Friday, 27 February 2009

Minor Leagues

Continuation of my "very quick" introduction to Japanese baseball. It's not looking quite so very quick after all.

In addition to the two major leagues there are two minor leagues and two independent leagues. The minor leagues are the Western and the Eastern Leagues, and feature the "farm teams" of the major league teams. The farm teams are kind of semi-professional teams, with players who aren't quite up to scratch yet, or injured professional players, and they are each linked with a major league team with whom they share their name. With me so far? So players from the Chunichi Dragons farm team can "graduate" into the professional team, for instance. Or they can take out a contract in American baseball, as sometimes happens.

The teams in Eastern and Western Leagues don't conform directly to the Central and Pacific Leagues. So the Chunichi Dragons and the Softbank Hawks wouldn't be playing each other in the big leagues, but they are in the small leagues. Unless the professional iterations of the teams win their respective leagues and play off for the Japan Series. Do you see?

Actually, screw it, just read this. It explains it all.

Now, the independent leagues. There's the Shikoku-Kyushu Island League - that happens on the Shikoku and Kyushu Islands, predictably - and the Kansai Independent League. These leagues aren't affiliated with any others. They are independent. The teams also are not owned by any corporations. They are independent. This much at least is pretty simple.

The six teams in the Shikoku-Kyushu Island League are:

Nagasaki Saints (Nagasaki)
Kochi Fighting Dogs (Kochi)
Tokushima Indigo Socks (Naruto)
Ehime Mandarin Pirates (Matsuyama)
Kagawa Olive Guyners (Takamatsu)
Fukuoka Red Warblers (Fukuoka)

Now the first thing you'll notice about this league is that the names are all freaking awesome. The Shikoku-Kyushu Island League was founded in 2005, so I guess they had to be more creative with the names to avoid repetitions. It sounds like a really cool league to follow, but I have no idea how to follow it in England. Good luck to the rest of you.

The Kansai Independent League's teams are:

Akashi Red Soldiers
Kishu Rangers
Osaka Gold Villicanes
Kobe 9 Cruise

Only four teams because the league was founded only last year, and this will be the first year they've run. Next year two more teams will be added. Kobe 9 Cruise, apart from it's killer name, is famous for having signed up the first woman in professional Japanese baseball - Yoshida Eri. She can pitch at 101 kilometres per hour, and is only 16 years old - she's currently still a student at Kawasaki-kita Senior High School and will be taking time out to pitch for the team.

Should be an awesome year. Now if only there were some way to watch these games on the internet...

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Central-Pacific

This will be a very quick intro to Japanese baseball. Ready? Hold on tight.

Baseball came to Japan in 1872, with the first full-time team being formed in 1878. It faltered for a few decades until the Greater Japan Tokyo Baseball Club was formed in 1934 and the Osaka Baseball Club in 1935. Respectively those two clubs became the Yomiuri Giants (booo!) and the Hanshin Tigers (yaaay!). In '36 a few more teams were formed and the Japanese Baseball League took off. This was a bit crap until the foundation of the Central League in 1949. The Pacific League was also founded in 1949, but back then it was called the Taiheiyo Baseball Union (the name changed in 1980). By the way, there are loads of name-changes going on all the time in Japanese baseball. You know, just in case it wasn't difficult enough to follow already.

The Central League and the Pacific League are currently the two major leagues in Nippon Professional Baseball, but there's a few more leagues which we'll get onto later. Both leagues have six teams, no team is in both leagues. The winners of the leagues each year then play each other, and the winner of that is the Japan Series Champion.

Japanese baseball teams are franchised - they are owned by corporations, and rarely have much of a connection with their home turf. They are usually referred to by their sponsor name, not the name of their town - so it's the "Yakult Swallows", as supposed to the "Tokyo Swallows".

The Pacific League consists of:

Saitama Seibu Lions (Tokorozawa)
Orix Buffaloes (Osaka and Kobe)
Fukuoka Softbank Hawks (Fukuoka)
Chiba Lotte Marines (Chiba)
Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters (best name ever) (Sapporo)
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (Sendai)

I don't really follow the Pacific League. One league is enough for me, given I live in England - a veritable black-hole of baseball coverage. I'm sure the Pacific League is very interesting though.

The Central League consists of:

Tokyo Yakult Swallows (awesome name) (Tokyo)
Hiroshima Toyo Carp (even better name) (Hiroshima)
Yokohama Baystars (Yokohama)
Yomiuri Giants (booo!) (Tokyo)
Chunichi Dragons (Nagoya)
Hanshin Tigers (yaaay!) (Nishinomiya)

You can probably tell just by the names, the Central League kicks ass. Unfortunately it's historically been dominated by the Yomiuri Giants, who are owned by the famous multimedia corporation. Because they essentially have the Yomiuri Shimbun and NTV on their side, they've been successfully marketed as "Japan's Team". The Giants have won the CL 30 times and the Japan Series 20 times, and 50% of Japanese polled support them, so I don't like them. As an Englishman I don't like winners, I like plucky losers who almost make it, and are therefore consigned to history book footnotes. Like the Hanshin Tigers! The Tigers will get their own blog post.

If you want a more detailed overview of the Japanese Leagues then read Deanna's post.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Great Sasuke Having Battle-Flashbacks

Former wrestler The Great Sasuke (aka Murakawa Masanori) was arrested for assaulting a man on a train last week. The man was photographing The Great Sasuke with his mobile phone on a train in Tokyo, so The Great Sasuke picked him up by his collar and kicked him in the knee. And then threw him into the train door.

He is quoted as saying, "Even I have a right to protect my image. I admit to jostling with him, but I don't remember assaulting him." Of course, The Great Sasuke cracked his skull twice in his wrestling career, so maybe he really doesn't remember assaulting the commuter.

In 2003, The Great Sasuke was elected to the assembly of his home prefecture, Iwate. He caused controversy by refusing to take his butterfly mask off, even during assembly meetings. The Governor of Iwata issued an order obliging him to take off his mask, which The Great Sasuke fought against for two months. Finally it was put to a vote and the other assembly members overturned the Governors order.

He's not been in office since 2007, but he still refuses to remove his mask in public. I think it would be fair to say those skull cracks really haven't healed properly.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Not The Time To Have Acid Thrown At You By Psychotics

Well, it's already a pretty grim start to the week on this blog. A report from the Fire and Disaster Management Agency today states that 8.3% of people in need of emergency treatment were rejected by three or more hospitals in one week in December, because of a lack of space. 60 people were rejected by over 10 hospitals, and three by over 23. Earlier this month a man died after being rejected by 14 hospitals.

Tread carefully out there. Happy Monday, everyone.

Anti-Whalers Get Boarded (Warning: This Post Contains Mild Profanity)

UPDATE:
I usually don't do this, I usually let the subtext speak for itself. But I've had a few messages about this post from people who clearly don't get it so I'm going to explain the point of it, and this is very much a one-off.

I am very anti-whaling. I believe the "research" excuse is at best transparent and at worst insulting. Even if the whaling going on was research-based, I still think that no-one has cause to be conducting any research on endangered animals that involves killing them.

Having said that, I am also against throwing acid in people's faces and ramming sailing vessels, and both of those are criminal acts in which the Sea Shepherd "Conservation" Society have engaged. Violence is not a solution to the problem, and the sheer smugness of the SS"C"S as it assaults and lies its way through the issue is utterly reprehensible and viscerally sickening.

There are procedures in place to deal with these sorts of things. Violence only demonstrates a lack of civility and a lack of imagination, and ultimately it diminishes us all.


ORIGINAL POST:

The self-righteous, militant cocksuckers at the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have had their flagship, the Steve Irwin (that's its actual name - feel the anger!), boarded by the Australian authorities when they docked this weekend.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is famous for attacking the crew of a Japanese research vessel with acid, twice, ramming another vessel (video below), and generally being a bunch of mindless, violent, knuckle-dragging fucknuts.


Is this how you solve all your problems, you backwards, turd-gurgling ass-masters?

"Hey, your research vessel's motives are at best ambiguous, but I don't have the patience to protest with civility! Ramming speed!"

The Steve *spit* Irwin was boarded by Australian police, who had a warrant to seize "all edited and raw video footage, all edited and raw audio recordings, all still photographs, producer's notes, interview transcripts, production meeting minutes, post production meeting minutes as well as the ship's log books, global positioning system records, automatic radar plotting aid, purchase records, receipts, financial transaction records, voyage information and navigational plotted charts." The Sea Shepherd Wankathon Society had the gall to claim that this was because the Japanese government was embarrassed by their series, Whale Wars. But it actually had more to do with them being belligerent, brain-dead bastards with absolutely no sense of propriety.

"Hey, that guy just overtook me from the wrong lane! Ramming speed!"

So called "Captain" Paul Watson, who once claimed to have been shot by the crew of a Japanese whaling ship, said that the Japanese government applied "diplomatic pressure" to get the Australian government to board the Steve *spit* Irwin. He added that,

The Rudd government was elected on a promise to take the Japanese whaling industry to court for their illegal whaling activities. Now they seem to be more interested in taking Sea Shepherd to court for our efforts to intervene against illegal whaling operations.


I really don't think the Rudd government was elected because of Japanese whaling. Ask any Rudd supporter, I think you'll find whaling had very little to do with their voting decision. And even if Japan was illegally hunting whales, that doesn't give the Sea Shepherd Dick-Swinging Society the right to throw acid at people or ram other ships.

"Hey, I asked for a DOUBLE cheeseburger! Ramming speed!"

These guys are primeval, circle-jerking, grade-A motherfuckers. Being boarded is nothing, they deserve to be locked up.

Paul Watson concludes that "If need be we will be in court to answer to charges of defending endangered whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and to this we proudly plead guilty." Go suck an exhaust pipe, Watson, you sanctimonious, braying fucktard.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Max's Vision Of The Apocalypse #3788

Professor Yazaki Kazufumi of the Kyoto University Institute of Sustainability Science has identified the gene in tobacco plants that carries nicotine from the roots to the leaves. Doesn't sound like the Apocalypse, does it? But it could be.

He plans to genetically engineer the plant so that instead of carrying nicotine to the leaves, and thus into cigarettes, it'll carry either something beneficial or nothing at all. It's all in the best interests of smokers of course, making cigarettes not only non-addictive but possibly good for their health. This in turn will lead to the 63,000 lung cancer deaths in Japan being significantly reduced, which will then give Japan the population boom it was always looking for. That's right, isn't it? They need more people, don't they? Not less - less would be bad.

Now, I'm not trying to sarcastically imply that it would be better if they let the smokers die because the world doesn't have the space or resources to accommodate a population that doesn't gleefully and ritualistically decimate itself. I'm really not sarcastically implying that. I HATE sarcasm. And I would neeeeever accuse Professor Yazaki of being short-sighted and naive.

Professor Yazaki's funding runs out in March, and he's hoping the big tobacco corporations might finance his research. Japan Tobacco have already sent the Professor a letter saying that they'd be very interested in discussing the feasibility of a non-addictive cigarette with him. The letter was delivered by a flying pig.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Still More Dignified Than A Normal Bank

I've never used piggy-banks or seen any need for buying one. Why not just use a jar. I'm currently using empty Ribena bottles for my coins. But here's something a little more interesting that Rinkya have come up with:


Every time you put a coin in, the pigs screw. It's a snap at 1,980 yen. I still wouldn't get one, though.

It also reminds me a little of this incident:

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Flipping Off Africa, One Bowl At A Time

There are many cultural phenomena that Japan appears to have inherited from America. A love of baseball is one. The ingenuous mistake of referring to 'lifts' as 'elevators' is another. Perhaps the most graphic, however, is the 'eating competition'.

There's something farcical, I find, about competitive eating. Something farcical and disturbing. Maybe it's because in a world where countless people are starving to death, paying someone to eat freakish portions of food that they neither enjoy nor need seems at least insensitive. But at the same time it's also hypnotic to watch. I recently watched a man eat his way through a few hundred bowls of soba, and then found myself feeling disappointed and grumpy when he finally had to stop, like I'd been cheated or something. Weird.

Tonight, I'm going to show you three superstars of Japanese competitive eating. There are two types of competition: those in which contestants eat as much as possible within a time limit, and those in which contestants eat a set amount of food and the fastest finisher wins. Both are equally frightening.


Meet Sugawara Hatsuyo, a 44-year-old woman from Iwate. This video shows her defending her title at the 23rd "Wankosoba" National Tournament, eating 383 "bowls" of ramen in 10 minutes. They're not full, normal-sized bowls, but apparently 10 bowls of wankosoba make up one standard bowl of kakesoba, and 38 bowls of noodles is a crazy amount to eat in 10 minutes.

One of the most famous Japanese eaters is Kobayashi Takeru. He's won the "Nathan's Hot Dog" Eating Contest six years in a row, holding the world record during those years (63 hot dogs in 10 minutes), the Glutton Bowl competition, and the Krystal Square Off for three years running with a world record 97 hamburgers in 8 minutes (no, seriously). I recently found him performing in the most ludicrous television stunt you'll ever see: he has to compete against a bear. The commentating is so transcendentally stupid it'll make you cry. And the phrase "appetite for destruction" is used.


"See how casual the bear is", they say. What the hell does that mean?! What's it supposed to look like? It's a freaking BEAR. What a world.


This is Gal Sone, who hit the eating-scene in 2005. She's in the pop group Gyaruru, who were formed off her fame as an eater. In this video she eats 9 kilos of curry, noodles and rice on daytime tv. She does a lot of this sort of thing - often she just sits eating on programmes whilst they film things around her.

So there you are, that's competitive eating. Now you won't have to lie when people ask you if you've ever seen a woman consume 20% of her weight in curry. Don't say I never spoil you.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Any Objections?

There were four things that made the Summer Of Love '07 possible for me: the Crisis Team, a student loan, an almost rebellious disregard for university attendance regulations, and DS games. One game I'll forever associate with that summer is Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.

In the Ace Attorney games you play an attorney. An ace one. You're hired to defend innocent people from being convicted by a criminal justice system that, quite frankly, takes the piss. The judge is a moron, and your client is almost always assumed to be guilty, immediately putting you on the back foot. You investigate crime scenes and present evidence, and hopefully outmanoeuvre the prosecutor and uncover the real criminal. All of which gives you absolutely no idea how brilliant the games are; I only write it in the hope that it'll go a little way to explaining this video:


You see, an all-female theatre troupe called 'Takarazuka' have made a musical out of the Phoenix Wright games. I don't know whether I think this whole venture is ludicrous, or whether it's the height of genius. It's so lame, but it's so amazing. I guess it's what Olli Rose would call 'lamazing'.

Monday, 16 February 2009

State Of The Nation

It's like every week is the worst week of Aso Taro's life. All news reported yesterday has been, without exception, utterly horrific. As Gwen Stefani would say, "This shit is bananas! B-A-N-A-N-A-N!" (Sic.) So let's look as some of the stories!

One story (that even the BBC was covering) is the shrinking of Japan's GDP - it's contracted by 3.3%, annualized at 12.7%, in the fourth quarter. Now, if you're like me then you won't have any idea what that means. Luckily, I've done the research for you and the upshot is: the economy really sucks. In fact it doesn't just suck, it's deep-throating. It's putting in a performance that Abi Titmuss would be proud of, if she were capable of feeling pride. Apparently this is the largest GDP contraction since the "1974 Oil Shock", and that has the word 'shock' in it so it must have been pretty bad. And this is almost as bad as that. Which actually still doesn't tell you how bad this is... Hmmm. Well it doesn't even matter! Because as long as they've got a diligent and incisive Finance Minister they've got nothing to worry ab- oh wait.

"Finance Minister Nakagawa Found Drunk At G7 Conference". Well. That's certainly a more visceral way of showing people how fucked they are. His excuse was that he was jet-lagged and had been taking cold medicine. But there's no smoke without fire, and these are some pretty thick clouds:


You can kind of understand why he might be drunk - not only is he faced with these huge, glaring negative figures, he also has to understand what they mean and then pretend to the public that he has some idea of how to fix things. And also he's an alcoholic. Still, he'd have done far less damage to his and the cabinet's reputation if he'd called in sick or something, rather than going ahead with the press conference.

Finally, an NTV survey has shown that Aso's approval rating has fallen yet again! It's a veritable approval-rating-limbo he's dancing over there - he's now bending backwards to the vertebrae-crunching tune of 9.7%. Presumably to piss-off the remaining fraction of the country who isn't sick to the teeth of him already he'd have to literally take a shit on the national flag. But don't think he won't do it. I have total faith. Dream the impossible dream, Aso.

Aso's "riding-high-on-a-tenth-of-the-electorate" face

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Akebono Vs. Tokyo Marathon

Akebono, the retired sumo superstar, plans to run the Tokyo Marathon on the 22nd of March. He's written on his blog that he's turning 40 this year, and that at 220kg running a 26mile marathon will "feel pretty tight". Apparently they stop giving finishing times after 7 hours, so he's aiming to finish before then. How hard can it be? He only needs to keep walking, right?

Still, good to see he's keeping active. His blog shows him training at home in Hawaii in a regimen that includes lots of food and some treadmilling. He might be approaching this challenge the wrong way.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Valentine's Day

It's Valentine's Day! A day dedicated to obligatory, and therefore hollow, acts of affection. A day where couples show their love for each other, because it's the done thing and everyone's doing it. A day when millions of couples are essentially peer-pressured into spending money, like the mindless sheep they are. Baaa! Baaa! Baaaaa! Buy her something or she'll think you don't love her! Quick! QUICK!

In Japan, Valentine's Day is slightly different. It's a day where girls give guys they like chocolates. They then have a festival called 'White Day', which is "celebrated" exactly a month after Valentine's Day, in which men who received chocolates have to give the same amount back, thus completing the cycle. The average amount spent on Valentines gifts by women in Japan is £65. Yes, £65. Let's put that in perspective: £65 could buy you 6,500 penny sweets - enough to feed a Namibian family for at least half a year. For £65 you could have a man killed in East London. £65 could buy you one and a half Xbox games. Or an R4 cart, which would then enable you to play every DS game ever made for free. Is a box of chocolates worth any of those things? When you could just as easily say, "Um, sorry, I forgot..."?

Anyway.

Anyway, anyway, anyway. There's been a lot of coverage of Valentine's Day in Japan (or "VD-coverage" as I like to call it, because I am very clever) on blogs that have the professionalism to impart actual information. What Japan Thinks has an absolutely frightening number of statistics on the subject (ie. 15 sets of statistics). AltJapan has a picture of the chocolate beetles you can buy for the man in your life who's slightly wrong in the head. Shibuya246 has found non-chocolate chocolate-towel rolls. Japanator has found real, honest-to-goodness chocolate tools. And Japan Probe has found Ultraman chocolates, pictured above.

I don't want to call it a "carnival of horrors". But it is. It's exactly that.

...

...WHY DID NO-ONE GIVE ME ANY CHOCOLATES?

:o(

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Sport

After much deliberation I've decided to provide some sport coverage in this blog. Not golf or swimming or basketball or tennis or rugby, because they're shit. And not cricket because Japan doesn't play cricket, to its eternal detriment. And not football, unless there's an international football tournament going on - at any other time football is numbingly tedious. I shall be covering baseball and some sumo wrestling.

The baseball season hasn't started yet, so I'll probably use this time to get my tiny readership up to speed with the rules and the teams. And then you can forget all about the teams, because the team you need to support is the Tigers. And I'll be telling you why later. The actual coverage will probably start with the World Baseball Classic series in March, in which Japan are going to shit on everyone else, including America, just like they did three years ago. Osu!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Asama Eruption

Should've have posted this when it was relevant, but at least it's still kind of cool. You'll no doubt be aware that the volcano Mount Asama erupted at the beginning of this month, and there was ash scattered over a few cities because of that. But you probably only read about the eruption... so... you wanna watch it? Because Maechan uploaded some awesome time-lapse footage of the eruption.


Click for the video

Different angles (but not such good quality video) can be found here, here and here.

Don't get that with the Yomiuri Shimbun, do you?

Factories And Lights

I haven't blogged in a while due to my time and energy being taken up with fun. I'm going to get back to blogging just as soon as I get some sleep.

While I'm gone, though, here are some pictures from Seilbleu, Hanazuc, Totoon and Beef.200%, who all take pictures of factories. It may sound a bit rubbish, but the pictures are beautiful.

























川崎



川崎


A lot of them look a bit like sci-fi villain fortresses - especially the last two with the clouds hanging over them. Go their Flickr accounts for more - you can't really start to appreciate the pictures until you see them at double their size here.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Sapporo's 60th Annual SnowFest

The 60th Sapporo Snow Festival is almost over. Here are a few pictures of this year's sculptures in Odori Park.

The 60th Sapporo Snow Festival #7
2008 Olympic Gold Medalist Swimmer, Kosuke Kitajima (photo by Sasakei)

The 60th Sapporo Snow Festival #4
Namdaemun (photo by Sasakei)

Getting for Sapporo Snow Festival 2009
A Kickass Building (photo by Moontears)


Hammamatsu Castle (photo from here)

And finally, this year's Miss Sapporo:




It's almost over so I'm not sure this'll be worth it, but click here for a live video-feed of the festival.

Gamarjobat

I first saw Gamarjobat at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2007. Their show was advertised as Japanese physical comedy and the poster had penguins on it. That's literally all it takes to sell me something. I went to see the show with Giorgio, and it was fucking brilliant. (Their 2008 show wasn't quite as good, but calling it 'slightly worse than fucking brilliant' isn't much of a criticism.)

If you haven't seen them before, Gamarjobat are two Japanese comedians, Ketch! and HIRO-PON. They do sketches and some magic tricks and general japes, wearing black suits, sunglasses and mohicans. The Japan Times wrote a special on them last week, so read it for more detailed description than 'they are fucking brilliant'.

When I was in Japan last summer with the Crisis Team we saw adverts that Gamarjobat had filmed for the Tokyo local councils showing on the Shibuya Crossing Screen. They are short clips that warn people not to litter or throw chewing gum onto the streets, that sort of thing. These are them:


Shadow


Chewing Gum


Can

They've just had a pilot show screened on BBC3, which you can watch by clicking here. It's only up there until the 13th of February though, so watch it soon. Because it's fucking brilliant. (Also, if you're boycotting the BBC post-DEC-controversy then you can justify watching it by reminding yourself that the pilot was filmed before that scandal.)

This is a clip from the show.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Some Aya-News

I was going to blog this morning, but I got sidetracked. By sleep. And now I have to run off to the countryside to spend an evening with the talented Mr Olli Rose. But before I do, I've just got time to show you this. It's another Oricon survey, this time about the celebrities with the best smile. And in the list of female celebrities they've ranked Ueto Aya a disappointing 2nd. Sacrilege! Blasphemy! The people of Japan think that Miyazaki Aoi has a better smile than Aya! How absurd.

In other Aya-news, she's just been cast in the movie "Baton", directed by Kitamura! Although the news-item does say that it's an animated film. They spend all that money hiring her then don't even show her on screen. How absurd.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Crazy-Ass Shit: The Legend Of Koizumi

I'm not really a big fan of manga, just like I'm not a big fan of anime. Of course, there's some manga and some anime that I love, but people who watch every new release, or who can even get excited by the new releases, kind of baffle me. The vast majority of manga and anime are complete trash, just like the majority of books written in the world are worth less than the paper soiled in the printing process, just like the majority of music released is mind-crushingly boring, just like most films made are spirit-breakingly stupid. So it's not that I don't like manga or anime, it's just that if you look at the titles released every month, you don't need to have read or seen them to know they're almost definitely crap.

Mudazumo Naki Kaikaku: The Legend Of Koizumi is different though. I cannot wait for this to come out in England. It looks like the most epic manga ever. I literally can't wait to get my hands on it.

The premise is this: various world-leaders battle each other in games of Super Mahjong to determine the fate of their countries. Oh yes. The world leaders involved are:


Koizumi Junichiro


Aso Taro


George W. Bush


George Bush Snr.


Kim Jong-Il


Vladimir Putin

The manga describes itself as "real, legendary, hardcore action". That's right: not just action. Hardcore action. Legendary, hardcore action. Real, legendary, hardcore action. Hold on, how can something be both 'real' and 'legendary'? It doesn't matter! If anything can, The Legend Of Koizumi can.

Apparently the story continues in Kindai Mahjong Original, where the Pope enters the battle! The freaking POPE! It simply doesn't get better than that.


Koizumi SMASH!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Origami

You know what origami is, obviously. It's what happens when bored people start farting around, folding bits of paper trying to make them look like animals, and generally only succeeding in making them look like folded bits of paper. Famously, folding 1000 cranes is supposed to be lucky. Of course if you put the time you spent folding stupid tiny cranes into just crunching the statistics, you'd stand far more of a chance of winning the lottery. Namely, no chance whatsoever.

But you're wrong to be so dismissive of origami - not all of it is complete rubbish. I've found some videos of people on the internet (traditionally the most bored people in the world) making some quite astounding things out of sheets of ordinary paper. Things that might bring out the excitable geek in you, if you haven't yet crushed that geek, and that ability to become excited, in back-episodes of Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps. Here are those videos.


That's right. It's Evangelion Unit 01. From a piece of paper.



A wild Pikachu attacked!



More Pokemon: Squirtle



Actually there are loads of Pokemon origami videos on YouTube: Palkia



This has loads of good work, but no step-by-step instructions on any of them. Also, mute the video before you hit play - the music's fucking execrable. And the last 30 seconds or so are taken up by what I'm guessing is a joke from Mr. "tinhyeusetdanh" on YouTube.


Make 1000 Palkias, then you'll have my respect.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

A Bit Of A Wordy Rant - Skip It If You Don't Like Wordy Rants

The Christian Science Monitor wrote an article recently entitled "Japanese Dare To Ask: Do We Really Need An Emperor?". I was going to blog about it because it really, really pissed me off, but then I decided not to. But then Japan Probe wrote a post on it and didn't give it nearly the beating it deserved, so I am going to blog about it. The article in question is here.

The first problem with the article is that the question it poses in the headline is really fucking stupid. Of course they don't need an Emperor. But there are lots of things that they "don't need" - does that necessarily mean they should get rid of them? The list of things that people need to survive is actually very short, but if you told people they had to live their lives with no music, no art, no literature, no showers, no beds, no running in the corridors, they'd start getting pissed off pretty quickly. As someone in the comments of the Japan Probe post pointed out, "If someone wants to have a useless piece of art in their house, that's their choice."

Rena Singer seems to think that the Japanese monarchy is useless because it doesn't have meaning or relevance. But, of course, she's wrong. Firstly, something can have "meaning" and still be "useless" - that's what 'Art' is. Secondly, something can be "useful" but not have "meaning" - like 'Cutlery'. And if you took a person and forced them to live in a tent with only what they needed to survive, like Singer seems to be advocating, couldn't you then argue that that life lacks meaning? And therefore, by Singer's logic, is also useless? So she would have to say that the person's life is worthless, despite advocating it in the first place. You're an idiot, Singer.

Also the wording of the headline is so transparently partisan and emotive it makes me throw up a little in my mouth. "Japanese Dare To Ask: Do We Really Need An Emperor?" They "dare" to ask, do they? As if they're being oppressed? As if it takes an act of daredevil courage to even ask the question? What a hack journalist. The point Japan Probe makes in their blog-post is that the Singer hasn't actually cited any sources to back up her claim that Japanese people are questioning their monarchy.

When a reporter makes a claim that “many” people are daring to question the need for a royal family, one might expect some evidence to back up that claim. Did Singer include some quotes from Japanese people who don’t think the country needs an emperor? Nope.

The best she can do is a statement from an expert who says Japanese attitudes towards the royal family might change in 30 years, and a quote from a Japanese woman who thinks the crown prince needs to “change things to make the family more relevant.”

Smooth work, Singer. Do you know what that is? It's a lack of professional rigour brought on by the desire to promote an unjustifiable opinion as daring and progressive fact, coupled with sheer, shameless tabloidism. At this point I'd like to retract my earlier statement - Rena Singer is not just a hack journalist, she's also a cock-chuffing fucktard.

The Japanese monarchy does have meaning: it represents traditional Japan, it's a symbol of national pride and the resiliency of traditional Japanese values. It's important for the Japanese to have something that links old Japan with new Japan. Post-war, the Japanese started assimilating American culture. A lot of people think that this was because the Americans invaded and imposed their culture on the Japanese, but I don't think that's true. The Americans were there in significant force for a very short time, and American culture didn't obtain in Japan until the '60s. My theory is that it has more to do with guilt. Every generation in every culture to some extent rejects the lifestyle of the previous generation - that's what being a teenager is about: finding your own identity starts with defining what you oppose. Japanese children growing up after the war didn't want to identify themselves with their parents who had lost a war and let Japan be invaded for the first time in history, so they latched onto the nearest thing in opposition to their parents: American culture. There was no imposition involved. The adoption of aspects of a foreign culture makes it very important for particularly Japanese institutions, like the monarchy, to continue. The monarchy does have meaning and does have relevance, purely because they are not a product of the modern age. That is why they are important, Singer, you stupid bitch.

(And then, having said the monarchy have no meaning, two paragraphs later she says they "[act] as a unifying force and [foster] hope during difficult times." Another contradiction.)

Singer also claims that the monarchy "was considered divine until 1945". Guess what? She's wrong. They didn't think the Emperor was an actual god - they weren't fucking cavemen. They had a constitution and a fairly intricate judicial system long before the Americans came. They knew he was a man, but they respected him because of what he represented. The Americans forced the Emperor to renounce his claim to divinity in a radio broadcast, but the people already knew he wasn't divine - what was embarrassing for them was that their national figurehead was now at the mercy of American whim.

She also claims that Akihito's duties being reduced are due to him being "stressed". But it's not that at all. It's due to him being "old". And Masako's depression has nothing to do with her being "stressed" necessarily either. There's no evidence for that at all, so I don't know what Singer is doing claiming that.

If you still haven't read Singer's article, you should do so. It's so full of twisted facts and brazen lies that the possibility she could get away with this sickens me. I'd like to retract my previous statement, Singer's not just a hack journalist and a cock-chuffing fucktard. But I don't have the adjectives to properly describe what she is.

Show And Tell

Two schoolboys in Okinawa found an unexploded bomb from World War 2 and brought it into their school as study material. It turned out to be safe as the fuse was no longer intact, but it was still a pretty scary moment for the teachers.

The most surprising aspect of the linked article is the statement that in just two weeks this month, the SDF unearthed and disposed of 445 unexploded WW2 bombs in Okinawa. The Americans really took that place to task. For those of you who don't know, Okinawa was a major strategic field in the war between America and Japan, with one of the largest battles being held there in which almost 200,000 Japanese died. It was going to be the base from which the Americans launched their invasion of Japan, but soon after they won it they decided to just nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the short term, nuking the two cities was a horrific and inhuman thing to do, but in the long term it probably saved a lot of lives that would undoubtedly have been lost in the defence of a ground-invasion.

It's just such a shame, because I'm pretty much in love with all the Ryukyuan Islands, and I genuinely believe they include some of the most beautiful places in the world. As the linked article states, earlier this month a man had part of his face blown off when a water-pipe he was repairing disturbed a WW2 bomb. This sort of thing shouldn't be happening. It's too tragic for words.