Daily Mumble February 2003 Archive
Pinch Punch, first of the month, no returns, white rabbit!
Do you say that on the first day of every month to those around you? I had, until today, assumed that this English tradition of giving one's friends and family a little pinch and punch whilst saying this line was known by all Brits. However, when I tried it out with two compatriots this morning they just looked at me with a bemused expression and asked me if I'd taken my drugs today.
(Incidentally, the "no returns" bit is added to prevent the person that you say it to from doing it back to you, and the "white rabbit" is there for extra security - white rabbits prevents anyone at all from pinching and punching you on that first day of the month. Bet you never knew that :-)
...and a happy New Year!
To all of you who follow the Chinese calendar, a very Happy New Year!
I was going to head down to Yokohama's China Town tonight, but I'm now far too drunk having downed half a can of beer mixed with Coca-Cola. Who was it who first introduced me to this fantastic cocktail? And why isn't it more popular? And why am I such a lightweight?
Incidentally, do you like my photo of two giraffes? I like it very much.
It's about 5am. I can't sleep. A combination of a premature hangover, crazy wailing neighbourhood cats and the world's most dedicated war-monger are to blame.
I don't like to get too political in TDM, but I would like to post a couple of links:
For more on the USA's illegitimate president read the first couple of chapters of Stupid White Men by Michael Moore (now translated into Japanese I note), or check out his web site www.michaelmoore.com . I wouldn't describe it as a literary masterpiece, but it does make one feel that even the scenario acted out in that dreadful film "Dave" could actually happen.
[In no way should any lines be drawn between my contempt for the White House inhabitants, and the American public. After all, look at how that chap who apparantly represents me at the UN has been behaving. It's almost embarrassing to be British...]
I had a very exciting day today. It started this morning with the writing of a long rant which I then decided to cut short and became what you see above. It was then back to bed until 9am when I was woken by my phone telling me that I had to return the videos to the rental store and put the rubbish out.
I like my phone very much. Ok, so it doesn't play movies or take photos like nearly all phones do over here, and I can't buy a coke from a vending machine with it as some of my friends can with theirs, but it does ring when someone calls me, and it does has a pretty picture on the display which changes with the season. I'm currently looking at three snowmen. It's extremely sexy too; having been dropped on the floor once too often it now sports some very kinky black plastic tape (necessary to hold the battery on). If you'd like to make my phone vibrate RIGHT NOW then simply click on firstname.lastname@example.org . Don't worry about the time difference between you and Japan, I've got it set up to ring silently (ring silently?) when emails are recieved from new addresses. Attachments will be deleted before delivery.
Ah, erm, well, got a bit sidetracked there, sorry. I was telling you about my day wasn't I? I'll just say at this point that if you have something better to do with your time than read about a Day in the Life of Tame, click here
Just after the video-and-rubbish call I vibrated once again, this time it was my good friend Stuart who lives the other side of town. He was applying for a job and wanted me to check over his application letter. Can't think why he chose me... ah, yes, that was it, he said I was the only native speaker that he knows in Tokyo, and that he didn't have much choice...
That call saw me hot-footing it home from my girlfriend's place (20 minutes by train followed by 5 minutes on a bicycle), where I could plug in to the net and correct his punctuation. What happened next? Oh, had a shower in the best shower this side of Niagra Falls, then jumped back on my bike, met up with kaechan and headed into Shinjuku (that's a big big place in Tokyo with lots of shops, people and escalators like these ones) where we met Tom and his girlfriend Keiko for lunch. Following that Tom bought two sets of shelves and a fridge-freezer, and I almost bought a DVD recorder for my laptop, as over here they are a third of the price of those in London.
When on the brink of buying a gadget that I don't really need and can't afford in any case, I always look out for some kind of sign telling me that I shouldn't buy it. Despite my anti-consummerism principles, when I'm placed in the biggest gadget shop in the entire world I find it hard to resist. Thankfully, both Tom and Stuart unwittingly came to my aid by phoning me at strategic moments to ask me where I was and what I was doing. Their calls coincided with my removing of the product from the shelf in order to take it to the cashier - twice. I took their combined interupptions as The Sign that I should not be buying a DVD burner. Thus, tonight you find me once again DVD-and-guilt-less.
After that it was back to Tom's new place to eat tiramisu and curse the dawn of anti-copy music CD's. At 7pm Kae and I returned here (her place), where we have since cooked & eaten supper and appreciated our new gas heater - for a change I will not be wearing a hat or scarf in bed.
Anyhow, I am now going to head on home again as my batteries have nearly packed up, that's the one attached to the back of this keyboard and the one inside my body. I'm sure you understand why, after all, today has been a VERY exciting day.
p.s. ...then twenty minutes ago I realised that next week I have to go to Korea or China. Ah, the trials of being a tourist, if you know what I mean.
Yes, so next Saturday (that's the 15th of February I think) I'm going to go to Korea, that's South Korea, not the North. It seems that even if I did want to go to the North it would be virtually impossible to get in, and probably even more important to get out! (The government tells us this week that Japan is on high alert for missiles and the landing of armed spies from North Korea).
I had really wanted to go to China, but having seen the list of illnesses foreigners regularly pick up when there, plus of course the fact that I'd have to apply for a visa, and the airfare is more expensive, and the toilets have no doors...
Anyway, as it's only a short (5-day) trip, Korea will be a lot easier to organise.
If there are any Koreans out there reading this who'd like to meet a celebrity-in-the-making, and perhaps earn a place in my future box-office record breaking Tame Goes Wild, do feel free to contact me as I currently know virtually no-one over there.
Of course the only thing is is that my flight coincides with the anti-war demo in Tokyo. I'd booked an evening flight in the hope that the march would be during the daytime - still, I hope by spreading the word through The Daily Mumble I can make a little difference.
remember thinking as a child that when I was older I'd be wiser.
An Adult meant knowing what to do or say in difficult situations.
Well, I guess I was only a child then. I didn't know any better.
Everyday on my way to the station I pass a large, shiny, unmarked building. I'd never noticed it before this week, but now, well, you can't miss it. In addition to the 4 policemen sporting sexy helmets, bullet-proof jackets and riot shields standing outside the front door, there's two police cars stationed permanently opposite the building, the inhabitants of which keep a constant watch over the area. I have no idea what's going on, but it must be something pretty serious.
What makes me laugh though is the weapons that all of these officers are carrying - no, not guns, not even metal truncheons (after all, you could seriously hurt someone with one of them!). No, here in Japan police on Red Alert are armed with...
I swear it's true, they're all carrying 1.5 metre long pieces of wood, the sort you have attached to your garden rake!
All it would take is a madman with a chainsaw, and whatever is being guarded in that building would soon be gone!
Sweeping changes in my way of thinking have been the order of the day today.
Yes, it's this visa business again, you know, not having one that allows me to work in order to pay off my beautiful debts.
Yesterday I had another of those classic meetings with the Japanese Immigration Department, you know, where I'm told the complete opposite of what I was told on my previous visit. Anyhow, the outcome was that the Cultural Activities Visa which I had been pursuing as a last resort is a no-no for some completely silly reason which I shan't even bother to explain, it's that silly.
So, I have re-considered my options, done a little research and come up with a simple solution: Leave Japan where I am unable to work and go to a country where I can work. Then, in June 2003, when for technical reasons I will be able to apply for a Japanese visa that does allow me to work, return to Tokyo and get on with doing what I like doing best, that is, living in Japan.
The next question I asked myself was which country should I go to for a few months? I currently have no desire to return to the UK; no, In fact I'm quite attached to this side of the globe at the moment. One country that does hold great appeal is New Zealand, and, handily enough, it has a Working Holiday Visa deal going with the UK. However, as we all know the majority of Kiwi's have four legs and a wooly coat, this results in the fact that wages in New Zealand are a lot lower than in neighbouring Australia, which also has the above mentioned visa deal.
So there you have it. It looks like in the next couple of months it might be Destination Oz for me, unless something stunning happens overnight.
Watch this space.
I note today that Japan has a new force to be reckoned with in the world of neighbourhood protection and crime prevention: Sumo wrestlers!
Tokyo's main Sumo Wrestling "stable" (where the big fellas live and train) has announced that two wrestlers will patrol their local area for an hour every night after midnight.
I was just wondering what would happen if a criminal decided to run away. I mean, they may be effective at blocking an escape passage, but they can't exactly be desribed as nimble!
Would you trust your hair to a shampoo with a name like this?
Yesterday I saw two films: Rabbit Proof Fence and Vanilla Skies.
A trip to the cinema always leaves me feeling, affected. It seems that I'm easily influenced by other people's stories, especially those related to love, travel or freedom of choice. As the final credits roll I find myself buzzing with energy for the millions of things that I can and want to do.
As for films like Vanilla Skies which challenge your perception of reality, well they're slightly different: Living in Japan as a foreigner is like being in a theme park 24/7; nothing is quite real, I'm not a part of what's going on around me, merely an observer dipping into reality now and then. It does feel like a dream world created entirely for my own amusement (does a tree make a sound if it falls when then thre's no-one there to hear it? Does Tokyo exist outside the walls of this apartment when I'm inside?). Show me a film such as Vanilla Skies, The Matrix or The Truman Show, and I get tipped over the balance. Today on the subway I started debating with myself what would happen if I started singing out loud - would I just get a load of strange looks, or would the Japanese actors around me join in with the chorous right on que?
I hope one day to be able to make a film. That's an ambition of mine.
My idea of spending a few months in Australia or New Zealand has been causing me grief. I am worried that I am placing money before love and true desire.
You see my quandry?
Placing love and true desire against money (and common sense?) on the decision-making scales is a precarious business. I was just wondering whether anyone out there has come across a scientific formula that can be applied to this situation in order to come up with the right answer.
Answers on a postcard.
The best suggestion will win a copy of my signed autobiography (when it's published).
Docomo, Japan's cutting-edge mobile phone company, has today unveiled its latest handset, complete with Sony memory stick.
Critics claim that at over 4 metres in height it is only practical for giants, and therefore totally inappropriate for the Japanese market.
Today Kae, Tom, Keiko and I paid a visit to the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, located just across the moat from the Emporer's palace. The exhibition we were interested in featured the work of the German artist Wolfgang Laib. It was really interesting. I love those kinds of modern exhibitions where the art takes the form of bizarre objects dotted around the floor in great big whitewashed rooms.
The artist spends every summer out in the fields near his home collecting vast quantities of pollen by hand. He then uses this amazing substance to create various works such as Pollen from Pine (left) or The Rice Meals (centre). I was astonished at how much warmth and life was emitted by the pollen, whether it was that of Pine, Hazelnut or Dandelion. Laib also works with milk, honey, and, as can be seen on the right, beeswax.
Please don't be under the impression that I know anything about art, because I don't. But I know when I like something, and that's why I'm sharing this with you. I found it really very inspiring - although I think I may be hard-pressed, here in Tokyo, to collect the amount of pollen neccesary to cover even a square centimetre of flooring!
Wolfgang Laib's work is currently on a world tour, so if he comes to a gallery near you, get down there.
My thanks to those of you who have emailed over the past couple of days with your thoughts on my little quandry, as mentioned above.
I am happy to tell you that the situation has been resolved, thanks to a very kind offer by my girlfriend: I can stay with her for the time being. This means that I can afford to continue to stay in Japan, whilst going about applying for a place at a language school etc.
I'm happy, but very tired, so that's it for tonight. Oyasumi nasai! (Good night Japanese style).
I'm getting very excited now... preperations for Saturday's departure now well underway. In addition to having bought a rip-off imported guide book (Lonely Planet, twenty quid), today I popped down to the Tokyo branch of the Korean Tourist board - and very helpful they were too. I get the impression that Korea is quite tourist-friendly (please note that from here on "Korea" refers to South Korea as opposed to North Korea!). For example, there's a nationwide four-digit freephone number that you can call 24 hours a day to get advice and information about the area that you're calling from. Also, compared to Japan, the place os cheap - although admittedly that's not saying much! For those of you who have a map of Korea to hand, you may like to know my basic itinerary: arrive 10pm Saturday in Seoul, stay up all night in the 24 hour market, take a morning train 5 hours south to Pusan (or thereabouts), spend a couple of days in the south, Tuesday morning return to Seoul (where I'm meeting an aquaintance), spend 24 hours being shown around etc and probably sampling the local beer, Wednesday return to Tokyo. I'll probably be utterly shattered by that time and need a holiday!
My only fear is that of Kimuchi. Kimuchi is a integral part of the Korean diet. In fact, it's eaten with virtually every meal. It's made from cabbage and red hot hot chilli things, you know, spicy, really spicy bits and bobs, then left to ferment in an earthenware pot for a couple of days.
I can't stand really spicy food. A bit hot is alright, but I'm a wuss when it comes to chilli and things like that. Mind you, I was told today that the average daytime temperature in Seoul this week has been -5°c, so I may find a sudden liking for the dish. I'll let you know when I get back.
We get the chance to do it all over again on March 14th, "White Day". "White Day" is one of those retail-industry created festivals, you know, like Father's Day. That's the day when I am supposed to give my girlfriend the chocolates and flowers. However, I have a policy of not acknowledging such fake calendar events which is why I participated in Valentine's Day western-style, and shall not lift a finger for White Day.
latter half of Febraury saw me taking a trip to South Korea.