• Home
  • About
  • Guest Post


    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.

    Aichi Prefecture named in Aneha scandal lawsuit

    Posted by Sean at 08:03, February 14th, 2006

    Let the lawsuits begin:

    [A] business hotel operator filed a lawsuit Tuesday demanding 721 million yen ($6.15 million) from a consulting company and Aichi Prefecture over falsified strength reports that forced the hotel to close down.

    Handa Denka Kogyo Co., an electric works company that operates the Centre One Hotel Handa in Handa, said the prefectural government failed to detect glaring flaws in Aneha’s reports and gave its approval for the construction of the building.

    Handa Denka also blamed Tokyo-based consultant company Sogo Keiei Kenkyujo (Soken), and its director, Takeshi Uchikawa, over their instructions on how to build and manage the business hotel.

    The lawsuit, filed with the Nagoya District Court, is the first time in the widening Aneha scandal for a business hotel operator to hold administrative authorities responsible for the falsified reports.

    “The prefectural government’s fault is serious,” the lawsuit said.

    An official of the Aichi prefectural government denied the prefecture was responsible.

    “Aneha’s falsification was skilful and beyond our imagination. We did not commit any faults under the laws,” the official said.

    Possibly. Or possibly, the bureaucrats in Aichi Prefecture just lack imagination. Remember this gem from a few months ago? (No, I’m not calling my own post a gem; I’m referring to the cited Yomiuri article, which is no longer on-line):

    The analysis was provided by a first-class architect asked by The Yomiuri Shimbun to evaluate the plans of Aneha, who has admitted falsifying structural strength certificates for 22 buildings in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

    The expert said the structural data were an outright falsification, with various data combined to reduce material costs, and it was hard to imagine how the inspection agency involved failed to notice.

    Concerning the structural integrity data for Sun Chuo Home No. 15, an apartment building in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, the architect said, “I had an uncomfortable feeling looking at it at first glance.”

    Those were in Chiba, not Aichi, but there seems little reason to believe that Aneha took extra care to cover his tracks outside Tokyo. He was quoted multiple times as saying that he didn’t work too hard at being crafty.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean that the prefectural government actually is liable; if everyone down the line did all the rubber-stamping and paper pushing right, it may not be.

    Behind the filthy medieval rag

    Posted by Sean at 07:49, February 14th, 2006

    Like most very fascinating people, Oriana Fallaci can be infuriating; but she’s been decrying Islamofascism for years. (She’s the journalist who, during an audience with Khomeini, yanked off the hood of her chador and called it a “filthy medieval rag.”) And it says something that there’s an Italian curator who thinks that this is a meaningful piece of art to offer audiences.

    One doesn’t want art to be making pat points that can be summarized in a single sentence–for that, you can just, like, write a single sentence–but a certain coherence, even if it’s at the dream level, would be nice. Does Fallaci symbolize American decadence because she now lives in New York? Does the painter think she’s done things to deserve beheading? Or are we just being [yawn] transgressive again, throwing grapeshot around and hoping that some of it strikes a target that people will find worth talking about? What Fallaci’s fierce, knowing gaze–which the artist has at least depicted with a simple immediacy that shows he’s not an empty set technically–has to do with weakness and perversity, I’m afraid I cannot imagine. Of course, it’s redundant to point out that Americans are not being given instructions to demonstrate outside the nearest Italian diplomatic building (unless my latest e-mail from the US embassy has been held up–you know, watch it when traveling, no update on threats of terrorism in Japan, don’t forget to do your taxes, here’s how to renew your passport by mail, bring Italian flags to Mita for burning on Sunday).

    If she knew what she wants

    Posted by Sean at 03:46, February 14th, 2006

    This weekend I wrote to another blogger that I was going to try to put a lid on the fifteen-paragraph posts slamming friends who needed to complain sometimes–you know, as if it were an earth-shaking deal.

    I’d just like to note here that I made it at least a good forty-eight hours. Maybe it would have been longer had I stayed home all weekend.

    There seems to be a certain type of person who arrives at the coming out phase and thinks, Hmmm….Lots of affectionate pity from friends…extra lenience for bad behavior [overdrinking, overspending, screwing over friends, screwing over boyfriends, screwing over friends with their boyfriends]…a ready excuse for not dealing well with my parents…I could learn to like this, and decides to camp there indefinitely.

    I doubt that that’s a conscious decision for the most part, you understand; it’s just this whole self-fulfilling prophecy thing. Nearly everyone starts out in gay life wondering whether he’ll make any friends and whether any guys will go for him at all, let alone whether he’ll ever find love. It’s kind of scary at first. No shame in that. Reasonable people figure that, hey, a little open rejection every now and then is way better than a lot of being closed off and closeted and borderline-suicidal all the time…and besides, if a few million other guys and girls can do it, so can they. And they’re right.

    By contrast, the determined whiners are the boys who in five years go from a tentative Will anyone ever be interested in me for real? to the confidently crabby I hate the bar scene–everyone’s so shallow! without ever stopping at Maybe it’s MY behavior that’s flawed and I should GET OVER MYSELF and try modifying it in between.

    When one of these characters starts getting wound up–here as at home, you generally know you’ve got trouble when the words “bar scene” are uttered–it is, I have learned, a mistake to try to head him off at the pass by suggesting that he might want to try other possible ways to circulate. Guys have a bizarre way of objecting to Internet classifieds as “kinda pathetic” immediately after complaining that they’re dateless and friendless at bars. And recommending that someone join a sports or activities group is useless when his whole problem is that he thinks happiness should bestir itself to come and find him.

    Well, all right, you don’t like bars, but you don’t like the other options any more, so you’re stuck here unless you decide to go into a monastery. How about doing what everybody else does? You talk to people. Some of them won’t be interested, and some of them won’t be very nice about the fact that they’re not interested. That stings, but it won’t kill you. And talking to guys who don’t seem likely to become boyfriends or best buddies reminds you that you’re not the center of the universe and everyone has problems. You’ll eventually have a relationship that doesn’t really go anywhere, or that lasts a year or so before you realize it isn’t good for you. You call it a learning experience and move on. That’s one of the things that happen when you choose for yourself rather than letting family elders and other matchmakers filter out possible partners. If liberty’s not working out for you, maybe you’d prefer to go back to the older system and get your parents to pick. You probably won’t be any happier, but at least with you and your wife sharing the same loveless marriage, she might have some empathy to draw on while listening to you mewl.