I woke up in a strange place

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

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.

June 22, 2006

Well, I gave it two days, and I haven't heard shit from Lewis Cass. Frankly, at this point, Andrew Jackson's entire cabinet is dead to me.

Obviously, I had to cover this:

(news) SHANGHAI, China - Scientists using DNA samples have doubled their estimates of the wild panda population in a nature sanctuary in China, in a finding they say bodes well for the survival of one of the world's endangered species.

The researchers believe that as few as 66 and as many as 72 pandas may be living in the Wanglang Nature Reserve - more than twice the previous estimate of 32, Wei Fumin, a zoologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a member of the research team, said Wednesday.

It used to be that you had to be good at science in order to be a scientist. Not any more, apparently. How long did it take these guys to realize that, when they yelled "Hey pandas, bring us your poop", more than half of the pandas probably shrugged and decided, look, all things being equal, I'm just going to sit here for a while longer, thanks. The article describes the efforts of one grad student to traverse treacherous mountain terrain in order to seek out panda poop himself, which begs the question: since when do pandas climb mountains? Am I the only man on earth who understands the psychology of the panda? You know how you feel about death? That's how pandas feel about getting up from a comfortable spot. This all seems very obvious to me.

The authors said they don't expect the findings to dampen China's enthusiasm for assisted breeding, which has proven effective in boosting numbers of captive pandas.

No, I don't think anything is going to dampen China's enthusiasm for hounding pandas to fuck.

I realize I'm not running at full speed yet. I'll get my legs back under me. I would like to tackle complex themes of love, betrayal and loss. But I still have a lot to say about pandas first.

(January 9, 2006) Taiwan's prime minister has said the island is unlikely to accept two giant pandas offered by China, because the gift could undermine its sovereignty.

China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that should be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Beijing says the pandas, which were promised to Taiwan following the visit of a prominent Taiwanese opposition politician, are now ready for delivery.

But the island's government sees the offer as something more sinister.

China offered the two giant pandas in May last year. One is a male, who is known as Little Darling, the other a female called Little Girl.

Journalists come in for a lot of criticism, particularly by the political blogs, so I think it's important to give credit when someone tells a story as perfectly and succinctly as Chris Hogg did there. The Chinese government honestly believes that they can bring the world to heel through the judicious application of pandas. If nuclear weapons were cute and wanted to go back to sleep more than anything else in the world, this would basically be the same thing that's going on between the U.S. and North Korea.

U.S. Lemon Lime Soda

USA! USA! DPRK Soda comes straight from Kim Jong Il's crotch. Everyone has to pretend they enjoy it. I know you read this, Kim, you little bitch. Nobody enjoys your crotch-soda.

And, of course, the story has an ending:

(April 1, 2006) Taiwan rejected the offer of two pandas from China. The pandas, first offered last spring, have been widely regarded in Taiwan as Chinese propaganda weapons.

Xinhua News tells it a little differently:

(April 1, 2006) aiwan on Friday declined to accept a goodwill gift of two giant pandas from the mainland, a decision that has met with criticism from across the Taiwan Straits.

One mainland expert on Taiwan described the decision as "an unwise and short-sighted move" that will only increase Taiwan people's dissatisfaction with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The pandas were picked from 11 animals at the Wolong Giant Panda Research Centre in Southwest China's Sichuan Province. They were named Tuantuan and Yuanyuan, from the Chinese word tuanyuan which means "reunion."

Although the mainland gesture was well received by more than 70 per cent of Taiwan people, the "independence"-minded Chen and his DPP administration have repeatedly denounced the offer as a propaganda ploy.

Li Jiaquan, a senior researcher with the Institute of Taiwan Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Taipei's decision was politically motivated.

"The sole reason is that Chen and his DPP administration fear closer cross-Straits exchanges will foil their secessionist attempts," he told China Daily.

I think everyone can agree that naming two pandas "reunion" and offering to send them to a country which you regard as a secessionist colony is a totally innocent gesture of friendship, whereas turning down those pandas is purely election-year politics. The funniest part, to my mind, is that China had the transfer paperwork all ready to submit to the international association for care of endangered animals, but they chose to fill out the "domestic transfer" form instead of the "international transfer" one. Taiwan accepts the pandas and suddenly it has acknowledged it is part of Chinese territory! Crafty! The Chinese government has a bureau of strategy. (Unlike the Jackson administration. I cannot stress enough how dead every member of that administration is to me.)

Wikipedia has an entire article on panda diplomacy, which is the strongest evidence yet that I am an asshole, because I didn't create it. (That honor goes to Bravo to you, It's all about speaking truth to power. Can I call you .199 for short? We should start a revolution, or a consulting firm.)

This is something I would like to know - I'd have to spend time with the pandas in question to be sure - does the sting of being rejected by an entire nation hurt more than the relief of not having to get up? Or, to use literal weights and measures, would a panda get up from the couch if Kim Jong Il sat down next to it? My guess is that it would, but I'm not going to present this as anything other than guesswork; unlike certain people, I intend to be scientific about my inquiries.

May 23, 2005

I know that a lot of people are pissed off because I haven't covered the walking panda story yet. What you have to understand is that I am battling a number of firmly entrenched financial interests in my ongoing crusade to expose the panda porn once and for all, and while nothing escapes my notice, it doesn't necessarily get written up right away, because there is a strategy at work here. I don't have the kind of resources that the panda sex industry does. In all honesty, I did mean to cover this last week, but then I got side-tracked with the Oregon Trail thing. I'm here now, though, and here it is:

TOKYO (AFP) A lesser panda is proving a hit at a zoo near Tokyo as it can stand on two legs like a human being for about 10 seconds, an unusual feat for the species, zoo officials said. The two-year-old male panda named Futa stands up several times a day when "it sees something interesting", said Hiroyuki Asano, an official of Chiba Zoological Park, southeast of the capital. "We have kept lesser pandas for nearly 20 years at this zoo, but I have not seen one like Futa, which can stand for such a long time," Asano said. "Futa is like an idol to his fans."

I remain doubtful that even a panda can make walking upright "cool", but if these fans really are driven to imitate their idol, it can't be a bad thing. Seriously, though, what does a lesser panda have to do to stop being lesser? The poor bastard is walking upright for ten whole seconds and has legions of devoted fans, and he's still a lesser panda. At some point, Futa has to begin to wonder why he even bothers.

The furry, seven-kilogramme (15 pound) animal, whose natural habitat are the mountains of China and the Himalayas, was born in another zoo in central Japan. Unlike the black-and-white giant panda, the lesser panda has brown fur with a stripe on its tail. Futa, fed fruits and bamboo every day, has a female mate, and the zoo hopes they will have a baby panda in the near future.


FUTA: Look! I'm walking!
ZOOKEEPER: That's great. We hope you will walk over to the female panda's vagina.
FUTA: But see how the crowds enjoy my walking!
ZOOKEEPER: You know what they would really enjoy? Two pandas fucking.
FUTA: But this is nearly unprecedented among my species!
ZOOKEEPER: We must have more panda babies. All else is irrelevant.

Apparently - and I'm not making this up - Futa has a grandfather named Ron who is also good at walking upright. Way to go, Ron. But nothing in the world matters less than a panda who's too old to make more babies.

Every once in a while, I feel a responsibility to put something on here that absolutely nobody other than myself is going to find amusing. This photo gallery is fairly old - it's from my second day in Russia, when I was scraping the bottom of the barrel for things to do by myself in Vladivostok on a rainy day. There was a museum built in mounds overlooking the bay with decommissioned chain guns and missiles sitting around, and I don't even know if I was supposed to be walking around up there, and I guess technically I don't even know if any of them were actually decommissioned, but eventually I wandered into a cave-like museum dedicated to the Russians who had, throughout history, kept Asians out of this particular area. And, as it so often does, a certain madness set in, and I started trying to photograph the little army men in the museum's many dioramas in dramatic ways. The lighting was very bad (I believe there were proles on treadmills at the power station), but I did my best, and I really do think the last few are nice. I could make this one available as a print. It's even more pleasant at three times the size.

I still haven't found a satisfactory program for making simple, unobtrusive photo albums. I had wrangled Picasa to behave more or less as I wanted it to, but installing the otherwise excellent Picasa 2 replaced my modifications with the butt-ugly defaults. Jesus! I bore even myself with this technical discourse. My love affair with Gmail ended abruptly today when I received a "Lockdown in Sector 4!" message that kept me out of my email all day, which I found stressful. (Fuck your sci-fi whimsy! I could be missing important messages from Nigerian bank executives! The Nigerians prize me for my turn-around time.) Admittedly, I got a lot of work done, but it's not an experience I'd like to repeat. Access to my account was restored, unannounced, a few hours later. A cursory web search revealed a variety of factors that cause Gmail accounts to get locked down, but I don't know which one did me in. If someone tried to send me a monkey, please let me know and I will give you an alternate email address. Apparently it's against the Terms of Use to send live animals as attachments. Who reads those things?

November 10, 2003 I hope you liked the quintessence. It was a powerful day. Today's entry will restate themes from earlier entries and tie up some old plot threads before I move on to new topics in the future, such as how I'm sick of these Atkins people insulting bread, which is a good food and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.

Wherever you go in this world, there is no escape from anti-climax: the Hanshin Tigers lost in Game 7 of the Japan Series, falling short just like the Cubs and Red Sox did. At last check, one of the major daily newspapers was still running front page stories about the Tigers, even though they're not playing any more. (I don't know what the stories are about. Unfortunately, the English versions of the newspapers here are much more restrained than the Japanese originals, and they run actual news on the front page.) One of my students attended a financial seminar where an executive from a major bank -- I will refrain from saying who it is to avoid the faint risk of libel charges, but you might have heard of them -- announced with a straight face that the Japanese economy is going to rebound based on absolutely no evidence other than the fact that the Tigers have been successful twice in the last 50 years and the economy was strong in those times. The student was tremendously excited. Since he appeared to have made no plans to check himself prior to wrecking himself, I attempted to check his self for him, but I don't think I was entirely successful in doing so. Well, I hope it works out, and I hope the currency doesn't crash until after I leave.

An update on the battle against panda-porn is long over-due. Even when I am silent, I am busy. Nothing escapes my notice, not even evidence as well-concealed as the sight of two pandas fucking on the side of a train car:

You know what, though? This is one case where the parents and the zoo-keepers have to share some of the blame, too. This is what comes of the tremendous social pressure on pandas to reproduce. In some twisted way, in their narcotic-addled state, these poor pandas are just trying to do what they think they're supposed to do, and some callous, cynical bastard is making pornography from it. The pandas get locked in a cycle of sex and drugs, and they can't get out, even as their very bodies are falling apart. This panda's nose has caved in from years of cocaine use:

How long has it been since that panda had a warm meal? They have him out there working the streets, and he can barely stand. Even when you take them in and try to turn them around, when night comes, they become desperate and lapse back into their old habits, as this police photograph shows:

That moment of clarity that flashes in the panda's eyes is absolutely heartbreaking. For a moment, it's as though they know what has become of them. For every panda we save from a life of pornography, there are three more who are never heard from again. Perhaps most despicable of all is when these smut-merchants use pandas to recruit other pandas. Please be advised that what follows is extremely graphic material:

How can they get away with showing that in public, you ask? I don't know. I really don't. Here are some student email comments on the panda-porn issue:

you've got 2 nice pics of panda...
and what the hell are you talking about!?
i mean, why porn????
i was like, "huh!?" you kidding or something?
maybe you know things more than me. yeah.


talking about a panda, i got a panda-shaped key chain from a japanese publisher (i dont remember the name..).
it was like a prize, but it's not...
i mean, if somebody reads at least 2 books from that publisher, s/he can get that stuff anyway. so, no winners.
i applied for that before i read your website about panda, so when i got it (obviously after having read about the panda story), i was like, "here's a panda again... yeah, marc, you're right. pandas are really popular in some strange way in japan..."

Moving on to another emotionally-fraught topic, here is a picture of the bike-in-the-river:

Several perspectives were offered on whether I should take the bike. The Israelis in the house got all excited and wanted me to get it so they could try to break the lock like they said they used to in Tel Aviv. My friend Katy noted that, in Spirited Away, the abandoned bicycle makes the river spirit sick, and he bestows many blessings on Sen / Chihiro in thanks for her removing the bicycle and making him well again. I thought that was an awfully good point, especially as I've found Spirited Away to be eerily accurate in all other respects regarding life in Japan. Several of my students confirmed the near-disposable attitude towards bicycles in the city and recommended that I take it. Kurt suggested that Japanese bikes may be like lizard tails, and when pursued by a predator, salarymen will leave their bicycles behind and escape. On the other hand, The Bicycle Thief continues to be a movie that I have seen, and I kept worrying that the poster-hanger would come back for his bike, even though it had been in the river for more than a week. The Israelis insisted that if I took the bicycle to the local police box, saying that I found it abandoned, then if nobody reported it missing within a month, it would become my property, and I could say the lock was broken when I found it. Reluctantly, I took the bike. I hope I made the right decision. I can't second-guess myself now. It would be pretty silly to go and put the bike back in the river.

The elections were finally held on Sunday. There are no laws -- and, apparently, no anger or resentment -- against noise pollution, so the numbers of Assholes With Megaphones reached a sort of critical mass in recent days, with campaign vans parked outside our school from open to close and trucks with speakers driving around every neighborhood of the city as early as 7AM. There was even a helicopter flying overhead at one point, blasting some creep's message loudly enough that it could be clearly heard on the sidewalk. In an exciting development, though, none other than Godzilla was running for office. On Saturday, a van arrived with Godzilla's name painted on the side in big red letters, and smiling people stood on top of the van, waving and making speeches for hours. The best part is that although Godzilla himself was apparently elsewhere at the time, he deployed little Godzukis to run around and hand out campaign literature. Here is photographic evidence:

There were two Godzuki-squads on duty at the same time. When a squad saw someone walking through any part of the square around the train station, they'd sprint after them, with the Godzuki assigned to get the passer-by's attention and the guy with the yellow-and-blue sash on propaganda duty. (There was a third guy, the one in the blue coat, whose job seemed to be to protect the Godzuki's flank.) So, naturally, we chased after them:

The guy in the yellow-and-blue sash was annoyed by our presence, but he channeled his anger into whatever harangue he was delivering to the voter. Godzuki was sort of bemused. Shortly afterwards, I had a man-to-man lesson, and I asked the student if she knew that Godzilla was running for office. "Yes," she said. I asked her if she was going to vote for him. "Yes," she said. I said that was probably a good idea, and then I asked her if Godzilla was going to destroy the city if he lost the election. "Yes," she said. I got all wide-eyed and asked her what office he was running for. "Yes," she said. I asked her if she understood anything I had said. She smiled and tilted her head to the right.

No, panda! Stay away! Damn you, ram, defiler of innocence.

September 16, 2003 I am back with another update, because one of my students said that I should renew my webpage more often. (She also said that, having read it, it's too hard for her to think of me as a teacher. Well, it was a good run.) Life is relaxed again. Autumn has definitely come, the Hanshin Tigers have clinched the Central League pennant (a feat equivalent to the Red Sox or Cubs doing the same in America) and nervously await the Pacific League champion in the Japan Series, and I am once again equipped with a camera for more of my freestyle documentation. A few weeks ago, I bravely broke the code of silence here by exposing the sordid underground of panda porn. Now, I bring you shocking photographic evidence that these pandas are being drugged before they are forced to participate in these pornographic activities.

This panda - whom we will call "Bao Ling", to protect his identity - is clearly in the throes of a drug-induced psychosis as he poses on the side of this truck. It would appear from his expression that he has been fed some manner of methamphetamine cocktail. Compare his quiet derangement to the coke-fueled rampage of "Xiao Ping" below:

I feel confident that the majority of my readers are good and decent people who are as full of outrage over this as I am. Should it be my mission, while I am in Asia, to smash these panda-porn rings? Perhaps we can have a vote on it.

On a completely unrelated note, did you know that there are 2.3 jingles for every man, woman and child in Japan? I am making that up, but I'm not lying to you.

July 12, 2003 Trouble follows me wherever I go. Already, there is controversy. My students adore me, and management keeps threatening to extend my probation. The controversy revolves around a censored bio of me that was briefly in circulation. The Japanese staff at the school, who know fuck-all English - none would be above 7B, our second-lowest level, and most would be 7C, the lowest - started running around taking photos of the teachers without warning or explanation, having decided amongst themselves that it would boost sales if the students could preview the exciting teachers waiting for them at the school. I managed an annoyed smile for the photo. Two days later, the photo and a piece of paper were handed to me during my break with the explanation (in broken English) that I should write about my hobbies. Still annoyed, I wrote that my home-town was Chicago and my hobbies were bowling and getting paid. The staff wanted more, so I ranked my top five animals (monkeys, cats, penguins, pandas and turtles) and then I put on my headphones so they would leave me alone. Two weeks later, at the tail-end of a cuss-out session where management raked me over the coals for teaching 7A #79, gift-giving, in a maverick fashion (fuck it, though, I did what I had to do, those students know how to give gifts with the best of them now, and nobody told me I was going to be observed that day), management also made it known that they didn't like "getting paid" in my bio and they wanted it changed. Evidently, "drinking vodka straight out of the bottle" (as one of the other teachers wrote) is okay, but the wisdom of Schoolly D is unacceptable. Figure that. So, I've been getting the evil eye from management lately. It always happens sooner or later.

But the students are on my side. I was asked to host a two-hour discussion on baseball at the school, so I stayed up all night learning what the hell goes on in Japanese baseball, and the discussion came off like dynamite, although the teenage girls who came in just because they like me were pretty bored and left midway through. (I had everyone in stitches with my analogy between baseball players and Monster Island. "Gamera would be a good catcher, I think," I said. "But there are not enough monsters to play all the positions," Kenji said. "That's okay. King Ghidorah can sit in center field and cover right and left field with his other heads," I replied.) One of my students (one of the A Bathing Ape hip-hop kids) gave me a burned copy of a dead brilliant rap album that purports to be performed by King Ghidorah himself. I don't know anything else about it. The vocals and production sound American. There are all of these movie dialogue samples where officious aliens claim to be controlling King Ghidorah, and then he raps about how they are not, in fact, controlling him. At one point, the aliens announce that they are making Ghidorah and Gigan fight, and then a guest rapper named Gigan comes in and contradicts them by rapping about how he and Ghidorah are friends. ("It's all about me, it's all about you," he says.) Towards the end of the album, when King Ghidorah starts demanding that you "render unto Ghidorah what is Ghidorah's", you know you are in the presence of genius. I haven't been able to find anything on the web by searching for "rap King Ghidorah", but it's fucking good, I tell you.

So: there are troubles, as usual, but I am good, I am relaxed. I have a bike of my own now, and I spend a fair amount of time riding around Kyoto. Say what you will about the morbid obesity of Americans, but there are no people on Earth who consistently make worse navigational decisions than the Japanese. (And I've been to Fargo, so I've been around the block a few times.) They are truly, astonishingly bad at walking on the street, using stairs, really mundane directional affairs that they manage to cock up every chance they're given. It's one thing when you're walking, but riding a bike means that when you see someone approaching, you have three seconds to figure out what the worst possible navigational decision available to that person is, and then you have to figure out what you will do when they make it, which they inevitably do (usually to walk on an angle directly into your path, especially in situations where the opposite angle for you is a brick wall or a river). God help you if you're coming from their peripheral vision. (Or where their peripheral vision ought to be, because they have none, and the elderly have negative peripheral vision, which is one of those things you just have to encounter to understand.) It really stresses me out sometimes. I come home determined to write a really scathing diatribe about it, a three-volume companion to Remembrance of Things Past wherein I remember nothing but shitty navigational decisions made by Japanese pedestrians, but in time I relax, and turn my attention to other things.

Early on, when I lived in Osaka and got lost all the time, I theorized that I could become un-lost simply by following the Japanese, because presumably they knew where they were going. Doesn't work. I'd follow them for ages until we wound up at a wall, which they would bump repeatedly into like a remote control car or one of the one-line-of-dialogue town folk in the early Final Fantasy games. Perhaps they are better at walking in Tokyo.

Okay. Some readers have asked me to clarify what I meant by "panda porn" in the last entry. Here is panda-porn:

I trust you understand what I meant now. There are reasonable uses of pandas, and there are pornographic uses of pandas. That is pornographic. On the more tasteful end of the advertising spectrum comes:

Sharp. If dinosaurs aren't erotically fixated on your back now, they will be. Buy our product.

A couple of shots from around my neighborhood, starting with my house:

And the intersection of Gojo and Kawaramachi, where I live:

(Click on it for full size.) I took the photo, then I swapped places with the little guy and he took a photo. It was all good fun. And that's Japan: good fun, until the erotic fixation becomes apparent, and Kenny Rogers told you what to do at that point: you got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know when to run.

December 18, 2001

I want to clarify my position on the firing of pandas into outer space, as I worry that it may have been misinterpreted. Please allow me to explain:

I. I do not want to see all pandas fired into outer space, just one, and perhaps a second, to keep the first one company. I would like to keep a majority of pandas here on earth;
II. I do not mean to imply that the Chinese have vast stores of pandas, hidden and secret from the world, and they can afford to lose a few in the interest of astrophysics;
III. I think the panda(s) should be brought back alive;
IV. I think the panda(s) should be given a great deal of bamboo for the trip;
V. I realize that "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" was not a very good motion picture, and therefore I am not suggesting that a recreation of said motion picture be staged with an omnipotent space panda standing in for the omnipotent bald space woman;
VI. I realize that "2001: A Space Odyssey" was a very good space odyssey, and though it is not central to my position, I would like to suggest that replacing all of the astronauts in said space odyssey with pandas might be kind of funny;
VII. "What the fuck? All he ever talks about are animals, outer space and homeless guys."
VIII. Pandas have a lot of fur, and therefore the rocket should be fired away from the sun, not toward it, lest the panda get too warm;
IX. Have any experiments been done involving penguins in zero gravity, and the whole thing where they watch airplanes overhead and fall over? If not, why not? It's not as though there is a fucking penguin shortage;
X. Penguin, penguin, penguin, penguin, moose. Penguin;
XI. Certain motherfucking motherfuckers have motherfuckingly been fucking mothers, such as fathers;
XII. "Yes, but what ba-a-ands do you listen to?"
XIII. Pandas are big and strong, and though they are genial, if an alien should decide to fuck with the panda, I think the panda will be able to handle it;
XIV. Steps should be taken to ensure that no one from "Ranma" is sent up by mistake;
XV. Pandas can play basketball, I seen it on the teevee;
XVI. (news) A Beijing film director has asked Jenna Bush, daughter of US President George W. Bush, to star in an anti-terrorism movie, a Hong Kong newspaper reported. Director Long Zanxu has sent Jenna a letter offering her the part of heroine Nancy Lee in a 100-million-yuan (12.06-million-dollar) production called "Hero Defending Country", the South China Morning Post reported. Jenna, who is a university student in the US, has not yet replied. In the movie, Lee battles with terrorists on planes and trains in a bid to beat the bad guys and improve Sino-US relations. Long said the small budget restricted him from hiring Hollywood stars like action movie hero Harrison Ford. However, he believed the political nature of the film would suit Jenna Bush and hoped that she would accept a low-paid contract as she was not a movie star. "I intend to console the victims of this terrorist accident with my film," the Post quoted the letter to Bush as reading in English. "And if you, Jenna, the daughter of the USA President, could play the role in this film developed by China and America, how much would it set the hearts of the people aflame. "In the near future, billions of film fans will praise you for your excellent playing in our film after they speak highly of your father's heroic struggle," the letter added. Filming was due to begin in the spring of 2002 and would be done mainly in China, the report said. This is Long's second invitation for Jenna to star in one of his productions. Last year, he invited her to take part in a love drama;
XVII. My computer is pretty old. I need a new one. I was thinking I might get a desktop, because they are cheaper, and hang on to the laptop, which I'd just use for writing. But is it obscene to own and employ two computers? I don't mean to be obscene;
XVIII. What I am saying is, there could be some fantastic slapstick involving Jenna Bush getting the panda drunk. That wouldn't fly in Hollywood, but the Hong Kong film industry is much better at that sort of thing, e.g. "Drunken Master 2";
XIX. I don't have any money, anyway;
XX. Bears 46, Patriots 10;
XXI. My New Year's resolution this year, now drawing to a close, was to earn power-ups and dodge spinning blades. I am not sure that I succeeded;
XXII. One of my friends in New York recognized me on "Judge Mathis"! Great;
XXIII. Is it sexy that I know Roman numerals so well? Love me;
XXIV. Wednesday nights are pretty good for bowling. Let me know if you want to come. I'm not positive if we're going this week, though, because a bunch of people are going to "Lord of the Rings";
XXV. Quoth the Burger King announcer: "Arrrrwen, the elf!"
XXVI. (news) Gordon Watson, a 50-year-old library employee in Vancouver, British Columbia, is among those fans who feel that Peter Jackson's movie - the first in a trilogy - has commercialized the story and betrayed Tolkien's spirit. "I believe Tolkien's text is as good a story as has ever been told,'' said Watson. "I agree that it's necessary to remove sections from it, but I don't think it's necessary to change some of the underlying themes.'' Tolkien devotees - even those like Watson who haven't seen the movie - can reel off a list of differences between the books and the film, from changes in the story's structure to the elimination of scenes and characters. Purists are most vocal about changes to the character Arwen, who in the first book does little more than sit at her father's side during a banquet. She is absent in the second book, returning only in the third book and appendices.
In the movie, Arwen helps protect protagonist Frodo Baggins from spirit-warriors who are searching for him and the magical ring he carries. That's too much for Watson, who accuses Jackson of creating a "warrior princess" to appeal to female moviegoers at the expense of the story. "I'm very uncomfortable with the idea that she should be rescuing Frodo at the ford,'' Watson said. "It removes Frodo's heroic stature in the film where he's essentially facing down the Black Riders single-handed. It distracts from Frodo's evolution as a character";

XXVII. Quoth the Burger King announcer: "Fro-do, the hobbit!"
XXVIII. It sounds like a certain 50 year-old librarian and fantasy novel enthusiast is a little sensitive on the topic of warrior princesses;
XXIX. Quoth the Burger King announcer: "Gor-don Wat-son, the librarian!"
XXX. Comic book fans will want to check out the recent entry in Neil Gaiman's journal, wherein the normally polite and reserved genius lets loose and takes Todd McFarlane's punk ass to the house;
XXXI. Pandas are generally given good names, such as Ling-Ling, which compares favorably to Al Bean and Buzz Aldrin, I think;
XXXII. J.G. Ballard once wrote that it is entirely possible the only man from the twentieth century who will still be remembered 1000 years from now is Neil Armstrong;
XXXIII. Well, why not a panda;
XXXIV. The Chinese need something to keep them occupied and not making more babies. They'd be the first ones to tell you that;
XXXV. We were standing around in the lobby of a Hawaiian bar, critiquing the internal design of pandas (seriously flawed), but the bar was very crowded, so we left;
XXXVI. Bears 27, Steelers 24;
XXXVII. Space panda or astro panda? I'm not sure;
XXXVIII. Enough with these fucking communications satellites, and to hell with Anytime Minutes. The astro panda poops on communication satellites. Mischievous astro panda! Bamboo for you;
XXXIX. Quoth the Burger King announcer: "Ling-Ling, the astro panda!"

I hope that clarifies my position.

December 15, 2001

I wanted a cookie, and there were only five minutes left until the store with no minimum charge closed, so I left my apartment and I ran, free, unbound, perfect in form and effortless in speed, alive in the cold air and the moonlight. Golden boy! Everyone I passed looked at me as though I wasn't wearing any pants.

From the outer space editorial desk: will China - which recently sent a monkey, dog, rabbit and snail into space - be sending up a panda any time soon? I think I am speaking for more than myself when I say that I'd like to see a panda sent into outer space.

Here are some more stories about homeless guys:

1. I am leaving the Rock 'n Roll McDonalds in downtown Chicago. I bought some sunflower seeds across the street for lunch, and I needed somewhere to sit and read while them. For some reason, I never work in buildings that have cafeterias. As I leave, trying to figure out where my office is from there, a homeless man asks me if I am an honest man. In all honesty, I am not an honest man. I tell nothing but lies, but they are sweet lies. Still, I think that he is looking for a specific answer here, so I shrug and say that I am. He bets me a dollar that by looking at my coat and my shoes, he can tell me how many children my father had. I have never met my father, so I am curious, but I have no way of confirming whether he's right, and the homeless guy isn't about to start giving it up for free. Anyway, I don't have a dollar.

2. I am one block away from work. A homeless man offers to shine my shoes. He explains that he doesn't have his shoe-shine kit with him right now, but he's pretty sure he could do a good job anyway. I am wearing my basketball shoes, which I bought because they were cheap, have no visible logo and were the only ones available in size 14, so they aren't really the type of shoes that you shine. I tell the homeless guy that. He assures me that he can do wonders, and he makes me guess how old his shoes are. When they turn out to be much older than my guess, they are held up as evidence of his shoe-shining prowess. I try to express my sincere belief in his abilities, but, as usual, I don't have a dollar. The homeless man says that it's okay and maybe we'll have dinner some time. I say, sure, why not.

3. I am approaching the turnstile at the train station, ready to pay my fare with a fully-charged transit card. A homeless man asks if I will give him three dollars. He is more ambitious than other homeless people, and for that I respect him. Still, I do not have three dollars. He offers me a mixtape in exchange, and assures me that it's really good. I shrug. He offers to give what he refers to as his favorite quarter if I will pay his fare to board the train. I am willing. I have not yet spent the quarter.

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.


January 2012, December 2011, January 2011, September 2010, August 2010, June 2010, March 2010, October 2009, February 2009, January 2009, September 2008, August 2008, March 2008, February 2008, October 2007, July 2007, June 2007, January 2007, September 2006, July 2006, June 2006, January 2006, December 2005, September 2005, August 2005, July 2005, June 2005, May 2005, March 2005, February 2005, January 2005, December 2004, October 2004, July 2004, June 2004, May 2004, April 2004, February 2004, January 2004, December 2003, November 2003, October 2003, September 2003, August 2003, July 2003, June 2003, May 2003, April 2003, March 2003, February 2003, January 2003, December 2002, November 2002, October 2002, September 2002, August 2002, July 2002, June 2002, May 2002, April 2002, March 2002, February 2002, January 2002, December 2001, November 2001, October 2001, September 2001, August 2001, July 2001, December 1999, November 1999, October 1999, May 1999, February 1999, January 1999, December 1998, November 1998, October 1998, June 1998, May 1998, April 1998, March 1998, February 1998, December 1997, November 1997, October 1997, September 1997, and the uncategorised wilderness of the Beelzetron era: 010622 - 010619, 010615 - 010611, 010608 - 010604, 010601 - 010529, 010525 - 010521, 010518 - 010514, 010511 - 010507, 010504 - 010430, 010427 - 010423, 010420 - 010416, 010413 - 010409, 010406 - 010402, 010330 - 010326, 010323 - 010319, 010316 - 010312, 010309 - 010307, 019223 - 010219, 010216 - 010212, 010209 - 010205, 010202 - 010109, 010126 - 010122, 010119 - 010115, 010112 - 010108, 010105 - 010102, 001229 - 001224, 001222 - 001218, 001215 - 001211, 001208 - 001204, 001201 - 001124, 001124 - 001120, 001117 - 001113, 001110 - 001106, 001103 - 001030, 001027 - 001023, 001020 - 001016, 001013 - 001010, 001006 - 000927.

Written by Marc Heiden, 1997-2011.