Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Oh, bother. Where to begin? This thread is rather old and stringy and droopy, kind of like a popped-out party-popper, what with it being strung out over a handful or different web pages...
David "From the slums of Shimo-lin" Marxxx
Nick "I'm to sexy for this synecdoche" Currie
Jean "Wa'cha mean I can't say 'nigga', nigga?" Snow
Robert "熊専" Duckworth
...and there are multiple, tangential conversations going on simultaneously, with a legion of commentators, mostly on the recently comment-laden CliqueOpera (CO), and I’ve no hope of including them all in a colossal parenthesis here. The task would be Herculean, if not Momusian, and along with my Canadian citizenship (not), I’m still working on my demigod application (big Gordian not). If anyone out there needs catching up, please just check the links and try to get an overview. But this is insider stuff anyway, right? Anyway, the more the merrier! So first things first, three cheers for diversity, and much luv and respect for all the boys in THE CREW. Hip, hop, hooray!
Ahem...well, now that that is out of the way, the second thing is that I need to make sure than Nick doesn't manhandle David (Marxy) and my lonesome too much (well, not any more that is really necessary) in front of the netizens out there who haven’t had the dis/pleasure of meeting and chatting with either of us mono e mono. Granted, Tokyo (in its modern incarnation as the 東京砂漠) isn’t exactly the provincial anti-metaphysical city that it is cracked up to be (see recent Momusian pennings), but it still is a lot closer to say, the spiritual oasis (in the beat generation sense of the term) of say...an Albuquerque than I’d like to admt...this of course depending on if you are a “gaijin” or not, and if so, of which ilk. (I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.)
HON. CREW MEMBER INTRO
Roddy "I live on the second floor I live upstairs from you Yes I think you've seen me before If you hear something late at night Some kind of trouble. Some kind of fight Just don't ask me what it was. I think it's because I'm clumsy I try not to talk too loud. Maybe it's because I'm crazy I try not to act too proud. They only hit until you cry. And after that you don't ask why. You just don't argue anymore. Yes I think I'm okay. I walked into the door again .Well, if you ask that's what I'll say. And it's not your business anyway. I guess I'd like to be alone. With nothing broken, nothing thrown. Just don't ask me how I am." Schrock (peace be upon him)
However that still doesn’t mean that for you to do as the goodly Mr. Schrock (P.B.U.H.) once suggested, and just drop by my humble orange abode (an 兎の小屋 if there ever was one) in the ゲバ area for green tea and crumpets so that we might get a better feel for each other ‘as persons’ might prove even one shred less prohibitive than in the past. The physical and metaphorical distance IS vast. But, thanks in part to Nick - who does make stunning observations about Japan at times - our (apparently) Nippon-loathing reps will no doubt proceed us, and since ALL OF YOU (starting with DJ KICK I'll wager), will no doubt be moving here lickety-split to Japan anyway (since it obviously is SO problem-free) to flee the Bu$h, Jr. regime, thereby ‘red-dwarfing’ it (was that the term? Super-novaing it? Shit, I forget...) in the howling vacuum of your massive post-art-school tax-dollars (all [insert the minimum wage of your state here]) of them (be they pink $ or not), so I thought it right proper to extend a kindhearted, Southern (but not Democratic) greeting. So without further ado..."How duz yo' sym'tums seem ter segashuate?"
Good! (The self-evidential nature of he following statement almost, but not quite, causing me to forgo saying it and my friends out there will pardon me in advance for my indiscretion. Others are asked to contact me directly by email.) Now that we are acquainted, the next thing I’d like you to know, of course, in a neighborly fashion and just for the record: I love Japan. Repeat: I love Japan. 3peat: I love...Superfluousness? Probably. But I need to set the record straight, since it seems that Nick has been trying to intellectually browbeat Marxy. David is...well, the poor boy is actually starting to believe what he's being told, and he's even started saying the same, silly things (I love Japan) himself on his own blog these days. Take heart, Li'l David!!! But of truth be told, everybody REALLY knows David is full of shit and lies and that he really is just trying to cover up his true, undying hatred of this country since he is of the category that he is...I even caught him trying to blow up 都庁 the other day with a 線香花火, but I was able to talk him out of it...
Anyhoo..well why on earth would I feel the need to state unequivocally my love for Japan? Perhaps because Nick has confused the ‘tough love’ (I prefer to call it my 愛の鞭) I feel for Japan with just plain old ‘no love’, 'hatred' and/or 'bitching'...which is a gross misunderstanding on his part. Of course, Nick isn't exactly a dull boy as we all know, and that probably means that it ISN'T a gross misunderstanding on his part. Naturally, there is a smattering of recent apologetics...But hold on a sec. there, Robert. if that is so, things get even stickier, cuz then it just looks like all that is left is a simple premeditated intent to misrepresent our (compared to our elders) juvenile (and yet actually vibrant and multivalent) views on Japan, or even worse, to oversimplify them. Come on, Nick! The trusting readers of CO deserve better than this! The gait to understanding Japan isn't as straight, and the way isn't as narrow as it has recently been made out on CO. To maintain serious doubts/queries about Japan doesn't instantly make instantly invoking the 'if you aren't for Japan you are against Japan' dictum RIGHT (it just makes it easy to agree with).
This flavor I get from Nick's recent pennings (all of which I, along with the rest of you, lap up, learn, tinker with, accept, reject, quote, blah, blah, blah...) is that when it comes to the subject of Japan...hang on a sec. I have to say something!
(NOTE: And speaking of Japan, usually when Nick - or anybody for that matter - says Japan, they are really thinking 'Tokyo' or some other big ol' megalopolis area. Japan is Japan. Tokyo is Tokyo, and never the twain shall meet. Furthermore, when Mr. Currie says Japan but means Tokyo, things don't stop there. Now as he has traveled far and wide on tours and summers of love and so on...and even in such foul company as my own at times...what he is actually referring to is that little Bermuda Triangle of a patch of coolish limpidity that can be found between say, Aoyama, Nakameguro, and Shimokitazawa with centrally located Daikanyama exerting a strong centripetal force on the perimeter. I'm sure HE knows this, but some out there may not. That is once face of cool. What about 谷根千 culture? It provides a strongly contrastive and 'alternative' coolish foil to Daikanyama.)
... there isn’t much that Nick seems NOT to understand (marked lack of speculation and his tidy, theory-laden prose, which I DO appreciate)...Of course, he's had decades to work on/out his theories, so I guess he SHOULD think in spic & span kind of way...and I'm not saying that anyone should INSTANTLY dis-believe, but I'm a little wary of most absolutism (especially on this subject). But I think we pretty much HAVE, thanks to his indomitable efforts, a very good triangulation on HIS mental ebb and flow as of late. So just to get a zig in there amongst all the zags, I for one would like to find out the areas of his thought relating to Japan which have NOT yet crystallized...these would probably interested me the most since there would be less ideological triage for me to perform. Women and children first!
But seriously, is Japan really the utopia that it is often portrayed as on CO? Well, yes and no. And this depends mostly on your demographic and its attendant POV. It is an incontrovertible fact that from Nick's POV (which is really beginning to resemble Lafcadio Hern's), Japan [sic] is a near-utopia. To others, I'm sure it is not. Realism? Objectivity? I too have been mulling over Nabokov's definition of reality that Nick left us with a little while ago: "'Reality is a very subjective affair. I can only define it as a kind of gradual accumulation of information; and as specialization." So be it. So realistically speaking, I'm also facinated that same 'poetic reality' of this kind of chimerically 'perfect' (or even near 'perfect') Japan. It comes to those even such as I both in dreams and in waking hours. Yet when it does, it defines itself as a kind of ideological 'remainder' (in the mathematical sense) that is the result of the operation of a SUBTRACTION of the various realities ('good' AND 'bad') of Japan that I've come to experience over the years FROM the initial hopes or expectations I PLACED on Japan (or that were placed in my mind by others writing about Japan). This remainder is what I'm working with/on these days.
However, the 'IF' of this spectral Japan's manifestation (and if the 'IF', then the 'WHEN' the 'HOW LONG' and the 'HOW INTENSE') are I'm sure all based on the relative demographics of the person in question. Yes, of course I wish I COULD (I wish we ALL could) feel how Nick in Japan circa 1998 felt (and by that I mean, among other things, having the wherewithal to buy a hooded green jacket/anorak from the Crow's Nest for about 400 dollars) or even Nick in Japan circa NOW. The problem is that I can't...WE CAN'T...YOU CAN'T. For the rest of us, drifting about enjoying slightly less-than-glamourous existences, the choices are but two:
1) live vicariously (through someones blog, a song, a new design gadget, whatever) allow the poet and his poem, in whatever from they might take, to ravage you and lull you into and endless pit of 'false bottoms' regarding an ultra-privileged, hyper-subjective experience of Japan that wasn't even yours to begin with. (All of which can be said about THIS blog too, but at least I'm trying to get that out in the open.) This is most alluring.
OR you can
2) attempt dispell the chimera, blow the waifs of smoke (and mirrors) away and try to offer some REAL and practical advice to someone living a life full of very 'Japanese' vicissitudes (and YES, these things DO take time to develop). Take, for example, my Chinese friend who can't get a decent, real (non-furiita) job in Japan because of her nationality, despite the fact that she can speak pretty much fluent Japanese and is a hard working college student here. I myself have been guilty of portraying the フリーター lifestyle in a romantic light. I chalk it up as simple blogging peer pressure. Most folks who are actually 'living the フリーター loca' over here in Japan would gladly trade it in for something more stable in a heartbeat.
Damn. I forgot! You could also...
3) Do the first thing and the second thing I said at the same time, and pretend no one is looking. (The same thing could be said about THIS blog too, but at least...)
So this much-touted, this quasi-perfection is ephemeral...fleeting...and WHENEVER THE NEAR-PERFECTION OF THIS JAPAN FAILS SOMEONE, ANYONE (as it does in some of the cases that I'm privy to), the net result is not all that different the TOTAL FAILURES (or I should say failure in its TOTALITY) that are experienced elsewhere in the world, in non-Japanese countries. It is no less imperfect than all the rest. Furthermore THAT FAILURE (and any degree thereof) HAS A PROFOUND EFFECT ON ME and my humanity. I cannot ignore it. Furthermore, I seek it out. It seeks me out! My overcharged empathy puts me in the middle of the fray of imperfections, lost causes, embattled souls, and disenfranchised 負け犬 aplenty!
By the way, isn't Jon the dog kind of like the original living musical metaphor for the whole Japanese 負け犬 sub-culture anyway? Wouldn't its locus be 高円寺? Doesn't Sam & Valley have something to do with this as well? (Oh, go here to get the info on how to have a drink with Jon. By the way, good show the other day Jon! And thanx for the tickets, Saito-san!)
I'm am right there (emotionally) WITH my friend who can't get a job. But why don't I just CHOOSE OTHER BATTLES TO FIGHT and go on and live a carefree life? Well, I decided long ago that the battles of OTHER people were of much more import to me than my own. Typically trite, upper-middle class, Caucasian, American sentiments, I know. Utopian? Well, I can't say that such a bent is totally absent from my thoughts. Japan as any one man's personal utopia? Not for me. By the way, it is common knowledge that utopia is a word that means, originally, literally, 'NOWHERE'. (I remember reading Asimov saying something along those lines.)
And now to totally abuse something that Master Rod (P.B.U.H.) was saying recently while quoting some silly German guy: “I mistrust all systemisers and I avoid them. The will to a system is a lack of integrity." The quoting of which doesn’t mean that I think Nick is wrong (at least not on this point...what WAS the point?), it is just that I think he isn’t right. There is room INBETWEEN. The blind gaijin and the Japanese elephant, Nick's faux-ASSIMILATIVE LIST of various 'postures' regarding Japan is of course non-exhaustive (just simply exhausting), since it was penned (metaphorically speaking) by only a SEMI-BLIND gaijin...or at least a SIGHTED gaijin pretending to have his eyes closed...but is really just peeking out of one eye.
So it merely groups together a quasi-heterogeneous hodge-podge...a lopsided weighting of likes and dislikes when what IS, in reality is a much more rich (almost three dimensional) stochastic mosaic of culturally relativitic perceptions on Japan. Sure, he ADMITS/is at least aware that there are probably others with other views out there, but then conspicuously proceeds to NON list them. Were others out there left wanting as well? (BTW, there are oodles of good things being blogged in non-English languages. Shall we compare notes?)
Even Jean Snow has also jumped on this bandwagon with a few recent posts (and he for one almost NEVER mixes politics and blogging!)...
...and there was also this one too, which still has me in stitches...
“...Anyone that reads my site knows my feelings on Japan (I live here because I fucking love the place)...!”
Setting the petty Japan/Tokyo semantics that I was blabbing on about above aside for a second...all I can tell about Jean’s FEELINGS based on what is written and adrift in the emotional vacuity that comprises jeansnow.net is that the design/pop objects that he is obviously enamored with are incapable of loving him in turn. In other words, a kind of Tokyo[sic]-based Design/Info Masochism (to borrow and mutate a title by Nick). Sigh...always the bridesmaid. But this is old news. I’ve been expressing my tremulous feelings on this for quite some time. Sure, vive la difference and all that, which is why you can say what you say, and which is why I can say that this kind of existence - while thoroughly informative as a kind of reference tool - had made me write these kind of things in the past:
J: So you are saying that you and I have a lot of things in common?
R: Well, that's just it. You and I ALMOST have a lot of things in common, but sometimes I'm not sure. As far as what we DO have in common, well...it appears that this month we've both been cited on that cad's weblog. But that of course DOESN'T mean that you and I are of the same ilk, though.
J: Go on...
R: I quote at length: Jean Snow is a person, a subject, a cross between an enviable swine...
J: An enviable swine?!?
R: ...and a 'recording angel', experiencing the kind of Tokyo events I wish I were able to see. He moves through them, seeing them for me, photographing everything with his AU mobile phone (the A5302CA model by Casio), often moblogging the stuff in real time, in situ. Many times I've thought 'I wonder what I'd be doing if I were in Tokyo right now?' and turned to jeansnow.net only to find that Jean is actually having my Tokyo afternoon for me...
J: Well THAT'S a little more like it!
R: And of me, the following is said: Another Tokyo friend blogging intelligently is Robert Duckworth, CalArts japtopper, Max/MSP composer, and occasional Odradek, whose GlitchSlap Tko may be less lavishly visual than Jean's page, but makes up for it in erudition and the insider perspective Robert's command of Japanese gives him.
J: Great, so Mr. Currie is into our blogs...so what?
R: Which is all fine and dandy, but Nick's comments reminded me of something that my friend R. said the other day on his weblog. Again, I quote at length: 'Sometimes when I look at my Mail inbox on my Powerbook, I see messages from so many different kinds of people. Then I think if the personalities of the people who sent me these emails were attached to the email and I decompressed the personalities from their archives, and the email personalities were animated and vocal like the people who sent them, then there might be a huge argument going on in my Mail inbox, at this very moment. Or there might be a cocktail party with cheap champagne.'
J: OK, I'm starting to see where you're coming from, Robert.
R: Really? Wonderful!
J: So the question is, are you and I having an argument or a cocktail party or what?
R: Very succinctly put, Jean!
J: Well, which one is it?
R: I'll venture an answer at that, if you promise not to get angry.
J: I promise.
R: The key here is...well, I have to pose the question: What is the ESSENCE of Jean Snow? Of Robert? Of Momus for that matter? This kind of treble inquiry is perilous to say the least, especially when undertaken by someone such as I, but I'll go out on a limb here and say that Jean Snow is, in essence, a BULK PASSING MACHINE OF JAPANESE CULTURE [with a very minimal built-in JUDGEMENT function...or at least one that has been turned off...or is malfunctioning at the moment].
Now look at me getting all gushy and hyperbolic! Of course Jean, understand that you love Japan...we ALL do, but what I don't understand is why you don't engage in more critical thinking and constructive criticism in a more public forum, say like...your blog! Sure, sometimes you give us interesting teasers, but...Of course, I suspect the real reason is that the vast amount of aesthetic compartmentalization and ideological partitioning that goes into making up your squeaky-clean virtual avatar would preclude such actions. That's too bad! The kind of aesthetic hyper-modularity innate in your internet oeuvre should actually engender this, but at present, that kind of lovable Borg-like assimilative austerity of yours is probably of course the secret of your blog's success!
I mean, who actually WANTS to make the temporal and emotional investment reading icky-sticky things about Tokyo that can't be summed up in a cutesy by-line, or taken care of with a sweeping grandiose theory? Such things don't make for pleasant dreams. But with the voice and the readership that you command, why not just bulb off another cleanly partitioned sub-domain of your virtual personality and URL and go at it? I'm sure we wouldn't hold it against you. Surely everyone out there would benifit from the insights that someone with your background would be capable of sharing.
Anyway, for the moment, I just want to know how you, Jean, take what Nick said here back in 2000 about a lot of non-Japanese hypercapitalist stuff and let me know how, if at all, it applies to your view of Japan, if at all. If it doesn't apply, then could you explain why is Japan exempt from these kind of charges? I really want to know.
NO time. Have to move on...
Jean said this:
“...One of the things that makes this place so interesting is the fact that it can be many things to many people. David is disillusioned. Momus and me still feel the love, because we are able to find what we want and crave. “
Yo, Jean! David (P.B.U.H.) isn’t 'disillusioned'...and this goes back to what Nick was saying (rather poetically, as is his wont) something about 'stars going out from his eyes' or whatever...I don’t think the stars have GONE OUT of David’s eyes, I just think (to distend Nick’s metaphor) that the RESOLUTION of his viewfinder/telescope/lens/whatever, has increased (because of factors I will expound on later), and other darker stars/black holes/anti-matter/whatever, have come into view. These are simply eclipsing the magnitude of the stars which are still there, but simply harder to see than they were in the beginning. What made little David's resolution increase? Well, I think it DOES have something to do with what Nick suggests, that David has been here...errr...I think that Nick would want to say TOO long, and that 'the new' has rubbed off. So hey, no problem here. If this kind of doubt through increased resolution DIDN'T happen, I would start to get suspicious. (We could hold a week long thingy on this and call is Resfest or something.) I repeat: Utopia is literally 'no where' and I can't give the 'Japan: love-it-or-leave-it' absolutism that is lurking in your statements the double high-five it seems to be waiting around for.
But more importantly, I think David's social peepers got a lot sharper because somewhere along the way, he decided to try and become fluent in the Japanese language, something that Nick hasn't done BY CHOICE, as he himself has proclaimed on his webpage. Regarding Japanese, Jean is stuck somewhere in the middle...But just for the record, both he and Nick are super-duper French speakers!
Nick: It's shameful that, although I pass for some sort of 'expert' on, or ambassador for, Japanese culture, and although I consider the country in some way my adopted heartland or home from home, I still don't have any real command of the Japanese language. "
The Voice Of Reason: Well yeah, Nick. Now that you mention it, i guess it IS a little shameful. But I understand that you are desperately trying to distend "the joys of remaining a foreigner" in Japan. I am interested [OK, this is just the voice of Robert] in dispelling this illusion as quicky as possible by attempting to master the language.
Nick: Do tell...it seems like you should try mastering English first.
Robert [previously masquerading as The Voice Of Reason]: Touche! But doesn't it kind of strike you as a little strange...not mastering the language of a country that you are regarded as being an expert on? Would this ploy work in another country? Say like France? I can imagine the 'bobo blogger' uproar that would occur if we had somebody over in Paris saying, "Well, I can't make heads or tails of that crazy French language, but in all things French I am considered authoritative.
Nick: Well, it is different with Japan.
Robert: [non sequitur] I'm super-crazy-into speeding up the halflife of any and all faux-Barthes-like radioactive misgivings (dreams of an unknown language...pshaw!!!) which decay my brain, and prevent me from seeing a Japan [here used just as Japan] in a non-elemental form.
Nick: Robert, I honestly have no idea what you are talking about. I'm all about seeing Tokyo for what it is. The 東京の素顔 as they say.
Robert: Ah contraire mon frere! Please allow me to quote at length from CO...
Nick: Go on...
Robert: "...the way I experience Japan: as a rush of nonsensical impressions, a delicious regression into the primitive and the sensual, the lower cortex, the right brain, the pre-lingual, and pseudo-babyhood. In Japan I'm a homunculus, a cute and happy sensual monster in need of a mother, preferably with gigantic breasts filled with Calpis milk. Add a bit of jetlag and some de-contextualisation and you get the best psychedelic drug experience there is, a sort of bio-cultural high."
Robert: Well, while you're milking that sweet Calpis-teat, bio-cultural high for all its worth, I'm into freebasing Japanese bio-cultural realism on street corners.
Nick: Which is precisely why you don't get invited to any of my parties anyway...
NO time. Have to move on...
So when Monsieur Snow says that he and Momus are still ‘FEEL the love’ [この台詞ってちょっと照れ臭くない？] because they are able to find what they want and crave, I’d have to say that Sno and Mo are very good at simply blocking out the stuff that they don’t WANT to see...in other words, they have finely attenuated rose-colored glasses, which filter, focus, sift, out all the unpleasantries. (Well what ISN'T allowed to pass? This would be a long, long list! And I would so like to be in the process of cooking up a ‘Subjects that we’d like to see Momus pontificate on’blog. Anyone is welcome to contribute!).
Again, the metaphoric distention: It is kind of like the little pinhole viewfinders that you used to make when you were a kid in science class so that you could view astral phenomenon. The vastness of the firmament reduced to a singularity IS indeed easy to focus on, and it IS save for your eyes, but if you say “Well, I like this little dot, and I’ve come to know it quite well, and that means that the infinitude of other things out there that I can’t see (by naivete, choice or some devilish tincture thereof) must also all be things that I like. All really DOES seem to be full of love, no one thing out there is all that bad, and anyone who expresses reservations about Japan or bemoans/glorifies the umbral side of Japanese culture (and I'm not saying that it is better or worse than anything else, just that it isIS) MUST really hate this place, or feel like an unrequited lover (sorry CARSON), or think that the 'American Way must be better', or whatever. WRONG, wrong, wrong...a zillion times wrong!
Why do David (P.B.U.H.)and I have serious crits/doubts/reservations about Japanese culture? Well, perhaps it is because he and I have both lived here a while, both enjoy private, public (we are both doing music) and academic lives (grad school), and also are FLUENT in Japanese (actually, I consider David to be fluent, I’m just dangling around semi-fluent). Again, Nick says “Perhaps, living there, you take 80% of this stuff for granted. Perhaps you don't value the things I value. It sounds to me like you value above all contention and political debate.” It isn’t that we take these things for granted, it is just that we take these things into CONSIDERATION, along with a HOST of OTHER DATA. As to what we VALUE as compared to you...well, to this I cannot say much. By the way, I do value a healthy, vibrant political forum, in ANY country!
Theoretical question: Nick what if someone gave you unequivocal proof that Japan were in the gestational stages of developing a/an national/international political awareness/consciousness? Would you nurture and encourage this development, or have Japan undergo a political frontal lobotomy (right along with your Japanese language skills)?
In a related comment, Nick also says: "The UK and the US make calamitous mistakes and wage wars. Japan stays on the sidelines, its citizens relaxing in Hair and Make salons, conversing about chihuahuas. It seems exemplary to me."
Reality check! The much-touted Pax-Nippon (the one that came into being under article 9 Japanese constitution) that you speak of (which is one of the big merits of this country on EVERYBODY'S list) is actually engendered and incubated under the rubric of U.S. militarisim and state terrorism. This is common knowledge. And while I DO agree with the romantic anti-American zeitgeist of your semi-valetudinarian invitation for all the kind folks out there to exit this roman shell, please remind them that if they check their POLITICAL COMMON SENSE at the Japanese Immigration and Naturalization Service desk, they will be forced to (speaking of shells) play the dupe in the international military shell game that American has been snookering folks with over here since the end of WWII!!!
I think for everyone's sake, instead of 'Future University' (or wherever it is that he'll be in Hokkaido next year)we need to ship Nick down to one of the U.S. military bases Okinawa (or over to one in Yokohama or Kanagawa) in a box labled 'Surplus Army Fasion Aesthetician' and see what he comes up with/comes back with/becomes of him. Sorry, that one was too easy, but the following one is even easier
...and while perpetually relaxing in Hair and Make salons DOES sound like a wonderful way to kill time, they aren’t exactly at the top of my list of ways to actually improve the world. Nick, just for the record, please tell the trusting readers of Clique Opera just how much money the U.S. got Japan to contribute to its war effort (even though this money was earmarked as ‘humanitarian spending’). Didn’t a senior member of the BUSH cabinet (Powell) make a special trip over here for just that purpose before America (and its lapdog/岡引き) Japan LET SLIP THE DOGS (err...correction: the CHIHUAHUAS) OF WAR???
Still with me? Well why didn’t Japan just say FUCK OFF to the Bush goon? Well, that is probably because Japan gets in upwards of 70% of its oil from the Middle East. (Depending on who you ask, the U.S. gets, at present between 9 and 15 % from that OTHER little “clique of evil fucks”.) So while the U.S. is setting itself up to be a kind of ENGERY PIMP to the rest of the world, Tokyo, who is first in line in the region for the oil, can only be on the receiving end of any POLTICAL BITCHSLAPS. (I know I'm leaving myself wide open here, but I don't give a fuck.) Hey, do you know what I THINK WOULD BE EXEMPLARY? If people in Japan (notice I didn't say Japanese people) people were into frolicking with cute little doggies at designer cafes in Daikanyama AND playing political hardball AT THE SAME TIME, and not just standing around on the sidelines as the US WAR MACHINE'S personal 応援団, cheering with their war chest contributions! Now, THAT Japan would kick ass, and it would surly outshine any anachronistic love for older version of it that anyone might hold.
Of course this is an old chestnut, but if we say that Japan is staying on the sidelines, doesn’t this simply mean that the Japanese PEOPLE (as an ethnic/social group) in Japan are staying on the sidelines. Most of the ‘gainin’(again, I’m coming back to this one) here in Japan are politically quite polar (at least they are aren't neutral)...the ‘natives’ are simply politically vacuous. But considering that Japan’s shrinking population will probably force it to rethink its policy toward naturalization and immigration (remember what I said about NOT checking your political common sense at the door, OK?), the population ‘filler’will obviously come from the outside. If the outside that begins this influx is as politically ‘charged’as it seems to be, doesn’t that mean that Japan (as a landmass occupied by an increasingly diverse population) will slowly start to become more and more political? Well, again, this one is hard to say! Since right now, it is very hard to get Japanese citizenship, Japan basically doesn’t accept international refugees, and of course gaining the right to participate in things like elections - thanks right kids, gaijijn SUFFRAGE - is almost unheard of here.
So in a few years, other than Nick’s seemingly self-enlightened ex-roomies (one of which wound up sacrilegiously tying the knot with an American, the other which who is, last I heard, dating an American) who he offers as evidence that ‘hey the kids are [politically] alright', the only ones sitting around in ‘bobo’cafes having informed political discussions (with full frontal metaphysical nudity) might be Momus, Marxy, and myself, but NONE of us will probably have the right to engage in ACTIVE societal changes here, with our VOTES unless there is some kind of fundamental reworking of the system.
BOUNUS QUESTION: OK, so did Nick’s ex-roomies date with and mate with gaijin because they were politically enlightened to begin with, or did they get politically enlightened BY dating and mating with gaijin?
C) Hot potato?
Anyway, if we can’t change anything in Japan anyway, then does that mean we should just throw in the towel, kick back our feet, catch some rays...you know, just try and quit worrying about it and just try to enjoy 'our' Japan in a kind of thanatoidal way? Well, Camus had a few things to say about that in some silly book that he wrote. But of course I'm sure someone out there will send me a long email explaining to me that people such as myself who denigrate Japan are people who feel uneasy with its visual orientationas well as its collapse of western notions of surface and depth, and that Camus doesn't apply to slippery Japan. Sorry Albert.
Well, I guess we DO choose our own battles/backdrops. That is true! But what happens when the warm, fuzzy, pastoral non-political backdrop that you have chosen for yourself 'collapses' itself right out of sight for good? The Japanese can only go sitting in cafes, sipping 抹茶ラテ and NOT thinking about the rest of the world for so long, right? Sooner or later (due to the vast energy resources that are required to maintain full-throttle leisure suit lifestyles) the juice runs out, and the rest of the world catches up with its former stylistic ‘masters’ (remember what Marxy says about Japanese Gross National Cool)...or you could look at this like the ‘masters’will kind of get knocked a few pegs down. It sounds like that old story about ‘the sky is falling’ and I know that if you keep crying that phrase long enough, the odds are that one day the sky will fall, but the bet is that it will never be on your head, it will be on somebody else’s head, somewhere a long, long way down the line. That doesn’t cut it for me. (OK, I admit that I want to keep bitching about politics over 抹茶ラテ for eons to come!)
TO BE CONTINUED...
Saturday, November 27, 2004
THE BLIND GAIJIN MONK: A PARABLE
Two blind monks came one evening to Roppongi crossing. One was American, the other Japanese. After first listening carefully in both directions for oncoming cars, the blind gaijin monk, completely ignoring the green light (which he couldn't see anyway), miraculously began to cross the road at a brisk pace. Suddenly becoming aware of his friend's traffic dodging follies - which were beginning to veer well outside the 'pedestrian zone' - the sightless Japanese monk became downright flustered and frantically called for him to come back at once. He did so with no great trouble, other than being honked at by a few irate, lead-footed salarymen. "What's the matter," the American said, a little out of breath. The Japanese monk said, "THAT'S not the way to cross the road. Follow me!" As if he were scolding a child, he took his friend firmly by the sleeve and led him back to their previous spot on the sidewalk. They waited there in silence, canes in hand, amidst the din of rush-hour Tokyo traffic, for the traffic signal to change. It did so presently. Upon hearing the opening bar of the ever-familiar 'WALK' melody, the Japanese monk, still making an effort to hide his embarrassment at his companion's foolhardiness, stepped tranquilly out onto the road under the glowing red light. It was the last step he would ever take. The immortal soul of the Japanese monk hovered but fleetingly over his now broken body, which had unfortunately been struck head-on by a speeding Calpis truck and kersplatted as far as Roppongi Hills. Suddenly left standing there all by his lonesome, the American monk mouthed a silent proverb-cum-prayer.
Which of the following proverbs did the blind American monk offer up to the soul of the blind Japanese monk that was soon to be reborn in the Western Paradise?
A) In the country of the blind, the one-eyed is king.
B) There's none so blind as those that will not see.
C) A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse.
D) If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the glitch.
E) None of the above. (If you wish, you can email you very own answer to me at email@example.com and it will appear here in these very pages as if by magic.)
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
There seems to be some talk about Noriko these days on Clique Opera. That's cool, but there is no need to remain in the dark about her radio broadcast. You can find my English translation here. By the way, I was the first one to tell you she was dating Gel here. David says here that you should as me if you have any questions about her. You should. Also, here a reprit of my latest interview with her. Here is an old, footnoteish post about her. By the way, has anybody got any information on the progress she is making with her film? I can't wait to see that. Anyway, enjoy.
Sunday, November 21, 2004
A friend of mine just told me that there is an exhibit by 明和電気 going on these days over at ICC. Don't miss it!
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Sunday, November 14, 2004
Ache Records (015) & Yacca (jp) (YAIP-6006)
The Best Coast Music Triumvirate of Christopher Willits, Zach Hill and Miguel Depedro, are working collectively under the anti-rubric Flossin. This trigger-happy trio has commited a kind of beautifully fragmented musical incesticide on "Lead Singer", their debut album. Recorded in December 2003 in that cesspool of musical intrigue known as the Bay Area, theirs is an emulsive music, with the simultaneity of laptop, drums, guitar in an improvisational context being the defining elements. Naturally it goes without saying that all of the typical pros and cons of BOTH elements are also nascent: Yes, there IS a cornucopia of 'looping melodies' (as is stated on the group's webpage), yet the rich loopiness ad absurdum is at times rather difficult to palate; indeed the drums DO 'shredd' (and with a welcome ferocity at that), however they also ubershred periodically, and the resulting percussive puree promises to ooze out of the listener's ear ad nauseam; and of course, a quasi-therapeutic confluence of 'washes of texture' ARE there as well, but as their high-tide is somewhat distended, the ad infinitum deluge threatens to drown out the rest of the musical goings-on. In brief, this album sometimes shines and sometimes sucks, but hey...isn't that what a freshman release is all about, anyway? Those tremulous feelings of excitement, that huge, uncontrollable swell, and then cuming all over the fucking studio! (Ahem.) Incidentally, the 'experimental micing techniques' of Andrew Skikne are responsible for the distressed rawness of the album. As to what exactly they are/were, this writer cannot even begin to venture a guess, but nevertheless maintains the hope that in the future, the trio will not shy away from experimenting with (gasp!) high-fidelity. Boys, be ambitious!
- Robert Duckworth (typing this at Planet 3rd, Shibuya)
Saturday, November 13, 2004
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Tuesday, November 9, 2004
This one is from my boy Special P. keepin' it real down in Ryogoku. A recording of the recent Laptop Orchestra session at Super Deluxe in Mp3 format. Enjoy!