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Wisdom to contain one's inner ape


I became a traitor and have remained one. Though I throw myself heart and soul into what I undertake, though I give myself up unreservedly to work, to anger, to friendship, I'll repudiate myself in a moment, I know I will, I want to, and I'm already betraying myself, in the heat of my passion, by the joyful presentiment of my future betrayal. On the whole, I fulfill my commitments like anyone else; I am steadfast in my affections and behavior; but I am unfaithful to my emotions. Monuments, paintings, landscapes, there was a time when the last one I saw was always the finest. I annoyed my friends by alluding cynically or simply lightly - so as to convince myself of my detachment - to a common memory that might have remained precious to them. Because I did not love myself sufficiently, I fled forward.
- from Jean-Paul Sartre's autobiography The Words (English translation by Bernard Frechtman)

After consuming an estimated 500K pieces of
cigarettes in the last 57 years I still remain
addicted to nicotine
I was still very young when I first had the weird sense that death is at the very core of my life. Now with that feeling further reinforced as my life is coming closer to its end, I've realized I've lived my life as if it were a game. At the same time, I've learned that in most cases other people's attitudes toward life are 180-degrees different from mine. Most of you play a game like it's your life.

In recent months I've talked a lot about games. Now let me summarize my arguments below here.

There are three types of games.

The most primitive games are ones that even Japanese macaques could play. Among many other things I used to be into card games, solitaire in particular, first with the deck of paper cards, then with the virtual one. I still don't know exactly why I was hooked on them. All I can tell is that some of them are so addictive that my prefrontal cortex couldn't stop the autonomic nervous system from being into the hard-to-break habit. These games were not only unproductive but also uncreative. And yet I didn't think I had to kick the habit by all means because it could help ease the uncomfortableness inherent to my life - without doing me too much harm. I'll come back to that point in later paragraphs.

All along I've known the most creative type of games are ones that help me internalize everything that happens to me. I sometimes felt that without their help I couldn't simulate my future. That's basically why throughout my adulthood, I've stayed away from the other type of games that allow you to externalize your own life as if it were someone else's. They are only helpful when you want to emulate your past, instead of simulating your future. Unfortunately, games for externalization have proliferated across the board since the turn of the century. Now games for internalization have virtually gone extinct.

Take the currently most popular Fukushima game, for example. Most of you blindly swallow the media's propaganda that always goes: "3/11 is a wakeup call for believers in the myth of the clean nuclear energy." This simply means that we should forget about the fact that in the late 1960s, the vast majority of local residents were enthusiastic about the plan to build the power plant in their village, and that in subsequent years they could enjoy unprecedented prosperity which couldn't have been expected if the plan had been thwarted by these lunatics who untiringly played the green game. The same can be said of the plan to perpetuate the U.S. occupation of the Okinawa Islands. To most of you, Fukushima and Okinawa are always someone else's problems.

I know very little about American journalist Hunter S. Thompson. But I think he made a lot of sense when he observed: "Not everybody is comfortable with the idea that politics is a guilty addiction. But it is." To put it bluntly all political racketeers and pundits are drug dealers, and other people, who still don't realize politics is nothing but addiction to the wreck of the modern nation-state, are junkies. These guys never fail to politicize issues because they know very well it's the most effective way to externalize them.

This all the more makes Juvenal's disapproval of circenses the single most relevant issue facing us today.

There's another aspect we shouldn't overlook when discussing games. Despite the huge difference between your favorite games and mine, games are games. The two types of games have one thing in common: both are addictive, though to varying degrees.

To those of you whose mental development has been irreparably retarded by Freudian Über-Ich or Super-ego, addiction is always a vice. As was the case with Hitler, the goal of your life is to purify the world of the original sin. Let us be reminded of the disastrous consequences of the Prohibition hysteria of the 1920s. The lesson to have been learned there is that if you pursue a vice-free world too far, you always end up in a vice-ful world, instead.

Like I've said before, I am an avowed Epicurean. I always fail to understand what's wrong with letting the neurotransmitter called dopamine stimulate my "pleasure circuit." Don't take me wrong, however. I've never thought in my lifetime that addiction is a virtue. All I'm saying is that these fanatics and eunuchs should know that asceticism is the most perilous kind of addiction.

It is true not a few gifted artists eventually ruined themselves because of their substance abuse. The sad story about self-destructive trait of Billie Holiday or Charlie Parker only serves as yet another parable the nation of hypocrisy named America is always looking for. But it is also true that some others not only knew how to tame their susceptibility to addiction but even could leverage it. My favorite singer Anita O'Day (1919-2006) was a good example. The diva wouldn't have been what she was had it not been for her abuse of a variety of substances such as heroin, along with her tough experiences with abusive American gorillas before she could establish herself as a first-rate singer. And most important of all, O'Day was well aware herself that any talent wouldn't come into full bloom at the price of mediocrity resulting from axenic culture. That was evident from her candid and unapologetic way to talk about her "bad habit."

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-80) is another case in point. He was seriously addicted to substances such as tobacco, "little meatballs on toothpicks," and possibly amphetamines to a lesser degree. Also he was constantly hooked on women, if not in the way an ordinary sex addict does. And yet the French philosopher seldom discussed addictions.

Some knowingly argue that Sartre's physical ugliness underlay his quirky thoughts. Maybe that is true, in a way. But I think it's truer that he owed his creativity to his addictive trait.

When he wrote "We are our choices," people took it as if he meant to say, "I could be a handsome guy if I chose to be one." These simple-minded people instantly jumped on the idea to pooh-pooh him because they thought Sartre had finally revealed himself as a naive and immature person. But nothing was farther from his ontological ethics that explains how a being-for-itself (l'être-pour-soi) gets involved with a being-in-itself (l'être-en-soi) or another being-for-itself (lêtre-pour-autrui.)

In later years Sartre used the word "l'engagement," in place of "free project," in order to counter the malicious distortion. But that didn't work either. People thought it was a new way to refer to the old idea, or subtly revise it, now to call on them to take part in politics by participating in demonstrations or signature-collecting campaigns. In fact, though, Sartre always viewed politics essentially in the same way Thompson did.

It seems to me the reason the French thinker always refrained from using the word addiction is because of, rather than despite, the fact that he wanted to say there's no such thing as life without accidental and self-deceptive attachment to things or people. In that sense, addiction is what his Being and Nothingness is all about.

I don't know exactly what biological and psychological processes man goes through to expedite interaction between the inner ape and the prefrontal cortex. But I think now we can safely assume that when one creates something new, he has to objectify his real self, first and foremost, to come to terms with his apeness because it is where his genuine spontaneity dwells. Only then he can sublimate it into a well-disciplined manifestation of humanity. If, on the contrary, he fails to contain his inner ape, the innate inertia will dampen what a neuroscientist once described as "dendritic fireworks." Failure to exploit spontaneity will thus lead to failure to ignite creative ideas. As a result, he gets hooked on a promiscuous idea about things and people to which he can't commit himself wholeheartedly. Worse, the addictive thought tends to be self-perpetuating because at the same time he's got a strong conviction that it can be defended by reason.

I'm glad my girlfriend asked me to take her to the 1960 U.S. film Jazz on a Summer's Day shortly before these "noble savages" swarmed out of nowhere. When I heard for the first time that obscene, greasy baboon named James Brown shout, "I feel good," I was really sickened. The movie itself was yawnful, or unimpressive to say the least, but the famous sequence (embedded at the bottom of this post) in which Anita O'Day demonstrates her inimitable talent improvising some traditional tunes was really unforgettable.

I also think I was lucky to have encountered Sartre well before the monkey business of crisis-mongers, doomsayers and truth-seekers started to prosper. Now more than five decades later, almost entire population has been irreversibly into fixation to the past, as if what has been done is, or at least should still be, undoable.

Many years have rolled by since I came upon these creative individuals. They still throw a bright light on the road that I once crossed and even lead me to an unknown world ahead of me. If I hadn't become addicted to the right people at the right time, I would have acted like a junkie for all these years. For my life filled with so much fun, I think I owe them much more than I can repay before my departure. This is why although it's well into the 23rd hour of my life, I still feel my game isn't over yet. · read more (1 words)
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Can we still expect a Renaissance?


The moon descended
And I found with the break of dawn
You and the song had gone
But the melody lingers on

From the lyrics of the 1927 song by Irving Berlin

AKB48 - Japan's most popular group of supposedly
cute girls

Members of The Hot Club of Cowtown - From left:
Whit Smith, Elana James and Jake Irwin
I owe him my life. As I told my audience in the fall of 2011, DK offered me a donation of 700,000 yen over a ten-month period, when I was about to have to hang myself. Then, two months ago, he lent me 140,000 yen when I was on the verge of going homeless because of the absurd Japanese custom that requires the lessee of an apartment to pay a "renewal fee" to the real estate agent every second year.

Now I am repaying the debt in two or three installments because I know DK is not deep-pocketed enough to save two lives for two years in a row. He is an IT engineer who is 6, 7 years younger than my biological sons.

We are in the middle of the holiday-studded Golden Week. Yesterday morning, he called me up to invite me to lunch. He had just returned from Seoul where he spent his well-deserved vacation with his wife and 6-year-old son. The moment DK saw me at the restaurant, he grinned and said, "Now your beard is so bushy that you can pass as Marx." He knows I respect Karl Marx as a non-Marxist. I said, "Thanks, but I think I look more like Johannes Brahms." He had brought me a lot of souvenirs from South Korea - packs of cigarettes, a dozen paper bags containing "corn tea," etc. The last item he took out of the bottom of the grocery bag was a big nail-clipper shaped like a pair of pliers. He explained: "This is from Tokyo, not Seoul." He knows how hard I have to struggle when trimming my toenails because of the rigidity of the body particular to a sufferer of Parkinsonism. He had done the work for me a couple of times before.

For the first 30 minutes or so, he told me how his family had enjoyed the vacation. Then we switched the subject to our favorite topic: music. For the subsequent two hours, we discussed how William Byrd, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, Johann Jacob Froberger, Christopher Gibbons, Johann Pachelbel, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Johann Krieger, Henry Purcell, et al. possibly influenced Johann Sebastian Bach, and how Bach, in turn, influenced the likes of Paul Hindemith and Dmitri Shostakovich. DK didn't receive any formal education in a higher-learning institute, either in music or any other discipline, because of his unfortunate upbringing. It's all the more remarkable that he is so conversant with the history of classical music. He added that his son is currently learning a canon by Bach from his piano teacher while his dad is practicing Pachelbel's fugue all by himself.

Then we moved over to the nearby Yokohama Park, where a ballpark named Yokohama Stadium is located. As soon as we sat down at the edge of a flowerbed, DK produced a smartphone manufactured by Samsung under an OEM agreement with NTT Docomo. He wanted to let me hear some of the musical pieces he had mentioned at the restaurant. Every YouTube video he showed me was very interesting, but especially it was a pleasant surprise when I heard an unmistakable seed of bebop improvisation in Sweelinck's Fantasia played by Glenn Gould. The Dutch composer wrote the piece almost 400 years ago, I guess.

As I wrote in my previous post under the title of What art is - and isn't, music made my life really worth living and is now making the last days of my life more tolerable than without it. Now I've grown too old to play, dance or sing. And yet, listening to good music always brings me back the memories of the finest moments of my life. But when it comes to exchanging views with someone, DK is practically the only male friend who can tell music or any other form of art from its excrement. Immanuel Kant said art is something that is purposive in itself. But the Japanese have always dealt with art as something that serves other purposes in the last one and a half century. Now everything Japanese "musicians" do is Gebrauchsmusik. You can't remove impurities from Japanese art because there's nothing else in it. This inversion of the end and the means has turned this country into a cultural wasteland with its music scenes looking more and more like a junkyard.

Take AKB48, for example. It's amazing that people talk about the group like they talk about musicians, while it has absolutely nothing to do with music or any other art form. Each member of the group belongs to one of those Geino Purodakushon (talent agencies) affiliated, overtly or covertly, and in one way or the other, with yakuza syndicates. She is a cash cow for her Purodakushon not because she has an irreplaceable talent but because she is capable of arousing sexual desire in Rorikon (pedophilic) audience. As you may already know, most Japanese men have a strong bent for sexual perversion, such as lingerie theft, voyeurism and sexual abuse of children.

The Anti-prostitution Act of 1956 has made subtly legitimized and highly institutionalized prostitution the most lucrative business for yakuza. And that is why they are focusing more and more on exploitation of these poor kids with the help of NHK and other media organizations. Unlike in South Korea's show business, these girls may not be selling sex in the open, but they are substitutes for prostitutes, at best, if you can see what I mean. As a French journalist once observed, "they are prostitutes who don't think they are prostitutes."

Unfortunately, more or less the same thing is happening in the U.S. I think it all started around the time the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted. At least we can trace the decline of music as an art form to the Woodstock concert of 1969. A conspiracy theorist named Dave McGowan theorizes that music started to serve other purposes in Laurel Canyon several years before Woodstock. McGowam says: "Hippies came out of nowhere and sort of co-opted it. I think it was quite deliberate...they wanted to give the anti-war movement a face that would be completely unacceptable to mainstream America." But I don't think chronological or geographical accuracy is that important. Those who politicize everything like him always insist things such as Alice Cooper said this and Frank Zappa did that make a lot of difference. But I don't think so. It's not these apes, but ordinary people that have destroyed the American culture.

McGowan should have seen Carol Reed's The Third Man if he had enough time to waste delving into the Laurel Canyon conspiracy. In the 1949 film, Orson Welles acting as Harry Lime ridicules the Swiss people at large in the famous cuckoo clock speech that goes: "You know what the fellow said - in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace - and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." The lesson to be learned here is that the cultural climate of a politically corrupt nation is not that sterile, although the opposite can never be true. In a cultural wasteland, the dead-end situation facing the political regime is inevitably perpetuated.

I'd thought the decline of the American culture was unstoppable and irreversible until I came across the Hot Club of Cowtown, a Western swing band based in Austin, Texas. (See videos embedded below.) As I wrote, I'm inclined to call it a "zero-impurity" music because genuine spontaneity is what their music is all about. But don't take me wrong. I'm not talking about the undisciplined, raw "spontaneity" these noble savages have been demonstrating since the '60s. In an interview, Elana James, the fiddler and singer, names some of the artists who have influenced her, that include Anne-Sophie Mutter, Bob Wills, Johnny Gimble, Billie Holiday, Lester Young and Stephane Grappelli. This tells that she had to study very hard the techniques and the idioms of every genre of traditional music before acquiring her breathtakingly thrilling virtuosity and inventiveness. That's what I mean by the words genuine spontaneity.

Time and again I have quoted the 1988 NYT article written by Wynton Marsalis, who is known as a "purist." But it should be noted that the purist has never underplayed the significance of the traditions of other cultural spheres such as Latin America. In another paragraph of the article, he wrote: "It's like a great French chef lending his name, not his skills, to a a fast-food restaurant because he knows it's a popular place to eat. His concern is for quantity, not quality. Those who are duped say 'This greasy hamburger sure is good; I know it's good, because Pierre says it's good, and people named Pierre know what the deal is.' Pierre then becomes known as a man of the people, when he actually is exploiting the people." All in all, Marsalis wanted to say the ''they all can sing, they all have rhythm'' syndrome and the "why should I subject myself to the pain of study?" kind of attitude widespread in America's music scenes are what's going to devour jazz. The same applies to every genre of art.

Against this backdrop, it looks like a miracle that the Hot Club of Cowtown still shows both spontaneity and discipline. None of their videos, except those of country classics presented in the traditional format, have been viewed more than 10 thousand times. But it should come as no surprise if we see the Renaissance of the American music started in Austin. I'm not sure, though, if this will come true. How can I know when even Elana James, et al. can't tell what comes out of their own music? To begin with, you won't notice it right away when a Great Cultural Revolution breaks out.

If you carefully listen to good music like theirs, you can visualize how the civilization of apes branched out into man's civilization, like when you carefully look at the paintings in the Altamira Cave. A sea change is only caused by man's innate spontaneity, which is what French philosopher Henri Bergson called Free Will. It's ridiculous to believe someone deliberately changed America as McGowan insists, because almost by definition, man is an un-manipulatable creature. I suspect that the conspiracy theorist is talking about his fellow apes. · read more (1 words)
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A purist point of view: What art is - and isn't

[A tradition], which was born early and stubbornly refuses to die, despite all the evidence to the contrary, regards jazz merely as a product of noble savages - music produced by untutored, unbuttoned semiliterates for whom jazz history does not exist. This myth was invented by early jazz writers who, in attempting to escape their American prejudices, turned out a whole world of new cliches based on the myth of the innate ability of early jazz musicians. Because of these writers' lack of understanding of the mechanics of music, they thought there weren't any mechanics. It was the ''they all can sing, they all have rhythm'' syndrome.
- from July 1988 New York Times article written by Wynton Marsalis, trumpeter, jazz critic and educator, under the title of What jazz is - and isn't.

The Upper Paleolithic painting in the Cave of Altamira

Toilet graffiti in an unknown U.S. city

When I launched this website nine years ago, I was still hopeful that I would make a bit of difference to the political discourse in and between the United States and Japan. But now that the implosion of America, to be followed by or to follow, the inevitable collapse of the American Empire looks to be a matter of time, anything we say or do will make little difference. I think it's about time to have disengaged myself from politics.

When it comes to the quantitative measurement of my web traffic, I've had to rely on Google Analytics because the built-in statistical functions of my blog tool (Geeklog) are quite limited. But as any GA user may agree, the brains of system designers at Google are all empty, or worse yet, filled with spaghetti. As a result, all I can tell is that my Key Performance Indicators are not that bad. The number of hits has topped 5.4 million in the last 104 months while the number of page-views is roughly estimated at 300,000 in the same period. But now I know that doesn't mean my efforts have been paying off.

At the beginning, I wanted to make my blog a venue for "interactive" discussions on political issues because I thought I would be able to attain my goal only by touching off dialectical debates. I had no intention to play the role of a catalyst, which by definition acts unilaterally as a change agent. A debate in the Platonic or Hegelian sense should be fought "without gloves" so a thesis is directly met with an antithesis and led to a synthesis through "sublation." It, therefore, takes both sides readiness to change along with some intellectual prowess that very few among my audience have. They are too used to the slapstick-type of talks such as ones they saw when the last leap-year farce was going on in the U.S. Now it looks all the more true that exchanging non sequiturs over this and that issues makes little sense.

Maybe I'll upload a small piece or two to follow up my last post on the Pacioli Revolution if and when time permits. But afterward I will focus more on nonpolitical issues such as culture. In fact, though, I am not very sure at this moment if we can discuss culture without using the dialectical method. For one thing, appreciation of art is quite different from consumption of goods. You buy a piece of goods, use it until you use it up, and throw it away. On the contrary, when you appreciate a piece of music, for instance, it should involve a dialectical interaction among all the parties involved: the composer, the musicians, and the audience, although you treat the medium, be it a CD or DVD, the same way you treat a commodity.

Four months ago, a Japanese man in his 50s contacted me from the northernmost island of the archipelago. He said he wanted to remote-interview me on what he thought was a big issue of our common concern. At the beginning I was reluctant to accept his offer because I know I have nothing to share with Japanese men. But since he was very serious about seeking an answer to his problem, I temporarily accepted the offer on certain conditions. I suggested that we make it a two-way interview in which nothing should be presumed a real issue, let alone the conclusion, before we talk it out.

Soon after he agreed to my counter-proposal, he sent me a copy of his privately-published autobiography which depicts an extraordinary story about an ordeal he had to go through in his childhood and adolescence. I thought I could expect from this guy something I couldn't expect from an ordinary Japanese. Perhaps I was wrong; he turned out to be yet another Japanese man.

We started off our mutual interview by defining the keywords to his problem. It seemed he had borrowed all these words, arbitrarily or opportunistically, from someone else's contexts. We had to redefine them so they fit into the particular context behind his personal tragedy. I thought that only by doing so, we could identify the real issue. When translating his super-high-context language into low-context one, I realized we had to discuss, first and foremost, various ways of communication before addressing the issue he had wanted to talk about. Quite naturally, that brought us to the very intriguing question: What art is - and isn't.

The average Japanese man is an avid music lover whose types of music range from classical music to Enka (see NOTE below), and every thing in between, be it jazu, J-pops, K-pops, Russian folk songs, American folk songs by Bob Dylan and the like, American country music, traditional Japanese folk songs, European pops by the likes of Sara Brightman, continental tangos, canzoni, or chansons. This guy is no exception. I said: "I'm glad to know you share the same value system with everyone else. But now I'm at a loss over what makes you feel so persecuted by or excluded from the community." He showed the guts to say, "You think most Japanese are hooked on Enka. But on the contrary, we Enka lovers are a small minority. Even so, I have difficulty understanding why you feel so disgusted at Enka that it almost nauseates you. There's no point, after all, in discussing personal tastes." He was just glossing over his self-deceptive attitude toward life by saying Enka lovers are a small minority as if he had conducted a nation-wide opinion poll, and by going back and forth between values issue and the matter of tastes.

NOTE: This video shows one of the most popular Enka singers singing an Enka classic. Although the musical scale, chords, orchestration, instruments, and wardrobes are all borrowed from the West, though with a lot of Japanese twists, the whining melody and narcissistic, self-pitying lyrics are the representation of the "real Japanese soul" as they always say. The singer looks to be a man, but the words are those spoken by a geisha or bar hostess missing the guy who has run out on the disposable woman. The perverse inversion of sex is commonplace in Japanese "art" as you can see in Kabuki where male actors play the roles of women.

In my second last mail to him, I summarized how I define art as against rubbish:

"The Upper Paleolithic paintings on the walls of the Altamira Cave are an invaluable heritage of the civilization, whereas graffiti on the toilet walls are nothing but its excrement. You are absolutely right when you say there's no point in discussing personal tastes. If you have a propensity toward scatophilia, a mental disease also known as coprophilia, that's it, it can't be helped. But let's not call it a form of art."

I added: "I think you store books, from Manga to Goethe and CDs/DVDs from Beethoven to Enka in neatly compartmentalized shelves and racks. But I can't visualize the inside of your brain that has to be modularized in the same way as if you are a cyborg. For your information, I don't have such a problem because Bach, Brahms, Bartok, Schoenberg, Prokofiev, Jazz from the Big Band Era (1935-55), bebop, and even traditional pop music of America all belong in one and the same family. It's only after the Woodstock Music and Art Fair of 1969 that something that has very little to do with music started to bring 'impurities' from the contexts of the African and Hispanic traditions into American music."

In the total absence of dialectical response from the guy, I challenged myself, on his behalf, saying: "He has a good reason to deny my art theory because I have yet to clarify the fundamental difference between art and toilet graffiti so he is convinced Enka has more to do with excrement than with civilization." I don't think I can define art after so many philosophers and artists have attempted to do so. But I think any commonsense definition serves our purposes. According to the website of "The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy," Immanuel Kant, for one, defines art as "a kind of representation that is purposive in itself and, though without an end, nevertheless promotes the cultivation of the mental powers for sociable communication." This is enough for our purposes except I wonder what German word SEP translated as "sociable."

To pursue something which is "purposive in itself" in this world, you've got to be very different from ordinary people. And yet, a mental aberration is not enough for artistic creation. The social climate along with its historical background is the key to the development of an innate talent.

Wynton Marsalis, who is often called a "purist," wrote in another paragraph of the NYT article quoted on the top of this post: "That myth [about the innate ability of early jazz musicians] is being perpetuated to this day by those who profess an openness to everything - an openness that in effect just shows contempt for the basic values of the music and our society. If everything is good, why should anyone subject himself to the pain of study? Their disdain for the specific knowledge that goes into jazz creation is their justification for saying everything has its place." All in all, Marsalis wanted to say that in a cultural climate where due respect to genuine artistic creation is replaced with fanatical flattering to noble savages, musical art is doomed to die down. The same applies to any other genre of art.

Take Mozart, for example. I don't want to talk about his operas, not just because The Marriage of Figaro or Don Giovanni is not to my personal liking, but because we see little trace of purification of his innate property in these operatic works. He is known for his scatophilic bent, which should be interpreted as the sign of developmental failure, shown not only in his private life but also in music. That means his talent came into full bloom when he could "sublimate" his mental aberration with the help of musicians, conductors, and most importantly audiences including his patrons from the nobility of the 18th century. If these people surrounding him had tried to suppress his socially unacceptable trait, instead of helping him sublimate it, he might have ended up as a restroom painter. I see a certain similarity to the sublimation of the mental aberration of Mozart in the process of dialectical sublation in our debates. To borrow Karl Marx's way of explaining the dialectical process of the value-creating chain, we can say, "a musical piece which no one appreciates is potentially a musical piece but actually it's nothing more than a string of notes." The only difference lies with the fact that unlike an industrial product, music is "purposive in itself."

Today, this painstaking process is all gone everywhere. If you are one of those dupes, you will say marketers of consumer goods are still willing to listen to their customers so they stay attuned to the market and can develop a new product or a new version of the old product that meets their changing demand. In theory, that should be true. But in reality, you are absolutely wrong. The fact of the matter remains that consumers' demand is artificially created by manufacturers. In the industrialized world, consumers addicted to allegedly new products always remain consumers without getting involved in the value-creating process.

This is especially true with Japan. As I have repeatedly pointed out, the propaganda about 和魂洋才 (Japanese spirit and Western learning) drove the Japanese people into the causeless and unwinnable war. But since the war defeat, the same mindset has taken another devastating toll on the Japanese culture, if it still deserves to be called one. There's no sign their enthusiasm to "learn" from the West will subside anytime soon. They keep importing art pieces from the West only to put them in practical use. There is a German word Gebrauchsmusik which means music for practical use. But to the Japanese, every musical piece falls on this category. A good example is the 4th movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. In the last half century, they have been substituting it for the second national anthem, especially in December, although they don't understand a word in the lyrics written by Friedrich Schiller. Nothing is "purposive in itself" in this country.

In other words, they are just consuming Western art the same way they consume commodities. There are no appreciation, no dialectical interaction, no feedback, no sublimation, no sublation. As a natural consequence, these conformists have turned their country into a cultural wasteland, which is full of shit.

If you have used public restrooms on both sides of the pacific, you are impressed to know the walls in Japanese restrooms are as clean as white snow when compared to those in U.S. cities. There are two reasons.

The first reason is the national disease, germophobia. I think all Japanese are pathologically obsessed with cleanliness because of the myth of homogeneity and their xenophobic fear that foreign visitors may notice they remain uncultivated despite their appearance like modern citizens. Besides, no other nation has a more suppressive culture than Japan. Day and night throughout the year, people are practicing the old wisdom that goes, "The nail that sticks out must be hammered down." This way, they try to nip the slightest sign of aberration in the bud. But it's an unattainable goal to purify the nation of all germs. Actually, the population of lingerie thefts and voyeurs is enormous here. And believe it or not, a good part of these perverts are well-educated people like university professors or company executives. But take it easy, every city across the nation retains a big crew of professional toilet cleaners. If you draw an obscene picture or calligraphy on the toilet wall, it will be wiped out by the end of the day.

Another reason public restrooms in Japan are relatively clean is because people don't have to vent their perverse frustration in the restrooms. This cultural climate always embraces un-sublimated mental aberration on the condition they act as noble savages who observe the basic rules of this society.

These are how I distinguish art from crap. In his last mail, the other end of our non-dialectical discussion wrote: "I assure you I'll come back as soon as I find time." I don't know if he finds time before I die. But I don't really care because if he will have realized by then art is something that "promotes the cultivation of the mental powers" and that Enka doesn't help him break his fixation to the traumatic past, that won't make any difference to the imperial shithouse we live in. I will feel contented, though, as a self-styled shrink, because what else could I have done?

I used to be a bookworm, but not anymore because my eyesight is quickly deteriorating. That only leaves me with music. That's why I'm extremely fussy about music. When I was younger (19 to 70 years of age,) I sang songs, played them on the piano, the guitar, and some other instruments, and danced to them. Now the only way I can derive enjoyment from good music is to listen. If I have a problem in that respect, it's the fact I can't afford to buy a CD or DVD, or have the broken removable-disk drive of my computer fixed.

A surprisingly large number of people say they want to die listening to Mozart, Oscar Peterson, or the like. It's laughable because love of music is love of life. Music is one of the few things that made my life worth living or will make my last days more tolerable. It has absolutely nothing to do with death. I'll stop loving music one day before I die. But until then, I'll look for good music.

Several weeks ago, I accidentally hit performances of a contemporary group of "Western swing" named "Hot Club of Cowtown" when I was doing video-mining on YouTube. (Look at the video embedded below.) I hadn't heard the name before, but it was a pleasant surprise to know that there still are a small number of people who carry on the tradition of the American music 44 years after the Woodstock disaster. Aside from the unparalleled virtuosity displayed by the fiddler, the guitarists (including Frank Vignola as a guest,) and the "slap" bassist, I was deeply impressed by their "zero-impurity" music. Each of them is enjoying the music, nothing else, while sharing the joy with other members and the audience. And the audience doesn't have to be urged to applaud. Real spontaneity we can never expect from noble savages and their followers is what their music is all about.

I think I will further talk about Hot Club of Cowtown in a separate post in comparison with "AKB48", Japan's most popular group of supposedly cute girls who sing and dance exactly as they are schooled.
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