Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Kon’nichiwa Asuka II Part Fifteen – Engrish

At the moment the Asuka II is pulling into Osaka, but that’s not what’s important here. You knew it would happen eventually… this blog is dedicated to all the things I’ve seen that have struck me as odd over the past ten months. From poor grammar to nonsensical instructions, even pictures… the following things have made me pause for a moment.

Okay, hold on… before anyone starts to piss and moan, let me clearly state that I am not picking on anyone here. As a matter of fact, the pictures you’re about to see aren’t from any one place. I’ve seen strange things in Japan, China, Australia, South Korea, Russia… even America (well, American territories)... and to be fair, I really don’t have as many things to show you as I originally thought. You can visit websites like "EngrishFunny.com” and see daily updates of strange and bizzare uses of the English language all over the world, but from my point of view there really isn’t that much to see that’s blatantly (and humorously) wrong. That’s because, I think, the younger generations in countries like Japan are more familiar with English than previous generations. Finally, don’t anyone get their panties in a twist over this… I have shared these pictures with my friends (many of whom happen to be Japanese), and they find it funny as well.

Now then, that little disclaimer out of the way, there are some funny things to share. Let’s just jump right in…


Most of the time, this is what you see. It really isn’t wrong, if you think about it. All the napkin is trying to say is that vegetables and bread are meant to be together… makes sense. I mean, if it didn’t, would we have croutons? And besides, if people enjoy stale bread crumbs in salad, wouldn’t they enjoy fresh bread more?

Yeah, I’m pretty sure this is supposed to say “Shoes Clean.” The “R to L” issue has nothing to do with a person’s intelligence; it’s simply because the Japanese don’t have the “L” sound in their alphabet. And they know this… and they try really hard to make that “L” sound. Those of you who have listened to any dialect tape by Dr. David Alan Stern will remember that for any dialect he was teaching, he would tell you where in your mouth the dialect was “placed.” For Japanese, it would be in the back of the mouth; for English… the front. Therefore, in my humble estimation, the Japanese aren’t used to striking the back of their teeth with their tongue, which is essential in making the “lah” sound. So, when my Japanese friends ask me the difference between “glass” and “grass,” I have them say “la la la” as if they were singing, then say “glass.” That seems to work, along with explaining the imagery of dialect placement. See? You’re learning something…


This one isn’t wrong… I just like it. What is “Uncle Meat” selling? Vintage American clothes.


This one was taken in Saipan (so technically, I’m picking on the USA). I just love this shirt! “Hunting Action Monster Hunter.” That sounds so backwards, but so bad ass! Plus, I like the fact that the joker in the blue jersey thinks I’m taking his picture, since I didn’t want to rent a jet ski or deck chair. Yeah bra, hang loose.


Taken in Tokyo Disney, after which I exclaimed “that’s what she said.” And speaking of Disney…


Guess we’re not in California anymore… or maybe I am… finally, I saw this outside the Enchanted Castle:


Just be careful with how hard you swing that pick axe.


This was taken in Sydney, so my Aussie friends probably don’t even think this is funny. I think Manly is the name of an island, or dock? I don’t know, but I envision the ferry to be powered by two beefy and hairy arms that swat the water from behind the boat… I mean, isn’t that what you think of?IMG_1258

This one I see almost everyday… and you know, it does actually make me smile. This sign hangs on the inside of a crew door that leads to the Vista Lounge, a bar on deck 11 that is situated at the front of the ship. I am unable to explain the significance of the monkeys, and why they are coming at me from some sort of perspective, or why the person on top is eyeless and bald, or why the big monkey looks like he knows something I should… but when I see this, I think that I indeed am the best smile of Asuka crew member!

Funny thing, Asuka II maybe the biggest offender when it comes to poor grammar. Take for example:


There are at least a dozen of these signs on doors that lead to exterior decks 7 and 11, and all but one have “beware” misspelled. It’s a strange mistake, and one that cannot be attributed to poor translation. In any case, I try to “eware” of strong winds anyway, because you never know…


Shoo wee! I sure love me some rice puddin’! I could eat me a whole mess a’ that stuff!

Asuka II Dining Room Prep

Finally, for Asuka II, this one probably takes the cake (or rice puddin’). This paper’s instructions pertain to a specific way to set the table for a theme night in the dining room. Other than that, I have no idea.


You can file this one under “truth in advertising.” This leads to other examples of signage that isn’t wrong, just up front. For example:


In America, we’d say something like “please do not drink this water. It is reclaimed and could cause serious health issues.” But the Japanese are way too efficient for all that… this water isn’t good to drink. Simple and to the point. You drink it, it’s your ass.


I love this one! Advertising can’t get any more simple and to the point: Good smell. Good curry… Bad smell. Bad curry. And, if you smell bad curry, it would probably have a sign over it simply stating “This isn’t good to eat.” But, if you do choose the bad curry, you may have to use the bathroom at a moment’s notice. In your haste, you may forget the proper usage of a toilet. Well, thankfully there’s this handy diagram:

Correct Toliet Usage

Again, you may be shaking your head, but remember what the old school Japanese toilet looks like? This sign is for those who may be experiencing the new fangled method for the first time… I know, I know… but if you owned a restaurant and were constantly having to clean people’s used curry off the floor, you’d make a sign like this too.


Taken in Russia, it proves that spray paint needs a spell check.


Maybe I’m being a little selfish here, but I envision the owner of this business putting these words up so his employees will feel more at ease when he tells them to work weekends and holidays. You see Fred, in order for you to achieve true inner peace, you’ll need to work New Year’s Eve until 11PM, then come in January 1st at 7AM to open up. Oh, and can you work on Flag Day? I have this thing at my lake house…IMG_4043

Again, this bag speaks the truth. I have tried to start many conversations with “certain domestic animals have gifts of language,” and all I get are strange looks.IMG_3466

Taken in South Korea… here’s what it says: The sky is low the clouds are mean. A Traveling Flake of Snow Across a Barn or through a Rut Debates if it will go A Narrow Wind complains all Day. How some one treated him. Nature, Lick Us is sometimes caught Without her Diader… then it repeats most of that until the sign runs out of space. What is it advertising? No clue…


This advertisment, while found in Japan, was clearly taken someplace more… Arian. Either way, if that girl runs with her mouth open, dogs within a hundred mile radius will all cock their heads. And on the subject of handbags...

This one, again, needs some explanation. The word "Bakada" is actually made up of two words... "Baka" is Japanese for stupid, and "Da" is usually the suffix of important Japanese family names. Put the two together, and you get, essentially "Stupid Family" University, which is most likely "the most stupid university in the world. See? Even the Japanese make fun of improper English.


Did I have a great time at Bar Coma? I forget…IMG_4895

I can’t say a thing about this… it’s a paradox. An unholy marriage of puppets holding puppets.


Some things I’ve just stopped questioning, like Don Quijotes. What is it? Kind of like a claustrophobic Wal Mart. You can find anything in these multi-leveled stores, but the spaces between the shelves are about as wide as a piece of paper. Why do they call them Don Quijote? I have no idea… none. But they do have a theme song that is played on loop in the store! Kind of makes the random literary reference a little endearing. And no, the theme song does not sound like “Man of La Mancha.”


Again, there is really nothing wrong with this sign, but I love that the major difference between a man and a woman are her ENORMOUS HIPS! It looks like she took the saddle bags off a Harley and strapped them to her belt! Still, upon closer inspection, other differences include color, collar shape, and strangely enough, a man has rounded feet, while a woman’s feet are flat… probably worn down from the weight of her motorcycle accessory hips. And speaking of androgynous signage…


If people so casually walked down the street with Donkey Kong sized cigarettes, I’d want it stopped too! But notice the man’s feet… I smell a conspiracy.


I can only imagine that Mickey is tired because he spent all night go go dancing at Pooh’s Honey Pot. How else can you explain the leopard skin boy shorts?


That’s some plasticy silk…


This one is funny for a couple of reasons. The English here is actually fine, but they were obviously getting so many questions about just having a beer, that they had to write it out again in simple English: Just Beer NO! The other interesting thing about this is that the restaurant bills itself as a sort of Southern eatery, and its rustic exterior has old wood hitching posts, a confederate flag (Gasp!!!), long horns, etc… But, I guess people commonly associate Mexico with America, so they had to qualify that as well. Again, there’s truth in advertising.


I know… I know! But still, House of Pain! That’s hilarious!

And that’ll just about do it. I have some others, but they really aren’t that funny… and besides, we’re in Osaka now, and I’m just itchin’ to get off the ship and enjoy an overnight!

Keep on Livin’ The Dream,


Michael Lamendola

(Enjoying some birthday cake!)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Kon’nichiwa Asuka II Part Fourteen – Fondling Marsupials

Yes, I am alive and safe. We had left Yokohama at 2PM, and were in open water when the earthquake hit. I was forward on deck 6, rehearsing in the theatre, when it happened. The whole ship shook like crazy, and none of us really knew what was going on. Had an engine popped? No, this isn't the Dream... Then we started getting the news... whoa. Fortunately, we were south enough of the epicenter to not be affected by the tsunami that followed. As I write this, we are a couple hours away from Kobe, where I expect it'll be business as usual... now on to the blog...

At the moment the Asuka II is surrounded by mostly water, as little mountainous islands pass by in the distance at eighteen knots. We’re almost two sea days into our six day journey to Guam, after which we’ll have another three sea days to endure before finally getting back to Japan. Yeah, sea days… lots of ‘em make up this cruise. How many? Well, let’s break down Asuka II’s Oceania Itinerary by ports of call:
  • YOKOHAMA – 1/31/2011 (Embarkation)
  • KOBE – 2/1/2011 (Embarkation)
  • SAIPAN – 2/5/2011
  • CAIRNS, AUSTRALIA – 2/11 & 2/12/2011 (Overnight)
  • SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – 2/15 & 2/16/2011 (Overnight)
  • HOBART, TASMANIA – 2/18/2011
  • CHRIST CHURCH, NEW ZEALAND – 2/23/2011 (Cancelled)
  • AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – 2/24** & 2/25/2011 (Overnight)
  • NOUMEA, NEW CALDONIA – 2/28/2011
  • GUAM – 3/7/2011
  • YOKOHAMA – 3/11/2011 (Disembarkation)
  • KOBE – 3/12/2011 (Disembarkation)
(**2/24 - we arrived at Auckland at 9 pm, one day early because of the Christ Church cancellation)

Not including the embarking and disembarking ports, the Oceania cruise lasts 37 days. Of those 37 days, my feet touched dry land a total of 10 unique days, leaving 27 days at sea. Or, to put it another way, one day shy of the equivalent of February is spent at sea. Wow… of course, I am not complaining (much). In the grand scheme of things, I could be doing nothing while not earning a paycheck, but as it stands, I am somehow making a living watching the water chug by.

So, what do all those days at sea look like? Pretty much like what you would expect…IMG_5097
It can be quite majestic at times, to look out at an endless ocean, and understand that stretching beyond my field of vision are a thousand more miles of the same. Other times, however, it can feel a pinch monotonous. Anyway, during all these sea days I’ve done a ton of reading, taking advantage of my Ipod’s ability to read books through Amazon’s Kindle App (which you can also use to read my swanky new novel, DIRTY WORK). I’ve also been able to devote even more time to killing myself in the gym, as well as working my way through the complete series of Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

Still, there are other things to occupy my time amidst all these sea days, like getting beans thrown at me… really. Called “Setubun,” the Japanese purge themselves of evil spirits by throwing dry beans at grown men wearing grass skirts and devil masks.


Literally… grass skirts and devil masks. So, I make my way among the pax while they throw beans at me and giggle. Once I feel like I’ve absorbed enough punishment, my job is to collapse on the ground and die. And, although not instructed to do so, I felt it was my obligation to repeat the phrase “Ooga Booga.” I mean, it would be rude not too… First person perspective just below:

But hell, who cares about beans?! Make with the kangaroos!


Here I am lounging with a kangaroo in Hobart, Tasmania (that little island off the south-east end of Australia). About half an hour’s bus ride from the dock brought me to what is essentially an Australian petting zoo, and roaming free within the fences are a bunch of kangaroos of all sizes. You can pet them, feed them (call them George if so inclined), and basically interrupt their otherwise peaceful day by constantly demanding their attention to shove dry dog food into their mouth and fondle their chest. Oh well, that’s the food chain for ya. Here’s another photo:


Really, most of these guys either tried to get away from the constant attention, or just resigned themselves to being overfed and groped. But, holy cow, I can touch me a kangaroo! Wait a second… I can touch me a koala bear too?


American zoos would lead you to believe that touching a koala bear is not only illegal, but a single atom of human oil would devastate the eight koalas left in the Northern Hemisphere; the koala laws of Australia are a little more slack. So, yeah, I touched me a koala bear… and it was awesome.
One animal I did not touch was the Tasmanian Devil.


Let me be frank: these things may look cute, but they sound like mean little bastards. Honestly, Mel Blanc was not that far off. Here are some fun facts about Tasmanian Devil.
  1. The back teeth create a ton of pressure per square inch (that’s 5 times more than a pit bull)
  2. They can eat 40% of their body weight in one sitting (typically 4.5 pounds)
  3. They are scavengers, and can smell a tasty carcass from over a mile away
  4. Supposedly, there have been no reports of a human being attacked
Still, if I was in the outback and I heard one of these suckers, I’d hide in a kangaroo’s pouch…

The name certainly fits the animal.
One week before Hobart, I was in another little town called Cairns. I believe Cairns made the news getting struck by a big damn typhoon just days before we got there, but everything seemed to be okay once we arrived. Once there, I took a trip into the rain forest and got to see a great big waterfall.


After taking in the grandeur of mother nature, it was back to reality…


Imagine the look in your loved one’s eyes when you come back from the land down under with a kangaroo paw flipping the bird or a bottle opener made from its balls. These gifts not only inspire love, but are made with a pinch of it as well.

But, back on board the globe-trotting Asuka II, there’s no time to use animal testicles to open a bottle of Sapporo… no sir! We’ve got shows to do! Now, my long time readers will recall that I once did the math regarding a typical work week’s hours on board the Norwegian Dream. With two performances of three shows, including a rehearsal for each, as well as a brief welcome aboard show, I typically clocked in about 14 hours per week. Let’s see how that compares to the Asuka II’s Oceania Cruise:

Including the embark and disembark ports (There are two on each end), the cruise lasts 41 days. The Production cast has six shows under its belt, two of which are shorter than your typical 45 minute show (which the other four are). Since it had been awhile since we’d performed any of these shows, we also rehearsed them once before the actual performance… let’s say each rehearsal clocked in at 90 minutes. Finally, we perform each show twice on the performance night. Okay, time to bust out your Texas Instruments TI80 Graphing Calculator:
  • 6 rehearsals * 90 minutes = 540 minutes
  • (4 shows @ 45 minutes) * 2 performances each = 360 minutes
  • (1 show @ 30 minutes) * 2 performances = 60 minutes
  • (1 show @ 17 minutes) * 2 performances = 34 minutes
Keep in mind I am not counting participating in organized passenger activities such as Setubun, talent shows, or the equator crossing, as these events required very little preparation on my part. And while I do count singing in sequins as work, getting pie thrown in my face is strictly pro bono. Yeah, pie…


You see, we had another deck party, this time celebrating Asuka II’s passage from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere (where, as we learned, animal groping laws are far more lenient). In order to celebrate, we put war paint on our faces and grass skirts on our bodies. While mingling with the pax, I noticed a bunch of cream pies lining the pool. I didn’t think anything of it until I came face to face with one, then another… now that I am able to compare, I much prefer beans. So, there I stood, covered in meringue, getting picture after picture taken with the grinning passengers (because, let’s face it, they get to say that they threw pie on their vacation). Oh, and the sun burn has nothing to do with the pies. Funny thing, it didn’t dawn on me that lying out for a quick 30 minutes, while crossing the equator, would leave behind nothing but scorched earth. MFA in Musical Theatre, friends…

But, before the deck party, we had a little private concert of our own:

And speaking of concerts, the Asuka II also made land in Sydney, Australia. While we were there, the production cast had the esteemed honor of performing alongside a full symphony orchestra at the historical Sydney Town Hall. The passengers were dressed to the kyuus, and much of the staff was also in attendance for this special event. So, inside a hundred and twenty year old concert hall, while a backdrop of stars glistened in the night sky, I utilized every ounce of training and stage experience for this, my Australian debut:

To this day I get a little misty… sometimes I don’t know how I do it.

But land is so stagnant and un-liquid-like… make with more sea days!!!


Here we are passing through the Fjords of New Zealand. It was raining pretty much the whole time we were there, but it was a pleasant break from the endless sea we were used to. As we passed through, the captain would come on the intercom and tell us all about the scenery. I would tell you everything I heard, but since it was all in Japanese, all I can say is “banana banana banana,” which is exactly how you say it in Japanese. Apple, on the other hand, is “Ringo.” Yeah, like the Beatle.

And speaking of New Zealand, one day before we were to arrive in a little place called Christ Church the city was rocked by an earthquake (six point something). I believe it was late last year when the city had another earthquake topping seven on the Richter Scale. Had we been there a day early, I can guarantee you many passengers, and probably myself, would have been inside the church or a museum when it hit… yikes. Anyway, deciding it would be best to skip the port, we set a course for Auckland, arriving half a day early.


Having an extra night on our hands, we did the usual “hanging out and not returning to the ship until we absolutely had to” routine. The next day, however, I hiked up a volcano.


Not much to say about it… Called Rangitoto island, geologists believe it erupted 600 years ago, and they are pretty sure it’s now dormant. As for me, I took a ferry to get there, hiked to the top, looked at the view, then hiked down.

The rest of the day was spent exploring the city. I took in the view from the top of the sky needle, visited a casino… oh, I did see one thing worth mentioning.


At first blush, you may not see anything wrong with this picture, but look a little closer. See that boy with one Friendship Gem? Now look at the floozie to his left… I see at least SEVEN Friendship Gems. Hey kid, she ain’t worth it… obviously she’s got “friends” all over town… that hussie.

Oh, and then there were more sea days… but guess what? I met me a real live sumo wrestler!


Sumo wrestlers in Japan aren’t like your athletes in The States. While people like Kobe Bryant are pretty much known for their athletic skills (okay, that was a terrible example), sumo wrestlers are usually trained in singing, poetry, dance… not only are they athletes, but also artists. Many of them go on to have a second career once they hang up their Sumo pants, like my friend Daishi here. He was onboard as a singing guest entertainer, and was a really cool guy to hang out with too. But just how much does a sumo wrestler weigh? Welp, his retired weight is 321 pounds… his fighting weight, on the other hand, was 383 pounds… It’s a relief to know a guy that big likes you. So, what do you do when you’re hanging out with sumo wrestlers?


Sing Karaoke! What I’m holding in my hand is the Karaoke songbook… looks more like a phone book, don’t it? At first I couldn’t believe there are actually that many songs to sing. Then I realize the songs are listed in Japanese, Chinese, English, and Tagalong. Still, on more than one occasion I found myself looking for a plumber, vinyl siding repairman, and a good DUI attorney.

Finally, after some more sea days, I visited Numea, a city on the island of New Caledonia. Again, not much to say… since I went to the beach and chilled out.


The only thing worth mentioning here is that if you listen real close, you’ll hear French. New Caledonia was a French settlement back in the day, and it’ll catch you off guard when you’re lying on the beach and you hear someone who sounds exactly like Maurice Chevalier jingle a pocket full of Francs as they pass by.
It’s late in the evening now as I finish up this blog. Tonight we have a mooring deck party to celebrate Asuka’s 5th birthday (or 20th, if you count the fact that she was originally christened as the Crystal Symphony back in 1991). We still have four more days to go before hitting Guam, then three more to get back to the land of seaweed and sake. Speaking of food, I’ll soon have a blog dedicated to nothing but, so stay tuned.

Keep on Livin’ The Dream,


Michael Lamendola
(Taking in the Sydney Opera House)

Oh, and PS: “The Groping Marsupials” is my new band.