Thursday, April 26, 2007



That's right, my babies, the Knot hath been tiedethed. I am betrothed. This bull is officially in pasture. Kind've.

Since the ceremony isn't going to be until January, we went down to the city hall and turned in all the necessary paperwork. I was amazed at how easy it was, because experience tells us that when dealing with city halls and paperwork and whatnot here in Japan, there's always a catch. I talked to an international lawyer about why it was so easy to do, and he just said, "Well, the Japanese aren't really flooding the USA wanting to work there, so it's no biggie." I guess I had my ducks lined up in a row all nice and neat, with the proper translations and everything, because 45 minutes or so after arriving, it was done!

The Embassy website here is pretty awesome for information, and have ready-made forms available. The tone of the directions to getting married is almost flippant, kind've like "yeah, you know, just to this and this, you're good." I printed out a little form that was a "fill in the blank" for translation purposes (gotta get the English version) and the new Missez translated it. Kinda cool I thought -- our official English version is hand written by her. In the appropriate spaces at least. Since marriages here are recognized in the USA, the next step is to grab some form and bring it along with our English version up to the Embassy, which is a huge pain in the ass but mighty necessary.

We're moving into a pretty big place (3 bedrooms = big?) pretty soon here, so if you wanna come and stay 'bout an hour outside the hottest spots in Tokyo (by train), be sure to hit us up.

I don't really mean that of course, but I'm all grownsed up now so I hafta maintain appearances. *sniff*

Either way, I'm really happy. It seems strange to be Married because it's such an adult thing to do, which ought to make sense because I'm 30, but it feels right. I hope you all get to meet her soon.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Give Them Their Moment

I really didn't want to chime in about what happened at VA Tech, because as I've told a few folks, I'm distant -- physically and emotionally -- from it. I'm a few thousand miles away, and I didn't know anyone there. It sounds cold, but it's how it is. This of course doesn't keep me from seeing what a tragedy it was and being saddened by the course of events, but I'm not going to concentrate on that right now.

Last night I was talking to the future missez about the memorial in Hiroshima, and some common reactions that Americans have about it. As an American with knowledge of what the Japanese were up to in WWII, it was hard for me not to walk through there and roll my eyes a little bit. There's Hiroshi's tricycle, there's Sachiko's lunch box. I couldn't help but think I, as an American, was being made to feel guilty about little kids getting vaporized, knowing full well that the Japanese were running around Manchuria bayoneting babies and burying villagers alive by the thousands. I discussed this with her, and she brought up a good point. The memorial is not about Nanking, it's not about Pearl Harbor, it's not about what the extra curricular activities of the Japanese soldiers. It's not about remembering the war, it's about remembering the residents of Hiroshima who were going about their daily lives and were killed either in the blink of an eye, or worse yet, by radiation poisoning. A lot of the time I was thinking, "Why would an ethnic Korean care? The Japanese have a history of discriminating against you guys." But to her, it wasn't about politics, ethnicity, or race -- it was much simpler. The memorial is what it is, which is something to help us remember the horrors of dropping a nuclear bomb on a fully populated city. Nothing more, nothing less. I was basically politicizing it based on my own background, which takes the focus off those who lost their lives that day, who likely had nothing to do with what the Imperial Army's actions across Asia. The memorial is about giving them their moment of remembrance, which isn't a lot to ask.

This morning, my discussion with her fresh in my mind, I saw this video:

To me, what was a beautiful, powerful speech, was marred by the following addition:

We do not understand this tragedy
We know we did nothing to deserve it
But neither does a child in Africa dying of aids
Neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by a rogue army
Neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory
Neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water
Neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of night in his crib in the home its father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized

Try as I may, I can't understand why it was necessary to put that in there. It killed it for me. This was a service to remember the students that lost their lives a few days ago, not suffering in general. Yes, there is suffering in the world, but like so many people in the limelight, she used the wrong forum to express her personal views on a general subject. Comparing the suffering of the thousands directly affected by Cho Seung Hui's shooting spree to an emotionally distraught baby elephant borders on comedic absurdity. There is a time and a place to showcase the suffering of Appalachians living on unstable plots of earth, and a memorial at VA Tech seemed an inappropriate venue. Many public figures think that tragedy raises them above reproach, but I disagree. Mentioning Africans, Mexicans, Appalachians, and pachyderms draws more attention away from faces and names of the people being remembered than it does raise awareness to the unrelated suffering of anonymous symbols across the world. Ms Giovanni clearly has misplaced priorities, and cheapened an opportunity to give those students the moment they deserved.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Semper Sniffus

You ever meet someone who's always "on the sniff"? "Sniffing" is a word to describe a guy who is aggressively in the act of chasing women. A British friend always says it -- he calls people "sniffers" and describes some people as "always on the sniff". It perfectly conjures the image of a dog running around from person to person, sniffing asses and putting their nose in crotches, making situations embarrassing and a little awkward for the rest of civilized humanity. No matter where you are or what you're doing, they simply can't resist and enthusiastically give in to their urges. They can't not "put it out there" or make some comment to just about any woman that walks by. It's almost as if they can't go to bed at night unless they have some sort of banter with a woman, no matter how inappropriate the situation or how awkward a situation it might create.

Semper Sniffus -- Always Sniffing

Asia seems to attract a lot of these guys. Like A LOT. Like "Are you fucking kidding me?" a lot. And for the purpose of today's blog, I'm not going to be talking about young single guys -- it's natural for young guys running around Japan to be on the sniff -- who wouldn't be? I'm talking about older guys. Older married guys. Older like in-their-50s-guys who can't order food, get a ticket, or so much as walk down the street without throwin' out the "vibe". I like referring to these old guys as "creepsters". In Thailand, they are known as "Germans".

Why this behavior offends me

Believe it or not, I couldn't really care less of some dude it being unfaithful to his wife unless it directly effects me (i,e. I'm being called in for an investigation of his infidelity or I'm put in the "cover for this guy" or "rat him out" position that people are so fond of putting me in). Granted, I'm not going to trust the guy either. There was a guy I worked with in Afghanistan named Rob, whose nickname was "The Bipolar Express". I actually saw him shoot a loaded bus in the engine with an M4 once. Anyway, one time he told me about when he first started working border patrol (great job for "The Bipolar Express," I know). "I tell you man, I got the best advice my first day," he said, in the intense way he said anything and everything. "This guy told me to never trust guys who fuck around on their wives. He told me to watch 'em, and sure as shit, the guys that always talked about fucking around on their wives? Couldn't fuggin trust em man. So I never trust a man who fucks around on his wife. Ever." I thought this was pretty good advice, and in general, a pretty good way to calibrate your moral compass.

While I feel that whatever disfunctions exist between man and wife are between man and wife, sniffers still piss me off for a number of reasons, namely:

1) Stop wasting my time

I'd say 95% of the human-to-human-interaction-type jobs here (and by "here" I mean in the area I work, not in Japan) are filled by women, who in general are not ugly. Sometimes I'll walk into some personnel section and think to myself, "This is ridiculous, I can't believe no one is getting fired for unethical hiring practices." That's how bad it is some places. The result? It seems like whenever I'm trying to get some stupid paperwork done anywhere, there's some jackass sniffin' on the Japanese staff. This will always be a problem because even if the Japanese staff were direct enough to tell them to fuck off (most aren't), the sniffers are too socially inept to really understand that they're being told to go away. "Get the fuck out of your office? lolz you're so cute when you say that, I want to give you jellybeans. *sniffsniff*"

So pretty please, with sugar on top, stop sniffing on the support personnel. I need to get a signature most riki-tik and I probably left my lights on.

2) I have a problem with presumptuous people

I mentioned that I don't care about what goes on in someone else's relationship, but how do these guys know that? They don't. They just presume that I routinely violate the trust of a woman I have pledged my trust to, and that I condone similar actions. Why do these guys presume that I approve of their lifestyle? Why do they think that I'm OK with adultury and listening to their lecherrous thoughts on women that I work with? Do they think I never tire of the question, "Oh yeah? How's she look?" when talking about any member the opposite sex? And most importantly, why is it inappropriate for me to tell these guys that they're scumbags and to stop wasting my time by talking to every woman that walks by?!?!

3) I believe in Equality

Most people, particularly people who haven't historically enjoyed equal status, like to say they want equality, but they really don't mean it. Most people don't want to be equal -- most people want preferential treatment. They want to be acknowledged for being different, but only in a good way. Anything less, including being treated equally, isn't good enough for them. Sniffers put women on a pedestal and give them preferential treatment, in effect turning back the hands of Women's Equality because women don't have to perform equally if they are decent looking (again, subjective). I see it in a lot of interactions with the customer service women around here -- they have an attitude that most Japanese people simply don't have. I can hear it in their voice when they treat me like a sniffer and throw some snark at me, and I can see it in their shocked and horrified expressions when I sneer at them with naked disgust and repeat back whatever bullshit they chirped at me oh-so-passive-aggressively.

Holy crap, are you ok? You look like someone shot you in the face with a paintball gun.

No, Paully treated me with equality and professionalism, and I owe him thanks.

Yeah right. I wish it'd go down like that, but instead they say that I have a poor relationship with my mother or I am a misogynist. No shit -- informants have told me so. That's what they say, even though I'm their closest ally in the fight for equality.

I got a little off track there, but it's all related to the snifing epidemic and why it irritates me so much. Are you on always on the sniff? Are you married and you:

  • Compliment every woman in the service industry
  • Strike up meaningless conversations with women in the service industry
  • Ask service industry women retarded questions and interrupt them in their work
  • Make shit out of other guys in your party in an attempt to establish yourself as "the funny guy" when women are around
  • Ask about the status of every woman you come in contact with
  • Are unable to carry on a simple conversation because you can't keep your eyes off every woman that walks by
  • Make heavily nuanced comments about every woman that you meet
  • Be overly friendly and supportive to "good looking" (subjective) women at work and treat the swamp donkeys like non-people
  • If an outside sniffer takes an interest in "your women", refer to the person as a "pig" and repeatedly bring up the fact that he's married

    Answer yes to any of these real situations? Congrats, you're a sniffer, and I don't think we can be friends.
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    Thursday, April 12, 2007

    RIP Kurt

    If you haven't already heard, Kurt Vonnegut died today at the tender age of 84.

    While Mr Vonnegut and I certainly didn't see eye-to-eye on many contemporary issues, I always held him in high regard for getting me heavly into reading (particularly contemporary literature).

    In highschool I took AP English because I heard that you didn't have to learn English grammar if you made it in. All four years of highschool we were supposed to be reading books, but I liked to play a little game I called "Don't read the book and see if you can still pass", which I really regret -- I missed out on some good reading. Finally in my senior year I decided to go ahead and actually read the books assigned, the first of which was The Great Gatsby. "Woe", I thought. "This is pretty good shit. Maybe I'll read the next one too." The second book assigned was Slaughterhouse 5, and I was an instant Vonnegut fan.

    I met a Cuban fellow by the name of Jose, who is the father of my cousin's ex-girlfriend. Jose is the most hyper-intelligent, least formally educated person I'd ever met (and probably have ever met). The first time I met him, I was taking a nap on his couch waiting for my cousin to wake me up. Unbeknownest to me, my cousin had left me there in a strange house owned by people who I didn't know. Anyway, I woke up and Jose was putting weed into a pipe and working on a painting about Princess Diana's death. It was a work in progress, and looked like a 3rd grader had made it. "Do you want some?", He asked, motioning to his pipe. "No thanks," I said, "I'm joining the Marines in 1 week." So we talked for a bit, and I noticed he had some Vonnegut books on his shelf. "I love Kurt Vonnegut," I proclaimed, and Jose stopped what he was doing and looked at me. "One time I was talking to someone on the phone, and he referred to Kurt Vonnegut as 'mind candy'. Mind candy!", said Jose in his accented Cubano English. "Do you know what I said to him, Paully?" he asked. I waited a moment for his response.

    "I said, 'You know what? Fuck you.'", he plainly stated, punctuating it with a triumphant hit off his pipe, and continued painting a flaming car with blood flying out of the windows.

    For some reason I always thought Mr. Vonnegut would have gotten a kick out of that -- maybe even would have found it strangely appropriate.

    Had to be there I guess.

    RIP Kurt.

    Monday, April 09, 2007

    ...More adventures...

    I apologize for neglecting my blog. I'm sure all of my four viewers have their browsers up, hitting "refresh" in desperation and wondering why I have forsaken them.

    Suffice it to say I've been busy, but then again that's not really an excuse. It's not that nothing has been going on, I've just been too lazy to write anything. So let's whoop it on. Click on the pics for bigger images.

    Last weekend we had a little engagement party..! My friend organized it for me, which was really cool of him. We atually stayed out until the trains started back up again at 5:30, which is good because instead of spending $40 for a cab ride, you spend $4 for the train. I think I spent a total of $15, because people were buying us drinks, and we just walked past the cover-charge desk and no one said anything. That's how we roll, folks. Before the club though we went to an izakaya and had some beer and food. Izakayas are a great deal of fun.

    Here's me and the Akinator with our engagement icecream.

    Here's a closer look at it.

    It says "Paul *heart* Aki" and "Congratulations on the Engagement".

    After the izakaya, we went to a club called "Camelot". I think that's a pretty ridiculous name for a club, but it's always a good time, and we're usually the only roundeye there. Here's me and the wimminfolks.

    And no, that's not Quest Love in the background. That's my friend Damon. He's a cool dude, and caters parties here in Tokyo specializing in soul food. It's fun to get him going on local soul food places here run by Japanese people, and how disgusting he finds them. "I saw him making fried chicken with salt and pepper!! What's that?!" Here's a picture of him and Henry.

    I was glad Henry came out. It was his first time "out on the town" after a year and a half in Tokyo (he's married) and he hung like a champ. He's a mutant, one of my best friends out here, and makes me feel like a defenseless infant on the mat 3 times a week. He really kicks my ass.

    All in all it was an absolutely awesome night, and I really appreciated everyone coming out and paying for me and the future missez.

    A couple weeks ago a friend of mine from the states came to visit -- one Wade A. We were in the Marines together, and due to some unfortunate events that he was very much in control oh, his parting from the marines was, how shall we say, under other than favorable conditions. He's still my friend though and I've known him since 1998.

    We went out for the obligatory drunk fest over the weekend, and I took a day off during the week so that we could go to Kamakura, home of the really huge freaking Buddha.

    Here's me standing in front of it.

    Kamakura is like the Las Vegas of temples. I mean, if there were temples instead of casinos in Las Vegas. And less lights. We went to an assload of little templets -- that's a word I made up referring to little temples kinda tucked away here and there. It's easy to get all templed and shrined out when going to places like Kamakura and Kyoto; it's hard to keep track after a while. Here are some cool pictures though.

    This picture was taken at Hasedera. I kept referring to it as the Smurf Army, until I found out that the figuring are actually for unborn babies that have died.

    Here's another shot.

    It's a little sad, because people who have lost children bring little toys and bibs and hats for the figurines. I of course didn't know this, and felt bad later.

    Here are some big Buddhist feet. I'm not really sure what it means.

    The little sign says "Please don't 'ride' on top." I know those look like swastikas, but they're not.

    Here's a little waterfall I posed by.

    We also walked along the beach, and since I love birds, even ravens, I took a picture of a few of them enjoying the view with us.

    I also played with a squirrel, which tore the shit out of my finger. He didn't get his picture for that.

    So there you have it. Adventurepan, Adventures in Japan guaranteed.