Saturday, August 24, 2013

"Odds and Ends - June, July, and August"

This is a collection of stuff I wrote by hand while out and about in Tokyo (from inside coffee shops, inside trains, etc.)  It basically covers notes written in summer 2013 - with material from June, July, and August.
June 18th, 2013 - (Tozai Line / 東西線)  That old writing issue - the longer you don't write, the harder it is to start - and the more you write, the easier the words flow.  Looking back at things I've written in years past, I wrote the most often when I carried a laptop around all the time.  Some of that was handwritten, and then typed up (pounded into electrons, as I used to say) later.

In fact, this is being handwritten right now.  It *was* going well, but then a vampire space hog biped sat down next to me...  Anyway, my station approaches - better to stand than to have my energy stolen by a vampire.
15:35 - Ginza side street (銀座) - It's harder to write while standing up, but so much nicer to be standing on a Ginza side street on a warm, but not overly hot day.  "A picture is worth a thousand words" goes the old saying, and "a video clip with sounds is worth 100,000 (10,000?, 1,000,000?) words" Lyle adds (is that original, or just a common expression now?), but some things need words to be expressed - which I guess is all a strong suggestion that I narrate my videos?  Naw... the spoken word interferes with with the pictures.  It needs to be text on paper and/or on the screen.  The trouble with writing by hand of course is that it takes time.  [130824: *Some* narration is good in video, so I aim to do a little more of that.]

Off to see an art exhibition.

2013/06/20 (Chuo Line / 中央線)

"Members Only"

I was recently asked (by an e-friend) what I thought the reason for local resistance to outsiders knowing the local culture was about after they had read something I posted some years ago, specifically this:
   I looked over at him expecting him to be joking, but he didn't smile, and he didn't look at me - so it came across as a bona fide warning more than a joke.  I have often remembered those words, particularly tonight....  The Russian IT guy gave written notice, and the president tore it up - which has a special meaning in Japan that I don't entirely understand myself, but in any case it seems that there's this ritual where someone will submit an intent to quit in writing, and if it's accepted, then that's it - they're out, but if it's torn up (as I've often seen in Japanese movies), then the person keeps working...
   [00/12/20 note: I've been asking around about this, and everyone I've mentioned it to says that letters of intent to quit are not generally torn up - given back, yes, but not usually torn up... maybe Prez has been watching too many television dramas?]
   [10/08/15 note: There's something else too.  In 1984, I mentioned to a woman here about the model "Skyline" car, and she told me "No, there's no such car as that."  Later, I was with her in her car going somewhere, and - lo and behold - a Skyline was right in front of us, with "Skyline" written on the back.  I pointed it out to her and she seemed very displeased.
   Around 1996, I began to notice that young people were dropping the final "i" with words like "samui", "atsui", etc., so they became "samu", "atsu", etc.  I mentioned it to a local friend, and again he said "No, no such thing.  You're mistaken."  Later, I was with him when some friends of his joined us outside, and one of them said it was "samu" instead of "samui".  I basically said "Behold! - It is as I told you!"  Again that displeased look and he claimed it was because they were from Osaka.
   Etc. etc. etc. - I could go on and on with similar examples.  The point is - there seems to be a basic rule that outsiders are not qualified to notice something [outside the tourist routine] about the local culture, and this thing of the resignation letter may well have been just such a situation.  I wasn't supposed to know about that, so it was denied?  It doesn't sound plausible, but if you'll go back with me in a time machine, I'll show you and you can see for yourself.]

It baffled/irritated me initially, but I've gotten to the point where if someone - whenever, wherever - doesn't seem to accept that I'm from Planet Earth, I (naturally) still don't like it, but instead of feeling/thinking "What is *wrong* with this person?!" - I think something along the lines of "Oh... this is *that* type of person then..." and do one of a number of things - from heading immediately for the exit, to introducing myself as a fellow Earthling (in a joking way), etc.
Incidentally, I've found racists are sometimes actually more reasonable human beings than hard-core fanatical political people.  Hard-core political people fiercely believe whatever their preferred political organization has told them and just become ever more enraged the more you show them solid evidence that they are mistaken about something.

In stark contrast, many of the racists I've met I've been able to reason with and often they will accept logic, reason, evidence, etc., and change their thinking somewhat when you show them conclusively that they're being wrong-headed about something.
Anyway, when you are willfully shut out, there's only so much you can do.  But back to the question, "Why?".  Well... "Members Only" says it all I suppose.  People like their groups and want to protect them.

2013/07/30 (Seibu Line / 西武線)

"Leaving the Camera Off"

Decided to (basically, but not completely) leave the camera off today.  The ironic thing about taking pictures is that while it can bring so many memories back later, at the time you take the pictures, the machine interferes with your perception of the scene you're in.  I often think it would be great to have a time travel machine, but cameras (especially video cameras) are - in a way - time machines, and it's then a perceived (and real?) connection to the future that ripples the waters of current time and interferes with the here and now.

And so a photographer must be, pretty much by definition, a perpetual outsider - looking back on the present from a future imagined.  ......

While writing this (by hand - ink on paper), I ponder text, which is another kind of recording, but the feeling I get while writing this is that writing (by hand at least, and with machines also?) feels very much a part of the present - in fact, it seems to enhance the present somehow.  An age-old heightening of the senses in order to mentally record things?

....  A man (from across the seas) wearing a bottle or two of some nasty-smelling artificial scent just sat next to me... concentration broken - more later.  Man I hate foul-smelling artificial smells!  I think they should be illegal!

(Shinjuku / 新宿) - It was amazing how one biped with a couple of liters of noxious scent ruined the rest of my train ride!  Speaking of scents ("noxious fumes" would be a more accurate term), recently there's been a barrage (in Japan) of advertising saying that older (50s-up) men smell bad, and - noxious fume bottles to the rescue - "If you just douse yourself in noxious fumes from our company, you won't stink any more!"

A particularly obnoxious form of this kind of advertising shows pictures of attractive middle-aged women (one at a time - with different pictures for different versions of the same ad) supposedly saying "My husband smells nice!".

Prior to that, they had pictures of attractive young women supposedly commenting on the smell of their fathers.  (Nothing is said about the female half of the population by the way.  Apparently it's a male curse to stink past 50.)  I've been here for about 30 years and I don't recall there being a particular problem with older men smelling bad... until now that is, when gullible individuals who have bought into the advertising hype are walking around fouling the air with noxious artificial fumes from the companies manufacturing that horrible stuff.

Gee, I don't suppose the media people who have talked about smelly upper-middle-aged men have accepted advertising money from the noxious fume manufacturers....  You can kind of see the gears turning - Japanese men traditionally don't douse themselves in noxious smells, so they haven't been buying that horrible stuff.  How to get them to start shelling out for it....

August 4th, 2013 - Decided to write something, but after looking over my schedule, etc., I realize I don't remember what I thought I'd write about.

2013/08/07 - (Osaki / 大崎)

"Writing by Hand in Public"

I used to wish my handwriting was more legible, but it's begun to be handy that it's difficult to decipher - I can pull out a piece of paper in a public space and write in front of people, and they have a lot of difficulty making out what the words are.  Not that it really matters if they do read what I'm writing, but still....  The other interesting thing is regarding how ever fewer people are even taught to read/write cursive handwriting.  So suddenly it feels like I have a special skill.  Almost like being able to write in code or something.
I'm in a public space as I write this (by hand) and soon after I sat down, the man sitting next to me (at a long counter in one of the best public spaces in Tokyo that I know of), pulled his laptop closer to himself and re-angled the screen so I wouldn't be able to see it.  I then pulled out a piece of paper and began brazenly writing right in front of him, feeling safe that the tiny cursive script I'm writing would basically be Greek to him.  Whatever.  The one bad thing about this public counter is that it never seems to be cleaned, and what with people eating lunch here, etc., it gets kind of... greasy.  (I wanted to use some other word than "greasy", but that seems to be the most accurate term.)  It's an easy thing to deal with though - you just come with an A3 sheet of paper - lay that over the greasy counter, and you've got a clean space to work on.

Well, that's enough for now.  I do find writing by hand (after not doing so for quite a while) to be quite nice.  There's something profoundly fatiguing about using a computer.  I'm still trying to figure out why that is, but I imagine the stress of thinking about all that is going on with the machine, combined with the multitasking functionality of it, puts a pretty heavy load on a biped's CPU....

Okay - and that brings us back to today - August 24th, 2013.  I've got a load of things I want to get done this weekend, so I'll stop here.  This photo (below) is from March... so it's not related to the text of this post exactly, but I stumbled into it while looking for the pictures I used above and like it enough that I thought it would fit in here at the end.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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