Monday, July 26, 2010


I went and saw Inception on Friday night. We headed into one of the little Tokyo border-towns of Machida (This place is actually a good 20 minutes further from Tokyo than I am, but more north, so it counts as part of the metropolis). Yah, going to the movie theatre in Japan is highly expensive, but considering all of the praise I’d heard for this particular film, I decided it was worth it.

For those who have seen it (probably anyone reading this), the first bunch of dialog in the movie is in Japanese, with English subtitles. When buying our tickets online (a harrowing experience… why must all important text be rendered as images and thus untranslatable?) we had a choice between a dubbed film (presumably in Japanese) and a subtitled film (also presumably in Japanese). So when the movie started with people speaking Japanese I was like “Ughhhh wrong theatre…. Lame.” But of course that disappointment was shortlived, as soon Ken Watanabe appeared and all was well.

Upon mentioning Watanabe-san above, I originally launched into a long winded discussion comparing a country’s pride with their influence and cultural output on the world stage, but it was packed full of generalities and likely brimming with logical inconsistencies, so it’s gone now. Instead I’ll just say that Japanese people LOVE Ken Watanabe, as he is pretty much the only Japanese guy to ever “make it” in Hollywood. Good for you, Ken. You weren’t half bad in Inception either, and the movie itself was awesome.

Ooohhhhh god!

I definitely felt a bit of that “Matrix” feeling while watching it, and most everything, even including the romantic sub-plot, was remarkably well implemented and in most cases, difficult to accurately predict before the big reveal. The action scenes were – to me – not the meat of this movie (that honour likely belongs to the intellectual trickery and technophilosophy of it all), but even so, they were refreshing and fun to watch. The last heist movie I remember enjoying a lot was “Inside Man” with Clive Owen, but Inception’s reimaging of the whole heist idea totally blew it out of the water. Way to go Nolan, you did it again.

On Saturday I went to get my hair cut. This is the third (and last) time I’ll be getting it cut here, and unfortunately my increased command of the Japanese language kind of left me in a lurch. Before I had tried to explain what I wanted them to do, and then let them go nuts. The result was always somewhat passable, so I just said “mmkay” and left. This time, when they finished it wasn’t as short as I wanted, because I need it to still look somewhat respectable in a month’s time. So I was completely comfortable asking the guy if he could make it a bit shorter. And oh-em-gee, guys, it’s short now, as short as I ever remember my hair being. But my lovely girlfriend says it looks good, so who am I to argue. I probably look more like my brother now though. Boooo. (Hi Spence, no offense intended, you have great hair).

Spencer's hair. Oooo, captivating.

Wow my thoughts these days are tangential. I need to first explain something that happened when Arash and I went to Europe a couple years back (wow, has it been two years already?). In Paris and more generally in France, we became big fans of a patisserie chain called “Paul”. “Paul” was most definitely not the best France has to offer, but it was pretty good stuff, and they were all over the place. One pastry I particularly enjoyed was called the “Gourmandise” (for those without a background in French, this refers to the French word “gourmand” which means glutton. So I translate it as “Gluttony Surprise”). It was like a chocolate croissant, but it also had custard and ship cream and more chocolate on top. It weighed something like 500g. mmmmmmm. We ended up enjoying les gourmandises in Paris and Amsterdam (they tasted better in Amsterdam, I wonder why) and one particular afternoon in London. It was pouring rain and I was near the Tower of London at the pier, looking down the Thames at Tower Bridge. There, like an oasis in the desert, was a “Paul” with a sheltered awning. I got to have a gourmandise and a hot cup of cappuccino overlooking the Thames in pouring rain – in true Londoner fashion. Paul made my day that day, and I vowed to find him again. Cameron, Simon and I even made an intrepid attempt to recreate the gourmandise once during our weekly communal dinner nights down in Notre Dame. I must say, Cam, that those were pretty incredible.


Fast forward 2 years (minus a month) and I’m living near Aobadai in Japan. There are 4 directions leading away from Aobadai train station, south of my dormitory. To the north is a long road full of stores and restaurants that leads to my dorm, to the south is a mall and a McDonalds, to the west is a bunch of bars and a gourmet grocery store, to the east is an electronics superstore like Bestbuy. Past the mall and the McDonalds to the south happens to be where my super cheap barber shop is, so I’ve only gone so far in that direction twice. I must have noticed the sign on the far side of the road for “Paul”, but I thought nothing of it, as strange misused English words and names are a dime a dozen in this country. However this time as I walked to get my hair cut, fate placed me on the other side of the road, and instead of seeing the sign from afar, I looked right in the window and noticed some particularly umai-looking almond croissants. Some big, lumbering gear clicks in my head and I glance up at the sign: “Paul”, oh how I’ve missed you. I quickly glance around the display and there it is, the gourmandise. It takes an incredible force of will to not drool.

“Gurumandeisu mittsu, taekuautode onegaishimasuuuuuu”. (Three gourmandises, to go, if you please, my good sir).

I know I’m more excited than I should be, but man, what are the odds? Looks like Paul has expanded over the last few years outside of Europe to Japan, China, Dubai and... Florida.

Work is ending shortly, and I’m already planning to go there and get either their Camembert or Prosciutto panini sandwich as a pre-dinner treat. Oh I love Japan’s love affair with the French. It brings all the convenience of patisseries and boulangeries at every corner without the pompous superior attitude of the French. Oh wait.

1 comment:

  1. In response to your new haircut:

    Mind you, they didn't change your entire face... but there are only so many songs about "Blake" out there, and this one was the best I could do.