Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Slasher School, Parts 1 and 2

A break from the socio-political-economic essays, here are parts one and two of our ongoing 'Slasher School' skit. I'll post the rest after they've aired.

I got to play an undead Puritan. So needless to say, I had a LOT of fun doing these skits. Hope you dig 'em.



that one guy you know, 12:02 AM | | | | | | | | | | link | 1 comments |

Monday, October 30, 2006

Warming Wager

This morning, while I was cruising for my daily dose of “hey, what’s going on in the world out there” information, I came upon this story on MSNBC, which investigates a report on the potential economic impact of the effects of global warming.

Usually, no big deal. Legitimate research studies like this come out all the time, even though we usually don’t hear about them. There’s probably a corporate tie-in reason for that, but instead I’ll just chalk it up to the fact that Americans are sadly more concerned with celebrity relationships than global issues...

Anyway, what is interesting about this particular study is that it was commissioned by a high-ranking member of the British Cabinet, and the results of the report are being acted on by the Prime Minister and the rest of the British Government. It’s also the first global warming study authored by an economist instead of an environmental scientist.

The author of the report – a former chief economist of the World Bank – says that the cost of counteracting global warming now, by reducing carbon dioxide and methane, making industries and transportation more efficient, and investing heavily in renewable energies, would cost 1% of the global GDP each year. That’s about what the world spends on advertising. If we do nothing, within a decade the associated costs could reach 5 to 20% of the global GDP each year. That’s a mind-boggling seven trillion dollars.

Thankfully, the Brits are taking a very strong stand on the issue. They’re already leading the European Union’s emission reduction targets, considering expanding their successful carbon tax program to their citizens, and working to link carbon credit markets across the world (including a handful of renegade U.S. cities and states like California, which are pledging to the Kyoto protocol while the Bush administration sits on their hands waiting for ‘more conclusive research’).

America is missing a huge opportunity by continuing to ignore global scientific consensus on this issue. And now, with this new report, we’ve got an economic incentive alongside strong moral and ethical ones.

Take, for example, my dad. He’s a police officer in a small town in Connecticut. He works absurd amounts of overtime, saves for retirement, and votes Republican. He is not, by any stretch of the word, an environmentalist. He probably could care less about global warming or spotted owls or attempts to sell off National Parks. But when I visited my home a few weeks ago, every single light bulb in the house was a compact fluorescent – from track lights to outdoor lighting to chandeliers. My dad had cut the entire household’s electricity usage by almost 60%, thus reducing the amount of electricity needed to be produced and therefore reducing my family’s overall carbon footprint. Why? ‘Cause it saved him a lot of money.

If every family in the United States made the switch, we’d instantly cut our national CO2 emissions by 90 billion pounds. With only the minor hassle of switching a few light bulbs (which, by the way, not only use less electricity than regular bulbs, but also last way longer … like 4 years a bulb), we’d be reducing pollution and the amount of money we pay toward our utility bills.

If we, on a national level, choose to ignore this problem, then not only will we jeopardize our planet’s sustainability, but we’ll also be scuttling our national economy. The Bush Administration’s boorish stance on stem-cell research has already caused American scientists to lag far behind Europe, Japan, and South Korea in genetics and cloning research. If we continue our myopic drive to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and blow up the Appalachians Mountains for coal, we’re also going to lag seriously behind in the sustainable energy field.

(Thankfully, we Californians have a chance to once again buck the Bush administration and go our own way on the issue.)

But if moral, ethical, economic, or nationalistic reasoning still doesn’t get you convinced that we have to start making changes now, how about a philosophical one?

Take this guy:



It’s Blaise Pascal, a 17th century French mathematician, theologian and philosopher. Along with his triangle, one of his great contributions to mankind was his book, The Pensées. The book deals extensively with an examination of religion and the existence of God. One of the book’s most famous passages describes what is known as ‘Pascal’s Wager.’ (Very) basically, Pascal says if there’s a God and we act morally, then we’re in the clear and our reward is paradise. If we don’t act morally, we’re met with eternal torment. However, if there is not a God and we act morally, then we just get to live in a stable, moral society whether or not we choose to believe. Therefore, it’s in our best interests to ‘bet’ that God exists and to act accordingly.

While the argument does have flaws, we can still use its central logical position in this global warming debate. If global warming is happening and we take the steps to combat it, then we get to live in a sustainable society on a relatively non-destroyed planet for the conceivable future. If it exists and we do nothing, we’ll have to deal with floods, droughts, refugees, energy crises, and all sorts of other nasty things.

If global warming does not exist and we strive to combat it, then we’ll still live in a more efficient, sustainable, and ecologically friendly society. If America chooses to get involved, we may even be at the forefront of new technologies that can reduce worldwide consumption.

And hey, we might even save a few bucks on our electric bills.

Isn’t that worth a wager, too?
that one guy you know, 10:42 PM | | | | | | | | | | link | 1 comments |

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Hiking and Documentaries

Is there any better way to spend a Sunday?

Probably not. Except maybe if I'd remembered to bring my camera with me today. And of course I didn't remember it until I'd already driven the hour or so to Mt. Baldy Village. Damn. Could have taken some pretty nice pictures.

So without the visual aids, I'll make this quick. I did the Icehouse Canyon Trail again - still beautiful, still colorful, still lots of running water. It was a bit cooler than last time, though.

This time I hiked a few miles past where we stopped before, passing the mountainside source of the stream and climbing up to Icehouse Saddle. Another quick mile up the side of the mountain, and I'd checked off Timber Mountain on my Peaks List. Nine down, ninety-one to go.

9 miles round trip in three and a half-hours with 3404' of elevation gain, for those who are interested. I probably could have done it faster, were my fellow hikers not so talkative. But hey, hearing tales of up-close bighorn sheep sightings and cross-country moves are part of the hiking experience.

Still wish I hadn't forgot my camera, though.

I got back in time to catch a PBS documentary I'd Tivo'ed a few weeks ago. It was a part of a Bill Moyers series, and this particular episode was called "Is God Green?" I've never seen any Moyers docs before, but this one was interesting and very well produced.

It's about the beginning of a movement among evangelical Christians to embrace environmentalism. For a group that was politicized by the right wing in the early 80s and has traditionally has not been ... um ... very environmentally friendly, it is both refreshing and encouraging to see them start to hold a traditionally liberal value. It's even more incredible when they can completely justify it using Scripture.

The doc follows a few leaders of the new movement, but focuses mostly on a spokesperson for the nation's largest evangelical lobbyist group and an evangelical church in Idaho. Apparently, their actions are making some waves within the traditional political structure, as the groups have all been actively denounced by the Party Established.

I found it especially interesting when they were interviewing some of the younger members of the Idahoan church. The members recalled their pastor's first environmental sermon (which he'd been nervously preparing for quite some time), and feeling like the door had finally been flung open for them to do the volunteer work they'd been wanting to do.

On the one hand, I'm thrilled that evangelicals are realizing there's no contradiction between environmentalism and Christian values. On the other hand - you needed to wait until your preacher said it was OK before you did it?

But oh well, it's all good.

You can view the entire documentary on PBS's site, which is pretty awesome ... even if they won't let you use QuickTime.
that one guy you know, 8:48 PM | | | | | | | | | | link | 2 comments |

Thursday, October 26, 2006

More Political Stuff

This month's Rolling Stone has a great feature article on what they call "the worst Congress ever."

It's well-researched, very smart, and funny. It's also pretty depressing, but mostly funny. It's definitely worth reading, though.

And they've even got a handy-dandy secondary article on the Ten Worst Congressmen. Naturally, Pombo's on there. But in good news, it looks like he's running slightly behind his challenger right now. That's one race I'll definitely be keeping my eye on.

And when you're done getting all learnded-up, then you've earned a right to view what may be the Funniest Thing in YouTube History.

that one guy you know, 4:09 PM | | | | | | | | | | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Newe Englande Adventuree 2006

So I got to go back home to the tiny, isolated corner of our country known as New England last week. I had a wedding to hit up, but was otherwise free to romp and frolic in the Season of Autumn ... which, while in New England, is just about as damn near close to absolute perfection as you can get.

Weather reports were a bit mixed, but even though it was unusually balmy when I got off the plane, by the afternoon the clouds had cleared enough for me to commence frolicking ... and so I drove my Mom and sister through winding country roads to Rogers Orchards. My target? Fresh, hot apple cider and a half-dozen cider donuts.

People out here don't know what cider donuts are. I'm not sure if they're a regional thing or if it's just another one of the many deficiencies people from Southern California have, but I sure wish I could snag some 'round here. The cider donut is a sinfully delicious old-fashioned concoction, made with the hint of cider, cinnamon, and a liberal dosage of sugar. They are amazing.



The next day, I had a date with the parents to try out 'bike-riding.' A little background: when my mom came out to California to visit me a few months prior, I took her on a moderate 6 mile hike to Sandstone Peak. She got blisters about seven steps into the trail, and took the time to remind me about it for the entire six miles. A positive side-effect was that she was inspired to get in better outdoor-shape and took up biking. My dad and her usually do long rail-converted trails on the weekends, with ungodly sounding distances in the 30+ mile range. Combine that with the fact that I hadn't ridden a bike in probably 10 years, and this was a recipe for outdoorsy revenge-related disaster.

Luckily, what they say about never forgetting how to ride a bike is true. And, of course, the scenery being nice helped out a bit, too.



The trail was paved for most of the way, and paralleled the former Farmington River Canal on an old rail line. While the trail was, for the most part, surrounded by central Connecticut small town / suburbia, it eventually got off the pavement and onto the dirt to follow a bit closer to the river.



As my first foray into semi-mountain-biking, I'd have to say I wasn't totally enamored with it, but I didn't dislike it, either. I probably would have enjoyed it more were I not a). on a bike that wasn't mine or b). in a mood for hiking instead. When I'm hiking, I have time to get lost in the landscape and search for good pictures while I'm moving. Biking, I was in near-panic mode making sure I was avoiding the trail's larger rocks and boulders. That said, it is pretty fun to drive through mud puddles.

Eventually, the trail found its way back to pavement, and we crossed an old railroad bridge into the mill-town of Collinsville. We parked our bikes near a small cafe and sat down for a well-deserved lunch ... which included copious amounts of sweet potato and pumpkin chowder.

Man, I love New England.



The rest of my short days there were spent hanging out with the family, visiting my goddaughter in Massachusetts, hitting up the Yankee Candle Factory, and drinking absurd amounts of Dunkin' Donuts coffee and Smuttynose beer. Side note to New Englanders - the Smuttynose Winter Ale just might be better than Harpoon Winter Warmer. I never thought I'd say that. World turned upside down!



And of course, it wouldn't be a Casey Schreiner trip without a hike. Sunday morning, I set my alarm early to sneak one in before my flight back to L.A. By then, Fall Weather had completely moved in, and it was only about 40 degrees outside. Not having a whole lot of warm clothes, I decided to wait a bit longer and to cut the distance of my hike. The family came along to Ragged Mountain, and it was beautiful. Crisp weather, clear(ish) skies, and near-peak foliage views stretching all across the Connecticut River valley.

A perfect and stunning way to end my fall trip ...






(that's my lil' sis, giving my mom a heart-attack, no doubt)

More pics on Flickr, natch.

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that one guy you know, 9:42 PM | | | | | | | | | | link | 0 comments |

Monday, October 23, 2006

Way Overdue Japan Videos

These clips are way, way overdue and I apologize.

Just in case you were wondering if my job sent me to Japan just to make social observations, buy cameras, and go hiking, here are some of the skits they actually had me - you know - do.

The first four are a series of "Lost in Translation" bits with our show's two hosts, Kevin and Olivia. I will say that they both did an amazing job (especially considering some of these shoots were at the tail end of 12+ hour work days), were great to work with, and are top notch at ad-libbing. Added with the great cinematography, awesome extras, and diligent home-base support from another AOTS producer, these bits are some of the work I'm most proud of from my time at G4.

Here they are, in order.










... and I also included our Japanese edition of your favorite G.E.D.-holding anthropologist, Talisker Fernley. I really love this character:




Stay tuned for more New England news, as well as some exciting video developments from a new, top-secret G4 Comedy Strike Force.

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that one guy you know, 8:21 PM | | | | | | | | | | link | 1 comments |

Back from New England

And fully recharged with autumnal goodness.

More updates after I settle back into the whole Southern California thing.

I'm already looking for something historic to pave over.

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that one guy you know, 11:57 AM | | | | | | | | | | link | 0 comments |

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Please Vote

Election Season is full-on upon us, and with the standard-fare attack ads, mudslinging, and backbiting that's traditionally accompanied it, it's easy to get completely turned off, lie back in our chairs, and glaze over as we watch re-runs of the Tyra Banks Show. Also, there's no Presidential election, so why bother, right?

Wrong.

Mid-term elections, while often not as exciting as their nation-wide cousins, are extremely important. Not only does this upcoming election have the opportunity to shift power in Congress, but it also has the ability to send messages to the Establishments of both parties.

Look, I understand voter apathy. When the level of discourse has already passed three levels below the basement, it's difficult not to just shut the whole thing out and say 'forget this bullshit!'

But you can't.

When you don't vote, there's no reason any elected official should listen to you. You're not sending them a message about the inherent inevitability of corruption in the electoral system. You're telling them your constituency doesn't care what happens. Less than half of people aged 18-24 voted in the last Presidential election. Almost three quarters of those 55 and over vote. Ever wonder why prescription plans for seniors get so much love from Senators?

But ultimately, in a system like this, it is not the politicians' responsibility to get you to vote. It's your responsibility as a voter to let them know what you want them doing. Whether that's going to rallies, writing letters or emails, or just voting for the candidates and proposals closest to your views, it's really not that difficult.

Likewise, it's your responsibility - if you do vote - to find out about what you're voting for. Turn off the shrill TV commercials, which try to condense complex laws and political careers into 20 second, overproduced sound bites. Fire up your internet and visit your state's official page. Guaranteed, they'll have the complete information for everything on there. Visit each candidate's page and see what they really think about issues. Then vote.

California makes doing both things nice and easy. About a month before each election, we get Official Voter Guides in the mail. Not only do they have detailed statements from each candidate running for office, but they also have 'pro' and 'con' arguments for each proposal, as well as the complete written language of the proposals themselves. You know, in case you want to make your own decision.

Personally, I'm registered in California as a 'Permanent Absentee Voter,' which means they send me my ballot for all the elections in the mail. When I sit down to vote, I can do it anytime, and take as long as I want. I get my voter guide out, read about each election, and make an informed decision. And I can do it in my living room, in my pajamas.

But if you're not psyched up about voting for town councils and Board of Equalization members, remember that state assemblies, Congressmen, and Governors will often have a much more profound and noticeable effect on your government than a national one will. In California, we're lucky to have a Very Progressive candidate running against a already surprisingly Progressive Governor. But we're also lucky to have some potentially groundbreaking state proposals, including state-wide investment in alternative energy sources at the cost of the oil industry.

I'm sure, by now, you've figured out where I measure up on the political spectrum. But I am encouraging everyone to vote, especially that sad-ranking 18-24 demo. Change will begin when legislators realize that young people are a voting bloc worth courting.

Just vote.

One exception - if you live in California's 11th Congressional District, please please please don't vote for Richard Pombo.

Thanks.

REGISTER. There's still time, if you haven't done it already.
that one guy you know, 9:46 AM | | | | | | | | | | link | 2 comments |

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Adult Swim Renaissance?

I believe, after a long period of stagnation and super low-budget, semi-crappy shows, that the beloved Adult Swim block of programming on the Cartoon Network is experiencing a renaissance of quality.

"Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law" is back from a long hiatus to take it's rightful place as The World's Most Dense Television Show. Seriously, I have to watch each episode three times to get all the jokes that are going on in this show. You want fast paced? You watch this show. Here's one of my favorite moments from last season - an employee orientation filmstrip from Sebben & Sebben.



Of course, old shows are great, but it's some of the new shows that have me so impressed. From some of the heads behind "Home Movies," one of my favorite shows of all time, was birthed "Metalocalypse," a show about the Most Metal Band Ever. Like "Home Movies," it's got a great dose of mundane absurdity. But it's also got kick ass metal songs, hyperviolence, and just general weirdness. Here's a clip of Doctor Rockso, the Rock 'n' Roll Clown.



And finally, debuting this Sunday is "Frisky Dingo." I have no idea what the title means, but it's by the Sealab 2020 guys. We got an advance DVD of the first two episodes at work a while back, and let me tell you right now to set your Tivos immediately. This is one of the funniest shows I have ever seen. Ever. It's that good. The first joke is a painfully extended bout of silence ... which is immediately followed up with a joke about Shelly's "Ozymandias." And it looks like there's an overarching storyline that goes through all the episodes, which is incredibly impressive for an eleven minute cartoon that still makes the occasional hooker joke.



That's what happens when you've got shows that aren't afraid of confusing their audiences once in a while. Or hell, even act like they don't have an audience.

Quality out the ass.

Adult Swim FTW.
that one guy you know, 9:08 PM | | | | | | | | | | link | 1 comments |

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Hiking Catch-up: Devil's Punchbowl and Strawberry Peak

... and yes, I have taken to only hiking the most whimsically named features of the Angeles National Forest.

Last week, before I got swamped with Tokyo updates and crazy scriptwriting at work, Will, Dingo, and I drove up to the north side of the San Gabriels to check out something called the Devil's Punchbowl - an area near the San Andreas and Punchbowl faults where - basically - a large area of sedimentary sandstone is getting pulled apart by plate tectonics.

Geology, ho!

In some places, the rocks just appear to be slanted slightly:



When you get closer to the actual "punchbowl" area, though, you see giant slabs of rock - which started horizontally - tilted almost vertically.



After being exposed like that for so long, the slabs get warped even further by wind and water, which makes them look even more bizarre than they already do. If I were a geology teacher, which I am woefully unqualified to be, I would take my class here.



It also makes them prime for scramblin', which is exactly what we did. Also, the trail we were going to do was closed due to fire danger, and we sure as hell didn't drive all the way out to Pearblossom to do a one mile loop trail. No sir.

We squeezed through some water-sliced boulders and wedged our ways up to the top of one of the large formations in the center of the punchbowl. This includes Dingo, of course. The Amazing Vertically-walking Dog. It's really amazing just to watch her as she scrambles through the trails with us.

Man, I want a dog.

As we reached the top of the second rock structure we climbed, the clouds broke and revealed one of those classic California Blue Skies. We walked to our personal sandstone horizon, and got our - or at least my - first view of the northern San Gabriels.



More pics from the Punchbowl are up on Flickr. And on these, I had about 80% figured out how to use the billions of photo options on my new camera.


Today, we had another meeting scheduled with the East Fork trail and Bridge to Nowhere, but due to an alarm clock malfunction, I ended up heading back to the San Gabriels on my own.

I was going to do a hike up to Josephine Peak, which didn't look too difficult or exciting, but I wanted to cross another peak off my Hundred Peaks List, and Josephine was on it. I altered the recommended (and really boring) fire road route by starting the hike at Colby Canyon trailhead. Fortunately for me, a rather colorful older gentleman hiker was also gearing up there with his daughter. When I said hello, as all good hikers do, we chatted for a little bit.

"Where ya headed?" He asked.

I explained, briefly, my situation.

"Well, ya know, Strawberry's a better climb."

I asked him about the rock-climbing to get to the top. He laughed, but not dismissively. More in a sort of "crazy old guy at the bottom of a trail out the middle of nowhere" way.

"Nah, you forget about that. Just do Strawberry. You'll like it."

I thanked him and adjusted my sights on Strawberry Peak, the rounded summit visible from the trailhead.



As I walked onto the trail, I could still hear him telling his daughter about the different types of clouds in the sky. "It's gon' be a windy one today!"

I love hikers.

The lower parts of the canyon were densely wooded with sycamore and poison oak. Since it's getting late in the season, all plants of the itch-producing varieties had already turned or started to turn bright red. This is good, as there was a lot of it lining the trail, and I probably would have missed a few patches if it wasn't already the Color of Danger.

The hike up through Colby Canyon was easy enough, and had some pleasant, shaded areas to cool off in before trudging through the much longer sunshine-exposed sections. Underneath a particularly nice group of large manzanitas, I met an older couple who were hiking to Josephine Peak. One of them gave me some helpful tips on finding the "Mountaineer's Route" up to the top of Strawberry - an unofficial yet still marked and maintained trail that offered some nice climbing and a shorter distance to the top than its more official brother. I thanked them and continued up the trail.

Right before the turn off to Strawberry Peak, there was a large concrete water tank with a pretty terrible poem scrawled on it in black marker. I wish I could remember it, but I obviously didn't think enough of it to take a picture. I'm pretty sure the line "might makes right" was in there. All of my critiques, however, pale to the one that was written next to it, also in black sharpie:



I wish more literary criticism was so succinct.

A few meters away from Josephine Saddle, I found the well-worn side path up to the Mountaineer's Route. Following the purple arrows that had been spraypainted on the rocks, it soon became quite apparent why they called this the Mountaineer's Route. It's 'cause you're gonna be climbing up a mountain. Emphasis on the word "climbing." A few hundred feet up the Route, this is the first obstacle you see:



And no, you don't go around it. You go up it.

So after a few moments of tentative hesitation (I wouldn't be myself if I wasn't hesitating, really), I started holding onto sandstone and hoisting myself up. And after a few minutes - a large portion of which was spent thinking about what would happen if I fell, and how long it would take for anyone to even start to look for me - I made it to the top. My reward, a view of the valleys and peaks surrounding me, unfolding in an unobstructed view.



And to my left, the target peak, still a healthy hike and climb away from me.



Continuing on the trail, it also became clear that this was a highly unofficial and slightly unmaintained trail. While the path was marked at regular intervals with those spraypainted arrows, large sections of the trail were nearly covered with plants -- most of which was thorny and/or spiky. On this particular section, I actually had to walk through bent over, all of my exposed skin vulnerable to the prickly bushes surrounding me.



This part of the hike went much, much slower than it should have, mostly due to my extremely careful navigation of Thorn Tunnels like that one and tight passageways filled with extra-painful Spanish bayonets. Eventually, I got to a large pile of broken boulders near the peak, and after climbing down (and up again), I stopped to pose for a pic with my fancy new GorillaPod, which I hope will allow me to get a bit more perspective on the rises on some of these solo hikes. Everything just looks so much less impressive when there's nothing to give you that human scale.



Right after this, I reached the sheer, granite face of Strawberry Peak itself. From here, it was a healthy distance of nearly-vertical climbing, with pretty steep cliffs on all sides of me. The climbing was slow (due mostly to paranoia on my part), but not too difficult, thanks to those helpful spraypainted arrows. I always knew where my hands and feet had to go ... it was just a matter of getting them there.

Eventually, I did make it to the top, and was rewarded not only with a great sense of accomplishment (never in any of my 25 years would I ever have told you I would be climbing class 3-4 boulders by myself at some point in the future) and beautiful views of Colby Canyon. Right in the center of this picture is the trailhead I started at. Which is pretty amazing, if you ask me.



After stopping to eat a quick lunch and sign the peak register, I made my way back down via the Red Box Trail, as I wasn't too keen to climb down that sheer rock face I'd just climbed up. In retrospect, this was a bad decision, as it added about 6 additional miles to my hiking trip when I was already looking forward to a nice shower, but hey - lesson learned.

I can't wait to get back there. And find more places to climb.

More pics of this one are up on Flickr, too, if you're interested.

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that one guy you know, 7:45 PM | | | | | | | | | | link | 2 comments |

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Last Days in Tokyo - Part Two

As we continued our unscheduled surprise hike through the wilderness of Kamakura, we came upon many of the same sorts of things we saw while walking through Takao-san: rugged, rocky trails; dense forests; elderly, fit hikers; and shrines hidden and carved just about everywhere you could think of putting one.



Eventually, we found our way out of the forest, and landed square on the pavement of a residential alleyway. As in Tokyo, the streets in Kamakura were not laid out on any sort of grid pattern, so we had to stop to check our map frequently. But luckily, the tourist promoting section of Kamakura citizens had posted signs in English, pointing toward the various temples and landmarks. So it wasn't all that difficult to not get lost.

While we were walking through the alleyways, we heard a distant, roaring applause coming from somewhere inside the town. Having rarely heard any Japanese person speak in a volume even approaching what could be called a shout, we decided to investigate. And we were not dissapointed.

We came upon a large, fenced in elementary school playing field, completely filled with children and their parents. The children seemed to be seperated into large teams, each wearing a different colored headband. In the center of the field, several of the students from each team stepped ahead of their groups, and hoisted one of their members onto the shoulders of three teammates.



To the ominous beat of a taiko drum, the two groups of four faced each other on the field. They stared each other down for a moment, before the two groups rushed in, the two top members locking hands and starting to struggle.



The ensuing competition would continue, to the cheers of the large audience of students and parents. It appeared that each player would try to hold on to the others' hands while also trying to grab the hat off of his head. People would rise and fall, but we never saw anyone actually get knocked off. Some of the matches were pretty intense, though.



After one of the players had successfully taken the others' hat, the match was over, and the playground would erupt with cheers. The winning team had flag-bearers in their audience sections, who would basically act as cheerleaders for their teams.



Aside from being highly entertained by these games, Chris and I spent a great deal of time thinking about how quickly a game like this would get shut down in an American school, under a deluge of lawsuits from overconcerned parents.

Our curiosity satisfied, we continued onto another temple in eastern Kamakura. The name escapes me, but the temple's drawing factor was one of Japan's largest bamboo groves. Seeing as I, myself, had never been in any bamboo grove, one of Japan's largest seemed like a good place to start. And while it was quite a walk, it was well worth the trip.




It's difficult to describe a bamboo grove, other than saying that there's really nothing like it. It was very bizarre to see bamboo - something we usually only see in small shoots, displayed as decorations in small glass vases - grow to enormous heights.

As the picture shows, the forest itself was dense, and the bamboo canopy blocked out most of the sunshine. When the wind blew, we'd hear the leaves rustling over our heads first. Then, a few seconds later, as the trunks began to sway along with the leaves, there was this odd hollow creaking that rang and echoed through the grove. When we pressed our ears against the trunks, the effect was even greater.



We took off back to the city streets to walk to the statue of the Great Buddha, stopping only occasionally to take pictures of comically tiny cars.



We made it to the statue about a half an hour before it closed (thankfully), but there was still a decent sized crowd hanging around. The statue itself is not the largest, or the oldest, but it's probably the most stubborn. In 1498, about 250 years after the statue was cast, a tsunami wiped out the temple that housed it ... along with most of the surrounding village. But the statue hung on. Resilient little guy.



While there's not a whole lot to do at the statue, it's just one of those things that it's pretty cool to just sit down and stare at for a while. Maybe something contemplative about the statue itself inspires that same quality in those who view it. Or I could have just been tired from walking so much.



I'll go with the first one.

And I couldn't think of a better way to end my time in Japan.

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that one guy you know, 4:40 PM | | | | | | | | | | link | 1 comments |

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Last Days in Tokyo - Part One

Chris and I were supposed to go back to L.A. on Thursday, but decided to stick around for a few extra days on our own dimes. We'd hiked Takao-san on Thursday, and since I was roped into an extra shoot on Friday, Saturday was really my only extra day there. We decided to take a train to the coast south of Tokyo to the town of Kamakura, the capitol of Japan from the 12th to the 14th century.

We had a few targets we definitely wanted to hit up, but mostly we just aimed to get off the train and wander around through temples and city streets. And, as luck would have it, the Engaku-Ji Temple was right across the tracks from a train station. After we stepped over the train tracks and walked through a small garden, we were standing on the grounds of one of the largest and oldest Zen temples in Japan.



One of the things that struck me, similar to the shrines and temples at Takao, was how seamlessly the religious structures were integrated into the surrounding natural environment. Everything was meticiously manicured and controlled, of course, but the dense forest that surrounded the temple seemed to be reaching in and through the grounds, the buildings taking the back seat.



... or, in certain circumstances, the religious structures are actually inside the natural ones.



The temple itself, although somewhat crowded with tourists (and much moreso than Takao-san) was still very, very peaceful. We stopped by a shrine containing one of the Buddha's teeth (off limits, unfortunately) and lit incense and sat for a long time inside the shrine devoted to the temple's founder. Also, there were some great, ancient statues laying around.



We kept wandering through the temple, and eventually found our way to the graveyard. Or, more accurately, grave city. Real estate is a premium in Japan, even when you're dead, so the graveyards are built incredibly close to one another. It's a fair mirror of the cities of the living, for better or worse.



Aside from the beautiful and intricate gravestones, the major difference was the attitude of visitors in the graveyard. There were a fair number of people walking through the rows of graves, washing stones, sweeping pathways, replacing old flowers, etc. There were even more families there, visiting specific graves to pray, leave offerings, and generally act like they were on a picnic. The mood was joyous. Almost jubilant. Even the offerings on the graves made me smile. This particular person got a coffee and a sake. Not bad.



We then climbed another long wooden staircase to a the Ogune, the largest bell in Kamakura. More excitingly (for me, at least), it was cast in 1301 and is a designated "National Treasure of Japan." It's only rung once a year - on New Year's Day. Which is too bad, 'cause I would have loved to hear what this giant old bell sounded like. But I'm guessing if I just wound up and banged it with that giant log, I'd be gently escorted out of the country.



So instead, I walked over to a small stand near the bell and ordered up some traditional maccha tea. Yes, it was hot and humid, and yes, we just walked around for quite some time, but I still ordered hot tea. Maccha is the powdered green tea that's found almost exclusively in Japan. It's used in tea ceremonies, zen temples, and - more recently - in snack foods. But the old-school hot tea is the way to go. Look at this presentation!



The tea itself was thick and rich, with a slightly sweet, almost grassy aftertaste. It also came with three wrapped sweets, which melted in my mouth and tasted amazing when eaten while drinking the tea at the same time. Chris got an unusual cold fruit jelly dish that was much more refreshing than the maccha, but didn't carry any of the weighty cultural importance my dish did. So there.

We then returned to the street and walked through North Kamakura for a short while until we came upon the Kencho-ji Temple. This temple was from around the same period as the first, although slightly less crowded with tourists, as there wasn't a train station conveniently located across the street.

The big highlight here was the building housing the 'emaciated Buddha' statue, sitting right in front of a chubbier, rounder version of the good prince.



It also had a meticiously manicured zen garden, with a pond in the shape of the kanji symbol for "mind."



After we'd toured the grounds, we noticed a small path leading behind the temple. Chris and I walked down, and discovered another set of long staircases climbing a small mountain behind the complex. As we went up, we saw several small houses, a cleansing shrine, and these jolly welcomers:



When we got to the top, there was another small shrine, scented with incense and austere in the way only a wilderness shrine in Japan can be. There was also a small path leading straight into the woods behind it. Intrigued, we entered, and began an impromptu hike down to the city proper.

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that one guy you know, 8:38 PM | | | | | | | | | | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Bit of Video

While I try to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing, here are two videos from the Beta Band I dug up last night on a whim. I saw these at some RESfest screenings a long, long time ago, and remember being really impressed.

As luck would have it, the videos stand up. They're still awesome.

Enjoy.



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that one guy you know, 10:44 PM | | | | | | | | | | link | 0 comments |

Sunday, October 01, 2006

New Robert Frost Poem Found?

Am I too excited about this?
that one guy you know, 9:53 PM | | | | | | | | | | link | 0 comments |