Monday, 31 January 2011

ELDERLY CRIME WAVE: AS PREDICTED. NOW BE A DEAR AND NICK US A TEABAG, WOULD YOU?



Numbers, numbers, numbers. Apparently that's what it all boils down to. Keep being told that the journalists of tomorrow (if there are any left by then) are going to be adept at data analysis - statistics. You know, drawing bubbles and venn diagrams - shit like this.

Well, there were loads of those hitting the Greater Abiko Co-Prosperity Sphere this week.

According to everyone, Japan's old fogies are OUT OF CONTROL, robbing stores, shoplifting Yama Girl backpacks and LED tooth lights. It won't be long before they'll be rioting in the streets and shutting down the internet.

Hold on fellow journalism lovers, here's the data:

27,362 oldsters were busted for shoplifting last year!

26.1 percent of all shoplifters!

But since 22.7 percent of Japan was over 65 in 2009 (and there will be more of them by now - like rabbits they are), and presumably not every honoured senior citizen arrested (even in Japan) was guilty as charged, it kind of looks like the rise of the Aged Pilferer is just, er, in line with the general greying of Japan. Which makes for a far dowdier headline:

Number of old Japanese folk nicking things largely as you would imagine

(0.079166% of Japan's elderly)


Monday, 24 January 2011

ABIKO DECIDES: HOSHINO SECURES THE THRONE



That's it then. Seven days that shook the world are over, and now we must survey the wreckage, learn what happened, and why, lest we forget, so that Abikans wherever they may be can unite and say:

Never Again.

No, not the Stephen Fry QI A-Bomb thing, silly, the 'Biko Election of course. The results, without further ado, are:

Junichiro "Gnasher" Hoshino: 27,240

"Show me the" Muneo Sakamaki: 22,597*

That was pretty close. Our Man feels sorry for Sakamaki. Sure, he didn't have any policies, he was only 40 and he had never held down a job outside of being a city councillor (do folk still call them aldermen?) but dammit, he had good qualities too - he didn't have any policies, he was only 40 and had never worked.

Whereas The Gnasher, 53, had policies coming out the wazoo. Stuff about free medical care for kids up to junior high school age. And blah blah blah and blah blah.

But while Our Man was bamboozled by the, er, razzmatazz of the big 'lection, the goodly people of Abiko knew what the subtext was: vote for Sakamaki, keep things the way they are round here - no development of Teganuma, keep the farms and small holdings round about, and generally watch the place get old, like the rest of Japan.

But The Gnasher (he's a dentist, remember?) has other ideas. He wants to woo a big firm to this fair city, pave over paradise to put up a parking lot, you might say. In return, our kids get free lollipops at the doctor's. Maybe.

So, does The Gnasher have a mandate (you know, will of the people, not a gay dating magazine)? Our Man thinks not, though he doesn't know what kind of magazines he keeps in his waiting room. See, despite being little known and with only a week to shout his name out at passing cars at intersections, the whippersnapper nearly pulled off a major upset. Our daughters even knew his name. Though pre-schoolers can't vote. Or gaijin, but that's another matter.

Shame, because Sakamaki promised to end the four-year "bonus" that mayors receive of ¥xx,xxx,xxx (Our Man forgets the figure now, but it was more than the value of Our Man's bunker). The Gnasher's response to this bold policy? "No comment." And he still won the bloody race. Our Man couldn't tell if he is Liberal Democratic Party (aka "The Forces of Evil") or New Komieto (aka "The Forces of Evil Lite") but whatever he is, he's connected.

So, Abikans picked the older incumbent for a thrusting, progressive city over the younger conservative who wanted the place to stand still.

Well, it's their city. And Our Man's.

*You should have stopped reading there. If only Our Man had remembered to make an endorsement, things might have been very different. Ho hum.

COMING SOON...

The race for Abiko Mayor: the winner; the loser; completely unrelated artwork to illustrate it.

Give him a couple of hours (to finish work) and Our Man will give you

The World According to Abiko.

(25p where sold)

Saturday, 22 January 2011

HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE QI

When a joke falls flat, the best advice is to apologise and move on. And Our Man would have done the same, but...


Our Man saw a few tweets about some off-colour jokes on the BBC about the A-bomb and thought nothing of it Friday, but the story has more than gone viral, it's gone MOTHER-IN-LAW. By Saturday, his 68-year-old mother was grilling him about just what exactly the British find so funny about A-bombs. A-bombs? Ehhh?

(Allow Our Man to explain how Our Mother in Law forms opinions: she watches TV, which gets its opinions from the Yomiuri Shimbun which gets its opinions from Nagatacho Kisha Clubs (the guvinmint) which get their opinions from the Yomiuri Shimbun, which gets its opinions from their knowledge of the public, as viewed on TV).

So, it was time to see what all the fuss was about. After extensive review (he watched the video twice), Our Man can say this:

1. The A-bomb is quite understandably a sensitive subject for Japanese.
2. But no subject is beyond satire.
3. In no sense did the comedians take the piss out of the Japanese A-bomb survivor, other than not treating the A-bomb as a subject beyond satire.
4. The target was not Japan, it was actually crappy train services in Britain and their apologists - the bored platform announcers who will spout any old bollocks to the long-suffering British commuter. Our Man was once on a 9.10 train from Leicester to St. Pancras when the chief steward announced that free tea and coffee was available in the buffet car, but in the next breath said, "Unfortunately, due to a defective urn, no tea will be served on this train."
5. The jokes about "the right/wrong kind of bomb" are references to the famous excuse given that trains were cancelled due to "the wrong kind of snow."
6. Our Mother-in-Law was still in a state of Yomiuri-induced miffedness, but after Our Man tried his best to give a potted history of British satire, sense of humour, Stephen Fry's left wing credentials, the fact that the survivor was heralded both for being the unluckiest and also the luckiest chap, she sensibly decided the best course was to let it lie.

And then she went off to her bunker to watch TV.

7. For more on this (and you can even vote in a real live poll, folks), see Japan Probe here.
8. For a brilliant analysis and excellent translation into Japanese, you can do no better than clicking here. And show it to the next outraged Japanese person who thinks British viewers laugh at A-bomb survivors. But don't blame them, they only picked up their outrage from the Gomiuri.

Good work Agent Yuko. Extra rations for the cats!

Friday, 21 January 2011

FEAR AND LOATHING ON THE ABIKO CAMPAIGN TRAIL



Some exciting notes on the exciting race between Team Hoshino and Sakamaki the 40-year-old (who is going to lose) for Abiko mayor. OK, so there isn't a lot of fear and loathing, but there seem to be some clear themes developing:

1. Sakamaki is 40 years old. Even Our Man knows this, because that's pretty much all Sakamaki's campaign van shouts all day long. Those not familiar with how Japanese elections work (don't worry, you're in good company here) may not know that pretty much all candidates do is hire white-gloved noisy bastards to drive around in Suzuki vans shouting their candidate's name on the streets (hertofore to be referred to as "campaigning"). Didn't notice any vans about shouting Hoshino's rank and serial number. Maybe because they don't have to.
2. Hoshino printed a full page pullout ad in local editions of the Yomiuri Shimbun (Pravda's uglier sister) thanking his "supporters" (the New Komeito power brokers who run the Abiko council and, incidentally, also did Our Man's front room floor):



3. But there are elements of a lively race. Challenger Sakamaki rides a bicycle. In fact, he has a whole team of florescent riders to spread the gospel. Here they are from Wednesday morning as Our Man was on a dairy and wheat products reconnaissance mission:


4. Not exactly a mass rally. No idea what he was on about, and Our Woman lost interest about five seconds in. Typical. But Our Man posts it here just so you can see and hear what Our Man has to go through for you lot.

5. Despite rumours to the contrary, both candidates have all their own hair.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

LAST MAN STANDING IS A ROTTEN GODZILLA EGG

Wow. It's official! There are only two chaps in the race for Abiko mayor: Big Man Hoshino (incumbent whose family name is adorned on Abiko Station) and Strawman Sakamaki, who once played rugby at uni (that is a rugger ball, not a Godzilla egg, methinks).

If it was a real race, Our Man's money would be on the ex-athlete rather than the smoker, but it's not a real race.

It's just politics.

Monday, 17 January 2011

STANDING UP FOR JAPAN




INTERRUPTING POSTS ON LOCAL ABIKAN POLITICS. NEW INTELLIGENCE DISCOVERED. LOOKS PROMISING. ADVISE AGENTS TO KEEP TABS ON Defending Japan. HAS HANDY POSTING SCHEDULE TOO.

OUT.

(ON TWITTER TOO HERE.)

Sunday, 16 January 2011

ABIKO DECISION 2011: WE ALL DIE, BUT SOME GET BETTER WINE



Ahh. Incumbency is a beautiful thing. Just hang around long enough and people get kinda used to you and maybe, just maybe, will miss you when you're gone (that's Our Man's 40-year plan to overnight success).

You may have forgotten that Abiko, the cradle of Northwest Chiba Prefecture Civilisation, is voting for its leader next week.

Exciting, huh? Well, it might be marginally interesting if the challenger had a hope in hell of upsetting the pork and apple sauce cart of incumbency. The "competition" is between machine pol Mayor Gnasher Hoshino and councillor Show-me-the Muneo but nobody seems to know Muneo's name. Certainly not Our Man's mole at City Hall. But don't worry, the Japanese have a quaint tradition of putting up pics of Our Would-Be Superiors on signboards like the one below, snapped by Our Man yesterday.


Er, let Our Man run that by you again.

Seven days to D-Day, but we don't have a clue who could lead us ashore.

Guess we all better go with the pair of steady hands. That would be the name-known incumbent who has the funds to print full-page pullouts in the Yomiuri.

Membership has it's privileges.

Pic lifted from here. Headline conforms to Abiko SEM* standards.

*Search Engine Minimisation

Saturday, 15 January 2011

KAN'S CABINET RESHUFFLE: THE POEM



O, what's a Kan to do?

From branch to ground, a leaf falling all the way
Will not reach the depths of apathy toward the DPJ.

He may be a "fiscal hawk" but new finance dude Kaoru Yosano
Is more carrion feed as he approaches the tender age of 102.

And appointing a minister of justice opposed to the noose,
Is not likely to make the negative poll numbers reduce.

One of the only words that rhymes with cabinet reshuffle
Is kerfuffle. And duffle. And muffle. And muffle duffle truffle kerfuffle.

Friday, 14 January 2011

JAPANESE POLITICS, THE SAKAMAKI MUNEO WAY: CHANGE 4 MORE OF SAME



HE'S GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS. Or possibly it's just a rugby ball from his college glory days. Yes, as promised, here is Our Man's profile of the challenger to incumbent Abiko Mayor Junichiro "The Gnasher" Hoshino.

Now, Our Man is well aware that Gnasher Hoshino didn't exactly bring in the hits that the OMIA classified ad sales department was hoping for. Anyone would think that no one gives a monkey's for Abiko local politics! But since Shisaku hasn't been seen for months and Master Tobias must be cramming for his finals, there's no one out there to fill the void of Japanese politics posts in English.

So here goes.

The challenger is independent Muneo Sakamaki, 40. The rest of it is all too tedious to go on about. But put it this way, if you thought a young challenger to the machine politician would be a vote for progressive change, well you would be wrong.

In fact, the challenger is a career politician. He has held no other job than being a councillor for the Greater Abiko Co-Prosperity Sphere since he was 25. Also, there's his stated aim: to stop further development of Abiko, preserve the farms and trees (which are rather nice round here) and generally do the will of the people, whatever that is. So, do sod all.

Stick with the incumbent LDP candidate, on the other hand, and you'll get change and land development and free healthcare for kids up to junior high school age.

Hmmm. Who will Our Man endorse? And there's only a week till polling day.

(Yes, yes, local politics is tedious, but you have just made it to the end of a record-breaker - the World's Longest Post in English about Abiko Mayorial politics EVER. No, no, don't thank Our Man, he's just doing his bit for the 'bikoSphere.)

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

YOMIURI BANNING TWITTER: ONLY HALF THE STORY



Our Man's got what they call in the business, half a story. And any pro knows, when you've got only half the story, you bust your backside burning shoe leather to get the rest of the story until you can cover your arse legally, go to press and kick the opposition's. Yes, it IS all about arses. But times change, and Our Man ain't a pro (well, he sure as hell doesn't get paid for this shit) so here's half the story, it's up to you, dear reader, to fill in the gaps.

Remember the Ministry of Truth, the Yomiuri and her red-headed English speaking stepchild Daily Gomiuri? Seems the Yomiuri High Command has issued orders to the foot soldiers to stop communicating to folk, you know freely without prior authorization.

Eh?

No more tweeting for reporters.

Can this be so?

Well, it's always hard to tell with the Ministry of Truth. Here's what Our Man knows in fact.

FACT: A Newsweek Japan editor tweeted a couple of days ago now that reporters were verboten von Usingeng Die Twittern. What did he/she know? Who told her/him? Why can she/he/it speak freely (but not to Our Man/Woman/Silhouette?)

FACT: The Yom High Command has instructed folk at the Daily Gomiuri to remove all reporters' twitter addresses from features printed in the paper.

FACT: Seven-11's 2008 Bordeaux is quite palatable indeed.

FACT: The last original, interesting article to appear in the Daily Yomiuri died three days ago at the age of 92. RIP.

FACT: Our Man tweeted this NINE HOURS AGO and got no response, so it's gotta be true, right?

Hello @. Any truth to the rumour that management has banned reporters from tweeting?

FACT: Nobody really gives a damn.

CONCLUSION: If it's true that the Higher Ups have banned twitter (yeah, c'mon, they've got a track record for analism) they quite rightly have identified the achilles heel to their whole enterprise, that is, nobody needs them anymore, now we can all publish what we think.

Howdya like them overpriced, oddly shapped apples, huh?

OK, it was less than half a story.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA




Our Man doesn't want to join the talking heads solutionizing What's Wrong With America. And he's not going to. He has enough trouble figuring out which trousers are his casual-smart workware and which his pyjamas to be in any position to offer loose hairs of wisdom that the commentariat haven't teased out already. But he will say this:

The senseless killing started last week.

I read the news today, oh boy. Three thousand dead blackbirds in Beebe, Arkansas. It could have been the first in signs of the Apocalypse. It could have been secret government experiments. It could have been dioxin poisoning or in fact an invisible UFO that caused the birds to fall out of the sky, 100,000 fish to float to the top of the Arkansas River and a gunman to go on the rampage to kill a Congresswoman.

There is a reason for it all, we just don't know it yet. Until we do, we are just applying our own biases to explain what we don't know. Hey, that's what got Our Man where he is today.

But in the search for truth, Our Man has found more of it in a fictional ex-President's twitter feed than anywhere else.

But Palin is an arse.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

URI GELLER SENT ME A NENGAJO


Our Man would like to say it's not every day that he MAKES CONTACT with the other side, but it wouldn't be the first. You never forget your first. That would be a year and a half ago when esteemed psychic shyster Uri Geller tried to flog Our Man a magic bracelet that would channel all the psychic power from Uri's Des Res Pyramid in deepest Darkest Berkshire right into Our Man's garden bunker in lil' ol' Abiko-shi.

Our Man didn't take Spoonbender-san up on the kind offer (with the decline in the value of the pound, it only would have set Our Man back by less than a 100 quid or so), but Our Mother in Law promptly got one of his mini-lava lamps of the soul (she didn't say how much the bastard gouged from her) but she has come round to the idea that the revolving light show isn't psychic magic, but in fact battery-operated fraud.

The Magic Psychic Lamp-o-Rama now is only used when, in the dead of night, she needs to go for a pee. Guess this is what Uri would refer to as "psychic flow".

But Our Man digresses. So, this time Uri Geller sent him a New Year's Day postcard (although oddly five days late, you'd think psychics would if anything be early rather than after the event).

Our Man hasn't decoded the card and doesn't have the heart to give it to Mildred and the girls in the typing pool to work on, but he provides it here for your psychic betterment.

Carry on.

Friday, 7 January 2011

SYNCHRONISED BUREAUCRATIC NINCOMPOOPERY



Oh, great Abiko Minato Sports swimming pool;
Thou art a microcosm of the nation.
Divided be the swimmers' school,
From elderly walkers, to middle-aged salarymen; and kids splashing.
For - segregated by lane - all know their station;
And while a jolly nice swim is as near as this middle-aged alien atheist will come to Heaven,
Why on Earth do they deny entry after 10pm, even though the pool is open TIL ELEVEN?

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

OUR ¥49 MILLION PUBLIC SERVANTS



Our Man has just come into some TOP SECRET figures (well, unknown to him until he accidently found it staring at him on Facebook) about Japan's top pols.

Did you know, the average (and they are all average) Japanese Upper House of Whatsits Diet Member makes ¥37 million (more than $400,000), plus another ¥12 million for "transportation and stationery", even though they get free train and plane tickets. And email is free last time Our Man checked.

The government also provides a flat, handy for installing mistresses.

Does this seem right to you?

Monday, 3 January 2011

WHO ATE ALL THE PIES, JUNICHIRO HOSHINO?



Suppose Our Man should pack up the tinsel and destitute mince pie plate for another year and get this bunker ship shape for the coming War on Error that he is going to lead from the front (of his backside)...

After extensive research A TOP SECRET document has fallen into Our Man's hands. (It fell out of the Yomiuri Shimbun when Our Woman was looking for movie times)

It is The Manifesto of the incumbent Mayor of Abiko, Lord Fortesque of Whoateallthepies, AKA Junichiro Hoshino. It is pictured below. There was nothing much playing at the pictures apart from a long interminable film about unrequited love for Haruki Murakami and the Space Battleship Tomato, so Our Woman kindly decoded The Manifesto for Our Man. Who promptly forgot what she said. But as far as he can remember:

1. The election for Abiko Mayor is Sunday January 23rd.
2. Junichiro "Gnasher" Hoshino is a dentist.
3. He went to Nihon University (don't get excited, so did Our Woman).
4. He wants a town "where people can raise children easily."
5. He wants to extend free medical (presumably including dental) care to all kids up to junior high school age.
6. He cut 89 public jobs, saving the taxpayer ¥600,000,000
7. He doesn't mention his party affiliation anywhere.

Let's see - a mishmash of ideology - socialised medicine on the one hand, cutting public workers on the other. The clue here is point no. 7 - no party mentioned, but money behind his campaign (check out the blockbuster movie on his website) means he must be a member of The Party That Cannot be Named - The Liberal Democratic Party, the former leaders of the country for 50 years who are now even less popular than the current unpopular Democratic Party of Japan.

Confused?

Click on his Japanese page here, Our Man had no idea what was going on, but judging from the Hollywood movie trailer his moneyed minions made for him, Abiko is Under Attack, possibly from pigeon poop, possibly from overweight dentists standing around in Teganuma Park with sod all to do, YOU DECIDE.

Can hear the Hollywood voice-over now.

One Dentist. One City. One Hour for Lunch. This New Year, Abiko:

IT'S TIME TO OPEN WIDE

Anyway, do check back here later this week for your second appointment for a profile of HIS CHALLENGER (there might be more than one, Our Man hasn't developed the X-rays yet).