Monday, July 30, 2007

Am I missing something?

OK, so I'm reading about how Timmy Taliban kidnapped a gang of Koreans in this article, and now Hamid Karzai is pulling the hospitality card which seems pretty negotiable. If you're waondering where this whole hospitality thing comes in, it has to do with pashtun wali:

There are numerous intricate tenets of Pashtunwali that influence Pashtun social behavior. One of the better known tenets is Melmastia or the notion of hospitality and asylum to all guests seeking help. Perceived wrongs or injustice call for Badal or swift revenge.

See, it's a pashtun thaang.

Melmastia was what kept a SEAL from being handed over to the Taliban when an Afghan was nursing him back to health, and it was also used as a justification to keep from handing Osama bin Laden over as Mullah Omar is quoted here, Handing over bin Laden is like giving up a pillar of Islam"—i.e., impossible—is that they are Pashtun, and the Pashtunwali Code places a huge amount of emphasis not only on giving hospitality, but refuge.

Well isn't that conveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeenient.

"The perpetration of this heinous act on our soil is in total contempt of our Islamic and Afghan values," Karzai told a South Korean envoy during a meeting at the presidential palace, according to a statement from his office.

Echoing Karzai's words, Afghanistan's national council of clerics said the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, taught that no one has the right to kill women.

"Even in the history of Afghanistan, in all its combat and fighting, Afghans respected women, children and elders," the council said. "The killing of women is against Islam, against the Afghan culture, and they shouldn't do it."

Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, replied, "lolz!"

Are these guys for serious? I've never known any religion to be particularly "reality based", but there are observable phenomena available to us, you know things like "Afghan Muslims killing women and children". The Taliban are dirtbags, yes, but most of them are also Afghans and all of them are Muslims. Why do these guys even bother saying stuff like this? That would be like me saying, "Clearly Americans love Japanese food, because in general Americans are thin and in shape." Well, not really, but my point is that it's completely retarded and easily seen to be ridiculous.

Here's another gem:

Pope Benedict XVI also called for the hostages' release, saying the perpetrators should "desist from the evil they have carried out and give back their victims unharmed."

Oh, I have an idea. A bus load of Christians was kidnapped in Whackjobbi Muslimistan. Someone get the Pope on the phone so he can call the Taliban evil, because the Taliban clearly gives a shit about the Pope and all his authority. Why not have the Dalai Lama chime in? The Pope is probably on top of the "People the Taliban would like to gut on the innerwebs" list, and at the bottom of the "People who ought to be lecturing people from other religions about fucked up stuff done in the name of religion" list.

I'm predicting this to go very very badly. I'm also predicting that Korea will somehow blame this on America, because America forced a busload of Korean Christians to drive around Afghanistan even after Koreans were permitted from getting visas to go there. Yeah, it's our fault. We created the Taliban after all, right?

Just thought I'd throw that out there, since today's theme seems to be "saying retarded shit".

Updates later, depending on how this goes…

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007


So I was surfing through commenters' blogs on Hammer's blog and came upon an article linked from this site, which resulted in a day of sporadic giggling fits, much to the chagrin of my dear wife.

[While driving home from the grocery store, during one of the fits of laughter]

"Why do you keep laughing for no reason? You're really creeping me out."

"Hm, it's kinda hard to explain. I'm thinking about this article I read today that had something really ridiculous in it."

"What did it say?"

So I thought about it for a while, how to explain why a racial slur would make me break into hysterics every time I thought about it, without seeming like I myself was a kard karrying klansman.

The article I'm referring to is this one, about how porches are making a comeback and the subsequent social implications. I'll go ahead and post the last two paragraphs, which contained the zinger, emphasis mine:

As newcomers to Herndon last year, Joanna Wilbur says she and her husband, Chris, found that sitting outside was "a way to make friends and connect ourselves more with the people living on our cul-de-sac. After work, people would come up to the porch and introduce themselves, or we'd say hi to them as they walked down the street. One couple would bring their daughter over to play on the porch swing."

The porch sealed the deal for the couple -- she's a credit union retirement specialist, he's an Army translator -- because it strongly evoked her Midwestern childhood. "I was a big-time porch monkey in St. Louis. Everyone was outside on the stoop until long after the streetlights came on."

All Clerks 2 references aside, the last line of the last paragraph had me in stitches. Why? For a number of reasons, but mainly because I couldn't believe that a) someone would say something like that, and b) the editor at the Washington Post would allow something like that to be published. I've noticed that a lot of people these days are fond of saying 'I was the only white kid at my high school', as if it gives them some street cred or makes them hard, but not me. I grew up in public schools, mainly white, mainly military brats, far from the darty souff, but somehow, somehow, I managed to acquire the knowledge that porch monkey is indeed a racial epithet.

"Porch monkey? Why is that a racial slur?", my wife asked.

"Hm, I dunno, maybe because it's saying that black people are simian in appearance and intelligence, and that they refuse to do anything but sit on the porch due to laziness?" I guess I'd never really given much thought to the etymology, but that was the best I could do.

"Wow, that's pretty bad."

And it is. So I got the thinking about how that made it through the presses, and I came up with a couple possibilities:

  • Ignorance

    No, not the "I'm a racist cuz I'm ignorant" ignorance, but (again, Clerks 2 references aside) her not knowing that it's a racial slur. I've been familiar with this from a very early age, when I was watching a movie with my dad and everyone was throwing around the word "Chinaman", so I did too. "Don't say that, that's a bad word", said my dad, which I repeated to my grandmother when she was throwing it around one day. "Who says it's a bad word?" asked my grandmother. "Dad did", which elicited a predictable reaction from my grandmother who a) understood my dad is an area expert on China and b) thinks that area experts in general are lazy and stupid possessing no more knowledge than the last article she read about their particular area in National Geographic at the doctor's waiting room. "It's not a bad word", she replied patiently. "I think 'Chinamen' is a nice word. Chinamen. Yeah. Chinamen." ...Aaand I got to hear that word about 15 more times during the next 20 minutes. (As a side note, you can imagine how much this made me laugh a number of years later.)

    We get a lot of that around here in Japan, too.

    The biggest one around here is the word "Jap". Maybe it's just ingrained in my or something, and while I don't get all fired up when I hear it, it does rub me the wrong way. I suppose "gaijin" could be considered derogatory too, but like "Jap", I don't really bother correcting people who use it anymore. When I say "You know, that's kinda derogatory," they usually just give me the "nah-ah" business, and/or go ahead and, like my precious gramma, disagree with me and use it as much as they can around me because they know it irritates me.

    I suspect that the woman quoted had no idea that it was a "bad word", but most surprisingly, that the editor didn't know. I find it hard to believe that a professional wordsmith working for the WaPo, presumably (unlike me) with a strong background in journalism, would not know the expression. There may be another explanation though, namely:

  • ...zing!!!!

    While I personally wouldn't practice this form of humor using a racial slur, I can certainly appreciate it when I see it. Think of this as a joke (something meant to make someone laugh) that is a) time released and/or b) like shooting a gun into the air in a crowded city -- you probably won't hit someone, but if you do, they're gonna really feel it (though in the case of the joke they'll laugh really hard, not die). Humor like MST3K and Homestarrunner include a lot of these -- where the humor is incredibly esoteric and sometimes hits you a little while later, resulting in genuine lolz when you get it.

    Perhaps this is what Mrs Wilbur intended, intentionally launching a nuke-tipped probe through the WaPo's editing processes just to see if it could get through because, well, that'd just be funny now, wouldn't it? Regardless of whether or not it was intentional, which I'm pretty sure it wasn't (because when I showed people at work a few folks didn't get why it was so weird either), it reached me and had me utterly incapacitated for at least a good 15 minutes throughout the course of the day. So again, Mrs Wilbur whether your bigotry was a result of a malicious mind or just being a simpleton, on behalf of myself and all my friends I sent it to (who I knew would laugh for the same reasons, I thank you.
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    Thursday, July 19, 2007

    Return to Oki!

    Who am I? I always like to say that I define myself by the people I've met and the places I've been. Anyone who knows me knows that Japan has of course played a big role in the "who I am" part, but some of (all two of) you might not understand how important a role Okinawa played in my life. I came to Okinawa in 2002, deployed with my first team. Upon finishing my study abroad in 1997, I had only spent a week or so in Japan until then, and was focused on other stuff making Japan pretty much a non-enitity in my life. Somehow I was still able to speakum Japanese when we arrived, and became a defacto tourguide/translator for my team. "Don't let on that you speak Japanese" they'd say, thinking (like everyone else) that Japanese people sit around pondering with one another the actions of roundeye in the vicinity. This lasted about 5 minutes into the first bender we went on (which coincidentally was about 5 minutes after we arrived) and I set about getting to offend know the locals.

    It was as if Japan had been waiting for its prodigal son (me) to return, and I felt the country (even though it was Okinawa) and its people welcomed me with open arms. Everyone was friendly, appreciative that I spoke the language, and whenever I'd roll up they were happy to see me. Even though the unit we were with in the Marines pretty much sucked, after a month or so I wrote back to my parent unit and asked to stay for an additional six months. I thought about re-enlisting but the stupidity of things in Okinawa and the experience I was having made me realize that I had a calling outside of the USMC, and that calling was Japan. If I couldn't stay in Okinawa or Japan within the Marines, it was time to get out, which I did. Fast forward to now -- past 5 months spent goofing off in Tokyo, 6 months spent collecting unemployment at my parents' house, 7 months in Afghanistan getting an inappropriate salary for getting drunk, and 2 and a half years in Tokyostan leading up to a marriage with my looovely wife. Four years later I make it back to Okinawa for a conference; back to the place that jarred me back to reality and awakened a lost love of adventure and human interaction.

    It's always hard to go back. As I rode up Okinawa's route 58 coming from the airport I saw my old haunts; places from a different where and when, inseparable from the people I experienced them with. There was the curry house I went to with Chazriel, Durl, little Joe and everyone else. That's the parking spot we dropped the van off in when we shanghai'd a humvee and goofed off in starbucks all morning. There's the parking garage Kev passed out in after sprinting out of an establishment without paying (which was awkward, considering we knew the owners). I imsgined all of us as we were on those spots, like black and white ghosts on a color backdrop, and I felt like an imposter violating the purity of how I remembered things to be.

    After the conference I knew I had to make it up to Kinville -- back to the tiny area of bars where we spent so much time, just to see it again. Kinville itself is a lot different, as they've "beautified" it. Where there used to be a parking lot there is now a little park, and they've made some of the streets pedestrian only. This is all well and good, if you care to ignore the scummy buildings and buy-me-drinkie bars lining the streets. I went on Wednesday night at around 10:30pm, which was good because all the lower enlisted folk have a 12pm curfew and nothing's going on on Wednesdays anwyay. When I walked into the bars it was instant reaction. It was like Kinville was sitting there waiting for me to come back. As if they were expecting me to walk in at any time but were just as surprised to see me nonetheless. The three major usual suspects where there (for those of you who have been there, that would be Meg, Erika, and Miki), as well as the owner, Rika, and her half Taiwanese husband named Hito (who we used to call Lao Ching Wan simply because he was half Chinese). Miki is the owner of Edgar, pictured below.

    I asked her where he was, and she said he was at home. Apparently he was running around on the bar one night and took a crap on the bar, alarming one of the Japanese customers, and was subsequently banned. :( Since there were no customers it was nice to go between Rika's three establishments and catch up with whoever was working there. At each place there were pictures from another life, usually Eddie and I, eyes at half-mast, on one of our weekly benders.

    At the end of the night I had one last stop -- King Tacos. Taco Rice with Cheese (and sauce!) was the traditional post-drink food, particularly from King Tacos, and I had to get some. I turned the corner and headed down and stepped on an enormous piece of glass. It was one of those situations where you're half in the bag and pain doesn't so much register as an "owie!" as much as you brain says, "hey, knock knock man, there's something in your foot." So I stopped and pulled the large chunk of glass from out of my foot and through my flipflop from which it protruded and threw the glass away. "Man that sucked," said my mind, as I plodded onward towards the red and yellow sign. My foot was getting slick and my brain was telling me, "Hey assface, we have a situation", so I paused and checked out my flipflop, which was now covered in blood. Yeah, it hurt like a bitch, but not hurt-hurt cuz I was drunk, but more in the "FYI this is your brain speaking, your foot hurts" sense, so I continued on and ordered my taco rice. Yeah, I was bleeding like a stuck pig, but I didn't really see why that should keep me from getting some food. I remembered the lady who gave me my food -- once 4 or 5 years ago we had drank until 10am or so, me, her, and the owner of some hole in the wall bar, but I didn't expect she'd remember me and I'm pretty sure she didn't. An Okinawan fellow was asking me about my foot and I said it ought to be alright, because I was more interested in hopping in a cab and gorging myself on this Mana from Kinville on the way home. The cabride was shorter than the way in because we took the expressway and he delivered me to my door, so I cleaned off the blood and scrubbed my wound and reflected on the nights transgressions.

    Okinawa is a part of me, just as much as the scar I'm bound to have on the bottom of my food from a shard of filthy glass in Kinville. It might seem a little pathetic that I make a trip far from where I was to see a few people who are still working in the same dingy bars and remember a crepster like my friends and I, but they were a huge and important part of my Okinawa experience which ultimately led me to where I am today. They were our cultural brokers and picked us up when we were (physically) unable to do it by ourselves, but most of all they are just kind, generous, and patient people who will never forget us as we will never forget them.

    Kyle, Eddie, Little Joe, Erika, and Rika.


    Sunday, July 15, 2007

    No Country for Old Card Board

    Well, ladies and gelmen, the good lord has seen fit to pick up a large portion of the Pacific Ocean and dump it right down on the good citizens of Japan in the form of a Typhoon. Typhoons like rolling through the Japanese archipelago a couple times a year, but if you're in the area of Tokyo it ain't suh bad. Okinawa? Well, Okinawans don't so much weather the storm so much as they get buckwheated by it, so every time a typhoon rolls up on us, I expect it to be a lot worse than it really is, and my wife tells me to cowboy up and return the goddamn DVDs, I ain't gonna get swept up to Oz.

    Speaking of Okinawa, now that the typhoon is all cried out, it looks like I'm a go to leave tomorrow. I was a little worried that the trip might get cancelled, but everything's OK.

    Anyway, this post is about some things that have been constantly on TV lately and that really tie into some things that the Japanese are really into, namely:

  • Food
  • Overdoing things
  • Ridiculing the Chinese

    Food is really important in Japan. Like really important. Not having access to Japanese food is no-go criteria for most Japanese people, and most cannot really imagine being without it. As with many other cultures, it's a major part of their identity and what makes them unique from other tribes. As a result, you can guarantee a food show being on TV at pretty much any time of day. Shows include cooking shows, shows where people go to different restaurants, and recently, competitive eating shows. They like this girl called "Gyaru Sone", "gyaru" meaning "girl" meaning "girl with bleach blond hair and too much makeup, like the ones in Shibuya," and "Sone" pronounced "Soh-Neh", which is her last name. At 5'4 and 95 lbs, she can eat an insane amount of food. Here's what she looks like, on the right:

    She's been getting a lot of airtime these days, but it's pretty obvious she's half-retarded, which according to my wife will lead to her downfall. "She's cute, sure, but the only thing she can do is eat. She'll be gone soon."

    I gotta say though, her eating accomplishments are pretty ridonkulous, and they've done some pretty funny stuff with it, like last night when they dressed her up in an old lady suit and had her compete with a bunch of fat foreigners, and of course she destroyed them all. She wasn't even playing for real and she ate 30 plates. That's insane. That's 60 pieces of sushi. The most I've eaten is 18 plates (32 pieces), and people looked at me like I was a complete glutton. That's not the best part tho -- she said she once ate 183 pieces of sushi in 30 minutes. On another show she ate 40,000 calories of Chinese food.

    In any case, she seems to be bringing back the lost art of competitive eating in Japan, which to me exemplifies two things that the Japanese are all about: Food and Overdoing something to the point of it being self-destructive. I mean really, what are the Japanese people famous for? Sushi and working themselves to death, Tempura and Kamikaze charges, Donburi and standing under cold waterfalls doing karate stuff. Competitive eating is the ultimate expression of what it is to be Japanese -- enjoying something you love to the point of it completely sucking and ultimately leading to your painful death.

    When the Japanese aren't eating or expressing themselves through Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, they enjoy relaxing in natural springs, climbing Mount Fuji, and ridiculing the Chinese. And who wouldn't? The Chinese love being offensive, and nothing could be more offensive than feeding people card board. For some reason this CCTV investigation has Japan up in arms, or at least the Japanese media up in arms cuz it's been on TV all week, about some Chinese dude who made steamed buns containing cut up cardboard. Like a lot -- a 6:4 ratio of carboard to pork. Here's a video showing how he did it:

    The part with the guy standing there with his shirt off has been on TV a lot here, especially a part where he says "Most people can't even tell", and when asked whether he tried eating it, he said hellz no. I believe the reason they keep showing this is to take attention away from this story, where a Japanese company was pawning pork off as beef. I can't even imagine what would happen if this had happened in the USA, what with all the people who don't dig on swine, but Japan isn't really burdened with "racial diversity", and even if there were outcry stemming from religious taboos, it would fall upon deaf ears.

    So yeah, that's the size of it. If you go to China and you get some steamed buns, check the content because if might be 60% cardboard and 40% rotten pork, and if you come to Japan and you don't dig on swine, make sure you don't dig on beef either, because there's no telling what could be in it. In the meantime I'd like you to check out this book -- it's good, and they're making a movie out of it. I think they might just be able to pull it off.

    Also, congrats to Fadi for adding an ARTO to his team. Nice.

    And I know I used buckwheat in a post a long time ago, but I couldn't resist.

  • Thursday, July 12, 2007


    Woe, this whole blogging thing just hasn't been happening lately, as I settle into my new little life. I've definitely had a lot of material because I work in bizarro world, but the whole "blogging things about work" seems like a really bad idea, and after I 'sanitize' my posts as much as I can to avoid getting in trouble of hurting people's feelings, it just doesn't really sound as good or as funny. I'd hate for someone that I have to work with every day to read about how much of a dumbfuck I thought they or spouse or child was, and even if I'm vague about it it'd be really obvious who I was talking about because there are so many creepsters running around.

    I'm going to Okinawa next week and the DC area next month for bizniss, which completely rocks, so mark your calendars. Okinawa will definitely produce a good post because my year there in the Marines had such a profound impact on my future, i,e. realizing that the "real Marine Corps" wasn't somewhere I wanted to stay, and that Japan was. All my best friends down there have pretty much left -- Okinawa is depressed in a lot of ways and can be rough on people -- but I know a few folks and can't wait to stop by and see them. Literally. Cuz they call work at bars. I can't wait to eat some taco rice with cheese, which is Okinawa's mana from heaven, and (according to that wikipedia article) originated where I spent an inappropriate amount of time -- Kin, aka "Kinville", right outside Camp Hansen. If you look at that Kinville article, it has pictures of some bars in Kin. I like looking at that site because I have a funny story involving all three or so of them (Champion, Orion, Blue Hawaii), two of which involved one of my friend getting attacked by a group of filipinas (which I knew would happen as soon as he went in so I stayed outside) or another friend being beat up by 6 gunnys who mistook him for someone else.

    Sea stories are way more funny when told in person, so instead of boring you all, I'll leave you with this picture of my wife I made on a southpark character generator. I'm so dead.