Monday, December 26, 2005

Do They Know T'Was Christmas Time at All?

Monday December 26th 2005
Though its Boxing Day,only one day after Christmas Day,all the decorations have vanished.Done.Sales figures and targets met or exceeded.Or not.Onward to the New Year.More sales.More bargains.
The Christian message behind Christmas is lost, no buried, in the commerical splurge of the festive frenzy.Its a very important season.One source calculated its worth about ¥700 billion to the Japanese economy.

Christmas wasnt widely celebrated in Japan until about 100 years ago.At first trees and decorations appeared in trendy parts of Tokyo such as Ginza.By the 1920's the holiday had become an annual festival even in rural areas.
Christmas acts as a prelude to the more important New Year festivals.In fact Christmas Eve seems to be more important than Christmas Day itself.Especially with couples.
Some original Japanese traditions include expensive Christmas Eve dates and presents along with the eating of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Christmas cake.A local firm Fujiya started the cake eating trend way back in 1911.

My Christmas Day.
Pretty uneventful.Christmas Day here isnt a public holiday neither is the 26th.I worked.After work I went to a nearby sushi restaurant.Just another day for most of the students.The regular Sunday students appeared as usual.

We finish up for the year tomorrow,Tuesday 27th.Back on Jan5th.Eight days.To read.To relax.Catch up on some overdue paper mache projects.Maybe catch a movie.Unfortunately many public facilities such as gardens,galleries and museums are closed over the break.So no real plans.
Plus its still darn cold.Last Thursday we had another dumping of snow.About 12cm.Was fun crunching through it on the way home on foot.Abandoned my bike as too dangerous and slippery to ride.
People huddling and shuffling together like so many penguins on the train platforms as the snow threatened to bury them....

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Big Chill

Monday 19 December 2005
Osu Kannon Temple,Nagoya Central Japan
My local Buddhist temple.I live about a block away.5 minutes on foot.(9 on crutches,the subways also near here).A popular hatsumode or New Years destination theres been a temple here since 1612.The present buildings however date from the 1970's.The grounds are also used twice a month to host a large market of various goods and second hand stuff.Well worth browsing.

Brrr... Part Deux

Monday 19 December 2005
Weatherwise it feels like Christmas.Started to snow politely late Saturday night.I awoke to crunchy footpaths.Too treacherous to ride a bike.Tyre chains flailing against asphalt.Around 20-30cm fell depending where you live or who you believe.The most in 58 years.Usually doesnt arrive till late December or early January.So much for global warming.

I reluctantly trudged in white out condtions last night to our staff party.What a choice either watch a dour World Club Championship game which Liverpool lost 1-0 or attend our staff party.Maybe I thought I`d die of exposure on the way.
It was a 100 minute special deal affair.¥4,500 yen.Somewhat steep.But the food was well presented if a little sparse.
I arrived about three quarters of an hour after it started.Now the problem with most staff parties and this one in particular was that everyone ends up talking shop.Not surprising really given that work is the only thing the diverse characters have in common.But God its so boring.I tuned out and occupied myself by playing alternatively with my cell phone and camera.While our boy wonder boss pontificated and interrogated the newer staff members.Who naively stroked his ego.Im surprised he didnt have his notebook handy as he gathered material to be held against one in the future.Probably had a hidden mic and tape recorder..paranoid? maybe but he's sowing seeds of dissatisfaction...reap what you sow..
I consoled myself by leaving early.Only attended through a misguided sense of duty.I'd told the staff I'd attend and it didnt seem fair for them to be lumbered with having to pay for my non -appearance.

"The Forgotten".The title says it all.Its down there with "Catwoman" as the worst dvd i`ve had the displeasure to see recently.A good cast including Julianne Moore and Gary Sinise.Wasted with a light weight b grade X-File script and poor cheap special effects.It sounded like a vaccum cleaner was used in the abduction scenes.Predictable telegraphed ending.Though it did start intriguing enough,just like the trailer.

Can You Be Perfect?
Watched "Friday Night Lights" starring Billy Bob Thorton as a high school football coach in Odessa Texas.The movie is based on a book of the same name detailing the teams 1988 season.It isnt just any team either.It has a history as a 4 time state champ.The game is almost treated like a religion such is the fervent, fanatical support.
The way the movie was edited reminded me of Oliver Stones "Any Given Sunday".Lots of flashy cuts and action shots.Its difficult at times to work out who is who as the the players all look the same in uniform and helmets.At least in soccer you know which player Harry Kewell is.He's the Liverpool player with the ridiculous ponytail thingy hanging off the back of his head.If he paid as much attention to his goalscoring skills as his hairstyle he might make a half decent player yet.
Anyway I digress, the dvd has some extra bonus stuff.The best of these featured the original players some 17 years after the season portrayed in the book and film.
The directors commentary didnt reveal much.The director, Peter Berg, is related to the writer of the book and they shared the commentary.They indulged in what one of my teachers before one school dance warned us about "mutual masturbation".
Lots of self congratulatory pats on the back were exchanged.Between the bonding I learned that the writer is no longer welcome by some sections of the Odessa population for exposing the abuse,racism and intimidation that seems to be part and parcel of the game and community.I also learned the director deliberately used faded tones to show the desolation of the place.mmm subtle.
I did enjoy the movie however.Billy Bob Thorton is always worth catching.One of the few who can convey as much by a look as a page of script.Enjoyed him in "The Alamo" earlier in the year.Watching him almost emotionally implode as he turns away from the team having told them their star players injury is minor and he'll be playing next game.Yet the look tells you, the viewer, he doesnt believe a word of it.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Make Merry Christmas

Make Merry Christmas
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
I think it should read "Have a Merry Christmas"
Shop sign at a store in Konan Apita Shopping Centre somewhere near Nagoya City Central Japan.


Monday 12 December 2005
Very cold today.A brisk ten minute walk to the daily grind.4 degrees celsius.Light snow falling.
Not a very exciting week gone.Cleaned out my closet of old unwanted clothes.Washed and neatly ironed.I left them in a bag near the garbage area of my building.Hopefully one of the local homeless who rummage through the trash looking for food scraps will find a use for the clothes.I wouldnt be surprised to see them reappear.

Whats the Beef?
As reported earlier after some two weeks of feverish activity a new McDonalds has opened in the vacant space left by KFC.Its located on the ground floor of my apartment building.Open from 7a.m to 9p.m.Most of the customers are from the next door ice skate rink.
You can smell the greasy, carbohydrate clogging stench from the shop as you descend the apartment buildings stairs.It seems to envelope you from the fourth floor down.Its worse at ground level.The atmosphere seems heavy.Thick.Dense.Like a fatty fog.Invasive.Permeating your skin and leaving an oily residue.Much like cigarette smoke in a crowded bar.Theres also the additional litter in the form of advertising flyers and burst balloons strewn about the footpath.
The big story this week, other than the 2006 World Cup draw, was a terrible error by a local securities firm.Basically a Mizuho Securities employee incorrectly inputed information about a clients sell order.He entered the sell order as" sell 610,000 shares at one yen (¥1) each" instead of vice versa.The sell order should have been "sell 1 share at ¥610,000".The latent loss to the company after investors and traders got wind of it amounts to some ¥30 billion.Ouch!!
What surprised me about this, well two things did, was firstly the speed of the whole event. A mere sixteen minutes from the time the sell order was executed through to the time the Tokyo Stock Exchange and Mizuho reacted.In that time via the internet share traders and others were alerted and took advantage of the oppurtunity to snap up most of the 610,000 shares.
The second surprising thing is that it appears the employee seemed to have ignored both Mizuho and the Stock Exchange computer warning systems while incorrectly making the sell order.Another investigation and much public bowing and many apologies can be expected.

The Miracle of Berne.
This is the title of a German dvd I watched last weekend.I only noticed it was German when I got home and played it.No English translation,soundtrack,or subtitles.I sometimes forget in Japan that foreign movies will usually be dubbed in Japanese or have Japanese subtitles rather than English.
Anyway I persevered.Glad I did.The movie is about the 1954 World Cup Finals in Switzeland and the final game between Germany and Hungary.Although its some nine years since the end of World War 2 the defeat still hangs over the country.German troops were still being repatriated from Russia.The movie is about the German team and its effect on a family and the wider German community.
I knew nothing about the 1954 Cup finals before viewing this movie and subsequent internet searches.In a nutshell the German team beat a Hungarian team heavily favored to win after being unbeaten for four and a half years.The victory was seen as a morale booster and energized the German people.
Its no coincidence then that the movie was released to celebrate the fifteeth anniversary of the game as well as cashing in on next years World Cup being hosted in Germany.Incidentally it appears to have been a pretty dramatic game.The German team came back from a 2-0 deficit to lead 3-2 with five minutes of normal time remaining.Only 3 members of the original 1954 team remain.They appear on the dvd in one of its extra features.Also included is footage of the actual game.The goals in the dvd are pretty faithful to those actually scored.One internet article reports the last German goal required five takes.
Also of note is the part played by one Adi Dassler, the founder of Adidas.His newly invented screw in studded boots gave the German team a decisive edge in the muddy,rainy conditions of the final.The Adidas website notes that after the game he marketed the boots as "World Champions".

World Cup 2006 Draw
The draw was televised live here 5a.m local time on Saturday.Japan in Group F is drawn with Brazil,Croatia and Australia.
Japan has never beaten Brazil the 5 time Cup holder.Croatia won 7 of its 10 qualifying games and was unbeaten.Australia hasnt been to the finals since 1974 the last time Germany hosted them.Australia does have wonder coach Gus Hiddick who led South Korea in the last finals.It will be interesting to see how Japan fares.I'm not sure it will get past the first round and make the final 16.I await June 12 and Japans first game against Australia......

Monday, December 05, 2005

Tsurumai Park

Tsurumai Park
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Behind the train station where I catch my ride to the daily grind is Tsurumai Park,Replete with its own duck,cat,turtle and homeless population.Living cheek and jowl among the rose beds,cherry trees,lakes and lawns.Theres a band rotunda near the centre of the park.With its own sloping grassy knoll.I recall spending a crisp early summer morn lying on my back counting numerous meterorites on that slope some years ago.I also remember chatting at dusk near the lake in this photo as the resident bats hunted down the last of the days dragonflies in the gathering gloom.

My Clone Sleeps Alone

Monday 5th December 2005
Watched Michael Bays latest screen spectacular "The Island" with Ewan Mcgregor and Scarlett Johansson.One redeeming feature was a short appearance by Steve Buscemi.The movie itself is an untidy amalgam of better movies welded together in a disjointed, overlong storyline.Car chases and explosions are meant to compensate for the lack of plot or character development.
A Saturday night escapist movie.Just leave your brain and credibility on "pause".

Murder They Gloat
Recently in Japan there have been a couple of high profile school child murders.The local media has been feasting on them like vultures.Reporting everything in grisly detail.Flushing out family and friends of the deceased for tearful interviews.Unnecessary.
Often such reports are accompanied with elaborate diagrams and models of the murder scene.One child's diary was displayed on TV.Extracts were read.For what purpose?
Seems the media revels in such tragedy.Voyeuristic.Feverish.Particularly if the suspect is a foreigner.Akin to a witchhunt.Trial by media.
In one of the cases a Japanese Peruvian man was a suspect.He has since confessed and has been charged.The media from the start always referred to him by his Peruvian rather than his Japanese name.The issue of xenophobia raised by this case and the pack mentality of the media was featured in an article in last weeks Japan Times.I'm of the opinion that the murder wouldnt have been so hyped up but for the fact a foreigner was implicated.

The House That JackAss Built
The other story dominating headlines has been a building scandal that keeps on growing.Shortly stated an architect under pressure to meet deadlines and cost cutting targets submitted false building earthquake resistance data.
Local building codes require that buildings can withstand earthquakes up to 5 plus on the Japanese scale of 7.Now its been found that 20 condominum buildings the architect worked on were between 26% and 78% of their required strength.
The number of buildings under suspicion has risen to 201 to date and includes several hotels.
Much finger pointing.Many accusations.Little responsibility being taken.One offical revealed he knew a year ago about the fabricated figures.The scandal has widened to include many building and design companies.Both private and government groups have been implicated.
The ones I feel sorry for are the owners of the condos.Forced to leave their shoddy buildings.Stuck with up to 35 year mortgages.Forced to seek legal redress and incur further costs for something they bought in good faith.....

Finished and thoroughly enjoyed Douglas Couplands "Eleanor Rigby".He can deftly describe a person in a sentence.."He had a complexion that said "I love vodka"..or funny one liners "Once you reach the age of thirty you lose the ability to feel sorry for yourself,instead you turn bitter."
He's good at conversations between characters as well.Whats left unsaid is as important as what is stated.He has an economic style yet it also has depth.He never over -elaborates or describes things.He doesnt hammer you with an issue like say Ben Elton.Not preachy.Not a smug display or a "look at me " of say Nick Hornby.
My final book of the year will be Dostoyevskys "Crime and Punishment".A Penguin classic translation.Told a friend I was starting it.Her reply...."In Russian?".....

Monday, November 28, 2005

Happy Warmly Christmas.

happy warmly christmas
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.

Yours Sincerely Waxing Away

Monday 28 November 2005

Strange past week.Punctuated by three notable deaths.
George Best,59, passed away due to major organ failure after 2 months in hospital and what seems decades of news reports of his fight with alcoholism.Hard to believe that, despite this and the fact that he retired at 26 and never appeared at a World Cup he's still held in such high regard.Ironic too,as others less kind already noted, he died in the same week England introduced new drinking laws which in theory could allow 24 hour drinking licences.
Pat Morita,73,"Mr Miyagi" of Karate Kid fame also died this week.He starred with a very young Hilary Swank in one of the series.Ms Swank you may remember had the female lead role in Million Dollar Baby which i saw recently.
Finally Richard Burns,34, former World Rally Champion and the only Englishman to win that title thus far.I recall an interview on NZ television as he had competed in the Rally of New Zealand.He seemed a determined even driven man.I couldnt help but think how young and unfortunate his death was as i read this mornings paper.

Workin Man Blues...
What follows is a rant.....
So I work for an English conversation school company.Have for the last 6 years or so.Been reasonably happy.Met some stupid people.Met far fewer I would willingly spend time with.Seems theres an inverse relationship at work...the people you loathe stay longer and either get promoted,fired,or find better jobs.Not necessairly in that order.
I have to admit I only stay in my present position for purely selfish,mercenary reasons.Money.It used to be good.

Over the past 2 years due to falling work conditions and exchange rate fluctuations this has changed.Any advantage I had has been eroded.Plus if you factor in the intangibles such as lack of fresh air,space and cheap cheese my situation has got grim.
And its getting grimmer.The company introduced a grammar free book with disastrous results.Higher level students can parrot drivel that leads nowhere.I made the mistake of suggesting to the staff at least half of the language in the book native speakers would never use conversationally.Let loose in the real world our higher level students would be lost.Unable to survive.Unable to construct a simple past irregular sentence.Unable to use comparisons."Hes gooder me"...translated "Hes better than me"...maybe.Often incoherent.Usually confusing.Ultimately mind sapping.
Nor is the standard on the other side of the table any better.Most instructors wouldnt know a prefix or suffix from an annex.The most dire example lately was a 25 year old Aussie bimbo who complained students used words like "melancholy" which she had never heard of.Poor mono syllablic thing.
Then again our so-called Education Quality Control is an oxymoron with numerous spelling errors e.g "Fabruary" or "begining".The much vaunted Media Centre sends reports studded with drivel such as "the student made many non-verbal utterances".I defy anyone to define what that is....
Most of the so-called hierarchy have little in the way of English teaching background or the ability to teach.
As previously noted it took an offical complaint to get our boy wonder boss to literally clean up his act.A bit hypocritical of him to tell someone they are unprofessionally dressed when he himself smells like a cross between a gorillas armpit and an Iraqi sewer.
Lately small things have begun to rankle.Maybe its my conscience.Maybe guilt, in taking part knowingly in such a fraud and farce.Take yesterday,for example,I come to work and notice the maps of Canada,New Zealand and Australia have been taken down.Not company material.Part of our company title is inter-cultural exchange just a mockery...The walls are now as blank and empty as the people in charge.Clueless.
I need to find a better job not necessairly better paid but one where extra effort is appreciated and the raw materials such as textbooks have substance, are valid and have some educational worth and value.And I need to find one quickly....
mmm feel slightly better or bitter having written this down damn frustrating tho....

Monday, November 21, 2005

Of Cabbages,Aliens and Bats

Monday 21 November 2005
Been battling a heavy cold.Sore throat.Blocked ears and nose.The works.I think I caught it waiting on an exposed train platform. Late last Monday night.I felt the icy fingers of winter prod and poke at my fragile frame.Switching between express,local and subway trains.The weather has turned decidedly cooler.Down to 2 to 4 degrees at night.Dragged out an extra blanket.Closed the balcony door at night.

Spent the weekend mostly in bed fighting my cold.Watching a mixture of sumo(the last tournament of the year is currently on),dvds and reading the latest in Alex McCall Smiths "The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series.Its good to reimmerse oneself in the well drawn characters and crafted stories.He has a soothing relaxed way of writing.In each book you learn more about the characters,Botswana and Africa.Sure theres some retracing and retelling of previous events to bring new readers up to speed but its done economically and in such a way as to further your knowledge.

I've included a photo of the fruit and veggie shop I visit each Saturday morning to get my supplies for the week.Very cheap and reasonable prices by Japanese standards.While I cant speak much Japanese and get chided for it the staff are very friendly.Its a family run business.I ususally get served by this ancient Yoda like woman.Obvivously the grandmother,mother,mother in law of the couple that run and manage the business.Its always very busy and noisy.As well as the many local residents who frequent the shop it also supplies many restaurants.
Across thed alley theres a ramshackle fishmonger selling a myriad of marine life.Either frozen or swimming around in its small polystyrene prison.

War of The Worlds was released here on dvd a couple of weeks ago.I finally managed to get one of the twenty odd copies available at the video store.
Im in two minds about it.Should it have just focussed on America or just Tom Cruise and his two brats or taken a wider global view as the title of the movie claims?While the special effects were great as you would expect from the director of ET and Close Encounters the plot was a bit limp.
There were loopholes and jumps in logic others have already noted.For example why was a handicam still working when all other electronic products had been disabled?Or how come none of the buried machines hadnt been discovered?
One major problem I had was that I didnt like the characters.Much like Closer I didnt care what happened to them.Tim Robbins turn as a mad survivalist seemed to slow the story down and added nothing.
Another problem was the ending.Lacklustre.No final climatic battle or even a twist like a new improved alien machine hurtling towards Earth.No reasonable explanation for the demise of the aliens.I would have liked a more plausible ending.Not the trite Morgan Freeman voice-over.

Speaking of Morgan Freeman hes featured a lot recently on my DVD player.Not only in War of the Worlds but also in Million Dollar Baby and in a small role in Batman Begins.
I liked this movie.Great cast.Liam Neeson,Michael Caine,Gary Oldman and Chrisian Bale.It also has Katie Holmes as the female lead.Shes not my favorite actress.Here she lacked the weight and presence to pull off the role of a District Attorney.She just wasnt convincing.
The first half of the movie was mainly exposition.Explaining how Batman got to where he was.The second plays out his plan to save Gotham.I think the director Christopher Nolan respects the Batman story unlike say Joel Schumacher and others who took a less than reverent approach and whose efforts degraded the whole franchaise.I also think hes a fan of Bladerunner.Many scenes of the nether regions of Gotham seemed an homage to that classic sci-fi movie.Surely the appearance of Rutger Hauer is further evidence?
Christian Bale, in the title role a million miles from The Machinist, played the character grimly with a mixture of moral superiority and revenge.Not all good not all bad.Not totally likeable but more credible for his faults and failings.
All in all despite my reservations about Katie Holmes I enjoyed Batman Begins as a form of harmless entertainment.,,,

Fruit and Veggie Market Osu Kannon Nagoya Japan

Monday, November 14, 2005

Goldfish(Koi) Shirotori Gardens Nagoya Japan

Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.

Monday 14 November 2005

Shirotori Park.Small Compact.Located in a suburb of Nagoya City.Comfortably walk around it in 5 or so minutes.From the air the ponds created within the gardens are said to resemble a swan in flight.Hence the name.There are some traditional tearooms and other buildings constructed by craftsmen from Kyoto.Think I've blogged about the park before.I visit every 3 months or so.To observe the changing seasons.Baby ducks.Cherry blossoms.Fall leaves.
Last Friday armed with my new digital camera I went again.
Still peaceful.Well kinda.Despite the recent appearance of an overbearing 15 floor building on its fringes.

Despite the increase in the feral cat population.
I stood frozen watching one stalk a seagull.Too slow to photo it pouncing and breaking the unfortunate birds neck.Too slow as it triumphantly dragged the limp corpse into the undergrowth.
Avian atrocities aside,for 50 yen you can purchase a small paper cup of fish food.To feed the piscean predators that populate the ponds.The goldfish or koi seem to hear the vibrations of your feet as you near the steps of the ponds.They begin to flock like bees and greedily fight for any pellet floating their way.
Mouths popping and slurping obscenely.Ive included a photo of aforesaid koi.
Still a bit early for the full glory of autumn to be reflected in the foilage.Evidently its been too warm.Maybe I'll get down to Kyoto late November when the season is at its peak.

Was disappointed with the 2005 Best American Short Stories edition this year.As selected by Michael Chabon.Should have known.Not really a fan.Nothing stood out.Nothing clever,no wordplay,phrase or metaphor to puzzle.All too similiar all too introspective.Each years edition seems dependent on that years guest editor.This years may have been good.Just not my taste.
On the other hand the 2005 Essays edition as chosen by Susan Orlean, ( author of "The Orchid Thief" the basis for the movie "Adaptation") is a much better read.The essays cover a broad range of topics from factual features to some personal memoirs.Much more enjoyable than Chabons offerings.

Briefly.I've watched a few good ones of late.Though I cant see why some gush over "Napoleon Dynamite".Seems to be a movie that tries too hard ,is too earnest.Sometimes bland and mediocre are just that.Bland.Mediocre.Unfunny.The ending was too pat,too contrived and feelgood.
Also watched "Million Dollar Baby" having been impressed with Eastwoods earlier "Unforgiven" and the more recent "Mystic Creek".Simply elegantly shot.Character driven.The use of light in some scenes is very effective and effecting.One shot with the light falling diagonally across Eastwoods characters craggy features conveys more than 10 pages of script could.The fight scenes reminded me of "Raging Bull".Bone crunching,nose breaking shots that made me wince.As with "Mystic Creek" theres a foreboding sense that all will not be well.The end also reminded me of another great movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest" with a release of sorts for the characters.
Lastly but not least I finally got to see "The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind".As with Chabon I'm not a Jim Carrey fan.His hyper drive maniac turns in other movies leave me cold.Like Robin Williams an acquired taste.Pleasantly surprised with his performance here.Almost human.Much pared down.Muted.Sans eye popping gimmicks.Sans facial tics.Sans nervous energy.sans everything really.A good supporting cast to back up Carrey and Kate Winslet the main protaganists.Kirsten Dundst and Elijah Woods among others.Woods played a character light years removed from Frodo Baggins.
Like "Million Dollar Baby" some scenes linger.One where the 2 main characters do "snow angels" or scenes where
Carreys character is desperately fighting to stop his memories disappearing or being erased.
Which got me thinking as most good movies and books do and we just keep the good memories of past relationships,filter out the bad or worse even adjust or reconstruct good ones?......

Monday 14 November 2005

sign of the times
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Spell Check.I had to include this shop sign.The annual shopping splurge and excess is well underway here in Nagoya Japan even if its incorrectly spelt...shogani...loosely translated "shogani" means "what can you do?" or "it cant be helped" in an exasperated manner

Monday, November 07, 2005

Paper Mache Brains Nagoya Foreign Artists Exhibition

Making an Exhibition of Oneself...the sequel

Monday November 7 2005

Well its over.Done.This years Foreign Artists Exhibition in Nagoya ended with a party in the Annex Hall of the International Centre last night.I had a few beers.Ate some food.Talked with some of the assembled artists and their friends.Nodded politely to others.Picked up my certificate acknowledging my participation.

One Mans Porn is Anothers Scorn
The exhibition ran from last Tuesday to Sunday.I went along on Friday for a few hours to mingle with the masses.Glory in my new found fame.Bask in the warmth of adulation....I met some of my fellow exhibitors.
Roy had a few pen and ink sketches,a couple of pieces of sculpture and three nude photo studies of a Vietnamese prostitute in a hotel on show.
One of the other exhibitors had considered the photos "exploitation".He justified the photos to me in a long tirade.Delivered in a loud,strident voice.His arguments heard by all in the display hall.I tried to interupt.Ask technical questions.About lighting
Ask about the hotel where he took the photos.Inquire about Vietnam.Anything to stop him using the words "tits" and "pussy".Repeatedly.
Personally I didnt find the photos pornographic or exploitation or even offensive.The poses so I reliably informed are similiar to those found in Playboy magazine.Nothing explicit.I thought the photos were kind of dated.Vaguely sad.As Roy himself said he'd paid her the equivalent of a nights work "about 10 guys worth" just to pose.Who was exploiting who I thought.
An interesting guy more than ready to share his views on any number of topics.

In contrast to the effusive Roy I also met a rather aloof serious American woman.She bore the name of Tullah May Terrell.Sounds like a Kurt Vonnegut character.She was propped up against a wall near her display.Some mixed media stencilled prints.I managed to prise out of her that she was from upstate Washington.Had a BFA and had been in Nagoya 1.5 years.Short terse answers to personal quetions.I swear I wasnt trying to pick her up.Though I duly noted she was in possession of rather attractive perky nose.A bit more forthcoming and animated when talking about her art and art.
As with Roy an interesting person and character a contrast from those i normally associate with.

Overall I enjoyed the exhibition.A bit scary putting stuff out there for public criticism.Nonetheless a chance to meet new people.An oppurtunity to discuss stuff I wouldnt ordinarily such as the drying times of acrylic paint,the perils of humidity and the rainy season.Or the hierarchy of art and whether photography can be considered an "art".

Now Im One
Started this blog last November.Thought I wouldnt have enough to write about.Not the case.Sometimes the opposite.
Since getting my own connection some two weeks ago Ive randomly sampled blogs on blogger and other hosts.Some are updated daily.Frankly I dont have the time.Besides I dont do enough to warrant a daily update.Im just not that exciting.

If a Picture Paints a Thousand Words....
One thing I noticed while randomly sampling blogs was that the more attractive, eyecatching ones had some pictures or illustrations on them.Not necessary better or well-informed but the photos etc broke up the banks and walls of print.Justified more than a cursory glance.
So to mark the year Im going to try to post some relevant photos on the blog.Relevant to the subject Im writing.Other photos should be accessible at my newly created flickr
I purchased a Sony digital camera on the advice of one of the guys at the exhibition.5.1 pixels.All the bells and whistles.Still trying to work out how to fully utilise its potential.
Being a Luddite of the first order the last few weeks have been a steep learning curve.Almost vertical.First the purchase of an Apple G4.Getting to grips with an entirely new operating system.Then the installation of an internet connection.Trying to master the idiosyncrasies of an Apple non-friendly environment.Finally the purchase and operation of a digital camera.Trying to load photos from the camera to the computer and then importing or is it exporting them???
If nothing else Im trying to conquer my fear of new technology.Putting off mental stagnation.Attempting to arrest atrophy.
Frustrating.Sometimes.Rewarding.Frequently.This blog represents those attempts and efforts.
So the first photo shows my collection of paper mache brains I displayed at the Foreign Artists Exhibition in Nagoya last week.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Making an Exhibition of Oneself

Monday 31 October 2005

So yesterday I went to the International Centre.Venue for the Foreign Artists Exhibition.Runs Tuesday through Sunday.Apprehensive.The taxi driver tried to make conversation.I tried to resist correcting his mistakes.My inner child Bob,grammar monitor was screaming in my head.I suppressed him.Barely.Incidentally why is one of the first questions always"How many sheeps is there in New Zealand?".Must remember to choose a non-agarian country next time.

Upon arriving at the fourth floor I was met by a choas of activity.People signing up and organizing their stuff in the display room.I felt immediately humbled.Awkward.Seemed many paintings and photography.Real art rather than the kids stuff and rainy afternoon filler that most people see as paper mache.I dont think i'll do much to dispel that image.
I tried to find an area away from most critical gazes.
A large beer can holding pony tailed man advanced towards me,arm extended.Yeech human contact.I briskly shook his clammy hand.Jim,one of the main organisers was very friendly and helpful.He advised me about the display and lighting.I arrived at 11:30 and left at 2pm.
Id sketched out where and how I wanted things displayed.It took longer than I thought to space and pin stuff.Plus other people came round to look and made encouraging noises.Mostly.This matronly woman steamed over glanced dismissively at my efforts uttered "Paper mache" and sailed away.At least she was honest.I noticed later while doing the rounds said woman was displaying these stereotypical watercolor prints of hydrangeas and other flora.Chocolate box stuff.
I'll go back on Friday and mix with the masses.On Sunday after the end of the exhibition theres a small party which should be interesting given the variety of nationalities involved.Yesterday I met a German,some Brazilians and Mexicans as well as a mixture of English,Irish and Aussies.
Was kinda funny leaving the pigs and frogs behind.I imagine its much like a parent letting go...the challenge is out in the real world to survive the criticism of others...whatever.

Watched this recently.Amazed at Christian Bales physical transformation.He lost about 4 stone.Looks like a cross between an Aids victim and a concentration camp survivor.The story itself is perplexing and confusing.Like Memento it plays round with time and it keeps you guessing what has,had or will happen.The movie itself is shot in mostly blue,gray industrial tones.Very moody.All the reviews Ive read speak of all the references to Polanski,Kafka and other literary things.If I were more educated or knowlegeable id have picked them and sagely nodded"ah that shot was a homage to Polanski".
Not being a film litterati however Im unburdened with this so I could enjoy this DVD even at a superfical level.

Couldnt let the week pass without some comment about this woman.None of the students at my school knew her and only a few teachers.I had to do a history course at Teachers College so was at least familiar with her name.
Briefly on December 1 1955 she refused to give up her seat as required on a Montgomery bus to a white man.Her subsequent arrest led to a 381 day boycott of the bus system organised by Martin Luther King.I read this week in a newspaper that her act of defiance sparked the creation of the civil rights movement in America.Both Rosa and her husband later lost their jobs,were harassed and threatened and moved to Detroit.
Rosa received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996 the highest award the U.S government can give a civilian.This week to finally honor her life her body will lie in state in Washington an honor usually reserved for Presidents and other high profile people rather than a 42 year old seamstress who felt " I had a right to be treated like any other passenger"Rest in Peace.

Many Japanese words sound similiar.Can be amusing or embarassing.Take for example the words for cat "neko" and the word for meat "niku".I'll let you imagine the scene when you confuse the two in a butchers shop.....

More Spelling Mistakes.
You would expect that December 25 and the shopping extravaganza that revolves around it from the end of October to early January would at least be spelt right.Of all the words in the English language surely this word has reached some kind of awareness in terms of spelling.But no! Imagine my disgust when i saw a sign in an upmaket boutique displaying the following example of the "cold-blooded murder of the English tongue" ok drum roll please and execution squad at the ready...the crime against humanity read "Merry Cristmas".I know its only missing an "h" but surely such a well known person or persons and common expression should be spelt correctly.Needless to say Bob my inner grammar Nazi was beside himself, It was all I could do to walk by.Bob wanted me to rip up the offending message or point out the error which would be lost on the shop staff. Should the sign be displayed next week I'll have to take a photo of it and see if I can get it on this blog.....  

Monday, October 24, 2005

Cant Get No Connection

Monday 24 October 2005

So 3 Fridays ago I did it.Finally gave in and bought a shiny happy Apple notebook.I'd been wrestling with the idea of getting an internet connection and updating my computer.I have an old computer I bought off a roommate some four years ago.It chugs along with a good video game card.Unfortunately its prone to crash and frequently requires rebooting.
I wanted something more stable,reliable,modern.Having seen the versatility and user-friendliness of Macs firsthand in Prague last year while getting my TEFL certificate I set my heart on one.A couple of other factors swayed my decision.First an Apple store recently opened in Nagoya.Secondly since my building has been painted Ive been beseiged by door to door salesmen selling cheap internet deals.So I finally caved in and signed up

The actual ISP deal is quite sweet the first 2 months service are free.Its easy enough even for an illiterate non Japanese speaker like me.The ISP company offers a free English support phone line.Which is good as their equipment only comes with Japanese manuals.Likewise the Mac which has an internal English manual only.The whole process takes a month or so from sign up,delivery of modem and installation by their staff.Or Not.The staff at my work handled the phone calls and arranged for the installation date.
So last Friday a company rep duly arrived.he entered my humble apartment and bowed duly while removing his shoes.So far so good.

There followed a sharp intake of breath and much wailing and gnashing of teeth as he cast his eyes on my new computer.
"Muzukashii"....difficult he uttered as his eyes rolled toward the back of his head.Evidently he wasnt conversant with the Apple O/S or Macs.
He arrived at 12:30 pm.Left at 3:00pm.In between there was a lot of fiddling.Much hand wringing.Head shaking.Muttering Repeated calls to his companys support line.As suddenly as he appeared he choked out a dispirited "Chotto Matte"....please wait a moment ....and departed.Defeated.
I continued to dust and clean my apartment.Resigned to the fact that things are never as simple as they seem.
At 4pm another rep turned up.Again the bow followed by the anguished pained look.I was beginning to feel guilty for having purchased such an inconvenient machine in the Land of Windows.

However by 5pm he'd managed to get me connected to the Net.His cellphone battery died as a result of prolonged calls to the support line for instructions and inspiration.I gave him mine.Round 5:15 he handed me back my phone.A friendly American woman on the other end explained that my password had an error in it.As a result there was a problem connecting me to the company email and other services.They would send me another in 6 days.I thanked her and praised the persistence and patience of her co-workers.The now beaming Japanese man left.Happy that I understood the situation and happier still that he didnt have to explain it to me in English.
I resumed washing the mugs I used to make my visitors tea.Having nothing to do all afternoon and standing round like an expectant father I find in such trying circumstances a cup of tea has certain curative soothing powers.
End result....a fibre optic "hikari" connection fully operational.Which Im happy with...till a student told me that its probably only fibre to the building and once there cable is used from the apartment buildings server to the individual apartment computers resulting in significant reduction in speed...whatever...

Been putting the final touches on my paper mache pieces ahead of this weekends Foreign Artists Exhibition.I have to take my works down to the Nagoya International Centre Sunday morning to set up for next weeks display.Between the computer saga and paper mache I havent had much time to read or watch anything of note though am currently enjoying a collection of O Henry short stories.He has a wry turn of expression and a freshness that makes it easy to see why he continues to be popular....

Monday, October 17, 2005

Gardening At Night 17th October 2005

Gardening At Night
Back home in New Zealand its now spring.Back home before coming to Nagoya I rented half a house which came with a sizable backyard and a vegetable patch.
I was reminded of my veggie garden as I meandered through the streets to work today.Here and there wedged between houses are small plots of cultivated land.

Back home I grew tomatoes,lettuces,various other vegetables and at last count 10 varieties of sunflowers.Spring was a busy time after the inactivity of winter.Different seeds and plants had to be selected and purchased.Fallow earth had to be tilled,turned over and fertilised.None of this chemical fertiliser.All natural leaf mold,grass clippings,blood and bone,chicken shit and seaweed were dug in.
A huge pear tree which provided shade over the garden produced an abundance of pears.The surplus I also dug in .Greedily devoured by worms,insects,birds and a resident family of hedgehogs who earned their keep as pest control agents.Often you could hear and see them at work their raspy,asthmatic breathing at dusk.
There were three main plots in which I rotated the crops as per my battered Yates Gardening bible.Along the fenceline I grew sunflowers of various hues and heights.
Ranging from the dwarf pompom types to the 2-3 metre regal Russian specimens with their large seed bearing heads providing food for the local sparrow population.

I also recall getting home after work and spending an hour or so each night weeding ,
watering,staking trimming and the numerous tasks required maintaining a garden.
Towards summer after the initial crops had been sown Id anticipate which kind of lettuces to sow for summer salads.Would it be the flashy frilly red green breed or a more reliable older conservative type.One summer I even tried to grow the yellow oval shaped low acid Italian tomatoes ...with mixed results.
Gardening is a very contemplative dare I say hands on interest.I envy the old men and women I saw today bent double in their plots.Here in Nagoya I only have a small balcony populated by a few desultory cacti and a listless rubber plant.Hardly enough challenge to keep my gardening skills up to par.
The Dictators
With its 165 or so pages of references and notes to say Richard Overys "The Dictators Hitlers Germany, Stalins Russia" is impressive is both an injustice and an understatement.The book is his attempt to put both regimes into their historical,political and social context.
Chapters deal with the ideas,political,social and cultural ambitions.Its an engrossing read.I just wonder how long it took him to assemble all the sources and then distill the results of such scholarship into such a compelling and coherent read.
One of the more interesting chapters deals with the relationship the dictatorships had with the existing social organisations such as the churches,trade unions and the legal systems.The use of terror,periodic purges and control of public opinion is described in some detail.
I never realised the extent to which the ideas of eugenics and biological engineering were used and subverted to murder ,castrate and sterlise not only Jews but other "asocials" or deviants such as gypsies,mentally ill,handicapped children and sexual offenders ....all in the pursuit of a superrace.
The sheer detail and density can be overwhelming at times I glazed over the chapter on controlling the economy.
Overall though, one of the weighty works of my year and thought provoking.How its possible for a regime or cliche to gain control then change and establish its own mindset and inculcate the younger members of its society.
The author also tackles the problematic idea of dissent.An ordinary citizen may baulk at some of the regimes policies yet happily comply with others when there is pressure from your conscience, fear for your job,family and reputation as well as state coercion in the form of concentration camps.
As he puts it however both systems didnt arise from some alien visitation but were populist dictatorships fed by mass participation and accepted by significant fractions of the population.
All in all it took me a month or so to read which in my opinion seems a fair trade off given the quality ,depth and wealth of detail in this 651 page book.
Bagels and a Blue Monday
One of the small joys and consolations of Mondays as I make my one and a half hour trek to deepest ,darkest Nagoyas suburbs is the thought of having bagels for lunch produced at the shopping centre bakery.When I first was assigned this task some 3 months ago there were three types baked...plain,blueberry and cheese.Proudly displayed.
Slowly but surely the display shrunk along with the disapperance of the cheese bagels.Imagine my horror today when I arrived to find the display completely gone and only the plain stodgy bagels hidden in the corner.Seems bagels havent been selling like hotcakes and their popularity has faded due to the fickleness of customers.
As if to compound matters ColdPlays new album was being played on our schools sound system.The predictable repeated rise and fall in each melody seems sure to induce either sea sickness or insanity caused by frequent exposure.....

Monday, October 10, 2005

Something In the Air

Something In The Air
Monday 10 October 2005

So we havent had a head teacher at my small English conversation school for the last four months.We coped.With the paperwork.With all the attendant problems that arose.Not total anarchy.Relaxed atmosphere.No sweat.No condescension in the ranks.
Till last week.
We got a new titled teacher.A kind of uber-head teacher.In charge of 5 schools.In his mid twenties.On the way up.Going places.
He stinks.Literally.Physically.Badly.Excessively.
"His epidermal pores show no signs of being obstructed " to steal a phrase from O.Henry.
Not to mince words he exudes a sweet sickly earthy aroma.A great unwashed fuming overripe stench.Body odour and noxious cigarette cigarette breath.Lethal.
So thick it lingers long after he exits the room for a clandestine nicotine fix between classes.Leaving those poor souls behind gagging in his sullied wake.For the sake of anonymity I'll call him Tony because thats his name.
The Pong Remains the Same
There are a number of things about this situation that get up my nose.Firstly,how can he be so unaware,so oblivious of his lack of personal hygiene and its impact on those he works with?Secondly, why hasnt someone tried to clean the air and brought the matter to his attention?
Sure he's in a position of authority which makes it all the more difficult to broach this problem.
Finally, if i do poke my nose in,how do I do so without raising a stink?
Do I tell him alone, diplomatically and sensitively or do I form a tar soap and lather lynch mob and outright confront him?
Or should I just wash my hands of the whole thing and sweep it under the carpet?
Then again am I duty bound to tell his superior about this scenter of distraction and get his boss to deal with it?
Never had to deal with this problem before, never thought I would ether.
Self Indulgent Weekend
It rained last Friday and Saturday.I stayed in.Armed with the just released third series dvds of "The Sopranos" and one litre of Hagen Daz classic chocolate I made some real progress at finishing my paper mache bits and pieces for the Foreign Artists Exhibition on October 31.The advance advertising says there will be some 60 artists so Im feeling somewhat ambivalent and a little fraught whether I can justify displaying my flying pigs,paper mache brains and broken hearts among the photography,painting,poetry and sculpture.
I really enjoyed The Sopranos.As one of the writers said in a commentary the characters evolve and develop.Unlike say the one dimensional cardboard Friends.
By the end of the third season things have become pretty bleak for most of the cast.A few continuing and developing story lines will expand in the next season im sure.Its interesting the way things are never cut and dried,people,motives never completely black and white.
Things are never resolved neatly in one programme but may linger until the end of a season or dwell on to the next.The show seems to treat its viewers with some sembalance of intelligence,no join the dots,signposted in your face exposition.You are rewarded for watching diligently;some comment about an event in another show or series brings recognition and realisation otherwise missed.The mixture of violence and gallows humor, the unstable personalities for me make this an enjoyable series to view.Roll on series 4 whenever it gets released here in Japan I can only speculate.
Thank You.
Last and by no means least something pleasant to end on.Much appreciation to the reader who emailed me about two Alex McCall No 1 Ladies Detective Agency books I was unaware of.
I hastened down to the local bookshop last week and ordered them.Should be here by Christmas according to the staff.
Thank you :)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Art For Arts Sake

Art for Arts Sake
Monday 3 October 2005

"Art is inconcievable without risk..without freedom and boldness of imagination.Real art comes as a surprise.You cant foresee the unpredictable, or regulate the unruly" Boris Pasternak

I was reminded of this passage last Saturday when i saw a small exhibition of Pop Art at a local gallery.All the heavy weights were there Hockney,Lichtenstein and of course Warhol.
Pop Art or "popular art " began in the 1950s and 60s as a reaction to the more obscure less accesible movements. On display were not only paintings or huge canvas prints (one with Lichtensteins trademark dots was almost hypnotic ) but there were also steel sculptures,collages a refrigerator packed with metallic foodstuffs and an installation labelled Civilisation accumulation of garbage packed into a clear waist high plastic box.
The last exhibit was a reclining nude couple done in all too realistic plaster and resin which drew a lot of interest from the curious crowd.
Overall an interesting show but i felt it was somewhat dated.Maybe it was shocking in the 60s some of it seemed passe .Maybe because some of the works have become so well known and part of every day life it no longer comes as a surprise and as relevant or challenging as it was once.
The Dictators
The Pasternak quote comes from Richard Overys excellent history of Hitler and Stalin titled "The Dictators".One of the chapters deals with Cultural Revolutions in both Russia and Germany.It describes in detail the efforts of both regimes to control art, culture and its expression through political regulation and centralisation.
In Germany for example a Reich Chamber of Culture was set up which was divided into 7 subordinate chambers which were further divided into further areas of control.Thus the Chamber of Visual Arts had control of a Chamber of Landscaping.
As well as government regulation, censorship and purges were used to control what the state saw as culture.Hundreds of artists,film directors ,writers were excluded from membership of state regulated organisations in both countries.Papers were closed down,books ,music were vetted.On the other hand state patronage was given to those whose work promoted each systems cultural outlook.Each state actively used the relatively new media of film and radio to literally broadcast its view to its population.
I'll give a more detailed review of the book in the near future when ive had time to digest it.
The Broken Umbrella
This is the name of a small Japanese eatery in Tajimi where I work.Taken there one night last week.Off a sidestreet past a pachinko parlor you enter a gap in a wooden wall about half the size of a normal door.No signage. Just a broken bamboo umbrella hence the name.
Upon entering we were warmly greeted by the two women proprietors.The small interior is U shaped in configuration.Customers sit on cushions round the outside while the women serve drinks and cook inside the U shape.Dark painted pine and shelves laden with customers numbered bottles pass as interior design and decoration.Local pottery dishes are used for crockery.On the U shaped wooden counter food is set out.Fish with their glazed eyes and gaping mouths stare at you from one end while fresh clumps of mushrooms,vegetables and meat crowd and vie for your attention.In the background muted jazz plays.I settled for some kebahs of grilled pork and onions and a large bowl of mushrooms sauteed in butter and ginger.Very friendly and comfortable atmosphere despite my lack of Japanese and surprisingly cheap compared with similiar places in the big smoke of Nagoya.
Watched The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.Wes Andersons latest offering.A pisstake of Jacques Cousteau and his TV marine documentaries.On a deeper level it might be seen as a modern Moby Dick with Bill Murray as Ahab chasing his own whale in this case a Jaguar shark.Like the Royal Tenebaums its also about,paternal and general.
One of my favorite scenes involves the antics of a killer whale performing in the background of a scene with Murray and Blanchett.Its very difficult to concentrate on the conversation as the whale performs various tricks and barrel rolls.
The soundtrack involves one of the sailors performing David Bowie standards in Portugese while some of the marine animals are animated surrealistic creations.Both these things add to the quirkiness of the movie.a strong cast including Willem Dafoe and Jeff Goldblum hamming it up.I also liked Angelica Hustons character as Zissous ex-wife.T
The DVD has a commentary with Anderson and some other people involved with the film.Its somewhat difficult to hear at times as its done in a restaurant where they worked each day surrounded by other noisy diners.There are though some interesting insights into characters and some observations on Proust which seems somewhat highbrow in these days of "The Dukes of Hazzard" and its ilk.
Random Thoughts
My horoscope last Sunday said i should end "unproductive friendships".Got me thinking.What qualifies as an unproductive/productive friendship.Can you quantify,cost analyse a friendship?
Can you make a profit and loss account, a financial statement?
Credit or debit the drinks and presents you have showered and shouted friends.Do a cost benefit chart? Do friends gain value over time? Can I write off a failed relationship as a tax loss.Do friendships appreciate or depreciate over a tax year?
Can I write some friends off as charity cases? Are they tax deductible?Should I send a monthly statement or invoice those friends who made me wait and waste my time? Do I send out final notices that friendship services will be terminated in 30 days should payment not be forthcoming?
What amounts to a productive friendship?The reinforcement of your own biases,prejudices and conceited opinions by other like minded idiots?The knowledge that someone shares your own skewered views?
I think it Gonna Rain
Scavenging in the local used cd shop happened upon a Jools Holland and Friends cd.Amazing some of the stuff that winds up here..ive found some rare New Zealand material on the shelves.Anyway theres a nice cover by David Gray...mournful comes to mind.
Weatherwise its finally decided its autumn and abruptly dropped the temperature by 5 degrees.Its probably the most pleasant time of the year bar the early days of spring.No more cockroaches and lower humidity make for better sleeping patterns.I seem to have survived another summer here with some vestige of sanity.Another postive is the variety of food available in season the mushrooms and nashi pears are probably my favorite though the local oranges or mikans run a close third.
Mac Attack
Still looking at getting an Apple G4 IBook.Went to the Apple Shop and got another quote.Only 188,000 yen.Six months ago I was quoted 230,000 yen and that was without the new Tiger o/s.
Having only used Windows Im not sure if i can make the jump and handle the innovation.Its my own kind of cultural revolution in a sense.....

Monday, September 19, 2005

Blog Day Afternoon

19 September 2005
Im writing this during my lunchbreak at work.I usually jot down a few ideas and flesh them out at the internet cafe.Cheaper and easier to catch the errant spelling mistakes that seem to occur with alarming frequency.
This being a National Holiday "Respect for the Aged Day"I had a 10a.m start which meant getting up at 7a.m to ensure enough time to catch the 8.20a.m subway train that connects with another train which gives me sufficent time to then catch a bus which leaves me with time to walk to the shopping complex where my school is located.
If nothing else Ive become adept at reading timetables in Japanese and improving my time-management skills.
Anyway this day is given over ostensibly to celebrate the more age advanced members of Japanese society.Those citizens who crowd public events such as the Expo site leeming-like ...(280,000 people visited the Expo yesterday),those sterling individuals who jump queues with impunity,who remain oblivious to frantic bell ringing as they weave back and forth on the footpath.Those beloved people who find it necessary to yell down their cellphones on crowded public transport or smoke in a packed elevator regardless of others discomfort.
Random Thoughts
Finished the fourth and final book in "The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency" which i wrote of last week.Was interesting to learn a little about this former British colony that became independent in 1966.Apart from diamonds and being the home of the Khalahari Bushmen i knew nothing of this landlocked African country.Also enjoyable coming across a new writer and a memorable character and setting.There was the added bonus i got 3 of the 4 books in half price book sales but i still probably would have bought them given the quality of the writing.
Wee Beasties
Not quite a plague but Ive been eradicating cockroaches at the rate of 4-5 a night for the last 2 weeks.If I work a late shift and come back round 10.15pm I can usually find 1 or 2 scuttling for cover under the sofa or TV.Others just seem to wander in from the balcony as I leave the door ajar to air out the apartment if its been locked all day.
Jog Day Afternoon
Ran 10km on a running machine at my gym last Friday.Hadnt intended to but the instructions were all in Japanese and the thing was so hard to stop.I eventually decided to just jump for it whereupon the machine shut down and emitted a loud ringing noise which a staff member evidently shut off while i stood there sweating and bowing my apology profusely.
There were no serious after effects though my right ankle swelled up a little and my left knee protested; the remmants of a soccer injury.However all things considered I'll battle on and attempt to get in shape for the 10km race late November.....

Monday, September 05, 2005

Dont Leave Me High Dont Leave Me Dry

Dont Levee Me High Dont Levee Me Dry
Monday 5 September 2005

For some perverse reason RadioHeads "High and Dry" sprung into my mind all week.High rotation.Possibly Hurricane Katrina and the resulting floods.Funny how ones mind works at times.
Meanwhile Typhoon 14 bears down on Japan.The largest typhoon so far this season.Should arrive Wednesday.Lots of heavy rain and strong winds.Unless it petulantly decides to veer towards Taiwan and mainland China at the last instant.

:books,films etc that show sexual activity in order to cause sexual excitement.
Oxford Dictionary.
Im not sure if Id consider "9 Songs"from the fertile mind of Michael Winterbottom as porn.Certainly theres sexual activity.A lot.Between the 9 songs.Explicit.Physical bonding.
9 songs 8 bands 1 couple.A review called it "fucking rubbish" which is a tad harsh while another criticised the dull dialogue.Sure it lacked the penetrating wit of say Intolerable Cruelty but who wants to live with a wise cracking partner 24/7.Besides which is more realistic?
The actors themselves werent exactly outstanding either and the music-contemporary rock groups of the Franz Ferdinand ilk hardly whipped me up into a sexual frenzy either.
An interesting movie conception but I enjoyed his earlier 24 Hour Party People and the recent Code 46 much more...a bit of an anti-climax really.

Book Bargains
Managed to purchase a couple of bargains last weekend.Half price.Literature in English in Japan is hellishly expensive be it in magazine ,book or text form.Most of the people I work with dont read either so its difficult even swopping stuff thats not the Da Vinci Code or requires crayons.
Anyway I got a short history of Japanese baseball and Ichiros effect on the MLB and its Japanese counterpart.Also I got a rather serious 700 page tome comparing Hitler and Stalin as dictators.I think it will give me a hernia lugging it back and forwards to work.

Currently enjoying a light entertaining book "The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency" by Alexander Mcall Smith.Set in Botswana the main character is a kind of African Miss Marple who invesigates missing persons cases and the like.Shes a vehicle or a conceit.......
(i hesitate to call her" a tool" after seeing "9 Songs") for the author to describe his impressions of the African landscape historically,socially and geographically.Id always lumped the African continents people into the one stereotypical basket.After reading this book however I can now appreciate how each nationality is distinct and has its own character merits and failings.
Simply written I was reminded of Rumpole of the Bailey in terms of characters and its recounting of human behaviour and foibles.The concept of people being promoted beyond their talent it seems is a universal problem.
Running on Empty
This years entry form for the annual 10k Nagoya fun run arrived in the post last weekend.Havent missed a year.Except for 2004 last year when I was tooling around on crutches for 2 and ahalf months having broken my damn right ankle in Prague.Not sure if its up to trainning and running that distance.I`ll have to check it out on a running n\machine at the gym later this week.Ive got almost 2 months to pysche myself up or out of it.Would be a shame to miss it and i could do with the exercise as well.
The Only Living Gaijin In Konan
Its funny.The help shift school where I work is only 20 minutes by train from Nagoya.Yet I might as well be in deepest,darkest Africa for all the odd stares and finger-pointing that goes on every Monday.As if I was some object of curiosity.From another planet.
Maybe Im paranoid but such a view seems justified when this morning I was pestered not once but twice by well-meaning if somewhat naive passers-by.Peppering me with their questions as I was drinking a Starbucks coffee.
Trying to read I was."Where live you?" and "Do English you speak" in their best Yoda English.
I replied in kind.
To the first question i said in my best Japanese phrase learnt by rote to combat such situations"I come from Mars".
To the second inquiry a brusque "Mais non je suis francais".
Both answers had the desired effect the inquistors were vanquished and left bewildered while i finished my coffee and my book.Yes i know im rude and its hardly a good cultural exchange but really i would have thought with the increase in overseas travel and the number of foreign visitors to the Expo a more enlightened attitude would have began to prevail..zut alors....

Monday, August 29, 2005

Nobody Said It Was Ise

Nobody Said It Was Ise
Monday 29 August 2005

Currently reading Syd Fields "Going to the Movies" about his life and career as a script writer.He shares his insights and experiences and illustrates his own theories by dissecting some famous movies.He breaks down each movie discussed such as Annie Hall, ChinaTown,The Wild Bunch and Pulp Fiction into its basic elements.He offers his own critical way of viewing a movie.Whether its linear or non-linear, whether it uses flashbacks or not they still have in his opinion a start,a middle and an end or resolution.He also discusses the process of script writing and his own philosphy...better to write something that can be improved than to write nothing at all.He gets his best ideas he says while lying in a hottub.I tend to get some of my ideas while swimming, I keep a notebook handy just in case i forget them.Must be something to do with the water and its creative powers..whatever..
Anyway after 2 years working as the head of the story department for a hollywood film company he read over 2000 film scripts.Of these he only found 40 good enough to submit to his companys financial partners for production consideration.
I doubt whether Field would have submitted a drab offering I watched recently"Wicker Park".With a wooden Josh Harnett and an equally uninspiring Coldplay soundtrack.After reading of the great efforts required to get a movie to the production stage I wonder why they bothered.
Similiar Sounds Different Meaning
Often students will mishear things.Sometimes comical.An example from last week." A buddy of mine " was misheard as "A bottle of wine"
Stupid People
Despite Aussie Schapelle Corbys conviction earlier this year to 20 years jail for trying to smuggle 4.2kgs of marijuana into Bali some Australians just wont learn.Another 11 await either trial or drugs charges in Indonesia.John Howard the Aussie PM,hardly a man of great intellectual standing himself given his staunch support of one George W Bush, called the drug smugglers "silly"."Its beyond belief that any Australian could be so stupid as to carry drugs into a country in Asia" he was quoted as saying in the Japan Times this week.Trust me John from personal experience it aint at all surprising.
The Japan Times article did include an unintentional pun when it described 9 Australians as having been arrested in "a joint drugs bust".Of course this is the same paper whose editorial recently pleaded for "More concrete efforts to be made to reduce the number of minor accidents in residential and shopping areas"....mmm concrete aint the most appropriate adjective surely.

Speaking of stupid people one shouldnt forget the gentle folk at Japan Tobacco either.In a last gasp effort to stop the decline of its consumers the company is offering 5kgs of gold bars and other prizes as part of a promotion for its "Smart Smoke" cigarettes.They apparently are a new reduced odourless cigarette.mmm "Smart Smoke" a great oxymoron.May the current low of adult smokers 29.4% continue to decline.
Random Thoughts
The weathers been stinking hot the last week.Nagoya avoided the wrath of Typhoon number 11 but has been basking in its aftermath...high temperatures and humidity.Bring on autumn with its lower temperatures and dry air.
Im still awaiting a reply from the organisers of the Foreign Artists Exhibition.I sent in my application some weeks again but have yet to get a reply.Ive been busy completing a couple of paper mache things in the event im successful.The humidity tends to slow down the whole drying process.If you get too impetuous and dont wait till each layer is sufficently dry and hardened you end up with a big pulpy moldy mass.Anyway Ive got till November to complete the various bits and pieces I want to display..just a matter of waiting with fingers crossed for a positive response...shoganai..

Monday, August 15, 2005


15 August 2005
Its Obon holiday week.When the locals return to their ancestral homes to remember their dead relatives.Theres a huge exodus.Trains,planes and other forms of public transport are crammed to over-capacity.Highway traffic jams extending 30km arent uncommon.
It was the twentieth anniversary Friday of the worlds worst aviation accident involving one aircraft.In 1985 a JAL Boeing lost most of its tail fin and crashed into the mountains of Guma Prefecture.20 years on its still the subject of TV dramas and news coverage of victims families making their annual pilgrimage to the crash site.Much easier recently with the building of a road within 800 metres of the memorial.
520 odd people perished.The playback of the final minutes of the pilots audio as they wrestled with the uncontrollable plane made for harrowing listening even in Japanese.It ended with the metallic voice warning "Pull Up Pull Up" and then a loud hissing noise.Some of those who survived the initial crash at 6.58pm died during the night as rescuers lacked adequate trainning in night flying and hovering their helicopters.Well it was 1985 after all.
I recently read Paul Austers New York Triology.Three longish short stories.Interesting style.Difficult to get into.Difficult to relate to any of the characters or their situations.Not sure if the style of writing was meant to keep you at arms length and dispassionate.I found it hard to warm to.
Also read Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome.A pretty easy read about boating on the canals and rivers of 1920s,1930s England.Not too taxing.The author has a relaxed almost conversational style with plenty of asides and irrelevant tho interesting bits and pieces about such things as old Roman sites and early English history.It made barging and boating seem very leisurely compared with the life portrayed in Young Adam a recent dvd I saw starring Ewan McGregor.McGregors character worked on a barge ,living with a family.It was pretty grim invoving deceit,murder and extra-marital affairs.The photography made all the characters and scenery dull,grey and lifeless.
Speaking of dvds i was impressed with Geoffrey Rush as Peter Sellers in the HBO tv film The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.As well as having a striking physical resembalance to Sellers Rush also had worked out some of his mannerisms.As one review stated Sellers was a first rate mimic and comic but a third rate human being.I recommend this, having for some reason passed over it till now.
I also revisited a personal fav of mine Dinner Rush.No real stars more an ensemble cast effort.One night in a hip New York restaurant.Character driven plots.Diners and staff providing the action.The extras on the dvd add little as such.There is a soundtrack extra which runs for an hour or so with some relaxing bossa nova, south american music.
The movies also got a surprise ending I forgot about .The kitchen scenes are shot like action scenes sometimes slowed right down as you see various cooking arts on display.Evidently the director cut his teeth on music videos and owns several restaurants including the one where the movie was shot.Again well worth a look.
Opps! Conflict of Interest?
At the moment the issue of asbestos and people dying from asbestos related diseases has raised its ugly dusty head in Japan.Despite the dangers of asbestos being known since at least the 1970s little or nothing appears to have been done here either to stop its use or provide help for those who suffer from its impact.
Whatever, last week the head of the Environment panel looking into the question of asbestos has had to resign.News reports state that the head of the panel a professor no less was an adviser to the Japan Asbestos Association,a group of asbestos manufacturers.He decided to step down as the connection would "have a negative impact on the panels image." no kidding prof!!
He even appeared in a promotional video in 1994 "Natural Resource Asbestos That Contributes to Society".I find it hard to believe a so-called intelligent man didnt consider there would be some conflict of interest and should have refused the panel appointment in the first place.

Lets Go to Shopping...More Bad English
Each Monday recently i work at a newly constructed shopping centre.It was flooded with families today.Its a holiday.Its hot.Its summer.Naturally if you are Japanese you head lemming like to your nearest retail outlet.As opposed to the beach.Ocean.Or any other healthy outdoor pursuit.
Anyway there are a couple of examples of bad english i wish to share...
"With safety,relief and the delicious meal please chosen and enjoyed your dish and drinks"
and the other glowing example of how well the english language has penetrated Japanese consciousness...
"Our professionally trained chefs create sweets ready for you to enjoy as well as simple"
If I could only just get a ladder and some paint I'd be much happier....

Monday, August 08, 2005


Monday 8 August 2005
Seems this week I`ve been targetted by pests.Both animal and human.Invaded by a force of 5 cockroaches over the week.Their hard armoured shelled bodies like mini hummers.Obviviously seeking respite from the appalling heat of the last week.The temperature drops to an average 25degrees at night.Humidity remains high.
I`ve developed this lingering summer cold due to constant exposure to the debilitating effects of air-conditioning.Sore throat.Dry eyes.Arid nasal passages.Sweaty ears.
The cockroaches give away their positions and betray their arrival with the soft pitter patter of their feet across my now fading tatami mat flooring.If I`m sleeping I awake bolt upright and swoop down full of vengengance like some wolf on the fold as poem goes.I capture the wee beastie and despatch it forthwith into the toilet or pitch it headlong over the balcony.

If only I could do the same to my human invaders.Equally obnoxious.Numerous and even less welcome.There seems to be an infestation of Mormons in the area recently.The genus I really loathe is the sanctimonious North American variety.Easily spotted.It wears ill fitting dated clothing.Its loud.It usually travels in pairs.Must be for its own protection.It has its own touchy feely vocabulary though I`ve learned not to speak to them beyond my initial and final"You're Mormon sons of Satan arent you?.
I just cant understand with so many domestic problems why they cant go soul saving in America.Doesnt charity begin at home?And why Japan why not Iraq?
I've tried reasoning with them e.g "How can you reconcile the fact that President Bush is a committed and devoted murderer and Christian or vice versa.

But what really annoyed me was the visitation last night by a particularly stupid pair.It wasnt just that they visited on a Sunday.The Lord's Day of Rest.Nor was it their hypocritical peace,love and waterbeds attitude.What really got my blood boiling was their timing.It was the day after the 60th Anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.Completely unaware.Completely stupid.So I battered them with innane questions such as " How come God lets bad things happen to good people?" and "Can you really get to Heaven even if you are a Mormon bigamist ?" before they left.
Best advice...dont open your door to them.

I braved the crowds and saw the Van Gogh In Context exhibition on Friday.Its just opened but for a limited time his Sunflowers painting is on show....once the worlds most expensive piece of canvas and oil.The "Context" part of the show has works by his contemporaries and stuff he was influenced by.Its an attempt to place him,what he influenced and what influenced him.Thus there are some Monets and Signacs paintings as well as a famous Japanese woodblock artist and prints that Van Gogh collected.
One of his Japanese style paintings is on display as well as drawings and sketches for a Paris magazine with a Japanese flavor.Unfortunately,there were no signs or information in English.Not surprising really as I was the only non-native I saw.
It was interesting just sitting and observing people.Some folk would just trot past each frame.Barely give it a glance before moving to the next one.Others took longer.Pondered,took their time to notice the brushstrokes,the patterns and swirls,thickness of paint.Others,less patient,polite,oblivious to others blocked or walked in front of others view.There was the odd cell-phone going off.Choas as the embarrassed owner is swarmed by officious gallery staff and cut down by the glares and tut-tutting of disapproving elders.Affronted that the atmosphere be tainted by such a barbarian thing.
The paintings themselves were quite wonderful.The Sunflower painting for example...the leaves of the middle flower appear almost 3d so thick has the oil paint been applied.The paint has been applied in a circular manner imitating the head of a sunflower.In some of his calmer period paintings you can see the paint has been less thickly used and the patterns themselves appear less violent.
One of my favorites on view was one of an aslyum garden.The sky was a light blue and judging by the absence of violent brushstokes and thick paint must have been completed in one of his more pleasant tranquil times.Evidently theres some co-relation.Whatever,it evoked a peaceful scene and the presence of brighter cheerful colors gave it a less sombre light.
Thank you Robert Hughes...Im no art critic.I know nothing of it.I cant get my head round Cubism be it Rubik or Picasso.I like accessible stuff,not the chocolate box stuff of Rockwell or the drippy works of Pollack.Stuff you can understand nothing abstract.Stuff that lasts.
From one extreme to another.I also enjoyed Dodgeball, the movie now available on DVD.Hardly in the class of Van Gogh.Though they both left an impression on me.
It was good to watch a movie so unpolitically correct.Its been awhile since i've heard the word "muff-diver" in a mainstream movie.Or such lines as "Its like watching a bunch of retards trying to fuck a door -handle".Starring Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller (who must be suffering burn-out or overexposure soon),it was surprisingly funny.I couldnt believe some of the things I was laughing at.Someone getting hit by spanners and wrenches thrown by their coach in practice.
Unsophisticated,but fun.Which made me wonder is one mans Picasso another mans Dodgeball?...

Monday, August 01, 2005


August 1 2005
The humidity,rain and heat of the rainy season have been replaced by the humidity and heat of summer.In addition there are the cicadas.Big cricket like insects.The size of your thumb.Ive been awaken the last few mornings by their urgent metallic rasping.It has the same effect as fingernails being dragged across a blackboard.Or sirens on Stukas.Im instantly alert unable to return to sleep,lying inert bathed in a sweat atop a soaked futon.
Summers not all that bad.As I noted last entry the summer sumo tournament is in July.As well there are numerous firework festivals and smaller local festivals to take your mind off the weather.
Tajimi, where I work had its annual fireworks festival yesterday.As usual the area in front of the train station is given over to various performers and performances during the day.Closer to the river where the fireworks are set off both banks are lined with stalls selling food,drink and other diversions.
Among summer treats you can try choco-bananas;bananas dipped in chocolate,eat soba noddles,partake of grilled eel or corn cobs or even baked octopus balls.
The traditional bowls of shaved iced make a welcome appearance.It comes in an assortment of flavors.My favorite being a thick sickly blue syrup "Blue Lagoon".My least favorite has to be a concoction that involves mixing a couple of spoonfuls of azuki beans (red soya beans) into the shaved ice.
The diversions include trying to capture goldfish with what amounts to a tea strainer.This involves a fair degree of skill as the paper scoop soon gets wet rendering it well nigh impossible to catch anything.Usually the vendors give you a wimpy little goldfish out of sympathy for your pathetic efforts.Insult is added to injury when 1 day later you return home to find said fish floating upside down in the aquarium you bought specially for it.
Anyway the fireworks at Tajimi are by all accounts modest when compared to larger cities and displays.Seems theres some kind of rivalry a Freudian pryomania envy .Whatever, the display lasts for one hour 7.30-8.30pm filling the air with gasps and cheers from admiring locals watching their taxes going up in smoke.
There are the rare accidents associated with such events.A few years ago a number of people were crushed to death after too many people got on a bridge after a display ended.Then theres the occassional mishap with explosives and spontaneous combustion.
The festivals also offer the chance to parade about in your yukata and geta.Yakata are the cheaper,lighter equivalent of a kimono and have in recent years enjoyed a popular resurgence particularly with the younger generation.Teamed with geta-laquered wooden sandals, they are the fashion item of summer.The yukata come in a rainbow of colors and the obi or waist band sets it off stylishly.Cheap imported Chinese fabric and hemp have made them more price friendly.My favorite being a purple and pink get up with a Hello Kitty motif and matching fan protruding at a rakish angle from your obi.Enough already.
Random Notes
Oceans 12...Why?Take the money and run.My God what was I thinking when I rented it?What a travesty..Id read the reviews,should have known better.Not really any plot.The running joke seems to be on the audience.Lots of dead space and scenery changes to mask how dire and threadbare it all is.
Internet Suicide Pacts
Read an interesting article recently about a morbid trend in Japan.Internet suicide pacts.You meet like minded people via websites set up for such purposes.Internet suicides usually die in groups of two,three,or four.The largest group thus far has been seven found last October.

Why the complusion to die in a group? i hear you ask.According to Yukiko Nishihara, a counsellor "the answer has to do with Japanese society and its tendency to organise itself into hierarchical groups.Japanese have weak individual identities and feel more secure losing themselves in and identifying themselves with a group." Yikes was my first reaction when i read this .If this wasnt worrying enough theres also the comment that "consistent with Japanese psychology,the rise of internet suicide has provoked a reaction of helpless panic".
Not only in this area either.One only has to think of the slow reaction after the Tokyo earthquake recently.Earthquake reports were delayed due to outdated computer programs and some officials didnt bother to answer their phones and return to work as required.
One shudders to think of a possible terrorist attack in Tokyo.The loss of life and carnage due to the inefficient buck-passing bureaucracy doesnt bear thinking about....

Monday, July 25, 2005

Sumo They Do and Sumo They Dont and Sumo its just as well

Friday 22July 2005
For 2 weeks each July Nagoya hosts one of the six big annual sumo tournaments.As usual, in the interests of cultural enlightment,a genuine Japanese experience and a memorable day out I dutifully attended.As I have each year.Its a celebration of color and calories.

This year I got along to the gym round 11am.The basho(tournament) runs for 15 days and daily from 9 am to 6pm.The cheaper seats had already sold out so I opted for a slightly more expensive seat in the nose-bleed section high above the ring and the closer more expensive seating..a single cushion near the ring can set you back about 32,000 yen.The good thing about arriving early is once you have secured your seat its possible to occupy one of the closer seats until you get evicted by its rightful tenant.I got thrown out about 5 times throughout the afternoon.I progressively worked my way back to my seat round 5pm as the stadium filled up.
The leading wrestlers in the higher ranks begin their bouts from 3.45pm each day.
Early on theres just a smattering of spectators the majority elderly Japanese with the odd loud obnoxious foreigner who gets worse as the effects of alcohol take hold.
In the last hours the place resembles a beehive with its murmuring drone and the fluttering paper fans beating rhythmically like so many wings.
As to the wrestling itself.The bouts themselves are very entertaining if somewhat brief.In fact the pre-fight rituals of stretching,bowing and glaring at ones opponent usually last longer than the actual confrontation.
After the intial face-off which resembles nothing more than a side of beef propelling itself towards another side of beef both wrestlers grapple and paw each other attempting to throw,shove,trip,bodily lift (or a combination of all these moves) out of the ring.
Before the start of the last 2 top ranks daily competition theres a kind of fashion parade as the wrestlers dressed in their finely embroidered silk uniforms circle the ring.Cameras flash and combat soon continues.
While watching these behemoths engage in these rituals the adoring hordes consume copious amounts of alcohol,sake and boxed lunches.I indulged my inner sumo by slurping down a bowl of chanko..a hearty chunky mixture of beef,fish,chicken and vegetables swimming in a thick greasy broth which forms the staple of a sumo wrestlers diet.
Theres been an increase in the number of foreign wrestlers participating and graduating to the higher ranks, notably from Mongolia and Bulgaria.Conversely theres been a decrease in the number of Japanese wrestlers prepared to commit to such an arduous lifestyle.
As a whole the sports losing popularity.Most spectators are elderly.Younger Japanese being more content to watch the more popular soccer and baseball leagues.
SuperSize Me
Speaking of grossly overweight obese humans I watched Morgan Spurlocks documentary SuperSize Me recently.I thought it was a well-rounded examination of American eating habits and the food industry as a whole.Because all of the publicity centered on his 30 day McDonalds binge I was unaware it also examined school lunches and other weighty issues.
I enjoyed watching the incredulous looks of disbelief of his 3 doctors as his health deteriorated and the glee with with his vegan girlfriend related his hampered performance.An informative amusing dvd.
I also caught Sideways about 2 friends odyessy through California's vineyards.A roadtrip.Before one of the friends gets married.One last chance for both of them.I cant say more otherwise I`d spoil it..but I do recommend it.A slightly maudlin ending it stars Paul Giamatti who's becoming one of my favorite actors with his weary hang dog look.
Last but certainly not least I watched the finale to season 2 of The Sopranos.Now Im eagerly waiting for my video store to get the remaining series.The last episode involved the execution of a principal character and several things were left in the air.Each dvd usually has some extra features.The most interesting are the commentaries by the various directors and producers involved in producing the series.They often provide a slant or insights which i wouldnt have noticed or thought important.Rivetting stuff...

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Orwell,Don Quixote,Baseball and Toads

Friday 15 July 2005
Retreated to the relative coolness of the ice rink that occupies the first 3 floors of my apartment building.Exceedingly hot and humid today..even my eyeballs are sweating.
32degrees outside humidity 99.9% air conditioning factor high.
Despite the apparent lack of activity on this site i've been reasonably busy,what with books ,dvds and other trifles to distract me from the opressive mid rainy season weather.
Well, i laboured through Orwells essays.To be honest i skipped a few of them.His stated wish was to 'make political writing into an art.' He did have some interesting thoughts on Don Quixote and Sancho describing them as 'a dualism of body and soul in fiction form' ....'the two principles noble folly and base wisdom that exist side by side in nearly every human being.'
Again i think hes an author better sampled or picked at rather than consumed in one sitting.
Don Quixote
Seems you cant read much of anything these days without a mention of Don Quixote.A CNN sports writer Bill Syken lists it as his favorite novel.
Claims that William Faulkner read it once a year.The Venezeulan government is giving away 1 million copies to celebrate its 400th anniversary.By way of honoring the book Syken listed 11 Quixotic tasks or quests doomed to failure though an example he gave Leyton Hewitts quest to beat Roger Federer..currently Federers beaten him 7 times in a row.
More interestingly for me given that ive just finished reading MoneyBall by Michael Lewis was the 11th quest.The 11th quest is for lowpay moneyball teams to win a baseball World Series.Oakland couldnt do it and this year Syken contends the Twins and the Nationals will also fall short.
Ok lets backtrack and fill in the gaps...Moneyball is a novel about a low budget MLB team the Oakland A's.The 2 principal characters are Billy Beane the A's general manager and Bill James , a baseball writer who elevated the use of baseball statistics into an art or science called 'sabermetrics'.In a nutshell Beane uses sabermetrics to build a team and trade players to remain competitive.Given the disparity between MLB budgets (Beanes budget was at one time $40 million against the New York Yankees $120 million) Beane wanted to adopt a more objective system rather than the traditional subjective scout based approach.
The book claims using such a system the A's have remained competitive.It traverses the evolution and adoption of sabermetrics.It has been questioned by many.This week in the local paper Bobby Valentine manager of Lotte thought it was an unworkable system.In 'Faithful' Stewart O'Nan and Stephen King also expressed doubts based on 'the standpoint of strategy and business morality'.The fact that the Twins had managed to 'put together a better, steadier team with even less money' was also stated.
Now i thought a book about baseball statistics would be boring but in fact it was the reverse as Stephen King wrote 'the book was jaw-dropping'.Bring on the second half of the baseball season..
In between these books i also re-read 'The Wind in the Willows' a childhood favorite.I think Orwell would see Rat and Mole as the Don and Sancho paradigm.Toad represents the moneyed,priviledged,corrupt classes while the weasels and stoats are the disaffected masses.
Im currently reading 'Fermalts Last Theorem' another numbers book like Moneyball but this time with Pythagoras,triangles and the world of mathmatics.Only read 39 pages but am intrigued already.
Cool Reception
Went to a wedding party last Sunday afternoon.Very Japanese.Very organised.Ran like clockwork.Started as stated at 1pm on the dot.Finished at precisely 3pm.One was mailed an invitation with the directions and the cost..yes one pays over here to attend such celebrations...apparently i got off lightly at 6,500 yen.
Glad i caught a taxi it took the driver 3 circumnavigations of the same block before even he found the building.
The seating comprised separate tables for the locals and one for the gaijin i.e anyone else.Dead on 1pm a staff member armed with an unnecessary mircophone given the small size ofthe room began proceedings.After the happy couple paraded in their traditional European style suit and white wedding dress complete with veil and train there followed speeches in Japanese and English.Some drinks and food arrived and several games including Bingo were also played.Finally a piece of sponge wedding cake brought proceedings to an end.Very pleasant company and surroundings...tho my senior area manager reminded me of some photos taken 5 years my defence i plead mitigating was hot,it was summer..the bar's air conditioning was broken and finally your honor it was a case of mistaken identity...