A Trek through Costa Rica: Part II: A Day and a Night at Rudolfo’s (1)

Costa Rica: Part II:  A Night at Rudolfo’s.

We four travelers stumble through the departure gate and into the ramshackle customs area of the Juan Santamaria International Airport. This airport is located in the San Jose suburb of Alajuela, a likewise ramshackle collection of low white houses and white stone streets that snake up into the green hills.


Alajuela (Image courtesy of ds-lands.com)

Chaos reigns in the customs queue, which stretches back almost to the gates and which random people weave through as if it were a chorus line. The world blurs by in flashes. I realize I left my consciousness back in the plane cabin.

Wearily we take out our declarations for the inspectors to view. How long will this take so that we can sleep? Will they mind if I nap while they rifle through our underwear? That conveyer belt looks comfortable enough. And so on.

Suddenly over the cacophony I hear a voice clear as a bell: “Christofer!” Which is my little brother’s name.

A burly middle-aged man past customs waves a sign and gestures for us to come right through. It turns out, this is our man on the inside. He is Rudolfo, a friend of a friend of my mother’s church group – shadowy Catholic connections best not investigated too thoroughly – who works as a customs inspector at this airport.  He’s arranged to whisk us through customs and provide us a place to sleep that night at his house in Alajuela. I’ve never met him before and have no idea who he or his family are. But in travel you have to roll with things.

We hurry our ridiculous big-ass bags past the people in line, shaking our heads slightly toward them – the poor saps! Guess they don’t have an “inside man”. And then we burst out the big glass double doors and into the bright humidity of the pickup area, where Rudolfo’s best friend, Wile, is idling in a beat-up work van to pick us all up.  \


Juan Santamaria International Airport (image courtesy of anywherecostarica.com)

Wile is a man of few words and a fast driver. Still, in my paltry Spanish I secure a few pieces of information. He and Rudolfo live right next door to each other on the same block and have raised their respective families essentially together.  When we pull up in front of Rudolfo’s small bungalow, Wile jumps out and then opens his friend’s door with his own key.

We haul our packs into the dim house and dump everything on the floor. The couches beckon. Wile, correctly reasoning that the time zone shift will kill us unless we stay up and adjust to Costa Rica daylight, has other ideas. He’s gotten a wild hair to try on a role as a tour guide and drive us around his neighborhood, show us the sights.

These sights include an elementary school (“Escuela?” I ask as he points.  “Escuela.” he confirms),  a statue of some female saint in a park (captured by the sculptor in a degree of apparent torment) and a store. Compounding the scarcity of interesting features is our lack of serviceable Spanish with which to comprehend Wile’s thoughts about them.


Alajuela and suburban San Jose (image courtesy of Mario Valerio via Wikimedia Commons (c 2011)

Wile drives us back after he notices my brothers snoring away in the back seat. Finally, we’ll get some shut-eye.

This fantasy is soon snatched away. Rudolfo’s just gotten home. He’s gone through a lot of trouble, missed work, effort to host us here. It wouldn’t exactly be a grateful gesture to collapse on his couch for 12 hours, wake up at 3am starving and lumber around raiding his cupboards like a bunch of bears while his family tries to sleep.

He and his wife insist on making us some food – after all, here in their plane of existence, it is mid-afternoon. The fact that I and my companions currently occupy a separate, funhouse existence of hellish delirium escapes them. But I know they are just trying to be hospitable to their guests and ease us into the time change. So we sit at the table and try to make conversation while Rudolfo’s wife cooks a dish of rice and beans and some sort of meat.

The next thing I know we are fully immersed in what might be just a serious back and forth, but feels a hell of a lot like an argument. about where we are headed next.

Of course, when you’re exhausted and can’t understand 80% of what someone is trying to tell you, and you just need to go to the bathroom and sleep for 15 hours, it’s hard to distinguish between a disagreement and a spirited exchange.

I tell him of our plans to head East and visit Turrialba (for rafting), Limon (a West Indian seaport town) and Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast, he shakes his head adamantly. We should correct our course to the east coast , he says, and head south and west, as it is much nicer than Limon and there are plenty of places that turistas like to go.

Limon and much of the Caribbean side, he explains, is crawling with “negras” – black people of West Indian descent – who will beat us up, steal what we carry, and leave us for dead.

I am dismayed but not surprised at this argument, because I have heard that the mestizo Spanish class, which comprises most of the population, harbors much prejudice against the poorer islanders (the West Indians the Spanish themselves, of course, imported to work the banana plantations – a task they imagined themselves too high and mighty to stoop to.) Also, having grown up in a small agricultural town in rural Oregon with a 30% former Mexican migrant population, I’m used to hearing these generalizations.Still Rudolfo is our host and so I let the matter rest. Definitely, I tell him, we’ll go south and west.

Satisfied, Rudolfo steers the topic of our half-conversation to the glories of Costa Rican bananas – so much better than U.S. bananas, so ripe and sweet. I devour the one that he proffers to me, and damn if he isn’t right.

The foods that taste vastly superior in Costa Rica don’t stop at bananas, I will discover. The chicken here is crazy good – it has flavor and nuance you will never get from a U.S. store bird, because it’s mostly cooked still fresh from plucking, from birds that were strutting around in the restaurant’s back yard just hours before. The Coca Cola is more mellow and flavorful because Costa Rican bottlers use real sugar (not shitty corn syrup) delivered fresh from sugar plantations. And the black beans here – don’t even get me started on the wonders of Costa Rican frijoles negras. Hot damn.

And most importantly for a caffeine addict like myself, a cup of coffee that starts its week as dried beans on a table on an organic finca forty miles away – and has just been roasted yesterday –  tastes vastly superior than coffee made from beans that spend months piled green on ocean freighters before being roasted in some factory 3000 miles away.

The rest of our couple of days with Rudolfo flies by. Wile’s high-school aged daughter regales us with tales of her friend’s rafting misadventures – a choice of anecdote that eerily foreshadows what is to come for us. Rudolfo’s nephew, an EMT in San Jose, stops by to offer us fresh goat cheese from his grandmother’s farm, which I try – and try immediately not to spit out. It’s warm and quivering, much like it just dropped out of the goat and into my mouth. But it’s a nice gesture.

And when it’s time to part, the whole family drives us into San Jose to drop us off at the hostel, the Dunn Inn,

masthead_locationDunnInnDRBARHotel Dunn Inn, San Jose. Images courtesy of allcostaricatravel.com

and they are genuinely sad to see us go, even though we did little more than scarf their food and drool snoring on their couch.

With the possible exception of Portugal, I’ve never experienced the level of hospitality displayed by our hosts in Costa Rica, wherever we go in the country. They are truly proud of their country and like to show it off to their guests. Lucky for us, because our adventures are just starting.


A Trek Through Costa Rica: Part I: The Flight



Perry Farrell is on our plane from Portland to L.A.

In fact, we walk right alongside him and his two children and his very petite Asian wife all the way through the PDX International gate, and also the boarding tunnel (through which he carries his young, excitable child upon his shoulders while his wife carries a stroller) and into the plane, after which he and his brood settle into the first-class cabin and we are shuffled back to coach.

And then after we depart the plane in Los Angeles to await our connecting flight to Guatemala City, we can’t escape him. There he is in baggage claim next to us, horsing around and embracing his wife and chasing his kids and laughing the way one almost never does after an uneventful and surely routine flight. At which point my little brother Keifer (pretending he is taking a picture of my girlfriend) catches him on film, blurry in the background of his shot.

936full-perry-farrellMr. Farrell (image courtesy of listal.com

This is very cool of course. He is a celebrity. And personally vindicating to poor Keifer, as right off the bat, this event almost justifies the added trouble of the extra forty or so pounds of lenses, tripods and film that he has lugged along on this ostensibly stripped-down, month-long trek of Costa Rica. But it doesn’t stop the rest of his travelling companions (myself, my girlfriend Stacky, and my brother Chris) from  cruelly ribbing him about it.
Sometime during the following, interminable overnight flight from L.A. to Guatemala City and then to San Jose, a movie flickers into life on the monitors hanging above our seats. This movie is titled “Down with Love”, starring Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger.

Now, I cannot sleep on planes. Never have been able to. Maybe it’s just me, but something about having no control of whether I live or die – entrusting my life to a strange, exhausted pilot who is somehow maintaining 75 tons of airliner at an altitude of 35,000 feet above dark and jagged mountains – prevents me from drifting off into careless, baby-like slumber.

So, because it is the only activity to engage me in this dark tube of hurtling steel filled with lucky sleeping bastards, and because we have entered that peculiar suspension of time that occurs on long overnight flights and I need something with a definite running time to reassure me that this flight is progressing somehow,  I watch Messr. McGregor’s “Down with Love”.
The Best of Ewan McGregor - http://www.bestofewan.com/No. Down with THIS MOVIE. (image courtesy of fanpop.com)

After the credits roll, I mentally recite a short list of activities available to me that would have been preferable to sitting through “Down With Love”.  An abbreviated list follows:

1. Suffocating on the collected noxious emissions of the gastrically distressed fellow in front of me.
2. Punching a hole in the fuselage and being sucked out to free-fall gently into the Pacific.
3. You get the idea.

And I still cannot sleep.

Compared to the chaotic behemoth of L.A.X., the Guatemala City airport terminal, hunching low and blocky in the dim wilderness of 3 a.m Central America,  looks like a poorly lit gas station that we’ve pulled up to on an overnight bus trip.

We’ve landed in Guatemala City in the dead of night to pick up a few passengers and to let a sick and feverish man off the plane. The man slumped to the floor around halfway through the flight and the crew have been propping him up ever since. Through the dark filter of my sleepless delirium, the ordeal of the two flight attendants assigned to escort the poor man off the plane seems grim. They strain epically to drag the bulky fellow out of the side exit and finally manage to stumble down the stairs to the tarmac below.

With that bit of unpleasantness done, the crew passes around immigration and customs forms for everyone to sign as if nothing has happened. Then we sit in the dark on the tarmac for what feels like hours before taking off again. All I can do is stare out the window at the gas station lights.


Sleep has not come by the time dawn sees us flying over the Nicoya Peninsula. We immediately begin our descent. We have finally crossed the massive Lake Nicaragua (which is more like a sea) and passed rather dramatically into Costa Rica.

Now, intensely green forested mountains rise to the left of us, rolling down to deep shadowed valleys and impenetrable tree cover, while to the right, the Pacific glistens vast and green blue with white misty shores. It is breathtaking.view-costa-ricaI’m immediately cheered. Soon, I will sleep a long and needed sleep (I cast my red eyes upon my brothers and my girlfriend slumbering just next to and behind me – lucky bastards!) and then, my rest taken, it will be off to romp around this giant playground.


Greeschlyn Can’t Fail

words and photography (c) 2013 by Benjamin J Spencer

When will you move?

A new town is called for.

You have your neat grass,
Your dew drops (you reason).

Then again you also have your stinging flies

And your defeated people
who look into empty, empty

shop windows,

Rubbing their hands together.

this is why You must move to Greeschlyn.
Greeschlyn cannot fail.


Greeschlyn has the most artfully glass-strewn of warehouses.

Greeschlyn’s water is pure lysergic acid.

Greeschlyn is glazed with two centuries of baker’s flour and petroleum

Greeschlyn’s young are clinically insane
(And They find this instructive)

In Greeschlyn, you can fish for starlight in cold, salty puddles
And eat moonlight cake with shy pledge-drive orphan kids


You see

Possesses those things that can strum your nerves like a lyre

And peel the skirt right off your pelvis

Momentous things
Glinting things.



Reboot – Two Months on the Road

Hey all,

I’m rebooting this blog as a mostly-travel blog – although I will still post articles and creative writing pieces/poems, of course, while on the road.  Let’s just say that recently, it looks as if a major, long term travel-related project is in my imminent future (more on this later).

Now for those visitors to my blog who have paid attention, you have realized that I haven’t posted regularly lately.  Actually this would be generous. I have stopped and started and sputtered and roared and then, horribly, coughed to a dead stop like a cheap, pathetic old V-8.  Let  me assure you, this situation shall be remedied shortly.

Until the details are ironed out and I know a bit more about what the path ahead will entail for me (and my partner in crime and in life (gypsytrampthief.wordpress.com) –  I’ll be posting some of my favorite travel writing I’ve done over the years.  Hope you enjoy, and thanks for sticking with this blog even with my prolonged absence from its pages.

To officially kick off this new chapter in the evolving story of this persnickety beast of a blog, here is a video covering  the nearly two consecutive months of solid travel I notched up a couple of summers ago (June 1-  July 20th, 2011).  all around this beautiful U.S. of A

It was a long and rambling backpack from NYC to Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee to San Diego, CA, to Yosemite Valley, and finally to the Oregon Coast, the Oregon Cascades and Willamette Valley. Pictures are by my brother, Chris Ten Eyck of San Diego, CA, and myself, BeejMcKay of New York, NY.

The 20 Funniest HumbleBrags on Twitter

(DISCLAIMER: The concept behind collecting Humblebrag Tweets, ranking, and responding to them is not mine. It was created by Harris Wittels, a writer for NBC’s Parks and Recreation and a regular Grantland contributor. I just thought his @Humblebrags Twitter feed and his Grantland monthly rankings were horrifying/funny, so I thought I’d write some of my own. They are similar to his, only I’ve been informed that mine are “meaner”. To which I reply: whatever. P.S. Originally I wrote these for TruTV.com, but they weren’t published. So here they are for your enjoyment)

The 20 Funniest “HumbleBrags” (my version)

An argument could be made that celebrities have a duty to entertain and horrify us with their Tweeted boasts: after all, if they’re not livin’ the dream, then what do us poor schmoes have to aspire to? Plus, they are famous, after all, and vast numbers of otherwise reasonable people – professional people who contribute to society in many important ways – inexplicably fall all over each other to validate their uninformed opinions.

But what of those lesser celebrities, those who only have the capacity to offend a comparatively small circle of followers at best, or at worst just a finger-wagging from their moms back in Wisconsin?

For those minor stars, and even for some larger ones, we have the relatively new phenomenon of the Humblebrag – a promotional tactic for those who desperately want to brag about their accomplishments/awards nominations/swag/celebrity connections, but just as desperately want to pretend they are not, with oft-times hilariously false humility.

But lest anyone be fooled by this fancy-pants tweeting, trust me: every one of them think they are great.

And you know what? There is nothing wrong with that. In this world – where so many thousands of creative people toil, mostly anonymously, for any scrap of publicity – for the sake of their own careers, they should lionize their accomplishments. Just go ahead and brag!

And I say just maybe, children, there will come a day, not far off, when every one of these celebrities will rest proudly atop the clouds of supreme confidence that right now, perhaps only Mr. Kanye West occupies.  And yea, they will own their boasts.

But for now, let us be entertained by their tortured HumbleBrags.

1. Blake Shelton (country singer) – @blakeshelton

Still can’t believe I’m up for The People’s Choice Awards!! I mean who are the people?!! And why do they like me?!!

At the risk of interrupting your existential crisis, Blake, I’d say you’re just going to have to accept it. They like you! They reeeeally like you!

2. Rebecca Black (teen YouTube sensation, singer of Friday) @MsRebeccaBlack

 …that awkward moment when you’re watching the AMA’s and BAM there you are.

BAM. A classic Humblebrag, Ms. Black.

3. David Spade (actor and comedian) – @DavidSpade

At @redcross breakfast getting an award for some reason. Honored to be w all these actual heroes http://yfrog.com/occmfdyj

But let’s see, you’re receiving an award from these heroes. Which makes you the hero-iest hero in the room! Just in case you didn’t think of it that way.

 4.  Justin Ching (author, Google ad exec) @Justin_Ching

just took one of the more epic naps ever, I’m sooo glad I don’t have to jetset for a living. Not as glamourous as advertised

For a fun little exercise, take out every word in this Tweet but “epic”, “jetset”, and “glamorous”. What do you have left? Yeah, you’re getting the picture.

5. Sia Furler (Grammy-nominated musician) @siamusic

How weird is it when your watching a rerun of friends over cereal when your ex boyfriend jogs onto the show? It’s weird! #friendsforever

I don’t remember this episode. Oh wait wait….now I remember. It’s The One Where Sia’s Famous Ex-Boyfriend Tricks Her into Humblebragging. All right, Sia. Fess up. Was it Joey? Chandler? It better not be Ross – Rachel’s gonna OWN your ass.


6. Neil Patrick Harris (actor, Doogie Howser) @ActuallyNPH

  love the new H&K Xmas movie. It’s rad. Talking about myself in 4 minute interviews for 7 straight hours? Not as rad. #mushybrain

Yet somehow, he still found the inner strength to Humblebrag to his Twitter followers. Whatta champ!

7.  Beardyman (hip-hop artist) @beardyman

Saw will.i.am tonight. Reminisced about the time me him and Wyclef played an improvised jam in front of al gore. My life is fucking weird.

Ah, Beardyman. Beardyman, Beardyman. Bless you for your world-weary insights. But Wyclef? Al Gore? Even a philosophizer such as yourself has gotta admit: It’s kinda fucking weirdly awesome though, right?

8. Josh Horowitz (MTV presenter/interviewer) – @joshuahorowitz

Hey whoever just screamed “I love you” from a cab, right back at you. My stunned confusion = gratitude. #ThatsANewOne

Josh, did you just arrive in New York City? Awww! Okay, let me clue you in: they were drunk and high. You could have been literally anyone. But I’ll shut up and let you have your moment.

9 Dane Cook (comedian/actor) – @danecook

Being famous and having a fenderbender is weird. You want to be upset but the other drivers just thrilled & giddy that it’s you.

Uh….yeah. Weird. But is it really thrilled giddiness, Dane? Or are they just in life-threatening shock from whiplash? Well, when you get through strenuously high-fiving yourself, buddy, I think he might have just passed out.

10. Brett Davern (star of MTV’s Awkward as Jake) –  @BDavv

Getting recognized at the grocery store while wearing the same T-shirt you wore at the VMA’s #awkward

Wow, another double-Humblebrag. So far these up and coming Tweeters are really out-douching their elders.

11. Greta Van Susteren (Fox News personality) – @gretawire

Ugh. I just pocket dialed spokesperson for Pentagon.

Greta? Greta? Can I call you back, I’m kinda in the middle of someth…..oh SHIT. There goes the Eastern seaboard. Double Ugh.

12. Maggie Q (actress/fashion model – @MaggieQ

I AM featured in People’s “Most Beautiful” (what can I say, they all make mistakes) BUT did the shoot w no makeup and I have to say…SCARY!

The only scary thing is how tremendously you are twisting yourself in order to avoid making this sound like the blatant boast that it is. Careful! You might give yourself a hernia.

13. Adam Levine (singer, Maroon5) – @adamlevine

Wow. We got mobbed at the airport. I think they thought we were @justinbieber

That must be it. What a shameful waste of journalistic resources. You must stop this travesty and immediately alert them that it’s only you guys, White Soul.

14. Joe Jonas (singer/guitarist, The Jonas Brothers) – @joejonas

Totally walked down the wrong escalator at the airport from the flashes of the cameras…Go me

Yeah, go you!…No, really. Just go.

15. Anna Kendrick (movie actress, Scott Pilgrim vs the World)

I am in an LCD Soundsystem video. Who knew?

Why, if no one else, you knew. And now – oh dear! – everyone else does too. That couldn’t have been why you just Tweeted it, though, right?

16. Karey Dornetto (comedian, writer, Community and Portlandia) @kareydornetto

ugh, community may top all the best of ’10 lists but we’re last place in xmas gifts that fit me. new years res: gain weight, u waify bitch.

Woah, two – almost three! – Humblebrags in one post. Add to that what may have been the least sincere “ugh” of all time. You know, they should really create a new fattening-up reality show just for “u waify bitches”: The Biggest Humblebragger.

17. Khloe Kardashian (actress/model/reality TV star):

I still can’t believe I have a Cosmo cover! #RandomTweet

Oh yes, you can. You definitely can. Unless Cosmo’s editors jumped you in an alley, kidnapped you, smuggled you to their studio in a windowless van, and then blackmailed you into posing for the cover photo. In that case, you have my sincere apologies.

18. Patton Oswalt (stand-up comedian/actor) @pattonoswalt

I have got to stop saying yes to every interview request. 9 minutes that felt like a week.

It’s a heavy, heavy burden being in such demand. But…curse your big heart!… you feel bad for them and their families. What would they do without you?


19.  Sam Halliday (singer/guitarist, Two Door Cinema Club) @SamTDCC

What? How are we up for this MTV thing…that’s just silly… Someone is humouring us up there. Very good.

You said it, not me. But now that you mention it, it is rather silly, no? With all the great live acts out there, MTV picked a paste-faced indie-rock outfit with little stage presence or charisma as one of their Top Live Performances of 2011? Well, maybe it will score you guys a guest spot on 16 and Pregnant.

20.  Jemmye Carroll (reality T.V. star/MTV’s Real World: New Orleans) @JustJem24

Omg these two chicks are googling me as I sit next to them.. #awkward. I can see the computer screen you fools..

Yeah…those two chicks? Like the rest of America, they think they might recognize you from somewhere, but have no idea who you are. Except now, all America is aware that you compulsively spy on complete strangers’ personal computer screens for mentions of yourself. Wow! You’re fast becoming the most popular lunch mate in the cafeteria.

An Interview with J-Pop and Cosplay Phenomenon, Reni Mimura (a.k.a, Reni-Reni)!

Though she arrived on our shores only four short years ago from her home in Japan’s Yamaguchi prefecture, singing and dancing dynamo Reni Mimura has already made quite a name for herself in the Big Apple. She has performed all over town, on NY8 TV, and as a featured act at Asian Power! Summer Festival in Queens.

Reni Mimura (courtesy of Reni's Facebook)

Reni-Reni, as she nicknames herself on her website, blends the related anime subcultures of J-Pop (vocals performing hits from Japan’s world-famous, Anime-crazed entertainment industry) and Cosplay, a related trend in which otherwise ordinary folk transform themselves into whatever animated, video game or comics character they are obsessed with through the magic of hand-crafted costumes.

Reni’s performance and event schedule at shows and comic conventions nationwide tends to be packed, but I managed to get her to sit still for an email interview recently to explain just how she managed to break into New York’s tough music scene.

beejmckay: Hi Reni! Thanks for responding. So, where are you from?

Reni Mimura:  Reni came from the future!!\(>w<)/. 13 hours ahead of the United States, from a place called Japan!

What exactly do you do as a J-Pop singer, for people who might not know?

People say Reni is a “J-pop singer,” or Japanese Pop singer.

J-pop coexists with Anime, Japanese Animation, games and the internet. These days,  there are more and more followers of Japanese Anime and games in the U.S. I think that’s the main reason why my activities are getting a lot of attention.

My music is 100% POSITIVE Electro music. One of my events that I organize is a famous Japanese “Maid” cafe style event where everybody can enjoy being an idol of their own imagination by wearing costumes and participating in the show! This, in Japanese term, we call “COSPLAY”.

If you go to any of Anime conventions which you can find anywhere in the U.S., you will know what I am talking about. In my events, people enjoy being in virtual reality – a fantasy world, away from reality for a while. I think it’s a very futuristic concept!!

How do you incorporate dance into your show?

Reni has a strength in dancing because I’ve been formally trained since I was seven years old. Singing and dancing together with costumes is my artistic style. I change my costume often. By doing that I transform from one persona to the other.

Reni, being Japanese, would like to introduce this whole new concept to people in the U.S.  I like to have fun with it and share love and joy. (^w^)v

Who are your fans in New York City?

Reni calls my fans Angels. I have about 20,000 Angels worldwide. And since I started a event called Japanese “Maid” Cafe and Show in New York in 2009, a lot of angels are in and around NYC. I have an average of 70 to 100 people coming to my show every month in NY now.

I am glad people find my concept interesting. After my activities were spread by word of mouth, I started to be invited to Anime conventions across the U.S.  I have been to Boston, Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, and so on.

Also, I was featured in a Japanese fashion TV program, so many people who are into Japanese fashion became my Angels. Since it’s hard for me to physically go everywhere my Angels live, I interact them on my website, www.ReniReni.com and Facebook.

What are your costumes based on (Anime characters, comics characters?)

Reni at Arlene's Grocery (courtesy Infinite 7 Productions)

I have established my own character, a “Maid” outfit with bunny ears. Maids represents cures and healing, but I added bunny ears because I think it’s simply cute!

Why do you think Cosplay has
become so popular?

The Internet generation is very shy. Actually, I am also shy as a person. By dressing in costume, you can be whatever character you want.

Have you ever experienced this? If you wear something different, people treat you differently. You also feel different and act differently. For example, if you wear a hero costume, you’ll be strong instantly. Can you believe Reni?

I hope that the fashion industry adapts more of Cosplay culture.(^^)

Who are your favorite characters to dress up as?

My favorite character is  Sailor Moon. I used to wear this costume in my acting classes while I was in Japan. I made the costume by myself(^^)

Sailor Moon is cute but strong, and I like the tension between the two.

What do people not understand about J-Pop and Cosplay?

Cosplay culture in Japan tells you that no matter how old you are, you can be as unreal and fantastic as you want. It’s so hard to do in this society, but please, do not forget about the innocent mind in you.

Since you are leaving behind your original persona for a while, you are also leaving behind whatever you are taught is “important” in reality – like competing against other people. You just simply imagine what you want to be, and you become that one. Just know who you are (^w^)

Who was your craziest fan and why?

Reni Fan Art (by Clarice Garcia)

My Angels all have good manners! But taking pictures of all the moves that Reni makes on stage might be strange to general people in the U.S. (^w^)v

My Angels protect me all the time. I’m soooo lucky to have met them(*w*) I believe in my Angels, who support Reni all the way. \(>w<)/

What have been your favorite places to sing in New York City?

Even though I have performed in some very famous clubs and live music halls in New York –  like Arlene’s Grocery, Living Room, Sullivan Hall, and so on – I love to perform in unique places, like art spaces/galleries, cafes, and even museums. I think it goes well with my style. (^0^)/

What was your favorite show in New York?

That’s very easy! Reni’s Maid Cafe and Show!! I enjoy being in a fantasy world and interacting with my Angels.

When you enter the cafe in the West Village, the Maids will greet you by saying, “Welcome home my Master and Princess.” (*w*)v. And you will always be treated as “Masters” and “Princesses” by the Maids.

Now I’ve added a Reni’s Maid Cafe & Show in Boston and D.C. every month, so if you are around those areas, please COME BY…!

Thank you for support!!(^0^)/

Reni is looking forward to seeing you!

Thank you Reni!

(In addition to her semi-regular Maid Cafe & Shows at the Amber Village in Manhattan, Reni can be seen on her very own UStream show every other Tuesday here, and she’ll be performing at the upcoming 52nd Annual Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival in downtown Washington, D.C. on April 14th.)

12.27.2011 – Conspiracy Roundup: Border Fence Chaos (for TruTV.com Conspiratorium)

Conspiracy Roundup: Border Fence Chaos

Benjamin J Spencer
By Benjamin J Spencer
December 27, 2011 2:24PM

BorderAuthorities in Finland have allegedly discovered 69 smuggled U.S. Patriot missiles and 150 tons of explosives bound for China in crates labeled “fireworks.”

Controversy over the National Defense Authorization Act, which some civil rights groups thinks will legalize indefinite detention of U.S. citizens, is heating up on the internet right before Obama is set to sign it into law.

In related news, Twitter is again accused of censoring news about SOPA, OWS and the National Defense Authorization Act. The company has denied all previous conspiracy theories about coverups.

Some will try anything to conquer an annoying cold. But brain-eating amoeba might be a bit of overkill…

Some suspect these overwhelming displays of grief from North Koreans over the death of dictator Kim Jong Il to be mass-staged for state television. But it’s not like he’s still watching them… or is he?

How did a former British paratrooper manage to run a thriving bar in Baghdad right next door to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq? Apparently, they had one great Iraqi fixer.

These former Texans now living on the Mexican side of the border fence insist they are still U.S. citizens.

On a related note, it looks like the only immigrant population the Arizona border fence has succeeded in reducing are black bears. To be fair, the bears admitted they were here to take our jobs.

12.26.2011 – Occupy Wall Street Using Toy Helicopters to Record Cops (for TruTV.com Conspiratorium)

Occupy Wall Street Using Toy Helicopters To Record Cops

Benjamin J Spencer
By Benjamin J Spencer
December 26, 2011 2:43PM

CopsCount Occupy Wall Street down, but not out.

The NYC faction of the movement has just invented a whimsical, but potentially effective, tool in response to what they say is overbearing surveillance, police violence, and the barring of photographers and journalists from protests: a toy helicopter.

Bought cheaply online, the device is controllable from an iPhone and rigged with a tiny camera that can record and stream video in real time to the social video website, Ustream…

Though just successfully tested a couple of days ago, the so-called “Occucopter” already has a Facebook page and is chronicling its adventures in counter-surveillance on its very own Twitter feed.

The mini-chopper is the brainchild of Tim Pool, a New York-based tech specialist, multimedia journalist and OWS supporter who has already gained some fame for his live chat-enabled Ustream broadcasts from Occupy encampments nationwide. Pool’s latest innovation: installing 3G cellular controllers to vastly extend the Occucopter’s range.

Will we soon see police battling hundreds of hovering, buzzing toy spy drones controlled by multiple operators, who could be thousands of miles away? And could this technology, intended to keep tabs on police abuses, be turned used for more nefarious purposes?

Some observers fear the ramifications of an escalating drone race much like the nuclear arms race of the 1980s, where authorities could justify their own use of drones by pointing to devices like the Occucopter. Think about it: a remotely-operated drone chopper could live-stream your wife taking a shower.

We may not have to wait long for the brave new world of Big Brother warfare. But for now, the live-streaming of Occupy events continues. Recently, Occupy Albany was being forced to move out of their encampment. Tim Pool – and his Occucopter – were there, documenting the eviction live on Ustream.

12.16.2011 – Could These be the Dumbest Holiday Songs Ever? (Multimedia for TruTV.com Dumb as a Blog)

10 dumb songs that will make you hate the holidays

by Benjamin J Spencer
December 16, 2011 12:02 PM

SantaThe holidays are the season for giving.

Unfortunately, they are also the season for taking into your earholes those most stubborn of modern social engineering tools: Christmas songs.

These jaunty dirges are hammered into our brain every December, and they mostly sound like a civilization dying. The only way to escape them is to sequester yourself for a couple of months in a nuclear bunker.

We’re not talking about Ye Olde Yuletide Carols of yore. At the very least, those are at least still good for guzzling mead and cracking greedy old miser’s hard hearts.

No, we’re talking about a commercial trend crafted by 20th century record companies and their songwriting cronies to make some scratch off of a public increasingly desperate for a little holiday joy.

But the following 10 holiday classics go beyond cynical and enter the realm of the truly dumb.

1. Do They Know It’s Christmas? –
Band Aid

Could this be the dumbest holiday song ever? Let’s consult our “Earnest 1980s Charity Song” checklist. Lurid, bash-you-over-the-head lyrics? Check. The vocal talents of Boy George and Phil Collins? Got it. Deafening wash of tubular bells and synthesized drums? Done. This 1984 single was meant to highlight hunger in Ethiopia – where the lyrics claim “the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears” – and happily it raised over $100 million for famine relief there. But to today’s ears the lyrics represent heights of pampered rock star cluelessness only eclipsed by Band Aid’s next hit single: We are the World.

2. Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
– Elmo & Patsy

It’s time to permanently retire this novelty one-off about a terrible family tragedy. Unless you think there’s something inherently hilarious about a lonely alcoholic grandmother, neglected by her family on Christmas Eve, stumbling off alone into the woods only to be fatally mowed down by a hundred tons of venison on the hoof. Dear old Grandpa then celebrates her death on his recliner while the family contemplates raiding her gifts. Good old-fashioned fun, this “holiday classic”.

3. A Wonderful Christmas Time – Paul McCartney & Wings

The only explanation for what is surely the laziest, most dispirited, and ugliest-sounding Christmas song ever committed to tape: Sir Paul must have lost a bet with Ringo. Now the world should rise up and demand an explanation for why every soft-rock station in the country plays this joyless piece of crap at least once an hour throughout December.

4. I Believe in Father Christmas – Greg Lake

The holidays are here.  So just kick back by the fire with a flagon of eggnog, forget your troubles, flip on the old stereo – and treat yourself to an insufferably whiny, self-righteous political diatribe masquerading as a Christmas song. As if the finger-pointing at all us consumerist saps (and the onslaught of Moog synthesizers) weren’t enough, we also get Floyd-ish dark sarcasm and blood-curdling images of war and death.  Merry Christmas, baby-killers!

5. The Chipmunk Song – Alvin and the Chipmunks

This unaccountably popular holiday ditty was originally performed in 1958 by a pre-teen rodent boy band who were being exploited by a wily producer. Can you say animal abuse? But sell records – and “h-u-u-u-la  h-o-o-o-ps” – it surely did. A pop-punk update, featured on the recent Chipmunks animated movie, is even more annoying than the original, if possible.

6. Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley

The cheery holiday message of this song: forget about all that spirit of giving stuff and appreciating the company of friends and family. Instead, wallow in self-pity and mope about the girl who ran out on you. I can’t imagine why she’d want to leave such a bundle of joy.

7. A Spaceman Came Travelling – Chris de Burgh

This Nativity song for the New Age crowd re-imagines the angel Gabriel as a wise alien from another world who appears to Mary and her saintly tot on an interstellar mission of peace. In de Burgh’s version, which he supposedly penned after reading Erich Von Daniken’s UFO- religion staple Chariots of the Gods?, the star of Bethlehem is actually the alien’s ship hovering above the manger.  ‘Nuff said. De Burgh would go on to achieve 1980’s junior prom immortality with his top 40 Billboard hit Lady in Red.

8. Any and all recordings where dogs/cats meow/bark along to “Jingle Bells

This abomination needs to end, once and for all. If Congress is forced to amend the Bill of Rights to allow an exception to free speech protections, so be it.  Until that glorious day, please: I am begging you. Stop sampling dogs and cats and inserting their pitched yowls into Christmas songs.  You may think it is “cute.” You may even think it is “clever”. You are unequivocally wrong.

9. Santa, Baby – Eartha Kitt

As much fun as it is to watch Ms. Kitt growl these lyrics, let’s all remember that she is purring about Santa.  This nauseatingly graphic come-on to everyone’s favorite fat jolly old elf is possibly the creepiest, most lecherous popular Christmas song ever, reinforced by the original Catwoman’s coy vocals. Let’s just hope the narrator never got her claws into dear Santa – where is Mrs. Claus anyway? – and that she got some help for her sex addiction.

10. Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas) – John Denver

The late, great John Denver must have been (Rocky Mountain) high when he dropped this miserable honky-tonk track lamenting alcoholic dysfunction at the holidays. Of course, the golden-voiced Denver couldn’t have sounded melancholic if he tried, so the whole affair ends up a queasy mismatch between his sunny, swelling vocals and the unimaginably dark material. Nonetheless, the song inspired even more spirit-crushing covers by the likes of Alan Jackson and the Decemberists.

12.3.2011 – Martian Probe: Failed Alien Bio-Weapon? (for TruTV.com Conspiratorium)

Martian Probe: Failed Alien Bio-Weapon?

Benjamin J Spencer
By Benjamin J Spencer
December 3, 2011 12:23PM

ProbeEarth has plenty of reasons to worry when the failed Russian probe Phobos-Grunt eventually hurtles, flaming, out of orbit and crashes onto our planet. On Friday, the European Space Agency gave up trying to contact the craft, and even Russia appears ready to abandon hope a month after they mysteriously lost contact with it.

Not to worry, you might say. After all, didn’t German and U.S. satellites hurtle out of orbit much the same way earlier this year? That turned out fine. After which I would reply: you poor, deluded fool.

Phobos-Grunt, which could crash land as soon as January, is far deadlier than any hunk-of-junk satellite. First, it is loaded with tons of highly combustible rocket fuel intended to propel the craft on a course to the tiny, mysterious Martian moon Phobos (which, incidentally, may not be a moon at all, but a hollow satellite built by the Martians to house the remains of their dying civilization – or even a ship).

Compounding the insanity, a California lab decided to infest the probe with live microbes before sending it on its way to Mars, to the unease of scientists everywhere (the microbial morons also apparently forgot that deadly microbes become even deadlier in space.)  The only explanation for this move: it was a naïve college experiment to test the plot believability of Grade Z 1980s zombie movies.

Now to the real question: Was the probe even designed for space travel? Or was it intentionally prepared by Russia and China to become a giant flaming biological weapon and wreak havoc among Western governments? Or even worse: wage interplanetary biological war against Martians? (A dedicated YouTube researcher has laid out just such a chilling case.)

Ah, an alien nemesis. We knew it couldn’t have been just a coincidence that so many Mars probe missions have been mysteriously cursed.

But wait, there’s more. Now the Russians themselves have suggested that HAARP – the remote and high-tech Alaskan U.S. radar site that America claims is innocently studying the ionosphere – disrupted their communications to the probe, causing the failure. The HAARP project, well-known to the Conspiratorium, has been blamed for deliberately unleashing deadly storms and earthquakes. Could it be a giant weather weapon that took down little Phobos-Grunt?

So much intrigue surrounding one dead probe circling the Earth. No wonder that in Greek and Russian, Phobos-Grunt means, literally “fear soil.”
Photo by MKonair.