Thursday, March 31, 2005


Random banter

Iran won the match 2-0, with the home North Korean supporters feeling aggrieved by a number of refereeing decisions. The North Korean players reacted furiously late in the game after a penalty appeal was turned down. Defender Nam Song-chol was red-carded after shoving the Syrian referee.
North Korean fans on rampage
from The Guardian, Wednesday March 30, 2005

Iran versus North Korea with a Syrian referee? Now I've heard everything.

I'd have thought they would have shown more solidarity, as they're all part of George Bush's Axis of Evil (lest we forget), which- mystifyingly- doesn't seem to include Britain or the United States.

I suppose we're just lucky that neither side (nor the referee, for that matter) took it upon themselves to dip into the nuclear arsenal that they allegedly have.

Incidentally (ie: at a complete tangent), when I went to the A-bomb museum in Hiroshima last year, there was a huge globe with stuck-on model missiles, showing which countries were known to be packing nuclear heat. The surprise omissions were Israel and- would you believe it- Iraq. Makes you think...


Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Charinko jitters

To my great regret, I am no stranger to bike accidents. Whenever I'm due some karma, it seems to arrive in the form of a slapstick bicycle scenario, involving a taxi, a misplaced patch of ice, mechanical failure, or- on one memorable occasion- all three simultaneously.

And today I was accelerating across Nagahori when, with an all-too-familiar SPROING! noise, my chain slipped the rear wheel, my steed bucked and, but for the rattlesnake reflexes of my right leg, I would have pitched over my handlebars as I have on more than a few previous occasions. Had it not been for the fortuitous circumstance that I was running a red light at the time, I could quite easily have veered into the side, or- better still- under the front wheels of another vehicle. As it was, I was able to retrieve the situation before the junction became too busy and rolled my bike over to the kerb to assess the damage.

Feeling a little self-conscious after my theatrical swerve in the middle of the junction, I was none too pleased to see that the gaggle of Japanese waiting on the far side of the road had eyes only for the henna gaijin on the clapped out bicycle.

Nevertheless, if there is one thing I have learnt about the natives of my host country, it is that they respect a sense of ritual; hence their love affair with such esoterica as Sumo wrestling, or the Japanese tea ceremony. I gave a friendly smile and bow to the assembled kaishain, then, with the methodical demeanour of a priest or blacksmith, rolled up my sleeves, looped my bike chain onto the cog of the rear wheel, rolled my steed back and forth a few times until the chain caught as neatly as a noose around the neck of a condemned man, and rode off down Naniwa-suji in search of fame and glory.

As it turns out, I found neither, but the memory of my perceived near-death experience and my expert performance as bicycle repair man certainly made the rest of the day easier to handle.

Sunday, March 27, 2005


Sweet zombie Jesus

So, like, happy Easter apparently.

The first we heard of it in room 602 was when Mike, devout Catholic that he is, got an e-mail from one of his friends. Incredulous, we checked the Catholic Church webpage and it's true.

I need to find chocolate. And fast.

Saturday, March 26, 2005


Mirror, signal, bash someone's head in with a bat

Rage still occupies my thoughts: Sebastian and the bear, bombs falling on Belgrade in the name of peace, the darkness of a human heart. After my previous post on the subject, I'm glad to say that my state of mind has much improved. I did, however, find this angry little gem during the course of my morning read:

A Dutch driving instructor hit a knife-wielding fellow motorist with a baseball bat during a fight over his student's skills, police said Wednesday.

"Words were exchanged between the instructor and the man who pulled a knife and then the other hit him with a baseball bat," a police spokeswoman said.

The 27-year-old driving instructor and a 51-year-old man with a head injury and a mild concussion were arrested and must appear in court.

Driving Instructor Gives Lesson in Road Rage
Reuters, Thursday March 24th, 2005

Like, he just happened to be carrying a baseball bat? If you're going to throw down about teaching, you should be a kung fu instructor, not a driving instructor for heaven's sake. I have visions of a new genre of Hong Kong movie emerging: traffic camera fight scenes, with dubbed stick fighting noises.

"Your reverse parking technique is lousy!"

"Damn you, you bastard! HWYARGH!" Crack!

Perhaps it's time to go outside and get some sunlight.


Friday, March 25, 2005


Who ate all the pies?

So, it's Sumo time at the moment in Osaka as the March tournament is in full swing. It finishes Sunday, so time's running out if you haven't seen it yet...

Anyway, I hauled ass down to watch the fun and games again today (I went last Friday too) and it was definitely one to remember.

The origins of Sumo are religious and a great deal of ritual is observed during the course of the day's events. The bouts themselves only occupy a fraction of the time, compared to the amount of salt throwing, foot stamping and other such tomfoolery that goes on. An equal amount of ritual goes on in the McKeown-Horowitz box, where Andrew (aka Osakajoe) and I gamble on the outcome of the matches. I take all of the rikishi (wrestlers) on the higashi (East) side of the ring, while Andrew makes do with nishi West.

So, while the wrestlers are psyching themselves up, we are getting ourselves in the swing of things (and giving the neighbouring Japanese a crash course in toilet-mouthery) with some of the following handy phrases:

Abusing your opponent's rikishi
My guy's gonna
(shave your guy's head with a belt sander.)
(hollow your guy out and spend the Summer in him with his family.)
(be tried as a war criminal under the Geneva Convention for what he's gonna do to your guy.)
(put your guy in an iron maiden full of driver ants.)
(pour petrol over your guy's head, then smash him in the knee with a paperweight.)

Pretty disturbing stuff, especially when you consider that this went on for around six hours (and four hours last Friday.)

The real talking point of the day, however, came at the very end. However, in order to properly explain it, it is necessary to teach a little Sumo background first.

The highest rank of rikishi is yokozuna. The current yokozuna is Asashoryu of Mongolia, who has dominated the sport for the last two years and won last year's Osaka tournament with a perfect 15 wins. Today was the 13th day of this year's tournament, Asahoryu had triumphed in all twelve of his previous matches and looked unstoppable. His opponent in the day's final bout was Tochiazuma, whose record for this year's tournament thus far stood at a rather more modest seven wins against five defeats.

Asashoryu looked imperious in the preparations for the bout and I was all but sure that he was going to prize Tochiazuma's mouth open with a car jack and force feed him a spadeful of hot gravel (bear in mind that Asashoryu was fighting out of the East corner, hence my guy.)

At the tachi-ai (initial clash), Asashoryu forced his opponent back and looked like he was going to secure a no-fuss victory. Suddenly, Tochiazuma got a decent purchase on the yokozuna's belt and, briefly, it looked like he might be able to topple him. Asashoryu reacted quickly to regain his balance and drove his opponent to the edge of the ring but Tochiazuma somehow pulled out the unlikeliest of hip-tosses to send Asashoryu sprawling, coming out of the ring with him. The referee, in one of the most baffling decisions I've ever seen, raised his arm to the Eastern side of the ring, signalling victory for Asashoryu.

This clearly wasn't on. The attendant judges descended on the ring (or, rather, ascended to the ring) and discussed the matter at great length. The crowd were loving this; all around the basho, people were clapping and chanting Tochiazuma's name. It was superb, but nothing compared to what followed.

The judges ordered a rematch.

Both wrestlers stepped up to the ring and went through their preparations again. Asashoryu still appeared as calm and confident as ever, but his aura of invincibility had evaporated and the momentum was now with his opponent.

Sure enough, in the second bout Tochiazuma, bursting with confidence, seized the bewildered yokozuna by the belt and unceremoniously bulldozed him from the ring to bring the house down.


Seating cushions flew down towards the ring from all around the basho, submerging the poor saps at the front who'd paid top dollar for their seats. The vanquished Asahoryu made a hasty exit with the roars of the delighted crowd ringing in his ears. I've never seen anything quite like it in my life. The poor guy who was conducting the day's closing ceremony, the intricate "bow dance," had to do so in the face of a barrage of airborne cushions and got hit several times.

It was simply breathtaking. And I finished the day a couple of hundred yen ahead of Andrew in the betting. And now I'm off to watch Japan vs Iran in the football. Yoshi!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


The enemy within

In the beginning was the problem, and the problem was rage.

The following are things that enrage me:

As you can probably guess, the above are not really groups of people, but specific individuals. Let's move on to social groups before I start naming names...

I seem to encounter these wherever I go. The only coffee shop exempt from this criticism is Starbucks, but they still enrage me with their high prices.

Basically, if you ever have the temerity to step outside your house then you are risking my friendship. This is particularly true of

These lobotomised consumer-whore zombies enrage me most when encountered in

Which, frankly, contain all the worst elements of airports, without the prospect of getting on a plane and flying round the world to see someone who doesn't enrage you. Much.

Other things that enrage me, both physical and metaphysical:

That's all for now, I think I'll get loaded up and go up Shinsaibashi with a shotgun. Note for Brian and Mike: if you read this, do not worry. You guys do not enrage me and I do not intend to murder you in the night. Particularly not you, Brian, as you work nights.

Saturday, March 19, 2005


Beware of Greeks on drugs

Have you ever done something wrong, then hit upon the foolproof idea of covering your tracks by fabricating an excuse so calamitously stupid that people won't be able to believe that you just made it up?

Greek sprinters Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou have been cleared of deliberately missing dope tests on the eve of last year's Athens Olympics, the Greek Athletics Federation announced today.
Greek sprinters cleared, The Guardian, Friday March 18, 2005

Lest we forget... (click here.)

I don't want to say anything controversial on this page, but I find it very, very hard to believe that Kenteris and Thanou evaded a succession of doping tests - flying all over the world and racking up more air miles than an octogenarian Arctic Tern in the process - purely by accident.

However, according to the Greek Athletics Federation, this is apparently what happened. And I think the keyword in that name is "Greek."

Other great examples of Greek cunning:

Odysseus: Tell you what, why don't we just build an enormous wooden horse, big enough to contain 50 heavily-armed Greek warriors, leave it outside Troy and bugger off for a day or two? The Trojans will never think that we'd be stupid enough to think that they'd be stupid enough to take the damn thing into their city.

Agamemnon : ...

Odysseus: ...And then they'll, y'know, take it into their city.

Agamemnon : ...

Odysseus: ...With, like, 50 heavily-armed Greek warriors inside.

Agamemnon : Whatever you say, Sean Bean.

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Monday, March 14, 2005



As the Daily Yomiuri site has the nasty habit of removing its articles within a pretty short space of time, I'm just going to include the following in its entirety rather than giving the link. If the Yomiuri website weren't so crappy, I wouldn't be plagiarising its material in this fashion.

Anyway, I'm totally impressed with this guy.

SAITAMA--A man who stole 45 million yen from a bank in Yokozemachi, Saitama Prefecture, in an elaborate heist earlier this month, made good the last part of his escape plan by the unlikely method of hitchhiking, police said Friday.

The robbery started at 6:30 p.m. on March 3 when the robber carjacked a 37-year-old employee of the Yokoze branch of Musashino Bank. The following morning, at about 9 a.m., the robber forced the man to open the rear door of the bank, entered, and tied up the man and eight other employees.

After robbing the bank, the perpetrator drove off in in the bank manager's car to where the abducted employee's car had been parked, and changed cars. He then drove to a parking lot near the bank where he switched vehicles again, this time to a light truck.

After driving a few kilometers, the bank robber abandoned the truck and approached a 42-year-old man who had pulled over on National Highway Route 299 to use his cell phone.

The robber asked the man for a lift, saying he had had to leave his car at home because the roads were covered in snow and he did not have snow tires.

The man drove the hitchhiking heister 25 kilometers, dropping him off at Sakado Station on the Tobu Tojo Line in Sakado, in the prefecture. The robber gave the driver 5,000 yen in return for the ride.

The light truck the suspect drove was stolen in January in Sayama, in the prefecture, the police said.

Hitchhiking heister blazes new trail in ways to abscond
Yomiuri Shimbun, 13th March 2005

I'm wondering if the truck driver got to keep the 5,000 yen, or if he had to hand it over as evidence. Either way, I think a round of applause for the felon is in order; as a lont-time reader of Sherlock Holmes stories, I'm well aware of the risks of giving your crime a distinguishing feature:

"The more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious it proves to be. It is your commonplace, featureless crimes which are really puzzling, just as a commonplace face is the most difficult to identify."

Nevertheless, I hope that when I eventually get round to knocking over a bank I will be able to give some imaginative twist to my misdeed. Such as having posted my intention in advance on this page.

(In case you're wondering, it's going to be the Earlsdon High Street branch of HSBC, on Thursday, April 30th, 2009. I'll be wearing a hockey mask and a "Blur Are Shite" t-shirt.)


Friday, March 11, 2005


Making the right call

So, this is the very 24-esque dream I had last night. It rock'd and I was most disappointed when I woke up to discover that I am not, in fact, a lantern-jawed TV hero, but actually a man with a very severe hangover.

OK, so, the dream...

I was working in a police station and we were on the verge of busting a very dangerous secret society who were planning to annex Japan on behalf of China. (If this seems unlikely to you, shut the hell up. You probably believe everything you see on TV.)

Suddenly, all the guns in the station arsenal went missing. I eventually figured out that half the officers in the station were in the pay of the Chinese terrorists and had stolen them. I figured this out because a bunch of the renegade officers burst in, pointed guns in my face, and took me and the other genuine police persons captive.

Next thing I knew, I was in the back of a CTU-issue SUV on a fast-moving freeway, being driven somewehere by one of the bad guys. Fortunately, the master criminals had put me in the back seat, my hands were untied and no one was watching me. The other captives in the vehicle were, strangely enough, people who'd been in the cells at the police station (it's possible that these people weren't captives, now I think about it- maybe they were being liberated.) One of them, a pretty messed-up looking girl, was continually swallowing pills which, I presumed from her behaviour, were very powerful drugs. The driver had a shotgun. I had a plan.

I grabbed the messed-up girl by the throat and bashed her over the head, forcing her to spit out the pill she was in the act of swallowing. Then, I grabbed the driver from behind, forced the pill into his mouth, wrestled the shotgun from him and ordered him to pull over. When the driver got out of the vehicle, however, I realised it was none other than midfield enforcer and versatile actor Vinnie Jones. He didn't seem too distressed by the fact that I had a shotgun on him, but I was pretty worried. I remembered the scene from Lock, stock and two smoking barrels where Vinnie Jones bashes a guy's head in with a car door, and I had a pretty strong feeling that he was planning to do something similar to me.

Pointing the shotgun at him, I ordered him to get into the boot of the vehicle, instead of which he disdainfully climbed back into the driver's seat and drove off, leaving me standing by the side of the road, looking like a bit of an idiot.

I took a couple of pot shots at the back of the retreating vehicle (can I say it was retreating? I guess it was just carrying on in the same direction), breaking the rear window and endangering several passing motorists. This having been none too successful, I commandeered a police vehicle and gave chase, but, like an amateur, I got myself stuck in the outside lane and realised belatedly that my quarry had taken the previous exit. A true CTU maverick would have swung the vehicle around and headed back in the face of oncoming traffic, but this seemed dangerous and stupid to me so I didn't bother. I was just happy that I wasn't going to be handed over to any terrorists for interrogation and pistol-whipping.

Jack Bauer would have been ashamed of me.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


The benefits of a liberal upbringing

Thanks to my trendy-lefty parents, I've always been encouraged to read good quality broadsheet newspapers, instead of sensationalist tabloid crap. Take the following fine example of journalism.

The strange case of the homosexual necrophiliac duck pushed out the boundaries of knowledge in a rather improbable way when it was recorded by Dutch researcher Kees Moeliker.
Necrophilia among ducks ruffles research feathers The Guardian, 8th March, 2005


Saturday, March 05, 2005



An apparently friendly motorist in Germany stopped to tow a broken-down car, stranded the owners as he sped away, crashed their car into a gas station and then drove off, police said Thursday.

"After attaching it, the man sped off so fast that the two hadn't even got into the car -- and were left gesticulating wildly," said police in Aachen. The man then drove toward the gas station, swerving his own car at the last minute.

"But the trailing vehicle went straight on and smashed into the air pump," police said. "The station attendant was roused by the noise and saw a man uncoupling his car from the battered vehicle before departing without further ado."

Police said there was no trace of the reckless driver.
The Good Samaritan,
Reuters, Fri Mar 4, 2005

Attention Rockstar Games: I want to be able to do that in the next version of Grand Theft Auto.

Incidentally, I've been telling the Panasonic staff who study at my school to get cracking on Jet Car technology; I want one for my 50th birthday and if I don't get one, I intend to make life VERY uncomfortable for the scientific community, especially the presenters of Tomorrow's World, who've been promising me Jet Cars since I was a kid.

You have been warned.


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