Sunday, March 29, 2009

Crystal Clear

So Mom, I've finally started that series of 16 small dream/nature studies, of which this is the first. Not quite finished yet. Can you see what it is?

Looking out the city hall widow with my boss--a short, chubby, balding Japanese man with glasses, who looks just like Sogyal Rinpoche,
we conversed in English:

“Today we have a very clear view of Mt. Ishizuchi,” he said.
“Yes, it’s crystal clear.”
“Crystal clear.”
“I love that English word.”
“Crystal clear. Like your paintings.”
“Oh you are so nice.”
“But your paintings are also wet, and breathing, and contain the flow of time. They are alive. Have you been to the exhibit in Matsuyama yet?”
“No. not yet. Whose work?”
“Jimmy Onishi. His paintings are the opposite of yours. They are extremely primitive, loud, bright colors, and have a powerful impact. Yours make us silent.”
“Some people say my paintings make a sound,”
“That means they are alive. Your paintings have an identity. And yes, some of them hum.”
My boss
He then turned around and went back to his computer.

“Oh, and I just found out…I am staying here another year,” he added.

“Thank God! That’s good news for me!!! But you must be sad…”
“Yes, you know me well! It’s bittersweet. I really want to go back to school. But hey, let's have fun working this year!”

I’d love for him to be a teacher again. Teaching junior high school kids with this guy was incredible! We’d spend an entire class talking about our UFO and spiritual experiences in simple English... the kids loved it, shared their own UFO and ghost stories, and nailed “have you ever”.)

Then my teacher moved into city hall to become my boss and head advisor, sitting behind a computer, no kids around at all.

You see, every three or four years Japanese teachers (and city hall workers) move. Teachers move schools, some move cities, some move up and become vice principals or department officials at city hall. My boss is on for a fourth year now, thank god almighty. He’s an amazing boss. For example, when my sister Jane visited he gave me $100 and said,
“Go get drunk with your sister.” But he was also an amazing teacher.

This Japanese custom of changing people around in the spring is fruitful but also sad.

Finally, the end-of-the-year cherry blossoms arrive, and the collective interior question “who is going to move” is answered by the Superintendant, who chooses everyone’s fate.

His choices are not totally random, of course. For example, If a certain teacher isn’t working well at a school, or a certain school needs more masculine energy, teachers get moved.

“This Japanese custom keeps the teachers and schools fresh and balanced.”

‘Makes sense. Spring Cleaning. But having hundreds of people moving, some against their will, is very stressful for everyone.

Just in time for the all-day drinking and eating under cherry trees!
Hanayoridango!花より団子! Dumplings more than flowers.
check out this great Jimmy Onishi collaboration!

Do you know where this is? Answer below.

Chiiori, that 300-year-old farmhouse in the mountains. Were you right?

peace fam,

I went to Starbucks in Matsuyama with the hip-hop rapper Shing02, and there we discussed Japanese and American views towords public bathing, respecting personal space, homo/hetero sexuality, drug laws, and the overall moods of rebellion vs. conformity, individuality vs. membership, modern vs. traditional, disrespect vs. respect. America vs. Japan. Shingo is in a particularly integral position because he has lived in vanguard California for the past 15 years as a Japanese Artist. Our conversation was caffeinated and fantastic. Notes coming soon.

The other day, while eating lunch with some third graders, I was taking apart my empty milk carton in a way different than theirs, and they were saying, “no no, you can't do it that way! Do it this way!’ And I just kept doing it my way, and the kids at my table were laughing and saying “No, no, stop! Sensei, he's doing it wrong!” having a great time, and then, one of the other kids in the classroom who looked quite grumpy blurted out, “Moh, iiyo! Jibun no yarikata demo ii shi.” Which means: “Enough already! Doing things your own way is ok too.”

Deep wisdom entered into the classroom. I stopped unfolding my milk and asked him to repeat what he just said. The boy looked to his teacher confused, but she and I were on the same page. “What you just said about letting others do it their own way..that was wonderful. Say it again, please,” she said.
So he did, and the teacher and I both said to him: “Very good. Nice idea.”

I finally finished unfolding my milk and the little girl next to me held up her empty carton, pushed her thumbs into the center of the top and magically had the thing unfolded in two seconds.
“See? This way is faster.” She said.
“Wow! I see. Thank you for teaching me! You are also a very good teacher.”
Moral of the story: Respecting that there is a rainbow of ways to do things is good, but that doesn't mean that all ways are equally efficient.
All is light, and some lights are faster than others.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Who watches the watchmen?

warning. this post includes Japanese and European master artists' hyperreal depictions of genitalia and erotic acts,
as well as the naked Dr. Manhattan.



"In art, immorality cannot exist. Art is always sacred" - August Rodin

I just saw Watchmen on the big screen. $18 and it was worth it, because I loved the comic and thought from beginning to end this thing was right on the money. I few changes, but necessary for the length.  

My cousin, who I deeply respect, saw it, liked it, and told me that the media in America is jumping all over Dr. Manhatton's cg penis.
I checked it out, and sure enough, he was right. I guess critics are uncomfortable not addressing the fact that there is a naked man in the film, and that his penis is uncircumcised. and big. sounds like penis envy? And valid, as far as that goes.  
                                       Sometimes people want distraction from sexual energy?
My two cents--the explanation I sent to John was that you know the general rule is "repression leads to obsession, which leads to distraction," and in this case that’s distraction from the rest of the film, from other characters in a scene, or from any meaningful criticism.   

But this rather predictable response from the media is not shallow. It's actually the tip of very deep iceberg, one that reaches down into the depths of our shared homophobia, erotiphobia, genitalphobia, and the power-politics that go with them. (John Ince is the man)

Our culture’s general repression of the penis is evident in the lack of them in movies, on alians, but also in the social norm to not look down in a group shower, or not compare size at the urinal. These last two norms are not evident in Japan though, (which is fine with me). 

A 15-year-old student was standing next to me in the bathroom staring down at my peen and I said, “What are you doing?” He looked up and said “What, Is looking at other penises rude in America?”
“Yes, it is." I said, and laughed. 

It shouldn't be, though. After all, we compare other body parts, other muscles, why not penises? It’s because we have eroticized the penis, and "sex is dirty and bad." (?) Therefore looking at one is considered “gay” or “peeping” or whatever. If it wasn't erotic, then it wouldn't be a big deal, seeing a naked blue man would be no big deal, and heterosexuals could give each other handjobs like they can give each other massage. This is not the case in our culture.

I went on to talk about genitalphobia, which I find fascinating, and ended by anticipating the Japanese people's reaction to Dr. Manhattan's penis. It will be very different, considering this culture's fame for having the most erotic comic books on earth. Compare erotic arts from Japan 1800 with erotic art from Europe 1800 and you will see a big difference. Here, adult men read "cartoon porn" at convenience stores, and general pornography is more acceptable, accessible, respectable, than in America. Japan has come to terms with its perversion, moved on, while America hasn't, and so we get caught in these discussions about whether genitals are fundamentally dirty or's pathetic, and yet, it's there. When are we going to come to terms with our genitals and erotic arts? That's another great art history class: Human Genitals.

Japan is so interesting though, because, in order to keep genitals erotic, in (most) porn movies (real and cartooned) the genitals are fuzzed out. Paradoxical, and yet it makes sense. At first I though this was part of their own genitalphobia, but now I'm beginning to think it's just the opposite. Fuzzing out the genitals actually saves them from media mutilation. It keeps the real experience more exciting as well, I can imagine.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Snow-viewing doors

I visited the Hirose house today. This is a historic mansion that is now a park and museum. 
Hanami Flower Viewing has begun, and these trees are now at "sanbu zaki" or 30% bloom.  As soon as they start blooming people begin picnicking beneath's beautiful in Japan this time of year. See the picnickers?
This is a view from Hirose's "Smoke-viewing room."  He liked to watch the ships out there in the Seto-naikai Sea. My apartment is down there by the sea. You can see it if you know where to look.

In the stunning old Japanese house were a few glass windows, extremely rare to have in Japan in those days, and these here acted as the home’s yukimishoji, 雪見障子、which means: snow-viewing sliding doors.

“The glass protects you from the cold wind! Isn’t that wonderful?” Our guide was as excited as we were.

The glass was old and warped, which made the scene beyond look dreamy and drawn.

It made me think about art. People often experience paintings like a window, an opening into a soul. The viewers get to peer into these inner worlds from the safety of the gallery wall, or a couch in a living room. Paintings are like yukimishoji. The cold, biting winds of those subjective worlds don't make it in. Warm and safe behind slightly warped glass, we unflinchingly face the world beyond. I think of the gifts of dark, erotic arts, fantastic realists, surrealists. confronting the demons, the nightmares.
Facing your fears is easy with practice. Thats what the picture cards are for.

I guess we could say that painters, like actors, like shamans, like butoh dancers, go to those dark, inner worlds, and come back build a yukimishoji, and take the others there, safely.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Japanese kids hate caterpillars.

If they find one, they kill it. Why? It’s soft and icky like a worm, and the hairy ones can hurt your skin. I told them that American kids, if they are lucky enough to find one, might keep the caterpillar as a pet to see it grow into a beautiful butterfly.
“No way! A pet!??!”

They don't think butterflies are that cool either. Over here kids like beetles and dragonflies. Don’t even say the word centipede though; you will cause a tiny panic.

Remember how shocked I was when I found the kid in my building killing the caterpillar in the parking lot? Now I know.

I learned from Wikipedia that the American revolutionist Patrick Henry gave his fa mouse “Give me liberty or give me death” speech today, 1775.
Being an America, this speech holds a special place in my heart.

Give me liberty or give me death! However, to many people death is liberty--the great emancipation from the torture and agony inherent to living through a human body. God death is a release.

For others, Life is the great Liberation, by itself, as is, and if one were not manifesting that Liberty though every cell in their body, that would be death. Patrick Henry’s idea put “Liberty” up on a pedestal, called it Goodness, and saw it as a Perfection humanity deserved. It was our right, which is something inherent to living in a human body.

Fortunately, his speech was like Dr. Kings`s: prophetic. Unfortunately, that right to liberty quickly turned into a right to irresponsibility, a right to consume belligerently. We may have left witch burning, child sacrifice, and slavery behind, which is good, but we also left our feeling of duty to a higher order behind, which left us narcissistic a little bit too free. But actually, were we ever responsible consumers? Or did we just not have the means to consume so quickly as we do today? I`ve heard that if I had slaves providing me with my current lifestyle, I`d have about 55 men working for me. Who am I working for?
Progression and digression, spirals all the way down.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Yesterday I went to a CD realease party for my friends' band Kungfu. Here is the promotional video. Please watch it and leave a nice comment on youtube.  
A good punk band performed there too. This guy is wearing a pink leather jacket. (click to enlarge)

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Walking home from school the other day I ran into a pilgrim doing the 88 temple pilgrimage around the island and ended up talking to him all night.  What an inspiration! 

Friday, March 06, 2009

proverbs and "common sense"

"Patience is a virtue."
It's been 50 years and the Tibetans still don't have their country back.

"It's Easier Said Than Done."
 Below is a picture of the mural I've been working on. I put a few more hours into it last night. Murals are hard work! I've never painted this big before! And the last time I drew trees on a wall I think I was five years old.

can you see the crows?

"practice makes perfect"

here is another watercolor
of that holy tree near my house
"A picture is worth a thousand words."
pro-verbs? By definition they are cliché, overused, and yet also brilliant truisms, profound wisdom teachings, no doubt. They point to truths, but what is most interesting is that each person interprets proverbs differently, with their own experiences to validate their own right interpretation. 

Check out these English proverbs I've collected.  Please pick one and tell us what you think it means, or how profound it is, (also, apply it to an everyday experience, or current event, or to the issues of same-sex marriage, if you can.)

Live and let live.
It takes one to know one.
Two heads are better than one.
Patience is a virtue.
Time will tell.
Better late than never.
All things in moderation.
The Devil is in the details.
Practice what you preach.
God helps those who help themselves.
Different strokes for different folks.
Never say never.
It's easier said than done.
Don't judge a book by its cover.
Beauty is in the eye (I) of the beholder.
Birds of a feather flock together.
Great minds think alike.
Strength in numbers.
Home is where the heart is.
If you want a friend, be a friend.
You reap what you sow.
You sow what you reap.
Stop beating the dead horse.
It's always darkest before dawn.
Kindness is contagious.
Practice makes perfect.
The Kingdom of Heaven is within.
The grass is always greener on the other side
When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
Silence is Golden.
Ladies First.
Better safe than sorry.
Where there's smoke, there's fire.
The magician never tells.

Here are some Japanese proverbs I like.

Ten People, Ten Colors.
Chase two rabbits, catch neither.
The base of the lighthouse is always the darkest.
Every meeting is a once-in-a-lifetime chance.
Poor person, no free time.
Fall seven times, rise eight times
Not-speaking is a flower.

pick one.

afterward: It is fascinating how the interior of the collective (our cultural dimension) is filled with proverbs, isn't it? And since we are all plugged into the collective, our own interior is also filled with the same proverbs! There are huge rivers down there! However, as I said before, the meanings of those common proverbs are uniquely one's own, which is what I'd like to demonstrate with your comments, if you please. What's also fascinating is that the global interior (spatially AND the one right inside of you) is likewise filled with common proverbs, in all sorts of different languages. I'm surprised at how many proverbs are cross cultural. However, I'm interested in how different our proverbs are, even though they are supposed to point to a "common sense." Proverbs can actually point to powerful differences between the way cultures think. We are one, we are many. Which brings me to the forigner living in another motherland insight...

"Common sense"
(or common consciousness) is often culturally relative, which is sometimes hard to swallow. For example, in Japan it is "common sense" to take off your shoes when entering a home. In America, just the opposite (although, you better wipe your feet!) But we can understand if they look at us like we're idiots, "without any common sense," for walking around in our homes with our shoes on! I probably looked at Satoru in a similar way when he tracked mud into the house. He didn't know to wipe his feet. The proverb "Always wipe your feet" was replaced with the Japanese, "Always take off your shoes," I bet.

Maybe that's not very interesting. But what is is that consciousness has many different types, many different flavors, rainbows within rainbows of shimmering diversity, and thank god. It's no wonder (and totally wonderful) Nobody Thinks Alike. I hope you comment with your proverb and provide another window into the unfolding depth of our collective interior. If you please.

powerlinerflyers from wes johnson on Vimeo.

May all beings be Free and in Love.

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