Tuesday, 29 March 2011

#quakebook NOT WONDERFUL ENOUGH YET




This #quakebook business is getting way out of hand. In the most wonderful of ways. From this:

2011.03.18 9:13am

Have asked @fatblueman (of Christmas in Japan video fame) to start

writing a song for Japan quake survivors, and it got me thinking...


2011.03.18 9:18am

I want to compile a book of quake experiences and publish it like

within a week and donate all profits to Red Cross We have the

technology.


2011.03.18 9:22am

If everyone wrote 250 words - one page - or submitted their favourite

(original) tweets, pics or artwork, I could edit, publish it in days


... we've got to press coverage in the Wall Street Journal, BBC, CNNgo online and excerpts in The Japan Times. We've got the book and we're getting attention; our backroom mover and shaker is er, moving and shaking, with Amazon. People are responding around the world to the message of #quakebook, that alone we are useless, together we can create something amazing, selfless, to benefit others, and by so doing, improve ourselves. I really feel we are on the brink of something amazing.

But...

We still have not raised a single penny for survivors of the disaster.

This is simply unacceptable.

We must translate this global effort into something real. Now.

Sign up here to be notified when the book is available. That's all I can do right now :(

Thursday, 24 March 2011

THE NAME OF THE GAME: #quakebook NEEDS YOU!



Thanks all for your suggestions, I've thought long and hard about the title and then I just stopped thinking and my current preferred title is as above. 2:46 is the moment everything changed, and there are other good reasons you'll have to work out for yourself, but also the byline as we old newspaper hacks used to call it, is #quakebook - the good folk of twitter made this possible, so they should get recognition. Should we have the words Japan and Earthquake to optimise those search engines? I'm open to suggestions, but the bottom line is

we ain't writing for search engines, we're writing for our future.

Anyway, if you have a better idea, drop it in the comments field here, and I'll have a look later.

Got bigger fish to fry today. We've got 30 hours left to pull this off and publish our book by 2.46, Friday, exactly two weeks since the earthquake. The good news - we've got some cracking tales from the frontlines and the home front, all beautifully cleaned up and headlined, some great art - all the ingredients of a great book (oh, not to mention a previously unpublished William Gibson piece and an article by Jake Adelstein, you know the yakuza dude).

I've given up waiting for our literary agent to check her email, and I don't really know what a literary agent is or does, I frankly don't have the have time to find out right now. What I do have is two pressing problems:

1. Need to format the book to sell it on the internet. Does this mean different formats for kindles, iphones and whatever else? Advice is needed urgently. The manuscript currently is on a Neo Office word file if that means anything to you all.
2. Need to set up a payment system so that every penny goes to the Japanese Red Cross.

I don't have time to keep checking back to the comments here, so if you can help on either topic, drop me a line on twitter to @ourmaninabiko. The line's always open, even if we lose power today.

Chop, chop. Clocks a tickin.

Friday, 18 March 2011

JAPAN EARTHQUAKE: CAN YOU THINK OF A TITLE?


The fabulous Mari Kurisato is napping in her Denver bunker, but before she nodded off, she produced this stunning piece of art for the cover of the book I'm editing (but YOU are writing, remember? Guidelines right here, clock is ticking).

Well, what title and subtitle do you think would fit? A panel of experts (Our Man, Our Woman and Our Mother-in-Law) will stay sober long enough to choose the one we like the best.

Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

It's gonna be a long night, but an enjoyable one for a change ;)

JAPAN EARTHQUAKE: GET WRITING NOW!

Our Man had a eureka moment. What can he do to help the relief effort other than give updates on the status of the 7-11 Bordeaux stocks? Well, he likes writing and used to be a pretty good sub-editor (well, he got paid for it at least) and he's at a loose end... so it's time to edit a book and donate all proceeds to charity, the Japan Red Cross.

Here's the deal:
  • I'm looking for contributions from anyone who has something to say about the earthquake. (eg where were you when it happened, what did you feel? How have you helped? Did it change anything in the way you live your life? Are you coping with grief? Or just bewildered behind a barrage of media images?)
  • I'm not looking for windy poetic stuff, just honest stuff.
  • Aim to write 250-300 words or so - equivalent to a short blog post (or one page of a book)
  • If you can contribute original (ie you have the copyright) artwork, a sketch drawing or cartoon that would be awesome too)
  • If you have any great tweets to submit - that would be great too.
  • Photos (that you took) would be really awesome.
Here's the thing. We are nearing a week since the disaster, I want to get this book published ASAP so submit your work ASAP. I can start laying it out and editing it as soon as I receive submissions. As soon as I have enough, I will self-publish it, I'm hoping by Sunday night.

The aim is to have something publishable in 48 hours.

Since thinking of the idea at about 9am (it's now 10.40am) I have had one submission already, a promise of one more and the talented artist and ubertweeter Mari Kurisato has volunteered to do some artwork, I'm hoping she will do the cover...

How to contribute. Either:
  1. Send it by email to ourmaninabiko @ gmail.com
  2. Put a link to it in the comments field beneath this post
  3. Give me a link on twitter @ourmaninabiko
Our Man reserves the right to reject unsuitable stuff and edit what is sent. Nobody will get paid, including our Man, but everyone contributing will get recognition. Then I'll get the book published and for sale within a week.

All proceeds will go to the Japan Red Cross.

Time is of the essence, so get writing/drawing/snapping/linking.

Abiko salutes you!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

JAPAN EARTHQUAKE: WE'RE STAYING PUT



We stay.

This is not an easy decision to come to, but for now, it works for us. Here are some random thoughts in (tastelessly enough) cloud formation that informed the Greater Abiko Co-Prosperity Sphere Disaster Cabinet's thinking:

Aftershocks have abated to almost none today. There is no radiation risk to us at the moment. We have less than half a tank of petrol. This is our home. We have worked hard to become part of the community. If the reactors are cooled and sealed successfully, hurrah! If the reactors are not and blow, well, the results will be toxic for months, so what's the hurry? We couldn't live with ourselves if we cut and ran. We could take a trip on public transport away from here, but where to and for how long? How safe would we really be on the road away from the bosom of Abiko? We could send the little ones to the UK for a bit, but how could we split the family up? If we all went to the UK, how long could we manage with no income? It would be worse to be helpless abroad and watch suffering here How could we sentence Our Mother-in-Law to a diet of Hob Nobs and chip butties for the rest of her natural life?

There may be a time when we have to cut and run. And if we have to we will not hesitate, but for us, for now, this is not the time.

Ask us again tomorrow.

JAPAN EARTHQUAKE: THIS DOESN'T COME FREE, YOU KNOW


Our Man can't discern a theme to today, so he'll leave it to the end and come back and amend this sentence so it will make some kind of karmic sense. Unless he can't be arsed, in which case if this sentence is still the same as this, you'll know he had one too many again. Whatever, blah blah blah (sub-editors fix later OKKK????), Duck! Bullets...
  • So it continues. More aftershocks, fewer than in previous days, but stronger. In our best Walter Chronkite voice: This is not good. But is it getting worse? Our Man of course has no idea. To him he thinks of it as mother nature having contractions. If they get closer together that means she's gonna pop another big one out, right? Our Man quizzed Our Woman on this very point to which she replied: "How should I know? Do I look like an earthquake expert?" "Well, you are Japanese." She said: "All I know is aftershocks are bloody stupid."
  • You don't need Google when you've got Our Woman.
  • There is stuff in shops, just not every shop. It's instructive to see what is left, the truly undesirable crap: Fizzy drinks, iced coffee, very expensive beer, very cheap wine. Which is nice, because those are exactly the staples that made Our Man what he is today.
  • The nuclear thing. If Our Man said he wasn't scared, he'd be lying. He is scared. But he reads posts like this and he is reassured. In a scared kind of way. We here at Our Man Towers are, like most of the nation, glued to the media. Which is not a good thing in the 24-hr news cycle. WHITE SMOKE CLOUD AT REACTOR 3!! said the NHK-Twitter-Mother-in-Law-industrial-media-gossip complex within seconds of the white cloud, er, clouding at the reactor and we were suitably, instantly informed. Hurrah! What does that mean, a white cloud at the reactor? Sounds bad, but we didn't know. My mother-in-law did though. She unilaterally instituted an exclusion zone from the entrance hall onwards to include the rest of the world, yanked the clothes off the pegs hanging in no-man's land and slammed the windows shut. All sensible if you live within 20km of the Fukushima plant, not 250km as we do.
  • "You watch too much TV," Our Littlest One (5) told grandma.
  • Ah, yes, whether to abandon Abiko and run to the hills to sit this one out. There are many moments when Our Man thinks this is sound advice, if not for him, then for his family. But he's still here. This is complicated and deserves a post all its own but the brief points are these: He has only half a tank of petrol in the Nissan Giant Panda; where exactly is safe in Japan, a land of earthquakes, nuclear reactors and strong winds?; if he hit the ejector seat button and went back to the UK, what exactly would he do? What message would he be sending to his kids, his neighbours, his customers, his friends who didn't or couldn't abandon Abiko? Maybe Our Man is meant to be here now.
  • Oh, yeah, the Huffington Post popped round virtually to see if Our Man would like to write for them (for free obviously). And of course Our Man said yeah, cool, but then it turned out it they just wanted him to join their google group and give them story tips so they could post more disaster porn to scare the bejeeezus out of Americans. If they ever were to offer Our Man the chance to write a real blog post for them, he still would love to. He's sure they would donate the fee they should pay him to the Japanese Red Cross. Which got Our Man thinking: It's time he started a charity thing so you all could marvel at his magnaminousness and he could keep tabs on who his REAL friends are, CAPICE?
Well, here it is, and over there on the left. If you can donate even a little, it would make an enormous difference to Our Man, and might even save a few lives, maybe even those close to a former Daily Yomiuri copy editor whose wife is frantic with worry over not being able to contact her parents in Sendai. These are real people, in real need right now, and we need all the help we can get. Donate even a little. It helps. Please.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

JAPAN EARTHQUAKE: A DAY IN THE LIFE (AKA DON'T PANIC)




A few garbled thoughts for you all from a shaken and stirred blogger in Abiko:
  1. It's been another long day. Despite starting well with a nice hot shower (water and gas supplies have been no problem since the first day) and porridge for breakfast, we learned today that radiation had in fact leaked from the Fukushima plant.
  2. Our Man can't pretend to keep up with the micro-serviettes that radiation is measured in, but as far as his addled brain can ascertain, there were 400 of them outside the gates and some found their way to Ibaraki (the next prefecture (which means big county) to Chiba (which is the prefecture/big county that Abiko is in)) so, er, he was getting worried.*
  3. Our Man had prepared for blackouts (the power variety) scheduled for 12.20 to 16.00 by toasting his last-but-one loaf of bread by 11.55, percolating a pot of coffee by 12.05 and a second pot (our last ground beans) that was decanted into a flask, for future consumption, by 12.15 - leaving five minutes to lie back and think of England, when...
  4. There were no bloody power cuts after all, despite loudspeaker announcements from city hall to the contrary during our Man's morning shower earlier in the morning, if you were paying attention. A nice surprise? No, dammit, Our Man had prepared for power outage suffering and was a little miffed not to have been given the chance to meet the challenge.
  5. Then everyone started leaving. The more cynical/sensible foreign folk of twitter buggered off out of the Greater Abiko Co-Prosperity Sphere and Tokyo to escape the miniscule increases in radiation. Let's hope. Though, the longer Our Man lives here (or anywhere for that matter) the longer he doubts what the experts tell him. What? There's a story in there somewhere of the exodus of the gaijin, and one Our Man understands will be in tomorrow's Japan Times.
  6. Where was I?
  7. That's it for now. And donate here for the poor fuckers who are in genuine hard times, not like Our Man, who will just suffer a sore head tomorrow morning at worst.
*Don't worry too much. The brackets within a bracket only reached semi-Inception meltdown status. The Holy Grail being three brackets within brackets, which slows the reader down to a speed of 1/32th regular velocity. Think Daily Mail.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

JAPAN EARTHQUAKE: BE A HERO

... And donate directly to the Japan Red Cross at this link:

http://www.google.co.jp/intl/en/crisisresponse/japanquake2011.html

JAPAN EARTHQUAKE: NEW WEBSITE



Pssst, You. Yes, you. Want a little Earthquake news? Try here. It's kind of just a starting point for a new website, Tokyo Post. Our Man is involved in a very minor way, but don't let that put you off. They were planning to write interesting shit in an interesting way. But then the blinking earthquake happened and to their credit, decided they could hardly sit by while Rome burned. Or Tokyo shook, or something.

Anyway, check it out. Hopefully it is useful. One day soon, it may even be compelling.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

JAPAN EARTHQUAKE: HOW YOU CAN HELP

You could do worse than donating to the American Red Cross who have set up a dedicated disaster relief fund, right here.

More options here from CNN, including text donations to the Red Cross and to Save the Children.

JAPAN EARTHQUAKE: WHAT REALLY MATTERS



Our Man is not quite sure what to think about the big quake that swept through these parts a few hours ago. The aftershocks are still reverberating every 20 minutes or so, one just right now. It's almost half midnight, 10 hours since the quake struck, and still these damned aftershocks are enough to rattle the windows, shake the floorboards and knock books off the shelves. The kids and my wife are, thankfully, worn out though, and are in bed, a couple of feet away from me as I type.

But every time the house shakes, I have to make a quick decision: Is this one worth waking them up so we can stand in the cold outside? No, not this time, seems to be weakening. Twenty minutes later. Another aftershock, worse than before. Now do I wake them? No, not this time. I look over every now and then and see that my wife isn't sleeping.

Just as well. Now the mother-in-law is our analogue Twitter, popping her head round the door to stage whisper the news from the TV. The latest is that Owarai, a resort town 40 minutes up the road, is half submerged under a tsunami.

From my perch, and wooden walls and single pane windows I can hear, well, nothing much. No sounds of drunken salarymen coming home. No sounds of cars driving past.

No sounds of life. Or death.

No buildings came down here, there were none of the explosions or tsunamis being shown on TV. This is a commuter town, so we won't be getting firsthand reports of what it was like in Tokyo until the city's menfolk can make it back home - probably not till tomorrow lunchtime.

But we do have Twitter and Facebook. No, seriously, they have been great. The SMS text message for mobile phones was down, phones were useless. Except Twitter was working. Suddenly I could find out what was going on in Tokyo, down the street and relay that to people who cared. My family, friends, former colleagues and folk I have done little more than click a link to have checked in to see we're OK. A heartfelt thanks to you all. Gosh. Dropped the third person there, so you know Our Man means it, er, I mean it.

The earthquake shook the house for god knows how long this afternoon. Probably less than a minute, but if you told me it lasted an hour, I wouldn't argue with you. There's nothing quite as disorientating as standing in the street watching the lampposts sway and wondering if your house would collapse in a neat pile of rubble or spill out onto the street.

And not really caring.

You see, I am immensely lucky, I work at home. My wife, younger daughter and mother-in-law were with me on the street. My elder daughter was at school, a three minute walk away. Within 10 minutes of the quake we were all together. That was all that mattered.

Now, I'm hearing that many thousands of people are unaccounted for around the country, you probably have a better picture of that than I. My heart goes out to them and their family.

Is there anything you can do?

Right now, I'm not sure. But I'll think of something.

Friday, 11 March 2011

EARTHQUAKE IN JAPAN

For anyone worried about the safety of Abiko, bless you all. Abiko was hit by some pretty severe aftershocks around 2.45pm Friday from a big quake (7.9m, 8.8? Dunno. You probably have access to better intel than Our Man).

No buildings collapsed, no fires, no casualties here. But still getting aftershocks. As soon as my iphone recharges, will get out and take pics, though there isn't much to see, just feel. The ground shaking beneath your feet is very, very unnerving. Must be for me to use "very" twice.

Our Woman, Our Mother in Law and Our two little monkeys are safe though.

Still feeling aftershocks. It will be a bad night tonight for sleep.

BUT WHAT IF THE ROBOTS ARE BROWN?



Hey, here's a great post that ties the latent (blatant?) xenophobia of the Japanese establishment with the nation's love of robots, the subtly titled Japan is Run By Racist Idiots Who Prefer Robots to Brown People. The headline says it all (take note Japan Times hacks - not a single obscure acronym, missing "to be" verb, jargon, weird punctuation or "said to be set to be eyed, fingered or mulled" in it at all).

But then if you good news lovers would get your collective fingers out, you'd already know all about the story from Our Man's twitter feed.

Maybe it's the chocolate beer talking, but ya know what, Our Man is gonna re-instate the Blog of the Week and name Minds Like Knives the winner this week (for the post that is three weeks old). MLK's prize? A coveted slot on the blog roll on the left there.

Brown-skinned robot lifted from here.

Monday, 7 March 2011

MAEHARA - HE'LL BE BACK



Our Man really shouldn't post stuff at 3am on a Saturday night/Sunday morning. But he can't help himself. Anyway, rather than continue providing the spooks with free psy-ops fodder, here's a link to good stuff about the Japanese foreign minister resigning under a cloud by the analyst formerly known as Corey. Well, more like a spot of light fog, likely to disperse shortly. The long and the short of it is,

He'll be back.*

*Geddit? Schwarzenegger? His catch phrase? Look, I just wanted an excuse to use the pic, coutd'nt actually care less about Maehara. Oh, you gotttit, but didn't laugh? Well, there's always his earlier catch-phrase. Fuck You, asshole.**

**Schwarzenegggers, not Maehara's.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

THE SNAKE, THE HAT, AND THE STRIPPER



There are times (usually very late at night) when Our Man thinks back on his life and wonders what the hell was he thinking? The what ifs of history if you like. What if Hitler hadn't invaded Russia? (though that was nothing to do with Our Man) What if Kennedy had lived? What if Our Man had hung around that night the runaway did an impromptu strip show at his alcoholic buddy's snake-infested "apartment" in Conway, Arkansas? (It is amazing the shit you can get up to in a dry county without even really trying).

But Our Man knows the right answer to this brain teaser:

We're doomed to second-guess ourselves when it's too late, but given the same set of circumstances, we'd always make the same mistakes.

While this resignation letter doing the rounds of twitter may well spell the end of this chap's employment in Fleet Street, my god, he took the stripper by the horns. So to speak. Hats off to him.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

YOMIURI: GIVE THE EXAM CHEATER A JOB



Truth. It keeps cropping up between the cushions of Our Man's sofa. Not least in the last three posts' headlines - True lies on the Mean Streets of Abiko (a true story, by the way, that happened to an elderly dogless neighbour) and something else TRUE and another Blah blah blah true thing (sorry, lost the will to hunt for the post or the url to link to, so you're on your own if you wanna figure out what the hell Our Man is on about. But why should you? Discuss.)

You may not know it if you haven't been doing your revision, but the Yomiuri Shimbun (think Pravda with its own baseball team) has been having puppies calling for the head of all those pesky cheaters who ingeniously used mobile telephones to jump over the stultifyingly boring translation exam hurdles used to weed out the kids who can handle the high-pressure tedium that passes for Japanese business life and those who cannot.

Turns out one of the kids busted for using his mobile to download a translation (which he managed to do with a non-smartphone, texting left-handed under the desk in record time, smart kid) had lost his dad a year earlier, done poorly in the first round of tests, and was desperate to get in to one of the elite Japanese universities that folk here are under the illusion guarantees you success or happiness and easy lays.

But actually, between thoughts of suicide, this kid from Sendai just wanted to provide for his mum. (The facts without the background, are here in English).

So you can understand the pressure on the kid. Anyway, rather than let the poor bastard off for his rather ingenious, brave, yet desperate move, the university set the cops on him for 偽計業務妨害...fraudulent interference in someone's duty.

Dunno about you, but rather than bang him up, Kyoto Uni should give him a place based on merit, originality of thought and sheer bloody mindedness.

Wait a minute, Our Man has a great idea... you know, the kid's tenacious, rebellious, with a heart of gold, and a prodigious typing speed... he's got all the qualities that would make a brilliant reporter.

You raised the nation's cockles and then backpedaled to revel in the kid's suffering... here's your moment to do the right thing... GIVE HIM A JOB.

How about it, Yomiuri Shimbun?

Anyway, this 7-11 Bordeax red sure is good.

Friday, 4 March 2011

TRUE LIES ON THE MEAN STREETS OF ABIKO




"Moshi, moshi?" (Hello?)

"Ore, Ore!" (It's me! It's me!)

"Who?"

"Your only son, look, (COUGH, COUGH) I've got a bit of a cold, in fact I'm really not feeling all there, I have a temperature of 39 degrees."

"Oh my goodness. You should go to the doctor's in the morning. First thing!"

"Yeah, yeah. I probably should."

"You must, you don't sound yourself. It might be flu."

"OK, I will. But I wasn't calling about that, I just wanted to give you my new mobile phone number, I got one of those new smart phones."

"Just a minute, let me get a piece of paper... OK, go ahead."

"It's 080 2334 3689. You got that? Listen, I better go, I'm going to take an aspirin and lie down."

"OK, get some rest and I'll call you in the morning."

###

"Did you go the the doctor's?"

"Yeah."

"So what did he say? You sound a bit off."

"Oh, it's not flu. But listen. There's something else I need to tell you. You remember Noriko?"

"Of course, but I thought you split up with her months ago?"

"I did, but, er, it's difficult. Are you sitting down? I think you should sit down... Look, to cut a long story short, she's in hospital. And... er... well... there's no easy way to say it... She's pregnant. And, er, it's my child."

"Oh."

"Yes. But it gets worse. She has medical insurance, but she needs to make a cash payment up front to the hospital, and she has a lawyer. It's such a mess, I've been such a fool and I don't know what to do, and now, she's in trouble and it's my fault.
"She says she needs ¥1.000,000 but you know I just moved and I don't have that kind of money. I just don't know what to do. She's threatening to get the police involved unless I pay her lawyer."

"Oh no. You must pay the lawyer, it's your responsibility. I can lend you the money."

"Really, could you do that?"

"Well, let me speak to your father."

"Of course. Oh God, I'm such an idiot."

"Well, enough of that. He'll be home in an hour, I'll talk to him then."

"Thanks ma, what would I do without you?"

###

"Sorry to call you back so soon, but did you have a chance to talk to Pa yet?"

"Yes. He's not happy. I don't think you should talk to him right now, but of course we'll lend you the money. In fact, we'll give it to you. I can go to the bank right now. So don't you worry."

"Thanks. I'll tell the lawyer. Can he pick it up from home? Oh, one more thing though. When you go to the bank, best not to talk to a teller. I don't want any one to ask too many questions. I'm not proud of what I've done. Just go to the ATM.
"Hey, if you can wire the money it would be quicker. Let me find out the lawyer's bank details... and maybe I should come back this weekend and talk to Pa."

"Yes, let's stick together and we can... Just a minute there's someone at the door..."

"Hi Ma, I was just in the neighbourhood, thought I'd pop round. Are you well? Only... you look as white as a sheet, hey, who are you talking to on the phone? Anyone I know?"

Thursday, 3 March 2011

WHAT PRICE TELLING THE TRUTH?



Our Man spends his waking sober hours, when not in his cover job, thinking up funny things to post, excuses for why he's not a better dad to his kids, a better husband to his wife or better at any number of things that he really should be at this stage in his life. But he's happily human and lives with making mistakes. Sometimes quite willfully.

But it takes some balls to stick to your principles and admit a mistake, one that in so doing, could cost you your life savings. So, it is with great respect that Our Man says you really should read this post by Jake Adelstein:


Because it just might save a life or two.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

ONE TRUTH DOESN'T CHANGE, MURAMOTO IS STILL DEAD



Last year, Hiro Muramoto, a Reuters Tokyo Bureau cameraman, was gunned down by Thai soldiers armed with M-16s.

This year, he was gunned down by "black shirt" rebels armed with AK-47s.

Thank goodness the Thai military have been advising the police to help them come to their latest version of the truth.


Our Man wanted to find out more from Reuters, but they seem to have let their blog Raw Japan go off, it was last updated in July. Our Man recalls there was more talk from the boss about lessons needing to be learned, but since then nothing.

Our Man never met Muramoto-san, but he knows folk who did. By all accounts, he was a very decent chap. He deserves better than this.

THIS JUST IN: Reuters piece with more details right here.