If you watch TV you might have noticed that Japan has just gone through something of an issue. An incident. A snag. Namely, the largest recorded earthquake in the history of the country.
[Note: this post promises to be both self-serving and sentimental, and will do little good other than alleviating the author’s own sense of unhappiness at the fact that, of all the places for a deadly earthquake to strike, it had to occur right underneath the very country that gave him Super Mario Bros. 3. Read only if you like rambling drivel.]
It’s always a big deal when shit like this happens — and by “shit” I mean “random events of horrifying unpredictability that lead you to question the idea of a benevolent god” — but watching the news these past few days made me realize that most people don’t understand why it’s a big deal. Think about Haiti last year. How much did it matter to the acquaintances in your daily life that innocent people in a far-off land were being bitch-slapped by the Richter scale? If your acquaintances are anything like mine, you probably got a lot of “Yes, it’s so sad,” followed by some head shakes and an immediate segue into the new thing Miley Cyrus did to disappoint her father. As it turns out, it’s hard for most people to see others as actual human beings unless they are within the convenient proximity, as lightly evidenced by a CNN anchor saying the other day, “At least two-hundred people have been killed in the earthquake. No word yet on whether any of them were American.” Or this L.A. Times article that gives us breaking news that — gasp! — Laguna Beach has not been damaged. Thank heavens. Deaths in Japan are one thing, but I can’t even imagine the horrors of losing our massive Orange County douchebag surplus.
I get it, and I would be a hypocrite to say it never happened to me. When we see something about an unfamiliar country reported on the news — even if it involves a borderline-apocalyptic natural disaster — there’s just something in the human brain that turns the whole thing into an afternoon soap opera, whereas if we were to see the repercussions up close, the majority of us would be so shocked by the reality of the situation that what we used to think was the most depressing thing we’d ever seen wouldn’t even register in our minds. So I’ll just move on and save my war on human nature for another day, because that’s really not what this post is about.
The truth is that this earthquake affects me more than usual, even without Laguna Beach being involved.
If there are ten things that I enjoy in life (which is stretching it), at least half of them come from Japan. I know this is a particularly nerdy thing to say, and not only that, it’s apparently a very white thing to say, but Japan played a large part in raising me, as well as my entire generation. One of my first memories is of getting a Super Nintendo for my fourth birthday — which was of course Japanese (the Nintendo, not the birthday) — which I hooked up to my television — which was also Japanese — to the ire of my mother — who probably isn’t Japanese, but no one specifically told me she isn’t, so who knows. My mind is inundated with experiences with Japanese TV shows and video games and action figures from my younger, more impressionable years, and as I’ve grown older I’ve discovered a passion for Japanese literature, food, technology, movies, language, art, and overall culture. It’s like my “cool uncle who has that bulldozer and lets me drive it” country.
Besides that, my early vulnerability to the Japanese elements played an inestimable role in my formation as a writer, which I’d say is (negatively) reflected in my work. Africa may have seen the birth of humanity, and I guess renaissance-era Europe saw humanity’s college years, but Japan is humanity’s “psychedelic enlightenment” phase, where it experiments with all sorts of bizarre things that include used panty machines, samurai Obama action figures, and wasp crackers.
The place is so Alice in Wonderland-ish that just imagining the typical grandparents being accidentally stranded there while trying to get to Barbados for vacation is the epitome of hilarity. (As a side note, I’ve decided to write a screenplay about just that scenario. It’ll be called Konnichi-Wha? and it will star Steve Martin and Glenn Close as two Orlando retirees who become the victims of a ticket mix-up [“A tix-up,” Steve Martin will hilariously suggest] and end up traveling the land of the rising sun as they try to find a way back home. Details are in the preliminary stages, but look forward to at least 55 minutes of on-screen usage of a sumo suit and the line “Wasabi? Wassup you?” a minimum of eight times. I’ll let you know how it worked out when I’m a gazillionaire.)
Anyway, not to bore you with glorification of the country that came up with urinal-based video games, but just know that I became the person I am by exposing myself to the mindset of such a country, and as Japan has refused multiple times to give me reparations, the only stance to take is “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” And it seems like a wicked awesome place, anyway. I mean, just look up “Japan” on Google Images and you’ll be treated by some of the coolest pictures you’ll ever see.
I’ve been rambling for the past 1000 words, so I’ll try to make my point now: this sucks. The things that are near and dear to the lump of coal I painted red and called a heart are few, and they include: my lungs, novelty coffee mugs, my Death Ray (in the works), friends and family or whatever, and the very place that taught me that nothing makes sense and you should just go with it. And now that place has been attacked by nature, which has led to what some sources say might exceed 10,000 deaths, numerous nuclear meltdown and radiation scares, a countless number of people without homes, food, and/or water, and a blow to the global economy that, hey, nobody really needs right now. I think you will agree when I say that nature needs to fuck off.
And although I can’t seem to go three sentences without making a mockery of whatever the hell I’m talking about, I do sincerely wish the best for the families involved in this catastrophe. Japan, if you’re reading this (and I know you are): get well soon, and, because I know sarcasm doesn’t translate well over the internet, I was totally kidding about that movie idea.
Also, I’ll eat a whole box of wasp crackers if you send me a 3DS.