I hate cat people

Since rescuing Yoda the kitten last year, I have grown fonder of cats in general. We grew up with many cats as pets and we loved them as part of the family, but I never really liked other peoples cats or strays, of which my neighborhood in rural Japan is absolutely full (there are constantly between ten to fifteen strays on my street lined with only 20 or so houses). Cats, by nature, are selfish and pretty much endearing only to their owners – kind of like sports cars, except they are not especially benefitted by lugubrious waxing (I assume). What I’m trying to get at is that I’m cool with keeping cats as pets, but I can’t stand “cat people.” You know, the kind of people who keep 50 cats in their house and have to be dug out of caked up cat shit, hairballs, etc. by rescue teams after their neighbors complain about the smell for a few years straight. This is a kind of sickness in my book. Cat people were probably dogs in their past life, doing pennance in this one for all their past feline-chasing.
And there’s always a cat person at work, isn’t there? The lady with a cat-themed desk calendar, a closeup of a cat’s face set as her desktop background, who seems to shed cat fur everywhere and, should her boyfriend (another cat person, natch) playfully slap her ass, would most definitely answer with a passionate meow. The thing is, I’m usually indifferent to this kind of shit. Doesn’t faze me – cat people can be annoying, but they are generally nice and easy to please (just compliment the pictures of cats adorning their desk).
Today, however, I ran into a cat person who ruined my relationship with all cat people. The subject of our group conversation was a recent news item, how a driver in Shizuoka swerved to avoid hitting a cat and plowed into a line of nursery school children (story here). Standard reaction to this story, as you would expect, is that the driver is a dumbfuck. Or that maybe it was just his reflexes, reaction that caused it. Or that there were extenuating circumstances, etc., etc., etc.
What I did not expect was to hear was a stupid cat person defending the driver’s actions, as in, “nobody was killed and the cat presumably survived, so it all worked out in the end.” I was floored. I mean, you gotta be fucking kidding, right? Just do the math – 36 nursery school kids vs. one cat! Shit, even reverse that – 36 kittens vs. a single human being – and a normal person would opt to make kitty paste on the sidewalk every single time! No fucking question!
In the ensuing conversation, the cat person started to cry when I said she had no business driving a car. And since the cat person is a girl, her harpy friends all ganged up on me. Hey, I was just trying to drag her into the real world! They said, she is such a nice person, how could you scold her like that. And they called me a cat hater. Get your shit straight, you foul harpies. I am not a cat hater.
I am a cat-person hater. Meow that, bitches.

Amazon Anomaly

Has anyone else ever received extras in their shipment from Amazon? I ordered a couple of music CDs a while back and when they finally came a couple weeks ago in those new soft cardboard shipping sleeves that Amazon (JP) just started using, there were a couple of completely unrelated J-Pop CDs included in it (combined retail value: over 5,000 yen).
Has this ever happened to anyone else? Is god trying to make me like J-Pop?
Another huge Amazon annoyance is that half of the shit I ever order from them never comes through – first comes the e-mail that they are out of stock and the item is on backorder, then comes a message a month later that it is taking longer than expected. Finally, a few months after the initial order I receive a notice that the item is unobtainable and that Amazon is cancelling my order for it, sorry to have made you wait an entire fiscal quarter for the rest of the shit in the order, fuck you very much and have a nice day. I don’t know if this is because my taste in books is fairly obscure (Sphinctral Polyp Rituals of the West Indies) or because Amazon are a bunch of incompetent fucks, but it is irritating as hell.
Damn you, Jeff Bezos!

Audioslave in Cuba

An interview with Audioslave, just back from a huge concert in Havana is up at The Wave. Playing old Rage Against the Machine songs to 70,000 spectators sounds kinda like a recipe for revolution:
Township Rebellion
Rebel, rebel and yell
‘Cause our people still dwell in hell
Locked in a cell
Yes, the structure’s a cell
Mad is the story I tell
How long can we wait?
Come on, seein’ what’s at stake
Action for reaction
If your mind’s in a somewhat complacent state
Get a check up
This is a stick up
Our freedom or your life
Lord, I wish I could be peacful
But there can be no sequel
Now freedom must be fundamental
In Johannesburg or South Central
On the mic, ’cause someone should tell ’em
To kick in the township rebellion

And as far as the Soundgarden covers go, how about this:
I got an idea of something we can
do with a gun
Sink load and fire till the empire
reaps what they’ve sown
Shoot shoot shoot till their minds
are open
Shoot shoot shoot till their eyes
are closed
Push push push till we
get some motion
Push push push till the
bombs explode
I got an idea
We can do it
All on our own
Nothing to worry
Regret must weigh a ton
Kick kick kick till the
laws are broken
Kick kick kick till the
boots are worn
Hit hit hit till the
truth is spoken
Hit hit till
the truth is born
I got an idea of something
we can do with a gun

I wonder why they played such an uninspiring set… Maybe Fidel is just a big fan of “Bulls on Parade” and “Black Hole Sun” or something. Fucking bubblebum-pop commie bastard.

Learning a new language

One of the primary reasons I stayed in Japan to work (instead of going back to the states) after graduating university was that I wanted to learn business Japanese. When I first came to this country, I was completely immersed in a Japanese environment, on my uncle’s church out in Asuka Mura. It’s in a very rural area. I saw other gaijin maybe once every couple weeks or so, usually they were visiting the ancient tombs for which the town is famous. So I went through some heavy culture shock and it was tough, but it helped prepare me for Japanese classes at Tenri University.
The Japanese studies program, which let you take mostly Japanese language classes/other assorted classes taught in English the first two years and then core classes in Japanese the last two years, allowed one to graduate with the equivalent of a BA (the program, in this format, no longer exists due to administration’s pandering to students from China – no need to learn kanji from scratch, you see). So I studied out of class, usually just hanging around my pal T and his friends. Later I studied with my then-girfriend (now-wife) Nam, which is a funny story in itself – a Thai national teaching an American Japanese by default since neither spoke the other’s native language – and later yet, by doing various part-time jobs. Bartending, construction, office work, city street work, sales work, ditch digging, cafeteria work, translation, teaching English, the long con, the short con, man-whoring at wholesale rates… ah, okay I think I’ve shared too much now but you get the picture. I learned a lot of my Japanese on the street, so to speak, and it turned something that I once considered near impossible into a reality. I was eventually very comfortable using a foreign language.
Since then, I’ve added to my language skills mainly by working here and plunging into as many new situations as possible, as well as by cultivating friendships with competent conversationalists (of whom, I am sorry to say, there is a general shortage of in this world, but especially in the serfdom of corporate Japan).
The point is, I kicked Japanese’s ass, I mean really, thoroughly thrashed the shit out of it. It occasionally gets back up and puts up its dukes, but I just hammer away at it until it’s sniveling like a little bitch in the corner again. I mean, in the world of language-boxing, I’m not the king or anything, but I am confident in my weight class…
Horrible analogy aside, I started writing this post because thinking about how I learned Japanese and how it made me feel in the early years has now got me thinking about Thai. Don’t get me wrong, I’m up to the challenge and love learning languages, but I keep thinking about the down sides recently. You know, when you first start learning a new language, the learning curve is so steep – because you know nothing! There are many milestones in your pregression. Learning how to buy something in a store. Struggling to remember basic shit like numbers, money, time of day. Reaching a level of proficiency where you can understand what people say, but not being able to properly reply. Reaching another level, where you can fool people into thinking you’re a native speaker just by using simple phrases, but being embarassed when you have to ask just what the fuck a certain word means.
The point is, mastering a language is very hard. I look forward to tackling the Thai language. In fact, I’ve already kind of started, practicing with my wife. But it is just so goddamn humbling learning a language from scratch. It’s kind of a pain in the ass.
Someday, I hope my kids will thank me for making them learn three languages from the time they’re born.