Tuesday, April 29, 2008


More on the celebrated subject of werdz

It was always an impossible task, and that was precisely the point. The attempt was all.
Ian McEwan

When I first started posting to this site, I was keen that my thoughts in writing should not fall into the same trap as my thoughts when spoken out loud. Namely, to be riddled with foul language. It was once my hope that friends' mothers might be able to read this page without grimacing.

Today, I conducted a search through my site using the bar at the top and a couple of choice expressions, and was gloomily unsurprised by how many times they showed up, often italicised, emboldened or in upper case.

Ah, well: the author stoically throws himself upon his pen and springs, fresh and whole, back to life from the ground. Maybe next year will be the year I clean it up.


SCENE: El Pancho (?) Mex Restaurant in the heart of do-or-die Shinsai. I'm having lunch with the VMM and have just, as is my wont, made it through a sentence of Dickensian length, littered with Fs and whatnot.

HE (laughing): Dude, there are families in here.

ME: What year?!

Can't beat the classics. For a second, I thought he was going to cough his drink out of his nose.



Painting the east red

Edwin has called in for the Japan leg of his world tour and it's continual mayhem: the two of us plus Brett and Mike O spent the last portion of Sunday night/ Monday morning camped out in a weird tortured-metal bombed-cathedral looking structure in the middle of one of Osaka's busiest junctions, surrounded by turbines, playing old classics on the guitar and making up some new classics while we were at it.

There's been football as well, and here we see Dan reinventing himself as the dreaded v3.0 gets closer to hitting the shelves.

We played with Baggina last Saturday and the oppo had a pretty good central midfielder (no 21) who was into the physical side of the game: lots of shirt-pulling, lots of off the ball body-checking. Most of us were getting fairly fed up with the myopic-verging-on-racial-discrimination refereeing (a fixture in Baggina games) so I unleashed the all-new Dan The Midfield Enforcer.

Number 21 passes the ball, Dan, arriving half a second late, swipes his legs out and dumps him on the hard, dusty gravel that passes for a playing surface in these parts.

The referee, true to form, was looking in entirely the wrong direction at the time, as he was a few minutes later when I gave our would-be Stevie G a pretty solid body check to the chest, narrowly missing out on the bonus points required for a knee in the family jewels.

Having sated my bloodlust, I went back to Dan v2.9: mild-mannered goal scorer. Number 21, for his part, gave up on bashing me. Probably a wise move in the circumstances: the east is red with gaijin anger.

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Monday, April 21, 2008


Saw it coming...

Although Prescott tried to hide the illness from his wife, Pauline, she realised what was going on. "The signs in the toilet gave it away, and all the missing food."
'I took refuge in stuffing my face ...'
John Prescott admits bulimia

The Grauniad, April 21st, 2008


Quite the revelation. The title of this post is a pork pie, by the way: wouldn't have called Two Jags as a bulimic in a million years.

Health experts have praised Prescott's bravery in coming forward, although comment on the internet has been tended to be less than kind.

Personally, I didn't think much to Prescott in office, but I don't agree with those who are questioning the authenticity of his eating disorder.


Ah, some background for those amongst the readership who aren't au fait with the wonderful thing that is British politics...

John Prescott was, until Tory Blair's resignation, the Deputy Prime Minister of our sceptred Isle. During his stint at the helm of the newly-created Ministry For Telling People What's Good For Them (ok- Environment and Transport) he became rather infamous for the apparent disparity between What's Good For Them (less traffic on the roads, revamped public transport) and What's Good For Him (a brace of Jaguars, hence the above alias.)

Other controversies that cropped up during his government career include The Usual (yes, I think you all know what I'm talking about) and an incident when he punched a farmer in the face for throwing an egg at him. In fact, this latter was probably the most popular thing Prescott did as a government minister, his resignation being a close second.

To the best of my knowledge, Prescott has not been replaced as Deputy Prime Minister. His successor as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party is the very lovely and wonderful Harriet Harman who, despite being a very vocal supporter of state-run comprehensive schools, didn't send either of her kids to one. Nice touch of continuity, that.


Prescott on seeing a specialist:
"I turned up and found his waiting room full of young women. I was the only man there. I felt a right twerp. Luckily none of them shopped me to the press."


Sunday, April 20, 2008


A scuff from a muppet and a blast from the past

Last night me and Tricky, along with a new Real recruit called Cam, turned out for Baggina (sic) FC, a pretty handy Japanese side that's been providing Real with ringers since way back when. Note on pronunciation: it's Bah-jee-nah. If you pronounce it with a hard "G", you get the Japanese word for "vagina" which is unlikely to strike fear into opponents.

Prior to the game, I was arguing the toss with Tricky about tournament PK responsibility. Tricky, apparently, thinks I'm a bit of a liability from 12 yards (this on the basis of one missed in actual match play for Real, and several missed in a warm-up in Nagano when I had a rancid hangover.) I, on the other hand, remain convinced that I'm the ghost of Le Tiss, having missed only two penalties in matches out of several dozen spot kicks during my illustrious career.

It's not the first time we've had this discussion.

The game itself was played over three periods (1 * 30 mins, 2 * 35-ish, I think.) For the first period, the Real contingent (namely, all the gaijin) had to play for Baggina's opposition, who had not had sufficient foresight to bring a full complement of players, and were all about 3'7".

In the second period, we got to play for the grown-ups and, wouldn't you know it, Baggina get a penalty after their striker pulls on a defender's shirt then dives to the floor. The referee (Baggina) gives it; Yuki calls on me to take it, me having buried a PK in my previous appearance for the Baggies. I'm completely disgusted that a penalty has even been awarded and tell Yuki where to put it, whereupon Yuki calls on Tricky: hazusu kara ("because he'll miss anyway.")

Tricky puts the ball on the spot. "Go on Tricky, bury those demons" I shout, referring to his previous PK which put us out of the Awaji tournament.

Tricky runs in and fires towards the bottom right-hand corner. The midget goalie scampers across and kicks it away in a manner not dissimilar to Mario booting one of those turtle-shell thingies in the classic Nintendo game. Everyone sniggers, especially me: not the most dignified way to have one's penalty saved.

Two minutes later Dan gets the ball in the penalty area, evades two would-be challengers, runs head-on into a third and, somehow, emerges with the ball about six yards out with only the keeper to beat. Goal to Dan.

Suitably content with further evidence of my own genius (Tricky got a goal in the third period, just in case anyone's feeling sorry for him) I rounded off the night by getting top score on one of those karaoke machines that gives out random scores when Eamonn and I pulled out a heart-warming, ear wax-loosening rendition of a classic we'd been reminded of in Murphy's bog-standard Irish bar earlier on.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008


"The" Diploma

Today's Guardian clued me in to the fact that British education is about to get yet another overhaul with the introduction of The Diploma.

First of all, let me say that I'm not a fan of The Name. "The Diploma" puts me in the mind of gothic sci-fi films, where the whole planet is controlled by a company called The Company, or whatever.

What's more, the article relates the grave misgivings of one Jerry Jarvis (managing director of Edexcel, which is The Organisation, don'tcher know):

The head of one of the UK's leading exam boards warns today that up to 40,000 students could be left with "worthless" qualifications unless flaws in the government's flagship diploma course are urgently corrected.

Setting out wide-ranging concerns in an interview with the Guardian, Jerry Jarvis, managing director of Edexcel, said the new diploma system "risks failure" when it is introduced into schools this September.

Does this remind anyone of the GNVQ (General National Vocational Qualification, aka. Going Nowhere Very Quickly)?

I don't personally see the need for a qualification which falls halfway between being academic and being vocational. If you're going to get a job out of school, do a straight vocational course (eg. BTEC); if you're going to uni, do A levels (unless you're planning to do something vocational at uni, in which case... oh sod it, whatever.)

Rant, spleen. Maybe I just don't like change: A levels look like they'll be on the way out over the next couple of years, another piece of my youth cast into the void of eternity: that "A" in English Lit that I worked so hard for, and that "A" in Politics that I just randomly got.

...That "B" in General Studies, which might have been an "A" had I not simply put down "C" as the answer for every single question in the Foreign Language section, not trusting my rusty French...


Further reading
The Gruaniad article
What is The Diploma and where does it live?
GNVQ graduates page

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Polly says...

Eamonn and I were having a profound discussion on the subject of Tourette's syndrome (inspired by an episode of South Park.) Eamonn related an anecdote where his friend Dom, giving a recruitment speech to a group of potential RSPCA volunteers, found himself having to keep a straight face and soldier on as one of the audience kept yelling things like "cock!" and "shit!" at him.

The comedic potential of an RSPCA volunteer with Tourette's was not lost on me.

"I insist that she's put in charge of abused parrots."

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008




–adjective Scot.

1. twisted; crooked; distorted.
2. contrary; peevish; perverse.
3. unpleasant; sullen.



Japanese equivalent of number 3 above; got this from reading a newspaper article about Asashoryu.

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Monday, April 14, 2008


Alternative professions and travel safety

Told a Japanese acquaintance that I was looking to make the move out of English teaching into some other profession. When asked what, I came up with my usual answer, which is atari-ya (someone who deliberately gets involved in road accidents in order to demand on-the-spot compensation from the driver) with the alternative of tsutsumotase. This latter translates into English as "badger game", with thanks to this page's Japanese readership for knowledge dropped.

On a not entirely dissimilar thread to the latter, read an article on the Mainichi web site about how train operators are not planning to provide male-only carriages, despite growing numbers of flighty jawns making false accusations of groping in order to earn some filthy lucre.

This place, honestly...

I've never been a fan of the women-only carriages. What message are they sending to women who stand in the other carriages? You're making yourself a target? You're asking for trouble?

On your own head be it?

Knowledge gleaned from the VMM: if you're on a crowded train, keep both hands up on the hand rail where they can be seen. Because when a girl screams "chikan" you know some OB would love to think it was the gaijin.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Facebook photo fest

I have discovered a new love of Facebook. Originally I was opposed to the removal of the automatic "is" from the status bar, reasoning that tighter rules of composition can sometimes stimulate creativity; take Haiku, for example.

However, being able to set my status to "has removed you from his friends list" has kept me laughing since this time yesterday. Genius, if I do say so myself.

Oh, anyway, there's photos too:

Kyushu with Joe

Kobe and Kyoto with Joe

Hanami with a hangover

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Daniel McKeown, Japan guide extraordinaire

Walking around the garden in Ryoan-ji temple with Joe, I recalled that I had fed him a bit of misinformation a few days earlier: I had claimed that traditional Japanese gardens always dumped chemicals in the pond to make it offer a more beautiful reflection, an unfortunate consequence of which was that it killed all the fish.

I thought I'd best disabuse Joe of this notion before he asked our guide about it, or similar. Joe took the revelation with his customary good humour, calling me a twat and asking me why I always had to lie about everything.

A fair point. Certainly, Japan is a country where you can get away with lying to newbies more than most, full of customs, contradictions and quaint mannerisms as it is.

In fairness to Joe, he had seen right through me when I'd told him that most newborns in the 50s were fitted with pacemakers at birth, in order to revive the Japanese economy and boost productivity. I'd thought this to be a pretty plausible yarn and certainly no less implausible than some of the things in the country which I now know to be fact. What had undone me was my face: Joe told me that he always knew when I looked really, really sincere I was definitely lying.

Can't win them all, I thought, as we trooped up to the temple. We shed our shoes in the entrance to the main hall; I noted Joe's socks.

"Purple socks? Er, actually purple is considered a really inauspicious colour in Japan..."


Monday, April 07, 2008


Cubicle 55

At one point early on yesterday, while the VMM was still sober enough to talk, he posited the theory that Japan's convenience is costing us smarts. I agreed, giving the example of how he'd woken up the previous evening in Yodo, and had to make it home via taxi. My blag went along the lines of: anyone who falls asleep on the last train and overshoots their stop should be waking up next to a river with their throat cut. Or similar. It goes against everything Darwin was talking about, I said.

Then I got very drunk, fell asleep on the last train and woke up in Yodo. So much for Darwin.

And so, the day after I posted my toussle-haired sibling back to blighty, I celebrated the return to normality by waking up in an internet cafe, wearing an AFC Bournmouth football shirt.

There is no door on the cubicle. A reassuring sign in Japanese with the Mitsubishi logo at the top tells me that the place is rigged to the hilt with security cameras, so there's peace of mind for you, or would be had I not arrived on a purloined steed.

And I get the feeling that, a few years hence, I won't just be spending the night in one of these places: I'll be conducting my existence out of one. Further responsibility removed from the individual and we'll all be kept safe from ourselves. Man in a box, you can't fight city hall, etc.

And now I think I'll help myself to some of the free CC Lemon. It's got chemicals in it that make you docile and impotent, don't you know. I've learnt to love Big Brother.


Friday, April 04, 2008


Kyushu photos

Here's a few snaps of me and Joe on our Kyushu jaunt. We visited Fukuoka and Nagasaki. There'll be more to follow on facebook and this page after I'm finally rid of the shag-haired villain and able to get down to some serious geekery again.

Notes for the non-Nippon literate: Kyushu is the southernmost of Japan's four main islands. It takes about twelve hours by ferry from Osaka. And the Softbank Hawks suck.

The boat to Moji.

Joe's bed.

My bed.

(We got upgraded from economy floorspace!)

Fukuoka: Joe was suitably impressed with the o-hanami.

Nagasaki: a temple.

The Japanese phrase for "two peas in a pod" is uri futatsu, meaning "two melons."

Go on, say it...

Fine weather in Nagasaki peace park (peace statue in the background.)

The one-legged torii gate in Nagasaki. No prizes for guessing what happened to the other leg.

The 26 Christian martyrs of Japan (go on, count them!)

These were crucified in Nagasaki in 1597 after the shogunate had decided that having Christians about the place wasn't a good idea.

More snaps to follow!

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Brethren blunders

"OK, everything's in the bags. Let's get cracking. Hold on- where have my keys gone?"

Joe heaves an almighty sigh, drops his stuff and helps me wreck up my room for the subsequent several minutes. We confirm that the key is not on my bed, then proceed to throw everything in the room onto the bed, hoping to unearth stray keys this way. No dice.

More sighing. Ne'er a key to be found however, and the boat unlikely to wait for us at the dock. I suggest we just go to Kyushu and leave my bedroom door unlocked for the weekend. Joe is not a fan of this but the circumstances offer no alternative. He pockets his passport for safekeeping and off we go.

When we arrive at the ferry terminal, Joe has a moment of clarity and fishes my keys out of his pocket. Visions of a burglar cautiously opening my bedroom door, peeking in and, mistakenly concluding that someone has already ransacked the place, departing without nicking anything stay my wrath.

Sigh. Kyushu was good.


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