Monday, May 31, 2004

Minority Report: Response 2

If you want to submit your senryu poem,
click here

M

y past two entries have further elicited responses from some of you... and nothing from others. It is a touchy subject, I realize, and I hope that I am not turning anyone off by writing about it. The guy at the bar just pushed the wrong button in me and I can't seem to find the off-switch.

Writing about this subject allows me to think about how I relate to others. It is--as some have stated--a knee-jerk reaction to label whites who root for whites as budding, closet, or hard-core racists. And this is unfair, as most knee-jerk reactions are. So I need to examine my own reaction to this guy in the bar, because it will force me to think about my own place in society.

A number of issues were raised and I would like to address one. Can a group that is a majority in one aspect of society be considered a minority in another? I.e. should we consider whites a minority in the NBA? I wonder if the Japanese feel this way? The Japanese professional baseball league--unless they've changed the rule recently--limits the number of foreign players on each team to three and only two on the field at any one time. This prevents the Japanese players from becoming the "minority" to superior non-Japanese players. Don't you think it should be based on the individual's talent and not ethnicity or nationality? Of course, their arguement is that if a team was dominated by non-Japanese the fans would not stand for it, attendance would dwindle and they would go out of business. Almost sounds like the MLB before Jackie Robinson. But I'm glad the NBA is more enlightened. They play the best players. They are not concerned with who becomes a minority. They put out a winning team and everything else will fall into place.

This issue is actually a very important question for me because it involves affirmative action. Asians comprise a signficant percentage of students in post-secondary school. If a white is a minority in the NBA because there are more blacks, then conversely is an Asian considered a non-minority and no longer eligible for the considerations sometimes given to minorities for admissions and scholarships? Because the number of Asians in college is significant, is that justification to recategorize them irrespective of their history in mainstream society? My father--born in America--had to relocate during WWII. I was beat up as a kid for being a ching chong Chinaman. We have US citizenship; we speak English. So why were we treated this way? We were racially different. We were a minority. But now, I am told that purely because I--or any Asian--am a member of a group that that is demographically (read: percentage of society) over-represented in one aspect of society, academia, in which hard work has translated into success, many would say I no longer deserve minority status.

So this begs the question: What is the definition of a "minority"? Is it based strictly on numbers? Recent voices against affirmative action would seem to suggest so, as would the idea that whites are a minority in the NBA. Personally, I am disturbed by this definition, because that would mean that I would be a minority in American society for the rest of my life; that I would never be a member of the mainstream.There is no way that Asians will ever equal or out-number all the races in the US. So I ask, am I to be a minority for the rest of my life? Will there ever be a way that I could become a member of the majority? Ideally, yes. If I am accepted as an individual among a large group of indviduals called "Americans," then yeah, I can be a part of the majority. It would be great to be accepted as a contributing member of society based on my talents and abilities. And, ideally, this would creep into all aspects of society including politics, business, academia and sports.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. My place in society is often determined by my race, whether it be non-minority status in college or deserving of slower service at a restaurant or retail store--I should point out that this happens to me more often in DC/Virginia than any other place I've ever lived. As a result, being a minority is more than just being fewer in number--we are not looking for a quorum. Being a minority also includes the issues and experiences, past and present, that are a direct result of being fewer in number. Did a Larry Bird or John Stockton (I think there were even fewer whites in their heyday) suffer indiginities such as smaller contracts because they were a minority? Yes, I am of the opinion that a minority group in society should be defined by more than pure numbers. but that's only my opinion.

And by the way, I did not root for Shinjo or any other Japanese players after Nomo. Fro me, it is truly not about the race. It is about the talent (I loved Sandy Koufax), the character (Kobe is out!) and any affinity that I may feel--like being an underdog--toward a player as a human being.

I guess I'm corny, but am I being unrealistic?

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Empty Praise: Response

If you want to submit your senryu poem,
click here

It was amazing how varied the comments were to yesterdays post. I think I exhausted my "racial issues" energy for the next month or so, but I just want to squeeze out the last few drops and respond to some of the comments.

I was going to use my normal Q & R format but change my mind. Words in direct response to one particular comment may be misconstrued as criticism, disaproval or censure. That is not my intention. The commenters on this site are all good people who express their opinion. I never prejudge or view their comments as negative. I accept them for what they are: A point of view different from mine. I believe that dialogue is important and the more we know each other, the better we will understand each other. Expressing one's view is a good thing. Otherwise we end up in a society with a worldview of zero.

Is there a double standard if minorities root for minorities?

The guy I talked to at Glory Days said he rooted for a team that incorporate more white palyers. This could be compared to Asians rooting for Ichiro of the Seattle Mariners or Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets. This could be construed as a kind of double standard. Now, if you are Asian and you root for the Mariners or Rockets specifically because there is an Asian on the team, then yeah it would be similar, but not necessarily the same.

Now, I am JA but I have never rooted for Ichiro. I see nothing to root for. And I will never root for Matsui. Why? Cuz he's a Yankee. It has nothing to do with his race and everything to do with being a (former) Dodger fan. I share absolutely nothing with these guys. I rooted for Nomo when he first came because, like Yao, he was an underdog, and being a minority, being an underdog myself, I loved to root for him.

I root for Yao Ming not because he's Asian, but because he's an underdog. An Asian in the NBA has to be considered an underdog--think of all the stereotypes: unaggressive, slow, can't jump--and that is the reason why I root for him. But I don't root for the Rockets, ever. I also rooted for Spud Webb (black) because he was an underdog; he was short like me. I also root for Mark Maddog Madsen (white) because he looks kinda dorky and dorks--like me--are always underdogs in the NBA (re: Kurt Rambis), and we also went to the same school. the bottom line is that I root for particular players for reasons that go beyond race. We share something in common that bonds me to them, from being short, to being a dork, to challenging the stereotypes of being an Asian in America.And this is the point the most crucial point, because it separates me from the white guy I was talking to.

Yes, I root for Yao because he's Asian, but not because he's ethnically Asian or has the same color skin as me, but because he faces the same challenges that I face: An Asian fighting against stereotypes. And I think that is why many ethnic minorities--black, brown, yellow--will root for people of the same ethnicity or heritage; they can relate to something that is internal, NOT external. The vibes I got from the guy in the bar was that he roots for whites because they share the same skin color. Not the same heritage, not the same struggles. And what strikes me about this kind of allegience is that people like him root for whites because they are not Black or Hispanic or Asian. The distinction he is making is purely skin tone and so the distinction is clear. If Szczerbiak of the T-Wolves was Black, he wouldn't root for him so loudly when he hits a three. Is this guy from Minnesota? No. Did he go to the same school as Szczerbiak? Probably not. Is he the same ethnicity as Szczerbiak? I don't know. The ONLY thing he mentioned that would bond him to Szczerbiak and others was that they were white. Which means, they were not Black. He is making a distinction that is purely race based. The next time you hear someone rooting for whites because they are white, ask them why? I bet you'd find that many root because, for no other reason, they aren't black.

So I don't think that there is a double standard for me.

I will continue my thoughts tomorrow. I gotta go grocery shopping with M...

Friday, May 28, 2004

June topic

Change of topic please,
Poems make me think a lot,
Spare my brain sensei.

by ekin

Interesting poem. If nothing else, it made me laugh... Okay here's the next topic... But remember the rules of composition. Read my comments for the May's submisions. For a refresher on the basics, read this. Rule of thumb. Maintain the syllable count, try to draw a picture that is evocative through text, and reflect a moving or insightful aspect of the topic, preferably in a comical way. All submissions should be in English, and should reflect the topic. Poems that do not follow these guidelines will not be considered.

This month's topic: graduation

Using the topic word in the poem is the usual practice, but if you can convey the topic without it, that is fine as well, but be sure it is clear. Don't expect the reader--me--to interpolate your topic. For example, with this months topic, words such as "diploma" or "pomp and circumstance" would suggest a graduation, but "taking photos" or "sittin in an auditorium" would not necessarily suggest a graduation and would fail to address the topic.

One poem per person--your first submission--so you may want to take your time and think about a good one before submitting, but it is up to you. Please submit your poem to this entry.

Acknowledgement

Thanks to Sarah Marie and dawn_1o9 for their support by recently bookmarking me on RBJ. And if I haven't mentioned it yet, thanks to the following for bookmarkng me as well: marie, ms. c, randomguru, rie, sam, shiz, spygirL, taku nishi, yohei.

Empty Praise

I will respond tomorrow to some of the various comments made to yesterday's post. I think dialog is a good thing, don't you?

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Empty Praise: Identifying by Race

R

ecently, Sleetse wrote that he was tired of being a "glob." I was surprised and flattered that he remembered the word I "coined" in nlute, a short narrative of selected periods of my life. I too was a glob--good little Oritental boy--not because I was genetically predisposed to be a "model minority" but because others expected it from me.

I have always been aware of my racial identity. Born and raised in the 50s and 60s--before and during the civil rights movement--a non-white was always accutely aware of being, well, non-white. My mother never insisted that we learn Japanese. Quite the opposite, she wanted to learn English along with her children as they grew up. She wanted her kids to be pure Americans. But as a child, I never felt pure. Not because I didn't want to be, and not because of my parent. My identity as a non-white, a Japanese American was being forged by those around me. All my neighbors were white or hispanic and I was the good little Oriental boy (as well as the ching-chong Chinaman and ah-so Nip). It was difficult to live up to the expectations of being an Oritental boy, and failing to do so created, at first, a sense of guilt, then a sense of radicalism, the feeling of being pressured too much and ultimately rebelling against everyone and everything. Of course, back then, I was told not only by whites but by JA community leaders that being identified as a "model minority" was a good thing. It suggested that mainstream (read: white) society recognized our good qualities and held us in high esteem. These qualities? Hard-working, uncomplaining, sorta like the definition of the model slave... When will people learn that this kind of identity is demeaning? By identifying a racial group as the "other" is to objectify it. By categorizing and studying them, raising them as an object to be emulated--by other minorities, of course, not whites--don't they realize that they are delegating us to the realm of the sub-human.

But I'm not here to rag on American society. Because, in truth, this phenomenon is not exclusive to America. The character on the right is a plastic blow-up toy that was all the rage in Japan in the early 1960s. She is called Dakko-chan. Literally, dakko means to carry in one's arm, and -chan is a diminutive suffix that replaces the more adult -san, similar to "-ette" in French or "Xiao" (little) in Chinese.

As you can see, this little toy does not represent a Japanese person, nor any other East Asian or White. Neither is it an animal of any species I know. It has big lips and black skin and is wearing a grass skirt. Yes, that's right, it's supposed to represent an African female. Obviously, the Japanese of the 1960s had the sensitivity that would make any good ol' boy proud. But I find it repulsive and embarrassing.

When I bring this up to a Japanese person old enough to be familiar with the doll, their first reaction is often, "How nostalgic! It was so cute." And of course, their first line of defense is usually, "It wasn't meant to be offensive. It was created to be cute. What's wrong with thinking that Africans are cute? Isn't that a positive approach?" Obviously, these Japanese people have never read Orientalism by Edward Said. The more knowledgeable among them will also come back with a Western example: Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman. It's a British story of a sharp little Indian boy who is chased by a tiger but eventually outwits it as the tiger ends up running around a tree and melting into butter. So this Indian boy, black and poor, is smarter than the tiger--Oh look, aren't Indians actually smart? Further, the descriptions of the boy and his family are offensive (read above link), and the story has been banned as racially inappropriate in most schools. But, there are websites for it, and the book is still being sold widely. People still don't realize that images identifying one specific group as a whole--even, or especially, if it is an attempt to point out a good trait--is still identifying the "other", and is ultimately demeaning.

So what got me on this train of thought? Last week, when I went to my favorite watering hole, I conversed with this guy at the bar about basketball. He was rooting for the Minnesota Timberwolves and trash talking the Lakers and LA and while I'm not particularly a Laker fan, I do hold a bit of nostalgia for the City of Angels, and was willing to defend her honor. Well, this guy--a white guy in a dress shirt and tie, likely straight from work at some office--was raving about how great Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant and Shaq were, that these black players were incredibly talented.

I asked him if he was from Minnesota.

"Naw, I'm from around here," he said matter of factly. "I'm rooting for Minnesota because they play more whites." I'm not sure what surprised me more, the fact that he actually said it, or that there was no hint of malice or malevolence in his voice. Apparently, rooting for a team based on its racial make-up--a team made of the same rather than the "other"--was nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be embarrassed about. It was a part of who he is, and perhaps, for him, a part of being American. Now that's a scary thought...

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Identity: Self-image

First an announcement: I think that Xanga now allows 8 blogrings instead of 4. Well, Zettonv has started a blogring for the man who was my favorite read. If you have the time, room and inclination, join SAMMY STORM ROCKS!. There's also one for me started by simply_marie, that crazy girl...

Xanga names

M

ost of us have names that were given to us without any consultation at all--duh. And we have lived with this as our signifier. My name is that of a Danish King and was the name of the priest that married my parents: Leopold. Okay, don't laugh too hard. You can imagine what I had to go through as a kid. Back in the 60s and 70s, all my classmates had names like David, Steven, Mike, Dennis, Paul. Were these guys my friends? Not really. With a name like Leopold, I was teased and mocked. Do you think its a coincidence that I had friends named Meldon, Kim and Robin--yes these were all males.

So when people tell me that you have to be yourself, I know for a fact that in many ways, I became who others made me to be. So identity and self are in large part a construct of different influences brought about by the society in which we find ourselves, as many commented in yesterdays post. I was really moved by some of the comments.

Now it strikes me that with the Internet in general and Xanga in particular, we all have the opportunity to come up with a name that we ourselves believe to be a reflection of our true selves--or at least what we wanna be. I have a few readers who have the most interesting handles. I remember thinking that No1watching was the name of a Chinese chick who thought she was pretty hot stuff--#1 is watching you--but I found out later that it was just the opposite: "No one is watching." Oh, how embarrassing for me! Sekura81 is supposed to mean Cherry blossom (jp. sakura) but I'm not sure how the misspelling came about. Maybe I missed it in her explanation, and I'm just to lazy to go back and search for it. gokingsgo is Vlade's blog, so it makes sense he would be rooting for the team he's on. Zettonv is the name of some evil character in a Japanese action series... I think. And ddsb2000 wrote about his name once, and it was about being at the beach and seeing or doing something "dirty" which is one of the Ds in ddsb... but I forget what the rest was exactly... Geez, I claim to read everyone's blog, which I do, honest. but I dont' remember a damn thing! Sorry guys.

Some other names, I just guess: Detachable? Perhaps she detached herself from the Lion Island and moved herself over to London. Bane_Vixen? A vixen who is the bane of all those around her? Hattori_Hanzo? Isn't he a legendary ninja? Why use that handle? Maybe he's slick and fast... blu_jazz? A chick who likes blues and jazz, or bluesy jazz, or she's just blue and jazzy? Hehehehe. Asnhoopla? Wait, an Asian around whom there is a lot of hoopla, right? wildkat03? Don't wanna guess if she's lusting after a teacher... hehehehehe. Iluvpajun? Is pajun something to eat? hahahah! Other names leave me in the dust. I can't guess the likes of silvermyst_ashke or Hydralisk96 or imahima (which sorta means "I'm bored now" but this young girl I know is always so energetic)...

Someone once asked me: Why Onigiriman? For those of you unfamiliar with Japanese cuisine, Onigiri means "riceball", a ball of rice usually with somthing in the middle, taken on outings or to work for lunch because it's easy to carry around; sorta the J version of a sandwich. My response: Once--and maybe even now--I was a little overweight. Once, I had dubbed a tape for a friend, but instead of putting my name on it, I decided to draw a caricature of myself and came up with Onigiriman: I saw myself as a pudgy trianglular blob of rice wrapped in seaweed. The sunglasses are for my bad eyes. the ponytail for my long hippie hair, and the lack of arms and legs are indicative of my lazy, unmoving, unmotivated, procrastinating self... But I'm delicious to eat. Mmmmm. Anyone wanna take a bite? Okay, okay, too gross. hehehehe...

Oh yeah, not to be anal, but please refer to me only as Onigiriman. I don't need a "sensei" or "-san", unless you really want to. Hehehehhe. But I do insist on the suffix "-man". Not that I want to be gender specific, but because there is another Xangan called Onigiri--I wonder what's her story? Is she a rice ball too? Come to think of it, maybe we should start a rice ball blogring.

Anyway, that's my story. What's yours?

Monday, May 24, 2004

Who's looking you up: revisited

How do others identify me?

W

ho the hell am I? This has been a major theme in my life, because I am often very lost. I always pictured myself as a geeky, unathletic, ugly kind of kid. The reason of course is because I allowed others to identify me as such. You know what I'm talking about. When enough people tell you that you are stupid or useless, there is a chance that it will turn into a prophesy fulfilled.

Well, I was beginning to wonder if I will ever become my online persona someday. There are a number of people who find me by Googling the wierdest combination of words. Is this how people identify me?

Search: one leg pant Japanese girl

Onigiriman's Journal - [ Traduzca esta pagina ]
... I never knew spinach tasted so good!" the girl replies, "you ... re: japanese toilets. ... more embarrassing than walking out of the bathroom with one pant leg wet. ...
www.xanga.com/skin.asp?user=Onigiriman&tab=reviews - 24k - En cache - Paginas similares

Say what? Well, I don't know what the heck this person was looking for, but they linked to the entry about using Japanese toilets. Okay, now I do enjoy my daily constitutional. It is the most relaxing time of the day for me. No one will bother me, I am alone with my thoughts or the newspaper or a nice novel, totally relaxed. The scary thing is that I was sorta able to do this even in a J toilet, crouching down. But as I think about it, I do my share of toilet/bathroom talk, so perhaps this identity is legitiamate...

Search: cicada Catskills

Onigiriman's Riceball Journal
... All the women are worried about cicadas flying into their hair. ... I shoulda practiced my routine in the Catskills before taking it on "The Road to Xanga". ...
www.xanga.com/ skin.asp?user=Onigiriman&tab=weblogs&fid=0&nextdate=5%2F8%2F2004+1%3A15%3A28+PM... - 40k - Cached - Similar pages
Well, this may be more my speed. This search linked me to the story I wrote in response to the Vixen, "What a Tough Crowd". Of course the story had nothing to do with cicadas--my entry on the cicadas was simply juxtaposed to it--but it's sarcasm is a part of who I am, for batter or for worse. My kids will tell you how sarcastic I can be... But given the frequency of my entries on cicadas, being identified as one who hates them but is nonetheless fascinated by them is me as well.

Search: Xanga exhibitionist

Onigiriman's Xanga Site - 5/12/2004 3:36:17 PM
... I'd send you to SleepingCutie, exhibitionist extraordinaire, but she's on vacation to hook up with some guy in SF... ... Just taking it out on my Xanga friends... ...
www.xanga.com/ item.aspx?user=Onigiriman&tab=weblogs&uid=88552557 - 40k - Cached - Similar pages

This is really too much: Xanga exhibitionist. WHAT? Me? Okay, I guess in a way I am an exhibitionist. I talk about my thoughts and my ideas and my experiences. But where's PaikyPoo, who really lets it all hang out? Where's SleepinCutie? She has more than double my subscribers and receives triple the number of comments. And certainly, her topics cannot be categorized as reserved by any means. But I do talk about a lot of things that have happened in my past--perhaps with an embellishment or two for effect--because I am the end result of all my experiences (as are you). This means, of course, that with each new layer of experience, I turn into a different person. I no longer change as much as, say, you guys should--20ア years of experience is nothing--but still the shifts in view and perspective are well nuanced.

Search: most beer drank in one sitting

Onigiriman's Journal
... Most beers in one sitting: I remember a hot summer night in in Hachioji, Tokyo when I drank mug after mug of beer with M, just to see how much we could put away ...
www.xanga.com/ skin.asp?user=Onigiriman&nextdate=5%2F2%2F2004&cal=1 - 23k - Cached - Similar pages

Okay, maybe I deserve this one. This is the single identifying trait that I cannot even begin to deny, so I won't even try. Gee, sometimes I'd like to have a beer with some of you guys... If I was with Sammy, we'd trade "living in Japan" horror stories. With Hama-chan, I'd listen to his life of being "followed" by a stranger as well talk sports with Sammy all night long. (Sadly, neither of them are with us on Xanga anymore because of the stupidity of selfish and base individuals.) With Paiky, I'd listen first hand about his over the top exploits--I'd bet Hama and I would sit in awe listening. With the Vixen, I'd probably get dressed-down because I was born with an appendage that she either hates or envies. With the O-Girl, I'd take notes as she explained how a young, "presumably" innocent Korean young girl plays with her men, then write a book and make a million dollars. With Rie, I'd just watch her, cuz that's all I'd have to do. With Detachable and Pete, I'd observe them talking about art and see if I could pick up even a smidgeon of their artistic talent. With japblkgrl, I'd pick her brain about her life as a JA of mized heritage (as I would zettonv, hanzo and others). I have many new acquaintances, as well, but I don't know yet if folks like blu_jazz, pally, timzerozero, sekura, ekin, iluvpajun and silvermyst_ashke even imbibe, but they have certainly caught my attention recently. (This has less to do with the content of their blog, and more with the start of a dialogue between us.) I have other friends as well, like Omega01 and Chiisanahoshi and link_strife, but they are underage and I cannot contribute to the delinquency of minors. Heheheheh. Sorry guys, no beer for you...

Anyway, getting back to the original point: As a kid, I allowed the people around me define who I was. And I think, in many ways, this is inevitable. We all have free will and can exert our own individuality. But that's the rub. Isn't exerting free will a concept we learned from others? If so, then how do we distinguish how much of the free will is based on what we feel and how we were told to carry ourselves? In Japan, working with, belonging to, surviving in a group is a rather imiportant concept that everyone follows because society--i.e. other people--dictate it. How are we different from that? The effect may be different but isn't the process is the same? Just something to consider while your brain is on summer vacation (for some of you that is...)

Sunday, May 23, 2004

I once new a guy...

For the Record 1: Cicada Songs

In case you haven't noticed, the sound eminating from your computer is the song of the cicadas. This is exactly what it sounds like. In fact I hear them right now, and I have the volume completely down. I hear them through our closed windows. They grow louder each day. These critters are all over... BTW: this is not my recording, but one I found on the Internet...

For the Record 2: Disabled E-props

You may also have noticed that I have disabled e-props. I once wrote about it, considering its worth. I've never put any currency in it, and have seen other sites that have disabled it as well, including simplywriting--who has since enabled it--and SleepingCutie--the O-Girl who hooked me up with the script. If anyone gives me a comment, I am truly gratified. But if you do insist on giving me an e-prop, I will take cash instead. Please contact me via e-mail. Hehehehehe... I'm such a slut...

I once knew a guy...

I cannot believe I didn't find this site sooner. Such an eloquent - and well documented account. I'm definitely subscribing to this online gem. --whonose

That's about as nice a compliment as I could receive, but I must tell you that I am not even in the same league as one guy I know. He wrote on a number of different subjects and all were interesting, well written and eloquent. I used to look forward to reading his entries with anticipation daily, wondering what he would write next. Because some jerk basely used his identity, he is no longer among the counted on this planet Xanga.

He once wrote about seeing a friend he hadn't seen in a long time. As he described it, he and a bunch of his friends went to see this now distant friend, who had somehow become wretched and incomprehensible, almost ghost-like in his dark, unlit home. He never saw him again, I think, but the point was the story was scary. It kinda got my hair to stand on end. He also regaled us with a story of an old baseball player he would see in the park when he was young, and how he imagined what it must have been to be a professional ball player. He also had a sense of humor that would make me laugh out loud in front of my computer. His entry on how he had the lips of a god, that he could give any girl a kiss they would never forget. Or that time he claimed that he had pulled the wool over our eyes and that he was actually a woman. Hahahahah. Of course, it was written tongue in cheek, but it was a very fun read.

He was also a thoughtful person. He once surprised the heck outa me when he nominated me for the Best Asian Blog contest. The contest itself had some issues which raised contentious attitudes among some Asian bloggers, but it was nice to be nominated. I didn't even know it at first, I just found out by accident, and when I mentioned it, he finally fessed up. But this is not the only thing that makes him a thoughtful person. For those of you who know him, I'm sure you'd agree that he was a thoughtful commenter on our pages. He was always quick with a compliment and generous with his encouragement.

His writings were crafted with care, and he was as thoughtful a person as there exists on this anonymous planet called Xanga, but the most amazing thing about this guy is that he was a dog. If you looked at his avatar, it was somekind of terrier. I have never been able to figure out how he could type so well with those hairy paws. If you haven't figured it out yet, the guy I'm talking about is SammyStorm. I miss his writing so much... Wherever you are, peace and love, dude...

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Do I bug you?

I

have previously stated my distaste for bugs, but I must admit that I am still fascinated by them. Yeah, I guess that make me a hypocrite. But not really. It's like people who feel badly about people who get into accidents, but still can't help but stare and ogle at the scene of one--for the record, I don't ogle at accidents.

Anyway, I had heard that there are a bunch of cicadas in certain areas but very few around my neighborhood. I think we found three shells in front of our house and no live ones at all. I supposed that the area I live in had gone under heavy development over the past few decades--ground being dug up and underground bugs being disturbed and killed--so I was kinda relieved... and disappointed. All this hype about kazillions of bugs and... prfffzt, nothing.

M and I decided to go for a jog, and we discovered one of the reasons why we haven't seen many live ones. As we fast-walked to the park, we noticed a few squirrels sitting on their hind legs chomping on their lunch. The squirrels around here are not the kind you find on the Washington Mall or college campuses. They are not fat, and they will scamper away at the site of a human, especially this human--one of the boogers tried to create a nest in my attic and caused over a thousand dollars of damage. But these squirrels did not run away. They stayed put, as if what they were eating was far more important. I leaned forward to get a better look and it was eating a cicada! Chomp-chomp then *pui* to spit out a wing. I had hear that these things are a delicacy to animals and they were right. I thought squirrels were vegetarians like rabbits, eating nuts and berries and leafy things only. You learn something new everyday.

But then, as M and I neared the park, we hear an eerie hum, that slowly turned into a loud trill... cicadas! And it wasn't the screeching sounds I had heard in Japan. Song of Brood X was eerie, almost alien, UFO-like. As I started to pay attention to my surroundings, I found dead cicadas on the path, and thousands of little holes where cicadas had emerged--one cicada was stuck and had died at the mouth of its hole. We decided to stop and investigate... Ugh, creepy. I wonder if only one cicada comes out of each hole? And where did they go, I don't see any flying around. So instead of looking down or around, I decide to look up at the trees directly above. Ack! I had to jump back. There were cicadas shells hanging all over the branches and leaves right above our head. I had this uncontrollable urge to scratch my head and neck and arm. Ugh, the heebie jeebies! So they are here, I thought and looked around and lo and behold, what I thought were dried out flowers turned out to be... yup, you guessed it, Live cicadas!

Okay, so I guess they're just starting to come out now in our area. And will be with us until the end of June. This is going to be a summer to remember.

As we approach the latter third of May, I should mention that another bug will soon emerge in this area. Have you ever seen a firefly? Omega01 had an interesting post on fireflies which suggested to me a kind of firefly etiquette, given the male-female ratio: 50 male to 1 female. I'm glad I'm not a firefly. And I will stop trying to catch them. I suppose if I caught only males, it would be okay, but given my poor eyesight, I would have trouble looking between their tiny legs. hehehehehe.

Ugh, I'm getting that uncontrollable urge to scratch my entire body again. Damn these bugs! I hate 'em, but I can't stay away from them...

Friday, May 21, 2004

The American who could speak English

I have spent many years in Japan and I fancy myself an adequate teacher of Japanese Language and Lit, but I was born and raised in SoCal, and did not learn to speak Japanese until I was an adult. My first language, my mother tongue, is English. But I have worked hard to learn Japanese and depending on who you talk to, my Japanese is considered near native...

Or not...

I find that now the longer I live in the States, the more my linguistic abilities falter. I speak Japanese at home with M, but the topics are usually limited to domestic issues and I have little opportunity to expand my vocabulary, so I read a lot... well, not a lot, but enough. But when I lived in Japan, my speaking was near-native by most accounts. Indeed, when I worked at a think tank in Tokyo, my boss accepted me as another Japanese worker and occasionally introduced me to others as the American who could speak English. This sounds strange, I know, but it was, I think, a compliment, albeit an awkward one. Not only did I look Japanese, my Japanese language skills were such that he could accept me as an equal, and since many Japanese still struggle with English, my English ability--for a Japanese speaker--was remarkable.

Anyway, the first time I lived in Japan for an extended period was in 1984. I studied at Waseda for a year under a Mombusho grant and also earned some extra cash teaching English, as many of us foreign students are wont to do. But these jobs were not always easy to get because I did not fit the profile of an English teacher. I did not have blue eyes or blonde hair. But before you rant about the Japanese, remember that the same phenomenon exists here in the US. When I was teaching at UCLA, students who had a white TA would often come to me to confirm what they had learned because, I guess, since I looked Japanese I should know better. Of course, I didn't. But I digress...

Once, I was going to work at Fujitsu Corp. in Hino City to teach English. I took the train from Waseda--Tozai line--and switched to the Chuo line at Nakano. From there I took the express to Toyoda, a station between Tachikawa and Hachioji. I was standing near a door of a not-so-crowded car staring at the sprawling towns as they passed by: Koenji, Ogikubo, Kichijoji, Mitaka. Each station had a cluster of retail stores surrounding it, but the area between stations was one vast suburb of two story houses packed closely together. Staring vacantly at the sprawling sameness, I realized that virtually every house was white or off-white with blue tile roofing. Each had a white wall or wall of shrubbery surrounding the house, barely separating them from their neighbors with whom they lived shoulder to shoulder. Whether I was looking at the homes nestled between the stations of Asagaya and Kōenji or between Nishiogi and Kichijōji, they were all the same. On the train next to me, staring at the same expanse of undistinguished homes, was an elementary school kid who must have been around 9 or 10 years-old, easily identified by his ransel--the leather book bag all elementary school kids carry. I don't know if he was as bored as I was, but his gaze looked as vacant as I felt.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the conductor enter the car to check everyone's ticket to make sure that everyone had the proper fare. Sitting on the bench were two Americans, chatting calmly. They looked like tourists. The conductor reached them and asked for their tickets using made-up sign language. Apparently, their fare was insufficient, and he tried to explain that they needed to pay him the appropriate fare. But the two Americans did not understand. What's wrong? What do we need to do? Do you speak English? The conductor began to get flustered, and resorted to speaking Japanese slowly and clearly, as if this technique would somehow break the language barrier. Of course, the Americans continued to be lost, so in the name of civic duty--but really to break the monotony of a long train ride--I walked over and acted as interpretor. I explained the situation, the Americans forked over the money they owed, and the conductor, relieved, thanked me.

I just smiled, bowed my head a little and walked back to where I was standing next to the door. The elementary student stood there, staring up at me, apparently as happy as I was for the distraction.

"Wow, that was cool. Your English is really good," he said in awe.

I looked at him and smiled.

"Well, I studied hard," I said in a tone my current students would instantly recognize. "If you study hard, you can speak English, too."

He nodded earnestly, and we resumed gazing at the dark-blue tiled roofs passing by the window. Today, that kid would be about 30. I wonder if he ever became a Japanese who could speak English?

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Art for your sake, not art's

I'm not a very artistic person, so I wouldn't know the difference between a good poem and a bad one...

-SATO

A

h, the quote on the left was left by SATO in response to the senryu poetry I previously posted. Well, you should know that it doesn't matter. Poetry is from inside you and your appreciation of poetry is the same. It doesn't matter whether you can tell the difference between good and bad; what matters is what you like, what moves you. But poetry aside, you do seem to have a flair with a black pen.

Yes, folks, the portrait here of me was not drawn by me, but by SATO. As you can see, he drew it on regular ruled notebook paper, and while there is a bit of the primitive about it, I think he captured me pretty well--Onigiriman's square face, sunglasses, goatee--altogether a fine effort. In fact, I like it so much I decided to use it as my profile pic for a while... I may even use it at RBJ just to freak out the locals...

Of course, if you have an aversion to free hand drawing, you can always construct a face like SleepingCutie did. She made these likenesses of us at a virtual onsen--apparently cooling off as I sit on some logs waiting for her to come out. Woo hoo! Hahahaha, As if I'd ever get a chance to go to a hot spring with her, let alone meet her. Hah! Anyway, the construction of these two characters was done at http://abi-station.com/. I went there myself and made my own avatar, which some of you may have noticed earlier. This little face--according to M--is a fair likeness to me, and indeed, there's a good likeness to the portrait by SATO. Anyway, I thought it was nice of SATO to draw this likeness of me and post it on his site. Of course, he should be studying instead of doodling in class, but I guess that's okay this once...

Music

Continuing my previous thought: There is no such thing as knowing good or bad art. If you have a teacher who tells you otherwise, tell him or her to suck an egg. Art appreciation is from the soul, and the judgment is based on what you like. There is no other standard. Of course, your judgment could be construed as simple or basic, but that's okay. The more you know, the more criteria you can apply to any evaluation you make, thereby making you a more sophisticated critic. But ultimately, it must come from the heart: What do you like and why. That's all there is to it.

For example, I am often asked, "What kind of music do you like?" And my stock answer, is, "I like what I like." To me, there are only two kinds of music: That which I like and that which I don't. I like:

Rock: mostly 60s, and I'm partial to British rock minus the Beattles and the Rolling Stones. These groups would include the Moody Blues, the Zombies and the Who. I am also partial to the original fusion of the late 60s, early 70s, groups like Chicago, BS&T, Lighthouse and Chase. As for today, I listen to everything from Oasis to Fuel to Cold Play. I don't really listen to boy bands or pop girls or hip hop or rap... Just not my style... Please refrain from throwing rocks and sticks...

Jazz/blues/big band: I'll listen to anything, from Billy Holiday to Miles Davis to McCoy Tyner (no Chick Correa please) to Jean Luc Ponty who played jazz violin before Noel Pointer did. I also love the old big band sound of Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. It's nice to hear new swing music, too. It really rocks for me. Now if only I could dance to it. Is there a young lady out in Xanga-land willing to teach this old dog a few new tricks? hehehehheehe.

Classical: Yes, I was raised on classical music. In fact, I used to play the violin, although I would never admit it in public... or did I just admit it? Hmm... Here, too, I have my likes and dislikes. I love Beethoven: he can be dynamic, but I listen to his #6 symphony, Pastorale, the most. It is so relaxing when I'm stressed out. I will listen to Tzaichowski (sp?) and Mozart of course, and some Bach. I am into the larger sounds. I will listen to quartets but it doesn't have the oomph of a larger orchestra. Piano concertos are nice too. I used to play piano, too. No, that's not right... I was keyboardist for a band, and that doesn't count, right?

Country: Um, okay, I'm not crazy about country. I don't own a Loretta Lynn album, but I like country rock. I own Marshall Tucker Band and Charlie Daniels CDs. In fact I went to a Marshall Tucker concert, but I must admit I felt self-conscious as the only non-white, non-redneck in the audience. You know, cowboy hat and keys dangling from their belt... wait, that was me... hahahhahaa.

So what kind of music do you like? And visit SATO's site for a full view of the portrait and to thank him for making you laugh! (Okay, he looks sorta scary, but he's cool.) hahahhaha! But I really do like it, seriously... ugh but I'm afraid I'll be accused of being a narcissist... um, which I am...

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Me and Xanga

The Xangans

I

n "What a tough crowd" (a couple of weeks ago) I asked if you recognized six Xangans--regular readers of this site. Well getting a speeding ticket on his way home from FSU is Zettonv. The guy who has a stab wound is Takunishi79. Someday, I hope to have a beer with this dude to see what THAT was all about. The chica who threatened to leave Xanga but didn't really is SleepingCutie. The tease. At least I did stayed away for a month (wink, wink, cool it guys...) Showing pics of her luau is Simply_Marie. Of course, they are not available by some quirk of fate. She has pulled what is called in our neck of the woods, a hamamoto. (Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to divulge details, but if you read my site regularly, as well as the sites of those who have been posting here since last November, you'd figure it out.) The guy reading the law book is SammyStorm, currently studying law--studying at the "bar" get it? Okay, okay, bad joke. But I have to do something to keep my spirits up after he left. The guy with the painting of a dog is our artist, ddsb2000. ddsb has his dog on his site at the top. Someone confused him with SammyStorm. If you went to Sammy's site, you would have realized that Sammy does not paint pictures of his dog. A look at his profile pic revealed that he IS the dog... or was the dog...

Xanga and Me revisited: Personal Guidelines

I have had the pleasure to have a number of new readers. Since I said I would leave Xanga--which lasted all of one month for this Xangaholic--47 new people have subscribed (this excludes anyone I knew previously); this is nearly a third of all subscribers. To what or to whom I owe this pleasure, I know not, but I am flattered, truly. In any event, I believe that I should, once again, outline my peculiar Xanga habits before some of you think I'm an asshole... Of course, I may be too late already, hahahahaha!

Subscribing: I do not automatically subscribe to everyone who subscribes to me. I don't mean to seem rude or conceited, really. But honestly, I already have nearly 100 subscriptions myself, and adding to this list is scary. I still live in a 24/7 time continuum. But if you leave me a comment, chances are I will visit your site to return the favor, as some of you already realize.

Leaving comments: I used to leave comments pretty regularly on sites I subscribe to. Many times, just a word or two to let them know that I've came by; others times, if the entry particularly moved me, I would comment at length, later regretting that I should have used it as my own entry, hahaha. I generally read subscribers on my Your Subscriptions page. I do this because some sites take time to load (usually because of music), others threaten me with pop-up ads (Chatter Box and Cool Sites counter are usually the cuplrits), and some have busy backgrounds and color schemes that are just plain impossible to read because of my visual handicap (I have really poor eyesight). Who can read grey text on blue background? Or purple text on an image? Sometimes the text is too small. As you might have figured out, I am not aging gracefully. Fortunately, the Your Subscriptions page puts all the texts in order with no pics or music on white background. Whew, fast to load and really easy to read! And I do read everyone I subscribe to. Unfortunately, due to the sheer number of subscriptions, I don't leave a comment on everyone's site all the time. I will skip an entry or two, and comment less and less on sites of those who don't comment on my site. It's not really a tit-for-tat situation, but I do believe that giving and getting are crucial components of any successful social relationship. And as odd as it may seem, Xanga is a kind of social setting where we can meet and interact with new people.

Now, I know most of my subscribers only through Xanga, and if I told them, "Hey, I'm gonna be in New York or Tokyo or Chicago or Atlanta or Tallahassee or Monterey or Vancouver," they'd probably run and hide. But the relationships I do have with some of the regular commentors are fun, and this can be attributed to regular two-way feedback through which we have gotten to know each other. When it becomes one-way, when the dialogue turns into a monologue, it gets boring... There are those who have explicitly told me that they don't care to comment back and forth, that reading alone is fine; and of course, this is okay too. We all have different comfort levels and I will respect yours whenever I can...

My Regulars: Since January, I have given and received coments from SammyStorm, SleepingCutie, Paikypoo, Bane_Vixen, and ddsb2000 frequently, during some stretches everyday. Its like saying "Hi" to a friend on the train everyday. To be honest, I feel lonely--even neglected-- when I don't get a comment from these guys. Of course, this is my hang up, not theirs. And please, Vixen, no comments of getting a REAL life. Hehehe. And there are many others I give and receive comments from on a regular basis since last year, incuding takunish79, japblkgrl, detachable, simply_marie, zettonv, mmh, BarbEric_bojo, nefarious_hatter, hattori_hanzo, SunJun, RieLin, the late hamamoto (no, he's no dead), fooky11, ca1b0y, No1watching, pallyatheart, KENSHIR0, Cboy918, SATO, and of course my students who I will not list. Hope I didn't forget anybody...

I hope I get the opportunity to get to know some of you newer subscribers as well. Do you wanna get to know us, too?

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Senryu Tsubame 川柳つばめ吟社: May

Nice start....

O

kay, I lost the post where I commented on your poems, but fortunately, not the post in which you submitted the poems. So I recreated it from scratch... You can pat me on the back later...

The all poems submitted had good points, and for those of you with little or no experience in senryu, it was a very good showing indeed. Traditionally, at any meeting, the best eight poems are chosen and given a rank. The rankings in Japanese are: 天 ten (heaven), 地 chi (earth), 人 jin (man) and 五客 gokyaku (five guests--honorable mentions). However, since there were so few submissions, I will limit the honorable mentions to three 三客. The following are this month's ranking. The other poems are listed in order of receipt.

If you are interested in composing more, be sure to read the poems and comments below. The more you read, the better you will grasp the point of senryu. I must confess that it took me quite a while. My Dad would only tell me that senryu is like a snapshot. I would ask if he would elaborate, but he just repeated himself and told me to compose and read the other poems. *sigh* I guess this was the only analogy he could come up with. He was, afterall, a photographer by trade. The fact that I had to do this with my limited Japanese made it even harder. Well, I've tried to explain the concept of the "snapshot", and even given the Norman Rockwell analogy. His paintings are contemporary, funny, a slice of life. It captures a moment in time of a scenario you can understand from the images. On the other side fo the spectrum would be someone like Ansel Adams whose photgraphs were vast and timeless. His would be akin to the more esoteric haiku of Basho. Anyway, read and contemplate... or not. hehehehe...



Locker room silent
Tears fall from a grown man
End of the season.

by tim00

First impression: This is a first try? Technical foul: None. Comments: The image is of a player who has lost a close playoff game or a hard fought pennant race. Or he may be a player who is near the end of his career and will never have a chance again. Either way, the imagery is solid. Sound--or lack of it--and the image of a tear. If I were to make a suggestion, perhaps an image suggesting the end of the season--October, cleaning out the locker--rather than saying it straight out would make for an even better poem. Remember, poems should evoke ideas from the reader, not give them. Still, well done, Bruin bro'.


Who's that batting now?
Dad and I drink beer and cheer
It doesn't matter.

by imahima

First impression: Sunday afternoon. Technical foul: None. Comments: This is a straight forward poem describing the simple pleasure of being with your father. It's not the game that matters but the time spent together.


last line of defense
sure defeat drops from the sky
outstretched glove must hope

by crotchety_old_man

First impression: Little league. Technical foul: None. Comments: A poem that seems to me to be about little league: a parent suddenly worried that his/her kid is going to drop the ball, and if not, then the game is lost. Perhaps the first line could have been a description of the parent--mother cringes--but still a fine poem.



the bench behind him
his cap turned, dust covered feet
the crowd is waiting

by detachable

First impression: Suspense. Technical foul: None. Comments: A good poem that conveys the tension of a player approching the plate--"bench behind him." The "cap turned" suggests, again, little league. Perhaps, if the first line was "sliding into home", then the image would be of a player frozen in time with the crowd waiting for the umpire to make the call. But this is picking nits.



indignant fans boo
as the player limps bravely
to assume first base

by msbLiSs

First impression: Booooo. Technical foul: None. Comments: I like the use of sounds and imagery. It is a good way of bringing life to poetry. In this case, the crowd boos... at whom? The player limping to base? Probably not, but that would mean I would hae to read too much into the poem. Maybe "cheering" would have been more interesting: the juxtoposition of fans cheering a player who is obviously injured is a significant commentary of our sports obsessed, win-at-all-cost society.



Smell of clean, cut grass.
Crack of a bat starts season.
My Hornets, FIGHTING!

by SunJun

First impression: Play ball! Technical foul: None. Poet's Comment: Greensboro Hornets, the minor league baseball team I watched as a kid. Comments: Again, the combination of different senses gives poety life. Here, we have the smell of grass and the sound of a bat. This could be a slogan for the Greensboro Hornets.


nobody watches it
two canadian teams suck
bring on the hockey

by sputtum

First impression: Hockey? Technical foul: 6 syllables in first line. Comments: Nice try, but the topic is baseball. Of course, this is a comment on Canadian attitudes on baseball, I suppose, which is of course a valid point. If you could have expressed it through specific imagery, like "attendance dwindles" or "hockey scores on the scoreboard / over centerfield" or something like that. Imagery... But if you can convince the Montreal Expos to come to Northern Virginia, we'll call it even. What do you say?


Thrown into the air
Mind and soul strive for glory
Swing away my friend

by pallyatheart

First impression: From the heart. Technical foul: None. Comments: I really like this poem. It expresses the commaraderie of teammates ;and the love of the game... But it is too abstract for senryu. Be sure to capture a moment in time. What action or facial expression can you describe that would convey "strive for glory"? If you could find the write words to conjure these images, you'd be well on your way.


Seven already?
Groundskeepers work, people stand,
and stand, stretch, and sing...

by SammyStorm

First impression: Is it last call at the beer line? Technical foul: Repetition of "stand". Comments: This is a poem that expresses surprise, of how immersed the fans are in a game. The Seventh inning arrives quicker than expected and they stretch as they try to get the kinks out of the body. Perhaps if the poems were a bit more focused on one feeling. Either the immersion or the stretching (relaxation).


breaks bats but dont swing
get blinded by the pinstripes
someone stole my seat

by ddsb2000

First impression: *Scratching head* Technical foul: Grammar uneven. Comments: This poem is actually quite challenging. It is a collage of of images from bats broken although not swung, blinding pinstripes (Yankees?) and a seat in the stands. All these images are interesting, but you should focus on one point. I did get an image of Reggie Jackson in his Yankee uniform after striking out looking and walking back to the dugout and breaking his bat over his knee, which he has did once, I think. So yeah, the images are evocative and interesting, but just need more focus...


Hear the ohhs and ahhs
Ball flies above clear blue sky
Homerun, it goes by

by RieLin

First impression: So cute! Technical foul: Repetitive: "flies above" and "goes by". Comments: Another good combination of sounds and images: the crowd's "ohhs and ahhs" and ball flying overhead. Pay attention to your diction. Be sure to avoid repeating images, and you'll do fine.


Tumbleweeds rolling
Rotting saloons, rusty spurs
Obsolete baseball.

by bane_vixen

First impression: The not-so-wild West. Technical foul: None and too many. Comments: I love it. Images of an anachronistic pastime: Tumbleweeds, rotting saloons. Obsolete baseball... hahahahaha. To bad the topic wasn't basketball. Then the "spurs" could refer to Tim Duncan et al. I'm sure they feel pretty obsolete after Derek Fisher's shot with 0.4 seconds left!


A need to promote.
So they choose the Spiderman?
Whats up with that, yo!

by globalguy007

First impression: Political comment. Technical foul: None. Comments: haha. yeah, What's up with that? This is so current--well actually I think they decided against it--and your sentiments surely reflect the feelings of many baseball fans. But you are expressing an idea through a single image. Senryu is about drawing a complete picture, that when taken in its entirety expresses something insightful.


the new yorker grins
everything is in its place
Boston lost again

by gt_ninja

First impression: Oh no, not a Yanker! Technical foul: None. Comments: Oh no, not a Yanker! Oh no, not a Yanker! Oh no, not a Yanker! Again, this a a bit abstract. There is no real concrete image in this poem, well except for a grinning new yorker that others might want to slap. I do find very interesting, hoever, your decision to leave NY in small caps but captalize the B in Boston. A freudian slip?


White ball flying high
lands painfully on girl's head
homerun is on tape.

by nefarious_hatter

First impression: Ouch. Technical foul: None. Comments: The imigery is funny, and this is often the essence of senryu. To be insightful and comical at once. Indeed, netting a baseball/homerun but at the cost of a bump on the head is ironic. But I'm not sure about the "tape". Who recorded the event? Not someone with the person hit on the head, or the person himself, right? Was it on teleivison. Did the VCR record it? Senryu must also be logical...


So there you have it. Anyone interested in another topic?

Monday, May 17, 2004

Brave new world 2

C

utting edge technology simply boggles my mind. Recently, I have seen TV commercials for Sony DVD cameras. I'm not sure how it works exactly, except that it record directly onto a disc. Can you record over it? Can you take it out, play it, then put it back in to record more? I dont' know because I am one of those technologically challenged people.

Today, I went to a meeting for our language lab cum center cum think tank. One member from speech and hearing was talking about investing in virtual reality technology, wherein students can speak to virtual people for speech therapy. I joked, saying it sounded like we neede to build a Holodeck, but she told me I wasn't far off. The technology is apparently available for students to wear a helmet built in screen and enter a virtual world. Can you imagine a student entering a virtual Tokyo, or the virtual sensei pad? I was virtually speechless...

Well, as most of you already know, I'm an old fogey. I grew up when hightech wasn't word for us common folks. It was for the government. Have you ever seen a documentary where elementary school kids had to duck underneath there desks during A-bomb drills during the Cuban crisis? I was one of them. I remember seeing LIVE on TV, Neil Armstrong say "I small step for man." (And just for you sports fan, I saw Sandy Koufax pitch three times.) Anyway, back then, hightech was to build bombs and send men to the moon. Hightech for me was the color TV and that new fangled remote control. We did not have Walk/Discmans, PS2 or Gameboys. Geez, when I was in elementary school, audio cassette tapes were for secret agents. And everytime I saw something new, my jaw would drop. Here's a short list of the technological innovations that astounded me the most. Try not to laugh too hard...

5. Karaoke: (1981) I love to sing, as some of you already know. In LA, I used to go to piano bars in J-town to sing. People would sit at a bar that wrapped around a baby grand piano, and the microphone would pass from customer to customer, singing songs played by the pianist. Then at UCLA, I made friends with one guy who owned this contraption that could be used as a loudspeaker but also played audio tapes. T told me it was a karaoke machine: kara meaning empty, and oke the abbreviation for the Japanese pronunciation of orchestra. He asked me if I knew any Japanese songs. I told him, Futari de o-sake wo, and he rummaged through his collection of tapes, stuck one in, and he handed me the mike. I heard the familiar intro to the song, but there were no vocals. Sing! he commanded. (@_@) And thus began my love affair with karaoke. It was also the start of a short-lived but amusing tradition of Karaoke parties and ultimately karaoke contests. T and I would choose teams and compete with each other. No prizes, just bragging rights. We were able to scrounge up 10 singers--5 vs. 5--for our first contest with an audience of about 10 at my parents house. Hahahah! By our fourth contest, though, we had to limit our singers to 12 per team, and the audience numbered about 100! It was pretty amazing.

4. ESPN: (1980) I think the first cable company in LA was called the Z Channel. I'm not sure, because i didn't own it, but a friend of a friend had it and we went to his house for a party. There were few channels, mostly year-old movies and news. The friend of my friend told us that there was a sports only channel. (@_@) Yeah baby, you know I gotta get me cable now! But when he changed to channel to ESPN, I was totally deflated. They had rodeo on. Okay, maybe today's a bad day, what else do they air? I asked. He handed over the Cable guide and under ESPN, it listed events such as volleyball, softball, and stockcar racing. I learned that all the major networks had the rights to all the major sports, and ESPN picked up the sports NBC, ABC and CBS did not show. The genius that I was, I figured ESPN would go belly up in 5 years... Stupid me, I shoulda bought their stock...

3. Sony Pressman: (1981) Have you ever seen photos or old movies in which men would have a tansisotr radio in their shirt pocket and an earplug plugged in the ear (where else). Well, I was one of them, once upon a time. I would listen to baseball games or top 40 music on AM-KHJ or KRLA. The quality was poor, of course, but it was portable. If I wanted high fidelity, one would have to listen to a home stereo. And if you wanted to hear it by yourself, you needed these clunky over the ears headphones. One day, I was chatting with my friends at North Campus at UCLA--it was our hangout--when H, a Japanese friend sat down with a small headset on, I was intrigued by this small spongy looking thing. He told me it was attached to his Pressman. "It's like a Walkman, but bigger because it could record--in stereo--and was used for interviews by media types," he explained. The young O-man, being way behind the curve responded: "Oh, that's interesting, but what's a Walkman?" Anyway, I asked if the sound was good, and he said it was okay. You want to listen? I put it one and almost spit out the coffee I was drinking. (@_@) My ears had to be deceiving me. It sounded better than the stereo I had at home. I told this to H and the rest and they just laughed. Why am I always the last to know?

2. Video tape: (1971) I remember in high school, a teacher showed us a PBS special from the night before. I asked if they were showing it again during the class hour, and Mr. H said that someone had recorded it and we were watching the recording. (@_@) You mean to tell me you can record from the TV?

1. Pong: (1973) Some of you may not even recognize the name, but it's the name of the very first computer game I played. I usd to go to the arcades with my friends and we would play pinball and air hockey. One day we saw this new game called Pong. Two players played a form of tennis on screen. Do you mean these two dials control the paddles? Do you mean that we control what's happening on the screen? (@_@) Holy moly. This totally shocked me. To actually control movement on the screen was something I didn't even imagine. Of course, the movement was simply moving a short white bar--the paddle--on either side of the screen, sliding it up and down. The goal was to hit the square "ball" and make your opponent miss. The ball would ricochet on the top and bottom fo the screen. I'm sure NONE of you would find this exciting, but for me back in the early 70, this was something that altered my world view. I learned that hightech was something that had very human, very mundane applications, that it wasn't just for rocket scientists and the IRS.

Yes, I grew up in a very different world from most of you, which I believe explains some of the child-like (M would say childish) responses I still have to new things.

I was and still am amazed by new technology. But it seems to me that many of the younger generation take things in stride, that a new technology is just the next step. Is there anything that you have "discovered"--not necessarily technological--that has simply astonished you? What was it?

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Happy and sad

F

irst things first. I saw my first cicada today. No, no the one in my banner, but a live one... And only one. I saw another one, but it was already dead. Let me tell ya, they really do have berry red eye. Creepy.

Second things second, I finished grading. Yea! Now summer session begins on Tuesday and the grading cycle starts all over again. *sigh* No rest for the weary.

But the most important for last. This is Graduation Weekend at my school. I will be going to the school graduation today and the general graduation on the Washington Ellipse between the White House and the Wachington Monument on Sunday. Yes, folks, this is probalby one of the coolest graduations around. Can you imagine? Now if they could only line-up an interesting speaker... My first year here, we had Bill Cosby. Man was that a great graduation! We've also had Bob Dole, Archbishop Tutu, and Madeleine Albright. It has been pretty illustrious, but the "star" quality has been declining lately. All are wonderful speakers but nothing like the four I just mentioned... But I did like Tony Bennett. I still can't figure out what all the fuss was about...

Anyway, will you join me in extending congratulations to all of them and to all gradutates this year? (this would include people like enygma81 who graduated in fall semester, too!)

Congratulations Graduates!

Finally, on a very sad note. My favorite Xangan has decided to leave Xanga. You can visit SammyStorm and read why he has decided to leave. It is very disturbing that anyone would abuse Xanga in such a way. Anyway, I will address this later. To talk about Sammy and his contribution to my life requires the attention and consideration I am unable to give this weekend. I just wanted to let you know that I am very, very sad... I hope it wasn't anyone I know who has forced him to leave...

Friday, May 14, 2004

Call 'em as I see 'em

I cannot play sports, as I have said a number of times, because of my eyesight. But I have been following sports since I was a little kid back in the early 60s. As a result, I have seen a number of amazing plays over the years, and can relate current situations and plays with what I have seen and heard. It often makes me look smarter than I really am. A couple of cases:

Dodgers and Cubs

Baseball was my first love, but all the tens of millions of dollars in contracts has turned me off to pro baseball and I find myself embracing college sports all the more. So you'll excuse me for not knowing Dodger second baseman, Alex Cora. But I do know baseball. I was flipping the channels on Wednesday night--when I should have been grading--and paused to see the Dogers playing the Cubs on ESPN. The announcer said that Cora had fouled off 11 consecutive pitches.

"Eleven? Wow, that's pretty amazing," I said to M, as Cora fouled off number 12.

The other players in the Dodger dugout were laughing as Matt Clement, a solid pitcher, struggled with the number eight batter in the lineup. Number 13 beyond third base, foul. Then number 14, down the first base line, just foul. You know, Roberto Clemente would foul off pitches like this too. He would make the pitcher struggle, then get a hit, I was gonna tell her, but didn't, because she wouldn't know who Clemente was anyway. Too much effort for too little appreciation.

Instead, I told her, "After so many pitches, the pitcher gets fed up 'cuz he just can't find the pitch to get the batter out. After a while, he'll just challenge the batter, effectively telling him, 'I dare you to hit it fair.' But the pitcher is always the loser in this scenario." Thinking of Clemente, I finish by saying, "One guy would hit homeruns."

And no sooner did the words come out of my mouth when Cora hits a two run homerun. M is speechless. But I don't say anything. I shouldn't have to. I just look at her, and raise my eyebrows, clamping my mouth shut. I'm not aobut to gloat, because I know full well that it was sheer coincidence.

Lakers beat San Antonio with less that a second left...

Then last night... Folks! I almost fainted. Lakers played a sloppy second half offense. Or maybe San Antonio played good defense. Probably both. I see Tim Duncan shoot a ball off the backboard for two, but the amazing thing is that he on his way to the basket for a possible rebound in case it doesn't go in. Why don't the Lakers do that? Watch them. If Kobe shoots a 3, or if Shaq moves in for a layup, virtually everyone becomes a spectator. Why? It looks like they don't hussle, these guys. But man, do they have talent...

With 10 ticks to go, San Antonio, down 72-71, takes the ball in. Parker tries to drive around the corner and is fouled by Derek Fisher. Good play. Lakers had a foul to give and now San Antonio has to devise a 5 second play. They throw it in to Duncan, who tries to dribble, back to the basket, cant' go anywhere, 3 seconds, 2 seconds, he turns around at the top the key and shoots off balance, falling, Shaq in his face... Douche (note: Please excuse the spelling, but its pronounced exactly the same way and I don't even know if there's actually a way to spell this sound effect), two points. 73-72, San Antonio with 0.4 seconds left. Shaq is shaking his head in disbelief. He was all over Duncan, and he made it. Kobe simply looks exhausted.

Phil Jackson calls time, after which the Lakers setup to inbound the pass on their side of the court. Gary Payton looks to throw the ball in when San Antonio calls time.

"There's only 0.4 seconds left. Why did they call time-out?" M asks impatiently.

"San Antonio wanted to see how the Lakers were going to set up, so they can come up with a plan to defend it." M doesn't pepper me with questions questioning the logic, like she usually does, not after last night.

Payton again tries to get the ball in to Kobe. But, no go. Not surprisingly, San Antonio's got Kobe double-teamed and Shaq is stuck with Duncan in his face. Another time out, Lakers.

At this point, M is going, "A third time out? There's only 0.4 seconds. Shouldn't they just give up?"

I don't share my thoughts regarding the difference between men and women and sports. I treasure our marriage. But I do tell her, "Everyone is expecting the ball to go to Shaq or Kobe. Kobe's being double-teamed, and Shaq can't shoot a jump shot, so they shouldn't force it; they should pass it to whoever's open, probalby the guy who used to wear the headband." M doesn't know the role-players by name, so I have to identify Derek Fisher by dress... or former dress.

While M smiles, believing that any scenario would be impossible, Payton tries to inbound the pass. As expected, Kobe is double-teamed and Shaq is at the free-throw line. Fisher breaks toward Payton, catches the inbound pass, turns, falls away as he shoots... SCORE. Lakers win 74-73.

M's mouth is hanging to the floor. I struggle mightily to keep from looking smug. And Shaq--as only Shaq can--says, "One lucky shot deserves another." What a game..

Mind you, this has nothing to do with my sports acuity. I am not some sports wiz. I cannot coach and cannot do color commentary. But, I think anyone who has followed sports for forty years can make similar comments and seem insightful. I just won't tell M....

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Brave new world

Interconnecting through Xanga

O

ne of the many wonders in my lifetime is the Internet. For many of you, the Internet is just another part of your lives, but for me, it is an amazing system. I come from a planet that did not have these new technologies--digitalized information, microcomputers, satellite TV. So I am impressed with every new innovation, including the Internet.

When I was at the age most of you are now--teens to twenties--people talked about a brave new world where information was accessible and instantaneous, where everyone was literally connected to each other by computers. This was hard to imagine. For me, "being connected" usually referred to Jack A plugged into Socket B, thus ensuring that music came out of the stereo speakers. But look at me now. I am connected to all manner of unknown people whom I have met on Xanga. And many of these people are even nice! Yesterday, it was Bane the Vixen. Today, it's japblkgrl. Is the moon in the seventh house? Is Jupiter aligned with Mars? This is an excerpt from her entry.

i joined mainly to comment on o-man's site...i found him through someone on rice bowl journals...i don't even remember who that person was.

so its because of o-man that i'm here...yes, its your fault that i've wasted many hours of my life in front of this computer screen... more.

Well, JBG, I'm sorry you've wasted so much time. It has been and continues to be fun reading about ya' over on the west coast--house-sitting, grumbling over dead-beat doctors, and lamenting about your mom. But, I'm even more impressed by the fact that you found me via RBJ. Damn, that thing actually works?!? Actually, I know a couple of others who came here via the same route. I also know that some of your have registered there, but have done little more. I think that if you want it to work for you, you have to work for it, by interacting on its forum, even for just a little. Indeed, I go only occasionally. Lately, a certain Xangan I know has brought up a XXX topic and it was pretty funny. And if any of you do decide to checkout RBJ again, don't forget to bookmark your buddies, hehehehe... J/K. Its not a big deal, I guess.

I'm also aware that a few of you don't appreciate RBJ because of its "exclusivity." Being an Asians-only place, it has made me pause to reflect as well, as I have been subjected to similar whites-only/whites-preferred situations in the real world. But it is a place to get out from under the shadow of the mainstream, a place where we are the mainstream, and I accept it as such, at a small corner of the Internet. But for those of you interested, I believe I read somewhere that the forum was open to everyone, not just Asians.

Anyway, enough narcissism. I've hit the grading homestretch. If I don't finish today. I'm screwed... And, tell me if your #25,000.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Aaaargh!

I am royally pissed. I'm sure some of you have already read them, but do you remember my previous post with all the comments to your senryu poems? Well, Xanga lost them somehow.

I don't know what happened, but after I had put on the finishing touches, prffffzt! It disappeared when I submitted them. Ctrl-Z doesn't work, once you press submit. I tried the back button, too. No luck... Damnation! I actually have another word, but I have a number of young readers, so I don't want to be accused of corrupting young... ah, forget it. FUCK! I'm pissed off! Some of you must know how much time is invested in something like that... Anyway, I have put the poems together, but I will comment on them later after I finish my last stack of finals to grade: J culture through film. This is a monster stack, so in the meantime, visit SammyStorm for stuff a cut--just barely--above mine, bane_vixen for the best in angst, PaikyPoo for degenerate shit, ddsb2000 and nefarious_hatter the art freaks. I'd send you to SleepingCutie, exhibitionist extraordinaire, but she's on vacation to hook up with some guy in SF... hooooooooooow romantic...

Sorry, do I sound cynical? Sarcastic? Well, DUH! I'm still pissed. Grrrrrrr... Just taking it out on my Xanga friends...

Tell me something that happened today to cheer me up... Aaaargh...

Oh wait. Here's something that put a smile on my face. And from none other that the Vixen. She, for some reason, decided to "write a tribute" to her readers. This is what she wrote about me...

Oh, man. Where do I begin? Ever thought about cheating on your wife? Hahahaha. Just joking. I know sometimes I give you a hard time, but it's mainly to counterbalance the compliments you're constanly flooded with. I've got to be the killjoy. It also means I respect you a lot. One of these days, we have to get drunk together and break down illusions that barricade what's real and what's false. Your last comment you mentioned my "unbridled angst" isn't your cup of tea, but I'm glad you kept coming back.

Thanks, girl. That alleviated some of the anger I'm feeling toward Xanga at the moment. And for the record, "unbridled angst" in general is not my "cup of tea", but your "cup" is more like Arabian coffee: strong, bitter, and oh so delicious. Would you mind if I brought some friends when we get bombed? Sammy and Hama-chan and Japblkgrl and Taku and a few other...