Friday, September 30, 2005

216. Images of Hokkaido

(click on photos to enlarge)

Morning market in Hakodate

alive and kicking - 1.67 kg

cuttlefish ... hot and tasty!

Russian Orthodox church in Hakodate

Hakodate temple roof

Russian Orthodox church in Hakodate (2)

night view of Hakodate

climbing to Usuzan crater

on the path to the volcano

Usuzan volcano with rainbow

Usuzan volcano, overlooking the eruption path

dinnertime at the hotel

Toyako Lake

The chocolate factory in Sapporo

Sapporo: Dr Clark is remembered for three words

"Boys be ambitious" -- the full text of the parting exhortation by Dr William Clark to his students at the Sapporo Agricultural College is rarely quoted and is in fact unknown to the majority of Japanese. These three words have been lifted from their surrounding context and have come to be understood in the sense of personal ambition, which is entirely different from the original intention. Here is what Dr Clark actually said: "Boys, be ambitious ! Be ambitious not for money or for selfish aggrandisement, nor for that evanescent thing which men call fame. Be ambitious for knowledge, for righteousness, and for the uplift of your people. Be ambitious for the attainment of all that a man ought to be."

215. Yesss!! Four years in a row ....

Mai wins First Prize

For the fourth year running one of the kids from our school has won First Prize in the annual High School English Speech Contest for the Western District of the 'Ken' (the prefecture, more like a state than a county).

Sunday, September 25, 2005

214. Aotearoa

I walk
down the path
by strange
serious men
mother naked
over the rough
trail I walk
and they smile
from time to time
with stained
and sharpened

I smile
and caper
when I whinny
as I feel
I ought
with subservient
I fear I find
their frowns
and disapproval
not at all
the thing

The captain
god rot
him, has
stayed behind
and forced poor me
a surgeon's mate
to accompany
sullen savages
jungle trails
in search
of sweet water
and greens
for the scurvy.

On trees
hang fruits
I have never seen
and also
there be flowers
whose fragrance
my senses
but my trousers
rub hard
against my thighs
and the
Norfolk broadcloth
of my
uniform coat
hangs heavy.

we stand on the brow
of a ridge
and my knees
become unsteady
but ahead
and below lies
a sheltering bay
with the sweep
of the sun-bedazzled
and bedazzling sea
while the sun
sinks down
like a fat red

Saturday, September 24, 2005

213. Endless War?

The idea of some kind of Divine Retribution is floating around in everyone's mind right now. Two killer hurricanes in the space of a month? According to the scientists it's simply a matter of water temperatures. Anything over 28.3 degrees C: calculator time -- 28.3 x 9 (254.7) divided by 5 (50.94) plus 32 =82.94 degrees Fahrenheit -- means a tropical storm will build into a hurricane.

The Independent (London) ran a front-page article quoting a top British scientist who claims this is a result of carbon dioxide emissions and the resulting global warming. A more cautious article on the BBC website points out that water temperatures were actually higher in the 1930s and 40s, leading to some killer hurricanes, and that the process is cyclical.

Choose your explanation. In either case, the timing of these storms couldn't possibly be worse. A beleaguered US administration, already under attack for its faltering policies in an unpopular war, is now being held to account for incompetence in handling the aftermath of Katrina and for slashing the funds that could have prevented the extent of that recent disaster. With Rita approaching it is catch-up time. Mr B and his staff are getting hyperactive: second time around, in front of the cameras, let's do this right!! The fact remains that the infrastructure of the USA (highways, levees, dams, electrical grids) are falling into a state of neglect and disrepair which puts the average citizen at much greater risk than any possible outside terrorist attack.

The poor will always lose; the rich will always escape. It's about time the rapidly shrinking middle-class (the hard-working young unable to match the lifestyle of their parents) woke up to the fact that the country is not being run in their interests. Sooner or later the gov will have to re-introduce the draft since they are scraping the bottom of the barrel already (high school graduation no longer required, felony convictions overlooked, fast-track citizenship dangled like a carrot for foreign enlistees). Hitler invaded Russia -- June 1941 -- when the war in the West was still unresolved. Bush and the Neocons are quite capable of attacking Iran while the mess in Iraq continues. At this rate, we'll all end up in the Army .... but not with their sons and daughters.

And now for some further thoughts (Gawd help us) ....

I remember feeling sorry for Nixon when Watergate overwhelmed him. I was a young guy at the time, living in the States, and I remember coming across a small article on about page 11 of the local Austin paper describing a break-in at the Democratic National HQ. Oh-oh. Alarm bells. Sure enough it turned into a major scandal and brought down the Presidency. In the beginning the Rush Limbaughs and Pat Robertsons and Sean Hannitys and Ann Coulters of that time spewed their usual venom against the "liberal media" but when it became evident that their guy was guilty as sin they all turned against him like the injured party in a bad divorce. It was painful to witness all this self-righteousness so I actually felt a stab of fellow human feeling for the poor guy who had become the national scapegoat. When Bush comes down in flames -- bringing a large part of the national and world economy crashing down with him -- I doubt if I will feel the same degree of sympathy.

That he will be brought down is reasonably certain. He can't possibly complete his term unless he radically ups the ante (war with Iran comes to mind) and he could lead the USA into a major disaster and crisis of confidence. He is halfway there already like Hitler in about 1937-38. It will take years if not decades to clean out the stables and pick up after him. Leaving Nixon aside for the moment (some good footwork with China and the old Soviet Union) he is the worst choice of president since Andrew Johnson. On the international stage back then it didn't matter so much. Now it does.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

212. When The Ashes Came Home

(Viewed from the outside the game of cricket remains a baffling mystery to most outsiders. In this Guest Column JD of Kobe - aka Captain Braindeath - explains what all the excitement is about).

"The fellows were practising long shies and bowling lobs and slow
twisters. In the soft grey silence he could hear the bump of the
balls: and from here and from there through the quiet air the sound
of the cricket bats: pick, pack, pock, puck: like drops of water in a
fountain falling softly in the brimming bowl."

This quotation, the last two sentences of Chapter One of A Portrait
of the Artist as a Young Man, is one of the most vivid pieces of
imagery in the whole canon of English Literature. Stephen Dedalus'
recollection of the scene summons up to the mind that most
quintessential of English summer activities--cricket. Never mind that
James Joyce was Irish--it misses the point.

The sound of a 'corky' leather ball on willow, pick, pack, pock,
puck, JJ captured it all in that little inspired flash of
onomatopoeia. The game is played on a pitch of 22 yards, or one
chain, which itself is a tenth of a furlong (a furrow-long). The
furlong came into being when the pre-1066 Saxon farmers optimised the
length of one ploughed field as 220 yards, this being as far as a
team of oxen could reasonably be driven before turning and ploughing
back in the opposite direction. History does not relate why the width
of a Saxon field came to be the length of a cricket pitch. Nor is it
very clear why we have 3 sharpened sticks (the stumps) stuck in the
ground with two round pieces of wood balanced on top (the bails) at
each end of the pitch and the whole unit called a 'wicket'. There
must always be two batsmen on the field at one time, which is why No.
11 never gets to bat very much and the bowler must deliver his balls in
sequences of six at a time, called an 'over'. The two teams play all
day for five days stopping only for lunch and mid-afternoon tea
(except when the umpire calls for drinks) and it can still end all up
in a draw. If one team is batting very successfully, the captain will
usually 'declare' and take his team off to give the other side a
sporting chance. One of the most damning utterances an Englishman can
make is "Dash it all sir! It's just not cricket!", meaning that the
spirit of fair play is not being or has not been followed.

(A good example of this is the way G.W. Bush gained the presidency of
the USA in 2000 -- What a cad. He'd never be accepted at the MCC.)

Growing up in England, one never questions any of this--it's just
cricket and has always been cricket and always will be bloody
cricket, so you don't argue if you know what's good for you.

The major cricketing nations in the modern world are the previous
colonies of the old British Empire, which as we all know, the sun
never set on. Australia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, The West Indies
regularly play England in international matches (Tests) and usually
beat the pants off them. My take on this is that the former colonies
get better weather than we do and so 'rain stopped play' is heard
infrequently, they get more practice and so on. So why don't we play
the game indoors in a Tokyo Dome-like edifice? Indoors?!?! "Dash it
all sir! It's just not cricket!"

One of the most famous series is 'The Ashes', played bi-ennially
between England and Australia. Take a look here for a full history
Prior to commencement of play, one of the Aussie pace bowlers, McGrath, predicted that Australia would sweep the series 5-0 and retain the Ashes yet again. In the British mind-set such arrogance is just not cricket, even though it was probably warranted--no Aussie teenager can remember a time when the Ashes were not in Australia's possession.

But--the best laid schemes of mice and men, gang aft a-gley as Rabbie
Burns noted and England prevailed in 2005 after one of the most
competitive and hard-fought series in Test history. In the final
match, England only needed to draw to take the series as the results
stood at England 2 Australia 1 one match drawn. On the penultimate
day inclement weather and bad light halted play several times,
allowing only about 3 hours play all day. This was to the great
delight of the English fans as the early innings performance of both
teams meant that the more time was lost, the greater was England's
advantage. So we had the bizarre sight of supporters, who had paid
£50 each and more for their seats, cheering and clapping every time
the players trooped off. Bizarre? No--it's just cricket...

On the final day the Aussie pace bowlers McGrath and Warne were in
sparkling form and England were wobbling. Our much-vaunted batsman
Flintoff had been clean-bowled for only 8 runs. Then our new man
Kevin Pietersen (born in South Africa) stepped up for a magnificent
'knock' of 158 before he was finally bowled out by McGrath, taking
the leg-stump clean out of the ground. His 5 1/2 hour stand included
seven 'sixes' (like a home run) and fifteen 'fours' (like a 2-base
hit) -- a new Test record. By the time England were all out it was
too late--there was time for only four balls before the umpires
called 'stumps', Australia had lost and the whole of Britain went
collectively barmy. I myself was like a dead man having listened to
the BBC on Internet radio till 2 am for each of the five days. But I
was a happy dead man!

The Oz captain Clive Ponting and the rest of his team were gracious
in defeat. They had also played magnificent cricket and there should
be no shame in losing such a tremendous series. It matters not to win
or lose--but how you play the game. That's what I always thought anyway.

Just one sour note was the reaction of the Aussie public when their
brave lads got home. Similar to when they lost the Rugby World Cup
final (to England) a couple of years back. Time for them to grow up
and become men I reckon--and part of being a man is knowing how to
take a beating. It's only a bloody game.

To close--some words from Rudyard Kipling:

"If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!"

Sunday, September 18, 2005

211. Mr Midshipman MacCarthy

I sit outside your door
Barry MacCarthy
half drunk and half sober
cradling my father's pistol
waiting, waiting for the dawn
and for you to walk out
so I can shoot you dead.

In boyhood days
Barry MacCarthy
there were no better friends
than you and me against the world
"contra mundum" -- do you
remember? Then your parson daddy
sent you off to the Navy.

On deck, there, Mr Midshipman
Barry MacCarthy
look lively, hoist the topgallant sails
clap on the blocks, bear away
and leave them ratlines alone.
And it was Eileen M'Gee who loved me
and not you.

O we took a brilliant prize
says Barry MacCarthy
and my pockets are full of golden guineas
taken from Papist Spaniards.
I am rich beyond belief in my father's parish
and it is you, young Eileen M'Gee
I wish to take to wife.

My Eileen, in tears,
last night she came to me,
beaten by her drunken father, a bad farmer,
but he with a glimmer
of debts forgiven. It is the gold
that opens all their eyes,
the sudden wealth.

Dear Jemmy, 'tis you I love
not Barry MacCarthy,
'Tis you young Eileen I love in return
and I will furnish an answer.
Ah, Barry MacCarthy, dear Barry,
cradling my father's pistol
I wait for the dawn.

210. Ho-hum: Zellweger/ Chesney split up (like, who cares?)

Four months? ....

These people are borderline idiots. They know no better and should be taken out for airing twice a day on a stout leash. This article brings up the fascinating question of the social function of celebrities and the ghoulish attention paid to the brain-dead things they do. Do we really need these people. Uhhh.... no.


The BBC reports:

Actress Renee Zellweger has said she hopes her split from husband Kenny Chesney after four months can be achieved "as privately as possible".

(dream on, baby)

The Oscar-winning star and the country singer are seeking an annulment and Zellweger listed "fraud" as the reason.

(he's impersonating a singer? impersonating a guy?)

But she said it was "legal language and not a reflection of Kenny's character".

(but I was disappointed with his tiny little whatsit)

She added: "I would personally be very grateful for your support in refraining from drawing derogatory, hurtful, sensationalised or untrue conclusions."

(I think he's a jerk but you're not allowed to print that)

Chesney also released a statement on Friday describing it as "an incredibly sad time".

"I just hope everyone can respect the privacy that I know Renee has already asked for," he added.

(if she keeps her mouth shut, so will I)

US TV show Entertainment Tonight reported a further joint statement saying the split was due to "the miscommunication of the objective of their marriage at the start".

"Renee and Kenny value and respect each other and are saddened that their different objectives prevent the success of this marriage," it said, according to Entertainment Tonight.

(sex wasn't all it was cracked up to be and the phone kept ringing)

"They are disappointed that the legal term 'annulment-fraud' has been publicly misunderstood and exaggerated."

(our expensive lawyers discovered a loophole)

The Bridget Jones star, 36, married Chesney, 37, on a Caribbean beach in May, four months after meeting at a benefit for tsunami victims.

(tsumami ... beach ... duhh!)

Chesney, one of the biggest country music stars in the US, was named entertainer of the year at the US Academy of Country Music awards in May.

Zellweger won a best supporting actress Oscar for Cold Mountain in 2004, and was also nominated for her roles in Chicago and Bridget Jones's Diary. It was the first marriage for both.

Marriage invalid

In US law, an annulment is a decree that a marriage was invalid from its outset.

Anyone seeking an annulment on the grounds of "fraud" must prove that their partner misrepresented some matter that was vital to the marriage.

This may include the concealment of a fact such as an existing spouse, permanent impotence or a criminal history.

(not to mention non-performing stock portfolios)

If either party was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the marriage took place, it may also be grounds for its annulment.

In her court submission, Zellweger also demanded that the court rule out the possibility of spousal financial support for Chesney.

(money, money, money ... I got more than you -- nyaa, nyaa -- and you ain't gonna see none of it!! So, bite on that, you sorry-ass cowboy)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

209. Candide ('the best of all possible worlds')

Five thousand
Ur of the Chaldees
horned Moses
and now Starbucks.

blown to bits by IEDs
on Iraqi roads, or drowned
in New Orleans: it all
to the same
thing in the end.

Who can you blame
how can you defend
your own poverty?
You need money.
You don't have money:
that's it
tough shit.

Five thousand
millions of minds
inching forward,
learning, knowledge,

and here we are
not so far
along the same long weary road
lined with IEDs
of our own
social making.

Five thousand
father to son,
wars fought, battles won,
but when
survivors return
they quickly learn

that nothing has changed
nothing has changed
and this, just this
is it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

208. The Devil Sends Forth a Dark Angel

cold, arrogant, unmerciful,
aroused himself from the flames of hell:
and on a Monday morning
with malevolent forewarning
he did (again) what he does so well.

harsh, aggressive, self-righteous,
had aroused his deep displeasure:
I cannot abide,
he said, competing pride,
and American dead shall be my measure.

wild, raging, unstoppable,
raced speedily forth at the Devil's command:
under pitiless attack
like the poor of Iraq
her victims (in thousands) came to hand.

icy, calibrated, inscrutable,
lives beyond the Leaders of the Hour:
in the past, the present, and forever after,
victims of war and disaster
pay for games of pride and power.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

207. Lessons of Hurricane Katrina

1. Don't laugh at the effects of Global Warming.

2. Don't live in a coastal hurricane zone.

3. If you do live in a coastal hurricane zone, try not to live in a city built on a swamp below sea level.

*4. Don't think federal and state authorities have prepared for a natural disaster or have reacted to repeated warnings.

5. Don't expect help to come quickly after you lose everything.

6. Above all, don't be poor (or black, or both):
-- you won't be able to evacuate in time;
-- shelter arrangements will be minimal;
-- nobody will help you for days;
-- armed police and military will arrive before food and water.

7. Reconsider what the Iraqis have been going through since March 2003.

* Rescue workers have named the 80% of New Orleans that is underwater Lake George.