31 May 2004

Caught in the rain

Yesterday at about 9:30 PM, the rainy season began. I was riding my scooter downtown and the deluge swept over me like a—well, like a deluge. It was miserable. My underwear was soaked. By the time I met DK in the train station, no part of my body was dry.

I’m not worried, though. Just now, me and Hagino san stood in the aisles of GooDay and picked out a matching raincoat and rain pants set. Now, I can ride my scooter without fear.

Last night I dreamt I was in a box that was slowly collapsing. I couldn’t find a way out. I was screaming for help and then I noticed the window to my room, and realized I was dreaming.

The Times is a wonderful publication. This article is incredibly interesting, and though I thought I might comment on it, I don’t think I will. Too much sex talk lately.

This also from the Times: "Ladies need affection," Colonel McClure announces. "Take a lesson, gentlemen. Learn an adjective or two. That's conversation."

Well said, Colonel McClure. Well said.

29 May 2004

Tea Ceremony

This week DK and I took part in the famed Japanese Tea Ceremony. I ate bean curd, drank the most bitter tea I’ve ever tasted, and learned how to admire the simple things. I think the Kimono pictures pretty much speak for themselves. One day, I hope that we can do this ceremony with some beautiful Japanese women our own age. That would be wonderful.


Yeah, I think the Kimono is dead-sexy. Fukuda san was a darn good hostess. She ripped that Tea making. After having sat on my knees (and on my one butt cheek) for nearly an hour and half, I just about fell over when we had to stand up.

Endnote: Thanks for bringing up the job search. It's going pretty well actually. 85% chance I will be returning home in August.

27 May 2004

Purity Rings

Sorry to mention Avril Lavigne again, but I’m only going to do so as a means to talk about something else much more intelligent so please, bare with me. Avril Lavigne sings in her new single about not being the kind of girl who “gives it all away.” As I have been thinking a lot about commodity and especially the commodification of sex, I find it really interesting that virginity is something one either “has” or doesn’t “have,” that virginity is something we “give” and “take.”  What is it I have or don’t have exactly.

There was a movement (the name of which I can’t recall) that was popular right before my sexual blooming in which young men and women signed cards pledging to abstain from sex until marriage. I guess you carried this card around as a way to remind yourself of your pledge. As I think back on it, it seems sort of silly: Jeffy and Janice burning with passion in the back of Jeffy’s Dodge suddenly remembering their abstinence cards and immediately getting back on track. Not that I wouldn’t have signed one of those things under the pressure of an emotional youth service and the high of finally being able to own something related to my virginity. Maybe the cards were really cool too.

Certainly, this might have worked for a majority of young, passionate Christians or aspiring sexually abstinent non-religious youths. I never tried so I can’t really posit my experience as evidence for or against the card.

Of course, this all relates to my junior year in college when I wrote “Stephen’s Virginity” on a napkin and signed it. Then I tried to sell it to people (including Tom Bazan and other people I was allegedly acting as a spiritual guide for). No one ever bought it and after a couple of days, I lost it.

26 May 2004

The kind of grrrl

Here in Japan, Avril Lavigne is enjoying modest success with her new record, whatever it's called. This isn't really that ridiculous I guess, but given that not all US bands find a place in the J-POP world, it's interesting to me that Ms. Lavigne has a market here. More importantly and as many of you may know, I have, for several years, been nursing a crush on Avril Lavigne and her no-nonsense, love-'em-and-leave rock, uh--Okay, I'm going to start that sentence over: I think Avril Lavigne is great, just great. She makes me blush (there, I said it). In a conversation tonight with my brother, I began to say that I really like her voice, but caught myself when I realized how ridiculous what I was saying was. Of course I don't like Avril Lavigne's music. It's garbage. We all know that. And it's not that I'm really physical attracted to her. It's just that... well, as Richard Yates says, she makes my ears turn red. If you've heard her new single, you also know that she is a woman of virtue and isn't "that kind of grrrl." She wants to stop hanging out with guys who are all about the sex, and more interested in, well, I guess the Get Up Kids and the Dashboard Confessional. So really,  I can't go wrong. I think as far as safe crushes for an aspiring celibate like myself to have, Avril Lavigne is the tops. So tell everyone you know, if you want.

24 May 2004

Life as we know it

"The network describes 'Life As We Know It' as a 'series about three hormone-charged teenage boys who are trying to do something even harder than losing their virginity, and that's to grow up without totally freaking out.'"

22 May 2004

Jesus Freak

This entry begins way back in the early nineties. I had cut-off jean shorts, a bunch of POGs, and a crush on a girl named Sarah Bush. Everyday was another new feeling. In ’92 or ’93 I attended my very first rock concert ever: DC Talk on their Free at Last Tour, New Mexico State University. I was real stoked about going except that me and my sister Martha had to go with our dumb parents, even though my brother got to go with the youth group. This injustice was right up there with him getting to see “Jurassic Park” while I just got to collect those dumb McDonalds cups with dinosaur pictures.

The concert was fabulous. Everybody stood through the whole thing expect my dumb parents who sat with their earplugs in and looked annoyed. DC Talk was doing the whole “my band is my ministry” thing so they talked for quite a long time about Jesus. I remember feeling vindicated as my parents had to admit there was something redeeming in the whole spectacle. This was all around the time Amy Grant’s “Heart in Motion”/”House of Love” came out (I had “House of Love” thank-you very much) so people were talking about Christian music finally getting to be big with the non-Christians. The lead singer of the DC Talk, one "Tobymac", said (and I remember this very clearly), “People been asking me, ‘Toby, when’s DC Talk going to cross-over?’ and I tell them, ‘DC Talk isn’t crossing-over unless we can cross-over with the cross.’” This was met with the wild cheers of the largely Christian audience, and though I don’t think it ever really materialized, I remember thinking that would be great.

I later saw DC talk again on the “Jesus Freak” tour without my parents and ended up much closer to the stage. I remember it was wonderful.

For both of these tours, a band called “Audio Adrenaline” opened the show. I was riding my scooter home from the city tonight, and I suddenly remembered a song they sang about public schools being a mission field for young Christians. The line I remembered went something like “They pay to put you in the classes/ it’s your chance to reach the masses." This song was on the “Don’t Censor Me” album, but now as I think about it, I’m not really sure why Audio Adrenaline was afraid of being censored.

As a side note, this was also the time that my brother and sister and I were really into Michael Jackson. “Free Willy” had just come out and we loved that song. It was an anthem, again as I remember it.

I never did end up going out with Sarah Bush or actually talking to her for that matter. I wonder if she still has all that hair and is still single…

Anyway, so tonight I was out in downtown Fukuoka, just keeping it real and ended up in a park where about 5 different bands, from a couple guys with acoustic guitars to a whole band with a PA and everything, had set up and were making music. I stood around and watched the band with the PA for a little while because they were the loudest. They had a guy playing the bass, someone on the djembe, a singer/ acoustic guitar player, and a guy playing lead guitar. It was like Japanese *Nsync with guitars. I wanted to offer them a little bit of advice, not that I’m an expert on the musical whatnot, but I’ve been in several bands with varying degrees of marginal success and maybe I can help them out:

1. Don’t pay more than $20.00 (¥2000) for a haircut. Frankly, I can’t think of anyone who plays a guitar who should pay more than $20 for a haircut. Additionally, don’t dye your hair blonde if you’re Japanese. God made it black for a reason, man.

2. You can’t, CAN’T rock a solo on a Fender 15 watt practice amp. And no, your hip gyrations aren’t helping. You too, Mr. Knock-off Rickenbacker Bass.

3. Though I can totally respect playing in the park (heck, my band once played praise music at a Lutheran pastor's convention for $50), maybe you shouldn’t pretend you’re playing a club. It’s the park, man. Unplug and get rid of the hands-free microphone

4. Don’t berate the crowd into standing closer to you or worse yet, sitting on the “orangee sheeto” (read tarp) you’ve brought for people to sit on.

5. The English chorus isn’t working for anyone. The people that can understand it think it’s ridiculous and the people that can’t, well, can’t.

6. Don’t hand out flyers saying you’ll be in the park next week. That’s pathetic.

But the best thing is how many times I saw this tonight: a guy playing the guitar (maybe 17 years old) and a girl standing about 10 yards away, singing along and blushing. Because in Japan you don’t get to see that kind of public affection or adoration often. And though the music sucks and it’s got no soul, some kid picked up a guitar and wrote about how much he likes some girl. That’s what rock and rolls really all about, I think. So keep on truckin’ Japanese rock band. I believe in you.

The Last Emperor

The Last Emperor is a film you might want to see. It’s breath-taking, absolutely breath-taking. And despite several very awkward breast-feeding scenes, one involving a 12 year-old that I’m not convinced we needed to see, it’s really an incredibly solid movie. Also, it’s about Asia, and Asia, friend--well, Asia is the best place on earth.

My sister is graduating from college this weekend, and I’m trying not to think about it too much as I am here on the other side of the freaking world.

My e-mail address is changing for all of you who enjoy the occasional e-mail correspondence with me. As I have now been graduated from college for a year (yeah, I totally don’t believe it either), my school address (Spihlaja@knox.edu) is expiring. Now, you must reach me at MySonAbsalom@hotmail.com. Also, I may occasionally be available at MySonAbsalom@knoxalumni.org. Additionally, I plan to move to Google’s server once they get their crap together.

18 May 2004


Well, let's just say Genki: An Integrated Course in Japanese has darn near changed my life. I've been learned more in two days of reading this book then I've learned in a month and a half of tutoring. A systematic, simple approach to the language: who'd have thunk it?
Anyway, now, armed with the power to speak in sentences with more than one verb (an unlimited number of verbs, really), I can now say things like, "Today, before teaching English, I ate a pita from KFC and it was good and I made a mess of my shirt." See? Japanese fluency, here I come.

Asashoryu is 8-1. The rather quiet response to yesterday's Sumo introduction will lead me to believe that maybe only one comment about Sumo is needed.

(That sentence was a train wreck. I couldn't say that in Japanese. No way.

I totally was on Timmy's show yesterday and pissed Don off by saying that Rueben Studdard shouldn't say damn in his songs because it's corrupting the kids. I don't think Don realized I was making a joke. Later, I said I wanted to be reincarnated as Timmy's roommate Donny, but I don't think anyone heard me say that. Thanks, Timmy, for the good music and good times.

The job hunt is pretty lame. I don't know why I even brought it up.

But, more than likely, this summer will bring the Great Wall of China and the Minnesota State Fair. It will be the best summer ever.

16 May 2004

Sumo san

For all of you who are following the sumo tournament via my IM messages (which is probably nobody, actually…never mind, I’m going to start again.)

Well, as many of you know, I am a big fan of Sumo. For all you inbreds out there who just think sumo is a bunch of fat naked guys grabbing at each other: you’re wrong. Sumo is a sport of great talent and agility. Every match is epic. Anyway, right now we have the Spring Tokyo Basho going on, one of the six Sumo tournaments held every year. The tournament will last for 15 days and each wrestler has to wrestler once a day. Asashoryu is a Yokozuna, the highest ranking Sumo class. He rules. He’s from Mongolia and takes no crap from nobody. He says, basically, No one tells Asashoryu who Asashoryu needs to respect expect Asashoryu. Going into this tournament (and for the first five or six bouts) he had the fourth longest winning streak in the sport. The last time he had lost was in Kyushu. Well, these things can’t last forever and he finally lost on Friday (or Thursday, but I think it was Friday.)

Asashoryu’s one loss was handed to him by none other than Hokutoriki.  Hokutoriki had been having a darned good run this time around and was undefeated until today, when he basically missed the jump at the beginning of his bout and Wakanosato more or less had his way with him.

Takamisakari is a cartoon of a man. He just makes me angry. His presence in the sport is a joke. Anyway, he wrestled Asashoryu yesterday, and surprise, surprise got run into the ground. I was a little worried because after Asashoryu ran him into the ground, Asashoryu was limping. He was okay though. As far as Takamisakari goes, I just want to put my arm around him and say, “Dude, give it up.” He is also on this dumb commercial selling spices for rice. Someone needs to give him the ol' pipe wrench to the knee. Why does that vicious underhanded crap only happen in figure skating?

Pipe smoking is, unfortunately, one of the best things in the world. I now enjoy it once a month, but if it didn’t cause mouth, lung, and/or throat cancer, let’s just say I’d be smoking now.

After having been a fan of their live show for years, I finally got the Denali record. It's good. Since they broke up, I will have to console myself with the recorded version of these songs, but really, it just can't compare to the show. Don't get me wrong, it's wonderful, but a Denali show, the Fireside Bowl in the sweltering press of summer? Really, can anything else compare?

Finally, I fell asleep on the train next to a girl. When I opened my eyes, the bench had cleared and we were the only two people sitting there, right next to each other. In Japan, this sort of intimate thing can just happen by chance, right there on the train. It doesn't bother me.

15 May 2004

The others

The Pedro record, like a fine wine, just gets better.

Last night, I viewed the film “The Others” for a second time. I hoped to post a frame from the film up here, but my search on Yahoo! photos turned up a great deal of pornography so I gave up. Anyway, the point is, in “The Others,” light plays a very important role in most all of the shots. The darkness swallows people up. That is by far the most important thing about the film to me.

I’m currently on a fast from news, and the internet in general (except for Xanga, Hotmail, and Pitchfork) as I realized, after another night of nightmares about the war, that I was entirely too wrapped up in what was going on. Maybe taking a break from following it so closely will help me get some sleep.

DK and I are arguing over who is the greatest entertainer of the 20th century. Dan says Frank Sinatra, I say Will Smith. Your opinions will be welcomed.

Also, I will be on the radio on Sunday night, as noted earlier. Please tune in and turn it up. Many surprises, I’m sure. Many, many surprises.

Other possibilities for Entertainer of the Century: Robin Williams, Bill Cosby, and Chris Rock

12 May 2004

An octopus escaping, an elaborate, surreal opera

I am listening to the new Pedro. Oooo-la-ooooo-la-li. It's sweeter than most every kind of candy. It's also about how Patriarchy has failed us. This is something that the dude is very interested in because Patriarchy has been failing him now for almost three months. Bazan's singing about running away and stuff. Yeah, man. Yeah.

So last week me and the Shiota kids were talking about the difference between pretty and ugly. I don't know how I feel about teaching kids about what is pretty and what is ugly as all that is pretty arbitrary and the source of a good deal of pain in someone's life, I'm sure. But anyway, here I have drawn what I consider "pretty." She looks sort of like this girl I know. I guess I'm a little surprised that my vision of what is pretty now. I like this picture a lot. I like that she's got a bow in her hair. I'm hoping that one night, she will come alive and I will wake up and she will be sitting at my desk. I will probably have to say hello in Japanese though, because I don't think she speaks English. Maybe we'd go for a walk.

The job search blows. I don't know if I'll get to stay in Fukuoka. Stay tuned.

I've been telling a story in Japanese about talking to some goats at Noko no Shima. I think this story is only funny to me and maybe the first people I told it to. But man, the goats speak ENGLISH. That's why it's so funny.

Also, I'm going to be on the radio at 10 on Sunday night. Expect most of the new Pedro record. And maybe Asian 20 Questions. Plus, my commentary on American Idol, the war in Iraq, and your mom.

Last night, DK and I and some people from the church went to the Fish Market at 3 in the morning. I went to sleep before we went so when I woke up, the whole thing felt like a dream. Fukuoka wasn't helping either as the streets were pretty empty and, well, it's Japan. The fish market was incredible. It was only for fish wholesalers, so we stood up in the gallery and just watched. A heap load of fish. If you looked out the windows of the gallery, the boats were coming in with the new fish. I spent about seven minutes staring at a woman smoking a cigarette and sorting bait. The whole thing — the light fog on the ocean, the Japanese of the auctioneer, an octopus escaping from his cooler — it was like an elaborate, surreal opera.

11 May 2004

Richard Yates

The more I read Richard Yates, the more at home I feel. Because Richard Yates just wrote the same story over and over. And I can't seem to stop writing the same story over and over. So for everyone who's been criticized for writing the same story over and over, I say, Man, it's dirt off your shoulder. Let's all spend some time with Dick Yates. He will make us feel home again.

10 May 2004

I'm sick

Some things of note:
  1. I'm sick. I'm not really sure with what, but it involves sweating and my nose running. Also, the dark matter.
  2. My mother-loving testimony plodded along. Nothing spectacular. I got through it.
  3. I think I have a job interview in Nagoya. It's sort of everything I don't want as far as where it is and when it begins, but everything I want as far as what kind of job it is. Also, they're sponsor my visa. And that, that's a thing the dude needs a whole heap lot.
  4. Additionally, this not working full-time is going to kill me. I don't know what to do with myself anymore. Oh, oh wait:
  5. I bought a Playstation. Oh yeah, it is incredible. Come over sometime and I'll kick your butt at Tekken 2.

07 May 2004


This will be a bi-partisan post:

Thank-you, President Bush. I was surprised, proud, whatever when I read this. We put politics aside for a minute and did the right thing. And I respect that immensely.

I was also touched by this photo. Yes, of course, we should be skeptical of anything from the campaign trail, but this moment, for whatever it’s worth, seemed genuine to me.

Okay, now to defend Mr. Kerry some: You know, I’ve heard a lot of people ripping on Kerry for changing his mind. Gasp! John Kerry changed his mind: he can’t be trusted. Well, you know what, I for one don’t really have that much of a problem with folks changing their mind. Why? Because, you know, sometimes we do the wrong thing and have to change our mings. John Kerry, like me, takes a crap in the morning. He brushes his teeth too. Sometimes, like me and you, he changes his mind. Why do we expect that our public figures should hold exactly the same views for the whole of their public lives? What about freaking personal growth? Isn't there any room for that?

Okay, a caveat: if Mr. Kerry is just changing his mind to feed the monkey (as I suspect is sometimes the case) then he has no love from the dude. Because though Mr. Kerry and I may be similar in many ways, there’s one thing the dude doesn’t do: and that’s feed the monkey.

(Evidence of the Dude feeding the monkey forthcoming, I’m sure.)

This wasn’t a very intelligent sounding post.

06 May 2004

Mother-loving Testimonies

Well, the mother-loving testimony continues to plug along. I’m practicing reading it out-loud so that on Sunday I don't sound like a complete dunce fumbling my ne's and mu's. It’s been going well, I think. I still have three days to practice.

Yesterday, under the pretense of meeting some people from States (alright, alright, girls from States), I went to a bar that smelled like a urinal and listened to James Brown records with a bunch of people. It was more fun than I’ve had in a very long time. And, no man, there weren't any girls from the States. I just sat on a couch, drank a cherry coke, and told Superb Dan he was wildly misguided to say that Bob Dylan really wasn't all that great. Bob Dylan, man.

Can’t we just say we’re sorry? I mean, I’m very sorry. I’m sure most of us are. In fact, if you aren’t sorry, you’re a bad person. So let’s swallow our fricking pride and say that we’re sorry.

This is the worst news I’ve heard in a couple of weeks.

Please, also: believe in what you want. As you are believing in what you want, you will see pictures of me with Japanese women who are much older than me and for whom, yesterday, I acted as a sort of multi-purpose “ethnic” presence. This included explaining what the cooties are. And also taking my picture with some goats that totally weren’t into having their picture taken with me.

Endnote: I think it's weird that Elizabeth's site can be linked with the word "urinal."

03 May 2004

Goruden Uiku

Hello, everyone. Here in Japan we are celebrating a week of holidays known as Golden Week (in Japanese “Goluden Uiku”). Unfortunately, the weather is not co-operating and it has not stopped raining since yesterday afternoon. This pins Steve-o down in the apartment as he has no money to take the train anywhere. So he’s been reading Richard Yates.

Richard Yates is best read when it’s raining, though if you’re not careful, you can get pretty depressed. For those of you who have read _Revolutionary Road_ (the best post-modern novel if you don’t count _Gravity’s Rainbow_), you know what I’m talking about. More or less, Yates’ characters stumble around in a drunken stupor arguing with one another. This, unfortunately, is an accurate description of Richard Yates’ life as well.

Anyway, at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Yates was a mentor of Robin Metz who I like to think of as one of my mentors. Yates really rubbed off on Robin as Robin is a kind of Richard Yates II without the novel. Given that I’m sort of in this “line” of writers, I’m wondering I’m doomed to several marriages of varying success and a life of alcoholism. I hope the brilliant novel just skips a generation.

I am working on a short story, but it is neither about alcoholism or California.

Okay, it stopped raining.

I added a module on the side of my site with quotes from stuff I’m reading. The first one was from Bell Hooks about Black racism and White supremacy. Read _Black Looks_. Enough said. Now, please note the Yates’ quote. Although I myself prefer the more celibate lifestyle and imagine that sexual intercourse outside the confines of a loving, monogamous, marriage relationship only incurs the wrath of the Almighty, I like this quote a whole lot.

Speaking of sex (well, not sex exactly, but just Steve-o/ female relations in general which I assure you don’t involve sex), several things of note: 1- (from an e-mail to Tom Bazan) There was this girl at the grocery store yesterday, bagging. Sweet moses. We made eye-contact like six times in the five minutes I wandered around the store. I wanted to say so badly in Japanese, “If you weren’t Buddhist and you spoke English, I would like to go for a walk with you sometime.” 2- Additionally, I had a dream about a girl. We talked for a while and I fell asleep. It was very nice.

I don't think I'll ever see the girl in the grocery store again. If I did, the best I could do is: “You’re Buddhist and you can’t speak English. I want to walk with you.”

It's raining again.

Endnote 1: I watched _Jackass: The Movie_ last night. Oh man. I don't think there are a lot of things funnier than Johnny Knoxville asking Dave England: "Is this the worst you've ever had to go boom-boom?"