blogging about not blogging

Been a bit since I’ve posted around here. Was feeling guilty about it, then I saw that one of my inspirations, Joi Ito, hasn’t been blogging either. He does share a helpful reason to start again:

as the years of not blogging have started to pile up, more and more of my thoughts are no longer online. Back in the day, I blogged nearly everything so giving someone my perspective on any topic required only that I copy/paste a URL into a chat window or an email. …  As I begin what is might be the biggest transition in my life in my new role as the Director of the MIT Media Lab, it seems like my blog would be a good place to document my thoughts through this transition.

He then links to an older post with blogging advice whose first tip is right up my alley. “1 – You’re probably stupid”

As I continue the exciting transition in my own life sharing more thoughts here would probably be wise.

In a recent book review, Joi Ito commented on the inexplicable nature of Zen and how it could relate to similar inexplicabilities of the Japanese culture.

In The Way of Zen by Alan Watts, Watts describes that it is impossible to explain in English, all that is Zen. In fact, the Zen masters explain that Zen is beyond words. He describes how most Japanese Zen masters do not even try to “explain” Zen. He admits that although his Western background and his attempt to explain Zen in words by definition fails to capture the true core essence of Zen. However, he argues that because he lives between both worlds, he is able to describe Zen in words much more clearly than the masters might imagine.

That’s what I think about the good books about Japan written by non-Japanese. Japanese often don’t explain context or pretend that everyone knows what is going on. I think this leads to a lot of misunderstanding and the development of unspoken rules and culture shared only be small groups of people hidden in most part from the public. Publishers in Japan are also very sensitive about publishing books about taboo subjects in Japanese.

It reminds me of a conversation Shunryu Suzuki wrote about between Chokei and Hofuku as they discussed the Bodhisattva’s way.

Chokei said, “Even if the arhat (an enlightened one) were to have evil desires, still the Tathagata (Buddha) does not have two kinds of words. I say that the Tathagata has words, but no dualistic words.” Hofuku said, “Even though your say so, your comment is not perfect.” Chokei asked, “What is your understanding of the Tathagat’s words?” Hofuku said, “We have had enough discussion, so let’s have a cup of tea!” Hofuku did not give his friend an answer, because it is impossible to give a verbal interpretation of our way. Nevertheless, as a part of their practice these two good friends discussed the Bodhisattva’s way, even though they did not expect to find a new interpretation. (Suzuki, 1982 p.54 – 55)

Bibliography

Ito, J. (2010, February 24). Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan by Jake Adelstein [Review of the book Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan by Jake Adelstein]. Joi Ito’s Web. Retrieved from http://joi.ito.com/weblog/2010/02/24/tokyo-vice-an-a.html

Suzuki, S. (1982) Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. Tokyo: John Weatherhill, Inc.

open & free education

At the end of last month, Joi Ito published an excellent piece about Creative Commons. In it he mentioned something about the public domain I agreed with,

Creative Commons also provides tools for users to dedicate their works to the public domain. For some scientific data or educational resources the public domain provides the maximum flexibility and value.

He also gave some good links to open educational sites, that are not putting things into the Public Domain, but which are making thousands of resorces available for free:

As I stumbled around the CC website, I came across their own educational section I did not know existed. Some more helpful links I found were:

One thing the article got me thinking about, is it OK for me to enter the lesson plan I posted yesterday into the Public Domain? After all, I am using resources created by other people, like gamess & jokes. That said, I am attributing the resources to their creators, so it might be OK. In any event, I am going to have a look through the CC Learn guides to licensing your educational materials to see what answers I can find.

Corrections & Amplifications

Winter Vacation Day One

日本語

Shockingly woke up today before the crack of noon.  Spent the morning composing my late nengajo, new year’s cards.  Ki-San showed up around noon to check in on me.  He informed me that my boss’s father had passed away, and invited me to his house for Soba noodles.

Had a furious session of packing, then headed over to the Kikuti household for Tamoy-San‘s world class 食べ物.  Ki instructed me on the proper way to pay my respects, with an envelope filled with cash.

Road to Heaven

Road to heaven on the drive to Wakkanai.

Soon afterwards I hit the road headed North for Wakkanai.  Doesn’t make a lot of sense to drive North if your destination is South, but I am flying back from Tokyo to Wakkanai, so I wanted to leave my car there.

Bus to Sapporo

Bus to Sapporo.

Six hour bus ride later, I was in Sapporo.  Checked in at my hotel, and asked the incredibly kind owner the best way to get to Suskino – the epicenter of Sapporo nightlife.

In another brilliant case of Charlie planning, the owner informed me I was an hour away by foot from the only place I really wanted to go.  To top it off, he said only about 30% of the bars would be open Saturday night, as the Japanese like to take a few days off following New Years.

Excellent news considering I traveled all this way just for the nightlife and a chance to party with some young people.

Sapporo Subway

Sapporo subway.

Undeterred, I took a quick shower and then boarded the subway.  My first destination, my favorite bar in Sapporo, Bagus, was closed.  Discouraged, but hard headed I continued on my evening and found a delightful Ramen shop, where I tasted spicy miso ramen for the first time.

Spicy Miso Ramen

Spicy miso ramen, delicious if you're wondering.

Met a charming fellow there named Dai, who took it upon himself to be my Suskino sensei.  The first club I wanted to go to was closed, but a bar I love nearby was open.  After a few glasses of Sapporo’s finest ale, we headed to another club.

We paid for two girls we met outside to get in, but they quickly vanished nonetheless.  I guess I’m not quite as charming as I imagine.  Dai soon left too, something to do with the late hour and being tired.  I stayed on and danced my heart out.  Considering I traveled six hours, I was not going to let a few pesky details get in the way of being of doing my first club visit in a month properly.

Headed to bed now with the goal of waking up in a few hours to view my first Japanese hockey game.  Upon arriving back at the hostel, I was delighted beyond all expression to discover Joi Ito had replied to my email request for an interview.

A photo of Chris in a babyhat for your enjoyment. Taken by Ayla.