Friday, August 15, 2008

JT and the Weather

Up here in Niigata we get the JT a day late. No doubt about it. I think I've mentioned that before. But sometimes we get news or announcements that come even before that. For example, it might be Tuesday and we'll be getting the actual Monday paper, only the weather will be for Sunday. Or there will be an announcement that something will take place on Friday but it will already be Sunday. You'd think JT could get it right, or at least get the day right.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Is a Gaijin a Nigger

The current brouhaha on the JT's letters to the editors pages is about the word gaijin and whether or not it is racist or just good plain ignorant fun. Probably a little of both, cause what is racism but ignorance without the fun. Just plain ignorant. But I don't understand why JT runs such letters. Why they have run them for 20 years and probably more. When I was growing up my father used the word "nigger" but his wife and his kids, we didn't use it. It seemed to be a word that some families used. For instance, up the street from me was a family of four boys and they did use the word nigger when we were young kids but my the time the 60s kicked in they had given it up. My father's use of "nigger" was odd, though, and maybe idiosyncratic. For him it didn't necessarily refer to a black person. It had several uses, when I think back. One applied to a kind of behavior. If he saw a group of us lazing around in the summer heat, drinking Cokes, shoes off, hardly talking, he might say, "You're all niggard up, aren't you?" Or if he saw me or one of my siblings being stingy or petty about something he might say, "Don't be niggardly", and at that time we didn't know niggardly was a perfectly acceptable adjective. But his strangest use of the word was in cases like this, where he might open a story with, "Me and a couple of other niggers were....." And you'd realize the other two guys were white guys, or even Catawba indians, my father having grown up on a Catawba reservation.

My father is dead now but I'm sure he would never, ever use the word nigger in any context these days. Why? Because he would know just as we all know that it is just plain rude. Forget that it insults other people, that it might trigger a verbal or physical backlash against the user, that blacks use a variant among themselves, a variant that whites must use with some care. It's just plain rude, like South Carolina insisting on flying the confederate flag on the state house grounds in Columbia, SC. Why fly any symbol that offends so many people, such a great percentage of the population. And it's not offensive to, say, people who dislike flags based on that of Britains, or that have red and white as primary colors. It's offensive because it is a symbol of slavery, or being a slave. It means that most black people in South Carolina have no idea who their ancestors were because white folks came and kidnapped them and forced them to work apart from their countries and cultures and families and then sold them like.......worse than dogs. Like pack animals.

Which brings me back to gaijin. Some Japanese will look you in the face and call you a gaijin. Why do they do this? Because they are ignorant. Plain and simple. They may not mean a thing about it.....and that is ignorance.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Squabbling Foreigners...

The JT can't break its addiction to stupid letters from insane gaijin. I guess they think it makes your average Japanese letter writer (all 2 - 3 of them?) look good. Grant Piper, as usual, is at the center of the latest fray which is all about what a good letter to the JT should be like, about, whatever.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


I thought it must be a joke, but no. The Japan Times changed its layout more than a week ago but the changes were so lame I thought it must be a joke. Stories are more "square" on the page. The fonts have changed. That's it. No new sections. No shift of emphasis from this or that or the other thing. What a waste!

And for the first time that I know of the Japan Times has told an outright lie. Readers have complained about the new weather section, which is not a section at all anymore but just a table showing the expected daily lows and highs of (1) select Japanese cities, with the lows listed first, and (2) select "international" cities, but with the highs listed first. And there are little sunshine and cloud and rain icons. But the JT claims that the meteorological agency has "categorically" decided to stop publishing the weather maps, showing highs and lows and isobars, that every has come to expect, that are quick and easy to understand.

They lie.

So nothing has changed. The paper even ran today (yesterday) two whole pages on the Japanese sword. For the life of me I can't think of anything more boring than the Japanese sword, unless it's the Japanese government. For one, they are basically against the law. Not everyone can own one and some of those who do do so illegally. For two, they are just swords. No matter how Japanese go on and on about the superiority of the Japanese sword the fact is that Damascus steel and Toledo steel were and are just as good, just as hard, and more useful in a fight against an enemy with armor and the sense to step out of the way and defend rather than just blunder straight into a fight with no idea of tactical defense.

Two-thirds of a page were devoted to a swordsmith who seems like a decent guy in that he knows he's just making swords. Fine, but below that was a story on Musashi Miyamoto, who for some reason is a hero to many Japanese, or so we are told. Musashi was a thug and a murderer and by all accounts insane. Perhaps that is the perfect Japanese hero. I don't know but I don't think so and I can't really imagine wanting to meet anyone of any nationality who would look up to such a person.

The other whole page devoted to the sword drones on about Zen (or zen) and slashing and killing and spiritual nonsense and I won't even go into it.

One final point. All the stories on both pages were written by the same writer. JT! Not a good idea! The article on the swordsmith was at least informative. The Musashi article could just as easily have come from Wikipedia's and the author practices the "art" of the Japanese sword as a hobby! JT. Get real. Give us some variety in our perspectives. Assuming that you have one of your own.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Finally, the admission, kind of...

Today's JT included an article by a writer from the LA Times. The article refers to "the governing elite" in Japan. It's about time. The folks running the country come from the same super-rich and juiced-in families who were running things here 50 and 100 years ago. The Japan Times won't come right out and say it, though. Certainly no Japanese staff writer will come out and say it. Get the foreign writer to say it, though, and you can say it but say you didn't.

Today's Irony of Irony: The JT have yet to weigh in on the proper response, if any, of Japan to the recent demonstrations in China, specifically whether or not there should be an tie-in with the demonstrations and the Beijing Olympics.

But the JT did run a story today on a local maker of shot put. That's right. Shot put. He makes the shot puts, the little cannon balls, that shot putters heave around. The shot put maker is angry about Tibet and has told the Chinese authorities they cannot expect to use any of his shot put at the Olympics. Good for him, but I wonder what makes one shot put different from another. They are all the same size and shape and presumably made of the same materials. Do some have splinters?

The JT does not enlighten us on this.

Two controversies are now boiling over at the JT. One concerns the weather section, which has been redesigned by a village idiot, who has been commissioned by the JT to screw up what once was one of the most attractive features of the paper, although JT could never make up its mind what page to feature the weather on.

The overall attractiveness of the paper, or lack of it, will change on April 22, when the look and feel of the paper will be overhauled -- perhaps justifying the recent increase in the price of the JT. The new look of the JT has been a front page blurb in the old look and current JT for several days now.

At least they could have made the changes on April 1. Then if the changes were a flop? APRIL FOOLS!!!!d

I can't wait. And neither should you.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Wonderful Confusion

A wonderful example today of just plain sloppiness.

Page 1, under Today, down the left column. Under sports, Mao a close second after the short program at the world championships.

See page 11.

But in the right lower corner we see a color photo of Mao showing her gold medal after winning the women's title at the World Figure Skating Championships. Asada captured her first world crown after finishing second in the short program on Tuesday. (We get the coverage in Niigata on Saturday, after watching the competition on TV on Friday night!)

See page 11.

But on the page 11 there is just the story about Mao winning the entire two-day event, which of course consisted of the short and long programs!


But this was nothing compared to the TV coverage of both days of the championships. TV decided to cover the competition after everyone knew the results. After the first day it was clear that Asada and Ando and Nakano were still all in the running to win. That evening TV showed several commercials featuring all three of the Japanese contenders. But on day two, after Mao had already won, ALL of the commercials showed ONLY Mao.

But they are probably all represented by the same ad agency. Just guessing. Wouldn't surprise me.

In Weekend Scene today Burritt Sabin has a good special to the Japan times about the Uraga shipyards. The story is excellent but whoever wrote the headline must be a fan of The Ring movies because "Then there were ghosts" refers only to a single sentence about a haunted light house and a local resident who doesn't answer the question about whether the light house is haunted or not.

Gregory Clark's article, as is often the case, could have been cut by 95%. A single question is "does Tibet justify the calls for a boycott of Beijing's planned Olympic Games later this year?" is his subject.

I think Clark wanted to ask if Tibet would justify an actual boycott, not merely the call for one. In any case his answer to his own question is "no" and if Clark had just answered his own question in the first paragraph the whole piece would have played as a decent contribution to the Readers in Council Section.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sports and Madness

The Thursday paper arrived today, Friday, and page 21 run a picture of Tiger Woods winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament on last Sunday.

Timely, JT.

On the front page we have pictures of Toshihiko Fukui, who is leaving as the head of the bank of Japan, and of a murderess and Dick Cheney in Iraq, talking about something -- and I say that because the story next to Dick's picture quotes only Bush.

This blog will not quote Bush.

The real zinger today comes on the Opinion page, whose only saving grace is another fine editorial cartoon from Roger Dahl.

The zinger in question is a Readers in Council contribution from a Mr. Arnie Howe and it is just this sort of contribution that JT runs too much of. They should ignore them, chuck them, delete them, cancel the JT subscriptions of anyone who writes such letters.

OK. So what is wrong with the letter. Here's the first paragraph:

Regarding.......(reference to earlier letters).....As a conservative Republican who has always been active in politics and who never voted for George W. Bush for either his first or second term as president, I wonder how judgment comes into play when the U.S. Supreme Court decided (or stole) the first election from the American people and gave it to Bush? Also, who do we vote for this election?

Someone help me, please! What does this mean? Ignore the grammatical challenges that the JT editors should have corrected. The writer is a politically active conservative Republican who has never voted for Bush 43 for president. That's interesting! Who did he vote for? We'll never know and based on the letter I'm sure I don't want to know.

The letter continues:

No one really wants Sens. John McCain or Hillary Clinton, but Sen Barack Obama has just distanced himself from his pastor's inflammatory comments that "We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye."

Huh? No one really wants McCain and Clinton? Really? Gosh, Arnie. Someone best tell their supporters that!

.....and the logic of the "but".......I have no idea there.

Things get worse, though.

I have read "The Dignity of the State" and agree with Masahiko Fujiwara that democracy basically has failed and may lead to war and the destruction of our world. What can any of us Americans do when it comes to voting?"

Uh, vote? Maybe?

Will the candidates to what they promise and will the elections be fair?

The relationship to the previous sentence being what?

The answers are definitely no and judgment has nothing to do with it.

The answer to the question of what Americans can do when it comes to voting? The answer is "no"?


I suggest reviving the Samurai Fujiwara suggests. Maybe the world will see the good in this and follow Japan in getting away from democracy and back to the arts (emotions and forms) and restoring peace around the world.

Maybe, Arnie. Or maybe not.

But here have one of the JT's finest characters. Another foreigner who wants to bring back the samurai spirit. Oh, yeah! Sounds good. Let's bring back the spirit of an elitist group of degenerates. Wait! No! No need to as it's those same degenerates who run Japan!

The Japan Times would do itself and everyone a huge favor by either editing such contributions so they make at least a little sense or by just refusing to run such nonsense in the first place.

I have read Fujiwara's book. The only thing I will say here is that it is far more insane than the contribution from Mr. Hove.