Cherry blossom special

I thought I had beaten the jet lag. I got back from Tokyo on Friday afternoon, went to bed at the usual time that night and slept soundly. Saturday night was fine, too. But the last two nights I’ve awakened at about 1 a.m. and had a hard time getting back to sleep. Yesterday morning I slept in later. Today I didn’t, hoping I’ll be sufficiently tired to sleep through the night tonight.

It’s a funny thing, shifting time zones. When I got into Tokyo on Monday afternoon (having left Houston on Sunday morning), I was sleepy. I kept nodding off during the 2-hour bus ride to Akishima. But I wasn’t tired later that night and all four nights I was there I woke up at about 3 a.m. for an hour.

Tuesday and Wednesday were rainy. Bicycle riders carried umbrellas like lances, making traveling down some of the narrow streets challenging. Thursday it was nice, and I had the afternoon off so I went to nearby Showa Kinen park. The cherry trees were in blossom. The park also has a Japanese garden that features a bunch of bonsai trees like the one pictured here. They look like full-sized trees, just miniaturized. Some of them were 80 years old and others might have been 150. Their trunks are thick and gnarled. If you’re on Facebook and want to see a few more pictures, go here.

To ward off hay fever, a lot of Japanese were medical face masks. I’d say that at least 30% of the people on any given train were wearing one. Made me think of writing a caper story where the culprits get away by wearing face masks and blending in with the crowd. I had some good meals (curry, sashimi, yakitori, things I didn’t recognize, things that had eyes). French pastries for breakfast, except one day when I had a bacon and egg breakfast sandwich that had lettuce on it. That seemed odd, but it worked. I also had one smelt as an appetizer one night. We used to eat those by the plate when I was younger.

The Dark Tower Companion was published last Tuesday. So far the reviews have been really good. You can read them here. I was also featured in an interview in The Big Thrill, the monthly newsletter of the ITW.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve been mostly busy catching up, both at home and at work. I wrote an essay for an Italian publication this weekend. For the next couple of days I have to review page proofs for another project that hasn’t been announced yet. I have one more essay to write, a Storytellers Unplugged blog entry for next week, and three book reviews to do. Then I should be clear to tackle that novel. I hope.

I thought I’d have a lot of time to read while traveling, but I didn’t. The book I was reading when I left (Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet) I only finished this morning. I did see a lot of movies and TV shows. I didn’t watch any Japanese TV because I didn’t have a clue what any of it was about. I did see about 10 minutes of an episode of Bewitched the morning I left. The dubbing was really well done. I could almost convince myself that Samantha and Darrin were speaking Japanese.

On the trip back I watched the first five episodes of the second season of a show called Episodes, which stars Matt LeBlanc (Joey from Friends) as himself. I didn’t see the first season, so it took a bit of catching up, but the gist is that these two TV producers from the UK have come over to the US to create some shows, one of which stars LeBlanc. It’s set in LA but filmed in England. It has its moments. I’m curious to see how the season wraps up, anyway. I also saw one episode of Louis CK’s show, which has been recommended to me, but it was only okay.

I watched two movies going over and two more coming back.

  1. Cloud Atlas. This one was intriguing. Six vignettes intercut, set over a huge time span, from the mid-nineteenth century to a couple of hundred years in the future. Many of the same actors (including Tom Hanks and Halle Berry) appear in each segment. The implication is supposed to be that we have future lives that give us a chance to vindicate our past actions. I almost understand it—almost. But it’s a fascinating movie. I really liked the 1973 story, which felt like a TV crime show from that era.
  2. Silver Linings Playbook. If Jennifer Lawrence can remain grounded, she has a great future in front of her. She’s such a natural actress. Bradley Cooper is intense as the untreated bipolar who goes on these long-winded rants. When he and Chris Tucker go off on each other in the car at the beginning, I found myself thinking, “This is exactly what the internet is like. Everyone talking on top of everyone else and nobody listening.” Robert DeNiro is Cooper’s OCD father. A nice film.
  3. Jack Reacher. I’ve never read the Lee Child books, so I can’t judge this as an adaptation, but it’s a serviceable thriller. I was a little disappointed by Rosamund Pike, who has been very good in other films. In this one, I found her far less than credible much of the time. At least they resisted the temptation to turn her into an action hero or a love interest. Robert Duvall is great, as always. There are some moments at the end that I didn’t care for—Reacher doing something patently stupid purely for the sake of creating drama.
  4. The Girl. This is the flip-side of Hitch, the story of Tippy Hedren and The Birds (and, later, Marnie). Toby Jones, who I met on the set of The Mist, plays Hitch as a much darker, more twisted and manipulative Hitchcock. Based on other things I’ve read, this seems like the truer representation of the man than Anthony Hopkins’ rendition.
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