Monday, January 28, 2008

Black Stripe Theater's Production of Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross"

I lucked out and will be afforded the opportunity to get back on stage next month. I'm going to be playing the part of Williamson in Mamet's classic, Glengarry Glen Ross, at Theatre Iwato in central Tokyo February 22nd to 24th. This is a link to Black Stripe Theater's site.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008


This is what western Tokyo woke up to this morning. Nice nice! I think Hanakoganei got an inch and a half, but it will start raining soon as the temperature rises.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Magazine/Comic Browsing (except nudes) Blocked at Convenience Store

A small army of people can normally be found huddled in front of the magazine racks leafing through their favorite comic books and magazines.

One thing that you'll often notice when walking into a convenience store in Japan is that there is a line of people (usually guys) reading manga (comic books) or perusing some other form of paperbacked entertainment. In most places you're not required to actually purchase the magazine--one can basically read the mag in its entirety and then leave without buying anything.

I never really understood why this is allowed.

One convenience store near Kamishakujii station on the Seibu-Shinjuku line in western Tokyo has decided to take a stand against this practice. Some poor worker was made to go through their entire rack of print material and bind all of it shut with plastic packaging twine. That must have taken a while.

I was so surprised to see that a shop manager had done the necessary profit-geared mental acrobatics (in other words, they figured out that customers tend not to buy magazines they can read for free) that I failed to notice an even odder managerial decision.

The only magazines that weren't restricted from perusal were the ones with adult content. Maybe the workers want easy access to them during the duller hours of the afternoon?

Sorry, kids, we've padlocked your comic books. But there's some other enjoyable material just over to the right. You're welcome!


Friday, January 18, 2008

Confusing and Troubling News from Japan

A public lecture on domestic violence that was scheduled to be held in Ibaraki prefecture has been canceled due to protests that it could lead to the break-up of families.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Have you ever seen a Tokyo convenience store go out of business?

Until recently, this was an AMPM convenience store.

The AMPM in our building decided to cash in its chips and get out of town (Kodaira-shi, Tokyo). AMPM is a huge chain, so they must have really been hurting!


Monday, January 14, 2008

Japan Economy News in the Japan Times

Japan Economy News' Ken Worsley was interviewed for the Times' blogroll (article in English).

As you've probably figured out by now, Ken is a director at TPR (where I sometimes post) as well.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

SONY to do away with DRM

I threw a bit of a hissy-fit a couple of years ago over the digital rights managment (DRM) software that SONY was building into its CDs.

As soon as you popped a SONY CD into your computer, a nasty little program would load onto your computer. While being illegal in and of itself, it had the unexpected consequence of making the computer more susceptible to a viral attack.

Well, there are finally whispers that SONY has reversed course and decided that it needs to be a little more realistic about this matter.

SONY is expected to make an announcement soon about its decision to ditch DRM.


Friday, January 04, 2008

A family that dines together, smokes together

I don't have any stats to back me up, but I bet that the number of 4-year-olds in Japan with emphysema is astronomical when compared to children in other developed nations.
If you smoke in your kid's face at home that's your business. I still call that child abuse, but you're fortunate in that most governments don't agree with me.
But when you drag your two-year-old into the smoking section of a fast-food restaurant and puff smoke in her face for half an hour, then you might as well be one of those over-worked and drunk fathers who kicks his kid in public because he didn't get a good grade in his history class.

I'm complaining about parents right now, but it's a grandmother that shocked me today. McDonald's, as so often is the case in Japan, has a smoking section that isn't actually partitioned off from the non-smoking area (ie. the entire restaurant sometimes smells like it's a part of the smoking area). The picture to the right was taken with my camera-phone, hence the lack of clarity and bad lighting, but it shows a grandmother (facing the camera, cigarette in left hand) smoking in her granddaughter's face.

Of course, the mother is equally to blame here because she's allowing her little girl to be subjected to this. I was just passing through and didn't want to stick around and check, but I noticed two ashtrays on that tiny table, so I wouldn't be surprised if the mother (back to the camera) was smoking at the same time.

I know I'm shoveling forth a steaming pile of righteous indignation right now (and I've done it before), but let's think in practical terms for a moment. How many seconds off the little girls 200m will this equal when she goes to school in three years time? The school sports festival, while normally the highlight of the academic year, becomes the most embarrassing weekend of the child's life. Not that the 200m is the most important event at the sports festival. Tug-of-war is where the youngster's nicotine addiction could really do her in.

But then again, with this much infantile (pun intended) secondhand smoking going on, she'll probably finish in the middle of the pack.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Antivirus Program Switch (APS)

I'm in the middle of an anitvirus program switch (APS) again. I was with Norton for a long time (which is inexplicably popular), but bravely got over that addiction. Trend Micro's PC-cillin (aka Virus Buster in Japan) was a breath of fresh air in that it didn't conflict with most of the other things on my hard-drive (unlike Norton). The sudden dearth of blue screens of death was not something that I lamented. I stuck with Trend Micro for two years.

But Trend Micro was a bit of a resource hog. Not nearly as bad as Norton, but it still slowed my computer down to the point that it was difficult to have more than one other window open while I was doing a scan. Plus there was no perceivable way for me to switch to an English-based version of the software because I had originally downloaded the software over the Internet and I'm located in Tokyo (so I was only allowed to have a Japanese version of the software). I could have just lied and said that I was in America, but I believe that the fewer hassles the better when dealing with credit cards, so I opted to be truthful. Oops.

One other thing that annoyed me about Trend Micro is that it's not easy to delete it from your computer. They make it unnecessarily difficult to get rid of it. They require you to type in a password when you go through the control panel's add/delete program function (Windows). I've kept all of my correspondence with Trend Micro, and after a long-winded search I didn't find any mention of a other words, I wasn't able to uninstall the very program that I paid money to purchase. That didn't make me happy. I expect this type of underhanded tactic from SONY; I don't appreciate it coming from companies that seem to be otherwise rooted in reality. Long story short--I may not go back to Trend Micro in the future even though I was relatively happy with the product.

Now I'm testing out NOD32 Antivirus which is doing pretty well so far. They provide a free trial download, so I'm currently working through that. The one problem that I've noticed so far is that iTunes is now acting all funky. I purchased an album from iTunes after the APS, and after allowing me to listen to the first two tracks, my computer lost the rest of the tracks. OK. Reboot, try again. My computer finds them and allows me to listen to one of the tracks that had previously disappeared, but then loses the rest of them again. When I say lose, I mean that a search of both hard-drives turns up empty. We'll see how that goes.

Other than that, NOD32 seems to be a bit lighter than the other programs I've tried in the past. Of course, my hard-drive is pretty well maxed out, so any antivirus program is going to have its work cut out trying to plow through such a huge number of files. But NOD32 seems to do its job without sucking up an unreasonable amount of computer resources.

Hopefully everything will work out with the iTunes conflict (I'm not discounting the possibility that remnants of Trend Micro are responsible for the bug), and I will become a paying NOD32 customer at the end of the month.


Happy New Year!!

All the best to you and yours this year. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season that didn't involve hangovers capable of gobbling up an entire day.
Here's to a brilliant 2008!