Black Friday or the Day I Avoid Shopping

I went to the One of a Kind Christmas Show this afternoon and saw a lot of cool stuff. And a lot more people. It was actually a pleasant experience, reminding me of the events I used to go in Japan. Oh, how time flies.
Anyway, I was in a pretty big crowd amidst a lot of stuff, but it was controlled and calm, people were enjoying their time.

So today is Black Friday. Hell, I love a good sale as much as the next person, but I don't deal well with crowds. Definitely not the chaotic, adrenaline-pumping Black Friday event that I've been told about and warned about in the news. To try and shop amidst a huge crowd of other determined shoppers sounds tiring and horrific. The mild claustrophobia and obsession with personal space really doesn't help.

But actually, this Black Friday shenanigan reminds me very much of what happens at New Year's in Japan (well, technically a few days after New Years when the stores open). I've never participated in the hatsu-uri (first sale) events and fukubukuro (blind bag) sales, but judging from the news footage I'd see every year, Black Friday seems very much like it. I mean, the shoppers there are so determined. Lining up in front of the store at early morning-level of focused.
I never really could keep up with that sort of spirit... I'm more of a "walk around the mall alone for 3 hours to compare prices and end up not buying anything" type of shopper.

The point is, this kind of shopping event is a high-stress deal regardless of country. And I like to stay away from it.

(And no, online shopping is not an option for me. I still feel mildly uncomfortable with online shopping, for some strange reason.)


An Observation

I'm sitting at a Second Cup. I really want to go to Ikea.
On a different note, I am wholeheartedly regretting my last post. I think you can tell I'm not necessarily the most creative (or interesting) person. I'm no storyteller.

So today, I'll try a bit of observation. I'm sitting facing a window.

It's not facing the busy side of the street, but rather, one of those bleak roads that make a perpendicular cross against the big, busy street. There are lots of things - a pizza store in the corner, giant buildings, a fire hydrant. So maybe there aren't that many things. But it's not vacant. It just feels very vacant. Maybe it's the lack of traffic in comparison to the main road. Maybe it's the faceless gray drab of an exterior that's right in front of me. It's an apartment building with a four-story parking lot. The neon colors of the pizza place next door really doesn't help liven things up. Instead, it blends (neon colors usually shouldn't mix so well with gray). It triggers no spark in my eye.
The sky isn't heavy, but rather a vacant hole. It's not even gray like the parking lot. It's white. If you look closely enough it's probably one of those really really light shades of gray (I mean, there's fifty shades of gray out there, if not more). But at the moment I'm too lethargic to pull out a color swatch and determine its precise color code. Or whatever that thing is that people use to find the perfect paint. It's probably used a lot in hospital bathrooms.
And now, there's a milk-grey truck right in my face. The color of soft steel. Oh well, it probably has a hint of green in it. It's still gray to me.
The drink I ordered sloshes in my mouth and down my throat. It leaves a clenching feeling in my throat muscles, protesting against the sugar. It's a white chocolate latte, I think. North America and their flavored lattes. It fascinates me. Especially the winter kind.
A few more cars, a bright yellow school bus, and still the van hasn't moved. (truck? van? I can't tell them apart)
It's an odd time of the day, where normal people are still working or at school.
I'm not.
A dude lit a cigarette as he walked by. I don't know why he stood out, I guess it reminded me of... I think of my many friends who smoke (most I've lost touch with, only a few I still talk to). Not necessarily any one of them in particular.
My parents used to smoke. They quit when I was born.
I change the song on my ipod to some 80s Jpop. Eiichi Ohtaki is fan-frickin-tastic (check out his album, A Long Vacation - it's been my jam for a while). Despite the song being very summery and cheerful, soft and warm in my ears with the residue of cultural currency, it's still monotonous and drab outside.
Hah, funny. The lyrics just right now was "memories are monochrome" (from Kimi ha Tennenshoku).
But on second thought, I think it's slightly lighter outside. Just a hint. There's that slight strain in the back of the eyeballs, on the underside of the sphere, that pulls at a nerve in frustration. Yes, defintely. Just a hint lighter.
And it suddenly dawns on me that this is very fun. To put abstract thought into words. Unbroken Arrow: Sentou Yousei Yukikaze waxed poetic (in the most efficient, objective voice, of course) about how language is another filter, that true thought is somewhere beyond words. Words are putting those thoughts into coherent clusters, a code, that other people can interpret. I'm totally paraphrasing, but the van in front of me has not moved an inch.
I think the driver left. Oh, wait. Driver's back.

And finally, the van moved. I think I'm done for now.
Or is it a truck?


A Bit of TMI Tuesday

There is no sign of a road.
Surely, but surely there has to be one. (What am I standing on, then?)
Everything is dark and there is a dampness in the air like it's been raining, maybe an hour or two ago, the moisture just starting to dry from the ground. No light shines to lead her way. But at least her eyes seem to be adjusting, since she can now see her sneaker-clad feet. She takes a harder look at what's under her shoes and sees that it's concrete. Probably. It feels hard enough.
A tentative step forward, the soles of her feet barely leaving the ground. The rubber sole makes a scuffling sound, faint. Another step forward, and another, leads to another, until she's walking in a slow half-shuffle. Very, very slowly. But moving nonetheless. Nothing has come to harm her (yet), and the ground hasn't suddenly sprouted fangs and a black hole to suck her in and chew her to bits. It seems safe enough to walk, with adequate caution. It was better than standing there, still on the outside and flipping in the inside, worried and frightened and absolutely helpless.
The concrete ground kept stretching out in front of her. There seems to be no right way, no direction, no due course. She wasn't sure if her feet, no longer dragging the soles, were moving straight. Maybe she was going in circles and she didn't even know it. Or straight into a monster's trap. No answers lay conveniently in front, or anywhere in the surrounding. Which was still dark and ambiguous by the way, not unnerving at all.
She shook her head. Why fool herself when there was no one else. But it wasn't easy to let herself succumb to it, when her own pride was still around and kicking (damn this hyperactive self-consciousness).

It feels like forever and a half of walking, nothing in her ears except her own footsteps, sometimes shuffling, sometimes a staccato, always nervous.
Until there are things in her line of sight. Some books. A CD. Several pens and an ugly little cell phone (the one you actually open and close and the display is tiny). It had been a long time since her eyes focused on something that wasn't herself. Her back creaks, and the muscle in her legs are taut in an uncomfortable twist as she crouches down. She picks the objects up, one by one, with uncertain fingers. A notebook. A watercolor set. They all feel cold to the touch. Lonesome, even. A mechanical pencil with blue-colored lead. Christmas gift wrap. Her hands were slowly, but surely, filling up.
Suddenly she's bombarded by sound. And light. A lot of light. It's as if someone finally realized the computer screen was asleep and hastily jabbed random keys to get it back on (oh, and the mute button was on, too, gotta undo that). And as much as she's immensely happy to see other people (it never occured to her that she missed people), it unnerves her.
They were there, all along, and she didn't notice them.
(A prideful, spiteful voice whispered, no one reached out to you, either, but that was easily dismissed.)
So she wasn't exactly going in a circle, or a straight line. She turned around for the first time to see a faint zig-zag pattern glowing through the crowds, cleanly avoiding collision with anything and anyone. It was a very deliberate, and calculated path.
The things she carried, now, seemed irrelevant. They were relics, in comparison to what was surrounding her. She drops them all to the ground, and tries to mingle. "Tries" is the key word. Sure, people respond to her comments (when she actually made them), and some would tilt their head from a distance in acknowledgement. But she was hopeless at keeping contact, at being normal (that much she could tell from the disgruntled look in their eyes, the barely concealed downwards turn of their lips). Dread, fear, and incompetence wells up from her stomach to clog her soft insides, fitfully clenching at her heart. So much, that the weight of it pulls at her hair in ruthless fistfuls as if to rip them right off, forcing her eyes to the ground for a long time. When she finally gains composure to look up, their faces are all plain and unreadable. Porcelain, ceramics, clay. So beautiful, yet hardly attainable.
The lights slowly dim. Or maybe it was quick, she couldn't tell. What was nice, moderate liveliness quickly tune out to the same colorless drab, drowning the buzz of voices and some pop music faint in the distance. She didn't know the song, and it was gone before she could at least give a shot at the title.
After a long time spent staring into space (it was no longer a crowd, no longer anything, really), she starts moving again. This time, the darkness was comforting. Her posture more upright, with sure footsteps, eyes down to the ground. Familiar and silent. The air was cool and soft to her skin, with a hint of moisture. Nondescript mildness, senses dwindling as a candle burns out in the end. Inevitable, but it was right.

Until there are things in her line of sight. Some books. A CD. Several pens and a square cell phone that looks like a smartphone but isn't (it has a nice keyboard, though).


Tokusatsu (2): The One with Trains

...OK so a looong time ago I promised myself I'd talk a lot more (frequently) about tokusatu. And then I realized my knowledge was incredibly biased and limited, and then I kinda left it at that. Also, not being in the country means I have really limited access to info on the newer stuff.
This weekend, I pulled out my stash of DVDs and watched a bunch of them.
  • Several Japanese films (well, films with Masato Sakai or Hidetoshi Nishijima in it, because that's how I choose my films, obviously).
  • Gundam 00 <First Season>, or the anime that utterly broke my senior year to shreds. *weeps in a corner and eats chocolate*
  • Slam Dunk - BEST SPORTS MANGA EVAR. I will fight you for Jin-san. I swear.
and then,
  • Kamen Rider Den-O
Kamen Rider Den-O was aired in 2007-8, in the now famous Super Hero Time slot on TV Asahi. And as the title so clearly implies, it is a part of the major tokusatsu TV series, the Kamen Rider series.
I won't go into details or about how intensely I obsessed over it in senior year, because I will go on forever (or very close to it). This is my absolute favorite Kamen Rider title of all time.
What got me was the intensity of the story - seriously, this was really deep for a 7:30am kids' show - and the characters. Time travel, paradoxes, sci-fi, life and death, consequences, the importance of memory... This was the first show that I ever really considered the importance of the screenwriter in a television series.
Yasuko Kobayashi (the lead writer) simply stunned me. I loved the way she wrote Hana and Kohana and all the girls. She was also incredible in Samurai Sentai Shinkenger (Super Sentai series), but that's another story.

Oh, and how fun it was. Den-O was intense and there were lots of drama and sadness and plots that were waaaaay too intricate for a 10 year old, but it was incredibly fun. Every week was so entertaining and gripping, it got me incredibly invested. It was clear the writer(s) knew the characters very well. They were treated with care and so much respect. I guess that's what really got me invested. Every character was so distinct and flawed and real (sure a bunch of them weren't human but hey, anything goes). Everyone had their own goals, their own worldview, their stake and meaning.
(This also goes to how Yasuko-nyan wrote Shinkenger - her characters are all so incredibly "human" and incredibly appealing.)

My favorite character? Urataros, hands down. I love that sneaky turtle.