Sunday, November 16, 2014

Oh, shit! We're screwed! Cancel Christmas! Seasonal celebrations threatened by nationwide butter shortage

Seasonal celebrations threatened by nationwide butter shortage

People stopped drinking so much milk for some reason a few years ago and the Bureau of Making Bad Decisions got rid of too many cows.  Now we're coming up on the winter holidays and people want their romantic Christmas cakes and aren't going to get them.  Fortunately, not many osechi items require butter so the crisis is being contained mainly to ex-pats and young Japanese couples.  Grandma can still make toshi-koshi soba for New Year's and there will be plenty of mochi for Grandpa to gag on and suffocate to death while trying to eat.

I wasn't aware of a butter shortage.  We use margarine at our house.  We haven't even shopped for real butter as far as I know, not even when we were baking cakes and cookies together.  What's it like to live in a butter-less world now that I know there's a shortage?  Why, just the same as before I knew.  It's kind of like when I first became aware of the show Big Bang Theory.  The chances of my interacting with it made it seem as remote as a space-frog on a distant planet light years away.   Butterless Christmas cakes!  Idiots wandering around in BAZINGA! t-shirts!  Meaningless to me.  I am surrounded by a bubble of invincibility these things have no power to penetrate.
Meanwhile we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past where there is butter aplenty and reruns of Cheers.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I'm already prepared: End-of-life preparation

End-of-life preparation

I've already made arrangements to have my cremated ashes loaded into shotgun shells and fired into various people's faces and asses just like rock salt.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Thousands of Halloween revelers descend on Shibuya

Thousands of Halloween revelers descend on Shibuya

Some fantastic photos accompanying this article.  Looks like a lot of fun had by everyone but the 200 riot cops.  But they might have secretly enjoyed it, too.  I'd like to think that.  "We're here in case anyone gets out of hand, but we also get to see a lot of party people in crazy costumes, so there's that."

I didn't read any alarmist stories about foreigners running wild on the Yamanote Line this year.  Maybe some Japanese-language newspapers ran them or I just overlooked the ones in the English-language news sites I visit.  Whatever the reason, it's been a refreshing change.  I'm in favor of any excuse for wearing costumes and dancing and I don't want a few bad candy apples spoiling the fun for the rest of us.  Even if I didn't participate.  I enjoy the potential for participation.  Next year, right?  Next year I'm going to go all out.  In a safe way everyone can enjoy.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at USJ...

Halloween is over here in Japan.  It's a rainy November 1st.  For me, November 1st has traditionally been one of those let-down days.  I remember waking up after the Halloween revelry if it took place on a school night and trudging up the street to the bus stop.  Festive decorations in creepy black, orange, green and purple still hung from doors and sometimes there would be crumpled candy wrappers in the gutters along the curbs mixed in with the dead brown leaves.  You anticipate, participate, then have to get on with your life with all the sounds and sights of that one magical night of the year playing on an imaginary loop inside your mind.

Between the pure fun of Halloween and the familial warmth of Thanksgiving and the Christmas season is just blah November nothingness.  Maybe you get to watch the Peanuts Thanksgiving special if you're not studying for a test, but Peppermint Patty bawling out Charlie Brown for serving popcorn and toast on a ping pong table in the backyard doesn't have the same mystic hold on the imagination as the Linus' Great Pumpkin evangelizing and "I got a rock."

Anyway, don't let my post-holiday depression get you down.  After all, we had a fantastic Halloween month and I'm not through sharing some of the photographic memories of what we did.  Yes, it's the long-awaited flood of Wizarding World of Harry Potter photos on my Let's Look at Japan blog.  I took them with my iPhone, which handles low-light conditions better than my Fuji digital camera, but they're still not great.  In the immortal words of Dr. Egon Spengler, "I blame myself."

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a fun place to spend a few hours and I hope at least a little of that comes through in my lousy photographs.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

If you found a large sum of money in a secluded spot, would you keep it or hand it in to the police?

If you found a large sum of money in a secluded spot, would you keep it or hand it in to the police?

Best comment:

Contrary to what many people here seem to think, drug dealers don't go around leaving money in secluded areas.

I'd like to believe I'd turn the money into the police.  And that by doing so I wouldn't be accused of having stolen it in the first place.  But the question doesn't include enough information for us to make a definitive answer. 

What does the asker mean by "secluded spot?"  Many people in the comments thread think it's someplace out in the countryside, in a field or forest or next to a rock by some river.  Far from houses and office buildings.  What is the chain of events that would cause some forgetful or clumsy person to carry a tempting amount of money to some obscure, largely hidden location that is also accessible enough for them and then you to find it?  Maybe it's because my mind works this way, but barring the flight of a second D.B. Cooper, the only narratives producing this result I can conceive of are absurd and unlikely.

And what constitutes a "large sum of money?"  The equivalent of 1000 USD?  10,000?  100,000?  Who goes on a hike carrying that kind of money?  That the money might be drug-related or loot from a robbery and so stealing it from a rock near a river as a victimless crime seems to be the top justification for keeping it.  But as this Strangerland person suggests, this isn't the usual way drug deals happen.  I know Steve Buscemi buried close to a million dollars in ransom money in the snow and Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton found a fortune in a crashed airplane, but I also know those were movies.  Your real-world criminals tend to keep money close and launder it or stash it in a safer place than under some rock they have to drive and hike to whenever they need a little spending cash.  The only thing you're likely to find next to a rock is another rock.  Do you keep the rock or hand it in to the police?

Therefore, I suspect this entire scenario and the moral question it pretends to pose are actually an exercise in childish wish fulfillment where keeping the money is somehow justified because we just saw the new Playstation 4 and our moms told us we couldn't have it because it's too expensive and saving our allowances would take years, by which time there would probably be Playstation 12 and we'd be so old we could no longer make our arthritic fingers press controller buttons fast enough to make the characters dance or shoot.  This isn't real imaginary money, it's a magical imaginary treasure some good kids can find after a long adventure involving a witch, two ogres and a dysfunctional family of giants.  They take it home to their poor, hardworking mother and she buys a cow and a pig and some chickens with it and everyone lives happily ever after.  Also, no school.

However, if I found a wallet on the sidewalk, I'd take it to the police immediately.  If I saw someone leaving an ATM machine without taking the money he or she withdrew, I'd shout, "Sumimasen!" or some similar attention grabber.  If no one were around, I'd leave the cash where it is and split without even completing my own transaction and find an ATM free of moral quandaries and sticky situations where communicating with suspicious authorities while foreign aren't in play.  Or if my wife were with me, maybe we'd call the police and tell them about what we found. 

But what about a wad of cash in an old futon with no way to determine who owned it?  Although even in that case it's pretty unlikely I'd ever touch some moldy old futon much less tear it open to look inside at the stuffing.  Hey, what if you found money in the wall of your house years after the previous owner died?  Why are you tearing down a wall in your house instead of calling a professional?  What about a 500 yen coin lying in the street?  You have sharp eyes.  Almost as sharp as my father's and mine the time we were driving to Albany from Athens and just about to get onto the interstate.  We both spotted a bill lying in a pile of trash on the side of the on-ramp.  Dad immediately stopped and let me out.  Turned out to be a single when we were hoping for at least a twenty.  We kept it.

I don't want to wax poetically about how honest people tend to be here in Japan.  A top swimmer couldn't keep his hands to himself when confronted by a really nice camera recently and I have friends who have lost brand new bikes to thieves on consecutive days (and someone once stole my wife's wallet and she has NEVER forgotten that).  But I did have a small plastic case containing my ATM, credit and gaikokujin cards returned to me after it fell out of my pants pocket on the street somewhere between home and work.  The cops insisted I call the person who returned it and thank him, which I happily did.  Now I feel bad I didn't offer to buy the guy dinner or something.  And I've read or heard stories about people forgetting their bags on trains and getting them back from the station staff or simply hopping back on the same train later that day or the next and finding their stuff in the same place, untouched. 

Generally speaking, your things are safer here than, say, in my home town back in Georgia.  Just don't think you can go around putting money under rocks or leaving it lying around in fields or next to ATM machines and it's as safe there as it would be in a bank.

Take a look at some Halloween treats...

Over on Let's Look at Japan I posted a few photos of some Halloween candy you can buy in Japan this year.  Fujiya's ever-popular Country Ma'am chocolate chip cookies and the like.  Strangely, these appeared in September and vanished from our local stores (at least the ones we shop at the most) before October.  Also enjoy a spooky scientific skeleton, fall colors and Ray Parker, Jr.  Check them out!