The Ice Cream Chronicles Vol.13 No.13

This is a Guest Post by the one and only Gordo

The Ice Cream Chronicles

Vol. 13                                          No.13

Bringing You The Finest Bullshit From All Over The World

Akin to that herbal stuff…Best served in the shade and shared.

The Ice Cream Chronicles



Greetings from northern Japan friends. I’m currently a few kilometers north of the city named Sendai and having a well deserved break from getting video footage of all the damage and the distraught people and all the other stuff you folks will see on TV as the days pass by. I arrived on Saturday after a flight to Kobe (way down south) which was the only way I was gonna get into Japan and then a hell of a long self drive car trip which just got worse the closer me & my sound recordist
got to the quake region.

What’s it like up here? Quite cold and a fuckin nasty mess that’s what it’s like up here. At least we’re a fair ways from the nuclear plant (#2) that just blew up again and has caused all kinds of paranoia amongst the Nippers.  The winds were in our favour when the day began but now they’re apparently blowing into the northeast however there aren’t any Japanese radiological emergency fellers running around in white outfits telling all of us we must vacate the area. Personally I don’t wanna start glowing in the dark & scare the bejeezerz outta already scared shitless people. At least the cold keeps the smell of decay below knee level…kinda…sorta.

I feel really sorry for the Japanese. They always take it in the ass when it comes to large natural disasters and Godzilla & his cronies wreaking havoc on major metropolitan cities such as Tokyo, Yokohama, Kobe (where Godzilla was born) and well….everywhere else it seems. And getting nuked…let’s not forget that.

Then again…even in the face of adversity which would test any potential John Wayne’s out there capabilities, the Japanese are relatively calm and very orderly. Relatively calm on the outside that is but very orderly is such an extroverted phrase/mannerism I hope I used it correctly. Yesterday we saw a bunch of folks receiving potable (drinkable) water from a truck….They all lined up at each tap and calmly filled their containers with their allotment of water. Then before they went about their business they thanked the guys who brought the truck. Hell…hardly a drop of water was spilled on the ground and the truck and its plethora of water taps coming outta some hastily attached PVC pipe were spotlessly clean.

There are many places in the world where this scene would have required a military presence just to keep the people in order and precious water would have been spilled all over the place and the taps would be continuously leaking etc…etc…etc…. And I’m not referring to just Third World Nations either here folks…this kinda agro happened in Florida after a large hurricane flattened a few boroughs. It happened in New Orleans after Katrina and it happened in Phuket after our Boxing Day Waves, 26 December, 2004.

But that kind of behavior doesn’t happen in Japan. Shit…a 500 foot wave could be moving down Tokyo’s Ginza Street and the Japanese would still stop at each intersections red light and the pedestrians would still stop at each corner waiting for the Red Man to turn into Green Man so’s they can cross the street. If it was New York City or LA or ???…Hong Kong perhaps…Hah!…lights be damned!…But not in Japan.

I lived in Japan twice in my life…once when I was a little kid & my dad was in the Navy; he didn’t care about or for the Japanese one damn iota & I can understand why…WWII and all that. My mom thought it was “nice” and to me…it was really neat. Then again to any kid 9 years old something different than the bog standard comforts of home in the USA was really neat. The second time I lived in Japan was after my participation in the Great Southeast Asian War Games. It was late May 1975 when I arrived and I still found Japan just as “really neat” as I did when I was 9 years old. Shit…everything in Japan “works”…I mean everything. Banks are swift without long queues, traffic moves along efficiently, every damned vending machine works, people are excruciatingly polite…even the copper who made me cross the big intersection in Tokyo’s Ginza 12 times because I crossed when the Red Man said I had to wait…there were no cars coming….but wait I shouldda done. Crossing the road 12 times meant crossing this wide road to the other side, waiting until the Green Man gave me the OK and crossing back to where I started. This counted for one “crossing”. In other words I had to cross that same damn road 24 times…I never jaywalked in Japan again. That copper was so polite in ordering me around…

I must admit…it sure beat a trip to the police station and a hefty fine though.

One strange thing about this whole trip is that Rin & I were watching the original Poseidon Adventure movie on Thursday night…the night before the quake struck. In the movie there’s an earthquake happening somewhere off Crete in the Mediterranean Sea and it generates a tsunami. As the passengers party New Years Eve away the tsunami bears down on the ship and the inevitable happens. In the end Ernest Borgnine gets a door opened and 6 people outta all the passengers get rescued after some Greek Navy fellers cut a hole in the Poseidon’s underside which is now the ships top side.

That was a great movie in its day folks…no doubt about it. Hollywood learned that there’s money to be made, lot’s of it, from making “disaster movies” and soon to follow was Towering Inferno and Earthquake and Airport and all the rest right up to today’s disaster movies.

However…from the early days of movie making to today, film makers always portray a tsunami completely wrong. In the Poseidon Adventure Leslie Neilson, the Poseidon’s Captain, looks out the windows on the bridge and see’s this gigantic breaking wave and the Poseidon gets slammed by a mountain of whitewater and the huge wave the whitewater belongs to….they were well out to sea when all this happened. Again, in the movie 2012 and in just about every disaster movie having a ship at sea…in 2012 there was a passenger ship out at sea and it gets slammed, rolls over and sinks by a gigantic breaking wave. In this same movie an aircraft carrier (biggest ships on the oceans) gets slammed by another gigantic breaking wave and gets carried inshore only to obliterate the White House and most of Washington DC. The carrier was the USS John F. Kennedy…Revenge perhaps???

This all makes for excellent SFX friends but it ain’t what actually happens out at sea when a ship meets a tsunami. There’s no gigantic breaking wave. There’s no whitewater. There’s nada. OK perhaps there’s a slight rise in the motion of the ship at sea…perhaps even imperceptible to ships skipper & crew. And that’s about it.

How do I know this? I once was studying oceanography at UCSB (Univ. Calif. Santa Barbara) because I wanted to get a degree in oceanography however I didn’t know at the time what “branch” of oceanography I was most interested in because it was all interesting. Then on a Spring break me and my best friend went hitchhiking around the coasts of the USA, stayed away from “school” too long and got draft notices but that’s another story. He joined the Army, I joined the Navy and that’s all you need to know. I eventually got my degree. Not in oceanography or any related field but in electrical engineering and particle physics thanks to the Navy paying for my Masters Degree. And I work in TV…hah!

I have also been surfing since I was 10 and nowadays at 60 I still surf….so I do know something about waves…acoustic, aquatic or electrical…it donna matter…they all be waves. Except for photons which have particle-wave duality…now that’s interesting eh!! It really is but not in this issue folks.

But first, before I get into the simplistic guide to waves, I must tell you that I haven’t slept much since last Thursday night due to work and also earlier this morning my sound recordist located two beer vending machines and a whiskey vending machine in a heap of rubble and we managed to get the machines opened with the help of some scrap steel we found and since there were no Japanese coppers around to politely  arrest us for stealing beers & whiskey outta somehow still closed up and battered vending machines…we liberated the contents of said machines and stuffed our pockets & rucksacks with cans & bottles of the aforementioned bevies. A can of cold Sapporo beer popped open at the scene made the difference between doldrums & devastation to a somewhat common resemblance of normalcy in a horrible disaster area. Off we trodded with pockets and rucks stuffed with Suntory whiskey and Sapporo beer. Which is why I have the inspiration to hack this babble from Japan in the first place…not the trodding off  bit you fools…the drinking bit afterwards….

We don’t have a hotel in case you’re wondering. There aren’t any lodging facilities available anywhere save for those for the survivors. Mind you we have been invited into these places but since we’re fit and fine….we’re roughing it in our rented in Kobe Toyota Land Cruiser.

Lets now do some waves ok. I could dwell on more stuff about this job in Japan but I just don’t feel like it now and perhaps I never will. If you need a dose of atrocity just watch your favourite news programme.

Waves are waves…simple as that. The only discerning differences are the mediums which they travel through. Acoustic waves mainly travel through air. Aquatic waves travel through liquids. Electrical waves travel through wires and also air. In the air they’re known as radio frequency waves but they’re still electrical in nature.

Waves have frequencies of different quantities or values and are measured in cycles per second or cycles per minute. What is actually measured is the waves wavelength…or the time it takes for a wave to start from point zero to travel to its maximum amplitude in a positive direction then return to zero before traveling to maximum negative and then back to point zero. This is one cycle. Now the electricity which powers your TV does this (depending on how good your electric company is) either 50 or 60 times per second…hence 50Hz or 60Hz at whatever voltage your country operates its domestic electricity supply on which in mainly 115V 60 Hz in the USA & Canada and a few other places and 240V 50 Hz for everyplace else. You must remember that voltage is just a level…kinda like the level of a bevvie in a glass.

A radio wave is just an electrical wave that does one complete cycle very fast…so if your favourite FM station is at 100MHz on your FM radio’s dial the electrons are doing the from zero to max positive back through zero to max negative and back to zero bit 100 million times a second.

Acoustic waves are just like electrical waves…they just “operate” at different cycles per second/minute.

Aquatic waves are the same too and the only real difference is their frequency. Some can be quite “short” like in a tenth cycle per second or even slower and others are quite long and can be measured in cycles per hour. A tsunami is just an aquatic wave of very long duration (that zero to max positive back through zero to max negative up to zero bit)…and can be measured quite often in minutes or hours. Tsunamis are only generated by earthquakes or massive undersea landslides which displace enormous amounts of undersea rock (strata). Not all earthquakes (under sea ones included) generate tsunamis and thank the Gods for that or we’d all be fucked for sure.

For an earthquake to generate a tsunami a massive amount of seabed has to be displaced in either a positive or negative direction or both at once. Before this displacement happens the water is happily laying about and being “home” to many sea creatures and some humans and gently moving with the Earth’s rotation and coaxing from the wind and generally not much more than that. Then suddenly the bottom of the seabed gives way and either thrusts upward all at once or downwards all at once or in both directions all at once and the oceans generally peaceful nature is thrown into chaos. Something’s gotta give and since the Earth just gave way the water being a more flexible medium than the Earth’s crust follows suit and all this once calm water goes on a rampage. If the seabed (Earth) thrusts upwards more than downwards a rather large wave can be created if the thrusting is done close to the shore and in shallow enough water and if the overall depth of the quake isn’t that deep. If more thrusting is downwards the same thing applies too.

The Boxing Day Waves of 26 December 2004 were generated by a massive undersea displacement of two of the Earths tectonic plates over a distance of around 1,200 kilometers. The displacement along this 1,200 kilometers was measured at roughly 100 meters in the vertical (both + & -) which translates roughly into about 700 feet of rock all along 1,200 kilometers went up and down and then settled into what looks like a 100 meter high undersea cliff. That’s a godawful amount of once happy lazy water getting suddenly pissed off and going on a rampage….

And although still not accurately measured off the northeast coast of Japan yet….the same damn thing happened here on Friday. The quake was long in duration…some folks we’ve interviewed said it was about 3 minutes long, others said it just lasted a long time…and the people who study earthquakes say this kinda quake causes a lotta damage and if close enough and happens shallow enough to the national shoreline, the damage is always compounded by the resulting tsunami. The depth of this quake was about 24 kilometers…shallow by earthquake standards.

When one sees a steel hulled 80 foot Japanese off shore fishing boat 15 kilometers inland all smashed up one realizes just how powerful plain old water can be. Especially when it gets angry.

Have a look at the picture at the bottom of this post and it will help you to understand the difference between a tsunami and a normal “wave” of whatever type. The drawings are not anywhere to scale but they will hopefully give you a graphical representation of the slightly technical stuff I hacked out before. The top diagram represents a normal wave…acoustic, aquatic or electrical while the bottom diagram represents a tsunami.

A note here…many people relate a tsunami to a surge and in many ways I can’t blame them because the end effect is almost the same…a massive amount of water just keeps coming in from the sea. But a tsunami is still a wave nonetheless…a wave of very long wavelength…..

I wish I could give my usual happy “Cheers” at this point and sign off and go do other stuff however I just cannot be in a cheerful mood hacking this out in the back of a rented Toyota Land Cruiser in what was once, most probably, the very happy little seaside town of Shizukawa.

Bye for now,

Generic wave at the top diagram…Tsunami at the bottom….should be self explanatory.

normal wave and tsunami diagram


More Great Thailand Tales:

23 Responses to The Ice Cream Chronicles Vol.13 No.13
  1. ChuckWow
    March 25, 2011 | 3:49 pm

    “Greetings from northern Japan friends.” Sendai ?? Uh, yeah, like Maryland is the “northern” United States.

    You are almost in northern Honshu.

    I worked on Hokkaido for a few years – that is northern Japan.

    • ChuckWow
      March 25, 2011 | 4:16 pm

      BTW – During your discussion of waves, since you are in Japan, you should have mentioned that Japan uses 100 VAC at both 50Hz and 60Hz.

    • Talen
      March 25, 2011 | 4:19 pm

      Chuck, I’m from Maryland and that’s a tough call lol…we are the Mason Dixon line and half of Marylander’s believe they are in the north while the other half believes they are in the south. As for Japan I’ve only ever been to Narita so I am clueless.

  2. Mike
    March 25, 2011 | 9:56 pm

    “my sound recordist located two beer vending machines and a whiskey vending machine in a heap of rubble and we managed to get the machines opened with the help of some scrap steel we found and since there were no Japanese coppers around to politely arrest us for stealing beers & whiskey outta somehow still closed up and battered vending machines…we liberated the contents of said machines and stuffed our pockets & rucksacks with cans & bottles of the aforementioned bevies. A can of cold Sapporo beer popped open at the scene made the difference between doldrums & devastation…….”

    Talen I appreciate you didn’t write this post but I find it slightly insensitive given what has happened and is still unfolding.
    Mike recently posted..Thailand Tourist VisaMy Profile

  3. Lloyd
    March 26, 2011 | 1:10 am

    Can only agree with Mike, its pretty pathetic realy.

    You would seriously have to wonder about the character of someone willing to publish anything like this.

  4. Talen
    March 26, 2011 | 8:00 am

    I make no apologies for Gordo’s writings, he’s been a photo/video journalist for a very long time in some of the worlds roughest places documenting atrocities and human tragedy in the 20th and 21st centuries.

    Some may find what he’s written as insensitive but most of us will never find ourselves in the situations he is often in and none of us would cope with the situations in the same way.

    Personally I find it much more offensive that major news organizations have thought it more appropriate to publish video and photos of the dead and grieving under the guise of giving the story a human face when all they are really doing is selling the tragedy.

    At the very least Gordo has been honest in his writing.

    • Mike
      March 26, 2011 | 9:03 am

      Talen, I have no wish to be drawn into a long debate about the rights and wrongs of journalism.

      But just suppose this was written about New Orleans in the wake of the hurricane.

      Now I guess(since I am not a US citizen) that the piece I highlighted might be viewed somewhat dimly since in the US I believe you call it looting and offenders can be dealt with by lethal force.

      So yes for me it remains insensitive.
      Mike recently posted..Thailand Tourist VisaMy Profile

      • ChuckWow
        March 26, 2011 | 4:18 pm


        The thing I found offensive was the use of the term “Nippers”.

        Substitute “gg” for “pp”, put it into the New Orleans scenario and see how well that flies.

  5. Gordo
    March 27, 2011 | 8:30 am

    ChuckWow, Mike, Lloyd et al…

    Alaska is the “northern US, Maine is a close second and Maryland is close enough. Why should I mention 115VAC @ 50 & 60Hz…it’s not relevant to the story we were on battery power. I have been all over Japan & have lived there at one time in my life for quite a while….8+years. I speak the language and read katakana well.

    Insensitivity to the peoples plight not. It,s my job to let the world know how bad the situation is. As far as what you deem a racial slur…it’s high time you wake up to reality…Nipper is not derogatory farang….And as far as Katrina is concerned with your suggestions of substituting gg for pp there was never any intention, subdued or otherwise to be racial. A few friends of mine on Phuket are from New Orleans & Baton Rouge….you should meet them some day…especially Cajun Jack…I’m sure he’s love to set you straight on racial matters.
    Have a nice day ya’ll…

    • ChuckWow
      March 27, 2011 | 2:04 pm

      Thanks for setting me straight Gordo.

      How could I have ever doubted your motives with my limited experiences and understanding of the world.

      You truly are the most interesting man in the world !

      BTW – You shouldn’t limit yourself to the adopted foreign words with Katakana. Try learning Kanji and Hiragana so you can actually read a newspaper.

  6. Martyn
    March 27, 2011 | 1:15 pm

    Even in the most bizarre and unfortunate of situations if opportunity knocks and a free beer can be had then man has to milk the moment…providing no harm to anyone is done. If Gordo and co hadn’t ‘raped’ the drinks machine you can bet your bottom yen someone else would have done so.
    Martyn recently posted..Thailand’s Got Talent YouTube Sing-Sation – พรสวรรค์ บันดาลชีวิตMy Profile

  7. Gordo
    March 27, 2011 | 6:21 pm


    Onada doko deska?

    • ChuckWow
      March 28, 2011 | 8:31 pm

      Sorry, I don’t know where “Onada” is.

  8. Gordo
    April 3, 2011 | 7:07 pm


    Judging by this…”BTW – You shouldn’t limit yourself to the adopted foreign words with Katakana. Try learning Kanji and Hiragana so you can actually read a newspaper.”
    You appear to give the impression to others you may have spent some time in Japan. I find that very difficult to believe….especially if you don’t know what Onada means.
    Have a nice day…

    • ChuckWow
      April 4, 2011 | 1:50 pm

      Believe what you want as I, judging by your attempt at Romaji, seriously doubt you have spent any time in Japan as well.

      Your question suggests that “Onada” is a where not a what.

  9. Gordo
    April 5, 2011 | 2:25 pm


    I’m not gonna get in a pissing contest with you about times I have spent in Japan or for that matter any other place on this planet. I have 6 expired passports that read better than any novel ever written and I have the pix & old 16mm film to back up the chops. If you’re such an expert on Japan I suggest you live there and leave us old farts to do whatever we’re content to do here in the Land Of Smiles.
    You have a nice day…

    • ChuckWow
      April 6, 2011 | 10:51 am

      I don’t think of myself as an expert in Japan. I just think your writing style leaves a lot to be desired. (Incomplete or inaccurate references and whole passages that you yourself admit meant nothing.) You have also shown yourself to be the typical ugly Gaijin by looting after a major catastrophe.

      I recently watched a documentary on the tragedy in Japan and I think you could learn a lot from a journalist and filmmaker named Callum Macrae. His writing style is very concise and poignant – something you could only hope to be.

      I enjoyed living in Japan but I moved on and am now very happy with my Thai wife.

      I will be content to spend my time in Pattaya and Nakhon Sawan and you spend your time where ever it is you call home.

  10. Gordo
    April 7, 2011 | 7:44 pm


    Well….what can I say other than I have been making doco’s and shooting TV news for 30 years now. Clients include CBS 60 Minutes, BBC, ITV, DWTV, NBC, ABC (US), Ten Network (Aussie) CH 9 (Aussie), TVNZ, Antenna 2 (France), France 24, Nat Geo & The Discovery Network just to name a few. If you don’t like my writing don’t read it-simple eh. I don’t care for your writing either so there. Onada means “Fart” FYI, And furthermore I live on Phuket & can remember when Pattaya was just a swamp with some shacks on one end that a lotta GI’s hung out at…I was one of em. You have a nice day now…

    • ChuckWow
      April 8, 2011 | 6:23 pm

      No wonder I didn’t know what you meant.

      I could not find “Onada” in any of my Japanese dictionaries.

      Onara is the word you are looking for.

  11. Gordo
    April 9, 2011 | 10:21 pm

    Greetings from Bali.
    That’s what happens when one doesn’t use a language very often for a very long time. Just a small typo however sometimes when I lived in Japan onara sure did sound like onada…the accent on the “r” made it sound like a “d” come to think about it. Then again….

    • ChuckWow
      April 12, 2011 | 6:16 am

      This is a prime example of why I have formed a low opinion of you.

      You call me a liar because I didn’t know what the fictional word “Onada” meant.

      When we discover you to be the source of confusion there is not an ounce of regret expressed.

      “You have a nice day now…”

  12. Gordo
    April 14, 2011 | 11:32 am

    ChuckWow….I am having a nice day…always have em…not even shitheads like you get me down.

    • ChuckWow
      April 14, 2011 | 3:36 pm

      OK, cunt, enjoy yourself. Don’t get too wet.