Friday, February 28, 2014

Okonomiyaki and Miyajima

Last weekend I had a really good time. I got to meet a new friend and also enjoy some famous Hiroshima things.

Souichirou's good friend was visiting from Korea, and the boys invited me to have dinner with them. Of course, I rarely pass up a chance for really good Okonomiyaki, and I was also curious to meet someone from Korea.

Here we all are at the restaurant. In later pictures our faces get increasingly red. Except mine, because I wore foundation. What a lifesaver!

I'm still no good at pronouncing Korean, but Facebook spells the guy's name as "Eeksoo." (I try not to pronounce it as "Ikuso.") Anyway he was really nice and a bit shy like a lot of my brother's friends back home. We spoke a combination of Japanese and English. Eeksoo's listening is pretty good! But I had more trouble getting him to talk in English...To shy! But with Souichirou leveling down Japanese for both of us, and me leveling down English for both of them, we really could talk pretty normally.

The next day the boys invited me again on their trip to Miyajima, and I was able to meet up with them in the afternoon. We ate some good food such as anago and kaki-don, and walked around the park together. I brought my Miyajima deer, Maple, which is the first time he has returned to him home country.

On monday, Eeksoo went on to Tokyo, but he enjoyed Hiroshima a lot. I'm glad we had the chance to meet up.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Like a Virgil

A song parody. I blame Lizbeth who encouraged me to write this. (Apologies for the wonky theology. I swear most of it's in the original poem!)

Like a Virgil Lyrics

I made it through my dark forest.
Somehow I made it thru-uuh.
Didn’t know what damnation was
Until I met you.

Yeah, they’re trapped, thrown in crap,
Cut in half, yeah, they’re burning too.
 But the traitors are
Yeah, the traiiiitors a-are…
Icy and blue!

Like a Virgil
Descending for the second time
Like a Viiiiirgil
He’s a pagan, but I don’t mind.

Gotta get through all the levels.
The road is si-iiinking fast.
Hafta climb down Satan’s ass
To see the stars at last.

Yes, they scream, and they whine
They’ll be here till the end of tiiiime
But I won’t complain.
No, I woooon’t complaaaain
Cause it’s God’s design!

Like a Virgil (Hey!)
Descending for the second time
Like a Viiiiiirgil
Got salvation on his mind.



Sin too bold, hearts are cold
And for some who were never told
So his love carved out
Yeah, his loooove carved out
A dark and scary hole!

For a Virgil
Stuck there till the end of time
Like a Viiiiirgil
That’s his problem; I’ll be fine.

Like a Virgil
Ooo—ooh like a Virgil
Got him by my side
With the liars
And schismatics
And the Pharisees


Ooh, painful…

Can’t you see the stars shine
For the very first time?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Is Art Sin? (A Parody)

(An open, authentic discussion on the role of art in a Christian’s life. The partners being one artist and one very sincere person. Some elements may or may not resemble the sort of language that appears on certain unnamed Christian blogs.)

Artist: I really like carving.

Very sincere person: Ohhhh…

Artist: What?

VSP: Well, I’m sorry to say this, and it probably won’t come as a surprise to you if you know anything about what Christians believe. But that’s a sin.

Artist: No way! Why????

VSP: I’m afraid the Bible is clear. “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not create for yourself an idol, or a likeness of anything in the heavens above, or the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth. And you shall now bow down and worship it. For I the lord your God am a jealous god, visiting the sins of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:4. You can also check out Deuteronomy 5:8. These are the very words of God. I hope and pray that you will not close your heart to them.

Artist: There was something about not making an image…But I always thought that meant not to make an artistic object with the intention of worshipping it.

VSP: Your hermeneutical approach is intriguing, but I would suggest a closer look at the text. Let’s stick with the plain meaning, shall we? Look at this word here. “And.” Now, this is the key to the whole passage. Interestingly, it’s the same word in the original Hebrew. I learned that in seminary. Now, you know what “and” means.

Artist: It links two sentences?

VSP: Well, that’s part of it. Notice that the author didn’t choose to use some other conjunction such as “but,” or “because,” or “then.” He used “and.” And the funny thing about that word, actually, is that it links two equivalent sentences. Essentially, what comes before the “and” is just as important as what comes after. So, “You must not create a likeness,” and “You shall not bow down and worship it.” Both are good, both are important. You’re halfway there. Don’t fall into the trap of picking and choosing. Let the Word teach you.

Artist: I’m just not sure there’s a universal command against all artistic…

VSP: Well (laughs good-naturedly), I like to go with what the Bible says first instead of starting from my own feelings. Let’s take a look. A good place to start is 2 Timothy 3:16. “All scripture is given by God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and instruction in righteousness.” Now, some people think the Old Testament is outdated and shouldn’t be taken seriously. Nothing can be farther from the truth! Jesus himself said, “I come not to abolish the law, but so the law may be fulfilled.” Mathew 5:17. Love that verse! Also, and here’s X years of Biblical scholarship talking...While it is true that some of the Mosaic laws are clearly cultural and outdated—the prohibition against mixed fabrics for one—there are three main divisions of the law. Did you know that? There’s the purity laws. Those are cultural. And then the political laws that have to deal with the nation of Israel. And then there are the moral laws that are meant for all people at all times with no exceptions. Does that answer your question?

Artist: Um…that is…

VSP: What?

Artist: Isn’t there some part where…

VSP: I’m sorry, I can’t hear you.

Artist: Doesn’t God command people to make angels or something on the Ark of the Covenant. In Exodus?

VSP: Ohhh, that’s a good observation! In fact it brings me to my next point. Your artistic passion, drive, whatever, is a very good thing!

Artist: Really?

VSP: Yes, absolutely! It was given to you by God, to draw you closer to Himself and to so you can use it to glorify Him! God doesn’t create anything bad. You can make angels to adorn the Ark of the Covenant all day long, and the Holy Spirit will be right there, cheering you on, going, “Yeah!” There’s nothing shameful about our natural passions. The problem is that we live in a broken, fallen world, and our sin nature wants to get in the way of God’s perfect design. While the world says, “Follow your heart,” we Christians know better. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “For the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” And the next verse provides the answer. “God searches the heart and tests the mind.” If we do what is right in our own eyes we’ll be led away by the evil passions and desires of our sin nature. You don’t want that to happen. So God gave us wise, life-giving rules to guide us back to him. Of course, it’s not easy. I know that too! Every day’s a struggle. But the Holy Spirit is our advocate. You know, can I share my story with you? I used to go through the very same struggle you did. Mn! Every day I just wanted to pick up a paintbrush and paint away. But the Holy Spirit was faithful, and I had some accountability partners to keep me on the straight and narrow. Now, glory be to God, my house is full of angels intended for use on the Ark of the Covenant, and I can tell you—it was worth the wait and I am satisfied in a way I never dreamed of before. You just can’t imagine. Does that answer your question?

Artist: Um, yeah. Yeah. I should…

VSP: You, know. That was such a good question. I think there are so many harmful stereotypes generated in the media about this issue, and it’s something we Christians really should talk about more, and more authentically. There’s such a battle going on for hearts and minds, giving in to temptation even a little can be such a slippery slope.

Arist: I’m actually late.

VSP: Okay, well nice talking to you. I really feel like this was a fruitful conversation. There’s a lot of truth to meditate on. If you’d ever like to ask me some more questions, in fact…

Artist: Okay—later!


Artist thinks: (Never, never, never again! Ever! Definitely not telling him I started painting pictures in my free time.)

VSP: (Hm, I’m trying to stay optimistic about this person, but I’m sensing a real hardness from her. Did I blow it? Did I say something wrong? I tried to just give her clear, applicable answers to her question, backed up with appropriate scripture. I kept my tone light and friendly. I even acknowledged when she had a valid point! I was vulnerable and took the risk of sharing my own story. I tried to meet her need for mentoring as best as I knew how. I did everything I could to establish connection and trust so the Holy Spirit could work in her. I guess I should just pray about it.)

(Seriously, I don't know where this conversation came from. Only that it came out much too easily.)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Dear Bilingual People...

Dear Bilingual People,

So you're all chatting away a mile a minute and I'm practicing my listening skills trying to keep up, learning how people my age use Japanese in real life. Then you ask how much I understand and to ask anytime I want translations. And when I say I get about 50% you say, "That's great!" and go on totally ignoring me.

You know what would be great? If instead of asking if I need translations and just pointing out how totally out of place I am (as if I'm going to derail your conversation every time I don't understand a word--if I'm too shy to open my mouth, am I really going to speak up over all of you???), try asking for my opinion on something LIKE I'M A FUCKING HUMAN BEING.

Ask in Japanese. Ask in English. If I don't understand the Japanese, repeat in English, but feel free to keep using Japanese next time because YOU NEVER KNOW. I might actually get something.

I know you've all known each other since forever and this might be your only chance in the week to hang out. And you're all super-confident in both languages because you either have lived in Japan longer than five years or you have Japanese parents.

And that's fine. I'm not hindering you in any way by hovering at the edge of your club, stumbling and crawling towards a higher level of language proficiency. You don't have to repeat everything in English. Hell, you don't have to repeat twenty percent in English.

Actually, you know what? I'm fine if you NEVER USE ENGLISH AT ALL. (Even though it's either your native language or you speak it much better than I speak Japanese.)

JUST MAKE EYE CONTACT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ACT LIKE I'M THERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ASK ME A QUESTION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I've only been studying a year and a half, and my confidence is very low. There's no way I'm going to jump into your conversation unless I suddenly start screaming at the top of my lungs. And you don't want that.

You can try to keep your little buddy-buddy club, but sucks to be you because I'm not going away. This is one of my only chances too to speak with people who know both English and Japanese. And you won't be making any new friends soon if you never talk to new people.

It's my right to attend the church I want and to talk to the people who go there. And if you want to be snobs, then you've chosen a pretty damn ironic place to do it.

But you know what? Thank you. Really, thank you. Because next time I have a friend who doesn't know so much English, before I jump in with specious offers of translation, I'm going to treat them with some decency and ask them a question about the topic. You've done such a good job being assholes, I now have a better idea how not to be one.

Rant over.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Japanese vs. English (again)

A conversation from work:

Bilingual Japanese coworker: So this dialog says "I want to hear all about it." Can I change it to "I want to hear a lot about it?"

Me: I don't think so. It sounds weird.

Coworker: But it doesn't match the Japanese.

(I read that the Japanese side says "iroiro" which can mean "various" or "many" but not "all.")

Me: "A lot" and "all" have the same meaning in this sentence, though.

Coworker: Really, it's the same?

Me: Yes, pretty much.

Coworker: I'm just worried that customers will check their dictionaries and complain that "all" is not one of the meanings for "iroiro."

Me: That's true...But it's so American! We exaggerate.

Coworker: (Starts nodding and laughing.)

Me: We say "Tell me all about it" when we actually mean "Tell me about it for five minutes, until I get bored." Japanese people are more honest.

Coworker: Then we can make it one of the language points for this page.

Me: Good idea! It's perfect.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Bad Reasons for Writing, Good Reasons for Writing

So, do you ever hear someone talking about a book/movie/comic project, and you just think, "Oh, this is gonna suuuuuuuck," way before you even see it? And then it does suck? Or you read a book and think, "Hm, something about that just ticked me off." And then you read about the author and realize, "Yes! You are exactly the kind of person who annoys me!"

Or maybe it's just me.

Anyway, I compiled a semi-complete list of phrases, which, if I ever heard them describing a piece of art, I would approach that work with a healthy amount of skepticism. Note: These are not limited to Christian authors, though Christianese can be a primary offender.

Okay, here's the rundown. (In no particular order.)

I want to do something no one's ever done before.

Nope, not gonna happen. Hint: try doing something people have done before, but in your own way. It's called "living."

I want to be the next... (C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, You Name It)

As one of my professor's put it, even C.S. Lewis didn't want to be the next C.S. Lewis. Really, when does trying to be another person ever work?

I want to revitalize the genre.

What does this even mean?

I want to tell a great story that will impact larger audiences for Christ. 

Setting yourself up for failure here...

Since the dawn of time, stories have been the primary way we define ourselves as humans...

I can't trust the writing ability of anyone who uses this phrase to begin a sentence. Also, anyone who claims to know exactly what it means to be human has ego issues.

I believe I'm called to....

Nope, nope, nope...

Every writer requires three things: Passion, Purpose, and Plan. And if you have those....

Actually, all writers are different. There's no one method that works. Being open minded is a good start, though. And the alliteration. Stop.

People could believe these Truths so much more easily if encountering them through the medium of story.

You know what I smell? An AGENDA! This ain't writing. It's advertizing.

And now, a few good reasons... (among many others)

How come you never see...?

What would happen if...?

There should be a story about...

I could do that better.

I was on the train and a character floated into my head.

(If you're J.K. Rowling)

I wrote a random sentence and decided it was the first line of a book.

(If you're Tolkien)

Overall, talking about writing around other English majors can feel like you're in a room full of pickup artists but all you're looking for is friendship. Everyone else is out to score points and make a splash, but you're searching for a connection you can't even really define because it's different each time.

In short, I can't stand any description of writing that takes the emphasis away from the text itself and what the text is conveying. I guess in the list of motives, what stands out to me is that the first set focuses on the author and the author's goals, while the second set have to lead into something concrete. Actually, most of them can't be finished or made specific because you have to insert what the story is actually about.

On another topic, I quickly grow bored when authors explain their work by trotting out a lot of complicated symbols and lofty goals. Not that those are bad things. But if I can't connect to the story as a story, I don't care much about the impact it's supposed to be having on society.

On the other hand, authors I really like are the ones who talk about their work in great simplicity, but great detail. It's like they actually believe on some level that this world and these people exist. Like when Flannery O'Connor (who does also use a lot of symbolism and complicated themes) describes the unusual way she wrote "Good Country People" and how sometimes she didn't know what her characters would do until they did it.

Which sounds like a lot more fun than revitalizing the genre.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Aural Learner?

When I was studying to be an English teacher I did one of those "What type of learner are you?" tests. Turns out I lean more towards Aural/Kinesthetic than towards visual. Which makes sense. You can show me slides all day and I won't remember shit, but if I can remember someone's tone of voice or participate in some way, stuff sticks in my head. Especially true for language learning.

But looking back I think I have to change one of my answers. So the stereotype is that aural learners have trouble with writing and drawing. Which is not at all the case with me. I'm not artist, but I did take some art classes in high school and never had a problem using visual perspective of flipping a drawing to make the mirror image. I have boxes of notebooks in my bedroom at home filled with diaries and story notebooks. Don't tell me I have trouble with writing.

However, when I stop to actually observe my writing, I'm noticing that I actually suck at concentrating. Sometimes I can barely write a sentence without mixing up words! (Especially if there's distractions in the room.) Instead of writing similar letters or misspelling a word, I tend to write a different word that just sounds a little bit like the word I want. Like "creaky" for "creepy," or "up" for "of," or "worse" for "worth." Like I'll be reading along later and suddenly come on this random word that shouldn't be there at all. It's like I was taking down dictation for someone and kept mishearing things.

Once I caught myself writing the kanji for "watashi" instead of the hiragana for "ha" (pronounced "wa"). So now I'm even doing it in Japanese! And I'm still mixing up words based on sound, though occasionally I put the wrong strokes in kanji too.

In the end, I guess my conclusion is your learning proclivity doesn't matter if you have enough determination. I may not have the visual skills to distinguish letters easily, but if writing is important to me I'm going to keep doing it anyway.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Two Comics

So yesterday I had a strange conversation where three different forms of the same verb were used. Me and the postman:

Postman: [Housemate's name] irasshaimasu-ka?

Me: Ie, imasen.

Postman: Inai?

And so we followed the verb down the scale of formality. This is why Japanese is hard, people!

And now the comics.

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This is a gem from a coworker. To my defense I couldn't really fight back because we were recording a conversation for the company. If not, I might have been a little more stream of consciousness. Like, what do you say, really, when someone cites all the yucky stuff in the movie and then says that's why they like the movie?

Yes. I am a total snob and completely judge people by the type of media they enjoy. This is all.

I realize the second comic might be harder to read because it's only in pencil. "When men and women fight." Ironically, this comic is also about how my face doesn't match what I'm really thinking.

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