Monday, November 09, 2009
Yes, it is!
I mean, it goes without saying that my sister's birth was the more momentous occasion in my life. I have only vague memories of going to the hospital that day, and I doubt very much that nearly-three-year-old me had any concept of what a new baby meant. Records from that time suggest I didn't take to my new sibling very well, as I began taking out my frustrations on other children at nursery school. I actually became a bully during this time, if you can believe that.
Our relationship had real ups and downs as the years passed. There were times where we found common interests and played games together, but there were also times when I believe we seriously hated one another. It rarely manifested itself physically, but there was a lot of tension in the house by the time we were both in high school. Then again, with my parents' divorce I guess the entire family was quietly tearing itself apart so two kids arguing wasn't really a big deal.
Things improved vastly once the four of us were no longer expected to live in the same house anymore. First it was Mom and Dad that separated, then Salena started college and I moved out shortly after that. I can remember going through a lot of difficult personal issues at that time, but at least fighting with my sister was no longer one of them. It didn't take long for our relationship settle in a very cordial position and I think it's stayed there ever since.
When I look at my son and I see myself (let's face it, he looks just like me) I often wonder what would happen if we had another baby. It's obviously something Mako wants, and I think deep down I want it too. I think back to the bad times my sister and I had, of course, but as nasty as things got that can't overshadow the years of good times, particularly as adults in the last decade or so. Go and his theoretical younger sibling would clash over dumb things like the television remote and who got to sit on the pillow in the backseat of the car, but eventually the two of them would be able to go to the movies together and laugh at their parents' behavior.
Let's face it; a brother or sister is often the only person you can really talk to about your parents. If Salena hadn't been there to commiserate with, I would have needed twice as many psychologists and therapists to discuss all the stuff that went on in my head. In my mind I see myself being a loving and attentive father, but I'm going to make mistakes. When that happens, won't Go need a safety valve, a partner in crime, a comrade-in-arms?
Alright, I've turned this birthday greeting into a tortured look at my own past/horrible vision of Go's future. My point is, my sister means a lot to me despite the fact that we now only see each other once or twice a year, tops. If we never spoke again I'd owe her for the years that she was there for me. I certainly didn't offer much older brotherly advice in the ways of the world; hell, for years she was the one doing everything right and I was the one who needed guidance.
So thank you, Salena, for *cough cough* years of being there for me and nevermind the three or four when we made each other miserable. I know you're in the middle of a lot of stuff right now and I can only hope that my recent happiness has, in some small way, helped you figure out what you want to do next. If yes, I still owe you, but at least I could partially make up for the time when I wasn't much of a brother.
つづく...(Click here to read more)
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Fight Club was released in US theaters on October 15th, 1999. I probably saw it two or three weeks later at the discount second-run Silver Cinemas near Poughkeepsie. I had no interest in the picture based on the advertising which seemed to focus on dudes fighting in a basement. Why would I want to watch a movie about that? Why would anyone?
Thankfully, my friend Joe called me at some point and told me I needed to see this movie. He assured me it wasn't about dudes fighting in a basement but wisely wouldn't tell me what it was actually about. Indeed, in that sense the advertising was actually brilliant in that in gave audiences no clue that Fight Club was actually a radical tale of anti-commercial ism and self-destruction. I've never managed to think of a way to successfully sell this story to people other than the way Joe did it: he told me I should see it and he was right.
I covered some of this in my now-five-year-old essay about meeting Chuck Palahniuk, but the impact Fight Club has had on my life is hard to underestimate. Superficially speaking, it became my favorite movie of all time (a title I think it still retains) and the book managed to draw me into reading as a hobby, something I was never really keen on. Not just Chuck Palahniuk's work either, but books in general and, surprisingly, non-fiction in particular. I still read novels but the ideas put forth in the movie motivated me to read more non-fiction because such books invariably force me to look at the world in a different light, questioning things I assumed were just or normal and making me consider alternative viewpoints.
Then again, I can't say I found myself espousing much of the same philosophy raised in Fight Club even if the movie seemed aimed directly at me. At the time it spoke to me because it was a movie about men who felt purposeless. The line that still sticks with me to this day more than any other is "I'm a thirty year old boy." I remember when I really was just a kid and I looked up at adults and I wondered when I would be a grown-up and know what to say and have a job and a family. When I saw Fight Club I was legally an adult at 22 but I was as lost as I ever had been as a kid. I lived alone in a crappy basement apartment, I had a dead-end job at the post office and my friends and I spent most of our weekends just drinking the time away. Some of them were in college at the time but I was years removed from my resounding academic failure and I had no plans to go back. I was single with absolutely no prospects, no confidence and no clue on how to even approach a woman. I was probably clinically depressed but too stubborn to get help. In every sense of the word, I was a loser.
I'm not going to say Fight Club turned things around for me (I credit my interest in Japan for that) but it definitely reminded me that I wasn't alone. It reminded me that my job, my apartment, my obesity and my loneliness did not define me as a person. I didn't need to feel lost because most people my age (or any age) were no more "complete" than I was. I was beating myself up for not having a girlfriend or a good job that people respected, but people who had those things weren't living problem-free lives, they just had different problems.
In Fight Club men get together and start doing horrible things to each other and society in general, but that wasn't the message I took away from the story. Rather than going out and get into fights, I just started going out for going out's sake. I began spending a lot more time visiting my college friends and meeting new people. I don't think it's a coincidence that less than a year after seeing Fight Club I enrolled in evening classes at The Japan Society in New York. The characters in the movie embraced self-destruction (and destruction in general, frankly) while I began a move towards self-improvement. They found purpose in fighting and retaking control of their lives, I just went for the latter without all the scarring the former would entail. The main character has an unfulfilling job and an unremarkable condo so he throws it all away in a quest to hit bottom - all so he can rebuild himself. I had much less to work with than he did but rather than destroy what I had, I skipped that part and just started fixing what little things I could. Maybe that's why it took me five years to finally quit that terrible job and get back to school.
I suppose there's no straight line to draw between Fight Club and anything it inspired me to do, see or read. All I can really say about it is that it's an excellent movie that I'll never forget. That doesn't make it sound very special but maybe it can't be special to everyone. At the very least, I promise you it's not about dudes fighting in a basement - although that totally happens.
つづく...(Click here to read more)
Monday, September 21, 2009
There was a reason I didn't prepare much over the weekend. We spent Saturday with Mako's parents, doing some shopping and simple errands. I borrowed their fax machine to handle some paperwork associated with my new job. I had never sent an international fax before and was generally unfamiliar with international calling rules in Japan, but everything seemed to work out. Hopefully they won't get a massive bill next month because I inadvertently entered them into a new calling plan or anything.
Saturday also happened to be our second/fourth anniversary but, sadly, we couldn't really have dinner or do anything as a couple. I would say last year's post is worth reading if you like to look backwards. I certainly never would have guessed that by our next anniversary, we'd have a baby. I look forward to telling him about how we met someday. Maybe I can use this blog to put it all in perspective for him.
Sunday was another undokai or "sports day" which I attended at the same school I went to last year. The big difference (and I mean big) was that last year's festivities were postponed for rain and this year they went off as planned on a Sunday. This meant the community events occurred and a full audience was on hand for it all.
The entire spectacle was magnified thrice over. Last year I speculated that I only saw half of a show because so many events were cut. The event I saw on Sunday was clearly more than just a sum of its parts. The community members were organized into teams designated by their neighborhood. Not only were mothers and fathers in attendance, but so were grandparents and siblings of all ages. I saw scores of former students there, and since I've only been here for two years that meant there were probably dozens more that I simply didn't recognize.
With so many people on hand, the energy level was through the roof. Lots of people fell down during the (many) relay races because they were pushing themselves so damn hard. Nobody got hurt and nobody seemed to mind when they tripped over a fallen competitor. People were obviously trying to win but there wasn't any sense of failure for those who lost. Then again, when all of these events are rehearsed and rehearsed so many times in the preceding weeks, I suppose it must feel more like a show than a competition. Do the members of the Washington Generals ever feel bad about losing to the Globetrotters every single time? Of course not.
I was asked to perform on the microphone again this year, only this time I had to share time with two adult announcers who were clearly going for a "conversational" approach to announcing. I could only talk when they weren't talking, but when I did I tried to do a little play-by-play for fun. People said I did a great job and I can only assume they weren't just trying to spare my feelings.
Today turned into a rather busy day because I needed to go shopping. Chris Kohler informed me that the press room at TGS has very few computers but there is is free wifi internet for all. The problem there is that my laptop doesn't have a wifi adapter. I had always thought about buying one but now I suddenly needed one. Second problem: buying computer stuff in Japan is hard because a lot of software won't work in foreign language versions of Windows.
Mako came up with a bold solution: buy a netbook. Normally she's the one pushing me to spend less money but this time she was suggesting I spend $400-500 on a new PC rather than $50 on a wireless card. Her reasoning was sound though, not that I needed much convincing to buy a new toy. I often lug my laptop to work whenever I know I'll have time to write between classes. It's not a particularly light machine, the battery is completely dead and I often encounter schedule changes that make me wish I had/hadn't brought my computer to school.
The netbook both solves my TGS reporting dilemma and will give me a quick and lightweight alternative to bringing my main computer out into the sticks every week. Starting next week I'll be able to bring the netbook with me everyday, writing whenever the opportunity presents itself. I'll still have to upload stuff when I get home (unless I discover the schools have free wifi - fat chance) but in the long run, this means less lugging and more typing. This is a very good thing.
With that, I'll bid you farewell from Osaka (er, the Osaka suburbs anyway). Tomorrow I go to the airport. I can't predict whether there will be time to blog during my trip. There's always time for Twitter, of course, which is connected to my Facebook page.
In the meantime, I would ask you to please, please, please follow the TGS 2009 coverage at Wired Game|Life and keep an eye on those bylines. My name will be there at some point very soon!
つづく...(Click here to read more)
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Yes, I made my very first blog post on April 1st, 2004, beginning my journey into the blogosphere. I knew my primary motivation at the time was to force myself to get back into the habit of writing, a task I have always struggled to perform. My failure to write papers and essays in a timely fashion drove my English and Social Studies/History teachers crazy and nearly failed me out of high school (and practically sunk my initial college aspirations). I simply couldn't get myself motivated enough to sit down and start writing when school demanded it, even though I was always OK with writing stories about myself. Eventually my disdain for writing drove me to leave school altogether, much to the chagrin of my parents.
Even as I scorned the usefulness of academic writing, I occasionally had flashes of productivity for my own needs. I kept a very thorough journal during my first visit to Japan in 2001, filling an entire notebook in only three weeks. I found the experience extremely satisfying even though hardly anyone read it. I wrote about myself for myself and it felt great. Three years later, I was nearing the end of my postal service career and on the verge of launching myself back into school, so I knew my life would undergo some major changes and I would have to start writing again. This knowledge, combined with the general "hipness" blogs were enjoying at the time, prompted me to start my own blog in the hopes that writing regularly about my life would help break down my resistance to writing on an assigned topic.
I've already admitted that my grander ideas for the site have completely failed, but aside from a dry spell than covered most of my initial year in the JET Programme, the blog has been a success for me. It didn't exactly make writing papers in school easy but it certainly trained me to sit in front of a keyboard for long stretches of time. Its greatest moments were unquestionably during my study abroad experience at Kansai Gaidai, serving as both a portal into my life for my family and friends back home as well as offering me a record of falling in love with Mako. Spending nearly every evening writing about my new environment as well as my new relationship forced me to really think about what was happening to me.
What does the future hold for this site? I would say my aspirations have changed even if my motivations remain the same. I still want to practice writing but the new goal is not academic but...dare I say it...professional. As insane as it sounds, I think my future is in writing despite all of the problems I've had with it over the years. I don't know whether that means trying to break into journalism or trying to write fiction, but I know that when I write, I feel like I am genuinely accomplishing something. Even though I haven't "improved" in any tangible sense (my readership and my productivity are a fraction of what they once were), my attitude has completely changed towards writing. It's no longer a burden or an obligation, but an opportunity.
Speaking of the future, the birth of my son is now a mere ten weeks away (give or take). I know that once the baby is here there will be a struggle on two fronts to maintain my interest in writing. One will be the simple issue of finding time to write while taking care of a brand new human being. The other is avoiding the perils of becoming a vacuous "baby blogger," where suddenly every single post is about my son and the issues that come with raising a child. I've seen so many others turn their blog space into banal accounts of diaper-changing, baby's-first-everything, and cutesy photos that it frightens me.
On that note, I feel the time is right to finally reveal the name I have chosen for my son. I know I resisted this but I can't stand sitting on my brilliant idea any longer: the baby's name will be...
Yes, 5. Not Five, but 5. With my son growing up in an international, bilingual household and having to juggle at least two different cultures as he matures, it is unfair to label him with a name that is rooted in only one language. By naming him 5, my son can adapt to any environment because numerals are universal. English speakers can call him "Five," Spanish speakers can call him "Cinqo," and Japanese people can call him any number of things because Japanese numbers are weird like that. But that's the point: with an entire globe of different words and ideas, my son cannot simply retreat into one familiar tongue and insist that strangers address him in one way. He will be forced to open his mind and learn new words with each new person he meets. At the same time, he will be free of the burden of correcting anyone on the pronunciation of his first name. His last name, sadly, is another story.
Why 5 instead of 7, 10, or 42? Well, I felt a single digit was important for brevity's sake (have you ever heard 99 in French? Interminable!) and of all the numbers from 0-9, 5 felt both masculine and manageable. It's a nice round number that's easy to count with. Plus, if he ever forgets his business card or a pen, he can simply open his hand and point to his fingers. 0 sounded cool, but it has some negative connotations and, let's face it, you can't count to 0 easily. 1 looks like I, 2 looks like V or "peace" on your fingers, 3 is too mockable (it looks like boobs or an ass), 4 reminded me of golf, 6 is too close to "sex," 7 is written in Europe with a line through the middle, 8 looks like "infinity," and 9 would cause too many problems in Germany.
No, 5 it is. I'm weighing potential middle names just so he can have another initial to work with (5F isn't quite right) but I'm not sure what other symbols I can use. It can't be another numeral because that would complicate his first name. People would see 5 0 Feit at start calling him "Fiddy" or worse, "Five-o." Perhaps we could use a kanji as a nod to his Asian heritage? How does 5 伍 F look to you? If you don't know what it means, you can look it up.
つづく...(Click here to read more)