Japanese toilets and friends

Once again, my apologies for the extended absence. However, news at this stage is good and my dad is making a good recovery. I’ll be heading back to Oz on Monday and picking up all the things I had to drop in such a hurry. For my students and clients, I’m very grateful for your patience and forbearance. For my readers, I’m sure you’ve enjoyed the brief period of peace and quiet (but thank you for your patience too.)

Until I can get properly back into things, I thought I might share a few interesting moments of recent weeks with you. One of the standout things for me was a toilet. I had to get a last minute flight out here to England, which meant getting any flight available. I ended up having to take an overnight stop in Japan. The airline was kind enough to provide a hotel room for my stay (thanks JAL!) The hotel room contained this:

Well, obviously the ensuite bathroom contained it, not the actual room. That would just be weird.

Notice the control panel on the side? Here’s a close-up:

The +/- scale at the top determines the power of the water jets. The Bidet button presents a wide upwards shower that washes your entire butt. The Spray button, as the picture suggests, causes a spray. Now let me tell you, that is one accurate spray! Quite an experience. However, the most important word on that panel is one I hadn’t noticed at first. It’s the one under the orange button that says STOP. There was a few seconds of panic until I noticed that one.

The silver lining to these unexpected trips is the opportunity to catch up with all my friends and family that I see so rarely otherwise.

Here’s my bruv Jo, with his little girl Carmen:

Here’s my good mate Hamish and his family (Jacqui, Sam, Robert, Katie and Noodles):

And here’s Graham feeding the pony:

There you have it. Enough of my self-indulgence for now. By this time next week things should all be back to normal.

Interrupted service

My apologies to anyone that might have been wondering where I’ve been lately. My father has fallen ill and I’ve had to hurry back to the UK. Hopefully he will be recovered soon and normal life can resume.

I will try to update The Word periodically regardless, but my apologies if that doesn’t happen for a week or two.

Meanwhile, here are some cats that look like Hitler.

Our Superman, who art on Earth…

I went to see the new Superman movie yesterday, Superman Returns. I’m a big comic and superhero fan, as I’m sure you all realise by now. I won’t go into a review of the movie, as plenty of other people busy themselves with that kind of thing. However, whenever I watch movies like these I always come away with thoughts about things that the movie didn’t explore enough. See my thoughts on X-Men 3, for example.

Now, there might be a couple of spoilers here for those of you that haven’t seen Superman Returns yet, but to be honest, you’d have to be blind, deaf and watching another movie not to pick up the hints early on in the film anyway.

Photo from http://www.myspace.com/supermanreturns

In the movie, Lex Luthor actually refers to Superman as a god. In truth, that’s exactly what he is, by human standards at least. And the comparison isn’t confined to Luthor’s perception. Consider Jor-El’s speech from Superman: The Movie (which is reprised in Superman Returns). Jor-El is Superman’s real father from Krypton, who sent Superman to Earth in the last seconds before the planet of Krypton died. In his reasoning for sending his only son, Kal-El, to Earth, Jor-El says of humans:

“They can be a great people Kal-El. They wish to be. They only lack the light to show them the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you, my only son.”

Christ-like? More than a little bit. This is just another version of pretty standard mythological hero fare, of course, but the god-like comparisons are easy to find.

Also in Superman Returns (possible spoilers here, but refer to my previous comment) Lois Lane has moved on and got herself a new man and a son. Obviously, the son is not really her new beau’s but comes from the Superseed of Jor-El’s only son. Superboy manifests briefly in the story and is then quite plainly saved for further instalments in the franchise.

So, we have Superchrist, sorry Superman, and his Superson.

Lex Luthor complains that Superman is a god and that gods are selfish as they keep their power for themselves. Lex wants to be powerful so that he can share his power with everyone. Of course, he also admits that he’ll only do that if he gets his cut, proving yet again that, as far as comics are concerned, all villains are very small minded and stupid, regardless of how cleverly they can organise their villainous schemes.

And this got me thinking. Yes, we’ve finally reached the point.

Superman is effectively a god. He uses his remarkable powers to save people all over the world. However, even with his god-like powers, he can’t save everyone. But he can have a son. That means that he can share his powers by begetting Superkids. If one Superman can make such a difference in the world, standing steadfastly as he does for Truth and Justice (with capital letters, no less), imagine what an army of them could do.

It seems to me that the only decent thing for Superman to do would be to go forth into the world impregnating as many pretty earth-women as he possibly can. (Of course, it shouldn’t be just pretty earth-women, but this is a comic book world where everyone is pretty, unless they’re a villain. And even most villains are pretty.) The more Superfolk that are born and trained in the ways of protecting mankind, the safer we’d all be. Supervillains would be greatly outnumbered and no one would get away with anything bad.

And I can only assume that if Superman chose to follow this route that he’d be super good at it. Surely he could impregnate numerous women every day. As his kids grew up, they could breed at a super rate too. Before long we’d all have our own personal Super[insert gender here] and we could do what we like without fear of hurting ourselves. As long as what we did was in accordance with Truth and Justice. Now that’s what I call a god sharing the power.

And imagine the movie of that little escapade.

Church signs #1

Do you remember me rattling on about church signs recently and how I find them both infuriating and amusing by turns? You don’t? Well here, read it again.

I haven’t forgotten about it. Here’s the first submission. You’ll have to excuse the poor quality of the photo – it was taken with my phone, at night.

This is from the Central Baptist Church in the city of Sydney. The sign itself says:

God exists otherwise life’s purpose is meaningless.

Not particularly interesting, other than being a study in completely empty rhetoric. However, look more closely and you’ll see that someone has taken it upon themselves to add some editorial comment to the sign. The little white sticker at the bottom of the sign says:

Lifes [sic] meaningless regardless of a god.

Well, the church might be spinning completely baseless assumptions, but at least there’s some strange hint of hope in the message that they’re trying to convey. The added comments are rather nihilistic. I can’t help feeling sorry for the poor soul, but I respect their efforts at entering the debate.

And no, it wasn’t me.