Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sound the air raid sirens.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

i'm durnk. that'is all.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ten years ago today

There's very little difference between a 16 year old Tessa and a 26 year old Tessa. One of them uses a hair dryer because failure to do so results in wet hair till evening. The other uses a hair dryer because she hasn't been able to break that habit, and doing so results in crazy sticky-uppy hair till evening.

The older Tessa has learned a lot since being the younger Tessa, but she hasn't learned how to change.

Here's to secrets you didn't know you kept until you couldn't say them out loud.

EDITED TO ADD: Thanks for the happy happys, but IT IS NOT MY BIRTHDAY. This post is about something that happened that I should probably be over by now, but apparently I'm not. There aren't any happy happys here.

However, if you want to keep going with the birthday thing, chocolate cake is prefered.

EDITED TO ADD SUMOR: See, this post wasn't even supposed to be this post. It was supposed to be another post that is still sitting in my drafts folder, which was much more thought-provoking and made a hell of a lot more sense. Really, it was going to change your world. I thought it was just something that didn't come up in polite conversation, or impolite conversation for that matter. Yet when I went to publish it, I couldn't. Turned out it was a secret.

Which isn't what I want it to be, but oh well.

EDITED TO ADD EVEN MOAR: I've been pondering this birthday that isn't my birthday (being as I'm at work, and thus have plenty of processor space to ponder such things), and I think you guys were onto a good thing. Unexpected birthday wishes are alarming at first, and then kinda warm and fluffy, like getting extra. So here's what I think; everyone should be allowed one day a year to declare birthdayness when there is no birthday, for the sole purpose of reclaiming an otherwise unwonderful date. Does that sound fabulous? I think it sounds fabulous. And since today is my not-birthday, then it is only fitting that I order indian for dinner, and not eat the leftover pasta that has defrosted and been sitting in the fridge for four days, which has nothing to do with my declaring this so. Nothing at all. I swear.

EDITED FOR CULINARY OBSERVATIONS: That chicken tikka misala was the best damn chicken tikka misala in the world. NOMMY. The chook was charcoal grilled, and had a delicate smokey flavour that went wonderfully with the coriander. The appearance of the best damn chicken tikkam misala in the world indicates that I'm right about all this not-birthdayness. There's even enough for dinner tomorrow. Most excellent!

EDITED FOR FURTHER PROOF OF FORESIGHTEDNESS: 'course, you can't have a not-birthday without birthday drinks. Good thing I bought a new bottle of Baileys on the way in. Premonition of alcohol required! Vexedness of lack of durnkness the previous night entirely irrelevent! Of course, I won't be able to touch it till I get home, and that won't be till after midnight, when it will no longer be my not-birthday, but you know what Winston Churchill said about never surrendering.

EDITED FOR SECOND THOUGHTS: The Baileys might not be such a good idea. If the bogans see me sitting on the train with a bottle of booze, they'll mug me. Maybe some creative shuffling will fit it in my bag...

EDITED FOR REASSURANCE: Bogans did not mug me. This not birthday is not over. More shinanigans in the morning.

EDITED FOR CLOSURE: It was only after I'd started on an enormous glass of Baileys, and thus disqualified myself from late night driving, that I realised I had no birthday cake. Calamity! Not that there are any 24-hour supermarkets in this area. I made do with what was to be had: lamingtons.

We didn't have any birthday candles either, so I made do with what was to be had: a box of lantern candles from Malaysia that aren't supposed to drip wax and have been in the kitchen drawer for longer than I can remember.

And then I got a bit carried away with the candles. In my mind, I was constructing a Lamington Fortress.

And then I set it on fire.

Apparently, lantern candles don't drip only if they stand vertically.

And if you stick them in on top of each other, the heat combines and then melt super fast, and thus the Flaming Lamington Fortress was in danger of burning down in a blaze of glory. I huffed, and I puffed, and I saved the Flaming Lamington Fortress.

What does that make me? Big goddamn hero.

Birthday cakes, whether or not it be your not-birthday, whether or not they be Flaming Lamington Fortresses, aren't supposed to be eaten alone. Unfortunately the house had gone to bed hours ago, so I gave in and shared it with Sam, who had been watching the whole mess with the intense focus of a Dog Who Has Maybe Noticed Food And Is Being A Very Good Boy. He was quite pleased to take part in the Flaming Lamington Fortress, and afterwards did this;

Can't argue with that.

Properly inebriated and caked, I spent the small hours watching bad movies, and failed to become maudlin, and didn't brood even once. That right there is an enormous and out-of-character accomplishment.

Now that this post has stretched over 24 hours, I think it's time to let it rest. Thank you, the three gentlemen who wished me happy birthday, and spawned it all.

I consider this not-birthday a raging success. Same time next year?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Is that issue #2 of Sword of Lies, the latest installment of The Red Star? Why, I believe it is!

When did issue #1 come out? Oh, October last year.

This comic series, it tests my patience. I vow, each time I remember to check up on it and discover that NO the next issue isn't out yet, to forget about it, and just buy the collected book when it comes out. Which, at this pace, will be when I'm wrinkled and shriveled and too blind to read it.

But I'm weak, and when I saw this on the shelf, I snatched up and clutched it, yes preciouses, it is ours now, preciouses.

The Red Star is a retro-futuristic industry-punk story about ghost possees and pseudo-Soviet Russian states tearing themselves apart in a revolution full of enormous clunky machines and cyber-sorcery. I've said before that it is a body of work that isn't derivative, but will be derived from, and I still stand by that.

The last few issues, however, haven't been great. The plot has been bogged down by action. The artwork for said action is amazing, but enough already! Get on with the siege of soul cages and sky furnaces and end of the world!

Sword of Lies #2 leaves all that behind. That was great. The balance has been restored between art, action and story, and I popped out the last page feeling satisfied and excited, as opposed to incredibly fucking frustrated.

It also has the potential to stand alone, so anyone of you who have considered sticking your nose in this series, Sword of Lies #2 is a good litmus test.
I love the ninja turtles. I buy every issue, and then I go buy the collected books of all the issues I've already bought. I eyeball the toys, and sometimes end up with them too. I eat the DVDs (the current cartoon series is surprisingly good). It's that childhood love that won't die a dignified death.

That said, I think I've discovered my limit.

Lifted from the official site:

Edible Arrangements just signed a deal to produce TMNT-themed fresh fruit bouquets! The next time you want to express your love to someone, send 'em a kick-butt (and highly nutritious) Ninja Turtles fruit basket - and everyone wins!

...I don't think they're taking the whole walking, talking, butt-kicking neenja reptiles thing seriously.
It's Ugly! It's Slimy! It's 2 cm long!

The internet is being present-giving on this fine Saturday morning.

Most of you have probably already seen the Promachoteuthis sulcus posted on boingboing. Ignoring the fact that the scientific drawings make the little beastie look like a the devil's gonads, and that the little beastie is only a couple of centimetres big, and we are left with the fact that the little beastie is goddamn freaky.

Fangs are for making nervous. Human teeth where there should be no human teeth are for making screaming and running away actions. And then coming back to oggle the photo again, and again. That's fabulous. Why are all these monsters tiny? They should be the size of fat cats! WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD.

And now look at this:

From JAMSTEC: Scaly foot--a spiral gastropod clad in iron sulfide scales. Found only in an extremely limited region of hyrdothermal areas within the Indian Ocean, which is called "Kairei Field". As the name suggests, this creature is covered in rugged scales that protect it from predators. How it actually creates its iron sulfide scales, however, is not yet fully understood. A JAMSTEC research team succeeded in observing the creature in an onboard tank for the first time in February 2006.

It isn't a snail with a house, it's a snail with a fortress. How very rocking is that? Said snail doesn't have a name yet, and is also only a centimetre big (WHY? WHYYYY?). This popped up in the gears_and_steam LJ community, of all places. has a deep! sea! news! blog, and I never knew! Oh frabjous day, callooh, callay! She chortled in her joy.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Of all the stories, photos and stuff I brough back from Japan, Mum and my bro decided that this was The Best Thing Evah;

It's a sponge I found in my hotel at Kamakura. On the package is written the following-

I glad and was in high spirits forever in sun-traps
I watched your smile
All too soon from a heart to you
This feeling that light is full of
I love you

If that sponge isn't destined to wash Venus's toosh with strawberry cordial, then I don't know what is.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Last night, I read a book in bed.

I can't remember the last time I did. Sometime before Japan. I'd finished one book and hadn't picked up another, not wanting to take any with me. It's a lovely way to cap the day. I missed it.

Tonight, I will not read a book in bed.

This full time job thing, this not sleeping before a 5 o'clock alarm thing, this suddenly having ten hours less in the day in which to Get Stuff Done; all sorts of suckitude.

Suckitude alleviated by coming home to find this waiting for me;

Daikaiju 3: Giant Monsters vs the World has landed. It only took two and a half years, but finally that bloody giant crab story is in print. There are some towering authors around my little name. I'll link the hardcover version when it appears on amazon, and then I shall be able to live my life without the shadow of this ruddy giant crab story looming over my shoulder.

Never did think of a good title.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Home is what you know.

(I know difficult things. I had forgotten the impact of difficult things. I find myself at a loss of how to deal with these difficult things.)

(Traveling alone through a strange land and an unknown language is not difficult. Challenging and confusing, but never, at any point, difficult.)

(One difficult thing I know is that I cannot fix these difficult things. I know I no longer have the freedom to come and go as I please. I know I cannot do as I want. I know I must do as I should.)

I am home.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Am in Singapore.
Am neither having an adventure, nor at home.
Am surrounded by Australian accents.
Am oscillating between mourning and relief.
Am waiting.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It's been one of those hilarious, stupid, amazing days.

This will probably be my last night of internet whilst in this endlessly amusing land. Absolutely certain the ryokan in Tokyo has none, very certain the onsen in Shiretoko has none, and relatively certain the hotel in Abashiri has none. The next you hear from me will probably be from Changi Airport in Singapore, as I whittle away the hours between leaving and arriving.

For six weeks, I've drowned myself in entirely new things, every single day. I've done only what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. I've let whim lead me, and curiosity guide me, and have become so accustomed to this freedom that I know I'm taking it for granted.

For six weeks, I've been isolated by a language barrier, and I've adapted to this lifestyle of illiteracy. I've slept laid in nineteen different beds. I haven't had a decent cup of tea, and I don't mean green tea.

I'll be home on the 18th of October.


Monday, October 08, 2007

Random Amusing Discovery of the Day

None of the shops I passed on the way to the trailhead sold onegiri, which is hard to believe. If I couldn't have sensible healthy food, I'd have to settle for unhealthy energy food. So I bought a box of chocolate biscuits.

Or did I? Look closer.

THEY'RE BLOODY MOON PIES. JAPAN HAS MOON PIES. The horror, when I bit one. Jaime, Nadine, this is all your fault.
The Black Knight: I'm invincible!
King Arthur: You're a loony.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


I'm in Wakkanai, which is the northern most city on Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan. It isn't yet 6am, and I've had less than four hours sleep. In half an hour or so, I'm going to catch a ferry out to Rebun-to, a small island which is a national park. My luggage hasn't arrived. By chance, I'd thrown a spare pair of knickers in my overnight bag, but everything else is used. It's raining. I have a pounding headache. But I'm going to this muthafucking island, and I'm going to have a good muthafucking time.

If I don't post again tonight, assume I'm lying on the coast of some remote island with a broken knee or something.

Friday, October 05, 2007


(Mutsu Park Hotel, Mutsu)

Never again will I travel without ear plugs. Not ten minutes after I turned the light out, a bunch of DUDES started carrying on in the corridor. All they seemed to be doing was talking loudly and laughing loudly. No reason why they couldn’t do that in their rooms, right? OMG THEY JUST STARTED AGAIN NOW. WHAT. WHAT. NO. I WILL GAIJIN SMASH THEIR TEETH. Yes, anyway. The noise stressed me out so much I couldn’t decide if calling reception to make them shut up was an irrational reaction or not. I elected to just jam my ear plugs in and take a stab at thinking happy thoughts.

This morning I did some quick research, hunting out road numbers, maps, and re-establishing where the car hire place was. Some convenience stores and petrol stations pop up on Google Maps, which caused me some grief.

I caught the 9:15 bus bound for Sai, with the intention of getting off at Ohata Station and having a taxi take me from there. Unfortunately, I’d maybe nodded off a bit on the leg between Ohata and Mutsu, and couldn’t remember how long it took, or how far it was, and maybe that K’s we just past was the K’s marked on Google, and should I get off? No, best stay on the bus if you’re not sure, there isn’t another bus for three hours. But this seems to be taking a long time. And going all remote coastal village again. Have I gone past Ohata already? Oh shit. I don’t know! There aren’t any convenient road signs to check. Should I get off and get a taxi back? Wait, there are absolutely no stores around here, I won’t be able to have anyone call a taxi for me. Ah crap. AH CRAP.

Asking the woman next to me if we’d passed Ohata ended this monologue. Yay.

Same as yesterday, a couple of taxis idled by the station, the drivers half asleep. Possibly even the same taxis as yesterday. They probably hadn’t moved. I woke the nearest driver up, my dodgy Japanese pronunciation and his thick accent sorted out the address, and off we went. I was still harbouring the slight fear that I’d judged the distances all wrong, and was going to shell out to go back half the bus ride, but thankfully that wasn’t the case.

I’d hired my car through an online booking service, specialising in taking English-speaking bookings. They’d set me up with Mazda. FYI, anyone else using the Ohata Mazda car rental office, there isn’t a Mazda sign to be seen. Suzuki, yes. Daihatsu, yes. No Mazda. The taxi driver even went in to confirm that they hired cars, before leaving.

They had my booking, so all was well. All they wanted from me was a photocopy of my licence and international drivers permit, a signature at the bottom of a form, and 5500 yen for two days hire. I don’t think she could be bothered attempting to explain insurance and the like.

The car they gave me was a Mazda Demio, which I think is the 121 back home. It was clean, new, and went, which is all I really needed.

I swear, it was like driving a tin of sardines.

I’m used to driving mum and dad’s cars. Mum’s isn’t new any more, but when you put your foot down, it goes. Dad’s is new, and goes even more. This tin of sardines, it was a gutless tin of sardines. It took a while to get up to 80 km on the long, flat, straight roads (which is twice the speed limit, ahem), and going uphill? Forget it. Most roads had a 40 km speed limit, and going uphill, I had my foot to the floor just to maintain 40.

While I’d remembered to grab my iPod, I’d forgotten to pick up my FM transmitter as well. Stupid me. The car was very quiet though, I’ll give it that. Earphones it was.

And I drove. And I didn’t have to worry about bus time tables or connecting trains, and William Wallace did not shout “FREEEDOOOM!” louder than I did. Hot diggity. If only car hire was a more feasible form of travel in this country. The luxury! The decadence! I could go where ever I wanted, whenever I wanted! UNLIMITED POWER!

While Shimokita-Hanto is quite large, it’s sparsely populated enough that I didn’t need a road map to get around; there were signs everywhere indicating distance and direction for everything I wanted to go to, in both kanji and English. The car also came with an in built navigation system. It was all in Japanese, but was nevertheless very useful. Until I turned the volume up and started listening to the radio, at which point it started talking to me. Having a moderate Japanese woman ask you a question when you’re alone in a car is very unnerving.

First waypoint in my quest was Osore-zan, a volcanic mountain that is regarded as one of Japan’s most sacred, it is said to be the doorway to hell. The mountain fronts onto a lake, and the creek running into it is said to be the equivalent of the river Styx, which all dead must cross. The Bodaji-temple there is for Jizo, who looks over unborn babies and dead children, although people visit this mountain to commune with the dead in general. The name, ‘osorezan’, literally means ‘mountain of fear’.

The drive there was fantastic. As much as I mocked the 40 k/p/h speed limit, I was hard pressed to find any opportunity to do more than 50. The road was a narrow, twisty, windy thing, full of sharp turns and blind corners and more hairpins than I thought possible. All around was lush wonderful light-filled forest. Are they elms? I don’t think so, but they had light green leaves, and everywhere gold and brown and red and purple was hinted at. Although the drive was fun, it’s on roads like these I prefer to be the passenger, and spend the whole time staring out the window.

The lake Usuri-ko sprang out suddenly, the trees fell back, and I was there.

While all the tourist information goes on about how eerie the place is, gate way to hell and all that, none of the mentioned how astonishingly beautiful it is. The temple didn’t jump out at me, so I move quickly to the grounds themselves.

(There were a couple such murals, or banners, or panels, fencing a court yard before the temple. I don't know what exactly they depict, but the pictures are pretty good indicators. Hell. And fear. And Buddha.)

It’s moderate thermal activity area, just a couple of small vents breathing heavily and casting pale green on the stones around them. Still, it’s a wasteland, with nothing growing at all. Except rocks. People have created cairns, strangely intricate piles of stones, to aid the dead in their passage through the underworld. All the rocks are awkwardly shaped, and these piles so careful constructed, they look delicate. Lonely and colourful windmills were stuck here and there, placed by the parents of unborn children. Some of them spun in the wind. Some of them didn’t.

I found a back trail leading up into the forest, and took it. The bushes rustled as I walked by, and a peek in the foliage revealed a SNAKE. Wait, this isn’t Australia. Scratch the dramatic capital letters. It was a small, red, black and cream pattered fellow, and very shy. As soon as it noticed I was going for my camera, it slithered like a super fast slithering thing and vanished.

At the top of the trail was a small altar, featuring one of buddha’s less friendly faces. There were a couple of cans left as offering, and some flowers. Behind the altar, I found three tiny little jizo, facing the stone, backs to the world.

(See those teeth? Not friendly, not friendly at all.)

(This guy was on a retaining wall behind the altar, and the longer I looked at him, the creepier he became. I mean, just look at him. LOOK. AT. HIM.)


The snake didn’t come out on the way back down. I could hear it hiss, “fucking paparazzi,” as I left.

I wandered through the stone piles. It’s a sad beauty. It’s a lonely beauty. There was no one else around, and all I could hear were crows.

(Many of the piles built from smoother rocks were written on. I can guess, messages for the dead.)

(In instances where the thermal vents were open, many coins were tossed in, piled up, corroded and melted.)

(Whenever Jizo has lost his head, a new one is put in place. He is never headless.)

The path wound out of the rock piles to some more shrines and pools, one of them a startling blood red. It followed the lake shore, where the clouds and blue sky kept moving and throwing great shafts of sunlight down over the mountains.

Everywhere I looked, there was brilliant, contrasting colour. The golds and greens and rusts of the woods, the deep blue sky, the pale and deepening aqua of the lake, the white sand and stone of Osorezan, it went on and on. It is a desolate, bleak place, and it’s also teeming with life and movement.

I hid behind my sunglasses a bit more.

Shimokita-Hanto isn’t really pitched as a tourist destination, nor is it trying to become one. I believe the peninsula is worth visiting just for Osorezan.

More later. Right now, I have to pack and sleep. Only up this late because the dryer was pathetically slow with my washing.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

...and because the optus webmail interface won't let me attach files, I'll have to dump this here. Again, not naming any names, but one of you will get this. Taken by the Kamo River in Gion, Kyoto.

Currently in Mutsu, which is a hole, but the best base from which to explore Shimokita-Hanto. Instant noodles for dinner. Couldn't get the kettle to work, so they were lukewarm from tap water. There wasn't anywhere open to eat. When my bus pulled in this afternoon, the whole town was asleep, and still asleep when I hunted for dinner.

New back-dated posts covering Kamakura and the Tsurugoakuhachimangu Matsuri here and here. The first link is picture heavy, the second contains fainting.

I'm hiring a car tomorrow. The highest speed limit I saw today was 40 km p/h. Uh huh.

In the mean time, I would like to share with you possibly the best photo I have ever taken, and will ever take. I snapped it at Kyoto, at the Kitano-Tenmangu market.

One of you, not naming any names here, but one of you owes me Big Time.