Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Genghis Kong vs. The Fly

Greetings Earthlings!

I had a thought earlier that struck me as somewhat interesting. Or at least it struck me as something vaguely akin to interesting.

I have a friend, and she is a Muslim. Now if I say Muslim woman, it's possible that some of you will think of something like this:

But actually you couldn't be further from the truth. She is an extremely liberated, left-wing, bisexual feminist, who drinks alcohol and uses drugs. But she won't eat pork, because she's a Muslim.

It just struck me as odd that she adheres so strictly to the avoidance of pork (she won't even eat something that's been cooked with or near pork), but somehow the prohibition of all narcotics doesn't seem to all that important. I'm no Islamic scholar, but as I understand it Muslims avoid pork because it is 'unclean', whereas alcohol and drugs are 'abominations'. So why is she avoiding the unclean in favour of the abominable?

Curious behaviour. It just goes to reinforce my general belief that people (on the whole) are crazy.

As an amusing sidenote, the word 'alcohol' actually comes from Arabic, despite its consumption being prohibited by Islam. The story goes that when the prophet Muhammad was decrying the evils of drinking, he just said the most loathsome, disgusting, abominable syllables that he could think of at the time, which happened to be 'Qohol'. 'Al' is Arabic for 'the', and the name stuck: 'al-qohol'.

I like to imagine how this might have ended up had Muhammad's first language been Modern English.

"Drink not of these wines and liquors - they cloud the brain, inflame lust and violent passions, and lead the heart away from the light of Allah. They are a false happiness, and their use can only lead you to the Devil. I shall call this wicked liquor... BLEURGH"

And for the rest of time the world would be calling alcohol "thebleurgh". In chemistry, alcohols would no longer take the suffix '-ol', but 'eurgh': ethaneurgh, methaneurgh, even mentheurgh to keep you minty fresh. People in support groups around the world would be introducing themselves thus: "Hi everyone, my name's Gary, and I'm a Thebleurghic."

I suppose, ultimately, it wouldn't actually make a material difference to anyone's life, but it amuses me nonetheless.

Now, I am not alone as I write this blog. In fact, I am accompanied by hundreds of tiny helpers. No - I haven't lost my mind or contacted the spirit realm, I just have a fruit fly infestation in my room. I have been battling these tiny bastards for about a week now, and let me say, they are one of the most persistent and irritating adversaries I have ever faced. The only real remedy for fruit flies, I think, is prolonged and rigorous cleanliness, but every time I think I've finally got my room completely clear of any food waste, there's something I've missed and then I'm back to square one. Last week I thought I had the bastards beat - I had done all my washing up, emptied all my bins, so food lying around, everything clean, and there were hardly any flies left. I noticed there were still a few buzzing around my bins, but assumed that they would die soon. But then I noticed that they weren't actually buzzing around the bins, they were buzzing around the rice cooker that is next to my bins. That's when I saw them crawling in and out of the steam vent in the top of the rice cooker. With trepidation I lifted the lid and a whole swarm of tiny black bastard fruit flies swarmed up to meet me. Fuck.

Again, today, I thought I had got rid of the flies. Then I opened my school bag to discover yesterday's lunchbox and a horde of evil little insects. Fuck.

I've bought something that claims to be a fly trap, but aside from the fact that it doesn't seem to have any means of actually trapping the flies, it doesn't even seem to be succesfully attracting them. The one place in my room where I can guarantee there are no flies is the damn fly trap. I keep burning mosquito coils too, and the mosquito coils at least seem to bother the flies a bit - I like to think I'm pissing them off - but it doesn't seem to bother them enough to make them leave or make them die, so it's ultimately not a very effective solution.

If anyone has any top tips for how to get rid of flies, they would be very much appreciated!

In other news of ineteresting or exciting things, on Friday I have been invited to speak at a drinks reception for University of Sheffield alumni at offices of the British Council in Tokyo - very exciting! I hope I can still remember how to hobnob with bigwigs in polite society... It's been a while since I had to make polite conversation with anyone. Hopefully this will be a good opportunity to make some contacts with people in prestigious companies and such - perhaps I'll be able to score myself some kind of internship or something! Or perhaps I'll get really nervous and accidentally drink too much and embarass myself. That would be fun too.

Now I just need to find myself a smart shirt. Dress code is lounge suits - which I understand to mean 'ordinary suits' - but I don't have a shirt that fits. I'm also wondering whether or not to wear my bright yellow rubber Casio watch. Should I go for smart and understated, or slightly wacky and multicoloured. If I paired the yellow watch with bright yellow socks, would that make it better?

Anyway - I'm going to sign off for now. The smell of the mosquito coil is making me feel decidedly unwell, so I'm going to go somewhere for some fresh air. Maybe I'll go get a coffee and read my book. Incidentally, I am currently reading a book called Silk by a man called Alessandro Barrico, and I would like to recommend it in the highest possible term to all and sundry. It's very short, and written in a very simple, plain style, but it manages to be absolutely enchanting in its simplicity. It's also set in Japan, so it manages to encompass virtually everything I look for in a novel - short, not originally in English, and relating to Japan.

(That's me practicing for polite conversation, by the way. How did I do?)

Farewell my darlings!

and R.I.P Michael Jackson!

Genghis xx

Monday, 8 June 2009

Genghis Kong vs. Rikkyo University

The more astute among you may have noticed that haven't blogged for a while. I would cite the usual excuses, but I think we can probably skip that part and move on, okay?

It is June already - a fact which has taken me very much by surprise. I think by the time June has come around no one can pretend it's late Spring any more; it is most emphatically Summer now. In England, of course, Summer and June are synonymous with sunshine, barbecues, afternoons in beer gardens, bumblebees in the garden and all such idyllic scenes of British summer. Not so in Tokyo, I'm afraid, where Summer is a by-word for sweltering heat and humidity and June signals not the start of the barbecue season, but of the rainy season.

No, Summer is not Tokyo's finest season. The weather in Spring was extremely fine, but it's more-or-less downhill from here until September now. Nothing but rain, steam and heatstroke to look forward too for the next 8 weeks.

That's right, in only 8 weeks (actually, slightly less than 8 weeks) I shall be returned to England and celebrating a Birthday in the garden/park/pub/gutter (probably in that order). It seems extraordinarily soon now, although I must admit my feelings about that are mixed. I shan't deny that I am extremely keen to get home - I miss my family, my friends, my home and just being with my own people. My own sarcastic, cynical, bitter, alcohol-dependent countrymen with whom I have so much in common.

But despite my desire to be back on Her Majesty's soil, I can't help but feel that I have not yet achieved all that I set to in Japan. Indeed, I have achieved virtually nothing that I set out to, and i can't shake the feeling that my return home to England will be tinged with regret at having (as I see it) wasted a year of my life, not to mention a great opportunity to improve myself (and, of course, my Japanese). I don't quite know where it all went awry... When I first got to Japan I spent a lot of time with Japanese people - you may remember the IFL from earlier blog posts - but rapidly came to the conclusion that I didn't like them, so I basically stopped socialising with any Japanese people. Now, I'm not saying that I don't like any Japanese people, just that I don't much like the IFLs and I failed to find any better Japanese with which to replace them.

And so I came to socialise almost exclusively with Americans, which really does defeat the purpose of spending a year in Japan.

I went to Yokohama National University last weekend to drink with my mate James, and there I got a glimpse of what could have been. My university, Rikkyo, is an elite Tokyo private university with a very small student body. It owns an elementary school, a middle school and a high school which feed directly into it, and creates a student populace of incredibly sheltered, unworldly, small-minded, posh, rich Tokyoites with whom I can't find any common ground. They have such a sheltered, simplistic view of the world that conversing with them is really more akin to talking to children than university students, and in general I just find them infantile, shallow and uninteresting. Clearly, there are a few who are aberrations in this society of wide-eyed but tiny-minded children, and as far as possible I try to hang out with them, but overall my attempts to socialise with Rikkyo students have been largely unsuccessful.

Yokohama National University, by contrast, is a large state-funded university - neither elite nor Tokyo-based - and as far as I can tell is populated by a throng of rowdy drunkards, musicians, dance crews, bums and (presumably) a few serious students. In short, roughly what a student body ought to be. I can't help but feel that had I gone to Yoko Uni instead, I might have made more of myself this year. But there's nothing to be done about it now, and no sense in regretting a decision which was almost entirely out of my control. Besides, if I had gone to Yokohama I know for ceratin that I would have had no money and would have been living in the grottiest dormitories imaginable.

This is a picture of Yokohama University. Those signs say 'Tequila'. I think these men were associated with the Rock Music Society or something, and that's why they were selling me tequila. Or something. Either way, they were selling tequila with no shirts on.

You see what I mean? This university is clearly made for me! Alcohol and shirtless men? It's perfect!

Aside from my trip to Yokohama, my life has taken on a fairly mundane rhythm. It involves mostly going to school, going to the gym and going to karaoke. And eating. That's pretty much it. However, I have replaced variety of activities in my life with sheer quantity of the only four things I do. Except school - I still just do the bare minimum of school. But I go to the gym 2-3 hours a day, 6 days a week, I go to karaoke 2-3 times a week, for 5-7 hours at a time, and I aim to eat between 5 and 7 meals a day. By the time I get back to England I am going to be weirdly muscular and incredibly good at singing karaoke. I'm a little bit concerned about my rapid musculation - I find the idea of me being all ripped and muscley and what-not to be really quite disturbing. Check out my muscular back:

Sorry about the weird angle - taking a photo of your own back is rather tricky.

But anyway, if I keep working out at this rate for the next 2 months, there's a definite risk that I'll be getting rather buff by the time I come home. I don't think I'm mentally prepared for that.

Here's a picture of my 2 most stalwart karaoke companions. We've got some seriously deep three-part harmonies going on. You've never heard Kiss From a Rose or Can You Feel the Love Tonight sound so good.

Ummm... No homo, okay?

And here's a photo of my balls in a dude's face. Again, no homo.

And essentially that is what I've been doing recently.

Hope you all are well.
Write soon,

Genghis Kong xx.