Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A dignified life

It never goes wrong... Every time I get some well deserved vacation, my body decides it's time to relax and let that nasty cold in, full blown. Somehow, my work stressed body has been keeping the germs at bay, but completely surrendering and giving in as vacation approaches.

This means that I have spent the latest days down and out in pretty high fever, receiving palliative care from the always lovely Ms. Sunshine, begging to be put out of my misery. Not only has this resulted in a pretty uncomfortable and miserable couple of days, but has also resulted in the cancellation of a minor vacation trip. Although I think my body will have recoved to the extent that some travel will be possible from tomorrow, so the vacation will not be completely wasted at least.

This year's new year's celebrations will be more leaning towards the Japanese style of celebration, something which I have actually never really experienced before. I have been told that there will be no champange.

For all of you out there with no specific plans for the new year's eve, I would like to take this opportunity to recommend watching either the original "Planet of the Apes", "Road House" or "Next of Kin" together with a big fat whiskey. Something that sounds very appealing to me in my current condition...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to you all!

Today, I was thinking of posting something about how Christmas is celebrated in Japan with all the fried chicken, romantic dates and all that stuff, but I can't really be bothered. Then I was going to post about how immensly annoying it can be to take one day off from work and be met by over a hundred e-mails in the inbox on Christmas Eve when I get back in the office, but I can't really be bothered with that either.

So instead I will just wish you all a very merry christmas and if any of you are still not in the proper Christmas mood you can always listen to the wonderful Christmas song here and you are sure to get in the Christmas mood in no time!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

This one's pretty awesome too!

As a follow up to my much appreciated series about supervillains with awesome names I would like to follow up he "Awesome Threesome" with the "Awesome Android". He is genuinely awesome and the fantastic tag team he has with the Mad Thinker gives a synergetic effect to the awesomeness!

Truly awesome!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

That time of year again!

Yep, it's that time of year again... The "bounenkai" season, the last stretch before the new year's break. I was hoping that maybe, just maybe, this would be the year when we didn't go all out drinking, trying to forget the year... After all, at the new year's party we all were happy and toasted to the new year that we hoped would bring plenty of joy and good news...

But it wasn't to be this time either... Once again we are planning our events to forget about the year that has been here in Japan. As corporate Japan is drawing to a close, restaurants all across Tokyo will be packed with Salarymen desperately trying to forget the year that has been and early 2009 they will once again huddle together to drink to the new, and surely, better year that lies ahead of them.

Thankfully, this year I think I only have to do this deal three times with three different groups, an improvement from earlier!

(On my way home today I, for some reason, started listening to :Wumpscut: and "Soylent Green" on my iPod and about 2 minutes into the song I realized why this music is more suitable for young finnish people with a desire to shoot up their school than salarymen and quickly changed to a The Cure cover album featuring crappy German goth artists, in the end I settled with the Parappa the Rapper soundtrack and felt good about it. Is it only me who think that that car song is funky?)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The "Gyaku-Gire" technique

Now, this is not a unique Japanese technique, I’m sure, but just the fact that it is usual enough to have an own name makes it very useful to know and something to strive to master. The basic premise of a good "Gyaku-Gire" (逆切れ) is to be unjustified angry at someone who has a justified beef with you and it is often utilized in the work place. Directly translated it would mean something as “inverted anger outburst” (Ok, I’m sure there’s better alternatives out there, but whatever).

Let me give you an example here of how this can be used in the corporate setting:

Peon A (being pissed angry that the report he was promised is over a week delayed): Where is that report? You promised me it a week ago and I’ve seen nothing!?
Peon B (being very well aware that he should’ve done it but has spent his time reading up on horse racing online instead) What?! If that report is so important you shouldn’t have asked me, because Peon C asked me to compile data for him and his project (this hasn’t been done either, but the general thinking is to set Peon A and C against each other).
Peon A: (Successfully Gayku-Gire:ed into submission, anger gone): Oh… Ok… Can I have it by next week then?
Peon B: (Impatient) I’ll try.

Also, I have a real life true example of a very successful Gyaky-Gire from a supervisor to a subordinate, one which I aim to utilize someday too:

Peon A: (Angry, tired and pissed off about workload and other team members not pulling their weight) I’m really tired, I’m doing this and that, you need to do something!
Boss A: (Sudden outburst of anger, almost shouting) How do you think I feel?! I’ve been dead inside for a year.
Peon A (Successfully Gyaku-Gire:ed into submission, speechless): Oh, ok… I’ll get back to it then…

Friday, December 12, 2008

All your US Navy base are belong to us

Recently I had my first excursion to a real life US military base here in Japan. Not any base, but the largest base in Japan; the Yokosuka navy base. It was an almost surreal experience, as me and Ms. Sunshine merrily walked from the station to the actual base and as we gradually got closer, signs, menus etc. started appearing in English and not only in Japanese. It felt a bit strange to see a noodle ship with the menu items rudimentary laid out in English and posts for apartments in the usual Japanese style, but all in English.

After being roughly told off by men with guns to wait a few meters away from the entrance we waited for our military friend to pick us up and guide us through the necessary paperwork needed to gain entrance to the base. Fortunately, since the US has not yet labeled Sweden as a part of the axis of evil and Japan is a close strategic military ally we could quickly go through the process and avoid being sent to Guantanamo. My key concern at the base was to avoid being shot by any of the military personnel since, even though the base is located on Japanese soil and lies under Japanese law, the US military has jurisdiction over any crimes committed by military personnel on the base, which theoretically means that I could have gotten the New York style Haitian immigrant treatment without any repercussions to the shooters if they were smooth enough.

The actual base struck me as remarkably unremarkable, it looked less than my expectations of a military base and more like an immigrant heavy suburb to Stockholm, minus the graffiti and with only white buildings. Somewhere around my fifth question to my host regarding under which conditions the guards would actually shoot at me and what actions on my behalf could get him court-martialed (since we were allowed in under his responsibility) Ms. Sunshine started to get worried about what I actually had in mind to do and stopped any further inquiries into this fascinating subject.

As we reached the on-base shopping center and our main destination things started to get surreal for real. It felt like we had been dropped in the middle of a boring small US shopping mall and not like we still were in Japan at all. Moving around the area were mostly western people with just a few Japanese people and at the entrance of the store they had even brought in one of those huge cumbersome and defect prone US style soda machines and as added measure, it only accepted US dollars.

As we entered the store, the illusion was complete. The nowadays familiar Japanese brands were nowhere in sight and the selection of everything from candies, clothes to DVD movies were the same as we had been in a US store. Even the Japanese brands they did carry were obviously “imported and then exported back to Japan” with English packaging. Since we usually do not have this kind of access to western product brands and also adding that the prices were both cheap to begin with and also tax-free, a minor shopping spree was initiated. The most prominent and important purchase was probably the full set of Arrested Development DVDs since my previously bought pirated copies were wearing a bit thin.

I guess this is the closest you can get to a day trip to the US here in Japan and it was an interesting experience.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sir, we have a problem!

The morning started out pretty reasonable, a little hung over from the company event the day before, but not too bad. I just had started my morning routine of checking the Swedish newspaper online while starting my first cup of coffee to later move on to the night's harvest of mails from head office and late workers who sent stuff after I had gone home.

All in all, it seemed set up to be a manageable day in the office. Then Neurotic peon (an older Japanese guy who is very friendly and nice, but has a tendency to worry too much...) approaches me and, with fear in his voice, talks about a big problem that has occured and that might impact our customers. I have to give it to him, he built it up pretty well and had me worried, he also spread the word to include some other managers in the company, so we were a respectable bunch in the room when he was going to explain the problem in question. In my head, the Problem was now of epic proportions and we were all similarly worried.

So, neurotic peon lays out the problem, explain his action plan to lessen the damage and since the problem came from him solemnly offered to take the responsibility in form of bonus cuts. It took me a great deal of time to understand the problem since I couldn't really find this epic problem in the detailed material he had prepared and when I finally did it was a huge anti-climax.

This epic problem turned out to be nothing more than a minor nuisance. He had discovered a virus on his USB memory stick and might accidently have infected some computers at our customers when he had picked up information with it. A pretty harmless data mining virus to boot and any half-decent virus software would've killed it immediately. Nothing to be excited about and a nuisance at worst, assuming the computer in question actually didn't have any anti-virus software (and if that is the case, they probably have a number of viruses already and are under constant supervision by batallions of north korean hackers). The result of the meeting? Nothing really, it basically ended with me giving him the advice to get a decent anti-virus software on his computer, more for his own sake than for anything else.

Well, I shouldn't complain. It's better that they hype things up than doing it the other way around and calling an actual huge problem "minor".

Sunday, December 7, 2008

At least they're trying...

In Japan, you get pretty much used to excellent service in shops and stores. The clerks are friendly and attentive to what you want and do their best to assist you. This is probably always the single largest culture shock that strikes me when I get back home or basically anywhere outside of Japan.

I remember last time when I was back home in Stockholm and a clerk in a clothes store was bothered that she had to hang up a private phone call because a customer happened to want to pay for the stuff he wanted to buy...

That said, there is one chain store in Japan that has a habit of making me very tired every time I go there. The store is called Geo and does the rental video, selling used games, DVDs and CDs thing. As far as general selection and such, the store does a pretty good job, they have most of the stuff and the prices are, maybe not the cheapest, but pretty reasonable. Their main problem lies in the staff. Don't get me wrong, they are trying, they are trying very hard, but I think there's a fundamental problem in the raw material. I am not sure if it's deliberate recruiting or if it's some other factor that drives it, but the clerks there seem to consist of pretty pure Otaku's. They basically all wear thick black glasses, their hairstyle is the basic "let it grow and then cut it a bit myself" fashionable style and they carry themselves with the posture of someone who spends most of his free time crouched in front of a 14" tv watching Gundam and some anime porn to spice things up a bit.

But, yes, there's women working there too! Some relief you might think, but no, they seem to be from basically the same school as the guys over there.

They do try their best, I have to give them that. They're not rude or anything, but they just can't get anything right. Everytime I go there, there is something that they get mixed up or they get confused and I have to stand around with a patient smile waiting for them to sort out the mess they created for themselves. By now, I now what to expect from that place so I just smile and wait patiently.

My advice, you live close to a Tsutaya? Well, stick to that one then and stay out of the Geo!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Let's grab a cab!

When discussing about Japanese taxis, there are both good things and bad things with them in this country. My obvious frame of reference is from my home country Sweden, but from my travels I have come to the conclusion that Europe and the US do not differ so much.

So, to the good things. Taxis are plentiful here and you very very rarely have to wait long for one or call and reserve one, even very early mornings I have easily managed to get a taxi without much wait at all just outside my door. So availability is a definite plus, also, they're reasonably priced here as well, you don't have to give away your first born for a 30min ride somewhere.

Well then, what's the problem you may think. You see, taxi drivers in Japan are usually completely ignorant about the city they live and work in. Throwing out an address will just yield a blank stare and unless your destination is, or is very close to, one of Tokyo's more famous landmarks, the driver will most likely stare at you for a bit waiting for you to give him more instructions and if he doesn't receive it he usually starts driving in the general direction hoping that the issue will resolve itself at some point. It usually never does, so therefore I always bring with me print out maps of the destination nowadays to make sure I don't get stuck in endlessly driving along small streets.

But, assuming that the taxi driver actually knows the destination, then the next inevitable question will come from him: "Which route do you want to take?". Now, I know that this is meant as a service and to avoid customer complaints about detours and stuff later on, it still never fails to annoy me. Since I'm lacking a drivers license and therefore have no idea about the fastest way to drive places I just lamely throw out a "I leave it up to you" after which I usually have to agree to a number of suggestions before we finally get the show on the road.

Just recently I took a taxi and had, as I had learnt the hard way, brought a printed out map since he gave me that blank stare when I told the destination. Then this older gentleman peers at the map for a good minute and then picks up a huge magnifying glass to read the map. Considering the size of this thing I was amazed that he had vision enough to actually drive a taxi... He did get me to the destination though I should mention to his credit, eventually.

Also, a common characteristic for Japanese taxi drivers is that they are almost exclusively male and based on my observations I would estimate the average age to be around 65 years old, and this includes the 20-something driver who drags down the average radically. I remember how he enthustiastically told me how much he loved the Swedish pop group "Atomic Swing" after I had mentioned that I was Swedish... It's a hard life.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A philosophical Essay: What is hell?

Different cultures and religions have different definitions of hell. The commonly and probably most widespread image of hell is the classic image of a hot and burning hell, an image that came out of Europe and Christianity during the 1400th century*.

However, in other cultures, such as the viking culture in the cold north where I am from, hell was not seen as a hot place, but rather an ice cold frozen place.

In conclusion, when you look at it more closely, you can see that hell is often interpreted as the opposite of what is seen as desirable. If the cold is seen as something negative, hell would be imaged as a cold place and the contrary for cultures that are more exposed to heat. Very interesting and something to reflect upon.

I, as of today, have a new definition of hell that I would like to share with you all: Hell is the 6 hour Shinkansen train ride from Fukuoka to Tokyo, stuck in the smoking car.

* Source: This is not really a fact or anything, I just made it up on the spot.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I bought my brother a Christmas present...

...as you can see in the picture. He's been asking for something like this for so many years and now I finally found it, he'll be so happy! If my little niece turns out with an aggressive phobia for raindeers in her older age I think this could be the cause.

Why can't stuff like this be found back home in Sweden?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

It's not my fault!

After some very hard negotiations I managed to get a little space for a post on Tokyo Cowgirl's blog. It was not easy and I would seriously appreciate if you would go there and read the latest post I spent hours upon hours on perfecting!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hmmm, this isn’t really politically correct, is it…?

Japan is an island with a pretty homogenous population, I think that much is well known. Sure, nowadays there are minorities such as salarymen imported from Europe or the US , and immigrants and worker’s from other Asian countries is not rare at all. However, if you move out of the metropolitan Tokyo area it gets pretty rare and the occasional foreigner is usually someone making a living as an English teacher or such.

This means that race is not a very sensitive subject here in Japan , at least not compared to Europe or the US . The non-asian population groups are simply too small to be considered a real minority group and without any real voice. Therefore, most minor racist remarks and such that would be impossible to say in more diverse countries can slip by here without stirring up a storm. Sometimes, some racist remarks can be said by politicians and such and actually reach an international audience that can show the proper outrage, but the vast minority just kinda slips by here in Japan .

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in my crib, together with the always wonderful Ms. Sunshine and was watching a music show that was going to feature Beyonce and a new single as well as the latest and greatest J-pop artists. As the artists were introduced I watched as one of the latest “humorous” constellations came out to the scene, a group consisting of some famous comedians and artists dragged up to look like black soul chicks from the movie “Dreamgirls”, with some light blackface make-up and all (watch at your own risk here). For some reason the host thought it would be a great idea to make sure that they got the chance to speak with Beyonce up front. The face of Beyonce was priceless. She looked somewhere between stunned, amused and disgusted at the same time as they were trying to speak to her in their pidgin English.

Seriously, I wouldn’t be too surprised if they would start a Minstrel Show on prime time tv here in Japan in the near future… And don’t get me started on Bobby…

(I would just like to add, in all seriousness, that I don’t believe that the comedy group had any insight at all in what they did might actually be considered offensive to black people, they just thought they were funny…)

Friday, November 21, 2008

PGF Depression

I am suffering from this now. Some of you guys reading this might know exactly what I'm talking about. I think that to readers of this blog, it has been pretty clearly established that I enjoy playing computer games. I don't personally have any issues with this and feel that it is a perfectly acceptable way to pass the time and if the game is good, much more stimulating than watching tv and a movie.

After a considerable ordeal, I previously managed to get the Boy to purchase, among other games, the PS3 game "Dead Space" during a recent business trip to the USA . A game I have considerable entertainment out of. I would actually be daring to go out on a limb here and say that it delivered more gaming satisfaction than the obvious inspiration; Resident Evil 4. So for a couple of weeks, the game has kept me thoroughly entertained. However, just a few days ago, I started to realize the inevitable...
I was getting closer and closer to the end, and even though the entertainment value kept rising I couldn't enjoy it as much as I would've wanted since I knew it would come to an end really soon.

Yesterday it happened. I finished the game...The first feeling was that artificial feeling of achievement you get when you finish something that has no relevance to your actual life but still makes you feel like you achieved something significant. Then it hit me. The PGF Depression. Fellow gamers will know exactly what I'm talking about here, the Post Game Finish Depression, the emptiness and bleakness that follows the realization that: "I'm done with this, what do I do now?" when you've finished a really good game. Sure, Resistance 2 has been lying on the table waiting for my attention, but I doubt that it can fill the void in my life that Dead Space has left me with...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Learn to like it!

Yes, it's time again for another one of those "Mr. Salaryman endorses" posts, so those of you looking to read about my further adventures in work and life in Tokyo will have to stay calm.

You see, it has been a long time since I heard a song that barges through my front door, rudely bitch slap me awake, tearing me out of the bed and kicks me naked out the front door, literally. But one new group and song did just that too me, you can hear and see it in the video just above here (click it now). The band is from Sweden and is made up of one member from the band Melody Club who teamed up with another member from Yvonne and Strip Music. Granted, they've only released an EP this far, but it manages to combine the pop melodies of Melody Club and the bleakness of Yvonne/Strip Music and make something new and better out of it. You should buy it, now, it's out on iTunes!

It's a really pleasant experience to be this surprised by a group on which I had no expectations at first and be completely blown away. It hasn't happened that often in my life of being musically aware. I do still remember how Tiamat completely blew me away with Judas Christ and showed that great goth can actually still be done and that there's no need to be sentimental about the Sisters of Mercy or the Fields of the Nephilim. I also remember how Ladytron completely caught me by surprise just by the time most electronic pop groups were very far entrenched in their own behinds and how Dark Tranquility showed me that there actually are really great Death Metal groups there with their great album "Haven", it did help an old electrohead like me that they infused the metal with cold synth sounds as well though. Good stuff.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I can't answer that

It seems like lately, corporate meetings has been on my blogging agenda (mixed up with some homeless guys and sweatpants) but my lovely company is currently in a pretty intense process trying to settle organization, budget etc. before the start of 2009.

Since this involves a lot of negotiations and discussions with our regional overlords I end up involved quite often even if it is not directly related to my marketing related tasks. This means a lot of meetings, and the worst type of them; teleconferences... I probably should dedicate another post to the horrors of telecons, but let's just say that talking over the phone is not made easier by language and cultural barriers between our office and our overlords.

The other day I participated in such a meeting, supporting my colleagues in the Quality Assurance department in which the objective was to negotiate more resources for the coming year. A highly important subject and something that also directly relates to my job since it will impact sales and marketing if they cannot do their job properly. In the beginning things were going pretty well and I felt that the negotiations were going our way. Then a question that neither me nor Mr. Shachou could answer came and we needed the QA Manager "Captain Awkward" to answer for us. The conversation went something like this:

Overlord: Ok, that sounds fine, but do you really need this particular thing since you just said that you will be doing something something instead?
Mr. Salaryman: (Silently motioning to Captain Awkward that he should answer)
Cpt. Awkward: (Silently starting at the telecon device in front of him)
Overlord: Hello?
Cpt. Awkward: (Silently starting at the telecon device in front of him, scratching his nose)
Mr. Shachou: We're here, we're just gonna translate the question so our QA manager can answer (translates to Cpt. Awkward)
Cpt. Awkward: (takes a breath and looks like he's gonna speak but ends up giving a deep sigh instead)
Mr. Shachou: (Stirring in his chair and looking around the room in desperation knowing that the time for giving a decisive impression to his direct overlords has passed)
Cpt. Awkward: (half muttering to himself in Japanese) It's not like we're just sitting around...
Mr. Salaryman: (Realizing that the farce needs to end) I think we might have some language problems here, but we got the question and will get back to you by e-mail later

I felt slightly uncomfortable sitting in on the scolding that Cpt. Awkward got after the meeting from Mr. Shachou, there's something disturbing about watching a man in his late '50s on the verge of tears due to work... The take-home message here is; whatever you do, try to give clear and decisive answers to your overlords and if you don't know the answer divert the attention quickly!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Yeah, that is a pretty infestation of them you have right there"

Now, I guess this is subjective depending on where you come from, but with my Swedish eyes Japan has a lot of homeless people. Without having any kind of scientific study to back me up or basically anything more than my own observations during the close to ten years I've been living here in Japan now, I would like to say that they can broadly be defined into three separate categories.

First we have the "normal" type, people who don't have a real place to stay, but still manage to make some money and keep themselves somewhat clean to the degree that it can be hard to spot them since they can blend in pretty good. As far as I can guess I would think that these are people that had a real work, company or such but fell on hard times and ended up on the street. Then there's the "drug abuser" type of homeless person, these are more visible and they tend to be nursing some form of alcohol and even though they are not extremely filthy and/or smelly, they usually seem to care considerably less of their own personal hygiene than the "normal" type. Depending on degree of intoxication these people can range from "no bother at all" to "highly disturbing".
But then we have the most unpredictable type, the "mentally deranged" type of homeless people. These are, as far as my observations go, people who due to some mental disorder, are not able to maintain a normal lifestyle and end up on the street and I guess in some cases any sickness they might suffer from is enhanced through substance abuse.

These type of people are just something you get used to when living in Japan, they're a regular sight in most areas and I would believe that most readers who live in Japan have their own local homeless person in their specific area.

Now, I have one of the homeless that would fall in the third category in my area. I've actually gotten a bit used to him and except for a pretty aggressive smell he doesn't seem to cause any harm and seems to be happy talking to himself. I see him on an almost daily basis and he still hasn't changed his outfit once in all that time. On my way to my commuter train I walk through a "garden path" and he has made that area his nesting ground in the middle of the houses that surround the path. He has chosen a spot where he seems to do most of his sleeping. However, just last week as I was merrily walking home from my great job and approaching his little place and getting ready to take a deep breath so I could avoid some of the odor I was suprised to see the area marked by some cones and a rudimentary "fence" closing off the area with a sign saying "it is forbidden to litter here up to a fine of 10 million Japanese yen". I assume that the family living in the house just where he sleeps got tired of having him there and called the park authorities.

But this doesn't really seem to have shaken my little friend much since the next day I saw him again, this time he had relocated 50 meters down the path and I assume that this little cat and mouse game will continue for quite some time and the authorities will have a hard time catching up on him. I'm looking forward to follow the developments in this little war that has erupted!

If you're wondering, the picture shows the hedged of area where he used to nest.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On a slippery slope...

To call me a man of strong moral conviction or a man with a very strong sense of style would be a lie. However, I have had one code which have guided me through thick and thin throughout the years, at least from my teen age days. This code of mine is simply:
"I don't wear sweatpants at home"

In sports activities there is a justified reason for the existence of sweatpants, but not in the home setting. Since I am now in a salaryman job I wear the suit at work and change to something more comfortable when I get home, but I still wear normal comfortable pants and never sweatpants. Why is this, you might wonder? I feel that starting to wear sweatpants is a slippery slope down to a place I don't want to end up in... You start with sweatpants occasionally at home and before you know it you gladly go to the supermarket in them together with a sauce stained sweatshirt and crappy sandals. There are many of them where I live and I refuse to end up like them. Now, this code of honor is something I live by and it really hasn't caused me any discomfort or trouble at all until a recent ethical dilemma.

Just recently Ms. Sunshine came with some of her wonderful gifts again, stuff that she has accumulated through her work in the fashion industry. She gave me a pair of very fancy, brand name cargo sweatpants. I tried them on and they fit perfectly, feel extremely comfortable and look nothing like the type of sweatpants that I usually hate on. In fact, I'm wearing them right now and feel very comfortable in them and somewhat stylish. However, how much I try to rationalize it, I cannot escape the simple fact: "I'm wearing sweatpants at home". But with these fancy sweatpants I feel that I can relax my rule a little bit, but I am afraid that I'm on a slippery slope down to oblivion now...

I brought up this issue and my ethical dilemma with Luke in a recent conversation, he listened carefully to my dilemma (he agrees with my basic stance on sweatpants) and gave the following advice:

1. Use extreme caution
2. Limit the times/week you wear them
3. Limit the amount of time
4. Be very careful what you wear them with
5. NEVER EVER leave the house with them on

I feel that this advice is sound and something I need to stick to in these times of temptation!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Let's discuss this in the meeting

I've previously discussed a bit around the long-winded meetings that is a reality in (at least some companies) in corporate Japan. But to be honest, I've just gotten kinda hardened to them and since they've become a part of my everyday work life, they just don't annoy me as much anymore since I have accepted them as a part of my reality.

However, today's meeting stunned even me. The first part of the meeting was fine, a standard corporate meeting, but then a highly important issue for the coming year was brought up and some discussion erupted regarding the feasibility of us succeeding in doing what we've committed ourselves to do. This issue was discussed for about an hour, at which point someone brought up that a meeting should be held to discuss this issue and make sure that we're all onboard with the plan.

Then the meeting turned into a meeting about this meeting with such important issues as when to have it, whom to include, whether we needed to have one or more meetings and then the dates and participant dicussion all over again, back and forth. We spent the better half of an hour in a meeting to decide on a meeting...

As the meeting kept dragging on and on I just can't see how we can make a decision together on an important topic when we can't even decide on when to have the meeting without spending considerable time on it...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Can you really do this kinda thing...?

Yesterday was "I'm your c**t" girl's final day at the consultant company since she's quitting to move on to bigger and better things, leaving Luke, The Boy, Captain Britain and the other people behind. So she's joining me in the group of graduates from the company. Yesterday the group threw together an improvised informal farewell party to send her off properly and I joined in in the festivities.

The venue chosen was particularly interesting, as a conneiseur of all things crappy I was delighted, but also surprised. Previously in the company I always ran into stiff resistance since most of the people there didn't share the same affection as me for crappy theme restaurants, but for some reason, without my active involvement, they had chosen a "Church" themed restaurant. Namely the "Christon Cafe" in Shibuya.

It was delightful, and as I have no particular love lost for organized and/or dis-organized religion in particular, the heresy of the general atmosphere of this place was wonderful. The restaurant is pimped out as a semi-church complete with crucifixes, a statue of the virgin Mary and gargoyles among other things. Also, on the menu, they actually had a dish called "Satan's seafood rice" which we obviously had to order. A place like this would probably be impossible to open in most other countries, but political correctness have not really penetrated Japan. You should go there too!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Disposable people

There are many different type of species inside the corporate environment, from the predator like managers and the back stabbing peons. One of the more peaceful and harmless species is the type known as "Temp staff". These are the people you "rent" from the agency when the work that needs to be done is so simple that it doesn't need a formal employee and all the costs in terms of benefits and insurance that comes with it. They can be fired without stirring up a fuzz, but also the other way around, if the temp staff doesn't appreciate the company and/or the work, they can often pack up and leave with a pretty short notice and just transfer to the next company that the pimping agency hooks them up with.

So, they're pretty much disposable people. In the last six months we've seen 7 temp staff coming and going for two different positions due to a number of reasons. This can make for a pretty frustrating experience since you have to go through the whole deal of making sure a new one is hired before the previous one leaves so they can teach the new one the job before they have their last day. If this is ongoing on a basically monthly basis the original knowledge of the work and how to do it effeciently is pretty quickly lost in the system...

Today, I interviewed a new temp staff together with the sales director and Mr. Shachou since the quality of the previous ones has not really been as amazing as I would have wanted and my faith in their recruiting abilities is pretty low at this point. Now, it comes with the game that you can't put too much expectations in terms of experience on a temp staff, once in a while some really good people comes by, but most of these ones chose to not work as temp staff, instead preferring the official corporate employee route.

For the person I interviewed today, I received the CV and please allow me to highlight some of the computer skill that was empasized:

Microsoft Excel: Can adjust size of letters, draw lines, adjust height of cells and rows, input figures in a form and save document.

I was a bit skeptical at first, but at least she claims to be able to save documents so I hope it'll be ok. You learn to put the expectations low.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Not so smart now, are we?

When iTunes got updated and added the “Genius” function I was very skeptical in the beginning. When I tried it out I just assumed that the service would be incapable of providing me with a reasonable playlist based on the song I had chosen, but to my surprise, this was not the case. Genius actually kinda worked, of course the selection hasn’t always been completely flawless, but it usually selected songs and groups in the same genre and style as the song I had chosen.

So, Genius has become a tool I’ve gotten used to and frequently used, that some of the more obscure groups and songs are not available is a fact that I am reconciled with. However, yesterday I got a hankering to listen to some nice melodic electro-pop and selected one of my favorite obscure Swedish groups Daybehavior and their song “Superstar” fully expecting that genius might not work with that specific song, but it did.

However… The resulting playlist is an abomination! The picture is an actual screenshot of what the resulting playlist ended up as, a mix of some of the most embarrassing songs in my iTunes library, freely mixing Europe and “The Final Countdown” with Nirvana and “Take on me” by A-ha (I don’t even want to mention that I secretly kinda like T.A.T.U.). The only song that can be even thought to be remotely related to the Daybehavior song is the Depeche Mode song that turned up in the playlist. I have a pretty substantial iTunes library of over 10,000 songs, but this time Genius took a great song as a base and then reached down in the gutters of my collection and decided to put them all together in one nasty playlist.

No, I didn’t listen through the playlist, I gave up somewhere near Nirvana…

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Largest mobile phone strap bundle at the point of death wins!

In Japan, basically everyone has a strap attached to their mobile phones, more than anything this is highly practical. When you need to pull out the phone, you just grab the strap and you're ready to go. However, some people put in a great deal of effort into the selection of the mobile phone strap while some people obviously don't.

Personally I proudly have a Hello Kitty strap and I've probably worked my way through at least 8 or so up until this point, the current one is Hello Kitty as an onsen boiled egg from Niigata, courtesy of the always wonderful Ms. Sunshine. I also very remember back in the day when I was a fresh face at the company and the very hardcore old fashioned sales manager had a Cinnamoroll strap and got visibly embarrased when I started commenting on it.

However, today at work I encountered a giant bundle of a mobile phone strap collection. One of my colleagues was gonna show me some pictures involving babies on her mobile phone (the baby happened to belong to "I'm not gay" guy in case anyone is keeping notes) but I couldn't even see the pictures out of the fascination of her absolutely huge collection of mobile phone straps. It made me feel pretty inferior with my meager lonely strap... The picture here is the real monster. I was a afraid to touch it in case it would bite my hand, but for you dear reader, I took my chances to show you this giant among mobile phone straps!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Time to get political!

As you may have noticed, I have stayed away from politics to as large extent as possible, not because I don't have any opinions, but more because that this little blog is focusing more on funny little incidents in Japan and the corporate environment I'm festering in.

But now with the US election coming up with Obama, McCain, Biden, Palin and all those people I feel that I should comment since this upcoming election will have reprecussions all over the world.

I think my stance here is best expressed by Tiamat in the video above!

Friday, October 24, 2008

An honorable death?

I freely admit that I'm not really providing you people with the latest news from Japan and news and other items often nest themselves in the back of my head and slowly move forward to in the end manifest themselves in this little blog.

You see, about a month ago there was an incident in Osaka where a fire started in a building with a video booth shop in it. As a Swede, these type of establishments are very much connected with the red light districts and has an overall seedy image and I don't think I hardly ever even has seen one until I came to Japan. Also, after the home video became widespread I think most of those places dissapeared since people could now get their regular porn fix in the privacy of their own homes and the few remaining establishments must have catered to that crowd of people that for some reason got a kick out of going outside for their porn fix.

However, not so here in Japan, I don't know how many such establishments there are in the Ikebukuro area where I live alone, but I would guess that at least 50 is not a bold estimate. In the local restaurant and nightlife area they are a common sight nested in between the bars, the restaurants and the places that provide recommendations to the bar/hostess bar/sex club scene. Looking from the advertisements and signs it seems like they very much target the salaryman crowd, perhaps they like to "take a break" there before going home to the wife and kids in which watching porn has proven to be to difficult.

Now, in the Osaka fire, something around 7 men were caught in there, couldn't escape and died from the smoke and the fire. In Japan, such an event is of course nation wide news and it was the headliner news on basically all the news channels. The peculiar thing that I noticed was that no names were given... If a similar accident had happened at, say a department store, they would list the names of those who expired in the fire, but nothing such for this event. I am not sure on whether this was because the relatives that didn't want to have it blasted all over the news that their husband/brother/child frequented such establishments or because the tv companies decided that keeping it a little more discreetly would be the best route. In any case, it's a tragic event and nothing to joke about really.

Personally, I have never visited one of these places, but I do admit to a general curiousity of how it works, how the rooms look and how the service is, it wouldn't be to "use the facilities" but more to see how one of these places actually look like. However, the thought of being in a room where hundreds and hundreds of people have been sitting jacking off is less than appealing to me (do they clean the walls too?) so I decided to outsource it. For the bargain sum of 2000 yen plus expenses covered, The Boy will visit one establishment on my behalf and provide me with some pictures and a report. The current timeline for this project is in two weeks and I will happily report back to you so you can decide if it's worth taking a look.

I did clearly state that I could provide no insurance for him in the case of a fire, but I could approach his mother and tell her that he visited at my request which I'm sure she wouldn't believe in any case...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Just because I asked...

Sometimes in work related functions, after a day of meetings, I end up at dinners with colleagues from other countries that I might have nothing in common with privately and working in different countries and functions, not much in work either.

This can sometimes be pretty painful, but during these occasions I usually put on my mask of sanity and appear to be a normal reasonable guy as far as they know. However, often times these type of dinners can be filled with awkward silences as people realizes that they actually have nothing that they want to talk about with the persons in the neighboring seats. This usually triggers an attempt from me to start a conversation, and if I for some reason or other happen to know that Ms. X next to me has a hobby of gardening/skydiving/stamp collecting I throw out a question something in the vein of "I've heard that you are interested in gardening/skydiving/stamp collecting? Isn't it difficult to (something with whatever limited knowledge I happen to have of the subject)?" looking suitably interested (with great effort).

There have been several occasions when this has actually worked and the person has answered the question in a reasonable way and an overall bearable conversation starts up around the table. But there have also been times when the whole plan has backfired at me and the person interprets my questions as a genuine interest and starts to explain, at length, gardening/skydiving/stamp collecting to me, without anyone else jumping in to help take some of the weight of me as conversation target. These are the occasions when I sometimes has had to, with great effort, surpress the urge to interrupt the person and very clearly say "Look, shut up! Just because I asked doesn't mean I care!". But I'll guess I'll deal with the fallout of that if it ever comes to it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Partners in crime

For one of our ongoing projects we are working together with another company since our products go hand in hand, so we have a common interest in working together. That is all fine and well and something that most people working in a corporate environment have experienced I would think. So far our cooperation has gone relatively well, but a change of management in our partner company made things a little difficult for us.

First of all, their willingness to invest money significantly decreased, but that is something we can work around, but more importantly they did a organizational reshuffle and our main speaking partner since many years got moved away, against his will, to a smaller and insignificant department to await retirement. However, since no replacement has been put in place, he has remained our speaking partner until early this week. Mr. Slick, as we can call him, is a pretty sly guy and his default work _expression is a sly grin and he has a habit of leaning towards you when he speaks, saying something and then giving a little theatrical laugh before returning to the default grin and casually leaning back.

In this meeting he brought along his replacement, let’s call him Mr. Grim. He had a completely different personality, the default work _expression seemed to be a frown and sitting straight backed without moving an inch either back or forth. It was clear that Mr. Slick had the upper hand on Mr. Grim as he was instructing him on what had gone on in the past and who was important and not, showing of the grin and the theatrical laugh on many occasions while Mr. Grim looked grim and nodded slightly with his head in response. On several occasions Mr. Slick also scolded Mr. Grim when Mr. Grim had some minor objection to our plans or some suggestion for a change to which he looked even grimmer and nodded. Seeing these two guys bouncing of each other was pretty entertaining, to the degree that I got so enthralled in observing them interact that I forgot the topic on several occasions…

I will miss Mr. Slick and his slyness which came in very useful on several occasions and as long as he was on my side I appreciated it (I wouldn’t if I had been more on the receiving end of his schemes and plots). I also remember fondly the time when we had reached a significant step in the project and he brought me and a colleague out for dinner and the restaurant was some special “member’s only” bar in which girls in bunny suits walked about smiling with no specific purpose while normally dressed waitresses were serving us food and drink. Perhaps he’ll take me there again to that secret place as a final event before he fades into corporate oblivion…?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cho Cho Train!

For once, I'm not complaining about the weather! Japan is actually pretty pleasant at the moment, sure, the hint of the coldness of winter has started to creep on us, but on a sunny day it can be very comfortable outside and I gladly sleep with my window open, occasionally woken up by the sound of police or ambulance sirens in the crime infested hood that I call my home.

Lately, there has been plenty of sunny days with clearly visible blue skies and the occasional day of rain hasn't been that bad and very few typhoons approaching Japan so far. Not much to complain about, you would think...

Well, as much as I theoretically enjoy this break beween the heat of summer and the cold of winter all is not well! Something is taking the current climate as a cue to blossom and infect the air with some kind of pollen causing me to go into pretty heavy bouts of sneezing, runny nose and eyes so red that it's hard to see any traces of white in them, that I keep scratching them might not really help that much either.

Sure, there are allergy medicines out there that works pretty well, but the trick is to start taking them before hell really breaks loose, but since my memory does not seem to function for more than two months at a time I keep forgetting that this will happen every year...

In spring, when a large part of the Japanese population are suffering from hayfever due to pollen flying around I'm usually completely fun and can smugly enjoy how stupid some of the heavy sufferers look in their huge goggles and face masks, looking like they're just about to rob a convenience store or so, but just when they are getting fine something else decides it's time to blossom and puts me through the same ordeal.

Now, I'm aware that the face masks and the goggles might actually work in keeping some of the worst stuff out of your systems, I cannot bring myself to wear any of that stuff... On the good side, it'll all be over soon enough when we enter the harsh and unfriendly Tokyo winter with umbrellas in the snow and all other things that it brings with it...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A serious house on a serious earth

Judging from my previous post, it might seem like life in Tokyo is just fun and games, but I can assure you that this is not the case!

Recently I also had to visit one of the saddest places in the whole of Tokyo metropolitan area, a truly bleak and depressing place; the immigration office. Their homepage kinda refelects the general atmosphere of that place. Thankfully, through use of agents and stable visas, I haven't had to visit this place so often, but it is a truly depressive experience to go there.

First of all, the place is inconveniently located quite far off from the nearest train station, demanding a bus ride (I never ride a bus in central Tokyo otherwise!) with people trying to hand out advertisements for overseas phone services targeting us poor lost souls here in Japan.

To be fair, the building looks decent enough both inside and from the outside, not particularly rundown or anything, but nothing fancy either. The first challenge is to try and find the right desk for the particular errand you are there for which is not the easiest thing and the information service is usually not of the particularly friendly type. Last time I was there I asked for information about the documents for applying for permanent residence and was met by a cold "why? It's not given out to anyone you know" by a person who knew nothing about me or my current status in Japan. I restrained myself from saying anything nasty and just said "just give me the papers, please" which she eventually did, looking very offended.

Then you are ready to enter the heart of darkness, usually the place is packed with people from many different nationalities. Some of the people that stands out particularly are the imported asian girls that work in the "entertainment" industry, usually escorted by a particularly seedy looking older Japanese man and dressed up ready to hit the streets the moment they get their stamps. I always thought that it would make sense to leave the mini-skirt and high boots at home for this visit, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Then there's usually also the tragic scenes taking place with people for some reason being denied a visa or something, crying and desperately trying to plead with the clerks at the desk to no avail as they just push the button for the next number in line. As far as I've been told, they also house a small jail on the premises for those cases that needs to be shipped out urgently, but for reasons I cannot fully comprehend, I have never been put there.

This time I just needed some minor stamps for a small thing, but regardless you are put on wait at least an hour until they take pity on you and press your number... For some reason this time I had a clerk that actually seemed to be capable of a little emotion and a vague hint of friendliness as I got the things in order and could continue salarymaning about.

Those foreigners living here for sure know what I'm talking about and if you're planning to come here for a longer stay you will experience this for yourself. If nothing else, it is an interesting experience...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tokyo Game Show 2008

Through some careful and sly manouvering, yours truly managed to squeeze in a visit to the Tokyo game show held in the huge "Makuhari Messe" convention center in Chiba this weekend. Although Ms. Sunshine couldn't be less interested in games, she kept herself entertained in the close by shopping center while I went to check out the latest games that will be hitting Japan in the future.

The event is an assault on the senses, with blinking lights everywhere, huge crowds of people, that range from looking ordinary to a quite large number of Akiba-kei (Akihabara style) Otaku people of both sexes, and constant noise from music, games and ongoing panel discussions at the different companies exhibition booths. However, since my patience for waiting in lines is pretty limited I didn't bother to stand in line for the hours needed to actually try out any of the games for 5 minutes, but just walked around the hall and checked out the ongoings.

One of the more interesting aspects of the game show is also the large amount of "cosplayers" that this event attracts and who hang out in the area connecting the two main exhibition halls. However, even a geek such as me cannot identify more than a few of the game characters that they are dressed up as. This is a disturbing fact as it is, that a large number of grown men and women go through the time and effort to create costumes that look like cheap plastic versions of their favorite video game character, but even more disturbing is the huge lines of otaku with expensive camera equipment that are lining up to take pictures of these people. I found it more entertaining to take pictures of the lines and the people taking the pictures since it's such an exquisite opportunity to chart the fashion culture of the Akiba-kei.

Oh, and yeah, I'm sure that you are all curious on what amazing games will await in the coming months and I am more than happy to share some of the highlights with you! We can all look forward to another amazing installment of the "Cooking Mama" series and also another, amazing I'm sure, "Gundam Musou II" game... Seriously, those type of games are what's wrong with Japan today, at least they're gonna release a new Puzzle Bobble game, but what we really need is a real remake of the original Puzzle Bobble game!

In any case, I'm probably going to go to the 2009 event as well, and I'm seriously thinking of participating in the cosply fun and I'm sure I could get the Akiba-kei people line-up for photos if I come dressed as the coolest game character ever; the Prince of Cosmos!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The peon of my peon...

After a pretty rough day, which ended with me having to lecture the president about the necessity of having a defined role and purpose before we recruited people and just not recruiting random people and then think of what to do with them, I feel pretty exhausted.

The topic arose since a new person was pretty recently recruited into my department, so far he seems smart, has experience and is a reasonable person, but I was against the recruitment from the beginning. Not because of any issues with him, his experience or personality, more due to the lack of value versus benefit of recruiting another person into my department. In the end I relented and agreed to have him hired under the condition that I didn't have to look after him and train him, so he is reporting to one of my team members.

Just recently in a conversation with Luke from my former company, I explained the situation to him and the conversation went something like this, as always, please feel free to act out the scene with a pet, colleague or casual sex partner:

Mr. Salaryman: So he's basically reporting to one of my peons.
Luke: Oh, so you're not his direct boss?
Mr. Salaryman: Yeah, that's right.
Luke: (Triumphantly) So that means that he's your grand-peon!

"Grand-peon". Let that new word sink in a bit. This one needs to get in the dictionaries ASAP!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Oh, come f**king ON!

In a recent post, I discussed a bit on the plight of the "announcer" in Japan, something to which a person calling himself "Colin" had a pretty insightful comment. With the aim steadily focused on the future, I won't dig into the exact details of that post or anything, anyone interested can simply go back and read it.

That said and out of the way, this post is more generally about Japanese "comedians" and more specifically about the comedian going under the name "Dandy Sakano". Now, for those of you living in Japan and/or following the Japanese media, you already know that most of the mainstream comedians that do the circuit in big Japan tv shows have a gimmick or a gag that is extremely simplified and basically repeated ad nauseum until their time has come, the public has grown bored with them and a new fresh "talent" takes their place.

I'm sure many of you can throw out countless of examples of "comedians" like this, but coming to my mind immediately are "Tetsu and Tomo" with their annoying "何でだろう?” ("why is it like that?" ) song, Kojima with his speedos and "関係ない”("What's that got to do with anything?!") thing and "Neko Hiroshi" with his thing that I never figured out what the hell was so great with him!

However, what most of these "comedians" have in common is that the thing they do is usually a little bit amusing, perhaps not to the degree of getting primetime in every f**king tv-show, but at least have a little novelty value.

But, whichever way you look at things and twist and turn, this cannot be said of "Dandy Sakano" (WARNING: Painful video if you click that link!). His "thing" was basically saying "ゲッツ!" ("Get's!") in Japanese English and pointing his fingers as guns in front of him while being dressed in a silly yellow/golden suit. For some reason this caught on and people all over Japan started saying "Get's!" and doing the gesture when they managed to get/win something. This was horribly painful and for this reason I have difficulties looking back at the year 2005.

Then, the inevitable happened and his act was growing thin (it took the general population a good six months to realize this, it was thin the moment it started as far as I'm concerned...) and he faded out for television to do the local circuit where all these washed out comedians end up in the end. New, and less annoying, novelities took his place in the entertainment circuit and all was well.

I had basically forgotten about this horrible act and basically written it off as one huge communal mistake by the Japanese population at large best forgotten. Then, without any warning, he makes a comeback in a tv-show just last week! Same f**king yellow suit! Same f**king lame "Get's" gag! What the hell is going on here?! Usually these type of celebrities go out of fashion and stay out of fashion. This is a major paradigm shift in the world of Japanese comedy and I'm not sure I can take it!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Stop the presses!

Hot news from Japan, just in from the evening news broadcast!

In Yokohama, someone had made graffitti on a JR train covering an entire car. The police are currently actively looking for the suspects who might be foreigners since "From USA to Japan" was written at part of the train.

A minute of footage was dedicated to showing people working hard on cleaning up the car.

...where I come from this would hardly warrant a small notice in the local crappy newspaper, but here in Japan, it's primetime news.

Mr. Salaryman here, making sure you stay connected with the important news here in Japan as they break. I will provide you with updates on this case as they come in!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Can I leave the meeting now...?

In my little company we regularly hold a manager's meeting on Monday mornings first thing to check on activities last week and upcoming activities for the week. It's not a really heavy meeting and each department head goes through anything that other people should/need to be aware of. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's a boring affair since it usually is pretty useful, but it hardly is an action packed meeting as far as corporate meetings go.

Since some of the relevant people are based outside the Tokyo office the meeting is partly conducted through a phone conference system with people calling in when they are not in the Tokyo office.

Directly after the meeting is also a very good time to bring up smaller things that you need to discuss with a smaller number of the team and this meeting I had just such a thing. So we finish up the official meeting and I mention that I would like to discuss another issue with a few of the other managers, one whom is participating through the telecon. So we think that this is clarified, the people not included hang up and I bring up the topic I had in my lap. I start laying out the issue at hand and pretty quickly I realize that a huge misscommunication has occured due to the sales division director's incompetence and that his mistake might cost the company a significant amount of money unless we can salvage and repair the errors he just had made.

Mr. Shachou throws a fit (which is actually not like him) during which the sales director looks like he's swallowed a turd and I'm torn between whether to laugh or cry at the fuck-up that has been done and which I had been an involuntary accomplice of... Mr. Shachou is throwing his fit and everyone is more or less uncomfortable with the whole situation.

After a while there is a brief pause and a voice is heard from the telecon system, one of the local sales reps that participated in the preceeding meeting apparently had missed that he didn't need to participate in this meeting and feebly calls out "oh guys, is it ok if leave the meeting now...?".
He was allowed to leave the meeting but I had to stay, but at least I got some pleasure out of the fact that the sales director had been directly called on his incompetence...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The long hard road out of hell...

Without any kind of formal research or anything to back me up here, in Japan, much like in the western world, a lot of people wants to be on tv. Or even better, work with tv in front of the camera. If you can't sing, act, dance or anything the route to take is to become an "announcer", a career that mostly is geared towards woman.

The "announcer" is a cross between exactly what it sounds like, a person who announces upcoming segments and such in a tv-show, and a light-weight reporter. However, becoming an announcer for one of the leading networks, giving you the exposure and screen time you need to be upgraded to a real celebrity is not easy and hard work.

On Saturday mornings there is a show called "King's Brunch" that starts pretty early in the morning and continues to some time after lunch. The show is basically a sponsored show that highlights movies premiering in the week, talks about upcoming tv-shows and a bunch of other more or less entertaining stuff. However, this show also seems to be one of the big opportunities for up and coming announcers to make or break it. For their light-hearted investigations in the places to eat and shop in Tokyo they have an army of announcers in the show that play second-fiddle to the main hosts. Some of the announcers later on make it on to real fame, going further to fame and fortune while some girls dissapear and are not seen on tv again.

That's all fair and good I think and nothing that I have any issues with at all. However, there is one section in the show that is really cringe-worthy and just plain painful to watch. For about 10min, three or so of the featured announcers get their second in the spotlight where they highlight new products that are "so great" in a mini tv-shop like feature. The products are usually somewhere in the range of pointless to completely worthless, but the enthusiasm that the girls introduce the products is pretty amusing. The enthusiasm is there, however, the heart seems to be lacking a bit and they usually comes out as extremely enthusiastic and very very fake.

When I happen to see that segment I really feel for those girls but can't help being impressed by their dedication to their career since it must be pretty humiliating... There are male announcers as well in some shows but I don't think it's anything I'll be aiming for anytime soon...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A necessary evil?

There's one department in head office I am very torn about. It's called "Internal communications" and they generally issue articles and new on the Intranet, the physical corporate news magazine among other things.

The job of that department is basically that of propaganda. Telling us how great it is to work for our little company and what exciting things are going on. Sometimes things are not going that well and some measures need to be taken and internal communications is the department that takes the lead in this. My view of them is something of a propaganda department in the style of Nazi Germany or the Stalinist Soviet Union. They want to make the company think in a certain way and utilizes the communication channels they have at their disposals.

However, despite what you think due to what I compared them to above, they usually consists of some of the nicest people in the company. Usually very very friendly and really curious on what actually is going on, however, since they're sitting back at head office they're usually very disconnected to what's actually going on in the sales companies and what we're up against on a daily basis. If this was WW1 and I was deep in the trenches waiting for the next round of mustard gas to come down on me, these would be the people leaving a stack of leaflets in the trench, talking about how the next version of gas masks, that will be delivered in a year, will feature an improved design.

Last week there was an article up there which had a sub-heading reading "Inventory - A Necessary Evil". Please suck on that for a bit. For me, working in a sales company, inventory is something we need to have to be able to supply our customers with the products they need, when they need it. Sure, it costs money if it's just sitting there, but I never considered it an "evil". But perhaps I was wrong, perhaps the inventory is just sitting there scheming, making up its evil plans, but I have to accept it because I need it to supply the customers.

My views on inventory has been significantly altered, no longer will I go inte the company warehouse alone or unarmed...
(Bonus points if you can name the person in the picture, probably one of the most despicable persons in the history of man and of course has nothing to do with the lovely people in my corporate communications!)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's an outrage, that's what it is!

As some of my readers might have figured out, I'm have somewhat of an interest in the sleazy funny side of Japan media of which, in the magazine world, Spa is a great example. But sometimes there's also the television variant digging into the important topics in the current Japan affairs. However, the interesting shows are not that regular and sometimes they dig into less exciting topics.

Today though was a great topic. The reporters were working on the scoop on illegal pornographic movies filmed with hidden camera at institutions such as bathhouses, toilets and such and then released without the involuntary (obviously) participants permisson (obviously) and without hiding the faces. I don't think that this is anything new in Japan considering the sheer volume of pornographic material that is available here to cater to all tastes and directions.

However, in this case a woman was made aware of her being featured in a film released on DVD and for obvious reasons objected to this and felt hurt and humiliated and was pursuing a lawsuit against the company releasing said DVD. She was interviewed in the show together with her husband, this time with her clothes on but her face blurred and was talking about how hurt and humiliated she felt about this and how difficult it is to stop such a film once it's been out in the market. Her lawyer had forced the company to recall the product and apparently they had tried to do so, but other companies had picked it up and reissued it, making it still available for purchase.

So far so good, but then the best part came. They asked her how she had found out that she was in such a movie. Between the sobs she explained how one of her husbands friends had rented the movie at a local rental shop and recognized her face and then told them about it. I found this highly amusing and the big question that lingers in my mind is whether he rubbed one out before or after he told them about it? In the end, it's the consumers that drive the demand for such movies. Funny stuff.
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