Sunday, February 25, 2007

Another New Apple Ad

This time about the workflow for creating a homepage. Of course, if it's a homepage you ever want anybody to ever read, you'll probably want to spend a bit more time on Step 2 than Step 1.



See the other ads here, here and here.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Opera Browser for Wii

Nintendo are currently giving away the Opera browser for free on the Shopping Channel. This is apparently because it's still in Beta, and it will become chargable just as soon as they can get away with it. This begs the question of why. Not, "why are they planning to charge for an open source browser that should technically be free?" but "why are we having to download a browser at all when the Wii already has one built in?" The Shopping Channel is an online service, accessed and displayed by the internet browser Opera. The instruction manuals you get with the Virtual Console games are written in HTML and Javascript, and displayed by the internet browser Opera. As the functionality of Opera is already there, why does it need to be downloaded separately? No Wookie defence is required by Nintendo on this issue because the facts as they stand already do not make sense.

Dunno what's so great about Opera anyway though. My phone has it, my cable box has it, and my Wii's got it too, and it ain't all that.

Who says the Showa '40s weren't cool?

Caught this classic late 60s, early 70s Saturday morning music show on the NHK archives about a year ago, and now it's turned up on YouTube. Would love to see some of this coming out on DVD, though I sincerely doubt that anybody would buy it.



In other news, The Japanese Tradition: Shazai, starring my English captions, was nominated for an award at the Berlin International Film Festival last week. It didn't get one. But I'm still pretty pleased about it nonetheless. Director Junji Kojima (who also did the Apple ads it appears) talked about it at the Japanese Tradition DVD launch event at Apple Store Ginza this Saturday past. It was very nice.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

All Flash Cards are not made equal

In all my years of carefully avoiding products by Sony (helped in no small part by my being in charge of Sony entertainment products at work which has kept a small burning hatred of anything to do with their company smouldering continuously on back burner, and occasionally flaring up whenever I try to update our third party developer guidelines and templates only to find they've “apparently” renewed them all, but upon downloading and checking the contents discovering the majority are simply the old ones re-uploaded, sometimes with a new version number and no changes, sometimes with changes and no new version number, sometimes a completely different document sharing the same document name and reference number, the list goes on, and the products OH the products, don't even get me started on them...) so you can imagine how it pains me to have to finally reach this sorry conclusion. I genuinely believe it would be advantageous to everyone that uses small handheld electronic devices compatible with flash card memory, such as mobile phones, PDAs, lower range cameras, music players, and even game machines such as the Wii, if the industry adopted Sony's proprietary Memory Stick standard.

This frustration is particularly exacerbated by the very superfluous existence of said proprietary flash memory standard in a market already flooded by open standard devices being a former pet peeve of mine.

However, the Memory Stick has one thing going for it which its closest competing rival the SD Card (and related Mini SD and Micro SD) cannot touch - unlike the SD Card, it does not suck the sweat off a donkey's itchy scrote from 25 yards. The SD Card, unlike the Memory Stick, does. Here is why:

Not all SD Cards are compatible with all SD Card devices. Clearly I had made a grave error in judgement when I assumed this traditionally not to be the case.

Case study #1, I purchase an SD Card compatible phone, and a 256MB SanDisc card to store music and digital photos on it. After a while, I find the photos becoming increasingly corrupted when I attempt to read them at a computer, though the phone continues to have no problems with them, almost as if the phone had its own unique way of writing data to the FAT formatted disc that was extremely similar, but subtly different from the way everything else did. “Obviously you had a faulty disc or a dodgy phone” I hear you say, but on double checking the manual it clearly stated in microscopic print that it is “only guaranteed to work” with SD Cards up to 128MB. WTF!! Either it supports the standard or it doesn't. Compact Flash does not have this problem. Memory Stick does not have this problem either.

Case study #2, I purchase a new phone by a different maker and on a different network that uses the Mini SD standard. This one is kind enough to contain a compatibility chart listing the three most popular makers of SD Cards and what size discs from each it is compatible with. If I recall, SanDiscs were fine for 16, 32, 64, 128 and 256MB, Panasonic up to 128MB and Hitachi up to 64MB. WTF some more - surely a 256MB SD Card made by one company is exactly the same as a 256MB SD Card made by another. That's why it's a standard and not a freeforall. Regardless, feeling safe in the knowledge that this one was actually guaranteed to work, I purchased a 256MB SanDisc Mini SD, which didn't work. Well it sort of worked, but copying protected files on to it didn't, at all. It just wouldn't accept them, which kind of defied all reason. In other words, it didn't work. Assuming there to be a problem with the phone, I went to my nearest AU office and enquired. There, they downloaded a new compatibility chart that had been updated the following evening (superseding what was in the manual) saying that SanDisc is retrospectively not supported at all. Thankfully, Yodobashi were kind enough to refund me for my 256MB Mini SD, and with the money I got a Panasonic 128MB one, which so far hasn't given me any problems as far as my phone is concerned. More on that later. (Chart linked above shows greater compatibility than when this story related too, but still far from complete...)

Case study #3, I reformat my old 256MB SanDisc SD Card for use with the Wii, and put MP3s in a folder so that I can play them with Excite Truck. By accident, an MP3 not becoming bastard-fast offroad trucking slipped into the collection, so I decided to attempt to delete it. The folder containing MP3 had been locked. Locked solid. It could not be opened. It could not be deleted. Even a good old fashioned “sudo” wouldn't touch the bloody thing. As an experiment, I tried putting a different MP3 in a different folder, played it in Excite Truck and that folder became locked too. So my choices it seems are either to reformat the disc and start again (assuming it'll let me do that) or allow my Excite Truck experience to forever tainted by the melodic guitaring of the Drifters.

Even those that are compatible are still way too easily corrupted. That 128MB Panasonic Mini SD I mentioned earlier, still has constant corruption issues when I attempt to connect it to a computer. Messages appear almost as soon as it's inserted to the effect that the disc cannot be read. Sometimes it's enough to reinsert it into my phone, copy a new file to it, or delete an existing file to cure the problem, and sometimes it isn't. It seems to help if the file insertion or deletion is from a file system hierarchy perspective quite close to the file I wish to retrieve, though I'm surprised even Voodoo logic works. And removing it is questionable at best. A little flashing light on the flash drive tells me when it's safe to remove the disc after dismounting, and that just keeps on flashing for a good 10-15 minutes sometimes. No idea what it's doing, but it's definitely something that Compact Flash and Memory Sticks don't have to.

In short, I have never used a single SD Card with a single device that didn't cause considerable problems on a regular basis. SD is clearly not a fitting standard to trust one's mobile storage needs to, nor is it really a standard at all by any common sense measure, and I wish the industry would stop forcing it onto us.

The latest assault was in the form of a high definition camcorder that takes an SD Card for its storage I saw on a news report last night. The bullshit detectors always go off the chart when I hear of these high definition camcorders with FULL-HD printed on the side as if it meant something, as they invariably only support SD-TV (480i) and 1080i, the absolute lowest of the HD standards. And I use the word support very loosely here, as what they call 1080i is actually 1040i anamorphatised horizontally into a roughly 4:3 aspect ratio. Whoever coined the expression “Full-HD” was clearly inspired by Apple's “Fairplay,” Microsoft's “Play's for Sure” and Bush's “Patriot Act” in terms of sarcastic naming conventions. I digress. On one such camcorder that uses regular tape, 15 minutes of high definition video used about 11 GB of space. Seeing the particular SD card they're pushing is only 4GB, how much video are they expecting people to put on this disproportionately expensive media? My estimates of approximately 5-6 minutes, are a little lower than the official figure of 90 minutes. I don't know what planet these guys are from, but I want to go there for my next vacation. A 4.7GB single layer DVD can only reasonably take one hour of standard definition 480i video before the compression artefacts start to become overly noticeable, so how exactly are they proposing that we get 90 minutes of high definition video onto a media that is smaller?! The simple answer is they've gone beyond being merely misleading into downright lying. And even if they weren't, there's no way I'd trust 90 minutes of my life to the travesty that is the SD standard.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

On mind hacking theists and god fearing atheists

I wrote some months back about the disproportionately biased pseudo-documentary (aka propaganda piece) entitled the Root of All Evil by obnoxious loud mouthed scientist Richard Dawkins. As an atheist, I found it rather embarrassing to sit through, in rather the same way I felt upon hearing that some people had taken so much offence at the Foreigner Crimewave Exposé I mentioned last week they'd gone into their local Family Mart and verbally abused members of part time staff on minimum wage who have no say over the shop's choice of weekly. Dawkins is really not an ideal spokesman for the scientific community. So today, I thought I might expand a little more on why the likes of Dawkins are simply too stupid to get religion, and why science has shown fairly conclusively that god exists, and practically admits as such.

First thing's first. What religion is not (pay attention scientists).
  1. It is not a scientific explanation of the history of the world, nor does it attempt to be.

  2. It is not incompatible with scientific explanations of how the world came to be.

  3. It is not about belief in a higher being and/or the holy texts that accompany it.
I may have to expand on the last one a little. For sure, most religions have such a belief as the central theme of their system, but that's not what the religion is really about. I'd even go as far as to say that most religious people do not even really believe in their chosen deity, despite claims to the contrary. Evidence backs this up, as behaviour is not consistent with such a belief. If we approach religion via the back door though, you'll see that it's really little more than a very effective and clever mind hack, a way of essentially defining your identity; who you are in relation to the world around you, and how you and it react to each other.

An extreme example of this in practice; imagine an atheist and a Christian both get fired from their job on the same day for something they didn't do, crashing their car on the way home into their respective wives and children (killing all immediately) and eventually arriving to find the gas was left on and their houses had burned down, with no insurance. The atheist could be forgiven for hitting the bottle. The Christian would more likely hit the book of Job, and praise his god for giving him such an effective test of faith. He would probably be successful in getting his life back on track too. The atheist would probably end up sitting outside Family Mart drinking sho-chu, reading racist propaganda and smelling of wee. An extreme examples to be sure, and certainly not universal in either case, but we see similar micro-patterns all the time.

An attachment to a religion brings private benefits to believers that non-believers may not need but wouldn't get either way. The thing is, in order to benefit from this mind hack, you have to go through all the motions of having the belief to back it up. This includes studying the scriptures, praying (even by yourself), going to a place of worship regularly, and most importantly, making your beliefs clear to those around you. It's a constant uphill battle trying to convince yourself not that god is real and the teachings are true, but that you really believe so. And for most people, this is generally unobtrusive and has no effect on their ability to participate in society normally, due in part to the general social acceptance of religion, especially the dominant one, but also because of its irrelevance to day to day life. Thinking that a guy who lived 2000 years ago died, came back to life, and is still alive in a magical kingdom up in space, and for some reason is interested in Jim's life, is not going to stop Jim from doing his job as an accountant diligently. Everybody wins! Beneath the surface though, it's unlikely that many people actually believe that their god is any more than a mental placemarker, like the question marks in the often parodied business plan “Steal socks -> ??? -> Profit!!” I mean, they're not stupid.

Perhaps you're familiar with the parable of Han and Greedo. Han was a smuggler, who to avoid capture had found it necessary one day to dump his cargo, much to the ire of the racketeer who hired him. On his way to apologise and make amends with his employer, he found himself face to face with the unscrupulous blackmailer Greedo who showed every intent of killing Han. In self defence, Han casually smite the miscreant on the ground he stood, and strolled away with a swank. Han was a fighter, a gambler, and cocky to-boot, certainly not a role model for young children. In later life however, Han unified with the forces of light and performed many great and brave services in the name of justice and good. Crowned as a saint, many pious historians found his activities earlier in life detracted from his divinity and sought to downplay them. Hence a new history was written where Han's already justifiable act of self defence was portrayed as a more direct defensive move. Though the change was minor, this split the Followers of the Force into two distinct opposing factions, each with their own rally cry. The traditionalists on the left brandished banners emblazoned "Han fired first" while the revisionists on the right wore t-shirts with "Greedo fired first." Both are printed in block capitals with a number of exclamation marks, some of which are in fact the number 1. Each side is fiercely loyal to their interpretation of the celluloid scriptures, believing it to be the one absolute truth, and the battles were bloody and endless. In the very heat of battle with neither side showing any intent to yield to the other side's truth, a voice booms from the depths "Timothy, your tea's ready!" The battle ends for another day, they shut down the internet connection for the night and commune with family. While doing so, there is no doubt in their mind that they were talking about a work of twentieth century fiction, and that their own faction is of no consequence, but that doesn't make the belief any less real, nor those that believe a different interpretation any less the enemy. This hierarchical plurality of belief is the cornerstone of most religious followings.

Religion can of course be abused; threats of hell to bully children into submission, promises of a million submissive children for the price of a suicide bomb, and suicide bombings resulting from religious intolerance, which curiously tends to come from the top down as if it served some other hidden agenda... These are the examples that stand out, and they give religion a bad name. That's not good.

But what of this scientific proof of god? Surely science has proved the exact opposite, that the process of evolution and cycles of life are sufficiently intelligent that they don't require a creator? Typically, this is scientists once again simply not getting what religion is about. First off, a belief in god does not mean a belief in a specific god as defined by a specific religion who did a bunch of stuff in accordance with a specific text of questionable origin. Secondly, scientists who should know that human behaviour and thought processes are very much determined by the physical makeup of the brain and the body and the restraints of upbringing, environment, time and space, frequently assume that the god they have to disprove is like a slightly cleverer version of us, despite having no reason to be so, a typical strawman argument in practice.

When you isolate the concept of god from religious interpretation, it tends to become a lot less interesting - a mere higher intelligence above and beyond that of humans, That sounds rather a lot like the nature of life itself, as described in the former paragraph. For example, how can cells evolve and adapt unless those cells are not just intelligent themselves but part of a wider intelligence?! There are those that would consider this as a lower form of intelligence of course, particularly those suffering from intellectual hubris, believing that abstract thought and self awareness is the absolute cutting edge of being smart. And for sure, abstract thought is something humans probably do have the lead on, but how much value does it really have? The subconscious parts of the brain, body tissues and organs are constantly involved in intelligent processes way beyond what the conscious mind can comprehend, in some cases making the body react intelligently to a stimuli before the conscious mind is aware there's even a problem (hot potato anybody?) We rarely consider such processes to be intelligent, but the supposedly intelligent conscious mind of most people can't even figure out what to wear to the supermarket.

Put simply, you look at the wonders of nature around you, you're not looking at random chemical reactions, and you're not looking at god's work. You're looking at god face to face. I sincerely believe that if scientists really pulled together, they could reclaim god from the religions and redefine it with their own scientifically based agenda.

Well, perhaps we don't need to get that carried away, because playing a semantic game doesn't mean that any of the religious significance of a god's existence is going to be carried into the scientific realm. God is just a name, and that it can be put into the perspective of a proven phenomena should not change anybody's experience, or really mean anything in particular to anybody at all, because the science remains the same, and religion remains a fake belief in a placemarker as a mind hack. On the other hand though, perhaps scientists could ignore the likes of Dawkins, and cut the religious folk a little more slack, because even if their beliefs aren't real, the concept of god is not all that outlandish.

Monday, February 05, 2007

PLAYSTATION®3s! Who will buy my luvverly PLAYSTATION®3s?!

Yes, despite the launchtime scarcity, the PLAYSTATION®3 is now in absolute abundance in stores, because nobody is buying it. While browsing Yodobashi Camera on Saturday, I noticed behind the counter there was a huge stack of PLAYSTATION®3 boxes, unsold. Why? I asked. Because nobody is buying it, replied the knowledgeable sales assistant. A quick glance through the PS3 games section revealed a very limited selection, and internal memos of several high level games companies seem to be indicating that until such time as sales pick up it's pointless to develop PS3 games, because it appears that nobody is buying it. I used to get a couple of hundred hits on my blog a day coming from Google with the search theme "PS3 resetting composite output" or similar, because people who had bought the machine were having the same problem I had on the developer box at work and blogged at the time. These enquiries have largely died down now, no doubt due to the fact that at this point in time, nobody is buying it. And in Europe, where the PLAYSTATION®3 isn't even on sale yet, retailers are getting scared. In order to pre-order (“and we HIGHLY recommend you do because they're going to be hotter than hot cakes come launchtime”) you must buy an almost equally unpopular PSP. Retailers are creating a situation of artificial scarcity to panic the consumer into buying. Retailers are terrified, because they know that nobody is buying it. Nobody is buying the PLAYSTATION®3. The PLAYSTATION®3 is a flop.

But why is it doing so badly? Could it be the price? Surely 60,000 Yen isn't too much to pay for a High Definition media player of one questionable yet to be established standard currently competing with another slightly cheaper but also yet to be established standard, I mean games console. After all, it can do almost everything that the much lower priced Xbox 360 can (though it hasn't quite gotten “playing games” figured yet, due to there being none), and can even do some things that the much much lower priced Wii cannot, such as output in High Definition, if you happen to be among the minority that owns such a TV.

Or could it be the pushing of yet another expensive and unnecessary proprietary format that sacrifices interoperability and the needs of consumers (who must also burden the expense), while passing the savings onto the whimsical rights holders with fickle temperaments and no sense of proportion?

Or maybe after scandal upon scandal upon scandal upon scandal, Joe Average has finally come to realise that Sony is simply not to be trusted.

Whatever the reason why nobody is buying it, it is clear that nobody is. And if nobody else is, then why should you?

PLAYSTATION®3. Don't waste your money.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The future of content protection

VideoScan has released sales figures comparing the performances of the two competing high definition disc formats, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, and it seems despite some hiccups, sales of both formats are soaring! One of the main reasons for their success is the brand new DRM (Digital Rights Management - a playback control mechanism that ensures consumers do not get for free what could later be charged for) content protection system used, which ensures the availability of innovative new content, crisp sharp image quality, and sound you can feel, while also taking a hard stance against those that expect something for nothing. Due to an advanced central management system, if any player is compromised, then all players across the world will cease to function. Likewise if any disc is compromised, then all discs in that format will erase themselves securely by overwriting every bit with zeros 32 times (48 times as of March 7th). Security of content is primary in an age of rampant piracy, and consumers feel uncomfortable when given free reign over paid for intellectual property, and allowed such frivolous capabilities as interoperability and basic fair use™ privileges, so it's in everybody's interests that content be locked up and locked down securely.

However, book publishers and readers alike have gotten the raw end of the stick here, as such content protection methods are only currently available on high definition discs. Written content is equally worthy of protection, and consumers cannot enjoy reading if they know it only takes a few minutes with a photocopier for their hard earned purchase to be stolen.

Historically, books have been said to house the ultimate content protection system - they're difficult to read in digital form, and clumsy and inconvenient to copy. In the 21st Century though, with pirates lurking on every street corner peddling their warez, and trapping helpless young consumers in alleys and stealing their content, a more advanced protection system is needed so everybody can enjoy their legally purchased works in safety and comfort.

Previous attempts at putting DRM on printed books were unfortunately less than successful. The most recent method of selling books filled with blank pages (if it can be read, it can be stolen, not to mention sold on, lent, read out loud, reviewed and even talked about) resulted in plummeting sales, and statistics showed beyond doubt that this was due to piracy, and the mindset it had created whereby average consumers turn into thieves that constantly expect to get something for nothing. The industry rightly believes that reading a written work that you have purchased is a privilege they should be able to charge you extra for, but limitations of the technology and the laws of physics has meant yielding this most basic commodity.

Until now that is. The shift towards purchasing books online, which can take advantage of cutting edge "on demand" digital printing (i.e. printing a single copy of a book at the time of purchase) means the next level of written content protection is finally within the industry's grasp.

The system works as such. Traditionally books have relied on a system of light absorbing inks being applied to light reflective paper, the contrast between which results in the text being easily read by the naked eye under normal lighting conditions. This weakness known internally as "the analogue hole" (or "a-hole"), is widely understood to be an open invitation to piracy, and the bane of the entire industry. You may not be aware of this, but to-date, every book ever published could theoretically be read by anybody on the planet, without restriction. It's a publisher's nightmare. A patented light reflecting ink laced with a derivative of phosphor however means that printed works no longer need be readable under normal light conditions, and instead require the use of a black light to activate the ink. Activated ink reflects light slightly brighter than the page for a mere fraction of a second, way too fast for any recording media to pick up, but due to the image retention function of the human eye, it remains visible just long enough when strobed at the correct frequency for the text to be readable. If the frequency is too slow, it borders on invisible. Too fast (or too bright) and the active elements of the ink will combust, effectively destroying the content.

The management issues are more complex, but ultimately simple to use and unobtrusive to the consumer. Strobing black lights (marketed as "book readers") are to become a licensed technology, and as mentioned above, it only takes one small error to destroy the written content. Taking full advantage of this, each book reader will contain a barcode scanner, and a barcode containing details of the book, purchaser, page number, estimated time it takes an adult to read the page, and ink properties (to adjust strobe frequency) will be unobtrusively placed across the lower half of each page, which of course is possible with "on demand" printing. The book reader scans this, checks via internet with the publisher database that it's OK to decode, and then activates the ink for the specified page length. Attempt to read the pages out of sequence, or read the same page twice in a row, and your next month's reader licence fee will be increased on a pay-per-view basis. These are premium services and publishers have a right to profit from them. If the book is found to be owned by somebody other than the registered owner of the book reader, then the page will be "flashed" rendering it useless.

Of course, traditional bookstores cannot yet take advantage of "on demand" digital printing, so content protection here relies on the "consumer honesty" method, which is a well known industry joke, rather like the one about the actress that was so dumb she slept with the writer. In the not too distant future though, bookshops will become secure digital print centres where entire libraries of content protected materials can be personally created on demand in the time it takes to enjoy a delicious caffé latte (sold separately) at the nearest Starbucks.

And with these new content protection measures, consumers can sleep easy knowing a golden age of enjoyment, of vibrant new content to delight the senses and things, is just around the corner, just like their favourite Starbucks.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The frightening! Foreigner crimewave exposé!

You may remember the bombshell I dropped last year when I published my translation of select pages of a manga outlining the dangers of recognising human rights. This time, a fascinating looking book with an extremely evocative cover has started to appear on shelves of "Family Mart" convenience stores up and down the country entitled "外人犯罪裏ファイル" (rough translation "Foreigner Crimewave Exposé" - note the officially recognised as politically incorrect word for "foreigner.") As always, friend and fellow naturalised citizen Debito was already at the scene by time I arrived, and mutual acquaintance Steve had been sufficiently outraged to get busy scanning and beat me to the translating punch. So without further ado, let's take a look at what wonders lurk inside, together with Steve's translations and comments (caution: explicit language used).

Back Page:

日本における外人犯罪件数年間47000件!!
47,000 crimes by foreigners each year!!
There then follows a ‘danger rating’ (危険度) of each country, scattered on a world map surrounded by knives, guns and syringes:
China: 14
Russia: 5
Korea: 9
Brazil: 8
Colombia: 3
Etc.
None for the USA, Canada, Australia or the whole of Europe…

Article about crimes by Iranians:
イラン人を捕まえ!!
Catch the Iranian!!

Article lamenting Tokyo’s demise into lawlessness:
不良外人暴力都市!!
City of Violent Degenerate Foreigners!!

Article about foreigners scamming Japanese for money:

毟られる日本人。『シャチョサン、ATMコッチデス』
Japanese getting conned. “Theesaway to ze ATM, Meester Managing Director”

Feature of foreign guys picking up Japanese women (What this has to do with ‘crime’ is unclear)

そりゃあ日本人は小さいけど。。
YELLOW CAB REAL STREET PHOTO
お前らそんなに外人がイイのかよ!!
You sluts really think foreign guys are so great, huh!!
We know Japanese guys are small, but..

Picture of black guy touching a J.girls ass in Shibuya (obviously consensual too)
おいニガー!!日本婦女子のケツさわってんじゃねえ!!
Oi Nigger!! Get your fuckin’ hands off that Japanese lady’s ass!!
(… yes. It really does say ニガー)

Picture of dark-haired foreigner kissing J.girl in Shibuya (again, obviously consensual)

ここは日本なんだよ!てめえの国に帰ってやりな!
This is Japan! Go back to your own fuckin’ country and do that!

Picture of foreigner with hands down a J.girls knickers in Shibuya (definitely consensual)
チョット、チョットチョット!路上で手マンはやめてくれる?
Woah! Woah! Woah! Would you stop fingering a girls pussy in the street, OK?


See Debito's entry for additional scans.

Almost as evocative as the book cover is the image I have in my mind of disgruntled foreign residents nationwide foaming at their respective mouths and rushing out in droves to purchase (at full price) every copy of this publication so they can show the world the racially charged hate-speech that is plaguing this land, and I wouldn't blame them for doing so. It's not exactly complimentary (despite it not applying to me personally, as a merely "foreign-looking" citizen). It does though remind me of the example many people use to illustrate how Japan is a socially backwards country - that "walking down the street eating a sandwich is an absolute no no, but browsing through schoolgirl rape-porn on trains in full view of elementary age children is perfectly acceptable. It must be true because I've seen it!" I know a lot of locals that have seen it too, and according to them, it's despicable behaviour and totally unacceptable by all social standards. So why does it happen then? Because individuals are individuals, and this is the case anywhere. This book is not a MEXT (Ministry of Education) approved textbook for junior high school social studies class, it was written by individuals who (I'm going to go out on a limb here and say) have an extremely right wing agenda. (I'm also going to go out on my other limb and say that aside from the hordes of disgruntled foreign residents and human rights activists,) the only people purchasing this book for more than mere token amusement value are individuals with an equally right wing agenda. None of this says anything about the country or the society as a whole.

What does say something about the country as a whole is that such blatant hate-speech has been sitting on shelves of regular convenience stores for days now, (not to mention Amazon, Kinokuniya, Rakuten Books and Kuroneko Book Service, all major distributors) and apart from one or two blogs, nothing has been done in response. In fact, that they're still sitting there at all could be seen to reflect quite badly on Japan. Compare and contrast; were a similar publication to appear in some countries, it would be taken off the shelves within minutes due to public protest, boycotts, negative media coverage and fear of government intervention. I'm not sure exactly how this differs from censorship, but I've been assured on good authority that it does. Personally I'm in two minds, after all, with even just a quick glance at the cover, it's clear nobody in their right mind is going to buy it believing it to be an impartial study of a recent social phenomena. You'd have to be seriously impaired to believe its intent is to do anything other than rouse rabbles.

As demonstrated with the last bombshell, nothing hurts a cause like bad propaganda, and the cause in this instance is that of "foreign = dangerous, alien crime-wave damaging society" which has been gradually gaining steam for some years now. Regular newspapers frequently quote police statistics to highlight this new terror from without (most likely as a scapegoat mechanism to stigmatise the smaller weaker members of society to make the majority feel better about their own failings) despite the statistics actually saying the complete opposite on closer inspection. And when it's regular newspapers with sensible looking headlines, people are inclined to take it at face value. Shock value publications like this with the whole in-your-face "they're going to eat you alive and spit on your dog, OMGWTF" approach is not going to convince anybody that wasn't already convinced, and those that previously just assumed such assertions were true are either going to a) roll their eyes, or b) sympathise with the scapegoat. As a cause I'd personally like to see damaged, I say let it dig its own grave. Then maybe some of us can get some peace round here!

And I'll have you know there's nothing wrong with walking down the street eating a sandwich.

Update It made the Guardian, and now the Times Online!