Monday, March 28, 2005

Circus of the Theocratic Stars

A good article from the New York Times, which I must say has really stepped up to the plate lately to give voice to the large population of Americans who seem voiceless at the moment, the Americans who do not want a government selected and organized based on faith and religion. The article confirms many of my own theories about the current cultural troubles brewing in America at the moment. I think it's a short term thing being driven by fear by politicians and religious leaders who gain power through fear of god tactics instead of gaining power based on a record of achievement and merit that proves they can lead well. It's sad when people vote someone into a position of power based on his claim to faith, rather than looking at the record of his or her slimy existence in this world for a recommendation. And the other thing I'd like to highlight in this article is how it will only get worse until that silent, real majority of voters stops allowing the theocratic minority to shout over them. Heh, NBC is cashing in by starting a mini-series called "Revelations" or something like that, in the vein of that messed up badly written "Left Behind" series. They are going to make so much money off of that crap, I bet.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Barzak Apato

Some new pics from the Barzak apato, seven months later (also some pics of some gifts from the kids at school)...

Kitchen view

Other view of the kitchen.


Other view of the bedroom.

Living room

The new TV my boss gave me.

Flowers a girl gave me the day before she graduated.

A letter another student wrote me before she graduated. It's almost all in Japanese, but I could figure out most of it, and what kanji I couldn't read, Kiuchi sensei translated for me.

A ring of thank you notes from one of my seventh grade classes that I taught on my own last week.

A card one of the other seventh grade classes made for me. That's my name in katakana where it says Dear Mr. Japanese writing Japanese writing Japanese writing. Well that's how they spell Chris (Kurisu).

It's hard to believe I've already been here over seven months. But I think I'm finally settled into my place and have it how I like it now.

Saturday, March 26, 2005


Hmm, I like this Hugo list a lot. I am brimming with anticipation over the novelette section. Best of luck to everyone!

More Bad News From Where The Stars Shine Bright All Through The Night

Egad, more bad news. Plucked from Nalo for the purposes of circulation.

Give, Give!

Strange Horizons is have a fund drive right now for their magazine. It's full of good fiction, interviews, articles, poetry and reviews, so go and give a little if you like what they do to help keep the thing going.

More Japan Stories

Although I have mentioned the perverted references to penis sizes and sex among my students, I have not divulged the full story as to exactly everything a male language teacher from America goes through with junior high kids in Japan. There are many blogs kept by Americans teaching in Japan, and actually most of our experiences are very similar. Some details change, others not so much. One blogger who captures the spirit of our days well is a guy called Azriel, who is teaching down in Kyoto. He has detailed many of the things here that I have not, such as the Kancho maneuver, which is when your students try to emulate a Japanese comedian who rams his fingers, his hands shaped like a small gun, up your butt. Or when the boys try to grab your penis, and sometimes do if you weren't prepared. For more of this unseemly behavior, see Azriel's blog. And pray for us, for it is a daily battle to avoid the kancho or the dick grab, as Azriel has dubbed them.

A sample from Azriel's first entry:

So anyway, I get asked "bigu dikku" A LOT. Every 2-3 days in fact, which is amazing considering I got asked this question about 2-3 times *in my entire life* in America. Locker room jokes aside. How do you answer that anyway? To a 12-15 year old? I wave them off and say "No no no." Then they say "Oh, sumaru dikku?" (trans. "Small dick?") and OF COURSE that's wrong so I have to correct them. It's just a no-win stiuation.

On the days I'm avoiding them asking me that, I'm avoiding them actually trying to grab it. I shit you not, I have to play Dodgedick with Japanese Jr. High kids on a weekly basis. Boys and girls! Age, gender, doesn't matter, they all want a stab at it. The boys are actually more persistant though. I had one boy grab for it, and when I said "No!" he put his hands together and, in English, said "Please!" Oh hell no. I was sitting next to a 12-year old boy who kept grabbing at it, and when I told him "No!" he asked "Why not?" I wondered if there weren't some cultural bounds I wasn't understsanding, so I said clearly "age 10 years and become female since birth, then we'll talk." His solution was to ask the girl sitting next to him to trade seats, grab my dick, and tell him about it.

That is so NOT what I meant.

I wish I could say it stops there, but actually, it gets worse. Let me introduce you to a game Japanese kids like to play called "Kancho."

Actually, it's not so much a "game" as it is kids clasping their hands together, sticking out their first fingers, and shoving them up your butt. I'm really not joking.

And then a bit from one of his more recent posts:

I had just finished an ichinensei class with the "Big-Headed Boyfriend" teacher. I was talking to a boy near the front, when another boy entered the room from the rear, and started walking towards the front. "Hello!" I casually said to him.

He said nothing in response. He did nothing except keep walking forward. And suddenly, my Kancho Sense™ started BLARING. Sure enough, without one word he simply walked behind me and started trying to kancho. This actually freaked me out a bit, this kid was a mindless, soulless, kancho assassin. That was some freaky shit. Thanks to my trusted Sense, I was able to reach behind me and successfully grab his hand.

...But! The boy I was talking to in front of me decided that now would be a *great* opportunity to grab my dick. Thankfully, my Dodgedick Sense™ went off as well, so I was able to grab his hand in time. But now both my hands were tied, while each boy still had a free hand with which to try and grab my dick AND poke me up the ass.

I have a bad feeling about this.

If I weren't writing my own fiction, I would spend more time describing all of this stuff that happens, and it really does occur pretty much wherever you go to teach here (junior high level at least, the elementary schools are all sweetness and light for the most part, and I'm not sure what the high schools are like). Since I'm concentrating my writing energy and time on fiction, I don't write as much of this stuff as I could, so I may occasionally just use Azriel for shorthand.

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Long List

My story, The Other Angelas, made the long list for the Tiptree Award this year.

I am okay with that story being only semi-tiptroidal, as long as Ursula LeGuin finds it brilliant and charming.

*glows* for a little while.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Chotto Yopparatta

Chotto yopparatta. I got a little drunk tonight at the teacher's enkai (end of the year party). I also apparently impressed some co-workers with Japanese they didn't know I knew. When one teacher was late I said, "Kuru deshoo?" he's probably coming, right? And the older sensei's said, "Nice accento!" They then made me drink sake with salt on the rim, like a margarita, and asked me if it was oishii? Delicious? I said it was cho oishii, and they laughed and had a good time with that, because "cho" is really not proper Japanese, but little kid's Japanese, which is sort of equivalent to "super!" Super delicious! Later I brought out the Mecha Tanoshikatta, It was loads of fun, and they had a field day with that as well. Japanese is much more structured than English, as to who should say what and when, and what adult language is and what children's language is. But being the foreign teacher, I get to say whatever I know and they all think it's cute no matter what, except the sensei's who know I know better. They will scowl but grin after they scowl, because, yes, I'm just too cute to berate for using Japanese slang and children's language. It's the price you pay for being the foreign teacher, I've decided. You put up with all sorts of alienation and then speak improper Japanese and know it, yet get complimented even so.

Nothing special to report other than this. I am still a bit out of sorts lately and adrift. The next two weeks are almost free for me, only a few things on the schedule until the new school year starts, so I'll try to write a lot and reconnect with those of you back home who I haven't kept in good contact with. No matter what, things here are good, and I am having a good time and am still way happy that I came here. You should all do the same!


Monday, March 21, 2005

Odds and ends

Just a couple of things.

First, an interesting article from a Twin Cities newpaper about the decline of America, and how Americans are still deluded that it's the best country in the world. Well first of all, I don't believe there is any country that is the best. It depends on who you are and what kind of culture you want to live in, and so there are countries that may be the best country for *you* personally, but not for everyone. But I can't help but agree that America is on the fast track to a really really bad future.

And secondly, I had such a nice day shopping with my friend Beth. A new shopping center opened in Tsukuba City, the next city over, and it was filled with lots of wonderful consumer goods that made me drool. For example, ladies and gentlemen, I now live a short drive away from a Lush outlet. Yes, yes, I know you're jealous (points at Gwenda and Amber and other Lush devotees). I got myself a cube of Jude Law's favorite soap and look forward to future showerings.

I also purchased a balance ball to do lots of various abdominal exercises at home. When I lived in Youngstown, I worked out at the university gym, and here I run and work out at home, which limits what I do. And I will be so happy to have a balance ball added to the workout. I also had a conversation with a young guy named Tomo who worked at the store. This happens and I know I write about it all the time when it does, but I get incredibly happy when I'm able to actually carry out a conversation with people here. I will stop going on about actual conversational details, since they're mostly banal everyday things, but it's still this amazing feeling that I can't really explain. I always got a high off of foreign languages when I was in high school and college, but it's nothing like the high I get from learning a new language and actually being able to use it with actual people who speak it. We sadly lacked and French speakers in small town Ohio. But there are lots of Japanese people in Japan (which is a bit strange, I might add with a bit of sarcastic humor) and so I get to actually do this thing that I've always wanted to do since I was a kid. And it's just so damned cool. Turns out Tomo went to Edosaki a long time ago, and his mother used to teach there as well.

It was a long weekend, we had today (Monday) off for holiday. This week is short too. Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday, and then I'm off for almost two weeks, in which I plan to do lots of writing and working my abs and reading and relaxing. And buying a new suit, since the one I came with really doesn't fit like it did when I came. And the suits here are sharp-sharp. I can't wait to get one.

For now, sayonara.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Scenes from my week

Most of the following occurs in Japanese:

Chris sensei, do you wear contacts?

Yes, Shohei.

We are sitting Indian style in the hallway on the second floor of the junior high, me, Shohei, Tomoki, Laurence (a filipino student), Shyuzo, Rikiya, Ayaka and her group of girls she's always with. I take out my right contact so they can see my contact, and they point and say, oh look, his eye is still blue. me ga honto ni ao da ne. His eyes are really blue, aren't they? But when I try to put it back in, it's already dried up as I haven't been getting enough sleep lately and my eyes are in need of some serious moisture. I run to the bathroom with my contact to wet it down again, and they all fall behind me. The boys come in with me, the girls moan and groan outside because they can't come in too. The two sides of my contact are stuck together, and I can't seem to seperate them no matter how much I wet them under the faucet.

Chris sensei, says Shohei, daijyobu? Are you okay? I nod and say that I am. Finally I get the my contact rewetted and seperated from itself and back in my eye, and Tomoki says, Magic! Shyuzo says, How long is your penis? I say, We're not starting that again.

Outside, Ayaka is telling her friends, "I love you," and they laugh and say, "Lezubian?" The hallway fills with peals of girl's laughter. They ask me to say "I love you" to them, then to the boys, then to the teachers who pass by. I tell all the students I love them, then they tell the teachers they love them, and the teachers all say, "I don't speak English!"

And it does start, even though I told Shyuza we weren't starting that again. During English Plaza one day, he and the same crowd of boys pile into the room with me and Ms. Fujita and Suda san asks, "Chris, your penis, how big?" Fujita sensei scowls at them and says they are bad, and I ask, "Why do you want to know?" Fujita sensei translates. Suda san says all foreigners have big penises, and I tell him that's not true. He says it's true, and Ms. Fujita asks him how he knows. He says he looked over while we were in the bathroom together. Bikkuri! he shouts, eyes popping wide open. He could be an anime character, he is so over the top. Ms. Fujita says, I don't think so. You are a liar. You didn't see. The teachers and students have different bathrooms. Suda san still insists that he knows what he's talking about.

Sho tells me Ayaka has a head like an egg. He says this in English, and I compliment him because he's a 7th grader and they haven't learned similes such as "like" yet, so he's been studying on his own. Ayaka says her head is not an egg. I tell her she's right, it's not.

Yuta and I pick weeds out of a garden during soji jikan, cleaning time. He asks me when I first had sex and if I made a baby. His friend asks if foreigner's "cream" is the same color as Japanese "cream". I'm not sure what they mean for a few seconds and then I shake my head and my eyes rattle around in their sockets. I wonder if I was as silly at fourteen years old.

Fujita sensei, I think, is telling the other teachers how I've learned enough Japanese now to start having conversations with them. So when I go to make coffee for myself, the kitchen ladies and the older administrations sensei's tell me to sit down with them and sample all the treats they've brought from home and talk to them for a while. I understand everything they ask, reply with some basic answers, but still manage to want to say things I don't know how to say yet. It's hard, also, when you start to speak to new people. I know these things, how to say them, but get a bit shy with new people until I start to feel comfortable speaking around them. They say they could come to America and talk to people like me. They're being nice, but it feels good anyway.

Fujita sensei asks me to teach all of her classes next Tuesday. She's taking a day off. She says Mr. Nagasawa could come to them with me, but if I feel comfortable I can do them on my own. That makes me feel good that she trusts me with the students on my own, so next week it'll be me and the seventh graders being silly all day long. I have some fun games planned for them.

I wait and wait, but don't hear anything. I'm beginning to become accustomed to this, but I still don't like it. You must not either, but you won't say if you do or you don't.

I am exhausted. Not enough sleeping. I can't stop thinking. Even at school I am in a half daze most of the time. I only feel grounded when I'm in the classroom or hanging out in the hallways with the kids. Something is missing right now that shouldn't be.

I am feeling prone to being opaque. Some people may complain, but I say opaque is there for a reason.

Ohama sensei is leaving next year to go to another school. It's natural here for teachers to change schools every seven years or thereabouts. I'll miss her. The 8th graders who are becoming 9th graders are going to need a lot of work. She would have been able to get them into shape. I hope the new teacher coming can handle them. They're way behind and undisciplined. The new teacher is in her early twenties. I hope she's got a strong backbone. I'll do whatever I can, but I'll have to feel her out to see how she feels we should run a classroom together first. With Ohama it was so easy. This coming year will be tough though.

Nagasawa sensei is going too, to Miho, though, where Beth teaches, so I shouldn't lose contact with him. We're already planning a drinking night together.

Hiraga sensei and I teamed up to make ham and bean with dumplings soup with his seventh graders this week. It turned out smashing, and one of the kid's mothers was at school today and said her daughter loved it. Hiraga and I were worried for days leading up to Monday that we would screw things up inevitably, being two bachelors trying to teach a group of thirteen year olds how to cook. But we did well.

And now the weekend is here and I can catch up with sleeping and dreaming. I haven't done enough of that in years, it seems, though it's only been a week.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Without Surrender

I mentioned in my journal a while back about a boy in the seventh grade named Shoki. He has the fanny pack with the medicine pumping out of it into him. The boy whose illness I couldn't find out about. I am going to either take over the English club for a teacher who is leaving next month or help the new teacher coming to replace her, and Shoki is in the club. We'll be meeting everyday after school, often just me and him because most of the kids have chosen sports over English club, and some have opted out of belonging to any club at all and just go home after their last class. Anyway Shoki can't play sports because of his condition, and since I am going to be spending so much time with him, I asked again to find out what his condition is and Ohama sensei wasn't able to answer me either. Her and Hiraga sensei aren't keeping it from me, I realized, because both didn't know how to talk about the disease in English because it's such a rare disorder that they aren't sure what it's called in English, and even have a hard time recalling the entire name of it in Japanese. All Ohama could remember is that it starts with Ko, which means High in this case, she told me. It's not diabetes, like I was thinking. It's something worse. Something that needs medicine distributed to Shoki's heart and blood at all times. She also told me his little brother had the same condition and died of it two years ago. Shoki's doctors said he should have died when he was twelve years old, but he's fourteen now and they don't know why he's still alive. I think it's because he's a miraculous little boy, full of so much life that even whatever this thing is can't take him down. He's the most energetic boy at school, even with all of this hindering him. He's become my idol. I stayed at school until six o' clock with him tonight, talking in English, helping him translate a play he'd written. It makes me so mad that such a beautiful kid, and such a good one, has to be shackled with something like this. I am selfishly hoping that nothing bad happens to him while I'm here, because I'm already so close to him that I cry when I think about him dying, the same way I cry when I think about my parents or anyone else I'm very very close with, passing on. If I'd never met anyone in Japan other than Shoki, my stay here would still be worth every minute. He inspires me to live life without surrendering, and not just to get by, but to live as graciously as I possibly can.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair

Elad Haber has another one of his short short rewritten fairy tales ala Angela Carter meets Aimee Bender and do cocaine together up at Pindeldyboz. Go read.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Daydream Believer

Yay, got copies of the new Realms of Fantasy issue with a story of mine in it recently, (thanks Karen and Mom and Dad). And the illustration is as nice in person as it is online, so I'm happy about that. The bio in the front is a bit outdated, though. I was never asked for a new one, and hadn't thought to email and ask, so it appears as if I'm still living in Youngstown, doing my Master's Degree in English at Youngstown State University, instead of living in Japan, teaching English to junior high and elementary school kids.

In any case, am happy that the story turned out well. I was also worried there might be textual mistakes, as I wasn't sent galleys this time. Not sure if Realms stopped doing that or if they just forgot to send me mine. But there is only one sort of weirdly spaced paragraph thingy and nothing else, I think, that got a little ruffled in transition.

Other than this, the ninth graders graduated today. It was majorly sad, lots of teary eyed kids and parents and teachers. I was given bouquets of flowers from various students, and letters written to me (some in English, some in Japanese, some in both when they couldn't figure out what to say in English) and one class drew a picture of my face and then made squares around it on a really nice framable piece of board where they each had a square to themselves to write me a message. Sweetest kids in the world.

Now I'm off to daydream for a while. I am in need of daydreaming a lot right now. Really badly.

Sunday, March 06, 2005



Okay, finishes happy little kid dance.

Oh wait...


Okay okay, finishes dance again.

Oh now come on! EEEE!!!!

Actually I am in the middle of this last EEEE!!! and it's a really good trip so far!

Three of my absolutely fabulous favoritest writers with new collections all in the same year. It's like paying for an ounce and getting a pound delivered.

(Last reference thrown in for Elad, who I know is squealing like a little kid too).

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Ugly Truth About Japanese Game Centers

So far it's gone largely unnoticed by the rest of the world, but one of the most insidious crimes being perpetrated at the moment is happening in what seems to be innocuous game centers in Japan. I had the chance to go undercover to one of these "game centers" last time I was in Nagoya visiting Tadashi, and here are a few pics I managed to take with the aid of the spy camera in my cell phone.

Yes, I'm sorry to say it's true, but Hello Kitty is kept behind glass like a common stripper for the amusement of passersby. The poor dear. How could they??

And not only is poor Hello Kitty held captive for the viewing pleasures of paying customers, but the rumor that if Hello Kitty does not behave she is transformed into the terrible hellcat of Japan is actually quite true. I found a whole bin of former Hello Kitties serving out their sentence behind glass, roasting in hell.

It is also true that the Japanese force their captives in the game centers to appear happy, as if they "like" the life they're leading. Oh Pooh! They got you too??

This mobile panda misbehaved while we were at the "game center" and you would not believe what its punishment was. They actually tied it up by its neck to the rafters of its cage and opened the gate on the opposite side. The poor thing was so deluded it kept choking itself as it tried to get to freedom.

It is also horrifyingly true that the Japanese experiment and that strange creatures are bred from these terrifying exploits done in the name of science. I am not even sure what these creatures should be called. For now I simply call them the "Droplets". I find their crazed smiles most disturbing.

I think this image speaks for itself, don't you? Hmmph!

And yes, also quite horrifying was discovering that the rumor about Poohs that are actually "grown" are true. Vast fields of them can be found in Japanese "game centers", hooked up to machines that use their bioelectricity as a source of sustenance. It's quite sickening.

Among their life of imprisonment, these poor creatures are also subject to various tortures. Many suffer from the wrath of "the claw" daily.

We made it out quite safely, so there's no need to worry. I just hope that this expose will serve to be a catalyst for an international investigation.