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John of Vancouver

Feb 21, 2001

The Japanese seem to be having no end of bed luck with their maritime fishing fleet, unfortunately. Two weeks ago a U.S. submarine surfaced beneath a Japanese fishing research vessel off the coast of Hawaii, punctured its hull and sank it in ten minutes with a loss of nine crew including three students.

 Earlier last year, as reported by United Press: The dazed crew of a Japanese Trawler was plucked out of the sea of Japan clinging to the wreckage of their sunken ship. Their rescue, however, was followed by immediate imprisonment once authorities questioned the sailors on their ships loss. To a man they clamed that a cow, falling out of a clear blue sky, had struck the trawler amidships, shattering its hull and sinking the vessel within minutes.

 They remained in prison for several weeks, until the Russian Air Force reluctantly informed the Japanese authorities that the crew of one of its cargo planes had apparently stolen a cow wondering at the edge of a Siberian airfield, forced the cow into the plane’s hold and hastily taken off for home.

 Unprepared for live cargo, the Russian crew was ill equipped to manage a now rampaging cow within its hold. To save the aircraft and themselves, they shoved the animal out of the cargo hold as they crossed the Sea of Japan at an altitude of 30,000 feet.

 What is the point here? It is to make clear that errors, whether by carelessness or plain bad luck, can occur to just about anywhere to anyone.

 For instance, Japan’s Prime Minister Mori is enjoying a popularity rating of three percent and will probably resign his position shortly. Back luck caught up with him while he was playing golf. It seems the PM was in fine form that day and even had some money riding on the game when news of the collision with the U.S. sub came to him. He decided to finish the game. You see? Bad luck! Not that he could have done anything about it in any case but it does make for bad optics - as the spin men like to say. Moreover, this wasn’t the first time Prime Minister Mori has lost face with the Japanese public. Last year, while on a state visit to the U.S. he poked himself in the eye again whilst meeting with then President Clinton.

 The Prime Minister doesn’t speak English well and was being tutored on how to properly address the President for the usual photo op before the formal meetings got under way. The Prime Minister was coached to approach the President, extend his hand and remark, “Good afternoon, how are you?”  After which there would be a pre-agreed response from the president, “I’m fine, and you?” To which Prime Minister Mori would conclude with “me too,” and finally the interpreters would step in and real the discussions would get under way.

 Unfortunately, when one simply mimics words with no real idea of what they mean syntax can become mangled and certain vowels mispronounced, so what really came out when the PM met the President was, “Good afternoon, who are you?” Bill Clinton’s eyebrows rose up but he caught the mood of the moment and responded, “ I’m Hillary’s husband.” To which President Mori answered, “me too!”

 Some of you may be smirking over the inability of Japan’s Prime Minister to speak comprehensible English and yet the same can happen to anyone, even perhaps a Canadian Prime Minister. Jean Chretien, for example, speaks English only somewhat better than Prime Minister Mori, and he leads a predominantly English-speaking nation. Last spring Prime Minister Chretien was on the west coast giving a speech not far from the town of Tofino on Vancouver Island. Here for the record is his pronouncement to reporters that day: “Clack, clack, clack wod take da bread away!” After which he paused to give the surprised audience a chance to applaud.

Befuddled journalists glanced at each other and the Prime Minister’s staff quickly stepped in after he had left the podium to translate into English for the press just what the PM had meant. Apparently, it turns out, the Prime Minister was speaking English but had managed to torture the language such that no one could understand him. What he in fact meant to say was “Claquot (referring to scenic Claquot Sound) takes the breath away.”

 Astonishing errors are not unknown elsewhere. Referring to President Clinton’s testimony over his hijinx with that fat girl in the oval office he was heard to wonder aloud, “what do you mean by “have sex?” Hmm, one would think a practiced philanderer like Clinton could have guessed at that one, felatio in the oval office not being obvious enough for him?

 The first President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, used to ride about the presidential palace on a tricycle. He also invited such distinguished drug addicts as Frank Zappa, to consult with during the formation of the Czech Republic. Of course it must be pointed out to readers that Vaclav was an artist (actually a playwright) prior to becoming a president. It is a well-known fact that all artists are nuts any ways and are either on welfare or are receiving grants (also welfare) from the government.

 Brazil is none too impressed with Canadian artists. Having put a ban on Brazilian beef imports into Canada in retaliation for subsidizing their aircraft industry in competition with ours, Canada has become known as a country of boobs and bombasts in the southern hemisphere. Pundits in the Brazilian press have referred to Canadian artists with much acerbic discourse, even going so far as to inform the world that Canada’s contribution to sculpture is the snowman.

 My word! I’ll have you Brazilians know that just last year the Canadian government gave away several thousand dollars to a crazed woman for her sculpture which turned out to be twelve supermarket rabbits hung from a tree. What say ye know you Portuguese bandits?! The fact that Canadians are willing to fund such progressive works of avant-garde art can only cement the world’s image of us. This is good, no?

And now it is time for a drink..

Good Night Dolls!

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