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    You say you don’t, but you will

    Posted by Sean at 08:28, February 19th, 2006

    I find the long-distance relationship thing easier if I keep the apartment as if Atsushi might return for good tomorrow. You know, no slovenly-bachelor stuff, and no putting his stuff out of sight so it’s not “in the way”–I try to keep the sense of a shared life. And no junk all over the place. Sure, I’m normally pretty persnickety anyway, but when things are busy–and they have been lately–even I can get to letting things go.

    Today was catch-up. Since I like to eat a lot of vegetables and they tend to go bad if not used quickly, I made my week’s worth of vegetable scramble. Kind of like ratatouille, but kind of not–spring onions, broccoli, mushrooms, red and yellow peppers, eggplant, a can of tomatoes, whatever herbs strike my fancy. Darkened apartment, task lighting over the cutting board, glass of whiskey, humming along with 10000 Maniacs. It makes me smile a little that I still like Our Time in Eden so much. It came out my sophomore year, my most uncomplicatedly happy time at college–my best grades, starting a few upper-level classes, fun with friends all the time. Not much later, the shakeup that ended with my coming out and leaving the church I’d been reared in would start for real, after which being my friend was not much fun for a while. And Our Time in Eden, populated as it is with characters who feel weak-willed and are faced with sticky moral decisions–well, it was so much of that time for me that I thought I might end up sealing it off there and not wanting to return to it. But it’s okay. (What’s not okay is what happened to Natalie Merchant when she went solo. Gawd, what a grim little finger-wagging schoolmarm she turned into. She used to have such empathy for people who were having trouble doing the right thing without talking down to them–you could hear it, even if you didn’t agree with the “right thing” according to her lefty politics. Tigerlily just killed that dead.)

    Oh, speaking of plants, I was making vegetables a few minutes ago, wasn’t I? Yeah. That way I can nuke a frozen portion and dump it over pasta or alongside a poached egg on toast or what have you. Not as fresh as the things just picked from the garden like we had when I was little, but a lot better than Birdseye. As I said, no slovenly-bachelor stuff.

    BTW, I think my favorite passage about vegetables ever is Miss Manners’s on artichokes:

    Dear Miss Manners:
    What is the most efficient way of eating artichokes?

    Gentle Reader:
    For those who want to eat efficiently, God made the banana, complete with its own color-coordinated carrying case. The artichoke is a miracle of sensuality, and one should try to prolong such treats, rather than dispatch them speedily. An important part of sensuality is contrast. First pull off a leaf with a cruel, quick flick of the wrist, dip it in the sauce, and then slowly and lovingly pull the leaf through the teeth, with the chin tilted heavenward and the eyes half-closed in ecstasy. If the sauch drips, a long tongue, if you have one, may be sent down to get it. When the leaves are gone, the true subtlety of the artichoke reveals itself: a tender heart, covered with nasty bristles. To contrast with the fingering, there should be a sudden switch to cool formality. The fuzzy choke should be removed with dignified precision and a knife and fork, so that the heart may be consumed in ceremonial pleasure.

    The most wonderful of many wonderful things about Judith Martin is the way she makes life seem Alice in Wonderland-ish. You know, inanimate objects have personalities, people are strange, and unexpected things happen all the time, and you just have to roll with it.

    Of course, people do what you do expect sometimes. I actually did go out and pick up some Royal Copenhagen the other week; the whole “Buy Danish!” thing seemed kind of hokey, but I’ve felt better and better about it as the reaction has unfolded since. Anyway, Atsushi already had some Royal Copenhagen stuff that he didn’t take with him to Kyushu. You know how I’ve mentioned that he doesn’t wear any colors except navy blue and the occasional so-dark-it’s-almost-black forest green? Well, he’s the same with furniture and housewares. This is what you get when Atsushi goes shopping for dishes:


    No, don’t adjust the color on your monitor. See? The placemat’s green. It’s just the dishes that have no color. All Atsushi’s are like that. Well, he has a donburi or two with a pattern, but I think they were presents or something. The insides of the kitchen cabinets looked like a Walker Evans photograph until I arrived on the scene.

    They don’t anymore, because this is what you get when Sean goes shopping for dishes:


    Unlike, presumably, the Queen of Denmark, I’m not really into the chalky pastels. But given that my tea and coffee things are already a million colors and patterns, having a few restrained, solid things kicking around is probably a good thing.

    He comes home this coming weekend.

    H2A rocket launch succeeds

    Posted by Sean at 05:30, February 18th, 2006

    The H2A Rocket launch today was successful–good. Reuters also has a report up already here. Japan’s aerospace programs have still had their problems this year, but since last year’s first successful H2A launch, things have seemed to be improving nicely.

    The Keystone State

    Posted by Sean at 02:58, February 18th, 2006

    I lost sight of this a few weeks ago without posting about it, but the Casey senatorial campaign is getting into gear in my home state (via Gay News):

    In a Senate race that is looking to be the most closely watched and most expensive showdown in the nation, Pennsylvania State Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr. is looking to win the gay vote.

    Casey, who said he is gearing for nine more months of hard campaigning, will introduce himself to the region’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community Feb. 18 at the Human Rights Campaign Philadelphia Region Steering Committee’s annual gala.

    If he gets on the Democratic ticket, Casey is running, of course, against Rick Santorum, one of the least gay-friendly major politicians in America. (And yes, I know he has a gay communications director. I’m speaking in terms of ideas and policies.)

    Already he has the backing of the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization; HRC’s political action committee endorsed Casey in October.

    Ken Oakes, chair of the HRC Philadelphia Region Steering Committee, said an early endorsement like this is quite rare, but warranted.

    “They [HRC] believe, and we agree, this is the race of the nation,” Oakes said. “Whatever happens here with Rick Santorum and Bob Casey is really a bellwether for the nation.”

    Casey supports civil unions and domestic partner benefits, but stops short of supporting marriage equality.

    But, compared to Santorum — who has equated gay sex with bestiality, and said there is nothing wrong with intolerance — Oakes said Casey is a fair-minded candidate with a proven record of respecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and working on their behalf.

    Many members of the sexual and gender minority communities probably cannot understand HRC’s endorsement of Casey, Oakes said.

    The HRC’s early commitment in this case is a much more sensible unusual move than its idiotic endorsement of Joseph Whowasthatagain against gay-friendly (and very powerful) senior Senator Arlen Specter two years ago. Of course, the fact that Casey is a Democrat means everything falls cleanly along pre-conceived party lines this time, thus sparing most people involved from asking uncomfortable questions about, you know, principles and stuff.

    Of course, as the PGN notes, this year’s race is, for a lot of gay voters, as much about giving Santorum the heave as it is about getting a friendly candidate elected. Suppose you’re a gay Pennsylvanian who occasionally thinks about the economy, or education, or the WOT? The Casey campaign’s website is still on the thin side, but here‘s its issues page:

    Bob Casey is running for the U.S. Senate because he wants to help bring change to Washington.

    ZZZZZZZZ…wha? Oh, sorry.

    As your Senator, Bob Casey will fight to put the needs and concerns of Pennsylvania’s middle-class families first.

    Bob Casey has stood up for our seniors as Auditor General and successfully fought to improve the Health Department’s response to complaints about life-threatening abuse and neglect in nursing homes. He will continue to fight for our seniors in Washington.

    Bob Casey has led the fight to improve the quality of child care in Pennsylvania and make it more affordable for low-income working mothers. And his performance audits helped save money for our schools. He will continue to fight for our children and for public education as a U.S. Senator.

    Bob Casey also successfully fought to protect children from sex offenders. His investigation into compliance with Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law led to passage of tough new legislation in 2004 that requires information about all convicted sex offenders to be posted on the Internet. In Washington, Bob Casey will continue to protect our children and to give law enforcement the tools they need to fight crime.

    So he likes the usual array of entitlements–not surprising, if you’re worried about such trivialities as whether you can get elected. Casting himself as an opponent of excessive spending–using his work as auditor general and state treasurer to give the image dimension–while supporting all the spending programs that are dear to the middle class is a good strategy. (He also wants you to sign a petition to save–of all things–Amtrak. Some fiscal watchdogging there, eh?)

    So I’m not sure, at this early date, what change Casey will be bringing to Washington, besides the fact that there would be one senator fewer from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who doesn’t go to gay advocacy fundraisers.

    Casey’s Democratic rivals, perhaps because they recognize that they have a lot less name recognition than the son of a former governor, have much more fleshed-out policy pages. Assuming gay issues are your first priority, Chuck Pennacchio clearly supports civil unions and appears–though the relevant paragraph understandably kind of hedges–to support gay marriage. He also likes the assault weapons ban, calls the Iraq invasion “reckless and deceptive” in origin, wants all campaigns for federal office to be publicly funded, and (as if you couldn’t guess) thinks we’re not dumping enough tax money into the public school system and Medicare. Alan Sandals has his soundbites in handy chart form. He supports gay marriage and thinks we should begin withdrawing from Iraq. Otherwise, the same: more money for senior citizens, end the K Street Project as one in the eye for Santorum and the GOP.


    Posted by Sean at 01:53, February 18th, 2006

    New word: 非姉歯 (hi-aneha, presumably: “non-Aneha”), to designate buildings with falsified earthquake resistance certifications that were not produced by Hidetsugu Aneha:

    On 18 February, the City of Yokohama held an information session for residents of Tsurumi Ward, revealing of an apartment building in that district, the earthquake resistance of which had been found to be deficient [though] its structural calculations had been contracted to another architect than former first-class architect Hideji Aneha, that its level of earthquake resistance was 64% of the minimum standard mandated by the Building Standards Law. In an earthquake with an intensity of a strong 5 on the JMA scale, there is a risk that its quake-resistance walls could crack.

    The city explained, “This doesn’t bear the marks of willful falsification; there were errors in the structural calculations and inspection procedures.”

    Wow. Well, that makes it all better. There may be more to the story, though.

    According to the city’s statement, the building is the St. Regis Tsurumi (10 floors, 37 units). The building is managed by Huser Corp. (Oota Ward, Tokyo; in bankruptcy proceedings) and built by Kimura Construction (Yashiro City, Kumamoto Prefecture; also in bankruptcy proceedings). The building was designed by Shimokawabe Architecture and Design (Oota Ward, Tokyo), and the structural calculations performed by a design firm in Suginami Ward, Tokyo. Japan- ERI (Minato Ward, Tokyo), a private inspection organization, performed the building certification in 2002.

    With Huser and Kimura involved, it is not, shall we say, the easiest thing in the world to believe that there was no purposeful falsification. We’ll see, though.

    Arrest in Shiga stabbing

    Posted by Sean at 08:45, February 17th, 2006

    The big news today is that there’s been another child murder. This time there’s no question of having watched out more carefully for a suspicious stranger:

    A woman was arrested Friday on suspicion of fatally stabbing two 5-year-old schoolmates of her daughter while driving them to kindergarten, police said.

    Mie Taniguchi, 34, has admitted she stabbed the children, police said, but she has been unable to respond to questioning.

    A passerby called police around 9 a.m. Friday after coming across a boy and a girl lying and bleeding in an area filled with rice paddies.

    Each child had been stabbed about 20 times, police said.

    The woman said Taniguchi was originally from China and apparently had trouble with the Japanese language.

    About a year ago, the woman said, Taniguchi complained that she could not mingle with the mothers of other children at the kindergarten.

    Obviously, there was more going on there than simple trouble with Japanese; foreign women marry Japanese men and adjust to life here–the initial distant reception for both them and their children, the difficulties communicating–without stabbing anyone. You have to feel sorry for the parents of the dead children, of course, but I’m most sad for Taniguchi’s own daughter.

    Thank you for your support

    Posted by Sean at 08:27, February 17th, 2006

    If lack of earthquake safety in your house doesn’t bother you, perhaps I could interest you in this bridge?

    A construction company is being blamed for covering up shoddy construction work on an expressway bridge in Toyama Prefecture to pass a government inspection, The Yomiuri Shimbun learned Thursday.

    Matsumoto Construction Co., headquartered in Tonami in the prefecture, constructed smaller-than-normal piles built to support two piers of the expressway bridge while preparing foundations for the four-pier elevated structure at Awara in Himi, also in the prefecture, in 2004.

    In August of the same year, the company found the diameter of some piles was up to 10 percent short of the 120-centimeter standard set by the Construction and Transport Ministry.

    To clear a ministry inspection confirming the construction work conformed to standards, Matsumoto Construction secretly cast concrete into each faulty pile’s head–which remained above the ground and was examined in the official check–to make them appear up to the diameter standard.

    As construction of the four piers has already been completed, the extent to which the piles fall short of minimum standards is impossible to confirm. The ministry’s Hokuriku Regional Development Bureau, which has already excavated holes at the site to conduct sample checks on the piles, said the two piers were not in danger of collapse.

    The bureau, however, has not yet carried out a similar check on a third pier to verify its strength. It plans to look into the matter as soon as possible, officials said.

    Once again, I know this stuff happens everywhere–but it’s exactly the sort of profit-driven hanky-panky on the part of private businesses that we were told for decades didn’t happen in Japan because of the omnipresence of careful civil servants and everyone’s prioritization of group benefits.

    I heard it all before

    Posted by Sean at 03:40, February 17th, 2006

    The new Madonna video is out.


    The Kylie hair is pretty flattering, actually. But it’s Kylie hair. That’s not a slam on Kylie (who didn’t really invent it herself, anyway). We love Kylie. But Madonna is not Kylie. Sure, she’s done revivals and rip-offs before, but she always seemed to be enjoying herself, and they served some kind of expressive point. Remaking the “Fever” video minus the metallic body paint? No point to that that I can see. And kind of grim actually.

    Oh, and speaking of which–one more thing.

    Mads? Listening? Here it is:




    Seriously, it can’t be just whatever your aesthetic-body-maintenance people are doing, unless they’ve gone and wired your mouth shut. Part of it’s age, probably, but most of it is clearly posture and attitude. Your lips no longer look pliant and inviting, so your trademark brazen stare has no tease to it. It just looks scary. I mean, scary-scary, not thrilling-scary.

    Seriously, have you relaxed a single muscle–at all, ever–since the obstetrician dilated you so you could pass that last kid? Girlfriend, you have enough money to finance ten Methuselah-length lifetimes. You’ve been the most famous woman on the planet for the better part of two decades. Rock critics capitulated to you as far back as Like a Prayer. Contemporary music videos, for both better and worse, would be inconceivable without you. You used to be an overachiever because you had a million ideas; now you work hard to make videos for disco songs that show people, you know, dancing around. A real flight of imagination, that.

    Let’s just hope you come up with something better for “Jump,” which is supposed to be the third single, yeah? It’s the best song on the album and doesn’t deserve the see-me-do-Dance-Dance-Revolution-with-a-bunch-of-teenagers treatment.


    Posted by Sean at 11:15, February 15th, 2006

    This is the kind of malarkey that always yanks my chain (via Ex-Gay Watch). People have religious convictions against homosexuality–fine, they have a right to air them. There’s self-destructive behavior in sectors of gay life–it’s only honest to point that out, too. It’s when people’s post-Enlightenment guilt consciences start getting the better of them–and they start making inane, pseudo-rigorous statements that mime the use of reliable scientific backing–that they become insufferable:

    Can a society create more homosexuals? The answer quite clearly is yes. That is how current homosexuals, in fact, came to be.

    People, especially the young, can be seduced into homosexual behavior and have their identities molded around the homosexual lifestyle through a combination of persuasion and circumstances that may include the following:

    • being convinced homosexuality is acceptable;

    • reading or viewing explicit homosexual pornography;
    • having a close relationship with a peer who is practicing homosexuality;
    • admiring an older teacher or mentor who is homosexual;
    • attending homosexual social venues (a “gay” club, bar, church youth group);
    • being homosexually molested;
    • having parents who espouse homosexuality or engage in homosexual activism;
    • lacking strong ties to a church that remains faithful to the historic Christian faith, and hostility toward traditional views.

    Strong religious faith, especially traditional Christian morality, often acts as a protective barrier to the development of homosexual desire. When children grow up trusting God as the Designer of masculinity and femininity, and if they are not sexually molested or have their innocence assaulted by other traumatic events, their feelings will be channeled normally toward heterosexual sex within marriage as an obvious and desirable goal.

    Madam, not to put too fine a point on it, but you are an idiot.

    My own upbringing, point by point against Ms. Harvey’s imaginings:

    • Not a week went by at church when the threat homosexuality posed to society was not held up as a reason America was in deep trouble. From the moment AIDS was first identified in the early ’80’s, my parents reacted to news stories about it by saying that it was God’s punishment for sinful behavior;

    • Yeah, right;
    • My parents wouldn’t have stood for that for a second;
    • The only teacher known to be gay at my high school was the kind of shriveled-up, mean, trollish guy who made Charles Nelson Reilly look benevolent. I did not, I can assure you, look up to him. Otherwise, I grew up around churchgoing manual laborers and their wives;
    • The idea of a gay social venue for teenagers in Emmaus, PA, in the 1980s is the funniest thing I’ve heard all day. My parents believed in fun, but they monitored our access to artifacts of popular culture very closely;
    • No–I realize that a lot of virulently anti-gay types cling to this explanation like a security blanket, but no;
    • By telling fag and dyke jokes when activists were featured on television, maybe?
    • I was brought up in the Worldwide Church of God, a church so utterly off-the-deep-end fundie we weren’t invited to the rest of the Christian right’s play dates. My father was the teacher for our highest level of youth Bible lessons (like Sunday school). He read to my brother and me from the Bible nightly before tucking us in until I was sixteen or so. After that, I was expected to study the Bible, also nightly, myself. We had two-hour services every week. You took notes.

    So “That is how current homosexuals, in fact, came to be”? Sorry. Try again.

    I don’t mind opposition. Two or three of the earliest friends I made through commenting on blogs frequently commented on what they believed was the sinfulness of homosexuality.

    I do very much mind having my biography rewritten by ignoramuses–or rather, people can think whatever insulting things they like about me, but I mind the implications for the people I grew up around. You can’t say that irresponsible parenting leads to homosexuality in the abstract without, necessarily, saying that the individual parents of individual homosexuals fell down on the job. Well, my parents did not. They pushed me firmly toward traditionally working-class boyish activities. They set an example of a great marriage. I think some of what they did was misguided–specifically, the anti-gay stuff and the constant playing of Ringo Starr solo albums on the stereo–but nobody’s perfect. They managed to turn out resilient kids with fully-functioning bullshit detectors and a can-do approach to tackling life’s problems.

    None of this is to say that sex ed bureaucrats with intrusive condom-on-banana programs can’t confuse and screw up children, or that some people who are unhappily homosexual can’t learn to function in a straight relationship, or that child-rearing is currently in the greatest shape in America, or that pop culture isn’t increasingly hard for parents to play gatekeeper with. It’s just that single-issue explanations that–how convenient!–just happen to support people’s preconceived ideas about how the universe works are of little help to people who believe in individuality and the disinterested pursuit of truth. (And yes, it’s just as annoying when gay activists do their “we were OBVIOUSLY BORN GAY” routine.) They do, however, cause harm to parents who are thus haunted by the thought that there must have been something they Could Have Done.

    A raw nerve

    Posted by Sean at 08:42, February 15th, 2006

    Gaijin Biker links to a Japan Times interview with the Egyptian ambassador here, in which he does that oily I’m-not-making-threats-I’m-just-stating-a-fact thing:

    Attacks like the ones on the Danish embassies in Syria and Lebanon last weekend could take place in Japan if the media here insult Muslims by reprinting cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, Egyptian Ambassador to Japan Hisham Badr warned Friday.

    “This is not a question of freedom of expression…. This is a question of blaspheme of religion,” Badr said in an interview with The Japan Times. “It touches a very raw nerve” with Muslims worldwide.

    So it’s not a question of freedom of expression; it’s just a question of whether expressing certain things will get your life, liberty, or property threatened.

    I’m glad that’s cleared up.

    This whole thing is frustrating because I’m always happy to see calls for civilized behavior and wish there were more of them. I was brought up by and among fervently religious people, and despite being an atheist homo, I try to be respectful of their beliefs. Of course, you can’t debate some points of spirituality without telling people directly that you think they’re full of baloney, but that’s why you don’t introduce religion as a topic socially unless you’re sure everyone’s game for a pretty rousing discussion. I meet some religious people who are just interested in a neighborly manner in my current convictions; I meet others who are pretty clearly more interested in seeing whether they can try to draw me into their congregation. But never have I encountered anyone who’s acted as if I were somehow obliged, even as a non-believer, to follow the strictures of his faith or risk reprisal.

    Most of us in the West are not part of the ummah. We are not. We don’t feel the need to act as if we were. I don’t think these sorts of discussions can really get anywhere until a critical mass of Muslim public figures and opinion-makers make it very clear that they get that. I would think it discourteous if a group of Christians (and Jews and New Age types and atheists) decided to eat in a pointed fashion in front of a Muslim friend or corworker during daylight hours in Ramadan. But what if some Muslims had started things off by demanding that the cafeteria be closed so that no one could buy food on the premises during their holy month? Well, that would change things, wouldn’t it? You might still recognize the public eating of Egg McMuffins with exaggerated relish as an affront, but you’d recognize that it was an affront with a point: we can be friendly and accommodating after you recognize that we are not bound as adherents by your religious rules.

    After all, if we’re going to criticize hostility to foreign religions, we could get quite a long discussion going about Saudi Arabia, where policy actively interferes with the religious practices of non-Muslims (indeed, even Muslims who don’t belong to the official sect) who want to wear crucifixes or see clergy regularly or bring in copies of their sacred books. But I guess it’s more important that liberal democracies be lectured about cartoons.

    Added at 0:06: Speaking of Saudi Arabia, Al Gore is… cheese and crackers.

    Out all night

    Posted by Sean at 08:30, February 14th, 2006


    The government is expected to reject an application by a dance club operator in Roppongi, Minato Ward, Tokyo, to make the district a government special zone to allow clubs to stay open all night.

    It is expected to be rejected on the ground that the special designation would lead to a deterioration of public order.

    In November, Velfarre asked the government to make Roppongi a special zone for structural reform and allow its clubs to be open all night like those in London and Paris. The company argued that the proposed easing of regulations would attract tourists to Roppongi, revitalizing the district.

    However, the Metropolitan Police Department opposed the request, saying foreigners committed many crimes in that part of the capital [SRK rolls eyes], and an all-night club in an area full of drunk people would make Roppongi a hotbed of criminality.

    Anyone who thinks something has to change for Roppongi to contribute to a deterioration of public order and become a hotbed of criminality has clearly never been there.