Monday, September 27, 2010


Not Left, Not Right

Came across this quote while idly surfing the web VIA]:
Being a leftist is to first think of the world, then of your country, then of your relatives, then of yourself. Being a rightist is the reverse.
I don't like either/or philosophical propositions, and I especially hate false dichotomies (think, for example, of "nature vs. nurture").

There may very well be people who "think of the world first." Perhaps more observably, there are people who think of themselves first.

I respectfully suggest that both types are assholes who probably don't have many friends (for what should be fairly obvious reasons). Facebook "friends" and Twitter "followers" don't count.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On Wearing Glasses

In the previous post I wrote about how I was getting my daughter to help me with my Japanese penmanship. As I suggested to Claudia in a comment on that post, I was (at least partly) motivated by thinking about non-boring activities I could share with my growing daughter. And seriously, sitting down and practicing writing an alphabet has become much more interesting for me with my daughter as my tutor. Her gusto in teaching me is all the proof I need that she enjoys it too. She's "going to be eight next month, you know"... Hell, she'll be wanting to borrow the car any day now...

Anyway, as with any kind of reading, writing, or studying I do these days, I have to put on my glasses if I'm to see what the hell I'm looking at/doing. Doing this Japanese stuff is the first time I've kept my glasses on while sitting next to my daughter...

Wow. I can see the fine hairs on her arms, and the place where she's been scratching a mosquito bite. When she looks me in the face I notice this very light, downy hair on her cheeks. I stare as if I'm seeing her for the first time. I mean, she's my kid, so she's already the most beautiful thing ever to set foot on planet earth in my eyes. But this is almost overwhelming. Wow.

Eye glasses are truly a wondrous invention.

My New Japanese Teacher

Aside from the general frustration surrounding the fact that I'm pretty incompetent when it comes to speaking the Japanese language, there is a more specific humiliation that arises on those occasions when I'm expected to write something in Japanese--like, my name, for example. Now don't get me wrong, I can read my name in katakana. In fact I can read anything in katakana and/or hiragana, as well as quite a bit in kanji. Writing it out is another story...


Back in my school days teachers used to praise my penmanship ("Dumb as a doorknob, but his writing's quite legible, even pretty!"). I lost most of that skill in the 10 years or so between finishing high school and deciding to go to university. In particular, for the several years in which I pursued rock stardom, a certain practiced "illiteracy" was seen as career-enhancing among drummers (or, at the very least, it kept singers and guitar players from bothering you with their petty problems--"Why am I talking to you? A drummer couldn't possibly understand." More like a drummer couldn't possibly give a shit, really...).

In university I was a furious note-taker, able to transcribe entire lectures at will. It all came back! Not only that, but I added the Greek alphabet to my handwriting repertoire! Alas, my pen pyrotechnics were short-lived, and you can probably guess why. Writing my Master's thesis on a computer was the beginning of the end of my penmanship.


Anyway, I'm quite familiar with two of the three Japanese scripts. My name is considered a "foreign word," so it should be written in katakana in Japan. I can do it. Slowly. Painstakingly. Embarrassingly. People turn away. People snicker. My "writing" in Japanese looks like something a two-year-old scrawled on the wall the first time he had a crayon in his hand. I know what people think when they see me writing: "This guy is a university teacher?" I slink away in shame...

A couple of weeks ago I happened to pick up a homework notebook of my daughter's. She's in the second grade of elementary school. As I leafed idly through her notebook (a kind of diary that she passes in everyday), I noticed that her Japanese handwriting was very nice...

She's a strict teacher, but generous with compliments when I do well! And she seems to enjoy our lessons as much as I do...



Saturday, September 18, 2010


Vending Machines, No. 113


One night he was hanging out with his buds. He was older than them, and they ribbed him about it sometimes. He'd arrived a bit late to "life." Late learning the drums, late getting into university, just generally late at everything. He laughed to himself. When he was a kid he'd always hung out with the older guys. He got in the same shit as them.

Tonight they were baked. The stereo was on "bake." The sun was coming up. He was baked and the tunes were good...


Friday, September 17, 2010


Hey, Ringo and George are in this one...


For the past few weeks certain events, completely unrelated to me and/or my family, have been pulling at me. Someone did a bad thing. Some stupid fucking piece of shit did a bad thing. It's so bad that I can't even talk about it without feeling sick to my stomach. He's going to burn for it. I'm out of water.

Tonight I just wanna listen to some tunes...

Green Fuse

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Stairs (2)

Stairs (1)

Color of Life

I've got nothing of my own right now, so please enjoy the following video selection. I don't have much in the way of comment about it, because I don't really know anything about it, except that it's a clip from defunct Japanese TV show called Vermillion Pleasure Night. It's really pretty interesting and cool, both visually and musically, for what it's worth. I don't think you'll be disappointed.


Sunday, September 05, 2010

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings...

... are probably the best band in the world right now. Educate yourself, for fuck's sake...


From the Dept. of Good Deeds

Anyone who goes back far enough through this blog's archives can probably get a sense of how my general attitude about living in Japan has evolved. These days I don't find Japan to be a particularly strange or weird place. Nor do I find the Japanese to be particularly strange or weird people. In fact, what I find to be strange/weird these days is what I read about Japan/the Japanese from foreign sources. Don't get me wrong, it's not like there isn't anything at all strange or weird about Japan and its people; it's just that there's strangeness and weirdness to be found on any street in any town or city in the world. Like the song says, "People are strange." Not very deep maybe, but...

Anyway, several years ago, when I was a swashbuckling "free-lance" English teacher (heh), I met a family that wanted me to give English lessons to their two young boys. The boys' mother spoke (speaks) pretty good English. Their father didn't (doesn't). They run a car repair shop. I think I gave their boys lessons for about a year and a half. They paid good money, and I did my honest best, but I seriously doubt that those kids learned much English from me. I probably learned more Japanese from them than they did English from me. A good gig, for sure, but I was secretly relieved when they ended the lessons. I say "secretly" because at that time my own family was somewhat on the edge financially.

A couple of years after that I needed to get the safety check done on my car. In Japan this is a rather expensive process (and complaints about this kind of thing should not be seen as anti-Japan; if the locals complain about it too, then you're just a regular Joe). I decided to take my car to the family who's kids I'd taught. They were very happy to see me, and very happy to serve me. From my wife's appraisal of the bill, they neither cheated me nor did me any favors. Fair enough, I thought. I'm not a "guest" anymore.

A few months later I pulled a pretty bone-headed move and left my 4-way flashers on overnight. (My parking space faces the street and pretty much requires me to back in if I'm to have any hope of getting out in the morning. There's usually traffic, so the 4-ways alert anyone behind me that I'm going to stop in a weird place. I've done it thousands of times, but...) The next day, of course, my battery was dead. Shit.

You really have to live in a foreign country to understand how the simplest things can suddenly become gigantic, especially if you're not comfortable with the language. I got lucky. I walked down the street to the home/shop of the people whose kids I'd taught and to whom I'd taken my business before. It took about ten minutes. About ten minutes after that I was driving to work, having received a boost. They refused my money.

They've had my business since, and today at the supermarket my battery died again (although not from any stupidity of mine). Again, I walked to the shop and explained the problem. Again, they drove me to my car and fixed the problem. This time they brought a used battery from the shop (because it sounded like my battery was history). They put it in, and I started my car. I say "they." It was the father of the kids I'd taught. As he was leaving he said that I should drive on this battery until there was some problem. Again, there was no talk of money.

These are good people. That's all I want to say.