John Campbell's interview with Jerry Collins was an interesting watch. And only in part for Campbell's immediate post-interview piece to camera where he seemed to want to dump everything he could remember; "he was wearing a blue tshirt…"
Jerry Collins' story sounds fantastical. Harried and followed by a gang of Brazilians, who have a long-standing grudge against foreign rugby players, Collins, armed with two large knives, entered the basement food market of a department store, stood behind the counter babbling incoherent Japanese and waited for the police to arrive.
While I watched the report last night tweeted the only person I would trust with questions about Japanese gangs, Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice.
@hadyngreen I don't think his claims are implausible.
It's a short reply but means that there is some validity to what Collins' has claimed.
The Yakuza have been "legalised" in Japan to a certain extent. With the old "gangs" now running legitimate (or semi-legit) businesses.
To give you an idea of the scale of organized crime front companies in Japan, in Tokyo alone, there were over 1,000 at the end of 2010. And those are simply the ones that the police were able to identify. If you include new venture companies that were bankrolled by the yakuza behind the scenes, the numbers go even higher. A noted economist once called the yakuza Japan’s second largest private equity group…
[In 2011], in Tokyo and in Okinawa, organized crime exclusionary laws (暴力団排除条例-boryokudan haijojorei) went into effect, thus making all of Japan a lot less yakuza friendly; it’s the start of the Big Chill. The laws vary in the details, but they all criminalize sharing profits with the yakuza (aka Japanese mafia) or paying them off. The laws were designed to help crush the front companies and cooperative entities that increasingly bring in major revenue for organized crime.
In other words, if you pay protection money to the yakuza, or use them to facilitate your business affairs, you will be treated as a criminal. You may be warned once, your name released to the public, and fined or imprisoned, or all of the above, if you persist in doing business with the yakuza.
However, what is particularly vexing to the yakuza, is that any payments to the yakuza are criminalized. For example, if the yakuza are blackmailing you or extorting cash from you and you pay them off, you are no longer a victim–you are also a criminal under the new laws. Thus, for most people the benefits of throwing yen at the yakuza to keep them quiet start to fade. Blackmail/extortion is a huge money maker for the mob in Japan. Roughly 45% of all people arrested for the crime (恐喝/kyokatsu) in Japan are yakuza members (circa 2010). Hush money is big business but only when people will pay you to hush up. When they start going to the police as soon as you try to shake them down, the business model falls apart.
The new rules has started to push the Yakuza out of their "traditional" revenue gathering activities and the unintelligent mob thug seems to be whittled away.
A 38-year-old Yamaguchi-gumi member had ordered burger combo at a drive-through in Kyoto. He picked up his order, but then claimed since his meal had gotten wet in the rain, he owed nothing, and drove off clutching his burger and fries. (It’s unclear whether it was a plain hamburger or a cheeseburger, accounts vary, but it was definitely not a happy meal.) Several days later, a bill arrived at the Yamaguchi-gumi headquarters in Kobe from a very angry McDonald’s manager. The organization paid.
With the Yakuza uneasy in the area of petty extortion the gaps are there for other groups to jump in and I imagine that this is where Collins' Brazillians are sitting.
Gambling is huge in Japan as the constant sound of Pachinko machines will tell you. A gang running extortion or intimidation against sports people makes sense. It makes even more sense for that gang to go for foreign players, who may not understand the current crack down on organised crime. Players with little Japanese and few local networks; like Jerry Collins.
I am going to assume that the gang does exist and isn't a fabrication. I'm also going to assume that Collins was telling the truth when he said he wasn't on drugs.
Why this gang would continue to harass him after his contract was over and why he would even still be in Japan is another story. According to Campbell: "A misunderstanding with a gang had escalated suddenly and very dramatically to the point where [Collins] feared for his life and threats against his life were made." This implies Collins was in contact with the gang and was perhaps even exchanging money with them (protection/extortion/bribery etc).
That last paragraph is speculation of the highest order, bordering on fiction, and I added it only by way of brain dump. Frankly, when the story came out I placed all of my chips on "drugged out former player with mental issues". There are still a lot of holes in this story, the biggest being why didn't Collins go straight to the police?
Nothing seems to add up to a whole and I suspect that the full story may never be extracted or pieced together.
I wrote the following many months ago thinking that someone might want to buy it to get some spending money for my Japan trip (hahaha! No one pays for content anymore you fool!). Since then we've had the rather interesting news that Disney has bought Lucasarts and hence… Star Wars.
Since the announcement speculation has been crazy about who would be writing, directing and starring in the new Star Wars movies. Part of this frantic hunt for a successor comes from the fear of a repeat of the awful prequels. We, the fans of the original trilogy, want someone who we know won't "screw it up this time". And we have no learned that Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3) will be writing "Episode VII" and the last two will be written by Simon Kinberg (Sherlock Holmes) and Lawrence Kasdan (Empire Strikes Back).
Of course the problem here is that pretty much any writer/director will screw it up. Chris Nolan was an early internet favourite, but would we really want to see a Star Wars movie shot like The Dark Knight Rises? Ok, maybe, yes, but they wouldn't be the same films we grew up with.
Anyway this is what I wrote (minus a short intro, that I rewrote for this one):
"What is the greatest film of all time?" As pub conversations go you don't get better than that. In fact, right now, you're thinking about it. For me the answer has always been Star Wars. The first film of the original trilogy, also called A New Hope, and later, Episode 4.
For a lot of people my age, at the tail-end of what would later be dubbed Generation X, Star Wars was just something everyone had seen. We grew up with it being shown as the Sunday night movie, we watched it constantly on VHS, we collected the toys, we all wanted to be Han Solo.
Oddly though, we weren't obsessed by it. Sure we liked it, but it was just like any other piece of entertainment we grew up with, it was nostalgia. In the late 90s, when the original trilogy got its second big screen showing, we dressed up and laughed along at the stuff we used to think was "amazing". But we also suddenly realised that something could happen: people could change the thing we had grown up with; and the effect this had on us was very strange. We got scared and the reason we got scared is because we have kids now.
It's the same problem every generation seems to go through: How can I make sure that my children grow up with the same experiences I had? And for this generation the particular problem of: How can I ensure they do not resent me for dressing them up as Boba Fett when they were a baby?
The advertisements for the re-released versions struck right to the heart of the matter. The voice-over man's opening lines are:
"For an entire generation people have experienced Star Wars the only way it's been possible: on the TV screen… but if you've only seen it this way, you haven't seen it at all"
An X-Wing blasts out of the small screen and onto the massive theatre screen in front of us
What the new "special editions" of the original trilogy have done is made it harder for us to replicate the same experience we had. Not only does Greedo somehow get the jump on Han and the chance to shoot first, but then Jabba the Hutt shows up and repeats all of the story points Greedo had made before being blasted. Is it a bad thing that Han didn't kill Greedo? Does it irreparably change his character somehow? The problem is we don't know.
With the release of the prequels our situation became worse. What if our kids learned the Darth Vader was Luke's father before the climactic scene in Empire Strikes Back? What if the terribly made prequels put our kids off Star Wars completely?
Scott Hanselman wrote a blog outlining his plan because "[the Star Wars films] are fun and classics and we wanted to share them with our kids in a way that worked for everyone given their age and our parenting style". But he also says that you should "[m]ake the films an event with crafts and discussion of mythology rather than just dumping in on their little brains".
This is of course over-planning. Star Wars is about space, monsters, loud noises, lasers and light swords. Kids run around the backyard playing in some imaginary world wielding odd weapons and fighting space monsters before they've even seen Star Wars.
So why are people so attached to Star Wars? Because for whatever reason Star Wars defined Generation X, and right now Gen X is in charge. We are, to wax lyrical about it, Luke Skywalkers rebelling against our parents' generation.
Roger Ebert, very much not part of Generation X, wrote this about Star Wars after seeing the updated "Special" edition in 1999:
Star Wars effectively brought to an end the golden era of early-1970s personal filmmaking and focused the industry on big-budget special-effects blockbusters, blasting off a trend we are still living through. But you cann't blame it for what it did, you can only observe how well it did it. In one way or another all the big studios have been trying to make another “Star Wars'' ever since (pictures like “Raiders of the Lost Ark,'' “Jurassic Park'' and “Independence Day'' are its heirs). It located Hollywood's center of gravity at the intellectual and emotional level of a bright teenager.
But Star Wars didn't just build Hollywood up; it became an ideal for so many film makers. Kevin Smith's films may have been a series of diminishing returns, but they did give us famous Clerks scene where the characters discuss the deaths of millions of contractors finishing the second Death Star. Simon Pegg's character in Spaced is obsessed with Star Wars and often makes oblique jokes designed for fellow fans. Pegg would later write about how Star Wars shaped his life and his relationships with others:
"Star Wars was extremely important in my development as a child. It stimulated my imagination, increased my vocabulary, informed my notion of morality. It was a social touchstone, an ice breaker, a common ground, shared by so many. … I can pinpoint the moment when I realised the Nick Frost was destined to be my friend. We were in a Nepalese restaurant in Cricklewood with a bunch of people and Nick made the noise of the little Imperial droid that Chewbacca roars at in A New Hope. I heard it, got it, told him and proceeded to bond with him at a geometric rate."
So I think we can safely say that Star Wars is a very important piece of pop culture to a large part of society. Star Wars surrounds us and penetrates us, it binds our world together… so to speak. But it is only part of society that feels this way.
Our fears realised
The fact that the BBC was able to have a show called "I've Never Seen Star Wars" – wherein celebrity guests try fairly common things they have never done before – speaks to the breadth of coverage the Star Wars movies have had. Whether you like them or not, chances are you've seen them. And even if you could never remember the story, you've been soaking in the plot points since it was released.
Much of Star Wars' plot now seems clichéd as films that followed it took their cues from its story; just as Star Wars took its story from classic mythology mixed with westerns and samurai movies. Now it would seem ludicrous to call Luke Skywalker's paternity a surprise.
Because of this finding a true Star Wars "virgin" is impossible. Even those born in the 80s and 90s have been exposed to the roundly hated prequels or at the very least some kind of media from movie references to advertisements featuring the film's characters. I was able to find not one but three people who have never seen any of the six Star Wars movies; however, only one was able to sit down with me to watch the films, her name is Amy.
While Amy hadn't seen any of the films she knew the major plot points that have become memes. But they sat disjointed and, many times, mixed together as strange hybrids, for example when we started the marathon with A New Hope, Amy asked where Natalie Portman was.
"…until very recently I did not even know the difference between Star Wars, Star Trek, and Stargate (in fact, I used to think Star Wars referred to some sort of conflict between Star Trek and Stargate.. not even kidding)."
I had decided on the playing order before even finding someone to watch them with. The general consensus on the internet is Machete Order is the best. Release Order used to be the preference (Episodes 4, 5 ,6, 1, 2, and 3) over Episodic order, as it allowed you to see the "good" films before watching the prequels. But this left the viewer having to struggle through bad films to finish their experience.
Narrative order is Episodes 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, and 6. This means that the viewer discovers the big reveal at the end of Empire, before watching the prequels which become a flashback of Vader's rise to power. But, Narrative order is refined further to Machete Order: Episodes 4, 5, 2, 3, and 6. No more Phantom Menace and, as such, no Jar-Jar Binks – possibly the most hated character in cinematic history.
To further the experience I acquired an original VHS copy of A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. What struck me most was how poorly the films have aged. The explosions look bad, the lasers look bad and the ships move like they are attached to metal sticks. To me this was just cringing at the past, to fresh eyes this was a bad movie; in fact Amy found the "prehistoric special effects so amusing that they completely distracted from the storyline".
I was worried that Amy might not be engaged with the characters either as she pointed out their very wooden acting. Then a small break through. C3PO is knocked to the ground by Sand People and loses his arm, as this happened Amy let out a small gasp. The only emotional reaction she had for the entire film.
The second movie was more a success, the re-mastered Empire Strikes Back. While I was wincing at the Temuera Morrison re-dubbed version of Boba Fett, Amy was happier with this one. But again some confusion set in as those floating plot points got connected. She knew Luke and Leia kiss, but didn't know Han and Leia would fall in love, so wondered why they were flirting.
When the big reveal happened she was shocked. Not because of the revelation itself ("I knew just from being alive that Darth Vader was Luke's father") but because prior to the confession Vader cuts off Luke's hand.
After a fortnight's break we watched the first of the "flashback" portion: Attack of the Clones.
I found [Attack of the Clones] to be mildly ridiculous and the worst film by far.
…this movie went from absurd (that first chase sequence) to creepy (any scene with Anakin Skywalker in it) and back to absurd (MEADOW FOLICKING) with very little life-progress seeming to happen in between. The special effects seemed to be worse than the re-mastered old movies which once again, served to distract me, and somehow the acting had not improved. I honestly have no recollection of the actual storyline. Ridiculous, ridiculous, ridiculous.
Episode III redeemed itself only by being the movie which answered a lot of questions I had about Episodes IV and V - mainly, when did Anakin become Vader, why does he wear that mask and do the creepy breathing, if Vader's Luke's father then who/where is his mother, etc.
Overall, not quite as much as a waste of my life as Episode II was, but definitely not an experience I wish to repeat, ever.
And so we came to Return of the Jedi. Amy's spirits were low but she wanted the story resolved. And then magic happened: she liked it!
Oddly it was one of the things that most "true" Star Wars fans hate, the Ewoks, that brought her back. The introduction with the droids in Jabba's palace worked as well. As we hadn't watched The Phantom Menace and the "despecialised" version of A New Hope this was the first time Jabba had appeared. A real life creature, with that disgusting slimy tongue and a thing for killing his dancers he came across as a proper villain and not a cartoon.
Wrapping the movies with Jedi after the prequels did give the five films a true sense of continuous narrative, no matter how good the story was. And despite her reluctance, Amy actually liked the films. "I mean, it doesn't make it into my top twenty movies of all time or anything, but I certainly enjoyed it." She also didn't want to admit it but the during the two week break we had in-between viewing she got more and more excited about completing the story.
It's a trap!
It is not a good idea to hope that the next generation will enjoy the same things that you do, because invariably they will not. And rightly so, it's foolish to expect an event at a particular time to have the same impact at a different time. The world moves on.
Even so, the touchstone that is Star Wars exists for an entire generation. Parts have leaked into the next generation, but for the most part it is ours and we should enjoy it and just let it be ours forever.
The 132 page blurb channels a mix of the Mad Men TV series and up-market mens' magazine FHM, featuring black and white shots of Moa's all-male board and management striking macho poses in sharply cut suits, while attractive women in black skirts, white blouses and ties fondle cigars and bottles of Moa.
"It is somewhat Mad Men," he said, appealing to "men who want moments of manhood*."
You can barely tell it's written in shit.
I don't mean the financial stuff. As someone who can barely balance his bank account, I am the last person to criticise a company about shares and stocks and what-have-you. Instead I mean the disgusting way that Moa conflates manhood with the ownership of women. See the image above to get a vague idea of what I mean.
The prospectus starts: "Your guide to owning a brewery and other tips for modern manhood". Modern manhood ironically means some sort of Mad Men fantasy from the 1960s. The tips in the prospectus are along the lines of 1000 rules for my unborn son, but much crasser and surrounded by men who are posing with what they believe is "swagger".
From the marketing section:
Moa needs to offer both rational and emotional reasons to make Moa the super-premium beer of choice… The personality of the brand offers the emotional reasons. For Moa this should be a sharp wit, without political correctness and an eye for those activities and styles that make up the lives of our aspiring drinkers – those in the super-premium end of modern manhood.
And just if you didn't understand what they meant by "without political correctness" they follow up by explaining that their marketing team is "experienced in getting attention in the marketplace with minimum spend and have utilised online media very effectively". Yes, they will say controversial stuff and you silly people will get riled up. For a prospectus built on an idea of modern men, and a Mad Men theme, it does seem to enjoy pushing the idea that creativity is nothing when you can just piss people off.
As a side note: Tip number six tell you to "Close your social media accounts. Open books are easy to read and unlocked homes are easy to steal from".
In what seems like an odd step, halfway through, directly before the human ashtray photo, the marketing gurus have included an advertisement for a $197,000 Aston Martin. The ad is the intro to the section on the directors.
CEO Geoff Ross is pictured holding a magazine. On the front is Peter Sellers, on the back a woman pushing a pram. Geoff has a slight smile on his face like he overheard you tell a dirty joke and wanted to tell you one of his own. Scanning his profile you discover that he is a man's man who killed animals as a child. He is also a terrible Christmas gift giver: "Ecoya for the ladies, Moa for the gents".
Josh Scott is the founder. He learned about brewing and winemaking so that he could sell alcohol to his classmates to improve their dating skills. It's hard not to appreciate the casual way his biography implies not only his early criminal activity but also the way that drinking makes you better at scoring. I'm not going to infer that they mean you should get your intended partner drunk.
The photos aren't bad. The guys look good in suits. But the overwhelming air of arrogance and simple misogyny is hard to shake. I understand the market that the prospectus is aimed at. They want to capture the type of person who drives Aston Martins and wears bespoke suits. I suppose that can't be a woman though. Because women don't have money right?
“It’s good for a company if its shares are in the hands of the people who really believe in it — and for us that means the people who really love Sam Adams beer…
“I wanted to take care of my Sam Adams drinkers. They were the people who were really important to me and who were going to continue to be.”
So [Jim Koch, founder of the Boston Beer Company] improvised, hanging fliers on six-packs of beer that very carefully informed customers that they might be able to buy $500 worth of shares in an eventual public offering. “We were limited to what you could manage to say on a six-pack, and also by what the lawyers would let us say,” he recalls.
Moa are pushing for the super-premium market. They want to push Heineken and Steinlager off the top of the pile. So they want to bring over those drinkers. This is why they are pushing for the douchebag market. They are the people who, as I mentioned, drive Aston Martins because, oh, you drive a BMW, I'm sure that's a good car too, hey wanna hear a dirty joke, it's a little un-PC though. As a craft beer drinker I would never want to be this guy.
For all of the sales information that fills the latter half of the prospectus, none deals with the possible ramifications of pissing off female drinkers. There is nothing in here that makes women think that Moa wants them to drink their beer. If I was a woman reading this I would assume that Moa can do without my money.
The weird thing is Moa beer is still good, taste-wise. It confuses me why they would bother doing this. Why piss off a pretty liberal group of drinkers? Perhaps Moa should have read Tip number 8, included seemingly without irony: "The best advice comes from people who you are not paying to give you advice".
Don't think for a second that you can have an article like this and that will not say something about it.
…the All Blacks' shorts and jersey sleeves could be carrying the AIG logo as early as their tour to the United Kingdom, which starts with a test against Scotland in Edinburgh on November 11.
At time of writing the Herald's digipoll on the subject have 71% of people voting that they would be fine with another sponsor's logo on the All Black Uni. I voted that it would be "unsightly". Yes the jersey has had sponsors on it before (beyond the manufacturer's brand): Steinlager, New Zealand beer. Say what you will about the taste, it's a New Zealand brand. Would we have been happy with a VB logo?
AIG is an American insurance company. If anything says "we have decided to suck corporate-dick", this is it.
Currently we have the most logo-less jersey in professional rugby. It is not a "sign of the professional era" that teams have to be covered in garbage advertising. The NFL fights hard to keep its jerseys clean and they make a shit-tonne of money from sponsors (yes, yes bigger market etc etc).
AUSTIN, Texas - August 23rd, 2012 - There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, "Enough is enough."
These are your words. The words of a man who has been hounded and persecuted. Dogged by accusations of cheating simply because he was able to beat people who were cheating without doing so himself. A man who is "finished with this nonsense".
And if you are finished, and facing losing all your titles and being banned for life, the best thing to do is to tell people you are giving up. That the odds were always against you and you could never win. Call it a "witch hunt" and a "charade" started "out of spite", then when you stop fighting you can still say you did it for pure intentions. You can say you didn't lose, you just gave up the fight.
Live Strong; Give Up. That's the spirit.
"The toughest event in the world where the strongest man wins." That's what you said. I think you meant the event where everyone said you cheated. And to be fair it's not like cheats haven't won it in the past. In fact between 1996 and 2010 only two winners weren't cheats.
But you're not giving up really, you're refocusing.
"We have a lot of work to do and I'm looking forward to an end to this pointless distraction." You will no longer lay awake at night with that itch. That awful nagging feeling that people don't believe you. That no amount of yellow bracelets and fundraising will shake the idea that you weren't the all-American hero. That sinking feeling in your gut that comes in the middle of the night and interrupts your sleep. You are a cheat and the only argument that you aren't has passed you by.