Driving Impaired

I’ve got just enough time for a quick rant in between meetings today so – 3… 2… 1… Today’s rant is aimed at stupid drivers who won’t admit they lack multitasking capability: If you don’t have the mental capability to yap on the phone and drive at the same time, STOP DOING IT – YOU ARE A FUCKING MENACE. Coming to work this morning, this fucking guy in a black Mark II (Toyota, what else?) is trying to reach somebody on his cell and I can tell he has a major problem using both sides of his brain at once because every time he raises the phone to his ear, the car drifts to the left… Waaaay left. At first he is conscious of the danger he is posing to pedestrians and bicyclists so he stops fucking with the phone till he gets to the light. Then as he’s dialing or whatever the light turns green but he doesn’t notice. So I sound off with my horn, just a short “wake the fuck up, moron!” beep and not a full “GETTHEFUCKOUTTATHAWAY!” blast, and homeboy panics while shifting because, of course, as a full-fledged Toyota owner he has put the fucking gear in Park. So I start to sweat as his reverse lights come on and he steps on the gas, lurching toward my front bumper, then stopping just as suddenly about 0.117 inches from it. Then – I love this part – he gives me a dirty stare in the rearview as if the whole thing is my fault. He takes off, I follow. And thirty seconds after narrowly avoiding an accident, the guy is fucking with his phone and drifting left again…
My single greatest achievement in the area of anger management/road rage is my conscious prevention of escalation. I credit myself with great foresight because it’s been nearly two years since I stopped carrying a wicked-looking handmade scythe from Kyushu, a brushed metal pull saw, a hockey stick wrapped with black duct tape (nickname: “The Castrator 2000”), and a long-handled sledge in the trunk of my car. It’s not as if I ever really needed that stuff where it really made a difference… And it was much too fun having it in the car. I mean, what the fuck would YOU do if someone came after you with a scythe?
And you guys back in the states have to take this all in context – this is Japan. Ain’t nobody gonna pop a cap in your ass and make witty “don’t bring a knife to a gunfight” remarks. Plus, real katanas are too expensive to keep in the car (fake ones lose against the scythe – I have yet to give it a nickname but it stands in my house’s entryway to ward off the NHK toll collector once every year).

Sarin Memories

Nighty night, scumbag. Hope you leave this world fully comprehending your failures. The society you tried to destroy is still running strong – it will in fact be destroying you – and I hope that leaves an ironic bitterness in your throat. Right before the noose is pulled tight, that is. Is it wrong to laugh at a condemned man? Ha-ha, motherfucker. Because when I think of how bad it could have been, I feel relieved that you were so inept in some areas. The fact that you failed so miserably overall AND will be sentenced to death anyway is somehow very satisfying. Mostly, I hope your death can be healing for those who survived or were left behind. Closure, you know.
I remember the terrified faces on TV, picture bobbing as the cameraman scrambled for better shots of despair.
Summary of main incident: Years of planning and well-funded operations enable deployment of sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway but only produces the kill count of, say, a lone gunman. Pretty fucking pathetic for what has become commonly known as a Weapon of Mass Destruction (the original definition only included nukes). Yes, there were thousands hospitalized and I know that weapons of terror do not have to be lethal so long as people fear them, but gimme a break – my country is currently at war partly over the threat this stuff presents. On a scale of what could have happened, we were lucky that Aum made some key fuckups.
This was not their only attempt with WMDs. Far from it. (Link is a .ppt file). Did you know that Aum released anthrax over Tokyo, multiple times? These sick fucks were lucky enough to live and operate in a country as exploitable as Japan was at the time. They manufactured or procured the kinds of chem/bio agents that even state-sponsored terrorists have difficulty getting – sarin, VX, anthrax. Luckily, the effectiveness of these were compromised because their delivery systems and storage conditions were inadequate. They went to all the trouble of acquiring their arsenal but never learned to use them correctly. Lucky for us! Lucky for Tokyo!
In my mind, the Supreme Truth is that anyone who thinks that poking holes in a bag of nerve gas with the tip of an umbrella is a feasible delivery system has watched too many B-movies, didn’t read the instruction manual (maybe it was in Cyrillic), or is a COMPLETE FUCKING IDIOT. (The fastest way to deliver to a Japanese crowd is to infect a bunch of pocket tissue packs and pass them out at rush hour. Duh.)
It would be a small comfort if at least all the senior members of Aum die as a result of their own egomania. They believed killing a bunch of innocent men, women, and children could trigger a change toward a better society (for them, at least). I shudder to think what they envision as an ideal society. The world will be better off without them, and by “without,” I mean dead and suffering in a coward’s hell.
I mean, come on, in the end all these fucking hypocrites ran away from the cops, hiding in the folds of the very society they were bent on destroying (and leaving their blind and bat-shit crazy guru alone in a hidey hole at the cult compound). A real death cult would have at least had a last stand or something. A group tribute to Yukio Mishima with kitchen knives would have been a lot less wussy and saved us from waiting for the courts to decide their fate for so many years. As decisions go, I’m happy the judge turned over the original ruling. I wonder what the chances for an appeal are – judging by the headline of the article I linked to at the top, Aum cultist to hang for role in sarin gas attack, I didn’t think there would be one.
This quote from the defense is amusing:
“It is regrettable that the judge only considered objective facts and not his individual circumstances.”
Heh. Please don’t punish my client; he’s basically a nice guy, who, under pressure from his peers and the eeevil mind control of his blind prophet mentor, was coerced into something he might not have done if society wasn’t so cruel and his parents had loved him when he was little. And now he has changed! These days, he is fond of kittens, loves Jesus, and is a completely different man from the one who coordinated a sarin gas attack on a subway system filled with innocent people.
I think the Japanese government should specially institute the gas chamber as an alternative to hanging in this case. The instant release of a proper hanging is too humane for these fuckers. They should be gassed with the court evidence, spending the last lingering seconds of consciousness in a paralytic haze as the darkness spreads and eventually swallows them whole.

Meat Conspiracy

Do you realize how hard it is to keep up with a no-carb diet right now in Japan? There are problems with all four of my food groups!
Beef: Australian is the only beef available in quantity but the grade of meat they are importing has the texture of reconstituted beef jerky.
Pork: Pork has always suffered a stigma here, and it sounds like they are going to stop the import of American pork due to the mad cow scare. (I was going to write a joke about increased imports of Canadian pork here but I got engrossed in this page instead. Too bad.)
Chicken: Goddamn avian flu coupled with in-country corruption (they just busted a local hatchery for selling laying hens to butcher shops!) means that eggs and rows upon rows of possibly tainted fowl were the only goddamn meat product available at the store today. And the egg section was plastered with recall notices for lead-tainted eggs they sold last week!
Fish: Smaller, more expensive, increasingly frozen, and more likely to be farmed than caught lately.
Maybe the trees really are screaming.
I ate the last of the lamb chops I squirreled away last week for dinner. Oh, tofu also. Shit, I even ate a pack of natto, so I guess I’ll see what that does to my ketotes tomorrow when I do a test strip.
Lord Atkins in heaven, the natives of this savage land have forsaken me! Send me some lobster and steak dinners, stat!

Hanshin Tigers Tidbit

One of the more interesting stories concerning the Hanshin Tigers victory this year (so far they have won the Central League chamionships and will play for the Japan Series title later this month) is one I overheard at work. Apparently, this story was seen on TV, reported by TV star Sonomama Higashi, and regards the victory jumps into the Dotombori river by rabid Hanshin fans in Osaka when they won the Central League title.
As you may already know, there was one fatality among the jumpers, a guy who was pushed into the river and died of shock/drowning. There were several injuries as well, not the least common of which can be attributed to the fact that the Dotombori River is notoriously polluted and the water is very probably harmful if swallowed. The river has been polluted by upstream manufacturing for centuries, and is a sluggish, murky cesspool even during the brightest hours of the day.
For some reason, it has always attracted idiots who jump into it to celebrate something, or more commonly, to reaffirm manhood. In a very typical digression I must mention here that I had a classmate at university named Asada (as in Carne) whose hobby it was to strip down butt-nekkid, wrestle with bystanders and the police who oversee the bridge in question (Ebisu-bashi AKA Nampa-bashi due to the pick-up artists who hang out there), then jump into the river to “escape”. He was arrested multiple times for this stunt, and had friends videotape these escapades. I remember seeing one of these tapes; maybe Dave still has a copy…
Unless you read Japanese, you may not be aware that there was plan launched by the fan of a rival team to harm Hanshin fans, in anticipation of the Hanshin win and the celebratory river-jumping. Apparently, he released some piranhas and a small alligator into the the river, near the bridge the night before. The punchline is that the piranhas quickly perished and floated up to the surface, and the alligator immediately swam to the other bank and escaped. And the next day, hundreds of Hanshin fans willingly dunked themselves in the same water.
When people say Hanshin fans are crazy, this may be the kind of thing they are talking about.
P.S. My first year in Japan I also wanted to jump into the river because I never saw anybody doing it and it was a hot summer day. My friend said if I touched that water, he wouldn’t let me ride in the car, so I refrained. Heh.

Headlight & Horn Etiquette

I must limit the scope of this rant because the full breadth of the topic would require too much thinking.
In Japan, drivers use their horns and headlights in ways that [A] baffle visiting Americans and [B] are extremely dangerous. The retardedest element of this usage is its foundation in etiquette. The Japanese use car horns and headlights to be courteous.
In Japan, drivers that stop at a red light will often dim their headlights so as not to shine at oncoming traffic at the other side of the intersection (or at the car stopped directly in front of them). This is the single most dangerous practice covered here, and can be observed at night anywhere in Japan. As stated above, this is considered a common courtesy by what I would judge to be around half of all Japanese drivers. In fact, this practice is so widespread that a lot of people think it’s required by law, and a lot of drivers fail to think that dimming headlights at night is a dangerous practice at all (BTW, if you can’t tell by now, I fucking disagree).
Last year an oncoming Celsior-weenie flashed me from the other side of the intersection with high beams a few times after I refused to dim my headlights (he signaled desire for me to do so by flipping low beams on and off a few times). In fact, after the signal turned, he chased me down the street, continuously flipping high beams, until I pulled the parking brake and spun hard right to block the whole street at 90 degrees, hopped out, and offered to show him why I prefer a field hockey stick to a baseball bat in the trunk (lighter, faster, longer, weighted at front, sharper edge, curved end for hooking moves, hardwood only where it counts – on the tip). But you digress.
Ironically, one of the new driving safety campaigns launched this year pushes to have headlights on at all times of the day for better visibility. I think you can see the punch line coming: Even the domo-arigato robot mindslaves who now drive with their headlights on all day TURN OFF THEIR HEADLIGHTS WHEN WAITING FOR A SIGNAL. I see them doing this during the day, and can only assume they do it at night as well. During the day I don’t see any functional purpose to this at all, it’s kind of like watching a salaryman bow during a phone conversation with a customer. Man, I should film a documentary on this. I’d call it “Road Etiquette in Motion: Blood on the Asphault Part II”.
I?m finishing this post today (Monday); I started writing it last week but stopped because thinking of all the assholes on the road made me grimace at my desk and my co-workers probably thought I was about to go postal. I think they must have told my manager, who asked me if I was OK at the end of the week. Grrrrrrr. (People always ask about the things I miss most about home: Cocktail lunches and bargain bins of birdshot at Ammo Barn.)
Anyway, a few points about common horn usage in Japan:
– Courtesy soundings of the horn are short, long soundings bear the universal meanings of, in order of importance, ?oh shit, I?m gonna crush you but perhaps this beep will soften the impact somewhat!,? ?move your arse, pops!,? ?if I didn?t know any better, I?d think red-green color blindness had jumped the gender gap, bitch, thanks for running the signal so carelessly!,? and ?fuck you, asshole!?
(Digressively Amusing: The middle finger is understood somewhat by Japanese somewhat because of exposure through western movies although the meaning of ?Fuck You? is never properly translated [Note to subtitlists: ?Zama miro!,? ?chikusho!, and ?kutabare!,? are not good translations. ?Kuso!? is ?shit!? which is sometimes interchangeable depending on situation but sometimes bears another meaning entirely. If you want to hear a proper translation, try cutting me off sometime, but beware that I gave away my hockey stick as my handmade scythe from Kumamoto {In Swahili, this Japanese city name means ?burning vuhjaina? – no lie} fends off evil spirits much quicker]. Most of the times you flip people off, they bow in apology, although once the Jeep I was borrowing came under Yak Attack and the aviator-sunglassed 893 [Ya-ku-za, get it?] basically broke his Gucci-soled foot kicking my solid steel bumper, but that?s another story and my digression is now longer than the original point.)
– In standard Hornspeak, one short sounding means ?Thank you!,? or ?Be aware that I am here!?. Two short soundings in reply is ?You?re welcome!,? or ?OK, I see you!?
– ?Thank you!? is sounded in any variety of situations where Japanese feel the need to be polite (in other words, everywhere, all the time). Some of the more common usages include: When you let somebody into your lane on the highway or pull in front of you from somewhere. When you stop at the mouth of a narrow street or chokepoint to let incoming cars pass through first (this may be the most common usage because of the sheer number of narrow roads in Japan). When you want to freak people out by saying ?Thank you!? in random and completely inappropriate situations (that?s my primary usage, anyway).
A Typical Example of COMBINED Horn & Headlight Usage I Saw This Very Day:
Black Civic (Note: As is the case in southern California, drivers of this car in Japan are also usually Asian, although not so many of them are named Phuong or Vinh) in front of me slows down and >>flips headlight on and off twice< < to signal an oncoming bimbobox (yes, I am Hiroprotagonist) it is OK to cross our lane and enter a book store?s parking lot. Bimbobox performs said maneuver and in mid-arc >>double-taps horn< < to say ?Thank you!?. Black Civic answers with obligatory >>single honk< < as the oncoming car completes the turn, ?You?re welcome!?. Black Civic resumes forward motion, but stops at the intersection 20 meters ahead because the light has turned red during this elaborate show of courtesy. I >>lean on horn< <, roll down the window, and >>shower great sentiments<< of hate, despise, and homicidal wonderfulness at the idiot for making me even later to work. Of course, the moral of this story is, I ended up following the Black Civic into the parking lot at work and received an angry stare from the driver, a.k.a. personnel section manager who works down the hall from me. Moral Summary: Mondays Bite Ass.

Ketchup vs. BBQ Sauce

First on my hit list: Ketchup vs. BBQ Sauce (I’ve always thought that “catsup” sounds like what a starving family in Pyongyang does to celebrate Our Great Leader Day.
Official notice to all employees of McDonalds (Would you like that Oppression Value Set Super-Sized?) located in Japan: KETCHUP IS NOT THE SAME AS MCNUGGET BBQ SAUCE, NOR CAN YOU CONVINCE ME OTHERWISE. EVER. PERIOD.
In retrospect, I wish I had written this rant years ago, because although I have educated hundreds of drive-through females (I say this, interestingly enough, because none have been males.) verbally or with “this stuff’s made in NYC!” type gesticulations, I have never been formally recognized as the man who brought Heinz Awareness to tha Land o’ RizinSunz (not Tatooine). Let me tell you, I NEED THE RECOGNITION. When ah pimp-strolls my fly ass into Da Place Ta Be I wants All Eyes On Me sos I can gets tha Repsect (t’all ya unedjucated beeg: tha’s short for “representacional sectapularae”) I Gots Comin for bein the Ketchupundit. [Note: I will never let you think I am crazier than I think I am]]< --//redundant bracket added for effect.//<--double slashes r tha shiznit, too// //// //////<--not hubris, just boredom. //ENUF! Back to ketchup: Up until a few years ago it was a 50/50 proposition of being able to get ketchup for your fries at a Mickey D's in Japan, or at any fast food joint, for that matter (exceptions: The sole Carl's Jr. (not JR) in Osaka that eventually went bust, the Wendy's chain, and possibly RaRiRuReRo Burger in Saga Prefecture, although this last one was not confirmed because the staff was too busy talking to their stylistic-hickster friends visiting the shop, so we walked out before ordering.). The prepackaged individual serving ketchup packets, later to be replaced by plastic minicups, were not widely available at MC Donarudo's (yo why you frontin', GriMase?) until Y2K, if memory serves me correctly (and hasn't been corrupted by the millennium bug). However, packets of BBQ sauce have been distributed freely since the advent of McNuggets (I will not stoop down to McNugget joke levels.), and when ketchup was asked for, the BBQ sauce packets would often appear instead. The first time this happened to me I was sure it was because the girl (obviously not Employee of the Month material) didn't read the writing on the packet (which is an alternative lyric for junkies/haxxors singing that Simon & Funkgargle tune) and slipped me the Bullzeye 'stead a the Hinez. It took a few repetitions of this type of "mistake" to figure out that: A. McDonalds had no packs of ketchup B. When I asked for ketchup the staff couldn't figure out why I wanted it C. When I explained it was for the fries (incidentally called "fried potato" in Japan, always singular even in reference to multiple fries), I was educating AMERICAN BURGER CHAIN EMPLOYEES about American (and thus, proper) fast food condiments. Wow, isn't that cool? Did you have any idea that JAPANESE WERE IGNORANT ABOUT THE FACT THAT FRENCH AKA "FREE-DUMB" FRIES ARE EATEN WITH KETCHUP IN EVERYWHERE EXCEPT THE PLACES STATED BY JOHN TRAVOLTA IN THE MOVIE PULP FICTION UNTIL I SPREAD THE WORD (and saved them from becoming EUroweenies)? OK, so maybe it was not just me. But I hope to KKKapitalize on the documentation of this as much as I have capitalized above. with my deepest apologies, there will be no more big letters today, sir. some assorted facts related to this ketchup rant: - i was also solely responsible for the size of the ketchup minicups doubling after mcd's initially replaced the packets with these peelable foil-topped minicups that were too shallow to dip into and in fact forced americans all over japan to roll fries individually in the cup, and contained only enough ketchup for exactly 8.72 normal-length fries. i complained really loudly about the miniscule size of the minicups to my sister when she visited from the states a couple of years ago, to which she replied "it's good to see you are concerned about important issues". ouch, wench. that smote. well the joke is on you, because obviously #somebody# heard me bitching, cause the new improved double size version of ketchup packaging came out a few months later. you see, it pays to be vigilant and outspoken (although people often want to knock your teeth out). - there are still mcdonalds branches in japan that do not stock individually packaged ketchup. i don't mean they are out of stock, wither, i mean it is a standard practice not to stock ketchup for fries (are the savings passed on to us?). - some branches that do not stock individually packaged ketchup will instead fill a plastic dipping cup used for in-store mcnugget dipping (or sometimes even a paper cup!) with ketchup and cover it with saran wrap (if it's a take home order). can you spell "wetawded"? this being japan, they will of course place the contingency conveyance contraption (tm) in a separate bag and fold the bag neatly with an upwards pleat on one corner, taking up another precious ten seconds as sweat drips down your face and the nonexistence of your car's ac has you in the mood to throttle the pimply headphone-donner (even if only to stop her unbefuckinglievably high-pitched squeal-like-a-pig voice). - nugget bbq sauce tastes like ass. (mustard is the only other sauce available as a standard in japan, though they originally had sweet 'n sour as well and occasionally come out with new flavors during limited times.) - for some reason i went through a tabasco and mayonnaise craze and would carry these two condiments on me on fast food foraging forays during college - kimchee and mayonnaise liberally applied between the patties and top bun of a double cheesburger are the signs of a true connoisseur. this particular combination could vanquish any iron chef (ground beef theme) contender, sakamoto included. - i have honestly felt the need to write this rant for the past 7-8 years. obviously,7-8 years ago its entirety could have been summed up with "japanese do not use ketchup on fries", but damn am i glad i got this enormous burden off my chest. as an end note, i would like to state my intention to reinstate capitalization with my next post i would also like to give props to the man, james lileks, who has prevented me from turning out any substantial work whatsoever for the past several months as i caught up with several years of his web journal (www.lileks.com/bleats/). he inspired me to write this ketchup rant mainly by being so prolific, but also by being logically opinionated in ways i can agree with (or at least understand) most of the time. i just felt that he never gave japan’s ketchup problem the attention it deserves so i stepped up to fill his clogs.
he is also the main reason i must reinstate capitalization (bifocals for beeg’s sake!).