Tuesday, November 30, 2004



The North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il has a passion for cinema. But he could never find a director to realise his vision. So he kidnapped one from the South, jailed him and fed him grass, then forced him to shoot a socialist Godzilla.
The Producer From Hell The Guardian, April 4, 2003

...and let me tell you, if some sucker-punching Communist dictator ever tried to pull that crap on me, I'd set fire to his head and tell the bodyguards that his Grecian 2000 had overheated.

So, it appears from the various articles I've read on the matter that, in 1978, the North Koreans abducted one Shin San-Ok, a respected South Korean film director, and his actress wife, Choi Eun-hee.

The reason? To make films, of course. Duh!

After a few difficulties settling in (Shin spent four years in an all-male prison camp after an attempt to escape), the couple were given privileged status and, before slipping their "minders" during a trip to Vienna in 1986 and bolting for the American embassy, they made, amongst other things, Pulgasari: a social parable based on the Godzilla series.

And this is Pulgasari.

Being a huge fan of the ideologically skewed Communist ripoff of Godzilla made under duress by an abductee film genre, I've wanted to see this ever since I read the Guardian article many moons ago. Happily, if there's one place on Earth where you're guaranteed to be able to lay hands on a copy (other than the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, of course), that place is Japan.

Yes, viewers- I tracked down Pulgasari in my local video store today and, when Mike gets back from work, I'm going to watch it.

And then I'll let you know what I think.

Wow, that was everything I expected and less besides. Another of my life goals achieved. Goodnight.


O kaeri

I've had the run of the apartment recently; my flatmates, both being American, went home for Thanksgiving, which apparently has something to do with turkeys and pilgrims, or whatever.

Anyway, Mike got back yesterday. I must therefore resume the following daily routines which I had allowed to lapse during my period of solitude:

  1. washing the dishes

  2. flushing the toilet

  3. wearing clothes

Monday, November 29, 2004


Well, duh

Maybe I think too much.

Today, I caught myself thinking how much better the world would be if the subway ticket gates flashed up the message: "PASS FRIEND" when you inserted your ticket, instead of this "THANK YOU" chod.

I was, of course, in a subway station at the time.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004


A chance gone begging

Last night, I devoted a couple of hours of my life to watching Village of the damned. Not the 1960s original, but the 1995 John Carpenter remake.

To summarise the story (based on The Midwich cuckoos by John Wyndham), there is a mysterious blackout in a small village, everyone collapses, and when they wake up all the women are pregnant. 9 months later, all the women have scarily aryan-looking identikit babies who have strange and sinister powers, and a lot of the local people start meeting with nasty accidents.

My favourite part of the movie is when one woman's baby scalds itself on the hot soup that she gives it, so the baby uses its telepathic powers to make her put her arm in a pot of boiling water as payback for putting good food in front of it, the pint-sized ingrate.

Let me tell you: if some Nazi-looking telepathic baby ever tried to pull that crap on me, I'd smash its head in with a golf club and tell social services that it fell down the stairs.

Anyway, after this, the children dominate the villagers with their terrifying abilities and live together in the barn on the hill, where they read encyclopedias and indulge in similar Communism. Fortunately, the evil children's Achilles heel turns out to be their vulnerability to a suitcase full of dynamite.

This film was mediocre, but it could have been awesome, for two reasons: Luke Skywalker and Superman.


Mark Hamill and the late Christopher Reeve were cast in this film. HOWEVER, instead of being Skywalker and Superman, repectively, which would have been ace, they were a village minister and a doctor, in which capacity they sucked.

Noooo! John Carpenter, what the hell were you thinking?

A pitiful waste, but no matter: I hereby announce my intention to cast aside all of my other half-assed projects and get started on a remake of the remake of Village of the damned, in which aliens knock out and inseminate the villagers of Smallville, while Luke Skywalker's X-wing fighter crash-lands in a nearby field, leaving him stranded on Earth.

I'd like to see the little so-and-sos trying out their alien mind control on a Jedi Master. Let's reprise that earlier scene with Skywalker instead of the baby's mother...

The baby's eyes start glowing as it wills Skywalker to put his head in the oven and turn on the gas. Not only does Skywalker block the psychic attack, but in retaliation he makes the baby soil its nappy and ignores its crying for the next 45 minutes while he does some cleaning up around the kitchen.

Excellent. Now all I need is a plot twist that will get the Transformers and the X-men involved as well.

Saturday, November 20, 2004


Legends of the 4th floor

On Wednesday, I had the onerous task of sorting out a plane fare to Vancouver for the New Year's break, to be reunited- albeit briefly- with my long-lost girlfriend, Heather.

Buying an air ticket at this time of year in Japan is a big pain in the neck. I trecked around several travel agents, the majority of whom dangled tempting carrots in front of my nose, in the shape of cut-price Thai airlines, etc, only to whisk them away with an apologetic announcement that said tempting carrots had already been sold to more organised donkeys than myself and would I be interested in buying an expensive turnip instead?

No, I said, I wouldn't. Nice try, though.

So, in my copy of Kansai Scene (or similar) I found an ad for Legend Travel, a company so low-budget that they hadn't even sorted out the customary half-page advert with a map of how to track down their poxy HQ. This is pretty much standard in Japan: all flyers, adverts and whatnot show maps of the place being promoted.


Because Japanese addresses are crap, that's why.

If you're mooching around the streets of Japan and you want to get directions to somewhere, mentioning the address is an exercise in futility. Most Japanese people simply use local landmarks as navigation points to find where they want to go. It's just easier.

Anyway, all the Legend travel ad said was: 4F Nikko Building, 3-2-11 Minami Hommachi, Chuo Ku, Osaka. Despite the fact that I had never been able to find something by its address alone before, I decided to give it a shot.

My first stop was Hommachi station, then to the station exit guide and look for "Minami Hommachi 3-chome" (a chome, pronounced choh-may, is a group of blocks, or something.) Following that, I had to find the 11th building on the second block of chome number 3.

A birds-eye view of my progress would not show a linear path to Minami Hommachi 3-2-11. I think my voyage would look like a series of concentric circles, punctuated by the occasional spike as I took a tomfoolerous wrong turn. Eventually though, undeterred by the caprices of Japanese civic planning and the vile weather, I rocked up outside a building which looked like it might be the right one, judging by my limited ability to read Japanese. Yes! I thought, I've successfully deciphered the address, Lord be praised. When I got to the 4th floor however, all I found was a katakana sign, saying "Project planning."

Slightly disheartened, I headed back down to the ground floor, where I found a sign proclaiming the presence of Legend Travel on the 5th floor, as clearly NOT stated in their advert. Dullards.

As might be expected from such a cowboy outfit, they weren't as expensive as their competitors. They still weren't exactly what I'd call cheap, though.

I bought the ticket anyway.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


You probably had to be there

WARNING: the following sequence is replete with malapropisms, stupidity and inarticulacy. It was quite early in the morning, at least on my body clock.
(The bedroom of Michael Goetz. Mike is fast asleep on his futon. A doorbell rings in the background, followed by a loud voice in Japanese. Someone answers the door. A few seconds later, there is an enthusiastic knocking on Mike's bedroom door.)

MIKE: Mwuh?

(enter Dan with a heavily taped-up box with a picture of a juicer on the side)

DAN: Wake up! Someone sent you a juicer!

MIKE: What? (takes the package) This is interesting...

DAN: That's so cool!

MIKE: No, wait... no, I don't think this is a juicer, dude.


(Mike opens the box to reveal a variety of Japonica, such as green tea, medicine, etc. Reads the label on the box.)

MIKE: "Rie Aoki..." It's a care package.

(Mike's girlfriend, Rie, is in Canada. She sends him care packages, but usually North American stuff, not crappy green tea which we can buy anywhere.)

DAN: So, what's the crack?

MIKE: This is stuff for Rie. Her mother sent this...

DAN: Well, if it's meant to be in Canada, what the hell's it doing here?

(Mike gives pitying look)

DAN: Hang on- I'll try to make that a little more...

MIKE: Cryptic?

DAN: No, wait... a little less insane. Why did she send the package here and not to Canada?

MIKE: It seems I have become the courier.

(Mike is meeting up with Rie this weekend as part of his Thanksgiving trip)

DAN: Well, evidently I'm not going to get any juice here, so I guess I'll go back to bed. Shame, I quite fancied some juice.


Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Safety country

From the Yomiuri Shinbun:

Following the wishes of his father, a 28-year old former company worker has taken over the operation of the only restaurant located on top of Mt. Rokko in Kobe.

Koji Iba became the seventh proprietor of Ikken Jaya on the 931-meter-high mountain.

His father, Yuji, ran the restaurant for 30 years until he was stung to death by wasps in his garden next to the restaurant in early September. He was 57.

What kind of third world country is this? A man runs a restaurant for 30 years, in apparent harmony with the surrounding environment, then he lets his guard down for ONE SECOND and is immediately stung to death by giant angry wasps. He was probably hiding up the mountain because of a morbid fear of tidal waves, too.

That's the sort of thing that keeps you on your toes.

Wild bear raids chicken coop


Friday, November 12, 2004


Holy Moses

Check this out!

The above link is to a site that lists projects at the Toho film studio which never made it past the ideas stage. As these guys were responsible for Godzilla, Mothra et al, you'd probably imagine that any movie concept that was considered, even by these guys, to be too whack to be released, must therefore be UBER-WHACK.

You'd be right.

Godzilla: pretty whack.

Amongst the oddities detailed on this site are Godzilla vs Frankenstein (a giant hibakusha Frankenstein's monster, mutated by a-bomb radiation; this despite not having any living tissue to mutate,) Godzilla vs Ghost Godzilla, Godzilla vs Gigamoth and, my personal favourite and a movie that cries out to be released: Invisible Man vs the Human Torch.

I know what I want to dream about tonight.


Equally blessed and cursed

Another first today- I had a student who claimed to be able to detect spirits and ghosts by means of her "sixth sense." When questioned, she reassured us that there were no ghosts in the room.

My sixth sense, which detects morons, was not so sanguine.

Anyway, all this business about needing some kind of sixth sense to detect a ghost is a complete crock: what about the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters? Even without psychic powers, you could see that thing a mile off, because it was bloody huge.

My two Japanese words for the day:

norou- to put a curse on someone or something
noroma- a dullard or blockhead

Thursday, November 11, 2004


Happy joy smile

Today, for the first time, I found myself genuinely wound up by the preponderance of asinine "cutesy" behaviour amongst Japanese women who are, quite frankly, old enough to know better. Take "Hello Kitty," for instance. Piece of trash.

Anyway, I was doing a shift swap, which, for those not in the know, means that I was basically working on my day off, hence I was already feeling somewhat misanthropic. My day was further enlivened by a trip to my surrogate school's voice room, where students can drop in and hang out all day, chatting in English (should they so desire.)

Or they can just behave like infantile fools.

This school's voice room was graced by two particularly fine specimens, one in mid-twenties, the other, I will charitably guess, in late-forties, both interminably giggling like hyenas on nitrous oxide, watching a third hyena having a particularly amusing accident involving an overdose of laxatives and a critical shortage of toilet paper and/or toilets. The very apex of hilarity, basically.

And then the younger one delivered the following hard-hitting verdict on Japanese rice mochi: "I like it."

The insertion of the last cog in the complex machinery of this sententious masterpiece was acknowledged by a nod of the head and a smile so winsome that I wanted to smash her in the face with a tank full of hungry piranhas, before setting about her stomach-churning companion with a pair of bolt-cutters and a wolfhound.

I think I could use a little more sleep.

Monday, November 08, 2004


Just in the nick of... oh, hang on...

Guardian story

Hurray, Paula Radcliffe, the woman who cost me a night's sleep and what little respect I had from my students over the course of the Olympic Games, won yesterday's New York marathon in dramatic fashion, beating her Kenyan rival in the last 200 metres of the race.

The timing of this victory really couldn't be better, what with it being over two months after the Olympics and as it renders her upcoming autobiography obsolete before it has even been released.

The Guardian article describes this as a "stinging riposte" to her critics who thought that she shouldn't have entered this event so soon after the teary-eyed shenanigans of Athens.

No mention is given in this article to the particularly unforgiving critic who, after watching the Athens marathon, said that Radcliffe should be dressed in a clown costume, have an albatross tied round her neck, then be thrown into a very deep, disused mine shaft.

Namely myself.


Thursday, November 04, 2004


Oh joy...

It's official: the whole world's going to Hell in a handbasket. Therefore, I'm leaving.

I've been offered a job teaching English on the planet Sedna. The dominant species on Sedna is the Gurontia, a belligerent race of giant lizard men, whose defining characteristics are described by the Galactic Tourism Board's leaflet as "bad breath, insanity and cannibalism." I will be teaching classes of up to 6 warlords at a time.

Due to the vast time periods currently required for interplanetary travel, I will have to be cryogenically frozen for the trip to my new planet, so by the time I next update this blog, you will all be dead and so will your children's children.

Good night and God bless the United States of America.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


Trouble brewing

Dramatis Personae

American girl (hereafter, "Genius")

Spats, a cafe-bar in central Osaka, October 2003

...actually, I couldn't be bothered to vote in the last election.

Dan: Which part of the states are you from?

Genius: Orlando.

Dan: Orlando, Florida?

Genius: Yeah.

Dan: Well, thanks a fucking bunch.

Monday, November 01, 2004


Halloween part II- The Dream Warrior

So, on too the not-so-subtle influence of cheese on the evening's proceedings...

Basically, it's a well-known half-truth that cheese before bed gives you nightmares. The closest I've heard to a scientific fact based on this is that, due to the difficulty the body experiences digesting cheese, your sleep can become quite fitful.

Well, six and a half hours of cheese and horror flicks were more than capable of messing up my night's sleep- I woke up several times, with a taste like tin on the back of my tongue and I had all sorts of weird and wonderful dreams.

This one was the best...

It appeared that I was a knight errant, on horseback, in the courtyard of a wonderful castle. However, all was not well: an angry Dragon was laying siege to the castle and the knights of the kingdom were trotting out to do battle with the foul beast, one at a time. If you're thinking that this sounds like a grave tactical error, you'd be right.

I don't know how the batting order was being decided, but the guy before me (Sir Gideon the Flammable, or something) met an excruciating and premature end, so it was my turn to have a go at the monster. As I came over the drawbridge, the Dragon roared angrily and reared up on its hind legs.

This was a big Dragon.

So big, in fact, that when it reared up, its head touched the Moon. According to my research, that means that the Dragon was at least 239,000 miles long. I suddenly began to feel that this wasn't going to be an entirely fair fight.

So, the Dragon arched its back, then swooped down towards me, like- well, like an impossibly huge Dragon descending rapidly from above. This was a truly magnificent sight. So magnificent, in fact, that I decided to get the hell out of the way.

This proved a wise move on my part: the Dragon's head smashed down into the castle, reducing the building to what looked rather like a huge pile of baking powder and presumably killing all of the knights and maidens within.

I was fortunate enough to wake up before the Dragon caught up with me.



Halloween (part I of II)

As per my previous post, Halloween evening was spent watching horror movies and eating cheese. We kicked off the session at 9.30pm and I hit the hay at 4.00am, which, I humbly believe, constitutes a pretty impressive stint of cheese-eating and horror movie-watching.

The movies we watched were Juon (a Japanese flick, mostly visual which was a plus, given the absence of subtitles,) the Cube (a bit of a cult hit from Canada, but unmistakeably minority interest stuff) and, best of all, Doctor Giggles.

I would hereby like to express my opinion that this latter is the finest example in existence of the "Teen Slasher" genre. If you watched a representative sample of these movies (somewhere between seven and a thousand, they're mostly pretty similar) and compiled a check-list of all the components which make up the quintessential Teen Slasher, you could then watch Doctor Giggles and put a tick in every single box.

Then we have the good doctor's one-liners to take into account...

"It's time to do what doctors do best..." (grabs a golf club, then goes and bashes a black cop's head in with it)

Concerned father standing by the phone, listening to an answerphone message from the small-town police department regarding the whereabouts of his missing daughter. Phone beeps to a new message:

"Hello, this is your new neighbourhood doctor and I'M STANDING RIGHT BEHIND YOU!"

Indeed, he is. Cue grisly mayhem.

Three words: WATCH THIS FILM.

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