Tuesday, May 30, 2006

More national anthems

Since 2003, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has been ordering schools to stand and sing the national anthem in their ceremonies and has disciplined teachers who have refused. It is part of a more general conservative push to foster nationalism in children which has prompted at least one elementary school to rate children's patriotic feelings on a three point scale in their reports.

All of which garners a few intemperate votes, I am sure, but, if you were genuinely wanting to encourage national feelings in children, would you force them to stand a sing the national anthem in assemblies. Would you really? Maybe at elementary school, it might work for a few of the slower souls. But in High School? Think about it.

The rather predictable consequence has been the spread of parodies, which sound like the national anthem and look like it when you are mouthing the words in assembly, but have various less patriotic meanings. Some of the versions currently being circulated appear to have been written by adults but, lets face it, for every teaspoon of adult derision, there will be a bucket full of sniggering teenage ridicule. That is how young people respond to old buffoons. Thank God.

Not sure what this parody, using English words, means (it sent the rightist Sankei Shinbun bonkers) but it makes more sense that the policy:
Kiss me, girl, your old one.
Till you’re near, it is years till you’re near.
Sounds of the dead will she know ?
She wants all told, now retained,
for, cold caves know the moon’s seeing the mad and dead.
Haunting. Christians are also using their own alternate lyrics to avoid Emperor idolatory (in the patriotically divided UK, of course, forcing Christian worship has been the equivalent of this Japanese nationalist push). The resistance is allowing the rightists to scream and shout even more, which I suppose is all they wanted to do in the first place.

Nationalistic Effort: 3/3 Nationalistic Attainment: 0/3

Indoor Aerobatics

My interest in remote control planes has, until now, been limited. It is still limited. For 2 minutes 30 seconds, though, this held my attention.

Sunday, May 28, 2006


It is about a year since I gave up my proper job. Honestly, my life is quite unlike this. (I study Weekdays and Saturdays!). But it made me laugh.

God Save the Queen

You know those times when you make some startling claim to someone and they are startled and then you start to wonder whether your startling claim was infact startling because it was totally untrue. Well, last week I told A's Dad that the UK national anthem was shared by another country. A.'s Dad was surprised, perhaps a little doubtful, so I looked it up today.

In fact, more than one state has shared the British National Anthem, and we're not just talking colonies. Liechtenstein is the country I was thinking of. When the English played Liechtenstein in a footy match a few years ago they had to play it twice. The German state also adopted the same tune between 1871 and 1918. Before that, the Prussians had used it. It was the official Russian national song between 1815 and 1833 and it has also been the melody to patriotic songs in the US (My Country, 'Tis of Thee"), Iceland, Switzerland and Sweden. It is Norway's Royal anthem. For example, here it is in Russian: "The Prayer of the Russians".

Strange that such a dirge-like tune should be so successful. Sounds better in that sexy Russian.

Sleeping in

Had a great lie-in today. I lay curled up in my futon listening to the screams and screeches of A. trying to cope with a rampant G. in the next room. Not a thimble full of guilt. Just a delicious feeling of selfishness. Eventually, A. could take it no more: "Chris, It's been two hours! Can't you get up?" I stayed in my little cotton cocoon for another five or so minutes, simulating A.'s simmering irritation in my head until it was just ready to boil over. Grudgingly, I emerged. As I shuffled toward the screeching, I glanced at my watch, wondering whether there was any morning left to waste. It was 7.56 am.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Unlucky for some

I'm not really a superstitious type but the fact that my parking space is numbered 13 sometimes gives me pause for thought on the morning of one of my course's numerous exams. In England, 13 might have been skipped. Here, things are different:

Fourteen is considered unlucky because it contains the number 4 (which my car park also misses out). One pronunciation of 4 is "shi", which is a homonym for death in Japanese.

More on triskaidekaphobia and tetraphobia.

Long photo

The scar of a long-departed San Francisco railway track.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Temptation Blocker

Maybe it's only me? Have you ever sat down at the computer full of determination to work yourself to the bone only to find yourself frittering away hours fiddling with everything but what you are supposed to be doing? If so, "Temptation Blocker" is the application for you.

It is free and it lets you block selected applications from yourself for defined periods of time. I just tried it and it seemed to work smoothly. After you download, a few applications will be added to the blockable list automatically but you may have to go to the "add new program" menu item and browse for your particular softspot.

One problem is that the blocker does not block websites selectively, just the whole browser, which may make some types of work difficult. A possible solution would be to download a second browser (say Opera) for work, without all the non-work bookmarks and passwords on your normal browser.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Another video

"Segundo de Chomon - Les Kiriki (Acrobatas japoneses) 1907"

Election Broadcast

In Japan, candidates running for certain political positions have the right to a brief election broadcast. The format is very restricted. They are only allowed to talk to camera for a few minutes. No moody videos, no husky voiceovers, just a monochrome backdrop and a microphone. Not exactly compelling viewing in most cases. Some people, however, have the ability to transcend their medium. The election in question was way back in 1991. I think the guy in question was Yuya Uchida, a successful professional singer.

He goes in for that special style of English which, if you live in Japan for anytime, you get used to hearing shouted at you in bars by a subgenus of Japanese men of a certain age. Here is a rock 'n roll manifesto, from his Japanese website (There is also an "international website" here.):

"By the rock'n roll power of fuckin' VENTURES & boogieing YUYA, Japan is gonna be the 3rd nation of bopping rock!! Wish!! Rock'n Roll is here to stay. Right on!!"
All very true. You can't argue with it. Uchida won 54,000 votes in the 1991 Tokyo Governor Election. Can't help thinking that he might have been preferable to the present Governor, Shintaro Ishihara, another mad old celebrity (famous for writing novels in which thrusting young men shoved their penises through shouji screens). Ishihara is a more dangerous type of nutter.

The Mythical Man Month

"It is extremely urgent that you read this book. We've bought you many copies so that you might read it faster. "
A post on why some tasks will not be speeded up by the application of more resources. Skip the first two paragraphs of the article. Basically, it is about a software project which found itself running behind schedule.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Time marches on

Hey, a proper supermarket has just opened down the road from us! I mean like a proper one! Not one of those tiny, runty little supermarkets which I have been complaining about since getting here. It's called MaxValu and it opens 24 hours a day and it is big. Really big. It's ruining a whole part of Hiratsuka with it's traffic jams. It's great.

Half of me, despite all my moans about the expense and tiddlyness of the normal Japanese supermarkets, couldn't help admiring whoever was responsible for keeping the megamarkets out. Actually that's a lie. It was about 3 per cent of me. The other 97 per cent is now getting in the car, shunting through the traffic jams, and cruising round the wide aisles of MaxValu filling my trolley to its brim.

There are some nice things to be had: free range eggs (the first I've seen here); fairtrade coffee (ditto. No tea though); non-UHT, non-homogenised milk (!!). The cheese is rubbish and they keep their red wine in the fridge but MaxValu will be making a few Yen from me in future.