Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ugh... potatoes

Ok, so it's Sunday afternoon and I was out late last night - my old roommate is moving to Sweden to be with my other old roommate, so we had a whole bunch of beer and sake in a huge karaoke marathon... after this and last week, I'm done with karaoke until at least Spring.

So yeah, anyway too much sake makes Doug's head hurt in the morning, and there's this guy outside singing about potatoes on a loudspeaker... ugh. He's trying to sell yakiimo out of his car, which I have no problem with, but instead of sensibly just going to a park or somewhere where people would normal gather like all his normal street vendor friends do, he feels it necessary to roll through my neighborhood and advertise by singing off pitch about how delicious his stone-grilled sweet potatoes are. What is this guy, the ice cream man? I simply cannot see people running out of their homes to line up for their very own sweet, sweet potatoey goodness. Geez.

There are entirely too many people in this country driving around with loudspeakers attached to their cars. First you have the notorious black vans of the uyoku and your standard political campaigners, then I've heard drivebys of people selling kerosine for heaters in the winter or collectors for big garbage items the standard people won't take, and now sweet potatoes.

Some of it really is ridiculous and unnecessary, but then again when is a loudspeaker attached to a car that's not police or fire department-related ever really necessary? I think "frickin sharks with lasers attached to their heads" are more practical than a black van with a loudspeaker - every bit as superfluous but at least more fun. As far as the political messaging goes, there's this stupid rule that you can't have any political messages or debates or anything on tv, including commercials, so these guys feel that the only way they can get their point across is to drive around with a mic and pollute the air with their bombast. It's like the 1950's out here or something. And who actually listens to these guys anyway? I can't imagine anyone hearing some old guy ranting on on his loudspeaker about... whatever and thinking "you know, he's right!"

For a country that screams up and down about how you shouldn't bother other people, this is rather paradoxically obnoxious behavior if you ask me.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What the hell?

Sometimes when you're bored or just feeling random, it can be fun to just type random things into that search bar on Google and search away. I once spent an afternoon laughing myself giddy after a lovely search of the word 'ugly', both the web and images. Warning: if you turn off the mod filters you can get some really bizarre shit showing up in those images depending on your search.

Another good search is ninjas, which for reference:
  1. are mammals.
  2. fight ALL the time.
  3. The purpose of the ninja is to flip out and kill people.

Anyway, for whatever reason, yesterday I typed in "what the hell" just to see what'd pop up. What the hell I figured. I never really thought about it before, but checking out the first link a bit was sort of interesting. There's this guy that's all worked up about hell being an invention of the Roman Catholic Church along with the idea of Purgatory. To him, "hell" is simply a mistranslation of a handful of terms, and points out a number of hellish facts that kept me interested for a bit. I find it interesting that so much stuff seems to be coming out of the woodwork to try to disspell all the mystique surrounding the Bible and Biblical times, and even historical documentation of the church in the years soon after - I like hearing about what early Christians did, and how Christianity has evolved over the centuries.

So hey if you're bored then go to hell! Where the hell is hell? I dunno, apparently some valley out close to Jeruselem or something.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rent-a-Friend services?

You would think that after a few years living here I would run out of stuff to be shocked at, but Japan is just an endless source of shock and awe. I was reading about the "rent-a-friend" culture developing in Japan over on the BBC the other day, and it goes much further than I ever knew about, so I figured I'd share my thoughts.

First, the story. It starts off with cat and dog cafes, where people who can't afford or handle actually owning a pet go to enjoy their pet time in hour-sized helpings. They even let you take a dog out for the afternoon and go to the park or whatever. This is old news to me, so we'll just move on to the juicier parts.

Next, we have the Campus Cafe, a new and cheaper alternative to the many hostess clubs and snack bars that have been around forever, but are apparently being hit hard by the recession. Now the Campus Cafe does fulfill every Japanese guy's dream of talking to girls that are way too young for them, but my faint hope when seeing the recession remark is that maybe this'll help J-guys sort out that they can just go out and talk to girls without having to pay crazy amounts of money just for them to sit down, and that doing so is actually more productive. Just to clarify, most all hostess club visits involve no chance of actually having a non-professional outing with the girls or even sex, thus it to me is pointless. It's basically paying $50+ (and that + can go waaay up) an hour to be teased by hot women that you can never have, and these places have regular customers. This to me is more futile than prostitution even - it's like mental prostitution. Sure maybe you can't get a girl to go home with you, but who can't even get a girl to talk to them?

They saved the craziest part for the end: the so-called Hagemashi-tai. This place rents relatives. Yes, you heard that right, relatives. Need people to fill the seats at that wedding or funeral? No problem. Got a dead-beat dad and need a replacement to help talk to the neighbors or take your kid to the park or go to that PTA conference? We gotcha there too. They even have a story of a blind guy that calls them up to rent-a-dad for a day to talk about his issues.

Ok, now I can understand that there are certain people out there that have difficulties talking to people and making friends - there are socially inept people the world over. And that sucks when you don't even have family there to back you up, so I feel for them there. But some of the stuff they describe towards the end just seems to underline something that's always been missing in Japan, and that's that they are seriously lacking in mental health support. They aren't very good at reacting to or even recognizing mental disorders either - sort of goes along with the "if we ignore it maybe it'll go away" mentality. Psychologists? Fuggetaboutit.

Call a rent-a-friend if that makes you more comfortable, but if you're having a rough time of life and need to talk about your problems, and your friends and family can't help out then that's when you turn to professional help. Basically though, with rent-a-friend you're just paying for a shrink without the professional training.

Anyway, again here's the full article if you're interested.

Monday, January 12, 2009

"Black" Obama

Just thought I'd share an interesting spin on things that I feel more than a few of you will get a laugh out of.

So the other day I was watching the news with my girlfriend, and she asks me a funny question. "Isn't it sort of offensive to keep calling him 'Black Obama'? Isn't that racist?" Utterly confused, I tell her that that is in fact his name. You see, our new President's name is Barack Obama. However, Japanese makes no distinction between 'l' and 'r' and also doesn't really do compound consonant sounds like 'bl' very well, meaning that vowel sounds always get put in the middle. Thus "Barack" and "Black" sound pretty much the same when transferred into Japanese. I had to say the name in English so she could get the difference.

I can just see now that this is going to lead to a bunch of hilarity over the next 4-8 years.

Not quite what Doc had in mind...

Alright, now I have always been one to push for Back to the Future technology - I want my flying car, Mr. Fusion, and 2-second rehydratable Pizza Hut as much as the next man. This isn't quite what I had in mind though.

Allow me to submit for your critique: the Skycar (full article here). The makers would like to take this car from London to Timbuktu, driving halfway and flying the rest. While they do get props being that it is a production model car that flies and for choosing Timbuktu as a destination, I can't say I'm totally sold. It's got a hefty price tag (50,000GBP), which is to be expected for a first of its kind sort of thing, and it doesn't hover.

This of course prompted me to search for the "Skycar", which led me to something I see as much more appealing - the Moller M400X Skycar. Read up on this thing as it looks absolutely badass. The manufacturer's performance estimates? Max speed over 300mph with fuel consumption over 20mpg running on ethanol, and all on the power of a bunch of rotary wankel engines. It's like a super-Mazda - Great Scott!! I'll hold out for this one I think.

New Pictures and videos.

Hey all, so the first round of new pictures and videos is up for your perusal - this time from my snowboarding trip up north. More to come soon.