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.

Mr Angry & Mrs Calm

“If you are near to this picture, Mr Angry is on the left and Mrs Calm is on the right. If you view it from a distance, they switch places!”
This is a pretty cool optical illusion. I just wish the faces could have been a bit easier to look at, but I guess attractiveness and androgeny are fairly mutually exclusive.
If you have a hard time seeing the illusion, there are better methods of viewing listed on the original site: LINK
(via linkfilter)

Keitai Photodiary 10/24/05

Last Friday was a company holiday, so on Thursday night we had an enkai (drink-up) for the new guy at work. We went to a smoky yakiniku joint which was quite excellent, but all I could do was stare at the plastic toothpick holder on the table because I was trying not to think about work and whaddaya know, I was fucking surrounded by people from work, so I was actually quite lucky the toothpick holder was just so damn interesting…
In the world of the Japanese corporate drinkup, the meal is followed by drinking at a bar or “snack” (variations on this theme include karaoke, etc., but everybody knows not to fuck with my “never, ever” policy regarding karaoke) with scantily clothed hostesses (“hos” for short). Being newly married and having to patronize such a place posed a slight moral dilemma, but I am nothing if not a problem solver… I chose the place with the ugliest girls, I mean these girls were like modern day haguro (ladies of old with black-stained teeth) transplanted from Bumfuck, Kyushu, or something, so I wouldn’t be tempted to look even the slightest bit at who was serving me, and instead concentrate on getting through the compulsory bottle of shitty whiskey as soon as humanly possible. And that is how I learned that the marketing team for Ballantine’s must be passing around a big, fat dutchie (errr, on the right hand side) during their strategy sessions:
GO PLAY!… I would only have been more impressed with a “DRIVE HOME!”, or, “OPERATE HEAVY MACHINERY!”, or maybe a nice recipe for a ROHYPNOL/WHISKEY FIZZ on the back label.
It’s so cliche to talk shit about the new guy, but this one has basically started off on the wrong foot with me. First of all, he’s a typical young cunt bragging about bitches and wine and women and beer, but I’ll be damned if he wasn’t nursing a CASSIS AND FUCKING ORANGE in a tall cocktail glass all night. And by “a” cassis and orange, I mean “one.” He’s one of those fuckers who insist they’re on their fifth drink when it’s quite obvious by the top layer of melted ice in their cocktail glass that they haven’t drunk shit. And then who like fucking with people who really have been drinking when they get sloppy. Hey motherfucker! We EARNED the fucking right to be sloppy, bitch!
A while after that, we went to a sushi place I had never been to. I fell in love with the food there and despite my advanced level of inebriation, recognized this place as the Real Thing. Good Food, Good People, and fresh fish from local waters. The master and I hit it off instantly. I told him to keep the whole counter open for me on Saturday night, I’d bring in some friends. I also reserved the biggest maruhagi (type of triggerfish; sometimes called a “leatherjacket”) in the fish tank. I stared him down as he looked at me through pursed lips, fins aflutter. “You are miiiine,” I said. Eat up, fishy, put on more weight. Your day is a-coming.
That was how the weekend started.
Friday, Gatson called me up to ask for a ride to the high speed boat terminal near my house. He was taking a ten day trip back home to Oregon with his wife, baby, and in-laws in tow. So I took a shower and brushed my teeth three times, then went over to pick them up. Gatson’s wife, Chie, was in that paranoid did-I-lock-all-the-doors-and-shut-off-everything mode, which I was admittedly only making worse by asking “did you remember to lock the upstairs windows?” and “what about the gas line?” every five minutes, all the way to the boat terminal. She was kind of stressing out about taking her elderly parents overseas for the first time; they had called asking if “six bottles of water are enough for the plane ride” the night before, so I guess she was justified. Little Sona-chan was an angel who slept the whole way after her initial “bursting into tears when seeing four-eyed Justin” routine, so that was good.
Anyway, we got to the Sumoto High Speed Boat Terminal and I found this absolute gem taped to the stall above the floor toilet:
Even though this is only funny to English speakers, it is not as funny when explained in English, but I will try. The intended meaning in Japanese is, “Return lever to upward position after flushing.” However, since the Japanese isn’t written very well as well as the fact that they use the originally foreign word “cock” in place of “lever,” the sentence could also read “Slide your cock back up when you’re done using it.”
Shit, some things just don’t carry over from one language to another. Toilet humor, though, is usually universal. I guess the exception may be written toilet humor.
Saturday night, some friends came out from the mainland. My brother Adam and my homeboy T. Stephanie from Mimizan (Air France stewardess). Michelle from Scarsborough, Canada (living a floor below Adam in Juso). We went to aforementioned sushi place and ate like starving cats from a goldfish tank. It was soooooooooooooooooooo good. The signature dish there is only made for special customers. I am special. We had several signature dishes, the nature of which I will not reveal at this time as words can only sully what I like to think of as “perfect heaven on a plate.” I mean, seriously. I have been to $700 sushi dinners with gold-flake toppings and endangered Indochinese goby eggs, but this new creation is THE BEST SUSHI I HAVE EVER EATEN, BAR NONE. And that is coming from a fish snob.
I will only be here on the island until some time next year, so here is an open invitation: Come to Sumoto. I will take you to eat the signature dishes. You will not regret it.
That’s the master holding down the fish I reserved earlier in the week, plus an identical friend.
There are two main types of triggerfish eaten in Japan, the maruhagi and the kawahagi. The maruhagi, as the name implies (many Japanese boats, including ones that are gutted when an American Navy submarine surfaces underneath them, are dubbed the “something maru“, but “maru” in this context just means circle), are rounder than kawahagi. In Kansai, they are both simply called hage, even though they are distincly different species (Kansai people could care less about etymology, they only care if something tastes good or not). When the maruhagi are in season, the kawahagi are not, and vice-versa.
Preparing a hage (pronounced “ha-gay”) to eat is a bit of a bitch – there’s a special cutting technique involved, plus it needs to be skinned. The master was a stud, though. He got more sashimi off of those fish than I would have imagined possible. The texture of this fish is a bit rubbery, but in a good way. The flesh resembles that of a fugu, but is more tasty in my opinion. It is also delicious when steamed, but it would have been a waste to eat such fresh fish that way. The surprising thing about this fish is not its flesh, though. The liver of this fish is dipped in ponzu and eaten raw. It is the creamiest, most naturally sweet flavor you can possibly imagine. You would never think that it is part of a fish you are eating, nor would you think it is liver. More like ambrosia.
But the fish pr0n doesn’t stop there.
The best mackerel I have ever eaten – a whole filet arranged as a giant futomaki. I should have taken my real camera for some close-ups, then you could have seen the perfect striping of the filet. I associate mackerel with a stinky, nasty, fishy stench and flavor, but there was not a trace of that in this fish.
In addition to the above, we had fresh aji, shima aji, tai, ika, maguro, and an awesome akadashi (red miso soup w/fish). The shop’s master procures all ingredients including garnishes, soy sauce, and rice from this island, and swears by the quality of everything produced locally. How very trendily regional that may seem to those who care about such things, but like I said, what matters in Kansai is that it tastes good. And it does.
Sunday, we went fishing down at the port. I had seen some big fish under one of the boats moored in the harbor when I dropped off Gatson and his family on Thursday, so we returned to that spot. We took many photos with a real camera, so I will continue this story later, but it bears saying that the girls totally outfished the guys. Except for a pitifully small rockfish that T snagged and maybe something Adam caught but that I have no memory of, we (and especially I) were skunked – and yet it was a lot of fun.
More later.