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March 8th-28th, 2005
"Expo 2005..."  by LHS & Yo/Gr
"Suburbia Drones Love Union Square"  by KCM & LHS
"After the Last Train"  by LHS & TJE
"The Lunar New Year"  by KCM
"Lost in Translation & Life"  by RER & LHS
"PR, MP3 Players, etc."  by KCM & LHS
"Almost Washed Away..."  by MSY
"Reflex Motion"  by LHS & RER
"Blue Water & Blue Skies"  by KCM & LHS
"Shibuya"  by LHS & RER
"New City, New Inhabitants"
"Flowers, Old Letters, Etc."  by SZS & LHS
"Things Work Better With Linux..."  by RER & LHS
"Expo 2005 - After Opening Day"

"Expo 2005..."     [Top of page]

(2005/03/19 02:06)  The Expo is starting in a week, on March 25th.  The concept is good and I'm looking forward to checking it out, but I'm also upset with the organizers - I applied for a press pass over six months ago (with all requested documentation, including passport information, photo of myself, addresses, phone numbers, copies of previously published articles, letter from publisher who commissioned me to write about the Expo, etc.), but when I called last month to find out what was going on, they just told me that they didn't have my application form and accompanying documentation, so I'd have to send it all again.

As I had sent it registered mail, I then contacted the post office, pushed a little, and got confirmation that someone at the Expo site in Aichi Prefecture had signed ("stamped" actually, with a "hanko") for it.  After more phone calls to the Expo organizers, finally I got a telephone call from them, and they told me that they had found my application form and would send me a fax "after March 1st".  Well... that's reassuring!  No "by" a certain date, but "after" a certain date... sort of meaningless - now I can't claim they were lying about finding the lost documentation until the Expo finishes a half year down the road!

It may be for the best - I suppose I might well be better off without a press pass anyway, as I would have to waste time going to their offices in Aichi and no doubt burn off time dealing with more of their sloppiness, so I'll just pay the (expensive I think!) Y4,600 entrance price and do what I can in a single day - I sure can't afford to buy more than one of the entrance tickets at that price!  Hopefully the Expo itself will turn out better than this bad start it's taken for me.

Back when I actually thought the organizers would behave professionally, I looked into staying with a friend in Nagoya, but he's not exactly living in a palace, and space is at a premium, as he states in the following letter:

Subject: Re: The Expo!!!
From: Yo/Gr  [US / Japan]
Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2005

If I was still living in my old place I would have gladly let you stay, but my place now is tiny.  Unless you want to sleep on the same futon!  I'm living local-style.  I don't even have a shower!  I have a bath which I heat with gas, then throw the heated water on myself with one of those bath buckets.  In the summer at least, the water isn't so cold, but now I go to the gym to shower.  Anyway, there are some very cheap and good business hotels I have used in the past that I can recommend.

Sorry not to be able to offer more help.  The place I was living in before had a lot of space and we had an unused room, but then no one visited...


I almost visited Yo/Gr when he lived in Shikoku - I certainly wanted to and I even had some frequent-flyer miles I could have used (since expired), but time-wise I couldn't easily fit it into my schedule, and through postponing it and postponing it, the frequent flier miles vaporized and then it wasn't just time that was a problem, but time and money, so I never did make it to Shikoku while he was there.     [Top of page]

"Suburbia Drones Love Union Square"     [Top of page]

Subject: hi
From: KCM  [US]
Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2005

This weekend was rather hectic.  A friend's little sister and her friend came to visit.  We tried to enthuse them about visiting SFSU, because they will be going to college next year, but it was a failure.  They really, really wanted to go to Union Square and shop.

They made me feel old.  I have more to say about this, but there are still other things I'd like to sort out before I talk any more about it, stuff like attitudes between us children of immigrants and the next generation, or the lack of curiosity they exhibited, or the fear of difference (which I suppose is endemic in any society, but it always shocks me whenever I experience it).

Let me give you an example.  We were trying to decide on a restaurant to eat at.  These girls are well off and live in a nice, white suburban neighborhood.  They can afford to eat wherever they want.  I ask them if they want Vietnamese.  They've never had Vietnamese.  What's in it?  Mostly noodles.  Oh, like chow mein? (Me:!!!!)  How about Thai?  Never had that either.  Szechuan?  What's that?  Spicy Chinese food.  Oh, I don't like spicy food.  My favorite Chinese restaurant is Panda Express (a fast-food-type chain that inflicts orange chicken on the unsuspecting public).

Incredible!  I asked them if they've ever had anything before?  I asked my friend about it, because I think that they are young and they should have, I don't know, been more exposed or something.  For both my friend's and my parents (first generation immigrants), it's probably excusable that they don't venture outside their comfort zone, but I don't think it is for their kids.  Maybe it'll be different once they go to college.  They'll be exposed to different cultures and different people.  I should hope so.


Suburbia... ah yes... I'm afraid I can imagine only too well about people who seem to fear anything interesting!  And - I'm very ashamed to say - I was afraid in San Francisco for a month or so when I first moved there.  I specifically moved there to escape the extreme boredom of suburbia, but I was still afraid of the "big city" for those first few weeks.  Then I got used to it, loved it, and felt like a tropical fish suddenly tossed into the middle of a Siberian wasteland when I revisited suburbia....

Back to Union Square - reading KCM's letter, I had a flashback to meeting two women on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) who were going to San Francisco, and when I asked them what part of the city they were headed to, they said "Union Square".  I looked at them for a second and then asked "Why?", to which one of them explained disdainfully (to a resident of San Francisco remember!) that "Everyone knows Union Square is the center of San Francisco!".  I laughed in her face and told her the truth - that there was nothing there except shopping geared to tourists from suburbia, and that people who actually lived in San Francisco didn't waste their time there.  The haughty woman looked none too pleased and the memory ends there - no doubt we stopped talking to each other from that point!     [Top of page]

"Shotengai"     [Top of page]

The "shotengai", or shopping streets of Japan are dying off.  I once longed for the cheaper prices of large retailers and didn't like the high prices of the shotengai, but now that the big stores are here and people are geared towards buying things for the cheapest prices they can, I'm looking at the steadily declining shotengai shopping streets with nostalgia.  I always did like the feel of walking down a shotengai shopping street - with people walking about in all directions, specialized shops for everything, and with the aroma of restaurants drifting into the street.  I liked them, but I didn't do much shopping at them, and over the past 18 years or so, increasing numbers of people are also not shopping at them, and so they are ever shrinking and losing their old liveliness.

What's the solution?  I don't know, but it would be nice to have some kind of balance, with both small shops and large retailers being able to somehow coexist.  I say this, but when I want to buy something, I go to where I can get it inexpensively and that's what nearly everyone else does, so how can the small shops survive?

"After the Last Train"     [Top of page]

After the last train, if you're wealthy and/or the company you work for will pay for it, you take a taxi home.  If you're wondering how you're going to pay next month's rent, then you walk (if your abode is within walking distance that is).  The other day, I had just such an experience, and found myself walking down lonely roads in the middle of a cold and windy night.

Times like this, the fundamental difference between cities and the natural world are striking.  Aside from worrying about "things in the night" in the natural world, you have the stars and moon above (there was a bright moon on Friday, but the street lights mainly obliterated its light), the sound of the wind in the trees, and the sounds of insects and other life about you.

In the city, on the other hand, while the peopled daytime provides all the companionship humanity can offer, the middle of the night on asphalt and between concrete buildings, with a lifeless and bone-chillingly cold wind blowing, is a forlorn world.  What is good about it, is that when you get home, the inside of your apartment seems like paradise - (relatively) warm, no wind, no cars....

Subject: Re: "After the Last Train"
From: TJE  [US]
Date: Fri, 4 Feb 2005 -0600

[Regarding "After the Last Train"]  Those of us who have experienced this weird deserted feeling in the wee hours of the morning know exactly what you mean.  One has to get out on foot to appreciate your description to is fullest.  There is a different set of thoughts if inside a car, but, even there, no escape is possible if you turn off the radio and you are alone.

I worked for years as a surgical nurse and did private duty, going not only to different hospitals but also to private residences, and most of them at night (quite often I checked out the residences in the daytime before going into an unfamiliar area).

I am very familiar with that eerie feeling one gets when everything but a few things shut down.  Going to work at eleven at night and returning still in the dark during the winter months... it seems forever night.  Everything looks a bit different.  Taking long trips, I drove at night, cars distant from one another gives the mind a chance to wonder what these other drivers are doing... where are they going?  Do they have the same sensations you are experiencing?  Somewhat like that of the last ant straggling into the nest at night, so much of the time the hum of tires as another car passes you leaves a sense of foreboding... (I like to drive with the window partially lowered at those hours).

Walking from the subway to catch a bus on my way home was the most lonely of  stretches... of course that was back when it was fairly safe to do so in New York city - usually there was another stalwart soul going in the same direction.  One who - after looking the other person over - might strike up a conversation or stand aloof, wondering if this is a safe person to be near - another worry!!  So it is not really peaceful... not inside your head, it isn't!!

Today people do not travel alone if it can be avoided, and they usually disappear quickly into their homes in the suburbs with the approach of darkness and the closing down of the business areas - even on well lit streets, danger can lurk.  (I wonder if there is less likelihood of mugging and harm befalling one on a sparsely traveled street at that late hour of the night.)

I am reminded that the valiant die only once but cowards die a thousand deaths.  I was a superb athlete, but a lonely street can make me a superb coward - having been, at age 16, stalked on a subway after dark, I have never dismissed the possibilities in sixty-five years.  I read at an early age, "The Japanese do not trust the night air" - of course that was long before WW-II.  Tokyo is a city that never sleeps(?).  All may be different now, but do try to avoid finding yourself on nearly unoccupied streets in the middle of the night!


I also read something about the night air in an old book written by a woman from Niigata (Japan Sea side of Japan's main island Honshu) who had spent some time in the west and then returned to Japan in the very early days of east-west intercourse.  While in the west (I don't remember the country, but I think the US), she had developed the habit of leaving a widow open at night to let in fresh air, but when she tried to do that back in Japan, someone else in the household would invariably close it - and she mentioned a fear of the night air as a reason.

There seems to be something worth thinking about regarding this, because much of Japan is now vastly overlit, and sometimes I wonder if a general dislike of the night is the root cause of this.  So overlit are some of the trains and offices, that I have had to wear sunglasses at times because it was physically painful to keep my eyes open without them.  Of course, the light intensity is one issue - what really makes it hard to bear is when there is a direct line of sight between the light source and your eyes.  I've personally experienced working in a room here that had excellent lighting, with blinders on the recessed florescent tubes that prevented the light from directly shining into your eyes (you might think that this is standard lighting, but - unfortunately - not in many workplaces here).  I would go into that room to work and glance appreciatively up at the intelligently designed ceiling lighting and happily get to work under low-stress and proper lighting.

One day, I walked in and my eyes were assaulted with a horrible direct blast of line-of-sight florescent bulbs....  "What the..." thought I, as I glanced up in surprise and then horror to discover that some bloody imbecile had removed the shades that had permitted the full intensity of the tubes to shine down, but not diagonally over into people's eyes.  I marched off to the administrative office and asked why the lighting had been sabotaged.  I was told that someone had complained that the room was dark, and so they mutated the intelligently designed lights to bring them into conformity with the more common eye-damaging horrible setup of bare tubes hanging everywhere blasting people into an overlit stupor.

I hate to be ranting and raving like this, but when the lighting causes you physical pain, how can you not get passionate about it?  It just goes to show that people like what they are used to - not what is good.  Too many people here have grown up with really horrible lighting and now they are so used to being blasted with strong lighting shining directly into their eyes, that they think a room that is properly lit (absolutely not dark!) is - to their perception anyway - dark.  I am confident that future generations will become more skillful users of artificial light, but for now, sunglasses are more useful here at night than in the day!      [Top of page]

"The Lunar New Year"     [Top of page]

From: KCM  [US]
Date: Wed, 09 Feb 2005

I have been talking to PR people, and man, are they touchy!  It could be that I don't know how to speak their language, but when I make simple observations and comparisons, I am not disparaging their products!  I was simply trying to get some information.

Besides that, things are going pretty well for me.  My job is paying more, even if it is repetitive and boring.  I really like the way my office is set up - so bright and cheerful, compared to all the gloomy, crowded cubes at my last job.  My sister got me discounted BART tickets, which saves me $100 each month.  Yay for that!

Tomorrow is the lunar New Year, the year of the Rooster - my year.  I've made it through two full cycles without a scratch, and I hope the New Year brings good things for all of us.  It might be superstitious for me to say these things, but that is what I love about the New Year - it's like Christmas to me without the commercialism, and the holiday emphasizes generosity, good thoughts, and positive thinking.  It is one of the few times when I have peace with my entire family, and delicious holiday food, full of cholesterol-filled goodies and tradition.  I am not normally a fan of tradition, but the lunar New Year is one I think I will always keep.


"Lost in Translation & Life"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: "Lost in Translation" notes...
From: RER  [Portugal]
Date: Wed, 09 Feb 2005

There were a few strange things I found in the movie that you explained in "Digital? & 'Lost in Translation'", like the accuracy (or not) of short people, the price of the hotel, etc.  The most annoying thing I found in the movie was that the characters were bored in Tokyo (how could you be bored in such a different country?) and I also think the Bill Murray character was arrogant towards the locals.  He has this "superior" attitude, I don't know if it was on purpose.

A small story about other foreigners I met while traveling in India with my girlfriend.  We went backpacking there and stayed in the cheapest hotels we could afford.  We met other travelers like us, mostly Japanese.  Many of them were great people who were very excited about the country.  We shared experiences and talked a lot about our home countries.  Instead of saying goodbye, we used to say: "See you in the next town" because we sometimes met again in a different town and so we would eat and take walks together. There was one American guy we met in Varanasi though, who had a huge traveling bag.  He wasn't carrying his bag though - a poor Indian kid was carrying it.  I was VERY upset when I saw it - thinking, "Who does he think he is?".  I'm not saying every American is that way, but I had the same feeling watching the movie.  Anyway, there was not much difference between that guy and rich Portuguese people who go to five-star hotels in Cuba or Thailand....  They go there for the beaches and (cheap) luxury; they don't really care about the people or the country.

Anyway, I loved the movie.  I think it's just about two people who feel lost in life (not only in translation).  The story could happen anywhere in the world I think....

Wim Wenders, the German director, made a movie in Lisbon called "Lisbon Story".  I didn't like it because he kept filming old women, street kids, old buildings... he wanted to film "typical" people and places but from the point of view of a Portuguese, he was filming very poor people who live with great difficulties in houses that are almost ruins.  It looked like poverty was touristic.  I think there was some lack of respect....


About Bill Murray - I think he's sort of that way all the time, so I didn't see him as being particularly bad - other than in that very strange hotel room scene early in the movie, which I found rather disturbing.    

"PR, MP3 Players, etc."     [Top of page]

From: KCM  [US]
Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2005

I had to get some product information for work and barely managed to obtain some information from PR people, who I now have come to believe are evil and soulless.  I exaggerate....

[Regarding MP3 players]:  For my mp3 player, I've been using Apple's proprietary format, which sounds great on the player, but I think that eventually I will switch over to oggs or something.  I like mp3s just fine, and I think they offer more flexibility in where they can be played, but I like open-source stuff, and supposedly oggs sounds better.  I am not much of an audiophile, so I can't really tell the difference between WAVs and mp3s.

I had lunch with a few coworkers yesterday, and it left me feeling really really young.  They started talking about bad first dates, and one of them mentioned that she had advised her friend not to date anyone "under 30".

I emailed my old boss, just to touch bases with her.  She seemed to be glad to hear from me; I want to stay on her good side, if I ever need a recommendation or reference or something.  I also emailed one of the friends I made at the old workplace, and learned some interesting things - 1. that my boss is still the same lazy person who dumps things on other people, 2. the person I trained to replace me "didn't work out" and they hired another woman who has the same name as me.  I wonder why my original replacement didn't work out?  She seemed to be learning just fine, but the things that sometimes came out of her mouth were appalling, well, maybe not appalling, but very annoying to me.  One of those people with very little self-awareness.


Re: "...... PR people, who I now have come to believe are evil and soulless.  I exaggerate...."

Exaggerate by saying "evil and soulless" when referring to PR people?  No, that's quite accurate for too many of them actually!  It's always surprised me how much respect the words "I used to work at a PR agency" have produced when I've used them (over here anyway).  In fact, that experience alone is probably what got me the decent-paying job at the printing company and also at the foundation I worked at after that.  Advertising agencies are a different matter - they really do have to produce quality work or they go out of business.  Too many PR people dive ever deeper into the muck to stay in business, so they get dirtier and dirtier the longer they're in the fray.  I'm sure there is also a good side to the PR business, but I haven't seen much of it to date.  It's supposed to be about forming a bridge between companies and the societies they operate in, but more often is about getting advertising into the media disguised as real news.  It's quite a dishonest and destructive force oftentimes - not about clarifying things and conveying the truth, but rather clouding the issues and selling people lies.     [Top of page]

"Almost Washed Away..."     [Top of page]

Subject: RE: LL-330
From: MSY  [Malaysia]
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2005

It has been quite some time since we last wrote to each other.  Things have been really bad lately and I have not gone onto the Net because of it.  I finally managed to get my PC working again without any mishaps and am sort of settled back to my normal life again.

I don't know if you realize that I am from Malaysia and I live on an Island called Penang - a quiet and a relaxing place to retire without stress etc... until the unfortunate tragedy that occurred recently anyway.  I live near the sea and my house was almost washed away by the Tsunami.  Needless to say, I think you understand what a turmoil my life has been since then.  No one died in my family, but the incident still gives me the shivers when I think of what could have had happened.

All is (mostly) well now and apart from my neighbors, who have suffered great losses with deaths and property damage, etc., it is really amazing how everything seems like nothing had happened.  I won't wallow in my own misery, because many others suffered more than I have, like the people in Indonesia, Acheh and Sri Lanka etc., I am just happy that all is well with my family and that we are still together.

When I think back on what has happened... it all seems like a warning to us.  Too much fighting going on, too many natural disasters.  We all take things for granted and I think it is high time we all appreciate everything that we have around us.  It is only when horrible incidents such as this tsunami happen, that we really see the beauty that we had.  We see, but we don't really see....


"Reflex Motion"     [Top of page]

The two paragraphs below are the text that is posted along with six photos taken on the Yamanote Line, which prompted RER's letter (below, after following block of text).  The photos (and text) can be seen by clicking on "Reflex Motion" on the Photo Gallery page.

While I've met thousands of people in Tokyo over the two decades I've been here, I'm realizing that there are only so many people you can really interact with at any given time.  The helping hand of technology notwithstanding (speedy rail travel, e-mail, etc.), there are no more hours in the day today than there were 22,137 years ago, so the extra chances of meeting people end up being like water over the spillway in an already full dam.  Thousands of people, and so few that I can bring to mind as I write this!
     Similarly, when riding in a train, you notice people somewhat while on your way to meet a friend, acquaintance, or whatever, but while you're glancing at an individual to your right, you cannot be simultaneously looking at another person on your left; and while you're focusing on what's out the window, you cannot be focused on what's inside the train.  Thus capturing an instant in time with photography is the only way to stop and look at the semi-parallel lives of the individuals in the train and really sense the number of directions indicated in any one moment....

Subject: ReflexMotion
From: RER  [Portugal]
Date: Thu, 03 Mar 2005

I got the latest LL-Letter, but I haven't read it yet.  I have a hard time reading large amounts of text on the computer screen, so I printed it today to read it.  I just wanted to say that I loved the Reflex Motion page.  I don't know which is better: the text or the pictures, it's one of those rare things that I don't know how to comment on because it says it all!  It reminded me of something that happened to me last Saturday - I was talking in the street in Porto with a new friend (I've known him for only a couple of months) and then another friend that I haven't seen for years passed by and we talked a little.  I was thinking, "This person I just met and I know very little about him, and the other one I haven't seen for so long that he's practically became a stranger again."  And, as usual, we said goodbye with: "We should have coffee sometime"... I imagine I'll meet him again in a few years.


"Blue Water & Blue Skies"     [Top of page]

From: KCM  [US]
Date: Sat, 12 Mar 2005

......  It is early over here in California, and it has been such a gorgeous week that I've been loathe to work, especially when I work right next to the water and the sky is so blue.  It's such a welcome change, after months of rain.  What is the ocean like on that side of the Pacific?  I've been wondering ever since a friend told me that the Atlantic beaches have a separate, distinct quality from California's beaches.

I am currently negotiating my salary with the company.  They low-balled me, but I demanded a higher salary, because, frankly, they aren't going to get another employee like me and I have my boss backing me up.  She is being super-nice about it and taking her weekend to check out what the competition is paying their employees with the same title as mine.  Hopefully, I can get the salary I asked for.

Aabbb is going to be disappearing into his work for the next week or so, because of his own deadlines.  He was at work until nine last night.  It was FRIDAY NIGHT!  *sigh*  I hate tech culture; it places so much value on the work, rather than the person.  I feel like that game developer's wife; an anonymous wife posted a letter detailing how she never saw her husband, how he never got rewarded for his hard work, or compensated for his overtime, etc.  We are not at that extreme end yet, because he does get rewarded fairly often and paid really well, and it's work he loves, but at the same time I can tell it's draining him.

I am loving working in San Francisco.  I wish I could move closer.  On Thursday night I attended a panel about new magazines that was really interesting.  It was made up of three women who had all started their own magazines based on their passions, and one middle-aged man who seemed out of place, since his magazine was backed by Time-Warner, and his magazine appealed more to a mainstream audience.

The man got on my nerves because he made an irritating, and profoundly ignorant statement: "I don't think people here really read.  I've never seen a house here with more than five or six bookshelves."  Have you heard of the library, or the Internet?

The others talked about how they got their magazines started.  The founder of one mentioned that when she started her magazine, she didn't see any income from it for two years.  What really was very inspiring to me was the fact that all three women were very driven by their passion to see these projects brought to life; that same passion also infects their audience, who are very opinionated and drive a lot of the direction the magazine takes.  It was also very cool to see that these publishing projects could take place in San Francisco, rather than New York, because it kind of gives me hope that I can do it here, too.


Re: "What is the ocean like on that side of the Pacific?"

I had always found it to feel rather different, but then last year I found a spot on the Pacific coast in Chiba (across the bay from Tokyo) that felt the same to me as the California coast (see "In the Sound of the Ocean Waves..." in LL-329), and it is the same ocean after all, so I don't know how to properly compare the Japan coastline with the North American coastline.  All places have their own ambience - the beach in San Francisco is not exactly like beaches up in Oregon, so maybe it's just a simple matter of different places are... er... different places!  I ended up making a man from South Africa (part of another newsgroup) angry when I responded to his going on about how he wants to emigrate to Europe, but "Africa gets into you and it's hard to leave", etc.  I wrote that just about any land on the planet does that!  My ancestors are from Europe, so it would be equally valid for me to say that the North American continent gets into you and it's not easy to leave it behind.  Allow me to emphasize that I wasn't suggesting that what he said was wrong, just that it wasn't really unique.

As for tech culture and working overtime - I first noticed that phenomenon when interacting with some US and Canadian tech companies while I was at the PR agency.  I was initially surprised, thinking they were working Tokyo office hours to more effectively enter the Japanese market (an actual factor maybe), but when I stop and think how many times computers have kept me up all night, I realize that the machines demand uninterrupted attention when you're in the middle of certain processes.  You can't just walk away from them the way you can with non-computerized paperwork, where you can put down a pen or pencil onto a stack of papers on your desk, go home, and - after actually having dinner at a decent hour and getting a decent night's rest, go back to the office in the morning and continue exactly where you left off the night before.  The machines do a lot of work for people, but when something needs to be done to a machine, then the tables are turned and people find themselves working for the machines.  Occasional machine maintenance is an obvious thing, but with computers, it's particularly time consuming and happens with distressing regularity!     [Top of page]

"Shibuya"     [Top of page]

The block of text below is the text that is posted along with a photo of Shibuya, which prompted the letter (further down the page) from RER.  The photos and text can be seen by clicking on "Shibuya" on the Photo Gallery page.

I first noticed the sensation on the new type Yamanote Line train, with the dual LCD displays over each door (one displaying station information and the other travel info, weather, advertising, etc.) and the car bodies that curve out from the base, making for a larger interior.  I looked around, found the displays interesting and useful, admired the new design that provided more interior room from the same base, and... felt a strange detachment.  I sat there - on the train - but feeling as though I was not quite... actually there.  This feeling has been very persistent, stubborn, and not quite shakeable.  The trains seem as though they are begrudgingly beginning to accept my existence on them, but what in the world is this strange feeling?
     Then, yesterday evening, I arrived early in Shibuya for an appointment, so I leisurely walked down Dogenzaka from the rear exit of the Inokashira Line.  I once again came face to face with the shock that Tokyo often provides any long-term resident - the shock of discovering an entire area changed almost beyond recognition.  I drifted down the street taking in the crowds of predominantly teenagers and people in their twenties, the discount drug stores(!), the fast food places(!) and it began to seep in what the cold new trains had been trying to tell me.
     When I lived in San Francisco in the early eighties, I was a bit nervous during my first month there, but the city soon became my town.  Then when I moved to Tokyo in late 1984, the same thing happened - I was initially nervous (new culture, new language, etc.), but soon, and for the rest of the eighties and all of the nineties, Tokyo became my town.
     Now?  Tokyo belongs to people from one to thirty-eight, but not to forty-five-year-old Lyle.  I mean... I'm here and I am taking pictures and observing events, but I have become a guest in the world.  I well remember my disdain for those hangers on from distant eras who were always out of touch with now, but now (now?) I see it's not even a mental choice - it's a physical thing.
     Or not?  I have never lived in any city on this planet as long as I've lived in Tokyo.  Maybe this is just the disillusionment of having learned a city, figured the learning process was over, and then had it change from under my feet.  If I move to a new city, will it become mine as cities always did before?  Probably not, but there's a good side to all of this as well.  As I stood near the Hachiko statue in Shibuya taking in the surrounding scene, I was probably better able to see it than I ever have been before.  Better able to see the playing field from the stands than down on the field itself?  Hmmm....
     And with that, I'll stop before this spins out of control in a sophistic whirlwind of words - ever chasing the truth further away in a futile attempt to pin it down.

Subject: Book: great idea!
From: RER  [Portugal]
Date: Mon, 21 Mar 2005

I usually don't think about getting old.  When I turned 30 last year, I got a little depressed, but got over it by the next day.  Maybe because I'm always excited with new things or new projects (like visiting Tokyo!), I almost never think about the past.  A friend called me yesterday to go for a drink and talk about good old times, but I really don't feel like it!  I haven't spent any time with him for about five years and he only talks about regular stuff: work, his house, etc... I have a hard time connecting with these kinds of people, because I get bored.  It's a bad thing I suppose....  Anyway, the last time I got really depressed was when I went to a disco where I used to hang out when I was a teenager.  I used to laugh at older people because I was much younger, but this time I was the older guy.  :)

I don't mind getting old because it means I have more knowledge and have experienced more things in life.  I'll probably change my mind in a few years....

The snow pictures are wonderful - they (strangely) reminded me of the town in France where I lived when I was a kid.  It snowed a lot and there were lots of trees.



When I turned 40, it was just a number that I didn't like, but around 43 or so there were more reminders that I'm a mortal man than I cared to encounter - psychological changes can be ignored (it's just a number...), but physical changes cannot (that line on face isn't really there...).  What's hitting me these days is the inescapable reality that my time on the planet is limited and options for me to change direction - something that seemed infinitely doable for most of my life - have suddenly become a more difficult... what... concept?  So, I certainly hope I'm going in the right direction now, because there may not be the time or energy needed to make any radically new changes to my course.     [Top of page]

"New City, New Inhabitants"     [Top of page]

(2005/03/09 16:20)  I figured it out!  I was feeling a bit lost and out of the loop regarding the radically different Tokyo I have found myself living in... in comparison to 1984 Tokyo that is.  After writing a sort of "mid-life crisis" article (see "Shibuya" in the Photo Gallery, and above), I began mulling over what I am to do with myself and Tokyo.  Finally, the should-have-been-obvious answer came.  I've fundamentally moved!  I've simplistically thought of the city in terms of new buildings and new fashions, without considering the very obvious and far more important factor of new people!  With scores of new souls being born and scores of old souls dying every single day, 7,500 days of new inflow and outflow has created a different city.  What percentage of the souls here in 1984 are still here?  What percentage of the souls I'm now interacting with in Tokyo weren't here at all or were in baby form?  Of the people who were here in 1984, not a one of them looks the same as they did then, and so the city is 100% different in people and... I don't know... 50% different in buildings.  I've been looking at the half-changed buildings and wondering why things feel so different.  Stupid of me!  The buildings aren't the issue!  The city feels different?  That's because it is different!  100% changed!  So simple, so obvious (if somehow hidden), and so perplexing!

Yes, without a doubt, truth is so very much stranger than fiction!  Now that I realize I've - effectively - moved, I suppose it's time I spent a little more effort getting out and meeting the new inhabitants of this new city and finding out what sort of place I've moved into and what sort of people are living here now!

"Flowers, Old Letters, Etc."     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: Machines, New Paths, etc.
From: SZS  [UK]
Date: Thu, 24 Mar 2005

.......  I like the snow pictures - same here, we get no snow anymore - frightening when you stop and think.  I had a climbing rose bloom in January when actually they should be blooming in July and August.

Daffodils are late this year - I know that for a fact, because the kids usually pinch them out of the front garden for Mother's Day.

I've been reading the old letters I wrote to you long ago (on your site).  About my mother being back to normal after her small stroke.  To think she has been gone nearly two years now after a large stroke finished a nice Lady who always put herself second and others first....


About the letters at the site.  I'm still not sure what it all means.  I felt comfortable with the early arrangement, where it was only sent out via e-mail and not posted.  I could envision pretty accurately how many people were reading it and where they all were.  As soon as I posted those letters on the LL-Letters site though, when I've tried to imagine who is reading them and where they are... nothing but questions have come back.  How many?  Many?  Not many?  Where are they?  What to they think?  Are there many new people reading them?  Hello to the new people!  Write sometimes!

"Things Work Better With Linux..."     [Top of page]

From: RER  [Portugal]
Date: Tue, 22 Mar 2005

.....  My computer has been crashing too many times... I have to reformat the hard drive, but I have 20GB of precious work to back up first.  I'm thinking of buying a new hard drive for backup only.  A friend told me I should buy a DVD recorder, but I get tired of having to record everything, and I always forget what files have already been backed up... With a second HDD I would only have to drag and drop the files.


PC trouble - I recently read that network security experts estimate that one out of three (I think - I'm not sure of the actual figure, but it was very high) desktop computers worldwide have been compromised.  RER - you might want to dump a certain "leading brand" and go with Linux.  No computer program is perfect, but for network security, Linux has a good record and the price is right (either a modest price for a boxed set, or free from a magazine or the Internet).

"Expo 2005 - After Opening Day"     [Top of page]

(2005/03/27 00:50)  Now that opening day has come (Friday) for Expo 2005, there are several reports on TV about it.  The biggest draw at this point seems to be the display of the ancient mammoth.  In spite of setting it up so people have to ride a conveyor belt to see it (which gives them only 90 seconds to look at the display before being taken back outside), there are still long lines....  It reminds me of how it is at amusement parks - you wait for two hours, ride a two-minute ride, wait for an hour for the next ride, ride it for three minutes, etc.  I have no intention of waiting around in any lines when I visit though, so I'll probably just stick to walking over the site and getting photos.  Surprisingly (in the local way of things in any case), they showed some exhibit spaces from other countries that aren't ready yet.  I was surprised, but then again, the thing runs for half a year, so what's a few days?

I'll soon be visiting there myself... but I'm finding that with each report I see on TV, I'm less enthusiastic about going, which will require riding down and back on all-night buses to save money (the Shinkansen is a bit more expensive), and then spending about $45 to get into something I don't even really want to see - all so I can help them promote the event... and from their side, they (the %$%#%$#$!!) won't even give me a press pass, and have added insult to injury by lying to me about their irresponsible handling of sensitive application information.

That said, the concept is good and I'll make a tiny profit from writing about it, so down there I will go!

Sore dewa!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon
Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo
March 28th, 2005
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