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    Posted by Sean at 07:40, February 10th, 2006

    What I learned from The Independent today:

    Apparently, Tracey Emin’s fifteen minutes aren’t blessedly over as I’d thought. Sheesh.

    There’s also this (via Gay News and leading to an interview that’s summarized in the original publication here) a piece on a former minister under the conservative UK administrations in the ’80s:

    Francis Maude, the chairman of the Conservative Party, has said that the homophobic attitude of the Thatcher government contributed to the death of his brother from Aids.

    Mr Maude, who served as a minister under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, said he regretted voting for the now-repealed Section 28, which banned councils from promoting homosexuality. [He explains a little further later on: “Some local authorities were actively promoting homosexuality to school children at a time when gay sex under the age of 21 was illegal.”–SRK] “In hindsight a mistake, I voted for it, I was a minister,” he said.

    “The gay scene in London in the 1980s was quite aggressively promiscuous and I think if society generally and the government I served in had been more willing to recognise gay people then there would have been less of that problem.”

    He added: “A lot of people like my brother would not have succumbed to HIV and lost their lives.”

    I’m always of two minds when people say stuff like this. On the one hand, yes, people whose moral code says that gays should be outcasts have to behave as they believe, but then they’re not exactly in a position to point to statistics about self-destructive behavior and trumpet that they show something inherently screwed-up about homosexuality. Cutting people off from civilizing institutions and social structures is hardly a way to find out whether they’re capable of civilized behavior.

    On the other…Maude is a powerful politician, not just a prominent private citizen who misses his brother, and I wish politicians were able to display more of a sense of context about these things. We’re talking about the aftermath of the Sexual Revolution, the promiscuity of which caused plenty of problems for straight people, too, despite their being accepted by society. Besides which, immoderate behavior is hardly an inevitable response to being reviled–whatever happened to “living well is the best revenge”? I want more acceptance of gays, obviously, and I find Maude’s change of heart on the topic very moving. It’s just that using AIDS to argue for it always seems to have, hovering in there somwhere, an implication that straight people need to be especially nurturing and gentle toward us because, you know, look what we went and did when they weren’t the last time. That’s not the way you talk about people you regard as adults and equals.

    Yeah, I wanna be the queen of the USA / You could send me roses every other day

    Posted by Sean at 01:03, February 10th, 2006

    Another Gay Republican is back to blogging interestingly about politics and, more importantly, has a clean-lined new site design. (Why are the boys in the back snickering about my priorities? Think about it: Two hundred years from now, will people still care whether some stadium was built in DC? Will they still care which shades of red and blue make the most pleasing combination against a dead-white background? Exactly. See how easy rational thought is when you just give it a little effort? Now stop with the sassing; you’re distracting me.)

    Not every gay guy who’s returning to modified versions of old behaviors is getting on my good side by doing it, unfortunately. I ran into a casual friend for the first time in months a few nights ago. As I always do when I meet guys who were single the last time I saw them and have had time to do something about it, I gave him the smirk and the question: “So, anything good to report?”

    When will I ever learn? Kaz is not, after all, an unknown hazard. He’s still getting over a man he was dating who ultimately decided that he was serious about someone else. The relationship lasted three-ish months and was broken off a year and a half ago.

    No, I didn’t accidentally reverse those numbers. Dude is now, with a shameless get-down-in-it moroseness that would embarrass Eeyore, into his eighteenth month of self-pity over a dating relationship that barely survived a financial quarter. So there I was last night, once again looking on in sympathy as eyes teared up and lines of the “I just still…you know?” variety were huskily uttered. What made it especially trying was that this week, a dear friend suffered the rather brutal break-up of a live-in relationship of several years. While he’s carrying it like a gentleman, he’s still in the very early raw stage when you lean on your buddies. Therefore, the weapons in my Gay Big Bro arsenal are kind of in use right now and not really available for people whose major problem is that they failed to notice that they flew over the International Get a Grip Line several months ago.

    But even without that unfortunate contrast, I mean, hello? You can’t help how hard and fast you fall. We all get the chance to be humiliated by unrequited desire. You give yourself time to regain your self-discipline. Then you exercise it, by faking sociability and an interest in flirting until the real thing comes back. It never works perfectly, at least at first, but it has to be better than spending 600% longer mourning a relationship than you did enjoying it. Better for yourself and, for the love of Cole Porter, those around you.

    Added on 12 February: Now that I think about it, I believe Deborah Harry sings that second line in the conditional mood.

    Cabinet approves health care reform bill

    Posted by Sean at 00:36, February 10th, 2006

    Discussion in the Diet is beginning over how to reform the health-care system. Japanese society, in case you’ve just emerged from two decades in a cave and haven’t seen this topic beaten to death yet, is aging. The cost structures of the social welfare programs need to be changed, but as with everything else, there are a lot of people who make out well by the current system and will resist changing it. Many of them are powerful middle-aged bureaucrats who are themselves approaching old age rapidly.

    The [Koizumi] government, in a cabinet session on the morning of 10 February, approved a health care system reform bill the primary goal of which is to hold down health care costs, which have been increasing as society ages. The bill will be submitted to the Diet within the day. The bill incorporates such proposals as a phased-in increase, to begin in October, in the health care fees paid by the elderly and the restructuring of [national] health insurance.

    If the bill is enacted, cash register payments [that is, the amount you pay on the way out of the doctor’s office, assessed as a percentage of the total tab] for high-income persons of at least 70 years of age will increase. You’re designated high-income if your annual household income is over about US $55000. Of course, the bill doesn’t seem to address systemic inefficiencies that encourage over-subscription–notably the practice of drawing out treatment for a relatively simple problem over several visits, after the fashion of a novel published serially. Or the effects of overweening bureaucracy.

    How to celebrate Valentine’s Day the Sean Way™

    Posted by Sean at 08:44, February 8th, 2006

    If you tend to approach the tasks of daily life with a normal degree of competence, the steps below may not make any sense unless you get a trusted friend to whack you in the head real good with a 2X4. If they still don’t make sense, you may need another whack. If you try a third whack and end up brain dead, be sure to contact me, because we will then clearly be able to communicate as equals.

    1. Decide under the influence of no-mercy Japanese commercialism that, even though you don’t give a fig about Valentine’s Day, it would be nice to surprise your Darling Longsuffering Boyfriend with a treat.

    2. Order early enough not to rouse suspicions of possibly nosy concierge at DLB’s apartment building that package is connected with Valentine’s Day.
    3. Go to Dean and Deluca website and locate suitable cookies.
    4. Carefully type in your address for billing.
    5. Carefully type in DLB’s address for shipping.
    6. Submit information.
    7. Get error message telling you that you ignored (clearly visible) instructions to make all characters in addresses full-width and not half-width characters.
    8. Correct numbers.
    9. Resubmit information, having failed to notice that radio button for recipient and shipping address is still set to default of “Same as billing.”
    10. Receive notice that order has been shipped.
    11. Reward self for thinking ahead, for once, with slice of lemon poppyseed cake.
    12. Receive notice from delivery service that package is waiting in parcel locker of your own apartment complex.
    13. Retrieve package to find cookies intended for DLB.
    14. Idly wish there were a way to punish oneself for stupidity by uneating cake.
    15. Put cookies on counter and figure you can express mail them to DLB yourself next day.
    16. Look thoughtfully at cookies each time you pass counter on way to bathroom or kitchen.
    17. No, make that covetously. Look covetously at cookies each time you pass counter.
    18. Figure the hell with it and open cookies. Eat four with Murder, She Wrote.
    19. Vaguely think about repackaging rest of cookies in order to disguise half-goneness before sending to DLB. Rationalize that he wouldn’t have liked all the girly-girl packaging stuff anyway and might not have been able to finish cookies by expiration date.
    20. Figure the double-hell with it and eat rest of cookies with blogreading, resolving to order another package next day.
    21. Congratulate self for having chosen cookies that turned out to be seriously yummy.
    22. Order another package of cookies next day, this time taking precaution of reading all directions as you go.
    23. Well, except for the part about making all characters full width before submitting information.
    24. Punch self in chest as punishment for not being able to remember, after nine years in Japan, that you need to read whether full-width or half-width characters are called for on an on-line form.
    25. Strip off T-shirt and look in panic at chest to make sure self-punishment has not produced unattractive bruise.
    26. Submit information by jamming finger into Enter key, which has served you faithfully while you told it to do dumb things.
    27. Apologize to Enter key.
    28. Be grateful you have blog that’s read faithfully by DLB so that you can tell him you’ve done something idiotic again without actually having to, you know, tell him.
    29. Look forlornly at tea and wish you’d saved one or two cookies.

    Seismic shifts (or not) in Japan

    Posted by Sean at 00:34, February 8th, 2006

    A case of earthquake resistance fakery not perpetrated by Aneha (story so far as I’ve kept track) has surfaced:

    The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport disclosed on 8 February that it had confirmed a case of fraud related to structural calculations for three apartment complexes in Fukuoka City; the calculations had been contracted out to a design firm that was not part of Aneha Architecture and Design. The firm in question is Something (Fukuoka Prefecture; closed for business in 2002), and the construction firm for all affected buildings was Kimura Construction (Yashiro City, Kumamoto Prefecture; now in bankruptcy proceedings). This is the first case of such fraud that has come to light that did not involve former first-class architect Hideji Aneha.


    Princess Kiko, the wife of the current Emperor and Empress’s second son Fumihito, is pregnant with her third child. The Nikkei seems to think it newsworthy that the British press is going bananas over the news–maybe there’s some sort of constitutional monarchy kinship thing going here? Anyway, the news feeds into the controversy over possible female succession that’s been percolating here:

    News of a new member of the imperial family comes as the government is moving to revise the Imperial House Law to allow females and their descendants to ascend the Chrysanthemum throne.

    However, conservative Diet members, especially those in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, oppose Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s stated intention to pass the revision during the current Diet session.

    No boy has been born in the imperial family since Fumihito in 1965.

    If the emperor’s next grandchild is a boy, he would be third in line to the throne under the current Imperial House Law.

    The English Asahi has another article specifically about the move to change the rules of successsion here. Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, his much put-upon wife, have managed to produce a daughter, but she’s ineligible to become empress.


    I was hoping there would be something deliciously inflammatory to report from the Japan-DPRK summit this week. (Well, stopping short of “We’re sending missiles to Tokyo, Insular Devils!”) No such luck. The talks ended today. The result? Negotiations must continue. Oh, okay:

    Japan and North Korea concluded their five-day schedule of talks on 8 February with a general meeting at a hotel in Beijing. Japan once again conveyed that its fundamental approach is that “until the issues of the 1970s abductions of Japanese citizens and of the DPRK’s nuclear program and long-range missiles are resolved, there will be no normalization of relations.” There was no progress in concrete terms. Both parties affirmed that parallel talks will continue on three major themes: normalization of relations, Japanese abductees, and North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

    Japan doubts the DPRK’s sincerity. The DPRK returns the compliment.


    As always, they may (or may not) be contemplating increasing the consumption tax (or at least changing it in what might possibly be deemed a non-negative, non-zero direction). Yeah, I know–blah, blah, blah. What’s semi-interesting is that the DPJ seems to have wheeled Katsuya Okada out of the morgue to comment:

    The Prime Minister indicated that he is of the opinion that continuing reforms will be necessary even after [current] goals will have been achieved, stating, “It cannot be said that once the primary balance is in the black, financial restructuring is finished.” Okada proposed corrections, stating, “We must [first] think about what our next goals will be,” and ending with, “Those in positions of authority at that point in time will have to think about them.”

    That part of the back-and-forth, while not very interesting in and of itself, is important because Koizumi has made it clear that he expects his followers (called the “Post-Koizumi” government, in what has become a tediously over-repeated locution) to continue his program of reforms, by implication, to his liking. No one, either within the ruling coalition or in the opposition, is certain right now how well Koizumi will actually be able to use his present power to exert influence on future administrations.

    And are you here when I hold you? / I wonder…I wonder….

    Posted by Sean at 05:46, February 7th, 2006

    Rondi Adamson has seen Guess Which Movie and offers this:

    But…what struck me–and admittedly, I’m seeing this from the narrow and exasperated point of view of a single woman in the midst of dating horrors–was that this movie showed how men are big, fat f*&^wits even in gay relationships!

    It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is for even smart straight people to be hoodwinked into believing that gay male relationships must be easier to navigate because two men are somehow on the same wavelength in ways that men and women are not. One hates to disabuse people of fantasies in which they’re clearly deeply invested, but…well, no. Sorry. How representative I am I cannot tell, but face-offs over the course of my own relationship history have frequently centered around the following lines (and no, I’m not going to tell you in which cases I was the deliverer vs. the deliveree):

    • “Dammit, GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME! Every time we start having a discussion about something that I think MATTERS, you think you can avoid the subject by coming on to me.”

    • “Why are you so afraid to express your feelings?”
    • “I just vacuumed the floor on Friday, and it’s clean enough for me. If YOU want it kept in a constant state of perfect dustlessness, why don’t you vacuum it yourself?”
    • “Are you going out of your way to humiliate me in public? … Oh, don’t give me that! You were flirting with that waiter and the whole table knew it!”
    • “I don’t think you’re the kind of guy who’s ready for commitment yet.”
    • “Do you think I’m getting fat?”
    • “Okay, look–here is a pen, and here is a piece of paper, and here is what you are going to do for me: You are going to write down all these little rules–I have to kiss you goodbye every time you leave the house, I have to call you if I’m going to be more than 13.5 minutes later than usual getting home, and I have to say “I love you” in three different major ancient and modern world languages at breakfast every freaking third Thursday. Write them all down. I will memorize them. I will follow them. But stop getting all pissy at me for not doing what you want when I can’t figure it out and you won’t TELL ME what the hell it is!”

    Now, does that mean the dynamic is the same as in straight relationships? Certainly not. We don’t have to factor in the possibility of pregnancy or, in most places, marriage. And while in straight relationships I gather that the person who wants everything clean is also statistically more likely to be the one who wants to talk about feelings, things don’t cluster that way for gay guys. (The biggest crybaby I ever dated was a dockworker who appeared to be wholly innocent of the knowledge that it was possible to put things on any horizontal surface other than the floor.)

    Anyway, my point is that in just about any relationship, one partner is more demonstrative than the other, or wants to have sex more often than the other, or is less inclined to talk through problems than to think through them silently, or what have you. Who’s being the big, fat f*&^wit usually varies by situation; it’s not always the one who’s acting more stereotypically male.

    Added on 9 February: Okay, there seems to be some unwritten rule that commenters named John have to make remarks about the vacuuming thing. It’s slightly OT, I guess, but let me just note two things.

    One is–and I know no one’s going to be inclined to believe this, but I hope everyone here trusts my honesty–that my partner at the time was the one who was spazzing about the floors. Yes, I’m serious. I clean scrupulously, but not even in particulate-matter-rich Tokyo does the floor of a childless, petless household need to be vacuumed once every three days. I mean sure, do some spot-cleaning with the dustpan or one of those sticky roller things–I do that myself. But mewl at me that it’s my turn to do the full-on move-the-furniture-and-get-out-the-big-vacu-suck-machine maneuver when one of the two or three television shows I actually like to watch is on? No.

    The other is, John M. poignantly says, “I try and I try but I just can’t see the dirt….” Much as I appreciate the fact that this soul cry represents the sincere desire to reform, I feel obliged to point out that it gets things exactly backwards. You don’t notice the dirt. You notice the absence of clean. Once you can actually see dirt, you’ve reached the point at which getting everything ship-shape is going to be a major project. What you need to look for is the slightly peaked look that the tabletops and upholstery get when they have an invisible layer of dust dulling them up. When things are at that point, you can get them back in order–lovely sparkling, candid order–by going over every surface once and relatively lightly.

    On campus

    Posted by Sean at 00:10, February 7th, 2006

    Joanne Jacobs writes that Queer Studies is spreading. And a good thing, too. There’s no more difficult project than getting spoiled 20-year-old gay men and women at elite private colleges to obsess over themselves and feel disadvantaged. It can only be hoped that giving them academic credit for it will help.

    She also links FIRE’s website. I should know not to click through to FIRE by this point. It’s not that the organization isn’t doing wonderful, necessary work; it’s just that the cases it documents are so infuriating that reading about them makes me want to flee to another planet.

    Of course, you have to wonder which planet the good folks at Jacksonville State University think we’re living on already. They feature in a post on FIRE’s blog-like “The Torch”:

    There must be something illiberal in the water in Alabama. [I blame Susanna.–SRK] In October of last year, FIRE Legal Network attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against Troy University in Alabama for violating the First Amendment by maintaining a restrictive speech code and censoring student artwork.

    Now FIRE has learned that Jacksonville State University (JSU) in Jacksonville, Alabama, maintains one of the most illegally overbroad—not to mention simply inane—speech codes that we have ever seen. The student code of conduct at JSU provides that “No student shall threaten, offend, or degrade anyone on University owned or operated property.” Got that? No student shall offend anyone on University property. The only way for students to ensure they are in compliance with this policy is to remain in complete silence. Otherwise, how could a student possibly know whether an opinion she wants to express might offend one of the 9,000 other students at JSU, each of whom has his or her own particular sensitivities?

    I hate to break it to Samantha Harris (who wrote that on behalf of FIRE), but as a rather laconic guy myself, I can assure you that being quiet only invites Chatty Cathy types to be offended at one’s perceived “unfriendliness,” “aloofness,” or even “elitism.”

    Personally, I cracked up with unrestrained offensive glee at the “degrade” part. I have this vision of some outraged, fresh-faced 19-year-old (of either sex) showing up in a huff at the Dean of Student Life’s office and declaring, “That guy who lives two doors down in the dorm just totally degraded me!” Presumably then there would be a Threat/Offense/Degradation Incident Report to file?

    Bonkers–just bonkers.

    Brokeback Mountin’

    Posted by Sean at 00:16, February 6th, 2006

    I’m afraid my best friend has ruined Brokeback Mountain for me. I’ll try to watch it when I get the chance, but I’m pretty sure I’ll end up disgracing myself and have to leave (or turn off the DVD player).

    He’s just seen it himself, and he was describing it to me the other night. To get the full picture, you need context: We were at GB, sitting right under the framed photograph of Bette Davis. Backs to the wall. Surveying the gay drama in action (as it very much was on Saturday). So A. is trying to explain what he thought of the movie without giving too much away, but we’ve both read the short story, so eventually he decided to give me his entire take: “Heath Ledger–the Australian? He was pretty clearly going overboard on the Wild Wild West of America thing. But…I guess something gets lost in the translation from the Outback, though. If Heath Ledger knows anything about the Outback. And Jake Gyllenhaal was trying for the rugged thing, too, but he came off like a total f**k-me Mary! You know, he batted his eyes in every scene. They were trying to set him up as all gruff and crap, but the whole time you were sitting there thinking, ‘He’s gonna be the one to take it.'” Now, at this point, I was guffawing so hard I had the dry heaves. I managed to get my drink in both hands and set it down on the counter before I really made a scene, but not before dumping a few mouthfuls of it down the leg of my jeans.

    So it’s going to be hard for me to appreciate the layers of love and intimacy and pain on-screen with A.’s clipped, educated British voice, slightly but perceptibly aghast, calling Jake Gyllenhaal “Mary” in my head. And while imagining I can see Heath Ledger’s Method Acting cogs turning: Kinda like the Outback, just, like, no kangaroos…yeah.

    Hope it gets some Oscars, though.

    The sacred and the profane

    Posted by Sean at 23:53, February 5th, 2006

    Grand Stand has a post up about the cartoons thing, and of course, it’s good. I’d love to agree with it. I go on and on about civilized discourse myself all the time.

    The reason I can’t is that I think context matters. We accept that there are settings in which any political speech would be offensive–you don’t take your aunt’s funeral as an opportunity to decry her having voted for Dukakis two decades ago. Political cartoons are at the opposite end of the spectrum. They operate on caricature; they condense complex issues and actions into jolting pen-and-ink images. A public figure who’s recently displayed greed will soon open the paper and see herself depicted as a very large pig with its snout in a very large trough.

    Does that mean that there are no lines to be crossed? Of course not. But whether a drawing is mere childish provocation or a genuine contribution to the public debate that uses its shock value in a meaningful way is often going to be an issue that no one can settle. Perhaps the result would be unladylike and ungentlemanly either way, but that’s why we look for context clues: Do the other cartoons this guy has drawn consistently jeer at a particular group? Does the rest of the editorial page at this publication take a balanced view of the issue being treated? One doesn’t want to slide into easy defenses of caddish behavior, but one also doesn’t want to stifle genuine free thought by demarcating some ideas as off-limits to criticism or extrapolating too much from a 9 in2 drawing.

    Maybe you could argue that if the hang-up is over iconography, the debate has to be conducted in words rather than images; but I think you could just as easily argue that if visual representation is the issue, images are the most direct and immediate way to get to the heart of the matter. You could also argue that there are some questions the free, skeptical mind can’t ask without offending people. So fine–people are offended, and they respond with more speech. The minute newspapers that print controversial material start bleating that people are getting furious with them, I will be back at Grand Stand’s side immediately. That’s what’s supposed to happen. What’s not supposed to happen, when you dwell among the sane, is the torching of embassies and the issuing of death threats.


    Posted by Sean at 23:17, February 5th, 2006

    While you’re on your way to the Ginza….

    US research firm Risk Management Solutions (RMS) has compiled a report that predicts Japan could suffer large-scale damage, including the deaths of possibly around 290,000 people, in the event of a major terrorist attack using a compact bomb in downtown Tokyo.

    The terrorist bombing in the projected scenario uses a small military nuclear device obtained on the black market from the former Soviet Union by a terrorist organization and is detonated around noon in the city center. The destructive power of the bomb is assumed to be about one third that unleashed by the A-bombing of Hiroshima. It is projected there would be 290,000 immediate deaths and up to 1,690,000 further casualties.

    The probability that large-scale terrorism employing a weapon of mass destruction will occur in Japan within the next year is low, at 0.4%; however, the report cautions, “The risk cannot be ignored altogether.”

    In the event of a major epidemic of a particularly virulent new strain of influenza, the report also predicts that 24,000,000 people could be infected and 500,000 could die even if the government responded rapidly. It indicated that total insurance premiums would reach US $58,000,000,000 (around ¥6,700,000,000,000), and the economic losses and damage in human terms would be even greater than those from a downtown terrorist attack.