Sunday, July 9, 2017.
I wrote this after watching a Trevor Noah stand up routine on Youtube about prejudice. I like Trevor Noah.
Prejudice - preconceived opinions that are not based on reason or actual experience - is ubiquitous because it satisfies an evolutionary utility. Even if one’s definition of prejudice is nothing but tribal favoritism there is still this other picture of it hovering in society, a picture of malicious bias. Is there room to praise the evolutionary utilitarian virtues of prejudice even though the word itself has such a bad reputation now that it's become almost impossible to use it except pejoratively? Determining what its utility or function is is a mystery, complicated by the fact that there are different types of prejudice functioning differently simultaneously in the human psyche and in society. Maybe the utility stems from an early stage in our brain’s development - a species or tribal chauvinism that contributed to survival then, but is an anachronism now - in other words, not utilitarian at all anymore.
This morning I acted with prejudice/favoritism/bias in favor of jam toast against the measurable merits of my usual fare, cereal. I was very purposeful in my anti-cereal decision. If your definition of prejudice features harm or injury that results or may result from some action or judgment, then cereal advocates might say that my toast decision hurt the interests of the cereal and the cereal industry.
I have a habit of approaching issues from a contrary perspective as a strategy to test the soundness of propositions and the validity of the argument formula.
Admittedly, that is an innocuous form of prejudice. Some might deny that it's prejudice at all, and accuse me of mocking the gravity of a real issue. I have to explain myself by saying that I have a habit of approaching issues from a contrary perspective as a strategy to test the soundness of propositions and the validity of the argument formula. In this case, does discrimination in personal choices use the same, or at least comparable formula as other forms of discrimination, i.e. sexual, racial, ethnic, etc.? If it does, then the argument ought to be somewhat symmetrical and work in both directions. I suggest that even if I am wrong it is worth it to get this far as a way to encourage people to think about the formulae of speech and how they apply to thought and behavior.
In the process, people might (wrongly) accuse me of supporting outdated, outrageous or unpopular opinions, when I think I am aiming for existential clarity while trying to support clearer thinking in the pursuit of broad values of acceptance, all the while having fun doing it.
Saturday, July 1, 2017.
Canada turns 150-years-old today, Saturday, July 1, 2017. It is a "Statute Holiday" (what is called a National Public Holiday in Japan) called Canada Day. I read American news reports that inaccurately called it "Canada's Independence Day." Those dumb Americans. They can't imagine the world outside their own borders. A 150th anniversary is called a “sesquicentennial.” I’ve understood that since 1977 when my hometown celebrated its sesquicentennial. It made a lasting impression on me.
Despite what you might think about what you are about to read, I love Canada and think it’s a great country, but … (Leaving a sentence unfinished with a dangling “but” is a Canadianism, a strategy to conserve politeness when rudeness is hovering.) Canada is a large country, but it has a small population which means that it is really more like a small community than a great one. As a small community Canada is a bit of a silly place, really. It's terribly provincial and self-righteous. Self-righteousness in Canada crosses political lines just like violence does in the United States, so I might say that self-righteousness is to Canadians what violence is to Americans. But I could be wrong.
Canadians are said to have a reputation for niceness. I don’t think so. I think Canadians are surly and rude, dirty and lazy, backward and provincial. Or maybe that’s just me.
Who says that, anyway? Who says that Canadians are nice? Mostly we say it ourselves. We tell ourselves, for example, that Americans say that we are “nice.” Some Americans repeat what they hear us saying and it becomes a self-fulfilling loop. But Americans are not really saying it. We are, more or less. I admit that I might have been spoiled by living in a society that has a fairly uniform, universal and extremely high level of public courtesy unmatched anywhere in the world. In addition, I think that (Western) people are prone to interpret my efforts at modesty and humility as anti-social rudeness, but ...
Self-righteousness in Canada crosses political lines just like violence crosses political lines in the United States.
How many Canadians have there been since Confederation (1867)? It’s a tricky calculation because of the malleable nature of population. The human life cycle is such that at any given time multiple generations overlap. People are constantly being born and dying, immigrating and emigrating, and there are millions whose status changes not only between one census and another, but even during the commission of one census. I habitually figure a number roughly approaching eighty million Canadians. What has that number produced? It’s produced a lot. We can do more, and better, especially with more people. I am a cheerleader for population growth and development.
If we cannot physically occupy our territory then our claims to sovereignty over it are compromised - I mean diminished.
At Confederation in 1867 the Canadian population was about 3.4 (3.7 million by 1871). Today it is almost 37 million. So we have grown more and faster than many countries, especially the U.S. If this keeps up we might equal America in population in, like, a thousand years or so.
I have long been impressed by the fact that there are more people living in the Greater Toronto Area today than there were in the entire country in 1905 when Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote Anne of Green Gables (published in 1908), my favorite novel and considered by some to be the quintessential Canadian story, comparable to Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer in the U.S.
I have long written about my personal desire to see Canada with a hundred million people right now. We would have a bigger economy and a bigger impact on the world, plus a deeper , more diverse and more remarkable culture. I doubt that in my lifetime I will see 50 million. It’s possible. A population of 50 million is certainly in the pipeline heading towards us quickly, but I expect to leave the scene when our numbers are about 44 million. The primary motive behind my population fantasy is not dissimilar to the Fathers’ of Confederation motive in the first place: self-defence against the U.S. The U.S. is hailed as our greatest trading partner and ally. True. But it is also our greatest threat. In 1865 America finished its Civil War with a frighteningly large and modern military machine which it could easily have turned northward in pursuit of its Manifest Destiny fantasy. It didn’t happen, of course, but at the time it might not have been an entirely foolish notion, nor today, either.
As climate change worsens water wars are coming.
I want a much larger population as a deterrent to the coming American invasion. As climate change worsens water wars are coming. As a repository of much of the world’s fresh drinking water America will cast its covetous eyes northward and see mostly empty land for the taking. They will frame an invasion as a heroic endeavor and a virtue. Plus, they’ll blame it on us. The point is that if we cannot physically occupy our territory then our claims to sovereignty over it are compromised - I mean diminished. Economy, culture and global influence are all just perks of sovereignty. I am a cheerleader for population growth because I am a fan of sovereignty.
I am a cheerleader for population growth because I am a fan of sovereignty.
Every day I thank God that I am not an American.
But I could be wrong.
Sunday, June 25, 2017.
June is Pride Month. I didn’t know it until by mid-month I began to notice an inordinate amount of rainbow-decorate Facebook Profile pictures and rainbow-decorated FB posts in addition to a couple curious stories in my hometown newspaper online. I figured, What's up with this? But rather than being told, I had to figure it out for myself. I don’t think I’d call myself a fan of any cause that hijacks a day or a month for publicity purposes, no matter how worthwhile the cause is. Why? Because I appreciate modesty, humility and quiet.
Pride fatigue. Yawn.
“Pride” is the language of self-esteem. I am not impressed with self-esteem, and I suggest that pride is a shallow and inappropriate emotion. Pride is self-centered and I have little regard for (excessive) self-centeredness. Oh, I understand and recognize self-centeredness, but I don’t see it as a great virtue. Pride fosters animosity more than love and homosexuals end up rejecting my love and support. They give me Pride fatigue. Yawn.
I want people to be as gay as they desire. Go be gay! Yeehaw!
Some people will immediately interpret my remarks as homophobic. Nurtured in part by their cultivated sense of outrage, people are quick to appoint themselves watchdogs. I want to quash (reject as invalid) that right away. First of all, no one knows me. Despite what I write and what I say, no one knows what I sincerely believe about anything. And you don’t know anything about my sexuality, do you? You might think that you do. I keep my beliefs largely private while using and playing with language in public. I don’t discuss my sexuality or my sex life with ANYONE. That’s a good thing about living in Japan. Japanese do not habitually discuss private matters, so in that regard I feel suited to the culture. Things are slowly changing in Japanese culture, but still … Secondly, in fact I support LBGT people. I support their campaign for civil rights in society. You know that I do because I’m telling you. I want people to be as gay as they desire. It’s wonderful. Go be gay! Yeehaw! I don’t really want to hear about it, though, and that’s the thing, isn’t it? Not because of moral outrage so much as because of privacy outrage. Privacy is private, that’s why it’s called that. Once upon a time I preferred the foundation of the LGBT movement to feature privacy rights - the argument that no one - the state or social institutions, or even your family and neighbours - has a right or even an prerogative to stick their noses in your private affairs, rather than as a civil rights argument. Although, admittedly, long ago the debate broke the bounds of privacy such that LGBT people might call that a “mere” or minor consideration rather than a major one. The civil rights argument is valid, true and correct. You know that I know and admit that it is because I’m telling you, but for me privacy is a major thing. One’s sexuality is no one’s business but one’s own.
People with whom I have spoken about this tell me I’m ranting, and they appear to patiently indulge me like I’m a comedian, or something. I reject that. I don’t think I’m ranting - speaking or shouting at length in an impassioned way. Nor am I engaged in tirade - a long, angry speech of criticism or accusation. Or, maybe I am. I think I have a considered position that I am presenting in a calm manner which is not due any less regard than the LGBT Pride argument. This essay is more than 1,000-words long, but for me that is not “long.” It’s typical. I understand that in the modern world people communicate less, and when they do “message” each other they are prone to write mere notes rather than expanded ideas. But writing of this length has been normal for me since university. I think of it as “normal” length conducive to genuine communication, not “ranting” length.
If the LGBT community wants my support and regard, then Pride parades and publicity campaigns are not the way to do it. On the one hand, I prefer humility and modesty to inflated self-promotion. I reject inflated ideas of entitlement from people who seem to say “With our words we get what we want. We will say what we wish, and no one can stop us.” LGBT people might say my approach has rendered them nothing, thus justifying their proactive my-genitals-in-your-face approach.
I think less of gays and lesbians because of the Pride campaign than I otherwise am prone to do.
On the other hand, I think we would all be better off not sticking our noses in each other’s genitals. More than that, we would do well to avoid sticking our genitals in other people’s noses. And that’s what a Pride parade is - a rubbing-my-genitals-in-your-face party. Homosexuals are violating the privacy principle by forcibly making their private affairs my business - a grave sin, as I’ve explained. So rather than nurturing my support and regard, the Pride movement is compromising my support and eroding my regard. I think less of gays and lesbians because of the Pride campaign than I otherwise am prone to do. LGBT publicity robs them of humanity in my regard and makes them mere symbols.
By expressing an opinion I am encroaching on their party and trying to appropriate their culture.
Gays and lesbians might respond that my feelings are irrelevant to their activity because they hold parades and participate in publicity for their own purposes, not for mine. It’s for them, not for me. By expressing an opinion I am encroaching on their party and trying to appropriate their culture. I understand that, but it is incorrect. We are all in society together and as such we are intertwined with mutuality. We are each other’s minders because we’re in this together. LGBT want my respect and regard - a desirable foundation for civil rights, but not a necessity - but I don’t feel I’m getting the same from them.
But I could be wrong.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017.
Ultraman (ウルトラマン, Urutoraman) is a Japanese science fiction television series created by Eiji Tsuburaya. Ultraman is a follow-up to Ultra Q, though not technically a sequel or spin-off. The show was produced by Tsuburaya Productions and was broadcast on Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) from July 17, 1966 to April 9, 1967, with a total of 39 episodes.
Although Ultraman is the first series to feature an Ultra-Crusader, it is actually the second show in the Ultra Series, Ultra Q was the first. In fact, Ultraman opens with the Ultra Q logo exploding into the Ultraman logo. Ultraman, and its titular hero, became a major pop culture phenomenon in Japan, spawning dozens of sequels, spin-offs, imitators, parodies and remakes.
Ultraman, Ultraman, here he comes from the sky.
Ultraman, Ultraman, watch our hero fly.
In a super-jet he comes from a billion miles away.
From a distant planet comes our Ultraman.
Seven, Seven, Seven, Seven
Seven, Seven, Seven,
Seven, Seven, Seven.
Far among the Galaxy, is where your homes lies.
Ultra-Seven, Seven, Seven.
March to the end of the Big Milky Way.
With the Ultra Eye. Spark!
Seven, Seven, Seven,
Seven, Seven, Seven.
We know you by another name, the Planet Man, Dan.
Save us from destruction. The evil monsters.
With the Ultra Beam. Strike!
Seven, Seven, Seven,
Seven, Seven, Seven.
Seven is the number of the miracle man.
Go, strike, defend our life and happiness.
With the Ultra-Hawk. Attack!
Thursday, June 8, 2017.
I took this picture on Sunday, June 4, 2017. Every day, in all seasons and weathers, I walk up this hill. In the autumn the leaves of the ginkgo trees on the left turn yellow and it looks pretty in the low-angle afternoon autumn sunlight. The cement wall on the right is the retaining wall of a public high school property at the top of the hill, across the street from my apartment. I have been told that in olden days the land at the top of the slope - which today is the high school’s sports ground regularly filled with happy, shouting girls and boys - used to be an execution field. That was in the time when jailers practiced gratuitous torture to inflate punitive suffering before lopping the condemneds' heads off with a samurai sword. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s a great story. The street, called Nakano dori, was cut into the slope of the hill, leaving the high school exposed and protected/supported by a heavy retaining wall. This picture is looking South. The slope is actually part of a river valley made by the Kanda River which flows through my neighbourhood about 50-meters behind where I am standing when I took this picture. At the base of the slope the wall is quite high - maybe eight meters. Then it tapers as you ascend the slope until the wall is just 1.3-meters on my street. Until a few weeks ago this wall was largely covered with clinging vines. I watched as a Nakano City crew scraped the cement clean. I kind of like the wall.
Thursday, June 8, 2017.
This book is the quarterly catalog from "Ogawa Tosho," the Ogawa Bookstore on Yasukuni dori in Tokyo's famous Jimbocho Booktown. It is a full-on antiquarian bookstore. It's a very small shop, but most of its business is done privately, to rich collectors who peruse this catalog that is printed and distributed four times a year and then purchase through representatives without actually visiting the store. I've bought a few things from the shop over the years - usually cheap liquidation stock from bins on the sidewalk in front of the store. But once I bought something that had to be shipped to my home by parcel delivery - a beautiful, illustrated six-volume Bible (in Spanish) that weighed a ton. Since then the store has had my name and address on record and it regularly sends me its catalog. The highest-priced item in its inventory is about a half million dollars.
Used books are the most dangerous kind there are. Because they have no permanent owners they roam the world uncontrolled, passing irregularly from one person to another spreading ideas. They are unpredictable. They are dissident. They are like me. I love them.
Wednesday, June 7, 2017.
In mid-morning on Monday, June 5, 2017 the heavy leather belt that I have habitually worn every day for the last ten years broke and literally disintegrated on my body while I was working. That left me with the problem of holding my trousers up with one hand while trying to work with the other for half the day, hoping that people didn’t notice. In my work I am constantly on my feet and moving around, not sitting discreetly at a desk. It’s a maddeningly awful feeling. At lunch time I scooted out to a convenience store across the road and was lucky to find some safety pins which helped a lot, but not entirely. After leaving work I began to commute to an evening job. While transferring through Shinjuku san-chome Subway Station - still holding my trousers up with one hand - I saw a kiosk selling hats, neckties, folding fans, and belts. Lucky!! It was a temporary kiosk, the sort of thing that breaks down and is set up in a different location in a different subway station every few days - a roaming vendor of various utilitarian items. Sometimes I see kiosks selling costume jewelry, sometimes some selling rice crackers or umbrellas or other odds and ends. I knew I had a spare belt at home, but I couldn’t wait that long, so naturally I bought a belt on the spot and was glad of it. It was a long 130 cm belt, much too large for me, designed to be cut to size by each buyer. So my trouble wasn’t over yet. I could not wear it right away. It wasn’t until I got to my evening job that I was able to cut it to size with a pair of scissors.
Exactly 48-hours later, on Wednesday, June 7, 2017, the emergency belt that I bought on Monday 5th also broke and felt apart, precipitating a new crisis. What the hell is it with this country and its goddamned belts?! Maybe I am wearing my belt and other clothes differently than I used to and wear them out in a different manner. I have gained weight over the years, but I am not currently gaining. But maybe with age my body shape has changed due to age-related metabolism changes, causing me to fit into my clothes differently and wear them out in an unfamiliar way. I'm only speculating. I wonder if there is anything to it?
What the hell is it with this country and its goddamned belts?!
Now, it happens to be true that at the moment I am deliberately avoiding buying some kinds of clothes of which I have an excess - T-shirts, underwear and socks - and am purposefully letting the clothes I have wear out and disintegrate on my body - literally disintegrate. I have a big collection of T-shirts, some of which I haven’t worn in years and instead of throwing the excess or aged items in the trash I want to honor them by using them for their intended purposes. You know, the economic principle of production for use. Things are produced for a purpose, therefore it is fitting that they be used for their intended purpose.
The economic principle of production for use: things are produced for a purpose, therefore it is fitting that they be used for their intended purpose.
But belts are of a different type. Belts have a unique importance. I need them. I do not have an excess, and having them fall apart on my body - especially in the middle of the day, at work, with no convenient facility to replace them - is definitely inconvenient and irritating.
Saturday, May 27, 2017.
My apartment is on the third floor of my building. That’s not very high, but I always use the elevator to ascend and descend. When I am going up I always hit two buttons - the 3rd floor and the 5th floor. Why? (I used to push the 3rd floor and the 6th [top] floor until I was asked to stop doing that. So I changed to the 5th floor to satisfy the request.) The reason has to do with a witchy old woman who used to live on the ground floor near the elevator. She died in hospital of cancer one year ago. I cannot fully describe in print how horrible this person was. She spied on and gossiped about everyone. She picked through other residents’ garbage to see what we were throwing out. Twenty years ago she slapped a member of my family in the face in full view of my young daughter. My complaint to the local Police Box (“koban”) was disregarded. “There’s nothing we can do” (a familiar, useless and pathetic Japanese refrain). I also know that this woman used her proximity to the elevator to spy on people’s coming and going. I saw her do it once - darting out of her door to check the elevator after hearing someone enter and the doors close. I guess she wanted to know where people were going to keep track of activity in the building. After that I began to push more than one button when I went upstairs in the hope of planting confusion, so that if she did the same to me I might sow doubt in her mind about the destination (and identity) of the passenger.
Now that she’s dead I am not inclined to stop. I continue doing it with faith in the remote chance I might continue to confuse her ghost. She was so awful that I don’t feel protected by the chasm of Death.
I don’t ignore the possibility that I am wrong and being mean toward her. I know that no one knows the mind of another, that I never walked in her shoes, that I don’t know her biography. But I don’t care. She slapped a family member in the face in full view of my young daughter. Unforgiven.
Before going to bed on Thursday night, May 4, 2017 I read on Facebook about 95-year-old Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh announcing his retirement from active royal duties in August this year, citing his age. Then in the Friday, May 5, 2017 morning newspaper I read the same news. At the same time, Japanese morning television covered the story extensively because Japan is currently dealing with its own royal retirement issue. In a televised speech to the nation last year the 83-year-old Emperor Akihito expressed his desire to abdicate and retire, also citing his age. In that respect there is some parallel here.
So far, Japanese law has not provided for a royal abdication, so accepting the Emperor's expressed desire to retire created a legal problem. The last imperial abdication here was centuries ago. For many months now the government has been considering the matter and has been preparing a bill for the National Diet (legislature) to provide for a one-off abdication. I mean, not a permanent, legal abdication mechanism that would interfere with a smooth Imperial succession.
Then the Saturday, May 20, 2017 edition of The Japan Times daily featured the story “Cabinet OKs one-time-only abdication bill” on the front page. It reported that “The government is looking at December 2018, when the Emperor turns 85, as the timing for his abdication, which will likely trigger a change in Japan’s gengo (era name), which remains in use throughout an emperor’s reign, at the start of 2019. I cannot disregard the possibility that the government might be looking towards the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games with a desire to have the imperial situation taken care of smoothly well before the global magnifying glass turns towards us.
On Friday, June 9, 2017 the National Diet enacted an abdication law for Emperor Akihito, paving the way for Crown Prince Naruhito, 57, to rise to the Imperial throne. . His abdication was reported in the Saturday, June 10, 2017 Japan Times newspaper as expected to take place at the end of 2018. It would be Japan's first abdication in about 200 years, since current law only allows Imperial succession to take place when an emperor dies. The government was reported to decided on the timing of an abdication by issuing an ordinance. The abdication will usher in a change in Japan's era name, or "nengo." Japan currently uses both Western and traditional calendar systems. The current "nengo" is called Heisei 29, which refers to the 29th year of the era of Emperor Akihito.
I am a permanent foreign resident in Japan. I have no plan. I don't know what I'm doing.
7 月 2017