How the Pacers Should Spend Summer Vacation

Posted June 1, 2014 by jsmyth
Categories: Sports

Tags: , , , , ,

OK Pacers. Spiritual failures require spiritual solutions. Here are my summer job prescriptions to help you recover from the trauma of this wack season.

PAUL GEORGE: First meet your daughter, then get away from everything for a while. I know you loved Palmdale’s sandiness so to get that along with your emotional reset and guidance from above, I recommend the Monastery of Christ in the Desert, “surrounded by miles of undisturbed wilderness amidst the Chama Canyon wilderness area 75 miles north of Santa Fe.”

LANCE STEPHENSON: Train with Pai Mei. The most famous Shaolin Temple is too commercialized to help you now, but I’m sure we can find the right dojo to change your life. You’re the real-life talented but uncontrolled and violent hero from kung fu movies and you need to channel your strength before wasting your skills and hurting more people (I remember the domestic violence incident).

GEORGE HILL: Being quiet and kind is great, but your decisiveness, confidence, and assertiveness were sorely lacking this year. Also you seem a bit too comfortable in Indy. So try India. Travel through it for a month by yourself, and by the time you’re done NBA basketball will seem easy. Bring a DS for train rides so you can play tons of fast-twitch video games where you need to make choices quickly and confidently. But be really careful about where you eat.

DAVID WEST: You showed signs of leadership this year and we urgently need to cultivate that. I know you’re socially conscious, so when you’re not practicing corner 3’s, spearhead a criminal justice reform campaign and do community outreach for the Indy NAACP. Meanwhile you will be the 24-hour emergency liaison for everyone who’s abroad.

ROY HIBBERT: Roy. We still love you. Don’t get too down on yourself. But you need fresh air as well as improved discipline, body language, physical fitness, quickness, and social skills. Since you’re also an otaku, I know just the place for you! Go to Japan, teach English at a rural school, and do the endless motion drills of their basketball clubs. You’ll grow and you’ll also receive unconditional affirmation. Plus you can Tweet with your new student friends, but be warned most of them will come off as pervs because of what they RT.

IAN MAHINMI: You will be joining Roy in Japan but doing something even more special. You need to work a lot on your physical coordination under pressure and recharge emotionally around some really positive and excitable people, so you should follow in Bob Sapp’s footsteps and become a reoccurring contestant in Japanese came shows. The games are awesome and challenging, and you will have a blast and become a YouTube hero.

LUIS SCOLA: Phys ed and substitute Spanish teacher on the East Side by day and Broad Ripple barfly by night. You would be awesome at this. In fact, you should just retire and do it full-time if you can’t become a reliable 3-point shooter this summer.

CHRIS COPELAND: While Roy’s in Japan we need someone to take the fans out for parties and you are the perfect candidate. You are the most popular player on the team right now–though Vogel hasn’t made you feel like it–so come out and enjoy it. You DO need to work on your defensive fundamentals so spend the rest of your time at basketball camps.

WATSON, SLOAN: We need more point guard skills. Stand outside John Stockton’s front door every single day until he agrees to take you on as students.

DANNY GRANGER: Come home! Be our 12th man and Paul’s Barnabas. Get a hyperbaric chamber.

BUTLER, ALLEN, S.HILL: You guys seem cool and normal; I wonder if that is why you saw the court so rarely this season. You may focus on basketball.

TURNER, BYNUM: At a loss for words with you two. Both the attitude and the ability to stay in the league are lacking. The best way to redeem yourselves is to donate a lot of money to Riley Children’s Hospital on your way out.

FRANK VOGEL: You are unfailingly positive and need to go somewhere where young people will treat you well for once. Become a youth minister at a church. You also need some new ideas, so make friends with Hubie Brown.


Front office, you need to keep clocking in all summer so what I have to say to you is more direct.

Taking responsibility for your failures and repenting is healthy. Ultimately what happened is on you, and if you confess your basketball sins you will attain the lightness of being to make clear-headed decisions about the future.

Maybe Hinkle Fieldhouse is the St. Peter’s of basketball (I am skeptical about Indiana’s basketball faith at present for numerous reasons) but the man you need an audience with to obtain absolution is Bill Russell. Talk the season over with him and some of the other sages and then come back to work.

Here is your examination of conscience:

1. Larry falls too much in love with particular players and then gets fleeced in trades for them when the GM on the other line realizes that. There must be more than 14 players in the league that you like, so when you want to make deals, call EVERYONE instead of letting a single bidder keep raising your offer like the Spurs did for George Hill and the Suns did for Luis Scola.

2. You don’t have an analytics game. Get on that! I am afraid the thought processes of the 3 of you are all too similar to teach other. Bring in someone different, like Zach Lowe, but preferably someone who isn’t busy writing the NBA’s best columns.

3. Like 10 years ago, you tempted fate by letting too many punks on the team; namely, the midseason deals for the notorious malefactors Turner and Bynum pushed us over the edge. Whether it’s in the locker room or on the bench, more people with clear moral authority and the ability to keep the youth on the straight and narrow are needed.

4. A different bench philosophy is needed. Instead of bringing in guys who are simply lesser versions of the starters, find players with different and complementary skill sets that we can use when we’re stuck with mismatches. When there have been unique pieces like Copeland or Gerald Green, Frank has disdained them if their D isn’t good enough and kept them on the bench so he can keep running the same style as always. The Heat and Spurs are beyond us because every guy they bring in can do something different, which makes them way more flexible and harder to checkmate.

Finally, HERB: Improve our karma; take advantage of your higher revenues to stop stealing money from the public treasury. Let the annual $10 million from Indy go to schools and hospitals instead. Also, don’t fear the luxury tax; life is short and the cap is going to soar the next few years anyway.

Those are my ideas. Looking forward to reading your own in-kind suggestions in the comments.

2014 Taipei Metro Attack / 鄭捷隨機殺人事件 (中英)

Posted May 22, 2014 by jsmyth
Categories: Politics, Taiwan, 中文

Tags: , , ,

For the first time ever, there has been a mass stabbing on the Taipei metro.

Four people were killed and some 25 injured this afternoon when a deranged college student took advantage of one of the longest stretches between stops (a 4-minute ride under a river) to fulfill a childhood fantasy by stabbing other passengers with a fruit and Swiss Army knife until he was finally subdued inside the next station.

The TV news stations here have learned from the best (CNN): breathless coverage, and some announcers have even baselessly speculated the killer was a protester. But among my Taiwanese friends on FB the conversation has been much realer. Here’s what I had to add:

May the departed rest in peace, the injured quickly recover, and the killer repent and believe in the Gospel.

So, there’s this slogan for the metro system, “We are all metro passengers” [note: it's a pun because the word for that is "Jack", a character in an ad for the metro] and it’s easy to shrug off but it really hit me today.

Today didn’t just remind us of how fragile our lives are; it also reminded us how important trust is.

Every public transportation system, every city, every society needs people to trust each other to function. Taiwan has an extremely low crime rate and an extremely high amount of mutual trust, but Taiwanese people are still people. We all have free will, and any one of us could kill someone. No matter what mode of transportation you use, how many policemen are stationed there, whether or not there are metal detectors, or whether or not we have the death penalty, the need for trust will not change. So I’m still going to trust you all and keep staking my life together with you by riding the metro every day.

People say the death penalty deters crime, but sociological research shows that is not the case. And besides, three weeks ago our government killed five people (two of whom were convicted based on decidedly doubtful evidence). Frankly, the people on death row are just our scapegoats (using the ancient meaning of the word). I’m not saying they’re innocent, or that if they all lived they would come to regret their actions. Rather, I’m saying that they are shaped by the societies from which they came.

If we could look back over death row prisoners’ whole lives, we would definitely see:
-Many have mental illnesses. Why didn’t we do more earlier to treat them?
-Many have had painful experiences, and have been abused and rejected before. Where were the people to comfort them?
-Many had done several small bad things leading up to their big crime. Who was there to correct them then?

In an urbanized time, especially a smartphone society, it’s actually easier and easier to cut oneself off from the world. If you want to pass a totally lonely/independent life, you can. But the more one is alienated from others, the stranger one’s thought process will become. And the less love a person receives, the less valuable he will think his life is. Moreover, it will then be easier for him to believe other people’s lives don’t have value, either, so killing them wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Among these unhappy people, some (I’m not certain about this case) will want to do something really big, to let the world get to know them, to let the world know they exist. To be honest with you, I’ve thought before that the easiest way to get famous in America is to kill a bunch of people. Extremely lonely people have likely thought this too.

Taiwanese people were originally rice farmers–indigenous were hunters–they had to work together, and they all had to resist colonizers together. In order to survive this kind of life, you have to preserve good relationships and trust each other. Some families knew each other for generations.

But in present-day society, from kindergarten to retirement it’s all competition, and we’ve all left our hometowns and those long, deep relationships behind to pass our days in Taipei. “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”.

For this reason, now more than ever everyone has to try hard to make new friends, treat strangers well, be concerned for the loneliest among us, and pay special attention to the health of those with mental illnesses. That’s the only way we can lower the probability of this kind of tragedy from happening again.




1000 Words on Ron, Hermione, and the Widening Class Divide Between Them

Posted February 3, 2014 by jsmyth
Categories: Literature, Politics

SOOO JK Rowling just stated (in an interview for a magazine Emma Watson guest-edited) that she regrets pairing up Hermione and Ron, and that Hermione should have ended up with Harry instead. (As always she apparently didn’t have anything to say about Ginny.) This vexes me on multiple levels, and whether an artist can break through the fourth wall from the outside and change a piece after everyone’s already appreciated it (a classic philosophy of art debate question, and fwiw I think the reader’s agency/free will must be respected as well) is the -least- of them. ACCIO ESSAY:

1. To be honest I don’t think Rowling should have paired ANYONE up.
A. Aesthetic Reasons: Harry Potter was awesome when it was a fun magical detective story with plentiful parodies of modern life that starred good-hearted, well-rounded characters. As I wrote six years ago ( the first three books are the strongest because they’re the leanest and most faithful to the series’s natural strengths. The romances as she wrote them distracted from rather than strengthening the story’s themes, made the characters seem thinner rather than deeper, and should have been cut down or left out. (Protip: don’t get famous until you FINISH your fantasy series unless you have insanely incorruptible artistic integrity like Tolkien.)

How fun would it have been to go all the way through the story with flirting between all the characters and then let the fans keep chatting about who worked best together after that? When the author forces closure by tying together unnaturally, she limits the readers’ imaginations.

B. Moral Reasons: It’s so 16th century to think everyone needs to be paired up by the time the story’s over. Any of these characters could have had a perfectly fulfilling life as a single person as well (like Hagrid or ::cough:: Dumbledore), or met a special someone from the Muggle world off-camera. Students especially, the target audience of HP, are already full of anxiety about having to find someone to love by the time they graduate and these books reinforced that. Quick romantic pairings in epilogues also give the impression that love is easy or just happens when you’ve got things figured out when it’s actually a whole other huge lifelong adventure.

2. That said, she did pair them up, so what really makes Rowling’s new perspective depressing is how classist it is. Harry Potter and the Specter of Social Stratification? Harry Potter and Elite Self-Segregation? I know she doesn’t think of it that way but, especially after reading the Ross Douthat class warfare article from yesterday, this is how it looks to me:

What changed here is not the characters but JK Rowling herself. Once a single mother who wrote stories on napkins, she has now been one of the richest and most famous people in Britain (always a more stratified society) for 15 years, which means she’s spent years immersed in a totally different, wealthier world than the world from which this series sprang up. In other words, the J.K. Rowling who wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone no longer exists.

When the Muse wrote the books she chose Ron-Hermione and Harry-Ginny (now Rowling is making it look like she created Ginny just to give Harry a girlfriend, which is capital-T Terrible, but let’s move on.) 2014 Rowling describes Ron-Hermione as “wish fulfillment” that she wanted to be true but which couldn’t actually work. Harry and Hermione could definitely have worked! But so could Ron and Hermione. There’s enough chemistry and space between the lines for either relationship to be fulfilling, and for either one to be “wish fulfillment”.

What this latest statement looks like to everyone who reads it is “Ron isn’t good enough for Hermione (and Ginny isn’t good enough for Harry)”, not least due to its Hermione-centrism. How are Ron and Ginny not good enough, though? That case looks really classist to me:

Hermione is a genius and the only child of a pair of dentists. Harry grew up poor but is now a wealthy heir, a sports hero, and The Chosen One. (Also an only child.) Ron is the youngest son of a big, poor-and/but-happy (Catholic?) family and has a serious inferiority complex. Ginny is the youngest child of this family, is painfully shy, and isn’t “the best at anything” either.

The two elites in this group, in terms of achievements, money, as well as character traits associated with success, are obviously Harry and Hermione. But is the closest match/complement in these characteristics what matters for a relationship?

Not to be too maudlin, but I think of how loving the Weasley household is and how comfortable Hermione was staying there all summer (I wanted to be there too!). How Ron isn’t too intimidated of Hermione to make fun of her, but also how much he admires her and is supportive of her. How much integrity both Ron and Ginny had. Ron and Hermione had communication problems but so do people in every relationship! Who’s in love with each other? That’s the unpredictable and way more important thing, and if Ron and Hermione loved each other in JK’s imagination she doesn’t get to say years after the fact that they shouldn’t. (Besides, Adult Ron with things figured out would be at least as awesome as Young Adult Rupert Grint, right?

Why does all this matter? Because while the increasing intensity of social and economic stratification is undeniable, more and more “successful” Americans are looking for romantic partners who are their equals in these same categories and limiting their associations with those in the lower classes.

And even if, like me, you think success is defined by how far you carry a cross and not having nice jobs in the Ministry of Magic and sending your kids to a nice school like Hogwarts, you find that society perpetually pressures the “less successful” partner in a relationship and you appreciate any relief from that stress that you can get.

So, motion denied, J.K.

Top 10 Dream Jobs of Japanese Kindergarten and Elementary School Students, according to Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company survey

Posted July 6, 2013 by jsmyth
Categories: Business, Education, Japan

Top 10 Dream Jobs of Japanese Kindergarten and Elementary School Students, according to Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company survey

(1) Soccer Player (2) Scholar (2) Police Officer/Detective (4) Baseball Player (5) TV Star, including Anime Voice Actor (6) Astronaut (6) Restaurateur/Chef (6) Train/Bus/Car Driver (9) Doctor (10) Fire Fighter/EMT

(1) Restaurateur/Chef (2) Nurse (3) Kindergarten/Nursery School Teacher (4) Doctor (5) Florist (5) Teacher (Elementary or above) (7) Animal Husbandry/Pet Store Owner/Animal Training (8) Piano/Keyboard Teacher, Pianist (8) Police Officer/Detective (10) Designer

Dai-ichi Comment: This is the 16th year in a row Restaurateur/Chef was girls’ #1 choice. Since the Great Tohoku Earthquake, children have had much more interest in jobs related to saving lives and protecting others, such as police work and nursing.

Number in parentheses = the rank of that occupation the year before.


The Somber Ten-Year Anniversary

Posted March 21, 2013 by jsmyth
Categories: Politics, USA


March 20, 2003. Watching bombs over Baghdad in the high school cafeteria just as the NCAA tournament began. Not believing my antiwar friends’ predictions of the future, which would indeed come to pass over these ten years as our messianic dreams died by the sword. I’m sorry. I wish for peace for our servicemen and the people of Iraq and ready to advocate peace for the rest of my days.

Microinequity and Vicious Cycles at Home and Abroad

Posted March 10, 2013 by jsmyth
Categories: Japan, Politics, USA

Tags: , , , , ,

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s latest column-post-comments combo is worthwhile reading.

The thread explores two ideas I’d like to say a little more about:

1. Microaggression and microinequity – that is, the constant little events that underline someone is different or of a lower status – fuel bad feelings and inequality and have a corrosive effect on the person on the receiving end, even if the person on the giving end has no intention to hurt.

Microaggression is a really common talking point in the English-speaking expat community in Japan. Here’s one example.

I’ve had friends tell me they couldn’t stay in Japan or Taiwan anymore because they couldn’t handle never being fully accepted. It took me way longer than it should have to connect this frustration with the feelings American minorities have in their own communities. Then the little things that happened here felt really small. In fact, it became clear that Western foreigners in the East are a privileged minority.

James Baldwin describes the way the disrespect of others can poison one’s spirit in his essay “Native Son”, which I also happened to read this week:

This isn’t just a macro (societal) issue, though. Little differences in treatment are in my opinion a major cause of family rifts. Anyone who feels looks down upon (say, for having less “success”) resents it and things quietly get worse and worse.

2. We need to be more aware of how systemic inequalities created the world we have today and how we ourselves contribute to the perpetuation of suffering.

This sort of thing also happens in home life, too. Say you have an overweight family member, and everyone’s always telling him he needs to lose weight…and yet when there’s food left over after dinner, everyone shovels it onto his plates. The people complaining about the problem are themselves perpetuating it!

Likewise, social ostracism fuels antisocial behavior. For example, yakuza membership is largely made up of (1) children of yakuza (2) graduates of teenage biker gangs, who mostly come from broken homes (3) the burakumin, or untouchables (4) ethnic Koreans and other ostracized Asian groups. People that society rejected find their best opportunities are in crime.

One thing I’ve learned this month is that “the ghetto” is the result of public policy. From The Warmth of Other Suns: “The story played out in virtually every northern city – migrants sealed off in overcrowded colonies that would become the foundation for ghettos that would persist into the next century. These were the original colored quarters – the abandoned and identifiable no-man’s-lands that came into being when the least-paid people were forced to pay the highest rents for the most dilapidated housing owned by absentee landlords trying to wring the most money out of a place nobody cared about.”

Black neighborhoods got the worst of everything from city hall in infrastructure and services. (Hello, broken window theory.) No one was allowed to move out, and government housing authorities redlined/hugely undervalued their holdings as owners even as they paid out the nose as renters – which meant their wealth was being constantly devalued.

More Ta-Nehisi on how ghettos were created by elite discrimination:

Since inequitable urban policy reaped so much destruction, couldn’t equity go a long way to solving problems? Couldn’t city halls take a much more active role in identifying addressing inequalities?

I’m wondering now why the demographic differences between Indy’s Marion and Hamilton counties have always been so stark and thinking my own hometown is a place where there is much legitimate urban renewal to be done.

There’s much to do here, as well. Immigrants from Southeast Asian countries in particular deserve more equitable treatment. Personally, I’m resolved to never look down on anyone. I admit I’m not there yet. To never feel contempt, I’ll have to examine my conscience daily.

Two heroes of Japanese liberalism have passed over to the Grey Havens

Posted January 3, 2013 by jsmyth
Categories: Art, Japan, Literature, Politics


Keiji Nakazawa
Asahi Shimbun Obituary

When Keiji Nakazawa was 6 years old, the Hiroshima atomic bomb vaporized nearly his entire family.

He portrayed this experience in a comic book.


As far as I know, Barefoot Gen is the most famous anti-war work in Japanese history. Search for it in Google Images and it will imprint itself in your mind as well. The art style, typical of fun adventures, makes what is depicted inside feel even worse. Perhaps if a book like this were required reading in American junior high schools, we would not declare another war of choice. Irrespective of America, Nakazawa’s work has doubtless been monumental in Japanese culture. My junior high school there had a student performance of it every few years.


Beate Gordon

Read the New York Times’ obituary. It’s one of those that’s so astonishing you wonder why you’ve never heard of this person before.

Beate Sirota Gordon introduced women’s rights to postwar Japan, writing the clauses specifically guaranteeing them into the Japanese Constitution, emancipating 40 million people, when she was 22 years old.

Gordon studied other nations’ constitutions and drew on her childhood experiences in Tokyo and wrote the articles in a week. A sleepless week. Imagine all your learning and moral training and ethical thought suddenly being put to the test, now, and you have to lay out the future legal status of millions of historically marginalized people.

And then she kept her role a secret for decades.

All she did in the meantime was introduce the West to every kind of traditional Japanese art and every style of Asian performance art she could find. It’s amazing to think of how little even Americans in the highest reaches of power understood of Japan when they began ruling the country after the war. And pre-WWII cultural globalization mostly meant Westernization. Ms. Gordon was very important to turning on the East-to-West cultural flows and contributing to the cultural relations between Japanese and Americans today.


With her parents and Kosaku Yamada in Tokyo in 1928 (source:

Mr. Nakazawa, Ms. Gordon, rest in peace. May our generation, too, have people as amazing as you.


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