Monday, December 26, 2005

Compare and Contrast

Jeremy Roenick, 35 year-old NHL veteran, on not being named to the American men's Olympic hockey team:

"It would be a travesty if I'm not [selected ...] I know they want a youth movement, and they need to have one, but it'd be disrespectful of the guys who have gotten Team USA to this point internationally. [Team USA] "better hope that I don't get a job as a commentator on NBC for [the Games], or it'd be 'Go Canada' all the way, and I don't want that."

"I know nobody on that team has more points in the National Hockey League than me [...] So if (USA Hockey) wants to go that way, good luck."

"To not have the opportunity to go back one more time and try and win the gold is, obviously, in my opinion, very disrespectful. They can beat me down and say I'm over the hill or say that I don't have it anymore, but, to me, I know that I do."

"If they want to leave me off because of my numbers this year, that's well and fine [...]
"They didn't invite me to camp in September and they've been blackballing me anyways [...] I know I can play this game at a high level. My stats aren't indicative of the way I've played this year. I think my career, the way I've worked, speaks for itself. If that's the way they want to be, it's fine. I'll accept it."

Sydney Crosby, 18 year-old NHL rookie, on not being named to the Canadian men's Olympic Hockey team:

"There are a lot of great hockey players from Canada and I realize that [...] you're not making an All-Star team, you're not choosing the guys who are the best scorers or who have the most points or the top 20 point-getters in the NHL, you're making a team to go and win. That includes guys who have to be defensive forwards, guys who have some different roles. Either I didn't fit that role or I didn't earn a place to be there."

"It's important for me to move on [...]I try to go out and give myself an opportunity to play there and if not, I'm not second-guessing any guy there because they all deserve to be there. It's tough because I thought I had a chance, but it's not tough because I think I should replace someone else, it's not like that at all."

"I knew there were a group of guys in the mix for so many spots -- I don't know how many it was, but I think I was right in there [...] It's special to play in the Olympics and when you're that close, it's a little bit tough because you don't know what's going to happen when you're 22 or 26."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Blue Sky

The lovely young woman on the left is none other than (following Japanese name forms) Aoi Sora (link NSFW), which means "Blue Sky". She's a popular "AV idol" (Adult Video star) here in Japan. She's starred in such films as Let's Go Blue in the Sky, Virgin Sky, 50/50, Sexy Fruit and Soap Heaven, to name but a few.
So why am talking about Aoi Sora and posting her picture here? Is it a cheap ploy to suck traffic in to my boring blog? Do I harbor some secret dream to be a porn king? Hell, yeah! But I digress...
In my classes today I asked my students (working in groups) to write down any words or phrases they associated with the term "the sky". (Note to the ESL/EFL uninitiated: Damned if I know whether or not this type of activity is of any use to the students, but it usually gives me an idea of what they do or don't know. We've been reading articles this month with weather-related content... please don't ask...). As the students were doing the activity I was walking around the room checking what they'd written, offering suggestions, getting clarifications, etc. Most everyone had written words commonly associated with "the sky"--clouds, rain, stars, UFOs, and the like. In one of my classes today, however, there was a group of four guys I noticed chuckling and whispering to each other, like they had some funny secret. There are no rules against having fun in my classes, and they were busy writing stuff down, so I didn't pay them much mind. Eventually I made my way over to them and took a look at what they had written. Pretty much the same as everyone else, but the first item on their paper was the phrase "Aoi Sora"...
Now, as fate would have it, and totally unbeknownst to my students, I know who Aoi Sora is. Yes, I admit it, I have gazed upon Japanese (and countless other types of) porn. Further, I have sought it out on the web. I suppose there are a few (straight) guys out there who don't like to look at pictures of naked women, but I'm not one of them. I can only imagine what goes on in their sick, twisted minds. The only creature lower on the evolutionary scale would be someone who likes to look at beautiful, naked women, but denies doing it (liars are worse than retards, although they probably live longer, proving irrevocably that evolution isn't always fair or sensible).
Anyway, playing dumb, I look at what these guys have written and say, "This is Japanese, what does it mean?" "Blue Sky", one of them says, with darting glances at, and shared smirks with, his partners. I ask, "Is she the most popular AV idol in Japan?" Their jaws drop. After some hushed consultation another one answers, "well, she's one of the most popular." Not willing to pass up the opportunity, I say, "ok, make me a list, will you?"
They did. They gave it to me after class, and lingered a bit to chat. It may sound strange, but this is how to teach English in Japan.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to check out this list...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Meanwhile, in Iraq...

... we've been hearing about kidnappers threatening to kill their peace activist hostages, more US marines killed by roadside bombs, and an ambush by militants that killed 19 Iraqi soldiers. Not so widely reported was the broken mirror on a Japanese Ground Defense Force vehicle, inflicted by stone-throwing protesters in Samawah on Sunday. How are these events connected and what does it all mean? I leave that to you, dear reader...

Monday, September 05, 2005

Damned Weather

Well, I was scheduled to be flying home for a visit to Canada tomorrow, but there's this big honkin' typhoon parked off the southern coast of Kyushu that seems determined that I postpone my trip at least one day (I'm in Miyazaki, which is about a half an inch northeast of the typhoon's eye in the image on the right). Normally these things blow through in a few hours, but this one seems to be just sitting there taunting me. Typhoon-like conditions began here about 24 hours ago, and it looks like it'll be another 24 hours before we're rid of the damned thing.
Generally I view typhoons in a favorable light. They're always good for a day off work, or cancelling annoying outings that you don't really want to attend. This is the first time in seven years in Japan that I can honestly say I have been inconvenienced by a typhoon.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Japanese 'Gaijin'

"Ground Self-Defense Force troops deployed in Iraq for reconstruction assistance cannot vote in the Sept 11 general election because they do not fulfill the requirements for overseas voting [...]" Apparently, in order to vote in a Japanese election it's not enough to be 'Japanese'. One must either be physically present in Japan or, barring that, be prescient. The following is from the print version of the Daily Yomiuri (Fri, Sept. 2, 2005; not a bad paper, but shitty web presence- in English, at least): "Japanese living overseas have to register in advance to receive an expatriate voting certificate, a process that takes an average of two months to complete." So, any Nihonjin living abroad who did not apply to vote about 6-7 weeks ago can't.
Prime Minister Koizumi dissolved parliament sometime around mid to late August (I can't be bothered checking), and the election campaign itself began this week and will last for two weeks (Americans take note)...
As far as the election itself goes, I suppose I should make some brief comment. The central issue is reform of the post office. Sounds weird, I know. Gwynne Dyer (whether you like him or not) has a pretty good summary of the main facts. The short story: Japan Post is essentially the biggest bank in the world (savings and deposits over $3 trillion); it has 25,000 branches (10 times more than all major banks combined); 85% of Japanese have a savings account at the post office; the post office writes 40% of Japan's insurance policies; as a government institution, it is a cash cow to the perpetually ruling LDP Party, who use it to finance numerous pork barrel projects and secure votes from its 400,000 employees.
The above is certainly troubling, BUT: I frequently read/hear financial commentators refer to the privatization of the Japanese post office as a "freeing up" of funds for "business investment". For me, this only begs the question (to which we all know the answer): why don't the Japanese put their money into banks? The answer is, of course, that the banks are even more corrupt and less secure than the post office. (Smug Canadians might do well to ponder where their savings [if they have any] would be without government protection of the banking system- if a half-dozen member monopolistic entity can be called a 'system'). For most Japanese (and for me) Japan Post is a safe place to keep one's money.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Ishihara's French Kiss-Off: Follow-Up

Pierre over at Loser's Guide has expressed some puzzlement over Ishihara's remarks about French being a "language which cannot count numbers." Near as I can tell, Ishihara was referring to the fact that numbers in French can be complicated: the number 94, for example, translates as "four twenties and fourteen." Of course this is only a problem for people who don't know the language, and can't really compare to the numerous quirks of the Japanese counting systems (yeah, there are several systems). One million, in Japanese, translates as "a hundred ten thousands"; different words are used depending on what is being counted (people, things, etc); Japanese uses both kanji and arabic numerals to express numbers; etc...

Angua wonders "[w]as the minister kicked by a guy in a beret? Forced to eat snails? Hit upside the head with a baguette?" My own fantasy is that some French prostitute must have laughed at him while he was on a school trip to Paris, but the reality is this: Mr. Ishihara is an ultra-nationalist bigot and world class xenophobe who really doesn't have much nice to say about anybody. Over the years he's dropped some zingers. In 1995, he claimed that the Nanjing Massacre was an invention of the Chinese. In 1999, he worried publicly about foreigners rioting in the streets in the event of an earthquake. He refers to Chinese and Koreans as "third world poeple"(sangokujin). Commenting on a bomb that had been placed at the private residence of a deputy foreign minister, he said "[a] bomb was planted there. I think it was deserved."
But, as Angua suggested, "inquiring minds want to know". Why insult the French (heh, as if..., no, I won't say it...)? The following quote, while perhaps inconclusive, may at least offer a clue: "I'm an existentialist--freedom and passion are the most important things to me. I was horribly disappointed when I learned that Sartre was a Communist."

Friday, July 15, 2005

Sometimes the Jokes Write Themselves (Extended Schoolyard Sissyfight Mix)

Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara is being sued for "insulting the French language." Apparently Mr. Ishihara, on Oct. 19, said "I have to say that it should be no surprise that French is disqualified as an international language because French is a language which cannot count numbers." Quite predictably this upset the 2 or 3 people who actually (claim to) make a living teaching French in Japan. In their lawsuit they claim that the governor's remarks "give a false impression that French is a poor language, which is not acceptable by international standards [...]"

All in a Day's Work...

Mr. Doudou Diene of Senegal has been to and now left Japan. Mr. Diene, at the end of his nine-day visit said that discrimination in Japan is "deep and profound", that government leaders cannot recognize the depth of the problem, and that the Japanese public had a "strong xenophobic drive." Yawn... Did I mention that Mr. Diene is the UN's special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance? Well, he is.

Friday, July 01, 2005

How the World Works...

According to Japan Today "A U.N. expert on racism and discrimination will visit Japan in July for the first time [...]"

Doudou Diene of Senegal, special rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, will arrive in Japan this weekend for his fact-finding mission through July 12.

I wonder how he fits all that onto his business card... From Mr. Diene:

"As a world power in an era of globalization, Japan has to expand to the outside world. But its society is still closed, spiritually and intellectually centered," he said, adding such conflicting positions could create tensions that would lead to racism and discrimination.

I can't really say why, but I'm reminded of a factory I used to work in as a kid back in the 'old country.' About once a year a safety inspector used to come to the place to make sure us workin' stiffs weren't being forced to work in unsafe conditions. He always came while we were eating lunch...
Anyway, according to the article,
Diene will focus on minorities of Korean and Chinese descent, while also looking into the situation that migrants from the rest of Asia, the Arab world and Africa find themselves in as they settle in Japan.

Mmm, no minority groups in Japan missing in that list... (Sometimes, just sometimes, I understand the American loathing of the UN...)

"It is never easy for any government to accept an outside eye in their policies and programs," he said. "It is for me to convince them I am here to listen and understand [...]"

He'd make a good 'safety inspector'...

Friday, April 22, 2005

Yeah, well buddy, we're all bored around here, OK?

A quote I never expected to read: "It is a sad loss for Pakistani hockey [...]"

Dumb Americans: An impending law in the US will punish good, decent, file-sharing folk as severely as those who commit manslaughter.

How bored am I?: This bored.

A good album: Arc Angels (self-titled, 1992).

Another triumph for 'cradle to grave' system: "I wanted to kill someone. It didn't matter who. I had been thinking about doing it for about two years.". The "someone" in this case was a 4-year-old boy...

The papal trojan horse: A hospital in Fredericton (it's in Canada, for the geographically challenged) has removed bibles from bedsides "in a quest to control infections." [Insert Microsoft joke here.]

Friday, March 04, 2005

As If You Cared

A funny lyric: "My masochistic baby went and left me..." (Fatboy Slim, El Bebe Masoquista)

A Timbit: Apparently trash from Tim Horton's accounts for 47% of all fast food trash, and 22% of all trash in Nova Scotia.

An opinion: Rock 'N' Roll is high art. 'Artists,' however, should be banned from any and all recording studios when intending to record rock albums (for the record, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and the like, while they may qualify as artists and make fine music, are NOT rock 'n' rollers). The Stones, for example, have never claimed to be into anything other than music, money and women. Do you think it's remotely possible for them to be embarrassed about being filthy rich old farts with hot young wives? Of course it ain't. It's their philosophy, for fuck's sake. Anyone who's embarrassed by the Stones is simply jealous.... The British 'punks' were supposedly a rebellion against and repudiation of 'traditional' rock values, but really, who ended up looking like the chump? The British punks sold out faster than you could say Sex Pistols. American punks were always, at heart, rockers. I don't recall Iggy Pop ever referring to himself as an 'artist'....

Do I remember this, or is it deja vu?: Little Black Sambo is to be re-issued in Japan

This week on Ebay: Somebody has bid 3.5 billion to buy the entire National Hockey League.