Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Prometheus's great mistake

Another gem from my troubled past.

There was a time when my Brother, Joe, was learning magic tricks. Everyone goes through a phase at some point, I've had several, this blog is part of my leaving-something-for-posterity phase. The magic phase was Joe's.

One day, as I was passing a stool (those of you who grimaced at the image of that, be warned: this story may not be to your liking), my rangy sibling kicked the toilet door open and announced that he'd learned a new trick. I folded down the corner of the page I was reading and feigned an interest. Everyone should have a hobby, I reasoned.

The would-be practitioner of the dark arts produced two matches, laying one flat on the palm of his outstretched left hand. He then rubbed the tip of the other match vigorously along the side of his hand, before touching it against the tip of the first match, which hopped in the air with an audible "ping."

Something to do with static electricity, I thought. And pretty lame.

"Isn't that great?" enthused Joe, rearranging the matches. "Watch again..."

He repeated the trick a couple of times, then gave the matches to me and bade me try. Zip. Nothing. Zero. No hopping matches, no audible "ping." Total inertia.

"You're not doing it right," said Joe. "Here, like this..." he took the matches from me and repeated his trick, then gave them back to me, but still I could not make them do my bidding.

This pantomime went on for a few minutes, with Joe taking the matches and performing the trick; me taking them back and achieving absolutely sod all, apart from getting ever-so-slightly older in the process.

Eventually, Joe decided he'd gotten enough enjoyment out of this and told me that he'd been subtly flicking the match so that it hopped up in the air. My temper having frayed somewhat by this point, I struck one of the matches on the floor and threw it at him, causing his fleece to catch fire.

No injury was caused, although the fleece had a hole burned in it. Thanks to the purgative powers of fire, my sweet temper was restored and I have not set fire to either of my siblings since.

To the best of my recollection.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


The forgotten warriors

Ten weeks short of the 60th anniversary of Tokyo's second world war surrender, diplomats were today investigating claims that two octagenarian Japanese soldiers had emerged from the mountains of the southern Philippines.
Japanese 'wartime soldiers' found in Philippines
The Guardian, Friday May 27, 2005

Apparently, this kind of thing hasn't happened in a while (about 30 years, in fact.)

I'll admit that when I read this last night, I found it kind of amusing; I'll admit that part of me still does, in fact. Just think, though: if these reports are true, Yamakawa (from Osaka) was my age when he went off to fight for his country in a strange land, he's spent his entire life since then buggering about in the jungle and now he's a very old man. Imagine all the other things these guys could have done with their lives if someone had only mentioned that the war was over?

How would I like to spend 60 years in leafy isolation?

I wouldn't. Fuck war.


Friday, May 27, 2005


Pure genius

There are times when even I question the sanity of my actions. One such time was 3:30 am Thursday when I was getting dressed to go to a bar and watch the Champions League final. This after having rolled into bed at 1:30 am on the back of someone's sayonara party, by no means in my best senses.

The final, Liverpool vs AC Milan, didn't disappoint though.

Glumly draining my first few pints of Guiness, I watched as Liverpool shipped two goals before halftime. I then found out that Milan had scored one before I'd even arrived at the bar, meaning that Liverpool were three down and pretty much dead and buried.

Over a few more pints of Guiness, I watched in disbelief as Liverpool wiped out Milan's three-goal lead in an incredible spell of second-half football, before camping behind the ball and waiting for the penalty shoot out, which, quite remarkably, they won (as I choked on my fifth pint.)

Some reflections on the match:

1. The crucial point was Liverpool's second goal, drilled in by Smicer from outside the area. One goal for Liverpool was merely a consolation, but the second goal arriving in such short order threw Milan into total disarray.

2. Jerzy Dudek, who had previously distinguished himself by being absolutely crap in goal, had the game of a lifetime. The kind of game that Big Dave Beasant had in the '88 FA cup final and which earned him his subsequent transfer to Chelsea (this in the days when Chelsea were crap.) On the subject of Big Dave, check out the following piece of quality web journalism:

"Beasant... is best remembered for his unforgettable Cup Final penalty save from Liverpool's John Aldridge in 1988."
from sportingheroes.net

Uh-huh: if I'd done something unforgettable I'd hope that people would remember it too. This is the reason why you should never trust anything you read on the internet. Except this.

3. Despite having won the European Cup, Liverpool may not be able to defend it next season. (Click here to be enlightened.)

Obviously the Premiership can scarcely strip fourth-placed Everton of their Champions League place and give it to their bitter city rivals. The obvious solution is to boot Chelsea out instead, as they've been so useless this season.

4. 6:30 am is not an ideal bedtime when you have work that day.

All things considered, though, a much greater reward for my nocturnal efforts than the teary-eyed drop-out antics of St. Paula Radcliffe in last summers Olympic games. And crikey, Liverpool winning the European Cup? If I ever doubted that Japan was a 1980s flashback, my doubts have been laid to rest.


Monday, May 23, 2005


Gutted like a kipper

Feeling pretty run down today: my team lost the Awaji final on a shoot-out (the Man USA of western Japan), and my active weekend has left me with a tired body, a full complement of mosquito bites to all recognisable body parts, and a stinking cold. As I was riding the Keihan line home and contemplating the unfairness of life, the following incident came back to me.

Define "gutted."

The first semester at Newcastle University was what you'd call a transitive period. Most of the first year students were tasting freedom and independence for the first time and were having to make a lot of adjustments. One thing that took a great deal of getting used to was the awful weather in Newcastle from October onwards. As a result, Dr James Knowles was delivering his lecture on Volpone and sadistic humour to a pretty wheezy student body in the Herschel building that morning.

About halfway through the lecture, one girl at the back succumbed to a fit of coughing so raucous that it completely drowned out Dr Knowles's tepid commentary. The stalwart academic paused pointedly and the wretched girl, mortified at the unwanted attention she was drawing to herself, stood up briskly and descended the steps from the back of the lecture theatre towards the exit aisle. As she reached the bottom step, she stumbled and pitched forward, limbs flailing, into the row of seats in front.

In the middle of a lecture on sadistic humour.

We all laughed at her.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


Episode III and a bit: revenge of the Decepticons

So, I just watched Star Wars Episode III, (insert action here) of the (insert name here.)

I'd like to post some observations, but I feel that ruining the cinematic event of the year by blowing the lid off all the surprises would be scant reward for my devoted readers.

Oh, all right, I can't resist this one...

Anakin turns into Darth Vader!

I totally didn't see that one coming, but now I've let the cat out of the bag I expect I'll have George Lucas's lawyers waiting for me outside when I go out tomorrow morning. Talking of which, they'll have to be up pretty early because I'm off to kick butt in Awaji. Time for me to lay down some Zs. Peace.

Note to self: idea for Sith lord: Darth Megatron. Sweet dreams.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Hail the furita

I was discussing societal ills in class yesterday, when one of my students, to my surprise and delight, singled out the humble furita. Seeing as this group of delinquents make up a fair portion of our students (the majority being Matsushita employees), I felt obliged to defend them. Plus, the tarty top that this girl had opted to wear to her English lesson was severely limiting my respect for her opinion, the gaijin-hunting minx. (In fairness, the student in question did lay a fair amount of blame at the door of Japanese companies and their increasingly myopic hiring policy.)

The furita (pronounced f-reetah) is a growing phenomenon in Japan; the definitions I found were "a job-hopping part-time worker", and better still "a part-timer by choice." Those that are finished with education, but can't be bothered with company life. "Choice" is an important aspect: many will announce their furita denomination proudly; it's becoming a status thing. ("My name is furita; we are many.")

The scourge of the east
Like this lazy wench, for example.

The term itself, I have heard variously described as being derived from "free time" or from "free arubaito" (a part-time job, from the German Arbeit.) The sound of the word conjures up so many other appropriate images, though: frivolity, frippery, frittering away one's money...

I guess they could be considered Japan's equivalent to Generation X: the economy's gone west, job prospects are crappy; if you throw your lot in with a company then you'll probably be out on your ear in a few year's time. With my succession of temping jobs after university and my reluctance to commit to anything, was I any different? All I wanted to do was prolong the student lifestyle (getting steaming drunk on Tuesday nights) for as long as possible.

Hell, am I any different now?

And just because some smart-arse level 4 student's working hard to get a good degree, juggling part-time positions and spending a fair bit of her remaining free time mentoring under-priveleged children, what makes her think she's entitled to pass comment on a collection of lazy good-for-nothings who can't be bothered to get a proper job?

Actually, forget I asked that.

For more information on the furita plague, gnawing away at the heart of this once-great nation, check out the following hot links:

Japan's free spirits BBC

Furita futures for Japanese youth japanwindow.com

New life patterns for a new age The Japan Times

Monday, May 16, 2005


Hircine doom

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A lazy worker, not a satanic cult, was responsible for severed goat heads that caused a scare at a Vancouver-area school, Canadian police said on Monday.

Police were called in after goat heads were twice found on a bench outside a school in nearby Chilliwack, British Columbia, prompting fears in the suburban community that it had been targeted by a satanic animal killing.

A 19-year-old worker at a local slaughterhouse has admitted he took the two heads with the intention of having them mounted, but then changed his mind and left them at the school in hopes a janitor would dispose of them.

"(Police) want to reassure the community that there were no satanic intentions in relation to these incidents," the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said, adding that the man "should have known better."

Good news on severed goat heads: Satan not involved
Reuters, Tue May 10, 2005

"Should have known better..."

On an entirely dissimilar, yet strangely related note, check out the following information on the kamoshika, better known (by which I mean equally unknown, but unknown in English) as the Japanese serow.

Why do I mention this? Because, dear reader, one of these feisty sons of Satan is going around Japan unleashing its serow beatdown on random old dears:

YAMAGATA (Kyodo)- A woman was injured after being attacked by a Japanese serow that had escaped from a pet house of a primary school in the city of Yamagata on Tuesday, police said.

The 3-year-old female serow hit 74-year-old Yoshiko Suzuki in the legs with its horns in front of the Higashizawa Primary School, according to the school.

A school official said a veterinarian was raising the serow, a national treasure species, in the schoolyard with permission from the Yamagata prefectural government after it had been found injured and put under protection in June 2002.

The serow made a getaway from the yard when the doctor's wife was cleaning the pet house.

No students were in the schoolyard when the animal escaped.

Woman attacked by escaped serow
The Daily Yomiuri

Walker and I laughed and laughed when we read this. When you're evil, there's little else you can do.


Saturday, May 14, 2005


Kisama ga kyuukyuusha de kitaku suru zo (don't ask me if that made any sense)

So, Friday 13th brought me mixed fortunes: on the minus side, I wasn't able to secure the flight I wanted at the travel agents (for England in July)- I'm on a waiting list for Thai Airlines, which will mean a bastard-ass long flight. Furthermore, I completely forgot that I was supposed to be teaching a private student in the evening. Damn it!

On the plus side, I got my NOVA pay, PLUS I landed free tickets to todays big match: Cerezo Osaka vs Gamba Osaka!- my first J-league game!

This was a totally hot proposition: glorious weather and the venue, Nagai, was one of the World Cup stadiums. Andrew and I headed down early and took seats next to the away fans' part. A few things are worth explaining at this point:

1. I was rooting for Gamba as they are Panasonic's team and Panasonic employ the majority of my students. Furthermore, they don't play in pink, which Cerezo do. When I mention this to my students, they usually nod sagely and tell me it's because it's the colour of cherry blossom. This doesn't seem like a particularly strong case for grown men to parade around in pink shirts to me; I guess it must be a Japanese thing.

2. Although there was an "away" section, Gamba fans were allowed to go pretty much anywhere in the ground. Japanese supporters are much more easy going than their European counterparts. The only reason why there was an away section, I think, was to guarantee a decent-sized body of Gamba fans together and give them a chance to generate a bit of an atmosphere. Which they duly did.

3. The whole thing was like a parody of football, from the ineptitude on the pitch, to the various bits of right-wing paraphenalia being blithely waved about by completely benign Japanese supporters. We saw a flag marked "Real Osaka Ultras," (click here to find out why Ultras are not generally a good thing.) We saw the Saint George's cross, although no chorus of "No surrender," thankfully. We saw an Italian flag (never good) and even a confedarates flag, which nearly caused Andrew a seizure.

On to the match.

Cerezo looked the more promising team early on, spread the ball wide a lot, kept possession pretty well and were probably a bit disappointed when Gamba carved through the centre of their defence to scrape the ball home for an early lead. Fortunately, Gamba had a fairly typical Japanese goalie (ie- cack) and he contrived to let one through his near post from outside the area within a few minutes of the opener. Gamba regained the lead with what looked like quite a good goal, except that I wasn't really paying attention. 2-1 at half time.

The Nagai stadium, by the way, was very nice.

The second half saw Gamba under heavy pressure, before they sliced open the Cerezo defence on the counter attack, the ball was played across the face of the goal, leaving the striker able to turn it into an empty net to put the game beyond doubt.

Gamba then conceded within 30 seconds of the restart to put the game back in doubt.

After this shocking sloppiness by my adopted team, the game lost its lustre somewhat. Panasonic's finest added a fourth in injury time after the ball had pinged around the Cerezo area for what seemed like an eternity. The referee decided he'd seen enough and blew his whistle for full time. The players bowed a bit and everyone left.

And, as I was on my way home from yakiniku, some old geezer latched onto me and offered me the intimate aquaintance of a young lady for 10,000 yen (about 50 quid.) I said no.

After all, the best things in life are free.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Itadakimasu (finger lickin' good y'all)

I never thought I'd be reduced to stir-frying mouldy broccoli. Hell, I never thought thought I'd be reduced to eating broccoli at all, without my Mother cramming it down my throat. Sadly, I guess I've changed for the worse. Then again...

Gruesome anecdote that pretty much summarises my culinary history:

I got home to number I-suddenly-can't-remember-what, the house I shared with Tim. Number 164? Maybe. I can't remember. Whatever.

I was peckish, and faced with a dilemma. To go to the shop, or to tuck into the onion bhaji which I knew for a fact to be on the floor behind the sofa.

If, like me, you think this was a difficult decision, you might like to consider the following factors:

1. I had plenty of money in my wallet.

2. We lived next-door-but-one to an inexpensive shop with friendly staff.

3. Tim and I, having been unable to finish our monster take-away curry the previous day, had played football with the onion bhaji and it was all covered with hair.

You know how this story ends; I'd hardly be typing it if I'd just decided to go to the shop. And if you can't understand why I did this, you are not alone.

I will say this, though: it tasted a hell of a lot better than yellow-and-purple broccoli.

Saturday, May 07, 2005


Heart of darkness

Taurean qualities include an earthy, practical nature, a love of luxury and a devotee of sensuality, strong opinions, and a profound stubbornness. They are also fairly emotional and sentimental signs. The sex drive of those born under the sign of Taurus is legendary, and they, along with Scorpio, are the most sexual signs in the entire zodiac. Negatively, Taureans can be very selfish, obstinate, and secretive.
Taurus article from Wikipedia

Happy birthday to Walker- everything a Taurus should be: obstinate, unreasonable and great fun when he's angry and/or drunk (often.) I'm not going to speculate about the sex drive.

For the record, Scorpions piss me off.



Shot bar pimp

Blair is back; for how long remains to be seen. Bad weather is known to have an adverse effect on voter turnout; it rained today. Plus, I was several thousand miles from my nearest polling booth. Plus, I'm not registered to vote.

Yes, we have just witnessed the triumph of democracy that is a British general election. The Labour Party have been returned to power with a whopping 36% support from people who could actually be bothered to vote. This obviously represents a resounding endorsement of the war in Iraq and other despots must be quaking in their boots at this moment (watch out China.)

The main piece of good news to be drawn from this is that Michael Howard will be stepping down as leader of the Conservative party. Had the unthinkable happened and the election gone to the Tories, Howard's immigration policy would undoubtedly have been so stringent that even I would have been considered an illegal alien.

Talking of Darth Howard's resignation...

Mr Howard's announcement comes despite calls for him to stay on as leader for at least a year. Many senior Tories believe that John Major and William Hague's post-election resignations left the party rudderless at crucial times.

Rejecting those calls, Mr Howard told supporters that he wanted to live up to his promise to demand accountability from his ministers if he had made it to Downing Street.

Howard to stand down as Tory leader
The Guardian, Friday May 6, 2005

This from the very same Michael Howard who, as Home Secreatary, flouted ministerial conventions on accountability after the Whitemoor prison breakout (click here.) How times have changed.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Hot place in a handbasket

So I filled in an internet questionnaire tonight which told me I was going to Hell (pretty presumptuous, if you ask me.)

Test your own immortal soul by clicking on this link (be warned, there's no margin for error and this guy doesn't spare your feelings,) or, if you don't want to hear about your impending damnation, you can check out the questions with my revised answers below.


1. Have you ever told a lie?
Ahem... no??? (looks shifty)

2. Have you given money to charity?
Door-to-door, bungee jump and public indecency- good enough for you, God botherer?

3. Have you gone to church regularly?
Define "regularly."

4. Have you ever stolen anything (no matter how small)?
I'm typing these answers on a computer mainly constructed from parts my flatmate still doesn't know his computer is missing.

5. Have you ever used "God," "Jesus," or "Christ," as a curse word? (Example: "Oh my G-d!")
Hell, no...

6. Have you made it a practice to read the Bible regularly?
Define "Bible."

7. Have you ever looked at someone and had lustful thoughts?
If you're seriously asking this question, you don't know me, you don't know men, and you don't know mankind.

8. Have you ever broken the first Commandment?
(Click here if you don't know what the first Commandment is.)
Absolutely not- a God who advertises on the internet is definitely #1 in my book.

Disclaimer: it is not my intention to cause offence to any religious groups, but whoever wrote the questionnaire at http://www.needgod.com is, in my opinion, a tool.

Monday, May 02, 2005


Another first

Having survived my day in the office, I parked my butt on the Keihan train, cranked up the 'Pod and stuck my nose in a book.

Feeling as tired as I did, reading turned out to be a non-starter. I closed my book and, leaning forward, I caught the eye of a Japanese guy in a white tracksuit on the opposite row of seats.

He took one look at me and crossed himself.

I felt strangely gratified.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


The Pod has landed

Somewhere in Osaka,
Thursday, April 21st, 2005.

(11:09:00) daniel: ...
(11:09:05) daniel: I'm not happy
(11:09:33) daniel: I bought my Brother an iPod for his birthday
(11:09:50) daniel: I mailed my Mum and asked for his postal address
(11:09:56) daniel: she didn't send it
(11:10:05) daniel: but she did mention in passing what
(11:10:15) daniel: she'd
(11:10:28) daniel: gotten him for his birthday
(11:10:33) daniel: and as I type this
(11:10:52) daniel: I'm listening to the new iPod it suddenly turns out I have
(11:11:03) daniel: kind of irritating

How did I deal with this despicable twist of fate?

Here's how: within two minutes of learning that I wouldn't be able to send Joe the iPod for his birthday, I had it out of the box and was figuring out how to stick tunes on it.


This thing is mint. My trusty Panachronic MD recorder is suddenly looking at early retirement. Yay gadgetry, praise Mammon. Live the dream, choke back the vomit, vote New Labour.

Edit: I just fortuitously discovered that my MD recorder is waterproof (don't ask how)- perhaps the chunky beast has a future after all!

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