Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Dark Night For The Dark Knight

Went to the 9pm showing of the new Batman film at my local cinema. There were only about 10 people at the screening. The film was good but too long. Like life?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Canadian Dry

This morning I met up with cheerful Canadian Aaron in Shibuya. His site is here:

After grabbing free magazines in Tower Records we walked to Harajuku where we ate curry and talked of the issues of the day. We then took the metro to Akihabara. Aaron bought another two R4 cards because he wants to promote software piracy.

We took the train home and then we ate curry at the Indian restaurant near my house. We then watched "The Power Of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil".

A wonderful Canadian friend once said to me "You seem to be very interested in Canada". My reply to her was simply "Somebody has to be".

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Third Karamoon

I watched The Third Man again for the first time in many years. I have a feeling that I shall be watching it on quite a regular basis for the next year or so.

"You know what the fellow said—in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace—and what did that produce? The fucking cuckoo clock."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

All I Need Is Iannucci

I found the following on the website of The Guardian, a UK newspaper:

Don't call me, I'll be wrapped up
by Armando Iannucci

So there I was, walking along the road one grey summer morning, when I espied a man, somewhat cheerless of disposition, his wife and children stringing along, all carrying boxes and an enormous amount of bubble wrap. 'We've sold the car,' said the man to my curious look. 'Bloody stupid idea. We should have sold it after we carried everything to the storage place, not before. But then we needed the money to pay for the storage place.' His four children looked at the ground, defeated by the unavoidable economics.

'I take it you're going to the storage place?' I said, trying to be friendly. 'D'you need any help?'

'We'd love some,' said his wife, and I could tell from her husband's look that he had been too embarrassed to ask but was now relieved his face's sullen begs were being answered.

'OK, I'll bring the car round and we can load up.'

I came back with my seven-seater, folded the back seats down and helped them load their boxes.

'Storing your stuff while you find somewhere smaller?' I asked, at the point where I realised we hadn't said anything for 10 or so minutes together and something needed to be said.

'Sort of,' said the man. He glanced at his wife, who nodded back. He turned to me and, staring at my nose, said: 'We were going to put all our things into storage, then we looked at the great rates they were offering and decided it would be cheaper if we went into storage as well.'

'What d'you mean?' I asked, slightly trembling.

'It's fine,' said his wife. 'We're putting all our furniture into boxes and storing them in one unit, then we'll box me, Tom and the kids up and get someone,' (she looked at me) 'to put them in a unit next to it.' She handed me some of the bubble wrap.

I've never had my gob smacked before, so don't know what it feels like, but I'm pretty sure it feels like how I felt just then. 'But, you are people,' I squawked, 'You've got heads and legs and everything. You can't just wrap yourself up.'

'Think you're clever do you?' said Tom the man. 'Not so clever you haven't missed the most brilliant money-saving scheme to stare you in the face? Sod mortgages and car insurance. Sod food bills and cavity wall insulation and buying too many lemons every week. Tell electricity and petrol and lettuce to take a flying frig. Pizzas and milk and batteries and potatoes can all go have a running crap. Plasma screens with sport, and biscuits with raisins. Dreck. All of it. Toilet duck and Vimto, all we spend on plates and flannels and marzipan and hammers and shoes.

'Why should all this cruddy dust suck at my purse? For the price of 20 rolls of bubble wrap and a hundred quid a month for two storage units, me, Judy and the kids are packaged and contented until everything outside sorts itself out.'

I drove Judy, Ken and the children to a storage warehouse in the suburbs. I guessed they were having a collective nervous breakdown and thought the kindest thing to do was follow their whims to the point where they could see they had become unsustainable. If I took them to the storage place, there'd come a point where they would realise they couldn't just wrap each other up and forget about themselves.

As I drove up, I could see other families arriving, their children all carrying unfeasible amounts of bubble wrap. Some had painted their own cardboard. The place had a carnival feel to it, but a carnival at which people hurl themselves down a log-flume without sitting on a log first. Everyone was smiling, but I could see the little tremors behind their eyes. I had to stop this.

I went over to the main office. A sign said '££££s OFF FAMILIES!!!' A man was taking money. 'This is appalling,' I said. He smiled and asked me to look at how happy everyone was. 'You want to take this one positive away from them?' he said. 'They've come up with a solution and it's brought them relief. You feel qualified to tell them they're wrong?'

I looked round. A father was Sellotaping his son into an enormous Tupperware crate. Another mother had wrapped herself in newspaper and masking tape, leaving a hand free to seal up a cardboard box from the inside. I saw an older brother push a younger brother into a poster tube. A girl was wrapping her hamster up in red paper. A boy was individually wrapping his socks and Top Trumps cards. A family of 26 were rolling a dice to see who would get to go in the crate that hadn't originally been used to carry vegetables. And all of them were smiling.

That was what I remembered most; each one of them was perfectly happy to undergo total packaging. I tried pulling them out, but the nearer I got, the more their smiles made sense. I took my decision and, tearing off a corner of wrapping paper and wrote down everything you're reading now. I've found a box I like, and Tom has agreed to seal the top. If you read this, don't open me up unless you're absolutely sure things have got considerably better. Thanks.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Captain PUGwash

This evening I attended the Tokyo PC Users Group. There was a talk on search engine optimization. The term itself is utterly ridiculous because it concerns techniques that can be used to make a website get indexed well by search engines, and, hopefully, cause a site to get a good ranking for relevant key words. It has nothing to do with optimizing search engines.

The speaker was very friendly and tried very hard, but he knew almost nothing about his topic. As a result his talk consisted almost entirely of inaccuracies and contained major holes. It was a real shame but it is sadly indicative of Tokyo. The foreign community here doesn't really give a fuck about quality. I left the meeting very depressed. I would love to organize something truly world-class here along the lines of Google Tech Talks or the Chaos Communication Congress. To do so would involve a daily struggle against mediocrity. I guess I should get started though.