31 October 2006

Writing as Speaking

I've been working my ass of writing and researching for this paper on "look," "watch," and "see." I think I finally have something to say about the whole thing, but it's too boring and long to type out here. Suffice to say, there's a difference, believe me. My favorite corpus line I saw was, "Toast! I look like a piece of toast!"

29 October 2006

Speaking as Speaking

After 7,000 yen and three trips to the electronic store, I give you:

Yes, well said. Soon this will be fun to watch. I wonder how often the word "attempt" collocates with "blog". Probably a lot.

28 October 2006

Bears, Baseball Managers, and the Japanese Psyche

Hey, so I'm trying to get a working webcam (first one was a failure) so that I can talk to you on Skype and also make video blog entries of me in my underwear.

Bobert Kurtz sent me some old IMs from college and I have been subsequently laughing my ass off:

MySonAbsalom (7:39:19 PM): Although, I did see this girl that I knew from high school at hollywood video.
MySonAbsalom (7:39:29 PM): I was like, dang, I know her.
MySonAbsalom (7:39:36 PM): She was with some tool though.
MySonAbsalom (7:39:48 PM): You know, the, "I wear a hat and shorts" kind of guy.
MySonAbsalom (7:39:56 PM): I hate those guys.

I love Japan for a couple of reasons reasons recently.

  1. Mulleted foreign baseball managers. The Nippon Ham Fighters (dude, I'm not making that up) won the Japan Series this week, and Hillman, the "skipper" for the team, gave the greatest post-game interview ever which was subsequently interpreted into Japanese. Hillman first shouted out in Japanese: "Thank-you, Hokkaido!" and then "I can't believe it!" and then "The Nippon Ham fans are the best!" These phrases were well rehearsed and met with approval by the Ham fans (god, I love saying that). Anyway, after that, Hillman went on to praise the club in heavily idiomized English and a Southern accent. My favorite line went something like, "The bottom line is these men are real men" which got translated, "The team did their best." I would encourage you all, when being interviewed and translated, steer clear of saying things like "the bottom line."
  2. So apparently this two year-old bear has been terrorizing a town somewhere and finally, with television cameras, they managed to find this bear and chase him up a tree. Having trapped the bear in the tree, no one really knew what to do. They tried shaking the tree (cut to crowd of old Japanese townfolk looking on, terrified), but that didn't work. They tried shooting some shit at the bear (cut to townsfolk: still terrified), but this just seemed to frighten the bear more. Finally, they called the fire department in and sent a very earnest looking man up the fire engine ladder with a pole that had a noose on the end. He was able to get this around the bear's neck, but the bear, trying to escape, ended up falling. They cut to a long shot of this and the rope sort of let out slowly so the bear was sort of being hung as it fell. It looked excruciating. Luckily, the bear was okay, and they put it in cage and all the towsfolk gathered around while the bear ate some fruit. The announcer said that they were considering what they should do with the bear, whether or not to put it back out into the forest or not.

27 October 2006

Look. See. Watch.

Anyway, so if you think teaching English is easy, try this little exercise: Explain to me what the word "see" means.  And after that, explain to me why there are 18 definitions of it in the dictionary. And then explain the word "look" and "watch" and how I, as a non-native speaker can know when to use one and not the other.

Anyway, the paper is not going well.

Oh man this guy reminds me of someone.

26 October 2006

Taking Sexy Back, or Grammar and the Blog

Many of you may know that Justin Timberlake has encouraged us to "take sexy back" in our day-to-day life. I have taken this to heart and started a personal style revolution. I know, I know, you might be saying, "But Stephen, style isn't important." I thought the same thing until I was flying over Syria the other day and watching "The Devil Wears Prada." Now, I usually don't like to watch movies that 50 year-old women refer to as "cute" and this movie was not terribly interesting, but there is this great moment where the main character (the devil in Prada) totally schools this girl who tells her that style doesn't matter by lecturing the girl briefly on the history of the blue, bargain bin sweater the girl's wearing. It was fascinating. Anyway, I bought a sweater vest.

I am working on getting my dissertation proposal, you know, made, and I think I am going to write about grammar in blog-writing and how it might be viewed as a hybrid genre between writing and speaking and how this might be illustrated using a corpus. Grammar and Internet writing is a vast and fascinating field, I think, and could very well grow into a PhD.

24 October 2006


Gotta love the Japanese.

A Japanese woman, Aimi, told the paper:
"For us, Paris is a dream city. All the French are beautiful and elegant ... And then, when they arrive, the Japanese find the French character is the complete opposite of their own."

Something has me thinking about this poem again.
Prayer; Jorie Graham
Over a dock railing, I watch the minnows, thousands, swirl
themselves, each a minuscule muscle, but also, without the
way to create current, making of their unison (turning, re-
entering and exiting their own unison in unison) making of themselves a
visual current, one that cannot freight or sway by
minutest fractions the water's downdrafts and upswirls, the
dockside cycles of finally-arriving boat-wakes, there where
they hit deeper resistance, water that seems to burst into
itself (it has those layers) a real current though mostly
invisible sending into the visible (minnows) arrowing
motion that forces change--
this is freedom. This is the force of faith. Nobody gets
what they want. Never again are you the same. The longing
is to be pure. What you get is to be changed. More and more by
each glistening minute, through which infinity threads itself,
also oblivion, of course, the aftershocks of something
at sea. Here, hands full of sand, letting it sift through
in the wind, I look in and say take this, this is
what I have saved, take this, hurry. And if I listen
now? Listen, I was not saying anything. It was only
something I did. I could not choose words. I am free to go.
I cannot of course come back. Not to this. Never.
It is a ghost posed on my lips. Here: never.

22 October 2006

Absolutely Fascinating

Students of Japanese might find this fascinating. This is a conversation from a Japanese corpus of interviews and role-playing. I usually have trouble following conversations that I am not participating in after about ten minutes so its crazy helpful to be able to follow along with the text. Also, as it's an interview, the subject matter shifts more predictably then a natural conversation, but the conversation (the idiomatic phrases and polite and honorific forms) are all very natural, I think. For the 99% of you who aren't studying Japanese, well, watch this instead.

I talked to some Mormons yesterday who ignored the international fuck-off sign. Then some Jehovah's witnesses came to my door, and I helped them understand that they shouldn't come to my door to tell me what they believe. No effing patience.

I skipped church and my sunglasses and WordTank G55 totally came in today. Now, stylish and able to search English collocations, I am unstoppable.

21 October 2006


The due date is May 26th, 2008. Now, our little guy/ girl has two legs and little claw-like hands. Don't worry, I expect he/ she will grow out of it (unless he or she takes after his or her uncle). Yoko says it sort of looks like a mouse, but I think he or she looks like me. I like how he or she is totally just perched on the edge of the womb. You can already sense the killer instinct.

19 October 2006

Three years

Believe it or not, I have now been living in Japan for three years.

I wrote this in my journal, three years ago:

When we got to the church this afternoon and there were even more people to meet us. Miyauchi Sensei’s family, his wife and children, his wife’s mother (we think), and another very happy woman who kept saying, “I only speak Japanese!” and “I am a very happy person!”  She asked us how old we were and her eyes lit up: “My daughters! You need to meet!” The daughters were 22 and 18, both of whom spoke a little English and who were happy to meet us, but not quite as happy as their mother. We ate in the sanctuary, and everyone sort of talked around us, Eri stopping occasionally to let us know what was going on. Miyauchi Sensei sat near the window and during an awkward silence said something which Eri smiled at and told us, “He’s just very happy that you are here.”
There was some negotiation about where we would shower, Miyauchi Sensei saying we could either shower at the house or the public bath. He made a point to say, through Eri, “You won’t wear a bathing suit. Is that okay?” We said we didn’t care, and it was pretty clear he wanted us to use the public bathhouse.
We went to dinner at an Italian restaurant on the bay and we fumbled through conversation. After dinner, Miyauchi Sensei told us he would take us to the public bath and DK and I shared some concerned looks. We drove up into the hills, got out of the car and then walked further up through what seemed to be a very touristy part of town that had closed for the day. At the end of a path lined with closed food stands, we got to the public bathhouse. Miyauchi Sensei bought tickets out of a vending machine then gave the tickets to a woman sitting at a counter right by the vending machine. We went down a narrow hallway to the locker area where we all got naked. The public bath is basically a line of showerheads about waist high next to little stools. You sit on the stool and wash with a bar of soap and the showerhead, then get into the hot tub . After washing, we sat in the hot tub for a while, and I realized that the whole room was lined with windows that didn’t have shades. After about five minutes, Miyauchi Sensei got up and we followed him out through sliding doors onto the patio. We stood there, naked, looking out at the city. It was pretty surreal. After a couple of minutes we went back to the hot tub, and Miyauchi Sensei asked about our families.

17 October 2006

Jupiter Has Sixty-One Moons

This poem tells you everything you need to know about everything:

from Sarah Manguso's Siste Viator published in 2006 by Four Way Books.

Jupiter Has Sixty-One Moons

There's no difference between writing down what you hear and
writing down what you wish you heard.

On Jupiter there are sixty-one colors, one for each moon. Painting
students make moon-studies in their first color lessons.

It's hard to see in the dark, as it is for hours each day. Painters are
taught to paint blindfolded. Talented colorists show themselves
during this exercise.

When they do, they are taken away, as they suffer from a disease
that only light can cure.


Here are the pictures from the trip. I'm sorry that they come out so big when you click the links. Resizing them all would just take too much work. But just for the record, I hate when people do what I did and not fix the sizes. I hate that. Also, there's not a lot of commentary now, but I'll be working on that. Maybe.

I did not go past this station, but holy effing cow.

Finally, if I were gay and conservative, I'd want to marry this man. Really, a good hour spent.

Back with Vengance

Well, I am back in Japan with tons of bad, hazy photos. Here's one while I decide what I should do with the rest.


14 October 2006

Pope on a Jeep

Well, with Yoko feeling better, we had ourselves a nice Saturday, heading out to Basillica again so Yoko could see what was up. There was some sort of long, boring service taking place with hundreds of white hat wearing Catholics having a good time. This meant that we couldn't get in, but we decided to stay anyway and watch the Mass and wait for it to end. It took forever and when things were winding down, I got right at the front of the line to head into the Basillica once things were done. There didn't seem to be much going on and I was wondering why things hadn't opened up when suddenly, a white jeep appeared with the Pope on it, waving and blessing. So that was cool that we got to see the Pope and all, and better yet, the line I had chosen to get in the front of was now like halfway around the piazza.

Now, I know there are assholes in all religions, but the moment the mass ended, a hoard of angry, shouting, pushing piligrims disregarded the line we (me and the Germans about about 2,000 other people) had been nursing to push in front of us. I wanted to make a shirt that said, "Cutting in Line Makes Baby Ratziner Cry." Anyway, they all pushed themselves in front of us, but it was fine because they all headed to John Paul 2's tomb, leaving everything else wide open.

Anyway, more later when I get home.

12 October 2006

Pope on a Rope

Yoko spent today in bed and I headed out to the Vatican, adding country number 12 to my ever growing list of, you know, travels. My mentor and friend, Mr. Neal, had asked me to get him "Pope on a Rope" as a souvenir, so I looked all over. No luck. I think I'm going to have to make my own "Pope on a Rope." It has to be big and wood and able to be swung around during a confrontation.

But I saw St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, all that. I followed my strict sight-seeing rule of just getting in lines that look like they're going somewhere. This lead me to the top of the Basilica on one occasion. I also saw St. Peter's remains which were much less popular that Pope John Paul II's remains. I was wandering around this courtyard looking for the entrance to the Vatican and had the funny feeling that I had seen the place where I was, when I realized that I was standing in the middle of that place that all the faithful pilgrims come when the Pope blesses people or has some offical Papal business for everyone. I waited in line, listened to Tupac, and hoped Yoko was feeling better.

Lifted, or the story is in the flowerplanter

Now, two blocks from the Termini in Roma, I come to you live. Malta was nice, but Yoko was sick. Not quite how I envisioned my honeymoon, but there is little to complain about as I am two subway stops from the Colosseum and five from Vatican City. Pictures, stories, all when when I return to Japan. Until then, think now on this: Ulysses in the Oddessy was seduced by the nymph to spend seven years on Malta. I think I know why.

06 October 2006

Bad day, Honeymoon, Short-haired Girl with a Pretty Smile

Yoko cut her hair and made everything okay again.

More good news (gotta sign up to read though). Who the hell can see forever anyway.

I'm going to Malta and Rome now. No teaching English. No Japanese high school bullshit. No motorscooter in the rain. Just me and the lady (albeit, probably vomiting, but still) and the whole Mediterrian Sea spread out before us.

05 October 2006

A good day

Tokyo in the summer:
  1. My Japanese kicked ass on the phone with the customer service people at Canon.
  2. New tutor, Mr. Greg Hadley, who might best be described as prolific. He is going to help me clean up on my dissertation.
  3. Tax refund!?
  4. The Republicans pissing so badly down their legs that I don't think even Howard Dean can eff it up for us. Although I am imagining the meetings the Democrats are  wringing their hands, trying to figure out some way to throw it all away. Howard Dean piping up after about a minute of silence, "Hey, what if I scream again? That worked last time. Right? Right, guys?!"
  5. This isn't a good thing, but Tom, did Foley ever hit on you when you were a page?

04 October 2006

Death to my WordTank and Michael W. Smith shares the gospel of vests

The WordTank G50 is a small device that makes my life livable here in Japan. I use this thing for several hours a day if I am studying or reading. I can use it with my eyes closed. Anyway, my WordTank, ironically, "tanked" out yesterday. Fine, I thought, you little bastard, I'll just get you fixed. But unfortunately, in this high-paced kinetic world we live in, a one year warranty is about the most you get on consumer electronic devices. After that, well, you're screwed. And me? Being the dumb, slow-moving ox that I am, I will probably go out and buy another one of these.

Yoko was walking around the apartment loudly praying that God would relieve her of her morning sickness, but I advised against it. As God had already answered the prayer of having a child, we wouldn't want to appear selfish. I also told the baby a couple of things about life. I've been doing my best here to clean and cook and tend to my ailing wife, but spirits are low in the apartment. I am hoping this trip will do us good and not evil although I don't want to try my luck with any sort of prayer.

And finally, Michael W. Smith used to be a personal hero of mine until I stopped cross-stiching and realized that he sucked. Turning 15 was really great for me in a lot of other ways too. Anyway, here is my former personal hero making an ass out of himself. I probably saw this when I was 14 or 10 or whatever and thought, Holy cow, this man can move. Now, older and colder, I am embarrassed for him, for myelf, and, really, for America. Jesus sort of looks like my friend Hiroshi, and dude, seriously, what's with the vest and the white t-shirt with no sleeves? I like how he runs his hand through his hair too. Man. What I wouldn't give to be 10 or 14 or whatever, one more time.

01 October 2006


Murakami at Harvard

If you can't read the heading for this, you probably don't have a mac. I finally finished reading Haruki Murakami's (wicked link, by the way) novel _Umibe no Kafuka_ or rather _Kafka on the Shore_ in Japanese. This is my third Murakami book in Japanese, although at over 1000 pages and two volumes, the longest. This is quite an accomplishment in my small, self-promoting world. I took a long break from the book over the summer, but came back this last week. I can't find my English translation which is bothering the hell out of me as I am really interested in how the last line is translated as it is one of those troubling present/ future- progressive verbs that could be read two ways. This is interesting to me.

I started a new class at Birmingham this week. "Corpus Linguistics" is just about as interesting as it sounds and I'm sure I'll have thoughts. I just like being able to tell everyone who argues with me about grammar, Well, why don't you check the corpus and tell me what you find. Everyone is always so shocked that you sometimes can't say things that are "grammatically" correct, like "She has been passed away for two years." Nothing wrong grammatically there, but if you say it, you sound retarded. One teacher was shocked that I found it hard to hear the prononciation difference in the "O" between "bone" and "born." "And you're a native speaker!?" she said.

Lastly, I was wondering during the church service today why it was that I was at church. The sermon was about the Bride of Christ and as I was thinking about what a lame metaphor this was and how everyone in church seemed to be sleeping, it seemed that it wouldn't really make any difference if I left. Anyway, Yoko was playing the organ today and as the communion time rolled around, I noticed she didn't look so hot. This look (one that I've come to recognize the last couple of days) got worse and worse and by the time she went to cover her mouth, I was out of the pew, standing in front of 40 or so, now not so sleepy, elderlies , and urging her to go to hurry to the bathroom. The organ was saved and so was our "face" to some degree as she quickly returned, apologetic, to play the rest of the songs for the morning. We still haven't told anyone at church about the baby, but I think everyone knows. The pastor's wife stopped us after the service, saying, "How is the WIFE? We need to take care of the WIFE" and then in a quieter voice, "You know, I had diarrhea last week."

There's that sound again...