Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 22:00 on 10-07-2018, Robinson L
Congratulations, Raymond! It definitely sounds as though your prospects for staying look pretty good. (Though, as a staunch anti-imperialist, I hope I may be forgiven for rooting "Anything but the military.")


I had some thoughts on your earlier post, which a confluence of other commitments and a sprained wrist delayed my response.

I guess I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I'm saddened at the general state of things where not wanting to do something kinda shitty to pursue one's passions comes across as ungrateful and entitled. On the other, I'm glad you have something you care so deeply about; something which would make all the crap you'd have to go through worthwhile. Frankly, I'm a little bit envious that you a clear path in front of you for how to get there, even if means you have to do some stuff that feels kinda shitty on the way.


I checked out the video, and it was quite good. Very thoughtful and analytical, but also easily accessible - not as easy a balance as he makes it look. I was concerned at first when he appeared to give an uncritical endorsement of Shadow Over Insmouth without addressing the big honking racist elephant in the room, but boy howdy did he come back to that point later. Great stuff. I enjoyed getting his musings on how and why Lovecraft's writings can appeal so strongly to marginalized peoples even though despite being littered with socially reactionary opinions, descriptions, and themes.
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at 11:46 on 10-07-2018, Raymond H
Update:
It turns out the group interview with Berlitz is actually a personal interview, which is the last stage of the job process, and it turns out that my Skype Interview with AEON was successful enough to also warrant a personal interview on Saturday. I've also sent out applications to several ALT dispatch companies, two of which have bitten, and one of which I'm expecting/hoping to bite soon enough. Also, my blood pressure prevents me from enlisting in the military (I knew this when I first tried at 18, but I'd hoped that 5 years of healthy living and medication would have improved it enough for enlistment). However, Camp Zama is always hiring civilian positions. I may not be what they're looking for, but it would be great if I could help out some way. Even if I was simply sweeping floors there, I think it would still be a fulfilling and rewarding experience.
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at 06:42 on 08-07-2018, Raymond H
So an update on things. The NOVA interview was a dud, as was the interview with the Tokyo brothel (though at least the latter was more cordial about it). The interview I had with AEON on Saturday went perfectly until the very end, when the interviewer found out I was not a member of the General Union and began to explain at length the value of being in such an organization and how I should sue my previous company (I'd never heard of the Union before then, this is not the worst thing an ALT company has done to me before, and even if I could take the company to court, I don't think that's anything more than a lot of wasted time, effort, and money that I could put forward to finding a new job). I have a group interview with Berlitz on Wednesday, which would be the second-to-last stage in the job process, and an international kindergarten is interested in hiring me, though we haven't yet found an appropriate time to meet.

Apart from that though, I realized this week what an ungrateful, spoiled, little shit I've been. Yes, any other ALT job I got would simply be a rebound relationship. But so fucking what? I would have had to say goodbye to all my students and my teachers sooner or later, even if I stayed at that school for many years. Avoiding any opportunities a dispatch company could bring me simply because "Oh, it won't be as awesome as it was before" is just an excuse, and an immature one at that.

I didn't pack up my life and move to a country where I only barely spoke the language just to have an interesting gap year or have sex with "exotic" women (although, erm, not that I'd say no to the latter). I came here because it was stories and media from Japan that first made me realize that the world is so much bigger and grander than I ever first imagined. I came here because for all those stories that are available in English, they're only the smallest fraction of what Japan has to offer. I came here because those stories deserve to be told to a wider audience, and told by someone who cares. And if making my way towards that dream of mine means working at a shitty school with shitty co-workers, well who cares? Even hell is what you make of it, and if it means I get to stay in this country, I'm more than willing to carve my own little warren in hell. And if all else fails, and I still don't have a job when my visa expires in August, the US Army is always in need of a few good men, especially now, in such trying times as these. And with my experience and degree in Japanese Studies I could surely find some way to make myself useful (plus, I'd be able to pay off my student debt in 2 years, as opposed to 10 or 15).

At the end of the day, I have to let go of all my reservations, and give this job search my all. No matter what job I work, it's one step closer to my dream, and that's what I should focus on.

Also, on a lighter note, H. Bomberguy posted a video about Lovecraft, which I think everyone would enjoy. Seriously, Arthur, I'm surprised you and this Harris Bomber guy (heheh) haven't already teamed up to fight evil or something. You two seem like you'd get along swimmingly.
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at 05:30 on 04-07-2018, Robinson L
Oh dear, that really sucks. Sorry to hear they're putting you through all that.

They gave no official reason for this decision, and when I asked them for details, they hemmed and hawed and said "Oh, well, you know, it wasn't OUR decision. It was really the BoE's. Nothing to do with us." When I asked the BoE, they hemmed and hawed and said "Oh, well, you know, it wasn't OUR decision. It was really the company's. Nothing to do with us."

Classic bureaucratic run around. I guess some tactics never change no matter where you go. Extra dickish of them not to notify your school about it, especially after telling you they would.

I really love my school, and I really love teaching there. Because of that, I realize that any other ALT position I take would be a rebound relationship.

Huh, yeah. I think I get that. It's a big part of the reason I never finished my undergraduate studies.

Not sure what more I can say, other than to repeat my condolences, and my best wishes that one of your applications - maybe NOVA - will come through for you. Hang in there.
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at 08:49 on 03-07-2018, Raymond H
Thank you all. The most frustrating thing in all this though is that it seems to be completely unrelated to the fight I had with the other ALT. Yes, even though I was very hurt and angry at the time, it was wrong of me to splash water in his face. But afterwards we reconciled and made up, and made it clear to the Board of Education and our company that this was an isolated incident and it would not hinder our working relationship. Even so, I was told by my company that I had to leave, and that they couldn't transfer me to another town because nobody wanted me. They gave no official reason for this decision, and when I asked them for details, they hemmed and hawed and said "Oh, well, you know, it wasn't OUR decision. It was really the BoE's. Nothing to do with us." When I asked the BoE, they hemmed and hawed and said "Oh, well, you know, it wasn't OUR decision. It was really the company's. Nothing to do with us." Either way, someone upstairs apparently wants me gone, and wants me gone really badly, as there have been, in the past, ALTs who showed up to work intoxicated and who sexually harassed teachers and/or students (I teach middle school, by the way), and instead of firing them, the company simply didn't renew their contract. Also I have $600 monthly student loan payments that I have to make. Oh, also, my school was never notified about any of this. My company said they would call my school, they never did. I have had to personally tell everyone, and they don't understand why I am being fired either. I really love my school, and I really love teaching there. Because of that, I realize that any other ALT position I take would be a rebound relationship. Also, the entire month of August is summer vacation here, and if I want to make my loan payments, I need to start properly working in August. So I've applied to several eikaiwa, and already have an interview with NOVA (which is not ideal, but at least it's something). Overall, I am in a much better position now than I was this same month last year, as I'm not homeless and have enough money to return home, should it come to that. But I'm feeling really angry and hurt, especially because my predecessor also left during the middle of the year, in a violent blaze of glory, and I worked so hard those first few months to prove to everyone that I wasn't a flake and I wouldn't abandon or harass them, and now I have to leave them. The weirdest thing? I wish I could be angrier at this, but the fact is, this is not the worst thing that has happened to me, and knowing that, I can't even muster up enough bitterness and bile, even though my students and fellow teachers are completely worth it. They're good kids, and good teachers. They deserve a good ALT, and they don't deserve to be jerked around by an ALT company or the BoE! Damn it...
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at 22:30 on 02-07-2018, Robinson L
So glad to hear you escaped the worst potential consequences, Raymond. Best of luck finding a replacement job.

No need to apologize for having to take a step back, especially under these circumstances. I still have some responses to ongoing conversations percolating that I haven't gotten it together to type out and post yet - but when I do, please don't feel obligated to reply promptly, if at all. I fully support you taking however much space you need to find a situation which will allow you to stay in the country.
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at 22:14 on 01-07-2018, Alice
@Raymond H: sympathy and good luck in the job search!
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at 05:02 on 01-07-2018, Ichneumon
Oh dear. Good luck, Raymond. :<

And I meant "YES," as in, "ARTHUR SHOULD DEFINITELY READ 'VIY'."
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at 12:14 on 30-06-2018, Raymond H
Also, on a more serious note, while I won't be deported or charged with assault, I have been formally asked to resign by my company. I tendered my resignation yesterday, and have until the end of July to find another job. I have several drafts on standby in case of emergency, so I still hope to fulfill my two-per-month article quota here. However, I will probably not be very active in the Playpen or Comments section here for the next month, as I wish to devote most of my time in job-searching. I would like to sincerely apologize for any trouble or inconvenience this causes anyone.
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at 12:10 on 30-06-2018, Raymond H
Do you mean yes as in
Yes I rather wish that fat prick would meet with a grisly fate
Yes that's a rather apt summation of the plot
or
Yes I find that an amusing and entertaining thing to say?
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at 05:20 on 29-06-2018, Ichneumon
YES.
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at 12:01 on 28-06-2018, Raymond H
Here's another thought-dump on something I enjoyed but don't have enough to say about to warrant a full review:

Remember Greyfriars? Remember thinking "Enh, this is okay, but I wish Bunter would run afoul of dark and hellish forces beyond his feeble human comprehension and meet with a grisly and horrible fate?" Well if yes, then I highly recommend you read Viy by Nikolai Gogol.
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at 12:09 on 19-06-2018, Raymond H
Hey man, fandom! (shrugs)

Okay. Yeah, I mean, I always knew that your fursona was meant to be a refection of yourself, but I never really realized how personal and meaningful the decision process could be. It's almost like choosing a pen name, I guess.

The thing is, I feel like I'm actually quite vanilla. I just have no real filter, and see nothing wrong in discussing sex frankly, and somehow this has allowed me to make friends with some very sexually adventurous and out-there people.
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at 03:55 on 19-06-2018, Ichneumon
Oh man, that guy. Oh wow. It used to be you just had to watch out for the prudy homophobes and the folks in the uniforms were just pervy dorks. *long sigh*

Essentially, your fursona is... whatever you want it to be, really. It's an expression of oneself, whether idealised or warts and all or apartments from one's personality as a character - a personal mascot or totem, if you will. The relationship and depth of context will vary.

Oh, I can very much relate to that. Having friends who are as demented as you are is important.
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at 12:45 on 18-06-2018, Raymond H
Yes, yes, I know. It's the straight ones you've got to watch out for an all that. I'm well aware of the Furred Reich, as it were. [adjusts monocle]

You...have evidently given this a great deal of thought. I confess my conception of picking a fursona mostly consisted of "Well I like this animal, so what the hey?"

I don't know. One of the reasons we sort of hit it off in the first place was that we could always count on each other to not freak out whenever the other brought up some kinky topic, even if the other didn't appreciate or even enjoy said topic. So I think if I asked him about it he'd tell me flat-out his opinions. He just would never admit defeat if a stranger deliberately tried to shock him.
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at 04:37 on 18-06-2018, Ichneumon
Bat wings, rather. Phone typing is an adventure.
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at 04:36 on 18-06-2018, Ichneumon
The better part of furry fandom is fairly tame sexually speaking, but getting too insistent on that point is kind of its own joke at this point. It is, however, something like 65-70% some shade of LGBT+, which is quite significant. And that isn't just nerdy cis gay dudes, either.

I chose the pine marten because it's cute and mustelids suit my personality, which is to say exuberant and maybe a bit daft in a charming way. Hopefully. And seeing as my status as a queer white mutt - half-Jewish, with a bit of every European ethnicity from the Caucasus to the Irish coast - had a certain sway in my understanding of privilege and relative rootlessness nationally speaking, I thought an animal with a similar range was suitable (rather than the American species which lives... well, not where I do in the US, however charming a beastie it be). My second option was the Livingstone's fruit bat, funnily enough, because I adore flying foxes and having a smelly, messy gay animal with dreadful eating habits would be delightfully on the nose, but nobody can draw bar wings quite right, let alone those insane backwards knees, so I stuck with martens.

The thing about the more extreme end of kemono art is that it's much like the extreme end of all other doujin material, which is to say it's often in a fairly cutesy (or, if drawing on bara/gei-komi, *manly*) style while portraying fairly extreme material, and being self-published, there is rarely much in the way of editorial discretion or oversight. Hence, even if he weren't shocked by the material, I can understand why he might be cagey. Admitting you've read some of that stuff to other people who aren't already in the know can feel... awkward.
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at 12:21 on 17-06-2018, Raymond H
Oh. Oh yeah. Enh, dang kids with yer Kinsey scales an' yer romantic orientations and whatnot. Back in my day it was just LGBT, now there's what, twenty different letters? I kid, I kid.

Oh. Oh. Huh. Well, at least now I know where that word comes from. From your description though, while I can say it's probably out of my comfort zone, I still think my friend's reaction would be little more than a disinterested grunt, if for no reason other than to spite whoever sought to shock him.

That...is an unusually specific species. But, hey, you do you. Just remember to do it gently and slowly, with plenty of lubrication. And clean yourself up beforehand so as to avoid UTI's.
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at 16:43 on 16-06-2018, Ichneumon
No problem. And yeah, I wouldn't be surprised, but it's worth pondering. Although, regardless, one's presence on the asexuality spectrum and a queer romantic orientation are not mutually exclusive by any means. So it's a wash.

When I said kemono, I was actually referring to Japanese furry culture rather than Kemono Friends, which is an odd little show I've been curious about for a long time. Japanese furry art takes a lot of stylistic influence from anime, as one might assume, and overlaps heavily with gay comics culture and the doujin scene. To remain circumspect on the matter, the more graphic material runs the gamut of just how likely any given work is to send the unprepared into shock. Soft vore, while weird, is not the level of sensory or emotional overload I'm talking about.

To the enquiry: An ichneumon is a kind of mongoose, notoriously ferocious for its tiny size. That said, although viverrids do hold a special place in my heart, my 'sona is a European pine marten. :3
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at 12:48 on 16-06-2018, Raymond H
Ah, sorry if I sounded harsh! It's just that when the role of historical homophobia comes up in conversation I often find people who are so used to the Christian, religious type of homophobia that they assume, if the element of religion is changed or removed outright, then homophobia itself would not manifest or develop, which sadly isn't the case. My argument was less that Miyazawa would have had no religious impetus at all to hide his sexuality and more that if it was religious it most likely would have sprung from his Nichiren Buddhist beliefs, rather than Catholicism, and also that there were other, more likely forces at play in terms of him being pressured to closet himself. I think out of the two options, asexuality is probably more likely than homosexuality with Miyazawa. That being said, you've made some compelling arguments for there being a gay undercurrent to NotGR. I just don't know any other stories by him that deal with an intense relationship between two boys. There was The Restaurant of Many Orders but that was more macabre horror than existential drama.

I myself read the Julianne Neville translation of NotGR, which I thought was alright, though I've been told that the Sarah M. Strong and John Bester translations are better. Don't read the Joseph Sigrist and D.M. Stroud translation.

I see. I must say, Buff Fox Dad is quite the silver fox (tee-hee), though personally I find the girl cuter. She's probably in high school though (ugh). That's the problem with watching a lot of anime these days. I can't fawn over the cute girls without feeling like a filthy ephebophile anymore. I asked my friend about those two anime, and his response was essentially "Oh...yeah! Yeah, I know those two. Enh, I mean, they're okay, I guess. You'd probably like them." I don't know about the Kemono doujins, but knowing him he has a high tolerance for internet shenanigans (I learned what vore was from him), so I don't expect him to feel that scarred by anything he saw. However, in fairness, the internet is a vast and scary place.

I feel kind of bad for not really finishing Kemono, because not only have several friends recommended it to me, but it's also really popular with my students, and watching the same shows as them is a great way to bond and show that I'm not just some scary foreigner. But I just...wasn't feeling it? It just didn't click. I had a similar experience with Eromanga-sensei, though I at least still watch that, albeit sporadically.

I have to ask, two last questions,
1) How do you pronounce your username? Because I keep thinking it's like the German "Ich bin Schnappi, das kleine Krokodil", but I don't know for certain
2) Is your username also your fursona name? Because apparently an ichneumon is an actual mythical animal, which, y'know, killed dem kleine Krokodils. And dragons. And cockatrices. Come to think of it they seem like violent little bastards.
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at 04:33 on 15-06-2018, Ichneumon
This is fair. I defer to your expertise on the matter. But I do think it worth considering the climate and attitudes within the faiths with which Miyazawa came to fashion his worldview at the time in accounting for how he might have led his life with respect to these things. That said, he just as well might have had no romantic interests at all, although I should certainly like to acquire a good translation of the novel and read more of his work in general should I seek a better understanding of him—and I certainly should like to!

Hmmm. My significant other informed me that Gingitsune has much the same appeal as Natsume Yuujinchou, but with a Buff Fox Dad as a deuteragonist, so decent anime and manga with furry appeal certainly exist (and Aggretsuko adds to that number), but all told... I get a feeling your friend has read some kemono doujinshi, and let me tell you, some of that shit is *wild.* But that’s kind of the point of doujin manga: You have complete creative freedom. Which can mean so, so many things.
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at 10:27 on 14-06-2018, Raymond H
Devoutly? That's...not the word I would have used. I mean, he wanted to be a Nichiren Buddhist priest before a fellow clergymen convinced him to write. And he was actually quite critical on the subject of the Christian afterlife. Miyazawa sympathized with Christianity, due to both it and Nichiren Buddhism stressing the importance of self-sacrifice and making the world a better place. However, he ultimately disagreed on the Christian idea that, once you've done these things and died, you are rewarded with heaven. Miyazawa believed that, while heaven was certainly something you deserved if you spent your life helping the world, it was ultimately a selfish thing to wish for, because if heaven and earth are separate entities, it means that the earth can never be as good as heaven, and thinking this way ultimately self-sabotages any attempts to make the earth better. You don't have to care about something you'll eventually leave for good, which will never be as good as the place you'll leave it for (You'll notice that while the Christian heaven is presented as a beautiful place, it isn't the last stop on the railroad). Because of this, while the Christians in NotGR are presented sympathetically, the true hero of the story, and the person we're really supposed to sympathize with, is Giovanni. He has every reason to quit life. His dad's a no-show, he has to work an unrewarding job to feed his family, his classmates regularly torment him, his mother is constantly ill, and by the end, the only friend he ever had has died and left him alone. However, Giovanni ultimately chooses to keep living, and to remain strong, not in spite of Campanella's death, but because of it. Campanella's soul will be reborn someday, and a piece of it still remains in Giovanni's heart. So long as that's the case, Giovanni will work towards making the world a better place, for the sake of his dearest friend. Giovanni chooses not to seek out heaven in the afterlife, but to work towards making a heaven on earth. This is ultimately the central thesis, the defining pillar, in all of Miyazawa's works.

If Miyazawa was pressured to hide his sexuality (which is, again, a reasonable theory), it would have been due more to political (he lived to see the rise of imperialism and fascism, both of which stress the importance of keeping the bloodlines pure and making lots of pure-blooded babies) or social (he grew up in a small, rural town, which tend to be known for distrusting and destroying anything they deem too strange and different) reasons than religious (Christianity certainly exists here, and a friend/tutor of mine is in fact Christian herself, but it's never gotten big or powerful enough to have that major an effect on the national policy or zeitgeist).

Another possibility that occurred to me is that the relationship between Giovanni and Campanella is left ambiguous for the same reason their race or nationality is left ambiguous, to more easily allow anyone to project their own experiences with love and loss. I myself have never lost a lover (cripes that sounds silly when I type it out), but I have lost family, so the angle of Miyazawa's sister appeals and resonates with me, and depending on the experiences of whoever is watching the film or reading the book, a different relationship may seem more apparent, one that will more deeply resonate with them.

You're right. The vibe I get from those two is very much akin to the feeling of first love. And if I made it sound as though I overtly opposed a gay romantic reading to the story, I must apologize. I think it's a perfectly valid and appropriate way to view the story. However, whether that was intentional on the author or director's part is something which I'm unsure on.

Believe me, as someone who wrote his Senior Thesis on Kenjy Miyazawa, and who visited his museum when I studied abroad in Iwate, I also have a lot to say about him. Indeed, I still want to translate some of his works (I don't think it'd be humanly possible to translate all of them in a single lifetime, but one can dream).

Also, I asked my friend if he knew any good furry anime, and he paused for a while before replying "I...know furry anime." The only one he thought was good enough to recommend or even admit to reading unironically was Beastars though, which I haven't read myself, but have seen art of.
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at 06:44 on 14-06-2018, Ichneumon
As you might have noticed, I have a *lot* to say about this subject. :P
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at 06:42 on 14-06-2018, Ichneumon
Miyazawa was devoutly Catholic before the Vatican II reforms. If he were gay, I can imagine its presence in his work being quite circumspect. And indeed, Giovanni’s infatuation is still subtle, the almost familial bond through their fathers and their social connections coloured by something budding yet very intimate—the desire to share one’s whole life and secret self with someone who you feel can understand you in a way not even family can. First love, to be more blunt, clear to the audience and seemingly to clever, kind Campanella, who knows exactly where he is going and how this will shatter his sensitive friend, but not quite to Giovanni himself. (I would also say that, in addition to the themes of sacrifice, the story explores different kinds of love and loss through Giovanni’s absent father, the boys’ journey, and of course the conclusion, in a way that does not make the further romantic angle inherently contradictory or out of place.)
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