And They Say Paris is the City of Lights…

December 28, 2010

TOKYO D*ME

This really does say Tokyo Dome, not Tokyo Dame (for example). It is the home of the legendary Yomiuri Giants, the oldest team among the current professional baseball teams in Japan. And it takes Christmas decorations quite seriously, as you will see.

Tokyo Dome Adjacent

We speculated that the ship, whose masts and sails poke up through the blue-light ceiling, is actually “under water” the water being the ceiling. We may have been reading more into it than the designers intended, though.

This sign was on the side of a truck alongside Tokyo Dome. The name notwithstanding, the audio sounded pretty normal to me.

The Golden Periphery of Tokyo Dome.

This is the “bug guts green” parachute ride at Korakuen Park, just across the street from Tokyo Dome. There is also a giant Ferris Wheel, and a roller coaster that takes riders through a hole in an adjacent office building! (see below)

These primary-colored “pencils” are directional indicators for the Tokyo Dome grounds.

Now we head off to Roppongi, the home of the fat-cat foreigners who live in Tokyo. It is perhaps the only place in the city where the gaijin march in similar numbers to the locals. It is a place I avoid like the plague except for Christmastime, when their “Illumination Events” rival any I have ever seen.

Blue trees reflect in the glass waterfalls behind. There really is water running down the glass panels, a beautiful effect both for the eyes and the ears.

The crystal reflecting tree in Mori Koen pond.

Where there are illumination events, there you will also find the Red Bull Mini Cooper, complete with lovely young Japanese girls handing out free samples of the cough medicine-flavored beverage. I mentioned to one of them that my car is a Mini Cooper too, and she said she liked this one very well! I have often found with mine that it is a difficult vehicle for any sort of clandestine operation, as it is quite recognizable among the ubiquitous silver-grey sedans of Prince Edward Island, but my sedate blue convertible doesn’t hold a candle to this one when it comes to shock effect!

Blue Field Acres, with Tokyo Tower rising Eiffelesquely in the background.

A full moon cooperated nicely in the illumination event.

Or how about these trees, cleverly illuminated to evoke champagne flutes. I think a glass of champagne would be a fitting end to an evening of light-gazing, actually. As a matter of fact, I have a bottle of Moet a-chillin’ in the fridge as we speak. So, sayonara for now!

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February Books That Didn’t Make Into the Whodunit Column, Part Two

December 28, 2010

I am always a little leery about reading a book bearing a blurb like “…a worthy successor to Chandler”, but this blurb had perhaps a bit more street cred than some, as it was penned by none other than Michael Connelly. The book, you ask? P.G. Sturges’ debut novel, Shortcut Man.

The title refers to the job of the lead character, Dick Henry, a fellow who short-circuits the strictly legal ways of getting things done, opting instead for a quick and discreet hands-on (or “fists-on”) approach to problem solving, be it evicting a deadbeat tenant or “encouraging” a sleazy contractor to make good on some slipshod home repairs.

By night, the rigors of his day job left far behind, he hangs out with lithe and lissome Lynette. He doesn’t really know a lot about her, but then history (or “her story”, to be precise) has little to do with why they spend evenings together.

‘“What don’t I have?” she asked that night, with a twisty smile. I looked her up and down. Honesty sprang to my lips and I let it pass. “You have everything.” Another devilish smile. “You’re wrong, Dick. I don’t have any underwear,” And we’d be off and running…’

Things get a bit dicey, however, when Henry accepts a job to spy on the wife of a notorious Hollywood porn producer, and the wife turns out to be—you guessed it—Lynette. Except that her name is not really Lynette, it’s Judy. Oops. Now Henry has eight grand, the down payment for his investigation, burning a hole in his pocket, and he faces the unpleasant task of offering himself up as sacrificial goat to the producer’s burning desire for revenge.

So, that’s the setup. But the gods live in the details, they say, and that is the case with Sturges’ writing. He is, simply put, one of the cleverest and funniest new writers to grace the mystery genre in quite some time. Also, it doesn’t hurt that his protagonist drives a ’69 Cadillac convertible:

“I found a spot near the corner. Well, two spots, but a silvery Korean import was in both of them. This was no problem if you owned a ’69 Cadillac Coupe de Ville convertible. I pulled up in front of Pusan’s finest, backed up carefully until I kissed it, then, with 472 cubic inches of raw Detroit horsepower, pushed it back and created my parking space. You gotta know how to use your Cadillac.”

Here’s a bit of trivia: Sturges is the son of Academy Award-winning screenwriter and director Preston Sturges, who wrote and directed one of my all-time favorite movies, Sullivan’s Travels (as well as a number of other well known Hollywood hits including Christmas in July, The Palm Beach Story, Hail the Conquering Hero, and Unfaithfully Yours). It would appear that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.