December 2003 Archives

Another 25 words

| 3 Comments

A mediatinker tradition, one final writing exercise before midnight: recap your year in exactly 25 words.

2003 Doggerel

Hello Tokyo finally done
Neon Chopstix now begun.
'Twas mostly work but also fun.
Hosted friends from far away.
Another visa for three years' stay.

And previous entries:2002 and 2001

Beware of Almanacs

| 8 Comments

The US is going crazy. Shouldn't this be in The Onion, and not on CNN where I found it this morning?

FBI urges police to watch for people carrying almanacs

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The FBI is warning police nationwide to be alert for people carrying almanacs, cautioning that the popular reference books covering everything from abbreviations to weather trends could be used for terrorist planning.

In a bulletin sent Christmas Eve to about 18,000 police organizations, the FBI said terrorists may use almanacs "to assist with target selection and pre-operational planning."

It urged officers to watch during searches, traffic stops and other investigations for anyone carrying almanacs, especially if the books are annotated in suspicious ways.

"The practice of researching potential targets is consistent with known methods of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations that seek to maximize the likelihood of operational success through careful planning," the FBI wrote.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the bulletin this week and verified its authenticity.

Next week: FBI alerts police to maps, phone books, encyclopedias, all non-fiction books, and people carrying library cards. Special caution urged with people who can read and write.

Warm Winter

| 1 Comment

It's been so mild this winter that we've gone without heat until just lately. In fact, the heat's not on now, at ten minutes to midnight on December 29th. Amazing.

Tokyo winters are never terribly cold (compared to Chicago or Pittsburgh, that is) but this one seems warmer than average. Could be my imagination, but November into early December seemed warmer and wetter than usual. We're finally getting typical crisp, clear December days but it seems like they came a few weeks later than usual.

Weather's a little tricky to recall. I could be just misremembering past years. But according to this nifty page from the Japan Meteorological Agency I'm not off base. http://www.data.kishou.go.jp/normal-e/mrep_e.html

December's data's not in yet (of course) but I be it will be warmer and wetter than usual.

Untitled

| 7 Comments

Three hours, four brains, 257 ideas. But still no title for the new project.

I'm sure we will come up with one but nothing we've conjured so far is quite right. We do have two or three acceptable, but not brilliant, "runners-up" if we really get stuck.

So, help me out. What would you call a show about a group of creative people (foreigners and Japanese) in Tokyo? The story follows their relationships as they move around the city and pursue their creative interests: making music, acting, dancing, taking photographs, drawing, being beautiful, getting famous.

Hello Tokyo

| No Comments
Puzzles of Daily Life

Life can be confusing as a functional illiterate; let me help you figure things out fast. Puzzles of Daily Life is a 14 minute video shot on location in train stations, shops, and on the streets--the perfect thing to give you a glimpse of sights and sounds of real-life Tokyo.

Clips from Hello Tokyo


title sequence
Hello Tokyo

0'46" .mov (6.2 MB)


chapter 1
Figuring Out a Few Words

1'58" .mp4 (1.2 MB)


chapter 4
Entertainment

1'12" .mp4 (923 KB)

In less than 15 minutes, you'll discover how to:

  • summon a waiter
  • apologise for running into someone
  • say a simple thank you
  • choose and use a phrasebook
  • deciper Italian, French, other western menus
  • take advantage of plastic food displays
  • prepare quick meals with instant food and deli items
  • read 6 key kanji on food packages
  • save money by buying Japanese goods
  • puzzle out cleaning products
  • shop for American and European foods
  • satisfy your midnight-snack cravings
  • pay your utility bills
  • combine shopping and entertainment at a 100 yen store
  • see four movies for the price of 1
  • tell whether a movie is subtitled or dubbed in Japanese
  • find English language books and magazines
  • love your train station
  • buy a train or subway ticket
  • use a Passnet card to transfer from subways to trains
  • what to do when the wicket chimes
  • read a Tokyo address
  • ...and more

Order Hello Tokyo

Region-free NTSC DVD-R media* in jewel case packaging. Prices include shipping via regular mail and tax. Pay with PayPal by clicking below.

To order the DVD in a tall case or to place large orders for resale, please e-mail kristen@mediatinker.com for more information. *DVD-R media may not work in all players; please consult your owner's manual.

Appearances & Media
Design Festa vol 18 interview
Design Festa 18 video interview

Quince drink

| 1 Comment

nodojiman.jpgToday at the combini, I spied this new drink: Nodojiman. I'm mystified by the name. Nodo is throat, but Jiman mean "boasting" so I have a feeling that I'm missing something here...there are musical notes on the label and the character on the label is a uvula, so maybe it's a pun I don't understand.

Anyway, Nodojiman is a slightly fizzy, sweet, quince flavoured drink. It tastes a lot like nodo ame, what we'd call cough drops, but nodo ame literally translates to "throat candy."

nodojiman2.jpgI thought that the back of the Nodojiman label was really funny. For your dry throat, your dry heart, your dry life..."

Quince has magical properties to cure sore throats. Called karin in Japanese, it's a key ingredient in all of the Japanese cough drops and has long been used as an herbal remedy. But I don't know if it can cure your dry life.

Cartoon yourself

| No Comments

creative.jpgLet's pick up a pen and draw today. We're going to cartoon ourselves from two perspectives.

Don't worry, this isn't about your drawing skill. There's no "right" way to draw a cartoon, so let yourself have fun with it and do your best. If you get stuck, think of all the different styles you've seen: Peanuts, The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, South Park, Japanese anime and manga.

First Perspective: Yourself in Real Life
cartoonyourself.gifCartoon yourself in your "natural environment." What do you do most of the time? If someone walked in to your house, what would they find your doing? Maybe you like to sleep or read or play video games. Or perhaps you're always at the office wearing a suit, so you live in a corporate environment.

Try to draw the details of what you look like, what you wear, the things around you. It's OK to exaggerate! Maybe you can include some action, or make a multi-panel story.

My Real Life: sitting at the computer in my pajamas, hair going everywhere and coffee nearby. This is me pretty much every day...including right now.

Second Perspective: Yourself in Your Dreams
cartoonyourself2.gifNext forget reality and cartoon yourself doing something you wish you could do. Singing in front of 50,000 people? Winning the lottery? Bringing peace to the world? The sky's the limit, here.

But remember to include details to show where you are and what you're doing.

My Dream Life: manning a mission to Mars. Growing up, I wanted to be an astronaut or an astronomer, but my eyes aren't good enough and my math stinks! But in my dreams, I am in flight, trying on my space suit. So fashionable...

Want to share your cartoons? Post a URL in the comments. I can't wait to see what you've drawn!

Onion Toasts

| 1 Comment

recipe thursday This classic 1950's American appetizer is always a big hit at parties and it's very simple. It tastes a bit like French Onion Soup. “Party rye” is not available in Japan; I use whole-grain German rye and cut it onto quarters.

Onions Toasts
makes 12 appetizers

150 g onion, chopped (sweet onions like Vidalia work best)
120 ml mayonnaise
12 slices party rye bread (or 3 slices German rye, cut into 1/4ths)
50 g freshly grated parmesan cheese

Mix the onion and mayonnaise together. Broil the bread on one side until lightly toasted. Turn the toast over and spread with the onion mixture. Sprinkle with a generous topping of parmesan and a dash of ground black pepper.

Broil again until the cheese on top is lightly brown. They take only a minute or two, so be careful not to burn them. Serve these while still warm.

Citrus Ornament

| No Comments

citrus-ornament.jpg
A ripe fruit hangs like a Christmas ornament in my neighbor's garden.

Bathroom Book

| 3 Comments

bathroom.jpg
Ladies room with orchids. Tung Fat, Yokohama
Cleanliness: 8 - apparently frequently tidied
Scent: 6 - Completely neutral
Decor: 9 - fresh flowers and elegant marble
Fixtures: 6 - nothing extraordinary
Consumables: 5 - average paper; lotion(?) in an unlabeled plastic bottle
OVERALL: 6.8 - clean and nicely decorated, but not a place you'll linger.

My sister and I became restaurant bathroom connoisseurs during the interminable duration between our last bite of dessert and our parents' last cigarette.

During fortnightly dinners out, Jenn and I would escape Mom & Dad's chitchat and examine the fixtures, cleanliness, industrial-grade toilet paper and bottled scents of the ladies' room. Each bathroom received a rating. Sometimes we took notes, sometimes we merely reported back to the dinner table. We vowed that one day, we'd write a book.

Exactly when this began, I'm not sure. I suspect my mother innocently asked "How was the bathroom?". For an 8 and 11 year old, that would have been enough. All I can say is thank goodness we didn't have a camera or the book would be a reality full of entries like the one above.

Auditions

| 2 Comments

UPDATED SCHEDULE AND DETAILS

Saturday January 10, 2004
For more info: casting@mediatinker.com

New serial drama seeks Japanese and foreign actors. The auditions will consist of two cold readings; you do not need to prepare a monologue. Headshots and resumes are appreciated, but not necessary. In addition to the roles listed below, we need people of all backgrounds and ages for smaller parts and as extras.

Production is planned for weekends from mid-February through mid-April. Not all characters will be required for all shooting days.

Actress “Yoko”
Age: 20s-30s
Nationality: Japanese
Language: Japanese or bilingual E/J
“Yoko” is a stunningly beautiful actress with lots of talent, however, she's also a kind, sincere, humble person. Although she knows she is beautiful and is confident in her acting ability, she is very shy off-camera, and a bit insecure and awkward when interacting in the "real world." She is genuinely a kind-hearted person who is torn between following her acting career and pleasing her parents.

Actress “Tomoko”
Age: 20s-30s
Nationality: Japanese
Language: Bilingual E/J
“Tomoko” is a beautiful and feisty actress who hasn’t achieved the success she wants. She's known as a busybody who knows everyone’s business and gossips behind everyone’s back—therefore, she's a troublemaker.

Actress “Junko”
Age: 20s-30s
Nationality: Japanese
Language: Japanese or bilingual
“Junko” is a quiet, insecure, and introverted young woman who works behind the scenes. She is sort of plain and the outgoing actors and actresses forget to invite her along to social events. Junko speaks but she has emotional depth. She's quick to try to please, but her eyes reveal sadness.

Actress “Miki”
Age: 20s-30s
Nationality: Japanese
Language: Japanese or bilingual
“Miki” is a young actress who is always late for rehearsals and meetings. Although she is a fine actress, she is a prima dona who reacts badly to criticism.

Actress “Anna”
Age: 20s-30s
Nationality: European or British
Language: English or bilingual
“Anna” is a photographer who has been in Japan for just a few months. She has an outgoing personality and is trying hard to make friends and get her career going.

Actor “Sean”
Age: 20s-30s
Nationality: UK, Australian, or NZ
Language: English or bilingual
“Sean” is a comic artist and English teacher. He is the comic relief in the show, (ala Kramer), offering wisdom in a friendly manner.


Please pass this information to anyone you think might be interested

Monoprints

| 1 Comment

nengajo1.jpgnengajo2.jpg
Through a collusion of time and circumstance, we arrived at the solstice with no holiday cards and a big empty atelier available to us at the kuyakusho (the ward office). So we did what any normal people would do, and we hauled our art supplies down the road and made cards.

We intended to print a bunch of cards using the block we designed at the nengajo party, but ended up doing monoprints which were a lot more fun.

nengajo3.jpg
Tod surveys the 86 cards we made in our enthusiasm. I think that we have enough cards for next year, too.

Iranian groceries

| 4 Comments

"Look, a rice shop," I said to Tod as we walked up Sotobori Dori from Akihabara towards Ochanomizu.

"And they sell CDs...huh?"

"Hey, wait a second, that's Basmati rice!" I pulled the door open. Inside the modest store was a treasure trove of Iranian food: dried beans; tinned halal stews; saffron candy; nuts, pickles, and olives.

The owner offered us each a fresh date sprinkled with coconut to enjoy while we browsed. Heaven!

I left with a bottle of rosewater for making sweets, a jar of jam that is labeled in Arabic with the picture of a mysterious fruit, a box of dried herbs, and a bottle of pomegranate molasses--now I can make mohomara!

We returned after dinner to acquire some weightier purchases--a leg of lamb and a 5 kg bag of basmati rice. Guess what we're having for dinner on the Emperor's birthday this Tuesday?

If you'd like to visit Darya Shop, you'll find it at 2-1-4 Soto-kanda, Chiyoda-ku on Sotobori-dori, just down the hill from Marunouchi line Ochanomizu station (on the same side of the street as the river). The phone number is 03-3251-5387 and it's open from noon - 10 pm, except Mondays.

So much packaging

| 1 Comment

Something many new arrivals comment on is the amount of useless packaging in Japan.

- A box of chocolates sealed in cellophane contains a plastic tray. The tray holds 12 individually wrapped candies.

-Your newly purchased boutique sweaters are individually wrapped in tissue and sealed before being wrapped in paper with the store's logo and slipped into a shopping bag, which on a rainy day might be covered in a protective plastic bag.

What's up with all the packaging? It's cultural.

Japan is full of layers--from the layers of kimono that cover the body to the layers of politeness that wrap the language. Contemporary packaging rises from gift giving traditions.

Ages ago, gifts to the shogun and emperor were elaborately and beautifully presented. Wrapping symbolic stated, "I have covered this object from my sight. I no longer own it; I give it to you."

The act of unwrapping the package made it the receiver's property. Each layer could be savored for its shape, color and texture. And the more layers, the more beauty to enjoy and anticipation of the gift inside.

Therefore, overpackaged chocolates evoke luxury.

A very scholarly paper explains it in detail: Wrapped gifts: Ritual prestations and social obligations in contemporary Japan

From the floor

| 1 Comment

creative.jpgIf you'll just stretch out on the floor for a moment, please. Yes, that's it...on your stomach, arms & legs relaxed. Rest your chin on the floor. Good, good.

You have become a child, a Borrower, a puppy.

What do you see? The carpet looks different from down here, doesn't it? Take a close look. It's a lot rougher and uneven from this angle. Look at the way the furniture meets the floor. What would it be like to walk on it if you were only a few inches tall? The door's an awfully long way away. And all those crumbs as obstacles...time to vacuum, I think.

But first, roll over onto your back. Let your eyes follow the nearest wall to the ceiling. What seems so close when we're standing looks miles away when we're down here. Does your furniture take on a new perspective? Put reality aside and imagine what might be on the surfaces you can't see now. There must be a cookie jar on the credenza, if only you could reach it.

Of course, when you stand up there's no cookie jar, the ceiling regains its usual stature and you will forget about the crumbs. But carry the memories of your perspective from the floor with you today and see if you can use them as you work or play.

Frugal Chicken Soup

| 1 Comment

recipe thursday After roasting a chicken and enjoying the meat and leftovers, you have the best thing for making soup--the carcass. You'll get another meal's worth of chicken because simmering loosens the meat from the skin and bones.

And as for the rest, almost anything is good in chicken soup. Make soup on a day that you have bits of leftover vegetables. This is not the sort of soup you go buy new ingredients for...Today I have a 1/3 cauliflower and a broccoli stem so that's what's in mine.

Frugal Chicken Soup
1 chicken carcass
6 cups cold water
1 bay leaf
1 large potato
1/2 carrot
1/4 onion
1 to 2 cups of other vegetables--broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, cauliflower, tomato, corn, etc.
1/4 cup egg noodles (optional)
salt & pepper to taste

Put the chicken carcass in a medium sized pot. if the chicken is too big, cut it along the lower part of the breast and fold it to fit. Cover with 6 cups cold water and add the bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook slowly for about an hour without boiling.

When the water is golden yellow with a nice layer of bright gold fat, carefully drain the stock into another pot. Put the bones aside to cool.

frugalchickensoup.jpgPeel and chop the potato, carrot, onion and other vegetables into bite-sized pieces. They should be approximately the same size to ensure even cooking. I usually make them 1 cm (1/2 in) or smaller. Add to the stock.

When the bones are cool enough to handle, pick off any remaining meat. Check the neck, under the thighs, around the joints. Avoid the liver and other innards; they taste nasty in soup. Chops the meat into small bits and add to the soup. Add a 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a pinch of white pepper.

Cover the pot and simmer the soup over low heat at least until the vegetables are soft (20-30 minutes) and as long beyond that as you like. Skim the impurities from the surface as needed and be sure to watch for evaporation if you simmer for hours and hours.

About 20 minutes before serving, add the egg noodles. Season the soup with salt and pepper at the table.

Season's greetings

| 1 Comment

paradigmxmas.jpg

Printing and design companies use their to holiday greeting cards say "thanks for your business this year" while also shouting "Hey, look! We can do foil and die cuts, too!"

I've always looked forward to them. So I was pleased as punch when I received one from Paradigm, the company that does FCCJ's monthly magazine. It's sweet--a lovely range of non-traditional holiday colors and a die cut that works into each picture and culminates in Paradigm's signature dots.

And it reminds me that I'd better get some mediatinker nengajo done this week!

Map gift

| 1 Comment

metromap.jpg
Yesterday afternoon as Tod was leaving for work, he found a white tube outside our door and handed it to me

"Dunno what it is, but everyone seems to have them," he said, scanning up and down the hallway.

I pulled off the packaging to reveal the 2004 Metro Network Map. It's a large, detailed map of the subway system with exits and underground passageways marked. We held it up to the wall in the genkan and followed streets and trains until my arm felt numb and Tod was definitely late for work.

But we're not sure why we received this. Maybe Eidan is giving them to all the people who live along the exposed portion of the Marunouchi line? They were doing some work out there recently; maybe this is a little "pardon our dust" present.

Train route website

| 1 Comment

I'm quite sure that I couldn't manage without Jorudan's train route detail website. Type in your starting and ending station and it tells you where to change, how long the ride will be, and how much it costs. Doesn't matter whether you're going across town or across the country--this is one great resource.

In English: http://www.jorudan.co.jp/english/norikae/e-norikeyin.html
In Japanese: http://www.jorudan.co.jp/norikae/norimap.html

Picking at chicken

| 3 Comments

There is something about picking meat off a chicken carcass that fires my imagination.

I feel connected to the frugality of my grandmothers' era. They grew up during the Depression and every morsel of food was precious. I imagine what it must have been like for them. Were they hungry? How often did they get a chicken for dinner? What did their mothers do in the kitchen? Probably the same thing I'm doing now: slipping on an apron; washing my hands; abandoning the knife to use my fingers.

Every time, I'm surprised at how much meat remains on the chicken after it's been carved at the dinner table. Last night we had roast chicken dinner; today's lunch menu featured open-faced chicken sandwiches. Tonight I am making croquettes, and there's still enough for chicken curry and a rich soup.

As I dig between the bones, searching for hidden pockets of meat, my thoughts drift towards other people who once needed this bountiful chicken: the starving Armenians my mother told me about when I didn't finish my dinner in the 1970s; the Ethiopians I bought charity albums to help in the 80s; the little girl in rural Thailand who I sponsored when I was a teenager. I wonder what happened to them?

They would have liked my chicken croquettes.

Sidewalk

| No Comments

Because of all the construction in our neighborhood, the past year has seen the local sidewalks dug up and patched over three or four times. But it has finally drawn to a close.

For the past few weeks, the curb-layers were building new edging and yesterday the bricks were delivered. They worked hard this weekend and have already finished two blocks.

I love Bunkyo-ku's red brick sidewalks and I'm happy to see them again. I'm also pleased that I won't be tripping over uneven lumps of asphalt anymore.

Casting Call

| 1 Comment


NEW DATE: Saturday, January 10, 2004
For more info: casting@mediatinker.com

New serial drama seeks Japanese and foreign actors. The auditions will consist of two cold readings; you do not need to prepare a monologue. Headshots and resumes are appreciated, but not necessary. In addition to the roles listed below, we need people of all backgrounds and ages for smaller parts and as extras.

Production is planned for weekends from mid-February through mid-April. Not all characters will be required for all shooting days.

Actress “Yoko”
Age: 20s-30s
Nationality: Japanese
Language: Bilingual E/J
“Yoko” is a stunningly beautiful actress with lots of talent, however, she's also a kind, sincere, humble person. Although she knows she is beautiful and is confident in her acting ability, she is very shy off-camera, and a bit insecure and awkward when interacting in the "real world." She is genuinely a kind-hearted person who is torn between following her acting career and pleasing her parents.

Actress “Tomoko”
Age: 20s-30s
Nationality: Japanese
Language: Bilingual E/J
“Tomoko” is a beautiful and feisty actress who hasn’t achieved the success she wants. She's known as a busybody who knows everyone’s business and gossips behind everyone’s back—therefore, she's a troublemaker.

Actress “Junko”
Age: 20s-30s
Nationality: Japanese
Language: Japanese or bilingual
“Junko” is a quiet, insecure, and introverted young woman who works behind the scenes. She is sort of plain and the outgoing actors and actresses forget to invite her along to social events. Junko speaks but she has emotional depth. She's quick to try to please, but her eyes reveal sadness.

Actress “Miki”
Age: 20s-30s
Nationality: Japanese
Language: Japanese or bilingual
“Miki” is a young actress who is always late for rehearsals and meetings. Although she is a fine actress, she is a prima dona who reacts badly to criticism.

Actress “Anna”
Age: 20s-30s
Nationality: European or British
Language: English or bilingual
“Anna” is a photographer who has been in Japan for just a few months. She has an outgoing personality and is trying hard to make friends and get her career going.

Actor “Sean”
Age: 20s-30s
Nationality: UK, Australian, or NZ
Language: English or bilingual
“Sean” is a comic artist and English teacher. He is the comic relief in the show, (ala Kramer), offering wisdom in a friendly manner.

Please pass this information to anyone you think might be interested

Favorite letters

| 1 Comment

creative.jpgToday's perspective comes from a conversation with UltraBob yesterday.

What are your favorite three letters, and why? Answer in as much detail as you can.

Here are mine:

Q: As a little girl, I loved writing the curvy 2 shape of a cursive capital Q. It confused me that numbers and letters could look so much alike. (Maybe this is why I still sometimes exchange e and 6 when I'm calculating.) As an adult, I appreciate the typographic Q with its flourish-y tail. Did I marry a man with Q in his name on purpose...?

V: A practical, versatile letter, especially as a fridge magnet. Turn V on its side to show you have values more or less of various things. Flip it upside down for a variation on A. Its vocabulary isn't vast but it can act as a drill in a pinch.

K: A stable letter. No matter which way you turn it, you can't knock it over. Yet it's also sort of bristly--if I throw a K at you, you're likely to get scratched. I also like the closed feeling in my throat when I say it: k k k k k. Get going fast enough and it sounds like a machine gun. K isn't merely my initial, it exemplifies my personal attributes. How could it not be a favorite?

Bob's fond of R and I'm sure he'll let you know why...

Dictionary of Japanese Food

| No Comments

dictjapfood.jpgI heartily recommend the Richard Hosking's "A Dictionary of Japanese Food" as a key reference book in your library. It describes hundreds of raw ingredients, meals and traditional kitchen equipment. Illustrated with simple line drawings, it's a book I still turn to after nearly 6 years in Japan.

Passnet cards

| No Comments

When your Passnet card has less than a full ticket's worth of value, you can slot it into the ticket machine and make up the difference in coins to buy a ticket.

You can use up to two Passnet cards at a time this way.

For example, you need 190 yen ticket and have a Passnet card with 40 yen left on it and one with 60 yen on it.

Insert one passnet card, then the other. The ticket machine will register 100 yen. Add 90 yen in coins, and the machine will give you a 190 yen ticket, plus your two Passnet cards (now completely empty).

Kenchin

| 1 Comment

recipe thursdayKenchin is a soup of root vegetables and tofu. It's absolutely delicious on a cold winter day.

The burdock root, gives an earthy flavor; the taro is soft and sticky; and the konyaku is nice and chewy. It might be challenging to find these ingredients in a typical US grocery store, but an Asian market should have them.

Kenchin
serves 4
1/2 block firm tofu (momen dofu)
2 pieces thin fried tofu (abura age)
1/2 burdock root (gobo)
3 small taro potatoes (satoimo)
1/2 carrot
1 leek (naga negi)
8 fresh shiitake
2/3 block konyaku
10 cm dried seaweed (kombu)
salad oil
50 ml soy sauce
20 ml sake
5 c water

With the back of a knife, scrape the burdock root into shreds (like sharpening a pencil). Cut the taro into quarters. Put the burdock and potatoes into cool water to release tehir bittnerness (drain them just before adding to the pot). Cut the carrot and leek into 1 inch pieces. Quarter the shiitake. Boil the konyaku for 3 minutes then cut into bite sized pieces. Slice the fried tofu in half lengthwise, then cut 1 inch slices.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot. Add the leek and fried tofu and saute briefly. Remove from the pot. Add the vegetables to coat with oil. Then add 5 cups of cold water and the kombu and simmer until the vegetables are soft.

Add soy sauce and sake. Return the leek and fried tofu to the pot. Cut the firm tofu into large bite-sized pieces and add it in. When the leek is soft, remove from heat. Serve with rice and pickles.

ISBN application

| No Comments

isbnapplication.jpg

This morning I am filling in the ISBN and JAN-code applications for Hello Tokyo. I've been putting this off because the forms look so intimidating. Actually, they're pretty simple and it's mainly filling in names and addresses.

But there are some slightly confusing areas:

Current stockpile amount: ___ items

As I'm just applying for an ISBN now and it makes no sense to print a book before you have the ISBN, my inventory is 0. I wonder how many applications have a number other than 0 in this blank? ISBNs aren't required in Japan, so maybe some publishers apply after the fact.

And on the JAN code form, it asks you to enter your ISBN publisher code...only I haven't got one yet since I'm just applying now, so what do I put? The instructions don't really cover that but they do say to submit the forms together.

Maybe I should have a Japanese native reader help me out just a bit on these points. I don't want to have to apply again; it's not cheap.

Ah, bureaucracy.

The production book

| 7 Comments

productionbook.jpgEach of my major projects has its own ring binder to help me keep organized.

Something about putting together a new one fills me with happiness. Maybe shopping for the supplies reminds me of every new school year in my childhood--crisp sheets of blue-ruled filler paper, tabbed dividers, the selection of binders. Do I need a new ruler? New pens, definitely.

Or maybe its the hope and promise that all new endeavors bring. Heading into unexplored possibilities is thrilling. So many interesting experiences ahead and obstacles to be overcome. Ideas will overflow these pages, I'm sure.

My Hello Tokyo production book was once shiny and new. Now it's a well loved, battered, and filthy collection of notes, scribbles and memories of frustrations and triumphs.

Today, the production book for "the project that will not be named" is pristine like freshly fallen snow. Tomorrow, I'll start making tracks in it.

Mail management

| 4 Comments

I used to be completely on top of my e-mail. I would read a message and reply without delay--usually before reading the next message. It is a very efficient system.

But for some reason, I'm no longer doing that. I've been slacking by reading mail and waiting to reply until...I'm not sure when. Now I have an Inbox full of mail that needs a response.

All these unanswered mails are weighing me down. So tonight I'm on a mission to answer 50 mails....here I go...

Update: midnight. I've replied to 21 messages and slightly rearranged my mailboxes and filtering rules. I'm going call it a night and be happy that I got nearly halfway to my goal in one session. I'll keep at it tomorrow. :-)

Nengajo party

| 5 Comments

Today was the Creative Perspectives get -together. We spent our afternoon making nengajo, Japanese holiday cards.

nengajo-jo.jpg
Jo is carving her first-ever stamp. She's going to use it on the beautiful marbled paper she made today.

nengajo-bob.jpg
Bob spent most of the day sketching monkeys. His final product is a print block with a lot of character.

Greg brought lots of art toys and Jo took charge of dinner--a completely scrumptious polenta pizza! Tod was the kanji-master (of course) and I sketched variations on a theme until I got the design I wanted. If I have your address, you'll get a copy. If not, send me your address.

Takamado Hime-sama

| 4 Comments

I've never talked to a real princess before.

But tonight at the Australian Embassy's Ancient Future reception for Patricia Piccinini's "We Are Family" exhibit at Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Shinagawa (how's that for an introduction?), I had a conversation with Princess Takamado, the sister-in-law of the Japanese Emperor.

She gave an eloquent toast in Japanese and English (delivered with a lovely Cambridge accent) talking about her late husband's definition of art--it must be beautiful, not merely freedom of expression as art was originally made as a gift to God.

It brought tears to my eyes. I had to say hello. But she was being monopolized by a guy wearing a backpack, and I have not learned the gentle art of butting in. So MJ's embassy contact, Katherine, helped us out and sidled over. The backpacker vanished and then a woman slipped in with a bouquet of pink and yellow tulips (in December ?!) and had her photo taken. And then we talked with the Princess.

It wasn't a very long conversation; perhaps six or seven minutes. First it was about the art exhibit, then we moved on to the Princess' involvement in judging speech contests and how men usually won, even though 75% or more of the contestants are women. Why? Because women don't deliver their speeches as well. She said that women trying to tell jokes made everyone slightly uncomfortable. (Interesting.)

Princess Takamado is gracious, graceful, and well-spoken. I'm very happy to have conversed briefly with her. Even though she'll never know who I am, I'll take her as a role model. I feel special for having spoken to a real, live princess.

Granted, this is all reflected glory...but...but...I talked to a princess! Not bad for a girl with hands perfectly shaped to use a plow.

Rules, rules, rules

| 4 Comments

creative.jpgWhen you're faced with a trivial but impossible decision put a creative spin on it.

Make up arbitrary rules. Then stick with them.

"I'll buy a book that has san-serif type on the cover, is thicker than 3 cm, and is written by a woman."

"On my day off I'll take the train to the first destination that has four syllables and no S in its name."

"I'll buy 3 things at the grocery store for dinner: one that's under 200 yen, something with purple on the label, and whatever is to the left of the tomatoes."

Setting a framework for yourself, no matter how silly, forces you to find creative solutions within the restrictions. What has a purple label and goes with escarole?

Or it might expose you to something you've never seen or tried before--a book on glazing your own windows, or the delights of Ichigaya.

I sometimes play game this with friends when we're out wandering around and nobody wants to make a decision about where to eat. Everyone gets a to make one rule and has one veto if the restaurant is too dodgy or undesirable.

"We'll eat at the next place we see that has a green sign, beer on the menu, and a waitress wearing an apron."

It's amazing how quickly you find a place that fits all the requirements.

Japanese-style Chicken Burger

| 2 Comments

recipe thursdayThis is another one from Lettuce Club--the "Pork and Chicken: 100 Yen Entrees" issue. The recipe below comes to 46 yen per serving according to their calculations, but I'm not sure where they're buying their meat--250 grams of ground chicken for 95 yen...not in my supermarket.

Japanese-style Chicken Burger
serves 4

250 g (1/2 lb) ground chicken
50 g lotus root, minced (about a 1/4 cup, I think)
2 dried shiitake, reconstituted and minced
2 tsp ginger juice
2 tsp sake
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp cornstarch
1/3 tsp salt
8 cm (3 in) green onion, sliced into thin shreds
1/4 red pepper, sliced into thin shreds
1 Tblsp oil for frying
4 Tblsp mayonnaise
pinch wasabi paste

Combine the chicken, lotus, shiitake, ginger, sake, sugar, sesame oil and cornstarch. Heat oil in fry pan and add meat mixture. Press into one large burger, about 20 cm (8 in) across and fry on both sides until done. Cut into 8 wedges and serve on a platter. Top with onion and pepper and serve with wasabi-spiked mayonnaise as a dipping sauce.

Subway ad copy

| 9 Comments

Although there are plenty of international fast food chains in Japan, many of them are locally controlled. And sometimes that leads to ad copy you'd never see in their home country. Here's an example from a Subway sandwich wrapper.

subwaysando.jpg

"Subway the dominant sandwich shop in the US is now available in over 74 countries. Here in Japan, we serve Subway sandwiches as a new style of Native Diet. This simply means that Subway sandwiches are the Natural Ideal style of eating Vegetables. We hope to spread this form of Native Diet to create a healthy living for both humans and the environment."

Seeking, well, a lot of people

| 4 Comments

The new serial drama production (still unnamed!) is looking for people to fill positions on-screen and off-screen. Are you interested in any of these, or know someone who might be?

* Music Coordinator: scouts local music, categorizes it, obtains rights or agreements with local bands. Someone bilingual with a wide knowledge of music is best.

* Sound Engineer: Handles the audio mix and sound quality of the production.

* Foley artist/editor: Sound effects.

* Camera operator: experienced in a variety of styles; ideally with Canon XL-1.

* Makeup artist: puts on the pancake.

* Hair stylist: keeps the tresses tamed.

* Production assistants: angels who do a little bit of everything--from calling the cast for shoots to standing in for a missing crew member to dressing the set to carrying equipment to running off for more batteries. PA is one of my favorite things to do on a shoot--it's never boring. The more PAs the merrier.

* Location coordinator: finds places to shoot; helps obtain permission, arranges schedules, etc.

* Cast: some roles are filled, but we're looking for people in their 20s or early 30s: a foreign man (Aussie, Brit, Kiwi); a stunning Japanese woman; a French woman; and a variety of foreign and Japanese men and women. Bilingual is great, but not necessary.

* Other: just want to help out somehow? Let us know what can do. There are scads of odd jobs and things that aren't listed here!

Production will run February through June (probably). We're planning a production meeting for everyone who is interested next weekend. Please e-mail for details.

Print to web to PDF

| 1 Comment

Fifteen years ago, I was a print designer. I created utterly glamourous things like wholesale food flyers and 2-color advertising for clients who really liked red and black. I cut my teeth on Windows 3.1, Corel Draw, and PageMaker. I knew WordPerfect inside out.

I didn't have a lot of room to be innovative, so I made a point to be technically skilled. Before the days of computer-assisted image resizing I could use a proportion wheel in my sleep. Printers liked working with me because I understood how to format graphics for print and I always gave them files that output correctly.

Then came the web. It was a whole new paradigm in preparing graphics. Where print wants lots of pixels and consequently big files, putting images on the web means low resolution and smaller file sizes. I figured it out quickly and soon I was doing most of my design and graphics preparation for Internet publications.

This month I find myself working on a project that's smack dab in the middle of print and web. I'm doing the layout for a book that will be presented as a PDF on CD-ROM. It's neither print nor web, but something in between.

Considering that it might possibly be printed out by the readers, I've created margins to allow for single sided printing with hole-punching and to accommodate either A4 or US Letter paper.

But it's more likely that this will be read from the computer so the images, mainly b/w photos scanned from various news sources, are 72 dpi screen resolution.

Acrobat encourages you to 'downsample' images during the PDF conversion to make the file size of the finished document smaller, so I've taken matters into my own hands. I want to control the results as much as possible. With nearly 500 pages and over 350 images in a single PDF, I've got stay sharp and find ways to reduce the file size so that it can be opened in a reasonable amount of time.

Oh, by the way, the colors for this book? Red and black. Some things never change.

Recent Comments

  • Robert Parent: I have learned to not let pass the subtle hints read more
  • Jenn(y): This is a good, goal-oriented way to approach the new read more
  • Tracey Northcott (@keitaigoddess): I am such a loser - sent off my cards read more
  • Tracey Northcott (@keitaigoddess): Hi Babe, Haven't seen you in ages it seems. Ash read more
  • https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawlBlcLTfxgMWRgxf2_TuNkGW8AwePJPekQ: Hi Kristen, Tell me about it. Our last (3 month) read more
  • Tracey Northcott (@keitaigoddess): "We deeply apologize to our customers for the heavy burden," read more
  • Carolyn Farwell: Oh the gif you've created is so funny! You have read more
  • Tracey Northcott (@keitaigoddess): I am going to miss you!! read more
  • Eric Smith: Hey Kristen: Met you on a train a couple of read more
  • sar: Hey beautiful !! you have some mad drawing skills ! read more

Archives