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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Did Lack Of English Save Japanese Banks?

My good friend Vinnie recently pointed me towards an on-line article regarding the possibility of poor English comprehension saving japan from suffering from the U.S. sub-prime downfall and the debt crisis afflicting Europe.

The article seen HERE discusses Aso Taro (surname first), Japan's Finance Minister actually stating that since Japanese bank managers didn't understand English (me included, as witnessed by me wrongfully commenting in my last blog that the Brits were incorrect in their pluralization of the word octopus - I was dutifully corrected by a British reader who correctly chastised me from my error - appreciated by me, actually) ... again, since the Japanese guys running the banks don't have a full comprehension of English - and what appears to be the language of global economics - they didn't get sucked into the major global economic disaster.

That's possible. It is possible that the Japanese bank guys may not have perfect English comprehension, but to assume that they are not getting professional Japanese translations of these events is ludicrous at best.

Does Aso really believe that just because you lack English comprehension that people in power - those running Japanese banks - lack the brain power to find out what is going on around them?

We're talking about international monetary economics and banking!!

To me the real story isn't that international bankers in Japan don't know English, it's the fact that if they do, as Aso claims, they are not getting all the information they require to properly do the best job possible on behalf of the people of Japan!

So... is Aso blowing hot smoke? Or is this yet another way Aso and the national socialists believe that English isn't necessary for the Japanese to learn?

See? Who needs English? Poor English skills saved Japan from falling down the same slippery slope as the US and many European nations.

At this time, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Mizuho Financial Group - two of the three largest Japanese banks did not wish to offer a comment - how could they?

Was it true that their representatives did not follow mainstream international banking practices and chose to follow a path deemed best for Japan? Evidently.

Was it because they lacked language skills and weren't smart enough to learn what the rest of the world was doing? Doubtful.

Cheers
Andrew 'Ringo' Joseph

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Japanese Art Show Turns Brits Into Prudes

Really? You have a problem with an octopus eating out a woman? What if the roles were reversed? What if it was just a drawing and no real cephalopods were hurt in the making of this porno shoot? What if it was drawn by a Japanese man considered to be one of the country's top artists of 150 years ago? What if it was art depicting pornography? What if it was art and not pornography?

… for a country that has long embraced transvestites on TV a la Monty Python, gross titillation on The Benny Hill Show (Zoom in on the trophies!), swearing its fecking arse off on Father Ted, had topless Sunshine Girls in its newspapers, the British in general sure can come off as being too prim and proper sometimes.

Really... wouldn't it be more fun to not have to keep a stiff upper lip and soldier on through the daily and grind and all that rot and instead keep a stiff stiffy?

The Brits - long a purveyor of some interesting sexual… stuff… seem to have rubbed up against some Japanese art and have felt the need to be embarrassed for its youth.

The British Museum will introduce a cinema-style age limit later this year when it hosts an exhibition of Japanese art featuring graphic sexual content, a spokesperson mentioned on June 27, 2013. (Gods! The paper I saw this in used the term 'spokeswoman' rather than 'spokesperson'! That's bloody sexist!)(It would be better if it was sexy!)

The images set to go on show in London in October of 2013 promise to showcase the Japanese erotic art form shunga, but apparently some of the images are so explicit that children under the age of 16 will only be allowed to enter if accompanied by an adult. (Enter what now?)

In fact, one of the images to be included is an ukiyo-e print designed by master artist Hokusai, depicting a woman in a tryst with two octopi. (The effing newspaper actually wrote 'octopuses'. The plural of octopus is 'octopi'. Stupid Brits are getting stoopider) (I was born in England, and feel the pain… rue Britannia, the fall from grace we doth share. Perchance to scream.)

(By the way - see the comments section below for clarification regarding the plural of octopus, as sent in by a reader, and my pathetic attempt at clarification.) 

In a preview of the show, the museum showed off one of the tamer paintings, "Courtesans of the Tamaya House” by Utagawa Toyoharu (another master of the ukiyo-e art-form), dating from the 1770s or early 1780s. That's the image at the very top!

"This is a finishing school for tarts. You can see all the skills that a successful tart has to know," the museum’s director Neil MacGregor says of the 1.83 meter (6-foot) folding screen painting.

The Courtesans of the Tamaya House painting depicts a group of courtesans - some of whom are sitting, some are standing in a tatami-mat clad room mastering the shamisen musical instrument, mixing of inks for calligraphy, making matcha green tea... wow... that does not make me horny. Hell... forget about seeing boobs, you don't even see any ankle. And I sure do love me some ankle!

So yes, MacGregor is correct in stating that the place is where courtesans came to learn things... but it's courtesan things, not necessarily 'tart' things. Tart things might imply something sexual.

For the record, a Japanese courtesan (oiran), was an entertainer who would also sleep with her charges. A prostitute, sure, but more like a proper high-class escort versus a ho. A typical Japanese prostitute is known as a yƫjo.

The women in the painting are oiran. It's why you see them learning how to play music rather than how to peel a banana with their tongue... though I might also find that entertaining.

So... hopefully, museum director MacGregor will offer some correct insight on these paintings rather than mucking about like the common rabble. Tsk-tsk. It makes me wonder if the museum will be offering up proper descriptions under the art work, or if it will be providing raunchy nudge-nudge-wink-wink commentary.

Oy! Meredith! Lookit that randy mollusk going to town on that nip… and also down on her fish and chips! I wouldn't mind a spot of that I'll tell you! Gor blimey… now look at these girls… 'finishing school'? They certainly are! Yeah! Play that shamisan! Play it! Feck… we need to go now! Gerrrrr... Me clam digger is pointing straight to Polaris. Howz yer Father?

The British Museum is Britain’s most popular visitor attraction and is currently experiencing high demand for its show "Life and Death in Pompeii", which has attracted 1.7 million visitors since April 2013.

I think that the British Museum is trying to create a bit of a firefight with a wee spot of 'negative advertising', stating that we've got art (ooooooorrrrr-ooooorrrrrrr!) that is so dirty you'll need a shower after you come… and see it. Adults, preferred, or at least very liberal parents….

Oh well… I appreciate the fact the museum is trying to dissuade young people from getting their hands on porn at a place of yearning, I mean learning. It will force kids to get their porn the old-fashioned—from the Internet… where any of the images at the event are also probably available for free… or simply go and purchase a book on shunga and a bottle of hand-lotion.

Besides… maybe what should be watched for, are the parents bringing kids in to see the art…like what's up with that, ya perv?

Or... maybe these kids wanting to see the art are far more mature than they are being given credit for… they are coming to see art, after all! At a museum! Seriously… if they want sex, they can find it on-line. And cheaper! No kid is going to start cranking is yanker at the museum... and if an underage girl is being turned on by the rubbery creature on the woman, even if she was denied entry, she would eventually found some stimulating titillation soon enough.

Whatever… I suppose the museum is covering its ass, even while its art is baring it all.

Shunga... it's not just for kids anymore.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Friday, June 28, 2013

Great Expectations - A Few Notes On Japan

My family's name is Joseph, and my given name is Andrew, and while I had no problem in knowing that my name should be read as Andrew Joseph, it was obvious going to be a state of confusion for everyone else.

Even in Canada, where I am from, people continued to call me Joseph Andrew, perhaps because everyone is so very familiar with the first novel by Henry Fielding: Joseph Andrew, or the History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and of his Friend Mr. Abraham Adams.

Ahh… you gotta love long book title names of yore, unlike now when it a single word would do: Coma, Jaws, It, Shogun and Trainspotting just to name a few of the more recent vintages that were also made into a movie/TV film.

Anyhow… like the title of this particular blog - Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - the whole diary aspect of my life in Japan is about a young man's attempt to establish an identity and place in the world.

Now, to ensure that any claims of plagiarism are nipped in the bud, let's talk about what some of the great expectations people often have when they arrive in Japan. Won't that be novel?

  • Japan is always warm: It really does depend on where you live in Japan. There are parts where it is hot and humid all year long. There are parts where you get as much snow as parts of the US and Canada. It's a big freaking country, and there is a different bit of weather all over the place. Typhoon over to the west… sunny to the northeast… Godzilla attack in Tokyo, with a slight chance of Mothra.
  • You will be called by your first name in Japan, while they call everyone else by their surname. I was An-do-ryu-sensei... Andrew teacher. People called me Mister An-do-ryu. My buddy Matthew was Mashu-sensei, Ashley was Ashuree-sensei. You will not be Joseph-san... Mister Joseph. For me and my years of being called last name first, it wasn't a big deal to me in Japan. Kind of endearing, actually. My Japanese girlfriends called my An-do-ryu or An-do-ryu-kun (the kun, pronounced 'coon' is a term of endearment but usually means 'boy'... and when a women calls you that, it's downright sexy, in my opinion. You guys can call a woman XXX-chan, with the chan implying the same - young woman or girl).
  • You may not actually see a real geisha walking around town, unless you live in Tokyo or the other big cities...They exist, of course, but are simply not as wide-spread as the movies et al would have you believe.
  • Ninja do exist. But you may never meet a real one. It's just the way it is.
  • There are maybe five different faces - facial-types in Japan. At least amongst the kids: round faced an-pan man; monkey-faced cute ones,... but you know what... despite what I just said, they don't really look alike.
  • Getting international foods will be difficult, but not completely impossible. While I can walk 20 minutes from my house in Toronto and get Korean cuisine, Chinese food, fish and chips and Japanese food, you will find - aside from fast food places, 99% of the restaurants are those that sell Japanese food. When in Rome and all that... try them all! Do not eat all your meals at McDonald's, KFC, Burger King or various pizza shops. There's nothing wrong with them when you want a bit of 'home cooking', but you didn't travel all this way to do that. Hell - go to fast food shop Mosburger and have a Mosburger. Matthew and I (and I'm pretty sure even now, Ashley) think it's delish!
  • Try natto. It's fermented soy beans - it smells bad, and supposedly tastes bad... but if you live in Tokyo and North, Japanese people will automatically believe that you, the gaijin (foreigner) will not be able to eat it. Prove them wrong. Natto in the western parts of Japan is not really a popular dish, but if you get the chance - do it. Please. Your job, while still being a teacher of English, is still to help break people's stereotypes. Do not pull a Jeff Seaman (our good buddy) and refuse to eat Japanese food - he would make sandwiches and eat at Dunkin Donuts. Still, that good American man married a Japanese woman - gorgeous! - so I assume he's eating Japanese now. Wink-wink.
  • To continue the thought from the point above, many Japanese do like to 'brag' about the Japanese way of things - particularly items. I must admit that I believe it is simply a translation thing, but then again, it might not be. I have heard all about: Japanese chopsticks; Japanese rice; Japanese tea; Japanese kimono and Japanese sumo. To be honest, Japanese chopsticks are different from Chinese ones. Japanese rice is certainly different from say Indian rice; Japanese tea is green and is different from English tea; the Koreans have kimono; and sumo is sumo, so that one is strange. But they do like to talk about how only Japanese people will do something, when that's not necessarily true... it's an assumption. They do fully expect foreigners to not want to do half the stuff they do, and I admit, I liked to disappoint them by doing it - and, to quote Agent 86, loving it.;
  • Japanese women are not diminutive little slaves. They are people. Treat them with respect. Yes, they might like you, but for god's sake, teach them about equality. I was doing it 20 years ago, at great sacrifice to my conquest total, but dammit, sometimes they need to know they matter in a male-dominated society... that the rest of the world treats women better than they get treated in Japan.
Anyhow, those are just a few of the great expectations people have of Japan, and of some of the great expectations the Japanese have of foreigners.

To have a truly enjoyable time in Japan, the best advice I can give anyone is not have any any great expectations, except to promise yourself to be open and understanding. Japan is a different culture, but the important thing to note is that the Japanese are fellow human beings with the same basic frailties as you and I. Keep an open mind. Don't sweat the small things. Educate and share.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Being Comfortable Is A Gas, Gas, Gas

With the weather here in Toronto being pretty warm lately - with humidity it's been around 40C (104F) - WTF - there's a centipede running around my computer table and I can't kill it because it's too fast -

Anyhow... I haven't stopped sweating since last Friday.

My central air-conditioner broke about two years ago, and since the wife is at school, it's just me and my single income ensuring the bills get paid and my son is covered in LEGO, so I haven't been able to dredge up the moolah to get it fixed.

What's the big deal I thought to myself... when I lived in this house as a kid, we didn't have air-conditioning until I was maybe 15. I survived then, I can survive now.

Of course I wasn't covered in hair and fat back then...

It reminds me of my first year in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.

When it started to get really cold there in November, my bosses at the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) office brought out the old kerosene heater and showed me how the thing worked.

In order to make heat, I had to prime it before turning it on... I still have no idea what that mean. As well, I also had to ensure that I left a door open to make sure I didn't asphyxiate from the kerosene gas fumes... so... basically, I had to leave my sliding door open and let in all of that nice cold fresh air so that my heater could warm up my apartment.

That's stupid.

With my sliding door to my balcony facing north, I got this nice constant jet or arctic air wafting down at me at about 1,000 miles (600 kilometers) per hour - freezing the marrow in my bones - just so this stupid kerosene heater could warm up an area about 10 feet in diameter.

Uh -huh.

My bedroom was a lot farther away than that. It was out of the windy zone, and away from the heat zone. It was in the holy-fug-it's-cold zone.

So... I decided to close the sliding door and hope like hell I survived. Besides... I couldn't smell any kerosene fumes. 

I did survive the night, but I had one hell of a headache the next day, and I think my face was either blue from the cold or from the lack of oxygen.

Fortunately I had an office day that next day and told them what I had done in an effort to explain my new complexion and brain damage. What, me worry?

Later that evening when I went home, there was a knock at the door as my office bosses came over and said they were waiting for the building superintendent to arrive so that they could have some work done to my apartment.

Another man came in with a heater - a wall heater that exhausted out to the new hole they made in my wall leading to the outside, that when turned on would heat my entire place.

I love my office. They obviously love me.

You getting such a great board of education bosses may not happen to you, but it might. No guarantees.

As an added bonus, seeing as I was now a hairy fellow - but not covered in fat as I am in 2013 - this wall unit also doubled as an air-conditioner.

No longer would I have to suffer the extreme heat and humidity of this part of Japan and could be as cool as my personality would allow, but I could also be toasty warm when the temperature dipped below freezing.

That did happen in my apartment once, as I had to chip the ice away from the top of my goldfish aquarium the day before I became blue with deprivation. Oxygen, that is.

And, while it is true I often joke around here in this blog - I really did have to chip ice away from my aquarium... I think I used a pair of scissors.

And now in 2013, with my brain cells more or less intact, though they have been fried recently from the heat, I fondly recall how my nearly killing myself with stubborn commonsense made my JET Program bosses at the OBOE see that a gaijin will do anything to feel comfortable.

Sometimes, I wish I was a gaijin again so I could have someone help me stop sweating... or at the very least kill that ... ughh... stupid centipede that keeps dashing around the damn computer. Where the HELL did it go? I feel itchy!

Cheers
Andrew 'Jumping Jack Flash' Joseph
PS: All right! 35 minutes to conceive and write!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Anticipation - When The First Date Ends And The Second Hasn't Been Requested

It's sometime in 1993 - Spring - late April or early May, and I have just had Noboko over for dinner at my apartment in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.

At this point in my then 28-year-old life, Noboko-chan is without a doubt the most beautiful woman I have ever been out with, and even then, with a modicum of dating, I had probably already dated quite a few women that any heterosexual male or interested female would stand up and take notice of. I was just lucky back then, that's all.

Noboko was then working as a Japanese teacher of English (JTE) at Nozaki Chu Gakko (Nozaki Junior High School), one of the then-seven middle schools in Ohtawara, and one of the seven I would spend four days a week at before moving on to the next school.

(My fifth day would be spent at the OBOE - Ohtawara Board of Education office where I spent my idle hours writing a report on the past week's events and other stuff.

After those initial five minutes of real work where I would leave out all of the stuff about me falling in love immediately with Noboko, the rest of the day was mine, and to the credit of the OBOE, they would often take me out for a couple of hours of local sight-seeing in and around the 50,000 person town that was more rice field than metropolis.

Anyhow… though Noboko didn't seem to care much for me, her (our) students did, and spent the weeks after I left Nozaki convincing her that I was 'the one' - someone funny, intelligent and handsome with a big wang.

I have no idea what the students told her, but in my head I believe it was something along those lines. Riii-iiight.

For some reason, Noboko believed the little bastards (because all women want someone funny - riiii-iiight), and agreed to go come to my place for dinner, whereby I cooked my famous chili con carne. And while it took every ounce of my now petrified testosterone to not make a move on her, in hindsight my control at playing it cool may have worked out.

Without even a kiss on the cheek goodnight, she responded to my query of a second meeting with an off-the-cuff remark that she 'had my phone number'.

I danced a jig after she left and probably touched myself in ways best not described here, and wondered just how the hell I was going to go out with a woman so beautiful.

Personally, I wanted to shout to the rooftops that "Noboko likes me!", and maybe I did shout it out about 10 minutes later, but really… for a Japanese woman… and a co-worker to boot… and a teacher of children… would she really want to point out that she dated me - and by that I mean she came over to my place for dinner?

No, I thought. She wouldn't want me to blab out that she had come to dinner. To do so would have cast her in a negative light amongst her colleagues, though I am pretty sure every single man would have come over and shaken my hand or kicked me in the nuts.

I know that every single man at Nozaki Chu Gakko - and maybe even some of the married ones - had flirted with her… feeling her out to see if she would either go out with them or, if not, just have sex with them.

Let me tell you all something… one of the things I love about Noboko is that she did not sleep with me after coming over. Because she wasn't sure if she liked me… because I was going to be more than a sexual conquest… she wanted to know if I was boyfriend-worthy.

It's like someone wanting to kiss you to see if there would be any fireworks…

So… there it was - the same night after my diner with Noboko, and I was hovering around my telephone like a hummingbird wanting to stick his beak into some honeysuckle.

The phone rang!

I waited the appropriate number of Japanese rings - 14 - before finally picking it up.

It was Matthew calling to see how things went, because he was the only person I could tell about her. While I explained that it went well, in the back of my head - and the front of my head - I prayed that Noboko wasn't then calling me to go out for a real date out in public.

This was 1993, after all, and there was no call-waiting function on my phone - and I'm unsure it actually existed either… so you could actually miss a call, or in Noboko's case, get a busy signal.

Oh no! What if she thought I was calling up my friends to tell them all about our date? Or worse, I was calling up my girlfriends to tell them another one was joining the harem?

Ridiculous, right? I would never use the word 'harem'.

Anyhow… after telling Matthew that I was hoping Noboko would call soon, and telling him I wanted to keep the line clear, he asked two poignant questions:
1) How long ago did she leave?
"Uh… 15 minutes ago?"
2) Did she say she would call tonight?
"Uh… 15 minutes ago?"

Now calm again after Matthew's long distance slap in the face (reach out, reach out and slap someone) (did I just date myself?), I eventually bade Matthew a good night and spent the rest of the evening wondering when Noboko would call and where I could take her for dinner.

I might also have touched myself again - then again I was in my 20s and still had the energy to do that more than once in a 30 minute span.

And… for the record… you will not go blind from masturbation. I have bad eyesight, but I'm not blind. Not legally, anyway.

Thankfully Noboko-chan did not make we wait too long. She did not call me that night, but she did call me at 6PM the next night.

She was very quiet when speaking, but I know she enjoyed our conversation (because I heard her giggle and not guffaw). At the end of it, I asked her again if she would like to go out.

She explained to me that in her position, it would not be very good for her to be seen dating me. As it was… and I suppose I know what she's talking about because I heard the same thing from Ashley (my AET - assistant English teacher) girlfriend of years past… everyone would just assume that we are sleeping together.

"So?" was always my reaction, as I just was not getting the impropriety thing. "Let'em know! I want the world to know I am dating you!"

But… if someone is dating a gaijin male or a Nihonjin otoko (Japanese man), everyone will assume that there is sex involved… and no woman wants to be looked upon as as being a slut anywhere except the bedroom or perhaps on the dinning room table… or maybe the couch… or…

I understand that.

But, if everyone knows the rules of dating, how is it inappropriate?

It just is, you… you… man, you!

So… I'm smart enough to not question anything Noboko says at this point in time, because I really want to screw her brains out (because those are the rules of dating) - so I ask her where we should go on a date where we won't attract attention.

She must have been planning this - which shocks me, because I thought I was the obsessive one.

"I could come to your apartment," she suggests in her damn near-perfect English. "If you have not eaten, I will bring dinner."

Now I'm excited and panicking. Panicking because I ate left-over chili already. And now she wants to feed me?

Why would I eat chili? That stuff gives me gas? Why did I feed us chili last night? It's the only food I can cook except spaghetti, eggs and bacon and beans, and cereal (hint… don't cook your cereal).

So… I hit the bathroom and try to force myself to poop. I don't have too, but that has never stopped me before.

The gods must have been smiling that day, because the evacuation was successful, and apparently my bowel movements smell a lot like an air-freshener.

"DING-Donggggg!!!"

I hide the spray can, wash my hands, and run to the front door to peep out the spy-hole.

I smile as I throw open the door and see her…

"Kon-ichi-wa An-do-ryu-kun," she coos at me as she offers me a little bow before handing me a pair of grocery bags.

And all I can think of is just how domestic this all looks… siiiiighhhh… 

Cheers
Andrew Joseph
PS: You might think it odd that I don't recall the date of this date, considering how important it was to me.
You may then also wonder just why I am able to recall what I was thinking and just what I was saying.
I have never been one for details such as describing stuff - I suck at it. But… conversations… those I remember.
I think.
PPS: Konichi-wa An-do-ryu-kun. means 'Hello Andrew', but when a woman adds the modifier 'kun' to the end of a man's name… it becomes a pet name. A term of endearment.
For women… you add the modifier 'chan', which I have done in various places throughout the story.
PPPS: In 1993, at this point in time in my story, I had no idea what the word 'kun' (pronounced coon) meant, but I sure like the way it was said.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Vice Fairy Confuses Me

My buddy Vince sent me a link to a story - but said to just look at the photo. So I did. I didn't even bother reading the story because well - WTF could anyone tell me that I couldn't figure out?

Well... first off... I should have read the article.

My initial reaction was - okay... why is this kind of hot woman wearing a yukata - outdoor bathrobe - that is part of the Vice Fairy collection?

The what now?

Vice Fairy?

Why would a woman want to wear something like this?

Lots of funny banter evolved between myself and Vince... and then I looked at the photo again...

And then I thought... women don't wear outdoor bathrobes! They wear kimono, and look damn sexy doing it.

So why is this chick wearing a yukata?

Oh for love of god.... is that a man in the ad?

Oh fug... it is. That doesn't make me gay does it? Not that there is anything wrong with that. Actually, there is something wrong with that. I'm not gay, and dislike being fooled by advertising.

Cripes. The only other time I have actually been fooled by a transvestite, was by that lead sinner of Dead or Alive, when I first saw her/him, I thought... okay... that eye-patch is kind of sexy... and while I don;t understand why she has such a deep-voice... OMG!!! In my defence, it was 1985 and people had weird hair.

And then there was that time in Singapore when James and I walked into a disco and saw that we must have hit the jackpot - with all of these sexy, beautiful Singapore women - and not a single guy around... and as soon as we walked in and got a drink, we were swarmed by these beautiful creatures... who dragged us out to the dance floor... I know I smiled at James, and he smiled at me... and we - both manly men who really dig women - smiled and counted our lucky stars that I found the best little bar in the world!

And then I wondered why all of the women had scarves around their throat... and while dancing, I bumped into James and asked him if he thought that was strange. James being younger than me, caught on quickly and while smiling hissed at me that everyone of these women were actually men.

Now... I hate being fooled... James too... so we finished up our dance - and the one after it, drank our drinks, and left much to the anguish of many a Singaporean transvestite. Of course, since none of them were grabby, James and I didn't feel the need to scream in panic, which is why we took our time before leaving.

I also should mention that I was also once hit on my a transvestite here in Toronto, which upset my wife, because she was standing right there - obviously with me - while he was trying to pick me up.

Oh yeah... and when I visited a gay bar in the Rainbow Village of Toronto to watch a comedian friend of mine perform - hi AnneMarie - I was hit on by a gay fellow, who either saw me as that bear he found attractive, or he was just yanking my crank to see if I, the straight guy, would freak out.

He admitted as much to my wife when I went to the washroom (never tap your foot in a stall in a gay joint), and to my credit, I spoiled his fun by trying to set him up with a woman I saw walk by.

So... basically, I'm tired of all of the fun and games and all of this gay banter.

What the fug is a Vice Fairy and why would any man want to purchase anything from that collection? Is it being sold to gay men? Why does that offend me? Can't straight men buy this collection/ Not from one named Vice Fairy!


It's also probably why I refused to like the Canadian rock group Loverboy even though I think they were a rocking good band back in the 1980s. See video above. They also did: Turn Me Loose; Working For The Weekend; Lovin' Every Minute Of It; The Kid Is Hot Tonight.... seriously - any other name, and I would have been a fan. 

Vice Fairy?So I looked at the article... it listed some of the Vice Fairy ads and what their slogans are. The slogans are in English, though I am pretty sure their audience is the young androgynous whatever who looks like David Bowie in the 1970s back when he was Ziggy Stardust. That's the fabulous redhead to the right.

Here are some of the slogans on the ads:
“Things are going elegantly. Elegantly.”
“Let’s just see you enchant me. Let’s test the reaction time of the best yukata there ever was, is or will be.”
“I will show the world all of the manly magic and charm that a man could possibly possess!”
“Come, fear me, want me, tonight too, the hero is mine.”
“Dare I say: This is the ultimate evolution [Vice Fairy].”


The ultimate evolution? Question: Are we not men? I have no idea... apparently I can't tell half the time.

Answer: We are Devo(lution).
 
Cheers
Andrew "Will a real woman please stand up and give me her seat" Joseph
PS: I believe I owe Vince a kick in the throat for sending me that ad in the first place.

Here's a classic song from The Who: Won't Get Fooled Again:
or... if you prefer, in honor of Vince: Boston - More Than  A Feeling:
And of course.. Dead Or Alive: You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)

And, because they first asked the question via vinyl regarding: Are we not men? Devo - Whip It:


LEGO Wedding Dress By Japanese Artist

Take a look at the photo, and you can tell that the LEGO fashion dress is not for those wanting to cut a rug at a wedding. It's art, pure and simple.

Designed by Japan's Hosokai Rie (surname first) of Daisy Bubble (click on the link and see her famous bubble dress), the LEGO dress was created for Tokyo's 'Piece of Peace' charity at the Parco Museum.

Wearing the dress? Personally, if I was a woman and wanted to wear it, I would be afraid of breaking it…

And… how do I get the woman out of there? Oh yeah! A Brick separator. Any AFOL (adult fan of LEGO ) knows you always have one on you for just such an emergency.

Now… I am unsure if Hosokai designed and built the dress, or if someone with far greater skill with the Danish building blocks did. I'm going to suggest she didn't.

Anyhow… some people are calling the dress similar in design to her bubble dress - you really should see it, but to me, it still kind of looks like a singular colored dress a la something Alice would wear in the Lewis Carroll tales.

There is no frisking way that the ultra-sleek bubble bare-shoulder bubble dress looks anything like the padded shoulders on the LEGO dress! 

Those shoulder pads look so outdated. But that's just my opinion. I know what I like when it comes to women, but I am hardly a fashionista.

While the LEGO fan in me likes the idea of cracking open the dress like it's a Kinder chocolate egg to get at the toy prize inside, I prefer the squeaky and prickly fun of the airy-fairy bubble dress.

Oh! And speaking of airy-fairy… please join me in eight hours time for a special look at a fashion disaster that is so-very Japanese. 

Anyhow… for some reason, LEGO dress designer Hosokai explains her take on the bricky gown:  

There is fear in that we are all different from one another, but that is also the gateway to self-consciousness.
Self-consciousness was once whole, but in the modern trend where all things whole get broken down, it too is about to get deconstructed.
For that reason, people now seek to reconstruct their consciousness by extending it onto others.
Through this process of extension, we have learned to unravel things down to their basic elements.
We are succeeding at digging up new knowledge of what it is we all share.
This knowledge that bonds different people together seems to appear suddenly, but in reality it is already coded into our planet, our universe.
We construct things from the most basic building blocks.
What are we to discover from this process?
To find the answer, we must continue to turn our gaze toward those around us.

I have no fudging idea what she just said.

It's art. Why does art need to be explained?

Why did she create a dress made from LEGO building bricks? Because she wanted too?

I have no idea why people feel the need to explain why they have created art. Sure… go ahead an explain why you were caught trying to steal from that store… but it's art, man! Art!

All I wanted to know was how many freaking pieces were used? Can you move in it? Does it come in any other colors or sizes. Do you plan to make a dress that is more reminiscent of 2013 dress couture? Did you build the dress around the model, or is there a hinged gate so that she can move in and out of it? Is there a LEGO bra and pantie thing going on as well? Is the model named Peg?

And why is there no photo showing the whole dress - down to the feet? Does the dress extend to the floor? Is there a train at the back? Passenger or freight? Lets see the back! Lets see the side! Id the model lifts her arms, can we see side boob?

These are important questions - albeit for a strange and horny guy - but some of these question should have answers readily available.

And… speaking of something, special thanks to Em for letting me know about the dress… that combines both LEGO and Japan in one fell swoop.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph
PS: And… just because… here's Fergilicious wearing a LEGO dress:

Forget the Brick separator, I'll use my teeth! 



 



Monday, June 24, 2013

National Geographic Special On Samurai

Here's a National Geographic television special entitled Warrior Graveyard: Samurai Back from the Dead... apparently investigators have unearthed a gruesome mass grave along the beaches of Kamakura, Japan. 

The grave is filled with thousands of skeletons that date back to 1333 —a time when the people there incurred the wrath of the emperor and fought in a series of bloody battles. With new forensic examination, Warrior Graveyard examines the remains of six people killed at the beaches of Kamakura to gain insight into the secrets of the samurai.   



Is this a good program? Uh, yeah! It's from the National Geographic!

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mt. Fuji Gains UNESCO Heritage Status - LOL

So... on June 22, 2013, UNESCO decided to award Mount Fuji its World Heritage status.

UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and is a specialized agency of the United Nations.

Described by many as the symbol of Japan, it is purported to be 3,776 meters (12,389 feet) high, and is supposed to be a snow-capped peaked volcano that even the non-Japanese recognize as being one of Japan's most recognizable sights - along with geisha, sumo wrestlers, ninja and samurai.

Although I know that samurai once existed (having been killed by one in a past life), have seen and been sweated on by living sumo wrestlers, have seen a documentary on geisha (when is that being released to the world, Ken?), I never expected to see ninja until I am dead... that's how you know these secret society of deadly assassins exists.

(I'm only kidding about that past life thing, though perhaps not about the ninja.)

But Mt. Fuji? The so-called symbol of Japan... made famous by ukiyo-e artists, poets et al... I'm still not convinced it exists and thus throw poo-poo at the suggestion of UNESCO's world heritage status.

I simply don't believe that Mt. Fuji exists.

In three plus years of existential existence in Japan, I never saw it even once. I even sought it out - but no... it remains shrouded in mystery.

Is it really possible that of the 75 times I physically attempted to view the mystical mountain that I should be stymied?

Could the weather really block my view? Sure it could... five times... 10 times... maybe even 50 times... but 75 stinking times?

How could it always be conveniently foggy, rainy, snowy, cloudy, misty or nighty?

Look... from the volcanic mountains in my backyard of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken about 10 kilometers away... I have driven up there, taken a bus to the base, taken an aerial car to the top, and even have physically hiked up the side of this steam-spewing monstrosity to impress my girlfriend... all to gain access to the peak to view the view...

And from this peak, I have been told that I should be able to look south and to the west a bit and see this magical mountain called Fuji-san... but no... despite it being sunny where I am, "Mt. Fuji" is always "shrouded in weather" about 150 kilometers away.

Am I looking in the proper direction? No less than Matthew - a gaijin who is more Japanese than most Japanese I know (I don't know a lot of Japanese anymore, but back in the 1990s, I sure did), and my girlfriend Noboko both bade me to shell out some coin top look through the Super Binoculars upon the peak of Mt. Nasu... and take a gander.

Silly goose that I am, I agreed, paid money to the machine, which in my mind said: "Oishi - domo arigato, gaijin-san (Delicious - thank you very much Mister Gaijin)," and then showed me a vast area of cloud cover.

I looked at Matthew - and at a later date at Noboko, who was looking damn sexier than Matthew, no matter what he thinks - who had me jam more money into the Super Binoculars (they had a cape) so he could ensure I was looking in the right area.

Lo and behold - cloud.

Other times, I traveled to towns right in front of it - also with Matthew... also with Noboko... also with my Board of Education Office... also with... no, that was about it... but there I was... right at the supposed foot of "Mt. Fuji" - and on each occasion I had cause to look up, and and saw beautiful, majestic grey 'sky'.

On many, many occasions, I traveled past the mountain's supposed location via slow train and bullet train. I did so with Matthew, Trish, Ashley a few times... Noboko... and even a few times by myself... and, unless Mt.Fuji looks like grey mist, then I don't see what the hubbub was/is about.

Never saw it. I don't believe it exists.

All of you who claim to have not only seen it, photographed it and even climbed it, I put it to you that you have all been drugged and snookered by Japan's Tourist Board... but you are not alone... now UNESCO has been, too.

Heritage site? I lack the sight...

It's just bad luck, Andrew... that's all it is. That's what the voices say. Damn voices!

(To those of you who actually hear voices - I apologize for my insensitivity.)

(No, he doesn't!)

Well... it's true that I earned the name Ame-Otoko (Rain Man) (or Candy Man depending on which Kanji was being used) whenever I traveled about Japan... a fricking rain cloud would follow like I was some Bad Luck Schleprock... but come on... it was sunny where I was when I went up the Nasu Mountain...

Man... maybe I should become a magician like my buddy Vince...

Sure... it should be bloody easy. I could make Mt. Fuji disappear simply by stating I was going to look at it. Let's see Copperfield do that! Alakazam!

Oh... check out the photos... what Mt. Fuji? 

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph
PS: As a nod to the old days, allow me to present The Pink Floyd:
The song is called Obscured by Clouds.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Effing TEPCO

Y'know… I tried to be nice to TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co.), as it seemed like they were attempting to make nice-nice and make sure things were safe for the people of Japan (and the world)… but then out comes a report I saw in the Asahi Shimbun (Asahi Newspaper) that says that although TEPCO has decided to halt tests on a new decontamination system after finding a leak in a water cooling tank… TEPCO actually found out about the dangers involved weeks earlier and decided to withhold that information from the public.

Fool me once - shame on me. Fool me twice - shame on you. Fool me 47 times - what the hell are you still doing here, you effing liar?

Welcome to Fukushima-ken and to the Dai-ichi nuclear power plant that, until March 11, 2011, was an electricity generating facility in Japan.

March 11, 2011, was the day a catastrophic 9.0 Magnitude earthquake spawned a super-high and powerful tsunami that washed over much of the northwest coastal areas of Japan, including onto the Dai-ichi facility taking out the power and cooling equipment at the facility - almost causing multiple nuclear meltdowns over the ensuing weeks.

However, it still caused massive amounts of radiation to escape into the water, air and ground in the surrounding areas and devastated the Japanese economy and making Japan a pariah for visitors and would-be trading partners who were afraid they might become irradiated or be consuming or using contaminated goods.

The failure of this plant's safety systems basically led to checks on every single nuclear power generating facility in Japan, which ultimately led to almost all of them being taken off-line at one point in time or another, as numerous problems were discovered elsewhere.

That's a good thing.

As well, Japan's populace and most of the government officials at least seem wary of the country's nuclear power generating programs - and other forms of power generation are getting more than a casual look to replace it. 

So… although the disaster regarding the nuclear plant was NOT the fault of TEPCO, the ensuing debacle regarding its response to quell the situation and to provide aid to displaced people has been sadly lacking.

In fact… as time goes on, with every crisis, the company becomes more and more gun-shy… taking its time to measure each word it offers to the media and public, that rather than provide timely data, it has become the small child scared of its own shadow.

Here's the latest story from the Asahi Shimbun:

After finding tritium levels higher than the safety standard in well water at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. withheld the information from the public for nearly three weeks.
The company on June 19 disclosed that 500,000 becquerels of tritium per liter of water, eight times the legal limit, were detected. It also said that 1,000 becquerels of strontium, 30 times the legal limit, were detected.
TEPCO began taking water samples from the well on the sea side of the turbine buildings for the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors on May 24.
Analysis results about tritium were conveyed to plant officials on May 31 and shared within the company on June 14.
A TEPCO official said the announcement was not made until June 19 because additional analyses were carried out as there had been problems in past measurements.
The official also said the company waited until June 18 to see analysis results about strontium, which were due that day.
But on June 14 the utility already began considering measures to prevent water from flowing into the sea under the ground.
The well, 27 meters from the sea, is close to a water intake system of the No. 2 reactor, an area from which highly radioactive water leaked into the sea in April 2011.
TEPCO suspects that the contaminated water spread underground at the time and later flowed into the well, one of the three it dug in November and December.
The company plans to dig four wells nearby to investigate the situation and also inject an agent into the ground along the coast to prevent contaminated water leaking into the sea.
The discovery of high levels of strontium and tritium is expected to delay TEPCO’s plan to pump groundwater at the plant and release it into the sea to slow an increase in radioactive water.
Kazunori Endo, of the Soma-Futaba fisheries cooperative in Fukushima Prefecture, said he was exasperated with the series of problems of contaminated water at the plant.
Members of his cooperative are opposed to the plan to dump groundwater into the sea, although TEPCO said the water contains lower levels of radioactivity than nearby rivers.
The opposition grew after June 3 when TEPCO said that radioactivity levels in the water were higher than initially reported due to a mistake in measurements.
“The problem is that (scandals) crop up one after another,” Endo said. He added that TEPCO must solve the latest problem before trying to release groundwater into the sea.
Members of his cooperative have been preparing to resume full-scale operations along the prefectural coast following the March 2011 nuclear disaster.
Akio Komori, a TEPCO managing executive officer, visited the Fukushima prefectural government office on June 19 to apologize for the high levels of strontium and tritium.
Tetsuya Hasegawa, head of the living environment department, asked Komori to identify the cause of high radioactivity levels, investigate the environmental impact and prevent the spread of contaminated water.
“It was regrettable that (radioactive water was found) at a time when we are calling for all possible measures,” he said.
Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato told senior prefectural officials on June 19 to enhance monitoring of any effects of radioactivity in the ocean.
“We have repeatedly told TEPCO to take thorough precautions against contaminated water,” Sato said. “(The latest discovery) was regrettable."


Okay… that's all… I'm unsure what disturbs me more… TEPCO or the translated Japanese word that seems to mean 'regrettable' in English.

TEPCO… pull your contaminated socks up, pull your underwear up… your trousers, too and stop screwing the dog.

Is it not time to remove TEPCO from its clean-up role and have a third-party take over (to be paid for by TEPCO) to do the job properly?

Of course, TEPCO will have no say in who gets hired to do the clean-up. A global nuclear regulatory commission might be able to become involved in that process.

Part of the problem in biding on such a job, is that bidders would have to rely on information provided to them by TEPCO - which, as we have seen, is hardly a bastion of timely information.

Cheers,
Andre Joseph

Friday, June 21, 2013

Playing It Coal

Crap... it's 11:05PM and I have 55 minutes to come up with a topic... so... let's talk about Noboko, my ex-fiance in Japan... that's right... I would have married her.

Noboko, whose slight frame was unable to live up to her moniker that means 'ever expanding child', was the first Japanese woman I had actually asked out on a date... In fact... every single woman I had dated in Japan... and those that I slept with... each had actually asked me out.


Noboko liked to call me her diamond-in-the-rough... and maybe something was lost in the translation, but I always kind of took that as in insult, meaning I was a chunk of coal with the potential to become something very valuable... but that at moment in time... I wasn't.

It was 1993 and she had come over to my apartment for the first time in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.

Noboko was a Japanese teacher of English, working at Nozaki Chu Gakko (Nozaki Junior High School) - having just started in April when the new school year began.

I had walked into the teacher's office and immediately noticed her sitting at her desk, face down in a bunch of papers concentrating on doing her job.

The head English teacher introduced us, and when Noboko lifted her face up to see what the hubbub was about, angels sang to me in their heavenly choir, as I was smitten by this kitten... lost in her soft dark brown eyes and luscious lashes...

I was in love.

At first sight. Something that had never happened to me before or since. Maybe it was lust. I have certainly fallen in love before that and since then... more recently after a phone call... just hearing her voice and knowing...

But Noboko... she was also a 'wow'.

I defied Japanese etiquette or she did... and shook her hand in casual greeting and told her I was looking forward to teaching with her, but... I was already lost in la-la land... I somehow found my designated desk and chair, pulled out a pen and some paper and wrote her a love haiku.

Her beautiful eyes
Seem to hypnotize my soul
Capturing my heart.

When I handed it to her, she was less than impressed, even though I still think it is one of the best things I have ever written... and I have written a lot over the past 23 years.

I guess the girl just doesn't appreciate my first ever haiku. I still don't know why I wrote her haiku... but I know I meant everything in it.

But... thanks to the efforts of her students (my students, too), who knew immediately that a good-looking gaijin (foreigner) like me was already head-over-heels with their new English teacher, they spent a lot of time and effort speaking to her of my virtues.

How they knew what those virtues were, I'll never know, but I guess I must have been all right in the eyes of those students for them to make such an effort... such a grand gesture on my behalf... and without me ever asking them to do something like that.

So... perhaps curious as to why these teenagers would go through all of this trouble to speak so warmly about little ol me, Noboko's curiosity got the better of her, and she agreed to come to my apartment for dinner.

I'm not much of a cook, but after nearly three years in Ohtawara, I had learned how to make one lip-smacking meat and bean chili. So I did... spending hours the night before making it... chopping up all the veggies, spicing up the minced beef with cinnamon (hmmm, I never cared much for cinnamon before that, but it sure did make for a tasty meat... and it's probably why cinnamon makes my lips go all funny nowadays).

Once I had it cooked, I let it cool down and put in the fridge over night...

So... on the evening when Noboko was to finally come over, I re-heated it... and had it simmering and bubbling gently on my stove top.

There... a gentle rapping at the metal front door... then a door bell ringing... dinnnnnnnng-donggggg!

Be cool Andrew, I thought to myself as I floated down the hallway to the front of my apartment, remembering to duck under the noren curtain I had hanging there to separate the hall from the LDK (living room-dining room-kitchen).

Settling myself, checking my breath one last time - huuuuuuuah - all cool - I took a deep breath and opened the door.

Whether it was the soap I could smell on her clean body, the apple blossoms in her hair, or just the fact that she was finally in front of me without a gaggle of students about her... or maybe it was because I had just taken a deep breath... but my head grew light and I thought I was going to pass out.

I gripped the side of the door, bowed slightly and said "hello" and bade her to enter my humble abode... my home, sweet home.

My god she was beautiful. And I told her she looked lovely. And meant it. I never say anything I don't mean, unless I am joking... but when it comes to women... I never joke unless we both need it.

And Noboko was no joking matter. She wasn't smiling...

By this time in my three year existence, I had dated a plethora of gorgeous women, but there was something about Noboko that stood out... she was 5 foot one inch tall and maybe 100 pounds... she wasn't big in the chest department, but man she had a nice set of legs... and I could see she had a nice bum... or at the very least had clothes (a tight skirt and blouse) which made her look that way.

Rather than the standard straight black Japanese hair, Noboko wore it wavy and perhaps just an inch below her shoulders... apple blossoms.

Is it hot in here, or just her? Yes...

She looked to the tiled ground after I closed the door and locked it (what is that gaijin doing? she might have thought) and asked where the indoor slippers were as she removed her heels... standing there confused in her pantyhose feet...

By this time, I was very Japanese in how I acted in public... at school... the Ohtawara Board of Education offices... and all about town and in the bars... but in my apartment... despite the wide array of Japanese-style decorations about the place - including some ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), I was more gaijin... more the typical Canadian... and had dispensed with the effing indoor plastic slippers... though as a courtesy and perhaps more of a nod to being a man with poor aim on occasion, I did leave the green, a-way-too-small bathroom slippers within the toilet room.

I told her, that while we are indeed in Japan, my apartment was a slice of Canada, so there were no slippers.

Don't worry... I have lots of carpeting...

She was nervous as all get out, let me tell you... as I welcomed her into my apartment saying she could walk in front of me into my LDK.

She was so short she almost didn't have to duck to get past my noren... but when she saw that my apartment was clean (spotless, thanks to an anal retentive desire to not be messy thanks to a high influx of visitors to casa Grand Central Station), noticed all of the Japanese touristy decorations, and the fact that I had something cooking on the stove that smelled good, I could see a lot of the tension move quickly from her narrow shoulders and out in an exhaled breath as she marveled at how large my apartment was.

My apartment - with its two balconies and three bedrooms - was one of the larger residences afforded an AET (assistant English teacher) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme who was single... I acknowledge that some AETs with a spouse and child had a larger place... anyhow... my apartment kind of blew her away.

I gave her the five-yen tour... opening up one bedroom door (where my closest and dresser of clothes are), sliding open the door to my bedroom where a queen-sized bed was perched atop clean tatami mats, and then opening the third bedroom back near the from door where I had a writing desk (never used) and a portable clothes tree for drying (not to mention the sliding door to the smaller second balcony that faced West).

I then quickly showed her the large bathroom area with the separate room (a small closet) really for the Western-style toilet... I noticed she glanced down and audibly smiled when she saw the bathroom slippers... and then the large shower stall, where two people could shower in sexual comfort (if I remember correctly... :)

I then marched Noboko back to the LDK, and since it was still light outside, opened up the sliding doors and walked out to the North balcony where she followed me outside in her pantyhose clad feet and stood beside me to see the spectacular view (from the third floor) of the Nasu mountain range...

"You have a very beautiful home," she smiled at me... "And it's very clean."

"Does that surprise you?" I asked jokingly.

"Yes," she answered quite seriously.

Hmmm... she's on her guard - and I don't blame her - she knows I like her... but I can tell she still isn't sold on me... regardless of the opinions of a bunch of teenaged children she barely knows.   

She shivers slightly, as it is still April and the wind does like to blow down from the mountains directly onto my balcony.

You know... after that initial handshake with her a week or so ago... I haven't touched her yet... so perhaps it was instinctual, but I cavalierly placed my arm around her shoulder and marched her back into my apartment and locked the sliding door.

I asked her to please sit down - and rather than take the large single comfy chair, she sat down on the right side of my green fabric three-seat couch... and sat back comfortably as she crossed those sexy taupe colored pantyhose legs.

"Would you like a drink - I have Coke, water, milk, orange juice, Kirin Lager beer, o-sake and some red wine?" (This was a test... or so it appears to me 20 years later.)

"Oh..." she said as she stood up quickly and began to come to the kitchen. "I can get that for you..."

"Nobokoooooooh," I said... "You are my guest... my date (her eyebrows arched)... allow me to serve you, please."

Her eyebrows continued to arch until I thought they would break, but she smiled and sat down again... facing away from me, I watched as she tucked her hands behind her nice bum and smoother the back of her skirt before sitting again and crossing those awesome little, curvy legs.

Down boy, I though as a part of me began a slow twitch. Crap... it never listens...

"A small glass of red wine, An-do-ryu-sensei."

Fug. The red wine is hot, and by that I mean sexy... but the 'sensei' (teacher) crap... she is thinking of me as her colleague.

I have some work to do.

To be honest... the rest of the evening was a blur. We ate my chili - she loved it! (Of course!), enjoyed the Merlot I had chosen for her, and was forever picking up my beer bottle and topping off my glass... and I think we chatted about me... was I homesick (no) (not really... I miss my family and friends - sure, but I love being in Japan and told her I would live here the rest of my life if I could) (Really.)

She told me about herself... her family... and we got to know each other for the first time.

At 9PM... right on the freaking dot... she stood up and said she had to go home.

Hey.. no problem for me... Noboko was special, I didn't want to have sex with her on the first date (I did want to have sex with her - something semi-violent and wet) - not that that was going to happen. Noboko was... classy? No... that's not the right word even though she was... no... she wasn't desperate.

So.. I walked her back down the hall to the front door... she turned to face me and... as she used one hand to help maneuver a foot into her two-inch heels, she reached out and steadied herself by gripping my arm.

She turned and grabbed hold of the door knob as I quickly reached over and past her to turn the door lock mechanism to unlock.

"I had a very nice time with you, Andrew." (She didn't say sensei!!! - and she said my name perfectly... it must have been the wine?)

"I also had a very nice time with you, Noboko." I was smiling and wondering if I should lean in for a kiss.

"Well... good night..." she said as she opened the door.

"Noboko," I said panicking... "Uhhh, would you like to go out on a date sometime?'

Opening the door wider, she stepped through and began pulling it shut behind her.

"I have your phone number."

Cheers
Andrew "I wonder how she got my phone number" Joseph
PS: It's 12:13AM... and I have to edit my typing...  
Editing done as 12:38PM... and... publish!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Welcome to Hooters Japan

Check out the photo above from Jeff Richards plumbed from Japan Today(www.japantoday.com)!

Here we see hooters, I mean Hooters staff... or are they cheerleaders?... who the fug cares... posing in that classic 'nyah-nyah-nyah-I'm-too-sexy-for-you-Andrew-sensei' stance during the opening of its new beer garden perched up high in Otemachi, Tokyo.

The even took place on Tuesday June 18, 2013... and apparently along with the chesty Hooters staff (there MUST be a joke there somewhere!), you can apparently get food and drinks at this place. Hooo knew?

Now... on to a more pressing matter that's bothering me...  I have no idea why only one of the Japanese Hooters chicks has black hair. This is Japan, right? Homegenous black hair et al...

I can see a lot of "Osaka-bad-girl red" hair... and a couple of women with brown hair (maybe the "Osaka-bad-girl red" hair dye didn't adhere properly)... but, where's the black? Look... I love a nice red hue, brunette and blonde, but I also love black hair... don't ignore your heritage Japan just because you work for an American business... don't ignore your roots.

There... I finally said it... a joke I have been holding onto for nearly 2,000 blogs. Hmmm... It seems so anti-climatic now... 

As for my chauvinistic chatter (we are talking about Hooters)... just know that hooters is a slang term for owls... and owls are birds, and I believe baby owls are called chicks... what? Owlets? What the hell are you talking about? I just want one of the Hooters chicks to sit on my lap and tell me I'm kowai. I know I'm cute... what?... kowai means 'creepy'? I thought it meant cute? Kawai means cute? So... I'm kowai? ... But in a cute way, right?

What the hell is wrong with Japan to make the words cute and creepy sound so similar?

What's that? Hooters also has another meaning? The female mammalian protuberances? Those fatty fun bags? It can't mean that? How are they related to owls? Owls eat small mammals and don't appear to be much fun - wise but not fun.      

Oh well... let's just all look at the photo above and wish someone would hurry up and get us a beer to drown our sorrows.... sorrows like: why we aren't dating a hot chick who could work at Hooters?

Someone get down there - Mike! - and let me know how the service is and what team they are cheering for.

Cheers and give a hoot, don't pollute
Andrew 'woodsy' Joseph

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Another Leak At Dai-Ichi Nuclear Facility

I have no idea if I should be burying TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co.) or praising it.

I mean... it's really easy to beat a dead horse, isn't it. Okay.. .hands up... has anyone ever beaten a dead horse, and is it as easy as we think or do moral begin to play a part in the beating?

This is what TEPCO faces pretty much every day, being that it's damned if it does and damned if it doesn't.

On June 16, 2103, TEPCO suspects there is yet another leak in one of the holding tanks of the radioactive waste water.

So... it has decided to hold off on its running of tests of its water decontamination system.

It's good news in that it is trying to (finally) do the right thing, but bad news because further delays continue to make the shut-down and decontamination process further drawn out.

Over the past few months, the nuclear power station that generates electricity - or used to generate electricity - has had a plethora of leaks to its underground storage tanks, tanks that are used to cool the nuclear reactor cores... meaning TEPCO has been forced to use above-ground water storage tanks... they have to keep the core cool, or else someone's going to get radioactive.

Unfortunately, this time there's a leak in these above ground tanks...

Who the hell is making these tanks?

Is it a manufacturing design flaw, or is TEPCO not utilizing these tanks in a safe manner, or have they always been on the Dai-ichi grounds in Fukushima-ken and have been damaged by either the 9.0 Magnitutde earthquake that precipitated the deadly tsunami that smashed into the facility?

Basically, I am asking why these tanks are leaking. It may not be TEPCO's fault. It may be the manufacturer's or it's simply what insurance companies call 'an act of god'.

It's too bad that the testing had to stop, as the Alps decontamination system is supposed remove 62 different radioactive substances from the plant's contaminated waste water.

Just recall that this process was still in its infancy, as TEPCO was testing its effectiveness... though I should point out that these test had been on-going since March... and though they were scheduled to conclude at the end of July... perhaps the data already collected will be enough to determine if the Alps decontamination systems will be an effective solution at Dai-ichi.

For now... let's hope TEPCO can solve the leaking water storage problem quickly and ensure that it will not occur again, so that proper clean-up of the facility can begin in earnest.

As for questioning whether or not I have gone soft on TEPCO, I prefer not to continue to beat a dead horse, and just want things to come to their eventual and safe conclusion for all involved.


Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bashing LEGO? That Makes Me Mad!

Let's talk about LEGO. Between the Danish-toy manufacturer and women and Japan, it seems like that's all I talk about.

I like LEGO… I find it a nice escape from the realities of the world where women and Japan rarely intrude - which sucks, but what are you going to do?

I sometimes mull over how two pieces can be joined together in different ways, which gets my creative juices flowing. Now, I am not talking about women.

Anyhow, I never looked at LEGO for anything other than what it is… a building toy.

Back when I was a kid, I never had LEGO. I had Meccano - steel construction toy that I hated and a wood burning set that always burned me more than the wood - I hated it.

But when my nearly eight-years-my-junior-brother was old enough, he started getting the odd LEGO set, and I would build him a few kits for him to play with - a fire engine, ambulance and helicopter come immediately to mind.

It was pretty easy to build, and didn't really capture my imagination as well as a good Uncle Scrooge comic book by the master Carl Barks.

But then… sometime in the early 1990s, LEGO began to change… it began producing sets that had a bit more detail… a bit more realism… in fact, the difference was like night and day.

As an adult in my mid-20s, I didn't even know about this, because I was already in Japan and was playing with women 100% more than building blocks.

In the 2000s, LEGO upped the ante again… offering complex kits that AFOLs (adult fans of LEGO) and kids could enjoy building.

Along the way the Minifigs (miniature figures) also became more complex. Yes, they changed the way they were constructed while still maintaining the classic points of articulation, but they also gave the Minifigs better clothing, better hair, and more realistic looking faces.

Back in the old days, LEGO Minifigs had a pair of black dot eyes and a black line smile (there has never been a nose, which gives it its unique look).

Occasionally you would find a Minifig with a cheesy black mustache, that no matter how you sliced it somehow continued to make everything look 'European' rather than global…. even though all characters had one skin tone - yellow. 

As well… instead of the insipid smile, LEGO created Minifigs with more natural looking smiles… scowls… grins, gritty determination, anger, angst and more… all in conjunction with beads of sweat, scars, eye-patches, sunglasses, wild and wooly hair and clothing.

At last, when you play with your LEGO sets, you actually have people who look like they are dressed for the event!

And yet… despite this upgrade to a more realistic toy, some people are keen to point out the flaws of such an endeavor… that it seems as though a kid's toy is getting angrier and angrier with each successive year, a fact made by a New Zealand researcher.

The MiniFg, in its small-format (see my photo above for an original Gas Station attendant and Astronaut) has had about 3.7 billion of the little buggers produced since their debut in 1978.
Before that… they had a larger look and feel, as evidenced by that large scale head (also in the same photo).

According to Dr. Christoph Bartneck of the University of Canterbury the number of happy expressions on Lego mini-figures is on the decline – in contrast, the number of angry faces are increasing. A greater variety among the characters has been regularly introduced every year since the 90s – but anger seems to be the more popular expression plastered over their tiny plastic faces.
Dr. Bartneck, who has studied 6,000 Lego mini-figures, and will present a paper on his findings at the First International Conference on Human-Agent Interaction in Sapporo, Japan (I will always find a link!) starting August 7, 2013, finds this trend unsettling.

Bartneck is right, of course - there are more angry faces in LEGO… but to find the trend unsettling - really? Is this guy a wimp? Unsettling?

Perhaps I'm jumping all over him without hearing his side of the story.
But first… I said Bartneck is right about more angry faces.

LEGO makes a great variety of themed sets: From Toy Story, Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, DC Universe, Marvel Universe, Prince of Persia, Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles, SpongeBob, Cars, and the upcoming Lone Ranger movie, as just a drop in the bucket.
It also manufactures it's own line of themed sets: from a Dinosaur Park; Ninjago, Chima, Alien Conquest Earth Defence, Galaxy Squad, Friends, City, castle, Monster Fighters, Pharaoh's Quest, Racers - and these are just the one's they make now.

LEGO releases and discontinues sets and themes all the time (like the awesome Power Miners or Japanimation-related Exo-Force). And each country can have it's own LEGO sets not available in other countries. Brick happens.

So… everyone can understand that when producing licensed sets like Star Wars, you can quite capture the feel of the theme if Darth Vader is smiling. So under the removable medical helmet, he looks like a white faced scarred man - just like he is in the movie.

Dinosaur Park - you are hunting dinos… should you be smiling? No! Sweating. Nervous. Gritty determination. Not clean-shaven. Scarred from being bitten.

What's wrong with showing a bit of realism with the sets?

The City sets involving police always offer a criminal to chase… should they all have idiotic grins?
Even kids who played cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians as kids weren't all wearing painted on smiles! No… there was concentration as they fired their imaginary bullets from their imaginary guns into the head of their friends. "I got you!"

So… why can't art imitate life? It certainly isn't an exact duplicate of life… it's not a battle between religious extremism, or race-related…

Now… you saw my finger-gun exercise above - right… something kid's can't do at school without being suspended or branded a hooligan or worse…

Well… the University of Canterbury's Bartneck is concerned how the move from only positive faces to an increasing number of negative faces, armed with compatible mini-weapons, influences child play.

“It is important to study how to create appropriate expressions and how these expressions are perceived by the users," says Dr. Bartneck. "Children’s toys and how they are perceived can have a significant impact on children."

Dr. Bartneck says the themes are becoming more about conflict – the battle between good and evil – a good force struggling against a villainous one, branding more and more characters with either strife or smugness.

He is correct. It's no longer - let's build a house out of these bricks… and now a car like they had in the early days.

But then again… what did kids do with their LEGO back then. Did they simply drive the cars to school and then drive back to the house… or, did they race the cars around the furniture, fly into the air and crash, thereby necessitating the fire engine and ambulance to show up to cart the still-smiling
1970s and 1980s Minifig to a hospital?

Kids crave adventure. Just building and playing safely is boring. Dr. Bartnck chooses not to see that, as he is only focused on the angry faces becoming more prevalent in LEGO.

Look… if parents are buying their eight-year-old a Harry Potter LEGO set… you know that it's not all peaches and cream! If you are aware, from Book and movie 4 on - people die. Is this an appropriate theme for your kid? No? Then why are you buying him or her LEGO?

Well… no one has to die in LEGO. In fact… I have yet to see a DEAD Minifig with the "X-'d" out eyes.  Okay… okay… there are skeletons (and horrible mimes) - see my photos… but they are actually more 'undead', as everyone knows that the dead can not be re-animated.

So what is Dr, Bartneck's problem… albeit in a very small way, is LEGO creating a more realistic world for kids to play in? Yes, it is.
But, I believe - and Dr. Bartneck is not looking at this - is that kids are always looking to play in the real world.

What… should they live in the saccharin world of the Smurfs - where all is tra-la-la-la-la-laaaa-ing? Why is that man trying to eat the small blue people, daddy? Isn't this horrific?

Bugs Bunny? Why is that boy rabbit dressing up as a girl Tasmanian devil and putting a lipstick covered bear trap in his mouth to kiss the boy Tasmanian devil? Why doesn't the roadrunner study science? Is this weird? Interspecies cross-dressing and birds that defy the laws of gravity. Don't worry, dropping something heavy on your baby brother's brain won't hurt too much. You can just put a new one in.

Dr. Bartneck fails to realize that angry faces have been around for a long time. Ugh… me no remember because me am stupid caveman.

So what if LEGO has more angry faces now than ever before. The point is that it still has a lot of happy faces.

LEGO along with its themed and licensed theme sets, also offers mystery pack sets of 16 characters… if you feel the packaged product you might be able to tell just what it is you are buying…

Now onto it's 10th series, these sets offer some great Minifigs… everything from:
Classic Monster themes: Medusa, Creature Black Lagoon, Vampire, werewolf, witch, Frankenstein's monster, Mr. Hyde, Mummy, Manbat, Genie, Mermaid, Leprechaun, Zombie, and more.
Costume set: guys in a rabbit suit, gorilla suit, Godzilla suit, Chicken suit and more...
Ancient Warrior set: Aztec, Mayan, Ninja, Native American, Gladiators, Musketeer, Cowboy, Mexican in serape...
Circus: Clown, ringmaster, magician,
Modern stuff: Kid with doll, man with newspaper,
Sports: Baseball player w/ glove and one with a bat, skateboarder, skier, ski jumper, hockey player, figure skater, surfer, Race driver, Boxers, Judo-ka, weightlifter, snowboarder, soccer player, wrestler and more.
Weird stuff: Judge w/wig (looks good w/Mr. Hyde), Tarot card reader (w/2 cards),Haz Mat-suit guy sweating, Kimono woman, Sailor (those three all in the same series), butler w/tray, Scott w/Pipes, Painter with palette and brush... there so much more…

And you know what? They smile where applicable.

The Viking man and woman looked stern. The Native American Indians are smiling. The Ninja and
samurai are grim. The crash-test dummy has neither smile nor angst.

What's wrong with these? Nothing. Kids glance at the Minifig and then start playing with them - or as is more than likely, they are placed away as part of a showcase. Kids aren't dwelling on the negative aspects of whether or not the character is smiling or not. They look - say cool - and then play.
Gods! Leave it to the academics to suck the life out of a toy!

If you would like to read the Bartneck study, click HERE. I know what point he's making, it's correct, but it's making waves out of nothing.
http://bartneck.de/publications/2013/agentsWithFaces/bartneckLEGOAgent.pdf

I can't wait to see what sort of reaction Bartneck's study receives in Sapporo later this summer.
Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Monday, June 17, 2013

Of Fathers And Sons

My wife is on the computer all day long writing a 1500 word essay on The Secret Garden for night school... I watched the video and wanted to kill myself - how boring.

Whatever... as such... I don't have time to write anything for Monday (at the moment)... so let's just say - I hope all you dad's out there had a happy father's day!

I got a nice homemade card and a breakfast of eggs Benedict - a croissant with fresh smoked salmon (way better than the usual ham or bacon) with a lightly poached egg (4!) and then Hollandaise sauce on it. Lovely! I'll take an extra Lipitor pill (for my high cholesterol) and should survive the night. Nawwww... I know it doesn't work that way. 

While my wife worked on her essay, I played soccer and baseball with my 7-year-old son! Had lots of fun.

The day before we did the same, had McDonald's for breakfast, went LEGO shopping for me, while he picked up a video game for his Nintendo DS.

On Friday, I took the day off and took him out of school and visited Toronto LEGOLand and had a blast.

It was my Father's Day weekend with my son. He has already said it was the best weekend of his life. I can't argue with that.

As for my father... though we aren't as close as some folks are with their father, we have a great relationship. He has always been there for me, and hopefully he knows how much I appreciate that.

Unlike myself and my son, my father put in a lot of extra hours at work and thus wasn't around as often as I am with my son. To be honest, that was fine by me. And I even now wonder if I don't spend too much time with my son...

But... my son seems to need that... so there or here I am. I also coach (co-coach) his soccer team, and I enjoy it very much. My son seems to as well, and if he's not the best player in the league, he's certainly one of the better ones. He's coach-able, and has a desire to do his best - and it impresses me because I don't see that from all the other kids.

I really didn't think he was going to be as good as he is. Hopefully, my father feels the same way about me, and is pleasantly surprised at how I turned out... because I was pretty useless until I was 23 or so. Kind of afraid of my own shadow.

My father... you know... if it wasn't for his calming affect on me... I wouldn't be here writing to you all on a blog about Japan.

Just before I was to have left Canada for Japan, I was just beginning to come into my own as a man... but still, I tried everything I could to not go to Japan after being accepted into the JET Programme. But my father would have none of it.

He told me how proud he was of me, and how proud I should be of myself for having been selected to go to Japan. He told me to enjoy every single day there - because one day, it would be over.

He also told me to write everything down. To take photographs of everything I could. Because, he said, memory is fleeting.

He was correct, of course. About everything. I sometimes read through my daily journals and 'see' myself back in Japan experiencing things again for the first time some 23 years later - because I had forgotten about them.

It's also why writing about one's past is often a difficult thing for me. I dislike mulling over the past, as I always wonder how I could have done things differently... to make things better for myself. That's a loser's proposition. Not to think back... but to dwell and wonder 'what if'.

I still do it, of course. But that's who I am. I think for me, when I look into my past and see mistakes and triumphs and all the things I learned... all the people I knew... while it saddens me, it gladdens me.

I guess I'm an emotional kind of guy. I live and die with my emotions. But that's who I am. I am my father's son. I am my son's father. I not only survived Japan, but I thrived there. Japan made me who I am today. And I couldn't have achieved that without my father's sage advice and guidance.

Now... with a legacy written in 'print' here and in other places... one day my son will learn who is father was, and how he became the father he is.

All pretty melodramatic, eh? Whatever.

Happy belated father's day. Hope you enjoyed your new tie.

Thank goodness I don't wear one. Still... I could have used some new socks.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Eyeball Licking Latest Sex Fetish In Japan - Updated

Editor's Note: It's August 25, 2014... and just so we are all aware, the article presented below is indeed a hoax. 

Everyone who isn't Japanese seems to have an opinion that the Japanese are a weird people.

I have done my best to assure you readers that while the Japanese are indeed weird, they are only a different breed of weird as opposed to the rest of the weirdness that exists in the world - IE - everybody is weird.

But then again, every once in a while the Japanese do their best to make it sound like the rest of the world just ain't trying hard enough to be weird.

I'm still not convinced of its veracity, but a newspaper - no less the UK's The Guardian - recently ran an article on the latest fetish or fad that is sweeping the nation like a bad case of STDs (sexually-transmitted diseases).

Known as worming or oculolinctus, kids bored with kissing and looking for a new, inventive and disgusting way to get to second base, have recently begun licking one another's eyeballs.

Really? What's wrong with grabbing a boob under a shirt or snaking a hand down your guy's pants for a feel? Licking an eyeball?

While that sounds incredibly personal - you really have to want to trust your partner, the whole ordeal is fraught with a downside - besides the obvious grossness.

Worming (which anyone who has ever had a dog will tell you is disgusting) is being blamed for a big rise in cases of conjunctivitis - that's pink eye - in Japan. Pink eye is an inflammation of the outer most layer of the eye, and the inner surface of the eyelid. Symptoms include an itchy eye, pus seepage, inflammation of the whole eye area, and it just looks icky.

But that's not the worst thing about worming.

Think eye chlamydia. Chlamydia is an STD - a fairly common one - and while different from eye chylmedia only in location, let me send you to a Wikipedia page on the one that does affect the lower fun region: HERE, and have you dwell on the fact that this is basically what Japanese kids and other dumb young people are doing to their eyes.

Yeesh. Just say no to licking eyeballs and snake a hand under her top and over and around her breast, squeeze lightly while tweaking the nipple gently with your thumb and index finger. It's way better than licking an eyeball and developing a pus infection in the eye of your girlfriend - because with pink eye, she isn't going to be looking her best - in more ways than one.  

So why lick an eyeball? Some strange person realized that the cornea has a lot of nerve endings in it... so when licked, it is extremely sensitive.... it's supposed to possess the same titillation as toe-sucking.

I've never licked an eyeball... I have a long tongue and can touch the tip of my nose with it, but that's still not long enough to self-lick my eyeball...

Here's what a female student from the U.S. Virgin Islands says: "My boyfriend started licking my eyeballs years ago and I just loved it. I'm not with him any more but I still like to ask guys to lick my eyeballs ... it turns me on."

So... there. Sex is risky enough without having to make sure you don't contract pink eye. Or blindness or even just a scratched cornea. I've had a a scratched cornea while in Japan - sometime in 1991, and the only cool thing about that was that I had to keep a contact lens out and wear an eye patch.

I thought it looked cool and for a whole two weeks after my eye was better, I kept it on in public. I wanted to look as cool (and sexy) as Snake Plissken, the gritty anti-hero played by Kurt Russell in the 1981 film: Escape From New York. Really. I may have a high IQ, but not a high eye-Q.

Consider yourself warned. Lick an eyeball if you wish, but don't say you haven't been warned. There are far better and more interesting things to lick. Disease-free me and my long tongue ought to know. 

Hopefully Japanese youth will shun this fetish craze and not take it to the levels seen by bagel heading where people in Japan began having saline injected into their forehead:
 

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph