Sunday, July 31, 2005

year three, day one.

Today marks exactly two years since my arrival in Japan.

No big reflections, though. Lot of work to do.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

curtis, strauss, momus and me.

If you get the chance, watch "the power of nightmares" and any other adam curtis documentaries you can get your hands on. I watch a lot of documentaries lately, and Adam Curtis persuades and informs like no one else. His subject matter also seems the most prescient stuff going. His last two were about the birth of advertising and consumerism and the "power of nightmares", that is to say the way that modern politics became more about creating negative visions than positive ones.
Concerning the latter, he sees Leo Strauss as the wellspring of the current shit creek we find ourselves in. I can't really effectively encapsulate Strauss' thought, but he thinks that society would fall apart if it were left to the devices of secular liberal democracy. He doesn't think it's bad per se, just that society needs a broader raison d'etre to keep the people moving in the right direction. A jaded, undisciplined society falls victim to the barbarians. Thus we use "benign" fictions to keep people in line and preserve the great western civilization. So despite the fact that the educated can see that the institutions of patriotism, organized religion and market capitalism are utterly bankrupt, meaningless and wrong, the elite really ought to push a message to keep the herd in line.
I have a zillion problems with this stuff, though admittedly this is an aggressively bad reading, strauss himself did have a brighter and better take. Since what I'm really discussing here is the current political application of his ideas, I think the above is a suitable boiling down.
According to adam curtis, the young straussians cut their teeth on the cold war, wherein they got the chance to test out the "power of ideas" (a straussian buzzword) in shaping public opinion toward the evil commies. Boy did that ever work. Now they're taking it to streets through the republican party leadership. And boy is it ever working. Instead of "commies are evil", now "terrorists are evil" "as are those who disagree".
An image of a perfect christian america is presented, but damned if those in power are going to live that way. Strauss only really asks that they shape the people, not respond to moral ideals themselves. That's why we have this iokiyar society where dan rather is forced to retire over putting his trust in forged documents containing true information, whereas rove gets to clearly commit federal crimes without critique from the party.
How are we supposed to counter this shit? Well my knee jerk reaction is that the "truth" will somehow triumph in the end. More and more, that sounds like it just isn't working. The kids on the streets don't believe in objective truth anymore. Counter cultural leaders like momus are eager to call huge government, media industry collusions benign occurences in a post-modern economic world (see his every post at neomarxisme); payola is no longer offensive; art is no longer seperate from commerce; objective critique is an impossibility.Too many of the thoughtful folks have given up on truth and objectivity. Giving up on those means giving up on an informed populace able to self-determine... means giving up on liberal democracy.
I feel like the cop in wicker man begging a crowd that doesn't even understand what I'm all hung up on. "christ, oh christ think of what you're doing!"

air is the new water.

I love one piece. I hear they're playing it in america now, and that the translating and voicing has made it awful. That's a shame, but I still get my one piece from kaizoku fansubs. The guys at k-f released #154 last night, and as could be expected, it was really good... but now I'm starting to understand without the subtitles, and am starting to think they get in the way more than they help me to learn japanese. It's time to jettison the training wheels!

air is the new water = luffy and the crew are now sailing in the clouds. yay!

Monday, July 25, 2005

my denshijisho is an wild eyed radical

yesterday, my electronic dictionary suggested that I explain the theories of chomsky: チョムスキーの学説を解説する. Today it hints toward some sort of creepy world domination scheme:

ブラジルへの日本人開拓移民 or "the japanese settlement of brazil"

I don't know whether my sharp pw-m310 is trying to warn me, or intimidate me.

weak on theory, weak on practice, wrong for america

I have a collection of blogs I read on a regular basis, but only two and a half of them really give me something worth chewing on, rather than just some eye candy or titilation. The half is momus, because I disagree with him fundamentally quite often, and really don't give a damn about his hipster friends. Still, I'm glad he's there. The other's are eschaton and marxy, which I read respectively about US politics and japanese culture. All three have their own places, eschaton's an outlet for news and discussion, momus is a musing ground for a pretty fascinating feller, and marxy, well marxy's a little different. He's blogging like momus, to be sure, but I think there's a different feeling. He's got a broad, though relatively singular idea that he chasing down.

I am quite jealous of all three for the ways in which they exceed my own abilities as a human and a blogger.

There's a bit of a strange phenomenon that I see on all of the blogs though. Readers with diametrically opposed standpoints and opinions like to come around every now and again and spout off their own ideas on the message boards. Now when that's an open debate, it's a blast. But too often it's just "you don't know anything about anything". I don't get it. The commentor I was reading today really just seemed to hate everything about the site he was posting at, and make no assertions of his own.

makes me glad that the only comments I get are every six months from jaime.

murt is meader!

I had another encouter with my particularity today. In japan having unique individual traits, desires and requirements can really stymie most anyone. Today, not smoking, not eating meat (and furthermore, considering ham "meat") and not liking coffee conspired to make me a problematic customer.

As time goes on though, it feels a bit hard-headed to resist the simple route of acting Japanese, and just being the same. I can scarcely see a reason anymore to insist on all my little things, and usually go out of my way to be unproblematic. I don't think I'll ever budge on being irritated by smoke while I'm eating, but it seems less and less likely that I'll stay a vegetarian till I die... as for coffee, Ive decided to "learn to like" it, along with beer. They both remain repulsive to me, but I can now drink a beer without gagging, and I recently ate a coffee flavored cake.

To which beliefs and habits I should hold fast, which I should be willing to sacrifice and which I ought to actively discard, well, all seems sort of arbitrary. That is to say, I believe it's entirely arbitrary... and that that arbitrariness is our right as individuals... and that I shouldn't force "being an individual" so much.

Friday, July 22, 2005


I want to stay in Japan for a while, most preferably in Tokyo. That's not news. Since I really don't want to be an eikaiwa teacher until the day I die, I decided I'd better give some good long thought to how to pull it off.

Well, I did that and decided that I'd like to work with the language at a higher level, i.e. translation /interpretation. The trouble is that good long thought is no substitute for research. The unavoidable impression I have lately is that interpreting is not a very viable career for gaijin except for super elites, and people that have been in the business for 20 years already.

Stack this on top of what I'm slowly realizing about visa laws in Japan, and things don't look good for our hero.

I suppose I'm worried about what's really gonna happen next, but for now, save money and learn as much japanese as I can is good enough.

a new era wow

I knew the time had come when this post came up at Jaime's. I put myself back in the blogroll at avoidinglife, so now my referer log isn't just google searches for finalspoof and "firefox sucks". It's those two plus "hard gay" links from Jaimie!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

the golden legend!

黄金の伝説 is a wonderful show that outdoes every other reality show I've seen. The idea is that people somehow live crazy lifestyle of endurance for a week or a month.

At the moment a pair of people are locked in an apartment forced to eat japan's favorite 100 cakes... some are slices, some are whole 4 serving monstrousities. It's a nightmarish amount of food, and they are actually sleeping in apartment remodeled to look like a cake shop.
Other highlights have been a week eating nothing but nori, and eating a whole maguro in the course of one week, head, eyes and all.
The meat and potatoes of the show is the 一万円生活 where celebrities live in small apartments, and live for one month on under 100 dollars worth of food electricity and other utilities.

my favorite though was when they erected a very small all glass (shower as well) apartment in a rather crowded area of tokyo, and had people live in it for a week or two. There were keitai photographers there day and night.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


137 days until the big test.

I've probably said it about a dozen times already, but as time goes on, it's clear that I've staked the entire value of this year on whether or not I pass 1kyuu. In the last week or so though, I've also realized that I have staked more than a single, mostly-elapsed year on the test.

I'm not really sure what's next if the test is a wash. Maybe I can still put in applications to graduate schools based on some other tangible mark of my ability. If not, I may have to retreat to the states for a little work. Not really a terrible prospect, I hope.
The more alarming idea is what happens if I pass. I haven't really carefully investigated what to do from there. I want to be a long(ish) term resident, but the visa arrangements for what I need may be completely impossible. Holders of student visas can't work, and working visas are only full time, and have all kinds of rules and sub-sub-rules.

For the first time I see where is coming from. When you change your perspective on a country, and start to look at it as home, things change. My struggles aren't with slimy food and communication now, they're with visas and with finding work... you know, grown up problems.

137 days.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

street level

Hey, whoever it is that's reading my journal, I'm sorry for not posting more often.

This is my sixty somethingth post, but lately they are few and far between, with not much in the way of content. That reflects a few of the good changes in my life lately, actually. Summer's got me out of the house, seeing friends studying and doing most of the things I should, and my progress with the language has me watching regular japanese tv more.

Thanks to my improved japanese and the good weather, I am finding myself quite in love with japan, quirks and all. I doubt you read marxy and momus, but if you do, you might know what I mean when I say I'm starting to think that marxy really knows japan, and loves it for all of its flaws, whereas momus picks and chooses the good stuff and declares japan near-perfect and would not enjoy the real thing at all.
Marxy and I have married japan, and we have our differences. Momus rents japan by the hour and thinks it's excellent.

(actually, I haven't married japan until the jet program ends and I'm still here)

isomalt and way-goo

Isomalt really is a delicious alternative to sugar. I highly recommend it, and the Kaiser candies that contain it to everyone. I don't think you'll get cancer.

That's just an aside apropos of what I see on my desk right now though. My bigger post is about way-goo... or rather 和牛 (wa gyuu).

I was watching the british food show "greatest dishes in the world" recently. On the "meat" episode (frankly, I think every show should have a meat episode, food network or otherwise), they talked to this german japan-huckster living and cooking in london. Man, do those types get under my skin. The whole of the west is filled with the people who are eager to sell the same culturally demeaning, and wholly inaccurate images of japan to the world for all too quick a buck.
I swear, it was like the guy was from a SNL skit for the culturally informed.

So he starts talking about the dish he's going to make, "way-goo". At this point they have done nothing to clarify it, so I'm thinking, "way goo?" since there's no "way" syllable in japanese, maybe he's making something chinese? Then they cut away to the "way goo" farm.

A way goo farmer in wales informs us that japan makes the worlds best beef, and that he uses the same techniques to produce his beef. Then the kanji 和牛 appear on the bottom of the screen and I put two and two together to realize that they mean kobe beef, but kobe beef is a regional thing so they have adopted the literal word for "japanese cow" and pronounced it terribly for good measure. The word git springs into my mind.

Then he goes on to add that they don't do things exactly like japan does... because in japan the cows can only be massaged by virginal women... cuz it's all religious and serious and stuff.
Where does this bullshit come from? fuckin' welsh.

Saturday, July 09, 2005


awww shit yeah!

One Piece got awesome again. I was hardly bored with it as it was, but in episode 151, things get seriously awesome. All at once, the story turned from teenagers on a cruise to world government conspiracy shit.
Got a new apple keyboard in the meantime too... I do believe it will make me look much more like the greasy fingered soiler of keyboards I know myself to be.

this is my 61st entry. they're pretty damned boring lately.

Monday, July 04, 2005


Originally uploaded by notnato.

the days are just packed.