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As I'm sitting in my blanket cocoon near the tiny heater in my apartment, I hear a distant ringing sound coming from my laptop. A little peeved for having to move after just getting cozy, I inchworm my way up to my computer only to be met by the mysterious voice once again.
"You'll be getting a letter from Japan presently."
"That seems a little odd, but OK."
Just as quickly as he appeared he was gone, and before I could even begin to ponder what he meant by what he said I nearly shoot out of my cocoon like a rocket at the sound of a booming THUD against the window right above me. After quickly recouping my composure, I open up the window to the freezing world outside to discover a curious little pigeon.
"What on Earth are you doing crashing into my window like a wing-nut, you stupid bird?"
Upon closer inspection it's apparent that this is no ordinary pigeon, but a carrier pigeon, and in its little holder is a letter. I open the letter to be greeted with the following:
i hope charlie made it to you alright, he can be a bit clumsy at times. i've been informed by a rather mysterious person that you'll be conducting an interview with me. send charlie back to me when you've thought up something to ask!
Relieved at the chance to conduct this interview from the sanctity of my apartment, I set out to begin the interview with Glen.
We'll begin this interview with the basic who are you, where are you from, and what do you do in the real world and on Smogon?
I roll up the paper and put it into the pigeon's holder.
"OK, you can go back to Glen's place in Japan now, I suppose."
The pigeon just kinda gives me a weird look and takes off. One can only hope that it makes it back.
A couple weeks go by with no news from Charlie the carrier pigeon. Just as I'm about to try and get a hold of Glen in some other manner, I'm greeted by a familiar THUD against my window. This time there seems to be an awful lot of rustling and noise-making come from Charlie. I open my window and am greeted with quite a sight. All that's visible of Charlie are his beak and feet; the rest of the poor bird is wrapped in parchment.
"No wonder it took you so long to get back."
I unroll the paper from Charlie and give him some food. I then begin to read Glen's response to my question.
i'm glen (though that isn't my real name) and i'm from ottawa, canada. eight months ago i moved to tokyo to pursue a career in fashion which has, with a bit of effort and a lot of luck, worked out quite nicely for me. i do a lot of different kinds of work, everything from fashion journalism to modeling to personal shopping/wardrobe consultation, but i'm mostly focused on styling.
on smogon i don't really do anything. i've '''''moderated''''' the social forum(s) for about five years now, which is a bit strange to think about. mine has always been a very laissez-faire attitude when it comes to how said forum(s) should be handled, generally eschewing infractions and deletions for 'positive reinforcement' and making passionate posts about things that matter to me in the hopes that others will follow suit. chaos gave me mods when i was a wee smogon aspirant, and i guess nobody has bothered to question his decision over the years (which surprises me, since i don't think i've ingratiated myself with much or any of the present senior staff).
as for actually playing pokemon, i was pretty good at adv back when it was a thing. i never really got into dpp, and i had a brief stint with bw2 before tiring of it quickly (though i still read the OU forum almost daily, so i'm as up to date on the competitive scene as one can be without actually playing the game).
I let Charlie stay for a while before sending him off again with my next question for Glen. As he leaves I see what seems to be a look of reluctance and subdued terror in his eyes as he takes off again for Japan, though I brush it off as me just seeing things.
So what's it like living in Japan/Tokyo? Is it as crazy as Western culture conceptualizes it to be?
Charlie returns with a resounding THUD in a fortnight, covered once again in parchment.
tokyo is as ridiculous as everyone assumes it to be, but not exactly for the same reasons. first off, i'm fairly certain that japan is the only country in the world where it is illegal to have a silent shutter on your camera, due to the up-skirt shots on crowded subways that were wracking the nation. speaking of subways, if you commit suicide by laying on the tracks over here, the rail company fines your family. the deterrent seems to work, since the rail company that charges the least has the most deaths per year.
manga is probably as popular as most of smogon imagines (though less in recent years; i was here for a couple months back in 2008, and i saw probably twice as many train commuters reading manga on the train as i do currently, and i assume that the ubiquity of smartphones is responsible), but otaku-dom is ostracized to a much greater degree here than it is in the west. this is japan in a nutshell: i had no internet for a week or so and had to do some emailing for my jobs the coming week, so i went to an internet cafe near my house. at this particular cafe, which is open 24 hours, you can pay 1200 yen (about 14 dollars) for an 8 hour 'stay', where you're given your own cubicle with a recliner and a computer. you also get unlimited free non-alcoholic drinks, as well as access to a shower (but towels cost extra, that's how they get you). needless to say, people frequently use these as ersatz hotels.
After reading Glen's reply I notice that on the back of the letter is a drawing. Apparently, it's an artist's rendition of Glen.
The next few exchanges go off without a hitch, though Charlie seems to become ever more... buff... when he returns each time. Or I'm just seeing things, I don't know.
How did you get into the fashion industry to begin with? Was it something you've always wanted to do? And how did it bring you to Japan?
i worked for american apparel back in ottawa, and had always planned to come to japan for a year on working holiday visa, so i got the contact information of some of the company's higher ups in tokyo (who happened to be friends of friends) and organized a store transfer, which was surprisingly easy. the PR manager over here was pretty besotted with me and took me to a bunch of fashion parties (surprisingly, AA is not only extremely popular here amongst the masses but it's also looked at as quite chic), eventually introducing me to this stylist friend of his from new york city. this guy basically took me under his wing, introduced me to some more people, and got me an incipient career going. basically i owe everything to being completely and total gaybait. i had never expected this 'talent' of mine to pay off, but it looks like it did.
My eyebrows raise at the term gaybait...
Tokyo does indeed sound crazy! Also your career in fashion really seems to be looking up.
Now onto the Smogon side of things~
What brought you to Smogon in the first place, and what made you stay?
in 2005, at the tender age of fifteen, i discovered the joys of competitive pokemon. along with that came the 'joys' of gamefaqs. only a couple months later i met noobster and loki, and they introduced me to the wonderful world of smogon. i believe i registered an account under the name trun3wbster, or something equally embarrassing. fifteen was a dark age for me. it was just a whole mess of hormones and bad ideas, really. on a related note, my gamefaqs name then, created years prior, was glen_the_frog. i'm pretty thankful to my prepubescent self for misspelling the iconic chrono trigger character's name, though, since glen is much more aesthetically pleasing in a visual sense than glenn is. i highly doubt i would have been anywhere near as esteemed in this community had i been known as glenn.
but anyway, i forget if i got bored of pokemon briefly and took a hiatus or if i just desired some manner of nexus between my gamefaqs and smogon personae, but in january of 2006 i created the account 'glen'. yes, i am an alt. around that time i became obsessed with firebot, which at that point was nothing but in-jokes between admins and mods. whether it was reading rap battles between chaos and steelicks, or trying to figure out if ls was trolling (hint: he never wasn't), i was positively enamoured. there were all these inside jokes that i wasn't a part of, but i still found them endlessly hilarious. my only other forum experience had been gamefaqs, and i think the contrast between the two is what really hooked me. while gamefaqs was completely bereft of any kind of administration presence (save for deletion messages), the smogon administration not only posted frequently but were entertaining to boot. and they were fantastic pokemon players!
shortly afterwards i got started with irc and quickly found myself among friends. i remember grinning from ear to ear when, shortly after getting involved in the chat, multiple people tried to guess whose alt i was, because i was 'too funny to be a random'. my interest in irc waned eventually, and i think i stopped using it with any kind of consistency back in 2008. sometimes i kind of regret not chatting more, especially with 'new smogon' since i reckon i'd get along with everyone pretty well. maybe one day i'll jump in!
i'm kind of rambling here, but i'll attempt to expand upon why i stayed. a big reason is the community, protean as it may be, but an equally big reason is that i absolutely love pokemon, and i really have no idea why. i played through platinum to get to the battle factory (which i spent endles hours on), and didn't even bother playing any of the fifth gen games. competitively speaking, i don't think i've even spent 30 hours total playing online pokemon in the past six years. i doubt i'll even touch gen 6 (unless they bring back the battle factory), but for some reason i'm really excited about it, especially its competitive ramifications, since i really do enjoy reading the OU forum. but yeah, something about the franchise just fills me with happiness, and i don't see that changing any time soon.
What is your overall opinion about the social forum "a forum"? I personally feel that the atmosphere is better than when we were split between Cong and Firebot just over two years ago (o god two years ago wtf). Is there anything you miss from the two predecessors?
wow, has it really been two years?
i think it's a lot better. cong was a disaster; any threads that had more than a few posts were just deck knight vs the world. firebot was enjoyable to an extent but its extremely insular sense of humour just didn't make sense in the context of modern smogon. as much as i enjoyed firebot in 2006, i recognize that a lot of people really didn't, and as smogon's user base grew exponentially, the idea of our only relaxed off-topic board being nothing but inside jokes that maybe a dozen users were in on became increasingly selfish.
i've always wanted smogon to be accessible to as many people as possible, and my laxness with the social forums is indicative of that. years ago i even suggested opening firebot up to allow non-competitive pokemon discussion, which nobody was really into back then. now the social forum has a good amount of traffic and a lot of variation in content. most importantly, though, the users seem to be enjoying themselves, and that makes me happy.
Is there a story behind your choice in avatars? I've always found them to be pretty unique.
As Charlie returns this latest time, there's no mistaking how much more physically fit the pigeon is. As he crashes into my window, the whole house reverberates from the THUD, basically knocking me out of bed. Charlie puffs out his chest rather menacingly as I receive the latest letter from Glen.
my avatars are usually just pictures i find engaging or beautiful in some way. this one is by an artist named brion nuda rosch. ken kagami, linus lohoff, and david shrigley are a few others i've used off the top of my head. if you're ever curious about my avatar, shoot me a message!
And as we wrap up every interview, what is your favorite Pokemon?
In about a single day Charlie returns, only this time actually crashing straight through my window and essentially tackling me to the ground.
my favourite mon is zapdos. i don't know exactly what it is, he's just really cool. it's probably the cry. i'm not proud of this, but sometimes, in my darker moments, i will listen to his cry on youtube. it's that great a cry.
As I send Charlie off back to Japan for the final time, he takes off at an astounding speed and straight into a thunderstorm. I watch him disappear into the distance and see, however odd as it may sound, what seems to be lightning erupting from Charlie's wings.
"God, Japan really is weird."
I board up my window and return to browsing the Internet after a job well done.
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