Tuesday, January 30, 2007


On top of the world, just not on top of my big smart mouth

Nice little trip down memory lane today: in lieu of Wes (elsewhere), I went to teach at Top World, the kids school that used to be my regular Tuesday gig.

Naturally, some of the younger students had forgotten me, but I did a pretty good job of reminding them; particularly when I lobbed the kid with ADS out of the classroom for pissing me off. At least the mothers remembered me and they were suitably impressed with my beard.

The older students remembered me pretty well and were none too complimentary about my new look. They seemed a bit rusty, though: one of them asked me what had happened to Wes and I told her he'd been hit by a bus and couldn't come to work until next week. For a priceless moment, her mouth hung so wide open I could have chucked my textbook in there, then realisation dawned and she remarked to one of the other girls that I was still in the habit of saying stupid stuff.

It was good to be back, if only briefly.

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The chicken flu the coop

The deaths of chickens at a farm in Takahashi, Okayama Prefecture, were confirmed to have been caused by a type of the highly contagious H5 bird flu virus, the agriculture ministry and the Okayama prefectural government said Monday.

(from Bird flu confirmed in Okayama Pref., The Yomiuri Shimbun)


Yeah, it looks like bird flu's here to stay. In Britain, we'd be culling the chickens and feeding them to the cows about now, I reckon.

Sorry to see the fickle finger of flu virus pointed unerringly at Takahashi, where I spent a very pleasant afternoon once upon a time.

I hereby declare that Takahashi is a pretty nice place to visit. Just give the yakitori a wide berth.


On the same sickly subject, I'm waiting for the first case of bird flu in Osaka; I'm one of the few people who wouldn't be too squeamish to take advantage if the price of chicken in the supermarkets took a sudden dive.

I still have fond memories of the countless steaks I was able to afford during my final year at Newcastle University, courtesy of BSE.



Fugu: why?

Read the following in the Yomiuri this morning:

One gram of blowfish poison is enough to kill 500 people.

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, 14 people died of blowfish poisoning between 2002 and 2006.

In 2002, an unlicensed company in Hokkaido shipped a large amount of blowfish containing poisonous parts.

The metropolitan government certifies only those who have trained for more than two years under a licensed chef.

"Even professionals have trouble determining the poisonous part of some blowfish because they differ by type. The same fish needs to be checked by more than one person with proper knowledge," Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology Prof. Yuji Nagashima said.

All of which begs the following question: just how the bloody hell did the Japanese get so into eating Fugu in the first place? It seems like an absolute non-starter, doesn't it? The first five people to chow down turn purple and expire within three minutes; everybody else decides to persevere with this exciting new foodstuff.

According to Wikipedia, the Emperor is banned from eating Fugu.



New game: much better than climbing in the luggage, which is for dreary tossers

Apart from the DVD bento, I have come up with a new game for playing on the train. Oh, and I'm sure it's going to be a winner.

When I was riding the train home tonight, I had a nasty feeling that the person next to me looked familiar in profile and I came to wondering if it might not be one of my students. I decided to get a good look at his face from the front when I disembarked. Not a student, as it turns out: perfect stranger.

Of course, the guy notices me looking so I give a kind of awkward half smile; his response is to pat his pocket, checking that I'm not smiling because I've just relieved him of his wallet. I laugh, call him a racist fuck, and get off the train.

I hereby call upon anyone else who fancies a laugh: eye contact and enigmatic smile when you're getting off the train. Point scored if the target checks their wallet.

Double points if, having seen where target keeps his wallet thanks to tell-tale pocket patting, you then manage to steal wallet.


Friday, January 26, 2007


Valour's excrement: Part 2

The beard is now making excellent progress and beginning to get that fuse-wire feel that I seem to remember my father's beard having when I was very young.

I confronted my Tuesday afternoon critics, braced for the worst. "You didn't shave again!" shouted the five-year-old girl in disapproval. I told her that the three-year-old I teach on Wednesdays, Kokoro, had told me my beard was very cute. (This is true, by the way.) The girl announced that Kokoro is a very strange name; the two boys in the class agreed.

With some trepidation, I asked them whether Dan was also a strange name, but they assured me that it was actually an extremely cool name.

If you added all their ages together, you might have enough for a teenager.



Where's yours?

Having endured the indignity of a pre-payday trip to Kobe with a pencil case full of 50 yen pieces, I was in the mood to treat myself when the deluge of dollar came splashing over the barren desert of my bank balance on the 15th. Accordingly, I went out and bought this:


(Image courtesy of somebody else's page)

It's a portable DVD player and I'm using it to annoy other commuters on the Keihan line and lower the tone of the teacher's room at school. I also tried to write my name on it with a board marker the other day, but it wiped straight off, leaving a nasty grey residue. I might decorate it with some stickers instead, if I can find something suitably offensive.

In the meantime, I have this handy new media device but not a great deal of media. If anyone wants to send me DVDs, AVI files or anything, I'd be awfully grateful.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Teacher's block

Writing comments in student's files after class can be more demanding than you think. Especially if I haven't had any caffeine in the previous 90 minutes.

As the day packed itself neatly away around me, I pressed my thumbs into my eyes and scowled inwardly at my lack of neural activity. What to say, what to say...

Tell it like it is.

Picking up my pencil, I scrawled in a hasty lacks high-frequency vocabulary: eg. chimney, prostitute.

I put the file away and headed out towards the worst horror of all.

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Monday night, stalker fright

After having turned our noses up at the offer time and time again, the Monday Night Liquid Dining Crew (names withheld here to protect the flagrantly culpable) finally deigned to grace the shitely-named "Bar Hemp" in Moriguchi.

Our first visit, I fear, may well prove to be our last.

When we arrived, the bar housed a bunch of take-or-leave gaijin and a couple of workmates that I can't be bothered to satirise. We sat down.

A few minutes later, in walked the stalker.

Fortunately, I already had half a disguise in my recent growth of facial hair. I borrowed a hat off one of my companions and spent the next ten minutes with my head about five inches from the table, mumbling in what I hoped sounded like a Dutch accent.

The arrival of further deadbeat gaijin, including erstwhile (tor)mentor KC, failed to provoke me. I kept my head down and kept pounding my beers, whilst most of my earthly nemeses occupied the space between me and the toilet. The one time I went for a pee, I left the bar and went to the station rather than trying to navigate across enemy territory. I think the stalker ultimately realised who the mumbling Dutchman at the adjacent table was, but the memory of our last chance encounter (the Man in the High Castle shouted drunkenly at her and made her cry) was probably still in her mind, so she didn't try any of her psychotic delusional shenanigans.

I served out my time in the bar and went on to further tomfoolery in Kyobashi. I owed it to myself.


Incidentally, the Man in the High Castle wasn't on hand to protect me last night, but it seems that he received a somewhat embellished version of events from one of my companions. After several rather cryptic mails he told me he'd heard that I'd had sex with the stalker in the toilet and hadn't used a condom.

Even my Tuesdays are Mondays.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Valour's excrement

I grew a beard. This was part of Plan K.

In the beginning, there were three. Muzz, The Human Torch and myself. We were all sworn not to shave throughout our holiday and to parade our resultant facial hair for a week or so after work started.

The Human Torch was the first apple off the cart: he got cold feet and shaved before he went back to work. This was a terrible shame, because his was the best beard. If there were any drawbacks it was only that his swarthy growth made it difficult to get through customs in our post 9/11 world.

And then there were two.

Muzz also had an excellent beard. I told him he looked like that guy out of Die Hard. He was pretty happy with this until he found out that I wasn't talking about Alan Rickman's crazed terrorist, but about Ellis, the worthless cokehead cannon fodder. After a week (and a few barely-legal experiments) he also shaved away his pride and left me to face the continual itching on my own.

So now there is one.

ladies, form a queue

I asked my kids today what they thought of the beard: thumbs up or thumbs down? Three out of three gave me thumbs down. The lone girl of the group also told me that if I do not shave before next week she will be very angry.

She is only five years old, so I am not scared of her. I am scared of the future, though. I wanted to promise that next week I would be without beard, but I couldn't. I remember how strangely painful it was to get rid of my New Year beard last year after the Viet Nam trip.

All that remains of Plan K is the hair on my chin, a single can of silkworm pupa and a couple of unavenged dogs. Once I shave, Korea is gone forever. I'll be like the girl that has her hair cut short: each lock falls to the ground accompanied by a tear.

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Monday night, Tuesday morning

In the beginning there was noise: my hangover blaring in my ears as discordantly as a fire bell.

Oh crap, it is the fire bell.

I lay on my back staring muzzily at the ceiling. Once again, the transition from Monday night to Tuesday morning had passed me by, damn that demon drink, and now here I was being summoned brusquely from my slumber by the imperious clanging of the fire alarm. Just great.

I swung my legs wearily over the edge of the bed settee and sat up. Choices: live or die. It could be argued that I will do both in the fullness of time. Now I have a beard I ought to say sombre things like this more often. Where are my trousers? Sod it all.

If my emergence from the building demonstrated that I do actually have a home, my appearance would have given the lie to this: dirty shirt, work trousers juxtaposed nicely with grubby white trainers sans socks, homeless coat, scruffy beard; this year we're going for the itinerant look.

I noted without joy that it was still dark: 6 of the clock or thereabouts. The only other person outside was a blonde girl with an antipodean accent. Other tenants were evidently working the night shift or still on holiday.

So here we were, two bedraggled gaijin standing outside a building full of cacophonous din. I decided to take affirmative action: I borrowed the girl's phone and made my second ever emergency services call in Japan.

(For those interested in boring things, the number for the fire department and ambulances is different from that for police: 119 and 110, respectively.)

Ichi, ichi, kyu: time to dust off the Japanese which has fallen into disrepair of late (I seldom study and most of my nihongo is spent berating children.)

Hello, excuse me, my building's fire alarm is ringing. I do not see any fire, but the bell is ringing. Yes, I live at- what?! No, I'm not Chinese, I'm British.

After I finished doing my bit for Sino-Japanese relations, an old geezer in a security guard's uniform arrived on a shiny bicycle. His first move was to turn off the alarm (rather than investigating whether there was a fire or anyone else was still inside the building.)

Oh perfect, I said. We're burning to death and they send us Charlie Sheen on a bicycle. My companion laughed dutifully, but I don't think she really understood me. I told Charlie Sheen that I'd called 119, then I went up the street to buy a bottle of CC Lemon. By the time I got back, a fire engine and two policemen (also on shiny bicycles) had arrived. They spoke to the security geezer, then left. I watched this circus with my hangover pressing at my temples.

After a little more poking around, the security bloke also mounted his shiny steed and rode off without so much as a word to me or the other shivering gaijin.

In my dreams, I pulled a submachine gun out of my homeless coat and fired wildly down the street until a chance bullet brought my man down. I strode to where he had fallen and finished the job with a burst of fire from close range. Manners cost nothing. Except bad manners.

Outside of my dreams, I don't have a submachine gun. I grumbled a bit and went back to bed.

I thought about an angry complaint to City Estate, but that's exactly the sort of petty chest thumping I'm trying to avoid at the moment; Angry Dan is no longer: I left him face down in a beer somewhere on the HMS Dickscrub or whatever that boat was.

The Angry Doctor is out; he was never in.


Friday, January 12, 2007



Brought back a nice collection of souvenirs from Korea, or rather from the convenience store aboard the HMS Knobcuff: an armful of tinned silkworm pupa, that tasty snack that appeared at Andrew's sayonara bash.

I've still got one can in reserve. The rest have been distributed to various dullards and deadbeats and, most memorably, to a select group of my students (ie: those who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.)

Having unloaded a can of the wretched things onto this page's Japanese readership up front (shashin kudasai!), I went to my not-quite-last lesson of the day armed with several pairs of purloined chopsticks, looking forward to partaking of the pupa with whoever was around.

Sadly, I was the only one doing any partaking as it turned out: those who'd tried the pupa once had evidently decided that this was once to often. There were even some too chicken to try, cluck cluck. Undaunted, I made what semblance of erudition I could whilst popping one of the misfortunate pupa into my mouth every now and then.

(They really aren't that bad- they taste like what you'd imagine silkworm pupa to taste like if you weren't blessed with much of an imagination.)

Bell rang for lesson end. One for the road, I decided. I delved into the can with my chopsticks, searching for the fattest, juiciest pupa I could find. When I withdrew my chopsticks, the chosen one was not clamped expertly between them in testament to my superb chopstick technique, but was actually dangling a few inches below, attached by a fine thread that had suddenly squirted out of his butt in testament to how minging silkworm pupa are.

Listening to stifled student screams, whilst an untimely-plucked insect dangles from my chopsticks by his post-mortal thread: oh my.

I gave him a few gentle swings, ate him, made my excuses and left.

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Korea (not now, Maria)

A smattering of badly-selected images from the New Year shenanigans in Korea. Enjoy!


The fish car. Warning signs in various languages asked us not to open the doors.


A dragon proudly flaunting its coils in the streets of Seoul.


A tank at the Korean War Memorial Hall. This place was amazingly tooled up and had one of the biggest museums I've ever been to, dedicated to the subject of WAR. Exhibits up to and including the Korean War were excellent. Vietnam and after was balls.


The mighty samgyetang, a masterpiece of Korean cuisine: whole chicken stuffed with, er, stuff, then boiled in a ginseng soup.


Me and my boy T-Mac.


The line of Cass on the bar, evening of January 1st. Some of these came via the peace offering of California man, to whom I'd given a piece of my sadly-depleted mind a few minutes before.


Voyage on the way back; Dan drunk and leery, then unconscious. Comrades do their best to put me to bed, than enjoy taking photos of the results. This one was probably the most flattering.

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Friday, January 05, 2007


Learning curve

Bowling, I think, is an absolutely terrible sport to watch on TV. The trouble is, the players are just too damned good at it. There's never anything special about that moment when all the pins go down, simply because it happens with monotonous regularity; there's only a sense of disappointment when the pins don't go down.

In terms of dissatisfaction, I think it's very much what Christmas would be like if you were a millionaire. Oh wow- a motorbike? Gee, thanks- like I couldn't have bought that for myself.


My self-enforced time off from drinking lasted until the next e-mail I received: Adam, back from America. Want to go boozing? Uh, okay...

First stop: Ethiopian restaurant. Nice food, shame about the bill. We're not in Korea now, Toto.

Next up: bowling.

With undistinguished scores (and the deluded fist pumping of the occasional strike) we played out a fairly leisurely best of five, which Adam won in the last game.

Sitting on the alley seats, watching the technique of the serious bowlers on ESPN on the overhead screens, we began talking about how they do it; man, look at that backswing, that's huge. Woah, that spun like a-

A thought came to me: what say we stay here, bowling and pounding beers, until we've perfected bowling technique, as seen on ESPN? How long could it take? Uh, okay...

Our aims: mad high backswing, devastating spin and multiple consecutive strikes.

The consecutive strikes were the first to be struck off our list as it quickly became apparent that we were going to be lucky if we could get the ball into the right lane. Mad high backswing was the next to go after Adam got a bit too into it and accidentally bowled a ball backwards at me.

(The objective of pounding beers was going quite nicely.)

The last target we felt like we had any chance of succeeding in was spinning the ball, but even this was proving completely beyond us. The guy on the next lane to us was achieving some modest spin, but he was left handed and everyone knows that left handers are the unholy offspring of Satan and Hecate. Meanwhile, I was doing considerable damage to my wrist, fingers and patience, and most of my efforts weren't even hitting the pins.

Adam was faring no better. He scowled thoughtfully at Lefty McWitchcraft, our sinister neighbour; hey, check it out dude: he's keeping his hand under the ball.

Would this work? Our next efforts, whilst not actually threatening the pins, did curve rather impressively.

Enthused at having made some headway, we punched up another game on the alley computer.

My action by now was completely dissimilar from what was happening on ESPN: rather than bowling, I lobbed my first ball hopefully onto the lane with the kind of ungainly hip toss one might expect to see from a nine-year-old Judoka. The ball, spinning wildly, landed on the cusp of the gutter, found some traction on the slippery alley surface then sped on an arc of destruction into the pins.

The pins went flying: all of them.

Two children in a field, doing wrong: they've "borrowed" Dad's shotgun and are now pointing it at a scarecrow at point-blank range.

There is a deafening roar and in the deafening silence that follows, the two youthful miscreants stand awestruck in a haze of smoke, as bits of singed straw float peacefully down on the breeze.

Actually, our high-pitched whoops of delight caused several of the alley's other patrons to gutter their balls, which they were mid-way through bowling. Finally, we had perfected bowling, as seen on ESPN.

Well, I had: Adam was experiencing some technical difficulties.

do not adjust your set

Yeah, that's my score on the top. In Adam's favour, I will remind the reader that trying to learn a new skill whilst pounding beers is not the easiest thing in the world and I will also mention that Adam had earlier distinguished himself by pulling off a left-handed spare. Of course, he is not naturally left handed, otherwise I would not associate with him. One time I saw a staff at our school writing with her left hand; I wouldn't stop screaming and firing staples at her until she ran away. She moved to another school shortly afterwards.

One other thing I'll mention: I threw my remaining two balls of this game down the gutter, then failed to reach sixty in the next game. Technical difficulties which, I hope, were caused by excessive beer pounding. The dream of perfect bowling technique as seen on ESPN is still very much alive.

(...As evinced by the fact that Adam accidentally bowled his drink across the dancefloor at the club we went to afterwards, the drunken twit.)


Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Ring out the old, ring in the new (Tennyson was balls)

O shirase: I have upgraded to the "new" version of blogger. The principal reason for this is that I will be able to categorise all my posts.


I haven't chosen the names for the categories yet; this task I would like to share with you, the reader.

So far, I have settled upon

far-fetched fiction (eg: my Christmas and Hallowe'en short stories)


misanthropy (eg: most of my posts and props to VMM- sorry for biting, but it's too good not to use.)

If anyone has any other good ideas for categories, click the comment button and let me know. I'll be waiting.



Welcome to the year of the pig

Four people were attacked by boars and slightly injured at about 4 p.m. Monday in a residential area of Yawatahama, Ehime Prefecture, police said.

A 69-year-old woman was walking along a road when she was knocked down by a charging boar. Over the next 15 minutes three other people were attacked by wild pigs in the same area.

The police assume several boars were involved in the attacks, the largest being about one meter long.

The police and members of a local hunting association searched the area for the boars for about 1-1/2 hours from 4:30 p.m., but the animals were not found.

The attacks happened near a mountainous area. The city government said the boars likely wandered into the residential area in search of food, and cautioned residents to be careful.

4 hurt as boars overrun Ehime Prefecture town
The Yomiuri Shimbun


DAMN- the year of the pig gets off to a flyer. And let me tell you: if some sneaky sucker-punching boar tried that crap on me, I'd have him on the barbecue before you could say "akemashite omedeto gozaimasu."



Knowledge gratefully received

On KC: "She's got an ass like a pharmacist."

When I'd got my laughter under control, I asked why he'd singled out pharmacists.

"They've all got fat asses. All they do is sit around all day. Oh, what? You got a prescription? That's gonna be forty minutes."

So now we know. Pharmacists of the world: take note.



I'm built for etiquette, not destruction

Time for a short break from drinking, I think: Plan K has been carried out, we went to Korea, it was great and so were we; now it's over.

Reasons to visit Korea: it's very affordable, but still a modern-ish country; Seoul is a wonderful city; it has Burger King, which Japan doesn't at the moment; the boat ride is a good laugh.

Reasons not to visit Korea: the underground system is balls; Dan gets very drunk and shouts angrily at friend and foe alike.

Regarding the latter, I actually surprised myself a bit: I flipped my lid at The Human Torch twice on successive nights for reasons which, in sobriety, quite frankly, escape me. Fortunately, the bottom line of Plan K is "what goes on tour stays on tour" (props to Sam Cledwyn for that little gem): angry Dan didn't make it through customs; once more I am regular Superman, not that moody scoundrel from Superman III.


As The Human Torch is sensitive about having his identity paraded on the net, I chose this pseudonym for him, mostly because I was sure it wouldn't please him. And it didn't.

In return, I was dubbed C3P0 (human cyborg relations) and given the unfamiliar (and obviously unsuitable) role of group diplomat. This was partly because I was the only one of our trio who'd taken the time to memorise hangeul script before the trip, but mostly because C3P0 is about the least masculine robot in any film ever. Unfortunately, I didn't bother to memorise any actual Korean phrases so my diplomacy wasn't really up to much.

Well, that's one reason: the other is that I tend to act like a tool.

I handled one situation quite nicely: the old bird in the motel in Seoul forgot which day we'd arrived and started asking us for extra money. After a bit of shambolic English and sign language, I carried out the business in Japanese which, unsurprisingly, she was very good at. I didn't ask her how she'd learned; probably not a happy story.

Less diplomatic was my interaction with other gwilos: a Californian, having already wound me up with some stupid comment from across the bar, made the mistake of coming over and trying to introduce himself, to which I replied, "who the fuck are you, get the fuck out of my face" to the complete mortification of Muzz, who was sitting next to me. The Human Torch was putting out a fire in the toilet.

The Californian scampered away. Several minutes later, he sent over a round of drinks to apologise. I was pleasantly surprised and resolved to be unpleasant to strangers more often in future.


Further communication breakdown on the return boat: the dopey tossers sitting at the Currency Exchange Counter (you can see where it is, as there's a big sign overhead saying "Currency Exchange Couter") didn't want to exchange Korean won for Japanese yen. When I went to ask, Doris Day #1 said they were closed. I gave her a very old-fashioned look, asked her what time they'd closed and where the sign with their opening hours was. She looked nervous and went to fetch Doris Day #2. Doris Day #2 asked me where I'd bought my won. I told her I'd done so at the port. She asked if I had a receipt; I did not. She explained that it was illegal for them to change won to yen if there was no receipt. I asked her why I hadn't been told this at the time I'd purchased the won and said that if that was the case there should be a big sign on the currency exchange desk saying: keep your receipt. She looked panicky and radioed Charlie Sheen for help.

Charlie Sheen listened to my explanation, delivered in the same calm tone that people use when their patience is absolutely at breaking point, and studied my features intently. Without threatening or cursing I explained that I wasn't getting good service and I wasn't impressed. I didn't mention the imminent possibility of airborne furniture, but he was smart enough to figure that out for himself fortunately.

He turned and had a quick word with Doris Day #2. He then turned back to me and said that he could understand my problem and that they would exchange the money for me, even though it was illegal. I smiled winsomely and thanked him as I handed over the won, several thousand of which I had drawn myself on napkins.

Doris Day #2 counted out the yen and handed it over. Then they both begged me to keep the transaction a secret. I thanked them again and promised that I would.

And I have, of course, remained true to my word.


evidence, son!

Edit They even gave me a receipt for the "illegal" exchange. Novices.

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