I finally got around to watching Wakanda Forever on Disney Plus. I’d been meaning to for quite some time now – I’d actually planned to watch it in theaters but ran out of time.
Some spoilers ahead
I have to say, though, that I was kind of disappointed by the film. To me, it felt like I was watching a runner going from a nice jog to a wild sprint – a nice jog through the action scenes, then a wild sprint through story and dialogue. I thought back to Patton Oswalt’s interview about how too many times people making action movies will cut out parts of the story or condense it just so there’s more time for action scenes.
Giving Shuri’s character more room to breathe on screen would’ve really made this story a masterpiece. Instead, the film had so much plot to move along and so many required action sequences, that it felt like the heart of the story was pushed off to the side.
Instead of a movie, I really think this would’ve made for a fantastic series, like WandaVision. A series format would’ve given Shuri more time to develop as a character. Given how condensed the film felt and how they just shoved Shuri’s character development in between action scenes, it felt like the only reason I was fine with her wanting revenge so much was because it just seemed like the logical thing everyone in her position would want. Rather than that, I would’ve loved to have hung out with Shuri for four or five episodes so I could really better understand her thought process and how she was handling how she felt.
I couldn’t help but think of how much of a climactic end to an episode it would’ve been if we see her in the ancestral plane heading to the throne only to find Killmonger there instead of her mother.
I would’ve loved more time with Namor and his city, too, so I could better understand his way of thinking and feel that much more heartbreak at the idea iof Wakanda and Talokan being at war. It all just felt so rushed in the film.
I’m starting to think more and more that Marvel should consider creating more series and having fewer movies. The movie format doesn’t seem to be doing justice to the stories anymore.
I know I wrote last year about obtaining and attempting to grow Asian pear trees in my little terrace. Unfortunately, about a month after writing that, both trees got fire blight and swiftly died.
The whole experience has made me sad but undeterred, though I’ve decided I’m actually going to wait to buy any pear trees until I find dwarf ones for sale that won’t try to take over the terrace. So far, no luck.
I do, however, have a nice nectarine tree growing in its second year. I also have three blueberry bushes, about ten strawberry plants, three mikan trees, two lemon trees and two olive trees. I’m also trying to coax a grape vine to live, but so far it seems wholly unwilling to cooperate.
As I’ve probably written before, I adore fruit but live in a country that slaps exhorbitant prices on any of them. Thus, I’ve taken to trying to grow my own fruit, knowing full well this will probably end in disaster.
In the world of gardening, I feel like winter is the time to take stock – repot, clean up your gardening stuff, prune, check the roots. In the spring, I’m enjoying watching my garden slowly wake up as the air warms. It’s made spring much more fun for me even as hay fever sets in.
To me, spring also feels like I took a test in winter with all the repotting and pruning, and spring is when the results came back of whether or not all my meddling killed the plant or not. So far, the results have been pretty good.
Most people who venture to Asakusa Station are there for the shrine.
While it really is a beautiful shrine, it is absolutely soaked through with tourists on weekends, complete with tourist traps lining the streets leading up to the shrine.
Thus, I recommend to anyone visiting the area to venture just a bit off the beaten path until they come across streets lined with stores that sell anything and everything you need to open your own restaurant or bakery.
It’s a haven for anyone who adores cooking or baking, with shop after shop lining the street offering everything from ladles as big as your head to uniforms for anyone hoping to run their own restaurant or bakery.
One baking store has aisles just of piping tips and cake pans ranging in any size you can think of. Another store is ingredients I can’t normally find in grocery stores here (though no butterscotch chips, alas).
Even if you have zero interest in cooking or baking, the novelty of what they’re selling alone is, I think, worth the trip. Where else will you see Japanese restaurant signs for sale or a massive popcorn machine?
There are also a couple of stores selling the fake plastic food you can often find in display cases outside of restsaurants here so you know exactly what they offer. The plastic food models are extremely lifelike, meaning be prepared to pay a lot of money for them, but I think they make for a great souvenir from Japan.
I miss watching HGTV. There’s something incredibly soothing about watching other people take a house and rennovate it. For a while I even enjoyed watching shows about people fixing up old cars. The feeling was the same.
HGTV is one of the channels I miss the most since coming to Japan. I know I could always buy a VPN or satellite and get the channel back again, but the costs are fairly prohibitive to me. Instead, I try to make do with whatever little tidbits of shows HGTV’s official Youtube channel decides to upload.
Japan, for it’s part, has one home-rennovation show I used to watch all the time called “Before After.” It was the show that had it all for me – beautiful Japanese traditional architecture, rennovations and reveals with cozy music playing in the background. I really loved watching houses get rennovated, too, while being sandwiched right up against the neighbors’ houses. It is amazing what can be achieved here.
Unfortunately, this show is only sporadically aired, at best, and I don’t know any other shows like this in Japan. I wish they could make more.
Thus, I find myself going back to HGTV’s official channel, where I watch in disbelief at people who take one look at a massive kitchen and say “It’s so tiny.”
It comes with the territory of trying to become a professional author, but rejection still stings. I know fear of that pain is why many people I know have written stories that will never see the light of day.
For me, I have a couple of metaphors running around in my head when I submit stories to various publications and agencies, only to have them be rejected:
First, is the metaphor that my stories are like homeless pets. I feel like I’m their foster parent, and it’s my job to find their forever home. This metaphor helps to slightly lessen the sting because I can simply say to myself, “Well, then clearly that publication wasn’t meant to be this story’s forever home. I’ll keep looking.”
The second is dating. When I was younger, I felt the same sting of rejection from people I liked or even loved as I do now when I get that email starting with “Unfortunately…” A lot of publications may have realized this similarity, too, because I’ve noticed some have added words of comfort at the end of their rejection letters that amount to “It’s not you, it’s me.” Words like “Please note that this is a subjective industry” or “Please note that we reject up to 80% of what gets sent to us.”
It doesn’t help, to be honest. Much like, I think, it doesn’t help anyone during a breakup or any other kind of rejection to hear such words.
Every now and then I think “Maybe I’m just not meant to be an author,” and that could be the case, but I would love to learn that unhappy discovery on my deathbed, preferably at a ripe old age. Until then, I’m going to keep plodding along, nursing my rejection wounds and hoping I can find publications that will be my stories’ forever homes.
The podcast focuses on some major Hollywood star, TV show, film or even brand that was repeatedly and horrendously rejected just before the breakthrough came. Hearing the show, I can only slightly commiserate with many of the rejections people like Ed Sheeran have endured, but it gives me hope that maybe if I keep going, something good will happen.
However, I also have to wonder how many countless others have gone through the same kinds of trials these major stars and major films survived, only to not make it out the other side victorious. How many great ideas, great actors, great stories have we lost along the way?
Before moving to Japan, I had no idea what it was like to be in an earthquake, and I think a lot of people in the world have no idea, so I thought I’d briefly share my own experiences to help those with no experience better picture the nightmare.
I think I’ve mentioned it before in previous entries, but try to picture yourself on a suspension bridge. Some playgrounds have them for kids to walk across and squeal with delight as the bridge shakes and rocks back and forth. So maybe picture yourself on one of those bridges right in the middle.
Now picture several adults suddenly grabbing the edges of that bridge and pushing that bridge back and forth like they’re trying to work through their aggression. They’re shaking it to the point you think “I want to get off this thing right now,” but it’s shaking so much you can’t even move anymore.
That’s one type of earthquake sensation I’ve experienced.
Another is standing on a platform at a train station only to have the ground rumble as a massive train suddenly thunders past. It’s like you can hear the earth grinding against itself as it moves. Right after the massive earthquake of 2011 in Japan, I moved to an apartment on the first floor right outside a busy road, and every time a bus rolled past, the floor of my apartment would rumble, and for the first year or so I swore another earthquake was starting up each time.
Another type I’ve experienced is one that felt like suddenly being thrown onto a boat that was at the mercy of some fairly high waves. So much so I thought maybe my eyes were deceiving me because I was looking at my apartment rather than the inside of a boat.
Now imagine being in a building that’s not meant for this type of shaking, and it’s woken you up in the middle of the night, in a place that apparently hasn’t experienced an earthquake like this in about 200 years. All the lights have gone off everywhere, too, just to make reality that much more distorted for you.
I’ve had friends say they want to experience an earthquake just once “for the fun of it”, and I can understand the thrill of the earth suddenly but lightly moving for a few seconds before settling again, but after the 2011 earthquake, now even the slightest movement has me on edge that the next big one is about to happen.
For the people living in Turkey and Syria right now having survived this nightmare so far, they might not know if the “big one” has hit yet or not. Every tremor is going to make a lot of them wonder if it’s an aftershock or the build up to another, stronger earthquake. It’s easy to look back later and sort the chaos out, but in the moment, you have no idea what’s happening, and you realize how much of your survival isn’t in your hands anymore.
Time Magazine has helpfully made a list of all the ways in which you can help the survivors. If you can, please donate.
For one thing, most of the stories are simple, making them easy for me to follow in Japanese. For another thing, I get the chance to hear fairly natural Japanese dialogue (There is no: “Where is the pen?” “Oh, it is on the desk.”).
Also, Japan’s entertainment industry lacks the funds Hollywood has to go crazy on special effects. To me, I think that’s a good thing because it means Japan has to usually focus more on a good story to get people to watch. The fabulous Patton Oswalt once said to the effect in an interview: “They’re just shaking their keys at us with so many special effects. We don’t need any of that.” I agree. A solid story will always outweigh even the best special effects in my book.
That being said, there have been a few cringeworthy attempts of special effects for a drama I’m making an effort to watch called “100万回 言えばよかった” that is airing one episode per week on TV. You can also catch it on Netflix (though I’m not sure if it’s available outside of Japan). Episode 3 is out tonight.
There have been several times where the character of Naoki has to be shown as a ghost, meaning the classic trick of people walking through him. The special effects aren’t fantastic is the kindest thing I can say about them.
However, I am more than happy to push aside bad special effects because the first two episodes were interesting enough to keep my attention.
A man named Naoki wakes up in his bed at his apartment and wanders out to the living room to see his girlfriend furiuosly vacuuming late at night to annoy everyone living nearby because Naoki is late for her birthday dinner. He tries to apologize, but he thinks she’s just ignoring him out of fury. It takes him a while, but Naoki starts to realize he’s probably dead at the same time his girlfriend, Yui, files a missing person report at the police station. The police say there’s not much hope, though, because Naoki is way over 18, and there’s a highly likely chance Naoki was just doing a terrible job of trying to get out of the relationship.
A detective at the police station is working on a case involving the murder of a young woman in her apartment when he overhears Yui’s impassioned speech at the precinct that Naoki wasn’t the type of guy to just up and run away. She holds up a photo of the two of them, and the detective says they’ll file his case away with all the rest of the missing person cases.
On his way home, the detective spots Naoki wandering around in the city (this takes place in my favorite city here: Yokohama). He’s about to walk right up to Naoki and tell him off for making Yui worry like that, when bad special effects tell the detective that Naoki must be a ghost. The detective’s family, it turns out, runs a Buddhist temple, and all of his family members can see ghosts.
Naoki basically orders the detective to help him convince Yui he’s there, and most of episode 1 is given over to getting Yui to understand Naoki is probably dead and that the detective can see him while Yui can’t.
Episode 1 ends with the detective pulling up surveillance footage of the murdered woman’s apartment, and he spots Naoki in the footage entering the apartment.
As I mentioned in the previous entry, I think Naoki isn’t actually dead. I think the characters in the first episode tried way too hard to tell the audience “he’s dead” by repeating the phrase ad nauseum. There’s no need to hit the nail on the head that hard, I think. Something’s up.
Second, there’s a part in episode 1 where Yui, who is starting to come to grips with Naoki probably being dead, wanders into an intersection oblivious to the red light. A car almost hits her when a woman pulls her out of the way. The woman makes a point of mentioning that she’s a doctor and that she works at a hospital “Just over there” and points to a nearby hospital.
The writer could’ve chosen anyone under the sun to save Yui at that moment. They went for a doctor who works at a nearby hospital.
Episode 2 even goes so far as to have the doctor just happen to visit Yui’s hair salon, where she works as a hairdresser. Yui then visits the doctor’s hospital for a checkup after having a panic attack about Naoki’s possible death. The detective comes to pick her up, and the doctor sees the detective and quietly says, “Are you joking me?” suggesting she knows the detective.
I’m willing to bet that Naoki was actually found somewhere (I’m sure that’ll be parsed out later) and is currently unconscious at the doctor’s hospital. Yui has, thus far, not even brought up Naoki. The doctor even asked if Yui is under a sudden enormous amount of stress, and Yui lies and says she’s fine. This means the writer has the luxury of time before revealing where Naoki really is because Yui is making sure the doctor never sees a picture of Naoki before probably the second-to-last episode.
I love watching dramas and movies, but sometimes I wonder if I’m alone in feeling slightly stressed watching them because I feel like it’s on me to sort out the plot. Especially when the stories become complicated messes, I have my own slight panic attacks thinking: How am I going to make this work?
I don’t know why my gut instinct hasn’t yet come to the obvious conclusion that finishing these stories is not a task I need to worry about, but every single time I watch something, my brain is trying to work out how I’d end it. I wonder if any other writers feel that way.
I have watched quite possibly far too much Japanese TV since I first came to live in Japan in 2009. While by no means does it make me an expert on anything at all, I would like to talk about one thing I’ve noticed throughout the years of watching: Japanese TV has a love affair with showing food.
A lot of shows in Japan enjoy sending celebrities and comedians on wild adventures across Japan or the world simply so they can eat. Even shows that seemingly have little to do with food will find some excuse for the people in the show to stop by a restaurant, all so the camera people can switch to a starry lens while some staff member or hand model slowly cuts into the food and lifts up a bite as if we at home are about to eat.
Japanese TV drives home the point for me that Japanese love good food so much, they’re happy to watch someone on TV eat it.
I try, actually, to not watch food shows here, but as I noted above, even shows that seemingly have nothing to do with food will find a way to squeak it in there anyway.
A recent example is a show called “100万回 言えばよかった“, which Netflix has translated as “Why didn’t I tell you a million times?”
It’s a TV drama airing right now every Friday night that I think is copying the movies “Ghost” and “Just Like Heaven” (I’m calling it now – the main character Naoki is actually just in a coma), where the main character Naoki, played by Takeru Satoh, realizes he’s suddenly dead, or so everyone around him says (seriously he must be in a coma. I’m going to write an entry about this show later).
You would think this show has absolutely nothing to do with showing food. You would think.
However, before whatever happened happened, Naoki was a restaurant owner with apparently a life-altering Salisbury steak recipe because the show makes a point to slow the story down just so we the viewers can hear the sounds of someone cutting into one of his steaks not once, but three times in the very first episode. In fact, his steak plays a crucial role in convincing the love of his life that he’s “dead” (in a coma).
When it comes to Japanese TV, there is no escaping food.
As an aside, every single time a person on a show takes a bite of something, they pause for effect, then find some clever way to declare the food amazing. It’s mind-numbingly repetitive. Just once, I’d love to see them take a bite of something and declare it absolutely awful.
I’m gradually falling into the world of gardening, learning more with each passing season and each new plant bought. The other day a nearby bookstore was having a massive sale of English books, so I ended up walking out the door with two books on gardening.
I’ve had gardening as my hobby for about five years now, and I’ve done all I can to research each plant, learn from the experts like Monty Don and Peter Chan, and borrow books from the library about plants, and still I’m learning new things. The books I bought made me feel like I had only just rushed out to the garden center to randomly buy whatever looked pretty. just reading a few pages from the books reminded me of how far I still have to go.
That being said, I think I’ve started going slightly crazy as a gardener becuase I was impatiently waiting for winter all summer long. Even with the flowers blooming and some (though not many) fruit ripening, I was still counting down the days until winter.
Up until recently, I’d viewed winter as the waiting time for plants. They usually either died or went dormant, and I’d impatiently wait until spring, for some hint that life was growing again.
However, I’ve since learned that most pruning, repotting and major work in the garden should be done on many plants in the winter. Time after time I’d want to prune a tree or a bush, only to read it “should be done in the winter, after its leaves fall off.” I had several plants threatening to overtake my entire garden, but I had to wait until the winter before I could hack away at it.
There’s something quite satisfying about effectively giving your trees a haircut. Mine went from overgrown messes to something that resembles beautiful, young trees. Though there’s the fear that I’ve killed them in the process, Peter Chan is comforting with his “Don’t be afraid” and “Trees are quite hardy and vigorous” words of advice.
Now I’m eagerly awaiting February, when I can repot some of the plants and prevent their roots from being potbound, then I’m waiting for March, when I can trim my citrus plants.
The more I garden, the more I realize there’s no “off” season.
As I wrote in 2020, Japan is more about the New Year than Christmas when it comes to major holidays. Christmas is for going out on dates, though I have some friends who are putting up trees and giving their kids gifts.
The days surrounding January 1st are for hunkering down at home, going on vacation, or visiting relatives. Most shops and restaurants are closed until about January 4th, and even trash pickup is delayed until around then.
It all means careful planning in the countdown to January 1st. That means a lot of people do major house cleaning right up until trash is no longer picked up so their house can be nice and clean for the new year, and hopefully there will be fewer things that need to be thrown out while the workers doing the vital job of collecting trash can take a break.
It also means stocking up on food. I just visited a grocery store I normally frequent, and it was packed far more than usual with people trying to stock up before the grocery store closes tomorrow afternoon until January 3rd.
I think I should mention that not all stores follow the tradition of being closed for days on end. Convenience stores, for example, usually stay open, and a lot of shopping centers have insane sales that start sometimes on January 1st. For the smaller stores, however, expect shuttered storefronts for a while.
I loved grabbing a box of wagashi called nerikiri and a box of mikan on my way to the checkout at the grocery store, full of hope that I can sit on my couch with a nice warm blanket and nibble my way through both boxes over the next few days.