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    Close to a religious experience

    Posted by Sean at 03:40, July 30th, 2005

    Ghost of a Flea posts about Kylie. (No, really!) No matter how heady an experience it is to watch Kylie’s singing corpse half-submerged in rushes, my favorite Kylie video is still “Put Yourself in My Place”…although I have to say, that frickin’ continuity error–the way she removes her left sleeve twice–is super-annoying. (I don’t mind so much that the mole is on different sides of her face in different shots; you only notice it if you’re paying close attention because of the sleeve thing.)


    Posted by Sean at 02:56, July 30th, 2005

    Japundit contributor Ampontan posted an interesting entry about the Japanese liquor shôchû a few days ago. If you don’t know much about how it’s made, it’s an interesting read. This part struck me as being just a bit too tactful, though:

    There are several ways to drink shochu. We’ve already talked about chuhai, and if you can mix a gin and tonic, you can make that. Obviously, you also can drink it straight, particularly if you’re the kind of guy who likes sitting around in sweat-stained undershirts. Some people drink it on the rocks, but I can’t help you there–I was never one for that style of drinking. People say the melting ice brings out the sweetness of the drink. Another way is to mix it with warm—not boiling—water. This drink, called oyuwari is popular during the fall and winter, and I used to like it this way myself. Some people with cast iron stomachs use more shochu than water in the mix, but I downed it in about a 1-5 ratio, which is how they usually serve it in restaurants and bars. This method brings out the aroma of the beverage, if you’re interested in such things, and it also warms you up on a cold winter night.

    Maybe it’s a regional thing…or a purist thing. At least around Tokyo, though, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone drink national-brand shochu straight. People do drink the special varieties from Kyushu straight (we have friends who ask Atsushi to bring back a bottle of this or that sometimes when he returns to Tokyo). Jinro, Kyôgetsu, and the other major brands all taste like diluted rubbing alcohol. Otherwise, people use it as a mixing base.

    For anything. And I mean anything. Of course, I’m most familiar with the gay pubs I go to, where they do bottle keep for regulars. (If you don’t know Japan and are scratching your head at “bottle keep,” the way it works is, you pay between, oh, $30 and $100 for your own bottle. Your name is written on the glass or, if the bar is fancy-schmancy, on a placard that’s hung over the bottleneck. When you show up, the bottle is brought out for you and your guests. You also customarily invite the bartenders to drink with you.) The most common cold mixers people ask for are water, tonic water, green tea, oolong tea, and fruit juices. But I know guys who drink it with Calpis, or with Coke–both inexpressibly foul, in my opinion–or with a little liqueur (crème de cassis, or the Midori melon stuff, or Godiva) for flavoring. I once saw a fresh-faced young thing of about 22 or so ask for a Zima, drink a quarter of it, and ask the bar guy to fill ‘er up with shochu–like a fraternity hazing ritual, or something.

    Ampontan is right that drinking it oyuwari is very restorative in the winter, especially if you put a pickled plum in the bottom. Great for warding off colds, or for forgetting the one you already have is bothering you.

    What’s in a name?

    Posted by Sean at 10:42, July 29th, 2005

    What Michael said:

    While the outcome would be right if marriage were enacted in CT, the method is clearly wrong. If the state refused to do anything for gay couples, that would be one thing. Yet here we have a state that democratically gave gay couples most, if not all, of the rights of marriage. Why not let that sink in for a few years, then petition the legislature for marriage?

    Here’s the thing: Civil Unions give you all the rights of marriage in Connecticut. What are you accomplishing by pushing for marriage rights? Answer: Nothing. Because any rights beyond what you have are Federal. And there is nothing that state can do about that. In effect, what these gay couples are doing is ruining it for the rest of us. They are ensuring that state legislatures will remain queazy about enacting civil union legislation in the future.

    He’s talking about the news that there are eight gay couples in Connecticut using the state’s recent passage of a civil unions bill to sue for the ability to marry. I’m not sure that even breaking the argument down into the shortest possible clauses, as Michael obligingly did, will make people get it. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure his prediction is correct.

    BTW, he didn’t quote the most unpalatable part of the article:

    “We really believe marriage best reflects what we’ve had together. We have a deep love and commitment, and civil unions don’t reflect that,” said Janet Peck of Colchester. She and her partner, Carol Conklin, will celebrate their 30th anniversary later this year.

    “Civil unions just kind of feel like you’re not good enough,” Conklin added.

    Other couples, such as Jeffrey Busch and Stephen Davis of Wilton, will apply for a civil union reluctantly. They feel they cannot pass up the legal protections the arrangement will provide–such as the right to sue for wrongful death and the ability to file taxes jointly–but they do not plan a celebration.

    “Civil unions are humiliating. We’re embarrassed by it,” Busch said. “We will in essence be agreeing to be officially marginalized. I’m very hopeful that is a temporary step on our way to being considered a full family deserving the same respect as other families.”

    Sometimes I would love to break my own rule about not using any but the mildest four-letter words here. Would everyone be so kind as to imagine my letting fly with a stream of loud and hideous profanities right now?

    I’m not like you

    Posted by Sean at 22:28, July 28th, 2005


    Early last month, a Love in Action administrator said that two male teens in the program were both enrolled for six-week stints in the “ex-gay” camp, and last week in an interview broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Zach’s father, Joe Stark confirmed his son’s identity as one of Love in Action’s clients.

    “We felt good about Zach coming here … to let him see for himself the destructive lifestyle, what he has to face in the future, and to give him some options that society doesn’t give him today,” Stark said.

    “Until he turns 18 and he’s an adult in the state of Tennessee, I’m responsible for him, and I’m going to see to it that he has all options available to him.” [These are the statements to CBN that were quoted a week or two ago.–SRK]

    A Los Angeles-based psychologist [Ruh-roh!–SRK] took issue with the father’s statement.

    “It appears that both Mr. Stark and the LIA director’s public comments are highly defensive and indicate that their concern is less for the child’s well-being and more for their own purposes,” said Paul Chimubulo said via e-mail.

    “The sort of homophobia they espouse has been shown to be rooted in anxiety and a feeling of threat. … The gay child’s expressions are recognized and interpreted as injurious to the parent’s sense of self. With the publicity this has gathered, the father’s internal anxiety and feelings of threat over his son’s gay identity must really be ratcheted up.”

    I have no doubt that Joe Stark is doing quite a bit of hard thinking about his own performance as a father and how it might have “made” Zach gay, but can we please remember that people have convictions, too? It is perfectly possible–likely, as far as I’m concerned–that the Starks, at least, are genuinely acting as they think is best for their son, based on religious and other beliefs. That those beliefs are fed by factoids that play on confirmation bias doesn’t make them less real, though it should make them easier to argue against.

    My sense is that the wording Joe Stark used is probably the result of heavy-duty coaching–the focus on Zach’s coming adult independence and the characterizing of LIA as showing “options” distract attention from the coercion involved so shrewdly that I find it hard to imagine their coming spontaneously from a distraught parent. But that doesn’t mean he can be dismissed as acting out of a neurotic attempt to preserve his “sense of self.” The word homophobia, paradoxically enough, could conceivably be justified here–for once, we’re not just talking about anti-gay sentiment but about a real attempt to erase homosexuality in someone. But it’s not a judgment call we can really make, and crappy reasoning is just as bad coming from our side as from the opposition. Couldn’t the Washington Blade have found someone more level-headed to cite as an authority?


    Posted by Sean at 22:00, July 28th, 2005

    A slightly different group of six has also been meeting in Laos:

    The world’s top two air polluters — the U.S. and China — joined Australia, India, Japan and South Korea on Thursday to unveil a new Asia-Pacific partnership to develop cleaner energy technologies in hopes of curtailing climate-changing pollution.

    They described the initiative as a complement to the Kyoto Protocol that commits 140 countries to cutting emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, but environmentalists said the new pact lacked firm obligations to cut pollution and that it might undermine the Kyoto accord.

    It said the countries could collaborate on clean coal, liquefied natural gas, methane, civilian nuclear power, geothermal power, rural energy systems, solar power, wind power and bio-energy. In the long-term, they could develop hydrogen nanotechnologies, next-generation nuclear fission and fusion energy, it said.

    Environmental group Friends of the Earth was skeptical about the pact because it contained no legally binding requirements to cut emissions.

    “It looks suspiciously as though this will be business as usual for the United States,” said the U.K.-based group’s member, Catherine Pearce.

    “A deal on technology, supported by voluntary measures to reduce emissions, will not address climate change. This is yet another attempt by the U.S. and Australian administrations to undermine the efforts of the 140 countries who have signed the Kyoto Protocol,” she said.

    Well, nature girl, I have to wonder just how much there is to undermine. Remember this story from several months back?

    Under the Kyoto Protocol, Japan has agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions between fiscal 2008 and 2012 by an average 6 percent from the fiscal 1990 level.

    The Asahi Shimbun established that only a few prefectural and municipal governments have done anything about it. In fact, a nationwide survey found that only three of the 47 prefectural governments and seven of the 13 major cities can actually boast decreases in their greenhouse gas emissions.

    Also, latest statistics offered by about half the prefectural and municipal governments surveyed showed double-digit increases over the fiscal 1990 level in greenhouse gas emissions.

    I’ve been looking out for information since then that the federal government is somehow taking this into account and doing something about it (say by directly regulating industry). It’s always possible that a pertinent article has slipped past me, but I kind of doubt it. The Nikkei, the major business newspaper, is the one I read most extensively on-line and subscribe to (morning and evening editions) in dead-tree form. And the way the issue was reported in native English outlets was so bland you might not have noticed that there was even a problem. This CBS report is typical:

    In Japan, a tireless supporter of the pact, the enactment was being met with a mixture of pride and worry that the world’s second-largest economy is unprepared to meet its emissions reduction targets.

    Japan is struggling to find ways to meet its obligations. A report this month by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry showed that 11 of 30 top Japanese industries — steel and power among them — risked failing to reach targets unless they take drastic steps.

    It makes me wonder whether many of the other countries that signed on really have a plan.

    Buffalo stance

    Posted by Sean at 09:51, July 28th, 2005

    The 6-party talks are still going on, of course:

    At the opening ceremony of the six-way talks, which resumed after 13 months of suspension at the the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said concerned parties were required to have political will and make strategic decisions if they intended to make progress toward the denuclearization of the peninsula. He added that North Korea was fully prepared to do so.

    But the North Korean chief delegate went on to say that he believed the United States and other participating nations should also be willing to make strategic decisions.

    The delegates were again struck by Pyongyang’s unyielding stance.

    By referring first to its readiness to make a strategic decision, a course of action U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had urged Pyongyang to take, North Korea showed a positive stance apparently aiming at preventing other nations from increasing pressure on Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear program.

    North Korea argued in the July 24 editorial of the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Workers’ Party of Korea, that the United States had transformed South Korea into a nuclear arsenal by bringing in various nuclear weapons. South Korea has denied the allegation that any nuclear weapons are deployed in the nation.

    In February, Pyongyang declared it possessed nuclear weapons. Denuclearization of the peninsula means that Pyongyang’s own nuclear programs and nuclear weapons, and those held by the U.S. military stationed in South Korea, must be abandoned at the same time. North Korea therefore insists that the United States, which drove Pyongyang to develop its nuclear programs by bringing the weapons into South Korea, also should make a strategic decision to abandon its nuclear weapons.

    Retaining this view, North Korea is able to argue that the two nations, as equal nuclear powers, can then proceed with direct negotiations.

    Right…which means that the probability of the DPRK’s actually disarming (what leverage would it have left then–economic might?) is around zero.

    Everyone seems to agree that it would be a bad idea for Japan to push the abductee issue at this week’s talks. Not everyone agrees on how the talks themselves could be “productive,” but perhaps it really is possible for a sort of Dilbert-ish chain of never-ending committees and conferences and inquiries and stuff to be established and kept lamely going until the DPRK actually does collapse.

    The unruffed grouse

    Posted by Sean at 05:43, July 27th, 2005

    Joe has his thoughts up on Jon Stewart’s Rick Santorum interview last night:

    My belief is that we can win the debate, we don’t have to denigrate. So that’s what Sanotrum believes and I don’t agree. I don’t believe that good parenting requires one man and one woman and I find that the studies back me up.

    I also don’t agree that the only societal interest in marriage is children. It’s one interest, even a primary interest, not the only interest. Stable relationships are themselves an interest. They foster a stable society, public health and safety, and better economics, which are all in our societal interest.

    Joe also links to a transcript of the interview at Towleroad. I thought the infamous man-on-dog comparison from a few years ago was just silly–not only insulting but also poorly judged because it gave shrieky political activists an excuse to excoriate Santorum without paying the slightest attention to any distinctions he actually did make usefully.

    Some people may find their brain fried at this segment of the interview:

    Santorum: I would say that certainly people who are homosexuals can be virtuous and very often are. The problem is that when you talk about the institution of marriage as the foundation and building block of society which I say the family is, and the marriage is the glue that holds the family together. We need to do things to make sure that that institution stays stable for the benefit of children.

    Joe disagrees in specific ways with Santorum that I do not, but his comments are, as always, respectful and worth reading.

    A word to the wise

    Posted by Sean at 03:25, July 26th, 2005

    Would everyone please keep the following in mind:

    1. No one is ethically obliged to sleep with you just because you invited him to.

    2. If you’ve flattered someone incessantly and he still won’t sleep with you, refer to item 1.
    3. If you’ve pointed out that you think someone’s refusal to sleep with you constitutes a rejection of your shared gay heritage and is a manifestation of buried shame, self-loathing, and pathetic hetero-imitating…and he still won’t sleep with you, study item 1 REAL HARD.
    4. If you’ve pointed out that his refusal to sleep with you is, when you stop and think about it, a repudiation of the very principles of personal liberty and autonomy that make our civilization great…and he still won’t sleep with you–hello? Item 1.
    5. By this point, the poor guy may be laughing so hard as to need CPR. If you take this opportunity to put the moves on him yet again, you risk getting decked. *

    Make yourself at home

    Posted by Sean at 01:55, July 25th, 2005

    Alice is thinking about Martha Stewart and the 80s:

    It [Entertaining] is a great book, from a time when being completely over the top extravagance was just about to become more socially acceptable than it has ever been since (the 80s), and I wish Martha had just continued right into that stratosphere instead of becoming more small-scale domestic, but then everyone else downsized too, so one can hardly blame her for that. “The most sumptuous book on entertaining ever published” says the back cover, and when I read it as a teenager teaching myself to cook it seemed entirely fantastical and extraordinary: who were these people who threw “A sit-down country luncheon for one hundred seventy-five” in their back garden? Who would make eleven kinds of tiny weeny cocktail snacks for fifty guests? A gingerbread mansion for “The holiday party”, complete with pediment, finials and cupola plus internal lighting? The mile-high lemon meringue pie- “My mother and I baked it when we had extra egg whites on hand, and made a meringue as high as the oven would allow”- went on my mental list of lifetime ambitions, along with plenty of other things nobody in England had heard of in 1982- pissaladiere, tabbouleh, filo pastry, tempura, and on and on.

    I’m with her–aspiration is a good thing. They’re broadcasting Nigella Lawson’s show here in Japan now. It’s fun to watch. Well, I don’t think it’s necessary to put green chilis in every freaking main dish. I also tire of her constant need to use olive oils “infused” with leafy green crap. And the I’m-just-bopping-around-my-home-kitchen-as-I-do-every-day vibe is ruined by the way she, like, makes raspberry sauce while wearing a pink cashmere twinset with no apron.

    But the most annoying thing is the way she’s always talking about how informal and easy and spontaneous cooking can be. I realize that she (and Martha and Delia and the others) are dealing with an audience that’s used to living on prepared food. You’ll just scare the bejeezus out of such people if you start at service à la russe; even so, must we go full tilt in the opposite direction and make everything out to be so accessible all the time? Atsushi and I entertain a lot–I cook and he socializes. (Imagine the disaster that would ensue if we switched duties, huh, darling?) It is indeed nice to have people over for drippy, luscious comfort food that can be pitched into bowls any old way and enjoyed while the wine and conversation flow all relaxed-like; but it can also be a real pleasure to deliver something to the table that’s clearly been in the works for a week.

    Anyway, Alice has more to say about inquisitiveness and inventiveness in general.


    Posted by Sean at 09:52, July 24th, 2005

    So, you know, Google Earth is kind of cool, but just how old are those images of Japan? For those whose lives are also 渋谷中心, check this out:


    That section labeled “WTF?!” is the site of the Cerulean Tower Hotel. As you might imagine, that means the parking lot shown…


    …has been gone for quite a while. The darned thing is 40 floors. It opened in 2001. Not even in Japan can they bring two halves of a modular skyscraper on flatbed trucks down National Highway 246, upend them on the foundation, and rivet them together. Maybe I’m seriously missing something, but I’m guessing the image dates from around 1997 or 1998. (The Infos Tower nearby is already there.) I mean, it’s a free service–I’m not being ungrateful, and it’s actually kind of cool to see things where they were right after I’d come to Japan. It’s just odd. Maybe the version you have to shell out for has more up-to-date stuff?