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    No reason / Just seems so pleasin’

    Posted by Sean at 06:15, October 10th, 2005

    We’ve finally made the decisive transition to fall. The rain is chilly rather than just cool, and the sky is slate grey without that warmth around the edges that says it’s going to heat up again in a day or two. I’m glad Atsushi was here this weekend; it sucks when there’s a major seasonal change and I don’t get to go through it with him. Talking about it on the phone isn’t the same.

    I made another big transition this weekend: we finally rented Lost in Translation, so now, when the googolplexth person asks, “Tokyo, huh? So, have you seen Lost in Translation?” I can say, “Uh-huh.” It was good. Sofia Coppola has a nice feel for actors. Bill Murray was very convincing as a venturesome soul who’d been tired out by decades of routine. Scarlett Johansson’s one of the few starlets now operating who know how to be luminous without twinkling at the bleeding camera. That chick who was supposedly an old girlfriend of Giovanni Ribisi’s was hilarious (though, sad to say, plenty of Yale grads do talk that way).

    As far as the Tokyo setting goes, there’s no way I could have experienced it the way people who don’t live here do. My Japanese isn’t perfect, but I never felt disoriented by the words on the signs or the dialogue. Sometimes, the Japanese was frankly distracting: the shot that establishes Murray’s character as a star, when you first see the Suntory billboard with his picture? Right below it is an ad for hair removal. I guffawed, which I don’t believe was the reaction sought. (At least, nothing in the movie looked like an in-joke with Japanese speakers.) The cab driver also seemed to be taking a strange route to get from Narita Airport to the Park Hyatt–who would go through Shibuya? I mean, who would go through Hachiko?

    That part was kind of fun, actually: Shibuya and Shinjuku are the neighborhoods in which I spend a good 90% of my time. The other neighborhood mentioned by name, Daikanyama, is on my train line; I sometimes walk there to pick up lunch because it’s only seven minutes or so from the office. My chiropractor is in Omotesando, where Johansson is shown on the subway platform. The gigantic Shibuya intersection that Murray and Johansson cross as if they were playing Frogger is five minutes from my office in a different direction. In fact, until Atsushi was transferred and I moved my stuff conclusively into our apartment, I lived right in that neighborhood, in one of a very few apartment buildings surrounded by the Pachinko parlors and bars and stuff. Loved every minute of it.

    Actually, one of the cool things–movies are good at this–was the way Tokyo looked like Tokyo but without the dinginess. The Park Hyatt isn’t dingy, of course; the interiors and views looked exactly as they do in real life. But the outdoor scenes–you could see the jumble of incongruous grey buildings and power lines and pylons and stuff, but it always moved by fast enough that the grit and crud weren’t visible. Not that Tokyo’s a dirty city by any stretch, but it is dusty and frequently tired-looking. Coppola and the actors saw only the jittery vitality. In that sense, I guess, I was able to see the place as non-Tokyo-dwellers do. (Some of the idealization strained reality to breaking point, though–just try finding a Tokyo karaoke bar that has “Brass in Pocket” and “More than This”!)

    The movie wasn’t, in any case, a disappointment, as one always fears when a gajillion people have said, “Oh, you absolutely have to see it!” Just in case, though, I did that thing where you rent a hyped-up movie you haven’t seen and an old favorite you know you’ll enjoy so the night won’t be a total wash, you know? Atsushi hadn’t seen Cruel Intentions, so it was kind of fun to watch him react to the adult-free, idealized Manhattan, let alone Sarah Michelle Gellar as a sociopath. Ryan Phillippe was okay, as always, except when he had to talk–or, more precisely, when he had to evolve as a character. One emotion per movie seems to be about his limit.

    The funny part of the night was that after watching all this stuff about mopey, lost people who come this close to having an affair, and then about unsupervised teenagers engaged in elaborate revenge-screw plots, it was time to call my beyond-wholesome parents to wish them a happy 34th anniversary. (Did I mention that we’d also gone to the Moreau exhibit earlier in the day? When will Japanese museums learn about such obscure concepts as proper lighting, one is moved to wonder? Anyway, that was another hour and a half spent contemplating studies for paintings of Helen and Salome and the like.) It’s probably a good thing the ‘rents weren’t home; I could hear how strange my tone sounded when I was talking to the answering machine. When we got up this morning, Atsushi, who devotes a good deal of energy to nudging me out of my lapses in filial piety, pointed out that there was still time to call them again before they went to bed and the day ended on the East Coast. By then, my mood had returned to normal somewhat.

    Of course, I had to send him off an hour or so ago. At least this weekend I was able to feed him for three days. He says he’s eating fine in Kyushu, but I don’t buy a word of it. What do the old bags in his company’s dining hall know about taking care of Atsushi? And let’s not talk about the reheated food from 7-Eleven. Just three more years of this separation crap to go.

    Army of me

    Posted by Sean at 02:48, October 9th, 2005

    Even after the back-and-forth in the comments, I think Michael’s being unnecessarily harsh and dismissive toward this Purdue junior. I do take Ace’s point:

    That was the part that got me…why would he yield to others to define and direct him as to which group he fits in? I pointed it out to Michael, not to be critical of the author, but because I’d love to believe that no young gay person will ever have to end up like Roy, and that gays–young and old–have so much promise for the future that we should all be grinning like fools, comfortable in our own skin.

    Perhaps because I haven’t been e-accosted by the Roy to whom Michael and Ace refer, I don’t see his shadow everywhere.

    To me, the letter writer just sounds like a college kid. He’s immature and a bit too ready to inflate a petty campus personality conflict into a cosmic struggle, sure. That’s college life. Graduation cures that for most people. They hit the real world and realize that they’re the same size fish in, suddenly, a WAY bigger pond, and they make the necessary adjustments. It makes no sense to imply that some particular guy who’s barely cracked his 20s might be on his way to a morose, whiny middle age because of a single letter to the editor.

    Constitutional revision proposals in dribs and drabs

    Posted by Sean at 02:12, October 9th, 2005

    The LDP’s draft of suggested constitutional revisions will include this for the preamble:

    [The draft] adopts an active posture toward international contribution and states, “We sincerely seek world peace, and will cooperate together with other nations in order to realize that end.” The proposal expresses [Japan’s] position concerning patriotism and self-defense this way: “We will preserve the independence of the nation through the efforts of citizens who love their country.”

    The proposed revisions also refer to Japan’s unique “history and culture” in ways unspecified by the Nikkei article.

    Earthquake in South Asia

    Posted by Sean at 04:28, October 8th, 2005

    M 7.5 earthquake in Pakistan and India (also felt in eastern Afghanistan). The epicenter was northeast of Rawalpindi, so the quake was perfectly positioned to hit several densely populated metropolitan areas. Apparently, it was strong enough in New Delhi to knock things off tables–that’s pretty powerful.

    Of course, India and Pakistan both have huge populations anyway, but in cities you have the problem of multi-story buildings that may not be built to code as we would think of it in first world earthquake zones. It looks as if two apartment buildings have collapsed. The preliminary number of deaths is 30-ish; of those, CNN seems to be saying that about 20 were Indian Army personnel. I assume that means that some kind of military facility collapsed, but there appears to be little more information.

    A moment of black comedy was provided by one interviewee, a Western journalist who lives in Islamabad. He pointed out that one advantage Pakistan has is that it has a large army and thus was able to call on a high number of trained personnel for rescue. Being locked into mortal enmity with your next-door neighbor occasionally comes in handy, it seems. The same journalist–Danny Kemp of Agence France-Press; he’s cited here, too–said that he ran outside with his wife and daughter when their apartment building started shaking. Is that what they tell people to do in Pakistan? We’re told in Tokyo that avoiding falling glass, roof materials, and power lines is the highest priority; if you’re indoors, stay there unless the building is clearly unsafe.

    It’s impossible to predict what the final number of casualties will be. The area was relatively lucky, though: the quake struck early-ish on a weekend morning. That probably means that there weren’t many cooking fires open yet, and it definitely means that rescue workers had a full cycle of daylight and warm temperatures to look for trapped survivors after the first quake. (Strong aftershocks have been reported.)

    I changed my clothes ten times before I took you on a date

    Posted by Sean at 11:17, October 7th, 2005

    Atsushi flies in tomorrow–have I ever told you how much I love the way Japan has bank holidays practically every month?–so this time around, I’m making the over-sugared French toast.

    I also went shopping today. It’s been a while since I greeted him at the door in a new outfit, and with fall pretty decisively, if anemically, here, another cool-weather shirt is always useful. Having been told by a stranger yet again this week, “You’re from the States? Really? You look so European!” I decided to go Pointedly All-American.

    Man, what is up with even Brooks Brothers’s making (1) no-iron shirts that (2) have ostentatious logos on the chest? If you don’t want fusty, old-fashioned clothes that need pressing, why go to Brooks Brothers? (Actually, it’s not the lack of necessity of ironing that bothers me. It’s that this wrinkle-free stuff doesn’t look crisp even when it is pressed.) If you do want clothes that crassly announce how expensive they are to everyone else on the subway, why not go to Polo? At least Burberrys has enough of a sense of shame to have created diffusion labels to market all its label-on-the-outside goods under.

    Unfortunately, the green + purple + orange plaid on offer was too utile to resist; being a secondary colors kind of guy, I’ll be able to wear it under every sweater I own come November, and no one will be able to see the embroidered Golden blasted Fleece then anyway. That the cute sales guy told me the shirt was flattering had nothing to do with my handing over my credit card. No, really.

    Have a good weekend, everyone.

    I’m living without you / I know all about you

    Posted by Sean at 10:01, October 7th, 2005

    Eric likes the Constitution State’s Supreme Court’s ruling on a First Amendment case a few days ago. (Well, the actual opinion is here.) Eric refers to a prior post of his:

    Whether the imputation of homosexuality is defamatory these days is open to question, at least in some places.

    Should it be?

    If the imputation of homosexuality is defamation, then is that not itself an outright admission by the tort system that there is something so dreadful about homosexuality that we will allow you to sue others if they accuse you of it?

    I’m kind of hors de combat on this particular issue, of course. I don’t think people should get away with telling lies, but I don’t see identifying someone as homosexual as some kind of smear in and of itself.

    At the same time, I wish there weren’t this sort of blanket statement (from Michigan’s Between the Lines) from the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s representative of what we hear in the run up to National Coming Out Day every year:

    Readers of BTL’s editorial pages in the past have heard us say it before, but it bears repeating: come out, come out wherever you are.

    It is difficult to imagine how one could argue that staying in the closet enables a person to live a full, rewarding and emotionally healthy life. Heterosexuals, for example, would never dream of keeping their wives and husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends and even children a secret from their coworkers, neighbors, family and friends.

    Oh, wouldn’t they? People have been known to keep marriages secret for the sake of not angering parents who didn’t give permission, or not giving the appearance of a conflict of interest if they met through business. Those arrangements aren’t the hetero default setting, but you can’t say straight people would “never dream” of keeping their relationships a secret.

    Besides, everyone is subject to intrusive questions these days. I know more than one single straight person who’s heartily sick of being asked when he’s going to get married or why she hasn’t settled down and had children yet. “Maybe if people thought I was gay they’d shut up and give me some peace,” one exasperated career-focused acquaintance said to me once.

    I don’t want to slush things together to the point of being obtuse about the real issues that remain. I assume, though I haven’t run about polling people, that most closeted gays would prefer not to have to be secretive about the relationships that matter to them most. Being known as gay, risky though it is, means that you don’t have to mask something important about yourself when interacting with people. I think it’s great to have public voices reminding closeted gays that, if they meet a hostile reception when coming out, their gay friends will stick by them and they won’t be left to deal with the fallout alone.

    But some people really do think that their sexuality is an individual matter and appreciate the way remaining unmarried allows them to avoid opening their private lives to public scrutiny. Why is it hard to believe that the way they live is “full, rewarding and emotionally healthy”? If you value personal liberty, you believe that people get to choose their own trade-offs, even if those trade-offs wouldn’t suit you. The only people I think should be pressured into coming out–not, just so I’m clear, forcibly outed, but pitilessly encouraged to put their money where their squalling mouths are–are those who bitch that our public advocates haven’t yet made it safe for them to do so. It’s not Michelangelo Signorile’s job to take your risks for you, honey.

    The buck stops…I dunno, over there somewhere

    Posted by Sean at 00:20, October 7th, 2005

    I realize there are still a few months left, but I’m giving Alice the award for Best Post Title 2005 for this one. Need I say that the post itself is of heirloom quality also?


    Posted by Sean at 09:04, October 6th, 2005

    The Ministry of Justice is updating its policy on the furikome scams:

    The Legislative Council (the Minister of Justice’s advisory panel) has submitted to Minister of Justice Chieko Minamino an outline for the establishment of a new system by which the government will confiscate or seize holdings from organized crime rings running the “Pay up!” scam and distribute them to victims. The Ministry of Justice aims to submit a revised proposal quickly. Under existing law, victims have no recourse but to seek their own reparations, and there have been many cases in which they’ve cried themselves to sleep. It is hoped that assessing [how to provide] relief to victims will become easier through the legal revisions.

    I’m glad they’re making it easier for people to get their money back, though I have to say that anyone who gets a scam call at this late date and doesn’t check it out thoroughly is insane.


    Posted by Sean at 08:16, October 6th, 2005

    Kaoru Yosano on Japan’s plan to reduce contributions to the UN:

    There is nothing wrong with Japan’s reduction in financial contributions to the United Nations, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s top policymaker said Wednesday.

    “I don’t have the exact figure with me, but Japan covers roughly 17 or 18 percent of total contributions made by all U.N. member countries. So it’s not that strange at all that the share is cut by a few percentage points,” Kaoru Yosano, the LDP’s Policy Research Council chairman, said in his speech at the Yomiuri International Economic Society in Tokyo.

    Actually, Japan covers 19.47 percent of total contributions, or 37.1 billion yen, second only to the United States.

    Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura made a proposal to hold a review of member countries’ contributions last month in his speech at the U.N. General Assembly, seeking to lower Japan’s spending.

    Rough going is expected for such a review as some prominent countries, including China and Russia, likely will be asked to increase their shares.

    But Yosano’s remarks Wednesday reflect a widely shared frustration among Japan’s political and business circles that Japan is asked for a too large contribution while not being given significant roles to play in the U.N. framework.

    Almost one fifth of the total. And the US kicks in more. Of course, China’s not going to be eager to kick in more. (The Mainichi, BTW, just conducted a new poll, the shocking results of which are that a lot of Japanese people are unhappy with China.)

    Yosano also discusses the proposed revisions to Article 9 of the constitution.

    The pull is in my muscle / The ache is in my bones

    Posted by Sean at 02:10, October 6th, 2005

    People who have been reading me for a while will know that, suddenly and without warning, I occasionally deliver a rant the length of War and Peace about what my gay friends are doing to make themselves miserable. If you’re just here for the Japan stuff (more of that coming tonight), you probably want to skip this post altogether.

    There. I feel much better.