“What the hell, I told ya to sell the stuff!”
“But Aniki, I thought you told me to fence them!

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Necktie
Musashino-shi, Late May 2017

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Not all Karaoke is created equal, or why DAM is better than JOYSOUND

That’s right fellas. It’s time to sperg out on karaoke software. Now when you go to a karaoke as much as I do, you will notice that some places have shitty videos, even shittier backing tracks and it smells like pee all the time and the fucking airconditioning doesn’t work. You will notice a name on the karaoke machine. It says JOYSOUND, doesn’t it?!

Now, I know the pee smell and air conditioning isn’t really the machine maker’s fault, but here’s what’s wrong with JOYSOUND anyway:

  • JOYSOUND videos are generic as shit and they don’t even match the songs!! You can sing a french song and it’ll show you Genericsville, USA
  • If they aren’t generic as shit, then beware when you sing GUNDAM songs: the background scenes are filled with spoilers! I am in the middle of watching Turn A Gundam and when I sang the Turn A theme, it started all nice and dandy and then all the sudden it shows the last boss of the series (a 52-episodes!) and who lives and who dies!! Man was I pissed or what!!!!! It’s not only TURN A but other GUNDAM and anime songs as well.
  • Cheapest CGI animation you have ever seen outside of Kids Youtube. Trust me, they really dropped the ball on the video department, as licensed videos are rare.
  • The BGM is as cheap and plasticky as it can get. They even skimp on the god-damn backing vocals!!
  • Karaoke timing sucks balls and comes in either too early or too late.
  • The tablet you choose songs from is hard to navigate and unresponsive.
  • JOYSOUND using karaoke bars are more expensive too!
  • Although I gotta admit, JOYSOUND has a better ranking system than DAM.

DAM has none of these problems. The videos are, while also generic, but they usually fall in with the theme of the song and are actually quite fun in their campy production values. They pull in the singer to the world of the music and allow your partner to have a giggle while waiting their turn. Also more licensed videos, backing track from the song itself rather than a royalty-free radio-safe reproduction. Finally DAM has  a calorie counter after every song.

DAM does come with their own problem though – their advertisements are so frigging loud. The solution to the problem is to turn off the volume every time there’s a gap (annoying) or just keep on singing till you drop. And if I’m on free-time, you bet your ass I will be singing 7 hours stopping only for a soft-drink and a pee every once and a while.

So what can I say? If you see JOYSOUND, just know you can do and deserve better. My wife of course says JOYSOUND has their own merits, but I will stick to my guns and have my better backing tracks and non-spoiler videos, thank you very much.

Musashino Picnic

I think there’s a lot of common between Japan and Estonia. Here’s something to riddle about:

You are planning a city-wide picnic and it’s going to be the best thing ever. You gonna have a walking tour around the town, you are gonna have bands, speeches and fair and it’s gonna be the best day ever. You have posters out a month before the event and everybody’s invited. What is the weather going to be like?

A) Sunny and warm.
B) A bit cloudy, but enjoyable.
C) Raining cats and dogs.

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Yup. The answer is C.

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At least this girl on the ad is pretty cute!!!

Scatter, ye wild ones!

In Estonia our favorite poor-young-man’s Sirp ran a series of articles about traveling and being Estonian in the wide world. When people ask me where I come from and I answer, I either get blank stares or if they’ve been to the Northern Europe, then they know something about it. But Estonia in the world media is still referred to ex-soviet first and NATO-ally second, Eastern European third and Northern European never. I get asked a lot if Estonian sounds like Russian (nope, it more like Finnish), but you know, thank god they ask, so I can set things straight.

Müürileht published an article by Triin Heinla about having a pain inside, so she went off to see the world for something more. Unfortunately, hippie communes have their own problems, such as total disregard to hygiene leading to diarrhea outbursts. People aimlessly lazying around and saying “It’s all about having fun!” Not for Triin over here, she left the commune in Tenerife and decided to find her old friend, and now she’s at a semi-revolutionary squat in Berlin. Ah, Berlin, that brings me back memories.

Now, I think Triin’s article was actually well written and took together what’s happening to many young people of my age. People expect you to follow a certain route in life but unfortunately, a degree won’t mean shit, so they get a 800-euro-a-month job and find themselves in a precarious situation because it’s 200 to the taxes, at least another 200 for food a month and 300 euros for rent. That leaves 100 euros for fun and entertainment? Oops, sorry! Winter’s starts in June. Another 200 in heating bills and you’re already 100 in the red. How is a man or a woman expected to start an independent life like that if they can’t afford to even clothe themselves?

The responses to the article are quite expected – the olds curse at the youngs and the youngs curse the situation. Berk Vaher, Estonian writer and critic, went on a frothing rant on the young folks. 

“When you imagine yourself as a hero of the anti-capitalist cause, breaker of the social stagnation, and a fighter for a more humane society, then tell me, O dear youth – what kind of sunshine does your errant on the hippie trails bring to those Estonian women who get a shiner from their recently unemployed husband? How many disabled persons are fed by those salvaged half-eaten kebabs which you celebrate living free of money? A father of 13 estranged from his family recently burned to death in a house without water and electricity – and what sort of determination did the man get from your shouted slogans in the Berlin squat?”

-Berk Vaher, translation by Katya Strophe

I’m not saying that he is being unreasonable to say that if you want to be the change in your home country, then you could actually make your home country a better place. I also hundred-percent agree with the idea that the struggle should be brought where it’s needed, no matter how hard it will be.

But I do disagree with the notion that people are doing these soul-searching travels because somehow it’s easier than being in Estonia. I also raised my eyebrow on the quoted passage above, somehow a 20-something’s rebellion to the norms can magically prevent domestic violence, raise disability pensions and reduce homelessness and probably mental illness. I’ll ask you instead, Berk, how many times have your books been involved in causing or preventing a case of wife-battery, huh? Judging by this vitriolic article I guess former is higher than the latter.

Berk really dogged upon Triin for saying “Fuck you Estonia with your start-ups, Muhu bread and private people!” I think anger, just like any emotion, will affect our speech and manner, so it’s OK to say fuck you when you’re mad and fuck yeah when elated. I do understand what Berk’s trying to say – that instead of going somewhere, just like do something for the better, man. Which is what Triin pretty much wrote in the opening passages:

“There was a chance to imagine yourself to be an important cog inside the offered opportunity machine given by the System. If it’s not working out, do more yoga, become a vegan, smile to the cashier. The problem is in you. … Don’t be sad, transform the feeling, buy turmaline lingerie and boycott trans-fats. I wasn’t buying it. It shouldn’t all be this hard.”

Triin Heinla, translation by Katya Strophe

I think that self-critique is always welcome, but we gotta agree that young peeps are fucking anxious to get the hell away from Estonia, as the higher education reform brought tertiary education to the masses while cutting budgets at the same time, giving even shittier education than before. People got no responsibility either, you can get away with anything if you got the cash. You can sexually harass your student and get the dean to cover it up if you bring bank from the European Union, you can build a railroad through protected swamplands if it brings bank from the European Union, you can absolutely rape the Estonians forests and get a green light from the State Forest Management Centre, because it greases the wheels. Job creators, policy creators. Let’s not even talk about the crazy rates people are fleeing into the 2 major cities, because there’s literally nothing going on outside of Tallinn and Tartu.

Let’s fucking face it, Estonia is one of those retarded pugs that can’t breathe on their own and they need a good belly shake (read: economic stimulus) every once and a while to stay alive. The Estonian tiger was hot shit in 2002 but we’ve sure as hell lagged behind. We now wait for foreign investments but we sure as hell will call them “nigger moneybags” if we see them in the supermarket cashier line.

But what the hell do I know, I’m just one of those comfort refugees on a beautiful warm island of Japan and I write all this about Estonia. “Eeeuuugh, why don’t you come and do something then?” Mr. Berk says in a whiny nerd voice, but how about I learn something here and bring it to the table later on, because I couldn’t bring anything on the table back home.

Kabuki-cho Blues

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If you’ve ever seen this movie called “Lost in Translation”, then you will know exactly what’s going on once you get to Shinjuku and Kabuki-cho. It’s a freaking mess, you know. It’s like these people try to cram 2 days of the weekend into 5 hours of getting fucked over.

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Of course the McDonalds has to be 3 stories high and the Pachinko place right next to it even higher, but where does it all lead to? It’s a physical void without any kind of aether, it doesn’t matter if you are in the pachinko in Shinjuku, Shibuya or even to the north in Akita, it’s the same damn place with the same faces droning on the silver balls, hathunk, ha-thunk. One after another.

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You go through the neon gates and you won’t see a familiar face anywhere. People are laughing but they aren’t smiling. Gaw-gaw-gaw! It’s painful to see, but time’s a-slipping. Make it go faster for once more.  All these people are looking for something, but they sure as hell ain’t finding it here.

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A thousand thrills but at the end of the night there’s always standing noodle places for the last bite before the body purges the poison from the mind and the monkey in the head starts to bang the drums. Kanpai! It was a good night, thank God it was Friday! They wait for the crystal ship that never comes.

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Homeless in Shinjuku Station,
May 2017

So a few days ago I was tired from all the walking and I was laying with my wife. I said “I kinda miss Estonia.” She nodded.

Next thing I knew I was bawling my eyes out and the next day before work too. Homesickness just came upon me and all I could do was weep. Japan is a great place to live, it’s safe, it’s clean, things work over here. Other times it sucks ass, they unironically use (and insist!) fax, you feel illiterate most of the time, and worst of all, you feel alone despite millions around of you. It’s hard to find friends here in Japan, especially if your Japanese is so-so.

After bawling a bit and writing some letters to my family, I felt reconnected once again and understood that it’s all right to feel lonely, especially after going to Kabuki-cho in Shinjuku (which I will do a little review later on).

I really do miss my friends and family and I thought about the pilgrims who went to America. My co-worker said that America wouldn’t ever been that strong if all these people would’ve gone to America, seen that there’s pretty much nothing and went back. “One thing people are going to realize when they return is that people are the all the same everywhere.”

That’s probably the zeitgeist of our time. People, young people especially, are always looking for something better or in the fancy business term – “The Next Big Thing”

One of my friends wrote to me and asked you know, I’d also wanna come to Japan. I was like great, whatcha wanna do? He said he wanted to join a dojo and learn sword-fighting.

Man, I knew he really didn’t want to learn sword-fighting. He was sick of being in home and not feeling in control of his life. I explained he should take some time and really thing what he really wants in his life and go for it. Make a plan and go for it, and he’ll make it.

I’m one to talk, huh?! I change plans all the time. Sure, I made to Japan somehow, but where now? I want to make an album, write more, get paid more, spend more time with my wife etc. So much to do, so little time.

I was at the same spot where my sword-fighting friend was a year back, all broken up and no purpose. I went hitchhiking in Europe just to find something, sure, I spent three weeks in space but when I got back it was the same old place. And I was still miserable! Man, July 2016 was the roughest month ever. Then I got a job, started to take care of myself and in March I found myself in Japan already.  Sometimes things work out until they break down, get fixed, break down and fixed once again.

You could say life has ups and downs, eh?

But the thing I miss the most is being able to read. I took literacy for granted until I came to Japan, and now here I am, not being able to read all this cool shit when I go out or pick up anything. Once I press post I will learn how to read again.