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North American Tour 2009

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I ended up getting around a lot more than I had expected while in the US, which partially explains why I didn’t waste as much time as I usually might writing blogs, etc. I’m back in Japan now, and have been for almost a week. It was definitely a great time back this time, and I’m looking forward to my next visit (probably in December). I know within the next few years I’ll be back living in the US and will hopefully get to visit Japan now and then.

I spent most of my time in St. Louis, which was a lot of fun. Played video games at home, saw extended family, met up with friends, and got to drive a lot. You don’t realize how much you miss driving until you don’t do it for several months at a time. And having a GPS navigation system is an awesome addition, especially since I’m terrible at navigating beyond my immediate neighborhood in St. Louis. I blame not living there much.

TheLeong does DCDrove out to Indiana one day to grab lunch with Frank. Instead of driving all the way to Indy we decided to meet somewhat halfway and chose Terre Haute. Now, if you know anything about the region you know that T.H. is a pretty bad town (no offense….well….), but it was pretty funny I guess. At least I got to hit up the Steak there. The Mexican restaurant we ate in smelled like a public bathroom though.

I also headed to Washington DC for two days for a business meeting, which went pretty well. Also got to see the Natural History Museum of the Smithsonian and rode the metro a lot. It was also on the metro that my dad and I saw this gross woman who was probably around 50 or 60 and had, I am not exaggerating at all, breasts on her stomach. It looked like she had two bowling balls strapped to her belt. It was horrible and hilarious at the same time.

At the end of my trip I stayed in LA for the weekend before heading back to Tokyo. It was great to see everyone in LA and hang out like old times. It also made me pretty jealous that everyone lives in apartments/houses that are several times (not exaggerating) bigger than my apartment here in Japan. That’s definitely one of the big things I’m looking forward to when I move back: having a big place with a nice TV and computer setup. Also having a place where more than one person can come visit at a time would be a major plus.

And I challenge anyone to find food like this in Japan:

Roscoe's

…please?

Hobo King?

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I forgot to post this before, but it’s from my visit to LA in October. I was driving around with Joey and Kyle, maybe near Beverly Hills, and we saw this dude walking on the sidewalk. Judging by his gear, he may very well be the King of All Hobos. But he’s dressed like a normal guy. It’s this contradiction that makes it all the more ridiculous.

Click on the image below to see the full picture.

King of All Hobos?  Click to see full image

I’ll bet you weren’t expecting that. I know I wasn’t.

How I spent my vacation

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I’ve been back in Japan for about a week and a half; I guess I should give a quick summary of what else I did in the US to wrap that all up blog-wise. I also need to post pictures all over the place (here, Facebook, mixi, your mom’s house). I’ll probably do it tomorrow.

So I already wrote a bit when I was in St. Louis. In general, it was just a lot of hanging out with the family since Al came in for the weekend, and seeing friends. A great time. I thought for some reason that all kinds of things would be different when I went home, but it was quite the opposite. Actually, things had changed a lot less than I had imagined. It was almost as if I had never left. I got to watch a decent amount of American TV too. Most of it is terrible, yes, but it’s not as terrible as Japanese TV. I watched Heroes for the first time on actual broadcast, and my brother Joe got me hooked on The Office with Steve Carell. What a great show. Shopping was a good experience too, but just because I love walking around Target or Wal-Mart. Everything in one spot! Japanese stores don’t really have that down as well. Oh, and there was one other major thing that was enjoyable about going back to America…

FOOD

Hell. Yes.

It’s not like food in Japan is bad, but there are just some things that seem to be impossible for chefs here to get right. Nothing beats real St. Louis style pizza, and certainly not any Japanese pizza. Let’s see, what else… Steak, Cecil Whitakers, Jack in the Box, Mexican food, IHOP, Denny’s, Penn Station, White Castle – all were eaten by me during my vacation. And of course home cooking. My Dad decided to make a full turkey dinner on the Saturday I was there, so missing Thanksgiving in America again won’t be such a big deal.

After spending just over a week at home, I went to LA for a few days to hang out with friends. It’s strange how the majority of my close friends from college now either live in California or Japan. I stayed at Joey and Kyle’s new place, which puts my apartment in Chiba to utter shame just because of how huge their place was. Went to a sweet comedy show, ate more good food, went to happy hour, saw friends, walked to a funky mall with random walkways going everywhere, and went to a cool Oktoberfest-type party at the Alpine Village. Oh yeah, and just for future reference, if you’ve only got 4 guys, reserving a table and getting an entire liter of alcohol that no one wants to drink isn’t such a great idea. *cough*PAT*cough* Haha.

Where int he world is Pat looking?

Saturday morning, had breakfast at IHOP with Kyle and Ashley, then went to the airport. My flight was scheduled to leave at 2:30, so getting there at 12:15ish I figured I was golden. Wrong. There was a typhoon in Japan so the outgoing flights had been delayed. My flight on Singapore Air had to wait for the plane from Tokyo to arrive, so I ended up getting delayed like 3 or 4 hours. Really not that bad, but by the time I got to Narita and then back to my apartment it was around 11 or 12PM and I was beyond exhausted. But America was a great vacation, and hopefully I’ll go back again soon. Maybe Christmas.

Spin on a story about the Leong Spin

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My first night in LA last week, I went with Joey and Kyle to see a comedy show at the Upright Citizens Brigade house. While waiting in line to get into the show, we were standing outside on the sidewalk. At one point, a car pulled up. Unfortunately, I was intrigued by the offerings in the adjacent book shop, and just happened to turn around at the same time the car stopped. A few seconds later I look behind my shoulder to double check if maybe perhaps a bird had given me a crap surprise or something. Luckily, my shoulder was clean. I was so relieved that I didn’t notice the car was still there, waiting for someone in line to ask if they needed help. Moments later, Kyle, being the good citizen he is, asked the driver what was up, and it turns out the woman just needed directions on where to park for the comedy show. It also turns out that the woman was Janeane Garofalo.

It’s too bad I didn’t get a chance to help her out. As my friends will tell you, I am never one to turn my back on someone . It’s the same way how I follow Ari’s lead by never falling asleep when someone has really interesting to say. Now if you’ll pardon me, I’m gonna go lift weights.

…what?

I feel like I should give E3 a proper blog entry, before I start writing about summer up to now (where my life pretty much consists of sleeping, watching TV, and playing video games). I’ll also be putting up some photo galleries soon, but for now I’ll get artistic and add some pictures to this entry because otherwise it will be 20 pages of solid text. Note that this entry is waaaaay too long to be read, so I broke it up by day. I would recommend reading it one part at a time. I wish I would have written it in 3 separate parts.

E3, Day 1
We arrived in LA on Tuesday, in the early evening. We stayed with Pat’s aunt and uncle, who lived in Orange County. The first thing we did after getting unpacked and playing his little cousin in Mario Kart was go out and try to find some kind of subsistence. Of course, there are many treasures available in Los Angeles that you can’t get in Bloomington, so I was determined to go to one of those. Enter Jack in the Box, home of the best $1 menu ever. We ordered a bunch of food through the drive through and ate in the parking lot, since the dining room was already closed and we were starving. We came back and tried figuring out how the heck we were going to get to the Los Angeles Convention Center, and ended up deciding on the train system. However, the train station was about 20 miles away, and Pat’s aunt would have to drive us there before going to work. This equated to a 5AM wake up call on Wednesday morning, to ensure we would get to E3 in time to pick up our press badges, and then get “early media access” to the show floor from 9-11AM, before they opened the doors to the general attendees. Note that while E3 is a trade show, there were all kinds of fanboys, nerds, and other riff-raff there anyway. While many of them probably do work in industry, I get the impression that a lot of people, like us, found a way to get in without really being part of the industry.

After riding the train for 40 minutes to Pico station and getting our media badges, we listened to a speech for press (actually pretty interesting), then picked up our free breakfasts in fancy white cardboard lunch boxes. Bagels, yogurt, assorted fruit, and some kind of pastry. Not bad. We ate and then went to the show floor. Kyle, Brian, and Pat Although before actually entering the show, there were a lot of big booths and setups outside and in the corridors, the actual show floor was beyond belief. We started in West Hall, which was the smaller of the 2 main ones, and it was still massive. This hall had the PS3 booth and the Nintendo/Wii booth, which were obviously big draws. I played a Gundam game on PS3, which looked amazing but played kind of bad, which doesn’t surprise me for a Gundam game. I gave up hope on playing Wii, since the line had already wrapped all the way around the booth, and this was during early media access. According to newspapers and other articles throughout the week, Wii had the longest lines, sometimes making people wait 4 hours to get into the area to see and play the Wii. I’ll talk more about it later, since I actually did get to play it. Although the Wii area was way too crowded, I did get to play the DS Lite, which is really awesome and lot more compact than the original. Also awesome was the New Super Mario Bros for it, which was a lot like the original style Mario games on NES, only with superb graphics and also some new features. I opened a ? block, and a mushroom came out. Only it wasn’t a regular sized mushroom, it was GIANT (taller than Super Mario). So I touched it, and Mario gets super size! In this giant mode, you can pretty much just run through everything and crush it, and even knock over the pipes and other barriers. Pretty cool concept. That and Brain Age really make me want to buy a DS, although I know I shouldn’t.

Me and The Prince After exploring West Hall for about an hour, we went over the South Hall, which was bigger I think. By this time, we were already starting to amass some schwag, such as Playstation neck lanyards, phone straps, free magazines and players guides, etc. Also started taking pictures with the booth girls, which is way nerdy but still fun. Brian wasn’t feeling so great (we suspect minor food poisoning from either Jack in the Box or from the BBQ lunch we had at E3 outside), but other than that things were going pretty well. In the first day of the show, we got to pretty much at least skim everything in West and South Halls (the two main ones), and it was everything you would imagine it to be. After the show was pretty much done for the day, we started looking for the free shuttle to the Intellivision party (it was free, what the heck), which turned into an adventure in itself. Spent at least 30 minutes looking for the actual shuttle, maybe another 30 waiting for it once we found the girls who were leading people to it (actually on our shuttle, it was just the 4 of us, 1 guy who worked for it, and the 3 booth/advertising girls). Once getting on the bus, it was about 45 minutes of riding on the bus and making small talk until we actually got to the party. Apparently it was farther away than we thought, plus the traffic didn’t help. But it was a free party, we were there for a few hours, played video games, ate and drank, and then took shuttle, train, and car back home. We were beat, being awake from approximately 5AM to 1AM. First day of E3 a success!

E3, Day 2
The second day was a lot more forgiving in the morning. We slept in until around like 10AM, then made our way to the Convention Center. On the way there, while riding the train, there was some idiot kid on a cell phone pretty much being a pain in the butt, and talking to the police department. Apparently he had gotten into a car accident and he didn’t like how it was handled, so he thought he would try to be a badass and complain. Yeah pal, good way to get the cops to pay attention and want to help you. Anyway, he’s the type of guy who talks on his cell phone and looks at people around him, trying to get some kind of sympathy or something to think “man this guy is right, I can’t believe he has to deal with all this trouble,” then goes ahead and tries to start conversation. I was smart enough to avoid this, and pulled an Ari by acting like I was asleep. This left Brian, Kyle, and Pat to try and talk to him, or at least humor him. Brian especially was doing it well, saying stuff like “oh man, you’re right.” Hahaha. Anyway, after that whole fiasco, the idiot got off the train at Pico with us, but luckily went the other direction. We started off in Kentia Hall, which was the last of the three halls with E3 show stuff. Pretty much, this is the oddball hall, with all kinds of smaller developers, foreign developers (that no one cares about), and PC stuff. The only thing in Kentia that was good was the RedOctane/Guitar Hero booth.

We moved back up to South Hall, and watched the Metal Gear Solid 4 trailer in it’s entirety. Absolutely amazing; I love Metal Gear. We visited the Bandai-Namco booth, which had PacMan and The Prince from Katamari Damacy there. I think PacMan was a midget, because he was really short. Regardless, the main point here was that Kyle was taking a picture with PacMan, and then got hit in the nuts! He thinks he was maybe leaning too hard on him or something, but he got punched in the balls by PacMan, then had The Prince come over and give him an “X” sign with his hands. We thought we’d have to throw down and beat up these 2 mascots to save Kyle. Luckily, it didn’t come down to that. Back in West Hall, Paris Hilton was apparently there to talk about some stupid game she has coming out. And by that, I mean they put her name on a rip-off of Bejeweled and tried to sell it. Not only did she create a huge fire hazard in the
hall because of all the people trying to see her, but apparently she didn’t even know the name of the game she was promoting (Pat’s aunt heard that on the news that night). he is absolutely insane Anyway, we didn’t get to see her, but Pat got a shot of the side of her head with a video camera. Speaking of celebrities, Adam West was there signing autographs at the Family Guy booth. They weren’t even photos of himself, they were black and white headshots of the animated Mayor from Family Guy, who Adam West does the voice for. Weird. Anyway, he is waaaaaay older than you would imagine, and really is as insane as the character on Family Guy. I guess he lost it all with age. But we were able to get him to do an IUSTV promo, so that was cool.

After that, we were bored and went to the G4TechTV area, where they were doing live broadcasts all week, covering E3. We saw Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb (who is really hot), and I think we might have been in the background for a few seconds when they were coming back from some commercial breaks. But that was not the best part at all. There was a heavyset guy in a blue T-shirt in the audience area that we were in that Kyle (I think) pointed out and said “Donkey Lips.” You know, from Nickelodeon’s Salute Your Shorts back when we were kids? Pat scoped out his name badge, and it said Michael Bower. For some reason, I knew this bit of trivia, and knew it was really the guy who played Donkey Lips! I asked him if that was him, he said yes, I said awesome, and we talked for a bit. We interviewed him and got a promo for IUSTV even. He’s a pretty cool guy, no longer a celebrity really, but pretty down to earth. We even got his business cards, and cell phone number although we never called him.
Grab your nuts!

After that, we went back into the show and played around for a bit more. Played some PS3, Pat played some new karaoke game called SingStar, which was actually kind of cool looking, and we headed back around 5 or 6PM. Ate tacos at some Mexican restaurant near Pat’s uncle’s, and it was delicious (some kind of green salsa that was really good). That was about it for the day. I would make this entry longer, but I am lazy and this post is already way too long. I still have another day to write about even!

E3, Day 3
Last day of E3! We got there around 11AM, and went straight for the Nintendo booth. Kyle and I were determined to see the Wii before we left. Unfortunately, the line to get in was not any shorter than before, and we didn’t want to kill 4 hours waiting in line. I did some talking to the PR guys, and told them that as press (haha), we needed to get in sooner. It took a few times of going up, talking, waiting a half hour for the guy to try to ask his boss, but finally we were able to get in. They only let 2 of us in, so Kyle and I went in while Brian and Pat went to check out the Lucas Arts art gallery. Before we go into detail about the Wii paradise, I also need to mention that I saw Shigeru Miyamoto in person at the Nintendo booth area when I was trying to schmooze the guy at the desk. He was talking to some crazy old Japanese guy in multicolored leopard print clothing, and I overheard one of the Nintendo guys saying that he was a high up on Pokemon or something. Weird. We also got to see Steven Spielberg (were within 3 feet of him), when he was going to and coming out of his meeting with Miyamoto. Who knows what they met about, but at least I can say I saw Miyamoto in person.

Not much bigger than a breadbox We got VIP (I guess) access to the Wii booth. At the very least, we didn’t have to wait in line, the guy took us straight in. Apparently everyone who was waiting for 4 hours in line didn’t do so in vain; the area inside was amazing. First, you walk in and there is a rotating stage with people playing Wii games, like Metroid and some orchestra conducting game. Around that stage, the walls were lined with flat panel TVs (I need to clarify: EVERY TV in the Nintendo booth was flat panel LCD) playing the trailer for Smash Brothers Brawl, which is going to be absolutely amazing. New characters include Wario, Zero Suit Samus, Metaknight, Kid Icarus, and even Solid Snake! Oh man. The area inside was packed, and there were lines inside to actually play the games. First though, there was a nice display case with the actual hardware. The system itself is a lot smaller than you would think; it’s nice and compact and just looks futuristic. The controllers, which everyone was freaked out about when they were first unveiled months ago, are actually a lot more versatile than you would think. There are a few different “configurations,” with a remote control, a device with a control stick, a more standard controller (like a SNES one with analog sticks), and even a thing to turn the remote control into a Zapper. Awesome.

I got to watch all sorts of games, including the Wii Sports tennis and baseball, Legend of Zelda (probably the best looking game at E3), Metroid, and some shitty ports of Dragonball Z and One Piece games. I played Wario Ware: Smooth Moves, and Super Mario Galaxy. Both were totally sweet, and I really want to buy a Wii now. Wario Ware was cool because it showed all the different ways you can use the Wii remote control (which is wireless). It’s super light, and it a lot more accurate than you would think. It puts the Eye Toy on PS2 to shame about a million times over. Mario Galaxy took a little bit of getting used to, because you’re using “Nunchaku Style,” which is the remote control connected to the control stick device, but the game was really fun and fairly easy to play. I really think Nintendo has a chance at becoming number 1 again in the video game industry. I thought before that maybe the Wii would just be a stupid gimmick, and that people wouldn’t want to have to move and stuff to play games. Just a few minutes playing with the system, and I have nothing but positive things to say about this little system. It’s fun to play. The games are fun, of course, but actually using the controller and stuff was fun too. Add that to the cheap pricetag – under $200 maybe – and when compared to PS3 and the X-Box 360 (which I don’t think has a chance in the long run, and especially in Japan), and Nintendo is probably feeling pretty good about themsevles.

OK I’m way too tired to write anymore. That was about it anyway. After playing the Wii, we headed back to run through South Hall again, then met up with Brian and Pat and headed out back home. We had some extra time that night, so we had In and Out Buger for dinner, then went to the beach/pier area of town. Met up with Mike Savitt of IUSTV Rate Your Plate fame, hung out with Pat’s Uncle Randy, and called it a night. Got a few hours of sleep, packed, and went back to Indiana. And now I leave you with a random collage of E3 pictures.
super collage

E3 Summary of Random Events

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I’m too tired and too lazy to elaborate on everything me, Brian, Pat, and Kyle have done so far since coming to LA for E3. I’m going to post a quick summary of all the random and crazy events that have happened so far, so that I can elaborate on them once we get back:

Tuesday

  • arrived in LA
  • went to Jack in the Box drive through, then ate in parking lot
  • pretty sure Brian got mild food poisoning the next day as a result

Wednesday – First day of E3

  • woke up at 5AM
  • saw a giant American Yoshinoya
  • arrived at E3 to get our early media badges
  • got a nice free breakfast of fruits and bagels
  • had a ridiculously long chat with the Amp’d Mobile booth girls
  • walked back and forth for 30 minutes looking for a shuttle
  • rode said shuttle 45 minutes or so to a somewhat sketch party
  • spent entire bus ride talking to booth girls onboard
  • sketch party, then finally got home

Thursday – Day Two

  • stupid spoiled rich kid complaining about the Police on the train
  • in the spirit of LA, I used Ari no Jutsu and ignored said douche
  • Kyle got hit in the nuts by PacMan
  • Paris Hilton caused a fire hazard
  • Pat, Brian, and Kyle interviewed some guy named Magnus
  • met crazy Adam West and he did a promo for IUSTV
  • saw live G4TechTV broadcast, you might have seen us in the audience
  • met Michael Bower, AKA DONKEY LIPS from Salute Your Shorts there
  • found out the Sony party is way awesome and we will never get in
  • $1 tacos and awesome green salsa at Mexican restaurant

I supposed you want to know more about the actual video games and stuff, huh? I’ll make a quick list of SOME of the stuff that is notable or that I played, along with a quick summary. The only major thing I haven’t done yet is go into the Nintendo Wii booth, which takes about 2 or 3 hours of line waiting just to get in. I think we’re going to brave it tomorrow though (last day), since I don’t know if I can actually leave this conference without playing the Wii. On a side note, I talked to a guy yesterday named Scott Rubin who is apparently one of the founders of G4, and he said the Wii controller is awesome and super light.

  • Gundam on PS3 – looks awesome
  • Time Crisis on cell phone – better than you would think
  • most recent Mortal Kombat on PS2 – not good
  • The New Super Mario Bros on DS – AMAZING
  • DS Lite – really sweet re-design, buttons might be too small though
  • Brain Age on DS – addictively fun, especially VS mode
  • FFXII for PS2 – why did I play this, I have the Japanese version
  • Metal Gear Solid 4 trailer – I love Hideo Kojima
  • Guitar Hero 2 – looks like you can play bass line now
  • DDR – hate
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance – like Legends, with almost everyone from the Marvel universe – looks sweet
  • Pokemon Ranger on DS – weird, but fun
  • Bomberman and Puzzle Fighter on PSP – I need a PSP

That’s all for now; I’m going to bed because my eyes are closing on themsevles. 1 more day for E3!

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