30 September 2006

Please, as you were

Whoever coined the term "morning sickness" certainly got the "sickness" part right. Yoko's been one hell of a trooper, I'll tell you that. I, on the other hand, have not. The sound of someone vomiting makes me nauseous. I just want everything to be okay. I think the baby will have black hair. And blue eyes. Yoko says that's not possible because eye color comes from the mother's side of the family. I have never cared for genetics. The baby will be so small.

One good thing is I might be in line for a kind of "promotion" at school next year. Well, not really a "promotion" but more money and better hours and the prestige of being a "full time" teacher at my "prestigious" high school. I would type the name, but then if someone does a search for it, this will come up. And everyone would find out what you already know: that I'm a sham.

My neck beard slipped down the drain of the shower today. All of it, but the soul patch. Yoko laughed. "Only this is left?" she said.

I bet I could write a Mountain Goats song: "I went to the bathroom./ I wasn't wearing any shoes./ The tile was cold./ But not that cold./ The toilet was white./..." and so forth. Please don't take that to mean that I don't love the hell out of the Mountain Goats. Because I do.

Moreover, if this song here can't touch you, well, you are standing too far away.

29 September 2006

Shakes Like a Toothache

I suppose it's okay now to go public with this juicy bit of gossip. Yoko and I have, apparently, made a baby. Only a 10 mm fleck of person floating inside Yoko, I suspect even now it grows. If this comes as some surprise to you, rest assured it can't be anymore of a surprise than it was to us. I'm over the shock now and feeling content about it. As much as I can, I guess. My love for this little person is seemingly endless already and we have names and all that...I agreed to not make this new blog about my insecurity or anything too personal, but this cannot be avoided, I guess.

But hey, I totally beat the Yahoo BB internet provider phonetree at their own game today. It took me a couple of days, but I won.

This morning, I woke up and laid in bed reading Murakami for about a half hour. Murakami in the morning (a story today about a brother and sister) is refreshing. Makes me believe that there is a Japanese soul beneath all this soul-less exterior. From Norwegian Wood:
Reiko lit a cigarette. The wind had died down. The smoke rose straight up and disappeared into the darkness of night. Just then I realized that the sky was filled with stars.

28 September 2006

Day 30, an Ending

What a fucked up week. Ever been angry and taken in out on your wife? Yeah, that's just all bad.

We end my thirty days of cellphone photos, today, with a shot of the menu at my favorite family restaurant, Gusto. Gusto takes between 15 and 20 US dollars from me a week, I would guess. It's the drink bar. All you can drink. I can drink a lot.

27 September 2006

Day 29, A Tie Day

Today was not great. I wore a necktie to impress you and you were like, "To the ringer, sir."

Italy, Malta: 11 days?

26 September 2006

Day 28 in the Park

Somebody searching "niigata alt" yesterday helped make it one of my top five days since starting this blog. So thank you, whoever you are or are not.

Studying Japanese in the park.

Another Typical Ending


The Fall sumo tournament ended the way they all pretty much have since I've been in Japan, with the Grand Champion, Asashoryu, handing just about everybody their ass, in one way or another. The bout on Saturday when he fought Ozeki Chiotaikai was some of the least beautiful sumo I have ever seen. Asashoryu basically threw a punch and Chiotaikai pulled Asashoryu down by his topknot, both big no-no's. Kotooshu, did okay this time around. Nothing to, you know, call home about but...

Abe san, the new prime minister, was also present, still looking like an awkward ninth grader on the first day of high school. But don't worry, sir. Your xenophobia will certainly save you.

24 September 2006

Day 26: Too much church

Too much church for a Sunday today. I came home from the service, defeated. Took a long shower, laid out on the bed with "The Economist" and noise-cancelling headphones. Nothing better than that, friends. You have Japanese church which is just a glorified club and US church which is just a glorified Starbucks. I'm beginning to wonder if church is really what I need on a Sunday morning.

Here are Yoko and I, looking like a newlywed couple:

23 September 2006

25, An Experiment, and Group Therapy

Neal was up this weekend for a group therapy session with me and Efrain. All three of us have things to work through and like to do so by the fire, on the beach, with guitars.

If I type "sexy britney spears naked pictures XXX hot" and add similar tags, how many more hits will I get to my blog do you think? I suspect an increase. If you got to this entry by typing in any of those words, get control of yourself, man. Come the hell on.

I found out today that one of my bosses at one of my part-time jobs is likely linked to the seedy underbelly of Japanese organized crime. For my part, I have no idea and don't really care as the job pays well and promptly. But if I disappear without explanation, well, don't come looking for me.

It's a beautiful day in Niigata. October is nice here, I think. And only 14 days until Rome. Oo-la-oo-la-la.

22 September 2006

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Day Twenty-four

I watched the Iranian President on Youtube and I thought a couple of things. First, Mike Wallace is an asshole. Second, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is too cute. He seems like a nice uncle who you know could crush you. Third, America is a great country because you can see this guy talk on our TV. Fourth, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is just a more polite George Bush.

Now, I'm going to eat this with my wife.

20 September 2006

Day 22, So much to say

Way the hell too much going on in my head tonight to share. I remember when I would ask people to pray for me or feel good when someone said they were praying for me. I really don't think I could care less now. When you let go of one thing, will there always be another to take its place.

I finished my essay and maybe I'll post it on this site for those of you that are interested. Until then, please enjoy the 22 part of my 30 part series entitled "Japan Sees, Japan Does".

Here, a flag advertising cleaning.

The shuffle, the neckbeard, and my father

I am growing a neckbeard because I want to be more like my friend Berto. Or an Amish guy. I remember that my father used to have a beard and then one day, out of the blue, he shaved it off. I remember how uneasy I felt about it, even though I was 8 or 9. I remember that I had the urge to cry, but I don't remember why.

I remember my father once read a story I wrote and laughed at a grammar mistake I had made. I remember how badly I felt about the mistake, how I had wanted to cry again, and how I always wondered what he thought of the story. Such small, unimportant things that stick in me so vividly.

19 September 2006

Day 21 and Holy Freaking Cow

It was Hakkai san that we climbed.

And you know what? Holy freaking cow.

18 September 2006

Day Twenty spent on Mountain

Today, me and some friends climbed up one of the holiest mountains in Niigata. Here is a prayer card from the mountain. The woman or man who wrote this hopes to get married soon. Good luck.

16 September 2006

Day 18, Teach me an English Phrase

I never have really felt great about teaching English to children. From the infamous "Phonics March" to many failed attempts at teaching penmanship, today I finally feel like I reached one of the hardest students I have. So much so that I thought, Given the right text, I bet I could teach him to read. Here is a game he created with which we practiced plural production and counting.

Two material possessions have been causing me a great deal of suffering this week: my motor bike and my cell phone. Why had an R appeared on the screen of my phone and why did it keep insisting I had new messages. I checked several times, man, there are no new messages. After thumbing through the 556 page owner's manual in Japanese, I was even more discouraged, but I think I finally fixed the problem. Also, I wintered up my motorbike.

Big problems occur when you start writing poems to unborn children.

15 September 2006

Day 17 and one year

Yoko and I have been together now for one year and to celebrate, we went to eat at this Korean restaurant out where Neal once lived. It's not terribly authentic as it has the quiet Japanese restaurant vibe and nobody shouting. The food was not that bad, I thought, but not nearly hot enough though. Still, it made me miss Korea again and want to go back as soon as I can.

There was a poster up from this Korean soap opera that Yoko watches religiously, every Saturday night at 11:15. I just can't get into it, but Changumu is working hard in some King's palace, best I can tell, and these evil women with braids are always keeping her down. And there's like this evil cousin figure too. Like I said, I don't do a great job of keeping up.

13 September 2006

Me Goolies, Language, Religion

I want to write about religion, but I should note my limitations first as a language speaker (I have only studied three languages seriously and only speak two proficiently) and second as a religious scholar (I have a basic knowledge of Western, monotheistic religions and a very poor background in Eastern religion). Maybe there is some language in Uganda and a religion in PNG that would totally blow me out of the water.

I can safely say that the goal of all language is communication. Communication is essentially organized the same in every culture because we all experience processes and participants, which we try to describe to others. The goal is always to have someone else understand you. Languages, however, differ greatly (some times) in how they accomplish that. For example, Japanese does not have a future tense. For a speaker of English, this is very troubling. How do you talk about the future? For the Japanese speaker, they have a hard time understanding our obsession with counting things (plurals) and articles (a, the). Why in the world do you need such troubling little words.

The truth is that Japanese are able to communicate about the future without the future tense — you can still talk about the future effectively. Also, even though there are no articles, it turns out that you really don't need them to always make clear whether you're talking about "a chair" or "the chair" as circumstance usually takes care of these problems. We get to the same place different ways.

What is the goal of religion exactly? Could you say that all religions are after "truth"? Some might say, "To worship God," but even if there was a God, it's impossible to prove one way or the other and therefore unhelpful in our argument. I might argue that religion helps us create working societies full of safety and virtue. I might argue that somewhere along the line communities developed a sense of what was generally good for the group and bad for the group. I might argue that.

All religions have a sense of what is right and wrong, but really differ in the specifics. For example, not eating pork doesn't do me any good one way or the other unless I'm Jewish or Muslim and practicing the meaning that is associated with abstaining from pork. The rightness of it is drawn from my community, the same way as right language is drawn from where you live. Now, in religious practice, many rights and wrongs turn out to be the same because, like language, we all exist as humans in time. Our experience is pretty much the same. On one side of the world and the other, both communities have figured out that killing your neighbor for no good reason is bad for the group and therefore a bad thing.

Don't look back at Day 15

It was raining so I walked to the bridge and listened to this song that many of you probably had when you were younger, ten years ago, maybe. But not me. This is 2006, autumn for me.

12 September 2006

Day 14, Beer Here

In some places, it's impossible to buy some beer when the local supermarket is closed. Not in Japan. 

On leaving an imprint on the world: If you acquire wealth by not pursuing wealth and living what we might call a "balanced" life: okay, fine. Good can come of that for you and those around you. But if you live a life set on acquiring more, you will suffer, I think.

On religions being the same: I think all religions are the same in the sense that all languages are the same. They use sounds to explain processes and participants. But of course, all languages are different: they do things using much different grammar, syntax, lexis, etc..

Holy shit, don't steal that; it's a PhD dissertation: Chomsky's Universal Grammar applied to religious expression.

10 September 2006

More, more and more

When I was a kid, I liked this really dumb band called "Audio Adrenaline." They were all about helping the kids grow closer to Jesus, through hip, relevant music. One of their songs about God went something like this,
"Buddha was a fat man
(so what?!)
Mohammad thought he had a plan
(I guess not!)
A Hindu god is an
Old cow!
You could be a god if you
knew how.
My god died on the cross (3x)
But he lived!"
I thought, yeah, those dumb people worshipping their dumb cow. They got nothing on Jesus.

You read enough Evangelical leader blogs and you'll get a sense of how consumer-driven faith is in America. The newest techniques, the newest technology, the newest music and the newest leaders, bringing in all the newest, hippest unbelievers. You listen to a good Evangelical pastor and you're gonna get geared up and ready to go do something purpose-driven. I'm beginning to wonder why I should go to church to get the same thing Steve Jobs gives me.

Related? I was sitting here typing the other day when these JW's came up to the house. The light was on and I was clearly at home as you could see me from the street, but when they rang the doorbell, I didn't answer. They hung out for a while, it was weird, but I didn't go to the door. Just sat here.

The following are things I've been kicking around. Not necessarily from, you know, the Buddha's mouth or whatever, but a start. I put these out there because I want Tom to tell me I'm wrong and for everyone else to have a little bit of cultivated reflection (see number one).
  1. Cultivation over advancement.
  2. Everything evens out in 1000 years.
  3. Gaining more just means you have more to worry about.
  4. Owning less means you have less to worry about and more time to cultivate.
  5. Your things are probably causing you some amount of suffering.
  6. You're better off doing good to someone than telling them what you believe.
  7. What you believe isn't so important as what you do.
  8. All the practices of all the main religions boil down to doing good and avoiding evil.
  9. Take enough steps back all religions are the same.
  10. Take enough steps forward and all religions are different.
  11. The mind is a drunken monkey.

Day Twelve

This is a campaign poster from last year for a Communist. Yoko went on to tell me all about why he wasn't a good man, but I didn't really understand what she was saying.

09 September 2006

Gary the Bear

Gary the Bear

"The truth was that I didn’t know for sure. Maybe he had heard the noise and escaped through the window in the bathroom. Gary the Bear was quick thinking like that, always one step ahead of the game. But then again, the window was a little small to fit Gary the Bear, I thought. Could he be cowering in the second stall, waiting for Bruce to leave?"

Day 11, a day off

Every week, a truck drives by,
selling rods to hang your laundry.
They will replace
your old rods for 1000 yen.
If you're interested,
let me know and
I'll flag him down next time.
Somebody actually got to my blog by searching the words "if you laugh you will go to hell."

08 September 2006

Good Karma

For those of you who think that "Dharma" is best collocated with the words "and Greg," the Berkley Buddhist Monastery Podcast might do you some good. I've been listening to this while I run lately and will eventually have some thoughts to share, I'm sure.

Yoko dreamt of the Buddha last night.

In the meanwhile, please start the careless and deliciously scandal-driven rumor that I have converted to Buddhism and disavowed The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints.

Two months, Day 10


Yoko and I have been married for two months now. Doesn't feel like that long, feels like longer, feels like it's been my whole life.

And it's just about day ten of my thirty part series, "Japan as a Seer."

07 September 2006



I can't wait.

America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twenty seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind.
I’m addressing you.
Are you going to let your emotional life be run by Time Magazine?
I’m obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.

It feels like this poem has been living inside of me. When I heard it on the Dylan documentary, things started to make sense.

Mutilation, or Day 9

It's not so much that I thought it was a great poem, just that I was thinking about modals. There are a couple really fabulous little moments. I don't really like the title or recurring line, except for how he changes it to require less and more of you as a reader. The New Yorker put this out after 9/11.

I gave a teacher an Allen Ginsberg poem today. I'll give you one later this week, don't worry.

06 September 2006

Try To Praise The Mutilated World

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You've seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the grey feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

Adam Zagajewski translated by Renata Gorczynski

Day 8, or Searching for Words

05 September 2006

Day seven, or who the hell can see forever

The neighborhood god lives a couple of doors down from us. It hasn't caused us too much trouble. The neighborhood mortals have done a bad job taking care of the gate. Come to think of it, the astroturf appears to be in dissarray too. The troubles of being a god in world of mortals are often too much to stand I can imagine.

I can't find a good video of the Iron and Wine song, "The Trapeze Swinger." That song is brilliant, really talks to all my frustrations, but the video I found was not brilliant and only added to my frustrations. It had the audacity to cut out during the best part of the song, where the protagonist promises to reach heaven's gates and make a drawing of, among other things, "an angel kissing on a sinner." A line worth dying for, really. I'll keep the lookout for a good video. Until then, enjoy the audio file from Lollapalooza and this very excellent website. The whole effing show is available, although I just realized that the sound cuts out when he sings "fuck the man" and the crowd cheers. So if you are offended by the word "fuck," don't worry, they have cut the word "fuck" out of the recording.

04 September 2006

Day Six

This is a street out near where I work. A rolling stop at this intersection resulted in a ¥6000 fine and a year's probation, which I am now about six months through. The man? Well, he can't keep me down.

I got sticks in the fire all up over this mother. One paper, a systematic grammatical study of two texts for the MA at Birmingham. One research project, a study of using task-oriented teaching styles in demotivated EFL classrooms. One research project, a study of using authentic materials in high-achievement, low-motivation classrooms. One translation of a report by a friend on teaching "real world" English phrases to fifth grade elementary students. One of these will be publishable. I gauran-effing-tee it.

Something here about getting paralytic and fighting in Jesus' name...

03 September 2006

Day Five

Last night found us having dinner with our good friends, S and T, who recently produced E, this beautiful baby (and fifth part of the 30 part series "Japan and What It Sees."

Gotta keep telling myself, babies don't just giggle and curl up asleep. They scream and poop. Well, except this one — she's a wonder.

02 September 2006

Day 4

When my hero and mentor, Mr. Neal, moved away this week, he left me his bag of tricks. This bag of tricks had a lot of things, but one of the best things it had was a wordsearch book. It's a little bit older, this book Neal gave me and I love this page, entry four in the thirty part series, "How Japan is seen."

In the Elizabeth Taylor search, you gotta find the word "Dick."

My phone also takes shitty video. Here is my student Tetsuya (currently struggling with a cold and the past tense) doing "something," a kind of hand signal I find ominous.

Lastly, Yoko has been studying 書道, the art of writing Chinese characters and got her work published in the monthly textbook that gets put out by some company. She's happy, I'm happy, everyone is happy.

01 September 2006

Day, what is it now, Three?

It's not Thursday, but this is my little friend that makes it hard for me to get out of bed on Thursday mornings. You would think being constantly mocked by someone three feet shorter than you wouldn't really take that much of a toll, but let me tell you, it does. For one second here, he looks like he could be a load of fun.