Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ask a Stupid Question...

Someone (possibly a Classical Lit student?) from Tennessee, clearly struggling with Homer's Odyssey, arrived here via Google with the search term "what does the kyklops do to the men he eats?" Umm, well... he eats them.
... [he]sprang up and put forth his hands upon my comrades. Two of them at once he seized and dashed to the earth like puppies, [290] and the brain flowed forth upon the ground and wetted the earth. Then he cut them limb from limb and made ready his supper, and ate them as a mountain-nurtured lion, leaving naught--ate the entrails, and the flesh, and the marrowy bones.
(Samuel Butler's translation. I prefer Lattimore's, but I don't have it nearby, and I can't be bothered to translate it myself.)

I hope you weren't planning a paper centered on this question. It seems a bit of a dead end. Focus instead on why Polyphemos ate Odysseus' companions (i.e. what clues does Homer give us regarding Polyphemos' character?). You should especially look at the punishment Odysseus exacts--was it just? If it wasn't, why not? If it was, why? And why was Odysseus punished for it? Look carefully at Odysseus' words when he first speaks to Polyphemos, and his words and manner as he's making his escape from the island.

Come back in a week and show me what you've got.

The Pause That Refreshes?

Vending machines in Japan are famous (notorious?) for offering a wide variety of products. Here's a vending machine you'll never see in Japan.

[Pic swiped from Thrillist.]

Monday, January 28, 2008


Ahh, what the hell. A pic before I call it a night.

Click to enlarge.

Out of the Frying Pan...

Tomorrow is my last day of classes for this school year. I also think my dental appointments will finish this week or, possibly, next (thank fuck, because I'm starting to feel like a trapped animal every time I go lately...). Anyway, while there's always a shitload of stuff to do, I should be in a better mood, and I should have a bit more time to, like, actually write something here once in a while...

But, then again, I just got a call from a buddy asking if I were interested in throwing a set of tunes together for a rock'n'roll gig in a couple of weeks. Damn right I am...

PSA: Get Literate!

We must never forget the value of the written word:

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Vending Machines, No. 20

Click to enlarge.


You owe it to yourself to listen to this. It ain't rock'n'roll, and it sure ain't death metal, but it sure is good. It's stunningly beautiful, in fact...

John Zorn-Merkabah


Friday, January 25, 2008


This week Glenn and Dave's photo challenge is barrooms. I've been in plenty of barrooms. They're as comfortable as home to me. I don't get 'round them places much now.

My "barroom":

Tag, I'm "It"...

Jeez, I'm starting to get bruises! I've been tagged not once, but twice. For both friends who've tagged me: thanks for thinking about me, but please don't take it wrong if I don't tag anyone else (my other friends are very busy these days saving whales, electing a Democrat, getting drunk, and other important stuff; I, on the other hand, having no principles whatsoever, have all kinds of free time!).

First of all, Taffiny at to taste a peach has honored me with the "Colors of Friendship Badge". Look!

Thanks, Taff, I really am happy that you consider me worthy of your friendship. (When you get that "Japan" novel published, though, I want a mention in the acknowledgments! And some publisher freebies when you hit Japan to promote it!)

The next one requires a bit more than humble thanks. Absolute Vanilla's alien chicken friend, Atyallah--by the way, AV, have you ever heard of yaki tori? The Japanese would just love to meat, er, meet Atyllah--has tasked me with :

* link to the person who tagged you (done!)
* post the rules on your blog (done!)
* share six non-important things/ habits/ quirks about yourself (to follow!)
* tag at least 3 people at the end of the post and link to their blogs (sorry!)
* let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog (ditto!)

Six "non-important things/ habits/ quirks" about me (Kyklops):

1. I don't believe in God, but I religiously do nothing on Sundays. Actually, I stole that from an old Elvin Bishop tune. Surely something to strive for, though... (What, that's important? Jeesh, get a life!)

2. My favorite hockey team is the Boston Bruins... (yeah, yeah, OK already: that one is important; fucking sue me, already...)

3. Sometimes I kinda... you know, wish I were Captain Kirk...

4. My favorite food is pizza. Before moving to Japan I would have said any pizza. Actually, I don't much care for pizza anymore...

5. I'm not important. Neither are you. Neither is anyone else. Whoopee!!

6. I drink about 5 gallons of coffee a day. And about 2 gallons of beer on Friday nights...


Click to enlarge.


Ever the ground-breaking asshole, Fred "God hates fags" Phelps plans to picket the funeral of Heath Ledger for the "sin" of portraying a gay man in Brokeback Mountain. I'm struggling, trying to wrap my mind around this. Stupidity based on stupidity based on stupidity... Fuck off, assholes.

Ian Dury-Sex and Drugs and Rock'n'Roll

Monday, January 21, 2008

Beat Us

Not really "engrish", but the shop sign below (crappy cell phone pic) caught my eye while I was walking home from the dentist's a few evenings ago. I don't know who works there or what exactly they sell but, given my usual mood after a dentist's appointment, I'm tempted to find out one of these days...

Nick Lowe-I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Tweaked Aircon Grill

Apropos of nothing in particular, I give you "Tweaked Aircon Grill". Click to enlarge (if you dare!).

Whale of a Time

It never ceases to amaze me how people, when arguing for or against this or that particular thing, will almost invariably weaken their (otherwise sound) reasoning with superfluities and appeals to emotion (not to mention liberal doses of hypocrisy). Take the most recent international outcry over Japan's killing of whales in the name of "scientific research". There is, in fact, a rather simple, rational argument against killing whales. It has nothing to do with whether or not whales are endangered, nor is it connected to the (extremely speculative) notion that whales are "intelligent" or "sentient" (and usually following from that, "noble" and "beautiful").

Peter Singer is perhaps one of the more famous of the world's philosophers (if you're unfamiliar with Singer you can check out his website here, or read about him at his Wikipedia entry.) Last week the online version of The Japan Times had an article by Singer entitled "Hypocrisy weakens West's whaling protests". In this article he presents us with the best, most rational argument against whaling:
Whales cannot be humanely killed — they are too large, and even with an explosive harpoon, it is difficult to hit the whale in the right spot. Moreover, whalers do not want to use a large amount of explosive, because that would blow the whale to pieces, while the whole point is to recover valuable oil or flesh. So harpooned whales typically die slowly and painfully.

Causing suffering to innocent beings without an extremely weighty reason for doing so is wrong. If there were some life-or-death need that humans could meet only by killing whales, perhaps the ethical case against it could be countered. But there is no essential human need that requires us to kill whales. Everything we get from whales can be obtained without cruelty elsewhere. Thus, whaling is unethical.

"Causing suffering to innocent beings without an extremely weighty reason... is wrong." That surely must be right, and I think most people (Japanese included) would agree with this. And I'm not aware of any argument denying the fact that harpooned whales die painfully and slowly. Couple this with the even more obvious fact that there "is no essential human need that requires us to kill whales" and that's all she wrote, right? (Singer, by the way, also points out that if whaling is unethical, so is "scientific" whaling done with a view to developing a sustainable resource.)

As if the above weren't enough, Singer goes on to (quite rightly) criticize the common Japanese claim that the anti-whaling crowd too frequently argue from emotion rather than reason or common sense. I think the Japanese are actually correct on this point, but as Singer argues
Japan says that it wants the discussion of whaling to be carried out calmly, on the basis of scientific evidence, without "emotion." The Japanese think that humpback whale numbers have increased sufficiently for the killing of 50 to pose no danger to the species. On this narrow point, they might be right. But no amount of science can tell us whether or not to kill whales.

Indeed, Japan's desire to continue to kill whales is no less motivated by "emotion" than environmentalists' opposition to it. Eating whales is not necessary for the health or better nutrition of the Japanese. It is a tradition that they wish to continue, presumably because some Japanese are emotionally attached to it.

Arguments that appeal to tradition generally have no foundation in reason, in fact they're more often than not downright irrational and sometimes just plain stupid or even dangerous. Anyone who says to me "I do X because my daddy and his daddy and his daddy did X" comes across sounding like an idiot. No less so than someone who says killing whales is wrong because they're "beautiful" or "intelligent" or whatever.

The biggest problem, however, for Westerners generally and, right now, the Australian government in particular, is that they have no reasonable claim to the high moral ground in this issue. To put it briefly (and bluntly), they're all hypocrites. As Singer writes,
The Japanese do have one argument that is not so easily dismissed. They claim that Western countries object to whaling because, for them, whales are a special kind of animal, as cows are for Hindus. Western nations, the Japanese say, should not try to impose their cultural beliefs on them.

The best response to this argument is that the wrongness of causing needless suffering to sentient beings is not culturally specific. It is, for example, one of the first precepts of one of Japan's major ethical traditions, Buddhism.

But Western nations are in a weak position to make this response, because they inflict so much unnecessary suffering on animals. The Australian government strongly opposes whaling, yet it permits the killing of millions of kangaroos each year — a slaughter that involves a great deal of animal suffering. The same can be said of various forms of hunting in other countries, not to mention the vast amount of animal suffering caused by factory farms.

There's little doubt in my mind that a combination of muddy thinking, hypocrisy, and cultural biases (sometimes bordering on or crossing into racism) has informed the typical Westerner's view of the Japanese whale hunt. Australia itself used to hunt whales, up to just 30 years ago. It wasn't the Japanese that decimated the world's whales. In fact, Japan is hardly the only country that continues to hunt whales. None of this means that killing whales (at least by the present means) is OK, but if I were of the mind to criticize a nation for doing something I found morally repugnant, I might try to make sure my own house were in order first.

Friday, January 18, 2008


OK, so my buddy Glenn and his buddy Dave have this weekly photo challenge thing going, where every week there's a different theme/challenge. As far as I can tell, anyone can particpate...

Anyway, this week's theme/challenge is cemeteries, and you'll find my contributions below. As you might imagine, Japanese cemeteries are not exactly overflowing with the kind of Christian imagery you'd find in a place like, say, New Orleans. (Being an atheist myself, however, any pretty picture will do when I'm dead...)

The main problem for me in a Japanese graveyard is that I'm not always sure about what I'm looking at. The grave site in the shot below looks very Christian to me, but it's located outside a clearly marked "Christian" section (see below). (Click to enlarge.)

I don't think the scene below needs any explanation. This is the Christian section of the cemetery (as if you couldn't tell). This section, by the way, is actually fenced off and requires a key, or secret password (or handshake), or the tablets from the Mount, I don't fucking know. In truth, it's probably fenced in to prevent unnecessary ogling from the Japanese. (I'm going to leave that sentence there to remind myself what an unfair asshole I can be.) Anyway, click to enlarge before I put my foot any further into my mouth...

"Resurgent!" Yeah, don't I fucking wish...

On the Irresponsible Use of Vending Machines

The vending machine is a both a technological wonder and a convenient way to get a hot or cold drink.

Please drink responsibly (click to enlarge).

Whale Meat Again

The recent shenanigans, antics, and various acts of tomfoolery on the high seas, and the assorted and sundry commentaries, have become so absurd that I'm beginning to think that perhaps Japan really should stop the whale hunt, if only to save the idiots of the world from themselves (in much the same way that the best reason for quitting smoking is so that everyone else will shut the fuck up).

Vending Machines, No. 18

Click to enlarge.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Out on the Tiles

Click to enlarge.

Led Zeppelin-Out on the Tiles

No Dessert...

... for this unfortunate woman in Japan who, homeless and starving, was too weak to open the food given to her by government officials, and died outside Hamamatsu city hall.

Just Dessert

Next time you're at a Chinese restaurant, try asking for a Japanese fortune cookie.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Physical Graffiti

My buddy Glenn was doing something with graffiti a few days ago, and I was reminded of the pic you see below. It's a real live genuine piece of Japanese graffiti. I have no idea what the fuck it says or means, other than that it appears to have been done by the "BCD Crew". Click to enlarge.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Little Wing

Last night, somewhat unexpectedly, I found myself on stage at a bar playing drums to Hendrix's "Little Wing". I've heard the tune a million times, of course, but last night was the first time I'd ever played it. It was fun (well, OK, maybe a bit more than just "fun"...).

Jimi Hendrix-Little Wing

If I bought a new drum kit on the credit card, I wonder if my wife would notice...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Lake Placid News

I think I've mentioned here before that I suffer from the double curse of being both easily amused and quickly bored. I found the following headline amusing: Placid man visits Japan to study martial arts. I didn't make it past the second sentence of the actual story...

Below you can click to hear an actual song (in streaming audio!) that has a theme related to martial arts. Before clicking, though, why not make a guess in the comments? (Hint: it's a very well-known song. No cheating!)

Mystery Tune

I Got Nuthin' to Say (Right Now)...

Bettye LaVette-Take Me Like I Am

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


I'm in a bad mood, I can't concentrate, I feel tired. I'm eating too much, and putting on pounds. I'm avoiding social contact. I'm depressed. Yeah, I got dem ole winter blahs. Even living here in sunny Miyazaki for the past 10 years is not enough to stave of this annual bout of bleh. It's even worse here, actually. Back in the old country, where there was at least some comfort in the fact that the weather really was depressing, I used to while away the months of January and February with extended bouts of drinking. And, if I had to go outside, there were always long walks down the dark, frozen, lonely streets, hockey stick in hand, and a chance encounter with a smiling, cheerful face... Of course now that I'm a family man, those small, simple pleasures have been stolen away from me...

Imagine my delight, dear readers, when I chanced upon this item about a "therapeutic" robot baby seal, designed right here in Japan (by real Japanese researchers!). The "Paro" (as it's called) has been recognized as the "World's Most Therapeutic Robot" by the Guinness Book of World Records!
The 57-centimetre Paro, covered with soft artificial fur, behaves in cuddly fashion on being caressed.

It responds to people's actions and words in a range of ways depending on what action they take toward it, such as stroking and talking to it.

The 2.7 kilogram Paro moves its head and flippers, making sounds and mimicking the voice of a baby seal [...]

[...] it provides healing effects, such as reducing stress and depression levels.

Damn! A robot baby seal for reducing stress and depression! Japanese ingenuity never ceases to amaze! Although it's mildly mystifying why none of the test subjects for this wonderful little contraption were Canadian (possibly they're trying to create market anticipation?), readers possessing only a passing familiarity with Canada and its quaint customs will have no difficulty understanding what this could mean to me and untold millions of other Canadians. I'm ordering one today!

Now, where's my hockey stick...?

Iggy Pop-Nightclubbing

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Green Lantern?

Click to enlarge.


This is only a test, but if it works, you should be able to click the thingie below and enjoy "I Found That Essence Rare" by Gang of Four in streaming audio!

[DivShare doodad copped from Rob at Loose Logic.]

Friday, January 04, 2008

Horror of the Ninja! (Part 2)

In case anyone thought I was kidding with the previous post:

Please pay here...

... for your dismemberment!

Horror of the Ninja!

A couple of weeks ago my family and I passed through Ureshino town in Saga prefecture. While we were there we visited a funky little "theme park" called Hizen Yume Kaido. It's basically a reproduction of Ureshino during the Edo period. And while it was interesting to walk down the streets and look at the buildings, the highlights for me were the "ninja shows" (I had the opportunity to actually throw some "ninja death stars"!) and the several "haunted house" attractions.

I took the photo below with my cell phone while walking through one of the haunted houses. I didn't think much of it at the time (I wasn't especially "scared"), but I today I uploaded my cell's memory card to my pc and this pic caught my eye. The almost-black-and-white-ness and the grainy quality (click to enlarge) really give it (to my eye) a creepy kind of look.

My Theme Song

Maybe it's a Canadian thing...

Why I love Tom Waits

I don't wanna grow up...

Why I Like Jim Jarmusch

I am so fucked...

Thursday, January 03, 2008


The thud of drums and
droning guitars, a soundtrack.
Waves crashing on cliffs.

Life without meaning,
death without meaning; abyss.
This has been my life.

To reconcile this
with a young girl's smiling face--
what's a guy to do?

speaking, I'm between a rock
and an, umm... hard place.