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Happy Earth Day!

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Don’t be alarmed – I didn’t really all of a sudden start celebrating Earth Day or anything.  But it does give me an excuse to finally get around to uploading the Spider-Man video we made back during IES.  Yes, this was about five and a half years ago, but I uhh   got distracted.

Some background: Bryan, Mikey, and I were in the same Jissen Nihongo 4 class during IES.  Hosoi-sensei’s theme for the final project was the environment.  We were broken up into 3 teams, with everyone having to write reports or something, then integrating that research and information into a video.  Somehow we were able to convince her to let us make a Spider-Man video (since Derek wore that costume every day) that was only loosely related to the environment, let alone the class project.  We filmed it on a Saturday outside the Techno Garden with Ari and Seth’s help.  Actually, I won’t go into what Seth did but it probably wouldn’t be considered help.  Oops!

We edited it at SALC, using some old computer maybe with Premiere 6.5?  I don’t really remember.  But I do remember that we were running low on time until the very last minute, editing and doing to voice over work while the other teams gave their presentations to a random assortment of Kanda kids.  But Hosoi-sensei knew that we were awesome anyway, so we got to show our video at the Sayonara Party.  Aoyagi-sensei came to the party just to watch the video, which was cool of him.  And of course we got an A.

The full title of the video is 地球環境保護戦士スパイダーマン, or something like “Earth Environment Protection Warrior Spider-Man” if you want to be weird.  I think Enviro-Warrior Spider-Man sounds more normal.  The result is a parody/homage to tokusatsu, pro-wrestling, etc. in the way that only a ghetto-yet-awesome college class project could turn out.

And here we go:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7aYAhin4jY

And yes, I realize on YouTube I have the video listed as “Spider-Maso” in Japanese.  But it’s close and I don’t want to get hassled for copyright infringement or anything.  I dunno.

I said in my last entry that I’d post it if I got 5 comments, and it actually happened. Nick, Kieran, Frank, Mikey, and Emily – you are now accomplices in this video getting released to the web. So here you have it, Choco-Chicken in all it’s terrible, terrible glory. I decided to post a link rather than embedding the video into the blog.

click to see Choco-Chicken on YouTube

As Futurama once said, “You’ve watched it. You can’t un-watch it!

While you’re at YouTube looking at stupid videos I’ve made, don’t forget about the IES Train Introduction video starring Blanchard.

Choco-Chicken

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If memory serves me right, during the summer of 2003 I was back at home in St. Louis doing pretty much nothing but sleeping and working at Caleco’s. This was even before I had this website and blog to waste time with. In a scheme that worked out even better than planned, I decided to take a class at Meramac Community College to pick up some IU-transferable credits. This also served as a great way for me to gain and subsequently launder AP credits, but that’s a completely different story.

The class I took was an advertising class, something that I figured would be fun and easy. It is during that class that I worked with Heisserer to create projects like “The Relationship Lady” infomercial, and I also designed some cereal called Infidel Crispies, with the mascot being then-Iraqi Information Minister Al-Salaf. The crowning jewel of this class, however, was the legendary Choco-Chicken commercial. Very few of you know of this video, mainly because it sat on a Hi-8 tape after being made, only to emerge briefly during my senior year at IU where I converted the video to Quicktime. The disc containing said Quicktime file was then lost forever, only to be discovered again on my recent trip to America. Forever can be short sometimes.

The bird knows what he's talking about.The video features that “Bird is the Word” song, bad acting, terrible audio, and horrible voice-over work. But most importantly, it also features a dancing mascot wearing a frightening chicken mask and an apron. Note that we filmed this video some morning in the frozen foods section of Wal-Mart, where of course we got kicked out for filming without permission. I’m sure the chicken costume had something to do with it as well. The end of the commercial also has Choco-Chicken Man posing with a little girl on crutches and an old man who smelled of whiskey at 11AM. I couldn’t make up stuff better than this. We also got kicked out by Wal-Mart a second time, for filming in the parking lot.

The video of course is not going to win any awards, but I’d say it’s amusing in the same way you occasionally listen to loud, belligerent hobos, just to hear what garbage they have to say*. We made it in only a day or two, and it was, in part, just an excuse for me to try and learn Adobe Premiere. It’s a little embarrassing, but I suppose some of you want to see it, right? Here’s the deal. If I get 5 people to comment on this post saying they want to see it, I will post the video. Yeah that’s a cheap move, but it’s not everyday you get to see a guy in a chicken mask dancing outside of Wal-Mart. Unless you live in the south maybe.

Choco-Chicken Man dance!
No one can resist the delicious taste of chocolate-covered chicken feet!

*One time when I was in New York with my dad, we heard a guy yelling that you can’t trust women because “they will STEAL YOUR DNA!” True story.

Because (train) knowlege is power

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A public service announcement from Brian Blanchard
I finally got around to encoding and uploading the instructional video I made for IES back in the summer of 2005 when I was interning there. It’s a basic guide on how to use and ride the trains here in Japan. I think they still show this at the orientations, or at least they did for a year or so.

It was quite a rush job, and if memory serves me right I went out and filmed it with Blanchard all in one morning/afternoon. After pulling an all-nighter to finish editing it on Blanchard’s Mac with Final Cut Pro before he left for the airport (yes, I was cutting it that close), I finished it somehow. It’s actually not too bad now that I watch it again. Not my best work, but not horrible either. Of course there are no graphics or titles since I didn’t have time to bother, but overall I suppose it’s a decent way to introduce trains to IES kids. My favorite shot is the station attendant scratching himself.

Oh and some more random behind-the-scenes stuff about this video. I had a very rough script outline, but no cue cards or prompter, so most of the lines were me and Brian reviewing my outline before each shot, and him memorizing/improvising with each take. No one would be able to notice, but every station or train included in the video and b-roll was along my usual commute path from Myoden to Kaihim-Makuhari, passing through Nishi and Minami Funabashi along the way. Do you like the snazzy music? All from FreePlay. Also, I’m sorry there are so many handheld shots; I know someone will yell at me for that.

It’s here on YouTube for easy viewing, or I’ve uploaded a higher-res version in MPG format on the Videos page.

Another Melvin Gaijin on TV

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I made the mistake this evening of turning on the TV. As I was flipping through the channels, I landed on NHK, the national public station. NHK is a lot different from traditional PBS stuff we see in the US, primarily because people actually watch it. There are, however, a lot of trash programs on the station, including educational ones. I think I’ve complained before about my intense hate for the English educational shows on Japanese TV. Tonight may have been the worst I’ve seen, primarily because of this mega flamboyant possibly transvestite foreign teacher:

Look Ma, I'm wearing makeup!

Yikes is right. I’ve uploaded some poor-res video clips of this show on Youtube. Links are at the end of this post. You can probably imagine how freakishly strange this “guy” sounds, but it’s even worse than that. Please listen for yourself. Although he looks like Mimi from The Drew Carey Show, his voice is much, much higher.

The show is part of the Koukou Kouza series (NHK高校講座), which seems to have all kinds of lessons in different subjects targeted at high school students. I guess this show is actually for retarded high school students, because they have a teacher who speaks around 1 word a minute, and has to resort to extreme body and facial movements to keep your attention as he tries to get a full sentence out. Speaking of retarded high school students, check out the third video I uploaded from this show; not only do the kids speak English like they have speech impediments, but the conversation has no real logical flow either. The entire show is sentence repetition and basic conversations, which all in all isn’t that bad. My main beef with the show was the foreign host, who acts more like a clown that a teacher and doesn’t sound natural at all. If you spoke like that to a real native speaker, they’d laugh at you and walk away.

Of course I understand that you have to speak slowly and clearly for learners of English to understand you; I do it on a daily basis. However, this guy takes it over the top and deserves to be punched in the face for the way he acts. Most high school students don’t need to be spoken to this slowly. The students on the show, for example, spoke a lot faster and don’t need him breaking up every word into its own galaxy. Stop patronizing these people. I worry when I think about people actually watching these shows and thinking they’re going to learn how to speak English from someone like Mimi on TV here.

This guy’s name is Brian Wistner. After doing some hardcore research, by which I mean 1 page of Google search results, it seems as if this guy teaches English at some Christian college in Tokyo, and has also co-authored a book on taking TOEIC. Let’s hope for the sake of his customers and students that his on-camera persona is some kind of self-degrading joke, and he doesn’t really act, speak, or write like he does on the show. Something tells me that’s not the case though. I still can’t stand how pretty much every foreign co-host of these English shows on Japanese TV is a major toolbag. Yes, I said co-host, because I have yet to see a program that is hosted by a lone foreigner. There’s almost always a Japanese person there to lead the action, and that Japanese person usually speaks perfect English without acting like a high-school drama club reject. Hey NHK, here’s an idea: ditch the crap foreigners and just let these Japanese people host the shows.

Here are some clips of tonight’s show, in case you’re curious as to why this stuff annoys me so bad. I used my camera to take video off the TV, then posted them to YouTube, so obviously the quality is terrible. You can still watch them though.

  • Clip 1 – Watch Mimi-sensei spell out a sentence as if he were teaching a dog how to drive a Jeep.
  • Clip 2 – Another one!? Now he goes and talks to some Australian woman. This is the most awkward conversation using What’s up ever recorded on camera.
  • Clip 3 – Since the program was so awful, the kids didn’t learn anything. She’s hungry. Heading home now. Pork chop sandwiches? Duuuuuur.
Make it stop!

Yakety Yak

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三社祭、浅草

What could have been another fairly normal Sunday of sleeping, walking around, going to arcades, and making fun of Chicken Heads instead turned into another slightly strange yet sweet Japanese festival.

Checked out the Sanja Festival (三社祭) in Asakusa, one of the major Tokyo summer festivals, which has been going on since Edo times, I believe. It also happens to be a festival that the local yakuza actually take part in, and you can see them riding on the mikoshi floats, almost completely naked to show off their full-body tattoos. Although seeing a bunch of old Japanese guys wearing nothing but a sweat rag to cover their balls might not seem like entertainment, it was pretty cool to see the yak tattoos. Not so much the buttcracks. I’ve got a bunch of pictures from the festival like the above one, which I’ll upload someday on my Pictures page. For now, I uploaded 2 short videos on YouTube from the festival. They’re both from the same mikoshi float, but different sides of it.

The first is of some crazy looking older yaks, most likely high-ups of some kind. Especially the guy in the black coat with the permed and orange hair. The second has 3 nearly naked guys covered in tattoos. They’re all somehow standing up on a float that is being carried and bounced up and down by a group of people. It must be nauseating riding that thing.

You can see, kind of, from the videos how loud and crazy this festival was. Of course I only saw a bit of it on Sunday, the last day of the 3-day event, but it was packed full of people and there were tons of onlookers following each mikoshi as they paraded up and down the streets. People were cheering and clapping for the yaks on the mikoshi like they were national heroes. Maybe they kind of are. I’ll bet that if the police or something had a festival, people wouldn’t be nearly as happy. And there wouldn’t be any sweet clapping in rhythm.

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