Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Is this an actual mental condition?

Where a piece of music is bugging you so relentlessly that you believe you can actually hear it. There's a radio in the far side of my office, barely audible from where I'm sitting, but I swear that annoying Madonna song with the Blondie sample has been on a 24 hour loop for the last fortnight.

Occasionally this happens when I'm very tired, starting to drift off to sleep, I think about some music and I start to actually hear it, but find I can control it with my mind. It's quite cool! This is way more annoying though. I think most likely it's a noise coming from a machine or something which from a distance vaguely resembles the Abba sample in question (which is quite a distinctive yet bland sound, not dissimilar to a dot matrix printer), and my overactive mind is deranging it in the most awful ways. IF only the song was DRMd this would never have happened, as the copy protection is designed to prevent this sort of thing.

My greatest fear is that this has now become a mental habit that will continue to taunt me for the remainder of my days. A living hell.

DRM is Killing Music

From Boingboing and Giant Robot(?) this morning.

A wonderful parody of the classic "Home Taping is Killing Music" anti-piracy campaign from the 80s. As you may know, I am vehemently anti-DRM (allowing for trial purchases and rentals) for the same reasons I'm against regional encoding on DVDs, and while I will occasionally purchase DVDs in spite of the encoding, the same is certainly not true of music. The only problem with this parody is that in a lot of senses, it carries the exact opposite message to the one intended - casting our 21st century eyes over the original design we see an overly hysterical knee-jerk reaction to a relatively new phenomenon. If this is the gut feeling associated with the design, then by association, current concerns about DRM must appear equally ridiculous.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Evolving Philosophies

I like to think that a principle reason I've been so successful in my life todate (which is not to put myself on a pedestal, that I have achieved much more than I ever believed I would and high school tests indicated) is because of my stubbornly clinging to the belief that when given a choice, it is better to regret something that you did do rather than something that you didn't. My tattoos served no useful purpose and occasionally get me thrown out of onsens, but I don't regret having got them. When I woke up one morning and decided I should probably live in Japan, everything in the world could possibly have gone wrong, but I went through with it and here I am, without regret, and a lot of interesting tales to tell. This philosophy has proved consistently useful in making all life changing decisions.

That is until now. Just recently, I was presented something of a Pandora's box, the choices of which were to keep it closed and potentially regret for all eternity that I would never know what evil rested within, or to open it and live with the potentially unpleasant consequences. True to my model, I went with the latter, and now so overcome with regret am I, that I may have to rethink the entire philosophy. No longer will I be able to direct my life in the direction I wish it to go, no, I shall now have to err on the side of caution, always picking the path most trodden. Boldly going where guaranteed safety lies.

What then was this Pandora's box I speak of? None other than a copy of the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special conveniently burned onto a DVD, and now permanently etched into my retinas. What was so bad about it, you ask? I'm going to tell you in the hopes that others may be spared my horrific fate.

Really Annoying Wookies
A couple of minutes I could have stood, but the show was nearly 2 hours of traumifying wookie antics, them being mummy wookie (Chewbacca's wife), grandpappy wookie with an enormous underbite and a rather perverted penchant for 70s disco queens, and small annoying descendent of Chewbacca appallingly named "Lumpy." Antics means squawking at each other without subtitles, and jumping around, and getting on everybody's nerves.

Everything Else
Cameos by original Star Wars crew looking like they'd all been drugged or blackmailed into it. Carrie Fisher singing. Very camp imperial officers. Annoying "friend of the wookies" jack the lad type bloke who had no business being associated with Star Wars. Really bad music. Awful awful awful.

In fact, the only thing that was barely likable was the use of the Wilhelm Scream™, and that's BEFORE it became a popular in-joke amongst film sound engineers.

So if the opportunity presents itself, do not under any circumstances ever watch this production. Not even as a dare, or one of those things that just has to be done. It isn't worth it. Life is too precious.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Passport Cancelled, UK Citizenship Revoked

So this is how Tom Hanks' character in Terminal felt.

Apologies first off to anybody hoping for a heartrending story about some travesty of justice where a poor traveller is left stranded immobile in a foreign land without a place to call home. The revocation of my UK citizenship and the subsequent cancellation of my passport are in fact very positive things and entirely deliberate on my part. It's one of my worst kept secrets that for the past 18 months I've been applying for Japanese citizenship, and providing proof to the Minister for Justice that I owe allegiance to no other country is the final step in the application process before a decision is made (and from what I gather, the chances of anybody that has survived this far being turned down, are zero). It's just an amazingly ironic coincidence that the day I eventually decided I'd had enough of waiting for my proof of renunciation to turn up (applied for last July), a day spent constantly phoning and faxing the British Embassy, writing to the Home Office, negotiating with the Legal Affairs Bureau, and other important sounding but ultimately stressful stuff, was the exact same day that the piece of paper I'd been chasing eventually turned up (in the late afternoon post, of course). Now I just have to wait a few more months hoping I don't need to leave the country for any reason. It's close, but I can almost taste the banana.

Now I know what a lot of you are thinking – why on earth would somebody such as myself want to give up my British citizenship with all the perks of a European passport, in order to take citizenship in a country like Japan? It certainly wouldn't be the first time I was asked that, but there have in fact been occasions where my reasons were convincing enough to make other people choose to do the same thing. To be honest, I had considered naturalising a number of times but soon dismissed it because I wasn't keen on giving up my European passport, but then one day everything just made sense and I decided it was the thing for me.

First off, it's important to make the distinction between nationality, culture, language, physical appearance and sense of self. Nationality really is the odd one out there, as it probably has the least to say about you as a person. It's a legal status that opens some doors and closes others, and very little more. As somebody that plans to live here permanently, those doors that it opens are very important to me – doors such as the right to come and go without bribing immigration for permission, the right to live here permanently and work freely without requiring a visa, the right to vote, the right to legal protections guaranteed under the constitution that could be (and often are) interpreted to exclude foreign residents, the right to a full paper trail and legal identity which are especially useful when getting married and starting a family – international marriages are not fully recognised here, and the foreign party is legally invisible. The doors it closes – the ability to jump in the short queue at immigration on those odd occasions I go to Britain. Having citizenship also changes the attitudes of people around you. Foreign residents, no matter how long they stay, are always assumed to be guests, and are thus constantly subjected to less than welcoming questions such as "when are you leaving Japan?" and "can you eat Japanese fish?" Being a citizen is really the ultimate nullifying answer to all these questions, and it allows people to open themselves up a little more as it gives you an air of permanence. There are a lot of other minor perks like this too, which I'm sure I'll find out about once I'm accepted.

However, the most important reason to me personally is that I don't want to spend the rest of my life as a half-arsed tourist. If my British citizenship is so important to me, then what am I doing here? The feeling is probably best explained in terms of relationships. A guy and a girl get together, they get on great, so they move in together. They could live that way for the rest of their life, and many choose that option, but the majority then go the extra step of having their relationship publicly and officially legitimised by getting married. This is so much the norm, that not to do so is considered to be some sort of rebellion against the system. Those that have got married will generally confirm that while it hasn't necessarily changed the nature of their relationship, it most certainly is not without meaning. Even questions such as "what if we decide to live separately in the future" don't deter them. Likewise, the way I see it at least, if I'm to spend the rest of my life in a country I wasn't born in, then not taking citizenship when the option is available would seem as unnatural as not marrying somebody I planned to start a family with. I don't often say this, but Permanent Residency Visas are for half-hearted pussies that can't commit. In the blessed words of Jesus Christ himself, so then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Sadly though, many disagree on this point, frequently because they're blinded by their own misunderstanding as to the true nature of citizenship. Their loss I guess…

Update I have since been contacted and been informed that the process is complete and I am now a fully fledged Japanese citizen.