Tuesday, 28 May 2013

COLD COMFORT


What is he on? First he gets elected to mayor of Japan's second city, then he reckons he's an expert on history, women's rights, colonialism, rape and goes on for three hours about how misunderstood he and Japan is on war and such.

Nope, sorry, the world is beginning to understand all too well about Toru Hashimoto and Japan's thing about sex slaves.

For Our Man's money, Michael Penn had the best take on the day Hashimoto proved to the world that he doesn't get it, but Our Man doesn't have much of a budget (certainly nothing left to hire a proper court artist) so he would like to offer his free summary of all you need to know of Hashimoto's long-winded statement: "Two wrongs do make a right and sorry about that thing I said about letting Yanks into soaplands so they don't rape Okinawan kids. OK? Can I be Prime Minister now?"

No. No, you cannot.

Monday, 20 May 2013

OUR MAN IS NUMBER 1 (IT'S OFFICIAL)



Why blow your own trumpet when you can get someone else to blow it for you?

Or something. Our Man was honoured to discover that he has made the pages of the No. 1 Shimbun. That's only the blinking newsletter for the hallowed Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, the FCCJ to those in the know, or who can't figure where the apostrophe is supposed to go.

I'm honoured, really, for this accurate write-up of this here blog.

Our Man's yearly honorary membership has expired and he would so love to throw tomatoes (literal ones not tedious overripe figurative ones) at the Osaka Outlier Hashimoto who has picked the FCCJ to defend/prostrate himself on the ground over his indefensible comments on sex-slaves and such on Monday May 27th. Anyone got any spare tickets for the Hashimoto gig? And a tomato or two?

Word for today: Honoured.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

TASTE OF NATIONALISM


I see the Japanese nationalists have opened up shop in Abiko next to the Italian restaurant opposite Peppy's English school.

I also note that there are a lot more stories* about Japan's rightward march and its rattling of sabres with China and general nastiness to Koreans, most recently with the governor of Osaka (the Chicago to Tokyo's New York) tacitly defending the Imperial Army's use of sex slaves which they shipped from vassal nations of their East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. Only this time, Mayor Hashimoto suggested that Japan's friends in the American forces of occupation ought to make use of sex workers more rigorously and thus avoid those pesky troubles that randy Marines cause when they go off and rape Okinawan schoolgirls and such.

Where to begin?

The problem is, I get what Hashimoto is saying. Sort of. Armies do have a habit of raping and pillaging. That is kind of the point of them, isn't it? It's rape of life and liberty by the bayonet rather than the todger. And the whole edifice is indefensible. Certainly, the Imperial Japanese use of 200,000 Chinese, Filipino and Korean women as sex slaves was abhorrent. But then so is war. And so was the systematic use of 200,000 Japanese women in brothels by the US, Australian and British after the war. But, two-hundred thousand wrongs don't make a right.

There are massive differences between battlefield rape, sexual slavery and prostitution. (As there are to speaking off the cuff as a blogger with an audience of dozens than as a mayor of a city of millions.) I may have got the wrong end of the stick here, as usual, but to conflate sexual slavery with prostitution as some kind of excuse for a shameful episode of Japan's history, not to mention such a casual fuck-you to the quaint notion that women might have some kind of right in 2013 to not be sexual fodder for the military machine, makes me glad to know that the Abiko Japan Restoration Party campaign headquarters will be long gone after the upper house elections in July.

I look forward to strolling past Peppy's on the way to savour my margarita pizza in peace, along with the rest of Abiko.

*This reminds me of the flurry of stories of radiation hot spots in cities in the aftermath of Fukushima. Some were hot spots of radiation, but most were hot spots because people were looking for hot spots. They weren't objectively particularly hot. Just saying. But I still think Fukushima, on the whole, was bad. Very bad.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

200 YEARS TOO EARLY


During the Industrial Revolution, machines were limited to performing physical tasks. The Digital Revolution is different because computers can perform cognitive tasks too, and that means machines will eventually be able to run themselves. When that happens, they won't just put individuals out of work temporarily. Entire classes of workers will be out of work permanently. In other words, the Luddites weren't wrong. They were just 200 years too early.
I used to be quite cocky in my belief that robots will never be able to replace the core functions of humanity (pizza making, Chilean wine horticulture and writing how-to-write-your-first-novel books) but then, about 30 minutes ago, I read this rather brilliant article in Mother Jones and I finally got it: the robots are getting smarter, just one sushi arm, one chess game, one driverless vehicle, one baseball sports report at a time. But with the doubling of memory every 18 months or so, by about 2030, the world economy will be so entirely dependent on smart computers and robots that we folk who thought we had some economic value selling our labour may find we're shit out of luck. If we're not already.

With apologies to Maekawa Senpan for the ripped-off art.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

YEAR OF THE SNAKE

As for trusting what members of the Abe Government say, there is that problem too. When a snake tells you "I'm not hungry" (Or, more specifically, "My basic thought is that I'm not hungry") -- is what matters is the fact that the snake said, "I'm not hungry" or that he is a snake?
Couldn't put it better myself than MTC over at Shisaku on the problems the Japanese revisionists have in saying anything even remotely believable, straightforward and, er, honest about the Korean sex-slave thing.

History still has quite a potent bite.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

CATCHING UP WITH THE TIMES


This is Day Two of life in the bunker without the Japan Times. I know this because my wife asked me: "Are you missing your paper?" and for a moment I thought she meant working for one, which I haven't done for six years, and haven't missed since I discovered belatedly that you can blog and write ebooks without having to ask anyone's permission.
"Oh yeah, you're going to cancel our subscription. When's that happen?"
"Yesterday."
"Oh, I didn't realise."
An unread paper in the post box is worth two in the print run. Or something.
Actually, I did notice a lack of news this morning, largely because I'd forgotten to recharge my phone, so I had to make it through my shower and a pot of coffee before I was able to get a bit of celeb news that the Harry Potter actor will be starring in the film of Jake Adelstein's Tokyo Vice book. Somehow, I  doubt that snippet made the print edition of the Japan Times, but I didn't feel the urge to log on to the JT site to check.
What's been apparent to the wife for a long time has finally sunk in to my thick skull: why are we paying for something that we rarely use, is already out of date when we do and that we can get more easily for free?
To support journalism? To keep my drinking buddies in a job? Because old habits die hard?
No reason I could come up with was very compelling. I suppose if I'm honest, it's more of the last reason than anything else; how are we to know the value of the news unless it's been approved and stamped as Page 1 quality or whatever.
Yes, yes, the rest of the world has already moved on. And I have too. It's quite liberating to be free of the format, where the print medium is the message. I quite like constructing my own hierarchy of news. What's on Our Man's virtual page 1?
Today, it's Helen Keller was a radical militant, Corporate cuddly toy makers exploit Chicago's poor, Harry Potter star to play Jake in the film of Tokyo Vice.
Yes, yes, all those stories were written by pro journalists (tho I heard about them for free on Twitter) and I'm not sure how you pay for pros, but I'm pretty sure it's not through print subscriptions now.
If the Japan Times had an app or a subscription to Kindle, I wouldn't mind paying for it, but they don(t and as it stands, why should I pay more a month for my subscription to my newspaper than my smartphone?