Sunday, July 23, 2006

Japanese Marathons マラソン and North Korea

Upon looking at some of my previous entries, it occurred to me that I haven't exactly been presenting the most professional image. I don't want to be just another AEON, JET, or NOVA blogger who tells crazy stories about their time in Japan. I might throw a story like that in occasionally, but, for the most part, I'd like to give you, the "heroes" of this blog, practical and condensed information. Don't turn to your sake-chugging, completely Americanized blog stories. Don't trust the facts; just like Colbert, I'm not a fan of facts, I'm a fan of words, of simplicity, and finding the truth in this world of ours.

What awaited me as I entered my local Japanese department store? None other than a two meter posted of Ichiro staring me right in the face. As famous as he might be to some, I turned my attention instead to a poster boasting "42.195 km マラソン". I understood these symbols even without knowing the context (although, I have to admit the random insertion of a few English words helped). It didn't take a genius, although I might be one - waiting to find out my blood type. 42.195 km, 26.2 miles. The exact distance that Pheidippides ran in ancient Greece to announce victory. Now we celebrate that victory by putting our bodies through excruciating, insurmountable torment for three hours. How historically just. Anyway, the deadline for the Tokyo Marathon is fast approaching to all those interested. How, you might ask, do you run a marathon, a pretty large distance, within the city of Tokyo? Good question. You go back and forth, over the same path A LOT:

February 18, 2007. Mark your calendars. Will update more on said event if I'm down there to cover it in person.

Recently, I've been listening to foreigners in Japan, both in person and on the internet forums, regarding the North Korean threat. There have been polls asking whether gaikokujin in Japan, in particular Americans, would feel compelled to evacuate the country if the situation escalated. Surprisingly, it was pretty evenly split - half to remain, half to return to their home countries. I want to consult with my international affairs expert, L.W., regarding current relations between other oriental countries before reaching any conclusions.

What exactly happened to all the news about North Korea? Well, you could make the argument it was eclipsed by the current escalation in Lebanon, which it was, but that still doesn't exactly change the nuclear balance of power in the world. Lebanon, as far as I know, has only alleged that they are a nuclear power, without providing proof. And yet, nothing has changed with Kim Jong regarding his position or his strength since his unauthorized tests in the Pacific, and we are just ignoring him and settling for other matters. I do not wish to downplay the loss of human life in the Middle East or the fact that the situation over there is on the verge of demanding international involvement. But I would like to post one question: why ignore North Korea entirely, even in the face of this new development?

Even worse than ignore. Instead of hearing some headline like "Kim Jong destroys the world with the push of a button" or "North Korea, your silent and deadly neighbor", I instead catch this: North Korean Leader has Secret Wife. Now let's just pause there for a moment... ok. The leader of a new nuclear power has been living with his secretary. Who the hell cares? Are we now on the lookout for hot sex gossip on foreign heads of state who so recently made headlines? What's next? "Nigerian State Officials Caught in Love Triangle Between Brad and Angelina while Promoting Stem Cell Research"? Send me your thoughts on this media diversion.

Be on the lookout for a new header graphic in the next few weeks. My thanks to Paper Jones, who also has excellent taste in music. Until then, stay strong, and be vigitant, I beseech you.

1 comment:

Bombagorn said...

Perhaps this is my increasingly insurmountable cynicism regarding the media, but I'm not really sure that media coverage matters anymore. Americans have grown so accustomed to schizophrenic news providers that they can no longer believe that media coverage is anything more than a dramatization. A day of news goes something like this: shocking depravity, innocuous fluff, opposing shocking depravity, innocuous fluff, repeated ad nausum. The result is a constant back and forth, broadcasting itself as some sort of stability--truth, composed of indeterminate irreconcilabilities. There's no single or consistent emotional appeal, because there's absolutely no way to reconcile the levity of the human-interest segment with the doom and gloom of World War IV prognostication (which seems to be the current dire unspoken). The reality that the media broadcasts, a world of hopeless extremes--not because these things cannot happen simultaneously, but because the hyperbolic terms in which the media presents them seems to suggest as much--carries with it a certain manufacturedness that, combined with the reductive oppositionality of contemporary politics, calls into question the very "truthfulness" of "the news." At days end the average American is left to see the news as one more show, slotted in between CSI and the OC, a performance of national or international matters that may be horrifying, heartwarming, stirring, etc., but has very little to do with "reality," or more importantly, with the notion of reality as being ordered, logical, or "true."