A Review of Modern Japanese Short Stories


Modern Japanese Short Stories edited by Ivan Morris, Tuttle Publishing,
August 1st, 2019 (first published in 1962)

Modern Japanese Short Stories is a collection by twenty five Japanese authors with stories published from early to middle of the twentieth century. It was originally published in 1962 and the edition I have was published in 2019. The first thing to observe is that these aren’t modern in the literal sense but represent the Japanese modern literary movement in its various forms. If you are familiar with literary jargon, we are (last I checked), in the post-modern or maybe even post-post-modern period now. Although there may be some little read academic publication that claims otherwise. I don’t know and I frankly have little patience with modern (in the literal sense), literary criticism or at least what I’ve read of it. 

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Believing in Science

The rhetorical phrase, “I believe in science” or “I trust the science” and other variations has been with us for a while but has become especially common of late for reasons that aren’t hard to guess, and which I have dwelt on before. In the same post I wrote about the way much of the population has been easily manipulated into believing they’re intelligent or virtuous merely for adopting the promoted position on any given issue — including science. I can’t quite go back to the beginning of all this but it was common earlier in the century with the “new” atheists regarding evolution where anyone who departed from the science was considered… unevolved at best. One didn’t need to know the first thing about evolution or biology in general to join in the mockery of people who questioned it.

Now this rhetoric has shifted to the realm of medical science and most notably in defense of multinational pharmaceutical companies with extremely lucrative government contracts around the world; as well as legal immunity from prosecution for any adverse affects from the therapeutics they’re administering. I don’t believe anyone questions the factual accuracy of the last (perhaps overlong) sentence though the people who place their faith in science wouldn’t phrase it quite as I have. Nonetheless, the legal immunity alone should send any morally sane person’s eyebrows upwards at the very least. Indeed, not long ago the same sort of people now treating vaccines as a religious sacrament were very critical of the same companies and their often shady practices. 

The purpose of this post isn’t really to dwell on this so much as the very concept of “believing in science.”

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The Games of 2021

This is a continuation of what I did last year, where I offer a brief review of the new games I played this year. For many reasons, the last two years have seemed to blur together and the quality of new games released has contributed to that in a small way. I did end up playing a few more games from last year including Ghost of Tsushima which was exactly what I assumed it would be — yet another open-world game only distinguishable by its setting.

One observation I will make about the new games I played this year is that we have now truly reached a point where publishers are truly normalising releasing games first and finishing them later. The idea of “games as a service” has been around for a while but it is really getting into a swing now. The real warning signs are that Nintendo — a company with a reputation for quality, is doing it with major releases now too. We’ll start with these.

 

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The True Lies of True Lies

I would usually make more effort in thinking of a title but there really isn’t a better way to discuss a film that reveals itself so openly. True Lies was released in 1994 which was seven years before the events of September 11th, 2001 when Islamic terrorism became the previous “new normal”. This film (and there were plenty of others) did much to pre-program the US population for what was to come. It is fair to note that this sort of terrorism was already happening in parts of the Middle East with hijackings and other acts pf violence but it hadn’t yet come directly to the United States as it would in the coming years. 

Directed by James Cameron which I believe was his last film before Titanic gave his ego a very underserved boost. I will say as an aside here that I quickly went from liking to disliking Cameron’s films from Titanic onwards and it caused me to re-think what he had been doing in his films going back to The Terminator. To be clear, True Lies is a well-made and entertaining film in most respects. It is a blend of drama/action/comedy and appealed to a wide audience on release. What I want to look at here is not the quality of the film but the window it gives us into the US government and the nature of the world. 

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Scattered thoughts on Ayn Rand

My early introduction to Ayn Rand was a chapter devoted to her in a book titled Architects of the Culture of Death by Donald De Marco and Benjamin Wiker (her chapter was written by De Marco). This is a Catholic work I picked up during my university years though I was not a Catholic at the time. The other knowledge of her came from the generally dismissive attitude people had to her and her philosophy of Objectivism whenever she was mentioned. So I was predisposed to be prejudicial against her when I was lent a copy of Atlas Shrugged some years later in either 2008 or 2009. My experience with this book was similar to that of many who have read it — total engrossment. I even enjoyed John Galt’s speech that her many gadflies often complain about. I loved the book. 

I am not sure most of Rand’s critics ever read much of her work and were motivated more by a rejection of her philosophical beliefs than anything else. I’m sure most never got close to the Galt speech they love to mock as it appears a good way into the Atlas Shrugged. That’s not to say that nobody could find it tedious but the dismissive mockery tends to be so similar that I suspect many of her critics opinions are just passed on in ignorance. There is also certainly no shortage of professional jealousy as despite never being accepted in academic circles, her works are still in print and remain popular. While the average professor is lucky if his writing is read by the students assigned to read it. 

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Paying for Pleasance

One of the many cultural curiosities about Japan that I was never able to understand while living there was the existence of hostess bars and clubs. Such places are found all over the world but tend to be hidden from view if you aren’t looking for one. In Japan, it is pretty hard not to notice them even in the smallest towns you might visit. One would assume (and I did), that these are fronts for prostitution but that is not quite the truth.  Though I’m sure this is not unknown, the main point of them seems to be providing men with a nice, pretty female companion to talk to while they drink. 

This isn’t any sort of perverse charity as the men who go to these places do pay a great deal of money but the abundance of these places suggest they are popularly frequented by men from multiple economic classes. I never went into one (at least as far as I know), or had any of these experiences but I did hear about them from time to time through whispers from Japanese colleagues or more openly from other foreigners.

When I first heard about these I remember wondering aloud why anyone would pay to talk to a woman. And often added jocularly that I would gladly pay not to. I assumed that they were actually paying for more than friendly chat and that this was just hidden behind another veil. As state above, this is not the case and most of these bars simply provide men a place to go and chat to a girl with a strong financial incentive to be friendly.

In the course of writing this, I went and read an overview on Wikipedia and nothing I wrote above seems far from the information I’d gleaned while living there. My suspicions about how foreign (mostly Filipino) girls are used in these clubs were confirmed. Though it was interesting to learn that steering conversations into sexual territory will see patrons removed from the clubs. 

One of the other aspects I’ve noticed about Japan reflected in literature and popular culture is the nasty streak found in many Japanese women which I have written about. The first apartment complex I lived in had a woman that growled like a wounded dog at her family every other night. I have witnessed or heard plenty of tantrums in my time there. Japanese men work grueling hours often from very early to very late in the evening and often on weekends too. Many would come back looking forward to a hot bath and hot meal but instead come home to a hot tempered harpy. 

It was connecting the existence of these clubs with the reality of home life that led me understand why men are willing to pay a premium to have a little pleasant female companionship after work. It also partially explains there willingness to endure very long working hours the way they do. It should go without saying that I don’t condone men going to clubs like these (or any other similar establishments) but I do now understand why there is a market for them. 

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A Long Short Journey

One of my goals for this year was to read Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, yet another book I have had on my shelf for many years and had yet to read. But also a much beloved and recommended classic. I generally have a habit with novels that once I set myself to one, I do not want to be distracted by another until it is done. This means I’m often reluctant to start longer works as I will (with rare exceptions), commit myself to seeing them until the end regardless of whether I am enjoying them or not. In the case of Don Quixote though, I began reading it at the beginning of the year and got only a few chapters in.

Unlike many longer works, there isn’t much early commitment needed before it becomes enjoyable. It was both engaging and entertaining from the outset. I did quickly become distracted though and opted instead to read it on my daily commutes rather than in the manner I described above. After completing the novel early last week, I think I made the right choice as the somewhat episodic structure lends itself to that. So I very slowly worked my way through the book at one or two chapters a day; only occasionally taking breaks with shorter works in-between. 

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Force and Discomfort

There has been a lot misuse recently of the idea of “being forced”. That is the subtle but important difference between “being forced” and “being compelled” or “coerced”. With the way dictionary definitions are being changed this is not completely surprising but this is not really about the way words are being changed to mean something else. Words also do come to mean different things so this post is not simple pedantry about the precise meaning of words. I know force isn’t just physical too but the use of the word can be misleading. 

What many are facing right now — or are likely to soon face is a choice between a dangerous and unnecessary gene therapy that doesn’t work and their job. This is of course for their health and safety even though depriving someone of an income will in short turn deprive them or food and shelter which are both necessities for health and safety. Regardless of your views on this matter, such a threat is a contradiction of what governments around the world have used to claim unprecedented powers over our bodies. That is to keep us safe and healthy. 

Now let us break this down to make what is happening very clear:

  • People work in order to earn income for food and shelter.
  • Food and shelter is most responsible for keeping people healthy and safe.
  • You will lose your job if you don’t take a “vaccine” for your health and safety.
  • Losing your job will mean no income for food and shelter. 
  • You will no longer have health or safety.

I probably haven’t put this as succinctly as I’m sure others could but it still cuts to the point. This is evil entirely on its own and should be disobeyed regardless of the consequences. This is without considering the efficacy or necessity of the vaccine or anything else behind it. I have a whole list of reasons why I don’t want to and don’t think anyone else should take the vaccine but threatening someone’s livelihood and ability to support their family alone is enough to know I shouldn’t. 

Now to get to the point: is being under this threat the same as being forced to take it?

No.

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The Last Years of America

Top Gun was a a staple movie of my household growing up. It was one of the first VHS tapes I remember my father buying and he used to play it over and over again — but I don’t remember ever getting sick of it. Our copy was quite literally watched to death. He also had the soundtrack on CD which was also destroyed through repeated use on our component CD player when people still had those. Everything about the film and my memories of it ooze with 80s charm. A time when America’s long decline was masked by masculine machismo, rock, finance and a pageantry of excess. 

Like many films you watch when you’re young, there’s a lot that flies over your head and Top Gun is certainly one of those movies. What follows is some thoughts on the movie that I have been intending to write for quite a while. With the long anticipated and probably unnecessary sequel landing last this next year, it is probably best to get it out now as it might never come out.

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The Example of Eleazar

The First and Second Books of Maccabees are the last books of the Old Testament and detail the resistance of the Jews to the Seleucid Empire under Antiochus IV. I was completely unfamiliar with them until I began preparing to be received into the Catholic Church because they weren’t in my Anglican Church Bible as most Protestants deny their canonicity. Both cover a lot and probably the most famous is the resistance of Judas Maccabeus to the Hellene invaders. 

What is more relevant to our times is the martyrdom of Eleazar which I will get to soon. 

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