THE GROOVE MUSIC LIFE

Koda Kumi

One Does Not Simply Grow Out Of Their Passion For Music

“When are you going to grow out of that J-Pop stuff?”

This has a frequent question from my wife Tara, who I’ve known since 2004 and have been married to since 2010. The question doesn’t seem to come up very often anymore, for which I am thankful, but the last few times it occurred was when I bought home the latest releases from my usual favorite acts (Morning Musume, SCANDAL, Koda Kumi, etc.). I think the last time the question was posed to me was when I mentioned pre-ordering Morning Musume’s new single “Help Me!”, in which case, I replied with all honestly, “We are talking about my favorite band here – what do I have to do, tattoo their logo on my fucking arm to make it official?” That usually shuts her up.

I might not have shown it much on this blog – 2012 was a crazy year for me with everything from my first published book project to two different bands (one a general flop, the other current one off to a good start at first, only to… well, I’ll get into that in an entirely different column but as of 4.6.13 it’s not my problem anymore and I’ve moved on to other musical projects already) to some medical issues with both my mother and myself to deal with – but for the most part, my love of J-Pop in general and Morning Musume and SCANDAL in particular was alive and well and occupying good amounts of airtime on the hour a week I get for my program The Groove Music Life Radio Show (9PM Eastern Friday nights on ROK Out Radio, BTW)

There’s at least one good reason why I don’t see myself growing out of J-Pop at any point… there isn’t too much music out there outside of punk/alternative/indie rock that I easily associate with most of the high points of my adult life.

I had similar questions asked of me by many of my peers who looked down with severe disdain at the punk rock that I loved. “Black Flag? Isn’t that a bug spray?” was one of the milder insults. Why wasn’t my record collection dominated by the same dinosaur rock acts they were playing tapes of as background music while they were illicitly drinking booze and smoking cigarettes and joints? A lot of those same losers owned guitars and dreamed of being rock stars. Most of them boasted of their bands but either didn’t make it out of their basement or only had a couple of keg-party or church bazaar shows to their name before things fell apart for them. These guys didn’t even like the “Top 40″ cover bands that were getting most of the gigs at the time… mostly out of sheer jealousy.

To more casual observers like my wife, the forthcoming events involving Morning Musume in general and my favorite member of that group for the past ten years, Reina Tanaka, might be excuse to start up the “When are you going to stop listening to that crap?” nonsense again. This would definitely be the wrong time for me to stop and I don’t think there ever is going to be a wrong time with a group that I’ve been so emotionally invested in. Right now, for me at least, but I’m sure for other longtime Morning Musume and H!P fans, it’s an exciting time for me as a fan. I’m looking forward to receiving my copies of Reina’s final single with the band this week, and am already anticipating the first Lovendo? CD next month, very pleased with the fact that Reina is going to continue to make music for the forseeable future, unlike some of her previously departed members that have exited before her in recent weeks. (Ai Takahashi’s recent announcement of requiring surgery to remove nodules on her vocal cords coupled with the fact that she hasn’t made any music since leaving the band makes for a rather odd disconnect… it’s just as shame that her and fellow departed 5th-gen MoMusu Risa Niigaki have been taking non-musical career paths, despite their vocal talents.) Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to see how the band itself will be after Reina’s departure. Reina’s penultimate single and new member Sakura Oda’s first, “Help Me!”, have already started to dissipate any concerns… Sakura already has a hell of a voice as far as I’m concerned, and given that ten years ago, Reina was already showing some mad vocal skills on her first single with Morning Musume (“Shabondama”), that’s a good sign.

Anyway, I apologize for the semi-casual and somewhat rambly nature of this first “return” blog post. I intend to be on here a lot more often in the coming days, weeks, months… being in a band that went in a direction that it wasn’t supposed to go in took up a good deal of my free time, and my musical evangelization was being focused through my radio show almost exclusively over the past several months. The radio show will continue, and I’ll still continue to purse music, only in a different manner than I had in 2012 and early 2013. As of now, things are going to be the way I want them to go. Life is short, and I’ve been dormant in some aspects long enough.

Has It Been That Long Already?

Yep, it’s been that long… it actually has been five years since I started blogging (this site started in 2007, and I apparently miscalculated last year… fuck it!) Time to update the annual list of what I’ve been through since I started blogging:

Two webhosts (only one of which I recommend, Bluehost)
Four laptops (Don’t get me started…)
Three iPods (I finally upgraded to a 120GB model!)
One iPad
Morning Musume and AKB48 both making their American concert debuts – and way fucking overdue to return to these shores on a regular basis… no excuses, please, just book the dates and get on the plane! And yes, I know AKB were just in DC last week…
Twenty-one Morning Musume singles
Nineteen (soon to be twenty) personnel changes in Morning Musume
Two personnel changes in C-ute
No personnel changes in Berryz Koubou
More personnel changes in AKB48 than anyone can keep up with… (and I’m not even going to bother trying to anymore!)
Seven and a half Morning Musume albums (the “half album” being the 7.5 Fuyu Fuyu EP)
Twenty-one Berryz Koubou singles
Five and a half Berryz Koubou studio albums (the “half album” being their misnumbered (3) Natsu Natsu Mini Berryz)
Eighteen C-ute singles (all of their major-label releases)
Six and a half C-ute albums (I still consider 2 mini ~Ikiru to Iu Chikara~ to be an EP)
Seven Koda Kumi studio albums (I lost track of compilations and singles!)
Four Ayumi Hamasaki albums (Go ahead and yell at me, Vee…)
Two albums and three EPs from Maki Goto
Three albums, two EPs, one best-of, and four guitar tab books from SCANDAL
Three post-Whiteberry EPs from bands led by Yuki Maeda (One Yukki, two The Husky)
Nine Stooges albums (two of those being the remastered editions of their Elektra albums, another being a 180-gram pressing of Raw Power, and counting 2010’s 2CD and four-disc deluxe reissue of the original Bowie mix of Raw Power and the Raw Power Live album released last Record Store Day)
The entire Koharu Kusumi solo discography
The entire Buono! discography to date
The entire AKB48 singles discography to date
Six New York Dolls albums (three of those being vinyl editions of the first three studio albums)
Eight Puffy AmiYumi albums
Five Mission of Burma albums (and a new one on the way)
Three Panic! At The Disco albums
Three Meat Puppets albums
Three Cannibal Corpse albums and two DVDs
Three Deicide albums
Five Hank III albums (counting the Assjack album and the overdue legit release of the This Ain’t Country sessions as Hellbilly Joker) – and Hank III finally getting to say “fuck off” to Mike Curb.
Two copies of Flyleaf’s first album (one autographed)
Three autographed Sick Puppies CDs
One guitar autographed by Iggy Pop and the Asheton Brothers
One Asheton brother being transferred from the Stooges to Rock N’ Roll Heaven’s Helluva Band (I’m sure Ron is trading Mike Watt stories with D. Boon!)
James Williamson rejoining the Stooges
The Stooges finally making the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame (Next targets: The New York Dolls, Black Flag, and The Minutemen… and that’s a fucking vow and a promise from me!)
Lux Interior being transferred from the Cramps to Rock N’ Roll Heaven’s Helluva Band
Captain Beefheart succumbing to Multiple Sclerosis after several years… and the original version of Bat Chain Puller finally being released by the Zappa Family Trust a year later!
A Sex Pistols reunion
A Public Image Ltd. reunion
Malcolm McLaren, the former Sex Pistols “mis-manager” dying of cancer… followed by Johnny Rotten NOT singing “Celebration” or “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” (good on ya, Johnny…)
A fIREHOSE reunion (!!)
Seven books autographed by Henry Rollins
One book autographed by Sen. Arlen Specter
Three e-mails from Henry Rollins
Two e-mails from Jello Biafra
Three day trips to New York where I spent over $700 combined in one store (Virgin Megastore) alone
One day trip to New York where I didn’t spend any money in any record stores (Virgin Mega closed two years prior!)
Four visits to Apple Stores where I spent $0 (and wish I had been able to spend several times what I spent at Virgin)
One visit to an Apple Store where I finally bought something (my iPad!)
Six day trips to Philadelphia
Three day trips to Syracuse, NY
One Stooges concert
One Bon Jovi concert (goddamn motherfucking fuck!)
Two Flyleaf concerts
Two Evanescence concerts
Two Sick Puppies concerts
Two 3 Doors Down concerts (Which makes four times I’ve seen my fiancee’s favorite band, versus zero times I’ve seen my favorite band… that’s gotta be corrected quick-fast)
Two opening sets prior to 3DD by Hinder (Most boring band not named Nickelback or Daughtry, by a long shot)
Two Breaking Benjamin concerts (and unfortunately, although they played well as always, the sound at the second sucked! What was up with that, Ben?)
One Michael Angelo Batio personal appearance
One missed Puffy AmiYumi concert (goddamn motherfucking fuck!)
One missed Morning Musume concert (yes, that concert!!)
One missed Mike Watt & The Missingmen concert (which I made up for on April 2, 2011!)
Six 100-count spindles of CD-R’s
Two Palm Treo 680 smartphones
Three Blackberry smartphones (never again!)
One iPhone
Four SD cards
Three phonograph needles (I’ll be needing a fourth soon.)
Morning Musume CDs finally being released in the United States (until a certain “label” dropped the ball… REAL indie labels like Matador and Merge, the opportunity is now…)
Ten WordPress themes
Seven domain names (on top of the previously mentioned ones, there’s TGML’s URL, the one for the Meetan blog, and a second one for the Reina blog)
Two different Reina Tanaka/Robert Fripp header graphics at MotokoAoyama.com (Vee improved on the original)
Ai Kago finally making a comeback… then blowing it… then joining her fellow ex-W in the world of MILFdom.
One W album that’s gone the way of the original version of SMiLE
The original version of SMiLE going the opposite direction of W3: Faithful (and in a big way… five CDs PLUS double vinyl and two 45s? Got it!)
One Guns N’ Roses album finally being finished, handed in, and released!
Ace Frehley beating his ex-bandmates to record stores with new material… and not having to sell out to Wal-Mart to do it!
Four of the many Mike Watt-related albums that were recorded during this blog’s and its predecessor’s lifetime finally seeing release… and getting sneak previews of a couple of them from the man himself the day before hypenated-man came out!
Two animes with Reina Tanaka doing voice work
The return of most of my favorite O.G. MoMusus
Three knocked-up MoMusus
Two instances where I bitched about Nozomi Tsuji getting knocked up
Three instances where I remarked about what a lucky bastard Taiyo Sugiura is
Three snarky remarks made by me about Avril Lavgine
One snarky remark made by “Reina” about Jamie Lynn Spears
One snarky remark made by me to “Reina” about Beyonce Knowles
Countless snarky remarks about American Idle
More American Idle contestants losing their recording contracts
Five Reina Tanaka photobooks… and a sixth finally on the way!
Two tires
Three illnesses
Three NaNoWriMo wins
Three book projects (two simultaneous, one on hold)
One published short story (”The Man In The Hummer” in Deliver Us From Evil, available from Jaded Silence Press)
One novel coming out on my own book label next month!
All four versions of American Wota
All three versions of International Wota
No getting the Sunn O)))-themed IW 4.0
One nomination at the IntlWota Awards
The debut of IdolMinded
Two jokes stolen from Jeff Dunham
One joke stolen from Nothing Nice To Say
Three times I got under the skin of Tony Brummel at Victory Records… that I know of. (Might as well make it four: How does it feel to lose Silverstein AND Bayside on top of Hawthorne Heights and Atreyu, baldy? I hear Aiden’s next…)
Seven (or was it eight by now?) times my partner at My Sweet Meetan, Chris (CK) went to Japan
Reina Tanaka’s 18th birthday
Reina Tanaka’s 19th birthday
Reina Tanaka’s 20th birthday
Reina Tanaka’s 21st birthday
Reina Tanaka’s 22nd birthday
My 40th birthday… I stopped counting after that.
Mike Watt’s 50th birthday… and counting
Iggy Pop’s 60th birthday… and counting – face it, he’s one unstoppable motherfucker, for which we should all be grateful.
Several boxes of CD sleeves
Countless mouse and camera batteries
Five new electric guitars, all named after J-pop idols
Five effect pedals (two formerly owned by essential brother/up and coming guitar shredder/fellow MoMusu fan Maxxxwell Carlisle!)
Several packs of Ernie Ball Slinky guitar strings… and then I wised up late last year and switched to D’Addario .10′s, except for the Dean MAB3 I named after Erena Ono which will still get .09s!
A year and a half of experimentation with different kinds of guitar picks before I finally settled on 1.50mm Dunlop Tortex Sharps (heavy and pointy is best, it seems… – I could probably do a whole blog post on that subject!)
Countless VitaminWaters
Countless instances where I took to heart David Peel’s adage that “fuck” is not a dirty word
A year and a half of lost blog archives (Don’t trust your webhosting to anyone who stage-names himself “Vikki Stixx”… or for that matter your real estate matters)
Not enough trips to Starbucks or Sonic (yeah, N.E. PA got one of those in 2008!)
Two coffee pots
One K-Cup machine (about fucking time I got one of those… the aforementioned second coffee pot is now on reserve duty)
More money spent at CDJapan than at Gallery of Sound
Not as much money spent on vinyl since 2008, at least I don’t think so… but then again I’ve still taken that option whenever offered)
Virgin Megastore going out of business in 2009
Five Record Store Days (counting the forthcoming one this Saturday, which I’ll be honoring)
And one girlfriend, since upgraded to fiancée and then to wife on 6.26.10

BEST ALBUMS OF 2011: #7: KODA KUMI “Dejavu”

KODA KUMI
Dejavu
(Rhythm Zone/Avex)
Available on CD, CD/DVD combo, and iTunes Japan

With Kuu-chin now off the market and one of the latest J-Pop MILFs to be, this album (and her forthcoming next album, due a month from now) are definitely going to be looked at in a different light. After last year’s 8th Universe, Kumi moved in an almost completely non-organic direction as if she were out to challenge Lady GaGa (whom she would later meet, furthering my hypothesis that GaGa was already a Kuu-chin fan) on her own musical turf. Artistically, she didn’t disappoint, save for the misstep of the faux-Shania Twain-wreck “Bambi”. If this is officially the last album of her bacherorettehood (it’s probably safe to say she got involved with her new fiancee after the album’s release), so be it.

Another one goes off the market…


According to Tokyohive by way of her official website, Japanese R&B singer Koda Kumi – a longtime favorite here – announced her engagement to BACK-ON guitarist KENJI03, a man two years her junior. This would make a bit of bookending for two of the Avex label’s top vocalists, given that Ayumi Hamasaki eloped with her boyfriend to kick off 2011.

TGML extends their sincerest congratulations to the happy couple. I’m sure essential brother Ray Mescallado is already planning to whip out some “rotting ovaries” jokes over at IW as we speak.

We Have A Confirmation!

For a couple of years, I had openly wondered if Lady Gaga had been influenced in any way, or been a closet fan of, Koda Kumi, especially after recognizing bits of Kuuchin’s past PVs – or at least heavy influences from them – in some of Gaga’s work.

Well…

From the looks of the above picture, it appears that Gaga was just as excited to meet Kumi as the other way around!

REVIEW: KODA KUMI “Dejavu”

KODA KUMI
Dejavu

(Rhythm Zone/Avex)
Available on CD and CD+2DVD
Rating: ★★★★½

Shouldn’t “déjà vu” be two words, not one? No matter. It’s the first quarter of the new year, and Koda Kumi wasn’t about to let it pass without a new album, and like a devoted fan I have to welcome it with open arms.

Unlike last year’s 8th AL Universe, Kuu-chin isn’t flirting with rock arrangements this time around – there’s no “Ningyao-hime” or “Can We Go Back” to throw the listener for a powerchord-driven loop; with only one glaring exception Dejavu focuses almost exclusively on pop and urban arrangements.

“POP DIVA”, the album’s advance single, sounds like Kuu-chin is either challenging or mocking Lady GaGa; considering that in the wake of the release of Kuu-chin’s single, GaGa dropped the “Express Yourself” clone “Born This Way”, had herself carried into the Grammy Awards in a large egg, and then accepted an award while wearing an almost Klingon-esque prosthetic forehead, one has to wonder if GaGa got whatever message Kuu-chin was sending. While it’s a catchy song, it’s not one of Kuu-chin’s better A-sides – producer Lil’shorty sees fit both on this song and the album’s opening prologue to unnecessarily mix Kumi’s vocals through AutoTune vocoder effects. It’s not as annoying on “POP DIVA” since it fits the heavily synthetic arrangement, but over the keyboard-triggered orchestral sounds of the album’s prologue, it’s pretty much surplus to requirements.

“Lollipop”, the opening cut to last summer’s Gossip Candy EP, follows. (The PV had my pal, up-and-coming shred guitarist Maxxxwell Carlisle, rather fascinated after I’d linked to it on Facebook awhile back.) Riding an almost sexy-sounding synth-bass line straight out of classic early-90’s R&B, Kumi (multitracking some rather tight and sultry vocal harmonies) delivers a somewhat blunt oral sex lyric. “Okay” follows, some of her introductory vocals getting more unnecessary AutoTune effects; the song’s musical arrangement recalls, of all things, some of Young Jeezy’s work on his The Inspiration album (a male backing vocalist chanting rather husky, Jeezy-esque “Aaaayyy”’s during the choruses doesn’t help matters – I almost expected the song to be mixed into Jeezy’s “Go Getta” at any second, and I had to double-check the album’s liner notes to make sure Jeezy’s usual producer Shawty Redd wasn’t behind this track.

Two ballads, “Aitakute” and “Passing By”, follow. The former is presented with electric piano and live strings, the latter with acoustic piano, string synthesizer, and a male vocalist named B. Howard joining her on the chorus. Both give Kumi yet another change to shine vocally; there’s a reason why one of her early compilations was devoted to some of her ballad performances, and these two songs are pleasant reminders.

“AT THE WEEKEND” is a club banger, albeit one driven by some strong and attentive songwriting (i.e identifiable verses, choruses, and bridge) rather than falling for the 21st Century American pop pitfall of only having one strain of backing music with the “chorus” being simply a different vocal melody/pattern being sung over the same exact chord changes and leitmotifs as the song’s verse.

“Melting” merges a disco-like chorus with more poppy verses and pre-choruses, and the combination works to a tee. Then it’s back to more techno/EDM territory for “Hey Baby!”, followed by “Choi Tashi Life” which is delivered over a faster-paced variation of a house music rhythm, made airier-sounding by warm string-synth chords.

Another pair of ballads, “Anata Dake Ga” and “Suki de, Suki de, Suki de” (both of which featured on a three-track, all-ballad EP last year), follow. Kuu-chin’s vocals are at their most tender on the former track, while she gets the album’s only presence of predominantly live instrumentation (acoustic and clean electric guitars, bass, drums, and string section) on the latter.

“Bambi” is the album’s weakest song, a ridiculous rip-off of Shania Twain’s dated crossover pop-country hits. The only thing saving the song is the fact that Koda Kumi is a stronger singer than Shania ever was. Also fortunately, the closing track “I Don’t Love You!??” – a classic Kuu-chin urban-pop track that would have fit perfectly on either of her first two single anthologies – comes in to remove the questionable taste of the preceding track out of listeners’s brains.

Dejavu is typical Koda Kumi and save for the penultimate track, the album should satisfy both longtime fans and newcomers. Four and a half out of five stars.


BEST ALBUMS OF 2010

This list took forever – for which I’m sorry.

I knew some of the sure fire candidates that were going to be on here – but had to think back to some of the others that had come out this year that I enjoyed. My rather slack blogging activity probably didn’t help matters, and this year I’m determined to review albums within days of their issue (JapanFiles’s sudden licensing split with UFW blew my usual trend of reviewing Morning Musume’s newest album before I had gotten my physical copy, and I never found a leak in time.) My marriage plus the holidays on top of that… you get the picture. And I wasn’t going to pull a stunt like I did in 2007 and do the entries in small installments either, at first, but since I’d rather move forward, this methodology will have to do this time around.

One caveat: the new albums from Morning Musume (Fantasy Juuichi) and Ayumi Hamasaki (Love Songs) that were just released this month are not going to be considered for this list for one simple reason: They’re too new. They’ll be eligible for the 2011 list as I’m sure I’ll be playing them a lot over the next twelve months. And with regard to Mike Watt’s hyphenated-man album, even though it came out in Japan in October, I’m holding off on both counting it for this list and reviewing it until the domestic release happens this spring.

So, here goes nothing…

10. ERODE AND DISAPPEARScythian Lamb (self-released 12” EP/CD package; visit www.erodeanddisappear.com) This duo is actually 2/3 of the Philadelphia trio Northern Liberties, singer/percussionist Justin Duerr and bassist Kevin Riley, and the band/project’s name comes from NL’s first full length album of the same name. With NL’s drummer (and Justin’s brother) Mark having to semi-curtail his participation in the group in the wake of becoming a father, Justin and Kevin chose to occupy the idle time by continuing to make music solidly in the NL tradition, this time with Justin taking over the drum kit as well as singing. A long time in coming since the project started, Scythian Lamb makes for a more than adequate continuation/tideover of the NL sound until the trio’s next release (set for later this year).

9. GIRLS GENERATIONHoot (SM Entertainment) – The unstoppable Korean nonet seems best taken in EP-length doses (Their second album Oh! and its companion “deluxe reissue” RunDevilRun seem to be very slow growers as far as listener appeal, despite many stellar tracks), and in the 007-vibed title track the group has its strongest song since “Genie”. How soon will SM fully target the US with these ladies, now that they’re making inways into Japan?

8. DEVOSomething for Everyone (Warner Bros.) – A fine comeback from the influential quintet. Sadly, Warners dropped the ball after their initial support for the group’s comeback, failing to release the uncharacteristic ballad “No Place Like Home” as a follow-up single as well as failing to continue their remastered back catalog program (Oh! No It’s Devo and Shout still await the deluxe treatment afforded the band’s first four albums).

7. RICK ROSS Teflon Don (Maybach Music/Def Jam) – Although materialistic rap in general may be fading (witness the relative sales and critical failure of Lloyd Banks’ “comeback” album after making such a strong impression saleswise with his first post-Interscope single “Beamer Benz and Bentley”), Ross has a strong, booming voice and an unlimited supply of clever punchlines going for him, and when he has stellar production behind him (see: first single “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)”, “Maybach Music III” with its live orchestral[!] backing), the songs work. When of his guest vocalists can hold their own next to the big man (see: Cee-Lo Brown on “Tears of Joy”, Jay-Z and John Legend on “Free Mason”, Drake on “Astin Martin Music”, Kanye West – who also produced – on “Live Fast Die Young”), it’s icing on the cake. When the production isn’t all there or the guest features are just lame (Gucci Mane’s terrible vocals bring down “MC Hammer” drastically), it weakens the album – but fortunately those moments are rare.

6. BUONO!We Are Buono! (Pony Canyon) – Still unstoppable even after three albums. Does one even have to be reminded why? Now if only Miyabi, Airi and Momoko would actually pick up instruments…

5. SCANDALTemptation Box (Epic/Sony) – And speaking of unstoppable, the Osaka Four’s second full-length outing finds our heroines progressing nicely without losing the edge that brought them to the dance in the first place. (The companion cover versions EP R-Girls Rock!, issued a few months later, also helps ground the young ladies by reminding them of how they got to the dance in the first place.)

4. KODA KUMI8th AL Universe (Rhythm Zone/Avex) – Kuu-chin goes organic for the first half of the album, then goes back to her more urban/electronic side for the second half, and it all works.

3. AYUMI HAMASAKIRock n Roll Circus (Avex) – While not as entirely rock-influenced as the album title suggests, Ayu reached high, made up for the somewhat weak Next Level, and handed in one of her strongest albums in years (and kept going strong, what with the late-December release of yet another studio album, Love Songs).

2. NICKI MINAJPink Friday (Young Money/Universal); KANYE WESTMy Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Rockafella/Def Jam) – Two artists, one a rookie and one a veteran, both with something to prove, and both succeeding both artistically and at the cash register. And both did it with high levels of creativity and without resorting to gangsteresque/materialistic bullshit. The fact that these albums outsold G-Unit flunkie Lloyd Banks’ would-be “comeback” album several times over – apiece – says, along with Nicki’s labelmate Drake and mentor Lil’ Wayne – more good things about the direction of hip-hop rap than had been said at least a year or so before.

1. MORNING MUSUME10 My Me (Zetima) – MoMusu at their most experimental, closing out their “emo” period with finality and looking forward to the future – and this would be just part one of their current story. The December 2010 release of the equally strong (and less experimental) Fantasy Juuichi and the addition of the 9th Generation members are merely the beginning of another chapter. They’ll keep going and going and going, and music will be better for it.

Happy 4th!

Fourth Blogging Anniversary, that is…

I almost forgot to post something today, but I have a good excuse: Today was also my fiancee’s bridal shower, and guess who had to schlep gifts back and forth in his car? Yep…

I should note that for the past few weeks I’ve been – on top of planning towards the wedding and subsequent move into mine and my wife-to-be’s new apartment – finishing up the novel (yeah, still… but then again if I didn’t have to hold a day job it would have been finished already), working on a screenplay for Script Frenzy, working on a couple of reviews for this blog (they’ll be up this week), and working on my guitar.

And last night, boy, did I work on my guitar… I got this thing (Epiphone Les Paul) a few months ago, but I never changed the strings until last night. Such was my Saturday night:

Ready to start restringing - I always start with the low E.

And to keep things J-pop related, here’s another part of what helped keep me sane, especially today:

And what's keeping me sane through all this? Good music, of course!

Besides, I couldn’t figure how to equal or better the live MoMusu and Stooges clips from last year! But what I can do is (even though I didn’t get this finished until after midnight when the 11th became the 12th) update a list I posted two years ago on my second blogging anniversary at MotokoAoyama.com, which would make this “A List That Took Four Years To Make”:
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Happy 3rd Cake Day, International Wota!

OK, let’s review:

For the first Cake Day in 2008, I posted two MiniMoni baked-goods-related videos – and a naughty pun that Brother Ray Mescallado appreciated about the kind of “pie” two lucky bastards were getting from Ai Kago and Nozomi Tsuji at the time – at this blog’s predecessor MotokoAoyama.com, and a YouTube clip of Reina Tanaka working in a restaurant for a TV skit at So Hot She Shits Fire.

For the second Cake Day in 2009, I posted a different kind of baked good: my smoked paprika chicken thighs recipe here at TGML, and some “cheesecake” (i.e. some bikini shots of Reina) over at SHSSF.

For the third Cake Day, I didn’t know what to do. I cook, but I don’t usually bake (my sole baking attempts have been a couple of instances of buying Pillsbury Snoopy Christmas Cookies and following the package directions), and I could never top my blogging BFF and fellow Cancerian VeePinku’s Yuke Yuke Monkey Cake. Then my fiancee Tara came to the rescue with something she makes on the regular…
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