Sunday, April 29, 2012

Creative Process

Step 1: Ambition. Step 2: Failure. Step 3: Rethinking. Step 4: Make necessary cuts. Repeat until Step 2 = Success.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It's Over

So turns out I don't have much to say that I am afraid or generally too ashamed to publish. I didn't really go into this week with a plan, in fact it was probably blind luck that it happened to contain ANZAC day, I generally don't look that far ahead. I guess I figured that once I had written about my narcissism and general perversion this would spur me onto new depths of shame and sharing, but it didn't the well dried up pretty quickly. So back to same old shit now...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lest We Offend

Anzac day is always curious to me, that is to say when I log in to facebook I'm always surprised at the solemn reverence of posts by my friends about Anzac day. It's a minority but has no bearing on age for example, people whose parents fought in World War II are no more or less likely to post about Anzac day as people whose Grandparents fought in World War II (or people whose grandparents fought in Vietnam for that matter). I just don't understand it, it is a mistery to me. I grew up with a Grandfather that fought in World War II, and have lived the entirety of my life with a Grandma that hasn't moved past it. Somehow my mixed feelings about Anzac day remain unresolved, and further more I just don't care enough to really dig in and figure out how I should feel about this holiday. Like I do have a number of problems with it, and particularly the reverence. It's because of something Napoleon said:
A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.
Which is to say, on remembrence day and Anzac day I get confused as to what the general vibe of what we are remembering and what we are forgetting is supposed to be. Are we glorifying a tragedy? Or are we reflecting on a tragedy in the noble ambition that a population at large won't be fooled again? I am for the latter, but not the former. Furthermore, I have a feeling that wars are by and large rarely decided by soldiers. They are decided by academics in buildings breaking codes, and diplomats in staterooms operating telephones, and other communication exchanges. To say the soldiers, whom are transport for the 'arms' attached to their bodies are the key factor I feel is letting those truly responsible for war, the decision makers off extremely lightly. When Australia entered the Iraq war John Howard asked the public in that unpopular war to direct the flac at him, and lay off the soldiers who were just doing their jobs. And he was right. There are decision makers in war, inevitably somebody is responsible for engaging. Elsewise you simply do not have a state, and that state would have no holiday to celebrate military traditions. The decision makers deserve the lions share of criticism and glory. War can be entered into meaningleslly and voluntarily (such as Iraq and Vietnam) or it can happen to you forcing you into an incredible waste of defending your existence (such as the Pacific War). As Keating said in his remembrence day speech:
Because the Great War was a mad, brutal, awful struggle, distinguished more often than not by military and political incompetence; because the waste of human life was so terrible that some said victory was scarcely discernible from defeat;
etc. The speech was ultimately celebratory of how extraordinary an ordinary person can be, and I agree. But I suspect there's a corellation generally speaking between people who inject the most solemnity and respect and importance into a day like ANZAC day and those who would most readily call for another war should even the vaguest opportunity arise (eg a state 'harbouring' terrorists). I find this offensively hypocritical. Another aspect of hypocrisy is in the general way we treat our forebears. I have never intended to be ambiguous about my stance on the direction of indebtedness across generations. Children owe their parents nothing, parents owe their children everything. I shall presumably at some point transfer from being an absolute creditor (to my parents) to an absolute debtor (to my children). This goes on through the generations. I find it thus hard to hold my tongue when a day comes along where I am asked to feel indebted, forget or deliberately overlook all the bad and pay, PAY respect to any person that somehow rises in significance over myself or any other individual. Somewhat serendipitously I've been going through a Josh Freese phase in my music listenings and yesterday worked my way onto listening to the Vandals album entitled 'hitler bad, vandals good'. Hitler was undoubtedly bad, and the most recognisable figure of WW2, a man more celebrated even in his villainy than Winston Churchill, and I suspect to his generation and probably the next three (and possibly counting) to follow a kind of comforting figure. I think to many these military holidays equivocate to a simple world view of 'hitler bad, australia good' and 'hitler bad, england good' and 'hitler bad, USA good' and perhaps even 'hitler bad, modern germany good'. Similar to conspiracy theories, the subconscious desire of the person who purportedly hates the 'big brother' conspirator but in fact seeks the comfort of their existence to reassure them that life is orderly predictable and that somebody is in control, I think there's a subconscious appreciation that Hitler was so bad that all who opposed him are heroes and allows us to look at our past present and future with rose coloured glasses, because in this ultimate acid test we determined once and for all 'hitler bad, we good'. Thus why on this day or any should I pretend that my Grandma and I have a shared meaning of Australia. Today I am supposed to honour the sacrifices made by my forebears in defending this nation to enable us to have the lifestyle we enjoy and tomorrow I can go back to scoffing at her ignorance in opposing Climate Change, Refugee Visas (aka Human fucking Rights) and Same Sex Marriages? On what day do we honour those who marched in the streets to end the Vietnam War and those who marched in the streets to prevent joining the Iraq war? When do we honour those who care about the lives of complete strangers be they soldiers of the same state or civilians of another? On what day do we honour those who hold media to account? Or honour the media that actually holds the decision makers to account? Where in the ANZAC parade do the conscientious objectors march? Those who would rather go to prison than fight an unjust war? When in other words do we start celebrating those who actually do remember and DO learn from the horrors of War? A 'Peace and Goodwill' day that was dedicated to somebody other than Jesus would be a happy holiday that I could fully get behind.

Monday, April 23, 2012

That's It I'm Out

Pornography has escalated to a point that I would just rather move onto lingeret brochures or something rather than continue to see what the internet will offer. I presume it follows a similar pattern to comedy, that where the shock value must constantly inflate in order to get the same arousal from viewers. But the sensory plesure of the physical act of sex remains constant. It doesn't take much physical contact to get a guy to cream his pants, even the most vanilla sex, like a 5 minute session in the missionary position is pretty fantastic. But now almost by rote you watch some girl gag on some guys dick and then get face fucked while confronting amounts of saliva fall out in strings from her mouth, then she'll turn around and the guy will spit on her arsehole and then proceed to anal sex, followed by more oral sex. And this is the new 'vanilla' porno. I remember when I was an anxt ridden teenager studying studio art reading an interview with R.S. Connett (whom was a very good inspiration for angsty ridden art students) that had an excerpt to the effect of:
I just quit my Big-Shot, Big money job. AHH-HAA! :) ! The story circulating is that I had a "nervous breakdown". What does that mean? Perhaps it could be defined thusly; I'm sick and tired of trading my precious time hanging around with idiots who think the greatest thing in the world is some pathetically ill-treated female getting fucked by three guys and beat up by a forth. Fuck America and it's sick sexuality ... Porno brings in more money than Hollywood! What does that tell you about the general sexuality of The Unholy Empire of America? Our top movies included scenes with a female getting her hair brutally yanked while being sodomized and forced to eat human feces and drink piss from a dirty toilet in a public gas station men's room. Does that turn you on? Are you getting a chubby as you read this?
Ironically I dug this up in a post on his blog that was a response to a guestbook comment that his art had never progressed past the teen-male phase. And I guess this post on Porno is one of the ones I find hard to post because I have an opinion on it, but am supposed to keep that opinion to myself or maintain a persona that doesn't spend any time in the day looking at porno. And I mean, I'm sure there are people that don't look at porno, and I would guesstimate they make up the same percentage of the population that say non-drinkers do. But RS makes the point and it is just the point that porno has bigger revenue's than hollywood, and this written in a year before torrentz were taking big money out of hollywood. Pornography is supposed to be 90% of the internet with another 9% being pictures of cats doing crazy thing and the remaining 1% being what we pretend the internet is. And I mean it isn't like a want to talk about pornography, in much the same way that I brush my teeth and shower fairly regularly and I've never felt the compulsion to have a conversation with a work colleague on those topics. It's not that interesting simply put, except in the fact that I feel there's an increasing disconnect between what goes on in a porno and what sex actually is, and whether this arises in confusion. It does presumably have a knock on effect to society at large, like the disparity covered in 'Female Chauvinist Pigs' specifically the ratio of girls who have performed felatio to guys who have performed cunnalingus, which would then promote a further disparity between how often each act is performed by who in a couple. And you can see if you watch say - ten clips of porno, exactly how such a norm would arise, given that you can virtually guaruntee that a dick will get sucked in any porno, but even a token pussy licking will be shortlived, infrequent and most often between two girls. Other more obvious trends that leap from porno (and I guess the sex industry at large) to real world is an aversion to pubic hair (which I share) and so on and so forth. And maybe it's just an old person conversation of 'I don't get these kids today' my brother told me of some article about this escalation between generations of women, that prudish depression era mothers were shocked to learn their girls where giving blowjobs in the high school mens bathrooms or bus shelters, and these girls grew up to be mothers who in turn are shocked to discover their girls are sending videoclips of themselves masturbating out into the internet (I can't vouch for this I haven't seen any such clips and I hope never to). But the thing is, that I enjoy pornography, I mean I enjoy pin-up art. I am happy to admit that the sex industry involves a whole spectrum from pin-up art on the sides of World War II era plains to sadomasochistic snuff porn. And you can try and intellectualise it and say 'pornos not real' and this works to some extent. Porno is a masturbatory aid, and try as you might audio/visual stimulation will never compete with 'the real thing' which is why it has to be so graphic, and increasingly so as the contents ability to stimulate wears off, becomes boring and uninteresting. It's a fantasy designed to expedite our own imaginations ability to take us out of a dark room by ourselves into a fantastical place where we interact with a desirable person that desires us. But the fantasy in porno has to be acted out by real people. It requires us to dehumanise what is going on in order to enjoy it, like 'too soon' jokes after some widely reported tragedy. The more graphic and sadistic porno's norms get though, the less I can dehumanise the fantasy, the more you remember that many if not most pornstars are the victims of some childhood abuse, that they surgically alter their bodies for a well compensated but mostly short term career that nevertheless will follow them around for the rest of their lives. That's a fucken turn off, I guess for me, the standards of pornography whilst never exposing me to what RS Connett is talking about, have crossed that turn-on/turn-off threshold. PS. I hate guys that talk to me about porno, specifically the guys who talk to me about porno only in the presence of guys only. Like I am part of some conspiracy to keep women in their place, and all the overtones of 'you know what I'm talkin about.' and 'aight brother.' I do not what you are talking about. It's fun to jack off. It is easier to jack off after watching a porno. It doesn't take much. Porno is a masturbatory aid, the women of porno are mentally disposable to me and almost constantly replaced and porno has little or nothing to do with how I relate to actual women. What I don't know you are talkin' about is whether your life is some pursuit of trying to trick an actual woman into thinking she is in some kind of porno and reenacting your favorite scenes with you. That's just stupid.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Better

Okay so in the first of this weeks attempts to post posts that are difficult to post and whilst meant to be confessional will almost certainly be apologetic and as such I apoloise if they fail to inform at all... I'm beating around the bush. Most of my conscious life I have thought I am 'better' than most people I encounter. I feel I need to describe to you what happened the moment after I wrote the above full stop. I gripped my head with my hands and closed my eyes for an indeterminant period of time that was at the least far more substantial than the blank line between the above sentence and 'I feel I need'. That like this was difficult to put into words, to confess and this is even a draft to me. I could still delete it and I don;t plan to, but I could. In theory. It was suffice to say, not a liberating experience. Rather a damning one. But it was difficult. Now I feel I need to apologise for my confession, there may even be a chance you reading this feel personally offended, that is I guess what feels worst, and you shouldn't because of the people I know who read this blog, you are very likely not amongst the 'most people' I encounter. Yes like a carefully worded statement to the press, as difficult as it was I leave many lines of retreat. But if your still reading, I guess I'm going to take the opportunity to talk about what this experience is like. Firstly, my experience in life is that this view gets reinforced a lot. I am encouraged and praised, my opinions sought out, I am asked for information I am attacked in debates. I remember most of what I hear, (although it's hard to be conscious of what you don't remember) provided it is interesting. I score pretty high on IQ tests, EQ tests (which are pretty bogus anyway), SQ tests (same), aptitude tests. Academia reinforced this, two fold, because I cruised through school. All these things though mean less than you'd think. Because of the loosely defined term 'better'. For example 'better' to me is probably closer to the term 'more capable' than 'more likely to succeed'. Life indeed has taught me that the two factors as near as I can word them that directly feed success are 'discipline' and 'risk taking' both of which are not intuitive skills of mine, most of my adult life has been spent trying to learn these things. Furthermore, 'better' does not mean 'more important' this is why most of my conscious life has been spent exerting a conscious effort to downplay both the internal belief that I am somehow 'better' than others and the external reinforcement from shit like VCE enters or test scores or even increasingly the informal reviews of my artwork, in order to keep myself and others aware that I am neither more important nor entitled to any special treatment. Because hopefully we are all the best qualified person to be ourselves. The person I doubt the most in their respective role is me. I feel though that whatever has fostered in me this conscious impression, seemingly reinforced is not something that was through any effort of my own. My ability to treat school for example like some sad kind of joke and be rewarded for it, I am sure is the product of some genetic lottery. Just as my ability to not be able to outmuscle and outjump every single NBA center that ever played in the NBA is also the product of some genetic lottery. What I feel I need to articulate is that whatever it is that makes the middle band of people I encounter comment that I is 'really smart' is exactly what makes the vast majority of people upon meeting my friend John comment that he is 'really tall' (and in his case I imagine they also comment that he is 'really smart') But while it is presumably no big deal for some borderline 7 footer to consciously acknowledge to themselves 'I am really tall' something in my social conditioning prevents me from having the same ease of observation in acknowledging 'I am really smart'. It is poor form, it is taboo, it is insulting. But does anybody want to be short? Surely no more than people want to be dumb. But for me it is just such an experience. Like I was just born able to figure shit out when presented with a puzzle, able to remember a lot of shit, to think about stuff a lot and on my journey through life I have met numerous people who either report to me themselves that they can't do this, or that appear to me to be less capable of doing it. And that's no big deal to me. I still know plenty of smart people, one's life tends to be arranged in such a way as to put you in environments where like attracts like and so forth. I admire exactly none of my friends for their smarts. Which is untrue, there are 2 people that in my life I feel are much much smarter than me. One is older and one is younger. There are also bookstores with shelves full of books written by people I know to be much smarter than me and I have never met these people, but their smarts lead to admiration. I generally though admire people for their discipline and risk taking. I am most drawn to people I find interesting, and some of the least interesting people I have ever met or know, are very smart people. The most desirable trait in anybody ever is unpredictability, this is my personal preference, just like I like short women. This is not everyone's preference. I discussed much of this with my psychologist, and told her of my Predictably Predictable, Unpredictably Predictable/Predictably Unpredictable and Unpredictably Unpredictable matrix of friends. If People are PP chances are they are not my friend. Using facebook estimations my Psychologist and I calculated that somewhere between 98-99% of people I know fall somewhere in the UP or PU spectrum. And in my life I have met 4 people that dwell in the UU zone. And none of this has anything to do with the qualities of intelligence, or likelihood of success. These are simply the people whose company I enjoy the most in all the world. When I think I am better than most people, it is on a case by case basis. It is a distinct thought that arrives and feels dirty, and bad, and must be put down, rebutted, and disproved. And all this by me. EXCEPT when watching a Michael Bay movie. Here in a Michael Bay movie it is easy to think 'I could make a better movie than this' because Michael Bay does not have a reputation for making 'good' movies. He will never be reinforced by anything but box office takings. The thing is that of all the people I have never encountered, the thought that I could make a better movie than Michael Bay is the easiest to rebut. I couldn't make shit. Because I haven't had the discipline or risk taking behaviours that would lead to me ever being trusted with a big budget blockbuster. I may think I am smarter and more creative than Michael Bay, but I have no means to test this because I am much worse at BEING A DIRECTOR than Michael Bay is. When I meet an insipid and vacuous stay at home mum who bemoans how lucky I am that I can take a contiki tour to Ibetha any time I want, it is also natural that I might think I am smarter or better than her. But this doesn't make her unimportant for example, and that's why to me it feels like being conscious of how relatively capable you are should be no different from being conscious of how relatively tall you are. Chances are I may be a better parent, there's a lot of factors involved. But being a stay at home mum is an important life, her importance to her children would exceed any importance I hold to any relationship I have. Furthermore I think the more people you meet in life the more of an unsung achievement creating a stable home environment is. So to me, rationally this post should not have been hard to write. The thing I am best at and always have been best at is learning. I can do so far more efficiently than most people I have come across. We will ultimately though be judged by everyone we come across by what we manage to achieve with whatever hand we've been dealt, in the context of what the people we encounter actually value. I am going to post this now. And try not to think about it.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Commit

This is just a post to say that next week I am going to write posts that I am afraid to write. It has been a while since I wrote anything that was hard for me to share. For the record this does not mean the posts will be offensive, they will probably just contain stuff about me I am ashamed of.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Make Less Decisions

I've been subscribed to the manager-tools newsletter since before I left Honda, which is a pretty long time. It's also been a loooong time since I listened to a manager-tools podcast, but I still read the newsletters from time to time.

A recent one was about how it is good to make less decisions. Here is an excerpt from it, and let me say if you want to be a manager, just don't bother with other shit head to manager-tools.com and actually learn.

One of my themes for this year is 'make less decisions'. Scientists say that every decision you make saps a little bit of energy from your body... The secret, they say, is to make the decisions ahead of time, when you're not in the situation where you have to make the decision. So instead of deciding at 3.55pm whether to have the donut or not, you decide Sunday night 'this week, I'm not eating donuts'. When you get presented with one at 4pm on Thursday, there's no willpower involved, you already made the decision.


In that spirit I'm heading back into an intensive work period where I will need to be really. And I mean REALLY fucken productive. Everything I do I want to be a triumph the likes of which Ceaser would envy, and for the scale of the project I have (semi-unwittingly) taken on, it's going to end up eating my life to get that result.

So here are my decisions I have made for my life for the next two-three months.

1. Short runs only - Speed sessions 800m or 3km, focus on running fast.
2. Practice instead of watching TV or Movies. Practicing is my new 'break'
3. I will produce 10 pictures per day.
4. Only eat when hungry.

Hopefully this can get me into a healthier lifestyle than when I was in late stage exhibit preparation. There I was incredibly productive but alas just stacking on weight and completely absorbed in the task.

This is the plan, allegedly sharing them makes us more likely to stick to them.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Real People

It is my personal bias to treat people as if they are real people, even when they are trying their hardest to convince me otherwise.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Open & Closed

Yesterday I watched this:


I also watched some friends play in their Experimental Jazz band Maka Kahn (in my defence the support act kept referring to them as 'Marcos' band') and it was inspiring and a privelege to see artists operate in the kind of space Cleese was talking about.

And envious, I don't these days have the opportunity, nor the skill to cut-loose with my own art. It was a reminder that I need to resurrect superfluous h.

And with my own self portrait experiments, I have discovered how addicted I am to narrative. It seems I can only mentally handle construction or deconstruction. I am weak at improvisation. I have to confess as great as watching free jazz is, I feel an unease that is almost indescribable in not knowing where a piece of music is heading, when a set will end, what is going on.

Which is of course all part of the art form. In the same way as reading about and deconstructing your own gender conditioning is a dizzying experience.

But overwhelmingingly there is joy. There is joy to be observed. There is joy in improvisation and it was just a stunning example of the 'open' mode Cleese and the research he sights is talking about.

Last week somebuddy called what I do 'a hobby' which is I guess kind of true, and my personal wealth does lie in having so much time to indulge my hobbies. But I also consider them 'work' for the simple reason that I feel work should be challenging and art and to a lesser extent running are one of the few things in life I have ever found to be challenging.

But this talk sheds new light on what is possibly the degrading moniker of 'hobby' for art, music, sport. I guess I don't take much seriously, except play, and I take play very seriously, and thus I probably always come across as in a state of play. I think I'm in open mode almost all the time.

I don't know and can't say if my peers, friends and colleagues would label me as 'most creative' because of my lack of seriousness. I feel to narcissistic to be regarded as not having an inflated sense of self importance. And at the same time I really don't give a shit about myself at all.

But art, music and sport, they are all work. Damn hard work, they just require an intensive amount of time, space and play.

But they are challenging, I'm sure I have skewed perceptions, but in my life I have found what most people regard as 'hard' to be easy, and what other people regard as 'easy' intensely hard.

I possibly need to work harder at my closed mode.

Then again, seeing trained musicians at play, I feel I need to work harder on my open mode too.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What Life Should Be Like

Two Parts.

Part One.

Life should be easy to sustain on a labrynthine planet with a population of two, me with my life and somebody else with there's. And we spend our lives playing a game, trying to catch eachother out, trying to destroy eachother, or push eachother to new heights. A game so involving I can't tell if it's destructive or creative because I'm simply having too much fun. Too much fun to notice time going by, or what I'm doing with my life.

Life should be like that.

Part Two.

I enjoy reading my friend Yalei's blog, albeit it is usually much deeper and much wordier than the other 250 art blogs that I subscribe to. This post is in response to her profound post (forgive me Yalei if I am editorialising or misrepresenting) inability to complete the exercise of writing 'What Life Should Be Like'. Which is worth reading, Yalei has a very profound honesty about her creative process and a very generous honesty in posting it on a blog for anybody who is interested to read.

I can’t get over how difficult this question is. It’s really asking you what your ideals are. What your ultimate ideal life is. Why the hell do I find it so hard to answer this question? Once ideals are involved, rationale is 100% obliterated. So why is it hard when I have an open road to idealize away on?


I am fascinated by the differences between Yalei and myself. And for fear of appearing to preside in judgement over her, I am well aware that the only information I have is like you what is in the post. Rather I sit in judgement of myself.

I found the exercise pretty easy to do, in part because it is kind of premeditated, I imagine like most people I have spent a great deal of my cognition trying to imagine what life would be like. I also see an exercise as an exercise, so my response in part one is a 'hyper-efficient' version that I think Yalei really captures how the question captures what your ideals are.

With that aforementioned premeditation, my response reflects ideals that I have been forming over a long time. Thereby with past behaviour the best predictor of future behaviour you could expect my ideals, what I'm searching for unlikely to change.

And yet, I find committing them to paper - or computer pixels or whatever - not much of a committment at all. I just assume I'm free to change my ideals whenever I like. I can reanswer this question, produce as many drafts as I like. I probably wont, because of time constraints.

I mean it's an exercise that allows us to write anything, and ultimately with these exercises I take the view that we only have to produce something. But at the same time, having had the horriffic and debilitating experience of an existential crisis, I know too well first hand the pain of having everyone thinking you can do anything, and how hard it is to figure out the something you should do.

soooooooooooooooooooooooo... I dunno, why Yalei and I are different. But I'm glad we are. It's more enriching out here in blog world.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Three Phase

Easter reminds me of Japan, kind of, I mean it is a stretch.

It's because of chocolate, remember when you were a kid and you went to your friends parties and at the end they gave you a lolly bag to take home that contained lollies? And you played games like the chocolate game and literally had a nervous breakdown as you tried to roll a 6, then scurry into some ridiculous costume, then cut individual blocks of chocolate with a butter knife before the next kid managed to roll a 6? (A game that in hindsight seems needlessly cruel).

These were the days where our parents controlled our chocolate intake, and chocolate had some kind of novelty value. Then remember your uni days when you bought like $16 worth of chocolate, snickers, M&Ms, cadbury blocks and kept them at your desk to prevent you from leaving some godawful assignment? The chocolate lost all flavor made you sick, it became your baseline.

The same is probably true of McDonalds, when I was a kid, mum capitulating and buying us McDonalds was a big deal. A really big fucking deal. (Once my mother diagnosed the onset of appendicitus because I couldn't finish a quarter pounder, needless to say, once my appendix was removed this never happened again).

Yet there have been times in my life where I ate McDonalds so regularly McDonalds became my baseline. It was simply just 'food' to me. No big deal.

This is what Japan is like, I suspect. Most people fetishise the nation, the culture, they are like the kid at the birthday party, or at McDonalds. Unlike growing up where all the easter chocolate feels like a liability rather than a priveledge, our geopolitical sphere is such that there is no obligation to 'grow up' on Japan. With sufficiently limited exposure it can remain the candy store to your inner kid, or it can become 'just another fucken country' with enough exposure.

Or...

yes, I feel Japan has three distinct phases. In my view the most enjoyable phases are 1 and 3, the most painful and hardest to observe is 2. I actually don't have enough experience to know how optional 2 is to get to 3. But here they are.

1. As described, this is the phase where you are an enamoured tourist, with fetishised views of these exotic uber-oriental culture that seems mysterious and magic. You can breeze through Japan marvelling at the retro-futuristic blade-runner-esque efficiency of Japan's technology without understanding how something so dated can still seem so advanced to a western mind (like trains running on time).
You shop in Harajuku blown away by the tribes and the clothing, buy some shit in Akihabara, titter at the titalating pornographic flyers handed out in Roppongi then hop a bullet train down to Kyoto where you marvel and meditate at the stillness of the temples, then try and snap obligatory photos of girl in Kimono's using mobile phones.
Then depending on your age you go to Osaka and get completely fucking hammered and then you fly home. Or if you are too young or too poor to drink, you go home.

Phase one is great, you are just an observer, soaking up the delights Japan's foreigness and uniqueness has to offer, oogling girls legs and skoffing at the Bon Jovi stylings of the effeminate 'cool guys' of Japan. Japan is like candy to you.

You boldly declare 'I could live here!' and...

2. You do, you try it. You try to go deep, to go into the inner workings of Japan. Everyone seems so welcoming, so accomodating, you unpack your bags in your homestay and relish the dinner your hosts take you to on the first night. This is the sun setting on your first phase. Because the dinners don't stop. The tours don't stop. The sightseeing and organised activities don't stop. Months pass by and you are scratching your head as every Japanese person you come into contact with spends an increasing amount of time scratching their heads trying to come up with some planned activity to fill your every waking hour.

You have a few embarrassing incidents where you discover that some friend of your host taking you around for a day takes you to a bunch of stuff you've seen already. You study hard, you start noticing things that you never did before you decided to live there, like entire trees made out of concrete and you ask yourself 'why?' and the young girls in the clothes shop work 11 hour days saying 'irashaimase!' in an annoying tone and folding t-shirts for almost no money.

Very few people your own age can hang out with you. Those you do get to hang out with corner you with poorly spoken english and they refuse to speak in Japanese. Your every attempt to integrate into Japanese daily life, to see Japan through Japanese eyes is rebuffed offhand.

Despite your best efforts and intentions, frustration grows, every time you try to break through to the other side of Japaneseness, and be accepted by this community you love, you just smash your head against a wall.

Even dating a local, you find that you are on the outside, an accessory some how. It is easier for your partner to be rejected as 'really truly japanese' than it is for you to be regarded as one.

Then one day you sit down with those other, sad, loser expats you've been so diligently avoiding and just lay out your frustrations with Japan and the Japanese and thus enter...

3. Which some people seem to get straight away. This may be controversial, but I suspect racism actually helps. Some people I theorise can enjoy Japan but never feel any desire to integrate. But more often, people do.

Here suddenly you accept that you aren't Japanese and simply never will be. The Japan club doesn't want you as a member. As an english teacher sure. As an exotic and handsome/beautiful partner, yes. But as a Japanese. No.

It isn't malicious, just incomprehensible. How can YOU be Japanese? This is a rhetorical question, and despite there being seemingly endless reasonable rebutals (that will only trap you into phase 2) to the Japanese the question has no answer.

Beyond accepting that you are 'gaijin' and it isn't your doing. You hopefully have learned enough if you did/do indeed pass through phase 2, to one day realise, you don't want to be.

Because being Japanese sucks. It isn't the worst thing in the world, and all the charming things that lure us in in the first place are very real. But imagine being judged by your productivity and not your face time at work? Imagine if your boss listened to your ideas and acted on your input? Imagine if you recieved a promotion and were able to manage people older than you? The Japanese more or less cant. The only way you would get promoted ahead of your seniors is if you are the progeny of the company's boss, and it's a family business.

Imagine having two whole days a week off? Imagine eating breakfast with your family on a sunday morning? Imagine taking 2-4 weeks a year holiday and going to a foreign country and seeing things and eating things?

Phase three is where you accept and embrace the secret nation that exists within Japan. The nation of foreigners. The Gaijin, the outsiders. This is where you know enough of japan to not merely be a tourist but to be a highly skilled consumer of Japanese culture. You play the gaijin card when it works to your advantage, yet know how the locals roll when that is in your best interest. And sure there's a few perks of 'being Japanese' that you give up, but they were never obtainable anyway.

I guess phase three is where an adult graduates and learns to self moderate their chocolate and McDonalds intake. Thereby maximising the pleasure and convenience they derive from it.

I have passed from 2 to 3, I spent an embarrassingly long time in phase 2, but I eventually learned. I kind of envy and kind of resent those in phase 1, but Phase 3 is the fucking shit.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Boredom

The Easter weekend is boring. I know I know I only have myself to blame, but this weekend I've been to an art launch, hosted a dinner party and am going to a Barbarion gig tonight, yet I still find the time to be bored.

It reminds me of the character from Douglas Adam's hitchhikers series, that wound up being immortal. He ended up deciding to insult the universe in Alphabetical order because he had 'too many Sunday afternoons' those painful times where we just have nothing to do.

Good Friday I maintain is the worst public holiday of all the public holidays. While the traditional 4 day weekend of Easter is a chance for working stiffs to get away one last time before winter, I would personally much rather trade it for a day off on Valentines, you know celebrate something other than mourning.

And was the mourning of Christ really necessary? Or just a facade like the encore at a concert. Just as bands I'm sure pretty much expect to do an encore, and the crowds cheering is a mere formality these days, would Jesus have come back if his few fans hadn't been upset but were instead constructively moving on with their lives already?

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Inference

Probably one of the hardest but most valuable things to come to terms with in life is that 'we are what we do'.

This is obvious from the outside looking in. When your friend has scotch for breakfast and does so alone you are probably going to infer that they have a drinking problem despite what they tell you.

It is easy to call oneself an elite athlete, but if you sit around on your arse eating cheetos all day nobody is going to accept your self diagnosis.

It doesn't seem fair, we have a right to self expression, but not a right to be believed. Others fall back, whether consciously or unconsciously on evaluating our behaviour, because behaviour can be seen.

Think. Who is your manager at work? Seems obvious, but think about their actual authority, who does the team look to, who's ideas go ahead? You may wish to make the distinction between 'manager' and 'leader' one being a formal title and one being a recognition of one's actions (and others responses to it).

Imagine if Mark Zuckerberg rang you up to inform you you were being facebook audited, and had to provide evidence that all 700 of your friends were indeed friends. What evidence do you have?

Just about everybody can't help but see how people behave, behaviour consists of - things we do, words we say and how we say them. Behaviour is seldom random either, this is how in the evolution of our species people have gotten pretty good at evaluating us as people based on our actions.

Everyone's an armchair psychologist, what is surprising is that people are not often wrong. Except when it comes to themselves. I spent most of my life thinking that 'people know you better than you know yourself' but really when it comes to what we are generally in denial about it rings true.

Those who observe us will probably know long before we do that our marriage is loveless or that our indulgence is an addiction. But it is easy for people on the outside to accept the facts because they are spared the emotions and consequences of the revelation.

And as somebody who invited honest direct feedback on my shortcomings, it is fucking hard to take even when you are 'mentally prepared'.

Habit is powerful, that is what makes us so predictable and inference from behaviour so effective for people. But behaviour is a choice.

We always choose how to behave. Mental illness is another matter, because you lose your choice due to chemical imbalances depending on the nature of your problem. But everything else, including addictions we choose to do.

People who actually change are rare, hence the saying 'first impressions last' which always implied that people set their mind about you and also seemed unfair. But the sayings factual basis is probably in us being so reliable and consistent. That we are set in our ways before people even meet us. Thus the first impression is going to in most cases be the same as the last impression.