Thursday, September 21, 2006


Chalk and cheese... and cheetahs...

One of the ways my company seeks to defraud budding linguists of their yen is with a monthly magazine replete with badly-researched BS.

Take this example: this month's issue was full of how NOT to identify animals. When I saw the photo of a cheetah which some twitchy knob strangler had saddled with the caption "leopard", I flipped my lid at my Japanese workmate and sent him scurrying for cover.


nani kore?!
what's this?!

kore wa cheetah da!
this is a cheetah!

korya cheetah, zettai ni!
it's definitely a cheetah!

kodomo demo cheetah to hyou no soui ga atarimae.
even a child can tell the difference between a cheetah and a leopard.


Particularly galling, given that I have devoted a fair bit of classroom time to teaching my students how to tell the difference between a leopard and a jaguar, which is a great deal easier to screw up, let me tell you.

However, as it seems that some people are still in need, and I happen to know this stuff off the top of my head, I hereby present:


1. Cheetahs can't roar

2.A cheetah has non-retractable claws.

3. A leopard's "spots" are actually made up of a cluster of smaller spots (try not to get too close when you check this.)

4. A cheetah has big-ass stripes down its face. Theories abound as to why this may be, but a recent scientific study (conducted by me) concludes that it is so that nobody could possibly mistake it for a fucking leopard.


A sad coda to this tale of woe is that when I showed the photo in question to the female staff at my school, they invariably blurted out the word "tiger." Something within me died then, something very special, without anyone having ever been aware that it had even lived.

Monday, September 18, 2006


Dopey Pope

From various Guardian articles:

The Pope's speech in Germany last week, in which he quoted a medieval ruler who said Muhammad's innovations were "evil and inhuman", has led to widespread condemnation in the Muslim world.

The pontiff appeared to risk causing fresh controversy during his speech yesterday when he cited a passage from St Paul that risked being interpreted as hostile - not by Muslims, but by Jews. It described the crucifixion of Jesus as a "scandal for the Jews".

Jewish representatives yesterday expressed surprise at the latest incursion into sensitive territory.


I wonder how exactly they expressed their surprise. What the hell are you talking about springs to mind.


Saturday, September 16, 2006


Smile, and the world vomits in your face

Awoke to find the world a dark and angry place, half-blind in the miasma of the previous night's debauchery, not too steady on my feet.

Fortunately, I remembered a reason to be cheerful: my new Gundam razor!

a cautionary tale

Oh, yes indeed.

You see, readers, I lost my previous razor, which had given me at least four years of faithful service. I will not excite you with the details, suffice it to say that the circumstances were rather scandalous.

Anyway, I saw the beauteous Gundam razor when I was buying my lunch in Vivre and decided I just had to have it.

So, this morning I unpacked it to find a suction cup on the back of the stand for attaching it to the wall. My goodness, I thought, I now finally understand what it means to live in the 21st century.

I marched into the bathroom and jammed the Gundam ensemble onto the wall, to which it clung like Spiderman. Even a sharp tug wasn't enough to dislodge it. I stood back to admire the latest addition to my bathroom, whereupon the suction cup, which had been the very epitome of tenacity just a few brief moments before, detached from the wall, the whole lot fell down, ricocheted off the edge of the sink and landed in the toilet.

I spent a few moments considering whether I had grounds for bringing legal action against anyone, but decided that I probably didn't. I fished the razor and stand out of the toilet and gave them a good rinse.

There are those who would have been downhearted by this experience, but fortunately my outlook is pretty positive at the moment. A wise man once said to me: "every day is the best day of your life" and it's God's own truth.

All this means is that I'm going to be under that little bit of extra pressure not to cut myself shaving.

Thursday, September 14, 2006



Woke up and started shaving on autopilot. As my eyes gradually began to focus on the rather wan-looking Dan shaving sinisterly opposite me, it struck me that something was wrong: I had a black eye, the origin of which I could no more recollect than I could fly unaided.

Damn my life. At least today was the last time I had to work this week.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Wasuremono tie

The Tuesday morning shift and Dan realises when he arrives at Hirakata station that he has neglected to put in his bag the one thing that a NOVA teacher should never, under any circumstances, neglect to put in his bag: his tie.

This represents a major crisis as the department store doesn't open until 10:00am, and at 10:05am I have to be on the 6th floor, sitting in front of four students, tie and all, teaching the lesson which I have prepared in advance. Time is now 9:40am.

Dan races to Family Mart.

Dan leaves a few minutes later, laughing giddily and clutching this atrocity:

look and learn, kiddies

Anyone who feels troubled that they may one day find themselves in similar hot water should practice screaming the following phrases at their chihuahua until they feel confident that they could reproduce this language in a real-life no-tie situation (or until the RSPCA come and take the chihuahua away):

Sumimasen, nekutai wa arimasu ka?
Excuse me, do you have any ties?

Nai to omoimasu kedo...
Don't think we have any...

Shigoto wa juu-ji kara demo nekutai o wasurete shimaimashita. Dou sureba ii?
My job starts at 10 but I went and forgot my tie. Whatever can I do?

Shou-shou o-machi kudasai.
Wait here a second, please.

Kore o karite mo ii desu ka?
Can I borrow this?

Ageru yo.
You can keep it.


STUDENT: It really suits you!

DAN: No, it doesn't. It makes me look like a bad salad.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Kekkon shiki shenanigans

TOKYO (Reuters) - A fairy story ended behind bars for a Japanese couple Monday, when they were jailed for staging an elaborate fake royal wedding to defraud guests.

Yasuyuki Kitano and Harumi Sakamoto, both in their 40s, invited hundreds of guests, including Japanese celebrities, to a wedding reception in 2003, saying that Kitano was a member of a defunct branch of the imperial family.

Guests at Japanese weddings traditionally bring with them gifts of at least 30,000 yen ($260) in cash.

Pictures shown on television at the time showed Sakamoto in the "junihitoe" 12-layered kimono worn by women of the imperial household on formal occasions.

"It was a malicious crime that cleverly took advantage of a mentality for revering the imperial court and imperial family," Kyodo news agency quoted judge Takaaki Oshima as saying.

Kitano and Sakamoto were both sentenced to two years and two months in jail.

Kitano said during the trial that he had been given the right to use the Arisugawa name, while Sakamoto said she believed he was a member of the royal family, Kyodo said.

The Arisugawa branch of the royal household died out for lack of a male heir more than 90 years ago, Kyodo said.

Couple jailed over 'royal' wedding rip-off
Monday Sep 11, 2006



Five years on: the enemy within

My morning routine involves going down to Andrew's apartment and listening to him cursing out CNN for giving hints to terrorists.

"This 10-mile stretch of border in Washington state is virtually unguarded."

"If a bomb, such as America used on Japan in the Second World War (oh yes- THAT'S where nuclear weapons come from, now I remember), were loaded onto a cargo ship from China..."

"There is another, more nightmarish scenario: if the bomb were then loaded onto a truck into Los Angeles..."

Duh, I'm inclined to understand Andrew's frustration with the CNN self harmers. It could be argued that, in reproducing their tosspottery, I'm not helping the situation, but I think the badly-groomed enemies of democracy are more likely to watch CNN than to read this page.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006



Japan's Princess Kiko Give Birth to Boy

Wednesday September 6, 2006 1:16 AM

AP Photo TOK202

TOKYO (AP) - Japan's Princess Kiko gave birth to a boy early Wednesday, the royal family's first male heir to the throne in more than 40 years, the palace announced.


Two points to note:

1. This goes some way towards sorting out Japan's crisis of succession (they were going to have to allow female succession, or adopt a boy, or something similarly daft.)

2. The use of Japanese English in the headline. Such dullardry.


Monday, September 04, 2006


Why I'm glad I wasn't using Air Canada last week

The pilot of a Canadian airliner who went to the washroom during a flight found himself locked out of the cockpit, forcing the crew to remove the door from its hinges to let him back in, the airline said Wednesday.

The incident occurred aboard a flight from Ottawa to Winnipeg Saturday. The regional jet, capable of carrying 50 people, was operated by Air Canada's Jazz subsidiary.

Jazz spokeswoman Manon Stewart said that with 30 minutes of the flight to go, the pilot went to the washroom, leaving the first officer in charge. But when he tried to get back into the cockpit, the door would not open.

"The door malfunctioned ... this is a very rare occurrence," Stewart said, adding that the crew's decision to remove the door had been in line with company policy.

A report in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper said that for about 10 minutes "passengers described seeing the pilot bang on the door and communicating with the cockpit though an internal telephone, but being unable to open the door."

Stewart said the paper's report was "a bit dramatic" and stressed that at no time had the plane or passengers been in danger. She did not say how many people had been on board.

One thing airplane passengers don't want to see
Thursday Aug 31, 2006


Saturday, September 02, 2006


Mr horticulture

Andrew is happy. The reason for today's levity is his balcony garden, the one spot of greenery in Shinsaibashi's urban sprawl.

"The cucumbers are back," he announces, before launching into an improvised rendition of believe it or not, the kyuri are back. Around us, Shinsaibashi life continues as normal, apparently unaffected by the spectacle of a madman singing nonsense on his balcony.

"You know, it's amazing what a little persistence will get you," he tells me paternally. "Persistence'll do two things for you: it'll grow you cucumbers and... it'll get you laid."

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