Today I would like to talk about that wonderful friend of basically every living organism, disease. From colds to the gift that keeps on giving to ebola, we all have had some experience with these invaders.

First, the word itself needs to be understood. Disease. Look at it. Dis-ease. So...not ease. Or simply uncomfortable.

The etymology may come from somewhere else, but for all of you about to throw a dictionary at me, I know you can't because the only dictionaries that have etymologies in them are rather large and the people that would throw dictionaries in the first place don't have enough muscle to mass to pick them up, not to mention hurl them more than an inch.

My dear reader, I know what it's like to be uncomfortable. Sitting in a chair for too long. Accidentally bumping into an ex. Being caught masturbating. Catching someone else masturbating. Watching drunken coworkers fondle each other at Christmas parties. Watching Eat, Pray, Love.

These are uncomfortable. A disease transcends all of that. In the space of a day, one bad piece of sushi can make a person who's feeling on top of the world wish they were dead because they can barely make it to the toilet before the contents of their bowels explode, regardless of if pants are still on.

Gross. Also, related: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hF1pIMgE8FA

I can bitch about being sick all day, but being the optimist that I am, I thought that it'd be best to focus on the joys of disease.

We ought to come up with a better term. Disease just doesn't cut it. Biohazard?

Let's go back to our exploding diarrheaist. If he is lucky, then he also picked up the flu the other day and has concurrent symptoms like headache, stuffy nose, and fever. The symptom he should be most thankful for is the stuffy nose because my god, if the regular stuff that comes out of the butt is nasty, it seems like a sickness manages to marinate and age it for 3 years in the intestines before finally unleashing it upon the unsuspecting public. With a stuffy nose, the offender is blissfully unaware as the toilet becomes a deathtrap for the next person to use it.

On the plus side, the stench kills roaches too. 

Though it may sound strange, a fever allows us to experience the world in a different way than we're used to. And although I may have a box of tissues next to me for all the wrong reasons, my perceptions are so mangled and my mind so sluggish it might as well be the equivalent of taking a hallucinatory drug. For me, fever dreams involving flying skateboards in psychedelic blues and pinks are the norm. The resulting abstraction seems like an LSD trip into a parallel universe where I actually enjoy modern art and can glean some meaning from their colorful, amorphous shapes.

That would be a weird parallel universe. I understand modern art as much as I understand ancient Greek, which is to say not much, though ancient Greek art is much more appealing.

Finally, to top off the bright side of disease, allow me to post this picture of a recent oral ulcer I managed to get.

Recently, I’ve also been downloading a bunch of photo-enhancing apps for my iPhone, which allowed me to edit the saturation and create a field-of-depth to really make it “pop out.” And more professional, or so they say.

Though how one can make an oral ulcer look “professional” is beyond me.

Can you see what I saw? A smiley face! If you have more imagination, you may have even noted that it looks a little like Mickey Mouse.

It all started because I decided to eat too fast one day and chomped down on the inside of my mouth with both sets of teeth, hard. Whenever there’s too much trauma, I think my body doesn’t know how to heal the proper way and decides to destroy all the surrounding tissue and just start from scratch. Needless to say, the past couple of weeks have been awful for tea, noodles, and teethbrushing. Only yesterday could I eat a bowl of soba without wincing.

Plus side: Even my oral ulcers are happy. 

I am on the tail end of a rather nasty bug, and after being Typhoid Jon for the past 2 weeks and going through countless trees in the quest to clear my sinuses, I'm down to a few tissues a day. I believe the lesson that I always relearn is to be thankful for my health when I have it, and chew slower.

Perhaps most importantly, I remember to always to look on the bright side of life. It might just be a better world if we can view the gift that keeps on giving as an actual gift.

Just maybe.


My Brief Brush With Fame

My apologies for not having updated for the past...3 months? Something like that. Things have gotten busy.

But leaving aside jobs and thoughts of long stretches of the past and future, I would like to write about just one night.

Friday, November 4th. Suntory Hall, Roppongi, Tokyo. In a secluded area tucked away behind the ANA Continental Hotel, one could walk past Suntory Hall everyday without knowing it.

It isn't much to look at from the front, yet this hall has hosted some of the best in classical music and is, in my opinion, the top concert hall in Tokyo and Japan.

Considering this is my blog, "in my opinion" is redundant. I shall leave it out from now on. Assume everything is my opinion, and, by definition, unequivocally and obviously correct.

You may know that my favorite pianist is Dame Mitsuko Uchida. Please refer to the following links as you continue to read, for background music. The first link is my first exposure to her, the first movement of Mozart's piano concerto No. 25 with Ricardo Muti:


The second one is the third movement of Beethoven's 4th piano concerto with Sir Simon Rattle.


However, perhaps the most touching of the videos I have seen of hers is this one where she plays an encore with Mozart's piano sonata K. 545 - Andante


This last tune is probably one that is familiar to many, and one I have played myself, yet one I never knew could be so beautiful, until I heard it through her fingers.

She was born in Atami, a small seaside town about an hour away from Tokyo. Her father was the Japanese ambassador to Austria, and she moved with her parents to Vienna at an early age, studied piano, and then took 2nd at the International Chopin Competition. However, in her later years she focused much of her repertoire on Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and the second Viennese school (Schoenberg etc.).

She tours mostly in Europe and the USA, and though she doesn't seem particularly fond of Japan, she does play here once every year and I try to attend as many of her concerts as I can.

One major warning must be taken into consideration when writing about music however, and I think Charles Rosen sums it up very nicely in his book, Piano Notes: The World of the Pianist:

"The temptation is great to write inspirational prose in the grand style about an experience as intense as playing is for any committed pianist. I am embarrassed when I read that kind of prose, however, as the intensity of feeling is only made factitious by being diluted with words, so I have largely preferred to let that intensity be taken for granted."

I have realized through my own efforts in trying to write about music is that it is futile from someone with my limited writing abilities. The emotions I try to convey get lost in a jumble of grandiose words that in the end lose the focus and point I was trying to make in the first place. Music is auditory, reading is visual. Perhaps that basic difference is enough to make words inadequate in describing the experience of music.

With regards to the evening itself, I met up with 2 other friends at Suntory Hall for the concert. We had seats in the first row, though off to the right, so we could only see her face and feet.

Which was just fine. Her facial expressions are a wonderful part of the performance, and the feet gave me a much better knowledge of her pedal technique.

The performance that night was a Mozart Fantasia, Schumann's Davidbundlertanze, and a Schubert sonata, plus a Mozart sonata movement for the encore. During the first half of the performance,  I thought this was my one chance in life to give her flowers considering I was sitting in the first row. I dashed out as the intermission started and ran into the ANA Continental Hotel, sprinting into a florist 5 minutes before it closed. I picked out a small bouquet of roses, and as the flower lady arranged them, I wrote a long note to the object of piano-related adoration.

Running back into the Suntory Hall with around 5 minutes to spare before the end of intermission, I tried to get into the auditorium but was quickly stopped by at least 3 ladies working there. They would have made great secret service seeing as how they converged and took me down before I was even close to the door with my flowers.

"I'm sorry sir, but you can't enter the hall with the flowers. Would you like me to give them to her?"

"I would prefer to give them to her myself if possible..."

"Well, we'll keep them at the front and you can go backstage after the concert. She may have a meeting planned beforehand, but if not, there is a chance you can see her."

This, of course, was better than I had imagined.

You see, I hadn't exactly come up with a plan after getting the flowers. Leap up on stage afterwards and try not to get shot before I could give her the flowers?

The concert itself was wonderful. To be honest, I do prefer her Mozart over everything else, but the Schubert was also excellent. There was enough applause at the end and she came out one last time to play a Mozart piano sonata movement for an encore.

After giving her a standing ovation and seeing the lights in the concert hall slowly come back to life, I dashed outside, grabbed my flowers, and navigated the parking lot maze to the basement of Suntory Hall. There were already 2 other people in front of me, and within 10 minutes, the line extended to about 30 people behind me. Of all these Japanese, I was the only one who brought flowers, while the rest just had programs to sign.

No class, really.

It was a long wait punctuated by a false alarm when a cellist came out who apparently performed at a smaller side hall. Finally, a stern faced Japanese man came out through the doors and told us that all photography was forbidden and that it was possible she wasn't going to get to everyone and to just shove it.

My stomach was doing cartwheels in my abdomen.

A few moments later, she stepped out from the glass doors saying "Last order!" in German-accented Japanese. Normally restaurant employees go around saying this when the shop is about to close haha. She asked if she could borrow a pen from one of the people in front of me (well, more like said it and took it and he nodded vacantly), and then she got to me.

I shouted out "Dame Uchida!" and I think the English caught her by surprise as she stopped and took the flowers and offered her hand for me to shake. Guided by some divine force, I shook her hand and then, I swear to god, bowed and kissed it. Though the memory is a slow-motion blur, I think she took it well.

The following 30 seconds were just me spewing up every compliment I could think of in terms of her music, how it changed my life and you're such an inspiration and it really moves me every time I hear you play a concerto and your Mozart cadenzas are works of art and really, I would love to discuss your creative process behind how you make up your own improvisations and embellishments to the music and what your favorite piece is and which piano concerto you love to play and the one that speaks to you the most.


I was out of breath and she was nodding and then she smiled and said "Good luck" like she knew I was a fellow pianist. I was just beaming at her, my cheeks flushed as she moved on down the queue waiting for her autograph. She reached the end and during at some point one of her assistants had taken the flowers and was carrying them for her. We all watched as she got into a van with tinted windows and it drove off, ferrying her to some wonderful hotel in Tokyo no doubt.

I played piano after getting home, and I swear, Mozart's No. 20 in D minor sounded better than ever before.


Unemployed (Job Hunting World 2-1)

Dear Readership,

I am unemployed. You may remember the ecstasy and relief I felt after spending so much time looking for a job (i.e. the whole blog), and when we talked last, I was moving to Tokyo and all excited to begin my new life.

Which is still in some parts true. I am excited, I do love Tokyo, I am getting skinnier. However, the most important thing, the job thing, is not going as planned.

I started the job (8/22), and quit the job exactly one month later (9/22). Put simply, what I was asked to do was against my morals. In part, it was my fault. I felt at many times there was resistance in my conscience to doing it, but I thought through sheer willpower I could get over it and do it properly. It turns out my internal sense of right and wrong was more powerful than I thought.

It is certainly a black mark on my resume, and I have had to explain myself during every job interview since. However, in my defense, the company goes through a lot of people very quickly. In the month I was there, I saw someone get fired and saw two other people leave (one after two days), not including myself. And it's not a big company. At my recent job interviews, it seems like some of the HR staff are familiar with the practices of recruiting firms and have comforted me by saying many of the people who work at their company now come from the same background.

Losing a job puts a lot of things I had counted on in limbo, like my visa status, health insurance, and most importantly my salary. Where will rent come from? How will I pay the bills?

Where will I get the money to buy more video games? Books? Sheet music? Gym membership? 3-star Michelin restaurants?

However, losing a job also means I am a bum, and am entitled to all the privileges that come with being a bum, like sleeping whenever I want. Which was 9-5 today.

I think I know what I am good at. I might even have put in a little overtime!

So, in the spirit of before, here is what I have been doing this past first week of being unemployed.

a) I applied to around 6-10 jobs, I think. I lost count. I had three or four interviews this past week, I also lost count. I find that losing count is a great way of alleviating stress. It's the complete opposite of having all my eggs in one basket. You see, not just in two or three baskets, but like the bunny that hides them in every single conceivable place in April, I have launched my resume to the far reaches of the internet. Yes, most of them will rot, like that egg those kids forgot to look for under the bushes, but I have had good responses from a number of potential employers.

Back to the launching of resumes. This is how I see it. Imagine the mothership is the KJS (Kingdom of Jon Ship) The Ego, a sleek black vessel orbiting Jupiter...

Scratch that, you and I know that at this point it's a POS space-junker orbiting Jupiter, and out of the jankiest looking cannons you have ever seen are empty beer bottles filled with a cover letter and resume each, aimed for a planet far away. Planets called Linguistica, Translatia, Educatium IV, Instructica. The aim is accurate, but since the technology is quite low-tech, who knows where they will actually end up?

b) I also asked about a job at a bar, since they had signs up saying they were looking for staff. Pity though, they just hired someone earlier in the week so they weren't looking. But I really want to do it, since I get to dress up in some over-the-top shiny outfit while serving drinks, and it sounds like the perfect foot in the door to gogo boying. They told me to check back later, and I sure will.

The most promising jobs look to be as an instructor with a one-on-one English teaching corporation, or as a translator with a large pharmaceutical company. I've progressed in both of their interview series, but a final offer isn't there yet. However, on a side note, I also passed translating exams for two different companies, so I am also a freelance translator, mostly for Japanese to English.

But I'm still waiting for them to give me something to translate or proofread (-"-;)

So if you need anything translated, holla!

I also did the obligatory hour of daydreaming where I thought (as I stared at the jumble of wires that lead to and from my computer), if I could invent an economical form of wireless energy transfer, I would be set for the rest of my life. My research brought me to Nikola Tesla, and my adoration for him and his work continues. I mean, if the sun can do it, why can't we? But then I read about all the physics and unfortunately, electromagnetism was probably my weakest subject in physics. I do Newtonian much better.

My greatest fear is my bank account. I can last for awhile on my savings, but the bills must be paid, not to mention getting gouged for national health insurance. When it comes to being frugal, I have my ways to be the most miserly of us all. Yesterday, dinner was a hamburger from McDonald's, and it was the most delicious hamburger ever because it was free! I had a coupon.

But I have my limits, and after I left the McDonald's to go for a night stroll in the beautiful weather (because it's free), I found a woman closely tailing me as I left the store, who then promptly turned around and returned to her original spot 20 meters later. I passed by on the same strip as I was walking home, and, as I had guessed, that's where many prostitutes hang out. Which I did not know before. One of them tried to catch my attention with Chinese accented Japanese, and I quickly looked at her and she seemed quite wholesome, not what I envisioned a sex worker looked like in my mind's eye.

Of course, sex workers nowadays I suppose don't do the feather boa fishnet stocking thing anymore, unless they are drag queens, and thus probably not prostitutes.

I wonder what brought her there, I wonder if she enjoyed her line of work, and I wonder how often she found a client. If I had the money, I should like to ask an hour of her time to have those questions answered.

I also wonder if I'll ever need to stand on that same strip. Five dolla make you holla! I jest. Or do I...?

The response I give to everyone that asks about my current situation is, "Yes, it might be difficult, but it's exciting! Isn't this what youth is about? Not knowing the future? Wondering where it will all end up?"

Which is for the most part true. It is exciting, and I wonder what will happen. But most older adults ask these questions from the security of their own job security and assets and savings. And while they may have been in a similar position before, I wonder if they remember what it's like to live it.

If you remember, please let me know.

To be honest, I am scared. I don't know what will happen, and even though I know what I want to do, I lack direction and do not have the gift of sight to see what the proper steps I should be taking are. At this point, I should be considering a career, not just jobs. But I suppose the best I can do is keep applying and see what happens. I've come to realize that the things that are most worth having in life aren't given, but earned. I hold no hope that it'll all just magically work out.

But sometimes, I wish that that was all that it took, just a little hope and it will all be ok.


Job Hunting: Part End

I have a job. I will be an associate consultant in a consulting firm in the middle of Tokyo. I will be headhunting, working with HR with different companies at first, at least to the best of my knowledge.

Which means that this blog has served its purpose, even if it was never utilized as a tool for finding a job. I do enjoy writing from time to time, so I’ll probably keep it alive as best I can with occasional posts on my new life in Tokyo.

Although you’ll notice that I don’t really share much of what happens in my private life. More like general musings on life that are hopefully applicable to my readers. Like “Ah, I’ve been through that before” etc… Of course if I started writing about what I ate everyday and how many times I pooped and what color hairball the neighborhood cat puked up, maybe my readership might increase…

Now that the future is set, I can reflect on the past and my last 2 years here.

From this point on, it’s going to be a lot of bitching. You can stop here if you’d like.


After the first 6 months, I realized how utterly empty this place was. Unfortunately, I had already recontracted 3 months before that, and I felt lied to when winter hit.

Like newlyweds living together for the first time. “I never knew he farted so much. :(”

Nothing can prepare you for a Tsugaru winter, unless you’ve lived in the arctic for the majority of your life, then you should be ok. There is nothing here. Rather than lament, I decided to make the best of my time here. And so I decided to become a monk, and live an ascetic lifestyle to further my own path to enlightenment.

And by enlightenment I mean getting skinnier and a lot of reading and videogames.

I think I have done very well, as my friends will tell you, but they won’t, because I don’t have many here. I have also adopted a great diet and exercise program, and have plowed through much literature and a couple Mozart piano concertos (Nos. 20, 21) and beaten more games than I care to list. I have also spent countless hours studying Japanese and watching youtube and have become a connoisseur of Asian cinema. Which means I have done a good job of hermiting in my hermitage.

Also, if you need a good skincare regimen, I think I’ve come up with a pretty good one. Please ask!

One of the many maxims I try to live by is, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds,” but when that hand stops handing out salary and belongs to a real asshole, can I chomp down hard?

I shall. Let ‘er rip!

Let me tell you what a pain in the ass it is to live here. The nearest McDonald’s is 40 minutes away by car. The nearest train station that actually goes anywhere is an hour. Everything shuts down at 8PM (the banks at 3PM),

Everything is a loose term because there is only a supermarket and a hardware store here

and then it gets completely dark and quiet, and rather scary, like I’m in a zombie movie and have to get my chainsaw ready every time I leave the house at night.

And boy, don’t get me started on winter. Right now, there’s a heat wave and we’re all kinda melting in our chairs (yesterday it was in the upper 30s, so higher 90s for all you non-metric peeps), but I have never wished for winter instead. It is an abysmal half year. The snow is ridiculous. It’s fine if it falls, but the local specialty here is 地吹雪 or literally “ground blow snow,” when the snow doesn’t exactly fall but rather swirls from the ground into giant funnels that leads to whiteouts. And they’re kinda interesting to be in, like a really bad dream and you can barely see past your nose and all that your headlights illuminate is a wall of white, except there’s a car coming at you since no one knows what lane they’re in since they can’t see the ground anymore.


I should also like to mention that they don’t salt the roads because it’s “bad for the environment.” Of course, compacted icy roads are a joy to drive, err, skate on. You know the McDonald’s I mentioned earlier? Make that an hour and 20 minutes in winter. Also, the nearest ski resort is about 3 hours in this frozen hell. Remember the big hullabaloo everyone made over Toyotas and not braking? One person with a Prius from Aomori was interviewed and they said (to the best of my memory), “Oh, there was a braking problem? I didn’t notice since the roads are iced over in Aomori and everyone slips anyways.” You would think with the nuclear disaster Japan wouldn’t have much right to be concerned about the environment anymore, but of course, living in the middle of nowhere tends to have people who are more conservative and slow or backward thinking. Of course, this isn’t true of everyone, and I have met a very, very small handful of Japanese people here that I like. However, balance that out with the fact that I make friends almost every time I go to Tokyo, and I have come to realize that there has to be a strong reason for people to stay in Aomori (especially where I work), whether it’s family or job commitment, or they have tasted what the world has to offer and find this place best, or something else I don’t know. Of course, people stay here just because they have never dreamt of anything bigger; they never sought to explore the world; they do not have the talent, knowledge or money to escape; or in the worst case they resign themselves to their lot in life, and that goes against basically everything I live for. The people from Tohoku (northern Japan) that I’ve really took a liking to are all in Tokyo because they needed to achieve more and couldn’t stand to live where they were born.

And I’ll be there soon!!! WHOOOOO!!!

Aomori is the second poorest prefecture in the nation. It also has the second highest suicide rate. And it can’t even be first in the categories of sucking. The best argument I heard for this place is that “the water tastes better than in Tokyo.” I use a Brita filter thankyouverymuch. I also work at what is well-known as one of the shittiest schools in the prefecture. At the welcome party all the new teachers said “I’ve heard it’s tough, but I’ll try my best.” They use the term ganbaru, which I connote in this situation with resigning oneself to one’s fate because there’s nothing they can do about it. I was a little taken aback, because Japanese rarely ever voice their opinions so bluntly. But if they all said it, then I guess that’s some kind of group permission.

My relationship with the Board of Education (BoE) has also hit an all time high, like shit ceiling fan high. There was a personnel change in April, and all the good people were promoted and replaced with assholes, and since then everything has just gone downhill. It’s not that my new supervisor isn’t nice, he is, but it’s just he’s completely new and doesn’t know anything about what I do. So it’s basically me against his boss and he’s stuck in the middle of our bickering. Poor guy.

I was speaking to my previous supervisor, and thankfully he has given me all the guidance and directed me to the necessary forms to make my transition from here to Tokyo much smoother. The BoE has just given me contradictory bullshit, facts they made up on their own and decided not to check, or just decided to ignore my questions altogether.

Let me give you some examples:

Q: “I’m moving out soon, I was wondering if you wanted to do the gas, electricity, water bills together so we could put my successor’s name on there too.”

A: “The Board of Education doesn’t pay the bills, so it’s not our responsibility. Do it yourself.”

And so I did it, and cut the bills early. If there’s any problem, well, it’ll be their responsibility then, won’t it :P

Two can play at being an asshole.

And of course, there was that incident when the kachou 課長 got drunk and started talking shit about me behind my back. I think I’ll give him a piece of my mind after payday. Or I might not even bother, because frankly cranky old men don’t deserve my time.

Of course, in any argument, there are two sides to the story, and yes, there is a reason behind their ire. These really demonstrate the difference in our cultures, and in the end, despite what everyone thinks, I am not Japanese. Thank god.

Fault 1:
I used to eat breakfast at the BoE.

Fault 2:
I came in late a few times.

Fault 3:
I want to use all my vacation days.

Let’s address these separately.

1. Yes, I used to eat breakfast there, and didn’t know it was a problem. In fact, my last supervisor said it was ok to eat there in the mornings. Not the new management. They threw a hissy fit. So cool, I won’t eat breakfast there anymore. I don’t now.

2. This is, admittedly, my biggest flaw. I cannot for the life of me get up. Mornings are not my thing. However, I do my best, and I have never missed a class. What I have done, is punch in late. By late I mean about 1-4 minutes late. I never understood the fuss because I don’t do anything there in the mornings anyway. My job lies solely with the education of the children, and if I do that to the best of my ability, then I see no problem. Also, to make up, I punch out later as well. Ah, but the BoE values timeliness above actual work done, and that is where we have a big riff. I see no point, but they see it as a rule that must be obeyed, even if I have no productive use during that period. To fit in with their culture, this is perhaps the spot I feel like I could have improved on the most, and I have. I haven’t been late in recent memory.

Check this out, next job, I can eat breakfast AND can come in later the next day if I work overtime. Win.

So now, I have improved, but has their treatment of me changed? Nope. They still refuse to give me the time of day. So…fuck it. I barely spend any time there anymore. I kinda stay home and do my stuff and show up for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 in the afternoon. The glory of being able to speak Japanese is that it has made me autonomous, while some other ALTs need their BoE to communicate with other entities. Of course autonomy means an excess of freedom, and perhaps I have drifted so far away from them and do everything on my own that they don’t know how to approach me anymore. Which is fine with me. Being able to speak the language also has backfired in some senses because it allows them to communicate with me and I can’t pull the gaijin card and say I didn’t know. The earlier bill example would never have happened if I couldn’t speak Japanese.

Ah, and the last one is my favorite, using all my vacation days.

3. I was discussing with my new supervisor the time I was planning on taking off. And out of nowhere, the woman in charge of vacation time jumps in on the conversation and asks,

“Are you going to use most of your vacation days? Like close to all of them?”

“I’m going to use all of my vacation days.”

“ALL of them?”

At this point, she gave me a dirty look and seemed quite offended.

“Yes, all of them.”

“Well, that one day you helped after the earthquake doesn’t count because it wasn’t an order from the boss. Also, we need to deduct one hour of vacation for every minute you were late.”

I see what you did there.

“My last supervisor said that I could get vacation for helping out.”

And the conversation died at that point. From the Japanese POV, I am supposed to be the drone and work for the establishment that is the BoE. Taking vacation is a bad thing, even though we have set days for it, because it looks like I’m slacking and not working for the greatness of the BoE.

But, once again, everyone seems to forget I’m not Japanese.

My logic is quite simply: Since I’m not going to be working here, why wouldn’t I spend all my vacation days? Also, the kids are on summer vacation. There’s no one for me to teach, and you hate my guts, so why do you want me to stay one day longer? I don’t want to be here any more than you want me here.

I will be using all of my vacation days, including the ones promised me by my last supervisor. Done.

Please excuse what this entry has become. A long rant, but a cathartic one for sure. I apologize for its lack of cohesion and really one-sided view of all my problems.

Part of my dissatisfaction certainly has to do with my inherent nature. I’m really goal oriented and put results above most other things. I have high standards when it comes to food and classical music; I need to go to at least three symphonies and one Michelin ranked restaurant a year or else I get grouchy. I dress up to gambol along the most gorgeous streets of the most beautiful cities, not the mall. I expect the students to exert the same effort I put into teaching them. When I am greeted by “die”, “disgusting”, and “big dick” I question the life decisions that brought me to this place, and moreover my absurdly low fate score that sent me here.

And with students like that, the BoE has no right to complain about me when they’re supposed to be in charge of education.

However, just a few minutes ago, a giant chrysalis popped into my mind’s eye, kinda freaky and large (for you Starcraft fans like the one Kerrigan was in), and at the top, a vertical rift formed across the hardened membrane. I will come out of this a butterfly, and enjoy all that life has to offer me and all the opportunities that abound in the city of trains and great technology and people that feel the innate drive to achieve and accomplish. I can’t wait.

I’m going to get an apartment next week.


Rambling Thoughts - Prodigies, the Digital Age

I started this post a couple months ago, but only got to finishing it now. Quite a bit has changed, but that'll come in another post. Hopefully one that isn't delayed for months.

Pulling back from the minute detail of hunting for individual jobs, isn't it time I see the forest for the trees? Take stock of our lumber and lounge in the great outdoors for a bit? With a mug of shitty coffee in one hand and an axe in the other, my foot resting on the stump of a newly felled evergreen, please join me as I try to take stock of my generation and our place in the bigger scheme of things.

chirp chirp.

From my relatively narrow point of view, it could be said that our generation is one of extremes. The gap in between the different levels of societies seems to be ever widening, and while the rich get richer, the poor try to scrape by with what they can. I don't think either one of them is good or bad, because the rich are indeed rich because the poor decide to use their products or services. Despite the cacophony surrounding big business, it is that very system that allows the world to develop because of each company's vast resources and the pressure of a highly competitive market. I'm sure the people who complain about big business wouldn't be complaining if they were in a well paid managerial position.

It has always been my belief that if you don't like the situation you are in, then find a better one. The limitation is oneself, not a system that people feel they are victimized by. Transcend your current position. Acquire the skills and talents you need to do what you want to do.

Which brings me to prodigies. I love them. And I not-so-secretly envy them. Not only for their phenomenal talent and genius intellect, but because they know what they are born to do. They know that they are going to play piano, violin, any instrument; they are going to study math, physics, computer science, and they are going to be good at it forever. And they'll do that for the rest of their lives and love it. Their path is defined.

The rest of us, however, have freedom to deal with, and our fear of it. What is my future? What am I supposed to do with myself? Is this the job that I really want? Because few of us are prodigies, our road turns more into a cornfield, and we can only see a few stalks ahead of us before we're struck with the nagging doubt of "is this the right way out?" And "out", of course is a very loose term since we might end up in the totally opposite direction of where we wanted to go, or even back at where we started once we've escaped the cornfield.

However, I cannot honestly lament my position nor the place my generation is in. The internet is great. I can make a talk to people across the ocean for free on my laptop by pressing a button. I can fly across said ocean in half a day as opposed to a half year journey that might end with pirates and living on an island for the rest of my life.

Which sometimes sounds really interesting. At least for a week.

In the hustle of today, we often forget to be thankful for the things that have made our lives so convenient, which is in large part due to the efforts of large corporations and their necessary competition. So be thankful for Wal-Mart, Costco, cell phone providers, electronics corporations

When you're not dealing with their customer service

because it is through their efforts that we have such amazingly high standards of living, not to mention unparalleled convenience (though this part is debatable in terms of health issues and stuff, and the price we pay for being able to get tomatoes and all other produce all year round.)

I'll end with this link to a youtube video that I really like that basically makes what I said funny.


This was well named a ramble. The next one should be a little more coherent, but no promises.


Eat, Pray, Love: Taiwan

I can't strikethrough titles, but it should really look like this:

Eat, Pray, Love: Taiwan

Did I visit an ashram? No. Do I think I need to find some inner peace? Not yet. Did I fall in love while having sex in a gazebo overlooking the waterfront of some exotic Southeast Asian country? No, but I wish I did.

Mini movie review time. I hated that movie. I would nutshell it like this: American woman finds perfect life meaningless so she decides to eat and fuck her way through foreign countries until her materialism and lust are satiated until the sequel. I want the 2 and a half hours of my life back. I can slit my wrists and listen to emo music in about 10 minutes, and spend the rest of the time doing something productive like lighting my farts on fire.

What I did do was eat. Because if there's anything I know it's Taiwanese food and the endless stories my parents told me about it. Like how what we were eating at Diho market near Chicago was nothing compared to what we could get in the night market in Shiling in northern Taipei.

They were right.

For those of you who aren't familiar, this is Stinky Tofu, one of my favorite dishes. Smells godawful and I pity the American household that decides to try to make this at home. Other than tofu and pickled cabbage I don't know what's in it, and I don't want to. I just enjoy the aroma and dig in. It is splendid. The rank crunchiness challenges the senses, much in the same way I believe people enjoy spicy foods. It burns, but it's so delicious!

It was a fascinating experience visiting my parents' motherland. Mother island. It's someplace I've never been to, but all of a sudden I felt like I belonged. The mandarin I grew up speaking

exclusively I might add, until I was 5. My English was horrible.

came out with no second thoughts, except for a cocked head when I came across words I had never heard before. The people looked the same as me, and the mannerisms vibrated with me on some fundamental level that I have not felt in either America or Japan. There was the grittiness of a country on the rise, still full of energy but firmly rooted in its culture.

The disparity between the rich and poor clearly showed, and while the Taipei 101 was a sight to behold, if one drives about an hour out the surroundings become really rural, really fast.

But what splendid rural lands they were! This was some of the best chicken I've ever had.

In fact, there was no need for labels saying that these were organic free roaming. They were running around right outside the restaurant. My aunt (who was the best tour guide) gestured to the live chickens and said that you could point to one and the kitchen would have it prepped and cooked for you. The meat was out of this world. Apparently it only goes through a quick boil and comes with a spicy dipping sauce. The flavor was spectacularly rich and the texture was wonderfully chewy and melty all at once.

Back in the city, the night markets were fantastic. The food was cheap, delicious, and even my delicate stomach could handle it! Ever since January, I've been on a salad for dinner diet. Nothing but leafy vegetables and tomatoes with some olives and almonds and vinegar for dressing. My appetizer would be a broccoli chicken breast salad, with a different kind of vinegar for dressing. All to lose weight for this trip. Totally worth it. More food! This time in the Ximen district where we stayed at.

This is honest to goodness o-ah-mi-sua. I'm so Taiwanese I don't even know how to pronounce it in mandarin :P. With real oysters and intestines! You should have seen the people serving it. It was a two man team, with one holding the bowl and the other ladling out the noodles from a giant pot, and the first person adding some condiments and giving it to the customers. My aunt says that from when they open till they close the pair don't stop, which isn't an exaggeration. The line extended far past the lens of the camera, and all the seats were taken so we all just ate standing up.

Taiwan reminds me of what I imagined Japan used to be to an extent. Japan has flourished and is considered a hub of business and is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, no doubt. But I believe the energy and life are in part restrained by the order, the cleanliness and formality of the culture. I am not complaining, because those are precisely the aspects of Japanese culture I love.

However, in Taiwan, driving is governed by rules that many seem to take as guidelines more than anything else. In fact, we witnessed an accident when someone with an SUV tried to park in a small spot and scraped another car with their bumper. In another area my aunt haggled in Taiwanese, and the shop owner finally acquiesced with some rather caustic final remarks along the lines of "Miss, you can look at all the shops here and tell me if you find a plate for as cheap as I'm giving it to you. My husband should never have quoted that price, we can't even make a profit!" she said in accented mandarin.

Finally, you may be wondering, and yes, I did do more than just stuff myself silly. In fact, I might have lost some weight. During the day we visited all the touristy spots and my feet were always exhausted by the end of the evening. Here's a picture to prove I didn't just eat!

There. I did go to some places. The picture doesn't do it justice. The memorial hall is gigantic, and is definitely worth seeing up close and live. Also there are motionless soldiers standing on either side of the entrance which are also interesting to look at. They have a very tedious yet tough job.

All in all, I love Taiwan. It is a wonderful place to visit, and is an accessible version of China to Westerners (like myself). In fact, I wouldn't mind working and living there. At this point, I can pass for Japanese to an extent (short conversations only), but I can certainly much more easily pass for Taiwanese with a lot less effort. It was pleasant, enjoying the lawlessness and spontaneity that comes with a country that's coming to grips with its position on the international stage. I look forward to seeing how it develops in the future.

I would write more but I just got really hungry so I'll stop here. The next entry will be a little more thought out, I promise.


Job Hunting Part 3 - Writing

Current eating: Jasmine tea and Japanese walnut tea pastry

It has been about a month since the last entry, and with the exception of some volunteer work I did in Aomori City, not much else has changed in this sleepy prefecture.

In reference to Job Hunting 2, I am still working on music, except now it's the shorter and much more easily managed topic of video game music remixes. I'm working on an obscure Kirby theme right now that I will probably post sometime later.

Today's new adventure is in writing. In my recently started never-ending search for a way to make money, I pull myself in the literary direction. And I always start with a grandiose end result dream.

Imagine, if you will, a podium with me behind it. On the side of the podium is an etched university seal with Latin scribbled across its face. Even though I can barely see through the spotlights beaming at me from across the stage, I can feel the expectant gaze of every single person in the packed lecture hall, waiting in bated breath for me to begin. This is the guest talk that has been advertised for months, and I'm both relieved and nervous that people are actually interested in hearing what I have to say. The lights cause a thin trickle of sweat to start pooling at my brow, which then neatly carves a path halfway down my face before I wipe it off with a flick of my wrist. A deep breath and sip of water later, I am steadied, ready to utter my first words.

And why are they here? Because I published a

...? What did I publish? A collection of short stories? A collection of poetry? A novel? A nude photo book? Regardless, it sold really well. I am also holding a martini in one hand, and my speech notes in the other, though I plan to throw them away in a dramatic flourish to emphasize how spontaneous and brilliant I am.

And therein lies my greatest problem. I may have these ridiculous fantasies of self-importance, but I require a medium with which to achieve it.

Out of all the insanity that my mind has shat out, in the realm of self-employment, writing is probably my best option.

Only option.

I am inspired. Right now. I'm reading Amy Tan's memoir, The Opposite of Fate, and her stories are moving, particularly because we share that silk thread of being Asian-American. She draws upon her own history, and her mother's history, and her grandmother's history to weave her stories into tales of hope and then tragedy and then some sort of hopeful ending but still tragic. And she probably gets paid a butt load for it. She has her own Cliff Notes, which really means she's made it somewhere in the writing world. I have often thought, and spoken aloud, that my own family could be the foundation for a great soap opera. Why not a work of embellished fiction?

I have thoughts. I have ideas. I have dreams of becoming the Ayn Rand of this century, just with less architecture and angry people. And, similar to the impetus of Rebecca Black's Friday, I have another reason to keep writing because I just read an awful book which I might review later. Let me just put it out there that if you are interested in the early Kamakura period of Japan, do NOT purchase White as Bone, Red as Blood: The Fox Sorceress. I think I should have heard the warning bells when the author's biography prints as such:

"Cerridwen Fallingstar, a shamanic Witch and Priestess, has taught classes in magic and ritual for over thirty years. Since childhood, she has had the ability to time-travel, entering alternate realms and distant times at will. She is a professional writer and psychic."

I shit you not witch and priestess were capitalized. But I am deaf to my own warning bells and plowed my way through some 300 pages of the most agonized reading I've done in a while. There are only so many lesbian love scenes I can take before I hit a limit. Especially when they are being described in terms of "jade pillar", "blooming orchid", or "dipping one's willow into the river". I can hear the koto in the background and it is being played poorly.

I may have higher standards because I studied classical Japanese poetry and literature and hold it in the highest esteem. Her anachronistic application of homeopathy and disregard for major historical texts and proper romanization was especially difficult to swallow.

But! Again, if she can get published, and even have the courage to call herself a professional writer, then I should be able to write and get paid for it as well.

To note, I have a poetry collection in the works, entitled 108 Poems Inspired by the Japanese (tentative). It is, poetry, inspired by earlier Japanese poems, but written by me, and not as good, all circling around the theme of love.

The pros: Poetry comes naturally to me. I think up poems even when I'm not thinking about it. I am minimalist with my use of words and meanings. I have won or placed in a couple of contests and got published in small magazines or mailings.

The cons: I'm afraid to my mind they seem so wonderful and metaphory, but to someone reading them they'll think I'm a teenager on her period who just got dumped after losing her virginity.

But you know, the great thing about poetry (and to my limited knowledge, especially Japanese poetry) is that the reader does all the work, and the writer only nudges the mind in a certain way.

Let's try a small example. Let's say I give you the description of a man:

"And I remember the first time I saw him. He was silhouetted against the spotlights, the light casting strong shadows that emphasized his physique; his musculature showed where the clothes clung to his body from the sweat. His chiseled features looked especially sharp that day, and while he may have seemed nervous as he gave his speech, his eyes bespoke a whole other world behind them. Was this the mind that created (insert masterpiece)?"

Or a woman:

"When it comes to hips, hers are unmatched. They're wonderful to look at when she's sitting down with her legs crossed, but when she walks, my god, not a single man can keep his eyes off her. Her hair is perfectly made up; when I asked, she says she only spends 10 minutes in the morning on it. Luck is quite unfair with DNA sometimes. However, she certainly knows how to pick the right clothes to emphasize those curves. She better watch out though, with looks like hers, there'll be a lot of angry wives chasing after her soon."

In these two examples, I have described a specific man and and specific woman, each conforming to ideas of traditional beauty, but not necessarily what each individual thinks is beautiful.

To test, what is the first image that comes into your head as you read:

"Handsome man"


"Beautiful woman"

Different than what I wrote right? With one adjective and one noun, your mind spins a whole being into reality, complete with looks and and a personality, the paradigm of what you believe to be  "handsome" and "man", and/or "beautiful" and "woman". For those of you that created a handsome beautiful man woman, I applaud your creativity for it stretches far beyond my own.

Now, if we enter the realm of what I believe is poetry, it gets even simpler. I just made this poem up a couple seconds ago to serve as an example.

Your face
among the drifting cherry blossoms.
Do they enhance your beauty?
Or do you complete theirs?

I actually kinda like this one. I think I'll put it in after a few more edits.

In this case, I have given you a simple image of floating cherry blossoms (it is Spring in Japan after all), and a face. The face is totally up to you, but because of the last couple of lines, it will be your lover, or the lover you wish you had. I personally like interplay between contrasts, which is the only thing I can think of most of the time, so that's what you get, the balance of beauty and the question of which one is the main and which one is the complement.

The most wonderful thing about poetry is that it's supposed to be deep. So hell, if you see an image that I never intended, props to you. Just give me the credit ;)

All in all, this is a rather late start to consider writing as a career, but Amy Tan first published The Joy Luck Club at 38 years old, which means I still have some time left. I'll just need to find a way to feed myself until then.

For those of you who have been published, in any medium, do you have tips for a hopeful writer?