy to safety. And I'm proud of myself.
I only made fun of him about 7 times during the evening.
But, I'm sure I see some cat-related email in his future.
So we picked up the lovely Oshimo-san, grabbed Angie, and ate a Chinese dinner. Peking Duck and dim sum, with fried rice. Very good.
Oshimo-san is unchanged. She still eats like a sumo wrestler.
And she still makes me laugh. Nothing better than seeing old friends and falling right into the old rhythm!
On the way home, we ran into some French clown. No, I'm not being racist. He really was a white faced, red nosed, big foot, clown. He was genuinely surprised that I knew he was French. Like the big nose, yellow teeth, and silly accent wouldn't give it away... (now THAT'S racist!)
Just kidding.... Well, actually, he had all of those.
But I don't really believe that ALL French people have those. Most, maybe, but not all...
See? Travel, live, and learn...

April 12th - Yokohama, Japan
Rain, rain, go away... yadda, yadda..
Suffice to say that the weather has been, as we say in Japan, REALLY CRAPPY.
But hey, when you've got movies and you've got friends, it doesn't really matter - does it?
My buddy Kevin is in from Singapore, so we tossed back a few beers on Friday night and caught up on the news.
Saturday night, we had a get-together with Kevin, T.S., Mike, Mami, Jenny, Katsu, Carolyn, and Joyce.
Food, drink, the velvet tones of the voice of Joyce, and a few good stories warmed us up. A quick John Belushi tribute from Animal House got us rolling. The main course was "Zero Effect", a brilliant movie - SEE IT!! For dessert, a generous helping of Wallace and Gromit.
Everyone was full by the end of the evening.
Rain? Who cares?
Tonight, we get to see Oshimo-san, the Queen of Kansai, for the first time in a year. Can't wait...

April 9th - Yokohama, Japan
Today I received another email of the type that I get every six months or so:
Please, please. You make me blush.
Now, some of you might think that he has me confused with another Glenn Hughes, and you'd be right.
There is another Glenn, who was bassist for Deep Purple in the 70s. He has continued a journeyman's career for the past 20 years. He may be more talented than I, but I'm younger and better looking (says my mom).
Anyway, it's nice to see that he still inspires such fervent devotion among his longtime fans. Rock on, Glenn!
And if you want to join his fan club, feel free to send me your checks and cash...
In other news, I spent the whole week calling the US at the wrong times (daylight savings, dontcha know), but now I'm calibrated. Life is good for another six months!

April 7th - Yokohama, Japan
I've made a lot of improvements to the Reviews section of ROV, so if you haven't been there recently, you should go there.
I've added more reviews of books, movies, and music - and I've even added some pictures 'for your entertainment pleasure'.
You might also note that I've added a survey to the lower part of this page. If the responses are plentiful, I'll start this as a monthly feature, and post the results to the Views page on a regular basis.
Our most recent movie was "C'est La Vie, Mon Cherie",a perfectly acted HK drama that blows away "Love Story".
It's so odd to see a well written script and subtle acting in a HK film. But hey, I can put up with it once in a while!
Rent it for your girlfriend, and stock up on tissues...

April 5th - Yokohama, Japan
Well, it looks like it will be a slightly disappointing cherry blossom season. The weather is very changeable.
Windy, cold, sunny, rainy, etc.
Regardless, I got out to buy some new HK movie soundtracks, and walked under the cherry trees along the river in Noge.
They were beautiful, unsurprisingly. I also noticed that this spring's big trend appears to be glitter mascara. I saw a lot of that - on girls, not cherry trees.
We watched four very good, though completely different HK movies over the weekend.
1-My Father Is A Hero, is a great Western-style action comedy starring Jet Li. It's funny and gory and cool.
2-Love Is Not A Game, But A Joke, is a quirky little romantic comedy with great performances from it's three female stars - including this years (tasty, I must say) flavor, Hsu Chi.
3-Days Of Being Wild, another Wong Kar Wai celebration of great looking people, in great cinematic locations, doing odd things, while searching for - and barely missing - love. Serious art-house stuff.
4-Jackie Chans' My Stunts, not a movie, a documentary on how Jackie does those incredible stunts.
This one has a massive 'wow' factor.
If you look for an offbeat rental, any one of these four would make a pretty good choice.
One other comment: Visit www.jet-li.com
It's about the best looking website I've ever seen.

April 2nd - Yokohama, Japan
Sunny and warm. Spring is back.
Sure is winnnnnnndy though...
Cherry Blossoms are at about 25%, so it's almost time to break out the sake!
The only thing more evocative of end of winter is the call of "Plaaaay Baaaall".
That's right, sports fans! Baseball season is upon us.
I plan to even get out and see a few games here in Japan, since Yokohama stadium is a mere three blocks from my home.
The Bay Stars won the Japan World Series last year, so I even have a good team to watch.
Oh, and Happy Easter!

April 1st - Yokohama, Japan
Well, we've now been in Asia for 6 years.
That's right. Due to a giant cosmic sense of humor, we actually landed in Japan on April Fool's Day, 1993.
Four days after our wedding.
Worlds biggest joke?
Or worlds longest honeymoon?
Well, you can let me know what you think...
But I wouldn't change a thing. (ok, given a second chance, I'd have eaten the cockroach in Thailand, but really that's the only change. really...)

Mar 29th - Yokohama, Japan
Cherry Blossoms are blooming, but the weather isn't cooperating with 'hanami' party planning.
It's been kinda cold and dreary, so more food and movies have been in store....
On Thursday, we ate at the Hard Rock for my birthday.
Friday was Pizza Hut Delivery, and "Casablanca". You know, I wasn't surprised at how good the movie was. But I WAS surprised at how cool Humphrey Bogart was! Great dialog, too.
By the way, I'm glad I waited to see it on DVD. The image quality was great.
Then, Saturday was our 6th wedding anniversary, so we had an excellent teppanyaki dinner, overlooking Yokohama Bay.
Ain't we romantic?!?!

Mar 25th - Yokohama, Japan
Today marks my 37th year of wandering.
Which means that:
-statistically, it's likely that more of my life is behind me than in front of me.
-thanks to the miracles of modern medicine (open chest surgery, specifically), I've lived about 25 years longer than I should have.
-I've been lucky enough to spend a third of my life with a woman I love.
-I've been shaped by TV, cable, MTV, CDs, Internet, and now DVDs.
-I've lived long enough to see China and Vietnam as both enemy and friend.
-I've lived long enough to see American media as both enemy and friend.
-Shit! I'd better grow up!
One other thing: I realize that the only thing I've done with the extra 25 years of life I've been given by medicine (and my parents - thanks!) is have fun for every minute. And I'm convinced that there would be no better way to honor the ones who fixed me up.
Other than to keep it up for another 37....
As Joel Grey sang, "Life is a caberet, old chum.
Come to the caberet."
Thoughts on another birthday related subject:
I'm one of the toughest people in the world, because there isn't much that I want. And what I do want, I just go ahead and buy for myself.
But, as I was just reminded by the lovely Miss Lilian of Singapore, the most valuable presents you can ever give are time, attention, and thoughts.
She took time out of her day to call me and say Happy Birthday. She gave me a smile, and I don't even have to throw away any wrapping paper!
Now that's a present!

Mar 24th - Yokohama, Japan
I'm getting that itch again...
I want to be discovering a new place.
I want to be eating new foods.
I want to smell new smells.
I want to hear new sounds.
I want my senses assaulted.
I haven't been anywhere new in about three months.
Good thing we're planning a trip. I'll be doing some business in the States in May, so we're going to make a detour to Maui. And I've never been to Maui.

Mar 23rd - Yokohama, Japan
I just came off of a cold, rainy, three-day weekend.
What did we do? Watched movies of course. And spent a lot of time catching up on CD's. And watched the Oscars. Some thoughts:
-A Japanese woman (a former Miss Japan, I hear) wins the best documentary award, and gives a wonderfully Japanese acceptance speech (as did Gwenyth Paltrow, actually), saying "who would believe a Japanese girl in the US winning for a film about Jewish senior citizens?"
I believe it!
It's just another tip of the East/West iceberg.
Expect to see a lot more of it in coming years.
-Is Andrea Bocceli a god or what? I don't care what kind of music you like. If this man's voice doesn't move you, see a doctor! He even made Celine Dion bearable.
-Jim Carrey and Robin Williams were great. Again.
-Why do Italians have a reputation as emotional?
-Jennifer Lopez and Catherine Zeta-Jones looked great...
-What was up with DeNiro's hair?
-And why no tribute to Kurosawa? Serious oversight!
Also from this weekend:
1)We watched the remastered "Animal House". When we lost John Belushi, we lost an amazing man.
2)And "Young Frankenstein". What a great DVD package this is. So many extras. Marty Feldmans finest hour.
3)We also finished the "Once Upon A Time In China" series with Jet Li. Action with humor and a message.
Tsui Hark never misses an opportunity to point out that a country divided against itself is doomed. A great series (at least 1 through 3).
4)Another HK film, "Lost and Found", surprised me by being the first I've seen that takes a real look outside of the Chinese world.
It's a funny/sad/moving story about a girl trying to find hope and figure out what home is.
5)And I have two MD's in heavy rotation right now:
One is Alanis Morissette. "Uninvited", "That I Could Be Good", and "Thank You" are personal favs.
The second is a collection I've made from the soundtracks of Wong Kar Wai movies. Composed by Frankie Chan, the music of "Chungking Express",
"Fallen Angels", and "Ashes of Time" are eclectic, melodic, and evocative.
Cool stuff.
6)Wow, I guess it did rain a lot this weekend!

Mar 17th - Yokohama, Japan
Had dinner in Chinatown last night with sumo/kabuki artist par excellance, Lynn Matsuoka.
We're working with her on a painting of my favorite geisha, the lovely Fujika-san. I gave Lynn some photos and ideas. Now she will go back to Hawaii and give it a shot. I have never seena a painting that captures a geisha properly. Most of the paintings are far too stiff and formal, but I have high hopes that Lynn's fluid technique will create something special.
My next three days are wall-to-wall meetings, but to balance it out, Monday's a holiday!

Mar 16th - Yokohama, Japan
This weekend was one of those 'spring has sprung' weekends in Japan. Sunny, warm, fresh - the kind of days that scream for a wandering. So we did.
We walked out to the river canal by our house, and followed it. Our destination was a covered shopping street that we had seen once, four years ago.
We found it. It's a serious shopping street. No CD stores. No book stores. No fashion stores. No purse stores.
There was a shoe store where they make sandals by hand. There was a jean store. One camera shop. And about 50 food stores.
One of the cool things about the old parts of Asia, is the market streets where all the vendors on the street sell the same thing. So you'll find 'chopstick alley', 'plastic food street', 'electronics blvd', etc.
Well, I'm pretty sure this street is named 'More grocery stores than you can visit in a week' street.
We didn't see any trendy looking girls or dapper men here. Just grannies, filipina maids, mothers with kids - serious bargain hunters.
We also saw a sign for someone offering a $1,000 reward for a lost dog.
Damn! At those prices, dognapping looks like a good career option!
On our way home, we found what looked like illegal off-track betting dens. A couple hundred sake saturated men were there, sucking down noodles and alcohol while scanning newspapers and watching TV's. There's a substantial homeless community here, and a thriving network of pay showers and laundramats. "Wash away the wine street", it might be called.
In the evenings, we dove into the "Once Upon A Time In China" series with Jet Li. He is too cool!

Mar 12th - Yokohama, Japan
Well, I'm back from a few days in rainy Yokkaichi, and ready for the weekend.
I watched "Resevoir Dogs" the other night, and have been humming, "Stuck in the Middle with You" ever since. A classic movie moment.
What else? Well, I heard from another old buddy today.
Russ, Giles, Lefty - almost the whole old gang is here, virtually speaking!
In Yokkaichi, I was reminded of a great discovery that my ninja buddy Shin once made - There is a cosmic connection between cute girls and pasta restaurants in Japan.
We've never been able to figure out how or why, but then some things you just don't question too closely.
It's like a bubble - if you poke at it, it will pop.
Instead, you just order a big old plate of spaghetti, and enjoy the scenery.
You want to know what I saw? Okay.
"Scenes from a Yokkaichi Pasta Shop":
-A truckload of girls who can be identified by their haircuts and mannerisms.
-A smiling pageboy in front of me, nods and grins and bursts freely into a low hearty laugh.
-A sophisticated shag, next to me, eats quietly.
-A dimpled girl with a layered style reads.
-Across the aisle, short hair with sober manner works on a job application.
-A slightly drunk girl with messy hair and a messy nose giggles through her hair.
-A trio that looks like the Spice Elves - with yellow, orange, and red hair, wearing shorts and caps.
-Another with hair tied up like a kid, puckering like she's thinking about Brad Pitt.
-One with hair piled up like a cheerleader, with perfect pick lipstick and a blue bandana.
-Okay, there are a couple of guys here, but they're mostly a sullen lot. The most life I see from them is when the drunk girl leaves, and two guys run over to see if there's anything left in her wine bottle.
There's not.
And, of course, each guy fondles his cell phone like it's a mystic talisman. Who knows...
But the food was pretty good!

Mar 8th - Yokohama, Japan
Backstreets of Japan are always full of interesting surprises.
On Saturday, Angie and I headed out in an new direction, and found a cluster of Love Hotels.
If you're unfamiliar with Love Hotels, they are 'by-the-hour' snuggle dens that are used by couples when they want to rock'n'roll.
While this may sound sordid, it's usually not. If you lived in a tiny residence with your parents, and grandparents or children, and slept behind sliding paper walls, you too would appreciate the convinience of a cheap getaway.
Anyway, these two-hour rentals are a great cultural barometer - even if I'm not sure what we're measuring!
So Angie and I decided to wander in to a couple of these palaces and take a look. There are lighted signboards that show the rooms that are currently available. They're fun to look at.
All we found, however, was a blacked out sign, and 'standing room only' in the lounge. Whoahh...
Talk about an uncomfortable scene!
A dozen people sitting around, staring at each other, and wondering what each other will look like (doing the nasty) in about 30 minutes!
It was the first time I ever wished I could understand Japananese. Do you figure it's like at a bowling alley or golf club - men bragging and giving pointers?
Ahhh, Japan...

Mar 5th - Yokohama, Japan
Here comes another weekend!
No big plans for us. I might go look at some surround sound speakers. And of course, we'll watch a movie or three.
We saw "First Love - Litter on the Breeze" last night.
More great cinematography by Christopher Doyle.
I can watch anything he films.
And Takeshi Kaneshiro was good again. We've seen him in Japanese, HK, and US films - and he always picks interesting films and characters.
Or maybe they pick him?
Life is sometimes like that.

Mar 4th - Yokohama, Japan
Feels like sping is here. The chill has left the airand buds are appearing on the trees.
Ume (plum) blossoms will appear soon, and then we count down to Sakura (cherry) season.
When the cherry blossoms start popping, there's no better place than Japan!
We watched some of "Dances with Wolves" on DVD, with Kevin Costners' commentary option turned on.
You haven't really seen it, until you've seen it with Costner. He has sooo many great stories to tell about the filming, that you really wish you could have been there.
Directors' commentary may be the best reason to get DVD. Particularly when you get a good commentary for a foreign film, like the one for John Woo's "Hard-Boiled" by Criterion.

Mar 2nd - Yokohama, Japan
I also received a correction today: Faye Wong, who I described last week as a Taiwanese singer, is not.
She is, in fact, a Beijing born singer, who lives in Hong Kong. Well, regardless of her roots, her music is very popular in Chinese communities around the world, and deserves to be heard by a wider audience.
Make sure to check her out.

Mar 1st - Yokohama, Japan
Yesterday was a perfect blue sky day here, so Angie and I did a three hour wandering through the back streets of Yokohama.
Can't say that we saw anything amazing (except for a gun shop, which is a pretty ironic thing to see here), but it's interesting to watch the people in Japan.
Signs of the bad economy are starting to become more obvious.
A local department store closed its doors. And I've noticed more businessmen picking through trash cans to find used manga, rather than buying new ones. There's definitely something wrong with seeing a man in a suit digging through trash - for a comic book.
I had some fun this weekend working on my upcoming Singapore pages. Once I started, it just kept growing.
We still found time to watch some movies.
One was "Jackie Brown", which was good, but didn't have the edge that "Pulp Fiction" had.
Three were Hong Kong films.
"Anna Magdelena" - a cool quirky love story.
"Dr Wai" - an okay action film with one amazing fire sword sequence.
And "Bride with White Hair 2" - which couldn't possibly live up to the original, but was still good.
The other two were Japanese films. "Shall We Dance?" is a great movie, with excellent acting. I guess you would call it a romantic comedy, but it's more a 'slice of Japanese life' movie.
"Sleepless Town" is a look at the seedy characters that inhabit Kabukicho, a night district in Tokyo. It's a film noir with violence, double-crosses, and betrayal.
Good acting and great views of an area you don't see often make this a must-see. This is a movie that proves that the imagery of Blade Runner isn't sci-fi.
I also see that we've had a lot of visitors from the Great White North (Oh, Canada!) over the past two days.
I guess this means that the article in the Edmonton Journal ran this weekend. Cool.
Well, to our visitors from Canada - welcome to the east/west world. Hope you like it!

Feb 26th - Yokohama, Japan
Spent a long day yesterday in lines, getting myself made 'official'. Now I have my Alien Registration card, which sounds like it's right out of "Men in Black", and my multiple-reentry visa - which also, now that I think of it, sounds quite sci-fi.
"Yes, sir, the alien is reentering Japanese airspace."
I then spent a long night at the scanner.
In Wanderings, you will find the first fruit of my work, 'Hong Kong Revisited'.
Next week, I will unveil a significant addition to ROV - 'A Wanderers' Guide to Singapore'.
This will be the long overdue look at the country we called home for two years.
Meanwhile, enjoy the weekend...

Feb 24th - Yokohama, Japan
A couple of comments on recent music in Asia.
First - I can't believe I haven't mentioned this earlier - Buy the latest album by Taiwanese singer Faye Wong.
I don't know the title, because it's in Chinese, but it was released in 1998, and has her picture on the cover with a red stripe below her eyes. It's kind of a digital raccoon effect.
The music is mellow and spacey, different from anything you've heard recently. She's got a beautiful voice.
Her 'Greatest Hits' CD is also quite good, with a remarkable cover of 'Silent All These Years' by Tori Amos (in Chinese, no less).
And if that's not enough Faye for you, rent "Chungking Express" to watch her acting talents. It's a cool, quirky film and she's great.
Second - I know, you thought I'd never get to the second - There's a pretty cool new Japanese band called 'the brilliant green'. They have a female singer and the songs sound like an alternative Japanese version of the Bangles. The lyrics are in English and Japanese. These guys are on Sony, so I expect you'll hear more of them.

Feb 23rd - Yokohama, Japan
Finally, new pictures.
I've added a page on Japan's 'Coming of Age Day'.
You can get to it from the drop down menu below, from the Wanderings Page, or from the Guide to Japan.
I did a ton of scanning last night, so there will be more to come!

Feb 22nd - Yokohama, Japan
Well, there was some good news for me today.
My slide scanner is back from HP, so we can look forward to some new pictures and some new wanderings here on ROV.
Oh, and I had a call on Saturday morning from a reporter for the Edmonton Journal, Dave Finlayson.
He wanted to talk to me about Range of Vision, for an article on Internet travelogues.
I tried my best to think of something outrageously provocative to say, in the hopes that I could become the Dennis Rodman or Madonna or Jerry Falwell of the Internet.
But then I realized that, in today's world, the most radical (and often the most difficult) thing you can do is be yourself.
Or maybe that's just a cop-out for my lack of media savvy.
Or am I being really manipulative? I'm marketing myself as a guy who doesn't market himself?
Anyway, I ended up just kind of wandering through the interview.
Once a wanderer, always a wanderer, I guess.
Oh, yeah, about the Chinese New Year Festivities: We checked it out. Johnny B, Ellen, and Craig joined us for the event. It was pretty disappointing though. Liver to Liver traffic. 2 hour waits to see 45 minute performances. We decided to just meander through the streets and enjoy the nice day, instead.
And so we did, with stops for some dim sum, and to watch the fabulous dancing Elvis club at Yamashita Park.
We also watched the movie 'Walkabout' on DVD, Saturday Night. If you think you'll never get to Australia, (or even if you think you will), check this out.
It's a beautiful film of the outback, and the clash between primitive and modern cultures.
Reminded me of our camping trip in the Red Center...

Feb 19th - Yokohama, Japan
Back from doing the customer meeting thing - Japanese style. Now THERE's a topic for a full blown essay.
I have a list, somewhere, of things that Japanese meetings and death have in common (obviously, I wrote it during a meeting). I'll have to put it here when I remember.
And the sad thing is, in many ways, I like Japanese meetings better than American ones!
Anyway, I returned to find a bunch of new emails about Range of Vision.
I'm constantly amazed by the number of emails I get that are about my hometown, Watertown (city of the future, H20-town, snow city, gateway to the 1000 islands) New York.
It's a town that seems to occupy a much larger psychological presence in this world than its' physical size would appear to deserve. It gets 1 page out of 100 or so on this site, but makes up about 25% of the emails.
Pretty interesting...
Another thing that is interesting is that the Yankees acquired Roger Clemens today. A great trade...
Well, the plan for this weekend is to hit the Chinatown Festivities on Sunday with some friends who are in town.
Any day that features dragons, lions, and pretty girls that weren't brought on by artificial mood enhancers sounds like a good day, I think!!

Feb 16th - Yokohama, Japan
Gong Xi Fa Cai!
Well, we went to our local Chinese Temple last night and counted down to the New Year of the Rabbit.
It was a typical Chinese Holiday - crowded, noisy, smelly, colorful, and fun.
There were lots of firecrackers, lots of people, and three shishimai (lions). The lions did a dance to welcome in the new year.
It sounded like a Backstreet Boys concert, with girls screaming "KAWAIIIIII" (Japanese for cute) at the top of their lungs, as the lions wagged, wiggled, and winked at the adoring audience.
Happy New Year!
Today I head to Yokkaichi in Central Japan, to visit a customer. With any luck, we'll get a clear view of Mt. Fuji....

Feb 12th - Yokohama, Japan
We're back from our visa trip in Hong Kong.
It was a good trip; full of excellent food, sunny skies, and successful movie shopping.
We were pretty busy with standing in line at the Japanese embassy (try to write something exciting about that!), so we didn't get to do any major wandering.
We contented ourselves with a couple of late nights instead. One was at the Temple Street Market, searching for videos. The other was in Lan Kwai Fong, the hip bar area.
These are two good places to see the mix of cultures that make up Hong Kong.
Everything from suited British power brokers to cool Korean models to bargain hunting Midwesterners to praying hookers to flower thieves to Chinese Elvis impersonators to pirated porno salesmen to deaf teletubby saleswomen.
And then some...

Feb 10th - Hong Kong
Sometimes, love ain't enough...
We got the sad news that our Singapore friend, Randy, passed away Sunday night.
It's hard to put this kind of news in any kind of context. You just close your eyes, take a deep breath, and shake your head.
He lived a good life, married a loving woman, brought two beautiful kids into the world, made friends, and worked hard - leaving fond memories with everyone who knew him.
A short life, but a long legacy.
Our sympathies and best wishes go to Jodi and the rest of the family.

Feb 5th - Yokohama, Japan
Well, first off, there's no real change in the status of our Singapore friend. I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but we're always hopeful.
We're off to Hong Kong tomorrow. There's few things less appealing in this world, than boarding a flight for four hours and breathing recycled air during a major flu outbreak.
So, I'm bingeing on vitamin C, and looking forward to the dim sum that will be awaiting me when the plane lands.
Baaaan-zaaaaiii...(that's Japanese for Yee-ha!)

Feb 3rd - Yokohama, Japan
I lived 36 years without having anyone I knew well die prematurely.
The only deaths around me had been aged relatives.
In the past three months, however, a co-worker suffered a fatal heart attack, and a former colleague was murdered in California.
Both were middle age men who gave a lot, and had much more to give.
Last night I was informed that my former assistant in Singapore, one of the purest lights I have ever known (this is the only way to accurately describe her), has had her husband fall ill with a serious virus. He is a healthy, outgoing, father of 2 who is only 33 years old. And he is struggling for his life.
I just spoke to her. The next 48 hours are critical.
I will say this. I listened to her voice, and if strength of love counts for anything, hers is enough to ensure that he will be home next week with her and the children.
Let's hope.
As I've watched these events strike a Japanese, an American, and a Singaporean Chinese, I see and feel things clearly.
Family, love, and life transcend country and culture.
Governments, politics, and religions are barriers to the feelings and ideas that our hearts know are right. Someday we might allow ourselves to live that way. Let's hope.

Feb 2nd - Yokohama, Japan
Hmmm... Range of Vision has won a web award that I had never heard of, before yesterday.
It's "CyberTeddy's Top 500 WebSite Award".
As near as I can tell, it means that someone who has read Range of Vision, went to the trouble to go to CyberTeddy and fill out a form recommending Range of Vision. When you think about it, that's quite a generous gesture.
The encouragement is much appreciated...

Feb 1st - Yokohama, Japan
Johnny B. hung out with us for the weekend. We had a meal at Garlic Jo's, explored Yokohama's only real tourist sight, Sankei-en gardens, and watched some movies.
Sankei-en was, as usual, great. It's a collection of 20-odd old buildings gathered in a garden.
Old man Sankei did a great job with it. Plum blossoms are starting to bloom. Seems early.
In regards to movies: Rent 'Zero Effect'. Ben Stiller and Bill Pullman are perfect. Smart movie.
Oh, and I almost forgot. Last weekend, we met with Lynn Matsuoka - sumo artist extraordinaire. She showed us a ton of her works; sumo, hula, kabuki, and baseball (she had an excellent picture of my old hero Don Mattingly, among others).
We're in discussions with her about commissioning a geisha painting, based on a photo of my personal favorite geisha (ok, the only one I know), Kyoto's Fujika-san.
Angie and I are trying to decide on the color scheme and composition.
I sent my scanner out for repairs, so hopefully it won't be too long till I can put more photos up.

Jan 27th - Yokohama, Japan
Big problems on the hardware front.
My HP Photosmart Scanner is down, which makes it very difficult for me to update any pages.
So... I'll be working on some essays in the meantime.
In better news, my DVD player is still blowing me away, and DVDExpress is shipping me movies in 3 days. That's cool.
We watched 'Out of Sight', which was.
And the past two nights, I watched Chungking Express and Fallen Angels, two extremely atmospheric Hong Kong Movies that are well worth checking out. Great cinematography, characters, and scores

Jan 21st - Yokohama, Japan
Well, I'm back from a customer meeting in Yokkaichi.
The only news from there is that I had a truly amazing sushi dinner one night, and that on the other night I listened to two young guys playing some solos on a street corner - basically Hendrix/Van Halen type stuff - except that they were not playing guitars.
They were playing Shamisan, the traditional banjo type instrument. Whatever the tool, these guys were seriously jamming, attracting a good crowd, both old and young.
Demonstrating that you bring the cool TO the tool.
Not vice-versa.

Jan 18th - Kyoto, Japan
We just spent the past three days in Kyoto.
It's so cool to revisit something you love, and find out that it's just as good (or better) than you remember.
Friday was Coming Of Age Day, the day when all 20 year olds celebrate their reaching adulthood by putting on a kimono and heading to the nearest shrine to pray for a good future. There is no better place to watch this than Kyoto. Hundreds of dolled up women and would-be Samurai, in the prime of their lives, whooping it up in front of age old shrines.
Really, really cool.
We wandered around and took tons of pictures.
For the rest of the weekend, we did some Geisha hunting (caught a few, but threw them back - too small, dontcha know), walked the philosophers path, ate kaiseki, visited temples, and let ourselves be surprised by all the little wonders that make Kyoto Kyoto.
One example - on Teramachi, a traditional shopping street, I found women's running shoes, where the leather upper has been replaced by kimono silk! It's Awesome...
And it provided me with the official 1999 slogan for Range of Vision:
Just Do It - like a Geisha!

Jan 13th - Yokohama, Japan
The weather here has been unbelievable. For about one straight month, we've had stunningly clear blue skies, and warm sun. No rain, no snow, no gloom.
The temperature and the wind is cold - sometimes bitterly so - but as long as the sun is out, the mood is, well, sunny!
In other news, our Japan work visas have been approved. We need to take a quick trip out of Japan to do our paperwork at a Japanese embassy.
Korea, Taiwan, and China are too cold. Hawaii is tempting, but we can stop there anytime.
Bangkok, Manila, and Singapore are too far.
That leaves Hong Kong - which is close, fairly warm, not so expensive, and has dim sum.
Hong Kong or Hawaii? Life is tough...

Jan 10th - Yokohama, Japan
Our buddy, John is in Japan for some work for a month, and came out to Yokohama with a co-worker that Angie and I had never met, Mike.
So the big news was that John brought me my new DVD from the states. No techno-babble - let's just say that this machine KICKS BUTT!
We watched The Negotiator, and the audio and video was unbelievable. I may never leave home again...
Well, actually, we did leave our home. We spent last night at the Hard Rock Cafe, introducing the boys to Yokohama Eye Candy, then went to a dance club called 'Circus', where the public relations schmoozer, Corky, spent way too much time sucking up to us.
On the plus side, the sound system jammed some serious low end, and people here actually dance, as opposed to just waving their arms around.
On the negative side, well, I just drank too much and woke up a bit groggy this morning.
At noon or so, we hit Chinatown for a buffet lunch, then got Mike some serious shopping done. I think the damage was three Chinese fans, a couple of beanies, and some ceramic statues.
We checked out the Yamashita park waterfront, and saw some hawks - a first for me in this town.
Next we tested the new Starbucks on Motomachi, and then toured the street scene there.
All in all, it was a mellow, but pretty good January Sunday.

Jan 8th - Yokohama, Japan
On my last stay in Japan, 93-96, booking hotels here was like listening to rap music on MTV - painful, but necessary if you wanted to get to the good stuff.
Well, no more for the hotel booking (and no more for MTV - there is no good stuff anymore). Now, most Japanese accommodations have a web presence, in English. Even the smallest ryokan (traditional inns) have pages! It's amazing...
We wanted to go to Kyoto next weekend, so I just surfed for an hour and found out that the legendary Miyako Hotel is running a winter special at 18,000 yen a night (US$155). An hour later, we were booked and confirmed. Internet is strong magic...

Jan 6th - Yokohama, Japan
Finally, my computer is up and running at full capacity. This means that I'll be able to update a number of pages.
We can expect some new Hong Kong photos, some new Japan photos, and an essay or three...
I mentioned that Angie and I had a HK film festival over the holiday, and this is what I learned:
Chow Yun Fat is NOT the dopey slug that he appears to be in 'The Replacement Killers'. Not even close.
You must rent and watch 'The Killer'.
It's a subtitled Hong Kong Testosterone Festival of Biblical proportions and Chow is GOD (metaphorically).
This movie will:
a) make you proud to be a man - or at least proud of your man (I realize I leave out at least one alternative lifestyle here, but sex shops sell tools to solve that problem).
b) make you want to shoot guns (I suggest you head to the local video arcade and play Time Crisis or some similar game that lets you stand back-to-back with someone and kick some butt).
If the word 'cool' didn't already exist, someone would have invented it for this flick!
Watch it, learn it, live it.

Jan 5th - Yokohama, Japan
Well, we had a good New Year's holiday in Japan.
We did a lot of work on our new apartment, held a private Hong Kong film festival in our living room, and somehow still found time to "party like it's 1999".
I'll spare you the gory unpacking, moving, and decorating stories and cut straight to our New Years Eve - A night where we started with Chinese Food, ended with disco sumo, and found Love in-between.
OK, the night started quietly enough, with us meeting our buddy, the ever-debonair Mike Ruth in Chinatown for dinner and beers.
We then headed to a countdown party at the Yokohama Hard Rock Cafe, where we met Mike's friend Hiro.
After a few rum and cokes (the official drink of the 1999 ex-pat Olympics), I was serenading him with my heartrending version of 'We Don't Need Another Hiro', but it seems that Japanese hearts don't rend as easily as you might think (or he was just pissed - whatever).
Anyway, Sybil was our DJ for the night, as the mood was built to a near climax, and then, 10 minutes before midnight, the DJ dug into a collection of slow dance
songs. Way to blow a nice head of steam, buddy!
Well, the crowd recovered for a spirited countdown, stuck around till about 12:30, and then disbursed.
We got lost in the cavernous parking garage, then helped a nice security guard get lost as well. We ditched him, found some other lost Japanese people, and led them around, till we found an elevator.
This is when we found Love. Actually, at first her name sounded suspiciously like 'Ralph'. Then 'Rao'. Then 'Loa'. Then, Eureka! Love! Her name is love!
Well in reality, her name is Ai - but as she stated so eloquently,
"Ai equals Love".
I, of course, was too polite to argue that this was impossible, since my beautiful wife Angie is the only conceivable love in my world.
I mean, I'm a guest in this country. Who am I to argue with a beautiful young girl who claims She Is Love.
Anyway, they were on their way to Kawasaki (sort of the Detroit of Japan), an odd place for Love to call home, if you ask me - but then, they say that love works in strange and mysterious ways.
Well, meeting Love is one thing. Following Love to Kawasaki is quite another, so we said goodbye and headed for a new dance club called 'Fire'.
This is a pretty happening place, it turns out.
Not only do we see what looks like some kind of Dancing Japanese Barbie convention (I mean that in a good way - Really).
Not only do I fulfill a fantasy by seeing a pretty girl in a red cheongsam (a slit Chinese dress) WITH knee high leather boots.
Not only do I get to play coat boy while my wife dances with two men who are substantially better looking than I am.
No, there's more.
We also get to make a New Years toast with Musashimaru, the great Hawaiian sumo wrestler. As it turns out, he's wearing huge overalls, unbuttoned on one side, looking kind of like an extremely dark, rapping, Junior Sample.
But hey, when you wrestle in diapers, anything else is a step up, right?
And the night wasn't even over.
Welcome to 1999.

Dispatches from 1998