Tuesday, February 28, 2006

My Olympic Dreams and Other Lies

It took me a long time to regain an interest in the Olympic Games after I lost a high stakes “suppe bet” on Ben Johnson in 1988. “Suppe” are two fingered slaps to the wrist (try them, they hurt). I was not popular at Japanese school, and all the boys in my class bet on Carl Lewis . . . probably just to spite me. When Ben Johnson won the 100m Gold I gleefully beat there wrists five times each . . . only to be paid back double the next Monday following the weekend disclosure of his disqualification. That was eighteen years ago and my arms have recovered sufficiently for me to succumb once again to the temptations of the Olympic spectacle. Fortunately, the Japanese broadcasting companies largely neglected hockey so I was spared the agony of being caught up with Canada’s hockey shame. Instead, I turned my attention to Team Aomori’s curling quest. I was a little disappointed to discover that all four members of Team Aomori were from Hokkaido, but . . . .

Anyhoo, when I went into Ikokuma Elementary School the other day the grade six teacher asked me whether I wanted to go to the next winter Olympics in Vancouver . . . as an athlete. We pondered the possibility of my taking up curling, but curling requires skill. No, it will take something sissier than curling to open any Olympic doors for me. So my recommendation to the International Olympic Committee is . . .

shovel racing.

Please, IOC. Give us ordinary Canadians a chance. I promise to train hard~

I Went to Kyoto and all I Got was a Lousy Hole in the Seat of My Pants

Well, okay, I also got some extra cash remuneration for my “business trip” in addition to a fully funded seminar to wrap up my free Linguistics and Pedagogy course sponsored by CLAIR. Wickedawesome! The fully compensated trip by public transit also gave me my first opportunity to ride the one car “train” from Mutsu to Noheji.

Green Tea Icecream at the Green Tea Tea House: I would have taken more photos, but some women at a table accross the room from mine began wondering aloud why the heck I thought I had to take pictures of my food.

I spent the whole week pining for wife and home but still managed to drag my butt out of the conference centre one evening for a solitary journey to Gion . . . and a visit to a popular tea house that I can’t remember the name of. Perhaps I should point out that although the conference centre was only fifteen minutes by train from Kyoto station, we had a full schedule every day until supper time, leaving only the cold dark nights of January for "hitting the town". I did see one maiko, but she wasn’t worth photographing. I also saw some very genuine yakuza (the quietly pompous and well-poised kind) walking in front of me when I ventured down a side street. They were worth photographing . . . but I didn’t. Call me a coward.

Behold the shining lights of Gion, Kyoto! I spent most of my time there meditating on how boring this ancient capital city is compared to the squid racing, monkey hating, bear fearing village I live in.

In order to demonstrate just how bored I was with Kyoto and Gion, I pulled out my mini-tripod, set my camera timer, and sat down in front of this trendy shop.

Unfortunately, I fell for the old “spiky fence” ploy.

One perfectly good pair of pants ruined. Blast you, Kyoto, with your sharp iron objects! Fortunately the Elliot Buttocks (EB) are known for their invincible strength and firmness and no blood was shed.

This was by far the most interesting thing I saw in Kyoto: the stairway to heaven in the Kyoto train station. The lighting and available angles thwarted my attempts to digitally capture its grandeur, but it’s about seven stories high.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Bear Baiter’s Birtholidays Special

Salute to the Birthday Cakes (At my request, Yuko made me a chocolate chip angel food cake with a white chocolate coating)—Muraguchi Living Room, 12 January 2006

That is correct. Yesterday’s return to cyberspace was in commemoration of the one month anniversary of my twenty-ninth birthday, an occasion which brought to a close my birtholiday from blog duty.

Birtholidays Special Special Birthday Facts:
I was born.
Longest birthday—my twenty-third birthday, spent in its twenty-four hour entirety inside a Greyhound bus on the Alaska Highway.
Worst Birthday—took place on a winter training exercise with my old regiment at Canadian Forces Base Borden and was characterized by a) my being abused by smarty-pants corporals all day and b) my not remembering that it was my birthday all day.
I am proud to say that I share my birthday with: John Hancock, Jack London, and Tim Horton.
I am less proud to say that I share my birthday with: Hermann Goering, Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern.

After the cake and the firecrackers, I show off my new birthday hanky to the camera. I suppose we must have got the pose off television, although I’m not sure what we’re supposed to be—at least it’s a change from the “twinkling right eye half concealed by a horizontal peace sign” pose.

The Muraguchi’s living room tends to be rather warmish, due to the power of their Norwegian made wood stove, and I guess it’s really hot up near the ceiling where the Shinto god-shelf is.

Yuko and I spend a lot of time at the Muraguchi’s (probably averaging two evenings a week), and there’s always something interesting to do or something interesting to play with. I think that technically this “knife” requires a special permit not in the possession of the “knife-holder”, but since the gentleman in question posted a similar photo on his own blog, I will take the liberty of showing it off as well. Being myself, I did accidentally cut my finger with it when no one was looking, and I am wondering if I have the honour of having supplied the first blood ever shed by this . . . “knife.” A careful study of what lies behind me in this photograph will give one an idea of the kind of hiba wood craftwork Mr. Muraguchi does in addition to running his sawmill. My favourite is the lamp with the beautiful, translucent leaves carved out of hiba.

Since I don’t drink, I have to find other ways to occupy myself while the others get down to business.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Back, Barely, Bear . . . Watch, Bear, Baby, Bear Bear . . .

In which I successfully lead an expedition staffed by children into Brother Bear’s secret lair

We apologize for the long silence and retroactively declare my birtholidays as adequate justification for my truancy online. Gaijin for Life will launch a Valentines campaign to kick off the New Year and lure back its old readership (hits on the site have fallen to an all time low daily average of sixty, and most of those are Google image searches for “kancho”).