Thursday, July 31, 2003


My recent blogs have been longer than usual, because, as you might suspect, I'm talking about myself. This is an indulgence provided to me only through a Weblog and so I take advantage of it. If any of you are bored of this, change the channel. If you are reading it, I would appreciate feedback. So far, only Sleetse, Tak and Fooky have bothered (thanx, dudes). I will finish this story before the week is out, and I will have gotten it out of my system. Of course, this just means I will be talking about JA stuff again.

Fond Farewell: Take care Capt. Gaijin. Keep in touch through Xanga. CG is leaving today for Japan to work as an English teacher in Shikoku. I hope Kai won't get too lonely...

Anyway, back to the story....

Not Living Up to Expectation
This is the third installment, a continuation of yesterdays entry.

I was hanging out with a new acquaintance who helped out during the Shogatsu rush. Dave (not his real name) was thinking of starting a band and he had a set of drums. I had a piano, and so he suggested we "jam". Well, I am (pathetically) self-taught, and not very good, but had pretended--like any 14-17 year-old--that I could play and "acted" the musician, playing at church and boyscout functions ever so rarely--like once or twice. But of course, I had to say, "Uh, yeah, let's rock." (alright, all together now... dassaaai.)

Well, one thing led to another and, voila, I was in a band. We were, to be sure, small time and very short lived, lasting nine months--three to get ready, and six to play gigs--in 1973. We played at Asian dances—dances sponsored by and advertised to Asians, mostly Japanese Americans. They were held at places like Roger Young's Auditorium, the Elks Club and miscellaneous restaurants. These dances were the places for the "in-crowd", to see and be seen, where guys came to show off their Camaros, Road Runners or Porches, where an Anti-glob could get an illegal drink without the help of "older" friends. I occasionally saw my high school classmates, which was cool, because it shocked them to see me in this kind of environment. But this was rare, which was also fine, for this meant there were fewer opportunities for others to find out what a Glob I was.

This is where I also got my first real lesson in the demographics of JA women in LA. Before our band began playing at these dances, we would go out to scout what the other bands were playing. Bands with a brass section played songs like "You're Still a Young Man" by Tower of Power or "Beginnings" by Chicago. Brass-less groups played standard tunes that were so boring I can't even remember what they were. Of course, on these scouting trips, I was pretty incognito. Not a band member, just another Asian face in a sea of Asian faces. I hung with the other band members and met their group of friends, and soon learned the difference between Eastside and Westside. The Eastside chicks were hot looking, but the Westside girls were just plain hot. They could dance. They could talk. And they would NEVER tease. Eastsiders would act as though they were interested in you, but they'd be looking over your shoulder or at their watch waiting for something better to happen—which usually wasn't a long wait if they were talking to me. But Westsiders, what you saw was what you got. If they liked you, you were good to go. If they didn't, they let you know right from the start where you stood. It was easier--and oh sooo cooler--to talk to Westside girls because they didn't give you a lot of bullshit. It really was straight, and easy to handle, for a Glob like me.

But things changed when our band started getting gigs. At a dance, Eastside girls appeared out of nowhere:

"Aren't you in the band? Ooh, I like the way you played guitar."

"Uh, I'm on keyboard." I would try so hard not to roll my eyes. I mean, they WERE cute.

"Yeah, I know! You guys are so good. I really liked the first song you played. I just heard it for the first time on the radio yesterday. How did you guys learn it so fast?"

"'Free Ride'? By Edgar Winters? Well, we try to keep our fingertips on the pulse of music trends." (I still can't believe I used to say shit like that…) But as I would say this, I looked over her shoulder for something better to happen, because I know what was coming next.

"Really? No one plays that song at dances. You guys are so good. Uh, I'm Kathy, do you think you could get me and my friends in free at your next gig?" Yes, Martha, even we had groupies.

Alas, fame was fleeting. We got top billing at an Asian dance once, when the other top Japanese/Asian bands—Free Flight, Heavy Nations, We the People—had the flu or something. Our fifteen minutes lasted from midsummer to the end of the year and then we broke up. But not before I got to meet a lot of people who were not Globs, who taught me to smoke, and drink, and partake in other pharmaceutically unsafe activities. But most importantly, they taught me that I didn't have to be compliant, that I could complain if I wanted to, that I could be what I wanted to be, that I didn't have to meet the expectations set by anyone else. The downside, of course, was that this was all happening when I was a junior in high school, a Jesuit high school at that. I would be hung-over or exhausted from lack of sleep from band practice, and I would ditch school. On days I felt fine, I didn't want to waste it at school. Better to go to the mall or to the beach. Fortunately for me, I had myself a Westside girlfriend, Aileen (not her real name), whose handwriting was exactly the same as my mothers. What a break. As far as the school was concerned, I was suffering from some sort of incurable malady. And in a way, I was: self-discovery. But while I didn't get into trouble for my attendance, my grades suffered severely. I can't remember getting a single grade higher than D+ in any of my courses. Of course, if you miss more than a third of school, it's not surprising.

But even after the band broke up, I still had my friends and we still hung out together. I never reverted to a Glob. In my senior year, my grades went up just enough to graduate, third from the bottom, with a overall GPA of 2.1. I was definitely not university material. While all my classmates applied and got into major universities, I was stuck in limbo.

But that was okay. I didn't have to meet anyone's expectation except my own. And I decided to bum around. This is when my mother intervened and said: "Go to Japan"….

More tomorrow...

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Thanks to Everyone

for chiming in on the Xanga Premium stuff. I may end up paying for it, if only to support the people who provide this service, and it IS service, especially for guy like me who keeps spewing words out, as well as providing me the opportunity to meet cool, new people online: Taku, Sleetse, Fooky, Nefarious, Tigger, Hanzo (I just love to PR!) as well as allow me to keep in touch with my kids, which are too many to list here...

Not Living Up to Expectation
This is a second installment, the continuation of yesterday's entry.

Yes, it was a new, cool lifestyle, but I'm getting ahead of myself. I worked part-time at a Manju shop in LA's J-Town--officially known as Lil' Tokyo. It's there I first learned to speak Japanese. I had heard it most of my life and even "studied" it in elementary school, but I never really understood it until I worked at the sweet shop, where both the full-time workers and the majority of the customers spoke nothing but Japanese. The first few weeks were a fiasco.

A customer would walk in, look at the sweets in the showcase, and say, "Eeto, kore to kore to kore wo kudasai." Give me this and this and this.

With a face that begged for understanding, I stumbled over my own tongue as I tried to fulfill his request using my index finger.

"Uh, kore, ichi? Um, kore, ichi? Er, kore, ni?" Uh, this, one? Um, this, one? Er, this, two?

Whew! Fortunately for me, I understood more than I could speak and the owner did not fire me. Even more fortunate, however was the weekend. I worked 5 to 10 on Friday and Saturdays and 5 to 8 on Sundays. I guess the hours weren't so fortunate. I was puzzled why the store was open so late. I mean, who would buy manju at 9pm? Well, J-Town was the place where many JAs gathered, especially on weekends, when they came to do their weekly shopping of Japanese goods. At night, however, it was the men who came to town to spend there money. First, there was Frank's pool hall in the basemeng of the Taul Building on the corner of 1st and San Pedro. It looked incredibly seedy... no, I take that back, it WAS incredibly seedy, with old men and young toughs shooting pool with cigarettes hanging out of there mouths at 45 degree angles. Weenies like me, who couldn't shoot straight, had to play short games, like nine-ball, so we could actually finish a game in decent time. But the regulars played straight pool, calling out numbers, "13 in the corner", then slide over the beads strung around the tables with each shot made. To these 17 year-old eyes, it was so cool to see these guys shooting for the money they had splayed on the table before each game. I would suck on a Coke as I watched the regulars play rack after rack of pool.

But pool wasn't the main form of entertainment then. What everyone did was drink and bullshit of hours. There were a number of places. Some of the tonier people would go to the bar in the Horikawa Restaurant for wine or Chivas Regal. The hard core drinkers went to a couple of the dark, nameless bars on the northside 1st Street to drown themselves with dollar shots of cheap whiskey or $2 tokkuri of sake. But the real action was at Eigiku Restaurant, where there was a form of entertainment that preceded karaoke: Namaoke, or a piano bar where the customers sat around and sang all night. My elder senpais would go and sit for hours, to sing, to BS, and to flirt with the waitresses.

"Hey, Onigiriman, lets get a drink."

"Uh, I'm only 17," I would confess.

"Whatchu worried about, man. You with us. No one's gonna ask." And they were right, the confession was needless.

Well, all these men who went to shoot pool and drink for hours, had to go home to wives. But they couldn't go home empty handed. They had to take an omiage to appease the missus. So there actually was a demand for manju--or sushi--at 9 in the evening on weekends. These men, often slurring there words, would come in to purchase their peace offerings, as I struggled to complete there orders, all the while secretly wishing they would hurry up so I could close the store and go out.

So the weekend hours were not ideal for a young, eager man like me, the presence of my seekend co-workers alleviated the situation: they were all girls from Roosevelt High School, a public high school... ooooh... lucky me. Why? Because all the hot girls who spoke Japanese worked in J-town. And I got to chat with--and even stand next to--them...m(><)m. Of course, this was just my perception, which was actually blown out of proportion, because I was coming from a cloistered life in parochial school. I mean, for me--a dork--any girl was like a gift from God.

"Oh, thank you God, for giving me this opportunity before I die...."

Well, maybe I wasn't that hard up, but it was close....

Besides, I was soon to find out that Eastside girls looked hot, but Westside girls WERE hot. My metamorphoses into an anti-Glob began one New Years season, Shogatsu. In the sweet shop business, this period began the day after Christmas as everyone began to buy there stock of mochi, the rice cakes everyone eats on January 1....

More tomorrow....

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

How Narcissistic Can One Get?

Good question. In general, Xanga, or any blog for that matter, is a log of one's thoughts; to wit, a journal. And a journal by any other name is still a journal: personal, self-absorbed, and free from constraint. So I will indulge myself. Will readership go down? Maybe. Doesn't matter. A weblog, as I've mentioned earlier, is an excercise in exhibitionism/voyuerism: I show, you watch; I write, you read. In a way, this is what autobiographies are like, and in many cases the first novel of new authors. Not that they intentionally write autobiographies, but many of the ideas in a "maiden novel" are taken from life experiences. Relax. I do not intend to write a novel here. But I will jot down the experiences of a JA in LA in the late 60s, early 70s, something that some may find interesting to peruse, in that it is a "reflection" of the thoughts of one member of an invisible minority--y'know the one that doesn't complain, the model minority--at a time when civil rights were blossoming across the U.S.... The entry below is an extended version of yesterday's entry, because, in a way, I want to qualify my self-portrayal as a "total screw-up." I don't intend to justify it, just relate background info in the hopes y'all will not think that a complete idiot got a PhD.

Now, some may be interested in who the O-man is, what makes him click, what makes him write all these daily entries... He is, ahem, I mean, I am not interesting, per se; but my life has been different from yours, I'd bet.... But I make no claims about my style or the worthiness of the content or my effectiveness as a writer, AND I should warn you that I have been accused of writing boring stuff (then don't read it! I wanna say). Those of you not interested, change the channel now. (click, click)

Not Living Up to Expectation
This is an extended version of yesterday's entry; more detail, or at least enough, I should say. Names have been omitted or changed to protect the innocent--me.

I was raised in a modest home as the good, little Oriental boy--heretofore, Glob--of a model minority family--i.e. hard working, uncomplaining, compliant. In elementary school, I wasn't very bright, I had so-so grades, and my dreams were limited to what people around me believed: work hard, go to college, study economics or engineering or medicine. (In a very Oriental tone) "Oh, rearry? Okay, I try hahd!" But I didn't know how to try hard, or what it entailed, particularly as the son of parents who did not go to college (I'm not ragging on my parents; this is simply the way it was back in the day). I just watched "MyThree Sons" or "Leave it to Beaver" and wondered what I had to do to emulate such a "typical" American family.

I went to a private Catholic missionary elementary school and we were members of the church. We lived a rather isolated life... Actually most of the members did, I think. The school and church was exclusively Japanese American, and we, as kids, never had to deal with other races. We played with each other, and our parents socialized with church/school members.

However, that doesn't mean I was unaware of my difference. Once, when I was 5, Chuckles the Clown came by to East LA, to a nearby shopping center. As loyal viewers of his TV antics, my sister and I went to see him as many of the local kids did. We tried to get there early to get a good seat and we were in teh second row. Chuckles set up his show in the parking lot in front of Thrifty drugs store, and we eagerly watched his magic tricks and listened to his jokes. He then went into his balloon routine, you know, the one where he blows up long and skinny baloons and bends them into animals? He started making animal after animal and handing them out to the kids circling him. Moving clockwise, he finally reached us. Hands raised and screaming like everyone else, my heart is pounding in anticpation of getting a balloon from Chuckles himself. He hands over animal balloons to kids behind us, then to kids in front of us. Then he moves on... Didn't he see us? We were raising our hands like everyone else, crying out his name. Didn't he see us? My lasting image of Chuckles was his back, facing kids, white kids, to my right, handing out those damn balloons.

Of course, my training taught me not to complain. So I just accepted it, trying to understand what happend--he didn't see us, or maybe he reached for another balloon and forgot us--trying to justify it, as well as a 6 year old kid could. However, as you might imagine, I developed a very real sense of security at school and at church where I was among people who looked like me.

From elementary school, I then went to a private Catholic high school run by Jesuits. "Ooooh." You're probably thinking, "That must have really screwed you up." Well, discipline can be good and bad, depending on how you look at it. The discipline administered by Jesuits is not violently brutal, but definitely limiting, and so usually has the effect of making one compliant or rebellious. As a Glob from a model minority family, I was expected to be compliant and uncomplaining, which I was for the most part. But fortunately--the good--it planted the seeds for rebellion and festered within me until the most opportune moment: a part time job.

"Huh? How can a part time job trigger rebellion?" Well, for a Glob from a very narrow world, getting a part-time job, meeting new and completely different people--including girls--was quite an experience. I should mention that I was kind of a dork up until then--maybe I still am--but the opportunity to meet people who had no preconceived idea as to my lot in life--or simply put, what a dork I was--was a relief, refreshing and even exciting. Here I was, with a brand new slate, ready to fill in whatever was necessary to create a new me: Anti-Glob, the the embryo that was to grow into Onigiriman.

Well, as a new Anti-Glob I had to do what all the other anti-Globs were doing: hang out, smoke cigs, drink scotch, go to dances, talk to girls, and of course, NEVER study. "Wow, is this what everyone else does?" I was enraptured with this new, cool lifestyle....

Monday, July 28, 2003

Okay, so who's #1500?

Tiggerj or Purin_kun? Whoever uses o**** as his/her server I think is #1500... Gee, too bad there isn't a prize or anything...

Yes, I am guilty. I have been accused of posts that are at times too long, too heavy and perhaps too self-important... Well, I don't know about self-important, cuz I don't consider myself that important--I think my kids will tell you that I openly admit mistakes and usually make as much fun of myself as I do them.

But long and heavy? Yeah, maybe. But that's because I have a lot to say sometimes... pplz if u want lite n fluffy, theres lots--I mEAn LoTs--of sites with personal, lite stuff (I had to try it once, okay?). Some write poems; others write lyrics to songs... wait, I think I've done both of these, too... hmm... Well for me, this weekend's logs have been fluffy, just movie stuff. Now back to the serious...

The Doctor Idiot Is In
I've read 3-4 posts lately by people who are feeling down about themselves, about how some earlier actions and past decisions have resulted in a life leading to nowheresville, where nothing seems to be working out. Well, some may be just ranting, to work out some stress. But if not, you guys still don't have to feel too down. There is always hope.

Yeah, yeah, it sounds hokey, but its true. There really is hope. The only catch is that YOU have to make it happen. Been there, done that. Really.

I don't want to bore you with the details, so let me cut to the chase--some of you may have already heard this, so you can change the channel now.

I was a total screw up in high school. Bad grades, bad attendance, I'm surprised they didn't kick me outa school. Couldn't go to college like my friends so I went to work full time. Hey, all I wanted was money to put gas in my Camaro and go on hot dates. But I began to realize that maybe--jUsT mAybE (this is kinda fun actually)--this wasn't the right path. But I thought, "Crapola, I'm 20 and going nowhere. I can't even get into school if I wanted to." So I started out at a junior colllege--took 5 years to graduate! hahahaha--and thanks to a professor who had a lot of faith in me, convinced me to apply to UCLA and the rest is history.

The point, of course, is that I could have given up. "Ah, its too late to change now." But I didn't. I made a conscious decision to act in the present and to dwell on the future, not the past, to finish school--time frame be damned--and see where it would take me. Now if this stupid-ass almost-high-school drop-out can earn a PhD from SU, then I'd bet that everyone who's read this far can work even greater miracles: cure cancer, bring peace to the Middle East, get Fox to cancel Banzai, y'know, the hard stuff, the long and heavy stuff. I'm serious...

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Top 10 Movies

1. Tampopo (1985)--Best postmodern film; I have seen this movie at least 20 times and everytime I find something I didn't notice before, EVERYTIME.
2. Casablanca (1942)--Cynical, realistic, patriotic, all in one! And Bogart and Bergman to boot.
3. Pulp Fiction (1994)--Thoughtfully violent, violently thoughtful; best film for Jackson and Travolta.
4. Patton (1970)--The classic war movie, George C. Scott rocks.
5. The Sound of Music (1965)--don't laugh, Julie Andrews has a great voice, and I like musicals.
6. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)--best movie about race (sorry Spike), Gregory Peck's best flick.
7. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)--best Stephen King adaptation, and best never-say-die message.
8. Field of Dreams (1989)--I like baseball and corn; only drawback is that the character Terence Mann is really J.D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye, as if you didn't know) in the novel Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella.
9. Godzilla (1954)/Them (1954) --tie. Both are great anti-nuclear bomb films; Godzilla attacks Tokyo, giant ants take on LA.
10. White Christmas (1954)--Did I mention I like musicals and corn?

Breakdown: By Era: 90s-2, 80s-2, 70s-1, 60s-2, 50s-2, 40s-1 (pretty good distribution). Print: Color-7, B/W-3 (not bad given the time frame). Genre: Drama-6, comedy-0, musical-2, foreign-1, science fiction-1 (I'm counting Godizilla and Them as one;). Although Tampopo and White Christmas may be considered comedies, they are commonly categorized as I have done it. Some comedies rate as "great"--"Some Like it Hot" being the best example--they just didn't make the top ten.

I mentioned in the previous post the site for movielens where participants rank movies from 1 (awful) to 3 (ok) to 5 (must see). Not that it matters to anyone, but I thought i'd lay down my basic guidelines.
1 is for movies that I hate with a passion, like Spaceballs (or any Mel Brooks movie from History of the World on) and Disney's Aristocats for spreading their racial profiling techniques to young children through cats.
2 is for movies that are I regret seeing. These include predictable stinkers like Jaws 2, Aliens 3, Rocky IV, Star Trek VI and most other sequels, as well as some that many would find good, but I found unintersting to me, such as Pretty in Pink (inane 80s fluff), the Shining (bad Stephen King adaptation), Mars Attack (just stupid), and Pretty Women (I am not a Julia Roberts fan).
3 is the rank I give to most movies. They were ok. I saw them, I have no major complaints: from Cool Hand Luke to Ramancing the Stone to Training Days. But none of these movies I would not see again, unless I was completely bored or under threat of death--which are pretty muchthe same to me, but it has to be on TV, I will not rent the video.
4 is the rank I give to movies that I would see again. It had to somehow pique my interest in any of many different ways, such as the gender-bender Victor/Victoria (Julie Andrews), the pathos through science fiction/horro in Edward Scissorhands, the action of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the adrenalin rush of Aahnolds best flick, The Predator (better than T1 and T2 combined). I will see them on TV or even rent the video.
5 is for the classics, and these I will see over and over, so much so that I will even buy the DVD, although I don't have all of them yet. These include the titles above but also others such as Close Encounter of the Third Kind and The Day the Earth Stoo Still (intelligent use of special effects), Beauty and the Beast (first movie to bring teard in my adult eyes), the Natural (baseball, good adaptation of Mullamad), Jaws (first movie to scare me without using supernatural beings), Bonnie and Clyde (for being 60s cool), and Roman Holiday (for teaching me never to take myself too seriously). And if you're wondering there are a few J flicks on this list as well, incuding Seven Samurai, Ballad of Narayama (with Ogata Ken), Ran, and Woman in the Dunes.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Weekend Fluff

Pirates of the Caribbean
Okay, I don't usually go out to movies cuz it gets to be too expensive when you pay for three all the time. We usually go to movies that require less thinking so my stepson can understand it without running commentary from me--he's still learning English. So most movies have been limited to things such as Finding Nemo, X-Men, Spiderman, Shrek, etc. Of course, I wanted to see these movies as well.... Anyway, yesterday we went to see Pirates of the Caribbean. I'm not much on raving; most movies to me are just "okay." This is what happens when you teach a film class....

But this was a really fun movie, and it was mostly because of Johnny Depp. He can really act, he is so off the wall, and he just screams attention without screaming. I would love to learn his technique, but I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the way he looks and there's no way Onigiriman can change his, well, onigiri shape and texture...

A number of critics have panned Pirates, but I don't see why. It was just plain fun. It didn't convey the cynicism of the patriotic American as in Casablanca, or of the modern American in Americna Beauty. It didn't reflect the postmodern thought of Tampopo, and it wasn't emotionally draining like Pay It Forward. It didn't have the scale of a Titanic, the CG wizardry of AI, or the bleached-out cool of Minority Report. But it was fun to watch. I laughed out loud a couple of times, but mostly I giggled--I know, sounds stupid--my way through the film, and mostly at the character of Capt. Jack Sparrow. Depp is kinda mesmerizing... not that I'm gay or anything; he simply demands attention, he was like that in Sleepy Hollow and Scissorhands, too. Now I gotta rent To Hell.

4.5 stars on my movielens scale.

Speaking of which, if any of you have even more time than me to waste, check out movielens. I think it started out as somebodies research at the University of Minnesota or something. You rate your movies 1 to 5 stars and it stores the information in a database. After a number of movies, it will predict the number of stars for movies you have yet to see. Obviously, the more you input, the more accurate it becomes, and it is pretty accurate for me. But then, I've rated 826 films so far--In case you're wondering, I have been rating films over a two and a half year period. I haven't seen 826 in 2 1/2 years; they've slowly added old films and I rate the ones I've seen before as they become available.

Later (much later tonight)... My All-time Top 10 Movies
Gotta go grocery shopping... and cook... tonight grilled sea bass... with Tofu pomodoro

Friday, July 25, 2003

Who am I

This reminds me of a rather inane English lesson video put out by the world famous TESOL instructor, Hayami Yu. In her promotional video, she uses this phrase as a point of departure to learn English. Now I ask you, what kind of a sentence is "Who am I?" I figure if you don’t know who you are, then learning English should be the least of your concerns. I mean really, how many times are you going to ask this question in your life? It seems to me that it would be used only in very specific situations, like…this one…now.

My name is Onigiriman. I do not deviate from this moniker on any Xanga page. There are a few people who call me by other designations: 先生 (a number of people), 教授 (Taku), DAD! (Fooky). Why? Perhaps they feel that some of what I say is meaningful? Profound? Well, I’m flattered, but I’m just an おやじ with a new toy, a Weblog. だから、Cut it out, 頼むから、やめてくれない?And lets forget the さん business as well. Showing respect to people in person is a necessary behaviorial practice we should all strive to maintain, but on a blog site, I find it rather unnecessary, particularly since I am here semi incognito. I mean, haven’t you seen my profile pix? In the clearest pic of me to date, I was sporting an afro! And just to set the record straight, it WAS a wig. Just treat me like another blogger. (Anyone want to see the afro again, please raise you hand.)

The Fruit of Midsummer
The BGM playing now is a song by KUWATA Keisuke is a classic and was used as the theme song for the movie “Inamura Jane”. The movie is about a group of four young people who live in Inamuragasaki by Shōnan Beach. They surf—when surfing was still young in Japan—waiting for a legendary wave called Inamura Jane. “Manatsu no Kajitsu” (the fruit of midsummer) is a love song about the memories of a summer past and the sadness it evokes. The sense of the song might be grasped by this rough translation of the first stanza and chorus:A sad season filled with tears—it sees a dream embraced by someone—the feeling of wanting to cry can’tbe put into words—a cold rain will fall again tonight—letting out sighs I can’t hold back—even now, summer cruises in my heart—Saying I love you 24/7—taking me into a dream—the heart and soul I can’t forget—I can’t voice—erasing the names we wrote in the sand—where will the tears return?—a passing love and roll—love just as it is.

Some who visit me may be interested inthe Japanese lyrics, which I include below, complete with furigana. Try singing along with it—when you’re alone of course.

(なみだ)があふれる (かな)しい季節(きせつ) / (だれ)かに()かれた(ゆめ)を見る
/ 今夜(こんや)(つめ)たい(あめ)()
こらえきれなくて ため(いき)ばかり 
/ 今もこの(むね)に (なつ)(めぐ)

四六時中(しろくじちゅう)も好きと言って / 夢の中へ()れて行って
 (わす)れられない Heart & Soul 
/ (こえ)にならない
/ (なみ)はどこへ(かえ)るのか
 (とお)()() Love & Roll 
/ (あい)をそのままに

マイナス100()太陽(たいよう)みたいに / 身体(からだ)湿(しめ)らす(こい)をして
めまいがしそうな真夏(まなつ)果実(かじつ)は / 今でも(こころ)()いている
(とお)(はな)れても 黄昏時(たそがれとき)は 
/ (あつ)面影(おもかげ)(むね)(せま)

四六時中(しろくじちゅう)も好きと言って / 夢の中へ()れて行って
 (わす)れられない Heart & Soul / (よる)が待てない
/ (なみ)はどこへ帰るのか
 (とお)()() Love & Roll 
/ (あい)をそのままに

 こんな(よる)(なみだ)見せずに / また()えると言って()しい
 (わす)れられない Heart & Soul / (なみだ)果実(かじつ)

Thursday, July 24, 2003

D.C. Sushi Society

Sushi in DC is becoming elitist thanks to a group of Japanese, according to this article in Personally I think that anyone can make sushi. I've had good sushi from non-Japanese chefs--albeit rarely--and lousy sushi by Japanese--all too frequently. It's a matter of training, not nationality and certainly not race. The best sushi chefs are trained since middle school as they learn their trade from cleaning knives and trays, to rinsing and preparing the rice, for years before they can even begin to make sushi. Those who insist that only Japanese can make good sushi are at a loss when confronted with the idea that this means only Italians can make good Italian food. As those who have been to Japan know, there are some really good Italian chefs who are Japanese--I did have one person insist that the Japanese are a special case, that they can't be copied but they can do the copying! Where do they breed these idiots? Someone's got to get rid of that part of the gene pool....

Back from class...

Xanga Behavior
I have been posting on Xanga for over a month now, and I must admit that I am kinda addicted. This is not a good thing. I am prone to addiction, I think. I used to be an alcoholic--as defined by alcoholics anonomous, an alcoholic is anyone who feels the need or desire to drink in a given situation. Well, I HAD to have some wine at parties, and beer at sporting events. I was also a heavy smoker. I was a two packer--Marlboro Reds--for 15 years, then cut down to 4-5 a day for the next 15. I finally quit for good three years ago. Now Xanga....

One of the reasons its addictive is the fact that its a pretty narcissistic activity: I write about myself--like I am now--and wonder if people will read it. Many may truly have a good reason to post on Xanga. Some keep in touch with family and friends from a distance, but my family and friends are near and those far away don't even know I am on Xanga. Some write a true journal of the events in their lives. I have never kept a diary or journal unless it was required for school or something. No, there is only one reason for me to do this: I am narcissistic, I wnt people to look at me. (You readin' this Sleetse?)

There! Okay? I said it! (Actually, Sleetse has--in his own way--already admitted this.)
BTW: I got 11 comments for yesterdays post. Most ever, even more than those quizzes. Thanks for the love everybody!

Another reason to be on Xanga is that it's rather voyeristic. Some may want to deny this aspect because, conversely, this would mean that as a Xanga poster, they are exhibitionistic, allowing strangers to peek into their private thoughts and moods.

However, I am a selective voyeur, and my viewing habits are driven by specific stimuli. I read sites of those who:
1. are interesting;
2. I know personally:
3. subscribe to me.

These criteria are not mutually exclusive. There are people I know who post interesting things, and there are those whose posts I read simply because I know them.

There are post of people I find interesting who I don't know--I realize that this is strictly personal taste--and I put links to their sites here from time to time. Some of them are only exclusively Japanese (language), so some may find them more trouble than they are worth. But I think they are interesting.

I have been known to cruise the sites of strangers, but there are some sites that I refuse to revisit:
1. Sites that take too long to load (I have an old computer);
2. Sites that use excessively busy backgrounds. I suppose the youngins' think its cool, but to these old trained eyes--or just plain old eyes--they take away from the content. I am into reading what the person has to say. Of course, images may be a relfection of personality, but its still too hard on the eyes;
3. Light colored text on a light background is also problematic, such as light blue text on white background. This is really hard to read.

But most random sites I have found through the blobrings I subscribe to, or by stealthily rummaging through the comments given to people I know, and selecting some that sound interesting.

There are three I read consistently: Fooky11 is a young man who writes about his days in an optimistic way. It is pleasant to read someone who is not ranting. His posts are in both Japanese and English simultaneously so it would be good J practice for some of you. I found him through Sleets. Another is, a young lady who writes almost exclusively in Japanese. She has a fun loving attitude and her posts crack me up. I found her through Takunishi79, who refers to her as Gyoza no Keiko. That alone should tell you her site might be interesting. Of course, there is the loud Seminole, HattoriHanzo. (i don't mean he's noisy, but he likes to use LARGE fonts at times.) He posts a lot of the latest on news in sports and entertainment. A good read and good for a laugh. I met Hanzo through Takunishi79, as well. And don't forget, if you're interested in things Japanese, join Sleetse's JapanII blobring...

Wow, I thought I was just doodling, but this turned out pretty long! More tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Summer cool
Okay, cool is okay, in abstract terms--fashion, attitude--but PLEASE not the weather! After a freezing winter and an extended cool spring, I relish the summer heat, humidity and all--okay, I hated the hay fever... But now, a storm has come through to send the mercury plummeting to levels unheard of in the summer--especially for this SoCal boy. Gimme the heat! We even had a black out for about an hour... Anyway, I thought I'd play a BGM that reminds me of the dog days of summers in early 90s Japan. I've got others, but they'd be even older...

Why is Nihon called Japan?
A Continuing Series of Useless--Yet Inexplicably Interesting--Information

This is the question I posted before I went to sleep last night. While the West refers to France as France, and America as America, it calls a country, known to its citizens as Nihon, Japan. This morning, Takunishi, that man steeped in all things Japanese, responded to the above query by telling me that the name Japan came from the word Zipang, likely Portuguese, meaning perhaps the "Land of Gold." And indeed, according to the Wikipedia, "Zipang, Zipangu or Jipangu (where the ending 国 means "country") is the archaic name for Japan, from Portuguese. That was first introduced by Marco Polo's book, with spelling Cipangu."

EN">But the question is, where did this Portuguese word come from? Why did they call it Zipang, instead of Nihon or Nippon? I don't really know why, but I've created my own story after studying Chinese.

In Modern Chinese--Mandarin, to be precise--the characters for Japan 日本 are pronounced, ri-ben. Now, this doesn't look anything like the word Nihon or Japan, except for the fact that it has two syllables. But the interesting thing is its pronunciation: 'r' as represented in pinyin (modern Chinese represented phonetically in roman letters) is similar to the sound 'j' or 'zh' as represented in English. Further, 'i' in pinyin--and only after certain consonants--is pronounced in a way that would sound similar to 'er' (as in 'her') to the American ear. One more thing: 'e' in certain combinations is pronounced 'u' as in 'up'. (Amazingly, some scholars actually believe pinyin is the perfect romanization for Chinese.) Consequently, the Chinese pronunciation of 日本--transliterated for the average English speaker--might look more like “jer-bun.” (Chinese scholar, Cult of Dizzo, may have a different opinion, of course.)

Okay, so my story goes like this: To establish its sovereignty and legitimacy to its neighbors, the land of Yamato 大和 produced the Taiho Codes (701), a legal system "borrowed" from the great Chinese civilization. In it, they established the emperor as ruler, government structure, laws, and an official name. Perhaps taking a Chinese perspective--it was, after all, the powerful Middle Kingdom 中国--they saw themselves as a land to its east, an area where the sun rises, the sun's 日 source 本, as it were.

China accepted Japan as a sovereign land and subsequently referred to it by its official name, albeit using their pronunciation. When some visiting Europeans asked what lies to the east, the Chinese responded with the word that became the basis for the West's name for 日本. "jer-bun." (Get it? Get it?)

Now, I'm sure you're thinking, "Yeah, right." And I'd be the first to admit that modern Chinese cannot be pronounced exactly as it was during the Tang or Ming dynasty, although I'd bet that they would be similar. And certainly, this is my "fairly tale", not an exercise in critical methodology. But interestingly enough, there was a man from Venice named Marco Polo who published his experiences in China in a book entitled Le Merveilles du Monde (that's "Marvels of the World" to you and me) at the end of the 13th century. In it, he also mentions a "land of gold" that the Chinese spoke of, a group of islands to the east of China that he introduced to the West as… (drum roll, please)… Jipang, the alternate spelling for English speakers representing the Portuguese pronunciation of Cipangu.

Note: the 'g' or 'gu' is from the Chinese pronuciation of 国 'guo'.

For more, see: Marco Polo's Asia; an introduction to his "Description of the world" called "Il milione."

Tuesday, July 22, 2003


New Profile Pic

With the Senryu poet I call the Rice Cooker who spawned the O-man, or just plain Dad.

Today's entry

This fall I'm teaching a course on Readings in Modern Japanese, and we will focus on the works of MURAKAMI Haruki. I am supposed to get a new TA and so I have to figure out how to divide the work. Hmm...

In the course, we will read his short stories, and I have divided them into social commentary and postmodernism. Haruki often uses animals in his social commentary--something he would likely deny, he doesn't "consciously" use animals to make any kind of statement, nor is he trying to make any kind of statement at all. I believe him--that is the genius of a gifted writer. The following is an example.

What do you think the elephant might represent? Consider how the author characterizes the elephant. What is his reaction to her? How does he describe her?

Note: The translation is mine and is rough. If there are any notable errors, please point them out to me >how embarrassing!<

ハイヒールHigh Heel



The elephant was riding the subway, wearing very elegant high heels. In her left hand, she firmly gripped her ticket and in her right she was carrying two best-selling novels. Unitl that moment, I had no idea that elephants could do things like read best-sellers, so I was very surprised indeed.


In any event, it was rush hour, and all the passengers felt inconvenienced by the presence of the elephant. Certainly, if an elephant stepped on you with the heels of its high heels, you wouldn't be able to stand it. You couldn’t get away with just moaning, "oh, oh," and rolling around on the floor. So around the elephant, like a doughnut, an empty margin had popped open. Perhaps sensing this, even the elephant betrayed a very apologetic face.


To be sure, an elephant riding a subway in high heels during rush hour shows a lack of common sense, no matter how you look at it. And yet, there was something about the elephant you just couldn't hate. And so, I went as far as to look at her and do something like give her a little smile. It’s not that I wanted to sleep with the elephant or anything.


The elephant seemed to be quite relieved from the smile I gave her.


“Is Ochanomizu still very far?” the elephant inquired of me.


“Let’s see. Four more stops, I think.”


“Oh, I see,” the elephant blushed. “Sorry to have bothered you.”


“Excuse me, but…” Throwing caution to the wind, I inquired to see what would happen. “Where did you happen to purchase those high heels?”


The elephant looked at me shocked for a moment. “Why would you ask me such a thing?”


“Oh no. They’re so splendid, so I just thought I’d buy some for my sister.” Of course, I don’t have a sister or anything.


The elephant smiled as if relieved. She probably thought that she would certainly be criticized in some way about the high heels.


“You mean these? They sell them at Yoshinoya in Ginza.”


The elephant got off the subway at the Ochanomizu Station. Before she stepped off, she stopped at the door and waved her hand.


When I could no longer see the figure of the elephant, I yawned once and continued to read the book where I left off. In the world of elephants, I’m quite popular.

So what might the elephant represent? Two ideas come immediately to mind if you consider how the elephant is characterized. The author is surprised to see her on the subway, and surprised to see that she reads books. How do the other passangers view her? With disdain. She is a nuisance, no stands near her, they are afraid of being stepped on by her. Notice anything else?

I initially thought it was about the handicapped, particuarly in a wheelchair: awkward presence, crushing toes, reading books. Others have thought it was foreigners: large, unable to read Japanese, unapproachable. I'm not sure. Interpretation is left to the reader. But the last line kinda makes me wonder if it might actually be a reference to foreigners, since Haruki is actually very popular in translation... Any thoughts?

Monday, July 21, 2003


I had considered taking a blog day-off, since I had nothing to inspire me, until I received the following from Kurono Kei. This is what he had to say about the O-man and Sleetse, the Japan II blobring leader:

    You and Sleetse are neck to neck in the vistors depatment. You two are the, black and white, night and day, the yin and yang, the left and the right brain, the id and the ego, the young and the old, good and evil.

Hmmm. As Purin-kun told me before, "This really isn't a competition." Besides, Sleetse is the blobring leader and has been counting on Xanga since, June 9, 2003, a full week longer than me. So its perfectly reasonable that he has more hits than me, I mean, as of 7/21 9:49pm EST, he has 1170 and I have 1151, 19 hits behind him! Not even close.

But more interesting is the characteristics applied by Kei. Let's make a list to make this a bit clearer.

left brain
right brain

Okay, lets see... am I column A or B? Am I black or white... hmm yin or yang... wait, I'm OLD! That's right Kei, I am OLD! Which makes me, white, day, yang, rights brain, and ego. That's me too, EGO!

Just kidding guys. Kei, I hope you realize that I like to play, particularly using comments from others as a point of departure--see Hanzo earlier, for example. Its all in good fun. I know Sleetse knows, so I won't even have to mention that I will probably surpass him in hits someday... JUST KIDDING! REALLY, JUST KIDDING! That's the EVIL part of the column! Yeah, EVIL!

For the record: I didn't even realize we were close in hits until he mentioned it to me... and to a few others, as I have recently found out...

Sunday, July 20, 2003

AllLookSame: Revisited

The idea that one can tell the difference between different Asians has been around in the US at least since WWII. Check out this recreation of a famous Life Magazine article on how to tell the difference between a friend (Chinese) and an enemy (Japanese).

More Banzai
Omigod! Banzai! did better than Frazier in the Neilsen's? I'm depressed as it is....

Here are links to articles on the TV show Banzai!

  • The Associated Press talked to Gary Monaghan, the series' creator.
  • In the LA Times Fox tries to defend itself.
  • Philadelphia Inquirer seems to think this is "genius"!
  • Orlando Sentinel thinks "it just might work"!

    Has any one heard of Charlie Chan's Revenge? It's a blog I just found and I'm reading parts of it. If anyone else knows about this site, or has an opinion about it, let me know. I am still forming mine.

  • Ah... The Pleasures of Home Ownership

    This is turning into a bad weekend... a really bad weekend. I thought I had fixed the leak in the shower stall and sealed the crack, but now its worse! Water is leaking through the ceiling now... I have fixed other leaks, but this is obviously way over my head... Need to get a plumber. Anyone know a reliable/trustworthy one in NoVa.? I really don't feel like cutting the bushes now (rf: below).

    Saturday, July 19, 2003

    Weekend Stuff

    Another weekend--UPDATE: What to do? Well that's pretty easy. Do all the things you're supposed to do on your free time. Onigiriman has a PhD in procrastination.

    List of things to do: Each asterik (*) represents one week that a particular task has been postponed.
  • Trim bushes in front of house **
  • Complete insurance forms * (x 40?)
  • Seal cracks in shower stall * (x 50?)
  • Write letter of thanks to the good people *****
  • Wash car NEW!
  • Clean deck NEW!
  • Prepare for Fall NEW!
  • Predictions:
  • Trim bushes Sunday
  • Complete insurance forms while cooking
    Side note: Menu Friday-Chorizo and egg; Saturday-Hamburger BBQ; Sunday-Sausage and penne.
  • Can always take shower in other bathroom
  • Write e-mail letter instead of hand written letters (lazy!) Saturday night.
  • Wash car? Rain predicted for next week.
  • Clean deck? To many other things to do.
  • Prepare for Fall? You kidding? That's 5 weeks away!
  • Spend too much time on Xanga and JA Journal
  • Actual Accomplishments:
  • Cooking: Chorizo and egg quesadilla was good, easy to make, cheap and good (Fri); BBQ of hamburgers and salad with some small fireworks later (Sat);
  • Food Shopping:--goto Super H awesome sister of HanAhReum.
  • Found a MAJOR leak in the plumbing.
  • Completed tasks listed as the weekend continues
  • Random Thoughts
    Having a car now has really changed my life. A sense of independence. And not just to run errands. After going to Williamsburg safely, I now have an itch to see other sites in Virginia and beyond. If anyone has any thought about good places to go--day trips from NoVa or short overnighters--I would really appreciate any suggestions. I'm think of going to the Appalachians soon, heard its beautiful. Anywhere else?

    Note: If you're interested in visiting other sites dealing with JA issues, click on a cardinal colored word in the above marquee. It is site test site and I would like to hear opinions if you have any. Remember, it is test, what we might refer to as a rough draft.

    Friday, July 18, 2003

    All Star Game

    The 1000th person came just after midnight Friday, 18th. 誰だったんだろう。恥ずかしくなかったら、知らせてください。

    Random Thoughts: Japan in this year’s All Star Game
    The All-Star Game this past Tuesday was rather interesting. It was, according to all the hype, a new kind of All-Star game. No longer your father’s Mid Summer’s classic, this game was played for higher stakes this year—home field advantage in the World Series. The league of the winning team would play games one, two, and if necessary six and seven in the World Series. (If you’re unfamiliar, the WS is a best of seven series, the first team to win four takes the crown.) This advantage is nothing to sneeze at. Of the last eight series decided by a seventh game, the team with home field advantage has won—get this—EVERY SINGLE ONE. Of the last 12 that have gone to the sixth game, 11 have gone to the team that opened the Series. Omigod! Check out Hasegawa's website.Up until now, the World Series home field advantage has alternated between the American and National Leagues, last year being the American leagues turn. In a way, the American league had less pressure: if they lost, hey, the National league was supposed to get home filed advantage anyway. But still, when Shigetoshi Hasegawa of the Seattle Mariners gave up a two run home run that allowed the National League to take the lead, I’d bet every baseball fan in Japan watching was shocked. Hasegawa, as the losing pitcher of record, was certainly relieved when Blalock of Texas took back the lead in the eighth and the A-League ultimately won…

    goto Matsui's SHRINE! BTW: Why would every so many fans in Japan be watching? They had a vested interested in it. While Ichiro is a star and easily deserved to be a starter, Hideki Matsui of the (hated) Yankees was a starter ONLY because of international ballot stuffing—starting players are voted in by the fans and internet voting is available with a maximum of 10 votes per registered e-mail. Japanese voters made sure that their darling, formerly of the (hated) Yomiuri Giants, made the starting lineup. Now, Matsui has been doing well of late and perhaps deserved to be in the game, but not as a starter…

    More Random Thoughts: Losing Weight
    Ugh, a most unpleasant thought for Onigiriman. Eating is not a necessity to live, it is a pleasure to be savored. As a result, I eat for taste, without concern for calories or cholesterol. As a result… well, I’m not called Onigiriman for nothin’. Anyway, the only way to regain my girlish figure is to exercise, and so I have been running religiously since January this year. Well, let me tell you that I have been eating—and drinking—whatever I want and still lost 13 pounds. This feat has been accomplished by running about 15 miles a week. So far, since my New Year’s resolution, I have run for more than 450 miles. Ok, ok, so it took over six months to do this, but 450 miles! *pats self on back.* Unfortunately, the knees seem to be going, the hips joints ache, and my ankles need to be massaged. Once you near 50, the whole body begins to go down hill, not just the choice parts…

    Thursday, July 17, 2003


    A good guy, HattoriHanzo from Florida, has an opinion on AAs in the movies--actually one movie, a forthcoming Tarantino flick called "Kill Bill" (Hey Hanzo, that the right title?). Click on his name to read what he has to say.

    In general, most directors--including Tarantino--see no difference in East Asian actresses, or even any Asian actress from Japan to Vietnam. They look the same to them and so have no qualms about using them in roles that do not reflect their actual ethinic background. I don't really have a problem with this. Besides the fact that I can't even tell the difference sometimes--re: July 02 and the Alllooksame quiz--corresponding ethnicity would require many directors to avoid an actor of Mexican descent, such as Anthony Quinn, to play a Greek (Zorba the Greek), a Jew (Barrabas), or a Turk (Lion of the Desert).

    Ethnic roles have always been difficult, but in Lucy Liu's case, at least she is Asian. This is not an evaluation of her acting ability--I have seen her in "Ally McBeal" and "Shanghai Noon" and "Jerry Maguire". The problem, if any, is the "authenticity" training. If she's going to play a Japanese, people like Tarantino have to budget for cultural and language instruction. Get someone who could teach her how to act "Japanese" and speak "Japanese"... hmmm, anyone know anyone in Hollywood? I come pretty cheap....


    All interested in JA/AA issues
    I read a post by Kai that reflects many of the things that I have discussed. Click on her name and read about her experience on the DC Metro. This is soooooooooo typical! Give 'em hell Kai!

    By the way, I appear to be reaching 1000 hits. I've been on Xanga only a month and a little bit, and I'm nearing the 1K mark. I guess, writing heavy stuff--not just fluff--will attract people after all. Thanks for the love people--although Purin-kun reminded me in very plain terms, "This is not a contest".... Okay, and there is no prize. But still, if you are number 1000--scroll down to the bottom to see the hit number--let me know! And don't hit the reload button, alright--you know who I'm talking to!

    Wednesday, July 16, 2003

    Cruisin' J-town

    Cruisin’ J-Town Memories: With Family
    With the news that the Los Angeles City Council “
    began a planning process to build a new Police Headquarters, a Jail, Emergency Operations Center, Fire Station, and other facilities next to the Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo”, I have been reminiscing about my life there--my salad days.

    Born and raised in LA, I went to J-Town for as long as I can remember. Our family was active at Maryknoll, the local Japanese Catholic Mission located on the east edge of J-Town. We went to school there and to church. And every Sunday, after church, the big deal for us was to go to Nihonjin Machi, as the Issei referred to it--hence the referent Japanese Town, or J-Town--and shop. My mom would go to Bunkadō 文化堂, on 1st between San Pedro and Central next to Kōyasan temple, to buy her Japanese magazines and journals, like Hōseki with the nudey photos on the first couple of pages. She also bought for me my copies of the original Tezuka Osamu’s Atomu 手塚治のアトム--that’s Astro Boy to you and me. Back then I couldn’t read the Japanese, so I used to make up story lines based on the illustrations. If my mom needed something for the home, she would go to Uyeda Dept. Store 上田百貨店. It was a really small place with only a first floor and basement and it used to crack me up that they actually called it a department store, but it had everything Japanese that my mom would want--sewing scissors, yukata, and even zori--back then, flip-flops (or jap-slaps, as my friends called them) were still very ethnic.

    We also did our shopping there. While my dad might go to Ida Market or Enbun, we usually went to Modern Market to buy rice, sashimi, tsukemono, and Japanese vegetable. Dad was also a charter member of Senryū Tsubame, a poetic salon, and met once a month with his poetry friends to compose poems--I still think it was their excuse to have a party. Anyway, when they had a contest, he would need a trophy and he would drag us to Mickey’s Watch Shop on San Pedro (it’s in Honda Plaza now as Mickey Seki and Son, I think). He also published his own little magazine for Senryū enthusiasts in the LA area.[1] There were a couple of ads on the back cover, one was Mickey’s Watch Shop, for which he got the trophy’s at a discount and engraving for free. There were also ads for two sweet shops: Fūgetsudō and Mikawaya. For these, he got a dozen manjū from each store for free for his monthly Senryū meetings. Now I like manjū, but going to the sweet shops meant more than manjū. It was, for me, more about anpan--which might explain why I look like Onigiriman, now--as well as Tomoe Ame, Glico Caramel, and Marble Choco.

    If my dad was in the mood, we’d get sushi at Matsuno-zushi--where I developed my taste for shime saba. Often we would go to Far East Café, the local Chinese place with partitioned seating, a juke box, and the salted plums at the cash register. For that rare treat, we would go to the Sugar Bowl Café on San Pedro. It was the first place I ever ate a club sandwich with avocados in it. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

    Anyway, my parents knew many of the shop owners there, and I always saw my friends from school and church. It was a place for us to mingle and associate with others from the JA community. I must admit that J-Town today doesn’t seem to reflect that sense anymore, but it is still a community. It may be small, and maybe even a little run down, but it’s still our community.

    1For his activities, dad received a couple of awards for his contribution to the Japanese American Community—one from the Japanese government and the other from the LA City Council.

    And don't forget, if your friends and family haven't signed the petition yet, check on the link below.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2003

    Banzai! review in Monday's log

    It's what?!? Friggin 6 in the morning? And I'm still not asleep. Is this insomnia? Crap, what to do. Anyway, I thought I'd mention a couple of people I met on Xanga who have interesting things to say. Note that these are people I know only through their Xanga sites, but they seem pretty cool--although pretty cool for a 40-something may not be cool to you.

    Anyway, Takunishi79 is a JA working closely with JA issues. Totally cool! Maybe I need to invest more time in the doing, and not just the writing and pondering. But Taku's got to post using MS Word--or somethin'. I always have to change the encoding to read some of his stuff. But believe me, its hard core JA stuff.

    Sleetse--whatever that means?!?--is a cool JA in California, my home state. He just got a new job so he hasn't posted many logs recently, but when he does, it is always good for a laugh. He understands and enjoys Japan (like all of us), is amazed at some of the stuff the Japanese do (like all of us), and really digs cute Japanese girsl (like half of us). And he's the ring leader of Japan II. Join me on his blogring! (Don't forget to mention that I sent you.)

    Nefarious_hatter is in Illinois, I think--her logs make reference to things Chicago(?). I don't know if she's JA or AA, but she puts up great logs. Everyday there's a story. I wonder if they are based on reality--her reality--but they are a good read. She is also into quizzes. She has one up every now and again, like the animal one I referred to previously. And if nothing else, its a trip to hear her raggin' on Megaman! Hey, its cool. We all have our bad days. I SHOULD KNOW!

    Peace everyone! And don't forget to read the review of Banzai below, and give me your feedback. HattoriHanzo, Pirate-chan and JC have already clocked in. How about you?

    Tomorrow's blog: Cruisin' J-Town

    Monday, July 14, 2003

    No Banzai! Intentionally or Not, Fox Undermines Asian Image

    Okay, I saw it. Not to support it, but to see it so I can criticize it in an informed fashion.

    The show is supposedly a spoof of crazy Japanese game shows. If you've seen Takeshi's Castle,then you'll probably have an idea as to where they're coming from. However, these shows (unless you watch TNN's Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, a dubbed version of Takeshi's Castle) are obscure to most US viewers, and the ultimate result is that most Americans will just think Japanese and/or Asians are simply off the wall.

    Another major issue I have with the show is the "foreign" accent of the "Japanese" narrator. I think anyone who has ever heard a Japanese native speak English can tell that the voice is of an American trying to sound foreign--sometimes the Rs and Ls were too perfect... not that an authentic foreign accent would have been better.

    Another point of contention is something I have previously mentioned: the image of the "mysterious oriental". Japanese/Asian actors contort there faces while striking a martial arts pose. I mean, will we ever be portrayed as regular citizens? These types of stereotypes remind me of Mr. Bojangles--"We here t' entertain da masser, yowzer." Some have said that it is just in fun--something that even the Japanese might do (not the most legititmate argument)--and if you don't like it, don't watch it. But what they fail to realize is that: while I may refuse to see Banzai, others will see it, form an opinion about Asians influenced by this program, and carry this opinion around, someday affecting me or my fellow Asians. Why don't some people get it? We don't live in separate, insulated worlds; we're all mixed together in one society, affecting one another, directly or indirectly, whether we like it or not.


    Misdirected Pride
    Perilously, there is something that might be miscontrued as being positive: Asians rule. If you saw it, there were a couple of pretty funny stunts. A Japanese guy--he did seem to speak fairly fluently--plays "Mr. Shake Hands Man". He grabs the hand of an unsuspecting celebrity, Kelsey Grammer last night, and refuses to let go, until Grammer tries to do his impersonation of a Sumo wrestler! The other one is "Lady One Question", who asked Simon Cowell of American Idol, one question--What's the difference between American and British contestants?--and leaves the microphone in his face, forcing him to either continue his answer or walk away in bewilderment. It was pretty funny to see Cowell on the spot for once.

    And the possible saving grace? Yes, you guessed it. The Japanese/Asian were putting the non-Asians to task. In the Shopping Cart joust or the Old Lady Wheel Chair game of Chicken, all contestants were white while the referees were Asian. Only stupid non-Asians would actually perform these inane acts. But, is this good? Not really. For one thing, the show is in incredibly poor taste. The One Limbed Soccer Penalty Kick Conundrum (or something like that) takes a shot at the handicapped. In this bit, they pitted a one-legged kicker--without his prosthesis--with a one armed goal keeper. I mean seriously, a spoof is a spoof, but this was totally tasteless. "So," the white viewer might think, "are all Asians this tasteless?"

    Worse for Asian Americans, the issue may be even deeper than just a lack of taste. It deals with our identity and place in society. With a critical eye, we might ask: Why use white contestants? Well, any good ol' boy could easily respond, "Hell, yeah, of course the contestants were white folk. Who'd watch the program if the contestant were all Asian?"

    Indeed, who would?

    In many respects, we are an invisible minority in the media--except maybe in news broadcasts. (Y'know, those Asian are smart, right? Like, they dominate math and science, right? Like my Calculus class is a sea of black hair.) To change this situation, we have to do it ourselves. No one will do it for us. Now, if I only knew how... Any suggestions?

    And again....
    Sorry to be soooooo persistent, but just in case there are other random visitors--or if you haven't told your family and friends to sign it--I will continue to post: The City of Los Angeles is planning to construct a new Police Station, Jail and Emergency Center next to Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo. If you or your family and friends have not done so already, I urge you to visit and sign the petition below to protect the community that is Little Tokyo.