29 July 2004

Republicans and Democrats

After a discovery of C-span.org I’ve been enjoying watching the Democratic National Convention, as well as other assorted political whatnot. I haven’t been able to get to Bush’s campaign website because my computer won’t load it so it was good to hear his stump speech from last year. A couple of observations:

John Edwards, I love you buddy, but if you give that doe-eyed, I’m-the-son-of-a-mill-workers-daughter look one more time, I think I’m going to have to ralph. Seriously, watching John Edwards speak is like eating ten Snickers bars in a row. By the time everyone was chanting “THE POLITICS OF HOPE,” I had to stop.

Barack Obama. Remember that name.

Bill Clinton, I’ve decided, is not Satan. I’ve been misled, I think. I saw a speech he gave about his book, mostly about how great it is that we can disagree in the States and not have to hate each other. If there’s one thing I learned at college, it was that even though you disagree with someone, it doesn’t mean you can’t live together and enjoy one another.

Michael Moore and Bill O’Reilly arguing about what a “lie” is, is like watching two seals slap each other. Quick overview, Michael Moore thinks misleading someone based on faulty information is a lie. O’Reilly doesn’t. Also, Michael Moore wouldn’t die in Iraq, but Bill O’Reilly would, though he wouldn’t necessarily send his kid. Also, Michael Moore doesn’t want Bill O’Reilly to die.

I also have devised this easy one question quiz to determine your political party affiliation. Here we go:

Taxes are:

A) Bad.
B) Good

A makes you a Republican. B makes you a Democrat.

Or you can try this one:

The government is:

A) The problem.
B) The problem in every area of life except defense, homeland security and defining marriage as not gay.
C) Supposed to provide after-school programs for kids. Also, defense too. I don’t think the government should be weak on defense. Seriously. I don’t. John Kerry can kill. He’s a killer. Don’t think that he can’t kill.

For you A people, sorry, you have no party. B, well, I think that’s pretty clear which makes C pretty clear too, I guess.

Well, I’m a step away from the job. A step. Give me 48 hours. Maybe 72.

28 July 2004

Illegal parking

It’s always a surprise to me what the Japanese take very seriously that people in the US blow off. Today, it’s illegal parking. I “illegally” parked my bike (and illegally is in quotes because I’ve been parking in the same place for the last four months) and it cost me ¥9000 (that’s 83-84 USD). It did afford me an interesting trip to the police station, trying to understand the cop I was talking to. One of the other cops sat down and said to me, “Faster than a bullet, more power than a locomotive. I am Superman. Okay?”

But I’m listening to Jay-Z. He doesn’t like the law neither.

Things continue to wind down here. I will now be home in 11 days. On Monday, I saw Superb Dan and Suewan for the last time as they are moving to Hong Kong today. We hung out at an arcade, ate Ramen, and watched a band play on the street in Tejin. It was a good night, and I will miss hanging out with Superb Dan and Suewan. They are good people with genuine empathy and I think that’s a good thing. So good luck to them.

Things have been sort of in upheaval since about Thursday morning, but I don’t really feel like writing about them. I’m sure everyone will hear enough when I get home and we’ll talk it through.

I’m interviewing for a job next week that will require me to be back in Fukuoka on August 22nd which will end up cutting my vacation back by a week, but I think that’s okay. I’m not looking forward to flying standby though and missing a week of enjoyment. But I gotta feed the monkey.

And it’s so hot here.

Finally, I’m bringing back a couple of things to the States, but I think the thing I am bringing back for Bob Kurtz is hands down the best thing ever.

25 July 2004

Summer Camp

There is a good chance that I won’t get this post off tonight, but if you’re reading this then I guess I made it. First, thanks to everyone who sent their love to my bum. After several relaxing and, uh, healing soaks in the Japanese public bath, things have returned to normal for the most part. So thank-you.

I spent the last two days out in the boonies of Japan doing a summer camp with 24 kids, four seminary students, DK, and the pastor of our church and his family. Being that I don’t speak Japanese at a functional level, I spent a majority of the time trying to figure where I was supposed to be and what everyone what talking about it. Me and DK did a lot of talking to the kids in English, though. There is nothing better than putting your arm around a Japanese 1st grader and saying, “Whatever happens, I won’t give up.”

I was able to get out of the weekend without any injuries which I consider an accomplishment as a punch to the crouch is apparently an appropriate form of entertainment for boys here. 

In related news, a highlight of the weekend was standing around naked after taking a bath and trying to get the boys to put some deodorant on.

There was totally a time when we had to catch fish with our bare hands in this tank of water. I did my part. I might also mention the reason I have my sleeves rolled-up like a redneck is because I am currently 4 different shades of tan. I’m trying to fix things a little bit.

You probably all know this because you went to public school, but I didn’t realize how much grade school boys and girls dislike each other. I mean they would have nothing to do with the opposing team. Nothing. Well, one day.

When we all had to draw our pictures of what we thought God looked like, one kid drew a picture of a guy with blonde hair and a soul patch.

Anyway, if you’d like to see more, I suggest you check out this and look under, “Whatever happens, Yuto". I'll try to get that up sometime tomorrow. Now, I'm going to sleep. Please, keep it real until later.

22 July 2004

Re-introducing myself

Allow me to re-introduce myself.

I’m going away for the weekend to help take care of some kids at Summer Camp. I may have a job now, and I definitely have a hemorrhoid. You would think these two things would cancel each other out, but I have to say, the joy of the possibility of working for a company that I like, doing what I want to do, far outweighs the fact that I have some slight discomfort whenever I sit down.

17 July 2004

Still out of money

If you know when my Japanese class is supposed to be, please e-mail me.

I wrote a long entry on Thursday about the struggle of trying to keep our 16 year-old apartment guest entertained this last week, but I wasn't pleased with it as a whole. Here are several excerpts:

"Yesterday, we saw Fukuoka City on a shoestring budget as Steve-o doesn’t currently really have any money. But the thing is, if you’ve ever tried to entertain a sixteen year-old boy before, unless, you know, you have maybe a small army of midgets or some famous rock band, it can’t be done. But I tried, dear diary, I tried."

"Sometime during the day, I mentioned that I was going to a festival in Hakata on Thursday at like 5 in the morning. It’s the most famous festival in Japan and involves half-naked men running through the streets, carrying one-ton portable shrines, and shouting, “Oisa!” Yeah, I know, it rules. Anyway, I mentioned this to Ariel and said that he could go except that there weren’t any trains. I sort of mentioned off hand that if he took the last train and stayed out all night… Well, that sounded great to him and I realized as I was saying it that I couldn’t let him hang out by himself all night downtown."

"Anyway, because I was/ am still out of money, I decided to stick him on the train and take my motorbike with very precise instructions as to where we were to meet. So I went downtown to meet him and got to our meeting place, and, that’s right, no Ariel. I called Dan to see if he went back to the apartment which he had as he was stopped by the police on the way to the train station. His story about the police officer didn’t really stack up as the time he left, how long he said he talked to the officer, and when he came home didn’t really match up with when he actually left and when he actually came home. Whatever."

I did go to the Yamakasa Festival alone and it did rule.

14 July 2004


 Kamiryo sensei, one of my students, was silly enough to wager me that someone will be able to overtake Asashoryu and win at the Nagoya Basho this week. Come on Kamiryo Sensei. Isn't that a little silly? If I win, Kamiryo Sensei is bringing me some fried chicken, so I'm pretty happy about that. If I lose, I gotta bring him beer and potato chips. But there's no way Asashoryu is going to lose. I mean, he's the Morning Blue Dragon.

In unrelated news, I didn't get the freaking job with ALTIA. They're still stringing me along though as they said another position may open up in the next couple of weeks. I just applied for a couple of new jobs, just now. We'll see. Someone, throw me a frickin' bone.

Also, I'm not going to marry people. I interviewed for the job and felt that pretending to marry people in Jesus' name with a big dumb cross around my neck would probably incur the wrath of the Almighty more so than my current life of at least striving for holiness. I couldn't see doing that and telling people that Jesus was blessing them when in fact, I was pretty sure that he wasn't. All that means I still have my soul. My virginity may be lost somewhere on the Knox campus, but I still have my soul. And I don't intend to sell that.

Earlier, I asked if anyone liked the Velvet Teen. Now I'm asking, who would like to see the Velvet Teen with me in Chicago in August? Zehi.

11 July 2004

Religious Roots

Who else likes the Velvet Teen?

If you didn't know, there is currently a "Battle for Marriage," which means, of course, that marriage is "Under Fire." If you don't believe me, I suggest you try to wade through the eleven arguments against gay marriage made by Focus on the Family. I've been so livid after reading this that I couldn't comment on it. But don't worry, my satirical voice has returned. I'm wondering if an argument can be made against gay marriage that doesn't include any of the following propaganda:

1) "If courts create their own arbitrary definition of marriage as a mere legal contract, and cut marriage off from its cultural, religious and natural roots, then the meaning of marriage is lost and the institution is weakened." But given that fact that we are talking about a "law" for what amounts to a "legal contract," what's the problem with defining marriage as it is: a legal contract? Is the government now in the business of sanctioning not only a legal contract but also a spiritual one? I guess that's okay so long as it's Christian and not say, Muslim or one of those other religions. Now, given my religious beliefs, yes, I believe that marriage in front of God is sacred and worth defending on all these fronts. But we're talking about the government here. We're talking about laws. We're not talking about the "natural and religious" roots of marriage. Give me a call when the Evangelical Free Church of which I am a member starts marrying gay couples.

2) "If we let the gays marry, tomorrow everyone is going to become a polygamist." Really, now are we arguing about gay marriage or polygamy? Let's try to stick to one or the other. Don't worry, though, I'm terrified of polygamy as much as the next guy. I'll do anything to make sure that doesn't happen between our shining seas.

3) "The health care system will stagger and perhaps collapse." This one really gets me. I can't count the times I've had this conversation:

Me: Oh, hey Dave I heard you and Laura are getting married. Good work, dude.
Dave: Well, we're basically getting married because Laura wants to share my health benefits.
Me: Oh? That's cool, I guess.
Dave: Yeah, I mean, we really don't like each other or love each other or anything. We just want the health benefits. I think there's some sort of tax break too.

But those gays or those gays pretending to be gay!

Me: Rick, I heard you and Rick are getting married.
Rick: Yeah, I mean, we're not really gay but we want the health benefits. It's a small price to pay though, getting married. I think it will be kind of fun.

(A side note, I once seriously considered claiming I was in a domestic partnership just so I could have a chance to live off campus at college. So maybe I shouldn't throw any stones.)

And also, Mr. Dobson/ Focus on the Family, as Christians, shouldn't we strive for everyone to have equal medical care? I mean, you want everyone with AIDS to suffer and not be treated? That seems a little bit un-Christian/ hypocritical.

4) "Religious freedom will almost certainly be jeopardized." Again, I'm terrified! They're going to haul me off to prison for saying I don't think being gay is Biblical. Like when they hauled me to prison for saying that divorce was wrong. Also, and I hate to bring up the Bible again, isn't a big part of our Christian religion being persecuted for our faith? Or was that only for those poor saps in "non-Christian" countries (like commie countries)? Again, call me when they start throwing people in prison and I'll go get thrown in prison too, right after they throw me in prison for refusing to kill for my country. Take a fricken' number.

5) "Other nations are watching our march toward homosexual marriage and will follow our lead." The same way they followed our lead in Iraq. We're like the Pied Piper and the "nations of the world" are the rats.

6) "The gospel of Jesus Christ will be severely curtailed." Cause the gays will be trying to, uh, stop everyone from, uh, talking about Jesus. I buy that connection too. But again, don't worry, I'm terrified. I'm calling my senator as I type this. Crap, he's not in, hold on, I'll leave a message: "Mr. Senator, hi this is Stephen Pihlaja, not calling about the draft again, don't worry. This time I'm calling about the gays getting married. Is it true that if the gays start marrying, I won't be able to be a Christian anymore? I'm really upset about that because I really like being a Christian — well, except when it's hard. When it's hard I don't really like it, and if it was hard a lot of the time, I don't know if I'd want to be one anymore, really. So please, you have to save my Christianity! NO GAY MARRIAGE."

By the way, I just thought of a way to get past the health care problem: Why not have universal health coverage? Then we don't have to worry about Rick and Walter and Philip marrying Rick just to get his health coverage. They can continue having their gay commune while the rest of us can rest peacefully, knowing the gays aren't getting married.

Sorry, where was I? Oh, yeah, I'm terrified.

08 July 2004

Marrying people

You know how there are guys who marry people and that's kind of what they do for a living? Well, on Monday, I'm interviewing for that job. You're kidding me, you might be saying, Those kind of people need licenses or educations or something, right? Well, surprisingly, no. And I guess you get paid handily for it. You just read the script, hang out with the family for an hour and you're finished. If this all comes together, I'm looking forward to telling people that I make love for a living.

I would also like to encourage all of you to listen to PInk Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" while watching "The Wizard of Oz." It'll blow your mind.

06 July 2004

I bend

I had just about the least patriotic Fourth of July that one can have as it mostly involved speaking Japanese, watching sumo and watching the Euro Cup Final with Superb Dan and Suewan, the Englanders. But I’m not complaining as I enjoyed all those things a great deal more than watching fireworks and eating hot dogs. Greece totally won the Euro Cup Final, not that I really cared either way, but it was cool to see the underdog win. Also, after Greece won, one of the players from Portugal was crying like a little baby. I think that’s pretty much uncalled for. If you’re going to cry like a little baby, well, in my book you got bigger problems than losing the Euro Cup.

I’m getting over Avril Lavigne as now I’m obsessed with someone who is neither a celebrity or a poser.

I think the NY Times is running a “Elect John Kerry at all Freaking Costs” campaign. Today’s article made me proud to be American and also yearn for change in this great, great land of ours while simultaneously wishing George Bush would fall into an abandoned coal mine. That’s right, New York Times? That’s what you wanted me to feel?

July Sumo Tournament means my life now revolves around being in front of a TV from 5:30- 6:00 to see Asashoryo have his way with whomever he’s having his way with on a given day.

03 July 2004

English-Speaking Conventions

The heat of the apartment is turning out to be more oppressive than previously expected. And though I promptly remove my pants upon entering, I still can’t manage to stop sweating. I’m sure you all have great ideas for how I might cool down and I’m sure that I would love to hear them. So please.

Today, DK and I helped out at this Jr. High School’s English-Speaking Convention. It wasn’t really a convention, but I like the sound of convention. It was great and we met some 16/17 year-olds from New Zealand and Australia that I swore were the kids from Harry Potter. They kind of put the Americans to shame as they were trying very hard to do everything in the most Japanese way possible and, well, your country’s contingent wasn’t. They also had really important sounding names like “Julian Nash” and “Something Lipton.” Anyway, I asked them about Kangaroos and whether or not you could use that pouch to carry stuff around, but this only led to a really boring description of what the pouch is actually for. I didn’t know this, but I guess Kangaroos are a nuisance in the “bush.” They run into cars and stuff. I was like, Ship some out to the States: We’ll appreciate their unique beauty and hopping, you brats.

The one kid who looked like the red-headed kid from Harry Potter (namely because he, uh, had red hair) is dating a Japanese girl so he rules.

I always have a hard time fitting into Japanese school slippers. Today I was like one of the older, ugly sisters in Cinderella.

I also went to karaoke for the first time on Wednesday and totally ruined Avril’s “Complicated.” SORRY AVRIL!!! XOXOXOXOXOXO We had a good time, but the Dude here can’t A) sing well or sing badly in a funny way and B) dance or feel comfortable around people that are dancing. Especially an incredibly effeminate Japanese man who, talking about a picture of Michael Jackson and a bunch of kids, said he felt a lot of “sexual temptation.” Me and DK have been trying to figure out what he was trying to say and hoping he didn’t mean what he said.

If you receive a phone call from me asking who you’re going to vote for and why, don’t be alarmed. I’m just really confused.