Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Last call... 

Just got back from seeing a double feature at the Meguro Cinema. Now time for some quick 'toshikoshi soba' and then off to 'Big Bird Shrine' to ring in the New Year. That's it for this year from Tokyo. Can't wait for my friends in their respective time zones in Europe and America to join me in 2005 in a few hours.


Bob Sapp just beat Akebono by KO in a fight that ended as soon as it started! Not very exciting, but not very surprising either...

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

How the Mensch stole Christmas! 

Just a quick post to wish all of my friends (you know who you are) a very belated merry Christmas and a happy New Year, no matter what time zone you are in! Hope to see you sooner or later, one way or another. Be safe, have fun, and look me up whenever you are in Tokyo.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

レベルX vs. Quebec 

Mr. Snow and I finally went to the LEVEL X exhibit the other day. You can read his version of it here. (Note to self: There is something almost incestuous about blogging a blog.) I'll be getting started on a review of the event for 1-UP, so I'm planning on going a few more times with various other friends (a female Japtopper, a game programmer, a fashion editor, etc.) and really digging into the info and their different reactions as much as I can in order to prepare.

Friday, December 26, 2003

And speaking of top-ten lists... 

I've decided that instead of posting my top-ten CDs of 2003 on my blog, I'll just check out what all of my friends are into. Instead, I'll post up how to find the top-ten ramen shops in Tokyo. Just go here and enjoy! I know I will...

Xmax stuff 

Had a nice Xmas dinner tonight at the B&M steak house in Meguro. Here's the top-ten list as to why it was a blast.

01. Coupons for 100 yen/glass wine received from staff (Their was of saying 'Sorry you had to queue!')
02. A superb steak (rare, of course)
03. Mashed 'taters were ultra-yummy
04. Waiter kept saying 'Yes sir!' in English to everybody, and his 'sir' was really like a SWGA 'sir' so I was feeling kind of nostalgic
05. The BGM was Sinatra Xmas songs, then free jazz
06. A strapping young member of the staff kept bringing in massive, head-sized blocks of butter into the kitchen...with no end in sight!
07. All the staff had on tight-fitting, black leather outfits (w/chaps)
08. The after-steak coffee was served black and tasty, Tokyo Cowboy-style
09. I was expecting to see a 'geinojin' pop out of the woodwork any sec.
10. I asked about the special (and befuddling) 'server service special' and was glad I did

Thursday, December 25, 2003


Here is a list of the things I cary around with me every day in my bag (in addition to my ever-present computer and current book).

* electronic dictionary by Casio XD-R9000 (w/padded, grey case)
* pocket sized radio by SONY TV/FM/AM SFF-R633V
* flash cards (120 sheets, just like the ones that high school kids in Japan use)
* Post-it notes (colored, plastic, smallest size, in twin dispenser case)
* pencil case by BRUCE containing...
- my hanko (a seal with my first name in Japanese 'Robato' on it)
- highlighter by Pilot Spotliter 2 pen (yellow, w/fat and fine tips)
- pens by Pilot HI-TEC-05 (in red and black)
- automatic pencil by Pentel (0.5mm)
- automatic pencil lead by Pentel AIN B (0.5x600mm, in 40pcs. case)
- JR East automatic pencil (found in Shinjuku)
- plastic eraser by MUJI (small, white)
* eyedrops by V.rodo EX (13ml)
* shades by Oakley
* ring memo pad by Tiny Company (40p., 6mm ruled)
* folding mirror by MUJI (white plastic)
* bankbook
* passport
* meishi card case by MUJI (metal, ultra-thin type, contains my handmade meishi)
* whisky flask by YOSHINAGA (titanium, engraved 'R. DUCKWORTH', w/removable drinking cup, always full of the hard stuff)
* mini swiss army knife
* mini flashlight by MAG INSTRUMENTS (Solitaire)

Wednesday, December 24, 2003


Well, I'm off to my first end of the year party in Tokyo tonight. I'll be painting the town red in the pink part of town...Kabuki-cho!


I've been into reading 'modern' Japanese writers from the 60s and 70s for as long as I've been aware of them. In their books, there have invariably been descriptions of the new & used bookstore district in Jinbocho that they frequented. I guess if you were a writer living in Tokyo anytime in the middle/middle-latter part of the last century, you spent a lot of time in that part of the city taking advantage of what the all seem to have agreed was hands down the best place to go. Personally, I'm not given to anachronism for its own sake, especially when it comes to Japan. I AM into progressive phenomenon like 'slow life' and the burgeoning 'shitamachi' arts scene. Well the other day, I went down to Jinbocho to see for myself is there were any remnants of the old bibliophile scene left, not really expecting much. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the area enjoying a kind renaissance! You can read all about it here. I have to admit that I've been patronizing a few exorbitant 'select shop'/'specialty' bookstores in the Nakameguro area, and one which recently opened in Kichijoji specializing in used English books (I found it rather poorly stocked), but now I've seen the light! From now on, I'll endeavor to adopt more of a DIY attitude when it comes to my used book shopping. From here on out, you can find me on Friday afternoons browsing the shelves in and around Jinbocho, and on the weekends taking my treasures over to my favorite cafes around my studio for reading.

Monday, December 22, 2003


Click here for a look at what I was doing one year ago today.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

I read the news today oh boy... 

I couldn't believe that this article reported by our sensible friends at The Boston Globe wasn't a joke. I wish it was, because although it wouldn't be a funny one, it would be more palatable as such than as reality, which I'm afraid it's in danger of becoming before too long. I'm not sure exactly what kind of monstrosity will be erected atop Ground Zero, which is now a place of quietude and contemplation, but one can rest assured that it will not be nearly as thought-provoking. Actually, on second thought, I imagine that it IS being designed to be quite thought provoking, but I'm afraid that it will aim to provoke ONE and ONLY ONE thought in observers. What will that thought be? Let's have the good Gov. George Pataki himself spell it out for us in plain English (would that this were an oxymoron). "We will build it to show the world that freedom will always triumph over terror, and that we will face the 21st century with confidence," said Gov. George Pataki of New York, who has the final say over what is constructed on the 16-acre site in Lower Manhattan. Indeed. No doubt that he'll succeed...but before he rubber-stamped the project, he should have done a little research into the history of architectural endeavors of sheer folly. Verily, there are precedents extant. Now as to the comment regarding the triumph of freedom over terror, far be it from me, expatiating expatriate that I am, to remind Gov. Pataki that actually freedom and terror are not, or at least have not been up until recent times, considered exactly mutually exclusive. Nay, it appears that domestically, terror has served a fledgling America quite well in it's not too distant past (and in Boston at that), and has continued to do so up until only very recently. I refer here to the courtship between Donald Rumsfeld and his 'old friend' Saddam. I should state here unequivocally that I'm not at all opposed to the juncture of architecture and ideology. It has at certain times and particular places produced results with which I find myself in accord. Nevertheless these have been results that have sadly been supplanted time and time again by other more...aggressive forms. Naturally, I'm more than aware of the fact that these two, architecture and ideology, are perhaps the most representative of the interpenetration of the political and the plastic arts (here I group architecture with sculpture), since by nature they are both firmly rooted in the public domain. But at times things can turn somewhat dark and surreal, as all things mobocratical tend to do. Please refer to Crepuscular Dawn by Paul Virilio, for much more interesting thoughts on this subject. Personally, I'm tempted to compare Satie's "Trois Morceaux en forme depoire" with Governer-cum-artist Pataki's current masterpiece "One skyscraper in the shape of freedom" but I won't do one of my favorite composers this great disservice, since the former is novel...stimulating, and the latter simply threatening to implode under the weight of it's own bloated, manque body. And since I find myself quite baffled by US and international policy at the moment, I'll reserve judgment regarding how NYC, and the current architectural apple of it's eye, will be regarded by certain extreme groups in the Middle East. Although they are not afforded a 'real' vantage point on this new Tower of American Political Babel, I dare say that their 'virtual' view of this blasphemy in steel and glass, that is to say it's looming 'ideological shadow' is far more lucid than America's own.

Friday, December 19, 2003

I'll see you there, buddy! 

Today someone told me to go to hell, which admittedly isn't something that happens everyday here in Tokyo (every OTHER day at best/worst). Being so instructed, I realized that I had never actually been there, and I promptly decided to go have a look in person and see what all the fuss is about. Naturally, I had no idea how to get there, so I consulted the current travel literature detailing the various scenic views. I realised that if I ever did in fact make it there, and wound up spending any amount of time there, I'd eventually get to see most of my dear friends (including the one that suggested that I drop by in the first place) occupying much more elevated postitions than myself. [Ah...for want and lack of a witty denouement.]

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Never ment to be... 

Since the rhythm method didn't prove too effective for this hot, international couple, HYPO and I will be having a love child together sometime next year. I'm sure he'll look cute in his maternity wear, and we'll have having the baby shower here in Tokyo. I'm sure it'll have my eyes and his sexy cheekbones, with some kind of afro thing on top. Aunt Hideki will be the Godperson, so I'm sure that it'll be a loving child. But this whole pink/blue thing isn't working for me. We'll dress the little bundle of joy in leather and lace.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

All I want for X-mas... 

While we're one the subject of X-mas wishlists, this CD box set is the only item on mine, since I've resolved to learn to one karaoke song per week (mostly enka from the 50s, 60s and 70s) next year. I got a head start this week by starting to memorize the lyrics to 'Tokyo Sabaku' which is a great tune about live in the big city with your significant other.

I am Iron Man 

Virilio has some interesting thing to say about Stelarc in the chapter titled 'From Superman to Hyperactive Man' his book 'The Art of the Motor' which I'm now perusing. The Nietzschean cross-reference was compelling. I quote here at length:

"When the law of natural selection is no longer thwarted by faith in the transcendence of being alone, bu by some law of artificial selection-the sudden advent, beyond GOOD and EVIL, of a TECHNICAL FUNDAMENTALISM, as opposed to the old MYSTICAL kind-what is left of the 'great health' of Nietzsche's superseded man? The imminent production of biotechnological SUPERVITALITY will surely undermine the very foundation of the philosophy of the 'superman.'

The question of what will happen to DESIGN, or more precisely, to 'postindustrial' METADESIGN, finds its basis here--I would go so far as to say its METAPHYSICAL basis. It is just a step from last century's evolutionary superman to the hyperactive, postevolutionary man of the coming century, just one more step into the gloom of postscientific obscurantism."

The divide 

Which side of the digital divide are you on?

Monday, December 15, 2003


I have this terrible feeling that things are about to go from bad to worse now that 'WE [actually THEY...i'm not claiming any part of this WE anymore] GOT 'EM!!!' Oh, and I hope that everyone keeps this in mind, especially Mr. Bush.

One way 

And you tell me, my friends, that there is no disputing of taste and tasting? But all of life is a dispute of taste and tasting. Taste - that is at the same time weight and scales and weigher; and woe unto all the living that would live without disputes over weight and scales and weighers!

(Nietzsche, TSZ II, 'On Those Who are Sublime')

It just hit me. Actually, it's always just hitting me, and those of you who know me well know well this fact. The answer that p[k] gave at that lecture last year in Kyushu at KID that I was attending that seemed so right at the time seems so wrong now. Someone asked him why he used MAX, and among other things, he said that now, with his real-time chops, he could do an extended set at the drop of a hat if called upon in such a fashion. I recall him saying 5 hrs. or more, or was it 7 hrs.? Not that it matters. It might as well be 7 days. Yes, I like the ring of that. A kind of 'Aus den sieben Tagen' for DJ and catatonic audience. Didn't someone once say something about giving audience members a refund on a sliding scale the longer they attended a performance of one of Feldman's more glacial works? "So...that'll be 3500 yen at the door, and 3500 yen when you leave at daybreak." Sure, why not?

Well now Marx would have a field day with this, wouldn't he? You know what I mean, and I'll spare you the socioeconomic explanation. Of course, our dear friend p[k] (who is indeed my dear friend) has become more efficient at doing what he does, but is this really something that I should be aiming at? (Naturally, I have multiple targets.) I'm speaking in artistic terms here. We'll have to put Marx back on the shelf for the time being.

It's all much to much on the glorified DJ side of things...and for that reason suspicious. I do tend prefer something like what Tujiko does (or even Nick for that matter). When she goes on, you know that there will be no more than around 1 hr. of material, it's all 'perishable' and her presence/sexuality/pathos, invokes words like 'DIVA' in my mind. And why not? She is not 'backgroundable' like the garden-varity microsound DJ. In fact she carries her own spotlight (or is it black hole?) around with her. Rarefied, but in a good way. A singularity. What's the word? Elite i suppose, in the older sense...before it got resented. What can I say?!? Her 45 min. is worth more than p[k]'s 5 hrs., and it's as complex as that. Is this a kind of fixity a ballast to the lightness of (sound)art in the age of infinite (ad infin.?) reproduction? Perhaps. If so it is a welcome one from my point of view.

Anecdote time...And speaking of Stocky...Just how many months DID it take for Stockhausen to make Studie II with his little razor blade and spools? And even then, with all of his painstaking efforts, he, the unassailable Maestro actually made a mistake! Yes that's right, you heard right! In one of the seminars that I attended in Kurten, the formidable composer/theorist Flo Menezes showed us (with a Csound reconstruction of the work...brr...) that Karlheinz had left out one small bit of spliced tape that he actually called for in his own score. Perhaps it blew off the table and ended up on the floor. Anyway, there is a beautiful hole in Studie II. And thankfully this horrid transgression was 'corrected' in the handy-dandy systematized Studie II file that we get bundled in MAX/Msp. Thank goodness that objective improvement is finally possible in art, without which it has been somehow been hobbling along, going on about oh...eons I guess.

But we have to consider the zigzag factor here. Again, if you know me this is old hat, but please do hear me out. The most obvious chink in the armor of the zigzag aesthetic that will be exploited (at first somewhat successfully I might add) by it's detractors is the simple observation that on one level, it's nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction. From a certian point of view, this is objection is sustainable. Nevertheless there ARE different levels of the phenomenon at play here, and the upper echelon is what I most admire. Here is a quick rundown of a few possible scenarios:

KID 'A': Doesn't know diddlysquat about real-time computer music. "You can make music with a
WHAT? Gee...I thought computers were just for porn and downloading mp3s"
ZIGZAG FACTOR: no zig, no zag, no observable cerebral activity.
PROGNOSIS: Since this character is becoming more and more aberrational, no comment for now. I suppose there are still a few people (either in the Third World or in inner-city America) on earth who genuinely aren't aware of computers. I'll await the actual demise of this group before beginning my eulogy. Here for once time is on my side.
NOTE: The paradoxy of this rubric is worth an extended discussion in itself, since premeditated anachronisms, various naive 'folk' musics and even some fundamentalist experimental musicians are all present.
COMMENTS: Forget your roots.

Kid 'B' - With a remedial knowledge of the subjet, but no advanced applied knowlege, for one reason or another, determines that the genera is, categorically, not suitable for him. So he makes the choice to rock it out in non-real-time (or perhaps speaking in more abs. terms, REALER TIME) occasionally employing collaborators/'skins' and whatnot to taste (just like cooking, right? "Hummm...this track needs just a PINCH of DSP.") Will this music suck? That we cannot say. However, if we observe that Tujiko (she claims not to have advanced technique) and Hypo are examples of this type, and that they most assuredly do NOT suck, there is MUCH to be said for this approach.
ZIGZAG FACTOR: Some zig, lots of zag. The action is pretty good here. Would that their luscious, gaping aesthetic holes never get 'Pluggoed'! Viva la France...
PROGNOSIS: So far, so good.
COMMENTS: Never forget your roots.

Kid 'C': The purist camp. EXEMPLI GRATIA? Well, let's just say it's someone who likes to 'keep it in the box' or whatever that means. Well, so be it. As long as he's aware (I'm sure he is, somewhere deep down inside) that consequently, things sometimes sound like the box in which he likes to keep 'it' in is on the verge of becoming instead a cage, and furthermore, one from which the sounds themselves could stand to be let out from to play on occasion. Don't worry, they'll come back when called.
ZIGZAG FACTOR: All zig, no zag.
NOTE: It must be easy to sleep at night, being so...sure...and all.
NOTE TO SELF: If anyone out there is free for coffee sometime, let's chat about the American techno-materialist (mis)interpretation of early 20th century European musical minimalism (e.g. Giacinto Scelsi).
COMMENTS: Get a root transplant.
COMMENTS TO SELF: Prepare to get a root transplant.

Kid 'D': Musical aesthetes with genre blenders set to 'puree'. Yes, we're talking about the likes of Jim O'Rourke. I for one don't hate him. It takes big balls, big brains and a lot of time (working on your patches) to go from from pop to laptop to lappop. Dipping into an old interview that Roddy Schrock gave me a few years ago, I find that I still stand beside what I said with only the slightest of mods. "These days, I'm into kids who have read and understood and mastered [whatever functions as the 'Die Reihe' of their generation] but have choosen to transcend the musical implications anyway, and just be laptop rock stars. A kind of enlightened, new-music, punk aesthetic." (1999.01.07) That kind of bragging that kids do comes to mind here, but in an inverse form. Something like a 'my patch could beat up your patch' kind of thing, but then since you really do know that your shit could go toe-to-toe with whatever, that instead makes you think "OK...Next?"
ZIGZAG FACTOR: mucho ziggo, mucho zaggo!
PROGNOSIS: processing...
NOTE: none
COMMENTS: root, root, root for the home team!

Thursday, December 11, 2003

A DJ, a VJ and Robert walk into a bar... 

Note: As I sit writing this, I'm just out of the shower, about to start my night's reading, and am drinking homemade Irish coffee in an effort to continue to add booze to any imbibition, regardless of time or place.

Tonight I joined DJ Mandali (international man of mystery) and Nao Suzuki (the up-and-coming VJ) in Omotesando at a fine Yakitori place, and was treated to drinks (once actually, my favorite 'umeshu rokku'). They had just come from some friends opening (perhaps a label/brand?) party, and they were dressed up to the nines. I had just come from a meeting with a friend in the undoubtedly soon to be terrorized Shinjuku, and was hovering around a three point something on the Fashionometer. (Yes, my clothing is made by exploited third-world women, but I can't help it at this point.) Anyway, it was a pleasure to have an extended conversation in Japanese with the two of them. DJ Mandali's Japanese is formidable to say the least (I mention this as he's of the Caucasian persuasion), and he expounded on the various aspects his performance aesthetic. I sat enthralled. Nao gave us some info on her roots as a painter and subsequent transition to VJ (it appears to be all Ludo's fault), and then gave us a peak into the limitation of the artform as she now sees them. I suggested a few programs that I thought were useful and we left it at that. We wound up the evening with that all-to-familiar topic of 'gestural theatre' (thanks Kim), whichh was first broached by DJ Mandali. I refered him to the current arguments on the matter, and he and I engaged in a lively exchange (in English) during a brief time that Nao had excused herself. I hope to speak with him again at length in the near future after he's digested a few articles that I send to him just now. I'm hoping for fresh perspective, which I'm sure he's more than capable of. For the time being, and thanks mostly to a sort-of friendly prodding by my DJ friend, I came to realize that this isn't a soluble problem, personally speaking. I've simply elected to juggle the various points on the continuum of answers that I've become aware of over the years, and this depending on where I'm performing, and who I'm performing with. How predictable! In any event, I look forward to their upcoming performances, which I will attend with pleasure.

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Louder than bombs... 

(Did I already use this title for a post? I can't remember.) Anyway...Christ, now shit is exploding in the heart of Moscow! I guess Tokyo is next, but I hope not. I'm frequenty changing trains in Shinjuku, which is voted most likely to be targeted by all the media here. Well, as long as they don't bomb Nakameguro I should be fine...


Thinking of Paris recently, and it's all Roddy's fault. But everytime I start to think of Paris, I also remember this and then things get kind of freaky...I'll have to avoid the felines at all costs when I'm there.

Sunday, December 7, 2003


I'm looking forward to attending a 20 year retrospective on the 'famikon' (Japanese video game) at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography called Level-X that recently opened.

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