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Sounkyo Ice Fall Festival

 

 

Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, elevates the term ‘Winter Wonder Land’ to an all new standard. Tourists are already familiar with the Sapporo Snow Festival and may have even heard of the Asahikawa Winter Festival. Just a two hour bus ride away from Asahikawa, Sounkyo is renowned for its waterfalls and natural hot springs. Once winter sets in, a crew sets to work and constructs an ice castle like something fashioned from a Japanese RPG. (You can see a video showing how its built here). This, coupled alongside the ethereal lights illuminating its frosty walls, creates a feast for the senses. It’s one additional reason why Hokkaido is an ideal destination for the season.

 

We had a chance to visit and take photographs of the area shortly after night fall. Be aware though, the last bus returning to Asahikawa departs shortly after dusk. Unless you’ve booked a hotel nearby then you won’t have the opportunity to see the firework show that goes off on most weekends until the festival’s closing ceremony.

 



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Joystick Joy! Urinal Games Available In the UK

The only reason I’d go to the Exhibit bar would be to drink as much as I can, so I could play the urinal game. Beer, tons of it shall fill my bladder to the point of me seeing yellow. I’ll hold it in, so my slalom run will be the longest ever. I’ll smash all of the penguins easily. It may cost a few British pounds, but it’ll be worth it. I won’t joke about a joystick or a knob, that’s too easy, you do get to pee in directions to control your skiing run. Go left or right, the stream will guide your character. Yes, urinals splash, I know this, but for the joy of playing a game, this will be fun. Women, you’re out of luck for the moment. (BBC – Urinal)

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Montreal, Chapter 2: Mutant Raccoons of Mount Royal.

Cray Cray Raccoon Whisperer AKA "RAY BZ"

Cray Cray Raccoon Whisperer AKA "RAY BZ"

Homeboy is Cray Cray.

“What the hell is goin’ on?” you might ask…  I’m not quite sure- but he and his family were feeding the raccoons.

After a long first day of getting into Montreal, my hosts Li Li and Jeff took me up to Mount Royal to check out the view.  We drove up, saw the beautiful lights of the city- but it was upstaged by the most random scene…  a family- two parents and a little girl, about 7 or 8? feeding a horde of Freakishly Large  Raccoons.  I was fearing that something really bad was about to happen, but fortunately it- never escalated… even when the mom was kicking some of the bigger raccoons out of the way so the babies could eat.

If you watch the video- you’ll see there’s like 30+ of ‘em swarming/begging for food like dogs.  Strangely, they were really gentle and seemed almost domesticated…very at ease around humans.  Maybe because they’re Canadian?  All the American Raccoons I’ve encountered are mean and aggressive.

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Montreal, Chapter 1: Poutine on the Ritz

I went to Montreal for the first time last weekend for a screening of Surrogate Valentine and a small coffeehouse gig at the Pop Montreal festival.  The five day music/film festival sprawled across 58 venues with about 450 artists, including big names like  Arcade Fire, Stephen Malkmus, and Kid Koala. I flew in from New York, which was merely a 52 minute flight… pretty painless other than waiting through customs lines and lack of sleep after a whiskey party at my host’s abode before the 4am trip to the airport… but that is a tale for another time.

Let’s talk about Poutine.  Say it with me:  Cheese Curds, Gravy, Fries.

I was in Montreal for three days, and somehow I ended up eating it every day.  I tried not to, but it just sorta happened.  How I managed to survive, I don’t know.

Poutine #1:

My hosts in Montreal picked me up from the airport, and after a croissant and a 2 hour nap, took me out to get lunch. We sat down at this Poutine place called Banquis, and I thought we’d share a plate, but it was every man for himself.  Believe it or not, this is the smallest sized order.  I struggled to eat half of it.  You can’t really see the cheese curds, but they are there.  Chillin’…under the gravy…and fries… and onions… and mushrooms, bacon, peppers, and more fries and gravy.  This thing weighed as much as a child.  Homeboy across from me ate his whole plate- it was the same size sans fixin’s.

Really?

I’ve had it before, about 6 years ago in Toronto, but according to my hosts it’s not the same there.  Montreal-eans get all protective about their poutine.  To be honest, I forgot what it tasted like- but I felt like these cheese curds were more firm and chewy.  It was pretty good, but the portion and thought of eating that much alone kind of turned me off.  That’s a lot of heart attack right there.  I vowed not to eat any more cheese on this trip.

In the middle of eating this, I got a call from Kid Koala, who Eric Nakamura put me in touch with since he’s based in Montreal.  He was amused, and perhaps slightly worried that I was eating Poutine so early in the day.

“that stuff’s for late night, after drinking…”

He invited us to come by his studio, which was a mindblowing experience, but I’ll save that for another post.

Kid Koala in his natural habitat.

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Vancouver

I was lucky to visit Vancouver last month, for the first time… been hearing a lot of great things about it, and was excited to check it all out.

Greeted by some totem poles

I was picked up by my host, Canadian Animator and Filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearns, whom I met in Eugene earlier in the year.

 

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Help! Jellies Taking Over Chicago!!!!

Ahhhh, Chicago in 100 degree heat. . . What better place to escape into the air conditioning than the Shedd Aquarium? And right now they have a great jellyfish exhibit that will be up until Spring 2012.

Yes, I admit that the entry fee is pretty steep at about 30$ a head. But don’t let that you detour you! Once we were pass the admission booth I quickly realized that all of the money goes back to the facility. It ain’t cheap feeding all those fishies! Oh! And don’t miss the resident beluga whales, either. Those little friendly guys will make your day with their cuteness!

Word of advice: Purchase your ticket in advance on-line at the Shedd Aquarium website. There is a separate entry line for on-line tickets that was virtually empty.



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