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May 03, 2010


Rodg was my very dearest friend, and it's great to see that after the shock of his sudden death people haven't forgotten about him.

I'm sure he's going to be influencing us all for many years to come.

Thank you for writing good things about him.

Hi Colin,
I've followed your blog for some time, initially because it was recommended to me by Google Reader. Actually, the title as well ("the war on mediocrity") caught my interest. Who would not want to do away with some of the mediocrity in life? I don't know you or your background well, but I wanted to comment on this post.

I'm not familiar with most of the people discussed in this entry, but both Rodger Swan and John Nathan seem like admirable people with deep passions that we all could learn something from. I am someone who gave in to my interest in Japan. I'm now 26 years old and studying for a Ph.D. at a Japanese university.

I have to say that I think some of what you say here has a tinge of bitterness. I'm not convinced that Japan is a hideaway for "socially maladroit, culturally tunnel visioned Gen-Y'ers". Most of the other foreign students I meet, or foreign people I worked with previously (when I worked at a foreign company in Japan) are pretty well rounded people. Maybe this refers primarily to a younger age group.

With the massive availability of anime and manga through the internet now, it would be hard to find any young person who's interested in Japan and also doesn't have the slightest interest in anime, manga or J-pop. The question is how many take it to a deeper level, pursue the language seriously, or really try to learn about the foundations of the culture. Here I think those who do definitely have the right to a certain elitism and to stand up for their values. I try my best to do it but definitely feel that I could work harder on the language, for instance. But why be so quick to reject and say that the others are doing it wrong? I think your image of Japan as a haven for maladroit people is mildly paranoid.

More generally, I would think that any young person who acquires a strong interest in another country and wants to learn more about it is basing the initial interest on a simplistic, romantic, slightly naive image in some way. Over time this image should be subject to refinement in most cases. Who exactly is your enemy here?

Also, I would heartily recommend that you give in to your interest in Japan, study the language and the culture, move over here for a few years, give up those fears about being lumped in with tunnel visioned ones. You'd enjoy it :-)

All the best,
Johan N

Well said, Johan. As an admirer of Rodger Swan, I should note that his initial interest in Japan was largely rooted in a passion for both anime and Sega products. He wasn't limited by those interests, however. They merely served as his doorway into the larger world of Japanese culture.

It's nearly impossible for the average American teen or 20-something to have a view of Japan that isn't impacted by those media. Similarly, you'd probably expect a Japanese-born kid to view America through the filter of Hollywood or major pro sports. As long as they are willing to dig beneath the surface, I see no harm in utilizing these readily available, if superficial, "bridges" to other cultures.

It is an open question whether any behavior based on fear of eternal punishment can be regarded as ethical or should be regarded as merely cowardly.What do you think?

If you would convince others, you seem open to conviction yourself. What do you think?

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