Friday, April 30, 2004

Cox comes through again

Again, the geniuses at Cox did something that screwed up their lines and I was suddenlty left with no Internet for an afternoon. I wish they'd screw up when I'm at work, not when I'm at home... Anyway, I can finally update...

To the sun

I am a purportedly a Japanese expert, but there is so much about Japan that I still don't know. One thing is ritual disembowelment; seppuku to us and harakiri (pronounced like the name of the late Chicago Cubs play-by-play announcer, Harry Caray) to the other, larger segment of the US population.

I think most people know that it is a form of suicide committed by samurai when he is allowed to die an honorable death. But beyond that, I know little about its origins or its development. All I know is that in Japan, suicide is often viewed an acceptable--albeit extreme--act in response to a situation that is considered hopeless. And for the samurai, perhaps the most hopeless of situations would be disgrace to his name and family, or the shame of defeat in battle. In these cases, a man would be allowed to kill himself in a final gesture of courage, which probably explains why the ritual entails splitting open the stomach.

Seppuku must have taken incredible strength and fortitude to bear the pain of slicing open a stomach completely enough to ensure death. A slash of the the throat, or stab in the heart would be just as painful, but easier and quicker as it would take only a single stab or slice. Disembowelment entailed cutting across the stomach completely. In one ritual, the participant was required to cut to the midpoint then turn the blade upward toward the sternum. It must have been excruciating. Another aspect of the ritual is the "second", usually a friend or an admiring enemy who will cut off the head at or near the end of the disebowelling. Tis was to ensure a quick death and a perhaps to prevent as much pain as possible.

The most famous example of seppuku is found in the story the 47 Samurai. In it, Asano Takumi-no-kami is required to perform the ritual when he raised his sword at courst against a superior, Kira Kozuke-no-suke who more or less provoked the insident. In response, 47 of Asano's retainers led by Oishikura-no-suke decided to exact revenge, which they did a mauch later, and then as they had disgraces themselves for getting revenge, all 47 commited seppuku as well.

"To the Sun"
ゥ zarah delrosario 2004
Adobe Illustrator
Anyway, this act has been the province of men. Women of premodern Japan who commited suicide to "accompany" the husband--or other male family member, like father--usually slit or stabbed themselves in the throat. But what if a woman were to commit seppuku? What if a woman were to perform an act that required endurance, strength and a threshhold for pain that even normal men could barely endure? One of my favorite Xangans, Nefarious_Hatter, is an artist who comes up with some incredible images. She is, in my opinion, a wonderful photo essayist. Her entry, Richard and the Turtledoves (2004.01.23), is my favorite. No, no, no, she didn't commit seppuku, but she did create the image of one by a woman--click on the image to get a larger view on her site.

I like this one a lot. The erstwhile honorable act of disembowelment committed by a woman could have a number of interpretations. This image is of a woman performing the act of a man. She is strong, she has courage. And since she is taking the ultimate responsibility like a man, she has been disgraced for doing something that she did--whatever it might be--that is perhaps usually associated with men. Consequently, for me, "To the Sun" suggests an image of a modern woman. While she has raised herself in society, in reality, she may have disgraced herself or failed in the process to accomplish something. It is not that woman--maybe Japanese and by extension Asian woman--cannot raise herself or be successful, but perhaps whatever she might have done--or failed to do--in the world of men induced her to consider suicide as her response. But as Nefarious brilliantly portrays, such a response is folly. Proving one's strength or one's equality to man by committing a "manly" act, seppuku, is foolhardy, as suggested in the Icarius-like flight to the sun...

Well, that's how I interpreted the image. Of course, it could just mean, I have finals, I'm tired, I wanna kill myself... As any of my students know, I believe that we all have our own interpretations and each one is valid--perhaps some are more insipid than others--but each has its own value.

In any event, I think it's rather powerful image. I wonder if Nefarious would be willing to part with it...

Do you have an interpretation? What might this image mean to you?

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Eating Grass

Yesterday was the last day of class for this academic year. Whew, I'm exhausted. I still have finals to grade, but at least classes are over, so I can sorta relax. To get into the no-school mood, M and I went to our local watering hole, Glory Days, for a light dinner and beer.

We only had two pints--as it was only Tuesday--and left relatively sober. M drove, and as we were leaving the parking lot, I looked over my shoulder and told her there's a cop behind us. I didn't really have a good look at it, but there was something stealthy about the way it appeared out of the shadows in the parking lot. But the car passed us to the right, and we noticed it didn't have any cherries on top.

"What are you talking about? Are you drunk?" M chortled. (I've always wanted to use this word...)

"Hmmm... Maybe, I guess..." But just when I uttered these words, the car let out two short bursts of its siren--woot, woot--and lit its back interior police lights--the one's just above the back seat--and sped off after another car.

"I just got a nose for 'em," I said, perhaps a bit too smugly.

"That's because you were a grass eating delinquent. You always had to keep your eye out." M retorted.

What M was referring to was a story of my more delinquent days. Back in the spring of 1973, I was hanging with the "guys": Voz and Diddly. We were going to start a band--we named our band, appropriately enough, Stash. Besides practicing songs that we wanted to play at dances--Smoke on the Water, Free Ride, Dancing in the Moonlight--part of our preparation included scouting the competition to see what they were playing. We went to the Elk's Club, a private building located near MacArthur Park where a hall was rented out for Asian dances, to see Free Flight and another band I don't remember.

We listened to them play light songs like "Keep on Truckin'" by Jo Mama (Carol King's former back up band), rock like "Situations" by Jeff Beck, and oldies--even then--like "Twist and Shout". We listened for a while. I was young and rather naive, and gulped down sissy drinks like Singapore Slings and Harvey Wallbangers until I got a buzz. But with the exception of "Situations", the rest of the songs were pretty mundane. We grew bored and decided to leave the Elk's Club. We climbed into Voz's new VW Beetle--I'm the youngest, so I got in the back--and headed home to the Eastside. Before long, Voz pulls out a joint, lit it and passed it to Diddly, who then passed it to me. Getting high(er), we started laughing and joking and making fun of the bands that played at the Elk's Club that night, swearing that we'd make them eat our dust... When suddenly, Voz told us to shut up. Looking in the rear view mirror intently, he whispered loudly; "It's the cops..." Well, I was way too inexperienced and I began to panic. I'm too young to go to jail. What am I gonna do! Voz gave the joint to Diddly who then passed it to me without taking a hit.

"What am I supposed to do with it! I can't inhale that fast!"

"Fuckin' eat it already!" cursed Diddly, rolling his eyes.

Oooh. @_@ I was really panicking now. In Japanese, I have what is known as a cat's tongue, nekojita, one that can't eat anything hot. And now these guys want me to eat a lit joint?!?

I'm not the religious sort, but I focused my eyes on the smoldering tip and started to chant a familiar mantra: Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit.

"Use your saliva, man," Voz rushed, the tension palpable in his Bug.

Oh, okay. Gotcha, I thought, and tried to build up as much spittle as I could in a mouth dry from the excitement. When I figured I had pooled enough around my lips, tongue and teeth, I slowly and painfully doused it--hacha, hacha, hacha--then stuck the joint in my mouth. Ugh, it tasted rancid. But I chomped on it a couple of times and swallowed it as is. Successful, I relaxed a bit, knowing that I had gotten rid of the evidence. But in my panic, I hadn't noticed Diddly laughing hysterically and Voz staring at me through the rear view mirror, eyes wide in astonishment.

"Dude, you're supposed to spit on it. You're mouth is not an ashtray, man."

At which point, the police car whizzed past us on the left, headed to some unknown crime scene or donut shop, leaving me with a awful taste in my mouth.

"False alarm," Voz chuckled...

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

50,000 hits

Kudos to SleepingCutie for her 50,000the hit. Back in December or January, we were around the same hit number, but I guess she's got that extra "something" that attracts a kazillion readers. She is honest--almost to a fault--and revealing... no, you perverts, not that way... um, wait, actually sometimes that way... But all in a acceptably wholesome way... Anyway, if you got the time, drop by and give her a pat on the back...


Many of the peole who come here are students. And for those of you on a semester system, it is probably time to study for finals... I'm sure many of you are grinding it out, stressing over exams or papers. Just to make you feel a bit better--just a little, I hope--we teachers dread Finals just as much as you do. If you had an image of teachers humming away, sinisterly devising exceptionally difficult exams, then forget it... at least for me. I want to ensure that my students have actually learned something in my class, so instead of having one midterm and one final, I usually have students studying throughout the semester--hence the weekly quizzes and/or papers. As I think about it, the film class consists of weekly quizzes and weekly papers (short 1-2 pages), meaning that its pretty time consuming. But this allows me to justify a relatively easy final--although one student told me the other day that the take home for Readings in Modern Japanese was long... Well, it IS advanced Japanese... and it IS a take home... The point is that I design final exams in a way that will be relatively easy to grade. But, for the record, I have 48 finals for the film course, 16 finals for Readings, 8 finals for Bungo (Literary Japanese) and three senior theses--not that I expect any sympathy from you guys.

IN any event, I too am stressing out with you guys.

So tell me, are any of you guys simply chilling? Have you studied all semester long so that finals are a piece (pieces?) of cake? Or are you on the quarter system and don't worry about finals for awhile? Or have you left academia behind, never to touch again?

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Pleasant surprises...

I'm not much for surprises. The older I get, the more stability I want. While I am perhaps more flexible than others my age, I still find myself looking forward to things normal, regular, the everyday... As a result, I don't really like surprises. Unless, of course, its a good one. An unexpected tax return is a nice surprise that I did not get to experience this year. An exceptional meal at a restaurant is another. Yesterday, I was blessed with two more pleasant surprises..

Senior Recital

I have a student--I'll call him BR--who had taken Japanese previously with other instructors and studied abroad in Japan last year. He came to my class this year--Advanced Reading and Lit in translation--and he was a pleasant student: quiet, reserved but insightful and expressive when necessary. He seemed to know when to speak out and when not to. His timing was impeccable. Well, over the course of the year, I learned that he was a musician--which might explain his timing--and he invited me to an individual recital on he gave Sunday. I was truly impressed. He played lead violin in a Concerto for Two Violins by Bach (BWV 1043) and an emotionally expressive piece by Saint-Saens called Rondo Capriccioso. But what impressed me more was his last piece. He played a jazz piece that he composed on piano, a piece that was reminscent of McCoy Tyner's work in the late 70s. I don't mean to diss him by saying his playing suprised me, but I have been to a number of student concerts, and most of them have sounded like they were performed by, well, students. But BR put on a performance that was a joy to experience.

Consider Yourself Quoted

I found the other surprise on RBJ, Yes, I've hit the big time. I've been quoted... although I must admit, I don't know why. Most of the bloggers registered there are pretty serious writers... or so it would seem to me. And the quote they (Carlos?) decided to use from this site was pretty mundane... Oh well. It was a nice surprise to be recognized. Thanks to the folks at RBJ.

Speaking of which, there are a couple of people who seem to come here pretty regularly from RBJ. If you're a regular, thanks for bookmarking me on RBJ. It is--according to them--your way of showing support for sites you like to read... Of coure, this blog isn't all that... Ugh, enough self promotion...

So have you had any pleasant surprises recently?

Monday, April 26, 2004

Hi, you're on the air for...

O3: Tripping over a Yakuza

That's Onsen 3, if you haven't been paying attention...

With Cboy918, Kizyr, Vlade, Msbliss, Petey, BluJazz, the Vixen, Nefarious, Omega-man, Mr. Mephisto, a Ninja, Mystic Creator, and my long lost brother.

O-man: Okay, this is the final broadcast of O3. Thanks for your patience... that is if you're still listening... Cboy918 from Maryland, you're on the air...

Cboy918: Hold up a second. Are you leaving xanga again? "Interlude before the final broadcast"? C'mon now, whats the reason this time?

O-man: Hahahaha, I meant the broadcasts about onsen. This thing got so long that I broke it up into three parts, this being the final part of the trilogy. First there was T3, then Matrix Revolution, followed by Return of the King. Now this... You think I' might get nominated for a Marconi? hehehehhehe. Anyway, I'm flattered that you care, but not to worry. I'll be here for the time being... Kizyr, you're on the air.

kizyr: Before I was pretty embarassed to take a public bath--last time I was in Japan I didn't once, actually. But this time, I've gone to a public お風呂 (ofuro - specifically a bath) plenty of times and an 温泉 (onsen - hot springs) a few times as well.

O-man: Hey thanks for the translation. at least some of you realize that not everyone here know Japanese...

kizyr: The first time it wasn't so awkward, because in our ryokan (inn) I was the only one who wanted to get up at 6AM to watch the sun rise while sitting in the ofuro (which I still highly recommend). Once, one other guest of the inn came in, but it didn't bother me like I thought it might. After that, onsen, ofuro, whatever was no problem anymore. After you get over your initial reservations and realise that nobody is looking at you, it's all good.

O-man: Dude, there's a reason why no one was in the onsen at 6AM. First and foremost, an onsen is a plce for R & R: rest and relaxation. And in Japan, as you should know, that usually involves imbibing huge quantities of beer. So while going into a hot spring will relieve some of the pains of a hangover, few will wake up at the crack of dawn for that particular remedy. I know. Been there, done that... Next, Ham... uh, I mean, gokingsgo, from Sant.. uh, Los Angeles... Whew... you're on the air.

gokingsgo: hmmm... something to do when i go on my japan trip.

O-man: That's right dude. And have a safe trip... msbLiSs from Djibouti? Where the heck is that? Aint' you from Cali?

msbLiSs: onsen, that sounds lovely. I only get to watch it in anime form. *sigh*

O-man: Hahahah, it IS lovely. You gotta go. None of this anime crap. Virtual is fun, but it will never beat the real thing... Anyway, Link_Strife, you're on the air...

Link_Strife: that, i feel i must say,, how should I say what I must say.......quite interesting. yes indeed. lol.

O-man: I am in awe of your choice of diction. *click* ddsb2000 from Florida

ddsb2000: Jeez onsen sound a little weird. I've been looking forward to going to japan as long as i have been studying japanese but onsen don't seem like something i'd be interested in.

O-man: Why? As strange as it may sound, it is part of the cultural landscape of Japan. You've heard of the Japan communal mentalitiy, the group over the individual, right? Well this is kind of its physical manifestation. If you want to learn and understand Japan, how could you not want to experience such an integral part of their culture?

ddsb2000: I mean if i get in a hot tub without the possiblitlity, of girls and all i can hope for is naked guys then the future is dim indeed.

O-man: Well, damn, that's a pretty good reason, I must admit, heheheheheheh.... new listener (and subscriber) blu_jazz from... Virginia?

blu_jazz: well, that provided for interesting reading...

O-man: Thanks, the O-man aims to please. I'm such a whore, but don't dis me like, like... well speak of the devil. Our Binghamton beauty is back...

bane_vixen: i guess prancing around in your birthday suit isn't so bad. but no public baths for me. the only time i get naked is before i shower in my solitary, private bathroom, or when i'm having hot, steamy sex with some guy who can deliver heh

O-man: Alright already. Quite braggin', will ya'? We can't all be Karl Malone, y'know. Let's see now, nefarious_hatter from Chi-town, you're on the air.

nefarious_hatter: naked? in water? maybe other people. But i can't imagine dipping in water and sharing ass germs.

O-man: Hahahha. Ass germs! Reminds me of a story my mother told me. When she went to the sento late at night, she would sometimes see a piece of baby poop floating in the water. Of course, this was long ago during and after WWII in Hiroshima when shit like that (no pun intended) wasn't that high on the list of priorities. But I'd bet if you went to Japan, you'd go anyway, if only to take a few snapshots... Omega01, you're on the air.

Omega01: Think about how hot it is in there...germs probably won't survive for too long, haha.

O-man: Hahah, yeah, I hear ya'. But I think NH was just joking...

Omega01: And about the onsen...I've wanted to go for a very long time...I might see about studying abroad to give myself a chance to do it....yeeeesssssss.....

O-man: Indeed, as I mentioned in the previous show, Studying abroad is a great opportunity. It is the easiest way to immerse yourself in a culture with the least amount of effort. Ah, Mr_Mephisto from the backroad of NE Japan. You're on the air.

Mr_Mephisto: Ha ha, onsen is great. But too much of a good thing can be bad. I like that people crave it. As for me, my kendo teacher wants to go to the onsen all the damn time. Its great after kendo, and the place I like best is only 200yen, but I think I enjoy it more when I go only, say, once a week.

O-man: *Gulp* 200 yen?!?

Mr_Mephisto: And in the snow is awesome. Once I was so hot, I climbed out into the snow and made little snowmen everywhere around the onsen. Makes people happy.

O-man: Happy? Happy?!? With a bunch of little inanimate guys staring at you? Sounds like the premise of a Stephen King story. So, uh, by the way, were you buck naked when you made these snowmen? Hehehehhe, just kidding. zettonv from FSU. What do you have to say?

zettonv: konyoku onsen :P there better be some pichi pichi gals there too! kaaaaaaaaaa!

O-man: Like I said in the previous show, only grandmas will come in. So don't get you hopes up too high. gt_ninja, you're on the air...

gt_ninja: Yeah Onsen. What is this strategic towel stuff? I saw none of this with women in Japan. Try going to an onsen with senpai. There is a good couple minutes where you realize you're going to get completely naked in front of your friends and you have to look them in the eye tomorrow.

O-man: Hahahaha. It's all good. Like Ekin said earlier, its a time where you have "nothing to hide", its kind of a release...

gt_ninja: Yeah, well, the first time I had to bathe in a Japanese style public bathing room was back in HS on my first trip to Japan in a youth hostel. I picked a strange hour of the day so I could avoid people. I though I got lucky but to my dismay I heard someone else was going to come in. I rushed! And the small Japanese middle school student decided to open the sliding door the same time I did. We virtually knocked into each other, Naked. Big ol' 5'7" me and tiny ol' her. No more naked touching please. >.<

O-man: Haahaha, you know you loved it.

gt_ninja: The best part is being lined up at the faucets and sitting on your stool. As my cousin described it from her watchful eye. "small japanese butt, small japanese butt, small japanese butt, hey look there is my cousin's large latin butt, small japanese butt..." You get the picture.

O-man: Hahahahahah!!!!!! Whew, I get this image of a butt hanging over the "small" Japanese stool... That might not be the most pleasing of images... hehehehe. Okay, let's move on. mystic_creator, you're on the air.

mystic_creator: I'm very comfortable with being naked. I don't think I would be too embarrassed.

O-man: Good for you. Now go to Japan and prove it... Sammy from Illinois, you're on the air...

SammyStorm: Howard Stern, watch out! There's a new DJ in town!

O-man: Dude, no props, please. And Stern ain't got nothing on me.... hehehehehe...

SammyStorm: The first time I went to a sento, I saw a guy with tattoos all over his body, and you know what that means. But for some reason I wasn't really embarassed about being naked, but as you said, I couldn't get used to the really HOT water.

O-man: Yeah, the water can be REALLY hot. But body tattoo, yeah, that's scary. Tattoos equal yakuza... But I was hoping for someone to make this exact comment. Why is it that I KNOW I can always count on you, Sammy? I mean we lived in the same freakin' city in Tokyo, right? I feel like I found a long lost brother... What else is in store for us? Anyway, your comment is the perfect segue.

About, geez, I guess it would be 12 years ago now, when I was working at a thinktank in Tokyo, our section went to an onsen (hot spring) for our annual summer retreat. I love Japanese companies. They really know how to relieve stress. Here, in the States, a retreat by a company usually involves seminars on how to make the company better. Well, at this retreat, all we did was drink, eat and get drunk. I'd like to say we debauched, but we were a rather saintly group...

On our way home, our director told us there was one more onsen he wanted to go to. It was further in the mountains and we had to backtrack a bit, but he insisted it was a great place... and who were we to go against our boss? So we went to this little hole-in-the-wall of an onsen. It wasn't dirty, but it was old and--for lack of a better word--rustic.

Well, as our boss had promised, it was a nice onsen. Hot, intimate and comfy. Back then, I wore glasses instead of contacts and in the onsen, they would fog up, so I usually left my glasses in my clothing basket and entered the bathing area with little vision and a tenugui--the Japanese hand towel. So I'm chatting with a colleague in the small bathing area when I smell cigarette smoke. Now I'm no prude, and at the time I too smoked as well, but there is a time and place for everything so I was rather pissed that someone would be ruining my enjoyment of the onsen with tobacco. I squint my eyes and look around and see a single guy with a dark towel over his shoulder sitting at the edge of the pool taking long deliverate drags on his smokes.

So I thought I'd tell him nicely but firmly that there's a sign that says "No Smoking" and that he's screwing it up for everybody else.

So I get up, walk over and sit myself right next to him, dangling my feet in the hot water like him. I turn to him as nonchalantly as possible and was about to speak my mind when I notice that he doesn't have a towel over his shoulder. In fact it wasn't anykind of cloth at all. It was a tattoo. *Gulp*

おい、なんなんだよ "Yeah? Whaddya want?" he asked in an annoyed tone...

いい湯ですね "Nice bath, isn't it," I managed in a voice about an octive higher than usual.

I got up, walked back to my friend, and enjoyed the rest of my bath in the knowledge that I was going home in one piece...

Thanks for tuning in guys...

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Random Q & A

The past few days, I've had some pretty long-ass entries, and I don't want to sound long-winded. So here's an interlude before I post the final broadcast...

fooky11: hey so I was wondering... do you prefer your readers to leave comments in English?

O-man: As you know, I'm bi: Japanese and English. So you can leave a comment in either language. I was just having fun since the majority of my visitors don't know Japanese, and it wouldn't be fair or fun for them in this kind of dialogue/conversation, don't you think?

Purin_kun: i only read the last paragraph...damn, if you keep printing stuff like that, i'm gonna have, i dunno, not read it. ;)

O-man: Yo, dude, if you're not going to read the whole entry, you don't have to comment, okay?

SleepingCutie: Oooh. I like how you incorporated all our comments into your post. Was that inventiveness on your part? Or just plain laziness? hehehe. ^^

O-man: Damn, why's everyone giving me a hard time?!? You know how much work goes into not only responding to comments but making them into a coherent conversation? Of course, you do. In fact, I know you do. But I got the idea from this medieval monk whose been kind of a lazy ass lately... I think I better wake him up... He told me he might teach Japanese this summer. Whaddya think about that?

mystic_creator: do you teach during the summer?

O-man: Yeah. I will this summer at least. why, you wanna come to DC and take a class? I'll feed ya' dinner at least once..

jessicayou3000: just out of curiosity. are you japanese? because you talk 'bout onigiriman.

O-man: I don't "talk 'bout onigiriman", I AM Onigiriman!!!!!

ChiisanaHoshi: Wow, I really love your xanga...@_@ mostly because I have an incurable addiction to all things Japanese. Please, keep writing...

O-man: Yeah, right, you "really love" my xanga? Then what's with the 1 e-prop thing? Hahahahah. Just kidding....

Takunishi79: are you one of them "difficult" people to deal with? it's rather difficult to imagine so, but who knows... maybe different in a professor-student setting.

O-man: Truth be told, I think so. I am narcissistic and self-absorbed by nature. I think there are two things that make me tolerable to others. 1. I realize that I'm narcissistic; and 2. I treat other people "special" as if they, too, were narcissistic--not that they are, of course, but everyone likes to feel special to one degree or another. I become "difficult" when the other person is as narcissistic as I am (or more), but doesn't have 1 and 2.

ekin: I do set myself up to look like a FOB don't I? I'd like to call it... "Being cultured."

O-man: I'm just kidding, dude. If you come to this site and leave a comment, you gotta get used to the banter. It's all in good fun...

ekin: What's a konyoku? Is it a engagement? Does it taste good?

O-man: Hahahah! Konyoku 混浴こんよく is mixed bathing, men and women. Kon'yaku 婚約こんやく means engagement and konnnyaku こんにゃく is that gelatin like thing that Japanese swear will clean your intestines. Speaking of food...

Iron Chef America

Did anyone see Sakai and Flay on the American version of Iron Chef? It was kind of intersting, although I was surprised at one of the judges. Kerry Simon is a chef, but had a strange look on his face with some of Sakai's items. He obviously could not take "exotic" foods. I thought most chefs were pretty adventurous, willing to try anything with an open mind. He could take a lesson from Tony Bourdain, executive chef at Les Halles in NYC. Bourdain will eat anything.

Did I say I didn't want to seem long-winded? So sue me... No wait! Just kidding!!!!

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Hi, you're on the air...part 2

Can we get naked?

It is interesting how honest we can be under the veil of anonymity--I know, I know, Paiky, you're not so anonymous. But most of us are, except with our friends... I write pretty often, but rarely about the intimate details and thoughts concerning other peope in my family or at work. As Sgt. Joe Friday of Dragnet used to say: Just the facts.

But I do talk about myself--in that all too familiar narcissistic way--whether it be my opinions on race or Japan, or the details of my past. In a way, I expose myself in this public forum, making myself available to you in all my nakedness--virtually speaking, of course... In so doing, I have been lucky enough to create a dialog with many of you--teasing, flirting, playing, arguing--all the while knowing that I will probably never get to meet any of you in person... This thought kinda makes me sad as I often wonder who you are. But it also emboldens me to expose myself further, in the knowledge that none of you will probably ever get to know me anyway, and I have nothing to be embarrassed about... Of course, many of my kids who read Onigiriman already know me, and they know the kind of person I am: sarcastic, demanding, blunt, fair... sometimes an asshole, but rarely deceptive. If I'm in a bad mood, you'd know. If I'm in a good mood, you'd know. What you see is what you get, always... well usually.

And the comment about the *orgasm* yesterday was tongue in cheek, dudes and dudettes. I was just trying to convey the idea that it REALLY felt good. Geez, I bet the FCC is gonna be on my ass now.

Anyway, this basic attitude has transfered here to my persona of Onigiriman, and I have had much fun getting to know you, as many of you often comment on my entries with a similar degree of candor... and I'd like to expose all of you as well! So let's get naked:

O-man: Okay so we were talking about onsen and public bathing in general and I was wondering what your thought were about them. Have you ever been? Do you find them nice? Does the tought of getting butt naked with a stranger distgusting? Lets here from our fellow Xangans out there. Takunishi79 from Georgia, You're on the air...

takunishi79: ・・・ひまっすねぇ~~

O-man: Excuse me? Just because I put on a good show doesn't mean I have a lot of time y'know... I MAKE time, dude... And speak English, or our listeners won't know what you're saying... *click* Okay, Ekin from New York, talk to me...

ekin: 最近學校事情不多? 飯団先生的時間滿多! (If you don't understand mah Chinese then :-p )

O-man: Crap, another one. And don't stick you're tongue out at me! No, I do have a lot a things to do at school, and the O-man doesn't have a lot of time. (:-p) So there... *click* Hey M, will you disconnect the FOB hotline already? There's gotta be an FCC regulation against using English, Japanese and Chinese on the same show... Anyway, can we get back on topic? Um, line 3? Okay, enygma81 from Illinois. Let's hear about public bathing.

enygma81: I got weirded out when I went to a public bath in Korea for couple of reasons: 1. I'm not used to getting naked with strangers 2. I'm very self-conscious, especially in Korea where I definitely do not have an ideal figure.

O-man: Well, I don't really know what constitutes and ideal figure in the US either, so

enygma81: Once I got used to it, though, I liked it. However, I'm not good at saunas, even in the States, so when my cousin's wife and I went to use one of the less crowded ones, I was dying after a couple of minutes. We then found out it was less crowded because it was the HOTTER one. Sheesh.

O-man: Saunas, that's another one... but they open your pores and let you sweat out the alcohol from the previous night. I think I need one now. hehehehe... Anything else?

enygma81: I want to go to Japan someday and go to an onsen there.

O-man: Don't we all... Shiroi_norite from Nagoya, Japan. I bet you've been to an onsen, right?

Shiroi_Norite: There was nothing dramatic about my first trip to an onsen.

O-man: and so what happened?

Shiroi_Norite: The most exciting thing was being in the bath for only about five minutes before my host dad motioned for me to get out...

O-man: Yes? Yes?

Shiroi_Norite: ...and then having to wait twenty minutes in the car...

O-man: In the car? then what did he do?!?

Shiroi_Norite: ...with him learning about Japanese drivers licenses.

O-man: Drivers licenses?

Shiroi_Norite: When we went to the kaitenzushi afterwards for dinner, and there was a really long line, he apparently said very emphatically, "No! No more waiting!"

O-man: *click* Will we stay on topic. You're on the air...

ekin: I went to a sento last year, and at that time I was friends with this girl who had introduced me to her fellow classmate Kenji, and on the same day they brought me to a sento...

O-man: Hey, wait. Aren't you the FOB?

ekin: when they told me all my clothes had to come off the first thing I said was "全部!?なでやねん? O_O 恥ずかしいよ!" Hah hah. But then I decided why the hell not... (Of course I was embarrassed at first, I didn't grow up in the America that still had communal showers in high schools...)

O-man: Wait. Thye don't have communal showers in high schools anymore? Do they have individual stalls? What the...

ekin: Perhaps the sento culture changed... because I was gonna go wash up first before going into the pool, but Kenji (Who was already in the bath) asked me what I was doing and to get in. My initial worry when getting in a sento was "It'd be embarrassing if I get a random stiffy" and also I'm bathing with a guy I've only met a few hours.

O-man: Stiffy? Dude, if you get a woody in a public bath, you'd better be having a horny conversation or else they'd beat you up...

ekin: But things are quite different when you're there... you get to have nice conversation... Sorta' like you have "nothing to hide" and you come out really refreshing. I'd definitely go again.

O-man: Actually, that's a pretty good description of how I feel when I go to onsen or the sento. It is kind of refreshing. Well, said... for an FOB. hahahaha. Just kidding dude. BarbEric_Bojo from.. the Vatican?

BarbEric_Bojo: ahh being naked in front of strangers... sounds like fun..

O-man: Dude, you don't sound like a Catholic to me? Or are they coming up with a new doctrine? If so, then maybe I'll go back to church... until then, prrffzzt... Yes! Rie! Has my Texas girl ever been?

RieLin: Aaaa...onsen, I actually am looking forward to that. hahah, does that seem wierd, but I don't think I would be the least bit shy, in fact I can't wait to try it out!!

O-man: ..............

RieLin: Hahhahah, I just found it so funny about your butt getting so hot...I would probably have the same reaction!! LOL :OD Just recently I mentioned to my friend, that happens to be from Japan, that I was going to a hot tub to relax and just get a breather and then he sad..."aaaa...I want to go too..."

O-man: "he"?

RieLin: hahaha and he got to telling me about the Onsen in Japan, soo yes, I would really love to go.

O-man: I'd take ya' myself, but M would probably kill me... Oh, well... ca1b0y from Tokyo. You've been to an onsen, right

ca1b0y: I thought I'd be embarrassed going to an onsen, but when the time came, I was surprisingly okay with it. I went to a 露天風呂 for the first time this winter.

O-man: Yeah, those out door hot springs. I've only been to one, once. How'd you like it?

ca1b0y: it was GREAT. Nothing like sitting in an onsen, surrounded by a beautiful snow-covered view. I could see why you'd become hooked with going to an onsen. I don't know about making those 温泉巡り trips though. Seems a bit too excessive.

O-man: Yeah, they say if you spend too much time in the onsen, your body gets darui, which means wasted, tired... something like that... ikerton from Iowa, you're on the air.

ikerton: I made a brochure for onsen for my English class mostly about the history/culture, etiquitte, and about the onsen experience. But yeah, I've never actually been to one; I've never been to Japan. But from the information I found online and from the people I talked to, it sounds awesome. Also all the pictures I've seen look great, especially the rotenburo, and the scene you described watching it snow.

O-man: Yes, onsen and snow are a perfect match. Ask any monkey...

ikerton: I've also heard some funny stories about how old guys wash their balls at onsen, like they really get into it, like here in the US when you wash your balls people normally try to be discrete about it. But I don't know, that's just what I've heard.

O-man: Hahahah, I hate to admit it, but I've actually seen it. I thought they were beating off or something, but they were actually scrubbing away at their scrotum... It was pretty freaky... Hey, bane_vixen from Binghamton, what's up?

bane_vixen: I'd definitely feel self-conscious. mainly because I'd feel like such a heifer among all the petite Japanese women/girls.

O-man: Mooo. Hahahaha, Just kidding. I hear rumors that you most definitley don't look like a cow! And the J girls aren't so petite... well, maybe their cup size...

You can't believe how long this is getting.
Last installment tomorrow, including Sammy, Jessica, Petey, Zarah, and Jane.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Hi, you're on the air... part 1

I've always been fascinated with the honesty that people manifest when they are anonymous. I used to listen to radio talk shows a lot when I drove to work in LA, and all these people--whether they are talking about sports, or relationships, or family matters--they just let it all hang out... just like here on Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzanga!

O-man: So we were talking about onsen. iiSoNySoUnDii from Florida, you're on the air...

iiSoNySoUnDii: I went with my uncle twice before. It was great. If I could, I'd do it again, but alas, I'm stuck in America for a while because of college.

O-man: You're still young, you can go again.

iiSoNySoUnDii: Eh...maybe if I get to study abroad...

O-man: Remember, study abroad may be your only true chance to experience another country with a high degree of freedom. If you go after you graduate, you will be strapped for money or you will be going for work. Either way, you movement will be limited. Study abroad is a great way to experience a different culture. If you can afford it, by all means, study abroad... SleepingCutie from Vancouver...

SleepingCutie: My aunt wanted me to go to a public bath in Korea with her... but I declined. At that time, I was rather embarrassed about my body.

O-man: Now why would you be embarrassed about your body? Your' not embarrassed anymore are you?

SleepingCutie: Now, I would most definitely take her up on that offer! Nudity is nothing to be ashamed of. =)

O-man: Good for you. It certainly isn't anything to be ashamed of... Especially with your shoulder... Yes, AsnHoopla from, from... What's with all the Canadians?

AsnHoopla: I've never been to one, but I would like to one day. My relatives live in Okinawa, and I'm planning to see them soon.

O-man: Okinawa? That sounds nice. So I guess you don't really know...

AsnHoopla: HOWEVER: I do remember a lesbian grade 10 japanese teacher who was caucasion that told our class about them....

O-man: Hmmm, lesbian, caucasion and a Japanese teacher? That must have been a veeeeeery interesting description. What did she say?

AsnHoopla: (shudder)....:P

O-man: Okay, nevermind... Yes, Fooky11 from Illinois. You're on the air...

fooky11: I've never been to an onsen yet..... I SO want to go but never had a chance to... urgh!

O-man: Really? It thought you were part Japan and lived in Japan. So have you ever bathed in public before?

fooky11: When I first bathed in public was at karate. I was like 9 or 10. I remember all the kids were so excited to compare each other's penis (size, shape) and how much hair you...

O-man: Oops, looks like we got cut off, which is, uh... just as well I think? Okay, zhuzhu from California...

zhuzhu: oh man! my first onsen was last summer. i went to japan with my girlfriend and close guy friend. So we were in hakone, right? and we decide to go try it out. we're in the changing room and this is really awkward, and not because we're getting naked, but because we're getting naked with each other.

O-man: Hahahah, so what happens?

zhuzhu: so we take it slowly. all of a sudden this jolly japanese guy comes out and starts talking. he's laughing uncontrollably and he says, "ohhhhh! you two american huh?" and apparently that makes whatever's funny in the first place even funnier. so he starts ripping off OUR clothes. we were all, "...alkjsdjklasd get your hands off of me!" and he was just laughing the whole time saying, "it's ok, it's ok--we all boys here." and we were thinking, "yea, that's kind of the point." but o well. that was my onsen experience. we got used to it, and went to onsen probably 6 times total on the trip.

O-man: So I guess you ended up really liking the onsen thing, huh? Feel prety good, don't it?

zhuzhu: I guess it's always awkward if you haven't been before, but it feels so damn good. I want to try it in the snow though, that must be fuckin' awesome--i heard it's the prettiest like that.

O-man: It sure is. Even better, a friend of mine and I had some cool sake at the same time: hot bath, cold sake, snowy scenery. Dang, I almost had an orgasm. Hahahahah... Just kidding guys...

To be continued....

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Random Thoughts


Ups to zhuzhu for a solid heads up...

Last nights dream...

Zettonv was talking about a weird dream he had fighting some martial art with a broken arm. How does he manage to remember his dreams? I always forget most of mine. Is this an age thing? Anyway, last night--perhaps I should say this morning... um, I mean this afternoon... I woke up with a jolt after receiving a cryptic message on the blackboard from a student on the last day of class: Here's my email, p******@t******.com, just in case you get a dvrc"... Hmmm....

On toilets--No pun intended...

Yesterday's post was an old one, and I was rather surprised when some of you said that you remember reading something that was almost 10 months ago. Indeed, it was less than a month since I had started Xanga, and I didn't think anyone was reading my site at that point. Again, I am, as always, flattered. Anyway, here's another aspect of Japan...


For those of you unfamiliar with onsen, they are natural hot springs that often have therapeutic value. But this is probably true of most hot springs around the world. What distinguishes Japan from the West is not the "what" but the "how". One important aspect of Japanese onsen, of which the uninitiated should be aware, is public nudity. In many spas in the US, men and women wear bathing suits when entering a hot spring bath, hot tub, or jaccuzzi; but if you wore one in Japan, you would face ejection. This is often catches Americans off-guard, because bathing in Japan is a community activity. Whether it is a public bath (sento) or onsen, everyone bathes with strangers in their birthday suits. Of course, public bathing is commonly separated between male and female, but when I was younger I remember that distinction was different: Female bathing and mixed bathing, which meant that both male and female guests could bathe. The first time I went to an onsen and learned what kon'yoku (mixed bathing) meant, my eyes darted to the entrance everytime I heard the rattle of the sliding door. My cousin, more than slightly amused, told me to chill: If you're expecting a woman to come in, forget it. You'll only see the occasional baachan (grandma) if the women's side is too crowded or too noisy. The excitement of anticipation made for a great let down... hehehehe.

My first experience was during the winter of 1974 in Fukushima. It was snowing outside, which made for an even more memorable experience. I was, to say the least, very shy at first. Being American, I was not used to getting naked in front of strangers. (Duh!) I was with my cousin and he showed me the routine: In our room, we changed our clothes wearing a yukata, and took a tenugui--the small Japanese hand towel--with us to the men's changing room. We proceeded to disrobe, tossing our clothes into one of the many baskets lined up on a shelf. No lockers, no guard, not even a basket number. Just put it in and remember where you put it. When we went inside the bathing area, I was relieved to find that there were no other patrons, but I was shocked to see that the room was spacious with a large bath, like a small indoor swimming pool. The outer wall was a large window to the outside where it was snowing heavily. It was quite a juxtaposition: I was warm in this steam-filled room, but my eyes saw a cold wintry scene.

Against the inner walls was a row of faucets, showerheads, plastic wash bowls and short stools. We were supposed to wash ourselves first, and then and only then could we enter the large hot spring bath. Well I washed myself thoroughly, and with the tenugui covering my body strategically, I tried to enter the bath.

It was hot...

Okay, you might think: Doh! Its a hot spring. What did you expect? Well, while I have never been in a hot spring in the US, I have to believe that this was hotter than most people in the West would be accustomed to. I inched myself into the water. My toes felt like they were burning, but soon got used to the heat. I continued to lower myself into the water, happy that after the initial shock by my toes, my legs had no problems. But then came my butt. When I tried to settle into the bath, bing! I shot up, grabbing my ass. Man! Did someone just pressed a hot iron to my butt. Whew! It was hot. But after a few tentative dunks, I finally acclimated to the scalding water, and finally sat down...

Woah... Even though it was hot, it was pretty relaxing. My cousin was sorta lying down on the other end of the pool/bath with his eyes closed. After absorbing as much heat as I could, I got out of the bath and went to the window. I touched and it was cold to the touch. My cousin urged me to open one of the small side windows. When I did, in burst a thin gust of winter air. But to my great surprise, it didnt' seem the least bit cold. My body was so warm from the soaking that it could do nothing to me. I felt impervious to the cold... for about five minutes, when it started getting cold again. I jumped back into the bath, this time more easily adjusting to the heat. Like my cousin, I lied down and closed my eyes. For some reason, I had images of Japanese monkeys...

Anyway, this experience opened my eyes to the wonders of hot springs and I was hooked. I loved going to onsen whenever I could, and when I go to Japan, I make it a point to visit one.

So how did you feel when you first bathed in Japan in a public place? Embarrassed? Shy? Ahem, excited? Or if you've never been, why haven't you or--for those of you who have never been to Japan--how do you think you'd feel?

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Today's Japanese culture class--toilets

A student mentioned that there should be some kind of instruction of Japanese cultural differences for kids studying abroad. So today I thought I'd post an old entry.

Original post: July 09, 2003

In class yesterday, we got on the subject of Japanese toilets. No, not those new fangled bidets, but the old fashion squatters. Some students were surprised to hear that they still existed. I had to tell them that the Japanese aversion to touching something dirty (of course this is not exclusively Japanese) promotes squatters at public venues such as train stations and department stores--if you squat, your booty really doesn't touch anything, at least theoretically.

I told them there were a number of things involved, including bunching your pants around the knees. If you drop 'em to the ankles, you'll crap into you pants. Also important is direction: most of us sit facing away from the wall. but if you do that on a squatter, there is no hood to catch the splatter when you piss--Yes, ladies, guys can take a leak and crap at the same time. Anyway, I should know about the splattering. I was squattin' the wrong way and thinking, "how do I prevent this?" as I was trying to find a point on the inner wall that would offer the least amount of resistance to a stream of... never mind.

Speaking of direction: I've heard a couple of old stories about elderly Japanese who didn't know how to use western toilets. One was amazed at American toilet ingenuity: a flat top to a tank so you can sit there--facing the wall--and peruse the magazines stacked there, or even maybe write a letter as you did your business. Once I went to a hot spring in the boonies, and discovered directions using stick figures on how to use western toilets. Laughing, I told my grandpa, and he told me in all seriousness that there once was someone who marvelled at "the balance that white people seemed to have." "Huh?" "I stepped up onto the seat and tried to squat but it was slanted inward and I couldn't keep my balance. I put the seat up, but the rim was so narrow, I could barely keep my balance. How do they do it?"

In case you've never been to Japan, don't fret. Virtually all modern homes have western-style toilets. What you have to worry about is the bidets. But if think you'll find yourself in a dorm or old housing, practice your catcher's squat. It just takes practice. After a year or so, I even started to take the newspaper with me.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Sardines in a can

A while back, Sleetse--yes, he still posts occasionally--wrote about the crowded trains and how he got stuck being squeezed next to someone who looked like Professor Klump. Indeed, the trains can be impossible at times. I once was on the Yamanote line--the one that circles the center of Tokyo--at 8:30 in the morning and I thought I was going to die. I thought I could prevent myself from being pushed around if I stood in the middle of the car away from the door--I was getting off at Shinjuku and so it would not be a problem as virtually everyone gets off there. WRONG! As the hordes started to press in from both sides, I grabbed a strap to maintain my place, but found my body being contorted and twisted. I would have broken my arm if I didn't release my hand. Thinking I learned a lesson, I decided to stay near the door the next time only to get my face crushed into the wall next to the door. I don't see how these people can do it on a regular basis. It would drive any normal person crazy...

But these were just physically challenging situations. I once found myself in a sexually compromising situation, a thoroughly embarrassing incident. When I was still a graduate student, I got a summer job in Japan to proof and edit an English catalog of Japanese Universities for AIEJ. To get to work, I had to take the Chuo Line to Kichijochi and then transfer to the Inokashira Line to Komaba-Todaimae where the AIEJ office is located. On my first day, I didn't want to be late so I made sure I took the express from Kichijochi. I would change trains at Shimokitazawa to catch the local since the express didn't stop at Komaba Todaimae. Well, the train was pretty crowded at Kichijochi, and so I thought that when the train stopped at Meidaimae--where a lot of people transfered--I'd move closer to the door since the next stop would be Shimokitazawa.

Big mistake.

I inched toward the door, jostling with the other commuters for the prime "fast-exit" position right in front of the door, but just before it closed, a young lady--early twenties, skirt and blouse, kinda pretty, probably an OL (office lady)--stepped into the fray. Looking down, she forced herself in and then turned 180 degrees to face the door just as it closed. Unfortunately for me, she was standing right in front of me, and her now-obviously soft booty was forced back towards me.

Oh my gawd! It's so... so... oooh!

I tried to find a strap or rail to grab for leverage so I could push myself away, but none was close at hand. I did manage to create some space by pushing my own butt backwards, but once we started moving again, the commuters--pressed against each other's body, packed in like vertical sardines--submitted themselves to the movement of the train, freely swaying left and right, back and forth, in uniform waves of humanity, pushing me right back into the unsuspecting OL in front of me. If I had a bag, I could have put it in front of me, but I had none. If I tried to cup myself with my hands, she would have probably thought that I was trying to feel her up... What to do! Well, all I could do was try furiously to create space, but to no avail. And geez, I was young and easily excitable, so--oh no! on no!--she had to know exactly which part of my anatomy was pressing against her from behind. After ten minutes of attempts to create space--this was actually a foolish thing to do, as everytime I created some space I was forced right back into her, simulating a motion that I will leave to your imagination--we finally reached Shimokitazawa and she and I--and what seemed like every commuter in Tokyo--burst through the openning doors. I remained on the same platform the catch the local, while the OL started to walk toward the other end to transfer to the Odakyu line. She momentarily looked back at me, and I was prepared to hear her yell at me: chikan (prevert)! But I guess I looked sufficiently embarrassed that she figured the whole thing was unintentional. But she did give me the dirtiest look.

For the rest of the summer, I left the house 20 minutes earlier, so that I could take the local train all the way to Komaba Todaimae...

Have you ever had a similarly embarrassing moment? In a train? An elevator? Been the victim? The unintentional perpetrator?

Sunday, April 18, 2004


Hahaha! Ekin wrote that I look like a spokesman for RBJ... Egads, that was not the point. But I do know that there are a few readers who are members of RBJ and I just wanted to pass along some of the new things happening there. And I am moved by the fact that some find RBJ to be inappropriate or distasteful, as it is a place only for Asians. And yet, I am a member because I find that connecting with other Asians--not just JAs--is "comfortable" at times, mostly because we have a shared experience in the US (or some other non-Asian country). What's it like being different from virtually everyone on TV or in movies or at work? Do foreigners ask you if you own a cowboy outfit, as more than a few Americans have asked me if I own a kimono? (Which I do actually, hehehehe.) Have you been called a "Ching-chong Chinaman"? (I have...) Don't get me wrong, I too believe that diversity is an important and crucial part of our culture and we should be open to all, but the Asian experience is, in many ways, different from other ethnicities and a place to gather with those who have had similar experiences is not a bad thing. But, "No", I am not trying to promote RBJ. As I said yesterday, I had nothing else to talk about...

But I do today...


Zettonv mentioned how many Japanese mispronounce Ls and Rs. But let's not forget that many Americans mispronounce Japanese, as well. "Tsu" つ is pronounced "su"--as in sunami (tidal wave)--and some ら as "ra" or "la". How often have you heard Tokyo pronounced Tokio? Indeed, many even have a hard time with the vowel "e" when it comes at the end of a sentence. It is either pronounce "ee" (as in "see")--karatee (karate) 空手, sakee (sake) 酒, and the ever-popular kari-okee (kara-oke) カラオケ--or in an attempt to pronounce it properly, they turn it into a dipthong--karatay, sakay and kara-okay. And most can hardly pronounce ん without concentrating. Even students of Japanese can have problems with it: a phrase auch as ほんを (hon-o) is pronounced ホンノ (honno). The interesting thing is that while Rs and Ls don't exist in the Japanese language, most of the sounds in Japanese exist in English--ん is pronounced like the "n" in "think" not "thin". (Did you know that there are two pronunciations for "n" in English? The tip of the tongue doesn't touch the back of the teeth in words like think or hung, but should in thin and hunt.) And the "ts" sound is found in words such as "that's all" and "what's up". So why can't many pronounce it? Of course, the inablility to deal with foreign words isn't limited to Japanese. Words like maitre de and Volkswagon are accepted in English in their "mispronounced" form...

I am reminded of a time when I was in Japan. I was on a crowded train and two Americans board laughing about a Japanese commercial for Green Giant frozen foods. They were cracking up about how the Japanese couldn't pronounce "giant", that they had to put an "o" after it: Ho-ho-ho, guriin jai-anto. It probably didn't occur to these linguistic giants that no word in Japanese ends in a consonant. (Although represented as "n" in romanization, ん is not a consonant but a nasalized vowel.) Loan words in Japanese are subject to the same linguistic rules as native words, just like... like... English. That's why the "v" in Volkswagon is pronounced like a "v" and not an "f".

I guess pronouncing foreign words in any language is difficult. What's it like in the language you're familiar with?

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Do you RBJ?

I am uninspired to write an entry. I have been busy with one thing or another, and I am brain dead. Maybe this would be a topic for a blog itself, but it would be sooooooo self-serving, to the point of being pathetic..

So it think I'll talk about RBJ. I'm sure the RBJ administrator, Carlos, is just rolling his eyes... hehehe... Anyway, RBJ, or the Rice Bowl Journals, is a non-profit organization for those of Asian descent. It is a virtual clearinghouse for Asian bloggers to connect with each other by listing sites by ethnicity, presumably to allow like minded people to connect. Of course, this is ridiculous. I think a lot of Xangans tried out RBJ, but were basically disillusioned because it is impossible to connect with someone strictly by ethinicity. The best place to connect at RBJ is on the Forum where there are a number of different categories: TV, art, school, humor, sports, etc. I have read the comments of some non-Xangans through these forums and I now visit a few sites through RBJ. But this is not my original point.

Since some of you have accounts there but rarely visit RBJ, I just thought I'd tell you guys about some of the changes over there. First, is that they now have an Enhanced Membership grade. Previously, everyone was on an equal footing, and perhaps those who dontated to this organization received a bit more exposure. No problem. Now they have a different grade called Enhanced Membership that costs $10 per year (or $1 a month). This fee, I presume, is to help defray the cost of running a relatively active site. Yeah, yeah, I too thought: "more money?" But guess what: I paid it. There is one feature that has proved to be helpful: Bookmarks. We Xangans have our own list of subscriptions to peruse, but they are only other Xangans. Bookmarks on RBJ now allow me to conveniently check other sites I find interesting but are not Xangan. Unfortunately, with Basic Membership, you can only Bookmark ten sites. With Enhanced Membership, bookmarks are unlimited (for now).

Another thing I learned recently is the change in rankings at RBJ. Previously, they had the Top 300 which was the number of hits that people got from differnt sites. As you probably know, the same group of usual suspects always headed the list. Now, they have the Top 40. Instead of hits, the new ranking list is based on the number of times a person have been bookmarked. According to RBJ, this is perhaps a better indicator of popular blogs since it shows the number of subscribers (regular readers) rather than the number of hits. Damn, if the O-girl was on RBJ, she'd rule...

Another enhancement on RBJ is the Tagboard. This is a running commentary similar to the chatterbox seen on many Xangan sites, except without the popup ads. I somtimes lleave a comment but since I'm not really a "regular" on RBJ, I am unfamiliar with many of the Tagboard posters, as they are unfamiliar with me. Also, they've decided to put up avatars (profile pics) on the tagboard as well, but I am still undecided about this new development. While a pic may foster familiarity among posters, it takes up a lot of screen space and dminishes the resulting convenience of reading the Tagboard itself--at least on my small notebook screen.

Suggestions for RBJ: But the main problem witll exists: How to connect with like minds outside of ethnicity. Here, on Xanga, I subscribe to and am subsribed to by others of different ethinicities. Most have an interest in Japan, but not all, and the great majority are ethnically, non-Japanese. There are two ways of connecting that I'm familiar with. One is the Blogring where people subscribe based on shared interests. Perhaps RBJ could create an area where members can subscribe to certain "interest" categories: Arts, Sports, Games, whatever... It could even be a perk of Enhanced Membership: two categories for Basic, unilimited for enhanced? Hahaha, sorry guys...

Another enhancement they might consider--really consider--is ordering bookmarks by updates. This is an indispensible feature on Xanga. Obvioiusly, RBJ cannot link to every member, but perhaps there is a way for members to submit a "newly updated" info with a button on the "my RBJ" page that would then list sites on bookmarks in temporal order. I think people who are interested in having their blogs read would be more than happy to take this step, and people who bookmark will find it convenient to know who has updated. An added benefit would be that this would allow RBJ administrators to moniter inactive blogs and dead links.

Anyway, if you are a member and you haven't visited RBJ recently, take a look and see what's happening. Bookmark your favorite sites by searching them on the the RBJ home page--after logging in--and adding them. If you have the time and patience to join the Forum, this too can be pretty interesting interaction with other Asians. Sammy is a regular contributor. Far more than me... but like RBJ itself, you have to register... *sigh* So many hoops to jump through...

Did I say I was uninspired to write? Hahahahaha. Diarhea of the keyboard....

Correction Update

I haven't gone to RBJ recently, so I went the other day and saw a new topic posted in the Sports section by Sammy and just assumed he was still pretty active. Sammy tells me he has not been on as much. I stand corrected. You know what they say about how to spell "assume": ass + u + me...

And I forgot Enygma81. She is a regular poster on RBJ, although she rarely leave me a comment these days... :(

Friday, April 16, 2004

Hi Onigiriman, it's been 303 days since...

Well, now I've done it. I got Xanga premium. For a whole year... In an blind fit of... something, I decided to pay for the privilege. It's not necessarily expensive and I've wanted more control over the look of my page. So I broke down and decided to get it. Besides, I get so much use out of it--meeting all you guys, reading everyone's blog, sharing my thoughts and experiences--that I was beginning to feel guilty about doing all this for free... Well, maybe not guilty, but y'know what I mean...

Busy, busy, busy

Was up until 3:30 AM making and preparing curry for tonight. I cut up the chicken for the Thai curry and mashed the potatoes for the korokke. M made the Thai and vegetable curry... She is the best. I did all the prep for the dry curry to cook today. Lots of veggies to mince. I also make a fish cake curry filling for snacks and a spinach dip... Anyway, I don't have too much time to sit here and write. Got a lot of stuff to do still... like clean the bathroom! Yuck.

Anyway: This little get-together has me running around a bit and I haven't been able to visit and comment on your sites for a couple of days. But i promise to be by sometime after tonight. So, 'til then: See ya! And have a great weekend y'all...

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Curry party update

Okay, yesterday, I went with M to get the food for the party, and it wasn't cheap. Someone commented that I might try a pot luck, but I don't like that because different people bring different amounts and there is always some discrepancy that makes it seem unfair. Besides, while it ain't cheap, I like to feed my students, just like I liked being fed by one of my professors long ago at UCLA. Anyway, here's the scheduled menu:

  • Vegetable curry with spinach (iron), tomato (for mildness), carrots (beta carotene) and onions (cuz I like onions) in a medium-hot S&B roux.
  • Chicken curry: Green Thai curry with bamboo shoots, eggplant, onions and chicken. This is medium hot, too.
  • Dry curry: My famous dry curry--one beef, one vegetarian (soy)--in a secret mix of vegetables, spices and sauces.
  • Korokke (potato croquettes): One beef and one vegetarian. May be eaten with the curry (suggested), or separately with chuno sauce--that's the medium sauce between Worchester and tonkatsu sauce.

Other gatherings

And before anyone has a cow, let me state that even though this may be the last "major" curry party, my bungo students--the ones I really love, major or not--will still get an invite. My house is their house... wait, let me rephrase that... um, they can come when I invite them... er, that didn't come out well either. Anyway, the bungo class has already reached its cap of 15--the first time EVER--in three days since registration openned. WTF is happening? Why would anyone who is not a major want to subject themselves to such torture? Only a handful get an A--like 2 out of every 10--and it is hard as all get out. But more importantly, how am I gonna make 15 okonomiyaki? Ugh! I hope they aren't taking the class just to get fed...

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Taxes, taxes, taxes

I hate April 15th. I get all my forms together, all my receipts together and try to figure out how to limit my tax responsibility to the amount I am legally required to pay. What a headache... It was suggested to me that I let a professional do my taxes. The money it would cost would be offset by the money I'd save. So I did it...

Well, I paid more taxes than I've ever paid. And I even had to pay for the privilege. These kinds of suggestions I can do without... And not only that, the tax preparer looks at my W2 and is surprised at the income of this instructor: "You certainly aren't wealthy." No shit. As if I needed a professional to tell me that.

But in either case, its over until next year. I don't want to even think about it... I hope everyone else got a refund to "offset" what I paid.

Geez, I need a drink...

Curry party

This Friday, I'm having a curry party for J majors and my bungo students. They are very special to me, as are my former majors. I think there are about 20 coming. I have had a number of people ask me if they could come, but I have turned them away, even those who want to bring a SO. But this will be the last one I hold, unless someone can figure out how I can deduct it from my taxes...

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Yesterday's Comments

I never understood the headache from sleeping too much, but Masahiro's comment--Sleep Hangover--made a lot of sense, particularly in conjunction with Hanazakari's and Paiky's comment that it has to do with dehydration. Indeed, alcohol has a diuretic effect and leaves one dehydrated: hence the hangover. When we sleep for hours, we are obviously not taking in liquids, all the while exhaling liquids, so it all kinda makes sense to me now. Next time I have the opportunity to sleep another 20 some odd hours--say like in 2010--I'll be sure to keep water by my bedside so everytime I wake up, I can take a sip. Just to make me feel even older than I really am, AsnHoopla wrote: People don't know this, but biologically, as you grow older, your body needs less and less sleep. Your body also gets more deep sleeps, and less REM sleeps, so many people complain about not feeling rested. So this will likely explain my ability to function at work on three hours of sleep... Probably not the healthiest lifestyle...

Janken tourney

The O-girl said she could beat all of us in a Janken (rock, paper, scissors) tournament! Hah! I say... Well, maybe she would, but I should explain the intricacies of our tournament. It isn't simply who can outwit the opponent with a rock, scissors, or paper. You also have to have cat like reactions. In Japanese, there is a rhythmical "chant": jan-ken-pon. Each player shakes their fist twice in a pounding motion--jan-ken--and then thrusts out the rock, scissors or paper on the word pon. At which point, the winner will scream: atchi muite hoi! which sorta means "look thata way", and on hoi, the player points his finger either right, left, up or down. The loser, at the same moment, must look in any of those four directions except in the direction the winner is pointing. If the loser of the Janken looks in the same direction, he's out. If he looks in another direction, they start all over. If the Janken is a tie, then you just do it again. If you're hard core, instead of saying jan-ken-pon again, you say: aiko de sho (we're tied, so there!)

Everyobody get that?

Hehehehe... The fun is to continue the game without pausing, going from one janken to the next. For the uninitiated, it can be "stressful" but its a lot of fun. Someone took a video of the tourney and if I can get it on here, I'll do it if there's enough interest...

Monday, April 12, 2004

Weekend Review

  • Friday: I slept like I haven't in years. I went to sleep early Friday morning around 1 AM--early for me since we had a few beers--and woke up around 10 AM. I left the house at 11:30 to go to our J-program cherry blossom viewing picnic. Most of the blossoms had scattered, but it was nice nonetheless as we ate lunch--M made some mini-onigiri for me to take for my students--and played games, concluding with the annual Janken (rock, paper, scissor) tournament. M. Kajiura, last years champion, successfully defended his title. I returned directly home after the picinic and before doing some work, I decided to catch up on some of the TV shows I had taped: CSI, Law and Order, Enterprise. While they were mostly reruns, I watched them, falling in and out of sleep from 3 pm to 9 pm. Actually, it was more like "in sleep" as I hardly remember any of the programs. I figure I slept for about 5 hours. So that's 14 hours... After a late dinner I did some grading and Xangaing and went to sleep at 5 AM.
  • Saturday: I woke up at 12:30 after about seven hours, which means I slept for about 21 hours over two days. This has to be some kind a record for me. Thanks to all this slumber, I had a nice little headache. Can someone tell me why we get headaches when we sleep too much? Anyway, M and I went to Washington Harbor to see one of my students who is a member of the women's crew team compete. They won in the petite (read: consolation) tournament Unfortunately, I was late, as usual, and didn't get to see her race. But I did see her after the race, as well as another student who, as a volunteer for the Cherry Blossom Festival, helped with the awards...
  • Sunday: We decided to indulge in a rib roast for Easter, and went to Safeways to buy some stuff we needed to make dinner: horse radish, dill, caraway seeds, apple juice, etc. Safeway is located in the same shopping center as Glory Days, our favorite watering hole, and so we decided to have ONE drink to get the juices going before we started cooking... Bad decision, because one drink became two, then we met some people we knew and it became three and then... well, you get the picture. Needless to say, we will be eating the rib roast today, Monday... Ugh...

I again ask: Can someone explain to me why one gets a headache after sleeping too much? This never happened to me when I was younger, but at my advanced age, I don't feel too good after too much sleep...

Sunday, April 11, 2004

On Easter: Once a Catholic, always a critic

Easter for me has always been a truly religious event. Christmas has become so commercialized that it is celebrated by non-Christians and in many ways has a distinct secular feel to it. But not Easter. It is a celebration of the resurrection of Christ, and as such only those who believe that the Son of God rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion could celebrate it. I remember going to Mass and singing at the top of my lungs:

Jesus Christ has risen today, hallelujah

But I am not a good Catholic... Certainly, not in the eyes of the church since I don't agree with all of its teachings. I was raised in an environment that insisted that I had to do it the Catholic way or risk excommunication. Well, I have never been good with authority figures. If anyone were to tell me to look right, I'd probably look left. Of course, had they asked, it would have been different. But the church is not good at asking. They have a law of their own, and anything that strays from their teaching is just plain wrong. Well, after years of this, I have sent myself into a self-imposed exile. I cannot accept a religion that is so inflexible.

People have told me that the church is changing, that they no longer spew fire and brimstone. Well, the current brouhaha surrounding John Kerry and his "worthiness" to receive communion has simply confirmed all my fears. Boston archbishop, Sean O'Malley, stated last summer that pro-choice Catholics are "in a state of grave sin" and so, not worthy to accept communion--the body of Christ. While the Boston diocese has now determined that any priest may give Kerry--and presumably any other pro-choice Catholic--communion, St. Louis Archbishop R. Burke states that he would definitely refuse Kerry communion. I find Burke and his ilk a total turn off. And even though the Boston diocese changed its mind, it seems to be a politically motivated change rather than any real change in church thinking...

Well, I'm pro-choice too. I also believe that premarital sex is fine between two consenting adults. I also believe that contraceptives are not only okay, but a must in our day and age. Of course, the Catholic Church does not agree. Can you believe that if you talk to many priests even today, they will promote the "rhythm method"?!? Hahahahaahha. Obviously, these guys have never had sex, let alone know anything about sexuality. And I won't even discuss the greater problem of pedophilia in a "church" that obviously looked the other way when problems arose in the past. I mean, how could you defend a church that wouldn't admit for decades that these were crimes, let alone an abuse on their flock?

So while some may try to convince me that the current church has changed, I will simply point to the even more currrent Kerry controversy as evidence to the contrary. I still believe in God, but I will allow my conscience to be my guide and my soul to be my tabernacle. Organized religion is not for me.

Happy Easter...

Developing Skills thru Xanga

Check out the Comment of the Day from onigiri. No, we are not related... But it kinda made me happy. I think that in person, I can be a pretty persuasive person. I can talk to people and make them feel at ease, or motivated, or encouraged, or whatever. I have had students tell me that I should be a football coach, just because of my motivational skills. Not to sound too immodest, I don't disagree... hehehehe. Just kidding. I'm always looking for a pat on the back. But anyway, what Onigiri said pleased me because I always strive to convey in text what I convey when I speak. And if he feels that way, then maybe... just maybe, I am approaching my goal. And, in a way, I have you guys to thank. Now before you laugh, hear me out... I don't read Stephen King anymore; indeed, I haven't read anything by him in over 20 years! Writings on Xang--or perhaps, more specifically readings on Xanga--has widened my views and ideas on style, and has influenced me in ways that are too many to list in a coherent way. Beautiful prose--like that by ifso--has inspired me to take my writing more seriously, and concentrate on style and expression. Certainly, wits like SammyStorm and the former Hamamoto remind me to keep a light attitude. And sarcastic wits like Bane_vixen remind me that life has to be more than mere fluff. There are budding artists as well. The photography of Nefarious and detachable tell visual stories that display the beauty and impact of text and images, and artists like ddsb2000 urge me to dig for even a smidgeon of latent artistic sensibility within myself... although I must admit I have been getting discouraged lately...

But perhaps the most important thing I have learned on Xanga is that I must be honest with myself. If I were to try to write something "fictitious", something that didn't represent a part of me in one form or another, it would ring hollow. I learned this from the many sites written by those who talk about their daily lives, such as mmh, simply_marie, takunishi79, Paiky, BarbEric_Bojo and the hattori brothers. But among all these sites, I have to confess a love for the O-girl (OG). If you read her site regularly, you know who I'm talking about. Her site is fresh and crisp and incredibly honest--a perfect fit for the O-man (yeah, right, in my dreams! hahahahaha...) and I have to admit that hers is a site that I have to visit everyday... Of course, to this "ordinary" girl, I am just another of the literally hundreds of readers that visit her site daily, making O-man stand for "Ordinaryman", I guess.

Be that as it may, I will continue to read all of your sites--certainly including those I didn't mentioned--and hope to expand my horizon and writing skills. I just love to write... just in case you haven't notice yet. Hehehehe...

Friday, April 09, 2004

Vision, Savoring Texts, and King

Reading is a function of both eyes, right? And each eye sends optical information to the opposite side of the brain, I think: The right eye sends data to the left brain and vice versa. Now, the left-brain deals with individual words--vocab; the right-brain deals with comprehension. They must work in tandem, I believe, for optimal comprehension. But since I have only one functional eye--the left, as I mentioned earlier--it means that information enters and is routed to the right brain where it is visually comprehended, then it is sent to the left brain through the corpus callosum for analytical identification, then back to the right for total comprehension. Whew! No wonder it takes me so long to read... Hahaha, but don't take me to seriously... I have to believe my vision has to affect reading, but the above scenario was "made up" from a hodgepodge of information accessed randomly from memory banks that have been storing data for decades. Unfortunately, most of it has been deteriorating as soon as it was stored--booze and drugs, remember? Back when I was doing nothing (© nefarious)...

The last time I found myself doing nothing was the summer of 1979. For those of you who have read NLUTE, you may remember this as the time when I had just quite my job as a manager of the sweet shop factory and before I won the singing contest and a trip to Japan. It was a summer when the Dave Kingman and Mike Schmidt were homerun kings, when Willie Stargell still played for the Pirates. And it was the summer when I decided to put some of the uglier chapters of my life behind me. The previous four years were spent drinking, drugging and womanizing. Basically being full of my self... But having realized that I was too young to take on the responsibilities of the "adult" job of managing other people, I decided to go back to school at 23 and start fresh. But I had missed the deadline to go to summer school and so I had to wait for Fall Semester.

Without a job and without school, I was a bum. When my friends weren't working I'd hang with them and may be go to the beach or shoot some pool. But more often than not, I found myself sitting in the backyard of my parents house sunning myself beneath the cloudless LA skies and reading a book. I read a number of books; good enough to finsh then, but not good enough to remember the story with any detail: Sidney Sheldon's Bloodline, Irwin Shaw's Beggerman Thief, and Ken Follett's Eye of the Needle. But the book I found myself mesmerized by was The Stand by Stephen King. Gawd I loved that book. I'm not a speed reader now, and I certainly wasn't one back then--but at least I didn't move my lips... usually. Anyway, I don't read like you probably do; I bathe in the text, I let it wash over me. I probably read faster when I read aloud. But reading is a pleasure, something to enjoy and savor. And King was something for me to savor.

Previously, I had read The Shining, and found how fun "horror" could be. Not visually graphic, blood-gory horror, but mentally gripping, blood-soaked horror. The Shining compelled me to read other King novels, such as Carrie and Salem's Lot. But The Stand convinced me that King's talent was not a vivid imagination but rather a technical skill: writing, or as he would put it, story telling. His ability to write in a way that flows "verbally" is something I have envied. He is the antithesis of Crighton whose choppy prose is custom made for speed readers wanting an interesting story but not a whole lot of detail. In King, I can here a voice telling me a story in its lush detail. I was convinced of his ability when I read his "non-horror" stories, the best being the novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. This is an exquisite story of hope. The story revolves around Andy Dufresne, who is falsely accused of murder and sent to prison, as told by his best friend in prison, Red, and around prison life and how Andy made a difference in the lives of his prison inmates. Until his ultimate escape. Red describes his feelings as follows.

We're glad he's gone, but a little sad, too. Some birds are not meant to be caged, that's all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure.

Red himself is finally paroled and and when he ventures on the outside after decade in the pen, he is shocked at the state of thing in the mid 1970s.

After hardly knowing that [women] were half of the human race for forty years, I was suddenly working in a store filled with them. Old women, pregnant women wearing T-shirts with arrows pointing downward and the printed motto reading BABY HERE, skinny women with their nipples poking out of their shirts--a woman wearing something like that when I went in would have gotten arrested and then had a sanity hearing--women of every shape and size. I found myself going with a semi-hard almost all the time and cursing myself for being a dirty old man...

Music on the radio. When I went in, the big bands were just getting up a good head of steam. Now every song sounds like it's about fucking. So many cars. At first I felt like I was taking my life into my hands every time I crossed the street.

Now, there may be some of you who will say, "Stephen King? Bleh!" And you would be entitled to your opinion, for it is a matter of taste, but I often feel that I write in a similar fashion. Not that I am consciously trying to emulate him, but after absorbing so many of his books, and reading and re-reading passages that I thought were exceptionally expressive, I suppose it would be hard not to manfest some similarities. Of course, this is an incredulously megalomaniacal statement for me to make. But don't get me wrong. I don't see similarities in style, just technique: I write like I talk--well, minus a few expletives and a bunch of Oh, mans and y'knows. But I need to continue practicing--right here on the pages of Xanga, if you don't mind. If only I could write, and write well...

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Doing Nothing

Nefarious_hatter quipped a phrase and defined it perfectly: Doing nothing, a phrase in which the second word negates the first. Indeed, the perfect oxymoron to define what I feel my life has been from time to time: Seemingly active, but ultimately nothing to show for it... Well, maybe the last few years have been spent well. I have had the pleasure of meeting young people in my role as teacher, instructor, mentor (to some), supporter (emotional and academic, but not athletic), and friend (to most). One former student invited me to the school Luau last weekend: she's the one on the right in the photo. And in case you're wondering, I got permission first... She's also a Xangan that some of you may know; she comments here periodically...

But I feel kinda frazzled, right now. I work hard, often and diligently, and so the thought of doing nothing sounds very appealing to me at the moment. With summer fast approaching, I imagine warm days spent sitting outside with a cold brew in one hand and a novel I've been wanting to read in the other. Maybe The Hobbit or Memoirs of a Geisha--finally. Maybe a review of the newest translation of The Tales of Genji. Who knows? But it would be nice to have some time doing nothing. *sigh*