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    ¿Quién es esa niña?

    Posted by Sean at 02:01, February 23rd, 2005

    You would think that, being reasonably familiar with the salacious ways of the world, I’d know that using certain words is asking for trouble. Obviously not:


    I should have seen what was coming when I tossed off a reference to b—- w—- a month or so back, but…well, maybe I’m only attuned to my own turn-ons. I almost have to feel sorry for anyone who was looking for pictures of b—- w—- and washed up here. Bet it was a surprise!

    And, man! Apparently, there are 300 million people in America: one is K—- C——, and the other 299,999,999 want to know whether he’s queer. Believe me, what you’re seeing above are just the two most common strings. There are plenty more where those came from. It’s mind-boggling.

    On the bright side, I’ll be in great shape to become known to millions if the tabloids ever start linking K—- C—— to b—- w—-.

    Added on 24 February (barely): It did occur to me that Spanish questions are supposed to have that inverted interrogation mark before them, but since Spanish isn’t a language I’ve studied, much less had reason to type in, I didn’t know how to make it. Turns out it’s iquest. I mean, that’s what you put between the ampersand and semi-colon. ¿ So intuitive I’m sure I’ll forget it. Not that I have any reason to have to remember it, anyway.

    Gay marriage again

    Posted by Sean at 22:33, February 22nd, 2005

    A Typical Joe commented to my most recent effusion on gay marriage with this:

    I don’t agree with the argument (from Sean at The White Peril via Dean’s World)

    but it is not anti-gay.

    That’s a more civil response than one often gets on this topic; for that I thank him. [Uh, either I just got dizzier or there was just an earthquake…lessee, 22:00…have to check NHK.] I feel at a distinct disadvantage disagreeing with someone who looks so adorable with his partner (I think there’s some kind of law: only one smiler per gay couple), but I’m going to do my best, at least on one important point.

    I know, or at least am willing to believe, that for a lot of rank-and-file gays, the fundamental issue isn’t psychological affirmation. But, you know, as long as overachieving, careerist urban guys are the ones making the public arguments, status is going to sneak into them somehow. Believe me, I am not casting stones here–I am perfectly capable, in my weaker moments, of detestable thinking along the lines of, Dammit, I was the obedient show-child growing up. I have the summa cum laude Ivy League degree and the management job. I don’t do drugs or hang out at sex clubs. I donate to charity and pay my taxes and NO POSSIBILITIES SHOULD BE CLOSED TO ME.

    You cannot just look at Andrew Sullivan’s and Jonathan Rauch’s and Dale Carpenter’s CV’s and have a comprehensive map to their psychology. But you also can’t tell me that the milieux they move in don’t color what they think should be theirs for the asking. Again, I’m talking about men I much admire, despite Sullivan’s recent shakiness. And it’s pretty much a truism that those who get the public microphone are going to be those who (1) want it and (2) have resources to compete for it.

    I just wish that people with a different point of view (just so it’s clear, I’m not ascribing this thinking to Joe, just using his post as a lead-in to it) would take more opportunities to stand up and say, “Look, we’ll take care of being respectable in our day-to-day interactions with our family and neighbors–leave that out of it. It’s not that we’re not as smart as you are, or that our expectations are blinkered, or our horizons are shrunken, or anything. We don’t want to be prom queen for a day. We don’t want attention. We just want the government to make it possible for us to count on being able to provide for each other and then get out of our lives.” I can certainly understand why they don’t, though.

    Added on 24 February: In the comments, Michael refers to his latest post on marriage. It’s here.

    When you bend it / You can’t mend it

    Posted by Sean at 21:54, February 22nd, 2005

    If you never hear from me again, you can assume that my neighbors decided they couldn’t take any more Linda seeping through the walls, broke down my door, and offed me. I’ve been trying to propitiate them by consistently skipping over that squalling, momentum-killing version of “Dark End of the Street” toward the end of Side 1, but Tokyo is a stressful place, and you never know what will be the last straw for people.

    Your scarf, it was apricot

    Posted by Sean at 21:20, February 22nd, 2005

    You know how I figured last night that I just had a 24-hour bug? I was mistaken. I forgot that aspirin, despite its commonplace-ness, is very, very good at what it does, and my reduced fever and achiness were its doing. The good news is that, since yesterday, my stomach has remembered that it’s supposed to send things downward when it’s done with them. The bad news is that I’m still lightheaded. Fortunately, there’s news to match my mood. Take a gander at this, geese:

    An overwhelming 96.7 percent of single women are bugged when they see men wearing trousers that are either too short or too long for them, a joint survey by two Japanese companies has found.

    The women were asked to rate their response to such appearances in four levels, ranging from “It bothers me a lot,” to “It doesn’t worry me.”

    The appearance that bugged women most was “Trousers that don’t match (are too long or too short).” A total of 69.4 percent of women responded, “It bothers me a lot,” while 27.3 percent said it vexed them “a little” — a combined total of 96.7 percent.

    The survey also found that women took notice of what kind of socks men were wearing. When asked, “What item can cause you to become disillusioned and think that the person has no style?” a total of 18.4 percent of the women said, “Socks.”

    There are probably more than a few self-professed “stylish” businessmen in Japan who give a lot of thought to what kind of necktie they wear, but based on the results of the survey, maybe a look at their socks may also be in order.

    The article focuses on the “stylish” angle, but I think that’s probably not quite right–even if the women themselves were addressed that way in the questions. After all, we’ve all seen a billion and one of these hokey surveys about what drives women nuts about the way men dress, and when it comes to trousers, what’s the usual top-ranked complaint? They bag around the ass, that’s what. And Japanese women are no different from women elsewhere in that regard. (No, I haven’t researched this scientifically, but tell me you seriously doubt me? Thought not.) That it either wasn’t asked about or didn’t concern the women surveyed suggests that the real issue isn’t “stylishness” in the sense of attractiveness. (Well, I guess it could also suggest that wearing highwaters is an unusually common problem among Japanese men, but let me riff here.)

    There are many lines of work that have adopted casual dress in the States but not in Japan; unless you work in a record store or funky cafe, you probably wear a suit to work. Straight guys in Japan don’t care about clothes any more than straight guys in the States–yeah, yeah, generalization, outliers, nothing femme about troubling to dress well, lots of gay guys wear chambray shirts and dumpy khakis every day, blah, blah, blah, fine; the pattern is still a pattern. So if you see a man whose shoes are expensive and polished, whose suits are carefully selected to drape over his shoulders and break over his shoes correctly, and whose socks are discreetly dark, it probably means that he’s management-track at a good company and dresses that way because he’s figured out through trial and error that he has to. (There’s also the fact that upscale men’s magazines routinely carry pages and pages of completely scripted outfits for guys to copy in toto–they make John T. Molloy look like a total amateur.)

    Now, before anyone goes bananas on me, I should clarify a few things. Japanese society still expects women to leave work to have children soon after marrying, to the point that the number of women even from the most prestigious universities who score management-track positions is very, very low. That means that the vast majority of women can realistically expect to have to run their households on their husbands’ salary and status, returning to part-time work only when the children are grown. You may denounce this as retrograde or get Danielle Crittenden-type shivers of pleasure from it, but it’s a fact that governs women’s lives here, and they all know it.

    Further, fewer women find their husbands through meetings arranged by family or company than used to. Clothing-related status markers aren’t all that important to pay attention to when you know your suitor’s entire CV from your elders’ background check–once you’re running the home, you can probably tell him what to wear, anyway. But they may be all you really have if you’re meeting guys under self-introduction circumstances at a party.

    A cat that catches mice

    Posted by Sean at 12:03, February 22nd, 2005

    I’ve started and jettisoned this post about a dozen times over the last week or so; actually, I think I’ve been stopping and starting it for the past year, but Michael may have given me an in to the point I want to address.

    I can understand why conservative Christian parents and elders would not want to bankroll or otherwise support a life they regard as sinful. The Bible says what it says, and I don’t think there’s any getting around that it doesn’t approve of sexual relationships outside marriage–that’s not what I mean. What I find bewildering is when children come out to their parents and are told that they’re inevitably headed for addiction, a string of abusive relationships or worse, and an early demise. I mean, the flat declaration that there’s nothing whatever affirmative or affectionate about homosexual relationships at all.

    You would think that sheer pragmatism would prevent parents from talking this way. After all, isn’t the idea to bring the child back to the fold and convince him to be chaste, or what have you? I doubt that I’m alone in that the major thing that made me feel ready to come out to my parents was the knowledge that I wasn’t just going to spend the rest of my life looking to score–who the hell is going to start a potential family feud to deliver that message?–I wanted a relationship, and whether they approved of its nature or not, I wanted them not to have to feel I wasn’t being taken care of. In that context, I think a lot of kids, hearing their parents decry homosexuality as inherently selfish and exploitative, conclude that they have no idea what they’re talking about and stop listening to them all together. I’m not trying to help the conservative Christians win back gays; I know my homosexuality isn’t going anywhere, and I think that’s the case for most of us.

    On the other hand, there are people who are plain screwed up in the head, and if some of the gay ones can’t handle their sexuality, using religion to give their lives a purpose beyond finding ever-more-imaginative ways to destroy themselves sounds to me like a good plan. When parents prophesy the worst for such children and push them away, it seems to me that there’s a pretty high risk they won’t figure that out before they reach the point of no return. You’d think it’d be obvious that staying warmly involved with the rest of their lives, perhaps avoiding discussions of homosexuality because they’re obviously not going to go anywhere, would be the better strategy.

    Raindrops falling / On a broken rose

    Posted by Sean at 02:04, February 22nd, 2005

    Darn. I slept quite a bit of the day, because when you’re sick, you can usually nap for most of the afternoon and still be ready to hit the hay at your regular time.

    Well, this seems to have been one of those 24-hour things, which is good; but now I’m wide awake at 1 a.m. which is not, considering I plan to be back in the office tomorrow. Unfortunately, I’m still not quite focused enough to read anything serious until I fall asleep.

    I actually passed a pretty interesting day–hardly pleasant, but interesting. Being feverish and suggestible, I was in the mood to read from The Golden Bough . I never would have thought to put the two together before, but I happened to have Heart like a Wheel in the stereo, and it was a strangely inspired accompaniment to Frazer.

    Somehow, all those eerie details about ancient bonfires and harvest sacrifices seemed sharper and more electrifying. Maybe it’s because, while Linda Ronstadt couldn’t convey emotional complexity to save her life, when she’s on, she can personify a single emotion very primally, as if she were its prehistoric deity. (Of course, the material they picked for Heart like a Wheel helps. When you have a song whose chorus goes, “You’re no good, you’re no good, you’re no good / Baby, you’re no good / I’m gonna say it again / You’re no good, you’re no good, you’re no good / Baby, you’re no good,” it’s kind of hard not to get the point, no matter how obtuse an interpreter you are.)

    Ooh, Charlie’s Angels just came on! I’m pretty sure my brain has unclouded sufficiently for me to follow that–was there ever a hit show with more fabulously dumb plotlines? Let’s hope that by 2:45, all the nailbiting suspense–OMG, Kelly’s going into that office to search and she could totally get caught and be, like, killed, or something!–will have worn me out to the point that I can sleep through the rest of the night.

    We’re all gonna die! VI

    Posted by Sean at 22:33, February 21st, 2005

    I know this isn’t really funny, but I’m kind of febrile from the flu, so I’m doing that cough-giggle thing while I type this. Holy moly:

    Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made an unusual angry outburst on Tuesday after seeing a police officer flee from a bat-wielding man in a news program.

    “I watched a scene in which a police officer fled from a criminal. It’s disgraceful for an officer to act like that,” Koizumi reportedly said during Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

    The case Koizumi spoke of involved a 26-year-old man suspected of being addicted to drugs.

    After he caused a traffic accident in Tokyo’s Minato-ku on Feb. 19, an officer rushed to the scene and tried to arrest him. During the process, the man grabbed a metal baseball bat and approached the officer, reportedly saying, “Don’t come near me or I will kill you.”

    Jeez Louise. You can only hope the cop completed the effect by fluting, “Help me, mommeeeeee!” as he ran along. Those reports a few months ago that the police here feel overwhelmed are starting, disquietingly, to make more sense.

    I do understand that most Japanese police don’t have to deal with much more dangerous than someone’s getting a little huffy over being busted for having an outdated bike license. It does seem to me that if you’re going to freak out at having a blunt instrument brandished at you, though, you might want to consider a different line of work from being a police officer.

    BTW, those outside Japan may not know this, but Koizumi is thrillingly convincing when he gets pissed. There’s not a trace of the scripted high dudgeon you often get with politicos; his eyes narrow, his voice gets clipped, and by God, you notice. I’ve said this many times before, but his speeches in support of the Bush administration’s approach to the WOT and preservation of democracy are often, to my mind, more stirring than Bush’s.

    Quake in Iran

    Posted by Sean at 19:30, February 21st, 2005

    Damn. Earthquake in Iran, reports the Nikkei. Magnitude 6.4 and at least 130 people killed. As was, I think, the case in Bam, mud-brick buildings have been collapsing. The current Reuters story, clearly more recent, says 400 dead already, in a region with a population of about 30,000. I feel guilty making this sort of downward comparison, but there’s nothing like seeing a quake happen in another part of the world to make you fervently grateful for modern technology and infrastructure. The heart breaks at the thought of what the final numbers will be, but best to the Iranians in minimizing them.


    Posted by Sean at 12:41, February 21st, 2005

    Wow. Just, wow.

    Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai urged countries to take a leaf out of Japan’s book by practicing efficient environmental protection aimed at cutting down “mottainai” wastefulness.

    “I love the 3-Rs — reduce, reuse and recycle. I think that’s a wonderful call to the world. One of the reasons why some of the countries don’t want to support the Kyoto Protocol is exactly because they don’t want to reduce their over-consumptive life pattern. One way of reducing that over-consumption is by learning to reuse a lot of the resources that we use and just throw away,” Maathai told Yoshinori Kando, the Mainichi’s Director and Chief Editor of the Tokyo Head Office.

    “This concept is extremely useful. I must congratulate the Japanese people. I don’t know how they developed that in their culture.”

    Well, they mostly developed it because Japan is a row of volcanic rocks in the ocean with few resources and places to put junk. Before it was plugged into the modern economy of global trade, Japan’s only choices were to make do or to take over Korea to get access to what it needed. It’s been known to exercise both options.

    That’s not to say that the Japanese can’t be congratulated on making conservation into an ethical value. Japanese resourcefulness is one of the things that make many of us foreigners fall in love with the place. Not only in use of materials for building, but also in food, poetry, and decoration, the Japanese ability to combine a few choice elements to achieve what other cultures could only do with a truckload of stuff is inspiring.

    But let’s know when to reel it in here, too, okay? Japan’s illegal dumping problems are well-documented (though many of the most famous individual cases don’t seem to be on-line, occurring as they did before the Internet became a commonly-used news source). There’s a reason the illness that results from long-term, low-grade methyl mercury poisoning is named after a Japanese town (Minamata Disease).

    I’m not arguing that Japan is actually the world HQ for environmental evil. I’m only pointing out that Japan has had its problems with the unforeseeable consequences of chemical emissions, the very foreseeable consequences of state-funded construction orgies, and moral hazard–neither more nor less than other countries that industrialized over the last two centuries. As Ms. Maathai’s example illustrates, too many people take Japan’s famous love of nature at face value and assume it indicates more than it does.

    Oh, and I nearly forgot the kicker: word is, of course, that Japan has no coherent policy in place to implement the Kyoto Protocols. That doesn’t bother free-market types such as me, but you’d think it would give pause to people who get all rapturous about austere living.

    Japan, US reaffirm security partnership plot to take over world

    Posted by Sean at 14:41, February 20th, 2005

    This was the lead story on yesterday’s print edition of the morning Nikkei: “US and Japan agree on strategic goals for joint measures against terrorist threats to their regions.” The result of this meeting (in Washington last week) isn’t a surprise, or anything. There was, obviously, lots of hot air about peaceful solutions to problems in Korea and Taiwan and getting the DPRK to return to 6-party talks. Not that those things aren’t important, but general statements that democratization is a good thing that the world could use more of aren’t exactly revelatory. Two items that approached substantiveness:

    • acceleration of talks related to the roles of the Japan SDF and US Armed Forces, and a reevaluation of the structuring of US forces deployed in Japan

    • a strengthening of cooperation on missile defense

    Attendees included Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Nobutaka Machimura, and Japanese Defense Agency Chief Yoshinori Ono. Their unsurprising conclusion was that poor sources of information (the Japanese use 不透明性, which literally refers to “opacity” or “lack of transparency”) and instability made the DPRK and the Strait of Formosa the places to watch.

    If you’re in Japan, you might have seen the subtitled broadcasts from North Korean state television sputtering that recent changes in Japan’s defense policy are a cover for a plotted full-scale invasion. There are plenty of long-standing animosities to go around in this region, and the DPRK milks every one of them regularly–one of its favorites, of course, being the understandable lingering Korean resentment over the Japanese occupation. Just to make sure the other big East Asian player isn’t left out, we have the PRC trying to get the DPRK to return to the 6-party talks it huffily left last week. In the midst of all this, Japan knows it needs its partnership with the US, and as a proud American who loves Japan, I’m glad the ties are only getting stronger.