Friday, November 30, 2007

Man of Letters

Silas, who reads and writes letters for people who cannot read and write, cannot make head or tail of a letter from America brought to him by Grimble.


Silas: I’m not sure what it means…

Grimble: Come on, what does it say?

Silas: Well, I’d tell you if I could understand it.

Grimble: One moment you’re telling me you can read but next moment you say you can’t?

Silas: It’s not that. I understand the words, but I don’t understand his meaning.

Grimble: Ah, you mean, it was written by a fellow what can’t write?

Silas: Well, he has strung some words together but they're all in a tangle. Look, give me a halfpenny and I’ll tell you what I think he means.


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Thursday, November 29, 2007

What's in a name? 40 lashes & 6 months jail

Samira tells Laila about Gillian Gibbons.


Samira: They’re going to lash a woman in Sudan, did you see?

Laila: No.

Samira: British woman, she’s a teacher, and she brings this teddy bear to class. And she asks the kids what shall we call him?

Laila: Winnie the Pooh?

Samira: No, the kids are Sudanese, they’re only seven, they only know Islamic names. So they suggest Abdullah, Hassan and Muhammad.

Laila: Common names.

Samira: And she says, OK, call it Muhammad. Next day, the police come in and take her off to court. She faces 40 lashes and six months in jail.

Laila: Of course. Can’t call an animal by the Prophet’s name.

Samira: Still, men are animals.

Laila: Sssh. Samira. Are you crazy? People might be listening.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Après publication

Editor tells author it doesn’t end with the writing.


Editor: Now before the book is printed, you’ll have to create a blog.

Author: So people can comment?

Editor: Yes.

Author: Well that’s not hard. The book was originally written on a blog.

Editor: But this après publication blog has to contain new material. It should be a new blog.

Author: A blog with the book title?

Editor: If the name’s available. If not, we’ll name the book with an available blog name.

Author: I think wh5 is available. I already checked.

Editor: And another thing. You’ll then have to go on Second Life to promote it.

Author: Oh. I thought that’s where we were already.


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Tuesday, November 27, 2007


The author delivers the manuscript.

Author: It's twelve folders, 85 files and 134 JPG picture files.

Editor: Gulp.

Author: When can I see the first proof?

Editor: Gulp- again. Ah. January?

Author: I was thinking early December? Ideally, you know.

Editor: We'll see what we can do.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Shortening the life of the universe

Agosto tells Ottavio that if he keeps looking at black holes he could nudge the universe into extinction

Agosto: That’s according to a pair of cosmologists Krauss and Dent who say that if we as much as observe decaying dark matter we may be shortening the life of the universe.

Ottavio: Like that old man who rescued an injured crane and in return the crane returned as a woman who wove beautiful cloth for him to sell at the market?

Agosto: And she said “Don’t look in the room while I am weaving,” and he looked in and she flew away.

Ottavio: Curiosity killed the crane. And Shrodinger’s cat?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Death of the short story

Oliver has a theory for everything and Pete cannot help himself listening to Oliver's stories.

Pete: Whatever happened to short stories?

Oliver: Short stories. O. Henry. George O. and so on?

Pete: Yes. The genre seemed to die out after the fifties.

Oliver: I’ll tell you. And it’s a very interesting story.

Now there was once a writer who was quite famous. He traveled widely, wrote well and won prizes. One day, a man from a government agency asked this writer, "Go to this island, and send back reports. We'll pay for your fishing trips." So the writer goes to the island and makes friends with the leader there and his politics change. He writes a short story about a man and a fish. The agency who pay him think the story is subversive because it is sympathetic to the island, so when the writer returns to his own country, a hired gun shoots the writer and the agency sends out reports to make it look like suicide.

Pete: And then the writer became even more famous?

Oliver: To begin with. But the agency saw how popular short stories were so they put heaps of money into the movie industry, and into spy films in particular, which resulted in people reading less, in particular short stories, and going to the movies more. That's why the short story genre reached its peak in the 1950s and waned after that. And the agency realized they could change culture as well as military events so they set up another agency which they called an information service. But that's another story.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Electric carpet

Priestly complains to Penelope that it is cold.


Penelope: Use an electric carpet.

Priestly: I’m a penguin, for God’s sake. I don’t need an electric carpet. They look ugly. They clutter the room.

Penelope: Have it your own way. Be cold.

Next day, Priestly runs into Penelope again.

Priestly: I took your advice. I got a carpet.

Penelope: Why?

Priestly: One, the cold. Two, I can put the table on the carpet and hide it.

Penelope: Male penguins are stupid.


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Friday, November 23, 2007

Temple life

Hiroshi is curious why an American would come to Japan to live in a temple.


Hiroshi: When did you come?

Mark: After 911. I wasn’t happy with the way America was going so I came here.

Hiorshi: And why did you come to the temple?

Mark: My life didn’t feel right. I thought the routines of the temple, like only having one tatami to sleep on, getting up at four in the morning might help.

Hiroshi: And did it?

Mark: It did.

Hiroshi: In what way?

Mark: I’m more focused now. Not so much like I make goals and achieve them. Something deeper. When I’m doing something I’m doing that and nothing else. If I’m sweeping up leaves, I’m really aware of sweeping up leaves. If I’m cooking rice, I’m observing every step. When I write my daily thoughts, they are clear and simple.


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Thursday, November 22, 2007

National holidays in Japan and New Zealand

A Japanese flower arranging teacher, Kuniko, explains to her Korean student Soo, who lives in New Zealand, that there are many national holidays in Japan.


Soo: And tomorrow is…?

Kuniko: Thanksgiving for Labor Day. And so people relax in front of TV watching chambara.

Soo: Which means?

Kuniko: Samurai drama.

Soo: That’s nice. A proud culture. Sometimes some cross-cultural exchange?

Kuniko: It’s a scene from the Seven Samurai.

Soo: Nice. A national holiday and everyone recalls their history.

Kuniko: Don’t you?

Soo: Well, yes, in Korea but there aren’t so many holidays downunder. But you sometimes get scenes like this.

Kuniko: Is baseball part of the national culture down there?


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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cutting edge

Hu asks Ng, both computer science grads, about a job advertised.


Hu: What do you think?

Ng: No.

Hu: No? It’s good pay.

Ng: I applied there last year. Don’t even go for an interview.

Hu: But their ad says they’re on the cutting edge of the computer industry.

Ng: Sure. They buy in old computers and you have to disassemble them. Cut them up.

Hu: All those toxic components?

Ng: Exactly. Cutting edge.


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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The last Nagasaki mudskipper

Mutsumi has a chat with a mutsugoro.


Mutsumi: You live here alone?

Mutsugoro: Sure. I was the only one that moved.

Mutsumi: You like it in this bay?

Mutsugoro: It’s not easy living here. The water’s deeper than the mudflats I grew up on.

Mutsumi: I know they turned the mudflats into farmland, but couldn’t you have protested?

Mutsugoro: “Mudskippers don’t pay tax. Therefore they don’t have any right to protest.” That’s what the Nagasaki farmers who wanted more land said.

Mutsumi: But they don’t need more land. The population is aging. They won’t need as much food in future.

Mutsugoro: The ODA had to spend the money on something.

Mutsumi: How long had you lived on the mudflats?

Mutsugoro: Oh, several hundred million years.

Mutsumi: I feel so guilty. Humans have only been here a few thousand years.

Mutsugoro: I know we’re not much to look at but there aren’t many of us left. We were amphibians, a living fossil. A sort of intermediate species between fish and land animals. Know a nice mudflat where I could stop swimming and rest for a bit?

Mutsumi: I’ll ask.


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Monday, November 19, 2007

Being out

After three days at home, Dudley goes out.

Monty: You were out today?

Dudley: I had to get out for a couple of hours. Living in a garret is very hard.

Monty: So who did you talk to?

Dudley: Out?

Monty: Outside.

Dudley: Mmm. Between the forest and the town? The trees all behaved the same towards me. As usual, in town the shop assistants all ran away when I came near, while the ATM machine was as polite as ever.

Monty: And while you were out, did you see anything interesting to write about?

Dudley: Well, an old chap, older even than me, actually. He came in, ordered a glass of wine, drank it, and promptly fell asleep. Then he woke up and went out.

Monty: My, my. Exciting day.


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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Polystyrene columns

Geoff and Fred, demolition experts have been called in to remove the columns and portico from the front of a house in Pearly Drive.


Geoff: God. Massive columns.

Fred: Must be a great view from up there. Why does he want to take it down?

Geoff: He doesn’t. He didn’t have a permit and the building inspectors came by and issued a court order to remove it.

Fred: Aw heck. Spoilsports. Looks really swanky.

Geoff: Well, it might look grand but it really doesn’t suit the house. Too “overstated” I heard an architect say.

Fred: Reckon there’s a week’s work there. Maybe we’ll need some charges to knock them down.

Geoff: Won't be necessary. The columns are only molded polystyrene, the deck is plywood. We’ll clean it up by tomorrow night.


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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Washoe light or Washoe dark?

There is some discussion between Maria and Teresa about the chimpanzee subject they are drawing.


Maria: I like your soft pencil touch…

Teresa: Mmm. Why you doing yours in pen?

Maria: It’ll show up better.

Teresa: There you go again. Wanting everything in black and white.

Maria: It’s just your subtle shades might not seen on the page and be lost in the gray background.

Teresa: We’ll see, won’t we? Or are you saying you’ve got to shout loudly to be heard in the marketplace?

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Blind cat, diabetic human

I am a cat. I have a problem. I can’t see well. I heard my pet human, Gutman, talking to a friend last night.

Friend: Why keep a blind cat?

Gutman: I’ve had him nine years since he was a baby stray.

Friend: Coping with diabetes, it must make life more complicated for you?

Gutman: Not so much. We have something in common. We both move slowly.

Friend: You walk?

Gutman: I walk. And that’s where the cat is good for me. I am his eyes. And he can’t see so he walks cautiously. At the same rate as I walk with my stick.


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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sumo rigged?

Wakako and Hanako are lounging in front of TV with a preprandial.

Wakako: Ah, so nice to come home and watch a bout of sumo. So graceful. So Japanese.

Hanako: Centuries old.

Wakako: Aah.

Hanako: Final bout. Dejima?

Wakako: Oh I like Dejima, There they go. Oh no, unbelievable! Dejima lost again?

Hanako: Could be rigged.

Wakako: Rigged? Sumo rigged? Does Dejima look like he’s deliberately losing? No, it’s such a traditional sport. So clean. Look at all the salt they throw.

Hanako: Those Freakonomicists went through the data. Some pretty compelling stats.

Wakako: No!

Hanako: Oh, and two whistleblowers who named names and had been sumo wrestlers themselves, suddenly and mysteriously died within hours of each other, in the same hospital, both of respiratory malfunction. And get this, just as they were about to hold a press conference at the Tokyo Foreign Correspondents’ Club.


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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Snake and baby birds

Ohta and Kobayashi are members of the Kingfisher Birdwatchers Club (Kawasemi). They take photographs of owls, kingfishers, hawks, white-eyes, woodpeckers, butcherbirds, … in Koganei Park. They are exhibiting their works in the park museum.


Ohta: You know Yamada changed his camera again?

Kobayashi: No! That’s the third? Fourth time this year?

Ohta: So fussy. Reason was he missed the snake.

Kobayashi: I took the snake with a digicam.

Ohta: It’s not the tools. They say Picasso could still create a masterpiece with a child’s paintbox. What was the story about the snake?

Kobayashi: It’s in this picture here. There were baby birds in a hollow tree, the mother came back to feed them and a snake popped out. She flew away.

Ohta: And the snake ate her babies?

Kobayashi: No, no. The snake went away and when she came back and the babies were still alive. The snake had gone.

Ohta: A snake with maternal feelings.

Kobayashi: Or the snake just wasn't hungry. Reminds me of an Indian story...

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Hokke Ole

Xavier next door keeps his boat in his shed and cooks and washes up outdoors.

Ernest: Hey, Xavier. You ate already?

Xavier: Hokke.

Ernest: In English?

Xavier: Mackerel, pretty good. Samma are in season but no luck today, had to fall back on dried hokke.

Ernest: Any special way?

Xavier: Mushroom and garlic garnishings, lemon, some vegetables.

Ernest: You Jesuits eat well.

Xavier: And our rice is good. One day Europeans will appreciate Eastern wisdom.


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Monday, November 12, 2007

Naming blogs

Eric is explaining to Jessica that he has difficulty finding a new name for his blog. He is both amused and frustrated.


Eric: I was looking for a new blog name but as soon as I google anything, pages and pages spill down the screen. Nothing is unique now on the Internet.

Jessica: Seahorse?

Eric: Millions of them.

Jessica: Blokes’ blogs?

Eric: Bah. Heaps.

Jessica: Diablog?

Eric: You wouldn’t think so, but there are zillions. Well, quite a few anyway. One diablog wasn’t a diablog at all. Just a place for a daily comment on new technologies. A bare bones comment.

Jessica: Maybe you could have a competition. Ask your readers to come up with an idea. Offer them a prize.

Eric: I don’t have any readers. And even if I did, what could I offer as a prize? The bumblebee jumper Aunt Dodie knitted for Sauerkraut? He did outgrow it so he wouldn’t miss it.

Jessica: Hmm. Bare bones, bumblebees, There’s a theme here. Couldn’t call your blog Stripes?

Eric: There’s 57 varieties of striped blogs. Have to keep thinking. Back to the drawing board.


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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sub-prime mortgages

Two men, both called John, who don’t know each other, but actually live in the same apartment block, stop at a fence on the way home and look at a cat.

John Wan: Do you know him?

John Tu: It’s Koge. He goes around the neighborhood asking for food where he can get it. Apparently he used to be kept by an old lady but she went to hospital and now he has no human.

John Wan: Sad. You live near here?

John Tu: In the apartment block behind.

John Wan: Really? So do I. 101. You are?

John Tu: 801. Ground floor. You find the ground floor damp?

John Wan: Especially in winter. You’re not going to buy?

John Tu: I might when I’ve saved enough. And wait until the subprime meltdown blows over.

John Wan: Interesting you should mention subprimes. Very funny interview, or rather a skit, on YouTube from ITV. Your name is…?

John Tu: John Tu.

John Wan: How odd. I’m John Wan.


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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Changing the name

Two seahorses, Stan and Sandy, meet near the inner reef.

Stan: There comes a time.

Sandy: Yes.

Stan: When you need to change your name.

Sandy: What happened to the old one?

Stan: The old one doesn’t fit anymore.

Sandy: Why?

Stan: You’ve heard about it haven’t you? Male seahorses getting pregnant?

Sandy: You didn't know? Your father never told you? So what’ll the new name be?

Stan: I’m mulling it over. Tell you tomorrow.


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Friday, November 9, 2007

Photographing food every day

Louise asks Luigi why he always photographs food when he eats. Scene 44 of Smoke Rehashed.

Luigi: You mean before or after?

Louise: It’s even weirder that you photograph the remains.

Luigi: People use cameras in many different ways. I’ve known several people who have taken a picture at the same time, same place, every day.

Louise: Who?

Luigi: Auggie Wren.

Louise: Do I know him?

Luigi: You may have forgotten him. Character played by Harvey Keitel in Smoke.

Louise: For God’s sake. A character in a movie?

Luigi: OK, Trev next door did the same thing. Photographed the estuary same angle every day at different times when the light was different.

Louise: But recording all the stuff you ever ate?

Luigi: Only at dinner.


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Old class photo

Scene 42 from On Golden Pond 2. Buzzer asks Grolich about an old school photo.

Buzzer: Your class?

Grolich: 1953.

Buzzer: Wow. That’s so far back. Where are you?

Grolich: Front row.

Buzzer: None of them looks like you.

Grolich: There. Middle.

Buzzer: Oh, OK. A certain likeness.

Grolich: Funny. Most of the names I can recall just like that. Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker.

Buzzer: Girls too?

Grolich: Oh yeah. That’s Lois Lane, Vicki Vale, Gwen Stacy.

Buzzer: All them in the same class? With you? When did you last see them?

Grolich: 50 years ago I guess. Except for Clark because I still work with him.

Buzzer: But mostly you can’t remember the names of the colleagues you work with now.

Grolich: Er, true.


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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Superman is Lois Lane in real life

Clark and Lois debate who Superman really is.


Lois: You have to admit, he’s got it all. Looks, strength, magic.

Clark: But where does he go when he’s not doing all that stuff?

Lois: Resting, I guess.

Clark: He might be someone else most of the time and just sometimes becomes Superman and rushes around doing all that saving people stuff.

Lois: Why would he want to go back to being an ordinary person? A nobody?

Clark: I guess sometimes he just wants to get away. Perhaps he is a woman like you in real life.

Lois: No. Superman? A woman? Oh come on, Clark. Get real.

Clark: Or maybe the real-life Superman wears a clever disguise.

Lois: Ha, like changes his identity by wearing glasses? You trying to kid me you are Superman? Clark? You? Superman?

Clark: Me? Superman? Now, you’ve got to be kidding.

Lois: Still, just for a moment, there, though. I thought. No. You’re right. Trick of the light. Silly of me. You couldn’t be Superman.


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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

New Immigration Procedures Part 2

Lorna says she is leaving Japan. Leah feels left behind.

Leah: You can't do this. I mean just up and leave Japan with some of us still here.

Lorna: I am. I’m going. On the 19th. The day before they start fingerprinting and photographing and interviewing all foreigners on entry and exit.

Leah: Smart as. And are they serious! The cameras and fingerprint machines are installed and ready to go.

Lorna: More than that, the big time-wasting will be when those immigration officials try to conduct the mandatory "interview" with Permanent Residents and Russian Tourists alike.

Leah: Can you imagine Japanese immigration officials conducting interviews in their Broken Immigration English. "What your reason you come Japan?" and a non-native, meaning anysomeone from Abu Dhabi to Zimbabwe, if they speak English, going "I have good reason, anysure, sure, you tell me thing, I tell you onegood."

Lorna: And the official gapes, then dives for his manual?

Leah: Right. Two minutes of page-turning rustling. And then he says, "Could you please once more repeat, more slow?"

Lorna: 10 minutes per immigrant. 20 immigration officials. While the jumbo jets continue disgorging 5000 non-Js into the immigration hall every hour. I mean have they done the math? I mean the sociolinguistic math?

Leah: Ah, chaos, chaos, chaos.

Lorna: You’re going out for new year aren’t you? Promise you’ll write me about your return.

Leah: If I come back.


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