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    Touching on my favorite fruit

    Posted by Sean at 16:37, April 30th, 2004

    This week is Golden Week, a bank holiday, so Atsushi is coming back to Tokyo for five days. I work Saturdays until early afternoon; we figured I’d be gone before he got in from the airport, dropped his heavier stuff off, and went to his parents’ place (thirty miles away, which is negligible within the Tokyo megalopolisaurus) overnight. I’d see him tomorrow when he comes back.

    So of course, I ran into him near the station. Just enough time to go back to the apartment together and to be told that he has an appointment at the dermatologist’s, after which his parents are expecting him for late lunch. C*ckteasing J@p.

    Slipping through my fingers

    Posted by Sean at 12:43, April 28th, 2004

    Disconnected replies to M[a]me du Toit’s musings on how we’re socializing teenagers:

    I. Activists tend to argue (often implicitly rather than explicitly) that your gay/feminist/ethic-ness constitutes your entire individual identity, so when someone leaves the fold, it casts doubt on everything some people around them think they are. Hence the spazzy accusations of sell-out. My own solution is to begin mentally composing my grocery list when such people start ranting at me (Optional: shamelessly ogle them if they’re cute). Pointing out that championing non-conformist behavior has to cut in all directions doesn’t seem to have much effect.
    II. I think one big point that can’t be made too often is that we’re never going to make anxiety go away. Letting people forge their own identities means that we’re all going to feel a tension between the pull of the group and the pull of our idiosyncrasies. At this point in time, everyone’s so exhausted by developments since the ’60’s, a lot of people seem to have this idea that if gays and feminists just shut up already, children could grow up without questioning themselves. I think that’s a projection. Developing strong personalities, in nuclearized families, while moving around the country at will, is not compatible with effortless self-assurance that one is always doing what’s best. Personal liberty means living with internal conflict, in addition to the external conflict with the values of those who live differently.
    III. Someone in this skein of blogs referred to our culture as “sexualized” recently. That’s not an original locution, but it caught my attention more than it had before, and I saw it as curiously apposite. Like the way Hamlet calls Ophelia “beautified.” We have a real tendency to act as if life were intrinsically clean, safe, affable, and pleasant when–boom!–sexual maturation descends on a teenager and spoils the party. It makes life complicated, and man, that just isn’t fair.
    I’m not saying we need to…I don’t know…be more like Brazil, or anything. But I do think it odd and sad that when something like the Janet Jackson breast incident happens, you don’t have people just expressing indignation at the violation of community standards–that part’s justifiable; you have people saying, “My word. How can I possibly begin to explain what just happened on television to my child?” As if tits were agents of disillusion in and of themselves.
    None of this is to be taken to mean that parents should watch Debbie Does Dallas with their kindergartners, or that teenagers should just be indulged in the guise of nurturing their individuality. And it certainly doesn’t mean social-welfare programmers should be feeding school kids prefabricated political agenda. But it’s not hard to see how children hit teenage and are completely disoriented by the fact that what’s running through their heads isn’t always explicable.
    IV. While parents understandably want to believe that the changes they like in their teenagers are evidence of maturation and those they don’t are just passing phases, and while a lot of the teenage personality is in flux, it simply isn’t true that they’re at t = 0 in terms of identity formation. Encouraging teenagers to experiment when they can’t know what could result is ridiculous, especially when it goes behind the backs of parents. But–maybe you have be gay to recognize the distinction–there’s a difference in mien between the youngster who just wants to shock her parents and the one who’s gained a shaken but unashamed sense of who he is. Since the job of saying, “Who knows? Maybe you’ll wake up tomorrow and decide you like girls after all.” is already filled many times over, my own inward thought on the matter is, “Good for you, bro. You’re already alive to the world.”

    If you’re not an easy mark

    Posted by Sean at 01:26, April 28th, 2004

    Pat Toomey, my congressman, won’t be the Republican nominee for the US Senate seat that’s up for election in PA this November. I have my problems with Arlen Specter, and there are things I like about Toomey. But on balance, I figure we already have one Rick Santorum.

    Overall, I find myself in the mood to celebrate: A Philly-centric marathon of Hall and Oates, Todd Rundgren, and the Spinners seems in order….

    (Saw it at The Queen of All Evil’s)


    Posted by Sean at 11:05, April 27th, 2004

    So I chose saigyo, the name of the priest who wrote the poem I used in my domain name, as the login for something or other at some point in configuring my site preferences (or preferring my site configurations, or whatever tech people call it). Now it’s my default e-mail user ID, which is not what I had in mind, but until I can figure out how to fix it, that’s the address I have here (most of you who might see this know me through e-mail at my Hotmail address, anyway, which of course can still be used freely).

    As long as I’m misappropriating a major name in Japanese literature as my username, why not spread the pretentiousness around? Another of my favorite poets is Akiko Yosano, who wrote a century ago. At her best, she’s so sexy you can’t stand it:



    yawa hada no / atsuki chishio ni / fure mo mide / sabishikarazu ya / michi wo toku kimi
    Yosano Akiko

    Having never felt
    the hot tide of blood that throbs
    beneath this soft skin
    even you who seek the Way
    must know what you are missing
    –Akiko Yosano

    I can’t seem to get my English to surge and sweep forward between caesuras the way her Japanese does–Japanese poems have a reputation for stillness and contemplation, but Akiko is often all sensual force coming at you. The fact that tanka are usually printed in one vertical line down the page accentuates the effect. She also married another of the brashly innovative poets of her age. His talent dried up early, so she spent the rest of her life bearing about a hundred of his children and making money to move them around the world to try to get his muse talking to him again. A fascinating woman.

    Symantec differences

    Posted by Sean at 23:32, April 26th, 2004

    I’ve come to the conclusion that Mr. Norton is not as interested in providing my Internet with Security as he led me to believe. The IT-geek friend who went with me to get my new laptop warned me that XP has its problems playing well with other programs, but jeez. I’m starting to understand why all my Mac-loving friends guffaw whenever they hear the word “registry.” Norton can’t uninstall, can’t reinstall, and when installed, tells me (the Administrator!) I’m not cool enough to get into my firewall. Not even when I widen my green eyes while making them go hard and mineral-y, which always gets what I want from a man. This is why my favorite medium is still the fountain pen and linen paper. There’s the occasional ink blot to contend with, but at least there’s none of this “Installation failed!” malarkey to contend with.

    I’ve misplaced my ontologies

    Posted by Sean at 12:02, April 25th, 2004

    Paul Varnell doesn’t break new ground in his characteristically sensible IGF article on queer theory, but he does iterate a point that needs to be made over and over: “None of this seems very coherent. To the extent it is coherent it seems simply wrong.” On the one hand, even taking the energy to point out how contentless and irrelevant these people are as scholars is a waste. On the other hand, they do have plenty of influence in the campus gay culture that’s the backdrop for a lot of people’s coming out. I daresay that most gay students, even when their entire sense of themselves and the world is being broken down and remade, are together enough not to buy full-on into the laundry list of pomo beliefs. But those who do are those who most desperately need what a humanities education traditionally provided: lots and lots of information that took you outside yourself.

    In my book of dreams

    Posted by Sean at 03:37, April 25th, 2004

    Planned Parenthood is not an organization toward which I feel any loyalty. I can understand why religiously devout people would object to a good deal of what it represents. But Nathan quotes a Suzanne Vega-lookalike rock critic who provides an object lesson on why so many gay and lesbian people regard even well-meaning conservative Christians as nut cases. Here’s how Dawn Eden summarizes the Planned Parenthood GLBTXYZPDQ page she links:

    “Find “lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender” sex partners online.

    “Let me repeat that.

    “If you or someone you know is sending money to Planned Parenthood, that money is going to some adult sitting at a computer, who writes detailed instructions for underage teenagers on how to pick up lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender sex partners online.

    “I would be offended if they were inviting 14-year-olds to meet heterosexual sex partners online. But the thought of this organization, which claims to be protecting teenagers, instead inviting them to meet sexual predators who may steer them into homosexuality at a time when they are most impressionable, is truly disgusting.”

    Being a trusting sort–I really have to cut that out–I was expecting a page full of lascivious detail about safe sex techniques and how to get around having your parents find out you’re a dyke or poofter. Such a thing wouldn’t surprise me, when there are educators who seem to think that elementary school students need to be taught fisting.

    But, um, unless I missed something, the linked page assumes you’ll be working overtime to screen out lecherous 45-year-olds and having a chaste first date with another high school sophomore over Cokes at Chick-fil-A. Half the page is devoted to obsessing over the inability to verify that on-line correspondents are who they say they are–with good reason, of course.

    There is a line that gives instructions “in case things don’t go as you hope and you want to make an early exit,” and while I wouldn’t exactly be floored if Planned Parenthood types just used that as the most explicit reference to potential sex they dared include, it could refer to nothing more than not banking on a ride home from a blind date. In any case, neither it nor anything else I could see qualifies as “detailed instructions for underage teenagers on how to pick up lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender sex partners online” as any thinking person understands the phrasing.

    I don’t believe, needless to say, in encouraging teenagers to disobey their parents. Where I grew up, “You can do what you want when you’re eighteen, but while you’re living under my roof, you’ll do what I say” was the rule, and unless the household is abusive, I think it’s a good one. But teenage is when children are, if anything, most susceptible to the idea that they should fit in with their friends at any cost. The idea that being “impressionable” is the only reason a sixteen-year-old would be looking for a same-sex date simply doesn’t pass the smell test, however comforting it may be to people who cherish the belief that we’re all fixable.

    Love is all you need to purchase all the merchandise

    Posted by Sean at 18:49, April 24th, 2004

    Dolly Parton has always been one of my favorite celebrities. Yeah, I know, big surprise. But seriously, while she did that whole what-was-she-thinking? all-around entertainer routine for two decades, she also made some extraordinary music–I could listen to “Down from Dover” on repeat for hours–and she shows the very best American earthiness and self-deprecating humor:

    “There’s not going to be no wardrobe malfunction this evening,” she said, referring to Janet Jackson’s infamous breast-baring during the Super Bowl halftime show. “There’s not supposed to be, it’s not planned.

    “But as tight as my clothes are there’s no telling what will happen. If it does happen, I’m going to wipe out the first three rows,” she said.

    She still has that amazing ability to do bawdy humor without making it seem cheap or brazen. Incredible. (I do have to say, though, that the fact that the show is called the Flameworthy Awards made it sound like a joke at first. Apparently not.)


    Posted by Sean at 23:00, April 23rd, 2004

    I adore my friends (obviously, or I’d go be friends with different people), but I wish I could get them to stop treating me like a terminally-ill patient. I know that Atsushi’s being transferred out of Tokyo won’t be news for much longer, now that he’s been gone a month today. I’m also genuinely grateful for the support.

    But I swear: I’ve dealt with and oriented myself toward the fact that I’m not going to be seeing Atsushi more than twice a month for a year or two. It abrades me, but it isn’t the end of the world. What will most assuredly make me lose my mind is spending another night out being asked every ten minutes whether I’m okay. My four or five very closest friends know that I like to deal with my hurts in my own way, but “the guys” in the larger sense don’t seem to, and saying so in response to an offer of concern would sound as if I were telling them to buzz off.

    When these things come up, I never know whether the problem is cultural (in that my Japanese is good but not perfect, and understanding people’s expectations is frequently much harder than just learning to speak colloquial Japanese) or individual (in that even people who grew up together can misinterpret each other). Often, that’s kind of freeing. Having grown up in Oprah-era America, I know how crazy people can drive themselves when trying to analyze every batted eye and stray tossed-off remark as the key to one’s soul. Here, I more or less have to assume that a specific perceived slight from someone who overall treats me with kindness and respect isn’t worth fixating on.

    Not that clapping someone on the shoulder and wishing him well is a slight. It’s just that knowing that people are going to spend the evening feeling sorry for me makes me not really want to be around my own friends. And that makes me feel like a kvetchy ingrate who doesn’t deserve them. I don’t seem to have much choice but to smile and say, “Well, he’s coming back for Golden Week; that’s only a week away. I hope we’ll see you around so he can say hi.” I only wish people knew I meant it.

    The superiority of the juche ideal

    Posted by Sean at 11:11, April 22nd, 2004

    Wow. Two trains containing inflammable materials have collided in North Korea near the Chinese border. Both the CNN and the Nikkei (Japan Economics Journal) articles report that the DPRK news agency hasn’t broadcast the incident. This is not just some little sideswipe in the middle of nowhere that’s going to cause a government energy agency to lose (even more) money. There may be up to 3000 casualties. Those poor people. Given that the accident involved fire and industrial chemicals, the injuries are probably pretty nasty.

    It isn’t hard to imagine the combination of mismanagement and substandard equipment that might have brought this kind of thing on. It also isn’t hard to imagine the quality of medical care people will get, even with China’s assistance. The proximity of “self-sufficient” North Korea, with its news blackouts and constant leakage of refugees (not to mention those missile tests), is one of the creepiest and most depressing things about living in this part of the world.