Wednesday, May 31, 2006

More Anti-War Protest

Right now I'm still on vacation, and probably should be writing about my journeys, or better yet get off the internet and enjoy the vacation.

But I found something on the Internet I want to briefly respond to. It seems my previous post on the Anti-War protest has been picked up and critiqued at murdoc online. (Contrary to Dr. Doodles assertion that no one was interested because there were no graphics).

I don't know Murdoc, but he's obviously approaching this from the opposite end of the political spectrum. He points out that
1). I identified it as an Anti-War Protest, but Media Mouse made a big deal about it being a "Anti-military recruiting protest" and in fact harshly criticized the Grand Rapids Press for simply calling it an anti-War protest.

and 2) "I wonder if the kids with the flags were really "pro-war demonstrators" as Swagman writes or if maybe they were simply "pro-military", "pro-victory", or "pro-USA" demonstrators."

Although it could be argued that Murdoc has ignored my main points in favor of nitpicking at details, these criticisms are fair enough at face value.

There is obviously a discrepancy between the focus of the Media Mouse article and my own account. I'm somewhat confused myself as to why Media Mouse chose to make a big distinction between anti-war and anti-recruiting. The two are really interlinked. I mean its not like we were saying, "We support the war effort, we just don't want you to recruit any troops to fight it with."

Plus we were chanting anti war slogans, such as "Peace is patriotic. No more war." And I was given a sign to hold that read, "Stop the War in Iraq."

As for the second point, this is really a semantic debate, and I never like to spend too much time on those.

Obviously no one wants to be called "pro-war", no one will tell you they are in favor of war, and yet wars still happen all the time. I'm somewhat reminded of the quote by Herman Goering (one of the highest ranking Nazi's) at the Nuremburg trial:
"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

Not even Hitler and the Nazi's stood up and said, "We like war for the sake of war." They told the people that the war was necessary.

Three years ago the President told this country that war was necessary. Some of us did what we could to try and stop it. And others decided to support the President. If you supported the decision for war, you may not like the term, "Pro-War", but when the choice was between peace and war, you choose war. Everyone is for peace if they could have it on their own terms.

But if Murdoc wants to call these kids "Pro-Victory" instead of "Pro-War", I'm not going to make a big deal out of it.

Also, Media Mouse has posted pictures of the protest here. I can be seen in one of them standing with my hands behind my back looking confused as to what to do. This was one of those "moments of confrontation" I alluded to in the earlier post, and you can see I'm looking like I'm not quite sure what to do. Not one of my more heroic and decisive moments, but oh well.

Useless Wikipedia Fact
The Sub-Mariner is arguably the first Comic book anti-hero.

Link of the Day
A Dozen Marines May Face Courts-Martial for Alleged Iraq Massacre

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Adjustments

Now that I've been back for about a week, I thought I'd jot down a few thoughts.

A lot of people have been asking me about reverse culture shock. Aside from a few surface level things (remembing to drive on the right side of the road, not recognizing any of the new music on the radio) I've had no major problems. Nothing like the horror stories I've been hearing from my friends, anyway. Right now I'm just really glad to be back and to be living a normal life again.

I suspect this is because reverse culture shock is supposed to go in cycles, and typically doesn't set in until 3 weeks or so. I'm still in the honeymoon phase. Or maybe it proves my theory that if you stay in Japan until you're absolutely sick of it, it makes it easier to leave.

What I've Been Doing
This past Sunday I went up to Ann Arbor with my parents to help my sister move out of her apartment.

On Monday I attended the local peace presence rally. Those of you still in Grand Rapids should seriously think about checking it out. It's every Monday from 4:30-5:30 on the northeast corner of Division and Fulton, and is just people quietly holding signs against the war. Check out their website here.

Tuesday night I went to one of IGE's teach-ins about Peak Oil, presented by this gentlemen here. It's a very sombering topic. Basically the idea is that we're going to hit peak production of oil very soon, and then afterwords there's not going to be enough oil to go around. Because electricity, plastics, heating and even food transportation all depend on oil, there's a lot of gloom and doom predictions about what this will mean. For more information check out this article here. (Although, Mr. Luke, your objections are duly noted).

Wednesday night Bork and Adam treated me to a sneak preview of the new X-Men movie (I'll resist the temptation to write a long review of it. Instead I'll just say I thought it was "pretty cool"). Then we went to the bar with Bork's fellow seminary students. I never thought I'd be at the bar talking with a bunch of slightly intoxicated Seminarians. Now I can cross that off my list of things to do before I die. (Seriously though, those Calvin Seminary students are a lot cooler than you might think).

It's always interesting to meet people in real life that you have only known through blogging, and to see how they match up to the image you have formed of them. It was really cool to meet the infamous Meg (who not long ago emerged as the darling of the blogosphere, or at least the portion of it I follow).
And Jana. (Actually I knew Jana a little in high school. We had a Latin class together).

From tomorrow I'm going on a road trip with my sister and Mom out to Colorado where I will finally meet my new niece. Looking forward to it. I'll be gone all next week, but after that I'll be back in G.R. again.

Useless Wikipedia Fact
Despite Grand Rapids' stereotype as a bastion of rock-ribbed conservatism, the city tends to elect moderate Republicans (at least by national standards). The city of Grand Rapids itself - excluding its suburbs - supported Democrats Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.

Link of the Day
Army Recruitment Numbers on Race Reveal Disproportionate Numbers of People of Color, Poor; Michigan’s Eaton County has Highest Latino Recruitment Rate

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Anti-War Protest

Friday I attended the anti-war protest in front of the military recruiting office at Celebration Mall.

The Grand Rapids Press had this article on the subject. Media Mouse has a write-up of the same event, including a critique of the Press article, which can be read on their website here.

I’ll just chime in with a few of my own thoughts.

Regular readers of this blog can be left in no doubt as to my opinions about the Iraq war. However ever since the war began I’ve been in rural Japan, and the predominant feeling I’ve had over the past few years is one of impotence. I feel very strongly against the war, but what good does that do anyone? For all I’ve done the past four years, I might just as well have been strongly in favor of the war. It wouldn’t have made any difference.

In the lead up to the war, I did have my adult English Conversation class write letters to Bush asking for peace. This had a bit of a snowballing effect because other people heard about it and wanted to join in. Some local school teachers even assigned their classes to write letters for peace, all of which were then passed on to me to mail to Bush.

But of course when you think about all the effort this President and his administration went through to trick the country into war, the idea that 100 letters from Japanese school children asking for peace would make a difference one way or another is kind of laughable. I have no doubt the letters ended up in the White House trash can. The only real purpose of the whole project was to give me some way to wash my hands of the war. "There, I tried. I did my part. The war’s not my responsibility anymore."

....Which brings the question: how effective are these protests as an agent for actual change, or how much of this is just a way for us to publically state our opposition to the war and therefore wash our hands of it?

It certainly felt very empowering to hold up a sign saying, "Stop the War Against Iraq" and chant "No War", especially after 5 years in Japan feeling unable to do anything. But what good was actually accomplished by it? Did we change anyone’s minds, or make a dent in military recruiting? I’d have to say probably no.

I’m somewhat haunted by the words of Philip Gold "It is arguable that popular support for the [Vietnam] War would have faded years before it did, had not supporting the war become a form of protest against the protestors." Of course that’s a right-wingers perspective on things, isn’t it? Whose really to blame for the atrocities in Vietnam? Why the people who were protesting the war of course, and therefore tricking the rest of us into supporting it.

And yet there’s probably some truth to the statement. Unfortunately not all good intentions lead to good results, and there is a danger protesting, if overly confrontational, can hurt its own cause. So in that regard there were a couple moments on Friday which made me slightly uneasy. Not the protest as a whole, just little moments.

It’s a difficult question of course, because the alternatives are few. Letter writing didn’t seem to do a lot of good. Obviously electoral politics have failed, as in 2004 when the choice was between a Republican and Democrat who had both been in favor of the war. And I’m not generally in favor of violence. So what’s left? The politics of the street. But at what point does sign holding become just as ineffective as letter writing? At what point are more confrontational tactics necessary?

I’m somewhat talking in circles because I haven’t figured out the answers to these questions myself. I’ll leave this part for now and give a brief overview of the event itself.

I’ve been out of the game for 5 years, so I knew I wouldn’t recognize many of the faces. I dug my old 2001 Media Mouse press badge out of storage to identify myself as one of the good guys. I saw 3 old friends from Media Mouse there, and although I hadn’t seen them for 5 years I was glad to see none of them looked like they had aged a day. They were just the same as I remembered them.

Those 3 aside, everyone else was a new face. Mostly college students.
When I was 21 and 22 attending Media Mouse meetings, I felt like a kid trying to break into the adult world of politics. Now I feel like the old man on the scene.

I arrived with nothing but my Media Mouse badge and a pad of paper, but the others had come well prepared and had an extra sign for me to carry and fliers for me to hand out.

The reaction of the passerby’s was very mixed, as I guess you would expect these days. A number of people gave us honks or thumbs up. One lady shouted across the street that she completely behind us, and we cheered her back. Then, unwittingly committing a faux pax, she added that she had voted for Kerry. This was greeted by awkward silence. (I supported Kerry in 2004, but most of the Media Mouse crowd did not.)

And of course there was negative reaction as well. A few people swore at me when I tried to offer them fliers, and one person tore them up, threw them on the ground, and then asked me if I wanted to give him anymore.

A few high school kids got an American flag and started running up and down the sidewalk with it, and cheering for the war. Generally I find pro-war demonstrators to be the lowest forms of humanity, but I try and make allowances for the ignorance of youth. After all, I myself was conservative at the age of 16. If you grow up in Grand Rapids, most of us are by default. Not everyone is a child prodigy and has their own independent belief system by the age of 14. I think most people, myself included, were still politically evolving during their four years at Calvin.

Still...Besides the military recruiters themselves, the only people who were really upset at us seemed to be Dutch Princesses and Abercrombie teenagers, blissfully secure in supporting a war they know others are going to have to fight for them.

The police came a couple times to warn us that we were disturbing the peace because of our loud chants and drum beating. We huddled up briefly and agreed to continue as a silent protest. Secretly I was glad of this because I’m not sure how effective a lot of the chants were. Some seemed overly confrontational, others just needlessly complicated and muddled. (There was also a complaint that we had been blocking the doors to the recruitment office, which had questionable merit, but we moved up to the edge of the sidewalk anyway).

Around 7 0'clock, another group of protesters showed up across the street to protest "The DaVinci Code" (you’ll recall Friday was opening night). Some of them initially saw us and thought we were part of their protest. Then, when they found out we were protesting the war, a couple of them glared at us as if we were the devil incarnate. And then they went across the street to protest a fictional story.

Whenever two groups of protesters are across from each other, things get a little silly. We ended up calling it a day shortly after that.

Again, questions of our effectiveness still linger in my mind, but with an injustice as huge as this war, I strongly believe it is everyone’s duty to do something. It’s easy to criticize tactical errors or excessive of rhetoric if you’re sitting on your ass not doing anything, as so many people seem to be fond of doing. How future protests will evolve remains to be seen.

Useless Wikipedia Fact
Before leaving Iraq, Paul Bremer enacted order 39 which allows for the following:
1.privatization of Iraqs 200 state-owned enterprises;
2.100% foreign ownership of Iraqi businesses;
3.national treatment of foreign firms;
4.unrestricted, tax-free remittance of all profits and other funds; and
5.40-year ownership licenses.


Bremer also enacted order 17, which grants foreign contractors, including private security firms, full immunity from Iraq s laws

Link of the Day
Dick DeVos: Top Ten Things to Know about his Real Agenda

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Retrospection

Now that I'm back in the US, I've been going through some of my old journals and e-mails. I thought it would be good reminiscing, both for me and maybe some of you, to post some of it online. Not all the time of course. I'll try not to let myself get too carried away.

Anyway, here is Spring break 2000, when Brett, Bear, Prodigy and I went camping in the Smokey mountains in Tennessee. This may be only of interest to the 4 of us, but I hope you 3 have as much fun reminiscing about this trip as I did.

3/18/00
As we were leaving to go on Spring Break, Rob Patton was getting his crew ready to go too.
We left early in the morning to get a start on the day, but then went to Casey’s for a leisurely breakfast (Brett picked up on the inconsistency of this at the restaurant). I ordered Tacos, and made a comment about how it could be a long trip to Tennessee for everyone else in the car, and Bear in a tired voice replied "Damn you Chewie Damn you" (This would become a running joke on the Spring Break trip. Brett compared Bear to Pavlov’s Dogs, just conditioned to swear automatically).
We drove straight to Tennessee with occasional stops for food and gas. We joked a lot about Rob’s Spring Break and what a disaster we thought it would be. (I jokingly said of Cakes that we had sent a sheep off with the wolves).
Brett and I slept a bit on the trip down while Bear and Prodigy drove (Brett had not gotten any sleep at all the night before). Finding no hotels we liked, we drove straight to the campground.
When It stopped raining, and I commented on the nice weather, Bear yelled at me out for saying something and jinxing us. This also would become a running joke for the rest of the week. I would make an optimistic comment about the weather and Bear would swear at me for provoking bad weather.

3/19/00
Hit the trail. Realized we had forgotten to get a permit-but decided to keep going anyway. Brett and I realized that most of our good stories from the last camping trip came from either the girls or our adventures trying to cross the stream. With neither of those being a factor on this trail, we wondered if we would have any interesting stories from this trip. We saw 2 other people at the beginning of the hike (which was a contrast to last time, when we saw no one for the 1st two days). A father-son team passed us by as we were resting about a half mile into the trial.
We stopped for the day pretty early in the afternoon. This gave us plenty of time to clown around. I ended up getting bored, but Brett said last time what he hated was never having time to relax at the campsite-so this was good. There was a small trickle of a stream by the site and we climbed up and down to see where it began and ended. Brett compared the foliage around the stream to a rain forest.
Brett climbed to the top of a tree (pretty damn high up there). I started climbing up to join him, but lost my nerve pretty early on and came back down. We built a fire, and it got so windy at night sparks were being blown everywhere and I was worried the whole forest would burn down. It was an eerie feeling being out in the wind. It constantly sounded like someone was coming. Brett and I put out the fire, but the wind flared it up again once we were in the tent and Brett went back outside to put the fire out again. Brett woke me up in the night, having been scared by howling sounds, and I sleepily told him that there had never been a reported case of a wolf attacking a human in North America. The next morning when we were both awake he mocked me for giving such a textbook type answer.

3/20/00
I was selfish in the morning by not helping Brett take down the tent at first (I was busy with my own stuff and felt bad later). We stopped for lunch, and encountered 3 other hikers (one guy and two girls). They ate lunch not too far from us and gave us lots of weird looks (we were laughing a lot). We hiked up hill all day after lunch and were tired out. (Except for Brett, which was ironic since he had trouble keeping up with us before lunch.) Brett and I would Hike, then wait for Bear and Luke to wearily join us. We were passed by those 3 other hikers on a break. When we finally arrived at the campsite, many other people were there-we made some small talk. (One guy was from North Western University). We were somewhat worried b/c we didn’t have a permit. Brett (assisted by the rest of us us), attempted to make a fire, but with no luck. Brett and I hiked around at night a little and enjoyed the eery feeling of the woods at night before going to bed.

3/21/00
We left the campsite. Bear and Prodigy left first (Bear was impatient), but Brett and I soon caught up with them. We ditched our packs and did a day hike to the Appalachian trail. We met Horse’s Trot, an Appalachian trailer. Brett gave me a mock guilt trip about not carrying the lunch sack so I insisted on carrying it all the rest of way back even though Brett kept telling me I didn’t have to. When we arrived at our campsite, there was a beautiful river by it. Bear went skinny dipping, which was funny enough in itself, but a couple walked by at this time and the girl had to wait to cross the bridge while Bear put on his clothes. While we all yelled at bear to hurry up and clothe himself.
Later, a group of guys wanted to cross from the other side. Bear jokingly told them that they had to wait until he was done bathing, but they misunderstood and thought he was serious and kept asking Brett if his friend was done bathing yet so they could cross. "I don’t know why they didn’t cross first and then the Bear Bathed" Brett said later. Everyone commented that we now we had at least one story to tell.
Another couple camped on the same site. Brett and I stayed up late (well, relatively late) telling ghost stories.

3/22/00
Bear and Prodigy again left before us (again, Bear was impatient to get going). We hiked to the visitor center. Everyone was staring at us because we obviously looked like hikers. Brett was somewhat uncomfortable but Bear loved it and we laughed at the way he blatantly put himself on display. Brett had a hurt heel, and was having trouble going on the trail. We hiked on a very touristy (but beautiful) trail, and many of the other day hikers were amazed by all our gear. Prodigy especially was very pleased with all the comments. Many people said, "You guys look official", to which he always replied, "Yeah, Four days official".
We arrived at Abrams falls. Ignoring signs, Brett and I (and later Bear) climbed to top of waterfall. We took off our shirts, and tons of people from down below were staring at us and some even taking pictures.
After the waterfall, we hiked to the campsite. There was some disagreement over what to do after the trip was over. Brett wanted to explore some city with what was left of Spring Break, Prodigy and Bear wanted to get home. (Prodigy had Youth group thing at his Greek Orthodox church).
Brett left for a while, and arrived back soaked to his shoulders after falling in the lake. It was dark by this time, but he changed his clothes in the cold and attempted to dry them out. I helped him as I could.

3/23/00
Woke up and hiked the rest of the way back to the car. Although there was still some debate about what to do, sentiments to go home won out.
We drive the long trip back:
Highlights: Stopped at a Taco Bell in a hick area that had a sign on Juke Box (Free bird skips-please don’t play-no refunds).
Brett and I laughed in the back seat at Bear and Prodigy singing along to songs.
Brett and I got in a tickling match in back seat after I said "Brett ya Bastard". I gave in, saying Uncle. . Brett also told me he had really developed a respect for the Bear over this Spring Break. Brett and I talked politics. He seems more clearly a libertarian/Republican than ever (not leaning towards Socialism as I had earlier hoped).
We arrived at Calvin. Although things were still shut down for Spring Break, Brett and I were able to break into our apartment at Delta 1. We had originally planned to go back to my parent’s house, but were both so tired we just went to sleep. (It was a $100 to be caught in the apartments during Spring Break, but we were too tired to care.)

Useless Wikipedia Fact
Ajimu-machi is a small valley town known for it’s red wine and suppon—a type of native turtle that is carefully prepared and eaten. The town is located northwest of Beppu and southeast of Nakatsu in a valley that harbors hot summers and cold winters comparatively to the surrounding areas. Ajimu is currently home to two, non-Japanese JET English teachers, Justin Shaddix and Chris Powell. Well, given the participatory nature of Wikipedia, I figured it was just a matter of time before I saw someone I knew written into an entry. Either of you boys want to take credit for this one?

Link of the Day
Catching Rumsfeld Red-Handed ... An Interview with Ray McGovern

Back in Grand Rapids

I’ve finally broken free of Calypsos’s grasp, and am home again.

I’ll put the most important part of this entry in the front while I know you’re still reading: I don’t have anybody’s contact info so send me an e-mail or call me or something. I know I say that every time I come back, but because I was never back permanently before I never saved any of those numbers from one trip to the next. So, sorry to be such a putz, but this is the last time I promise. I’m going to buy one of those little black address books and write everything down, and if you’ll just indulge me this one last time I’ll never bug you again.

So, onto the post...

I flew home yesterday. Shoko drove me to the airport in Fukuoka, I flew from there to Osaka, from there to Chicago, and from there back to Grand Rapids.

Even after moving two times, and thinning out my possessions, I still have a lot of junk, and I had to condense five years of accumulated stuff into two bags, and there was a lot of stuff I had to leave behind. Fortunately I could leave it at Shoko’s apartment, where I might make arrangements for some of it at a later date. (As opposed to those unfortunate people without Japanese girlfriends, who just have to throw everything out). Unfortunately I had to leave behind a lot of my Japanese study materials because the books and tapes were just to bulky. I left behind most of my Japanese music collection, because it was on mini-disc and I’ve been told MD players are hard to get in the US anyway. And I left behind my tapes of the new testament in Japanese, which were a great study resource but very big and bulky.

United Airlines allows two bags of 32 kg for international flights. Shoko and I did a lot of monkeying around with the scale in her room. I’d stand on the scale, we’d take my weight (90 kg, for those interested), then I’d hold a bag, we’d take the new weight, do the math, and adjust the bags accordingly.

But (and maybe you can see where this is going) when we get to the airport in Fukuoka it turns out that 32 kg is only for the international flight. The limit for the airplane from Fukuoka to Osaka is 20 kg. And those extra kilograms don’t come cheap. They charged me $3.50 for every kilogram I was over the limit. Son of a bitch!

Anyway, the flight back was really long and tiresome as always, but I made it back.

I’ve been home 4 times on holiday before now, all at times of intervals of a year or more. When you’ve been away for a long time, coming back into the US is always a weird feeling, as if everything is new to you and America, not Japan, is the foreign country.

This time however I was just back last January, so it didn’t feel so strange. The big difference though is that this time I’m back to stay.

As you may expect, I have a lot of mixed feelings about it. On one hand I’m really looking forward to being able to once again establish real relationships with my old friends (those of you who are still in the area, anyway) and family instead of just sending an e-mail every couple of weeks. I"m looking forward to being able to make small talk at work in my native language. I’m looking forward to being able to get new books without having to drive an hour, see new movies when they come out, and have food at the supermarket that I’m familiar with. In fact when I think about it all, it seems like a dream and I’ve been away too long.

On the other hand, to leave Japan where I’ve been having a lot of experiences and living independently for 5 years, and then to come back home and move into my old childhood bedroom, definitely has the feeling of moving backward in life not forward. Hopefully this will only be a springboard to other experiences, once I figure out exactly what I want to do.

Useless Wikipedia Fact
Borrowing from Mr. Guam, who brings to our attention this Wikipedia story of a cat named Wilberforce, the chief mouser at 10 Downing street which includes incidents of birdicide, being lost, and being turned out of the job because of Cherie Blair.

Link of the Day
Local Media Ignore or Underreport Visit by CIA Analyst Critical of Hoekstra

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Further Thoughts

(An addendum to the previous post)

Perhaps the best advice I ever got about life in Japan was from a speech by a fellow JET participant given the night before we flew out of Detroit. “Don’t think of this as a year abroad,” he said. “Think about it as just another year of life. For example this year in Japan is probably the year I’m going to finally learn to cook for myself. But I think that would probably happen anyway.”

Now, despite the fact that 5 years down the road I still haven’t learned to cook for myself, I think the general idea of this is very sound. The past 5 years as I've journeyed from 23 to 28 I think I've done a lot of the same things, and learned a lot of the same things, that would have happened whether I was in Japan or not.

I spent my days at work, and my nights meeting friends in bars and at dinner parties, just like I would have done back home. I dated girls, screwed up at things a lot, and eventually found a girl I really like, just like I probably would have done back home. I learned things about myself by observing how I reacted in new social situations, and what kind of activities and interests I tended to gravitate to once I was free of assigned reading, just like I’m sure the rest of you have done.

When I was in college my entire social circle was within one or two years of my own age (with the exception of Old Man Anderson). After graduating and coming to Japan I started working and becoming colleagues with some people of my parents generation. And I learned that the age gap wasn't as big a deal as I thought it was, and that older people are people too, and often interact with each other the same way me and my Calvin friends used to.

By the same token, I learned that the “adult world” is a lot more childish than I would ever have imagined. I remember one incident in particular when there was a very childish flame war going back and forth on the Oita JETs e-mail listserve, and I thought to myself: “All these people are in there mid 20s or 30s. Somehow I always figured the grown-up world would be a lot more grown-up like than this.” That was the moment or realization for me. I’m sure a lot of you have had similar moments.

Despite the fact that I feel ready to return to the US, I do have a lot of worries. Reverse Culture shock is one of them, and I've noted that concern occasionally in this blog. I've been told that knowing it’s coming is half the battle, so hopefully I've prepared myself a little bit.

After spending so long as an ALT, a very cushy job, I’m a little bit worried my work ethic has been ruined, and I’m going to be in for a rude awakening when I get a job back in the United States. On the other hand, I don’t want my tombstone to read, “Here lies Joel Sxwagman. He coasted through life with as little effort as he could get away with.” Hopefully things will work out.

I remember how ambivalent I was leaving home for the first time 5 years ago. The whole drive to Detroit I couldn't think about anything but all the friends I was leaving behind. And then as soon as I got to the hotel, and I met the other JETs and realized how friendly most of them were, I immediately felt at ease. And the next few years were absolutely fantastic. Although I’m now nervous about a transition once again, I hope this is the start of another great chapter in my life.

Useless Wikipedia Fact
Books and movie serials concerning the diabolical doctor Fu Manchu were very popular in the first half of the 20th century. Afterwards the character became controversial as an example of racism found frequently in Western representations of the Chinese at that time. The character is often associated with the Yellow Peril.

Link of the Day
Admittedly I’m jumping on the bandwagon rather late, but is youtube.com amazing or what? There’s just so much cool stuff available on-line.

The last couple posts I've linked to political videos, and there are a lot more political videos that deserve to be watched and hopefully I’ll get around to linking to some of those later. First though a break for nostalgia.

Some saint has uploaded all 39 episodes of “The Mysterious Cities of Gold.” Remember this? (The first episode here, and the rest here). I always wondered how the series finally ended. We left on a family vacation the day of the last episode, so I never got to see it.

Does anyone else remember “Flight of the Dragons”? Some kind soul put it on youtube.com I only saw this movie once, but its amazing how well I remembered it. It was the ABC Sunday night movie back in the 80s. They moved the usual showing time up an hour so kids could see it before going to bed.

Here’s an episode of Superfriends: Lex Luther Escapes. No introduction necessary.

And here are two episodes of “Spiderman and Friends”. Nostalgia is a funny thing. To the best of my memory I never even saw a single episode of this show, but I feel very nostalgic for it just because I remember commercials for it, and friends talking about it. Watching it you can really smell the 80s.

I’m sure there’s a ton more cool stuff hidden away on the internet, but as always I guess if you’re really interested in it you don’t need me to give you the link, you can search and find yourself. (Let me know if you find anything cool).

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Thoughts on My Time in Japan

(The entry in which I try and summarize 5 years of my life in one blog post).

This entry is doomed to be a failure. For one thing, life, even a segment of life, is too complex to be summed up in a few paragraphs.

Secondly print is very cold and inflexible medium. It attempts to set in stone what in reality is a constantly evolving thought process. My views on the past five years differ depending on which mood you catch me in. Tomorrow I might well take a different tact.

All that being said, since I'm leaving Japan on Tuesday, I wanted to at least try and jot down some thoughts on the past five years.

As I've stated on this weblog before, I think I overstayed my time in Japan. But in the beginning it was amazing. The first two years I think were the best years of my life.

Maybe its kind of silly to rank years of ones life in this way, since any unit of time is made up of diverse experiences both pleasant and unpleasant. But when I was leaving College life I remember thinking to myself, “Those four years were the most fun I ever had in my life. When I have to go out in the real world and get a job it can’t possibly be as great as the carefree days in the Calvin dorms.” And then I was pleasantly surprised in Japan to find that life doesn’t end after College graduation.

I spent the whole first year in Japan with my mouth hanging open and my eyes wide. This may be because I previously had done so little traveling in my life, but everything in Japan amazed me. Even simple things like Volleyball games and dinner parties amazed me, mostly because I couldn’t believe I was actually living and working on the other side of the world. Also in the small countryside town of Ajimu I found I had instantly achieved level of popularity and notoriety that I would never have thought possible in my life.

The 2nd year the excitement was a little bit dulled, but I knew what I was doing. I knew were the cool places to hang out were, and I had a good network of friends, so I no longer had the lonely nights at home which had plagued me during my first year.

By the 3rd year things were beginning to get a little bit old, but I managed to keep things interesting by taking on a number of new projects and experiences. Greg and I hitch-hiked across Japan that summer, I presented a workshop on “Teaching Global Issues in the Classroom” at the mid-year conference, I started an English comic book section in the Ajimu library, I helped guide and translate for the Rotary club exchange, and I chaperoned eight Japanese students back to Grand Rapids during the holidays.

And, lest I forget to mention it, I met and started dating Shoko during the 3rd year. Needless to say I’ve been quite happy with the way that relationship has evolved over the past couple years, but even at the time it was a very welcome turn of events after I had botched things so badly with the previous girlfriend.

The last two years in Gifu have not been a nightmare by any means. I made a lot of good friends, had some good times, and got a few good stories out of the experience. But I also felt the shine was gone from the experience. I realized I was getting older, but not sure what I was accomplishing by staying longer in Japan. And for the first time I started to feel homesick more than I felt excited about Japan.

If I had to do it over again, maybe I would have skipped that last year and a half in Gifu. One the other hand, there’s something to be said for riding the experience out to the end. If I had gone home at the end of three years, I think I would have had mixed feelings about returning home. Now I'm certain it’s what I want.

But the question needs to be asked not just how much fun I had, but what I achieved. I mean partying on the beach everyday for the past five years would have been a lot of fun. What have I gained from the experience?

And this is somewhat harder to answer. In retrospect I’m somewhat disappointed in myself for not focusing more on this latter question for the past five years. Like a lot of other JETs, I just thought that if I studied Japanese hard and enjoyed the cross cultural experience, it would just magically open all sorts of doors. Now I'm not so sure. And the jobs available I'm not so interested in. I don’t fancy a future bent over a desk squinting at Kanji characters.

Ultimately I guess the worth of every experience in life has to be measured against the possibilities of the road not taken. For example when I think of all the time these five years that I’ve lost out with family and friends back home it makes me kind of sad.

In the last two years before I left Grand Rapids I felt like I was really getting involved in a lot of the groups and causes I was interested in. During the past five years I haven’t been involved in any activism or political activities, and the past five years have been very politically turbulent.

Professionally I don’t think I’ve achieved anything significant in the past five years, and I know people who have embarked on real carrier paths or completed graduate degrees in the same amount of time.

On the other hand, I know lots of people who have just hopped from one odd job to another, so it all depends who I compare myself too.

In concrete terms, how have I benefited from my time in Japan?
1). I’ve obtained a conversational level of Japanese, and a functional knowledge of simple Kanji. Since I don’t plan on pursuing a career path related to Japanese, it remains to see what, if any value, this will have in my future. But it’s nice just for the self-satisfaction of knowing I did it. I never imagined I would be able to conduct long conversations in a foreign language. I guess after 5 years it would have been pretty pathetic if I couldn’t, but I just figured that my brain wasn’t wired to learn another language. That’s something other people can do, not me.
Likewise with the writing system, which at first appeared completely impenetrable to me. I was very pleased when I started to make sense of it.

2). Hopefully gained some self-confidence by being in front of a classroom so many times. I’m not sure how much of this will transfer to situations when I’m in front of peers, but I hope some of it does.

3). It has been truly said when you travel abroad you learn more about yourself than about the foreign country. I learned how American I am, and how American my world views and outlooks are. I probably didn’t need to stay all 5 years to do this, but with each year the appreciation got a bit deeper.

4). Learned how many of the things I had been taught about Japan were blatantly false. Will never trust sociologists or cultural explorations teacher again.

5). From my interaction with other JETs, I think I learned just as much about England, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia as I did about Japan. I’m tempted to list everything I learned about the sports, culture, history and politics of these countries, but I won’t. I’ll just say looking back on it, it’s amazing what I didn’t know before I came to Japan.

(For what its worth, the exchange goes both ways. Recently a British friend said to me, “I’m really glad I got the chance to meet so many Americans in Japan. It turns out a lot of them are nice people. I guess I should have known that, but we get such a negative view of Americans from our media that it’s hard to break free of the stereotypes).

6). I guess I gained a greater appreciation for the world and my place in it. I say this with caution because it sounds cliché, and I do honestly believe that you don’t have to go travel all the way to Asia to know that it exists. But some things just hit home more after living abroad. Like the fact that worldwide white people are not the majority. And that a large percentage of the world doesn’t use the Roman alphabet.

Maybe there’s more stuff, but I’ll call it quits at 6 things. Most likely none of these things will help me professionally. I like to think that it makes me a richer person personally. Although how it measures up against the unknown value of the mysterious road not taken is hard to say.

Useless Wikipedia Fact
In 1997 the United States Government declassified "Operation Northwoods" a Defense Department document drawn up in 1962. Among other things "Operation Northwoods" included a plan to manufacture a terrorist act in the United States, and then blame it on Castro as a pretext for war.

Link of the Day
As always I'm behind the times, but I've recently discoved youtube.com, and have been wasting a lot of time watching videos online.

I found this debate between Noam Chomsky and William F. Buckley (part 1 and part 2) interesting for a number of reasons. Its a much younger Chomsky than most of us are used to seeing. Its from the days before he was blacklisted from network TV. And it shows a television debate without yelling or name calling. How times have changed.

Although Buckley and Chomsky spend most of their time talking at cross purposes, there is a number of good points in here. Buckley tries to convice Chomsky that intervention in Vietnam isn't imperialism because we are doing it for the good of the Vietnamese people. Chomsky counters that all imperialists throughout history always argued they were invading for the good of the native peoples. Sad how much of this is still applicable.

This video of Ali G interviewing Chomsky is notable just for the two of them together even if its not Ali G's best piece. I do like the bit at the end though when Ali G wants to invent his own language, and Chomsky tries to convince him it'd be a waste of time.

Lastly this recent BBC interview shows Chomsky at his usual brilliance.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

(Book Review)

I suspect that most of you have already read this book and once again I'm a bit behind the times by just reading it now.

This book is often mentioned in the same breath as "Slaughter House 5" and on the surface they have a lot of similarities. Both books are written by authors who fought in World War II. Both authors found themselves unable to write about their war experiences in traditional narrative, and so turned to comedy instead. Both books were published in the 1960s when the nation was focused on another war. And both books take a non-linear perspective and jump around in time.

That's where the similarities end, however. "Slaughter House 5" was very dry humor, but "Catch-22" is bouncing off the walls with silliness.

One of my first thoughts when reading this book was, "Wow, this is pretty avant-garde stuff. I can't believe this was written way back in 1961."

Second thought: "Actually, wait a minute, yes I can. This book feels very tied into the humor of the time. Most of the book reads like the Marx Brothers had written it. There are also lots of parts that are reminiscent of vaudeville, and I was often reminded of Abbott and Costello's 'Who's on First.' Like 'Who's on First' many of the sketches in the book are based on one character living in his own whacky world, and the other character refusing to understand what is going on.

There's not a lot of consistency in terms of comic roles. A character can play the straight man in one scene, and then be the silly man in the next scene. It all seems based on what serves the plot best.

Although I use the word "plot" loosely because much of the book isn't so much based on a plot as it is just a running series of gags. At first I got tired of this book very quickly. I like the "Marx Brothers" but an hour and a half movie is about the limit for that kind of humor. A 561 page book feels like overkill.

The book is anything for a laugh. Every line is a joke, or a set-up for the next joke. Its a bit like those "Airplane" movies. There are so many gags flying around so fast that some of them are bound to be funny even if the majority are groaners. There was usually something funny on each page, but because of the books fractured nature I found it hard to absorb myself for long periods, and initially had to read this book in small doses.

If you stick with the book though, a plot does start to emerge. And near the end especially the themes of anti-militarism do start to emerge.

This book reminds me a lot of the John Lennon film, "How I won the War."
Actually I remember once reading a review of "How I Won the War" that said, "The point of this film is that war is ridiculous and that it's conducted by idiots. But this isn't a strong anti-war message. Would war be any better if it was conducted by people who knew what they were doing?"

This same question could be applied to "Catch-22". The strength of this book though is that it draws you in, so near the end you actually do start to see the war through the bizarre lense of Yossarian, the main character. You do feel that its ridiculous that enlisted men have to throw away their lives on the whim of commanding officers, or that people should be killed just for living in the wrong city. Like all great satires, this book makes you realize how bizarre life actually is.

Useless Wikipedia Fact
Helen Keller was a member of the Socialist Party and actively campaigned and wrote in support of the working classes from 1909 to 1921. She supported Socialist Party candidate Eugene V. Debs in each of his campaigns for the presidency. Helen Keller also joined the famous labor union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), in 1912 after she felt that parliamentary socialism was "sinking in the political bog." Helen Keller wrote for the IWW between 1916 and 1918.
These details were left out of the various Hollywood movies of Helen's life.

Link of the Day
I don't reckon this Ray McGovern flap needs the help of plublicity from my blog, but I can't recommend these videos enough. It's amazing the bald faced lies he catches Rumsfeild on.

First of all , this video from MSNBC, complete with fact checking the exchange, is a must see.

Secondly check out this interview between Ray McGovern and Paula Zahn. My favorite part is when McGovern says its ironic he was trained to analyze lies from foreign leaders, and now he has to use it on his own government.

Also this interview with Anderson Cooper illustrates how much disinformation the Bush administration has put out. It makes you think about how much trouble the democracy is in.

As always, no one puts it like the Daily Show. They put together a nice little collage of the event and the media coverage.

If you're on a slow connection and can't watch videos, at least check out the article "My Meeting With Rumsfeld by Ray McGovern"

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Shanghai Baby by Zhou Wei Hui

(Book Review)

Add this one to the long list of books that sound a lot cooler than they actually are. I was seduced by the blurb on the back cover of this book, only to be very disappointed with the actual book itself. Halfway through I found myself completely bored by this story, and, were it not for my new resolution to finish the books I start, I would have discarded this one a long time ago.

First of all I’ll quote from the book’s cover. “Banned and burned in China, Shanghai Baby is the story of a young urban woman, Coco, who waits tables by day and explores Shanghai’s intoxicating underbelly by night. While trying desperately to write a novel so that she might ‘burst upon the city like fireworks’ Coco falls in love with an impotent and drug-addicted artists, but begins a wistful affair with a married Western businessman with a penchant for seduction. Her candid yet poetic exploration of a woman’s sexuality, Wei Hui reads like a modern day Anais Nin. Her provocative portrayal of men and women in cultural transition astonishes, with its exposure of the unacknowledged new China and of a generation determined to burst free.”

Sounds pretty cool doesn’t it? The cover also contains blurbs from reviewers who call Wei Hui the female version of Kerouac. Wei Hui also encourages this comparison by referencing Kerouac and Henry Miller several times in her book.

And yet, this book is not so much “On the Road” as it is “Sex in the City”. It’s not so much about pushing the cultural boundaries as it is just fundamentally a love story about a woman caught between two men, and her inability to choose between them. In other words, it’s “Chic Lit”. I’d say most guys could safely give this book a pass.

On the other hand, I’ve talked to a couple friends of the female persuasion, and they seemed to hate this book just as much as I did. As one friend put it, “All she does is talk about herself the whole time, and how beautiful and smart she is, and how all the guys love her. I just wanted to reach across the book and slap her.”

This was often at times the feeling I had reading the book. The main love story seems to be between the author and herself. Had she been sitting across from me while I read this, I might have gotten the urge to shake her and say, “Nobody cares! We all have our own problems! Nobody cares about how many guys like you or how brilliant an artist you are.”

Obviously the big question is how much “Coco” is “Wei Hui” and how much this book is autobiographical. Last time I checked out this book’s page on Amazon.com, there was a debate going on that point. It certainly feels like its autobiographical, and Coco’s life parallels Wei Hui’s at a number of points, including publishing the same books in the past.

Although this book was banned in China, by Western standards it doesn’t break any new ground. When its compared to “The Postman Always Rings Twice” (which was prosecuted for obscenity in 1934) it shows how times have changed. But it’s no more sexual explicit than say “I am Charlotte Simmons” or “The Stand”.

Also, this book contains what I would like to submit as possibly the worst published metaphor, “The Shanghai winter is wet and disgusting, like a woman’s period.”

Useless Wikipedia Fact
The "end of the world" tape which is broadcast in "Gremlins 2" was inspired upon a visit that director Joe Dante made to CNN, who actually have a tape ready for such event

Link of the Day
Boy, is that Colbert video making the rounds or what? It seems like every blog I read, link to, follow or lurk on has posted about it now.
Roll Call: Phil, Jana, Meg, Pastor Mary, Mr. Guam, Dave Blakeslee, Jenn, Peter, and I'm sorry if I've missed anyone.

If you haven't already seen it, what the hell are you waiting for? Check it out here.

Assuming most of you have already seen it though, here are some related links I thought were of interest.
Act for Change: Mainstream Media, Why the Blackout on Stephen Colbert?

And if you have time for a radio program, or are at work and can plug in headphones, here's a show debating how effective the routine was, and why the people inside didn't seem to get it.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Golden Week

It’s been a week since I last posted, which by my usual blog-a-day standards is a long time. Which can only mean one thing: it’s time once again to invoke Joel’s irony of the blogging age. “When you have free time to blog, there’s nothing exciting to write about. When you’re actually doing exciting things, you don’t have time to write about them.”

During Golden Week, two friends came down from Gifu to visit Kyushu, and I hosted them at Shoko’s place. Or, perhaps more accurately, Shoko graciously agreed to host all three of us during this time.

These two Gifu friends have probably been my best friends during my time in Gifu, at least during the second year I was there. They’ve appeared numerous times on this blog before under various aliases. (Since they don’t know I have this blog, I thought it would be unfair to use real names.) I’ll refer to them as “John” and “Mary” in this post. Anyway, I was really glad they were able to come down. Shoko enjoyed meeting them, and they enjoyed meeting Shoko, although they did wonder why I hadn’t mentioned more about Shoko during my time in Gifu.

Anyway, now that the week is over, I’ll try and summarize all our misadventures, hopefully without getting too long winded or confusing. I suppose I should start by simply explaining what Golden Week is.

What Golden Week Is
Golden Week (or “gouruden uiiku” as it’s known in Japanese) is a series of 4 almost consecutive holidays all in the space of a week. These are all minor holidays, much like the equivalent of Labor Day or memorial weekend. The original meanings have been long forgotten, and the only real purpose is just to get a day off work.

One of the bizarre things about Golden Week is the Japanese just take the holidays as they come, so every year is a little bit like “Golden Week Roulette” to see how nicely these holidays line up with the weekend. In the US obviously we’ve moved memorial day to a permanent Monday to make sure we always get a nice 3 day weekend out of it, but they don’t go for that in Japan. For example last year two days of Golden week fell on Saturday and Sunday, so it wasn’t much of a holiday.

The other bizarre thing is that Golden Week is often the only vacation time a Japanese employee gets. We Assistant English Teachers lead rather privileged lives in Japan, but the average Japanese employee is not allotted private vacation time during the year. Or more accurately, they’re allotted vacation time, but prevented from actually using it because of social obligations to their company and co-workers. So there are no Spring break trips or summer holidays. Golden Week is the only chance to go anywhere. It’s like the whole nation is on Spring break at once.

And, as you would expect given this scenario, prices for everything go sky-high, trains, boats, airplanes and hotels fill up months in advance, and all of Japan turns into one giant traffic jam from the North to the South. Regular tourist places like Kyoto become an absolute nightmare, but even the usual tranquil waterfall spots in Kyushu are suddenly filled with Bus tours and photograph snapping tourists.

Personally I think it would make a lot more sense to just give employees some personal discretionary leave during the year and avoid these Golden week traffic jams, but that’s just me. I’ve long ago discovered there are a lot of things in Japan that don’t make sense to me.

Anyway, enough complaining about Japan. Let’s get onto the actual week:
Day 1 Wednesday
The first day we decided to stay off the roads and just do a walking tour of Hita. As this is what I spend a lot of my normal days doing, it wasn’t so exciting, but it was a nice opportunity for me to show my friends all the cool places I discovered, and it was nice to have the company.

Hita has a number of beautiful rivers, and we spent a lot of time walking alongside a couple of them. We went up to a temple on a hill to get a good view of the city, and then walked along a little creek that was stocked with carp, and the banks lined with cherry trees. We cut across the main part of the city to get to the main river, and walked around this for a while. At one point we skipped across a line of rocks to get to a small island of grass, and had our picnic there while dangling our feet in the river. Then we followed a different river back home to Shoko’s place.

Although this was our simplest day, in many ways it was the highlight of the trip. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, Kyushu is much more beautiful than Gifu, and although we didn’t go anywhere special on the first day, my friends were astonished at the countryside beauty of Kyushu, and couldn’t stop talking about how green the mountains were, how beautiful the river was, and how lucky I was to be in a place like this.

(Although it is interesting to note how the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. When I lived in Kyushu, many of the JET program participants complained about being stuck out in the countryside. It was often a half hour drive to find another native English speaker. Young Japanese people left the countryside at 18 to go to University, and most never came back, so it was hard to find many people between the ages of 19 and 40. Many JETs complained about being surrounded by rice paddies and hick farmers, and wanted desperately to get into the “real Japan” in Honshu, with the big city lights, wild nightlife, loose women, and modern culture.)

Day 2 Thursday
We tried to go see “Daikanbo” (great view spot) and Mount Aso, but instead got stuck in traffic jams and spent most of the day just in the car.
This of course was a rookie mistake. After 5 years in Japan I should have known better than to try and see a popular tourist spot during Golden Week, but Shoko planned the trip and I just assumed she knew what she was doing.

After spending all morning in traffic, we got to “Daikanbo” which is a high point in the mountains of Kumamoto prefecture, from which we can view the basin below. It is ordinarily a great view, but the look out point was overflowing with people. Nevertheless a couple pictures here of me and Shoko.



We decided to turn back before we got to Mount Aso, which I’m sure would have been more crowded. We tried to find a nice Onsen (hot bath) on the way back, but all the places were so crowded we couldn’t even get into the parking lot. In the end we just headed back. We did eat at an “Old Japanese country style cooking” restaurant on the way back, which everyone enjoyed.

Day 3 Friday
John and Mary really wanted to see Fukuoka city. Shoko and I tried to talk them out of it, saying that Fukuoka was just another big city, and big cities are pretty much the same all over Japan. Fukuoka was just the same as Nagoya city up near Gifu. When you come to Kyushu, you should try and see the countryside.

But John and Mary wanted to see what Fukuoka had to offer, and to be honest if I were in their shoes I would have wanted to see what the big city had to offer as well.

In the afternoon we did the usual big city stuff. We took advantage of the big city to go to a bookstore with an English section, and we went to Starbucks not once, but twice.

John noticed that girls in Kyushu seemed to be a lot more interested in foreigners than girls up near Nagoya, and was pleasantly surprised by the amount of girls he noticed were starring at us or even trying to initiate conversation. Once evening came on, he thought if we could only find where all the pretty young girls were hanging out, everything would be ours for the asking.

Unfortunately I proved to be a terrible guide. Although I had heard many second and third hand stories from other JETs about sleazy pick up bars and club scenes in Fukuoka, I had always avoided these places myself because of my reserved personality. I didn’t have a clue about where these places even were. We bar hopped for a little while, but without too much success.

Also it’s hard to do too much debauchery when you’re planning on catching the last train back. And when Mary made it clear we she was unwilling to extend the night, a heart broken John reluctantly threw in the towel and came back with us.

Day 4 Saturday
This is a bit anti-climatic, but John had to work on Sunday, so on Saturday we had a lazy breakfast, and then I just saw Mary and John off to the train station.

Useless Wikipedia Fact
The mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of Pope John Paul I have led to a number of conspiracy theories.

Link(s) of the Day
In my blogging absence this Calvin/Chimes controversy has been growing bigger and bigger in the blogging world, just like last year's blog explosion around George Bush's visit. It makes me wonder what things would have been like if Blogs had been popular when we were Calvin students.

I imagine that either you have already been following this controversy, or you don't care, and in that respect my linking to it is superflous. But just for the sake of completeness, here's a few blogs that caught my eye:

Phil has really been continuing the attack since the last time I linked to him, with this open letter to Calvin, and this post with further thoughts of his.

Former Chimes Editor Erin Miller wrote this.

And Dave Blakeslee of West Michigan Committee for Peace and Justice (on which listserve the controversy is also being discussed) wrote this on his blog.

Here's my two cents on the whole thing:
The Calvin administration apparently forgot the first rule of censorship: If you don't want people to read something, the worst thing you can do is try and ban it. (Has history taught them nothing?) A quick search of the internet will show that this spoof issue, which would ordinary have only been distributed among current students, is now getting attention from all sorts of diverse groups. In that respect the ban can almost be looked at as a blessing in disguise.

While I agree with much of what Phil has to say on the issue (it is ridiculous that the administration imposed this process on Chimes, and then complained how hurt they were that "our process" was subverted), I think it is important to keep things in perspective.

In my opinion, the time to roll out the big guns and threaten to with hold funding was last year when Calvin rolled out the red carpet for a war criminal. I hope that doesn't come off as sour grapes because my own Lysistrata proposal last year never took off any further than this blog. But the fact that a supposedly Christian institution prostituted itself infront of the temporal power of the kings and leaders of this world was a breaking point.

This time around it's just Calvin being Calvin. I'm not saying they're right, but this is what they do. Remember Dialogue 2001? If we threaten to withhold funding everytime there is an issue of censorship on campus, we might as well just give up on Calvin entirely, or we're going to be writing these letters every 5 five years.

The college has a weak point for satire, because it obviously hits below the belt. But the fact that Chimes was allowed to criticize the decision in their last issue, and include this excellent article by Professor Dale Brown, indicates that Chimes is still allowed a lot more freedom than most Christan college newspapers. Charges of Stalinism on Calvin's campus are a bit premature.