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2006-03-15 4:17 p.m.

somebody's a little cranky... i think he needs a nap

The third year middle school kids graduated today. It was an emotional affair. At the end they were supposed to sing a song but nothing came out because they were crying too hard. It’s a little different for these kids than it was for me. They have been together as a class since preschool, and now they’re all separating to go to various high schools throughout the prefecture.

My five high school kids also graduated a couple weeks ago, and Rock High is now officially closed. As mentioned before, the Rock itself no longer exists as a municipality, having been absorbed into Bigger City as of January 1st. I’ve really been here at the end of an era. In another two or three years, the bridge will be complete…

Graduations this year have been more meaningful to me than those last year, as well. I guess having spent 20 months with these kids versus 8 months makes a difference.

Our little jazz quartet performed our last gig on the day the high school closed. It didn’t go poorly, but it was anticlimactic in many ways. Our performance at the school cultural festival in October was much better.

WTF came down for our performance. All in all, it went well, but on the day of the ceremony I also had two English speaking (female) friends come out. She didn’t handle it well. I was expecting that it would be hard for her to see me speaking with other women in words she doesn’t understand, words that obviously come more naturally to me than the words I speak to her. But, wow, it’d be hard to imagine her handling it much worse than she did. [sigh] That doesn’t bode well. Now that I think of it, though things have settled down a lot between her and me, things always start getting weird again whenever other people enter the picture…

Natch really bugs the hell out of me sometimes. Despite the fact that she has overwhelming evidence that I am well acquainted with Japanese language and culture, that I can, in fact, read and write Japanese quite well, she still always assumes the contrary and seems genuinely surprised when her assumptions turn out to be wrong. This isn’t uncommon; people just seem to have this image of what a gaijin is and they are very resistant to anyone who doesn’t fit their stereotype. (Though Americans tend to stereotype the Japanese and their culture just as much. Lost in Translation is a perfect example.) I have a bad habit of responding to such instances with sarcasm, which of course is never recognized as such and just digs me deeper in the hole. An example conversation:

Natch: Do you know what tempura is?

Me: [I say nothing. I stare at her dumbfounded, thinking, “Woman, do you seriously think I would have gotten this far without knowing what fucking tempura is? What the fuck?” She waits for me to respond. Finally, as this is the latest in a series of similarly stupid questions she has asked me this evening, I lather on the sarcasm and say,] No, I don’t know what tempura is.

Natch: [She starts trying to explain what it is. Perhaps sensing something in my demeanor, she stops.] Wait, you know what tempura is!

Me: Yeah, so?

Natch: Why didn’t you just say so?

Me: Why didn’t you believe me when I said I didn’t? If you knew I know what it is, why did you ask me if I know what it is?

Natch: Hmm. Your Japanese has gotten a lot better, but I guess there’s still a lot of times when you don’t understand. Keep trying!

Me: [ARGH!]

I have conversations like this with her on a constant basis. [sigh]

One of the things I like about WTF is that she’s never been particularly surprised that I can read kanji or eat sashimi or understand what she’s saying. She’s never praised me for being able to use chopsticks. (Though when other people ask me if I speak Japanese, she tends to chime in with, “Yes, he’s fluent!” Which isn’t really true, but it’s a real compliment, not the fake ones most Japanese verbally spam me with.) Maybe it’s cultural bias and lack of exposure to foreigners on her part, but she just kind of expects it. It’s so nice.

My chopstick usage has gotten better, though. I’ve pretty much mastered the formal Japanese style of holding them now, which is significantly different from the way wrappers in Chinese restaurants taught me back in the day. I can sit in seiza like a mofo, too.

Yesterday I got really depressed reading about dominionism, the Right Wingers who want a theocracy with fundamentalist Christianity as the state religion. Stuff like this and this and especially this. I try to encourage myself by saying that people on both ends of the political spectrum are convinced there’s a conspiracy to wipe them out, that even if there are extremists on both sides who want a theocracy or an end to the freedom to practice any religion, the vast majority of Americans on both sides wouldn’t support such things, right? They’d never allow it to actually happen, right? Right? This site on How To Fight The Religious Right also made me feel a little better. This and other things I’ve been reading lately have been reminding me that just because I don’t believe the Bible et al. to be true anymore doesn’t mean I should stop studying them…

I always feel torn by things like this. Does stuff like this mean I should distance myself as much as possible from the US or does it mean I need to get back there as soon as possible? Sometimes I’m glad I live in a non-Christian country right now, but in point of fact Japan is not at all lacking in the right wing ultra-nationalist wacko department. (For example, disturbing ultra-nationalist manga have been selling quite well lately.) They freak me out, too. Man, we are fucked. Have I told you that?

On a related note, I saw The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe last Friday. It was pretty much what I expected, which means I didn’t like it and I wonder why I watched it at all. Stupid preachy allegories. Stupid Peter character who even looks like me, who seems so much like what my parents wanted me to be. (They see me as a confused Edmund, an Edmund who has yet to come back and may never do so.) Stupid simple division of attractive and cute creatures on the good side and ugly and mean looking creatures on the bad side, stupid encouraging stupid dogmatists to view anyone who opposes them as irredeemably evil and therefore subhuman, expendable, and not worth empathy.

Really, doesn’t it seem a little too convenient that all the ugly creatures sided with the witch? Does anyone ever stop to wonder why these creatures would side with someone who treats them as poorly as the White Witch does? Why should that be? Perhaps they were ruthlessly oppressed, even enslaved, by the Aslan zealots? Perhaps they were only too happy to gain the opportunity to be free, the opportunity to give their oppressors a taste of their own medicine? Why is understanding your enemy considered a waste of time? I recognize that Lord of the Rings (and a good many other works of fantasy and science fiction) has the same problem, but as Lord of the Rings works harder to explain it and as that’s about the only thing I dislike about Lord of the Rings, I’m willing to let that slide. Tolkien, though apparently responsible for Lewis’s conversion, hated stupid preachy allegories, too. The Lord of the Rings, unlike Narnia, was not written expressly to make people into Christians and to teach true believers how to think about their enemies.

“If only there were people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” -Alexander Solzenitzin

You know what, man? I’m not on Aslan’s side or the White Witch’s side (even though she was the only thing that made the film worth watching). I just want you fucking zealots to stop your fucking holy wars and leave me the fuck alone. There are more colors than black and white, and morality is more complex than “whoever is not with us is against us.”

Ahem. I give the film 2 stars, up from 1 because I could watch the White Witch all day.

If it was moral ambiguity and a blurry to non-existent line between good and evil that I was looking for, though, I certainly got it from the film I saw the next day, Munich. It was, of course, hard to watch, but honest portrayals of real world conflicts always are. Anyone who is concerned about terrorism and its mirror image, counter-terrorism, should see it. 4 stars

Phew. I’m tired. I guess we’ll wrap this up.

i’ve seen the nights filled with bloodsport and pain,


P.S. More or less everyone's blog I've read today seems to be in a bad mood. Must be something in... the Earth's atmosphere.

P.P.S. Happy Ides of March!