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    Posted by Sean at 23:14, February 25th, 2005

    It’s inconceivable that anyone reads this site and doesn’t read Virginia Postrel, yeah? Well, just in case, she has a beautifully done, economical little photo essay on George Hurrell at Slate. You have to see it. The picture of Pancho Barnes was interesting to me because I first encountered her name in Chuck Yeager’s autobiography as a boy. I must have read that book a hundred times. By the time Yeager knew her, Barnes had hardened into an acridly foul-mouthed survivor, but Hurrell captures her much earlier. Actually, she may already have been an acridly foul-mouthed survivor by the time of this photograph, but that’s not the side of her that comes through.

    BTW, another photo essay posted the same day as Virginia’s is worth reading also. It’s about Oscar-gown blandout, and it (the phenomenon, not Julia Turner’s well-written photo essay text) may help to explain the climate that’s led to such weirdnesses as the dropping of jaws over Condoleezza Rice’s get-up the other day. Don’t get me wrong–I loved it. An athletic woman with good carriage, great legs, wintry coloring without a pair of tall black boots? Inconceivable. Where’s she been hiding ’em until now? is what I’d like to know. I know that Laura Bush has been trying to recenter the role of First Lady visually (though word is, she’s planning to relax a bit in her husband’s second term), and if starlets in their notice-me! phase aren’t dressing daringly, you can’t expect much from high-ranking women politicians. Still, it’s sad that everyone’s so bowled over at the slightest eccentric gesture.

    Rocket launch not aborted

    Posted by Sean at 20:00, February 25th, 2005

    Japan’s H2A Rocket has been launched successfully. Good news. Japan’s last several high-profile rocket launches have frequently ended in malfunctions and shoot-downs, so there was a lot of pressure for today to be, as the Nikkei blandly puts it, the first step in restoring confidence in Japanese aerospace development. That communications anomalies were discovered and delayed the launch by an hour and a half didn’t help matters, but everything’s fine, including the putting into orbit of the MTSAT (multifunctional transport satellite, or 運輸多目的衛星 if you prefer the Japanese mouthful) it was carrying, which will be used for air traffic control and meteorological observation.

    Of course, this is a civil, not military, satellite. Whether its success bodes well for needed improvements in Japan’s ability to gather strategic information by satellite is not clear. More military satellites are supposed to go up in the next year or so, so we’ll see.

    UN follies

    Posted by Sean at 13:40, February 25th, 2005

    Dean links to this post by political scientist R.J. Rummel. It’s the first in a series, which–given that the topic is problems with the UN–promises to be lengthy. What he’s arguing here is that the UN is no longer an agent for global justice, and this passage in particular caught my eye:

    Out of the vast array of facts that make this case, I will select a few. But first, as one who made considerable use of UN reports, studies, and statistical services, such as the Demographic Yearbook and Statistical Yearbook, for my research, the story of the United Nations is not entirely negative. Indeed, some will make the argument that on balance the UN has contributed to the welfare of countries. But, then, one would have to downplay or ignore the political functions of the UN.

    It’s that last item that interests me. The “has contributed” part could simply indicate that if we take the UN’s entire post-war history, the net influence of its non-political organs has been for the good. I can see arguing that, if you qualified it. But Rummel’s main point is not about the UN’s cumulative history but about where it is now, and if you downplay its political functions, that leaves…. Hmm. I’d be very interested to see it argued that the UN has not roamed off-course in its economic and humanitarian roles, too.

    There’s the World Health Organization, with its shift in focus from life-threatening diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria toward the sorts of voluntary behaviors that have become favorites of first-world busybodies: auto safety and smoking, for example. UNICEF’s goals haven’t diffused so alarmingly, but you have to wonder why WHO isn’t attending to several of them already.

    Look, even cursorily, for criticisms of the efficacy of World Bank lending policies, and prepare to drown. The tone of this Guardian piece is as snidely anti-capitalist as you’d expect, but the essential charges don’t need to be. Giving countries money for vainglorious public works projects they may not be able to maintain, requiring privatization of a major industry in a country where only a tiny group of cronies have the means to own anything, and expecting to end corruption without changing the circumstances that make it attractive–you needn’t be a socialist to see the folly there. (Note also that the World Bank has taken to joining forces with WHO on its global-nanny territory, issuing a finger-wagging report about the pitfalls of alcohol abuse.)

    Anyway, Rummel’s posts look to be interesting, given that he acknowledges he spent decades as a true believer. If he continues to tackle political functions specifically–and why not? he is a political scientist–I’ll be eager to read what he thinks about the latest push to change the terms of membership on the Security Council.


    Posted by Sean at 12:04, February 25th, 2005

    Congratulations to Susanna Cornett, whose Cut on the Bias was three years old yesterday (her time). I don’t know that I’ve been reading Susanna since her first Instapundit link, which is when most of us who don’t know her from real life were first likely to have heard of her, but I definitely remember that page. Good for her. She’s been occupied with other things lately, but her intermittent posts are still good. She’s gone out of her way to be kind to me since our first few contacts, and, of course, I’ve learned a tremendous amount reading her. Best wishes.

    Shocked by the power

    Posted by Sean at 03:25, February 24th, 2005

    One of these days, I’m going to come up with a rule. Well, I’ve already sort of come up with it, I just haven’t gotten it into perfected, catchy form yet. The basic idea is:

    job as vaguely-defined counselor/consultant/therapist + list of multiple degrees prominently showcased after one’s name = RUN AWAY!

    For the latest proof, look at 365Gay’s Ask Angelo. (I don’t know whether his columns are archived; I’m pretty sure this one just appeared today.)

    Yes, before you say it, I’m in a pissy frame of mind and huffing and puffing over something trivial. My boyfriend has been making me feel his faraway wonderfulness all the more piercingly this week by going out of his way to e-mail me get-well messages over lunch, even though he has to make some excuse to absent himself from his colleagues and knows that he’ll be talking to me between 11 and midnight as always, anyway. I’m ill and feeling crappy. The tribulations of guys who can’t keep it in their pants even with their boyfriends in the same city are not high on my list of things to sympathize with at the moment.

    More on that later. First, here’s letter 1:

    Dear Angelo,

    After three years of a most fulfilling relationship with my bf, I was unceremoniously dumped. How do you accept someone you love telling you that they’re out of love with you?

    Signed, Shocked 

    Dear Shocked,

    I do not know if you’ll ever really accept that he is not in love with you anymore per se. I mean you may not believe it or be OK with it for a long while. It was not something you expected, chose or wanted. Loving someone romantically involves our deepest experience of oneness. When we are in love we are as close as we can be physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually to anyone. Surprising insensitive rejection from a love is a terribly painful feeling. A gut wrenching unbearable pain. If we are lonely, emotionally wounded or need more love in our life, this pain can be excruciating.

    You may ask, “how can this be?” You may think: I feel the love between us. I still see the look in his eyes. [You may say to yourself: this is not my beautiful stapler! *Ahem* Sorry.–SRK] Maybe he’s afraid. Maybe he’s in a funk. Maybe he’s on drugs. Maybe he’s gone crazy. And the list goes on.

    Yeah, I bet it does. I wonder whether the list includes, “Maybe I’ve spent the last three years being a selfish little bitch. Maybe he’s been sending me big, flashing warning signs that things were going awry. Maybe I ignored them because I was getting what I wanted. Maybe he finally decided the only thing that would get it through my thick skull was to ditch my ass.”

    I mean, sorry. Of all the long-term relationships I’ve seen go sour (including my own pre-Atsushi versions), invariably, when the dumpee has said, “This is so sudden!” his entire complement of friends and acquaintances has risen with one voice to say, “WHAT?! How could you NOT SEE THAT COMING?” Are there people who genuinely and innocently get stuck with jerks who don’t reveal themselves as such until late in the game? Probably. I’m afraid probability isn’t on the side of that one, though.

    Grieving is an active process that you have to move towards. Blocking it makes it worse. It is by allowing yourself to be sad, to scream, to cry, to “fall apart” that you heal. Lean into the pain and let it all out. Inviting in this kind of deep agonizing pain will take some effort on your part. Feeling your feelings is the key to getting better. The only way out is through. This intense pain will not last forever even though it seems like it will. The pain will lessen. Get support including counseling….

    Yeah, there’s nothing in life more difficult than convincing a fag who’s just been dumped to get self-indulgently mopey about it. Like killing the freaking Hydra, is what it is.

    My degree isn’t in psychology, but I venture to say that the problem most guys I’ve seen have isn’t that they’re incapable of owning their grief. It’s that they can’t put a lid on it and fake being even-keeled until their heart catches up with their façade, not even after a decent amount of down time.

    And nowhere in Angelo’s reply do I see anything at all about the possible need for self-criticism on the part of the letter-writer–either to figure out what he himself might have done to contribute to the undoing of the relationship or to learn what to look for so he doesn’t get taken again.

    Letter 2 is even, uh, better:

    Dear Angelo, 

    I am happily partnered in a monogamous relationship for 4

    How collective is “collective”?

    Posted by Sean at 18:56, February 23rd, 2005

    The Diet’s Committee on the Constitution (or however it’s being anglicized) has released the draft of its proposals, which are due in finalized form in April. The summary at the Yomiuri pulls things together pretty well.

    The hottest topic at the meeting was whether the amended Constitution should clearly state the right to exercise collective self-defense.

    An advocate of the change said, “It would be bad if the government’s interpretation of the stipulation could be easily altered after a change in administration. An ambiguous constitution is problematic.”

    But an opponent said, “It’s a matter of course that the nation can exercise the right to collective self-defense. There’s no need to put it in the Constitution.”

    Of course this is the…culmination is probably the wrong word, since this could keep going indefinitely…latest stage in a protracted series of negotiations. The Shin-Komeito is the LDP’s partner in its ruling coalition; one of the issues on which their alliance is shaky is the use of the SDF. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the chief opposition party, opposes changing the constitution. I’m not sure whether its was a DPJ member or someone else who made the statement quoted as “It’s a matter of course that the nation can exercise the right to collective self-defense,” but it’s hard to figure what that could mean. If conservative interpretations of the constitution didn’t regard Article 9 as prohibiting Japan from entering international conflicts, this debate wouldn’t be going in the first place.

    Here’s what Article 9 says:

    1. 日本国民は、正義と秩序を基調とする国際平和を誠実に希求し、国権の発動たる戦争と、武力による威嚇又は武力の行使は、国際紛争を解決する手段としては、永久にこれを放棄する。

    2. 前項の目的を達するため、陸海空軍その他の戦力は、これを保持しない。国の交戦権は、これを認めない。

    1. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

    2. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceeding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

    Added after looking at Reuters: You know what I don’t get? Look for the latest Japan-related headlines on Reuters. I can see why Livedoor’s attempted takeover of Fuji Television is a big, big story. I haven’t written about it because, well, I usually don’t report on business stuff; the case does say interesting things about the state of Japanese media, but nothing that’s moved me to go off on it. The nice thing about having a vanity site (verging on Apollonia in my case) is that you get to write about whatever you please.

    Reuters is not a vanity site (stop sniggering, you boys in the back!), and you’d think that it would see fit to give some attention to a proposed change in the Japanese constitution. I don’t think it’s especially newsworthy because I live here, you understand. Japan has the first ever constitution to renounce war explicitly. It’s America’s chief ally in a volatile region. We’re not talking about a potentially insignificant shift here.

    ¿Quién es esa niña?

    Posted by Sean at 02:01, February 23rd, 2005

    You would think that, being reasonably familiar with the salacious ways of the world, I’d know that using certain words is asking for trouble. Obviously not:


    I should have seen what was coming when I tossed off a reference to b—- w—- a month or so back, but…well, maybe I’m only attuned to my own turn-ons. I almost have to feel sorry for anyone who was looking for pictures of b—- w—- and washed up here. Bet it was a surprise!

    And, man! Apparently, there are 300 million people in America: one is K—- C——, and the other 299,999,999 want to know whether he’s queer. Believe me, what you’re seeing above are just the two most common strings. There are plenty more where those came from. It’s mind-boggling.

    On the bright side, I’ll be in great shape to become known to millions if the tabloids ever start linking K—- C—— to b—- w—-.

    Added on 24 February (barely): It did occur to me that Spanish questions are supposed to have that inverted interrogation mark before them, but since Spanish isn’t a language I’ve studied, much less had reason to type in, I didn’t know how to make it. Turns out it’s iquest. I mean, that’s what you put between the ampersand and semi-colon. ¿ So intuitive I’m sure I’ll forget it. Not that I have any reason to have to remember it, anyway.

    Gay marriage again

    Posted by Sean at 22:33, February 22nd, 2005

    A Typical Joe commented to my most recent effusion on gay marriage with this:

    I don’t agree with the argument (from Sean at The White Peril via Dean’s World)

    but it is not anti-gay.

    That’s a more civil response than one often gets on this topic; for that I thank him. [Uh, either I just got dizzier or there was just an earthquake…lessee, 22:00…have to check NHK.] I feel at a distinct disadvantage disagreeing with someone who looks so adorable with his partner (I think there’s some kind of law: only one smiler per gay couple), but I’m going to do my best, at least on one important point.

    I know, or at least am willing to believe, that for a lot of rank-and-file gays, the fundamental issue isn’t psychological affirmation. But, you know, as long as overachieving, careerist urban guys are the ones making the public arguments, status is going to sneak into them somehow. Believe me, I am not casting stones here–I am perfectly capable, in my weaker moments, of detestable thinking along the lines of, Dammit, I was the obedient show-child growing up. I have the summa cum laude Ivy League degree and the management job. I don’t do drugs or hang out at sex clubs. I donate to charity and pay my taxes and NO POSSIBILITIES SHOULD BE CLOSED TO ME.

    You cannot just look at Andrew Sullivan’s and Jonathan Rauch’s and Dale Carpenter’s CV’s and have a comprehensive map to their psychology. But you also can’t tell me that the milieux they move in don’t color what they think should be theirs for the asking. Again, I’m talking about men I much admire, despite Sullivan’s recent shakiness. And it’s pretty much a truism that those who get the public microphone are going to be those who (1) want it and (2) have resources to compete for it.

    I just wish that people with a different point of view (just so it’s clear, I’m not ascribing this thinking to Joe, just using his post as a lead-in to it) would take more opportunities to stand up and say, “Look, we’ll take care of being respectable in our day-to-day interactions with our family and neighbors–leave that out of it. It’s not that we’re not as smart as you are, or that our expectations are blinkered, or our horizons are shrunken, or anything. We don’t want to be prom queen for a day. We don’t want attention. We just want the government to make it possible for us to count on being able to provide for each other and then get out of our lives.” I can certainly understand why they don’t, though.

    Added on 24 February: In the comments, Michael refers to his latest post on marriage. It’s here.

    When you bend it / You can’t mend it

    Posted by Sean at 21:54, February 22nd, 2005

    If you never hear from me again, you can assume that my neighbors decided they couldn’t take any more Linda seeping through the walls, broke down my door, and offed me. I’ve been trying to propitiate them by consistently skipping over that squalling, momentum-killing version of “Dark End of the Street” toward the end of Side 1, but Tokyo is a stressful place, and you never know what will be the last straw for people.

    Your scarf, it was apricot

    Posted by Sean at 21:20, February 22nd, 2005

    You know how I figured last night that I just had a 24-hour bug? I was mistaken. I forgot that aspirin, despite its commonplace-ness, is very, very good at what it does, and my reduced fever and achiness were its doing. The good news is that, since yesterday, my stomach has remembered that it’s supposed to send things downward when it’s done with them. The bad news is that I’m still lightheaded. Fortunately, there’s news to match my mood. Take a gander at this, geese:

    An overwhelming 96.7 percent of single women are bugged when they see men wearing trousers that are either too short or too long for them, a joint survey by two Japanese companies has found.

    The women were asked to rate their response to such appearances in four levels, ranging from “It bothers me a lot,” to “It doesn’t worry me.”

    The appearance that bugged women most was “Trousers that don’t match (are too long or too short).” A total of 69.4 percent of women responded, “It bothers me a lot,” while 27.3 percent said it vexed them “a little” — a combined total of 96.7 percent.

    The survey also found that women took notice of what kind of socks men were wearing. When asked, “What item can cause you to become disillusioned and think that the person has no style?” a total of 18.4 percent of the women said, “Socks.”

    There are probably more than a few self-professed “stylish” businessmen in Japan who give a lot of thought to what kind of necktie they wear, but based on the results of the survey, maybe a look at their socks may also be in order.

    The article focuses on the “stylish” angle, but I think that’s probably not quite right–even if the women themselves were addressed that way in the questions. After all, we’ve all seen a billion and one of these hokey surveys about what drives women nuts about the way men dress, and when it comes to trousers, what’s the usual top-ranked complaint? They bag around the ass, that’s what. And Japanese women are no different from women elsewhere in that regard. (No, I haven’t researched this scientifically, but tell me you seriously doubt me? Thought not.) That it either wasn’t asked about or didn’t concern the women surveyed suggests that the real issue isn’t “stylishness” in the sense of attractiveness. (Well, I guess it could also suggest that wearing highwaters is an unusually common problem among Japanese men, but let me riff here.)

    There are many lines of work that have adopted casual dress in the States but not in Japan; unless you work in a record store or funky cafe, you probably wear a suit to work. Straight guys in Japan don’t care about clothes any more than straight guys in the States–yeah, yeah, generalization, outliers, nothing femme about troubling to dress well, lots of gay guys wear chambray shirts and dumpy khakis every day, blah, blah, blah, fine; the pattern is still a pattern. So if you see a man whose shoes are expensive and polished, whose suits are carefully selected to drape over his shoulders and break over his shoes correctly, and whose socks are discreetly dark, it probably means that he’s management-track at a good company and dresses that way because he’s figured out through trial and error that he has to. (There’s also the fact that upscale men’s magazines routinely carry pages and pages of completely scripted outfits for guys to copy in toto–they make John T. Molloy look like a total amateur.)

    Now, before anyone goes bananas on me, I should clarify a few things. Japanese society still expects women to leave work to have children soon after marrying, to the point that the number of women even from the most prestigious universities who score management-track positions is very, very low. That means that the vast majority of women can realistically expect to have to run their households on their husbands’ salary and status, returning to part-time work only when the children are grown. You may denounce this as retrograde or get Danielle Crittenden-type shivers of pleasure from it, but it’s a fact that governs women’s lives here, and they all know it.

    Further, fewer women find their husbands through meetings arranged by family or company than used to. Clothing-related status markers aren’t all that important to pay attention to when you know your suitor’s entire CV from your elders’ background check–once you’re running the home, you can probably tell him what to wear, anyway. But they may be all you really have if you’re meeting guys under self-introduction circumstances at a party.