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The Hammering Heart

Still beating.

Month

September 2010

October, Thy Name Be Praised

Well, friends, October is upon us, so let us rejoice. October–a month of brown and orange splendor, pumpkin-spice confections, bittersweet memories of new beginnings and hearts broken, and of course, daily horror movies! Yes, daily. I’m gonna do it again, like I did last year. By October 31st, I’ll be so burnt out and depraved that I should feel quite the monster myself, only to wash it all away November 1st.

I’ll try to make handy recommendations as often as I can bear so those who have the time and the nerve can join in the madness with me. Today’s is the debut feature film of now-world-class director Hideo Nakata, the man who brought us the original “Ring”. The movie is called Joy├╗rei, and you can watch it for free, right this very instant, here. I highly recommend it if you have even a passing curiosity towards Japanese horror. It is (mostly) subtle and amazing. I even reviewed it, Greg-style, right here.

I’m also way open to the suggestions of others. Way open. If you’ve got one I haven’t seen, I’ll be thrilled. I’m also just generally curious about what everybody’s favorite horror movies are.

Happy October, everyone. Thinking of my friends back home, for fall is the time when crazy things went down amongst us, and I will never forget the things.

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“Get Into It!”

It’s been my motto for the last few years, since I lived with a certain Australian roommate who used to frequently exclaim it. “Get into it, mate! It’ll be mad! Dingo crocodile didgeridoo!”

He didn’t say the last part, but he implied it, as they often do.

It’s a surprisingly powerful motto just as my roommate turned out to be a surprisingly inspirational human being. I wanted to plaster the motto on my wall over my doorframe so that every time I walked out of the room trying to extract myself from whatever goings-on were frustrating or boring me at the moment, I would remember that I should in fact be doing the opposite and becoming more submerged. Here’s a few other pointers that I should get plastered somewhere or, um, everywhere.

1. If the ideas aren’t coming, it’s because you haven’t been doing enough living. Go do some and come back to it.

2. The gleaming berg of inspiration we strive to reach is quickest found via the alignment of two or more inspirational sources.

As evidence, let’s look at my favorite songs from my own repertoire:

-The Ghost: “I miss my sort-of-spooky girlfriend and Japan” + “This ghost movie is actually about how lonely we all are” (the movie was “Pulse”)

-Atomic Girl: Suicidal disaster girl + Trip to Hiroshima

-Girl/Car: Girlfriend dumps me + Car breaks down

-Bondage, Baby: “Invention of Freedom” class + Roommate gets dumped, becomes pathetic wreck in a way that is eye-openingly familiar.

It seems gauche to end after two and not three or five, but that’s all I’ve got for now. More to come maybe.

Reverse Culture Shock 101: People Care a Lot Less About Japan Here

Maybe it goes without saying, but it’s been an adjustment for me nonetheless. In Japan, after all, everybody cares about Japan. You’ll be talking about flatware or place mats or something and somebody will go, “Yes, the ‘Japanese soul’ dictates that we be meticulous about such things.”

Here, I’ll be talking to someone about cars or what-have-you, and in desperately groping for some contribution I can make to the conversation, I’ll inevitably say something about Japan. “In Japan, this car would be a hard sell. Not boxy enough, see.”

My conversation partner will, most of the time, nod politely. I think when they do this, they’re wondering why I would bring up Japan at a time like this. “We weren’t talking about car exporting.

But I’m still in a phase where it’s hard to do anything without constantly relating it back to Japan. Most of my adult experiences have taken place over there. Somehow it’s become my control in this experiment we call Life. The problem is, this is almost a surefire way to bring a once-healthy conversation to an untimely, blood-spewing demise. It sounds something like this:

Salamatacky: “I was at this party on Saturday, and there were so many people that they ran out of beer in the first two hours, even though there were two kegs.”

Greg: “Wow. You know, they don’t really do house parties in Japan. Houses are too close together and have thin walls, plus everybody’s kept highly considerate to one another through a thoroughly implemented system of shame that transcends any known form of executive enforcement.”

Salamatacky: “Yeah, just a couple of the many reasons I’m not at all interested in Japan.”

Talking to other expatriates in Japan, the reverse scenario was far from true. You be talking about how things are in Japan, and then you’d say “Back in America, it was like this and that,” and everyone else would chime in, “Yeah, we did such-and-such in Australia” or “Oh yeaaah, America was like that! I share your knowledge and experiences and find this line of dialogue highly stimulating!”

That’s the thing about being an expatriate. As foreigners, and as minorities, we all had some amount of common ground, if only because of how we were treated by the majority. It’s like I’ve said before about Asian-Americans. Put ’em in the context of America and suddenly they’re one group. But the term Asian-American itself is profoundly obtuse, attempting to clump more than a third of the entire planet’s population into one ethnicity despite the boundlessly vast variety of cultures in Asia the actual continent. Never mind that China and Korea are famously at odds with Japan; bring ’em all to America and their kids will join the same clique.

In my eighth grade science class, I once overheard the following conversation, which filled me with awe and changed my life permanently:

Mike: “Hey man, are you Asian?”
Will: “Well, I’m half Japanese.”
Mike: “Cool.”

Mike was a Korean-American, who’d newly discovered not his Korean-American identity, but his “Asian-American” identity, which subsequently bleached his perceptions as though he’d been inducted into a cult or overcome by a zombie virus. Will, who was indeed half-Japanese, seemed to identify himself as a “middle school student”. It probably seemed odd to him that by revealing this one seemingly inconsequential detail about his DNA, he’d gone from random guy to “comrade” in the eyes of Mike, who, in Will’s mind, was still just a random guy.

Rest assured, if Mike was with some posse of droogs in real-life Korea and he introduced them to his half-Japanese friend, they probably wouldn’t be so ready to accept the guy as one of their own.

I guess what I’m getting at is that the upside of being an expat in Japan was that other expats were, by default, inclined to be your friend. Here, no such freebies exist (except when you meet someone who’s lived in Japan, which, by the way, hasn’t happened yet). Meanwhile, any attempt to interject with my own personal experiences of “how things were over there” is just met with dead air or a punch in the face. Not really.

Anyway. I think I need to join a club, is what I’m saying.

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