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…

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One thing that strikes you about Japanese TV is that there are seemingly hundreds of ‘idols’ – campaign girls, bikini girls, promotion girls – whatever you want to call them. One show famously has one hundred girls dressed in red outfits sitting in the background while the hosts talk about the news of the day or other recent hot topics. They don’t do anything, just sit and react to what the hosts say – kind of a living wallpaper if you wish. I have sometimes wondered how the TV industry can support such a lot of people who just sit around and do nothing (save my tirade for the celebrities (or ‘talento’, as they are known in Japan) for another time) since they must be getting paid a decent rate for their ‘services’. Turns out they are often paid less than office workers and have to resort to offering other ‘services’ to get by – or even to get work. One of these idols has blown the whistle on the culture of prostitution and corruption that plagues the TV industry in Japan.

Japan’s whaling fleet are heading back south for their ‘research’ to commence. In Tokyo, two Greenpeace activists are being held in prison for making off with a box of whale meat that was headed for the black market. They wanted to expose the corruption and truth about the scientific research – that it really was all about the meat. Instead they’ve been the target of sustained and organised harrassment by the authorities.

George W. Bush’s legacy continues to reveal itself. Something that has been around since 2000 but I didn’t find out until recently was that at a young age, the younger George exhibited a strong sociopathic streak, shooting frogs and blowing them up with fireworks. You can extend that to his callous attitude to life, whether it be convicts in Texas, prisoners in Abu Gharib or Guantanamo.

Meanwhile the US financial system continues to unravel. The Fed has refused to release any details of where $2 trillion is going. A prominent hedge fund has collapsed, leaving a $50 billion hole behind. One of the world’s most prominent investors has labeled the banks as essentially “bankrupt, totally bankrupt”. Another commentator has placed the blame squarely at the feet of the big universities where most of Wall Street got their education. It’s also the reason why these people can’t and won’t be able to take the steps necessary to fix the crisis – and why it will in all likelihood get much worse over the next year – and why Obama really won’t be able to do much about it. It’s going to be very hard for anyone to undo 30 years of mistakes.

The Governor of Illinois was arrested for allegedly putting Obama’s vacant senate seat up for auction, or was arrested in order to cover up dealings with the Bank of America. You choose.

Very quietly, the Iraq War ended on November 27, 2008, when the Iraqi government signed the new Status Of Forces Agreement with the USA. It is legal and binding. It calls for all American forces to be out of Iraq completely by December 31, 2011. The news was buried amongst the reports from Mumbai, but it does mean that the USA has lost that war. Sssssh!

In Somalia, some progress has appeared to have been made on the diplomatic front, although the Bush administrataion has reserved the right to declare the whole country a ‘free fire zone’ in the name of combating piracy, but you can bet that it’ll be the civilians of the country who will feel the wrath of the bombs that fall.

The riots in Greece continue anabated. It’s important to note that country-wide chaos doesn’t unfold in a vacuum. The crisis has been brewing for years.

Tensions are still high in Thailand, Russian forces are still in Georgia, and the Caucauses are still primed to explode at any time.

It can all seem rather hopeless

I’ve been revisiting the Qatsi trilogy. The films (along with Ron Fricke’s Baraka)resonate with my feelings about life, the Earth and what we’re doing to it. If it all seems hopeless then I am somewhat comforted that after civilisation has ended and we are all dust, life will go on. We are all made of stars, so to the stars we will all return one day. I’ll finish with three quotes, one from the film Koyaanisqatsi, one from its director Godfrey Reggio – and one from Agent Smith:

koy.aa.nis.qat.si (Hopi) [n] 1. crazy life 2. life out of balance 3. life disintegrating 4. life in turmoil 5. a way of life that calls for another way of living.

“What I’m trying to show is that the main event today is not seen by those of us that are living it, who see the surface of the newspapers, the obviousness of conflict, the social injustice of the market, […] but to me the greatest event or the most important event perhaps in our entire history, nothing comparable in the past with this event, is fundamentally unnoticed, and the event is the following: the transcending from all nature or the natural environment as a host of life for human habitation, into a technological milieu, into mass technology as the environment of life. So these films have never been about the effect of the technology, of industry, on people, it’s been that everything, politics, education, the finance structure […] the culture, religion, all of that exists within the host of technology. So it’s not the effect of, it is that everything exists with-in. It’s not that we use technology, we live technology.” – Godfrey Reggio

“I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area, and you multiply, and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet, you are a plague…” – Agent Smith (The Matrix)