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 20:02 on 31-07-2018, Robinson L
In other news, I recently listened to Ashok K. Banker's short sf story The Quiltbag, available free through the Lightspeed Magazine podcast feed. I suppose I shouldn't be a surprised that the title is a pun: the story deals with themes of heterosexist (and racist) oppression ... and it features sentient fabrics. Aren't we cute.

Anyway, despite dealing with some pretty heavy topics, the tone of the story is fairly light - to the point where justice, when it comes, is shockingly intense, though I suppose it's warranted. And at the very end, the message of the story is
as awful as things in our own world can be in terms of racial and heterosexist oppression, they're overall better than not, and prospects for improvement are actually pretty good
.

Not sure I'd call it a great story, but if someone is feeling despondent about the state of the world, and in the need of a pick-me-up, it may be worth checking out.
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at 15:00 on 28-07-2018, Robinson L
Er, actually, I meant that as a word of encouragement for you to keep up the writing, as you clearly have talent that's worth further cultivating.

As for On the Jellicoe Road, I actually wrote a somewhat more straightforward review of the book (though loaded down with a bunch of tangential ramblings and personal axe-grinding) several years ago. I did think there might be trouble getting hold of a copy given your current geographic situation, but not knowing much about the minutiae of living in Japan, I wasn't sure how much. I dunno if you could get a copy in translation, or if so, whether your Japanese is strong enough to make that practical. I also don't know how easy or difficult it would be to get an audio copy in English online, or whether you go in for audiobooks at all (though if you do, I can give Rebecca Macauley's narration my highest recommendation).

I don't mean to push the book on you; you should decide for yourselves whether to read it, and if so, when, and how much effort you're willing to go to for it. I'm just putting it forward for your consideration.

I hope your RCS interview went well, or failing that, that an equally good opportunity comes down the pike for you soon.
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at 10:57 on 26-07-2018, Raymond H
Okay, I finally have time to address everyone now, although I'm really tired (I've been up since 1:30 AM, and it's 6:30 PM now) and I have a sunburn and blisters and a lot of stuff going on. But, if I may do this to the best of my ability:

@Robinson: The basic principle is that, if you took out a public loan from the US government, by serving the US government or one of its many branches, you may be forgiven for the loan. If you took out a private loan, which I did, the govt. can't do anything about that, although since I consolidated that loan, they'd probably be able to do something.
Concerning your writing, yes, please keep plugging! I've been plugging since day one, and really the only reason I decided to express myself with prose is because it's the only art form where nobody told me I was shit definitively enough to make me give up.
On the matter of driver's licenses, it's less the side of the road and more the fact that we have 50 states, each with their own individual DMV's (or BMV's), with their own set of rules and testing criteria. That simply isn't feasible for the Japanese government to get a handle on, so it's easier to just subject the poor foreigners to rigorous tests. Also, apparently there are more than five, it's just those are the most famous ones. Basically, being a cursed nationality means either
a) Your country has too many individual, prefectural driving organizations for the Japanese government to deal with
b) Your country is too poor/underdeveloped for the Japanese government to believe it capable of maintaining proper driving laws
c) Your country operates under a writing system besides the Roman alphabet or Kanji/Hiragana/Katakana, which makes it a pain to translate and put all the information into the computer systems (with the exception of South Korea)
So, basically, anyone who isn't European or some other, smaller G7 nation has to go through the extensive testing. But in the end, it's all rather a moot point, as I can't obtain a license anyhow until I have a new address on my residence card.
I have not yet read On the Jellicoe Road. I must admit I found the review somewhat nebulous, with it saying very little beyond that the book was good. However, if you and Kyra and quite a few other people say it's that good, it surely must be doing something right. Remember though, I have to pay exorbitant shipping fees for English books here. Even so, you have my thanks.

@Ichneumon: By semi-human...do you mean...?
And I say to you what I said to Robinson, keep on plugging! It sounds like your book shall be a weird and wonderful creation.

Also, on a more general note, RCS has finally responded, and scheduled an in-person interview with me tomorrow. I think of the great Alan Shepard as I do my best to plan in my sleep-deprived state.
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at 04:00 on 25-07-2018, Raymond H
AEON said no. And because I moved out on Saturday, I can't get a japanese driver's license until I get a new address on my residence card. I turned down the Altia interview to make room for license applying, and RCS never responded. I have a phone interview with Interac on Friday, but nothing else.
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at 20:30 on 20-07-2018, Robinson L
@Raymond: Oh yeah, one more thing. For the past several years, whenever I find myself having tearful farewells with people and places I deeply care about, I'll read or listen to the audiobook version of Melina Marchetta's On the Jellicoe Road. I could literally go on for days singing the book's praises - I'm still in awe of the intricate plotting and the incredible characterization and and and and - but in particular, it serves as an outlet for me to dig into my grief at parting, my gratitude for all the good times that make parting so hard, and all the other complex emotions the departure raises up in me. I know fiction is supposed to help us channel complex emotions like our grief at parting, but On the Jellicoe Road is practically the only piece of fiction which actually works that way for me.

No idea if that appeals to you at all, or if it does, how easy or difficult it would be for you to find a copy where you're at, but I wanted to put it out there, just in case it's helpful to you at all.
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at 15:30 on 20-07-2018, Robinson L
Ichneumon: I think a military in the vein of the Netherlands’ former armed forces can have its uses. But ours would naturally have to be almost unrecognisably restructured to see that end result

Ah, that sounds much more plausible. At least the second part does - I'm unfamiliar with the Netherlands' former military arrangement, so I can't comment on its usefulness.

I had to say a lot of goodbyes today. They were all painful to say, but I'm glad I at least got the chance to say them.

Yeah, I hear that.

It may sound like I'm joking or taking the piss when I say that that simple sentence did more to persuade me against a military career than anything that has been told to me in this Playpen, but it's the truth.

On the contrary, I find it heartening. I tend to think where an argument comes to us from is even more important in making a decision than how articulate the argument is; I hope most people would put more weight on the opinions of someone they know in person - let alone have a teacher-student bond with - than some faceless yahoos who happen to be on the same online message board. Of course I'm pleased with the commitment you've made, but I'm even more pleased with your reasons for taking that vow.

unfortunately I'm one of the 5 cursed nationalities

Huh, I didn't know about that. Is it because we drive on the wrong side of the road?

I guess there's not much else for me to add, except that I'm crossing my fingers that things will come together, and I hope you and your family are able to enjoy the trip to Mount Fuji, even with all this anxiety and uncertainty.
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at 13:31 on 20-07-2018, Raymond H
Sorry for the short post. I just wanted to give a quick update before I get packing. I'll give a better post and respond to everybody once I'm more settled.

I had to say a lot of goodbyes today. They were all painful to say, but I'm glad I at least got the chance to say them. I cried, a lot, and I got so dehydrated I ended up with heatstroke. I'm better now, but my head still really hurts and I need to sleep soon.

One boy, I will never forget him, he's a third-year, but still the same height he was when he was a first-year. He's never been good at English, but he always tries his best, and I've always enjoyed our pre-class chats, even if he struggles to put together even a simple sentence. Today as I said goodbye to my students, he came up to me, and asked about what I would do. I told him about my options, about the various jobs I had received news on, was waiting to hear from, and was thinking of looking into. When I told him of Camp Zama though, he said, in broken, faltering English, with that confused but determined look he always has on his face "If you are soldier, I'm very sad." It may sound like I'm joking or taking the piss when I say that that simple sentence did more to persuade me against a military career than anything that has been told to me in this Playpen, but it's the truth. I saw the look on his face, heard him plea with me in Japanese, and I knew that I could never be a soldier as long as I remembered that boy. I may still end up working a civilian job, if no other options are available to me, but I will never be a soldier. I hereby make that vow.

AtoZ wants me to hurry with the driving license, but unfortunately I'm one of the 5 cursed nationalities, who have to undergo more rigorous testing than even Japanese citizens to obtain a license. And I've never been behind the wheel of a Japanese car, ever. To say I'm nervous and unsure would be an understatement. But thankfully, AtoZ has been more than understanding, and they have said that, while they want me to get the license as soon as possible, it's alright to wait a while until I feel ready to take the tests. AEON has said that they will have a decision for me by next week, and they thanked me for being so helpful with my application. I have a good feeling about them, and yet I can't bring myself to hope that they'll say yes. It feels too dangerous to dream of such things. I had to cancel with Altia, and RCS has yet to respond to my potential interview dates. There are other options waiting for me, but I cannot apply to any other jobs until things calm down.

Next week I will climb Mt. Fuji with my parents, who planned this trip many months ago. Fate has declared their arrival should coincide with this moment of uncertainty and stress in my life, but I hope to take this chance given to me. I hope everything works out alright. I really do.
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at 05:14 on 19-07-2018, Ichneumon
@Robinson: Pure pacifism is my ideal, but violence in a purely defensive capacity does not morally offend me so much as it strikes me as a depressing potential eventuality when dealing with violent outside actors. To that end, I think a military in the vein of the Netherlands’ former armed forces can have its uses. But ours would naturally have to be almost unrecognisably restructured to see that end result, so I suppose it’s a moot point. I do not, however, support the conventional definition of a standing army, let alone as it currently exists.

@Raymond: I knew there was another more common term, but the adjective jingai sprang to mind because of its use (last I could recall) in formal and official contexts where gaijin would be especially dated and offensive.

There are a lot of animal skeletons in Barron, but the decay and feculence is largely... semi-human, shall we say.

I’ve been writing something which will be some sort of hypertext novel/comic hybrid for the better part of a decade, if sporadically, in addition to reams of poetry and some short fiction in varying states of completion. The poetry tends to wind up married to music in some capacity, but the novel-thing is very much its own beast.
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at 20:30 on 18-07-2018, Robinson L
Ichneumon: I’m with Robinson when it comes to institutions like the military on an ideological level, I think ... Militaries are useful in specific circumstances

Perhaps not quite so close as you imagine, then.

@Raymond: Congratulations! Great news. Good luck pulling the driver's license info together; hopefully it's not too arduous.

Raymond: I should have made myself clearer though. Even if I don't get a job at Camp Zama, the high concentration of foreigners and Hafu children in the area indicates that landlords would be more tolerant of foreigner tenants than elsewhere, something that would be very valuable to me as I try to find my own place.

Oh yeah. I didn't understand how that point fit in with the rest of the military discussion, so I just sort of skipped over it.

Also though, student loans... paid in full... in two years' time, rather than ten or fifteen. You do not know the things I would do to get this monkey of debt off my back.

You've got me there, as I've gone to considerable lengths to avoid getting caught in the debt trap in my studies so far. I can definitely imagine how important it must be for you to get out from under that looming weight sooner rather than later.

That said, one thing I've learned growing up in a pacifist religious community is that a lot of those perks the military advertises don't actually come through. It's been a while since I heard about it, so I don't remember the details - I'm sure it's not a complete fabrication, but my impression is that it's a lot more complicated than the PR makes it out. Maybe you already know that, coming from a military family and all, but I wanted to give you a heads-up just in case. I'd prefer you don't get involved with the military at all, but if you do, then I hope you do some outside research beforehand so you know what you're getting into.

besides, I think any complaints one could have about my working an imperialist or neo-colonialist job would be just as applicable to teaching English as it would to being in the military.

You raise an excellent point, and it's actually one of the reasons I'm resistant to teaching English in another country, despite wanting to spend more time working or studying abroad. However, in my view, there's a fundamental difference between the colonial/imperialist role of the military as opposed to teaching English. (I could go into my reasons, but I think it would likely be boring and might raise undo acrimony.)

I don't know if you'd enjoy my novel though. As with most first novels, it's mostly just an amalgamation of stuff I was enthusiastic about, slapped together into a somewhat coherent story. There are definitely parts I'm still proud of having written, that I re-read and smile about, but there are also parts that I re-read and cringe over, even if I know I gave the themes and subject matter everything I had at the time.

Oh yeah, I hear ya. I've been plugging away at this stuff for nearly fifteen years, and I still haven't produced much material I'd consider good enough to submit around.

But really, what I'm trying to say is: keep pluggin' away, man. I dunno if I'll ever read any of your stuff - other than what you post on this site - but you've definitely got the way with the words, and I think you should keep at it.
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at 11:33 on 18-07-2018, Raymond H
I GOT A JOB!
Sort of!
Kind of!
I still need to produce either an International Driver's Permit, a Japanese translation of my driver's license, or some form of documentation allowing me to legally drive in Japan before I can officially receive a job offer, but the company has said that everything else is in order, and if I can show them the documentation before August 17th, the job is mine. Gotta get to studying!
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at 09:28 on 17-07-2018, Raymond H
But I found someone who can drive me to my friend's apartment in Tokyo, so I don't have to leave any of my stuff behind when I have to leave this company housing.
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at 07:28 on 17-07-2018, Raymond H
I didn't get the job with Berlitz.
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at 07:42 on 16-07-2018, Raymond H
"misused and bloated", eh? I think that just about sums it up perfectly. :) It's no coincidence my father retired from the military as the conflict in the Middle East became more drawn out and bureaucratic. Honestly though, looking at their site, about the only things I have experience with (libraries and teaching) require a proper license, which I don't have, so I think Camp Zama has few job opportunities for me at the moment.

I think you hit the nail on the head with HBG. His smugness sometimes irritates me, but then when I go back and think "Okay, but did you actually disagree with what he was saying?" I find the answer to be either "Not at all" or "Not really". I'm not a full-blown subscriber, but if he's gotten less smug, I may have to check his other videos out.

Oh no, do Barron's stories have dead dogs in them? God damn it man! I still remember Audition!

Oh. That...isn't quite the same kind of comfort I took from horror, but yeah, I smell what he's stepping in.

I...have never heard the word jingai until just now. Google and Urban Dictionary tell me it's mostly used to describe entirely nonhuman entities though.
The standard appropriate term is gaikokujin (外国人). Gaijin (外人)is, quite literally, a slur. What's funny is that, every time I've tried to explain the term gaijin to friends and family with no prior knowledge of anything Japanese, they always say "Oh, so it's like the word 'alien'." Which is...true, and fits better than any other word I can think of, and yet I don't know if I'd ever translate the term as that.
I personally though would say that gaijin is less offensive and more simply outdated. Also, it depends on the context. If I'm hanging out with other foreigners, we throw around the term all the time and nobody's feelings get hurt, but if an angry old man spat the word out at me it would sting. Keep in mind though, these are just my own feelings. As with any group of people, there's no real consensus on which words are appropriate and which ones aren't. As for other Asian immigrants, they tend to have a different set of slurs, as the sentiment against them has a different origin. The one I've heard the most is chosenjin (朝鮮人), but anything that makes fun of East Asian phonetics (like the English "Ching Chong") works. I guess, to make some broad, sweeping statements, really racist Japanese people think of other Asians as "Those filthy yellow monkeys that are fit only to lick our boots", while really racist Japanese people think of Whites as "Those fucking assholes who stopped us from subjugating those filthy yellow monkeys, who we're going to eventually overthrow but until then squeeze them for all their worth." Again, this is like, a cartoonish Klansman level generalization but those are the broad strokes of it. I think a more common racialist sentiment is "We should be on top, not second fiddle, but being second fiddle to the people that beat us in a war (America and the Allies) is better than being second fiddle to the people who we conquered and colonized (China and Korea)." Like, there is a power imbalance between Western countries and Japan, but the exact nuances of the relationship between them is more complicated than wicked imperialists and helpless victim. Also, perhaps the biggest thing to remember, interpersonal relations often don't match international relations. Loads of Japanese people may regard foreigners as big and scary and whatnot, but loads of them really don't give a shit either way.
I will say that the idea of African-Americans getting lumped together with other Americans here is sadly not true. Rather, when Black people here are discriminated against, it's the "Go back to your country mate!" type of discrimination, as opposed to the Dutchman Paradox type of racism most African-Americans face in America.
Perhaps the best way to put it is that, as a White man here, no matter how good my Japanese is, no matter how long I've lived here, no matter how many friends and family I make, there will always be people here who regard me as "other". And that's wrong. It was wrong when my ancestors were looked down on for being German, or Catholic, or Irish, it's wrong when immigrants and refugees are looked down on now for being Muslim or "illegal", and it's wrong when my students' parents are looked down on because they came here to work at factories or brothels just so they could give their children a better life.
I try not to get started on this topic, because ultimately I'm not the main demographic this problem affects, and I still have the option of going back to my "Old Country", even if I would never take it. But I know that if I ever marry a Japanese woman (which, considering the numbers, is pretty likely) and have kids, there's the question of what environment to raise them in, where will they be safest and most accepted? It's something I think everyone who chooses to make their lives in a different country thinks about, and while it isn't in my immediate future plans, I know it's something I'll have to deal with someday.
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at 06:34 on 16-07-2018, Ichneumon
Also, I thought jingai was the standard neutral term for “foreigner,” with gaijin being deeply offensive? Although I assume that’s your point here. And it’s not like you’re using it in the blatantly racist way such terms are wielded against Korean-Japanese folk and Chinese and Filipino immigrants, for instance.
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at 06:30 on 16-07-2018, Ichneumon
@Raymond H: I’m with Robinson when it comes to institutions like the military on an ideological level, I think, but by the same token I think that I would congratulate you should you attain the position, with reservations. Note that I say this as the proud grandson of an actual Naval spy during WWII, so to say I am conflicted on the military’s role in a civilised society is... well, plain facts. Militaries are useful in specific circumstances, but to call ours wildly misused and bloated would be beyond mild.

Harris (HBG) can get just a wee bit smug and arrogant at times when discussing people who he often rightly thinks are morons and just being a bit high-handed and presumptive in general, but I think especially lately he’s really made an effort to cut back on it, to the point of actually dedicating a fair chunk of one of his videos to calling himself out on it, and I feel that it’s largely been a smashing success.

Barron apparently trained sled dogs in his youth, which in combination with his clear erudition, psychedelic sensibilities and obvious love of horror fiction as an art makes for a unique and striking reading experience. The man understands tough guy masculine identity intimately, and is critical of it without being totally unsympathetic, and it pairs well with the rancid, hallucinatory fleshiness of his particular mix of body horror and cosmicism.

Ligotti’s central thesis is that the truest appeal of horror is not a visceral thrill or sadism or whatever prurient assumptions disapproving folks may make, but empathy with the fears implicitly expressed in the creation of such a work. In reading fiction that frightens, one is not alone in the world. Horror is a way for the fearful to huddle against the encroaching dark.
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at 07:08 on 15-07-2018, Raymond H
Thanks. Just gotta keep moving forward...

A friend of mine in college who was thinking of joining made similar arguments, citing the Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib whistleblowers. I see the logic, but I suppose if you believe - as I do - that organizations like the military are inherently imperialist and oppressive, whatever real good an ethical grunt can do is unlikely to outweigh the harmful effects of propping up and legitimating the organization as a whole. But I doubt either of us are likely to convince the other on this point.

Yes, I'd gathered as much, though I think we both have our reasons for why we feel the way we feel, and we should respect that. I should have made myself clearer though. Even if I don't get a job at Camp Zama, the high concentration of foreigners and Hafu children in the area indicates that landlords would be more tolerant of foreigner tenants than elsewhere, something that would be very valuable to me as I try to find my own place. Also though, student loans... paid in full... in two years' time, rather than ten or fifteen. You do not know the things I would do to get this monkey of debt off my back. And besides, I think any complaints one could have about my working an imperialist or neo-colonialist job would be just as applicable to teaching English as it would to being in the military. Sure, you could make a good case for it, but I'm doing what I can to stay in this country with the friends and family that I love.

Damn, man, you ever thought of doing your own prose writings - aside from little pop culture websites? Or maybe poetry? That's some damn good wordsmithing.

I self-published a novel back in 2016, and I'm three-fourths of the way finished with my next one, which I hope to publish via conventional means. I sent the self-published one to Arthur to review, and things just sort of snowballed from there. I don't know if you'd enjoy my novel though. As with most first novels, it's mostly just an amalgamation of stuff I was enthusiastic about, slapped together into a somewhat coherent story. There are definitely parts I'm still proud of having written, that I re-read and smile about, but there are also parts that I re-read and cringe over, even if I know I gave the themes and subject matter everything I had at the time.
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at 20:36 on 14-07-2018, Robinson L
I hear you, it's so, so difficult. You've got good reason to be scared. And I'm glad you're able to be so honest about it, both to yourself and here on the site. I only speak for myself, of course, but for my part, I'm happy for you to say whatever it is you need to. There's precious little we can do for you from so many miles away, but I suppose at least we can hear and affirm and express our compassion.

Hopefully, whatever comes through in the end will be whatever works the best for you.

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.

A friend of mine in college who was thinking of joining made similar arguments, citing the Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib whistleblowers. I see the logic, but I suppose if you believe - as I do - that organizations like the military are inherently imperialist and oppressive, whatever real good an ethical grunt can do is unlikely to outweigh the harmful effects of propping up and legitimating the organization as a whole. But I doubt either of us are likely to convince the other on this point.

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.

Yeah, that was poor wording on my part, and I didn't mean to minimize how excruciating and scary your situation is.

Maybe I'm still just not getting it, but it sounded to me like you believe the options you're looking at - though all risky - will all get you closer to realizing your ambitions of translating and disseminating these stories which mean so much to you. Which, if so, is at least something to hold on to; I certainly hope that it is, anyway.

I would describe my life as falling ass-backwards into fame and fortune, through several hundred stories of plated glass.

Damn, man, you ever thought of doing your own prose writings - aside from little pop culture websites? Or maybe poetry? That's some damn good wordsmithing.


I've never read The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and going off the recommendation of two separate horror fans in Arthur's Lovecraft series, I wasn't planning to, either, so I can't comment on that.

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...

Hey, like I said before, don't rush yourself on my account. Take however long you need.
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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...
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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.
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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.
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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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