Sunday, December 30, 2007

-To bad rubbish.

2007 is at it's close and its time for the trite retrospective.

I'd like to say that the past year as been on the whole a good one. With some difficulties, sure, but progress was made and I'm better off at the end than I was at the beginning.

I'd like to say that, but it's a lie.

2007 pretty much sucked for me from the moment the ball dropped in times square. I didn't know it at the time but the juice had started running on my student loans and by the time I did know there was around seven-hundred bucks worth of juice on a few months worth of loan payments. And the only reason I found out about it was a prospective landlord let me know that a black mark on my credit was keeping me from an apartment. So that plus the month of not having a home kinda did in my savings from Japan. And that basically set the tone for the year to come.

Lotsa suck, some of it my own fault, some of it not.

Not that there haven't been good things this year, there certainly have. But I feel like those things are less a result of my efforts and more a result of being in the right place at the right time. I don't feel like even my best efforts in 2007 amounted to much. I'm not gonna let 2008 be like that. I'm going to find what I want and go out and get it, and maybe I had to slog though all this bullshit to come to that realization. I'll drink to that.

Yeah, so here's to 2007, and all the things in it that we'll be glad to see the end of.

I propose a toast-

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Better than a wristband.

Livestrong wristbands have always struck me as, at best, very tacky. And at worst they're a way for vapid, banal people to pretend that they're deep and caring by making a fashion statement out of charitable giving.

It all rubs me the wrong way. I don't like talking about when and how much I give to charity, much less wearing it like some kind of badge. That's not the point, and I feel like it cheapens what I'm trying to accomplish. So while I often talk to people about charities, I almost never tell people when or how much I give. I think of it as a quiet, personal rule.

But I'm going to break that rule for a moment, because I think these two causes deserve the added weight of an, 'I did it, you can too' endorsement.

Every year at Christmas, I usually make a donation to a charity, spending as much in that donation as I feel would be appropriate to spend on a set of gifts for a friend or family member. Last year, and the year before,I gave to Child's Play: An EXCELLENT charity that I certainly recommend you all check out, even if you don't feel like giving, I hope it will shatter your preconceptions about Gamers and video gaming. (Those of you who don't already know about it, that is.)

This year, though I went with a different charity, and dropped a bit more than I usually do. But I feel it's worth it. I also feel it's worth it to tell everyone about it, as it's a pretty neat opportunity.

This organization gives specially designed laptops to children in the developing world. The laptops are engineered to be durable, versatile workstations that can enhance learning and enable a child to bridge the digital gulf between the first and third worlds. They have a free standing networking capability, meaning that they can create a wireless network wherever they are or link up to the internet if there's a gateway. They have a lot more information about the XO laptop on the site, so please go check it out.

Right now they're doing a promotion in the US and Canada: Buy one of these laptops for a child in the developing world and you can buy one for yourself or a child in your life. Each laptop costs $200. Which is pretty amazing when you think of the features it's packed with. Its an incredible deal, all things considered.

I know that if I were to see a child playing with an XO laptop, I'd be filled with admiration for the person who chose to give them, and a less privileged child far away, a powerful learning tool and enriched two young lives.

And that's a damn sight better than I can say about a crappy day-glo wristband.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

拝啓、日本 - Dear Japan,

As of today, it has become spring. It has been murderously cold all week, but that hasn't kept some of the Sakura from coming into bloom. It budget constraints and preparing to move back to the US have, however, kept me in my crappy apartment these past 4 days. I've only stepped out to run errands or get a snack at the conbini, and that's meant that I've spent a lot of time surfing the internet, reading webcomics and blogs, and watching Japanese TV.

I usually only end up watching about two or three hours of television a week. If I'm at home on a Tuesday night I love watching Lincoln, a comedy show where some of Japan's A-list subject each other to juvenile pranks and bizarre, inane challenges. Needless to say it's AWESOME. I also end up watching whenever my girlfriend, who turns the TV on as soon as she gets home, calls me into her room to see something cool.

Today there was this program on called SASUKE, it's a televised sporting event held twice a year where people race to the end of a Ninja-inspired obstacle course. I completely RIVETED. But the thing that I really noticed (other than how cool it is to see someone actually jump and climb around like a ninja) was the incredible sportsmanship of all the competitors involved. They showed reactions of the crowd and the previous champions while people were running the course, and Invariably they cheered the successes and congratulated the efforts of each challenger. There was no trash-talk, there were no bitter rivalries, just athletes testing themselves against a REALLY difficult challenge, and when someone fell or failed or ran out of time, everyone was disappointed, but proud of them for trying. One competitor really impressed me, after seemingly clearing the hardest obstacle in the run (it eventually was the downfall of every challenger) he stopped, raised his hand and disqualified himself for accidentally grabbing a disallowed handhold.

Wow, that's some integrity.

On the other hand, I was in my girlfriend's room the other morning talking to her about moving and flight arrangements when I couldn't help but notice the panel discussion program that was going on in the background. The theme was "Why does America bully Japan so much?" Various recorded informational segments, narrated by a white stuffed toy dog with a red circular spot around one eye, were presented with a period in-between where the collected experts (Lawyers, academics, and popular entertainers) discussed the sub-topic presented in the clip. A one point I was so angry I was shouting at the screen. The little Japan-Dog had presented a segment about the second world war, and addressed the Nanking Massacre referring to the definitive book by Iris Chang as 'Chinese Propaganda'. After the stuffed Dog got done denying the clearly substantiated slaughter of 300,000 innocent people (we found and counted the bodies), the 'Experts' started in. First, one lawyer started in by saying that his grandfather, who had served in the Manchurian campaign, claimed never to have raped nor seen any member of his company commit such atrocities. Then another, older asshat went on to say, "every occupying force must take measures to control the populace and prevent uprisings. Just look at what's happening in Iraq and you can see what happens when you don't." and then finally as icing on the cake a white-haired woman said, "Surely some horrible things were done, Japan has recognized that and apologized. Isn't the fact that we can sit here and openly discuss how much is true, and just how much is propaganda proof that that the Japanese people have taken responsibility for what happened there."


The previous Prime Minster of Japan, Junchiro Koizumi, went to worship at Yasukuni Shrine, where class A war criminals are enshrined as gods. Shinzo Abe, the current Prime Minister of Japan, was director general of a Group headed by Nariaki Nakayama, former education minister, who's express goal has been to remove references to the institutionalized rape and forced prostitution of "Comfort Women" by the Japanese Army during the second world war from Authorized history text-books for Junior High Schools. Nakayama has openly claimed that the Nanking Massacre was a "pure fabrication" and his group (full of prominent LDP members) has called for a retraction of Japan's official apology for the crimes in 1993.

I love this country, and I fear for it's future.

Japan is an amazing and beautiful country, and the people in it are just as beautiful and amazing, with an appreciation of beauty and a sense of solidarity that the rest of the world would do very well to emulate. That solidarity is both the Japanese people's greatest strength and it's greatest weakness.

Japan is the world's second largest economy, second only to the US. And unlike the US Japan has a incredibly homogeneous population. Most Japanese want the same things, worry about the same problems, and have the same social values. Most Japanese are worried about the growing cost of supporting the growing population of senior citizens, and concerned that the support might not be there when the time comes for them to retire. They value the quality of education, and take great pride in the high level of technical skill in the Japanese workforce. They fear an economic disaster like the popping of the bubble in the early nineties, and remain cautious even though their economy is now in better shape than it's ever been. (Though only the richest of the rich are getting the benefit.) They are concerned that students today are not learning the skills they will need (as recent institutionalized cheating scandals suggest) and are disturbed by the amount of bullying and suicide in their school system. The general public of Japan also is looking for solutions to the problems of climate change and overfishing.

Meanwhile Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party(Not actually very liberal at all) are busy trumping up inflated statistics of crime committed by foreign nationals (even though there appears to be a Yakuza gang-war going on in Tokyo) and making noises about changing Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution - That's the one where Japan renounces war and a standing Army and instead commissions a much more limited Self-defense force.

Abe, continually spouts his talking point of making "A Beautiful Country: Japan" a reality but he fails to explain what the hell that's supposed to mean. Beautiful because of it's rich and artistic history? Beautiful because of a strong, technologically advanced and ecologically sound industry? or Beautiful because there are no Koreans or Chinese living here dirting up the place with their inferior ways? (It should be noted that Korean TV dramas and Chinese food are HUGE hits here.)

Abe and his LDP asshats are out of touch with the Japanese people, but they can get away with it because there is no real alternative to them. The Democratic Party of Japan isn't even the Pepsi to the LDP's Coke. More of a Diet Coke: one makes you fat, the other has sweeteners that break down to form formaldehyde.

But if a real populist were to come to power, holy shit would Japan ever be AWESOME. If somehow instead of the cadre of myopic, racist Oligarchs we have in power now, a government committed to the goals of the Japanese people were to run the show you would see a truly beautiful country: Japan. Beautiful because it's people would have one of the highest standards of living in the world, if not THE highest.

How high? Imagine Norway, they're the current #1. They have free school, free medical care, most people own two houses and retire in their fifties to a life of quiet luxury. Sure Norwegians pay a lot of taxes, sometimes 50% of their income, but since they all agree on what they'd like to see those taxes spent on they all reap the benefits. Now take Norway and give them a SHITLOAD more money. That's what Japan could be.

How do they do it? Homogeneity.

If I have 2 dollars and I want to get lunch, I'm not going to be able to get anything really satisfying or filling. Maybe a candybar or a tiny McDonald's cheeseburger and a tiny drink but that's it. If I and 10 other people have 2 dollars and all want to eat lunch, bingo, we can order a large pizza and still have money left over for a 2 liter or so of soda. But what kind of toppings should we get? Here's where the Norwegians and Japanese have us Americans beat. Try getting a group of random Americans to agree on what should go on their pizza, I dare you. Meanwhile the Japanese are forgetting to tip the delivery guy for their corn-and-mayonnaise monstrosity and the Norweigans are chowing down on some lutefisk or something.

Homogeneity is how the Japanese have been able to pull of their Promethean revolutions throughout history. They do the same thing until it becomes clear that it doesn't work anymore, and then BAM! inside of a generation they're playing a whole new ballgame. From the Nara, Heian, Sengoku, Edo, Meiji, Tasho...etc, etc. It's like one of those undersea documentaries where all of the fish in this HUGE school change direction at the exact same moment.

But there's certainly a dark side.

If the LDP asshats somehow manage to convince Japan at large that they need to cast off their commitment to peace and become a world military power, there WILL be trouble. Japan has the know-how, the manufacturing facilities, and the fissionable material to have a full-scale nuclear weapons program inside of months. They even have orbital launch facilities. All they lack is the political will. And the LDP leadership wants on the UN Security council so bad they can taste it.

[Later, I will post a Japanese-Language Addition to this post. あと この日記の日本語バージョンを付けるから お楽しみに]

Friday, March 16, 2007


I don't know where I stand on the outright banning of smoking from public spaces. I don't smoke, never have. But I don't know if I'm all the comfortable with the idea of telling an adult they can't smoke in a BAR. A bar was pretty much set up for smoking (after the drinking of course) and any patron coming in pretty much accepts a degree of exposure to smoke is inevitable. Why ban it from the last place where people can smoke in peace?

But then, as an aspiring bartender, I have to sympathize with the staff I don't want to be exposed to carcinogenic clouds while I work all night. Smoking is everywhere in Japan and recently I've been loosing my voice when I'm exposed to smoky places for more than an hour or so.

And here's some food for thought. I was in a restaurant with someone smoking on the other side of it. One Dude smoking One Cigarette at the other side of the room for 30minutes and the shirt I wore last night still stinks like an ashtray this morning.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

My thoughts exactly.

Rayne and I agree on so much. Though I've only been to one once, I find strip clubs to be both degrading and intensely frustrating: You go there, spend money, get an erection, and.... nothing. There is no sex, not even in the Champagne room. What's the point? Here's your hard-on, that'll be 60 dollars, now off you go! How degrading.

Oh, and I the exploitive nature of those places leaves a bad taste in my mouth as well. (or is it the shitty cocktails.)

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Ecpyrosis, prepare your bladder for imminent release!

This is the definition of Ian-Porn.

Click the little blue bubble in the upper-left for the video.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Stuff that is Awesome.

The Mushishi live action movie opens on the 23rd.

These guys:


This Game. (It's eating my life, there are times I forget to blink and my eyes sting and water.)

Ice cream, Puppies,
Blow jobs.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Your favorite color is Green. And you LOVE watching Seinfeld!

Oh, man am I SOOOO sick of the "Atheism is a Religion", meme. If atheism is a religion, then NOT collecting stamps is a hobby, and bald is a hair color.

You could never get away with the stupid shit people say about Atheism if it WERE a religion. Try telling a Muslim that they actually worship the Moon god or some such other bullshit and see how far it gets you. And yet every time I'm in a conversation about religion, people try to tell me what I think.

Listen up, Atheism is NOT having faith in the idea that there is an absence of a god. No faith is required except the kind you use every day: the faith in your ability to perceive the world around you and make conclusions from those perceptions. Atheists don't believe in God the same way we don't believe that there is a cosmic doughnut floating somewhere between the earth and the sun, or invisible, intangible pink unicorns are living in our closet.

Both the dougnut and the unicorns are currently untestable ideas, but we don't have to suspend judgment on weather or not they're there. You can reject them out of hand because there's no evidence to suggest them, and there are plenty of things that we DO know by the merit of evidence that conflict with the Doughnut/Unicorn theory that we can say both are wrong with confidence.

So what does God have to do with Dougnuts and Unicorns? He's quite a bit more unlikely.

The Cosmic doughnut is, in principle, verifiable/defeatable claim. All we have to do to know for sure that there is or isn't a doughnut floating in space somewhere between the Earth and the Sun and we're set. But in the practicality of it it's impossible to test. The size of the space we're looking in compared to the size of the doughnut means that even if we knew within 99% accuracy of where the doughnut should be we'd never find it. And we don't have to waste our time trying. We know that a Doughnut is man-made and that it's stupid to think someone wasted secretly launched one into space and it established a hidden solar orbit.

God is like the doughnut because he too in principle, is a testable claim, people say life is SO complicated it MUST have been intelligently designed. If that's true, all we have to do it find the "Joe T. Deus" signature somewhere on us and Presto! Proof of god. That signature just has to be something in nature that works as is but less complicated forms couldn't. Like a Wheel. You'll never find animals on wheels because when you take a wheel apart it's individual pieces are useless. Have we found rollycats? No. Also intelligent design is absurd, if were WERE intelligently designed, why our our sinuses such a ridiculous mess? If they were a strait drainage chamber from our ears to our nose no-one would EVER get sinus headaches. And our spines are weirdly curved to let us walk upright, why not just straight up and down? And what the hell is an Appendix for?

Science has answers for these questions, God doesn't.

God is also like the Unicorns because he's a logical paradox. The Unicorns are Invisible, intangible, and pink. HOW the hell can they be PINK if they're INVISIBLE? And while they live in my Closet, by merit of their invisi-intangibility I will never see or touch them, but people claim that I should think that they're there?

Like I said in a Myspace Blog that I have yet to edit and post here:

God, by the common definition is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good. Within this definition alone we can find a HEAP of problems, some more mentally-masturbatory (Can he make a rock he can't lift? If he knows what he's going to do next Tuesday at 3:26am can he really change his mind? Etc.) some more real and, in my opinion far more compelling (the problem of Evil & Suffering)

For Richard Dawkins, the big clincher is "Ok, if everything was made by God, where did he come from?" That's a real hum-dinger -though not the only one. No theologian I've ever hear of has ever produced a satisfactory answer, the leading bullshit responses are variations of 'It's turtles all the way down!!' or 'cuz'.

But for my money, the problem with god I can never get past is the problem of Evil. If there were an omnipotent father-figure up in the sky, how can he allow so much suffering here on earth? The favorite answer of the theologian is 'free will' but surely SIDS, earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes have nothing to do with a choice anyone has made here on earth. And if it's as Pat Robertson and other assholes love to claim, a punishment meted out for some misdeed of other (usually something done in the bedrooms of consenting adults) then why cant he cut back a little on the 'collateral damage' and perhaps own up to the abuse he (back)hands down to his children on earth?

Either god is A) Not all-powerful and apparently very busy, so some evil gets though.
B) Not all-good but rather nucking futz and an evil child-abusing bastard.
C) Not there at all, and these things are a result of the natural structure of the world we live in and the best thing to do is learn how they work and how we can deal with them.

Of the three, C is the answer that makes the most sense to me. It also inspires me, we as human beings have a great thing going. And if we don't screw it up, we might just be able to keep it going forever, or at least a really, really long time.

Get Educated

Saturday, February 24, 2007

How to draw...the un-talented nerd way!!

First, doodle in pen experimenting with perspective that is way beyond your artistic ability while you're supposed to be working:

Then, after work, draw it in a cafe while one of the staff looks at you sidelong trying to reconcile his stereotypes of foreigners as cool and fantasy art as totally dorky:

I'll try to finish it and color it in the next few days/weeks in the meanwhile snicker away!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Japanniversary IV: The Final Japanniversening

Today is my 4th and final Japanniversary.

Sometimes I think, "Wow, it's only been 4 years since I came to live here." and others, "Wow, it's already been 4 whole years since I came to live here." My original intent was to stay one or two years so either way I have long since abandoned my original timetable.

I'm going to miss my students and my co-workers, walking and taking the train EVERYWHERE, artists and musicians out on the street, deafeningly loud cicadas, every season having it's own special reason to get completely plastered , the ten minutes of camaraderie before diving back into mind-numbing FTL boredom, girls in kimono and hakama saying tearful goodbyes at the station every spring, the Shinkansen, Loligoths and punk-goths finding a way to conform and rebel at the same time, that one person who manages to find a way to stand out in a crowd of seventy-five under big man, Nakazaki-cho and tea with Richard talking about Dr. Who, going out to see the disparate members of Pizacatto Five, being into obscure Japanese bands, being able to rent CDs, a Cherry-Blossom report in the daily forecast, リンカン on Tuesday evenings, Curry Udon, DenDen Town and Osaka Otaku, Shinsaibashi waiting for first train, tea at Himeji Castle and people diving into the Dotombori, being the only foreigner in the live-house, and reading manga on the train.

I'm not going to miss that goddamn nazal voice shouting about some bargain in my ear, old men pissing in the street, middle-aged men reading porn on the train next to elementary-school-aged girls, people thinking they are somehow a different species, being complimented on my ability to use chopsticks, being told that the store staff cannot help me as they do not speak English when I am asking for help in perfect Japanese, black vans blaring out the Kimigayo, people pretending the rape of Nanking never happened, nothing costing less than 100 yen, having germs sprayed across the back of my neck by some ass who has never been taught to cover his mouth when he sneezes, old ladies shoving pushing and throwing elbows to get to a seat that I would have offered to them if they were just the slightest bit gracious, and salarymen fantasizing about the playboy lifestyle I don't lead while insisting that it is foreign men sleeping with Japanese women, and not their coming home to have unprotected sex with their wives after taking an unprotected sex-tour of southeast Asia that spreads STDs in Japan.

I've learned and gown so much. I've discovered countless fascinating places. I've met and continue to meet an endless stream of fantastic people, and it's them more than anything else (more than the thousands of years of history and culture, more than the ultra-hip/uber-geek subculture, even more than the okonomiyaki.) that tempts me to stay 'just one more year...'

It would be so easy.

But if I say, "Well...I can always head back next contract." What's to stop me from saying that 12 months from now, or 24, or 4 years from now when I turn 30?

Teaching English 30 hours a week for roughly $2500 a month + medical, dental, and retirement is a comfortable situation for a lad to find himself in so early in his career. But then, it's not a career, it's a job.

There's no up, up from where I am so it has to be away.

And while I keep meeting people who I wish I had the chance to get to know better there are so many people waiting for the the Llyw they know oh-so-well to come back to them. (At least, I hope there are.)

Really though, that Llyw can never come home. I lost him years ago; heated him over a flame and drew the vapor across a chilled plate condensing the Eu de Llyw and adding new elements to bring out a wholly new, but somehow familiar flavor. (Can you tell I've been drinking?)

Those who know me well, know that I was something of an outsider though my formative years and suffered quite a bit for it. Strange then that I should voluntarily live in a place whose inhabitants describe me first and foremost as 外人 「GaiJin」 (literally 'outsider'). I've thought about that a lot, and the best my armchair psychology can come up with is a desire to say "Yeah, I'm not one of you. But so what? I'm Awesome anyway and you know it."

Ok, all bullshit, psychoanalysis & metaphor aside, I'm not the same person I was four years ago, or three for that matter, or two or even 6 months ago. And the more I change the more I come to understand the parts of me that will never, ever change. I'm never going to get the chance to do everything I what to and go everywhere I want to no matter how long I live. I'm never going to be able to pretend to be someone I'm not (except when I'm acting). I'm never going to be very good with money. And I'm never going to shut the hell up. These things will never change, and I don't know that I want them to.

I don't regret a single minute of the time I spent here in Japan, but I do regret all the minutes I missed back home with my friends and family in America, I miss everyone so much. The other day on the street I heard a noise that reminded me of the sound of my brother's laugh and I got so homesick I forgot where I was going.

I never want to leave, but I can't wait to be home.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Onward, Outward, Inward

I've decided I enjoy this, whadayacallitagain?, blogging.

However, the facilites provided with my myspace account are somewhat lacking so I've dedided to set up something here. Eventually I'd like my own domain with a gateway page and the ability to browse through the things I'd like to share in various ways. But for now, we'll see how this works.

Why Quaquaversial? Because that's how I want to grow as a writer and creator; in every direction at once. Ideally, I'd like to write and publish all sorts of stuff, Novels, Short Stories, Children's Stories, Comics, Stage Screen and Teleplays, even Video Game Scenarios and the like.

I'm not there yet, hell I just got rejected by UBC's Creative Writing Department for the second time running. (No hard feelings though, I deserved to be turned down both times.) But if I ever hope to be there I'm gonna have to start somewhere, and here seems as good a place as any
-well, maybe not as good as in a conference room with Neil Gaiman, Hyung Tae Kim, David Fincher, and Tetsuya Nomura but whadayagonnado?-

I'll be posting a lot of randomoid stuff, from your average blogpost to comic pages to D&D notes of mine, but please don't think of them as non-sequiturs but rather the perciveable shadows of my omni-directional expansion.