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    I feel love

    Posted by Sean at 01:16, November 16th, 2005

    A friend says he thought I might enjoy this bit of a Houston Chronicle editorial (which is fileted by James Taranto in the 15 November Best of the Web). I assume he means “enjoy” approximately in the sense of “be driven to punch through the monitor by.” This is the operative paragraph from the editorial:

    Inner city black voters in Harris County, many of whom have long experience with the denial of civil rights, favored the marriage amendment by an even higher majority than the general Harris County voting population. Black discomfort with homosexual marriage is rooted less in conscious discrimination than in religious belief, but support for the amendment brought blacks into incongruous accord with members of the Ku Klux Klan, whose members rallied in Austin in support of Proposition 2.

    I don’t agree that the civil rights and gay rights movements are comparable all the way down–and what civil rights have black people been denied for the last three or so decades, one wonders?–but I do think that gays and other minorities are very similar in the ceaseless way our soi-disant allies manage to patronize us. As Taranto says, “If you’re a person of pallor and you oppose same-sex marriage, you’re guilty of ‘conscious discrimination,’ whereas if you’re black, you’re following ‘religious belief’ and presumably discriminating unconsciously. Oh, and does this mean people who favor same-sex marriage are religious unbelievers? Seems to us the Houston Chronicle has just managed to insult pretty much everybody.”

    As a homosexual unbeliever who doesn’t favor same-sex marriage, I think the most insulting part is unmentioned by Taranto: the attribution of any opposition to that boneless PC animating force, “discomfort.” People can’t believe things are right or wrong, or constructive or destructive, anymore, apparently–the only opposition sympathetic characters are to be permitted is decorously vague unease.

    Sign of the times

    Posted by Sean at 23:47, November 15th, 2005

    I was hoping someone would get around to saying this so I didn’t have to (it’s Dale Franks posting):

    So we’re starting to see articles like this one from Khaled Duzdar, the Palestinian co-director of the strategic affairs unit at the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information in Jerusalem. Now, I don’t know anything about Mr. Duzdar. For all I know, he’s been a beacon of sanity and peace in the Arab Muslim world for all his adult life. But there’s something about his article that strikes me as…odd.

    Last week’s suicide attacks against innocent civilians in Amman shocked us all. It is unclear what message the suicide bombers were conveying and there is no logical cause justifying such insane acts. What could the aim of such attacks be, and what were the mad executioners aiming to achieve? For some time, they have claimed they are defenders and combatants of Islam and the Muslim world. However, Islam has no use for such people and their acts and ideologies – if we believe they have any ideology at all. They promote nothing more than killing and aim only to bring about a state of lawlessness and instability in the Middle East.

    Yeah. All of the sudden, terrorist acts have gone from the acts of frustrated national aspirations on the part of a helpless people to wondering, “What could the aim of such attacks be?” Yep. All of the sudden, terrorism is just incomprehensible.

    No kidding. For years, many–if not most–of the Arab and Muslim condemnations of terrorism have come with qualifications on the order of “But let’s remember the sense of rage and powerlessness such people feel” or “But their bodies are the only weapons they have to fight with.” (To be fair, Palestinian-sympathizing Westerners have taken the same tack, too.)

    It’s all very strange. There are certain things that generally good-hearted, disciplined, civilized people simply do not do when they’re cracking under pressure. Chilly premeditated murder of dozens of random people peaceably going about their business is one of them–even, I would submit, if the killing conveys a clear “message.” I was saddened and outraged by the bombings in Jordan this weekend, but like Dale, I’m having a little trouble getting myself worked up into extra-special shock, grief, and epistemic crisis just because it was Amman and not Tel Aviv that was hit.

    He’s the warmest chord I ever heard

    Posted by Sean at 09:00, November 15th, 2005

    At Romeo Mike’s Gumption, Ross notes an example of psycho-PC-ism via the Telegraph :

    “Paintings of traditional wedding scenes have been removed from a register office in case they offend gay couples, it has emerged.

    The pictures at Liverpool Register Office are being replaced with landscapes ahead of the introduction of “gay weddings” later this year.”

    Two problems with this. If homos are supposed to be genuinely equal then we should be able to meld in with the mainstream. Ditching traditions to humour us defeats the purpose, so the removal of the pictures is actually the offensive part.

    Secondly, it’s also offensive that the Telegraph has to include a pic of a couple of queens kissing to illustrate gay marriage. Ordinarily, news photos of newlyweds have them smiling proudly at the camera. That photo only serves to reinforce the stereotype of minorities’ ‘differences’ requiring ‘special’ treatment.

    Question 1: Did the guy on the right burst into tears immediately after the photo was snapped and yell, “It’s our wedding, darling–couldn’t you have worn something more dignified than a turtleneck?!”

    Question 2: Given the Telegraph‘s generally approving spin, what’s up with the scare quotes around “weddings”? Does it (editorially) agree that gay ceremonies aren’t genuine weddings? I’m just wondering.

    Question 3: Why is the word gay so listless and dull, ending in that irresolute diphthong, while the insulting words for homosexuals can be written and spoken with such flair? Ross is presumably being sardonic in using homos and queens, but stripped of meaning associations and possible playground resonances, aren’t they just cooler words? Personally, I’m very partial to faggot–I just can’t help it. It’s one of those words you can eject from the mouth with a little explosion, whether of playfulness or of anger. It is impossible to utter the word gay in an aesthetically pleasing manner. A real pity.

    BTW, not quite on the same topic, but along those lines, an acquaintance asked me–very earnestly, which was what made it funny–a little while ago, “So, Sean, you call everyone ‘honey.’ And [my close friend, who’s English] Alan calls everyone ‘darling.’ Is that, like, some kind of American-vs.-British thing?”


    Posted by Sean at 08:38, November 15th, 2005

    Ghost of a Flea has clearly not met my boyfriend, who would not only not be fleeing for his life but would be furrowing his brow and saying, “Hmmmm. Fire truck’s out of the way. Hon, how about standing a little bit off to the left there?”

    (Of course I’m just kidding, dearest.)

    I feel the ocean move

    Posted by Sean at 03:34, November 15th, 2005

    This morning, a M 7.1 earthquake rumbled the ocean floor off the coast of Japan, spreading fear and panic among normally-placid sea anemone and vent-dwelling tubeworm populations and raising troubling concerns about the ability of local ecosystems to cope with such disturbances without comprehensive planning at the seabed-wide level.

    Okay, maybe it didn’t. Being a child of the media age has kind of conditioned me to think of everything as a crisis. Well, I’ve also had people asking me whether I’m okay.

    The quake was 300 miles offshore–and the focus was buried unusually deep. I didn’t feel it at all, and the reports on the websites of the major dailies are buried by this point–the Princess’s wedding and the Koizumi cabinet’s budget capers, you know. There was a tsunami warning, but it was downplayed even as it was being made.

    Japan odds and ends II

    Posted by Sean at 23:32, November 14th, 2005

    Quick Japan news: the ROK Foreign Minister took a swipe at Japan for the Yasukuni Shrine issue at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Pusan:

    Ban stated, “Japanese leaders have not been capable of squarely acknowledging past history; their pilgrimages to the Yasukuni Shrine are undesirable.” While he avoided mentioning Prime Minister Jun’ichiro Koizumi and Foreign Minister [Taro] Aso by name, he did criticize the policies of the Japanese side.

    I believe that Ban is usually referred to as the “Foreign Minister” in English, though the kanji title would mean something closer to “Minister of Diplomacy and Trade.” Whatever his title, and however generic his statement, it is evidence that the ROK is not softening toward Japan on the Yasukuni issue–not surprising, given that Koizumi’s new cabinet includes a new member or two known for nationalist leanings.

    The seven federal ministries asked to cut their budgets have come up with only ¥28.9 billion of the requested ¥630 billion. That’s a whopping 4.6%. Let’s hope the regional government bodies don’t spend it all in one place.

    The government has established a central processing center for information about possible money laundering and financing of terrorism.

    Has anyone heard anything about Minerva? Minerva is the probe that was launched off the Hayabusa spacecraft and was supposed to land on the Asteroid Itokawa. Apparently, the Hayabusa was ascending too fast and so the Minerva’s trajectory was screwed up–such aerospace geeks who may be reading this will probably be wincing at that description, but I was only half-paying attention to NHK when the announcement was made. There didn’t seem to be a way to get the Minerva back on course, so they were fearing it might be lost. I hope not. Japan’s aerospace programs have had a lot of embarrassing failures over the last several years.


    Posted by Sean at 23:16, November 14th, 2005

    Yoo-hoo! Madonna? You’re a native speaker of English. STOP OVER-PRONOUNCING YOUR Rs LIKE AN EXCESSIVELY EARRRRRRNEST ESL STUDENT! Okay?

    I did like this part, though: “If you don’t like my attitude then you can F off / Just go to Texas–isn’t that where they golf?” Heh-heh. Funny.

    This is the way / Step inside

    Posted by Sean at 22:28, November 14th, 2005

    Audrey…whoops!…Jeff has been posting at Beautiful Atrocities with some regularity again. Here‘s the latest. Hilarious.

    Japan odds and ends

    Posted by Sean at 06:59, November 14th, 2005

    You may recall that even of the federal ministries have been instructed to cut their budgets for subsidies; the odds are that they won’t reach their targets:

    The deadline passed at noon today for responses from seven federal ministries to a proposal to cut a collective ¥630 billion from their budgets, as apportioned by the Prime Minister. By noon, the number of submissions was stalled at two: from the Ministry of Economics, Trade, and Industry and from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The other five, such as the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, are set to submit their proposals this afternoon, but [their proposed cuts] are not expected to meet the ¥630 billion objective. The Prime Minister’s office indicates that it expects things to be settled up by the end of the month, but the journey promises to be rough.

    I haven’t seen an update since that story was posted at 13:00, and if there was one on NHK, it was delivered while I was out of the room.


    So this whole bird flu thing? Gives me deep thoughts. Like, you know, what if we all totally get sick and die? We’ve certainly been hearing about it, though there was nothing that seemed interested enough to post. Today, the Ministry of Health, Labor…oops! Labour–the u is very important…the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare announced that it’s going to take a six-phase approach to preparation:

    On 14 November, the MHLW unveiled a “plan of action” that stipulated a phase-six policy to contend with new forms of influenza; the risk that such forms will appear has increased. [The policy provides for] coordination if certain measures become necessary: the stockpiling of antiviral drugs will be increased on a large scale; in the event of a global outbreak, schools will be closed and large assemblies banned, commuting to workplaces will be restricted, and citizens will be instructed to restrict their movements by international air and maritime transport. Taking the MLHW’s directive into account, prefectural governments will begin generating independent proposals [for their own local policies] in earnest.

    The worst-case scenario, as projected at the moment, is one fourth of the Japanese population infected.


    Among other threats to health, there’ve been a lot of interesting homicides in the news here lately. One of the more chilling is one that, fortunately for the intended victim, didn’t come off. The chilling part is that the plan could be put into motion in the first place:

    The arrest of a 16-year-old girl who allegedly tried to poison her mother to death with thallium raises the question of how the student was able to obtain the poison so easily even under tightened controls following similar crimes.

    The investigation by the Shizuoka prefectural police has so far found that the high school student in Izunokuni possessed various kinds of chemicals. About 30 substances, including thallium, were seized during the police search of her room at her home.

    The girl told the police she had bought the thallium at a nearby drugstore.

    However, the Poisonous and Deleterious Substances Control Law bans drugstores from selling such poisonous substances to those aged under 18.

    It also requires buyers to submit a form listing their name, address, occupation, the amount of chemical they have bought and other items when they purchase such substances.

    The Health, Labor [!] and Welfare Ministry instructs drugstores to check buyers’ identity and ask them why they want to buy toxic substances.

    Someone apparently read Agatha Christie’s The Pale Horse .

    In another archetypal case–this time with a more tragic ending–a high school girl in one of the outer municipalities in Tokyo Metro was killed by a classmate with a crush that spiraled out of control:

    A schoolboy accused of killing 15-year-old Yua Koyama last week because she had gone cold on him had been seen gazing longingly at her suburban Tokyo apartment for hours some weeks ago, a witness told the police.

    The 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, also told investigators that he burst into the Koyama home without prior notice as soon as Yua’s mother, Kimiko, left for work on Thursday, the day he is alleged to have killed the fellow student from his high school.

    Police have transferred the boy to the Hachioji Branch of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, where he awaits his fate.

    NHK reported the day after the killing that a neighbor had heard noises coming from the apartment, including the girl’s screams for help, but assumed that she and her mother were having a fight.


    Posted by Sean at 01:10, November 14th, 2005

    Atsushi was here this weekend, one of his short stays–in the door at 11 a.m. on Saturday and on the train back to the airport at 5 p.m. on Sunday. But he’s been stressed lately, so it was good to be able to attend to him, even if only for thirty-six hours. We went to the Meiji Shrine, where the leaves hadn’t yet turned but the wooded walk was beautiful as always. Saturday night, we went out with two friends for Korean barbecue.

    Actually, come to think of it, we went for drinks at a Scottish-themed pub first, so I guess we were subconciously working a peninsular-peoples-persecuted-by-their-more-aggressive-neighbors kind of thing. When I asked where the toilet was, one of the bar guys (Japanese) gave me the most frankly lascivious once-over I’ve gotten in quite a while–and it wasn’t a gay bar, BTW. Must be the influence of that fiery Celtic spirit.

    Anyway, about more literal kinds of fire: Several months back Japundit linked to this NYT article about Korean restaurants in New York, and it made me wonder anew why they haven’t caught on more. That Korean food in Korea is way hotter than what most Westerners are going to want to contend with isn’t a difficult problem to address, after all. And unlike the Japanese food that was made fashionable, which emphasized raw flesh and bizarre creatures of the deep, Korean barbecue and rice dishes are comparatively, comfortingly familiar-looking to Americans. Oh, and they’re delicious–the stuff in Japan is toned down, but it’s still spicy enough to be stimulating. Great cold-weather food. And as far as the service goes…uh, complaints about brusque service in New York? Whatever.

    The one problem I can see is when the hot stone bowls and open-fire cooking hit America’s skittish-schoolmarm safety obsession. On Saturday, Atsushi, our friends, and I sat around a gas-lit brazier in the middle of the table, spreading sliced beef, chicken, and vegetables over the metal grid. It was all you can drink. We drank. Well, except for Atsushi, who doesn’t.

    So after an hour or so, there were three tipsy fags flinging rounds of beef tongue rather sloppily over the flames. (I was reminded–frankly but not at all lasciviously–that I was the only one with hair on the backs of his hands that might get singed. A little lasciviousness might actually have been nice at this point, given that the reminder was coming from my boyfriend, but he’s not big on even mild PDAs.) A lot of those last pieces of kalbi were probably just a little more well-done than they might have been under more alert supervision, but hey, it all goes to the same place. Good weekend, and Atushi gets to come home again the Saturday after Thanksgiving.