Tuesday, February 28, 2006


The root of the problem

So, the Winter Olympics have finished and Japan have one poxy gold medal to show for it. And that was down to a huge slice of luck.

I was demanding answers from the students: why, eight years after the Nagano Olympics raised the profile of Winter sports in this country, can Team Nippon only muster one spawny gold?

The guy who knows sports blamed changes to the length of skis. I've read up this argument before: basically, the permitted length of skis is proportional to the height of the skier. Or lack of height, in the case of Japanese skiers.

And with skis scarcely longer than my workshoes, who can expect the sadly-abused Japanese to mine Olympic gold on the piste?

The guy who doesn't know sports (and is a perpetual blight on my Tuesdays because of his incomprehensibility) came up with a much more inspired answer:

"Japanese does not have a good power because they are vegetable people."

I couldn't find fault with this.


Black Tuesday

I tried to make it to work on the back of no coffee this morning- not what I'd call a success. Somehow, without coffee, horrible events seemed to gravitate towards me.

I caught the express to Hirakata by the skin of my teeth, having hit every patch of traffic between Sakuragawa and Yodoyabashi.

At the other end, I was getting off the train when I noticed a guy with crutches and a plaster cast waiting to get on. I courteously stood to one side to let him on (as the previous n glue sniffers had failed to do.) He gave me a nod of gratitude and started to step on when a middle-aged woman decided I was waiting for her and jumped in front of me with a shrill "sumimasen," intent on grabbing her menopausal ass a seat.

And she crashed straight into the guy on crutches who, in her self-absorption, she hadn't noticed.

And I thought Jesus Christ, did it not occur to you that I was waiting for the fucking cripple?

And everyone looked at me.

And I realised I hadn't thought it.

I had said it extremely loudly, while pointing at the guy on crutches for emphasis.

I disembarked hastily and went in search of coffee.

It's a black day for Japan when a young gaijin male thinks he can upbraid obasan in public- a black day, indeed.

Monday, February 27, 2006


Trying people's patience

Saddam Hussein has ended a hunger strike he staged in protest at his trial judge for "health reasons", it was reported today.
Saddam 'ends hunger strike'
The Guardian, Monday February 27, 2006

Hunger strike? What a tosspot- he's lucky anyone can be bothered to feed him at all.

And who would have anticipated that a hunger strike could be prejudicial to one's health...



Dan plays his trump card

Went to a party in #702 last night. It's amazing how little it's changed; when I saw the kettle it was like seeing an old friend.

Alcohol was consumed and insipid gossip circulated. I knocked down a few beers and entertained myself by mortifying workmates and similar vermin.

Eventually, one of the hostesses decided that it was time to bring out the twister board. I won one game by default when a Northern rose collapsed rather heavily on top of the other two competitors.

Under the "winner stays on rule" I found myself pitched into a three-way deathmatch with two fairly spry guys. The fatigue of football and painful contortions was beginning to get to me and I decided it was time to take the gloves off and fight dirty. I waited until there was a suitable lull in the cat-calling and commentary from the assembled party-goers, then I let rip with a high-calibre fart.

It was magnificent: it came out as dry as a bone, with a noise like a young boy running a stick along a wooden fence at high speed. There were screams of horror from all present, while I accused the guy who was wobbling precariously next to me.

Best of all, it fucking well stank.

Amazingly, I managed not to get myself tarred and feathered, although I'll be pretty surprised if I'm invited back.


I lie because the truth is so insipid it just makes me want to scream and throw up

"The truth belongs to everyone, but a lie is something that belongs to you and you alone. You make something up about yourself, you say it, and all of a sudden you are that thing, and nobody can really take that away from you unless they, you know, they actually bring the truth straight in front of you and hit you with it."
Examining the Reasons Behind Lying

Today, I told a new Japanese staff at my school that another teacher, James (from Florida), was originally Cuban and that he had been taken to America as part of Operation Peter Pan.

Breaks my heart for a young boy so far from home.

Friday, February 24, 2006


Could have been worse

TURIN (Reuters) - Shizuka Arakawa glided into the history books when she captured Japan's first figure skating gold medal at the Winter Olympics, knocking favorite Irina Slutskaya to third...

She nailed 11 jumps in total, including five triples, and none of her rivals were able to match her haunting choreography.

At the end as the crowd cheered, Arakawa beautifully bowed her head with her hand on her chest, a far cry from the air punches that usually go with a spectacular performance.

Japan's Arakawa stuns favorites, wins skating gold
Reuters, Thu Feb 23, 2006

Good news for Japan; sad, bad news for the American skater with the same name as Ali G as she landed on her gussets during her routine.

Strangely enough, I was living in dread that Japan was going to win the curling. I grew to loathe this sport after the GBR team brought home the gold medal from the Salt Lake Olympics four years ago: for weeks I couldn't turn on the TV without Rhona Martin being interviewed, medal draped round neck.

And fair play for winning it and all, but there's only so much that can be said about a sport which is basically just lawn bowls on ice.

If I'd ended up with the housewives and low-lifes of Hirakata enthusing about the curling, I fear lives may have been taken in my wrath.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006


The replacement teacher

Was out drinking Saturday night and contemplating a mounting sense of horror and futility regarding the beginning of the working week on Sunday.

My phone buzzed, I had mail.

Contrary to expectations, it wasn't Stalkermail, although a similar level of psychosis is evident to the experienced watcher. It was the Man in the High Castle. Turns out I'd forgotten he was working in my stead on the Sunday.

I grinned hugely and ordered another pitcher of beer.

When I got to work yesterday, righteously hungover for the fifth day on the bounce, the other instructors were still laughing about the previous day's tomfoolery: turns out my replacement rocked up in a bad mood and went off his nut at the school's senior teacher for being a tool.

The Japanese have a phrase sasuga meaning typical: usually used in a positive sense- "impressed, but not surprised." I thought it apt on this occasion.

He's working for me again in a couple of weeks.


Enduring love

I realised something last week; or, rather, I was reminded of something which occurred to me a while back, when I was reading the novel whose title adorns this post.

What I remembered was this: you can't argue with crazy people. You just can't. They're not playing by the same set of rules as you. What to you seems like an insurmountable argument just carries no weight.

I suppose the best analogy I can come up with is that when a dog craps on the carpet, you don't enter into an exchange of opinions as to whether or not the carpet was the best place for it to dump its guts; you just kick it and hope the dopey mutt will be too scared to do it a second time.


A footnote regarding Enduring love: the book knocks spots off the film.

Monday, February 13, 2006


Lack of progress (haters still hating)

I arrived at school today and was surprised to find that I've been given another Kid's school shift. This time, I'm entertaining the little darlings in Katano, which seems to be a fairly easy gig and certainly a lot simpler to get back from than Top World.

Searching through the February archives, I was reminded of a time when the Furukawabashi manager was complaining about me being too tall in my Kid's classes.

Today I arrived at Katano and the staff seemed a little put out:

"We have a trial student (code: she's trying to make a sale) and he really seems to prefer female teachers, so..."

At this point her voice trailed away and I realised she was expecting some kind of positive response to this.

I asked her to lend me some makeup. She looked appalled.


Progress since last year

Got home from work today to find the results from the Japanese Language Proficiency Test waiting in my mailbox.

Writing / Vocabulary84 / 100
Listening91 / 100how's that for progress, tossers?
Reading / Grammar176 / 200
Total mark:351 / 400

Very happy with this: I figured I'd probably passed, but I wanted to get a reasonably high score. I was also relieved that they didn't mix me up with that Chinese twat who got disqualified.

Zhang Hong-Hai, you are forever destined to stand in my shadow.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Recognition of sorts

At yesterday's football tournament in Ashiya, one of the Japanese guys used the word iyarashii to describe me. Today, the staff at my school used the same term.

Not knowing what it meant, but well aware that it couldn't possibly be good, I stuck the word in kiten when I got home to see what came up.

Sure enough, the definition was as follows: "(adj) unpleasant; disgusting; repulsive; detestable; disagreeable; indecent; lewd; dirty; lascivious."

I think that's a bit strong. Hate all you want, haters: Dan is merciful.

Incidentally, I won an MVP award at the football tournament. The badly-scrawled-upon prize football I received was emblazoned with the legend: "MVP- Most Venereal Penis."



Mike and Dan, stashing their things in the locker room at Kanazawa's self-styled Ninja Temple

DAN: Damn, these Ninjas are strict- no shoes, no baggage...

MIKE: Thus begins the fanboy idiocy.

DAN: Live by honour, kill by stealth.

Case in point, I suppose.

The Ninja Temple was way cool- basically the tree house you always wanted as a kid. Despite the name, no Ninjas ever dwelt there.

For a more authentic Ninja experience, you can't beat Tenchu.


Here's hoping not

image by Dan


Unforeseen consequences

Friday evening was a strange one: I ended up having an izakaya dinner with Mike and a few others, then we went on to a new bar called "Zerro."

Unfortunately, Mike had rather exceeded his alcohol limit and proceeded to vomit over the forecourt of the place opposite, with great "mwoargh!" sound effects. Well aware of the implications for our popularity in the bar, I grabbed a bunch of tissues and a bin bag and cleaned the mess up as best I could, with help from Canadian Colin.

So impressed were the barstaff with my moral rectitude, they stood our table a round of drinks (Mike missed out, having departed in a taxi.)

When I left the bar, I was disappointed to find that my bike, which I'd left in a safe place, had sustained some damage: the basket was a new shape and the back wheel couldn't turn freely. Most unsatisfactory.

I rode home in a black mood with the back wheel making a fearsome racket and frightening passers-by. I pushed my luck a little riding across Senichimae on a red light. The taxi waiting to go in the other direction went prematurely and hit the back of my bike, with a pretty decent noise.

I wobbled a bit, shouted an ironic comment of thanks to the driver and carried on riding.

Remarkably, the collision with the taxi sorted out the back wheel. How random.

Edit: Oh yeah, I nearly forgot my dictionary.com word of the day- Deus ex machina.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Slumped over in a vacant room

Days to thrive and days to survive: of late, my time seems mostly to have been composed of the latter. I've the last proper weekend I had was over three weeks ago and today I had another schedule of solid purgatory.

During the free lesson I have designated as a travel period to go to the rowdy kid's school I work at on Tuesdays, I put my head down on the desk and tuned out for a while.

As I did so, a load of memories I haven't felt in years came bubbling to the surface: a moonlit Churchyard covered in snow, the front room in Spencer Ave, the smell of wet grass at the start of Spring in England. I realised as I peeled my head off the desk to say hi to Wes that I really don't know how long it's going to be until I go back for good, but, even on days like this, it doesn't feel like it's getting any closer.

A few hours of high-pitched abuse from children of various ages did nothing to recharge my batteries. When I got back to my bike at Yodoyabashi, the rain was starting to fall and the iPod's shuffle function was matching my mood to perfection:

What I've kept with me
and what I've thrown away
don't know where the hell I've ended up
on this glary, random day
Were the things I really cared about
just left along the way
for being too pent up and proud?

Woke up way too late
feeling hungover and old
and the sun was shining bright
and I walked barefoot down the road
Started thinking about my old man
it seems that all men
wanna get into a car and go

Here I stand, sad and free
I can't cry and I can't see
what I've done
Oh God, what have I done?

don't you know I'm numb, man, no
I can't feel a thing at all
'cause it's all smiles and business these days
and I'm indifferent to the loss
I've faith that there's a soul somewhere
who's leading me around
I wonder if she knows which way is down

Here I stand, sad and free
I can't cry and I can't see
what I've done
Oh God, what have I done?

And I poured my heart out
and I poured my heart out
it evaporated...

Blind man on a canyon's edge
of a panoramic scene
or maybe I'm a kite
that's flying high and random
dangling a string
Or slumped over in a vacant room
head on a stranger's knee
I'm sure back home they think I've lost my mind...

Listening to this and feeling the cool raindrops on my face contrasting with the burning hot coals of Black Tuesday behind my eyes, a final memory surfaced of my motivated days studying English Literature in the sixth form at Finham and Mrs Guymer (one of the best teachers I ever had) talking to me about the pathetic fallacy, when she could equally well have been having a coffee with the rest of the teaching staff.

And even as this came back to me, the heavens opened up properly and I got bloody well soaked.

So much for the pathetic fallacy.

Of course, once I make it through tomorrow's Kyobashi gauntlet, I have a three-day weekend with road trip and football tournament, son!

Makes you glad to be alive and in Japan.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


Some might say...

Osaka has struggled to emerge from Japan's "lost decade" of economic decline in the 1990s. Officials have pushed hard to host international events in an attempt to challenge the city's popular image as home to bag snatchers, train gropers and gangsters, but with limited success.
Police move in on Japanese homeless
The Guardian, Tuesday January 31, 2006


Friday, February 03, 2006


Evidence of genuinely bad people

Content warning: the following may cause you to vomit

Holy Moses- every now and then I find something to make me despair of the human race. Today's object of horrified fascination is betoniraq.com, an internet-based scheme which enables customers to purchase bulk quantities of the bedevilled Iraqi dinar.

According to betoniraq.com, the dinar currently stands at less than a cent, having once been valued at more than $3. "Once the oil really starts to flow," according to this page, the dinar will stage a recovery and the sackload of monopoly money you purchased for a U.S. pittance will transform into riches beyond Ali Baba's wildest dreams.

I was particularly struck by the what if? section of the page, describing a scenario in which you purchase a load of dinar, use them to start conversations with your friends who, apparently, are not horrified at your avarice. You then put the dinar away in your closet for a rainy day...

A few years from now, you see a program on A&E portraying the lives of average Iraqis. You see people drinking locally bottled, genuine Pepsi Cola; not the ersatz they'd been consuming for years. They are buying their cars from Baghdad Mitsubishi.

Amazing, isn't it- that this dystopia could be considered a prosperous future for Iraq. Who the hell wants to drink Pepsi? It's a drink for fascists. Who the hell wants to buy a Mitsubishi? If you look at the company's recent history, you'll realise it's more likely to blow up than any other car in Iraq right now and that's before you stick a bomb in it.

To hell with trying to get rich out of the war in Iraq. If you want to speculate, buy up some Livedoor shares- they're going pretty cheap this week.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


Further imagery

image by Dan

There's more...

TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- Japan has halted the import of U.S. beef after an animal spine was found in a shipment at Tokyo International Airport, sparking new concerns over possible tainted meat less than two months after a previous ban was lifted.
Japan reinstates ban on U.S. beef
CNN.com Friday, January 20, 2006


image by Dan



Whingy whingy, moany moany

Mother pus bucket. After a few days of speaking with a slightly sexier voice than usual and not being able to sing up to my usual standard, I now have the cold that has been affecting the other two dullards in my apartment.

Perhaps also something to do with the questionable wisdom of drinking outdoors in Winter.

Consequently I shall be going to bed in my second-hand hoody tonight. With the hood up. If I can make it through tomorrow I'll have a days respite before the drudgery begins again.

This promises to be character building.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Ask for answers

I'm exhausted at the moment: I'm working towards my third one-day weekend on the bounce, my bedroom's a bomb site and I don't have a single pair of clean socks to my name. I had a totally fraught mail exchange with the stalker a couple of nights ago and I'm waiting for the next bout of psychosis. It's chucking it down outside and I wanted to go for a jog before work so I could at least feel a little good about myself while I'm shouting at delinquent children.

And if I had the money, I'd call out sick, hire an immersion tank and spend the day in there listening to old Placebo records on the headphones.

Time to pass you to the test.
Hanging on my lover's breath.
Always coming second best.
Pictures of my lover's chest.

Get through this night,
there are no second chances.
This time I might.
To ask the sea for answers.

Always falling to the floor,
softer than it was before.
Dog boy - media whore,
it's who the hell you take me for.

Give up this fight,
there are no second chances.
This time I might.
To ask the sea for answers.

These bonds are shackle free,
wrapped in lust and lunacy.
Tiny touch of jealousy,
these bonds are shackle free.

Get through this night,
there are no second chances.
This time I might.
To ask the sea for answers.

These bonds are shackle free
These bonds are shackle free
These bonds are shackle free
These bonds are shackle free

Get through this,
there are no second chances.
This time.
To ask the sea for answers.

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