The Economy

Me: Hi Japan. What’s going on with your economy?

Japan: The usual. Why?

Me: I keep hearing that it’s “stagnating” or “stagflating” or “sluggish” or a “train wreck”.

Japan: It is.

Me: And there’s a “lost generation” that can’t find really amazing jobs and earn buckets of cash every month.

Japan: They can’t.

Me: And your GDP isn’t seventeen double digits above the baseline macro index for economic growth forecasts in the second half of the Dow Smith fiscal trimester.

Japan: Something tells me you’re not an economist.

Me: All of this must have had lots of very negative impacts on your society.

Japan: Oh yes. Absolutely.

Me: Such as?

Japan: Well, as you said finding a decent job these days is tough.

Me: Right. Finding a job isn’t easy. What else?

Japan: People are earning less now. Wages have come down dramatically since the 90s.

Me: How much were people earning before?

Japan: Oh, shit loads. Business men got their bonuses delivered in wheel barrows.

Me: And it’s subsequently come down to normal levels since the bubble burst?

Japan: Yeah, i guess.

Me: And what other major society-breaking, life-affecting problems have occurred since then?

Japan: Well, erm, there’s the, er…let me think…

Me: …

Japan: …

Me: Haven’t you still got one of the highest life expectancies in the world with some of the healthiest people even with your half-arsed smoking laws and steep suicide rates?

Japan: Er…yeah. I think so.

Me: And you’ve got one of the highest rates of literacy and numeracy and low rates or alcoholism and drug abuse.

Japan: Yeah…but this year’s growth forecast isn’t looking great. Again.

Me: Aren’t your crime and incarceration rates are really low? Don’t you have universal health care and an absence of obesity?

Japan: Yeah, but last years’ numbers weren’t good at all. Just look at those graphs.

Me: You’ve got low rates of teenage pregnancy and mental illness. You’ve got the best public transport infrastructure on earth that can take people to all corners of you quickly and cleanly.

Japan: Yeah, look, you’re totally missing the point.

Me: Sure, you’re not perfect and your financial system isn’t anywhere within driving distance of being in awesome tip-top shape, apparently, but all of the above has continued whilst your economy has “faltered” and “stuttered”. Daily life is still pretty comfortable isn’t it? Has any of this really changed? How have you suffered?

Japan: Well, i’ve been left behind. China’s now the second biggest economy in the world. I’m number three.

Me: And?

Japan: Well, they’ve overtaken me.

Me: So?

Japan: So, well, erm, their economy is bigger than mine.

Me: And that means it’s a better place to live?

Japan: China? God no. Have you seen it? It’s a fantastic mess.

Me: Right.

Japan: But their graphs do look good. I mean, you can’t beat looking at an economic graph and statistics for finding out how nice a country is to live in, can you?

Me: Have you ever thought of looking at some other graphs and statistics?

Japan: Hell no. What would that tell me?

Me: Well…who knows?

November 29, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . Uncategorized. 30 comments.

Vending machines

Me: Can we do a quiz about vending machines?

Japan: Yeah, sure.

Me: OK. Great. How many vending machines do you currently have?

Japan: One.

Me: …?

Japan: Per twenty three people.

Me: Correct. And what do most of these vending machines sell?

Japan: Drinks.

Me: Correct. And are your people constantly thirsty?

Japan: No.

Me: Correct. So, are they at all necessary?

Japan: Not often, no.

Me: Correct. What would happen if you had no vending machines?

Japan: Erm…well…er…

Me: Correct. Why do you have vending machines selling drinks and cigarettes outside convenience stores that sell drinks and cigarettes?

Japan: Erm…well…er…

Me: Correct. Is it –

Japan: Hang on. Not all convenience stores are open 24 hours and some people might have a craving for a can of sugar and some nicotine at 3am.

Me: That’s a bit tenuous and very rare but, OK, i’ll give you a bonus point.

Japan: Yay!

Me: Is it true that there’s a drinks vending machine at the summit of Mount Fuji.

Japan: Yes.

Me: Correct. Why?

Japan: Erm…well…er…

Me: Correct. Is having all these vending machines running 24 hours a day all over the place a sensible use of a limited, useful and expensive resource such as electricity?

Japan: No.

Me: Correct. What’s the strangest thing you sell from a vending machine?

Japan: Instant noodles.

Me: No.

Japan: Beer.

Me: Nope.

Japan: Batteries.

Me: I’m afraid not.

Japan: Ties.

Me: Are you guessing?

Japan: Eggs.

Me: You’re guessing.

Japan: Canned bread.

Me: What?

Japan: Ice.

Me: No, come on now –

Japan: Vegetables.

Me: You can’t –

Japan: Porn.

Me: This is getting silly.

Japan: Used women’s underwear.

Me: If that’s even true then i’m taking back your bonus point.

Japan: What? You can’t do that.

Me: Why not? I’m the quiz master.

Japan: Well, why are you even quizzing me about my vending machines anyway? What the hell do you know about the world of vending?

Me: Erm…well…er…

Japan: Correct. Why doesn’t your country have countless vending machines conveniently dispensing questionable goods to a population partially fixated with buying shit they don’t need?

Me: Erm, they’d probably all get robbed or vandalised or end up in the living room of a student flat?

Japan: Correct. And that’s the end of the quiz.

Me: Eh?

Japan: Yes, and i’m afraid to say you didn’t win.

Me: It was my quiz.

Japan: Exactly. How shit are you? You can’t even win your own quiz.

Me: But –

Japan: Let’s have a look at what you could’ve won.

Me: What is it?

Japan: It’s a rhinoceros beetle.

Me: A rhinoceros beetle? Where did you get one of those from at this time of day?

Japan: Where do you think?

Me: …?

Japan: …!

Me: No way.

November 14, 2012. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Trains

Me: Your trains are mad aren’t they?

Japan: My trains?

Me: Yeah, your trains are mad.

Japan: Mad? I’ve never heard them being called mad.

Me: How many have you got?

Japan: I don’t know.

Me: What do you mean you don’t know?

Japan: I’m not sure. How can i know how many trains i’ve got? There’re so many. All those different companies and tracks and rolling stock; limited express, commuter express, airport express, special express, bullet trains, local trains, private companies, public companies. It’s impossible.

Me: And they all seem to work.

Japan: Why would they not work?

Me: Because there’d be a problem with the track or –

Japan: Why would there be a problem with the track?

Me: Because the rail company didn’t do its maintenance to a proper level or –

Japan: Why wouldn’t they do proper maintenance?

Me: Because they don’t care that much or don’t do their job properly or somebody steals a load of copper cable or –

Japan: That all sounds a bit far fetched to me.

Me: And they’re clean.

Japan: Why wouldn’t they be clean? They’re used by millions of members of the general public.

Me: They wouldn’t be clean because they’re used by millions of members of the general public.

Japan: …

Me: You know? Drunk men vomiting and people graffitiing and litter flying around and random vandalism. On a train. No?

Japan: You’ve lost me.

Me: And they’re almost always on time.

Japan: Again, why wouldn’t that be the case?

Me: Because a driver might not do their job properly or –

Japan: I’ve told you before about doing work.

Me: Or the train breaks down.

Japan: I’ve never heard of that before.

Me: Or when there’s a rainstorm that floods the tracks.

Japan: Ah yeah, I do hate that.

Me: Or there’s an earthquake.

Japan: Don’t go there again. I’ve told you, i don’t like that.

Me: Or if somebody commits suicide and jumps in front of one as it enters a station. That seems to happen quite a bit. What’s going on there?

Japan: Erm, can we get back to the fun stuff and the compliments please?

Me: And what about the sexual assaults?

Japan: The, erm…?

Me: The sexual assaults. So all these trains zoom around the cities and everybody seems nice to each other and everything but they’ve got a carriage for women during morning rush hour.

Japan: …

Me: Because women get groped on the train.

Japan: Er…My clean efficient trains?

Me: Yeah full of men that grope. So instead of trying to change any social behaviour you just herd the women into one carriage before 9am in an attempt to keep them away from the perverts?

Japan: Fast trains…No graffiti…Very popular.

Me: Yeah, really busy. Lots of people use them.

Japan: That’s right.

Me: Too many.

Japan: No, what?

Me: You’ve got to employ people to push and squeeze commuters on to the train in the mornings. Biscuits in unopened packets have more room. There’s no way that’s comfortable.

Japan: Well –

Me: Especially if somebody is grabbing your tits.

Japan: Can we not –

Me: Or your arse.

Japan: This was going so well. Why did you have to bring up all the bad stuff?

Me: Because it’s well, what’s the word, a bit, you know, “mad”?

Japan: …

Me: …

Japan: I hate you.

November 7, 2012. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.