Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Nearly two years: Yes, We Have

I supported Barack Obama from the beginning.

I was there for the highs and the lows. And then the really lows. And then the really, really lows.

I doubted him. I understood why the left could have found reason to abandon him. In fact, I had thought the Republicans had cornered us again, of all elections.

But I always stood by Barack Obama. I defended him against other Democrats. I defended him against Republicans. I defended the cause he was creating from the ground up.

So I was there for the highs. And then the really highs. And then the really, really highs.

And then the biggest high of this election, nearly two years in the making.

Don't get me wrong, I love bandwagoners. Even the ones that came on the wagon after the election.

But this is for everyone who was there from the beginning. Everyone who went wire-to-wire with Barack Obama.

Today is our day.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Someone I knew passed on this week

I didn't know him very well and I didn't meet him much, he was just the guy at the bar that foreigners frequent and the guy that I talked to when I had the chance. But he seemed like a great guy who was loved by almost everybody with whom he came in contact. My biggest regret is that I wish I knew him better.

As someone raised in a Christian elementary and junior high school (they put fear into you for nine long years), and as someone who could see the pillar of smoke from the Twin Towers from his house in Staten Island, I've pretty much reconciled with the fact that that the rising of the sun is not a given for anyone. When it's time, it's time. It's just the way it is.

But even when it comes to someone who wasn't family, or a close friend, or even a regular acquaintance, when it's just someone that I knew in town, it still hurts. Partly because he was such a cool guy, but also because - and it's selfish to say, I know - it could happen to anyone of us.

I'm sorry to see you go, sir.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Once upon a time (let's say when I was in junior high, and I had a passing interest in anime before I put it aside in high school), there was this small-time anime magazine that resembled 2600 in size and hokey-ness. It was basically composed of middle-aged American editors who were trying to explain anime in American terms.

What I'm going to do now makes me feel like one of them. Except the middle-aged part.

I just stayed up late to watch a new TV series called "Reset." Just to remind everyone, I live in Japan, and I have a Level 3 Certificate of Japanese Language Proficiency (which basically means that, on a really good day, I can probably comprehend whether or not someone is trying to call me by name in Japanese). Tonight was the introductory special, followed by the first regular episode. Anyways, here's the website for the series, as well as the Japanese Wikipedia page. If you live in Japan, it airs every Thursday night just before midnight (channel depends on the area).

In a nutshell, I have judged it to be "It's a Wonderful Life" on steroids, and without Frank Capra. Actually, the George Baileys of this series don't fade out of existence, their lives merely change. Of course, their lives sucked to begin with because of perhaps one moment in time where they made a choice they regret. They are then given a chance to change the past by, yes, resetting their lives. An angel named Harry (Anri in katakana; Wikipedia translates it to Henry) gives them these opportunities. Of course, the past changes, and ostensibly for the worse. Faced with a dire outcome, each protagonist has the choice to reset their lives again or keep things just the way they have made them to be. Some do, and some don't for long and complicated reasons.

The last story in the special dealt with Kaori, who had the chance to move away from the countryside to Tokyo to be with Shinsei, her aspiring-director boyfriend, but didn't go. Leading a dull suburban life, her boyfriend makes a successful movie based on, of course, the break up. Envious of the life she could have had with him and not at all wild about picking up after the husband who won't get away from the television set, Kaori resets her life and goes with her boyfriend. Actually, she turns out to be excess weight around his life, as he cheats on her and finds his movie project over-budget and halted by what I think are loan sharks. Unable to go home and stuck with her boyfriend, her only recourse is to become a hostess (which is a benign word in English, but is Japanese for an entertainer of businessmen with money to burn at clubs, to put it mildly) to help finance the movie. The increasingly psychotic boyfriend's continuing affairs create scandal, and eventually the literal burning of the entire movie in its canister by the movie's backers.

Teruhiko, the man whom Kaori would have married comes to Tokyo to persuade her to come back home and marry him, only to receive a knife in the back from the disgraced director. Left with absolutely nothing and no one, Henry gives the woman one more chance to reset. Unlike the characters in the two stories before this one, Kaori declines (I suppose this new life of having no one but herself is better than being chained to a clothesline in the suburbs), wakes up in the hospital at Teruhiko's bedside, apologizes to him and walks away, leaving him to die.

The unfortunate guy stuck in the middle of a reset becomes the new Henry, I suppose as compensation for getting killed in a timeline that shouldn't have happened. And so begins the first episode.

Mari is a shut-in who, after university, lives at home with her family and never leaves her bedroom, playing computer games all day and chatting online with a guy named Makoto (already, images of cyber-stalking come to mind, but Mari is none the wiser). Risa, her younger sister, terrorizes her, putting cockroaches in her lunch tray and stealing Makoto from her by sending her picture instead of her sister's. The picture of Risa, posing as Mari, in the park with Makoto leaves Mari in despair, until the new Henry comes to offer her a reset, which she gladly takes before switching out her photo to upload to Makoto. It leads to a face-to-face date in the park, and everything seems to go perfectly, as Mari drops her emotional barriers and Makoto defends her against a persistent Risa, intent on destroying the date.

Makoto takes a happy Mari to his rather nice apartment, and playfully calls Mari a liar for not telling him all about her. This turns out to be quite bad for Mari, as her coffee is spiked with a date rape drug. She wakes up on an operating table in a room filled with preserved dead animals along the walls. Makoto is an artist with the scalpel, and Mari appears to be his next masterpiece.

Henry stops time, and allows Mari a second chance to reset. Of course, if she does reset and allows Risa to take her place, the younger sister may very well end up on the table instead of her. She could very well end up killing her sisted, and should instead just accept her fate. After feigning a moment of sibling concern, a wicked smile plays across Mari's face, as she resets (the plot device in this series is a cell phone which asks the user whether or not to reset).

Everything is back to where it was, and Mari even hurries Risa's demise along by chatting with Makoto some more. The once shy Mari finally leaves her room to join her parents for dinner, happily pronouncing that everything is now alright even as Risa is cut up by Makoto (ostensibly because she lied about being Mari). The camera glosses over an empty space at the table, and a bright and cheery conversation takes place between Mari and her relieved parents.

The credits roll. They usually roll three-quarters towards the end of the final scene. Sometimes, as it did tonight, it means one more plot twist. The doorbell rings and Mari gets it, only to be met by a bloody-handed Makoto, who sets the knife on her because she, too, was also lying to him (the online chatting after the second reset). Moral: don't screw with fate, especially to use it to run ruin with others.

Definitely wasn't pretty, and wasn't supposed to be. Each episode is woven in such a complicated fashion that leads to a fateful decision of two bad choices with one of them being less bad than the other. Such is life, if one is not careful enough.