Sunday, 31 October 2010

Happy Halloween gaijin pests

This here may or may not help explain these posters if you haven't got a clue what they are. They are the much loved manner posters on the Tokyo subway extolling commuters not to be arses in the variety of ways that people rammed together on public transport are arses. This one is a spoof by a cleverer person than Our Man.

Secret handshake to @Robertodevido de Twitter.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Competition: 10 things bet you didn't know about Greater Abiko Co-Prosperity Sphere



10. Abiko is known as the Kamakura of the North. Although, presumably by people who have never been to Kamakura or who stuck to the yellow grooved pavements when they went.
9. This fine upstanding suburban city of fine upstanding suburban values used to be a favourite spot for Tokyo managers and bureaucrats to install their mistresses in second homes within view of the lake here, which Our Man will be running round on Sunday (sponsor him here. Sponsor him here. Sponsor him here), Teganuma.
8. The lake used to be the dirtiest in Japan.
7. When the town grew massively 30 years ago (Japan Rail put up company housing here) they had nowhere to pump all the, ahem, shit from the new households, so it went into the lake, causing the city to no longer be known as the Kamakura of the North, but as Whatsatfuckinsmell?*
6. In addition to the annual half-marathon that folk run here, and Our Man will be to help the next crop of journos don't ya know, there's also an annual triathlon. That means folk swim through the lake. Here. Every year. Eeeuuuw.
5. In the '70s the yanks dumped 20,000 barrels of Vietnam surplus Agent Orange in the lake.
4. The mayor of Abiko is a dentist.
3. The lake is now the third or so dirtiest in Japan thanks not to any eco-cleanup, but to our city elders opening the sluice gates and pumping all the shit out to sea down the Tone River.
2. Our Man slept in the same room as the Emperors' brother at the great city's preeminent ryokan (Japanese inn).
1. One of these facts is not true. Can you guess which one, readers?

First correct answer out of the virtual hat gets a vial of holy swamp water and free annual subscription to Our Man in Abiko.

*Joke nicked from a Billy Connolly routine.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Dear Prime Minister... (from Our Man's old man)

Rt.Hon. David Cameron
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA

Dear Prime Minister,

I have always been taught, from childhood on, that the best leaders lead by example. In our present pickle as a nation, and with your call for a ‘ big society’ ringing in our ears, it seems to me that sacrificing a proportion of your own State income, with some of your Cabinet colleagues following suit, might well encourage the rest of us to pull together with something of a much-needed war-time spirit. There are many ‘ broad shoulders’ in the Cabinet. A clear personal lead from you and your colleagues would give enormous additional authority to your government’ s economic and social policies, which I sincerely hope will work.

Incidentally, I was interested to read recently that Nelson Mandela, when he was President of South Africa, gave a third of his presidential income to charity. A lead to follow perhaps?

Yours faithfully,

XXXXXXXXXXX

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Off the internet for a bit, see ya

Right now, just sitting on a bench and typing away to the right of this tea house that belonged to some famous dead writer.

Our Man likes it because it's a nice place to sit and think, just a stone's throw from the strip malls and apartment blocks that are Abiko. And it has a water fountain, which is even nicer as just done 15km of an 18km training run. Got the big one on Sunday, don't you know. Sponsor Ourmani's charity, if you can, at the top right there. 'preciate it.

But anyway, Got 12% batteries left on the phone, so better get to the point:

Last night, finished watching Anvil - The Story of Anvil, the comical, poignant and upliftingly sad story of aging rockers refusing to give up on their hopeless dream of making the big time.

One of the points from the documentary, or non-fiction narrative, or film, as we used to call em, was we ain't got much time, so get on with your life because it's game over all too soon.

So in that spirit, Our Man is swearing off the Internet for a week to make a serious dent in his novel. So no tweeting or blogging till the Sunday big run. Honest.

For one week only, Our Man's gonna drink like a pius Muslim, tweet like the Amish and write his novel like he's possessed.

Something like that.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The Mail fails mainly on the front

Too good not to share with you all:



And to think, Our Man's company pension depends on their success. Euuw. Need to wash Our Man's hands. Secret handshake to @DailyQuail and lifted from Political Scrapbook.

Cross-dressing webreneurialism and YOU



Allow Our Man to put his pinafore on for moment and fill you good folk in on some housekeeping he's been up to. Now, he's aware that you all are busy comparing iPhone apps and moaning on Twitter about having to work "all" the time so you can barely spare the 10 seconds this site takes to load, but spare a thought for Our Man, stuck in these crumbling virtual four walls. Now, he's aware this blog was built when computers had mouses, so forgive him for not knowing how to behave in smart phone company. Until he gets round to building a new blog, you'll have to make do with this leaky old Blogger platform.

But he has moved a few buckets around until the extension is ready. And here's what's new:

  • There's a blue widget thing on the top right there. This is there to show what a decent chap Our Man is and show up what a bunch of free-loading skinflints you lot are. Or you could humour Our Man and thank him for his tireless devotion to his typewriting practice, and throw a couple of coins in the pot. He's doing the Abiko half marathon on Halloween Sunday, and would really appreciate a couple of quid - FOR CHARITY - thanks, tightwads.
  • There's some sage advice on the top left from iTech4tuneGuru, a twitter phenomenon whose byte-sized webtepreneurialist wisdom has got Our Man to where he is today.
  • And after an absence from the world of journalism for six months (well several years, if you count his stint at the Daily Yomiuri), The Rev. Paperboy has landed himself a job as editor (and reporter, secretary, delivery boy) of a smalltown paper somewhere in the wilds of Canada. Our Man's spiritual leader has been reincarnated to mark the occasion as a Field Agent (on the right there). Well done, this video is for you. Actually, it was lifted from you, so, er, whatever.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Shaft a politician - sponsor a journo 2010



Our Man is getting his running shoes on again to run the Abiko half-marathon round the cesspit lake five minutes from his house in what is misleadingly called "The Teganuma Eco Marathon."

No matter. What's important is you could help him on his way by helping others, specifically journalists in need.

Look, Our Man knows journos are among the most hated folk on the planet. But consider this. Without journos the cheating, conniving EVEN NASTIER pieces of work that are politicians would keep getting away with it.

Now, you might say that journos just sit around on their backsides making fun of celebrities and thinking up punny headlines. On a good day they do, but on a bad day (especially in some god awful place where they don't get Pop Idol and The Sun don't shine) people actually need to know what is going on, which schools are open, which hospitals are operating, and who's shooting who.

That's where good journalists come in. People who care, people who want to share what little knowledge they can glean to help others. And get freebies and hang around swanky hotel bars. They are people like you, in other words.

Only, unlike you, they may have to risk their lives in shitty parts of the world doing what you can do at the click of a mouse in your living room.

So, before you turn away, click on that mouse, send a little something to a charity that helps teach people to tell their own stories.

The charity is The Institute for War and Peace Reporting. Check them out here. Then put your wallet where my mouth is. Or something.

Make your donations right here, or check out who is more generous than you. Yes, giving more does mean you are closer to god, have a big wang. Whatever, just donate, OK?

Figures are in pounds. One pound is 125 yen or just over a dollar or so. Shit, Our Man doesn't know, if he was good at this shit he'd be in a different line of work.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

And the truth shall shut the babbling pundits up



Sorry, Our Man can't figure out how to put this vid here, instead you'll have to click here to waltz on over to the Gawker folks. But it's worth it. As they say, it's the single best, truest rant you're ever likely to see on morning TV about the War on Terror bullshit. Loved the way truth shut the other babbling pundits up sharpish.

Monday, 11 October 2010

13 ways Twitter beat mainstream media and the racists on Saturday night



On Saturday night, Our Man had another lesson in how Twitter is redefining journalism (yeah, it's gonna be one of those not-very-funny posts about journos and such. Bear with him though, he's got an idea for a hilarious post about lions doing stretching exercises before chasing antelope, although having just typed that line, he can see the idea may need a lot of corrective surgery before it can be seen in public).

So anyway, Our Man got a DVD out on Saturday night, unscrewed the Chile wine and thought he'd just check in with twitter see what his fellow traveller gaijin were up to in Japan, you know, moaning about the injustice of not being sat next to on the train, the injustice of being sat next to, or the injustice of having to stand up on a crowded train, when he spied a tweet mentioning his hometown, Leicester, with the subject tag #edl. These paragraphs are getting tiresome, let's do some numbers.

1. EDL is the English DefenceLeague - think football hooligans without the football.

2. Anyway, they were marching in Leicester, the most racially mixed city in the UK outside of London, trying to bait Muslims and generally intimidate ordinary folk, spreading hatred and fear. A kind of Daily Mail for the illiterate.

3. Our Man, being in splendid isolation in Abiko, knew nothing of it, and of course the story was way too insignificant for the highly uninsignificant media of Japan to bother themselves with.

4. But it meant an awful lot to Our Man. Themes of racial intolerance and national identity resonate with him, and a thousand drunk racists looking for trouble in his hometown make his legs twitch.

5. Especially as it was happening live before his very eyes:



6. So, he typed inthe tag #edl into twitter and from that very quickly saw hundreds of folk were resending just a handful of original tweets.


7. So Our Man joined in, retreating what he thought were the most interesting tweets.


8. And before he knew it, he was asking questions of the police, they were answering in a fashion...



9.He was getting slice-of-life feature story quotes...


10. Punditry about how best to tackle the racists...




11. A word or two from the racists...


12. A plea to the pro media to pull their finger out


13. And all for free! Well, excepting the ¥250 late return fee for the DVD Our Man should have watched but kept another day because he was having far too much fun on Twitter.

The moral of the story? Take the piss out of Twitter and social media and spotty bloggers in their basements all you like Old School Media, but you are closing yourself to a truth: That was some serious journalism going on, led by a bunch of keen amateurs that was faster, more enthralling and, er, BETTER than anything old media could come up with on its own, even if they had the numbers or could be be bothered to cover the story at all.

Oh, and there's this from the day after:

Friday, 8 October 2010

Still waiting for a reply

Dearest reader(s),

Looks like Our Man's attempt to get published in Granta has fallen flat. But he will say this:

It is better to fail, and fail magnificently, than to only achieve average success in life.

OK, so the letter's not a patch on Hunter S. Thompson here, but give Our Man time, and more Chile wine and Leicester cheese, and he'll see what he can do.

Forever yours,

Ourmani


Dear Mr Freeman,

I loved the How to Write About Africa satirical piece (although I must admit didn't get all the mango references in the How to Write About Pakistan follow-up). Anyway, it inspired me to write a How to Write About Japan piece in a similar style. It is here.

I am a former sub-editor at the Nottingham Evening Post, Birmingham Post and several other papers not with "Post" in the title and currently live in Japan. I am not a loon. I don't think. Much. But if you are interested, I'd be happy to polish the piece for publication for you. In fact, I will do that anyway and abide by your 19th Century submissions guidelines and submit ONLY by post. Do you also only accept handwritten submissions, or can your scribes cope with the Type-Writer? If submissions must be typed, could I ask you to send me some typewriter ribbon, as I have not seen any out here in three years of living on the outskirts of Tokyo.

Thank you in advance,

Sincerely yours,

Ourmani Nabiko

PS I may need a typewriter as well, but if your budget can't stretch to that, would a courier typeface from a computer printer be acceptable?

PPS I assume you are also not on Twitter.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Pretentious, but true

“I don’t mean to sell the poet so long or at such great length, but I do this principally because the world doesn’t esteem the poet very much. They don’t understand where we are coming from. They don’t understand the use for us. They don’t understand if there is any use. We are the masters of the superior secret, not they. Not they. Remember that when you write.”

James Dickey

Friday, 1 October 2010

How to write about Japan



1. In your book, magazine title or blog header, make sure you have a reference to "Rising Sun" "Yen to do blah blah" or "Far Eastern Promise." Anything else will mark you out as an amateur, or worse, one of those contrarians who thinks the uniqueness of Japan is no more unique than any other unique country, such as the United States, Britain, France, Italy, China, India etc.
2. Do not use pictures of Japanese people behaving normally, such as shopping at CostCo, walking around IKEA or eating a hamburger, as this will imply to potential readers that you don't know the real Japan. As everyone knows, the real Japan is only evident in pictures of geisha, sumo wrestlers and toothless grinning old men, or if 19 and a beddable girl, in cosplay gear, or French maid outfit pouting for the camera making peace signs with her other nubile friends. Bonus points if they are in high school uniforms. Other acceptable cover art include blurry shots of commuters, female fashion victims walking on zebra crossings in the rain, or robots/people in multicoloured motorbike helmets. BUT ON NO ACCOUNT use the pics of the geek with his computer-generated/blow-up doll/pillow/karaoke girlfriend machine. That's for Chapter Two.
3. If you've done your job correctly with picture and title chosen as above, then you should have no problem proving the premise of your work of painstaking fact-based journalistic narrative that Japan and the Japanese are inscrutably inscrutable, uniquely unique. This must be your premise for any works of fiction too. Of course, there's a paradox here. If the Japanese are so darned inscrutably different from regular folk, how in the hell can you, whose only expertise is you got through two-thirds of Shogun in college, get at the Real Japan, the Raw Japan, the Land of the Rising Sun?
4. Demonstrate your suitability as guide to all things Japanese by the liberal use of basic Japanese vocab in italics. Works especially well for English origin words as this works on two levels - it gives a Japanese flavour to your writing, and allows the English-language reader to laugh their ass off over those funny Japanese. So, never write "commuter", when you could write sarariman; you don't sneer at crap Japanese TV, sneer at crap Japanese terebi. Throw in a few proper Japanese words genkan (entrance hall) and bento (packed lunch) and you have established yourself as an expert, and Japanese as odd folk worthy of scorn or pity, but little else. It's not racist, it's called good writin'
5. Show the readers you really understand the mysterious Japanese in a way that no other foreigner ever has, by mentioning zen a couple of times and then delving deep into your psyche (or tourist information leaflet, whichever is closer to hand) and repeat "In Japan, they have a saying, the hammer hits the nail that sticks out." They have lots of sayings in Japan, but this is the only one you need to know because it tells the reader exactly how the Japanese are inscrutably inscrutable, because they have to do what the group says. In other countries this is called peer group pressure, but in Japan it is THE ONLY STORY.
6. The best way to demonstrate this is by populating your story with stock characters: wimpy men dominated by their wives; the geek from chapter 2 whose dodecahedron peg won't fit into the square hole; and don't forget the nubile girls from the cover who are just crying out for a foreign lover who will treat them right. Remember, all sararimen sacrifice their lives for the company because they are scared of the boss/wife/mother and never ever go out drinking and having a good time at the soapland sex clubs that refuse entry to foreign writers no matter how much they are gagging for it.
7. It is impossible for Japanese to be rude. Sure, folk didn't sit next to you on the train because you are a honkey who smells of cheese, but the Japanese characters in your work of fiction/entirely honest journalistic slice-of-life must be uncommonly kind and heroically take you across Narita Airport arrivals concourse to find you a Daily Mail. On no account are taxi drivers, bus drivers, bosses or koban policemen ever rude.
8. Taboo subjects. Never present Japan as largely similar to most other countries. Never portray Japanese as motivated by largely the same desires as everyone else in the world. Never take the piss out of Japanese robots. In fact, invest them with more personalty than the Japanese people (shouldn't be hard if you've been doing your job well of filling your piece with one-dimensional characters).
9. Oh, and remember, Japan is the crime-free-est country on earth (well, apart from the gangsters, sorry, yakuza, who run the real estate, political parties, stock market, and entertainment industries). Japan is full of honest, hardworking folk who would never dream of, say, not reporting their gran's death for a dozen years so they could pocket the pension.
10. But remember, times are a changing. The Japan you have painstakingly constructed is in danger of disappearing, unless you get that research grant/advance/freebie trip to that Kyoto writers' conference that will make those couple of sleepless nights at the Akasaka Prince Hotel fingering your iPad all worthwhile. Write it right and the sequel's as good as sold.


Pic lifted from here.

(This post has formed the basis of a re-arranged, radically rewritten and much expanded ebook essay to take into account the many comments this post has garnered and to bring the Japan Narrative up to date since the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown. It's on sale for 99 cents from Amazon right HERE.)