Monday, August 30, 2004

Friends Share


here was a time not too long ago when one would hear of the music Nazis going after those who were downloading or sharing songs for free. I can understand some of the need to protect copyrights and intellectual property. But then there is also a limit to what can be considered protectable.

As many of you know, I teach, and I want my students to read some books and articles or view a video for class. Sometimes, however, some books or videos are out of print. Since it is virtually impossible to get a new copy, I would think that making a copy and making it available to students would be okay. But nooooooooooooooo... That is a copyright infringement. Now, let's think about this. If a particular author / composer / artist wants to be known by a wider audience, it is necessary to be read or viewed by said audience. But if the author / composer / artist's material is out of print, and a new copy is unobtainable, AND I can't copy it to distribute it to my students, how the heck is the material going to reach a wider audience? I don't get it. Shouldn't there be a reasonable compromise between the protection of copyrights and the rights of the consumer?

Well, it is not my intention to create new law, and I'm not about to test the limits of my protection under the law as it is currently being interpreted. But I must say that I can't see the illegality of sharing music with a friend. I've been buying music since I was in the sixth grade when I bought my first album, Headquarters by the Monkees. Back in those days when an album cost about $5.00 and our allowances hovered around $1 a week, we had to resort to other means to get a hold of music. So my firends and I would allways attempt to buy different albums so we could share them. By the time I was in 10th grade, I helped out around my old elementary school in the summer and was able to buy my very own Panasonic radio-cassette player. The upshot of this was that I was able to borrow my friends albums and record them. Back in those days, one never heard of people getting sued by record labels for sharing albums. While the quality of reproduced music probably had something to do with it--there were pops and scratches in every recording--the bottom line was that we were able to share music without fear...

In any event, there are a few old Japanese songs that I've been tyring to find but have been totally unsuccessful.

  • フレンズ (Friends) by Rebecca
  • ふたりの夏物語 (Futari no natsu monogatari) by 杉山清貴&オメガトライブ Sugiyama Kiyotaka and OMega Tribe
  • ガラスのPALM TREE by 杉山清貴&オメガトライブ Sugiyama Kiyotaka and OMega Tribe
  • ボヘミアン (Bohemian) by 葛城ユキ Katsuragi Yuki
  • 哀愁夜 (Aishuuya) by 葛城ユキ Katsuragi Yuki
  • メモリ-グラス (Memory glass) by 堀江淳 Horie Jun
  • 哀愁のカサブランカ (Aishuu no Casablanca) by 郷ひろみ Go Hiromi
  • ふられ気分でRock'n Roll (Furare kibun de rock 'n roll) by TOM☆CAT
  • 夢の途中 (Yume no tochuu) by 来生たかお Kisugi takao
  • Romanticが止まらない (Romantic ga tomaranai) by C-C-B
  • あなた (Anata) by 小坂明子 Kobayashi Akiko
  • 待つわ (Matsuwa) by あみん Amin
  • そして僕は途方に暮れる (Soshite boku wa tohou ni kureru) by 大沢誉志幸 Osawa
  • 今だから (Ima dakara) by 小田和正、財津和夫、松任谷由実 Oda, Zaitsu, Matsutoya

Well, its a short list and ecclectic at that--pop, new music, idol. Now if only it were 30 years ago and I had a friend who would share them with me. *sigh*

Sunday, August 29, 2004

I'm a Xangan


ension is often brought about when there are two disparate, usually opposite forces vying for the same thing. For me, it would be my consciousness and my conscience. My consciousness becaus the matter I choose will control my consciousness and take up most of my time. My conscience because whether it is good or bad, it will determine how much energy I use to deal with the choice. I was confronted--albeit briefly--with a decision last week: Xanga or LiveJournal...

Fortunately, the decision was rather facile.

I know a few people who are already on LiveJournal and have been there a number of times to leave comments. But I never thought of actually starting page. SimplyMarie has a place at MyDiary and I went there to open a site as a backup to my Xanga. But it turned out to be a bit more confusing than I had expected. Yes, I am totally computer illiterate so don't make fun of me.

Anyway, I decided that I already have the JAJournal and so don't really need another blog. My MyDiary site has been sitting there collecting dust ever since. Then all of a sudden, people I know here on Xanga started kicking up this LiveJournal dust and temporarily blinded me. First, scslider abruptly abandons his Xanga--for personal reasons, apparently--and moves to LiveJournal. Then SleepingCutie writes that she's been tempted to move over to LJ as well. I'm thinking: What is going on? Less than a week goes by when I find Steve has bookmarked me at RBJ. I decide to look up who he is and he turns out to be a nice, well written guy at--that's right--LiveJournal. I decide to leave him a comment--you can comment anonymously at LJ, even if you are not a member--when I see another member there: SammyStorm. Sammy didn't leave a comment as an anonymous user like I did, he has his own account! So what do I do, thanks to these four influential people? I open my own LJ site...

Now, LiveJournal is a bit different than Xanga. You can do virtually everything youcan do at Xanga, except that there seems to be a more intimate feel over at LJ. For some reason, there is not the kind of openness that one finds at Xanga. I have yet to come across a site that has 80 comments that seem relatively common at Xanga. And this might be due to the absence of e-props. In a way, Xanga has set itself up so that people can self-promote. This, of course, is fine, as I must admit that I have done similar things from time to time as well.

Well, after a bit of soul searching, I decide that I am not moving to LiveJournal. I will keep the LJ account and post my Xanga stuff there as a back up. This way, my LJ friends and acquaintences can leave me comments, and I can leave comments on their sites without going through the "anonymous user" procedure every freakin' time I want to say something... Ulitmately, I remain on Xanga because of all the virtual friends I have made here. A year ago, I would never have guessed that I woud meet so many people through Onigiriman. Xanga has proven to be a fun and interesting place that I could never abandon. And yet, LJ feels like the real journal, a private, intimate place, perhaps even a bit dark in a way. I need that kind of place, as well, a place where someday I may post darker things about myself I am unwilling to post on the bright, sunny place called Xanga..

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Random thoughts


his is the last weekend of the summer for me. I have a Program meeting on Monday, and a departmental meeting Tuesday. School will start Wednesday with my first class, Japanese Literature in Translation. Going back to school is all fine and dandy, but what I want to know is: Where the heck did the summer go?!? At the risk of sounding like a whiner, I really wanna know, where the heck the time goes. I can literally see my life flowing away. Time to sit back, take stock, and get my $hit together.

Okay, I'm glad I got that off my chest...

Real Tension...

Yesterday, I wrote about my view on my familial responsibility, between understanding modernity and maintaining traditions. As is often the case, neither is right nor wrong. I believe that in most of us live with varying degrees of tension in our life. It manifests itself in our beliefs, in our like and dislikes, in our emotions. Indeed, our very life is a taut line pulled between two extremes: am I good or bad, right or wrong, active or lazy. Ulitimately, our lives are determined by the choices we make. If we make the "right" choices, which means the choices the one can live with--or perhaps more importantly, one that is socially acceptable--then there is some slack in the line. Make the wrong choice, then the tension in the line intesifies. When the line gets too taut... *snap*...

So we make adjustments so the line won't snap. AmI moder or traditional? Do I root for America or Japan? This may sound like easy or inconsequential decisions... I mean, really, whether I root for America or Japan is not going to change the Olympics, will it? Will my voice push athletes on one side or the other to excel even more? Not likely. But it IS important to me, for these decisions ultimately determine who I am, how I see myself, how I present myself to the world. And this presence will change--albeit in a small a way--those around me, including, maybe, some fo you. And while I may sound pompous and self-important by saygin something like that, I should note that many of you have changed me as well. Not greatly, perhaps--age has its advantages, as well. But we all influence each other and to ignore this would be foolish. There is no one who is completely isolated from society.

Anyway, this is getting deep than I wanted. It was just a random thought, but this subject gets me going. I think I'll think about this a bit more...

Locked in

Omega wrote about being locked out, and it reminded me of the first time I got dead drunk. I was 17 years old and I had gone to the boss's house for New Years for the first time. Diddly, a fellow worker, tried to hit on GeishaGirl and later played some poker with the "elders". I found myself sitting and talking to Chikara, one of the rice cake cooks. He was already drunk and he told me to join him. Which I gladly did. After he a few sips from our second fifth of J&B, GeishaGirl and Diddly thought that it would be awful if I was returned home in such a state, so they drove me around town in an attempt to get me sober. I sat in the back seat of Diddly's dark blue Toyota, and watched the city lights whir pass my unfocused eyes.

I guess the kaleidescope of colors was too much for my somach. I notified Diddly that the contents of my stomach were heading north instead of south, and he flew into the first open gas station. He led me to the men's room where I entered an open stall and puked my life force away...

Whew... I felt a bit better, and when I washed my face a bit with cold water, I felt even better, although still quite drunk. Too bad you can't puke the alcohol already in the brain, I thought as I turned around to leave. But when I reached for the door but I realized that there was no handle to pull. I was in a panic. I pounded on the door and screamed for someone to rescue me! Help me! Diddly! Get me out of here! Finally my friend pulled open the door from the outside.

"What the hell is taking you so long," he asked me sternly.

"uh, I was just about to leave" I responded sheepishly. I realized that all I had to do was push it open. Damn! No wonder there was no handle!

Ah, the dangers of being drunk, young, by yourself, and... yeah, stupid.

Have a good weekend all. I'll get to the senryu results asap.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Safe Birth

MsbLiss posted that her water broke, so I'm under the assumption that she will have her baby in the next few hours. I encourage you to click on her name and wish her a safe birth and a healthy baby.

The white pouch-like item on the left is actually a "safe birth" amulet 安産お守り. Okay, I don't believe in such superstitions, but I figure its always good to be on the safe side. These amulets protect soon-to-be mothers and are usally obtained at Shinto Shrines, but not to miss out on any money-making opportunites, they can also be found at most Buddhist temples. In a country so seemingly secular--far more secular than the US--one finds many references and representations of casual, but still pervasive, religious beliefs.

Anyway, msbLiss, ganbatte!

Our Family Crest


n a previous post, I wrote that my father was the eldest son of the main line of his family of farmer in Fukushima Prefecture. However, once when he thought he might die, back in the late 30s, he overheard his elder sisters squabbling about this property, and in disgust, he relinquished all claims to the property to his younger sister. As such, I am the eldest of the eldest of the main line in name only. Which is fine. I am not a farmer. But with the recent death of my father, I find myself thinking about my responsibilities as the eldest.


This pattern is called a mokkou 木瓜. It was used during the Tang dynasty in China before it ever came to Japan. My mother and father told me a long time ago, that the reason why it's called a mokkou (lit. 木 tree, wood, and 瓜 a kind of melon) is because it looks like a cucumber when sliced. But according to what I have read on the internet, it is actually a representation of a birds nest seen from above. The design is upposed to suggest an abundance of descendents, another way of saying fertility, I guess. This crest was used by none other than Oda Nobunaga, the monkey Shogun. It is also used by every other family in Japan, as well... or so it would seem. There are many families who use this particular crest or a variation of it.

As I rummaged through my father's things I found a some items bearing this crest: an old notebook, a set of small sake cups. And the meaning of this crest has been on my mind. My father sired three children, two sons and a daughter. I have sired only one daughter, and she lives with her mother in Japan, although she still bears my surname. Am I letting my father down? Am I betraying my ancestors for not siring even one son? This line of questioning may seem silly in this day and age in the US, but like my father, I am at heart a conservative. I believe in change and all the wonders they bring about. But there is also something important about tradition. There is a sense of pride in knowing and understanding whence I came. Okay, so I come from a stock of farmer, no big deal. But I think it might be greater than that. While I am proud to be an American, I am also proud of my Japanese heritage. I'm not just talking about eating sushi and tempura. I enjoy speaking the language, and having participated in a variety of cultural activities representative of this heritage: karate (five years), composing senryu poetry, and of course karaoke. Hahahah.

But I can't help but wonder if perhaps I haven't satisfied my extended family by not providing a son. Oh well, it's too late now... Maybe, someday my daughter will help me deal with this issue by marrying and having a bunch of sons of her own...

Thursday, August 26, 2004

My Tea House of the August Moon


an, as I try to recall my year in Japan, a flood of memories flow back into my consiousness. I looked for old photos and the memories gelled into recollections that seemed recent--that's me in front of my teahouse digs wearing a kimono. Although these events occurred twenty years ago, I recall many things very clearly, particularly the first few months when I was getting settled in Japan.

As fall turned to winter, the inside of my teahouse grew colder, and getting out of my futon bedding in the morning became increasingly difficult. I had figure out a way to warm up my room first before I got out of the futon and felt the twinges of a heart attack. Well, all I had to do was position the gas stove within arms length--too close and it would burn the bedding. When the alram went off, I would reach out into the cold of the morning, turn the handle clockwise until it clicked and gave off a spark for the gas to catch. It sould usually take two or three tries before it caught and started burning. If I remembered, I would put a kettle of water on top of the stove so that by the time the room warmed up, I would also have hot water for my instant coffee...

コタツWhen my December stipend came in, I went straight to Seiyu--the superstore--to buy a 180cm x 180cm kotatsu futon. For those of you unfamiliar--since SleepingCutie asked--a kotatsu is a table with two parts: the frame and a table top. Traditionally, the frame is placed over a square, one meter-deep hole in the floor, and at the bottom there is a small brazier with burning coals in it. The futon is placed over the frame and hole to keep the heat in and a table top is placed over the futon to hold it in place. (By the way, that is not me in the photo.) This is called a hori-gotatsu--a dug out kotatsu. Since there is a hole, you can dangle you feet as if you were sitting on a high chair. But you have to be careful. My relatives in the countryside have a hori-gotatsu and I used to love to sit in it. But once my feet got too close. I smelled something burning, and warned my cousin about it before I realized it was my own socks that were being singed. I pulled out my feet and pulled off my smoking socks in the nick of time. Whew.

However, in these modern times, most kotatsu do not require a hole. The frame includes an electric heating unit with temperature control. It is a great place to keep your legs and lap warm. And cats don't die of carbon monoxide poisoning either. I remember my friends coming over and we would argue about who would have to get out of he kotatsu to get more beer from the fridge. People just seem to grow roots from their butt when parked in tha kotatsu. But a kotatsu is emblematic of the Japanese psyche, I believe. The Japanese have this incredible ability to control their physical reality psychologically. When a Japanese is in a kotatsu, only their front of their hips and feet are being warmed. their head, neck, chest and back is exposed to the elements, and yet they feel a great deal of warmth and comfort from the kotatsu. This ability to deal with their environment extends to their commuter trips. In crowded trains where everyone is pressed together shoulder to shoulder, chest to back, the Japanese can creat a physical sphere of privacy and act as if nothing is wrong, that nothing is bothering them. This would never fly in the US. Whenever I try to squeeze into a crowded Metro train, I am always greeted by dirty looks and snide comments beneath their breath. *sigh* I want to tell them that I only want to go home on time like them. No, that's not true. I want to tell them to suck it up, that it's not even close to what it's like in Japan.

Anyway, I see that I've really gone off on a tangent. Let's see... Oh yeah.

I went to Seiyu and bought the futon. It cost--and amazingly I can still picture the price tag--Y13,000, more than the TV. But it was worth it. I brought it home, spread it over the kotatsu, and bathed in its warmth. Gawd, I loved it. I would turn on the TV, lay down with my hip and most of my upper body scrunched into the kotatsu, prop up my head on my hands, and enjoyed my life in Japan. Further, by then I had taken care of most of the necessities--the soaps and Kleenex and assorted odds and ends--so I figured I could splurge and by a audio tape of my favorite singer, Nakamori Akina. I bought the tape at a record shop--this was before digital CDs, guys--in front of Nishi-Ogikubo station, brought it home, and read the lyrics to the songs. All I needed to get now was a cassette player to hear it. Don't laugh. This was a conscious decision on my part. I could have saved up for a cassette player and have nothing to play on it, or have a tape and have nothing to play it on. Well, I chose the latter because it would give me more incentive to count my yen and not complain about eating only Y100 soba and Y90 rice balls. But by around New Years, I found that I had enough money to buy a player. I had started teaching English parttime in mid November and my first pay came in December, so I was as happy as a clam, sitting in my kotatsu, warm, turning on the TV, then listening to Akina-chan, then studying my Japanese. Life was actually pretty nice.

Then winter really came...

Born and raised in southern California, I had little contact with snow. I went camping once in Big Bear with my Boy Scout troop in the snow once. And I had encountered snow on my first trip to Japan in 1974 in the countryside when I stayed with my relatives. Both times I had adult supervision. Now I was the adult and I had to learn the hard way how to take care of myself in the ice and snow. How many times did I slip and fall on my ass before I realized that I needed better shoes. Did my pipes actually have to burst before I remembered to let the water trickle out before I went to sleep? It was definitely a learning experience. You will notice that the sliding-door shutters are up, and indeed, for much of my time from November to February I kept them closed unless it was an especially sunny day and I was able to air out my futon.

Oh, I forgot to mention that as well.

In Japan, many people still sleep in the traditional way, on the tatami mat floors. You usually lay down two "matress" futon--shiki-buton (lit. futon to spread out)--and then cover it with a sheet. Then you have the "comforter" futon--kake-buton (lit. futon for cover). Usually, the kake-buton is covered with a fitted sheet so you can just wash the sheet. Another item that many may be unfamiliar with is the taoruketto. This is made up of two English words, towel and blanket. Basically, it's a large blanket sized towel used as a sheet. I thought it was weird at first, but once I got used to it, I was surprised at how indispensible this thing really is. Basically, it soaks up all the sweat we secrete while sleeping. This is true in the winter beneath the futon, but you can imagine how important this is in the summer in a country that has not yet grasped the concept of central air...

Anyway, while you can wash the sheets as often as you want, the futon are a different story. It is very expensive to send you futon for cleaning--you usually have to take the matress futon to a special futon store. Most Japanese try to keep their futon clean by using the sheets and towel-kets as a buffer, and at least once a week air out the futon outside in the sun--weather permiting. And that was about the only time I would open up the shutters. The glass sliding doors were thin and would let in the cold freely, as most Japanese wooden structures are made for the summer rather than the winter. I guess they feel its easier to warm yourself up rather than to cool your self down.

But that's another story...

More soon...

Postscript: At cgran's suggestion, I asked if others would share their jokes, and I already have a contribution. Hahhahhaha. Check your PP...

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Teahouse of the August Moon II


ome of you may be wondering about the title of these entries. Well, the Tokyo home I talked about in the last entry was a former tearoom and it is currently August. Yes, yes, I am the simple sort. (Tearoom? August? Get it?) But I chose the name to reflect the 1956 movie "Teahouse of the August Moon", starring Marlon Brando. It's a farce of Americans as nation builders. Capt. Fisby (Glen Ford) goes to Okinawa to teach the Japanese democracy but the locals--led by Sakini (Brando)--out flank him by convincing him to give them what they want: a teahouse.

I know, I know, you're all pretty disgusted. I mean, even if it's a movie making fun of US "global" policy, how ridiculous to assume that all the Japanese want is a TEAHOUSE! As if they couldn't build one themselves? Also, why Okinawa. As you all know, Okinawa is just one more group of people Japan assimilated into Japan. Many Okinawans, even today, view themselves as Japanese citizens but ethnically Ryukyuan. And wow! What's with the make up?!? Doesn't Brando--he's the one on the left--look really Japanese to you? Hahahahahha. Ah, but it was the 50s and they didn't know any better in Hollywood. Anyway, when I was in first grade, a local Catholic high school, Salesian, put on a play based on this story and they needed a couple of kids to play "Japanese boy". If you look real hard at the photo above, I'm the one sitting fifth from the right.

Zenpukuji 1984-5, cont'd

I dug up a photo from 1984 when I lived in the tearoom. As you can see, the kitchen really looked like it used to be an alcove, the refridgerator is on the tatami mat, the stove is on (notice the hot orange), and I'm wearing a sweater inside because... my house was cold even with the stove on. Ah, to be young (ok, ok, I was 28) and able to live under virtually any condition. That was the single most important thing I learned in Japan, I think. Yeah, my Japanese improved immensely, but more importantly, I leaned that I could survive without the basic comforts we all take for granted, like three square meals, heat, hot water, a telephone, and others.

And the main reason for this is that I've always been an optimist. I always looked at life in a positive way, and have considered myself to be lucky. Although we were never rich, we never wanted for anything necessary, even though I tried to convince my father that soda and potato chips were necessities... Ando so my life in Japan started off just as humbly. With my first few monthly stipends of ・140,000, I bought the necessities. I paid ・40,000 for rent, ・10,000 for transportation to and from school, and about ・15,000 for gas, electricity and water. That left me with about ・65,000 for the rest of my needs. In October, I bought the refridgerator which left me with ・2000 each day to pay for food and basic living necessities. Since I was starting from scratch I had to buy everyting: soap, tissue, toilet paper, paper towels, dish washing liquid, sponge, paper, cooking oil, rice. I remember cursing myself for not thinking ahead. I could have brought with me things like tooth paste, a nail clipper, and extra pens and notebooks. Geez, I was eating on ・100 soba at school for lunch and one ・90 onigiri (two if I felt rich) from the local convenience store for dinner. I had lost 15 pounds in one month without even trying. Of course, this is all speculation because I didn't have a scale...

In November, I splurged and bought a red 11" Mitsubishi TV. It was collecting dust at a small mom and pop electronics store in Ogikubo and I lugged it home on the bus. At home, I adjusted the rabbit ears and watched TV at "home" for the first time in five weeks. Many of you may laugh, but I felt a sense of normalcy returning to my life. I could now cook my own rice, pour over it some instant curry, and watch a J drama while sitting in the kotatsu. It was a warming thought as the night grew chillier, but the kotatsu really wasn't a kotatsu. It had a heating element but it was totally ineffective without a kotatsu futon to keep the heat in. Duh! (we didn't actually use this word back then...) I knew what I had to buy next.

Now all this time, I was studying. Really. I was taking courses in Japanese language at Waseda University. I really wanted to improve my Japanese. I mean, I swear, I wanted to do much better in Japanese. I could speak basic everyday conversations fairly well, but reading was a bear. As many of you know, Japanese is made up of different scripts and mastering them is a bitch. But I spent my weekends and evenings reading the material I was given and poured over my dictionary. When I took the placement exam, I placed into advanced level. I was kinda proud of myself until I went to my classes. 95% of the class were Chinese or Korean. In other words, they either already knew the Chinese characters or they already knew the grammar. It was unfair. The lectures were in Japanese and I was transcribing EVERYTHING into romanization, then went home and tried to decipher what the hell was going on. I felt intimidated and totally powerless the first month. but I stuck to it. They placed me in the advanced class and the hell if I wasn't going to do something with it...

The good thing, of course, was that I was able to make friends with people who did not speak English. That was a big plus. The Chinese were pretty cliquish and didn't make friends with others, especially Americans, but I made a few Korean friends, mostly women, heheheheheh. I confess: they were hella cute... I went drinking and karaoke-ing with them a number of times. But they never kept me from my studies. I was focused! I met a few other Americans, and they would try to be my friend, as my Japanese was better than theirs. But, beside the superficial greetings, I shined them on. I guess they must have thought I was a freakin' asshole. But I had a goal and I wanted to fulfill it. No time to worry about what they thought or about my image. I did enjoy the occasional English conversation--it was comforting--but I refused to wimp out. Would they help me with my Japanese 10 years later? Would they help me find a job? I had to look at the big picture. My overall goal--indeed, the future I envisioned for myself--outweighed all other considerations...

More tomorrow

Monday, August 23, 2004

Tea House of the August Moon


any of my students are going to Japan to study or to work in the Jet program. I think that most of them are leaving this month. Many of them are excited, some even too excited that it's turning into stress. Well, chill out dudes. It'll work out. I was sorta stressed out when I first went, too. I mean, heck--new country, new culture, new language--who wouldn't be stressed. But the bottom line is that Japan is about the most accomodating country for non-native speakers. So don't sweat it.

Virtually, all signs in train stations are written in Japanese script and romanization. Virtually all signs, documents and brochures at government offices have English versions. Okay, so the English isn't always perfect, but it is a lot better than *ahem* some governments I know...

Anyway, thinking of my students made me think of the first time I went to Japan to study. I first went to Japan in 1974 to visit relatives and stayed there for about four months. I went again in 1979 for about a month when I won the singing contest. But I didn't really exprience Japan until I lived there by myself in 1984. I was a graduate student at UCLA working towards an MA in East Asian Cultures with a focus on Japan (duh).

I wanted to improve my Japanese and was fortunate to receive a Mombusho (Japan's Ministry of Education) grant to study at Waseda for a year. I also received ・140,000 yen a month stipend, plus a little more for non-campus/dorm housing. That doesn't sound like a lot nowadays, and indeed, even back then, it was not a whole lot. But it paid the rent and kept me fed... barely. I had taken about $1000 with me which was more than ・200,000 back then. But when I rented a small one room structure with a bathroom @ ・40,000 a month, I had to pay two months as a deposit, two months for key money (that scam that forces you to pay the landlord money in appreciation for them letting you rent the place), one month to the real estate company that listed the property, and first month rent. That's 6 months rent, which works out to ・200,000, and just about cleaned me out. I would receive my stipend from the Ministry once a month but the first installment would take a while as I would have to first set up a bank account and then report it to the school who then had to complete the necessary forms to be sent to the Mombusho. Japan's bureacracy can be such a headache. Anyway, during my first couple of weeks in Japan, I lived on the ・30,000 they gave me as "settling in" money, and the charity of my friends. I'm glad I had friends in Tokyo.

I remember the first few months in Japan on my own were a struggle. I bought food at Seiyu, the supermarket at my train stop, Nishi-Ogikubo, and walked 17 minutes home to my little shack in Zenpukuji. I had no washing machine, but fortunately, right when even I couldn't stand the smell of my unwashed clothes, I found a coin laundry about three blocks away on the other side of the Zenpukuji River. Well, it's not really a river. Zenpukuji River looked more like a drainage ditch, and it was. It was to ensure that the lake in Zenpukuji Park never flooded the surrounding areas during heavy rains.

Anyway, the place I stayed in was previously a six-mat tea room that the owner decided to add a bathroom and rent it out as a bungalow of sorts. It was a cool place to live, as every Japanese person who came to visit thought they had been transported back in time. The outside looked a bit shabby, an old wooden structure similar to one you'd see in any black and white film from the 50s. But it had a small veranda and a plum blossom tree in front--where I heard my first nightengale. It was also incredibly drafty, and the indoor temperature was always the same as it was outside. I found the place through an Ogikubo real estate agent. I had gone with a UCLA friend who lived int he area and was kind enough to do most of the talking for me: My Japanese skills were still in its formative years and I was unfamiliar with much of the terminalogy regarding rents and contracts. I remember the agent talking to the landlord over the phone and trying to reassure her that even though I was an American, I was in principal Japanese. I did not know then that there was a bias against non-Asians when renting. Indeed, according to some of my students, this bias continues to varying degrees.

Image of gas stove

The tea house was an unfurnished one-room, six-mat flat. The kitchen was really a small area on the side accupying a space that was probably the rooms alcove--toko no ma--in its previous life. It had a stainless steel sink and small counter and and eve smaller space to place a gas burner to cook. I scrounged around a Ogikubo, a suburb of Tokyo near the house, looking for deals, and found an old-model Mitsubishi TV for ・12,000 and a used refridgerator--the mini-size most people over here use as a kegerator--for ・5000. It wouldn't fit into the kitchen space so I had to postition it in the corner of the room on top of a tatami mat. I put a board underneath it to give it some stability and it worked fine.

I also bought a futon comforter, TV and a radio-cassette player. Everything else I borrowed from my friend's mother. She was so nice to me and supplied me with everything I needed, incuding extra bedding (sheets, pillows), towels, rice cooker, pots and pans, cooking and eating utensils, a gas stove, gas burner and the one essential item to complete any home, a kotatsu, the heated table. Without these necessities of life, I would not have survived the winters in Tokyo, particularly in a drafty house.

Cont'd tomorrow...

Sunday, August 22, 2004



ike many of you, I have been following the Olympics. But I am, as many of you know, a serious fan of American professional sports, so if there is a Washington Redskins' game on TV at the same time as an Olympic gold medal finals event, I would much rather watch the football game, even if it is a preseason game. By the way, the Redskins kicked Miami's butt yesterday, 17-0.

I enjoy watching the competition in the Olympics, mind you, but the enjoyment is tempered by a complicated sense of identity, one I would rather not have to deal with if we're only talking about sports. I often get the sense that by rooting for any athlete or any team is tantamount to rooting for a particular nation. And by rooting for one nation, I feel uncomfortable, that perhaps I am betraying one country or the other.

Back in 1965, I remember our family going to the Whittier Drive-In Theater to see the film, Tokyo Olympiad. And much to my parents' dismay, I rooted fervently for Americans. Indeed, I remember Bob Hayes--dubbed the fastest man in the world--setting up for the race: In slow motion, he kicks his feet back into the starting blocks, and exhales heavily through closed mouth making his lips flap unnaturally, almost comically I thought back then. And while Kon Ichikawa's purpose was to present the athletes as pure athletes--without the human drama so typical of most commercial coverage--it still could not change the outcome of the race. Bob Hayes won the 100M dash easily by two-tenths of a second, almost super-human by today's standards where 2/100th of a second can be the difference between gold and silver even in swimming races.

JapanHowever, as I grew older and more aware of my place--or lack thereof--in society, I found myself increasingly identifying myself to my racial heritage, the heritage of my parents, Japan. During my teens, I rooted for the Japanese at the Chinese Grauman Theater as my fellow Buddahheads and I cheered on the Japanese navy in Tora, Tora, Tora. We proudly wore the pin of the Japanese flag on December 7. Many of us worked in J-Town in our attempt--fruitless as I now recognize--to aproach ever closer to our Japanese heritage. Dureing the 1972 Munich Olympics, I cheered for the Japanese, much to the surprise of my Mexican-American friend, Manuel. We were watching swimming, I think, and I was rooting for Japan--how could they beat Mark Spitz?--and Manuel (he told us to pronounce it like "manual") said, How could you root for Japan over America. I would never root for Mexico over the U.S.

I should have told him that I felt disenfranchised, that American society had not place for me and so I had to discover it elsewhere. But I didn't know the word "disenfranchise" back then so I just shrugged my shoulders. All I could think was that this was the way of the world, that society had dealt me a specific hand and I had to play it. But, as I mentioned previously in NLUTE and other entries (I think), I began to question my identity once again after going to Japan for the first time in 1974 and after the Iran hostage incident in 1979.

United StatesSince then, I have mostly identified myself as an American. I look Asian, but I am American through and through. I have also convinced myself slowly but surely that I have the good fortune of knowing and enjoying a great deal about a heritage that is so different than my American identity that it allows me a perspective--a world view, if you will--that is much broader than many I have encountered. And this not only includes Europeans, but many Asian Americans who know their own culture only through second-hand experience, through their parents and relatives. Please realize that I am not trying to take a holier-than-thou position. But learning about Japan acadmically and through first hand experience by living there is not the same as learning the fossilized traditions practiced by previous generations who came over by boat.

But I digress...

The bottom line is that I am still conflicted. I usually cheer both Americans and Japanese, but when there is head-to-head competition, I will inevitably root for the Americans, even as I try to supress the guilt provoked by my sense of loyalty to my heritage...

Geez, and all I want to do is enjoy sports as a spectator. But these issues well up within me, so I find it much easier to root for the UCLA Bruins, or Redskins, or any team playing against the Yankees...

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Minority Report Revisited

肌の色 比べ世界が 病んでいる

hada no iro
kurabe sekai ga

The color of the skin
compared, and the world
is ill


have been going through stuff left by my parents, and I came across the above senryu by my mother. As a Japanese woman who arrived in the US in the 1950s, she was subjected to her share of discrimination. She had learned that the US was the land of equality and she had high hopes of fitting in. But life isn't that easy. That she composed the verse in 1994 suggests that this issue has been on her mind for decades.

A few months back, I wrote a few entries regarding racial issues when a guy I talked to at a bar told me that he chose the team he rooted for by the number of whites that were on the team: the more whites, the better. As some have suggested, he probably related to the team better. I wrote the following entry back then as well, but decided to hold back for a while as too many entries on this topic can get adversarial. But I need to bring it out every so often, and so here it is, a bit updated...

My thoughts are my own, and if you get something out of it, then great. If you don't agree with me, well that's sorta good too, if for no other reason than that you at least took the time to read an opinion that you don't agree with. I mean, is that not one way to learn different views? Even if you do not agree with me, it at least tells me you are open enough to consider a difference of opinion. The unwillingness to consider different views is a recipe for disaster, one that we should all avoid. Worse, perhaps, might be a sense of ennui, the unwillingness to even consider subjects that are relative but "too much trouble" to think about...

In any case, I will say that I do believe that things are getting better. I have never said otherwise. Do I think that things are perfect? No. Do you? Does anyone? I just make it a point to discuss it sometimes--the trigger a few months ago was the guy at the bar, what reminded me of it again was the above senryu--so everyone will think about it. It is an issue close to home, and to ignore it is to deny my own identity and pride.

A recent comment suggested that being among minorities fostered a sense of being a minority. Perhaps that is true, because it gives one a sense of identity based on a shared trait. And I suppose that, searching for and identifying people who are similar to me/us is a way of deliberately separating ourselves from mainstream society. But that is because we feel a need to within this society. I have discussed this before, I think. I know that there are many who are righteous, who are truly enlightened, who view everyone as equal. But please don't think that everyone thinks like this. As I wrote, my parents wanted us to speak English, my mother wanted us to be Americans. So how did I come to feel that I was different? I didn't do it. I tried hard to be like everyone else. There was no RBJ back then, no Rainbow Coalition or Million Man march to separate us from them. Mainstream society made me feel different. Watch any movie or TV show from back then. Virtually all minorites played servant roles or marginal characters that were kind of kooky: Rochester (Jack Benny's valet Eddie Anderson), Mrs. Livingston (Umeki Miyoshi as the housekeeper in the Courtship of Eddies Father, notice her housecoat), and lest we forget, Arnold (the zany coffee shop owner on Happy Days, Pat Morita). Yes, Mrs. Livingston was demure and nice and helpful. Indeed, Arnold was funny and added life to the gang at Arnold's. These are ostensibly "positive" images of Asians... They do not, however, reflect me or the majority of Asians I know. There are, of course, other images of Asians all over TV, like... um... uh, let see... Gee, I can't seem to think of one. How many Asians have you seen play a regular role that is "normal" on TV? How many Asians have been portrayed as just another human being, a friend in "Friends" or a customer in "Cheers" on a regular basis? None that I can think of--well maybe a recent example, Lucy Liu in Ally McBeal, is pretty close. The images of Asians are restricted to the ones I have mentioned. Do these roles--which provided mainstream society an image of a particular race--reflect an attitute that suggests that all races are equal? Hardly. In such an environment, does anyone think that mainstream society truly provided equal access not only to roles in TV/movies, but to schools, to services, to politics? Now, today's society is vastly different and far more enlightened, but I cannot turn it on and off like a light switch. And I still face discrimination today. I know some of my students have experienced similar discrimination in Japan. Fortunately, they have the option to leave if it gets unbearable. I don't have that option. I was born and raised in the US. I am not about to be chased away, but I do have to deal with it. Further, I don't have the option of becoming non-Asian. Some can lose weight, others can de-nerd, but can I de-Asian? No, I am stuck with my minority categorization and will identify with those I share this trait with.

Oh well. Some will agree with me, and some won't. Some will understand my feelings and some won't. But I'd be remiss in not expressing my opinion.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Current Senryu Standings

imahima 4116
detachable 21july3
LaMangust mayjune33
ddsb2000 11july2


ot that I want this to become a competition amongst you guys--and I doubt that it will--but I thought it would be nice to see that there is an actual result for your efforts. Here is the standings of all subscribers. The scores is based on a 5 point system: 5 for 天 Ten, 4 for 地 Chi, 3 for 人 Jin, 2 for 三客 Sankyaku and 1 for participating subscribers.

So far, a total of 32 subscribers have participated at least once. A good number for me, I suppose. Indeed, I have seen a few original verses on other sites! Could this be a humble start for senryu? Will it ever overtake haiku in popularity as a short Japanese verse written in English? I hope so. Sometimes, haiku can be too esoteric and the composer, even in English, may seem a bit haughty, if not presumptuous. I prefer the light approach, the attempt to catch a moment in time. Haiku is more like an oil painting, while senryu is akin to a photograph. But only time will tell if this will end up with a life of its own.

Unfortunatley, only twelve have participated at least twice, which might suggest a number of things. But I'll leave that to your imagination. I would have to admit that composing a poem would take more time than leaving a short comment. But then, that would miss the point. This is a creative endeavor...

Five of you--mslBliss, imahima, pallyatheart, SunJun, and the Vixen--have participated all three times. And I thank you. It kind of make me feel that this is all worth it...

As you can see, msbLiss--who should be having a baby soon if not already--is on top of the leader board. Is there an award at the end of the year? Probably not, maybe a pat on the back... But we'll see...

Anyway, I hope that many of you continue to participate. I will have the results for August's Salon soon. If you haven't submitted a senryu verse yet--and I hope you do--click here to submit it. It's just easier to have the submissions on one comment page. That way I don't miss anyone, like whonose, who said he left one but I can't seem to find it.


also want to extend my thanks to all you guys for your kind comments of support. Yeah, maybe I'm over-reacting and I guess I'll get through this somehow. But it's going to be a world-class pain in the booty.

I can't help but chuckle when I think about what I write on these pages. I feel like I am not different than most of you guys, and in some pseudo-psychological way, I am. But in reality, I'm an old geezer, pushing 50 fast. I have a job, a family, a mortgage. All the trappings of a middle-aged guy with more responsibility that he wants, but with the mental outlook of a twenty-something. If my college or high school friends were reading this, they would probably be rolling their eyes: How can you reveal so much about yourself? Your life is nobodies business but your own! And they'd be right. But for me its like writing a novel. I'd bet that the first novel of most writers are semi-autobiographies. And I should confess to you that while the gist of everything I write is true--chili peppers, pretending to be Japanese, eating grass, insects from hell, beat up Rambler, expired green card--there may be some parts that I have embellished for effect. Hope you guys don't mind too much...

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Expired Green Card II


ell, I'm screwed... We went to court and the Immigration and Naturalization Service--which has been relocated from the Department of Justice to the Department of Homeland Security--seems to take the position that an expired green card is an expired green card and because I forgot, M has to forfeit her green card. Since I am a US citizen, the judge reminded me, I have the option to re-petition for her to come here. Of course, she has to go to Japan and redo all the documentation... I think I'm going to scream...

Actually, I don't want to scream. I'm just depressed. I am so frustrated at my own stupidity. How could I have forgotten? How could I have gotten myself into this position? In my own defense, right after M got her card, my mother died, and everything in my life turned into a blur. I have been getting things back in order since then, but the conditional status of M's green card was put in the back of the line of things to do and I lost track of it. I was and am still hoping that someone, anyone, in Homeland Security will show a modicum of compassion...

If M has to go back to Japan, then so do her two sons, and we don't know where she would live now. There is no home to stay at, not really. She has a couple of sisters, but you know that Japanese houses are like walk-in closets over here. Staying more than a week would be a burden to all concernend. Most likely, I would end up having to support two domiciles if this indeed is our only option.

This is, of course, financially untenable for me. So if this is my last resort, well, then I just may end up going to Japan with them, selling my house, leaving my job, etc... If you are my student, don't freak out. This is a last resort scenario, and I'm just thinking out loud...

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Expired Green Card

Or why does life seem to be getting harder...


have been running around again, trying to get my life in order. Why do things have to be so hard? Father dies, addition of step son, and I missed my chance to hang with one of my most favorite students this summer because we were both too too busy (he just graduated Law School.)

So anyway, today I go to court to deal with M's expired green card. We were relieved when she got her card two years ago. I realized that it was conditional and after two years we were supposed to reapply with "proof" that we were still married. Well, I just kinda forgot. When she came back from Japan and they held her at the airport *gulp*, I had a panic attack. Had two years already gone by? Are they not going to let her in? What if they send her back to Japan? Well, they didn't. The INS is not a monster, but the rules and regulations seem monstrously demanding at times. I mean, I am an American citizen and we are happily married... I don't want to have to worry about whether we cal live together in the US. There are so many other things to worry about, aren't there? I guess the relief of finally getting a green card--conditional or not--was a big burden off my back and I kind of focused on other things in my life, like my job, XANGA (!), my house--broken pipe last year, a stupid squirrel the year before--it seems like every freakin' summer something happens. And of course the rest of the year is dedicated to my students... *sigh* I'll be 50 years old next year. Yes, the O-man is turning the big five-oh next year. That's fifty years, a half century. What am I doing here?

Hehehehe, anyway, I thought life was supposed to get easier as I got older. How the hell did I get that stupid idea. And time goes by faster than it should. Some genius I read recently--I can't remember who--wrote that the relative speed of time between different ages is the ratio of those ages. For example, one year goes by 4 times faster at 20 than it did when I was five--20 ÷ 5 = 4. So for me, in general, one year goes by twice as fast or faster than most of you reading this. Well, with time passing by at warp speed before my eyes, everytime I take care of one problem the next one is standing in front of me with his hands raised telling me he's next...

掴んでも 指から逃げる 浜の砂

tukande mo
yubi kara nigeru
hama no suna

Although I grip firmly,
it escapes through my fingers--
beach sand

This is a senryu by my father in 1989 when he was 77. It reflects how I feel now as time flies by. Indeed, this is exactly what I was thinking as I grabbed a hand ful of sand at Venice Beach last week when I was in LA for his funeral. As Robert Frost said, I have miles to go before I sleep--or something like that--so I'd better start doing the things I have to do...

Senryu sumissions

Click here to submit your senryu. Hope my subscribers participate! And don't give me that lame excuse about being unpoetic. EVERYONE is a poet, and everytone is good in their own way.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Senryu Tsubame 川柳つばめ吟社: August


am continually amused at the interest in Senryu poetry. Here's another poem by my father, although this one may not sit well with some of you...


A single uchiwa fan
is enough--

First, the diction: uchiwaうちわ is an non-folding, usually round fan often associated with the Japanese summers and its festivals. This verse will rile some of you young ladies out there, but keep in mind that it was composed in 1939. According to my dad, "For newlyweds, one uchiwa is enough, but when they seek separate fans a cold breeze will blow through them." What this means is that since newlyweds are still lovey-dovey, one will be fanning the other, but when each begins to fan themselves, then there is a coolness between them. This is a simple enough expression, except when I asked my dad who was fanning who, he gave the obvious--albeit, politically incorrect--answer for a man born in 1912: The new wife is fanning the husband, of course. For him, the image is of a man laying sideways with his head propped up in the palm of his hand while his wife sits behind him fanning him as they engage in small talk. Hahahaha. It cracks me up when he expresses things like this as if it were a matter of fact. My sister, of course, hates it. I, of course, am laughing at what my dad says but *ahem* it is not a reflection of what I think...

Anyway, the topic for this month is "to wait". This is a verb and can be used in any way--past, present, future tense. Be sure to try to convey the essence of the topic: What does it mean to "wait"? How does "waiting" make you feel? What are the kinds of things you "wait" for?

As previously stated, be sure to create your poems in the 5-7-5 syllable count. Also remember that senryu is a textual "snapshot" of a moment. You should avoid abstract images, and instead convey whatever abstract emotion or sentiment through the images of the "moment." Please read the poems and commentary from the last entry, especially the top three, which used specific images--vinyl seats, sea waves, frozen food labels--as vehicles to convey a moment in time and a sentiment. As always, PLEASE SUBMIT ONLY ONE SENRYU, rewrite it, edit it, think about it, AND THEN post it as a comment to THIS ENTRY.

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 must be in English, and should reflect the topic.

Topic: To wait.

This senryu salon is open to all subscribers. And I really engcourage all of you to compose a poem, even those who said "I can't compose" or "I'm no good at poetry." Well, let ME be the judge. Just follow the guidelines. Ganbatte!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Senryu Tsubame 川柳つばめ吟社: July

Air conditioner


s summer hit its peak, I thought that "air conditioner" as a topic would arouse a lot of ideas. And I was right. There were a number of good ones, and all were very imaginative and evoked a sense of summer. I must say, however, that all of the poems that placed were all by women. Now, this is great and all, but this is the 21st century. Women shouldn't have a lock on poetry. C'mon you guys! Let's crank up those creative juices!

A reminder of the rankings: 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.

thighs fused to vinyl
even the cat is panting
U-haul's AC dead

by msbLiss

First impression: Good one. Technical foul: None. Poet's Remark: *sigh* as a teacher i must protest the lack of direction-following and give smacks all around. Anyway~ this is dedicated to my suckass 8 hour drive~ Comments: Didn't I provide links to previous posts that explained senryu? Hmm... Nicely done, despite your whining... hehehehhe, just kidding. Anyway, the image is great, and illustrates our dependence on a cool environment in our modern world. The U-haul underscores modernity, reflecting how we often must move around in this busy world--the cat particularly reflects pulling up roots and moving to a new place. Geez, someone would think that you do a lot of creative writing...

dripping sweat and brine,
sea waves, while zephyr exhales,
air conditioned beach.

by those_days

First impression: Nature's AC. Technical foul: None. Poet's Remark: hmm...i hope the message gets across..i just have this urge to spell it out, simple as it may be. i guess i know how directors feel now. these aren't the same two senryu i wrote before, but very similar. Comments: In contrast to msbLiss, this poem suggests that air conditioning is not limited to modern techonology, but to our imagination as well. The image of someone working at see--perhaps a fisherman sweating--but enjoying a moment of pleasure as the sea breeze "exhales" and cools him off.

Frozen food labels
become popular reading --
grocery store in June.

by LaMangust

First impression: Let's go shopping! Technical foul: None. Poet's Remark: too vague? dunno if it's quite senryu... the poems we wrote for 111 were easier. i'm a greedy poet - more syllables means i can use better words. it's good for me to have to compress my thoughts once in a while though... Comments: Man, if you would have used July instead of June, I would have had a hard time deciding between yours and msbLiss'. The image is perfect for air conditioning despite the absence of he word: a customer lingering in front of the forzen food section pretending to read the label when in reality he is just enjoying the coolness that the freezer provides.

Cool as glacier ice,
More welcome than a lover:
Hum for me, Air-con!!!

by SleepingCutie

First impression: I lost to an AC?!? Technical foul: None. Poet's Remark: I hope the abbreviation of air-con for air conditioner is acceptable, Sensei. =) But this topic has me yearning for an air conditioner of my own!!! Hope you're keeping cool. ^^ Comments: Yes I'm keeping cool, and air-con is fine, as it is the word used in Japanese for air conditioner. The image is of a young lady in front of an air conditioner, perhaps cooling herself not just from the heat, but from the heat created by a lover. The contrast is stark, and the use of "glacier ice" suggests that the heat felt from the lover is not a passionate heat but one caused by anger, as perhaps the lover, too, was icy. This is not a typical senryu, but the diction was interesting enough to garner a sankyaku placing.

Summer heat requires
Blast from air conditioner
Freeze raging hormones

by bane_vixen

First impression: Need to exercise! Technical foul: None Poet's Remark: I don't think it came out as I had planned, but you get what I mean. Summer heat is not only caused by the angle of insolation and the distance of the earth from the sun. And "requires" is two syllables, not three. I checked =) Comments: I didn't have to check, hehehehe... Anyway, this is similar to Sleeping cuties, but perhaps a bit more direct. A young lady--dare I say a Vixen--tries to cool herself off as hormones rage while she is in "summer heat". Are you shopping? Hehehehe.

AC turned up high
Blasting iced air as I type
Perfect summer day

by ChiisanaHoshi

First impression: Xanga addict! Technical foul: None. Poet's Remark: I decided to take a shot at this, but I'm not sure if it's exactly prize-winning material. I had in mind my typical summer day--me blasting the central air as I typed away on the computer. I wanted to put the word computer in there, but it didn't fit =\. Comments: Ah, the image of today's young person: It's summer, and we should all be outside playing in the sun, but instead, we are inside typing away on Xanga--or some other idle activity on the computer--in a chilly room, and this constitutes... *gulp* a perfect day. Not that I would disagree, but I'm pushing 50...

his feet tread the track
while the sweat on his brow chants

air conditioner

by zhuzhu

First impression: Workout! Technical foul: None. Comments: Nice imagery. But I have a treadmill in the basement and my mind rarely chants "air conditioner" because a treadmill is usually indoors where there already is an AC... unless I'm misreading "tread the track." Could you be refering to running around an outdoor track? A bit more honing would improve it. Since senryu is a snapshot of life, clarity is high on the requirement list.

夏になり エアコンつけて 素っ裸
Trans: summer comes / I turn on the AC / stark naked

by fooky11

First impression: Vivid, maybe too much... Technical foul: It's supposed to be in English. Comments: Actually, this would be a pretty funny poem at my father's salon. It is, perhaps, a bit too personal. I am no prude, but I rarely lie naked in front of an air conditioner. I get naked instead when there is no air conditioner. Of course, I could be wrong. How many of you do or don't get naked before the almight AC?

air conditioner
a foreign thing here, warm?
oh how i miss you........

by eechim

First impression: Far from home? Technical foul: None. Comments: Indeed, but this works only because I know you live in Switzerland. The senryu must present an element--situation, emotion--that is universal, readily understood by most readers. Also, I'm not clear about what you are missing. Warmth or the air conditioner... But the verse is good as an attempt to express nostalgia. Keep it up.

Wearing a tanktop
But the AC is blasting
Gives me hard nipples

by imahima

First impression: Too sexy. Technical foul: None. Comments: I do like the imagery. No, no, no, I'm not pervert... well, not usually, um, sometimes... but the truth is that the cool air will make the nipples stand out and and visible through the flimsy material of a tanktop. Hubba hubba. Do women do this on purpose to drive men crazy? You guys are just too mean... Anyway, I commented on this poem in depth to provide an example of how to approach a senryu. Click here to read the entry.

AC illusions,
like an igloo in Cancun;
my house in summer

by SweetLilV

First impression: Melting! Technical foul: None. Comments: Like Eechim's poem, this works for me because I know where you live. If I didn't, it would be harder to understand. But please, I mean really... do you live in a flat in NY where an AC is an illusion? Wow, must be sticky and muggy! I like the "igloo in Cancun" imagery... wait! you've been to Cancun, but you don't have an AC? Hmm, somethings wrong with this picture...

Air Conditioner
Alaska I need to pee

by No1watching

First impression: Funny. Technical foul: Lack syllables in last line. Poet's Remark: how i hate AC ... it's only because i get cold easily.. and yes, it does make me want to pee. Comments: Y'know, the imagery is really good. Air conditioner and Alaska both evoke cold images, and the reaction is often to want to pee, but perhaps with no restroom readily available, one starts the "I-wanna-pee" two-step. Watch for your grammar and be sure to maintain the syllable count--5-7-5. It would have been nice to know why you couldn't go to that bathroom and had to dance. These are the elements that would add to the poem and make it even better.

No AC at home
I seek AC in my car
In my car, I'm home.

by Simply_Marie

First impression: Do you live in L.A.? Technical foul: None. Poet's Remark: Not the best eh? But it's true!!!! AHAHHAHAHHA! Comments: Typical LA girl. "My car is my home." This would be acceptable as a premise, if not for the repetition. You repeat AC, car, and home twice. These syllables could have gone to other words, which is a shame since the content has a lot of potential... actually, it might be good as a vers on the homeless. Not all senryu has to be "funny"; it can be poignant...

Oh the agony!
On a summer day like this,
My A.C has died.

by onigiri

First impression: Painful heat. Technical foul: None. Poet's Remark: wow, this is the first time i've participated in your senryu poem contests. history in the making! XD And it was hard! that one was my fifth try! Comments: I feel you pain! When the AC dies, we all die! Perhaps, you could have provided a bit more specificity. Why has the AC died? Where are you when it died? Is there an image you can think of that would reflect "the agony" rather than using the word outright? Concentrate on that next time.

air conditioner
destroy the body and mind
heat forges the sword

by pallyatheart

First impression: How martial. Technical foul: None. Comments: I think I understand what you are saying: air conditoining is a creature comfort and makes us all weak. It is the heat--or perhaps the natural cold of winter--that makes us strong. These are good and valid points, but I not sure that these images reflect the essence of the air conditioner... well, maybe it does make us weak... Okay everyone, turn off you AC for one day and lets hone our minds and bodies!

Air Conditioner:
Mankind's harsh, cold defiance
against summer's heat.

by SunJun

First impression: Technology to the rescue. Technical foul: None. Comments: The air conditioner provides us with cool air, a comfortable environment, and when it is gone, we get hot, heated, frustrated. So I'm not sure if I would see it as an instrument of "cold defiance" against against the summer heat. And I'm not sure why it would be considered harsh... This might be a bit too cerebral. I think simple is better, like your minor league baseball senryu...

Laughing quietly
I sit beside my vents and
watch sweaty tourists.

by cgran

First impression: Huh? Technical foul: None. Poet's Remark: Evil maybe, but they do really get on my nerves when I'm in a rush. DC should really have pamphlets on what to do in a metro for those who have no idea. Comments: Like msbLiss and SweetLilV, I get this cuz I know where you are. For those of you who don't understand, I think cgran is refering to the vents in the DC Metro stations that blow air. While it can get stuffy in the stations, the vents offer a respite while waiting for a train. But I must admit, I rarely try to position myself next to the vent. Instead, I move to the front or back of the platform; fewer people, less stuffy. If you wnt to rag on the tourists, maybe I should make the next topic: escalator. "stand to the right, pass to the left"! Argh! They should have signs!

July in the South--Hot outside, but inside, oh!
Air conditioner!

by CrazyElectron

First impression: Regional. Technical foul: None. Comments: Ah, a nice sentiment for all you Southerners. The humidity is horrendous and unbearable if you are not used to it, so the AC is a gift from the gods. Of course, I lived in Japan for a number of years and it is muggier than VA, so its pretty much a walk in the park for me. Anyway, I'm not sure what constitutes the South. Do all houses in the South--I guess that would include everything from Virginia south to Florida and west to Texas?--have air conditioners? This poem might be too generalized, or too personal...

Kiss me sweetly with
Lips of wintry memories
Air conditioner

by Beckachu3

First impression: How romantic. Technical foul: A split preposition. Comments: The sentiment is interesting--the cool air "kisses" the poet with memories of cooler times, presumably winter. However, I think the verse might be too personal. What memories? The gist of the poem must be understandable by most readers without any commentary. And I must admit, that I'm having trouble with the image of an air conditioner with lips. Do they slober? hehehehe, just kidding...

Here, Heaven is strange
God's made of wires and the
AC's His kingdom.

by XanthochromeSum

First impression: Techno-religion Technical foul: None. Comments: This might be the most esoteric of the bunch. Where is "Here"? Heaven? Or "heaven" as professed by a denizen of... where? A place where God is "made of wires"? And his heaven is the air conditioner itself? Hmm... I'm not quite getting it. If someone can figure this out, pleas let me know. Of course, XanthochromeSum, you can explain it too...


You may have noticed that my comments were a bit more critical. But this is to encourage you, not discourage you. Senryu is a great way of painting a picture of our current lives and our society, and I thinnk it is fun try to express our thoughts or our views of today's world through this medium. I posts take a long time, as you might imagine. I hope you enjoy them. --omigod, I used an emoticon. Ugh!

Here is my requisite submission.

Trying to stay cool
every AC on the block
triggers a blackout

by onigiriman

Topic for August will be posted on the main page sometimes next week.