Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Infinite Cat Project

Cat examines flower. Said cat examines picture of cat examining flower. Next cat examines picture of cat examining picture of cat examining flower. Next cat examines picture of cat examining picture of cat examining picture of cat examining flower. Next cat....

The Infinite Cat Project - Cats watching cats watching cats. Hey! It's a concept!

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Almost forgot:

The Sting concert in Hiroshima was INCREDIBLE. I'll post more on this one later...

Update: How Things Stand with regards to Kimland

In this post, I spoke of recent tensions between Japan and North Korea, with specific mention of Japanese people abducted to North Korea.

Now, the only dialogues anyone has had with the North Korean government lately have been in the form of six-nation summit meetings (Japan, the U.S., China, North Korea, South Korea, and Russia), intended to negotiate the cessation of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. These have largely been unproductive.

One of the main sticking points for Japan is the abductee issue. When DNA tests proved that the cremated remains that North Korea sent to Japan weren't those of Yokota Megumi, the Japanese government fired off an angry protest to Pyongyang, and people here began to call for economic sanctions against North Korea. Somehow, I find the idea of sanctions against a nearby neighbor with a nuclear weapons program and an...unstable...leadership to be somewhat troubling.

Aside: Apparently, a few years ago, Sakaiminato City (my current location) did a lot of trade with North Korea. Mainly fish and other seafood, from what I hear. Since trade with North Korea has been severely restricted in recent years, the population of this city has decreased, and many stores and other businesses stand empty.

Today, the North Korean embassy (in Bejing) finally responded to the complaint about the false remains. Their response: Since it is impossible to do DNA testing on remains that have been cremated at 1200 degrees Celsius, obviously the Japanese government has fabricated these results. (They're also demanding the return of the ashes.)

In a not-entirely-unrelated note, according to the "Visit to Kimland" travelogue linked to below, one of the reasons South Korea is wary of a quick reunification is because it will cost FAR too much money to bring North Korea up to the 21st century in terms of science, technology, and infrastructure. Many North Koreans literally can not comprehend this.

And finally, in a couple of weeks the Japanese national soccer team will play North Korea in a World Cup qualifying match. That should be interesting...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Natural Ideal style of eating vegetable.

Subway the dominant sandwich shop in the US is now available in over 74 countries. Here in Japan, we serve Subway sandwiches as a new style of Native Diet. This simply means that Subway sandwiches are the Natural Ideal style of eating Vegetables. We hope to spread this form of Native Diet to create a healthy living for both humans and the environment.

--copied from a bag of potato wedges, odd capitalization and all

"Native Diet," huh?

Well, even if it isn't really Japanese, it's closer to a "Native Diet" than freakin' Twinkie Sushi!

(Let me add that, on the discussion board where I first saw that picture, they also suggested using chocolate sauce and green Pixie Stix dust to make a "soy sauce and wasabi" surrogate. Eeeyuch.)

Saturday, January 22, 2005

What. The. HELL?!

Twinkie SUSHI???

Planet Twinkie - Recipe Box

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Hiroshima in Winter

I just posted this on the Straight Dope message boards. I thought that I should also post it here. A warning; it's a bit long...

I just came back from my second trip to Hiroshima. Admittedly, this time I had a fun reason to go (Sting did a concert there on Sunday the 16th), but I made time to visit the Peace Park once again.

The first time I went to the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima, I was struck by how even-handed their description of events was. The first exhibit hall candidly displays how around the time of the Meiji Restoration, Hiroshima went from being a castle town to a military staging point for the Russo-Japanese and Sino-Japanese conflicts. The displays include pictures of railways and dams built by prisoner-of-war labor. They also include brief, dispassionate descriptions of how the atomic bomb came to be, and how Hiroshima was chosen as a target.

The English-speaking volunteers are also quick to mention that Japan did some horrible things during those years. The ones I spoke to did not hesitate to admit these things. They don't dwell on blame, or correctness...they just tell it as it happened.

Next was a brief history of the reconstruction of Hiroshima, and an exhibit hall that shows the current state of the proliferation of nuclear weaponry. After that, I walked into the central building of the museum, where they describe the immediate effects of the atomic bomb, and the long-term human suffering that ensued.

It was at this point in my first visit that I actually lost it, and rushed out of the museum. My mind couldn't comprehend the incredible, horrific events that they were documenting. An entire city laid to waste in the briefest of moments. Lives destroyed in an instant; unfortunate souls who had the ill luck to survive the blast with horrific injuries; people struck down years afterwards, when they had thought they had survived without harm.

This time, I was able to spend more time in this part of the exhibit. I was again struck by how much pain and suffering that the people of Hiroshima went through. But what was more striking was how, after the people of Hiroshima began to rebuild, they consciously chose to embrace peace. It would have been understandable if these people would have been angry, or demanded revenge somehow, yet instead, they rebuilt Hiroshima to be a city of peace, in the hopes that their message would spread around the world. Not just Hiroshima, either; the fact that many Japanese are loath to change Article 9 of the United States-written Japanese constitution -- the article that says in part, "the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes" -- speaks much to this point.

I'm not trying to debate the rightness or wrongness of what happened at the end of World War II. For what it's worth, I think that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki helped to bring about a quick end to the war, avoiding a long drawn-out, extremely difficult invasion of the Japan home islands. I also think that my opinion in this case is too simplistic -- I am not a student of history, sadly.

Yet, seeing the results of war is unsettling, to say the least. The volunteer I spoke with in the museum pointed out to me that at the end of the war, all of Japan was already a battlefield, and that, more than anything, was why the Japanese people embraced peace. (And why so many Japanese are upset over the JSDF being deployed to a war zone.) She wondered how American public opinion might be different if more people knew what living in a war zone was like. I had no answers for her.

Near the exit of the Museum, they have placed notebooks in which visitors can record their thoughts. Many people write many things, some sympathetic; some saying that Japan got what it deserved. All I could write was, "No more."

I left the museum, walking through the mostly empty park on a cool winter's afternoon. I stood before the cenotaph where the record of names of people lost to the bomb is kept. It is inscribed with the words, "Let all the souls here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil." I rang the bell at the Children's Memorial, where the statue of Sadako and her golden crane stand. I saw a statue of a teacher holding the body of an elementary school student, on the spot where the ashes and bones of a teacher and her class were found.

I stood at the point directly beneath where the atomic bomb exploded, just to the northeast of the Peace Memorial Park.

I looked up.

And I thought to myself, Must it take extraordinary suffering to drive people to sue for peace?

I hope not. I hope that more people can be brought around to this point of view, without having to experience war as more than an abstract concept. "No more," indeed.

I apologize for the length of this piece. I'm not sure if there was any real point to it, but I had to let it out.

Thank you for your time.

Robert

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Millennium Actress

Folks,

Go See This Movie.


Millennium Actress


Animation at its best.

(and more evidence that animation is a medium, not a genre!)

edited to add: Here's another site.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Aargh.

Note to self: Don't watch vaguely romantic movies after midnight. feh.

So, it's taken a while, but I'm slowly settling in here in Tottori prefecture. Not much to do around here, but that's okay, since I don't have as much money as I used to. (The new job doesn't pay as well as JET, but that's only to be expected, actually. This job actually pays quite well for jobs like this. JET is in a separate category of its own...)

Still, it gets kind of dull at times. And cold. (definitely not like Kagoshima.) So, I'm glad that there's a video rental place that's actually within reach for me here. By bus, that is. Although, I've spent enough time wandering around in the cold wet (it does snow occasionally here) that I've picked up a cold now and then.

Actually, because of that, I have had my first experience visiting a doctor in Japan. The last time I had a noticeably bad cold, my boss started nagging me to go to the hospital. Not as bad as it sounds -- in this case, hospital can also mean clinic. Anyway, I told my boss that I didn't really need to see a doctor, I could just go to the drug store and pick up the same cold meds I always get (there's an analgesic, a decongestant, and some sort of powder in the standard "cold meds" pack). But no, you've got your national insurance card, so go. >sigh< So, I went to the clinic, and started filling out forms. Fortunately one of my students was a receptionist there, and she helped me out. After waiting for a couple of hours (really) in the lobby, the doctor saw me. He asked a few questions to make sure I didn't have the flu, and then he gave me --

-- an analgesic, a decongestant, and some sort of powder. Same price as the drugstore, too. Oh well. I 'm gonna get billed for the visit, too...

yes, this was aimless rambling. Got a problem with that? (^_^)

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Shinnen Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!

"Congratulations on the dawn of a new year!" is what that title roughly translates to. I hope that you all made it safely into 2005. As for me, I spent New Year's Eve having a steak dinner and watching the "Red-White Song War." (That's an annual New Year's tradition; on New Year's Eve, popular singers are gathered into a red team (women) and a white team (men), and they have a competition. It's a four-hour show (with occasional news breaks and special guests), with singers from each team alternating. At the end, the live audience (plus people with high-tier digital satellite/cable) vote on who wins. This year it was the women's team.

For the past three years, after watching the show, I would walk to the small Shinto shrine near my apartment and greet the new year with my neighbors. Not this year, though -- I don't know where the local shrine is, and I don't know all that many people.

I guess that's the main difference between this job and JET. Because JET was a government job, and because I went to ALL of the schools in town, I was much more well-known. This job is at a small private school, so I don't get to meet as many people....

Right now, it's almost 4:00 AM, and I'm still wide awake. Because my job has kind of screwy hours -- 12:30 PM to 9:30 PM most days, but one day is 10:00 to 4:30 -- my sleep schedule is really screwed up. I guess that's another difference between here and JET.

Although, the fact that I stayed up really late on New Year's Eve and New Year's day probably has more to do with it right now.

Later,
Rob