Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I am, how you say, hole of ass?

Anyone who's ever spent any amount of time in The
Suck, AKA the USMC, will tell you that scaling cliffs, playing death chess, and smartly brandishing marmaduke swords is hard work that changes a person.

Still, I don't think my experience in the Marines made me mean and definitely didn't make me cynical -- I consider myself to be optimistic to a fault -- I believe it made me realistic. This realism can often be misinterpreted as cynicism, because human beings are just so completely fucked up. Most people with certain experiences seem to be "cynical" or whatever, but it's just them seeing the world through a different pair of glasses and reacting accordingly.

In the Marines, especially in my unit (or any combat arms unit that doesn't have any women in it), being hurt is shameful. Simply put, if you are hurt, you are a pussy, and if you are truly hurt, don't complain about it because no one cares. Pain is something that you deal with on your own. (Notice that I didn't say "injured". There's no shame in snapping on the DZ or having some sort of injury that renders solid, no-shit proof, like an X-ray, a protruding bone, or a caved orbital. Caved orbitals are just manly.)

Believe it or not, the USMC has no shortage of people who pretend to be hurt when they're more than capable of completing the task at hand. Five years of witnessing this made me even more realistic (not cynical) when someone claims to be hurt....


.....especially when applying USMC "reality" to a 105 lb girl...

So this weekend we went snowboarding again. I wanted some practice for when I go "for real" with my friends, but the place we went to was super small (it literally took me 2 minutes to board to the bottom off the lift) and, unfortunately, the Missez hurt herself on the second run. I got to the bottom of the hill and saw her laying there on the ground, immobile.

"Ok, time to get up!" I said.

No movement

"Are you ok??" I asked impatiently.

Finally there was some movement. She had hurt her right elbow the last time we went boarding, so I figured this was more of the same -- a little bump with some theatrics thrown in for fun. I asked her if she was OK and she said her arm really hurt, so I told her to walk (slide?) it off and we hopped back in the chair to go back up.

When we de-seated, I accidentally knocked her over cuz, well, I'm still kinda figuring shit out, and she decided to sit that run out. I told her that I'd come back up in a few minutes and we could go back down together. When I came back up we boarded down again, and she said she wanted to go to the medical center.

We went and talked to the dude at the Medical Center, and she explained to him what was happening. He told her that maybe she should see a doctor, but I shrugged it off. I figured he was doing the typical Japanese-over-reaction, just in case her arm was really fucked up so he couldn't get blamed for anything. I finished up the day with a few more runs and came back, and we headed back to Tokyo by bus.

She was complaining a bit from the pain on the way back, and I was trying to figure out if it was a ligament or a tendon or something, but to be honest she didn't really react to any of the pressure I applied to the soft-tissue parts of her arm. The cartiledge, tendons, muscles, etc, seemed OK, so I didn't really know what the problem was.

I was reading Kyle Maynard's book, "No Excuses," which is an auto-biography about a dude who was a state high school wrestler even though he doesn't have any arms and legs.

"Look at this guy," I chided. "He doesn't have any arms and legs and he doesn't complain."

Aren't I just the funny guy?

So we got back to Tokyo and we cruised over to the hospital.

I'm sure you can probably figure what happened next, otherwise I wouldn't be writing about it.

Now, I don't normally do things that I feel absolutely and utterly horrible about. Normally I walk the Earth filled with righteousness and an arrogance found only in rigid caste-system societies or, I dunno, a society where there are a lot of dickheads about. But Sunday night was a definite exception. One of those times I just felt like the lowest creature on the planet. Like, I dunno, "The Supreme Reigning Overlord of the Planet of Assholia called, he wants his throne back" type shit.

Survey says....................Fractured elbow.

They say a picture's worth 1000 words..... This one says two specific words pretty well, which I deserved x infinity.

Once again, I was the Biggest Asshole in Tokyo, maybe in all of Japan. Maybe of the Far East. And that's saying a lot.

This is my public apology and acknowledgement of being the Hugest Asshole Ever. It isn't the first, and definitely won't be the last time I claim this dubious title, and believe you me, I'll be deservedly hearing about this one for quite some time.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Just whom do you think you are?

"Whom" is one of my favorite words because people on the innernets like to use it to try and grammatically alpha male someone else but usually end up using it incorrectly and end up looking really stupid. It's like a rhetorical firework that keeps on blowing up and changing colors. "Oooh! Aaah!" The hits just don't stop. The whom is typically embedded (incorrectly of course) in a statement dripping with arrogance and/or some other incorrect statement or misuse of they're/there/their.

I think I do a pretty good job of not misusing words because if I'm not 100% sure of them, I either a) look them up or b) use a word I'm 100% with. There's nothing wrong with this. Being wrong while attempting to look smart is like waaaaay worse than using a more simple word, so why not stick with the basics? Surrsly people, keep it simple. I'm sure you did a really nice job on argumentative writing style or debating or whatever in your freshman rhetoric class, but no one here is impressed. Unless you've really got your shit together, you're casting fake pearls before mongoloid swine by trying to be all snarky and literary..

The translators we have around here like using "whom" a lot. They also like putting stuff in the passive form (i,e. "The book was bought") because in Japanese the verb is at the end of the sentence, so it's a little bit easier for them. Also, when describing something, they like to say things like, "Did you see the girl who was riding on the bike?" as opposed to "Did you see that chick on the bike?" because it fits in a little bit easier with how their language works. Neither is wrong, but as far as "whom" goes, I propose that we get rid of it all together. I propose that we just say "WHO" for all situations and save a lot of pseudo-scholars a great deal of virtual-embarrassment.

Most of you probably agree with me, but some of you probably think that it's some sacred facet of the English language that must be preserved because of the essential role it plays. To you, I respond with the following:

That's me raising the bullshit flag. Or Bowser raising it.

You just want to keep "whom" around because you know how to use and you think that makes you special. You think it distinguishes you from the proletariat who doesn't know when and when not to throw a fucking /m/ noise at the end of the word "Who". You probably make a habit of correcting other peoples' grammar or pronunciation during debates instead of defending your position, which you have a tenuous grasp upon at best. Well I know what you're doing, because I do the same thing from time to time, so knock it off. Language snobbery does absolutely nothing to "maintain" some sort of language purity, because there's no such thing anyway. Probably the only thing keeping language from undergoing massive change from generation to generation is the written language, so just let language do what it's going to do anyway -- evolve. It likes evolving. It likes being streamlined. It will do it no matter what -- look at how educated folks spoke during the Civil War era. Languages don't like genitive cases and crazy bullshit like that. So just let it happen and let the /m/ go. If the word "who" had any major connection to the letter M, or if it were really a necessary distinction to be made in our silly language, we wouldn't be dealing with this problem in the first place. People wouldn't end up looking stupid in failed attempts at looking smart, and language snobs wouldn't be verbally buggering folks as part of some weird quest to make them feel bad about themselves.

So join me, folks. Help me abolish the word “whom” from the lexicon. It’s up to us to take a stand.

This post was written in lieu of anything else worth writing, and inspired by what I spend a lot of time doing at my job, which is correcting translations written in English by non-native speakers. Thank you for tolerating my stupid rant.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Snowboarding = Fun

Check my shit out! Just 3 hours or so after I first put a snowboard on!

Yeah, I went snowboarding for the first time ever this weekend. Things like snowboarding kick an insane amount of ass for the simple reason that you can get pretty good at it in a relatively short time. Pretty good meaning that you can cruise down a hill slaloming back and forth, and a relatively short time meaning in like 5 or 6 hours.

All my Lazy Mo Frakkies, put your ass in a chair,
And languish around, like you just don't care.

You see, folks, here's the thing: I am lazy. Terribly lazy. It might not seem so given the relative success I've enjoyed in my adventures, what I'm good at, etc etc, but to be perfectly honest, 90% of my actions are done in an attempt to ensure less energy expenditure in the future. Take work for instance. The first thing I do when I go to a new job is look at how they do things and do things my own way to create the same results doing far less work. Just about everything I'm good at is stuff that I'm just good at, meaning that I have an ability or an aptitude for it, or I really enjoy doing it, so the amount of work required for me to be good at it is far less than other people who might be pursuing the same objective. I don't really consider myself a hard worker. Smart worker? Yes. Hard worker? No. Unlike the Japanese people I find myself surrounded by, I see no inherent "goodness" in working hard, especially if it can be avoided, and it usually can in an office environment. Does it feel good to relax after a hard day at work? Probably, but I wouldn't know, I can't remember the last time I did that. It feels good to relax after breaking myself off at the gym or getting my ass handed to me on the mat, but "working my ass off" isn't really something I'm down with. Feel me?

The main drawback to my slovenly, lazy lifestyle, is that while I've been lucky enough to have a knack or aptitude for a lot of things, there really isn't anything that I'm particularly great at, unless you include the ability to waste enormous amounts of time doing nothing. Yes, all that time I save by coming up with sneaky ways to do things? Completely wasted. Anyway I just can't be bothered to achieve greatness, and I lack the self-discipline, attention span, or ambition to be a master of anything. Am I saying "Oh I could be great, I just don't feel like it"? No, because I've never been great at anything, so I'm not so sure I could pull it off. In fact, I'd play it safe and say that I am not made of the stuff of greatness. But I'm totally fine with that -- being a jack of all trades is much more my style, and gives me flexibility in doing a lot of things, and if nothing else, enough information to bullshit my way around and appear to be smart, which is most important anyway.

....and anyone who knows me will tell you this: When I'm bad at something, I'm REALLY bad at it. Like "OMFG you've got a HFA lolz" bad at stuff. Namely simple arithmetic, things requiring sense of direction, or anything having any association with the two. Don't ask me to figure out anything having to do with numbers, because I will be really far off. I might be able to explain to you very eloquently how to get an answer, but numbers and my brain just don't jive, and I will give you an incorrect answer. And unless I've been somewhere at least 10 times on the same route and paid really close attention, don't make me in charge of getting from point A to point B. This can lead to a lot of stress for me, like when a major part of your job involves driving people around Kabul, but in that case I just demanded to drive everywhere so I could get a feel for the city and carried around a garmin. Otherwise, I avoid numbers and directions like the plague.

Sure, I take on things that I'm not good at from time to time, and eventually get good, but at the end of it all, what it boils down to is that I just hung out and failed miserably at something until finally, through osmosis or meatheadedness or muscle memory, I gained a "knack" for it. If you do something long enough, you're going to get good at it. Even if it takes a few years. But yeah, for the most part, I can't be bothered.

So this is why I liked snowboarding so much. It's something that's suuuuper fun that you can pick up really quickly. Since I don't have any aspirations to become a professional snowboarder or do tricks or impress anyone, I'm pretty happy to have been introduced to it, and I'm a little pissed off at everyone I know who snowboards for not being a little more coercive in trying to get me to pursue it. I will probably go out and blow an inappropriate amount of money on snowboarding gear, as I need to catch up with the rest of the world. I'm a little mad at you, the reader, for not getting me involved with this activity when I was in my teens. Oh, you didn't know me back then? Stop with the excuses. Man up. Buy me some snowboarding trips. You owe me at least that. Again, not enough trips to become "great", just so that I can become "pretty good" or maybe even "really good" sometime in a couple years. That's all I ask from you.

...so I was a little worried about it going into it -- am I going to really suck, is this going to be really hard for me, and am I going to make a scene on the mountainside? Am I going to fall a lot, completely lose my composure, and have a tantrum? But good news -- it was fun -- like really fucking fun. My friend that we went with was a snowboard instructor at Tahoe, and was able to explain it to me in a way that I could understand -- i,e. how you explain things to kindergartners -- and I was able to comprehend and apply the mechanics and coordination to figure shit out. The lady friend was also in the snowboarding club at her university, so she was able to add in some input too, and we now have a little wintertime hobby that we can enjoy together. Iddn't dat shweety weety?

So here's to my oldest favorite thing -- laziness -- and my new favorite thing -- snowboarding -- and how they compliment each other oh so well. I mean cripes, you're CARRIED up a mountain in a chair, and you get to the bottom by sliding down using low friction, an inclined slope, and gravity. How lazy is that?

Here are a couple other pics from the weekend.

Here are the Japanese Alps. Or as I like to call them, the Jalps. As you can see, the scenery is made all the more pristine by above-ground powerlines.

Here's Mt Fuji from the car. It's a shitty shot, but whuttevs.

Here's the ski area.

Pictures of ski areas look funny, because it appears that everyone is just standing there on the mountain. Ironically, that's the case a lot in Japan, because there was no shortage of people just sitting on their asses or not moving on the slopes. This caused me to fall a lot because I didn't want to crash into them. That and the fact that it was my first day and I sucked. But gimme time, I and will achieve sub-greatness -- the kind of sub-greatness that can make people who have never snowboarded before think I'm pretty good, which is all I'm really shooting for anyway. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Please Escher Don't Hurt 'em

I'll keep this post light. More an update than anything.

This weekend I went to the MC Escher exhibit up at Bunkamura in Shibuya.

I've always really liked his stuff, not because I'm into art appreciation, but just because it looks really cool. Everyone has seen his stuff. Yeah, his pictures festoon just about every wall of every elementary school classroom in our great nation, but anyone who dismisses me as a simpleton or unrefined for thinking his stuff is awesome can eat it.

Plus he made his shit without a computer. I can't even make it with a computer. Or a ruler. Or a slide-rule even. Fuck. I'm overwhelmed.

Anyway, as with doing anything in public places in Japan, it was not without frustrations. It seems like anytime you go anywhere to do anything in this country, the experience is not unlike riding the Yamanote train line during rush hour.

It was really crowded -- a full-scale beach landing against my defenseless roundeye sense of space. That wasn't the best part though.

You know how museums have little tape recorders or whatever that you can listen to as you walk around? Well, at this museum, they had pre-loaded Nintendo DS's with audio and video. So when people would approach a picture, they would listen to the description, then using their handy stylus, look at the picture on the screen.

It was a little bit like, I dunno, going to a movie theatre and watching the same movie on your PSP.

Only in Japan, I guess.

It wasn't too bad -- par for the course -- but it makes it hard for a savage like me to get any bit of culture in his life. I want to go check out cultural shit, but it's like seeing an exhibit in a sarcophagus full or zombies who don't want to each your brains, just invade your personal space. Maybe I should just give up? Maybe I should go on weekdays?

At least there were no groups of drunken ladies in their 60s, hootin' and hollerin', like at the last exhibit I went to.

Another cool thing this weekend is that I got a navigation system for my car.

Car navigation systems in Japan are badass, but I'd like to say that mine is nowhere near as cool as this one. It ain't bad though, and given my propensity to become horribly lost, it is very very necessary. You see, when you make a wrong turn in Tokyo, the city punishes you by taking 30 minutes of your life away, or making you crash into a wall. Or both. So now that I'm getting the scuff fixed in my car from when I brushed against said wall, my car may be considered somewhat pimped out.

Not that I care. But it's nice.

The best part is that the nav system was free. My girl's sister gave it to her to give to me 'cuz she has a newer version. Guess I made a good impression on them this past weekend when I visited for new years. Here's the two of them tormenting her neice.

Or perhaps I won their favor while playing a little New Years pachinko with her mom.

Either way, it's been a good couple weeks.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Friend in Need?

"Hi. Here's your money."

"Hey, woe, how'd you know I'd be here?"

"Y told me."

"Well, it's good to see you. It's been a while -- you're looking well."

"Yeah, thanks. Anyway, again, here's your money. Sorry it took so long to pay you back. Thank you for all your help."

"Oh, no problem. I appreciate it. Is everything good with you guys?"

"Yeah.. Everything is ok I suppose. I'm working at the same place, so is he, but money is tight.. ....and you know, things have been different -- our relationship with you has changed since before. Things are different."

"Well, they don't have to be. You know that, right? You're welcome to stop by my neck of the woods whenever you want, just like before. I'm the same. Everything's the same, everything's cool."

"Yeah. Well, I have to go. Sorry again for taking so long to pay you back, and thank you for everything you've done for us. You've been a great help."

...and she left.

I was struck by how weird the conversation was -- the whole vibe of the conversation was similar to getting things left behind at an ex's house. "Here's your shirt and sunglasses. Anyway, take care. Have a nice life." That sort of thing. So I sat at the restaurant bar sipping on my Vodka Tonic and waited for Y to show up.

Shame on Me

I had lent my friend some cash about a year and a half ago, and his wife had just paid me back out of the blue. When I lent him the money, he had just gotten out of the Navy and was looking to marry his fiance and start a life here in Japan. He was back stateside and in a pinch, and emailed me asking for some help.

Now gather round, kiddies, and listen up. What I'm about to tell you is common knowledge, but bears repeating.

Rule #1: People [non-family members] who ask you for money are the least likely to pay you back. That's why they're asking you for money in the first place -- because they don't have any -- which is not a normal state of affairs in a market based economy. If you do go against your gut feeling and lend them money, assume you'll never see it again, because you probably won't. And if you are putting the "friendship" up as collateral for the loan, don't be surprised when you lose a friend.

...Because that's how people who borrow money roll, babies. And believe it or not, I've found that most respectable people will dig through trash for food before they will approach friends for large-ish sums of money.

Having been burned in the past I knew this, of course, so when I got the email I asked his [then fiance] what she thought about it. She said "Absolutely not," which I told him, to which he replied, "Just transfer it, I'm getting some separation pay and I'll hit you back right away."

Rule #2: They're always "Good for it" and will always "Get you back next month". They always have some money that's about to come their way, which they will use to pay you back immediately, not for alcohol.

Out of some sense of responsibility I have for my friends, I didn't want to leave him high and dry, so I told his fiance to give me most of it in the form of a deposit, over half of it in yen, and I'd transfer the funds to his bank account, which was the same bank as me. Easy peasy. This way I'd at least have over half of it if he didn't pay me back, which I was pretty sure would happen.

So he came back from Japan a newly hatched civilian, and did what many newly hatched civilians do, which is go hog-wild.

Rule #3: If you borrow money from someone and you haven't paid them back, don't go into detail on the amount of money you blew getting shit faced over the course of a week, especially when it is greater than the amount they lent you. Don't show them your new tattoos either.

One thing about my friend is that much of his life is a train wreck. And not one of those freak train wrecks that comes out of no where. During the course of a conversation with him, he would describe a series of decisions/plans, and I'd sit there not saying anything as my mind played out a series of consequences that were most likely going to occur upon the execution of his plans. It was like that Bad Idea Jeans skit from SNL in the early 90s. I might say something like, "Are you sure that's such a good idea?" and be ignored. I'm used to that though, as people love ignoring me almost as much as I enjoy seeing my ignored suggested consequences come to fruition, to the point that I feel like a modern day Cassandra. Thanks a lot, Apollo.

Rule #4: I give sound advice. If you ask for my opinion or advice, I'm going to give it to you straight and recommend listening to it. I base most of my advice on experience garnered from personal failure and the failure of people close to me, so it's sort've like "Here's how you fuck up, here's how you avoid it" type advice. And as is made clear by this post and from 5 years in the Marine Corps, there has never been a shortage of fuckups to be found in my life, so I have a large fuckup pool of fuckup knowledge to draw from.


A lot of funny (and maddening) culture clashes occur in "multi-cultural relationships". Or is it "cross cultural"? I dunno. Funny shit happens when people from different countries hook up. One thing a lot of American guys don't understand when they decide to marry a Japanese woman is the transformation she will go through once married. In Japan, roles, customs, and what a person is "supposed to do" are very important, and dictate much of their day-to-day behavior. A woman's role as "wife" is one taken very seriously by most girls here, and like everything else here, there is no middle-ground and they will go all out in their supposed role as whatever. Regardless of how things were before marriage, a Japanese woman will often transform into this wife role upon saying "I do", and naively expect her free-wheelin' husband to morph into a responsible 9-5 husband. The guys in Korea called this "Ajummosis", or the overnight transformation of a young girl into an "Ajumma", literally "aunt". In other words, remember that fun, hip, party girl who didn't mind going out and hanging out with everyone til 6am? Yeah, she's suddenly decided that such behavior is horribly inappropriate, and expects you to stay at home and rent DVDs. I saw this one coming too, and felt like ordering some popcorn as I sat back and watched what I knew was about to happen...happen.

In the case of my friend, the formerly "cool hang out girl" decided that it was not only a good idea to express her dislike for her husband's behavior, but to insist upon showing up to gatherings and try to ruin the entire evening for everyone. She'd show up and it'd be like, "Ohhh!!! Heey!!! Good to see yooooouuuoooooooohnevermind, she's mad." It got to the point where every time I saw her she was in a miserable mood, so I just didn't deal with her. I dubbed her "Scowletor", as she had a permanent scowl on her face. She was someone I had previously considered a friend, but I didn't have time for stupid bullshit and petty rudeness like that. She was cold to me and cold to my girl, and homie don't play that. The fact that I never pressured them to pay me back and only mentioned it once in passing (in a year and a half) made me wonder what the deal was, and I figured they were distancing themselves to break contact.

Rule #5: Most people out there can put a price on friendship. Most people out there will sell you up the river if it's in their best interest. The trick is to identify those people early on and not put one's self in a position to get fucked. Some may call me naive. I disagree -- I know the risks -- but every once in a while I go against my gut feeling, and while it usually ends up bad, it doesn't always, which is worth the [occasional] risk for me. Besides, it's not like I do this all the time.

Anyway, she probably sensed my displeasure when I was around her (try as I may, it's hard for me to mask my feelings for people), and I noticed that interaction between me and them was becoming less and less. I'd shoot him an occasional text message to say what's up, but usually didn't get any response. After a while I figured "Whatever" and wrote them and the money off -- tough titties, I guess, but again, whatever -- I knew what I was getting into.

.....aaaaaaaand Present!

When Y came back from Hawaii last week, he told me he was meeting the two of them for dinner, and I filled him in a little bit about how my relationship with the two of them pretty much nonexistent. Y may have said something to them about it, maybe not, but I was still surprised when she showed up out of the blue with the money. I know it was awkward for her, because she didn't want to borrow the money, and for all her faults, she's a straight-up girl and I knew it hurt her pride to be in debt to me. This society has a lot of obligation issues too, and owing someone something is enough to drive people nuts, resulting in these weird obligation one-upman-ship situations. They even warned us about gift-giving before we came here as students. Anyway, while she thanked me up and down for being such a huge help to them over the past year and a half (not just monetarily -- I used to give her pep-talks and calm her down when she was freaking about his lack of employability), it was in true, formulaic Japanese fashion. Sort of like, "I'm saying this because it's appropriate, and while I may mean it, let's just understand that I'm now free and clear of any and all obligation to you, case closed, peace out." Japanese people seem to have an innate ability to be the coldest people in the world -- I made it clear that things were A-OK, we were good, shit was cool -- I just don't like awkward situations and I don't want people to feel like they owe me something, but she wasn't having any of it. She just wanted to get out of there, so I didn't press the issue. It also seems a bit ironic that the source of weirdness would come from the person who borrowed the money rather than from the person to whom it was owed. Then again, maybe Y told them that I mentioned they owed me money which pissed them off, but fuck that. Why?

Rule #6: If you borrow money from a friend and don't pay them back for a year and half, you forfeit the right to bitch when other people inevitably find out about your deadbeat behavior. Your integrity has a price, and it so happens to be the exact amount that you borrowed from them, and maybe an apology or two thrown in for good measure.

In the end, I could be just as naive as she is in an opposite sort of way, expecting things to somehow magically stay the same and not considering the thousands of other variables that can cause the other thousands of variables to change for whatever reason. I guess I'll just chalk it up as one of those cultural things, because sometimes that's just easier than pointless over-analyzation of a lost cause, even if it was important to me in the past.