Friday, May 30, 2008

Japanamerica on Seattle TV


My talk at the end of March in the Elliot Bay Bookstore, a beautiful and well cared-for venue in downtown Seattle, was taped and is now being aired on Seattle TV. I spoke on a Sunday eve, and was zonked from a full weekend's chattering at SakuraCon, but I was also fattened and tanned from days in Southern California.

I suspect you'll be snoozing by the second minute--still, it seems worth posting here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Kelts on Keene



I was honored to be asked to review Donald Keene's elegant and resolutely humble memoir, Chronicles of My Life, just out from Columbia University (my grad school alma mater) Press. Simply put, Keene led the way in explaining Japan and its rich culture to Americans, and his life's doings remind me of Elias Canetti's aside:
"I try to imagine someone telling Shakespeare: 'Relax!'"

And as Susan Sontag wrote of Canetti himself: "The message of the mind's passion is passion."

My brief review is out in the new summer issue of Bookforum--and online here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Murakami X 2


My latest column for the Daily Yomiuri is here.

Two Murakamis making headway in America.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Kyoto Journal reviews Japanamerica



Kyoto Journal, the very elegant and lovingly designed publication produced in Kyoto and New York (try that on for trans-culturalism), reviews Japanamerica in their latest issue.

The prolific and protean Pico Iyer is a regular contributor, and their reviewer is exceedingly kind to me and the book. (Click on the above for a reading, under the title "Catching the Great Wave.")

One caveat: the photo is not of me, as I am not so muscular and have no such T-shirt. But it's a great photo by Matthias Ley (aka D.B. Cooper), snapped during one of two Tokyo release parties for the Japanese editions--and the broad-backed man and his T-shirt were and remain striking.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Drumming it up again with Ali-Mo


Since a few of you very kindly inquired into the health of my band and the status of my drumming, it seems worthwhile announcing that we've been revived--and are booked to perform tomorrow night in Tokyo (pay no heed to the dates on the banner to the left--alternate universe called 07):
Date: May 24, Saturday
Venue: What The Dickens! (EBISU)
http://www.whatthedickens.jp/index.php?lang=1
4th Floor, Loop6 Bldg
1-13-3 Ebisu-Nishi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-5545-4242

Start: 9:00-ish p.m. till midnight
Price: FREE!!

If you're on this side of the Pacific, stop in and scream hello.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

After the Quakes: China versus Japan on NPR/PRI


I proffer a few words (almost literally) on cultures and grieving on PRI's The World here.
Elias Canetti addresses this concept kaleidoscopically in Crowds and Power.

Important to add that the Kobe quake in 95, while violent and devastating, was far smaller in scale and scope than this month's catastrophe in Chengdu. And Japan was hit almost exactly two months later with the Aum Shinrikyo subway poisonings in Tokyo, diverting attention from Kobe and blanketing the entire nation in an apocalyptic gloom.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

J-Pop Entrepreneurs

[photo: Jamie Rivadeneira's Japan L.A., just off Melrose Avenue (and here) during a visit in March]

"What I think is most appealing about Japanese culture is its amazing mixture of cuteness, coolness and playfulness," says Seiji Horibuchi, president and CEO of VIZ Pictures. "Playfulness can allow us to have generous curiosity, to cross borders between cultures, beliefs, genders, ages and so on. I think that's the true beauty of Japanese culture."
--
from MSNBC / ENTREPRENEUR (click here)

While being interviewed for this article, I suggested the reporter speak to VIZ founder and chairman, Seiji Horibuchi, whom I'd just visited a few weeks earlier in San Francisco. Seiji's insights into "playfulness" and "border crossing" in Japanese culture are, I think, quite accurate. And as the article notes, he is launching the J-Pop Center in SF's Japantown in less than a year.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Speed Racer and Japanamerica, LIVE from Tokyo




On NPR's "Morning Edition." Give a listen for the history of the original IP:
NPR:Speed Racer

And the background:
Yomiuri Shimbun Column

Whatever you think of the movie, think of the original.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

bata-kusai, batakusai!! butterball gone?

the term was 'batakusai'--i.e., westerners stank of butter. but now, no butter in tokyo? nutters.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Speeding toward "Speed"





Winding down a brief Golden Week with the windup of May, a major month. Before checking out Hollywood's "Speed" on Friday, check out this brilliant fan-made house video/AMV, which is probably more entrancing than it has any right to be: GO SPEED GO
More to announce soon from the soothing spring breezes of Tokyo.