Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Tagging Myself for 29...

There seem to be a lot of "tag" games going around in the magical world of Blogland. I'm referring to those deals where somebody says, "You're tagged," and you have to answer a bunch of questions about yourself. Well, I've just come across a tag to end all tags. The funny thing is that it seems to be a voluntary challenge.

I was introduced to this latest "tag" by a relatively new addition to the rapidly-growing blog "family", Tooners. She's an American woman (from Dallas) who lives in Bahrain together with her Bahraini husband (who, among other things, is a recording musician and producer!) and, apparently, a wonderful array of animals. One of her own longtime Blog pals gave her an interesting challenge: to come up with 29 things to say about herself. It's not as easy as it sounds. Tooners' blog pal apparently wasn't able to complete the list. Tooners herself apparently had a hard time, too, which is surprising because she is really an interesting person who has had a very interesting adventure life thus far!

Well, my first impression was that it all seemed like the ultimate exercise in Narcissism. Then I began to wonder whether I could meet the challenge myself. Well, guess what; I decided to bite. For what it's worth, here goes: 29 Facts About The Moody Minstrel

1. I was born in the little coastal harbor town of Newport, Oregon mainly because it had the only hospital in the area. My family actually lived in the sleepy timber/fishing town of Waldport further south, but I only lived there myself until I was two years old. After that my family moved to the suburbs of Portland (and moved back to Waldport again as soon as I went to Japan), but I never did fit in well in suburbia, and to this day I feel more at home in quiet, open spaces, particularly by the mountains or the sea. (The Oregon Coast has both...and some of those forests sing!)

2. Just about every one of my bodily systems has some sort of flaw. My bones are crooked. Many if not most of my joints and muscles don't fit together properly. Several of my organs function erratically...if not too hard. This latter problem mainly results from the fact that my brainstem works too fast...which is also why I'm naturally nervous.

3. Perhaps my most interesting "defect" is the fact that I have a "double-duplicated urinary system", i.e. I have an extra pair of kidneys. In America this condition is extremely rare; in Oregon state history only one other person is ever known to have had four kidneys (though several are reported to have had three), and we were both born at the same hospital in Newport (hmmm...). Interestingly, the condition appears to be not uncommon in Japan.

4. I don't remember when I learned to read. All I know is that by the time I was four years old I was able to read all my own children's books (Richard Scarry rocks!) and my older sister's comic books, and in kindergarten I was always arguing with my teachers because they kept misreading the instructions on the worksheets. By the time I was in the second grade I was already reading 8th grade level according to standardized achievement tests.

5. The school tried to have me skip the third grade, but my parents refused. Then they tried to have me skip the fourth grade, but that didn't happen, either. They were afraid I would've been bullied. They were probably right.

6. When I was in the 4th grade, I'm told, I got the second highest score in the state of Oregon on a standardized English proficiency test. Skip ahead to grade 11, when I scored 780 (out of 800) on the SAT verbal test (in 1982, when the system was apparently harsher than it is now), gaining me two awards from the U.S. government and one from the college I chose to attend.

7. However, at the same time, my SAT score in math was only 450. I always had trouble with math. It seems that in every discipline (algebra, trigonometry, geometry, calculus, etc.) I started out doing really well, drawing pictures in class and still getting A's, but somewhere along the line I'd suddenly get to a point where I simply couldn't proceed any further no matter how hard I'd study. I would do all the homework, get all the material down, and then during test time I'd completely freeze up. In college I once went to the office of the College of Math to drop a class, and when the secretary asked me the name of my teacher and when my class was scheduled my brain locked up tight and I couldn't say or do anything for a few minutes(and she was both amused and frightened). This has made me wonder whether the problem might be psychological. However:

8. As I said before, my brainstem fires too fast, so my ability to concentrate is about nil. It's ironic, but my brain literally works too hard for me to think clearly. Trying to control my thoughts is like trying to read the graffitti on the station walls while shooting past them in a bullet train. If I can come up with the answer I need all in one go (as I usually can verbally or musically), I'm fine, but if there are too many steps involved the image comes apart before I'm halfway through. If my mind is really worked up, I sometimes even start stuttering a bit simply because my mouth and brain aren't moving in sync. (Incidentally, I have discovered I'm able to think clearer after I've had a couple of drinks, probably because it slows my brain down a bit. However, if I drink too much it just gets foggy. Tobacco also helps, though I rarely touch it anymore. Coffee, which I drink a lot, actually makes things worse.)

9. One thing I have never been good at is keeping my mouth shut. From kindergarten until the second grade I was always getting sent to the corner for talking out of turn, and the "citizenship" (i.e. behavior) section in my report card was always full of nasty marks. As I got older I learned that there was a time and place for everything, but reducing my blabbing only got me started writing. First it was stories, then it was plays, then stories again, then comics, then a role-playing game of my own creation, then (mostly political or philosophical) letters-to-the-editor in my college newspaper, then novels, and now blogs. That doesn't even include the songs...or rock operas. Face it: I like to communicate.

10. It's tough to say when I started doing music, but when I was four years old I started picking out tunes from TV programs I liked on the piano. I was also fond of composing songs on the spot and singing them loudly. (I still do, too...) In kindergarten I made some friends of mine angry because I'd listen to them fumbling with their practice etudes from their piano lessons, and then I'd say, "Is this what you mean?" before sitting on the bench next to them and cranking off the tune in one go. (Now my little sister does that to me sometimes...)

11. Needless to say, the first musical instrument I trained on was piano. My mother enrolled me in lessons while I was still in kindergarten. However, I had little interest in practicing those really simple, boring etudes, so I continued to spend most of my time at the piano picking out tunes by ear or improvising my own. I wound up with two different teachers, both of whom scolded me a lot before my parents terminated my lessons for good. After that I had no formal music instruction until the summer after the fourth grade, when I took up the clarinet.

12. Once I started getting serious with clarinet music quickly became an obsession. I had already started picking up the ukelele while in the 4th grade. In the 5th grade I started playing guitar. In the 10th grade I added saxophone to my repertoire. After that, I just kept picking up various instruments along the way, whether because someone asked me to or because something caught my fancy. Pretty soon I had amassed quite a collection of instruments. (Many of those wound up getting sold in garage sales, but since coming to Japan I've amassed an even bigger and better collection!)

13. Another love of mine from my childhood days was science. (She blinded me...with science!!) From the 1st grade I was always spewing on about various animals. Then, in the 3rd grade, both geology and astronomy became my passions...leading naturally to an obsession with science fiction. After the 5th grade I actually became anti-science for a while. It didn't last long, and in senior high I came to enjoy physics and especially chemistry so much that my teachers and academic counselors (not to mention my parents) recommended I choose it as my major...even though I sucked at math. I decided to listen to them. That was one of the biggest mistakes I've ever made in my life.

I earned music awards from Clackamas Community College (plus my government and state awards for my SAT score), so I went to that college more or less for free for two years and graduated with honors with an Associate of Science degree in chemistry (while also studying lots of music). Then I transferred to Oregon State University, whose chemistry program was said to be "directly compatible" to the point of using the same textbooks and sometimes even the same tests! In two terms I was on academic probation, and the prof I had in Experimental Lab Chemistry was really down on me. A lot of weird things started happening (e.g. my lab partner getting a B and me a D for a lab report we wrote and submitted together, a sample I'd been preparing not only suddenly changing in color and quantity overnight but the identifying marks I'd put on the flask mysteriously a locked lab drawer for which only I and the prof had a key...), so I went to my academic advisor only to be told there was nothing I could do but drop the course and take it over again the following year with a different prof. By then I'd completely lost all interest in studying science, so I changed majors.

I'm still interested in science, particularly my old loves of animals, geology, and astronomy, but keep me away from chemistry, please...

14. My main source of college funding strictly forbade me from majoring in music, so that was never an option. However, after I dropped chemistry I had a plan. I'd already been studying German (required for chem majors) and having a grand time in it. I took first and second year German courses at the same time and aced both of them (even though my profs and classmates thought I was totally insane even to try it). I also got recommended for the Oregon/Baden-Wurttemburg exchange program, so I switched my major to German with the goal in mind to go to Germany (Universität Freiburg) and, once I was there on government money, I'd switch my major to music. As it turned out, the financial aid for the exchange program that year got cut because of some scandal in the program, and I was suddenly told I'd have to pay a lot more than the original quote. It was impossible. I had to drop out. Then I was told that my German level would be "too high" for me to qualify the following year. It was basically "game over". That is why, though I was an honor graduate with a BA in German and am (was?) more or less fluent in the language, I've never been to Germany. (*sniff*)

15. I basically spent three years finishing up what should have been my last year of my German major (but couldn't be because of a lack of available teachers) at my leisure while doing all kinds of other things that I felt like at the time. Naturally, I put a lot of time and effort into my music, but I also studied a lot of other subjects that seemed interesting. I also completed a minor in Japanese, mainly so I could get a Bachelor of Arts in German but also because, well, I was interested in Japanese. That's how I came to learn Japanese. Meanwhile, I was working as a secretary for the Music Department during the day and as a bartender/pizza deliveryman at night. I was also a teaching assistant for first-year German and an English tutor for foreign students (most of whom, as it turned out, were Japanese). That's how I came to be involved with language teaching.

16. My Japanese teachers and students started urging (pestering?) me to apply for the JET (Japan Exchange Teaching) Program, and I told them to stop pulling my leg. Competition for the JET Program was really tough, and I figured I didn't stand an Avon lady's chance in Kandahar of making it. It was an education program, and I wasn't an education major, after all. I wound up applying anyway the following year just to shut them up. My interview was a grueling experience; everyone before me in line took only fifteen minutes each, whereas I was grilled for more than forty. I felt like I had egg all over my face, and I left feeling like I was only about a foot (30cm) tall. Guess what...?

Anyway, when I got the letter of acceptance from the Japanese Consulate, I fainted decided I'd go to Japan, participate in the JET Program for two years, save up some money, come back to college, and complete two or three more degrees. I graduated from OSU with honors, earning my BA in German plus a BS in General Studies with all the extra credit I'd earned, and immediately headed off for Japan, confident I'd finally made a plan I could see through.

That was sixteen years ago, I'm still in Japan, and I still only have three degrees.

17. In my school days I vowed never to become a teacher because I saw what it did to my father. Not only did I wind up becoming a teacher, but I also married a teacher whose parents were both teachers. I guess some things are just written in the stars...

18. I generally prefer earth tones (brown, green, gray, etc.), but my favorite color is BLUE. (Surprised?)

19. Yes, I am a geek. I freely admit it. I've been a band geek, a science geek, a sci-fi geek, a church geek, a philosophy geek, and probably a few others as well. Still, if anyone ever gave me a hard time about it, it was never as much as a lot of other geeks I've met. Even though I've never really given much of a damn about what's "socially acceptable" and have never really had the best social skills, I've always been careful not to go too far over the edge. I was never part of the "cool" crowd" (and didn't want to be, for that matter), and there were a few occasions here and there when I did get hassled by some asshole, but for the most part I've always gotten along with the people around me. I have no regrets about my geekhood.

20. I'm not picky with regard to food, and I've found very few things I've had trouble eating, but my favorite chow is pizza, with lasagne and sushi probably tied for second. Give me a good beer to go with the pizza or a good wine to go with the other two and I'll be even happier.

21. Religion has always been important to me, but it has never been easy for me. I had a more or less conservative Christian upbringing, but I was never comfortable with it. Even as a grade schooler, I was frustrated with people telling me I had to take the literal word of the Bible without question even if (or even especially if) it didn't agree with science. To me that just didn't make sense. It even felt to me like God was being belittled by the church for the sake of the pride of the institution. Therefore, while people at school sometimes laughed at me for my Christian morality, at the same time I was getting hassled by people at church (and even insulted by one priest) for my increasingly unorthodox views. Meanwhile, I studied. I studied other religions and searched for common points. I took an open interest in Buddhism, and especially in Zen. I read the Bible cover to cover and found something rather different from what I was told it was supposed to be. I also did a lot of thinking, soul-searching, and meditating. Throw in a lot of interesting life experiences (too many to discuss here), and you have what I would consider the background of my faith. The way I see it, I believe quite fervently in God, but my views of God have outgrown the ancient institutions, and I have little respect for the dogmas that go with them. I have even less respect for people who insist that faith in God means I have to take 100% literally a transliteration of a transliteration of a translation of a highly edited and biased selection of transliterations of ancient texts written by people who hadn't even witnessed the events themselves...especially when the Vatican (who are responsible for putting the thing together in the first place) says it shouldn't be taken literally! Sorry...simplistic logic and blindness have never been among my strong points.

22. When I was little, I believed in ghosts and was quite afraid of them. As I grew up, considering the importance I've always placed on science, you'd think I wouldn't put much stock in the supernatural. Really, there is no logical or rational reason why I should...except that weird things keep happening in my life. One of the most unforgettable is the time, after first bringing my baby daughter home from the hospital, that I woke up in the middle of the night unable to move and saw an old man bending over my sleeping child. I finally managed to shout, whereupon my wife woke up, but the old man was gone. I described what he'd looked like, and what he'd been wearing, and it turned out he looked exactly like my wife's grandfather had the night he'd that very room. Needless to say, I keep a very open mind on the subject.

23. Speaking of the supernatural, when I was in college there were three different groups (occult enthusiasts, new agers, and Wiccans), none of which had any contact with the others, that told me I had some kind of "special power" that I didn't know about. They tried very hard to get me to join them, apparently so they could make use of my "ability". I was friendly with them, but I kept a healthy distance. Even so, some of the things that happened were pretty scary.

24. I have prophetic dreams. They don't happen very often, and they tend to occur in irregular waves often lasting several days, during which time I have headaches and trouble staying awake during the day (and the dreams sometimes continue while I'm trying to stay awake). They don't always involve me; quite often they are about other people, sometimes even ones I haven't met yet. Usually the prophetic bit is either metaphorical or a collection of details set into the scene, but on rare occasions they have been very literal. Among other things, I had a clear, accurate view of my son (including clothes he now owns) months before my wife became pregnant with him. I also saw my wife driving a dark blue Ford wagon half a year before she sold her silver Nissan March...and bought a dark blue Ford wagon. (No, I never said a word.) I know...there are all kinds of possible (ir)rational explanations, but I once ignored a series of such dreams that shared a clear, common message...more like a warning, and I regretted it.

25. I've always tended to like machines that move and do things, but I've been especially interested in things that fly under power. I seem to be especially fond of WWII combat aircraft, and I've often wondered what it would be like to own one and fly it with the Confederate Air Force. In my junior high days I seriously hoped to become a pilot, preferably for the Navy, but then I got glasses...&%$#*

26. I'm right handed, but I keep going through phases off and on where I'll do everything except write with my left hand. After a while I'll go back to being "full rightie" again. It has often seemed that these "leftie phases" coincide with my prophetic dream episodes, but it's not certain.

27. I have never been clinically diagnosed as being manic-depressive (sorry...bipolar disorder..), but some in my extended family have, and I have to wonder. My mood definitely tends to swing. My feelings, good or bad, tend to be very strong, perhaps even stronger than they should. I tend to get too happy, too excited, too angry, too moved, too sad, fall too deeply in love, you name it. Nowadays I actually find myself feeling strangely detached or numb much if not most of the time, but there have been a couple of occasions in my life when, in the aftermath of some kind of devastating, personal crisis, I have completely lost all control of my emotions, and all I could do was ride the mad roller coaster as my mood shot up and down like a yo-yo, sometimes in intervals of only a few minutes per polar swing during the peak, until it passed. I know a lot of people would immediately get on my case to seek treatment or get medication. In fact, more than a few have. No way. My moody heart is both my identity and the source of a lot of my power. I'm not going to give it up that easily, especially when it has been such a benefit.

28. As someone who has a thing about moods, I have an interest in things that affect moods. Music is the most obvious, but there are others. One relatively recent new interest that has popped up is aromatherapy. I have amassed quite a collection of scented candles, essential oils, and incense because I tend to buy them faster than I use them. Still, I use them quite a bit, particularly when I'm writing or recording a new musical composition.

29. I first met my wife because, in my days with the JET (Japan Exchange Teaching) program back in the early 90s, her father was the principal of one of the schools I was visiting. One day he called me to his office, told me that his "child" needed to learn English, and asked if I could give her (free) lessons. I said that I would. From the description, I figured she was in either elementary or junior high school. Imagine my surprise when, on going to the school for the first meeting, students there informed me that she was in her mid twenties...and quite single! Even worse, she arrived wearing a formal dress, and her father came out of the school wearing a formal suit. (I was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt and feeling a sense of impending doom.) The students started chanting, "Omiai! Omiai!" (An omiai is a formal interview for an arranged marriage.) As it turned out, he really did only want me to give his daughter free English lessons, but I guess it ended up being an omiai after all! At any rate, I did collect payment for the English lessons in the end, didn't I? :-) Anyway, I owe a lot to my wife. Through her I've found joy, completion, and purpose in life I might not have found otherwise. She also has the remarkable quality of being able to put up with me (not an easy thing, I can tell you). She has definitely been one of the chief pillars of my life here in the Land of the Rising Sun, and this moody minstrel loves her deeply.

I guess that's 29, which means I have to stop there. I probably could have gone on a lot more, but...well...enough is enough, even for Narcissism. ;-)

Best wishes, everybody!


  • Woah! What a take!

    I'll need to revisit this post and read it again!

    Thanks for 'opening up' to us! ;)

    By Blogger FH2O, at 4:24 PM  

  • MM, this is an awesome post. Thank you for sharing what you've shared. I can appreciate the 'moody' (minstrel) better.

    Interesting that you have two pairs of kidneys. This is the first time I've heard of such a condition.

    Interesting too that you have prophetic dreams. You're indeed a special person, MM.

    The last bit about your wife being one of the pillars of your life and that "this moody minstrel loves her deeply" got me teary-eyed. That is so sweet.

    By Blogger Happysurfer, at 7:12 PM  

  • WOW!!!

    What a great post to get to know about you :)

    1. Oregon? The only state in the USA without tax! How nice...

    6. Oh no! my english grammar is very bad... this is embarassing :( You must be laughing everytime you read my blog.

    15. Ich spreche Deutsch mit meiner Mutter zu Hause :)

    27. Would like to understand more about manic depressive...

    29. Oh... how sweet :)

    By Blogger Selba, at 7:21 PM  

  • I read this earlier in the day and had the same reaction as everyone else. And though I grok much of it, I need to read it again.

    I am awed that you took on this challenge and even more so that you "bared your soul" to such an extent.

    Kudos. and thank you.

    elpgum - what British dental floss does.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 7:47 PM  

  • Moody - I've known you since High School, and you've always been my friend. I thought I knew you.... but I know now that I mostly did not!!

    I remember when you went to Japan. I was anxious for you to return, but... you never did. I'm glad for the internet: it really lets friends keep in touch over great distances!

    I never really knew how you met your wife. I suppose if I hadn't been such a stinker about your LITLORS e-mails, I might have known more. Maybe, I was just a little jealous. :-)

    Anyway, thanks for writing all that. I really enjoyed it!!

    By Blogger DewKid, at 12:25 AM  

  • wow Moody, what an incredible list!!! I love it. It's so interesting. You have four kidneys? What does that do to you, if anything? My mind travels fast as well, and I've been diagnosed bi-polar altho I don't take meds either.

    I believe in ghosts myself and have had some interesting experiences. Sounds like you do have a 6th sense, as they say. I wonder what would happen if you started putting energy into that?!

    I have to agree w/ happysurfer... what you said about your wife was so nice and and got me teary-eyed too! I'm really touched by the love you both have with each other.

    You are smart! wow... those are some high scores you got on your tests... and to study Japanese. I've heard that's the hardest language to learn. I'm impressed.

    I love aromatherapy. I've started lighting candles and burning scents in the studio when my husband is recording or working. He loves it.

    My husband started playing the piano by ear at six. He does exactly as you do. He can remember tunes and songs just by hearing it once and then sit down at the piano and play it. It's amazing. He also plays the nay (arabic flute) and oud (arabic guitar). He sings too. He's taught himself how to play the guitar... which sorta makes me sick cuz I can't pick up anything! ;) He can also remember songs and will sing them or hum them after hearing it once. It takes me at least 30 times! ;)

    I really have enjoyed reading this. You sorta remind me of myself but I'm not nearly as smart as you! I used to get in trouble at school for talking as well... they'd always make bad comments on my report card.

    So you've written novels, plays and such. Have you put any of these online?

    Great list.. I really enjoyed reading it. :)

    By Blogger tooners, at 4:58 PM  

  • Well, I learned some new things, but really, you haven't shocked me. I suppose that is because we have had discussions in the past about some of your more stranger traits! Don't worry about seeing ghosts and prophetic dreams. We are indeed sharing a world with spirits, both divine and evil. I used to have them too. Still do sometimes. However, I do take medication to ease my sleep, and they have diminished somewhat. I am not surprised about your brain stem activity. I always thought it was due to a high metabolism, but the brainstem theory makes much more sense, considering your talents. I am also bad at math, but oddly, I find that when I study it on my own, I can comprehend it better. It makes sense that your brain activity is dominant in creativity, while the one half of your brain is busy spitting out music, the other half of your brain, the logical part, gets run over...Ironically, music is very mathematical!

    In any case, we all have different specialities, and I appreciate you for what you are.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:53 AM  

  • Compare with Dewkid, I knew almost 1/2 of 29 about yr. facts before you posting it. Thank you friend for letting me more about you, now!

    On the other hand, I agree with Pave too. Every one is unique and has his/her special abilities. I think it’s never too late to discover our talent and apply it appropriately.

    What? You have two pairs of kidneys, the extras ones are waiting to donate to those needful people ! \('~`)/

    By Anonymous L.C_D, at 1:15 PM  

  • I have to comment, only because my word verification is too interesting:

    mlish - A preppy militia!

    By Blogger DewKid, at 8:02 AM  

  • Sooner or later I have to reply to all these comments, right?

    FH2o and Pandabonium
    I was a bit squeamish about the idea at first, but once I got going I just got caught up in the groove. I actually had to delete some things, partly because I was getting too deep and personal but mainly because 29 was the limit.

    I'm just glad all of you didn't run away screaming and never return after that load.

    I was going to show that last entry to my wife, but I can't even get her to come near my computer.

    1. Oregon has no sales tax, but its state income tax is relatively high. Property taxes have also been a stinky issue for some time.

    6. Actually, your spelling and grammar are better than those of a lot of Americans I've met. No need for shame, my friend.

    15. Wirklich? Was ist die Gründe dafür? Ist Deine Mutter Deutsche, oder hat sie nur Deutsch gern?

    27. Like I said, I have never been told I'm manic-depressive by a doctor. I just assume I probably am. Manic-depression, or bipolar disorder, is actually a physical rather than mental condition. Although it can be triggered by stress, it is mainly caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.

    29. :-)

    Dewkid and L.C_D
    I didn't want to talk about a lot of those things with my group of friends in school, and I think it's easy to understand why. As I said, I was careful not to go too far over the edge when it came to relating with other people. In elementary school I learned very quickly just how dangerous it can be to be too different from your peers. Therefore, even though I didn't go to any great lengths to "fit in", I also didn't go around advertising facts about myself that might make me a target.

    Wow, we really do have a lot in common, don't we? How ironic that we first got acquainted mainly through a heated misunderstanding in a comment thread on Saba's blog!

    Yes, we've both had our share of strangeness in our lives, and we've dealt with it in very different ways. Actually, the fast brainstem and high metabolism are directly related, but, though my metabolism has clearly slowed down, my mind is still like a never-ending fireworks display.

    Dewkid again
    That's a good one!

    My word verification is "txzahx", which sounds like a drunk Russian trying to pronounce "Texas". Hey, Tooners is from Texas...

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 2:15 PM  

  • Actually, I'm from Madison, Indiana. Moved to Bahrain from Texas and went to school in Texas from the 10th grade through college... so I consider myself pretty much Texan... altho, really I'm not. I'm still a down home girl from Indiana - and I was raised on a farm for a lot of my life.

    By Blogger tooners, at 6:47 PM  

  • 15. Ich bin in DE geboren :) Meine Eltern sind von Indonesian.

    20. Forgot to tell you, I LOVE PIZZA!!! follow by spaghetti and sushi...

    By Blogger Selba, at 5:58 PM  

  • What an interesting blog. It does seem narcissistic at first to write stuff about yourself, but then it is good to look honestly at where we are and where we've been. I had to do a bit of it when I was asked to give a talk to a women's group - they wanted my life story- so far. Ordinary and extra-ordinary as we all are.
    It's hard to be honest about some areas and we tend to delete the bad stuff. Thanks for sharing.

    By Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog, at 10:14 AM  

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