Saturday, December 15, 2007

Batmobile State University

As some of you may know, I'm looking at graduate schools to apply to, though it won't be until the fall of 2009. Right now, it's looking like U of Wisconsin or one of the UCs. My grandmother's worried about me going to California, what with everyone there being hippies, so I found an alternative. I'm looking at a BA of Transhumanist Philosophy with minors in Ninjutsu and Socks.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Visiting the family

Last Sunday I headed to Yokohama to spend the day with Sayaka in her natural habitat - that of outer Yokohama. I got to see her house and meet her dog, an ancient little Pekingese named Dairi, or "Big Power." As a gift, I used a recipe sent to my by my aunt Kathy for buckeyes. Basically, I've discovered the recipe for reese's peanut butter cups, or an approximation anyway. It took rather longer than I'd hoped to make them, but I was able to make about 4 dozen sizable peanut butter balls and dip them in chocolate. They weren't salty, but I didn't have Chef's recipe on hand.

The Kosuges loved them, and as a thank you, her mom gave me the tupperware back with a couple apples, a pack of dried udon noodles and a package of dried squid. I think that one's for my folks. Sayaka's house is typically Japanese - more vertical than horizontal. It's footprint is probably the same as my apartment, or less, maybe 50 square meters, but it's three stories. And immaculately kept. Sayaka must think I live in a pigsty when she comes to my place.

Her sister and brother-in-law live about a block and a half away, so we wandered over there and partook in some Wii Sports. I got my butt kicked by her in-law, Toshi, at tennis, only to narrowly beat Sayaka at both tennis and bowling. I'll have to let her win next time, I guess.

In the evening, her folks took us all out for yakiniku, at a great restaurant. They're big fans of the raw beef liver. Me? Not so much.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

J's Book Report: "First into Nagasaki"

I just finished a really good book loaned to me by my roommate. It's called "First Into Nagasaki," by George Weller. Basically, it's a bunch of news reports written by Weller, who was, literally, the first free Westerner to enter Nagasaki after the 2nd atomic bomb was dropped. The thing about these reports is that they were never published - General MacArthur had them all censored before they left Japan. Weller's son discovered them, half molding, in a box of his father's documents a few years ago.

I was expecting more of a book documenting the effects of the bomb on the city and its inhabitants. What I ended up with were essentially news reports - short stories and essays about the bomb, as well as a ton of statements from surviving POWs - American, British and Australian. The most disturbing part was reading the accounts of the 'hell ships.' These were ships used by the Japanese to transport Allied POWs, often unmarked by Red Cross or any other signifier, so some of them were attacked by Allied aircraft and sunk. The account discusses the depravities undertaken by the POWs, who were stuffed into the holds in such numbers that many asphyxiated or went insane.

One of the more interesting accounts was by a group of American prisoners who were directly beneath the blast, yet managed to survive by hiding in a shallow trench when the plane flew overhead. You have to wonder what people would've said had they known that 'the Bomb' had been dropped on their own countrymen.

Another interesting idea that can be gleaned from the book is the capacity for barbarism in the human soul. A lot of the prisoners were quoted as saying the Americans should drop more bombs just to clean up these 'animals,' as the Japanese were called. A rather understandable sentiment from someone who survived the Bataan death march and 2 1/2 years as slave labor in a deathtrap coal mine. But what strikes me is seeing the Japanese of today, and thinking how unlike the people I've met the Japanese of sixty years ago seem. It just goes to show that you, I or any other person is capable of the things done by the Japanese during WWII. "There, but for the grace of God, go I," and all that. It's only the rule of law and the mores of our society that prevent this, somehting that should be kept in mind when people try to tell you, 'waterboarding isn't torture.' It sure as hell is. The American POWs underwent it, as did they stress positions and being placed in rooms with vast temperature swings. They also suffered a million other atrocities, depths we have yet to plumb - but if a stand isn't taken here, I don't think it will take long for Americans' sense of decency to break down.

The book does an amazing job of recounting the Japanese response, essentially unchanged from now - "Oh, pity us poor Japanese, upon who was visited this most horrific of atrocities for no reason, none at all. What, war? I didn't see any war around here, did you?" Anyways, that's about all I'm going to rant about it. It's well worth your while to read about the semi-forgotten (at least in the American mind) other half of WWII.

(edited for title)