Monday, July 25, 2005

Barbarians Unite

Yeah, so this weekend I went to an Obon Dance festival. Obon is a Buddhist holiday. If you're interested in knowing more about it, click here. In any case, I was invited to go up to Ichigaya to the JSDF's little obon dance festival, and I knew even before I went that it would be an exciting 3 hours or so of me being mildly insulted. Kinda like being hit in the face with a dry dishcloth for a few hours, but feeling obligated to smile and weather the goofy shit.

Random reader:
"Hey jerkwad, what could be irritating about experiencing Japanese culture? Japanese people are so kind and wonderful, you should just have a good time, smile, and enjoy the cultural exchange!!!!!"

That's probably what some people would say to this, to which I would simply respond, "Eat ass!" I think the next time I go to one of those things, I'm going to have a [real live] Japanese person get on a mic and announce the following:

Good evening ladies and gentleman, this is a white dude. He just got off the plane yesterday, so this is his first time experiencing any of our wonderfully superior Japanese culture. You can be damn sure he doesn't use chopsticks, so clap with glee and compliment him profusely if he can figure out this impossibly difficult system for consuming our amazing food, which he will undoubtedly find unappetizing. He doesn't speak a word of Japanese, and he is a man whore. The only reason he is here is because he is obsessed with Japanese women. He has 10 girlfriends right now. His previous relationships were ruined because he cheated on everyone, because that's what white guys do, and following this he will be headed to Roppongi to engage in more lewd activities.

Random reader:
"Why would you have them introduce you like this?!?!"

I think it'd be a good idea to be introduced like that because that's what everyone thinks anyway, and when they ask me questions throughout whatever festival I go to, that's what they wanna hear. Here are some no-shit samples of some conversations I had with people:

Conversation #1:
  • Do you have a lot of girlfriends?
  • I'm single.
    (Someone sits down at the table)
    Table: HAHAHAHAAH (kung-fu style laughter)
    Note: It wasn't a miscommunication. "I'm single" and "I have 10 girlfriends" sound VERY different in Japanese. =) (I should note too, however, that the response from this was kinda witty. One of the guys said, "Can you lend me 5 of them?", which elicited more kung-fu style laughter.)

    Conversation #2:
  • Where are you going after this?
  • I'm gonna go hang out with some friends.
  • Ah, you are going to Roppongi to chase after girls!
    HAHAHAHAHA (kung-fu style laughter)

    Conversation #3:
  • So what do you like about Japan?
  • (Long, drawn out, complicated answer requiring thought and reflection)
  • (blank look) ...What else?
  • (More of the same)
  • (blank look) ...And?
  • You're asking me about the women aren't you.

    Hey fuckers, don't live your life vicariously through me.

    I also refused to speak English. My time, my language choice. I go up there to help out with their interpreter clinic, but I'm not an English teacher. That's something I do cuz I thought it would be fun, which it is, but I'm not gonna speak broken English and smile and giggle and complement people's English when they suck. Here's a sample of how I enforced my policy:

  • Old Japanese guy: WHERE FROM ARE YOU
  • Me: Squeeze me?
  • Me: Hmm?
  • Me: Say again your last, over?
    **End English, Commence Japanese**

    Random reader:
    "You're a real fucker, you know that?!?! They're just trying to be nice old men and you're being a shit head! Why don't you just be more patient with them? They don't mean anything by it!!!"

    Ok, that may be a valid point, but I don't think that too many self-respecting people in my position could weather such storms without becoming at least slightly irritated. Plus I'm getting a little bit tired of restraining myself from outrage/acts of violence simply because people don't "know any better." Just because someone doesn't "know any better" doesn't make me "any less pissed off" and "less inclined to throat punch them." Maybe they don't know any better cuz no one has ever told them they're being a jackass??? Anyway, imagine if a black guy came to a party in the USA, and he was asked the following questions:

    1. I bet you like our women, don't you? Do you have a lot of girlfriends?
    2. So you must be pretty good at sports.
    3. You can't eat our food huh.
    4. Do you have a gun? Have you ever shot anyone?
    5. Your people seem to like violence.

    I'd say most Americans would be horrified to hear that someone had to be asked stuff like that and was simply expected to smile, and I don't think me saying "Oh, but they didn't mean anything by it!! They don't know any better!" would mitigate things at all. I'm asked "all of the above" on a fairly regular basis, and it doesn't usually really bother me, but when it's my own personal time and I'm constantly asked stuff like that, it gets to be a little much.


    I knew it was gonna happen before I went, because those guys don't hang out with "foreigners" very much, so whatever... I may be irritated, but I'm not surprised in the least. All in all, I had a pretty good time, but the initial 5-10 minutes of talking to people was a little rough. Japanese people kinda play this little language-head-butting game where they will insist on speaking ghastly English. I feel like I'm playing a tennis match with someone who refuses to hit the ball back, and just return with a fucked up serve every time. Here's a possible example of a conversation in English:

  • Him: Hello!
  • Me: *grunt*
  • Me: USA.

    This is obviously an exaggeration, but still, sometimes it feels like that. After 5 minutes of exhausting everything they know in English, we switch languages, and after the embarrassing Q&A session that follows, it's possible to have some really cool conversations with folks, which is what ended up happening for a large portion of the time I was there. While this is a bit of a rant, it was a pretty cool way to spend an early Saturday evening. Every time some girls walked by it was announced that I was single and they were ordered to sit next to me, which wasn't a bad thing. One of the girls in the interpreter class had a friend who was actually at the same university at the same time I was when I was studying in Japan. Weird eh?

    Click on this, it rocks:

    Anyway, that's all for now. I hope yuns had a good weekend too.
  • Tuesday, July 05, 2005

    War of the Worlds was Retarded.

    If you plan on seeing War of the Worlds, don't read this. If you'd like to save yourself some money, by all means, read on.

    My friend Brando brought up a good point once about movies - they have to follow their own internal logic. I can't really explain this, but it makes sense. Even when something is totally unrealistic or futuristic or clownish, it has to follow its own little set of rules set up by setting/time/characters/etc, or it doesn't work. War of the Worlds was probably the biggest violator of "internal logic" that I've seen in quite a while. Pretty much from the get-go I started having some questions.

  • EMP-proof Video Cameras

    OK, so these lightning bolts come down and zap everything, except for some dude's video camera on the street. Thank god, cuz then we were able to get the dramatic "drop camera and see everyone running away" clips.

  • Super strong clothing

    I'm not sure what year this was set, but it seems modern-ish. However, these beams that the alien tripod thingies were shooting around were destroying bridges, buildings, and highways, but for some reason people's clothing was unharmed by it. It was pretty cool looking I guess, but c'mon.

  • Advanced Aliens making really bad decisions: A Case Study.

    I like it in movies when super advanced and intelligent races come down to earth and make enormous blunders, enabling the feeble humans to face them head on and win with their resilience and ingenuity! At the beginning of the movie it's spelled out that the aliens have been watching us carefully, and apparently they buried these huge tripod machine things a million years ago. So they've had a million years to "study" the human race, much like a scientist studies something under a microscope. Apparently they were looking at zebras and chimps when maybe they should have been minding the plague in Europe or in the New World, cuz the whole "microbes in the air" thing didn't really catch their attention. I can just see the alien scientists showing up to the alien president's office.

  • President: OK Professor Zork, what the hell happened?
  • Zork: Uuh, well sir, we kinda over looked the whole "air" thing. You know, we were so busy thinking up death rays that would keep their clothing intact that we forgot to research microbes contained in earth's air, so all our guys died.
  • President: But the death ray worked, right? Cool...

    Ok, let's cut to another scene, where the aliens are going over their strategy for invasion.

    Invasion Strategist: Ok, fellas, here's how we're gonna do it. First, we're gonna immerge from the ground and just start annihilating EVERYTHING. Even though we are a super advanced alien race capable of space flight and whatnot, we're going to kill people in a really inefficient manner, using inappropriate amounts of energy on individuals, and we're not going to be able to hit Tom Cruise's character for some reason. Once we have everyone completely terrified, freaked out, hiding, and really difficult to get to, we're gonna change strategies and start using them for their blood. Again, bear with the tripods - they're about a million years old, so you can only pick people up individually, 1 by 1. Any questions? OK, let's get it on!


    Very disappointing movie. The middle was really slow too - the whole scene with Tim Robbins was weird, and there really isn't any hero in the movie except for our good old friend 'disease'. Wow, that's some brilliant writing there. Nice stupid little moral message at the end there, too. Billions of humans have died so that we can be immune to microbes that will eventually kill aliens and save the planet. Yippee! Black Death should be called White Life!! In the meantime I'll be hoping to christ that the next invasion force doesn't come armed with surgical masks and air filters on their tripods. Jeepers.