Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Ask E.T.: Sparklines or Wordgraphs--some draft pages from Beautiful Evidence

Ask E.T.: Sparklines or Wordgraphs--some draft pages from Beautiful Evidence

So there is this guy Edward Tufte who seems to be a minor deity among designers. This is an interesting article of his I stumbled across about something called Sparklines - an idea that many cutting edge designers are starting to toss about. Perhaps we will see more of this. I suspect it may become standard.

Web Design is like fashion, things go in and out of style and every once in a while something sticks. It's cool to be on the inside in such a situation, makes me feel like I am rubbing elbows with fashion gurus. :)

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Office Wraith

There is a woman who works I believe on the 7th floor of this building. I have never seen her speak to anyone. I have never seen her do anything. She is tall, pale, young and beautiful. The only thing I have EVER seen her do, in all my months here, is stare sadly out the hallway window. Sometimes she waters a plant.

Today I went up to the seventh floor to drop off some paperwork and there she was. Except today, possibly for the first time, she smiled at me sadly and said good morning. Then she went back to staring out the window.

I am at great risk because I fall in love easily with sad beautiful women.

I think she might be a ghost.

Short post, ne.
So it's time for one of me blog updates, me hardies. As part of today's entertainment, I shall write the first sentence in the style of a pirate blogger. And I did. I am glad that's overwith.

I am reading murakami. I just finished translating a story called Kanou Crete, which I post only with the disclaimer that it is dirty and vaguely disturbing. If I keep up with the translations I am going to start a blog just for them. What say you? I thought so. It will be connected to this blog, sort of a "Blog Network" if you will. In the tradition of internet users everywhere, I am going to create a contracted form of the phrase "Blog Network" and use it from here on out, to the befuddlement of my contemporaries. Soon, someone will realize what I mean by "Bletwork" and start using it as well, without explaining it. It is in this vein that internet elitism takes hold and spreads.

So yes, my Literary Bletwork is in the cards. Perhaps to have it be a true literary Bletwork, I should ask various other friends with the ability to do so to translate stories from whatever language they speak into English. Then I can link to their blogs and create a mebletta (bletwork eaten by meta (I shouldnt be explaining this, tsk)). Dan, what say you? Spin me some Camus? The ultimate project of course would be Finnegans Wake this summer, into which I plan to pour a few hours a week. Anyone reading this and interested in an online reading group for Finnegans Wake should let me know. I won't hold my breath ye bland lubbers. That was clever.

Watched half of fight club last night. More than half. Up to the point where Edward Norton beats the shit out of the blonde guy in a jealous angst driven fury and when confronted by Brad Pitt for going nuts simply says "I felt like destroying something beautiful." One of my favorite scenes in a movie.

Anyway, here is the story I just translated. It's odd and a little dirty.

My name is Kanou Crete. I help my big sister, Kanou Malta, with her work.
Of course, Kanou Crete isn’t my real name. It’s the name I use when I help my big sister. When I’m not at work, I use my real name – Kanou Taki. The reason I call myself Crete is because my sister calls herself Malta.
I have never been to Crete Island.
Sometimes I look at a map. Crete is a Greek island near Africa. It has a stiff, long shape, sort of like a bone with some meat on it that’s been chewed by a dog, and has many famous ruins. The palace of Knossos is there. According to one legend, a tormented hero made his way through the labyrinth and saved the queen. If I ever get a chance, I’d really like to go there.
My work involves helping my big sister listen for the sound of water. My sister’s job is to listen to the sound of water. She listens to the sound of the water that flows through people. It probably goes without saying, but this isn’t work that just anyone can do. It takes talent and practice. In Japan, my big sister is probably the only one who can do it. My sister learned the ability long ago, in Malta. Alan Ginsberg and Keith Richards also came to the place where she was studying. On Malta, there is that sort of special place. In that place, water carries a lot of meaning. My big sister studied there for many years. Then she returned to Japan, called herself Kanou Malta, and set up shop listening to the sound of water inside of people.
We live in an isolated rental house in the mountains. As there is a basement, my sister keeps the water that is shipped from all over Japan down there; there are too many types to count. She has it all lined up in clay water jars. Just like wine, water is best stored in a cellar. My job is to make sure that those jars are all stored properly. I make sure that no garbage gets into the water, and that it doesn’t freeze in the winter. In the summer, I make sure the bugs don’t take over. It’s really not that hard a job. It doesn’t even take that much time. I spend most of my days drawing architectural designs. When a guest comes, I bring tea and such.
Every day, my sister puts her ear to each of the jars, one at a time, and makes sense of the indistinct sounds coming out of each. Every day, for two or three hours. That’s my sister’s daily ear training. Each water gives a slightly different sound. She lets me do it, too. I shut my eyes and concentrate all of my focus on my ears. But I can’t really hear the water. Most likely I just don’t have as much natural talent as my sister.
“First, listen to the water in the jar,” she tells me. “If you can do that, then you can also hear the water in people.” I try to make my ears focus, just like her. But I can’t hear anything. Every once in a while, I think that maybe I hear something. I feel like something very far away is…moving. It’s like listening for a tiny bug flap its wings two or three times. But it stops after an instant. It’s like it’s playing hide and seek or something.
She says it’s too bad I can’t hear it. “It’s especially important for someone like you to be able to hear the water inside peoples’ bodies.” The reason why is, I am a woman a problem. “If only you could just hear this!” she is always saying, shaking her head. “If only you could just hear this, your problem would go away, everything would be fine,” she says. My sister is really concerned about me.
I sure do have a problem. No matter what I do, I can’t solve my problem. The problem is, every time a man sees me, he attacks me. It doesn’t matter who, any man who sees me throws me down to the ground and takes his belt off. I don’t know why. But it’s been like that ever since I was young. Ever since I can remember.
I mean, sure, I am a beautiful woman if I say so myself. My body is fantastic. My breasts are huge, my hips are small (? しまっている). I think myself sexy when I look in the mirror. I see myself in the flabbergasted looks of all the men every time I walk down the street. “But surely not every beautiful woman on earth is constantly being assaulted!” says Malta. I think she’s right. The one with that problem is me. It’s probably partly my fault. Men probably react like that because of the way I cower. Then, they see me and get irritated and the next thing they know they want to assault me.
So, anyway, I have been assaulted by all sorts of men. Assaulted violently, against my will. By my teachers, by my classmates, by my architecture professor, by my uncle on my mothers side, by the guy who came to collect the gas bill, by the fireman who came to put out the fire when the house next door burned down – everyone! It doesn’t matter how I try to avoid it. I’ve been slashed by knives, punched in the face, strangled with a hose in the street. All sorts of incredibly violent ways!
As a result, I’d stopped going out. I felt that if I kept it up, I would finally be murdered. And so, holing up in an isolated mountain cabin, I look after jars of water in the basement.
Just once, I killed someone who was attacking me. Actually, to tell the truth, the one who killed him was my sister. He was, as expected, trying to assault me. In this basement. He was a police officer and had come to the house on some sort of investigation. The instant I opened my door it seemed he simply couldn’t take it, and knocked me to the ground. He started ripping my clothes off and got his pants down to his knees. His pistol was rattling. “Do what you want, just don’t kill me!” I said, cowering. He punched me in the face. Fortunately, just at that moment my sister Malta got home. She had heard the noise and was carrying a big bar in one hand. With the bar, she bashed the policeman in the back of the head. Something gave way and with a squishing sound the policeman collapsed. She went to the kitchen and came back with a carving knife. Using that, she slit the cop’s throat – nicely, like she was slicing open a tuna. She cut so smoothly it didn’t even make a sound. My sister is very good at sharpening carving knives. Knives she sharpens cut so well you wouldn’t believe it. I watched, in shock.
“Why are you doing that? Why did you cut his throat?” I asked.
“It’s better to slit the throat once, too, just to be on the safe side. This way there won’t be any trouble later. Anyway, he was a cop. This way he won’t get away,” she explained. She was putting his blood into one of her clay jars. “Better to extract his blood,” she said. “If we store it in here, it won’t spoil.” Grabbing him by the boots, we put him upside down in the clay jar. He was a large guy, so when we grabbed him by the feet to shake him he was very heavy. If Malta hadn’t been so strong, I don’t think we could have done it. She’s built like a lumberjack, and strong like one too. “It’s not your fault when men attack you!” she said, still holding his feet. “It’s the water in your body! It gets everyone riled up.”
“But how do I get rid of this water?” I asked. “I can’t just go on living like this, avoiding human contact! If this keeps up I’m going to kill myself!” I really want to get out and live in the world. I’m certified as a first-class architect. I obtained certification through a correspondence course. After I was certified, I entered lots of contests and won many prizes. My specialty is thermal combustion power stations.
“You mustn’t hurry. Clear your ears. When you do that, you can hear the reply,” Martha instructed. We shook the policeman’s feet and the last drop of blood fell into the jar.
“But we just killed a cop! What should we do? If this gets out we are in big trouble,” I said. Killing a cop is a serious offense. We’d probably be executed.
“We’ll bury him the back,” she said.
So, the two of us buried the policeman with the slit throat in the back yard. We threw in his pistol and his handcuffs and his clipboard and his boots and buried it all with him. Malta did it all – she dug the whole, moved the body, and filled the hole in. She cleaned up, singing “Goin to a Go-Go” in a Mick Jagger-esque voice. After she buried him, we packed the dirt and scattered dead leaves over it. Of course, the local cops investigated thoroughly. They searched for the missing police officer so thoroughly they were going through the roots of the grass. A detective even came to our place. We were asked many questions. But he didn’t find any clues. “No worries,” said Malta. “Nobody will find out. We slit his throat and drained all his blood, and we put him in a really deep hole.” And we breathed a sigh of relief.
But, starting the next week, the ghost of the police officer began to appear in our house. He would walk up and down the basement stairs with his pants around his knees, pistol rattling. I thought he was a rather indecent visitor, but whatever kind of visitor it is a ghost is a ghost.
“Kinda weird, huh? I told you, I cut his throat so he couldn’t cause trouble afterwards,” Malta explained. I was afraid of the ghost at first. After all, we were the ones who killed him. I slipped under my sisters covers and slept, shivering. “You’re not afraid of him, are you? He can’t do anything to you – we slit his throat and drained all his blood. He can’t even get it up!” Malta said.
And so I also got used to the ghost’s presence. All he did was walk in and out of the basement with his slit throat flapping around, so there was really nothing to be afraid of. He was just walking. Once I got used to seeing him, it wasn’t even worth talking about. He didn’t want to hurt me anymore. Since he didn’t have any blood left, he didn’t even have the power to assault me. Even if he tried to say anything, the air just whistled out of the whole in his throat and he couldn’t. It was exactly like my sister had said. Since she had slit his throat, there was no trouble. Sometimes, I’d walk around in front the ghost naked, just to see if I could provoke it. I even opened my legs. I even did lewd things. Things so lewd I would never have thought myself capable of doing them. Very audaciously. But it seemed that the ghost could no longer feel anything.
As a result, I got very self-confident.
I stopped being so cowardly.
“I am no longer cowardly. I am no longer afraid of anyone. I won’t be taken advantage of by anybody,” I told Malta.
“Yeah, maybe,” she said. “But you still have to learn to hear the sound of the water in your body. It’s very important.”

One day, the phone rang. It was a request for a design for a new jumbo thermal combustion power station slated for construction. That got me very excited. I had just been thinking about thermal combustion power station designs. I wanted to leave for the outside world and build thermal combustion power stations to my heart’s content.
“Yeah, but if you go outside you are going to run into trouble again,” Malta cautioned.
“Yeah, but I wanna try,” I said. “I just wanna try to start from scratch, one more time. I feel like it’ll go smoothly this time. I don’t cower anymore. I won’t be pushed around anymore!”
Malta shrugged her shoulders and said that if she couldn’t stop me she couldn’t stop me. “But be careful! Just make sure you prepare yourself.”
So I left for the outside world. And I designed all sorts of thermal combustion power plants. In the bat of an eye I became the most skilled architect in the world. I had a natural talent. My thermal combustion power plant designs were very original, reliable, and had never broken down. They were also very popular among the people that worked in them. Any time anyone wanted to build a thermal combustion power plant, they came to me first, without fail. I became very rich. I bought the entire building in the best part of town and moved in to the top floor. I installed alarms everywhere, I got electronic locks. I hired a gay bodyguard who looked like a gorilla.
Having taken all these precautions, I returned to an elegant lifestyle. Until he came.
He was very large. He had eyes so green they seemed to be on fire. He disabled my alarms. He tore off the electronic locks. He brushed the guard aside like dust. Finally he burst into my room. I didn’t cower in front of him, but he didn’t take much notice. He tore off all my clothes and brought his pants down to his knees. After forcing himself on me violently, he slit my throat with a knife. It was a very sharp knife and cut very well. My throat was cut like warm butter. It was too smooth, so I didn’t even have the sensation of being cut. ? Then the darkness came. The police officer approached me through the darkness. He looked like he wanted to say something, but all I could hear was the air flapping through the hole in his throat. Then, suddenly, I heard the water in my own body. Yes, I could really hear it. I lowered myself to my body and put my ear against it, and heard the tiny drips of water. Reroppu. Reroppu. Riroppu.

Reroppu. Reroppu. Riroppu.
My name is ・ Kanou ・ Crete

Arrr and that's that, me hardies.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


So maybe we should all just put all of our efforts into consolidating all power behind one marginally tolerable if still corrupt and power loving oligarchic centralized world government. That will provide if nothing else stability.

Stability is maybe even more important than I ever considered, if only for its implications for science and culture. When a people is unstable, and only worry about war and politics, they don't have time for art or science; on the other hand, with the spread of (generally) stability in the western world in the 20th century, look how much we've uncovered? Maybe Bush's "democracy" is the way to go, if only as a stopgap? Can you imagine, then, if he goes on to destroy "terrorists" and dissidents around the world and established a world-wide america-esque democracy? Can you imagine the scientific progress if the scientific community were to expand by 10,000%? We'd have maybe a decade of blood-stained conquest on our hands and then another 20 years to convert religion and tradition into quaint distincitive memories that give each region or people a unique history and don't play a role in the future as self-contained objects. Figure 50 years, if we devote our efforts and convert/teach the conquered. In 50 years, the earth could be a borg-like collective dedicated to understanding the universe. Imagine!

Or we could, ya know, sleep through physics class like I plan to do upon return. Tsk.

But it'd be damn cool!

Oh and they found the largest ever necropolis in egypt, 7 bodies 4 of them slaves buried alive, whole thing predates pyramids. And Burmese troops used Chemical weapons. I think maybe those two facts juxtaposed led to my ramblings this afternoon. And dan beat me at chess twice though the second game I dunno, it was at the most critical junction and I had 90 seconds and I rushed it and he won. I think I coulda won. next time.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The New York Review of Books: The Orange Revolution

The New York Review of Books: The Orange Revolution

An interesting read, an educated (it seems) socipolitical analysis of the events in Ukraine last december, complete with some thoughts as to the implications for Post-Soviet Eurasia.


Here it is, ladies and germs, the very first short story I have ever translated into English from Japanese. There is at least one more translation of this story floating around the net but mine is better.

Bear in mind, I haven't "made this pretty" or whatnot yet, it's kind of a bare-bones translation. Anyway, the story is "Zombie" ("Zombies?") by Murakami Haruki. There is some vulgarity, there is some violence, there is a good deal of plain meanness. It is not for the faint of heart. And so, with no further ado,

A man and a woman were walking down the road. It was a road next to a graveyard. It was the middle of the night. There was even mist out. It wasn’t that the two of them wanted to be walking in a place like that in the middle of the night. Through a variety of circumstances, they found themselves unable to avoid it. The two of them were holding hands tightly and walking quickly.
“It’s just like we’re in a Michael Jackson video,” she said.
“Yeah, the gravestones are gonna start moving,” he replied.
Just then, they heard the creaking sound of something heavy moving nearby. The two of them stopped walking and instinctively looked at each other.
The man laughed.
“No problem, it’s nothing to get nervous about. Just some tree branches rubbing against each other – the wind or something…”
But “the wind or something” wasn’t blowing. The woman took a deep breath and examined their surroundings. She had a bad feeling. It was like something terrible was about to happen.
But she couldn’t see anything. There was no indication that the dead had been resurrected. The two started to walk again.
The man’s face became strangely stiff.
“Why are you walking in such an odd way?” he asked her suddenly.
“Me?” she replied, surprised. “I’m walking oddly?”
“It’s so vulgar!” he said.
“You’re bow-legged!”
She bit her lip. It was true that she might have such a tendency. The soles of her shoes wore down unevenly - but not so much that it was fair to say she was doing it on purpose, that was harsh!
But she didn’t say anything. She was in love with him, and moreover he was in love with her. They were to get married next month. She didn’t want to get into a petty fight. That was fair enough, right?
“You’re the first bow-legged woman I ever dated.”
“Oh?” she laughed, stiffly, looking sad. Was he drunk? No, she didn’t think he’d had any alcohol all day.
“And on top of that, you have three moles in your ear hole!” he continued.
“Are you looking for an argument?” she asked. “Which ear?”
“The right. Just inside the hole in your right ear. They’re ugly.”
“You don’t like moles?”
“I don’t like ugly moles. Someone who likes that sort of thing, ha, where are you gonna find someone like that?”
She bit her lips much, much harder.
“What’s more, sometimes, your body odor really smells!” he continued. “It kind of bothered me from the beginning. If it had been summer when we met, we wouldn’t be together right now.”
She sighed. Then she let go of his hand, which she had been gripping tightly.
“Hey!” she said. “That’s not like you. You’re never that harsh. Up until just now…”
“And your blouse collar is dirty! The one you’re wearing today. Why are you such a slob? Why can’t you do a single thing right?”
She was silent. She was so angry she couldn’t move her mouth.
“Is this okay? I have a mountain of things I want to tell you – you’re bow-legged, you smell bad, you’ve got a smudge on your collar, you have moles in your ears, these are just the main part of what I want to say. Why are you wearing those earrings? They don’t suit you, you look like a hooker… Actually, no – hookers usually have nicer things. You should wear them in your nose, it would go well with your double chin. Oooh and speaking of double chins, I just remembered! Your mother, she was a real pig! Just a complaining, grumbling pig! That’s exactly what you are going to be like in 20 years. Your gluttony will develop, you’ll be just like your mom! A pig. You eat with such gluttony! Oh, and don’t get me started about your father. He can’t even write using English characters! Ya know, recently he wrote a letter to my family – lemme tell you, we all got a good laugh out of it. He couldn’t even write the characters properly. Did that bastard even graduate elementary school? What a crude family. It’s a cultural slum! Someone should just soak the house in kerosene and burn it to the ground. It’ll finally just sizzle away with all that blubber.”
“If that’s how you feel, why are you marrying me?”
But he ignored the question, and called her a pig again.
“Oh God, and your pussy! It’s really nasty. I mean, yeah, I’m done – but jeez, it just hangs there like it’s made out of cheap gum! Lemme tell you, if it were me I would rather die than have such a thing attached to me. If I were a woman and looked like that, I would just die of embarrassment. It doesn’t even matter what kind of death – any kind of death at all would be better than living with such shame.”
She stood there in shock. “You…That’s…”
Suddenly, the man grabbed his own head. Warping his face into a pained expression, he squatted down. He began to tear at his temples with his fingers. “It hurts!” he shouted. “My head is going to come apart! It won’t stop! It hurts!!”
“Are you okay?” she asked him.
“No I’m not okay! I can’t take it! My skin is tingling like it’s on fire!”
She touched his face with her hand. His face was hot enough to be on fire. She tried to comfort him, but when she touched him his skin, like some sort of outer layer peeling, came right off! Then, mucous-like red muscles came into view. Gasping, she backed up hurriedly.
He stood up, giving an evil laugh. Using his own hands, he removed the rest of the skin from his face. His eyeballs sank down. His nose became two simple black holes. His lips gone, his teeth stood out exposed. Those teeth were giving the evil laugh.
“The reason I am with you,” he said, “Is so that I can eat your pork-like meat! Is there another reason I would date you? Don’t you understand at least that much? Are you an idiot? Are you an idiot? Are you an idiot? Hahahahahahaha!”
Saying that, the mass of exposed muscle began to chase after her. She ran and ran, but she couldn’t escape from the bag of flesh behind her. Just as she made it to the edge of the graveyard, a hand grabbed her blouse’s collar. She screamed as loud as she could.
He was clutching her body.
Her throat was dry. He smiled at her.
“What’s the matter? Did you have a bad dream?”
She lifted her body, looked around. They were in bed, in a hotel near the lake. She shook her head.
“Did I scream?”
“Terribly,” he replied, laughing. “It was a really huge shriek. I bet everyone in the hotel heard it. I mean if there was a murderer or something it’d be okay, but…”
“Sorry,” she said.
“No big deal,” he replied. “Was it a bad dream?”
“A dream so bad you couldn’t imagine.”
“Well, will you tell me about it?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said.
“But it’s better to talk about it! If you tell someone about it you’ll stop shaking like that.”
“It’s alright. Right now, I just don’t want to talk.”
The two of them lay in silence for a bit. She was hugging his naked chest. The purring voices of frogs could be heard from a distance. His chest was moving, pulsing slowly and certainly.
“Hey,” she said, at last continuing her thoughts. “Can I ask you something?”
“By any chance, do I have moles in my ear?”
“Moles?” he said. “You mean the three ugly ones in your right ear?”
She shut her eyes. It wasn’t over.

And there you have it.

Eh? Eh? I did that by meself! I understood a whole zombie comentary on marriage using only asian squiggles! And my computer dictionary...

Monday, April 18, 2005

ctina.com: Haruki Murakami: The Second Bakery Attack

ctina.com: Haruki Murakami: The Second Bakery Attack

Unlike Da Vinci Code I enjoyed this. Short story. Silly. Possibly important.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Amazon.com: Books: The Da Vinci Code

This book blows.

Although, sigh, I must confess to being gripped by it and wanting to see the end (I know, I know). But really, it was so bad. The writing style is juvenile, the characters ridiculous, the mysteries obnoxious and the big "revelations" written with a seeming grudge against subtlty. The whole thing is like comedy of the absurd - "So this guy walks into a bar with a chicken in his hand and The Da Vinci Code!!!"

I dunno I think mostly I am irritated cuz I lost sleep reading it cuz it makes you wanna know whats next and now I am tired and will never get those moments of my life back. I went to see what people were saying about it and was sad to learn that most of the "controversy" over this "modern work of literature" consists of people going "It could be true!" and "No it couldn't!" really loud back and forth. But everyone seems to agree that it is well-written and it just isnt. I dunno, maybe I should read more junk food books, I kinda don't.

But yeah.

Also the Niihama Guide Club started talking about international jewish conspiracies and the jews ruling the united states and "they say you can always tell one by looking at them, is that true mykola?" and I was just like "Listen folks, in my humble opinion, such idiotic theories are only embraced by the uneducated. It's a dangerous way to start thinking and what the fuck, anyway?" and they all kinda glared at me. I mean I know I'm kind of an arrogant smartass (though I have gotten better, I swear) but to hear these smug upper class housewives with nothing better to do talk about the Jewish Problem as they drink tea just made me furious. I would have probably really said things to make me not get invited back but my Japanese is too restrictive.

Or is it true? Karen, are you secretly pulling all the strings and you're playing us all for fools?

Why cant the world grow up. Gah.

In other news, was a good weekend. Heh. See, I spiral up from negativitiy into positivity in this post.

Friday night did karaoke for first time in a while. Was exposed to Franz Ferdinand, a band I was gonna not get into cuz they are too popular and I'm so indie (ha ha ha...) but frankly the guitars sounded great at karaoke so I may check em out.

Saturday gave a speech to the guideclub about Ukrainian history. Was kind of irritating cuz it was followed by this Jewish bullshit. It was also weird cuz a couple gaijin came in and didnt even look at me and left, I mean, we're all friends here, right? I was...sniff...hurt... At least the mormons talked to me kinda.

For the record, I am really tired cuz of Dan Brown. Fucker.

So then saturday afternoon went to Saijo where we visited the temple designed by Tadao Ando, who is great. My second time there but is really pretty and modernlooking which is odd for a temple but you gotta figure all the ancient designs wont last forever and in another thousand years youll take your flying car to the space ship temples anyway, right? Tradition must be overcome as a legitimizing force. Or not. Whatever.

So then saturday night was yakiniku and then bed by midnight. We rented Moonchild, one of my favorite little Japanese films (popstars and vampires and homoeroticism, oh my!), but not even the girlyboys could keep Jackie awake and I was too tired to watch a movie by myself. Sunday we went to Oshima, a little island off the coast of niihama.

It was wicked cool. We trekked through bamboo forests and harsh undergrowth and up mountains and through deserted (and not deserted) mountain cottages and farms and such and it was really out of the way and cool, I liked the hell otu of it. We found, after much exploration, a nice little beach and set up camp and read in the sun for a while. Then we hopped back to niihama only to discover that busses stop at 3 (!!!) on sundays and walked about 3 miles before Jackie gave in to Tricia and called other Tricia to give us a ride. Then we went out to eat (more yakiniku but not as good I thought) and then I was in bed by 11 but not asleep until about 3 as I was reading that stupid book. Then I overslept and now am at work and exhausted.

I want to go back to that island it reminded me kinda of besaid or something I cant put my finger on it but it was great.

That's all.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Ramble and Ramble, while eating his pie...

Weird night last night.

So after work I go to Shimada-sans house to help her translate my speech about Ukraine for Saturday. Her 18month old kid was there and demanded the majority of the attention but we got some of it done, I will meet her again on friday. She also fed me beef curry and gave me a couple DVD's she said she highly recommends.

So after that I go home and on the way I stop at Circle K by my apartment. As I go in I notice that the two women in the car in the lot are giving me really odd, interested looks. Whatever, thinks I, and I go into the store. I shop around for a bit, assemble a collection of junk food indulgent enough to bring a tear to Jon's eye, pay, and notice that the car with the women in it is still there when I get out. As I am getting on my bike, they get out and approach me.

I make like my Japanese is worse than it is as tends to be my policy when I meet new people. Well, I cant say policy so much as, my japanese is awful when I am caught unawares and so I come across as ignorant of the language. But anyway, in basic japanese they slowly explained that they were representatives of some sort of a group that wants to spread joy through mystical powers. They asked me if they could come to my apartment to give me a demonstration and, curiously amused, I agreed. So we get to my place and they sit me on the floor facing one of them with the other behind me and tell me to close my eyes and pray to god for anything I have that I want granted. I am thinking, wait, two strangers in my house want me to close my eyes with one behind me while I am sitting on the floor? Sure, why not, so I does it. They do some sort of mumbo jumbo where the one in front of me like held her hand out towards me and so we sat for 5 minutes as I prayed they wouldn't suddenly stab me in the back and steal my playstation. I guess it worked cuz they didn't. I also tried to think about good health and wisdom and yadda yadda yadda.

But I am inherently distrustful of any religion that tells me I can achieve happiness through satisfaction of my desires, that seems silly. Anyway, then they sat there and asked me what I thought about it and I tried politely to thank them for their time and that I would look into their group. The old woman was like Oh you probably dont believe it but thats okay, you just have to try it and even if you dont believe it it will work cuz it is a miracle. I guess they wanted me to try the holding-my-hand-out-to-grant-the-desires-of-the-person-in-front-of-me trick. But in order to try it I have to go get one of these little things they wear around their neck cuz thats how God enters me? Anyway I was tired and they asked me to come to their temple in Niihama and I'm like Naaaaaaah that's okay but they pressed me and I figure well if they were gonna kill me they'd have done it by now so what the hell I might as well get a cultural experience.

So off to the temple we go where I meet some priestess woman with scary evil eyes who does the whole hand thing to me and the other women at the same time (I guess she must be more powerful?) Then she asked me to watch a video in english explaining it. Sure, why not, I'm already here.

So I watch the video and it is such crappy new-agey rubbish, I dunno. It's like a conflation of all the bad ideas in christianity and buddhism and kept trying to establish authority by saying "just the Buddha said..." or "just like Christ said..." or "just like Dante wrote..." (not kidding that was one of their references). I guess the basic goal is that you can achieve heaven on earth, or rather, that it is coming - that there is a difference between civilization and culture, that civilization (obviously) means freedom from war and disease and that given the state of things the world is not yet civilized, but it is cultured, which is sort of a step towards civilization. And that judgment day is coming and that there will be a terrible disease that will wipe out most people and depending on the state of your soul you get a different colored robe when you die and go to a different heaven/hell (there are 180 levels) to await rebirth (or maybe you stay there? It was vague) and that the only ones protected from the plague will be members of this group.

All the details came from revelation to some Japanese guy 70 years ago. The one thing that intrigued me in the video was that apparently this group has gotten like 15 world peace prizes including one from the United Nations? This was in the beginning when it was firing out factoids about many different things in an effort to sway vast groups of people (uh, we got ancestor worship, into that? No, uh, okay, we got an apocalypse! No? Damn. Rebirth? Oh oh! Peace! We got peace!) but what was interesting was that there was zero mention of what exactly they did to earn these peace prizes. As near as I can tell the purpose of the group is to build slick looking temples across japan and abduct gaijin from convenience stores. And the hand thing (which was called Jou Rei?).

So anyway this video was still going on around like 11 which is my bedtime and while I had indeed been trying to keep an open mind it was really getting irritating and they didnt know how long it was cuz it was only supposed to be 15 minutes and it had been goign for like 45 so they asked me if I wanted to keep watching and I was like, no thanks. They asked me if I wanted to receive the little neck thing and I said I would pass, but thank you for the evening. They took me downstairs to say goodbye and thank you to evileye priest woman but were afraid to knock on her door (there was like fear, the older woman was pushing the younger woman to knock). Finally they knocked and kinda pushed me forward and she saw that I could see into her office and yelled at them and they dragged me back and she came out into the hall to meet me and thanked me for coming and asked when I would like to get the neck thing that lets god in and I said thanks but no thanks and she just got really really cold and was like "Good Night." and then they took me home.

I cannot for the life of me remember any of the names of the figures or of the religion itself, just the hand thing, joh-rei. In fact I am not altogether certain that it wasnt a crazy dream. But it wasn't. Very surreal.

Anyway, yeah. Anyone heard of these folks? These hand-waving-peace-spreaders with awards to prove it? They were showing me pictures too, "Look! This is in America! Americans do this too!" I nodded sagely.

I dunno, I dont mean to sound cynical and it is nice of people to want to spread their joy...but what the fuck, man? I didnt get to bed until 1230 and then overslept. Gah.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Weeeee wish you a merry christmas, we wish you a merry christmas...

So let's see, so far this month we've done the new-employee thing and how thats a huge deal, we've done life in a zen monastary complete with whacking monks and harsh meals, we've done cherry blossoms...

Ya know I sometimes worry that I am spending too much of this journal on inner turmoil and not enough on Japan, but the cultural stuff IS in here, isn't it? It's just diluted, surrounded by a lot of inner turmoil, which I suppose is a really good depiction of me in Japan.

There is a city called Imabari a bit to the west of here. (Does anyone else have a reeeeally hard time with East and West? Like, ya gotta stop and think every time you use one of those words, and even then you frequently fuck it up? I hate that.) Imabari has this bridge that connects it to Hiroshima, of Nuclear Holocaust fame. The bridge is miles and miles long, actually interconnected bridges strung between beautiful, heavily-forrested mountainy islands. One of my plans from before you were born, whipper-snapper, has been to bike from imabari to hiroshima. Frankly, however, that probably won't happen in this lifetime. HOWEVER, this weekend, there are vague plans to bike to Omishima, which is the third island out from Imabari. There, they have a massive shrine and a museum which houses a good 90% of Japan's historical armor and weapons. They even have yoshitsune and his brother's armor, set up facing each other. So that is that vague plan. If the weather is good and our genki-meter full, me and jackie and alison are thinking about biking to omishima. We would camp on the beach saturday night and then bike back sunday.

I had a goatee thing until last night. I tried to trim it, and as invariably happens when I try to trim my beard I cut a big chunk out by accident and had to shave it. To cut my losses, I decided to keep the mustache. So now I have a mustache, which is weird. I dont think I like it, I look like an asshole cop from CHiPS or The Rockford Files. But it's okay for a week of shock value. I'm lame like that.

How does one tell if one has a tapeworm? I am always hungry. I would like to blame it on a worm and not my abiding lust for the act of putting food in my mouth. Though that's gross.

Anyway, gonna keep it short.


Monday, April 11, 2005

mono no aware

So me mum emailed me scanned copies of my tax returns. She filled em all out for me and all and all I had to do was sign them and send them back in time for april 14. Simple enough that I got it half done. Apparently I neglected to slap my signature on. Oops. At least I finally found that post office, right?

It is cherry blossom season now. That means for about two weeks (we is in the middle of it, prolly only got a few more days) like every other tree in this country is ablaze with bring pink flowers. It's really pretty cool, they do take it really seriously. I've been to several flower-viewing parties in the past week, which is code for get drunk in the park and talk to girls. Tho I wasnt picking up girls, for a reason which in retrospect is frankly elusive. In a few more days, the wind and rain will wash away the cherry blossoms until next april when they again come out for a few days.

For those of you not in the know about the appeal of cherry blossoms to the japanese, I think it all goes back to buddhism and the idea that all beauty fades and nothing in this world last, and thus everything has an inherent sadness to it (もののあわれ they call it, "mono no aware"). This became one of the central ideas of Japanese art a thousand years ago and they liked it so much they ran with it. The cherry blossoms, then, are incredibly beautiful but a part of the beauty is that they are destroyed shortly after flowering by even the gentlest of breezes. It's the metaphor for life etc. There are all these parks whose focus is cherry trees and so you go there 50 weeks of the year and there are just trees but you go for two weeks in early april and its like woah, as the song goes.

Many thoughts lately and none of yall have been on AIM for me to talk to. And by none of yall I mean Dan Jon Sarah, to whom I talk about me thoughts. Whats this, you went and got lives? But what about meeee?

Aaaanyway, this is going to be a short one as I am not feeling particularly inspired. Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Firewheel Design | A Word Wrapped in Light

Firewheel Design | A Word Wrapped in Light

If you are wondering why I have been posting so many links to crap in my blog lately its cuz I got this firefox extension that lets me right click on a page and "Blog it!" opening a little blog update window and it takes two seconds.

This article is interesting to anyone interested in language and/or communication, he is arguing against the premise - supported by the Pat Robertsons of the Linguistic World - that image-based culture makes us stupid. It is an interesting response, he postulates that we are in the nascent stages of developing a visual language, with emphasis on computer software. Just something I hadn't ever considered.

I'm An Intern In New York

Would be cool if I were as clever as this intern, but sadly I lack the...the... Oh hell I dunno, but here's a good intern blog. Without further ado, I give you I'm An Intern In New York!

Of interest

Adam Polselli's 2005 Color Forecast

Any designers out there what say you? Anyone feel like throwing together a page with these and we'll see how modern it is?

Oh wait...I'm a designer...

Thursday, April 07, 2005



Interesting enough. This one is for you, Dan, o noblest of savages.

Penny Arcade

This just really never stops being funny

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

"Taking Liberty" by William A. Galston

"Taking Liberty" by William A. Galston: "Whether we think of ourselves as progressives, liberals, or New Democrats, we cannot evade the challenge posed by these ideas and by the political currents they have set in motion. If we do not meet them head-on, we will prevail only infrequently and accidentally. And when we lose, which will be most of time, we will deserve it."

Interesting enough so far.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Man, I am posting a survey thing on here, something must be wrong with me

The idea is you pick an artist and answer all the questions using only titles of that artist's songs.

band: Tom Waits

are you male or female: A Good Man is Hard to Find

describe yourself: We're All Mad Here, Big in Japan, Russian Dance, Goin' Out West, Innocent When you Dream (Barroom), Clap Hands

how do some people feel about you: Way Down in the Hole, So Long I'll See Ya, What's He Building?

describe your ex boyfriend/girlfriend: Tango Till They're Sore, Trampled Rose

describe your current boyfriend/girlfriend: Nobody, Spare Parts I (A Nocturnal Emission)

describe your friends: Diamonds on my Windshield, The Ghost of Saturday Night, Romeo is Bleeding, A Sight for Sore Eyes, The Briar and the Rose, Lucky Day, Rain Dogs

describe what you want to be: Little Trip to Heaven, Top of the Hill, Dead and Lovely, Lucky Day, Good Old World (Waltz), I'll Shoot the Moon, Ice Cream Man

describe how you live: Warm Beer and Cold Women, Bad Liver and a Broken Heart, I Never Talk to Strangers, Starving in the Belly of a Whale, Clang Boom Steam, Shore Leave

describe your roommate: The Part You Throw Away, Nobody

describe your parents: Hang On St. Christopher, Saving All My Love For You, Foreign Affair, Who Are You?

describe your dreams: Misery's the River of the World, Knife Chase, Earth Died Screaming, So It Goes, Blue Skies, I'm Your Late Night Evening Prostitute, Small Change (Got Rained On With His Own .38)

one thing you want to say to someone: Come On Up to the House

Come On Up to the House is great.

So sorry for that indulgence but that was fun. :)

Monday, April 04, 2005

Long one

I hesitate to post this it has personal thoughts and impressions and makes me self-conciouss and may offend people and I dunno. That said, go ahead. This is from the zen retreat:

More and more every day I begin to think that it is incredibly important to believe that everyone is doing everything they can, that they are doing their best, and then to be satisfied with that fact rather than with the result. Right now someone is giving a presentation to a horde of 22 year old newly-become-members-of-society and the content of said presentation is Phone Memos. “If you don’t write a memo, you might not remember the details of the phone call.” It’s all just such obvious apparent horseshit and I would be offended if the company that just hired me with my fucking price-tag education felt compelled to tell me – check that, to take a half-hour presentation to tell me repeatedly – how and why it is important to take a phone message.

And yet I appreciate the thought, she walks everyone through it, has everyone take a dummy memo, etc. Its such a silly thing, you would think that she could just hand out the memo sheet (which has slots for such things as “Caller’s Name”, “Call Intended For”, “Person who took the Call” etc) and everyone would look at it and go “Yeah, okay.”

It’s just kinda silly ne. I mean this is the sort of thing that if you sit down at the phone and see a bunch of these you just start writing, because it is so self-explanatory, but she is honestly explaining the meaning of every element on the form with a complex powerpoint presentation. I could give my plant one of these memo sheets and trust it not to fuck it up.

Under normal circumstances I would see this as a great chance to whip myself up into a good old fashioned everyone-who-isn’t-me-is-a-moron frenzy, but today I restrain myself. I want to be happy dammit.

My new favorite concept is sustainability. Not that I would even go so far as to call sustainability desirable in any lasting sense (that is kind of a pun), but my thoughts have been dwelling on it. I have developed a thought. Right now it is just a thought.

It all started like this. I was writing down ideas for, well, things I can do to/with/for words, and I liked the phrase Idol Worship cuz it could become Idle Warship or Isle Washup or Eye Doll Washup or any number of twisted things without losing its original meaning. This is all Joyce, but you see where I am going with this.

So then I tried to do the same thing with the word Lineage, but had less luck. That devolved into the idea of Lineage as a demon that spans past and future, given the dual nature of the word itself, and that of course reminded me of the demon Legion from whichever Testament that was. I liked the idea of Lineage and Legion as related demons of some sort, with regards to humanity’s fears and aspirations. The more I thought about it the more I realized that there is a connection of sorts between the words; an inverse connection. I used a bit of creative reasoning but I am toying with the idea of asserting that the dynamic between the “demons” of the human heart, Legion and Lineage, is the fundamental dialectic when you talk about people.

Whaaaa? Say you. But consider. I want to put Lineage on a Y-axis, it is temporal, it is sustainability, it is elegance, it is reason, it is mind, it is consciousness, it is eyes – but it is not physical, it is not hands. It can see and it can think and it can judge and we can feel those powers in it – we feel our lineage both ways, but it doesn’t have a presence. Are you with me? Oppose that to Legion. Legion is X-axis, width, power over space, momentum, strength, passion, body, presence, arms. (Compare point by point to the list above those are the points of disjunction). But Legion, this show of strength that is everywhere, is only a moment long. It is ephemeral.

Are you with me? Look at the world and pick those things that are eternal (or long lasting) (Catholicism, democracy, the human race, etc) and call them lineage, they stretch from generation to generation. They are in constant fear of the present, aren’t they? That which has a history and plans for a future need fear only the now. The now is Legion, is events, is the physical existence of the world as it is today, it is terrorists and armies and new ideas and sex and drugs and rock and roll and all these things with no eye and no thought for tomorrow, these things that just want to need to exist. It is the thirst for power for power’s sake, the will to power, imperialism, Rome, England, America, etc. Lineage is humanity Legion is nation.

Both of these things appeal to us, huh? We like the idea of the unstoppable force as much as we like the idea of the unmovable object. But they only work to the extent that they cooperate, ne? All the lineage things that you can name off, history family species etc, are only in your head because they have some element of Legion, even now. The less Legion that there is, the thinner the angle on the graph becomes – until it is a vertical line. It works the other way too – Legion is only relevant to the degree that it impacts Lineage. It’s like each is a pen and we can only become aware of its presence to the degree that it writes on the other. Does that make sense? We are all trying not to become the asymptote that we will one day inevitably join.

A slope of one, a 45% angle on the axis, Legion fuses with Lineage, is the dream of every object, from person to rock to religion. It is the promise implied by ephemeral or intangible existence, the completion of the contract - eternal tangible presence. Mind fused with body. Soul, Spirit, God. Tyranny? Sustainability. I listed sustainability as a quality of Lineage above, but that must be wrong. Maybe that should just be longevity. Sustainability implies something is being sustained. It’s Pai Mei vs Terri Schiavo. Terri may be my flagship for longevity as distinct from sustainability.

But of course the place I want to insert these principles is the vague book idea I pounded out months ago. The indistinct female presence from before the dawn of time is of course Lineage; the fearless spontaneous pirate captain who lost his eye in a bet is Legion. It is about their love. I am really interested to see if they can make it work.

Love is a good place for this struggle – it is the abstract love and the here and now love, because the instants where you feel both – where you see the future while feeling the present and appreciating the past – are the eternal instants, ne? And the ones that haunt you when it is over. It is the eternal liberation and eternal oppression, the lack of an answer.

It is perfect.

And here I write this in a Buddhist temple where if I explained it to a monk he would laugh and tell me to hug the asymptote.

That was all written earlier today. Surprised I haven’t written more on this trip but frankly they keep me starving and hungry. And an hour ago they were hitting me with sticks. No joke.

So the rundown. There is this big new-employee orientation program thing, right? Yesterday (Friday) they had all the ceremony stuff at the main Ichimiya building. All these guys are becoming Society People, big deal and important and etc. Then, as a welcome to the working world, all 70 of them are led off to this Zen temple in Kyoto (which is where I am now). Here, there are various presentations given (such as the afore-mentioned note-taking and my English lesson tomorrow etc). Sure, Myk, I get you that far, but why pay to take 70 people to Kyoto and back for a few powerpoint shows? Well, smartass, it’s not just that. Part of what we do here is the Zen thing, right, so we are eating meals temple-style, doing zen meditation, walking around with our hands clasped in front of us barefoot, etc.

So, details. Food: 4 people to a table. Table has big bucket of disgusting rice, just white and pulpy. Not really disgusting, but nothing with it, right. And there is a ton. Table also has a big bucket of Miso soup, which is a soy-paste kinda soup with various stuff in it (like, onions and then a vegetable of the day, so mushroom stems or tofu chunks or whatever). Basically broth with a few chunks, right? And finally there is the side dish. This is like shredded veggies or steamed veggies or goo. There is a ton of that, too. So, at our introduction to the temple, we received our three bowls, a set of cheap wooden chopsticks, a cloth for wiping and a cloth for wrapping it all in. The rules for dinner are, you go in, sit four to a table quietly. When instructed to do so, you unwrap your chopsticks and bowls, and set them up in front of you, large medium small. You are to do this without making a sound. Then there is like 30 seconds of meditation, then you and your three table mates are to eat every shred of rice on the table, eat every bit of food so not so much a grain of rice is wasted. Now, you would think that this would be heaven, right, cuz you just get to eat (or is that just my image of heaven?). But the food tastes genuinely bad, like on purpose. It is as bland as you can imagine, it’s like eating 3 pounds of cardboard. And you have to do it as fast as you can. This is a parallel to teamwork at work apparently. You shovel it into your mouth, all soundlessly mind you, wasting not a minute and dropping not a grain of rice. Disgusting but it gets the filling my stomach job done. THEN comes the bad part. The last thing on the table is a pot of tea with barely any tea in it. Each of you pours a tiny bit of tea into the smallest bowl. You have a slice of pickled radish I forgot to mention. You take the pickled radish with your chopsticks and scrub the little bowl until it is clean, using radish and tea. Then you pour it all into the medium bowl and do it again. Then you pour it into your big bowl, the rice bowl, and scrub for all you are worth. Then you drink every drop of the tea and eat the radish. Yeah, it’s like that, that face you just made. The result is, you find yourself wishing against wish for the blandest food possible because it doesn’t make the tea absolutely undrinkable, right. So the first meal we had was shredded veggies so there were little shredded root things in my shot of tea, but the second meal we had some sort of gooey cooked vegetables that were very Chinese style and it was just like snot. And not only do you have to use the tea for your own bowl but someone has to use the tea to clean the serving bowl that it all came out of and scrub that with the tea then use that tea for their own bowls. The goo bowl was between me and this shy looking chick so I cleaned it and made her drink it. Heh heh heh.

Yeah I’m a bastard. Actually I was just gonna drink it but then she did. And I didn’t stop her. You can tell I feel guilty. There are actually a couple of things I feel guilty about but I can’t talk about them all here. I am lately evaluating myself and some decisions I’ve made lately and wondering.

It’s 9:15am Sunday morning and I have been up and busy for almost 5 hours. Today’s schedule: wake up at 430, brush teeth shave comb hair, assemble in Zazen hall by 5am for an hour of meditation. Will explain meditation later.

So at 6, those with big welts on their back limp back upstairs while the rest of us just walk, and then it is time for cleaning at 6. We are broken into groups and everyone has a cleaning responsibility. I was afraid they were going to make me scrub toilets with a radish or something but I just had to straighten up the meditation room, arranging cushions and such. Then it’s back upstairs and then back downstairs for breakfast.

Breakfast was this sort of gruel-like rice stuff, right, basically rice and hot water. Half-soup half-rice, like were-rice, or were-soup, or something like that. All the Japanese hate it but it tastes quite similar to plain, unseasoned, overly watery oatmeal – something which, for some reason, I have eaten quite a bit of in my day. So I had no problem with that. There is no miso soup for breakfast, and the side was this gooey seaweed thing which had a really interesting taste, which we all know I love. And there were ume-boshi, which are pickled plums. The Japanese hate them, too, but I really like them. So it worked out well for me.

After breakfast we assembled back in the great hall to hear what the main Buddhist guy had to say about life as a society-person. This was very technical and it looked like most of the Japanese folk didn’t understand what he was talking about, so there was very little hope for me, but I did realize he was talking about the World of Suffering, and how there are the four natural agonies (Birth, Aging, Sickness, Death) (apparently Shourenbyoushi in Japanese? That’s what he said and it makes sense provided Ren can mean aging. Unless he said ShouNENbyoushi which makes more sense in a way?). But then he went on to say that there were four terrors of life in society, as well. But he lost me there. He spent an hour explaining these things point by point and everyone around me was drifting off. My boss was maybe impressed with me cuz I was paying attention and came over and took a picture and made me wake up all the oafs sleeping around me. Oh yeah, Supermyk.

And so, all of that done, we assemble in our classroom in time for today’s work to begin at 9. Shudder. So now from 9 to 10 there is a presentation about driving safety which includes this video (That I have seen from the practice things) of car crashes and how to avoid them. It’s hella fun to watch, they just show footage from camera’s at intersections and these cars just plow into people and pedestrians at high velocity. It’s really exciting, though one wonders why they installed a camera at the intersection when a stoplight would have proven perhaps a bit more efficacious. But the video is telling them to do such things as slow down at blind corners and, uh, look both ways before crossing the street. Apparently valuable skills to begin acquiring now that they are Society-People.

After this there is a group activity from 10 until lunch, then lunch (shudder), then another 2 hours of group activity from 1 to 3, then Fujita-san (my most immediate boss) talks for half an hour about gender roles, then I give an English lesson for half an hour. That brings us to 4pm. At 4, the herd has an hour to work on their diaries which they are keeping every day (meaning I have an hour to listen to music in the teachers lounge, as it were), and then it is dinner time from 5 until 630. At 630 there is more zazen for an hour and a half this time, and that brings us to 8pm and preparations for departure. We hop the bus from here to the ferry, hang out at the ferry port for an hour and a half, then hop the ferry for Niihama. We arrive early morning, there is a community service cleaning project of some sort, then another presentation of some sort, then lunch (breakfast is on the ferry before we get off in niihama, meaning wake up will be around 5 I suspect), then basically from the afternoon I am on a regular work schedule again. Except on Tuesday I spend the day at the Freshman Seminar with these guys, which means I think I am gonna be on the receiving end of a lot more speeches and powerpoint presentations about taking phone memos and crossing streets. Yippie. So then that wraps up and then, at long last, this weekend is over.

BUT, I am actually really enjoying this on some level, it’s a really oddly Japanese experience. I couldn’t picture living in a temple with a bunch of coming-of-age Japanese kids in the states. Ha, it sounds like a sitcom. My catchphrase for my character (who is roguishly handsome and always doing something he really shouldn’t be) is “But I don’t understand Japanese!” and I always say it when the monks catch me scaling the fence or trying to catch the carp in the pool outside cuz damn it I need meat. And so then I say that and everyone laughs and I smile roguishly and they shake their heads and welcome me back to the fold.

Have you ever read any Norse mythology? The god Loki is really interesting, he is that sort of character. Always causing mischief, but generally kinda harmless and the gods all kinda roll their eyes and send him to bed with no supper and a smile and that sort of thing. But as the stories evolve, Loki develops this genuine hatred of the other gods, and his tricks become more and more mischievous and more and more malicious until he sheds all pretensions of play and is in open warfare with the pantheon, unleashing terror upon terror upon the world. Even then there are those who play him like the lovable rascal, and he just slaughters them. It is Loki, the archetypical cookie-jar-bandit, who eventually causes Ragnarok. Ragnarok is my favorite part of Norse mythology – some giant cosmic wolf is released by Loki, and he brings this horde of beasts that threaten the very existence of the universe itself. The gods fight against it, joined by the souls of all of the warriors in Valhalla (Valhalla is where you go when you die in battle, to drink mead and eat boar and have lots of sex until your services are required) who are finally awakened. The armies line up and the gods/humanity are completely overwhelmed and destroyed. Finally, Fenrir, the big wolf demon thing, eats Odin, father of the gods and lord of the world. And the gods and the souls of all humanity spend the rest of eternity in agony at the hands of their demonic conquerors. Isn’t that a great ending? Isn’t it great that the best fate in life is to die in combat so that you can at least party until your final defeat and unending pain? And people wonder why the Vikings were always so pissed off.

So anyway, yeah, I guess if I am the Loki archetype then I just try to eat the carp and say “But I don’t understand Japanese!” and smile sheepishly and then burn the temple down in the cover of night with all 800 monks inside. Then I ride back to Kyoto to report my success to my lord but the deed is so nefarious that the universe itself condemns my side of the war to pain and suffering and eventually a long epic is composed by blind guitarists to sooth the damned souls of my people about the rise and the fall of my epic house. I am mixing metaphors and references and stories but I think if you were all to get together and read this you could trace my influences and I assure you, in the end it is all deft and funny.

So anyway, Zazen. I should get around to explaining this. For those of you not schooled in classical Japanese religious practice (for shame!), zazen is the meditative practice of zen buddhism. The idea, of course, is to empty your mind of all thought and basically be at one with the universe, lose sense of self, something like that. I am being vague here. The ultimate goal is to attain sattori, enlightenment, through contemplation. There are rituals and in the end a zazen session is a lot like a catholic church service (by the way how is the pope?) only with a lot more time spent doing buddhist meditation.

So we sit there in lotus (or, for the weak (like me), half lotus) position, which is uncomfortable. We close our eyes, put our hands together in our lap with our thumbs pointed up, kinda close our eyes, and sit in silence for an hour. “But Myk!” you all shriek, “What was that about welts you said earlier? Why do some people get welts from sitting in silence for an hour?!” God you have a whiney voice, imaginary representative of my readership. The reason for the welts is that as we sit there, presumably emptying our mind of all thoughts, the monks walk around with these big wooden sticks and whack the shit out of people who are moving or not sitting properly or sometimes for no good reason at all. The first time I did it they just went from person to person and whacked us each a good six times on the back. The way it works is, they stop in front of you and tap your shoulder with their Big Fucking Stick. You open your eyes, act surprised that they are there (because you were so deep in meditation that you didn’t see/hear them arrive), and bow to them as they bow to you. Then you put hands on opposite shoulders and lean way forward. Then the monk whacks the shit out of you. Then you sit up and bow to the monk appreciatively. Then the monk looks at you sternly and moves to the next sucker. The guy who hit me I think held back – I heard the whackings the other people got (ha, word doesn’t think whackings is a word) and man they scared me. There is a kendo dojo in this temple and these monks whack like it. And anyway the result is that whereas you are supposed to be focusing on nothing and emptying your mind to liberate your soul, instead you have your eyes open a slit and are always worried about where the nearest whacking monk is. The best part is, they usually follow the whacking procedure but sometimes they just shout something, run across the room and whack someone across the back really suddenly and seemingly much harder than the normal whacking. I mean these monks are whacking like they have a grudge against bad posture. This morning’s session, the main whacking monk hit so hard you could hear the echoes for a few seconds after he was done. I was scared shitless the whole time even though it doesn’t REALLY matter, ya know? Like it hurts but it doesn’t hurt that much and I like pain anyway. But the idea that any second one of these guys can just run up and beat the shit out of me and I have to thank him is just something that hangs in the air like a bad smell, it makes it impossible to just chill out.

But yeah, this trip is cool. It’s like all sorts of stuff to just not look forward to – they even took the meals from me – all buffered by long periods of more or less downtime for me while the kiddies listen to presentations I have already seen twice. I am in an interesting position – I am the same age as these guys, and have also entered the company this year in a way, and yet in a way I am their senpai, I am ahead of them. They all kinda look up to me and speak to me deferentially, the way I speak to my bosses. They stand at attention when I walk by. Can you imagine? There are 70 people in this room who stand at attention when I walk by. I am going to teach them a bit later, and when it comes to sleeping arrangements I have a private room with one of the other instructors (the boss I have now at Nissen, Fukushima-san, I like him a lot) whereas they sleep on the floor in a giant room with bugs and drafty windows. And in the ferry as well – they are kinda in the cargo hold but I have the nicest room in the boat.

BUT, for all that, when the suits come off and it’s hang out time, they all love me. I eat with them, not with the bosses who wait, and on the ferry on the way over I drank with the bosses and then went and drank with them. It’s this weird sort of respect thing where they vacate one of the three chairs for me to sit in when they see me and pour me drinks and talk to me in English and ask me how to pick up girls. I am like Santa Claus, Hugh Hefner and Jesus rolled into one vaguely stressed out bag of poor Japanese skills. For them it’s like Christmas, Easter, and whatever the main holiday of the playboy faith is, all rolled into one. Why the reputation for being a ladies man? Well, as you may or may not know, there are supposedly biological differences between Japanese guys and Western guys, dealing with size. The Japanese guys kept asking me “How big is your weapon?” and I had no idea what they were talking about. Then one took a toothpick, put it in his crotch and said “I have a very small weapon.” And they all argued over who had the “smallest weapon.” Odd as hell lemme tell you. And so, given my presumed massive “weapon size” they all want to ask me for help picking up girls. Then they grabbed two unfortunate 18-year-old new company recruits (this was drinking on the ferry) two girls who were really shy and sat them down in front of me and demanded I pick them up. It was odd as hell, those poor girls were so embarrassed. I felt like I had just stumbled into never-land and the lost boys wanted me to explain how to deal with the odd feelings they have around Tiger Lilly. So I laughed and talked to the girls in a friendly way and didn’t “put any moves” on them, whatever that would entail. Then the girls left and I just shook my head at the guys. It is weird how they are treating me. I think drinks are gonna be on me on the ferry ride back. That or I may teach them poker, then I can take their money as well as their booze and any sense of masculinity. Heh, I feel like the great white invader and can’t understand the open-arms welcome.

So that is my role here. I spend the vast part of every day just kinda listening to what’s going on and typing away on my laptop. When the folks interact with me it is half worshipful and half buddy-esque which makes me feel like a character in a short story who is about to get whacked.

So the pope may already have died or if not will likely die shortly, eh? Can I ask someone with access to TV in the states to please tape any particularly good documentaries or whatnot about him? I have a vague sense of him as a genuine crusader for a better world, but I must confess to a lack of specific knowledge about him. I do know he has been a Good Guy by most peoples’ standards and would like to know more about him. Dan I am gonna go a step further in my request and ask that you be the one to do it, eh? Tape me a good one.

Tekken 5 came out here on Friday. I have been zenning so I haven’t picked it up yet but I will tomorrow. Dan and Jon, we can’t fight directly, but I leave open challenge for survival mode. My best in 4 is a paltry 23, but I suspect if I am in competition I will be inspired to excel in 5.

So I have gotten to be incredibly negative. Maybe I always have been? But I am just realizing that as I look at myself and the way I react to people things places ideas I am negative; not critical, that can be positive, I am uncritically negative. And that is wrong, that might be the thing I hate most about myself and now that it is in my spotlight I am gonna bust my ass to destroy it. I remember when I got here I was trying really hard to be positive about every experience but that faded at some point – I could probably find it in my blog and it was probably somewhere early on. Ah, probably October, the month that blew. Disillusionment and suffering. I betcha my positivity is taking a permanent vacation in October 2004. Gotta get it back, gotta reawaken the magic of the Moment.

Why, you ask (in that nasal voice), do I have such an insight now? Couple reasons. I always think of Jackie as pretty negative, and she has every right to be given her recent history, but the other night she told me that I am really negative. I denied it of course but she is right. And when the people you consider negative tell you that you are more negative, it is time to step back and reevaluate. Two, I was talking to the new girl in town the other day, Clare. She is like 18 from Australia and has been here a month and a half and still sounds the way I remember sounding in my first few weeks, just excited as fucking hell to be here and can’t believe she gets paid for this and look at this and look at that and wow wow wow, it was really inspiring and not in the sappy kinda way that some people are always like “oooooo preeeetty” right but in the “Yes, I understand and appreciate this so much that I am just gonna say ‘wow’ and mean it” kinda way. I like that, I have missed that, I don’t have any friends like that here.

My circle, which is basically Alison Tricia Jackie, tends towards the negative which is unfortunate and I wonder to what degree that is my influence. I wouldn’t presume myself to be so powerful or capable of spreading negativity, but the circle at school wasn’t a positivity-fest either. I am realizing a similar world exists here and want to do away with it. We can fix this, we can. It is spring and the flowers are coming out and there’s the genki new kid and dammit I am tired of looking down on things it’s time to look at the good side of things.

That’s why way back at the top of this post I was talking about how I wasn’t letting myself get irritated by the inanity of the presentations here. Normally I would but that’s so negative – I want to open myself to feeling impressed by how hard someone would work on a powerpoint presentation/speech about taking notes because even though it is simple it is something that really should be explained well. I think that ties in well to the meals here, too, I think the severity of the lifestyle is designed to impress a similar notion, maybe? It’s really easy to be yeah-yeah-okay-itadakimasu-lets-eat grateful for your food if it is delicious. Here they are trying to teach us to be grateful for food that is terrible. And I am learning, in spite of myself.

Genki Sudo says you should carry yourself with a feeling of gratitude in everything you do – he says, imagine how the world would change if we just SAID thank you to everything we use, every person, every meal, every once of pencil lead, etc. Because positivity is gratitude, isn’t it? That’s it. And ya know what? It is difficult. But wow, yeah, I am learning that lesson. I am tired of being mad at my boss for not replacing my moped, instead I am going to let myself appreciate the fact that they are giving me a place to live for a year, 1000 dollars a month, plane fare, many amazing meals, a trip to a zen temple, etc etc etc. When I first got here I had that sense of awe and gratitude. I loved my apartment. I still love my apartment. Such an odd mood I am in. Can I keep this up? I have been casting around for something, for an insight or a mood or something, for weeks now, and I think I finally found it. I have been searching Japan for gratitude but no matter what I do where I go who I meet I won’t find it because I resist it. Fuck that.

So anyway, yeah, sorry if that little rant seems sappy or trite, I think it might be the most important realization I’ve had out here. I dunno how I went from awe that my apartment had tatami to resentment that the hot water that they gave me doesn’t have a lot of pressure. Fuck that, fuck that fuck that. I am gonna be free of that at least and we will see where it takes me. Much to think about. Always there is the expectation that insight and lifestyle change is simple, that its difficulty lies in its simplicity, but it’s hard. If I want to change to a gratitude-centered life, I need to change the way I clean my apartment, I need to change the things my friends and I talk about, I need to change the way I do my work, and it is all conscious. Interesting.

I guess maybe now that I think about it that usually when I say “gratitude” I feel that it means “obligation,” and that is wrong – I think maybe to be truly grateful is to be free of a sense of obligation, right? Because gratitude is a sense of appreciation, not even of certain acts but of the world, isn’t it? And to confuse it with obligation, that’s like confusing positivity with...well, I dunno, with hamburgers. It’s not that they aren’t related, but obligation is just one small part of the world and it is the world that is the object of gratitude – just like hamburgers are one small part of the word and the world is the object of positivity. I feel as though I have had blinders on, but such epiphanies are always suspect. I guess I am writing this now with the sense that I know how to change the way I live but that’s never quite that easy is it. This mood could just be gas from the soup-rice wafting into my brain. But we will see. I am not claiming to be a newly-made human being, merely claiming to understand something, and I think that that understanding won’t fade if I let it sit a few days, right? So I haven’t attained enlightenment I have simply added yet another clear scale between The Way I Want to Be and The Way I Am, two forces that have this sort of gulf between them filled with vague lines. Every time I can straighten out a line I can cross it, if I try hard enough. Is that fair?

See now I am getting that irritating feeling that comes with being emotional, personal. I feel…self-conscious? Writing this in my blog. Like I shouldn’t be letting you see these thoughts, but that’s silly, isn’t it? The worst that’ll happen is I’ll revert to curmudgeon mode and you can wave this post in my face but frankly I’d deserve it. Or perhaps you will think less of me for spewing such obvious things in a public forum like I’ve stumbled upon something. Well, you might have a point. But frankly I feel like I have stumbled upon something. And then I get to thinking about how various people will react to reading the various stuff in here, how Dan will take me really seriously with a comically serious look on his face because he’s interested in what I have to say, how my mom will roll up her sleeves and see what her son is up to and smile while rolling her eyes at his latest intellectual foray into the depths of his soul, how my dad will just roll his eyes, how Jon will read three paragraphs today and two tomorrow and maybe finish if it’s interesting, how Sarah will read and think about the various things and email me later with thoughts about them, how Pat will read it and try to correlate the personality expressed in these paragraphs with the kinda boring guy he knows who hangs out with Jackie too much, how Ayako will read this with a dictionary in her hand, how Jackie will read this at work, casting nervous glances at her demonic boss, and feel kinda sad, how my little brothers will read this with a curious mix of respect for me and disdain for me that they can’t quite sort out, how I myself will read this later, what I will think about it. I dunno how accurate any of those are, but that is how you all look in my mind as you read through page after page of too-small gray text on a black screen, searching for you aren’t sure what but vaguely interested in getting to the end in case I say something that blows you away because deep down inside you think that just maybe I might be capable, but you aren’t sure why or even what I could say that would move you. Maybe you just read it to be nice. Why do you read it? Or do you? And so the self-doubt sets in and I feel like wrapping up, like stopping because I am too exposed like I am Prometheus chained regenerating to the rocks for the birds, and every paragraph, every honest revelation is a bit of flesh laid open to the eagles (that’s you, sorry) to digest without every really making me less. I worry what the eagles think of the taste. Odd, ne?.

Boy, I think I need to wrap up this little post, I am sitting at over 10 pages and this spans from the phone memo speech to the Lineage/Legion notion (which I want to explore a lot more yet) to the description of the zen thing to bitching about the food (I am ashamed for bitching about the food to my boss yesterday, I thought I was being funny and here it has taught me something) to my enlightenment about the notion of gratitude. I think the post was about gratitude when I started it but I didn’t know how to write it, it was vague in my head and now I have an idea. Isn’t that great how thinking works? It’s like sometimes you know the answers before you start, you feel something, you just aren’t sure of the question. We’ll see where this goes from here. Anyway I am gonna wrap up this little post. I will probably have more to write tomorrow.

Oh, one last thing because I find it funny. I was playing some music on my laptop during a break with my headphones and Fujita-san asks me if I can download some Destiny’s Child for her. I told that if she gets me internet in my apartment I will download anything she wants for her. She said okay. Nifty. Maybe I will open an I-Tunes account and start doing the download thing legally? God and I can finally start downloading Anime, how weird that I would come to Japan and need internet to get my cartoon fix. Although I am sure that at this point I can probably watch a lot of it w/out subs. But the problem of course is that the really cool stuff is technical and complex. It’d be like the time I played through metal gear solid 3 and got from start to finish without understanding the specifics of the plot.

Okay it’s not tomorrow but I am back from lunch now so I’ll make this a new section. My boss was just talking to me about girls in Japan, how I should have asked her for advice before dating here. My first impulse is to laugh at the idea of asking the gossipy woman above me for advice in my love life, but upon reflection she is sharper than one thinks and her advice is always on the ball. She says I shouldn’t date anyone here I wouldn’t consider/half plan on taking to America with me from the get-go. I guess now I understand why. I think it’s a fair plan. I don’t regret dating Ayako at all but am afraid that I’ve created some shitty karma for myself. So it goes. I am reminded of a quote I saw somewhere and have misplaced the source, but somewhere I have seen the words “no regrets just rebirth.” [editors note: from jon’s girlfriends facebook profile]

Have I ever told you my grand theory of rebirth? I like the idea of reincarnation, right, but the big problem everyone always has with it right from the get-go is that population has increased over the years so where do the new souls come from? Adam and Eve can only be two out of the 6 billion people we got, ne?

Ah but how about this! I like the idea of reincarnation being outside of time, as all such metaphysical hocus pocus usually is, right? Then it wouldn’t matter when you were born and there would just be an average number of souls, not all of whom are present in periods of low population, ne?

But THEN! Then, the icing on the cake is, if a soul can skip around in time in its path to being reborn, then who is to say that there is even more than one soul? Could it be possible that there is only one soul and that it circulates, reborn again and again, that each of us is a fresh instance of an old soul, the The Old Soul? That there is only one being? That everything you do to anyone you do to yourself? Nifty, eh?

Of course there are holes in the idea too great to point out, but isn’t it nice in an artistic sense?

I like my religions as art. There is no reasonable grounds for buying one over any other, so you might as well use aesthetics, right? When I become religious it will be for whatever group’s eschatology appeals to me as most aesthetic. Like the Norse Pantheon, for instance, is in the running.

Well boy did that mood fade fast. The insights remain but the boost of positive energy that went with them just disappeared. It came time for my presentation and my boss Fukushima-san forgot my name in the middle of introducing me. Then the whole time I was talking everyone looked at me like I was an idiot and didn’t really participate. Then I finished and there was a big applause and everyone told me great job. Fukushima-san felt awful, I could tell. I just wanted to crawl under a rock. Then I got a few phone emails that just made me feel awful, my karma is haunting me from various misadventures. Sigh. Put a good face on it I guess. Almost time for my last meal here. This is me at my worst. Let me see if I can put on a smile and wolf down whatever they drop in front of me.

“I am the resurrection and I am the life. I could never bring myself to hate you as I like.”
Not sure why that is relevant but it is in my ear in the moment. Catchy tune.

“There’s a man who spoke wonders, though I’ve never met him. He said, he who seeks finds, who knocks will be let in. I think of you in motion and just how close you are getting, and how eeeeevery little thing anticipates you… All down my veins, my heart strings call – are you the one that I’ve been waiting for?”

I love the line “every little thing anticipates you,” the word “anticipate” is perfect there. So that’s a bit of a switch from the last song, but don’t worry, I am still a godless heathen wandering blind and alone through a fiery maelstrom, just like you. Not you, Mom.

So the last meal here was, uh, I guess the same as the rest. I sat with kyokuchou, the main guy on this little adventure. There was no speaking as you are not allowed to speak during dinner here but I ate more and faster than he did so I think I made an okay impression? If not whatever. No, stop, I owe him a lot. I am gonna start checking myself when I am being a rude asshole. That’s a lot of checks. Although I suppose I can’t let myself start being rude to myself, either? I have to bear gratitude for myself as much as for anyone else, so self-respect is mandatory, eh? Curses.

I like how you can hear something wise a thousand times and never give it two moments of thought until you discover the same thing for yourself and realize “Oh, THAT’S what they were talking about.” Funny.

There are lots of song lyrics and impressions coming, I am just in that kind of mood. I know it breaks my blog rule number one but it’s okay, I am just really into it right now.

“Let me fall out of a window with confetti in my hair, deal me jacks or better on a blanket by the stairs; I tell you all my secrets but I lie about my past, so send me off to bed forever more…”

I made a music playlist here, it is an odd selection. Because I am just writing now I am going to list it out for you. Ready? Here it is:

David Bowie – All the Madmen
The White Stripes – In the Cold, Cold Night
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Are you the one (that I’ve been waiting for)?
Sugar Soul – Garden
Tom Waits – Tango Till They’re Sore
Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Nature Boy
The Stone Roses – I am the Resurrection
Dragon Ash – Shizuka na hibi no kaidan wo
Queen – One Vision

What think you?

“Well your faith was strong but you needed proof. You saw her bathing on the roof, her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you. And she tied you to her kitchen chair, and she broke your throne and she cut your hair, and from your lips she drew the hallelujah…”

The Old Testament is gorgeous.

“Well baby I’ve been here before, I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor – ya know, I used to live alone before I knew you. And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch, but love is not a victory march – it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.”

And what the hell,

“Well there was a time when you let me know what’s really goin on below, but now you never show that to me do ya? [rising volume, confidence] But remember when I moved in you? And the Holy Dove was moving too, and every breath we drew was hallelujah!”

But no, he doesn’t let us stop there. We think he will, that it will end bravely, the music trickles out, and then –

“Well maybe there’s a God above – but all I ever learned from love is how to shoot somebody that outdrew you. And it’s not a cry that you hear at night, it’s not somebody who’s seen the light – it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah!”
And then just “Hallelujah” repeats until your heart breaks, and it keeps going and going and there’s gentle music and in spite of it all, the final word is a worshipful “Hallelujah.” How amazing.

That final chord is broken really well by Nature Boy just jumping in –

“I was just a boy when I sat down to watch the news on TV. I saw some ordinary slaughter, I saw some routine atrocity. My father said ‘don’t look away, you got to be strong, you got to be bold now.’ He said that in the end it is beauty that is going to save the world.

And she moves among the sparrows, and she floats among the breeze, and she moves among the flowers, and she moves something deep inside of me….

I was walkin round the flower store like a leopard coming down with some sort of nervous hysteria; I saw you standing there green-eyes, black hair, up against the pink and purple wisteria. You said, ‘hey nature boy, you lookin’ at me with some unrighteous intention.’ I could not speak my knees went weak was having thoughts it was not in my best interest to mention.

And she moves among the flowers, and she floats among the smoke, and she moves along the shadows, and she moves me with just one little look…

You took me back to your place and dressed me up in a deep sea diver’s suit. You played the patriot, you raised the flag, and I stood at full salute. Well later on we smoked a pipe that struck me dumb and made it impossible to speak, as you closed in in slow motion quoting sapho in the original greek…

And she moves among the shadows, and she floats upon the breeze, and she moves among the cowbells, and we move through the days and through the years…

The years pass by we’re walking by the sea half-delirious. You smiled at me and said ‘Babe, I think this thing is getting kinda serious.’ You pointed at something and said ‘Have you ever seen such a beautiful thing?’ Well it was then that I broke down, it was then that you lifted me up again.

And she moves among the sparrows, and she walks across the sea, and she moves among the flowers, and she moves something deep inside of me…”

Now back to “I am the resurrection.”

I am not gonna bother. Zazen in a few minutes. Crap. Speaking of which, I should go to the bathroom before we start. Only Japanese-style squat toilets here, which is good because it means I finally learned to use them.

I think the song lyrics section is over now, you can uncover your eyes. And feel free to laugh at Nick Cave if it seems absurd to you, part of me thinks it is but there’s a beauty to it. I love that he met her in the flowershop by the wisteria. This from the guy who was once the baddest badboy of the punk/goth scene if my information is correct.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Going to Kyoto

On my way to Kyoto for the weekend with work. Spending the weekend in a Zen temple, gonna get whacked really fucking hard with a board if I move during meditation apparently. Also teaching English. Boss lady pissed me off bad when she told me to redo my presentation yesterday, the day before we leave. Just not kosher, not when she has been working on it with me and didn't complain about any of it. Now she says it might be too boring and that the crowd wont cooperate, when before she told me not to worry about crowd cooperation because they are fresh out of college and speak english. Whatever. They get Ichiro's body parts and that's all I have to give.

BUT, the company entrance ceremony is cool. In Japan, starting work with a company when you graduate is a BIG DEAL, it's not like a part time job. Although the system is fading, there is still a sort of sense that your FUTURE has been DECIDED. All the speeches today are like "Today you are Shakaijin (society-person, someone who has been defined as a human being by taking up a functional role in society, it is like Adult but implies responsibilty and accountability and respect from Common Adults). Congratulations, the rest of your life starts now." And it's like, half of these people are just gonna run with this ball until they die. Crazy. They are all so nervous. It's almost cute.

So, this is a big thing for them and a big learning experience for me - I am almost inclined to call it the pivot of contemporary japanese society. And I am experiencing it first hand, and teaching english. I looked at this as kind of an annoying waste of a weekend before, but now I am looking forward to it.

I will be back from Kyoto next week. Until then, leave me some love.

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