Archive for December 2009

Rudi the Ninja : Promotional Flier   Leave a comment

More to come on the ninja later. Here is a promotional flier I made for my first push. Shot with a Nikon D40 using a  AF Nikkor 28-85 MM lens.


Shipped My first set of Rudi T-shirts in Japan!   Leave a comment

This is a design I made, getting ready to push in Japan. Rudi: The Jamaican Ninja.


A note on Frailty   Leave a comment

Yurakugai on a Saturday night in Hamamatsu is a mish mash of bodies going to various destinations. This street is the most popular street in the city center, and people congregate here to sing Karaoke, hang out by the 7-11, and pickup girls. I’m normally at the video arcade on early Saturday nights, playing Street Fighter 4 while blasting music in my ears. After losing a few heated battles, I took a break to grab at a drink at the nearby convenience store.

After I got my drink, I talked to a guy I always see on the Strip. Every Friday and Saturday I run into him. He is tall guy who looks like a fashionista biker. Tonight he is explaining to me his theories on picking up Japanese women.
“Most times I just say “We Will fuck” to the girls. And that’s enough.” He says.
I laughed in disbelief, but his expression seems to connote an element of truth in what he said. Two friends of his disappeared a few minutes earlier after spotting some targets across the street. I stood there for a few seconds, eyeing the crowd, thinking. Japanese guys often said getting girls was an easy affair; a few choice statements, a couple drinks at a bar and then off to a hotel or an apartment to take it to the next level. I waited for him to continue, but we would never finished that conversation.That was when I heard the noise.  

Behind me are a set of red stairs that lead up to popular restaurant above the 7-11. On the stairs voices shout and I hear the telltale sound of someone’s feet clattering down the steps. In a second,  I see man’s body coming fast down the flight of stairs. He is falling, and he hits the ground buttocks first with his feet pointing upwards. His torso snaps back and his head smacks the ground. The sound of his head smashing against the pavement sounded like someone took a baseball bat and hit it with all their strength on a concrete wall. I had never heard a person’s head hit anything and make such noise, much less seen in happen.

In the immediate vicinity, everyone froze. The man lay there, not moving. I swore he was dead. People across the street, drunk and chatting gaily had also heard the man’s head hit the ground. Then, people swarmed him. A few friends at the top of the stairs ran down, calling his name. People inside 7-11 and neighboring restaurants stood around the man, who was on the ground, not moving. He seemed healthy, with a broad chest, salt and pepper hair in a military buzz cut and thick hands. From his style he seemed to be reasonably well off. He wore a sports jacket with a black designer shirt tucked into stylish flat-iron pants. His wingtip shoes were shiny, though small. His face was clean shaven and he looked to be about fifty. As I stood there, he could have been anyone. Did he have family? Who were his friends? These thoughts flooded my mind. My heart raced and I knelt beside him. The friends were frantic, screaming at each other in Japanese.
“Don’t move him!” I shouted as they started lifting him.

I was buzzing with adrenaline. I squeezed the man’s hand to see if he would squeeze it back. He was fluttering his eyelids and was semi-coherent. The hand squeeze was a test from my limited medical knowledge to see if he had some spinal damage. A man beside him, who I realized was his good friend barked at me. He waved his hand and pushed me and someone else aside. More people clamored around and I slinked off into a nearby corner, watching the spectacle play out. I didn’t know who the man was, but I wanted to help him. Like so many moments I’ve experienced in life, I felt powerless.

It took a while for the ambulance to come, and the guy I was speaking previously to vanished with his friends. He was meeting his girlfriend at the train station I think. Some people, thinking the man was drunk, laughed at him and shouted in a comical fashion “Is there a doctor here?”. Other people smiled as they passed, thinking he had passed out. As I looked at person after person pass by, I was reminded of our frailty. The man on the ground had a few drinks and took a bad step. Now he was probably dying on the ground surrounded by strangers and inebriated gawkers. How easily could any of us take a bad step? An awkward fall?

My mood was circumspect. I felt bad that I couldn’t help the man, but did I really care or was that raw emotion? Was this man’s life any more fascinating than mine? I didn’t think so. I was whittling my life away at the arcade, hiding in a building like so many people do on the weekend, trying to forget about Monday. But something disturbed me about the sound the man’s head hitting the ground. It was thunderous, frightening and somewhat traumatic. In our lives of work and play, movies and escape, we can easily forget that we are flesh and bone, weak and breakable.

After the ambulance collected the man and I watched it drive into the distance, eventually blending into the thick Saturday night crowd. The sound of the ambulance faded, and the din of voices and footsteps filled the air. In another minute, there was no indication a man had ever been lying on the floor just feet from where hundreds of people were passing by. The incident was over, an afterthought. Life was going on. I sighed, took one last look at the spot where he lay, and went back to the video arcade.

Posted December 14, 2009 by marcusbird in Personal Thoughts

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Into the Dragon’s Belly: The Caves   Leave a comment

The word “cave” conjures up images of many things. Dark black tunnels, gloomy stalactites and  images from bad B movies with silly college teens being chased by monsters. I’ve never been in a cave, and it was quite an experience.

The Ryugashido caves are about an hour away from Hamamatsu by bus. The attraction is at the base of a hill in a residential area. It is quiet, with pristinely clean streets and fields of Mikan trees interspersed through the suburbs. After a short walk over a bridge and up a hill, you can see the words for the site on large Kanji letters on the side of the hill. At the facility, families and couples with cameras stroll about, buying gifts and snacking in the dining hall. What catches my eye is a large green dragon, spouting fake smoke through its nostrils every few minutes. It is at the entrace to the cave.

The first thing I noticed in the Cave was the music. A series of cylindrical speakers are set throughout the entire length of the cave, and the music reminiscient of that from the water level of the supernintendo classic,  Donkey Kong Country. In fact, I felt the game everywhere. Back then I was looking at rendered 3d walls and animation, here it was all real.

The paths down there weren’t narrow, and I didn’t have a sense of claustrophobia. Every few feet had labels with panels with English and Japanese writing explaining the significance of a particular rock formation. There was one that looked like Mount Fuji, an underwater pond called the “God Pool” and many more. What I felt mostly in the cave was a sense of peace.

The quiet music and the moody lighting made me feel like I was in a different time and space. Dripping noises from water crevices added to the effect. The walls were a shape and texture I had never seen. They resembled mud frozen solid. Other signs had historical information and depictions of early attempts to explore the cave, with effigies of men crawling through narrow paths. The path a person takes to the exit is about a thousand feet long, which is a good walk. After about ten minutes, I come to a massive, cavern reaching up at least thirty feet into the air. I take in the majesty of the moment.

There was also a bench in the cave, which I found quite exciting. There I was, about fifty or more feet underground, sitting on a blue bench. A few more meters took me to an underground water fall. Green water roared in a small pool down a walkway as the water streamed from above. Soon, I came to the end of the journey, exiting into a store filled with artifacts from the cave itself. It was a bizarre transition, from the unnatural beauty of the cave, to the cold white presence of man-made architecture. Regardless, it was an experience. A first for me, among many firsts in Japan.

Fuzzy Revelations   Leave a comment

There are moments I call “fuzzy”, when the world seems a little blank, I feel very far away from everything and the pace of life becomes a blur. This weekend was sort of like that. From place to place I roamed, not sure what was up or down, or where I was headed. In the process, I lost my ATM card and a pair of nice headphones. Monday morning, as I shuffled off to my work commute, I didn’t feel upset. The haze from the weekend was still hanging around like an annoying associate. The clarity that comes with waking up on a Monday morning simply wasn’t there. Later, I decided to check around. First I went to my bank. Sure enough, after grabbing a few thousand yen on Friday night, I had left my bank card there. But I was surprised that I hadn’t realized I left it there all weekend. This more than anything, proved my fuzziness. Then, at some point, on Saturday night or Sunday, my headphones disappeared. I theorized that they had fell on the carpet in the video arcade, possibly gleefully snatched up by a young teen just dying for a pair of black nondescript headphones with a little earwax in them for good measure. But I said, This is Japan.

I went to the arcade in the evening, two or so days after I left it. When I spoke to the attendant, he said they had some earphones. I saw him pull them out of a drawer. I sighed in relief. They were elegantly wrapped, and seemed more pristine than when I left them. I signed a paper and was soon happily listening to 90’s hip-hop. This is something that’s worth noting about Japan. Sometimes it’s a stream of chaos, a smattering of images and voices you can’t fully understand. But sometimes, when you lose a few important items and get them back. You can still smile. You can still hope.

Posted December 1, 2009 by marcusbird in Personal Thoughts

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