Monthly Archives: March 2006

CNN reports something worthwhile shocker!!

The “Lazy Sunday UK” rap (aka “We Drink Tea”) gets bigger and bigger. A short report from CNN on online video sharing features a (very) brief clip of Sam and Raph representin’ for Cambridge.


To think I’d see the day when CNN actually showed something worth watching. Meanwhile, the Illimms boys have come up with a patriotic rock ballad entitled “America (I Love You)”. I’m not hoping for similar exposure on US news channels, but go watch it for a none-too-serious look at how the world sees America.

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Coming home in a body bag

My snowboarding trip to Nagano was great fun. I went with CIE students Josh, Joe, and Patrick, as well as our Japanese friend Shoji and Joe’s friend Joey (yeah, I laughed too) who is studying at Nagoya. We got to Hakuba (the area where our ski resort was) via night bus from Kyoto – 11pm to 6am. When we got there we found that they charged an early check-in fee for giving us breakfast, as well as various extra charges on equipment hire and insurance – a very efficient scam. However, having Shoji with us, we were able to negotiate in Japanese and the rental guy ended up giving us discounts on almost everything.

So we hit the slopes, after having travelled on a bus all night. I did pretty well on the beginners’ slope, and migrated with the others to the slope above. Coming down that one, I came a cropper and twisted my ankle pretty badly. I was forced to complete my descent very slowly. Fortunately, after dinner that night we went out to an onsen, where we soothed our various aches and pains.

Rather more unfortunately, after a slow start on the beginners’ slope the next day, I went up again the next slope, where I twisted my ankle again. This time there was no question of finishing the descent, especially as I injured myself only a few yards from the ski lift. I crawled back up there and explained my predicament to the staff. With my cack-handed Japanese (and Shoji’s help) we managed to convince the staff that I was in urgent need of rescuing. A very hot Mountain Rescue girl appeared from out of nowhere and told me that I’d have to be evacuated via the ‘rescue boat’. I was like “Rescue boat? That’s not covered by my insurance fraud!” (cf: Futurama), imagining a huge helicopter appearing from above. The rescue boat was actaully like a canoe on ski runners, that zipped up over the passenger. It was basically a body bag on skis, as I realised while frantically pawing at the zipped-shut canopy. What’s worse – facing a steep mountainside with an injured ankle, or being fastened inside a tiny space? I had ample to consider the question as I was speeded down the mountain. The first thing I saw when I was unzipped was my friends congregating to see what had happened to me (now you can see what they saw!).

I spent the rest of that day (our 2nd at Hakuba) resting up at the hotel with an ice pack on my ankle. Following that excitement, I took it much easier the following day. After trying the baby slopes, I returned to the slope where I’d twisted my ankle twice and navigated it without any further injuries, thanks to the zig-zag technique that Shoji had taught me the first day. By the time we all met up at about 4:30, we had a lot of stories to tell; we’d split up according to ability and gone separate ways on the mountain. We went to the onsen again, and finished up with a cold beer – the best way to relax after a day on the slopes. All in all a very good break, and I think I’ve caught the winter-sports bug, despite the lack of much daredevil black-diamond slope action on my part.

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Still my university

So Frank Ellis has been suspended. My feelings and thoughts on this have ran the gamut over the past month, from initial revulsion to a more considered argument, but never forgetting that Ellis’s comments are deeply wrong and offensive. However, I think that Leeds University’s reasons for suspending him are all good, particularly the third one:

Dr Ellis has failed to comply with reasonable requests given to him by his employer. For example, we asked him to apologise for the distress which his remarks on race and other matters have caused to many people inside and outside the University. He has not agreed to do that. Nor has he given us an undertaking to make it clear in public that scientific questions about the differences if any between different racial groups are questions which lie a long way from his own area of academic expertise as a lecturer in Russian and Slavonic Studies. And he has failed to give us an undertaking that he will make no further public comments suggesting that one racial group is inherently inferior (or superior) to another unless there is no possibility whatsoever that anyone hearing or reading his comments might reasonably associate him with the University of Leeds. The University is clearly and publicly distancing itself from Dr Ellis’s comments on race.

The apology argument IMO is that as his employer, Leeds Uni has the right to ask him not to stir up trouble in the workplace – and that was all it was, a request – which he refused (see this post on Ellis’s Irving-esque free-speech-marytyr complex) He is not being silenced for fear of “stirring up” the student population – there are no reports of Mohammed cartoons-style organised protests designed to intimidate. Moreover, the fact that he’s also refused to recognise the difference between his published comments and the scope of his work is sure grounds for disciplinary charges (which, as the university press release notes, “is not in itself a disciplinary penalty”).

The press release concludes with the statement that “The disciplinary process might take some time to complete … the University intends to make no further public comment on the case until the conclusion of that disciplinary process.” In the absence of a comment from them, I will simply say that they have done the best they could from a tricky situation. I await the outcome of the disciplinary procedure for further comment, but until then, I’m still proud to study at this institution, and that a degree from the University of Leeds means something beside the amount of credits notched up.

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Tasty moments

From our Nagano trip:

Waking up on the bus to discover a landscape covered in snow (銀世界). Haggling with the rental guy, and getting discounts which we didn’t ask for. My first go on a snowboard. Going up on the ski lift, marvelling at the pure white scenery around me. Falling over for the first time. Falling over many subsequent times. Falling down badly and twisting my ankle. Stuffing our faces at the hotel buffet. Recuperating from the day’s efforts at a local onsen. Falling over and twisting my ankle again. Getting evacuated down the mountain by a very pretty Rescue Patrol girl. “Don’t tell me how to live my life.” The three essentials: snowboarding, onsen, beer – a perfect last day.

More detailed blogging to come. But this provides a pretty good taster.
Photos now up.

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I am the jester in the ancient court

I’m off to Nagano this evening, via all-night bus from Kyoto. If I can update while I’m there, I will, but if not then this blog will be a bit quiet for five days or so.

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Green beer

This from Of Rice and Zen, a very funny blog about an English teacher’s experiences in Japan that I recently discovered:

Seeing loud drunken gaijin being inconsiderate with sound waves fills you with shame and anger. You vow never to be seen in public with such DG again. In fiction this kind of hubris usually comes before an ironic fall into a big pile of bathos.

This pretty much sums up my St. Patrick’s Day yesterday. I went to Murphy’s in Shinsaibashi, Osaka, allegedly the first Irish pub in Japan, to celebrate with some Australians. Yes, I became that drunken gaijin, swilling down overpriced green beer and getting my face licked by pretend Irishmen. I am not proud.

I returned to Osaka today to buy some CDs – the new Belle & Sebastian album, and Delays latest, which was an impulse buy. I saw them supporting the Manic Street Preachers in April last year, and they seemed to be going away from the winsome indie of their debut album to a more muscular, electro-pop style. B&S also take a more musically in-your-face stance on their new album. Good stuff all round.

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What’s Britain really like?

To anyone who has often pondered this question (whether from the UK or not), I now have the answer.

My good friends Sam and Raph from back home have come up with a UK response to the SNL “Lazy Sunday” rap. It’s called “We Drink Tea” and it gives you the full lowdown on what life in Britain is really like.

Go watch – seriously, it’s a lot better than anything else you could be doing right now.

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