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 12:54 on 14-07-2018, Raymond H
Oh Jesus Christ. Four interviews in four days. I'm exhausted. But I'm still gonna give an update.

I feel like the Berlitz and AEON interviews went well enough, but I'm too scared and cautious to fully relax until at least one of them gives me a concrete job offer. Of the two, I think I would go with Berlitz. I'd be working in the Tokyo suburbs, so the same general area where my sihing and Italian friend live, and along the Odawara line, which is also where Camp Zama is located. And I'd be in my own apartment rather than company housing, which is both a good thing (can't be evicted if I leave the company) and a bad thing (way more expensive). I wasn't able to get into Zama (It turns out when Google says they're open seven days a week, they only mean the JSDF section. The US Army section is closed on weekends.), but I at least found where I can look for and apply to jobs online with them.

Though, as a staunch anti-imperialist, I hope I may be forgiven for rooting "Anything but the military."

That's fair, heheh. I come from a military family, but my father, grandfathers, and uncles have never tried to sugarcoat some of the more tyrannical acts of the US military. At the same time though, they've helped me to understand the importance of moral grunts, especially in a military organization. The big people safe behind lines only see the big picture, think of big, sweeping, national interests and objectives. It's the grunts who have to do the dirty work, who die on the front lines and who live and work with the people they're assigned to "protect". Remember, Stanislav Petrov was only a Lieutenant-Colonel. Also, even if I couldn't get into the camp, I saw the neighborhood around Zama, filled to the brim with fellow Gaijin and even more Hafu children. When I first got my ALT job with the company I'm with now, this old Kiwi who helped me get a phone told me "We've got to stick together." At the time, I thought it was just an average, feel-good koan. Now I know what he meant. I've tried my best since the day I first stepped off the plane to prove that I wasn't a stereotype, but like with a lot of stereotypes, many Gaijin are just the sort of rude, boorish sexpats and tourists you hear about all the time. The ALT and Eikaiwa systems know this, and are deliberately designed around 90% of their workforce leaving the country after two or three years. But for me, and the other foreigners who want to stay, that just makes things harder for us. I hope I get the job with Berlitz. Even if AEON has more benefits, and a rent cap of $550 a month (whew), it would still be a company apartment, and even if I left the company willingly, I'd have to go through this same uncertainty and homelessness all over again. I love my school. I love my students. I love my teachers. I love the obaa-chan and ojii-san at the local language learning center. I love the little old lady and her voyeuristic attitude towards my sex life. I love the little Pakistani boy, who's going to my school next year, and whose parents I'm good acquaintances with. I love the old Buddhist monk I meditated with, and the students I taught at the English camp, and all the people who were kind and understanding with me. God, I love this town so much! But I have to leave. I have to leave it all behind, because of this company, and this company apartment. I need MY own apartment, MY own spot to post my flag and call my own, MY own community and place to start my future, and I think I can find it around Zama, with Berlitz, and maybe, with the Camp. But it all hinges on Berlitz giving me a job, or at least AEON giving me a job around the same area, so that if I leave them, I won't have to go far. God, I'm so scared. I'm absolutely terrified, but I have to keep going! I have to keep trying, until I get to where I can finally rest. Sorry, that was long, and way more heartfelt than I expected.

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.

Clear? "Sigh", if only, my friend! My best-laid plans are almost always destroyed and altered at an annual rate. You'd think I'd learn by now, but no. I don't have a path, but I have a goal, and if one path closes, I do my best to find another one. I would describe my life as falling ass-backwards into fame and fortune, through several hundred stories of plated glass. Things have worked out thus far, and I've lived a far more charmed and privileged life than many, but Christ if these transition periods aren't fucking terrifying.

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.

Heheh, guilty! I'll admit, I am one of those people who didn't get the anti-miscegenation angle to the story the first time around. Though in my defense, I don't think Polynesian immigration and intermarriage has ever been as widespread a phenomenon or concern in America as with Blacks or Chinese, especially not in New England, where non-Whites were so rare they didn't need to outlaw miscegenation. Also, fish-people making evil, half-fish-half-man babies is an idea which while, yes, there's certainly a possible racist interpretation/subtext to it, it's terrifying enough in its own right that I think it's easier to excise or diminish the Lovecraftian racism within (which is more than can be said with many of his other works). On the subject of H. Bomberguy, I will say that this is one of his less political videos. When he turns the tract on, it can get kind of...Michael Moorish? Like, I agree with most of what he's saying, and even when I don't agree I get where he's coming from, and yet at the same time I can't help thinking "God, what a smug, self-aggrandizing prick." Again, that's only when he goes full-tract-mode. I think that's kind of the problem with tracts in general. Either you agree with them but are annoyed by them or you don't agree with them and you're really put off by them. But yeah, H. Bomberguy's cool. You should check his other stuff out.

I don't think that Laird Barron has seen much play here but, setting aside the way that he uses archetypes of aggressive masculinity to show the malign indifference of the cosmos in his work, which is fascinating, his scariest work is legitimately horrific.

I've never heard of Laird Barron until now. I looked him up on Google. He looks just like the sort of person who would use archetypes of aggressive masculinity to show the malign indifference of the cosmos. I don't know anything else about him except that he grew up poor and he's from Alaska, and yet somehow that only makes him seem more like the sort of person who would use archetypes of aggressive masculinity to show the malign indifference of the cosmos. I hate to say it, but I still haven't gotten around to Burroughs, and I'm honestly not doing much reading these days, and what I do read is mostly limited to what I find on Project Gutenberg, but I will add Lord Baron to the list.

Thomas Ligotti's excellent "The Consolations of Horror"

I haven't read that before, and yet I am deeply surprised. I thought it was weird and unique that I took consolation from horror. There was just always something comforting, knowing that the worst that could happen to you in a horror movie was being killed or driven insane or ensnared by hellish forces. Monsters can only kill you. They can't hurt you like people can.

Okay! That ought to address everything I ought to have addressed in the Playpen! I'll handle the comments section tomorrow, after I've gotten a decent night's sleep. Uggghhh...
at 05:06 on 13-07-2018, Ichneumon
Also I saw that HBG video not too long after it went up and I found it extremely resonant. The fact that he basically restates the thesis to Thomas Ligotti's excellent "The Consolations of Horror" doesn't hurt either.
at 06:11 on 12-07-2018, Ichneumon
I don't think that Laird Barron has seen much play here but, setting aside the way that he uses archetypes of aggressive masculinity to show the malign indifference of the cosmos in his work, which is fascinating, his scariest work is legitimately horrific. I just finished "Procession of the Black Sloth" and hooooooly fuck. It's like the Lovecraftian spawn of Videodrome and Lost Highway with a heaping helping of Buddhist Hell imagery and it terrified me.
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.
at 11:46 on 10-07-2018, Raymond H
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
at 22:14 on 01-07-2018, Alice
@Raymond H: sympathy and good luck in the job search!
at 05:02 on 01-07-2018, Ichneumon
Oh dear. Good luck, Raymond. :<

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.
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
Yes I find that an amusing and entertaining thing to say?
at 05:20 on 29-06-2018, Ichneumon
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.
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.
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.
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.
at 04:37 on 18-06-2018, Ichneumon
Bat wings, rather. Phone typing is an adventure.
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.
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. 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.
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
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.
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.