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!

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Yay, I’m back for who-knows-how-long… For those who aren’t in the know; I have a bad back. To be precise I have two herniated disks in my L4 and L5 lumbar. So that means from time to time they go nuts on my spinal cord and I can’t do simple things like sit or walk. I had an operation once to fix this problem when I was 24 but the problem resurfaced a few years later. I could have another operation but the time needed for recovery is rather large so it’s just not an option at the moment.

So in practice what that meant was I had to spend a week in bed, which wasn’t as exciting or romantic as it sounds. Thank goodness I have a Macbook and an almost endless stream of movies to watch, not to mention the free wireless access through some kind neighbour’s unsecured network!

The funny/sad thing about all this is now I share my bed with a Macbook. Does that means I’m now cursed to never have a girlfriend ever again? At least I don’t live in my parents’ basement…

Another upshot is that the update I had in the works is now hopelessly out of date. But it’s refreshing to note that apart from a couple of celebrity deaths and a couple of aircrashes that nothing much has really changed in the news over the past few weeks – at least in the meta-stories that I follow…

I qualify for the free 12,000 yen from the Japanese Government! I have the form and will go down to the city office soon to stake my claim. No idea how I will choose to stimulate the economy… Any suggestions?

One interesting development in the Australian internet firewall fiasco is that iiNet has pulled out of testing the new system. They have cited the reason that the list clashes with their philosophy of supporting free speech and social responsibility. The list of banned sites was leaked onto Wikileaks and showed that the government was not just targetting child porn sites (the reason for the censorship) but also regular porn sites as well as some that discuss euthanasia, hate speech, even inocuous sites like that of a Queensland dentist. A big thimbs-up to iiNet for taking a stand, and hopefully if the other testers follow suit the government will have no choice but to abandon this ridiculous program.

You could also add the Australian government’s environmental program to the list of policies that need drastic overhauling. Rudd’s done a Howard and gone to ‘clean coal’ (an oxymoron if ever there was one) instead of doing what the Europeans (and even Obama) are doing and that’s developing solar and wind energy.

Cracks are appearing in the mainstream media’s one-eyed hero-worship of Obama with a 60 Minutes interview taking the new President’s seeming callous attitude to the economic crisis to task. Public protests are also starting up across the country as it becomes clear that the bailout of the banks may well be doing more harm than good.

Obama’s empty rhetoric is justifyably getting an airing, and we need to keep supporting people researching what’s really going on behind the words of this charismatic man. Take closing Guantanamo for example. 200 or so of the prisoners (since they aren’t called ‘enemy combatants’ any more) are being moved to an expanded Bagram base in Afghanistan, where their situation won’t change. Another is the escalation in Afghanistan. Obama would do well to listen to the advice of the former Soviets – and that is, basically, don’t bother.

There was also the passing of legislation that could lead to the creation of a seven-million strong civilian “army” that could be drawn upon to keep the peace if the country goes to pot, or just become a default ‘draft’. This one can’t be blamed entirely on Obama as it’s been in the pipeline for ages, but it is happening on his watch, and with his approval.

One independent commentator is asking if Obama is really “dumber than a bag of hammers”. Another has declared that the USA has two solutions; either declare bankruptcy or start a war – a big one. That could well happen in Pakistan as the state looks to be very unstable at the moment – and they have nukes.

Regardless of the economic situation, Britain’s chief scientist has released a report claiming that due to food, water, energy and environmental problems getting out of hand, by 2030 the world is going to be in a desperate state, and people will respond by taking desperate actions.

With China and Russia calling for the world to abandon the US dollar as the default reserve currency, things are going to get very interesting indeed.

Meanwhile the top story in Australia the past couple of weeks has been over whether Pauline Hanson had nude pictures taken of her. No, I didn’t look, and I don’t think you should either (urrrgh!), but it gives you an idea of why I don’t read the mainstream press that much…

And so it’s very likely that this will be my final post for this year as I’ll be exploring the temples around Angkor Wat in Cambodia followed by tramping around Hong Kong until after the New Year has dawned. It promises to be an excellent holiday.

Time for a few parting shots and links to tide you, dear reader, through the next few weeks until I get my butt into gear again.

This article neatly summarizes all the bad things that George Bush has done throughout his presidency – saves you buying any books if were interested at all. I wish that Odin existed instead of his elderly and less wrathful cousin, Santa Claus / Father Christmas. In short, Odin whisks off bad children in his sack while riding an eight-legged flying horse. Where they go – who knows? If only Bush could be whisked off by a vengeful god… too late now anyway. The guy just doesn’t know when to stop.

That leads to a quote of the day. It’s been a while since I had one, and it comes from the lips of George Bush – and superbly sums up his attitude to anything he’s done that’s turned out badly: “So what?” Here’s the transcript of the interview which also demonstrates how he really does believe his own bullshit:

BUSH: One of the major theaters against al Qaeda turns out to have been Iraq. This is where al Qaeda said they were going to take their stand. This is where al Qaeda was hoping to take–

RADDATZ: But not until after the U.S. invaded.

BUSH: Yeah, that’s right. So what? The point is that al Qaeda said they’re going to take a stand. Well, first of all in the post-9/11 environment Saddam Hussein posed a threat. And then upon removal, al Qaeda decides to take a stand.

My response? As the Austrians say: “Du kannst mir gern den buckel runterrutschen und mit der zunge bremsen.” (final phrase – scroll down)

The knives continue to come out for Barack Obama a month from his inauguration.

Afghanistan is going the way that it did under Russian rule in the 80s. The smart thing would be to get out – but Australia’s PM is going the middle road – neither pulling out or putting in extra numbers to ‘get the job done’. (Although the elephant in the room is the reason we’re there in the first place….) I think we can call Rudd “Sit On The Fence Kev” as that’s what he seems to do on most issues; take the environment for example. I guess that’s what you get when you have a career public servant who wants to please everyone running the country: insipid, dull and risk-free ‘management’. And by the way Kev, we DON’T want Howard’s policies back – like detention centres, for example.

Like Greece, like America, like Europe.

The kanji for this year in Japan is ‘nise’, meaning ‘fake’, in the wake of a number of scandals that hit the country this year. Scandals are a weekly phenomenon in Japan. If it doesn’t involve the government, then it’ll be companies doing something hideous – or both – or just something weird and cruel.

In slightly related news, I’m never having sex with Japanese girls again, unless they’re fully tested – twice.

This financial crisis isn’t the same at all as the one in the 1930s and we’ve learned from our mistakes. OK, so I was being sarcastic. The politicians are leading the way of course, by voting themselves a pay rise. Buy stock in Spam though.

According to this, I should live forever.

Goodbye oceansgoodbye life as we know it. Maybe I’ll move to Sweden where energy policy really is of and for the people.

In the USA there are currently 73 children between 13 and 14 years old who have been sentenced to prison for ‘life without possibility of parole’. Regardless of what crimes they’ve been convicted of – these are children who will never see life outside of a prison for the rest of their lives. The USA is the ONLY country in the world that is known to do this.

Of course we’re all so distracted to notice what’s going on around us.

Naqoyqatsi indeed. See it, and above all, THINK dammit!

The 2008 P.U.-litzer Prizes are out.

When you’re bemoaning the lack of decent movies to rent these holidays, thank your lucky stars that none of these have been made – yet. Quentin Tarantino’s in currently in production.

Another case of life imitating art. Scientists have developed technology that can map people’s dreams. It’s one step from the technology explored by Wim Wenders in ‘Until The End Of The World’ in 1991.

Here’s a guide to the latest in Japanese slang. My 13 year old students often use “KY” when they’re talking about me. I’ve got them fooled that I can’t understand Japanese at all. 🙂

I don’t usually post links to The Smoking Gun’s mugshot galleries, but this one is particularly festive. Merry Christmas – don’t end up like this lot –  good luck with the holiday romance, and have a safe 2009.