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    Support for Koizumi cabinet

    Posted by Sean at 23:34, November 1st, 2005

    The Nikkei‘s latest poll [insert usual caution] finds support for the Koizumi cabinet up to 56%:

    The Nippon Keizai Shimbun Corporation conducted a rapid opinion poll on 31 October and 1 November in response to the formation of the third Koizumi cabinet. Support for the Koizumi cabinet was at 56%, an increase of 9 points from the last survey at the beginning of September. The proportion (down 6 points over the same period) that did not support the cabinet was 30%, a manifestation of [the administration’s] maintenance of its vigor since its crushing victory in the lower house elections. The percent of those surveyed who “had esteem” for the members of the new cabinet was 49%. That far exceeded the 24% who “did not have esteem”; expectations have solidified around the struggle for reform to be waged through the “post-Koizumi” candidacies of [cabinet members] such as General Secretary Shinzo Abe.

    That last sentence is so deformed in my version it gives me physical pain, but I don’t really have the time to fuss over it. In any case, the idea comes through that, if the Nikkei poll is remotely dependable, Koizumi’s continuing popularity with the Japanese electorate, combined with the reputations that several of his new cabinet picks have already been cultivating, mean that his new administration is starting out once again with the public’s endorsement.


    Posted by Sean at 07:23, November 1st, 2005

    What’s funnier than the fact that someone landed on this page after searching Google for “discreet chastity” (a sorely underused phrase, more’s the pity)? That mine was the first site to come up.

    Today Toshiba finally deigned to call me and tell me how much ransom I’m going to have to pay to get my laptop back with a new CD-ROM drive: about the equivalent of US $420. Not all that bad, I suppose. So I assume it’s going to be ready within the week, because Nittsu came to pick it up Monday a week ago and the last person I talked to at Toshiba said the turnaround time shouldn’t be more than ten to fourteen days. Yes, I’m aware of Toshiba’s rep for atrocious customer service, but the hype is that they’ve been working hard to combat it, and all the people I talked to in tech support (when I first thought it was a driver/software/settings problem) were great. So I’m hoping to be wired at home again by this weekend.

    I’ll definitely need my Dynabook back within a few weeks, because I’m going to a company meeting at the beginning of December. I like travel, but I have to say that I find the idea of going all the way to the Caribbean a bit fatiguing, especially since Atsushi and I haven’t been able to take a vacation together for a year and a half. I will, however, be able to sneak in an extra week to stay in the States after flying back to New York. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to, but I have a month or so to get things arranged. I’ll be writing to people individually, but let this be the first notice to friends in the NY-NJ-PA-DC area that I’ll be around to shuttle frantically among you during the second third of December.

    Actually, when the time comes, I don’t think I’ll mind the Caribbean so much. Today is the first day that the coldness is sharp enough that I may actually put on a sweater before leaving the apartment [!] later, and fall is my favorite season. (It’s such a relief to be able to use that word–most Japanese people don’t know what you’re talking about unless you say “autumn.”) But by December, there will be a fair amount of non-sharp, non-crisp, gritty-gelatinous rain. Love that particulate matter!

    For those who are slow on the uptake–actually, your flue would have to be entirely blocked not to have noticed this–this is one of those scatty brain-dump posts I deposit here at regular intervals, usually when my datebook is beginning to do its tyrant act and I am VERY SLIGHTLY irritable. Time for home and a cup of tea.


    Posted by Sean at 06:49, November 1st, 2005

    Gaijin Biker has to be kidding.

    Actually, what am I saying? The only surprise is that no one’s already paved over Yoyogi Park. Nothing in this archipelago escapes the cement mixer once some politician sets his sights on it. Ever:

    Via Taro Akasaka at Japan Real Estate Blog, the Yomiuri Shimbun reports that Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara is talking about paving over Yoyogi Park and building a new sports complex there to beef up Tokyo’s bid for the 2016 Olympics.

    This is, quite simply, a horrible idea. Tokyo is already one of the most under-parked major cities around. It needs more open spaces for the people who live here every day, not giant stadiums for athletes who will swing by once and then leave.

    When I lived in Shibuya, I used to run at Yoyogi Park, one of the few places in the city where you can find enough trees together to call so much as a copse. To anyone coming here from just about any other world-class city, the paucity of green is something you don’t notice much at first because the riotous visual interest–from all the neon signs and weird architectural shapes and highways stacked on train platforms stacked on footbridges–keeps you distracted. But then you walk down one of the few streets that are treelined, and you’re like, Ooh! Wilderness! Do I have my Swiss Army Knife?

    As Gaijin Biker says, vainglorious Olympic (or Olympic-equivalent) sports complexes nearly always end up windy, spookily underpopulated white elephants after the games end. The idea that Japan needs another underused monstrosity of a public works project is beyond lunatic.


    Posted by Sean at 06:36, November 1st, 2005

    Zak, who’s begun commenting around here lately and has mercifully not laid into me about any of my free ‘n easy translations from Japanese, has resumed his own blog and posted this today:

    I’m sorry, I have no sympathy whatsoever for these people booted out of their church:

    In a pair of decisions that bolstered conservatives, the highest court of the United Methodist Church defrocked an openly lesbian minister yesterday and reinstated a pastor who had been suspended for refusing to allow a gay man to become a member of his congregation.

    Granted, I personally think it’s ridiculous to ban homosexuals based on the teachings of a man 2,000 years ago who apparently never said anything about gays and seems to have instead preached universal acceptance. For these homosexuals, however, I think it’s far more idiotic to want to worship that man in an organization that has confused those teachings to the point of exactly reversing them as far as you are concerned. Brings to mind the image of a woman who repeatedly begs her physically abusive husband to take her back: Who really has the bigger problem here?

    My conclusion is basically the same as Zak’s, though I’d get there somewhat differently. I don’t think the Bible is infinitely stretchable, but there’s enough give that I don’t think people who are arguing for non-traditional tolerance of this or that are necessarily being disingenuous. Many of them probably do believe that the truest interpretation of whatever difficult scripture they’re looking at is the one that’s less obvious because of this ambiguity in Aramaic roots, or what have you.

    Still, different Christian sects usually have a long-standing body of theological writing behind their doctrines, and it’s not unreasonable for them to reject new understanding of scripture that they think unfounded. If you’re gay or lesbian (or supportive of gays and lesbians), there are plenty of churches nowadays that will accommodate you. I suppose that switching sects to find the one that you think is most closely following Christ’s intent is difficult if you’ve been brought up to believe, say, that the Roman Catholic Church is the only legitimate vessel for Godly spirituality; but I don’t recall having been taught as a boy that the individual covenant with God was easy to navigate.

    People who sincerely believe that the organizations to which they now belong are interpreting the Bible in error have what seems to me a pretty clear duty to present their arguments, but eventually someone is going to have to make a doctrinal decision, and it’s not necessarily cruelty that produces one that hews to tradition.

    New cabinet installed

    Posted by Sean at 06:10, November 1st, 2005

    Prime Minister Koizumi has announced the results of his cabinet reshuffling:

    Prime Minister Jun’ichiro Koizumi, at the first meeting of his third cabinet of the evening of 31 October, laid out the fundamental direction [of his latest administration] in five items:

    1. To persevere in [transferring power and resources] “from public to private” and “from Tokyo to local districts”
    2. Economic vitality
    3. Ensuring safety and security in [Japanese] life
    4. Diplomacy, national security, disaster management
    5. Political reform

    Concerning structural reforms, he stated that “the October 2007 privatization of Japan Post will be smoothly executed” and that “the scale of government will be limited through a review of the financing of programs, general labor costs for private sector employees, and the management of government assets and bonds.”

    Particular positions of interest: Shinzo Abe is the new Chief Cabinet Secretary. Taro Aso is the new Minister of Foreign Affairs. Sadakazu Tanizaki was reappointed as Minister of Finance. Each has been tipped as a possible successor for Koizumi, who has vowed to step down in 2006 and has not been grooming any obvious candidates to take over at that point.

    Aso, the new Foreign Minister, was previously Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications. A few weeks ago he got in PR hot water for calling Japan a “single-race” nation. You can imagine how resident Koreans and indigenous ethnic minorities loved that. He’s had a reputation for being tart-tongued for quite a while, though, and he’s been a rising star in the LDP for some time. The last outspoken rising-star Foreign Minister under Koizumi was Makiko Tanaka, and we all know what happened to her. The post of Foreign Minister is a particularly strategic one at the moment, given Japan’s delicate relations with the PRC and the Koreas and its push to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Aso’s profile on his website is here. A less interesting English version is here at his old ministry.

    BTW, in addition to Minister of Finance Tanigaki, banking/Japan Post reform czar Heizo Takenaka was reappointed to his posts.

    Added on 2 November: Didn’t anyone catch that “Heizo Tanaka” screw up? Glad I seem to have seen it first.

    Paradise Place

    Posted by Sean at 03:41, October 30th, 2005

    Ghost of a Flea has a post up that shuttles from Kelly Osbourne to Kylie to Sharon Osbourne to Madonna. Here are the first two:

    While people have been rather mean about Kelly Osbourne’s figure she turns out to be an admirer of Kylie Minogue’s. Echoing the considered observations of countless communication studies essays I have read, Kelly believes that “sex really does sell”. Kelly is right to credit Kylie some of her success to her pixie-like proportions but Kylie also claims a vast gay fan base to whom her pixie-like figure is secondary to some nebulous something else. This something else is what Kelly might better spend her time cultivating than surgery and botox and so forth.

    I thought Nick was going a little overboard warning a woman of twenty-one off Botox, but according to the linked article, apparently not. Sheesh. I’ve always thought it was excessive for Kylie herself to use Botox. She’s not even forty.

    Sexual Asian-ation

    Posted by Sean at 02:59, October 30th, 2005

    Via Gay News, I saw this DP article about an actor who spoke at Asian Pacific American Heritage Week. (I was a bit confused about that. I thought Asian Pacific American Heritage month was May and was wondering whether I was going to have to go all ethnicity-admiring and diversity-appreciating on Marc‘s ass for the second time this year. But I think last week was just a Penn event, so I can keep liking my Asian friends in the boring old individual way.)

    The actor, who apparently used to be on Law & Order, was faced with a problem: he is (1) a racial minority and (2) a faggot–but not (3) a woman, and therefore does not qualify for the PC Triple Crown. I thought he found an ingenious solution to this appalling deficiency:

    Wong conveyed the confusion of his childhood in San Francisco when he interrupted an anecdote about his struggles as a young Asian-American with, “Oh, I forgot to tell you that I was a homo,” eliciting peals of laughter from the audience.

    Encouraged by a “colorblind” drama teacher, Wong discovered a passion for the performing arts as a child.

    Later, Wong encountered Asian stereotypes in the acting world for the first time when he was cast as a Chinese stowaway in a play outside of school.

    “It was the most shocking thing that I have ever experienced in my life,” Wong said.

    Though Wong changed to a different role after speaking with the director, this experience was the beginning of his “racial anorexia.”

    Wong highlighted the intensity of this internal conflict when he said, “At least when you’re anorexic, you can starve yourself. What can you do when you have this face?”

    See? He was, like, anorexic, and what’s more princessy-feminist chick than having an eating disorder brought on by patriarchal pressure? All right, FINE, he was a metaphorical chick, but in this world of contingency and différance, we wouldn’t want to be reinforcing false binarisms between the literal and the figurative.

    I have to say that I’m not quite sure what the anorexia comparison is supposed to, you know, mean. He wanted to destroy his Asian self, I guess? There’s a potentially interesting question lingering in there about where typecasting shades off into stereotyping. No one bitches that Kristin Scott Thomas is, as much for her sky-goddess coloring and bone structure as for her actorly skill, frequently called upon to play uptight women of Northern European extraction with emotions simmering beneath the surface.

    I can see, in an instinctive sense, how casting Asians in boxed-in roles is somehow worse, but it’s hard to explicate. Surely one doesn’t have directors telling actors to Charlie Chan up their accents. There is definitely a tendency on the part of casting directors to figure that everyone with slanted eyes and dusky skin is interchangeable, which is how you end up with Vietnamese, Korean, and Taiwanese women all playing Chinese roles in The Joy Luck Club. But that doesn’t seem to be what Wong is talking about. And what, pray tell, is a “generic Asian waiter”? It’s not as if there were meaty, three-dimensional waiter roles available by the dozens for white actors. If troubled Korean gang members exist, I’m not sure why they shouldn’t be featured in teleplays, as long as their individual identities are fleshed out.

    Wong, as befits the occasion, doesn’t seem to have been much concerned with individual identity:

    After struggling with his race and sexual orientation during most of his life, Wong has gradually come have confidence in himself.

    “Ironically, the two things that I loathed about myself were the things that were rich about myself,” he said.

    Yes, we should all learn to derive our sense of the richness of our personal identities from the boxes we check on census forms. An inspiring example for today’s college youth, that is.


    Posted by Sean at 04:37, October 29th, 2005

    Not all of Prime Minister Koizumi’s gestures of respect for Japanese military dead are controversial. This morning he attended a memorial service for fallen SDF personnel:

    Addressing those assembled at a memorial service held at the Japan Defense Agency for Self-Defense Force personnel who have fallen in the line of duty, Prime Minister Jun’ichiro Koizumi stated, “This precious sacrifice by the spirits [of our soldiers] has not been made for nothing; we will continue to construct a system that allows us to complete the exalted mission [they undertook].”

    The memorial was for sixteen or so SDF trainees who were killed in training accidents; there have been no combat operations since the war, of course. Koizumi’s statement was pretty content free today–in political terms, I mean; there’s nothing weightless about honoring dead soldiers–but it’s always good to pay attention to these things because things that slip into set-piece speeches can sometimes give you a glimpse of what the administration is thinking. Where to take the SDF from here has been a big issue over the last few years. The US supports moves to make it more like a standing army, with the legal ability to participate in defense operations with allies. North Korea likes to test missiles over our heads. China’s economic growth has been accompanied by increased unrest and schizo behavior by the CCP. Japan wants permanent membership on the UN Security Council. And that doesn’t even factor in Japan’s place on the Islamofascist terror hit list, for the transgression of being a developed and free country.

    The current proposal by the LDP’s committee on constitutional revision is to change the SDF to the SDA: 自衛軍 (jieigun: self-defense army). You can never translate these things perfectly, but a 軍 is more menacing-sounding than a 隊. Koizumi appears not to have said much of anything about how his administration views the SDF’s “mission” this morning, but it’s clearly changing.

    Rice and Machimura confab

    Posted by Sean at 04:18, October 29th, 2005

    Condoleezza Rice has explicitly declared that the US supports Japan in its efforts to resolve the abductee issue:

    On the evening of 28 October (29 October JST), Minister of Foreign Affairs Nobutaka Machimura met with US Secretary of State [Condoleezza] Rice at the Ministry of Interior Affairs. They agreed in their perception that there must be a review of US and Japan’s contributions to the United Nations, which combined exceed 40% [of total member contributions]. They also reaffirmed that they would present a united front in working toward the denuclearization of North Korea. Machimura indicated that, regarding the Japan-DPRK summit to be opened on 3 November, it is Japan’s plan to make the Japanese abductee issue its highest priority in discussion; Rice stated [that Japan had America’s] “support on all fronts.”

    Rice also restated that the US supports Japan’s bid for permanent membership on the UN Security Council, though the Bush administration has been known to advise the Koizumi cabinet to throttle back at times. There seems to have been no mention of the beef import ban.

    And the love profusion / You make me feel, you make me know

    Posted by Sean at 09:18, October 28th, 2005

    I guess I hadn’t been reading Ace long enough to know much about her coming out. She’s posted about it at Gay Orbit and at her place. (It’s the same post, but she may get different comments for each.)

    I was way luckier than I expected to be. I was brought up in an extremely conservative Sabbatarian Christian sect–you know, people who weren’t members of the church were collectively known as “the World,” and we had two-hour services every week. You took notes when you were considered old enough, which in most families was around twelve or so. Just about every week there was at least one mention of how vigilant everyone needed to be against Satanic influences on their children in which homosexual activism figured prominently.

    So when I settled in my mind that I was definitely, permanently gay, my options were very clear and very polarized. I figured my parents would tell me that they still loved me but that we weren’t going to be able to have any correspondence anymore. For about a month–not very long, I guess, though it seemed like an eternity–I flip-flopped over whether to tell them, but I come from a pretty out-with-it-already kind of family, so I decided to come out and just deal.

    I told them just after New Year’s in 1996. The next three days were notable for their lack of relaxed family fun, but when I went back to New York, it was with the understanding that they weren’t going to disown me and I wasn’t about to go all druggy and bathhousey. After that there were a few awkward moments–I’ve never in my life eaten very much at one sitting, but after I was out, there was a sudden danger that my not wanting a third slice of shoo-fly pie meant I had an eating disorder because, you know, Cherie Bank on Channel 10 did this report that said a lot of Men Like Me do. Over the next few years, I figured out the rules: I can mention a guy I’m dating or talk about my boyfriend, but gay issues in general are a no-go. I mention the word gay–nay, use the letters g, a, and y within any five consecutive words–and the subject is changed. Not pointedly, but resolutely.

    When I wanted to bring Atsushi home two years ago, everything was fine. I mean, it was so fine it was kind of spooky. They put us in separate rooms, of course, but they spent the whole time doing their mischievous/playful/intimately ribald thing, which they don’t do around people they want to distance themselves from.

    My mother even tried to challenge Atsushi to a drinking game, but he doesn’t drink. This was at the “Japanese” steakhouse in one of the malls near where I grew up, BTW. You know, run by a Korean family, with Chinese calligraphy all over the place and Polynesian drinks on the menu. The chefs joke and juggle knives. You can get chow mein noodles instead of rice. Atsushi found the whole thing a lot of fun but utterly bewildering, and the ‘rents never let him forget it. “This isn’t the Japanese you get in Japan, huh, Atsu?” Mom guffawed at one point. “Yeah, I bet you’re wishing you’d gone ahead and gotten a beer now!” Dad chimed in. Right about then I took a long drink of vodka and started to hope that maybe they could find it in their hearts to like him a little less. They let him go without too many more incidents, though. Since then, they always tell me to give their love to him when we talk or write back and forth, and they send him Christmas presents.

    Normally, I try to leave my parents off the blog because they aren’t here to give their version of events when it differs from my own. (Well, that and it’s not my place to tell their stories.) I’m only giving them walk-on parts now because I wonder whether things would have worked this way three or four years after I came out. It was never my intention to use my Japanese major to move to Japan; I came here and liked it and then fortuitously discovered that my grad school mentor and I were incompatible, but I would have been in New York for another five or six years if I’d stayed on track. It’s hard to say what would have happened in a reality that never came to pass. I’d been out for six years when I brought up the idea of bringing Atsushi home, so the fact that the gay thing wasn’t going anywhere was pretty apparent. Time was probably the biggest factor, along with a willingness to be persistent without being pushy.