January 30, 2008

Why bother with this school?

An English school in Nakano adopts the brutally honest approach when it comes to
self-assessment. (perhaps not the best choice for Phrase of the Week!)

indigo jam unit @ duo

It's January being the last Monday, that could only mean one place to go as far as I was concerned ~ duo music exchange in Shibuya to see indigo jam unit. The first time I saw them was one year ago for their Tokyo debut, and since then they have certainly grown in confidence. They have also increased in popularity by the looks of things, as there were hardly any tables out this evening, and it was practically standing room only.

The music started with a first set from indigo jam unit, kicking off with 'Adrenaline' from the latest album and then mixing newer tunes with old. Shimi on drums looked like he was really enjoying himself. The first set was about 50 minutes or so and featured several songs from their latest album such as 'Buffalo' and 'Matador', and some older favourites such as '7th Feeling'. Attention then switched to the back of the auditorium and the support artist Tsuji Kosuke on percussion. He was joined on drums by Takeshi Numazawa and between them they drummed up a real storm. I could be wrong, but I get the feeling that many of Tsuji Kosuke's performances are pretty much improvised, and if this is indeed the case, then it's very impressive indeed. The last piece the two played was a very long piece indeed that changed mood and tempo several times before building up to a thunderous climax.

Then, after a short interval, indigo jam unit were back on stage for their second set ~ starting with popular dance tracks 'Sakura' and 'Scene - Cartaincall' and the newer 'Switch'. The next section featured some slower pieces, with 'Ren' and 'Tsui so' from the new album going down well. The last section featured some fast and furious playing with the set being closed out with "2x2" and "Sphinx". After thanking all and sundry involved on the tour, the band were out for a two track encore with "Ka I Ka" and "Palette" and the lights went up shortly after eleven o'clock.

A great night out, as always, and I'm planning to be at their next Tokyo date on the last Monday in May.

Street art in Shibuya

On the side of a club off Dogenzaka

January 24, 2008

Books: The Angel of History by Bruno Arpaia

Prior to reading 'The Angel of History' I had heard of the name Walter Benjamin, but didn't really know anything about him. A visit to Wikipedia helped give me an idea of who he was, but it's in the pages of this novel that Benjamin the person, rather than Benjamin the German Jewish thinker and writer, comes to life. The novel follows the last years of his life as he tries to flee the looming spectre of the Nazis. In the 1930s he escapes to Paris where he spends most of his time in the company of other writers and intellectuals sitting idly in cafes or reading in libraries. As the threat of war becomes more and more real, Benjamin has to decide whether to stay in Paris or try to escape to safety. It is here that Arpaia paints a picture of Benjamin who was totally at home in his books, but too sickly and ill-equipped to deal with the rigours of real life so that he doesn't act until the very last minute.

At the same time, the novel also tells the story of a (fictitious) young Spanish left-wing militant, Laureano, who fought in the Civil War, and is now on the run from the fascist government. Laureano is a man of action, and his is a story of war, comradeship and passion that contrasts starkly with Benjamin. The two men are from completely different worlds, but are destined to cross paths at some point.

Bruno Arpaia's novel is an impressive work indeed and he does an excellent job of both describing the fears and frustrations that people had to deal with on a daily basis in those times, as well as portraying a sympathetic and life-like image of Benjamin. Very enjoyable indeed, though the translation from the Italian could have been better edited.

'Angelus Novus' by Paul Klee, a painting that was owned by Walter Benjamin. He saw this picture as representing the angel of history, its back to the future while it contemplates the past and the increasing pile of wreckage and ruin that is produced by the catastrophe of history.
Walter Benjamin at work in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, photographed by Gisele Freund.

January 23, 2008


Love - Jose James
Forefathers - Marcina Arnold
Imprevisto - Bossa Tres
Deep In The Sand - The Budos Band
West Ganji - Chicago Afrobeat Project
Futebol de bar (Heavy Usker Mix) - Cesar Mariano and CIA
Superstition - Dennis Mobley and Fresh Taste

What Do You See In Her? - Inell Young
Can't Come In - The Congos
Theme from the Ipcress File - John Barry

January 22, 2008

Full moon through the clouds

Snapped on the way home from work tonight.

January 21, 2008

Retro porn star hair cuts!

Deep in the heart of Nakano-ku lies an old-fashioned barber shop with the following stylish hairstyles offered on a signboard outside.

'Adult Soft' (moustache and medallion are thrown in free ~ allegedly)

'French Dandy' (a bit more 80s)

January 17, 2008

Books: Lost In A Good Book by Jasper Fforde

Thursday Next is back for a second installment of adventure after the drama of The Eyre Affair. As this story opens, we find next dealing with the attention and fame that rescuing Jane Eyre brought her and also living happily with her husband, Landen Park-Laine. However, the peace is soon disrupted when a series of weird coincidences seem to be connected with attempts to have her killed. Then her husband disappears, only continuing to exist in Next's memory. On top that, the shady Goliath corporation are hot on her heels, trying to get her to return Jack Schitt from a Poe poem and her father wants her to help save the planet from imminent destruction ~ well, transformation into pink goo. However, will she manage? Well, the only way to find out is to get lost in Fforde's alternative Swindon. As silly as ever and packed full of puns, this is a must for any fans of the series.

Wall near Kagurazaka

January 14, 2008

A Perfect Day

Million Faces - Contemporary Noise Quintet
It's Gonna Rain - Gentleman June Gardner
All Blues - Miles Davis
The Gigolo - Lee Morgan
A Perfect Day - Bobby Cole
Repatriation, Retribution - Nate Morgan
Question - Jesse Sharps Quintet
Dialed Up - Orgone
Quiet Village - Don Cunningham
Drowndeep:Hula - Maxwell

January 10, 2008

Books: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

I first read this book in 1989 shortly before I took a six-month trip around Eastern Europe in what was a period of rapid change in the region. At the time, I was eager to find out about the history and culture of the region as well as keep up with the events of the times as regime after regime toppled. I remember enjoying the book to the extent that I soon after I bought and read most of Kundera's other novels. When I stumbled across a copy in the Blue Parrot (a secondhand book shop ~ sadly not run by Sidney Greenstreet in a fez) in Takadanobaba I decided to read it again.

The novel centres around four main characters ~ Tomas, a philandering surgeon; his wife, Tereza, a country waitress turned photographer; Sabina, an artist and mistress of Tomas; and Franz, a Swiss lecturer and Sabina's lover. The story that unfolds is set in Czechosloavkia between the Prague Spring in 1968 and the mid-70s. It is a story that deals with the weighty topics of love, sexual desire, political action, the meaning of life and happiness. Kundera uses the German adage 'einmal ist keinmal' (what happens but once may just as well never have happened) to suggest that life is essentially 'light' and ephemeral and it is this lack of weight or purpose that gives the novel its name.

It was interesting to read this book again after a long time, since I was a university student back then and now have much more life experience and maybe now react to it in a different way. Certainly one of my favourite books and maybe I will wait less time before reading it again.

January 08, 2008

Hokusai and Siebold at the Tokyo-Edo Museum

Sunday I went to Ryogoku to see a Hokusai exhibition, which featured works that are in collections in Holland and France. Most of the works are from Hokusai and his school of artists, featuring scenes from daily life in the Edo period as well as some spectacular landscapes. There are about ten or so works by Phillip von Siebold, a German physician who lived in Dejima, off Nagasaki in the 1820s. As well as documenting the flora and fauna of Japan, he also did some drawings that drew heavily from Hokusai's style.

Though it was an interesting exhibition, it was, like any major exhibition in Japan, an exhausting experience since the place was so packed. You walk at a snail's pace in a line with very little personal space to enjoy the work on display, which is hardly ideal. Better on a weekday I guess.

January 06, 2008

Night time noodle stall - Shinjuku

Fortune Tellers at Shinjuku Station

Sun through the trees

Hatsumode at Hikawa Shrine

In the early part of the New Year, many Japanese people go to a shrine for what is called hatsumode, which is the first visit of the year. They use the occasion to pray for good things in the coming year and also buy an omikuji, which is a small slip of paper with your year's fortune written on it. I went to Hikawa Shrine, duly paid my 100 yen and tried my luck. Some will say it's fate, cynics will say it's like a raffle, but for my 100 yen I pulled out a chu-kichi slip, which means fate has a fairly good year in store for me.
This shrine features this ring of rope and by walking through this three times, you are supposed to ward off evil and stay healthy for the year.

2008 is the Year of the Rat.People tie ema (wooden tablets on which they write their hopes and wishes) or omikuji at a particular place in the shrine's grounds.

Lanterns at the entrance to the shrine at night.

January 05, 2008

Books: Resurrection Men by Ian Rankin

I've only a read a few of the Rebus novels to date, but I always find them hugely enjoyable. This is the thirteenth in the series and in it we find the St. Leonard's team investigating the murder of an Edinburgh art dealer. Rebus, however, is soon taken off the case after throwing a cup of tea at DCS Templer. For his sins, he is sent off to police college to be retrained with some other recalcitrant officers from the region to learn the benefits of teamwork and cooperation. Rebus soon realises, however, that the members of the group are suspicious of each other and seem more interested in protecting secrets than working together.

As always, Rankin's observations, cultural references and use of witty dialogue ('Do the words "tea", "mug" and "lob" mean anything to you?' 'Tea mug lob? Is that a Cocteau Twins track?' he won a smile from her.) are spot on, all adding to a sense of reality.
I haven't actually been to Edinburgh, but have a vision of it from Rankin's books, much like I have a vision of Louisiana from James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux books.
On the whole, probably the best of the Rebus books I've read to date.

January 01, 2008

Afternoon sky

Snapped on my mobile at Heiwa No Mori Koen

Yebsisound08 - New Year's Party


Kyoto Jazz Massive on the decks
Toshio Matsuura leading up to the countdown

Happy New Year!!

Gilles Peterson works the crowd

Soil and "Pimp" Sessions

Welcome 2008!

Happy New Year!
Bonne Année!
Ein gutes neues Jahr
Szczęśliwego nowego roku
Feliz año nuevo
Feliz ano novo
Manigong bagong taon
Chúc Mừng Nǎm Mới
Selamat tahun baru
šťastný nový rok
Onnellista uutta vuotta
Gott nytt år
С Новым Годом