Nationalist DOGma

I may have unearthed a previously unknown form of microaggression:  Since I’ve started taking our dog, a Shiba, on walks, I’ve received a few comments of the “good with chopsticks” variety, meant as compliments on my overcoming a presumedly fundamental incompatibility with Japanese dogs.  Breeds of dog, like food, music, and literature, are apparently repositories of nationalist sentiment.

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One of these dogs embodies the harmonious soul of the Yamato.

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Women’s speech

When feminist Americans come to Japan, they typically take one of two views on gender inequality here, either A) What a fascinating and exotic culture which I will refrain from judging, or B) Now I have seen hell.

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全ての望みを捨てようね!

Gender inequality is taken for granted in most forums in Japan, as with many other forms of hierarchy, and it enjoys the twin pillars of support that are common worldwide in (interpretations of) tradition and human biology.  It is also buttressed by speech patterns particular to Japanese which make considerations of gender essential to even the most basic utterances.

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Sam Harris and Omer Aziz

If you have 3.5 hours to kill to understand what I’m talking about here, go listen to this episode of Waking Up with Sam Harris.  What follows is a review of that episode.

I’ll start off by saying I’ve read almost all of Sam Harris’ books, and found him to be a writer with an enviable sense of structure and an admirable willingness to wade outside his intellectual home base of neuroscience.  He is probably most famous for commenting on religion, but his ability to tie his experience with meditation to seemingly unrelated concepts like free will are his main draw for a listener/reader like me.  He has a tendency to engage in thought experiments that are helpful to his readers but make him a frequent target of intentional misunderstanding.  As I will write later, for all his forward-thinkingness he also has a few apparent blind spots in his understanding of the world.

My first exposure to the work of Omer Aziz, like many of the people commenting on this podcast, was reading his two articles on Salon.com on Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz’s book and on the podcast itself.  The articles are indeed unfair and seem to be written for an uncritically anti-Harris audience, as Sam says.  In the podcast, however, he comes across as much more generous than on the page, and sadly for Sam also appears to have a much more nuanced view of the role religion plays in real people’s lives.

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Rhythm Guitarists

This post validates the last part of the subheader of this blog.

Everyone knows metal guitarists play a lot of crazy leads.  The bar for us is set rather high and nothing gets a metal fan’s goat (‘s head) like some pop/rock song with a solo that an arthritic no-armed colobus monkey (the tail is arthritic too) could play.  Thinking here of that Natalie Imbruglia song.

An overlooked part of metal playing though is rhythm.  It’s kind of funny that this is overlooked, since playing in the pocket is such a huge part of the group of sonic phenomena collectively referred to as “heaviness”.  When you enjoy the feeling of a wall of sound falling on top of you, the timing of the rhythm guitar is the mortar that keeps it from just being a bunch of loose bricks.

So here are some of my favorite rhythm guitarists from rock and metal.

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Who’s the nation of 12-year-olds?

Gen. Douglas MacArthur famously said of Japan after the war had ended:

“Measured by the standards of modern civilization, [Japan] would be like a boy of twelve as compared with [the Anglo-Saxon] development of 45 years,”

which, though clearly a (condescending but not ungenerous) comment on the maturity of Japanese civilization, has been widely misinterpreted as MacArthur asserting all Japanese had the emotional development of Western 12-year-olds, which was itself also a popular wartime psychoanalytic diagnosis of the enemy.  In a casual proof of several aspects of meme theory, this “Japanese are children” interpretation has spread to be heard and grunted in agreement at by generations of English speakers in Japan.

I suppose I’m in the relatively small demographic of English speakers who have been in Japan long enough to experience extended culture shock on visits home, and I can say that modern Japanese would find a lot of evidence to support a hypothetical similar Hideki Tojo quote about the USA.  Yes, Americans are childish by Japanese standards.  There is in fact a mutual childish-lookingness (hooray for suffixes) which I will call the Greater Pacific Reciprocal Immaturity Loop.

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Perils of self-employment, part 1

I have been self-employed for 11 years, during which my wife and I have run our own school in semi-rural Japan.  I will write more about this as things I haven’t told everyone yet make the context for this clearer, but for now I will just show off that I have only missed one class in 11 years, and 0 full days.  The one I missed was circa 2008 and I was debilitated to the point of missing a private lesson.  I recovered in time for the rest of my classes that day and made sure to sit far away from all my students.

My aunt, who owned the restaurant that I worked at during my college years, once told me that she’d never taken a day off.  I sorta didn’t believe her at the time, but now I understand that when you know you’re going to work for yourself your body weirdly cooperates.  I’ve been sick in the time we’ve been doing this but almost always on the weekend.

Of course since I’ve been my own boss I can’t exactly put this on a resumé since they’d just have to take my word for it.  Then again that goes for everything I’ve done here.

My year teaching English at a Japanese university, part 3

My usual schedule at our own school is Tuesday-Saturday, 3-10 PM with an extra class Saturday mornings.  Fairly typical eikaiwa stuff.  While I was working at the university, it was those hours plus 8 AM-12:10 PM on Mondays and Thursdays.  So yes, I was working 6 days a week, one of those a half day and the other one I called my salaryman day.

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Optical illusion – the other passengers are actually sitting sideways and the salaryman is upright.

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Foreign in Japan = Minority in the USA?

There’s this meme among the English-speaking population of Japan that white people who come here finally understand what it is like to be a minority in their home countries.  First, can this possibly be true, given that the dominant stereotypes of white people here are worldly, fashionable, and good at English?  Not exactly.  I do think though that life as a visible minority equips you with a vocabulary to understand other people’s experience as minorities elsewhere, and white people in Japan are often better able to understand concepts such as othering and faultability, provided they had any social perspective in the first place.  Whether they use this understanding for good or evil depends on their political orientation.  Let me give an overview here of the types of racism that white people are likely to experience and what they (or we) might take away from it.

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He promises to banish racial insensitivity to the land of wind and ghosts

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