Friday, December 23, 2005

Then and Now...

After 18 mostly happy months in my 1R apartment, I have now moved into my spacious and much appreciated 3DK one. As the pictures show (the first taken in early June 2004 and the second in late December 2005), the place looks almost exactly the same. All those meals, all those laps on Project Gotham 2, all those beers and late nights and not so early mornings... strange to think that the place has gone back to the exact state it was when I first moved in. It's as if I was never there at all. Perhaps the walls are a little more off-white, and the door jambs a little more rounded, the signs of a home well used...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas Volunteer Programme turns out to be OK

When I was told a couple of weeks ago that I was to be part of the Christmas Volunteer program, I feared the worst. I had images of my precious holiday being taken up with wearing a yellow ribbon and picking up litter on pavements. But it turns out that it was something completely different. And it was damn fun too.

Last week, myself and a glut of international course students went to a local kindergarten and did some basic English and Korean lessons with the kids. Split into two groups, I was in the English half (obviously), and the afternoon consisted of sitting in a little circle with 6 little ones and generally acting like a clown.

The children seemed far better behaved than the toddlers in England, and there were no tears, no punches and no shouting the name of whatever TV character happens to be the latest thing. There were waves and smiles at the end, and after a brief photo or two, we headed back to school feeling uplifted and content, filled with happiness and the smiles of children.

Bad hair at the bowling alley

The microcosm that is the bowling community is not exactly reknowned for style and fashion, but there is absolutely no excuse - or reason - for the following hair.

A dyed ginger mullet, which must have cost at least 20 quid. And it's one of those long at the back, shaved everywhere else mullets too. Disgraceful.

More terrible hair crime

Nishitetsu station in Kurume really is a hotbed for awful barnets. I seem to see them every day, and each, though not necessarily worse than the last, is sufficiently different in its awfulness to seem so. The latest example is shown below, although the photo didn't come out as well as I would have liked.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to see that atop the vast, bald head is a solitary cord of hair stretched across like a cord, no more than half an inch thick. As well as having one of the biggest heads I have ever seen, this chap was also well over 6 feet tall, so I was unable to get the desired birds eye shot. Just my luck - all those tiny Japanese men with awful hair, and the one that I have a chance to take a photo of is almost as tall as me...

My wallet

My fiance has dropped a few hints recently that I need a new wallet, and whilst I agree that it has seen better days I am reluctant to part with it. Why? After all, the clasp has all but fallen off, the leather is cracked and unresponsive, the metal studs have lost their lustre.

I think the reason is that it is a part of my history. I was trying to think last night when I got it, but couldn't. I'm pretty sure that I had an older one when I was at the end of high school, so this one was probably given to me sometime between 1997 and 1999. Probably by my Grandfather, as that is one of his gifts of choice. It may be battered and scarred, but this wallet has been with me since I was a teenager, has been through a University education, a first trip into North America, a first foray into Asia. It was in my pocket when a bomb scare delayed my flight by 5 hours. It was in my pocket when England narrowly lost to Argentina in 98. It was in my pocket when my then girlfriend ran off angrily into the Hong Kong night and I was left holding her umbrella. It was in my pocket when I spent a 5 hour car journey talking about the Blair Witch Project with my best friend. It was in my pocket when the Two Towers fell. It was in my pocket when I watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy with my best friends. It was in my pocket when my parent's marriage fell apart. It was in my pocket when I flew to Japan, leaving my childhood and previous life behind.

I know that it won't last forever, but for the moment I'm determined to keep it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Successful night out

Well, the Bonenkai was good. There was a lot of shop talk, but quite a lot of beer and sake too, so all was well. I got a chance to practice my Japanese and talk to some of the teachers I rarely get a chance to. Despite it being quite a busy night, I was home, showered and tucked up by the stroke of midnight, and woke early this morning with no real ill effects. A solid 8/10 on my night out scale.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Studying Japanese

I would really love to be able to speak Japanese fluently, to be able to interpret in all situations with finesse and speed. I know full well that such a level of competence takes time and dedication, but I can't seem to bring myself to study. It's far easier just to sit back and listen. Although I have learned quite a lot of Japanese since I have been in Japan, if I had studied dilligently every day then I would be a lot further along the road to fluency than I am now. Time will tell...

The year end party is drawing nigh...

Half five here in Japan, and the sky is already dark. Across the desks from me, one of our more vocal 3rd year girls is singing along full throated to the SMAP song on her laptop, whilst the golf manager looks on and pretends to know what the hell is going on with music nowadays. The department chief, who IS the skilled swordsman from The Seven Samurai, is resplendent in his usual attire of brown shades and sandals, and shuffles to a from the photo copier half-heartedly humming to the music.

In an hour our much vaunted BoNenKai should be underway. I really have no idea how it will turn out... my best guess is that it will either be like all of the other outings we have had, during which the teachers all sit around and talk about school for hours, or it could be fantastic with gratuitous drinking and a general coming-out-of-shells. A downer before things have even started is that the teacher most likely to make it a good time has gone home early with stomach trouble. Seeing as there are no classes tomorrow, it's the perfect time to let loose and forget about all the bureaucratic toss that fills the days, and as BoNenKai translates as Forgetting the Year Gathering it's doubly so.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Am I imagining it...

... or is the GEOS poster shown below teeming with sexual tension and the giddy rush of forbidden love?...

Friday, December 16, 2005

Teachers' Meeting

At the 2nd Trimester teachers' meeting, the various department heads had to present their students' results to the rest of the teachers and give some form of analysis and projections for the future. It was pretty much as you would expect. Lots of "we are quite pleased with these results" and "we must continue to do our best", etc.

Were I one of the department heads, I don't think that I would be able to resist saying something along the lines of "We have taken over 5 billion US dollars through the infiltration of several third world governments, and soon more will fall under the shadow of SPECTRE, Number One". Were this in England it would most likely cause titters and suppressed laughter, but here in Japan it would more likely result in blank stares, tutting and a quiet aside from the Principal.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

More terrible hair at Nishitetsu Kurume...

Although not The Worst Hair in Japan, I happened to see a pretty impressive imitation this evening as I passed through the station. Once again, a sketch will have to suffice.

The unforgiveable thing about this hairstyle is the brass neck of the man thinking that no one would notice that he had painted his head black. Deserves a slapping for that.

Old lady banter

Whilst walking from the school to the station this evening, I happened to walk past an all too familiar thing in yanagawa - two old ladies squatting by the side of the road making incredibly-small talk. Although I am far from proficient when it comes to the Japanese language, I have a rather annoying ability to be able to understand old ladies. This is what they said as I walked past:

1st: He's tall!
2nd: Yes he is. Is he 2 metres do you think?
1st: Perhaps he is. I wonder what he eats?

Were I fluent in Japanese, I would have said "old ladies squatting by the side of the road" before walking towards them like Boris Karloff, but sadly such a pleasure will have to wait...

Yanagawa is a rather stange place...

Backwater. In the sticks. Corpse. These are all things that may come to mind when one thinks of Yanagawa. It is on the commuter line between Kurume and Omuta (which was once bigger and more prosperous than Kurume until the coal mines were emptied and the city started to eat itself alive) and would be rather unremarkable, but for the high school I work at and the canal boating (which isn't exactly Venice). However, there seems to be a strange undercurrent of quirkiness that seeps through Yanagawa, and I'm reminded of Royston Vasey on a daily basis.

For a start, there is a strange and seldom seen van that haunts the streets around the school. I sometimes manage to catch a quick glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye, and it makes me think of an ice cream van, though I'm not sure they have those here in Japan. However, the music is more akin to that tearful theme at the end of The Incredible Hulk, not the cheerful twang of a Mr Whippy van. And it may be my imagination but I only seem to hear the music once the brief glimpse of the van has passed.

The presence of haunting music is continued on the platforms of the train station, in the form of a tinkling glockenspiel theme that suggests facing down Lee van Cleef across a dusty Mexican steppe rather than waiting in line for a train.

There are other instances of strangeness but I can never seem to recall them until they happen again. I've been meaning to mention the van for ages, but it slipped mysteriously from my mind. Perhaps it's because I only commute here that things seem strange... were I to live in Yanagawa things would probably seem natural. Now there's a scary thought...

Scholarly Struggle

Perhaps the lowlight of my week is having to teach TOEFL to 40 bored kids. In fact, I can't teach them TOEFL as I would like, due to the number of students, so I have to give them a potted course in techniques (which itself is very watered down).

Teaching TOEFL at Nova was easy. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I taught it, and each time was to a student or a high level schoolkid. The fact that TOEFL is difficult and boring didn't matter, as it was man-to-man and the student was eager to learn.

If my TOEFL classes were limited to 20 kids I still wouldn't be able to teach it by the book, but at least there would be more opportunity for focused lessons.
i'm not sure what today's lesson will bring - all I know is that TOEFL rhymes with woeful and I'm in need of some morning coffee..

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Soul Train - an appreciation.

Although I was vaguely aware of Soul Train before, it was in the Spike Lee film Crooklyn that I saw it for the first time. Since then I've tried to find it on video, but with no success. Until, miraculously, a multi-part documentary was shown on Japanese TV. A combination of great music, incredible dancing and retro chic makes Soul Train one of my favourite TV shows of all time.

I can't dance, or sing, but I can appreciate both, and Soul Train had both of these talents in abundance. There's something very satisfying about seeing people dancing, completely at ease, at one with the music. Despite the worries and hardships that we all bear in the world, there are precious times when we can forget and really live. I'd like to think that The Soul Train Gang were able to do this.

I am the first to admit that I prefer the music of the past to that of the future. By my reckoning, music reached it's zenith in 1967, and despite sporadic peaks since then, has never been matched (a certain redheaded former university colleague of mine might have a few biting repostes to this...). The soul music of the early to mid 70s was one of those peaks. And in an age of pastry cutout boy and girl bands, singing bland, formulaic songs, Soul Train puts the inedequacies of much of today's music into sharp relief.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Officially The Worst Haircut in Japan!

Good grief... last night I was walking through Nishitetsu train station, and I saw something that no one should ever have to see. It was a haircut of such terribleness that I shudder when I think of it. I would have to say that it is the worst hairstyle that I have ever seen, in a long list of awful hairstyles. Please look at the below sketch and see what you think (a photo would have been better but it was crowded and my hands were shaking).

Absolutely unforgiveable. If I see him again I'm going to smack his face.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Expectation and the taste of Korean herb tea..

One of the Microsoft Presidents is about to arrive at our school for a very prestigous visit and you could cut the tension with a knife.. it's a bit like the scene in The Worst Witch when the girls are awaiting the arrival of the Grand Wizard (let's hope our guy doesn't descend from the heavens in a pink cape the size of a small village and launch into a terrible music video, as Tim Curry did)..

Ju-on - an appreciation.

Hollywood makes awful horror movies. That is assuming that the definition of a horror movie is a movie that genuinely scares you and makes you feel uneasy. If the definition of a horror movie is to crank up the CGI, overlay every scene with ill advised music and screaming, thereby negating all fear, then Hollywood makes great horror movies. The only time that Hollywood has made halfway decent ones is when they have remade those from Japan. In Japan, film makers seem to realise that it's silence and not screaming that is scary, that it is the unseen and the expectation of what is to come that creates fear, not a soundtrack and a computer graphic.

Ju-on is perhaps the best horror film I have ever seen, for a number of reasons. First of all, it's scary. Really, unsettlingly scary. This is caused by the sparse style of filming, the sense of expectation and the fact that everything is downplayed and underhyped. Take for example the scene pictured below.

A man returns home to find his wife lifeless on the bed. Looking in the cupboard, he senses movement behind him. Turning, he sees nothing, but when he goes over to investigate the bed, a little blue tinted boy springs up and stares at him. No special effects, no music, and it works superbly.

The character of the young boy, Toshio, is another reason that Ju-on is so good. In most of the other great Japanese horror films, there is always a Sadako character - the ghost of an abused girl, with long hair, wearing a white dress. Ju-on has this character in the form of Toshio's mother, but he himself adds so much more tension to the proceedings, and it's refreshing to see an original character causing the scares. The scene below is a good example.

As one of the curse's victims ascends in the elevator, Toshio appears on each floor, staring at her through the glass. Simple yet powerful. For Japanese and non-Japanese living in Japan, scenes like this are made all the more powerful due to the fact that most elevators in Japan look just like that. Most Japanese houses look similar, in part, to the cursed house. Most apartment hallways look similar to those in the movie.

My Japanese skills are pretty basic, and as I saw Ju-on on vhs without English subtitles, I don't know the subtleties of what is said. I understand the gist of what is happening however, and perhaps my lack of knowledge adds to the scariness of the story. There are many other scary scenes in this movie, but you'll have to watch it for yourself to see them...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The following are quotes from a news story on Yahoo news:

"A row has broken out after a teenager was banned from wearing a crucifix at a school where Sikhs can carry ceremonial daggers.Sam Morris, 16, was reportedly sent home from Sinfin Community School, Derby, after she refused to remove a gold cross on a necklace."

"Other pupils are allowed to wear kirpan daggers and metal bracelets, as they are classed as religious symbols, said the Daily Express."

"Derby City Council said the ban was lawful but questioned whether it was "desirable"."

I don't really need to say anything else do I? Ok, maybe I do... here are my rewrites, reading between the lines:

"A row has broken out after a teenager was banned from wearing a harmless, and now pretty meaningless piece of jewelry where anyone even remotely ethnic can do whatever the hell they want, including carrying around weapons. Sam Morris, 16, was reportedly sent home from Sinfin Community School, Derby, after she refused to fall in line with the idiocy of left wing political correctness gone to Poringland in a cocked hat."

"Other students are allowed to wear deadly weapons and metal bracelets, because spineless jobsworths who haven't been fucked since the 70s are in a position to impose their ludicrous tripe on the public, and want to appear as everyone's friend, as long as they're not white and have common sense, said an utterly un-neutral newspaper."

"Derby City Council did their best impression of a polititian on newsnight and should really grow a backbone."

This is why I left England, in many ways... Christ (Ohh, sorry dahhling.. did I offend anyone?)

For the full story, click here.

Thwarted by a Harridan (the story of my life)...

Today was the coldest in a run of very cold days. Warm Biz, the Japanese government initiative of laying off the air con heat and putting on more clothes doesn't seem to have filtered down to our school - teachers put the air con on full blast and wear lots of clothes as well. As nice and snug as it is in the office, it does mean that venturing outside is many times more biting than it would be. And for me, the few minutes that I have to wait at the bus stop is particularly biteworthy.

Thankfully today, the bus was a few seconds early and - joy! - the driver stopped in the road and didn't pull over and kill the engine. Here was a driver that understood the commuter's need to make an early train. Respect in his general direction. Everything was going perfectly.. the lights were with us, we were making fine progress.. the early train would be mine.

And then it happened. We approached the bus stop, the traffic in front meaning that we had to stop with the boarding door 3 metres shy of where it should be. An elderly woman was waiting, and the driver, having already displayed a desire to make up time, opened the door and gestured to the woman that she could board.

So what did she do? Yes, she stood there with a pinched face. Instead of walking a few steps and getting on the bus she waited for the lights to change, for the bus driver to alight and for the door to be perfectly in line with her. She then got on the bus, taking such a long time getting her ticket and climbing the steps that the lights changed back to red and we had wasted 4 unwastable minutes. I wanted to scream.. for the past 8 months the bus has arrived at the station just as the train is leaving perhaps 9 times out of ten. The rare occasions on which the Gods of traffic are with us are very precious, and to have one wasted by a surly Yanagawa hag makes me want to slap her miserable face and piss in her inevitable vat of miso soup..

Ken's Grammar Lessons

If there had been anyone that would have looked better in Raquel Welch's fur bikini in 1966, I would have liked to have met her.

Fashion victim gets her comeuppance...

It had to happen sooner or later. There's only so many times you can wear horrendously jarring combinations of clothing and shoes before you have an accident or an embarrassing mishap. The latter happened this morning at Yanagawa Train Station. A 20 something girl, resplendent in bobble hat, too-small-jacket, micro mini skirt and a-size-too-big black high heels with those awful doily socklet things, was clickclacking her way up the stairs amidst a throng of commuters when she screamed and the whole movement of people ground to a stop. She had lost her shoe, and she was stuck. Despite cries of "kutsu! (shoe!)", it took her a few minutes to jostle past the uncooperative, put-out salarymen to receive the scuffed shoe. Did she apologise for the incident? No. She just giggled to her friend and carried on as if nothing had happened... still, she did have a very red face and was clearly embarrassed. Perhaps this will act as a deterrant to others, but personally I have sore misgivings...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Great stuff on a Saturday night...

How about this for a scenario. 2am on a Sunday morning. Yours truly has just returned to his apartment from a farewell party in the city, and he comes across the scene seen to the left. A weary salaryman carries his paraletic wife up the apartment stairs, whilst his young son skips innocently ahead, the latter having no notion of the slow pickling of his mother's liver, or the inner struggle that currently besets his father.

Believe me, this is no mean feat for the company man. The stairs are rather pretty, but they are the very last thing you want to see after a night on the sauce and with a half cut trophy wife to get to bed. Sensing the problem, I offered my assistance, but the salaryman smiled and waved me away, apologising profusely. He was at the point of exhaustion, and his usually-better half was taking her toll. I went up the stairs ahead of them, wincing as she slipped a few times and bounced down a few steps, and tried to think about the hot shower and cup of milky tea that would soon be mine.

As it turned out, the elevator was on the 13th floor, so by the time it had descended to me, the party going family were right behind. I must admit to usually liking being in an elevator with Japanese people, as it gives me a chance to use some everyday expressions, but that morning I didn't much like the thought of a multicoloured yawn all over my new shoes. "Nan kai desu ka?" I asked. "Juu kai o onegaishimasu," the increasingly shattered salaryman responded with much deference. The wife stirred a few times, but her husband offered no words of encouragement. I had no way of knowing, but it seemed to me then that this was a weekly routine for them. Did he envisage this when he plucked up the courage to ask her out all those years ago - that he would be spending his precious Saturday nights with smeared make up, vomit spattered shoes, a Louis Vuitton handbag soaked with alcohol?

I got off and went to my apartment on the 6th floor, and I never saw them again. I kind of wanted to find them a few days later and see what had happened the next day. My money was on a hangover of unimagined severity (although we all have them, we can't fully appreciate the ferocity unless it is actually happening at that very instant - this is why we swear off alcohol forever and then the next week go straight back to it), though I'll never find out, as making such house calls to stangers, at least in my apartment, is not the done thing. That's a really sad state of affairs if you think about it...

A Friend Leaves...

True friendship often grows out of turmoil and indifference. During the first three years of highschool, although we never spoke I had a mortal enemy called Martin. We would glare at eachother in the corridor and take great pains to avoid eachother. Then, at the start of English in the 4th year, we happened to be in the same group and our teacher put us on the same table. A friendship developed, and I couldn't believe that there was any animosity in the past.

Last year in Kurume, I was at an 80s party with some friends. We were stood at the bar, when all of a sudden an Oriental looking girl appeared, looked at me from head to toe and said "What the FUCK did you come as?" before turning around and marching off. The girl was Linh Dang, and I wouldn't have known it at the time but we were to become quite good friends.

From that time at the bar in the summer of 2004 until late November, I didn't give Linh a second thought. Then, when cycling home from work one Thursday night, another friend accosted me on his bike, and invited me to go bowling with him. I agreed. On the way, he told me that we would be picking up Linh on the way.

Linh... the girl who was rude to me. I must admit to feeling a bit reluctant to go. But anyway, I did and when we got to her house, instead of more lip and indifference she was incredibly pleasant and well mannered (though this would turn out to be rare!). Perhaps I had her down all wrong, I thought, and I had.

We continued to bowl most Thursday nights, and soon a 5 strong group emerged. Linh would often invite us all to her house where she laid on exquisite homecooked meals while we sat back drinking oolong tea and reading Ben's copies of Hotdog. In a way it seemed that there would always be Linh in our town.

When she told me that she was leaving I was a little shocked. I had heard a rumour that she was planning to move on in the future, but I hadn't given it much credence. Like all the people that matter in life, you get used to their presence and may even neglect them, not through malice but just because they are so comfortable to be around. Linh is like that. She can be brash and uncouth, loud and awkward, but that's just what strangers see on the outside. In reality her brashness is individuality, her awkwardness her desire to be who she is.

This evening I realised that I had lost my gloves somewhere between my school and the train station. I made it home with freezing, slightly chapped hands, but it seemed insignificant when compared the feeling of losing a friend...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Why is it...

Why is it that no matter where you work, there is always someone who really gets on your wick, and tends to be someone you have to be in contact with on a daily basis?

I spent months sat in an electronics factory with a deeply uncool person who had no grasp of poetry or imagination, and saw things only literally (memorable moments - when he was caught in the very creepy act of writing down everything everybody said to him everyday - like a movie script - having told everyone that he was studying for a diploma part time, and when he was caught staring at a new female employee and licking his lips).

I spent a couple of months working with a miserable bastard in the offices of a grain mill, who rubbed everyone up the wrong way and seemed intent on spoiling everyones day (memorable moment - on my last day, i made a mistake and trucks were gridlocked outside, and he abandoned me and went home, so I let all the work pile up, which gave him a 4 day workload the next day).

And now I find myself working with a brash, obnoxious teacher that loves the sound of his own voice and thinks the world revolves around him. The days when he isn't in the office are wonderful (memorable moments so far - when he sulked all day because there was a problem with the cord on his telephone, and when he came into work after a department party and less than 2 hours sleep and had to cover an extra couple of classes, as well as a mountain of paperwork).

At least the presence of these people makes us value the people who are nice...

Looks can be deceiving...

Consider the above pudding. Despite looking like a combination of cold diarrhea and rabbit feed, this Chinese dessert is incredibly tasty and wholesome. Essentially a tofu like substance (tou-nyu) and liquified black sugar with some oat like sprinklings, it's just the thing to start the day, and is less than 80kcal. Go on, give it a try...

A shame...

What a pretty girl Harry Potter character Cho Chang is. Shame about the whiney Scottish accent...

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Another Good Bowling Session

I headed to Top Lane this morning, half expecting it to be full of boiler suited fools on a works do, but luckily it was almost empty. Trying hard to remember what I had done on Thursday night, and more importantly how, I began my ten games. Poorish start - 138, good recovering game - 181, and satisfactory for the next 3 - 156, 161 and 174. A bit ropey on the next one - 143, but then a 201 (though it should have been in the 220s after a glorious start). Really poor follow up - 124, but then a PB - 223! And finally rounding things off with a 178.

Overall, encouraging. Some good strikes, good spares, though not as consistent as Thursday night, and I needed the two big scores to keep the average above 165. I think that now I am beginning to realise what I have to do to get big scores: keep my wrist very still, don't put my fingers too far into the ball, keep my thumb almost out, and give it a nice easy swing in a straight line down the right hand side of the lane. The next test will be to try it out in a training session with sausage fingers, as my scores tend to be 10 or so pins higher when I play with him.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Song of Experience

Today was what I consider a form of hell... a school trip. Making it even worse, it was to the cinema (which I have gradually become disenchanted with over the years, to the point that I loathe even hearing the word cinema), it was to see Harry Potter (whose franchise I have no real interest in) and was followed by a shopping trip to a sterile and sparse outlet shopping village (where it was grey and drizzling).

The reason I dislike these trips is that my status as an outsider is magnified to the nth degree. Two distinct groups form, the teachers and the students, and I am somewhere between the two but neither. I am in limbo, and it is torturous.

The reason I dislike the cinema is... well, how to best explain it. I'm too tired at the moment to launch into a full explanation, but let's just say that it's a confidence trick created by the Americans. Cinema audiences have been dwindling for decades, so film makers focus on special effects, to justify movie goers forking over hard cash when they could stay in the comfort of their homes. It's a never ending cycle. Cinemas justify the big dumb effects movies. Big dumb effect movies justify the cinemas. Some people like to see special effects and huge, panoramic action sequences. Many others don't. Personally if I never went to another cinema in my life, it wouldn't bother me.

By far the most annoying things about cinemas:

- the fucking preview trailers, which show you all the major sequences of new movies, thus removing any kind of surprise if and when you watch it. And having to sit through 20 minutes of them before the movie starts (you can always arrive late, but you may not get a seat).

- the notion that if you go to the cinema, you have to buy a bucket of popcorn and a bucket of coke, and pay through the nose. You don't have to buy food and drink at the cinema. Heaven forbid that you should have to sit still for a few hours without stuffing your face with junk food.

My woe today was increased with that most Japanese of virtues - the taking fucking ages to do something that could be done in seconds. We arrived at the cinema before half nine this morning. The movie started at ten. We needed to buy the tickets for the students and the teachers. There were no other people there waiting to be served. The class teachers know exactly how many students are in their class. Yet it was 10.10 before the tickets were handed over and we could go in. 40 plus minutes of faffing about, counting heads ten times, bowing and generally wasting time, when all that they had to do was line the kids up in three lines, collect 1500 yen from each of them, collect the other money from each teacher and hand it all over to the girl behind the glass window, asking for the correct number of tickets. Easy.

The reason I don't like the Harry Potter franchise. It's not so much the franchise as the certain sect of people that like it. The aga owning, wellingtons and wax jacket wearing, champagne socialist, henna haired left wingers that wanted Myra Hindley released but screamed bloody murder when someone wanted full fat milk in their coffee. The film itself was quite good. My first exposure to the Potterverse (there's an fucking expression to make me sick), and although I have no intention of watching any others, it wasn't the worst 3 hours of my life, by any means.

The reason I hate sterile shopping villages/outlet malls, particularly when part of a school trip is that there is often nothing interesting there! The one we went to today... my God, what an exercise in boredom that was. Overpriced clothes shops (mostly girls clothes), a few homebase style shops, a run of the mill food court, a Starbucks (how very original) and some sports shops. No record shop, no book shop, no cafeteria, nothing of real interest to anyone other than teenage girls, middle aged women and slightly modern-minded old ladies. So having got to the shopping village, it was inevitable, with this being Japan, that we would have lunch. Cue the drawn out process of ordering, sitting down, eating, expressing that the damn thing is delicious, then sitting around doing FUCK ... ALL ... for an hour whilst the teachers talked about next months schedule. Even the free ice cream generously meted out by the sports teacher was soured, with a repeat of the farce that happened at the cinema ticket counter. He said that we could all have an ice cream each. The logical thing would have been to all go to the board, choose whichever one we wanted and tell him, who would then order them as a list. But nooooooooo... this is Japan! Some people went to the board, some people wandered outside, some were still sat at the table across the food court. Ice creams were ordered individually, with no coordination or intelligence. It took a full 30 minutes and a host of incorrect orders and querying to obtain 7 ice creams, which then had to be eaten sat at the same table for another 30 minutes over more bullshit about schedules and something a student may or may not have said. Cue much fake laughing (the laughter one generates in order to show that you are aware that a joke has been made for your benefit, regardless of if it is funny or not). Finally, the meal is over, and the shopping can begin, but this would have entailed walking around as a 7 strong group, with no one having the backbone to decide on a shop to enter, so I grabbed my cellphone, called my fiance and walked off on my own. Due to the food fiasco, there were only about 45 mintes to kill, but my God they were a long 45 minutes. I had an overpriced coffee in Bodum, and looked at the kitchenware in the home shop in minute detail. By 3.30 i was ready to kill someone and then join them in the sweet release of death.

I hate school trips. I hate the forced bureacracy. I hate the sheep mentality. I hate the straight jacket of society. I hate having to sit with (nice as they are) dull people whilst they talk about nothing. I hate going to places that are depressing. I hate doing things simply because it is correct to make an effort to do such things.

I'm going to go bowling now. I'm going to get a 200 game, I'm going to cycle as hard as I possibly can without dying, and I'm going to get loaded on average lager.

Song of Innocence

When I arrived at the bowling alley at a quarter to eight last night, Ben was reclined with a coke and the alley was pleasantly dotted with a handful of regular bowlers. And despite the expected confusion from the counter staff when I asked to be put on the same lane as Ben, it turned out to be an epic night.


Well, for starters, we both had averages over 160, which for us isn't bad over ten games. Additionally, we both scored 203 in different games, as well as a clutch of 170s, 180s and a 190. Our spares were solid, and it was a genuine shock when one of us left a frame open twice in a row.

Personally speaking, it was the best I've ever bowled, not just because of the high scores and the average, but because the ball was rolling naturally and was going almost exactly where I wanted it to. There have been purple patches before, but they have always been individual, and at the expense of the opponent. This time it was two way traffic, and from the first ball to the last, it was anyone's match. As it turned out, I managed to prevail by 20 or so pins, but it could have gone either way.

One thing that I have realised since last night is that Ben is the better bowler. He uses house balls, which are not very reactive, worn and have chips and non-customised finger holes. In order to get strikes, he has to be more accurate than me, and doubly so as he bowls a straight ball, not a hook. Were I to bowl in Ben's fashion, he would whitewash me everytime by hundreds of pins. As things stand, he usually prevails when we play. If he ever learns to bowl a hook ball, I'll be in serious trouble.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Schedules permitting...

If all goes well, I should be rolling ten at the alley tonight... that is unless there's a league tournament or a works function on, in which case I'll be in for some pinny disappointment...

Assuming that I'm ten years old for a moment, here is my checklist of things that I would like to happen tonight.

* A 200 game, preferably for both Ben and myself, at the same time.

* The majority of spares made.

* Nicely oiled lanes.

* An overall average higher than 160.

* An ice cream split make (6-7-10, 6-7 etc).

* At least 10 perfect strikes.

* Consistency with the 10 pin spare.

Being a Japanese high schooler...

The boys are funny... they alter their trousers in such a way that they literally hang off their arses, with the trouser crotch almost at their knees. They shave their eyebrows, wear sport style half socks and dye their hair slightly off black.

The girls are funny... they alter their skirts in such a way that they are so far above the knee that any kind of movement will give all and sundry a sudden flash of underwear. They shave their eyebrows, and draw them back on with a brown pencil, wear no socks and dye their hair in a thousand shades of brown.

The teachers are funny... they alter their trousers in such a way that approach their armpits, and attach a mobile phone pouch to one of the belt loops. They have old fashioned hair, and wear indoor slippers with socks, and without exception wear a white t shirt under their shirt.