Monday, July 31, 2006

Broken bonds

Nearly a year ago I wrote an entry about "Love and Locks", about how it has become a thing among couples to attach locks to Shonan Diara tower as testaments to their undying love.

Well, evidently, not all love is undying. G. and I were walking around Shonan Diara yesterday when I found this, just about chucking distance from the tower:

It had been opened with a key. Had one of them had kept the key and returned in hysterics months later after a cruel betrayal? Or had someone returned the very next night? Perhaps they had no wish for undying love with the previous night's partner? Maybe there is another lock on the tower for their true love? Or had the couple had an argument as they put the lock on? "No, not that way, that way, like that one" ... "Oh, bugger it. Damn your stupid lock anway!" (Hurls lock into the gloom). I kind of like the last couple. I'm sure their's will be an undying love.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Thomas Paine

On Thomas Paine:
It was widely believed by the devout of those days that unbelievers would scream for a priest when their own death-beds loomed...Dying in ulcerated agony, he was imposed upon by two Presbyterian ministers who pushed past his housekeeper and urged him to avoid damnation by accepting Jesus Christ. "Let me have none of your Popish stuff," Paine responded. "Get away with you, good morning, good morning." The same demand was made of him as his eyes were closing. "Do you wish to believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God?" He answered quite distinctly: "I have no wish to believe on that subject." Thus he expired with his reason, and his rights, both still staunchly defended until the very last.

Eleven years before Paine's death:
In the year 1798, seeking to choke the influence of French and other revolutionary opinions in their own "backyard", the British authorities jailed the radical Irish nationalist Arthur O'Connell. As he was being led away, O'Connell handed out a poem of his own composition that seemed to its readers like a meek act of contrition, and a repudiation of that fount of heresy, Thomas Paine:

The pomp of courts and pride of kings
I prize above all earthly things;
I love my country; the king
Above all men his praise I sing:

The royal banners are displayed,
And may success the standard aid.

I fain would banish far from hence,
The Rights of Man and Common Sense;
Confusion to his odious reign,
That foe to princes, Thomas Paine!
Defeat and ruin seize the cause
Of France, its liberties and laws!

If the reader has the patience to take the first line of the first stanza, then the first line of the second stanza, and then repeat the alternating process with the second, third and fourth lines of each, and so on, he or she will have no difficulty in writing out quite a different poem. (How much the British have suffered from their fatuous belief that the Irish are stupid!)
From Christopher Hitchens.

We all know about the "Boston Tea Party"

... but did you know there was also a "Boston Molasses Disaster".

Well, it's come to this...

... the last of the Shakers.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Miss Murderous

So, apparently, the Miss Universe contest has a section in which the lubbly beauties dress up in their national costumes. It's great for the gals. They get to show off their deepest patriotic feelings and share a small part of their traditional culture with the rest of the world.

This type of thing:

Miss Japan thought long and hard about her garb. The unrivalled elegance of the kimono would almost certainly have gone down well with the judges. Somehow, though, none of the outfits Kurara Chibana tried on had that extra something she was reaching for.

After careful consideration, she opted for the murderous red ninja costume that so typified the Japanese woman of yesteryear. As No-Sword memorably puts it: "Miss Japan went in the traditional garb of the stiletto-heeled red ninja, reflecting Japan's past as a largely agricultural nation of peaceful farmers and ruthless, garishly-dressed assassins. I suppose it has a certain quaint charm." Those high-heels must have been a bind when they were sneaking through the paddy fields.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Japanese children's TV is fantastic

More specifically, the stuff on NHK 3, the rough equivalent of BBC 2, is fab.

G. loves it, but I'm finding that it is becoming my favourite goggle too. Perhaps I'm losing my marbles (more on marbles below). Titles like Nihongo de Asobou, Pitagora Suichi, Karada de Asobou, and Zenmai Samurai all have really high production values. Dry humour, surrealism, slapstick and originality abounds.

Most of the examples I can find on the web are of Pitagora Suichi. The "pitagora" means "Pythagoras" and it has a broad science/technology focus.

Two dances, Arugorizumu Koushin and Arugorizumu Taisou, are repeated every day. The two comedians who do them pull in various adults to add a bit of variation. Here, we have the bus attendants and the gym instructors doing the Arugorizumu Taisou and the Chinese chefs doing the Arugorizumu Koushin. (Arugorizumu means Algorithm, by the way).

Another favourite is the title sequence. Almost everyday they have a new mechanism, using lots of marbles and ingenuity: 1,2,3,4,5,6.

It is a pity I can't find much on the web to give a flavour of some of the other titles. We are not just talking funny gimmicks but, rather, really well thought out children's programming. Nihongo de Asobou is particularly striking, using classic poetry, traditional drama and sayings to pursue its Japanese language theme. Here are a couple of examples of dances from the program - 1, 2 - but it is the less dramatic features playing with language and poetry that really make the programme. These closing title sequences - 1, 2 - could be accused of being over-kawaii (cute) but I like them.

After Auschwitz

So what happened to the few surviving Polish Jews after the Nazis had left?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dark Tater and Obi Wan Cannoli

Not long ago in a supermarket not so far away...

(On a similar theme, but using a different technique, the McDonald's video game. And another right-on piece of web persuasion. It is old but already a classic of this growing genre. To digress even further, there is also a hell of a lot of Star Wars themed parody on the web. Eg. 1, 2, 3.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


One of the things I have been pulling my hair out about since I came to Japan is whether G. will grow up speaking English or Japanese or both.

Yesterday, he decided to start speaking Spanish!

His cousin K-chan - who has just come over to Japan after spending the early part of his life in Mexico - had been using "darme, darme" (which I understand to mean "give me, give me") to get stuff. So, needs must, G. adopted the local vernacular.

A truth that is stranger than fiction

The piglet squid.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

ZZ blows his top, G mows his mom and pop

Zinedine Zidane said of his butt to ribcage of Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final:
It was an act that was not pardonable. I apologise to all the children who might have seen it. I always tell children that they should avoid doing such things.
I wasn't aware that my one and a half year-old son had seen the final until he performed a very similar Cardiac Plexus butt on my wife a couple of minutes ago. Zidane should be ashamed.

By the by, G. combines a number of fighting techniques in his mixed martial arts style. Grappling is his real strong point, with ear grabbing and hair pulling techniques typically used to achieve his favourite sitting on the head and twisting the nose hold. However, as the Zi-butt showed, his influences are various.

He is also about as eclectic as a lyrebird in his copying of the sounds around him at the moment, but that is another story.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

This is just to say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for next Monday's breakfast

Don't worry
they were wrinkly,
and one had a bit of mould
on it.

after the William Carlos Williams poem