Blogging on Break

I drove to a Lawson’s (convenience store) today to buy bottled water on my lunch break. It seems I am doing this with increased frequency lately. There is something inherently unappetizing about eating in the company cafeteria… Maybe I just don’t enjoy being in the company of a thousand other people during my meals. Reminds me of elementary school, big time.
For starters, men and women sit separately. I shit you not. The split is about 70% males to 30% females and you can draw the line from where the unofficial but quite visible “men’s area” starts. This was the most surprising sight my first day here, three years ago or so. I even asked my manager about it. HE said it’s because “this factory is out in the country.” Yeah, that’s probably it. That’s also why among 3,000 or so employees there are no women in management positions here – ZERO! Now that’s hardcore boy’s club mentality if I’ve ever seen it. And I am now the only foreigner here. Good thing I blend in.
Well, I was originally going to post this on my moblog, but it suits here better. This whole post reminds me how I’ve left my salaryman series just hanging for like two years. I had to stop writing it because it was no longer funny to me, it just got sad. But as evidenced by my recent spurts of writing – I’m making a comeback.
Now hurry up and finalize Typepad so I can can Blogger forever!

Ain’t no future in yo frontin’

Strolling around the “America Mura” area of downtown Osaka, I realized how hard it is to find worthy photo subjects when everything around you is screaming for attention in some way. This particular day I was in a funk of sorts and was really dreading the black guys draped with rap-vid stylings who step up with a practiced “Yoyoyo, checkit oooooout!” and persistently try to pull you into the hip-hop boutiques that hire them expressly for this purpose.
Objectively it doesn’t seem like they would have a very high rate of success with such crude tactics (reminiscent of the black-suited “greeters” who pester passers-by into girly lounges and “health” parlors). Then again, Japanese are the mark of choice worldwide due to their perceived naivety and the lengths they will go to avoid making a scene or being shamed as much as they are for the presumed portafortunes. For all I know, the boutiques could be doing really well, what with MTV Japan and every radio station in the land inundating the airwaves with really, really, really HORRIBLE JapRap, as well as the constant media spin of black idols like Tiger Woods, Bob Sapp, and any number of chubby gaijin sluggers playing baseball here. I haven’t heard so many semi-veiled references to the size of black male anatomy since junior high. Is this a model example of success or failure of the government’s “internationalization” efforts? In my opinion, Perry may have sailed in a bit too late: These sales tactics arguably exploit their client’s inbred shame as well as their employees’ skin color… But you can explore those avenues later, I’ll just point in the general direction.
When this “stone cold playa” sales tactic first appeared in Amemura some years ago, I would talk to these guys out of curiosity. They would usually consent to small talk after I made it clear I wasn’t interested in the merch. Of course, the talented ones would talk only after I agreed to check out the store. I checked out many of the early stores – nothing special, really, just racks of very expensive baggy clothes, some featuring embroidered signatures of celebrity rappers. I liked these boutiques as they played music I sometimes liked as opposed to many other stores of the period which constantly blared J-Pop Top 10 Countdown from tinny boombox speakers or had succumbed to the “Macarena Fever.” Memories of that just sent shivers down my spine – Hey, just for that, fuck internationalization. Japanese music peaked with big ass drums and stringed instruments adopted from China.
Having just implied I would avoid the morality issue two paragraphs ago, I punish you for making assumptions: It is somehow disturbing to see these guys be used just to sell killa-gangsta dreck in this particular way. On the other hand, a job is a job and working for anybody is assenting to being used in some form. Just because it disturbs me does not mean it is wrong; my automatic reactions to various “race-related” issues are as ingrained as yours so I do not claim that my view is right or universal. But it is my view, and I enjoy exercising the right to express it freely, although I hope nobody gets too worked up about it. This might help: Imagine a peaceful hippie’s serene and strictly vegetarian expression while he sums up his wise views: “There is no right or wrong, it just IS, dude. Peace.” More on this later. (And yes, I know vegetarians are just born that way and it’s not their fault.)
Compared with the present, there were relatively few guys working for the pioneering shops bac in the day, and I eventually got to remember most of their faces and styles. This is an example of my mind’s unchecked background workings: At some point I unconsciously assigned nicknames to these guys according to closest corresponding real-world rapper, but I have never told anybody about this; it was just jarred loose from the memory banks (Reminder to self: Need DDR Upgrade. Wait for MRAM?). Anyhow, the guy who always reeked of Drakkar was dubbed DJ Quik. The guy with a Kangol was an easy LL. Two guys with fake gold chains and letter-shaped rings were EPMD (I don’t remember what the letters on the ring spelled. Damn.). One time there was a guy who looked EXACTLY like Snoop, in fact, it might have been tha shizzolator hisself as I only saw him once – he wasn’t working, just talking with guys who didn’t merit rapper nicknames. Yeah, I might once have been in the presence of the Doggfather… Except for an itty-bitty detail having to do with the way he talked… You see, it wasn’t quite the quaint LBC pronunciation we have all come to know and love.The most damning evidence was the total lack of the words “bitch” and “ho” in his discussion of… Cricket. Cricket as in, “the sport probably not gaining instant recognition in the streets of Los Angeles and surrounding counties.”
You have been patiently gnawing until now and here’s your marrowish treat: When asked, almost all of these guys initially claimed they were American, or regarding specific locale, they were quite often “from LA”. This was highly entertaining to hear. Even though there are all kinds of people in Los Angeles, I would not have bet on any one of them ever having set foot on the continent of North America, much less LA. Their stacatto “Yo-yo-yo wassap G”sales pitch was not really reflective of their true English speaking abilities. After all, they are there to pitch to mainly Japanese prospects. Proficiency in Japanese was required, English usually was not. But you can bet that the Art of Yo was covered thoroughly in early stages of training. This is scary. I have a picture in my mind of one of these guys making enough money to actually take a trip to the states: Departure from KIX. Arrival at LAX. Hotel Check in. Find way to the beach. Watch girls play volleyball… Ah, Cali at last… Watch guys playin hoops. One guy has really nice tattoo. His eyes meet yours. He’s walking over. Maybe you can be homies. Excited! Better make best impression. Ha, easy! Just remember Rule #1 from Osaka branch training: When in doubt, gesture madly with arms. Chest out! Enunciate! Here we go with traditional street/pimp/playa greeting:
“YOYOYO WAAASAAAAAP BEEYAAATCH!?!”

Jayzus, my comp just scared the hell out of me…

I’m blogging from a slightly worn but surprisingly comfortable lounge chair I happened upon in the foyer of a wedding hall, located in a once-was-ritzyish hotel in Ibaraki, a lackluster suburb steadily infesting the area between Osaka and Kyoto. I staked my claim on this cluster of chairs and their centerpiece hardwood coffee table about half an hour ago…
As I type, people are staring at me and my baby U3 as they walk by; I can discern the suspicious technophobe-types from those who are just curious by their furtive glances and hurried gait. In all fairness, the ‘phobes are relatively open-minded toward tech, compared to just five or ten years ago. I suspect my open flaunting of it just disturbs them on some primal level; it touches raw nerves to see that the machines are steadily taking over the world.
I believe that the Japanese telecom industry’s advertising efforts to push broadband on the masses – a great percentage of whom are probably not even sure where to affix virtual postage stamps on e-mail – have a marked effect. Like I said, these ‘phobes are relatively in the know. Whereas 10 years ago my comp might conceivably have been derided as a tool of [entity of choice] without even the possibility of identifying it’s particular function, I imagine the unspoken sentiment of the modern day ‘phobes as: Why would you use a computer in public, when the whole purpose of going outside is to interact with real, live, emoting people?
To which I reply:
I gave up on people like you a long time ago.
Now shut up.
I am tweaking my blog again.
In Haiku form:
Waste no time on you,
Dumb ox, shut your gaping maw.
Typeface: Sans-serif.

Dammit, Blogger is pissing me off.

Yeah, archive this, you oppressive buggy software-providing asswads! I somehow think this UnknownHostException error I sporadically encounter is NOT MY SITE’S FAULT. But every time it reappears I spend a long time trying to work around it anyway, because I want the gratification of instant publishing when I put in the effort to write a post.
Methinks the only thing more depressing than bad software is software that’s almost good enough. Dammit!
I’m leaning toward TypePad for my permanent blogging soft, although with the luck I’ve had with my site this year this MT-based package will probably end up pulling a disappearing act after languishing awhile in beta testing purgatory. Ah well… Gotta have faith and all that.
A flash from the past: Internet browser wars. Netscape taught me not to love any program too much (although I must admit I still cannot replace most of my favorite freeware, especially for macintosh).

Sitting in my car

It’s really late and starting to rain like crazy. I was sitting in the bar just chillin’ by myself, thinking about life and how quickly it goes by in retrospect. It sure doesn’t pass quickly when you are at work counting down minutes till freedom. Nor is this the case when you fall off a bike and really hurt yourself… Those initial waves of pain are like frozen slivers of eternity…
If some of the longest perceived moments of our lives are painful, why do we repeatedly leave ourselves vulnerable to harm?
OK, enough of this. I admit, I was trying to alleviate my beer headache by blogging, but the pixels aren’t cooperating. And the keyboard has apparently switched around all the keys since the last time I used it. I couldn’t type to save my life just now.
Now the comp is wobbling as I type with it half-perched on the steering wheel. Stay still, damn you! mijkbkihjikjnkoihtftgymjbgtdfghjkytrewedrftghygtyuyt7ujhgt6y

By my own admission…

Well, I must admit that I am slacking on the work that needs to be done on my site. Thank you all for pointing this out. Yes, I need to update the static pages at cosmicbuddha.com. Yes, I need to post here more often, but more importantly, I need to make a decision on a permanent blogging platform AND GET THE SHIT RUNNING. Yes, I need to slap those fools at yapeus.com for letting their servers get overflooded every other day and making my free moblog account unavailable. I have an explanation for my slacker (McFly!) ways: It. Is. Too. Hot. And. HUMID.
This week, the weather gods have determined, is the turning point from hot, humid, rainy days – to hot, humid, merely overcast/sometimes sunny days. Is it true? Can Japan’s “fifth season”, the rainy days of “tsuyu”, already be over? It only lasted a week this year, maybe there is a god! As long as I refrain from washing my car on Friday, is there a possibility we could actually have a rain-free weekend? Will I be able to get new tires on Saturday without having to worry about hydroplaning? These questions and more shall be answered in my next post.
BTW, I will continue to update the moblog at yapeus (see url in post below) and the temp blog here, but will be experimenting to determine my next blogolutionary (<-- Adam, I made a new gay word!) step at the same time.

Too many emcees

The reason I have not been updating here lately is that I am trying to figure out the best blogging system to move to from Blogger. Moveable Type? City Desk? Radio? pmachine? Too many MCs, not enough mics.
In any case, I am updating my moblog fairly often:
http://www.yapeus.com/users/cosmicbuddha/
I’m happy with yapeus even though I usually shy away from free services. I have only one complaint: Sometimes it is several hours between mailing a new post from my phone to the time it’s tranferred to the yapeus webserver. Oh well, free services come at a price, I guess, and no one else supports Japanese and offers as much at this time. I know because I researched it for a whole ten minutes and compared services for another five.

Headlight & Horn Etiquette

I must limit the scope of this rant because the full breadth of the topic would require too much thinking.
In Japan, drivers use their horns and headlights in ways that [A] baffle visiting Americans and [B] are extremely dangerous. The retardedest element of this usage is its foundation in etiquette. The Japanese use car horns and headlights to be courteous.
In Japan, drivers that stop at a red light will often dim their headlights so as not to shine at oncoming traffic at the other side of the intersection (or at the car stopped directly in front of them). This is the single most dangerous practice covered here, and can be observed at night anywhere in Japan. As stated above, this is considered a common courtesy by what I would judge to be around half of all Japanese drivers. In fact, this practice is so widespread that a lot of people think it’s required by law, and a lot of drivers fail to think that dimming headlights at night is a dangerous practice at all (BTW, if you can’t tell by now, I fucking disagree).
Last year an oncoming Celsior-weenie flashed me from the other side of the intersection with high beams a few times after I refused to dim my headlights (he signaled desire for me to do so by flipping low beams on and off a few times). In fact, after the signal turned, he chased me down the street, continuously flipping high beams, until I pulled the parking brake and spun hard right to block the whole street at 90 degrees, hopped out, and offered to show him why I prefer a field hockey stick to a baseball bat in the trunk (lighter, faster, longer, weighted at front, sharper edge, curved end for hooking moves, hardwood only where it counts – on the tip). But you digress.
Ironically, one of the new driving safety campaigns launched this year pushes to have headlights on at all times of the day for better visibility. I think you can see the punch line coming: Even the domo-arigato robot mindslaves who now drive with their headlights on all day TURN OFF THEIR HEADLIGHTS WHEN WAITING FOR A SIGNAL. I see them doing this during the day, and can only assume they do it at night as well. During the day I don’t see any functional purpose to this at all, it’s kind of like watching a salaryman bow during a phone conversation with a customer. Man, I should film a documentary on this. I’d call it “Road Etiquette in Motion: Blood on the Asphault Part II”.
I?m finishing this post today (Monday); I started writing it last week but stopped because thinking of all the assholes on the road made me grimace at my desk and my co-workers probably thought I was about to go postal. I think they must have told my manager, who asked me if I was OK at the end of the week. Grrrrrrr. (People always ask about the things I miss most about home: Cocktail lunches and bargain bins of birdshot at Ammo Barn.)
Anyway, a few points about common horn usage in Japan:
– Courtesy soundings of the horn are short, long soundings bear the universal meanings of, in order of importance, ?oh shit, I?m gonna crush you but perhaps this beep will soften the impact somewhat!,? ?move your arse, pops!,? ?if I didn?t know any better, I?d think red-green color blindness had jumped the gender gap, bitch, thanks for running the signal so carelessly!,? and ?fuck you, asshole!?
(Digressively Amusing: The middle finger is understood somewhat by Japanese somewhat because of exposure through western movies although the meaning of ?Fuck You? is never properly translated [Note to subtitlists: ?Zama miro!,? ?chikusho!, and ?kutabare!,? are not good translations. ?Kuso!? is ?shit!? which is sometimes interchangeable depending on situation but sometimes bears another meaning entirely. If you want to hear a proper translation, try cutting me off sometime, but beware that I gave away my hockey stick as my handmade scythe from Kumamoto {In Swahili, this Japanese city name means ?burning vuhjaina? – no lie} fends off evil spirits much quicker]. Most of the times you flip people off, they bow in apology, although once the Jeep I was borrowing came under Yak Attack and the aviator-sunglassed 893 [Ya-ku-za, get it?] basically broke his Gucci-soled foot kicking my solid steel bumper, but that?s another story and my digression is now longer than the original point.)
– In standard Hornspeak, one short sounding means ?Thank you!,? or ?Be aware that I am here!?. Two short soundings in reply is ?You?re welcome!,? or ?OK, I see you!?
– ?Thank you!? is sounded in any variety of situations where Japanese feel the need to be polite (in other words, everywhere, all the time). Some of the more common usages include: When you let somebody into your lane on the highway or pull in front of you from somewhere. When you stop at the mouth of a narrow street or chokepoint to let incoming cars pass through first (this may be the most common usage because of the sheer number of narrow roads in Japan). When you want to freak people out by saying ?Thank you!? in random and completely inappropriate situations (that?s my primary usage, anyway).
A Typical Example of COMBINED Horn & Headlight Usage I Saw This Very Day:
Black Civic (Note: As is the case in southern California, drivers of this car in Japan are also usually Asian, although not so many of them are named Phuong or Vinh) in front of me slows down and >>flips headlight on and off twice< < to signal an oncoming bimbobox (yes, I am Hiroprotagonist) it is OK to cross our lane and enter a book store?s parking lot. Bimbobox performs said maneuver and in mid-arc >>double-taps horn< < to say ?Thank you!?. Black Civic answers with obligatory >>single honk< < as the oncoming car completes the turn, ?You?re welcome!?. Black Civic resumes forward motion, but stops at the intersection 20 meters ahead because the light has turned red during this elaborate show of courtesy. I >>lean on horn< <, roll down the window, and >>shower great sentiments<< of hate, despise, and homicidal wonderfulness at the idiot for making me even later to work. Of course, the moral of this story is, I ended up following the Black Civic into the parking lot at work and received an angry stare from the driver, a.k.a. personnel section manager who works down the hall from me. Moral Summary: Mondays Bite Ass.