Tuesday, December 21, 2004

RIP Dimebag Darrell

My Dimebag signature Ibanez

I was shocked to discover today that a well repsected and admired member of the music community, Dimebag Darrell, was killed recently during a performance with his band Damageplan.

I met Dimebag at a music Expo in Darling Harbour, Syndey during my guitaring days and despite his intensity found him quite approachable. On the first day of the show he was promoting some guitars he had helped produce and causing so much raucous that he could easily be heard from the other side of the large auditorium. Phil, Matt and I returned on the second day, guitars in hand, and took a classic photo with Dimebag, flanking him on either side with our freshly autographed guitars, and struck classic heavy metal poses, while Dimebag grabbed the nearest axe and shoved the trademark Dimebag V of it's head under his beard.

My Dimebag signature Ibanez

I would like to remember him for the life and energy he shared with us all through his music and his own interesting life, and I give my deepest condolences to his friends and family, and to the friends and family of the other victims of the night's tragedy.

May I also take this opportunity to raise the issue of gun control in America - how many more lives must we suffer the loss of?

Rest in peace.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Another Japanese moment...

USJ Christmas Tree
The largest christmas tree in Japan, at Universal Studios Japan

I was recently asked by the Principle of Tyler's Pre-school to act as this year's Santa Claus, and of course I gladly volunteered. Arrangements were made for me to meet with him this morning after dropping Tyler off to discuss the day's schedule, and so after getting Tyler settled we got together and I discovered that he speaks quite good English.

I followed his car in mine to his Kindergarten, which in Japan is comprised of childen aged 3-5, or by this stage of the year many are in the range of 4-6 years old. We went inside and entered the warmth of the staff room, where I met their part time English teacher, Hellen. The Principal then took me upstairs to a large hall, where some of the children's mothers were working as volunteer Santa's helpers by packing christmas gifts into bags which were then placed into large white sacks for distribution by yours truly.

Archway in a temple's grounds
Archway in a temple's grounds.

At this stage I was introduced to the Kindergarten's principle, who supplied us with schedules for the day, and we sat down on the steps leading up to the hall's stage to go over them. (yes, I know this is all very dull I did this, and I did that kinda thing, but it's leading up to something...). They day's events had been planned out to an accuracy of 5 minutes in true Japanese efficiency, and included were diagrams outlining Santa's entrance to the stage, which was to be executed by no less than a professional magician!

We took to the stage and walked through Santa's magic entrance before returning to the Principle's office to try on the Santa costume which they were providing, complete with new rubber wellies bought to spec (27.5cm). After the successful fitting we reclined in his leather sofas to watch a short video demonstrating the magician himself performing the magic entrance, follwed by some Japanese green tea and a few minutes light conversation.

The Principle putting his cup down was the sign that the proceedings had drawn to an end, and so I followed suit and then went to stand up. While I was still in a half-squat he stopped and said:

"Oh... your zipper is open."

I looked down and observed that this was very true. For a brief moment I took the time to wonder when exactly it had come undone?

Was it while trying on the Santa costume? No, I just pulled it on over my jeans...

While we were sitting on the steps in the hall or practicing the magic entrance? Not likely...

Was it open while I introduced myself to Hellen? um...

Maybe Tyler's teachers had failed to notice it when I had dropped him off all of an hour or so ago...

Most likely, after waking, grabbing the closest bundle of clothes to the bed and making the brave dash across the fozen floor to the heater, I had in fact in my haste to don a warm woollen jumper simply pulled on my jeans and in my haste forgotten to... um, oh dear.

Well, I've never been known to show an aversion to public expositionism - I said "Oh, excuse me!", turned around and then showed them a little magic of my own... tada! Zipper up! After some brief, awkard chuckling we left the moment behind us.

Universal Studios Japan
Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 06, 2004

BBQ in Setsukyou

A couple of weekends back we drove out into the mountainous countryside of Setsukyou for one last BBQ in the river valley near Nana and Ashton's place before winter comes into full effect and makes it unbearably cold. As it was, we were pushing the line a bit by daring to venture out so late in November and so we had the full run of the place to ourselves.

The intrepid explorers arrange themselves around their impressive display of outdoor BBQ equipment, complete with table and chair. Impressive because we carried it into the middle of the river and set up amongst the huge bolders laying strewn around like so many toast crumbs.

The BBQ is immediately put to use with a plethora of gourmet food stuffs.
A Japanese BBQ is much like any other, with the exception perhaps of containing more green-matter and vegetables and a multitude of various thinly sliced meats in place the usual plate-sized steaks and bulging sausages seen slowly carbonising on Aussy BBQ's.

Nana and Beet converse on the topic of confucian vs. western educational systems before a sample backdrop of the multi-coloured leaves of autumn which covered the slopes of the surrounding mountains. The Japanese language has a single word to describe the beautiful phenomenon, but if there's an equivalent in English it either never entered my vocabulary or the brain cell containing it perished from one of the many cold bottles of Bass ale enjoyed throughout the day.

Tyler grins with toddler bliss, rock in hand, as he contemplates the magnitute of finding himself with seemingly endless entertainment at the river's expense.

Ashton was there to make his own photographic record of the day's events. This image was captured before he misteriously took a plunge beneath the chilly waters and had to return home for a change of clothes, but his trusty camera survived unscathed.

Tyler thinks better of taking a dip himself, or possibly is simply taking a break from trying to dam the river with pepples to consider the virtues BBQ'd sausages.

Satomi and Meiki discover the secret of successfull child care - bribe them with snacks. Meiki is allways worried that Tyler doesn't like him, but just look at that happy face! I'm sure he loves you man.

As testament to the abilities of our new camera, I managed to snap this shot of Tyler and Misaki playing with a dog while perched atop a boulder from the other side of the river using a good 300mm or so of zoom. It's a bit blurry, but not too bad for a hand-held job.

The brave campers soldier on into the evening and brave the cold to enjoy the last remnants of the day's BBQ'd morsels. Good night Setsukyou, see you again in Spring!

Masko and Misaki bask in the warmth of Satomi and Meiki's appartement after having invited ourselves over to continue the festivities. Thanks for having us over guys, and sorry for getting a bit roundy and disturbing your landlord...

Ashton, Tyer and Satomi quickly remind themselves of the comforts of home as they sit in appreciation of the cartoon channel. You'd think Tyler would be the most excited at this stage, but I'm not so sure....

Meiki broke out a bottle of his Chinese wicked strength sake equivalent, called moutaijiu (as best I can recall), which at 53% is more like vodka than rice wine. This jubilant picture is an accurate representation of the general mood after a happy day's eating, drinking, and merriment.
Cheers guys, thanks for a great day!