Thursday, January 06, 2005

Japanese Culture

I had this idea that anything in Japan is Japanese Culture. Like, if I am watching Alfred Hitchcock movies and drinking german beer with a british friend, that counts as Japanese culture if I am doing it in Japan. What do you think?

Cuz like, I was thinking about how my boss wanted me to do Taiko Drumming and whatnot and how I just really don't want to do that. She was making me feel bad for a while because I was not getting into "Japanese Culture" while here - but I don't really have any interest in whacking a drum here any more than I do back home.

But, now I want to learn to do cooking (even though I'm male and that may cause a scandal among the old men around here) as my "cultural activity" (and kendo, though I keep putting off calling them for information), and so I was thinking well I should learn to cook Japanese food. But...well, I dunno, it seems I can learn to cook any food, right? Because, if I learn to cook it here then someone eats it here then it is Japanese food. Tempura came from Portugal, does that make it less Japanese? Is there some statute of limitations?

I was feeling bad for a while when I realized I spend a lot of my time here watching movies, like I was wasting my time here - but that is not the case. On the one hand, I watch a lot of movies I could not find in the states, I'm getting into a bit of a neo-samurai phase. I also watch a lot of movies I could find in the states, ie the aforementioned hitchcock phase - but so what? It's a cultural experience, and only in Japan can I watch a Hitchcock movie in Japan.

So what I am getting at is, I am into culture. But I am not into a definition of Japanese culture as the Kokinshu and Buddhism. I study those as well, but while I am here if I want to devote hours to anime or dating Japanese girls or listening to music, well, that's no less worthy. It seems to me that the culture worth studying now is forward looking, not backward looking. I am interested in "traditional culture" to the extent that it has a role to play in progressive culture - I am NOT interested in stasis as a cultural phenomenon. What I love most about Japanese culture is the way it ties old into new and maintains both, never in stasis but always in flux. Japanese culture is based on the premise that foreign cultural influence can find a niche and be assimilated harmoniously into the whole system.

What could be more in keeping with Japanese culture, then, than watching American movies with British friends?

I realize that this may sound like I am being defensive, and maybe I am to some degree because I was feeling bad about not doing Taiko drumming or keeping up with my kendo. But I don't want to do anything that I don't want to do. I like kendo at university, I suspect I really like kendo in general, but I don't consider myself a failure for not doing it here so far - I simply haven't wanted to deal with the added stress. From here on out I think I will, it depends on schedules and whatnot.

Japanese culture is life in Japan. I don't like devoting time to things I don't care about because they are old. I like devoting myself to things I find interesting, whether they are old or new. As I think about it, I am happy with my cultural experience, playing Japanese video games, watching Japanese movies, dating Japanese girls, drinking Japanese beer - basically being in Japan. Hell, maybe I'm more in keeping with "traditional japanese culture" than some of the people urging me to embrace it, by virtue of my diversity. There's a thought.

Well, that's all written out. Now I need to think about whether or not I believe any of it. I think I might.


I am going to just shift gears and keep writing, I think. I have another hour and a half. How odd that all of my work is done. I could study Japanese but I am not feeling it right now. But I am never feeling it. I like to learn and hate to study, like to do and hate to practice. I s'pose that must make me pretty normal.

I want to go back to Osaka. I would like to live there.

Jon I rather wish I had been there when you watched Versus, it is getting a lot of mention in some of the stuff I've been reading as somehow significant. I guess the director went on to do important things recently. Something about ninjas and samurai and rock and roll. Rebirth of chambara. Tragicomic violence. The stuff of culture.

What the hell is culture anyway? Isn't that just kind of a fancy word for "how people spend their time"?

I have this burning in my head again that I get when I am feeling particularly productive. Last time I had it I came up with about 15 great ideas. We'll see where it takes me, it's kind of been in the process of starting for the past couple of days and it is kicking in today. I wish I could watch Izo again but I had to take it back. Maybe I will play through metal gear 3 tonight. I am surrounded by the magnificant ideas of other people. I feel like the world is moving, shaking its head.

things Changed with the capital (write spelling?) C a couple hundred years ago when "democracy" came on the scene, power structures were shifted (in theory) etc etc etc. I feel like it will happen again. We've been on the cusp for so long. Like the zeitgeist needs to give birth and die.

Maybe the only two important social forces are tension and relaxation. And maybe that's a false distinction, maybe that's not dialectical because relaxation is just the absence of tension, so maybe tension is the only thing and its linear and it keeps going until it resets. And the function of society is to redirect the tension, to pool it into productive puddles, to guide it, essentially to keep it from overflowing. And over the course of human history we have gotten generally better at this, and we've reached the point where we are so good at distributing tension that we are thinking that we have conquered it - and yet it is something that grows forever, the role of this tension is to increase, exponentially. It's like a river and no matter how good we get at siphoning it off and using it to power our city eventually it will break through the dam like the dam wasn't even there. And then we just kind of start over. And that's our wars and our struggles and our revolutions, and even those tend to be sandbagged now and handled but the flood is inevitable right?

Man I don't want to waste my brain fever thinking about abstract social concepts with bad metaphors. All I do is betray a vague idealism hiding with its kid sister naivette on the back of a big fake monster called insight. So maybe it's art, but I don't know anything about art. Someone teach me.

I watched an arty movie last night that I think I liked but the more I think about it the less I like it. It was like too smart for me right because it was a murder mystery and I didn't figure it out until it was revealed. So my reaction is of course ooooh it was clever, but so what. It just had so many red herrings that the only character who didn't seem to be the suspect was the killer, and the more I think about it the less I feel outsmarted and the more I feel like I was had. Jackie said she figured it out, so maybe there was enough there to reveal it but there was no reason to suspect him more than the other guys except that he seemed like a conspiculously irrelevant character. I guess you can solve it like that but that seems really cheap on the part of the movie.

It was called in the cut and you know its arty cuz there was male nudity which caught us all by surprise.

I am writing a fucking lot these last few days. I suspect its just cuz I stopped chatting but then I figure what else should I be doing? I am fulfilling my responsibilities and I don't mean to imply that I am bored here because my mind is just burning so if I don't find some medium to express I am going to go mad. This is the reason I always needed the AIM I think, here I am with nobody to talk to and ideas are just kind of bumping into each other, like r2d2 and 3po in the robot factory in episode 2 where 3po stops and r2 crashes into him and knocks him down. god damn did I just reference a new star wars movie?

They say joyce had an associative mania, a sort of irrepresible desire (I think I spelled that wrong, not desire) to connect ideas or words that didnt really have an inherent connection. I feel like that when I get like this, I think maybe if not being able to talk to people makes me like this then maybe what I should do is isolate myself in the mountains or wipe out humanity or something and then I would create the most complex interwoven creative art the sky had ever seen, I would weave a tapestry connecting every element of everything my mind can reach, or imagine, or imagine reaching.

Write write write I should be studying Japanese but it is so easy it is hard. Memorizing vocabulary words is such a simply process that will take so long that it almost doesnt make sense to do it. I notice that I almost always type simply when I meant to type simple. Why do you suppose that is? Do I have an adverbial bias in expressions of lack of complexity? Does my left index finger have a sort of 45 degree upright slant that only goes into effect when I type simpl?

I am punching my fists together like I always do. My hands have started to hurt like all the time but this has become a sort of nervous tick (no k?) but I always do it even though I am not nervous I just feel kind of wired. All the time. Today nobody wants to hang out so I can do whatever I want by myself whee. Another 70 minutes and I am free to go pursue dreams of everlasting perpetuity.

I got a haircut and ayako went with me to get it so she could help me but she wasnt paying attention cuz she just started mailing on her phone as soon as we got there and didnt look up until I was done and she was like "oh...well it will grow back." The guy had been like "long? short? long? short? what should I do?" and I paniced (+k) and said "uuuuuh anything is okay, good luck." and he laughed and cut my sides short and my top long which my old boss says "oh thats kind of an American style isnt it."

My hands hurt. Arthritis? Rhumatism? Bruising of the bones? There is snow on the mountains, just a dusting. God's bleached skeleton eroded by change.

I don't like the letter k. I think that's why it is involved in about 80% of my typos. It just isn't pretty to me the way m or o are. or l or y. but moly isnt a pretty sound. omly? lymo? lomy? lonely is a beautiful word because it sounds like what it means. like emerald. or pain only its not beautiful just...good. and you gotta like the word beautiful itself, or at least the beau half of it. but the world beau doesnt sound attractive despite its meaning so that's kind of like a double miss but I've never held it against it.

My favorite word might be lineage. not because it sounds like what it means, per se. It kind of looks like what it means, a line through the ages. But also a linear urge - its the soul of humanity, the compulsion to order in a mathematical sense as well as the compulsion to procreation in a biological and social sense, genetic and memetic. And to top it all off, it works both ways, both as backwards looking (ancestry) and forwards looking (descendents). In that sense it incorporates all of human history in a dialectical arrangement contained between the l and the e.

So I think that's an okay favorite word. But I don't find the sound particularly beautiful, so it is flawed - which makes it perfect, in a way.

If you are wondering why you have seen my screenname online at all hours of the day lately, its because I am staying in pats apartment while he is in canada and pat has internet. He also has a real live shower. I will miss it come Sunday. (Come Sunday, it'll be alright...Come Sunday, I'll be holding you tight I spent four lonely days in a brown helly haze and I just want you back by my siiiiiiide...)(5 points if you can get the reference and another 10 if you can point out the glaring inaccuracy). <-- that period is necessary but the one before (Come was superfluous. Do I need a ) now? Even though the ( was an isolated incident and not really opening anything?

Hmm?

) just in case.

Anyway, I may wrap this up. I am really being too prolific.

I want to be a samurai warrior. That would be fun. Then I could die in a battle, consumed by some conflation of rage and fear, and poets could describe it as glorious but my opponent, my 相手, would share with me the burden of the knowledge that there was nothing glorious about it, that it was simply so. And so simply. Simpl

ey.

God I'm going slightly mad (queen song) (they didnt say god) (what the fuck is with my parentheses today?)

Here is my viewing list for the next week or two, until I can track all of these down:

Samurai Fiction, Red Shadow, Azumi, Versus, Aragami, Twilight Samurai, When the Last Sword is Drawn.

I'm either getting mellow or mad. I feel like I am changing rapidly. Or is that the world around me? Is there a distiction? Am I a part of it or it a part of me? Or neither or both? God do I sound like a 15 year old trying to sound intelligent but all I really am is kind of giddy and vaguely tired.

天誅 means "a well deserved punishment from heaven."

I think I am going to wrap this up before God and his bones get jealous of my creative prowess.

B (or not to B?)

Comments:
Come MONDAY
By Jimmy Buffet
 
I didn't read the whole thing but: play the damn taiko. Don't overlook opportunities.
 
don't soak up all the bad pop cutlure before i get there!

and that was the best mental diarrhea i've read in awhile.

hutchins
 
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