Thursday, November 25, 2021

Thanksgiving Shout to a Guy in a Bookstore in Tokyo


This Thanksgiving I want to send a shout out to the one guy in a city of 13 million who was willing to give me a shot.

If writing a book is like climbing a mountain, then marketing one is like taking on Everest. Marketing one in a country where hardly anyone speaks or reads your language is like taking on Everest with no oxygen. And no clothes. Hungover.

The goal was to convince one of the bigger booksellers in Tokyo to let me hold a book signing in one of their stores. So I started calling around.

“Sorry, we don’t do that kind of thing,” said the first person I spoke to once they’d deciphered my Japanese. “We don’t have many foreign customers,” said another. Someone from one of Japan’s largest and best-known chains told me to call back once I was famous – assuring that I wouldn’t.

I put down the phone. This shit was going nowhere.

Monday, November 15, 2021

I Was Plogging and I Didn't Even Know It


I heard once that the French don't care what you do as long as you pronounce it correctly. I don't know how far one can push that idea without garnering some major embarrassment if not a night in Jail du Nord. I do know that my French sucks, so they probably don't want me saying much of anything. After a certain episode in Nice in 1992 they haven't really wanted me there at all.

The Japanese have words for things that in other languages take half a day to explain. But I'm not sure they have a word for what I've been up to recently. Until the other day I didn't think anyone had a word for it. Then I discovered the Swedish term "plogging".

Monday, May 3, 2021

Mark Twain's Pre-Twitter Indictment of the Justice System Applies Even More Today


Mark Twain's aversion to describing anything in simple terms seems to have been so severe one might be forgiven for believing the simple act of writing a trite phrase on a piece of paper would cause him to break out in hives.

Consider this line from "Roughing It", a 500-page account of his time in the American west during the mid-nineteenth-century Gold Rush:

The men who murdered Virginia's original twenty-six cemetery-occupants were never punished."

Cemetery occupants?! If I ever find opportunity to use a phrase of Twain's in conversation I totally want it to be that one. I may get my teeth knocked out for it but I'm absolutely sure it will be worth it.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Japanese Shinto Hits the Maga Nail on the Head

This was going to be a short, snarky post
about a passage from a book I just read.

But some ideas, once explored,
can not be justly ignored.

Shinto, Japan’s ancient indigenous religion, is wrapped in mystery. There are no sacred scriptures or writings. There exists no central authority. There is little, if any, evidence of the origins of their rituals and beliefs. No one knows for sure how many kami there are in the Shinto pantheon; gods inhabit all manner of Nature, from rocks and trees to mountains and oceans. The Shinto priests recite age-old prayers in a language barely resembling Japanese. I don't think they even know what they are saying.