Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Stadium Arcadium

Man, am I loving this album.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers never come up on my list when friends ask me for my favorite bands. Yet every time an album is released, I fall in love with them all over again.

It started with Blood Sugar Sex Magic (although their cover of 'Higher Ground' is what made me notice them). In 1991, Walker and I were driving upstate and bought two new albums for the trip. I picked up 'Nirvana Nevermind' and he got 'Blood Sugar Sex Magic'. They were both played and replayed the entire trip. Like most fans, I stepped aside for 'One Hot Minute' (Dave Navarro is a great guitarist but the wrong choice) and rejoiced when Frusciante returned for 'Californication'. 'By the Way' brought new layers of texture to their music.

And here we are. It's been a four year wait for this double album of 28 songs. I imagine it will take me another four years to understand it. Chili Peppers albums are like that. You listen to the single ("Dani California" here) but six months the songs you thought were filler are the ones you can't play enough. Because every album is jammed with perfect songs and the human ear is not equipped to recognize that (I didn't love 'Can't Stop' until I heard it on Marc Maron's Air America show).

What really bonds the Chili Peppers to my heart is that they bring something to music I haven't heard in decades; joy. These guys love to play music and you hear it on every track. Even when tracked separately, they sound like their playing together. I can't help but feel a little envious when I think of all the bands I've been in that never clicked this way. Then again, most bands don't connect this well.

For the record, I bought this in Japan and then got tickets to see them in October.

So I am cooler than you.

Here's what other people are saying about Stadium Arcadium.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Mine are horrible. In fact, I can't remember them being worse. I'm on constant Claritin and yet I can't sleep from congestion. And, according to, it's gonna stay that way for a while.

When the pollen count gets this high, I might as well be sick. I don't want to perform, I don't want to look for freelance work, I don't even want to eat. Nature is in bloom and I'm receding. Seems unnatural somehow.

How are you coping? Let me know.

Monday, May 29, 2006

X-Men 3: The Last Stand (spoilers)

Big bam boom.

I was pretty worried about this movie. X2 was great but left with a cliffhanger I needed to resolve. Six months later, it all went to hell.

Bryan Singer announced he'd be making Superman Returns (which comes out in a few weeks)before X-Men 3. The executives at 20th Century Fox got so pissed they cancelled his contract and went looking for another director (because a good release date is more important than a good director). Matthew Vaughan came in, made a couple of decisions, and left. Not a good omen. Finally, Brett Ratner was signed and made this movie very quickly. I'm amazed it doesn't suck.

And it doesn't. But it's not the great film X2 is. Gone are the complex characters. Famke Janssen's layered Jean Grey is now the eeeeeevil Dark Phoenix. Patrick Stewart's serene Professor X comes off a little too 'Picard' in the opening scene. And Ian McKellen spends most of the time stretching out his hand and squinting his brow.

But it's geek nirvana. The Danger Room. Sentinels. The Fastball Special. Iceman vs. Pyro. Wolverine vs. Juggernaut. Kitty Pryde vs. Juggernaut. Kelsey Grammar as the Beast. It all works. The fight at the end really feels like a fight in an X-Men comic. Meaning there's a thousand characters throwing different powers at each other at once.

The studio says this is it for the X franchise and that the next movie will feature only Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. I can see it. It will be a hell of a lot cheaper and the fan base will return for a less complex story. Oh yeah, and this movie kills a whole lot of characters.

Told you there'd be spoilers.

Sunday, May 28, 2006


Want to confront your insecurities? Spend the day looking at 200 pictures of your face.

I needed a headshot for comedy and I couldn't put it off any longer. I hate the image side of performing. I hate looking at me and judging the results. I'm of the mind where the work should speak for itself. But when you're a performer, the work is you. And the process of editing feels a lot like high school.

Thankfully, Ulrike did a great job and there are a few pictures I actually like.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Lara Yaz

Lara has no website. She does have this clip on youtube. And lucky for us, because she is goddamn funny. Here's a set I taped for her. And if you find her ipod, please let me know.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Arrested Development

We were up very late last night talking about great comedy and "Arrested Development" came up pretty quickly. It occurs to me that most of you have probably never seen it (which is why it's not on anymore). You should be ashamed. Take a look at the opening minute and a half of one episode here and marvel at how much actually happens. And how sharp every single line is.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Question

How long does jet lag last? Cause I've been screwed up since I got back from Japan last week.

Of course, being unbearably hung over for two days and eating White Castle at midnight can't possibly be helping.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Birthday show tonight!

Even funnier if you listen.

Jon Clarke
NY Comedy Club
241 E. 24th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue
New York, NY
Wednesday 5/24/06
9 p.m.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Japan Wrap Up

As promised, here's Renee's account of the rest of our trip:

“Last 2 days in Japan – Back to Toyama ‘Tadaima’”

In Japan, when you come back home you say “tadaima” and whoever is home shouts back “okaerinasai.” It is a nice tradition, one that certainly makes you feel welcome, warm, a part of things, the moment you step back into “home.” Well, that is what it was like arriving back in Toyama. :-)

The timing of this visit was great; Junko had her baby on May 11th; Hana was born at 1:30pm, weighing in at 5.5lbs. She is small, but Japanese, so just fine! J In Japan women stay at a clinic with their babies for a full week after giving birth. Each patient has a private room, very much like a hotel room where visitors get to come in and out, the father can spend the night; the baby spends the night at the nurse’s station, but is otherwise with the mother. When we arrived at the Ladies’ Clinic, everyone was hanging out the windows looking for us – it was really cool. Jon got to meet my host father and mother, Junko (the youngest sister and 3rd of 4 host siblings), her husband, a few family friends.

The next day everything came back to me of what family life is like with the busy Konishi family. So many kids, the father’s busy business, the big house and many efforts to make sure we felt welcome and got to see all that wanted to in Toyama! After a quick tour of the house, I got to try to explain to Jon what life was like 16 years ago as a high school exchange student coming to the Konishi family. There is never a dull moment!

We went on a little day trip to Gokayama where we visited a historic village; we went to the Minzoku-kan (folklore museum) and Ensho-no-yakata (gunpowder production museum). I found an explanation to say “these museums were made in "Gassho-zukuri" style houses as built at the end of the Edo period (1600-1868). The two museums display utensils that were used in daily life by people in that area, such as tools for paper-making and silkworm raising. Also displayed are other historically important folklore articles and materials including those for the production of "ensho" (gunpowder that flourished in Gokayama as its very important industry). Visitors can get an idea of what the life confronting the severity of nature was for people in that area.”

We got a quick look at Toyama Minami Kokou, the high school which hosted me. There were parent-teacher conferences going on, so we just got a quick look around. It was showing Jon around the empty school where it hit me how much time had passed…16 years…wow.

Our busy day was rounded out with dinner at a yaki-tori house with Yumiko and her sons (9 and 5). Yumiko and her family just moved back to Toyama from Tokyo last year. Although no one in the Konishi family speaks much English, Jon and the boys were able to communicate through toys. We had a busy night and got a quick photo op of the Toyama-jo Castle too!

After a whirlwind good-bye to everyone, Jon and I got on a plane to Tokyo. This was such a good trip! Jon got a glimpse of what life must have been like for a young, 15-16 year old, bright-eyed Renee; the new foods, completely foreign language, different way of doing every day tasks and the richness and generosity of the Japanese and their culture. I was very happy to have had this opportunity – what a great idea Jon!!!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Batman Vs. Star Trek

I always try to give internet films a chance. After all, I make no budget web movies myself. But fan films are tough. They're going up against something established. And they almost never measure up.

But I have to say, I'm curious to see Batman Vs. Star Trek when it's uploaded. I just wish we had the money for those sets.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Special Birthday show!

Come and see me this Wednesday night. It's an industry showcase so if you laugh a lot, my career will take off. Oh yeah, and it's my birthday so come if you love me.

Jon Clarke
NY Comedy Club
241 E. 24th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue
New York, NY
Wednesday 5/24/06
9 p.m.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

William Shatner on the Muppet Show

I'm really proud of this one. I spent three months animating this short film and it was the highlight of our second screening. Enjoy "William Shatner on the Muppet Show" then tell youtube it's time to feature something we did already:

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Flying Home

We're on a plane for the next twenty hours coming home. Renee wants to write the last Japan entry so she'll be guesting here for a recap. I'd just like to sleep.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Japan Day 8: Parades

Anyone's who's seen my stand-up knows how I feel about parades. So you'll know how I feel about seeing two in one day. At least they were completely new to me.

The first was in Kyoto. It was more a processional than a parade. Quiet, no music, no clapping. But it was historical, recreating the journey of the emporer and empress.

Renee says:

This festival is held jointly on May 15 by the Kamigamo and Shimogamo shrines in Kyoto. It is said to be the most graceful and traditional festival in all of the ancient capital. Before daybreak, participants assemble at the Old Imperial Palace. At 10:00 a.m. they leave the palace in procession, wearing Heian costumes that feature headpieces decorated with katsura wigs and aoi (mallow). The procession stops by Shimogamo Shrine and reaches Kamigamo Shrine in the early afternoon.

From there we left Kyoto and took the train over to Toyama, where Renee had spent a year as an exchange student. As soon as we got there , we were taken to another parade. But this one was really cool. In the spirit of local animosity, each neighborhood chooses a different god and builds a tower to him. Then they smash it into another neighborhood's tower as hard as they can. The fact that they spend the whole day drinking explains a lot.

Renee adds:

Early in the morning on the first day of the festival, residents of the seven quarters of Takaoka trim their floats with mountain-shaped decorations. They then line up in the Sakashita-cho section of the city and parade down the street in orderly fashion. After stopping at the shrine, the floats are taken back into the streets to return to their respective quarters by evening.
Then, the floats battle each other, banging into one another until the leader of one of the floats concedes. It was a lot of fun to watch!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Japan Day 7: Monkeys, Robots and Ninjas

Now this is what I came to see.

Today we went to the Kyoto film studio park. They shoot 200 tv shows here and apparantly they all star samurai. What's good about that? Ninjas.

Upstairs was the superhero wing. When Japan says superhero, it means Power Rangers. I always thought Power Rangers was one show. Turns out it's nineteen.

From there we went to the monkey sanctuary. 150 monkeys you can feed. I've never seen monkeys this close and these guys are living the life. Where can you get free food and not be caged? If you're a monkey, only in Kyoto.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Japan Day 6: Kyoto Temples and Shrines

We spent the entire day walking around Kyoto. Seems they have a temple or shrine on every block. Back when Kyoto was the capital of Tokyo, the people wanted protection by the gods so they kept building them houses.

The first stop was the Golden Palace. This was originally designed as a palace for a very greedy emperor. It was later converted to a temple. No telling how greedy the god was.

The fish were also greedy.

Renee's friend Ayoko showed us around and helped teach us the difference between a temple and a shrine. A temple is a house of God; a shrine is a house for God. The gods aren't too social so people aren't allowed in shrines.

It rained the entire time we were there but somehow it just added to the atmosphere.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Japan Day 5: Arriving in Kyoto

I've been here five days and I still can't speak Japanese. Renee's teaching me words but with no context of grammar, they're just a collection of syllables. Which means they're lost after five minutes.

This was evident when I met Renee's host sister, Hisako. She spoke as much English as I spoke Japanese. We tried to communicate as best we could using gestures, tone and Renee as an interpreter. Apparantly she greeted me with "your husband has a giant nose." I was already aware of this.

In some ways, I could communicate on the same level with her baby, Aya-Chan. Since she's at the age where she doesn't know any language it was a helpful reminder that language is only one level of communication.

Tokyo gave us one last full day. We took a cab over to Asakusa, the largest temple in Tokyo, which houses the largest flea market in Tokyo. Proof Jesus wasn't Buddhist. Hisako told us it was a lighter crowd than usual. Only 17 class trips today.

We left the temple and took the water bus down the river Sumidagawa
which helped us connect the sections of Tokyo together. When you take the subway, all you get are snapshots of the city.

We got off at a park which led to a brand new section, the Shiodome. It's the most modern part of a very modern city, with a two story high sidewalk crossing the highways. It was close enough that we could walk back to the hotel, grab our bags and catch the train at Tokyo station.

Today was the first day that language was really a barrier in Japan. On the other hand, it was good for Renee to really practice her Japanese, since most of the friends we'd met so far had spent time in the States. She'd been working so hard in preparation I enjoyed seeing her put those skills to the test. I think we'll need those skills in Kyoto.

Here are Renee's thoughts:

We got a beautiful, sunny day for what was going to be just a last morning in Tokyo before taking the Shinkansen to Kyoto.

Thursday afternoon I got a call from Hisako (the oldest of the 3 host-sisters, there is also the youngest a boy in the family); she called to try to get together as she lives outside Tokyo, near Tokyo Disneyland. Her husband in works for Nippon Shinbushi (large newspaper) and has 2 kids now. Her son [4] was at preschool, so Ayano [1] was able to join us for a trip to Asakusa with a ride on the water bus down from Asakusa to the Shimbashi area. This is the Asahi Brewery above; the 1st site passed on water taxi.

It was fun to see Hisako in mother-role; although she was always a strong older-sister too. Te first thing she said was “your husband’s nose it big isn’t it;” but then agreed he looked like Bono.

We hopped into a taxi and went to Askausa to see the shrine and all the other things there; what a hot spot for tourists!!! I was surprised how packed it was; Hisako kept right on pushing the stroller as if we were not in a sea of school-uniformed kids! It was an experience as we had not yet been in such crowds before. Amongst all the tiny shops leading up to temple, Hisako pointed out little things and all the toy shops for Jon. We stole a few minutes take in the sites and Hisako and I got to catch-up while Aya-chan and Jon bonded.

All around the area were restaurants and tons of shops. We headed down strips that looked interesting and got to see a pachincho parlor, a sambe (toasted rice-cakes with soy sauce) stand and lots of little restaurants. It was neat and a nice break from the crowds. After a quick stop at Starbucks (the EXACT same as any you’d find in the States), we got on the “water-bus”. Hisako had never been on the boat either, so we were all in for a treat. It was fun to see all the bridges we passed under and some sites we had not had a chance to see; like Tokyo Tower. I honestly never really understood what the big deal is about it, but it is popular. J

We ended our journey at a park, which lead us to the Shiodome complex; thanks to our many walks around the Ginza shops, we were able to find our way back to our hotel quickly.

Hisako did help us navigate our way to Tokyo Station (just a quick walk from the hotel). I was impressed with the architecture of the mini-expo center above the station [think Madison Square Garden and Penn Station]. Nonetheless, I really appreciated having Hisako taking us where we needed to go to get our tickets to Kyoto. This was really the moment where I felt Hisako was the older sister again; it was nice and made me more excited to see the Konishi Family after our next leg in Kyoto.

Once we got ourselves a bento (lunch box) we found the platform and waited for our bullet train. We got to see the train [a 700 series] pull in and it was very welcoming to see the comfy seats after all that walking in the sun! I love how efficient the trains are here; everything is on such a schedule! I asked the conductor when we can expect to see Mt. Fuji and he wrote a note of 17:48 – 17:50, the exact time we would be passing it. Sadly, the weather was too bad to see it; we saw a bunch of clouds and other mountains, but no luck for photos.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Japan Day 4: Off to Kyoto

Renee knows people everywhere. It looks like we'll be meeting old friends of hers every day we're in Japan. Last night we met with her old coworkers and friends in an Irish pub that was about as authentic as an Irish pub in the States.

We're checking out of the hotel now and after a trip to the largest temple in Tokyo we'll be taking the train to Kyoto and the next leg of our trip.

Here are Renee's recollections:

After a full day of Ginbura [Ginza walking] we met up with Akemi [former co-worker from Council on International Educational Exchange] at an Irish pub called Irish Times in Shimbashi. I figured she would be a good one to find Irish pubs as she is interested in Irish men ;-); and it would be a nice reward for Jon after a few days of new foods.

We were also very lucky to meet up with Emiko and Chikako who I last saw at the Humanist Center of Cultures events in NYC; Emiko just got back to Tokyo a few months ago and Chikako and I had 3 years of catching up to do. Emiko brought a new co-worker Yoshi to help round out the ratio and help him get into the English-swing of things before he goes to LA to work for 18 months.

We all had a real good time catching up, getting to know each other and sipping our Guinness and nibbling pub grub…Irish-Japanese style. I still cannot get over the cute little half-pint glasses popular among Japanese; it is true that most of my Japanese friends get a little pink after just one of the half pints, so I understand why the full pints do not go over well. Jon and I made sure to keep pace with the crowd.

We, however, got to observe quite a more sauced crowd on our walk home. The subway system closes down midnight – 5 am; so when we left the bar at 11:30pm, most others were emptying out too. We were only one stop away, so decided to walk back to our hotel in the Ginza…it was rather entertaining to see others try to stumble their way home. As we said good-bye to our friends we heard serenades and testimonies of how sober co-workers thought they were; all the while taxies began to line the streets to take these folks home. We were told that taxi fare was pretty expensive, but even more expensive after midnight!

Before we met up with everyone, we stopped by the Kabuki-za Theater for a quick photo-op. Kabuki is a rather tough commitment; the shows run 4 to 5 hours, so I was ok with just getting my photo taken in front.