29 November 2006

Calms down, thinks about it

It's been a good couple of days thinking about technology, why I blogging (some Engrish for you), and my caustic personality. I realized that this blog represents one side of me, the one that usually comes out when I write: a very caustic, cheeky side. I write fiction the same way. I use the f-word a lot too and my mom would also probably be horrified if she read this. But I think I have come to terms with all that and either stop doing it or face the consequences of doing it. A blog is necessarily only one side of a person, usually the side they want you to see. If my English is misunderstood by a Japanese reader, that's what we call in Japanese a しょうがない or it can't be helped. 2I think I've done a better job of being less personal on WordPress than I was on Xanga. Maybe not. Anyway, no more worrying about IP addresses and stalkers. Read what you like. Think what you like. But please, keep reading and keep thinking. And I'll do my best to be entertaining. 'Cause that's really all this is.

28 November 2006

Finds out

I found out that my online stalker is in Japan thanks to an IP search website and am becoming increasingly worried that it might be someone at school. There is good reason to think that it is not a native speaker as the person usually spends a very long time reading posts. I'll be honest, this scares me a great deal as my use of the English language and especially my tongue-in-cheek commentary on just about everything could very easily be misunderstood by an over-zealous teacher. I was contemplating taking the whole thing down last night. I don't know. My options seem kind of limited.

My camera is now working with Skype. So you should talk to me: stephenpihlaja. I'm the one with he soul patch.

27 November 2006

Tries to not give into wicked impulses

Recently, I have had some wicked impulses, most of them directed at my asshole neighbor who has stolen from me on several occasions. As some of you know, in Japan we often heat using kerosene. We keep this kerosene in big 18 or 20 liter tanks outside of our houses because it smells like gas. My next door neighbor has been "helping" himself to my kerosene. This made me very livid until today when I had the most brilliant revenge idea to fill the tank with unleaded gasoline instead of kerosene. Hapless neighbor steals "kerosene" and subsequently blows up his apartment.

There are a couple of problems with this, namely, that when he blows up his apartment, he will probably blow up my apartment as well and I'm also not sure I want to kill him. My next idea, less evil but still getting the job done is to fill the tank half with water. This will just result in ruining his heater and not, you know, killing him. I was proud of myself for thinking that up. Not that I would ever really do it, but it's good to know I can at least conceive of it.

26 November 2006

Takes you down

My hat tips to Blogstar and to the Winter Band themselves. You can stream their whole album. Does the idea of Satan have anyone else scratching their head and going, come again?

I was reading about how kids that are 10 and 11 and 12 are starting to mature more quickly. The article contained a good deal of the typical hand-wringing that surrounds any story about the children, but I'm having a problem seeing what the problem is.

25 November 2006

Sitemeter is

making me paranoid. Someone out there is the biggest reader of the blog, but you have your cookies shut off so I can't tell where you are or who you are or why you find my site interesting enough to spend 54 minutes here. All I know is that you use Internet Explorer, so that takes care of all the mac people. By all means, please keep reading, I'm flattered really.

Here's a short list of suspects:
  1. A friend
  2. The creepy neighbour next door.
  3. Someone at school?
  4. God.
This is what I see and hear every morning:

24 November 2006

Video Blog II

Enjoying this and some low calorie adult beverage. The baby has a beating heart now, which we heard and were amazed at. Fingers. Big feet. Having a baby is good fun. I recommend it.

One of the blogs I read has been wicked interesting the last couple of weeks as Carlos and his wife are in Seoul adopting a baby. I suggest the video from Thanksgiving which Yoko and I have watched several times and which makes me super-excited about our own little guy/ girl. Gotta love the Internet for real human stories and drama, but not in the petty or simple sense of the word.

Lest we forget:

21 November 2006


Here you see the best news I've had all day. After finishing my second practice test for the impending Japanese Proficiency Examination, Level 2, I have passed by 4% points. I know, I know, you're saying, That's not really great, and I suppose you're right, but you see, it's like this: I've been busting my ass to learn Japanese for about 3 years now. When I first got to Japan, I didn't study at all. After about three months, I sort of eased into it and didn't really get my first grammar book until I have been here for half of a year. Since then, every day I do something. And I know testing isn't good, and this and that, but I gotta say, having something concrete that says you have improved really helps. Also, if (and when) I pass this test, I will have proven the proficiency needed for all daily life activities, as well as reading at a post-primary level which isn't as easy as it sounds. Next, next year I should be able to pass the first level which will put me at native-level proficiency, more-or-less. And then? I can start translating more effectively and become world famous for something.

It looks like my computer should be back in the next hour. What more could I ask for.

19 November 2006

Babies, nursery school, and all these things

he iMac was dying and I found out there was a recall on some part. This was good for me in that I didn't have to pay any money, but bad for you as I haven't been able to keep you up to speed.

One of the great things about having for a baby is looking at great baby clothes like this. The kids clothes in Japan have the best Engrish. It's so damn uplifting. All of them are like, "Happy is the baby that is joy!"

Yoko and I are talking about nursery school and whether or not Yoko will quit her job and all the things having a baby entail. It's weird to think about what kind of kid you want and how it is best to give the kid the space and boundaries it needs to be a good kid and not an asshole. Independence balanced with dependence, family time balanced with other people time. Mom time balanced with Dad time. It's a lot to think about. I'm sure I'm under-thinking it too because I'm like, well, it'll all work out anyway. We don't have to worry about it just yet though.

I saw About Schmidt again last night with Yoko and I kept telling her how American the people were.

16 November 2006

They went to say

The beginning of Niigata winter has hit me hard. That means rain — a kind of hard, demoralizing rain. I am always wet. And since I  turned in my car for this beast of a scooter, things are even worse. Additionally, the weather has caused my pregnant wife to become Sheetie McHog-and-Steal at night. At about three, I wake up shaking while the side of the bed where my wife was once sleeping is now just a three foot high pile of blankets. That ain't right.

You may be familiar with the new Decemberists record called "The Crane Wife" based loosely on the Japanese folktale 鶴の恩返し. The songs are really something. You should buy the record and worry about repaying debts and blood in the thread.

Now, to return to the terrifying world of test preparations and beer.

14 November 2006

The bush

A student asked me today, "Do you like the bush?" Initially, I was sort of caught off-guard — I mean, of course I like the bush, but... Oh wait. No, no article there. Just Bush, please, and no, of course not, but speaking of Bush, I love how he's like, I'm willing to reconsider the rhetoric of this war. Any change to the wording is welcome. I agree, the words I'm using are not working. For the love of god, can someone please think of some new words! I was also happy to hear that he spent "an hour" with the bipartisan committee on rethinking things in Iraq. That about wraps it up.

I'm trying to make my Japanese a little bit more streamlined. My explanations usually sound like this: "I stopped at a yellow light and a bus behind me did not stop and I was really surprised" to just saying, "A bus passed me at a yellow light today." Alot of my stories in Japanese are probably very tedious to listen to, with lots of 'and's and 'but's and 'right?'s. You can explain just about anything with ten or twelve verbs. It just takes more time.

13 November 2006


Paul Auster, The Book of Memory,
Prophecy. As in true. As in Cassandra, speaking from the solitude of her cell. As in a woman's voice.
Today, sitting with my three Lutheran Missionary friends, I was the Liberal. I'm always the wild card in a group, could be the Conservative, could be the Liberal depending on who I have surrounded myself with. I like being the Liberal. It sort of chaffs on me in groups of Christians how the word "liberal" means bad. "Oh, well they're really liberal." I have decided to stop reading Christian, Evangelical blogs because it is sort of like watching a car accident. I need to get some more positive thinking in my life and stop being enamoured with people who worry about the most inane things.

I listened to this sermon with a guy nattering on and on about "sexual purity". Fucking a, just let it go. You got all these high school students and you're shaking a stick at them to not masturbate? I just don't get it. There are things to get upset about — this is not one of them.

And I envision now the readers of this blog spilt: my friends to the Left who couldn't give a shit about religion wondering why I even care, and the Right wondering how I could have said such a sacrilegious thing. Let me quote Auster again:
The prophet. As in false: speaking oneself into the future, not by knowledge but by intuition. The real prophet knows. The false prophet guesses.
I have been accused of being cynical. But I don't think I'm as cynical as I should be about our new congress. I have so much hope and though I keep telling everyone that I don't, secretly I do.

There are over 30,000 suicides a year in Japan. They rarely make the news, but they have the last couple of days because a couple of jr. high school students killed themselves. The newscasters rake it over again and again. There are graphics showing the girls schedule and how their condition was the day before, hour by hour. The newscasters and commentators wonder aloud, scratching their heads. The Japanese cultural machine is broken, but no one can say that. We need more of something. More graphs. There. I got my cynicism back.

11 November 2006

The bridge, or system of a down

Many of you may know that I live on the edge of the Agano River and the Sea of Japan. I run across the Matsuhama Bridge everyday about 8 times as it is almost exactly 1 km long. When you run at night, it's really a trip. There are ships that hang right below the horizon fishing for squid. You can see them because they use huge lights to attract the squid to their nets. Bad for the squid, wonderful for me.

Before I married Yoko, I wanted to marry the princess, Aiko. This, I thought, might put me in line to be the emperor. And not the kind of pussy-footing emperors of the past 50 years. No, I would reclaim the divinity and make people do my bidding. In a strange twist of fate: I am trying to find a good way to end this sentence. In a strange twist of fate, it didn't work out.

Who's Rumsfeld?

Bobby Byrd is my effing hero. (Yoko and I are thinking of naming our child Lao. This might seal it.)
Last night Allen Ginsberg waved goodbye
forever. Several bees, a scorpion and a butterfly
joined him in his departure, although I didn't
see them go off together. Their disappearance
was purely speculation. Before saying goodbye
Allen murmured that he doesn't believe
in a world of things. Why should he?
The end has never been the end,
and the universe is an open field of play,
a way of breathing. Here we don't know what
is going to happen one day to the next.
Except we will suffer. Except we will change.

System of a Down has been making sense to me again.

10 November 2006

Heel, boy, heel

Fucking Newt. Behave, boy! Behave!
If the president had replaced Rumsfeld two weeks ago, the Republicans would still control the Senate and they would probably have 10 more House members. For the president to have suggested for the last two weeks that there would be no change and then change the day after the election is very disheartening.
I can only imagine, buddy. I can only imagine. Clay Aiken says it best,
You do it to yourself, you do.

09 November 2006

Just, or the dissertation proposes me

Writing a dissertation proposal. I think I could end up writing about blogging and then I could end up blogging about writing about blogging. How about some meta-discourse on metadiscourse. Around and around it's sure to go.

A good fucking day for America the other day when just about everyone and their mom said, Now, hold on there Mr. Bush, I think the sky is actually blue. This has a lot in common with the Ted Haggard thing — you can only deny something so long before you get confronted with the ugly, ominous truth. It's hard to watch.

This may seem to be about what I just mentioned, but it's not. It's about me on Thursday night.

08 November 2006

Bob Allen on the Heights of Dignity

Here Tom and Bob discuss "the joy of hitting snooze".

"You were so incoherent Bazan, you're so used to only waking up part way when your alarm goes off, you hit your alarm and it falls down here--dude--six inches away from my head and that's when it goes off again--dude... Do I want to be pressing snooze for you? ... Bazan?--What about the joy of sleep, buddy?--Unfortunately we both lose in this situation."

07 November 2006

Awesomeness Duex!

Apparently in college I was obsessed with what it meant to be "manly". I'm not sure what that says about me. I think I'll try to put up a video a day for a while. I was showing this all to Yoko trying to explain what was going on. It isn't really explicable.

Here, a bunch of us take "the man test" which I think was meant to mean when the water hits our shame, we're supposed to not shout like little girls. Obviously I failed. It was really cold, as I remember.

06 November 2006

College... Was... Awesome...

So, so, so much more to come.

We're working on the best day ever for this blog. Over a hundred views, 9 hours left to go. Keep hitting that refresh button, Buttons.

My heart will go on

We have been finishing up this chapter about Celine Dion in our first-year English classes. It's been riveting, as I'm sure you can imagine. Today, as sort of a send-off, one class was watching the movie "Titanic". I talked to a couple of teachers about it because, you know, there are breasts in that movie. "You know," I said, "that movie is a little — I mean, there are some parts that are-" hoping that they would fill in the rest, but they just answered, "Yes" without understanding what I said. "No, no," I said, "I mean, in America maybe we couldn't show that movie in a high school because-" but there were just more blank stares. "Naked?" I finally came up with. This they understood, "Oh, yes, yes, the students are looking forward to it." But their parents? I asked. Won't their parents be upset? "Well, maybe they won't tell their parents." Great.

I saw part of the movie, but left before the breasts, which is fine because who wants to look at that with a bunch of high school students.

Some sort of oil/ gasoline leak on my motorbike has got me suffering from massive headaches. I took it to the bike shop and this old guy who seemed very uninterested in the problem suggested we change a seal that he didn't have. Fine, I said, and am now waiting until Wednesday to have it "fixed" although I'm sure this isn't going to do anything because the fumes are coming from a different part of the engine. Part of living in Japan is trying to get people to do the things you actually need them to do. Everyone is always willing to help, but never really able to do anything unless you explicitly lay it out for them. I know I'm generalizing, but it always feels like I'm trying to push an elephant through a doorway. Like, I know I'm a foreigner and I sound like I'm stupid because I can't speak your language perfectly, but I understand that there is a strong smell of exhaust coming from the engine and can't you just really look at the engine? I'll pay anything you like. Just get rid of this damn headache.

Bah. Tokyo, December 2nd and 3rd. Japanese Proficiency and coffee with all the city dwellers. Mark it. I'm gonna get a hotel in Ikebukuro I think 'cause I'm actually taking the test at Saitama U, which seems like way the hell out of the way, but what can you do. Level 2 is mine this year.

05 November 2006


This will be my last Haggard post, I think. See, here's the deal: for the liberal, post-Evangelical, confused agnostically-leaning dude (like myself), guys like Haggard pose a big problem. Because they say they've heard and seen and know, when we are saying you can't know or see or hear. But they say it with such conviction and power, that sometimes, people like me go, Well, maybe people like Haggard are right. It feels so right. Then something like this happens and you can see, clearly, that all that hearing and seeing and knowing was really just an act. And what is real is a man who doesn't really know, who is an awful lot like me (minus, of course, the meth and the male whore).

This isn't about Iraq (obviously). Don't go vote Democratic because Haggard is an asshole. It isn't about whether the Bible is right or not. It's about people who shout and who tell other people what to do. It's about a man condemning homosexuality while being secretly gay. I would have all the respect in the world for him if he had admitted to being gay before all of this, and still said he felt it was wrong. Great, no problem. But the sins the pious seem quick to admit are never the real ones. If you live with it enough, you begin to see that.

Sullivan gets it right again:
Please: Don't exculpate him. But don't demonize him either. He is human; and our calling as Christians is to understand, help and love. That's hard, so hard. The Christian calling is to love one another. Not to pass laws or elect parties. Do we understand how hard it is to simply love one another? Isn't that enough for Christians? Isn't that enough to fill our lives, without politicizing the world?

04 November 2006

Okay, let's take a break


Sorry to keep jumping on this, but the linguist in me got a-hopping. I noticed this quote by Haggard in the Yahoo! story.
Never had a gay relationship with anybody, and I'm steady with my wife, I'm faithful to my wife.
Now, if you look at the wording of this statement, Haggard has not said that he didn't have sex with a man. He said he never had a gay "relationship" with anybody. That doesn't mean he didn't have sex with a man. He could have had repeated sexual encounters, but he is simply insisting (as the gay cowboys did) that he "ain't queer". Also, check out his verb tense when talking about his wife. No one is arguing whether he is or is not faithful to his wife. It is being said that he "hasn't been" faithful to his wife. A small tense thing, but I think this might be more important as this gets a little bit more clear.

Although I guess he does sort of actually deny it here. So much for my forensic linguistics future... (Moreover, Andrew Sullivan has much more of a soul than me.)
So hypothetically, according to you, I can admire a man's penis in the shower, but the moment I put it in my mouth, some sort of line has been crossed?

03 November 2006

A steamer with your scientific method?

Ted Haggard scares the shit out me. Luckily, it seems that he will likely be done in by paying to get himself a steamer (or monthly steamers, it now seems). The "In the News" section of his website has, unfortunately, not been updated yet. But please, don't look at hypocrisy like this critically. John Kerry fucked up a joke. People who fuck up jokes are the real bad guys.

Anyway, so I finally saw "Brokeback Mountain" and I gotta say, a nice little film. Now, I'm not a big fan of watching gay sex, but I fast-forwarded through those parts. Does that make me a bad person? I'm not sure. You might remember what Larry David wrote last year about Brokeback Mountain:
I just know if I saw that movie, the voice inside my head that delights in torturing me would have a field day. "You like those cowboys, don't you? They're kind of cute. Go ahead, admit it, they're cute. You can't fool me, gay man. Go ahead, stop fighting it. You're gay! You're gay!
Well, I didn't quite feel that way, but still, no gay sex watching for me. I'll leave that to the self-righteous, pious, asshole Evangelical leaders.