Monday, 22 August 2005

Update / book review pt. 2 : (more a review of my own book-reading than the book itself)

Am I gullible, or just too freely accepting? I get stuck into a book and tend to believe every word it says. (I do this with a lot of books) and think highly of the book (and its arguments) until I read something else that refutes, disagrees with or criticizes the book, then I just agree with the criticisms instead. I thought I was an independent thinker, but maybe I’m more like a chameleon.

The intensity with which I have been reading D+D is no doubt a factor in its effect on my total acceptance of it. I have left little time for thought between sections, and apart from the odd meal here and there, only once or twice have I got up off the couch and interacted with the society described in the book. D+D contains a lot of truth and valid complaints (concrete, noise pollution, etc. which DO REALLY ANNOY ME!) but there is a lot about life in Japan that really isn’t that negative – I enjoy my work interacting with people and seeing the interaction between their preconceptions and my non-Japanese teaching methods, I really love being up in the mountains (although they seem to be filling with useless roads and dams) and in spite of what Kerr says about good onsens disappearing, I still really love those – even the seedy urban bath houses have their own charm.

The book itself is somewhat repetetetetitive (and I did notice that myself) but I feel like here I am now having read these forums and adopting their viewpoints (or changing mine to fit theirs). Am I just a mollusc? Latching onto any writing and thoroughly accepting its viewpoint without discernment? Well, I guess I’m not much of a critical thinker… but why think critically? I don’t want to become cynical. Also, thinking critically (or even thinking at all?) prevents me from getting caught up in a good read (which is one of the reasons I read in the first place).

Perhaps Kerr’s image of Japan as a creaking hulk heading for the rocks (I keep visualizing it as similar to the castle monster thingy in last year’s anime Howl’s Moving Castle by Miyazaki) is somewhat over extreme / alarmist but there is certainly a lot of truth here and food for thought, as well as scarily satisfying explanations of the causes behind a lot of the
nazo one sees in Japan.

I have now been in Japan for just over a year – the longest so far at a stretch. And I can tell you I’VE GOTTA GET OUT OF HERE BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!!!
This is the reaction I have to spending the last 3 days reading Dogs And Demons by Alex Kerr. If you’ve read it, you’ll know what I’m getting at – the book portrays Japan as a creaking machine heading in the wrong direction and about to fall apart at any minute. It covers most aspects of life in Japan, from the concreted rivers and seashores to the cookie-cutterization of the populace through a scarily efficient miseducation system And the thing is, you can see it. The rivers are concreted. There are more under-used cultural centres, pachinko parlours and strange shaped monuments than could possibly be needed
A big factor in my current attitude is probably the intensity with which I’ve been reading this book. It is almost 400 pages (plus Footnotes) and I started reading it on Friday evening. Thanks to a rainy day on Saturday and a train journey on Sunday, I will have finished it by this (Monday) evening. As well as being scarily readable (with a few rough bits in the economics sections that I’m not too clued up on) it is very intense, packed full of facts, examples and whatnot to explain the whole crazy system – a good summary is here. Dogs And Demons is definitely worth a read if you are even vaguely interested in Japan, but be warned: it might put you off.

Monday, 15 August 2005

doing stuff

Just a note to say (in case anyone visits) that this blog is supposed to be about stuff i've been doing, but because i'm so busy doing all the things i'm doing, i haven't got around to writing about them. So, until i do, it seems that this blog is about procrastination.

Sunday, 14 August 2005

more from my diary

Sunday was a much better day - including over 2 hours of ground handling and bouncing around on the beach followed by an hour or
2 playing in the surf with bodyboards. The PGing took me back (mind and level gradually training back to the level i was last year) to awesome day bouncing around over the thermic rocks round the back of Fan G with Nick last July.
Wind was a bit too strong for a flight from the mountain, but I'm back in the zone and ready to fly again!
Sunday afternoon I had a good chat with Itonaga about life; he says he used to think that what you do was more important than money, but he says you need money, and all artists are poor. He’s an artist (like most people in Japan), in that he paints European Windows in Black and white. Also speculates on Stock Exchange. Lots of philosophizing etc. (and religion etc. in the car on the way home) with a backdrop of beautiful sunset over 福岡湾, and the slow お盆 traffic. We went to his mother’s house in 北九州 (for a big family gathering, including a mutual English/Japanese lesson with his elder brother (or someone's grandfather?) who was teaching me lots of old kanji that aren't used any more) then back to Yoshitomi (with his family, including his elder son who is at 東京外国語大学 near ICU studying French)(somehow getting lost in 行橋 on the way (they wouldn’t have got lost if I’d been navigating!))

Saturday, 13 August 2005

Paragliding Weekend (sort of...) (from my diary)

i had an awesome weekend discovering that i had forgotten how to paraglide - not good! until Saturday, it was just under 8 months since i last flew...
So on Saturday it was a good thing i was only doing short hops supervised by 糸長さん(and also that character with really strong hands whos v. keen to practice English and doesn't stop talking and I’d forgotten existed)... my launch technique and control (and just about everything) had totally gone to pot. And to cap it all off i had an accidental reserve deployment - (bizarre feeling) though luckily i was only at 2m altitude.
Many lessons learned and relearned. Rehabilitation. Frustrating but useful.
(Earlier we went up to see the takeoff – a very steep dodgy looking wooden slatted ramp!)

The place was 火山in 志摩町, near 前原, west of 福岡市 – an awesome 4km long beach with muchos surf etc see here. a very reccomended location for all sorts of adventures! Sat. evening: 焼肉 but Itonaga had bought me veggies, salad and dressing on the way. Nice – he looked after me so well all weekend! I slept in the top of Itonaga’s camper van. And then a bit in the morning on the beach. If you have never slept on a beach in the early morning, do it now!

Wednesday, 10 August 2005


I've just realized if you had a spa in a ghetto it would be a spaghetto . . .

so i have changed the name from
Sparky's Space
Sparky's SpaGhetto

a lot of

and if i don't get some useful stuff in here soon, it'll turn out to be a blog about a blog, which is not what i want.

Tuesday, 9 August 2005

Ok, so this is my blog.

at last it starts.
or i start it.
or it is started by me.
or whatever.

whether this log of webbage will continue further than these first few minuscule ramblings can only be determined by anyone who chooses to visit this space.

basically, i feel that i have recently been doing stuff that is interesting enough to warrant some interest taken in it by people who feel that they have been deprived of hearing about me.
so i set up a blog and this is it.

it may also be a good opportunity to learn a bit of html