my need for a clear path fix

I found out last night that I got accepted into the Film & Television MFA program at the Savannah College of Art and Design.  The catch is that I’ll need to take about a year of undergraduate film and video courses before I begin the two year graduate program, a catch which wouldn’t bother me at all if not for the monetary aspect of it.  In the end, though, I plan to go (further) into debt in order to get my MFA anyway, so what’s another twenty grand going to matter?  Heh, heh… er.

I am still haphazardly waiting to hear about loans for EICAR (the school in Paris), but lately I find myself leaning towards going to SCAD.  While it would be amazing to spend two years studying film in Paris, it would also be complicated and difficult in many non-film school ways.  The essential question seems to be:  Do I want to learn how to make movies, or do I want to live in Paris?  I want to do both, really, but my emphasis is on the former–must be on the former.  To that end, I think that SCAD is the better choice, both because the program is better and because I think I’ll prefer an environment with many different kinds of creativity going on as opposed to just film film film.  Also, while I hesitate to admit it, the idea of living in a beautiful town in the deep south appeals to me almost as much as living in Paris does, albeit in a totally different way.

I have yet to make my final decision, although I’m probably going to have to do so by the end of the month.  I kinda hope that loans for EICAR don’t come through, thereby eliminating the decision altogether.  For the time being, though, I’m still waiting and seeing, although my need for a clear path fix is starting to give me the itch.  I’ll let you know when I do.

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Blood pretzels.

Last night I had a dream in which I was able to separate myself from myself and watch myself from a third-person perspective. I could do this at will, so as soon as I got bored or annoyed watching myself I was able to re-inhabit myself and experience the dream from a first-person perspective once again. It was very strange, and I think the only reason I remember it is because Lauren woke me up in the middle of it:

“Jef? Jef?”
“Yeah?”
“Do you know where the pretzels are?”
“By the computer–I forgot to put them away last night.”

While, to most of you, pretzels may seem like a trivial reason to wake a person up from such a surreal dream state, I can assure you that in Asia they are not. Pretzels are very hard to find in the East–the only time I ever saw them in Korea was when I smuggled a small bag aboard a flight from Newark. During our many visits to the grocery store here in Japan, I always kept my eyes trained to spot a bag if one were to appear, but one never did. Thus, when Lauren walked in the door two nights ago with a bag of Rold Gold (“America’s No. 1 Pretzel”), I was immediately both awestruck and deeply suspicious. She said she’d found them at a different grocery store than the one we usually go to, and perhaps I would have found this story more plausable had the pretzel bag not been covered in what appeared to be dried blood. Blood pretzels.

“Lauren,” I said, “this bag is covered in dried blood.”
“THAT’S KETCHUP!” she screamed. “I SPILLED KETCHUP ON THE BAG!”
“What did you do, Lauren?”
“NOTHING! I SPILLED MUSTARD ON THE PRETZEL BAG!”
“Mustard?”
“KETCHUP! KETCHUP! KETCHUP!”
“It doesn’t smell like ketchup…”
“JAPANESE KETCHUP IS DIFFERENT! IT SMELLS LIKE DRIED BLOOD!”
“ENOUGH LIES!” I snapped, “HOW MANY PEOPLE DID YOU KILL FOR THESE PRETZELS?”
“I JUST WANTED SOME PRETZELS!” she cried, “LET’S JUST EAT THEM AND FORGET ABOUT THE DRIED BLOOD! I BOUGHT SOME SAPPORO TO GO WITH THEM! DON’T YOU LIKE BEER AND PRETZELS?”

In the end, I don’t care where she got them, because they are salty and delicious!

hovering above the shit

Photographs speak easier than words these days.  This is not to say that I have nothing to write about, just that I have (perhaps) been too lazy and/or preoccupied to write about things.  Now that I’m thinking about it, I realize I have quite the backlog of things I’ve intended to write about but have yet to.  Photographs, too, that I have yet to crop and post, but there has been no shortage of photos.  Only of words, and perhaps not even.

There are many uncertainties about my present (or future) life, but I have this overwhelming feeling of contentment in spite of them.  How could I not be content?  I am living responsibility-less with a remarkable woman in the middle of Japan, and soon I’ll be doing the same with old friends in NYC, and then with my parents in Cleveland.  I may be annoyingly content, come to think, and for that I apologize.

Perhaps this is why I haven’t been writing–people prefer to read about people in the shit, not hovering above it.  I am hovering above the shit these days, albeit precariously.  If you want to see me in the shit, read the archives (I recommend early February 2005).

So, yeah… I’ll post more photos soon.

from Lauren’s balcony

Porchnightpanorama_1

Porchnightpanorama100

…from Lauren’s balcony, about an hour ago.

ugliest automobiles

Japan is full of some of the ugliest automobiles I have ever seen.

Uglypurplecar

Uglypurplecar

Uglybrowncar

Apparently they export all the attractive automobiles to America. 

cormorant fishing

On Saturday night, Lauren & I went and watched the cormorant fishing in Gifu City.  I had never heard of the cormorant, let alone of cormorant fishing, before I came to this part of Japan.  So, for those of you both equally uninformed and too lazy to click on the helpful link I provided above:

The cormorant is a bird that eats fish.  Cormorant fishing (or ukai) essentially involves taking ten to twelve cormorants, tying leashes around their necks (both so they can’t get away and so they can’t swallow), and taking them out at night on a small boat with a big fire hanging from it.  The cormorants swim around looking for fish, and when they catch one they drop it in the boat (because the leashes prevent them from swallowing).  It is far more complicated (and dangerous) than the traditional pole-worm scenario, and it is both absurd and fascinating to watch. 

Usonboat To watch it, we bought seats on one of the many spectator boats that go out every night during the summer.  Despite the fact that Charlie Chaplin was apparently a big fan of cormorant fishing, we were the only white people on the river that night.  The boats all motor down to where the fishing takes place and park, and all the passengers eat and drink and light fireworks until the fishing starts.

Cormorantfishing Eventually, the fires of the fishing boats slowly approach from up-river, and the spectator boats motor out to meet them.  Each fishing boat has three people on it–a fisherman who holds the leashes and "directs" the cormorants, a guy who feeds the fire and keeps the boat moving, and a guy in the back who steers.  I assumed that given the inherent danger and complexity of this form of fishing that it would produce above average results, but I was surprised at how rare it was to actually see a bird come up with a fish.  Perhaps they were having an off night.  Nevertheless, it was dramatic to watch, if difficult to capture in a photograph–video worked marginally better.

Fishingboats When we got back to the docks and off the boat, there was a middle-aged salaryman who had gotten so drunk that he was being pushed around on a dolly, much to the amusement of his (apparent) colleagues.  He actually seemed amused with himself–he wore a huge grin as one of his friends labored to push him up a hill.  It was funny, and it reminded me of how while I have often felt separated by language here in Asia, laughter has always been something that has made me feel connected to people in a strange way.  A drunk middle-aged man being pushed around on a dolly is funny to people from any culture, except maybe some parts of the Middle East. 

unordered

An unordered list…

  • In Japanese, there are different counting words based on the shape and/or size of the objects being counted.  For example, if you are counting flat things you use "-mai," but if you are counting small animals or bugs you use "-hiki."
  • I am curious to know how much rice one small paddy can yield in one harvest.
  • Credit cards are rarely accepted outside of the big cities, and international ATMs are almost impossible to find.  This is surprising in a country that boasts the world’s second largest economy, and frustrating to an American who came here expecting to be able to withdraw some yen at the Family Mart around the corner.
  • They do sell two liter bottles of whiskey at grocery stores here, however, which lessens my ATM frustration somewhat.
  • The only people who wear sunglasses in Japan are gangsters and foreigners.
  • Break-dancing is surprisingly popular here.  It is not uncommon to come across a group of teenagers doing head spins on the sidewalk, albeit with safety helmets on.