Thursday, September 30, 2004

Ronin Soap Opera, Sept. 26

(Given the title, I assume my readers will understand this may be a violent post. Also, before reading this, you may want to see my language disclaimer below.)

Last Sunday I watched NHK's ronin soap opera "Shinsengumi!" I don't watch every episode, but I catch it when I can. It's a pretty good series about a band of warriors called the Shinsengumi, of course, who try to defend the Japanese government in the mid-1800s against the many rebels and revolutionaries of the day.

In this episode, the band's scholar asks the group's mousey accountant for a loan of 50 ryo (a pretty hefty sum of gold) so he can buy a book he's found on Western military tactics (books like this were banned and incredibly expensive). The accountant is nervous about it and refuses. The scholar says the book contains vital information, and he has sent off to his family for the money, but the book dealer has another buyer who wants it. The scholar has to get it now! The reluctant accountant caves in - it will only be for a few days, until the money arrives, right?

The next day the accountant is faced with a surprise audit by his superior. He admits loaning the money and promises it will be repaid soon, but refuses to say to whom he loaned it. His superior tells him if the money is not returned within three days, he will be ordered to commit seppuku. The accountant, visibly shaken, is then imprisoned.

The scholar, hearing about this, immediately tries to return the book to the seller, only to find out he can only get half the money back, and not only that, the other buyer who wants it is from a dangerous rival organization. He argues with the man, but the smuggler is tough and won't back down. The scholar leaves, a deep scowl darkening his face.

Three of the accountant's friends in the ronin group pool their own money and go gambling to try to raise the money. As they sit down at the bar, the owner hands one of them the dice. The next scene shows the three of them sitting around in their undergarments and swords, one banging his head on his palm moaning "Stupid, stupid, stupid ..."

A friend visits the accountant in jail to keep him company for a bit. At one point, the accountant stops mid-sentence and straightens, listening intently. "Is that a messenger?" he asks. His friend listens for a moment. He shakes his head. "No," he replies, frowning.

The third day is bright and sunny. The accountant prepares to kill himself. Dressed in a white kimono and hakama, he swears another samurai to secrecy and tells him the whole story "so my father will know the truth." He then slowly walks to the garden where his superior, several other officers and a number of witnesses are seated in formal kimono, hakama, and swords. The scholar is one of the witnesses, as are the friends who lost their savings.

The slightly curved, single-edged short sword the accountant is to use rests on a small wooden stand in front of him. All but the last six inches of the blade is wrapped in thick white paper so it can be held properly. The handguard and hilt have been removed. Another samurai is ready behind the accountant, katana raised. (Seppuku requires a second who, at a prearranged signal, will cut the man's head off with a single, quick sword stroke to end his suffering.)

The accountant looks scared, his mind unfocused. He asks, in a slightly quivering voice, "What is required?"

"Just the form," his superior answers grimly. The second will take care of the rest.

The accountant looks down, then jerks his head to one side, listening, hope in his wide brown eyes. "Is that a messenger?"

The solemn men around him listen for a moment in silence. "No," one replies. The accountant's face slowly turns toward the stoney ground. He swallows, then straightens. He holds his head up and his face shows clear determination and strength. He pulls his kimono open to expose his pale belly, then takes the short sword in both hands. His narrow face turns to a harsh grimace and he plunges the steel into his belly.

The camera cuts to a close-up of the second, who strikes. There is a soft thump and moan and the second recoils in horror.

The camera zooms back. The accountant is face down on the ground squirming, head still attached. The second botched it! Another samurai leaps up, rips out his sword and stabs the accountant to end his suffering. The scene ends.

There follow several scenes of the accountant's friends, each one alone, tears rolling down his face. The superior, by himself in his quarters, snarls and viciously kicks the empty air.

In the last scene, as the evening shadows just begin to enter the town, a messenger runs up the sunlit lane, the sound of jingling gold ringing out.

Language Disclaimer

I conduct the majority of my daily life and work in Japanese. I also have a few interests and hobbies here that I do / study in Japanese, and most of my social group is Japanese. In those areas, I am more or less fluent in the language (um, often less, but I get the job done). However, outside of those narrow areas, my Japanese vocabulary rapidly drops towards the third grade.

For example, I do business meetings, discuss products and services, do some interpreting between foreign and Japanese co-workers, and do email in Japanese on a daily basis. If a Japanese-speaking person approaches me on these levels, I will seem like a normal adult, although often with some stilted grammar and odd languge constructions as I weave my way through foreign terminology.

However, as soon as you ask me, in Japanese, about politics, you will be talking to someone with a third grader's vocabulary. Although I am interested in politics, I have never studied politics in Japanese. Since I can read about it in English, and it's not part of my job, I have never had to learn Japanese political terminology. Besides, I'm busy learning business and fun terminology.

I say all this because, when I comment on what I see or hear or read in the Japanese media, you should know what you're getting. Although I promise to be as accurate as possible, I am quite sure I will sooner or later make some gross blunder in relating something from the Japanese media. When it happens, I would certainly appreciate it if someone with better Japanese skills than mine catches it and points it out to me so I can post a correction.

Finally, I'll show off and close with a famous Latin saying: "readerus bewarus."

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Two Nifty Japan Blogs

Since I began pounding pixels here, I have discovered two other blogs in Japan I really like.

Mongai Moments is done by an American artist living in Kyoto. If you're a policy wonk, be sure to check out his links to LDP General Secretary Shinzo Abe's speech on US-Japan relations and join in the discussion of it. If you're more of the cultural type, check out his introductions of famous shrines and temples, starting with Kyoto's Yasaka Jinja.

The Tanuki Ramble is a blog from Niigata Prefecture. He's been blogging longer than myself and has some pretty good stuff up, including a lot more photos than I have. If you like politics, check out his comments on fighting terrorism. If you are looking for culture, I enjoy the rice harvest time here a lot, and he's got a good post up on that, with photos. He also has a good blog roll of other Japan blogs and Japan-related sites.

Both of these blogs have lots of other facets to explore and are well worth a regular visit. You can bet I'll be there regularly, and they are bagelled in my sidebar. (Yes, other sites have blog rolls; I have a blog bagel.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

More Letterman

Top Ten Messages Left on Cat Stevens' Answering Machine

10. "We at Iraqi Airlines heard what happened, so we'd like to offer you 20,000 frequent-fatwa miles."

9. "I've been waiting to pick you up at Dulles for three days. Where you at?"

8. "Hi, this is Hall and Oates. How can we go about joining Al-Qaeda?"

7. "It's Johnnie Cochran. Without a trial in court, you must not deport. Call me."

6. "I'm calling from CBS News to confirm reports of a cat that can fly a plane."

5. "It's Britney. Sorry you couldn't make it to my fake wedding."

4. "I must have the wrong number--I was looking for Steven Katz."

3. "Dude, It's Osama. I have an extra ticket to see James Taylor. You in?"

2. "It's Casey Kasem. Good news! You're on the Jihad Top 100."

1. "It's Sean Penn and Michael Moore. Wanna triple date with the Dixie Chicks?"


UPDATE:

If you're wondering, Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, was recently denied entry to the US for national security reasons.

Gotta Laugh

This photo comparison of Bush & Kerry is just too good to pass up.

(Mug tip to Evil Pundit of Doom, who was posting in Tim Blair's comments, darn him. Perfectly good blog at home and he spends all his time out posting on other people's blogs. What will the neighbors think?)

Monday, September 27, 2004

Dinner at Kurofune

Just got home from eating at Kurofune, a yakitori restaurant that's a step above the average. Yakitori is grilled chicken on skewers, but yakitoriya also have a wide variety of other things like pork, beef, vegetables, and various mixtures (for example, asparagus wrapped with bacon). They also often have grilled fish and some other things. All this is to accompany alcohol, of course.

I had the day's special, chidori no tataki. I had forgotten that chidori, a kind of chicken, was often served a bit on the rare side, which is safe because it's very fresh. It was quite good. They had a spicy yuzu paste that, mixed with the sauce they provided, was excellent. (Yuzu is a citrus similar to limes.)

I washed it down with a bottle of Tsingtao beer, which went quite well.

After the chidori, I was still a bit hungry. I had a skewer of beef, two of pork, and one of mushroom wrapped with ham. Each skewer is about three bites. An Orion beer rounded it out nicely. The Orion served on tap is a very light micro-brew made in Okinawa and it went very well with the food.

All this, a very pleasant atmosphere, and I got out the door for less than $20. Not bad at all.

Chrenkoff's Good News from Iraq Is Up!

Arthur Chrenkoff has his extensive Good News From Iraq #11 posted. It's a much-needed reality check for those who believe nothing is going right there.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Anybody But Kerry?

Jeff Jarvis, as usual, has a thought-provoking post up on the elections. Here's a chunk of it:


... how long has it been since we've seen this much antipathy toward each candidate in turn. The left has been in full anybody-but-Bush swing for months; MoveOn has made that its rallying cry; even the DNC put people on the street not to push voting for Kerry but to push voting against Bush. And similarly, on the right, we've seen an often vitriolic effort to get people to get out to vote against Kerry.


At the end of the post he asks if there are any polls about this sort of thing, and his commenters provide a couple. One commenter, "too many steves," links a New York Post article that notes:


The Fox News poll asked Kerry supporters if their vote for the Democrat could best be described as motivated by support for Kerry (41 percent) or by opposition to Bush (51 percent). By contrast, Bush voters emphatically say, by 82-13, that they are voting for the president rather than against the challenger.


I think Jarvis gets it half wrong. The anybody-but-Bush (ABB) crowd is a significant percentage of Kerry voters. But the anybody-but-Kerry (ABK) group is very small; Bush voters in general really do support Bush. This is why Bush can take strong stands on many issues, but Kerry can't -- outside of hatred of Bush, half of his base is divided on important issues. If he takes a strong stand, he may lose a quarter of his voters.

More significantly, Jarvis misses the boat entirely when he writes:

The left has been in full anybody-but-Bush swing for months.

(Emphasis mine.)

The left has been in full ABB swing since December 2000. For a normal political cycle, the election campaigns really start a few months before the election, but the anti-Bush mud-slinging campaign began right after he was declared the winner of the 2000 election, and it has never stopped.

This is one reason I think attacks on Bush's character don't work anymore. Once you declare "Bush = Hitler," as the ABB crowd has been doing for 3 years now, "Bush skipped a few Guard drills 30+ years ago" is a non-starter:

Husband: "Hey, honey, they're saying Bush was AWOL from the Guard in '72."

Wife: "Aren't those the same people who were saying he was Hitler?"

Husband: "Oh, yeah. Hey, what do you want to watch tonight?"

These days I have to laugh when I read pro-Kerry commentators talking about how the Democrats have been too nice, now it is time to Attack! Attack! Attack! They've been compulsively, viciously Attack! Attack! Attack! -ing for three years now. In saying now is the time to start attacking, the anybody-but-Bush crowd takes a nose-dive into farce.


(Mug tip to Professor Bainbridge for the list of attack examples.)

Saturday, September 25, 2004

What's a "swinging tiddle"?

Fox News is starting a new series that showcases interesting, off-beat Websites, beginning with Sites Unseen: What's Better?.

So what's a swinging tiddle? Click and discover!

Blog Bagel

Check out my new Blog Bagel over in the sidebar. Good sites all!

From Letterman . . .

Top Ten Ways CBS News Can Improve Its Reputation

10. Stick to stories everyone can agree on, like cookies are delicious.

9. Move nightly "happy hour" to after the broadcast.

8. Stop hiring guys with crazy names like "Morley."

7. Can't figure out if a news story is true? Let Judge Joe Brown decide.

6. Every time Mike Wallace tells a lie he gets a life-threatening electrical shock.

5. Newsroom patrolled by some kind of lovable but strict "truth monkey."

4. If it turns out the story is wrong, give away 276 brand new cars.

3. After delivering a report, correspondent must add, "Or maybe not--who knows?"

2. Newscast consists of Dan Rather sitting down to watch Tom Brokaw.

1. Oh, I dunno, stop making up crap?


(Mug tip to Vodkapundit.)

Friday, September 24, 2004

Can I Get A Judgment On This Verse, Mr. Ed?

"A horse is a horse, of course, of course,

but the Vehicle Code does not divorce

its application from, perforce,

a steed as my colleagues said."

"'It's not vague,' I'll say until I'm hoarse,

and whether a car, a truck or horse

this law applies with equal force,

and I'd reverse instead."

- Justice Michael Eakin


(The link is also useful if you happen to need a new stomach.)

Thursday, September 23, 2004

No Comment

Today is Autumnal Equinox Day, and I have the day off. Since it is a holiday, I will be making no comments today.

I will not comment on Memogate.

I will not comment on Harry's cowardice.

And I have absolutely nothing to say about Editors in Pajamas, a blog which started a day before this one and yet has managed to get 2,800 hits, while my own blog has only had 72 visitors, of which I account for almost half. Bleh.

Absolutely no comment at all.

Have a good first day of autumn!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Pajama People Threads

Check out the pajama-themed T's, bags, pins, bumper stickers, mugs, maybe more over at Cafe Press.


Guys in PJs: Protecting America from the scum of the media.


Uh-huh, that's right. Bring it on, Dan!

Paging Mrs. Anthrax

CNN tells us the US is holding Dr. Germ and Mrs. Anthrax. Great super-villain names? OK, sure, Mrs. Anthrax, that's good. But Dr. Germ? Who comes up with these names? I know they did not read superhero comics as a child.

Hmm, one was educated in British universities, the other in US universities. Maybe we should be more suspicious of students of certain nationalities majoring in plant toxins . . .

The article is pretty good, up until the author lies to us:

As yet no evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction -- used by the U.S. and British governments to justify the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 -- has been found.


Oh, I beg to differ, on two points. First, WMDs alone were never the justification for invasion. Second, we have found plenty of evidence.

(A hearty "Thank you!" to Fishkite, the Iraqi WMD Blog for a good summary of the Iraq war and most of the WMD links above. I highly recommend the site for research on what's been found in Iraq.)

UPDATE:

Hey! Fishkite linked to the same article yesterday! Stop stealing from me!

UPDATE 2:

Okay, I'm not sure how Fishkite was stealing from me, as he posted a day before me. But he's smart; I'm sure he found a way.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Chunky Bits

From This Blog Is Full Of Crap,

When you boot your porkchop, check for parity errors or IRQ conflicts with the applesauce

The man is nuts, but, uh, in an interesting way. Chips, anyone?

TRUTH! TRUTH!! TRUTH!!!

Heard about those Swiftboat Vets For Truth? Well here are a number of serious sites dedicated to spreading the TRUTH about the presidential candidates:

Football Fans For Truth
Pleasure Boat Captains For Truth
Cheerleaders For Truth [Note: this site has exceeded its bandwidth and is unavailable at the time I'm posting this. You can go here for a cached page, though you won't get the pics.]
Moes Swift Tavern Patrons For Truth

These people obviously get this election. If you know of other Truth sites I should add to this list, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

UPDATE: October 31, 2004, Swift Geese Vets For Truth weigh in just days before the election. Devastating!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Saturday, September 18, 2004

A Pirate's Answer to the War on Terrorism

Aarrr me hearties! American congressman Ron Paul is on a crusade to get Congress to issues letters of marque -- that's right, if ye want to get rid of illegal drugs, legalize 'em, if ye want to get rid of pirates, legalize 'em!

This year, Talk Like a Pirate Day -- next year, Talk Like a Privateer Day!! It doesn't get any better than this, me hearties! Not without a government rum ration anyway.

AAARRRRR!!!!

Ahoy, mateys!

Aarrr!! Get out o' ye jammies, ye scurvy dogs o' the surf! There'll be no politickin', no limp-wristed comment'ry, no frilly arguments today 'cept the sort delivered with sharp steel and a broadside! Aarrrr!



(Tip o' the cap'n's cover to Evil Pundit o' Doom, scourge of the 'igh seas, for lettin' me plunder this inpirin' image from 'is archives.)

Shiver me timbers, it's Talk Like A Pirate Day! So grind that cutlass and get ye powder ready, it's time to hit the high seas, mateys!

There be lots o' celebratin' goin' on, as saucy wench Theresa Hogue, sailin' on the black ship Corvallis Gazette-Times scribes:

... celebrations are being planned in New Zealand, Calgary, Switzerland, San Diego, Alabama and elsewhere. A church video crew in Bloomington, Minn., plan to videotape church ceremonies while talking like pirates on Sunday, while schoolchildren in the Australian outback celebrated Friday in class. A Pirates of the Caribbean Ball will be held in Canberra (those Australians love their pirates, apparently) today, while an airborne brigade in Baghdad is planning on holding a pirate celebration at headquarters.


I imagine they'll be shufflin' 'round the deck singin':

"Hardy corsairs rollin' down the strip,
Airborne pirates gonna take a little trip
Mission: fat merchants, destination: the Main
Don' tell the crew but the Cap'n's insane"

Hoo-AAARRRRR!!

If ye reckin' ta know more about Talk Like A Pirate Day best board Cap'n Slappy's craft, and if ye reckin' ta know more about pirates, git ye scurvy arse over to the Pirates Ring.

Avast! What're ye waitin' for? Satan himself ta come git ye? MOVE ye arses ye scurvy canines!! AAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

UPDATE:

Aarrr! Cap'n Frank Nobeard J. has scribed a "Know Thy Enemy: Pirates" post:


* Pirates operate by boarding your ship, killing everyone on board, and stealing your treasure. So, if pirates ask to board, tell them no.


Better advice I never did 'ear. Give 'er a look-see, matey.

UPDATE:

Aaarrr! The piratey image above was linked directly to Flickr, where I be keepin' me photos for this here blog. Now the link is 'ere, matey. I still be workin' the kinks out o' me bloggin' style, so bear with me ya bilge rodents or it's around the keel we'll be 'aulin' ye! Aarrr!

Has Dan gone over

to the Dark Side?

Thursday, September 16, 2004

After the First Shot: A Study of the Pajamahadeen

Like this one, the following blogs seem to have been Rather-inspired:

Editors in Pajamas, which has a pretty funny historical analogy for us. This blog was begun on Tuesday, September 14. [UPDATE: I initially got the blog name wrong - Sorry! It's fixed now.]

CBS News struck back, opening its counterinsurgency operations by starting its own blog. Er, so to speak. Operations began September 15. (Mug tip to Instapundit.)

Winds of Change.net has registered pajamabloggers.com, cbsmemogate.com, and pajamasrevenge.com. Look for good stuff there in the future.

UPDATE

Rathergate has an excellent round-up of Rather-inspired news, including a blog roll of sites that are tracking this, petitions for Rather's resignation, and even a cute little program that allows you to directly FAX a personalized message to CBS affiliates. Looks like they want to take the big man down. The site began operating on September 12th.

***

And we now discover what thousands of bloggers wear while blogging:

gnotalex, at the blog québécois: "'a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas.'. This is a vile calumny. Let it be known that I blog clad only in underwear."

Ben at Infinite Monkeys: "I think I can speak for my fellow Monkeys when I say that we don't blog in our pajamas. We don't have a pair of pajamas among us. If it wasn't clear before, I'll set the record straight right now: We blog in our cups."

Wind Rider at Bloviating Inanities: "You mean...

I'm actually supposed to be wearing something while I do this?"

Acidman at Gut Rumbles: "pajamas?

I don't need no stinking pajamas.

I blog nekkid."

Clayton Craymer: "I don't blog in pajamas. Sometimes, I only blog in underwear. But to avoid causing panic and fear, I never blog naked."

Charles at LGF: "I’d like you all to know that despite the intensely humid SoCal heat I have been blogging all day in a three piece Giorgio Armani suit.

I haven’t owned pajamas for at least 20 years."

***

Foot Notes

Origin of the pajama references.

Here's the Jammies Brigade thread over at Suzy Rice's, that wonderful woman who, near as I can tell, is the creator of the word "pajamahadeen" (which I have shamelessly misappropriated).

***

If you know of other True Believer blogs, Rather-inspired, that is, let me know in the comments. Thanks!


UPDATE 2004 October 20:

Two additions to the True Believers:

Pajama Pundits is a liberal-conservative tag team blog.

the Pajamasphere, gives the history of the pajama remark that kicked this off and some other interesting information. Not much there, but I like the pajama pics on the side.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

A Very Brief History of Pajama-clad Insurgents

In the latter half of the 20th century, pajamas were often considered the uniform of choice for dangerous insurgents and subversives.

In the 1960's came the Viet Cong, famous for their black PJs and their attacks on US soldiers and South Vietnamese troops and civilians.

About the same time the VC were training up as the Vietminh, a pajama-sporting subversive named Hugh Hefner launched his movement to take porn mainstream.

With a history embracing both sex and violence, pajama-attired subversives were sure to be a hit in the media. Little did anyone suspect, however, that the third wave of pajama-wearing guerrillas would be of an entirely different weave.

(Photo of famous blogger in pajamas.)

On September 9, 2004, North Korean Independence Day, a pajamauflaged band of insurgents led by Power Line's Scott W. Johnson, "The Big Trunk," overran an outpost of the mainstream media.

(Digitally enhanced graphic illustrating the attack.)

The initial response by CBS News was denial by authority - downplay it from a position of authority, discount the authority of those questioning the network, and ignore it because they knew, without mainstream attention, no one would ever find out. CBS clearly forgot they were a capitalist entity, subject to the wiles of the market. When other major media organizations smelled blood at Power Line, they started swarming. CBS is now being eaten alive by their fellow competitors, and the pajama-clad PJournalists have insurged into the mainstream.

Will the major media, after their feeding frenzy, close ranks and rewrite history? That remains to be seen. Will these asymmetrical journalists have an increasing effect on the MSM? Almost certainly.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Good morning

(yawn, stretch)

My, what a beautiful sunrise. Hmm, I'm feeling Rather inspired. I wonder what mischief I can get into today.