Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Letter

We went to Shibuya again to see some Dutch paintings.

Readers may recall that the last time we went to Bunkamura exhibition hall, Pandaonium managed to get us "lost on the way to the Geographer". I've had other troubles in Shibuya before, such as the time six years ago when I was waiting for K to get out of a business meeting and find me at the station, I was approached by an English speaking prostitute (yuck) who was annoyingly persistent and repeated everything I said (she was practicing her English!).

The place is crowded, noisy, and populated by odd characters, which may be fun for some people, but not this shy panda. It's a zoo. On top of that, as if Japan weren't trying to squeak by with all but two of its 56 nuclear power plants off-line and depending instead on imported oil and LNG, all the neon signs and billboard-sized flat screen displays were lit up and the speakers were pounding out advertising like there was no tomorrow (hmm, could be).

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lights, video screens, loud speakers, crowds, traffic, trains, wackos - help!

This time at least, I didn't get lost and we arrived in 7 minutes by the most direct route from the station. The exhibit was excellent with the main attraction being Johannes Vermeer's Girl Reading a Letter, which can normally be found at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, but has been out of public view for the past two years undergoing renovation. Nice shade of Blue, don't you think?

For three of the Vermeer letter paintings, it was the first time to be exhibited in Japan.
The theme of the exhibit, which included over forty works by Vermeer, Pieter de Hooch, Jan Steen, Gerard ter Borch and many others, was "Communication: Visualizing the Human Connection in the Age of Vermeer". The paintings depicted people playing music, talking, singing, partying, consulting attorneys, doctors, and so on, and of course, reading or writing letters.
Our favorite of the day was Vermeer's “A Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid”, 1670

A Lady Writing - Vermeer c. 1665-1666

After viewing the exhibit we went into Tokyu department store which is connected to Bunkamura, and had tempura lunch at a top floor restaurant. The food was OK, but I was a bit miffed that my lunch cost ¥800 yen more than K's, even though they were identical, only because hers was labelled "lady's lunch". Hers also included sherbet which mine did not. On the way out I noticed some photos of some elites who had dined there - Frank Sinatra, Jacques René Chirac, Bill Clinton, and others.

Though it was still early, we headed home, and it was perhaps a good thing that we did. For later in the afternoon, around 4 pm, in a walkway between Tokyu department store and the train station a woman her 70s felt she was being stared at, so ran up behind a woman of 61 and stabbed her with a knife leaving a 5 inch deep wound in her back and other cuts in her chest and arms. The victim survived. Such violence is the stuff of Hollywood movies, rarely the streets of Japan.

Well, violence is certainly one way to communicate, but really, she should have just written a letter.

As much as I like to complain about "the big city", we are really quite fortunate to be close enough to make a day trip of it and so able to enjoy a wide range of cultural treats such as this exhibit, and come home to our quiet "village" by the lake.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


More fluff to fill the winter blog posts ...

Until next, sweet sailing.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Return to Luce

We hadn't been out to eat since January 1st - about which I'll post soon - so as we found ourselves in Kamisu City around 13:00 we decided to have lunch at our favorite seafood/Italian restaurant; Wordsworth. Being Saturday and a national holiday (Foundation Day), they were packed, so rather than wait, we decided to try "Luce" again which some readers may recall is where we had lunch last March sixteen days after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. At the time, they had no water service but were making due with paper plates and using bottled water for cooking.
March 27, 2011 - an empty parking lot

We found them fairly busy this time, but no waiting, and of course, offering a full menu. We shared pasta with tomato sauce and crab, and a four cheese pizza. The main room seats about 40 people, though there were not nearly that many there for lunch today. The back room appeared to be full though. The furnishings are light woods with tables of knotty pine. In one corner there is a large screen playing a travelogue of Venice while a voice that sounded to me like Astrud Gilberto sang in the background. It was a most relaxed ambiance. I could see the owner/chef working in the kitchen through an arched pass through.

I didn't have my camera, so K took a photo of the crab pasta with her cell phone:

The flavor of the crab was infused throughout the pasta. Yum.

They first served a nice salad in a sweet balsamic vinaigrette dressing, minestrone soup, and bread with seasoned tomato on top. It was all very fresh and flavorful.

The pizza was amazing. Crisp yet tender crust and the right amount of cheeses and herbs - ie not too much cheese as one finds all to often and which tends to ruin the crust - and the cheeses used were excellent. This is one of two restaurants in the Kashima-Kamisu area which gets pizza right.

Desert was also "not too much" - a cup of panna cotta with diced strawberry on top and a small wedge of spongecake on a bit of whipped cream.

Sorry I didn't have my camera with me. Ah, well, I volunteer to go back again just to get more pics. Last year, the tsunami waters came within one block of the restaurant and along with the quake literally sank that street. It was nice to see that their perseverance through the tough time paid off and business is apparently good again. It should be. The food is great.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Google Limits

There is nothing wrong with your computer terminal. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling this blog. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. If we so choose, we will make this blog unavailable. You have entered Google Blogger.

The hell of it is, when I went to leave a comment on other blogs - Proper Course and My Life in the Florida Keys as it happens - and was required to log in. I was then told that gmail (google) had detected "suspicious activity" on my account and therefore I needed to jump through some hoops. In the meantime, my email and blogs were "frozen".

Suspicious activity? Like the fact I often log in to gmail on my wife's computer and forget to log out before logging in on my own computer? The multiple BCC emails I send to friends and family? Or perhaps it is the complaints I made about how sucky the new universal look and feel of the "new" Google empire is, as they move toward making all of their web applications look the same in name of corporate unity and to hell with functionality? In addition, the new "privacy policy" (sic) basically combines all data gathered about you from any of Google's apps - gmail, blogger, youtube, google, google+, etc. - and puts them into one database... to "enhance" your Google experience of course!

Whatever. I apologize to my readers for any inconvenience. It was, of course, for my own security, in the same way TSA strip searches grandmas and children in the name of security, while allowing the food service and cleaning personnel access to aircraft with no check points save swiping a magnetic card at the door. Welcome to the new corporate internet world order.

I had already set up a new email account when Google announced the coming changes. I also don't do Facebook or Google+. You can bet I will find an alternative to blogger - or stop blogging. I am not one to put my whole life on the internet (I think I do plenty of that already, thank you very much), and making some young jerks filthy rich by providing my personal details for them to exploit, with advertising revenue and IPOs, doesn't thrill me. I'll be happy to do that (maybe) when they cut me a fair percentage to pay for my content - which they have yet to offer to do.

To add insult to injury, when I attempted to comply with their requests I found myself faced with a page asking for my phone provider, so that they could text me a message or a verbal one by landline. Um. I don't own a phone. No one told me that was a requirement for using Gmail or Blogger. I very rarely use a phone and when I do it is K's landline and occasionally Skype. I then was asked to provide an alternate email address. I gave them three, one of which is the one I will be using instead of Gmail from here on.

So if anyone is wondering, that is why my email and two blogs have been off line for a while. I was happy that they contacted me within a few hours and restored my blogs. They neglected to inform me why this happened so I don't know how to prevent from reoccurring.

As I told Odocker recently, I am buying a manual type writer (true). I'm trying to figure out a way to stay online and maintain my blogs, but if I can't maintain control over my own content, I may go "analog". Perhaps an old fashioned snail mail newsletter would do as well - and would be self limiting to people who really were interested. Never forget that they need us more than we need them. Prophetic clip:

Please stay tuned. Sorry, I forgot. Your other mind control machine - TV - is probably tuned to a sporting event this weekend. Perhaps I'll address how to free yourself from that as well in a future post.

Until next, sweet sailing.

End of rant transmission.
1 - The Outer Limits
2- The Prisoner (1967)