ltmurnau: (Default)
A collection of 30 Arnold Schwarzenegger TV commercials from Japan, from the early 90s:

Good Lord, I remember seeing almost ALL of these commercials on TV when I lived over in Japan, 1990-92.

One of my treasured possessions from my time there is my Arnold Schwarzenegger cup noodles - yes, Nissin actually made some up with his face on them, they were sort of seafood flavour - probably not edible after 20 years but I have it on my bookshelf still (you can see a glimpse of it in the very last commercial).

And that vitamin drink, like most of the other vitamin drinks they were hawking at the time, tasted like cotton candy dissolved in some water in which someone had left a cigarette butt to steep overnight.

They even had spin-offs from the commercials - I remember one of my students had a page-protector printed with an image from the commercial of Schwarzenegger with the tea kettles (about the 5:55 mark). And I nicked one of those vitamin drink banners from a local pharmacy, and flew it later over our camp the first time I went to Burning Man, when “Shuwa-chan” was governor of California….


Mar. 15th, 2011 12:03 pm
ltmurnau: (Default)
Note to anyone who might be wondering: my ex is about 700 miles away from the happenings in northern Japan, and about 250 miles away from the volcano that erupted the other day, so she's in probably the safest part of Japan right now, at least until Godzilla emerges from the waves...
Uh oh....

There's so much more ignorance than usual on TV and the Net these days in connection with the damaged nuclear reactors in Japan. Yesterday I saw Elliot Spitzer on CNN tell another reporter that he did not understand how wind could spread radiation, since he thought it went in all directions at once! Plainly he did not pay attention in Grade 10 science class, he was probably peeking down his neighbour's blouse. (The reporter said he didn't understand it either, until he asked a physicist.)

Anyway, the son of a friend of mine is a maintenance supervisor at a nuclear power plant in Ontario, and he posted this very clear explanation of how the Fukushima reactors work, what has happened there, and that there is a lot less danger than people think. He posted these.

Quote from the last entry, from a nuclear researcher:

"The lesson so far: Japan suffered an earthquake and tsunami of
unprecedented proportion that has caused unbelievable damage to every
part of their infrastructure, and death of very large numbers of
people. The media have chosen to report the damage to a nuclear plant
which was, and still is, unlikely to harm anyone. We won’t know for
sure, of course, until the last measure to assure cooling is put in
place, but that’s the likely outcome. You’d never know it from the
parade of interested anti-nuclear activists identified as “nuclear
experts” on TV.

From the early morning Saturday nuclear activists were on TV labelling
this ‘the third worst nuclear accident ever’. This was no accident,
this was damage caused by truly one of the worst of earthquakes and
tsunamis ever. (The reported sweeping away of four entire trains,
including a bullet train which apparently disappeared without a trace,
was not labelled “the third worst train accident ever.”) An example of
the reporting: A fellow from one of the universities, and I didn’t
note which one, obviously an engineer and a knowledgeable one, was
asked a question and began to explain quite sensibly what was likely.
He was cut off after about a minute, maybe less, and an anti-nuke,
very glib, and very poorly informed, was brought on. With ponderous
solemnity, he then made one outrageous and incorrect statement after
another. He was so good at it they held him over for another segment

The second lesson is to the engineers: We all know that the water
reactor has one principal characteristic when it shuts down that has
to be looked after. It must have water to flow around the fuel rods
and be able to inject it into the reactor if some is lost by a
sticking relief valve or from any other cause – for this, it must have
backup power to power the pumps and injection systems.

The designers apparently could not imagine a tsunami of these
proportions and the backup power — remember, the plants themselves
produce power, power is brought in by multiple outside power lines,
there are banks of diesels to produce backup power, and finally, banks
of batteries to back that up, all were disabled. There’s still a lot
the operators can do, did and are doing. But reactors were damaged and
may not have needed to be even by this unthinkable earthquake if they
had designed the backup power systems to be impregnable, not an
impossible thing for an engineer to do. So we have damage that
probably could have been avoided, and reporting of almost stunning
inaccuracy and ignorance. Still, the odds are that no one will be hurt
from radioactivity — a few workers from falling or in the hydrogen
explosions, but tiny on the scale of the damage and killing around it.”

Last Sunday night was Circuit Breaker again, and I had fun! Here's my set list:

Einsturzende Neubauten - NNNAAAAMMMM
DHI - Machine Altar Transmission
Chris and Cosey - Arcade (Extended Mix)
Kitchen and the Plastic Spoons - Filmen
Dead Musician - Nightmare (Leather Strip mix)
Pankow - Warm Leatherette
Master Program - Central Europe
Laibach - Achtung!
Einsturzende Neubauten - Fleisch "Blut/Hauth" Knochen
Front Line Assembly - Mindphaser (single remix)
Test Department - 51st State of America
Numb - Blood

Mostly suitably stompy, I thought. Though as usual I took the first shift so no one was dancing until the very end.

Got a new dishwasher and boy is it quiet. But I'm still paranoid about water and the house. Plumbing and electricity are my two least favourite things to deal with and they come together in a dishwasher. I wasn't too proud to let someone who knew what he was doing install it.

Poland 1939 game will be coming out at the end of March. Yahoo!

Radio Radio

Sep. 2nd, 2009 10:19 am
ltmurnau: (Default)
I was on the radio!

The people from Class Wargames ( have an occasional slot on ResonanceFM, which bills itself as the world's first radio art station, or maybe art radio station. ( They talk about games they have been playing (they have reviewed Freikorps, Red Guard and Operation Whirlwind) and have interviews with designers - today it was my turn, for about 15 minutes.

They asked me about my history as a designer, why I do political games, how I designed the system for Red Guard (they really like that game, which is encouraging), and about the economics of distributing games. I think I talked too long and with unnecessary detail, and I hate how my voice sounds on tape or over the radio. I also felt really self-conscious doing the interview over the phone from my cubicle (London is 8 hours ahead of Victoria and they were broadcasting live, so we had to do it at 9 am), as people in my office are aware of "Brian's funny little hobbies" but don't understand them.

Anyway, they were very nice and it was over quickly - I made a bad tape of it but I think they will post an MP3 of the program later.


Japan's new first lady says rode UFO to Venus

ReutersSeptember 2, 2009

TOKYO - Japan's next prime minister might be nicknamed "the alien," but it's his wife who claims to have had a close encounter with another world.

"While my body was asleep, I think my soul rode on a triangular-shaped UFO and went to Venus," Miyuki Hatoyama, the wife of premier-in-waiting Yukio Hatoyama, wrote in a book published last year.

"It was a very beautiful place and it was really green."

Yukio Hatoyama is due to be voted in as premier on September 16 following his party's crushing election victory over the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Sunday.

Miyuki, 66, described the extraterrestrial experience, which she said took place some 20 years ago, in a book entitled "Very Strange Things I've Encountered."

When she awoke, Japan's next first lady wrote, she told her now ex-husband that she had just been to Venus. He advised her that it was probably just a dream.

"My current husband has a different way of thinking," she wrote. "He would surely say 'Oh, that's great'."

Yukio Hatoyama, 62, the rich grandson of a former prime minister, was once nicknamed "the alien" for his prominent eyes.

Miyuki, also known for her culinary skills, spent six years acting in the Takarazuka Revue, an all-female musical theater group. She met the U.S.-educated Yukio while living in America.

© Copyright (c) Reuters
ltmurnau: (Default)
I post this here for historical interest.

Opposition wins landslide in Japan election

Last Updated: Sunday, August 30, 2009 | 4:02 PM ET CBC News

After 54 years of nearly unbroken rule, Japan's ruling conservative party conceded defeat Sunday to the left-of-centre opposition in parliamentary elections.
Read more... )

Perhaps some interesting changes coming; perhaps not.
But having one party run your country for 55 years is no sort of democracy at all. The LDP even had the electoral districts so gerrymandered that one farmer's vote was worth three city-dwellers' votes. They got the votes, they dished out the lolly, until the roof finally fell in.
ltmurnau: (Default)
Something else that's old, but which I need to nail to the wall for times when I need to point to it. Emphasis added. I would like to know who the unnamed sociologist is.

Paris, Friday, November 27, 1998

In Dealing With Japan, Be Sensitive

By Reginald Dale International Herald Tribune

WASHINGTON - Why was Japan's artillery much more accurate than its rifle-fire in World War II? Why do Japanese athletes, unlike those of most other countries, perform better in trials for their national Olympic team than in the Olympics themselves?

According to a prominent Japanese sociologist, the answer to both questions is the same: Japanese people do better when they are not being observed by foreigners. The artillery was far behind the front lines, out of sight of the enemy, and only Japanese spectators watch Olympic trials while the whole world watches the Olympic Games.

The sociologist first expounded this theory in the 1970s, since when Japan has gotten much more used to being watched by foreigners - especially where its economic performance is concerned. But many Japanese manifestly feel uncomfortable under a foreign microscope.
Read more... )
ltmurnau: (Default)
Well, the end of the week and time for some undeserved vitriol, but I've been meaning to do this for some time and have eaten enough aniseed balls to get in the mood for it.

A few weeks ago I found a copy of an older science fiction book called Japan Sinks, written 1964-73 and published in the latter year by Sakyo Komatsu, an author who is apparently still one of Japan's leading sf writers.

The story is fairly simple: it is discovered that the tectonic plates are shifting in such a way that the Japanese archipelago will, in a matter of a couple of years, vanish beneath the waves. Much exposition on geophysics, scenes of destruction via earthquakes and volcanic eruptions abound, there is no magic bullet or happy ending, and in the end Japan does sink.

What infuriated me on reading it was something that had angered me before on reading the works of Japanese authors: the notion of "wareware Nihonjin", which shades off into Nihonjinron - namely, the pseudoscience of "we Japanese are different, unique on the planet." (

A few examples:

More than halfway through the book, the character of an unnamed but apparently extremely rich and influential old man emerges. A scene at his country home, where they discuss whether the population of Japan should emigrate to other countries, become naturalized, or stay where they are and die, is illuminating:

"...In effect it proposes that the best thing to do would be nothing whatsoever. The best thing would be not to lift a finger."
"So that opinion has come forth, has it?"
"That it should has its source, perhaps in the Japanese people's differing decisively from other peoples."
"Even if our race lives on, then, our descendants, it seems will have bitter times ahead of them. From now on whether it's a matter of going on being Japanese or ceasing to be Japanese, whatever the case, - we have to leave Japan out of our consideration. The problems to come will be those dictated by outside elements. Once this Japan of ours is gone forever, once it is taken from the Japanese, then our identity is simply that of human beings, it would seem, but in truth the problem cannot be reduced to terms so simple. For we have our karma - in our culture, our language, our history. And that karma will be resolved when this nation called Japan and its culture and its history - when all alike are swept away with the land itself. But the people of Japan will still be a young people, a people uniquely gifted...."

Later on the Japanese people are finally told what's going on:

They still had faith in Japan, however, still had faith in their government. Moreover, they made every effort to strengthen this faith. The government would do something. The government would not abandon them. For politicians and officials were, after all, Japanese just like themselves - a historically rooted sense of identity that everyone shared. In the present crisis the nation was waiting in submission for whatever the government had to say, givieing it due benefit of every doubt. This was the fundamental spirit of the Japanese, however critical, enraged or vituperative th4ey xcould be toward their nation on occasion."

By the end of the book, all but about 20 million of the (then) 110 milion Japanese are evacuated to countries all over the world, but the influential Rich Old Man stays put, as does his childlike maidservant Hanae:

The girl raised her tearful face.
"Would you let me see...?"
She drew in her breath with a quick movement of her white throat. Then the girl stood up and loosened her obi. There was a faint rustle of fabric as the kimono slipped from her shoulders. With this single graceful gesture, her naked body stood revealed in the desolate room. Its firm and rounded flesh shone in the gloom like a secret cache of snow. The old man looked at her but for a moment before closing his eyes.
"A daughter of Japan," he whispered to himself.
"Hanae...have children..."
"What, sir?"
"You must have children. You could have good, strong babies. Find a good man... he doesn't have to be Japanese. Have many children."

After this injunction, she leaves, he dies, Japan finally sinks.

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote that a critic attacking a book that angered him was like someone donning full armour in order to exact revenge on a hot fudge sundae. Well, maybe so, but this book was an expression of this strange smugness mixed up with humility confounded with blandly benign racism - something that, since I'm so inarticulate at explaining it, really has to be witnessed.

Have a good long weekend!

Japan News

Mar. 1st, 2007 09:38 am
ltmurnau: (Default)
Two items of Japan-related news today. I suppose the common theme is "convenient amnesia".

Comfort women weren't coerced, Japanese PM suggests

Last Updated: Thursday, March 1, 2007 | 11:33 AM ET
The Associated Press

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday there is no evidence Japan coerced Asian women into working as sex slaves during the Second World War, backtracking from a landmark 1993 government statement acknowledging that tens of thousands of women were forced into prostitution for the military.

Read more... )
Nice touch with the dogs' heads. I have never understood just why every Prime Minister after another, almost without exception, has managed to stick his generative organ into the array of whirring flashing silver blades that is the "comfort women" issue, or the "Nanjing was asking for it in 1937" issue, or the "let's go visit Yasukuni Shrine and have a picnic on top of a mound of Chinese skulls" issue. There must be some kind of perverse fascination to it, or perhaps it really does score big domestically....


Declassified CIA papers reveal 1950s plot to overthrow Japanese government

Joseph Coleman, Canadian Press
Published: Thursday, March 01, 2007

TOKYO - Declassified documents reveal Japanese ultranationalists with ties to U.S. military intelligence plotted to overthrow the Japanese government and assassinate the prime minister in 1952.
Read more... )
The story of how many ex-Nazis were used in the governing of Germany (East and West) after the war is well documented - less so the role played by out-and-out war criminals in postwar Japan. Right-wing organizations, most of which had ties with the yakuza (what is it about the "law-and-order" types and organized crime?), were also regularly used by the Occupation authorities to bust up unions and other perceived sources of leftist influence.

In the end, a coup was not necessary. The Korean War began the "economic miracle" that built Japan into the world's second largest economy, the (actually very right-wing) Liberal Democratic Party ruled Japan as effectively a one-party state from 1955 until today (Wikipedia gives a good precis here:, and the "Self-Defense Forces" got their start as distinct entities in 1954, despite the malarkey in the constitution about renouncing war.
ltmurnau: (Default)
From yesterday's Japan Times:

Yanagisawa calls women 'birth-giving machines'
Sunday, Jan. 28, 2007

MATSUE, Shimane Pref. (Kyodo) Health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa referred to women as "birth-giving machines" in a speech Saturday on welfare and health care.

Addressing prefectural assembly members of the Liberal Democratic Party in Matsue, the 71-year-old Yanagisawa touched on the nation's declining birthrate and said, "The number of women aged between 15 and 50 is fixed. Because the number of birth-giving machines and devices is fixed, all we can ask for is for them to do their best per head, although it may not be so appropriate to call them machines."

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry revised downward its population estimate in December, projecting the total population to fall around 38 million from now to 89.93 million in 2055.

Yanagisawa said at the time, "There are many young people who want to have children. In order to meet such a wish, we would like to make utmost efforts."

You know, sometimes I miss these news stories - when I was in Japan I read the Daily Yomiuri which faithfully reported such gaffes. The parties responsible often used to blame "translation errors" when there was an international reaction - I wonder what term he could possibly have used in the original Japanese?

Gaijin da!

May. 17th, 2006 09:26 am
ltmurnau: (Default)
When I lived Over There, I was fingerprinted and had to carry a photo ID card - called it my "Martian pass" - with me at all times, and had to report annually at the police station, also any time I changed addresses.

I wonder if my son will be included in this scheme when he's old enough and travelling back and forth between here and There. Probably, since he won't be a fully Japanese citizen in the legal sense (and will never be Japanese in the cultural sense, anyway).

Anyway, the real target of this measure is the Iranians and Pakistanis who live a semi-legal, undocumented existence in the larger Japanese cities as day labourers and petty criminals. Again, if you're white in Japan, you are definitely Not From Around Here and therefore an object of mixed curiosity and suspicion, but are generally given a pass.

Japan passes measure to fingerprint foreigners

Last Updated Wed, 17 May 2006 12:04:12 EDT
CBC News

Japan's cabinet has given final approval to a plan to fingerprint and photograph all adult foreigners entering the country, six years after the country dropped a similar requirement because of privacy concerns.
Read more... )
ltmurnau: (Default)

Yukio Mishima died by his own hand 33 years ago yesterday.

Mishima was one of the best, many say the best, Japanese writers of the 20th Century. He is certainly one of the best known: he has been more extensively translated and published abroad, over a longer period, than any other.

It is very difficult to get a grip on Mishima's work - it's very complex and contradictory, and the prose, even in translation, is distinctly baroque. He was full of contradictions and strange obsessions - he was deeply attracted to the patriotism of imperial Japan, and samurai spirit of Japan's past. However, at the same time he dressed in Western clothes and lived in a Western-style house. He was obsessed with the human body, both in terms of its potential strength and beauty and its inevitable decay.

In 1968 he founded the Tatenokai or "Shield Society", a private army of about 100 young men drawn from various extreme right-wing political organizations. He used his political connections to get them training at Japanese military bases near Tokyo. On November 25, 1970 he and four Shield Society cadets visited the office of the general commanding the Eastern Army Headquarters, located in Ichigaya, Tokyo. They took him hostage and demanded that the garrison assemble to hear a speech by Mishima. Mishima exhorted the troops to rise and overthrow the government, and reestablish the Emperor as the only power. No one would listen to him and after being jeered at for 20 minutes Mishima went inside and committed seppuku (ritual disembowelment).

Mishima was all about gestures. On the day of his death Mishima delivered to his publishers the final pages of the final book of The Sea of Fertility, his four-novel master work on the Japanese experience in the 20th century.

For more information, go see The Mishima Cyber Museum:

An important visual interpretation of Mishima's life and art, but not an introduction to his works, is the 1985 film Mishima directed by Paul Schrader. Hard to find but the Pic-a-Flic on Cook Street has a copy (they also have a copy of The Black Lizard, an extremely weird 1968 film written by Mishima (adapted from his stage play of the same name) and featuring him in one scene as a living statue!).

Three Dates

Jul. 7th, 2003 11:08 am
ltmurnau: (Default)
My various calendars tell me that the moon is in its first quarter. Ho hum. But it's also the time of the Tanabata festival in Japan. The Japan Atlas says: "The festival traces its origins to a legend that the Cowherd Star (Altair) and Weaver Star (Vega), lovers separated by the Milky Way, are allowed to meet just once a year--on the seventh day of the seventh month." Other sources extend the legend to two ordinary people, a weaver and a cowherd, who fell in love and neglected their work. The gods got angry over this and condemned them to life on opposite sides of a river. I like the latter, it seems a more Japanese story in that it's romantic but contains a serious punishment element for dereliction of duty towards some source of abstract, unknowable Authority. I remember telling this story to Doom Cookie when we went out on that day and she seemed to understand.

It's also the 66th anniversary of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937, when the Japanese finally gave up the pretence and invaded China properly. It's a pity that this part of World War Two is not better known. I mean, it got the proper propaganda treatment during the war because of the Luce press empire but first after the defeat of the Japanese in 1945 and even more so after the Communist victory in 1949, China dropped off the American radar screen except as this monolithic threat. Still being treated that way.

It's also Robert Heinlein's birthday! Rah rah for RAH, at least up until the point he published I Will Fear no Evil in 1970. (Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) wasn't very good either, but I treat it as a blip since he never wrote anything else like it.) A search for Robert Heinlein on Google comes up with 89,000 hits. Michael Moorcock a shade over 29,000; J.G. Ballard about 26,000; Joanna Russ 5,700; Frederick Pohl 3,000. However, William Gibson nets 127,000, so that must make him Alpha Prime Literary SF-Weenie of the Net.


ltmurnau: (Default)

September 2017

1011121314 1516


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 23rd, 2017 07:33 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios