TOKYO FASHION

To say that Tokyo has it’s “own sense of style” underplays the statement .. as does beating to it’s own drum.

Tokyo style is head-turning to say the least. Timeout Tokyo has a great series on the topic named style of the day, you can see the full series here.

This outfit makes complete sense, as he is in Yoyogi park.

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This, surprisingly common, teddy-bear themed outfit does not make sense to me …. and these outfits are everywhere in Tokyo …

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Foreigner in a foreign land ….

TODAY’s JAPANESE ENGLISH

Like I said before, when you are walking through Tokyo, you need to look up.

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I have no idea why this one caught my eye in passing. I was walking from lunch and noticed the print on the front of this dress. Who/what is Felicity Catch and why grammar do time so bad?

 

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And to answer your question: NO. My Japanese is not improving as evidenced by a recent conversation:

“I got this amazing sparking sake from Meidi-ya” (I pronounced meedie-ya)

“Where?”

“meedie-ya. You know the grocery store”

Laughs. “Oh you mean (pronounces it right). You have been saying that for a month and I had no idea what you were talking about”

The only good thing, I don’t write anything down in Japanese.

JAPANESE BAD BOY

Japan and Canada appear to have a very different view of what constitutes a rough and tumble “bad boy”. In Canada, that would be a Marlon Brando type or a hockey player. Perhaps a UFC fighter.

Bad Boy Junior Cigano Dos Santos UFC 117 Walkout Tshirt

This is the Japanese bad boy (you must always remember to look up when in Tokyo).

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(bottom right). Perhaps they took it literally and meant “bad boys” due to their over-use of hair gel and feminine disposition? Or perhaps they are bad boys because no boy band should number more than 5 (I counted 12). Perhaps the 3 in front are the bad boys as they did not get the pre-photo shoot memo on only wearing white.

Lost in translation …  Never ceases to make me smile.

OBSERVED AROUND TOKYO

Mark your calendar. I am saving up for this day (actually, from Bali)

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In Hong Kong they build buildings with bamboo scaffolds. In Canada, you climb up the sides of a scaffold. In Japan .. it as one would expect.

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Amazing how this product looks suspiciously similar to the Dyson innovation. By Toto Japan. Mitsubishi has one too.

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As seen in a Japanese parking lot. I have been warned, in a rather contradictory manner.

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LANCE ARMSTRONG versus THINGS I CARE ABOUT

 

Everyone is writing, talking, tweeting and blogging about Lance Armstrong. Me? I don’t care. His fall from grace is neither surprising or noteworthy (sports and Hollywood falls from grace are everyday occurrences). As long as these sports are ultra-competitive with the high stakes of money and fame, people will push the limits and many will do “whatever it takes”.

That being said, it is JUST sports. It isn’t world hunger. It isn’t about faking the cure for cancer. It is weekend entertainment. The only difference between Lance and the other dopers in his sport is that he got caught. The sport is LITTERED with dopers including the godfathers of the sport like Merckx (who would have doped even more if the stuff had been invented).

The real point of all of this is that society has misplaced their faith and should re-evaluate what is important. Who they look up to. I don’t see anyone writing about that. And I still say watching sports on the TV is boring (smile), give me the latest episode of Wilfred any day.

A few interweb items that did catch my attention:

  • The Hutzler 571 banana slicer on Amazon.com.  2,404 reviews and counting. My favourite review “Once I figured out I had to peel the banana before using – it works much better”.
  • Academic buffoons, the only way that you can describe the staff at Dawson College in Quebec who expelled a student who exposed and reported vulnerabilities in the schools network and software. Sure he kept going (because they had not fixed it), but instead of expelling him they should have enlisted his support.
  • The apology that Lance Armstrong will never give. Well written.

And a photo from a cab in Malaysia – couldn’t get much clearer:

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WOULD YOU GET YOUR HAIR CUT BY A HIPPO?

 

Having only lived in Tokyo for 4 months I am still getting accustomed to some of the English language usage. I had to stop to take a shot of this one as I pass it whenever I go to D2 (local hardware store) and it makes me smile.

This isn’t a children’s hair cutting place. This is a proper salon, filled with women. How they came up with the name I will never know.

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ANYONE

This one gave us a laugh. The traditional bathroom for men and women on the left and right.

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And in the middle? “Anyone” – great stick pictures.

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And on the topic of bathrooms, I will only make a single reference to them, but it must be made; Japan has the most complex toilets in the world. In fact, there are so many buttons it is difficult to figure out – this includes public restrooms (especially when it is all in Japanese). I kid you not. Below is the “instruction” booklet on how to use the toilets in our apartment.

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Strange but true.

SUBWAY SAFETY: BEWARE THE TEDDY BEAR

 

Tokyo has a very impressive public transportation system. The metro is used by 10’s of millions everyday to get around. For many, it is not uncommon to commute 60 to 90 minutes each way on the metro. As you would expect for Japan, it is also very clean. Even though there are no garbage cans (for security reasons), I have yet to see a spec of garbage.

And as with so many unique things in Japan, I love the way that they teach caution. Thank goodness that our boys are past the teddy bear phase and that the Kid’n Play days are behind us.

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BUNNY?

 

I am sure that like thousands of gaijin before us, we find the prevalence of vending machines on so many street corners fascinating; they are everywhere. Our boys are busy stopping at those vending machines and sampling the hundreds of different drinks; banana drinks, traditional pop with unique flavours, a drink where you push the marble into the bottle before drinking and a wide variation of teas and coffees.

Many of these machines are adorned with anime and unique pictures. I am not sure what this vending machine is supposed to be doing, but it looks angry.

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At one vending machine, we simply could not figure the meaning of the buttons. Your options: “YES”, “NO” …. “bunny”?

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THE JOKE TELLER

 

The best way to get a laugh out of a Japanese person in August:

Japanese person: “Oh, you just moved here. So sorry, it is SO hot in Tokyo in August, so sorry”

Response: “I love the heat. I think it is fantastic”

Japanese person: Bursts out laughing and stares at you in disbelief asking “really? really?” (You can see in their eyes that they think you might be crazy)

No matter where I have lived, people love to talk about the weather. In the UK whinging about the weather is a national pastime and fine art (For the record; I thought UK weather was fantastic – around London. Scotland, Wales – not so much). In Canada, people do the same as the Japanese in the summer, complaining about the heat until the snow arrives, then they complain about how cold it is.

Tokyo in August, I don’t know what the fuss is about. We walked to a restaurant on Wednesday night and it was glorious. 26 degrees, a small breeze and people everywhere.

If I never see snow again, I will be a happy camper. Bring on the heat.

OVERHEARD

 

At an Air Canada lounge (right beside me – hard not to hear):

“So what is it going to take to help Randy find his vision? Two people, three people .. Two week, two months? What is the total opportunity here?”

A good question. What does a good vision cost?

ON THE PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE

 

While on holiday last week I read the book Sh*t my Dad Said by Justin Halpern. As you will expect, it was filled with more than a few crude statements, but also filled with a few touching moments between father and son and a few that had me laughing so hard I was in tears. One quote stuck out from the beginning of the book:

For as long as I’ve known him, my father has been a blunt individual. When I was little, I mostly felt terrified of him, so I couldn’t appreciate that I was dealing with the least passive-aggressive human being on the planet. Now, as an adult, all day long I dealt with people—friends, coworkers, relatives—who never really said what they were thinking. The more time I spent with my dad in those first couple months back home, the more grateful I started to feel for the mixture of honesty and insanity that characterized his comments and personality.

Amen to that.

OVERHEARD: 7 IRON

 

Last weekend we finished a round and were having dinner on the patio at King Valley. It was a beautiful evening, sun going down, no wind and a great post-round dinner with the family. On the deck above a wedding was being held and after listening to the broadcast nuptials (‘I do’ over a megaphone .. I heard it from the 18th green), the crowd dispersed while the couple took photos.

Above us a few young men were speaking and the words floated down:

“I am serious, my golf game is really coming along. I mean, my iron work is really progressing. I pick that 7 iron out of the bag and I bang it 120 yards, right down the middle every single time. Every single time, 120 yards. I am serious … 120 yards (insert emphasis)”

I leaned over and whispered … “Average male golfer hits a 7 iron 135” (smile).

CURLING

 

One of our teams went on a team building event a month ago – curling. Unfortunately, I could not attend even though I would have liked to. Despite being Canadian, it is one ice sport I have not tried. I don’t know a lot about curling except that every curling rink has a well stocked bar. When I had to decline, I mentioned my perception of the sport. I was sent this cartoon …..

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THE GUIDANCE GUY

 

I was speaking with an Entrepreneur on Tuesday about kids. He stated that he is recruiting MBA’s and looks forward to helping guide them through their career. He then stated that he had wished that there had been someone there to guide him through his career after he exited college. Which lead to the conversation on children, the influence that a father has and how to ensure that there is not a barrier created through the ‘advice process’.

Kids seek advice from many people; friends, parents and of course, the often humorously depicted school guidance counsellor or potentially a school psychologist. What does it take to become a school psychologist? I am not sure. After reading this quote in USA Today, it made me wonder about the guidelines for school psychologists in Texas:

He’s a winner in some eyes …..  (Article on Charlie Sheen)

“The dude is awesome” says Milton Crawford, a school psychologist from Texas. “He is the ultimate cool, James Deanish. He is living the lifestyle most of us wish we could. I respect him for standing up for what he feels is right”.

A proud moment for the Texas Association of School Psychologists (TASP) where Milton is a charter member. I wonder if Milton is the guy at the monthly meeting who is always trying to ‘liven things up’, Charlie Sheen style?

TO SMOKE

 

I have become a David Sedaris fan over the pervious months and had a great laugh reading the essay ‘Diary of a Smoker’. As a non-smoker, I am this person (waving the arms):

I rode my bike to the boat pond in Central Park, where I bought myself a cup of coffee and sat down on a bench to read. I lit a cigarette and was enjoying myself when the woman seated twelve feet away, on the other end of the bench, began waving her arms in front of her face. I thought she was fighting off a bee.

As a non-smoker, it got me wondering, what is the state of smoking rates around the world with all of the ‘stop smoking in public’ effort? The BBC has a nice article and chart on it, although the below is a more comprehensive view. Lots of white.

CARRY ON

 

On the topic of flying, another year of travel ahead. I did about 70 odd legs in 2010, not my highest but in Canada that requires some stick handling to be efficient. I was chatting with a colleague about carry-on the other day. I pride myself on being one of those super efficient, never check-bags, business travellers. My record is 5 days with carry-on only AND gym clothes. That one was tough, I thought the seams would break but my carry on is very sturdy.

A philosophy that was well articulated by Clooney in Up in the Air:

[Natalie, on her first outing, walks into the Omaha Airport terminal dragging her slow-moving luggage; Ryan, offended by this, looks at her in frustration]
Natalie Keener: What?
Ryan Bingham: Follow me.
[later at a store in the terminal, Ryan grabs a new, updated rolling luggage]
Natalie Keener: I really like my luggage.
Ryan Bingham: That’s exactly what it is, it’s luggage. You know how much time you lose by checking in?
Natalie Keener: I don’t know. Five, ten minutes?
Ryan Bingham: 35 minutes a flight. I travel 270 days a year. That’s 157 hours. That makes seven days. You’re willing to throw away an entire week on that?

And watch out for someone in flip flops or with children in the security line. They are not in a hurry …. invariably it goes like this (Heard three weeks ago in the line across from me, he was wearing flip flops, had a great tan and looked very happy .. I changed lines):

As we go through in separate lines, security guard holds up a 40 of Jack Daniels.

Elderly gentleman:  “But it is sealed. Seriously, what am I going to do with it? Can’t you just let it through?”

Insert stern security guard look.

I moved on smiling.

THE GUY AT HOME IN HIS UNDERWEAR TO FIGHT CANCER

 

This week I had someone say they knew me from the old University days and I just could not place the name. So I fired out a note to a few old friends to ask if they remembered. No one did. But it did open a ‘man, it has been a long time since we saw each other. We should get together’ email thread.

To which one added ‘You should invite Toe after that underwear thing’. Of course I had to ask ‘what underwear thing?’ I could only imagine, he is a great guy, definitely was the craziest out of the lot and has a life full of stories. For example, the story of why Mark McIntyre is called Toe. They sent me this:

http://guyathome.com/

Mark is a testicular cancer survivor. How he found out that he had testicular cancer is a story in itself, you can read it here. I have not talked to him for a long time, but I went through the site, was in awe of the effort and really enjoyed the videos. In the end, he didn’t raise $25K for cancer, he raised $50K AND he raised awareness. Just do a search and you will see, the media was all over it.

Congratulations Mark. How appropriately memorable from a guy who is the main character in many of my University stories. Especially the car and the lake story (smile). Great guy, great accomplishment.

TRULY AMAZING CHRISTMAS: Stuart McLean

 

On Saturday we had the good fortune to see Stuart McLean at Convocation Hall. We had never seen his Christmas Tour and really looked forward to it. I have never been to what is essentially a book reading with a few talented musical guests, but 10 minutes into the show I was laughing so hard that it was difficult not to tear up. As a side note, I would say that he is also one of the most ‘gracious’ performers I have ever watched. He embraces the crowd and thanks them time and time again for helping make the performance special.

I remember 3 years ago, our first Christmas in the UK … reading Dave Cooks a Turkey while decorating the tree. A laugh out loud Christmas classic regardless of country.

I would highly recommend his podcast and just ordered the audio version of the Vinyl Cafe Christmas Collection. I need one great Christmas addition to the audio collection each year ….

Download - Stuart McLean - Vinyl Cafe - A Christmas Collection

I love Christmas. The panto is next week ….

MULTI-SERVICE LOCATION

 

One of the benefits of traveling across Canada on a regular basis is that I get to see a lot of different places. On occasion, I also see very humorous things.

This one made me laugh. I would wager that a few odd combinations have come out of this place. Apologies for the picture, it happened fast. It says ‘Liquor Station, Cold Beer, Wine’ and ….

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HOW TO READ A BOOK

I am a reasonably fast reader. I often find myself switching into ‘skimming’ mode if a book becomes a bit cumbersome. And many books do (Tom Clancy, are you listening?), with fictional books taking a paragraph to expand on the most mundane ….

He entered tentatively, the tears drying upon his cheek, the sound of the door slamming in the background as Esmeralda stormed off into the frosty night, and like the sun rising, the room opened before him as if he had just crested a hill and entered the valley of new beginnings, a yellow tapestry covering the back wall with a hint of deep velvety mauve around the edges that gave a rich, medieval Scotland impression, not unlike the crest that adorned Esmeralda’s family castle in North Wales, while to his left, the chrome faucet, that Esmeralda had just bought online during a Restoration Hardware Thanksgiving weekend sale, shimmered as the all natural yellow bees wax candle from a small shop in New Hampshire, where Esmeralda completed her Masters in Neuroscience and Insect Microbiology, threw light that danced and illuminated, giving a sense of inner peace to all who entered the sanctum and sought a moments respite or time with the trove of knowledge that was encased in the large earthen pot in the corner; The Economist, Cosmo, People, and a scruffy looking copy of Men’s Health, each yearning to educate George as he contemplated the porcelain before him.

At a dinner last week the conversation turned to a task ahead. One of our group had 2 books to read for a leadership meeting he was attending. A very interesting suggestion was made, learned during MBA days where the reading load was enormous and time precious (I paraphrase):

Read the first and last paragraph of every chapter. Read the first line and the last line of each paragraph in between.

Some would say brilliant, and worth trying, especially when reading certain business books with a simple premise that could be covered in a short article instead of 300 pages.

UK: THE SMALL ISLAND

 

I finally got around to reading Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island last weekend. It lived up to all of the reviews, and while I only spent two years there, his observations had me laughing out loud and missing the Old Blighty. Even the British like the book:

In an opinion poll organized for World Book Day in 2003, Notes from a Small Island was voted by BBC Radio 4 listeners as the book which best represented England.[1]

A few of his observations that I really enjoyed:

  • ‘It sometimes occurs to me that the British have more heritage than is good for them. In a country where there is so astonishingly much of everything, it is easy to look on it as a kind of inexhaustible resource. Consider the numbers: 445,000 listed buildings, 12,000 medieval churches, 1,500,000 acres of common land, 120,000 miles of footpaths and 600,000 known sites of archaeological interest (98 percent with no legal protection). Do you know that in my Yorkshire village alone there are more seventeenth century buildings than in the whole of North America? And that’s just one obscure hamlet with a population comfortably under 100.’
  • ‘There are certain things that you have to be British or at least older than me, or possibly both, to appreciate: …. Marmite (Note: The first time I tried it, I thought i was like jam – what a shock), really milky tea (MW: Or coffee with milk), allotments (MW: I remember a friend finally getting his allotment, when he explained what it was I was still only able to answer ‘You are going to do what?’), the belief that household wiring is an interesting topic of conversation … erecting windbreaks on a beach (why, pray, are you there if you need a windbreak!).’
  • ‘Call me a perennial Iowa farm boy, but I never fail to be impressed by how densely packed with worthies is this little island. How remarkable it is that in a single village churchyard you find the graves of two men of global stature (George Orwell, H.H. Asquith). We in Iowa would be proud of either of them – indeed we would be proud of Trigger the Wonder Horse of the guy who invented traffic cones.’
  • On titles … and the properties of the heirs of titles:  ‘More extraordinary still in my mind is the thought that nearly 300 years later the duke’s heirs can litter the grounds with miniature trains and bouncing castles, charge admission and enjoy unearned positions of rank and privilege simply because a distant grandsire happened to have a passing talent for winning battles.’ I wondered the same thing once.
  • ‘The Alhambra Theatre, built in 1914 in an excitingly effusive style with minarets and towers, has been sumptuously and skilfully renovated and remains the most wonderful place to see a pantomime. (Something I positively adore, by the way)’     MW: I cannot agree more. Pantomime is a Christmas habit that we have take with us from the UK. Our tickets are in hand for Beauty and the Beast in Toronto. I cannot wait, Scot Thompson is a great headliner.
  • On animals:  ‘There is nothing, apart perhaps from a touching faith in the reliability of weather forecasts and the universal fondness for jokes involving the word ‘bottom’, that makes me feel more like an outside in Britain than the nation’s attitude to animals. Did you know that the Royal Society for the Protection of Children was formed sixty years after the founding of the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals, and as an offshoot of it? Did you know that in 1994 Britain voted for a European Union directive requiring statutory rest periods for transported animals and against a statutory rest period for factory workers?’
    • MW: On this one I must comment. I think it is an area where North American’s can definitely learn from the UK. Animals are an integral part of society and it is one of those things that I love about the UK. You walk into the Wentworth and they will tackle you to the ground if you are wearing running shoes (trainers) or jeans. Honestly, without a blazer they will also look at you as if you should not be there. But on the fairway, people are openly golfing with their dogs. My neighbour went out with his mates every Sunday morning, and his lab came. In Canada – oh no, the insurance would be too high (plus, no one wants to actually walk!). I also remember sitting in the dining room of a very posh hotel in Normandy, surrounded by people with their dogs in their laps. I thought it was just wonderful.
  • On the weather:  ‘I have a small, tattered clipping that I sometimes carry with me and pull out for purposes of private amusement. It’s a weather forecast from the Western Daily Mail and it says in total: “Outlook: Dry and warm, but cooler with some rain.” There you have in a single pithy sentence the English weather captured perfectly.’
  • On the lakes district and being crowded:  ‘To say that Windermere (MW: The largest natural mere in England. – leave it to the British to complicate the definition of a lake) is popular with boaters is to flirt recklessly with understatement. Some 14,000 powerboats are registered to use the lake…. Windermere may have pride of place among English lakes but for each 12 inches of Windermere’s surface, Lake Superior offers over three-quarters of a square mile of water. There is in Iowa a body of water called Dan Green Slough, which most Iowans have never heard of, and it is bigger than Windermere.’
  • On contrast:  ‘How is is possible, in this wondrous land where the relics of genius and enterprise confront you at every step, where every realm of human possibility has been probed and challenged and generally extended, where many of the very greatest accomplishments of industry,commerce and the arts find their seat, how is possible in such a place that when at length I returned to my hotel and switched on the television it was Cagney and Lacey again?’

I just ordered his travel books on Europe and Australia. Fantastic writer and a fantastic book – it truly does describe what makes the UK one of the most amazing places in the world.

OVERHEARD

 

Overheard while walking down an aisle, past bedroom linens, in Elte Carpet on Saturday while preparing to pay too much for a kitchen table:

Lady on cell phone loudly:  “Seriously Dear. Half of whatever he has accumulated during the time that you were together …..”

Heard over an hour later while walking out of Elte Carpets with my wallet lighter, in almost the exact same spot from the same woman who now has 2 or 3 other women standing around her:

“I know. Can you believe it? She is the nicest woman. Beautiful! Smart! And he went and …..”

YOU ARE SPECIAL

 

The door to the ‘Red Carpet Lounge’ in the Philly airport. I laughed about it with the woman at the reception desk. She said, yah, I know, a new one is coming. People keep mistaking it for the janitor’s closet. LOL.

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2010 BULWER LYTTON AWARD WINNERS

 

One of my favourite annual competitions is the Bulwer Lytton fiction contest, which awards writers the dubious prize of writing the worst book openings by category. The 2010 award winners are in!

Personally, I think the runner-up should have won:

Through the verdant plains of North Umbria walked Waylon Ogglethorpe and, as he walked, the clouds whispered his name, the birds of the air sang his praises, and the beasts of the fields from smallest to greatest said, "There goes the most noble among men" — in other words, a typical stroll for a schizophrenic ventriloquist with delusions of grandeur.

Tom Wallace

Columbia, SC

All are worthy of a raspberry.

THE ONTARIO EARTHQUAKE

 

Last week while sitting around a conference table, the building began to shake. We all stopped, it really was shaking. As the G20/G8 was just about to kick off, the first thing that went through my mind was ‘Wonder if it is a bomb or something?’.

Turns out it was a genuine earthquake in the Ottawa region, felt as far away as New York city. A colleague passed on a picture of the devastation from a trusted source.

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THE MEANING OF GRASS

 

A friend shared the following post on Pampas Grass:

I read that having a pampas grass plant in your front garden meant the owners of the house were swingers. Can anyone shed light on what sounds like an urban myth. Does anyone innocently have pampas grass out front and have they had any unsolicited strange visitors ? There are a few round my way and looking at the house owners, I just don’t quite believe it…..

One of the answers made me laugh (actually, more than one comment made me laugh):

Well I jolly well hope it’s an urban myth. When I was a kid, we had one in the front garden and it was my mum’s pride and joy. But I’m now questioning why I was always sent to stay with my grandparents when my mum and dad had ‘dinner’ parties.

For the record I went with Giant Chinese Silver Grass.