August 31, 2009

Exit Polls Call the Election

Japan's 8/30 election, in which the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was defeated by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). Thanks to exit polls, at around 8:30pm last night, this Japanese TV channel was confidently declaring the winner of a seat in Nagano (the bottom of the screen, in red). No matter that voting had only ended at 8pm. Meanwhile, a seemingly contradictory banner at the top of the screen stated, "Percentage of votes counted: 0%".

The results of the election were unveiled in this manner. The media reported the results apparent from the exit polls, and then spent until 1am confirming what they knew hours beforehand. But even so, some TV stations were more cautious about calling the election than others. At around 8:45pm, three channels stating different results:

LDP: 42, DPJ: 176

LDP: 59, DPJ: 276

LDP and Komei: 116, DPJ and Socialist Party:338

August 30, 2009

The Talented Mr. Ripley

A shot from Anthony Minghella's 1999 film, The Talented Mr. Ripley. If, for some reason, you didn't want to sit through the whole thing, this shot would sum things up nicely. Put in crude terms, Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) wants to be Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law).

Understandable when you look like this...

...and Jude Law looks like this. Interestingly enough, in purely superficial terms, their roles seem to have reversed in the decade or so since the film's release.

August 29, 2009

Zooey Deschanel: The Limitations of Being Darling

 (Zooey Deschanel with Paul Dano in Gigiantic.)

Gigantic, yet another film in which the adorable Zooey Deschanel works her offbeat charms on a bumbling male, reducing him to mush. Over the past decade or so, Deschanel has carved out a fine niche for herself in Hollywood. As a quirky supporting actress, she's a consistent scene-stealer; off-set, her personal style (heavy on the vintage) is well admired; and her talents as a singer introduced her to a wider audience as one-half of She and Him.

(Dano's awkward facial expressions, repeated many times over in the film.)
In Gigantic, Deschanel is paired with Paul Dano (the self-imposed mute guy in Little Miss Sunshine), playing characters called Happy and Brian. Twentysomethings going through quarterlife crises, they tentatively start a relationship. Dano wears the same nauseated and tortured expression throughout much of the movie (is that his lovesick face?), and Deschanel wears predictably great outfits and says things like "Do you have any interest in having sex with me?" in her trademark deadpan and big-eyed stare combo.

(A clever--and gorgeously shot--scene where Deschanel removes her clothes to swim in the pool, coinciding with Dano jumping in so the rippled water blurs the nudity.)

Director Matt Aselton throws in a handful of idiosyncracies, such as Brian's lifelong quest to adopt a baby from China, and an uncredited Zack Galifanakis (bearded buy in The Hangover) playing a bum hell-bent on murdering Brian, and with cinematographer Peter Donahue, he produces some stylish images. But when push comes to shove, Gigantic is just another mildly diverting indie, destined to come up only when journalists do a quick summary of the actors' films in star profiles.

For Deschanel, Gigantic represents neither a high or a low in her film career, more like another dot in a maddeningly horizontal line. She's very good at what she does, so good that we wonder what more she's capable of. Now that she's fully "arrived" as a star, can she please move onwards and upwards?

August 27, 2009

Not a Countdown

(In Roppongi.)

Am I supposed to feel like the numbers are telling me something?

August 26, 2009


An uncomfortably long eggplant, perfect for making round slices.

August 24, 2009

Popularity for a Good Cause

(A supermarket in Waikoloa, Hawaii.)

Back in 2001, Wallace and Gromit rather randomly hawked flan for Japanese confectionary company Glico. They appeared in a trio of commercials that aired only in Japan. Seeing them plastered on this block of cheese makes a lot more sense: Wensleydale cheese is a treasured favorite of Wallace's. Incidentally, the creamery in Yorkshire was struggling financially in the early 1990s, but thanks to the name-check in the Wallace and Gromit films, it has since seen a surge in popularity.

August 23, 2009

In Praise of Tropical Weather

The Royal Poinciana tree. Its blossoms are so abundant, the petals that fall subsequently blanket the ground and make it a sea of red.

The Banyan Tree, whose roots eventually thicken and harden to resemble its trunk. This particular tree near the Kona Market seems to house at least a hundred birds, way up in its branches. Stand next to the tree and their chirping is deafening.

Bamboo may not be suited for the climate, but here's the next best thing, on the wall of a sushi place called Shioya.

August 22, 2009


In Kona, Hawaii. A large black slug moving almost undetected across lava rock.

Meanwhile, at the Doutor Mauka Meadows farm, a gecko has less success blending in.

August 21, 2009

The Great Wall of Hawaii?

In Kona, Hawaii. Two girls shooting the shit while sitting on a high stone wall. (How did they get up there?) Immediately surrounding them is not a gorgeous view of the ocean, but a Borders bookstore, a Wal-Mart, and a freeway. The ocean will have to wait.

August 20, 2009

Goats on a Golf Course

In Kona, Hawaii. There are donkey crossing signs on the roads, but I'm convinced it's only because they didn't have ones for goats.

A goat family on a golf course in Waikoloa. Dozens of goats spend the day drifting from one end of the green to the other, presumably getting in golfers' way. But as far as I saw, no one seemed to mind.

We have the yellow donkey sign, goats have the yellow golf cart sign.

August 19, 2009

Beach Bum Life

Portable musical instrument? Check. Hair in the process of curling into dreads? Check.

Temporarily abandoned belongings on the side of a road. Have flag, will travel?

August 18, 2009

Writ in Black Lava

From Kona International Airport to Waikoloa on Highway 19, part of the Hawaii Belt Road that winds all around the Big Island. On one side of the road you see black lava and the ocean, on the other, black lava and the mountains. Visitors create graffiti on the jagged black surface using white coral rocks -- mostly names, inane messages, and the occasional jarring RIP.

August 16, 2009

Doutor Mauka Meadows

Doutor Mauka Meadows in Kona, Hawaii, a coffee tree farm/tourist spot operated by Japanese franchaise Doutor Coffee. Visitors (90% of whom are Japanese) can walk around the farm and surrounding garden, with its assortment of coffee, avocado, fig, and macadamia trees. Fruit trees can be sampled, and visitors can even pick and crack their own macadamian nuts.
The farm is situated 1,500 feet above ground, and the walking tour takes you down the mountain. At the end is a resting area and gift shop with a fountain that overlooks the ocean. (The blue in the foreground is merely the shallow pool; the ocean is a slim belt in the middle.) Wedding receptions have been held there for Japanese celebrities such as Erika Sawajiri, but the facilities do not extend to weddings for ordinary folk.

Big Blue Cliche

Waikoloa, Big Island, Hawaii.

All beautiful oceans look more or less the same in photos, but still I'm compelled to add some more.

The same can be said for ocean sunsets.

August 8, 2009

Desperate Measures

Not pigeon spikes, but cat spikes. Oh what will Secom (Japan's largest security company) come up with next?

Our Fallen Comrade

A group of young men eat lunch outside the am/pm combini in Yoyogikoen while an old men is passed out/ takes a nap right next to them. He had a digital camera clenched in his hand.

August 6, 2009

August 4, 2009

Preventing a Shucks Situation

I'm always impressed by how Japanese supermarkets place a rubbish bin next to the corn. Customers shuck their own corn, making sure the kernels are perfectly aligned and there are no bugs. If there is an offending ear, it is discreetly returned to the shelf. Is there a similar system in other countries?