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An Artist’s Notebook of Sorts

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20 February 2011

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No. 2,162 (cartoon)

I love you more than life itself.

That means nothing to me.

21 February 2011

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Taiji Culture

I’m enjoying Japanese culture, to the degree to which I can appreciate and understand it. As a gaijin who speaks little Japanese and can’t read a character of kanji (or is it kana?), I face daunting communication challenges. I smile a lot, bow slightly to everyone with whom I make eye contact, and generally walk around in curious bewilderment.

I think one of the most difficult things one can do is to understand someone else’s worldview, especially when there are so few common denominators. And so I’m wondering why the Taiji fishermen who live in a town that appears to have an almost whimsical view of marine mammals can kill them in ways that appear to be objectively cruel.

I’ll probably never understand their perspective, and vice versa. As a visitor, though, I think it’s important to keep cultural differences in perspective. I could argue that the fishermen are unconscionably cruel, but I won’t. If I did, they’d certainly reply that westerners who raise hundreds of millions of intelligent animals like pigs in horrific factory farms then kill them in secret facilities are in no position to lecture them on humane treatment of animals and slaughterhouse transparency.

There is, however, one significant difference that transcends cultural differences. The dolphin meat the Taiji fishermen sell to their fellow citizens contains alarmingly high levels of mercury. Knowingly poisoning their fellow citizen is unconscionable, especially in a country where the dangers of mercury poisoning are almost universally recognized. An open, constructive dialogue between westerners and the fishermen may be almost impossible after years of confrontation and mistrust, but there’s still time for a dialogue based on mutual respect.

There’s still time for hell to freeze over, too. I’ll be glad to be back in San Francisco tomorrow.

22 February 2011

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Twenty-Five Kii-Katsuura Corrugated Metal Walls

I loved the coastal landscape around Kii-Katsuura and Taiji. It was relentlessly beautiful, complete with more species of birds than I could shake a chopstick at. (I know that sentence is grammatically incorrect, but I’m too tired to fix it.)

Beautiful landscape photographs are of little interest to me, so I photographed what I found to be visually appealing, Twenty-Five Kii-Katsuura Corrugated Metal Walls. Japanese people are generally smart, so I can’t understand why they build with corrugated metal in the corrosive salt air, but they do. That doesn’t seem to be a very wise choice of materials, but the weathered walls made for more two-dimensional Japanese entertainment than I’d anticipated.

23 February 2011

Albert Einstein’s Last Words

Albert Einstein’s last words may or may be more interesting than those of José Doroteo Arango Arámbula. More commonly known as Pancho Villa, he used his last breath to say, “Tell them I said something.”

Until someone invents time travel, no one will know what Einstein said to the nurse who was with him when he died. He spoke in German, a language she didn’t understand.

24 February 2011

111,111,111 Squared

111,111,111 squared equals 12,345,678,987,654,321. The symmetry surprised me, but wouldn’t have if I was reasonably numerate. Conversely, my naïveté provides lots of amusement I might otherwise have missed.

I never thought I’d have a reason to ever cite an exact number in the quadrillions, but now I do.

25 February 2011

Colin’s Perfidious Language Lesson

I told Yoshiko that I did surprisingly well for a couple of weeks in Japan on three basic phrases: hello, thank you, and excuse me. I then repeated the phrases in Japanese for her amusement.

She was mortified, not entertained.

“What did you just say?!” she asked.

After I again recited my few Japanese words, Yoshiko told me that the phrase I’d been using for “excuse me” actually meant, “I want to lick your knees.”

That would explain why the Japanese people to whom I apologized looked aghast. I thought they were just disdaining an ignorant foreigner, which, I suppose they were.

That’s the last time I’m going to let that scalawag Colin teach me any foreign phrases.


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©2011 David Glenn Rinehart