Sunday, November 25, 2007

New Model Army

(Pictured: 'Evil' Tyrant Banks lords over all)

It’s funny how many women complain about being treated as objects, but yet so many of them aspire to work in modelling. How did this ever become the pinnacle of ambition for a generation of females? Being dressed up, posed, photographed in compromising positions wearing ludicrous outfits, then criticized for not being pretty enough by men who have (let’s be honest here) absolutely no interest in women beyond the academic. Who would want a life like that? I suppose the vast heaps of money might help.

Which is presumably why Oprah-in-waiting Tyrant Banks invented America’s Next Top Model. To give young women the opportunity to make a living in the competitive game of standing, walking, looking at things and very occasionally (but not often) talking.

With only six hopefuls left, this week Tyra whisks them off to Shanghai for a “posing challenge”, a make-up advert and photo shoot, and some more of that feminine cure-all, shopping. To the credit of the shows makers they do actually relent from the filming of female flesh to show a little bit of local colour. The shots of the city are glorious, and you almost feel a little jealousy for the girls who’ve been plucked out obscurity for a shot at a jet-setting life in the big time. But only almost, because by the end, one of them has to go.

At the hotel, they find that there are only five beds in their hotel room, obviously to foster yet more tension between Asperger’s sufferer Heather and bitchy hood-rat Bianca, who feels – perhaps rightly – that the show’s judges are carrying Heather because she has “a disability or whatever”.

After a nights kip the girls do their challenge which involves apparently learning “karate” (it’s not) and posing while flying through the air on a rope. Bianca throws a hissy fit and refuses to do it, putting her in the running for the boot.

Luckily for her, Amazonian Lisa screws up the shoot for her advert and Heather gurns all the way through hers. So who’s going to get shitcanned? I’ll give you a hint – it’s not Heather, because she “has something”. What it is that she has, I’m not entirely sure. But what do I know? I’m only a straight guy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fact of the Day

Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine is an expert in Taekwondo, and can crush a man's skull in the palm of his hand.

In this picture, Dave has done just that, and as such is proclaimed the winner.

Monday, November 05, 2007

TV: A Minor Diversion on the Road to the Grave

(Pictured: Mulder literally does not give a fuck)

I watched a fine program on the telly last night. Mulder is back in X-Files Nights and is more raucous than ever. In this x-rated spin-off of the seminal 90's conspiracy documentary we follow Mulder in his sexcapades around the borough of LA and watch him lament his inability to pen his memoirs, but not that much because it's all about the sex really. In this episode Mulder drove around town in a fine car, drank liquor out of a bottle in a brown paper bag, insulted environmentalists, harrassed his ex-wife, traumatised his daughter slightly, suckerpunched an asshole and took advantage of a drunken girl. He also said the words "holy fucknuts" which should be all the reason you need to watch X-Files Nights, if you aren't frantically downloading already.

I also watched the American feature film Ghost starring Jed Eckert from Red Dawn as the eponymous anti-hero. Let me tell you that is a truly horrific film. It all starts when a crooked banker pays a latino thug to murder Ghost in order to steal money (or something). Unfortunately, Ghost doesn't stay dead and then all hell breaks loose. He vows to take revenge on his killers and tracks them down with the aid of Sister Act. Ghost finally finds his murderers and mounts a campaign of psychological torture on them, driving them half-way mad before brutally slaying them with his ghost-powers. Then - in a twist that isn't particularly well explained - despite having committed two murders himself, Ghost gets to go to heaven. God must not be particularly picky.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Not been there, but I bought the t-shirt anyway.

(Pictured: impossible lies)

You know what's been annoying me recently. The seemingly endless amount of guys who go around in t-shirts with OSAKA 07 and NAGOYA 12 on them. Do they think they are part of a Japanese sports team? Having passed two years of actual adult life in Japan and having visited most of the places that these t-shirts name I can't help but feel a great of annoyance. It's such a feeble trend. I quite want to ask them to name which island of Japan the city is on, or if they've ever been there. See, they don't know. They don't know why they're even wearing that shirt. Probably, they even own a pink shirt for going out in. Of course, they don't like pink, and they'd never say if you asked them "Hey dude, what's your favourite colour?"- "Pink!" That would lose them a few dozen masculinity points, and even where I come from earn them a 'kick-in'. Why are they so popular then? Why do people mindlessly follow trends? A few years ago Top Shop started a 'Rock Chick' fad that lasted a couple of months, whereby girls would become 'Rock Chicks' by buying a Motorhead (sorry, don't know how to get an umlaut on this keyboard) t-shirt and maybe a dog collar or something. I remember being surprised and delighted that so many pretty girls seemed to be into Motorhead, and then immediately dejected and sick when I realised that it was all a commercial sham and these foolish girls didn't actually know who Motorhead were. I wanted to grab them and scream in their faces, spittle arcing out of my mouth in slimy threads: "MOTORHEAD IS NOT FOR YOU! MOTORHEAD BELONGS TO UGLY, HAIRY BOYS! LEMMY HAS WARTS! REAL FUCKING WARTS! THEY DON'T EVEN ALLOW HIM ON THE TELLY ANYMORE, SO HOW THE FUCK DO YOU EXPECT ME TO BELIEVE YOU'VE EVER HEARD OF HIM! NOT ON TOP OF THE FUCKING POPS THAT'S FOR SURE!" Then, probably after someone had bailed me and I'd been forced to apologise to everyone involved, the girls would abandon the t-shirts in favour of some other stupid fad, big surprise there. Anyway, that's sort of how I feel about the OSAKA and NAGOYA t-shirts. Being that my knowledge of the places is so intimate, I just feel sad that these poseurs are wearing them, unaware of what they might mean to other people. How would you feel if some douche was walking around with YOUR hometown written across his chest because it had somehow become fashionable? Getting status by associating himself with YOUR background, YOUR personal history, YOUR heritage, or whatever? Could you find in your heart to say "Hey, nice KDY t-shirt, even though you're from Derbyshire." Maybe. But there's an equal chance you'd go Eazy fucking E and bash the twunt's head in with a rock.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


So I live in England now, with a girl. As my grandmother would say “in sin”. What can you do? Living with your girlfriend is quite like living with a flatmate, except that they are generally cleaner, much fussier, and require more to make them comfortable. Bath mats, for instance.

Living with a girl is not like living with a pal, because you can’t say things like “Dude! Look at this video I found on Youtube of a dog having sex with a cat!” If you do, it’s more likely that they will ask you why you are wasting your time looking at videos of interspecies sex on Youtube rather than working on that novel you’ve supposedly been writing for the last two years? Which is, of course, a good point.

You also have to watch what you eat around them. If they knew the full extent of the foul takeaway foods that students and other idle young males indulge in on a daily basis, the chances are she’d run a mile. Your best bet is just to eat what they eat and sneak out for a kebab when they’re not looking. Also it’s important not to drink too much in their presence, especially not in your boxer shorts in front of the TV or videogames console, lest you risk being called a “scrub”. This is a girl word for bon vivant.

Toilet etiquette: girls get funny about toilet seats for some reason. They have invented some kind of weird equation which states that since all women-doings are done sitting down, while one of a man’s doings is done standing, the duty of putting the toilet seat down is the man’s responsibility. Why the seat needs to be put down at all is a mystery to me. The solution? Leave the seat down and do your business anyway, pretty soon she’ll be the one putting the seat up after she’s used the crapper. Slambango!

Girl bidie-ins do have their benefits though. You are far more likely eat at least one good, hot meal a day and will often find that when you come home your underwear has been de-loused and smells of flowers. Nothing a man ever washes, no matter how many expensive powders he uses, will ever smell of flowers. Your general health and physical appearance will improve. You will find yourself becoming respectable pretty fast. Possibly, you now also think the bath mats were a good idea.

To top it off, girls are soft and smell pretty good, and every day you get to pet and cajole one another in the way that if you tried with your old flatmate, you’d probably have to have a quite serious talk about personal boundaries. As much as I have fond memories of my old flatmates, the idea of having tickle fights with them does not really have much appeal.

So, my conclusions: girls = good; cohabiting = not evil like the bible says. It’s a pretty sweet deal all round I think. Women are something of a civilizing influence on us dudes. I know many people will call me “domesticated” and “house-dude”, but it is true. Living with a girl gives us reasons to do things like clean our bodies and wash dishes. In the olden days, dirty dishes would pile up and pile up until we were eating beans with a pencil out of an old boot. For want of kitchen roll, I would wipe up all spillages with a slice of bread so I could save it for later. That sort of shit won’t wash with a woman in the house. No sir. Thank you, womankind, for saving us from ourselves and implementing domestic equilibrium.

I am on my own in the flat now. My sweetheart has gone down the street to buy some kind of kitchen implement that I have no knowledge of, or perhaps a vegetable that I would be unable to identify. That leaves nothing for me to do except watch that video of a monkey flagellating itself on Youtube. I am, after all, still a dude.

Death Parp

(pictured: Death Proof may look like a tough guy, but in reality he is a big wuss)
I went to see Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof the other night. I found it to be something of a mixed bag. It was very much a game of two halves, the first half being Death Proof stalking, perving on and then murdering a group of chicks by driving his stunt car into their automobile, and the second him stalking, perving on, and then being murdered by a similar group of chicks. The first half is definitely the best, as QT gives full time to character development, and although you don’t really ever get to like the lassies particularly, you at least get a good sense of their characters before the lot of them are slaughtered. Also, Kurt Russell as Death Proof plays a far more prominent role, actual interacting with his prey and generally creeping the shit out of them. By contrast the second half seems a bit rushed, the characters less definitively drawn, the lovely Rosario Dawson is a bit of a princess, the Kiwi girl is an adrenaline junkie, the black girl drops N bombs a lot but in terms of character development you get left feeling a little short changed.
The dialogue is Quentintino’s usual fare of snappy back-forth hipper-than-thou repartee, although it must be said a great deal less quotable than the likes of Pulp Fiction, for instance, or even Kill Bill. Q-Tip has been praised for being able to write convincingly from a female perspective in this movie. About 50% of women I know who have seen the film agree with this, but the other 50% have said “bullshit! We don’t talk like that!” Since I have no idea how girls talk when they’re alone I can’t possibly comment, except to say that it sounds OK to me. More or less. They talk about boys a lot, which at least sounds about right.
My final real complaint about the movie is that after being tough and scary in the first half of the movie, in the second half Death Proof turns into a massive pussy. He is woefully ineffective at killing those girls. You sort of expect him to come back for one more scare, but pretty much after he gets wounded in the arm by the black girl (who is, of course, packing heat) he turns into a big wuss and tries to get away. It’s sad to see, that Death Proof’s weakness is in fact bullets. After that he gets beaten savagely by the girls and the credits roll. That’s pretty much it, apart from Rosie Dawson landing an impressive stiletto kick into Death Proof’s surprised looking face.
Death Proof is a good film, and pretty entertaining, but it isn’t a great film. And that’s what the Quentinator is supposed to be famed for. Hopefully, whatever he comes up with next, be it Inglorious Bastards or the Vega Brothers movie, fits that bill.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Personal Life Update

Just to let you know: got back from Englandshire a week ago, after spending a further two weeks plying yon trade. Saw some more whacked out things - the crown court gets way scarier felons than the Magistrate's court, a couple of paedos and rapists, was happy to see them go down - and also wrote some more stories. I tend to get a lot of kids-who-have-terminal-diseases-and-do-sports-with-cuddly-animals stories, which is fine. When I was up north they had me running around looking for 'attractive females' to photograph 'standing side on' for a piece on plastic surgery.
"Attractive females? In this town?" quoth I. So I went up to every vaguely attractive girl I saw and tried to entice them with my charms to be in my photo. Surprisingly, there were actually a few attractive girls out, but they were nearly all either English or some other kind of foreigner. The majority of them just thought I was a wandering pervert anyway. Eventually I got a few who fit the bill and was able to go home.

Tomorrow Kaki comes over from Canada. I will pick her up first thing in the morning and bring her home. I'm going to spend the next week playing the tour guide and then we'll move down to Nottingham next Saturday. I will keep you posted on events as they occur.

Shot to the Heart

(pictured: Shoot 'Em Up does what he does best) Went to see Clive Owen Is Shoot 'Em Up last night. Shoot 'Em Up lives up to his name by shooting everything in sight. I don't think he even lets up for 30 seconds in the whole film. He shoots while standing still, running, jumping, having sex with Monica Bellucci, parachuting and delivering a baby. It has a hilariously mixed message on gun control too, it seems to advocate stronger gun control measures while glorying in an almost unparalleled level of bloody violence and almost pornographic gun fetishism. It's hard to work out if the movie was even meant to be serious in the first place. It's almost like they tried and then halfway through got ripped and decided it would be funny to let Shoot 'Em Up kill someone with a carrot. He does - he kills about 8 people with this unobtrusive orange vegetable, the highest amount of carrot-based fatalities in any movie in history. Stupid as it may be, it's still a hugely entertaining film, with Clive Owen's Shoot 'Em Up proving an eminently watchable character. He is essentially a heartless misanthrope who several times commits random acts of violence for reasons which are largely gratuitous - he runs people's cars off the road for not signalling and mercilessly beats a woman who he deems to be a poor parent. If you don't take yourself too seriously, and you like your action fast, silly and with a very low BDQ then take yourself off to see the filmed version of Shoot 'Em Up's autobiography, stat.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Back in the saddle

Well, my disciples, it’s been nearly a month since my last post, and even that was just a list of things I liked about Die Hard 4. I make no excuses. I have been busy getting my shit together for the big move south and plying my trade (journalism, not prostitution) down in Englandshire.

Last week I was on a week’s placement at a popular regional evening paper (shan’t disclose which one). Being in a newsroom again was a great feeling. There’s a tension in newspaper offices not found anywhere else in the world – the feverish, desperate tapping of keys, the seething resentment & general desire for a better job coupled paradoxically with the knowledge that you are totally unqualified & unwilling to do anything else, and that you will almost certainly die aged 53 totally alone and unappreciated of a sudden brain embolism brought on by stress, long hours and a high salt diet. The office is filled with people who would be thin if they had time to exercise and would be fat if they had time to eat. Everyone smokes. Actually, it’s nothing like that at all, but the image of drunken cynical hacks in their dingy offices is the one that journalists like to sell in order to romanticize themselves, make the process of creating news stories seem somehow torturous and Byronic. Your average modern-day newspaper office is generally very clean and full of bright, upwardly mobile young professionals, at least some of whom have principles.

All things considered I had a successful week. I got a few things in the paper, which is always nice, did a couple of interviews, shook hands with a government minister and ambushed a paedophile.

A few things didn’t sit right with me though. For instance, I hate writing up deaths. I called an old woman whose husband had just died and started asking her questions about him. Predictably she started to weep and wail, and I felt like shit. Then I had to ask her to send pictures in to the paper as well (which she did, bless her). So I wrote an article about the man’s life and tried to make it tasteful and inoffensive. I think I did OK, although I haven't seen what the subeditors have done to it yet. If this depresses me so much, how am I going to deal with talking to the families of children killed in car accidents, people incinerated in gas fires, victims of sex attacks and terrorism? Amy “The Huntress” Hunt told me she had to do a death article every week for a year and a half.

Also, we ran a story about a man who was convicted of filming women in changing rooms, and his wife rang up and begged us not to run the story. Of course, we still ran it. We’re legally entitled to. If he’s convicted then he’s fair game. And now thanks to us the sordid details are out in the public eye for all to read. What about his wife and kids? That’s a family ruined. I sometimes worry about the lack of conscience in the newspaper industry. On the other hand though, the guy is a pervert and possibly a threat to others. What can you do? Answer: shut up and do your God damn job.

I even felt a little bad about the paedophile, because he was 75 years old and so frail he couldn’t even run away when we photographed him coming out of court. He also had sad, watery eyes. He was knocked out by the 16 year old he tried to molest and couldn’t even get up to run away.

So my worry right now is: am I hard-hearted enough to do this job? I’ve always prided myself of being something of a bastard so these feelings are unusual to me. I suppose I’ll have to do some extra cruelty exercises to make up for it: I’d better go kick some puppies or something.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Die Hard 4 is so good.

Some reasons to watch Die Hard 4:
1. In Die Hard 4 there is a face-off between a fighter jet and a truck.
2. In Die Hard 4 a French guy gets chewed up in a fan.
3. In Die Hard 4, Die Hard is racist about Asians.
4. In Die Hard 4, Die Hard sustains multiple injuries but laughs them off like people did in the 80s.
5. In Die Hard 4 there is no slow-motion and very little kung fu.
6. In Die Hard 4, Die Hard beats on a woman.
7. In Die Hard 4, Die Hard is revealed to be a fan of Creedence Clearwater Revival.
8. In Die Hard 4, Die Hard drives an SUV down a lift shaft for shits and giggles.
9. In Die Hard 4, Die Hard shoots a computer nerd on general principle.
10. At the end of Die Hard 4, Die Hard gets to be president.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Why Dr Who is great...

... because I find it reassuring that no matter where you go in time or space, everybody you meet will be British. It's a bit like going caravanning really.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Celebrity Look-alikes Widget

I use the internet a lot, primarily for cheap thrills and to distract me from the knowledge that every moment is a step closer to Final Death. I tend to go in for those personality tests that ask you a bunch of esoteric questions and then tell you which character from "Lost" you are (Apparently I'm badass Sawyer, so screw you all). But these tests are easy to manipulate and if you know your subject matter well enough you can usually sway the results, for instance, if you want to declare yourself the ideological successor to Wolverine or the Punisher, and lets face it who wouldn't? But one thing does not lie... the face! Which is why in some kind of contrived effort to "know myself" I fed my face into the Celebrity Look-alike Widget.

I used a handsome picture of myself. My hair, dark and lustrous, stands proudly erect above my noble brow, and my eyes are glimmering with mirth. I wear my most devilishly charming smile. The picture was taken from that particular angle from which my double-chin is at its least obtrusive. It should have been perfect.

While I haven't always been pleased with my face, I feel I've really been growing into it lately and have to come to consider myself something of a handsome boy. If I had to guess which celebrities the Widget would pull out of thin air I would probably expect maybe Bill Shatner or Bruce Campbell, some lantern-jawed heroic type.

Which is why I was shocked to discover that the widget gave me as 4 of my 8 closest matches older females - bisexual author Susan Sontag, first African American Nobel literature prize winner Toni Morrison, anti-apartheid campaigner and Nobel literature prize winner Nadine Gordimer, and matronly actress Kathy Bates. My main male match is Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan, who is the only one of the group I consider to look even a bit like me in that he is male, sports a pair of spectacles and has dark hair. There the resemblance ends. In addition to that, I have been somewhat insultingly matched to fat Jack Osbourne. Also weak and innefectual Aki Hakala from the band the Rasmus. Finally, there is Mark David Chapman, celebrity assassin and J.D. Salinger advocate. Many new-age hippy types believe that you can tell a person's personality from their face. So is this me? Four old women, three motherly and one terrifying half-gay spinster? Two of them are Jewish and two hold Nobel Literature prizes. Is this indicative of anything? Does this mean it is my destiny to convert to Judaism and win a Nobel Literature prize? What of the Bollywood actor, and the drummer from a lousy European rock band? And the lone, gun-weilding nutter? It's too terrifying to even think about. I hope the hippies are wrong.

To make sure I wasn't being ganked I decided to upload Kaki's photo. I had assumed the thing was on the fritz, but depressingly Kaki's matches yeilded with one exception a bunch of hot chicks. The first one is Beyonce, which of course is very complimentary, then former Neighbour Natalie Umbruglia, Dominican bombshell Maria Montez, Japanese idoru Kyoko Fukada, R & B legend Lauryn Hill, Brazilian supermodel Isabeli Fontana, hot Vulcan chick Jolene Blalock, and androgynous Canadian songstress K.D. Lang. So she's about 60% pop star, and 40% attractive actress.

Compare this to my 50% old woman, 12.5% murderer, 12.5% fat asshole, 12.5% rubbish drummer, 12.5% obscure Bollywood star. Actually that does actually sound like me, more or less. I do fuss like an old woman sometimes, and I am prone to assassinating recording artists. I am a fat asshole (and fiercly proud of it), and I can't hit a drum for shit. Not sure about the Bollywood star thing, but you can't be right all the time, even if you're a computer. Anyway you can see this daftness for yourself at

There is no real point to this post.

Friday, June 08, 2007


Central Computer has launched another onslaught on my home PC. He has given it his best viruses. It is being fixed. There will be no posts until then. Good luck and Godspeed.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

My name is your dad.

For all you Blackwoodphiles out there (I’m sure I still have fans, right?). I’ve put a rather extensive update to my bebo account. Last Thursday I uploaded about 170 pictures of my trip around South East Asia last Christmas. It was a mammoth task, uploading five pictures at a time, but I completed it in one night. I hope you all take a look at them and enjoy them. Just remember, the time that you spend looking at my photos now is time you won’t spend watching slideshows when I get back to KDY and Aberdoom. And please, please comment.

In other news, Crabu-Sama has started a blog. And it’s in English! After two years of avoiding this crustacean menace on the streets of Gifu, you can now keep yourself up to date on his movements via the interweb. Maybe it will be useful to you, maybe not. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Crabu-Sama’s work, he’s essentially a giant crab that has been killing and maiming more or less at random for about 90 years. This blog, written by the beast himself provides some insight into his comings, goings, and butcherings. It can be found at
Please everybody add him as a friend.

Also, this Saturday Kaki and I are off to Okinawa to reward ourselves for surviving another dour winter in cold buildings made of slabs. We are visiting Miyako-jima, an island which has a reputation for harbouring the worst drunks Japan has to offer. I hope to see if this is true. I expect to be eating a lot of swine and turning impossibly red, swimming in the ocean and attempting to instruct Kaki further in the art of not sinking like a stone to the bottom of any body of water you happen to find yourself in. Just kidding, she’s getting much better. Every time we go swimming now, I’m at least 60% sure that she isn’t going to take on water. I am, after all, in the Business of Education, at least for now.

I have hit a small snag though, my fabled Union Jack swimmies shrunk a bit in the wash, and I now have trouble pulling them up past my ample buttocks. So, at the weekend I decided to go and buy another pair. Unfortunately, it turns out that nowhere stocks them right now, because it isn’t swimming season yet. Now, don’t get me wrong here, I would say that right now it’s not yet quite warm enough for a dip in the sea, but surely, with the abundance of indoor heated swimming pools, swimming is an all-year round activity? Am I right? Do you mean to tell me that swimming shorts can only be bought from June to August every year? What if I go off the diving board wrong at the municipal pool in January, and end up dangling from my grotesquely stretched swimmies? I’d be fucked, that’s what I’d be. I mean, what if I sit down to fast and bust a hole in them? Do you mean to say I can’t replace them until it’s the official swimming season? Is this the whole of Japan or is it just the malls near me that are fucked up?

This sort of links in to something that really gets on my nerves about Japan. However, other people have told me how much they love the same phenomenon so there you go. But anyway, my particular problem is the fact that everything has its own particular season. Japan is a country that is extremely proud of its four distinct seasons (some people to the extent that they don’t believe spring and autumn exist in other countries) and has some very important traditions that rely on seasons. Cherry blossom viewing or Hanami parties, for instance can only take place for one week in springtime when the cherry blossoms are blooming. This of course is a beautiful tradition. But there are other things that I don’t think need to be seasonal, take fruit for instance. Japan doesn’t import much fruit, and relies largely on domestic stock which costs a bomb, and is largely seasonal. This means that you will eat persimmons in autumn and oranges in winter, because that’s when they are plentiful. What if I want to do this in summer? You can’t, or at any rate you can’t without paying through the nose. There are even seasonal menus in restaurants. For instance, what would happen if I wanted a summer vegetable curry from Coco Ichibanya in February? OK, not that I ever would while there is still a manly beef katsu curry on offer, but what if? Answer: I couldn’t do it. I would ask, and the waiter would smile benevolently and think “Silly foreigner! February isn’t for summer vegetables!” Well get this asshole, buy the vegetables from somewhere it is summer or just freeze the motherfuckers in July. We have the technology. In Japan, beer gardens close on pretty much the first of September. It doesn’t matter if it’s roasting and people are still thirsty, it’s just what is done. It’s what they call “atarimae”. I’ve heard it translated as “common sense” but it really means doing things in the manner that they have always been done and sticking to routine at all costs.

I know, I know I’m moaning. And I love Japan really. I should let it be known that I’m letting the whines out here so I am able to remain positive and not cripple my students, teachers and innocent passersby who invoke my ire. Thank you for your patience.

Monday, May 07, 2007


(Pictured: the Genbaku dome; the floating torii at Miyajima at sunset; General Kuroki)
Good day to you, friends. It has been a while since I have updated you on my progress. Last week was Golden Week, the special week that people are allowed to go on holiday if they take vacation time. We have two long weekends, separated by two days of work, and if you can get those two days off, you can have a whole week to go wherever you want. This is really the best Japan has to offer, holiday-wise, the country where teachers have to stay in school all summer despite a distinct lack of work and people are too ashamed of looking like they aren’t gambarre-ing to ask for a day off. And even if they did they wouldn’t know what to use it for. None of my students, or even teachers did anything with their time. They think that traveling anywhere further away than Nagoya is hugely risky and expensive. So effectively we live in a state without vacations. What do I care? I’m leaving in two months. Then I can get a job where I’m not just pretending to work half the time, or go back to uni and do a qualification in a subject I’m interested in. But I digress:

I, David L. Blackwood, unlike the majority of my compatriots, do know how to have a good holiday. I estimate that I have seen more of the country than many Japanese have. And now I have added two new prefectures to my list of conquests: Hiroshima and Ishikawa. Now I will tell you about my delightful holiday.

I took a trip to Hiroshima, famous for having been the site of the first ever nuclear strike on a civilian population, and of course seafood. On the first day I took a trip out to the island of Miyajima, with its famous floating torii gate. The weather was clement and I took a long walk around the island which was very peaceful and had many secluded nooks and crannies away from the tourists where a body could enjoy solitude and listen to the many noises of nature. It was enough to make me feel a renewal of enjoyment of Japan. It was low tide when I arrived, so I walked out and examined the trunks of the gate. Its sides were pitted with barnacles and it loomed a bit. Later at high tide I observed that it was still looming except that I felt better now that there was a body of water between me and it. How I hate being loomed at. I took some photographs of the gate and enjoyed a light snack and a beer before getting back on the ferry. On my return to Hiroshima I went to find my capsule hotel. For those of you unaware of what a capsule hotel is, it’s a hotel where they put you in a sci-fi looking capsule which is stacked on top of other capsules. They are generally very small and cheap and no good at all for those with claustrophobia. In any case, it’s nearly possible to have a comfortable night in them. I went out for dinner with a book to read and somehow ended up getting entirely pissed on my own. This left me slightly ill-equipped to perform the important duties I had to perform the next day, notably my visit to the A-Bomb Dome and the Peace Memorial Museum. The dome itself is strange, like looking through some kind of lens at the past, untouched as it has been since 1945. The cracked concrete and the skeletal bubble of the roof give it a haunted look, and in the tidy, orderly city of Hiroshima it seems as out of place as if Dracula’s castle were somehow transported to the centre of Manhattan. After that I went to the Cenotaph, the Children’s Memorial and the Museum. The Memorials are a bit underwhelming – tiny, modern, hard to connect with the mass slaughter that went on 60 years ago - except the one that is underneath the ground with a 360 degree view of the devastation and fountain in the shape of a clock permanently frozen at 8:15 in memory of those who died begging for water. They also had a database of the victims there where people could look for their deceased relatives, which I played with for a while, discovering that not only Japanese, but Koreans, Chinese and American POWs where amongst the casualties. In the Peace Memorial Museum I was able to observe artifacts from that time, such as stopped watches, burned clothes and melted glass. I saw the stone steps which have a person’s shadow burned onto them, as well as some macabre pictures of horribly burned people. Very sobering. Slept long that night but kept worrying that when I awoke I would have somehow gone back in time to 1945 and be forced to find my way out of the conflagration to come. I think I would have run through the streets trying to explain in my bad Japanese to people and yelling あぶないよ! The next day I decided to take a trip to a different time period altogether and went to Hiroshima castle (not the original, obviously) where I learned about samurai, Japanese history and looked at ornate weapons and armour. I even was allowed to wear a suit of armour and ran around like a child with behavioural issues scaring old women.

Following that me and a few like minded individuals took a trip up the coast of Ishikawa-ken where we camped and barbequed and hung out. It was quite a fine drive, up through the remote fishing villages and past the recently earthquake-damaged Wajima. Highlights were Kaki and Shiloh being attacked by a hawk, and later being terrified of any bird-type noise that came from the treeline, the pleasant scenery on the drive along the coast, and generally socialising around the barbeque. Anyway, if anything else interesting happens I’ll be sure to update. I am aware this post is not funny. This is because it is a Monday and I am at work on the first day after my holiday and I do not feel funny. I am a broken man.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Ghost Guyz International

Another sure-as-shit hit from the degenerates who brought you Scotch Bonnet, Columboat, Bedshitter, and Escape From Bitchmeat Island. Watch and be amazed.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Living in the Age of the Remake and Genre Saturation: Solutions for Modern Cinema by David L. Blackwood

(pictured: Assault on Precinct 13 = bullshit)

The state of the movie industry has never been so weak. As you are probably aware, we are living in the age of the remake. Creativity and inventiveness are stagnating in favour of a tendency to churn out remakes by the dozen. The Italian Job, Get Carter, Assault on Precinct 13, The Amityville Horror, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Wicker Man, to name a few fairly recent ones that shouldn’t ever have been made. Why can’t people think of good new concepts anymore? I think of like a dozen a day. Why can’t I work in Hollywood? They seem bent on cutting corners at any cost. If something looks like it’ll make money they will jump on a bandwagon, regardless of if there are 15 other films like it being released that week. For every Lord of the Rings, there’s an Eragon or a Chronicles of Narnia, and for every X-men there’s a Fantastic Four or Ghost Rider. Despite the fact these are “new” films, I place them alongside remakes in their sheer lack of inventiveness. Every title I have mentioned of course, comes from a book or a comic, which does sort of negate any creativity on the part of the director, because obviously you don’t want to mess with it or the fans will go banjax. And nobody wants that. The movie industry exploits geeks with quick fixes – hastily put together assembly line movies based on “what the fans want” ie the whims of a totally insane public. I honestly believe that every time some foolish housebound nerd says online “WOULDN’T AN ANTMAN MOVIE BE TOTALLY AWESOME LOOOOOL” there’s some Satanist producer there with a clipboard and pen going “hmmm, Antman, you say?” To top it off, they seem to reviving franchises that have been dead for years in order to squeeze some money out of people’s nostalgia – at 65 Harrison Ford should not be playing Indy. They should let it go. Likewise at 61, Stallone should give up on the Rocky franchise. Their lack of inventiveness knows no bounds. It reminds me of a Calvin and Hobbes strip in which Calvin, designing a snowman purposely builds it to be as pedestrian-looking as possible, remarking that “people don’t want anything new, they just want more of what they already know they like”.
Why should I pay my hard-earned cash-money to go and see some shitty Hollywood remake of a Japanese horror film, in which the horror is invariably provided by a “scary” unkempt ghost child. Or indeed watch a carelessly constructed movie-version of some third-tier Marvel comics character hopelessly miscast and devoid of any of the depth that made you love the comic in the first place?

The last movie I saw in the theatre was Ghost Rider, which to be fair I didn’t have very high expectations of. And I wasn’t disappointed. Nick Cage plays Nick Cage who accidentally sells his soul to Mephistopheles, played by Peter Fonda - who is without a doubt the most overtly obvious devil since Robert De Niro played Louis Cyphre in Angel Heart - and is forced to become Old Nick’s bounty hunter and face off against four demons led by a bullshit version of Blackheart who in no way resembles the one seen in the comics. The whole thing is put together in a rather shoddy fashion, with only minimal attentions paid to plot. The four elemental demons Ghost Rider faces go out like pussies (The air demon he blows away with a fan made of chains, the earth demon he also kills with a chain, and the water demon he kills I think by boiling him with the hot fire on his head. I’m not sure) and the whole thing is resolved so quickly you wouldn’t believe. Ghost Rider’s motives are also unexplained, he seems to just power around town on his flaming motorcycle committing random acts of cruelty. Despite the fact that this was a terrible movie, I can’t honestly say though that I wasn’t entertained – most of the enjoyment and indeed humour came from my disbelief that I was watching something so retarded. Also starring Eva Mendes’s bosoms. I am really, really glad that I was never a regular reader of Ghost Rider though, otherwise I’d surely be feeling pretty jipped right now. The next title this director is supposed to be massacring is Preacher. God save us.

That’s another thing. The two most awaited comic book movies in history, Watchmen and Preacher, are being handled by people who I don’t really believe are up to the job. The dude who did the Dawn of the Dead remake and 300 is doing Watchmen – while DOTD version 2.0 was reasonable I haven’t seen 300 yet so couldn’t possibly judge. Please, please, please, don’t destroy this for me, I’ve been waiting for this movie since the 80s. Likewise Preacher, is being handled by the schmoe responsible for both Ghost Rider and Daredevil. Not a lot of faith there then. I heard actually that Preacher was going to be a TV series on ABC, which strikes me as a much better way to do it than as a movie, because it has a very definite plot progression, over the course of 9 volumes. There are no standalone episodes that could easily be made into an hour and a half movie. There could be a trilogy, but it would all depend on the strength of the first movie, which could end up being a massive dud anyway. If they make one movie, they’ll have to cut tons of stuff out and end up destroying the plot, ruining the characters, and crushing the dreams of fanboys everywhere. One day I swear we’ll take no more.

While the genre movie seems to be alive and unwell, one has to wonder whatever happened to other genres. Like when was the last time you saw a good cop movie? The formula is simple – take two mismatched cops, usually from different ethnic, educational, and class backgrounds, with differing personality types, put them in a car together and watch the race humour, vague homosexual overtones, bad driving, gunplay, maltreatment of women and poorly-conceived plot take over. For instance I watched 48 Hours last night. How good is that movie? Nick Nolte as a racist, sexist, drunkard cop forced to escort racist, sexist, mouthy convict Eddie Murphy around town in search of a cop-killer and bag of stolen ducats. The terrible things that Nolte is able to say in that movie and still somehow retain our sympathy is mind-blowing. He kicks off the day by taking a swig of rotgut, emotionally torturing his girlfriend for a while before busting in on someone else’s case and causing the deaths of two detectives. Nolte doesn’t care - he has lost his gun and wants it back. He enlists the help of Murphy, who he racially abuses at every turn and the two engage in a madcap two-day rampage of morally sketchy law enforcement, which culminates - of course - in the shooting rather than arrest of the suspects. Nobody cares about this. This is how cops operate in movies. They shoot roughly twice as many people as they arrest, if they even bother to arrest anyone at all. I can't recall. Indeed, Nolte and Murphy cause so much trouble that on two occasions beat cops try to stop them but are sent packing because Nolte outranks them. He can literally do anything he pleases. On one occasion Nolte drunkenly attacks Murphy and the two ruthlessly batter each other for a while until the cops intervene. Is this good police work? Murphy uses almost any opportunity he can to cruise for pros and at one point attempts to seduce two lesbians whose house they have broken into. How are they even allowed on the streets? They should both be locked up. My favourite scene is where Murphy hassles a gang of shitkickers at a barn dance proclaiming that he doesn’t like white people and he hates rednecks. Then he beats them up and vandalises the joint. They can’t do anything about it, because he is with the cops. How is this legal? I can’t believe it. Why is there even a barn dance happening in the middle of San Francisco? In the end of course, Murphy and Nolte settle their differences and become allies, like in every cop movie. Nolte agrees to stop being racist and, as a peace offering, buys Murphy a prostitute. Pure popcorn, but you have to love the cop genre. They just don’t do movies like that anymore. Movies like Lethal Weapon, Red Heat, Tango and Cash, or even Turner and Hooch and Stop or My Mom Will Shoot. The only recent one I can think of is Starsky & Hutch, and that’s a remake of a 70’s TV show. Of course there is always Hot Fuzz...

The action movie in general is dying a death. It was killed by the Matrix, bullet time and wire work. Now every single action movie that is released has the protagonist pirouetting around on strings in slow motion to a nu-metal soundtrack while dodging slow bullets. It’s like when that movie - glorious though it was – came out everybody dropped several IQ points. Also its influence has permeated and ruined other genres. For instance, the vampire movie.

Vampire movies have stank for a long time, I think maybe the last good one was John Carpenter’s Vampires, preceded by Interview With The Vampire and before that Near Dark and Lost Boys. When did vampire and gay man in big black coat become synonymous? Seriously? If you want to look at bad vampire movies, take a look at Queen of the Damned, perhaps the worst movie ever. A bunch of fruity looking, twatty vampires, one of whom has obvious man-boobs (fair enough, the vampires in the book were slightly gay, but in the book that was acceptable because they didn’t fly around kung-fu fighting one another at lightspeed) a terrible cast, a rotten nu-metal soundtrack, and the single poorest script ever shat into creation. And for another example, let’s take Underworld – that has the distinction of being both a bad vampire movie and a bad werewolf movie. Lots of big black coats in that, yes sir. To top it off, I’m not exactly what the difference between the vampires and the werewolves are in that movie is. The vampires are gaybo-looking European male-model types, while the werewolves are gaybo-looking European male-model types too. The only thing I can think of is that the latter group generally sport beards.

Well what improvements could be made? Apart from a decent buddy-cop movie, something else I’d like to see a lot more of is “versus” movies, like Freddy Versus Jason and Alien Versus Predator. While FvJ offered exactly what was expected – sexually promiscuous teenagers being slaughtered, dream-murder, machete-hackings and a final battle in which the horrors fillet one another with their blades – AvP was, I felt, a huge disappointment. The studio could have made Aliens 5, which was going to be directed by James Cameron and written by Ridley Scott (or maybe they other way around) but instead chose to make AvP, directed by some pot-smoking teenager who has only directed the abominable Resident Evil and thought it would be “rad” to have a face-hugger jumping in slow motion while Slipknot played and the camera panned round dramatically. Good choice, 20th Century Fox. A pairing I’d quite like to see would be Robocop Versus Terminator, like in the classic videogame, or even in a stirring break from tradition, Robocop & Terminator, where the pair are forced to collaborate to fight crime in Delta City. That would be something to observe. Probably it would follow the same rough plot as 48 Hours, Robocop would bust Terminator out of jail because he needs him to fight - I don’t know - the Cylons, or something.

It’s a sorry state of affairs really. At the end of the day we just have to remember that it is an industry, and these are the kind of things that make money nowadays. Your average cinemagoer hardly ever knows he is watching a remake, just like he has never read the comic on which the movie he is watching is based. This allows the directors to do a half-assed job because while the fans do dictate what gets made, it’s the popcorn munching masses that bring the box office count up, and they must be appeased. Well-meaning folks who really do want to make a good movie that true fans will enjoy find themselves pandering to a disinterested and generally desensitised audience with a high tolerance for shit. So this is all the fault of you, the viewer. Good night.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bear - 1, Germany - 0

(Pictured left - living bear; right - dead bear)
It doesn’t need to be said that Germany and the bear have a chequered history. Only last year, Bruno – bear and father of six - was gunned down in a revenge attack by a group of Bavarian huntsmen for crimes against humanity. But as we well know one man’s war criminal is another bear’s freedom fighter. Germany has been widely criticised for it’s stance on bears, having killed 100% of wild bears found on German soil since 1835.

Nevertheless, a great victory was won for bears this week when Berlin Zoo vowed not to execute Knut, an abandoned polar bear cub, despite calls from animal rights activists that he be killed for his own good. It was feared that Knut would become too reliant on his trainer, and eventually, in a fit of barely contained animal madness, devour every creature in the zoo including staff and patrons. But the public rallied around the adorable bearling and the zoo vowed to keep him until he is old enough to cope with being moved, and then ship him off to another zoo, obviously keen to avoid a potential massacre. Knut, for his own part seemed oblivious to this and merely looked on with murder in his eyes.

Why were ze Germans so willing to spare Knut when they so easily eliminated Bruno? The answer seems to lie in the power of cute. Knut is a very photogenic animal. Small, skinny, with milky white fur, he looks more like a lamb than a bear, while by contrast Bruno was a huge, stinking, filthy brute who would sooner slay you than look at you. In addition to this, the fact that Knut is a white bear surely appeals to the German’s barely-concealed Aryan pride.
What’s my policy on bears? Positive obviously. Anything that can eat a bus full of schoolchildren whole and makes a dump the size of a cat is good in my mind. Germany, by sparing Knut has a ticking time-bomb on its hands. When Knut is old enough, he will escape in a maelstrom of death, and take his deadly revenge on the German people for the martyrdom of his forebear (ho ho ho). The streets will run red with Teutonic blood and once again will the bear’s supremacy be asserted. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

God Revealed Himself to Me through the Medium of Chicken

No, it’s not a new KFC slogan, it’s an anecdote about something that happened to me about ten minutes before the time of writing.

First I shall explain some background. I am a secular boy. I was raised with little or no particular religion but, was fairly well guided in terms of moral and social education. I know the difference between right and wrong, which was taught to me through true life examples and the odd beating rather than through the medium of bible teaching. I graduated through various stages of scoffing at Christians, complaining that the reformation ruined Scottish literature for almost 200 years, and sitting in the back of Mr “Ned Flanders” Jameson’s Religious Education class and going “Satan Satan Satan!”. On the few occasions I was actually in church, I found the thing to be horribly false, and the act of prayer terribly redundant. The religion of the bible, which I considered to have been corrupted over centuries of rewrites and edits seemed to me to be of hopelessly flawed logic. How can a tract that teaches peace and unity be used to justify so much hatred and killing throughout history? How can there be a loving God when so much pain exists in the world? If God is all-powerful, why doesn’t he just turn Satan into a pillar of salt? The answer to all of these questions, from a Christian point of view, is undoubtedly that it’s all our own fault, and God likes to smugly watch us destroy ourselves, and that he wouldn’t need to smoke Satan if mankind could just stop yielding to temptation for five seconds. I hate this image of God testing us, making us jump through hoops for salvation. It makes no sense to me and it never will. The idea of a heaven for the winners and hell for the losers of God’s little game is fundamentally unfair. And, since the Christian God is the only true God all the followers of Allah, Buddha, L Ron Hubbard and Shiva will go to hell regardless of whether or not they live the lives of saints. Of course though, all the other religions say the same thing. Place your bets now.
Suffice to say, from an early age I decided, if there is a God, the church is not his microphone.
Nevertheless over the course of my life I have gained some sort of internal spirituality. I don’t mean a belief in God. I don’t like talking about God. I prefer to talk about the Universe, which is a much less stigmatized synonym. I believe that there’s a deeper and more profound meaning behind things, and very often feel a spiritual connection to the world around me. Staring up at the stars, for instance, has always filled me with these conflicting feelings of simultaneous significance and insignificance. On one hand I feel incomparably small, and on the other profoundly connected. I think of scales – the distance from star to star, the distance between me and those stars, the speed of the light traveling from these distant specks meaning that most of them will already have grown full and powerful then exploded in celestial combustion, or declined slowly and burned out over the course of billions of years. Looking up at the sky, you can see the Universe in its sum totality, and know that you are a part of it. The very matter that makes up your body is the very same matter that makes up those stars. The same matter is in animals, plants, the planet Earth itself. There’s a litttle bit of open brackets god close brackets in every one of us, and everything around us. It’s this type of god I believe in, the Emersonian transcendental god in nature. I’m the great transparent eye-ball that sees all and perceives all, part and particle. Observing things and the relationships between them is the path to understanding.

This isn’t really something I talk about much. I don’t feel particularly strongly about ramming my point down people’s throat. I’m willing to accommodate other people’s beliefs, after all among my friends I can count dedicated Christians, die-before-compromise Atheists, a bunch of homosexuals and substance abusers, and a couple of Wiccans. Whatever, I don’t care, so long as you’re good people and don’t try and indoctrinate me into your way of thinking. I’m fairly laid back about it.
Which is strange, because last night I somehow ended up arguing with my girlfriend about it - even though neither of us is religious. How did this come about? Well, I’ll tell you. A Japanese friend of mine, a pastors wife (Yes, they have the Christ here too now) were chatting, and I mentioned I thought I was coming down with the flu, and she said “Oh, I’ll pray for you”. Later on I mentioned this to my girlfriend and said it made me feel a little uncomfortable. She said “So does it make you uncomfortable when I pray for you?” I didn’t even know she prayed, but I had to confess to myself, yes it does. But why? For one, I don’t think anybody has ever prayed for me before in my life, not even good old secular Mama and Papa Blackwood. Secondly, that’s just not how I relate my own experience to the world. I believe we make our own destiny, not accept handouts from the big guy. In short, why pray for a Cadillac when you could be trading stocks in order to buy one? True, sometimes there’s nothing you can do to influence events, but even in those cases I don’t think it would cross my mind to pray. You see, I don’t believe in god as a conscious organism, and I certainly don’t believe he speaks back to us. Of course the theory goes that he does all the time we just don’t hear him, but if that’s the case I think a man of his position could afford to yell a little louder.
Today though, something strange happened to me. I had direct contact with Our Lord. It was nearly bento time and I was hungry. People, my bento is not a bountiful harvest. Usually it contains a few varieties of sukemono and some piss-tasting seaweeds, and a croquette, with all the dry white rice I can eat on the side. Sometimes though, it is even worse and I am served things which no man should be forced to eat. Today as I gathered my bento close to me I looked down and thought. “Please don’t be pregnant fish again.” Then as an afterthought, I thought “I hope it is fried chicken”. Bearing in mind we have had fried chicken for bento on one other occasion since I began eating it every day 18 months ago. The chances of fried chicken were infinitesimal.
And yet, I opened up the bento lid and there it lay. A large slice of fried chicken in breadcrumbs, with two potato wedges sitting beside it. I couldn’t believe my eyes. And then it occurred to me… Holy Shit! I prayed a little! I prayed for chicken and it came true!” God was telling me I was wrong! Praise Jesus!
When I came down after my gratefully consuming my miracle-chicken, I considered things a little more objectively. What if it was really God telling me He exists? Then why would he do it through chicken? Must be these mysterious ways I’ve heard so much about. Perhaps God merely decided that in order to show me up he would answer the next prayer I made regardless of what it was. In that case, I’m upset because I should have prayed for something like INFINITE POWER or a million Great British Pounds. Or conversely, maybe God can only answer prayers regarding chicken. Why? I don’t know. The Ways of the Halls of Heaven are not for you to comprehend, mortal! Even more terrifying, the impossible miracle of the chicken had proven God’s existence, and since proof denies faith and without faith He is nothing, what if I had inadvertently killed God by believing in Him? Nietzsche was unavailable for comment due to a slight case of death.
So, after praying for more chicken and not being rewarded, and faced with either the prospect of having accidentally bumped off the Holy Father or a strange God who speaks to his children through processed poultry, I decided to resume my previous beliefs. I think the thing with the chicken was a coincidence. To my Christian friends, sorry guys, I still need proof. To my Atheist friends, don’t worry, I’m still down.
But, in my ten minutes as a dedicated Christian, I think I learned something. Maybe we don’t all share the same beliefs, or live or lives in the same way, but the best thing we can do is accommodate the beliefs of others and respect them. I believe now more than ever that we are all part of the same cosmic mechanism, all connected, part of the same matter. And you bet your sweet ass that if there is a God he would surely enjoy a megabucket from KFC.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Eureka! Moment of the Week

Don't you hate it when you have to defrost chickenmeat in the microwave, and it cooks they outside a bit while leaving the inside frozen and hard? Instead, why not simply try placing the chicken in a bowl beside a kerosene heater for 10-15 minutes. I guarantee you'll find it completely thawed and not even the least bit cooked.

Click Comments to thank me for this pearl of wisdom.

EDIT: Actually, I screwed up. I stuck some beef down there about fifteen minutes ago, and when I came back I found it had become jerky. I can't curry jerky, it would be inhumane.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Drinks that should probably be on the prohibited substances list

(Pictured: This colour appears nowhere in nature. But is approved by some guy named Dave, and he says it is bitchin')

I watched this Chappelle routine the other week the premise of which was that white kids drink “juice” and black kids drink “drink”. The “juice” refers to the fresh juices that come out of fruit when you squeeze it or pierce it with a knife, whereas the “drink” refers to the chemical compounds released when a drunken scientist adds sugar, preservatives and colouring to a bucket of water. Chappelle’s favourite flavour of drink was “purple”. Anyway, he uses this technique to judge a person’s wealth, whether they got juice or drink. For the UK, it was quite different – we didn’t have “drink”, we had either juice or squash. Squash, for those of you of the American/Canadian persuasion, is sort of concentrated orange fluid to which you add water in order to create liquid nourishment. Once when I was a kid I drank the concentrate with no water in and felt a dark dreamless sleep come over me. It was like the blood of Kali. Fortunately, my cereal had so much adrenaline in it that I got a burst of energy, ran around the garden and thereby negated the effects of the sick-maker. Squash is sold in very big, very cheap bottles, and therefore was popular. I was usually a squash boy, because my mother was always trying to save money, although we got one cup of juice every morning with our vitamins to keep us strong and healthy. It was Asda own-brand juice though, which costs about a sixpence.

There are a lot of drinks which are frankly unnatural though. At least Squash uses as its basis a fruit. Take Coca Cola, for instance. Does anybody actually know what goes into Coca Cola? No. Of course you don’t. Because it’s a secret formula. For all we know the Coca Cola production room could just be a kid filling bottles with ditch-water and grass (like those bottles of “drink” you used to make in your garden as a kid. Why did they always have grass?).

Scotland’s own Irn-Bru, as well. What the hell is that made from? “Made in Scotland from girders” the television commercial boldly proclaims. Although this is probably untrue, why would anybody think that this would be a good advert? Did they think that it would make people want to drink it? “Wow, there’s a drink made of girders, I HAVE to try it” You’d probably just get tetanus or something. You’d have to go to the doctors because you’d be shitting iron filings. Did they think people would do it to look tough? Like smoking? “Fuck you man, because I can drink a girder. That’s how fucking hard I am. Oh, did you want something? That’s right girly-man, cower and weep!” On top of that, the drink is utterly narcotic. Take one sip and I dare anyone to stop right there. When I moved to Japan I suffered withdrawal symptoms for at least three months. The ingredients to Irn-Bru are probably water, orange colouring No. 5 and opium.

Also, has anybody ever tried that blue Bubblegum Soda that they sell? There’s a drink that should be on some kind of banned substances list. I have never before that drank a soft drink that was so full of chemicals that I actually experienced paranoia. I became convinced people living in my building were trying to kill me. Then, I became convinced that the drink was giving me cancer.

I suppose I could drink water. But then the amount of chemicals that find their way into tap water these days are outrageous. In Japan, the developed country with probably the least regulations regarding chemical dumping, toxic waste burial and emissions, the chances of you ingesting some kind of industrial waste is very high. I can’t win really can I? Unless I drink bottled water. Or just alcohol, at least that’s sterile. Maybe that’s the only hope. Yeah.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Skiing is Awful

Well, here’s another sport I have no affinity for. Took a skiing lesson on Saturday up in Hida. Met with an accident. First of all, me and my instructor, a taciturn gentleman of around fifty took to the “snow bunny slopes” for me to receive the basics of skiing. Seeing that I was the only person on that slope over the age of ten, and having been separated from my peers I considered that my learning the basics may have been slightly overdue. So I practiced turning left and right for two hours while my instructor yelled “Bend! Bend!” at me in English. All in all we spent more time doing the crab walk up the hill than actually skiing. Eventually I harangued him into allowing me onto the grown up slope with the others. The second I got up there I knew it was a bad idea, but by the time I realized this I had no choice but to go, as I couldn’t work out how to get back onto the ski lift again. The top part was obscenely steep, and no sooner than I had put my skis over the edge, I fell over and started rolling down the hill. I eventually stopped, and got up. I started again, and with some assistance made it half way down the hill. Then, trying to make it down to the bottom, I shot off the run entirely, went through a barrier and before I knew it I was skiing on mud, caused by the melting of the snow. I toppled and fell into the mucky bog. Shocked and frantic, I felt the mud seeping through my trousers as I struggled to free myself. But I was powerless. I couldn’t stand up in the slime, but I also couldn’t get my skis off. I had no option but to lie there, squelching in the muck while I waited for help to arrive. People going past on the ski lift pointed and jibed at me. Even my taciturn instructor laughed a low, dead, laugh. I was humiliated. When the instructor eventually unfastened my skis for me, I crawled out of the bog and onto the snow, groaning with displeasure. My soiled form stained the white snow a dark brown. I lay on my back writhing and moaning in defeated agony. It somewhat resembled the scene in Star Wars Episode III when a dismembered Anakin Skywalker flails helplessly by the banks of that lava river howling in a hopeless frenzy.
I hate skiing.


A man who made more than a million quid with an HR business told me to set myself goals. Then he went off about how great his house, motor vehicles and bikini wife are. Despite how horrible the man was, I think he may have had a point. So, here are my goals:
1. By the end of 2007, I will have some decent experience on a newspaper and a serious portfolio. None of these articles will have the words “fuck” “assholes” or “lies” in them. This will be real journalism – no more kid stuff.
2. Also by the end of 2007, I will be moved in with Kaki, in a city were it is likely that we will stay for at least a year.
3. By the end of 2008 and I will have at least half of an NCTJ diploma. I will also have completed courses in shorthand and quark xpress. Hopefully, by then I will also have a proper job.
4. By the end of 2009 I would like to be living in Canada, hopefully with some kind of UK experience and qualifications that would be transferable over there. Get a job on a newspaper. Get a nice new place. Perhaps a car.
5. 2014: First book published. Win literary awards of some kind, either that or sell millions of copies of poorly-written but well-marketed crap targeted at people who don’t usually read..
6. 2015: Sell film rights for book to Hollywood. Make a mint. Sell out totally, but be very comfortable with that.
7. 2020: Ferrari, Cadillac, Aston Martin, personal hovercraft, flying lessons. Second novel should be published around this time.
8. 2025: Move out of the city, buy some kind of ranch. Buy guns.
9: 2030: Build large walls. Fortify ranch.
10: 2030 - ?: Shoot any intruder.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Taking Care of Business in Japan

(Pictured: The TOTO toilet lures a child into it's robotic clutches using a song)
Have you ever been wandering in a busy metropolitan area when you were suddenly seized by a sharp, aching stomach cramp which indicated the epoch of a stinking beershit? Of course you have. We all have. The only thing there is to do then is bumrush the nearest comfort station and do your sinful business. But it ain’t always so easy. In the good old U of K, I was fortunate enough never to have been presented with such a dichotomy as to choose which kind of toilet to drown mud bunnies in. But here in Japan we have many different kinds. It’s true. Some are good, some bad. Some are brutally simplistic, while some are bewilderingly advanced. What follows is the definitive exploration and assessment of the main toilet types that you will encounter on a day to day basis, anecdotal scatology and solutions for your daily plop-plop.

1. The Squatter
The squatter is the typical toilet of rural Japan, and of public conveniences. Set into the floor, this porcelain menace can be intimidating for the first-time user. I confess I have only ever used one of these once, on the below ground floor of Nagoya’s Takashimaya mall. You can visit it yourself, there’s a plaque there to commemorate the event. Nevertheless my first visit was like everybody’s first visit – It literally couldn’t be avoided. I closed the door behind and stared at it the same way a pig looks at a typewriter. What was I going to do? I dropped my shorts, and squatted over the bowl, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was going to defecate at an angle and somehow soil them. I took off my shorts and left them in a pile in the cleanest looking corner of the bathroom. I let myself descend as close as I could to the porcelain without falling over and then let myself shit. I felt cold and naked, and didn’t enjoy it at all, as I usually do. Thirty seconds or so later the runny shit had passed, and I groped for the toilet paper. In doing so I had to let go of the plumbing and almost fell into the sticky mess below. A mercifully quick wipe later I was ready to assess the splatter damage. Despite the severity of my diarrhoea my shoes and bare flesh were miraculously untainted. More luck than good guidance, I thought, as I pulled my shorts back on. Dreadful.

The whole experience left me rather worse for wear, and thanking the good Lord that my own apartment’s squatter toilet came with a plastic converter. The converter itself is a poor defecatory experience, with its tendency to stick to ones flesh during the summer months and its habit of concealing the strange orange scum that gathers beneath the lips of the squatter toilet.

All things considered one might write the squatter off as a barbaric throwback to the days of yore when men were men, women were property and people hacked at each other with huge swords 24/7. But wait! There is an up side! There is method to the madness. The average squatter uses much less water than a western toilet, and are also easier to keep clean and are significantly cheaper. They are also (apparently) much more hygienic due to lack of seat contact, if you can manage to keep it all in the pan that is. In addition to that, squatting is a more natural position, and holds untold health benefits. For example, the position allows you to expel more slurry from the colon, and builds up muscles which help reduce incontinence. Some people also say that it improves breathing, strengthens ones knee muscles, and improves concentration. Some studies even maintain that the squatting position can prevent and even cure the Grapes of Wrath themselves, the deadly haemorrhoids. So by that merit, the environmentally friendly, hygienic and healthy old-school squatter should be the greebo or health-nut’s shitter of choice. Use it and be proud.

Comfort: 0/10
Splatter factor: 9/10
Green factor: 10/10
Healthiness: 10/10
Ability to operate while under the influence: 0. You may as well shit yourself now before you do it in your bed, fool.
Total: 2.9 out of 5

2. The Western Style, or Regular toilet
The Western style is found in most Japanese homes now, having overtaken the squatter as the shite-receptical of choice some time ago. Without the somewhat obscure health benefits of the squatter, the Western toilet provides a comfortable plastic seat with a porcelain funnel which allows the user a carefree and splatter free bowel evacuation without having to hoist oneself up by gripping the wall or plumbing or remove one’s clothing. Especially good for old people whose backs have been ravaged by decades on the squatter, who just want to sit down at their extended old age while they clip a biscuit. The twin flush option allows you to save water by making a small flush for a piss and a big one for a jobby. In addition to this, there is a sink on top of many modern toilets that allows you to wash your hands in the water that flows into the cistern in preparation for a new flush. Unfortunately, the rather slow flow of cold water doesn’t really cut it for washing one’s hands. I need a little more pressure to feel clean. And some soap. And a towel. Here’s a question for you; what is it with the lack of soap and towels in Japanese toilets? Am I supposed to carry soap and towels with me? The answer is, of course, yes, I am. Perhaps I should buy a brokeback man-purse to carry all these things in. But I digress.

Comfort: 7/10
Slowly killing you? 5/10
Green factor: 6/10
Healthiness: 5/10. Healthy in the sense that not going to the bathroom would be unhealthy.
Ability to operate under the influence: 10/10. Textbook.
Total: 3:3 out of 5

3. The Super Toilet AKA Washlet or Ubertoilet
For the ultimate in toilet technology, next time you’re baking brownies why not head over to a TOTO washlet? Boasting more gadgets than James Bond’s Aston Martin, these state of the art toilets provide the pinnacle of comfort and cleanliness, if one can get over the intimidating interfaces and sometimes surprising injections of fluid into one’s anus. I’ll say one thing for the Japanese; they’re a people who take taking a shit rather seriously, as anyone who has listened as an overzealous workmate in the cubicle next to you hatches a loaf, punctuating every plop with the exclamation “Yosh!” Nearly half of homes in Japan sport a Super Toilet, cementing their importance as the pinnacle of conveniences. Since their introduction in 1980, the Super Toilet has evolved many striking features, such as the much loved heated toilet seat, which in some people’s opinion negates the need for central heating in one’s house. Some seats even glow in the dark, so you can drain the snake without even turning the light on when you stumble through in the early hours of the morning wishing you hadn’t drank so much soda. Super Toilets feature a high level of automation, some popping up the seat when you approach, or lowering it when it’s time for twosies. Perhaps the most striking feature is of course the integrated bidet, which sprays a jet of water at 38 degrees centigrade into the sphincter or special lady parts of the user. A foreigner first arriving in Japan will treat the integrated bidet initially with suspicion, then with disgust. This disgust will turn into curiosity and eventually acceptance. For most straight men and women, the anus is strictly out of bounds, and the idea of a powerful jet of water shooting out of the toilet evokes a terrible fear of anal intrusion. We worry that it might hurt, or worse still, in the case of straight men, that we might enjoy it and begin to question our sexuality. Gay men, I assume, fear the water jet less, knowing as they may well do that a water jet and anal intercourse are not the same thing. But straight guys are inordinately afraid of that sort of thing. So we reject the jet spray and label it sexually dubious. We become convinced that the Japanese people who use the water jet must be getting off. Indeed, that hypothesis still holds some water (No pun intended). One of my workmates, a Judo black-belt of enormous proportions is obscenely thorough in his use of the jet spray. Once I was standing at a urinal and my workmate came into the toilet, went to the cubicle, locked the door, and sat down. Immediately, I heard the spray start, full blast. He hadn’t even taken a shit yet. I finished my piss, went over and thoroughly washed my hands, and when I left, he was still spraying on full strength. While I secretly suspect he was merely pleasuring himself, a little research explains the process. Apparently, according to Dr Hiroshi Ojima, the fibre intake in Japan is not great (surely rice has a lot of fibre?) and that can cause constipation. This possibly dubious claim is backed up by the makers of the toilets, who maintain that constipation can be cured by rigorous application of the jet spray. Personally, I suspect this might be nonsense, but one can’t fault the hygiene argument. Of course scouring one’s exhaust port clean with a powerful jet of water is superior to merely wiping it wish low quality paper! In addition to that, since most public restrooms are without soap or hot water, it will undoubtedly leave the hands feeling cleaner too. Marvellous.

One particularly useful feature that is found on women’s toilets is the Otohime, or in English, the Sound Princess. This device was created after Japanese scientists realized that urinating Japanese women, mortified at the thought of other urinating Japanese women hearing them urinate, were flushing the toilets non-stop to conceal the sound of their urination and wasting around 20 litres of water per toilet visit. What the Sound Princess does is play a loud flushing noise to cover any noises made in the performance of daily ablutions. Of course, some Japanese women think the Sound Princess sounds fake and as such still constantly flush the toilet. But what can you do?

Other features utilized by the top of the range toilets include massage functions (which would be sure to leave the experience feeling even more sexually dubious) an automatic deodorant spray, and some even play relaxing music, possibly to induce some kind trance where defecation can be preformed with ease. Some toilets even collect usage data which allows them to shut down and save power at times when they are unlikely to be needed, and to provide and a toilet experience based on the user’s individual preferences. Smart toilets! Incredible. And they keep on advancing too. Toilets currently being developed can perform urinalysis, measure pulse and blood sugar levels to provide a health assessment of the user and fax it to a doctor if there are any problems. Also they have invented a toilet that talks to you and understands simple verbal commands, but frankly I can’t think of anything more perverse and ridiculous. What would I want to say to my toilet? What would it say to me? God only knows. Surely that would be an awkward conversation.

A downside to the modern Japanese washlet is the level of energy that they use. It’s estimated that 5% of the energy used by the average Japanese household is eaten up by the Super Toilet. This places something of a dampener on the other environmental advantages such as saving water. However, who cares about all that stuff? You’re sitting on the Cadillac of Commodes! Fuck Kyoto protocol and shit like a king.

Comfort: 10/10. So comfortable, it’s maybe even a little arousing.
Fear factor: 9/10. A little bit too much like colonic irrigation though.
Green factor: 7/10. Good on water, not so good on power.
Healthiness: 7/10. OK, but you’d be better squatting.
Ability to operate under the influence: 5/10. Likely to get confused and wind up injuring yourself.
Total: 3.8. The King of Toilets has been crowned.

4. The Pit Toilet
Technically these things shouldn’t even still exist. Although the earliest sewerage systems in Japan date from about the Yayoi period (300 BC – AD 250), in days of old pit toilets were primarily used. This was because one could go save the excrement for use as fertilizers. The Japanese diet was always based more on growing rice and other vegetables than rearing livestock, so there was always a need for human excrement to use as fertilizers. Because of this Japanese cities have were always cleaner than their European counterparts, where the citizens were usually ankle-deep in their own faeces because people’s idea of disposal simply involved tossing the foul-smelling excretions into the street. In any case, sewers were built in many places in around the late 1500’s, and in the 20th century, western-style toilets began to manifest, becoming more commonplace during the post-war American occupation. So the pit toilet should be extinct right? Wrong. They can still be found in certain places, like for instance in dirty, prefabricated restaurants on the side of a major road, or in filthy arcades where old men who drive small trucks play pornographic mah jong games and smoke. The pit toilet these days is of course connected to the sewers, but beyond that not much has changed. A circular hole, often concrete, leads directly down to the sewers. No flush to speak of. The hole is usually wide enough to fit a small to medium sized child down. And the stench, oh the stench! Don’t drop your keitai, watch, wallet or spectacles, whatever you do.

Comfort: 0/10.
Offensive scent: 10/10. Stinks to high heavens.
Green Factor: 5/10. At least it doesn’t waste water, because there is none.
Healthiness: 0/10. Possibly that smell is carcinogenic.
Ability to operate under the influence: 0/10. There’s a danger you’d fall in.
Total: 1.5. Miserable.

While other types of toilet do exist, for instance the female urinal, this esteemed scientist has not experiences them, and in any case they are immensely rare. As well as type of toilet, Japan differs from the west in terms of attitude to toilets, and the act of urination or indeed defecation. For example, where else in the world could you see a respectable looking man soberly urinating in a supermarket car park at 11am on a Saturday morning in full view of a crowd of schoolchildren? Where I ask you? And where else in the world can you find toilet doors that open directly onto urinals, allowing onlookers (women, children, old ladies) to glimpse a row of man-hoses every time someone opens the door. Japanese men don’t seem to have the same attitude to privacy while taking a piss that we do (maybe that’s why they always stare when I’m beside them at the urinal). There’s no law against public urination here, something which is grossly illegal and considered utterly barbarous in many western countries. Unfortunately, women don’t share the same rights as men, and for them public urination is illegal; possibly in case any prowling urophiliacs should see them and be unduly aroused. Which I think suits Japanese women fine since the idea of anyone finding out their sinful secret – that they do, indeed, pee and poo like everyone else – fills them with cold dread.

Going to the bathroom in Japan is like playing Russian roulette. 50% of the time you are going to be disappointed by a squatter, so perhaps it’s best to go at home. It’s always best to check the cubicles first in case there’s a Super Toilet hiding in the corner. In which case you might end up hanging a rat more comfortably than in your own home. But before you diss the old-school Japanese methods in future, think about the environmental and physical benefits offered by the poor, maligned squatter. So rejoice! There’s a toilet built for every preference in Japan, be it for comfort, cleanliness, or environmentally friendliness. The trick is to know where to look.