Thursday, April 22, 2004

There is fashion in language as in everything else. I admit I may not be the best example of that fashion, but I have my style and that's enough. Take it or leave it.

Context is important. In my younger days as a writer, really just a poetaster daubing poemlets about any number of whims in a little notebook I carried everywhere, I decided to create a website in which I would write a weekly article, much like this. The only real punctuation I used, as it was a reflection of my attempt to capture some kind of feeling of continuation, was the ellipsis. An ellipsis, for those of you who may not know, is three periods in succession... made famous by such writers as Herb Caen... that's as far back as my memory goes... and my memory ain't so good. You have the internet. Do your own research.

Anyway, after a year or so, I simply got bored by the ellipsis, the use of which was really an offshoot of my poetic practices (don't laugh), even though I didn't, often, use any punctuation at all in my own poetry. If I was going to use any punctuation, though, it had to be the ellipsis! Oh, beauteous grammatical mark! On the website, though, it was just too hard to create the continuous drip of writing I was after, and I started to think it was stupid. So I killed that idea. I really just wanted to present a more professional image to my audience, which was is and perhaps will be almost no one. Punctuate that!

Meanwhile, the ellipsis had snuck into much of the other informal writing I did. E-mail, for example, or vile hand-written *gasp* notes to my roommates. I think it's fine in those forums, which is largely used for cuff responses to my friends, family and what-else. Nonetheless, I have used e-mail successfully to apply for jobs and submit writing to various publications, which requires a semblance of professionalism.

Recently, a farty old poetry goat publicly chastised my lack of standardized punctuation in my posts on an online forum. I was a little perturbed that he raised his hackles about the way I express myself, especially as we were both, supposedly, creative writers, and take some license with language as a rule. Now, I simply won't go to the website anymore or support that kind of nonsense. I could understand it if I were writing a press release or something more official, but he was criticising my personal method of conveying my thoughts in a workshop, which really doesn't matter, especially as they were written to another person. Nothing on the site was listed about correct form in a criticism, and there are really more important things to rub the wrong way than how someone communicates.

Why is this so important to me? It's not the first time I ruffled some feathers in this manner, but I recently read an article about a new book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss. I didn't read the book, but she apparently ruminates about the demise of punctuation. Not a new concept for anyone who has watched communication trends brought about by computers, but one that got me all riled. The fashionable will continue to dominate popular culture, whether it be in a semiconductor or a semicolon, so who cares if punctuations is dying. I prefer to think of it as evolution. Besidest that, styles always come back.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Japanese women are quite concerned with fashion. It's a kind of hybrid passion wavering between traditional Japanese aesthetic and America brand name or, as the Japanese say, "brand goods" materialism. On any given afternoon, it's not unusual to see any number of women showing off the same Burberry, Coach or Gucci handbags or other merchandise. Nor is it difficult to find a Japanese woman looking at a mirror, applying her makeup on the subway or rouging her cheeks in the park on a sweltering, humid afternoon. Having lived here for a few years now, it's a bit difficult to understand if the same mania exists in the states or whether it's really just a Japanese phenomenon.

Louis Vuitton has taken a particularly firm grip on the Japanese, selling merchandise which appeals to both sexes. I've seen so many briefcases, datebooks and wallets in the hands of men who pluck and shave their eyebrows more than women, I wouldn't be surprised if every male in Japan owned something with the familiar brown patterns.

And Japanese men aren't far behind their biological opposites in their portrayal of what is fashionable. It's not uncommon to see men wearing the latest designer labels and sporting the newest briefcases, bags and shades. Their hairstyles rival the women they parade around with in the subways. I call it Anime hair, which resembles the characters in many of the popular comic books (Manga) the men addictively read.

I live in, perhaps, the alternative fashion capital of Japan. The fashion in Osaka, famous for its unique sense of style, some might describe as willy-nilly. Some ensembles are simply impossible to describe accurately.

The magazine stands, the harbingers of fashion as much as anime, are lined shoulder-to-shoulder with Japanese, everyone thumbing through the glossiest issues of the month. It's the Japanese answer to reading. Many will stand for hours just perusing the thousands of periodicals on the rack, a kind of self-inflicted torture for the cool. As someone who has tried for years to obscure the sources of my own personal fashion from the rest of the world, I might be obsessing over these cultural habits. I could also just be wrong.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Spring has sprung in Osaka, and it has been nice enough to parade around in a t-shirt recently. This may be my favorite time of the year. Of course, in Japan, as Spring continues to bloom on us, that means it's time for cherry blossom viewing, known as Hanami among the natives. The combination of trees blossoming and weather nicening creates the perfect reason to BBQ or just stroll through parks admiring the delicate change of the seasons. I say Hanami as though it were an English word, and it's true that us non-natives call it by the Japanese name, but it's just the best way to describe it. We have incorporated this and many other words from our host's language into our own blend of the most malleable language on the planet.

I remember my first Spring in Osaka, gullibly asking a then veteran employee at my office if he had gotten a chance to do any blossom viewing. He responded by saying that I hadn't been here long enough and that, after doing it once, it was all the same. I didn't share his opinion and have since gone blossom viewing many times. It's particularly appealing at night, when all of the crowds have dispersed and the trees are only the quiet spirits of the park, the pink and white canopy of blossoms a kind of ethereal, ghostly light with the moon.

Unfortunately, my current work schedule doesn't allow me to enjoy the Spring, the sun and blossoms as much as I would like to these days, working during the wee hours and sleeping at the others, but I still get in my licks when I have to. I managed to attend two late morning Hanami parties over the past week. It's a good excuse to drink beer at 8:30 AM.

Friday, April 09, 2004

The internet is fantastic. I've added some new features to the site this week. You should start seeing some pictures now, the first of which I've added to a post from a few weeks ago. My attempt to make the site a bit more colorful. It's not award-winning photography, but it should add some meat to my otherwise dreary self-indulgence.

It was not very easy, either. As I use free e-mail and free web hosting, I have no storage space on the web to reference pictures. I had to find a free place to store photographs to which I could also link from the website. Some free storage sites don't allow remote linking! After a few hours and three or four failures, I finally settled on Bravenet.

I also dropped a hit counter into the sidebar just to appease my curiosity and love of statistics.

I will begin to make the text more dynamic by including more links, the first of which is included above in this post. Now that I don't use a WYSIWYG editor, I'm having to learn bits of HTML that I otherwise ignored in the past. It probably won't interest you much if you're looking for my poems.

Speaking of which, I should, in the near future, be adding links to some e-books I'm self-publishing with my own, as of yet, unnamed publishing house. There you have it. Laugh if you must.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

I wanted to write something for April Fool's Day, but I didn't have the energy then. A few days ago, I started working the graveyard shift. 11PM until 7:30AM. Yes, in Japan, people study English around the clock. My job is like an English convenience store for language.

I haven't quite completely adjusted to the time change yet, but it gets easier every day. Going to work when everyone else is going home, and coming home when everyone else is going to work means that there's always a seat on the subway, which is nice after a long night of shoveling introductions and idioms.

Caffeine is beginning to take a toll on me, too. I need to reduce my doses, which, in recent excess, just makes me a miserable teeth-grinder. I imagine that habit will taper off as my biological clock realigns itself and it starts feeling natural to awaken with the moon. Not a bad prospect for a poet, I suppose. I can think of less poetic ways to start my day.

I haven't worked out all the impending alterations to my personal life that such a change induces, but that's a work in progress, as always. A temporary alteration, at least until my great escape in July, to put a few more yen in my pocket.

Now, sleep calls.