Thundar Dolphan!

This past week was filled with sunny skies, crisp autumn breezes and a delightful crisp in the air, which seems like the perfect trifecta for taking a short road trip. A quick consultation of the “foliage forecast calendar” I appear to have picked up somewhere (don’t ask) suggested Hakkone as the perfect destination, but alas, mother nature having long ago abandoned Japan, the perfect week decided to cap itself off with a horribly cloudy and soggy gray Saturday, which pretty much put a damper on the Hakkone idea. What to do, what to do…? Nothing left but to head into Tokyo to see what we could see.

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Read on to find out what this clip is all about…

Now the first thing on our itinerary was the Ueno zoo. Me, of course, to see the Pandas, and my lovely travel companion b.a. to see her animal of choice, the Okapi. Now if you don’t know what an okapi is, don’t fret I didn’t either, at first. So for your reference, I have provided a picture of an okapi below.

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Okapis don’t really talk in real life.

Weird, huh? But you sorta get the idea. It’s like a gazelle mixed with an antelope (a gazelalope?), but with the legs and ass of a zebra. Now I have put a lot of thought into this and I cannot, for the life of me, imagine what set of natural circumstances must have had to have taken place for such a bizarre creature to arise. I mean, what possible evolutionary advantage could there be to being gazelalope from the waist up, but zebra from the ass down? And it’s not like some gazelalopes and zebras were just getting freaky and this is what popped out, there’s actually an entire viable species out there that looks like this…!

The only possible explanation I can come up with is that the okapi’s natural habitat consists entirely of poorly designed early 90′s furniture showrooms done up in a quasi-safari motif:

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Can you spot the carefree grasslands creature in this picture?

Anyway, despite the few paragraphs I just wrote about Okapis, we didn’t actually see any, because it was raining too hard. And as anyone who has ever spent some time at a zoo can tell you, the only thing sadder than a wet gazelle is a wet gazelle with an equally wet zebra ass. So we passed on that and headed over to the Ueno Royal museum which was hosting a special Dali exhibit.

Now Dali is a pretty amazing painter – I mean, how damn cool are melty clocks?  That that having been said, the man clearly had some pretty traumatic experiences with breakfast food somewhere deep in his early childhood. As an example, allow me to introduce People’s A. (I’ve been watching a lot of Law and Order recently)

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Soft Self Portrait with Grilled Bacon (1941)

Dude, if you ever reach the point where you associate bacon with your face melting off, you might want to lay off of it for a little while. Either that or give it a sniff before frying it to make sure it’s not expired or something. Just saying.

Not convinced? Let’s look at People’s B.

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Telephone in a Dish with Three Grilled Sardines at the End of September (1939)

(Michaelpanda.com: ham handedly cropping Surrealists masterpieces to fit his blog layout since 2001)

Now I realize that grilled sardines may not be considered a breakfast food all over the world, but for the purposes of shoehorning this into our little theory de’ Dali, let’s pretend it is. Now the thing that tripped me out the most about this was the juxtaposition of crunchy grilled fish with a telephone receiver. So I did a little digging and found that this was not Dali’s sole venture into the world of telephone food. Years earlier, he had created this very in-your-face piece:

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Lobster Telephone (1936)

A brief jaunt across teh intarnets also turned up the claim that apparently “Lobsters and telephones had strong sexual connotations for Dali” Which you know, I find a little bit… well…odd. I mean, some foods I can understand (carrot, melons, etc.) but I mean, lobsters?

Oh yeah baby… float on over here with that bright shiny red ass… err… carapace of yours.

C’est bizzare qua as Monkah would say. He had other foody stuff too. This poor bastard is apparently in his “death agony” whilst covered in eggs:

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Behind the Window on the Left, from which a Spoon Comes Out, Velazquez in His Death Agony
(that’s really the name)

and this painting is oddly titled “A fountain of milk spreading itself uselessly on three shoes” (as opposed to spreading usefully upon four or more shoes).

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Fountain of Milk Spreading itself Uselessly on Three Shoes (1945)

Anyway.

All that museum going – not to mention paintings of melty breakfast food – made us hungry, so we ducked into a nearby restaurant for a bite to eat. I, being a panda, promptly began to stuff my face, while b.a. picked at her food in a much more dignified manner, and carefully perused her guide book.

“Hey panda…” she began.

“Yes?”

“Have you ever heard of the “thunder dolphin”?”

I swallow a piece of black vinegar chicken and figure I must have heard wrong.

“The thunder saywhat?”

“Dolphin”

“Thunder dolphin?”

“Thunder dolphin.”

“Like a dolphin dolphin? eek eek?”

“Thunder dolphin.”

An awkward pause fills the table as my head tries to parse this strange combination of words I have never before encountered next to one another.

“Well, I can’t rightfully say that I have ever heard of a ‘thunder dolphin’. What, umm, is it?”

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The Thundar Dolphan from a distance

She flips the page of her guidebook and tilts her head for a better angle. Staring at its glossy full color pages, I’m reminded of my battered, ancient and heavy-as-all-hell Lonely Planet Japan old old edition, and how one time a hotel it recommended in some obscure inaka city turned out to have closed down and reopened long ago as a red light district soapland. Oh, the looks on their faces when I showed up with all my wheeled luggage, clutching my guidebook to my chest. I make a note to myself to look for a new guidebook the next time I’m in a bookstore.

“Well… It says that the thunder dolphin is a roller coaster in the Tokyo Dome LaQua amusement complex… What a cool name! Do you wanna ride it?”

Now friends, if you know me – and chances are you do if you’re reading this blog – then you know the great affinity I have for meteorological marine life. If it shoots into the air at a 130kph, well, that’s just so much the better.

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That’s not true. I actually love pandas much more than dolphins possessed by vengeful greek thunders spirits.

“That sounds awesome! Tell me more.” I carefully maneuver another piece of chicken to the edge of my plate to flip into my mouth as soon as I’m done talking. Man, I do love chicken. Somewhere in the back of my mind, my subconscious starts playing a free association game. Chicken chicken… Don’t they call dolphin the “chicken of the sea”? Wait, no, that’s tuna stupid. But why do they call tuna “chicken of the sea”? Why don’t they call chicken “tuna of the land”? I laugh at that thought, a piece of tuna flipping around in a chicken coop, and in the process almost choke on my food. That calms me down considerably. I don’t need to choke to death on a piece of chicken in the middle of Japan.

B.A. remains blissfully unaware of the miniature drama unfolding across the table from her. (or at least she did until she reads this)

“Well, it says it passes through a part of a nearby building and then shoots through the center of the world’s first spokeless ferris wheel.”

Now setting aside the fact that the creation of “the world’s first spokeless ferris wheel” seems to me to be an engineering solution in search of a problem I’m fairly sure never existed, that does sound pretty cool. We nod in agreement and set off in search of this mythical thundar beast.

Now, if you’re like me, when you hear the phrase “Thunder Dolphin”, several things come to mind, most of them looking something like this:

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The lightening shooting out of his mouth is the particular highlight of this image for me.

Which looks nothing like a rollercoaster, so you can see, I pretty much had no idea what to expect going into this. But I will tell you this – most rollercoasters in Japan tend to suck compared to the States. Usually what you get here are kiddie Disneyland-esque affairs consisting of three gentle little hills, perhaps a half-hearted curve or two, and lots and lots of random cartoon character motifs stuck on scaffolding along the way. Since I grew up with 6 Flags Great America, I pretty much dismissed the Thunder Dolphin before even laying eyes on it.

Big mistake.

As we queued up, I caught my first glimpse of the Thunder Dolphin itself – about 5 low orange cars only 2 seats wide, which looked much more like go-karts than anything remotely dolphin-y or thunderous in nature.

“That’s it?” I wondered out loud.

Oh panda.

When our turn finally came, we climbed into the tiny cars, and buckled up. An attendant came by and checked my lap belt twice. I scoffed a little under my breath, perhaps trying to calm the slightly disconcerted feeling I was starting to get.

Then the dolphin took off.

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b.a. checking her phone while en route to thunder powered dolphinic doom

The first thing it did out of the gate was skyrocket right into the eye of the furious storm far up above us at a sharp degree angle towards what we later learned was a height of 262 feet, the 5th tallest in the world. It was a dark and stormy night, much like Snoopy used to write, but unlike a Peanuts cartoon, the sky took on increasingly darker and more menacing shades as we were ratcheted into the heavens. The flimsy orange low sidewalls of the car suddenly felt incredibly inadequate and I began to seriously consider the possibility that maybe I might slip out of lap belt. The wind began to howl as if heralding the coming of something wicked borne on massive leathery wings about to burst from the heavens, and the thin twisting rails of the track shook and shuddered, swaying under each groaning gusty assault. To the sides and all around far off below in the distance the tiny gray skyscrapers of Tokyo faded into pinpricks of diffused shapes and melty light, while I turned to my left to see b.a. silently mouthing the words “oh… my… god.” with a look on her face that expressed the “what on earth does this dolphin have in store for us..!?” feeling pounding through my chest at that very moment. Just then, we reach the crest of the hill and hung, momentarily for one second on the apex, a bright orange 5 car dolphin of thunder precariously perched hundreds of feet in the sky as if in mid-leap out of an urban ocean, silhouetted against a swirling maelstrom of thunder and bubbling cauldron of roiling liquid gray clouds and bursts of lightening burning fire within the stomachs hungry pitch black clouds and strata far above in the distant skyward darkness.

And then all hell broke loose.

All I remember is some screaming, a plunge towards the ground, then a curve and side and looping and twisting and then we’re shooting through the air again and then a building being like “hey what’s up panda?” just as we sailed through a tiny hole cut in it, and then a plummeting sinking and then a rain drop hitting me in the eye and throat at like 130 kilometers per hour, then being like “holy crap, there’s a spoke less ferris wheel” then sailing through it and then more looping and twisting and curving, a vision of a fountain of milk pouring itself uselessly on shoes made of bacon, and shaking and shuddering and creaking and groaning of tracks and then WWWOOOOOSSSSHHHHhhh….

…stillness of air and the cheery splayed fingered waves of brightly garbed attendants welcoming us back to an altogether calmer place than we had just been for the past minute. Not that it really sunk in, since we kind of still in a bit of shock, as you can see from the video up above.

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b.a. makes a new friend on the way home…

It is with some shame, gentle readers, that I confess to you that I got my ass kicked by THE THUNDER DOLPHIN. *sigh* I guess I’ll have to go do something manly to make up for it now, like chop wood or fight bears or something else a good ol’ Wisconsin boy ought to love doing.

And that, my friends, was Tokyo, in all its melty breakfast food dali-esque Thundar Powared Dolphan glory.

Now listening to: “Cabin Crew – Stars to Fall (club remix) [ahh cheesy vocal trance]“

cabin crew: stars2fall

Cabin Crew are an electronic music duo of Ben Garden and Rob Kittler from Australia. They are known for their song, “Star To Fall” (also known as “Star2Fall”), which is a remix of the 1988 hit song “Waiting For A Star To Fall” by Boy Meets Girl, and was involved in a “sample battle” with Sunset Strippers. Cabin Crew originally remixed the track, but SonyBMG would not clear the sample for release. Instead, they enlisted Sunset Strippers to remix the track to try and block the Cabin Crew version. But when Boy Meets Girl’s vocalist George Merrill heard the track, he re-recorded the vocals, allowing the Cabin Crew release to go ahead. In Australia, the single releases were almost simultaneous. Although Cabin Crew’s version debuted higher, Sunset Strippers hung around the chart longer.

They have also mixed Moustache’s “Everywhere”, and Live Element’s “Something about you”, which have both received quite a lot of airplay in Australia during the summer of ’05-’06.

10 Reactions

  1. Shay

    WOW! That Okapi is freaky-cool! I want a Lobster Phone…how much? :P Oh, as I was reading this I was listening to a song by the band Doping Panda…coincidence or sign? j/k, Star2Fall? They sound interesting!
    …and to reply to your comment, I won’t make it to Tokyo during my visit to Japan (this time). Yeah, I’m sure that’s an odd thing to say…haha, but next time I’ll get up there for sure. I’ll just be chillin’ in the south and the west sides ;)

  2. kittay

    WHAT THE HELL PANDA!!! When I was in Tokyo all I wanted to do was ride the Thunder Dophin and I got my ASS LAUGHED AT!! I had to Ride it ALONE!!! ALONE ALONE ALONE!!! I got the first seat too. hahaha. I almost peed myself. grrrrr YOU SHOULD HAVE RIDDEN IT WITH ME!!!! now I hate you. :)

  3. Ben

    Okabi!? Never heard of such a thing! Well I must admit that it looks pretty cool, with a zebra’s ass. And the thunder dolphin reminds me of an episode in The Simpson where the dolphins are taking over the world. :P

  4. Em

    “tuna of the land”..haha your funny panda..:) If only i knew what you were thinking when we are talking…
    and…speaking like only like a true trolly dolly would..i would of ridden the rollercoaster twice…
    maybe

  5. melissa

    Actually I came across this through the Superfuture forums. It’s an interesting but scary place.
    The other day I bought an animal print skirt. I don’t know if I’ll ever wear it…Perhaps I’ll turn it into a pillow!
    Heh, could you turn that THUNDAR DOLHPIN gif into a 100X100 icon for me? I really like the thunder coming out of its angry face.

  6. lizb

    hahaha man i love roller coasters. actually i hate them ’cause i’m a pussy lol. they make me sick anymore, unfortunately. :(
    but yeah, that sounds like a lot more fun than looking at dying leaves!
    i don’t remember if i ever commented on your last entry with your bike being stolen…but yeah that effing sucks. has your boss said anything to you about it?
    ps i wrote a xanga entry that unfortunately, only you are going to get. i learned the sentence in class the other day and i thought it was funny.

  7. nishah

    Ahaks, Thunder Dolphin??? Wth? “meteorological marine life”?? This was one cute post ^_^ I’m always afraid of going on rollercoasters and scrabbling about for a safe place to put my glasses. Was it just me, or did the Okapi remind anyone else of a Pushmi-pullyu from Dr. Dolittle? Anyone?

  8. ashan

    Not the dolphins, spare them! spare them! In the Land of Cute, dolphins get turned into roaring killer creatures? The mind boggles.
    I do like roller coasters, but paranoia about the warnings and history of poor construction, brain damage and so on always make me think twice (at least in the case of those that claim to be/have “the TALLEST/BIGGEST/HIGHEST MORTALITY RATE!!1″)
    How was Thanksgiving?