Author Archive

Jul
17

Kiefer Sutherland digs Calorie Mate

Posted by on Monday, 17 July, 2006

Japan is infamous for paying big bucks for Hollywood stars to come over here and participate in various commercials, ranging from consumer loans (Beckhams), coffee (Tiger Woods et al), cars (everyone) and diet supplements (Kiefer Sutherland). I don’t really know why this type of advertising is so successful here; I guess regular people love to identify with celebrities and if they can eat/drink/do something which a big shot superstar also endorses (albeit only in a commercial) they will happily use it.

These Calorie Mate commercials with Kiefer Sutherland in his Jack Bauer role (24) are a bit old, but they are so hilarious. Thanks to Tokyo TImes for reminding me of them.

Jack struggles through a packed women-only train in rush hour:

Jack politely refusing a souvenir from his partner during a chase:

Jack has some trouble with a loaned vehicle during a pursuit:

Jul
17

Whats the deal with Bar Row?

Posted by on Monday, 17 July, 2006

Everytime I listen to AFN (or specifically, Eagle 810, as the local variety of Armed Forces Network is called here) there are always these amusing PSAs being blasted about 100 times per hour. One of the more fascinating ones refer to a place called “Bar Row” in Fussa City, which is where the Yokota Air Base is located. The PSA goes something like this:

Remember that service personnel are not allowed to be within a one block radius of Akasen-dori in Fussa city, otherwise known as “Bar Row”, between the hours of 1 am and 6 am.

This has intrigued me for the last few months, because there was never any explanation (figures, being a military radio station) and I can’t recall reading or hearing about it anywhere else. So, I decided to use good old GOOGLE to find out for myself why this restriction was in place. Oh, did I ever find some interesting stuff!

FIrst of all; this is the official announcement made by the US Embassy in June 2005 about it:

Yokota Base Command has issued an order prohibiting servicemembers from being within a one block radius of Akasen-dori in Fussa city (near the base), otherwise known as “Bar Row”, between the hours of 1 am and 6 am. The order comes after a series of crimes, altercations and assaults at Bar Row involving base personnel, including one last weekend that left two airmen seriously wounded. Civilians are advised to exercise caution should they choose to enter the area.

Wow! Reading that, it sounds like the poor American soldiers are being assaulted by some bad people when they are innocently partying outside the gates. It really sounds like the Americans are the victims here. I decided to do some more digging, and I came up with some slightly more elaborate and different accounts of why the ban had come in place.

Alex at Rainbow Trite writes:

Yokota Air Force Base is INFAMOUS for the number of DUI’s that take place on a weekly basis. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday Nightly, select uniformed men and women are out carousing and rejoicing, heeing and hawing, and, against their better judgment, drinking and driving.

The base doesn’t publicize these “happenings”. No one hears about them or even has an inkling until Colonel Schissler is on the TV, making a plea that we not drink and drive. This, I blame on higher command. People should be made aware of the problem.

This I found in the base’s own newsletter, making it blatantly obvious who is to blame for the restrictions:

Since the restriction came into place, the number of incidents has dropped to almost zero. Fussa City officials have also noticed a
sharp decline in the amount of noise complaints they receive from citizens living between Bar Row and Yokota.

Yes, I know that the area around the base is not generally the nicest neigborhood in Japan, and that there are rumours of some yakuza presence etc., but still, drunken, loud, cocky American soldiers rumbling around at night causing all sorts of ruckus and provoking fights with the locals does seem like a reasonable explanation to me. Way to show your appreciation for your Japanese hosts.

Oh, and while I’m on this American-bashing high (sorry, it wasn’t meant to be this harsh…), GW Bush – what is with the SLICED PIG!??

Jun
25

Truth of the Day

Posted by on Sunday, 25 June, 2006

How to Tell

(Courtesy of gapingvoid)

Jun
23

A Tale of Sweden, Piratebay, DRM and Filesharing

Posted by on Friday, 23 June, 2006

CDs
If you have read my blog since the beginning, you may have noticed that I used to write a lot about copyright issues and generally took a rather positive stance towards the different piracy-factions and supported them in spirit through their different tough times.

However, recently, this topic has become rather infected in Sweden. It seems as though the opinion of the general public has become somewhat radical by international standards, and a recent survey done by SIFO showed that roughly 50% of the Swedish population thinks that filesharing should be legalized (article in Swedish). L-E-G-A-L-I-Z-E-D!! Recent discussions in Swedish media show that in general, the Swedish public does not want to pay for any kind of entertainment; be it music, TV-shows, or movies. There is a kind of political movement going on now, headed by angry file sharers under the name Pirate Party who are actually going to participate in the government elections this coming Fall. Their official stance is that filesharing should be OK, because the entertainment industry’s monopoly and outdated business model does not work anymore. I see a lack of alternative distribution models presented by the modern Swedish pirates, and suggest that the motive is pure greed. “Why pay if I can get it for free?”

Moving to the discussion one sees in the USA and UK (among other countries), I see there is more moderate focus wihtin the filesharing dicussion. In general, the people fighting for rights of the consumer are generally doing just that, and nothing else. They want to fight DRM and other restrictions of use that the entertainment industry (and its allies) tend to attach to every digital product they sell nowadays. The anti-DRM discussions and protests can get heated of course, but overall they are a whole lot more sensible than the Swedish debate.

To sum up what I have seen from the two related, but oh so different, discussions: in the US, people are willing to pay for entertainment in digital form if the price is reasonable and fair use is possible after purchase; whereas in Sweden, entertainment in digital form is regarded as having little to no value at all, and should be given away for free.

The latest happening in the Swedish debate is the fact that it has surfaced that the US government and MPAA have lobbied the Swedish government to do something about the piracy and filesharing, otherwise Sweden would face sanctions from the WTO. Some Swedish politicians are outraged by this. They say it’s terrible that the Swedish government would act like puppets bending over for Hollywood. I say, stop crying for pete’s sake. The filesharing that is going on in Sweden is of course not 100% illegal, and some filesharing is even good in my opinion, in the sense that it opens up a path for lesser known artists to reach out to a larger public. But the fact remains, the majority of filesharing that is taking place through The Piratebay and other filesharing networks is of the illegal kind, “downloading because I don’t want to pay” kind. And if Sweden cannot curb this illegal activity on its own, then why should not the property right owners step up and try to do something about it? It’s OK for MPAA to take actions against China because there is a massive market for pirated DVDs, but it is not OK for MPAA to voice their opinions against Sweden’s rampant filesharing? Hypocrisy, I say.

I was once agreeing completely with the Swedish pirates’ case, but recently I have been sickened with the discussion. I am now taking a much mroe moderate stance in this discussion. I am for: no DRM and fair use rights for digital media; lower cost for digital media; less geographic restrictions on distribution of entertainment. I am against: legalized filesharing; the opinion that digital media has no value, and other moronic behavior.

Jun
20

Here comes the heat again

Posted by on Tuesday, 20 June, 2006

Well, although summer has not officially started here in Japan (it will not until after the rainy season) it has gotten pretty darn hot recently. Out of the last four days, we’ve seen temperatures around 30 every day except last Sunday when it was raining the whole day.

Still it is pretty nice, because has to savor these days of “pre-summer” before the “tsuyu-ake” (end of the rainy season) and average temperatures rise about 5 degrees in one go. Then we have a period of 1-2 months of scorching heat with the added bonus of 60-70% humidity! Not very nice, and I am very very very jealous of my expat colleagues who can take a whole month of vacation off and miss nearly all of this heat.

Coolbiz cool

With the summer comes another fun happening and that is the Coolbiz campaign. If you read the old article at that link you can see the details. Basically I don’t think it’s going to help that much in the long run, there must be better things to save energy on than the air conditioners at work. Maybe if people went home a bit earlier from the office instead, then we would see some more savings.

Anyway, there is actually some good things about Coolbiz and that is the fact that since its launch last year, there has actually been some innovations in the clothing industry. I’ve seen ads on the subway for new Coolbiz-suits which are supposed to be very light and cool. This appeals to me, because even if I am wearing a summer suit it is way too hot for me, so I am interested in special super-light-weight suits such as these launched by Suit Aoyama and these ones from Konaka

If anyone has ever tried one of these, let me know – because I don’t want to spend the money if they are not really worth it of course.