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    Posted by Sean at 23:47, January 6th, 2006

    The way I met my last boyfriend was this: A yenta-ish friend who runs one of the bars I go to showed me Ryuichi’s photograph and asked whether I’d be interested in meeting him. When I arrived, a space was cleared and Ryuichi’s friends–I swear, I’m not making this up–acted the part of his elders and protectors and interrogated me about my job, where I lived, and whether I was from an intact, respectable family! Good thing for him they were so adamant on that first point, too, since he quit his job soon after and decided to spend a year doing little but surfing.

    This post from the always-interesting Cathy Young a few days ago isn’t about Japan, or about gay life, but it illustrates the kinds of questions I was alluding to here–things Western journalists tend to neglect while cooking up Hamburger Helper articles about the evolution of Japanese household patterns:

    Is anyone going to seriously argue that a man’s resources–income, power, status–are generally irrelevant to women’s preferences in the mating game in modern-day American culture? That doesn’t mean most women are calculating golddigers (as some men’s rights folks like to depict them), but yes, women generally prefer not to “marry down,” and not just in terms of money but also in terms of prestige, education and intelligence, for which a college degree is considered a marker. To deny this fact is, shall we say, not very reality-based. Unlike many conservatives, I’m not saying that this is the way it should be or the way it always will be. But for now, such a trend is definitely there.

    Japan’s post-War constitution, interestingly enough, defines marriage as between a man and a woman not because of any prescience about the fight over gay marriage (there isn’t any here) but in order to outlaw forced arranged marriages. Family elders could no longer use marriageable young adults as instruments by which to carry out politicking or feuds, at least legally.

    But the practice of finding a spouse through お見合い (o-miai: lit., “looking at each other,” a meeting between two eligible people, usually arranged by their families through a matchmaker) lingered on, and though people date freely now, it’s still common. While marrying “for love” is much more the norm now than it used to be, a good job is still recognized up front as the major criterion when a man is under consideration as a potential husband. And that certainly would have been the case thirty-five years ago, when the women whose husbands are now retiring and driving them crazy around the house were sizing up the available men.

    You don’t get a sense of that or its implications as spouses aged together from the recent Reuters article:

    “Japanese men’s life expectancy falls by about 10 years if they divorce late in life,” said Nishida, who now runs regular discussion days to help couples overcome the hurdle of retirement. “That’s because they can’t do anything for themselves.”

    She did not divorce but insisted her own husband at least learned to cook for himself.

    “Couples need to rebuild their relationship,” Nishida said. “Retired men still tend to act like the lord and master.”

    Not all men see a need for change.

    “Mature Divorce” star Tetsuya Watari said in an interview on the program’s Web site that he never cooks and has not bothered to give his wife a birthday present in decades.

    “I don’t think Kotaro’s way of life is wrong,” he said of the workaholic character he played in the drama.

    Some viewers agreed with him.

    “I can’t agree with the wife’s point of view,” said one poster on the Web site.

    “She says Kotaro works all the time and doesn’t help around the house, but that’s normal for someone devoted to his job — I think it’s admirable. At least he’s not a talentless loser.”

    The above passage gives every appearance of an effort at scrupulous fair-mindedness. But even in giving both the he-said and the she-said, it leaves a lot out. Retired men may act like the lord and master, but it’s equally true that plenty of married women of that generation–and this is hardly a phenomenon unique to Japan–regarded the home as their turf alone and would hardly have encouraged their husbands to poke around in “my” kitchen cabinets or work less overtime if it meant a decrease in money and prestige for the household. True, one hears of wives who begged their husbands to trade down in employment so they had more time with their families, but that was not the norm in the era of post-War economic hypergrowth.

    The viewpoint ascribed to the men–and I should take the opportunity to point out now that how much of the superficiality of the final version is due to Isabel Reynolds’s reporting, as opposed to, possibly, an editor who was bent on giving the paying customers what they want out of their stories about the aging society in workaholic Japan–is just as reductive. The Japanese have been known for working long hours, but, especially before the end of the Bubble, the time spent away from home “for work” often involved a few hours of carousing with coworkers at the end of the day. Sure it was basically mandatory if you wanted to advance, but the reason it was possible to make it so was that men let the women take care of the household in its entirety. There were undoubtedly husbands who worked stone-cold sober at their desks right up until they had to dash for the last train and then collapsed wordlessly into bed and started snoring away when they got home; but most offices, at least, were not set up that way.

    Also, a funny thing happened on the way to the year 2000: Japan became super-rich. It remains rich despite the bursting of the Bubble. When today’s retirees were getting married, Japan was on its way to becoming a global economic power, but war and rice rations were still in living memory and made certain kinds of sacrifices seem fair enough, even necessary. Now that the Japanese are accustomed to the choices available to consumers in a First World country, those sacrifices are less palatable.

    All of which is to say, it takes two to do the dysfunctional marriage tango. The bargain struck in Japanese marriages after the War was that the men worked themselves to death (sometimes literally–the word is 過労死 [karoushi: “death from overwork”]) until retirement, thereby earning themselves the right to do nothing but play golf from then on. Women were supposed to satisfy their desire for work by rearing the children and keeping the house, but they also had money and time to spend on flower arranging classes, movies, and lunch at trendy restaurants with the girls.

    Of course their husbands never learned how to take care of themselves. Not only have they not been taught to, they’ve been taught not to. BY WOMEN. Mother did for them all through childhood; if they didn’t live at home after college, they lived in a corporate dorm with a dining hall; and once they were married…well, see the above. (As someone who’s dated three first-born sons of Japanese households, I could say a lot more about that, but it would be unseemly.) You can certainly point out plenty of ways that the system is unfair to women, but it doesn’t strike me as unreasonable for a sixty-year-old man whose wife decides she wants a divorce to say, essentially, “Just a minute here–I fulfilled my end of the deal, and now you want to welsh on it and still have me support you!”

    One final thing worthy of note: Reporters understandably cover conflicts and tensions and things because they’re interesting, and the resulting problems tend to drive developments in society and policy. Unfortunately, if the only Japanese people you ever read about are homicidal teenagers, consumers of manga porn, and geriatric couples who hate the sight of each other, you can start to get the sense that the entire archipelago is utterly bonkers. Those problems and others do exist, and they’re serious. I talk about them myself. But Japan is a great place that, in the main, does right by its people. Walk in Tokyo parks on weekends, and you’ll see plenty of old couples who have an easy, if amusingly bickersome, intimacy and are clearly devoted to each other. Not the sort of thing that gets media attention, perhaps, but an important part of the picture.

    I could give you a mirror

    Posted by Sean at 12:17, January 6th, 2006

    Atsushi comes back for the three-day weekend tomorrow, sounding much worse than when he took off for Kyushu a few days ago. I would have said that that’s what he gets for going somewhere where he’s without my loving arms to hold him, but he hardly contradicts me on that point, so there’s no point in being a punk about it. The day after our last social obligation, I used the leftovers from the holiday to make chicken soup with a pretty scandalous amount of ginger. And garlic. And pepper. Any self-respecing mucous membrane would have been positively euphoric. When I saw him off, he was much better than he had been, but he was going right back into the incubator. Anyway, the flu is pretty severe here, especially on the Sea of Japan coast; everyone stay healthy.

    One survivor of mine explosion

    Posted by Sean at 06:05, January 4th, 2006

    Wow. That’s horrible. Atsushi and I watched the initial reports on CNN yesterday. Certain physical-labor jobs can only be made so safe–my father’s gotten into a few scrapes at the steel plant over the years, and that’s not a few hundred feet underground–but modern detection and rescue equipment is very sophisticated. With that and the memory of the PA incident a few years ago, I wasn’t really all that worried (despite the regularity of reports of high-casualty disasters from the PRC). My thoughts are with the families.

    Added later: CNN’s thoughts are with the families, too, though for what appear to be slightly different reasons. I’m copying the link in the parenthetical even though it won’t work from here:

    It was about three hours after the first news — at roughly 3 a.m. — that Hatfield, the CEO of International Coal Group, announced that 12 of the 13 were dead. (Watch relatives weep over ‘a miracle taken away’ — 3:21)

    Egads. I’m all for candor, but there’s something to be said for keeping a decent cover on your exploitativeness, even if everyone recognizes that being pushy is part of your job.


    Posted by Sean at 05:51, January 4th, 2006

    There’s this new phenomenon that’s totally sweeping Japan. Read here at Reuters and be the first on your block to know.

    See, this new phenomenon involves…it’s like, Japanese society is aging, right? And husbands are retiring and then hanging around the house all day and being like, “Mama, where’s my beer? I TOLD YOU A HALF-HOUR AGO I WANT A BEER!” And the wives are like, “You don’t have the energy to shuffle into the kitchen yourself? It’s not like you’re working fourteen-hour days anymore, buddy. I’m practicing my calligraphy.” And sometimes things get all, like, escalate-y from there:

    With a new law set to come into force in 2007 allowing ex-wives to claim half their husband’s pension, domestic media are warning of a possible divorce boom.

    The number of Japanese couples parting ways has risen rapidly over the past 20 years to a 2002 peak of 290,000, while divorce among those married more than 20 years has increased even faster.

    Now figures are drifting downwards, but many commentators speculate that women — who initiate the majority of divorces — are holding out until 2007.

    Some Japanese women see their husbands as an obstacle to enjoying their sunset years.

    With few hobbies or friends to turn to, many Japanese retirees, often nicknamed “wet leaves” for their tendency to cling to their wives, spend their time at home.

    What’s more, they expect their spouses to wait on them as they did when they were bread-winners.

    “This was my problem. My husband reached retirement and didn’t know what to do with himself, so he was always in the house,” said Sayoko Nishida, author of a popular book called “Why are retired husbands such a nuisance?”

    Now, at this point, you may be thinking, Gee, Sean, I’m kinda feeling like I’ve heard that somewhere before. If so, it may have been here. No? What about here? Way back here? It’s hard to tell, since those are just the publications that are available on-line, and people have been talking about the divorcing-seniors problem in Japan FOREVER.

    I’m not saying these things should be covered once and never again; the new family laws certainly are going to have an effect, and that’s something reporters are justified in asking experts about. But phrases such as “set to retire in the next few years” and “speculate” give a sense that we’re at the leading edge of a development that we can only guess about, when in fact we were learning about the 粗大ゴミ (sodai gomi: lit., “bulky trash,” also used as a derogatory term for husbands who just sit there doing nothing around the house after retirement) issue in Japanese classes when I was in college more than ten years ago.

    In other words, there should be all kinds of information, both hard and anecdotal, to talk about: how the middle-aged children react, whether enterpreneurial types are devising services for baffled and newly-single men, what it is about the Japanese family dynamic that makes it impossible for so many couples to talk over their new situation and make the necessary adjustments without splitting up, and what the counseling industry has found is the best way for couples to prepare for and work through the problem.

    Instead, we get a desultory retread of the most rudimentary divorce rate and life expectancy stats, a few generic quotations from women moaning that their husbands can’t boil water, and a few more from men grousing back that they devoted their lives to working for the money their wives used to run the household. None of this does much to enlighten those who don’t know much about Japan, and it’s yawningly familiar to those who do. In this case, the reporter also took the assertion that men have “preferred” to devote their lives to their jobs at face value, hinting that she may have a poor understanding of the tremendous pressure on men to work long hours. And the one actually new twist–that women will be able get half their husband’s pensions if they divorce them once the 2007 law goes into effect–is only dealt with in a couple of passing sentences. Sheesh. Where do bloggers get the idea that anyone can be a journalist, huh?

    Prime Minister Koizumi gives New Year speech

    Posted by Sean at 02:56, January 4th, 2006

    Prime Minister Koizumi’s neighborliness was on display this morning, as was his diffidence:

    Regarding the PRC and ROK, the Prime Minister said that they have taken advantage of pilgrimages by Japanese government officials to chill relations with Japan: “Foreign governments are interfering in what is for us a matter of the heart. I cannot comprehend their posture that this is a diplomatic issue; there can be none of this closing off of avenues of discussion,” he said, criticizing the positions of both nations for using the Yasukuni Shrine pilgimages as a reason to cease head-of-state visits.

    He also revealed that “an understanding of the crucial importance of the Japan-US alliance and international cooperation” would be a condition for post-Koizumi [power within the LDP]. He indicated that his successor as prime minister would be expected to continue with not only his structural reforms but also his approach to diplomacy.

    At the same time, he pointed out that “it is extremely important for top leaders to gain the support of the citizenry. At the same time, they must gain the cooperation and trust of the members of the Diet. We have reached the era in which both are vital,” and revealed that he thinks the selection of a prime minister by leaders of an intra-party alliance undesirable.

    Party politics since the War has often meant that, while voters obviously selected members of the Diet, much real power even in that body lay with unelected LDP officers.

    The ROK foreign minister has weighed in already:

    South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Ki-mun Ban addressed a press conference on 4 January, voicing opposition to Prime Minister Jun’ichiro Koizumi’s statement on the same day criticizing the PRC and ROK for refusing to conduct head-of-state visits with Japan because of the Yasukuni Shrine pilgrimage issue: “We want the leaders of the Japanese government to listen to the point of view of neighboring nations and come to a correct perception of history.”

    Foreign Minister Ban sought effort from the Japan side, citing the Yasukuni Shrine issue, the Takeshima (Kor.: Tokuto) Island territorial dispute, and the history textbook issue: “The most important thing from the standpoint of maintaining ROK-Japan relations and cooperation in the Northeast Asia region is for the Japanese government to exert itself to adopt an posture in which it has a correct perception of history and can gain the trust and respect of neighboring nations.”

    DPJ leader Seiji Maehara chimed in, at least as far as the Yasukuni Shrine issue goes, at a press conference in Mie Prefecture: “[The Prime Minister] is losing opportunities to improve relations with other countries. It’s irresponsible.”

    Added at 17:00: The Mainichi also has an English report of the Koizumi speech (including this line that wasn’t in the Nikkei: “The United States is the only nation in the world that sees an attack on Japan as an attack on itself”) and a report on the US government’s thoughts on Japan’s interactions with its neighbors:

    The United States has asked Japan to reconsider its policies on Asia because of concerns about deteriorating Sino-Japanese relationships after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine, diplomatic sources have said.

    U.S. President George W. Bush also asked Chinese President Hu Jintao during their summit meeting in Beijing in November last year to discuss issues of history with Japan in connection with the Yasukuni problem, U.S. sources who accompanied the president on his Asian tour said. In reply, President Hu simply said the U.S. presence in Asia was important for China.

    Bush and other top U.S. politicians are apparently afraid that Japan will become isolated in Asia as Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine, where Japan’s Class A war criminals are worshipped, continue to antagonize and infuriate China and South Korea.

    Why can’t we all just argue?

    Posted by Sean at 00:13, January 4th, 2006

    Here’s a question for people: Which of the following is the more important to you?

    1. living by your principles
    2. making other people like you

    Because the thing is, they’re both worthy goals, but you can’t prioritize them equally all the time. You can and should listen to others without assuming you already know what they’re going to say. You can and should resist the temptation to put words in their mouths just because you heard them from the last few proselytizing [conservatives/liberals/heteros/homos/Atkins dieters/Steely Dan fans] you got into a tussle with. You can and should avoid second-guessing people’s motivations and spinning out speculative narratives about their inner emotional lives (a pet peeve of mine, that). All of which is to say, you can and should be civil.

    But that doesn’t mean making nice at all costs. Something Camille Paglia wrote a decade ago in her “No Law in the Arena” essay impressed me greatly when I first read it, even though it clearly wasn’t intended as one of her trademark rampaging-diva climaxes. She was talking about rape activism specifically, but her point has wider applications:

    What I call Betty Crocker feminism–a naively optimistic Pollyannaish or Panglossian view of reality–is behind much of this. Even the most morbid of the rape ranters have a childlike faith in the perfectibility of the universe, which they see as blighted solely by nasty men. They simplistically project outward onto a mythical “patriarchy” their own inner conflicts and moral ambiguities.

    It’s hard to have a discussion with people whose view of reality starts with the fallacy that people naturally get along swimmingly, and that therefore whatever friction arises is only there because you–you evil [liberal/conservative/homo/hetero/carb consumer/only-owns-Gaucho-er]–artificially brought it in from an alien realm. Living, breathing people in a free society have deeply-held beliefs that are at loggerheads with other people’s deeply-held beliefs. People also have internal conflicts that are hard to resolve. That doesn’t make human empathy or the impulse toward kindness less real; it just means that it’s not the only force we need to factor in when discussing our interests.

    It also means that we have to deal with people on their own terms. No one’s personality comes with a line-item veto. I don’t see why LaShawn Barber should not write what she thinks about homosexuality in order to get a rep as the nice black female conservative any more than I plan to stop being a flaming homo in order to get more social conservatives to pay attention to what I’m saying about Japan-US relations. People who only like some aspects of a given blog are free to skip the posts they don’t feel edified by; if the stuff they object too carries sufficient weight with them, they can decide the rest of the blog isn’t worth it and skip the whole thing. People who freak the hell out at the possibility that they might applaud 80% of what a blogger writes and be outraged at the other 20% should probably skip reading blogs altogether and take up PlayStation. Those who are secure in their identities and convictions don’t shrink from criticizing that which they believe reprehensible (or plain inaccurate), but they don’t have a nervous breakdown over its very existence.

    Open conflict is a part of life in democratic societies, and it has the advantage of sifting out and sharpening the best among competing ideas as well as the disadvantage of making life less harmonious. (See also Eric and Grand Stander) The alternative is rule by the collective, in which you the individual are peremptorily informed which tradeoffs will make you happy and then expected to live with them. The tendency of people from such societies to scramble aboard the nearest boat to America the minute they get the chance should indicate how attractive that option really is. In a classical-liberal society, we can’t stop people from trying to impose their estimation of our dignity and worth on us–sometimes loudly and publicly–but we’re not obliged to go along with it. Are there really people who don’t think that’s worth the compromise?

    Don’t answer that.


    Posted by Sean at 07:31, January 3rd, 2006

    So am I the only one who’s totally champing at the bit for the three final episodes of 古畑任三郎 ? I can see why they’re ending it–Tamura Masakazu must be 102 by now, and Imaizumi-kun must be a total chrome-dome. (Actually, apparently no, on that latter point.)

    This is so exciting.

    Added at 21:36: Okay, actually, I’m going to record them so Atsushi and I can watch them together over the three-day weekend; the first DVD is being toasted now.

    This is way cool.

    Will Norito Yashima play a waiter this week? Or a taxi driver? Tomorrow’s guest star murderer is Ichiro. Maybe Yashima will be a batboy? In this economy, you never know. That’s how he ended up at the Japanese embassy in Spain, if I remember correctly.

    And how will Ichiro kill his victim tomorrow? You know, when I say he’s totally not my type, I don’t really mean that in any sort of sententious way. What I really mean is that if, say, Fuji TV decides to show him in a steam room wearing only a towel and strangling someone with his bare hands, powerful forearms straining, I might possibly be persuaded to be a little less dismissive after all.

    I’m just saying.

    Added at 22:00: For anyone who’s not Japan-based and is thinking, Huh? the show I’m referring to is a Japanese show modeled on Columbo. I wrote a little about it a while back, too.

    Added on 5 January: WTF? A glam twin who murders her dowdier but more talented twin and then muddies up the time of death by impersonating her? Well, that’s original. Never seen a mystery like that before.

    Man, the hiding-in-plain-sight mistake she made that Furuhata catches her on had better be agonizingly good. PFFT!

    Added later on 5 January: And the final double-cross didn’t make up for it. Enjoyable, though.

    The plunge

    Posted by Sean at 06:59, January 3rd, 2006

    Since Atsushi and I managed to yum-yum our New Year’s rice cakes* right down without choking to death on them, it seems you’re stuck with me for another year.

    For that matter, in a few weeks’ time, Atsushi will have been stuck with me for exactly five years. Not even by being transferred to another island has he managed to escape.

    And–I don’t know what precisely jogged my memory of this, except possibly the general reflections one does on the passage of time during the holidays–it’s ten years ago today that I came out to my parents.

    They were still officially living in their old place, the little rented townhouse they’d moved into after marrying in 1971 and were about to move out of now that my little brother was ready to start college.

    The house they’d finally been able to put up a down payment for was a fixer-upper three or four miles down the road. It had been abandoned by tax evaders and left vacant for a few years, during which time someone had broken in and defaced it. The master bath was sooty with the remains of a fire in the shower. There were holes punched or hacked in some of the walls. And others had been spraypainted: “This is our house.” “Satan lives in this house.” The former message made my parents say that the malefactors had probably been the former owners’ much-tried children. The latter message, which was accompanied by a point-up star inside a circle, made a college friend of mine [from McKean County] roll her eyes and say, “Trust rural Pennsylvania Satanists not to be able to draw a freakin’ pentagram right.”

    I was home from New York for the New Year. My parents were full of talk about wallpaper patterns and rented floor sanders and other sweat equity stuff. Dad makes wooden furniture as a hobby, so Mom was coming up with all kinds of elaborate cabinets that could be contrived for this or that odd space. I’d been dating a man for over a year and out to myself, in that final way, for a few months. My only vague thought about telling my parents had been that it might be a good idea after I’d been in grad school for a few years, when I was twenty-five or twenty-six and my having lived in the City for a while had gotten them used to the idea that my life was not going to be the return to the hometown that they’d envisioned for me. After all, lots of gay men and women with conservative Christian families found ways not to break their parents’ hearts without lying to them.

    And then some time during those last few days of December, the thought creeped up on me that I had an opportunity that wouldn’t come up again. The house was a project that would be occupying my parents for at least a good year; it was something ready to hand that they could throw themselves into if they were feeling distrait. The room I’d slept in for eighteen years before college wouldn’t be down the hall every night. Everything at the house on Broad Street was going to be packed away and removed, anyway; if they decided they had to cut off contact with me, I could get whatever stuff I needed and leave without its being the only such Event going on.

    I also knew that they were not the sort of parents to go to their grave resolutely believing that their son wasn’t a homo but just a workaholic who hadn’t found the right girl. I’d had the usual frictions with them as a teenager, but we’d always gotten along well and communicated frankly. Eventually, I’d be thirty-five years old and home for dinner, and Mom would deposit the platter of Swiss steak on the table with a clunk and demand to know just what was up with me and that long-term roommate of mine. Or Dad would hand me a cup of coffee one morning and ask, once I had a good mouthful, whether I really expected them to believe I’d been sleeping on a couch for six years. My parents have a talent for delivering a zinger when you least expect it.

    Of course, this was going to be my zinger, and I knew that if I started trying to plan it, thinking about all the possibilities–I should probably have bus money in my pocket in case they throw me out right then and there–would make me lose my nerve. So I decided to wait for a good break in the conversation and improvise, but not to think too much about it until then. (That actually wasn’t all that hard; we were really busy entertaining friends and running around and stuff. I was too exhausted at night to lie awake being anxious.)

    Straight readers may find this surprising, but I honestly don’t remember clearly how the actual conversation went. Not really. Not the way, with my lit-major brain, I can often replay other memorable scenes word for word in my head for years afterward. I know I said everything I thought I needed to say, without being halting about it they way I’d been afraid I’d be. I know they assured me they weren’t going to disown me and then, after the inital shock wore off, qualified that by suggesting all the things you can imagine conservative Christian parents’ suggesting.

    And a few days later I was back in New York, and my parents were moving. And things were okay. That much I do remember clearly.

    * お餅 (o-mochi: sticky rice, often cut into cakes of approx. 1 cm * 4 cm * 5 cm that are toasted and eaten wrapped in sheets of pressed seaweed). The Japanese can make deadly foods out of not only poisonous fish but also rice–that’s how bottomlessly resourceful they are. It fills you with a kind of awe.

    Added on 4 January: As a friend just pointed out to me, o-mochi is also often served in soup, which makes it more stretchy.


    Posted by Sean at 01:28, January 1st, 2006

    It is now the Year of the Dog in Japan. Japan follows the Chinese zodiac, but it celebrates the New Year on 1 January of the Western calendar. (The whole thing is very disorienting if you’re studying classical poetry, because you have to keep straight the Western calendar, the solstices, and the traditional lunar calendar by which months and seasons were actually named. Happily, I don’t have to contend with that right now, unless I decide to translate a poem at the end of this post.)

    The personality typology you hear discussed the most here is by blood type, but the year of your birth gets a lot of play, too. When Atsushi and I began to date, it was considered very auspicious that he was a Monkey and I was a Rat–no wiseacre comments from the peanut gallery, okay?–two signs that are held to be compatible. (Of course, my last boyfriend had been a Dragon, and our supposed celestial compatibility hadn’t seemed to help all that much.) With its preponderance of snakes, dogs, wild boars, and monkeys, the zodiac can start to sound like an extended lawyer joke, but none of the descriptions is negative in the main, of course.

    I was born in March, so I’m a Rat according to both Chinese and Japanese measurements. As with all such things, you read your typology, and some of it is so dead-on it’s kind of spooky…

    One of the Rat’s biggest fault is that they try to do too much at once. They often scatter their energies and get nothing accomplished.

    …and some of it is so off the mark it makes you laugh.

    They are very appealing. They have a bright and happy personality, and this keeps them busy socially. They love parties and other large gatherings.

    Yeah, right.

    In any case, those who are thinking about having a child may want to hurry things up so it’s born by the end of this year. The traits associated with the Year of the Dog aren’t bad at all:

    People born in the Year of the Dog possess the best traits of human nature. They have a deep sense of loyalty, are honest, and inspire other people’s confidence because they know how to keep secrets. But Dog People are somewhat selfish, terribly stubborn, and eccentric. They care little for wealth, yet somehow always seem to have money. They can be cold emotionally and sometimes distant at parties. They can find fault with many things and are noted for their sharp tongues. Dog people make good leaders. They are compatible with those born in the Years of the Horse, Tiger, and Rabbit.

    Notice how every sign is described as being eccentric, BTW? And I guess most parents wouldn’t be crazy about that “cold emotionally” part, though given the potential for heartache in life, it might come in handy later on.

    Child, how can you see with all that light?

    Posted by Sean at 00:44, January 1st, 2006

    No, I’m not drinking crushed dried plums in boiling water because I have a hangover.

    And if, just theoretically, I were drinking crushed dried plums in boiling water because I had a hangover, it wouldn’t be because I was with friends carousing until 6 a.m.

    That racket. Please, you have to stop the racket.

    Of course, some people’s headaches are just beginning:

    Looking beyond discredited architect Hidetsugu Aneha, police are now focusing on the companies that likely pressured him to fake his quake-resistance reports, sources said.

    Kumamoto Prefecture-based Kimura Construction Co. and Tokyo-based Huser Co., both named as central players in the wide-reaching scandal, are apparently soon to face criminal charges.

    The sources said a joint team of Metropolitan Police Department and Chiba and Kanagawa prefectural police investigators plan to hold Kimura Construction criminally responsible in the falsification of structural strength reports to cut costs.

    Aneha has told police that Akira Shinozuka, the former Tokyo branch head of Kimura Construction, pressured him to reduce the amount of steel fortification in his designs.

    All parties in the scandal have denied any wrongdoing, apart from Aneha.

    Huser is known to have sold condominium units even after it learned in October that they might have had substandard quake resistance.

    The Real Estate Business Law prohibits firms from signing contracts that intentionally withhold pertinent information from buyers.

    Substandard earthquake resistance is, you know, kinda pertinent here.

    Since Huser ordered the construction of the complexes, it can also be held in violation of the Building Standards Law.

    But unlike Kimura Construction, which drew up the design blueprints, Huser merely ordered them, so its intent to falsify data must be proven for it to be held criminally responsible, sources said.

    We can now look forward to months, perhaps years, of “Oh, yes, you did”…”Oh, no, I didn’t.”

    The good news is that we seem to have gone a few days without the discovery of yet another substandard building. The number is almost certain to break ninety at some point in the new year, though.