NerdSpork

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Jerel's Japan Adventure!

Jerels_Pic.jpg

       What is Japan like you may wonder, as most anime video game loving nerds often do. Well, it’s different. Different from New York City anyway, but it’s not that different. Let me go back a little and tell you about my connection to Japan. Well, my wife is Japanese. She came to New York when she was 36, to continue studying opera technique. In Japan, she was a professional opera singer where she had a lot of experience singing in some of the largest halls and opera companies they have over there. Some of which included the Shiki theatrical company, the Fujiwara opera company, which is the first and oldest opera house in Japan, and the Tokyo National Opera. She was in the latter company at a very lucky time, when they were mostly hiring very famous opera singers from overseas to perform the leads in their big productions. The Tokyo National opera is very much on the level of the Metropolitan opera and any other countries renowned opera halls. My wife has pictures of herself beside some very famous singers. She was not a lead in any of the productions she did with these companies. She was always cast in the chorus. I don’t know many of the big opera names she worked with, but I do know she was in a show with Jose Carreas, and she was also directed in Aida by Zefirelli, who for those of you who don’t really follow opera, is a very well renowned conductor and director. She was also directed by Harold Prince in the Japanese production of the Phanthom of the Opera. I know it sounds like I’m going off on a boastful tangent about how awesome my wife is, but I assure you this tangent will eventually connect with the topic of, what is Japan like.

       Well, some may wonder why she would leave to study here. She had a cool career. She was making lots of money performing in these companies. Why leave? Well it’s because she felt she’d never have a chance to do anything but sing in the chorus. Which is not so exciting after you’ve done it so many times. Companies would only hire famous people to play the leads. In the big opera companies, they used renowned foreign opera singers, in musical theater it was famous Japanese actors. Sometimes those famous people couldn’t really sing much at all, but as long as they are cute and famous they would be cast as lead and their presence would fill the seats.

       Japanese professional musical theater companies are very hierarchal. People who have been in the same company for many years are usually the ones in higher positions. My wife felt picked on at Shiki. There was an older woman who led the choral rehearsals who would constantly tell her that she couldn’t hear her singing during the rehearsals. These places are strict. If you are even so much as a minute late to rehearsal, you are fired and replaced. A singer would only have one week to memorize their vocal part in a whole score and if they couldn’t sing the part off book in that time, they’d get fired and never work for the company again. There was nothing wrong with my wife’s singing. It was just that, as a new company member at the time, she was being hazed. The new company members were the low men/women on the totem pole. It was their duty to do menial tasks like come earlier than the senior members, make coffee for everyone, wash and iron the costumes, etc. and the senior members would often pick on them.

      What pushed her to quit Shiki though was an incident she had had with the owner of the company. She had bumped into him on her train ride home one day, and he struck up a conversation with her. He asked her which role would be her dream part. She said something like well I know I’m not really a dancer, but someday I would love to play Grizzabella in Cats. Now my wife moves very gracefully, and I think she can dance, but she can’t do double pirouettes or other advanced technical maneuvers. Grizzabella. However is the old tattered cat that doesn’t dance. She sings Memory and goes up to heaven (The Heavyside layer) on a manhole…sorry I should have typed *CATS SPOILER* Anyway, it was an innocent train conversation. At the next rehearsal, however the company owner made an announcement to pretty much everyone. He said I bumped into one of our members on the train yesterday. She said she dreamed to be in cats. Ha ha ha…Well, she can’t really dance so I don’t think that would be a possibility ha ha ha ha ha…Also she’s too tall to play a cat…and he just started like saying all this fucked up ass holesque shit. My wife quit during his unnecessary speech. She just walked out and never went back, and for a long time after that, she was very depressed. Shiki was the only professional musical company there was in Japan. The only other company was an all-girls company, where girls play male as well as female roles, and she already had passed the age limit to audition for that one. She would have had to audition while she was in High School. She could pretty much never be cast in a musical at that professional level again, and after she quit, she would have reoccurring dreams every night of being on stage. She could have continued singing in the opera companies she still worked for but she didn’t see herself as ever being able to play a leading role there at least not until she was a lot older, and her passion I believe, was more so for musical theater. She also realized that her type was not considered the ideal leading lady type to the Japanese director’s eye. Japanese like to cast very short cute, almost childlike looking girls in leading roles because those types are considered beautiful in Japan. My wife is 5’6 and very pretty, but she is considered too tall over there. However, when Zeffirelli had directed Aida, she was among some of the taller chorus girls selected by him to be the servant women who fan the monarch beside his throne. So, they had a little chance to stand out. Zefirelli had replaced the shorter girls selected by whoever else was calling the shots before he got there. A little note about Zeffirelli. My wife said he was a perfectionist. He wanted everything to look a certain way. And everyone in that production was afraid of being fired. In one of the scenes there was a horse on stage who was supposed to be escorted across the stage by his trainer. Well, Zeffirelli fired the horse’s trainer because he didn’t like the guy’s posture, and he made them hire an elegant looking actor to bring the horse across stage instead. Lucky for him the horse didn’t snap and start mauling Japanese opera singers.  Anyway, my wife was attracted to studying abroad because she didn’t like the snobby women in companies like Shiki who thought they were at the pinnacle of perfection and had nothing left to learn. She wanted to learn real vocal technique and believed she had to study abroad to do that. She had also seen a Tony award on satellite TV in which the cast of Les Mis was performing and after that, she was really attracted to New York. She didn’t think she would ever do a show here though. She didn’t speak 100% fluent English, and she was only supposed to be studying here for a year, but in that year her private English teacher at the time, hearing about her singing background, suggested that she audition for a musical theater part in a small community theater in Brooklyn, so that she could practice her English. I had just graduated from college at the time, and some of my previous classmates were in the same show she auditioned for. They called me up and said they needed more guys to join. I had graduated as a theater major, and I wasn’t doing anything with my life right after college so I quickly volunteered my talents, and that’s where I met her…Brigadoon.

     The first time I had heard anything about her, I was waiting to be introduced to the director of the show and I overheard him talking to another guy who was on the board. He was like, she was DIRECTED BY HAROLD PRINCE IN JAPAN…and he was going on about her opera experience. I was impressed, and made sure to eventually ask her about it. She was the only Asian person in the cast, so it was pretty easy to figure out who had credits in Japan. Brigadoon is a musical about a couple of Americans who stumble upon a Scottish village that only appears out of the mist once every so many years or something like that...Fortunately for us they were okay with casting minorities in it. It was cute, we both wore kilts. Anyway, I knew my wife was very shy and had trouble communicating back when we were doing this show. After we would rehearse, most of the cast would go to the local bar and have a few drinks, and one of the guys in the cast who was a real party animal, would always invite her to tag along. She kind of was hesitant because she worried that if she went, nobody would talk to her, because at the time, her English wasn’t so good, so I made sure to try to include her in conversation because I was aware of how she felt. Then after the show ended we didn’t really keep in touch, but the guy who had invited her to the bar with everyone during the show randomly invited the both of us to his bar one night a few weeks after the show ended. He was a bartender. We both went and I found out she was in another community theater show elsewhere in Brooklyn, and she invited me to come see it, so I went. After I saw her show, we went out to a bar, only this time, we were by ourselves. I didn’t realize it was our first date at the time but I walked her home and it was raining and we were standing under an umbrella and just started kissing…so a few months later on one of our dates I asked her how long she was studying here for, and then I was like, you know…You don’t have to go back. If you want to stay here and like try your luck auditioning for Broadway or whatever…I could always marry you….

       Now I didn’t realize I was proposing at the time….I didn’t really plan it out….I didn’t even have a ring, but one thing led to another and here we are 20 years later married with a 9 year old daughter. My wife struggled to become a professional performer here. In America white people at the time were often cast in Asian roles, and many directors just wouldn’t hire people with authentic accents because they were worried the audience wouldn’t understand them. The only shows she felt she had a chance of getting cast in were the few Asian shows theater companies do, like Miss Saigon, The flower Drum song, the King and I, and then eventually Avenue Q came along.  I helped her try to slightly lose her accent for certain Asian roles she would audition for. The king and I was a good chance for her because the leading roles are supposed to be Siamese characters. In the Yul Brenner movie, the actors where mostly white people who donned horrible phony accents, so I tried to help her improve her accent just enough to be understandable in the part but I had no intention of trying to get rid of it completely, because the characters are supposed to have an accents. We had studied the King and I for a year before she auditioned for it. First, we auditioned for it in a community theater production in Queens. She got cast as Tuptim, and I as the Khralahome. Then she auditioned for a regional production and got cast as Lady Thiang’s understudy. She was able to play the role once during that run, and because of that, she was able to turn equity. About a year after that she got cast in another regional production in the same part a second time. For those of you who don’t know what equity is, it’s one of the unions stage actors can join. You have to be cast in a lead or speak so many lines in a show. People get points toward becoming equity only by getting cast in shows that offer points. Once you achieve this status, it means you have to work under contracts and be paid a certain amount when you are cast, and the theater space the company you work for uses has to be up to code. There are rules regarding how many hours you are allowed to work before you must be given a break, and other such rules that make your life easier. You can sign up and schedule auditions instead going to cattle calls which involve waking up at the break of dawn and sometimes not event getting seen because so many people show up that are non-equity, and all the equity people get seen first. The down side to joining equity is that you can’t ever do a non-equity show again, and some non-equity pay performers too, they just don’t often get paid as much, but at lot of job opportunities like non-equity tours are missed. If an equity performer is caught doing a non-equity show they can get kicked out of the union or have to pay a hefty fine. Some performers change their name and still join show they’re not supposed to, to get paid, but it’s dangerous, and frowned upon. Anyway, since the King and I performances, my wife hadn’t gotten into any shows. She got a few call backs. She had auditioned for and got a call back for the Lincoln Center production of The King and I, but they called her back when she was scheduled to fly to Japan to do a Summer workshop, so she had to make a video and email it to them via youtube. It probably hurt her chances with them not being able to see her again in person. They went with a younger woman who already had a Broadway credit to her name, and no accent, but at least the woman cast was Asian. She won a Tony for the part too so she must have been very good. Anyway, my wife is also a voice teacher, and many years ago she started working in a culture center in Japan. She would put on plays with children. She started with only 2 children joining her workshop. They did Hansel and Gretel, and since that first show new people just kept joining every year until they were doing full blown musicals. My wife would translate American musicals into Japanese and do workshop performances of them, not charging the audience any money to see it. It’s a really special job for her. She loves the students she has and many of the people who help her with it are her best friends and Fujiwara opera colleagues. My wife graduated from the Fujiwara opera training course with these women before they became performers in the company. Makie also graduated as a voice major from the Tokyo college of music, which you’ve probably never heard of, but it has the same prestige in Japan, as Julliard does here. It’s a very high level music school which has a very difficult entry tests. In one of the entry level tests, someone would play random chords on a piano and you’d have to write it all down after like hearing it once. They’d test your ear, your site singing, your piano. She had to play stanza 3 of the moonlight sonata on the piano, for her entrance test.  Anyway, after my wife got pregnant, she stopped auditioning. She didn’t want to have to leave my infant daughter at night if she got cast in a show. She felt like she definitely couldn’t do anything regional anymore. Our daughter’s feeling of security was more important to her than her career. So, at one point, my wife was feeling kind of lost about what her purpose here was. She asked me for 200 dollars to go to a psychic whom she was recommended to by a friend. I was like, Okay….if it’ll make you feel better go to a psychic. Whatever….

 The psychic told her she would start a theater company with me, and slowly it would become known, and she would get a little famous. She said my talents would be used in this company, and eventually she would get to Broadway, but the company would come first. I figured the talent she spoke of would be my writing. My wife asked me once after I had just gotten fired from a crappy job at a Japanese community center, which was run by an Italian guy on the down low, what my goals are, what I would like to do most of all. Well, as a musical theater major at Pace, I had written a musical and put in up with the help of an old musical director who was kindly willing to write chords to the melody lines of numbers that weren’t fully completed yet. Back when we were in Brigadoon, I had lent her a cassette tape of my show’s music to listen to. I thought the music sounded pretty good. So, I told her my ideal job would be to write musicals like Steven Sondheim. She laughed at me, and called me lazy, and then stupid…because she figured I lacked the training, and would probably never apply myself to go to a school to learn composition. I can’t even sight-read music. I don’t have perfect pitch. I started taking piano lessons at 7, and I quit taking piano lessons at 7, but I always had musical talent. My mom was a kindergarten teacher. She had a piano in her room. When I was 3, I would sit at the piano and improvise. I’d play actual chords and it would really sound like I was playing something. Teacher’s in her school would pass by the room, see me playing and say they thought my mom was playing a record. Yeah that’s how old I am, records and cassettes still existed when I was young. They would say you better get that boy some piano lessons, but I was a last minute type of guy, and I didn’t like to practice on Sunday nights. At the time, I rather watch the Disney Sunday movie. So, when my Monday evening lesson would roll around my piano teacher was not happy and would only yell at me about how I was wasting my parent’s money. It didn’t take long for me to drop that, but if I try really hard, it takes time for me, but I can write songs out of my head and figure out chords for my own melody line. My own chords sometimes sound a little unorthodox to trained people though so it’s easier to call in professional guys to help me. Anyway, when my wife pretty much laughed at me and put me down for wanting to be a composer, I was pretty upset. She thought it was impossible because I never went through the rigorous training she did. Nope, all I had done was listen to a cassette my mom ownedthat taught people the format for writing songs. They used somewhere over the rainbow as an example, pointed out the rhyme scheme and the chorus, the bridge etc. You don’t even really have to know how to play the piano to write a song. All you have to be able to do is sing on pitch, and be good at poetry. If you can write good lyrics and a good melody line, you can always find someone to help you with the arrangement. We eventually did start this theater company, it’s called The World Voice Ensemble, www.theworldvoiceensemble.com and its mission is to help international artists gain experience performing high quality theater in New York City alongside local artists. We support them. Much of our casts have been Japanese artists studying here, but we have also cast people from Argentina, Spain, the Philippines, Russia, China…All over the world. I work with those who need pronunciation help to make sure they are understandable during performances, and my wife offers voice lessons to those who want to learn technique, and recently students from her Japanese workshops, who have grown up taking it every Summer have traveled to New York to help with our productions, some as actors, some as back stage crew, and every Summer we still go to Japan to put on shows with them. So, this year we did a new version of Cinderella that my wife wrote, and also Angel’s at work, which is one of our original musicals. Her student wrote the story (really we all made contributions to it) and we both wrote the music, I wrote almost all the songs in the first act and she wrote the second act’s songs. That’s what the majority of my visit to Japan was all about. I rehearsed most of the time because I was in both shows. I played the mirror in Cinderella. And played a grand high angel with only a few lines in the other show. I am grateful the lines were few though because I had to speak them in Japanese. It wasn’t really that hard to memorize. While I was there, I also met with some of my wife’s opera colleagues, and students, who were studying songs in English, to help them with their pronunciation.

        Alex, the main nerd here at Nerd Spork messaged me during my trip with list of nerdly places in Japan he wanted me to visit and report review. I had big plans to do just that but unfortunately my wife had other plans…like plans to visit her friends and family and ignore most of my pleas to guide me to the Pokemon Mega store and other such sites of nerdom. Well, it wasn’t all work and no play at least. I did make it to a few very fun places, and I took videos for you to watch. So, now that you know why I visit Japan so much, let me get to the nerdy meat and potatoes of my trip.  

First stop

My visit to the VR Zone in Shinjuku Tokyo.

The streets of Shinjuku

https://youtu.be/_luIS3ks6eg?list=UUFWRqb4VC1kS6wk7BIl62CA

 In front of the VR Zone

https://youtu.be/FJCCzmiG8Rw?list=UUFWRqb4VC1kS6wk7BIl62CA

 

I already spoke about this trip somewhat on the podcast but here I will give you detailed reviews of my experiences here. Virtual reality was so cool, and only slightly nauseating depending on the game. As soon as I got there I saw a line of people waiting to go into this booth. Every few minutes you would hear a loud bang come from inside the booth and it would be time for them to come out for the next group to go in. I wanted to see what it was all about. My daughter was afraid of the noise so my wife took her off to a rock climbing exhibit which I sadly did not get to record. The rock climbing was like something out of ninja warrior. She told me they were attached to harnesses that would support them if they fell, and there were three announcers commentating on your progress up this rock wall, which at times, shot smoke and wind at you. You had a set amount of time to reach the time. The first time my wife tried, she fell off half way. Then she gave up and decided to just cheer on my daughter who was kind of frozen somewhere in the middle. The announcers then started encouraging my wife to try again. So, caving to the peer pressure, the second time she told me, she’s not sure how, but she got to the top and hit the buzzer. She was the only one out of all the people trying at that time to do it. Too bad she didn’t get a stuffed animal to take home or anything other than the experience to remember. Anyway, while they were doing that I was waiting on the line to the Panic room, that’s what this booth was called. I was looking at my pamphlet of all the different VR games I could try. There was one that involved fishing…No thanks. Another one was some experience involving dinosaurs. Another that put you in a bicycle/glider and the picture made it look like you’d be flying over a canyon or something. There was a Dragon Ball Z experience which I was curious about trying. It apparently taught you how to do the hame hame ha….Only problem is it teaches you in Japanese and I don’t understand the language so I probably would have been stuck unable to follow the teacher’s directions had I tried that one….the main thing I came to try though was Mario Kart VR. Anyway, it was finally my turn to go into the Panic room booth and the lady who directed people in said something like sorry, there has to be two for this attraction. So, I looked at the people standing behind me and they were a group three. I pointed to them and I said two and two? Then they agreed, and the lady said we could all go in together. So, I guess it wasn’t about having to be an even number, we just needed more than one. Anyway, I’m thankful those guys were nice enough to adopt me because I would have been pissed if I wasted time waiting on that line for nothing. It was a guy and two girls whom I befriended and they all spoke a little English. The guy started asking me questions like where I was from, and how long I was staying in Japan, and they were all just super friendly. Then he asked me what VR games I wanted to try. I told him I came for Mario Kart, and I also said I wanted to try the fear of heights. Unfortunately, they both required the same colored ticket which you only got one of in the package deal they make you buy on the website. My wife got tickets too though, that she wasn’t going to use because she does not like video games, so lucky me, I got to use hers. Anyway, this Japanese guy, wish I remembered his name, asked me if I knew Evangelion and I, who don’t really watch anime, had no idea what it was, but he recommended I try that VR experience. He said, “It’s really popular”. So, I made a point to try that out too. Anyway, we went into the booth and the woman started explaining everything to us in Japanese. I got the idea that it was pretty much an escape room where we have to solve little games and puzzled before the times runs out, or a giant balloon would pop as a virtual bomb blows us to smithereens. Here watch a video of it, a picture is worth a thousand words. Sorry for the video quality by the way, my phone was on death’s door and died before I returned from Japan. Fortunately I uploaded the video to youtube before the phone failed, but anyway that’s part of the reason the sound is so muffled.

 

Panic Cube

https://youtu.be/ypaCKVmM1HQ

 

So, we were not very successful in that experience. It was fun though, not really VR, but fun. Yeah…we blew up. The woman told us apparently that there were other wires that we were supposed to cut. I realized later after looking at the video clip that the red wires connected to a grey bomb which had only grey wires coming out on the other side of it. I guess we were supposed to cut the grey one that was across from the red. During the experience though I didn’t even recognize it as a wire that could be cut. Anyway, it was a decent start, and after it was over I immediately made my way upstairs to the whole reason why I came….Mario Kart VR!

 

Here is a video of me watching random people play Mario Kart VR

 https://youtu.be/f5XaByQ9FcM?list=UUFWRqb4VC1kS6wk7BIl62CA

 

 

And here is a video of me play Mario Kart VR

https://youtu.be/ae_SOzI5HXk?list=UUFWRqb4VC1kS6wk7BIl62CA

Review: Mario Kart VR was AMAZING! From the moment it started I felt like I was in the game. I looked to the right and I saw Peach smile at me. I jumped off a cliff and I felt the glider spring out and I got this sense of vertigo like I was hovering. I drove past the giant piranha plants and I almost felt like I had to duck because they were so big and it felt so real, and when I crashed I saw everything explode around me. It was so freakin’ surreal. I grabbed the cubes and the power ups out of the air, there were only 3 power ups. A hammer which I just kept waving…Wasn’t really sure how to use it, a banana, and a green shell. There was only the one stage, and although you couldn’t see anyone in the cart next to me in this video, the players strapped into other carts out of camera shot were racing against me in the game. I’m not sure if there were some computer players or if they were all human opponents.

 

 

https://youtu.be/NQHUomtWDxI

This is another youtube video I found online of someone else playing the Mario Kart VR experience that gives you a better look at what we saw on the screen. If you smash your face up close to your monitor, it will almost be like experiencing it. I really hope that they come out with a Switch VR and that they will eventually have this as a full playable game. It was so friggin exhilarating!

Next, I went to the Evangelion VR game. There was somewhat of a wait for it. So, I sat around while another nice Japanese woman explained things that I didn’t understand….

https://youtu.be/oUsOSJ7OrvM?list=UUFWRqb4VC1kS6wk7BIl62CA

I had no idea what Evangelion was about. The little instruction card I had said pilot an EVA, so I thought I was going to be in a fighter plane or something. I know I know…anime nerds across the globe are screaming at me like HOW COULD YOU NOT KNOW EVANGELION!? Well, sorry….I don’t. Anyway, the game started out where I was seated in what seemed like a cockpit of sorts. I looked down at myself, saw my legs and got this weird feeling that something was not right. My legs were a lot shorter than usual, and that alone started giving me the hot flashes one gets during car sickness. Then I wiggled my feet, and they didn’t move. That just made me feel sicker. I tried to shake it off by closing my eyes. Anyway, eventually they let us out of the little area where you’re getting ready to be unleashed into the world, and in the distance this giant tentacled monster starts shooting beams of light at me. I looked to my right and saw a guy in a gundam, and thought…Okay I guess we’re piloting giant robots? I tried to shoot at the monster but I wasn’t really sure how to move or control it, probably because I couldn’t understand the Japanese woman’s explanation of things. I took a video of the experience but the video is extremely boring and I doubt anyone would want to watch it, because you couldn’t even see a screen of what I was seeing, so all you’d really be watching is my fat belly jiggle in the chair for 5 minutes. If that sounds appealing to you…here have a go.

https://youtu.be/t-Yh0Qy9Z-A?list=UUFWRqb4VC1kS6wk7BIl62CA

 

This was my least favorite of the 3 games I played. It left me feeling car sick, and I might have enjoyed it more if I understood how to walk or like move the robot around better. When I finished my daughter, who was watching, said the guy next to me was moving his joysticks around a lot more than I was…he’s not shown in the video much , but he probably knew how to control the thing. To be honest, I didn’t like Evangelion. I found myself hoping it would end soon after it started, as the motion sickness set in. Never the less for all you Evangelion fans out there, I will include a video I also found on youtube of somebody else playing the game with a screen beside them showing you exactly what we were seeing.

 

https://youtu.be/qHoIcnG4sws

 

Finally, I went to the fear of heights experience. This game fits you into hand and foot sensors and like in all the other games you are wearing the Vive headset. My feet are 11 and a half inches, and their biggest available shoes still pinched my toes. Not the best foot ware for walking a plank which is what the game involved. In the game you start out on the bottom floor of a building and you step into an elevator which takes you all the way up to the top of the high rise. The elevator door opens, and you see a cat trapped on a beam that extends out over the street 60 stories below. Well, of course you have to walk the plank bend down, pick up the cat, and return to the elevator. Sounds simple enough, as long as you don’t look down. People who are afraid of heights would NOT be able to do this. While waiting my turn to go, I saw grown men getting down on all fours on this beam because they were too scared to stand. There is a warning they tell you before trying the game that your money/ticket will not be refunded if you are too afraid to complete the task. They also tell you if you fall off the beam the game is over, and not to drop the cat. It was a trip. I’m not really scared of height and I kept telling myself, I’m really only an inch of the ground. It was still quite a rush. You start walking across the beam and the cat starts backing up, and the most terrifying part happens right after you get to the edge and pick him up. You hear a cracking sound, you feel the beam vibrate and half the beam you’re standing on break away and falls to the street way down below you. The actual beam you’re standing on wobbles with each step to boot. This shook me up. I looked down and saw the beam fall, and it looked like my left foot was just dangling there, yet I felt it planted on the ground so I still knew it was fake. I turned around as fast as I could though and got the hell off that ledge. lol The game ends with you getting back into the elevator, going back down to the first floor, and returning the kitten to its awaiting momma cat. Confetti explodes all around you. It was a lot of fun. I will post the low-quality video I took of my experience where you can barely see what I was seeing off towards the left side of the screen behind me, as well as another easy to find video on youtube that shows you all off what the person sees up close.

Here is me doing fear of heights  https://youtu.be/eT1eoZYliXg

Here is the few second left at the end of it…For some reason my wife stopped recording for a moment and then picked it back up….

https://youtu.be/9NoAQ1Ocvv4

And here is a better quality youtube video of the fear of heights experience.

https://youtu.be/9NoAQ1Ocvv4

 

The VR Zone was a blast. I wish I could have stayed longer and used the rest of the tickets I had, but my wife had to get to a rehearsal or something so we left only after the third game I played. I still spent a decent amount of time there and had a lot of fun. If you are curious to see what the other games featured were like, youtube will show you tons of footage of people playing the games, so feel free to search for how to hame hame ha...

 

This was not my only outing in Japan. We also visited the Ueno Zoo. My phone was kind of dying at the time so I took very few videos but here I’ll post what footage I got. What I liked about this zoo is the price to get in was only about 7 dollars. The Bronx Zoo is expensive as hell! Also, the animals were more up close here. It was smaller than the Bronx Zoo. I was able to see all of it in one visit, but I still felt like it was worth the trip. We visited an area close by after the zoo trip and went paddle boat riding for half an hr. The big attraction at this Zoo is the panda. It had recently had a baby. My wife told me all of Japan wept for the baby that was born before this last one. It’s mother accidently crushed it. Anyway, you couldn’t see the baby panda in person. They were showing footage of it on a screen. The panda that was there was probably the dad, and he did nothing but sleep. I didn’t event take a picture of it, it was so boring. I regret not taking a picture of the Tiger. He fairly close from the spot above where I was viewing him, and he was passing back and forth like he was about to pounce on somebody.

Anyway, here are a few of the zoo animals.

Imagine yourself walking through a tunnel, then looking up at the ceiling and seeing this….

https://youtu.be/F2eJky_RV5c  Sorry the video was so short I was trying to save battery life.

Here is a clip of the same guy from outside.

https://youtu.be/P7MY-IUKKz8

Here’s a clip of the elephant. My battery died taking this one.

https://youtu.be/eKK3erbTJdg

I had also taken a few cool pictures of vultures that looked creepy with their eyes all white, I think birds eyes have an extra membrane, but I lost those pics when my phone died….

 

And finally, a little something for all you Disney Nerds. The Tokyo Disney Electrical Parade….well half of it. My phone yet again cut off right in the middle of the spectacle. Disney was really fun at night. I can’t really compare it to the Florida one, I’ve never been. I went to Disney land in Cali when I was 7. Don’t remember much of it. Aside from seeing the parade at Tokyo Disney, we saw a few shows and went on a few rides. The first thing we saw was a show that involved a bunch of parrots singing and a big animatronic of Stitch the alien from Lilo and Stitch doing a number. That show was…meh. Maybe the kid liked it more than I did. After that I terrorized my wife on the tea cups. J We also went on a Pinocchio ride which started out all cheerful and took a dark psychedelic turn. Suddenly we turned a corner and a bunch of donkey boys were whinnying, angry looking Indians were chewing tobacco, and a giant shark was coming at you. I’m glad my daughter is older now or she would have freaked out. She had accidently seen Sharknado on TV once and used to be deathly afraid of sharks…like go into panic attacks over it. Glad she got over that. We ended the night with a very kiddy Dumbo ride and caught glimpses of the fireworks from under the awning where we stood waiting for our turn on the ride. The downside of this trip is that we got to the park too late to really do much. My wife insisted we go at night though, because it’s cheaper. I like big dangerous rides though. I would have liked to get on a few of the mountain rides they have, but we didn’t really have time to wait on the lines for them. That and my wife would never go on a roller-coaster. I got her on one once, the first time I went to Tokyo Disney. We spent the whole day there just walking around going on rides no more dangerous than the merry go round and toward the end of the trip she saw that I was reeeeally disappointed so she agreed to go on one real ride with me. It was called Journey to the Center of the Earth. This ride was at Disney Sea by the way. It’s the best ride I’ve ever been on. It was so beautiful. I still remember it to this day and this was many years ago. It started with the roller coaster mildly going along through an area that looked like you could be underground or something. There were rocks and crystals everywhere. It was gorgeous. Then we turned a corner and there was a fire breathing monster writhing before you, you could feel the warmth from the flames bursting out all around him. After that we went slowly into darkness….When suddenly the coaster started going like 100 miles an hr and before I knew it we were shooting out of the top of the mountain and it was dark out so I was able to see the whole park lit up from up hight. That was the best part. Then I look over at my wife and she has her eyes closed…Lame. Lol jk. I’d like to take this moment to thank my wife for doing that for me against all her better judgements…that and the teacups. After this last Disney trip she told me that she had never been afraid of the tea cups before, but she will never go on them again, at least not with my crazy ass. Oh… almost forgot here’s the video of the parade. You could probably find the full parade on youtube somewhere, just search for it.

https://youtu.be/jbJfsEUfGBw

 

 

 

 

NerdSpork's Karaoke Corner Post 2

Hello again, and welcome to the 2nd post ever of the Nerdspork’s Karaoke corner for Theater nerds!!! Well, we had big plans for this installment. We wanted to do a Dr. Horrible's blah blah blog, in which I re-enact many of the songs from the show with various smuleans, but I've been so busy rehearsing for my theater company's next performance. Yes I have a theater company check us out. www.theworldvoiceensemble.com I don't have enough time to sit down and practice all the Dr. Horrible songs as much as I'd like. I only got one down so far but we are going to leave that blog for another time. However, I didn't want to leave this blog page karaokeless for too long so in the spirit of tantalizing you theater nerds with something...I figured I'd let you know what musical tasks I've been up to in my personal life.

Well, I'm a gym teacher by day. Though I graduated with a theater degree...go figure. The music teacher at my school knowing this has been giving me about half the classes to work with when it comes to assembly time. The spring assembly at my school is coming up. I work at a special needs school. All the students are autistic on different functioning levels. Well, it was my job at one point to go around and check in with everybody to see what kind of song, dance, performance etc. they had planned for this assembly event. One class at my school... probably one of the 2 lowest functioning classes had not yet decided what they would do. It's kind of hard for them to put on any type of performance because most of the students are in wheelchairs and can't even speak let alone sing. So I met with them to brainstorm ideas for spring songs. The teacher was like, "I wish we could do, It's Getting Hot in Here by Nelly." Everybody laughed at the inappropriateness…

I know most of you guys are theater nerds, and you might only have a vague recollection of what the real song sounds like because lets be honest many of us are too busy listening to Hamilton and Sunset Boulevard...Etc. So just to give you a loose reminder of what the actual song sounds like here is a guy named theaterthomas doing his rendition with OV8_Pam...a woman with very nice hair. Be warned explicit lyrics ahead, and various images that might cause spontaneous blindness...You have been warned.

https://www.smule.com/recording/nelly-hot-in-herre/866942470_1168093313/frame/box

So, inappropriate for kids right?….and then I said...Well...we could do it, if we changed the words. Then she was like but who would do that? Of course the music nerd in me was up for the challenge, and I wound up rewriting all the lyrics to the song, and using smule to make the track that we would use at the assembly...and now I would like to share that finish track with you. Sorry no video with this one, but while you listen to it picture teachers fanning students in wheelchairs and working together to get them out of their winter coats. Spring is here my friends...Enjoy.

https://www.smule.com/recording/nelly-hot-in-herre/805216334_1168036561/frame/box

Hmmm What else have I been up to on smule? Ah yes. I was cast to sing Mr. Mushnik's songs with a group that wanted to sing all the songs from little shop of horrors and put them on youtube or where ever. I'm familiar with the show. I had played Seymour in a college production when I was 17...The Smule group's leader kind of went MIA and we only wound up recording skid row before we disbanded, but the guy who was cast as the dentist invited me to join his group which was called...the man cave...in which men dress in tank tops or other manly apparel and sing manly songs on video together. It was..quite the spectacle. We recorded one song together and then they decided to invite women and now the place is just called the cave...but everyone loves our Super Manly rendition of eye of the tiger. This has nothing to do with theater...but you'll love it anyways...

https://www.smule.com/recording/survivor-eye-of-the-tiger-original-studio-inst/431435019_1099963073/frame/box

Oh and here is the the skid row track if you wanted to hear how that turned out. Sorry no video here...

https://www.smule.com/recording/little-shop-of-horrors-skid-row-downtown/864592011_1070261715/frame>

With spring being upon us it is time to say goodbye to what we love about the winter..specifically Christmas...and let’s do that with a little game I like to call...WHO SANG IT BETTER? Now this is a fun little competition in which two groups will compete by singing the same song. You will vote on which group gave the best performance. How do you vote? Comment below and let us know who sang it better!

https://www.smule.com/recording/carol-of-the-bells/162505661_823699527/frame/box

And now...the obviously superior video...but don't let me sway your vote...

https://www.smule.com/recording/pentatonix-carol-of-the-bells/805216334_1016666475/frame/box

Okay folks that's all for this blogs installment. But before I go I will give you a small taste of what's to come in the next one..which will be Dr. Horrible's blah blah blog...

Enjoy!

https://www.smule.com/recording/joss-whedon-brand-new-day-dr-horribles-sing-along/805216334_1120093436/frame/box

PECULIAR RAMBLINGS OF YOUR AVERAGE NERD: 17-002 MARCH MADNESS EDITION 

Hello everyone.  Hope this blog entry finds you well, and not buried in snow and ice like many of us here in the Northeast!  

The month of March is one of my favorite times of the year. The weather is (usually) getting warmer, the MLB baseball season is around the corner, and I celebrate my birthday this month.  But one of my favorite things also takes place in March - something that holds the interests of millions of Americans, even to the point that work slows down in office buildings and schools across the country.

I'm, of course, talking about the NCAA Basketball Tournament.  That yearly rite of spring where fans and students alike get swept up in the excitement of games being played all day and night. Where the word "brackets" is spoken in every other sentence, and not have anything to do with carpentry. Where friendly (and not so friendly) office pools pop up and the girl from accounting who picks the winners based on her favorite colors actually wins the damn pool! Where we get enjoyment from seeing the small school be the "Little Engine That Could" and beat the big State U. in a huge upset.

I always loved watching the tournament.  Growing up, I couldn't wait until school was over so I can race home and put on CBS to see whatever game was on that afternoon and then watch basketball all night while doing my homework.  Sometimes, if I had a teacher that was cool, he/she would actually put the TV on in class so we could watch a few minutes of it, especially if one of the local schools was playing at that time. And it was so much fun watching one game on TV while hearing updates of other games happening at the same time, being surprised with the results.  And I loved filling out those printouts of the tournament brackets from the newspaper trying to predict what would happen.  In short, it's pure madness, and it's great.

Today I don't feel the same youthful enthusiasm for the tournament. Partly because I can't devote the same time and energy to watching college basketball.  Partly because of how the NCAA and its member universities operate collegiate sports, but that's another topic for another day.  Still, I look forward to this edition of March Madness, and once again I'm going to try (and probably fail) to predict what will happen this year.

Here's my bracket, which I entered this year in ESPN's Tournament Challenge:

I have Villanova, Gonzaga, Louisville, and Kentucky in the Final Four, which takes place in Glendale, Arizona.  And I have Villanova successfully defending their title from last year by defeating Louisville in the Championship Game.  Will I be right? Maybe, maybe not.  But either way it should be fun to watch and find out.  Good luck to you as you try to make your picks and survive the Madness! 

 

Mike's March Madness Bracket

KARAOKE CORNER FOR THEATER NERDS!

WELCOME TO NERDSPORK PRESENTS KARAOKE CORNER FOR THEATER NERDS!

    EINSTEIN SAID THE HIGHEST FORM OF MATHEMATICAL THOUGHT IS MUSICAL ANDHE WOULD OFTEN IMMERSE HIMSELF IN PLAYING HIS VIOLIN WHEN STUCK IN RUMINATION OVER ONE BRILLIANT EQUATION OR ANOTHER. E = MC^2 HE CLAIMED WAS A MUSICAL THOUGHT!

   PERSONALLY I DON’T SEE THE CONNECTION, BEING AN ENGLISH/THEATERMAJOR, MATH WAS THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE. I WILL THEREFORE LEAVE THE MATH CHALLENGES TO GEM, OUR RESIDENT MATH TEACHER. IN THIS DIMENSION OF THE NERDSPORK UNIVERSE, WE WILL ONLY BE EXPLORING THE AMAZING WORLD OF MUSICAL THEATER, THROUGH ONE OF MY FAVORITE KARAOKE APP PLATFORMS...SING! BY SMULE.

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE UNFAMILIAR, SING! IS AN APP THAT ALLOWS YOU TO RECORD YOURSELF SINGING ALONG TO KARAOKE SONGS. IT ALSO ALLOWS YOU TO COLLABORATE WITH FELLOW KARAOKE LOVERS FOR DUETS, TRIOS, AND MORE! SMULE IS A COMPANY THAT DEVELOPS MUSIC-MAKING APPS THAT CONNECT PEOPLE: SOME OF THEIR OTHER APPS ARE AUTORAP, MAGIC PIANO, AND GUITAR!

     HERE HOWEVER, I WILL BE POSTING VIDEOS OF KARAOKE AT ITS FINEST PRESENTED TO YOU BY MYSELF, JEREL ARMSTRONG, “KARAOKECRACKHEAD” ON SING!..AND THEATER NERDS EVERYWHERE!!!  THESE ARE PEOPLE WHO LOVE AND JUST CAN’T STOP SINGING SHOW TUNES MAINLY...BUT WE MAY ON OCCASION ADD SOME EXCEPTIONALLY PERFORMED RENDITIONS OF NUMBERS IN OTHER STYLES. BY THE WAY FOLKS, DON'T BE MISLED BY THE SING! HANDLE. I JUST SAY NO TO DRUGS, KARAOKE IS MY DRUG OF CHOICE... CRACKHEAD

JUST ADDS SOME NIFTY ALLITERATION TO IT!...I LIKE ALLITERATION!!! *HYUCK HYUCK SNORT!* AND PLEASE DO NO TAKE OFFENSE AT MY USE OF CAPS. I AM NOT YELLING AT YOU...EVERY CAPITALIZED WORD IS SUNG...FIND THE MELODY IN YOUR MIND. <AHEM> AND NOW...WE WILL START IT ALL OFF WITH AN ODE TO MUSICAL THEATER LEGEND, SIR ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER, IN THESE CLIPS OF BUT A FEW OF THE SONGS FROM ONE OF HIS GREATEST WORKS...THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.

LET THE SHOW BEGIN....

IN OUR FIRST SELECTION I PRESENT TO YOU THIS STIRRING DUET, SUNG BY YOURS TRULY AND ONE OF MY FAVORITE THEATER NERDS, JESUSFREAKBRIT. TOGETHER WE CROON IN THIS LIVELY CHORUS NUMBER FROM PHANTOM....NOW IS THE TIME TO BREAK OUT A MASK IF YOU’VE GOT ONE...BECAUSE WE ARE TAKING YOU TO THE MASQUERADE!!!

         http://www.smule.com/p/49887815_1055973876

   OUR NEXT INSTALLMENT IS BEING PRESENTED TO YOU BY KARAOKE SMULER _DOLF  ,IN MY EYES A GENIUS OF LIP SYNCING IN HIS OWN RIGHT...HE HAS A BEAUTIFUL VOICE TOO. THOUGH, IT WON’T BE SHOWCASED IN THIS VIDEO. HE IS A COMPOSER, AND OFTEN SEEN PLAYING AIR PIANO IN HIS COLLABORATIONS ON SING!..ALTHOUGH MOST OF THE SINGERS WHO WILL BE PRESENTED HERE ARE NOT OFFICIAL MEMBERS OF THE NERDSPORK TEAM, I REALLY ENJOY LISTENING TO THEM, SO IF YOU ENJOY SOME OF THESE VIDEOS TOO, THEN BY ALL MEANS, FEEL FREE TO DOWNLOAD THE APP AND CHECK THEM OUT ...THEY ARE MY SING! FAVORITES AND THEY PUT UP SOME ENTERTAINING STUFF!       

               http://www.smule.com/p/104642913_1011392816

AND FOR OUR NEXT SELECTION,

IN THIS NEXT TRACK SMULE STARTS ACTING FUNKY TOWARD THE END OF THE SONG THROWING MY LIPS OUT OF SYNC WITH MY VOICE, AND TAYLORLAWTON1’S TRACK...I DIDN'T HAVE TIME THAT DAY TO SING IT OVER AGAIN, BUT THIS GUY I’M SINGING WITH, SOUNDS SO PROFESSIONAL AND HE OWNS A PHANTOM MASK LIKE EVERY TRUE THEATER NERD...SO YOU KNOW...I HAD TO POST THIS ONE.

               http://www.smule.com/p/563634114_738566167

ONCE AGAIN BRIT JOINS ME IN THIS COVER OF THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA!!! I REALLY WISH I OWNED A PHANTOM MASK...I SHOULD HAVE BROKE OUT THE TOILET PAPER...

               http://www.smule.com/p/49887815_1027959216

FOR OUR NEXT NUMBER...I HAVE SELECTED A VERY SPECIAL NERD TO PLAY THE PHANTOM. THERE MAY BE OTHER PERFORMERS WHO CAN HIT THE LOW NOTES A BIT STRONGER, BUT NOBODY PLAYS “CRAZY PHANTOM” QUITE LIKE LYD...SHE DOES A LOT OF DUETS WITH BRIT ON SMULE AND YOU WILL BE SEEING A LOT OF THEM ON THIS PAGE BECAUSE I JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF THEIR SHENANIGANS!!! AND NOW WITHOUT FURTHER ADIEU... 

             http://www.smule.com/p/49887815_1037204217

THANK YOU FOR EXPERIENCING THIS INSTALLMENT OF JEREL’S THEATER NERD’S KARAOKE CORNER...BLOG. HOPE YOU WILL JOIN US NEXT TIME WHEN WE DELVE INTO MORE ZANY MUSICAL THEATER KARAOKE EXCERPTS. TIL THEN...SING FOR MEEEEEEEEE!

THIS WEEKS POLL:

Which nerd stole the show in this weeks Phanthom presentation?

A) _Dolf

B) KARAOKECRACKHEAD

C) _LYD_

D) TAYLORLAWTON1

E) JESUSFREAKBRIT

PECULIAR RAMBLINGS OF YOUR AVERAGE NERD: 17-001

Greetings to everyone out there in the NerdSpork Universe! My name is Mike, and I welcome you into the madness that is this blog! I hope you enjoy this "first peek", as well as my future entries. I'm looking forward to sharing my opinions and experiences with you, whether it's about movies, TV shows/cartoons, sports, a vacation, a convention, or whatever else is out there that I feel like blabbing about.

Growing up and into my teenage years, I had many interests. I loved watching cartoons (Bugs Bunny and other Warner Bros. cartoons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Animaniacs, the Simpsons, etc.). The cartoon series I saw growing up that I believe, in my opinion, is the best cartoon ever made was Batman: the Animated Series. I also played many video games. I had an Atari 7800 and also a SEGA (I would go to friends' houses to play on their Nintendo systems). I lost track of the number of hours I spent playing Shinobi and Reggie Jackson Baseball. I wasn't a huge movie buff back then, but I always enjoyed a good movie or two. My favorites were usually comedies, especially any of the Mel Brooks movies, and I loved the 007 movies.

I also played a lot of sports, especially baseball and basketball. I came from a family that believed in participation in sports (and other activities to keep us occupied and out of trouble!)

Today, I'm in a different place in many ways - I'm gainfully employed in the transportation field, I'm in a serious relationship with a beautiful, smart, funny, and compassionate woman, I've sprouted a couple of gray hairs - and while my interests have expanded because of my experiences in my relationship and with my job, not to mention because I'm getting older, I still feel like the young kid who wants to rush home to watch cartoons or play video games. So while many of my childhood interests are still there, with all of the crap and stress that most adults face on a daily basis, it's now even more important - hell, even truly necessary - to make time for them.

I'm sure you will agree with some of what I write about, and I'm sure you'll disagree at times too, but I hope that if nothing else, each blog I post will provide another viewpoint on a topic and spark discussion. If this happens, I feel like "mission accomplished".

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Any resemblance to persons alive or deceased by image or story is completely coincidental..seriously this time... its coincidental..