Herro Flom Japan

Podcasts & Videocasts from an American salaryman.

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Lightning strikes!

May 25th, 2009 · 5 Comments

Last night while the rest of my family was at a soccer match, lightning struck about 100 meters from our house and blew out our TV, VCR, Wii, phone, wife's PC and fried the network card in my PC. Luckily the fridge, washer and air conditioners were spared.

On the bright side, with nothing left to have fun with and no money to buy replacements, maybe our kids will start reading books.

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My Kids and Grand Theft Auto Liberty City Stories

November 4th, 2008 · 21 Comments

I have two boys, 8 and 11 years old. Tony, the 11 year old, loves video games. He has a Sony PSP which he plays a lot. Far too often in my wife's opinion. He's constantly blowing his allowance on buying and selling games at a second hand store down the street from our house. But he also plays soccer on a team and does his homework, so it's not all bad.

Last week he showed me a catalog of games to tell me about the next game he was all excited to buy: Grand Theft Auto Liberty City Stories. One of his 11 year old friends has it and he totally fell in love with it. An 11 year old kid. His parents let him buy a game rated "Z" for 18 and over because it's wall-to-wall foul language and adult themes such as murder, mayhem, carjacking, brain-splattering headshots, cop killing, prostitution, BSDM, kinky sex, double-ended dildos, tittie bars, drugs…

That is, so far. For all I know, it gets worse. I'm still only on the 5th or 6th mission. Tony, on the other hand, is on well his way to unlocking the second island.

Last week, when Tony first showed me the game, our conversation when a bit like this:

Tony (in Japanese): Daddy, I want to get this awesome game!
Me (in English): What's it rated?
Tony: Z.
Me: How old do you have to buy a game that's rated Z?
Tony: 18.
Me: How old are you now?
Tony: 11.
Me: What's 18-11?
Tony: 7.
Me: That's how many years you have to wait to buy the game.

End of conversation. Flash forward to this week.

Tony: Daddy, look what I got!
Sony PSP: "You cock-sucking mother-fucking son of a goddamn whore! I'll rip off your head and shit down your neck!" (explosions) (police sirens) (sexual innuendo-filled radio dialog)
Me: Wonderful.

So here's the thing. And maybe I'm just rationalizing my horrible parenting skills and my guilt for not confiscating the game on sight.

Neither Tony nor Andy understand much English aside from the conversations I have with them, so all the swearing in the game goes over their heads. It was only a few weeks ago that Tony finally learned the word "shit" when I dented the running board of our family car trying to back out of a ridiculously narrow dead end. I'm not too worried about either of them acquiring a new and exceedingly foul English vocabulary from the game.

They don't understand the adult themes in the game. Or, maybe they do, and if so, they already acquired such worldly knowledge elsewhere.

That leaves the violence. When I was a kid, we played cops and robbers and smashed Matchbox cars together all the time. And I didn't grow up to be a sociopath.

Yesterday was a holiday so the three of us played the game together. I taught Andy how to read a map and to give and understand directions in English. I found a website of cheat codes and taught Tony some new vocabulary by explaining to him what they all did. The boys got practice sharing their toys, which involved patience and conflict resolution. Tony got to show me all the secret locations, mini games and tricks he discovered by himself. (I skipped over minor details such as what prostitutes and pimps do for a living.) We shared opinions about strategies. But most of all, the three of us spent hours of quality time together, which we don't do often enough lately.

But still, I'm conflicted as to whether or not I'm being a horrible parent by letting them play such an adult-oriented game.

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Horse Meat

September 27th, 2008 · 12 Comments


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My good deed for today

September 16th, 2008 · 10 Comments

I'm supposed to blog when something interesting happens to me, right?

This morning as I was passing through Shinjuku Station, I saw a woman take a dive down a short flight of slippery stairs and lie crumpled on the wet ground with a quickly expanding pool of blood under her head. (That freaked me out.) I've lived here long enough to know that you can't assume someone else is going to help so I rushed down her, tore off my headphones (and my glasses–oops), grabbed a towel from someone who pulled one out, knelt down and held the towel to her head while resting her neck on my thigh. She was talking, which was a relief. She was saying, "Don't worry about me, if you need to get to work, please go because I don't want to make you late." I told her to just relax and asked her if she was hurt anywhere else. She said she hurt her leg a little, but it didn't look broken, although I wasn't about to let my hand off her head to check. Man, she was really gushing blood. It looked like someone had slaughtered a dog on the sidewalk.

I got blood all over my jeans. Not a good pair, but these days none of my jeans are a "good pair." I can't buy my size in Japan, so I only have a few old pairs left that are still wearable. In other words, I trashed about 20% of my wardrobe right there.

Someone else called an ambulance on their mobile phone. It was nice that so many people stopped to ask if someone had called one. I like to see people care about total strangers, but day to day I don't see it often enough. Either people don't want to get involved or they just stand there dumbfounded.

There was another women there who vaguely knew her because they work at the same company, so she stayed with her to wait for the ambulance and I left to get washed up. She kept saying that she didn't want to make anyone late, and by that time she was sitting up and not bleeding as much so I figured it was OK to leave. But it's never easy to know if it's really OK to leave in a situation like that. She wanted me to, so I left.

And now I have to spend the rest of today wearing blood-stained jeans. I don't mind, really. It doesn't look like I've been through a massacre, but the stain is definitely noticeable so I'm a bit self-conscious.

Update: When I got home tonight my wife gave me a ziplock baggie full of some magical blue powder to put on the stain. The jeans just came out of the washer and much to my surprise the blood washed off completely without a trace. I told the story to both of my kids. Tony (the older one) wanted to know every last detail of the ordeal. Andy wanted to know why the heck would I volunteer to help a complete stranger.

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Squid Chips

August 22nd, 2008 · 5 Comments


It's Friday, I'm starting on my way home and I was hungry for a snack so I bought a bag of tempura fried squid. They look like potato chips or some other salted carbohydrate snack. Apparently, if you're not eating them, they don't smell so nice. I was eating them out of the bag when I got on the train and instantly all the women around me covered their faces with their handkerchiefs. One woman moved to another part of the train. I took the hint and twisted the bag shut until I got off at my stop then ate the rest in the open air.

Next time, I'll wait to get home to eat them. Tony likes stinky food so we'll eat them together.

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