Monday, March 28, 2005

Space...`No-one gets a life rehearsal as specks of dust we`re universal'...Indigo Girls

Monday 28 March 2005
Space in its various guises has figured one way or another in my last couple of weeks.Bear with me.
The first incident occured one Saturday morning .Cleaning my apartment.I came upon a dusty Indigo Girls cd.Fallen behind a bookshelf.Forgotten.One of the tracks was 'Galileo' their tribute to the great thinker and philospher.I'd just finished (finally)Stephen Jay Goulds book which featured Galileo.It was as much a chore to finish the book as it was cleaning my apartment but I felt duty-bound to do both.
The second tenuous link with "space" turned up in Philip Wrights book simply titled "Tank".Very interesting even riveting reading at times.Wright examines its history from WW1 to the first Gulf War.He looks at the tank not only from a military view but also its role as a social and political icon.The book opens with a chapter about the famous Tianamen Square photo and ends some 440 pages later suggesting the SUV is the suburban desendant of the tank.In between Wright traces the development and use of the tank,its leading thinkers such as Fuller and Liddell Hart, current thinking and leading practitioneers such as the Germans notably Rommel and the Israelis who used tank tactics so decisively against their Arab neighbors particulary in the Six Day War.One thinker described the tank as " a mobile protected space with a direct fire weapon."
The third albeit more disturbing incident occurred in of all places a Starbucks cafe.Late last Wednesday morning.I was happily sipping my insipid lukewarm overpriced beverage, complete with eco-friendly toxic plastic container trying to feign interest in my colleagues monologue about the latest work injustice.Sitting near us to our right was your typical salaryman.He was of the small furtive variety with matching receeding hair and battered brief case.Nothing unremarkable.He sat staring at us the entire lenghth of our visit till his antics forced us to leave.
Anyway at one point he fished out from his briefcase a portable razor.He then proceeded to shave or rather hold the loudly buzzing razor on his bottom lip.And left it there.Oblivious to the glares I gave him.The razors noise made polite conversation well-nigh impossible.No one else seemed perturbed.
Maybe attending to ones bodily needs and functions in a public place in Japan is tolerated.Its not uncommon to see men urinating in streets or women applying makeup and using eye lash curlers on trains.
Surely theres some line between public and private space where certain things cant be done?
Is it ok to breastfeed in public, change an infants diapers in Mcdonalds or publicly pick at various orifices and examine the results left on your fingertips..yeech..maybe Starbucks needs to have a non-shaving zone as well as a non-smoking zone...
Of more serious import are the curent 'space' disputes Japan has with three of its neighbors..Russia,South Korea and China over various contested islands.Such disputes can only harm relations particularly with South Korea which since the joint staging of the World Cup seemed to be improving...meanwhile President Putin has put off visting Japan in part due to the ongong territorial disputes...
Random Thoughts
Still waiting for the first sign of cherry blossoms,the weather has been cold and it snowed last Monday seems the blossoms are late arriving this year..

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Should I go or Should I stay now?

Friday 11March 2004
Indecisions bugging I work for this English conversation school company.Big.Impersonal.High turnover.Low brow.For the last 6 years.On a yearly contract renewable at the company`s pleasure.Sometimes a small bonus to sweeten the new contract.Usually not.C`est la vie.Most instructors dont renew their first contracts.Not a career option more an extension of college or university playing at being professional.A living but not a life.Safe,sedate,boring,banal.
Last week I received a company letter.In a nutshell i`ve to begin paying into a universal Japanses pension fund.My company neglected to tell me this some 6 years ago.The company`s only targeting those with 5 or more years servitude with it.Its not a trival financial deduction either..about the same as one months rent..each month.
If I agree to pay Id be bringing home less than someone who`s been here only 2 years.Yes I know you can eventually claim and get a refund when you leave the country but thats not the point.I have a pension fund already.I have no more security of tenure than a person who`s on their first contract.If I leave within six months of starting a new contract theres no benefit to either party.
My company says its a universal system yet is only forcing those with longer service to join...will it make up the 5 years that Ive not paid into the fund..If its universal all employees should be made to join not just the more experienced ones...maybe im naive..maybe its a sign to change jobs ,companies even countries.
The thought of moving 5 years worth of accumulated junk, books, cds etc is giving me ulcers.I'll have to see what the repercussions are...maybe an NHL type lockout..
Random Thoughts
The local meterological service predicted cherry blossoms will be doing their brief thing again around March 31 this year..Already the daphne bushes at the base of my apartment building have suddenly exploded into bloom.Even up on the 5th floor you can get the ocassional cloud of seasonal sickly sweet lemony scent drifting into the apartment mingling with the everpresent year round acrid diesel,carbon monoxide fumes and greasy KFC chicken stench from the outlet below.
Movie Trailers...
Dvds as Ive noted before usually have a host of extra features including here in Japan both the original English and Japanese trailers.Ive noticed that the Japanese trailers usually do a pretty fine job of revealing the whole story and giving away the plot.For example the trailer to 'Field of Dreams' shows Kevin Costners character playing baseball with his dad...the director/producer Ron Shelton on the dvd was surprised both the trailer and theatre posters revealed the whole point of the alarm.. no surprises
The same thing occurs with the trailer of 'The House of Sand and Fog' dont need to see the movie..any sense of antcipation or doom or dread is destroyed by the trailer..i didnt need to understand all the Japanese spoken to understand what the story-line and outcome would be...sigh
Incidentally I enjoyed `The House of Sand and Fog` some nice flawed believable characters who thought they were in the right.
Also enjoyed `Code 46` with Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton a kinda futuristic cloning plot by Michael of the cities used to show the near future was Shanghai with both its modern centre and various skyscrapers overshadowing the older residential areas..the night shots reminded me of the langauge they spoke was a jumble of English mixed with Chinese,French,Spanish which could well be the way people will dominant unified language just a hotchpotch of well-known phrases lifted from other languages and cultures.
Of note also was the appearance of former Clash member Mick Jones doing a version of their classic song which provided the title for this weeks blog...great stuff plus you get the full version on the DVD as an extra..could possibly be one of my top 5 songs .....

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Where have all the homeless gone?

Nagoya City is holding the 2005 Expo which starts later this month.The theme`s caring for the environment.Ironic.Site development involved the clearing of forest providing refuge for an endangered species of Japanese bird.Sigh.
Theres been a furious amount of construction prior to the opening.A new airport has been built.I can think of at least 2 more unnecessary shopping complexes (one complete with ferris wheel) which have been built in anticipation of the increased tourist demand to shop.There`s also been the erection of overhead signs dividing footpaths into pedestrian and cyclist zones.Perversely this seems to have increased the number of collisions Ive observed as both parties stray onto the others territory.Once again the main culprits appear to be old ladies on foot or pedal-powered who consider themselves above such mundane things as road rules.
Anyway more disturbing has been the recent disapperance of homeless people and their blue tarpaulin covered structures from highly visible public places such as parks,under overhead bridges and Central Park in Sakae in the middle of Nagoya.Police and local government officals have been steadily removing these tent-like villages.Today around the TV tower in Sakae council workers were raking soil and grass seed over an area formerly occupied by a row of tents.
I dont know where the occupants have been relocated but i can hazard a guess as to why.It wouldnt do to let foreign tourists see how one of the worlds richest economies deals with its underpriviledged and poor.Better to hide them away than deal with the problem via any welfare or benefit policy to help them.
One of the recently dispossessed has set up digs in my apartment stairway.His collection of plastic bags and neatly rolled up futon in a corner while he spends his day looking for bottles and cans to recycle.

Hunter Thompson and Arthur Miller
Both men made their own unique contribution to literature.Ive read stuff by both.Judging by obituaries alone you`d think Thompson will be the more missed and more valued.Yet how can you compare 'gonzo journalism" with Willy Loman...its like comparing ColdPlay to Zevon

Random Thoughts
I watched "The Fog of War" a dvd length interview with Robert S McNamara former Secreatary of Defence during the Kennedy era as well as Korea and Vietnam.Although completed prior to 9/11 and the Afghan and Iraq wars the parallells were obvivous.Unclear objectives,increased military involvement,no clear exit strategy..sounds all too painfully familiar.Add to this the younger McNamaras striking physical similarity to Rumsfeld and you have an absorbing informative 90 odd minutes.
I never realised that on 10March 1945 over 100,000 Japanese in Tokyo were incinerated or that 50 square miles of Tokyo(the equivalent of New York City) were razed to the ground by a massive B29 raid equipped with incendiary devices..shades of the firebombing of Dresden..
Nor did I know that 40% of Nagoya was also destroyed.One of McNamara`s life lessons or tenets is that "in order to do good you may have to engage in evil."A thought provoking movie with an obvivously intelligent still sharp 85year old man justifying and making peace with himself and his decisions.Im sure after his death more interesting things will come to light about Vietnam and other conflicts.
Recently read Douglas Couplands "Hey Nostradamus".The first novel of his Ive read.There were some intersting characters and ideas such as immortality,God, and relationships floating about in this "Columbine school masacre-like " story.I`ll probably read another of his sooner rather than later.
Also read James Gleicks "Isaac Newton" an easy 191 page read.I cant say I really grasp completely Newtons principles but the book left me wondering what this eccentric gifted man could achieve today given computers,scientific instruments and financial backing.You tend to forget that something as simple as paper and printing we take for granted had to be invented so that things could be recorded and passed down for others to build on.As Gleick points out the Renaissance wasnt just about rediscovering the old laws and theories propounded by people such as Aristotle it was more about moving on from them and either proving them correct or finding alternatives to the earlier ones.Gleick put it far more concisely.sigh.