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I wrote a review of Iron Man 3 on Tumblr. You can also read it below, without the need to de-ROT13 it.

Let’s get the non-spoilers out of the way: Iron Man 3 is awesome, Mandarin is nowhere near the awful villain you (I) imagined, and yes, there is an after-credits sequence. The rest is ROT13-encoded for your pleasure. I’m still trying to keep it spoiler-lite though.

Vaguest possible review of Iron Man 3 )

I've also seen eleven other films since my last post, and made a few repeat trips to others. I'll definitely try to review them in the future too.
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Sorry for the lapse in posts -- if anyone is still reading, that is.

Today, I went to a special screening of Oz, The Great and Powerful, had some noodles (Singapore-style yo min) with friends, talked to some schoolgirls from Chiba prefecture, photographed some plum blossom and went to the gym. It was almost like being back in Japan, except the noodle portions were way too big. It's getting better, slowly.

Here are a list of films I've seen recently. All spoiler-free apart from the details you could get from the trailers anyway. I'll write a longer, more vaguely spoilerish review for Oz though, just because it was a preview and I like to be first. :-)

For what it's worth, scores out of ten reflect expectations, both missed and exceeded.

Beautiful Creatures

This is the witch-based paranormal romantic comedy aimed at fans of Twilight, according to the trailer.

First half was atmospheric Southern gothic-style snark, and a much better film for it. The main male character lays out precisely why his small town is claustrophobic and it's darkly amusing. The classmates are hilarious and I didn't expect these genuinely funny moments. The shots of dilapidated American houses surrounded by trees draped with Spanish moss really set the scene too.

The second was closer to the film depicted in the trailer, although it wasn't different on the level seen in Looper. It was a subtle shift.

7/10

Broken City

I went for the free cinema ticket which nevertheless got me a nice balcony seat where I sat drinking an excellent wet mocha latte. That wasn't free though.

This one stars Russell Crowe as a mayor and Mark Wahlberg as a disgraced cop. The cop discovers that everyone in politics is corrupt and he's living in a... Broken City.

To be fair, this is exactly the film you expect. There were some reasonable tilts and the city was shown in atmospheric detail. I think the director has some promise.

6/10

Cloud Atlas

Loved this. Love love loved it.

I can't even begin to tell you what it's about without going into all the Themes about passing down your life story. There's sci-fi, gentle British comedy, seventies conspiracy thriller, tragic gay love... It fits. It does. Everything is connected.

In some ways, it's almost as difficult to follow as advertised. Almost. I'm happy to say that --like Inception -- I got it all in the first viewing. Unlike Inception, I have no doubt that another viewing would make things even clearer.

A few minutes into the end credits, you'll get a visual cast list. You'll definitely want it.

As an aside, I was talking about this film to a customer, and we got onto the subject of books. He said it was his favourite. Half an hour later, he came back with a copy for me! Couldn't believe it. What a perfect way to get the book, in a passing down of stories from one person to another.

Yes, I'm seeing it again.

10/10

Django Unchained

I came out of this fully-charged for a simple reason. It's a story about a man who wants revenge and, after a few obstacles, he gets his revenge.

Quentin Tarantino always makes strong choices when directing, whether it's the music or the onscreen captions, so it's easy to pick out exactly what I didn't like and what I loved. I didn't like the sudden rap music, but it was always exciting and with excellent cinematography. I suspect that Inglourious Basterds was a better-made film, but I preferred this one.

10/10

A Good Day To Die Hard

Differing expectations made me like this more than Wreck-It Ralph. While critics have generally panned it, the consensus from people coming out of the cinema (and not necessarily then sharing their views online) was that it "wasn't the best Die Hard and it wasn't the worst" although "the bit with the radiation was a bit silly".

The final set of explosions were quite spectacular. I could even overlook the setting (Chernobyl).

6/10

Hitchcock

I don't think this film paints Hitchcock in as brilliant a light as critics have claimed. Sure, if you view his paranoia and spying on his stars as acceptable, even with the clear insinuation that it has got more manageable and it's been much worse, then you might come out of it thinking that the film condones this behaviour. Apparently we need creepy music and mood music to show that it's not okay. Not to mention that the film isn't about Hitchcock so much as a dramatisation of the making of Psycho.

The script is snappy and the opening scene was excellent. The bits with Gein were unnecessary though, and I would be curious if that aspect was based on any research. I would also like to know what happened between Psycho and The Birds. He clearly got worse again.

8/10

Les Miserables

Beautiful sets and beautiful costumes, yet the director sees fit to focus on lopsided close-ups of his stars throughout? So irritating. I can remember this one shot of Hugh Jackman. His chin extended below the screen and there was a big gap for a grey area above his hair. It's like no one could be bothered to compose any of the shots. Like they just shrugged and said, "Eh, it's Hugh Jackman singing. Good enough." Or maybe they were trying to recreate a slightly obscured view at the theatre?

Despite this, what we do see and hear when not subjected to poorly framed close-ups is mostly excellent. My favourites were the innkeepers.

8/10

Lincoln

Such a contrast to Les Mis. Spielberg really knows his lighting and frame composition. Everything feels like a painting with all the lights and darks carefully picked out.

It wasn't just beautiful, but gently charming and witty. It kind of fell apart after the assassination (spoiler?) as it kept going on, but that was one of its few flaws. The bit where the votes are counted is inexplicably tense.

9/10

Oz, The Great and Powerful

Oz was fun, but the ideas the film focused on were not the most interesting bits. For me, that was Oz's life as a circus magician before the tornado hit.

One of my favourite characters was the Wicked Witch, Oz, The Great and Powerful Spoilers... )

On a more technical note, the film copies the over-bright, Technicolor-style of the first Wizard of Oz film, probably to avoid the usual 'too dark' 3D problem. And yeah, the 3D version is the essential one. One of the things that the film is in love with is the Oz scenery. Sometimes it's with good reason.

8/10

Warm Bodies

Warm Bodies, depending on who you ask, is either an antidote to Twilight or aimed squarely at its audience. A girl falls in love with a zombie after he takes her back to his airplane hangout. He loves her because he ate her ex-boyfriend's brains.

If you couldn't tell, it's definitely not "Twilight with zombies" as some suggest. It's a funny, low-budget comedy-horror that has its feet firmly in the eighties.

7/10

Wreck-It Ralph

All these characters are stereotypes. That's the point. The humour isn't character-driven or anything, it's based on seeing Pacman in the background.

You know what? Everyone knows Pacman these days. It's hardly esoteric.

So we have the main plotline for the kids, with adults' content being the older video game characters in the background. Fine. The kids seem to like it. I thought that Rise of the Guardians was much better for both audiences though.

For what it's worth, everyone I know rabidly disagrees with me on this. And AKB48 was a nice surprise(!). Ah, Japan. It's been a while...

5/10
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Johannes Cabal Cabal Fanart
Johannes Cabal Cabal with Pokemon Fanart
Johannes Cabal Cabal Fanart
Movies: Star Trek: Into Darkness [Video]
Movies: Cats on Film Reviews of movies with cats in them.
Words: Word of the Year 2012

There seems to be a small but devoted JC fanbase on Tumblr, so I decided to get myself one -- GeistWorks.

In other news, I'm finally up to date on Castle. The recent Halloween episode at the convention was superb.

Books:

I decided to actively read the Dresden Files in order to catch up to the very latest book, Cold Days. I'm slowly working my way through Ghost Story right now which is harder to read because my second favourite character hasn't turned up yet, and probably won't.

Anyway, here are my reviews for all the books I've read in the past month and a bit in the order I read them:

Johannes Cabal: The Detective, Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute, M.R. James: The Haunted Dolls' House and Other Ghost Stories, Volume 2, Dexter: Darkly Dreaming Dexter, Dresden Files: Grave Peril #3, Dresden Files: Summer Knight #4, Dresden Files: Blood Rites #6, Dresden Files: Dead Beat #7, Dresden Files: Turn Coat #11, Dresden Files: Changes #12, and Roberts: The Dragon With The Girl Tattoo.

Film:

I went to see Skyfall and Argo recently. I imagine that you've already seen Skyfall if you were planning on it. All I have to say is that 1) I liked Q, but I don't ship him with Bond and 2) I felt a little inadequate with Bond going "Omigod, I can only do ten pull-ups and fifty push-ups *sob*."

Argo was really good. Surprising, considering Ben Affleck directed and starred in it. I was already interested in the basic premise, but I was impressed by how taut the final scenes were.

Next: The Hobbit.

Life:

I performed impro at a theatre in front of a paying audience a few weeks ago. Felt good to be back. I'm also close to finishing a novel I've been working on and I don't think it's too bad, for once.

I hope everyone's okay and safe, particularly with things like Sandy hitting the US.
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Anime: Moonphase Not quite sure why I didn't do this years ago, but I tracked down the new Moonphase. I guess I really haven't been paying much attention to anime lately.
Anime: K [Anime] Another ungoogleable anime, starring Namikawa Daisuke, Ono Daisuke, Tsuda Kenjirou, Sugita Tomokazu, Sakurai Takahiro, Fukuyama Jun and Miyano Mamoru. Just started airing.
Anime: Psycho-Pass [Anime] Homophone for 'psychopath' in Japanese. Stars Seki Tomokazu, Nojima Kenji, Ishida Akira and Sakurai Takahiro. Just started airing.
Anime: Zetsuen no Tempest Stars Toyonaga Toshiyuki, Suwabe Jun'ichi and Yoshino Hiroyuki. Just started airing.
Books: Johannes Cabal: The House of Gears On a massive Johannes Cabal kick lately. Here's a free, legal short story featuring him.
Books: How To Introduce Johannes Cabal Into Your D&D Module
Book Reviews: Flashman, Detroit Metal City #1 and Johannes Cabal: The Necromancer.

In the last three months, aside from Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning, I've seen three films in the cinema and all of them have been dystopian sci-fi. So in order of release/viewing and in reverse order of how well I remember them:

Total Recall

Did I really not review this one here? I know I posted about it on Twitter, Facebook and Absolute Write.

Anyway I loved the aesthetics of this. It's a beautiful, grimy, sci-fi landscape that seemed like it could be an updated version of Blade Runner. I must admit, I spent a lot of time playing 'spot the kanji in the background'. Visually stunning, and probably the best of the three.

Dredd 3D

Based on the trailers, this looked a little like Blade Runner too with beautifully ethereal slow-motion shots. Those were taken from brief moments in the film where people take a drug that's very similar to Brass Eye's Cake, and the rest of the film is massively gory. Massively, massively gory. But pretty good for what it is. If you can stomach it, you'll love this.

Looper

I still don't know how I feel about this one. Every time someone says how wonderful it was, I can't help but nod at all the things they point out, but overall I didn't feel it. At its core, it's a thoughtful, intelligent movie about time travel that takes itself seriously, but the whole time travel mechanism is broken. Oops.

(Also, it turns into a new movie about half-way through and every female character is literally a mother or a whore. Most of those praising it consider the first point a plus and don't notice the second.)

Next up: Skyfall.
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I went to the gym the other day and took advantage of a special deal that gets me a free one-off session with a personal trainer. We did various strength-training exercise and he listened to what I wanted to do regarding muscle-building. I won't be able to afford weekly sessions for another three months, but that would be something worth doing in the future, I think.

On the job front, the good news is that I passed a preliminary telephone interview. The bad news is that the job doesn't exist (yet).

I saw both Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises in the cinema the other day. I enjoyed them both, probably equally. Yeah, I know. One thing I was disappointed in with TDKR is that they included two key scenes from the movie in the trailer. I knew what would happen as soon as I saw the football pitch. Why would you do that?

And, of course, there was the Olympics Opening Ceremony. I'd been sceptical about it, and it didn't start off very well, with the camera meandering up the River Thames and disturbing twee little animals. But then it started for real and it was stunning and engaging from start to finish, celebrating things that really are unique and worthwhile about Britain. No, not the rain, that's just what we tell everyone else. :)

Unfortunately, Americans didn't get to see it because the media told them they wouldn't understand it without editing, ads, and a Michael Phelps interview inserted, which meant that indeed many of them didn't get it because it was edited, had ads added, and had a Michael Phelps interview inserted. The quote of the day seems to be: "Our programming is tailored for the U.S. audience. It’s a tribute to [producer] Danny Boyle that it required so little editing."

On Saturday, I got to see The Crüxshadows live in London! They were amazing! They sung one of my favourite songs ever, Winterborn, and I got to talk to Rogue and he said it was his favourite too. Maybe he says that to everyone, regardless of their favourite song, but he signed a photograph of the band and then hugged me. Definitely one of my favourite bands.

We got to hear Sleepless, which will be on their next album (As The Dark Against My Halo), which was awesome too.

Finally, since J and I were in London, we went to London Zoo. There are forty photographs behind the cut, divided into rough groups so you don't have to look at snakes and bugs if you don't want to.

Regent's Park (4) and birds (3). )

Lizards (7) and a tortoise (1). )

A snake (1). )

A giraffe (3) and some monkeys (2). )

Butterflies (4). )

A caterpillar (1) and a locust (1). )

Pelicans (1), servals (2) and a llama (1). )

Underwater worlds, mostly coral and clams (9). )
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Links:

Comics:
Alan Scott (Pre-Reboot as a Gay Superhero) Goes To A Gay Bar
Comics: Northstar's Gay Wedding
Photography: Reach For The Star
Space: Compilation of the Best Photos of Venus Transiting the Sun Venus Transit would be an awesome name for a band.
Tech: Naming The iMac
Webcomics: SMBC: Stand-off ...Whoa.
Weiss Side B: [personal profile] fishlove is doing an awesome series of comics in MSPaint summarising Weiss Side B. Cover // Summary // Back In Time // End Of Volume Two // Let's Stop This Fight To Talk About My Feelings // Around The World End Of Volume Three

It was only last week that I finished reading "Something Wicked This Way Comes" by Ray Bradbury, who recently passed away. It was a beautiful poetic book about an evil carnival that had some breath-taking turns of phrase in it. I thought the "solution" at the end was a bit trite, but the rest makes up for it. Thoroughly recommended.

I'm now in Oxfordshire. With the influence of the Jubilee, most towns have gone somewhat Wicker Man and this place is no exception. You'll be walking along and there'll be Morris dancers and three-legged races and the whole street surrounding the church will be strewn with bunting. Street parties are mandatory because we have to be ordered to sit down with our neighbours and have a party. For Queen and Country, you know.

We're now living in a 200 year old listed building with a thatched roof in small village that requires that you pay a toll of 5p (8 cents/6 yen) to cross the bridge in a car to reach it. Buses and trucks cost extra, sometimes as much as 10p.

I went to see Prometheus a few days ago. It really is an epic story, with one of the most horrific scenes I've seen in film. It's rated 15, because they don't swear. Probably one of the biggest questions is how much of a connection there is to the Alien franchise. Answer Behind The Cut. Prometheus Spoilers, obviously. )
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Batman: Police Stop Batmobile
Doctor Who: Photo of The Doctor's New Companion
US Comics: Alleged Poster For The New Wolverine Film ...Set in Japan.
Movies: James Cameron Goes To The Bottom Of The Mariana Trench... And Tweets From It
Movies: Total Recall teaser trailer I've never seen the original movie, but I played the Amiga 500 game. True story.

I need to get back to filling out more applications, but there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. Not much more to say there, really, except a character in my new story has started job-hunting too. That's always a bad sign.

Fight Club was on TV the other night, and is still one of my favourites. Even so, I loved the book even more. It's so quotable, with a ton of great lines.

Here are some of my favourites, in roughly alphabetical order:

Akira (Nagi's seiyuu plays and out-of-control telekinete in this. COINCIDENCE??)
Blade Runner: The Director's Cut
A Clockwork Orange
Fight Club
The Good, The Bad, The Weird
Inception
Mayonaka no Yajisan Kitasan
The Ninth Gate
Pi
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Shichinin no Samurai
Speed Racer (Seriously!)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tonari no Totoro
Trainspotting
The Usual Suspects

For the record, the worst film I have ever seen is Transformers 3. And this is coming from someone who saw North in the cinema.

Sleep now.
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???:
Otters Who Look Like Benedict Cumberbatch (Thanks, [personal profile] golden_bastet)
Fashion: Steampunk Plague Doctor
LGBT: Lambda (LGBT) Literary Award Finalists Announced There's one book in both the trans* category and the SFF category. Well. This is Relevant To My Interests. However, I read the synopsis (here or here) and it sounds bad. Basically: Damon loves his girlfriend Alex. What he doesn't know is that she is actually a shapeshifter capable of changing her physical sex at will. Her parents implant a device that makes her permanently male, the gender which they view her as. Alex is distraught, but she'd better get used to it, as there's going to be a whole lot of angsty buttsex as poor Damon comes to terms with loving... a man! Having said that, due to the whole nature of the awards, I presume at least one trans* person on the committee has read it and felt that it spoke to them in some way.
Movies: In Michael Bay's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Will Be Aliens

I went into London on Wednesday (another interview) and headed to the National Gallery beforehand and the National Portrait Gallery after.

I'll hear back about the job on Monday, which starts the following day. If I get it (unlikely...), that will mean an emergency relocation to London. It'd be brilliant if I did though.

My writing is getting back on track and I've started outlining a new full-length story, although what I'm reading tends to influence the voice a lot. I just finished "Storm Front" by Jim Butcher, and that's more deadpan than what I was going for originally.

Napoleon Dynamite was on TV last night, so J and I stayed up late watching it and eating homemade Black Forest gateau cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. I'd never seen the film before, couldn't remember what I'd heard it was about, and the first fifteen minutes didn't help much. Probably I'd filed it in the back of my mind solely due to its status as a cult movie. Anyway, once I got into it, I liked it quite a bit, although it'll never make my top ten. There's a clever bit where they're at the prom watching everyone else dance to "Forever Young" though.
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Card Gaming:
Vanguard Gets Live Action Ahh, this takes me back to playing Friday Night Magic in Kichijouji, surrounded by posters for this CCG.
Film: Benedict Cumberbatch Vs. Zachary Quinto in Star Trek [Spoilers?]
Magic: Teller Reveals His Secrets
Pop: Adam Lambert On Some Magazine Bow ties are cool.
Random: The Simpsons Do Game of Thrones Quick, before Fox takes it down. This looks amazing. (via [personal profile] daegaer)
Random: Five Hundred New Fairy Tales Discovered in Germany ([personal profile] daegaer again)

I'm heading to my first Squeefest this summer, job permitting. I've already put forward the idea of running an improv workshop, so I hope that gets approved.

I watched Inglourious Basterds and The Machinist, both of which were shown on TV the other night. I liked Basterds and it felt like I was watching a well-directed, stylish movie with each frame having been carefully planned. You might say "Oh, but of course -- it's a Quentin Tarantino," but you should be able to say that about ANY director filming a Hollywood movie and you can't. The script was snappy from the start, with nothing stated too directly. Any problems I had with it came down to who I wanted to survive and didn't.

I was eager to see The Machinist as it's one of those films that people often recommend if you like other specific movies (such as Fight Club). Well, this is not Fight Club, although it does screw around by looking at things from the protagonist's perspective. I actually liked the way I could guess what was going on through well-placed clues unlike, say, Mulholland Drive. It needed a Werewolf Break though.

Also on TV was The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff. I'm not sure how many episodes it's supposed to run for -- the official website describes it both as a four part series and says the last episode was third of three. I loved the setting and concept (comedic Dickens pastiche), although the comedy is a little hit and miss.

I was in an advert break when a trailer for a show came on that seemed to be taking the success of Sherlock and trying to tap into it. There was this brilliant-but-abrasive private detective and his long-suffering partner trying to solve a case. I wasn't very sure about it at first -- I want to see more programmes like Sherlock, but only if it's not completely bleeding obvious what they're doing -- then I saw the title. Dirk Gently. That is, the character created by Douglas Adams. Well.... that's more excusable, right?

Based on the first episode (they filmed a pilot over a year ago -- I didn't see it), I am cautiously optimistic. I'd be far more positive if I'd never seen Sherlock. But I do like it very much. Watch it if you can.
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Links:

Earthquake: 6757 Aftershocks In Japan Since 3/11 The Japan Quake Map will give you more info, should you require it.
My Little Pony: NYTimes Correction And The Story Behind It
Tokyo: First Yamanote Line Station In Forty Years To Be Built [Japanese] It will be between Tamachi and Shinagawa.
UK: Leeds Guide

Here are some reviews of various media I've seen lately.

All of the new Doctor Who

I'm finally up-to-date with Doctor Who -- I figured I should be before I got back to the UK.

Anyway, I liked it (although I prefer the Russell T Davies seasons) and I guess the eleventh doctor isn't so bad, although David Tennant is my preferred doctor of the recent three.

Doctor Who observations, mainly spoilers )

First four or so episodes of Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei.

This is really patchy. Sometimes funny, sometimes horrible and predictable. Love the anime style though. I don't know if I'll keep watching this, what with My Little Pony and Sherlock currently airing.

Speaking of which...

First episode of Sherlock 2012

I don't like this as much as the previous Sherlock series, but I don't know why. Maybe it's because it doesn't have as much interaction between Sherlock and Watson? I still liked it though.

Tintin

There was a curious mixture of ultra-realism and complete bullshittery. Tintin spoilers )

I'm now applying for jobs in Britain. Does anyone have an address they could lend me as I don't have a flat yet? You'll almost certainly never get anything in the post, but I can't put my Tokyo address on there. Thanks if you can help.

Finally, I think I might need a new mod or co-mod for Weiss Day. It's almost certain I will get a flat and internet as soon as I arrive in Britain, but... maybe not, you know? Let me know.
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Computer Science:
Alan Turing Gets A Stamp
Japan: Red Team Wins Annual NHK Kouhaku Song Contest Sounds amazingly exploitative, but I didn't watch it.
Photography: Empty London on Christmas Day

Since doing the 2011 meme last post, I remembered where I celebrated the new year -- I was at an all-night goth event and afterwards walked across the Rainbow Bridge to take pictures of the first dawn of the year (also known as "hatsu-hinode"). I should also have added "Sayonara no Natsu" to the very short list of songs that remind me of last year. It's the theme from the 2011 Ghibli movie, which means I heard it everywhere and it has a sense of wistfulness that characterises most of their movies.

This year, I went to the last day of Winter Comiket with J, took in an all-you-can-eat buffet at American Oven in Odaiba, then headed to TOHO Cinemas in Fuchuu for a showing of Tintin. By then, it was 11pm and we headed to a nearby shrine (Ookunitama, which just so happens to be one of the biggest in Tokyo) for the first shrine visit of the year (also know as "hatsu-moude").

Afterwards, we got our fortunes for the year. You shake a wooden box, and out comes a wooden stick with a number on it. You tell the shrine maidens your number, pay 100 yen and get your fortune. Mine was dai-kichi, the highest level of good fortune. As we left, we could hear groups of people screaming in delight as some of them, too, got the same fortune.

We were back at 2pm, in time for the first dream of the year ("hatsu-yume"), but J demanded that such a thing as 'hatsu-neko' exist. Well...

Hatsu-bato (初鳩) First pigeon
Hatsu-buro (初風呂) First bath
Hatsu-fuji (初富士) First Mt. Fuji
Hatsu-gama (初釜) First tea ceremony
Hatsu-geshiki (初景色) First scenery
Hatsu-hana (初花) First flower
Hatsu-ichi (初市) First market
Hatsu-kaze (初風) First breeze (...in Autumn)
Hatsu-koe (初声) First animal sound
Hatsu-sugata (初姿) First kimono
Hatsi-tori (初鶏) First cock-crowing
Hatsu-uri (初売り) First sales/business
Hatsu-yu (初湯) First bath
Hatsu-zora (初空) First skies

Soon after that we had 'hatsu-jishin', or the first earthquake of the new year. While it didn't cause any damage, it went on for ages and threatened to get worse about half-way through. It didn't, of course, but it did turn out to be a 7.0. No tsunami.

And then I went off to my friends' pizza party after buying a fukubukuro ("lucky dip bag") of Magic: The Gathering stuff. I'll spare you the details.

Anyway, off to watch the new Sherlock.
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2011:
The Time Person of the Year: The Protestor
2011: Filmography 2011 [Video]
Architecture: Despite Complaints, 'The Cloud' Will Be Built
Art: Hotel Chain Challenges Guests to Steal Artwork
Art: Banksy: Cardinal Sin
Explosions: Daytime Fireworks in Qatar [Video]
Facebook: Reasons We Friend/Defriend People on Facebook
Livejournal: Livejournal Changes
Weiss Kreuz: Weiss Kreuz Drabble Exchange

The new Kanji of the Year (2011) was announced a few weeks ago, just as I mentioned. I previously said that discussion on it was moot because they'd choose 'kizuna' for sure. They did, of course, choose 'kizuna'. Here's an article describing why. They also noted that the two kanji I said they had already "used up" came in second and third.

I've been busy performing and attending workshops these past two weeks.

Theatresports, Shinjuku (December 10th, Saturday)

An improv format where teams 'compete' to spontaneously produce the best type of scene. In this case, they received suggestions from the audience, which were written on little sheets of paper before the show. I was a little disappointed by this, because I was the only audience member not given a pencil, and also the only (visible?) foreigner in attendance. Coincidence...? Anyway, while I was a little sceptical about letting an elementary school group compete against three adult groups, their final scene (helped along by one of the adult groups) was spectacular.

Impro Comedy Workshop (December 13th, Tuesday)

The workshop was listed amongst the English events of the "International Improv Festival" and headed by a teacher from the States, but I found out just a couple of days beforehand it was aimed at Japanese speakers only! I eventually decided I wanted to go despite all this and ended up having a great time. Yes, I had to improvise in Japanese, but since I was getting all the instructions directly in English (which was then translated into Japanese for everyone else), it wasn't as hard as I thought it might be.

Theatresports Student Showcase (December 14th, Wednesday)

This also used the Theatresports format. I headed up the Lesser Pandas, which is the Japanese name for the red panda, although it's also used in English. A little. Being the team leader meant that I spent a lot of time talking to the audience from the stage, getting suggestions, and facing down R who was captain of the other side. We have a great chemistry together because we're basically anime-style rivals. So we had a good time hurling comedic insults at each other, which went down rather well.

For our final scene, we challenged the other team to the best scene encapsulating "courage". I went out in front of the audience and I asked for the name of something that they really wanted. We got the answer "cake" and the scene featured a waiter with sexy hands, a birthday cake and a proposal. Our team won!

Friday Night Magic  (December 16th, Friday)

Card-gaming. I won my first match and lost my next two. I would have won my third if it wasn't for the bizarre way I just kept drawing land and no creatures. Will tweak the deck and return next (this) week.

Trance Masks Workshop (December 17th, Saturday)

I'm not sure how to even begin to explain this. It was run by a famous Japanese improviser -- he literally wrote the book on it (in Japanese). He had a collection of about 16 half-masks made using techniques he learned from a Noh craftsman.

First, you choose one that appeals to you and put it on. He shows you your own face in the mirror and tells you to change your mouth shape to match the mask. You then have to respond by making an 'emotional sound' as loud as possible, while he mirrors your sound to encourage you. He then sets your new character free to interact with other characters in the same sort of "trance" and a whole table full of silly toys from the 100 yen shop.

Well... I'm glad I tried it once. It was interesting, but I probably won't do it again.

Bounenkai (December 17th, Saturday)

Later that day, I went to an end-of-year party in Shibuya. First though, I went round the 109 Tower for the first time(!). I figured I should do it once, right?

Anyway, the party was held in a karaoke-kan and mostly attended by improvisers and stand-ups, which a) made it a lot of fun and b) meant the alcohol flowed freely. Seriously, we were a group of only ten (grew to about 15...) and yet when we arrived they gave us four or five bottles of soda, two large bottles of Suntory whisky and a round of beers!

I vaguely remember singing Velvet Underworld and not being very good at it. I don't think it gets much drunker than that.

I remember standing outside the karaoke-kan and giving these guys riding bikes that were more Akira than Akira the thumbs up. They were returned, of course. 

Pirates of Tokyo Bay (December 18th, Sunday)

I went to see my friends' improv show on Sunday night. It was held at What The Dickens, which is a great British pub in Ebisu. Very difficult to find though! Luckily W called out to me as I passed some of the performers while going in completely the wrong direction.

It also doubled as J's leaving party and a bunch of us from the Other improv group were there too.

And! [profile] kurayamihimitsu and friends were there. Probably the last time I'll see her, but who knows? I hope that isn't the case.

Stand up (December 20th, Tuesday)

I went to the Tokyo Comedy Store Open Mike Night and did a set. Does it matter if it was good or bad? I got up there and did it!

As it happened, I got plenty of laughs and they were with me, not at me. The organiser said 'well done,' and he doesn't say that often. Of course, it'll be long time before I can get to another open mike night.

I went to see Genji Monogatari the other day. It's a very beautiful film, with literally every screencap a perfect picture. The screenplay though? Terrible. It starts with Genji (the hero of the story) getting kind of rapey with Murasaki (the writer of the story) in a beautifully lit, flower-filled forest. Abe no Seimei shows up and summons a few shikigami later. Complete nonsense. But very, very beautiful.

And, for what it's worth, I attended WWE Raw World Tour in Yokohama Area on December 1st, something I completely forgot to mention several posts ago. To my surprise, William Regal was added to the line-up. He's one of my favourites.

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