Archive for March 2004

Remembering

March 25, 2004

Two years ago today, my mother died. She died of cancer, specifically non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I have never really come to terms with it. At least, it doesn’t seem like I have. I stayed with her in the hospital through her last days, talking to her, trying to soothe her fears of reaching the end. And her ultimate death saddened me greatly. But I never cried, I never went through some kind of depression or mourning. And I’ve never been able to figure this out. Is something wrong with me?

When she passed, I merely accepted her death as another process of life that we all go through. Our mortality is something we cannot avoid. But still, it bothers me. Why didn’t I cry at her funeral? Why didn’t I fall into some kind of mournful depression, at least for a few weeks? Is something wrong with me?

I thought about this virtually everyday for the first year after her death, and off-and-on since. Sometimes for a fleeting few minutes, other times for hours lying in bed. I often find myself attributing my attitude to her first heart attack in 1989. Back then, I was totally unprepared for death. I remember being in the hospital with my siblings, wondering, What the fuck are we going to do if she dies? After two surgeries, I took a leave of absence from school and stayed with her to help her recover–my dad was 77 and in no shape to take care of her. During this time, I had many opportunities to talk with her about about death and it soon became just another topic of conversation. Something that was a part of our lives, something that we couldn’t avoid, something we had to accept.

On special days, like today, or her birthday or Christmas, I will leave an offering to her at a kind of mini-shrine at my house. M will make chirashi-zushi, mom’s favorite, and I will leave a glass of wine or sake for her–my mother loved to drink, a pastime we often indulged in together. And I often end up talking to her, or at least to her photos. It’s kind of wierd. I never talk to her in my heart in other places. Only when I am looking at her photos. Out loud. She probably thinks I’m wierd, as perhaps you do, too.

In a way, I guess she is still alive to me. Perhaps, I am mentally unstable because by talking to her as if she were still alive, I seem to refuse to accept that she is dead. Whatever. I will deal with it in my own way, I suppose.

In any case, in memory of my mother, I would like to relate to you a story that might explain me, or my sense of humor. My friends, my wife, my students often tell me I’m sick, that I am overly sarcastic–to the point of sounding cynical–and have a sense of humor that often seems mean and base. They are right, of course. I hate to point a finger at the dead, but my mother does have to take some of the responsibility, I think.

I was about 7 years old, and our family, along with my uncle–my mother’s younger brother–went to an amusement park in Long Beach, CA. I think we called it Long Beach Pike? Yeah, something like that. I don’t remember the name exactly. They had games, a carousel, and a wooden roller coaster. And they had a House of Glass that I just had to try. No one wanted to go in except me and they let me… by myself. I walked in with little trouble. As I went deeper into the maze of glass, my parents became blurier and blurrier as sheet upon sheet of glass separated us. But it was not scary. I easily reached the middle of the maze where there were mirrors bent in all kinds of shapes to distort its reflection. One mirror made me look short and fat, another made me look tall and skinny (I could use one in my house now). The mirrors were amusing, but not as fun as it could have been had I been with someone I knew. Bored, I decided to leave. But I couldn’t. Going back through the maze was impossible. Every turn I made, I hit a dead-end. I could seem my parents and uncle urging me to go left or right, but I always hit a glass wall. I was slowly beginning to panic. Can I get out of here? Will someone come and get me? I finally turned a corner and about 30 feet away I saw my mother and uncle clearly in front of me, waving for me to “come on down”. I made it! I’m safe! Relieved, I gleefully ran down the glass walkway toward their open arms…

Splatt!

I ran right into a glass wall at full speed. I fell backwards on my butt, dazed, wondering what had happened. I propped myself up to look at where my mom and uncle were standing and they were bent over laughing as loud as they please. I’d been had. They had egged me on toward the glass and I fell for it. Ha, ha. Very funny, mom… Grrr, I was ticked. I picked myself up and soon found the exit. I stayed pissed, until they bought me an ice cream cone, the very least they could do since they had had their laugh at my expense.

*sigh* I’m sure a single experience does not a personality make, but it was one of many in my childhood. And because of them, we all grew up with the ability to laugh in virtually any situation. To see the humor in ways that may seem mean-spirited, but is ultimately harmless–except for a bump or two on the noggin.

I miss my mom…

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Remembering

March 25, 2004

Two years ago today, my mother died. She died of cancer, specifically non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I have never really come to terms with it. At least, it doesn’t seem like I have. I stayed with her in the hospital through her last days, talking to her, trying to soothe her fears of reaching the end. And her ultimate death saddened me greatly. But I never cried, I never went through some kind of depression or mourning. And I’ve never been able to figure this out. Is something wrong with me?

When she passed, I merely accepted her death as another process of life that we all go through. Our mortality is something we cannot avoid. But still, it bothers me. Why didn’t I cry at her funeral? Why didn’t I fall into some kind of mournful depression, at least for a few weeks? Is something wrong with me?

I thought about this virtually everyday for the first year after her death, and off-and-on since. Sometimes for a fleeting few minutes, other times for hours lying in bed. I often find myself attributing my attitude to her first heart attack in 1989. Back then, I was totally unprepared for death. I remember being in the hospital with my siblings, wondering, What the fuck are we going to do if she dies? After two surgeries, I took a leave of absence from school and stayed with her to help her recover–my dad was 77 and in no shape to take care of her. During this time, I had many opportunities to talk with her about about death and it soon became just another topic of conversation. Something that was a part of our lives, something that we couldn’t avoid, something we had to accept.

On special days, like today, or her birthday or Christmas, I will leave an offering to her at a kind of mini-shrine at my house. M will make chirashi-zushi, mom’s favorite, and I will leave a glass of wine or sake for her–my mother loved to drink, a pastime we often indulged in together. And I often end up talking to her, or at least to her photos. It’s kind of wierd. I never talk to her in my heart in other places. Only when I am looking at her photos. Out loud. She probably thinks I’m wierd, as perhaps you do, too.

In a way, I guess she is still alive to me. Perhaps, I am mentally unstable because by talking to her as if she were still alive, I seem to refuse to accept that she is dead. Whatever. I will deal with it in my own way, I suppose.

In any case, in memory of my mother, I would like to relate to you a story that might explain me, or my sense of humor. My friends, my wife, my students often tell me I’m sick, that I am overly sarcastic–to the point of sounding cynical–and have a sense of humor that often seems mean and base. They are right, of course. I hate to point a finger at the dead, but my mother does have to take some of the responsibility, I think.

I was about 7 years old, and our family, along with my uncle–my mother’s younger brother–went to an amusement park in Long Beach, CA. I think we called it Long Beach Pike? Yeah, something like that. I don’t remember the name exactly. They had games, a carousel, and a wooden roller coaster. And they had a House of Glass that I just had to try. No one wanted to go in except me and they let me… by myself. I walked in with little trouble. As I went deeper into the maze of glass, my parents became blurier and blurrier as sheet upon sheet of glass separated us. But it was not scary. I easily reached the middle of the maze where there were mirrors bent in all kinds of shapes to distort its reflection. One mirror made me look short and fat, another made me look tall and skinny (I could use one in my house now). The mirrors were amusing, but not as fun as it could have been had I been with someone I knew. Bored, I decided to leave. But I couldn’t. Going back through the maze was impossible. Every turn I made, I hit a dead-end. I could seem my parents and uncle urging me to go left or right, but I always hit a glass wall. I was slowly beginning to panic. Can I get out of here? Will someone come and get me? I finally turned a corner and about 30 feet away I saw my mother and uncle clearly in front of me, waving for me to “come on down”. I made it! I’m safe! Relieved, I gleefully ran down the glass walkway toward their open arms…

Splatt!

I ran right into a glass wall at full speed. I fell backwards on my butt, dazed, wondering what had happened. I propped myself up to look at where my mom and uncle were standing and they were bent over laughing as loud as they please. I’d been had. They had egged me on toward the glass and I fell for it. Ha, ha. Very funny, mom… Grrr, I was ticked. I picked myself up and soon found the exit. I stayed pissed, until they bought me an ice cream cone, the very least they could do since they had had their laugh at my expense.

*sigh* I’m sure a single experience does not a personality make, but it was one of many in my childhood. And because of them, we all grew up with the ability to laugh in virtually any situation. To see the humor in ways that may seem mean-spirited, but is ultimately harmless–except for a bump or two on the noggin.

I miss my mom…

Spring Break is over :(

March 22, 2004

Another DVD I rented was a Japanese science fiction flick that got a lot of play in Japan. Returner turned out to be much better than I had anticipated. It was supposedly produced in an attempt to avoid the serious, artistic films such as Maboroshi or AfterLife, and create something that resembles the US blockbuster, action flick, so popular in Japan. It’s not great by any means, but my expectations were so low that it turned out to be quite entertaining. The movie is influenced by films that should be familiar to most of us. *Warning! Warning! Possible spoilers dectected* It is the future and the world being destoyed by aliens in fast photon-shooting ships (reminiscent of Independence Day). For good measure, some ships are disguised as regular planes to infiltrate humans holed up in Tibet, then transform into shrimp-bent baddies (remember The Transformers?). They decide that the only way to save themselves is to travel to the past and prevent the war from happening in the first place (Terminator). The time machine is incomplete but someone has to go, and a ragamuffin young girl is the last chance as the aliens enter the cave where humanity makes its last stand. She travels into the past and falls right in the middle of a fight between a Miyamoto (Kaneshiro) who is seeking revenge on a Chinese/Japanese mobster-connection thug named Mizoguchi (Kishitani). Miyamoto kicks but in regular and slow motion, and Mizoguchi escapes. In the process, however, Miyamoto accidentally shoots the girl, Milly, and they hook up. She tries to explain to him that she’s from the future, but he’ll have none of it, so she proves it with her slow-time-down-watch that makes her rund in super speed while everything else seem to be stopped (Matrix). After Miyamoto becomes a believer, they go to the reserach center where the first alien is being kept, the alien suspecte of starting this whole war in the future. But when they finally get to this small creature with huge eyes, all he (it?) want to do is “go home” and tries to connect with these kind humans (E.T.). Get the picture?

This movie has gotten a load of bad press, and because of its derivative nature, it is perhaps understandable. But there are two big things that they do not understand. Yeah, right, the O-man’s the only one who can see the light, hahaha, I’m so full of it. The Japanese–first in classical poetry, then in others genres from drama to narratives–make an art of “borrowing” from other sources. This is not meant to plagerize but to celebrate the past and to expand the meaning of present. In Returner, the connection is obvious to E.T., so while we have this warm and fuzzy image of ET in our mind, we are watching another alien being kept away from its mothership, and understand the wrath that could befall mankind if a Mizoguchi finds an alien rather than Elliott. This makes for a more complex viewing of the film, one that should make us think about different possibilities rather than deride the copying. And indeed, copying from an obvious source is crucial, as Fujiwara Teika once wrote. If the reference was obscure, what effect would it have? In the West, this technique is usually reserved for spoofs such as MAD Magazine or The Simpsons. But in Japan, it is an artistic technique.

The other thing these critics are missing is the comic book aspect. Many of them made reference to anime, but this is definitely a comic book movie. Many of the scenes are “frozen” as if they were a cell straight out of a manga (J comic books). There is one scene in which Miyamoto is shot in the street and the rain is falling down on him. The shot is taken from above with streams of rain falling down at an angle for a 3D effect toward the prone figure on the ground. And what is a movie but a 2D photograph in motion. This is classic comic book technique to provide depth perception–a technique begun by Tezuka Osamu in the 50s and adopted by US comic book artists much later.

Anyway, I’m not trying to sell the movie. It wasn’t THAT good. But it can be better appreciated than the critics would lead you to believe. If you have a lazy weekend someday, it might be fun to watch.

Spring Break is over :(

March 22, 2004

Another DVD I rented was a Japanese science fiction flick that got a lot of play in Japan. Returner turned out to be much better than I had anticipated. It was supposedly produced in an attempt to avoid the serious, artistic films such as Maboroshi or AfterLife, and create something that resembles the US blockbuster, action flick, so popular in Japan. It’s not great by any means, but my expectations were so low that it turned out to be quite entertaining. The movie is influenced by films that should be familiar to most of us. *Warning! Warning! Possible spoilers dectected* It is the future and the world being destoyed by aliens in fast photon-shooting ships (reminiscent of Independence Day). For good measure, some ships are disguised as regular planes to infiltrate humans holed up in Tibet, then transform into shrimp-bent baddies (remember The Transformers?). They decide that the only way to save themselves is to travel to the past and prevent the war from happening in the first place (Terminator). The time machine is incomplete but someone has to go, and a ragamuffin young girl is the last chance as the aliens enter the cave where humanity makes its last stand. She travels into the past and falls right in the middle of a fight between a Miyamoto (Kaneshiro) who is seeking revenge on a Chinese/Japanese mobster-connection thug named Mizoguchi (Kishitani). Miyamoto kicks but in regular and slow motion, and Mizoguchi escapes. In the process, however, Miyamoto accidentally shoots the girl, Milly, and they hook up. She tries to explain to him that she’s from the future, but he’ll have none of it, so she proves it with her slow-time-down-watch that makes her rund in super speed while everything else seem to be stopped (Matrix). After Miyamoto becomes a believer, they go to the reserach center where the first alien is being kept, the alien suspecte of starting this whole war in the future. But when they finally get to this small creature with huge eyes, all he (it?) want to do is “go home” and tries to connect with these kind humans (E.T.). Get the picture?

This movie has gotten a load of bad press, and because of its derivative nature, it is perhaps understandable. But there are two big things that they do not understand. Yeah, right, the O-man’s the only one who can see the light, hahaha, I’m so full of it. The Japanese–first in classical poetry, then in others genres from drama to narratives–make an art of “borrowing” from other sources. This is not meant to plagerize but to celebrate the past and to expand the meaning of present. In Returner, the connection is obvious to E.T., so while we have this warm and fuzzy image of ET in our mind, we are watching another alien being kept away from its mothership, and understand the wrath that could befall mankind if a Mizoguchi finds an alien rather than Elliott. This makes for a more complex viewing of the film, one that should make us think about different possibilities rather than deride the copying. And indeed, copying from an obvious source is crucial, as Fujiwara Teika once wrote. If the reference was obscure, what effect would it have? In the West, this technique is usually reserved for spoofs such as MAD Magazine or The Simpsons. But in Japan, it is an artistic technique.

The other thing these critics are missing is the comic book aspect. Many of them made reference to anime, but this is definitely a comic book movie. Many of the scenes are “frozen” as if they were a cell straight out of a manga (J comic books). There is one scene in which Miyamoto is shot in the street and the rain is falling down on him. The shot is taken from above with streams of rain falling down at an angle for a 3D effect toward the prone figure on the ground. And what is a movie but a 2D photograph in motion. This is classic comic book technique to provide depth perception–a technique begun by Tezuka Osamu in the 50s and adopted by US comic book artists much later.

Anyway, I’m not trying to sell the movie. It wasn’t THAT good. But it can be better appreciated than the critics would lead you to believe. If you have a lazy weekend someday, it might be fun to watch.

Spring Break: Last day

March 21, 2004

Okay, it’s still the weekend, but I have to start work–real work–since school’s starting up again. So yesterday, Friday, was my last day of spring break. And again, I did nothing except my usual fooling around on the computer and getting stuff prepared for my literature seminar on poetry. Right now we’re dealing with translation and how context can change the meanings of words.

This week is also M’s Spring “break”. I told her not to cook this week, which would kinda explain the frequency of our visits to Glory Day’s, our local watering hole. It’s a sports bar near my train station that is relatively inexpensive. The food is typical bar food: nachos, bufallo wings, burgers, salads. But that’s not why we go. It’s always for the b-e-e-r. We are true lushes. But sasugani–can someone give me a translation for this? This is such a convenient J word that means “as one would expect given the subject’s predilictions, talents, tendencies, or natural human reactions vis-a-vis the topic at hand”… Anyway, sasugani we were kind of beered-out after three straight nights of heavy guzzling. I’m not as young as I once was, and I was woozy for most of the day. So we stayed in to watch DVDs I had rented and was pleasantly surprised…

Six Feet Under I am not a fan of pay TV. I paid for cable previoiusly, I now pay for satellite. How much more do these guys want me to pay? Don’t I deserve HBO or Showtime by now? Well, I could live without movies that I can rent from Blockbuster’s. But I really started to get pissed off when shows produced by these companies weree receiving a Emmy nominations and awards. How could they allow awards for best drama or comedy go to programming is only available with additional premium subscriptions. So eveyone was talking about the Sopranos and Sex in the City. Big deal. I’m a mule when it comes to paying extra for something that I believe should be free… like Xanga. But I had heard too much about Six Feet Under and so decided to rent the DVD. I was quite impressed and amused by this program about a family that is not dysfunctional by today’s standards, butruns a business that would make most people feel dysfunctional: a morgue. There was a bit too much sex, for a TV show, and the gay brother actively kissing his lover caught me by surprise. But the story was interesting and engaging. We saw the pilot and the first two episodes, and I think I’ll have to rent the rest soon. It wasn’t good enough for me to call my satellite provider and order HBO, but I will see them on DVD.

Spring Break: Last day

March 21, 2004

Okay, it’s still the weekend, but I have to start work–real work–since school’s starting up again. So yesterday, Friday, was my last day of spring break. And again, I did nothing except my usual fooling around on the computer and getting stuff prepared for my literature seminar on poetry. Right now we’re dealing with translation and how context can change the meanings of words.

This week is also M’s Spring “break”. I told her not to cook this week, which would kinda explain the frequency of our visits to Glory Day’s, our local watering hole. It’s a sports bar near my train station that is relatively inexpensive. The food is typical bar food: nachos, bufallo wings, burgers, salads. But that’s not why we go. It’s always for the b-e-e-r. We are true lushes. But sasugani–can someone give me a translation for this? This is such a convenient J word that means “as one would expect given the subject’s predilictions, talents, tendencies, or natural human reactions vis-a-vis the topic at hand”… Anyway, sasugani we were kind of beered-out after three straight nights of heavy guzzling. I’m not as young as I once was, and I was woozy for most of the day. So we stayed in to watch DVDs I had rented and was pleasantly surprised…

Six Feet Under I am not a fan of pay TV. I paid for cable previoiusly, I now pay for satellite. How much more do these guys want me to pay? Don’t I deserve HBO or Showtime by now? Well, I could live without movies that I can rent from Blockbuster’s. But I really started to get pissed off when shows produced by these companies weree receiving a Emmy nominations and awards. How could they allow awards for best drama or comedy go to programming is only available with additional premium subscriptions. So eveyone was talking about the Sopranos and Sex in the City. Big deal. I’m a mule when it comes to paying extra for something that I believe should be free… like Xanga. But I had heard too much about Six Feet Under and so decided to rent the DVD. I was quite impressed and amused by this program about a family that is not dysfunctional by today’s standards, butruns a business that would make most people feel dysfunctional: a morgue. There was a bit too much sex, for a TV show, and the gay brother actively kissing his lover caught me by surprise. But the story was interesting and engaging. We saw the pilot and the first two episodes, and I think I’ll have to rent the rest soon. It wasn’t good enough for me to call my satellite provider and order HBO, but I will see them on DVD.

Spring Break: Day 2 to 4

March 20, 2004

Ok, again in the tradition of Japanese Elementary school students, I’ve neglected to keep up the daily journal. Hahahaha. Gotta keep it real, y’know? Anyway, here’s how its been.

Day Two Mondays lecture at G-town was okay. Nothing special. Since my friend wasn’t there to, it felt like my own course and so I was a little more tense than usual… Hmmm, I gave the exact same lecture a month ago and it went really well. I don’t know what the difference is… Today, I took my Unagi-kun to the dentist. If you’re wondering, unagi mean eel. I call him that because he doesn’t have much of a chin, kinda like an eel. hehehehe. I don’t call him that, of course, just here on Xanga. For those of you who don’t know, he’s my stepson. He is also half Korean, grandparents are from what is now North Korea. Went to Glory Days for a beer.

Day Three Took M to the DMV to take her road test and she passed on the first try. While I would never tell this to her face, I can’t believe she passed. She drove in Japan which might suggest what kind of driver she is… Went to Glory Days again. Came home and watched 21 Grams. Really confusing.

Day Four Just stayed home and putted around. Didn’t accomplish much… Watched 21 Grams once more before returning it to Blockbuster. Now that I knew what it was about, it made more sense. the movie goes back and forth in time. Actually that’s not exactly right. It goes randomly through a number of temporal jumps, and a lot of scenes didn’t make sense the night before. Of course, it might have been because I was drunk… Stanford won its game in the first round of NCAA tourney. Go Cardinal… Yeah, there’s no “s” at the end of Cardinal because the Stanford team is not a bird but a color… I wonder if that’s a reference to the school’s previous “mascot” the Indians… Anyway, since you really can’t make a color into a mascot, the Stanford uses the Tree, a stupid looking sequoia, which is a redwood which may explain the cardinal color as well, but I’m not so sure…