Archive for July 2009

The Splendid Spy

July 21, 2009

For the past year and a half, there has been a steady stream of J-doramas focusing on special police forces and terrorism: Special Police, Koushounin, Kiina, Bloody Monday, BOSS, Mr. Brain. They were interesting at first, but they started to get into a rut. By the time they got to Mr. Brain with KimuTaku of SMAP fame, I was getting tired of all their tech gadgets and super intelligent heroes. This summer season, they have another one. Karei naru spy 華麗なるスパイ–The Splendid Spy.

It stars Nagase Tomoya’s, but that’s not what makes it interesting–although M will watch anything he’s in.  It’s actually a spoof of the spy genre. It has all this funky music from old spy movies, some of it sounding like James Bond background music, some similar to the riff of the bongo drums when the tension is high (like Mission Impossible). The opening credits seem to come to come straight out of a 60s Japanese gangster flick with a steel guitar playing in pseudo-Hawaiian mode and the sound of bullets firing–pthew!–every time an actor’s name appears on the screen, a la I Spy.

The main character, Yoroi Kyousuke (Nagase), is a convicted con artist, but his government calls on him to help the badly dressed special terrorism force–well except for Dorothy played by the always delectable Fukada Kyouko–fight terrorism across Japan, especially against Mr. Takumi (Mr. Scheming), who has oily black hair and a short comb-tooth moustache like Hitler. Hmmm. He even wears a khaki shirt. On his first day, Kyousuke wakes up to the ring of the phone and is surprised to find that the phone is in the sole of a shoe–sound familiar, Chief? Then he goes to the office but first needs to step into a locker that promptly drops through the floor, hits the bottom, after which he enters a hallway with sliding double doors in which, of course, he gets his foot stuck–Missed it by that much. As you might imagine, I am paying attention as to not miss any references to the spy genre.

The first episode centers on a lackey of Mr. Takumi who attempts to kidnap the Prime Ministers grand daughter, played by Inoue Mao, and Kyousuke’s con-artist talents help rescue her. But this is when I begin to think that this 90 minute first episode should have been edited more aggressively: The last half hour dragged out just a bit too long. There were were some funny jokes, but the pace slowed to a crawl.

Still, for a summer season in which I have yet to see a single interesting drama–Oh nooooooo! What am I to do?–I will keep my hopes up that the following 46-minute episodes will by as sharp and witty as it promises to be.

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July 19, 2009

Ping.fm is pretty convenient… for now. We’ll see how this works.

My Dog Ate It

July 19, 2009

God love the Japanese. They come up with the craziest inventions, such as the Head Stabilizer for those who fall asleep on the train, or the Cuddle Pillow for the lonely among us. But I read that the toy company, Takara Tomy, is reintroducing its dog interpreter, the Bowlingual. This contraption claims to analyze a dog’s bark and interpret its emotional state. This is rather ridiculous, as it would seem to me that most people can read the emotions of man’s best friend relatively easily. A wagging tail is a happy dog, flattened ears is fear/aggression, a whimper suggests pain.

But then, you never know. I’m wondering if this electronic translator can interpret an elevated level of stress, such as in a lie detector. As an instructor, I come across my share of students who forget to do their home assignments. Indeed, I had one student who came home from Thanksgiving break swearing that the paper he wrote on his parents’ computer–suggesting he didn’t have the file to print–was destroyed by his dog. He even presented me with the shredded remnants of the paper he somehow saved from the jaws of his pet. 

This old and tired excuse–my dog ate it–is seemingly effective because the only other witness to the crime is the perpetrator who cannot communicate the truth. But if this Bowlingual could somehow interpret Spot’s emotions when confronted with the now unreadable shreds of evidence, well, Takara Tomy might have something that I might buy. 

4th of July

July 4, 2009

Happy Fourth of July!

I was supposed to go to the National Mall with Musubichan to watch Barry Manilow and Aretha Franklin, but she changed our plans–I should feel lucky, actually. Instead we are having her friends over for a BBQ. While it means more work, it also means less walking around the Mall, which can be quite strenuous.And, of course, less Mandy, too.