personal


Yeah, it’s been a while. Apologies if you’ve been hanging out with baited breath for another ramble from my addled brain and journeys around the web.

The net is a wondrous way to spend hours, and hours, and hours of time. Truly a most splendid timewaster has never been seen before in civilization. So wide-ranging in its variety, so deep the level to which it can sink. It has truly brought the world together and at the same time has come to be a substitute for it for so many of us.

Allow me to share and continue to keep alive in some small way a few sparkly gems found along the road most travelled over the past few weeks.

I’ll make no secret of the fact that I find Asian women most attractive. Living in Japan just stepping onto the local train or taking a short trip is cause for celelbration in that my eyes always find something to appreciate. It’s also no secret on the Net that many of my fellow human beings have also found much to enjoy in the Japanese female form. Indeed the fetishists of this country and other have found much else to do as well. The schoolgirl fetish is one I can easily understand – and much has been made of it in this country, from the mainstream such as TV dramas and magazines, through to the more extreme perversions known to the human imagination. One interesting thing that surfaced of late was the Japanese media recently proclaimed that the sexiest school uniforms in the world were those of Thai university students. In the words of the Virgin Mary, come again? Well, it seems, that in a country where young women are forced to wear uniforms at tertiary level, they’ve taken it upon themselves to express their budding sexuality and individuality by pushing the limits of public decency. From time to time the Thai media reports that a crackdown on these uniforms is under way. From the regularity that this seems to happen, it doesn’t look like these crackdowns last very long, or are particularly succeessful. This post contains a couple of videos that illustrate the phenomenon in more detail – for research purposes, naturally. You may see a post surface on my sister blog that I’m off to Thailand again before too long… for research purposes, naturally.

 In Japan, the almighty Sega Corporation have devised a game system for men’s urinals. The article goes into each game in quite some detail, but there’s no word yet on when or where they’re likely to pop up.

When I was eight, I enjoyed digging holes in our back yard. Trust the Japanese to make an official competition out of it, complete with cash prizes and a ‘Golden Shovel’ to take home.

Speaking of Japan, for anyone who’s ever thought about visiting here, you have to be up to speed with the culture of napping that’s everywhere here.

And speaking of when I was eight, I enjoyed eating Vegemite. I still do – in fact this morning’s breakfast consisted of the Aussie classic, Vegemite on toast. Striking another blow against childhood is the advent of ‘Vegemite For Kids’. Hey, Vegemite IS for kids – sodium or no sodium. By the way, the body NEEDS salt. It’s not like the previous generations (plural) who were raised on regular, salt-infused Vegemite are all keeling over from heart disease. Another nail in the coffin of the death of childhood. ‘Health experts’, go jump in front of a large, heavy, speeding truck.

I did have a chuckle at this, and I hope Mark Knopfler did too. In Canada, the political-correctness-Nazi-patrol have done their number on the classic Dire Straits song, “Money For Nothing” since it contains the word ‘faggot’. It not has to be removed for airplay in Canada. They’re only 26 years late. 26 years. Blimey, what a hoot!

A storyboard artist for Dreamworks like to draw ninjas on his days off – a hobby I can get behind. He also knocks out kick-ass comics where Carl Sagan blasts the forces of superstition and myth out of the cosmos with the power of the Scientific Method. Love it.

The Oatmeal is also full of welcome advice and comments on daily life, like this.

I have a big heart for photography. I love the way anyone can take a simple device and make beautiful images with it.

Here are some amazing long exposure photgraphs.

And here are some very clever photographs of people levitating, along with helpful explanations of how they were done.

Maybe with practice I could capture a whole day in a single shot…. maybe not.

This is a wonderful idea: recreating photographs years later, with the same models, clothes, locations and poses.

The Cracked website can help along as well, but with an added dash of WTF to make things interesting.

I cam across this article through I Heart Chaos (in itself a wondrous site) about an American photographer named Vivian Maier. Her photographs were never seen by anyone by her – and were nearly lost forever until they were rescued by a collector with an astute eye. Now he is steadily sharing her incredible photographs with the world.

Here’s a list of ten women who made cinematic history. Excellent reading.

I recently went to Norway, which was an incredible experience. I thoroughly recommend it. Next time I go to Scandinavia I might have to find myself in Sweden for a while. The science nerd in me wants to see all the parts of the world’s largest scale model of the solar system. It would be quite a road trip though. I might need a couple of months… oh gee dang, what a shame…

I am enjoying the recent surge in ‘manliness’, ‘male pride’, whatever you want to call it. It’s probably something to do with the lack of a meaningful father-figure in my life. I do like the idea of these websites promoting and encouraging a place for men to share, discuss and encourage each other to be the best men they can be. I also like the way that this is being done without being opposed to other roles in society. We need all roles to make society work, and men are an integral part of that. I’m getting a lot out of ‘The Art Of Manliness” website, and am enjoying clicking away from it as well. Some of the style links are interesting, even though I sometimes don’t agree with what they recommend. The age of the Fedora is over – sadly.

In weird movie news, here’s one about space Nazis coming back to invade Earth.

In conspiracy theory madness, have you heard about how Denver International Airport was designed with all sorts of evil supernatural symbols embedded in it?

Speaking of the end of the world though, we also have asteroids coming for us in 2036, as well as more Icelandic volcanoes threatening to explode, along with Yellowstone’s caldera, so the news should be entertaining for quite a while to come. There’s also junk food lowering our IQs, the fact that language is dying, thanks to the internet and mobile phones, as well as children preferring their virtual lives to their real ones. Oh and Sarah and Bristol Palin are trying to trademark their names. But we can all take solace from the Church of the Latter Day Dude

Science news. The world’s most powerful optical microscope may be able to see viruses, as well as break the laws of physics. That’s one heck of a nerdgasm.

The Kepler Space Telescope continues to push back the boundaries of what we know about the universe, such as finding planets orbiting stars at incredible speeds, or in the same orbits.

Not quite Science, but here’s five things that were invented by Donald Duck.

Read how a homeowner was able to foreclose on his bank. You read that right.

Ah, Internet, how I love thee…

Just when you’ve bought a new computer, it immediately finds a way to annoy you. Firefox crashing and not saving what tags I had open to blog about is today’s masterpiece… Oh well. Let’s start over, shall we?

I started a new blog to build on the theme of things that make me smile about Japan, and to save the vitriol for here.

So let’s unload a bit.

It looks like the volcano next to Eyjafjallajökull (that’s the one that erupted recently and which caused all the kerfuffle around Europe), thankfully called Katla, is showing signs of erupting. Any decent news story about the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull would have made some reference to the fact that when it erupts, Katla is often the next to go. The last time this tandem of volcanoes erupted, it caused havoc across Iceland and affected the climate in Europe. What are the governments of Europe doing to get ready? Very little, it seems, although the current president of Iceland is on record saying at least they are prepared. The glacier field that sits on top of the caldera has the capacity to produce flooding equivilent to the combined discharge of the Amazon, Mississippi, Nile and Yangtze rivers and the last eruption in 1918 extended the Icelandic coast by 5km due to deposits of material caused by the flooding (thanks wikipedia).

I might have to put that trip to Norway on hold…

So Australia is taking Japan to court over the ‘scientific research’ that takes place in the Southern Ocean. I fail to see what use this will really have in the long term. It could be interpreted as cynical politicking in an election year. While some legal opinions say that Australia has a strong case, since it is an open secret that the whale meat ends up being used for food (although why anyone would want to eat meat that is rich in cadmium and mercury is beyond me…). They’d be much better off suing Japan for its interference in the recent Atlantic tuna debacle, since that’s really going to have an impact on everyone’s dinner table before too long.

My mind is still not made up about acquiring an iPad. I’m always suspicious of first generation technology, since it’s often expensive and buggy. (And, I must confess, the Microsoft Surface format is much, much sexier… but also AUD$21,000 a pop…) However, the tech landscape is changing and the advent of cheap, tablet computers looks set to change the way we consume media. Media companies are investing in apps for the new format, and seeking to be the first to pay tham pay. Some are looking forward further to a (news)paperless world, where print is truly superseded by the screen. For example, a cursory google search shows a lot of interest in using iPads in the medical world, as part of streamlining and integrating medical data to help medical professionals treat their patients. The data sea is getting bigger…

I’m always interested in the way language keeps changing and evolving. A few years ago, when I went back to Australia for a holiday, I went out for dinner with my mother and brother. We went to a ‘nice’ restaurant and as we walked in, our (perky) waitress/greeter said, “Hey guys! How many people in your group?” I turned to my brother and mouthed, “GUYS!?” He said, “Yeah, ‘guys’ is the new ‘sir’ these days.” I’m glad to say I haven’t had a ‘guys’ experience since then, but it was interested to be talked to like a friend by a complete stranger. There was this piece about the casualisation of the word, ‘shit’ that is currently going on in Australia. By the time I get back for another visit, this trend may well be over, but it’s interesting to read about from afar.

Meanwhile we have the USA gunning for another war – this time with Iran. There’s also North Korea shaking its tiny fists at everyone around them, not realising (perhaps) that starting an actual war will destroy them. We have the Euro – and hence the European economy – and hence the rest of us – on the brink of collapse. The hole in the sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico is set to ruin the entire Caribbean region, as well as the east coast of the USA. It’s getting entertaining (in the Carlin-esque sense of the word).

My Firefox crash pales into insignificance at thought of several simultaneous apocalypses unloading on us all…

…else!

There is certainly a lot of interesting, beautiful, wonderful and ridiculous things out there to entertain us as we slowly edge our way towards destruction or oblivion.

For a start there’s listening to Something For Kate’s “Max Planck”.

I was reminded of this thanks to a friend who posted a line from Kirkegaard on her Facebook page which went something like this:

“Since boredom advances and boredom is the root of all evil, no wonder then that the world goes backwards, that evil spreads. This can be traced back to the very beginning of the world. The gods were bored; therefore they created human beings.”

And we humans have done a very good job of entertaining the gods – quite often in ways we don’t understand at the time, right Mr. Woods?

I might spend some time in the Baltic states before too long. One reason is to reconnect with my ancient heritage, my great-grandfather being Latvian. Another reason could well be because the women are hot and not only easy on the eyes. Viva countries with more women then men!

Other ideas for places to go next year include Canada, New Zealand, Norway and Syria! (not (just) for the women though…)

There’s always my ‘great disasters grand tour’ idea that occupies and not-so-small place in the back of my mind. Just getting my mind around something like Chernobyl is a challenge sometimes, especially when confronted by images like this to go along with it.

There’s also architecture. The BBC World channel ran an advertising piece disguised as a moments-in-great-design segment about a hotel in London, which I swear was the most god-awful monstrosity from the cheese-grater facade outside to the purple velvet bar to the menu which the ‘expert’ gushed was ‘like a Rubik’s Cube’. Sorry, when I’m hungry I want to eat, not have to potentially sit for hours to figure out what I can consume. I wish I could remember the name of the place…

There were these staircases though. This website is also a great distraction for hours and hours and hours…

Then there’s what to do with bare walls. I think this idea is excellent – green them! The insulative properties must be wonderful. They probably soak up a little carbon – if you’re into that sort of thing. And they just look good! Japan could certainly use some help… Green roofs also meet with my approval. Mowing them could be fun too, but growing more than just grass is a great idea.

Maybe this is how the China Olympics should have looked, instead of having all the ethnic groups represented by Han Chinese dressed up different costumes! Beautiful. Magical.

With so much content online being clamped down upon by ‘the powers that be’ (annoying swine) it’s good to know that something good is available for free, like these political documentaries. It’s FREE! Learn something – think a little…

How garlic could make and break the Chinese economy.

Movies sometimes don’t quite mean what they say they mean. Take these ‘chick flicks’ for example.

I know Sarah Palin is (thankfully) old news, but she is a constant source of entertainment. Unfortunately she won’t be going away.

Best office fridge ever!

One man in Japan has taken the next step by marrying a character from a game. I kinda surprised this hasn’t happened sooner actually. One of these days Japan will wake up but in the meantime it will continue to supply over 80% of the world’s supply of WEEEIIIIRRRRRD!

Why I will let my kids (if I have any) play in the dirt.

Earth really is a beautiful place. See? SEE??

If anyone is feeling generous for Christmas, I would love – LOVE – one of these. OK, at least one!

Fervent apologies are in order for my prolonged absence from the blogosphere. The reasons are many, but I’ll posit a few for you.

Time. It really takes time to read through a lot of stuff, filter out what I think are poignant and meaningful (or ridiculous and entertaining) links that sum up nicely what I’d like to say. This also leads to the next point, which is…

Lack Of Brain. Putting one of these posts together involves writing in what I’d like to describe as a collage technique. All these links sit somewhere and it’s my calling to try to tie them together somehow. The longer the post, the more linguistic and narrative acrobatics I have to perform. Sometimes it just gets too daunting. There’s also…

Technology. I am currently laboring under the weight of having a PC that is past its use-by date. That was the primary reason for the last post going to hell in a handbasket. The thing crashed during mid-publish and I lost most of it. I’d been waiting Windows7 to come out before I took the step of purchasing the next machine but …

Personal Events. Yes, I have a life. Most of it seems to involve work on some level, but I also try to have some free time as well. In that time I like to do stuff that may involve venturing outside. I have an upcoming trip back home to sunny Australia that I am looking forward to in no small way. There’s also…

Sickness. One of the benefits of working with small children is I get exposed to a lot of viruses, so my immune system (in the words of the almighty George Carlin) is always getting a good workout. I am currently experiencing my third, perhaps my fourth cold for the winter thus far – and it’s only December 2nd. That tends to play havoc with my brain (see above) so I sit in front of the screen and end up preferring to be entertained mindlessly rather than try to formulate something approaching a distinct intellectual or rational thought.

Like I said; apologies. I’ll try to be a good boy in future.

I’m off to Vietnam for a couple of weeks. I finally worked how to make another blog, so allow me to present “a fnersh ambling” for your travel blogging pleasure.

This place will be reserved for useful info, rants and other whatevers. Updated infrequently, of course! My dear reader, you must be annoyed. Apologies.

I the past twelve months I’ve read a few books but two standouts are Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” and “No Logo”. Now they were works of someone of astounding intelligence and boundless courage. Recently she gave a speech which updated some of her ideas and reflected recent events. Every word is gold.

There have been so many more gems. Oh so many. But time and tide wait for no one. Time to weigh anchor and set sail.

It’s been a while eh.

Excuses:

1) My internet got cut off. Pretty drastic I realise but I had a run-in with my internet provider. In Japan they like you to pay by automatic bank transfer but since banks in Japan work by your name in Japanese I’ve always had problems with this. If you’re a foreigner your name gets rendered in katakana, so by that measure my name has been written by the authorities in no less than four different ways! Also having a middle name has been a problem since Japanese people don’t have middle names. Anyway, the ISP wanted me to switch to this system, I sent in my deatils and they couldn’t get out any money. In their infinite wisdom they sent me a letter telling me I had asked to have my internet disconnected! Wrangling ensued. They couldn’t reverse the decision so the internet was duly cut off and I had to send back the modem. I had to then apply for a new connection which took a few weeks for them to set up(!) and then they sent me a new modem and voila! I’m back!

I could’ve switched to a new ISP, sure, but the only one who does English support of which I’m aware is Yahoo! and I’ve had friends have problems with them so I didn’t want to deal with them.

2) Work. With the economy the way it is, parents are cutting back on expenses and one of the things that have been cut is any extra education for their kids. So my company closed one branch and they’ve cut a number of staff. This has not been good for the stress levels, as you could imagine. Thanksfully things have more-or-less settled and I have gainful employment – for now.

So now let the rants commence. Please excuse my sources being so far out of date!!

High ho, high ho. It’s weekend time again, thankfully.

The weather’s just starting to come good and the cherry trees are starting to blossom, so it won’t be long before every open space near a sakura will be populated by people sitting on blue plastic tarps, drinking and eating themselves into oblivion. It’s a great time of year. It looks like I’ll be catching up with some ex-Nova buddies next Sunday for the annual Himeji Castle pilgrimage.

It’ll be the same day as the Tatsuno Spring festival but after I went last year with my mother, I don’t think this year will live up to the good time had last time. It is interesting though, with people parading through the old town dressed up in samurai costume – even with warriors on horses. It’s a good chance to take heaps of pix, as I did last year.

There’s also the crowning of the new Miss Tatsuno which has got to be one of the lamest beauty pageants in the world. For the record, there are TWO Miss Tatsunos for some reason… safety in numbers? Maybe it’s so they can go to the bathroom together – who knows. What a year is promised to the winners though, with the chance to appear at every local community event as the eye-candy! I wonder if the girls really get many opportunities arising from the role…

I’ll be in a secret location for a few days from April 1 to 4. All I can tell you is that it will be sunny!

I’ve been going on some dates recently but it’s proving to be quite frustrating at times. I prefer women who are interesting and are good to talk to but it’s hard to break through the Japanese shyness barrier. I’m sure Japanese women are interesting and brainy – as well as sexy – as I’ve met quite a few, but when you’re going on a date with one there’s often this coyness that descends, making conversation a real minefield. Coyness can be sweet (as Morrissey sang, “Coyness is nice…”) but say the wrong thing, or be too assertive and it’s game over man.

I’ve been trying to go out with one woman but it’s been a chore just to get some free time. Also she won’t go out of the house unless she’s 100% healthy, so a couple of snuffles and she cancels. We’re up to three or four aborted dates versus one actual date so I’m thinking of just not bothering. Her English is OK and she’s a cutie but she’s shyyyyyyy….

I have also been on a couple of dates with a woman who speaks absolutely no English, so that’s been an extra challenge. Dictionaries have come in very handy! She’s a sweetheart but I honestly can’t see us being more than dinner friends. The language barrier really is so hard to traverse. It is an interesting experience to try to develop a relationship of sorts in a language completely not your own. I hope she’s enjoying the adventure as much as I am.

Many foreigners in Japan have dated and developed relationship with Japanese women and have sometimes gone on to marry them and live long and happy lives with them. I’m glad I’m friends with some of them as they give me hope! Others (like me) have been burned by the experience and have often been left wondering just what is this creature known as the Japanese female. This article may shed some light on the subject and it brings to the fore that Japanese women can fall into two distinct categories, which for the sake of argument I’ll term as outward and inward thinkers. The outward thinkers tend to have travelled or lived in other countries and have taken on a more international way of thinking. They are certainly more assertive and opinionated and probably more widely read. They are also more likely to settle on a partner who complements their personality. The inward thinkers tend to have not travelled much and if they have they’ve probably only been on tours with other Japanese people, and for short periods of time (ie. less than a week). Their expectations are fuelled by their parents, fashion magazines and (in short) society. They tend to want to marry a rich man who will give them what they want. There’s no thought given to love: marriage is the goal, the means to an end.

As the man in the article says, “You see, you have it backwards. So many Japanese women put the cart before the horse: you think that if you get married you’ll finally be happy, if only, if only you could just wear the dress and walk down the aisle, then you could truly find bliss. But guess what, marriage is not the path to happiness, it’s exactly the opposite. Happiness is the path that leads to marriage. Only when you are truly happy with someone and you love them to the core of your being can you even broach the idea of marrying that person. Tough concept, I know.”

Good words.

Japan’s rice farmers are doing it tough, and things aren’t getting much better. They can’t make much of a living and as most of them are currently over 60, before too long rice farming will become a thing of the past.

According to the Australian Treasurer, Wayne Swan, the Australian economy ‘can’ emerge from the current economic downturn in good shape. The newspaper has changed that into ‘will’ in the first paragraph of the story, and the headline also makes it clear that prosperity is a certainty. Memo to the editors, there’s a world of difference between ‘can’ and ‘will’!

Kevin Rudd went to Washington, met Obama and like Obama he come back with ideas that have left us wondering if we really just got an extension of the previous regime. I went on about his not-so-green environmental policies before, but now Rudd’s doing a Howard on Afghanistan. My sentiments on the invasion and occupation of the Middle East are quite clear, but you really have to wonder exactly what Obama said to Rudd to get him to be such a lapdog as this. This is going down as Obama looks to expand the war into Pakistan, more Australians are dying there and the Afghan people are proving to be more than a match for the invaders.

With Obama continuing the American Project and betraying the faith placed in him by the American people, with continued economic collapse threatening our civilization and people already living in tent cities, it’s interesting to note how people are responding. Some are going back to gardening, with a vengeance.  It’ll be very interesting if the collapse of the global network fuels a resurgeance in local community activism.

One problem with this is that the seeds people buy are only sold through a few massive agri-business corporations. This article looks at how something as seemingly important as the Doomsday Seed Vault on the Norewegian island of Svalbard in the Arctic Circle is a front for guaranteeing a seed supply in the event of biological warfare based on the very seeds used to grow our food. If you think it’s just conspiracy, these companies have already developed vaccines that induce abortions as well as corn that renders men infertile. Genetics is scary… and don’t mention population control.

Rolling Stone has put out an article which attempts to place the economic crisis into the context of a massive takeover – of the government by a few extraordinarily rich people. It makes a convincing case. It does get a bit wordy for the financially illiterate like myself, but it’s worth persisting. The final paragraph sums things up pretty clearly though; “These people were never about anything except turning money into money, in order to get more money; valueswise they’re on par with crack addicts, or obsessive sexual deviants who burgle homes to steal panties. Yet these are the people in whose hands our entire political future now rests.”

The U.N. wants to re-organise the world economy around a green-energy model, which they (naturally) will oversee. I can’t see that happening at all, to be honest…

I gave the Russians and Chinese proposals for a new world currency an airing before and it looks like the Americans are seriously considering it, which stunned the world markets, forcing an immediate retraction. Horse. Barn door.

North Korea’s said it’s going to fire an experimental communications satellite into orbit so Japan’s going on full alert in case it self distructs and rains debris over the countryside. Things are a little tense. For the record, the last time the North Koreans fired this kind of rocket they did it without warning and launched it across Japan before it landed in the Pacific Ocean.

Another cog in the incredibly complex climate machine has been identified and quantified: atmospheric dust.

Not much wacky stuff here. Apologies.

Tom Ellard has posted a bunch of Severed Heads videos online though, so please enjoy.

See you under a cherry tree with a bottle of sake and some onigiri!

Next Page »