Monday, October 31, 2005


Connective devices

Zutsu ga aru. Sore mo dare-ka ga ore no udedokei ni haite shimatta rashii, demo naka-naka oboete inai...

"I have a headache. Furthermore, it seems that someone was sick on my wristwatch, but I do not remember much."

My Japanese workmates loved that one.

Monday, October 24, 2005


Criminal genius, comic genius

Today, we're turning our news spotlight on the plight of Bulgaria, a country apparently in the thrall of criminals and corrupt officials, with the help of the Sofia News Agency page.

Both articles feature John Beyrle. In the absence of any information about this guy, I have been imagining him to look like Gary Busey.

Bulgarians are disgusted by the failure in crime and corruption fighting, United States Ambassador to Bulgaria John Beyrle, said during his first public lecture in the country.
US Ambassador: Bulgarians Disgusted by Crime, Corruption
Sofia News Agency, 11 October 2005, Tuesday

Good stuff, John. Let's see how Bulgarian officialdom digests this hard-hitting appraisal...

Two border officers from Varna airport were arrested Sunday, for stealing the cell phone of the United States Ambassador to Bulgaria John Beyrle.
The ambassador was flying from Varna to Hungary Friday morning, when he forgot his cell phone at the conveyer where hand luggage is x-rayed. He did not realize his phone was missing until after his plane took off.
A search was commissioned immediately but when asked, all border officers claimed that they hadn't found a phone.
The high-tech gadget was equipped with a global positioning system, however and it helped locating it in the pocket of one of the two officers who were monitoring the x-ray belt. They had thrown away the SIM card and kept the expensive device.
The two claimed that they wouldn't have taken the phone if they knew it was property of the ambassador, Trud daily newspaper reported.
The culprits are now under arrest in Varna, facing malpractice and theft charges. They will be fired, officials announced, and their superiors will also be penalized for the lack of control and bad organization.

Bulgarian Officers "Stole" US Ambassador's Phone
Sofia News Agency, 16 October 2005, Sunday.

One way or another, it looks like it's been a pretty interesting week in Bulgaria's war against crime and corruption. The Reuters news site reported that the culprits could face up to ten years in prison for their sticky-fingered antics.

I'm sure they'd be glad to know they've brightened up my day.


Sunday, October 23, 2005


Quote of the week

Having a new flatmate has proved a pretty beneficial experience so far; I'm remembering some of my first impressions of Japan, which is definitely a good thing. That said, Jamie's induction, which involves the internecine treachery of the NOVA multimedia cattle market, has been radically different from my own. When he expressed a premature weariness with the usual gaijin drinking haunts I knew what to do.

Osaka is full of such bars: just a long room with the toilet at the end, bar seats only, over-priced, small glasses of beer. So what is it that makes Babylon different? The whips and chains hanging from the walls? The barman with more metal in his body than Wolverine? The various lethal animals kept in glass cases along the bar?

Edit: when I requested it, the barman produced a display case with vicious-looking but disappointingly static scorpion inside. He informed me ruefully that it had passed away recently.

The fact that it doubles as a body-piercing and tattoo studio?

All of the above?

Or is it just the same as the rest of the bars; a layer of individuality glossing over the same identikit template, an American Beauty for people who don't like listening to Kenny Rogers?

Regardless of the rhetorical questions, Jamie got in quite an involved chat with the barman about guitarists. I leafed through some of the photo albums of body modification that adorned the bar. I was fairly sure that the riveted schlong belonged to the same guy who was pouring us our over-priced beer.

When we left for a few more beers in Triangle Park, Jamie seemed to have been quite favourably impressed with the bar:

“This is some country, man- even the satanists are friendly.”

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Misrepresentaion of ninjas

One of my students mentioned a new film to me on Thursday: Shinobi: heart under blade. She described it as a ninja love story, set in a forest. I was sold.

So yesterday, after looking up some ninja vocabulary on the web to help me understand the film a bit better, I went to see Shinobi: heart under blade. It blew.

To start with, I couldn't understand what the woman in the ticket booth was asking me about. After a couple of goes I realised she was telling me that the film was in Japanese and asking if this was OK. I don't imagine my expression of total incomprehension inspired great confidence in her.

Second problem, watching the film with Mike. I think the last film I went to see with him was Return Of The King, so I'd forgotten some of his cinematic idiosyncracies:

75,000 ORCS are spread out across the PELENNOR FIELDS like a
sea of black ANTS.

DENETHOR: Rohan has deserted us! Theoden's betrayed me! (yells) Abandon your posts! Flee! Flee for your lives!

Gandalf suddenly appears and strikes the gibbering Denethor unconscious with his staff. The breathless, dramatic silence which follows this moment is punctured by Mike shouting "Yeah, Gandalf!" I wince as Japanese patrons jump in their seats and resolve never to go to a cinema with him again.

Yeah, I'd forgotten that.

Anyway, the film: my understanding wasn't aided by the fact that the story seemed to be pretty stupid. The film is set in 1614, when two ninja clans are ordered to wage war on each other by the powers that be. The reason for this is unclear, but I would speculate that, Japan having emerged from a period of civil war and the Tokugawa shogunate having established control over the country, the Ninja are now viewed as a threat, rather than an asset.

What this amounts to is rather like a game of paintball, except it's being played by ninjas with stupid X-Men powers. We have a shape-shifter, a guy who can regenerate to recover from wounds, a woman who can inflict what looks like a rather nasty combination of osteoperosis and an epileptic fit with her eyes, a girl who can set insects on people.

I almost forgot- there's a love story going on. The reason I almost forgot this is that it was totally naff. The bird with the deadly eyes is in love with a young maverick ninja from the other clan. Their nascent affair is nipped in the bud when their clan leaders announce that they are at war. The title heart under blade refers to the kanji for shinobi (meaning endurance or stealth, central to the Ninja way.) Shinobi is made of the kanji for heart and blade, thusly:

I suppose the film was meant to focus on the ascendancy of the blade: the two lovers have to thrust their feelings aside and fight for their respective clans ("Sore ga shinobi da" says the young guy's clan chief, which roughly translates as "stop bitching and kill someone, you virile young maverick son of a gun.") They say a curt farewell beside a moonlit waterfall, before rejoining their comrades. After this it's a bit of a deathmatch; weird superhuman ninjas are dropping like flies, but somehow it's not really inspiring.

Inevitably, it gets whittled down to one survivor from each side- yes, you guessed who: the girl tries to split the guy's bones and veins within him with the magic power of her eyes, but finds that she can't because she's crying too much. The guy, meanwhile, has made it apparent that he will not try to fight her. After a brief internal struggle, the girl draws her blade and runs towards her lover, before throwing herself into his arms. There is a moment of ambiguity: has she, at the last, flung her blade aside to embrace the one she loves, or has she plunged it straight into his chest like a stone-cold ninja should?

Obviously, the answer is B; heart under blade, son! The guy has time to mumble something about being glad she killed him, before keeling over on his back. By this time, the shogunate has initiated the final stage of its solution to the ninja question. Both ninja villages are being bombarded to rubble, whilst the inhabitants (who are basically just padawans) are scurrying around and dying like puny insects. In order to save the villagers, the final ninja abases herself before an elderly Tokugawa Ieyasu (the ostensibly-retired shogun) and gouges herself in the eyes in order to prove that ninjas are no longer a threat. He orders the cessation of pyrotechnic destruction and both ninja villages are saved, albeit in somewhat reduced circumstances.

Having read my synopsis, you might be forgiven for thinking that this film was good. It wasn't! Such is the power of my masterly prose, I actually made it sound good, but the sad reality of this film is that it was a complete turkey. Were Shinobi: heart under blade my only source of ninja information, I would probably fall into the error of thinking that ninjas weren't cool. Happily, ninjas are cool, but this dog-crap film utterly failed to demonstrate it.

Monday, October 10, 2005


Doing things the Dan way

Or: why people are always saying what a nice bloke I am.

That's right, I bought my long-suffering workmates some cakes from Nagasaki. Above and beyond the call of duty? All in a days work for your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman.


Weekend wanderings

I went to Nagasaki- it was way cool.

I took the overnight boat to Kyuushu Thursday evening (an experience I would recommend to anyone), then caught an early-morning train from Kyuushu's Northern tip to Nagasaki on the West coast.

By a complete coincidence, it turned out that my arrival coincided with the beginning of Kyuushu's Kunchi festival, which meant that I couldn't find space at the Youth Hostel and had to go for a clapped-out hotel instead which, clapped out though it was, was at least authentically Japanese. My lengthy argument with the hotel owner about whether or not it's unlucky to sleep with your pillow pointing North comprised one of two conversations I had in total over the entire weekend, the other being the phone conversation with my Brother while I was on the boat.

Observations about Nagasaki:

Came back Saturday on the overnight bus (erk!) and went to the Osaka beer festival last night, which also rock'd. Nagasaki photos to follow shortly.

Tokoro de: Check it out tossers, this page is a year old today. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Bad guest, TV pest

Andrew's apartment, Shinsaibashi. Dan, having invited himself round, drunk beer, shouted the odds and generally abused Andrew's hospitality, is now holding forth on 24 Season 3, an early episode of which is running on the TV.

Dan: "Director" Almeyda?! You'll be lucky if you've still got that job at the end of the series, son!

Camera zooms in on Michelle Dessler.

Dan: Your wife?! You'll be lucky if you've still got her at the end of the season, too!

Andrew: Actually, I haven't seen the end of this season yet.

The briefest of pauses.

Dan: Well, let's just say it doesn't work out too well for old Tony boy.

I think I kept my cards pretty close to my chest there.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Deeper understanding III

No matter how bad heading into work feels, it's never as dark as this.

Read this before going to work; your day will be a fairy tale by comparison.

I read this before work today.


Saturday, October 01, 2005



Today, I met you when I was going back from work, so I spoke to you, but you didn't notice me at all and had gone.
I miss you. I want to meet and talk with you

Damn, I thought, I don't remember that at all. But nice one anyway.

Then, a few nights later, as I was winging my way home from a hard day of soul-selling in Hirakata...

When going back from work, I pass Yodoyabashi. Could I waite for you?, because I have something to you. If you can't, please say. Then without waiting for you, I'll go back. I'll be waiting in front of bookstore around 21:30.

Mother Hubbard, I thought, she's got my commuting route staked out! She must have been lingering there like a fart in a classroom the other night, and I marched obliviously past. Thank you, long legs and iPod.

Which led me to a bit of a crossroads in my life: change my route home, or tell her to sod off and lose my primary source of blogworthy material.

I told her to sod off.

E-mail sent, I turned my phone off like a true coward. When I got to Yodoyabashi, I put some "suspense" music on the 'Pod, gave the bookshop a wide berth, dashed across Midosuji and set a new record for unlocking one's bike and leaving the scene of the crime.

When I summoned up the courage to turn my phone back on, I found I had a very stoical mail saying that she understood perfectly and wouldn't pester me again. She ought to have bloody well understood as this was about the first time I'd answered any of her mails since returning from England.

Not being entirely callous, I mailed back, simply saying "thank you."

I then got another mail saying she wanted to phone me one last time. I mailed her back saying sod off again.

Then, after about an hour and a half swearing at my phone and trying every combination of four digits imaginable, I finally came up with my security code (it's my brother's birthday, which goes to show what a memory whizz I am.)

Security code entered, Stalker blocked, and I rode the Ferrari phone off into a bright, glorious future, free of late-night textual psychosis and unrequited phone calls. I'm fairly sure our paths will cross again, but for now I can sleep that little bit sounder knowing that I made a big mess and then fled for the hills, disclaiming all responsibility.

Although I'm tempted to send a mail to the other weirdo who gave me her business card and see what I get back. I mean, what harm could it possibly do? Oh, right...

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