I’ll be in the Land of the Rising Sun for the next week and unreachable by normal contact methods. If you need to reach me, your best bets are my email at kairandersen@gmail.com or on Skype (search for Kai Robert Andersen). I may make an effort to post some on this blog, but I’ll also be sure to let you know via Facebook if there are any updates.

That said, I wanted to give you an outline of where I’ll be each day and what I’m most likely going to do. Here’s the schedule.

Thursday 6:15 AM – leave for BWI.

Thursday 9:15 AM – Flight to Boston.

Thursday 1:00 PM – Flight to Japan.

Friday 3:45 PM – Arrive in Narita Airport. Immediately take shuttle or train to Shinjuku Station. Walk from Shinjuku Station to the hotel.

Friday ~5:00 PM – Check in at Hotel Sunlite Shinjuku.

Friday evening – Explore Shinjuku vicinity. Dinner.

Saturday 12:00 – Meet contact Jess at Shinjuku station.

Saturday – Tour with Jess wherever she leads.

Saturday evening – Dinner at the Ninja themed restaurant in Chiyoda, if it’s not booked to high heaven and I can suffer the cost.

Sunday morning – Train and/or catbus to Mitaka and Ghibli Museum.

Sunday evening – Sightseeing, including SkyTower and/or Meiji shrine.

Monday – Akihabara, specific focus on video games, computer goods, arcades and electronics. Super Potato!

Tuesday – Akihabara, specific focus on anime and manga, books and merchandise. Animate! Maid cafe a possibility.

Wednesday – Shibuya, upscale apparel shopping, Worlds Busiest Intersection and Hachiko.

Wednesday evening – Sailor Moon musical in Shibuya’s AiiA theater.

Thursday 9:00 AM – Leave for Narita Airport.

Thursday 11:00 AM – Leave Japan.

Thursday 8:40 AM – Arrive in O’Hare Airport.

Thursday 2:05 PM – Arrive in BWI.

The “To Buy” List includes:

  • Gamecube controllers
  • Western novels in Japanese
  • Any and all candy
  • Converbelt sushi
  • Pikari Sweat and/or Morning Rescue!
  • Pochi
  • Taiyaki
  • Ear Picks
  • Fire Emblem Awakening’s Soundtrack
  • Ultra Jump’s September issue (Little Witch Academia comic!)
  • Code of Princess’ Soundtrack
  • Anime Figurines
  • The Sailor Moon Art Books (if I can find them)
  • Antique Video Game Consoles
  • Possibly a PS Vita (If I can fork over $80 for a memory card. Ugggggh.)

Jess’ suggestions as well are all on the To Do list.

Here’s my suggestions:

– Ikebukuro; has a multi-story Animate and a large Mandarake, as well as more maid cafes and otaku-y spots. There’s more than one shop that has cheap, used anime merch. “Used” in Japan also means “practically new” by the way. Animate is exactly what it sounds like–a store that carries anime merchandise. They have figures, phone straps, dishes, clothes, cosplay, sweat rags, buttons, stuffed animals, CDs, posters, books, clear files, the whole shebang. Mandarake is a store dedicated to selling doujinshi and cosplay materials. It’s also notable because the staff is almost always cosplaying something or other, and they aren’t always happy about it.

– Don Quixote; a store that sells, well, just about everything. At very reasonable prices, too. I love going into them because, like Yodobashi, they have a hilarious jingle that plays in the background, and also because the stores tend to be this really bizarre mishmosh of crap. Oh, you need a towel? Please go get it from in between the motorcycle helmets and the LED lights. If you plan to move to Japan at any point, Donki will be your second-best friend.

– Daiso and its ilk; if you ever move here, Daiso will be your BFF. This is the Japanese dollar store, but unlike the ones we have in the U.S., it sells just about anything you’d need. Dishes? Yep. Clothes? Sure. Art supplies? Hell yeah. Plastic warning signs? Oh yes. Stickers? And how. If you plan to bring back some generic souvenirs for acquaintances or coworkers or what have you, I’d suggest checking this place out, because unless otherwise specified, everything costs 105 yen (tax is included in prices here). 100 yen shops are dotted around the country, and tend to be pretty easy to find.

– Here’s some snacks you should try: Country Ma’am cookies, Crunky chocolate bar, various special flavored kitkats, Pretz, melon soda, melon cream soda, kinoko no yama, mochi, anything from the warm food cases at the conbini counters.

– Karaoke.

I’m not doing karaoke alone. Honestly people. That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.

 

Edit:  Expense report

Expense Tally Day 0

~3000 yen – Money changing fee

3000 yen – Bus to Sinjuku station

Expense Tally Day 1

150 yen – Barley Tea

200 – Admittance to Sinjuku Gyoen

450 – Shaved ice (Rose)

2000 – Train ticket (Suica) card

315 – US electrical outlet adapter from random back alley stall in Akiba

3000 – Lunch for two at Sweets Paradise

4200 – Two GCN controllers (Black and Grey so far)

1145 – Kyouko Sakura dongle and Madoka Do Not Disturb sign

4000 – Fire Emblem Awakening Soundtrack (Yes!)

2500 – Doganropa present for Jess

724 – Squid jerky and Adult Flavor Kit Kats

150 – Barley Tea

450 – Pop up Pirate game from Shibuya

525 – Conveyor Belt Sushi (5 plates!)

Expense Tally Day 2

500 yen – Umbrella

1000 – Added to Suica, then immediately used on a taxi to the Ghibli Museum and the bus ride back. I should have walked.

1680 – Present from Ghibli Museum

1000 – Added to Suica, dammit

386 – Lunch, including a drink!

10881 – Pokemon Center Tokyo

150 – Poccari Sweat

496 – Dinner, including a liter of barley tea

Expense Tally Day 3

3600 yen – Double feature at the theater

1300 – two OJ’s and large carmel corn

550 – mugicha and pocky

300 – Umai Bo (octapus flavored)

200 – Vending machine underwear

150 – 10% grape juice drink

14960 – Used Playstation Vita

2730 – Madoka Doujin

3570 – [redacted]

1280 – Nichijou figurine

780 – chibi Homura figure

2730 – Art of Penguindrum

Expense Total Day 4

310 yen – Mugicha and rice ball breakfast

2000 – added to Suica to have enough for today, tomorrow, and the 1500 train ride back to the airport

500 – Egg noodles and soup

140 – Mugicha

2170 – Used books, including 10 Yugioh cards and a copy of Pokemon Crystal for the GBC

3990 – Fire Emblem Awakening artbook

11500 – Scanty and Kneesocks figurines (and that’s about half the price on Ebay!)

500 – Princess of the Crystal figurine

400 – Dinner of rice and chicken

Expense Tally Day 5

1230 yen – Hamburger, onion rings, lemonade

380 – ice cream cone

400 – UFO catcher crane game

128 – mochi

0 yen left.


Better, Thanks

by Christopher Kennedy

 

It was always hard for them to tell

which was foreign and which was domestic.

Also, who should wash the dancers,

who should interrogate the chicken.

 

Then there was the issue of who should steer

the weasel. He kept giving her directions

to the swimming pool. She argued the size

of his snowshoes. Once they arrived

 

wherever it was they were going, he would ratchet

the moon from the sky and offer it to her;

she would repair the shriveling skyscape.

They were so much in love with tomorrow, it never came.

 

And who can endure the litany of now? Return

the moon to its rightful owners. That’s all I’m saying.

 

(You can buy Christopher Kennedy’s poems here.)

 

The first thing you’ll notice, and you’re certainly supposed to, is the absurd nonsense words. The snowshoes and the weasel and the dancers are all seemingly random nouns thrown in places that they don’t belong. In the context of the poem, they have no meaning. They can be easily replaced by dishes or clothes or whatever. Kennedy is trying to say that not only do the nouns themselves have no meaning, but also that they have no meaning in the lives of the characters.

The poem paints the familiar picture of everyday life for the generic American. You have to get the kids to soccer practice, have to pick a wine to drink at the dinner (foreign or domestic?), have to steer the car and get wherever it is you’re going to that day. What makes this poem so beautiful is that Kennedy manages to put into words the feeling of doing these menial, banal tasks. It’s almost as reading the first two stanzas is the same as picking up your kid from swim practice.

Then, scene, characters and plot established (and so concisely!) the poem takes the hard turn for the message, the kicker, the moral. There’s a sharp change in tone between the second and third stanzas, almost as if the poem is not fooling around anymore. Shit is serious now. Gone are the nonsense words and down-to-earth feel from the beginning and now the poem resembles more a classical romance sonnet. We see feelings, and caring and emotion enter the picture and the poem wants us to know that we are not messing around with buckling our seatbelts before we go to get milk anymore. That petty nonsense is not on the same level as what happens in the third stanza. Also, ‘shriveling skyscape’ is, for lack of better words, awesomely poetic.

Remember It’s A Wonderful Life when you read the last stanza. When George is giddy with love for his soulmate, Mary, after the school dance, he’s just so unbelievably happy being around her. He babbles out a boast, a question

George Bailey: “What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That’s a pretty good idea. I’ll give you the moon, Mary.”

Mary: “I’ll take it. Then what?”

George Bailey: “Well, then you can swallow it, and it’ll all dissolve, see… and the moonbeams would shoot out of your fingers and your toes and the ends of your hair… am I talking too much?”

The next line urges him to kiss her, but before he can, he gets interrupted with news of his father’s death and the play goes on from there. Naturally, you know the story. He gets caught up in ‘the litany of now’ and loses faith and his love. Have George’s situation in mind as you go into the last paragraph.

This part. You remember.

I don’t understand the ending, truly. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say it can be interpreted in a number of ways. Probably the best way to see it is, he offers her his love (his life, his everything, something so crazily intangible it’s like asking for the moon). In their love there could be an escape. They could put aside the trivialities and focus on what’s important: each other. But she rejects it and they “endure the litany of now”. If you see it that way, then the last line is a plea from the author to the readers: “Keep dreaming. Give your moon, your love, your everything, to your sweethearts (its rightful owner). Share that and treasure it, and it will save you from washing the dancers or arguing over the size of snowshoes – the litany of now. Be jealous, conceited lovers. It the same plea, same emotion that is expressed in that one Bright Eyes song when Conor sings, “I believe that lovers should be draped in clover//laid entwined together in a bed of clover//left there to sleep//left there to dream//of their happiness”


Dear Mr. Frost,

08Feb11

In regards to your poem, Fire and Ice, I am pleased to inform you that, after four years living in Syarcuse, NY, that I can say with great certainty the world shall meet its end through ice.

Thank you and best wishes,

Kai Andersen


So in the ongoing struggle to achieve the Singularity, mankind has created programs called chatterbots, which are designed to mimic human speech patterns. The final objective is to pass the Turing Test: to be unrecognizable as a computer program. However, in actuality, many chatterboxes just spew messages that other people have asked them back at you – not that this is not awesome.

My favorite of these is a little program called Cleverbot. I’ve spent a few hours ‘chatting’ with a machine and come up with some awesome things. The best, however, is this little snippet that combines my love of TNG with internet insults. The black is me. The blue is Cleverbot.

When was the last time you got burned this bad by a computer? Never. I’ve always thought that the HIGHEST form of intelligence and uniqueness is quoting early nineties TV shows. I don’t know what to think anymore.


Bob Dylan is the greatest songwriter of all time. Contrary to what his fans will tell you, he’s not the best singer of all time. This makes him the prime target for covers. Here’s some of the best Dylan by other famous people.

5) The Rolling Stones – Like a Rolling Stone

Mick has it wrong; song was not written for them. But good grief I love Keith Richard’s guitar.

4) Jerry Garcia – Simple Twist of Fate

That’s how a mellow song should go. Of course, it’s Jerry, so the song is 16 minutes long.

3) Eric Clapton – Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

Why? Because fuck Axl Rose. That’s why. Good God, why is Phil Collins’ head so big?

2) K.T. Tunstall – Tangled Up In Blue

If you wouldn’t tap that, you’re either gay or a music-hater.

1) Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower

No, yeah, the greatest guitar player ever will take your song from average to one of the best recordings in the history of rock and roll. He does that.


A Conspiracy

02Feb10

Ladies and Gentlemen of the the Internet, I present you with the following evidence.

Coincidence? I THINK NOT.


So WoW.com recently opened applications for a new weekly hunter and priest columnist on their site. Here’s my sample priest column from my application.

UPDATE: No sooner did I write this than Ghostcrawler comes out with this gem four days later.

Sample Column (500 words)

Serendipity – Healer Combo Points and Why We’re Smarter than DPS

The nineties anime for children was hit or miss. Some kids got Samurai Pizza Cats. I got Serendipity.
Healing requires thinking. Well, good priest healing requires thinking. I can’t speak to the brain activity of paladins (I assume it’s quite low, as they need an addon to figure out how to buff), but our class is has a lot of tools. One of the things that drove me to play a healing priest over a shaman or druid was the bonus challenge of having a million spells to choose from and the high skill cap was associated with choosing well.
Those of you that were around in BC will recall that with the onset of WotLK, Blizzard sought to complicate PvE rotations for just about every class. This was the saving grace for destruction warlocks who had fallen into a boredom-induced coma by spamming their shadowbolt hotkey and topping the dps meters, but it struck priest healing with a Serendipity-shaped tire iron of bad, lazy design.
Now I don’t hate talents like Serendipity, and I think we can all agree that they’re a lot more fun than a passive 10% healing increase (and because of that, unlikely to change in Cataclysm), but the idea of giving me a cookie for casting flash heal goes against the innate design of the class. I should choose to cast flash heal because the tank is one hit from dying and I don’t have the time to land a more mana efficient greater heal, or because the rogue has aggro and will die if I do anything besides PW:S  him and flash heal. This should be a stopgap, as I couldn’t bear the penalties of chain casting one spell. Ideally, each heal in our spellbook would have a niche, and there would be a tradeoff between using one spell over the other.
A smart priest should use her class defining adaptability to pick the appropriate spell at the appropriate time, and her reward would be not running out of mana and keeping everyone alive. But in the endgame today, as I’m sure you know, mana is about as plentiful as blood elf paladins, causing one of the major penalties for choosing wrong to vanish. So these “combo point” talents and the cooldown on Circle of Healing are the only thing preventing some of us from becoming FoL bots. Er… I mean CoH bots.
The responsibility to choose the best heal should be on you, not your buffs. If these talents get too strong we flirt with establishing a healing rotation. That dire fate would throw priest healing into the grotesquely boring Hell of Button Mashing populated by dps classes. Serendipity and its ilk can stay, but let’s have the strategy inserted back into this class. If Blizzard brings the brains into healing again, well, wow what a wonderful world we’d have.