Friday, November 30, 2007

Standing on a street corner, nothing on my mind

Today I caught up with Shouko's family to give them some chocolates that I was supposed to give them last time I visited.
In the past week I've caught up with Madoka, Shizuka and Keiko aswell, friends from my highschool days.
There is one thing I have come to abhore here though above all others.
Getting dropped home.
I can't quite explain it, but I hate it. Back in Oz, I got dropped home all the time when visiting my folks. They threw the explodinator in the back of whatever car and janice, dad, my sister or brother would drop me off at my apartment. We'd have a little one on one chat, good times, I'd get home, watch some tv, go to the store, go to sleep. Whatever.
Here it is much the same exercise, I catch up with someone, it gets late, we're all tired and someone offers to drive me home, we have a good chat in the car then we reach the place I'm staying, I get out and then wave good bye. Go to the combini, watch tv or go to sleep.
And yet I hate it. Here it feels like being put to bed. Even though most people are giving me the old fuckoffski because they have to work the next day, its not like the party is over.
But there is something here that I distinctly lack. And that is the ability to get up in someones house, declare 'that's it' and go home.
As I blink now, I can see the frosty streets of melbourne, on a summer night, the alternating quite dark park lanes and the busy al fresco dining inner streets. I am cycling in t-shirt and shorts, or walking in a three piece suit. Making my own nocturnal way homewards.
I pass beggers with no shoes, and year 12 private school girls in garish dresses and no shoes. People late at night dipping their legs into fountains that now must be defunct in Melbourne's many public gardens.
My bike lights are blinking in the reflection of someone's car parked on Johnson st, as I make my way through Collingwood back to civilization of Fitzroy, one suburb over.
I'm riding through two consecutive sets of red lights in the complete absense of traffic at 2 am on the college crescent, riding around behind princes park where old men solicit college residents for blowjobs as they have a drunken rest on a park bench making their own way home.
I've left early enough to catch the last tram or train home, I'm sitting feeling fucking seedy, looking around at the malaysian talent turned in early from a night of good wholesome fun in the city, the talent is dispersed evenly amongst some of the ugliest people I will ever see.
Some people are on edge looking for tram inspectors.
There was 1001 roads home, foot, train, bike, at my disposal anytime I wanted. Nothing particularly special about melbourne. Japan has a 24 hour train service just about, foot can get a little ridiculous, I don't have a bike.
My independance is gone, not entirely of course. But I am getting taken home, dropped off.
It is not me putting my feet in front of the other. I miss that. It is not me making my own sweet time home, to do what I want when I want.
I am getting dropped off, always an act of caring generosity on my hosts part, but I feel like a cancerous mole being removed.
My inability to comprehend distance means that home always cuts my conversations off. It arrives abruptly, I get out and then everything folds itself back into the night, and I go to sleep.
I can't really explain it, but I miss the romance of wandering home. Even in the industrial centre that is Toyota city, or the rice paddies meets residential suburbs that was Handa, or the Queenscliff, Geelongesque vibe of Takematsu, getting dropped off feels like having my arms pinned down by a blanket and my head kissed, knowing that the sound of adults drinking wine, eating cheese and cracking lame ass jokes will keep me up for hours yet.
And my mind longs to wander the streets, taking turns, in the lights, hear the noise of traffic. I think I will go wander the streets tomorrow.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My God, I so get it now.

Bikesnobnyc put me onto this thorugh his excellent reviewing skills. Somehow I feel that describing his blog as 'topgear for bikes' would piss him off. But this is a merkin it's hilarious, I couldn't help but think about where I had heard the name before, then I realised its the name of our trivia team (I was formerly a member). That is funnier than 'G-spot tornadoes' you lose Aaron.

Autopsy the Second

Yesterday I ran from Takemura (Bamboo Village) to Toyota Stadium, one way is just under 10km the return trip is 20km. I run with an ipod and an elastic knee support. I suspect the problem is not so much my knees but my shoes.
On my ipod called ipohd, I selected Music > Artist > Faith No More > All > Stripsearch > Play. This meant my playlist would cycle through all bar collision (which I've never liked as a first track on an album) of their 1997 release Album of the Year, then the next album in alphabetical order Angel Dust.
All these things combined got me thinking many a thing, the running, the music, the environment wrapped around my nervous system and whatnot. They also sometimes resulted in me not thinking at all, which is very helpful when you are running just shy of 20km, in shoes designed for distances no greater than 1500m.
The shoes got me thinking because they are 6 or 7 years old, made by Nike in a sweatshop and holding up remarkably well. Sure most of the rubber studs are gone, but for the most part they are highly functional, I don't have any other shoes that would compare to the milage these bad boys have done, nor do I have many friends or companions as stalwart, which is to say, the shoes now have outlasted my last five relationships, and I would describe some of those as long term.
The music, Album of the Year, is the perfect album for capturing the mysterious process of grief and berievement. The wild mood swings, the stimulus, the conflict between reality and denial. I don't know if it was intended like this, but it certainly has that effect on me. Faith No More's first album I bought, was their last album released and the second Album I ever bought after Dangerous by Michael Jackson.
And lastly I am in Japan, running through the streets of Japan, a henna gaijin or crazy outsider, running in skimpy running clothes in the last week of autumn as bitter winter weather sets in, running distances most Japanese don't contemplate outside of forced endurance training sessions inside highschools.
What a perfect time to contemplate my last episode in love, rather my latest episode in love. My friend Shona, probably had two signifigant points on it, made when we caught up early on in Miki and my dalliance and then again within a week of 'the end' if indeed there are ever endings so final.
The first comment was 'setting yourself up for heartbreak' this was when I knew Miki was returning to Japan (but didn't know how soon) and Shona did cut to the bone of the issue, from the get go on Miki's third date with me she had expressed her trepidation that this was her first cross cultural relationship, and she was very nervous about it. I told her it was the same for me, and that I too whilst being nervous was also partly excited about it.
An expectation of failure can go miles in reducing the risk of an endeavour. Being that failure was so likely, there was little to stand in the way of seeing where it went, I had no serious 'grief' episode after the relationship was all done and dusted, and I expect part of that was a lesson learned from the last relationship about the nature of love, control, relationships and life. But another part was that it had always been understood that this was the probabal outcome.
Does that mean I didn't really care? No. I cared a lot, I was just more able to recognise that it was a decision I didn't have much control over.
Does that mean I contributed nothing to its downfall? I don't think that could ever be true, but I do know this, a failure of a relationship need not be related to the failure on the part of the individuals within it. Blame gets us nowhere, but I think it worth examining what I know of the choice that was made that ultimately ended our relationship. A little background is probably necessary for although a lot of my friends met misaki and certainly in most cases warmed to her straight away, the brevity of the relationship probably prevented many from knowing her well (myself included).

Miki was in Australia studying Materials Design at Box Hill, she had just about completed first year when I met her, with a remaining year left to study. I met her the day after my 23rd birthday. We saw eachother once a week after meeting, and then pretty much dated full time after that, with one or so day off.
Significant incidents were her revealing that her part time work was not at a thai restaurant (that she had forebade me to eat at nor know where it was) but instead at a thai massage parlour. This lie caught me offgaurd because it was completely unnecessary. Like when I read about the wife of an Alcoholic talking about his compulsive lying resulting in lies about things of no concequence, like what movies he had seen.
The second was her concealing the fact that she was moving out, in order to return to Japan, for fear that I would up and leave, she told me her parents had demanded her return with just under a month left to enjoy her company. Here we resolved that I would visit her in Japan, and she whilst not completing her course was going to return to Australia on a Holiday visa and stay with me for 3 months.
And lastly during her return to renew her visa, Misaki took a job paying $700 a month in Tokushima a remote part of Shikoku island, by all means pretty but considered a backwater in Japan, that started in April (instead of her original departure date of July) without any heads up or consultation with me whatsoever.

And I guess that ultimately was the decision. The breakup came 3 or 4 months later, and it barely effected me, I felt slightly rejected, but it was so insignificant in terms of fallout that my mother hadn't even realised we'd broken up until I departed Australia 2 months later and I realised I'd neglected to tell her.
I think the strongest feeling I felt, was embarassment. The person I most didn't want to tell was Miho, my work colleague who had introduced us and more or less effectively set us up.
I felt like I had let people down. Other than that, my thoughts of Misaki were actually quite joyous (oh for those that haven't clicked Misaki = Miki) almost everything she said was worthy of hilarious impersonation, her caring nature, her ability to make friends so quickly and endearingly were all that I can remember.
Our break up was more or less purely cultural.
And now, that its over, I would be entirely transparent if I said that 'I'm over her' or 'I don't love her' because it is plain to me that I do. But this is a lesson well learned over and over again. It is pretty hard for me to stop loving someone, and the social pressure to do so pretty much never helps and infact exacerbates the breakup process. I think the most important thing in a breakup is how you choose to behave, not trying to control the emotions and feelings you have.
For sure everyone will agree that watching your ex hook up with someone else doesn't help you love them any less, nor does it spare you any pain. But the feelings aren't the point, the behaviour is that you are confronting the brutal facts.
And in this case the facts are brutal.

Miki's choice:

stay in Australia, with boyfriend, getting educated in desired career path, live in nice apartment (nicer than I can maintain on my own), live close to city, quit smoking, started exercising, have friends from Australia and Japan.


Go to Japan, work in the middle of nowhere selling jewellery door to door, pay is $700 a month, rent not included, take up smoking, drop education, work 12 hour days, 7 days a week, no friends, no family, live by self.

I don't know how much the massage gig paid (she quit after confronting revelations surfaced, at which my disclosure in the past has landed me in the shit) but I'm pretty sure $700 a month isn't exactly a draw card anywhere outside of Mexico or the Balkan states or some shit.
The choice to me, or you I hope would seem quite obvious (although you might think dating me tips the balance in Japan's favour) but it is how she chose, I haven't sugar coated or put any bias into the decision, just the brutal facts.
And when I have more or less explained this to my good friend Shona, she probably summed up the sentiment aswell as anyone myself included could 'I feel sorry for her'.
This is the first time I've been dumped for purely cultural reasons. But if I look at my own contribution, it is that I didn't meet her half way, Miki actually optimistically thought that our relationship would survive the one year hiatus while she worked this Japanese test of self sacrifice. I didn't give it a chance in hell, it was only later that Misaki realised that it would be ludicrous for me to trade in my prospects in Australia, to become a low paid english teacher in Japan, that the relationship had no future, and hence, she broke up with me.
So admittedly for Miki, the decision or choice wasn't based on clear cut reasoning, it was covered all in Japanese pixi fluff, there were assumptions there that we would communicate regularly, that she would have time to visit me, that I would wait my year patiently then visit her in Shizuoka her home town.
None of these occured, I had a say in only the last point. She was very upset, and I felt very guilty, until I realised that I had picked the dates to fall on my birthday, our anniversary and her birthday and new years, all dates of significance to her. I had been very thoughtful in the whole plan, she however had agreed to work a job she hates with little practical consideration at all.
It doesn't stop me from feeling, but nor does it dictate the way I behave. Her ability to take annual leave? 'impossible', her ability to visit her home town with me? 'impossible', her ability to leave work early while I was there? 'impossible'.
The relationship? 'impossible'

And this is where it all goes from personal to cultural. The choice is skewed completely by Misaki's culture imperitives. 'impossible' itself draws on two dominant parts of Japanese culture (here I am criticising Japan again when I avowed to stop) the first is 'Muri' this literally means, 'impossible' and is commonly used by young girls to dismiss a suggestion, it more represents 'I don't want to' which is what you'd say if you wanted to be upfront and accept responsibility, but impossible absolves you, so of course 'muri' is the word of choice.
The second word is 'sho-gania' which is literally 'it can't be helped' the most unempowered statement there is. 'There's nothing I can do about it' the problem is that such expressions are used in English in cases such as where someone or something has died, or some amount of money has been lost on some truly unforeseeble tragedy. In Japan, it is used on just about everything, including the vast majority of things that certainly can be helped.
Such as I have used when I have moved on from a place I have stayed, even when I clearly have made the decision that I'm bored and it's time to move on, my Japanese hosts interpret it as some allusion to the greater designs of a cosmic creater.
So the mindset of Miki is a very unempowered one, she often professed to me that she begged her parents not to bring her home, to let her enjoy her life while she was young.
Which is a funny thing to do, when you have financed your own education in a foreign country, have half priced rent by sharing an apartment with your boyfriend and being 25 years old. Yet in Misaki's mind, if her parents wish her home, who is she to disobey, the best part she can play in the decision making process is to beg her parents to see her point of view.
I for one, if my parents asked me to come home and help the family business, would laugh in their fucking faces. We aren't talking about caring for a disabled loved one, we are talking about working a shitty career.
I'd do it even if they were paying my rent.
To be fare it isn't all robotic programming on Misaki's part, the cultural imperative is such, that Misaki probably rightly weighed up, that the pain of losing your boyfriend of 5 months (at the time) would be far less than the pain of the treatment she would recieve losing her family of 25 years.
For me I felt helpless, infuriatingly helpless, if you want to talk about picking battles, then the rule is only pick battles you can win. I now reconsider this position, because I did almost nothing to intervene except indirectly express my doubts over the wisdom of the course Misaki was taking.
I instead decided that rather than sour our relationship by getting between Miki and her family, I should stay on the outer.
In a way this alludes to my other bitter pill I swallowed in the whole process. The relationship between me and Miki's mother I assume is imperative to maintain as part of the quality of Miki & my relationship. Hence I did my upmost to pray proper respect for the relationship she had with Miki, despite me never having met nor talked with her.
Yet Misaki's mother behaves in a way that causes me to conclude that she pays me no respect at all.
Even when I had made the effort to traverse across the globe and out to Shikoku to catch up with Misaki in the evenings after work and at breakfast before work (and otherwise entertain myself) she had no problem in calling Misaki to discuss some triviality for an hour and a half whilst Misaki made apologetic signs at me.
Now I didn't feedback to Misaki that when she answered her phone in my presence I felt like she was telling me that I wasn't important. (which is probably true) Never have I seen such blatent disregard for almost everything that Misaki's mother seems to show. I truly have to meet this remarkable woman.
I optimistically guestimate that she has little to no consciousness of what she is doing, is actually a nice sweet person (like Misaki) and infact another tragic progeny of the same cultural programming that Misaki is victim to.
Do I feel angry about the whole thing? Yes. Emphatically yes. Anger is probably all I have felt since I stopped feeling embarrassed.
I fear that Misaki's decision, based on cultural pretext, instead of facts, will be regrettable, and in that regard some small anticipation of her having a sudden 'revelation' stalls my being in a condition I guess you would say is 'over it'.
I listened as Misaki told me her story, that her families business is in crisis, that when she was younger she expressed that she didn't want to follow in her mother or sisters footsteps and enter the business. That her sister was the one to take the leadership. That her sister is almost 30, has no boyfriend, no life, just work and that's why Misaki wants to support her.
That's the story. But add to that Misaki's own ambitions: her dream is to run an international business, she wants to have a child and be a mother.
She feels in her mothers business she has inherited a 'golden ticket', I feel a family business in crisis, managed by your sister (who took a struggling company and ran it into the ground) and subsequently set off a revolt in the senior experienced staff, is not a golden ticket but a bucket of shit.
Where she sees a perfectly reasonable course of action, I see a patch of ground so clearly littered with landmines, so many challangeable assumptions, that I have to pinch the bridge of my nose to stop a non constructive outburst.
Once did I challange these assumptions, because of Misaki's ambitions primarily, she wants to support her sister, her sister is working as hard as ever, still single, still no child. The difference of Misaki's support is that now, she too is single, almost thirty and works all day.
She is as yet to make a dent on her sisters problem and has infact doubled it.
She is too 'pure of heart' to ever conclude that her sister shouldn't be managing the business (the one assumption I did challange her on, to disastorous effect, and recieved a stinging rebuke [that still made little to no sense]) so I wonder, that that one day, when Miki is 35, single, and the bank won't lone the shop any more money. Will Miki then weigh up what was the golden ticket, and what the bucket of shit?
That I guess is the question that haunts me, has me cornered. And I haven't made any progress on it, because nobody likes being told what to do. Certainly not Misaki.
But this autopsy wouldn't be an autopsy unless I got to the cause of death, and that in part can be answered by the cause of life.
Why did I like Misaki? Why did I fall in love with her?
By the time I met Misaki, I had already concluded that I neither wanted to work nor live in Japan, Japanese girls where more to the point, too complacent, too unambitious for me. When Miho introduced Misaki to me, I more or less ignored her.
Miho probably infact said the worst thing that could be said about a girl to me... 'Misaki is kawaii (cute) ne?' and that just about summed up my reservations, she was too cute. I was looking for a women, not a girl.
And yet when I saw her, I did sit up and take notice, not because she was cute, she was, but not just cute, she was also beautiful, I think Misaki is one of those rare beauties that you can see how they simultaneously will be a beautiful little girl and a beautiful old lady.
As I got to know Misaki, she was just thoroughly charming, and disarming. She was upfront most of the time (the annoying habit of keeping secrets and making snap decisions on big important issues of course) but would let you know how she felt, and rebuke me at every instant.
I keep remembering again and again, on our second date, her consternation that she 'can't stop kissing you', nor will I ever forget, waking up in her uncomfortable bed at 6am in Prahran on a work day, and seeing her get up, climb into a tracksuit and then I hear the noises of her pulling my bike from the side of the house out the gate onto the pavement for me. Or when she cried at the christmass party, because she felt she was doing such a bad job of talking and making conversation with my work friends.
She was just beautiful, through and through. Singularly selfless, I don't think her decision was selfish at all. I think she honestly did it for love, just a form of love I find undesirable and she finds indespensible.
At RYLA we did an exercise where you throw a ball to someone and then you have to say 'name is complement' until everyone in the circle has done it. I find this a particularly powerful exercise. I said 'Prue is a geniunely loving person' the point of the exercise isn't about making other people feel better, it can be charmingly embarrassing as well.
The point is once everyone has said something nice about everybody else, the ball goes back round the circle in order and you have to say 'I am compliment' and when you see what people say about themselves, the shoe fits everytime. And that is because of the simple reason that the good qualities we easily see in somebody else, are the good qualities we possess.
If I love Misaki because of her unwavering selflessness, I think that says something about me, although I'm sure most people would agree that I am a big white elitist aggressive arsehole, and Misaki is a small cute yellow bubbly kitten.
Misaki was good for me, because I stepped back, took it easy and just lived my life with her. She made the moment now very beautiful. Even having a ticking clock hanging above our heads, just made us try harder to enjoy our time together. It was very much about what each could bring to the table, to build a greater whole.
The problem is that when you say there is more to life than work, there is also love. People can forget that the reverse in this particular use of logic must also be true. There is more to life than love, there is also work.
I know I need both to prosper and be happy, Miki may have been perfect as a partner in love, but the fact is we just cant pursue our career goals together. Whilst I fear the outsider statis that one with my prominent narrow face and golden hair obtains working in Japan, the other possibility is sadly clouded by Misaki's cultural obligation (one she doesn't object to in the slightest) preventing her from pursuing a career and life proximate to mine.
Yes I obviously still love Misaki, and this probably has a bearing as to my decision making on other partners, probably the main symptom will be that potential candidates are not 'misaki like enough' but these symptoms will fade, either with time and pragmatic consideration, or when the next girl at a party makes me sit up and pay attention.
So the autopsy, the lesson learned though is this, just because someone is a good person, doesn't mean they are good for you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Vagina: An essay on Romance

Time magazine had an article on the decline of Romance films, the crux was that Romance films don't make money fast sighting Titanic as not really making its presence felt until 15 days after opening.
The authors woe'd the advent of this years most successful romance 'Knocked Up' saying that most of it was adolescent, the most meanignful courtship to witness was that between the main character and his prospective brother in law, and that all that was required was fifteen minutes of maturity from the protagonist to imply he was the deserving male ideal.
Historically adjusting for inflation Gone with the Wind is still the highest grossing film of all time. And other romantic films such as Ghost, Pretty Woman, Titanic were all too rare to filmgoers.
Furthermore and I agree, the follow up to Knocked up, Superbad, a film I did find funny did serious damage in its celebration of male adolescent bonding. The whole pretext of the film is really just a celebration of the life of a white adolescent male. I thought it was infact as far as the dialogue goes, pretty true to life. My friends in highschool whilst not getting into the same crazy calamaties and joyriding with irresponsible police officers, did speak with a complete lack of respect for one another or anyone else more or less all the time. And women were a very alien species rather than people we'd necessarily choose to hang out with en masse if we didn't find them so damn attractive.
And there were exceptions of course, infact the exceptional improvement in the quality of courting and intergender social interaction I think is one of the payloads of the women's movement. That I can actually relate to girls having ambition, allows me to relate so much better, so I don't think the status quo is as chauvanistic as the author's of the article make it out to be.

To have a brief interlude though, if you have a long commute, and enjoy wordplay, I strongly recommmend chucking a Bloodhound Gang CD in the player for lyrical wizadry, I think more than any other band perhaps, the Bloodhound Gang have captured the dilemma of being bored, middle class, educated and white. Here's some of their lyrics to a song that made me laugh recently walking the streets of Nagoya:

Three Point One Four lyrics

My last girlfriend didn't like me thought she might be,
Most likely a dyke she just didn't excite me,
Lefty? Yeah but that was alright,
She was hotter than the sun but she just wasn't that bright,
My mistake she was more flaky than a leper colony,
I think a wooden clothespin would have been much better company,
Ass like a donkey acting funky gave her "L" now she's a flunky,
So my love for her died quicker than a batch of Sea Monkeys,
Early bird gets the worm spread your legs or spread the word,
So what if I'm not the smartest peanut in the turd,
I'm white which goes with everything but I can come in any color,
And I'm looking for the kind of girl that reminds me of my mother,
But it's hard to find a girl with a viper tattooed on her tushy,
And how many girls do you know that can play the harmonica with their pussies?
Like em' easy and hot and sweet like a Rice Krispie Treat, gee,
You know what I really want in a girl? Me,

I need to find a new vagina,
Any kind of new vagina,
It's hard to rhyme a word like vagina,
Calvin Klein? Kind of North Carolina,

Women are like dog, doo, hear me through don't interrupt,
It's just the older that they are the easier they get to pick-up,
I'd fill the generation gap clean the cobwebs from her rafters,
Old hens would rather put out than be put out to the pasture,
No age just ain't a gauge I like my girls like my cheese,
Preferably for me fat-free American singles only,
I want my next chick anorexic, the winner is the thinner,
Won't have to take her skinny ass out to a fancy dinner,
Like Sizzler she got a beef we'll chew the fat,
If I forget to put the seat up I can put up with her crap,
Let her lash out and crack the whip but not in bed I don't play rough,
No I can't be tied down with a girl that wants me tied up,
Just independent like NOFX ,smart like Janeane Garafolo,
She'd use big words to make fun of me so that I would never know,
Bestow upon me all her wisdom of the Dewey Decimal System, gee,
You know what I really want in a girl? Me,

I need to find a new vagina,
Any kind of new vagina,
It's hard to rhyme a word like vagina,
Kevin Klein? Kind of South Carolina,
Vagina vagina vagina vagina,
Vagina vagina vagina vagina.

I imagine a lot of people on hearing this song feel distinctly uncomfortable, amused, horrified, indignant, bored or a mixture of all of these.
For me I think it is the magic of comedian advocacy, Jimmy Pop the lead singer might be advocating thinking of women in terms of pure sex objects, finding obscure faults and generally plowing through with wanton abandon. But I doubt it, simply because it just doesn't sell that well, these are the sorts of thoughts I may think but would never admit to, by bringing them to the fore, makes me acknowledge in a disarming way that element of myself.
Others may interpret it as cool and adopt a player lifestyle.
I think though that this is one of those inner fraternity things, that is cool so long as you are accepted by the group and rejected by everyone on the exterior. But who's in the right?
I value diversity, I don't want a perfect respectful world, I love to swear, I love lines like 'so what if I'm not the smartest peanut in the turd' I would certainly choose a world with Superbad and Bloodhound Gang over a world without them.
I hate uptight situations, I find nobody's company more tiring or stressful than someone up tight.
I love adolescent conversations by comparison, like when I was an adolescent and Rowan and I in economics tried to come up with as many psuedonyms for vagina as possible. I got about 4 he got about 26, and I stopped largely because I was laughing.
Confronting? maybe. But let's remember that I found Sex in the City confronting, through my frame of reference that show glorified women incapable of forming meaningful relationships, eventually it ended with all 4 protagonists settling down with the man of their dreams.
But essentially Carrey was no different to the character Jerry from Seinfeild, except he was comically ridiculous, superficially shallow. Carry was dramatic, emotionally unbalanced (as far as I can tell) and a hero.
What does all this have to do with romance? Nothing, and that's the point.
I think labelling Superbad as about romance is a mistake, it wasn't about that at all, it was cut from the exact same cloth as other right of passage films like American Pie. Knocked Up in my opinion was just a comedy, no more a romance than the topsy turvy remake of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (Which I'd hardly call a romance anyway, as Sidney Portier is already engaged from the beginning and very little changes through the course of the film which was largely about race issues) Guess Who? Even compared to Wedding Crashers or Meet the Parents which are described as Romantic Comedies, I probably wouldn't call Knocked Up a romantic comedy. The relationship is too back stage. Its all about the guy really.
Romance is something else, its that chase, the courtship, it is the pursuit of trying to delight someone you like, love, lust after.
I have no problem with leading a dualistic life of adolescence, proffessionalism and romance. In a single day this year, I woke up and cooked Misaki breakfast, then rode her to the train station sitting on the crossbar of my bike, then spent eight hours handling phonecalls then came home and went to dinner with bryce where we dropped the F word, the C word, and conjugated more of them.
I have no problem being all three, my only real problem is that its hard to mix them up even more, not suggesting I cook breakfast for my customers, spend 8 hours briefing misaki on sales statistics then go home and have sex with Bryce.
What I mean is the personal idiocyncracities being able to really talk to a partner like they were my best friend, to feel loved at work, to strategise work with my best friend. I try hard to do just this, Misaki to this day has one of the foulest mouths amongst even sailors despite having the cutest little face you ever saw.* Bryce and I do talk about work and strategise a lot, and when I left Honda I certainly felt loved by my colleagues. All in all sharing and disclosing the various modes we adopt made everything easier. I was less of a persona and more of me.
I hope for the record romance does evolve, I already alluded to the fact that now I can sit down on a date with a woman and talk about career paths, ambitions and interests that are actually interesting. In Japan the bamboo roof hasn't been broken down yet, a girl I was having dinner with the other day told me she plans to work for 2 more years then get married. This was a definitive turn off. When she asked me whether I would marry a Japanese girl and my response was 'If we lived in Australia it would be okay, but otherwise I'd probably kill myself' the feeling probably became mutual. But the other part is getting less uptight, relaxing on dates, in romance and in life together. Miki told me off for picking up my bread roll with my hands, when I picked it up with chopsticks she really got mad. We can however talk about stuff in more or less the same manner as I do with my other friends, the only constraint now being that she is one of my friends and not my romantic interest.
And I think that's a topic for another day.

Photoepic, Failed Modern State

I will remember fondly Vicky Gerardi, my year 10 and 11 (VCE 3/4) Art teacher for many and varied a reason. Her influence was large upon my life.
But two conversations come to mind here, now in my present occupation of walking the world.
The first was when I last returned from Japan, I took photo's largely on a disposable camera and they were pretty shabby, compared to the photo's Vicky took of her trip to India which she took with her family at the same time.
She paid bottom dollar for beautiful prints with white borders in India. Her subject matter all selected carefully, I couldn't help but notice how much easier she structured her narrative of her trip than I did mine from my haphazardly taken photos mostly of people I knew or met.
But the thing I remember her talking about was how hard it was to strike the balance that does a foreign country (which really can be expanded to any experience) justice.
I think specifically she said "How do you tell people in the same sentance about this beautiful ancient palace, cleverly designed and maintained that backs onto an unofficial garbage dump." or something to that effect.
This in many cases is my dilemma. Infact most of the time, most people tend to opt for the positive side of the balance. That is to put on the rose coloured glasses and focus on the merits, neglecting to talk about those garbage dumps, the racism etc. Others go to the negative end of the scale. I tend to be one of said others, for most experiences I had. Things I thoroughly love and enjoy, I will often talk about in mostly a critical form, what can be improved, what could be done better.
Other, others who focus on the negative are the kind of people that find anything hotter than pepper spicy, anything that's not white bread, dirty, and anything that is remotely feminine or even colourful, gay. Whilst they should be applauded for at least trying to have an exotic experience, they really should for everone's benifit stay at home and watch Kath & Kim DVDs.
So it is that the first of Vicky's insights (chronologically second) caught me out though, I found myself when posting facebook photo's qualifying photo's I'd taken that I had inadvertantly self censured. That is, much like a brochure of Japan, (albeit without having an airbrush at my disposal) I found myself taking photos going to great lengths to get the camera to find a view that was still meaningful whilst cutting out the littany of billboards, powerlines, garbage, concrete, construction barriers, dead trees etc. I found myself in short looking at Japan only through rose coloured glasses, then upon witnessing my own selection, backpeddling to write snide little remarks next to my photos.
So I resolved to dedicate an album, to the ugly side of Japan. Similar to Australia, national symbols aren't in reality on every street corner. You find Eucalyptus trees in parks, Kangaroos in the outermost suburbs sometimes if lucky (or as roadkill as was the case with my one campbellfield kangaroo encounter), you do see other things though like you can definetily see the trams on many a melbourne fridge magnet. Cockatoos do fly through the sky, though not as often as bats.
But Japan is a different kettle of fish, while Australia's domestic tourism has been on the rise, Japan's has been in virtual freefall, the reason being that Japan is largely laking in tourist attractions, and Japan is arguably more xenophobic than isolated Australia. Japan also doesn't have that many foreign tourists.
When I read this it came to me as a shock, I had kind of thought Japan to be sort of a Milan type fashion capital, where rich hollywood stars came to revel in hero worship and experience the Japanese wackiness.
When I thought about it though, I realised that whilst I would struggle to count the number of my friends that have been to Thailand, (I find it easier to count the number of my friends who haven't been to thailand, except its harder to remember who those friends even are) when I think of my friends who have been to Japan the task isn't daunting at all.
And what of it, Japan is expensive, Thailand is cheap. I do think of Thailand as touristy though, and what exactly does that mean to me? It means this, in Japan there is a rich cultural history, there are temples Castles and Palaces and Gardens to observe. But these are wrapped in endless streets of the same old shit. Go to Hot Potatoes in Sydney Road brunswick and look at the store front. Then turn around 180 degrees and look at the housing complex. Now imagine that with a web of wires hanging in the air that isn't even used to service a tramline. There you have most of Japan.
And that's precisely what touristy isn't, in thailand you go see whatever it is you wanted to see, then you go to a river market, wander the streets, ride a took took, get a suit tailored, lie on the beach or drink in a club.
In Japan, you stay in a hotel room light by fluorescent lights, watch the same 6 celebreties on show after show, and pay $40 a glass for whiskey. If you do go to the beach you will see a big concrete wall, with same iron staples as a servacible ladder to get down to the sand below where garbage is heaped up, you will be assailed by a stench, and you will not see a banana lounge or Sarong in sight.
Young people in Japan go abroad as well.
In Alex Kerr's book 'Dog's and Demons' he points out that a visitor to Kyoto, goes and sees the obligatory temples, Kyomizutera, Kinkakuji the Golden Pavillion, Sanjusan-gendo the hall of the 1000 buddha's (all of which I have seen and are spectacular) but then you leave. Kyoto is not a city you relax in and live in. This is despite a cultural heritage of Ryokans which are traditional Japanese hotels, and Kyoto being the capital of cultural refinement, the setting of 'Memoirs of a Geisha' the Geisha Houses do exist, but for $10,000 to hear songs I lack the refinement to understand, play drinking games when I don't like drinking when it's free and kneel on tatami matts all night is out of most people's realm. Adding to that that Geisha are rarer than hens teeth anyway.
The reason for this largely is that Kyoto apart from a ring of heritage temples on its outskirt, and bike riding zen monks, is home to a red and white tower that looks worse than the canberra Telstra Tower, and a huge grey Brick that is Kyoto central station, and apart from that row after row of drab 80's housing, apartment blocks and telephone wires. And that is what you see Japan over. It looks much of a muchness as the rest of Japan. The sole exception being city centers, but these generally aren't much better, or different than Melbourne's city center, the shops are certainly less diverse, although the cuisine is a world worth exploring all on its own.
But I digress, the point is, that I have three kinds of days here.
1. Talking days, these are where I catch up with people I know, and I talk in Japanese all day, they are fun, I generally get paid for all the way so they are free and I polish up my Japanese whilst getting complemented alot.
2. Walking days, these are days where I 'live' in Japan, as I would in Melbourne, this I enjoy the most as an act of independance, however to overcome the constant assailment of noise polution in Japan. The public announcements that stop just short of 'breath in, breath out' I plug into my ipod, and go digging for hidden musical treasure. I also check out girls on the train, this is fun but leads nowhere.
3. Tourist days, these are the days where I fill up my camera card at some attraction, of which there are plenty, these are where I carefully frame my shot to capture the castle, the garden, the moat, the beauty and ignore the construction barrier with the cartoon man painted on it. This is something I'd never do in Melbourne, nor would I take photo's of Melbourne, so used to living in that city as it were.
And as such I realised, I took very few photo's on walking days, and talking days I tend to forget my camera all together.
And here is the second thing that inspired me to construct my photo epic. The first day I ever met Vicky, ever, as my art teacher was when I walked into art class to find all our work taken off the wall. Vicky had stuck up posters by Dali and Magrette, by Van Gogh and Rembrandt and the usuals.
I was taken aback (a few weeks later she would team up with the other art teacher and paint over our classes mural with flat blue) but the explanation given was upfront.
'I took down the art because it was below standard, art should only be displayed if it is of a quality to inspire you' and she was right, our environment shapes our thoughts and feelings. According again to Alex Kerr, Japan has the same population density to habitable land ratio as Belgium, a country rarely regarded as cramped. However the Japanese (as if you know it as I do is almost a collective entity like a hive mind) will often refer to their country as semai which means 'narrow' Alex Kerr states that 'semai' is in the mind, the reality of the country is that people could live much more spaciously and comfortably if they could only adopt the perspective.
And this largely coincides with my experience. Scratch the surface of Japan and torrents of blood come gushing out, limbs fall off. The pretense is not deep but it is powerful. Terry Pratchett's book 'Interesting Times' a parody of both feudal Japan and pre-revolution China set in the sci-fi world of discworld refers to 'things worse than whips' and in Japan, this is everywhere, it is a mindset.
I came here wanting to meditate, a place where Zen was such an integral part of the national identity. Zen is the art of seeing, without the mind getting between you and reality, yet Japan is so out of touch with reality it is hard to believe.
A simple exercise when beginning meditation is to still the mind, calm it relax, 'thought through no thought' I have done it in Australia where you get your mind to focus on finding sounds.
In the middle of the park in my current town, my mind jumps like a flying fish from left right, up down to the sound of hammering, jackhammers, plows tearing up roads, or freight trucks screaming down hill, songs blaring from political lobby trucks that blare right wing propoganda all morning. All this sound of activity, of construction from a country that has had either 0, or negative economic growth for the past 12 years.
Let me put that further in perspective and draw again on the research of Alex Kerr, "In 1994 concrete production in Japan equalled 91.6 million tonnes, compared with 77.9 million tons in the United States. This means that Japan produces almost
thirty times as much concrete per square foot as the United States" and to Paraphrase "In 1998, spending on public works came to $136 billion the kind of money that dwarfs building the Panama Canal and far surpasses the budget of the US space program...all this in a 'poor' year when Japan was clearly in recession." research I would never bother to do. But albeit was helpful, in shattering my impression that all the concrete was necessary to prevent disastrous fallout from earthquakes.
It is infact to prevent government officials from being jobless when they retire as they retire into management positions of the companies that recieve the lucrative construction contracts for unnecessary projects after no real bidding for the tender. I guess in that is some reassurance that not all the money spent on concrete is spent on concrete but instead is lost to anti-competitive contracts.
This is news to me but seems well known to the Japanese people.
Suppose you do buy into it all being about earthquake prevention though, whilst it seems my amatuer attempts at Zazen will not be interrupted by the need to pave every single canal and then some, too create footpaths that lead nowhere and plant railing in incase you are blown by a taifun 10 meters into the nearest threatening traffic.
What of the power lines, why are they above ground, live wires being knocked loose in an earthquake can only aid the setting fire of the densely packed 'semai' housing and according again to Alex Kerr's research prevented emergency services from accessing areas in the last major Kobe earthquake.
This doesn't suggest that burying the poles is just a smart thing to do, but it should also be a priority.
But it isn't, I think that was the biggest dissapointment for me when I returned here. When I first came they had recently begun burying the powerlines at the central Nagoya station, and I had assumed that logically this would spread as Japan modernized. When a kid is lacking inspiration he can always look up at the scoud and make shapes of the clouds he/she sees.
But instead this is still happening through a tangled web of powerlines. It is not too hard to find a patch of sky to stand under where 6 or more overlap.
Vicky's standard comes ringing to my ears at this time where I again am faced with the importance of removing this visual polution, kids who grow up with their vision filled with ugly powerpoles are going to be very short sighted indeed.
Misaki actually articulated the 'high tech country' pride in the power poles that I intuitively shot back 'high tech countries bury their powerlines' this has become an unfortunate habit of mine, maintaining the discipline of calling things 'Ugly' or literally 'hard to look at' when ever I'm taken to a choice viewing spot here. I make sure to point out the beautiful forestry or the superb ancient architecture, I thank them for taking me, I am a gracious guest.
But as a guest I also feel obliged to provide the crucial feedback that I don't find the visual polution acceptable.
And that's the real clincher, I came here wanting relief from Australia, I almost wanted to talk with the intelligent people here from an Important and advanced nation about Australia's cowardly slow response to the environmental crises, its poor management practices in the private sector, its many subsidised industries, its job buying hidden welfare system.
Only to find what 0 growth really means, Japan is still the same country it was when I first saw it 7 years ago. I literally cannot have a conversation here without coming back to the economic mismanagement, the stupidity and craziness of it all.
Infact today I was sick of talking about Japan's problems, so longing (and I am sincere, I swoon, I pine for it) to be in love with Japan again, to rediscover and rekindle all the potential I saw, that I resolved to ask my host father at breakfast and anyone hereafter what their favorite thing in Japan was, the one thing that they couldn't bare to see dissappear.
The dad thought for a moment, then replied, 'I like hobbies. I like watching movies, I really love movies. [I asked him if he meant Japanese movies or American ones] I used to like Japanese movies and now I still see a few, but I really prefer American ones. I also when I was your age, loved travel, then though you didn't go to other countries, I travelled all around Japan, I love the historical things. I also love music, when I was your age, I listened to the beatles and the rolling stones and Led Zeppelin, I really loved them.'
That is close actually to a word for word translation, with most of the humming and haiing removed. Look at the response though, the music is the easiest to cut because they aren't Japanese at all, a phenomena of significance for Japan all right but not, of Japan. Likewise the movies, his love of poorly dubbed films originally filmed in English is of no help to me discovering something new to love in Japan either, these (and they recieve mostly blockbusters not independant films) are the ones he'd recommend over Japanese films. The historical things are what I love about Japan, I still love about Japan but there is a new Japan built on top of it that doesn't have much to do with the Japan that was (apart from obediance).
Lastly the domestic travel issue. This I could possibly salvage if I didn't know better. That Japan has been paving shit at thirty times the rate America has, the Japan of pops' travelling days is gone, he couldn't even recommend me a place to go. I know the big ones, and they are impressive, but they are not the wandering Samurai lifestyle journeys, nor the mystic modernization that the dad had experienced travelling around on the new trains to rural festivals.
They are now filled with multipurpose homes, kitch themeparks dedicated to obscure cultures, galleries with no artwork in them or hydro electric dams.
So you can see my dillemma when even the locals recommend a Japan that is long gone, my question wasn't really 'what could you not stand to lose?' but 'what do you miss the most out of all the things you've already lost?' and that get's me nowhere.
So you see, all this time, I may have seemed quite negative about Japan, and yet I am framing shots, and trying in earnest to find out from the locals what the good oil is with my ear pressed firmly to the ground.
But again, as a foreigner in Japan I am permitted to equally important rights: The right to say whatever the fuck I want. My Japanese hosts just take it, and to their equal credit and discredit for not acting, many agree with what I say. (I most often hear that I 'yoku shiteru' or 'know Japan' as probably my most regular compliment recieved here)
and the second right I am permitted is for my words to have absolutely no consequence whatsoever.
There is no evidence I can find of progressive thinking in the general public of Japan, when girls are here to become good little wives, men to become slavish company employees, and the elderly to retire quietly and argue against the prohibition against whaling as if it is an issue anywhere on Japans radar of important things that need to be addressed.
And that I guess is it, what it is all about, whilst I know my Japanese culture possibly above and beyond anyone I know bar my old teacher Terry, when I think of Japan as being defined by it's Musashi Miyamoto's, Ieyasu Tokugawas, Akira Kurosawas, Soichiro Hondas etc I'm thinking wrong.
To focus particularly on the warrior class times, the leaders were exceptional, a society will always be defined by the mediocrity, in Australia this can be a very active exercise in the form of tall poppy syndrome.
Japan isn't a nation of warrior tradition, the warrior's were the elite class that Commodore Perry removed (after they had ruined themselves financially though) Japan is a nation of miserable bowing peasents, used to tiptoeing around the shadows of the powerful and sacrificing the sweat of their brow to the ruling power.
The Japanese spirit for the most part is farmers and forresters, a small people, not the elite swordsman who lived by the confucian ideal of scholarly virtue.
The Edo period allowed Japan to forget the rest of the world and focus on making itself a culturally rich country, a better country.
Japan today cannot not forget the rest of the world, never again after Perry and his gunboat diplomacy, but they also cannot embrace it. The learning is all one way, where as before Japan had been the whole world, and yet its warring states found away to work together and prosper, (even as its government declined the merchants did rise) yet could not see the bigger picture and take this leadership to the world.
Australia, oh Australia, there are so many lessons in Japan for you Australian's.
I promise I will do Australia justice, but the book to read is Clive Hamilton's 'Affluenza' to better recognize the inadequacy of Australian popular culture. At the moment I'm thinking England is the country to bet on, America under Obama might find the vision it needs to progress again in another 8 years, but consider that England seems to be the quickest learning nation, I should extend that to the whole EU. That whilst Carbon Trading seems to have failed, the EU is going back to the drawing board where Australia hasn't even made its first attempt yet.
And Japan? Climate change 'whats that'
Japan has a more pressing issue, and that is to modernize, Japan is to me, the 80's developments that compromise goldcoast hotels and motels, modern then, not so now.
My photo epic was a simple exercise, I am not a photographer nor have figured out all the settings on my camera.
This is what I did:

I told my hosts I was going for a walk.
I took my camera.
I walked about 15 meters then stopped and took a photo of the most interesting thing I could see from that point.
Repeated ad nauseum.

You would have to take my word for it, but I didn't pick an area that is the Japanese equivalent of Broadmeadows, Clayton or Campbellfield, I picked a major street (a tree lined boulavard no less) and walked towards Toyota city a major residential and commercial area. Think Geelong or something. So this was no backwater, nor was it a city center either (although they are no Venice Canal works either).
Possibly the best comment I have heard describing Japan's plight that sums up the balance is this anecdote, a businessman upon arriving in Osaka is sitting with his host (another foreigner) on the train from the airport, he looks out and sees a suburb dotted with commission housing like apartments rising into the sky in ugly beige, gray and brown colours, the verandas are lined with laundry and old airconditioning units hang from the ceiling and walls. The businessman remarks 'Oh so this is where the poor people live?' and his host replies 'no this is where everyone lives'

To conclude this monologue, this explanation of my first protest of one, as a tourist to Japan's treatment of itself, I would like to make clear that I haven't given up on Japan. I love Japan. I replied to my hosts answer of the favorite thing about Japan, what he couldn't bare to lose, was that my favorite was the food, and then the historical places. This of course is incorrect, the one thing I couldn't bare to loose, and the source of my optimism at the opportunities Japan still presents are the Japanese people themselves.

to see my photoepic you have to be a user of facebook and have added 'tohm Curtis' as a friend

Friday, November 23, 2007

Economy of Words

My posts have been getting longer. I am horrified to suspect I am passionate about shit. I think though that I am just more stimulated now than I was back home, though I remember thinking almost constantly. I guess that isn't unusual though.
I have been reading bike snob nyc's blog. It hasn't been going as long as mine but it is I admit much better marketed. He has developed that indicates when fixed gear bikes will go out of style, an event he calls the fixed gear armeggeddon.
I wonder if I could devise an equation that allows me to calculate my level of stimulation by the number of words per post, and the frequency of posting, possibly a quality of life meter or something. Though I imagine when I am occupied with having sex in my free time, my posting would go down, even though my quality of life goes up.

Lessons from Honda #1:Know Thy Time

ed note, there is a lot of interesting waffle in this post but if you want the meat of it go to the bottom where 'meat of this post' is in bold.

I recieved a comment the other day, huzzah.

Tohm, I love your blog.
I just wanted to say that.
It inspires me to stop wasting so much time thinking about petty things and think about the important stuff instead.

Recieving comments on my blog is a rare thing, and how better to reward an individual taking the initiative to single them out. Which I don't mean to it's just that increasingly I am finding meditation the hardest thing to do because almost everything I come across or my eyes rest on briefly stirs up a frenzy of cognition.
And this comment was no exception, the people whom I know read my blog tend to give me feedback face to face, not in this forum, and I admit a blog is not a very good forum for communication. It's a log in which I try to disclose stuff.
And funny enough there I go having spent a whole bunch of time talking about the nature of blogs and my meditative practices and wasted a bunch of my time.
What all that was meant to some how lead to was that this comment got me to thinking about one of the million things I've already backlogged wanting to talk about.
The above comment was a little perplexing, it sounds sincere to me, and I choose to treat it as such but the '[inspires]... to think about the important stuff instead' could have been sarcastic as it was a comment left on my lengthy post of whether I thought poligamy was feasable or not. Arguably a petty waste of my time.
If however as I believe it was intended was as a genuine complement then I have to say it fills me with furbies inside and also provoked me into further thought.
I allude to Drucker's school of management that I have been studying of late and find highly impressive, its one of those schools of thought that is simultaneously intuitive but new and fresh, and whilst one could almost describe it as conservative it doesn't necessarily controvene other business guru's like Ricardo Semler's system of democracy in business.
And that gives me the giddy feeling that I have discovered another piece of the puzzle as I gradually move towards enlightenment. Another friend recently sent me an article on Lifestyle Design which I believe was erroneously titled 'the 4 hour week' I am a big believer in the four hour day, but more leaning in the direction of Clive Hamilton's criticism of classic economic rationalisation that people don't work because they have to but work because they enjoy it. (they both play a part but the top priority is enjoyment of work).
All focus around management of time, and the commentor Jess whose true identity I can guess at but not know for sure, hit the nail on the head of Drucker's starting point for effective executives (for more info read his book 'effective executive'), a starting point though I should sure up is no good without a goal or at the very least objective, Drucker says that the goal of the executive is effectiveness. The three primary responsibilities of an executive are Thinking, Communicating and Deciding and for each of these they take responsibility.
But the first step down the path of doing so effectively is to know thy time. That is to see where all your time (and presumably energy/effort goes) and then check that against your actual priorities.
For me this struck a cord, Drucker talks about effectiveness as learned behaviour and I certainly I feel have a lot of effective behaviours, my career management at Honda I think was peerless and I don't say so arrogantly but as the result of conscious efforts I've made. As for the future how effective I am remains to be seen, success in one sphere of experience doesn't necessitate success in the future by any means.
So enough eating of pies unhumble, and back on task, for me personally I have described myself primarily in self depreciating terms, I often even here in japan describe what I do or how I work as 'lazy','childish','easy' and so fourth. Probably to my detriment I sell myself as someone who puts in very little effort and cruises by on natural talent.
And largely this is how I see myself and would describe myself. Infact the only word out there... I might actually highlight that in red because I'm disclosing my own key weakness/strength...Infact the only word out there I can't abide being labelled is 'selfish' people with a lisp however I find hilarious when they label me 'shellfish' I remember a Jerry Springer episode fondly when just such a person hurling abuse at their sister got the audiance chanting 'shellfish, shellfish, shellfish...'
When I talked about my laziness in my exit interview though Rod pointed out that whilst I described myself as one of the laziest workers at Honda I was the only person who rode 15km a day on a pushbike to and from work. Rod is a thoroughly annoying man who spots tells all the time, and whilst laziness I will always consider one of my enduring core values I will concede that again he alludes to the principle of knowing thy time.
To sight another book, this one is good because you don't actually have to read it just pick it up and look at the back cover, called 'Nice Girls Don't get the Corner Office' a book that is a shopping list of all the ways women tend to sabotage their own careers subconsciously the authoer lists as '
Mistake #blah blah Hard Work' that 'mistake' underpins the basis of my self proclaimed effective behaviour. To come back to Drucker as my heavy weight opinion on the matter, hard work is of no value if spent on things that aren't effective.
Hard work is the misguided Moral of 'The Hare and the Tortoise' which for those who don't remember is the thrilling story of how a speedy animal like the Hare loses a Footrace to the Tortoise who slowly plods along. The morale is most commonly iterated as slow and steady wins the race, and in many cases particularly when it comes to something new slow is actually the quickest way to learn.
But from the point of view of 'work' as the exertion of effort or the spending of time it is the opposite. How the story goes from the work perspective is this:
The Hare and the Tortoise have a footrace, neither has any real experience. The Hare bolts at the starting line the Tortoise hangs back. The Hare seeing its lead grow gets comfortable in its method and adopts a regular stride. The tortoise realising its own strength and weaknesses devises a method by which to make travel more effecient, namely by employing the use of a fast flowing stream which being aquating the tortoise can achieve speeds above and beyond that of the current with little energy exerted. Having entered the stream the tortoise applies a little effort and arrives at the bridge that is the finish line well ahead of the Hare who arrives exhausted and having through its efforts done permanent damage to it's legiments. Morale of the story: work smart not hard.
That I describe most commonly as being lazy, for me lazy doesn't have the normal connotations of being unvirtuous or a negative character trait, it simply means, avoiding at all costs the unnecessary expenditure of effort.
As such (and I'm sure if I have readers now from Honda will be horrified (some may not be surprised)) I can describe every single one of the playoff matches of the NBA eastern conference as I watched them all at work via the internet with the abundancy of spare time I had.
Admittedly I lost this spare time due to training new staff and handing over my duties but for the most part of my career I easily had 2-3 hours a day to idle away on personal interests on the internet (descretely of course). And I call this lazy, I would also probably call it bored and let me tell you of all the challenges I ever faced at work, boredom was the one that terrified me most when I woke up on a monday morning. Nobody I presume would argue that I wasn't into setting new challanges for myself nor for creating lofty ambitions for the department, or that in any way I didn't have a full plate of sizeable projects to work on.
The major reason my 2-3 hours a day got spent on NBA games was that my boredom arose from being almost entirely alone in having time to work on important stuff.
The executives were in meetings constantly or overseas reporting on the past and projecting financials into the future.
My young colleagues were pulling their hair out with the stress of their respective workloads, yet I believe if they look at the mindmap and process maps I tried to create as accurately for my successor as possible I would bet my left nut they'd be surprised at how much I managed.
Thus far I realise this lengthy monologue is becoming increasingly a self congratualatory speech by me for me and I should clarify to anyone getting turned off at my shamelessness that the crux of the matter is/was: it broke my heart.
I really felt betrayed by how time was squandered in the working culture, and I don't in anyway imply that Honda is a dog and pony show company, I think it is probably in the upper percentile of Australian managed companies for avoiding petty politics, planning for the future and behaving as a responsible corporate citizen (apart from an unhealthy dependance on selling Dirt Bikes which are responsible for destroying vast tracks of National Parks in Australia) but even so business was moving away from dirtbikes into road friendly/baby boomer friendly scooters and cruisers.
But the fact of the matter was, I don't think many people ever sat down and analysed their time, the easiest temptation for me was to jump on the phones and whittle away the hours of the day chasing meaningless erands for customers, sales reps and dealers. But doing so is what Drucker would refer to as fire fighting. What I needed to spend time on was training up staff to better handle customer calls and discussing call handling procedure (communicating) so as to make sure once a 'fire' was put out it stayed out and we had the upper hand. The other best use of my time was to crawl through our procedures and see what was causing dissatisfaction and conflict amongst our customers internal/external and not so much end users unless it related to cashbacks or something. Thus trying to prevent fires from occuring and eating up all our effort. (that you would call thinking) and sometimes if my manager was away I could handle 4 calls simultaneously by taking costumer complaints to a generic level and deciding on the best response which I then communicating to the team (deciding) and all this at a very juniour level of the company.
All activities that reduced my workload, made operation more efficient and got me internal recognition.
So really, being lazy is taking the abundant work that is there to occupy yourself until 5 o'clock, and hardwork is infact acting today to reduce the demands on you tomorrow.
But 'hard work' as it most commonly manifests itself is precisely the opposite project, it is throwing yourself headfirst trying to take more calls in a day than the other team members, trying to be indispensible in the crisis that arise.
Put simply, instead of inventing a car with 400 bhp, you buy 400 hundred horses. Or instead of fixing a leak permanantly you stay up all night changing wads of paper towell.
This is hardwork that breaks my heart. It is more appropriately called stupidity. And I don't infer that people that work hard are intrinsicly stupid, I mean the process itself is not a learning one, it is not growth, it is the process by which one dedicates more and more resources to something 'petty' never freeing up resources to devote to important things.
Drucker prescribes executives to get their personal assistents (the 70's was long ago enough to call them secretaries still) to follow them around and write down what they were doing every 10 minutes for a week. Then to analyse the data after a week to see what time was being spent on.
This process assumes that one has already determined what is 'petty' and what is 'important' to use the terminology of my blog commenter which is 100% accurate.
Most people will be contributing little time to 'important' things usually because for the executive they are important at a company level that they themselves hold primary motivation for achieving whereas petty things are the concerns of the people making the constant demands of their time. Resolving disputes over issues of little to no consequence, talking to a customer who refuses to accept the proposal of a lower level staff member, talking to customers for no greater purpose than making them feel important, or in Honda's case from my sphere of experience/influence, preparing reports to feed ever onwards up the chain with little to no impact on buiness as usual (I don't recommend discounting the value of keeping an eye on things though).
What I do discount is bothering to read reports if you have dedicated no time to ever really act on them.
Hence the outcome of the drucker analysis. You see how you spend your time, eliminate as much as humanly possible that doesn't contribute to achieving your key priorities and then schedule in time specifically for your key priorities.
I suspect the head honchos at Honda did just this because I could almost never book time with them in the same two week period I was trying to book time in, but for the most part all I saw was people needlessly stressing and working the same systems and no time dedicated to improving their own working methods.

So that was the lesson for me, not so much know thy time, I wasn't very good at scheduling time, but did have an abundant supply of time to pursue special projects, and when blocked by lack of access to the people I needed to achieve the result with I either watched NBA or talked to Rod about learning and shit.
But it really all started with me in highschool, with the discipline of homework.
Namely, I almost never did it, this has been for me the key competitive advantage I possess (albeit indirectly) for a lot of people it is a fast track to failure, but for me not doing homework was a huge timesaver and I'll tell you why and then give you a contrary example as well that isn't mine but is instructive anyway.
It started philosophically as a process of drumming up righteous indignation, namely that teachers assigned homework to be done in time I considered my own. Most parents get behind the teachers fearful their kid will end up poor, or generally if they don't value education will discourage their kid actively or through apathy from trying across the board. My older brother though had aspergers, making him increadibly willfull and one could even describe as selfish, it wasn't diagnosed until after he finished uni so we all just thought he was an arsehole, but he set a precedent for my parents being pretty laze-faire or however the fuck it is spelt about getting involved in our school work because for Sam it was simply too exhausting and then putting pressure on me and my sister wouldn't be fair.
So I was left to determine my own policy and I did so through rationalization, that is I blamed the teachers for being inefficient and thus having to asign me work to conduct on my own to achieve the learning level they were supposed to deliver.
Now that in itself is highly debatable and people could take it all over the place but at the end of the day, the most obvious gaping hole in the logic was that for the teacher whether I pass or fail has some consequence, personal pride and let's not forget private schools are a business and a blemish on the stat sheet could hurt future enrolments. Private schools are supposed to deliver success, but overall I was a blip of a statistic to my teacher (I know emotionally I was more than that but using consequentialism thats the way it was) failure for me however meant limitations on my choices in life (though to wax philosophical limits imposed on the infinite number of choices are of little significance anyway) I in short had to live with the consequences.
My 'enlightenment' apeared by looking at the equation, it was the schools role to teach, therefore what it taught had to be measured in order to be delivered. The measurement was the key. Measurement was also obvious, the measurement was in assesible criteria. For the system to work, and be efficient the only thing that could be measured is what was taught, their was no extra advantage of significance to study indipendantly from what was assesable.
In short all these thoughts cascaded through as one crystal clear message 'I can only be assessed by what the teacher teaches me in class' and from then on homework was ajoke.
My minimum required effort was simply to ensure that I understood what was told to me in class. Private schools understand this well because they give you past exams to use, teachers can't catch you out because highschools have to be standard across the state, they all sit the same exams per subject because they have to standardise, teaching anything extra that what is on the exams is a waste of time because it isn't dedicated to acheiving the deliverable an ENTER score.
So my system was water tight, furthermore the Board of Education backed me up by removing Cats or take home draft based assesment, meaning in VCE hard work really didn't pay off, knowing shit did.
So all year 12 I simply read a bit, reflected on my classes and for the most part was in bed by 9pm pursued my own interests and ran. I had genetic advantages too, I retain most of what I hear as an Audio learner which teacher class delivery is favorable and I picked my subjects fairly effectively too and have a high IQ but here I learned indirectly that hard work didn't pay.
Anyone who has been through VCE and emerged on the otherside knows that holy grail of the ENTER score only lasts in real terms for 1-2 months, between being released and when you enrole in UNI.
So I got 95.5 which let me into anything bar double degrees and law at melbourne uni. I probably could have got 99 something if I worked really really hard, but the payload is small and would have set a bad precedent for later in life.
In short I analysed my time, albeit to justify spending more of my time on personal preference, but the act of looking saved me hours possibly months of my youth spent enjoying myself.
Uni was even easier because I knew that nothing that wasn't delivered in a lecture was examinable, therefore lecture slides/notes as provided by the lecturer were all that was necessary, and if it deviated from this you could rely on the bell curve to put you at no real disadvantage anyway.

Thus I entered Honda with one last trick up my sleave, the challange with workplace versus school is that in school the deliverables are obvious standardised pieces of assesment with clear and apparant criteria. Work it's different, whilst largely still school yard politics, perceptions of value are more subjective, hence the existence of a wide disparity between good companies and great companies, and the shortlived bad companies (unless the bad company is a government agency inwhich case it hangs around forever leaching off taxpayers from good companies).
I knew in my head that overtime was bullshit, because my brother had befriended the guy who first introduced me to the concept of the 3 hour day, said fellow was a software programmer and had an advantage most people don't he was an expert and his level of productivity was inscrutible until complete, as most employers couldn't read code. He observed that the most effort anyone really exudes in agiven day is 3 hours, so that if he dedicated three hours solely into uninterupted productive effort he had no qualms about packing up and heading for home.
As my teacher Terry commented the truth is most people achieve far less than 3 hours a day, and the proof of the pudding is in the eating, said programmer was loved for his efficiency overall.
He had his employer over a barrell, I on the other hand was going into sales support one of the most generic entry level jobs someone can do. I was also under contract to deliver 37.5 hours a week of my time to Honda, I had sold it. Interestingly enough the contract had a catch which was 'or until the efficient completion of your duties' which was the contracts way of saying, you work overtime pro-bono if you haven't achieved what we expect of you.
I never really challanged on that point in that I achieved most duties I could gather for myself (even after becoming the marketing girls part time PA) well ahead of time by heading home after three hours. This was only because we were expectred to keep our phone lines open to customers between 9 and 5 and I was expected to be available to take a call.
So I was easily replacable in terms of duties, and despite being able to easily achieve my duties in under 3 hours a day, it is one thing to work effectively and be percieved as lazy and another to work hard an be percieved as effective (or more commonly at Honda 'valuable').
The issue has the extra dimension of being subject to perception. If my boss saw me watching NBA games (something I started doing once I was no longer in my boss' line of sight) he most likely would think me lazy, redundant and dispensable. Yet my dilemma was that in the early days I simply couldn't find enough work to do. I just about quit because of boredom in my first year. Drucker too talks about the mistake of giving new people 'small' jobs when they should be given big jobs that challange them and hence the employer a better idea of what they are capable of.
The obvious thing to do was manage perceptions.
I guess here finally I get to the meat of this post. The perception of hard work as a virtue I think is the biggest challange facing companies in Australia. Culturally it is what most people are raised on, how hard the depression was, how hard the diggers did it, how hard Cathy Freemen worked for Olympic glory, how hard the journey is to the MCG Grand Final, how hard are stupid farmers are doing it in the nauseum.
But hard work is precisely the opposite of progress, progress is making things that make life easier. I battled the perception of hard work as a virtue by discussing at every opportunity in my early days, the issue of perception itself.
One such manager called the Motorcycle department slackers because at 5pm their department was gone, this comment wasn't for my benifit but for his own subordinate but I took note that it was at least in his books a virtue to work overtime.
My policy was to be gone also at 5 on the dot which infact meant I spent the last 15-5 minutes tidying up my desk in my own haphazard way. Something I never stopped doing.
Which was fine as a junior staff member my work wasn't very important but how to set the precedent that no further overtime would be forthcoming should I recieve a promotion. Making it clear down the track was an obvious option but even better was to add a competing perception, one I believe is if such a thing exists the correct perception, I could at least I'm sure call it the effective perception.
A boss walks through the office at 5:30pm and sees a worker sitting at his desk he thinks 1 of 2 things.
1. (ineffective perception) that worker is dedicated.
2. (effective perception) I thought they where supposed to complete their work before 5, that worker is inefficient.

In various forms I reiterated this again and again. My boss once said the same thing about one of our suppliers which was: 'we told them they have to get our product out before cutoff every day, you don't acheive that by starting earlier than agreed' I've paraphrased heavily to try and keep the business as ambiguous as possible but he hit the nail on the head when it came to overtime. Overtime is moving the goal posts, a job that depends on overtime is one occupied by someone who has not achieved competency in at least one thing = time management.
I for one feal pity, and if close to someone yes, heartbreak when I see them working hard and working overtime. My perception is definitely that the person is inefficient.
Whilst it is without question I would gladly dedicate my time in an actual crises, most day to day work is not a crises, and most crises can be prevented by utilising the time saving of being efficient at what we do.
If I were a manager at any Company I would reduce the time available to my employees to complete their duties not extend it. Because overtime in most manifestations I've seen results in a lot of empty posturing, unbalanced lifestyles and little effective output.
And there's a whole other side unexplored yet, what I did with my free time after work, this is where Rod is phenomanlly good, better than I at spotting the tells. I was self proclaimed 'laziest man at Honda' yet as Rod pointed out I rode 15k each way to work every day, rain hale or shine, and most annoyingly headwinds despite being lazy. I told him this is because in the long run cycling would prove to be the laziest thing.
But above and beyond that, I read, I read and read and read in my time, learning how to be better. Internal changes are the hardest to notice in someone so the amount of learning I did that manifested itself at work would just be the tip of the iceburg, especially considering when politics, power heirarchies and company priorities come into play.
Then I was a 3 time volunteer, playing basketball with ESL students at RMIT, Helping Earthsharing wherever I could spare the time, and Teaching Zamin english through FLN I believe all are still linked to my blog.
The big joke here was, that whilst others stayed back a couple of hours, mentally exhausted beating their heads against the wall over the same old problems, I was sitting in a room with a professional strategic advisor learning how to devise strategic plans for the Fitzroy Learning Network, I was also often in a pub talking over the risky decisions involved in marketing and promotions for the Fitzroy Learning Network. On other nights I was engaged in numerous debates with the Earthsharing crew making decisions together I would never get a say in at Honda and being the marketing and communications expert. Whilst people work hard at low level jobs I was paving my career path by learning high level strategy, getting to make decisions and see their results, often dealing with the best products society offers when it comes to the volunteer economy.
The primary benificiary of course is me, but followed closely by Honda that had bought up most of my time, and it was really flexible letting me leave early to teach Zamin. Sadly not one of my peers followed my example, those capable of doing so, so that the next most impressive employ after myself was the single mother whose resultant latent leadership abilities need some coaxing out.
The great Irony for me though was that, in knowing my time I knew it was in Honda's best interest really to have their employees spend less time at work and more others. Even getting healthy sleep and spending quality time with the family is probably more productive than the sloppy work that gets tapped out after 5. Even claims that its necessary to do so because during the day their are too many distractions. Well handling those distractions is what time management is, not shifting the goal posts, its about setting precedents and prioritising and knowing thy time.
Sadly I fear there is a less talked about and far scarier reason its such an issue in most peoples lives though beyond lacking the know how of time management and that is, fear of boredome.
More commonly examined as a larger issue of 'Empire Building' I think often efficiency is not a career strategy for most people (even though it may be the overall corporate strategy) because they fear that the outcome is boredom. I for one already said boredom was my biggest obstacle at Honda, but I was also the go to guy for any new challanging projects on my level, especially ones I made for myself.
It is a perceptual problem that one improves oneself out of a job.
When really, and I know at least one specific example, my old boss said that 'we owe them an opportunity' again paraphrasing for me though I would never leave my career to the waiting game, the opposite is true until you are no longer needed to do the work you did, you can't be given any new opportunities.
terry my teacher told me about an incident in an office where they got a new printer that would do the copying for him from his desk. Pretty old technology now but the guys response was 'but what will I do now that I don't have to stand by the printer' he was concerned about the 40 minutes he used to spend a day walking and manually copying shit.
I have seen it again and again in a resistence to change that ultimately is a resitence of efficiency and professionalism. So pervasive is the virtue of hard work that we try to protect it at the expense of progress.
Telling someone to go home at 5 instead of 8 is NOT saying 'do half the work you normally do' it is saying 'find a way to do your work in half the time' this shouldn't (fuck I hate the word should) be the case in the first time because the effective perception is from the perspective of when you discover an employee working at 8pm 'hey we agreed you'd have this done by 5pm I see you here at 8pm everyday working, this results in me feeling like the work you do for me is undervalued or you aren't really up to handling it, what could you do differently?'

In its worst manifestation the fear of boredom results in factories that produce products the company can't afford. But they don't go bankrupt, instead the government bales the company out with subsidies, because so many 'hard workers' are employed by the company, the unskilled labourers have been encouraged to never develope efficiencies or new skills and thus never move up the line, they then are of no use to anybody else and become a liability the government has to keep on. A car manufacturing plant in Australia is effectively nothing more than a government agency, and a poorly disguised welfare system masquarading as business. Structurial unemployment results from rewarding hardwork over lazy efficiency.
I hope I had an impact on the new recruits in my department whom I made it my business to remind to go home at the end of the day, even going so far as to say 'you're not impressing anybody' which may or may not have been true. I also reiterated my philosophy of time management to Ashley an occupent of the marketing department that was new, I moved to the department despite remaining a member of the sales team for the peace and quiet it afforded, when I walked out at 5pm as per usual Ash said to me 'hey man you're in marketing now' but this time my articulation was nothing more than a laugh.

Time management in Australia is a matter of doing the Drucker Analysis, setting and scheduling priorities, ridding yourself of time wasters, leveraging lower wage employees through succession planning, and using the good old round file. But before that it is a perceptual battle. Australia has a precedent for this in the form of TACs long tested 'If you drink then drive your a bloody idiot campaign' and more recently the NSW add to combat street hoons, by demonstrating petrol head kids doing burnouts at traffic lights whilst attractive women waggle their little fingers at them to imply they have small penis's or more articulatly 'they are not impressing anyone'
In my dad's day drinking and driving home was a badge of honour of manliness, in my day it is just about as socially unnecceptable as you can get, probably beyond party drugs.
Time is the most precious resource an Executive has, any employee for that matter. Just as Cost Accountants make companies more efficient by cutting out uneccessary monetary expenditure, so too will any company that actively discourages overtime, enforces taking breaks, and thus creates efficiencies in time budgets too realise a competitive advantage. I gauruntee especially when weighing in the double whammy of how much benifit a company recieves out of an employees balanced lifestyle.
An employee that go's home on time is that much more likely to make it to the gym, that much more likely to prepare their own meal instead of ordering takeaway, that much more likely to see their kids awake.
Its not a recommondation this lesson, but an imperative.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The case of the dissappearing tohm

I remember Foram Mehta fondly, my first 'real' boss if you will. The Indian expat team leader of my AC&T sales team, a company that got used up and spat out. (They spent so long in training reassuring us they where a high growth legitimate company that was going to be around for a long time, something that told me they were a flash in the pan organisation based on explotation of cheap labour and quick kill sales that was going to be around only so long as their one real customer fancied) but I honestly loved Foram, all suited up on our first day in the field together he took me to watch him close a sale, then dug me up a sale for which I didn't even realise he'd closed but let me book in so I could get paid. I made 2 more sales after that after working for them for 2 months pretty much full time.
Foram though at my first sale sitting in some Carlton Fanatics apartment was the consumate professional to watch in action, turning their every question and concern (not many these folks were woodies) into a benefit of switching phone companies.
Then would flash his phone at me on which he had written the message 'this place stinks' and then and there Indian people shot up to my favorite ethnic group.
He had dated a team member who was German but left him when she returned to Germany, lived in a house in Sunshine with about 8 other guys, (all for the most part salesmen) and somehow, somewhere studied at monash.
What I can say for Foram is that whilst he may not have been exactly an effective executive I do have a lot of fond memories of working for him, particularly his baffling attachment to me as I made no sales but became the second seniour most member of his team in 3 weeks. Foram told me that when he started working door to door after 6 weeks he could see his ribs in the mirror, and he remarked 'fantastic'
he loved weightloss as a perk of having a job that paid very little and kept him walking out and about on his feet all week.
Recently I saw my long lost rib bones in the mirror and had a similar thought. Indeed since coming to Japan in the first two weeks I cracked the 77kg floor I had stayed at for months and dropped to 75kgs which I largely attribute to eating breakfast and running. That being said I thought before closing the matter as fantastic it would be a good time to relay here my philosophy of weight loss and body image, particularly as it relates to modern culture.

Weight loss should be functional:
My weightloss has occured in a specific context, it is the sideeffect of my desire to once again be a long distance runner, in Highschool I weighed 63kg, when I last checked I weighed 75kg that's a 12kg difference and to be honest 63kg is probably not recommended by the BMI, although at 173cm I recently found a net BMI calculater that said I could get down to 54kg without being 'underweight' probably from LA, it seems they are inconsistent.
This I will discuss later on, the major point was that weightloss for me was not an end in itself but related indirectly to another goal altogether, which is to get up to 20km fitness and stay there (for a while) I'm as of today up to 20km and running 8km real comfortably with hills. My knees probably kneed more strength and conditioning or switching to more supportive shoes, but this is a pretty dramatic step up considering just before I left although riding 30km a day just about I could barely run two blocks.
The weight loss occurs because my fat is a repository of fuel my body is using on long 8km runs. For the first time on Monday I ran 16km and afterwards had not only run out of sweat but salt had dried on my face, I'll post pictures on my facebook account later.
But weightloss as part of a package to be functional I think is the first criteria of being a healthy past time and also indicating a healthy mindset (hence hencely a philosophy of weightloss), this would also be okay say when you are losing weight because you current overweight situation is causing you to be sick or making you particulalry vulnerable to sicknesses such as diabetes, heart disease, infertility etc.
What I feel is unhealthy weightloss or the indications of an unhealthy mindset (I do want to take any personal kind of judgement out of that because this is a societal issue) is when weightloss occurs purely motivated by body image, with functionality being the biproduct.
For two reasons, the majority of the world is still dismally poor, if everyone who has clean water, safe housing, some method of heating for winter and the ability to light their dwelling at night is the cutoff point for being rich it is sobering to think that the vast majority of the population is still effectively living in the dark ages.
Yet it is so. And these people don't have enough to eat, but here in contries that are super rich, rich enough that you can read blogs, we have whole buildings dedicated to burning off all the surplus energy consumed, and burned off (or energy expended) to no functional purpose whatsoever.
I started going to the Gym at Honda to gain muscle and increase my fitness for playing basketball, thus making myself more able to do my volunteer work (which I also love playing basketball to death) and so to me whilst not the noblest outlet of some agrarian expenditure of energy it was to an end beyond something so self centered as wanting to be viewed as 'attractive' to not just the opposite sex but the public in general, which generally most people don't give a shit what the general public looks like anyway.
So if you aint satisfied with rolling around in your wealthy first person fat, you not have to only consume to excess but expend the money (the stored value of your productive efforts at work) and your energy (the stored energy of your over consumption) for the soul purpose of looking attractive vis a fucken vis body image, I'm not saying there aren't functional benefits to having a good body image but attitudanally this behaviour is a behavioural indicator of an unhealthy mind set.
Because the concept of using a gym, purely to look good is a new one, the girls at work that did use the gym when I was there did for functional considerations (one for health the other for kickboxing) and I think there is much to gain and very little personal cost to actually tie the process to a greater goal of some performance achievement eg. able to run 6km in under half an hour, being able to complete a 6 hour hike. Something that gets you out of the gym, out of the work/home grind and into an environment of personal enrichment.
Being attractive is not very enriching at all, because as the old cliche goes 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' which usually is tied in more with the whole 'one man's trash is anothers treasure' for say me and whoever courtney love dates next.
But what we should focus on is the appreciation of your achievement is no longer contingent on you and you alone. Sure when I score a put back in basketball over a taller opponent on the rebound I like to high five my teammates, but nobody appreciates the achievement more than me. I consider it an achievement even in a game when everything else goes wrong because I manage to get my timing and positioning right and have boxed out my opponent. I'd give my self a hi-5 if I could play alone.
When running I self talk all the time, and most of the time I am the only one who appreciates my achievement. When running with Shona I think I encouraged and congratulated her (although often my form of encouragement takes the form of 'come on you mother fucking pussy') but I lay it on just as thick to myself when running alone, infact running for me is often more about mental strength than physical strength.
Now if I ran to lose weight not to build my own stamina mental and physical and losing weight was so I looked good in a polo shirt (though my haircut always fucks that up anyway) I would be reliant on people I found attractive finding me attractive in return. Thus thusly suddenly all my efforts are moot if someone (and often in terms of attraction complete strangers) doesn't validate it. I've surrendered control of any esteem to be gained from my weightloss. And the sad thing is there's a myriad of components to attractiveness.
The other sad thing is that I don't believe anyone really cares, and I mean to say to a lot of people looks are important in picking prospective partners but I mean the emphasis is on the operative word cares how you look anywhere near the degree to which they care how they look.
Most affairs are motivated more by seeking reassurance that our ability to attract has not deserted us than love or necessarily in any shortfall in our partners I have read. And I believe part of that, I think there's more to it, but the myriad disastrous choices in affair partners I've seen people pick over the years definitely indicates that they often have an illconcieved basis.
So that's why I think often, infact the motivations for weightloss that I most often observe lead to an unhealthy attitude towards oneself in the first place. In a way it is submissive, it is unempowering. I'm not advocating people gaining weight, and definitely not suggesting people with low self esteem relating to weight don't act on it, but merely to tie it in with something functional so that you own it, because the only thing worse than someone overweight with low self esteem is someone formally overweight who has kept their low self esteem, and these people I have met plenty.

Weightloss should not be cultural:

I think destinctly there's a cultural reinforcement that I'll examine again in a later post here because I want to discuss Gender issues as I see them at length in a workplace context but for now I think Gender plays a big role in this, particularly at the moment tipped towards females and especially young girls but am worried at the emerging metrosexual trend that I succinctly hope is just a fad. Just as I hope Movember one day becomes the all important world festival.
That is to say idols. Boys have a distinct advantage self esteem wise by having athletes more readily available as idols. Particularly athletes that are percieved as cool, only in Australia I assume is swimming artificially boyed up as cool because we are good at it, but overall its a slow boring sport that observing in persons leaves an overwhelming impression of chlorine. Nor are Grant Hackett or Ian Thorpe really cool to anyone who isn't under 10 or over 75.
But the likes of Karl Lewis and Michael Jordan, Charles Barkely (in this context a particularly fine example), Anthony Koutafides, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Chris Judd, Anthony Wirrapundah (in his heyday), Maurice Green, Matt Shirvington, Mathew Lloyd, Scottie Pippen, Alonzo Mourning, Shaquille Oneal, Kevin Johnson, Shawn Kemp, RUN TMC, Pistol Pete, Steven Kernahan, Wayne Carey, Simon Black, Michael Voss, Jason Akermanis, Steven Silvagni all provide idols that though promote body images that are unrealistic for anyone who isn't a fulltime pro athlete (or African American in the case of the NBA players) but whilst unrealistic are functional. For the most part when growing up, their body image had everything to do with sport and indeed excelling at it and almost nothing to do with sexual success. Particularly for AFL although the recent horror show that is the Brownlow Red Carpet Special (probably enough to turn someone away from a career in Aussie Rules) has to some extent started to do that for a young boy it is the furthest thing from their mind. It is all about the ability to dunk from the free throw line like Jordan or rip the backboard down like Shaq. Or leap up on the man in fronts shoulders and take a specky like Lloyd or boot a goal from the center square. All relating to the functionality of athleticism, even though sports are really just games as entertainment that people pay for, it was still all about what you could do and if it became about who you can do that was a happy byproduct for adolescent boys (and sometimes the downfall of their pro careers).
Contrast that with a girl growing up, first competitive sport as played by women gets aired obligatorily by the ABC, simply because although fun to play, netball is not fun to watch, lacking in controversy and the rules more or less prevent any play from ever being deemed 'spectacular' and as such Australia's elite netball players for the most part don't earn enough for it to be their primary source of income. It's almost like a voluntary thing. I think the plight of netball in itself has much less to do with sexism or any deliberate structuring to keep women down in this world and more to do with the market forces that value a sport.
Certainly taking sports that are inherently exciting fast paced spectator sports such as football and basketball I still believe in my heart of hearts that consumers at large when aportioning media coverage between the two genders would still lean towards 99% male comp because mens physical endowments of testosterone factories tend to make them stronger and faster than women. That being said if their was one women who played as explosively as Jordan it could shift the balance in favour of that whole league, you never know.
But the point is female athletes as idols don't really cut the mustard, which personally I think is a shame. Without competitive sports to define heirarchy the next logical choice I believe is the downfall of the female species and certainly the biggest waste of their childhood 'maturity'.
I hold the belief dearly that 'maturity' is one of the most misused words in the english language, in economics there are two key terms the difference of which is ambiguous to a lot of highpower decision makers and some analysts and that is the key words of causation and corelation.

Just so there's no confusion for you I'll explain them here:

Causation: something that causes something to happen ie. eating too much energy will result in you becoming fatter.

Correlation: Two seperate variables that behave simalarly due to an indirect relationship but one does not necessarily cause the other. (much harder to provide a succinct example) ie. as the population of teachers increases in a country so does the volume of one sales, an idiot concludes that teachers cause an increase in wine consumption, infact it is only a correlation because it follows that in other studies wine consumption increase with any increase in the population irrespective of profession.
Another one highlighting the fallibility of correlations is that of the study that showed that children whose parents owned books (not children who read books) did better on their school papers than children whose parents didn't (in other words children in the presence of books where magically better learners whether the read them or not) which was a correlation resulting from a genetic cause
but a politician on seeing this study assumed that books magically caused kids to be smarter just by being present and thus started a program that bought every child in the state a book every week month etc at huge expense to the tax payer which had no real benefit because parents who recieve free books are not going to improve the genetic intelligence they have already passed on to their child.
Correlation is used as it is merely a clue or insight indicative of a deeper cause, many studies are presented with correlations only and no causes because that is the highest level of assumption they can scientifically prove.

And that's that all for the purpose of helping define the problem I have with weightloss and body image as a disadvantage to girls, and that is the possible cause of it to comprise a much more significant part of a girls self esteem and to more often result in an unhealthy lifestyle than it does with boys.
And that is the missapropriated favorite of mothers, teachers and womenkind in general as describing girls as inherently more 'mature'.
But what is 'mature' for me as I have observed it is certainly optional, the adult working world is certainly populated with a vibrant society of immature professionals. Some of these are even some of the most valuable and productive workers. Furthermore some of the most mature people I've met spend the majority of their time acting playfully childish. So the question that begs asking is for me what does 'maturity' mean.
When we talk about wine or cheese a mature wine is generally speaking something that has adged to the point it achieves optimum flavour. It is its most enjoyable.
When talking about people I believe that maturity generally correlates with a high sense of self esteem, good self knowledge, high ability to empathise with other people. I think maturity is personified in behaviour that is such as, putting the needs of others before oneself when appropriate, knowing which behaviour to choose at which time, engaging in behaviours that actively build others sense of self worth, taking responsibility for the outcomes of one's own actions. And that's it.
I think reflective thinking and empathising are the practices that lead to maturity. Generally speaking there is a weak corelationwith age, that is after a certain age there is a higher probability that someone will achieve maturity (and I would put that at 16, probability increasing till about 25-28ish depending on what the average age to finish uni/move out of home ends up being ie. the last behavioural causes that may lead to maturity) but note that age is not just a corelation only, a matter of probability it still remains optional that maturity is ever achieved. Plenty of men certainly behave as callously as 5 year olds right until there 40's plenty of women also are still daddy's princesses at alarming ages.
And thus the first inappropriate cultural misunderstanding, maturity is associated with age, boys I believe want to be older when they are young for recreational purposes, being taller, stronger and hairier will result in being even better at sport, it may also be related to driving and drinking beer and other activities that are percieved as fun or cool rather than mature and in later stages so they can not live with their parents and have sex with girls their parents would not approve of.
For girls from what I have studied the upward pull relates to this 'mature' concept which in turn because girls withhold generally (though this is much better now in australia all the hot girls at my school where in the seniour girls football team) from competitive sports, also fighting to settle disputes and establish heirarchy and instead resort to behaviour that is anything but mature. Petty mind games is the first one, or psychological bullying which is far more vicious than physical bullying (unless carried to extremes, that being said psychological bullying is carried to extremes that are probably far worse aswell not only do kids die, they feel awful about themselves when they do it) but the big one is: they try to be more mature. Instead of being taller, being faster, being a better fighter or stronger, girls resort to maturity in their teen years (and now tweens and probably younger) thanks to the missapropriation of a deep and rare quality called maturity.
I had a presentation from Libra or U or one of the fucking tampon companies about their website and their research on their target market teenage girls yeilded the result that the girl who knew the most about sex and other 'mature' things was the Alpha wolf in their school, thus access to Cosmo was a highly prised possession.
Cosmo of course is a bullshit rag that thanks to well meaning adults reinforcing a stereotype that girls are 'more mature' (my mother believes this wholeheartedly) girls have learnt faster and faster how to give blowjobs, select the right g-string, get the vaginas waxed or as was articulated in the book '100 ways America is screwing up the world' "selling fuck-me clothes to teenagers" thanks to a bizarre byproduct of the sexual revolution, some of the biggest perpertrators of commodifying women are now women themselves.
In the pursuit of maturity the girls instead seek sexual maturity and sexually maturity is in most of their learning sources linked to body image.
Girls idols are to use the words of Ariel Levy from 'female chauvinist pigs' "fuckable and saleable" that is the primary ability of a girls aspirational guide is being able to attract a man to fuck, and you are probably already thinking but most idols are hollywood stars and pop-idols who do something functional. Well firstly this bit isn't about functionality so much as it is culture, and that is that Kathy Bates is functionally one of the finest Actors in the world yet more girls aspire to Jolie type body images which is validated because she now dates Brad Pitt. Infact I can't remember the last time I saw an actor or popstar on the front of a magazine that was fully functional with a realistic body shape.
These people have more resources than most professional athletes to maintain there body image and most of the time for actresses of the school of Eva Mendez, Jessica Alba, that bitch that dates Tony parker, Lauren London and such is to score bit parts beside the actual interesting characters in sitcoms and movies.
Therefore whilst a boy growing up is more likely to idolise an athlete and thus develope body image in terms of functionality (even when it comes to actors the association is easily broken with the likes of Jack Black, Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, Anthony Hopkins, and even actors like Will Smith playing action roles with high degrees of physical activity [often non sex related]) and girls develope body image in terms of increasing their chances of having a 'immature' boy defile them with their filthy immature concepts of sex. (possibly also nudging somegirls towards believing that having sex with a thirty year old teacher is a good way to be more mature).
And that means that I believe if weightloss takes the form of achieving a cultural paradigm of being a desirable temptress it can lead to an unhealthy mindset, basically once again healthy weight with low to no self esteem.

Last but not least weightloss should be smart.

Give me a minute. I calculate that 58kg is when I hit underweight. Due to gaining muscle mass this year I don't want to get anywhere near that close to a BMI of less than 20. So whilst I wish to continue running should my weight drop below 68 I will have to reassess my diet, particularly given the nature of the way I've been losing weight. I'm running and burning more energy than I am eating in a typical day which means my body starts converting my fat deposits back into energy to be used to propel me. Furthermore my muscles in my legs particularly and probably lower back are reshaping themselves from pure bike riding applications to be better suited to the stresses of long distance running, so I'm not only consuming more energy than usual but consuming more protein than usual as my muscles go through the motions of damage and repair.
That said once I run out of surplus fat, my food intake particularly protein must go up. So it's imperitive I set a minimum weight. And this handles the S and M of SMART goals, specific and measurable, but remember my weightloss is functional, so my goal is actually related to running not weightloss for pure weightloss. Weight is one measure of my progress towards becoming an athlete and setting a minimum weight means it becomes a specific task, so I have a stop point.
Think about someone losing weight for the purpose of pure body image and making a SMART goal becomes very difficult. Firstly the measure of success, of achieving the goal is going to be in the power of the person(s) you are trying to attract, therefore your measure is not one you can just hop on the scales periodically to monitor your progress, there's so many variables at play, consider you lose a measly 300g (not measly if you already weigh only 40kg) and the next week at the local you meet an attractive guy/girl and hit it off, are you likely to stop then anyway? probably not, then in terms of the power to attract (from my experience for the most part a boyfriend is one of the least important opinions on this matter) goes on as an ambiguous measure. Or alternatively your personality is unbearable and it will be hard for you to attract anyone period unless you look like Naomi Campbell and last time I checked almost nobody else does.
So that takes care of specific and Measurable, how can you then put a Time limit on it, in the above example if you attract people too early on with godforbid you personality then your body image renovation timeline gets all screwed up, if you never manage too when or over what period do you stop. What amount of weight? fortunately now there are personal trainers with which to engage in this shallow exploit but for the most part weightloss for body image purposes only will only stop when you are satisfied with your own image (you can do this though without losing anyweight so its highley likely that half the time it won't directly relate to the weightloss) or it will stop when you percieve a general conscensus from the public that you are hot (oh but you have to stay that way now because its all you've got so you can't drop the ball) or when someone says you're annorexic, bulemic, depressed and intervenes, or when you die.

Fuck, long post, the ones I think I can say quickly, explore deeply in a short amount of time seem to take the longest, but to wrap that up in short. My philosophy of weightloss is that it should be purely functional (relating either to athletic ability or preventitive health concerns), it should not be based on cultural pressures/social modelling (it should be for your own personal benefit above and beyond anyone elses) and it should be a definite and structured activity with a point at which the process ends and one can determine whether one has succeeded or needs to replan.

That's it, now wouldn't the world be a better place if that's all that weightloss was ever about.