The blood-red Shimbashi dress: a photopoem

In Tokyo, the mama-san is smarter than you…

Part of my S&R Tokyo Series

I am the gorgeous dress

of your beauty,

and I have loved you for a very long time.

You are nothing to me

if not

the reflection in which I see myself

and the glitter of my age

that has sparkled in

all the ice cubes

in all the drinks I ever poured in Tokyo’s slush-fund winters.

Continue reading

Old birds

Water flows around the rocks it cannot move…

Part five of my S&R Tokyo Series

They moved and talked the way old Japanese ladies often do, a bit hunched over but with animation and purpose. The sidewalk was crowded with people, most of them heading to a nearby Asakusa shrine for a ‘rooster’ day street market fair.

Continue reading

Donald’s talk with Shinzō


Wiggy Leaks: there’s a bug under that rug

Donald: I have great respect for the Japanese. You draw the best titties. I’ve heard you make the best cars, but they’re made in America. Is that correct?

Shinzō: Yes.

Donald: So you’re basically the Asian America. Your people lost their jobs. Yes?

Shinzō: No. We automated those jobs years ago. We were creating jobs in the US. You are a job creator, yes?

Donald: Sometimes. Other times I’m a hatchet man. I’m a stellar golf buddy. Do you play golf?

Shinzō: Yes. Japanese love golf. I play. What’s your handicap?

Donald: This changes everything. Bannon, cancel the Godzilla menace ads. Would you be interested in a Trump resort in Japan? Continue reading

“Tokyo in the Underbrush”: ArtsWeek

Pictures and poems from Japan’s bubble years…

Introduction
In January, 1987 I graduated from Lehigh University with a B.A. in journalism. By the first week of March I was in Tokyo, Japan to start my first real adult job and the rest of my life. I was 23 years and two months old, and had decided I wanted adventure instead of an entry-level stateside newspaper job. So through some business contacts of my father’s I secured an entry-level marketing position with an American information services company in Tokyo.

ShibuyaMarch1987

What I present to you here are poems and photographs I created while living and working in Tokyo in 1987 and 1988. All the images are of Tokyo drunks and homeless people because, at the time, I was naïve and couldn’t believe this aspect of Japanese society existed. I felt I had to document it.

Poverty and homelessness still persist in Japan, of course, and through some strange twists of fate I resumed documenting Tokyo street life four years ago. This has resulted in a book I’m trying to get published called “Tokyo Panic Stories.” You can see samples my recent Tokyo work here and here.

So please enjoy this 28 year-old folio of words and images. And keep in mind that while I make no apologies for the quality of the poetry (I am actually still pleased with some of it), the poems were written by a man less than half his current age of 52 years. Also note that each photo is paired with the text right beneath it, and click any image to see it full-size.

Tokyo in the Underbrush

TokyoUnderbrush-1-1

Akihabara—May, 1988

Humor of the ‘surd

When you stare straight ahead, people love you. Continue reading

The incomplete transsexual: a small tale from the Seoul Bar

by Dan Ryan

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It was a little like the scenario in that Kinks song “Lola,” but only in passing. I met her in a little place called Seoul Bar, which is in a rundown section of northeast Tokyo called Sanya. At first I thought her was a him, and she sounded like a man but…

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The lipstick should have given me a clue, but it was confusing initially, even more so because his, sorry, her English was pretty rusty, and my Japanese was horrible. She took an interest in me because I was American. When she was still fully he, he used to work for Americans in the ‘60s. Or the ‘70s, but doing what I never completely figured out. But we managed fitfully to communicate, and after a few minutes I thought he was a pretty interesting woman.

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She’d had the money at some unspecified point in the past to start the process of becoming her true self, to transition from male to female. Her family, which might have included a wife and kids, never understood nor approved of what she needed to be. They disowned her many years ago.

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However, it was obvious she was accepted in Seoul Bar, but also treated a bit like an oddity. When another bar patron took a schoolboy jab at her breasts, it bothered me. It was playful, but far from respectful. But it was nearly 13:00, in a bar in a crummy part of town, and everyone was drinking. So maybe my standards were unrealistically high. Hell, she even wanted me to take a feel of her tits. She was proud of them. I declined.

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She was also proud of her hands, justifiably I thought, but seemed frustrated by lingering facial hair. My guess is whatever hormones she used to take had worn off some time ago. She also said she still had the male parts she’d been born with.

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I left the Seoul Bar when the karaoke was about to start and went out to the shōtengai to take more pictures. After about five minutes,  I noticed my ladyfriend walking in the same direction I was. She had bar-snack crumbs on her face, and in the outdoor light I could really see how worn- and shabby-looking she was. Yet as she waved her hands around at my camera, her manicured nails were still noticeable, as were her few female bumps and curves. She looked more like a woman standing up outside than she had hunched next to me in a chair in the dark little bar we’d been in.

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She and I walked together for a few minutes. She didn’t mind me taking pictures of her. In fact, she carried herself with a little bit of the vanity some women seem to naturally have, whether their looks entitle them to such vanity or not. But the fact that this woman, this shabby, incomplete woman, carried herself in this a way instantly earned a small measure of my respect. It took, for lack of a better term, balls.
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We came to a stop when she spotted a man she knew, a friend I suppose, a guy I had photographed previously. He was pretty goddamned drunk. But she wanted to go talk to him.
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Like I said, she was proud of her breasts and not shy about playing with them in public. I didn’t ask her to do this. I don’t know enough Japanese to get that far. But she posed for me a few times out there in the street, and this is where her hands always ended up. You’ve got to roll with these things in some parts of Tokyo street life.

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Then she walked over to talk to her friend. It was a short conversation. The guy in the gutter made a slow lunge for my ladyfriend’s crotch. Her response, as I barely understood it, was to offer to show the man that he would have gotten a handful of male goodies if she had let his fingers reach their target. This was a little bit too much for me, the idea that this incomplete woman was prepared to whip out her male equipment in the street.

So I walked away. But you know, I never even got her name.

(Pictures taken on the shōtengai in Sanya, Tokyo in April, 2012)

Nota Bene #117: Wake Up!

“Hollywood is so crooked that Mafia gangsters are entirely outclassed and don’t stand a chance. People in Hollywood are smarter. They have more sophisticated knowledge of money and deals and how to steal legally rather than illegally.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #115: RIP No. 32

“If you’re really pro-life, do me a favor—don’t lock arms and block medical clinics. If you’re so pro-life, lock arms and block cemeteries.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #112: GOOOLLLLLLLL

“Freedom of any kind is the worst for creativity.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #107: Zzzzzzzzzzzzz

“I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #104: Large Marge Sent Me

“Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #102: Dancing Limbaughs

“What they really want to see is, they want you to chop your fucking arm off, hold up your arm, wave it around spewing blood, and believe me, if you did that, the crowd would go fucking ballistic. You only get four good shows like that, though. Four good shows, and then you’re just a torso and a head, trying to get one of your band mates to give you one last hurrah and chop your head off. Which they probably wouldn’t do, which would really be hell.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #100: Il Planetario di Figaro

Wow, 100 issues of Nota Bene! Props to Russ for helping me for a while with this nifty little S&R feature. Never mind all that now, let’s get on with this issue. “What splendid buildings our architects would be able to execute if only they could finally be less obedient to gravity!” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #97: toDwI'ma' qoS yItIvqu'!

“To be truly free, and truly to appreciate its freedom, a society must be literate.” Continue reading

I am no better than George Will. And it sucks.

by John Harvin

“If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it ought to be good enough for the children of Texas,” supposedly said Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, first woman governor of Texas, in opposing the teaching of foreign languages in Texas schools.  In fact, the college-educated Ferguson probably didn’t say it. But the misquote endures because it captures pretty well one particular segment of the American population – those who are almost always against learning and science, particularly when that science is “inconvenient.”

Whether it’s evolution or landing on the moon or daylight savings time or climate change, there is always a group of people who are just plain agin’ it. Continue reading

Meanings, pt. 2: a crisis of prevailing values

by Michael Tracey

It isn’t just that there is an appetite for scandal, sex, sleaze, death narratives, it is also that feeding such appetites can be very profitable. The fact is that an essential problem with today’s media, one that has been gestating for many years, even decades, lies with the families and trust-funders that own media chains, and with the media moguls that, like great beasts, roam the landscape of a new grim cultural ecology, gobbling up this and that tasty morsel, a television station here, a newspaper there, forever seeking to sate their own insatiable appetite. Continue reading

Obama and racism around the world

As of last week, we here at S&R decided to yank the hood off of racist America during this Presidential election. To that end, we’re going to be exposing racism wherever we find it and shining a bright light into the dark corners where it hides. But the United States isn’t the only country that has a problem with racism among its various ethnic groups. Most of humanity has issues with the “Other” that people with different shaped eyes, different skin color, or different faiths represent.

And, as the first black candidate for President of the United States, there’s an excellent chance that Obama’s candidacy, and especially his Presidency (if he wins, anyway), would be an amazing opportunity for both the U.S. and the rest of the world to do some soul-searching about racism in their own societies. Continue reading

War and Postwar: a look at LIFE and technology

Part three in a series.

In an age and a culture dominated by scientism, the word “sample” tends to invoke the adjectival “representative,” and I cannot begin to imagine culling a meaningful representative sample from LIFE’s 400-plus issues. Still, it seems important to devote a few pages to what happened with LIFE and technology between the Fort Peck Dam and Apollo 17. I will center this discussion on innovations and events that, from our perspective here at the end of the century, appear to have left significant marks on history.

The Medical Morality Play

LIFE’s coverage of medical technology began early and covered, through the decades, the research, development, and application of treatments for a variety of diseases and disorders afflicting humanity. Continue reading

Saturday Video Roundup: be afraid – be very afraid

Hi folks, and welcome to SVR’s Halloween in March special. Today we’re going to have a look at things that just scare the bejeezus out of us. First up, Tiny Toons. I was never as big a fan of the series as some of my friends, but it did have its moments. The subtle homomegalomaniacism of Pinky & The Brain, for instance, never ceased making me wonder “how the hell did they get that past the censors?” But as the original Warner toons taught us, the best kids’ shows are really aimed at adults, anyway. Continue reading