Saturday, September 30, 2006

Baby, You Can Drive My Car

I guess parking is a hassle everywhere, but the Japanese are, as usual, especially creative at working around problems of space...

My wife is going to teach me how to do that...

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Fantasy Hockey

My fantasy hockey league completed its draft a couple of days ago. I think I did pretty well, especially at centre and defense, but once the season starts I may have problems on the wings. In goal there's a lot of potential (for success or disaster...).

The league I'm in allows for a roster of 23 players--3 centres, 3 left wingers, 3 right wingers, 6 defencemen, and 2 goalies can start on a given day. There are 6 bench positions, and there are also 2 spots available on the injured reserve if it becomes necessary.

Anyway, here's the team I have as of now (I'm really hoping to trade for an established left-winger who can score, so this might change):

Centre: Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins); Jason Spezza (Ottawa Senators); Brad Richards (Tampa Bay Lightning); Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks)
My team absolutely rocks at centre!

Left Wing: Ray Whitney (Carolina Hurricanes); Alexander Semin (Washington Capitols); Nils Ekman (Pittsburgh Penguins); Dmitry Afanasenkov (Tampa Bay Lightning)
I'd like a little more scoring punch here, but there's a lot of potential...

Right Wing: Steve Sullivan (Nashville Predators); Vaclav Prospal (Tampa Bay Lightning); Milan Hejduk (Colorado Avalanche); Colby Armstrong (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Really, there are no bums in this bunch, but a little more firepower would be nice...

Defence: Chris Pronger (Anaheim Ducks); Sergei Zubov (Dallas Stars); Lubomir Visnovsky (Los Angeles Kings); Marek Zidlicky (Nashville Predators); Dan Boyle (Tampa Bay Lightning); John-Michael Liles (Colorado Avalanche); Bryan Berard (Columbus Blue Jackets); Sandis Ozolinsh (New York Rangers)
Incredible scoring power here, but PIM and plus/minus could be a problem.

Goal: Kari Lehtonen (Atlanta Thrashers); Cristobal Huet (Montreal Canadiens); Hannu Toivonen (of my beloved Boston Bruins)
Three young goalies with a lot of potential. I'm a little nervous about this position.

And there you have it, the 2006/2007 Miyazaki Maroons!

Please enjoy some cool hockey highlights!

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

It's Only Rock 'N' Roll...

They wouldn't be heroes if they were infallible, in fact they wouldn't be heroes if they weren't miserable wretched dogs, the pariahs of the earth, besides which the only reason to build up an idol is to tear it down again.
--Lester Bangs

Damn. I've been holding this in for about a week now and, as much as I hate getting all melancholy and nostalgiac here in public, I've got to say something about it. Last Saturday The Rolling Stones played in Halifax, Nova Scotia, my hometown. I was just over at YouTube checking out some videos from the show and found myself on the verge bawling like a baby. Why? Because the Stones have been my favorite band forever, and I've never seen them in concert, that's why. Damn, I wish I could have been there...

In the early summer of 1969 I was not quite 11 years old. I remember listening to the radio one day, a top 40 station in Winnepeg, where my family lived at the time. I remember hearing an ad for some local fast-food chain, followed by 2 or 3 seconds of silence. What followed would blow my mind. A cowbell. A drum beat, funky, but simple. A chunky-chuck guitar. A quick build-up, and then: "I met a gin-soaked barroom queen in Memphis, she tried to take me upstairs for a ride..." I didn't know what this was, and I certainly didn't know what it meant, but I was hooked 10 seconds into the song. The song, of course, was "Honky Tonk Woman" by the Rolling Stones.

Thanks to my parents, I grew up listening to a wide variety of traditional and popular music. Big band, Sinatra, country and western, traditional Irish and Scottish tunes, Elvis, The Beatles... all kinds of stuff. There was always music playing in our house. At the tender age of 10 I was becoming very interested in top 40 tunes and was just starting to build a collection of 45s (singles). It's tempting to say that nothing had prepared me for the Rolling Stones, but the truth is everything had prepared me. I was ready. The sky opened, a ray of light shone down, and I took the Rolling Stones into my heart. They've been my favorite band from that exact point in space and time.

I mean, you can tell they (the Stones) programmed this for maximum inconvenience. You knew at some point during each song you’d have to get up and move the record needle to the next track to escape whatever annoyance was on at that point. And yet, you gladly do it because it’s THE STONES!!!
--Lester Bangs (on Sucking in the 70s)

These days there are other bands I listen to more often than the Stones. And, to be objective about it, the 'golden era' ended for the Stones about 30 years ago. But they are still, and always will be, my "favorite band". A lot of people slag the Stones these days, and their criticism usually boils down to two main complaints: firstly, that their music sucks and has sucked for a long time; secondly, that their constant touring is nothing more than money-grubbing exploitation of their past glory. The only reasonable reponse to the first complaint is this: so fucking what? Frankly, I don't think a reasonable person would listen to Michael Jackson, or Madonna, or Britney Spears, or any one of a million shite "artists" I can think of, but arguing over what is essentially a matter of taste is a waste of time. Nothing, and I mean absolutley nothing I say, no matter how reasoned, how steeped in terms of music history and theory, is going to make someone stop listening to Michael Jackson and start buying Stones albums. Case dismissed...

The first mistake of art is to assume that it's serious.
--Lester Bangs

My initial response to the second complaint is also so what? Since when is it a crime to take the money of willing customers? This response will likely satisfy most, but there will always be some poor, misguided soul who will cry out, "but what about artistic integrity?" Artistic integrity? Sorry, sonny, we're talking about rock 'n' roll here. Sure, it's art, but there ain't no room on the bus for "artists". Show me a guy who picks up a guitar for "art's sake" and I'll show you a fucking wanker. Have the Stones ever fashioned themselves as artists? Does anyone think the Stones are actually embarassed about being old rich guys with hot wives and girlfriends? Hah! It's their philosophy. People can like them or leave them, but they can't be accused of dishonesty. We'll leave that racket to the artistes...

Damn, I wish I could have been there... Even this close...

UPDATE: I located a video that has the original recording of "Honky Tonk Woman". It's really too bad that the enjoyment of this song has been watered down by so many inferior versions (a few of them by the Stones themselves). It's not the best Stones tune ever, but it is one of many rock classics. Enjoy...

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

News Update from the Korean Central News Agency of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea

Just when I was about ready to give up on them, my buddies over at the Korean Central News Agency of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have returned with a vengeance. Yes, after months of lazy, uninspired, and --dare I say it?--almost civilized rants against Japan, the U.S. and anyone else who looks like a running-dog lackey of the imperialist hordes, my guys, yes, my guys (for I love them as surely as the sun rises in the east...) are back with a healthy dose of that good old down-on-the-rice-paddy, angst-ridden, I-don't-know-how-to-use-English-grammar-or-vocabulary-and-I-don't-give-a-fuck political invective.

So, what has got "the sun of the nation and mankind" pissed off this week? What maggoty grain of purloined rice has lodged itself 'twixt his teeth? Well, it seems that the Japanese, "bat blind philistines" the lot of them, have had enough of lobbed missiles, kidnapped citizens, imported drugs, and spying. With the support of a U.N. Security Council resolution behind them, Japan last week approved a new set of financial sanctions against North Korea.
The sanctions — called for in a U.N. Security Council resolution that denounced the July launches — ban fund transfers and overseas remittances by groups and individuals suspected of links to North Korean weapons programs.

"By taking these measures, we have demonstrated the resolve of the international community and Japan that is in line with U.N. Security Council resolution," Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said.

"I do not know how North Korea will respond, but I hope North Korea will accept the U.N. Security Council resolution in a sincere manner and respond to various concerns of the international community such as on their missile launches," he said.

I guess you could call North Korea's response "sincere". The Korean Central News Agency (Sept. 25-UPDATE: Sorry, this should say Sept. 26) translates for us from Rodong Sinmun:
Rodong Sinmun Monday ridicules Japan's application of "financial sanctions" against the DPRK as a farce of a jester of a circus troupe. The Japanese authorities, bereft of reason, are foolishly performing short-sighted and senseless buffoonery reminding us of a rural vendor, regarding "financial sanctions" as "a panacea," says a Rodong Sinmun commentary Monday.

[...] Dancing to other's tune, Japan is attempting to pressurize and strangle the DPRK with such "financial sanctions" to drive it somewhere. It is, however, a poor, third-rate diplomacy of bat-blind philistines.

I don't mind telling you right now that I could read this stuff forever. For me it has the essence of, oh, I don't know, Nietzsche on acid...
Japan is whipping itself into senseless frenzy to please the whim of its American master. It is acting flippantly not to fall behind the U.S. in the racket of sanctions against the DPRK. It does not warrant surprise, considering that Japan has made it its physical quality to lick the boots of the American master and tail behind the U.S. It is unseemly for Japan, styling itself "a big power," to behave like this.

Japan's noisy row of "financial sanctions" against the DPRK is a disgusting behavior of a slovenly political charlatan bent on refurbishing his public image by ingratiating himself with his American master and feathering his own nest by following the U.S.

Japan's clumsy and wicked act is a perfidy trampling upon the spirit and requirements of the DPRK-Japan Pyongyang Declaration.

You know, if I could get my Japanese university students to speak and write like this, my job would be a helluva lot more fun...
It is an utterly unreasonable sophism to describe the application of the "financial sanctions" as "a catalyzer" for "dialogue." It is a folly rendering the problem more complicated and carrying the DPRK-Japan confrontation to extremes.

It is justifiable and natural for the DPRK to put up a tough rebuff to Japan's desperate political provocation. The situation is very serious and the consequences are unpredictable. Japan would be well advised to behave with discretion, pondering over the serious consequences to be entailed by its harebrained act against the DPRK.

And there you have it. Well, Korean Central News Agency of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, you've been a stranger too long. It's good to have you back and in such fine form. Until next time, farewell, my friends.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Air Sex

This was simply too stupid for me to pass up:

A Japanese man recently won the World Air Guitar Championship in Finland. Less publicized, however, is the fact that Japan has another champion in, um, another "virtual" sport--air sex. According to this story in the WaiWai section (English translations of articles from some of Japan's less 'reputable' magazines) of the Mainichi Daily News, "air sex requires players to simulate sauciness as though with a partner, but actually while alone."
"Air sex was originally invented by guys who couldn't get girlfriends, but desperately want to have sex," J-Taro Sugisaku, the self-professed creator of air sex, tells Weekly Playboy.

Sugisaku discusses some the 'dangers' of air sex:
"You must be warned, though, air sex can be very dangerous," Sugisaku says. "Normally what happens with a display is that you perform the same way you normally would when having sex. I've seen guys who put on air sex shows that clearly display they're still virgins. I've also seen other guys perform such incredibly authentic fake fellatio that nobody has been left in any doubt that they could only be bisexual. Let me reiterate: Air sex can be dangerous."

Hmmm... The reigning air sex champion, who calls himself Cobra, informs us that "successful air sex... involves more than just blowing," and gives some insight into the mental preparation required to be a successful air sex... participant:
"On the day that I reached the top, the day I became world champion, I was thinking of my girlfriend. No, my ex-girlfriend. She'd just dumped me two days before the contest," Cobra tells Weekly Playboy. "The air sex display I put on that day was, in my mind at least, supposed to be the farewell fling I really wanted to have with my girlfriend. It was the best possible condition I could have been in going into the competition."

Now close your eyes and imagine this:
Cobra then proceeds to put on an 8 1/2-minute display of air sex for the weekly, with moves including ear nibbling, sphincter licking, attaching a condom while kissing, ejaculation and afterglow. Cobra says that the knack of bogus bonking lies in openness.

If you're still here, Cobra has some advice for aspiring air sex 'artists':
"You can't care about what women watching your performance are thinking about you. When you get down to air sex, you've got to immerse yourself in the air sex world," Cobra says. "Air sex can't be performed in half-measures. If it is, you're only asking for trouble."

Sugisaku concurs, explaining that "if you get nervous, air sex is impossible. A good start is understanding your own sexual habits and going on from there." Truly words to live by...

UPDATE: In a classic case of 'I wish I'd thought o' that', Eli at Multi Medium asks, "... do they achieve airgasm?"

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Game On!

Hockey has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, living in Miyazaki means that I rarely get to see any games, and then only on TV. These days I 'experience' hockey pretty much exclusively through my pc. To my knowledge there is only one skating rink in all of Miyazaki Prefecture. It's outdoors, is only open for a few weeks in winter, and is located atop Ebino Plateau, making access in wintertime somewhat difficult. I went there for the first time last winter and had a blast dazzling the locals with my (very rusty) skating abilities.

Anyway, the National Hockey League pre-season has begun, and my attention is beginning to turn to hockey. I'm quite aware that, of the handful of regular readers I have here, probably none know much about hockey and may not be interested in it at all. To the hockey 'unwashed': I plan to post occasionally on the topic of hockey, in a non-technical, general-interest, and (I hope) sometimes humorous style. I'm not going to try to 'teach' hockey to anyone (although there will generally be links aplenty for those who want to find out more). I simply want to share my passion, gentle readers! Game on!

Behind every great hockey player is a... coach, who imparts his knowledge, his passion, and his philosophy of the game to the impressionable young minds and bodies of the players in his charge. In the video below, future Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Chelios of the Detroit Red Wings reminisces about a memorable coach from his past, the inimitable Jules Winnfield...

In football (soccer) they have something called a penalty kick. In hockey we have a penalty shot. Watch the brief video below, and then tell me which seems more interesting...

You'll never see anything that cool in a penalty kick!

[Note: A complete comparison of penalty kicks/penalty shots would require me to get into more technical details than I want to do here. If anyone wishes to pursue a more technical discussion on this or any other hockey-related topics, as they arise, please feel free to post a comment.]

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Wash my mouth out with soap...

Once upon a time, in a land far away, on the internet, I directed the following 'flame' at a long-forgotten opponent, in a long-forgotten argument having something to do with insects:

So tell us, o entymylogically(sp?) wise one, what the fuck does this have to do with the original post? Since you're obviously some kind of mutated cockroach, you've got nothing to win or lose, although it appears as if you've lost your antenae for common sense. Go back to the garbage heap you worhtless shit gulping less than a maggot brained wart on a shit infested ant's ass. While you're at it- fuck off.

I don't have much to say for myself, except that in those days the internet was, for me, one long flame war. In the years since writing the above, aside from learning how to spell 'entomologically', I've learned to, shall we say, control my tongue (if not my temper) a bit more. Cursing and swearing and snide comments, after all, tend to lose their appeal when the potential target (in my case Japanese-speaking people) is not likely to understand what you're talking about. Of course, as any of my ex-pat drinking buddies could tell you, I can still peel the paint off buildings with just a few choice words when the mood hits. Generally speaking, though, I'm a much mellower guy than the lout that wrote the words above, which leads me to something that happened this morning...

Like most English-speaking guys (at least the ones I know and associate with!), it's fairly common for me to use the words 'fuck' and 'shit' as exclamatory statements: "oh, for fuck sake!", "fuck it!", "fuck, yeah!", "ahh, shit!", and "holy shit!" being but a few examples. This morning, I was making coffee in the kitchen. I thought I was alone. One of the things I hate about Japan is that it sometimes seems as though all of the interior designers here are thinking about dwarves or people who never have to stand up living in their creations... Anyway, I'm in the kitchen making coffee and I think I'm alone, when suddenly I give my head its daily bash, this time into the corner of an overhead cupboard. Fuck, did it hurt! "Fuuck!!", I yelled. And then my daughter walked around the corner and said, "nande 'fuck', Daddy?" As much as my head hurt, I felt a bit ashamed.

Nande means 'why', so my daughter was asking me why I said 'fuck'. She didn't say, "'fuck' nan desu ka?" ("what is 'fuck'?" or "what does 'fuck' mean?"). I'm fairly certain that my 3-year old doesn't know the meaning of 'fuck'. But by asking me why I said 'fuck' she showed a pretty good understanding of one of the word's functions in English. She heard me say 'fuck'. She saw me holding my head in pain. If she could say it in English, she would have said "what happened?". Barring that, she wondered what made me say 'fuck'. Clearly she's heard me say it before...

I'm a rotten father, doomed to spending the rest of his days in fear. Fear that one day, sooner or later, my little girl will, in the presence of her mother--my wife, fall down, or bump her head, or drop her ice cream, and at that fateful moment she'll scream the dreaded word. And I'll be fucked...

Friday, September 15, 2006

Poet Statesman...

From my recently-met friend, Chez, at Smells Like White Spirit. I give you the President of the United States of America, poet statesman:

by George W. Bush

I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It's a world of madmen and uncertainty
and potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the Internet become more few?
How many hands have I shaked?

They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.
I know that the human being and the fish can coexist.
Families is where our nation finds hope, where our wings take dream.

Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher! Make the pie higher!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

No Comment...

I believe the following items speak for themselves...

From John Rogers at Kung Fu Monkey:
Ironically, any halfway decent screenwriter/director pair could have made that mini-series [The Path to 9/11] and made Clinton look like an ass without inventing anything at all -- but that would have required a talent for subtlety evident in a level of professionalism that would make writing propoganda ... distasteful.

From, ahem, Hermann Goering [G.M. Gilbert: Nuremberg Diary, 1947; pp. 278-279]
Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.
[...] Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

From Keith Olbermann (via Poor Man):

Sunday, September 10, 2006

'Car Queen'

This car shop sign caught my eye as I was driving by it the other day. I can't decide if there's something odd about naming your shop 'Car Queen', or if there's something odd about me for thinking it's odd. I don't think I'd want to buy a car, or get my car fixed, at a place called Car Queen. Gentle readers, do you think I'm a little sexist, or even homophobic for feeling this way?
And some of the cars they had? Well, I can't imagine your typical hetero-guy --and indeed, if you ask anyone, "Hey, what's that Kyklops guy like?", they'll tell you staight out, "Oh, you know, he's a typical hetero-guy...")... Anyway, I can't imagine your typical hetero-guy wanting to get behind the wheel of some of the cars they had for sale at this place. I mean, really, a Honda 'Life Dunk'? Isuzu's 'Mysterious Utility'? Mitsubishi's 'Delica Space Gear'? And the list goes on: from Toyota there's the 'Nadia' and the 'Gaia', and Mazda has the 'Bongo Friendee' (I hope I never see the day when I say to my friends, "Hey, let's hop in my Bongo Friendee and go downtown to watch the girls!" [shivers]).
[Note: Readers from outside Japan can verify that I'm not inventing these car names here and here. Readers in Japan know the horror all too well...]

Thursday, September 07, 2006

It's a Boy...

Princess Kiko, the wife of Prince Akishino, the Emperor's second son, gave birth to a boy Wednesday morning, a long-awaited male heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne.
The baby, delivered by Cesarean section, is the first male born to the Imperial family in 41 years and becomes the third in line to the throne after Crown Prince Naruhito, 46, and Prince Akishino, 40.
The birth will put off the succession crisis facing the Imperial family for a while.

I wasn't going to write about this story at all because, frankly, I find the notions of 'royalty', 'aristocracy', 'divine right', 'imperial succession', etc. both morally repugnant and logically absurd. Any particular monarch might not necessarily be a bad person, but we can be pretty certain, if we go back far enough in the family line, his/her ancestors would most likely be considered homicidal maniacs in modern society. Why anyone should be proud that his/her ancestors did more killing, raping, and stealing than mine or yours is a bit beyond my understanding... Anyway, having got that out of the way, this story is not completely without interest.

Conservative elements in Japan are no doubt relieved that Princess Kiko had a boy. The current system of succession does not allow women to inherit the throne but, until yesterday, it had been 41 years since a male was born into the royal family. Last year a panel convened by Prime Minister Koizumi recommended that the laws be changed to allow women and their children to ascend to the throne. News of Princess Kiko's pregnancy put off the introduction of a bill to parliament. Conservatives argue that male-only succession, to ensure the 'purity of the male bloodline' (ie.the Y chromosome), is the throne's defining characteristic. In order to prevent a woman from becoming monarch, conservatives proposed bringing back other branches of the imperial family (which were abolished after World War II), and even went so far as suggesting a revival of the concubine system.

Most Japanese, while happy that the new baby is healthy, remain divided over whether to revise the Imperial House Law to allow females to take the Chrysanthemum Throne. Many people appear to be concerned about the effects recent events might have on Princess Masako, wife of the current royal heir, Prince Naruhito. By all accounts an intelligent and articulate woman, the Harvard-educated Masako gave up her career as a diplomat to marry Naruhito and join the royal family. The pressure on Masako to bear a son, however, pushed her into depression and provoked Naruhito to publicly defend his wife (almost unheard of in Japan). It was the birth of their daughter Aiko that initially prompted lawmakers, with a lot of public support, to begin looking into changing the rules of succession.

It's perhaps not surprising that the issue of royal succession is illustrative of one aspect of the conservative/progressive divide in Japan. One interesting point, though, does seem to be emerging. While conservatives are clearly happy about the birth of a male heir, Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko appear to be actively courting and winning favor with Japan's more conservative elements. Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako, on the other hand, apparently have the sympathy of younger, more progressive-minded Japanese. Whether or not this leads to increased politicization of the throne, from within the royal family, it's really too early to say.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Japan and Canada...

...join hands against South Korea... This kinda jumped off the page at me. According to the article, from the Bahrain News Agency, "Japan and Canada agreed on joining efforts to help halt South Korea's nuclear and missile development programme."
[This headline will probably be fixed by the time anyone reads this post, but I swear, that's what it said...]

This Site Is 36% Evil

(Something seems to have drained what little creative energy I might previously have possessed. I can't even rouse myself to a mid-level rant about something Japanese these days. So, to pass the time, and to engage in some 'therapeutic' typing, I'll content myself with a little linkwhoring. The following via the nonist.)

From The Sect of Homokaasu, the Gematriculator:
The Gematriculator is a service that uses the infallible methods of Gematria developed by Mr. Ivan Panin to determine how good or evil a web site or a text passage is.
Basically, Gematria is searching for different patterns through the text [...]
Experts consider the mathematical patterns in the text of the Holy Bible as God's watermark of authenticity. Thus, the Gematriculator provides only results that are absolutely correct.

Use the Gematriculator to rate the 'evil-ness' of your site! Just enter a URL and, presto!, you have your results. "Wasn't that fun? Now waste your time by killing everyone!"