Thursday, July 29, 2004

Room for rent?

Classes start for me in a few weeks.  August 16th and I'm back to law school.  With the impending return of scholastic rigors comes the search for lodgings somewhat more proximately related to campus.  The move itself would only cover twenty or so miles, but those miles are connected by some of the worst freeway commutes in the lower forty-eight.  Thus, to avoid spending time in the car, I'm looking into apartments in the Santa Clara area.

Personally I don't much care for moving.  I'm not a particularly proud man, I've lived at home since I got back from undergrad at Santa Cruz to save money.  I would stay home this year too, except my classes are scheduled such that I'd have to drive at bad hours.  Admittedly staying with the folks puts a cramp in certain forms of recreation, but for the twelve to fifteen thousand dollars it takes to live of my own, and fairly modestly at that, I get by.  Moving is a pain.  Even though I'd be leaving most my stuff at home anyway, it's still a hassle that I don't look forward to.

At any rate, my searching efforts have lacked a certain level of commitment.  Now with school looming, I'll have to engage the matter with more severity than absently browsing Craigslist.  But, if any of you know of an available place in Santa Clara, let me know...   

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The madness of Jane Stewart

My maternal grandmother has Alzheimer's disease, a degenerative mental condition for those of you living in a cave somewhere.   While my medical training is limited to episodes of ER, her deterioration seems quite rapid, which leads me to believe that some of those things we simply ascribed to the march of time were somewhat more menacing.

At its later stages, Alzheimers is a cruel inequity, stealing from its victims every defining intellectual article of personality until all you are left with is an empty vessel, infuriating in its approximation of someone you once knew.  While my grandmother's condition is not yet so grave, there is a noticable diminishment in her faculties.  She is less and less the person that she was, and it is increasingly clear that one day she'll just submerge into a depth from whence there is no return.  Depression, or so it seems to my untrained eye, has come on the wings of revelation, leaving only the possibility that it will vanish as does her ability to understand it.  She is the toughest old lady I've ever met, and for all that, there isn't a thing she can do.

At play in my mind are all the normal feelings you'd expect.  I have been dealing with the kind of guilt you feel when you haven't been there perhaps as much as you should.  To a certain extent, I think of her as dead already,  and mourn the passing of her personality, which I consider a far greater loss than the inevitable end of her body.  I feel bad for my mother too.  Her father died in late May, just a few months ago, and now her mother is on the way out too.  Mom has been forced to assume the burdens of final care, as the rest of her sibblings are unavailable for a variety of reasons.  She spends much of her time with Grandma until a more permanent solution can be found, and she is in charge of the various legal and financial issues death and disability incurr. 

For my own part, I have been especially reticent in visits since the diagnosis.  I know about the kind of person this makes me, but I find the process very disturbing.  In many ways, it would've been better for us if she had died "clean."  This is a very selfish way to think of things, and I cannot defend myself from any position but that what I say is the truth as I see it. 

Death is inevitable, but it comes and goes.  The people who are left behind move on, and from that distance achieve the ability to remember, always with some melancholy, but eventually with a comfortable peace.  Degeneration is worse, because it carries everyone else along with it until, at the end, all you are left with is relief, a feeling all the worse for the fact that you dare not express it but to yourself.  Even so, were that the extent of my apprehension, it would not be so bad.  From a certain point of view, there is a kind of nobility in wanting to preserve for yourself the person you used to know.  Selfish, perhaps, but gently, singularly, humane.  Unfortunately, my character is yet more defective.      

I have always valued intelligence.  It may be the case that I have put too much emphasis on it, especially as a way to measure and consider people, but I have always considered it a more equitable meter than physical appearence, athletic prowess, or fiduciary resources.  More than that though, I value it as what I like most about myself.  In my grandmothers current condition is a spectre of an unspeakable fate.  One that, perhaps from a karmic standpoint I may someday rightfully deserve, but even so the possibility is intensely disturbing.  I do not exaggerate when I say I would rather be dead than suffer the indignity of mental disintegration.  To see it so close to home, and to witness the living ghost that was once my grandmother is almost too much.

I guess that makes me a pretty rotten person, but it's all I've got to go on.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Moving on up

Well, I have fortunately escaped the clutches of the Monkey King.  He is a crafty foe though, so I wouldn't be surprised if I have to edit another MK episode.  God I hope not.  At any rate, my current assignment is somewhat more enjoyable, as I am now working on a Japanese show called Gokusen.

Gokusen is about a school teacher who comes from a Yakuza family.  She uses the lessons from her underworld upbringing to scare her trouble students into behaving.  On some level it's pretty cheesy, just the standard "teacher overcomes obsticales, obtains trust of emotionally scarred and difficult students," but it offers enough comedic value to make it memorable.  The show is often compared to an earlier program, Great Teacher Onizuka, which featured an ex-motorcycle gangster who gets a job at a local high school and uses unconventional methods to solve problems.  Admittedly Gokusen is similar, but in my opinion it's superior to GTO.

Gokusen's musical score is an unqualified triumph, and the lighthearted tunes (J-pop free!) frame scenes perfectly.  Her struggle to keep her mob connections secret, and the ensuing complications that arise, particularly in her romantic pursuit of a police detective, are another element that pushes it past GTO.  For experienced Dorama viewers, Gokusen is a satisfying diversion.  If nothing really new, it is at least all the old things that got you into it in the first place.  For those new to Japanese dramas, Gokusen is an accessable beginning.  It's comedy relies on the bumblings of misfit students, mistaken identities, and a troubled romance.  It is available for download on animesuki, or you can wait for Japan-TV to release its version.  Either way, I recommend the show.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Piston Honda

I'm scared of anyone who can give me a TKO from Tokyo.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Hollywood likes to recycle old movies.  It happens all the time, with varying degrees of obfuscation.  Sometimes they simply remake older films.  Other times they just borrow elements, characters, or titles.  This isn't all bad, and in fact I've decided to mention a few movies I'd like to see remade.

The man who shot Liberty Valance:  This film is an old John Wayne / Jimmy Stewart film.  The modern version would be perhaps even more powerful because of the immense power modern media formats have in their ability to shape people's opinions.  The remake would take place in Afghanistan, which in its current state is not completely unlike the old west.

Seven Days in May:  This cautionary tale, recast in the light of the War on Terror and the threat it poses to civil rights, would be even more chilling today than when it was first made.  Instead of a military coup in the face of a Soviet threat, we could see a systematic plan to widen the government's umbrella of legal, semi-legal, and blatantly illegal counter-terrorism responses.  The thing that made the original film so memorably, and what would be required in a remake, is the fact that everyone was a "good guy," at least from some point of view.  General Scott is not an evil man.  Indeed, he undertakes his plan to displace the legitimate government because he is dedicated to protecting America.  He simply fails to understand that his methods would ultimately prove destructive to the democracy.

A modern Seven Days in May would have to try and avoid the proselytizing characteristic of recent political expression and instead focus on the temptations of power, the balance of individual rights and communal interests, and the inherent tension these place on a representative democracy.  If done right, it would be a phenomenal film.

Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace:  Okay.  This movie is neither old nor particularly good, which is in fact the reason it's on my remake list.  Most remakes are undertaken in the hopes of recreating the success of the first movie.  This film would be remade to correct the errors and to save Star Wars from the malignant blight that is George Lucas.

I personally have never been so disappointed by a movie as The Phantom Menace.  Now, I'm certainly not saying it's the worst movie ever, just the one that let me down the most.  Of the first Star Wars trilogy, only Return of the Jedi was originally released in my lifetime.  I looked on the new series with a kind of expectation I rarely feel for a simple film.  I'm not a Star Wars fanatic by any sense of the imagination, but I was nevertheless caught up in Star Wars mania in 1999.   

The Phantom Edit, seen around on the Internet, would not be a bad start for a remake.  From there, the extra time could be put to a number of uses, possibly including more shots of Jedi killing stuff with cool lightsabers.

The Breakfast Club:  The Eighties classic advanced two decades would be like a Big Chill that didn't suck.  Today fatalism has replaced angst, and the change would make for an interesting contrast with the original movie.  An older brat pack, some with successes and some with failures, reunited under some contrivance, back for one last movie.  The burdens of middle age, universal though they are, remain unique to each generation.  For those who never really thought they'd reach it, reality lands like a ton of bricks.  If the writing can stay trite-free, The Dinner Society would be a good viewing.

Well, that's four.  There are plenty more, I'm sure, but for some reason I feel like watching a movie...  

Saturday, July 17, 2004


Recently I purchased the DVD set of a Japanese drama show on ebay.  I knew the DVDs would come without English subtitles, but I bought them anyway.  First of all, I figure that we (Japan-TV) might get around to subtitling it, if I can convince a team to take it on.  But more than that, I had previously seen the first few episodes with English subs, and the rest of the series was never similarly released.  I really wanted to know how the thing ended, so I bought the DVDs.
I knew going into it that I wouldn't be able to understand the dialoge, but I assumed that, armed with a basic understanding of the plot, I'd be able to gleam enough from tone, facial expressions, and body language to follow around.  I haven't finished the show yet, but things have been working out well enough, considering the circumstances.  There have been a few developments that I haven't been 100% clear on, but all-in-all I feel pretty good about the experience.  I even discovered that I understood more Japanese than I thought I did.
Many people would find watching a show in a language they didn't understand a frustrating experience, but I'm pretty used to it.  When I was younger I used to watch Chinese shows with relatives, and they didn't have English subtitles and I don't understand Mandarin or Cantonese.  I actually had a pretty good time.  You can gleam a lot, even without understanding the words, and with some imagination you can even work out some kind of plot.
Anyway, if anyone gets a chance to check out Tokyo Love Story, preferably in a language they can understand, I recommend it.   

Friday, July 16, 2004

The Sword of Damocles

Classes begin in one month from today.  I feel a little like an inmate awaiting his execution; the only governor I can seek pardon from is Mr. Lottery Ticket.  That's a little dramatic, I suppose, but between hanging out and playing computer games or studying I know which one I'd choose.
During my first year of law school I attended the part time division.  I've transfered to full time, but I'll have to take night classes with the other part time students to catch up.  I was staying in Fremont, which is about twenty minutes (before traffic) from Santa Clara.  That worked out pretty well, and I only had to make one trip a day.  Now that I have to take day and night classes, I'm thinking about moving closer to campus.
I've already got all my loans worked out; almost $45,000 this year.  $18,000 is coming from the federal government, and the rest from private lenders.  I'm actually a little distrubed at just how much money companies are willing to lend someone like me, a person with absolutely no assets, collateral, or prospect of obtaining either for the next several years.  It doesn't seem, to me anyway, the best way to run a lending company.
At any rate, school is fast approaching.  There is nothing I can do about that, so I firmly resolve to make the most of my remaining free time by doing as little as absolutely possible.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

What the hell is his problem with Hansen's Disease

Usernames are an interesting sort of animal.  While John_Smith1077 may not mean that much, others are self-adopted nicknames.  Many people pick names that highlight a certain piece of their personality, reference important places or events, or illustrate their brand of humor.  Because of the anonymity the Internet affords, Usernames are the equivalent of electronic first impressions.  Here, enabled by our dissociative medium, people can, for better or worse, indulge in those pieces of themselves too fragile to survive the rigors of real life.   

Some of you may have been wondering how I came about with a name like LeperColony, and for the rest of you who didn't care one way or the other, I'm going to talk about it anyway.  I actually have the most sincere respect for people grappling with serious afflictions like Hansen's Disease.  I am, I will admit, a little scared of such people.  Common courtesy prevents such expression, and I have freely associated with suffering individuals of varying ailments, but I remain only human.  Of course, it isn't the irrational fear of being infected by such people; rather, it's the kind of morbid forsight, enhanced as it is by an advanced immagination, of yourself in the same state.  In any case, it isn't true that I picked the name out of some tastelss jab at Lepers. 
When I was younger, and even still up to today when the time can be found, my Uncle Philip used to run Robotech games for my brother and I.  We were perpetual losers too, always fouling up the mission objectives and what not, so we were dubbed the Leper Colony.  The name comes from an old movie, 12 O'Clock High, a World War II flick with Gregory Peck about a bomber wing based out of England.  A motely collection of losers and underachievers all assigned to the bomber Leper Colony.   From such a position, despised and neglected, relegated to the worst duties and the most dangerous assignments, it would be easy to just chuck it all and give up.  But when the downtrodden do managed to rise above and succeed, even when those successes are otherwise meaningless or pyrrhic, there is a very real triumph. 
Now, I am a fairly rational person.  I value reason above most other qualities, and I try my best to live my life along such lines.  I don't believe in fighting losing battles, and I'm far more likely to give up and try another way than press on in the face of impossible odds.  Even so, there is a unique gallantry in the struggle against the inevitable, and I would like to think that I have it in me to fight even if, and indeed especially if, there's nothing left to do.
Hence, LeperColony. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

These are a few of my favorite things

Spectator Sport: Football (not Soccer)
Beverage: Henry Weinhard's Root Beer
Month: October
Pet: Fish
Activity: Nothing
Star Trek Movie: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Ice Cream Flavor: Vanilla
Comic Book Hero: Spider-Man
First Person Shooter: Counterstrike
Leonard Nimoy Song: The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins

Sunday, July 11, 2004

I don't care if I never get back

Baseball. It is difficult to imagine a less entertaining diversion than watching America's pastime. Baseball is a nineteenth century sport, and it shows. Actual play represents only the slimmest fraction of the time necessary to participate as a spectator. And, even when something is happening, it is scarcely more interesting than a lecture on the finer points of Victorian waffle irons. The prospect of a rain cancellation, however slim, is all that makes attending a baseball game preferable to three sharp blows to the head.

In popular culture baseball occupies an inappropriately esteemed position, but this is largely due to the traditional support the sport enjoys. Also helpful, from a modern prospective, is the fact that baseball is free of the violence and, to a large extent, scandle that characterizes Football and Basketball. Nevertheless, even the magic of Hollywood is able to do only so much. Of all the movies made about Baseball, none save two are good, and only three are worth watching. Eight Men Out and The Natural are both respectable films, and Major League is entertaining. For those of you who would like to mention Field of Dreams, I think it's clear that it doesn't count. Field of Dreams is not a Baseball movie, but rather a story about one guy's issues with his jackass father. Now, nobody in their right mind would pay money to see such a film, so they threw in some mystical baseball crap to keep you in the seat, and, with James Earl Jones' help, it works. But still isn't a Baseball film.

Baseball will never go away, not completely, but I had my hopes that the sport would be dealt a fatal blow in the mid to late ninties. Attendence was down, as America came to terms with the fact that Baseball sucks. Then the stupid Home Run races started. If it weren't for Mark McGuiwre and Sammy Sosa, Baseball would be crawling by on its last legs, TV would be better, and we would all be happier. Thanks a lot guys.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Another lazy Sunday... er, Thursday

Rare is the day that I stir before noon. Now, I don't really sleep a lot, but I don't go to bed until four or five in the morning, so noon is pretty reasonable from that standpoint (if from no other). No school and no work make for some pretty free days, and I am enjoying my summer vacation by trying to do as little as possible. I don't have very much money to play around with, which is unfortunate, but I'd rather sit around and take advantage of my break than work. Soon enough I'll be back at Santa Clara, and the classloads that come with it.

As a result of my lazy routine, one day pretty much resembles any other. This is one reason that I do not use my blog as a means of daily reporting. Occasionally I'll talk about something I did on a given day, but had I felt obligated to maintain the practice more stringently, most posts would be short and plain. Not that I'm complaining about being bored. Nothing is one of my favorite activities, and I know I'll have to part with it soon enough.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


I got to hang out with one of my friends who I otherwise rarely see. He is the one in the JET program, teaching English in Japan. A mutual friend is getting married, so he flew back for the wedding. I haven't seen him since he left for Japan, and even before then we hadn't spent much time together. Back in high school we used to be closer, but four years of college left their mark.

My friend is a man of incredible potential. He has an astonishing intellect, but what I have always regarded most highly is his enthusiasm. Now, I find enthusiasm a troubling thing. I do not like to just "dive in." I am a reasoned man, cautious to a certain degree perhaps, but I just like to proceed secure in the knowledge that I have seen as many of the angles as I can. His is a deep, abiding interest, an ardor that drives him to excel and eventually becomes all consuming. I admire his ability to devote himself to a certain subject or field of study, even as I find the singlemindedness that results disturbing and deleterious.

He has taken the opportunity JET provided him, and embraced the foriegn completely. He speaks Japanese with, what to my ears, is astonishing ease. If perhaps he lacks the polish of a native speaker, he is certainly approaching fluency. In some ways this, and not high school or college, will prove his defining experience, and it is a chance I can only consider abstractly.

Yesterday we went out to dinner with the rest of his family. Given that he has only ten days here, his time is leveraged pretty much completely, so it was good to get to hang out for a while. Of all the people I know from high school, he has changed the least, and there is some comfort in that. We picked up very easily, right where we had left off. We were always fast friends, mutual interests and dislikes worked to form a broad if, in some ways, comparatively shallow bond. His arrival simply underscores the general feeling of discontent I've been experiencing as a result of the disturbing self-admission that my old friendships are, if not dead, substantially different than I remember them. Still, I am encouraged by the ease with which we fell into old routines, and hopefully the future will allow for a renewal of old relationships.

The wedding is this Saturday, after which he'll be going back to Japan. Happy trails.

Banzai, Captain Japan!

I GM for a group of players in San Leandro on the weekends. Though we just started picking up again, we've been doing it for about a year now and I've come to know them more and more as time goes by. I met the group through one of my college roommates, Big Milin. Now we're all relatively friendly, and I go over to particpate in activities aside from just gaming, like poker or the occasional social Bar-B-Q. Recently, I've learned that one of the players is also a minor league professional wrestler.

Now, I will be honest in admitting that I look down on pro-wrestling as insipid. Not because it's fake, but just because it's stupid. When I was in fourth grade I used to like it, rooting for Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior, but that was a long time ago. Now I just think it's dumb, and were it not for the South (a hotbead of idiocy, both modern and historic, in its own right) I'd like to think it'd vanish completely. Even so, it is neat to learn someone you know participates in such an outlandish "sport," and the customs of friendly association compel me to at least mention him.

So, if you are a wrestling fan and you live in the California Bay Area, try and catch Hopsing Lee in his bid to become Shogun of the South Bay.

Go Captain Japan!


Sunday, July 04, 2004

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

Let me begin with a broad disclaimer. I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist party. I am not a whacko, tripped out, bleeding heart liberal, but neither do I ascribe to the presumptious arrogance of the neo-conservative. I am, or at least I strive to be, measured and deliberate in my political positions. When reached, they are stances of conscious tempered, as indeed responsible politics must be, by the principles of national interest. I am firm, but not obstinate. When it became a virtue to remain forever unchanging in one's opinion I do not know, but it is a development I greet with little enthusiasm. Compromise is a talent of the highest order, American's great gift according to Shelby Foote, and yet it has become so maligned and ridiculed as weakness or indecision. Only those who are perfect have no need of the concession, and they are not found in the halls of government.

My views on the War on Terror and the war in Iraq are complicated, and I'll try and cover them in a future post. Suffice it to say that I follow both with interest, as whatever one may feel about the need to have waged such conflicts, it should be manifestly obvious that we are left with no choice but to win. They are the struggle of our time, whether or not they should have been.

There is a third challenge that is inseperably linked to the other two, especially the War on Terror. It is a fight to retain the values for which we believe place us in the position to act in the first place. We cannot secure liberty for the Iraqis if we lose it here in America. For that reason, I generally oppose the way the Bush administration has handled the civil rights of various detainees. My critism is not limited to US citizens, as nothing in the Constitution seems to limit its application along such lines. Conservatives, "stict constructionalists" to a man, seem to forget that Constitutional rights are not grants from the government, but restrictions upon it. The government does not give us the right to a speedy and public trial, we refuse to grant the government the power to hold otherwise.

Even so, I do recognize that the Constitution is not the totality of US law, and additionally, there are substantial policy reasons for treating non-citizens differently. That does not mean they deserve no rights at all, and it does not justify violating our highest principles. When it comes to US citizens, I think the situation is even more clear cut. To swoop someone up in an airport, an American on American soil, to hold this person without charge, without legal advice, without the presumption of innocence and the security of a public trial is an inexcusable breach of our most basic rights. This is not about what is done to one person, as there is a limit to the importance of a single man. Rather, it is an affront to our laws, our principles, and our rights as free men and women.

Winston Churchill once said: "The power of the executive to cast a man in prison without formulating any charge known to the law and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government, whether Nazi or Communist." Justice and secrecy are mutually exclusive, and wherever one is supreme the other must surely fall into abeyence. That both are needed is undeniable, but this inbalance is nothing new. Sixty years ago we faced this dilemma and failed ourselves, allowing our fellow citizens to become prisoners in their own country.

The challenge of today is even more critical because those who face oppression are far more vulnerable. Today we have progressed far enough as a nation that a move along racial or religious lines, like that of the Japanese-American internment, would be politically untenable. However, this leaves the individual as the target of the government's power. One by one people will be selected, sometimes correctly and sometimes erroneously, but when held in secrecy, beyond the reach of the courts and in controvention of the Constitution, always illegally. These people, insignificant in themselves, will not summon the same support as a race, and so the transgression may simply pass unchallenged. The result is a principle incompatible with our system of government, and it is for that reason the confinement of Americans, held without charge, must be challenged.

Jose Padilla may well be guilty. In which case, he deserves to suffer under the most severe punishments our laws and our conscious may freely assign. But in our system, punishment can proceed only after a speedy and public trial, before a jury of his peers, and with a presumption of innocence. To turn from this responsibility, from the plight of a fellow citizen and that of our Republic, is a failure of epic, and individual, tragedy.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Revenge of the Monkey King

Damnit! I've just recieved episode twenty to edit. I hate this stupid show so much.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Here comes the Spider-Man

I saw Spider-Man 2 today. I wasn't planning on seeing it yet, but the opportunity came up so I went. And yes, before anyone feels the need to point it out, I'm aware of the probability that ten million other blogs used the same title. It may not be very original, but it works.

Overall the movie was alright. It's long, almost two and a half hours, and it feels it. I've heard people say they prefer it to the original, and there is something to be said about that, but I thought the first one was only so-so anyway. Spider-Man 2 is more humorous, and once again JJ Jameson steals every scene he's in. The romantic triangle thing doesn't really work and was poorly developed, but still fun to watch. The effects were good, and the fights satisfying enough. The directing was a bit too cutesy for my taste, the intentional use of cinematic cliches, like the Jesus scene, detracted from the slightly more subtle wit found in other parts. Also, no matter how cold the East River may be, I don't think it is capable of stopping a fusion reaction. Even so, it is definetly a movie worth seeing, and I'd recommend it.

As I've already said, I wasn't the biggest fan of the first movie. I thought it was alright, it entertained me for a while, but I think it fell short. If I had made the movie, I would have included Gwen Stacy instead of Mary Jane Watson. This wouldn't be done out of any pedantic need for strict accuracy, as I haven't even read a Spider-Man comic in years it is a standard I would be incapable of adhering to anyhow. Rather, I would have used Gwen so that she could have died. My movie would have been basically the same as the one that was made, but it would have diverged sharply at the bridge fight. The Green Goblin would have killed Gwen, then Spider-Man would have killed him out of rage, only to learn the Goblin's true identity. This way you have a scarred, bitter Spider-Man whose rejection of Mary Jane's advances (in the ensuing sequel) have a much stronger base. That leaves the third movie to explore the development of their romance.

Peter's relationship with Harry Osborne would be more sophisticated too, because in the extant storyline, Spider-Man is innocent. He was just defending himself from the crazy Goblin, and hides the truth from Harry out of a sense of duty to his friend and his friend's father. Under my story, he'd have a real reason to keep the truth hidden, and that's the fact that Spider-Man really did kill his father. Now, to be sure, this makes for a darker Spider-Man, but that isn't really a bad thing. What's more, it's all the same themes that appear in the real movies, just with a richer twist.