Monday, February 28, 2005

Under the weather


swear, I hate getting sick. Canceling classes is the last thing I want to do. But today, heavy snow is forecast for our area so if I went to school, I'd just get sicker and end up canceling classes later this week. I've been teaching at my current institution since 1996 and this is, I think, the 3rd time I've cancelled class due to illness, so my track record is not too bad. I guess I was due. Besides, I'm sure my students aren't going to be overly depressed at having an unexpected day off.

Anyway, I'm too sick to continue the story. Minds kind of foggy. I wrote the following on Saturday--yes, I sometimes have posts all ready to publish. I have another one for tomorrow as well... Sometimes when I start writing, I can't stop... Diarrhea of the keyboard?


There have been a few questions and comments that I would like to respond to. I often respond at the site of the person who asked, but I think they are basically about my last few posts, it might be nice to write about them here where everyone can read them.

Visit Fongster8's Xanga Site!Fongster: Is this fiction? Are you writing a book?

No, this is not fiction, although there are some fictional elements to it. Everyone I mentioned existed. The events did occur: We did ride the bus, Angel and I did go to see if we could find DKLA walking to school. She did call. She did come to my house. She did kiss me. (*^_^*) (I know some of my students are cringing at that one.) The fiction is in the details: names have obviously been changed, although Angel was a nickname he went by when he worked at the confectionary job--a job that I got for him, I must add; Billie . Much of the dialogue reflects the spirit of the conversations although it is not verbatim--It's not like I tape recorded everything.

Visit sekura81's Xanga Site!

sekura81: Have you always been clueless about when the opposite sex likes you ? I am so in the same boat as you. With the current bf I didn't know till he leaned in and kissed me.

Yes, I have always been pretty clueless. A lot of it probalby stems from the insecurities I developed when I was being rejected by girl after girl after girl. I obviously had no clue back then.

Visit tim00's Xanga Site!Visit SunJun's Xanga Site! Tim00 and SunJun: "Bro's before ho's..."

Ah, the words of the sages. Yes, there is something to be said about the solidarity of the brotherhood. But two things: I was young, naive, and wildly in love with women; also, as I have proven, the solidarity of the brotherhood is a myth.

Visit bane_vixen's Xanga Site!Visit Eechim's Xanga Site!Visit simply_marie's Xanga Site!Visit gyjcwang's Xanga Site!The vixen: hey, you're quite the looker.
eechim: ooh, yes, you looked very cool back then
simply_marie: you're so handsome then and now!
gyjcwang: You looked quite handsome back in 1974

Thanks guys... yeah, even you Jason... I think. But do I look that different? I've been looking at the same mug for the past 49 years and I don't see that much difference. Well, I have gained a considerable amount of weight, so I really should lose a few pounds--how many times have I said this?. Oh well, aging will do that to ya'.

Visit ellen9's Xanga Site!
Ellen9: I have heard of the Flying Burrito Brothers. I couldn't come up with any of their songs but do remember the name. Enjoying the story so far...

Omigod! You must have lived in California during the 70s. Nice to meet ya'. And to be honest. I don't remember any of their songs, either. I even had one of their albums--For you kids, that would be a black vinyl disk on which analog music was recorded.

Visit RachelsMommy's Xanga Site! RachelsMommy: You bastard!!!

Sticks and stones...

Visit enygma81's Xanga Site!

Enygma81: If you ever get tired of being an educator, you should publish your memoirs. =D

You think it would sell?

Visit Andine's Xanga Site! Andine: I am totally hooked to this~

Ah, there is nothing like hearing appreciative words... Makes me wanna write more...

Sunday, February 27, 2005


Crap... I think I'm getting sick again. So many students have been hacking in class, and a couple who have been coughing it up in my office. Now, I'm coughing and I have a slight fever.... Well... if ever there was an excuse to postpone grading...

If you haven't read On Friendship yet, CLICK HERE to read the first four chapters in order instead of looking for the posts individually. Of course, you may have already read it, in which case... nevermind...

Update 9:30 AM

Fever has gone up. 38.2 degrees (100.75 F).

Saturday, February 26, 2005



inter 1972-73, I was 16 going on 17. I was naive and still a virgin, but it was my time to grow up, to taste the complexities of a burgeoning adulthood. I was never very good at doing what I was told. Mom told me that as the eldest I had to be reliable, my 8th grade teacher discussed being faithful to friends, country and God. But it rarely sank in. I was one of those stubborn kids who had to actually experience things before understanding them, before practicing them. So I learned values such as responsibility, loyalty, and obligation by trial and error. Of course, it sometimes seemed that the greater the error, the better the lesson. To continue...

"Hello?" I answered the phone.

"Hi, how was school?" It was DKLA.

"Okay. How'd you get our number?"

"I asked Angel."

"Um... I'm not sure if..."

"I told him that I needed to get a hold of your sister."

"Oooh... I mean," I paused briefly, trying to figure out how to handle this situation. "Do you realize what's going on?"

"Uh-huh. Angel's been pretty obvious," DKLA said.

"Then you know that you shouldn't be talking to me."

"Why? I can't live my life based on someone else's feelings. I have to do what I want to do, not what someone else wants me to do."

"Yeah, but..."

"Besides, Angel's not my type. You are."

She said it. You are... I mean I am. I'm her type.

No sooner had she uttered these words that I had forgotten my dilemma. Angel? Angel who. This was my very first experience of having a girl tell my they like me. It was like an narcotic--not that I would know the effects of an illegal pharmaceutical product, mind you, but if I did, I was sure that it felt like this. I became light headed.

"Yeah, you're my type, too," I said, starting to giggle like her, like a girl. Among other things, I had yet to learn the value of remaining cool at times such as this.

We talked for an hour about everything, about nothing. The only thing that we knew was that we were interested in each other, and it became obvious that we wanted to pursue our feelings regardless. Although, I suspect now, in hindsight, that our reasons were different. While she perhaps was genuinely interested in me, I was more interested in experiencing the feelings of being wanted. I wanted to bathe myself in the euphoria aroused when one becomes the target of another's desire. For too long I had been on the other side of yearning.

When I was 13, our 7th grade class went on a field trip to Knott's Berry Farm. As a bunch of kids suffering through puberty, all any of us could think of was spending the day with a person of the opposite sex. Some of the guys in class already had predetermined partners. I hesitate to use the word "steady" or even "girlfriend" because back then the most we could do was hang out together at lunch or after school. Once we got on the school bus to go home, we re-entered reality and had to lead lives that did not allow for open girl-boy relationships, particularly in our Japanese American sphere. For two weeks, the topic of conversation was who was going to "date" who at Knott's. I too wanted desperately to date a girl I thought was pretty cute, but I knew she was already set. I asked two other girls who I had heard did not yet have a date, but they rejected me. I ended up going with a skinny girl who rode the same school bus as I did--the sister of a Boy Scout patrol mate.

In high school, at 15, I once attended a mixer. I went to a private Catholic school--all male--and the girls who were invited came from other private schools in the area. My friends would never go. Why go? they'd say. There ain't anyone you'd know. This was true, but I went anyway, because I wanted to hear the Flying Burrito Brothers play. (I dare anyone to say they've heard of this group!) At the mixer, I soon learned why my friends would not go. Everyone at the dance was white. There were a few Blacks and Hispanics, but 95% percent of the students there were white. At school the white population hovered around 65% I'd figure, but when it came to social events, this school turned white. I must have asked five or six girls to dance and every single one of them looked at me as if I was a Martian. I espied one Filipino girl and asked her, but she rejected me as well. Needless to say, I did not have a good time.

My first real job was at the confectionary shop in J-Town. I had worked since I was 14 doing maintenance work at my elementary school over the summer. They paid me cash--$1 an hour!--but it was enough to let me buy my own Panasonic radio-cassette player. But for the job in J-Town, I had to fill out an application form and submit a social security number. I was joining the ranks of tax payers. I had inquired K about the job over the phone and she told me to come in on Tuesday and ask for Billie. It was my first day of my first real job, and I was a bit excited. I walked into the store and told one of the lady clerks that I was new and was supposed to meet Billie. She nodded and went to the back room, and out came a cute girl in a white uniform. She introduced herself as Billie. After allowing me a moment to recover, she led downstairs to pick up a large bundle of boxes, then she handed me a stack of labels and a jar of glue.

"Here. Paste these labels on the lid. The black label little from the top and the green address label about a quarter inch from the bottom edge. After you finish, bring another bundle up..."

I was in love.

Billie and I got along well enough as work colleagues. But after a month, she quit. She had just graduated high school and was about to start college, starting with summer school. She had no time to work at the shop anymore, and certainly no time for me. I was crushed but did not give up. I asked her out to a concert, and she agreed to go see Dave Mason at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, as long as someone else came. So Angel came along, too. We had a great time, and even went bowling after that. But the evening ended with a solid "thanks" and a wave "good-bye". While I had a serious crush on her and was still infatuated--I would pine away to anyone who would listen--I was not an idiot. I could take a hint.

So this heretofore unknown situation, of being the pursued rather than the pursuer, had a narcotic effect on me. And DKLA was the pusher.

"My parents are having a Christmas party next week, but, uh, you wanna come?"

"Who's coming?" she asked, perhaps not so innocently.

"Just my parents' friends. No one my... our age."

"Hmmm, your house?"

"Yeah, say you'll come?"

"Well, if I have to..." she said feigning helplessness.

That Saturday, I went to pick her up and we ate dinner at my house with my parents friends. The situation was almost perfect. Since my parents had to entertain their guests, they didn't pepper me or DKLA with questions. We listened to a few songs in my room--a room that I had actually cleaned up willingly--and then we went bowling. (Yeah, it was pretty popular back then.) Around 11 o'clock, she said that she should go home--she was, after all, 16, and I had just turned 17 the day before. The whole evening, I had done nothing untoward. I was the perfect gentleman, mostly because I really didn't know what to do. I was so naive.

But as I drove her home in my mother's Camaro, she placed her hand on my sleeve and I instantly got nervous. Shit, what am I supposed to do when we get to her house? I laughed nervously, trying oh so hard to stay composed. Right, walk her to the door. But do I kiss her? Shit. Why don't I have an older brother? I was turning into a wreck. Okay, I'll kiss her... but what if she sticks her hand out when I try? Damn, do I just shake it? Oh, God, fuck, what am I supposed to do? When we reached her house, I parked in front and was about to get out of the car, but she stopped me.

"No, don't get out."

Oh shit, she wants to avoid the scene altogether, I thought, crestfallen. Was inviting her a bad idea? Was bowling a bad idea? Do I have bad breath? Oh man, here we go again. All these thoughts flashed through my mind in a nanosecond.

"Well, I should at least walk you to the door," I protested meekly. "I think it's the polite thing to do."

"Look at the second window from the left," she said, motioning vaguely to her dark pink house. I looked and saw the drapes pushed aside just slightly and the silhouette of a head peering through. "That's my mom."

Ooooh. DKLA reached into her bag, and took out a box wrapped in blue paper and a red ribbon. "Your birthday was yesterday, right? So here: Happy Birthday."

I was speechless. I looked down at the box to accept the gift. I felt so flattered, so excited, so happy. "I don't know what to..." I looked back up to thank her when she leaned over and kissed me full on the lips...

Next: Flame Out

Friday, February 25, 2005

Seed of Suspicion


his story has gotten a lot longer than I had anticipated. It was not my intention to get this involved. But it's odd how certain words or ideas kick off a slew of memories, and my mind can't stop thinking about it. Indeed, a lot of the details I had forgotten about completely until I started to write this down. FYI: Yesterday's pic was from September 1974 when I was 18 years old. Today's pic is from August 1972. It's my junior year high school student ID photo. Truth be told, a few girls wanted the ID after I got a new one for senior year, but I beat 'em back with a stick. Now where was I...


hile Angel and I had a few things in common, our friendship had not developed to that level yet, so we were not that close. Or so I desperately tried to convince myself. I seemed to be justifying my feelings, my selfishness. An attractive girl interested in me? And I hadn't done anything to invite this attention? This was a completely new situation for me. I should just back off, I thought, and let the chips fall where they may. If DKLA and Angel got together, great. If she wanted to pursue me, maybe greater. So I acted passively, avoiding Angel's situation by not driving them on his date, but in a way I was aggressively preventing him from advancing his own agenda.

I won't make excuses. What I was feeling in my heart was wrong. And I guess I knew it even then, since I didn't--couldn't--tell anyone what I was thinking. I couldn't even tell Cary or Tomahawk (played by detachable), my two best friends, for fear of accusations. Yes, I knew what I was doing. And yet, I couldn't help myself.

December came and things seem to escalate rapidly in ways that defy explanation. My boss, K, was going to Las Vegas with her husband for a few days, and so she left the car to me so I could drive her mother home after work. I took the car to school, with her permission, and having learned of this, Angel automatically asked me to give him a ride as well. Reluctantly, I said yes.

On a chilly morning, I went to City Terrace to pick him up and then headed toward school. I was planning to get on the San Bernadino Freeway then to the Santa Monica to get to our school located on LA's Westside. But Angel had another idea.

"Let's go through Boyle Heights."

"What? Fuck you. That'll add twenty minutes to our trip," I protested.

"No, really. We can go by Roosevelt High. Maybe we'll see DKLA."

"Oh, man," I sighed. "I would really rather go straight to school."

"C'mon, man. You gotta car! We won't have these kinds of chances that much."

"Alright, alright," I relented. Angel succeeded in getting me to drive him to where he wanted to go. I was irritated at first, but as we drove through the streets of East Los Angeles, I grew strangely comfortable with the idea that Angel was every bit as selfish as I was. The thought of seeing DKLA didn't hurt either.

Angel directed me down Evergreen, then right on Brooklyn where Evergreen Cemetery was.

"Why don't we just go straight down to 3rd street?" I asked.

"Turn left on Fickett," he happily ordered.

"What? Why are we zigzagging to get to Roosevelt?"

"'Cause this is the way she walks to school," he answered matter-of-factly. All I could do was roll my eyes. What didn't he know about this girl?

We went one block down Fickett, made a right on First Street, then another immediate left on Mathews.

"Slow down," Angel whined as he looked at everyone walking the last block to Roosevelt. "There, there," he pointed.

And sure enough, there was DKLA walking on the right side of the street, her arms wrapped around the books she held up to her breast. She was wearing a burgundy letterman's sweater, her brother's. (Why do I remember this?). I pulled up to the curb and Angel opened the window.

""Hey, DK!" he yelled, motioning for her to come over.

She walked deliberately towards car. "What are you doing here?"

"Onigiriman's got the boss's car and so we thought we'd see if we could catch you," he explained.

We thought? You mean, YOU thought...

DKLA hunched over to look into the car and saw me in the drivers seat.

"Hi," I smiled as nonchalantly as I could.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, as if I might have a different reason as Angel's. I just shrugged my shoulder. "So you going to school now? Cool. What time does school start? What classes do you have today?"

She looked directly at me with her questions and I smiled as I gave her short but accurate responses. Angel didn't seem much too pleased at not being the target of her attention.

"The bell's going to ring soon, so I have to go. Bye," she said to both of us. "Then she looked at me and mouthed, "Call me."

I pulled the car back onto the road and headed toward school. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw her receding figure standing on the corner. Why isn't Angel sticking his head out the window waving at her? Why isn't he even turning around to look at her? Could he have noticed her "secret" message to me?

The tension in the car was thick. As I turned onto the Golden State Freeway south toward the 10, the sharp keyboard intro to Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" started to jerk out of the car speakers. But even it couldn't loosen the mood.

Very superstitious, writing's on the wall
Very superstitious, ladders bout' to fall
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin' glass
Seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past

This was a new song that Angel liked, but he didn't sing along as he often did. He just sat silently looking out the window at the rundown houses and storage facilities lining the freeway. I veered west onto the Santa Monica Freeway, a virtual bridge over central LA for about five miles, and saw the city stretch before us. Ah, man. Did Angel really see her? What the shit is he thinking? What the shit am I thinking? What the fuck am I gonna do now? I thought as I glanced over at him.

Angel just sat there, staring out the side window distantly at the buildings of downtown LA. I thought about DKLA and what she had mouthed. Did she really say "Call me"? Call her? Now how am I gonna do that? Then a random bit of truth crossed my mind and I relaxed. I didn't have her phone number, so how could I call her? In a twisted kind of logic, I figured that she couldn't blame me for not contacting her since I didn't know her number, and if i didn't call her, I wasn't betraying Angel. No harm, no foul, I grinned.

When you believe in things that you don't understand
Then you suffer
Superstition ain't the way

But DKLA called me that night.

Tomorrow: Betrayal...

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Friendship Tested


hanks to JustBeingV, I recalled a time of my life that I am not particularly proud of, a time that perhaps shaped a part of my adulthood, in how I view friendship, and how I define them. I will continue with yesterday's story, but please note that while story is true in spirit, some of the details may be unintentionally fictitious. I have played this memory in my mind so many times, I'm not sure how much of it is still factual and how much is now embellishment...


few days later, when I had completely forgotten about her, DKLA strolled into Mikawaya, the confection shop where I worked. I was quite surprised; I had seriously put her out of mind as I had little, if anything, to do with her. My first reaction was to treat her as a customer. I mean, Angel was interested in her, and I presumed she was interested in him, at least a little, since they did go out shopping.


"Hi," I smiled back, wondering why she seemed to be giggling a little too nervously.

"Tuesday was fun."

Tuesday was fun? What happened on... "Oh, yeah. Shopping? Well, I just tagged along 'cause I didn't have anything to do," I lied.

"We should do it again," she said. She seems kinda jittery.

"Uh, yeah, okay," I said rather hesitantly. What's she doing here? She's never come here before. "So, you here to get some manju?" I asked as I nodded toward the showcase filled with rice cakes.

"Oh, no," she continued to giggle. "I was in the neighborhood and thought I'd say 'hi'."

"Okay, 'Hi'," I said rather lamely.

She giggled some more, then said she had to meet a friend, and just like that, DKLA was gone. What was that all about? I shrugged my shoulders and went back to work. And as quickly as she had come and gone, I forgot about her...

* * * * *


hanksgving came and went and Christmas shopping occupied my every thought. I worked a lot of hours at the confection shop, six days a week, 5:00 to 9:00 Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, and 5:00 to 10:00 Friday, Saturday and Sunday. These were the days before mandatory minimum wages, and I received a monthly salary of $120 when I had started six months earlier. By this Christmas, it was about $140.

While the salary was low, I didn't mind. It was lower than some part-time jobs in the area. like being a teller at Sumitomo Bank. But surprisingly, it was pretty normal for these mom and pop shops in J-Town. Besides, the job was low stress, and Mrs. H made dinner for us every night. "Us" included the unmarried FOB employees who worked in the back and one other part-timer. We usually stuffed ourselves at Mrs. H's insistence. It was a casual life and I enjoyed it immensely. But for the first time, I felt in control of my life, and it was empowering...

But we were talking about DKLA, weren't we...

Well, with Christmas shopping on my mind--and budgeting myself to afford gifts for family and friends--I had little patience to even entertain the thought that DKLA might harbor intentions contrary to Angel... until my sister told me something completely unexpected.

"Do you know DKLA?" She asked.

"Yeah? Why?"

"You've never mentioned her before."

"Yeah? Why?"

"I know her through a friend at volleyball. She kinda introduced herself and started talking to me. It was wierd."

"Yeah? WHY?" What is it with sisters?

"I think she wants to get you something for Christmas. She asked me what kind of cologne you use. I told her you don't use any. It was wierd."

"..........." I didn't know what to say. But it finally dawned on me that she might be interested in me. In me! Me, who was totally out of her league. Me, who never had a steady girl friend. Me, Angel's friend.

This was, to say the least, a dilemma for me. I mean, God, this girl was hot and she was interested in ME!

I saw Angel the next day at school and I didn't know what to say. We had our usual chats about homework, Chicago's newest album, bowling...

"I'm going to ask DKLA if she wants to go out. You think she'd want to see a movie?"

"How you gonna take her? You don't have a car. You can't take a girl like that on a date on a bus."

"I know. That's why I was wondering if maybe you'd, like, drive us," he asked hopefully.

"I don't have a car either." I said.

"But you have K's car," Angel replied.

He was right, of course. Technically, I didn't own a car, but my boss, K, regularly asked me to drive her mother home. They lived nearby in Monterey Park, so I'd drive Mrs. H home and then they'd drop me off at my parents house. On weekends, my boss didn't go to the shop, so she would tell me to keep the car on Saturday nights so I could drive her mother home on Sundays, as well.

K was almost like a sister to me. After school, I'd go to the shop early and bum around, maybe do some homework in the dank basement amid 100 lbs. sacks of rice and sugar stacked on pallets, and maybe not. When K went out for coffee or a snack, she'd often come find me and take me along. When I needed extra cash, she'd slip me $20 and tell me to get popcorn and soda, too And she trusted me enough to drive her mother home and to keep her car over the weekend. She also told me that I could drive the car if I wanted to go out. "As long as you don't drink and drive," she said. And I promised I would never betray her trust. And I never did. I had never had an older sibling, so being taken care of this way was more than pleasant. Indeed, I felt very lucky.

But when Angel asked me to drive him and DKLA on their date, I refused.

"Sorry, gonna catch a flick with Cary and Tomahawk. Maybe next time." It wasn't exactly a lie. I intended to ask them about going a movie anyway. Cary and Tomahawk were true friends. We had been together for quite awhile, through thick and thin in elementary school, and we were always together in high school, too. These were guys I was always open with and we had no secrets between us. I wondered if perhaps Angel wanted to be a part of that.

For me, however, friendships developed over time, it wasn't something you did consciously. You don't just think, I'll be so-and-so's friend, and become one. Cary and Tomahawk and I often found ourselves in situations--good and bad--and we had developed a bond over time. By 1972, we were 16 and had known each other for 11 years already.

Angel, on the other hand, was a recent "friend", a year younger than me in my sister's class at Maryknoll. While we had a few things in common, our friendship had not developed to that level yet, so we were not that close.

Or so I tried desperately to convince myself...

Cont'd tomorrow...

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

King of Xanga / On Friendship

There is a girl who strives to be "King of Xanga". Her name is

Shi. She is young--dare I say cute?--and outspoken and can be very harsh, but she has a virtual imagination that is out of sight--sorry for the old expression. Anyway, I just thought I'd mention her if you haven't visited her yet. You can decide for yourself if her a:/sexuality has anything to do about her wanting to be "king". She just cracks me up.



was reading JustBeingV's blog which raised a few questions concerning friendship and it got me thinking about my own group of friends. And it occured to me:

I have no friends around me.

One in NY, and maybe 4 in LA and a few of you here on Xanga. But that's about it. Perhaps I should explain. I have acquaintances. Lots of them. And I interact with them as friends. But then, I am friendly with the bartender at Glory Days. So friendship isn't based on how you interact. To me, friendship is defined by honesty, openness and trust... maybe reliability. A friend is:

  • someone to whom you can tell your deepest thoughts or secrets without fear of being judged.
  • someone you can trust to keep these thoughts or secrets private.
  • someone who believes you and believes in you.
  • someone who is equally honest and open with you.
  • someone you can turn to when you are in trouble or are in pain.

These sound pretty straight forward, but I must admit that I did not know--or at least practice--these tenets of friendship when I was young. I was not a very good friend. Just a selfish sorta sod.

Back in high school, I was pretty much a nobody. Really. There were those who were really popular--i.e. attractive or athletic--and then there were the brains, and the comedians, and the "best friends" of the popular ones. And then those who were none of the above, like me.

Still, like anyone else, I wanted to be somebody. So I tried my hand at music, as pathetic as my abilities were. I do believe that I had a little talent for it--after all, most of the music I can play is self-taught, I can sing on key, and I can grasp the rhythm of most music. Just a little talent, maybe. In any event, I used to hang out with a guy who enjoyed music as much as I did. Angel played piano and he liked to play drums and we would get together and "jam". In hindsight, we were pretty lousy--perhaps I should be speaking for myself--but at 16 in the early 70s, we were just having a good time.

One day, he told me about a girl he had met, a really cute girl. DKLA was in my grade--I was a year older than Angel--and she went to a local public school. She was, apparently, very popular and the target of many guys. Angel wanted to get to know her batter, and eventually go steady with her. He asked me if I would accompany them shopping or something, so he could introduce her to me to get my input. And I said okay.

Sadly, the details of that day are pretty much blurred. We met somewhere after school and DKLA brought her friend as well. I was pretty naive back then, I wasn't sure what was going on--maybe she brought her to set her up with me. She finished her business--I forget waht it was--and we got on the bus--I had to get to work by 5. On the bus, we sat separately, boys in front and girls in back, like the nerds we were. DKLA was whspering and giggling with her friend, with Angel turning around on the seat to join them. He laughed with them.

"What are you girls whispering about?" he asked.

"Oh, nothing," she said, but started giggling again after locking eyes with her friend as if recalling a shared secret.

Angel looked very happy, but I was bored. DKLA was attractive, to be sure, but she was as tall as I was and she looked way out of my league. Her friend was also cute--she was a half. But the day was Angel's and I just tried to be polite. So as the three giggled, I just looked out the window, admiring the Christmas decorations on the streets of downtown LA in late November.

"What are you thinking about, O-man?" DKLA asked me.

"Oh, nothing," I said, trying to imitate their voices. This got them giggling again, as I smiled wanly.

The bus reached the corner of 1st and San Pedro and I got off, waving at them. DKLA yelled something at me, but I just nodded in mock acknowledement, neither hearing nor caring what she had said.

The next day at school, Angel asked me what I thought, and I told him that she was attractive, and I wished him luck in his attempts to snag this girl. A few days later, when I had completely forgotten about her, DKLA strolled into the confection shop where I worked....

Cont'd tomorrow...

Monday, February 21, 2005

Don't Repeat History


esterday, I mentioned that some may have been unaware of 9066. This is, of course, my interpretation of the comments, and is in no way a reflection of the "truth." Besides, if there are those who are unaware, it is simply a reflection of the educational system. Modern history is not taught in depth in middle and high school. Even those who go to college will not likely learn of it unless they take a course in modern American history, or have a great interest in ethnic studies. This shouldn't be surprising because anyone, any country would try to focus on the good things, not the bad. And Executive Order 9066 was bad.

Japan has its own skeletons in its closet, as KENSHIR0 pointed out yesterday:

Visit KENSHIR0's Xanga Site!I'm very aware of the event; I'm surprised someone actually said they didn't know it happened. "Those that forget the past are doomed to repeat it." (I think that's the proper wording for the famous saying...) What are your thoughts on how Japan refuses to acknowledge that the Rape of Nanking ever happened?

My opinion is that Japan is a relatively conservative, right wing country--it gets along very well with our Republican presidents. And as a conservative country, it too focuses on the good of the country and not the bad. And the Rape of Nanking was very bad. Incredibly bad. But Japan's official stance just goes to show my point of how memory is selective and very subjective. The Japanese have never denied attacking Nanking. I think their position is mostly a matter of interpretation. When a soldier is in the midst of a war, a campaign, a battle, how much of his actions can be associated with criminal activity--such as rape and looting--and how much to a war time mentality--the victor's spoils--or to military activity, to ensure supremacy of the area, a brutal way to show them "who's the boss."

Of course, my position is pretty clear. I think what Japan did was horrific. There are many first hand accounts of the rape of women and girls by these out-of-control soldiers. Just as atrocious were the massacres of tens of thousands of people. I saw a newspaper article from back then that glorified two officers who were literally competing to see who could behead the most Chinese. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it. These are the men who are descendents of a beautiful literary and artistic tradition? I think it is shameful that Japan does not admit any wrong doing for what it did to these people, virtually all civilians.

I wonder if Japan takes its lead from the U.S. Two atomic bombs dropped in the name of war were pretty horrific--since my mom was in Hiroshima that fateful day, my opinion is pretty one-sided. However, the U.S. has never acknowledged any wrong doing and will never apologize for killing tens of thousands of civilians in the blink of an eye. This was their way to show Japan who's their daddy, and Japan surrendered. Should the U.S. apologize? You tell me. But I'd lay even money that if the U.S ever apologized, the Japanese would eventually follow suit. This, of course, is a personal opinion, and you should not take it as the opinion of an expert. I am not a specialist on Japanese policy. I'm just the literature guy.

In any event, when I teach things about Japan in class, I never sugar coat anything. In my advanced reading course, I have had students read articles on Nanking and the colonization of Korea. While most students are aware of this already--most students in 4th year Japanese already know quite a bit about Japan--it is always good to read about it in the original Japanese. Reading quotes from soldiers who were in Nanking, saying things like, "We'd shoot anything that moved. Bang and they'd crumple" without any sign of remorse, is pretty eye-opening, to say the least.

But as my studnets mostly realize, these were the actions of a limited number of people from a different time in history. To judge Japan now as a whole for the actions of these luniatics from 70 years ago would be ludicrous, just as it would be ludicrous to blame all Americans for dropping the A-bomb, or all Germans for the Holocaust. It is, however, the responsibility of all of us, perpretrators and victims alike--Japanese, Americans, Germans, Chinese, Koreans--to never forget the past. To paraphrase KENSHIR0, those who do forget it are doomed to repeat it.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

9066 Follow Up


ome of the comments I received yesterday surprised me. I thought that the suspension of civil rights of Japanese American's through Exec. Order 9066 was pretty much common knowledge and my entry would simply refresh our collective memory, allowing us to reflect on what happend. Some suggested they were not completely aware of the event. Of course, some may have written what they wrote just to leave a comment. I don't know. I would like to thinks so. Just a few more thoughts...

The internment of Japanese in concentration camps--detention means to detain, concentration means to gather in one place a group with a shared characteristic, in this case those of Japanese descent--was an event that changed people's lives immensely. The father of my best friend in elementary school rode on top the lead truck that crashed into the gate at the Santa Anita detention center--JAs were detained here before being assigned to other long-term camps, hence the linguistic distinction. My boss at the confectionary shop was actually born in Poston AZ--a place name that no longer exists. Her mother, Mrs. H, once recalled sadly how her daughter at two- or three-years old did not have dolls to play with. Instead, she had a hammer, a nail and a length of plywood. Is that your experience? Is that the experience you would want your own daughter to have?

I worked with a guy named Stanley Fujiwara. He was significantly older than me. He always seemed cocky and was a pain in the ass, until I learned where he got his cockiness from: He was sent to Tule Lake as a purported spy. Tule Lake was THE concentration camp for all suspected spies and trouble makers/malcontents at the other camps. Stanley was one of four who went on a hunger strike, and I must admit I was totally impressed when I saw his mug with three of his colleagues on the cover of Life Magazine, an issue featuring the internment of JAs.

And of course there was my father. He did not go to camp because he "voluntarily" relocated to Idaho, his birthplace. But being of Japanese descent, he found it was harder than he suspected. Those in camp did not have the freedom to move around, but they had food and water supplied to their fenced in shanty towns by the government. My dad had the freedom to move around, but no one would support him. Who would hire a Jap? So he held odd jobs as a shepherd, tending sheep on sub-zero nights. He finally "lucked out" when he got a job as a janitor at a small Catholic church in Twin Falls.

The idea that a government can suspend the rights of American citizens in the name of war or the farcical notion of the individual safety of the person being interred is appalling, and everyone should recognize this. Unfortunately, there are many out there who seem to believe that individual freedom has limitations. Michelle Malkin--a person of Filipino descent--wrote a book called In Defense of Internment, a book that attempts to justify the internment of Japanese Americans in the name of interring Arab Americans after 9/11. There are many--far too many--who accept her arguement. The scary thing is that they point to her as the voice of reason, specifically because she is Asian American. If an Asian American can take this position, the train of thought goes, then it must be okay. And this is the position of many right wing conservatives. Republicans, and supporters of the Bush administration. I cannot support this position. I hope you feel the same way.

Fortunately, there is also this essay by History Teacher, Roger Daniels. It is a piece that discusses Executive Order 9066 and the affect on Japanese Americans, and how this ties in with the current post 9/11 world. It is a couple years old, but I think it is worth reading. Please take the time to do so.

In our current world, we wave Old Glory and cry for the defense of our nation. This is a legitimate and justified stance. But it must be tempered with common sense. Do we defend our nation at any cost? We must tread carefully so as not to suspend civil rights, or sacrifice the lives of our men and women in uniform for a cause not directly related to the war on terror--I must admit that I am still not convinced of the relationship between the attack on 9/11 and Iraq.

Peace everyone...

Saturday, February 19, 2005

A Day of Infamy


n February 19, 53 years ago, President Franklin--the man our current president likes to compare himself to--issued an executive order that rescinded the civil rights of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans. That would be people who were born and raised in the US, most of whom had never even been to Japan.

Claiming that there was a real threat from Japanese Americans, Roosevelt allowed the internment of all those of Japanese descent living on the West coast of the continental United States. My father and relatives and friends were among those affected. Fortunately, my father had the option of going to Idaho where he was born. He had friends who were "American", that is, White American.


FEBRUARY 19, 1942

Authorizing the Secretary of War to Prescribe Military Areas

Whereas, The successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national defense material, national defense premises and national defense utilities as defined in Section 4, Act of April 20, 1918, 40 Stat. 533 as amended by the Act of November 30, 1940, 54 Stat. 1220. and the Act of August 21, 1941. 55 Stat. 655 (U.S.C., Title 50, Sec. 104):

Now, therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, l hereby authorized and direct the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders whom he may from time to time designate, whenever he or any designated Commander deem such action necessary or desirable to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restriction the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion. The Secretary of War is hereby authorized to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom. such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary, in the judgment of the Secretary of War or the said Military Commander and until other arrangements are made, to accomplish the purpose of this order. The designation of military areas in any region or locality shall supersede designation of prohibited and restricted areas by the Attorney General under the Proclamation of December 7 and 8, 1941, and shall supersede the responsibility and authority of the Attorney General under the said Proclamationin respect of such prohibited and restricted areas.

I hereby further authorize and direct the Secretary of War and the said Military Commanders to take such other steps as he or the appropriate Military Commander may deem advisable to enforce compliance with the restrictions applicable to each Military area herein above authorized to be designated. including the use of Federal troops and other Federal Agencies, with authority to accept assistance of state and local agencies.

I hereby further authorize and direct all Executive Department, independent establishments and other Federal Agencies, to assist the Secretary of War or the said Military Commanders in carrying out this Executive Order, including the furnishing of medical aid, hospitalization, food, clothing, transportation, use of land, shelter, and other supplies, equipment, utilities, facilities and service.

This order shall not be construed as modifying or limiting in any way the authority granted under Executive Order 8972. dated December 12.1941, nor shall it be construed as limiting or modifying the duty and responsibility of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with response to the investigation of alleged acts of sabotage or duty and responsibility of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice under the Proclamation of December 7 and 8, 1941, prescribing regulations for the conduct and control of alien enemies, except as such duty and responsibility is superseded by the designation of military areas thereunder.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
The White House, February 19,1942.

While President Roosevelt declared the attack on Pearl Harbor a day that will live in infamy, I wonder if he had ever considered the possibility that Executive Order 9066 would be just as infamous, if not more so. Attacking a country seen as a threat is one thing. Attacking one's own citizens out of fear, hysteria, and plain old racial discrimination cannot be deemed better, more justifiable. Indeed, the Order was considered such a stain on America that in 1976, President Gerald Ford signed Proclamation 4417, "Confirming the Termination of the Executive Order Authorizing Japanese-American Internment During World War II." In it, President Ford states:

February 19th is the anniversary of a sad day in American history.... We now know what we should have known then--not only was that evacuation wrong, but Japanese-Americans were and are loyal Americans. On the battlefield and at home, Japanese-Americans . . . have been and continue to be written in our history for the sacrifices and the contributions they have made to the well-being and security of this, our common Nation.

Indeed, my cousin was one of of those who sacrificed his life, his name etched into the Japanese American 442 Memorial having died in Europe in WWII in service of his country, OUR country.

Perhaps most importantly, the Proclamation makes clear that while this injustice can never be undone, the best way to respond to it is to ensure that it will never happen again.

I call upon the American people to affirm with me this American Promise -- that we have learned from the tragedy of that long-ago experience forever to treasure liberty and justice for each individual American, and resolve that this kind of action shall never again be repeated.

Executive Order 9066 directly affected those who are family and friend to me. And it is a painful scenario that did not have to happen. I pray that Secretaries Rumsfelds and Rice, Attorney General Gonzales, and of course our very own President Bush, will remember this day and the words of President Ford when they create future policies regarding homeland security and the possible ramifications on Arab-Americans and Americans practicing the Muslim faith. After learning of what happend at Abu Ghraib and the detention center at Guantanamo, as well as this administrations creative interpretation of what constitutes American civil rights--ours and war prisoners--those of you who voted for Bush should pray even harder...

It's 63 years ago, not 53. I can't count, damn it! What can I say. That's why I teach literature.
Also, go check Taku's site. He has an interesting entry that he wrote for the Hardboiled, the Asian American voice on the UC Berkeley Campus in 1999. And be sure to give him props.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Tooting my own horn


he other day, I wrote about enjoying simplicity, and mentioned detachable's monochromatic photos, which I really love. I also said that a recent profile pic she had up was rather scary. Barberic said:

i bet you hurt detachable feelings.

Ack! I hope you're wrong! I wasn't talking about her current pic. She had a pic of herself that she edited, copying half of her face, flipping it over into a mirror image of that half and attaching the two halves together creating a completely different face. It was not the face of the adorable Detachable I have grown accustomed to. That's what I was talking about. Detachable, baby, I hope you didn't take it the wrong way!

Over a week ago, I also wrote about not being musically incined, and ydurp left me a comment that got me thinking--always a dangerous thing, dangerous because I only have a limited supply of brain cells remaining, having stupidly killed--and still killing--them by the buschel every time I reach for a cold one. Anyway, she wrote:

This is sort of a personal comment and since I hardly know you it may not be appropriate, but it saddens me to hear you put yourself down. I notice it a lot and since you seem like such a cool guy to me, I don't get it. Maybe it is a cultural thing and it is gracious to be humble. But I think you should toot your own horn more, or should I say strum your own guitar, more.

Hmm... This is a tough one. I'm not the kind of person to toot my own horn, I mean, not frequently at least. I have heard that some consider me to be quite self-effacing, and that is perhaps a cultural thing. I had always been taught not to brag or talk about myself in tones that could be misconstrued as "self-important." Of course, I realize that in today's world, self-promotion can be a crucial tool in interviews and certainly in careers. Indeed, I have been made aware of this all too painfully in recent years when I was not recognized for contributing my share. It was painful and I was rather depressed most of last year... Not that anyone would have been aware of it. I have always considered myself a clown, one who is always smiling in spite of what might be churning inside.

And yet, I do not see myself changing very soon. How do you change at 49 going on 50? Besides, being self-effacing or self-deprecating often puts others at ease. It is my way of getting them to open up and being up front with me. This is very useful when dealing with students. I mean they don't tell me everything--yeah, I had great sex this weekends, or I have herpes... wait, some have told me things like that... I sometimes feel like a surrogate father. Some have found it hard to talk about certain subjects with their parents, but have come to me for advice about "adult" matters. I am flattered but usually give little advice. I just pepper them with what I think might be pertinent questions in the hopes that they will pull out the appropriate answer from within themselves. I too was once young and stupid--maybe even younger and stupider--so I am in not position to give advice.

The point is, I enjoy making others feel comfortable, making them feel good about themselves and, where my students are concerned, and make them realize that someone cares. Well, most of the time. I'm sure they don't feel it too much when they get a quiz from me, the one another techer looked at and thought it was a midterm!

Still, I think Prudy might be a bit more insightful than I'm willing to admit. I think that I may put myself down at times. And to a greater or lesser degree, I think it's the result of the constant indignities I was forced to endure as a minority growing up in the 60s and 70s. It wasn't easy getting beat up for being a Jap, or worse, being ignored. So perhaps the self-deprication is not just an act, but a defense mechanism, a way to put myself self down before anyone else can. Yeah, having a J-Town was definitely a good thing for me.

But lets see if I can toot my own horn... um... well, uh... hehehehhehe. This isn't easy... How about some self-promotion: If you haven't already, you can join a blogring that someone set up for me. It's called Onigiriman Rocks. *blushing* It was set up by a sweet girl named simply_marie when some jerk was jerking me around with lies. As a member of this blogring, you have easy access to many of my loyal readers. Oh yeah, another thing: If you are a member of the Rice Bowl Journal--a blogging community for Asians, mostly Asian Americans--and you come here to read pretty regularly, then why don't you book mark me? Paiky, Hanzo, Zetton_v, sleetse. I know you and others are members at RBJ. Just logon to RBJ, do a search for the O-man, or just go to the Japan directory and click the "Add" button beneath my photo.

Okay, okay, I'm getting embarrassed. This blatant self-promotion is, is, is so antithetical to what I am... sorta, kinda...

Well, whether you join the blogring or bookmark me RBJ OR NOT, have a good weekend anyway. As for me, its back to work. I have lots to do...

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Undecorating: Simplicity is Best

RachelsMommy: Ooh, it feels different in here!!! (feeling creative, were ya?) You do know this constitutes redecorating...

Actually, this is something that TheWaterJar instigated, sorta. He is apparently redoing his Xanga site and he mentioned that he's a minimalist at heart--you can go to his page to see how he defines minimalism. Me? Well, I'm in effect no minimalist. My desk is a mess, I have junk all over my house. M hates it when I want to buy frames for photos and pictures. I've lived in cluttered space for most of my life, so I kinda feel comfortable with a lot of junk around. As long as its not wet and sticky, I can deal a bit of messiness, much to M's chagrin.

But when it comes to the arts, I truly love simplicity. Clean lines, beautiful solos. My first car was a 1973 Camaro. I took out all the molding and Camaro insignias, had the holes filled and the entire car repainted a midnight blue. At night it was a virtual black. I love monochromatic paintings. I certainly love the photos by detachable when she focuses on the different shades of light and dark--she is a genious... well, except for her profile pic which still scares me when I visit... I love the stick figures of shi, her way of imaging her rants of the day--although she seems to be on a temporary hiatus.

Anyway, I decided to "redecorate" my site a bit. Well, redecorate might be the wrong word. More like "undecorate". I've taken out the lines and boxes. I've even taken down my beloved O-man banner on the main page--it's still up on the comments page. There is something beautiful in seeing simple text on a white background. The beauty of words might be in its appearance as much as it is in its meaning. Beauty is simplicity for me.

And simplicity is best.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Happy Valentine's Day


hanks for all the suggestions, guys. I had been at a loss as to what to do, but all your ideas gave me the energy to be positive about this thing. So what did I do?

Yesterday, the 13th, I took M and the kids to a all-you -can-eat sushi place. Okay, it sounds hokey, but since it's sushi, the price was equivalent to a mid-level chain restaurant, like Red Lobster or Outback Steakhouse. We decided to go since it's about the only place I can take the two boys and not worry about how much sushi they eat--at 24 and 25, they eat a lot. And the reputation is okay. Of those I spoke with, everyone agrees its worth it for the price. The neta--fish used to make the sushi--was obviously frozen--can't fool me--but adequate. The place also had ramen, udon, tempura, different salads an deserts. So, yeah, it was worth it. Then we went to choose some earrings for M. No diamonds, but resonably priced 14K. Two pairs. Today, I got some chocolate--just regular ol' store-bought fare, and a sweat suit outfit that I know she's been wanting: She's been hinting about it since Christmas. Okay, nothing too elaborate, but its the best I can do in my current situation.

Anyway, once upon a time, I used to receive candy and stuff from students. Nothing fancy, of course, just a lollipop in the shape of a heart, or a small box of Sweethearts, sometimes with a note of thanks. Now, I am under no delusion. I know that it was probably that extra lollipop or box after the student had finished handing them out to friends. But it was a nice gesture nonetheless. Those days seem to be over. Students have changed--perhaps, they don't give candy to friends anymore--or I'm just getting too old, or maybe a combination of both... *sigh*

So did you have a nice Valentine's Day?

Sunday, February 13, 2005



lease, someone, anyone, tell me that tomorrow IS NOT Valentine's day! I've been so focused on work that I forgot! What am I gonna do?

Actually, I remembered... last Thursday. Still, just as bad, and I have been busy with work, so doea anyone have any suggestions for last minute presents? Last year, we went to get her ears pierced. I had thought of getting diamond ear studs, but our legal situation--and the lawyer--precludes any thought of such a gift...

Any nice, inexpensive ideas out there? 'specially you ladies. I'm sure that some of you can come up with a good one. Please, please...

Update: When I mean legal situation, I'm referring to her green card fiasco and the cost of rectifying the situation...

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Haiku restrictions


ince I'm kinda focused on my work right now and thinking mostly literature, I thought I'd respond to a question posed a few posts earlier by TheWaterJar--I'm not sure what it means either...

I just wanted to ask: what do you feel about English senryu and haiku that do not follow the 5-7-5 syllabic form? I write haiku/senryu but I do not follow that form. I feel that form is too restricting for the English language. I guess that leaves the question of: what form DO you follow then? My first answer to that might not be too satisfactory to strict formalists, but I'd answer: the "spirit" of haiku or senryu is the form. My second answer, to appease such formalists would be that, at least as far as the haiku goes (as of yet i'm not so sure about the senryu), it will start with a traditional image of something in nature that may or may not be seasonal, followed by another image which anchors it down in reality and makes it feel more real and grounded, followed at last by a statement/commentary on what preceded or just a thought or side thought that follows from it. Or something like that. What are your thoughts?

Am I a formalist? Hmmm... that sounds like a dirty word. Heheheheh. But seriously, I think that there is no right or wrong way to approach haiku in English, because in reality, it isn't haiku. It is one culture trying to grasp the style of a verse form developed in another culture and language. So what is the style? Is it the form? Or is it the "spirit" of haiku. It is neither, as neither really exists.

Let's take form. The recognized precurser of the haiku is the hokku, which is the first verse in a sequence of 36 verses of alternating 5-7-5 syllables and 7-7 syllable verses. The hokku is 5-7-5. This 36 verse sequence was called haikai, a type of linked verse--renga--that foused on non-traditional topics. The more formal renga and its precurser, waka--Japanese court poetry--were all combinations of verses of 5-7-5 and 7-7 syllables. This combination of 5s and 7s seems to a part of the rhythmical pattern of the Japanese language. I'm not sure if it was originally artificial--copying classical Chinese poems that follow patterns of 5s and/or 8s--or if there is some innate rhythm to Japanese. Either way, by Basho's time, 5s and 7s was the pattern for most "poetic" expression. For example, 5s and 7s dominate most proverbs:

  • i-so-ga-ba ma-wa-re (7): Haste makes waste.
  • shi-ra-nu ga ho-to-ke (7): Ignorance is bliss.
  • to-ra-nu ta-nu-ki no ka-wa-za-n-yo (7-5): don't count you chickens (or badgers) before they hatch.

Even common expressions like mi-n-na wa-ta-re-ba ko-wa-ku-na-i (7-5)--If we all cross together, there's nothing to fear--follows this pattern.

Comparison of syllables

And yet, for those composing haiku--or senryu--selecting specific diction, the right combination of words to fit this pattern is part of the art. It is a restriction that they all follow. Japanese is more syllable heavy than English, so in many ways it is even more restrictive in Japanese than in English. But does this mean your statement--I feel that form is too restricting for the English language--is invalid? Not in the least. English is not Japanese. But the point is still the same: haiku is restrictive in Japanese, as well. It is part of the art. Choosing to use a different syllable count doesn't render it as a lesser poem, but it will not--by definition--be a haiku in any language.

As for the spirit--this is a more interesting issue. Basho--the master himself--went through different approaches to his art. There are, of course, some basics which you touched on. The single most important aspect of a haiku--at least in the haiku practiced in premodern Japan--was the seasons. Each poem must denote a season. The reason is clear. As the hokku (first verse) of a haikai sequence, rules required it to mention through imagery a season. While these rules are old and tradtional, no modern haiku poet in Japan would even dream of deviating from this requirement. But this is a physical/structural matter. In terms of the contextual spirit of haiku, it is--in my humble opinion--an expression that conveys the dynamics of human life, that which is at once momentary and yet eternal, something that is black but cannot be black unless there is white. It celebrates the variety and differences in life in a 5-7-5 format: This is the contradiction and hence the beauty of haiku. The celebration of the changing, the fluctuation and instability of life, of meaning, all in a very strict unchanging format.

Let's look at some of the poems of the master, Basho, to understand this:

kagebou no
akatsuki samuku
hi wo takite

A silhouette
in the cold of dawn
lights a fire...

This is a winter poem as recongnized by the word "cold". But more importantly is the representation of man going through his mudane life. He wakes up in the morning when it is still dark--hence silhouette--to light a fire in the cold morning. What makes this poem effective is the play of opposites, something that is so prevelent in our world, always pushing back and forth in a very Hegelian way. The poem presents a silhouette because it is dark, but a silhouette cannot be made unless there is light. Of course, light is appreciated only because of the dark, and the dark is exists because... well, you get the idea. There is a co-respondance between these opposites that goes back and forth. There is also the correspondance between the cold and fire which... well, maybe someone would like to comment on that aspect? How about some feedback?

Here's another poem that I like:

hiya hiya to
kabe wo fumaete
hirune kana

cooly, so cooly
I press my feet on the wall
for an afternoon nap

This haiku is obviously summer. The subject presses his feet against a cool surface to escape the heat, therby allowing him to take a nap. The scene is mundane and yet evocative, the perfect example of Basho's style of karumi, the style that proved to be, I think, his greatest achievement of insight, and certainly his final contribution to haiku, as he died in the same year as these poems. This style of karumi attempted to capture the truths of the existence for man, his relationship with the world--not just nature--and express them in the simplest terms possible. I mean, who cannot relate to the beauty of coolness on a hot day, and how simple it is to just place you feet against the wall to absorb its coolness. It reminds me of my childhood when I used to lie down on the cool tile of the bathroom floor on hot LA summer days...

In the end, however, as these Basho haiku suggest, there is no real "spirit" of haiku except to express the truths of human existence. He initially tried to express them through nature--surely a reflection of his understanding of literary tradtion--but he moved away from frogs jumping into ponds and ducks crying in the dark, and focused on what mattered most: man and his daily life.

As for composing in a set format of 5-7-5 in English, I feel that it is, as I suggested above, restrictive as well. But that is the challenge, isn't it? It is the format that defines a haiku or a senryu. Indeed, I think that restricting it to the prescripts of haiku/senryu expands creativity. It forces the individual to dig deep into the mind to find the appropriate lexicons and combinations. Many can express their thoughts if there are no limitations to length. To say things succinctly and effectively is an art unto itself. Moreover, giving expression to the variety of human existence--or to its ironic moments through senryu--in a tightly controlled space is almost a metaphor for Japan: A dynamic society of man in a very small restricted island. I hope that the budding poets who attend our senryu salon will also strive to express that which reflects the varying aspects of our lives in our very limited world of Xanga... Haaahhahaha, Sorry, I couldn't help myself!

Friday, February 11, 2005

Work work work

In case you were wondering, I am not NOT posting. I'm just not posting here because I have some work to do. But the work I'm working on is not always work, as it is my passion. Visit the monk for a taste of what I do... of course, you may find it too academic, and hence too boring, in which case--in the immortal words of Rosanne Rosannadanna--nevermind!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Kudos to:


yjcwang. A truly decent fellow. Remember the post I wrote on flushing? There were a number of comments including "piss all over the toilet seats" and urinals that are "OVER-flowing with piss". Okay, admittedly, these are worse, and grosser. There was one retort, claiming that some people (c'mon, we know it's actually you) might be "conserving water"--but at the expense of the comfort and well-being of others?!? Well, these were all good and funny, but gyjcwang's comment was classic, and an indication that we probably would have no problems if we were roommates:

I doubt anyone ever flushes in public restrooms I used to just run through all urinals that hasn't been flushed and flush them all as I walk past them on the way out then wash my hands after.

Flush them all? Is this not a dude looking out for his fellow man? Truly, a good guy through and through. Now if you're wondering, Gyjcwang is a young man who lives in my old stomping grounds, the LA metro region. Nice, warm Southern California. I've been reading him for quite a while now, and I've been rooting him on as his career as a future Hollywood star slowly blossoms.

Admittedly, his roles have been small, but we all gotta start somewhere. SammyStorm--my favorite read, although he's too busy studying to post regularly these days--remarked on the dearth of Asian faces in movies and TV. Well, Sam, here's one who is trying to rectify the situation. Of course, he is playing to type: Asian. I saw him a few weeks ago on the West Wing as the soldier who openned the door for the Chinese Premier when Presdient Jed Bartlett visited China--yeah, it was a bit role and he was only on screen for like 3 seconds. He will also be in Memoirs of a Geisha, although I don't really know how much face time he will get. The point is that his parts have all been ones that require an Asian face.

And yet, he is plugging away. Hopefully, he--or some other Asian--will get the opportunity to play a part as an American, not an Asian American. I hope that day is close. And I hope that it's Gyjcwang. How could a guy who flushes all the toilets not be the guy?


I've got a few requests for Gmail and have sent invitations to those I could. I haven't sent one to those below whose names I haven't crossed out. You need to send me an e-mail with your name. An invitation can only be sent by e-mail. Just click on the link on the main page--yeah, I fixed it--and I'll get back to you ASAP.

And yes, the offer is still open. I have 45 invitations still...

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Who wants



oogle's Gmail has been around for about half a year and I think they are still testing it. I've had my account since August, thanks to a student of mine--you can only get one with an invitation. Well, I haven't completely moved all my stuff there. I need to maintain my work account for work, and a lot of my private affairs have been linked to my other privatre email account for so long, it seems like a hassle to switch everything over to Gmail. But I am slowly doing it.

Why? Why another account? Well, Google seems to be on the cutting edge of Internet technology and so I figure having an account wouldn't be bad. It's free which makes it even better. And they give you 1000 MB of storage, so if I don't get and keep large audio/video files in the account, I'll be safe for at least a few years without deleting messages.

Now I think that many people on Xanga have enough connections to know someone who has already invited them to open a Gmail account. Well, I have a few invitations sitting around, so if you are an O-man subscriber and don't have a Gmail account already but would like to have one, leave me a comment saying so. I will contact you through your Xanga site e-mail. I probably have more than my share of invitations, so don't be shy. First come first serve. I will get to you in a day or two...

Temp List

  • Hanzo
  • Miket
  • Kai
  • Ydurp
  • Qitqat

Monday, February 07, 2005

Not Super Entertaining


udos to Coach Belichik, Tom Brady, and the rest of the Patriots. They played slppy at times, but their experience allowed them to regroup and beat the Eagles. Terrel Owens had an incredible game, expecially considering he had screws put into his ankle in December. What did he have? Over 120 yards? Amazing. Despite his antics, he has my respect as one of the best--if not the best--WR in the NFL today.

My prediction fell short. I thought that the Patriots would score one more touchdown than the Eagles, but as it turned out, it was one more field goal. 24-21, not the 24-20 I had predicted.

In any event, this year's Super Bowl will be memorable for its lack of memorable moments. Besides the football game, the half time show was pretty much a bust. Paul McCartney? Man, the dude is a relic. He might be fine at a smaller venue or on his own tour, but for the Super Bowl? Sorry. I like the Beatles, but his days are over. These 60s (meaning 60-years old) rockers should bow out gracefully. But I suppose we have Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake to thank or this years headliner. After the malfunctioning wardrobe and Janet's boobs, the powers that be went the conservative route, no doubt.

Another oddity was the dearth of eye popping commercials. I guess we can blame last year again for the level of timidity in this years collection. Who could forget the farting horse last year. I guess advertisers decided to take the safe route as well with mundane commercials--well the Ford commercial with a dead frozen guy in the driver's seat was pretty wierd, and Ameriquest's "cat killer" was unusual. No, he didn't kill the cat, it just looked like he did; the point of the commercial: Don't judge or jump to conclusions. Budweiser had a cockatoo from the bario in one spot and then went all patriotic with its salute to our men in uniform in another... There was also tacky. Fox told us how much they spent--2.4 million dollars--just to promote there TV show "24". Now who tells you how much they are spending within the the commercial itself?

So which was you favorite Super Bowl commercial? If you didn't see them, click here.

Anyway, time to get back to work. I have a load of stuff to do for the next three weeks or so, so if I post anything, it will be short and sweet. Hahahahaah. Yeah, right. that's like telling myself to shut up. That ain't about to happen...

Peace, out! --oops, is that the WaterJar's signature?

Oh yeah, last chance for senryu submissions. Interested subscribers click here.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Super Bowl Sunday


ell the holiday season finally comes to a close today with the Super Bowl. As far as I can tell, the cold weather festivities begins with Thanksgiving at the end of November and lasts through __________ (insert the religious/cultural holiday of your choice), then New Years, and finally Super Bowl Sunday.

During this 2+ month stretch, I figure its okay to eat anything and any amount you want. I can think of nothing more stressful than to hold yourself back when delicious food surrounds you. Well may be one day is possible, but this period is a string of events/holidays and it is hard to sacrifce at each one, so I end up not sacrificing at any of them...

Yes, I am weak willed.

In any event, I have stocked up on beer, chips, nuts and other bad-for-the-waistline goodies. M wonders why I gather so much. Little does she know that this is my own way of stockpiling for the next few weeks, a lean period during which I have no reason to purchase junk food in any significant quantity. I feel like a squirrel.

New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles

I recently saw an NFL Films special on intelligent fans and they pointed to the Eagles fans because one of their cheers is actually just a spelling of their team name: E-A-G-L-E-S. If spelling the the word "eagles" qualifies as intelligence, I doubt any aliens will soon be making first contact with our little planet in search of intellgent life forms, let alone warp capability.

On the other hand, the Eagles fans' cheer is rather quaint compared to the Patriot fans who have gotten such fat heads. Geez, they win 2 of the last 3 Super Bowls and now they own the freakin' universe. Wasn't the Red Sox victory enough? I thought the Red Sox beating the Yankees 4 straight--which was very sweet, I must admit--then boinking the Cardinals was enought to sate New Enlganders for the next decade or so. Where's the parity in the NFL? In the universe? Even the Celtics are in first place. Of course, that is simply by default because every other team in their division sucks eggs. Can you imagine a team under .500 and still in first place? I swear their is something strange going on in New England. Did you guys sell you soul to the devil or something?

So while I am not necessarily an Eagles fan--former Bruin Freddie Mitchell's mouth notwithstanding--I am hoping that they beat the Patriots today. I am praying that the Patriots play T.O. honestly, because even with his healing injury, you gotta respect his talent, if not his character. I'm begging that McNabb is gonna have one of his monster games: throw well, run better. And I'm really hoping that Freddie Mitchel shuts his mouth and gets rid of the afro-mohawk, and concentrates on catching the ball.

And yet, I'm afraid that won't be good enough. My prediction: More than a field goal, less than a touchdown. Both teams will score four times, but the Patriots will have one more touchdown than the Eagles.

Patriots 24 -- Eagles 20

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Musically Inclined... NOT


ince I was a wee lad, I have loved music. Indeed, M sometimes cannot understand my need to feel the music. By this, I mean to play the music relatively loud and let it flow over me as I close my eyes and rock on. I don't just listen to it, I have to feel it carress my skin, pierce my soul. It could be "All Along the Watchtower" by Hendrix, "I Gotta Line On You" by Spirit, "Fly With the Wind" by McCoy Tyner, "Who Can I Turn To?" by Tony Bennett, "Fly Like an Eagle" by the Marshall Tucker Band, "Renaissance" by Jean Luc Ponty (with Patrice Rushen on Piano) or Beethoven's 6th symphony "Pastoral". Whatever it may be, I want it to envelope me.

There was a time I dreamed of being a rock star. This is surely something every kid in the 70s thought of at one point or another. I self-taught myself piano on a crappy chord organ my mother got with S&H Green Stamps--you'd have to have been around a while to know what I'm talking about. And I even played in a garage band that had "real" gigs at local JA/AA dances and clubs. But for a Japanese American in the 70s, the writing was already on the wall: No Asian American could ever make it in the business. I suppose I could have played at country club events and weddings for the rest of my life, but I was pretty sure "rock star" was out of the question--name one in ten seconds... Maybe one in a billion. Sometimes I wonder, "Did that billionth of a chance go to William Hung?" and I wanna shoot myself...

In the end, I decided to give up what I felt was a futile dream. Of course, I couldn't do what my friends were doing--business, law, accounting, medicine, engineering. I needed to do something that allowed me to stay in touch with the arts, and so I chose J Literature, although I must admit that it was mostly by accident, and certainly more than a few degrees south of a teenager's fantasy...


Anyway, since last year, I've been hankering to do something in music again, so I bought a guitar. Nothing of note, mind you--a Gibson knock off made in Korea--just wanted to play around a bit for my own curiosity. It's been along time since I played anything and I suck, of course. But no one's listening except me...

So the other day, I visited SleepingCutie's site and she had a quiz about What Random Object Represents Your Inner Self? Well, I took the quiz like the Xanga nerd I am and they pegged as...

You are a guitar.
You are a musical genius... congratulations. Most people think you are a little obsessed with music, but that's okay. You don't care what other people think. You are independent, and would rather have a few good (and weird) friends than a lot of not-so-good ones. You may feel that people run down your eccentricity, but that's only because they're jealous. You will most likely become very successful with your musical talent. \m/ Rock on!

Most compatible with: Drumstick.

Click here -- What Random Object Represents Your Inner Self?

Hahahahah. I am keenly aware that these quizzes mean little are nothing, but it was funny that they viewed me as a guitar. But I know that I'll never be successful with my music talent--all two ounces of it. I'll just stick to teaching and writing on Xanga...

Friday, February 04, 2005

Just Flush the Damn Thing


am not particularly fussy. I do not mind people doing their own thing. But when an action--or inaction--might affect others negatively, then I get a little upset. Why are there so many who refuse to be considerate to others? It simply boggles the mind. What bothers me recently--since it seems to be a growing trend--is the courtesy of a flush after a guy takes a piss at a urinal.

I would wager that some female readers here would be surprised. "You don't flush after using the toilet?" Well, I think that if men used regular toilets to do their business, then they would flush most of the time as well, but for some godforsaken reason, many feel there is no need to flush when they use a urinal. And I find this disgusting.

And you know why? Splatter.

When a guy uses a urinal, there is a certain degree of splatter. Most of it is undetected as the piss spray is too fine. But I KNOW it's there because I can smell it. As you know--or should know--smell is cause by actual molecules that are evaporating from the thing we are smelling. A fresh loaf of bread is evaporating more liquid molecules than day old bread and so has a stronger smell. Steel doesn't evaporate so it doesn't smell. So, when I stand at a urinal and smell urine BEFORE I piss, then I must be having someone else's evaporating piss enter my nostril! Is that digusting or what? (Can you imagine what you're smelling when someone cuts a fart? Okay, too gross...)

Usually, if there's piss from the previous user, I flush it before I use it. But again, this has its problems, since a flush creates a plume of moisture which would include the previous piss. Ugh! If you hate to touch the handle because you think its dirty, just wash your feakin' hands afterwards. I mean, you DO wash your hands after holding your weewee, right?

So will you guys who don't flush, please have the courtesy to flush? You are being selfish and self-centered by not flushing. Please think of the person who will use the urinal after you. It might be me...

Time to go to sleep...

Reminder: February Senryu

In case you haven't left a submission yet, click here for your senryu on the topic "forget"

Wanna be a Judge?

Let me know your thoughts of yesterdays poems.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

You Be the Judge: In-class Senryu


n Wednesday, we had an in-class Senryu-kai. We had two topics that they had prepared. I put all the poems down on paper anonymously and had them vote for the ten best. They could no vote for their own. After tallying up ten senryu with the most votes, we read each one outloud and asked students to comment if they wanted. After this, I asked them to vote for their favorite senryu, and I have come up with the best eight. I don't necessarily agree with all their choices, but it doesn't matter, because I will determine the best poems in my own way anyway.

But it never hurts to get extra input. Below are the best poems for the two different topics. Tell me in a comment which one you think is best for each topic. You are, of course, welcome to comment as you please. Aren't you glad you don't take my class? Remember, being funny or humorous is fine, but that shouldn't be the only criteria. Senryu should reflect a moment or specfic aspect in our life or society that reflects our foibles--our humanity actually--but in a humorous way. Don't forget to count the syllables!

(up to msbLisS)


  1. 15 minute wait
    Finally able to sit
    Crap! There's no TP!
  2. Only one chair left
    Suddenly the music stops
    The fight just started.
  3. A day has gone by
    I get up from the sofa,
    I can't feel my ass.
  4. It's my lot in life;
    Must I always encounter
    Only the asses?
  5. Chair don't fail me now
    Please don't break under my weight
    As I eat my cake
  6. Bathroom heater there,
    so close to my reading chair--
    I might burn my butt.
  7. Late again to class
    standing alone by the door
    left without a chair
  8. The large man sits down
    I fell guilty for laughing
    as he breaks the chair.


  1. A robot loved me,
    Found out he cheated on me--
    Now he's a toaster
  2. 0 1 0 11--
    A robot's dreams seem simple
    to the human mind
  3. Write about robots
    Says the guy across the room
    If I could reach him...
  4. Spam robots impart:
    "With the cash prize you just won,
    get that enlargement!"
  5. If she had a switch
    We could turn her volume off
    If she were a 'bot
  6. Looking so lifeless
    It does anything for you
    Making us lazy
  7. i simply can't wait
    for robots to rule the world
    No more work for me!
  8. Robots do more
    learning new things everyday
    we forget basics.

Reminder: February Senryu

In case you haven't left a submission yet, click here for your senryu on the topic "forget"