Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Last Week, This Week

Last weekend at the Edosaki Gion Matsuri (Gion Festival).

Me and some of my adoring students (fans).

Me Pete and Kevin.

This week mom and aunt have arrived.
At the Ueno Zoo.

Celebrating Mom's pull of the Best Fortune in Asakasa like I did.

A view of Tokyo from Ueno Zoo.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


First draft of recent headache inducing story finished. First half of new book finished. I didn't think I'd get it done before my mom arrived. She'll be here tomorrow afternoon. After that I won't be writing much here for a couple weeks, though I'll probably check in every now and then. I'm sure my mom and aunt will make me see Japan with new eyes again. I think I've gotten used to many things that seem common and everyday now that were very odd to me at first. So that'll be fun, I hope.

See ya later!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Two Poems On My Anniversary

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?


When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

Both by Mary Oliver

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Thirty Years Old In Japan, Non-smoker (except socially), Likes Cuddling By The Fireplace And Long Walks On The Beach, What R U Waiting 4?!?!

Another pic from our karaoke night with our new friends.

As mentioned, some pics of the people in the float at the Arakawaoki festival.

The person in the mask put on a great show.

After our day in Asakusa, we got off the train in Kashiwa before coming all the way back to Ami and ate at a little English pub called The Hub. English pub style fish and chips are always welcomed when we have a taste for a different sort of food, and also you can buy Absinthe at the Hub, which is apparently illegal in the U.S.? Correct me if I'm wrong. I know all you correctors out there will anyway, ;-) Anyway, Absinthe is toxic green color and tastes like black licorice. It also makes you feel really really weird after a couple of 'em.

For example, you may begin to point to your nose in reference to yourself, at the same time as the person next to you.

Or like poor Karina here, you may come to believe that your hands can be used in the same manner as opera glasses.

And if you have one too many, you may get a bit unstable. It takes several days to recover from this sort of affair.

The Platform and other pics

Do you remember when I first got here, and when I wrote about going to my first elementary school, and how I was trotted out to a dusty field behind the school where row upon row of small children in little outdoor uniforms were waiting for me to climb up on a platform and introduce myself to them *in Japanese* even though I'd only been here a couple of weeks, how I managed to do it somehow (thank god for that year of Japanese my senior year of high school!) and how when I told them "Ganbare!" they all shouted "Ganbarimasu!" which made me suddenly feel like I was a communist? Well, this is the platform.

Oh jeez, I can't remember if I even put this photo on here before, but these kids are so f***ing adorable I have to put it up again, even if I already did. They're at one of my elementary schools.

Me and Katie and Beth and Mona in Asakusa.

Three wonderful Japanese ladies who had us over to make "shabu shabu" in the winter. Mmm, I loves me some shabu shabu.

The flower the festival in Asakusa was centered around, I believe, though of course I've forgotten the name of it now. Katie, or wonderful and nice Japanese readers who are reading this, can you tell me?

Let's play a game of "Where's Waldo?" only find me instead. This is heading towards the entrances to Asakusa's major temple at the end of the famous rows and rows of street vendors.

A float at a recent festival in Arakawaoki. Closeups of the people inside the float to come.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Pics, New and Old

For the next few weeks, I will probably saying very little on here, but will be posting quite a few pictures instead. My friends, Beth, Katie, and Mona and I all got together last weekend and swapped pictures we'd all individually taken while together here, and I literally have over a hundred new pics from times that I forgot to bring my camera or else the pics I took didn't come out nice, etc. I'm sort of crazy busy at the moment, trying to read a book and write an analyses and summary of it, along with finishing up work at my schools, and also this weekend is nonstop party action planned for my birthday (first a festival in the town where I teach, and then the following night dancing in Roppongi). After that, my mom and aunt arrive. And I'm *still* trying to finish a story that's taking me forever to write. It's nearly there, but this one has been a monster to me. Let's hope the efforts will be rewarded one day, in some way shape or form.

So for a while, pictures! Without much explanation either, I'm afraid. I'm saving my words for other projects now. So if you have any questions, go ahead and feel free to ask.

Beth and I play karuta this past winter at the home of some Japanese friends. We play karuta with the kids in the elementary schools to teach them English vocabulary. These kind women turned the tables on us and had us play it with Japanese vocabulary and kana.

During the Spring when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. We did the traditional thing and had a picnic under them.

The famous night when Masahiro picked up Mona and we went to the karaoke bar together. Here I am translating to Masa (this is not the "date" I went on with them, this is just the first night they met).

We went to a festival in Arakawaoki, the town next door, last weekend. Here are the girls in front of a wall of lanterns.

We drank a lot of wine that night. Mmm, so good.

But then they made us carry the shrine with the god inside it!

With all that wine, it was so heavy!

But while Mona and I look indignant, full of wine, Beth hadn't been drinking and seemed to make it into a sort of salsa dance or something. Jealous!

Back at Beth's apartment, I was about to give Katie a sexy dance out on the balcony (see the wonderfully placed hand grips on the bottom of the balcony overhead--good for dance club "cage dancing" simulation) but Beth caught us before I could get very far. Katie's all like, pff, I'm not stupid! I'm always up for a little somethin somethin.

And lastly, from about a month or so ago, in a cafe beneath Shinjuku Station, drying out from the sudden MONSOON-like rain that came crashing down on us, me and Jody.

Apparently I'm having a lot of fun here!

Monday, July 18, 2005

A Realms I Wish I Could Read

I see in the new Realms of Fantasy that Theodora Goss and Amy Beth Forbes both have stories. They were reviewed on the Tangent site, which was positive for both stories (though Tangent is up and down, sometimes they have interesting reviews, sometimes they're really nothing more than a summary of a story, which is to say not interesting). Anyway, I've always loved Theodora's work, and it's been a good long while since I've heard from Amy Forbes (who went to Clarion with Dora, too, if I remember correctly). Makes me wish Realms was able to be purchased over here. I'll have to do an overseas subscription if that's possible. In any case, Amy, if you're out there, it's been a while! Hope you're well. Drop a note in here if you read this.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Stranger Magic Sometimes Happens for Beginners

You can read Kelly Link's Stranger Things Happen by downloading it here for free. Then, after you're done (or halfway through) and realize you're in love with her stories, you can buy the real book here. (Um, same page, but you can order the book at the top of it in small print it appears). Then, after that, you can go and buy her new collection of stories, Magic for Beginner's, here. But after that, I'm afraid I'm not sure what you'll be able to do but pine away for the next story, collection or word of affection until Ms. Link releases her next masterpiece.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Oh what a good book Scott Westerfeld has written. Peeps came two days ago as a birthday present, today it's finished and I am a happy reader. The book isn't released, I believe until next month, but since Scott is one of my Peeps (or am *I* one of his Peeps--read the book) I got it as a birthday present. Lucky me. If you think you've read (and been eventually bored) by every sort of Vampire fiction out there, get ready to be totally into vampires again, because this book makes them new.

Also, Margo Langan's collection Black Juice arrive, another birthday present from the wonderful David Schwartz. I've already read the first story, and though I did not cry at the end like so many readers have described, I was deeply moved. "Singing My Sister Down" is amazing. Can't wait to read the rest.

Last weekend I went to Asakusa with some friends to a festival. It was way cool. In the temple at Asakusa, I threw some coins to the gods and waved smoke from the burning incense over my head to get rid of bad spirits and thank the Japanese spirits for the past year. In the temple, there is a cannister filled with a lot of wooden sticks that have various kanji burned into the side of them. If you swirl the cannister in your arms, a stick will fall out of the bottom. Then you take the stick to a wall full of what looks like the old card catalog system in libraries, only cooler, because each little card holder has a different kanji combination on the front of it to match those on the sticks. Once you match your stick to the right drawer, you open and pull out a slip of paper with your fortune on it. When my stick fell out and I found my drawer, the young Japanese couple behind me sort of gasped and the man said, "Best! Best fortune!" and indeed when I turned the slip of paper over to find the English translation, it was the Best Fortune you could receive out of all of those sticks (and there are a ton of them). "Lucky!" I said, and the girl said, "Lucky, lucky!"

My friend beth has some pics from the day on her website, if you scroll down past her trip to the zoo you will see the Asakusa pics. I, as usual, forgot my camera. Sometimes I forget that I won't be here forever. I just get caught up in living and forget to snap as many pictures as possible.

I teach tomorrow and then one day next week and then it is my birthday and I am on summer vacation for six weeks starting on my birthday and I am deliriously happy about that. Natsuyasumi, how I long for you.

Monday, July 11, 2005

New Stuff Online

The ever wonderful Alan Deniro has updated my webpage so that a new story of mine can be read online. "The Language of Moths" originally appeared in Realms of Fantasy this past April. I like the story a lot and want to make it available to read online for a while (probably not forever) so that more people can have the chance to read it since the shelf life of a magazine goes by quickly and you can miss issues before you even turn around. So if you so desire, you can read it here for free.

My bibliograghy
has been updated as well, though that's not as interesting (I think) as reading a story. Though I'm sure it tells a story of its own in some way.

Thanks for the changes, Alan!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Average Reader (updated)

Thanks for the correction, Karen.

I like this story. It has plenty of ambiguity, but not so much that the average reader can't figure out what is going on.

This is clipped from a recent review in Tangent by James Palmer. I have absolutely no aim to start a brawl here, or to incite rage when I ask this question. I ask out of a sincer desire to have other people answer me: Who is the Average Reader?

I wonder because doesn't everyone think of themselves as the average reader? And if so, how can we make assessments of books and stories and literature in general by applying a theory of an average reader's understanding quotient? If you're reading, James, I mean no disrespect. But I don't understand who this average reader is and how it can be used as a factor in assessing the value or success of a story.

Anyone have illuminating ideas?

My previous post is actually much more important and interesting to me. But I couldn't help but ask this question when it occurred to me so urgently.

Interactive Bring It On

Today was Interactive Forum, a contest where kids from around the local area schools compete in small discussion groups speaking in English. Three eighth graders and three ninth graders from each local school come together, and in groups of four have three different conversations. The first one is a free talk. The second one they had to talk about friends. The third discussion was about their school life. At the end of round one, the two best speakers are taken from their group and moved to the second round. The ones who lose move into a category where they can try to get back into the second round. From the second round the winners then move into one big group for a final round, from which the two best speakers are chosen to go on to the regional tournament. After that, they winners move on to the prefecture tournament, and I suppose after that there is probably an All Japan tournament as well.

I was one of two judges for the local tournament. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done, too. To see all these kids coming from different schools, doing practice warmup discussions beforehand, practicing their pronunciation and grammar, trying their best to speak another language--well frankly I've never seen anything like it. In the U.S. we don't really place any importance on speaking foreign languages. We're complacent in that aspect of our culture to speak nothing but our own. And even the languages that are most often offered in our schools are still western languages. What these kids here are doing is incredibly hard and I'm in a little awe of them.

To make a long story short, the other judge was a local Japanese teacher of English, not in this district to make it fair. Unfortunately he and I disagreed on what was most important in the conversational abilities. He prized students who were outrageously cheery and ridiculously overbearingly happy while spoke, who would actually seem fake to a Western speaker of English. I prized students who spoke correct grammar and showed an earnest effort to communicate in a realistic manner difficult ideas. All of my ninth graders made it to second to final round, and one of them made it to the final round, a boy named Takayuki who is very serious and has an amazingly mature English vocabulary for a fifteen year old. But because he had a serious demeanor and didn't ask as many questions as he answered, the judge wouldn't give him the points necessary to move him on to the regional tournament. In fact I had to fight to get Takayuki to the last round. The other judge could only say how Taka didn't look happy enough. And I kept saying, but do you hear what he's saying?? His grammatical ability is leagues ahead of the others. Unfortunately, even with my high score for Taka, the other judge scored him so unfairly low that he doesn't get to go to the next tournament. Instead a boy who practically jumps out of his seat and claps alot and smiles radioactively gets to go. Nevermind that he still leaves out "is" and "are" from most of his sentences and forgets to pluralize most of the things in his conversation that need to be plural. (There's no plural form in Japanese, really, so this is very difficult to learn for the kids, but still, when you are making that mistake in a tournament and another student isn't, I would go with the correct speaker instead of the nuclear happy boy).

In the eight grade, we had some more success. My boy Shoki got high score hands down. Shoki is the boy who has a terminal illness but is somehow the happiest kid I ever met and speaks English that sounds like he grew up in America. I don't know how he does it. He was amazing. His questions were so complicated that most of the time the other students in his groups didn't have the faintest idea what he was asking them. They would sit there, stunned, until they finally said they didn't understand and that they'd now change the subject. There was one strange girl (who actually gets to go along with Shoki to regionals) who pulled out a pen and an eraser during the conversation on friends and told the others that these were her best friends and that they help her study. She had a very unnaturally happy manner of speaking, which of course the other judge adored, and she sounded crazy. Shoki asked her, "Why do you think they are your friends?" and she kept smiling but couldn't answer. Then he asked her, "Are you sure you're okay?" and she sort of tilted her head, still smiling crazily, and Shoki said, "Okay, let's change the subject maybe."

The eighth graders from my school were amazing. All three of them made it to the final round with the crazy girl, and one of the other two should be going with Shoki, but the other judge racked that girl with points for being insanely happy, as he did in the ninth graders tournament. A third judge would have been good to have there with me. I felt powerless sometimes because I was the foreign teacher, which would then make me frustrated because I'd think, "But hey! I know good English! I was born into this language!" and I wondered why they hadn't just had three judges, all Native English speakers, from a different school district do the judging. If they had, I think two more of the Edosaki kids would be going to regionals.

In any case, I was enormously proud of my kids. We walked back to school from the town hall (where the tournament was held) together, and I gave them all hugs and handshakes and told them that if I had my way the results would have been a little different. Afterwards we watched the film of the tournament that Fujita sensei videotaped and laughed at mistakes and applauded significantly important points and questions they each made. At the end of the day the eighth graders said they would all participate again next year as ninth graders and they wanted to know if I would be in Japan next year to teach them again. I hesitated and felt horrible because I have recently pretty much made up my mind to leave at the end of the school year, at the end of next March, and come home. But jeez if there's one thing that could sway me to do otherwise it's these kids grabbing my hands and wrapping their arms around my waist and asking me to please stay with them.

So I told them I didn't know yet. And felt like such a bad person somehow. I know that I'm not a bad person for not planning to stay and teach them another year--after all, I have my own family and friends back home that I miss in ways I didn't even know was possible that these kids don't understand yet--but I still managed to feel all stirred up emotionally about it nonetheless. I don't understand how it happened, but I've come to feel so responsible and to have so many feelings for a group of kids who I hadn't even known existed a year ago. And here they are, able to tug on my heart strings in the same way family and friends are able to affect your emotions and decisions. Even when and if I do come home at the end of next Spring like I plan, I already know that the part of myself they've managed to touch so deeply will miss them as profoundly as I miss my friends and family back home.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Bubba arrived (edited)

The new Rabid Transit arrived the other day too, and wow, it's gorgeous! GO BUY IT ALREADY!

Yay, Bubba Ho-Tep is here! Thanks David!

Back to working out too. Ugh, to start from the bottom up again. It's never fun. I got knocked out of my routine a few months ago and have been wishy washy about getting back into it. Well, this doesn't just go for working out, but also for everything in general. Once you get into a rut, it just gets harder and harder to climb out of until you finally just say, okay, this isn't going to change unless I do something about it. So, do something I will, I suppose. After all, I can't just keep lingering, waiting for something else to change instead of me.

Yes, that was grown up talk. Who knew it could come from me?

Sunday, July 03, 2005

One word

A meme stolen from Sharyn, who got it from Patrick.

Leave a one-word comment that you think best describes me, and that isn't my name or any of my nicknames, etc.

Just one word; no more. Unless, of course, you want to go on at length about me. Of course, if you want to go on at length about me, perhaps we should arrange for dinner and a movie, perhaps a quiet evening by the fireplace, sipping wine?


Then perpetuate the meme in your own journal (unless you don't want to).

I will even start. Lately: needy.

Not an attractive thing, but hey, I'm human too.

Saturday, July 02, 2005


Thanks to everyone who offered advice or notes of good tidings about my previous post. It is all greatly appreciated.

In other news, I think it's finally happened: I've become detached enough from the roots of my own language to experience something very much like either a reality breakdown or something sort of transcendental. I don't really even know how to explain the experience well, but I'm glad I'm having it; even the less pleasant aspects of it are rewarding, I suspect.

In other other news, I've gotten back to work on my second novel. For a few months, I was sort of on hiatus, only working on it in fits and starts. Am now moving forward once more and am happy to be back in it again. I have the first 150 pages, or thereabouts, and am planning on having it done before I come home next Spring, as I'm sure it'll be difficult to work on it as I'm trying to reacquaint myself with America.

Hope everyone has a good Fourth of July. And happy birthday, Mom!