In other thoughts….

If somebody tries to kill him- or herself by jumping in front of a moving ambulance, do the first responders in the ambulance have to call in another ambulance? Would the answer change depending on whether or not the person actually got killed? This is of course assuming that there was not significant damage to the vehicle, in which case they would have to stay there anyway. But I imagine that the people in the ambulance would have to stick around for paperwork.

In other thoughts, I was recently at a local brewery that has its own brewpub with the intent on getting dinner. While I was there I discovered that when they changed their menu, they no longer offer vegetarian entrees. I had one beer and left. While I was leaving I was perplexed by the fact that there were about two dozen portable toilets in the parking lot. I had to wonder if the two issues were connected. No, I’m not thinking of people’s digestion when related to all of the meat. I imagine a more Sweeney Todd-like scenario. Perhaps all of those portable toilets are actually traps. You go in, the floor drops beneath you and you drop into a machine with buzz saws and meat grinders.

In other thoughts, the word “owl” is pronounced one way, but then if you add the letter “b” in the front of it, “bowl” is pronounced another. By adding that “b” we suddenly get the long “o” sound. Why isn’t it pronounced like “bowel?” Think about that the next time you use the word “bowl” in a sentence: “I like to eat out of my favorite soup bowel.” Yes, I realize that this last bit works better when spoken out loud but a.that would involve me actually interacting with somebody in person, and b.I had to write something for today’s blog post.

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Do podcasts count as part of the Internet?

Does a podcast in of itself count as a portion of the Internet? I decided recently that I’m only going to go online during the morning before I go to work (at least as far as weekdays are concerned). I came to terms with the fact that I could have been getting addicted to surfing the net when I should have been trying to live something of a life—or at least get something productive done. I was spending too many hours after work watching videos online of other people playing video games or reviewing action figures from the eighties and none enough getting caught up on my reading, writing or actually getting outside. So came the decision to limit my Internet time to the hour or so I’m getting ready for work in the morning.

Then there’s things that I use the Internet to download. I’m still trying to catch up on back issues of magazine subscriptions. But I don’t tend to think of reading those as reading the Internet, regardless of whether or not my Kindle is online. Those magazines are getting written anyway for both print and electronic versions. The Internet is simply the tool I use to obtain the latter.

So why raise the question about podcasts? Isn’t it the same principle? When I think it through, yes. If I allow for one then there’s no reason I shouldn’t allow for the other. But as I was trying to play catch up on my podcasts yesterday (I’ve gotten behind on those as well) the thought crossed my mind that this might be cheating, listening to podcasts that I downloaded later. It still feels like I’m online. Podcasts could be thought of as the successors to radio. But they’re made for Internet users. Except for radio shows that were recorded and released online after they’ve aired, podcasts are made with digital distribution in mind. I don’t know how much this might affect the content—that would be the subject of a study bigger than my ranty little blog posts. It reminds me of David Byrne’s How Music Works. I suppose the same idea would apply.

By the way, I should point out that I’m not listening to podcasts on my phone like so many people do nowadays. I find it’s much easier to do it via an older method of downloading podcast episodes and then transferring them to my iPod, which is an older model that doesn’t have any Internet connection on its own.

Whatever I decide as to how I feel about the issue, it’s not going to affect my listening habits. If anything, I would come to the conclusion that my podcast addiction is separate from my YouTube addiction. But so far listening to podcasts on my way to and from work is a less obstructive habit than wasting time in front of a computer screen when I have too much real life to do.

Book review: “Moshi Moshi” by Banana Yoshimoto.

Banana Yoshimoto’s novel Moshi Moshi (translated from the Japanese by Asa Yoneda) tells the story of a young woman struggling to move on with her life while she and her mother grieve over her father’s bizarre death. Yoshie’s father, a prominent local rock musician, was found dead in a car with another woman in what looks to be a murder-suicide (or possibly a double suicide, we never find out for sure). The exact nature of the father’s relationship is left as just as much a mystery to the reader as it is to Yoshie*, but the story isn’t really about his death as much as it affects those closest to him.

The story begins with Yoshie’s mother moving into her apartment in Shimokitazawa as she feels her late husband’s presence in their old home in Meguro. At first Yoshie is reluctant but they both needed each other’s support, not to mention a change of place. Over time the move helps both of them heal from the wound that was dealt to them both. Yoshie works in the bistro across the street, where she meets the manager of the club where her father often played. He frequents the bistro until the two of them start dating. She also gets a couple of visits from a mysterious woman whose first husband also nearly died when having an affair with the woman who killed Yoshie’s father. Throughout the book Yoshie also seeks information and finally solace from one of her father’s former band-mates.

The change that Yoshie’s life goes through is strongly tied to the sense of place, as exemplified by a passage in which she and her mother down an entire cake in the apartment:

I’d never dreamed that Mom and I could do anything as fun as gorging on an entire cake until our bellies ached. We weren’t being hysterical, or depressed. We’d just thought of something nice to do, and done it together. That kind of thing felt wrong in Meguro, but the new apartment somehow made it possible.

In Shimokitazawa Yoshie gets a job at a successful bistro, becoming more or less the owner’s apprentice. She loves her work and the area where she lives and enjoys that she’s seeing somebody. It all has the comfort of a normal adult life. Yet she still dreams of her father. She’s not repressing memories or feelings—she and her mother constantly have conversations about how they feel and memories of times the three of them had as a family. But Yoshie has trouble processing her feelings, and needs all the help she can get in order to work them out as best she can.

Moshi Moshi has a slice-of-life feel throughout the book. It has a plot and it flows well, but it sets itself up in ways that a reader may feel misleading. The death of Yoshie’s father and the visit from the woman whose husband also had an affair with the dead woman implies that this book could have been a mystery. Yoshie’s mother seeing the ghost around the old apartment and Yoshie’s recurring dreams suggest that it could have been a ghost story of some sort. But these end up becoming fact-of-life occurrences, adding to the story but not taking it over.

That is not to say the book is disjointed or jarring. The light atmosphere the book presents with its grim setup may seem conflicted at first, but it only serves to help make the point. Even when struck by the horrifying loss of a loved one, life moves on. We may need some help and a change of place to help it do so, but it moves on regardless.


*Or Yocchan. Characters in the book refer to her with both names. I’m sorry, in the limited time I had to do research before publishing this blog post I couldn’t find out if one is the common nickname of the other, or if there was some other reason why her names were interchangeable. Perhaps somebody could help me in the comments below?

Catching up on some reading, will resume regular reviews this week.

As regular readers may have noticed I didn’t get around to a book review last week, either. I had intentionally skipped the previous week’s review so I could try to get caught up on some other reading. I ended up also borrowing the fifth book of My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard. At over six hundred pages it was an undertaking, but that still isn’t something I have difficulty reading over a weekend. But other things came up and I wasn’t able to finish it until just a few minutes ago.

I’m not going to review Knausgaard’s book. It’s a large, intimidating work and besides,  I wouldn’t feel comfortable reviewing it until the sixth book comes out in English so I can read it anyway. It’s not six books in a series of novels but rather a novel so long that it’s split up into six books. I highly recommend it, but I won’t list my thoughts here… at least not yet, anyway.

I did borrow another book, Moshi Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto in order to review it tomorrow, or possibly Tuesday. I probably won’t get to read it until tomorrow. I still have all those back issues of magazines which I subscribe to that I haven’t read yet. I’m going to try to get at least some of those later today. Right now I want to try some fiction writing of my own, which I haven’t done in a while. I haven’t abandoned the centaur idea, but have settled on a form with which to tell that story. But today I’m going to just try a writing exercise in order to get back into the groove of things.

I identify as the writer of this blog post.

Since when did the phrase “identify as” become synonymous with the label that follows it? (Don’t worry, I’m not going into a diatribe about identity politics, just some of the terminology used.) Why say “I identify as a man” when you could use the stronger “I am a man” despite what you were biologically born as? I’m not making any judgement call about anybody’s alternative lifestyle. I just don’t see the need for the extra words. They feel like a way to soften the blow to others, or even for the person using it—as they’re still nervous about announcing said identity to the world.

I only use the term when I refer to identifying something that I’m not. I’m asexual, but for many years I identified as heterosexual by mistake. (For those keep track for whatever reason, I still haven’t fully realized my romantic orientation, nor am I likely to in the near future.) I’m not saying that I believe that anybody who uses the term “identify as” is using it as a mistake. But in my case, if I use it for the mistake it feels like it weakens the statement about what I am if I use it in that case as well.

There are cases when the phrase is useful. I was just reading an article in The New Yorker about a female lawyer who fought for women’s rights, and about two-thirds of the way through the article mentioned that she “identified as a man.” That’s fine—it was intended to show the contrast between her fight for women’s rights and her biological sex with her identity. In that case, the phrase is almost clinical. I only take umbrage with the way that the phrase gets tossed around a bit too freely.

Don’t mind me. I’m just in a picky mood this morning. “Identify as” could be nothing more than a quirk of contemporary language such as “that’s a thing” or those of use who slip the word “like” into sentences where it doesn’t belong (I’m still working on it, I swear).

Sometimes

Sometimes I feel like I’m achieving nothing
Sometimes I look at my reflection and see endless mirrors
Sometimes I feel desperate for I know not what
Sometimes I get fed up but I don’t know the alternative
Sometimes I tell myself, “This is it!
“I’m going to change my life for the better!”
But I don’t know what’s better

Sometimes I sometimes

And I hold it against myself

Sometimes I’ll hold anything against myself
For no reason at all

[Delayed post] In town for “Metal Night.”

Portland, ME 5/12/17 4:43 PM

I’m in Portland on a Friday yet again to head to the weekly Goth/Industrial night at a nightclub in town. I skipped last week but I had to make this one out of curiosity. Once in a while they have a sort of theme night (as if the usual dark music wasn’t enough). Tonight is “Metal Night.” I find this to be a bizarre one. I spent the better part of a decade identifying as a metalhead—some longtime readers may remember that once upon a time I was a frequent concert-goer and would post concert and album reviews. In recent years, however, I have been transitioning from a metalhead to a Goth, or at least I’ve been embracing my Gothic side more. I haven’t quite made it to the point in which I feel comfortable applying the term to myself. Anyway, tonight feels like a sort of nostalgic bridge for me.

The other curious aspect of tonight’s theme is that the theme is happening in the first place. When you already put together an evening once a week dedicated to one type of music, why would you take one week to play something else? Granted, the promoter of Plague doesn’t promote it so much “Goth/industrial” as much as “dark alternative dance.” Still, it seems weird to cater to a crossover crowd. The night sounds fun, but wouldn’t it only appeal to a limited crowd?

Clearly I’m one of those people. I’m also taking advantage of the fact that I can come to Portland right after work in a band t-shirt and my work jeans instead of stopping at home to clean up, change my clothes and put on make-up. Plus, it’s a nice day and it will be nice to wander around downtown for a while. Aside from bars and restaurants, most places around here close after seven. Plague doesn’t start until nine. The art museum is free on Fridays between five and eight. maybe I’ll stop in there. of course, on the other nights that I get here after they close I’m more appropriately dressed for it.