31 January 2004


In other news, DK and I watch this show every Friday night/ Saturday morning called "Getting Along in Japanese." Hoping to improve our Japanese speaking abilities, tonight we also purchased cocktail spritzers. Yeah, I know, gotta have fun somehow. Mine appears to be called NIGORI. I don't know what that means.

This show rules. I'm going to start taping it so I can watch it all the time.

29 January 2004


It's the middle of the night here in Japan (well, early morning) and I woke up feeling disastrously ill. Shaking, the whole nine yards. I got the heater on and tried to sit in front of it to warm up, but it didn't really help. Now, I'm content to hunch over the computer here in the dark and contemplate some stuff with a sweater on. I'm a little warmer.

I was thinking again how queer it is that as I sit here in the dark, many of you are running around, tending to your daily lives. I've not had a lot of patience for people who, in telephone conversations, want to talk about the time difference. The whole thing seems uninteresting to me. But tonight, I find myself thinking about it.

Also, I just began reading a very interesting book about Japan while sitting on the toilet and being altogether more uncomfortable. There's a pretty substantial debate it seems whether or not the modernization of Japan has brought more peril than improvement. I will have to consider this more in the morning when I'm not shaking or sitting on the toilet.

I am beginning to feel a little better. I have a Japanese class at 1. I don't know if I'm going to make it. A shame as today I was hoping to gain some more clarity about the particles, particularily "ga" which has remained illusive. In a great victory, however, last night, during the Bible study I was almost able to keep up with the Japanese reading in my English Bible, meaning: more or less, given cues from the Japanese, I could tell which verse we were at. This is a pretty exciting thing for me.

The Tylenol Nighttime isn't kicking in.

I might also mention that I saw "The Birds" this last Tuesday night and am now frightened of birds and dumb, whining children. Luckily, there aren't many birds in Japan this time of year.

26 January 2004


Today Jpop reared its ugly head as one of our pre-Jr. High students wrote "SMAP" on her penmanship (or penpersonship) worksheet. I laughed and pointed at it, exercising a little Japanese and asking if she thought they were good. She very earnestly nodded yes. After some giggling and a little more practicing the "I can...", the girls were pretty adamant that SMAP was Daisuki, which we found in the dictionary to mean their favorite. Anyway, during the conversation, they were asking in Japanese if we had SMAP in America. I said that we didn't, unfortunately. They asked if SMAP had a concert their and I said that I didn't think so. Britney Spears, I said. We have Britney Spears. The girls were really confused so I said, Beliteni Sepeerisu (which I was my best guess at a Japanese pronunciation), but I guess that don't have Britney Spears. SMAP's okay though.

DK talked about SMAP in our later class too, saying that going to SMAP concert would be a kind of entertainment. I don't know if SMAP could really be considered "entertainment." I think that's a little generous.

18 January 2004


Sweet moses. I gotta stop watching these Hitchcock movies.

17 January 2004

Eva Marie Saint

What a great movie. Eva Marie Saint, though old enough to be my grandmother, has my undying love and affection.

I saw a dead body

Riding my bike today, I saw a dead body. Traffic was backed up all along 202, and when I came up to one of the large intersections near Imajuku station, the police had closed off the road. I got off my bike at the barricade and looked up the street. In the middle of the road about 100 meters up, there was a white blanket covering a body. Scattered around it, pieces of the body looked like broken watermelon. I turned away quickly. There was no gathering crowd like you might except in the States. Standing up the side streets, there were pockets of people standing, not saying anything. The police were staying at a distance on each end of the block, directing traffic. The body was the only thing in the street. I didn't see a bike or a car. As I rode up the side street, I caught another quick glimpse and was struck by how alone it (body, person) seemed.

I was more careful riding my bike. I thought about the suddenness of accidental death. One makes a wrong turn and suddenly he or she is dead. There is no explanation. A person is just suddenly dead. Paul Auster writes that there is some consolation in accidental death because it can be ascribed to fate. I don't think there is. The thought of being unable to prepare for death is terrifying to me.

Augustine writes, in his confessions: "It is vanity to wish to live long, and to be careless to live well."

10 January 2004

Seeking Women's Votes

 Again, from the Times:

Seeking Women's Votes

"Gen. Wesley K. Clark has replaced his navy blue suit with an argyle sweater in an attempt to increase his support among women. "

As DK would say: And all this while our country's being run into the ground.

08 January 2004

"I mean, we're just friends."

Everyone: Joe Gibbs is returning to football to coach the Redskins.

Also, from my new favorite idiot celebrity, former husband of Britney Spears (from the New York Times):
And now, while Ms. Spears slinks behind a wall of publicists, her erstwhile husband, Jason Allen Alexander, is left with the paparazzi on his front lawn. 
"I'm getting really aggravated with all this!" Mr. Alexander shouted this week to a gaggle of journalists hanging around for a quote. "I want y'all off my property!" 
Ever since Ms. Spears got an annulment on Monday for the impulsive ceremony at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, in which she wore ripped jeans and a baseball cap, Mr. Alexander, football star and son of an auto mechanic, has been cooped up in his house, ringed by tabloid reporters from across the planet, occasionally sticking his thick neck out the door to shoo people away. 
Mr. Alexander, meanwhile, has gone underground, though he emerged to talk to "Access Hollywood" and gave this account of his wedding night: "We were like this is a real pretty, beautiful night. It was cool and we were looking at each other and we were like, `Let's do something wild and crazy and let's go get married just for the hell of it.' " 
Later, in the "Access Hollywood" interview, he was asked if he wanted to marry her, for real.
"Definitely," he said. Then he caught himself. "I mean, we're just friends."
Well, he's a moron.

05 January 2004

Sama? Kama? What now?

How's it that people can get married and unmarried so easily in the States. There should be some sort of law requiring that your mother be at the wedding ceremony. I'm also a little upset that this is qualifying for Yahoo! Top News Stories for the last two days, but hey, I've been reading the reports so I guess I can't really complain.

So, anyway, more importantly: In the Japanese language, honorifics are really important. People sort of compare them to Mr. and Mrs., but I think that's a dumb comparison. Whenever you're talking to someone or about someone, you gotta throw an honorific at the end of that name like "san" or "sensei" or "chan" or "kun" or something. If you don't, you could end up disrespecting someone and you'd rather get mauled by lemmings than disrespect someone. So during Japanese class today, we were talking honorifics and the mother of all honorifics, "sama."
Me: (to Hanaka sensei, our teacher) What about "kama"? I hear that all the time. When do you use that?
Hanaka sensei: (confused and a little uncomfortable) "Kama"?
Me: Yeah, "kama".
Hanaka sensei: (more confusion, growing discomfort) Uh...
Me: (thinking I made the vowels long instead of short. I did that last week with "Koko". Koko means here, Kookoo means high school) Kama? (pause) Kaamaa?
Hanaka sensei: (looking at Dan) I don't know...
Dan: (to Hanaka sensei) I don't know what he's trying to say.
Me: (getting frustrated, to Dan) Yeah you do. We say it in church all the time.
Dan: (to me) Like some lesser form of "sama"?
Me: (realizing my mistake) Oh no, yeah, I mean, I meant to say "sama." Sorry. "Sama".
Hanaka sensei: (very relieved) Oh, yes, yes, "sama."
(brief explanation of "sama," pause)
Hanaka sensei: (leaning forward, hand over mouth) "Kama" means "gay."
Me: (not hearing) What?
Dan: (laughing)
Hanaka sensei: (again, hand over mouth, whispering) Gay.
Me: Oh. No, no, not "kama." Not "kama."
This is made especially funny as we're beginning to realize that people don't really have roommates in Japan. So two unmarried guys, living and working together is a little, you know, kama. So I'm making a point of mentioning in any conversation I have about our living situation: "Yeah, Dan's my roommate. Yeah, that's very, very common in the States. Everyone has a roommate. I mean, if you're not married, you probably have a roommate. It's just the way we do things."

01 January 2004

So this is the new year

Well, everyone, 2003 passed calmly in Japan. I drank a premium malt beverage and ate Kola yum-yums to my heart's delight. Our apartment building smells heavily of alcohol, especially floors two and three. I'm not complaining.

So this holiday calls for some reflection on main events from this past year, but the list of main events I compiled from this year was ridiculously boring. Frankly, I'm afraid most of my posts have been boring lately.

This Tuesday, I walked over 15 km. At least, I think it was over 15 km. I couldn't stop walking. I just walked and walked. Like Forrest Gump running.

Christmasu (Japanese) was spent at the aquarium. I don't think there is any better way to celebrate the birth of Jesus than by watching fish swim around. And octopuses (or octopi, as DK would say). I love them octopuses.

I finally finished Gravity's Rainbow. I am now one of those people who has read Gravity's Rainbow. Everyone be in awe.

Now, I'm going to enjoy 2004 the best I know how.