…from the land of inflatable neck-stretching kits!
This is CB signing off for 2004 – PEACE!
Sender: Justin Yoshida
Subject: razor blades
bring them to work.
It’s not what you think, whatever that is. I want to use them to improvise cutting blades for a Thompson cutting machine.
In other news, I am off for eight days starting in approximately one hour. Do you have any idea how long the next 60 minutes will seem?
In case I forget about the internet for a while, Happy New Year to you all!
Sign hanging over a local fishmonger. What a cool word. FISHMONGER.
I always plan to tie up loose ends and complete x amount of work by the end of the year; by the time Christmas rolls around my productivity dwindles to slightly above absolute zero and I’ve unconsciously convinced myself that all but the most critical issues can be postponed until work resumes.
This is my fourth or fifth salaryman Christmas, but the most annoying thing about the winter season in Japan, even more than work, continues to be Wham’s “Last Christmas” resounding throughout shopping malls, train stations, and other public gathering places near you.
A crate of Costco persimons. Sweet!
Sona caught off-guard, in the crook of my arm.
You would think that the Lipovitan crystals I smoked before yesterday’s rant would have worn off by now. You would be wrong.
Today’s unwilling recipient of my hate is our company’s uniform. Specifically, the branding on it. I have actually grown quite fond of wearing a uniform to work, because it’s a hell of a lot easier than choosing barney-ass cubicle clothes every day (and hence cheaper as well, since I’m a gentle fucking giant in Japanese sizes and must import all my Dilbert-wear). However, a few years ago, my company changed vendors for our “Confederate Grays,” and said company named this line of poly-blend uniform, “EARTHINK.” Now, all of our uniform sleeves bear a white 1″ x 3″ label with “EARTHINK – RECYCLE” and a bunch of other environmental crap in Japanese printed on it. We are like walking billboards for ISO 14001, which just might be the idea, I guess, but still…. EARTHINK? What the hell is that? It nags at my conscience every few days, seriously:
Just what is EARTHINK?
EAR + THINK?
EARTH + INK?
Every Asshole Rikes To Hollering In North Korea?
So I asked my manager about it, and he replied most sagaciously, “get to work, you fucking bum.” Thus reprimanded, I cowered back to my desk. But he dropped by later, and admitted that he didn’t know what the hell it meant besides the hilariously interpretable Japanese pronunciation which is, “assinku.” I like assinku better than anything else, I guess.
I finally got around to Googling the shit today, and in its first reference to Japanese corporate uniforms, I found the following:
THE TREES IS SCREAMING! REPENT, SINNERS – EARTHINK!
And now that I have found the true meaning of EARTHINK, I can die in peace.
3,400 PET bottles converted into Christmas lights by a local preschool.
(Be warned, I just stubbed my toe REALLY HARD on an old printer someone left in the hallway for pickup tomorrow. The following passage was brought to you by the school of ?Ignore the Pain and It Will Go Away,? and the Foundation for People Who Woke Up on the Wrong Side of Humanity This Morning.)
Note to self: Write future rant about the simplicity and nuance of the Japanese language being too often cloaked in stiff politeness. Wait. On second thought, I guess there?s not much to expand on there? Don?t think anyone would disagree with that. More precisely, anyone who would disagree probably has a pathetic social life, and I would feel really bad about pointing that out – even if we got in a heated debate that resulted in insults in the comments, hate mail, prank calls, false credit card charges, escalation in the form of physical stalking and placement of beheaded pet maguro in rival?s bed while he?s sleeping, and someone?s eventual deportation.
Besides, I kind of covered this in the post last week about the proper Japanese business e-mail format. So I won?t delve into the linguistic equivalent of why if you buy a box of chocolate chip cookies at a Japanese 7-11, you often must take the box out of the grocery bag and figure out how the box itself is opened, after which you must also open the sealed tray or pouch that?s inside the box, and, finally, remove each individually packaged cookie from its foil wrapper before eating it; there always seems to be an unnecessary layer or two.
No, I definitely should not get into that one today; it would cramp my freestyle impersonation of a mudslide, and besides, it?s so fucking wroooong to make sweeping generalizations about anything these days it seems. That said? The different levels of politeness in Japanese are daunting and complex, but I?ll leave the boring stuff to linguists and others who most likely did not take Wood Shop as an elective in high school, and write instead about how they can provide amusement. (Note: I may use this opportunity to insult random, stupid types of people who irritate me in some way or another as well, so be prepared if you know me and suspect I intensely dislike you.)
Sometimes it?s fun being unnecessarily polite in Japanese, verbally skating the line between being respectfully polite and sarcastically polite. Of course, if you are a gaijin, a lot of people won?t believe you capable of intentionally doing such a thing, but hey, fuck them. People like that are often ignorant in a sickeningly innocent kind of way; even if they are pleasant enough, they are the type who, for instance, might find your proficiency with chopsticks comment-worthy. However, many of us give the natives good cause to doubt our conversation skills on a daily basis.
For instance, one of the most irritating things I see on a regular basis is foreigners who get carried away with the politeness thing, specifically when expressing apology or thanks. You know, the kind of person who, after unintentionally causing relatively minor trouble for someone (like bumping into a stranger who ends up spilling his coffee on the sidewalk, or being helped by a passerby while fixing a flat tire) repeats the word sumimasen, gomennasai, and some form of arigato so many times in succession that the person he’s talking to starts getting really uncomfortable and eventually has to convey, forcefully, “IT’S OK ? REALLY.” It?s especially unnerving when bowing is included in this performance because many gaijin obviously learned how to bow from kung-fu movies, kowtowing in a deep nodding motion with hands held in front and pressed/clasped together like a coolie begging for master to at least spare the children, if you know what I mean.
To be fair, going overboard with the thanks/apologies is perfectly normal in some situations, so it shouldn?t bother me that foreigners try to emulate it, except for the fact that I find it annoying when Japanese people do this as well. All the time. In fact, apologizing too profusely is an effective tactic for pissing people off as well? I realize that at this point, you may very well be asking yourself, ?what the fuck is homeboy trying to say??, and I have no reasonable answer. This is ranting for the sake of ranting, and fairly incomprehensible ranting at that? Imagine a nihonbunka (JP culture) major that comes over from [insert country] on an exchange program, and, who, by poring over ancient manuscripts in the university library day in and day out, gradually becomes one of the world’s leading authorities on the taxation system in Japan?s feudal era. Having determined the three distinct grades of rice at the time: Daimyo’s White (husked and hulled), Merchant’s Brown (partially husked), and Peasant’s Millet Blend (with New Tiny Pebbles!), he can decipher more kanji than a Beijing newspaper editor, and can in fact read completely through a Japanese auto insurance explanation booklet, yet still hasn’t figured out how to, say, order a meal at a noisy noodle shop counter without sounding like a complete FAG (“futsu no tonkotsu wo hitotsu kudasai”). Everybody knows a guy like this, right? Just wanted to point out I really hate guys like that, even if they do us all a favor by marrying the ugly chicks ?from Tokyo? (97% of ugly chicks claiming to be ?from Tokyo? are actually from Gunma or areas outlying. Blame this phenomenon on Narita Airport, which people in places other than Kanto loosely ? and incorrectly – refer to as ?Tokyo Airport?. Uh-uh.).
There?s also the fact that most gaijin probably begin learning polite forms of Japanese that they fall back on like a security blanket when they are uncomfortable, as if politeness were a substitute for comprehension??
(At this point, my toe is feeling much better, and I need a nap.)