The Speedysnail 7th Birthday Extravaganza

That’s right, it’s seven years to the day since Speedysnail was launched. Seven years of bashing out words and pictures for the entertainment of myself and others, whoever you are. And what an enormous pile of words and pictures it is.

Read More · 30 July 2006 · · Site News

Japan 2006

A tour around Japan in six and a half episodes, thirteen thousand words and a hundred photographs.

  1. Teaser
  2. Japanese Vending Machines
  3. Display Cases
  4. Lights, Action, Camera
  5. Book Off Manga
  6. Cream Puffs and Noodle Nuts
  7. The Floating World
  1. Tokyo & Nikko
  2. Kyoto

29 July 2006 · Travel

The Floating World

Japan, Part VI

For a moment I was worried. The woman at the tourist office was telling us that there was no accommodation left in Kyoto. I regretted lingering over the bento boxes in the Tokyo Station food court now, deciding which combination of sushi, tempura, vegetables and rice in a compartmented imitation-bamboo box to buy. Because our 11-ish departure had ended up more 2-ish, we might have to catch the next train out of town and stay in Osaka or Nara.

“Very hard to find Western-style hotels right now. Only Japanese-style.”

Oh, was that all. “That’s fine,” I said, not letting on that we’d been about to ask for a ryokan anyway. Who wants to stay in a same-as-anywhere hotel room when you can have futons and rice-paper doors?

Read More · 28 July 2006 · Travel

Looking in the Wrong Place

Because of my interest in comedy and cartooning I always check out the Humour shelves in a bookstore, just to see what new gems might be lurking amongst the dozens of gimmick books. You know the kind—those throwaways designed to be purchased as gifts but never actually read. I’ve come up with a few ideas for them myself over the years, only to have them rejected by publishers and then appear in uncannily similar form in the shops a year or two later. But am I bitter? Nooooo. I’m just saving up these experiences for my Little Bitty Book of Bitter Rejections. (It’s been done, actually, and more than once. When it comes to gimmicky books there are few original ideas, which is the more likely reason my proposals never got anywhere.)

Read More · 27 July 2006 · Books

Hot Hot Heat

It is, as some British-based readers may have noticed, rather hot. Really very hot, actually. Australia-type hot—even in Edinburgh. Last month we had a few days of the Harr, as a Scottish friend told us the fog that blankets the city in summer is called, which prompted days of amusing lines like “Harrrrrr, the fog be rollin’ in” and “Harrrrr, you call this a summer?” But now the Harr has fogged off, and the whole city is starting to bake.

Read More · 27 July 2006 · UK Culture

Unstressed Syllables

The author of these, speedysnail,
Is resting for now, turning tail
From anapest shores
To do prosier chores,
But will one day return without fail.

25 July 2006 · Site News

Michael Kelly* has been writing again lately. Best of all, there’s three whole weeks’ worth of it...

Read More · 20 July 2006 · · Weblog

Spotted on the way home: a white van from “BS Removals”. It didn’t look big enough.

19 July 2006 · Whatever

Cream Puffs and Noodle Nuts

Japan, Part V

Three wonderful things among the many purchased, tasted or seen during our trip.

Read More · 18 July 2006 · · Travel

Buncha Links

Various links to suit today’s links-hungry lifestyle.

Read More · 17 July 2006 · · Weblog

In My Ears and In My Eyes

There was a minor flap in the UK media the other day when Liverpool Council considered a proposal to change the name of Penny Lane because it was originally named for an 18th-century slave-ship owner. Or so it was reported and editorialised, although elsewhere the proposer of the move was reported as saying “I don’t think anyone would seriously consider renaming Penny Lane”; she was pressing for other slavery-related street names to change. Either way, it looks like a non-starter, because Liverpudlians are attached to their historical streets, if not their historical buildings (see: renewed government attempts to demolish half of the north of England).

Read More · 13 July 2006 · · UK Culture

Take a Bow

Given that it took four months of listening before I reviewed their second album, I figured I should wait at least a week before reviewing Muse’s fourth, Black Holes and Revelations. Given also the rave nature of that review and my one for Absolution, I wondered whether I should bow to the inevitable and post this one in all-caps. OH MY GOD, IT’S AWESOME AND YOU SHOULD ALL BUY IT...

Read More · 13 July 2006 · Music

Book Off Manga

Japan, Part IV

On my first trip to Japan twenty years ago, the family travelled to an island in the Inland Sea that a Japanese friend of Dad’s had recommended. It was a memorable day, partly because we nearly missed the last boat off the island at the end of it. We would have had to spend the night outdoors, because there wasn’t much on the island except a museum.

It was a great museum, though. It was full of samurai armour—suits and suits of it, all segmented and lacquered like polished carapaces. And they sold a beautiful book of the collection, full of full-page photographs. Which is the other reason I remember the place: because I didn’t buy that book, even though I wanted it. It was twenty bucks, which was like spending about seventy or a hundred today. I just couldn’t justify it—not at the beginning of a long trip where I might want to buy other things with my modest savings.

Read More · 12 July 2006 · Travel

Jarvis Cocker’s MySpace page has a new solo track, “Running the World”.

10 July 2006 · Music

Lights, Action, Camera

Japan, Part III

You don’t visit Tokyo for the traditional culture, although there are glimpses of it here and there. You visit it to stand in streets lined with neon lights while reciting Rutger Hauer’s valedictory speech from Blade Runner, beloved of students of science fiction everywhere. The best places for this are Ginza, Shinjuku and Akihabara, and the last has the advantage that it’s Tokyo’s “Electric Town”, crammed full of multiple floors of home electronics, digital cameras, mobile phones, and computers. Most of the time you’re just window shopping, unless you can read kanji keyboards, but some shops boast that “We are the reliable Source of English Computer” (Amstrads? Acorns? ZX80s?), and there are bargain peripherals to be had. I looked longingly at a checkerboard keyboard on the ninth floor of Laox—the keys alternating in colour, black/white/black/white—but I didn’t really need it and knew it would drive me mad. I picked up a couple of things, though, and when I went up to an empty counter a store assistant ran to serve me. I don’t think I’ve seen that happen anywhere else on the planet.

Read More · 9 July 2006 · · Travel

Display Cases

Japan, Part II

Apart from the fact that its name reminded me of Judge Dredd’s hometown of Mega-City One, there was no earthly reason to visit Meguro. No reason, that is, apart from its most famous museum, which I hadn’t even heard of until the day before.

Read More · 8 July 2006 · Travel

Black and White and Blackpool

What we did last weekend, and why there are no more Japan photos yet: Cheshire and Lancashire, where even the white bits were black.

6 July 2006 · · Travel

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