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日本語からうれしいです

Yasujirō Ozu’s Tokyo Story

tokyo-story

Tokyo Story is a film about family. It is interspersed with establishing shots which capture the setting of the film. They are beautiful, serene, calming slices of seemingly ubiquitous scenery that have captured 1950s Japan. The sets are equally beautiful, with everything from shoji screens, tatami mats and sake bottles giving the audience a glimpse into a traditional past. Yet, there is a timelessness about the film. Perhaps it’s because Japanese culture honours tradition in everything from bento to kimonos. This creates a visual aesthetic that stands the test of time. It also helps that the characters are well written archetypes that are as relatable as those of the immortal Shakespeare and that Ozu had such a reverence for the past.

tokyo-story-kyoko

Kyōko Kagawa who played Kyōko in the film summarized my perspective on the condition of the modern nuclear family: for the children to grow up the family must separate and become a less cohesive unit, and in doing so life becomes disappointing.

tokyo-story-shige

Haruko Sugimura who played Shige was the antithesis to Kagawa’s character. Shige seemed to think her husband was being wasteful spending money on cakes for her parent’s visit when simple crackers would do. Money comes between us as we age. We want to have enough for ourselves— for our family, and taking care of our aging parents can take money away from that goal. From this perspective Shige’s parsimonious tendencies can be understood. When she does spend money on her parents it’s to send them away to a nice spa/resort, but ultimately we find out this is done so she can host other beauticians at her house. She even says it will be cheaper to send them away than take care of them. Something tells me she has come to terms with her parents’ mortality.

I fear that Sugimura’s character comes to encompass the way many people in the West feel about their elderly parents. It’s far easier to spend money to put them in a home (for the elderly) than it is to house them with your family and take care of them yourself. I understand that things can get messy. People can start to lose control of their bodily functions and even lose their memory, but I feel that Kyōko would always be there. The events in the movie and the behaviour of her siblings seem to cement her perspective.

tokyo-story-noriko

Setsuko Hara who plays Noriko talks to Kyōko about the human condition, and it’s in these brief moments that the movie really comes together in my opinion. Noriko knows how the modern world works and accepts that world the way it is. However despite understanding the status quo she is conflicted internally stating that in spite of herself she may become like Shige as she ages. There is a wonder and romantic aura around Noriko that I as the audience didn’t want to see tarnished. I felt like she was idealized by Ozu. Noriko reminds me a great deal of my grandmother, who lives with us.

tokyo-story-parents

Chishū Ryū who plays the grandfather Shukishi admits that he likes his own children more than his grandkids. I think this was Ozu’s way of telling us something about ourselves. It’s much easier to love those who are close to you physically, those you can see daily and share experiences with. Now I’m not saying it’s impossible to love someone you don’t see very often, I think Ozu was telling us that is how family bonds inherently work. I am not saying we can’t be empathetic and loving people, but I think this points to physical closeness as being a cornerstone of family bonding. Don’t you agree, even though it is a bit of an ugly thing to admit?

I turned 32 this year (2016) and I still live at home with my parents, two younger brothers and grandmother. Ozu’s Tokyo Story made me thankful that our family is still together, but I think a lot of Asian families tend to have stronger bonds, with less animosity and bitterness between members and the elderly living with their children. Am I mistaken? I hate to generalize and create stereotypes, but in our family the elderly are respected and they live with their children until they leave this world. My parents used to ask “who will take care of us?” and I always felt like we’d be together forever, but as I age I’m finding that keeping the family together is harder than I used to think it was.

late-spring

 

On the second disc in the Criterion Collection version of Tokyo Story there was a scene from Ozu’s Late Spring, in which a father explains to his daughter the truth about growing up. Sometimes, I find, there is a conflict that cleaves the relationship between parent and child asunder. Usually emotions run high and instead of resolving the conflict the child chooses to leave— fly the coop, leave the nest. And I am a firm believer that if this conflict can be resolved, there can be a strong bond formed between the two (or three) forevermore. The same can be said for marriages, but I know conflicts come in many shapes and forms, and something like cheating can be irreconcilable. Can you think of a relationship that ended over something retrospectively inane?

tokyo-story-ozu

Life is fragile, we never know when health problems will arise and we walk around thinking we’re invincible until one does. I wish everyone could have the same relationship I have with my parents, but I know this isn’t the case. If you are still bitter over something, think of what might happen if you leave things unfinished. Regret can follow you around for the rest of your life. These are the lessons of Tokyo Story.

Schism

My mind is blown open like the expanding universe
This phantasmagoria is mine alone to traverse

I wonder who it is that appears to haunt me
But it’s sometimes impossible to see

Faces morph the closer I try to look
They’re the faces you see when you read a book

I’m filled with regret reminded of my mistakes
Ephemeral thoughts at my heart they do rake

I know I’m only one of billions of stars
In this galaxy we call the race that is ours

But I believe it’s possible to commune with others
In opposition to the superficial difference of colours

In the realm of consciousness exists the mechanism
That serves to make connections deep within a schism

In the domain of thought and dream
Intangible and unquantifiable crossing streams

And it’s within them that I consider the possibilities
The currently unknown and all our limits and abilities

The only conclusion I’ve drawn is that I believe.

The Darkmoon Faire

I shared this at this week’s Literary Conclave (held by Stormwind University on the Wyrmrest Accord US RP WoW server).

Purple and Green,
Strangest things you’ve ever seen!
Eerie woods all around,
Fun & Games will astound!
Days are long,
Come by for a song!
ETC will shred and slay,
They’ll make you dance all day!
Many prizes to be won,
The Dancing Bear weighs ton!
Monsters have nowhere to hide,
Just don’t forget your Adventurer’s Guide!
Every month we’ll come by,
Come mounted, by ship or fly.
Step on up to The Darkmoon Faire,
Bring the little ones to show you care!

This has been a message paid for by Silas Darkmoon.

Moan

The title of this poem is an allusion (maybe not anymore) to Moan by Trentemøller.

The journey well charted
Everything had its place
Until she came along
She was all I needed
She was all I wanted
The everything in my world
Everybody loved my baby
She came to the other side
But she saw madness and flew
My everything became black
My world suddenly so empty
Feeling she would return
Days become years
And silence a cold winter
The flame within my heart
Only memories to keep me warm
All the lonely ones
In the graveyard alone
I belong to them now
Ravens forming an unkindness
The black sentinels
We with sorrow laden
Daggers from the past
Moving ever forward
Remember and we are there
Haunted
Melancholy
Still
We will never know love again
At least we have each other
We are The Wretched
We are The Kindred
And in the end
We still pretend.

Neverwinter

Eternally burning in the darkness
Is Lord Neverwinter the ember
He is not in the slightest heartless
For while the snow falls in December

He is reminded of a love that burns
A love that has kept him alive
And it is for this love that he yearns
So he is ablaze in the cold, and thrives.

The Fire Line

Inspired by the events of the Fort McMurray fire and a story heard on CBC’s “The Current”.


Breaking into houses, it’s not a crime,
To rescue animals on our down time.
Everything will be fine,
Just hold the line.

Family photos burning in the fire,
A motorcycle with melted tires.
Everything will be fine,
Just hold the line.

Taking our trucks back to refuel,
The high revving ever so cruel.
Everything will be fine,
Just hold the line.

Heavy hose full of rushing water,
In my suit thinking of my daughter.
Everything will be fine,
Just hold the line.

Pure adrenaline keeping us going,
Exhaustion creeping, raging fire blowing.
Everything will be fine,
Just hold the line.

Apocalyptic scene, we protect what we can,
Bulldozers pushing car, truck and van.
Everything will be fine,
Just hold the line.

Brands floating through black smoke,
It stings my lungs, it will make you choke.
Everything will be fine,
Just hold the line.

We are retreating as it’s taking houses,
People are lucky to be with their spouses.
Everything will be fine,
Just hold the line.

Burning embers allowing it to travel,
Yelling over it, we will not unravel.
Everything will be fine,
Just hold the line.

Things Still On The Surface

I remember,
the little lizards on the bathroom window
them eating the bugs attracted by the light
the smell of her shampoo on her wet hair
standing there putting soap on her back
when she was sick and throwing up
holding her hair back and watching helpless
her stomping upstairs clearly upset
waiting a few minutes before knocking
when she opened the door, a hug and a kiss
the skeleton that used to hang on the door
hearing The Planets for the first time
laying in bed, completely lost in the music
standing and being bit by many mosquitoes
when we took photographs in the backyard
the way she used to put on Burt’s Bees
a popping sound that indicated she was done
her tapping her thumb on the steering wheel
while she drove stick, all over the place
when she cried in my car, and I kissed her
I would cry, like I’d never see her again
I used to think she lived in a desert
with cacti, wearing cowboy boots and hats
when my body was just too slow for me
and I missed an opportunity to talk to her
feeling terrible for going out and leaving
when she called me and I was having dinner
there was a time when I wasn’t afraid to call
the often long and comfortable silences
being requested to do an asian accent
eating pizza while sitting on the floor
big spooning, not knowing where to put my arm
and the way her hair would tickle my nose
burning incense and her dad hated it
being a terrible gifter, but not her
getting her one good gift, a black dress
then not knowing where she could wear it
driving to Montreal, and having crepes
and the traffic jam we experienced
having beignets in a most familiar kitchen
all the many, many great home-cooked meals
when you would get drunk, quite easily
and not wanting to take advantage of you
even though we were lovers, it felt wrong
thinking not everyone felt that way
when I thought that she’d always be there
and the comfort that would bring me, always

The Compilers

Chapter I – “My Wetware”
Chapter II – “C++”
Chapter III – “The Players”
Chapter IV – “The Cutter”
Chapter V – “The Fortress”
Chapter VI – “Ben”
Chapter VII – “A Strange Protocol”
Chapter VIII – “The Halting Problem”
Chapter IX – “Torpor”
Chapter X – “The Compilers”

The air is filled with mingling aromas. Sweat, colognes, perfumes, and the overpowering smell of marijuana smoke. Ambrosia is making its way around the crowd and people are slotting it in and passing it along. It messes with your brain somehow, all I know is that you’re filled with pleasure and happiness for a while, a euphoria. It must use up neurotransmitters, because a second dose doesn’t do anything. This makes it non-addictive— a pirate’s grog that is often shared at events like concerts, amongst friends and not under the purview of the Police.

There’s an opening band playing right now, I haven’t heard of them before, but they’re not too bad. “The Martian Dream”, from the Mars Colony I bet. People don’t seem super into them, you know, they’re mostly just smoking marijuana or slotting Ambrosia and otherwise just standing around, waiting. I feel sorry for them, but at least people aren’t throwing things at them and booing— they’re good enough that that isn’t happening.

If the Cyber Division wanted to get rid of a bunch of their problems all at once they’d blow this place up with all of us in it. Thankfully, entrapment seems to be more their style. They could still bust in here any minute and start arresting people using their drones. Shit. Why did I come here it’s the perfect place to get caught. I need to get close to an exit.

I make my way through the pit to the stairs that lead backstage, I was given two backstage passes one of which is scanned by a bouncer standing at the bottom of the stairs next to the stage. I could have invited someone, but I don’t know many people who aren’t busy with work and their relationships these days. I could have invited Kagi, but I doubt she would travel from Toronto for a concert with someone she just met. Besides, I didn’t get her number.

We’re at stage right, me and the bouncer, he verifies my Apple chip containing the ticketing information and nods and steps aside. He’s a hulking mass of flesh and muscle— bald wearing dark sunglasses. I walk up the stairs and down a short corridor that opens up to the backstage area. There are people lined up along the walls, talking to each other. They momentarily glance my way when I enter and return to their conversations. I don’t see any of the band members, but there is an exit to the left. Perfect, if the Cyber Division busts in I’ll be on the street in a matter of seconds and they will never find out my plug has gone missing.

I look to my right and see The Martian Dream doing their thing on stage, bright coloured lights illuminating them, traversing the spectrum, morphing, changing, making them seem etherial and other-worldly. You know, they probably are from Mars, so I guess they technically are “other-worldly”, but you know what I mean. The bass line hypnotizes me and I stare at the bass player, watching him do his thing on electric bass, he’s at stage right.

Instruments haven’t changed much since ancient times when they were first invented. I mean, there are optical pickups and stuff now, but most people still use round wounds over magnet poles that are wrapped in copper wire. The tradition. Music is highly nostalgic in that sense, musicians honour those who came before and use the same tools. Pedals modulate and manipulate sounds, and those have gotten pretty fancy over the years with many boutiques like Earthquaker Devices creating progressively more advanced effects for the discerning musician.

I can’t imagine myself striking up a conversation with anyone backstage, even though we share an interest in The Compilers. I don’t know why, but I find it difficult to approach people I don’t know. Most people don’t even make eye contact with me. What is it about me that makes this so? I don’t know. My best guess is that my face doesn’t express emotion or interest as well as others. I don’t know. I’m shy.

The song changes, a really slick bass line leads the song in then drums, followed by guitar. It reminds me of Radiohead’s “The National Anthem”. This band isn’t that bad. The guitar is highly manipulated, etherial tones and wales that evoke a vast spacial soundstage. “Everyone. Everyone around here. Everyone is so, near”, I hear. No, it’s a cover of “The National Anthem”. Wow. It’s done in their own style, their flavour, it sounds different, but the bass line is the same now that I can piece together the layers.

I look around and people are staring at the band on stage, no longer interested in their conversations. Some are nodding their heads, tapping their feet, excited by the familiar track. They are killing it. I take some Apples out of my pocket and sift through them until I find an Ambrosia program. I slot it in and my head jerks back, overwhelmed. I am filled with an artificially produced euphoria and exhale slowly through my mouth.

The National Anthem is the band’s last song and they take their leave after thanking the audience, bright white spotlights now shining on them. Soon the roadies are tearing down their setup and preparing for the main act. No Cyber Division yet. As the Martian Dream comes backstage they are crowded with what I guess are fans, although you would never guess based on how they were conversing during their set. They play it cool and shrug off most of the crowd, except for the young women, who they magnetically attract. Soon they’re followed by a group of women who they show genuine interest in. Blow jobs and sex, you know how it is.

I wait in the backstage area, finding a place along a newly liberated wall. I watch the roadies pulling out an coiling cables and carrying equipment off stage towards me. There’s one unscrewing the high hat and cymbals, I watch him. He’s a slender, good looking guy wearing a t-shirt and jeans with tattooed sleeves. I wonder if he’s in a band, he probably is. As he tears down the drum set I begin to think about Kagi. I wonder what she’s doing right now.

After the last piece of equipment is carried off stage they begin to carry on The Compiler’s gear. The curtains are still open, so that the audience can watch, albeit now in almost complete darkness— I don’t know how the roadies work in this kind of lighting. Their gear is mostly black, black guitars, black bass, black drums, black keyboard, black laptop. Once the gear is loaded on stage I hear the crowd hush and a quiet anticipation comes over us all.

There is some music playing during all of this, I don’t recognize any of it, but I bet it’s some of the inspiration for The Compilers, you know, their favourite tracks and stuff. Anyway, I don’t recognize any of it and I pay attention to the movement of bodies and equipment. Then I see from my left a small group walking quickly towards the stage. It’s them. It’s The Compilers.

They walk past me in slow motion, I take in each member and imagine what they’re thinking; “Let’s do this! Right on. Wait till they see us. Are my pants too tight?” The crowd cheers outside, a loud applause and much yelling and whistling. “Ladies and gentlemen, the Constructs of the Machine, The Compilers!” The cheering gets louder and the spotlights are shining on the stage. They open with “Into the Machine”. I’m instantly drawn in.

I watch them on stage, lasers and a much fancier light show against a canvas of dry ice sublimating in water are synchronized to the movements in the song. First all red, then violet lasers flashing quickly and moving across the fog all enhancing and drawing my attention to the changes in tonic on Jager’s bass. The fog rolls over the crowd and lasers and lights follow it, covering the crowd in colour as the lead singer Xavier says “She was the Deus Ex Machina”. The crowd cheers as there is a pause in the song after Xavier’s words, and then the band in unison comes back with a visceral bass line and screaming guitar solo.

Their next song is “Turing Test”, another great song— all their songs are great. This one is about a girl who finds out her boyfriend is a robot. I think it’s a metaphor for an emotionally distant, tech-savvy lover who is predictable and whose intellect doesn’t match your own. You know, “I like him, but he’s a total robot”. It could also mean someone who isn’t very creative in bed, and has a routine. You know, start with this, then do that every time and then move on to the next thing…boring predictable foreplay. I don’t think the song is literal, but it could be, what do I know?

They go through their hits and sprinkle in a few of their lesser known songs. There is even an instrumental jam that seems to go on forever. They end their set with “Foundation’s Edge”. “They are on Gaia…WE ARE ON GAIA!” Xavier yells. The crowd cheers and all the lights begin to strobe, so that we can only see glimpses of the band; it’s like watching photographs. “Welcome to Galaxiaaaaaaaaaaaa!” the song goes into an outro after Xavier’s words.

The lights turn bright white and you can see everything. Xavier thanks the crowd for coming, “Thank you New York City! You’re beautiful!” And they all walk off stage. With the crowd cheering loudly the drummer (Atom) throws his sticks into it. They all gather nearby backstage as the cheering continues. And the cheering continues. And it continues. The band is standing in a tight circle, facing each other. They are discussing something, but it’s way too loud to hear anything. They all huddle together with their hands on each other’s backs, all of them slightly leaning into the scrum. Soon they break and head back to the stage. They’re playing an encore.

When they begin to walk back on stage the cheering inconceivably gets louder. There is incomprehensible yelling. They begin to play “The Solitary Walker”, which is well received. It is about wandering the streets of Neo Tokyo. They end the show with “Nightfall” a song about seeing the stars for the first time. You know, “the Galaxy Rise”. They now end the show as the white lights come back on, Atom throwing multiple sets of sticks into the crowd.

The band gathers backstage once more, this time with fans approaching them. I approach as well and catch Xavier’s eyes. “Great show!” one fan exclaims. There are more comments in this vein. I think I hear one of the band members say “Uriel” and the band members heads all turn towards the bass player Jager. “Did you say Uriel?” I blurt out. The crowd cheering progressively getting lower and softer, receding into the background. All the band members turn to look at me and I feel someone grab my sleeve and begin to pull me. The band begins to walk towards the dressing rooms, I guess, with me in tow behind Atom.