April 11, 2005

Their voices are bringing trees to their knees

* Momus on culture and Japanese toilets.


"While the toilet looks like a western style toilet at first glance, there are a number of additional features, such as blow dryer, seat heating, massage options, water jet adjustments, automatic lid opening, flushing after use, wireless control panels, heating and air conditioning for the room, et cetera, included either as part of the toilet or in the seat. These features can be accessed by a control panel that is either attached to one side of the seat or on a wall nearby, often transmitting the commands wirelessly to the toilet seat. The most basic feature is the integrated bidet, a nozzle the size of a pencil that comes out from underneath the toilet seat and squirts water. It has two settings: one for the anus and one for the vulva. The former is called posterior wash, general use, or family cleaning, and the latter is known as feminine cleaning or 'feminine wash.' (Wow, a toilet that knows that different genders have different genitals! How... sexist!)"
"Apart from the odd low-voltage shaver outlet, that's a taboo in the West. Next thing I noticed was the Star Trek-style electronic control panel with an LED display. All the buttons were in Japanese! Which one flushed it? I pressed a button at random. A jet of warm water hit my anus. Oy vey! I pushed another button. A flushing sound filled the bathroom, but nothing happened in the water below. This was totally surreal. Had I just put a real poo in a 3D virtual toilet? How could I link up the dimensions in such a way that my virtual poo got carried away by a virtual flush, or my real poo by a real flush? I left the bathroom in confusion, my clumsy gaijin turd still floating in the bowl. Only later did I realise that there was a 'real' flush on the tank, and that the 'virtual' flush on the control panel was just a sound effect to cover embarrasing noises. Wikipedia again:

"'Many Japanese women are embarrassed at the thought that someone else can hear them while they are doing their business on the toilet. To cover the sound of bodily functions, many women flushed public toilets continuously while using them, wasting a large amount of water in the process. As education campaigns did not stop this practice, a device was introduced in the 1980s that, after activation, produces the sound of flushing water without the need for actual flushing. One brand name commonly found is the Otohime, which literally means Sound Princess, and is named after the Japanese goddess Otohime, the beautiful daughter of the sea-king Ryujin.'"
"The fact is, it's very difficult, once you've been Japanized, not to want the whole world to Japanize. I can't conceive of my ideal home now without a massage chair, a denki poto (I've got one here in Berlin, but the transformer I need to run it is more expensive than the kettle itself) and a washlet toilet. I can't conceive of my ideal city without picturing love hotels and public baths on every block. Like a man who's been on holiday to 2050, I can't help finding the West a little, well, backward, especially when it comes to the body, hygiene, waste, and sex."

* And marijuana for all. excerpt from Toronto Now piece:

"From my perspective, the marijuana issue is a no-brainer. There are probably more Canadians who smoke pot than play hockey. People have been doing this for more than 10,000 years."
"I believe there are six incontrovertible reasons why we should put the tiresome marijuana debate to rest once and for all by truly giving Canadians the liberty to grow and use the marijuana plant for personal use, whether recreational or medical.

"First, it is a plant. Criminal law should be reserved for serious predatory conduct, and only in the world of science-fiction can a plant become a predator.

"Second, since the 1894 Indian Hemp Commission, virtually every royal commission and governmental committee, internationally and in Canada, has recommended that marijuana use be decriminalized. Some have even called for outright legalization. It is an affront to democracy to continuously spend taxpayers' money on comprehensive and informed reports that are ignored for no apparent reason.

"Third, most of Europe and Australia have decriminalized marijuana use, and the liberalization of the law in these countries has not wreaked social havoc. In fact, consumption rates in decriminalized jurisdictions are significantly lower than in the penal colonies of Canada and the United States.

"Fourth, the use of marijuana poses few societal dangers. It is not a criminogenic substance. For most people, marijuana provides a form of deep relaxation and sensory enhancement, and it does not have the unpredictable, disinhibiting capacity of alcohol. No one is getting mugged by Cheech and Chong, and contrary to the false alarms sounded by public officials, marijuana is not significantly responsible for vehicular carnage.

"A drug can only possess criminogenic potential if it is a disinihibitor like alcohol or if it has addictive potential. There is little evidence that marijuana is addictive, though many chronic users experience a psychological dependency like that of the compulsive jogger who continues a daily exercise regimen despite failing knees.

"Fifth, marijuana is relatively harmless for the user. Admittedly, smoking has some pulmonary risks, but we don't throw junk food makers and their consumer-victims into jail despite the enormous burden these junkies place on the health care system. Criminal law is not the remedy for gastrointestinal distress, nor is it a rational solution to curbing chronic bronchial inflammation. The solemnity and majesty of the criminal law is trivialized when it's used to prevent Canadians from becoming a nation of coughers and wheezers.

"Of course, every month we are bombarded by media reports of some new study linking pot to hemorrhoids or some other health risk. More often than not, the study is reporting inconclusive findings from overdosing rats and monkeys, or is a methodologically flawed experiment commissioned by the state.

"Marijuana activists and users like myself are accused of disregarding mounting evidence of the ravages of marijuana, but we've heard the doom and gloom before. Even though marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the world, there is no epidemiological evidence showing increased morbidity or mortality among the toking population. But their failure to prove that the evils attributed to marijuana are anything more than speculative just compels the state and its scientist handmaidens to use science as a tool for propaganda.

"My final reason for denouncing the use of criminal law to manufacture cannabis criminals is that the majority of Canadians do not support criminalization of pot use. Democracy is an illusion when the state can maintain a criminal prohibition on an activity enjoyed by 3 million Canadians and tolerated by an overwhelming majority."

* "I think one of the great potentialities of poetry is that, while it moves on the surface with image and color and motion and sense, it develops, not an exposition finally, but a disposition . . . what art does, and what explanation can’t do, is that it stops. The poem ends. And at that point, it becomes a construct, a disposition rather than an exposition, and it is silent . . . and indefinable. And this cures us of the fragmentation that words imposed on us from the beginning." - A.R. Ammons


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