30 July 2005

Working for a paycheck

So you know when that asshat Conor Oberst says, "I'd rather be working for a paycheck than waiting to win the lottery"? I think that might be true.

Certainly, this doesn't diminish the fact that he's an asshat though. I'd like to make that perfectly clear.

29 July 2005

Impressionable Jr. Higher

I just remembered this, just now:

When I was coming back from a Promise Keepers Rally as an impressionable Jr. Higher (Promise Keepers? Yeah, that's right), I was riding with my friend Gabe's family. On the way home on Sunday, we stopped Tony Evans' church. Tony Evans is this big black dude, powerful preacher, real passionate. We sat up in the balcony, me and Gabe and his brothers and dad. There was a skit that morning I remember, two dudes talking about masturbation. I was twelve, but a homeschooled twelve year-old so I still wasn't certain why men and women were different, just that it probably had to do with something I probably shouldn't be thinking about. Masturbation, though, was a new word for me. I'd never heard it. So I leaned over to Gabe, who was my age, but I thought he probably knew, and I asked, "What's masturbation?"

Gabe answered, "It's like when you do it with a bed."

Do it with a bed? I thought, Do what?

On that car ride, we also wrote a short story entitled "The Very Old Chimney (and What It Saw)" which I shit you not, is still on my hard drive:

The Very Old Chimney (and what it saw)
By Master Stephen Pihlaja and Gaberiel Jaime

Once upon... a roof there was a chimney and this chimney saw many things and this is what he saw:
Mrs. Hingelsmith (whom he wished he didn't see) and Mr. Hingelsmith whose bald head reflected light and blinded him. The reason he wished he didn't see Mrs. Higny (that's what we'll call her) was because she wore purple socks with yellow dresses with orange spots. And Mr. Higny's ugly toupee was a neato green. And every Tuesday they would pass by him and say, "Hola and aloha to all and to all a good night?" Mrs. Hingy would take her socks and bless the sun for giving her light. Now Mr. Hingy occupation was a trashman. He liked this job because whenever he wanted something to eat.. well, you know. He also found "second-hand" paper plates and took them home so they had extras. Mrs. Hingy's young lad, Dingy Hingy, excelled in spitting. In fact, they lived off his earnings on the spitting circuit and Mr. Dingy's second-hand food.
Now when Dingy Hingy was twelve years old he choked on a spit wad while practicing at home and he died. His parents were so sad and so poor they burnt the house down and moved to Zimbabwe. And all that was left was the chimney.
I, the Chimney, thought that being burnt was okay except that my eyebrows were burnt. New people moved in and built a house around me.
These new people were a family of twenty kids, a man, and his twenety wives. And the names of the kids were: Suzy, Danny, Donna, Carry, Peter, Timmy, Smithy, John, Mikey, Paul, Tom, Sam, Tony, Henry, Penny, Carla, Mandy, Stephen, Gabe, and Liz. (Remember all those names, they'll be important later.)
These kids would randomly climb up me, fall down, and hurt themselves. Except whenever somebody would get hurt, their dad would (this is soooo sad) blame me. So I tried to leave this evil family. But however hard I tried, I couldn't grow legs.
All these kids were ten years old and born on the same day, January, 5 1985. And only one was nice. Timmy. He was the only one who didn't try to take a leak in me. How generous.
On Christmas, since Santa was supposed to come, Daddy would climb up the roof, fall into to me head first, and the forty one person family would spend Christmas in the Emergency room singing "Joy to the world, Daddy isn't dead."
Now that I have told you about my family let me tell you about my neighbor. He was a hermit and he hated kids (he would lock them in his basement if they got on his property). The strangest thing about him was he only wore underwear and he never let his chest uncovered. How weird. But his chimney, Jeanette, was wonderful.
Jeanette had long, soft smoke and her bricks were beautiful. A single tear runs down my face and I shall tell you why. The hermit went insane, kidnapped all the kids, and locked them in his basement. Jeanette tried to send emergency smoke signals, but the hermit found out and (sniff, sniff) burnt his house down.
But saddest part is Jeanette died. She was so sad about losing her house and the pressure was so great she crumbled into a pile of sand. All the kids lived except Suzy on who Jeanette fell. But their father blamed me for it all so he put me off limits saying I was cursed. And by the way, the hermit died in his own fire.
The Dad once forgot I was cursed and started a fire in me. I saw my chance and started to blow fire into the house. The dad remembered I was cursed, started crying, and let the house burn down. The dad and the mother of Suzy died. The rest, including Timmy, Swore at me and left.
The next family to move in was an elderly couple (and when I say elderly, I mean elderly). The woman, Mrs. Fogey, kept calling me someone named Bobby, (my name is Scot) and talked to me all the time. While the man's teeth fell out all the time and no matter where they fell out, even the back yard (they had a dog), he would put them back in.
Mogey Fogey, their little monster of a dog, saw me as a tree. How evil I had been treated throughout my life. I decided, no more. Every time they would start a fire I would eat it and save it up. One day I had enough fire to burn the house down and I did.
I repeated this over and over again through the 80 families I lived with. With 80 different house all ending the same, either I or they would burn down the house. Finally after the last family had left and archeologist came and realized I was over 1000 years old and made me into a museum. And now I tell my story to you.
The End

I hope this helps you understand me a little more.

28 July 2005

Moving on up

We’re going to take a short break from talks of the atonement to address more trivial pursuits.

I quit my job on Sunday and signed a contract with my new school. This means that I have three days left of teachers' meetings in the elementary schools at the end of August and come September 1st, I will be working only for the prestigious Meikun High School. I just like saying that, the prestigious Meikun High School. People have been asking me where I work lately and I say, Oh, at Meikun. Oh, at Meikun — I like the ring of that. No more butt-poking, which seems to be the dominant passtime for elementary school students in this country. Meikun is also in the freaking prefectural baseball championship: big news in this area. All the games have been on TV. It’s cool. Oh, yeah I work for that school.

And yeah, no offense to NASA or whatever, but shouldn’t making sure that the shuttle will likely stay together upon lift-off be right up there on the list of priorities? They delayed the launch because the fuel gauge was broken, but that seems a little less important than, you know, the shit staying together. If the dude was in charge?

"NASA reportedly delayed the space shuttle Columbia's mission today to make sure 'all that shit sticks together.' Senior NASA official Stephen Pihlaja was quoted as saying, 'We've been having a lot of problems with shit sticking together lately. We just wanna make sure none of our shit comes apart this time.'"

::thinks hard:: No… no, I don’t think there’s anyway to blame the terrorists for this. Oh, wait… No, I got nothing.

I cleaned my car for a girl? Yes, I cleaned my car for a girl.

If this doesn’t get some conversation started then I’m going to have to do something more drastic.

26 July 2005

On atonement

On atonement:

Thank-you to Amos, for your helpful, and thoughtful response. Powertobecome's reponse, over 26 pages in a word document is a riduculously monotonous read and smacks of evangelical lingo that I find largely uninteresting and unengaging. I will give it another shot, but I'm not promising anything. My brother sent me an article from a friend of his that I have found helpful:

"Sin aims at destruction and the deprivation of good. The forgiver suffers this violence in his/her person and exhausts its effects. Choosing to forgive is thus the choice to suffer, the choice to bear the evil of sin and thereby to stop its parasitic spreading by exhausting its violence in oneself. In enduring sin and exhausting its destructive effects, Christ in the cross submitted himself to evil’s ultimate consequence, death. Yet by bearing sin in himself, the death of Christ at the hands of evil is paradoxically the death of evil itself (Col. 2:15). Through love, sin is conquered and condemned (Rom. 8:3). Forgiveness is thus ‘an alternative form of power…[which] is found in Christ’s cross and resurrection…it is this power that breaks apart the cycles of violence and offers a re-turning of the announcement of God’s peace.’ I agree with Colin Gunton when he asserts that ‘the death of Jesus under the law reveals the way in which God puts right the lawlessness of the universe, not punitively but transformatively, by sheer grace.’ There is a metaphysical and expiatory power that love possesses through Christ (1 Cor. 13; Phil. 2:1-11); it is the power to purify sinners and ‘overcome evil with good’ (Rom. 12:21). " -James R. A. Merrick

Mr. Hunt wrote,

"So to clarify what I was trying to say before about the various metaphors: Christ's role as the blameless sacrificial lamb is inseparable from his place as head of the mystical body of belivers, and his office as high priest and mediator for the royal priesthood, and his household position as the son and heir.

All of this is a mystery, and I can't think of any more bible verses."

Mystery I guess is what I would like to talk about. Because this has beeen said now several times, "We don't know how Jesus covered all the sins of the sinful, we just know that he did." This is nice to say, but it doesn't address my problem which is this: Why is it just to punish an innocent person in the place of a gulity person? Justice is not mystery. Divorced from Jesus, is there any situation (historical/ contemporary, philsophical/ pragamatic) where this, for lack of a better word, makes sense? Or more importantly, fulfills a sense of justice?

Maybe this has a to do with my larger problem of wanting to see religious principles reflected in natural ways. What I mean to say is, when nature reflects spirit, we have a wonderful congruency between what we believe and what we know. I spoke about this with a friend last night as I looked at a tree, the wonder of a tree is natural and works as a beautiful reflection of a god, I believe. Pondering the tree while denying a higher power is difficult, I think.

So I seek this in my life because we can see god in life: that when evil is responded to with good, good results. When love is chosen over hate, harmony results. These are biblical principles worked out in nature.

I know if has been hip to talk smack about the Catholics since the reformation, but the Catholics have nailed mystery so well. Enough that I want to side with them more so than the Evangelicals. I accept mystery as long as mystery is not contrary to reason. I don't think the two oppose each other. It doesn't, however, help the understanding of why it is that Jesus' sacrifice covers our sin.

This is why I think I like Marrick's response more because to see suffering as the result of forgiveness is not that hard at all. I mean, you can see it all the freaking time: when a man cheats on his wife and she forgives him. The forgiveness causes the forgiver to bear the pain of the crime. Not the husband, who deserves the pain.

. . . . . . .

Yeah, so things on the blog have been heating up a little bit and I took my pants off to deal with the heat.

Let's make a couple of statements, rules to understanding the dude:

! Evil done, even in response to another evil, is still evil.
! To endure suffering in the face of evil rather than responding with evil, is virtue.
! To respond to evil with love is hard, but not impossible.
! To have a foreign policy of responding to evil with love might actually work.
! To believe that the fundmentalist Muslim movement is evil, but the fundamentalist Christian movement is good, is misguided.

So yeah, I think killing innocent people by mistake is evil, even if it is done with good intentions. And yes, I believe that people who kill innocent people by mistake should be held responsible for their actions, not shrugged off as an unfortunate byproduct of a war ridding the world of evil. Mr. Bush may quote the Bible in regard to our certain sitaution: the light has shined in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome. But we must remember that this light is the light of God's love, the hope of Jesus (who we follow as mystery), not America, not a war against anything. It is the love of Jesus.

24 July 2005

Human tragedy

This here, this really upsets: Mayor Ken Livingstone said the killing was a "human tragedy" that was a consequence of the attacks. "The police acted to do what they believed necessary to protect the lives of the public," he said. "This tragedy has added another victim to the toll of deaths for which the terrorists bear responsibility."

Okay, that’s right. Mr. Osama bin Jerkhead is responsible.

I got my haircut to look like my brother’s, only longer. I think it looks good.

23 July 2005


Flirting in Japanese isn't really that hard.

The Summer of 2005 is shaping up to be one of the best ever, I think. I've just been having a freaking blast in all the best ways. The Japanese is finally at a point that I can talk to people about stuff and get my point across. The ocean is beautiful. What happens if we add falling in love to this list? What happens?

Probably the funniest conversation from tonight came when I asked Kenji if he wanted to go swimming in the ocean with me. He was sort of nervous about it, and said something to the extent of, "Swimming, huh? Swimming might be a little..." but then first girlfriend said, "You are NOT swimming tonight." Suddenly, Kenji wanted to swim, "Yeah, that's a great idea, let's go swimming." Oh love.

I think I officially have a problem with a main Christian teaching and you're going to help me solve it.  Christians say that Jesus "paid the price of our sins on the cross." That Jesus died in the place of me and you and some other people. By why does that make any sense? Have you ever heard of a person being punished in the place of another person and this being just? It's not jiving anymore.

Also, if I hear another party line answer to this question, I will jump out of the second floor window of my apartment. And probably fall and kill a cat.

20 July 2005

Sexy swimsuit

I wore my sexy swimsuit out of the apartment today because Mr. Ishikawa asked me to participate in the 5th grade swimming class. You remember swimming class, right? There was a lot of panic about being in the water, fear of drowning, etc, etc? I guess to be honest, the kids were pretty much under control, but I had a couple of weird moments of panic. The first occured when I had to hold a 5th grade girl under water with my foot for 10 seconds. She's gonna freak out, I thought, but she didn't and managed fine. Then she had to hold me down which, of course, she sucked at as I weigh like four times as much as her. So Mr. Ishikawa had like six kids put their little feet on my back and hold me down. It was weird. I almost lost it under there. I thought about something else and I listened to them all count to ten in Japanese. I used the kick board too.

I hated swimming class as a kid. Too much pressure, too much terror. You know you can die swimming, right? You can't die playing baseball.

But I know what you're all thinking, and yes, I was very sexy in my new $30 swimsuit.

19 July 2005

The first Japanese word I learned

Today has been the worst.

1) Third grade classes at Higashi Yama no Shita. Teachers translating everything I say to the kiddies and then telling the kiddies the answers in badly accented English? I can deal with you. Young teachers with no sense of keeping their kiddie under control? I can deal with you. The poke in the asshole, though? No, I can't deal with you.
2) Japanese health insurance. From 200 yen a month to 10,000 yen a month. I'm looking at the explanation here and I think it is Japanese for, That's right, you're screwed now that you have a real job.
3) Bills? Only bills in the mailbox.
4) Oh wait, a note from my Grandmother. No, Grandma, I don't live in China. That's a whole different country now.

Please, someone hand me a jumbo juice. I think this is all karma though because the weekend rocked:

1) Mitsuki kun excited about English study? Yeah, I have no idea why that was.
2) Party on the beach with Bulgarians and Japanese and Russians? Well, you can't beat that.
3) Jazz with Satomi and her friend?
4) Driving an hour and half into the mountains on my bike? That was nice too.
5) Picking Yoko chan up at the train station and driving her home? No comment.

So it all evened out.

I bought the sexiest swimsuit a man can buy, I think. I am wearing it right now and becoming too aware that I am a fat man. Too fat.

Today, over lunch, me and some kids had an interesting conversation about the first Japanese word I learned which was, of course, konnichiwa. They proceeded to ask me about what words I had learned from two to ten. Then a little girl asked me what new word I had learned that morning. I said, I didn't think I had learned any new word that morning. She insisted that I had. I thought for a while then gave up and she said, "ah-FU-ro!" pointing to my head. Ah yes, the children had taught me the word "ah-FU-ro" earlier in the day when they saw that my hair had gotten longer. "ah-FU-ro" and "hi-ge" which means beard, but was referring to the soul patch I grew over the weekend. There's your Japanese for today: ah-FU-ro.

18 July 2005


Well, yesterday, I was engrossed in a three and half hour ballet performance, only to miss seeing my dude, Kotooshu beat Asashoryu. Before I talk about how that is just about the greatest thing I’ve heard all month (the beating, not the missing), first, a short rumination on the ballet:

I went to the ballet to see my young apprentice, Mitsuki kun, dance. Mitsuki kun is in the second grade and has been, under the thumb of his parents, studying English with me for an hour every Saturday morning. Mitsuki is a bit of a Renaissance man as he dances, plays soccer, studies English, and does something else (flower-arranging or something, I forget). Anyway, Mitsuki’s part of the dance was limited, very limited, but the other three and half hours were filled with, you know, ballet. So let’s make some observations:
  1. Japanese women are beautiful in general, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that Japanese women ballet dancers are even more beautiful. They are and I was surprised.
  2. I’ll allow that men dancing can be a normal, healthy heterosexual pursuit. Until you put your hands on your hips and dance. Then it is not a healthy, heterosexual pursuit. 
  3. I think Mitsuki has it figured out though as there are only two boys in his class and like 40 girls. And the other boy is a total dunce, from what I could tell. Mitsuki kun has his run of the show. 
  4. Walking on your toes has got to be hard. 
  5. This isn’t about ballet but whatever: when you sign up to go out with a Japanese family, count on at least five hours. And at least 2 of those hours will be dicking around.
  6. As far as the glass shoes go in Cinderella, is that a special kind of glass? Because it seems to be that normal glass would, you know, break. 
  7. Japanese people won’t shut up during ballet performances, especially old people.
So all that to say, I missed Kotooshu have his day on the Dohyo, and will redeem myself by being sure to not miss it this afternoon.

15 July 2005

"Revenge of the Sith" in three seconds.

Save a ridiculously bad ending, "Garden State" nails the mid-twenties perfectly. When what's-his-name starts talking about how you come to a place in your life where you don't really have a home any more and you're homesick for something that doesn't even really exist, I was like, Right on, dude. What a beautiful movie. What a good sounding movie.

"Revenge of the Sith" in three seconds.

Anikan Skywalker: This is bad.
Emperor: This is good.
(1 second pause)
Anikan Skywalker: This is good.

"Dude, I thought you weren't going to give George Lucas your two thousand yen or the satisfaction of having you sit through his movie?"

I said that, yes.

12 July 2005


Hey, I will have the internet for real again tonight and the ability to call the states cheap. I'll get right on calling all of you in the middle of the night.

11 July 2005


So yesterday, me, Jim and Angie (the Korean Travel Team) tried to make reservations at hotels in Korea. It started out sort of shaky, but after Jim made one reservation in Japanese, I thought, I can do this, give me the phone. The following conversation ensued:

Korean Woman: (Korean)
Stephen: Hello? I'm sorry, do you speak English?
Korean Woman: (Korean)
Stephen: English okay?
Korean Woman: (Korean)
Stephen: (In Japanese) How about Japanese. Do you speak Japanese?
Korean woman: (very earnest Korean)
Stephen: (in Japanese) You can't speak Japanese or English?
Korean woman: (Korean)
Jim: (showing Stephen the Korean phrasebook) Just say August. Here. (points to Korean word for August)
Stephen: Parwol?
Korean woman: (Korean)
Stephen: Uh-shit-

Then I hung up.

We decided to just ask our Korean friend Lee to help us out. After we showed him our plan, he basically said that we had picked the worst, dirtiest parts of Korea to visit and that if we just left it up to him, he'd plan a much better vacation and spend some of the time with us. Anyway, it felt like when I first came to Japan and nothing made sense. Now, at least I can say, I'm sorry, but could you explain the meaning of word X... in Japanese, if I need to. The Koreans also get a great deal of my love and appreciation for using a phonetic writing system. Phonetic. Imagine that. You can actually read what is written. I can't wait for Parwol.

08 July 2005

Chinese people are not lazy, grudge-holders

Well, I think it's pretty clear what we need to do in light of the bombings in London. That's right — attack Syria. Those bastards. I have a lot to say about all this and a lot to say about the ridiculous things George Bush has said in the last 24 hours, but I can't seem to find the right words.

After discussions with my Japanese friends about why the Chinese and Koreans hate the Japanese so much, I've mostly gotten shrugs of the shoulders and the blank Japanese I'm-oblivious-to-the-world-around-me reaction. Well, a quick read of my Korea guidebook is helping bring light to the whole situation, namely that the Japanese occupied Korea for some 35 years and did any number of horrible things there. Basically, the Japanese told all the Koreans that they weren't Korean anymore and made everyone speak Japanese and live like the Japanese. This while raping the women and brutally killing everyone who opposed them. The Japanese see this as all water under the proverbial bridge, but, as we all know, 60 years is not a really long time, especially considering some of the nonsense wars that continue in the world from stuff that happened much, much longer ago.

The point being this — the Chinese people are not lazy, grudge-holders and your lack of empathy is pretty damn cold as far as I'm concerned. You might want to also tear down your shrines that honor the folks who were in charge of this whole mess. That might be a good start. Also, this last dirty secret — Japanese people are descendants of the Chinese, by way of Korea. Not the gods.

Just to clear all that up.

05 July 2005

North Korea

Did you know you can visit North Korea? As long as you remember to call the Great Leader and the Dear Leader by their proper names, you're set. I am going to Korea for 10 days in August and I think I will do my best to check it out. There's some wild stuff up there.

Also, The Dear Leader beckoned me in a dream.

04 July 2005

I Am NOT Going to Get Up Today

Today was my last day at the school that I love more than just about anything. It was particularly fitting that my last-last class was with the fourth graders, my favorite kids out of the whole slew of them. I love them so much. I spent my last ten minutes with them reading *I Am NOT Going to Get Up Today* by Dr. Suess. It was very, very sweet.

03 July 2005

Talking in class

First. I can't get picures to look good in my post so just click on the links to see the magic.

So yesterday, I had to talk about America in front of the whole fourth grade class at ShitaYama. I sort of blew off preparing for it because I was like, whatever, America, no problem. I also sort of blew off the fact that I had to do it in Japanese. Japanese, I thought, what's that, just a bunch of different words or whatever. I'll be fine. My talk wasn't voluntary (for me or the kids) so the whole 4th grade class showed up, like 120 of them and I just about pissed my pants when I walked into the room. There are a couple of things that you might want to be careful about trying to do in Japanese in front of 120 4th graders. A) Tell jokes. Skip it, they're not funny anyway. B) Talk about the climate without having researched the vocabulary you might need to talk about the climate features of our great nation. C) Take questions. Yeah, how old is the Statue of Liberty, anyway? I got no idea kid. Ask me about my favorite food.

Today, however, I was at Honma sensei's school. She's so great. I smile everytime I see her. After school she was wearing this big floppy hat and helping the kids play croquet. I just smiled.

Norweigan Wood in Japanese is just about all I can stand right now. It's so fabulous. I have these perfect moments of clarity about every five pages and it's like a shaft of light from Tokyo.

A few friends got me the autograph of my 2nd favorite sumo wrestler, Koutoushuu. He's from Bulgaria. And he's the man. Emiko is my hero for getting this for me. Seriously, I was so happy, I almost cried. As a birthday gift to myself, I'm growing a moustache.