Saturday, May 18, 2019

May 19, 2019 (Tokyo)

Tokyo is such a powerful combination of visual overload as well as fatigue from being surrounded by people that I need to take a walk in a forest that is dark and cool.   Yoyogi Park encompasses Meiji Jingu, and for me, it grasps my mood as if wearing a tight glove over a fist.  There is a significant walkway that goes to the shrine, but I found this path off the road that goes directly into the forest.  As I walk, I hear nothing else except for the crows, which seems to be chattering endlessly.  I believe these birds have a complex skill in communicating.  It's interesting to note that I often feel inarticulate and a sense of vocabulary leaving me, yet the crow can chit-chat until exhaustion.

Crows are known to attack people, steal food off a plate if you are on a picnic, and attack smaller animals.   It seems that they have nothing but contempt for the human race.  It's rare in Los Angeles, but as a child, I remember a crow diving toward me and taking a chunk of my hair out of the head.  I was told that they use human hair to build their nest for their babies.  So, going to a city that has an over-population of crows does leave an emotional scar.  No one was around, yet the birds seemed to surround me as I walked deeper into the pathway.  I didn't even know where this road would lead me to.  After a while, I realized I was just following the sounds of the crow.

The fascinating aspect of the forest or Yoyogi Park is that it is made by humans, not nature.  I have a distaste for 'real' nature, and I prefer the touch of human hands in creating a natural landscape.  Beyond the crows, it is ironic that they took over that is basically an invention of humans.  The perfectly designed park, but overtaken by crows.  It is similar to seeing President Trump in the White House.  The architecture was made to serve another purpose, but the guest who wouldn't leave took over the premise, and here we are, wondering how things collapse in such a fashion.

Friday, May 17, 2019

May 18, 2019 (Tokyo)

Vinyl shopping is an obsession of mine, but also I realize that it is also a tool for me to tour Tokyo on foot and train.  Tokyo is unique and not like any other city, but in a fashion, it reminds me of Los Angeles, in that metropolis' have a series of smaller villages that all together composes the city.  Shibuya is very different from Shinjuku, which in turn is different from Meguro, my home in Tokyo.  Each neighborhood has a specific identity.  Today I pretty much spent time in Nakano, which has a shopping arcade and building called "Nakano Broadway."  I think most would consider the actual building ugly, but for me, it has a certain charm that is hard to define.  It has no aesthetic, and it is open to others who have a taste for the bizarre, or the imaginary world of the Otaku. 

While walking in the complex it does have a smell of sweat, or perhaps their plumbing is not in order, but still, the scent brings out a sense of passion for what they may be looking for.  For example, I got totally fixated on a magnet bookmarker.  It had a flower textile design and I thought to myself, I need that bookmarker.  Yet, as every sense of my body told me to buy it, I resist and almost ran out of the stationary store.  All the Otaku shops open at 11 or even noon and close at 8.  Very solid hours, and I feel that the people who work here are comfortable with the schedule.  

One of my favorite shops in Tokyo is in the Nakano Broadway complex, and it's the store Tacoche, which is a combination of a gift shop, zine store, and art/cinema books, with a selection of Japanese underground music on the CD format,  all dealing with the Underground or counter-culture subject matter.  Tightly curated, with lots of handmade manga or zine subject matter.  I can't think of another shop in Tokyo that covers the underground world in such a splendid manner. Their hours are 12 to 8, and they are open every day, but beware that some of the shops are closed on Wednesday, which seems to be the independent shop's Sunday.

Since I'm a fan of the print media, going through vintage mangas at Mandarake is a wonderful experience.  Not only that, Mandarake is probably the largest manga books and culture store in existence.  They have a huge basement shop in Shibuya, but I prefer the mall approach at Nakano Broadway.  There are several Mandarake shops here, each one focusing on a specific subject matter or it can be used or new.  The thing is, the inventory is insanely huge, but still feels curated as well. It's a store of taste, and my favorite part of the complex is their used publications - such as vintage photo books, but also old Ben Hecht novel translated into Japanese, that looks like it was published in the 1930s.

The toy shops, many, and mostly vintage toys from the 1960s, all dealing with Japanese pop culture of the time.   I have a deep nostalgia of a past that's not mine.  For some reason, I'm drawn to this world.  Perhaps to reclaim my youth, but my imaginary sense of youth.  

Thursday, May 16, 2019

May 17, 2019 (Tokyo)

Deeply jet-lagged, I walk the streets of Tokyo without knowing what direction or desire.  I feel like I have to move or I sleep or experience some version of death.  On the other hand, for the next four days, I'm alone, and therefore I can roam from morning to evening and back to morning again.  I ended up at a chain coffee shop in Shibuya a block away from Tower Records having a cold glass of their tap water and black coffee.  I usually sit by their indoor fountain, which generally I find it meditative.  Unfortunately, they had the water turned off, so the glass fountain, or is it plastic, had old water stains on it which reminded me of the retainer for my teeth.  It's tough to clean the fastener, and I find it disgusting.  Therefore I'm in a bad mood.

To escape my dark thoughts for the day, I went to RecoFan, which is about two blocks away from the coffee shop.   When I look for records, I usually don't have a thought in my head, which, of course, is total bliss. In that state, I found a copy of the Tornados' second album "Away From it All" produced by Joe Meek.   As one knows who reads my blog, I have a thing for Meek's production.  It's interesting to note that Meek arranged to have a photo of Heinz on the back cover of the album, announcing that he is now a solo artist, but did play bass on seven tracks on this album.  It took me about three hours to find this record.  A gentleman from Asia, who speaks perfect English, asked me for advice at the music store.  Both of us had the same problem.   If you buy 5 used albums or singles, you get ¥200  off each title.  He can only find three, and I was struggling with a choice of two and having a difficult time to find other records I wanted.  Which is basically a 'me' problem, because it is one of the great record stores in the world.  It's a smaller version of Amoeba feet wise, but jammed pack with vinyl, CD, and an impressive selection of used 45 rpm singles.  They also have an excellent selection of Japanese pop/rock as well.  I did find a Guernica album there, but I already have it.  Still, the Asian gentleman wanted to know if we could put our purchase together for the discount.  I declined because even though it made perfect sense, I just didn't want to be there for the discount.  As a buyer or collector, it's essential that I purchased records that I need, and not out of a 'deal.'  

Exhausted, I went to a local market near my home here in Meguro and found an overabundance of raw tuna.   I  had rice at home and decided to buy a package of tuna, and at home, I'll make sushi rice, which is a combination of white rice, vinegar, and sesame seeds.   I actually like the sushi rice better than the fish that is either mixed in or lays on top of the tuna.  If one gives me a bowl of rice, I would be happy and content. 

I feel my life must be a great disappointment to my readers and fans.   I made a note to myself to make my self more interesting.  Perhaps even to write more about food.  The truth is, I greatly admire meditating on all sort of things, and then writing about my feelings on that subject matter.  Of course, who cares about how I feel about things!  Still,  on the way home I did go to Tower Music to buy the music magazine "Record Collector," which is cheaper to purchase here than in Los Angeles.  It's essential that I have reading material on long plane flights.  Even although sometimes I just nod in front of the small video screen, I find reading material a safety net for any chances that boredom reveals itself to my world.   Tower Records is 6-floors of music.   Each floor is devoted to a specific region or type of music.  The last time I was here K-pop (Korean) shared space with J-Pop (Japanese), but alas, K-Pop has the whole floor to itself.   Of the boy-band world, it's interesting that Korean pop acts are making a presence in America at the moment. So, the fact that a whole floor is devoted to K-Pop music is an interesting change. Also on this floor were a significant number of young girls screaming because a band or boy band was doing a signing.  Classical music used to have the entire floor by itself but now shares its space with Jazz and World Music. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

"Another Ventriloquist: Stories" by Adam Gilders

ISBN: 9780982964200
There is something wonderful being in a bookstore and picking up a book due to its cover, and then buying it because you read one of the short stories while standing in the store.  At first, Adam Penn Gilders reminded me of Lydia Davis, but only superficially due that both authors wrote short-short stories.  They also write/wrote strange narratives in a minimal style that becomes maximum in texture and emotional reflection.  Gilders has a dry sense of humor, and the fact that these small narratives are about married couples or the workforce in an office, there is something desperate that is not spoken.  It's tragic that Gilders died in 2007.  I would have liked to see more books by this excellent writer.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

"Oscar Wilde's Basil Hallward" by Tosh Berman for The Brooklyn Rail

My brief essay on Oscar Wilde's fictional artist in "The Picture of Dorian Gray" for Brooklyn Rail.  Thank you Barry Schwabsky for the invitation!

Read it here:  Oscar Wilde's Basil Hallward by Tosh Berman

ARCHITECT OF STARDOM: Irving Mills and Duke Ellington

Part of my "Architect of Stardom" series on 'Please Kill Me' website. Here I focus on Irving Mills, the manager of Duke Ellington, among other greats.

 His “Elvis” was Duke Ellington, but he did far more than manage the careers of the Duke, Cab Calloway, and Hoagy Carmichael. Irving Mills got his hand in every aspect of the music business—managing, publishing, recording and leading his own band. He may, in fact, be the unsung father of the modern music business in America. - Tosh Berman

Read it here:  ARCHITECT OF STARDOM: Irving Mills and Duke Ellington