Archive for January, 2008

Immortality Clubs

Posted in Current Affairs with tags , , on 23 January, 2008 by Wulfstan Crumble

       Ever since its crushing defeat in World War 2 Japan has grown in the worlds conscience. It was and to a certain extent still is a closed and exotic place. Yet, it is a place that wants to be loved and feels a divine right to a seat at the top tables. As with the other big economy in the world it buys into itself to a huge extent. As an effect of this its fashions, technologies and trends spurt out. The appetite for all things Japanese grows ever greater even as the government there slowly slides towards its more xenophobic side.

        The biggest export of all is technology with a large number of computers, games consoles and DVD players hailing from technological giants such as Sony, Nintendo, Sharp, Panasonic and Toshiba. Japanese cartoons have long had a following outside of Japan but in recent years this has grown exponentially. Anime has become perhaps the first word borrowed from English twisted in Japanese and then exported back into English. More recently Japanese food has begun to pop up all over the place.

  

     But has a social trend been exported? A most unwelcome social trend.Since July 2004, when I came to Japan, I have read occasional and disturbing news articles in the local papers about mass suicides. Japan has already one of the worlds highest rates of suicides. On average between 30,000 and 35,000 people take their own lives each year. The majority seem to be jobless Salarymen who have lost their Life-jobs and felt shamed. Another big group of suicides are bullied school children. It is telling that Japans romantic tradition is one of suicide pacts born out of doomed love.

       Yet, with the rise of internet social sites so has there been a rise in suicidal people banding together to take their lives en mass. Towards the end of 2004 26 people died in two months in this manner. Suicide clubs and social sites have sprung up so that the suicidal may meet one another and arrange their deaths. Such suicides are meticulously planned using sleeping pills, sealed vans and charcoal burners. The biggest single event was seven people just outside of Tokyo. The people who took their own lives came from all over Japan.

  

     Then today I learned that 7 people in Brigend, Wales, have taken their own lives in recent months. Within hours of each persons death a memorial website has been erected online. As well as the 7 successful suicides there have been many failed attempts. The common factor, apart from being in the same social group, is the social website Bebo. This and the memorial sites bring an extra level of disturbance to an already appalling series of events.

      The Japanese suicides were by relative strangers who were already suicidal and who used the internet to find similar people. Each had their own reasons for suicide be it financial ruin, ill-health or other emotional problems. Often it is said that people were egged on by other suicidal people or fell into a group mentality with the momentum that goes with it. These suicides can be linked to a rare mental disorder known as folie a deux.

       Yet, in England, which has no such tradition of suicide as there is in Japan, it is all the more disturbing because it is affecting previously unsuicidal people. These people also seem to be sociable unlike sufferers of folie a deux. This is not the most disturbing aspect either. It would appear that the people are aiming for immortality via these memorial websites. Has the desire for our 15 minutes of fame come to this?

   

       If the answer is yes then we know our youth is in serious trouble. Do we really wish to see our youth seek fame at any cost? There can be no prize worthy of such a cost. The immortality brings with it the end of life, not immortality, just death and the void. It brings ruin on relatives and friends, true friends who would never wish someones death. It cuts short all of someones potential to live life, love and create.

       As with many such fads and group trends, those who originate it, spread the ideas on the internet and create the sites, those who do that are still here in this world. They do not believe in any moral reason for suicide just the fame it accords them in having set the ball rolling. I wonder how they square such a burden knowing they encouraged someone, maybe a true friend, to kill themselves for fame. Lets hope that in such a world this act still generates guilt. For if it didnt we would truly be in trouble.

      How do we stop these things? We could get draconian and shut down the likes of Bebo, or force them to remove the Memorial Pages. We could force only over 18s to be able to join such sites. But, would it help? We need to find a way to stop such things seeming like a good idea, to stop people feeling that its acceptable to do it and we need to be able to know these things are about to happen so we may engage with those kids. I will not pretend to know what to do only to state that we have to think of something.

Orchard Garden

Posted in Story on 20 January, 2008 by Wulfstan Crumble

     Here in lies a snippet recovered from a scrap of paper desperately saved after my laptop imploded destroying the story save a few lone snippets posted online.

      In the afternoon Tortrym found himself lazing in the sheltered garden behind Ithignir Hall. After lunch the Thegn’s daughter, a mischevous seven-year-old, had insisted that the Chief Hallweard, his grandsons and he challenge her to a game of horseshoes. She had of course won easily and gloated about it until she fell asleep under a pear tree. The Hallweard himself nodded off soon after against a rather mossy apple tree closeby.

      Tortrym ended up sitting on a tree-stump with a block of wood and one of his knives. At first the carving had gone towards a horse then he changed his mind to carve a humanoid figure, a girl. As indecision turned his toy into a woody pulp the sun began to wane and shine down Oakenbury Valley. The valley was famed in the right circles of the Kingdom for its vineyards. The vineyards twinkled in the sunlight and he began to muse to himself. “Noon’s golden valley. Enjoying neither dawn, nor, the last rays of dusk.”

     It was while creating such skalds, as poems were called, that he was called by a Burghweard. The man was dressed in the brown livery of Ithignir Hall. “Sir, a rider comes from down the Fosse path. The first such since well, you lot arived.”

     Tortrym tossed the wooden lump aside and stood up. “Where does he hail from?”

     The guy smiled, dirtily, “He claims to have ridden all the way from Burgsted.”

     He was shocked and nearly asked the Burghweard to repeat himself. Then thought better of it. It was his first chance to hear about a brother. “Does he bring word of Cafgar?”

     The Burghweard shrugged. “Best ask yourself. Won’t speak to me.”

     “Right. Let’s see if he will speak to a Prince of the realm. Until then go see if you can rustle up some food and drink for our messenger. Go see that Hallmaiden you like.”

    Tortrym then took himself to the main hall for the grand reception while trying to imagine what had happened to his brothers. The fires of Regensmuth were still etched into his dreams.

School Boy Error

Posted in Story on 15 January, 2008 by Wulfstan Crumble

     The most globulous and eccentric teacher at Curlywurly Technical College, Bournville, was well known to be Bazil Montageous-Priory. He was a most highly esteemed lecturer of English Literature and Applied Spelling. He had begun life as the well born sprat of upper class loafers. A fine family tradition had them living off the land, socialising and partaking in excessive amounts of ballroom dancing. This lifestyle was not fulfilling enough for Bazil. So, after inheriting his Oxford degree in 1969 he turned his full attentions to politics. At which he failed. Anthony Benn-Wedgewood was far richer and even better connected. So, as a last resort he turned to education; a fine tradition where he could pass on his wisdom gained from summer holidays spent at the MCC.

      After years of teaching in schools as grand as Eton and as bland as Cardiff Comprahensive he had found himself at the brand-spanking (oh he did like that) new Technical College in Bournville educating the latest waves of youths how to spell and read. At times he found it most demeaning yet he applied himself with an eccentric demeanour.

    One day there was a most grand panic in Room H5 in the Honest Hain building. Cries from the half-dozen students echoed down the corridor. The first on the scene was the crusty caretaker, Jim Fork. Upon entering the room he found the rotund lecturer on his back clasping at his chest, his face red and puffy. All around the students looking in shock as Bazil struggled for breath. Jim raced over to his side and loosened his Oxford tie. “Relax Bazil, breath easy.”

      Then Bazil whispered his last words to Jim before collapsing on to the tope carpet, dead. “Which one of you is the devil?”

      As he collapsed he let go of a piece of paper. The crumpled sheet contained scurrolous words doubting the parentage and other virtues of the late professor. At first he looked at it backwards then scrambled it all up but could not decipher it. Jim got up and turned to the class. “Whoever wrote this killed the Professor.”

The students were:

1. The elfine Nanna Addler. 

2. Travel obcessed Mel ii Fey.

3. The ugly, and oft angry, Rolf Trollhatten.

4. Moomin-esque Mo Naantali.

5. Pointy earred Ivor Mist.

6. Lion maned bookworm Tom Gonda.

Do you know who wrote the foul words that killed the professor?

Moomin

Sledgehammer

Posted in Blog with tags , , , , , , on 13 January, 2008 by Wulfstan Crumble

Today I became a man.

Leif Ericson (son of Eric The Red AKA Eric the lying git) of Greenland set forth in the early 11century for pastures new. First he found the stony lands of Helluland (Baffin Island) then Markland (Labrador) and finally Vinland (Newfoundland).

The people of Markland during their short time as a community developed their own culture and traditions which differed slightly from those of the other Viking peoples. These are expertly captured by the Greenland Sagas.

A Marklander was not seen as a man until he had completed the ceremony known as The Sledgehammer. Taking their mighty hammer, dedicated secretly to Thor (as Leif Ericson had converted to Christianity in Norway), the Marklanders would smash a prized object that had betrayed them. For to these primative souls all objects and living things contained a spirit.

Today I observed this rite. Like my distant relatives I went to a cheap hardware store called Hard Off (A spin off of the Second-hand bookshop known as Book Off, sadly not Book On) and purchased a shiny new sledgehammer. My beauty, known as Thorsbro, cost a sleek 1,784 yen (8 quid). Its long haft was polished cedar and its head a meaty lump of iron. To heft it in my hands felt good, real good.

So came to the ritual itself. Winter winds rippled around my topless form as my muscles strained the hammer above my head, around and behind my back so Thorsbro’s head rested in the nook of my spine. And it was cold. My hands gripped the haft tightly so the knuckles turned white. Then the it lifted up into the arc of death and smashed down with all the brute force I could muster.

The metallic object crumpled and splintered with the force. The head bit deep as plastic shreds spurted out. Glass smashed. Laptop goodbye.

 Destroyed Laptop

Being a superstitious pagan I have one more thing to say. Gods, spirits, this is the second computer that you have wiped clean and the second back up disks you’ve corrupted this decade. 4 novels, dozens of short stories and a hundred poems have been destroyed. But they live on, in fragments, online and all of them are in my being, my very fibre. Such bad luck will not stop me writing them again. I remember them all.

Kataklysm

Posted in Blog on 13 January, 2008 by Wulfstan Crumble

Words cannot comprehend the feelings inside of me.

Feelings of emptiness grappled with,

battled with,

Comforted by my greatest hobby,

Writing.

Lonely times passed,

With my battered laptop,

typing out crazy stories and poems,

Reflecting the world through

As seen by me

And read in the papers.

Solace so sweet,

Productivety that raised my soul,

And gave purpose to drift.

Yet,

So fragile the world

When a Japanese computer

Commits harri-kirri.

Laptop turned off.

Owner off to pick up loved one from the station.

Fifteen minutes of docility,

For the comp to wipe itself clean.

It is an empty shell now.

All photos and writings of Japan lost.

Hope left on fickle CDs

A hope that dwindles as the recovery disc corrupts

And the shell remains.

Fatal Error… Press Escape.

x> …

x> …

x> …

x> … I am lost without my writings.

x> … command or file name unrecognised.

x> …

x> …

Xenophobots

Posted in Story on 12 January, 2008 by Wulfstan Crumble

The school children had settled down quietly, and orderly. They sat at their desks, backs straight, eyes facing forwards, visages open for studying just as a normal Japanese school child is in every class. They wore their black uniforms and sailor outfits impeccably. Upon their desks were the required textbooks, notebooks and their prescribed dictionaries. Right on cue the bell went and the teacher entered the classroom. He was young, cool and spoke perfect textbook English.

“Today, I can introduce you to your new special teacher. He has come all the way from America. His name is Brad.”

The students stifled their excitement and tried to remain serene as Brad entered the room. He was a tall man. At least six and a half feet tall. His skin was as black as Japanese hair. His voice was deep molasses. “Good morning everyone.”

“Good morning Sir.” They replied in unison and bowed.

“How are you all?”

“I am fine, thank you, and you?”

“I am fine too, thank you. I am very happy to teach you today.”

At this point their cool teacher took over and began to teach from the textbook for twenty-minutes. They repeated after Brad, listened to the teacher attentively and did their extremely taxing worksheets without a fuss. Then satisfied they had worked well the cool teacher turned to Brad, who was waiting patiently, his hands folded behind his back, for his turn. “Mr. Brad, why don’t you play a game with the students.”

“Sure, I would love to play a game with the students.” He smiled.

The students smiled in unison.

Brad walked around classroom towards the door. “This game is called crossroads or crisscross. Everyone stands up and then I ask them questions.”

The students do not turn around but they hear the door lock behind them. “Whoever answers my questions can sit down. The last person standing is the looser. Do you understand?”

The students hear some strange noises behind them but nodded in unison. The teacher turns pale as Brad walks back around the class to the front. Faces turn pale. Brad has turned into a giant killer robot. “What is the name of your Emperor?”

No one moved. Then, one boy quivered and raised his hand in the air. “You.” Brad pointed his metallic arm at him. “Answer.”

The boy’s arm remained wavering in the air. “Eto… eto ne… Taro Aso?”

The boy fell to the floor dead. “Wrong answer.” Brad smiled. “Does no one know the name of their own Emperor?”

No one moved. “I guess not.”

Brad then turned his guns on the whole class. First he pointed his giant robot sized pistol at one of the girls. An innocent girl with red rimmed glasses, a cute haircut and pouting lips. “No!” Shouted the Teacher.

He leapt in front of Brad. “I cannot let you do this. You foul foreign, butter stinking, Deceptajin!”

“Get out of my way Teacher. I need to re-educate your children.”

“No. These are virtuous children. Look at the girls. They are twelve years old, ready to be baby ovens for the good of the nation…”

The cool teacher was the first to die. Slowly one by one they fall as the evil black robot guns them down. The screen fades to black and words in stark red kanji, hiragana and katakana appear on the screen.

 

“Studying English is dangerous for you.

Any foreign teacher may be a Deceptajin in disguise.”

Then Billy Blanks came on the screen.

“Except American soldiers. We’re safe.”

 

The Vice-Principal then turned off the TV and turned to his new students. “Time for an introduction…”

Cyborg

THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING

Pit Spawn

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on 12 January, 2008 by Wulfstan Crumble

Can I make a plea

For a frontal lobotomy?

 

My head aches

For my withered heart.

 

Leaden limbs locate

The next choco-lift

As my brain fumbles

For fuzzy sentiments.

 

I’m constrained.

Squished beneath your palm,

Tightly bound

Under someone’s thumb.

 

You put me on autopilot

To avoid a riot

I swerve and smile

To a puppeteer’s style.

 

I love Japan

I love every man

And, I really want to say

Your land is so beautiful.

 

My plastic prison

Keeps me here.

Credit card crunchies

Lloyd Bank’s munchies.

 

You put me on autopilot

Sent me to the Hyatt

Your robotic foreigner

Left in the corner.

 

I flower and smile

Feeling mercantile

As I forlornly,

Prostitute my goodwill.

 

Give me reason

Give me a chance

Give me wings

And the purpose they bring.

 

I flower for you

I try for you

I work for you

I live with you

I talk to you

I try to help you.

Yet,

I am nothing to you.

So, just so you know.

All my flowers are plastic.