Saturday, April 30, 2005


It's my birthday

And I awoke to find the world a slightly different place. For one thing, it had tatami matting and a sliding door. In my drunken state, it seems I had ended up in Mike's room.

Mike, upon returning home and finding me unconscious on his futon, had to sleep in my room. Fortunately, determined not to begin the next chapter in my history surrounded by filth, I had tidied it.

As it turns out, I could have saved myself the effort.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Not quite how it happened

27th April, 1984: Fin McKeown, walking on air, enters the back bedroom in number 57.

Fin: Sally's just had a little boy; we've decided to call him Joe.

Dan: He sounds like a twat.

Happy birthday bro!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Gone but not forgotten

The story was over, the the demands of their own hard, rough lives began to reassert themselves in their hearts, in their nerves in their blood and appetites. Would that the dead were not dead! But there is grass that must be eaten, pellets that must be chewed, hraka that must be passed, holes that must be dug, sleep that must be slept. Odysseus brings not one man to shore with him. Yet he sleeps sound beside Calypso and when he wakes thinks only of Penelope.
from Watership Down

There was a big train crash just North West of Osaka yesterday. Afterwards, I received a speight of calls and e-mails checking on my wellbeing. Thanks Lewis, Edwin and my Mum. I'm sure the rest of you would have gotten around to it eventually.

However, today I went through seven straight lessons without a single student making mention of the 73 stiffening corpses in the vicinity; they were able to talk about their new haircuts, though- hence the above quote.

And if you think I'm likening my students to a collection of feeble-minded rodents, you're absolutely right.



Life on the edge

I'm not dead.


Monday, April 25, 2005


The class divide

For my last lesson yesterday, I had a man who was seemingly incapable of retaining any information for more than the blink of an eye. Here's the final roleplay from the class:

ME: OK, let's practice. Look at the file in the back of the book.

(He does so, it informs him that he is in Kansas, God knows why, and understandably enough wants to get the hell out of there. He is at the railway station and must request some information form the station attendant- that's me- using a sum total of three questions memorised from the previous 40 minutes' purgatory. Spooked, he goes for his notes.)

ME: Come off it, we've been practicing this for the last 40 minutes.

HE: Mw.. heh... gnh... what... nantoka... what...

(Goes for his notes again)

ME: Nope.

HE: (suddenly inspired) When is the nekisuto... jaa... When is the next train for Los Angeles?

ME: Five past six.

HE: Gnnnnnh... where platform?

ME: (prepared to let this go) Platform five.

(He twitches in his seat a bit more and has a go at asking me question number three, whether or not the train is on time, but it's all out of goose.)

ME: Not to worry. Now tell me: what time is your train?

(He gives me a look of horror and disbelief. How sadistic can one English teacher be?)

After ploughing this lonely furrow, I went to football practice in Ibaraki and Issei, the team's talented centre forward, delighted me by telling me to "stop bitching and lose some weight."

I've also been teaching him to go off his head at Gamble, the team's most volatile player, who once whaled on a takoyaki salesman for having the audacity to park his van and try to do some business. If Issei ever does produce this in the heat of a competitive game, I'll be responsible for disposing of his corpse.

Hello Yodogawa, goodbye Issei- a class act until the end.

Saturday, April 23, 2005


It's Saint George's Day

And I celebrated by springing the offside trap, rounding the Austrian goalkeeper and firing the ball past the covering defender (German) with my left foot. Yoshi!

My team lost 4-1 for the record.

When I got home, however, Mike put a complete dampener on my spirit. Upon being informed that it was Saint George's day, he responded, as only an American could, by asking who Saint George was. I replied that he was "the patron saint of England, bitch,"

Unfortunately, the above is pretty much as far as my knowledge of Saint George goes, so I was unable to bore the hell out of my transatlantic ignoramus of a flatmate with a pageant of Georgiania. Therefore, I resolved to do some research so that I'll be able to do it when Muku gets back from work.

One impressive fact is that Saint George is also the patron saint of Georgia, something I was previously unaware of. Even more impressive though is the fact that he killed a Dragon! (That's right, I said "fact.") Some of my sources mooted the possibility that the Dragon could be regarded as a metaphor for Paganism, the Devil, or some other crap. However, I am firmly convinced that it was genuinely a Dragon, and at least 15 metres long with huge, scaly wings and fiery breath.

And Saint George kicked its head in, leading me to believe that Saint George may have looked something like this:

Optimus Prime, son!

Optimus Prime, son!

This ground-breaking theory, I believe, accounts for all of the perceived "exaggeration" surrounding the story of Saint George. The cold, hard truth is this: when you're a robot truck with a laser rifle, there's very little that you can't achieve.

Muku's going to be most impressed with my historical knowledge when he gets home.

Friday, April 22, 2005


I lost my keys the other day

...and it was one of those times when the squalor in which I am prepared to live truly horrifies me.

Finding a tin of peaches I couldn't remember having bought was one thing; finding a similarly mysterious 3D0 game (Crash and burn) was maybe taking it too far.

My keys were in my pocket all the while. I think this story tells you everything about my life you could ever need to know.

Saturday, April 16, 2005


When Cheetahs roamed the Earth

HYDERABAD, India (Reuters) - Indian scientists plan to clone an Iranian cheetah to revive a species that became extinct in India more than four decades ago, an expert said Friday, in what would be the country's first animal cloning bid.
India Plans to Clone Iranian Cheetah
Reuters, Apr 15, 2005

God DAMN, it's as if Jurassic Park had never been made (which, in the cases of The Lost World and JP3 I really wish were the case.)

Kimbia, from the BBC's Big Cat Diary series.
The greatest predator that ever stalked the Earth.

Ill-judged movie trailer: Cheetah Park.

Jeff Goldblum in back of jeep, anxiously watching cheetah in pursuit as they speed across a nocturnal, rain-drenched parody of the Serengeti.
"Must go faster... must go faster... nope, he's still gaining on us. You know what? I think we're boned this time."


Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Rolling back the years...

'Twas back in the Summer of '94: I had returned, invigorated, from my exchange trip to Munich, where I stayed with one Christoph Bender, plus his family of Benders. My Father and I were helping my Uncle, Sean, to do some renovations on the back of his house. By which I mean we were tearing it down. Life was good, the sun was shining, and I was getting paid good money to smash things up.

On one such fine afternoon, I noticed something amiss. "Uncle," I said, leaning on my sledgehammer and indicating the far end of his wonderfully long garden, "what are those cats doing by the pond?"

"Why, they're after the bloody fish," he exclaimed. This pearl of wisdom imparted, rather than chasing the pair of feline buccaneers away himself, he disappeared into the house to rouse the family's ageing dog. My Father and I looked somewhat dubious at this strategy, as the dog, to the best of our knowledge, hadn't budged an inch in the previous three days.

After waiting for a minute or so, my Father made possibly the best decision of his life: expressing his impatience with canine retribution, he scooped up a chunk of wood, which had been sawn off a pickaxe handle, and hurled it towards the distant cats. The pair of would-be fisherman watched, entranced, as this missile of justice described a perfect arc over their heads, before smashing into the greenhouse. Then, alarmed by the cacophony of shattering glass, they buggered off.

My Father and I stood in silence for a moment, then, dissolving into laughter, the slayer of greenhouses ran into my Uncle's garage and hid.

My Uncle stormed back out of the house, frustrated in his attempts to rouse the dog to the call of duty and unaware of what had passed in his absence. "Bloody dog... oh, they've gone." he said.

"Don't thank me." I said.

Happy birthday to my Dad, Fin: 50 years young today. Purveyor of wisdom and bad jokes to the gentry. A fine craftsman and gardener, but not a particularly good aim with ballistic chunks of wood.

This one's for you, you goddamn Aries.

Friday, April 08, 2005


Please, please, please let me get what I want. Moshi moshi? Oh, hi mom...

Good times for a change
See, the luck I've had
Can make a good man
Turn bad

So please please please
Let me, let me, let me
Let me get what I want
This time

Haven't had a dream in a long time
See, the life I've had
Can make a good man bad

So for once in my life
Let me get what I want
Lord knows, it would be the first time

Today's events:

Firstly, I heard a piss-awful jazz massacre of the above classic Smiths tune. I was reminded of my seminal open-mike performance with Lewis in the Scream pub in Bristol. All-day opening: the horror, the horror...

Secondly, Mike, the Playstation-berating protagonist of my previous post turned 26. I wasn't on hand to give him a midnight serenade, as I was out on someone else's birthday karaoke binge, after which some nocturnal navigational tomfoolery left me on the wrong side of the Yodogawa river at around 6 o'clock, god only knows how.

Mike had quite a rocky start to his 26th year, as his Mother phoned and shouted at him for being an adolescent throwback and reaching the ripe old age of 26 without giving her any Grandchildren, or similar. Mike said she thinks that he plays too many video games (perhaps she's been reading this page?) which makes me smile somewhat as I bought him a new game for his birthday: THE SPLATTER ACTION (Drastic measures with a chainsaw, says the box.) Quit bitching, Mom- at least he's easy to choose presents for.

Mike, Brian and I celebrated with a lunch viking (for some reason, all-you-can-eat buffets are called "viking," as well as tabehodai), then went on the new "Don Quijote" (their spelling) ferris wheel, which commands spectacular views of the Osakan urban nightmare sprawling off in every direction.

Thirdly, I got my bike fixed at last. The chain was missing half of a link, meaning that it kept pinging off and acceleration was a constant brush with death. With my rejuvenated steed, I went to Osaka Castle with Mike to look at some salarymen looking at sakura.

It has been a good day. Maybe tomorrow will also be good. We can but hope.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


There's a circus in the town...

It is my sad duty to report that my flatmate, the esteemed Michael Goetz, is now entirely incapable of English communication as his vocabulary has shrunk to two words, the second of which is "you."

The reason for his toilet-mouthed bestial incoherence is that he has thus far not been able to beat Shadow of Rome, a neat-ass game on the Playstation 2, which follows a spookily similar storyline to that of the movie Gladiator.

Having watched my friend continually getting hacked to pieces in the games final battle (in which, by an incredible twist of fate, the noble gladiator s fighting the Macbeth-esque Emperor in the circus), I have concluded that his lack of success is down to the fact that he lacks the true spirit of a gladiator. You see, boys and girls, gladiators are a lot like ninjas on a genetic level; they don't curse and swear, they definitely do not hurl Playstation controllers. The closest they get to losing their temper is killing someone. It's the only way they can articulate their inner feelings; expletives are fatuous by comparison.

I told Mike this. I got a two-word response out of him, the second of which was "you."

Scene from Gladiator the unauthorised version...

COMMODUS: They tell me your son squealed like a girl when they nailed him to the cross, and your wife moaned like a whore when they ravished her: again, and again, and again...


The Imperial guard set about Maximus, beat him down with their spear butts, and then kick the hell out of him. The spectators go wild.

Sunday, April 03, 2005


Le Pape est mort, vive le Pape

So, it turns out that the incumbent Pope has expired, which, to the aspiring job seeker, gives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So, without further ado, let's check out my credentials as a prospective pontiff:

Application for Papal position
Vatican form ref VF/PAPACY666

Name: Daniel McKeown

Knowledge of Latin: Zip. Unless you count what I learned from Asterix comics.

Knowledge of the Bible: It's a book.

Belief in God: Nope. I do believe in safe sex, though.

Stance on abortion: Emphatically pro: including up to 30 years post-natal in some cases.

Opinion of The Da Vinci Code: It's utter crap.

Regular Sunday activities: Whoring my soul to Satan in an eikaiwa.

Tie breaker- in no more than 10 WORDS, tell us why you should be Pope: Indecent exposure, petty larceny, possession with intent to supply.

I'll be waiting by the phone until the Vatican gets back to me. This could be the break I've been holding on for.


Saturday, April 02, 2005


Whale Shark letdown, Great White beatdown

A great white shark in captivity for a record six months was released into the Pacific Ocean on Thursday after it attacked and killed two smaller sharks in its tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Great White Shark Released Off California
Reuters, Fri Apr 1, 2005

DAMN IT! Whoever made the decision to let that thing go should be given their cards forthwith. The whole point of a Great White is that you secretly want it to go mad and start eating the other fish. I bet the kids loved watching that.

Having been to the Osaka Aquarium on a number of occasions, the attraction of watching fish not eating each other is definitely wearing a bit thin. The Pacific Tank would be so much better with a large, angry predator. Who wouldn't cough up their hard-earned yen to watch a rather more motivated Whale Shark jetting round the tank in a bid to avoid being savaged?

And while I'm on the subject, Zoos would benefit from this policy too. Imagine the Lions, Rhinos and Zebras in the same cage: the drama of the plains recreated in the cosy environment of a concrete box; a deadly game of Cat and Mouse, the Lions want to eat the Zebras, but without pissing the Rhinos off, because that would be a very, VERY bad move. Softly, softly, nothing silly; a bit like scrumping, but scrumping for 400kg herbivores, with dangerous hooves.

Better still, the chance to finally lay to rest those unanswered questions: just who would win if a Polar Bear had a fight with a Hippo? There's only one way to find out, and I'm not talking about hopelessly contrived CGI simulations on BBC World either.


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