I tore off the top of the thick, plastic bag and immediately popped the first piece of dehydrated meat into my mouth. I sat the bag down next to my keyboard and continued on with my internet travels. On occasion I would pop another piece into my mouth. The sixth piece caught my eye. One end of it was covered in what looked like a thin layer of cotton. It certainly peeled off the meat like cotton. I was just about to pop the now naked meat into my mouth, but then a small suggestion in the back of my head trickled forward and suggested I look into the bag o’ meat. There I saw that mass of meat pieces, stuck together to form a single entity, were covered on either side of the two-dimensional bag with more white cotton. I was confused at first. It took a good thirty seconds for the next suggestion to trickle forward: inspect the bag. It didn’t take long. I flipped it over and saw it. A long slice right down the middle. Probably made by the person opening the box containing these packages of jerky with an appropriately named “box cutter”.
There were only two questions left to answer. What the fuck was it and how lethal was the unknown amount that had already passed my lips.
Turns out that the whole Mayan apocalypse didn’t happen so I must now return to blogging.
Welcome 2013. And as is customary, 2013 started off with a 6 hour long Gaki no Tsukai special batsu (punishment) game. This annual event dates back to 2003 and typically involves the main cast of the show having to spend 24 hours not laughing in an environment designed to specifically make them laugh. And every time they do laugh the a masked man appears and smacks their ass (the punishment) with some large, rubbery object. You can read a bit more on these batsu games in this post I wrote a couple years back.
So what was this year’s scenario?
Another series from Gaki no Tsukai is called “Gas Nuki” in which the cast are asked to dress up nicely and are then brought to a fancy restaurant for an exceptional meal. There is, as you would expect, a catch: they can only eat if they fart. Below is the first in this presently brief series in which they attend a five-course gourmet meal. For each fart a cast member produces they receive a course. You can enjoy this, sans smell-o-vision (aren’t you lucky), in the videos below. Note that you will need to enable closed captioning to see the subtitles (although you can probably understand what’s going on through context alone).
Despite my fondness for certain Japanese television shows I am not quite certain Japanese manners as they relate to the breaking of wind. Downtown tend to present themselves as man-children and can be found to, on occasion, fart while hosting their shows. Is it considered crude and childish and they’re simply embracing that child mentality, or can I take the subway in Tokyo and rip them left and right and be congratulated by all in attendance? I’m guessing it’s the former.
This is not, by any means, Downtown’s first foray into televised farting competitions. They once held, in the 1990s, a televised competition on who could produce the loudest fart. They hosted this show inside a massive auditorium where several hundred of their fans were given fart-inducing food and beverages and then asked to come to the stage when they were ready to have the loudness of their fart measured. Curiously, while easily half the audience were female, all (except maybe one) who came to the stage were male. You’re in luck! You can watch it this massive fart contest for yourself right here.
Here is a brief introduction to Gaki no Tsukai‘s “Genkai” series. Genkai (限界) is Japanese for “limit” or “bound”. The series was apparently born out of Matsumoto flubbing his words when he went to order an iced coffee (aisu kohi), instead said “maisu mohi”, and the waitress returned with an iced coffee. So the question posed by Matsumoto is what is the limit a person can stray from the words of the item they want to order and still successfully receive it.
Since iced coffee was where it all began, iced coffee is the first in the series. Unfortunately I can’t embed the videos here, so you’ll have to struggle with clicking on the links below. I know you’re up to the challenge. These videos utilize YouTube’s subtitle feature so if you don’t have closed-captioning enabled you’ll need to click on the “CC” button along the bottom-right bar below the video.
I think this series provides some small of insight into Japanese culture. It would seem if a waitress or waiter does not understand what was said they pretend it was never said at all. I imagine in the U.S. wait staff would be far more likely to confront the person and ask for confirmation on what they said.
This might be my favorite in the series even though there are no subtitles available. This is 7th in the Genkai series and the entire Gaki cast gets in on the action. Their job is to order Omurice (オムライス) which is an omelette stuffed with rice and topped with ketchup. Look out for attempts at ordering an Anne Rice, a homo sapiens, and a near perfect ordering of one samurai at the end.
You’ll also notice in this video there’s a new twist in which Gaki members receive a cash prize if they successful in placing their order. The prize amount is based on the difficulty of the phrase being tested. The unit of currency is the Yen (円) and the values give in are “man” (万) which means 10,000. So “nana man yen” (7万円) would be 70,000 Yen. A rough, but simple way to calculate from Yen into U.S. Dollars is to treat 1 Yen like it is 1 Cent; movie the decimal point to the left two places and you’ve got your dollar amount; in this case $700 US. In reality 1 Yen is more like 1.3 cents, so 70,000 Yen would be closer to 900 dollars, but it gives you a general idea of how much money is up for grabs when Matsumoto’s attempt at ordering a 侍 is valued at 10万円.
Oddly, I first saw him in a Japanese movie called Space Travelers because, of course, that particular movie stars several comedians including Hamada Masatoshi from Gaki no Tsukai. But that particular movie barely registers among his Japanese fans who know him best from the 1987 drama Dokuganryu Masamune. His popularity, both in Japan and across the world, has massively increased since his introduction into Hollywood movies.
And now we get to see him for the person he is, not a character he’s portrayed.
Continued on the inside…
Konto (コント) is a Japanese word derived French that means sketch comedy or a skit; like Saturday Night Live. Hamada and Matsumoto used to do quite a lot of konto, but that faded away over the years. Recently (within the last 3 years) the desire to do konto stuck itself back into Matsumoto and so he developed a series of sketches (six or seven) and packaged them under the title “MHK” or Matsumoto Hitoshi Konto. Below is one of those sketches.
The subtitles may come across as a little dense, but stick with it. The funny, at least for me, comes from Hamada and Matsumoto trying to stick together and not bust out laughing as the dialogue gets more ridiculous. When they get to the gorilla I had the hardest laugh I’ve had in a long time. The in-joke there being that Hamada has been referred to as a gorilla for years, probably going back to his middle school days with Matsumoto, because his face has a certain monkey quality to it.
I’ve talked a little about Itao Itsuji before. Even among Japanese comedians he’s considered a bit of an odd, but well loved and respected, duck. In 2009 Itao’s daughter passed away at a very young age. He had appeared in every one of the Gaki no Tsukai no laughing batsu games, but of course who would expect him to do so again when they filmed their annual batsu game about a couple months after such a tragic event? It was with a big surprise to everyone, both those on the show and watching at home, that he should ride in on horseback during their 2009 Hotel Man batsu game.
That look on their faces is genuine surprise and happiness to see their friend. Itao says nothing, he just walks into the road, turns around, and gallops away. It’s a classic Itao moment and a very special one as well.
What I think draws me most to Gaki no Tsukai is how their genuine friendship and closeness comes out (in the most horrible of ways) when they film their show. This particular moment was something even more special.
This week Itao became a father again and that is fucking awesome news. So to celebrate here’s a pure Itao video taking a very traditional Japanese presentation method and turning it on its head while also displaying the odd-duck nature of Itao’s comedy style.
I think the woolly mammoths are an especially inspired touch.
Courtesy of ShibataBread is this clip from Gaki no Tsukai where Matsumoto Hitoshi and his comedy partner Hamada Masatoshi answer a fan question. These talks (it is my understanding) are completely improvised and are close to the style of comedy with which Downtown started their career. The clip below, I think, is an exceptionally good example of just how great Matsumoto’s improvisation skills are.
What kind of dicks would abandon their blog?
Let’s begin with some Gaki no Tsukai fun. The video below is part of a series where the Gaki members decide one of them or their staff is acting oddly and so they decide to follow them after a taping to see why their target has been acting so strange lately. In this installment they’re on to Tanaka Naoki.
However to fully enjoy this clip there’s a certain person you need to know about.
Continued on the inside…
Yesterday was haircut day for yours truly. I pulled out of my driveway and threw on the radio, ignoring sports talk, the wife’s pop stations, and the local college’s radio offering in favor of some nice rock radio channel-surfing. I tuned into what I thought was the local classic rock station out of Boston and settled in for some Boston or Bob Seger or Led Zeppelin. Maybe some Gimme Shelter, Feel Like Makin’ Love, or Somebody To Love (the Queen version, as Jefferson Airplane would be on the oldies channel). But I had clearly made a mistake of preset, because instead of the sweet riffs of Hendrix or the octopus-style drumming of Ginger Baker or Michael Anthony’s ignorable bass lines, I got an earful of…Slash.
She’s got a smile it seems to me
Reminds me of childhood memories
Where everything was as fresh as the bright blue skies
Well that couldn’t be right. My wife must’ve changed up the presets, right? Obviously I was too busy driving safely out of my street to pay attention to which station I hit, right? Clearly I had stumbled on the rock station out of Providence, RI, right? Classic rock wouldn’t be playing Guns ‘n’ Roses, right? Right? RIGHT???
But it could, and it did, and it had. And as I listened to the song that extended hair metal’s life by about five years, a few things occurred to me:
1) Guns ‘n’ Roses’ classic debut, Appetite For Destruction, is 25 years old this year.
2) The music that I listened to growing up and considered “classic rock” was between 15 and 25 years old at the time.
3) Which means, goddamn it, I am getting older…
* * *
Believe me, I don’t fear it, or try to fight against it. I’m quite comfortable with my age. On my 30th birthday, as I discovered strands of grey in my hair while getting ready for the day, I found myself smiling with pride and relief – grey hair on your head isn’t brown hair in the sink, and I’d rather be grey than bald any day of the week. I am exactly 20 years older than my niece, and 24 years older than my nephew, and I have had the joy and privilege of watching them grow and mature into people that I not only love as family but truly like as people on their own terms. The horror flicks I could only dream of renting as a wee lad are now part of my permanent DVD collection, to be savored any time I want. And I wouldn’t want to be a teenager again for anything – I’m not so far removed from those years that nostalgia colors the reality of those awkward, sometimes terrifying, rites of passage into adulthood.
But I will not lie to you. Hearing Guns ‘n’ Roses (a band that not only has its roots in the 80s, but in the late 80s, which makes it older than a college’s Class of 2012) on classic rock radio (which traditionally featured music from the late 60s through the 70s) was a cold slap of reality. The only 80s music that classic rock would play was (should be?) the later albums of bands with their roots in the earlier decades (Aeromsmith’s Permanent Vacation and Pump…The Police…Van Halen…AC/DC with Brian Johnson on vocals…you get the idea). Now I have to realistically expect music from my teenage years to feature prominently, though I pray it’ll only be true rock bands like Guns ‘n’ Roses, Def Leppard (up to Pyromania, please, as I was sick of the Hysteria album after the 3rd listen), Scorpions, Motley Crue…and not the pretty-boy “glam metal” of Poison, Warrant, Enuff Z’Nuff, Trixter, and what a female friend from my distant past referred to as “White bands” (White Lion, Whitesnake, Great White…). I don’t think my heart can take those slow-dancing pop standards (“Love Of A Lifetime,” “When The Children Cry,” “Fly High Michelle,” “Heaven,” and so on ad nauseum) being lumped in as “classic rock” alongside “More Than A Feeling,” “Seasons Of Wither,” “Unchained,” “Night Moves,” and so many just-plain-great tunes.
Which may be music snobbery on my part. I like those songs for the most part, but I don’t think they belong with the giants of my own youth. Put it this way: whether you love or hate Bruce Springsteen, Ozzy Osbourne (with Black Sabbath or solo), or the Rolling Stones, do you REALLY think Poison’s Open Up And Say Ahhh! album belongs alongside Born To Run, Paranoid, or Sticky Fingers? Can you name a single hair band that belongs in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame? That music speaks to a time in our pop culture history, true, but so do the exploitation films of the 70s. And while I love Coffey, Foxy Brown, the Blind Dead series, The Devil’s Nightmare, School Of The Holy Beast, and the slasher flicks of the 80s, I have no illusions that those movies are not classics in the traditional sense. I’m not kidding myself by putting them at the same level of the first two Godfather films, Glengarry Glen Ross, or the majority of Hitchcock’s filmography. The exploitation genre, and glam metal, is junk food. And while I like junk food, I’m not eating it for dinner.
But the truth is the truth. Time passes whether you like it or not. The “latest” of our parents becomes our “classic.” The music that I remember as new and revolutionary is oftentimes dismissed as “old people’s music.” And so, in the end, I have to make my peace with the fact that I am…shudder…an adult. To be referred to as “Mr. Scheckland” by the kids in my neighborhood. To remember where I was and how I reacted to my first time seeing Guns ‘n’ Roses and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video on MTV. To chuckle at the memories of slow dancing with girlfriends to those wonderfully, awfully cheesy hair ballads. To grit my teeth and get used to hearing “Rock You Like A Hurricane” and “Rock Of Ages” and maybe “I Wanna Rock” on the same radio channel as “Rock ‘n’ Roll Never Forgets” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “We Will Rock You.” To accept my pop culture age with the same grace that I accepted my biological age. Hey, at least I have my iPod to help me ease into that particular tar pit with “Peace Of Mind,” right?
But I swear, the first time I hear “Wish You Were Here” segue-way into “Give It To Me Good” or “Talk Dirty To Me” or – God help me – “The Final Countdown,” I will tear my car stereo out with my bare hands and toss it out of my car…
And John Adams? I wouldn’t laugh. You’re less than five years away from Smashing Pumpkins being tossed in with the rest of us dinosaurs…