James Brown and the $600 Cup Noodle Cooker

Just one of those odd internetal coincidences: the meeting of The Godfather of Soul, Cup Noodles, and a big-bucks doodad for wealthy folks in Japan. Let’s start with the show, with Mr. James Brown shilling for Cup Noodle in a Japanese TV commercial to the tune of his hit “Get Up.” Though he is often hard to understand, here there is a reason: he’s shouting in Japanese, and it’s not about being a sex machine.

Of course you all know what Cup Noodles are. Large cups of salt with a few noodles and bits of dried veggies and some sort of meat. But they are delicious, reliable, and convenient as hell. I once took a trip to a country which shall remain unidentified, whose food I was warned in advance was “speculative,” and traveled with an entire suitcase of Cup Noodle. Ate it lunch and dinner for two weeks using the little tea maker in my hotel room to boil water. Compared to the offal, slugs, dog, and horse my friends were stuck eating I felt quite pleased with myself.

The Japanese company Nissin has been making numerous varieties of instant noodles for many decades. Instant ramen (the noodly stuff) was invented in 1958 by Momofuku Ando. His secret was to flash fry the noodles. The idea of putting them in a cup came later, in 1971. In Japan, the different types of instant noodle dishes sold in cups and bowls, ready for hot water, takes up an entire aisle in the supermarket—you can’t imagine the huge number of varieties and different dishes. Read the rest

Make the Haunted Mansion's Hitching Ghosts Who Follow You Home

The Haunted Mansion, no matter what Disney park it’s in (California, Orlando, Paris, or Tokyo), has been a fan favorite since it opened at Disneyland in 1969. For years even The Walt Disney Company would refer to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride as the last attraction which Walt personally supervised, but that’s baloney. Walt was shown concept art and models of many of the effects that would appear in The Haunted Mansion which eventually opened years after his death.

Which brings me to today’s Halloween offering. The three Hitchhiking Ghosts appear infrequently in the ride, however they have become the iconic characters most identified with it. Years ago, Disney published three paper sculptures on The Disney Blog that allowed you to download, print out, and construct three very special models of the Hitchhiking Ghosts—their heads turn and follow you as you pass them by.

The effect is based upon the ancient optical illusion known as The Hollow Face. Most simply, a cast of a face is made in a concave (or negative) sculpture. If you look at the cast with one eye closed and walk by it, the face will appear to turn and follow your movement. The Walt Disney Company obtained a patent on a new process that lit the reversed face in such a way that it was more easily viewable while both eyes are open. These busts appear several times in its Haunted Mansions.

To see the sculptures created for you to download by Disney, watch this movie (since the camera has only one eye, the turning effect works very well). Read the rest

A Halloween Treat: A Monster Mash Mashup

Bobby Pickett’s song “The Monster Mash,” was first released in August 1962 as a 45 (that was a tiny record just larger than a CD that held one song on each side—a “single”—for those of you younger than … me). It was written by Bobby Pickett and Leonard L. Capizzi and although it’s a silly novelty song, it has endured as deeply as any of the rock and roll classics that appeared at the same time. Everyone knows “The Monster Mash”! If my dead grandma popped out of the ground and started to sing, there’s no question what tune would emerge from her desiccated lips.

So, since Halloween is upon us, here’s a trio of videos in the spirit of the season. First up is Bobby Picket singing his original tune at the time of its release; second is one of the many mashups of clips from monster movies set to the tune (this one relies heavily on the fabulous flick Carnival of Souls—an excellent choice to watch on the 31st); and finally there’s a genuinely creative parody (a parody of a parody!) from The Key of Awesome that brings the song up to date and tweaks the simple horrors of earlier decades. Enjoy them … while you can.

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Don't Look at My Nipples

Free the nipple! Cover the nipple! Free the nipple! Cover the nipple!

Kind of like our country right now.

If you were to read the title of this post you would assume that it refers to female nipples—that which dare not be revealed. However in this case it refers to male nipples … in Japan.

It’s so hot and humid in Japan during the summer that sweat pours off you continuously while outside. There’s no way to keep a shirt (or anything else) dry. Evidently Japanese women are offended by the slightest protuberance a man’s nipples might cause through his shirt.

Over at SoraNews 24, there have been multiple articles on this issue—like half a dozen over the last few years:

Unlike women, men don’t have to worry much about such wardrobe malfunctions, but that doesn’t mean that the sight of a man’s nipples protruding through his shirt is a scenic view. An online survey by Sirabee revealed that 84.3% of the 750 women surveyed thought that men’s nipples being visible through a T-shirt is a turn off … most of the women who answered NO to visible man nips stated that it’s “gross,” “narcissistic,” and “dirty.”

At first, a male version of pasties was sold—you peeled them off and de-nippled yourself.

This video yells “ouch ouch ouch” in a big way! Most Japanese men have little hair on their chests, so maybe I’m projecting, but still …

The problem of protruding male nipples is seen as so severe that a company has started manufacturing specially knitted “bra” shirts for men with a slight cavity that will nestle the nipple, preventing it from protruding in an offensive manner. Read the rest

Hey, this ice cream don’t melt!

Ugh, the “dog days of summer” are upon us. It’s hot, with cities in the Southwest and Pacific Northwest reaching record-breaking temps well over 100 degrees. Read the rest

Bite Me! Check out the Japanese gameshow behind the memes

This is not new news, it’s old news. But maybe you haven’t seen it, and it’s so nutty that I feel compelled, with a box of Williams Sonoma Peppermint Chocolate Bark sitting open in front of me, to share this with you.

It’s a Japanese game show where a curtain is whisked open to reveal a room, and the contestants are shown items in that room, such as a shoe or a picture frame, or a table, or a plant, that are highly unlikely to be edible. They are asked to guess if it’s edible or not and then bite it.

Oddly, some of the items turn out to be stunning edible versions of things you would never consider chomping on. The video will give you a chuckle … just don’t take a bite out of anyone sitting next to you. I take no responsibility if your significant other mistakes you for one of the walking dead.

Via Kotaku Read the rest

Piggies on the Parkway

Haven’t we all seen a lot of pigs on the parkway? You’re driving along and happen to notice that the person in the next lane has their digit buried halfway up their snout, digging for truffles. And don’t ask me about what happens next—I just can’t deal with it. I can understand when 3-year-olds engage in this type of behavior, but adults just should not be doing this.

What you don’t expect on the parkway are real pigs … pink, porcine, and on the run!

An unhappy situation on a Japanese highway: a truck full of big fat piggies are on their way to meet their destiny when—all of a sudden—jailbreak! The truck crashes into a stalled car and the pigs make a mad dash for freedom, little hooves tapping on the asphalt, except they’re on a busy highway and there’s no place to go. The scene was captured by an NHK News helicopter.

In many countries there would be a grassy median in the center, or an easy getaway off to some grazing on the side of the road. But in Japan highways are often elevated, and since they pass directly next to homes, there are large sound deflecting walls on most of them. So, alas, the piggies were trapped and made the best of their few hours of freedom by lounging.

No pigs were injured in the making of this post. All the rascals were rounded up and returned to a new truck, where their journey to the great beyond resumed. Read the rest

A Clam the Size of Your Head

I defy you to eat dinner while watching this seller in an Okinawan fish market make clam sashimi out of this monster. It would have made a nice prop in a 1950s sci-fi movie.

Via Aden Films. Read the rest

Nemo and Friends SeaRider Opens at Tokyo DisneySea

Disney fans here have been much preoccupied with the retheming of “Tower of Terror” to “Guardians of the Galaxy—Mission Breakout” at Disney California Adventure, and the opening of Pandora at Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World. On the other side of the planet at Tokyo DisneySea (one of the best Disney parks in the world—ask anyone who’s been there, or just look at a photo below) the latest attraction to open is “Nemo and Friends SeaRider.” The new ride, which opened on May 12, replaces one of the park’s 2001 opening day attractions, “Stormrider.” That ride was kind of like a bigger version of “Star Tours,” but not nearly as good. You could see the seams all over the large screen, thus destroying the illusion that you were supposed to be looking out a large observation window at the front of a new type of plane. Said aircraft was designed to drop a “fuse” into the center of a hurricane which immediately dissipates it. The ride was not the best thing Walt Disney Imagineering has done, and it usually had the shortest line in Tokyo DisneySea, about 20 to 40 minutes in a park where two- and three-hour lines are the norm.

They just fixed it by redoing the entire thing with an overlay from the film Finding Dory. There are many Disney park enthusiasts who bemoan the conversion of a ride with an original storyline and characters to that of an Intellectual Property (“IP”) which Disney owns. Personally, I don’t care as long as the ride is good. Read the rest

Johnny Depp Pimps Beer in Japan

Pirates of the Caribbean 5 not to your taste? How about some ice cold Japanese Asahi Super Dry beer? I can’t get enough. Whether Johnny Depp loves the beer (or just the millions of bucks he was paid by Asahi for making this Japanese TV commercial for their beer) we shall never know.

Hollywood stars (Paul Newman, Tommy Lee Jones, and many others) have a long history of making commercials in Asia that no one in the west is supposed to see. But these days the internet leaves nothing unseen, and so heeeeeeeerrrre’s Johnny!

Via SoraNews 24. Read the rest

Sweet 16 on the Subway

This cute video is circulating which shows a group of people, led by a young woman, who want to throw a very brief birthday party for a friend on a subway car in New York City. The friend is unknowingly being guided into this situation by an accomplice. Banners and balloons, blow-ticklers, sashes, and whatnot, are all prepared in the space of a few minutes (two subway stops) before the birthday girl enters the car and suddenly it’s all surprises, hugs, kisses, music, dancing, and cupcakes.

Isn’t that heartwarming? Doesn’t it just make you feel great about New York.

It’s fake. Notice that none of the birthday partiers are older than, say, 25, and they’re all so incredibly attractive.

The so-called “friends” in the subway car are actors and actresses who work for a company called Improv Everywhere.

Improv Everywhere is a New York City-based comedy collective that stages unexpected performances in public places. Created in August of 2001 by Charlie Todd, Improv Everywhere aims to surprise and delight random strangers through positive pranks, or “missions.”

The director of “theater company,” Charlie Todd, writes on their website:

For years the subway has been our favorite performance venue. We’ve had pizza parties, talk shows, wedding proposals, and even time traveling twins. For each of these projects we create a scene that gives random people the option to say yes and be part of something awesome. If you haven’t figured out by now, this was not a real a surprise birthday party. Jenny was an actor along with everyone else in our group.

Read the rest

An Eel in the Keel

1. Chinese man is constipated. 2. Chinese man remembers an old folk remedy. 3. Remedy involves inserting a live eel up your bum. 4. Chinse man goes to hospital.

Seems like a foregone conclusion that if you insert a live eel in your rectum, health problems will ensue! The slippery monster ate through part of the guy’s intestines and went for a swim. The man went to the hospital to have it removed.

I don’t really have to say anymore because here’s a video from Chinese news with a CGI reenactment of the whole fiasco. From the music, the little green cloud, and the gas mask it appears that Chinese news takes this to be a comedic episode. Just remember this the next time you go out for a nice unagi dinner.

Via SoraNews 24.

  Read the rest

Blimp Style Pancakes

Light, fluffy, big and round ... yeah, I'm talking about pancakes. But not those flat things that look like a round napkin that you cook on a griddle, but the Japanese kind that you make with a rice cooker.

Doesn’t every self-respecting household have a rice cooker? If you don’t, then you should! And here's one more nifty thing you can do with it.

Get yourself a box of pancake mix plus any extra ingredients it calls for such as water, eggs, whatever. 

Dump it all into the removable pot from the rice cooker and give it a healthy mix.

Put the pot into the rice cooker and turn it on for about 45 minutes. (Like bread baking machines, rice cookers do all the work for you.) When it’s done, turn it over onto a plate with a good shake and out comes a light fluffy blimp of a pancake.

Major yum.

You can also add cocoa powder and … heaven … get a chocolate pancake.

It sounds nutty, I know, but it works if the evidence of success on Instagram is any indication. You can also add chunks of chocolate, fruit (blueberries or bananas), and lots more when you mix the batter. Think in terms of utter pancake debauchery—liberate your palette from those flat things the rest of America is eating.

And one more thing:

As tempting as these all look, though, the single greatest advantage to making your pancakes this way isn’t the flavor, but the ability it gives you to enjoy a hot meal as soon as you wake up.

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Reflecting on Godzilla and the Bomb

Behold, Godzilla, King of the Monsters!

The original Japanese version of the film, Gojira (which few Americans saw until a decade and a half ago when it first appeared on DVD), was produced in 1954, just nine years after we dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. When the heavily Americanized version of the film came out in 1956 it had been retitled, Godzilla, King of the Monsters!

About the Japanese version, Gojira, film scholar Tim Lucas writes [the film is] “dark, melancholy, crushing, and relentless” in his late lamented magazine Video Watchdog (Special Issue 2, 1995/96).

On Wikipedia, Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka is quoted as saying, “The theme of the film, from the beginning, was the terror of the bomb. Mankind had created the bomb, and now nature was going to take revenge on mankind.” Thus Gojira is a dramatic embodiment of the earth’s rebellion against man’s stupidity: a blow-torched stomping rumination on the horrors of the atomic age,

The idea of a big rubbery monster emerging from the ocean sounds silly, however Gojira is anything but. The destruction it causes, though the special effects are primitive by today’s standards, is genuinely horrific. You might be one of those folks who chuckle at the marvelously-crafted miniature cities being destroyed by what is obviously a guy in a monster suit, but if you think about what it really means, your laughter should catch in your throat. The film has a prominent anti-nuclear message and is one of the earlier films to shove it right in your face. Read the rest

Easter Magic at the Tokyo Disney Resort

My friend Yasuo Amano, whose themed magic I've posted here before, visited The Tokyo Disney Resort for two days and sampled their seasonal Easter events. If you've only been to a Disney park in the United States, the incredible theming they do at the two parks in Tokyo will blow you away. There are Easter decorations everywhere at Tokyo Disneyland, a full Easter parade at Tokyo Disneyland and a special show at Tokyo DisneySea, hundreds of pieces of Easter merchandise, and even special food for the event. 

Amano not only shot a great montage of the Easter festivities (which continue for three months), but he also created some special Easter-themed magic and incorporated it into his visit.

Above, an official video showing the Easter celebrations at the parks. Below is Amano's video of his personal visit and Easter-themed magic tricks.

Read the rest

Death to the Roach

After my parents got divorced in 1965, I lived in a one-room apartment with my mother at 56-10 94th Street, in Elmhurst Queens. The apartment had a small alcove, and a wall was built to separate it from the rest of the space, and that was my room.

Our apartment was next to the incinerator room. For those of you born before recycling, you tossed your open bags of garbage down the chute, where it was burned. Some lazy jerks couldn’t be bothered to open the chute’s door, so they just left their bags of garbage (usually just open paper grocery bags) on the floor. Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Unsurprisingly, we had a lot of roaches in our apartment. I became inured to them after several years; if you’ve never had a roach infestation, you’d be shocked at how awful thousands of them smell. I became so used to them, in fact, that one night I was sleeping and woke up to see a little brown figure sauntering down my arm. I blew it off and went back to sleep. Just like that.

When I remember that awful smell and the shadows of those little pieces of shit scuttling around in the dark it gives me a shiver.

After moving into my own place in Manhattan, where the little fiends were already in evidence, I bought a bug bombing gas fogger for every room. Set each one off and ran the hell out of there. Came back a day later and cleaned up. Read the rest

Colonel Nedley Lostmore, Doctor of Jungle Medicine

Hidden inside a bazaar, off the beaten track, in an adventurous land far from civilization, where the paths are thick with dense vegetation and an ancient temple can be seen in the distance, one can meet the self-proclaimed “Doctor of Jungle Medicine,” Colonel Nedley Lostmore.

He has, in fact, lost more than most of us since all that remains is his head … his shrunken head. Despite this seemingly insurmountable dilemma, the good doctor (known to the natives as “Shrunken Ned”) dispenses medical advice for up to 16 hours a day depending on his mood and the season.

It’s not free, though, and he’s quite up front about that—until you part with two bits he won’t even look at you.

To see the wooden contraption that is Shrunken Ned, you’d think it was built in the late 1950s or early 60s, and has been at Disneyland for most of the park’s existence. But while one group of The Walt Disney Company’s Imagineers were busy developing the most sophisticated ride in the history of the park, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye,” another group designed a retro coin-op machine that, like so many of its fortune-telling ancestors, dispenses a card of wisdom (of a sort) at the end. He’s been the sole medical practitioner in this corner of the jungle since 1995.

So, while Colonel Nedley Lostmore has only occupied his little spot in the South Sea Traders shop for 22 years, it seems like he’s always been there. Read the rest

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