Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Stack of Updates

Okay, let me take that first step "uphill" with what Snabulus refers to as "fluff". Basically, I'll tread water and maybe retain a bit of my readership by giving some tidbits of recent news. Some of it is bad, some of it is good, and this IS a moody website, so just ride the rapids!!!

(Yes, blogs do tend to be exercises in self-indulgence more often than not, so bear with me, 'kay?)

Part One - Y.O.A.
And the thing that has been dominating both my limbic and higher cognitive (but hopefully not my spiritual) functions these days has been [POST REDACTED].

Nope, I can't talk about it. Not here. I don't know if I'm still being spied on or not, but I dare not take a chance on it. Especially not now. Matters have been worsening since at least last September and, though not quite grave, have definitely reached "seriously nasty" status. I will go so far as to say that a whole bunch of promises have been broken (more like hijacked), and some key working relationships have become strained. One of the most important seems to have snapped already. I will also be so bold (rash?) as to say I went directly to the principal, explained the situation, and asked him to remove me from any further participation in the International Committee, let alone the sister-school project. He may not grant my request, but I think my presence there would be counterproductive regardless of whether or not it is still welcome. Considering I'm the reason both the Committee and the sister-school project exist in the first place, it is a very painful and embittering situation, but I know I can't change it. It's better to bow out with some small shred of dignity.

(To answer the obvious question, no, it does NOT have to do with that blog blunder of last least not directly. Indirectly, however...maybe.)

Part Two - On the Home Front
I posted before about my mother-in-law and her struggle against cancer. Last year she was undergoing chemotherapy, and it was just wearing her down to nothing. However, it was apparently a success, for the specialist in Tokyo she'd been vising gave her a very positive prognosis and switched to a far milder form of treatment. Her health, like her hair, came back very quickly. Pretty soon she was trucking around with a big smile as always. However, right about the time we took that trip together to Yokohama a couple of weeks ago her health started taking a turn for the worse again. She found it harder and harder to eat. She'd had spells like this before, but they'd never lasted more than a few days. This time it just went on and on, so I wound up taking a (much-needed) day off from work to drive her back down to the hospital in Tokyo. My wife, despite a very busy schedule that day, opted to come along, and her reasons were obvious.

My MIL is still in the hospital. From the start the doctors have been saying that it's nothing serious. They claim it's probably just a mild stomach bug brought on by her weakened immune system rather than a worsening of her cancer. Unfortunately, my MIL isn't buying it. She's all but convinced it's over. When she came for treatment last year, the doctors told her that almost all of her tumors had been eliminated. I repeat: almost all. Just one, stubborn, little bastard remained. The problem is that it's in one of her lymph nodes, and if my MIL is anything, she's not stupid. She knows as well as I do that doctors in Japan consider it their duty NOT to inform patients of a terminal condition. They believe doing so only brings unnecessary pain. Even Emperor Showa went to his deathbed in the late 80s firmly believing he was recovering from his cancer, because that's what his doctors were telling him.

Yes, things are a bit dark at home.

Part Three - A Furry Homecoming
We did have one small, fuzzy spot of good news, however. Pandabonium has already posted on his site about the surprise snowfall we had. This was followed soon afterward by some really rainy, nasty weather during which time we were worried sick the streets were going to wind up coated with black ice. Fortunately, it didn't happen. It was bloody cold (mainly because of the high humidity), but it managed to stay just above freezing till the pavement dried out. We had another surprise snowfall in and among it all, but luckily it didn't accumulate. We managed to weather the weather(?) well.

We did have one surprising and unfortunate occurrence, however. Our beloved cat Tora turned up missing on the evening of the big snowfall and remained unaccounted for during the cold, rainy days that followed. The weather cleared up, and there was still no sign of our feline family member. Everyone was concerned; all of us took turns hunting around for him, but with no success. I was beginning to resign myself to the fact that Tora had either frozen to death or met an unlucky end somewhere in the neighborhood.

After the better part of a week had passed I was woken by loud meowing on our front porch, but by the time somebody got to the door and opened it there was nothing there. We couldn't be sure whether it had been Tora or not, and there are other cats in the neighborhood that occasionally caterwaul around our place (and scrap with Tora), so we figured it had to have been one of them. A couple of days later I thought I saw Tora when I headed for my car to go to work, but the cat bolted across the street and into a neighbor's yard before I got a clear view. The next day my FIL reported something similar. I began to wonder if, cold and starving, Tora had gone feral.

Yesterday I came back from a trip to Tokyo to find that Tora had returned. When he saw me, he let out a yowl and literally climbed right up me and onto my shoulder. One of his eyes looks like it is either wounded or infected (or both), and he seems to be sneezing a bit, but he's clearly happy to be home. I also couldn't help but notice that his meow has become louder, lower, and more masculine than I remember. I wouldn't be surprised if his family jewels got him into trouble in the first place. If I ever get time to do it, I'm going to take him to a vet and have those damned things snipped off.

Part Four-A - Still Very Much in Demand
Finding time to do things (like getting cats "fixed") has been practically impossible. One of the reasons is that music-related activities keep filling my schedule when other things don't. I admit that also includes such things as rehearsals, meetings, and shopping trips to buy music-related gear, but it all adds up. It's also all interconnected. For example, last Saturday I had a meeting in the morning related to a performance next Sunday. After that I had just enough time to snarf down a convenience store lunch before an afternoon appearance by the Flying Eggheads jazz big band at a PTA event for a local elementary school. After that I went home, changed, loaded up my BLUE RAV4 with luggage and musical gear, and headed off to Tokyo for the night and all day Sunday. I had been asked to go into a studio and record with a musician I hadn't seen in ages, and I wasn't about to say no. Next Saturday there will be an afternoon concert at Ye Olde Academy. (I'm directing.) On the Sunday after that there will be a performance by our concert band at a local international event. (I'm performing.)

I'm very happy to be doing all this, but it is wearing both me and my calendar thin...

On a side note, I made an interesting, music-related discovery recently. I was doing a "security search", i.e. Googling my own personal info, and I came up with my name in a very surprising place. Several years ago I was hired by a professional musician/songwriter/producer in Tokyo both to write lyrics for a song and to sing them. I was also asked to do a sax solo. The song was sappy by design; the writer said from the beginning (with much laughter and apology) that it was "for a video game", but he never went into much detail beyond that. I came up with lyrics that went with the (sappy) mood of the song. Then I went to the man's personal studio in Shinjuku and spent the better part of a day doing the recording work. After that he thanked me, paid me more money than I'd ever received before (or since) for music-related work, said he'd send me a CD of the recording, and promised to keep in touch. I never heard from him again.

Cut to the here and now. As I said, I Googled my own personal info and, apart from discovering that there are an awful lot of people with the same name (some of whom are apparently famous, not always for favorable reasons), I found what was unmistakably my moniker on a series of related websites. Basically, I was given singing and lyric-writing credit for that song I had recorded in Shinjuku all those years ago. Yes, it had been for a video game, one that apparently became quite popular in China. The song apparently became a karaoke hit in some quarters and is still on the charts. I think it's amazing that my name is getting spread around like that; after all, the man who wrote the music of the song and actually marketed it did so under a pseudonym. That means I'm the only one getting direct credit...although I haven't gotten a single yen (or yuan for that matter) of royalty for it.

Oh, well. It's not the first time something like this has happened. Some years ago my song "Tlesca", no doubt minus that tediously LONG introduction, got played regularly at a popular nightclub in Bangalore, India. I was told the song enjoyed some popularity and was often requested for a time at least. The DJ was a friend of a friend, and I did give them permission to use my tune. I was told they even gave me name credit for it. However, "credit" and "permission" are not the same as "royalty". I got plenty of satisfaction and fulfillment, to be sure, but not much material reward for my efforts. I guess I don't really mind, since material reward isn't really why I do music, but am I being too nice? (I'm particularly interested in hearing the answer for that from my artist/writer friends Kami, San, and Wendy as well as my musician friend Hashim.)

Part Four-B - Just Because I Thunk a Tanka:


kuroi sora [Black sky]
tsuki no shirogao [The white face of the Moon]
ko'ori ni wa [In the ice]
hikari no odori [A dance of light]
kogoeru hono'o [Freezing flame]

(picture borrowed from the blog of the Tateshima Tokyu Resort)

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  • Part 1 - That sucks. I've never been a big fan of how office politics play out. Although there are other problems, working in a small business cuts through some of that.

    Part 2 - We send our best to MIL. Not informing patients is a rotten practice...I hope for the best of course.

    Part 3 - Welcome back to the kitty. Glad he is back with you.

    Part 4 - I think the royalty amounts are more likely to come your way if you join a music organization (ASCAP, BMI, or whatever is appropriate). The bad side of that is you might be required to withhold your talents under certain circumstances and it costs probably more than you got from that $$$ gig. Otherwise it is the wild-west free market for you.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 5:24 AM  

  • 1. When you say "bow out" you don't mean leave altogether do you?

    2. There is very little that I put past Japan, but not informing patients of terminal illness...oh my God.
    I wish your MIL all the best health.

    3. I thought it was adorable how he yowled and climbed up you, awwww.

    4. You're a karaoke star in China hey? And a nightclub star in Bangalore? It'll be autographs all round soon!

    Second number 4. I like your tankas. Freezing flame. Very lyrical.

    By Blogger Olivia, at 7:25 AM  

  • You may want to ask yourself is it time to find another school to teach in. I don't know why, but I can't imagine that all schools have such difficult personalities as this one. On the other hand, you could do far worse. I have a better suggestion. Market your CD's on the Internet. Learn how to market yourself properly, secure your copyrights. Make your next toy a CD duplicating machine. I think it was TIger Direct where I saw those, spendy, sure, but not only do they burn the CD they also print the label. Also, you should consider listing your music on a MP3 downlad site where people pay like a buck per tune. Become independantly wealthy. Start a band of your own in Japan, and start publicly performing. Don't let your efforts vanish in a puff of smoke.

    MIL. Get a second opinion. I assume you are allowed to do that?


    By Anonymous Dave, at 8:47 AM  

  • From my book "The Hollow Doll-A Little boox of Japanese Shocks" by William Bohnaker

    "As a rule, Japanese doctors lie to their patients who are, or seem terminally ill with cancer. The doctors do claim they do it to spare their patients' feelings a painful and pointless knowledge. One might suspect they also do it to spare their own feelings. After all, there is a whole bowlful of directness and disharmony (bugbears in Japanese discourse) in telling someone s/he is going to drop dead soon."

    Moody-my best wishes to your family at this difficult time. Please keep us updated on MIL's condition

    By Blogger ladybug, at 10:17 AM  

  • I’m truly sorry to hear about your mother-in-law. It’s times like these that family really needs to come together. Thoughts and prayers…

    I thought the law was changed in Japan, so that doctors had to tell patients if something was wrong?

    By Blogger Swinebread, at 1:42 PM  

  • Don
    Yes, a small business would probably be easier for the most part, although a falling out with a single individual would probably be even more devastating.

    As far as royalties, even joining the musician's union could help, and it's probably cheaper. I have been considering doing that, but it would also make my current activities more difficult. (They frown on performing with or recording for non-union musicians and fine you if they find out.) I think Jeff joined a Canadian musicians' group, but he hasn't had much to say about it.

    When I say "bow out" I mean leaving the International Committee and sister-school project. I'm not planning on quitting the school just yet. Like I said, I don't even know if the principal is going to grant my request (to leave the Committee). He has said repeatedly that, even though I'm (supposedly) the deputy chairman of both the Committee and the project, I'm their main face and voice. The problem is that others have more or less completely shut me out. I haven't heard a word about the sister-school project for at least the past five months, and my questions always get answered with blank evasion. (Only the Australian side seems willing to tell me anything, and they haven't told me much.) I'm sure they plan on remembering my existence when the busy work starts, but I don't intend to play that sort of game. I also don't enjoy either the now blatantly hostile attitude of the chairwoman or some of the sneaky politics she has been playing. This has been mostly with regard to my new American coworker, who she apparently prefers. It appears that she has conveniently slipped him into my position behind everyone's back and against the principal's expressed orders.

    There, I've gone and said it.

    Anyway, I say fine. They can kiss ass (or suck whatever) as much as they like, but I won't. I don't see much point in trying to defend myself, either, especially since I can't really compete. I'd rather just vacate the scene. I have too many other things to worry about.

    If you really want my autograph, m'lady, I'll happily send you one, but I have a feeling my status may be on the decline right now.

    You've said this before, and I'll reiterate that the chances of my finding a teaching position that's anywhere near as good as this one, let alone better, are virtually nil. Not without moving halfway across the country, at any rate. The biggest problems are that I'm too old and overqualified. That means that, according to Japanese law, I'd have to start in a higher pay bracket than someone like my new American coworker, who still counts as "young and fresh" (i.e. cheap and pliable). That's another thing that has me worried right now. The school promised me at the beginning that I was hired for the duration, i.e. till retirement, but other promises have been broken, especially recently. My new coworker says he only intends to stay for a year or two, but if he changes his mind I'm worried they might suddenly decide I'm obsolete. The chairwoman of the International Committee seems already to have arrived at that conclusion.

    As for your musical suggestions, I've been looking into mp3 download sites like CD Baby for some time. That's what my friend Jeff has done, and he has done well by them. I just haven't gotten around to it mainly because finding the time and budget for a professional-quality recording seems a bit less than doable right now. Who knows? I may go for it anyway one of these days.

    I remember there was a group not long ago that tried to bring a class-action lawsuit against doctors that didn't inform patients of terminal conditions. There was even government support for it. However, the group that represents doctors here replied that, regardless of the outcome of the suit, they would never change their practice, because informing a patient of a terminal condition, thus bringing him unnecessary pain, would be a violation of their oath as doctors. Apparently the suit dried up.

    I understand some if not most doctors have changed and do inform now, but a lot of others still don't.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 2:27 PM  

  • Swinebread
    Thanks, buddy. You're right.

    Now that I think about it, you're right. The law has changed and doctors are legally obligated to inform patients. (The result of that class-action suit I mentioned?) However, like so many well-intentioned but poorly enforced laws in this country, it is widely ignored. I honestly don't know about the hospital where my MIL is now. It does have a particularly good reputation (which is why she's there). However, she is very suspicious about the fact that they don't seem to be paying much attention to her latest bout of sickness. They say it's nothing serious and will clear up with a little R&R, but my MIL is having trouble accepting that.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 4:49 PM  

  • First off, my thoughts are with you and your MIL. Bright blessings.

    Second, in regard to your music and royalties--the MP3 option is a good one, and one you should explore. Bear in mind your ultimate goal whatever you do. If your ultimate goal is to get paid professional or semi-professional rates, then you will have to market yourself as such and make it clear from the outset in any dealings in regard with your music will be for some form of compensation. Free advertising is compensation so the nightclub thing was good for you. It would have been better for you if an MP3 was available at the same time, something people could google, find and buy.

    If your music is more for fun and passion then I highly suggest you keep doing what you're doing and enjoy the occasional $$ that happen to come your way as a result. Marketing (and I'm speaking from personal experience here) is hard work and there's a lot to learn. Once you cross that line, your friends might start thinking twice about asking you to do something musical for them because even though they know you're friends and you'd likely happily do it, they might also feel that they're taking food from your mouth by asking you to do something for free. Going from amateur (which I hate as a term because it's unfairly become synonymous with crappy) to pro is not a lot of fun, so you've got to be sure. So be clear in your own mind, and if you decide to go for it, if it becomes stressful and you start to lose your enjoyment of producing music, give yourself permission to turn your back on the industry and go back to what feels good.

    Lastly, I'm very happy you got your kitty back. Yay!

    By Blogger Kami, at 6:46 PM  

  • Good heavens, MM. When you get back into writing, you reall do it in style! Thanks for all the updates. I'm so glad your Tora is back with you and hopefully recovering from his adventures. Here, cats that are up for adoption are all fixed, so there's a little less of the caterwauling and "adventuring."

    I found it intersting that Japanese doctors don't want to give their patients the truth about their condition. I understand their intent, but living a lie is living a lie. But in the case of your MIL, I hope the docs are right - that it's not the return of her cancer.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:38 AM  

  • Moody, since I'm a relative newcomer to your blog, I don't know the whole story about your workplace troubles. I am, however, very sorry to hear about this disappointment and discomfort. It sounds awful.

    As does the situation with your mother-in-law. As you probably know, here in the US, the doctors sometimes go out of their way to warn people of the worst case scenario. That can be damaging to a person's hope, but the way it's handled in Japan can't be good either. People need to prepare for things sometimes. Here's hoping this is a case in which the doc is telling the truth.

    Glad you have your furball back...wishing for a speedy return to eye health for him, and joyous daddyhood, if your intuition holds true. I know, I know--daddy cats don't hang out with their offspring, UNLESS they're ordered to pay alimony and child support.

    As to the royalty question--I'm pretty ignorant--make that COMPLETELY ignorant--about the music business. I know that if someone were to reproduce one of my paintings as a print without my permission, and sell it, I would be mad and feel very ripped-off. But that's me and that's visual art. If you're not feeling ripped-off, Moody, and if you're enjoying the fact that your music is being enjoyed, I'd say go with your feelings. Enjoy!

    Love the tanka--nice enmeshing of opposites.

    By Blogger San, at 4:11 AM  

  • A bit worried that you've "said it" all now...must mean you are really really fed up with the situation...

    Playing politics between two fellow countrymen is probably a bid to keep them separate and therefore less powerful.

    Wishing you the best in that respect.

    By Blogger Olivia, at 8:37 AM  

  • Part One - I'll redact my comment before I begin. Just wish you well for all the turbulence you've had there. One thing you brought up was something K & I speculated about in our concern for you, but better not said, ne. I like Dave's line of thinking on cashing in on your music.

    Part two - we wish your MIL well of course. There is a fight in the physical aspects of illness and there is a psychological one as well. I have a close friend fighting leukemia right now and know what it means (short of having had cancer myself). I hope she can find health and tranquility of mind.

    Part three - wow. having adopted Momo as a lost dog, I can really relate to this. Welcome home Tora! May you never roam again. And just think, Tora, you get to go the vet and get tutored! (Gary Larsen cartoon alert).

    Part four - great to know your talents are in demand and you are getting to exercise them. I hope you will also find time to blog about them more often.

    Happy Setsubun - Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 6:02 PM  

  • Forgot to add, I really like that Tanka. At least the English translation of it.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 10:39 PM  

  • I don't remember in which country the number 13 is lucky (don't tell me it's Japan!) but I'm bumping up the number of comments to 14 anyway. ;)

    By Blogger Olivia, at 11:09 AM  

  • Hi Kevin,
    Thanks for coming "over" to Tokyo and sorry for this late comment. It was a lot of fun...but we're not finished yet...
    I'm thrilled with the musical results so far: hmmmm...maybe that mandolin wanted to come out of his case after all...
    Uh, anyways, sorry to hear about your colleague in your next(?) post.
    I'll be in touch.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:25 PM  

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