Wednesday, December 10, 2008

And You'll Never Guess Where It's From...

Came across this story from (in)famed British tabloid "The Sun" and just had to share a collective chuckle with all who read us.

Given the paper's title, you'll just never guess where today's story about a "Man [who] lives with female robot" comes from. Give you another hint: Nuclear attacks during World War II probably made them this way for generations to come...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


BeatNuts' record debut illustrates a refreshing sound; vivacious, energetic and eclectic as each musician packs its own prowess and passion for the instrument, especially its lead sax man, Mitsuru Kanekuni.

Not to be confused with some New York-based hip-hop group The Beatnuts, this electrifying self-proclaimed "Japanese Instrumental Jazz Rock Latin Band" sextet (more commonly) known (in Japan) as "BeatNuts" has finally released their first studio mixed album after years of touring as a group of pro musicians in the homeland Japan since 2000. Courtesy of a much needed record deal with Columbia Music Entertainment, just last week their nine-track effort proves to be a gushing success for any fan of jazz and its edgier fusion sub-genres.

You might've heard their samplings on their MySpace or on their sax man, Mitsuru Kanekuni's website, the six man band of "over fifty years old and keepin' grooving" members consists of lead by firey sax and flute man Mitsuru Kanekuni, Yasuhiko Fukuda (Keyboards), Akira Suzuki (Guitar), Noboru Takasugi (Percussion), Masayuki Higuchi (Drums), Masahiko Rokukawa (Bass).

With his primary Tenor Sax (and by mention of his site, a choice Selmer Mark VII Super Action 80), Kanekuni has been known to me for a number of years as an inspiration to obsess over the saxophone for his masterful, obsessively rich, soulful tone ever since I first heard him blow on a couple Meldac label game arrange albums including "Double Dragon II" and more so his unforgettable performances on little known videogame arranged gem from 1990 "V'BALL" where his solos made for a complete package.

On POWER ZONE, Kanekuni's sound is able to flourish aside from his other instrumental talents and excellent windwood tones as he plays flute and an array of saxes from his weapon-of-choice Tenor, but also Soprano and even a little rythmic Baritone on the album's opener.

No more than halfway through, Power Zone fulfills as a power house, laying down an impressive demo of BeatNuts' nearly decade-long career. It all begins with "Skip Onodera", conga percussion lead the way for an outstanding lead Tenor by Kanekuni, fans have come to know his unique, passionate stylings from here on out. "Celtic Waltz" has Kanekuni put his saxes down for some outstanding jazz flute, and an impressive performance throughout.

From there on out, the upbeat sound BeatNuts grooves with seldomly slows down with energy and passionate work by the band but mostly its stars Kanekuni and Suzuki, often working in lead concert.

"Blue Bullet" is a smooth, cool down piece as Kanekuni melts with his sultry, seductive Tenor sound, conversing with Akira Suzuki's electrifying Robben Ford-style bluesy-jazz licks.

"Gogatsu No May" (translating to Mei of May) a bubbly, yet jovial tune nicely envelopes with Suzuki's solo work intertwined with soprano sax-lead and accompanied solos.

"Zone" turns over, opening with a more hardrock-tinged performance with Suzuki grinding when not paired in performance with Kanekuni's rock-style Tenor playing as does "BeatNuts", a self-titled track that engages their unpredictable, rock-leaning fusion style.

The disc ends off with their softest pieces yet, a flute-and-piano hypnotizing piece before a explosive etude into-the-sunset of guitar and heroic Tenor Sax in "Honoo No Athlete" (translating to "Athlete of Flame") and "Tender Touch", and a tune that has Kanekuni displaying his sunnyside Soprano against a easy-like-Sunday morning conga drum, acoustic rhythm pace.

From latin, to rock, hard to often bluesy licks and growling jazz sax, BeatNuts has a colorful, fun flare and variant to fusion-jazz, with each track each with its own value as its cover art leads with a rainbow explosion of sounds in jazz-tinged sub-genres. The sound, may not be for everyone, as J-Fusion employs a different sound than western smooth jazz with its often plush, "gamey" tracks. Ultimately, it's a cleanly mastered album with nice rich studio live sounds for each of its band members to show off.

Power Zone leaves me sad: the nine-track journey is over too soon but the tracks keep building appeal long after listening. If only they could've polished and thrown on a few from their MySpace page, the ones that made the cut are contenders for potential classics for those who enjoy sounds of T-Square, Casiopea, Dimension or others in the J-Fusion sphere, while offering something different and a true display of Kanekuni's astounding playing. It's a shame it took this long for an album deal, perhaps the group will engender more of a demanding following, enough to see another work soon over the horizon. With each track it's own rich flavor, stunning sax work by Kanekuni, there's no reason not to consider this crowning first record achievement.


Hold-Up Take:
Shuffler In The Dark employs what we call a "Hold-Up Take" method, which seeks to review retake the album at sometime down the road to see how it holds up to time and possible initial impression bias. Stay Tuned!

A Final Note For Overseas Buyers: The album is only available in Japan, so you'll be making an import purchase via one of the websites below.

Buy and/or hear samples at these fine retailers: HMV Japan, Tower Japan, Play-Asia


1. Skip Onodera
2. Hey Brian
3. Celtic Waltz
4. Blue Bullet
5. Gogatsu No May
6. Zone
7. BeatNuts
8. Honoo No Athlete
9. Tender Touch

Monday, October 13, 2008


Ever since I was four years old, upon trips to the Danbury Fair Mall, we drove by the central Waterbury area on I-84. Upon passing through, especially by dark, a giant cross upon a hill welcomes those who pass by. Later discovering The Cross was a relic of a bygone project called "Holy Land", the mystery surrounding the ill-fated Waterbury Christian theme park of Holy Land has been a divine goal of mine to one day visit. Many years have yielded it but this pas weekend my good buddy, Nicholas Fusari, and I took a trip to Holy Land U.S.A. on a beautiful Fall, Friday afternoon.

Call it a pilgrimage of sorts.

Holy Land, emblematic by an enormous Cross seen perched atop the zenith of The City, oversees the traffic-heavy Interstate 84 and nearby highway 8 (to the westerly portions) has mounted itself, shrouded in a vale of darkness and disarray for over four decades. Since, the oddball "theme park" entirely constructed at the late John Greco, a local evangelist and lawyer, has become something of an off-kilter destination for, well, geeks like us and has obtained post-mortem internet fame by Roadside America, who specializes in the Chronicles of offbeat locales across the country.

After a few minutes of driving around the dwellings of nearby neighborhoods (and through the bowels of The City before it), we eventually found the "Holy Land" directory sign, which still remains on nearby streets. Upon our arrival at Slocum Street, we identified one fatal error that led to the once attraction, marred by horrible logistics of driving through people's residential streets as we drove the elevating, snaking path that led us to a divine intersection: The morose, rusted yet pearly gates of Holy Land (and some more homes).

We parked the car near a hillside cemetery, aside visible homes whereby we believed nuns dwelled. This was merely the beginning of our morose journey into one of Connecticut's most bizarre landmark. We do implore that this site is technically off-limits, so entering these premises may be subject to, well, unintended consequences. Likely due to the frequency of the site's past of violators, we weren't at all yielding.


We couldn't find the notorious Catacombs and even if we did, I think I'd be too chicken to explore that. Actually, I think we may have missed more than we know whilst hitting the major sites.

Even though its owners don't have the funds to restore the once dedicated Jerusalem recreation, the people still care enough to save the cross.

Salvation At Last!

Just this past Summer, the emblematic christian symbol of Waterbury was replaced after many years of deterioration and neglect. A once beaming, illuminated Cross faced many years atop the hill, apart greeting millions of motorists daily, also saw its victimization to time and vandalism upon high.

At the behest of the people's donations, which were gathered by the nearby convent, its iconic symbol was "saved" or, actually, the idea was. The convent's nuns managed to raise a fair deal of the money (around $250,000) to reconstruct a brand-new, though more "economic" iteration. Though it doesn't match the value of the old one, which included neon illumination, this steel-bodied version depends on its nearby lamp posts to shine divide light upon it.

Unlike the rest of Holy Land, which today, resembles a post-apocalyptic blight as it hangs in the balance of its own dimension, not entirely (we say "entirely" because trespassing is not permitted) accessible by tourists since 1984 when the park shuttered for good. Perhaps its a telling tale of the current state of Waterbury, which has strayed far from the once glorious Brass City it once was (sadly, like most Connecticut's urban centers which are borderline disasters *cough* Hartford).

Enjoy the full photo gallery, with all shots taken by myself. Though it's ideal to see this place in early Spring, the colors do the trip justice. I urge you to check out some historic decade-by-decade "developments," especially that of the original Cross found on Road Trip Memories.

Lastly, I can't seem to find any vestige of that other funky all-caps "Hollywood-style" sign that used to be at the ledge of the mountain on I-84, behind those white-roofed homes (signified by the faint red oval), facing (what's now) the Brass Mill Center mall. If anyone knows or remembers this, let me know.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Some of my most temperamental tempests, by far, is spent in my car driving from point A to point B. I can go through a list of things that will send me on a swift, often filthy, racy rant (with no one to listen except myself, mostly) against my fellow drivers. Whether it be people who block left turn lanes without even getting a hint to move it, don't use turn signals, people who pull out into traffic when I'm gaining speed on the freeway on-ramp, drive 60 in the passing lane on the highway without moving over (what I call activist slow drivers) or go from zero to 40 in 20 seconds after the light turns green...

Phew! Let me take a breath. OK, we're fine now.

One thing in particular that has me wound up is a newfound flaming tire around the neck of despair, is that of an "elite" class of drivers: The Early Americans. You can't find too much info about them on the internet, probably because they haven't a) found it yet or b) they're still dialing-up to get on(to America Online 4.0).


I've had a hard time classifying them, with mixed feelings abound. They're like war veterans who deserve your unwavering respect (or you'd be speakin' German, whippersnapper!), except they're really not. Sure these cars and their possible multi-generational owners have seen things, but the fact reeks on high: their cars stink horribly as if you were stuck behind a school bus or one of those loud, stank (typically tan-colored) Diesel-powered Mercedes. They take you to a time when The Ozone layer was nozone, when the clarity of the air we took in was about as relevant as fumes output by gramps' stogie.

Immobily, Early American hobbyists can be found either in the local McDonald's on a Tuesday evening or any other disshelved, vacant parking lot filled with bird poop windows on a Saturday night all standing around, admiring others cars, other people (with accompanied clouds of Old Spice in the air) when not in transit -- which is when they are best experienced.

Upon closer inspection, Early Americans are typically who appear to be...

a) Geriatrics or other card-carrying members of the AARP (before they were hip or broken-hip), so, over 65
b) Driving cars who've outlived their various, generational-spanning owners
c) Those with an excuse to bust out their leather jackets/pants again
d) Experienced or were produced in the aftermath of a World War
e) Knew Strickland when he had hair
f) Had a trunk that once hauled junk from Woolworth's
g) Saw two Darrens on "Bewitched"

Hold it like Seabond.

One thing I know is that being in their wake is not pleasant for a few reasons. For one, their cars hearken back to a time when a gallon of gasoline was cheaper than a pack of gum and the burning pollutants were enough to intoxicate you and stain your upholstery and lungs faster than the Surgeon General can slap a label on a pack of Marlboros. Not withholding, a good portion of their drivers either have cataracts or can't see a speed limit sign enough to follow half of it. I don't blame all of them because, heck, if their car survived the Great Depression, I'm impressed to them still running albeit their inability and sputtering to reach 60 MPH.

But there's a reason I can't bust an aneurysm over the Early Americans.

Respect your elders. Whether they be the car or the driver, they saw a time when vehicles were synonymous in with pride, class and design, often funky color (people not included here, that'd probably be racist), and real distinction -- not just ugly boxes of plastic in three different colors, most made in Mexico. So what if your immigrant great grandpa pulled levers for 12 hours straight, maybe lost an arm only to be later thrown out on the sidewalk after a lifetime of loyal employment. They held a grade of dependability and reliability of the once vital American automobile industry (sorry Ford Pinto, you and your exploding gas tank are FAIL for Early American plates).

Ah, fooey for lousy work conditions. If I have to sit through another grumpy "In my day..." speech, I'll hide the Metamucil and value BenGay vats.


So after being stuck behind a few of these clunkers lately in my travels, I've decided to do some new-age research (a Google search) to find out just how any pion can obtain Early American status. Initially, I had thought you had to have stretching family linage. But after seeing I will have to cross my time with the more-plain-than-Avril Lavigne-without-make-up DMV webpage (a blight; The Drudge Report looks more welcoming), I realized that it only spent a quarter the amount of pain and suffering as opposed to the third-world experience or standing in line at the local DMV.

Below is a pie graph of estimated 30 seconds of my time behind an average Early American driver:

10%: Admiring the rare site of the old car
2%: Checking out the vintage of the driver
3%: Wondering how many flaming tires one had to jump through to get the plate
15%: Strategizing the operation to pass the car before I pass out
70%: Choking from the fossil fuel funk syndrome
It appears with the low, low payment of $92 (pretty sure your social security and/or your AARP card won't cover that) and a (lifetime challenge) longevity of 20+ years, you can have that insipid, monochrome plate to match your dinosaur car which in its prime has suffered through times as harsh as the Red Scare to long lines at the gas station to Taco Bell commercials after they got rid of the dog.

Soon after, I had a dark vision: a neo-Early American for my and near future generations. What will it be like? I think of the hideousness of a possible future with those queer looking Priuses no self-respecting man with all his parts in working order would ever drive. In the year 2052, where ripply gray skies fill my vision as I drive down to the Wal-Mart (yes, Wal-Mart has Earthly stores but also their own planet in my future) with a dinosaur 2003 Honda Civic EX on all four wheels -- while the majority of the population is driving their flying hybrid cars. In that regard, I'd hope auto makers make hybrids look less like fat Skim Milk-drinking sissy cars (even if the demand is high right now...).

Now, it's time to take mah back pills... and then nap. Again. *snore*

Here's to me, who went an entire post on senior citizens without throwing Preparation H or Depends into context...

Thursday, October 2, 2008


When you buy a television, you need to then, I jest not, buy a television licence to operate it. Legislation this loony could only come from a couple of places but one in particular. Yeah you guessed it: The Nanny State.

While in lecture yesterday morning, my Criminology professor Edwards brought forth this chillingly real but humorous 'criminal' offence to the class, direct from ever-coddling Nanny State ("across the pond" as Larry Miller would say, not Massachusetts) of Britain. Oh, and a license could cost one up to $300 (at today's exhange rate, about 169 GBP) to procure my professor claimed and even though enforcement may not have been as ardent as it was in the 1970's when this ad appeared as a public service announcement, you best get one or *gasp* earn you some jail time!


Even Peter Falk, who was well known for fraternizing at great length with the guilty party before knowing it, wouldn't have wasted his time.

In actuality, this propagandistic 'Big Brother' PSA is more fear and sheer nonsense. There are no "detector vans" or suited British gentlemen inside them whose just caught you watching Colombo without a licence. Your greatest penalty, should you be caught, reportedly officials might visit your residence and give you fair warning to obtain a licence in 24 hours, would be to appear in court, followed by a hefty fine. Transparently, you can see the scheme at play.

Wondering how officials would know of your illegalities? Simply purchasing a TV from any store could be your undoing claimed Edwards, as the retailer collects and records such information at the behest of the government.

Ironically enough, isn't this along the lines of why the British left for America in the first place?!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


A few days ago a came across a stunning article on a superb game music blog called Hadouken, detailing SEGA's "Sound Unit" band known simply as "H." In an age of post video game music "bands" which boomed on high during the early through mid-90's, H. has the heritage intact as many of its current members were once apart of various past SEGA band projects like the S.S.T. Band and B-univ.

I first heard of "H." a year or so ago on the OutRun 20th Anniversary Box, gushing at the sheer quality of their "Passing Breeze" arrangement, largely keeping me wondering since just who is "H." ...and how can I get more of them?!

"H." is a electronica-jazz-fusion cover band consisting of veteran SEGA sound team members who perform rockin' cover arrangements to plenty of well-known SEGA arcade franchises including After Burner, Hang-On, Galaxy Force and others (though only the hardcores will know most of its source material) though they have branched into other territory. The band's initial members include such SEGA sound team veterans: Hiroshi "Hiro" Miyauchi (keyboards), Takenobu "Daytoooona" Mitsuyoshi (keyboards/bass guitar/vocals), Kentaro Hanada (guitars), Takahiro Kai (guitars), and Mitsuhara Fukuyama (trumpet/flugelhorn/trombone and/or sax). The band later saw F-ZERO GX composer HidenoriShoji take on the band's other guitar member, mainly for live performances. The group's preferable one letter identity is suspectedly that of leader and legendary SEGA composer Hiro or "H.".

Game music bands, the funky and energetic "H." preserves what fans miss most about their childhood games and its music, bringing most into the 21st century. With many of them withered away since the golden 90's like CAPCOM's Alph-Lyla (or Alfh-Lyra, according to the late Scitron Records), Konami's KuKeiha Club lead by Motoaki Furukawa, Nazo² Project (Konami), Nazo² Unit/Suzuki (Treasure), Taito's ZUNTATA, and some newly formed like Square-Enix's THE BLACK MAGES, a metal band consisting of many golden Square sound members including the legendary Final Fantasy series composer, Nobou Uematsu. H. is that of a spiritual evolution of SEGA's past bands: S.S.T. and B-univ.

In 2004, H. began making plenty of live performances covering various SEGA themes even making an appearance at the EXTRA Hyper Game Music Live show in 2007 with cuts featured on the later released album featuring a previously unreleased rendition of the classic Daytona USA "Let's Go Away", performed live.


In 2007, H. branched out with what's likely to be their finest arrangement effort yet on Sekaiju no MeiQ Super Arrange Version with "Battle - Destruction Begets Decay" with Fukuyama's eloquent flugelhorn intro before blasting into a foray of jazz-fusion and some outstanding keyboard and guitar performances within -- just the right amount to fulfill the band's potential. In 2008, the band reprised its role on the sequel "Super Arrange" and album's producer Norihiko Hibino who is the suspected phantom alto sax player on their jazziest funk "Town - The Wind Doesn't Draw Heroes" and the somewhat campier "The Heroes Return".

So what's next for H.? Without my own dreams of them taking on covers of much needed Sonic the Hedgehog arrangements or even Rockman/Mega Man (preferably 1~6, though mostly 3, 4 & 5), the band continues to reprise its role in unexpected places, recently showing up with a new arrange track on the Fantasy Zone Complete Album, soon making an appearance at EXTRA 2008 along with other game music composer legends.

I think it's time SEGA recognized H., giving them their own debut album, maybe let us Westerners at some of their live performances. Until then, some of my favorite H. arranges are as follows (links to Hadouken, check your volumes at the gate!):

"Battle - Destruction Begets Decay" from Sekaiju no MeiQ (Super Arrange Version)
"Passing Breeze" from OutRun (OutRun 20th Anniversary Box)
"Beyond The Galaxy" from Galaxy Force (Galaxy Force II & Thunder Blade O.S.T.)
"Town - The Wind Doesn't Draw Heroes" from Sekaiju no MeiQ 2 (Super Arrange Version)
"Quartet Medley 2005" from Quartet (SDI & Quartet SEGA System 16 Collection O.S.T.)

Title image courtesy of scan from EXTRA Hyper Game Music Live Vol. 1 featuring "H." (left-to-right): Hiroshi Miyauchi, Hidenori Shoji, Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, Mitsuhara Fukuyama and Kentaro Hanada.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Now offered at the Capcom Store is the Mega Man 9 T-Shirt (to end all), which does not warn to ready one's eye bleach for those who will awkwardly look on with morose. The few will know of your prominent fanboy-ism upon throwing down $24.95 for the dark blue tee which mirrors the download-only game's official "box art," which doesn't include the $8 (most thrifty) shipping available.

Upon the recent release of the throwback Mega Man 9 by the Inti-Creates team, Capcom has shaken and taken the video game world into an 8-bit time warp fantasia with the release of the initially announced WiiWare title that struck it and competing console download services on September 22 and shortly after.

Since then, fanboys of the long-beloved Rockman (Mega Man to European/PAL and North Americans) series have been foaming at the mouth of the latest ninth in the series, which takes players back to a choice 1989-style graphics and presentation, with some polish to the later in the series, though much deviated from the last 32-bit based Mega Man 8, which featured full-on handdrawn, fluid sprites and full-motion video cutscenes.

It's so bad, it's just awesome. The box, that is.


To further keep fans breathless, Capcom USA has made the wonderfully cruel and unusual homage to the historically hideous array of box arts for Mega Man and its sequel including one U.S. fans known well as what's best described as the retarted grandpa iteration of our blue bomber on the U.S. region Mega Man box art; complete with pop gun and rubber suited foolishness in its geriatric fare. Living on with the tradition of looking like horrid low budget movies, this was designed more craftfully than the original's, made to gush the hardcores. Well, I think it looks most like the silver surfin' European region Mega Man 2 art, but you decide...

Shortly after the artwork's 'stunning' debut at E3, Capcom went ahead and announced a "mock" tangible version of the box, wrapped up NES-style and included "asset CD" within the plastic cart housing. Unfortunately, legalities impeding, Capcom announced they would not be able to mass produce the idea, leaving them in a decision to sell a good 300 of them right on their own newly established (errr... relevant) Capcom Store. With the mock box yet to be available (hopefully they will take preorders to combat the limited run announcement), Capcom will be servicing fans something second-to-nothing: this glorious T-shirt.

I've considered scoring one myself, though I'm only a good 20 minutes into the game (my childhood is obsessively rooted in Mega Man, but reactions on '9' forthcoming) but at $34 post costs included, I might yield for now. Now if only Capcom will start proding fans on retail details on that "moxart" or, heck, I'd even settle for a shiny poster.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Welcome to SHUFFLER IN THE DARK, a "comprehensive" web log of thought and opinion.

A brief introduction. I started a rather successful enterprise called THE CALDOR RAINBOW back in September 2006; a mostly reminiscent look-back on retail store chains, shopping malls and trends with original photos and research which received media attention by The Hartford Courant back in January 2008.

For the last couple months, I had once again questioned the future of THE CALDOR RAINBOW, realizing myself and other fellow "mall" bloggers (really don't care for that word "blog") had seen a significant slowdown in our news and productivity mill. As you'll know, sites like ours often requires travel for juicy stories to focus on and when the stability of daily life impedes that, you need a place to go on the downtime.

Upon thinking, I envisioned another endeavor parallel to that universe, a sanctuary whereby general interest and content could be shared and discussed amongst friends and strangers.

And here we are, at the precipice of a concept called SHUFFLER IN THE DARK. It's like a astro-jazz-lounge beyond the bounds of space, the stars, and a vibraphone soundtrack in the distance.

Like the infinite space, one won't know what to expect.

So please step into my outer space of opinion, interest and who knows, share a cup of coffee with me. I'll be drinking mine black...

Oh, and if you're wondering more about the title, you'll just have to stay tuned, won't you?