Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hime (?) - Ukina [PV]

There's a subgroup of younger people in Japan who have adopted rap and hip hop personas to their identity. Hime is an interesting example, though she doesn't seem to have gone as far as some in adopting hip hop culture. There are some kids, mostly girls, who tan and tan until they look as dark as possible and call themselves kokujin, black people. There's a character in my second novel that is one of them. I can see her very easily attending one of Hime's concerts.

I actually can understand her rap better than a lot of male rappers for some reason.


The Nitro Microphone Underground was the first Japanese rap group I ever heard. My Japanese friends who speak English say they can't understand English in rap songs, and I can only pick out phrases here and there in Japanese rap, too, so it's a mutual gap, I guess.

Shimajiro Toilet Training

And then I go from all that reading of books and sharing of thoughts to finding this Japanese toilet training video online and laughing until my stomach hurt.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Book Report

I have been having a bit of a reading fest since returning home. Well I've been reading a lot more than I usually had time to do for the past couple of years. A full time job teaching, along with learning another language and writing a novel and some short stories along the way, as well as taking trips to Thailand and other various places in Japan and also just regular recreational time with friends gave me a really full schedule, so I was reduced to reading maybe a book a month when I lived overseas. But in the past two months I've read five books! I feel like I'm in heaven, having read so many. Five books in two months!! Incredible! I used to read a book or two a week at one time in my life, but I really did nothing but read and write and study at that time. I have other things to do now, but I'm still going to try to work myself back up to fitting four books into my monthly readings.

All of these books were really good for varying reasons. First up, I loved Hal Duncan's "Vellum", and was thrilled to find an SF book with credible gay male characters in it that live and breathe and love and have sex and are--well, gasp!-- human! And who figure into the actual plot importantly! I'm psyched to read the sequel, Ink.

Francesca Lia Block's "Necklace of Kisses" was a very pretty book, though it felt slighter than her previous Weetzie Bat books, and though I love Blocks' prose and details, her poetic imagery and her genius for describing things in the realm of the senses, I do feel like her all grown-up Weetzie was a bit of a passive character, not doing much of anything for herself to earn her happy ending. Most of the time she sat in a ritzy hotel and ate Japanese food and allowed other people to compliment her and make her feel better about her middle aged self. It's true, as Holly Black brought up in conversation at Wiscon, that Weetzie has always been a character who loves everyone she comes into contact with, so it would feel good for her to be reciprocated this unconditional love as well, but narratively this reciprocation had no tension. I still liked the writing though.

Theodora Goss' collection, "In the Forest of Forgetting" was full of beautiful prose as well, and beautiful stories. It's always a pleasure to read Dora's writing. This book in particular was a treat as I hadn't had a chance to read any of the stories that repetitively feature a character known as Miss Grey, a witch who intervenes in the lives of central characters and attempts to aid them in some way. I would love to see a full length Miss Grey novel. I really liked that character quite a bit.

Reading Alan Deniro's collection "Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead" was more of a re-reading for me because I'd read all but one of the stories either as a critiquer for Alan sometime in the past, or when they first appeared in a journal or magazine or anthology. I really love Alan's stories because no one in the world writes like him or could, and there's an authentic original sort of thinking being done in his stories. He never takes easy ways out of narrative problems, and I admire his fiction for its depth and breadth. I can't wait to read his new novel, which I hope sells to some lucky publisher soon.

Justina Robson's "Living Next Door to the God of Love" made me absolutely jealous. It's the sort of book I wish I could write. It's the sort of book I had to sit up with late at night and read and read and read until I finished. I ran through this book so fast that when I was done with it I couldn't believe it was over. It's a big book too! Around 450 pages, I believe, and if anyone knows my readerly tics, one is that I'm suspicious of novels that grow beyond four hundred pages. I have less of a suspicion about that now that I've written two novels and know that even the space of a novel sometimes feels limited, but it's a tic of mine that exists nonetheless. In any case, this is a far future novel of ideas, and I do mean Ideas, with a big I, because it really does have a narrative tjat explores the philosophy of Eros in our lives, not just in the far future, that is rigorous and honest and uncomfortable, which is to say, full of truth. What was even better about this book is that it was told with such clarity and with characters so compelling and real that I disappeared into it the way I did as a teenager while reading a book, trying to find a place for myself in its pages. I cannot recommend this book enough, and am about to go seek out Justina Robson's previous novels and look forward to her new series of novels that are beginning to be published first in England before hopefully making their way into print here in the States as well.

That's it for me. Book report over.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Still and still and still...

I don't know why it's taken so long for the Boston Globe to talk about the disappearing of thousands and thousands and thousands of votes in the 2004 election, but apparently now they find it worthwhile to call for an investigation of the election. If the media in our country had any notion of honesty, this would have been something they all called for immediately after it was reported that a couple hundred thousand people in Ohio were blocked from voting or disqualified for no apparent reason. Not to mention the faulty voting machine strategically placed in particular areas of this state. I'd like to hope that more op-eds and other voices like it could shake Americans out of their affectlessness, but I think it's going to take something much bigger than words to change the hearts of our culture. At this point, it will most likely have to be something tragic on a stellar scale. And even then I'm sure the avaricious creatures that run our country at this point, both in the government and the media, will find a way to turn it to their own advantage. They have that history.

Link found at the Kool Aid Underground.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

First Review

The new Rabid Transit has got a great review by E. Sedia at Tangent Online. Read it and then if you still haven't ordered it (or our past issues) go here and get one.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Mmm, Placebo's new album is lovely. Brian Molko's short hair is cute, but I sort of miss his long girly hair.

English Lesson 0 Matrix in Japanese accent

My friend Naoko just sent me this. It's had me laughing all morning. Aah, brings back memories.

utada hikaru this is love

My friend Tadashi let me know Utada Hikaru's new Japanese album just came out. I'm sooo excited to hear all of the songs on it. This is the lead song on "Ultra Blue" the new cd. This is true blue J-Pop. I love it!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

If you meant to but forgot...

The 2006 edition of Rabid Transit has been published and debuted at Wiscon last month. It's a really amazing collection of stories we gathered this year, and I hope you'll take a look at it. You can order it here. Or, if you've never experienced reading the Ratbastard chapbooks before, you can order all of them at a cheaper price than it is to order individual issues. Give them a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Also I've been meaning to get the word out that the new issue of Flytrap is out as well, also debuting at Wiscon last month. It has a great cover photo that Heather Shaw took on her and Tim Pratt's honeymoon in Hawaii, and is full of really good stories from Haddayr Copley-Woods, Barth Anderson, Meghan McCarron, Ruth Nestvold, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, and David Ira Cleary. My story, "Learning to Leave" is also in this issue. Erin Donahoe is the featured poet, and there are nonfiction samplings by Nick Mamatas and Erin as well. You can buy a copy of it here.

Lots of good stuff is out there right now. Go get it!

Two more from around town

A close up of my favorite house in town...

and the little farm across the road from it.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

So True

I am a toboggan!
Find your own pose!

Yes, I've been reduced to taking silly internet quizzes. Other than that, I've been writing and working out and karaokeing (Tuesday nights!) and reading a lot (thank you, English language publishers) and thinking about the next book (or two or three) that I'd like to write after I'm finished making the second novel I wrote in Japan ready for submission to publishers and getting ready to visit New York and Boston the first week of July (if you'll be there between the 3rd and the 10th, give me an email, maybe we can have lunch or go to karaoke or something) and occasionally shopping, being hard sold skin care products by overly flirtatious Italians named Giovanni and Moriah in the mall (totally scary and sexy at the same time).

Other than these things, mostly I've been thinking about Japan, how quickly it's become a far place in my life, which makes me sad. People always ask me how the culture shock of returning home is, and often I don't know how to answer. I expected to come home and find many things changed in two years, and that I'd have to do a lot to catch up with the life I'd left behind here, but not much has changed, and I feel like I've slipped into something of a routine here already. And culture shock doesn't seem like the right word to use, now that I'm back. Culture daze feels more appropriate. Everything feels familiar but just a little strange at the same time. I have a hard time not referring to Japan or things Japanese during conversations, which annoys me so it must annoy other people, but at the same time, that's been my life for the past couple of years and all of my reference points are going to lead back to that life until enough of one is made here again.

There's a part of me constantly wandering back to Japan though. I make myself remember as much as I can sometimes, recalling my daily life there, the faces of my coworkers and students and friends, the smell of my favorite restaurants and the flowers that bloom in the spring in summer there, I have conversations with myself in Japanese and watch Japanese movies and listen to Japanese music, I recall conversations I had there, climbing Mt. Fuji with Katie during a Typhoon, taking the bullet train to see Tadashi in Nagoya, the view from Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, Jody's house out in the countryside where I spent my last month, being hit by the semi truck inside a mountain tunnel after getting my driver's license finally, running with the track team after school and Ryu drawing the kanji for friend in the dirt for me. I feel like a piece of myself is missing. Or maybe it's a piece of myself that doesn't feel at home here in a different way than I've ever felt before, because the home it's longing for is thousands of miles away.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Utada Hikaru - Dareka

I lied. One more video. This is Utada Hikaru's "Dareka no Negai ga Kanua Goro" which means "When Someone's Wish Comes True" which sounds sort of Disney-ish, but it's really a sad song, the title is only the first of half of the whole lyric, which continues on to say, "someone else will be crying," because not everyone's wish can come true at the same time. I used to listen to Utada's music a lot when I was first learning Japanese, because she sings really clearly and sometimes her lyrics are simpler and so it was encouraging to listen to her and begin understanding songs in Japanese. She's mostly a balladic type love song singer, with lots of pop thrown in as well, but I still have a soft spot for her. But I don't like her English language music. She loses something special, not because she's not a good singer in English, but because her songs just have a feeling of sameness and poppiness that isn't very original. Her lyrics in Japanese are at least really sincere and can at times be really emotionally raw.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Brilliant Green - Ai No Ai No Hoshi

The last video I'll post tonight. is wonderful. This is the Brilliant Green's "Ai No Ai No Hoshi", which means, "Planet of Love" or my preference for translation's sake, "The Star of Love". I love the lead singer, Tommy. She also sings beautifully in English.

clammbon - kimi ha boku no mono

One of my other favorite Japanese groups--Clammbon. This one is called "Kimi wa Boku no Mono" which means "You're mine".

It's so good to hear Japanese, even if it's only in music or movies, right now.

Asian Kung-Fu Generation - ?????

If you haven't listened to the Asian Kung Fu Generation before, watch this video. I love this song. It's called "Kimi to iu Hana" which means "A Flower Called You". Actually a literal translation might be "A Flower Named You" but I prefer "called" in this case.

I miss Japanese karaoke. I was learning this song when I left. If I find the Asian Kung Fu song that was part of my Japanese repetoire, I'll post it.

Oh, and if you do watch this video, watch till at least a little halfway through, as there is the cutest scene with the small dancer and the band members on the narrow pier. I love it.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Coming Home

Since the pages of this journal have been dedicated for so long to my time living in Japan, I have been a bit at a loss for what to put here since returning home. I don't feel much like writing about how it feels to be home again, actually; my emotions are disjointed, my impressions foggy. I don't feel so much re-entry culture shock so much as culture haze. Too much is familiar, and the most disappointing thing is that not enough has changed. So instead of writing about that, I've decided to occasionally journal about the America to which I've returned home, the same way I'd been journaling my time in Japan. It seems only fair that my friends in Japan and abroad (and hey, even any Americans reading this) see where I'm living and what I'm doing and who I'm hanging out with here in the States. My culture is as rich and strange as Japan's. Sometimes I think we Americans forget to look around at our own oddities.

So for this first entry, I give you some pictures of where I'm living, the roads I'm driving, and a couple of the first friends and loved pets I saw upon my return.

Coming home from Niles, the nearest sort of city, more of a suburb really, like where I was living in Japan, this is the road that leads home for me once the housing developments and malls and superstores disappear and the farmland begins to take over.

On either side of the road, fields and more fields, and my favorite farmhouse in the distance, behind the line of trees in the first photo. There's beautiful garden up there, with a rose trellis, and benches to sit under. A big family lived there when I was a kid, and I used to want to live there. I've always developed crushes on big families for some reason; I suppose perhaps it's because my own brothers and I are far apart in years; by the time I was even in fifth grade my oldest brother was already moved out and living on his own. I always wanted a big rollicking family in a big rollicking house, where we all fought but got over it and loved each other intensely. Those families seemed like they had it made.

A corner of my uncle and aunt's place at the other end of the road where my mom and dad and grandma and grandpa and brothers and their families and now I, too, live.

My friend Brooke

My Cat Hobbes (and his bear)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Wiscon Photos

I'm still too tired to write a con report, but I did get a Flicker account and upload my photos, which you can view here. Perhaps an actual con report will come soon. Puh-leeze forgive my laziness. I am trying to get back into my normal writing and working out routine. On top of this, my horrid laptop is once again in the shop. I want to just break down because I've only been able to use it maybe three days since I've come back from Japan. I'm about to go out and buy me an Ibook and say to hell with the old one, which should still have years of life left in it. So mad making. Arrgh. Anyway, photos, enjoy.