Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Jumping Jack Flash

First time I've seen this clip, and the music is a great alternate version of the classic. Worth checkin' out if ya dig The Stones.

Now have a beer...

From the Dept. of Wishful Thinking

From The Guardian's website: Disgruntled Japanese turn to resurgent communists.
By dispensing with ideological rhetoric and focusing on welfare and jobs, the JCP has struck a chord with students, the unemployed and the estimated 10 million Japanese earning less than 2m yen (about £14,000) a year.

The JCP is barely recognisable from the party of 30 years ago. Now, dialectic materialism has been replaced by a commitment to "democratic change within the current framework of capitalism".

"The JCP of today is very different," said Go Ito, a professor of politics at Meiji University in Tokyo. "The modern party is pragmatic, which is why it has managed to tap into the dissatisfaction being felt right across Japanese society."
Whatever. At least they didn't bring up Japan's rising "right-wing nationalism" (like most Western media outlets).

On the topic of communism, I'd probably agree with a typical communist in identifying major problems in the world. His solutions to those problems, though, mark him as batshit-crazy to me. I guess that makes me a liberal...

Peace Tower Revisited

A Real Downer

I'm just wondering if Brendan and I are the only two (semi-literate) people in the world who didn't realize that there are two R's in the word barbiturate? I've spent my entire adult life mis-spelling this word.

I haven't felt this low since the time when I was about 25 and I realized that the E comes after the U in Tuesday...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Haniwa Revisited (1)

Last year I posted a few shots of some of the haniwa at Heiwadai Park here in Miyazaki. I was there again today and took some new ones. You can click the images to get a larger view.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

If You Can't Say Something Nice...

It's hardly a phenomenon unique to Japan, but some politicians really should learn to keep their mouths shut. With a declining population and an almost certain labor shortage looming on the horizon, Japanese lawmaker Jiro Kawasaki ruminates on the topic of immigration:
We should stop letting unskilled laborers into Japan. We should make sure that even the three-K jobs [*] are paid well, and that they are filled by Japanese [...] I do not think that Japan should ever become a multiethnic society. [The United States has been] a failure on the immigration front...
I don't imagine anyone has ever accused Mr. Kawasaki of being overly ironic...

I have to admit, though, that the image of a Japanese politician claiming the immigration policies of another country (any country, really) are a "failure" strikes me as rather rich, whatever one's opinion might be on the subject. I would be the first to agree that Japan should approach the topic of immigration cautiously (hell, I dont feel like being accosted by deadbeat Canadians on every street corner, bumming change and smokes and generally making a nuisance of themselves). Comments like Mr. Kawasaki's, however, betray both a fear of "the foreign" and an utter ignorance of what a "multiethnic" society is. I might add a somewhat more harsh criticism: also evident here is a certain mental laziness--immigration is a difficult subject, so it'd be best to avoid it altogether. It remains to be seen how much longer "leaders" like Mr. Kawasaki can avoid the subject before it jumps up and bites them in the ass.

[*] Kitsui, kitanai, kiken — hard, dirty and dangerous.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Yellow Leaves

Jones' Good Ass BBQ and Foot Massage

I imagine a world where all TV commercials are as engaging and entertaining as this one:

A potent reminder of the wonder known as America. I say that without a trace of irony or sarcasm. I'm dead serious. Where the fuck else you gonna get some good ass BBQ and a foot massage? I ask you, where?

Readers are encouraged to visit the Jones' Good Ass BBQ and Foot Massage website. You won't be disappointed.

Also of interest: Jones' Big Ass Truck Rental and Storage. Have fun!

[VIA: Cynical-C]

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones have sucked for many years. Why do I love them so much?

The Rolling Stones-Street Fighting Man
Alt. Link

Must be like family, or something...

I'm My Own Lab Rat

I've just spent a few minutes skimming a rather long-ish article entitled Is Pornography the New Tobacco? I may or may not decide to pick it apart in detail at some later date. Some general observations on the topic:

The title of the article should be giveaway enough that it's not much more than moralizing dressed up as "social science" (which, to my mind, is merely moralizing of a different sort). As a smoker I don't believe there's anything inherently "evil" about my habit. At the same time, as a reasonably intelligent person (depending on whom you ask), I'm not so foolish as to deny that smoking is bad for my health. I don't want my daughter to smoke because I want her to live a long and healthy life. I try to make sure that she never sees me doing it, but I somehow doubt I'll derive much comfort from this if she someday decides to start smoking anyway. I should also say that, as far as I'm concerned, tobacco companies are lying scumbags who would say or do anything to get me or you to buy their products. Really though, in this, they are no different than any other "business," so singling them out seems a bit ridiculous to me. I would never blame Big Tobacco for my addiction. Some may revel in admitting their helplessness and stupidity to the world (usually in the form of lawsuits, etc.); I rather enjoy being the master of my own fortune (good or bad).

Is it reasonable to compare tobacco and pornography? The harmful effects of smoking have been scientifically proven, as have the addictive qualities of tobacco. I can personally attest that tobacco is addictive, and my own experience has shown me that there's a good chance that a lingering cold and/or cough, shortness of breath, etc. is probably directly connected to my smoking. But, unless I'm blowing my smoke in your face, that's my business. There is no conclusive evidence one way or the other about the effects of pornography, however one might personally feel about it. I myself have, at different moments in my life, viewed pornography countless times, and I can say at least this much: when my plane lands after a 12-hour flight, it's not an internet connection I'm looking for--I want a bloody smoke, and no (hypothetical) number of beckoning, naked women (on video!) is going to come between me and "my precious." It's ridiculous even to attempt comparing tobacco and pornography in physical terms. I would add that, as far as I'm concerned, indulging in either one is nobody else's business. (I shouldn't need to, but I will, offer the following caveat regarding porn: legally consenting adults only--anything else is criminal).

The main point of the above-linked article seems, though, to be that viewing pornography, like smoking tobacco in bygone years, is these days socially acceptable to a general public who are as yet unaware of its possible dangers. But really, what kind of argument is this? It's not like sex (or "pornography") suddenly appeared on the scene like crack cocaine or something. Should we deny the existence of Greek urns, the Kama Sutra, etc.?

Honestly, I only skimmed the article, but it seems to be saying "tobacco is bad, so pornography might be bad." This seems to me a highly flawed form of argument.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Shadowy Self Portrait

Tired, got nothing else to post, and heading out to band practice. Sue me. ;-)

Cell phone pic.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Connect the Dots

The body of a Canadian soldier who was killed in Afghanistan on Monday has begun its journey home.
Tearful soldiers carried the casket of Trooper Karine Blais onto a waiting plane at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday during a solemn ramp ceremony honouring a woman described as "full of energy" and "friendly to everyone."

Blais, 21, was killed Monday when the armoured vehicle she was in hit a roadside bomb north of the city of Kandahar.

[...] Blais, who had only been in Afghanistan for two weeks, was the second female Canadian soldier to be killed in the war-torn country. Her death comes nearly three years after Capt. Nicola Goddard was killed in a grenade attack west of Kandahar.
Meanwhile, in Kabul, a few hundred Afghan women who had gathered to protest a new law that basically legalizes rape were pelted with stones.
Afghan women protesting against a new law that severely undermines women's rights were pelted with stones in the country's capital Wednesday, say reports.

About 300 mostly young women gathered in Kabul to show their opposition to a recently passed law that forbids women from refusing to have sex with their husbands and requires them to get a male relative's permission to leave the house.

The demonstration was organized by women's rights activists in Afghanistan. Critics of the law say it effectively legalizes rape within marriage and is a return to Taliban-style rule.

[...] "You are a dog. You are not a Shiite woman," one man shouted to a young woman in a headscarf holding aloft a banner that said, "We don't want Taliban law."

"You are a dog"... Picture this scene in your mind. A "man" is throwing rocks at a woman and calling her a "dog". Can any sane person in the entire world imagine a context in which this kind of behavior might be justified? I imagine a scumbag like this crying and screaming and pulling his hair out like a spoiled little sissy over a cartoon depicting his god in an unfavorable light. Then I imagine him beating or stoning or killing his wife, or his sister, or his daughter, for this or that or some other imagined offense. If there is anything more "offensive" in the world than "men" like this, it escapes me.


This seems strangely appropriate today...

If you go carryin' pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow
Truly, words to live by...


Cell phone pic.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Grammarian, Heal Thyself

An overdue comeuppance...

From Strunk & White's The Elements of Style:
The subject of a sentence and the principal verb should not, as a rule, be separated by a phrase or clause that can be transferred to the beginning.
As if an over-abundance of unintentionally ironic and generally useless advice weren't enough, there's the just plain incompetent grammar. Witness the following alleged examples of the passive voice:
  • There were a great number of dead leaves lying on the ground.
  • It was not long before she was very sorry that she had said what she had.
  • The reason that he left college was that his health became impaired.
I'd write more about this awful little book, but I generally make my worst grammar mistakes in the context of criticizing the grammar of others. Believe me, I'm talking real stinkers. I'd like to quit while I'm ahead. If anyone needs a stylebook, though, I'd recommend Hodges' Harbrace Handbook.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Handsome Family

My current favorite band. I first heard them a couple of years ago (long after the rest of the world, no doubt) in a friend's car. Stylistically, they're somewhere between traditional American and alt country. They're minimalists, which is what initially caught my attention, and their lyrics are simply awe-inspiring, if somewhat depressing (or even seemingly psychotic) at times. Well worth a listen if you're not familiar with them. I'd recommend Through the Trees, from which the song below was taken, and Honey Moon, which just came out this week.

The Handsome Family-Weightless Again
Alt. Link

Not bad, eh?



Not G.W.

Sunday, April 12, 2009



I was going to trash this pic (for obvious reasons), but something about its (quite accidental) composition kept drawing my eye to it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Not Relevant to Anything in Particular...

It seems like it's been a while since I've sat at the PC on a Friday evening, relaxed, with a beer in one hand and time on the other. Nothing of earth-shattering importance to say, I'm afraid. No idiots to flay tonight. It's still early, though...

I mentioned a while back that my little girl had "graduated" from her kindergarten. Today she started school. This is a good thing, of course, but it demands a somewhat radical change to my daily routine. Now, instead of waking up at 7am, I have to get up at 6am. This may not sound like such a "radical" change to anyone who sleeps like a halfway normal person does. But when one normally goes to bed at 1 or 2am, well... some adjustments need to be made...


I had an interesting experience recently. I spent a few weeks practicing/rehearsing with some Japanese guys for a one-off show at a local bar. I'm still in my regular band, The Dead Flowers, of course, but a few weeks ago I got a call from an old friend who wanted to do a sort of reunion gig with an old band of his, and they needed a drummer. To be honest, if I'd realized how much time and work this was going to be, I would've declined. We ended up spending about 25 hours over several weeks to get five songs down. Five of their original songs that they already knew. One of them was a bastard arrangement-wise, but I've never been in a band before that spent an average of five hours rehearsal per tune. My experience has generally been: listen to the tape, take 30-60 minutes of rehearsal time (spent mostly on the into and ending) working on it, and then basically see what happens on stage. If it doesn't work after a couple of "live" ones, trash it.

Anyway, these were good guys and good players, and we did all this practicing and rehearsing, including renting rehearsal space on the day of the gig, and going through most of the set during the sound check in the afternoon. This basically proved to be my undoing. By the time we went on stage I was a bit burned out and tired. I played OK, but not half as well as I could/should have. My Japanese friends had a different problem. They were nervous as hell! One of them was almost having a panic attack (when somebody who's about to go on stage tells you he doesn't think he can move his fingers or lift his arms, heh, been there and done that before!). Personally, I've made an ass out of myself so many times that making a mistake on the drums while people are watching/listening barely gets a twitch on the embarrassment-o-meter. We didn't play as well as we'd rehearsed, but the gig went OK.


From the Food-You'll-Never-Forget Department: I've eaten a lot of (to me) weird things since coming to Japan. And I've eaten them all with a smile on my face and a "thank you." It's not always easy, let me tell you. After the gig I just talked about, I went with the band to a small restaurant operated by a guy who played in the other band that night. [Just as a side note: in almost 11 years in Japan I've only been to maybe 3 or 4 bad restaurants--only one had kinda crappy food, the others had bad service. These places are rarities.] It's pretty common in smaller restaurants here in Kyushu to be given a small appetizer before you even order your meal. I usually don't like these dishes, and usually I don't eat them. This time, though, I knew the host, and he was watching. I asked my friend (the guitar player) who was sitting beside me what this particular dish was. "It's pork," he said, "and an especially delicious cut." I tried it and found it a bit tough (like cartilage, or something). "This is pork?" I asked. "It seems a bit tough. Which part of the pig is it?" "It's the vagina," he informed me. He wasn't joking, and good manners demanded that I clean the (very small, really) bowl. I didn't bat an eye.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Saturday, April 04, 2009

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

Sometimes it seems like I've somehow forgotten how to write. I feel tired, or uninspired, or... I don't know, I just don't feel like writing anything. During these trying times I find it helpful to read something interesting, something inspiring.

The Korean Central News Agency of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has never let me down. Moments after reading one of their articles, sure enough, I find myself clacking away at the keyboard. The Korean Central News Agency of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has, for me, muse-like, almost magical powers; a zen quality that helps me clear away the cobwebs of my mind and inspires me to spread their good words to the world. I bow down in humble awe to the masters at The Korean Central News Agency of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Behold, the dire warnings directed at those who would thwart the will of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea [from April 2]:
It is the Japanese reactionaries, the sworn enemy of the Korean people, who are perpetrating the most evil doings over the DPRK's projected satellite launch for peaceful purposes.
It kinda makes me wish I had a "sworn enemy," or that I were the sworn enemy of someone. Really, who doesn't dream of being able to talk that way with a straight face?
Kongo and Choukai, guided-missile destroyers of the Japanese aggressor forces and the destroyer Great King Sejong of the south Korean puppet navy have already been deployed in the East Sea of Korea.
The "south Korean puppet navy"! My imagination is ablaze!
The KPA General Staff solemnly declares as follows to cope with the prevailing situation:

1. If Japan recklessly "intercepts" the DPRK's satellite for peaceful purposes, the KPA will mercilessly deal deadly blows not only at the already deployed intercepting means but at major targets.
You know, there are those who condemn the language used in the pronouncements of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, but wouldn't it be fun to be rid of the niceties of civilized behavior and just say what's really on your mind?
2. The U.S. should immediately withdraw its already deployed armed forces if it does not wish to be hurt by the above-said strike as DPRK clarified its stand on its projected satellite launch for peaceful purposes.
Sometimes word choice is everything. The Korean Central News Agency of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's use of the word "hurt" in this context brought tears of admiration to my eyes.
3. The south Korean puppet bellicose forces should refrain from disturbing the said launch, the pride of the nation, while currying favor with their U.S. and Japanese masters.
As an English teacher, it's rare that I read such jaw-droppingly complex prose as this, let alone actually write something like it. But dammit, the The Korean Central News Agency of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea sure inspires me to keep trying!


Vending Machines, No. 59