Sunday, January 25, 2009

Weakness of Will

The dude in the photo above is 70 years old.

In Gerald Dworkin's essay on paternalism, he has a rather interesting aside in which he suggests that philosophers thinking about weakness of will should focus on cases like people neglecting to wear their seatbelts rather than the more exotic sort of cases that they tend to worry about. I submit that the photo above presents a similar challenge, because we all know that doing yoga is really good for you (just look at that dude!) but few do it, and even fewer do it regularly. What explains our motivational failure? Is there any difference between laziness and weakness of will? Why don't we think laziness is a philosophically interesting topic?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Stuff from Japan

In spite of the efforts I've been making over the past year to avoid acquiring new stuff, I somehow managed to acquire a carry-on sized bag of stuff while in Japan. The bottom shelf is full of presents for Moses.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Japanese Edition of Frege's Collected Writings

The professor who hosted my visit to Tokyo had this recent edition of Frege's collected writings (all translated into Japanese). It's more complete than any English edition. And it's just beautiful. I would've taken a picture of the spines lined up next to one another but I thought that might make me seem a little bit obsessive.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Overheard in New York

Customer at the bodega at the end of my block, pointing at firewood for sale in the entrance: "Who the fuck has a fireplace in this neighborhood?"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama Bounce

If the crowd last night had been fun, I would've played this song. As it was, I played a lot of classics--which I love, but which it would have been nice to alternate with less familiar songs.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Obama Books in Japan

As you can see, Obama is pretty popular in Japan.

In at least a couple of different bookstores I came upon stereos playing recordings of his speeches. That's something I haven't even heard in the States.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Milk (2008)

Does the gay rights movement = the death of behaviorism? I hope so.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tower Records Lives!!!

It was news to me when I arrived in Tokyo that Tower Records is alive and (apparently) well. It's just living the expat life.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Nature Framed

At the Koto-in Temple in Kyoto.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Golden Gai

I enlisted Akinori as my translator tonight for a tour of an area I've wanted to explore for quite a while, Shinjuku's Golden Gai. It's an area that's smaller than a NYC square block but which contains over 200 small bars. On average, each bar probably seats five people. We visited two that specialized in "Black Music": the first was called "Stop the Music", the second called "BtoB". Both were awesome, the second especially so. No one spoke any English, but through Akinori and my own pseudo-Japanese I was able to have relatively fun conversations. BtoB has an enormous collection of soul records behind the counter and the bartender/DJ was happy to take requests. I showed him my "Re:Sampling Dictionary" (basically the same sort of thing as the "I Love Sampling" book but better), which he was very interested in. In response to my request for rare records, he started with a pretty choice selection: an original pressing of Sam Cooke's "Live at Harlem Square Club". At one point he played us a solo Booker T. record that I'd never even seen before.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tokyo Walking

I walked aprox. 10,000 paces on Sunday and 16,000 paces on Monday. I know this because my childhood friend Mizuki has a cellphone that keeps track of such things, and we spent the last two days walking around Tokyo.

I put together Sunday's itinerary. It was full day of sightseeing:

10am: Sengakuji temple and museum
-This is where the 47 ronin washed off Kira's decapitated head and where they were subsequently buried after committing seppuku. We saw the spring where they washed Kira's head, their graves, the "blood stone", a tree planted by one of their wives (300 years ago), and a museum of artifacts relating to the incident.

11am: Happoen garden
-An Edo-era strolling garden that is also a popular place for weddings.

Noon: Salvatore Pizza
-Supposedly Tokyo's best Neapolitan-style pizza. (The tomato sauce was overly sweet.) At this point, a friend of Mizuki's from photography class met up with us. Unbelievably, her friend turns out to be friends with my friend Tara from college.

2pm: Meguro Parasite Museum
-I'll have to do a special post just on this gem of a museum.

3:30pm: Tokyo Metropolitan Photography Museum
-We saw a great exhibit of photographs by the Japanese landscape photographer Shibata Toshio. They were amazing. Thematically, they were all about nature being constrained or contained. He's somehow managed to explore this theme for 25+ years without being boring or too repetitive. I don't know how that's possible, but it is.

4:30pm: Ebisu Beer Museum
-Not a very impressive museum but we got to taste a bunch of varieties of Ebisu beer. I liked their White Beer the best.

6pm: Dinner and drinks in Daikanyama
-We went to a Mexican restaurant, which is pretty exotic in Japan. It wasn't very good. I know it's a cliche for Americans to be amazed by portion sizes in Japan, but when we ordered chips and guacamole they brought us six chips: two chips each. We also tried their "beer margaritas": margarita mix and beer with salt on the rim of the glass. Not recommended. But it was fun to see what a Mexican restaurant in Japan is like.

I've got to go have lunch at Keio University now, but I'll post more later.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Best Book Cover of All Time?

Inside is a list of hip hop songs and their sample sources.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I went to Kyoto for a couple days this week. More later.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Tokyo Metro

The metro here is awesome. Trains are frequent, they actually run on a schedule(!), and they always let you know how long the wait is until the next train (which is never long, sometimes the trains come every minute). There are two downsides: (1) it stops running around midnight, and (2) it gets very crowded during rush hour and from 11pm to midnight.

The barriers above open up when the train arrives. I thought this was a bit excessive until I found out that it gets so crowded during rush hour that people are sometimes pushed onto the tracks.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


These "Boss" posters are all over Tokyo. "Lost in Translation" wasn't completely inaccurate.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Spaghetti Sandwiches

I hereby christen "spaghetti sandwiches" to refer to the blurring of possibly endless cultural differences into an indiscriminate whole, as well as the ensuing thought that although there are plenty of unusual things you could be searching out, the sense of novelty that results gets old after a while.

Typical use: "It's all spaghetti sandwiches for me from this point on."

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Typical Street Scene

It constantly surprises me how hard it is to take pictures of the most ordinary things that surround us. This picture is fairly representative of a typical intersection here in Tokyo. The thing is, I can barely take credit for the typicality it represents, because the photo itself was hardly intentional. I already had my camera out and was taking a picture of something else when I snapped a quick shot of the intersection as a whole. It was only when I loaded it onto my computer that I noticed what a typical scene it represented.

Two things to note:

1. The surgical masks. Everyone's wearing them, even some gaijin I walked by in my neighborhood last night!

2. The fire escapes. Notice how they're used as expressive decorative elements. I love that feature of architectural design here in Tokyo. You could do an interesting series of photographs detailing the variety of ways in which fire escapes are often the most prominent decorative elements on medium sized buildings here.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Brief Update

Basically, I spent yesterday buying stuff and today eating stuff. In between, I read some Michael Thompson. A quick question: who does he imagine his opponent to be? For instance, who does he imagine himself to be arguing against in "The Representation of Life"?

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Otani

I lived here for 6 months. More on that later. For now, I just want to remark how it pretty much looks the same as did in the 60's when it played the role of the headquarters of the evil Osato Chemicals in the Bond flick "You Only Live Twice". They only change that I can detect is that they've redone the windows.

The bottom view is from the 400 year old garden next to the hotel. The whole time I lived there I never checked it out. I went this time. It's definitely better than the "garden" at the New Otani in Los Angeles, but it's not that great. I wasn't missing anything.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Krispy Kreme

Yep, that's a 50 minute wait. To put it in context, I used to drive an hour round trip to go get Krispy Kremes on Rt. 1 in Virginia.

Old Photos

I'm going to take a photography lesson this weekend and the teacher asked to see some of my previous photos, so I made this slideshow.

Jimbo & Cho

I have a friend named Jimbo and a friend named Cho. My office in Tokyo was in a neighborhood called Jimbocho. I only just put these two facts together.