Monday, August 29, 2005


Storm's a comin'

What has happened down here, is the winds have changed
Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain
It rained real hard, and it rained for a real long time
Six feet of water in the streets of evangeline

The river rose all day, the river rose all night
Some people got lost in the flood, some people got away alright
The river had busted through clear down to placker mine
Six feet of water in the streets of evangeline

Louisiana, louisiana
They’re trying to wash us away, they’re trying to wash us away
Oh louisiana, louisiana
They’re trying to wash us away, they’re trying to wash us away

President coolidge come down, in a railroad train
With his little fat man with a note pad in his hand
President say "little fat man, oh isn’t it a shame,
What the river has done to this poor farmer’s land"

Oh louisiana, louisiana
They’re trying to wash us away, you’re trying to wash us away
Oh louisiana, oh louisiana
They’re trying to wash us away, oh lord, they’re trying to wash us away
They’re trying to wash us away, they’re trying to wash us away

Louisiana 1927

Damn, I'm glad I'm not in Louisiana in 2005. Not that Japan is any stranger to big-ass storms.


Sunday, August 28, 2005


Weekend away

I haven't actually had a weekend away recently, but I did have one back in February.

The photos of my trip to Okayama-ken are now available (at long last) on my Japan photos page. Enjoy!

Friday, August 26, 2005


Costly errors in Japanese

I picked up my form for December's Japanese exam today. I'm hoping to improve on last year's 58% marginal fail dullardry, proof if proof be needed that I'm not a morning person.

I suppose I ought to have been able to pick up the missing 2% somewhere in the last year; I haven't had a Japanese lesson in absolutely months, but I'm getting a lot more conversation practice. Take this little gem with the staff at my school

Dan: imeji chenji?

Staff member nods, happy that I have noticed her new hairstyle.

Dan: shitsuren shimashita ka?

Staff member's smile remains, but I notice a slight tightening of the jaw. I go back to eating my lunch. For those not in the know, imeji chenji is when someone gets a new look, shitsuren suru is being crossed in love, a popular cause of imeji chenji amongst Japanese girls.

Main problems to work on are vocabulary, listening comprehension and the fact that I'm a jerk.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Word game!

In partnership with Mike's blog, I am hereby announcing details of today's word game. Originally my idea, but why don't I just copy and paste what Mike wrote about it:

The rules: simply think of two products / items / machines whose swapping of labels would result in comical / tragic / interesting / potentially disturbing consequences.

Some examples:

Basmati rice and live bait

Alcoholics anonymous meeting and free whisky tasting

Remington lady shave and angle grinder

Disabled access and car wash

Rape alarm and Sure for women (it won't let you down)

Germoloids and white mice

Braille section and aviary

parachute and first aid kit

Velcro wall and wet paint

Defoliating face scrub and quicklime

Deluxe fish tank and deep fat frier (Mike's blog) and

More examples available on

Feel free to ditch your ideas as comments here, there or anywhere- spread the love.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Learning fear

Your eyes are almost dead
can't get out of bed
And you can't sleep
You're sitting down to dress
and you're a mess
You look in the mirror

You look in your eyes
Then you realize

Everybody goes
leaving those
who fall behind
Everybody goes
as far as they can
They don't just care

They stood on the stairs
Laughing at your airs

Your mother's dead
She said
"Don't be afraid"
Your mother's dead
You're on your own
She's in her bed

Everybody goes
Leaving those
Who fall behind
Everybody goes
As far as they can
They don't just care

You're a wasted face
you're a sad-eyed lie
You're a holocaust

-Holocaust, Alex Chilton

There's one heck of a student at my new school. Very tall for a Japanese girl and skinny as they come. Her English is pretty good, but her voice reminds me of Orson Welles as Unicron in the Transformers movie: as deep as the furthest regions of Hell, plus I haven't seen her crack a smile once.

She's an undertaker, by the way. When she divulged this piece of information to me, I didn't grin like I normally would, I actually caught myself nodding.

Anyway, today the undertaker was part of a group of three high-level students who were at the mercy of my fat-headed self-eulogising titled instructor. I was in the booth behind her, her short, jet-black hair visible over the shoulder of the would be hip-hop kid that I was trying to wean off phrases like "very delicious."

With my student's head bowed over an apparently demanding workbook task, I risked a glance into the undertaker's class behind him. The somnolent drone of the twat instructor's voice seemed to fade as my eyes flickered to the back of her head. That's how it began.

It is noticeable that she always appears to move in slow motion, but I was powerless to look away as she very deliberately turned in her seat and looked directly at me, her black, dead eyes like a shark's set in her deathly pale face, radiating some awful knowledge or intention way beyond my understanding.

Instantly, I felt all warmth, all hope drain from my heart. Every instant of terror, experienced in various horror movies, condensed into the frozen crystalline paralysis of that moment: if this was real then so, too, were they. The world at the edges of my vision turned grey as I imagined that same figment of darkness winding a sheet around my unmarked body, the expression on her face not one scruple different from that she was wearing now.

She turned her attention back to her lesson, I exhaled. That was a close one.

I think I'll be taking my holy water with me tomorrow. The thought of students drinking my soul like cool-aid doesn't really appeal to me.


From the green, grass of Spencer Park to the dirty, god-awful squalor of Osaka

Sunday turned up a bit of a goalfest in Real "Penguin" Osaka's game against the mighty bunch of Japanese lads to whom we dish out periodic beatings.

I wasn't feeling too flash prior to kick off, as I'd worked a full day's shift on the back of four hours' sleep, following a night at pocket park with the Vending Machine Man.

Roy: I've done... questionable things.

Tyrell: Also extraordinary things. Revel in your time.

I got more fun out of the team's Japanese striker, Issei. As mentioned in a previous post, I regularly give him lessons in how to offend and bemuse English-speaking persons. This time my target was good friend, mince Andy. I made Issei repeat his lines a couple of times to make sure he had them down pat, then unleashed him on the unsuspecting Andy.

Issei: Andy?

Andy: What's up, Issei?

Issei: No means no. Stop.

Andy: Eh?

I laughed and laughed- it didn't take the mince boy long to figure out the real culprit.

The match itself brought plenty of incident: a fair few goals, including one little honey from outside the area for me, a few near-death experiences on the goal line and a hell of a lot of rain.

The sad truth, however, is that the opposition squeezed 4-3 ahead with a few minutes remaining. This was particularly galling, as I'd pursued the attack from the halfway line and, after Tom the centre half trod in a puddle and did an impromptu back-flip, I managed to get goalside of the striker, only for his shot to go straight through my legs into the bottom corner of the goal.

Unable to contain myself at this vile mishap, I punched the ground in frustration, adding a row of bloody knuckles to my problems. D'oh!

This temperamental tomfoolery turned out to be unwarranted: with the seconds ticking away, I intercepted a pass on the halfway line, powered up the left, leaving opposition players floundering like fish in a net, before squaring the ball to the team's other Earlsdon representative, Leon. Defying all our expectations, the Kensington Road terrier hit a scoopy, loopy shot from the edge of the area, which arced tantalisingly over the keeper into the top corner of the goal to get us a draw.

Moral of this story: never give up? Nah. Patience is a virtue? Nah. Earlsdon footballers rock and the rest of the world can eat a dick?

Yeah, that should do it.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


Give me your words

So, I woke today with a raging hangover and I wanted to read about Coventry's match on the official club page. I don't include a link here, because the official page is total rubbish and they've started enforcing registration if you want to read the match reports. I quote:

Click here to learn about the benefits
of becoming a registered fan.

I clicked and a totally blank window opened up. At least they're honest.

Well, I'm not what you'd ever call the most devout supporter, but I'm Coventry born and bred, not some glory boy from Buckinghamshire, so I decided to register. Cue lengthy questionnaire with all sorts of demeaning personal questions, such as "do you gamble over the internet?" Damn.

Having gone through this humiliating process only to be rewarded with the kind of quality web journalism that makes this page look like The Times, I decided that I would put my own readers through similar degradation. So here's my registration questionnaire. If you don't want to post your answers as a comment, you can always mail them to me in strictest confidence.

Whereupon I will post them as a comment.

Anyway, here's the questionnaire...

Boring bit

1. What's your name?

2. Do you have any prefered nickname? If so, what is it?

3. Did kids use to call you anything unnecessarily cruel/accurate at school? If so, share the wealth.

4. What's your star sign? (If it's Sagittarius, Pisces, Capricorn, Gemini or Scorpio, please bugger off.)

Interesting bit

5. Have you ever crashed a car? Detailed answer please.

6. Have you ever fantasised about anyone I know? If so, who? Go on, I won't tell...

7. Have you ever caught yourself laughing at a joke that makes fun of those different from or less lucky than yourself? If so, you do realise that this automatically makes you a bad person, don't you?

8. Please look at this random inkblot. What do you see?

a. a Cheetah
b. a sports car
c. a badly-drawn stickman trying to kill his unfaithful wife with a chainsaw

(If the answer is c. you have an eating disorder.)

Thank you for your time and candour.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


The great firewall of China

Brian moved out; he'd been in this madhouse so long, I never thought I'd outlast him, but he's gone to China. It's what he'd been wanting all along and I wish and expect every success for him over there.

I got an e-mail from him today, the title says it all: Your blog is inaccessible from China.

A billion malnourished pseudo-Communists can't be wrong, eh?

Well if nobody over there's reading this, then I suppose it's ok for me to express my thoughts on the matter.

Up yours, China. You fucking suck.


Errant wallet, arrant muppet

When I woke up, I knew my day was off to a bad start. It was just past seven in the morning, I was still insensibly drunk and I was at a subway station, the name of which I didn't recognise.

Oh, and I didn't have my wallet any more. Bugger.

In all honesty, I wasn't really worried, I still had my camera and my iPod in my pockets- if someone had been taking taking advantage of a drunken gaijin, surely they'd have nicked those.

I resolved to get home, get some sleep and worry about it afterwards.

Got home, got some sleep, woke up (roaringly hungover) went to the lost property office in Namba: nashi.

Still not entirely downhearted, I went to the bank with my bank book and passport, foolishly
thinking that conclusive evidence that I was their customer would allow me to withdraw some money.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

They started kicking up a fuss about the fact that I wasn't carrying my name stamp. I told them that I hadn't the least idea where it was. They then started doodling some random nonsense, which I realised was a map of the area, including the nearest name stamp shop. I allowed them to finish before telling them that I didn't have any money so how was I going to buy a stamp. At this point, one of the ladies slapped herself on the head, which I would love to think was because of her own myopic stupidity, but I rather suspect it was frustration at the obdurate penniless gaijin.

To cut a long story short, I left the bank empty-handed. To cap it all, the New Japan organisation were driving their vans around my neighbourhood, shouting "gaijin go home." (Photos here.)

I had a sneaky suspicion that I'd earned this: three-day weekend and I was flat broke with xenophobic nutters polluting my airwaves. I considered some of my actions the previous night: some Japanese punk with a girl under each arm passing comment on us as we walked past, me remarking loudly to one of my workmates: "I think the whore's the one in the middle." This in Japanese.

Yeah, that was pretty rude.

Today, however, my karma had evidently recovered as I managed to track the errant wallet down; it was in the lost property office at the far northern extreme of the Midosuji line. I'd love to know how it got there, but I suspect I'll never find out. I hiked up there and my wad was handed back to me intact: my subway passes, my ID card and 3,000 yen I was convinced I'd spent. Maybe whoever found the wretched thing tucked some extra money in there before handing it in.

You have to love this country; there are never any consequences for stupidity.

Monday, August 15, 2005


Britain's golden girl

Lord be praised, Paula Radcliffe, erstwhile object of unworthy satire on these pages, has won the marathon gold at the World championships in Helsinki.

image nicked from the BBC site
"Eat my dust, Ndereba!"

Paula, very popular internationally, as well as having assumed Princess Di-like status in Britain, is the world record holder, an outspoken critic of abortion, and mistakenly believed to be "very beautiful" by at least one of my students.

After Paula's traumatic experience in the Olympic games and after finishing a lowly ninth in the 10,000 metres earlier in the championships, this barnstorming performance has earned her a place in Dan's entirely impartial list of the most hardcore athletic victories of all time.

Top 5

1. Daniel McKeown, 1500 metres (Year 9)
Alderman Callow School sports day, 1992

2. Colin Jackson, Men's 110 metres hurdles (World Record, son!)
World Championships, 1993

3. Linford Christie, Men's 100 metres
World Championships, 1993

4. Noguchi Mizuki, Marathon for girls
Olympic Games, 2004

5. Paula Radcliffe, Marathon for girls
World Championships, 2005

The greatest hardcore athlete of all time is Ethiopia's Haille Gebrselassie. If I hadn't taken him off my list for being unrealistically good at running, he'd probably be in possession of places 1-10. That guy was the shit.

Edit: After reading this superbly-written article again, I realise that the word "abortion" should actually read "performance-enhancing drugs."


Sunday, August 14, 2005


Behold the nightmare

finger lickin' good y'all

Raw beef with raw egg. If you find this a little off-putting, bear in mind that there's sesame oil on there as well, which makes all the difference of course.

The real significance of this is that I've finally coughed up the money for a digital camera. Expect more pixelised tomfoolery forthwith.

I'm also planning to go down to Japanco and pistol-whip the dozy fools in their photolab. Once I've got my last two rolls of film back, of course.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


Bug beatdown

Worked today, covering someone's 10 o'clock shift. This was an absolute sod, all the more so thanks to an unexpected cameo in my first lesson.

I was just introducing my students to the language for the day when one of them went "ooh, cockroach." I looked around and there, sure enough, was the cockroach- just a small one, industriously scampering around the wall in search of whatever constitutes fame and fortune to your average cockroach.

Thankfully, both of my students were guys, but they were still a little spooked by the presence of the bug, particularly when he started exploring the ceiling, fell off and bopped one of them on the head.

When you're having a bad day, share the wealth. In my break between the first and second lesson, I came back to the room with a handful of tissue paper and snatched the upstart bug from the wall, to great cheers from the students. Once I was safely out of sight back in the staffroom, I rolled the tissue into a tight little ball and jumped up and down on it.

Wrong day, wrong teacher, son.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Lost in space

Not as in "missing" but with the same meaning as "lost at sea."

Now that the Discovery has landed safely and there's little chance of me jinxing it, I'd like to recommend that anyone who can be remotely bothered read this two-part article from the Observer (The problem with Houston, January 11th, 2004) about the Columbia.

Hell, I'm not going to force you- I just found it interesting, that's all.



And now, the arts section

Tonight's film, Dark night of the scarecrow, raises serious questions about the quality of justice being dispensed by paedophile postman vigilantes.

The film has some great touches: a redneck firing squad taking out a fugitive (Larry Drake, son!) disguised as a scarecrow. The scarefugitive (naturally) turns out to be innocent of suspected wrongdoing, but his killers get off scott-free in small town court, necessitating supernatural vengeance from beyond the grave. Just for a change.

Best bit: the vigilante ringleader goes to have a "tactful" word with the victims mother, whereupon she accuses him of being a pervert. He sweats a bit, stammers incoherently, then hurries off.

Spoiler: there were no ethnic minorities in this film. If there had been, they would probably have all been dead by the end of the opening credits.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Life without an operational brain

Dealing with mad sleep loss, a new school and climate shock is making me feel strange. It's very reminiscent of my first few weeks in Japan, way back when. It's not really deja vu, the eerie feeling of having seen something before; it's the eerie feeling of dealing with stuff that I've been dealing with for the best part of two years, but feeling like it's the first time. Don't know the name for this condition.

Other factors: subway and internet cafe.

To elucidate the above, I ride the first leg of my journey to work on bike in preference to taking the subway. That way I can pocket the travel expenses. However, being at a new school means that I'll have to present them with my rail pass for the first month, just to get the gravy train rolling. I'm not lamenting the cost too much- it's far too hot to be cycling.

As for the net cafe, the internet was out in our apartment this morning, so I came here from work. A cursory check of Mike's blog tells me that the internet in our apartment is now, apparently, working.

And here am I spilling my guts in this shadily-lit booth, while furtive salarymen in adjacent booths are spilling god-knows-what in their complimentary hankies.

Experience Japan, the advert said.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Facing forward

I'm no longer at Furukawabashi (this is not sudden news to me, but it's the first time I've been bothered to make mention of it.) The quiet school in Kadoma, full of Panasonic workers is mourning the loss of two good English teachers (Walker and myself) and one arrant dolt.

Despite having spent nearly two years in the place, I didn't say goodbye to many people. The move was finalised while I was in England, so I came back to a different school (more on this to follow.)

According to the Vending Machine Man, a few emotional farewells took place in my absence:

VMM: Your stalker was crying her eyes out in my last voice lesson, man.
Dan: Were the tears like falling off her face?
VMM: Yeah.
Dan: Was she making mimp mimp noises?
VMM: Yeah.
Dan: Ace.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Listed on BlogShares