I woke up in a strange place

By Marc Heiden, since 1997.
See also: a novel about a monkey.

July 24, 2006

Oh my! Why is your web browser so excited? Well, probably because it's time for another edition of...

Pepsi Red


In light of the overwhelming love of all humanity for Pepsi Blue, that fine carbonated beverage which has now replaced water in most faucets across the world, it seems only natural to introduce Pepsi Red. Or it did, about a month ago. According to reports, "Contents of "Pepsi red" are "Strange balance for the stimulation of the carbonic acid only of the spice flavor and cola to exceed. "Moreover, it is a feature that the impact is large because of red impressive the beverage of contents."

American beverage companies have an odd habit of test-marketing new soft drinks here. It doesn't make a lot of sense - Japanese people don't like soda very much. You can find Coke almost anywhere, and any bar or restaurant will be perfectly happy to serve you "cola" and charge you the same price as they would for "biru", but there isn't really any room for anything else. If Suntory has an extra space in one of their Suntory Boss vending machines - e.g. no new flavors of canned coffee this month - they might have a can of Pepsi Twist available, although "lemon" means something different to Japanese people than it does to everyone else. I see Melon Fanta in certain convenience stores as well, and there are a few generic bubble-gum flavored sodas. But that's about it. So why would you treat Japan as a representative sample population for a prospective American launch? When I lived in Osaka, Vanilla Coke was beating a slow, shameful retreat from vending machines in advance of its upcoming failure in the American market. The version of Coke that was supposed to bring joy back into the bloated hearts of all those Atkins fuckers debuted with a gigantic advertising campaign and thoroughly embarassed its ancestors back in summer 2004 shortly before doing the exact same thing in the USA. (I should ask someone if they tried Coke Blak here before I arrived.) So I don't know if Pepsi Red will ever make it to to the US. It's already gone from stores and nobody liked it except for me and one of the Canadians, so it was hardly much of a financial success, but that hasn't stopped them before.

Yes: I liked it. It was kind of weird, but it retained the better characteristics of a caramel-based soda while incorporating a cinnamon taste that was enough to stimulate the taste buds without being too strong. At least I think it was cinnamon. Someone else thought it was ginger. According to another source, "I hear that Suntory Limited newly puts "Pepsi red" on the market, this power is accelerated, and the activation of the carbonic acid market was attempted this time. Do you feel a still pungent sharp taste until guessing from the image of red though "Cola of the spice flavor" cannot imagine very much?"

So that's something that should be considered as well. Speaking of things that are beyond imagination:

Unbelievably Painful Doritos


I've mentioned odd packaging decisions by Doritos Japan before, but this is really something special. As anyone who has taken a marketing class will tell you, the conventional approach would be to disassociate your brand from the sensation of having your nuts squashed by a strange man in an orange bodysuit, let alone a strange man in an orange bodysuit who has grabbed your ankles for extra leverage while squashing your nuts. But Doritos Japan is not bound by the tired old conventional wisdom that the promise of excruciating pain is not a selling point, or that sadomasochist latex enthusiasts do not represent a large enough target market for a major product launch.

According to the back of the bag, these fellows have a blog, where you can see the guy in the orange suit fantasize about naked women while he tries to work, and you can also see the guy in the yellow suit hover indecisively over conveyor belts of food. (Sex, presumably, is no longer much of an issue for him.)

July 13, 2006

I made it rain in my apartment! This is my greatest achievement yet. As you can imagine, being in Japan and all, I live in fairly small quarters. Last night, I left the air conditioner on at a shamelessly cold temperature. I meant to turn it off, but I didn't remember until I was already in bed, warm in my blanket, and I wasn't about to sell out my sleepy contentment by standing up. I had the fan going all night, too. In the morning, I opened my balcony door to check the conditions outside: hot and humid as fuck, actually. I pondered the outdoors for a few seconds and then closed the door. Then I turned up the a/c, which hangs over the balcony door, with the fan a few feet away, blowing in the direction of both the hot air and the cold air. A few seconds later, a few drops of rain fell on me. Obviously, I have become some kind of weather god. This is a remarkable development. I will accept requests for use of my powers from desert nations of good, upstanding character. My rates are reasonable. All proceeds will be used for research and development, specifically:

And they're all coming to Pyongyang with me. Oh, yes. Increases the number of Canadian passports I need, but every one will be worth it.

So, as I mentioned a few entries ago, the school has been doing a lot of advertising lately. Yesterday, one of the staff asked if I would mind chatting with a student while being photographed. I said fine, because I was in a cooperative mood. She showed me pictures of some of the poses and hand gestures that they would like, and said that I should talk about summer. Out in the area set aside for the photo shoot, there was a pleasant looking Japanese guy I'd never met before. I sat down, introduced myself, and started the conversation about summer. He mentioned swimming, so we talked a little about beaches, and that led to barbecue, so we talked about various foods you can barbecue for a while, and then we went back to beaches until the photographer had everything she needed. They seemed pleased with the results. Later, though, I discovered that a transcript of the conversation was going to be included with the photos, in Japanese and English, and because the person doing the transcription did not speak much English, it went something like this:

MASAHIRO: Often I am my friends swimming! It is Yamaguchi Prefecture. Also we eat the food.
TEACHER: Do you BBQ like it?
MASAHIRO: Yes I am many kinds of meats like.
TEACHER: I like!

So I begged them to let me do a quick touch-up on the transcript. There wasn't much I could do other than a rough fix on the grammar, unfortunately. The structure of the conversation, as understood by the transcriptionist, really turned on my passionate love and praise for hamburgers and giant sausages. They pretty much have me exhorting every man, woman and child in Japan to eat a giant sausage in the summer. (Which, as long-time readers know, is exactly the sort of thing I do. It's my own unique spin on being a vegetarian.) I didn't even get to see the whole transcript. I bet they have me totally renouncing every method of eating corn other than with soy sauce, because that came up, too.

This, by the way, is part of a recent ad:

My very own Mr. Sparkle moment

Why is my disembodied head floating next to a koala?!?! Why are the advertising departments at these schools never, ever on speaking terms with the education departments?

July 11, 2006

The world is tense. North Korea has vowed further missile launches and is waiting for an excuse to go to war. South Korea is terrified. The United States is not even trying to pretend it has a plan. Japan is ready to open up its army for the first time since its constitution was written, and you know Japan is aware of what will happen to the army's value once it's out of the original packaging. Suddenly, everyone is looking to China, the original panda sex fiends, to be the voice of reason. Canadians, I ask you: how do you sleep, knowing that I could take care of this whole thing by myself with just one of your passports? For the infinitesimal price of a single Canadian passport, I could go to Pyongyang and bring the world back from the brink of nuclear annihilation without a singe bullet. For the slightly less infinitesimal price of a second Canadian passport, I could have a friend to talk to on the plane. Canadians, wouldn't you like to look in the mirror each morning and say, "I did my part for world peace, eh." Do you seriously think that, in the event of war, you can just go camp out in the Northern Territories until the fighting is over? Have none of you played Risk? Kim Jong Il knows that you don't get the five bonus armies until you've got the entire continent. Kim also knows that no amount of his verbal bluster can prevent my awesome rhetorical power from reducing him to a pathetic, whimpering mass of wrinkled flesh in mere seconds. Kim, we both know that sooner or later one of these Canadians is going to cave, and then I am going to make you cry.


I'm so tired.
I've been doing it all by myself for so long.
I don't know how much more I can give.
Don't pretend you didn't forget you were cooking something.
Only the sound of that weird cheese sauce splattering on the walls made you remember.

Readers who would like to express a preference as to whether the drinking glass or the toaster oven will go next are welcomed to do so. All of them will have their say, eventually.

(For Syd.)

July 7, 2006

I should cover a couple of things before I move on to the main story. First of all, a quick note about the repair of seemingly defective fourth generation iPods: it may not be so hard as you think. Mine was about ten months old when it began to crap out on me. It wasn't a battery issue; the hard drive seized up every four or five songs and required a manual reboot to work again. The problem grew worse until, finally, it wouldn't boot up at all. It would grind, click, whirr and show a sad iPod icon. I can't remember exactly what the reasoning was behind my decision to throw it against the wall, but that did the trick, temporarily at least. For a few days, it was back to the four-songs-then-crash situation, which was better than no songs at all. I settled into a pleasant routine of throwing the iPod against the wall every once in a while, and things were working out more or less all right, but then Rob passed along a blog post that suggested the problem might be solved once and for all by re-seating the hard drive cable. At that point I was sort of looking for an excuse to buy a new iPod (with a larger hard drive, yum), so I took a screwdriver, cracked open the case and took the iPod apart. Re-seating the cable was actually quite easy - in my case, it was only a matter of massaging the various bits of adhesive and blowing away the dust, NES-style. No high-techery at all. I put the case back on and the iPod has worked perfectly ever since.

Apple's repair charges and the drive towards spiffy new versions of the device have created the impression that one is better off replacing an aged iPod rather than repairing it, but that's not necessarily the case, and I say this not so much to you as I do to frustrated web searchers in the weeks and months to come.

Hey, pop culture, tilt your head back - I'm sending panda sex-bombs with love:

Panda in the romance section

The panda's reading material has been restricted to Harlequin romances. Leave him alone! He'll reproduce when he's ready. I have it on good authority that this panda was having a perfectly nice afternoon among the tech manuals before they dragged him over here. These romance novels are so thin, printed on such cheap, pulp-y stock; hardly a match for a thick, delicious tech manual. Oh! Yum.

And now, on to the news:

(news) North Korea set off an international furor on Wednesday when it tested seven missiles, all of which landed into the Sea of Japan without causing any damage. The blasts apparently included a long-range Taepodong-2 that broke up less than a minute after takeoff and splashed into the sea.

What nobody seems to understand - even though this shit is, frankly, basic - is that those missile launches were not tests. Kim Jong Il is at war with fish. That little bitch sincerely believes that defeating fish will intimidate observers worldwide. There are more fish than people, and purely by numbers alone, he reasons, a victory over fish is impressive, and racks up his win total; also, he accuses fish of collaborating on sushi and sashimi with Japan, which he hates. When it became obvious that the Western media was not going to run casualty numbers for the fish, the desperate little men in the DPRK press office decided to start spinning the attacks as missile tests.

Unfortunately, John Bolton, who has been objectively measured as not knowing shit, is in charge of the diplomatic response from the United States. Bolton has failed both in bringing about an effective, useful consensus from the U.N. Security Council and in showing any awareness that Kim Jong Il's mother vomited the first time she laid eyes on her infant son. Bolton is dangerously incompetent, much to the same extent that Kim Jong Il is desperately incontinent.

Elect this man

I think I'll run that photo every time I really zing someone. That fist pump says it all to me. I should find out if that guy actually got elected. I can't see why he wouldn't.

It's been said that, to be fair, I need to lay out a set of conditions under which I will stop making Kim Jong Il cry. At first, I was reluctant to do this, but then I realized that if I can't set aside my rage, I am no better than he is. Actually, that's not completely true. As long as I am not a freakish half-man who had a puppy and a kitten until they formed a united front against him and committed suicide Romeo and Juliet-style rather than spend another minute in his presence, I am way better than he is, and so is everyone in the world. But rhetorically, I would be no better than he is. Except that even though Kim Jong Il had all of the other contestants put to death and installed his cronies as judges for his school spelling bee, he still came in second to a ham sandwich. So I'm way better than he is rhetorically.

Okay! Peace terms. If Kim Jong Il allows the media into his palace, provides an accurate accounting of how many adult diapers he goes through per day, resigns as dictator, leaves North Korea and gets a job as a school janitor in Nebraska, I will let up on his bitch ass upon confirmation of his first employee of the month award. If the Nebraska school system does not hand out employee of the month awards, then too fucking bad, Kim. Keep scrubbing until they do. Right now, he's getting ready to submit a counter-proposal whereby he resigns, moves to Thailand and gets a job wiping the upholstery in the pleasure booths at the Bangkok chick-boy shows. But I will not accept his counter-proposal, because I know he would be really into that.

Yeah, Kim, you know how this ends. I will always win.

I woke up in a strange place is the work of Marc Heiden, born in 1978, author of two books (Chicago, Hiroshima) and some plays, and an occasional photographer.

Often discussed:

Antarctica, Beelzetron, Books, Chicago, College, Communism, Food, Internet, Japan, Manute Bol, Monkeys and Apes, North Korea, Oregon Trail, Outer Space, Panda Porn, Politics, RabbiTech, Shakespeare, Sports, Texas.


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Written by Marc Heiden, 1997-2011.