Friday, September 23, 2005


Stand-up comedy

Yesterday being the last day of my working week, I persuaded one of my workmates, Wes, to go for a drink after work (he didn't take that much persuading, to be honest.)

It turned out that Wes knew of a tachinomiya (stand-up bar) close to the station, although it's possible that he didn't appreciate the true significance of this find. I did.

Walker and I attended the Furukawabashi tachinomiya on a pretty regular basis and still go back there from time to time, because it's dirt cheap and there are no gaijin. Because Walker would end up arguing the toss about baseball or movies with the locals (both of which are complete mysteries to me, bearing in mind that we're talking about Japanese baseball and Japanese movies), I was largely a conversational bystander, but it was good fun, particularly when the master was trying to kill cockroaches without drawing attention to the fact that there were cockroaches.

Anyway, I was stoked when I found out there was an affordable watering hole within a stone's throw of my school. We went in and, typically, the place was tacked-on to the side of a liquor store and full of dour-faced, middle-aged Japanese guys. Everyone seemed pretty intent on the TV, so Wes and I just talked to each other. The master pointedly turned up the volume on the TV.

Thankfully, we were able to strike up a conversation with some of the other patrons and the whole place began to seem a lot more relaxed. A couple of stray cats wandered in the door, I asked the master if this was normal, but he said they were a pest and hissed at them. The cats didn't budge an inch.

I was a little puzzled by how clean and well-groomed the cats seemed, compared to the strays in my neighbourhood. Then the master threw a glass of water over one of them and they all scarpered. Another mystery was solved.

As with all tachinomiya, the bar was pretty grubby and populated by people who don't converse with foreigners too much, but the prices were cheap and once the locals had thawed out a bit, we had a pretty good chat with them. This place is definitely one for the future.

Wes, incidentally, studied at McMaster. As far as I can tell, this is Canada's primary source of loudmouths.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Ferrari psycho

Finally, finally, I got a new phone. It's red with the Ferrari logo on it and it opens a shuts with a nice click, as opposed to the unseemly flopping about that my old knackered phone was doing.

check it out!

And within a few hours of getting this shiny new handset, I was thrown back into the world of stalkermail. I'd blocked her address on my old phone; I didn't mind the mails about broken glass and the like, it was when I received one that said "Hi Dan, how are you this evening?" that I flipped my lid and figured out how to block her address.

That kind of crap always winds me up. If you've got something to say, hit me up, but e-mail was not created for the exchange of luke-warm pleasantries at 5 yen a shot. Incidentally, it was after I received a similar text to the above that I made up my mind to dump one of my old girlfriends. True story.

Anyway, enough of my chivalrous past. The point is, my new phone is not immune to the stalker's psychotic tomfoolery; I still haven't found out how to block e-mail on my new phone, I've received a bunch of stalker mails over the past few days and a new era of being driven up the wall has dawned.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Enter the beaver

One thing I didn't mention about the new flatmate in the previous post is that he has his degree in music and is quite a dab hand at the guitar. He was teaching me a few picking exercises this evening when I happened to glance up at the wall and noticed that we had a shiny, white, spanking new air conditioner. After having survived the Osaka Summer with only our wit and sagacity.

How's that for timing?

Mike got home a little later, took one look at the new unit and shouted "beaver!" This, as it turned out, was the brand name of the air conditioner.

It emerged that none of us had actually seen this air conditioner arrive, which caused a bit of head-shaking. You have to wonder what kind of a country this is, where people wait until the end of Summer, then march brazenly into your apartment when you're not around and install a new air-con.

Damn, I still haven't got this place figured out.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Still fighting the good fight

Damn, long time since my last post. In case anyone was worried that I might have succumbed to injuries inflicted by tosspots in cheap cars, the good news is that I haven't. So far.

Other news: got a new bike (dubbed "The Executioner"), have not yet signed a new contract with NOVA (been offered, but considering if it's the best move right now), and have a NEW FLATMATE.

The official literature informed us that he was from the United Kingdom, etc, etc and would be spending his first night in the apartment on September the 7th. My worst fears were realised when I got home on the 7th to find this frankly massive geezer with an accent I can only describe as antipodean (being unable to tell Aussie and Kiwi apart) and with the word "rugby" written all over him.

It transpired that Jamie (for Jamie is his name) was born in Scotland, but his family moved to New Zealand when he was 10.

I immediately thought that this didn't bode well for registering him as a foreign resident in Japan and so it proved.

Naniwa ward office, Osaka. Dan and Jamie are one side of the applications counter. On the other side is the INEVITABLE STUPID BITCH, hereafter referred to as ISB.

ISB: Umareta wa Scotto desu ne?

Dan: Hai.

ISB: Demo, juusho wa Nyuu Jiirando desho?

Dan: Hai.

ISB: Scotto no juusho wa arimasu ka?

Dan: Nai desu. Nyuu Jiirando ni sunde itta.

ISB: Demo...

And with that, the conversation pretty much went back to square one. For those not in the know, demo means "but", and the ISB was giving me more "but" than a kamoshika rampaging through a ward full of haemophiliacs and osteoporosis sufferers. The Japanese are always hopeful that if they tut a bit about something and start with a "but" or an "erm", you'll realise your error and not force them to ask you any more questions or give you any unpleasant information. After my previous experience in UFJ, I owed it to myself to get some satisfaction out of this one.

After holding out a bit longer I relented and explained to her that we'd filled in his place of birth as Scotland before putting his address as New Zealand for the totally unthinkable reason that he'd been born in Scotland, but had then moved to New Zealand.

The ISB probably realised at this point that we weren't particularly impressed with her deductive capabilities. She smiled winsomely, which is something I particularly hate as it tends to coincide with crappy service, and informed us that in that case we shouldn't have filled out the address part.

I gave her an extra funny look and told her that in that case she should cross it out. Bam!

Saturday, September 03, 2005


This was not called execution. This was called retirement.

O shirase / for your information
There are those of you, I'm sure, who are quite fond of me, and would find the idea of me going under the front wheels of a car somewhat distressing. You may not enjoy the following anecdote. Perhaps it would be a better idea to start this post with the announcement that I'm alive, well and don't have a scratch on me. That said, I don't think my bike's going anywhere ever again.

Here's why:

The tale of woe: I was riding to Shinsaibashi last night to pick up some money from Andrew (I covered one of his classes while he was in China.) I was jetting down a side street, approaching a junction. I was wearing a white t-shirt and my bike had a dynamo light. I had right of way. There was a black car edging out into the junction from one side.

I swerved slightly to go around the front of the car, which was still edging forward slowly, slowly.

Then slightly less slowly, the car pulled forward, gently pushing into me and the bike. I yelled TOMARE! "stop!" but the car kept coming. Oh crap, I thought as I toppled sideways, this guy's a lunatic and he's running me over on purpose. How the hell am I going to make it out of this? There was a crunching sound as the car's crappy fibreglass bumper splintered on the bike, then the car stopped and I pulled my bike upright, cast a venomous look at the driver, then prepared to go on my way.

My bike wouldn't move.

Hmmm, I thought, if this guy really is a lunatic and he just ran me down on purpose, I could be in a spot of bother here. There was a small crowd of people gawping outside the convenience store on the corner, but I knew the possibility of anyone interceding on my behalf if things got hairy was zero.

The motorist pulled his car over to one side and climbed out. As he approached, I was relieved to see that I was about twice the size of him.

Please excuse me, he said, in Japanese. This looks a little more promising, I thought.

I'm ok, I said.

He fished out his wallet and tried to give me 10,000 yen. I argued him down to 5000, although a more detailed examination of my bike's wheels 10 minutes later indicated that my nobility may have been misplaced. We exchanged phone numbers.

Where are you going? he asked.

Shinsaibashi I said.

Do you need a lift?

I think I'd prefer to walk.

To be honest, this is the only point in the exchange when I felt my grasp of Japanese was insufficient to convey my meaning. What I wanted to say was, you just managed to run me over in a completely empty street through sheer incompetence. I dread to think what horrors may unfold in front of my eyes if I accept your well-intentioned offer.

"Yeah, hop in the back mate- he ran me over 10 minutes ago."

Do you have any injuries? he asked.

I beg your pardon?

Do you have any injuries?

No, I'm fine.

Once again, I'm very sorry.

No problem.

I propped my sadly-abused bike up outside the convenience store. None of the patrons spoke to me. I had become that most unwelcome phenomena in Japan, an abnormality, it would seem.

I'd had the bike for 18 months, nicknamed it "the blade" and left it out in the rain. It had once slipped its chain and nearly pitched me headlong into moving traffic at one of Osaka's busiest junctions, but, when the time came, it took a bullet for me.

I locked it (a token gesture), hefted my bag and started walking. Guilt for the survivor.

Thereafter, my evening improved. Andrew gave me 8000 yen and didn't run me over at all. He criticised me for not negotiating a decent settlement from the guy, but I had 5 notes to get drunk with from my escapade. Right there and then, that seemed like plenty.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Busting my acorn open

A mnemonic... is a memory aid. Mnemonics are often verbal, are sometimes in verse form, and are often used to remember lists. Mnemonics rely not only on repetition to remember facts, but also on associations between easy-to-remember constructs and lists of data, based on the principle that the human mind much more easily remembers data attached to spatial, personal or otherwise meaningful information than that occurring in meaningless sequences. The word mnemonic shares etymology with Mnemosyne, the name of the titan who personified Memory in Greek mythology.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

So, the study for December's Japanese test (the pronunciation of which I keep tripping over when I try to mention it) has begun in earnest and I've decided to concentrate my initial efforts on memorising vocabulary. I'm hoping that my listening difficulties are largely down to the fact that I don't know all that many words and not, in fact, because I'm a cloth-eared dunce.

In an effort to aid retention, I've resorted to the oft-maligned technique of mnemonics. For example, the Japanese word for heating, danbou which is just bound to make a speedy getaway through the first unclogged ear: Mike and Dan both need heating.

And even if my ingenious memory aid doesn't help me remember the stupid word, the fact that I've put it on my website may.

Anyway, I'm stuffing words into my brain along with all other manner of random tomfoolery and awaiting the point where something tips the apple cart. With the number of random rhymes, weird word-associations and asinine acronyms pulsing in my cranium like an absinth hangover, the last thing I need is any kind of fly in the proverbial ointment.

By the way, here's a picture of me at school today:

Bear in mind, this was after my first lesson.

I thought that Japanese study might have been straining Mike's grip on reality a bit too when I discovered that he'd put a bottle of whisky in the fridge. As it turned out, he thought this was a perfectly normal thing to do.

Some of us are born to lunacy, others achieve it.

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