Spirited Away

Not much of a weekend. But then again, all weekends are pretty much the same.

I saw “Spirited Away” for the first time. It was alright, but perhaps I was expecting more because virtually everyone I talked to said it was GREAT! I was rather impressed with the English title, because the word Kamikakushi in the original title 千と千尋の神隠し suggests the unexplained disappearance of people. Once upon a time, unexplained disappearances were attributed to the gods or tengu, the red, long nosed ogre of myth with god-like powers. The literal translation, I suppose, would be “The Unexplained Disappearance of Sen and Chihiro by Gods or Ogres.” Yeah, that would draw a lot of people to the theaters! Disney effectively translated it to “Spirited Away”–to be carried off mysteriously or secretly. Unfortunately, this success is not always translated in the dialogue. With the time I had this weekend to get rid of the stress of the previous day–thanks to the words of encouragement from Tak, Sleetse, et al–I saw both Japanese and English versions. While most of it is adequate, there were a number of scenes that just weren’t right. Of course, this is perhaps a matter of culture. I mean, how do you translate engachoエンガチョウ? Okay, the normal(?) rendering is cooties, but engacho also suggests a separation or cut from the group, as it is derived from 縁がちょん切った–you have the cooties so you and I are no longer connected. In the movie, Kamaji tells Sen to put her fingers together so he can cut through them with a “magic” spell and thereby reverse her cooties. I think the English version kind of garbles it up. But still, it was okay. Just picking nits.I also watched “Cowboy Bebop.” This is the one anime that students have been buzzing about more than “Spiritied Away” this year. So, of course, I had to see this tale of a bounty hunter in the future. This was okay too. Kinda reminded by of Lupan III with a futuristic edge. No big deal.

More JA Stuff: (for NarciJ)
Anyway, a couple of thoughts have been going around in my head–what’s left of it anyway. Marja suggested that there is little co-mingling among different Asian groups. That was mostly true in the day (30 years back), but is it still the case today? Are there many out there who tend to stick to “there own kind”? I mean, once we are Americanized, is there really such a difference between us as to justify this kind of exclusionary attitude? Just some fuel on the fire.

Peace, everybody. (Okay, its old, but its better than “groovy”.)

Spirited Away

Not much of a weekend. But then again, all weekends are pretty much the same.

I saw “Spirited Away” for the first time. It was alright, but perhaps I was expecting more because virtually everyone I talked to said it was GREAT! I was rather impressed with the English title, because the word Kamikakushi in the original title 千と千尋の神隠し suggests the unexplained disappearance of people. Once upon a time, unexplained disappearances were attributed to the gods or tengu, the red, long nosed ogre of myth with god-like powers. The literal translation, I suppose, would be “The Unexplained Disappearance of Sen and Chihiro by Gods or Ogres.” Yeah, that would draw a lot of people to the theaters! Disney effectively translated it to “Spirited Away”–to be carried off mysteriously or secretly. Unfortunately, this success is not always translated in the dialogue. With the time I had this weekend to get rid of the stress of the previous day–thanks to the words of encouragement from Tak, Sleetse, et al–I saw both Japanese and English versions. While most of it is adequate, there were a number of scenes that just weren’t right. Of course, this is perhaps a matter of culture. I mean, how do you translate engachoエンガチョウ? Okay, the normal(?) rendering is cooties, but engacho also suggests a separation or cut from the group, as it is derived from 縁がちょん切った–you have the cooties so you and I are no longer connected. In the movie, Kamaji tells Sen to put her fingers together so he can cut through them with a “magic” spell and thereby reverse her cooties. I think the English version kind of garbles it up. But still, it was okay. Just picking nits.I also watched “Cowboy Bebop.” This is the one anime that students have been buzzing about more than “Spiritied Away” this year. So, of course, I had to see this tale of a bounty hunter in the future. This was okay too. Kinda reminded by of Lupan III with a futuristic edge. No big deal.

More JA Stuff: (for NarciJ)

Anyway, a couple of thoughts have been going around in my head–what’s left of it anyway. Marja suggested that there is little co-mingling among different Asian groups. That was mostly true in the day (30 years back), but is it still the case today? Are there many out there who tend to stick to “there own kind”? I mean, once we are Americanized, is there really such a difference between us as to justify this kind of exclusionary attitude? Just some fuel on the fire.

Peace, everybody. (Okay, its old, but its better than “groovy”.)

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Too frustrated to write anything today. The following unanswered–impossible to answer–questions keep going around in circles in my head:

  • Why am I married?
  • Why did I remarry?
  • Why do I drink?
  • Why do I drink with her?
  • Why is it always my fault?
  • Why do I even try sometimes?

I think I’ll lose myself in a book for the rest of the day.

Too frustrated to write anything today. The following unanswered–impossible to answer–questions keep going around in circles in my head:

  • Why am I married?
  • Why did I remarry?
  • Why do I drink?
  • Why do I drink with her?
  • Why is it always my fault?
  • Why do I even try sometimes?

I think I’ll lose myself in a book for the rest of the day.

Too frustrated to write anything today. The following unanswered–impossible to answer–questions keep going around in circles in my head:

  • Why am I married?
  • Why did I remarry?
  • Why do I drink?
  • Why do I drink with her?
  • Why is it always my fault?
  • Why do I even try sometimes?

I think I’ll lose myself in a book for the rest of the day.

My Camaro

Took my car in for servicing today. Its nice to have a car; a rather inane but nonetheless honest comment from a boy born and raised in LA.
I couldn’t wait to own a car as a teenager. I bought my mother’s ’73 Camaro–no, she didn’t give it to me–I molded (not attached) a spoiler on to it, removed all the Camaro insignias to make the body look smoother, repainted it from red to midnight blue (making it look even darker, but not black), and changed the rims (cyclones). I left the engine stock. It was beautiful and my baby (the Camaro in the photo is not my car, but the resemblance is remarkable, right down to the absence of the front red Camaro insignia!). However, as driving became a necessity–going to work or school–and finding myself each day in the parking lot known as the LA freeway system–take your pick, Santa Monica, Pomona, San Bernadino–I soon dreaded driving. And of course, my eyes were progressively getting worse–see earlier post–which made driving an even scarier proposal.

Needless to say, when I went to Tokyo, I was very impressed with the fact one could get around quite easily sans kuruma. The trains and subways ran frequently and on time. Amazing. I subsequently lived in Japan for about 7 years and got completely used to the idea that I didn’t need a car. Back in LA, where my Camaro was sitting in my parents driveway, my mom complained persistently about the hassles of having a car around that isn’t being driven, and ultimately I was persuaded to give my baby up for adoption, which I did reluctantly.

Of course, as the gods of irony are wont to do, I got a job in DC six months later.
Upset, I vowed to find a place to live near a Metro stop, so I could continue my Japanese lifestyle of not needing a vehicle. Unfortunately, unlike Japan, where there are always retail shops surrounding the station, suburban Metro stops–particularly beyond Ballston in Va–are surrounded by parking lots and condominiums. I was reduced to going shopping at “local” supermarkets on foot or by bus. Stubborn me. I lived like this for 6 years.

Last year, I inherited my mom’s car (she lost her battle against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma), and now am recalling the freedom a car brings. I don’t drive to work–the traffic here is as bad, if not worse, than LA–but to go shopping in a car is sooooo much easier. The convenience it provides easily outweighs the cost of gas and insurance. Who woulda thunkit.

My Camaro

Took my car in for servicing today. Its nice to have a car; a rather inane but nonetheless honest comment from a boy born and raised in LA.

I couldn’t wait to own a car as a teenager. I bought my mother’s ’73 Camaro–no, she didn’t give it to me–I molded (not attached) a spoiler on to it, removed all the Camaro insignias to make the body look smoother, repainted it from red to midnight blue (making it look even darker, but not black), and changed the rims (cyclones). I left the engine stock. It was beautiful and my baby (the Camaro in the photo is not my car, but the resemblance is remarkable, right down to the absence of the front red Camaro insignia!). However, as driving became a necessity–going to work or school–and finding myself each day in the parking lot known as the LA freeway system–take your pick, Santa Monica, Pomona, San Bernadino–I soon dreaded driving. And of course, my eyes were progressively getting worse–see earlier post–which made driving an even scarier proposal.

Needless to say, when I went to Tokyo, I was very impressed with the fact one could get around quite easily sans kuruma. The trains and subways ran frequently and on time. Amazing. I subsequently lived in Japan for about 7 years and got completely used to the idea that I didn’t need a car. Back in LA, where my Camaro was sitting in my parents driveway, my mom complained persistently about the hassles of having a car around that isn’t being driven, and ultimately I was persuaded to give my baby up for adoption, which I did reluctantly.

Of course, as the gods of irony are wont to do, I got a job in DC six months later.

Upset, I vowed to find a place to live near a Metro stop, so I could continue my Japanese lifestyle of not needing a vehicle. Unfortunately, unlike Japan, where there are always retail shops surrounding the station, suburban Metro stops–particularly beyond Ballston in Va–are surrounded by parking lots and condominiums. I was reduced to going shopping at “local” supermarkets on foot or by bus. Stubborn me. I lived like this for 6 years.

Last year, I inherited my mom’s car (she lost her battle against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma), and now am recalling the freedom a car brings. I don’t drive to work–the traffic here is as bad, if not worse, than LA–but to go shopping in a car is sooooo much easier. The convenience it provides easily outweighs the cost of gas and insurance. Who woulda thunkit.

Being Japanese American–cont’d

The conflict inherent in being Japanese, Japanese American or “just” American is a complex issue that leads me back to Capt. Gaijin and why I DO disagree with him. He told me that his significant other–who is JA–was very upset by this post, and he asked if I was offended, as well. I told him no. But what was interesting was her response to him. She apparently said something like:

Everyone always says I’m not really American because of the way I look, and now you’re saying I’m not Japanese.

Now this is something that I can relate to, and really cuts to the core of the matter: How we are viewed within mainstream society. I should mention first that it seems me that many non-Asian young(er) people–at least the college students I meet–harbor fewer preconceptions as to what an American looks like, like Capt. Gaijin. They seem less concerned with background than with current interests and lifestyle. And I find this refreshing.

However, while it may be ideal for all of us to be equal and Americans–and I admit that I try my best to make non-Asians feel that I am as equal as any of them–there is no denying that JAs/Asians are made to feel like we are different. Certainly, the statement by Capt. G’s significant other suggests that there are still those who view Asians as being less than “authentic” Americans–and she’s from an area populated heavily by Asians.

One important way that makes us feel different is mass media. Okay, there are many Asian newscasters and reporters now. But that is fairly recent, and mostly in urban areas heavily populated by Asians. How about “real” mass media? In the movie, “Karate Kid”, Mr. Miyagi seems to have this “Oriental” mystique about him, separating him from the rest, He is also short, looks like a gardener, and bows all the time. Definitely different from others. What other images of JAs or Asians are there in movies? Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, all matial arts related. And the Japanese? “Rising Sun” portrays Japan as mystical–did you like Sean Connery’s attempts to exude Zen qualities? Or as business/working automatons, a la “Gung Ho” with Michael Keaton. More telling might be the complete absence of JAs/Asians on TV. Besides Arnold–the goofy restaurant owner–of “Happy Days” and the incredibly forgettable “Mr. T and Tina” (both by Pat Morita), has there ever been a film or TV show–non-historical–in which a JA or any Asian starred as an average American? (There is, of course, “Better Luck Tomorrow” which portrays Asian youths as… wow, American youths with a foreign–Asian–cultural background. But I haven’t seen it yet.)

These portrayals may not necessarily represent malicious discrimination; but they do spawn the view that Asians are different–in many cases, vastly different–from the mainstream. This view might evoke curiosity in an American–how many have been told they seem exotic or asked if they knew a martial art? Those who have asked me “What are you?” (re: previous entry) perhaps felt an obligation to “recognize” and “tolerate” the diversity that enter their life. The view that JAs are different was once applied as a tool to make a social point. Does anyone remember the term “Model Minorty” from the 70s? (Okay, everyone’s too young!) It suggested that JAs did not not complain, did not riot, did not try to overturn society. Some may argue that this was a way to demonstrate that JAs improved their lot in life by working within the system, but there is a hidden subtext. Never mind the implicit comparison between races–JAs are models, why can’t you be like them–which more radical elements identify as a divide-and-conquer strategy practiced by the mainstream. On a more basic level, the term itself suggested to me that I was simply different from the mainstream. I always wondered, “Why don’t they just call us model Americans?” The obvious answer was that I am different from the rest of America, and hence a minority. Was I/were we set apart because we were “studious” or “good in math” or “respectful”? Are members of other groups less studious or less respectful? Do we have a monopoly on these characteristics? Of course not.

The point is I was, and often still am, made to feel as though I’m different. So when Capt. Gaijin–truly well meaning, of course–says that we are all Americans, he doesn’t recognize that I, and maybe some others–“feel” different, that his comment strips away the one thing that American society has allowed me to revel in–my ethnicity–and as a result, his comment can be construed as insensitive. While he has suffered discrimination in Japan as Mr. Gaijin, he was subjected to it as an adult, not as a child of 4, 7, 10 or 15 who may not yet have all the tools to objectively analyze a potentially emotionally affecting situation.

So in short…I mean long, I disagree with Capt. Gaijin, as well. While it may be ideal to think of myself as an American, it is difficult when I have been subjected by Americans to a large dose of “you are not really an American” most of my life.

I think I should stick to Hay Fever.

Being Japanese American–cont’d


The conflict inherent in being Japanese, Japanese American or “just” American is a complex issue that leads me back to Capt. Gaijin and why I DO disagree with him. He told me that his significant other–who is JA–was very upset by this post, and he asked if I was offended, as well. I told him no. But what was interesting was her response to him. She apparently said something like:

Everyone always says I’m not really American because of the way I look, and now you’re saying I’m not Japanese.

Now this is something that I can relate to, and really cuts to the core of the matter: How we are viewed within mainstream society. I should mention first that it seems me that many non-Asian young(er) people–at least the college students I meet–harbor fewer preconceptions as to what an American looks like, like Capt. Gaijin. They seem less concerned with background than with current interests and lifestyle. And I find this refreshing.

However, while it may be ideal for all of us to be equal and Americans–and I admit that I try my best to make non-Asians feel that I am as equal as any of them–there is no denying that JAs/Asians are made to feel like we are different. Certainly, the statement by Capt. G’s significant other suggests that there are still those who view Asians as being less than “authentic” Americans–and she’s from an area populated heavily by Asians.

One important way that makes us feel different is mass media. Okay, there are many Asian newscasters and reporters now. But that is fairly recent, and mostly in urban areas heavily populated by Asians. How about “real” mass media? In the movie, “Karate Kid”, Mr. Miyagi seems to have this “Oriental” mystique about him, separating him from the rest, He is also short, looks like a gardener, and bows all the time. Definitely different from others. What other images of JAs or Asians are there in movies? Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, all matial arts related. And the Japanese? “Rising Sun” portrays Japan as mystical–did you like Sean Connery’s attempts to exude Zen qualities? Or as business/working automatons, a la “Gung Ho” with Michael Keaton. More telling might be the complete absence of JAs/Asians on TV. Besides Arnold–the goofy restaurant owner–of “Happy Days” and the incredibly forgettable “Mr. T and Tina” (both by Pat Morita), has there ever been a film or TV show–non-historical–in which a JA or any Asian starred as an average American? (There is, of course, “Better Luck Tomorrow” which portrays Asian youths as… wow, American youths with a foreign–Asian–cultural background. But I haven’t seen it yet.)

These portrayals may not necessarily represent malicious discrimination; but they do spawn the view that Asians are different–in many cases, vastly different–from the mainstream. This view might evoke curiosity in an American–how many have been told they seem exotic or asked if they knew a martial art? Those who have asked me “What are you?” (re: previous entry) perhaps felt an obligation to “recognize” and “tolerate” the diversity that enter their life. The view that JAs are different was once applied as a tool to make a social point. Does anyone remember the term “Model Minorty” from the 70s? (Okay, everyone’s too young!) It suggested that JAs did not not complain, did not riot, did not try to overturn society. Some may argue that this was a way to demonstrate that JAs improved their lot in life by working within the system, but there is a hidden subtext. Never mind the implicit comparison between races–JAs are models, why can’t you be like them–which more radical elements identify as a divide-and-conquer strategy practiced by the mainstream. On a more basic level, the term itself suggested to me that I was simply different from the mainstream. I always wondered, “Why don’t they just call us model Americans?” The obvious answer was that I am different from the rest of America, and hence a minority. Was I/were we set apart because we were “studious” or “good in math” or “respectful”? Are members of other groups less studious or less respectful? Do we have a monopoly on these characteristics? Of course not.

The point is I was, and often still am, made to feel as though I’m different. So when Capt. Gaijin–truly well meaning, of course–says that we are all Americans, he doesn’t recognize that I, and maybe some others–“feel” different, that his comment strips away the one thing that American society has allowed me to revel in–my ethnicity–and as a result, his comment can be construed as insensitive. While he has suffered discrimination in Japan as Mr. Gaijin, he was subjected to it as an adult, not as a child of 4, 7, 10 or 15 who may not yet have all the tools to objectively analyze a potentially emotionally affecting situation.

So in short…I mean long, I disagree with Capt. Gaijin, as well. While it may be ideal to think of myself as an American, it is difficult when I have been subjected by Americans to a large dose of “you are not really an American” most of my life.

I think I should stick to Hay Fever.