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    How would it be for you to do a little adapting for a change?

    Posted by Sean at 14:32, February 6th, 2005

    Agenda Bender writes about seeing Stella Dallas on TCM. Less fortunately for him, he also remembers La Toya.


    Mark the wickens quotes one of his countrywomen and–though I don’t think this was exactly his intention–demonstrates a truism: there’s no one more obnoxious than an atheist whose favorite subject is his own atheism. At least the pharisaical religious types tend to be entertainingly campy.


    Marc the Amritas never sends trackback pings, which is not a problem but means that people don’t necessarily see when he riffs socio-linguistically off someone else, the way this post expands on my comment about a recent insanity plea yesterday. Marc helpfully offers a wide selection of quick-and-dirty mental disorders that opportunistic minorities can draw on when facing the all-important task of evading adult responsibility. There’s probably one you can use. Check ’em out!

    Big plans for Japan Post

    Posted by Sean at 11:10, February 6th, 2005

    Plans for the privatization of Japan Post are moving right along–and in predictable directions. Heizo Takenaka announced some of his team’s new proposals last week; the Yomiuri has an English version:

    It also proposed requiring the companies that will manage postal savings and life insurance services to entrust their business to the network management company for a 10-year transition period from April 2007 to guarantee universal service.

    The government plans to restrict the new status to employees of the network management company and another company that will provide delivery services, including that for delivery of certified mail and court documents.

    Takenaka did not say whether the new status would be quasi-government employee status, which would ensure employees are subject to the same anticorruption rules as government employees. [I feel better already.–SRK]

    He said the government would consider a system to continue universal service, as a contribution to regional communities, of postal savings and life insurance after full privatization in 2017.

    In addition, the government would stipulate that there should be more than one post office in each municipality. It will pledge under the postal privatization bills to secure residents’ convenience and consider providing services in underpopulated areas.

    Mail pickup and delivery is a public service, so I can see why maintaining universal access is a theoretical worry. Practically speaking, though, is there any area to which private courier or freight services refuse to deliver?

    What the committee appears to be talking about is not just a one-line condition that the new corporation that handles the mails not restrict delivery by location. That bit about at least two post offices in every municipality, for example, is nice but arbitrary. If you’re familiar with rural areas, you can imagine some of the municipalities we may be talking about. Recall also that Japan is essentially one long volcanic range poked above the Pacific; there are twisty, hard-to-traverse mountain and ravine roads all over. The Kanto (Tokyo-Yokohama-Kawasaki) and Kansai (Osaka-Kyoto-Kobe) megalopolitan areas may house an unusually high proportion of the Japanese population, but the outlying areas are still outlying. I’m not aware of any regulation that says every municipality must have at least two rice-sellers or general stores, though you never know in Japan. Is it necessary (or wise) to be reforming Japan Post so that it maintains universal service by mimicking its current, drag-prone structure as much as possible–while piling on the number of corporations and rule-making bodies involved?

    Can’t wait to see what they come up with for the savings and insurance divisions!


    Posted by Sean at 02:19, February 6th, 2005

    You gotta love those temporary insanity pleas. This story is one that’s been kicking around the gay news sites for at least the last week or two, and I’m glad that the latest news is that the jury thought it was baloney (though perhaps not in any way sympathetic to the murder victim):

    But Boyle told the jury that Hirte was tormented about his sexuality and confused about what was going on inside of him.

    According to Boyle, Hirte had “homosexual urges” that intensified after he drank alcohol [We wouldn’t know anything about those.–SRK], as he did the night of the murder.

    Boyle claimed that Hirte was overcome with anger and “self loathing” and that he should be found insane. A psychiatrist testifying for the defense told the court that “gay rage” is a valid medical condition. George Palermo said that after examining Hirte he determined that the man had killed in a “micro-psychotic” episode. Palermo said that the “episode” was brought on by the “shame of realizing he had sex with another man.”

    Real modern convenience items, those mini-psychotic episodes that start just before a crime and end just after it. Hirte’s strikes me as kind of funny, since after my first time with a man, I was pretty screwed up with shame and self-loathing myself. I spent the next day throwing up. I think I took about six showers, and I know I sat in my room and cried a lot. Might’ve punched the wall a few times. Oddly, I never once had the urge to get a shotgun and knife and go back and kill my soon-to-be first boyfriend.

    Knew you’d be here tonight / So I put my best dress on

    Posted by Sean at 16:11, February 5th, 2005

    CNN has redeemed itself for every minute of air time given to that gasbag Brent Sadler: Design 360, its weightless show about contempo aesthetics, just did a segment on the new Kylie Minogue costume exhibit. Did I have a gaygasm or what? In fact, I’m pretty sure I died. Right here. The entity typing this is Sean Kinsell’s specter.

    I mean, we had the hot pants from “Better the Devil You Know” and the hot pants from “Spinning Around.” We had the loopy-swatch dress and the hooded what-is-that-supposed-to-be? from “Can’t Get You out of My Head.” There was stuff from her parents’ attic that she’d incorporated into her act–because, you know, she’s just-folks, like us in the audience! And, of course, Kylie herself was there, petitely bouncing through the racks and talking about wanting the people in her hometown to see everything first, because that’s the kind of humble girl she is. She remembers her Melbourne Melbn roots, she does.

    Of course, if I were curating this collection, I’d include all the guys from the “Slow” video. You know, as accessories. This is called “proper context.” And I’d make sure those horrid sheaths from “Hand on Your Heart” were kept way in the back of the storage closet. Some things are not worth remembering.


    Posted by Sean at 09:31, February 5th, 2005

    For possibly the first time in my entire life, I have risen at 8:30 on a Sunday morning to make myself a proper breakfast of eggs, toast, corned beef (the can didn’t have a key attached; some improvising with pliers and two nails was called for), juice, and tea. This is not a move toward self-improvement on my part, heaven forfend; I just have to go into the office today.

    Since I’ve been bustling around the kitchen to Outlandos d’Amour, I figure this is a good time to note the recent New York same-sex marriage ruling. Michael has his thoughts and a link to the PDF file of the original decision. The gay marriage debate merry-go-round started to bore me long ago, not because the issues aren’t important but because participants have a tendency to talk past each other repetitiously and VERY LOUDLY about small points without first finding common ground on the basics.

    I’m happy that our relationships have support from a lot of straight people, though I disagree that this is the way to channel it. On the other hand, however sincerely people may idealize marriage as sacred, it’s hard to fault those who argue that it’s evolved into essentially a loving relationship between two people who happen to want to be in it at the time. That is the way it’s actually been practiced for the last few decades, after all. (Blech, and speaking of Baby Boomer solipsism and self-indulgence, we’ve arrived at “Born in the 50’s”…no, not me, do it to Julia! JULIA!…where’s that remote?) Perhaps if people who object to gay marriage were willing to work as publicly and strenuously to reform divorce and custody laws, it would be harder to dismiss them as just prejudiced against queers.


    Posted by Sean at 21:17, February 3rd, 2005

    Having just sniggered at Westerners who gravely drop Oriental wisdom, I will now take the opportunity to discuss (briefly, at least for me) one of my favorite Japanese proverbs. Hypocritical, perhaps, but then, I own the place.

    What brought it to mind was a Proverbs-quoting comment on this post at Dean’s. The post links to an article called “How to Seem Smarter,” and though the basic tone is tongue-in-cheek, there is a good deal of truth to it.

    Anyway, the Japanese proverb I’m thinking of is this:


    nou aru taka ha tsume wo kakusu

    “The astute hawk keeps its talons hidden.”

    Now, of course, there are other Japanese proverbs that more explicitly admonish you to keep your trap shut to avoid making a fool of yourself. This one, however, has always been one of my favorites because, for one thing, it covers varieties of show-offiness besides just babbling. It’s like the German saying, “Always be more than you appear” (which, as Miss Manners once pointed out, “predates the invention of the Mercedes-Benz paid for on installments”).

    Another thing about it is the sensuality of the language. Except for the first word, which has a long-vowelled pronunciation borrowed from Chinese, the entire sentence is composed of native Japanese words. They flow along rapidly because of the alternating consonant-vowel structure and because most of the consonants themselves are unvoiced: k, t, ts, s. The sentence is sibilant and slightly menacing when you say it–pronounced conversationally, it comes out like noh’arutakawatsumewokox. You can imagine a hawk sitting in a tree, very still and observant, with the only sound the rustling of the leaves while he decides what to do next.

    Ryohei Sugimoto’s mother confirmed dead

    Posted by Sean at 20:29, February 3rd, 2005

    It’s only been a little over a month since the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, but I’m sure it’s seemed like much longer for Ryohei Sugimoto, 12, whose story has been the focus of much of the human interest coverage of the event here. When the rest of his family was swept away from the Pipi Island resort where they were vacationing, it fell to him to identify his father’s and brother’s remains. His mother’s body has finally been found and identified (dental records). Ryohei and the uncle who went back to Thailand with him will be coming home.

    With Mrs. Sugimoto, the number of Japanese confirmed dead comes to 26.

    Fuh heaven’s saake

    Posted by Sean at 16:34, February 3rd, 2005

    This, via Amritas, is great. There are few things more annoying than the view among many Westerners that spraying kanji all over something immediately lifts it from its actual mass-production banality into a realm of cosmic spiritual Significance.

    The potential mistakes can be every bit as hilarious as the more-famous fractured English one sees here in Asia. One of the guys in my department, who started out in China studies, notes that the implicit message of the T-shirt in this post is “I have a rack.”

    A slightly different example, in that it dealt with concepts and not kanji, was on this week’s episode of CSI. (I mean, they showed it this week on AXN here in Japan–it was probably filmed in 2000 or so.) Sara, the tough chick, was working overtime on some case that had struck a nerve, and Grissom, the handsome department head, leaned forward and said to her, with a comical air of profundity, “You know, Sara, if you chase two rabbits, you won’t even get one.” Maybe those weren’t the exact words, but (as the subtitle writers knew) he was definitely citing the Japanese proverb ニ兎を追うものは一兎も得ず (nito wo ou mono ha itto mo ezu: “the man who chases two rabbits fails to catch either,” or, if you insist on attaching a tone of Charlie Chan/Mr. Moto/Suzie Wong wisdom to all things East Asian, “he who pahsue two bahnny not obtain even won”). I half-expected a gong to sound during the ensuing pregnant pause, though I myself was rolling around on the sofa laughing.

    Actually, before Friends declined into a self-referential snore, there was an episode that beautifully satirized this tendency. Ross talked about taking a self-defense class and learning to achieve “a state of total awareness” that he grandly announced was called “unagi.” Rachel (“Isn’t that a kind of sushi?”) and Phoebe (“Yeah, it’s…it’s freshwater eel!”) knew better, though.


    Posted by Sean at 15:18, February 2nd, 2005

    Japan changed the design and composition of its ¥500 (about US $4.50) coins a few years ago, and a few months ago, it released new bills, too. The Japanese economy being huge and having a fair number of disgruntled unemployed people, it’s a target for counterfeiters, and they’ve sunk to the challenge:

    After a large number of counterfeit ¥500 coins were discovered in Postal Savings ATMs, Japan Post announced on 3 January that [its machines] would stop handling all coins at post offices in Tokyo Metro and in Fukuoka and Kumamoto Prefectures.

    The fakes they’re finding correctly use an alloy of nickel and zinc (the Sinitic compound for which is 亜鉛 [aen: “sub-lead”], which I’ve always found kind of cute), but the composition is different from that in real coins. They also have misaligned stamping and leave off some marks, but according to the authorities, you do have to look closely to see the problems.

    There’s also been a rash of fraudulent withdrawals of cash using faked cash cards. I believe it’s the iC system (comfortingly, the one my JAL card is allied with) that’s had the most problems, though I haven’t paid close enough attention to understand where the chink is that makes it easy to trick. Anyway, they’re still trying to determine whether the legal fault lies with banks or depositors. Koizumi says his financial team is working on it.

    As far as the bills go, this is as good an explanation as I’ve seen of the new technology and the reasoning behind it–mostly, as I say, that Japan has a huge consumer economy and is a target for counterfeiters. Of course, counterfeiters have already started making funny-money versions of the new bills–as industrious and clever as these people are, couldn’t they find a way to make their fortunes honestly?–and the fact that the old notes are still in circulation means that the tricky holograms aren’t yet having much effect. After the New Year, it was discovered that large numbers of false bills had been used to buy fortunes and souvenirs at temples.

    Well, bye-bye, sugar–and not a minute too soon

    Posted by Sean at 13:03, February 2nd, 2005

    If Andrew Sullivan is so over and no one reads him anymore, how is it that everyone knew about his hiatus the moment it was posted and is now speculating who’s going to become the new Daily Dish for non-leftist gays? People are very odd.

    Added at 21:11: Wow. This commenter at Tim Blair’s appears to have read my mind. The comment is so good I wish I’d written it myself, though my version would have had five paragraphs and way more em-dashes, as we all know. Anyway, here it is:

    The problem was not that Sullivan wrote too often about gay issues, it’s that as soon as Bush came out in (mild) support of the FMA, Sully shifted in about a day from defending Bush to excorciating him on every aspect of his presidency. Since then (and his unacknowledged shift from pro-war in Iraq to anti has also highlighted this), Sullivan comes across as driven by emotional urges, rather than analytic thought. I have no use for that in a writer.