Thursday, January 28, 2010

For All the Horror Movie Fans

All this week, my friend Randall's hosting lists of the Top Ten Horror Movies of the decade over at his blog. I haven't followed horror movies in a pretty long time, and most of what I do watch is ridiculously outdated ("So there's this dude in a striped shirt that appears to kill you, get this, in your dreams!") but there are some promising recommendations on there for anyone interested in checking out new horror flicks (i.e. Dan).

That is my honest opinion, and I'm not just writing this because Randall will be posting my own Top Ten list on Saturday. Also, Randall and I have an informal competition going over who can post the most links to the other's blog, so this is one more step towards tying the match.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Superior/Subordinate Relationships

Today, over the course of the workday, I became aware of why sending kamikaze pilots to their deaths for the good of the country was a uniquely Japanese phenomenon in WWII.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

When the Cheese Runs Out...

I have a tendency to evoke ridiculously outdated bits of media matter in this blog (Coming Soon: My In-Depth Critique Goldeneye vs Perfect Dark. Did the latter push gameplay to its limits, or complicate a near-perfect formula?), though I'm sure most of my single-digit readership either ignores these entries or accepted them long ago. One of my students is reading Who Moved My Cheese?, and asked me to explain some of the difficult grammar. I read this book shortly after high school ended and hadn't thought about it much since; but after flicking through her highlighted and dog-eared copy, I was hit with a rush of memories that made me stagger and shake my head from side to side.

When the cheese runs out, you have got to find new cheese.

That's been the core of my life's philosophy for some time. Too many days spent watching over indolent high-schoolers and staying home with attention-starved dogs lead me to search out bigger things; I'd forgotten where exactly that inclination came from.

Who Moved My Cheese is a quick, easy read for even the most dedicated of non-readers. Don't expect anything too mind-blowing, but definitely read the book to spark some reflection on your own situation; especially if you too are fumbling through the Post-College Abyss.

Friday, January 15, 2010

In Which the Author Shamelessly Rips Off the Opening Scene to "Annie Hall"

There's an old joke that sums up the mentality of the Japanese people that most people here seem to know and can laugh about, though I wonder how deeply they take it to heart:

As everyone knows, on its maiden voyage the luxury liner Titanic struck an iceberg and began to sink. The captain realized that there weren't enough lifeboats to hold all of the passengers, and thus had to convince some people to stay behind. He entered a corridor where there was a British passenger, a German passenger, an American passenger, and a Japanese passenger all staying. The first door he knocked on was that of the British passenger.

"The ship is sinking," the captain said, "and, as you know, courtesy says 'Ladies first.'"

"I see," said the British passenger. "I shall stay behind."

The captain next knocked on the door of the German passenger. "The ship is sinking," he said, "and you have to stay behind. It's the rules."

"I see," said the German passenger. "I shall stay behind."

The next door the captain came to was that of the American. "The ship is sinking," the captain said, "and we don't have enough lifeboats. If you stay and let others go in front of you, you will be remembered as a hero!"

"You're right!" said the American with a burst of excitement. "I shall stay behind."

Finally, the captain knocked on the door of the Japanese passenger:

"The ship is sinking," he said, "and everyone else is staying behind. You might as well stay behind too."

There's more wisdom in that joke than in all the rest of my online ramblings about Japan put together.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Captain Zooey Dedalus’s Complete Authoritative Guide to the Kansai Region of Japan (excluding Nara, Wakayama, Mie, and Shiga prefectures)

Picture of the Month

A yellow-skirted maid in Akihabara handing out flyers for what I can only assume is some sort of prostitution front.

Konnichiwa, loyal readers, or Welcome (for those less skilled than I in the subtle arts of the Japanese language) to another thought-provoking installment of Captain Zooey Dedalus’s Adventure Blog; the best source for cultural anthropology-substantiated insight anywhere on the internet. In my last account I reflected on the carelessness of Japanese shoppers and explored the semen-encrusted hallways of a Mito Love Hotel, and this month I am pleased to chronicle my latest and most impressive adventure destination of all: that carefree chunk of Japan known as the Kansai region.

The term Kansai is derived from the Japanese words kan, meaning tin can, and sai, meaning years-old; and is home to some of the friendliest people in Japan (so friendly, in fact, that the store clerks there kept smiling even after I’ve turned my back!). Aside from their jovial demeanor, Kansai people are well-known for abhorring natto, that dish of fermented soybeans mixed with rotten eggs that is Japan’s national food.

Yours truly receiving the 2009 Highly Distinguished Online Anthropological Travel Writing Award in recognition for his contributions to the world of cultural anthropology, regular anthropology, linguistics, literature, pop-culture, history, cultural anthropology, sociology, psychology, and cultural anthropology. Notice the people riding the escalator in the upper left corner of the shot.

Your typical Kansai citizen can be distinguished by his stubbornly ingrained habit of standing on the right side of the escalator, as evidenced by the above photograph. In the Kanto region (i.e., the area between downtown Shinjuku and Narita airport), people always stand on the left side of the escalator, leaving the right side open for those wishing to walk up. In Kansai, it is exactly the opposite! No one knows why Kansai people have adopted this strange custom, but it may be correlated with their natural tendency to drive on the wrong side of the road.

Kobe Harbor, home of the world’s largest spider web.

My first stop in the region was Kobe, which was devastated by a terrible earthquake in 1995 (Chikan 24 in the Japanese calendar). The city has rebuilt itself impressively, and now boosts more overpriced tour cruises than anywhere else in Japan. Kobe obtained fame as a port city after Japan first opened to Western trade after World War II, and many old homes belonging to European merchants still remain. These daring gaijin braved the hazards of Japanese society decades before the deadbeat English teachers and cosplay fanatics arrived on the scene; and here I take the time to thank them. Gaijin of the past, you blazed a trail that made it much easier for us to sleep with hot Japanese women, and for that I salute you.

All of Kyoto’s temples look the same, so I won’t even bother labeling this one.

My next stop was Kyoto, home of some of Japan’s most famous temples and shrines, some of which aren’t even replicas! Since it is not the anthropologist’s job to bother with trivial history long forgotten, I have little to say about this city. I did, however, see a geisha (high-class Japanese prostitute) wandering through the lanes of Kenninji temple near Gion, though her pimp forcefully prevented me from snapping any pictures.

Dotonbori, sort of the Times Square of Osaka (Times Square is a popular area in New York with lots of bright lights and overpriced designer shops) where young people go to view the latest fashions and take pictures of the Glyco Man.

Your narrator journeyed to Osaka primarily to partake of the local dish known as takoyaki (from the Japanese words yaki, meaning grilled, and tako, meaning taco), which I’d heard was the only thing of interest in Osaka. While I didn’t encounter any Mexican restaurants, I did observe (as only the trained anthropologist can) that Osaka is much older than the rest of Japan, with most of the buildings dating back to the mid 1960’s. Strangely, aside from Kyoto’s venerable temples, most Japanese cities have few buildings built before 1945. The true reason for this strange phenomenon remains a mystery, but I am working on a research paper conclusively proving that the Japanese people lived in castles with samurai (a kind of Japanese warrior) until the invention of the rice-cooker necessitated the need for electricity-wired homes.

Anime magazines not intended for those under the age of 18, or for those offended by precocious schoolgirls engaging in sex with multiple partners.

Finally, I encountered a shop in Osaka that specialized in an obscure form of entertainment known as anime, or Japanese cartoons. Now, though I am never one to shy away from even the most revolting of cultural oddities, I had not adequately prepared myself for the overwhelming number of animated nipples that assaulted me the moment I walked into that licentious den of fetishist smut. Traumatizing though the experience was, it did allow me to make the following deduction:

All anime comes from Japan.
All anime is sold in anime shops.
All of the anime sold in anime shops is pornographic.

Therefore, all Japanese anime is pornographic.

Try to argue with that logic, dear readers! Stay tuned for the next installment of my anthropological adventures when I relate my journey to Hiroshima, the site of one of the biggest tragedies of the 20th century: your author has his french fries stolen by a wandering deer.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Whore by Any Other Name

I hate to shatter anyone's illusions about the Land of the Rising Sun, but not only is prostitution extremely prevalent in Japan, it also goes by really funny names.

The other day I passed a high-priced establishment cutely labeled "Pub" in pink cursive, which a friend (who spoke on condition of anonymity) pointed out was a pink-curtained Japanese club where women pour drinks and flirt with customers. This provoked a descent into the wild Japanese world of Snack Clubs, Girl Bars, and Maid Cafes that cater to men of all ages who share a crippling inability to get laid.

For a quick burst of sexual relief, your average salaryman need go no further than the local Pink Salon (pinkusaron), where girls perform fellatio for around 10,000 yen (about $100). These clubs do oral sex only; if you want to touch, grope, fondle, stroke, or ejaculate on the girls, you should check out your local Health Club (herusucurabu), which are decidedly more hands-on than their Western counterparts. Here, as long as it's not straight vaginal intercourse, a gray area in the Japanese prostitution law says it's okay.

However, the real brothels in Japan are called Soaplands (sopurando) where customers can come inside for a hot bath and some straight-up sex. The name evokes images of suburban outlet stores or some sort of lame Dove theme-park where kids can ride down slides of bubbles. Soaplands stay in business because officially they're just places where men can take a really expensive bath—any other arrangement is between you and the girls. Because naturally, whatever goes on between a man and his highly-paid female bathing masseuse is clearly motivated by love.

There is, of course, a catch: these places don't cater to foreigners. Your average gaijin gets enough tail as it is.