Saturday, January 29, 2005



Japanese committing suicide are more likely to choose Monday than any other day of the week, while Saturday is the least likely day for people to take their own lives, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said.
Mondays the preferred day for Japanese choosing suicide Mainichi Daily News 29th January, 2005

Well, I must say that this comes as a total surprise to me. I think that, with a standard Saturday/Sunday weekend, Monday would definitely be my day for taking the easy way out, unless I could ruin someone's birthday by killing myself on another day of the week; if I had to kill myself, I'd want people to be as upset as possible.

Fortunately, life is good. It's warm in my room, I still haven't finished the bottle of brandy that I inherited from a departing friend (cheers Ange!), it's Saturday evening, and- oh crap: I'm working tomorrow.

This is an emergency- pass me the toaster, I'm going for a bath.


Thursday, January 27, 2005


Cheese pot

Geekery abounds- now I've gone and bought a Panasonic 3D0.

This 32-bit wonder was originally released in 1993. The modified FZ-10 model which I have bought (as pictured above) came out in 1995. From what I've seen of it thus far, it's little wonder that this machine didn't take the gaming world by storm: the CD drive is slow and makes a terrible racket while accessing data and the controller is, quite frankly, naff. Nonetheless, there's DEFINITE novelty value for a number of reasons:

As we have any number of Panasonic employees at my school, plus akibakei (gaming geeks) I bought the 3D0 mainly as a conversation piece, although I'm going to enjoy some old-school gaming action as well.

Sunday, January 23, 2005


Blue soul my foot

So, I asked, closing my textbook and relaxing back in my chair as the lesson drew to its conclusion; what's your favourite film?

My student thought deeply upon this, frowning and biting her lip as she did so. Such is her wont, even when faced with less intricate questions. Eventually, looking me directly in the eye, she said Blue soul my tea.

A vague, speculative image formed in my head of some innocent rite-of-passage film about a Japanese schoolgirl: sedate of pace and devoid of ninja action, but nonetheless satisfying to watch.

What's this film about? I asked.

Well, said my student, Jim Carrey meets God...

Another image formed in my head: one of me violently beating my would-be linguist with a leather-bound edition of the pronunciation handbook.

Saturday, January 22, 2005


Something to believe in

When I saw you for the first time,
eyes the colour of the ocean,
something moved inside of me,
Long forgotten lying broken.

Now I can't turn away,
watching you as you lay sleeping.
Can you hear winds of change?
Is this something to believe in?

I lost direction in the darkness;
couldn't stop myself from running.
I could feel the sun on my back,
but I was afraid to let the light in.

Now I can't run anymore;
now I see this gift you bring me.
Can you hear winds of change?
Maybe this loser's luck is turning.

I will carry you in my heart.
I will hold you in my memory.
You could be a million miles away,
but when I call
you will hear me.

I'll make this as simple as possible: if you do not own The Bangles' Everything album then you are living in sin. I'm particularly worried about this as, out of the entire potential readership of this site, I can only think of one person who may have a copy. And that's because I gave it to him.

Yes, Eternal Flame is on this album too. Go on- I bet it's on sale in HMV until the end of the month.


Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Sweet dreams are made of this

Last night, I dreamed that I was involved in a bar-room brawl after a bunch of Earlsdon biffos on the pool table took exception to my Grandfather and myself while we were enjoying a quiet game of golf in the corner. Then the bar was attacked by a bunch of terrorists in a helicopter, who shot the place to pieces before being overwhelmed by a bunch of American-style secret service guys in very smart dark suits.

I then dreamed that I was part of a military operation; my squad were deployed by parachute over a very big, very shallow lake, which was then bombed by Vultureman, a minor villain from Thundercats on some kind of flying contraption, as part of a diabolical scheme to render large portions of the Earth's surface uninhabitable, thereby jacking up the price of land everywhere else.

Then, I dreamed that I was struck by lightning on my bicycle, just as I was plunging down a nearly-vertical 200-metre descent on an unlit dual carriageway in the middle of the night in adverse weather conditions (a thunderstorm, obviously.)

I suspect that the reason for these nocturnal pyrotechnics may have been the pound of steak that I ate for dinner, which is currently sitting in my gut like a gypsy squatter.

Monday, January 17, 2005


Infirmity and ill health

So today is my first sick day since I came to Japan, thanks to the lousy cold I've developed. I feel low.

Nonetheless, I've put the day to good use as I've managed to finish my photo page of my trip to Canada, so click here and let the good times roll.

There's also a link in the menu bar on the right.

Saturday, January 15, 2005


Saturn and so on

Today, after its seven-year journey through the Solar System on board the Cassini spacecraft, ESA's Huygens probe has successfully descended through the atmosphere of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, and safely landed on its surface.
Europe Reaches New Frontier - Huygens Lands on Titan
January 14, 2005 (from NASA)

And, in celebration of humankind's scientific achievements (and with a fortuitous sense of timing) I made the following purchase yesterday...

I actually quite fancied a white one, but this is what I got.
It's still pretty nice!

Yes, by a random coincidence I went out and bought a Sega Saturn, perhaps mankind's finest technological achievement (for facts and stats about this piece of technological wizardry, click here.)

The Sega Saturn (ten years old last Christmas) was, sadly, not a great success in the British market. Thanks to its bizarre technology, it was an absolute fiddle to program games for, leaving it with less software support than its main competitor, the Sony Playstation. And it was pricy. VERY pricy.

Nevertheless, video gaming-wise, the Sega Saturn is one of my true loves. My first post-graduate pay cheque got me a second-hand Saturn and a bunch of games from Coventry market. Nothing made me happier than coming home from the pub with a bag of chips and blasting the hell out of a bunch of zombies on House of the dead. My original Saturn, my light guns and my modest collection of games are all safely packed away in a cupboard in Coventry, awaiting the day when Dan returns to wreak drunken vengeance on the undead once more. Or they'd better be, at any rate.

As it turns out, the Saturn enjoyed rather more popularity in Japan, largely thanks to a bizarre advertising campaign in which Segata Sanshiro (a caricature of a famous Japanese judo ka) instructs children to play Sega Saturn ("Until your fingers break!"), unleashing a ferocious martial arts beatdown on anyone who tries to go outside for some fresh air, a game of baseball, etc. Deeply hilarious and disturbing stuff. The accompanying theme tune is one of Mike's karaoke favourites, by the way.

So, on a whim, Mike and I trekked into Denden town and bought a Sega Saturn and 7 games, for 4,500 yen, which is less than I had in my penny jar when I went to cash it in. On the very rare occasions when I start to feel that maybe Japan isn't some kind of futuristic paradise designed specifically for me, something like this happens and I fall in love with the place all over again.

Sega Saturn... SHIRO!


Wednesday, January 12, 2005


Waterstone's versus the written word

A bookseller has become the first blogger in Britain to be sacked from his job because he kept an online diary in which he occasionally mentioned bad days at work and satirised his "sandal-wearing" boss.
Blogger sacked for sounding off, The Guardian 12th January, 2005 ad

Yes, Waterstone's, purveyors of the written word and extremely over-priced coffee to the gentry, have sacked an employee of some 11 years standing for "satirical comments" published on his blog. For the full story click on the link above to The Guardian. To see how far Waterstone's hatred of blogging extends, you have only to head for and stick "blog" in the search bar.

That's right, there's no problem with blogging, so long as they're making a fat pile of money out of it; it's only a problem if they're getting trashed by some pseudo-intellectual with a silly beard.

Having looked at the site in question, I didn't see anything too offensive, apart from the colour scheme which made my eyes water as if I'd just received a bowling ball in the kneecap. If Waterstone's had sacked him for atrocities to the retina, I would have wholeheartedly applauded their stance. Anyway, for this reason and because of the generally tame and pedestrian nature of the site, I opt not to include a link here. At the moment, it's just the author bashing on about freedom of speech because he can't be asked to haul himself down to the employment office. Get a job, hippy!

Nevertheless, the implications of a company bestowing instant dismissal on an apparently competent employee for comments included in their blog are profoundly worrying. I'm not sure if I've included anything in my own page that would incur the wrath of my employers, but, just to be on the safe side, I would like to make the following statement:

I shall, of course, be boycotting Waterstone's (not hard to do in Japan.) I urge all who read this to do the same.


Tuesday, January 11, 2005


A nice chunk of change

It is often said that a penny saved is a penny earned.

At the moment, my finances are a little ropey, given that I've just been to Canada, but payday is this Friday (coincidentally, Thursday is the last day of my working week.)

Without too much in the way of brass, I decided this morning it was time to tap my last financial resource, in order to ensure that I'd be able to enjoy a few well-earned beverages on Thursday evening. I scooped the contents of my 14-month-old penny jar into a carrier bag and went down to UFJ to make a deposit. According to the telling machine this left me 6,480 yen richer.

For those of you unfamiliar with Japanese currency, let me tell you that I can get over a fair bit of beer out of that.

Roll on Thursday!

Sunday, January 09, 2005



What did I actually do in Canada?

Glad you asked.

ATE. I can't capitalise those letters enough. A-T-E. From the magnificent salmon on the first night to the excellent roast beef on my final night, I sampled the very best of cuisine at the Ballacheys', various pubs and restaurants, and one dodgy doss-hole run by a sullen Vietnamese.

DRANK. No explanation necessary here.

Played the beer game, which requires a crate of Kokanee and at least two hardened drinkers. Each bottle of Kokanee has the statistics of one ski resort on the back (eg. Whistler Blackcomb, Powder King, etc.) These stats are: year opened, vertical (in metres), snowfall (in cm), number of runs. Whoever draws the bottle with the most impressive stats is the winner. Both beers are then consumed and the game is played again with fresh beers. Heather kicked my butt at this. Powder king's stats stink out loud, for the record.

Saw in New Year at a party full of people from Heather's English conversation school. Had immense fun confusing Japanese students by using Osaka-ben where possible, the peculiar Japanese dialect which makes no sense to anyone from outside Osaka.

Stayed in a cabin by Lake Harrison for two nights. Fantastic scenery (mountains, trees, the occasional errant cougar) and bitingly cold winds. Very Canadian. Apparently, the Lake itself is home to the white sturgeon, a fish which, according to the tourist signs we read, grows up to 7 metres long and weighs as much as a bull. Heather visibly shuddered when we read about this.

Walked around Vancouver's scenic Stanley Park and beheld glowing mountains of sulphur. I kid you not.

Went to the Museum of anthropology at UBC; a great place for any connoisseur of totem poles or other cultural artefacts.

Drove, earning much praise from Heather for my consistent and skillful use of the handbrake ("Jesus Christ, why can't you just leave that frigging thing alone?")

Rode a toboggan down the Ballacheys' driveway on my last day. Four metres of white-knuckle, gently-sloping mayhem.

Did I mention that I ATE?

There'll be more fulsome detail when I get my films developed.

Friday, January 07, 2005


If you're travelling on Air Canada this month... may or may not find the following movie reviews helpful.

The Bourne Supremacy

plot: some blokes do some stuff, then try to claim that Jason Bourne (Matt Duh-amon) did it and he doesn't know because he has no memory, but he whoops everybody's ass anyway.

This was totally lost on me. Admittedly, I've not seen the first one, but I don't think that it would have made a significant difference to my appreciation of this.

There weren't even any decent special effects, for crying out loud.

verdict: one sniper rifle (out of a possible five)

Searching for Bobby Fischer

plot: dazed-looking kid with no mates turns out to be a chess genius, to much parental bafflement. Kicks a bunch of other kids' heads in at various chess tournaments until an even less popular kid, who's an even better chess player comes on the scene. This leads to much soul-searching as dazed-looking kid drops off the chess tour for a while, only to re-kindle his love affair with the game, make a triumphant comeback and, in a poignant final scene, beat the trousers off the other kid in the major junior chess tournament, leaving the little bastard mentally scarred for life.

I actually loved this, although probably for the wrong reasons.

verdict: five Ruy Lopez openings (out of a possible six)


plot: Halle Berry takes down the cosmetics industry (which is a bit like George Best taking down the organ transplant industry,) in the course of which she locks horns with a granite-skinned Sharon Stone. As if there's any other kind.

This film was way stupid.

verdict one saucer of milk (out of a possible seven)

I spat in the saucer, too.


plot: with Rocky (Sly Stallone) learning martial arts in the Shaolin temple, Clubber Lang (Mr T) takes on Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) and pistol-whips the Communist fairy.

actual plot: shambling brawler gets a lucky shot at the title, during the course of which he blunders around with his guard down, in a futile attempt to avoid catastrophic brain damage. Also finds true love with friend's sister.

It's a classic. But an irritating classic.

verdict: three jabs and a left hook (out of a possible ten-hit Tekken combo)

I, robot

plot: something about robots imposing a curfew on their human masters and indulging in other behaviour unworthy of an overgrown toaster.

Like The Bourne Supremacy, I can't really say that I watched this movie. I just looked at it.

verdict: three labour-saving devices (out of a possible forty-six)


Further musings

Some more thoughts on my stay in Canada:

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