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    I like fags

    Posted by Sean at 18:14, December 19th, 2005

    Okay, just one more Brokeback Mountain post.

    Actually, not even a Brokeback Mountain post, but a link to Tom being hilarious about it:

    It’s not fair of me to discount Cocksuck Canyon sight unseen, scent unsmelled, feel unfelt, ticket unbought, and cheap of me to not even respect its proper christian name. But really, why would any gay guy with any kind of sexual history need big screen affirmation of the varieties of homosexual experience, the cruelties of heterosexual ignorance, and the deep love and great thrills that can be found in that nexus? Or in that Lexus.

    I have pre-judged incorrectly before. Angels in America always seemed to hold out the promise to me of everything I hated about angels, prepositions and America. But when I saw the first half a few weeks ago, unhappy with my lot in entertainment and ready to bolt at every commercial break, I found myself remaining. I’m not sure yet if the play is good, but I know the performances were great. I don’t who that chick is who played the mormon’s wife, but she’s terrific. As is Mr. Pacino (“I’m sooooo ashamed”) and pretty much all the others. I will gladly watch the second half when mischance allows.

    Mickey Kaus has it exactly wrong when he insists that Brokeback M. is a gay movie and protests to the contrary only make it gayer. This really is a movie for straights, and Mickey K. has been viral marketed into a slavish delirium, “I’ll go see it, but I don’t want to go see it.” That kind of mid-brow, pop-cult robotics shames all free-thinking replicants everywhere.

    It gets better from there.


    Posted by Sean at 01:05, December 19th, 2005

    I’ve toyed for years with the idea of getting a Japanese driver’s license and maybe a junky car. For some reason, I’ve never gotten around to it. Part of it is that I can get everywhere on foot, by cab, or by train without really feeling inconvenienced; and part of it is that I think Atsushi likes doing the driving because it means I’m letting him do something for me. So we have a claim on a parking space in our building (probably worth more per square meter than our apartment) that’s empty while he has the Toyota in Kyushu.

    The result is that my need to be at the controls of a motor vehicle gets saved up for eleven months of the year and only has an outlet while I’m home. Luckily for me, eastern PA has a lot of variety in the driving, so I get a good workout here. Within fifteen minutes of my parents’ house–have I mentioned that they not only have giant creche out front but also one of those fan-inflated light-up snowmen just outside my bedroom window?–you can go from back roads to a tractor-trailer-heavy interstate to downtown. But the most fun to be had is around Philadelphia.

    For those who haven’t had the pleasure, four of the interstates through metro Philadelphia are 76 (the Schuylkill Expressway), 276 (the Pennsylvania Turnpike), 476 (the Northeast Extension of the Turnpike, which runs up by my hometown), and 676 (the Vine Street Expressway in Philly and then through to New Jersey). I assume that the number assignments were patriotic in origin, but figuring out which is which must drive non-locals insane.

    And that, of course, is before they actually start driving on them. Today, I hit the Schuylkill Expressway at the perfect time to experience all its electrifying glory: it was crowded enough that you were hemmed in on all sides but empty enough that it was possible for everyone to do 70. The sun was low enough to get in your eyes at inopportune moments. Also, the Schuylkill is one of those roads with on and off ramps on both left and right, so quite a few people find it necessary to cross three lanes of traffic at some point along the way from A to B. You just have to settle in and treat it like a real-life video game.

    I smiled a little as I shot past the University City exit. When I was in college and coming back from a few days home in Emmaus, my father and I would slow to get off there, and at that point my muscles would unclench and I’d think, I’m back–thank God! This was when I was still getting up at 7:30 to go to church every Saturday, so I meant that last part literally. It was also when Philadelphia seemed blissfully far away from the Lehigh Valley, though compared to Tokyo, of course, it’s right there. I think I might still have been entertaining the idea of becoming a writer then, before I realized that I’m perfectly content to play out my imagination inside my own little mental world and am much better, in the external sense, at explicating other people’s original writings than contriving my own.

    Things have changed for my college friends, too, which is why today I was headed not for Center City but for Haddonfield, NJ, where two of them–married, with two little girls–moved from Rittenhouse Square when their family started growing. We ate Old El Paso tacos and seedless grapes and ice cream. The girls are clearly going to be brainy like their parents, and in years past, I’ve brought them age-appropriate books and read them aloud. You know, Make Way for Ducklings and stuff. But some four- or five-year-olds suddenly pull way ahead of their age group in terms of reading level, so I figured I’d overshoot widely this time around and give them one Hardy Boys and one Nancy Drew mystery. That way, if they get bored with children’s books in a few years’ time, Mom and Dad have something longer and a little more complicated to read to them.

    It would have been nice to have time to see more people, but I’m feeling ready to go back to New York tomorrow and then Tokyo on Wednesday. Long ago in college, before I came out, I was afraid that a decade down the line all my friends would have settled into happiness and I’d still be terminally pissy and resentful without having figured out what I was resenting. That’s over, fortunately. I can enjoy spending time with my parents and visit my hometown without its feeling like a noose tightening around me. I can visit my friends and feel the familiar feeling of being back in the group kick in. But I’ll be pleasurably relieved to turn the key in the lock when I get home to Tokyo and start planning what to make for breakfast when Atsushi’s flight comes in the next morning.

    Can’t take me home

    Posted by Sean at 08:34, December 18th, 2005

    Eric, Tom, and I had our second (what looks to be) annual Philadelphia Phags blog meet-up last night. (Tom’s comment: “I like that the 4000 mile away guy always brings the 15 mile away guys together.” That’s always the way of it, huh?) I was probably fine to drive home, but I was nodding off somewhat, so I ended up staying in what can only be described as Eric’s guesthouse. After showing me where the bathroom light switch and stuff were, he pointed out that there was a computer in the bedroom “in case you feel like blogging.” At the suggestion that I might not want to let a single night go without posting something, I just smiled–Eric, honey, I think you’re just the tiniest bit more into blogging than I am.

    Of course, this morning, I woke up and realized I didn’t have a book with me, and I don’t want to go making noises in Eric’s living room in case he’s still asleep. So here I am logged on, though I can’t say I’m quite in the mood to be trawling the Japanese media for interesting stories.

    So then, just to keep the gay theme of the day going….

    We met Tom on-site at his new venture, the Philadelphia AIDS Thrift (PAT for short). Like many crossword puzzles, it has an aerie. Like many gay-friendly thrift stores, it has an entertaining selection of books, housewares, and fashion-victim clothes. Mindful of the weight of my luggage, I confined myself to picking up a few paperbacks; but if you’re in the area, it’s worth checking out. (Unless you’re around twenty-three, my advice is to walk resolutely past the leather pants, BTW.)

    Mary at Gay Orbit has a message for straight people: Gay people en masse don’t care whether you see, like, dislike, swoon for, or find major socio-politico portent in Brokeback Mountain. To coin a phrase, it’s only a movie.

    Uh, I can’t think of anything else gay to say except maybe that Atsushi sounds even sexier than usual when he’s half-asleep, and I’m almost sorry that when I get back to Tokyo, our nightly phone call will go back to taking place when he’s still up. Speaking of being awake, this might be a good time to see whether my host is ambulatory. Enjoy the rest of the weekend, everyone.

    Added at 11:50: Eric has posted about the visit, complete with way too many pictures of my un-photogenic self. It’s worth clicking through to see the great pic of Tom in front of the poster, though. Notice that he and the shark have the same untrustworthy smile.


    Posted by Sean at 15:55, December 16th, 2005

    Prime Minister Koizumi is putting the most kindly light on Democratic Party of Japan leader Maehara’s recent rejection of the idea of fuller cooperation with the ruling coalition:

    On 16 December, Prime Minister Jun’ichiro Koizumi spoke about DPJ leader Seiji Maehara’s denial of the possibility of a “broad alliance” with the LDP: “As the head of the opposition party, he had no choice but to say such a thing.” Koizumi went further and stated, “The world of politics is difficult to predict even in the short-term. In Germany, such cooperation had been said to be impossible, but it came to pass,” suggesting once again that a broad alliance [was feasible]. He was responding to questions from the press corps at the Prime Minister’s residence.

    Regarding the wave upon wave of criticisms leveled at Maehara at the [DPJ] party convention, Koizumi gave the DPJ leader a shout-out: “Being in a leadership position is tough. I hope Mr. Maehara will see things through and ride out his current difficulties.”

    That last reference to “Mr. Maehara” may be a noun of direct address, but that doesn’t really affect the basic meaning. Maehara has been relatively quiet. You see him quoted frequently, of course–he’s the opposition leader, after all–but his comments rarely have the irritability of Katsuya Okada’s. Of course, that could mean either that he’s shrewdly buying his time or that he realizes how green he is and is steering a middle course out of fear that he’ll make a misstep. Or some of both.

    BTW, Maehara, one of whose distinguishing characteristics is his higher level of hawkishness than previous DPJ leaders, intimated to the press on a visit to Okinawa that he could be prepared to agree to a special provision to shift land use rights from Naha to Tokyo in order to implement the transfer of US military facilities at Futenma. On the other hand, he’s criticized the government’s current treatment of the Okinawa government: “When restructuring specific [military] bases, close consultation with–and consent of–regional government entities, is indispensable; but [the approach] this time around was extremely crude. It demonstrated contempt [for Okinawa].” Tension between the capital and the provinces is a fact of life for every large, complex society I’m aware of, and in Japan, things are especially prickly between Tokyo and Okinawa.

    Okinawa has its own distinct language and history and sorely resents being treated, as it views things, like the mainland’s trash dump. The locals don’t like putting up with the off-hours behavior of military personnel and the foreign control of large swaths of land, but they’d be in an economic pickle if we left, and they know it. Regarding US military installations, of course, things aren’t black and white. Okinawa is the poorest prefecture in Japan. Having our bases there brings in money and creates jobs. The US could probably learn to cultivate a more friendly manner toward its sub-tropical hosts, but I’m not sure how much good that would do when the far more long-term problem is with the deep rift between Tokyo and Naha.

    US beef arrives on Japanese soil

    Posted by Sean at 11:33, December 16th, 2005

    The ban on US beef imports to Japan has been lifted, thus (one can only fervently hope) freeing our leaders to talk about more important things in meetings. Just for the record, the contents of the first shipment are nearly itemized by the Asahi:

    The first shipment of U.S. beef touched down at Narita International Airport early Friday morning, just four days after the government lifted its ban, officials said.

    The shipment, containing 4.3 tons of cut beef and 0.3 tons of internal organs, was imported by leading ham and sausage maker Marudai Food Co., based in Osaka. The meat passed through quarantine Friday.

    Iraq election

    Posted by Sean at 04:17, December 16th, 2005

    And I can’t go to bed without noting the elections in Iraq. Naturally, the Reuters headline is “After sweeping Iraq vote, power wrangles to start.”

    Turnout was at least 67 percent, Election Commission chief Hussein Hendawi told Reuters, much higher than the 58 percent seen in the January 30 vote for an interim assembly.

    “This is a day of freedom for us,” said Selima Khalif, an elderly woman voting in the poor southern province of Maysan.

    “We are so happy. The most important thing we need is security. We want our children to get a better life.”

    Good on them.

    Antipodean antipathy

    Posted by Sean at 04:08, December 16th, 2005

    Ross at Romeo Mike’s has been covering something I haven’t really seen in the news much here, though I’m not being as attentive as usual. I also haven’t been reading my normal blogs much, which is why I’m just noticing it there, too. The post linked there is about the fifth night; you can keep scrolling on his front page for more about what happened on preceding days.

    The overall story arc is depressingly familiar, including not just the rioting but the response from pampered celebs. The amusement of seeing Ross, usually a thoroughgoing gentleman, refer to Germaine Greer as “an out-of-touch attention-slag” doesn’t help much. He’s also attended to Cate Blanchett nicely:

    Oh groan, as if the situation wasn’t bad enough, now celebrities are coming out kumbayaing. Cate bloody Blanchett stood on a beach next to Peter bloody Garrett announcing their new movement “Wave of Respect’. These people have no mercy.

    Cate’ b’ said “racism is bad and we all just have to get along” and Peter said “racism is bad and surfers have to get along.” No mention of Muslim thugs having to get along with anyone though.

    Will somebody please save us – BLOODY. SHUT. CATE. UP!

    He has a gajillion links to Australian news reports, all frighteningly worth reading. The heart of the problem is here:

    The Police Commissioner says he won’t comment on police operations. The point is that ethnic gangs know that the police won’t / can’t touch them, which only emboldens them. It’s why gang crime has now reached the point that our city – this safe, happy city I grew up in and that generations of our families made sacrifices to build and pass on – is hostage to brutal, ballisitic thugs.

    It’s also why the rest of us are so frustrated and disillusioned with the system; certain minorities are given undeserved soft treatment and special consideration by authorities which aren’t extended to everyone else.

    It’s like trying to fight tigers with one hand tied behind your back. And we’re supposed to just put up with it?

    A special mention and thank-you must go to Bob Carr, dilletante NSW Premier since 1995, who suddenly and unexpectedly jumped ship a few months ago like a Labor rat from the proverbial, moments before we could register what was heading toward his office fan; Orange Grove, cross-city tunnel, hospital crises, gang crime, what- else-are-we- in-for? Merry Christmas.

    Here’s a must-read plea from a policeman explaining how ‘on the ground cops’ have been emasculated in Sydney. It also explains why gang crime has been increasing.

    The sun never sets on the PC empire. Best to those trying to defend themselves and their city.

    Traveling, traveling, traveling, traveling

    Posted by Sean at 03:50, December 16th, 2005

    Chris at Coming Out at 48 is back from his break and has prepared this grenadine, which reminds me that I still haven’t extracted from Atsushi what he wants from my parents. I came out to them…uh, it’ll be exactly ten years in two or so weeks, and if you’d told me then that in 2005, they’d be pestering me to tell them what they should get my boyfriend for Christmas, I would have looked at you as if you’d just landed from Mars. I was just kind of hoping to make it through the holidays in one piece.

    Things have changed 180 degrees, so I’ve been trying like mad to make this come off perfectly. You know, somehow finding out what Atsushi might like without letting him know that it’s going to come from my parents, so the surprise isn’t spoiled but he gets an artifact he really wants. Yeah, yeah, yeah, c’est le geste qui compte and stuff. It’s obviously not working, so I’ll post this. And Atsushi will read it. And tomorrow I’ll just ask him point blank what he wants my mother and father to get him from America. And I’ll spend Christmas and お正月 feeling undeserving of both him and them as usual.

    Next generation

    Posted by Sean at 03:29, December 16th, 2005

    A joint missile initiative between Japan and the US is moving ahead:

    On 15 December, the government opened meeting on national security at the Prime Minister’s residence, entering into proceedings to move joint Japan-US technological research on next-generation missile defense systems into the development phase starting in 2006. The Japan Defense Agency explained that development expenditures over nine years will total US $2.1 to 2.7 billion, and that Japan is coordinating with the United States under a plan for Japan to shoulder US $1.0 to 1.2 billion of that burden.

    The missile type in question is the Aegis, which is ship-based.

    Added at 11:30: The US and Japan are also set to run joint ground exercises:

    The Ground Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Marine Corps will carry out the first bilateral joint drill off the west coast of the United States in January to infiltrate a remote island and regain control of it from an enemy, sources said Thursday.

    Until recently, U.S. forces have been reluctant to carry out joint exercises with Japan on a remote island in an effort to avoid possible confrontation with China.

    The decision, however, was made to demonstrate bilateral cooperation in Okinawa Prefecture and the Southwest Islands against China, which has been rapidly boosting its military capability in the last few years.

    The map exercise incorporates exchanging gunfire with the enemy to regain control of the island.

    “The U.S. marines are superior to the GSDF in terms of combat capability. The drill is aimed at learning the basics in landing operations, including infiltration, from the marines. The exercise levels will be increased as the drill continues,” a senior GSDF officer said.

    About 600 islands lie off the Kyushu and Okinawa regions, however, GSDF bases are located only on the main island of Okinawa and Tsushima island in Nagasaki Prefecture. The Southwest Islands are poorly protected by Japan’s defense system.

    Whenever I bring this sort of thing up, someone inevitably asks, “Do you really expect China to attack Japan?” And, well, no, I don’t think anyone really does, given things as they are now. The state of the PRC military makes a coup against the CCP appear unlikely, and CCP itself, mindful of its in many ways tenuous grip on power, would be foolish to launch an assault against Japan. But circumstances can change very quickly; and besides, purely from the standpoint of basic readiness, it’s simply ridiculous for Japan–prosperous and insular as it is–not to have solid plans for defense against a large, restless neighbor with a historical pattern of hostility toward Japan. As the Asahi glancingly notes, the point of the exercise is also to impress upon other players in the region that the US and Japan partnership is firm.

    Johnny makes me / Feel strangely good about myself

    Posted by Sean at 03:18, December 16th, 2005

    Am I the only one who finds the attention being lavished on Brokeback Mountain just a little unpalatable? I have no objection to excitement by gays that there’s a movie that addresses gay themes–especially the sort of desperate, unspoken attraction that a lot of us can remember from before coming out and that is at the heart of a lot of straight romantic dramas also. Nor do I see how having it take place on the plains is inherently PC and exploitative; if Annie Proulx had set the original story anywhere outside the Castro or Christopher Street, someone somewhere would be bellyaching that the resulting screenplay was designed to falsely gay up the region in question. That’s just the way it goes with these things.

    What I’m unsettled at is the way gay commentators seem to be freighting a single art movie with more significance than it may be capable of bearing up under. Via Michael, here‘s Steve Miller at IGF on two reviews. And on the blog at the Washington Blade, Matt Hennie and Ken Sain sum up what appear to be the main nay and yea arguments, respectively.

    The whole is-it-an-authentically-gay-movie? thing is the sort of discussion that bores me to tears. What interests me more is how distinct its gayness actually makes it from other sorts of movies about minorities. I mean, I can see why the potential success of Brokeback Mountain means something to people. I can’t see why it means that much. Hennie makes an excellent general point…

    Most people go to the movies for escape and relaxation, not to be challenged by a movie that’s on the cutting edge.

    …and then unfortunately develops it only from the gay angle, as if there weren’t plenty of other groups of people who only tend to show up in major movies if depicted stereotypically.

    For a timely example, just look at Memoirs of a Geisha , based on Arthur Golden’s repellant novel, which reaffirms the Hollywood truisms that (1) anyone with slanted eyes can play an Asian of any old nationality well enough to be persuasive to audiences (and to critics, who affect to know better) and (2) it helps if the English spoken is Charlie Chan-ified enough to seem exotic. A movie that was unshowily and un-Mikado-ly adapted from, say, Mineko Iwasaki’s Geisha: A Life would probably flop. People would keep expecting its Orientalness to kick in and be disappointed when it didn’t.

    Gays, of course, have a bigger problem in that–get this through your heads, people–a lot of people think what we do in bed is frankly disgusting, which kind of makes it hard to get a romantic drama over. I’m not applauding that, but it’s a fact. Philadelphia, Sain oddly doesn’t seem to realize, was acceptable because the story fit preconceptions: Tom Hanks was unfaithful to his boyfriend and got AIDS, and the single sexual encounter treated by the film was guilt-shrouded and took place off-screen in a grubby porn theater. Those preconceptions doubtless are based, for many people, on the idea that being gay is somehow worthy of punishment; however, gay activism has to take some of the blame for having spent much of its energy since 1982 on depicting gay men as noble, suffering, and tragic.

    It would be nice if Americans were aware that gays come in as many personality and ideological types as everyone else, but these things take time, and we have decades of disastrously bad PR by gay advocacy groups to undo. Whatever the merits of Brokeback Mountain–and it’s based on an Annie Proulx product and stars Heath Ledger and Boy Gyllenhaal, which are three strikes against it right there as far as I’m concerned, though I promise to keep an open mind until I see the thing–there are too many variables involved in its potential success or failure to justify the current amount of gay arm-flailing. Its reception is certainly going to be an indicator of America’s attitudes toward gays, but I don’t think poring over every last box office receipt is going to tell us much that, frankly, we don’t already know. It would be nice if people just let a movie be a movie.