Friday, October 14, 2005

The first rule of fight club is... pad up the kids real good like and let 'em whack away at each other.

Actually, these are some pics from the Daido Juku tournament that Shoda sensei took me to on last Monday. Kids fights, Kyokushin rules fights and Daido Juku rules fights.

Surprisingly, the most brutal fights weren't the MMA fights. They were the Kyokushin fights. With no takedowns and no headshots, it turns into rock'em sock'em robots with them just banging away as hard as they can to the legs and body. Couple guys were so banged up they couldn't walk after. One guy's ankle swoll up the size of a grapefruit.

Shoda keeps asking me if I want to try a shiai, and I told him maybe next year. Course that means training with some intensity and dropping about 15kg or so... What have I gotten myself into?

Addendum to night of the long march from Mitoma to Fukuma

One thing that I didn't mention in the earlier post about that earlier adventure was, at one point, I ended up walking about a hundred meters or so, and gaining, on a young Japanese lady who was walking the streets by herself, presumably headed home.

She happened to see me, did a double take at the bald gaijin following her down the street, stopped - walked across the street - and stood there watching me till I passed her by.

A gamut of brief reactions ran past - amusement mainly. Honestly, that's what any girl in any country should absolutely do if she feels uncomfortable, late at night, walking by herself, some stranger rapidly closing the distance from behind. Course I couldn't help thinking "But I'm so cuddley and non-dangerous... that was uneccessary." Which is something the young lady obviously could not know.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with Malik - at least I hope to god it was Malik, or after a few beers I accosted some strange black man and began theorizing with him - about how being a gaijin in Japan is not totally unlike being a black man in America.

There are a few similarities... women do take notice of you and consider you a bit more of a threat - I'll lay decent odds the young lady from last night might not have had as notable a reaction if I weren't a gaijin - occasionally out of the corner of my eye I'll catch a purse shift slightly away from me... I do feel the eyes on me when I go into a store. Occasionally innocuous curiousity, occasionally a bit more of a "bet he steals something" vibe. The once in a while refusal of some Japanese bars and nightclubs to deny entrance to gaijin when we've had the audacity to roam outside of our "designated" stomping grounds.

Mostly, it's amusing. To me, leastways. The funniest bit that Malik shared with me was he found that in talking to some other JETs of the caucasian variety, their sheer outrage at being considered a 2nd class citizen or being treated different because of the color of their skin... and the most humorous part, or the saddest, was these same people's sheer lack of observation or recognition of how these same little dramas play out in America with African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities...

It's good to be a member of the privileged class.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat...

Last Sunday I was invited out to Suisan High School, which is a fishing/tech/aquatic/trade school, by the Jr High Vice Principal to take part in a rowing competition. It was me, the Vice Principal, some members of the PTA and a bunch of students against the city hall team and the Suisan PTA team.

One could say we came in dead fucking last, but I prefer to think that we simply won the next race, in advance of the other teams fielding crews...

Protecting and Serving

JM, doing what he does:

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Cultural Values

Bit of strangeness, just to remind me that I'm living in a different culture.

So, the ichi-nensei [7th graders] got back an exam this week. An exam that a lot of them didn't do very well on. I mean, some of them just got hammered on it. So, anyways, after the teacher goes over and reviews the exam answers and such, he has them come up to him for any problems they had on the test.

Now, in the states, just like here, you've got the kids who come who had things marked wrong that were actually right, or those trying to get a little wiggle room to improve their grades.

But in every class, multiple students come up to front to point out things they had gotten wrong that had been marked right.

These kids, of their own volition and integrity [or subject to years of effective brainwashing, if you want to be cynical about it] came up to volunteer to have their grades reduced.

You know, in high school, I was a bit of an academic geek, but I don't think I would've done that. Even the goody-good kids I knew wouldn't have. Just goes to show the cultural bias in the states of 'getting ahead no matter the cost'.

And how some whole other nations don't actually subscribe to that kinda thing.

Wow... something might be more important than the bottom line.

How Unamerican of them.

"...hallucinogenic experiences are the basis for all modern-day religions." Well, no duh.

Graham Hancock channeling a bit of Terrence Mckenna, seems like...

Drugs, art and the aliens who lit our way to civilisation via The Scotsman:
...A reporter by trade, Hancock was born in Edinburgh before moving to India in his childhood. He returned to attend school and university in Durham, from where he graduated in 1973 with a degree in sociology. He went on to pursue a career in journalism, writing for The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent and The Guardian.

But in the 1980s he gave up newspaper reporting to pursue his own passion - the lost civilisation of man. In the past 20 years, he's written several books including the best-selling Sign and Seal on the Ark of the Covenant - as well as filming documentaries about his research.

"Three years ago I decided to go back to the subject which fascinated me at university," he says. "I was interested in human origins, in what makes us different from the apes. I found that it wasn't the use of tools, as many people believe, but abstract thought and the ability to manipulate symbols." The answer was art. Cave paintings and writings which depicted thoughts and visions, none of which have ever been achieved by other species. In fact, even our human ancestors had no artistic capability. Or not until 40,000 years ago, at least.

"Previously, we were very uncreative and boring. We used the same tools continually without modifying them. Then, suddenly, a light switched on in our brain. Fossils from 40,000 years ago show that we began to explore spirituality, looked for signs of life after death and innovated specialised tools. And we began to paint. In France, Italy and South Africa and all over the world, they've discovered incredibly accomplished paintings, but no explanation for this burst of development."

This has been termed the "greatest riddle in archaeology", and many academics have devoted their career to its study. The reason behind the sudden transformation, the majority have concluded, is hallucinogenic plants. Magic mushrooms would be a relevant example, but all over the world, man stumbled across drugs which opened the possibility for spiritual, creative thought.

Professor David Lewis-Williams, of South Africa's Witwatersrand University, believes that is the end of the story. These visions - and therefore the art they produced - were universal because all of mankind has the same neurology. Our brains are wired in the same way, so when we take these drugs, our bodies have the same response. Indeed, at the University of New Mexico, researchers have found that volunteers given hallucinogenic drugs drew the same kinds of paintings as those found in the ancient caves. This, coupled with a wealth of other evidence, supports Lewis-Williams' theory that drugs are the answer.

For most people that explanation would suffice, but not for Hancock. He could not accept that the beginnings of human spirituality came down to brain chemistry. For him, there had to be more to it, and he decided to investigate, hence the first-hand research trip.

What he has found - and what forms the basis of his new hefty tome - is a theory that to many will sound absurd. He believes that when shamans and drug users experience these hallucinations, they are actually tapping into a parallel universe. The visions - be they of fairies, elves or aliens - are real, they exist all the time, and they want to communicate with us.

"Think of it as though the brain is like a TV receiver. In order to cope with everyday life, we have to tune into "Channel Normal" for the majority of the time. But if we retune our brains with these drugs, or alter our state of consciousness through rhythmic dancing and drums, we can see images of the parallel dimensions."

Hancock does not prescribe for a second to the idea that when people experience "alien abductions", they are seeing foreign creatures that may whisk them to another planet. What he does believe is that the spirits dwell in this other dimension, and if we let them, they will continue the teaching that they gave to our ancestors.

"I believe these hallucinogenic experiences are the basis for all modern-day religions. If you think about it, why would we ever have cause to imagine a spirit world? Our uncreative ancestors didn't, but then they found these drugs and saw for themselves the spirit world, and realised there was more to life. I think religion resulted from the need to explain these supernatural encounters."

A sceptic would maintain that, outwith the experience of those on drugs or in a trance, there is no evidence to support Hancock's theory. And many could take offence to his assertion that when Mohammed, Jesus Christ and St Paul thought they were experiencing God, they were, in fact, just accessing the parallel world. Part of the problem with accepting this higher plane comes in locating its origin. If these spirits are the "ancient teachers of mankind", as he says, where did they come from? In this instance, as with every other, Hancock points to science. Prepare for the most astonishing claim yet. "The secret could be in our DNA," he says. "When Francis Crick, the discoverer of DNA, died, it was revealed that his first vision of the helix module occurred while he was on LSD. Although he was an atheist, he then published a book which subscribed to the theory of intelligent design, that our universe was not simply the result of a series of chemical accidents.

"In brief, what he said was that after the Big Bang, life did not evolve first on Earth. At the far side of the universe, another civilisation developed, a highly advanced civilisation who surpassed the stage we have currently reached. He asserted that in some way their world became threatened - global warming, or some such catastrophic event - and so they devised a way to pass on their existence. They genetically-modified their DNA and sent it out from their planet on bacteria, with the hope that it would collide with another planet. It did, and that's why we're here." What Hancock goes onto explain is that the DNA was encoded with messages from that other civilisation.

They programmed the molecules so that when we reached a certain level of intelligence, we would be able to access their information, and they could therefore "teach" us about ourselves, and how to progress...

"You bargained your freedom for the comfort of discipline and superiority. You chose to accept that group's will and the big lie"

Acquiescence and Conformity, via

In 1967, a middle school history teacher found himself being asked the following kinds of questions by his students in regards to the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime during World War II.

How could the German populace claim ignorance of the slaughter of the Jewish people?

How could the townspeople, railroad conductors, teachers, doctors, etc., claim they knew nothing about concentration camps and human carnage?

How can people who were neighbors and maybe even friends of the Jewish citizens say they weren't there when it happened?

His answer was to try a social experiment with his students, unbeknownst to either the students or their parents. I remember it well, since it was the basis for an after-school TV movie that aired in the 70's. The teacher was Ron Jones. His experiment became known as "The Wave."

...He decided to use the same tactics in class that the Nazi's had applied to their recruitment of German youths. He fed their desire for social acceptance and equality with approaches of discipline, community, purpose, and pride.

The first phase was to provide a common unifying dictum, which was "discipline." By identifying "discipline" as a path to a goal, such as an athlete winning an event, a musician writing a song, or an architect designing a building; he instilled a willingness to participate in class exercises demonstrating that goal. Most of these exercises involved actions like "sitting up straight," "eyes forward," and "hands flat of the table." Though these activities required a discipline of sorts, their real goal was "conformity."

...At this point, Ron began to question why his students where taking his instructions without question. He was equally aware that he was becoming part of the experiment. His students were enjoying his instructions, but he found himself enjoying his new-found power over them.

...He decided to take his experiment to the next phase, "action." He presented group membership cards to those of his class that wished to continue this community. Not a single student declined. A subset of those cards were marked "special." Those students were to report other members that were not obeying community rules.

...The results were undeniable. His students were accepting all his lectures with comfort, homework assignments were being completed beyond his expectations, and their academic accomplishments were improving.

"What else where they prepared do?" he asked himself.

As a group assignment, he instructed his students to find other members. This was an assignment the class accomplished with great fervor. The results of his experiment were growing. Though he initially only appointed a handful of "special" members to report rule breaking, he now found dozens of students were reporting other group members for such actions as "failing to salute another group member."

The most noteworthy result of this stage of his experiment were the reactions of his gifted students. These were the ones that were used to the accolades of individual accomplishments. They were now subjugated by the group purpose. Instead of the questioning and leadership they previously showed, they had become quiet and withdrawn. They followed the curriculum, but where not active participants. In the common view, they had begun to exhibit signs of having learning disabilities. I find this a valuable insight with today's regimented education model.

...He proceeded to his next phase, "pride." His class had more than doubled. He now told his students that "The Third Wave" was not just a simple organization created at this school, but a nationwide group, whose purpose was to initiate political change in our country. The group had clearly shown them what can be accomplished by discipline, community, and action. With this action, he had now given them a purpose. Though it had been a gamble, it paid off more than he expected. Not only did his students believe this larger organization existed, many searched and found examples of their organization's mottoes or titles in other publications, and viewed them as hidden messages from this larger organization. There was pride in being a member of "The Third Wave."

The crescendo of the wave was at its peak, and Ron knew it was time bring the experiment to a close. He informed his students that the organization was to have a meeting in the school auditorium, and the national leader of "The Third Wave" would speak. On the day of the event, the auditorium was filled. The students anxiously awaited their leader. Ron led the group through the group's motto, which the group repeated in a loud chorus. "STRENGTH THROUGH DISCIPLINE!" As time passed, no "leader" appeared. The students slowly began to speak amongst themselves. "Where was their leader?"

Ron Jones approached the podium and slowly, and with intense conviction, began to speak.

"Listen closely, I have something important to tell you."

..."You thought that you were the elect. That you were better than those outside this room. You bargained your freedom for the comfort of discipline and superiority. You chose to accept that group's will and the big lie over your own conviction. Oh, you think to yourself that you were just going along for the fun. That you could extricate yourself at any moment. But where were you heading? How far would you have gone? Let me show you your future."

At this point, Ron Jones turned on a projector, and Hitler's Nuremberg Rally burst onto the auditorium screen.

'They Hate Us Because of Our Freedom'

Via Strike the Root:
Whenever I hear “they hate us because of our freedom” or "because they hate our way of life" or some other such drivel, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. If real people didn’t suffer the consequences of it, such ignorance would be amusing. But another annoying thing about statements like these is that they perpetuate the myth that we live in a land of freedom. The sad fact is, we are not free, and haven't been for a long, long time.

...I know there are some who will say, “Wait a minute, fella. You’re going too far. The U.S. of A. is still a free country.” O.K., then. If you’re free, you should have no trouble doing something that people have done for time immemorial. Buy a cow, shelter and feed and care for it, milk it, and sell the milk. Go ahead, try it and see what happens. Come back and let us know how free you are to do such a simple thing, which has been done since the dawn of civilization.

Freedom is a state of being where an individual does not have to get permission in order to do something that harms no one else’s person or property. How many things can you do without getting some form of government permission? Can you build your house on your own property without obtaining government approval? Can you put a new room on your house? Or a new porch? Put in a new toilet? Or even put a shed in your backyard? If you are not free to make your home on your own property, you are not free.

Once you have that home, can you refuse to sell it to the government if they want to use your land for some other purpose?

...Can you drive a motor vehicle across this “free” country without someone in government approving of you as a driver?

...Can you buy a pistol without government permission? Can you drive across the country with it on your person, even if you have permission to drive a properly permitted vehicle?

Are you free to say to the government, “I don’t like your retirement plan; therefore, I will no longer pay for it?” Can you, without penalty, tell the government that you will no longer pay for subsidies, for regulations, for wars, for empire, or for any activities that you disapprove? If you are not free to refuse to pay for things that you do not want, you are not free.

...Can you open a business, like a simple barbershop, without government permission? Or how about a bakery? A diner? A hot dog stand? A gun shop? ...If you’re not free to make a living without getting permission, you are not free.

Are you free to smoke a joint? Are you free to hire someone to help you satisfy a physical urge? You can do both in the same afternoon in Amsterdam . I haven’t heard of anybody attacking the Dutch because of their freedom. If you are not free to entertain your mind and body in any way that does not harm another, with anyone who is willing, you are not free.

Can you take your children out of a government or conventional private school setting, without explaining to some bureaucrat how you plan to educate them?

So, let’s reiterate. You need government permission to make your home, travel, earn a living, defend yourself, obtain medical treatment, and educate your children. You will never get government approval for many of those things in many places. You will never get government permission to entertain your mind and body in unapproved ways. At certain times, you cannot criticize those who decide who and what gets approved. You must sell your property to the government if they want it, and you must kill and die for them if they tell you to. And you have no choice but to pay for it all anyway, whether you like it or not.

And still, we think we are free.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Vote Zod

The only choice for 2008.

When I first came to your planet and demanded your homes, property and very lives, I didn't know you were already doing so, willingly, with your own government. I can win no tribute from a bankrupted nation populated by feeble flag-waving plebians. In 2008 I shall restore your dignity and make you servants worthy of my rule. This new government shall become a tool of my oppression. Instead of hidden agendas and waffling policies, I offer you direct candor and brutal certainty. I only ask for your tribute, your lives, and your vote.
-- General Zod
Your Future President and Eternal Ruler

Columbus Day Memorial

Via, obviously, the Rude Pundit:
...(And, c'mon, most of world history is about the deeds of people who were some combination of sloshed, stoned, or screwy.) But let's give props where props are due: when Columbus sailed that fuckin' ocean blue lookin' for that gold, it was a leap of faith, man, the kind of crazy-ass mission we associate with snowboarders or Unabombers.

And what's one civilization's hero is another civilization's terrorists, and Columbus and his band of merry genociders slammed into these shores with all the force of a jet into a skyscraper, full of God-decreed bullshit that the white was right and all others must be enslaved and/or killed...

Religious nuttiness

Via Split Level:
I picked up a children's activity book called "Listen and Do." The copyright date is 1954. I'm planning on scanning the entire thing eventually, but in the meantime, click the image below to see the full page of this particular gem: