Sunday, February 27, 2005


Another 24 hours

Warning, this post contains language that my mother wasn't too happy about hearing me use at the age of seven.

So, I'm watching 24 season 4 on Mike's computer (the same source that provided me with seasons 1 and 3.) I didn't watch season 2 after the second episode, because Kim Bauer was already being a stupid bitch and getting herself in unnecessary danger which was exactly what she'd been doing for the entirety of the first season and I wasn't prepared to watch her continually flouting the laws of natural selection again.

Anyway, since I started running this blog, I've maintained a policy of "dumbing down" my usually heinous over-usage of bad language, except in the interests of faithfully reporting what was said at the time, or in cases of extremety, such as talking about that French girl in Starbucks.

This, however, is another such case as, having watched two full seasons of 24 and being halfway through a third, I feel it necessary to make the following observation:

Jack Bauer is a twat.

My reasoning is simple: the man cannot follow basic instructions. He just can't. It's almost pathological. Every time someone tells him to do something, he bursts out with "There isn't time!" or "That's not the right call!" or "There are millions of lives at stake here!" usually prefaced with "Listen to me," or similar.

Take the following sample dialogues between Jack and Whoever's In Charge This Season (WICTS)

WICTS: Jack, stand down! I repeat, stand down!
JACK: I'm going in!

Fantastic. Real teamwork there, Bauer. Or...

WICTS: Jack, your shirt's not tucked in, as per CTU dress code. Please could you tuck it in?

WICTS: Jack, satellite surveillance indicates that there's $1,000,000 in unmarked, non-consecutive $5 bills in that briefcase behind you. Why don't you just pick it up?
JACK: There isn't time! Where's the Marine Strike Force?
WICTS: But it's right behind you, for Christ's sake Jack...

I have also come to the conclusion that Jack Bauer was an only child.

Jack's Mum: It's starting to rain sweetie, why don't you come inside?
Wee Jack: Listen to me! You're making a mistake. God damn it!

I hope this post hasn't given away any of the fourth season of 24 for those of you planning to watch it. Other than having covered pretty much every instance of Bauer-related dialogue, that is.

Saturday, February 26, 2005


My weekend in painstaking detail

After an impressive stint of 11 days straight I was relieved to have some time off work at long last, and a four-day weekend to boot. Nice! Just in the nick of time too- I was starting to get more agitated in my classes and I suspect that one more day of work would have led to some degree of violence on my part.

In accordance with my pledge to do more exploration of Japan this year, I clambered onto the 7.15 am bus to Okayama yesterday morning; this despite having only gone to bed about three hours previously. Upon arrival in Okayama I deposited my bag and, pausing only to wolf down a breakfast triple cheese burger set, hopped on a train for the scenic town of Fukuyama.

This was where things went a little awry, a secondary consultation of my guidebook (when I was three-quarters of the way to Fukuyama, natch) informed me that it was not a scenic town at all. It was, by all accounts, a bit of a hell hole.

Further examination of my guidebook revealed that my original mistake had been caused by a couple of pages being stuck together and I actually wanted to go to a place called Takahashi, which was in a completely different direction. Damn it!

Unperturbed, I changed trains a few times and- eventually- got to Takahashi.

My reason for visiting this place was the promised lack of tourists and the gruelling hike up to Bitchu Matsuyama Castle (pictured below,) the highest castle in Japan, apparently.

the castle that tourism forgot

"Lack of tourists" was bang on the money: the only other living soul I saw up there was the geezer who sold me my ticket for admission. It was well worth the effort though, for the tranquility of the place if not for the quality of conversation. Absolute silence is not something I experience often in Osaka.

After a speedy descent of the mountain and a train back to Okayama, I was faced with the dilemma of where to spend the night, settling eventually for the Hollywood capsule hotel and sauna, which had the very significant bonus of being a five minute walk from the station, as I was bloody knackered by this time.

This was my first time in a capsule hotel and it was pretty good fun and a good opportunity to brush up on my Japanese conversation skills. I don't mind someone asking me if I have a girlfriend, I don't even particularly mind them leering obscenely as they do so; if it's a wrinkly, naked old man who's blatantly sitting too close to you in the hot tub... well, that's a different matter.

After steaming a kilogram out of myself in a little under half an hour (the only way I can usually shed weight that quickly is through injudicious consumption of fruit) it was dinner time. Another visit to Wendy's and another triple cheese burger set and I decided to stroll around and explore for a bit before bedding down.

Within 50 seconds of leaving Wendy's I was firmly convinced that the station area is not the most reputable bit of Okayama. I was just marvelling at quite how many Yakuza I was seeing when one of them stopped and decided to have a conversation with me. I could tell he was Yakuza because of the missing pinkie finger- dead giveaway, really. Anyway, I kept calm and gave him directions to the station (which was what he wanted, apparently.) He thanked me profusely and insisted on shaking my hand, which was an interesting sensory experience to say the least. Invigorated by this, I instantly bought a few beers from the local convenience store, drained them and headed back to the hotel for more sauna tomfoolery before bed.

My capsule was comfortable enough, but it certainly wasn't designed for a 6'2" gaijin.

On waking this morning, I checked out, stuck my bag in the station, went to Wendy's again, then went in search of Okayama's famous castle and gardens. They were pretty good, but I was pretty tired and it was time to head back to Osaka.

Overall, it was a nice break and I still have another day off tomorrow! There'll be plenty of pics on my photos page when I get my film developed.

For the record, the sense of serenity that I'd developed away from the bustle of Osaka evaporated the moment I got on the subway.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Concerning fingernails

Fingernails: they grow on the end of your fingers, make it easier to untie shoelaces and sound absolutely dreadful when scraped down a blackboard by the psychotic fisherman in Jaws. But how much can you say you honestly KNOW about fingernails?

Hopefully, it'll be a whole heck of a lot more after reading this post.

- Fingernails continue to grow after death, as do hair and record sales.

- Changes in your fingernails may signify disorders somewhere else in your body.

- Little white patches on your fingernail that take a long time to grow out are believed to be caused by telling lies. This is a myth propogated by liars with perfect fingernails.

- In Japan, cutting one's fingernails at night is deemed unlucky. As is doing anything else at night, other than getting rolling drunk and passing out on the the train.

- The ancient Norse cut the fingernails short on their dead as they believed that the forces of evil would arrive in a ship made of dead men's fingernails (called Naglfar) at the end of the world, and they understandably wanted to delay this as long as they possibly could.

- If you suffer from the filthy, dirty habit of biting your fingernails, please be aware that all your friends think you are a minger and that your intestines are probably lousy with parasites. However, help is at hand! You can find personalised hypnotherapy CDs and cassettes on the internet to help you overcome this habit and rescue your failing marriage. I found a site selling such products and felt strangely tempted to include a link here. Then I panicked, because I thought the bearded freak who was peddling the stuff was somehow beaming this urge into my head via subliminal messages, so I decided not to. In fact, I'm resolved to murder the wacko in his bed before he manages to corrupt anyone else.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Why did the monkey fall out of the tree? Apparently it just happens sometimes, that's why

Another day, another dollar, but I've also been lucky enough to make some interesting and possibly useful discoveries, which I share with you here:

Anyway, in other news, Mike and I are no longer speaking, and this is the reason why:

All I've seen of Mike for the last week or so

New PSP, dammit!

So jealous am I of this piece of technological genius (or rather of Mike, for possessing one), that I am considering investing in a used Sega Game Gear. It's 15 years old, not a patch on the PSP technically and goes through batteries like an SUV goes through petrol, but it does have the benefit of being big and heavy enough for me to smash Mike's PSP to pieces with it before enjoying a nice game of Sonic the hedgehog.

Friday, February 18, 2005


The glories of a bygone era and why I want to crack people's skulls today

So, for the first part of last night, I was in Murphy's, an Irish bar in Shinsaibashi. As I was about the only customer, the atmosphere wasn't amazing, but it did afford me the chance to get a better look at the place than I'd had previously. On one wall, there was a map of Ireland, surrounded by the traditional colours of all the ancient clans.

And I found this:

Glory to the clan McKeown!

So that's something new.

My next step will be to have an enormous flag of this hung up in my classroom, paint my face with woad and play Gaelic football with the skulls of my students. For the record, I got into bed at about 6 am after a prolonged karaoke binge and, thanks to shift swaps and overtime, I get NO WEEKEND this week.

There was going to be some witty observation to end this post, but I'm far too pissed off.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


36 percent goes a long way

So, I said, settling into my chair at the beginning of the lesson, what's new?

I rented Superman II from the video shop, beamed one of my two students.

Interesting, I lied, after a suitably weighted pause. What a pity that Christopher Reeve is dead. What's the last DVD that you rented? (This to the other student, of course.)

The other student shifted uneasily in her seat and asked me if it was ok to use Japanese. I, reasonably enough, pointed out that if it was a Japanese DVD then some use of her mother tongue was probably OK. The student then, smiling coyly, in a low murmur (and entirely in Japanese), gave the title of the DVD and a few of the significant plot details to her partner, who giggled schoolgirlishly. My ears pricked up.

Sorry, let me get this straight, I said, leaning forward. This film is about a baishun?

My student froze in her seat, her mouth flapping wordlessly and a look of horror evident in her eyes. In her naivety, it had never occurred to her that I might know the Japanese word for Prostitute.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Dwindling promotion prospects

FUKUOKA--A police officer of Chikugo Police Station in Fukuoka Prefecture left his fingerprints at the scenes of several crimes he was investigating and collected them as evidence, it was learned Friday...
As he could not find any evidence of the perpetrators, he said he had no choice but to leave his own fingerprints at the scenes and collect them, he was quoted as saying.

Policeman plants own prints at crime scenes Yomiuri Shimbun 6th February, 2005


The sad thing is that this officer's career prospects are in better shape than my own; apparently I've had complaints about being "too tall" from some of my kids classes. Why my mouth-breather of a branch manager saw fit to relay this information to me (indirectly), I simply don't know. If she's expecting me to do something about it she's going to be pretty disappointed.


Monday, February 07, 2005


Cultural exchange

I received a little bundle of love in the post today, in the form of my long-awaited result from December's Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

Let's take a look at the damage, shall we...

Writing / Vocabulary76 / 100
Listening36 / 100oops...
Reading / Grammar121 / 200
Total mark:233 / 400

According to my maths (which I sincerely hope is better than my Japanese) I missed the pass mark of 60% by less than 2%, but I can't say I'm too bothered. If I had passed, all it would have proved is that I'm a lucky bounder; I don't think it would have been a good reflection of my current ability.

The good news is that I now have ten months to revise for my resit, unless of course I decide to raise the bar and go for the level two instead.

Some more good news: last night at football, I managed to kick two Peruvians simutaneously. Two! This beats my previous record for kicking Peruvians by one. In case anyone happens to be wondering why I take so much delight in kicking Peruvians, it's because I was once in the gents toilet at a well-known London station when I noticed a Bear in a duffle coat giving me an extra hard stare. Creepy.

Saturday, February 05, 2005


Things that take the fun out of your over-priced latte, volume I

This evening afforded me the opportunity for an interesting study in human nature, if such it may be termed.

I was a little early for a social engagement in Umeda (like, by an hour and a half) so I decided to kill some time in Starbucks beforehand, that being the only coffee place that has a no-smoking policy.

Having bought an under-sized, over-priced "grande latte", I settled down with my copy of Raion to majo (Japanese edition of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe) and prepared myself for some serious language study.

On the table next to me there was a Japanese girl, evidently on a social engagement judging by the manner in which she kept a-checking at her watch, tutting and generally letting the world know that whomever she was meeting was late.

Eventually, a French girl showed up with the words "Ah Kira, ah am so sorry." No explanation of her tardiness, you'll note.

Having attained a coffee (which, I suspect, was the last thing she needed), and gotten comfortable in her seat, she proceeded to launch herself into a FULL HALF HOUR MONOLOGUE about her no-good boyfriend, who'd- understandably enough- been cheating on her; this with minimal input from the poor J-bird who'd been waiting for her all this time, and, I realised, had evidently heard this story a good many times over the last few days/two months/seventeen years (delete as applicable.)

I found myself a little annoyed at the French girl's boyfriend, insofar as his libidinous activities had happened to land an ungracious, whingeing dullard at the table adjacent to my own.

"'E 'as no respect; 'e treats everyone like ah piece of sheet!" she announced, apparently unaware of the annoyance that her impunctuality had caused her partner and that her self-centred diatribe was causing me.

I shook my head, squinted at the mystifying characters in front of me and tried to ignore the sensation that a woodpecker was going to town on my temple.

"MEN! Zey are all ze same! Zey are all basteurds!" the woman spurned declared. Right next to the ONE AND ONLY English-speaking MAN in the ENTIRE FUCKING SHOP.

I considered throwing my piping hot coffee in her face, then smashing her in the kidney with my knee. I realised that this would not improve her opinion of men.

My soul weeping within me, I gathered my things together and left as quietly as I could.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


Akibakei meltdown

Today, I have seen marvels indeed. I dragged my sorry, hungover butt out to Denden Town before work with the express intention of getting a Panasonic 3D0 FZ-1 (the original model- last week I bought the FZ-10, an updated version, which is currently in the possession of The Vending Machine Man.)

This thing is outstanding. It has the same bizarre controller-linking as the later version, but instead of the tacky plastic FZ-10 styling, it looks like an old-school CD player. It has a beautiful slide-out CD drawer, instead of the flip-top crap which adorns the FZ-10, and doesn't make a noise like a cat throwing up when I put in a CD.

Best of all, though, the FZ-1 weighs about FIVE times as much as the FZ-10; it feels like it was made out of recycled Volkswagens or something. Lord almighty.

The shop I made this purchase in is the aptly-named Super Potato (this link will only work if your browser can handle Japanese.) This place is a gaming geek's heaven, packed full of archaic goodies from the bygone days of terebi gemu.

Here are some of the less tasteful things I saw.

A "Hello Kitty" Dreamcast

A "Pokemon" N64

Plus, being in a huge shop full of electronic appliances, every time I touched a metal surface, I got zapped into the middle of next week.

My next project is to get a handheld system- preferably one so big and unwieldy that I could beat a Gorilla unconscious with it.

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