Wednesday, February 28

Stressing out!

Not only am I arranging a trip to visit Vietnam in April, but my mum and now my dad are coming to Japan in April. Then, Tom is coming in July for Fuji Rock and I have to go home for my family reunion in August.

Breathe Stephen, take it easy and take it one step at a time.

The whole Vietnam trip is proving to be a pain in the neck. I didn’t expect that I would have to take so many days off to get over there but it turns out that I will have to take at least two and more like 3, leaving me with 7 days of paid holiday left. The problem is that it takes 10 hours to get from Fukuoka to Hanoi (14 hours from Miyazaki to Hanoi) because there are no direct flights on the days I want. Fantastic! I only want to pop over for a weekend and it’s turning out to be a real headache.

Which puts me in no mood whatsoever to run around booking this and that for my mother, she’s booked her international tickets after a lot of confusion and stress. Her original itinerary dropped her in Tokyo with a train ticket to get to Miyazaki. Getting from Tokyo to Miyazaki is a feat none to taxing seeing as Miyazaki and Tokyo are on different islands. Now she’s coming into Fukuoka and I’m spending a weekend there before heading back to Miyazaki for work.

My dad is coming too, which has its plusses and drawbacks. A plus is that my dad can keep my mum company whilst I’m at work and another is that they both can drive so, if they both apply for international licenses it will make the trips around Miyazaki so much easier.

I think that I will take my parents into school on Tuesday for show and tell

It amuses me when I think about three black people being in Saito at the same time, I’m sure that has never happened before. I’ve caused commotion enough by myself; I can’t imagine how it’s going to be with two people with dreadlocks and one man almost 6 foot 6 tall. I think that I will take my parents into school on Tuesday for show and tell, I can’t wait until the teachers hear my dads accent.

Apart from taking my ‘rents to School, I want to show them Saitobaru, the various shrines and temples of Saito and of course the onsen… must mentally prepare myself for the last one as I don’t think I’ve ever seen my dad naked… scratch that, must mentally put that aside for the moment. Oh and Edfifune Eel restaurant too, must go there, as well as try some famous Miyazaki beef and Chicken Namban.

I guess I will take my parents to Taiko too. Although, looking at the calendar I don’t know if I will get a chance. The real question is ‘what do I do on the days I’m not working?’ A few people have suggested going to Kyoto, I guess it makes sense, that's the type of Japan they want to see after all, but I kind of want to show them another type of Japan. And I definitely want to avoid the Golden Week tourists going to Kyoto that weekend.

The Flaming Lips, Rage Against The Machine, The Killers, The New Pornographers, Radiohead and Aswad

Then there’s Tom and Fuji Rock. Oh my, the (rumoured) line up to this festival is unexpectedly good. Notable (rumoured) guests include The Flaming Lips, Rage Against The Machine, The Killers, The New Pornographers, Radiohead and Aswad. Yes, the one and only Aswad.
I’m really pleased that Tom has decided to try to come over, it seems that he has really got the travel bug of late, his last holiday was in Marakesh. He’s also going for a new job and educating himself to be a mortgage advisor, something I think he will be well suited to do, so all in all I’m pretty proud of him. Also it will be great to see a face from back home, I don’t think I will get to visit everyone when I go back for my reunion.

The reunion. The final big splurge before Christmas, which I think I will spend in Japan this year. Reunion promises to be good, the family back home have really dug in and it seems like everyone has made a contribution

Tuesday, February 27

In Mourning

I recently read this news tidbit from the Guardian computer games blog it seems that production has stopped on Gamecube games and consoles. It’s to be expected with the continued success of the new console Wii, but I still felt a pang of pain when I read it all the same.

I have a lot of great memories in front of my little silver cube, most notably the times I spent trying (and in most cases succeeding) to get one over on Adam on any game I could. My particular favourite ritual of humiliation was putting Timesplitters on and squeezing off head shot after head shot, every now and then I would throw him a bone and let him edge in front, but it wouldn’t be long until my lead was too strong for him to come back.

A little aside about driving
Take that corner nice and slow
And now you’re in last place
Take that corner at break neck speed
With daring, with guile, with grace
You’re on your way to the finish line
About to win the race
But then, aghast, it’s all over
You got a banana skin in your face

Then there were the two (count them 1…2…) times that I played games with girls I was courting, Mario Party with Lynsey on New Years night and Legend of Zelda with Sarai. Sarai wasn’t impressed but Lynsey and I had a great time… didn’t get any, um romance, on either occasion though.

Great solitary moments with the cube included in no particular order:

☛ Ikuragua
☛ Killer Seven
☛ Legend Of Zelda
☛ Paper Mario 2
☛ Viewtiful Joe
☛ Animal Crossing

An impromptu poem about Monkeys

Little Monkey in a ball
How’d you end up there?
You lil’ fool
Look! Banana’s plentiful!
Get a-rolling n’ collect them all

But the best memories have to be of continuous play, both multiplayer and single, on Soul Calibre II. That game was beyond belief. I mastered Voldo, a blind contortionist who dressed in a purple leather gimp suit and had a story that eluded to a homosexual master and sub relationship in which Voldo was the sub. How often can you say you donned your leather bondage wear and then went toe to toe with some hot blonde who thought she was the descendent of a Greek goddess?

Oh happy days. RIP Gamecube.

Wednesday, February 21

Went out last night to celebrate Mardi Gras. Twas fun I tell thee.

Started the evening in my new favourite izikaya, Den. I hadn't eaten so was demolishing most of the menu, in attendance were Yoshiko, Patrick and another taiko player who's name I keep forgetting, I really have a problem remembering Japanese names.

Considering the fact that no one had a dictionary and half the party didn't speak English, we all did a whole heap of communicating. Subjects ranged from sex-friends to which taiko members we fancy (ok, not that expansive, but hey), turns out that everyone apart from me fancies the same woman (a 38 year old who never cracks a smile), and my choice, Nanami, was laughed at by both Japanese guys.

Things got a bit silly when we played a game with tobasco and a slice of pizza, basically we put 1, 2 or 3 squirts of sauce on the pizza and then pass it clockwise, whoever lands on the 30th squirt has to eat it. I had the 30th squirt and it fricking tasted terrible. The next round was with wassabi, thankfully I didn't lose that time.

After a few too many tequilas, I think we sung some Karaoke and then we ate some more, but I don't remember paying for either and then I got a taxi home to save myself the 5 minute walk across Saito.

Saturday, February 17

Your precious opinion

I don’t really understand why I can’t disagree with someone without them getting upset. Is it so important that I am in total agreement with everyone’s opinion and view, such that voices need to be raised when I suggest a counter to them?

I’m not one to take things at face value, if you tell me something you’d better have a ‘for example’ to back it up and that's not because I’m being obtuse, it’s not just because I’m sceptical, it’s because I understand there’s no absolute truth, there’s (at least) two sides to every story and no one person has all the answers.

Suggesting an alternative to a viewpoint is called conversation or debate, it doesn’t have to be World War 3, but some people can’t have their opinions questioned without having their feelings hurt, their ego’s bruised and their tempers flared.

experience will differ from that and shape their own opinion thus

Also, why are people so insistent on making others see things their way? Then they’re so surprised when they fail to make a person see things their way. People are always going to differ on matters of opinion, that's a matter of fact. And no matter what experience of a situation a person has that they want to educate upon, someone else’s experience will differ from that and shape their own opinion thus.

Let’s look at the opinion that “All men are bastards” for example. This is a phrase that turns up when discussing matters of the heart with women who have had poor to terrible experiences with men. However ask a gay man who has had bad experiences with his lovers whether all men are bastards or not and how do you think he would answer.

a creature with no soul, no heart and no redeeming features called man

Where as the woman feels she has become a victim through circumstance brought on by loving a creature with no soul, no heart and no redeeming features called man, the homosexual man in my argument realises that men are in possession of a heart, a soul and redeeming features but he is a victim of love and not of men.

The above argument may seem redundant as most intelligent humans realise that sweeping generalisations like “All men are bastards” just don’t hold water. Yet I’ve spoken to intelligent humans who will stridently defend similar sweeping statements answering any attempt of moderation with sulky silence or with angry retorts.

And what is with the sulky silences? You can feel sufficiently emotionally invested in an opinion to argue it, but, at the slightest resistance to that idea you no longer have a voice to argue it. That’s poor.

Monday, February 12

The Nippon Negro

Watching TV, think it was some topical news program and they cut to a piece about some people fighting in a courtroom in America, one man was in cuffs with a orange jumpsuit on and the other men seemed to be relatives of a victim, maybe, they were beating and hollering at him and had to be dragged out of court by the guards and other people.

All of the offending parties were black and all of the people restraining them were white.

When I noticed this I realised that this was the first time I had seen a black person on Japanese television. I don’t have a TV at home but I catch it every once in a while and whilst I’ve seen white people, Asian people of all descriptions, Italians in Fiat adverts. I’ve never seen a black person.

handcuffs, hateful angry faces, prison uniforms

But, my first look at black people on TV and they’re fighting each other violently in a courtroom of all places. The scene could not have held any more negative symbolism, handcuffs, hateful angry faces, prison uniforms and bewildered and scared onlookers.

Now I would like to believe that there are positive representations of black people in Japan, but from the evidence I’ve seen the only positive black figure who can be seen in Japanese popular culture is Bob Marley and the problem there is that his messages of one love and living with Jah in your heart are lost in the Karaeoke bars. It seems that the most appealing thing about Bob Marley is the fact that he smoked Marijuana and sung reggae, not what he said or what he believed.

Other black people in Japanese pop culture include self-proclaimed gangster rappers like 50 Cent and 2 Pac. Again, not a word of their songs are understood, which is a blessing in 50’s case, but their attitude and lifestyle is admired.

And this is the image of the black person in Japan. There are no black characters in Japanese cartoons, comics, and melodramas. Conversely no one blinks twice at a redheaded hero in a manga or anime.

weed, guns, violence and poverty

So, what of my role as a black British ambassador? How do I communicate without the necessary tools to do so, such as vocabulary, that being black isn’t all about 40’s, weed and guns, violence and poverty? There are people in the western world who have an opinion to the contrary, fully aware that the media manipulates but unable to commit to the fact. If people exposed to the truth of the matter can’t shake the stereotype and see black culture as a multitude of differences, then how can Japanese children who are so very sheltered?

These are questions that leave me without answers, and pondering them too long leads me to become vexed and frustrated at my inability to speak louder than the voice of the media. I can’t be heard over the hollering in the court and my image (in suit, hardworking, generous with my time and approachable will never be as ingrained as the stereotype I’m associated with.

Below, a video about young black womens self image in America, the dole test is very interesting.

A Black TV personality interviewed in 2001, read the whole interview.

Saturday, February 10

Snow Ball

Snow Ball II: Las Vegas was a learning experience. The first time (and last for that matter) that I've organised/help to organise an event without once talking to the management, without hearing the soundsystem before hand, without knowing what drinks would be available.
Yep, it was a learning experience. This is what I learnt:

  1. Everything is better when its kept simple.
  2. People need a focal point to get things done i.e. actual goals, actual instructions and an actual figure head taking charge.
  3. Don't expect good behaviour from drunk people.

So, lets talk about the last point in particular. I totally lost my cool when after 15 minutes of trying to empty the venue and asking people politely to leave, the dirty looks from the management and harrasment from the other volunteers, I started yelling at the top of my voice for people to get out! That didn't work either.

How it became my responsibility to empty the venue is a mystery to me. All I signed up to do was promotion and when that job was taken away from me I was put on the games and entertainment, a role I was happy with, I didn't realise it extended to crowd control... oh well, ho hum.

When a person is drunk, it doesn't matter if you spent all night bent over backwards so that they will have a good time, oh no, they've got a few drinks inside them and that means that they can't empathise or sympathise. So, they're not leaving, I'm tired and sober and in need of a drink, I want to get my party on but can't until these mugs get out of the venue. And why aren't they leaving? There's no drink being sold, the music is off and I'm breathing down their necks... LEAVE!! Oh well, ho hum.

That little moan over, the night was a success. We raised 80,000 yen for the charity, everyone seemed to have a good time and enjoy the card games and performances (which were fantastic), the DJing was spot on too.

Thursday, February 8

Web 2.0 (Being a tag slag)

So, I was browsing on Youtube today and came accross this video.

This is everything I've been getting excited about about the Web for years now and no one else in my circle o'friends seems to notice or care about.

Don't get me wrong, they catch up eventually but they all seem happy to leave the internet shaped as it is and not shape it theirselves.

Photos, videos, blogs... it's our space to do with what we please. Opinion, memories, information! It is all here for us to sculpt in the way we see fit.

Tagging is a huge part of the web right now and I know many people who tag in their personal spaces (email, organising documents on their own computer) but few who tag socially (Flickr,, del.icio,us), which is odd because it isn't hard at all.

I've recently started on a new project, I'm trying to update and expand the Saito City Wikipedia entry. Saito is the name of the place I live, it is a city in the prefecture of Japan. The English language version of this page is non-exsistent, but its growing slowly with help from myself and Amanda.

Here is a link to the Saito City Wikipedia entry, bookmark it and you can see the progress we make.

This is the letter I sent to the Ken-List (Yahoo Group for foreigners in Miyazaki):

Hi Ken,

You may be aware that interviews are taking place now for the new JETs, those lucky few who will be boarding a plane in the summer and finding their
selves in Miyazakian paradise.

I don’t know about you knowledgeable fellows but when I was told that I would be going to Saito, Miyazaki I responded with a dumbfounded “huh?” which was quickly disguised as an inquisitive “Huuuuuhhhh?” to mask my ignorance. I then sprinted to the nearest Library and went straight to Wikipedia, because if Wikipedia doesn’t know, no one does.

It turned out that there really isn’t much about Saito on Wikipedia in English, which worried me before I arrived but worries me even more now I’m here because there is so much going on here you could dwarf Wiki-entries for New York and Gotham City combined!

Before I get ahead of myself let me explain what a Wiki is. It's a basically a web-page which can be altered by anyone who has access to it. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that anyone can access and alter.

I think that we, the English/French/German speaking members of the Ken should try and improve the state of the Miyazaki Wiki pages, and here are my reasons.

1. In doing so we will discover and understand more about the places we live.
2. In doing so we will be giving back to the community we are in by teaching people around the world about our towns and villages.
3. We will help any prospective JETs better understand Miyazaki and all the area’s in Miyazaki.
4. Also this will prove that we are more knowledgeable about our prefecture and our individual communities that other JETs.
5. It is also an opportunity to show Miyazaki in a positive and not just as the place that has Avian Flu and bent governors.

Also, on a related note, please add to MSG with any recommendations for doctors, hair dressers, barbers, restaurants, things to do and places to see.

And... there is now a new upload category on MSG called Japanese Self Study Material, where you can share any study materials, tips, vocab lists, etc.

OK, hope you're all well.Take care,

Stephen Alexander Walrond

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