Jamie's Blog

The ramblings of a programmer with a little too much time on his hands

Category: Literature (Page 1 of 3)

Note from the Patrician

The People’s Republic of Treacle Mine Road

Those of you with a calendar will have noticed that the most recent Friday (at the time of writing this post) was May 25th. This is an important date for a whole bunch of reasons – most of which can be found at the wikipedia entry for 25th of May [LINK].

For instance, fans of Douglas Adams note this day as Towel Day [LINK]. Towel say is a day when fans of Douglas Adams carry a towel around with them, as a reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

It’s also seen as Geek Pride Day [LINK], a day for promoting Geek culture. The date was chosen as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope was released on the 25th of May in 1977.

However, for me it will always be  known as The Glorious 25 May. As I’m a fan of Discworld, this date is very important to me. The 25th of May was the date of The People’s Republic of Treacle Mine Road, as told in Nightwatch.

Treacle Mine Road

Treacle Mine Road is a road in the city of Ankh-Morpork. At the end of Treacle Mine Road, there once was a Treacle Mine. It used to be run by Dwarves, until it was shut down. It then became a Watch House. It was here that John Keel, effectively, ran the (almost) peaceful revolt  of the people of Ankh-Morpork.

That was the thing with revolutions, they revolved.

I don’t want to ruin the story, for those who haven’t read the book, but there where a multitude of factors leading to the revolution and the people of Ankh-Morpork had suffered enough. They decided to revolt against the Patrician. Martial Law was declared. Many people died.

No. How dare you? How dare you! At this time! In this place! They did the job they didn’t have to do, and they died doing it, and you can’t give them anything. Do you understand? They fought for those who’d been abandoned, they fought for one another, and they were betrayed. Men like them always are. What good would a statue be? It’d just inspire new fools to believe they’re going to be heroes. They wouldn’t want that. Just let them be. For ever

Sam Vimes, Nightwatch

You said it, Sam.

25th May 2012

Anyway, this year the Discworld Emporium (“the only bricks and mortar shop dedicated to Discworld in the known universe” to quote their website) ran a very special offer. They issued a special product to celebrate the 25th of May.

This product contains one of their “…AND A HARD-BOILED EGG!” [LINK] items with a very special envelope, complete with a Patrician stamp and a notice of the limited quantity of the item – there where only 150 made.

Naturally, I ordered it as soon as they announced it on their twitter channel.

This was the first order I’d made with the Discworld Emporium (the actual store, in Wincanton, Summerset,  is called “The Cunning Artificer’s Discworld Emporium”), and I’m really pleased with it. I shall certainly be ordering more of their products – or stopping by, if I’m ever near Wincanton.

The “Egg” comes in a lilac coloured, cotton drawstring pouch. The envelop and notice are printed on very high quality paper, and the little note that came with it was very funny.

The Pictures

Right, if you’ve read this far, then you’re either very interested in seeing these items or you’re a fan of my (lack-luster) writing. Either way, you shall be rewarded with pictures. I’ve attached thumbnail versions of the images. It

Warning! These pictures are quite huge (each one is, around 4.25 MB), so they might take time to load.

... because

This is the bubble wrap that was used as packaging. It looked like a good enough medium to provide a background

Hard Boiled Egg in Cotton pouch

This is the hard boiled egg, wrapped in the lilac pouch

Envelope From the Patrician

This is the printed “envelope From the Patrician”

Note from the Patrician

This is the note from the Patrician, found inside of the envelope

Hard Boiled Egg

This is the Hard Boiled Egg. the centre piece of this order. Those who have read Nightwatch will understand why the hard boiled egg was chosen

Note From The Cunning Artificer

This is the note From The Cunning Artificer, included in the package. I’m guessing that this note, or one like it, is included with most orders.

The Discworld Emporium Sponsorship

One final image, the Discworld Emporium sponsorship notice for London 2012. The tiny text might be a bit blurry. But it reads “The Discworld Emporium is proud announce that it is saving up to be a sponsor of one small, tiny bit of London 2012 cross country tiddlywinks championships!”

So, all in all, I’ve really pleased with this order. I shall definitely be ordering from these guys again, at some point.

Anyway, I’ll leave y’all to it.

Peace out, positive waves, and stay frosty (in this heat!?)

J

All the little angels rise up, rise up.
All the little angels rise up high!
How do they rise up, rise up, rise up?
How do they rise up, rise up high?

A Little Different

Hey guys!

Having left it a while since my last post (mainly because I’ve been doing very little), I decided that the best way for me to get back into the swing of things is to post something a little different. This is something that I had prepared earlier.

Trying NOT to sound like a Blue Peter reject, of course

As you guys will – no doubt – be aware, the new Discworld novel is released in the UK tomorrow. In anticipation of heading to the book store and picking up my pre-ordered copy of ‘Snuff’ (book #39 in the Discworld series), I’ve decided to post up an old, short (and entirely un-started to say the least) story of mine.

I can’t say where, specifically, I got the inspiration for the setting or the characters; but I will say this: it’s not very good. I tried for a Noir-esque feel, and I don’t think it comes across very well.

Mostly because I don’t think it’s written very well

Either way, I present you with a piece of fiction written by me:

Noir

The summer of 1932 had been a hot one; the smog hadn’t helped either. The whole state seemed to come to a stand still – a sweaty stand still. Pretty much all of L.A gathered together with a common goal that year: to sweat and complain about it. The drought didn’t help much either. People were already desperate enough as it was, then the state governor decided that the best course of action – after he’d started rationing the water supply – was to bring in prohibition. At least we used to be able to have a drink – a col beer on a hot day went down so well – but now, we didn’t even have that pleasure. The papers ran wild with headlines like “Governor Squeezing L.A Dry” and “’Water! Water’ Was his death call”

If you asked me back then why I moved to L.A I’d tell you that I wanted to be in show business. If you asked me now why I moved, I’d tell you that it must have been God or Fate that dragged me there, I really don’t know why. I suppose my reason was really to get out of nowhere. I was born and raised on a farm. When most kids where spending their time learning math and reading books, I was rearing cows, and looking after pigs, and plucking chickens. I still got an education, in fact I’d say that I learnt more on the farm than any city kid had done at school. But my life took a downward turn into boredom when my Father died.

After that, I wanted to do something more with my life. It was a difficult time for me, I didn’t want to upset my Dad, but I needed to get away from the farm. I spent a week in contemplation at the church, thinking and talking with God. After that week I had two clear thoughts: I could never rely on anyone but me, and I was going to sell the farm. So, I did. I sold the farm to a family business, then moved to L.A in search of excitement.

 *

I remember the day like it was yesterday, Tuesday 15th of August, I’d just bought a new electric desk fan. It was working, too. Only, not as well as it should have done. My office was too big for it have an affect on anything but me. That wasn’t so bad, but for some reason it’d shut off after a minute or so. I climbed out of my chair – that was no mean feat, as it was a leather chair and I was real sweaty – and made my way over to the wall socket. I got onto my knees and yanked that sucker right out. That’s when she walked in.

“Praying aint gonna help” A soft, sweet voice, with a hint of North Carolina in it.

That’s when I looked at her. Talk about your Bette Davis’ and your Clara Bow’s all you want, this girl didn’t hold a candle to either of them. If you put an hour glass next to her, the hour glass would be jealous. She had a frame that could stop traffic. Under the floral print dress was the body a goddess would want as a 16th birthday present just to get the attention of everyone else. This, I didn’t know yet, though, as her dress was made of cotton, and wasn’t form hugging – which kept her suitably cool and mostly sweat free.

Under her hat was hair the colour of night. No, it was darker than night – it was as if her hair was a dark, flowing shadow running from the top of her head, and down her back. It seemed to wave around sumptuously of it’s own accord, yet responded to her every movement.

Her eye’s were the biggest and bluest that I’d ever seen. They where the colour of a fresh stream running through a meadow. The kind where you’d be able to catch the biggest fish you’d ever seen. Just looking into her eyes made me home sick. They had a hypnotic feature, I couldn’t stop staring into her eyes. I’d never believed any of that “Your eyes are so deep…” stuff, but that all changed pretty quickly.

Her lips were a deep shade of red, and gleaming. I could swear that she was wearing lipstick, but there was something about her lips that told me she wasn’t. I’d never met a girl who had lips this colour naturally, but she did. It was the kind of red you get on a freshly ripened apple. I didn’t want to bite her, but I did wanted a taste of her lips.

She made her way across the room, hips moving from side to side, hypnotising me the whole time. I could have walked out of there clucking like a chicken if she’d have wanted. I couldn’t hear her steps, although I could see she was wearing high heels. 

Too Many Books!

Those of you who visit this website quite often will have realised by now that I really like to read. Some might call me a bibliophile.

When I think about it, thought, I worry that I don’t read enough to be classed as a hardcore bibliophile. But when I looked it up in my Cambridge Dictionary of English, it turns out that I had the meaning of Bibliophile wrong.

bibliophile
noun /’bɪb.li.ə.faɪl/ [C] formal
Definition
a person who loves or collects books

Cambridge Dictionaries Online – http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/bibliophile

To that end, I suppose that I could be considered as a bibliophile.

Note to self: Choose whether to capitalize “bibliophile” for later posts.

What Have You Been Reading, Jamie?

I’ll tell you.

… In fact, I’ll show you.

Books with a nice Martial Successor Nadesico poster

As you can see, I’m currently reading quite a few books. For those who can’t pick out the names of some of these books (as I’d taken this photo from the other side of the room, without using the zoom function on my camera), here is a list:

  • Sourcery (Terry Pratchett)
  • The Last Continent (Terry Pratchett)
  • Interesting Times (Terry Pratchett)
  • Tricks of the Mind (Derren Brown)
  • Brainwashing (Kathleen Taylor)
  • Yotsubato! [in Japanese] (Azuma Kyoko)
  • The Samurai (Jonathan Clements)
  • Physics of the Impossible (Michio Kaku)
  • The Lone Samurai (William Wilson)
  • The Student’s Guide to Writing (John Peck and Martin Cole)
  • Azumanga Daioh Omnibus [in English] (Azuma Kyoko)
  • City Watch Trilogy (Terry Pratchett)
  • Nerd Do Well (Simon Pegg)
  • The august 2011 of Games Developer Magazine
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm – The Book
  • The Making of “Thriller” (Douglas Kirkland)

And that doesn’t include the books that are currently loaded onto my Kindle. At the minute, I’m reading through “The Language Instinct” by Steven Pinker. It’s an excellent book about the science of Linguistics, which is something that I’m very interested in.

You’re Reading ALL of These?

Whilst it is true that I’m reading all of these books; I’m obviously not reading them all at the same time.

I read each issue of Game Developer Magazine from cover to cover, the day that it arrives.

The Pratchett books are purely for rainy evenings when I need a little escapism and a little laugh.

Yostubato! and Azumanga Daioh are perfect for when I have a little time to spare (when waiting on a phone call, or sitting on public transport, etc.)

The Samurai and The Lone Samurai are about my favourite of all subjects: Japanese History, and I’m taking my time reading through them. In fact, I have used both of these books (and others I might list at another time) as the basis for this post.

I’m working my way through the Curb book at the same time as re-watching the entire series of Curb. I’ll usually watch an episode, then read the section of the book related to that episode.

Tricks of the Mind is my current “pre-bed” book. I’ll settle myself down in bed with a nice cup of either Oolong Tea or Hot Cocoa and read an entire section of the book before retiring to sleep.

I was given Nerd Do Well for Christmas (2010) and read it in only a few hours. Then a friend borrowed it from me (is that illegal? I can never remember)… for over half a year. Since I got it back a few weeks back, I’ve been planning on re-reading it. Maybe next weekend.

That Is All

That’s all I’ve planned on sharing with you all today. This is only because I’m in the middle of listening to the whole of 2009 series of Just A Minute while typing this, and I’m getting distracted every few minutes.

Until next time, have fun,

J

Recent Happenings

Recently I’ve been quite busy. What have I been up to? The answer? Not much.

Audible Listenings

As I’ve mentioned on Google Plus and Twitter, I purchased a few new albums recently. They’ve all been Japanese albums, too. A great way for me to test the postage systems of the world, I figured.

I would apologise to the UK and US music industry, if they’d released anything exciting or new.

What where these albums, you ask? Well, one was the new album by 東京事変 (Tokyo Jihen. This ranslates as “Tokyo Incidents,” but I prefer Tokyo Jihen) and a “new” band called the Earthbound Papas.

I’ve said that Earthbound Papas are new because they are. Although they formed in March-ish of this year, they’re basically the new version of the Black Mages.

The new album by Tokyo Jihen is called 大発見 (Dai Hakken. This translates to “Great Discovery”) and is, quite simply put: Amazing.

Side note: I keep pronouncing this as Hakken-Den. I haven’t a clear idea as to why, but I think there’s a Japanese TV show or film with “Hakken-Den” in the title. I’ll update you when I figure this one out.

Dai Hakken – Tokyo Jihen

Tokyo Jihen have (almost) always been a J-Rock band. This is because the founding member, 椎名林檎 (Shiina Ringo), is one of the most famous female Rock musicians of the late 90’s and 21st century. Over the years, though, her music has changed; it’s become (for want of a better word) calmer.

Her first few albums were chocked full of Rock songs of different types, however her recent work has been more… How do I put this? Classy? Jazzy? Jlazzy? That’ll do. Jlazzy is how I would describe her recent work. It’s amazing, mind you, but it’s not Rock music.

You can listen to samples of the entire album here: LINK (it should open up in a new window, and it WILL start playing as soon as it’s buffered so watch out). I’ll clue you in, though: The next song on the album, in my opinion, is 恐るべき大人達 (Osorubeki otona-tachi; which Shiina, herself, translates as: Les Adultes Terribles).

 Octave Theory – Earthbound Papas

The Blank Mages where a Rock band formed by three composers from Square-Enix: 福井健一郎 (Fukui Ken’ichiro), 関戸 剛 (Sekito Tsuyoshi) and 植松伸夫 (Uematsu Nobuo). They played, mostly, some of the biggest songs from the Final Fantasy song catalogue in a Progressive Rock style. Some of their best songs include: One Winged Angel, JENOVA, At Zanarkand and Matoya’s Cave.

However, when Uemastu left Square-Enix he also left the Black Mages, essentially ending the band. After creating his own record label (Dog Eared Records), he got the band back together – minus the bass player and the drummer –  and formed the Earthbound Papas.

The Earthbound Papas are, pretty much, the same as the Black Mages. The key exception being that the Black Mages relied on loud guitar music as Uematsu never seemed that keen to jump into the spotlight with his keyboard playing (anyone who has the first Black Mages Live DVD can attest to this). However, with the Earthbound Papas, he has become more confident; even altering the way he arranges the new (and 1 classic) tunes.

Their version of Liberi Fatali is absolute genius, I feel:

For those interested:

The Tokyo Jihen CD – which shipped straight from Japan – was delivered to my house (in the UK) 6 days after ordering it. I didn’t pay for any specific kind of fast shipping, in fact I think that the shipping was free (I’m a frequent shopper at this particular website and had built up a bit of a discount, I think).

The Earthbound Papas CD however, was delivered to my house a month after I’d ordered it. This was down to the CD having been sent from Japan but via Hong Kong (I didn’t order this from the same website as the Tokyo Jihen CD). Even so, a month isn’t that bad.

Literal Literature

I’ve also been on a bit of a book binge. Recently, I re-read “Guards! Guards!” This is so that I can re-familiarise myself with the excellent character of Sam Vimes in time for the release of “Snuff!”

For those who don’t know: Sam Vimes is a member of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch and an amazing Commander of men.

I’m talking about the Discworld; for those who didn’t realise.

Samuel Vimes as he appears in The Pratchett Po...

Sam Vimes, with Errol the Swamp Dragon (Image via Wikipedia)

This is my plan to prepare for the release of “Snuff!”:

  1. Avoid any and all plot spoilers – All I know is that it revolves around Sam Vimes
  2. Re-read EVERY SINGLE Discworld novel that Sam Vimes has been in (in a major role)
  3. Avoid any and all plot spoilers
  4. Avoid any and all plot spoilers

That’s, pretty much it.

I’ve also been consuming a large dose of science. I’ve read “Bad Science” (by Ben Goldacre), and have recently started reading “The Physics of the Impossible” by Michio Kaku.

I, also, can’t wait for the release of “Fifty Word Stories: Volume 2”. For those who don’t know, Fifty Word Stories (sometimes shortened to 50WS) is a website run by Tim Sevenhuysen and it contains fictional stories of exactly 50 words in length. The pre-order ends on the 15th of September, according to the website, so I should receive my copy of the book at some point after that (although, the postal service in Canada seems to be quite naff. To quote Graham “LoadingReadyRun” Stark: “It’s quite poopy”).

Those Games I Played

Aside from stealing the name for this section from a regular LoadingReadyRun vidcast, I’ve been playing two very excellent games recently.

I’ve been playing Persona 4 on the Playstation 2, and Super Mario World on the SNES.

Persona 4 is one (of the many) Shin Megami Tensei series of games – in that it takes place in the Megami Tensei universe. The big  gimmick with this game is that the main character can “enter the TV” (quite literally). It’s a standard J-RPG as gameplay goes, but it has been lauded as having one of the best character building arch’s of in the whole of video gaming.

And the other game is Super Mario World.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Until next time, as always: have fun,

J

I remember now. The reason I keep pronouncing Dai Hakken (the new CD by Tokyo Jihen) as Hakken-Den is because that’s part of the full name for the live action version of Grave of the Fireflies. Something which I’ll cover next time.

Wait! That’s still not right, because “Grave of the Fireflies” translates to “Hotaru no Haka”. Where am I getting Hakken-Den from? Weird, ne?

A Quick And Dirty Description of The Battle of Sekigahara

This is going to be a post about a favourite topic of mine: The Battle of Sekigahara.

関ヶ原合戦図屏風 (Battle of Sekigahara folding screen)

Battle of Sekigahara folding screen (Image via Wikipedia)

For those who don’t know, The Battle of Sekigahara (I’ll refer to it simply as Sekigahara after this point) was a turning point in Japanese history. Up until Sekigahara, Japan had been divided amongst several Daimyo (local, all powerful lords) and, despite the best intentions of certain people (Nobunanga Oda and Hideyoshi Toyotomi, to name but two of them) it remained that way for a LONG time.

The seeds that lead up to Sekigahara were sewn back in the Genpei Wars of the 10th century. Basically, it was a war between the Taira and Minimoto clans of Japan. These were two of the most prolific clans of Samurai that Japan had ever seen (up until this point). I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here about the Genpei Wars, that’s for better historians than I, but I’ll leave a couple of links to more information at the end of this section.

Wikipedia entry on The Genpei Wars [LINK]

Wikipedia entry on the Heike Monogatari [LINK]

English language version of the Heiki Monogatari LINK]

 The Build-up to Sekigahara

OK. So, in the mid 16th century (about 1560) Nobunanga Oda was trying to unify Japan under one rule. After an unsuccessful invasion by the “Mongols” (Made up of Mogol generals, a Chinese army and captured Korean troops) it was decided that Japan should fortify it’s defences against outsiders, so massive armies were conscripted, training was given and weapons were dolled out. It turned out that none of this was needed, as the Mongols never bothered trying to invade Japan again.

Side Note: Not after their failed attempts and the intervention of the Kamikaze (or sacred wind)

 Wikipedia article of the attempted Mongol invasion of Japan and what I mean by the Kamikaze [LINK]

Side note: A prolific warrior during the Genpei wars (and main character of the Genji video games) Yoshitsune Minamoto had disappeared after the Genpei wars had ended. It is rumoured by some that he left Japan, and became Kublai Kahn. Kublai Kahn was the leader of the invasion force. It’s far more likely that he returned to his roots (had gone back home to the North) and became a Buddhist Monk, though.

So with a massive army of conscripts, no way to pay them, and no major wars for them to fight in, it was decided that they would be disbanded. This created a massive amount of unemployment for trained soldiers. These unemployed soldiers had a choice:

  1.  Go back to what they did before they were conscripted
  2. Become bandits

Guess which option most of them chose?

Nobunanga Oda (along with a whole bunch of other people) decided that they needed to unite the country. Their idea was that if they could unite the country under one Shogun, then the people would be happier and it would be a peaceful land.

Nobunanga nearly accomplished this, but was all but executed by his own right-hand man, Akechi Mitsuhide at the Honno-ji Temple. When he was killed, Toyotomi Hideyoshi took over Nobunanga’s plan to unify Japan.

A few years after Toyotomi did this, he decided that the next big step would be to conquer China. The only problem with this, is that he would have to go through Korea. He sent envoys and messengers to the Korean capital telling them of his plan. The main thrust of his letters and messages was, basically, thus:

 If you join my forces in conquering China, I’ll make sure that no-one in Korea is harmed.

Worried that Chinese and Japanese forces would end up fighting in Korea, the Korean King decided to turn down Toyotomi’s offer, hoping that he would re-think his plan and not attack China. Toyotomi, however had other ideas.

He sent his forces into Korea anyway. The plan was to march through Korea, up to the border and into China. Along the way, his forces took Pusan and Seoul. Historical records differ in opinion, but it is thought that fleeing Korean’s destroyed parts of royal buildings in Seoul and Pusan rather than let these buildings fall into the hands of the invading Japanese. Records of the time state that the opposite had happened: that the Japanese destroyed the buildings out of spite.

The battles and long marches took their toll on the Japanese forces. With no knowledge of the internal layout of the country, they relied on the few food stores that had not been destroyed by the fleeing Korean refugees. With supply routes not yet established, the Japanese forces found that they were running out of food, quickly. Not to mention the ferocity with which the Korean people fought back; which caused a large amount of deaths and casualties on the Japanese side.

By the time they’d reached the Chinese border, the Chinese had amassed an army that, basically chased them out of Korea. The Japanese ended up leaving around 30,000 of their own troops in Korea either dead or to die.

The retreat was covered up from Toyotomi (who never left Japan during the planned invasion) as all the messages sent back were hand written, and he was illiterate (having grown up on a farm and fought his way into Nobunanga’s good books). Also, when Chinese envoys came to Japan to discuss the retreat of Japanese forces, all communication had to be carried out in written Chinese; which made it even easier for Toyotomi’s court to cover up the retreat.

The truth eventually came out, though, and Toyotomi was, understandably, livid. This wasn’t until a few years after the planned invasion failed, though.

By 1598, Toyotomi died of, what is now suspected to be, untreated diabetes. He had decided, before he died, to elect a council of regents to look after the courtly affairs until his son and heir was old enough to take control of the country.

 Side note: It’s this period of time that the novel (and TV series) Shogun by James Clavell is set

 One year later, Toshie Maeda died. He was one of the more powerful regents, and his death left a rift in the council that was never fixed.

On one side of the rift, there was:

  •  Tokugawa Ieyasu – the most powerful member of the council of regents (even before Toshie died)
  • Damian Kuroda – a recently converted Christian
  • Katō Katsushima

On the other side of the rift, there was:

  • Ishida Mistunari
  • Augustin Konishi – another recently converted Christian

Damian Kuroda, Katō Katsushima and Augustin Konishi had all served during the Korean/Chinese invasion, and had all been generals during it. Konishi and Kuroda had been the first two generals to make it into Pusan, and decided not to let Katsushima in to Pusan. Katsushima had had no choice but to ride on to Seoul (which is much further to the North than Pusan). When the order came to retreat, Konishi and Kurada had left Katsusima to die.

Ishida had served longer as a Samurai, and was respected more because of it. However, he’d only served in supply and logistics as a career soldier. This meant that, compared to the other Samurai, he was seen as experienced in military life, but not matters pertaining to war. This meant that, for conflict matters, Tokugawa was preferred over Ishida.

After the attempted invasion of Korea/China, the failures were blamed (rightly or wrongly) on the growing Christian population. As it was the Christian generals who had retreated first, and left their compatriots to die. Shortly before he died, Hideyoshi began forcing certain leaders to denounce their Christian religious beliefs. Ishida was able to gain ground with the Christian lords who would not denounce their faith; but Tokugawa had already gained all of the lords who had denounced theirs (guess which side had more troops?)

Also around this time, Ieyasu impounded the cargo of a shipwrecked trading vessel called the Liefde. He claimed the cargo his own (19 cannon, 500 muskets, 5000 cannon balls and 300 chain shot). This gained him even more support with the local lords.

Sekigahara – October 21st 1600

The night before the battle, neither side slept. This was because of a storm that kept all of the soldiers awake. The generals and high ranking Samurai in their tents couldn’t sleep for the sound of the rain pattering against the roofs of said tents. Whereas the lower ranking Samurai and the foot troops (Ashigaru) were forced to spend the night outside.

Most of the countryside around Sekigahara was recently harvested. This was, after all, rice land. This meant that most of the battle ground was covered with rice paddies which were filling up with water. This meant that the fighting would take place in a sodden, quagmire not fit to stand in let alone fight in.

By the morning, the rainfall had turned to fog. According to witnesses, the fog was that thick that the troops couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead of themselves. This meant that the first shots that were fired, were fired when one group of Samurai (literally) bumped into another group from the opposing side. Both commanders withdrew their men, quickly, fearing that they had stumbled into a trap.

Tokugawa’s forces attacked first. Naomasa, the leader of the “Red Devils” (named so because all of their armour was dyed red, and Nomasa had horns sticking out of his helmet), charged his entire cavalry unit. This was against direct orders from Tokugawa (Wait and see what the enemy does). When asked about it, after the battle Nomasa’s excuse was that he wanted to check on the disposition of the enemy’s focus.

Kuroda and Hosokawa troops charged directly for Ishida himself. Their justification was that if they could take him out early, then the battle could end quickly.

 Side Note: This seems to be standard practise with large group of Samurai. They always seemed to want to be in the middle of the action as soon as possible

 Calf deep in muddy rice paddies, Christian Samurai (on Ishida’s side) and former Christians (on Tokugawa’s side) were soon fighting each other in a bloody struggle. Troops who had recently fought side by side were now being killed by the sword and bullets of their friends. Not only that but many were trampled to death or drowned in the muddy paddies.

Ishida began to fire his 5 cannon on the battlefield, causing a great effect to the moral of his troops but very little damage to any of the opposing troops. He also sent his reserves charging at Tokugawa’s flank, but these were taken out by Tokugawa’s reserves in quick stead.

Shimazu and Kobayakawa forces made up the “wings” of Ishida’s Crane battle formation and should have flanked the main Tokugawa forces that were being fired on by the cannon as soon as the cannon started firing. But both forces refused to charge. Kobayakawa’s excuse was that, when the order came to charge, the messenger never alighted his horse. This was seen as a grave insult.

Konishi became enraged with the Kobayakawa forces and quickly sent a messenger to their position, demanding that they join the fray. Ōtani Yoshitsugu, Konishi’s fellow commander (who was a crippled, half-blind leper who had to be carried onto the battlefield in a Palanquin) felt that, since the Kobayakawa weren’t being attacked, they had already sided with the Tokugawa forces.

Kobayakawa had, in fact, accepted deals from both sides yet marched to Skigahara with Ishida’s forces. But when Tokugawa ordered his men to begin taking pot-shots at the Kobayakawa forces, the Kobayakawa turned on the Ishida forces.

Kobayakawa’s forces charged on Ōtani. But Ōtani had seen through Kobayakawa’s plan and prepared his forces. When Kobayakawa attacked Ōtani’s flank, Ōtani’s troops were ready for it and held them off, quite admirably.

Most of Kobayakawa’s men fell where they stood. But the charge on Ōtani’s troops had a massive negative affect on Ishida’s moral. Now that Tokugawa could see that Ishida’s Crane “only had the one wing,” Tokugawa charged on both Ōtani and Ishida. Kobayakwa’s remaining troops “hacked their way to Ōtani” and Ōtani committed seppuku, right there on the battlefield.

Konishi’s men, seeing the death of Ōtani and his entire army, routed. But Konishi refused to run, he was channelling the, so called, “Spirit of the Samurai.” Instead, he threw himself into the fray, fighting tooth and nail until injuries (“wounded from head to foot”) forced him to yield and be taken prisoner.

The Shimazu had waited far too long, and found themselves surrounded by Tokugawa forces. In an attempt to run, Shimazu Yshihiro ordered his men to “punch a hole” in the Tokugawa forces that he might retreat. This meant volunteering most of his troops to a suicide mission that would allow him to successfully retreat.

By 2pm, Tokugawa, who had watched the battle from his commanding stool clad in hi armour, called fro his head gear. He was going to take the battlefield personally. Before he left for the battlefield, he muttered:

 “At the moment of victory, tighten the straps of your helmet”

 Aftermath

Tokugawa called for all 87 lords who opposed him (that had not fallen in the battle) to commit suppuku. Only Konishi refused, saying that suicide was a mortal sin. Konishi was lead to his death, flanked by non-believers Ishida Mistunari and the Buddhist warrior monk Ankokui Ekei. He was denied the last rights (specifically be Damien Kuroda); prayed with rosaries; and bowed to an image of the Virgin Mary before his head was hacked off. It took three blows with the sword before it came loose from his shoulders.

Konishi’s first son was executed; his adopted Korean daughter, Julia, spent the rest of her life in exhile; his second son disappeared from all records – it is rumoured that he lived out his live as a Buddhist monk; and his daughter, Maria was disowned by her husband (Dario So) and fled to the Christian safe haven of Nagasaki.

The Tokugawa went on to be the longest serving family of Shogun, and Ieyasu finally achieved the goal of Nobunanga Oda and Toyotomi Hideyoshi: Unifying Japan and bringing about 250 years of peace. Peace that was only broken when the American’s wanted to use Nagasaki as an Eastern port. But that’s a story for another time.

Until then, Stay safe and have fun,

J

Ringu – Or Why I’m A Purist

A few weeks back, I started re-reading the Ring trilogy of books.

Back in my college days, a friend of mine had told me about an amazing Japanese horror film. One that was about a cursed video tape; if you watched the video tape, you were destined to die within a week. He leant me a video tape copy of the film and told me that I had to watch it

Oh, how ironic

This was the first Japanese horror film I’d ever seen. It had everything, an attractive female lead (unfortunately she can’t act that well), a strong male lead, a spooky story, no signposted jump scares and a really creepy ending. I loved it.

By the way, this would have been around 2002

The Plot

For those who don’t know the basic storyline, it goes a little something like this:

Reiko Asakawa, a female TV journalist, hears of a video tape that kills it’s viewers a week after they’ve watched it. She begins investigating this video tape phenomena shortly after her niece, Tomoko, dies of unknown causes. When attending the wake of her niece, she finds several clues that point to a cabin in Izu province (the film is set, primarily in Tokyo). She travels to Izu to find out what happened.

While staying in the same log cabin that Tomoko and 3 of her friends stayed in (all 4 of whom died at exactly the same time, of the same unknown causes), she discovers the cursed tape. After watching it, the cabin phone rings. She takes this as a sign that she has been cursed and races back home to Tokyo.

When she gets home to Tokyo, she enlists the help of her ex-husband Ryuji Takayama in solving the riddle of the cursed video tape. She also makes a copy for him to watch at his own pleasure. They begin investigating the video, the possible makers of the film, and how to break the curse.

Asakawa and Takayama watching the cursed video tape

Asakawa drops her 9 year old son, Yoichi, at her Father’s house – incidentally, the father of the child is Ryuji. But before she can leave to solve the curse, Yoichi watches the video, claiming that her dead cousin (Tomoko) told her to.

Asakawa and Takayama travel to Oshima (literally, “Big Island” in Japanese. Also, because of simplicity of the name, there are hundreds of islands called Oshima scattered around Japan) to find the last living relative of a psychic named Shizuko Yamamura. They find out that Shizuko’s daughter (to a married man named Dr. Ikuma, who was a specialist in Paranormal psychology), Sadako Yamamura, was killed by her father and thrown into a well. A well that sits under the cabin where Tomoko and her friends found the video tape.

Asakawa and Takayama race back to Izu to exhume the body of Sadako and, hopefully, break the curse. They exhume her body in time and break the curse, and they both travel back to Tokyo.

Asakawa, it’s after 7pm. It’s 10 past 7, in fact

The next day, while working on his unfinished manuscript, Takayama is attacked by the vengeful spirit of Sadako and killed. Shortly beforehand, he figures out the charm, but he dies before he can tell anyone.

"Great! The popcorn's ready. Hold on Sadako, I'll be right back"

Asakawa realises the charm: after watching the video, you have to make a copy of it and make someone else watch it. As the credits role, we hear her asking her father to do her a favour, “… for Yoichi’s sake”

Origins

This film is based on a novel by a Japanese writer called Suzuki Koji. The novel, Ringu, is actually part one of a three part series about the Ring Virus. The novel was first published in 1991 – which is the reason that the curse is encoded on a video tape rather than a Laser Disc or DVD (ideas which would, simply, would not have worked)

The original trilogy is less horror, and more a series of medical mystery novels. There are horror elements in the series, but they focus more on a detective-style, logic based, ‘figuring out of the curse’ (if you will), than outright scares.

After the first novel was released, several Japanese TV drama’s where made that were based on it. They did, however, excise certain plot points for specific reasons.

In the original novel, it is revealed the Sadako is a hermaphrodite. While having the outward appearance of a woman, she is in fact, chromosomally at least, XY – a man. Part of the hatred that helps to form the cursed tape was that she wanted to have a child, and was physically unable to do so. The description of her testes hanging under her vagina is quite vivid, in fact.

Another point that was excised from the TV drama’s was that, before she was killed, she was raped by a doctor. Not her father (Dr. Ikuma), but the physician who was curing her father of small pox (Dr. Nagao)

These are the biggest edits made to the original story and, to be honest, I can see why. No broadcasting company in the early 90s was ever going to broadcast a TV show where the antagonist was, not only a hermaphrodite, raped, murdered, and could project her dead thoughts onto a video tape.

After The Drama

After the drama broadcast (and it was a hit, by the way) in Japan, Hideo Nakata began optioning it as a film. He got funding from, Japanese film studio giant, Toho Studios and set about making his film version. The problem was, though, that Nakata had to make several changes to the story.

Firstly, he changed the protagonist from a man, Asakawa Kazuyuki, to a woman. He also changed Asakawa’s job from a newspaper journalist to a TV journalist. Changing Asakawa to a man meant changing the relationship between Asakawa and his closest friend, Takayama. Takayama became the father of Awakawa’s child, Yoichi, who changed from a 1 year old girl (Yoko) to a 9 year old boy.

Asakawa was changed to a woman because of the recent rise of feminism in Japan. Women were becoming more self sufficient and respected in 90’s Japan, and Nakata wanted to tap into that, that way he could get more people to see his film. By making Takayama the ex-husband of Asakawa and father of her child, he created a stronger emotional bond between the two

In the novel, Asakawa became friends with odd ball Takayama one day at school, after Takayama tells him that he raped a college girl in the early hours of the morning. At the end of the novel, Asakawa is left wondering whether Takayama actually raped the girl, as Takayama’s lover, Takeno Mai, implies that Takayama dies a virgin.

Changing Yoko to a 9 year old boy allowed Asakawa to be away during the important plot points of the film but also to provide a constant emotional draw that could be tapped into by simply mentioning his name. I suppose that the production team tried to find a cute little boy for the audience to coo over too, but he just looks creepy to me.

Yoichi looks creepy to me

This leads to a film that, unless you’ve read the novel, seemingly makes huge leeps of logic as Takayama intuits most of the clues without having to explain himself.

That’s a lie, actually he does explain himself (around the mid act two mark) by saying “I have a strange power, myself,” when talking to Yamamura Takashi about Sadako and her mother.

Aftermath

The problem with taking liberties with a script and changing it so much is that when it came around to making the sequel (Ring 2), instead of making the film version of the second novel (Spiral), Nakata ended up trying to tie up the miryad plot holes left by the first film.

A few years later, the sequel novel did get made into a film (Rasen, or Spiral internationally). The feeling of the film comes across very strongly, and that feeling is “Ring 2 never happened, right? RIGHT?” It sticks as close to the orignal source material as it can, within the limits set by the first film. To be honest, I prefer this to the “official” sequel. It’s more about the medical mystery (the main character, Mistuo Ando, performs the autopsy on Takayama’s body) elements than the scares that the other two films try to push on the viewer, and it feels more creepy in places.

The Remakes

The problem with basing the remake on an already bastardised version of the original story, (with most of original story being based entirely on Japanese folklore and beliefs) is that when attempting to translate that into a new story for an American audience means that a considerable amount was lost was in the translation, and what was left came out as just plain weird. As a friend of mine once said:

Making it look like a special effect doesn’t make it look scary, just weird and out of place

Also, he said (and I think it sums up the American remakes):

I just don’t get it

Then again, it’s an American horror film, what’s to get?

Folklore?

Yup.

Firstly, Sadako has her hair pulled over her face (in the films) to serve two purposes:

  1. Implying that Sadako was a very angry person (without ever explaining to the viewer why she’s an angry person). In Japanese tradition, if a girl pulls her hair down over her face, she is being very rude.
  2. She represents a typical Onryo or female Japanese ghost. An Onryo is a particular type of ghost who is being blocked from a peaceful afterlife, and seeks vengeance for some reason. They are usually depicted as wearing a white (burial) kimono and having wild, unkempt hair which is usually pulled over the face.

Secondly, it is implied (in the novel) that she was born of the sea.

Keep playing in the water, and the demons will come to get you.

The sea, and water in particular, is a scary thing for the Japanese as a culture. For thousands of years, they have suffered with typhoons, water based diseases and millions of people dying at sea. This means that by implying that a character is related to the sea, you can tap into this fear with very little effort (again, this is why the remake of Dark Water didn’t do as well in the west as the original did in Japan).

Thirdly, Sadako (in the films) is a combination of two very famous Japanese ghosts.

  1. Oiwa – this is where she gets her misshapen eye from. The story of Oiwa is the most famous story in Japan. Here is a link to more information about Oiwa: LINK
  2. Okiku – this is where her fate (being thrown into a well by a loved one) comes from. Here is a link to more information about Okiku: LINK

By including all of the above, Sadako becomes a very Japanese character, and anyone learning of her tale is reminded of these other tales instinctively (if they know of them), bringing all of their views and fears with them.

Having these traits applied to a young American girl from the mid-west made no sense.

I’m Going To Leave It There

Simply because this post is nearing the two thousand word mark – not that there isn’t anything more to add to the discussion – and I’m quite tired, I’m going to end this little rant.

But before I sign off, I’m going to leave you with this short video, be sure to watch it… and keep an ear open for your phone ringing afterwards.

Until next time,

J

My New Position

Today I received my police badge, and I shall be taking my new position entirely seriously.

Except for when I’m not, obviously

The Watch

I received my Watch badge today; which means that I’m not a member of the Ankh-Morpork Watch. Commuting will be a bit of a pain, but since the Great A’Tuin doesn’t travel through space very quickly, it shouldn’t take that long every day.

My Watch badge, making me a member of the Ankh-Morpork city watch

No. How dare you? How dare you! At this time! In this place! They did the job they didn’t have to do, and they died doing it, and you can’t give them anything. Do you understand? They fought for those who’d been abandoned, they fought for one another, and they were betrayed. Men like them always are. What good would a statue be? It’d just inspire new fools to believe they’re going to be heroes. They wouldn’t want that. Just let them be. For ever.

Sam Vimes, to the Partician – Night Watch – A Discworld Novel, Terry Pratchett, 2002, 0-385-60264-2, Doubleday

‘Nuff Said.

Graduation

I also graduated today. Well, I say that I graduated. I attained my B.Occ. and M.Coll. and B.F today. By that, I mean that I received my Unseen University head wizzard badge.

My Unseen University Head Wizzard Badge

Both of these badges are already on my blazer/casual suit jacket, ready to show off to the wider world… at least a wider world that have knowledge of the Discworld.

Bookmarks

On top of all that, I received my… well, take a look.

My new bookmarks for Discworld related reading

And finally…

Our Glorious Leader

I thought I’d provide a picture of myself with my new badges equipped. So here it is.

The poster of posts, with his new badges and bookmarks

Anyway, I’m going out on patrol now. I’ll see you later.

Sing, you sons of mothers!

All the little angels rise up, rise up.
All the little angels rise up high!
How do they rise up, rise up, rise up?
How do they rise up, rise up high?
They rise heads up, heads up, heads up, they rise heads up, heads up high!

J

Moar [sic] Books!

As I’ve pointed out in several older posts, I’m a big fan of literature, and travelling back and forth from the West-end of London last week has told me that I didn’t have nearly enough in the way of literature (read: “I didn’t taken nearly enough books with me to survive the tedium of sitting for over an hour at a time”)

Literature is King

Stephen Fry once said this:

… all the answers are there in the work that has been done by humanity before us, in literature, in art, in science, in all the marvels that have created this moment now.

I think that, pretty much sums it all up. There is another Stephen Fry quote I like to bandy about, it was from an episode of Last Chance to See:

Rudyard Kipling said that there is nothing truer than that which can be found in literature

Whenever I have free time, I can be found with my nose in a book; be it a work of fiction or fact.

Now, I’m not going to spend time rambling about my favourite authors or subjects, because that list would by quite long…

Sorry about that, my compulsion to provide ordered lists took over me for a second there, but I managed to stop it before it took complete control.

New Literature

Yesterday (Saturday, 28-05-2011) I went into the town centre (after resting up from my journey of new Epic proportions) and took a look in the local Waterstones for a couple of books. I was looking for Code Complete and the Wagamama Cookbook.

Code Complete

What can I say about this book? Only that all aspiring programmers should buy this book, and that all professional programmers should have (at the very least) read this book at some point. It’s the best source for coding design information. Here’s a link to the wiki page on the book.

Anyway, so I went out to find out how much these books where, and whether my local Waterstone’s stores had these titles in stock. It turns out that my local Waterstones had neither, but I was told that I could order them online.

I decided that I’d take a quick look in my local W.H Smith store.

There’s a chance that W.H Smith could have the Wagamama Cookbook, but I’ll be very lucky if they have Code Complete

Before I left Waterstones though, I ended up taking a look at the area of the store that I call “the science fiction/horror corner” for reasons that should be obvious. Not only do they have all of the science fiction and horror titles in this particular corner, but they have the graphic novels and translated manga here, too. It was here that I decided that I wanted to get the Azumanga Daioh omnibus.

I didn’t end up getting the Azumanga Daioh omnibus, but I did end up getting 3 more Discworld novels (They can be seen in the picture at the end of the article)

Then I wandered into my local W.H Smith store, they had the Wagamama Cookbook and a few other’s that I’d wanted to buy for a while.

All in all, I’ve spent around £60 on books so far this bank holiday weekend.

The New Titles

Here, I’m going to dump a (slightly blurry) photo of the new pile of books I have. I bought all but one of the books in this pile yesterday, see if you can guess which one it is

New Literature, as of 29th May 2011

Anyway, I’ll leave you with that, as I’m off to read more of Mort (at the top of that pile)

J

Tricky, Sticky Ducks, Ancient Warriors and Mind Tricks

Note: this post contains Japanese characters that might not render correctly with your browser. So if certain parts appear as a succession of boxes, that’s why. Don’t worry though, as I’ve put the reading of these characters next to them (mostly actor/character names).

This Weekend

Throughout this past weekend, I’d decided that I would venture out into the world – seeing as the weather was awesome round here – and spend time getting to know this thing called ‘Fresh Air.’ For the most part, it went well, too.

I travelled all the way out to a local seaside town and spent the day with my younger brother and a friend of mine, cruising around the arcades. It’s a shame that all of the rail shooters where positioned to catch as much glare (on the screens)  as was possible. I really like playing certain rail shooters on sunny day, pedestrians stopping in awe of my skills, setting the high scores safe in the knowledge that they wont be on there tomorrow.

We spent a stupid amount of money at the many arcades, and bought a bucket full of fudge…

There’s an awesome shop were you can buy fudge with different confectionery baked into it. For instance, I ended up with 100 grams of each of the following: Baileys and Cream Coffee, Run and Raisin, Milky Way, Coconut, and Mars (I think). The first two were gifts, the rest for me. Yum yum

We travelled home, tired and full of fudge to the idea of ordering pizza and watching a DvD. After the DvD had been watched, and the pizza’s (plural) had been eaten, it was time for my friend to go home.

Trick

The next day, I decided to re-watch a favourite Japanese TV show of mine. It’s a comedy show called Trick.

Actually it’s called トリック, but I decided that most people either wouldn’t be able to read that, or their browsers might not render it properly. So, I’ve simplified it to ‘Trick’ for the rest of this post.

Trick: The Movie DVD Cover Art

It stars 由紀江仲間 (Nakama Yukie ) and 阿部寛 (Hiroshi Abe) as a magician and physics professor (respectively) travelling the length and breadth of Japan solving crimes and mysteries related to spiritualism.

Hiroshi, being 6 feet and 2 inches tall, plays the role of a bumbling professor of physics at Japanese University of Technology and Science called 上田次郎 (Ueda Jiro), who owns a tiny car (I forget the model/make, but it looks like a classic mini). Ueda is a confirmed sceptic of all things magical an spiritual, however when things get too much for him he usually screams like a little girl and loses consciousness.

Nakama, being just over 5 feet tall, plays the role of 山田奈緒子 (Yamada Naoko), she is the the daughter of a talented magician and a famous calligraphist. Yamada is, in her own right, a very talented magician however she only has one die hard fan. Well, a stalker really.

She  doesn’t like the work that Ueda brings her, as her real passion is for magic and inventing tricks, not disproving ‘fake spiritualists’ but she really needs the money that such jobs bring.

The few jobs she gets during the shows run that are not related to Ueda, performing magic to pedestrians or shoppers in a mall, aren’t held for very long, as she is replaced with ‘edgier’ or stupid acts. For instance, one replacement is a man who stands on one leg in the Tai-Chi ‘Dragon’ position for extended amounts of time without falling over.

From this point onward, I’ll refer to Yamada Naoko by her given name (Naoko), to avoid confusion since her mother is also a main character.

Yamada’s mother 山田里美 (Yamada Satomi) is a famous calligrapher who claims that there are great powers in written characters. Satomi sometimes gets involved with the mysteries, as Naoko and her have a very strong emotional bond and each can feel when the other is in danger of some sort.

She, along with most of the main characters believe that Naoko and Ueda make a cute couple. This is remarked upon to the great chagrin of Naoko as she, seemingly, has no interest in Ueda (although, she worries for his safety at several points in the show).

The final main character is 矢部謙三 (Yabe Kenzo), an incompetent investigator from the Tokyo branch of the Metropolitan police. Yabe wears a wig, but tells everyone that it his natural hair. He is very touchy about this follicular matter, to the point that he beats up his assistant and his hair dresser.

He spends a lot of his time avoiding doing work whenever he can (telling people, over the phone, that he’s chasing a suspect while riding a roller-coaster for instance), and can only solve crimes due to utter stupidity and sheer luck.

The show has been described as a mixture of The X-Files and Scooby Doo. While that is a very concise description, I’d add “Derren Brown” in there somewhere. This is because of the fact that Naoko uses her training and insight as a magician to solve the mysteries and expose the, often quite simple, tricks used by the charlatans. That, and she often explains the magic tricks she (and other characters) uses to bamboozle everyone.

Anyway, I’ve managed to watch most of it so far. When I decided to embark on this not-so-epic quest I all three seasons, one of the films and one of the specials. In chronological order (of release) this is the entire series:

  1. Season 1
  2. Season 2
  3. Trick: The Movie
  4. Season 3
  5. Trick: The Special
  6. Trick: The Movie 2
  7. Trick: The Movie 3
  8. Trick: The Special 2

As of yesterday, though, I now have all of these. I’m looking forward to watching the specials and movies I didn’t have before. Also, I’m looking forward to watching the most impressive, and action packed fight scene in martial arts cinema history. It’s in the first special, and it’s between Ueda and a body guard.

If I could find a clip I’d post it, because it’s the best fight scene I’ve ever witnessed. Remember: the show is a comedy and I’m using a hefty dose sarcasm to explain the scene, here.

I’d seriously recommend watching this one if you get the chance. Although I can’t endorse it, it’s available for free streaming (with subtitles) on many, many websites and is well worth watching. Or you could (again not endorsing this at all) download the show, most of it – minus the second special and second and third films – are available in one form or another out there with subtitles. I’ve got the DvDs, and they’re a joy to watch.

Brentalfloss’ G-Rated Karaoke Track Pack

After I got home, today. I found a small cardboard box with my name on it waiting for me. Inside was my pre-order copy of Brentalfloss’ G-Rates Karaoke CD. For those who don’t know who brentalfloss (“And yes, his name is officially uncapitalized” – direct quote from his website), I’d recommend going over to his site and checking out his work if you like either:

  • Video game music or
  • Comedy

The man is an absolute wizard on the keyboard, and exceptionally funny.

brentalfloss during his famous “Zelda with Lyrics” video

Anyway, this CD is just his first CD but with completely re-written G-Rated lyrics. As he says on Track 1 (“Boring Parental Disclaimer”)

Hello. This is brentalfloss, thanks for listening to this CD. I made G-Rated versions of the tracks so that kids, like my nephews Evan and Jackson, could enjoy it too, without their parents having to turn down the volume at key points during most of the songs. I also did it for people who wanted a version of the CD they could listen to anywhere, with anyone.

What results is a CD that is, as funny and entertaining as his first CD, but with family friendly lyrics. It’s fun to listen to, and contains ‘Karaoke’ versions of his tracks for people to sing along to, or make their own lyrics up for.

I’ve only listened the G-Rated songs so far (as I’m guessing that the karaoke versions might be slightly less entertaining, but I could be wrong). It’s definitely worth getting if you bought the first CD.

Miyamoto Musashi

I’ve been reading about the amazing 宮本武蔵 (Miyamoto Musashi), often called the greatest swordsman in recorded history. He really is a fascinating person, and I’m planning a whole post about him soon. He was a martial artist in all sense of the word. He studied weapons, the Tea ceremony, Art and poetry.

Derren Brown

I’ve also been reading “Tricks of the Mind” by the often imitated, but never duplicated Derren Brown.

Derren Brown using his mind tricks on a parrot

For those who don’t know, Derren is an English magician and mentalist (in fact, the main character in “The Mentalist” is based, rather loosely, on him). He is famous for his TV shows and specials that “mix suggestion, psychology, showmanship and misdirection” and his investigative reports into things like ghost hunting, the paranormal, and most recently faith healers.

Among his most daring tricks where a live interactive seance, a live Russian Roulette game (with actual live ammunition), predicting the national lottery draw with 100% accuracy and a plethora of other mind and card tricks based around magic and gaps in our psychology and perception of reality.

The book is a selection of tips and tricks that Derren has used in his shows. They’re all excellent described (although I struggled with the peg system, initially) and are provided with simple examples. The memory tricks work so well that I scared myself. I was able, using a combination of linking and loci to remember a list of 20 random objects a month after being set the task of memorising them.

And I have a terrible memory. Seriously, I have trouble recalling much of 2009- Jan 2011.

Don’t worry though, I wont be using any of the hypnosis or suggestibility trick on anyone… at least not until I’ve perfected them. Even then, it’ll only be for silly things, like making people cluck like a chicken or making me invisible.

I need to get that book on Neuro-Linguistic Programming

So, that’s what I’ve been up to recently. I’ll put a whole bunch of links down here at the bottom of the article, should you make it this far, you might find them useful for expanding on some of the topics I’ve talked about.

Ciao,

J

Links

Trick on the wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trick_(TV_series)
Trick on the D-addicts wiki: http://wiki.d-addicts.com/Trick
Brentalfloss’ home page: http://www.brentalfloss.com/
Brentalfloss’ Youtube page: http://www.youtube.com/user/brentalfloss
Derren Brown’s homepage:http://derrenbrown.co.uk/
Derren Brown on the wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derren_Brown

White Limo

I’ve not been on here much these past few weeks. That’s mainly due to my ISP having cut my off for no apparent reason for a week and a half. Nice, eh?

Most of my posts since the beginning of March have been typed up while I’ve been out and about (on my iPod touch, using the official app, mostly), then previewed and posted as soon as I’ve been able to find a free wifi hotspot – of which there are a total of 2 in this entire city. This has been on account of my ISP cutting me off with no reason, whenever they felt like it.

What Have You Been Up To?

Most recently I’ve been spending time at home, relaxing.

Relaxing and reading.

Relaxing, reading and doing a bit of muscle building.

That’s pretty much it.

Oh, and I went to see ‘Back and Forth’. You know, ‘The Foo Fighters Movie”

Back and Forth

I’ll be honest with you, I was a bit worried going in that I would be able to learn more by reading the wikipedia entry, or a really well written biography. But it turns out that I was wrong. It had everything that the average Foo Fighters fan would want, and one or two things for the not-so-average fan.

I really liked the presentation of the whole thing. Yes, it’s a documentary, but it doesn’t really feel like one. For some reason, it felt like I was sat having a chat with the Foo’s in between recording sessions for their new album. It was full of humour, and honesty – something I like in documentaries. The film makers chose not to gloss over some of the less savoury aspects of the Foo’s history.

The only potential down side was the cost per ticket. It was £10 per ticket. Compared to the average £4-£6 per ticket that most cinemas charge, this was a little more expensive. But I can see why…

Post Back and Forth

For those who didn’t stick around after the movie, you missed out on something amazing: They performed the entire album, “live” in one take.

I say “live” because it was recorded live the day before theatrical release (on the 5th of April) in 3D. then sent out to all of the theatres that were going to play the movie.

Unfortunately for us Brits, they had decided to “un-stereoscope” (if that’s a word) the performance for us. Probably because we don’t have a big a set up in this country for 3D film. It was a real shame, too as Dave had decided to specific things that would look great in 3D – for instance: thrusting the headstock of his guitar into the camera, head banging into the camera, and there were even shots of one of Taylor’s cymbals vibrating into the camera, too.

Stereoscoping is the process of shooting film in 3D

Aside from that, it was an excellent performance. It was great to see Pat officially re-instated into the band, finally.

Wasting Light

I couldn’t sleep last night until about 2am. I’ve no idea why, though. I’d gone to bed at, around, 11:30 but couldn’t seem to nod off. So, I booted my PC and fired up iTunes. I sat there, doing some menial library maintenance when suddenly my hard drives went nova.

All I could hear was an almost constant clicking.

Here we go. The motherboard’s crashing. I’m never gonna be able to get my data back now.

After 30-50 seconds of hardcore clicking from my hard drives, a message popped up:

You’re purchase of “Wasting Light” has finished downloading, would you like to burn it to CD

I’d forgotten that it had gone past midnight, and that Wasting Light would automatically download as soon as it was 1 second past midnight. I’d already listened to the whole album – both legally and for free – several times, as there had been a website set up specifically to stream the album (which still works, and can be found here). I’d certainly recommend it to any Foo Fighters fan, or any fan of loud, long hair’d, beardy, shouty music.

That’s not to say that it’ll only appeal to those of a Foo’s or loud, long hair’d, beardy, shouty music disposition. I should think that most, if not all of the album will be approachable by most people. Although, some non-rock music fans might find White Limo a little hard to penetrate.

Reading?

This past week, I’ve read my way through two and a half books. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is. the first one I’d read was The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. 1720 odd pages of late 19th century literature. Although, I’d read some of his stuff before (mostly The Happy Prince, the book that is) it was still a lot of literature to read. And in 4 days? I think that’s some kind of record for me.

Considering that I’ve been reading (read: “attempting to finish”) Genji Monogatari for years, now

I’ll be sure to come back to this one, often, as I enjoyed reading it so much. Although, The Picture of Dorian Gray was a little hard at points – but I’ve put that down to it being filled with references and ideas from the era in which it was written. It’s still a good story, but I’ll have to read it a few times to get all of the sub-plots.

I’ve also been reading about Saigo Takemori – who has been named as the “Last of the Samurai”. I’ve not finished it yet, though. The author, John Man, has spent a lot of time researching not just Takemori but Japanese history, Japanese culture and the Samurai, and it all shows.

Again, I’ve not finished it, yet. So, I can’t comment more than that.

Other than that, I’ve been sitting around in the sun all week.

J

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