Previous: Mid 90s
1997 to 1999… a time of new friends, crippling depression, and various punk scenes as the kid struggles to keep it together while high school just ends
As some may know, I recently went to Japan with my lovely partner during the New Year holiday. It was a great opportunity to check out one of my favorite countries (and proximity is better than ever now living in Taiwan). Not to knock any other of the fascinating Eastern lands out there, but for my inner geek Japan will always be my first love…
It was my third time visiting, and Bronwen’s very first! In the month beforehand I brushed up on my old collegiate 日本語 studies, listening to audio lessons and dusting off the old phrasebooks. It turned out I can still surprisingly get by in survival Japanese at least, and I’ll never forget hiragana/katakana. Nowadays my Chinese is obviously much better, but I do know a lot of kanji even if I pronounce it wrong. Hence, I like to think I make for a decent Nihon guide.
In our planning stages we decided to forego the overwhelmingness of Tokyo, and instead opted for the more traditional city of Kyoto in the Kansai region. Sure enough it was a great place to explore, low-key and relaxed, and with a temple or shrine on every corner. Nijo Castle in particular stood out. And the Gion District was a cool place full of geisha stylings, and look how good she looks in a rented kimono!
(Note these Instagram links below are albums to flip through, so scroll all)
Later we went to Nara, which proved to be the first of our ‘animal friends’ series of photo ops. Nara is famous for it’s roaming deer, as you can see! Hundreds of them everywhere, what a sight. They are quite tame for the most part, except for a few selfish ones harassing tourists with bags of oranges, but basically one buys crackers from street vendors and all day they will safely feed from the humans. Lucky beasts.
It’s even advertised that they are polite and bow, but later I looked it up and they only “bow” because they think humans are about the head-butt them. Interesting facts.
The other main animal friends adventure consisted of going to the central shopping district of Kyoto for an amazing time at the hedgehog cafe!! Yes, the latest of the cafe trends is to play with super-cute hedgehogs. It was very popular and we had to reserve to get a seat.
I felt a bit bad, because our hedgehog was rather not into it. The workers there explained well how to treat the animals right, and it wasn’t uncomfortably exploitative or anything. Just slightly problematic what with the way the little guy kept wanting to run away into corners.
There was also an owl cafe in the area, but I can only handle so much cuteness.
New Year’s Eve was had partying, as it should be, at the rocker nightclub known as Metro. It was an excellent showing rotating live bands and DJs, with an almost retro 80s vibe to it. One band blew us away, they were dressed like boy scouts and absolutely insane. Made for a long night of ringing in 2018, and I hope I can maintain some optimism for the year…
I shouted out many a times: “明けましておめでとうございます!”
After going to the famous and beautiful Inari Shrine, and then the Toei Studios Park–which was somewhat of a lame tourist attraction and the anime section was pitiful but the samurai village was kind of cool and had horses–on the last day we were off to the nation’s second-biggest city of Osaka to absorb the whole futuristic Japan thing. Which is what I ultimately love about it there the most, though it did get very crowded. A city I visited over ten years previous, so nostalgic.
The bathhouses, the pretty light snow and the cold weather, the majestic mountains in the distance, calculating yen, the bullet trains, the heated seats, the soba noodles, the tempura, the lux toilets, the manga figurines, and the epic video game arcades. Experienced so much on this all too brief eight-day trip. And, she seemed to like it.
Until next time, Rising Sun land…
Does the following count as anime/manga?
We all know the theme song.
There was a certain cartoon — a classic American cartoon of the 1980s that happened to be brought to you by Ronald Reagan’s toy advertisement deregulation. (So THAT’S why there were so many awesome 80s shows which were basically advertisements for toys.) A certain program we all grew up with, and it had Japanese origins.
In the early 80s Hasbro bought up several toy lines of transforming robots hailing from Japan. Marvel was hired to create the backstory, as the comic company had done with G.I. Joe. Jim Shooter and Dennis O’Neil created the Autobots vs. Decepticons of the planet Cybertron premise, with all the character profiles and so on.
The show was produced by Japan’s Toei Animation, and it was a hit. Transforming robots, what’s not to love! There was also Gobots that predated it a bit, from Tonka and Hanna-Barbera, and the less said about that.
To me, the highlight was 1986’s Transformers: The Movie, set in 2005, a brilliant piece of outer space escapism that killed off Optimus Prime and had all Cybertronians facing off against the planet Unicron. AWESOMENESS.
And I fucking hate the new Hollywood blockbuster movies. They are shit. I’m not even going to get into that. No, I am all about the Generation 1.
Going back to the post My History of Comics, when I was about 11 I moved into some relatives’ house and inherited a ton of 1980s Marvel Comics. I didn’t mention that many of those comics were the original Transformers. I had almost all the issues from # 1 to 55 written by Bob Budiansky, although there were gaps filled in later.
It was originally intended to be in the mainline Marvel Universe, and issue 3 featured Spider-Man vs. Megatron! That full issue to this day can’t be legally reprinted by other companies.
Actually, it was fascinating to me and much better than the TV series. Optimus Prime died early on, replaced by Grimlock. Prime did come back to life. Megatron died and came back too. The Headmasters spinoff featured more complications, and it built up to an epic mythology. Even a crossover with G.I. Joe.
It got even better after 56 as writer Simon Furman took over the franchise until the final issue 80. He said that at the time Hasbro was winding down the product line and he was given free reign. He incorporated much of the futuristic film’s characters, and told of the secret origin of the Transformers. Most of those issues are rare and valuable today; I didn’t read much until reprints in graphic novels years later.
I did however eat up the short-lived 12 issues of the Generation II written by Furman. It was pure 90s Marvel, violent, and I an adolescent just loved it.
Nowadays, it’s hard to recall that there was a time when the popularity of Transformers was uncertain. In the early 2000s, Pat Lee led a resurgence with high-quality art in the anime style, and Dreamwave was licensed to publish new Transformers comics.
Now a proper grownup, I geeked out as only a well-read adult can. I’m too old for toys. Most of the time. There more decorations than toys. Yet will not apologize for my taste in fine literature.
The first two miniseries were actually not that great, but then an ongoing series by Brad Mick got much better. I felt they were building up to the film’s 2005 year, and then they were going to get into Arcee and the female Autobots, when Dreamwave abruptly went bankrupt and the whole thing was stopped short at issue 10.
Simon Furman also wrote an amazing prequel set of series, The War Within, on the ancient beginnings of the Cybertronian civil war. The art and redesigns were meticulous. Two 6-issue miniseries, but then a third one cancelled in the middle.
IDW took up the mantle and currently publishes many Transformers comics. I hear some of them are supposed to be good. Sadly, I got burnt out on reboots and moved abroad and don’t follow.
I really should get around to reading Last Stand of the Wreckers…
I like to share. Over the course of this blog, I’ve shared my writings, some of my taste in music, and yes my love-life. However, one aspect that I consider very important to my identity has been rather neglected. I speak of my biggest hobby of all, my first love. Comics. There are many facets to the complexity that is me Ray, but if anyone is interested in truly knowing the core of my being then you must know that I am ultimately.. a bigass comic geek. I used to go to the comic shop every Wednesday. I used to scour for good deals at used bookstores and comic conventions. I collected thousands of periodicals across all genres, and filled my various bedrooms with dozens of boxes. At last count, I had about 40 boxes. They contain over a hundred issues each, do the math. I have less now, that’s another story, but still a ton of these back in my dad’s closet in Indiana of all places.
To introduce this series detailing my great interest in the sequential art form, let me begin with profile links from my extensive Goodreads:
According to my Goodreads shelves, I have read over 1000 graphic novels (I think it’s more, that’s just what I recalled to list)
There are all kinds, all genres. But I must admit mostly superhero- https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=superhero
Split into DC and Marvel (I’m more into DC, least I used to be) https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=dc https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=marvel
Also, quite a lot of Japanese manga
Such as the fun volumes of Shonen Jump https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=shonen-janpu
The “God of Manga” Osamu Tezuka
I do, of course, contend that comics are as literature as prose books Noting DC’s adult imprint Vertigo
Indie as well, all that which defies classification https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=indie
My favorite authors:
I sincerely try not to judge people.
I really do. I try, and I don’t always succeed, but I try. Intellectually I know I shouldn’t be judgmental.
When it comes to sexually promiscuous women, I can be torn. On the one hand, we are all adults and we should be free to do whatever we want. Me included. Some people express themselves sexually and they are healthy about it, they want to give themselves pleasure and society shouldn’t force arbitrary rules causing unnecessary shame. It’s simple, really.
Yet, there is on the other hand: how some people seem to warrant further psychoanalyzing to see why they are having all that wild anonymous group sex. Certain peoples with issues and acting out. Can’t help but wonder what’s wrong. Or at least, can’t we be morbidly curious about why people are the way they are?
I still have some enlightening to do myself…
Honestly, I don’t even care that all that much. It’s not my business. Let me start over. This is all from a totally amoral standpoint.
I simply don’t want her to text me those pictures of her fucking multiple men, and often pictures of her fucking those multiple men at once. I’m just not into seeing that. And she kept sending them unsolicited again and again. Emails, text apps. Skanky invitations (for lack of a better term), I’d tell her to leave me alone, and she continuously pushed at me and pushed at me the most graphic sexual imagery possible.
That’s weird, right?
I don’t think it was a moment of desperation or anything like that. A mere moment of playfulness. Not particularly special or anything.
Well, after online dating for so long, the odds were in my favor that eventually I’d meet someone off and the drama would begin.
So. I was single now and feeling frisky one day, as single men tend to do, and I messaged some lady on POF and said I was doing a survey on hand jobs. Rate your skill 1 to 10. Funny much?
She was apparently intrigued and messaged me back.
Yuki was my age. She’d done some kind of trading business. I know she’d been to Vegas before and was internationally-minded enough. Her ‘name’ was a Japanese (Chinese people rarely use their real names when speaking English to foreigners, they usually choose a Western name but some people do like to be called something more exotic). She wasn’t all that hot. She was curvy for a Chinese woman. She was quite willing. How was I to know it would turn out bad?
After a latenight dinner we took a taxi to my house and so on. Whatever. We met a few times after that I guess. It wasn’t like that memorable. She wasn’t supposed to have turned out to be this big a deal still bothering me today.
Some time passed, there was no indication that we should become a serious couple, and one day she asked if she could stay at my place for several days. Um, what?
She had been telling me she was looking for a new place, looking to move. She was just in-between. It happens. Or, does it?
It was terrible. I can be such a sucker. I laid out some ground rules, and I let her bring over luggages and crash. She went out to work or something in the days, and then came over at nights and left many dirty dishes and crap lying around.
Worst of all, she was always around. My whole personal routine was interrupted. I like to be alone most of the time, to be honest.
I do invite people over from time to time. I’ve written about Couchsurfing, for example. Thing about those situations though, is that there is a plan beforehand. A specific date of when the guest leaves, an endpoint.
Yuki soon overstayed her welcome and I told her she needed to get out. This wasn’t cool. She needed to get the hell out of my house.
It was hard to read this person. I mean, she’d been abroad. A moderately middle-class Chinese woman, I’d suppose. Didn’t seem like she was broke. It’s not hard to find an apartment in Shenzhen, so why did she need to be in-between like this?
Was she actually homeless, drifting from man to man’s houses? Or, just desperate for human contact?
I don’t know. I don’t want to know too much. Just stop taking advantage of me.
Then, another day a month or so later, it came eerily close to stalking.
That time she came over without warning was unacceptable. I hate when women do that. I have a routine, I need to be alone to be productive. I don’t like surprises. Sure I let her stay over, but I told her in no uncertain terms that she could never ever come over unannounced again.
When I later moved, I made it a point to not forward her my new address.
And lest you think I’m some pig rejecting an innocent Chinese girl who only wanted to be my girlfriend… Then the explicitness began.
Now, I’m not necessarily opposed to sexting. I may indulge in such from time to time. But when the unsolicited nude pictures started, and were then followed up by pictures of sex with other men’s dicks, I had to politely ask her to stop. She can be exhibitionist all she wants, but don’t I get to inform consent?
And they kept on coming. Dick pics. Other men’s dicks. More dicks. Then two dicks at once. Then a video. Then more.
Dating in China, blah blah. More often than not it was Rejected in China. Especially during my Guangzhou Year.
Everyone seemed to be doing fine hooking up, yet I always found myself to be wrought with challenges in this game.
People all assume that it’s so easy to be an expat in China. There are advantages to be sure, I admit my privilege. However, honestly I get rejected by local girls all the time.
What can I say? I really put myself out there. That means taking risks. That sometimes means embarrassing yourself, falling on the hard dirt face-first, and somehow finding the strength to do it all over again next weekend. Did I learn anything?
There was the girl who made out with me while my friend was visiting and texted me all the time, yet she would never make the time to meet one-on-one for a date. There was the second date with the Sandy when she slept over at my place and we massaged each other in the morning and then she told me she’s seeing someone else. There was the girl I approached outside in the street who turned out to run a bar in Panyu, and we as per usual made out in a club and then I went to her bar and I could never get her alone again. There was my cute Italian friend, one ambiguous friendship with that flirting tension in the air and nothing ever came of it. The American (from guess where, Florida) who was really into graphic cybersex with me and then by the time we met in person she was constantly talking about her new boyfriend. The Japanese language teacher friend who rejected my advances multiple times. The girl I met while backpacking in Tokyo, who liked me when we were chatting and showed me around in person but wouldn’t let me stay at her place during my travels. I even met a girl who owned a manga shop in Yuefu and I thought she just might be my soulmate, but she evidently thought there were no sparks at all; this was when I began formulating my theory that too much in common is not good for attraction.
Off the top of my head, two girls especially come to mind, of whose rejections were particularly hurtful–
Josephine. I really liked her. Slim and glamorous. She knew her fashion. A French major, a Europhile. She was meant for greater things than me…
I met her at the big nightclub in Zhujiang New Town. She wore a sexy black dress. I used a great opening line about looking like a drug dealer and pretending people were asking me if I was holding, wondering what she thought of my looks. She laughed, we exchanged numbers.
We had pizza for dinner one day and I bought her a stuffed animal, and she started talking about her boyfriend.
“Isn’t this a date?” I forwardly asked, though trying not to come across as resentful.
I never did get a goodbye kiss from her.
I tried to stay friends with her.
Somehow, her number got lost as I upgraded phones throughout the seasons and I no longer have her contact info. It would be nice to know what she’s up to. Just to be friends on Wechat, see her posts occasionally, not bug her all the time or anything.
Josephine, are you out there?
Probably the most drama I had in my entire Guangzhou era was with Seline.
Now, I met her indirectly through Couchsurfing. But let me assure you that I never ever use the crucial travel-and-networking website as a hookup thing. That is strictly against my code. This was the only time I kinda-sorta broke that code.