Tuesday, October 5, 2010

There is my Father, and there is Myself. And in between are the Doors

"Yeah we're goin to the Roadhouse,
we're gonna have a reeeeal
Good time!"

As my father and I sat alone at Skinny's Grille in Hope, the last diners of the night amidst the 1970s throwback decor, I heard the Lizard King singing in my head- loud enough to drown out the multiverse.

We had just spent the weekend in Penticton attending a Shamanic Practitioner workshop and journeying with the incomparable Dawn Dancing Otter- but the drive home became a Shamanic journey in and of itself.

I never thought my life would have a Hollywood moment. You know, those scenes where you sit in the theater with a tear in your eye and say "Man, thats cheesy!" ?

Some things seem just too perfect in Celluloid...

I watched from the dark outdoors as we made small talk over a mountain of greasy poutine and a couple of nearly-cooked burgers, letting the past slide away in all that was left unsaid.

I half-expected the moment to be shattered by the Director shouting: "Cut! Its Perfect! Print it!"

Instead, we ate quietly while the music played on...

"You gotta roll, roll, roll,
You gotta thrill my soul, all right!"

The Doors' music was an indelible part of my fathers life as a young man. He turned 18 during the fabled "Summer of Love" and, in spite of the fact that the Canadian Prairies are so far removed from the madness of Haight-Ashbury, the spirit of the age left its mark.

My father, a rather private man, had never really shared that passion with me... But isn't it funny how some things never change?

Nearly three decades later I found my own road to the spirit of the 60s. My fascination with The Doors and their enigmatic front-man forever altered my path.
It was through Jim, in fact, that I was first introduced to the possibility of Shamanism as a modern practice- a road that has been calling me with growing insistence ever since.

As a depressed and despondent 21 year old, I spent night after night cocooned in darkness, lost in the melodies and soothed by the words of Jim Morrison, that sonorous psychedelic shaman.

My father found me that way one evening. "Oh, The Doors! I was a big fan of them when I was your age!"

"Mmm... they're pretty good," was all I could say in return, terrified of unpacking my heart.

Amazing that it would take a roadhouse meal to make me realize that I never needed to.

"Ashen lady, Ashen lady
Give up your vows, give up your vows
Save our city, save our city
Right now"

"I had Orion ask my Spirit Guide whether I would retire by the end of the year. He said 'No, but you'll change the way you work.'

The conversation from Penticton had, naturally, focused on our experiences at the workshop.

"I've been looking at scaling it back for a while now. I'll probably work through the end of the year, before I begin phasing it back over the next 12 months."

He paused.

"I think the doctors appointment on Thursday will probably be it. They said the fact that its back means that they can only slow it down, not stop it... there's no way I'm going to spend the rest of my life working."

I barely responded, digesting his words. Though I knew he had been battling prostate cancer for the past several years I wondered how difficult it had been for my father to tell me that his number was coming up.

It is impossible, still, for me to find the words of gratitude for all that he has done for me, let alone for the opportunity to make amends for my failings as a son.

Back in the car after dinner, my father asked me if there was any moment in my life that stood out as a turning point. I answered... but not with the truth.

How could I tell him that we had just lived it together, eating quietly, listening to a song that was not there?

Not with a thousand lives could I find a more perfect moment to remember- the two of us frozen in time as a song wafts across the ages...

"The future's uncertain, and the end is always near"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Softly and Often

"The most important thing about brushing your teeth is to make sure you do it softly and often."

Sitting in the dentists chair, receiving a lecture on oral hygiene, my first thought was "Huh, that kinda sounds like something that Khatzumoto would say!" Maybe: "Japanese is like your molars and your ignorance is the plaque. Brush your Japanese softly and often to fight that ignorance. Have you brushed your Japanese today?"

And then there was this other gem: "Flossing once a week, or a couple times a month, isn't going to do anything. But if you take a couple minutes a day and floss, you'll notice a significantly healthier mouth."

Not only are dentists far less scary than they were in my youth, they seem to have an innate understanding of the effects of steady, consistent progress.

Why brush softly? Apparently intensive brushing can damage your mouth and cause your gums to recede. An ominous fate- unless you're an Emo kid with a hardcore vampire fetish...

How does this apply to learning, do you ask?

When I first wanted to study Japanese (institution style), which was not offered at my high school, I had to wait until college. I was SUPER stoked to go- I'd been obsessed with Japan since visiting the country in 9th grade. I knew how to count to 10 from karate and a few words from all the anime I watched. I was ready to cut my teeth on some Japanese.

And first thing we heard in that class was this: "This is an intensive Japanese course. Not only are there 7 hours of class each week, you'll be responsible for at least 20 hrs of homework per week and time in the language lab. And you should probably find a speaking partner for a few hours a week."

Notice that intensive there?

Its no secret that I'd never been a seriously dedicated scholar in a 'traditional' setting- But the kind of workload sensei was demanding not only seemed unrealistic for wet behind the ears freshman; it felt like punishment.

I made it through the first few weeks alright before the work piled up and that ominous kanji mallet came down upon my head. One of the first characters we were responsible for was the horrible composite 電話- でんわ, 'telephone,' which has 26 strokes and is made up of two individual kanji with four distinct components. Not only that, the demand for output was increasing at a rapid pace.

I'm not sure the exact moment, but know I wrote the task off as impossible.

By the midterm I was hopelessly behind and my interest (both in the language and the culture) waned through extreme frustration. The final oral exam was one of the most embarrassing moments of my academic career.

The gums on my Japanese baby teeth had receded from too much hard brushing!

But that was not the only problem....

...and Often
Everyone knows that brushing often gives you nice things. Like kisses from pretty girls. But if you neglect regular brushing... ever spent a weekend camping and seen how quickly you get grossed out with your OWN mouth? Bad things build up fast- its easy to fall behind!

One of the major hurdles that held me back in my Japanese odyssey was that I stopped inputting popular Japanese media. This arose from Sensei's insistence that you could only learn 'properly' from academically proscribed material. Proscribed material is BORING, which really killed my motivation to study it. Worse, her assertion that anime and manga were a waste of time for language learning drove me away from the things that had attracted me to the language in the first place.

Japanese that I found fun and beautiful was laid aside, replaced with dreary textbooks.

My exposure plummeted. I started avoiding what I liked because it apparently didn't teach what I needed to know. I avoided homework because it was boring. I would halfheartedly study for the quizzes and exams I was dreading- a few hours a week- instead of the frequent doses of 'useless fun' I'd experienced beforehand. My retention sucked, I was getting bogged down with debris from earlier lessons.

I just didn't brush my Japanese teeth often enough!

Fast forward to today. I've learned more in 6 weeks of AJATT than I did in 3 months of intensive classes. I'll be halfway through Remembering the Kanji by the end of the week. My vocabulary is growing at a steady rate. My listening and reading comprehension is still slow, but miles ahead of what I had achieved in class.

Now my learning teeth are clean and sharp. I make sure I brush daily to stay fresh. If it feels like I'm brushing too hard, I ease up and stop trying to force it.

For now, its time for me to sink these incisors back into some Kanji...

So until next time remember this: No matter what you want to accomplish, brush it softly and often. Don't hurt yourself for it. Enjoy the soothing bristles. Play fun brushing games. Just make sure you brush!

Monday, September 20, 2010

So, whos a delinquent?

That delinquent would be me! Its been two weeks since my last update! Unforgivable! Good thing I'm a forgiving kind of guy!

Seriously though, I've put off posting behind a wall of excuses- mostly this one: "Gee, I'd like to have my photo and video content done before I keep blogging." This attitude is extremely unproductive, so it stops now.

Where I HAVEN'T been delinquent, however, is in my studies of Japanese! There is lots to report, so here goes!

I'm up to 853 kanji (as of this writing) and there are Kanji post-its appearing on various objects around the house. Its taken me approximately 6 weeks to get this far and I seem to have settled into an average input of between 30-50 new characters a day, while reviewing 100-200 more on Reviewing the Kanji. The website employs the Spaced Repetition Studying system (SRS), similar to Khatzumoto's Surusu that I use for sentences (there are other SRS programs out there too, this is just my setup). SRS is an AMAZING study tool- there is a great description of how effective over at AJATT. I wish I'd known about it years ago. The SRS makes study sessions painless and entertaining!

I've also discovered that Victoria is a GOLDMINE for learning Japanese. There are several ESL schools or Student Centers catering specifically to Japanese in town to learn English. And there are LOTS of Japanese students here learning English! Victoria seems to be a popular destination for the Japanese! So popular, in fact, that some hotel and restaurant job postings appear with "Ability to speak Japanese an asset."

The language schools and resource centers are an AWESOME way to meet Japanese people without... you know... hiding around the corner with a huge net, or setting live capture traps baited with 茶 (tea) and 和菓子 . I even had my first 'language date' last Friday with Akane, a lovely young lady from Hiroshima. My ability to speak/comprehend Japanese is still in the 'epic fail' stage (I was asking for simple query phrases) but she was impressed at my kanji knowledge!

The University of Victoria also has a ton of resources for learning Japanese. There is even a student club dedicated to Japanese language sharing/cross cultural immersion for exchange students and JSL learners (or just 日本オタク like me). I'll probably go hang out at the Anime club too- get some new shows and instead of hanging around the 洞の狐 (Den for foxes) watching anime, I get to socialize... while watching anime :P.

On the immersion front, everything is going well. I have a playlist on Youtube of Disney movies dubbed into Japanese, as well as Star Wars: A New Hope and Attack of the Clones. Its like reliving my childhood! In Japanese!

My mp3 player is also good to go, with the audio for Princess Mononoke and a couple anime episodes loaded up. I need to get in the habit of carrying a music device around again though! I've also begun expanding my collection of Japanese language music- finding 'alternative' stuff is pretty hard- but Bandcamp has been an awesome resource. Not only have I found some pretty good music- with the lyrics online!- I've been able to add some artists to my twitter who post (in Japanese) about other artists and music events in Japan! I'm compiling a list of different Bandcamp links and have it posted in the near future for your listening pleasure!

I really need to be seeing more written Japanese (I've been dragging my feet on changing over to a Japanese OS) but I've experienced noticeable improvements in my comprehension- mostly thanks to all the Kanji I've learned.

A final note: The thing I love about this immersion method is the constant feedback on my progress. I don't need a test to tell me where I'm at... I just have "Wow, I understand that!" moments more and more frequently. Each one is like an intellectual cookie... and boy are they delicious!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Walls, and When you Hit Them

I had a frustrating weekend.

I tossed down my Kanji notebook Friday evening, lost my pencil and sunk back into an anime-flavoured melancholy. Much of it is exasperation over job-hunting (possibly the most dangerous of all Game...), and dealing with a new roommate moving in, but I definitely began to experience 'Kanji-burnout.' It wasn't so much a 'this Kanji cliff is impossibly high... buff this!' moment. I just couldn't muster the creativity to form a story around the elements I was given. Totally dropped out of the kanji flow, as it were. The game stopped being fun.

The guilt! OH, the guilt! At not learning new stories, or keeping up with my 100+ per day of kanji reviews, or even heading to the dictionary often!

I'd hit the Great Wall of Japanese Language like Wile E. Coyote hits a cliff face.

After I freaked out with my mom on the phone for a while After a manly conversation with my mother, in which I laid out my frustrations and predicament in a mature manner, she gave me some darn good advice. Get the basics out of the way. Do what you can to alleviate the unnecessary stress ("Well, keep applying for jobs. And maybe you want to get your apartment clean"). So I did. I put on an anime (Kenichi, the Worlds Greatest Disciple) for immersion and did my chores.

And in amongst taking care of normal life, I discovered something:

The weekend wasn't a total disaster. Japanese was still fun. The 'wall' was really a nice low retaining wall. Easy to mount, something to play with- a reminder to not let Japanese become 'homework'!

I did a few reviews Saturday, maybe a couple on Sunday. I twiddled around on Live Mocha- got an account set up and started a course. Had a large (see: constant) amount of audio input- except when I went to do my laundry (mp3 player troubles).

I re-organized my SRS to enter sentences rather than vocab and entered a sentence- 私は背が高いです。 (I am tall- more lit "My Stature is Tall"). I started playing a "Spot the Kanji" game in whatever I was watching to see how many I could get before the scene changed. My reading of hiragana and katakana is getting better and I've started 'reading' Japanese websites with small successes.

I also made contacts with one of the Japanese student centers in town, who asked me to come back (heck yah! Tomorrow, after the holiday weekend).

I may have taken a halting stutter-step with Heisig this weekend, but the rest of my progress has been steady. Do I have some catching up to do with Heisig? You betcha- but I'll be back on course by the end of the evening. Making up the stories is fun again.

The wall is behind me.

So when you hit a wall what do you do?

Well, you get over it bub. Jump, climb, fly, back freakin' handspring, I don't care. You just shake the ringing out of your ears and get your ass over that damn wall! You'll feel better for it. Really you will.

There's a fun slide at the end!

Trust me.... I'm cute.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New Product Spotlight: HempShield Wood Finish

My friend Brandi brought this awesome new wood finish back from the Seattle Hempfest. I wish I had some of this while I was finishing my parents woodshed this summer...

This is a perfect example of how hemp products, particularly a hemp oil product in this case, can be an environmentally sustainable and friendlier alternative to the petroleum industry. Wikipedia don't lie... hemp oil is damn useful stuff, if you haven't looked at it before. Refined hemp seed oil was even used in the first diesel engines as the primary fuel source.

If that doesn't sound like some stiff competition for certain industries, it was this usefulness that had the plant made illegal in the first place (Looking at you Big Oil!). They were also behind prohibiting the production of ethanol during alcohol prohibition. Go figure.

HempShield is not only a great hemp product, its a direct replacement in an industry where petroleum based products practically have a stranglehold.

Best of all, HempShield is competitively priced! Brandi paid 25$ (USD) for a gallon at Hempfest- compare with Thompson Wood Protector at Home Hardware (25.99$ CAN/gal before tax) this is a great deal.

So if you want to be an environmentally conscious consumer, and give the petroleum industry a 'market-share kick in the ass,' look out for products like HempShield to give that dollar some more impact!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mission Update

Its been a little while since I've mentioned my main goals- specifically Japanese immersion and learning taijitsu.

Quite frankly, I had a bad week. Transitioning back to Victoria wasn't perfect, but I'm back on track with the Japanese! I got caught up on my kanji and I've got myself up to 352! I don't think I'll manage 50 every day, but sometimes I just get on a roll. The stories are fun to make up and mnemonic memory tricks are fun to learn and play with. I'm just imagining what the world would look like if everyone knew how to learn like this...

I've been pretty good about my immersion environment the whole time, though I'm still waiting for an mp3 player (should be soon). But its constant when I'm at home, which is alot, and its quite the novelty to feel the language slowing down. This requires a bit of focus, but once I have a word in my memory and recognize it in use, I'll "hear" it even when my attention isn't focused. Very neat phenomenon.

As far as taijitsu goes, I got to one class here in Vic before I decided to take some time off training and let my shoulder rest- I'm nursing a sprain. I've been pretty good about keeping my fitness up though, and practicing the techniques that I know.

Anyhow, I'm up late *again* so I'm going to hit the hay. I'll have more thoughts on learning Japanese later... some interesting revelations!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Alone in a Life Worth Living

This article came across my Facebook feed today. Not only does it remind me of my friend Tiger, who wants to run away into the rainforest to live sustainably, reading the story brought tears to my eyes.

In particular this part: "Some of the markings he makes on trees have suggested to indigenous experts that he maintains a spiritual life, which they've speculated might help him survive the psychological toil of being, to a certain extent, the last man standing in a world of one."

Now, forgiving those "experts" whose ethnocentric bias leads them to 'speculate' on the behaviour of another human being, the spiritual life of the remaining indigenous peoples is one of the few things standing between the human race and disaster. The fact that he still honors the spirits of his natural environment, strives to live in concert with them and protect them, is testament to the strength of an individual connected to a web of understanding larger than that of the one that exists merely between human beings.

I am very grateful they have taken steps to protect him and I hope we all hear his story and honor his struggle- which is why I am sharing it here. My heart goes out to the man, against all odds, holds out against the machine of the world pressing down upon him alone.

Peace and Love brother!

Of Greatness and the Great One

This post was motivated by an argument my father and I had last night about the relative abilities of people to do certain jobs. He claimed that individuals have a particular aptitude for a certain skill, or set of skills, and that for reasons of biology- literally what you're born with- you are more apt to succeed at one thing than another. I disagree, arguing that with enough hard work and practice any individual can master any given skill. Real Science, it seems, is in my corner.

And, happily, it was also the topic of the most recent book review from Khatzumoto! The title? "Talent is Overrated" by Geoff Colvin. Hmm, provocative!

What he basically says is this:

ANYONE can become a virtuoso at ANYTHING- assuming a biologically normal physiology and psychology. It just takes diligent, deliberate practice. More evidence? The study that Colvin draws from is right here.

Hooray for free information!

Both being hockey fans, the example we argued over is the most dominant figure in modern professional sport: Wayne Gretzky. Dude is pretty amazing. 44 League records, all-time points leader by nearly 100% over his nearest rival and the only player to score more than 200 points in a season (4 times!). Even more amazing, Wayne was playing with 10 year olds at the age of 6, and managing to compete!

How is this possible you ask? Just read the wiki... During the winter Wayne was skating and practicing PROFESSIONAL LEVEL DRILLS with his father from the time he was a little over 2 years old.

From Wayne's autobiography: "All I wanted to do in the winters was be on the ice. I'd get up in the morning, skate from 7:00 to 8:30, go to school, come home at 3:30, stay on the ice until my mom insisted I come in for dinner, eat in my skates, then go back out until 9:00. On Saturdays and Sundays we'd have huge games, but nighttime became my time. It was a sort of unwritten rule around the neighbourhood that I was to be out there myself or with my dad."

Now, check me if I'm wrong, but that's more than 8 hours a day on a SCHOOL day, not including weekends. By the time Wayne was 10 years old, he had EASILY banked 10,000+ hours on the hockey rink. Practicing skills that were not only above his level, but above the level of MOST of the hockey world at the time. This isn't counting possible cross-training from summer sports, particularly lacrosse and baseball. I wonder if he played street hockey at all during the summer...

By the time Gretz hit the NHL... Sorry, the WHA first... the league was going through a major flux. The expansion in the 70s had seriously diluted the talent pool of the sport, created avenues for brutal teams like Philadelphia's 'Broad Street Bullies' to force their way through to a championship on intimidation alone. It is this world that Gretzky entered- when he was an 18 year old rookie he had probably put in more icetime than more than 75% of the league. And Gretzky's numbers reflect it. He WAS that much better than everyone on the ice.

But not because of a natural aptitude for the game that others can't acquire. He put in many long hours of diligent practice, doing things he couldn't do. Then we was gifted with the EASIEST POSSIBLE CONDITIONS under which to perform. If you examine the later stages of his career, once butterfly goaltending catches on, after the league decreased the space behind the net (SPECIFICALLY to deal with the advantage Gretzky had there- its colloquially known as the 'Gretzky Rule'), when the game gets bigger and faster, the other players average talent higher, the advantage diminishes to more human standards. I can definitely see Sidney Crosby, for example, reaching 130 points (The Great One's total for 93-94). Even in the 'new' NHL.

Will the Great One's Records stand forever? Most of them. But that's like asking if baseball stats from 1898 should apply to determining "The Greatest Players of All Time." Its impossible to say. The game is too different. Quite simply, Gretz grew up before the game did. He invented a new way to play the game of hockey, not merely because he was a genius, but because he had mastered the game so early- through diligent practice- that all that was left was to build on what had been given to him.

And he had a puckload of fun while he was at it.

The last argument my father presented was, all else being equal physically and skillfully, it was aptitude- some particular spark of SOMETHING- that gave these men the ability to surpass all others. And to this I will agree.

They are the ones who, after 82 regular season games and four grueling playoff rounds, can skate onto the ice for the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Final and feel like a kid on the pond. The one who can forget the pain, the hatred, the pressure and bring the fun back to the game.

Hockey is a game. Fun is the X-factor.

You don't have fun by winning, you win by having fun.

Anything you want to do should have the same X-Factor. If its not fun, you'll never motivate yourself enough to diligently practice, to expand your skills.

So there you are Dad. You CAN master any skill you want, so long as you have enough fun at it to practice diligently! We're not born, we're made!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Moments that Change my World

I said I was going to bed, which I was preparing to do, when my friend Becky messaged me on Facebook.

"I just wanted to say thankyou," she said.

"You're welcome!" I replied, a little bewildered. "Thank you for what?"

"I dont no if you realize this, but you offered me a haven. I'm where Im at now because of the friendship you offered. :)You rock."

For those of you who haven't had a chance to experience the Foxx Den, I will often open my home to youth in a tight spot.

Has this brought me trouble? Occasionally. But no one has ever stolen from me, or brought lawless intent into my space.

Has my hospitality been abused? Occasionally. But no one has been ungrateful, or ungracious when asked to leave.

Has it been draining on me? Occasionally. But I've always gained more than I've lost. Their lessons and perspectives are invaluable.

Not on one occasion have I regretted the decision to save someone from a night on the street. And its moments like this that perspective falls into place and the world becomes impossibly simple. A full meal and a safe bed will change a life faster than gold or lead.

To assuage the fear that lies at the heart of hopelessness, if just for a moment, is to give the world a glimmer of hope; maybe one day, if the world gets enough help, the waves of fear will roll back from all of us.

Until then, if I can ensure that one more person can wake up to a hopeful dawn, a thank you is more than enough reward. It gives to me as much as I ever offered them.

For that gift, to know that another life will forever be better through my actions, I offer my heartfelt thanks.

Fear and Love and Kanji

The Fear
Its been a chaotic week. The travel day and readjustment to the magical world have been both enlightening and frustrating. I've been accomplishing things, yet at the same time feeling that time has been slipping by too fast!

I felt myself getting strangled by old fears and habits- avoiding the things I both need and want to do by being too worried about the possibility of failure. I've even missed taijitsu practice for most of the week (well, one day the group missed me...). I'm told Mercury is in retrograde... which makes sense because its playing havoc with flow in communications. The ones I expect to have are either not there, short or very unclear and the most wonderful, spontaneous encounters are bringing in so much abundance.

My biggest lesson this week? Face up to those fears and the multiverse delivers in amazing ways! With that in mind, I would like to share one of my prayers with you- not one of my own making, but from a world not unlike our own and a story like nothing else. This is the Bene Gesserit Litany against Fear, from Dune by Frank Herbert:

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."

The Love
And what better way to face your fears than with the help of your friends?! The wonderful love and support that I feel from the community in this land is amazing and things just start to fall into place when I engage with them. I am so grateful for Matthieu's boundless energy and enthusiasm, as well as his wonderful ability to facilitate an evening of expression and personal exploration- it is truly inspirational and I need to give him a special thanks for helping keep me on track!

I could go on for several posts with stories of all the love I've received since getting home- Creature the pirate, who inspired another comic strip and always lightens the mood; Kyla, faerie goddess, who reminded me that play and love can be found everywhere, so long as we live authentically; the lovely babes at the beach (Ally Cat and Jillian!)... because relaxing isn't relaxing without smart, beautiful women; and all the rest of the Wild Things that have crept into my life... thank you for your love and I LOVE YOU ALL!

and last... but not at all least..

The Kanji

Is going well! I'm up to 276, which is a little under the pace I would have liked, but I'm keeping up on my daily reviews and the whole system is getting easier as I get more familiar with it. The infatuation with it seems to have stuck... I was drawing kanji in the sand at the beach yesterday, both to practice and to amuse myself. Its WAY more fun than writing in English! Immersion has been good, not great (I still need an mp3 player and more portable text material) but I'm getting at least 8 hrs of exposure a day! I'm weakest still in the reading and writing- I haven't applied myself at all to the katakana, for example, and I'm still slow with translating what I hear into the right symbols, but I've been at it less than a month. I'm sure I'll be OK!

Anyhow, its time for Foxxy to sleep- I have a big day tomorrow! Meeting cousin James in the morning, other adventures throughout the day! Stat tuned for more magic!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Another day...

。。。Another Kanji update! I'm nearing 150 characters learned, and getting into my reviews. The more I learn, the more I fall in love with this fascinating language. The character for 'Eternity'(永) Is a minor varation on the character for the element 'Water' (水)。  If thats not A Zen-like connection,I don't know what is.

In other news... I trained with the Nami Yama dojo yesterday which was a blast! Got dirty learning some ground techniques! Really dirty (Good thing we wear black)!  Mike is a great instructor and it was neat to explore the wider bujinkan community。。。 Definitely looking forward to more!

I also shot the footage for a new video! Should be up soon, just needs a bit of editing... Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Well, if I'm going to be distracted by anything... its a good thing that its Japanese! I know I've missed out on doing tarot readings for the last few days- replaced primarily with more Kanji.

Funny thing is, they use a similar skill set. Each card is like a primitive kanji character, with its own story. And adding those characters together creates more complex stories with various meanings, depending on how the original primitives are arranged and modified.

Its damn fascinating. And alot of fun, once you get past the shock of "I'm going to be able to read this jibberish?!" that you get when first looking at kanji script. I'm not saying I can read it yet, not even close, but I'm not scared of it any more. Kanji makes sense- like tarot makes sense. The more I see primitives and use them in different combinations, the easier it becomes to both understand and manipulate. New subtleties in meaning are revealed, both of the primitives and the kanji they make up.

So it goes that each card of the tarot has an unique 'story' that helps trigger our intuition' we tell a similar intuitive story for each individual Kanji- both primitive elements and more complex versions. Primitive elements would be the single 'cards' and the complex kanji 'spreads' of multiple cards. Depending on where in the figure each element appears defines its meaning, and modifies the other elements around it.

The Kanji is an intuitive written language (so much more than a mere 'alphabet'). A meditative language, if you will. Brought to you by the fine people who came up with stuff like the rock gardens. Buddhists. Its just their style to create a writing system that is a meditation in and of itself. The kanji builds on itself and, in doing so, can activate the creative memory if followed in a logical order. The value of this in a cultural context cannot be understated. Within the kanji is contained both a philosophy and history that is lost in the verbal portion of the language.

The Japanese spoken language SOUNDS beautiful. But the WRITTEN language is beautiful, esoteric, genius. I'm enjoying delving into it.

As far as other progress goes, some new things to report! I've started my own 'dictionary' of words and phrases and I'm entering them into Surusu. I'm using the SRS system at Reviewing the Kanji for my kanji- its streamlined, and I like getting other input for the stories. Heisig may be brilliant, but he is a little ethnocentric at times!

In raw numbers, I'm up to Kanji #80 after 3 days- this makes Foxx happy!

I've also found some awesome resources! Apparently Disney is OK with Japanese dubs of its movies being up on Youtube... I'm geeking out to "The Little Mermaid" right now... Hey! It was on at my 5th birthday party... shut up...

I also found a local (Vancouver) Japanese newspaper! I hope they cover the Canucks...

OK, Have to sleep. Shooting video tomorrow morning. Put down the pencil Foxxy, and step away....

Monday, August 9, 2010

Back in paradise...

Greetings from my spot on the Salish Sea! The travel day threw off my schedule a little- I have a few articles to write- but I got lots of studying done on the trip over! Had a great day moving rocks (sekkai) with the dog (inu), looking up words and listening to a variety of J-music. Now its back with the anime and kanji!

At least its still fun :P!

Hopefully have a some new videos and definitely a tarot reading and update tomorrow!

Foxx- back to the Kanji!

Friday, August 6, 2010

I think I'm Learning Japanese, I really think so!

AJATT Update!

Here I am- midway through my first week of immersion! I feel a bit like I'm in the foothills of the mountains... But compared to my disastrous attempt to learn Japanese in college this to infinity and beyond- I've learned more in a week than I did in entire semester of "this is really hard, make sure you're committed" intensive Japanese instruction.

Here is my progress so far.

1. Create immersive environment- 6/10 I've taken down all my posters (even Casablanca!). I got rid of my exit sign... if anyone can get a hold of one in Japanese, I'd be super stoked! I've stocked up on anime and got the word out on Japanese dubs (saving my pennies!). I'm going to use the method proposed on one of the AJATT comments to label everything in my apartment with post-its bearing the kanji/kana for that object. Apparently there is a new coffee shop in town ran by a Japanese-speaking couple (he's Western, but fluent, she is Japanese) so I'll stop by there tomorrow and also check out the Japanese market here in town!

Step 1 Challenge: Get rid of my books! Replace with Japanese. Same with DVD collection. Switch over computer OS to Linux Mint Japanese. Stop reading the net in English.

2. Learn the Kana: 3/10 I'm already very comfortable with the hiragana (2 days baby!), and I'm making inroads on the katakana.

Step 2 Challenge:Keep practicing hiragana, brush up on how to apply phonetic modifiers. Learn katakana by next week.

3. Learn Kanji: 0.5/2042. I've got my hands on copies of "Remembering The Kanji" I, II and III. KANJI. I thought the Kanji would be really daunting, but after reading the Heisig introduction and thinking about it a little, I don't think I'll have a huge problem- more on that later.

P.S. James Heisig is a genius. Like Mr. Khatzumoto. And, shockingly, bloody interesting! Also like Khatzumoto... ok, shoutout over ^-^.

Step 3 Challenge: LEARN KANJI!. More specifically, start with learning to properly use Surusu and get into kanji reps.

So, there it is, my first AJATT update! Remember kids, Foxx says "Jump with both feet... then you can hit the ground running!"

As far as taijitsu goes? Its flat out awesome. Its like Sun Tsu and the slaves who came up with Capoeira had a baby and that baby was Ninja. Best of all its both FUN (I climbed trees at practice- with approval) and (heres the really important part!) easier to study in Japanese. Also fits the criteria of 'living like a Japanese person.' I know they're not ALL ninjas. But I can dream.

I find myself very familiar with many of the movements and strikes, only having to make minor adjustments to what I already know- fencing steps, karate strikes, moving and rolling, parkour. I'm grateful for the corrections and experience of the group as well. It makes training more fun and your mistakes are pointed out for you! It also helps that half of the lesson- the names of the kata (heh), phrases for bowing etc. are all in Japanese. Ultimate crosstraining. Its all the sports I love- with that sweet Nihon sauce on top. *Grin*

Daily Tarot Reading: What Energy should I bring into my day? on my Llewellyn Tarot deck.

3 Card Spread- 8 of Pentacles, 10 of Pentacles, 2 of Cups.
My spreads have been *extremely* clear as of late- this one is: Diligent, dedicated hard work and a healthy respect for tradition and discipline will lead you to putting your whole heart into / falling in love with something. And its so, so true.

Thats all!


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Welcome Friends!

Welcome, friends, to this story!

My name is Foxx P. Cant; pirate, shaman, ninja (in training) and Kitsune extraordinaire! This is a record of action and adventure, exploration and excitement, growth and change!

I invite you along on this journey: learn with me, watch me grow! I hope you, too, find the inspiration to author your own reality!

So, to begin! I am human and not human. I am what the Japanese call a kami, a nature spirit. On an energetic level I remain very much a kitsune. If you were to plug me into the Matrix, for example, I would not look human. I chose this biological form for a purpose- to be a bridge between the physical and metaphysical worlds, between the worlds of man and of nature.

How do I intend to bridge these worlds? Well, by making people laugh, dance and sing! By letting every footstep be a dance of joy, letting every word be a song of laughter, letting myself grow into a world of co-creation- planting gardens both of thought and flowers as I twirl through this divine waltz (or is it a foxtrot?!).

This current garden is for cultivating my various skills: music, movement, language, intuition. Above all, however, is the tree at the center of the garden: discipline.

As the focus for this discipline I am undertaking an immersive study of the Japanese language (thanks for the inspiration Khatzumoto!) and of bujinkan taijitsu with the goal of teaching English and training in Japan. Woven throughout this framework is the ongoing development of self through tarot reading, crystal work, music, theater, dance, movement, shamanic practice and meditative reflection.

You will find regular updates of my progress here expressed in many mediums- journal entries, poems, songs, photos, videos, along with daily tarot readings and a bunch of other surprises!

Thanks for joining me and have a great trip!

Foxx P. Cant