Thursday, March 08, 2007

Closed Stores

Tokyo sees a lot of turnover in shops and buildings, but even so this past couple of weeks has seen more closings than usual. My favorite cafe, Pow Wow, that has been in Kagurazaka, in the same spot, since the 70's has closed. They warned us it might happen, and mentioned they might try and move around the corner. There was no helpful sign on their closed shutter though.

Normally when Japanese stores close, they put up a message to their customers. There are (were) three shops on the ground floor of my apartment building, a cheap ramen shop, a take-out sushi place, and a mom & pop (just pop actually) udon shop. The ramen place is still open, but the other two had notices up on their doors last week indicating they were both closing on the same day. Very suspicious. Further more, this morning the noise of jackhammers from both storefronts was filling the building, reaching into our apartment even, as I was going to work.

I'm waiting for my favorite bar over in Shimokitazawa to close as the city executes their plan for urban-renewal on that area. I protested against that, to no avail.

In other, more upbeat news, I'm really enjoying using Linux on my work computer. I wasn't given a choice of distributions, and have to use the pariah Novell's SuSE, but it's so much more enjoyable working with than that damned Windows XP. The important development tools are all right at my finger tips — I don't need to install any ported cygwin packages or anything. I have to admit I failed to get it running at a normal speed on the latest Intel Core Duo they bought for me, but the speed is fine on the older P4 they found in the backroom.

Actually I got "harassed" by the IT department today when they mentioned, by email, that maybe I had my Windows firewall on my new workstation still up as they couldn't see my computer. All the Windows machines have an app named QND that spies on you while you work, and since I just use Linux all the day, they couldn't detect my machine's presence for several days. Following this my boss told me to boot into Windows while I have my first cup of coffee in the morning, then after the IT department has had a chance to notice my machine, reboot into to Linux. I thought he told them I was using Linux in the first place, but I guess not.

Mmm, coffee.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Musical Week

Last week was a fun one. Saw my Japanese friend Ken for the first time in months and attended two very different concerts. The first was Yo La Tengo, my favorite band still playing together. I missed their show three years ago on my first week back in Japan, so I was determined to make it to this show. It was totally rockin', actually more than I had expected. I had only seen them once before, at some place in Boston. The Orpheum Theater perhaps?

This time Ira was in noise rock mode. On several songs he was actually swinging his guitar around as he extracted shrieks and wails from it. The tech was re-tuning a guitar for him after nearly every song. Georgia (usually the drummer, although the three of them switch instruments from time to time) didn't look happy for most of the their set, but she smiled a couple times, mainly when she was just doing the vocals at the front of the stage. Last time I saw them I was too far from the stage to see any facial expressions. James was even less of a presence than I had remembered from Boston.

Some of the highlights of the show for me: Let's Save Tony Orlando's House, Stockholm Syndrome, Sugarcube, Cherry Chapstick, even Cast a Shadow. That last was a request. I didn't realize it was originally a Beat Happening track. Shows what I know about indie rock. Nothing from Painful this time either, but I can't really complain too much.

Before they played Mr. Tough they mentioned dancing on stage last time they were in Tokyo, then explained they weren't going to do it this time but asked for volunteers. Since the audience was about 99% Japanese though, no one in the front row reacted to what they were saying at first. Limited English comprehension or not wanting to have anything to with public exposure? Eventually they got three kids jumping around on stage. Ira told them "try not to break anything."

The last surprise for me was that they came back for three encores. Great stuff. I'll be seeing them again next chance I get.

Later in the week I was invited to a free, amateur classical string performance in which a friend, Satoshi, played violin. He's quite experienced, and plays in another group too. They played three pieces by Mozart and one by Tschaikovski. I'm not going to try and translate the Mozart titles from Japanese, but the Tschaikovski was something like "Serenade for Strings." I liked that piece the best, and Satoshi later mentioned that he though the group was too passionate for Mozart. I know nothing about classical so it's a little hard for me to appreciate the concert fully, but it was cool.

Looking forward to a full orchestra performance, with choir, on 4/15 that I got invited too as well. That one will be Mozart's Requiem as well as some Mahler and Wagner, according to what I can easily read of the bill.

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