Up the hill backwards

“Vacuum created by the arrival of freedom,” warbled David Bowie, “and the possibilities it seems to offer.” For all my hypocritical moaning about overtime and the drop in productivity that invariably accompanies it, I found myself to be my own worst manager. Our little indie venture is going extremely well, which is massively exciting and energising, but makes it almost impossible to switch off. Recently I have been feeling a little peaky, walking around in an aching haze, not quite realising why, until it struck me I end up working a good 10 or more hours a day, with only a lunch break some days.

I have tried to force myself to relax on weekends, with limited success. I switch on the PC in the mornings, check my mail, read the blogs and news, and end up sneakily drawn into work. Several hours later I realise it’s past lunchtime, at which point I’ll shower and leave the house for a breather, all the while thinking hard of what I could and should be doing in that time. After lunch it’s back to the PC, to work until supper, continuing afterwards until well into the evening. This weekend I tried to relax and play some games, to little avail, and found myself behind my desk again. The workload is enormous, yet fun and exciting, and not being busy on it feels wrong. I really have to think of a better way, but in these early stages of the venture I feel too guilty and, frankly, impatient to not kill myself over it.

Beard growth has been continuing apace, if slightly disappointingly. My cheeks refuse to foster anything more than a few pubes, whereas my moustache is getting ahead of my chinbeard, making it look slightly Village People. I’ll be off to the local Donki tomorrow to try and find a cheap beard comb to tease the growth along. At this pace I won’t look at home in the 19th century until the end of the year, bah humbug!

I have also mastered a useless but highly honed new skill. Over supper we often watch the cable television Mystery Channel, a fine collection of old films and good old British serials, such as Morse, Poirot and whatnot. However, for some inadequately explained reason not all programmes are broadcast bilingually, often featuring only the Japanese dubbed audio and believe me, Poirot in Japanese loses a lot in translation. I am now an expert on figuring out if a programme is in Japanese or English before even a word is spoken, thanks to, what I now hatefully call, “the Japanese groan”. For some reason, Japanese actors, and voice-actors, always overact physical discomfort. As most mystery shows start with a murder of some kind, the first audio usually revolves around groaning, and so horrendously bad and vaguely sexual is the Japanese voice-actor’s interpretation I can identify one at a hundred yards in bad light; short sharp exclamations and plenty of them, interspersed with audible gulps and intakes of breath. “Ugghh…ahhh..(gulp) …uhhhhmmmggg…(gulp again) Gggggg.” Terrible. Why this particular phenomenon might be remains a mystery to me; possibly a cultural thing about not showing emotions whenever possible, and so your average Japanese not being fully aware what actual exclamations of pain and discomfort sound like. I haven’t a clue, but each time I hear one of those groans my irritatometer shoots up and kills any potential enjoyment I might have received from watching a Japanese Belgian detective being massively clever.

Another annoyance is the lack of decent audio to keep myself occupied through these long working days. As a commuter I had more than enough podcasts to carry me through my trip, using the BBC iPlayer radio during the day to catch up on the wireless. These days, however, I don’t seem to find enough audio to fill an entire week. I would request from my readers any decent podcasts that I can try. Personal favourites like “The Bugle”, “Collings and Herrin”, “Perfect 10”, “Answer Me This” and things like “Smodcast” offer only tiny titbits once a week. “Filmspotting”, “Skeptics’ Guide”, “Fresh Air”, “This American Life” and “Keith and the Girl” help fill the gap but I am in no way close to filling my 10 hour a day quota. I’ll gladly receive any tips for recommended listening through the comments to this post. In grateful return I’ll give you this free bit of advice: do not listen to “Stop Podcasting Yourself” when in public because guffawing openly causes people to stare and avoid you.

19 comments:

  1. You could always check out TWiT (This Week in Tech) and it's related podcasts. They're mostly technology focused. There are about 15 of them, most of which are weekly and about an hour long.

    The onion has few as well.

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  2. You don't mention music at all. I am a fan of Dance-Tunes.com which is hosted in Holland and has that Trance/House similar style music by the bucketload. They have a constant radio channel going as well as podcasts which are usually one hour shows, with one or two added every day.

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  3. I would recommend Spotify but since you're in Japan, you'd likely have to pay for it which is kind of a bummer. Still, it's an excellent service that is adding more and more music every day. http://www.spotify.com Legal streaming music with huge database of music for your listening pleasure :)

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  4. Try what us Aussies listen to - the Australian national youth radio network: Triple J

    http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/

    streaming in Windows Media, Real Player, or MP3 format:
    http://www.abc.net.au/streaming/triplej.ram
    http://www.abc.net.au/streaming/triplej.asx
    http://abc.net.au/streaming/triplej/triplej.m3u

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  5. For the groan, I think one can understand it in several ways :

    - it shows the intention that you will speak in a matter of seconds, while leaving you time to think the appropriate way to say it.

    - I see it also as part of the japanese language overall - the groan usually has different intonations, that gives a hint as to how you should take the following sentence spoken. Before the words come you can already feel approval / disapproval / questionning / etc, a bunch of emotions simply by the tone of the groan.

    Other theories welcomed :)

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  6. http://www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab/

    I highly recommend this podcast from the NYC NPR station. Its episodes on "Choice" and the Ring Cycle are highlights.

    I'm glad you've found yourself thrown into a fury of work, and I hope it results in brilliant rewards. All the best.

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  7. What you say about The Japanese Groan is very correct. There is a lot of overacting and theatricality in general on Japanese dramas... like, a character gets out of bed, and they don't just get up; they groan, give a big, wide yawn, and sit up, throwing their arms out into the air in a morning stretch.....

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  8. How about any of those game-related podcasts? I know a few US-based ones: 1UP ListenUP, Gamespot, to name a few. I'm sure there are tons more, as well as a few from EU to fit your taste.

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  9. On the groan, I saw a Japanese TV program where a relatively famous Japanese director and a young girl (16-20) would watch a movie together and review the movie. The girl would like everything, the director would be a lot more critical.

    After watching What's Eating Gilbert Grape the director mentioned how good the acting was and said flat out Japanese actors can't act. He said they are always trying to be cool. Even if they are supposed to sad it's a cool sad or a cool angry or a cool happy.

    On Podcasts I'm really enjoying "Dan Carlin's Hardcore History". Check out the Punic wars part. I know it sounds boring but the guy is like a sports fan when it comes to history and it's amazingly fun to listen to. It's on the iTunes top 10 in some categories.

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  10. Excellent recommendations there! Thanks!! Podcast list updated and radio stations bookmarked!

    As for the Japanese being terrible actors...well, obviously such a sweeping statement would be racist, so I'll refrain from that, even though that is exactly what I think. :)

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