Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Self-Portrait Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Today's Self-Portrait Tuesday is a double feature.
At top, it's July 1997 and I'm in the early stages of the Shikoku 88-temple pilgrimage in Japan. This photo was taken in Komatsujima City in Tokushima Prefecture. By this point, I had visited perhaps a dozen of the temples. I forget exactly how many.
I was on summer break from my junior high school teaching job in Chiba Prefecture, and this was how I spent a chunk of my summer vacation.
I was very eager, if supremely naive. My pack weighed 45 pounds. It was filled with enough impedimenta for an Arctic expedition. I even packed a blow-dryer. And that was one of the more "useful" items.
I was wearing hiking boots with heavy wool socks over thin cotton ones. This was at the suggestion of a self-billed outdoorsman friend of mine who turned out not to have a clue what he was talking about. Over the course of the week or so I was on the road, I never had worse blisters in my life.
At bottom is me in Kochi Prefecture in September 2004, a few days into my continuation of the pilgrimage where I had left off in 1997, at Temple 23.
My pack weighed about 15 pounds.
I wore a single thin pair of socks meant for triathletes. I'm wearing extra-lightweight running shoes. I carried just the bare necessities. I felt like I could walk forever.
I was just a travelin' man ...


retiredtothebeach said...

Great pictures Michael!

you are so lucky to have those experiences and memories.

You left your heart in Japan?

Michael said...

Hi retired_etc.,

Many thanks for your comments, and welcome to my blog!
In a sense, I left my heart in Japan because even during the years that I was living there, I knew it was a magical time likely never to be repeated. It didn't take hindsight for me to reach this realization.
On the other hand, life there, especially in the rural area in which I lived, presented many maddeningly frustrating challenges that I don't miss at all.
I learned just as much about myself as I did about Japan, which I suspect is fairly commonplace among longer-term expat residents.
But the bottom line is that it's a magical place, and will always remain so in my heart and memory.

Chris said...

May your load only get lighter and lighter, michael, as the years pass by.

Michael said...

Thank you, Chris! That's my hope, too.

Beth said...

michael, these are great! live and learn. thanks.

Michael said...

Thanks, Kim!

Phats said...

Wow I am impressed
I consider roughing it only 10 channels on the Hotel TV

Michael said...

Hi Phats,

Yes, things sometimes got pretty rugged on the road.

Lone Wolf said...

Hi Michael- Nice photos. You have some of the most creative original photos I have ever seen.(I'm not just saying that to be nice) Is your practice of photography just personal hobbie or do you also sell them? Photography is one of the "Top 5" on of my to learn list.

I have other questions for you about your career in journalism. What is it like to be a copy editor? I have spoke before about starting school soon to pursue a B.A. in English. My interest compass has been pointing more toward creative writing(I know I have alot to learn)with a career focus in journalism.(rather then education) Your job of correcting grammer and spelling sounds very appealing to me. Do you think it's practical for a 29 year old taking this corse of action, who just started writing again(and loves it)after many year of not writing anything hardly? What do you think it will take for me to be successful? What can I do to prepare and get better aquainted with such a future career? Any advice you could give would be very appreciated. Sorry for being so selfish, as always I hope things are going well for you.

Michael said...

Hi Lone Wolf,

Thanks for your especially kind comments and good wishes. Photography is just a hobby right now, and I do precious little of it. I need to do more.

I can give you some advice on career choices for what it's worth, but just remember that the decision must come from within, and each person's experience is different. I can speak generally on the subject and tell you how I arrived at my choice.

First, it's never too late to change career paths. It gets more difficult as one gets older, but I would hardly call 29 too old to make a change, even a leap.

If you want to go into journalism, I would make sure to become fluent in all the online technologies that are in use now: Web sites, blogging, interactive media and so on.
Newspaper circulations are decreasing across the country. Fewer people are reading newspapers, and this is a trend that is going to continue.
Increasingly, people are getting their information from online sources, and that's why you must know your way around these sources.
There will always be journalists and a need for them, but the way in which they present the news is changing.

If you're serious about journalism and you're about to begin school, I would recommend that you NOT major in journalism or communication, unless you want a very narrow, constricted, incomplete education. In the past, editors have preferred to hire journalists who have a broader liberal arts background in such subjects as history, science, psychology and English, to name just a few. I suspect this is still the case.

In my opinion, if you have a talent for writing or the potential for such talent, a journalism or communication degree isn't going to make a bit of difference because the foundation is already there. And, to be blunt, if you lack such inherent talent or potential, then a degree isn't going to turn you into a Hemingway no matter how hard you dream, and no matter how much of a line of bullshit the professors in the journalism department feed you.

I was a history major who initially wanted to become a teacher. It was only when I entered grad school that I learned how many of my undergraduate courses would need to be repeated, because the grad school thought it had a monopoly on knowledge and refused to recognize some of the courses I took as an undergrad.
This expensive and time-wasting hurdle was completely my fault, because I failed to do the research that would have anticipated the roadblock.

So, I took one of those goofy career aptitude tests, and "writer" and "journalist" figured high on its list of possible career paths. So did "policeman" and a couple of other off-the-wall suggestions. So much for career aptitude tests.
But I always enjoyed writing, so I gave it a go and switched to the schools master's program in journalism. And here I am.

You seem to be torn over whether to become a writer/reporter or editor. To be a good editor, you need to have a firm foundation in writing. And a good editor usually finds that his writing improves dramatically.

My first "real" journalism job was right after grad school, as a sportswriter for a small daily newspaper. In two weeks there, I learned more than in two years of grad school. I later wrote for magazines and as a freelancer.

I became a copy editor partly out of laziness. I like to write about things that interest me. I don't like having my writing assigned to me, and those assignments are usually on topics I find as interesting as watching a nail rust.

But, because of my job as a copy editor, I've sharpened my writing skills and have become much, much better at expressing myself through the written word.
So, you see, it's really a circle: You can't be a good editor without the writing skills, and being an editor helps you hone those skills.
The fact that some writing experience usually is required before becoming an editor really decides the issue for you.

You ask what you need to be successful. I would say desire, commitment and flexibility.

You also have to write incessantly -- in a blog, in a pen-and-paper journal, on the bathroom walls, whatever. Just write. And don't stop. You must pay attention to grammar and spelling, although these aren't as important as you may think. If you have great ideas and a good imagination and can set down your thoughts coherently -- which you can do, based on what I've read -- then you can work on the mechanics later. Good reporters are not always the best writers, and good writers sometimes make lousy reporters.

Learn to organize your thoughts more efficiently. If you have an old-fashioned typewriter, use it to write letters to your friends or to yourself. Failing that, try writing old-fashioned letters on paper. The point is, try to wean yourself of the convenience of Microsoft Word's cut-and-paste function. This is something I need to do more of.

Well, that's enough out of me. I hope this helps.

anu said...

Wow Michael, such amazing pictures.

45 pounds sounds a lot.

Do you think you can carry me? I am 5" and weigh 45 kilos :))

Mike Cross said...

A corpse, I sit in lotus;
Why I do not know.

With mind, I aim in lotus:
Unlock the head and grow.

But both of these approaches
Are relatively low.

I bow to you o-henro-san,
For letting baggage go.

Michael said...

Hi Anu,
I think you would enjoy this pilgrimage. I need to go back soon to finish it.

My Dear Mike,
Thank you, but if only I were without baggage. Though I may not always have it on my back, I'm dragging it behind me. As my late aunt used to say, we always pack our troubles in that last suitcase.
Someday soon, I hope to shed backpack and suitcase altogether.

g said...

Michael whatever did you mean by that slam against Microsoft cut and paste.

Michael said...


You're reading far more into what I write than I ever intended.
Where I describe a hole in a stairwell wall caused by my haste and carelessness in moving a futon, and even illustrate it with a photo, you demand to know what's at the other end of that hole.
My answer is, who cares?
Where I give advice on writing to someone who requested it, and suggest that he perhaps can hone his organizational skills by laying off the cut-and-paste, you see it as a "slam" against Microsoft.
I think what I write is clear enough to remove ambiguity.
So, what's really bugging you?

Lone Wolf said...

Michael, thank you very much for taking the time to respond to my questions in such length and complete honesty. Your answers put alot of my scattered ideas into a much better perspective.

Your advice on majoring in jouralism or communications (being "a very narrow, constricted, incomplete education") is well understood. I want to major in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. In college, I plan to get involved with the campus newspaper to experience different apects of the job such as writing/reporting and editing. Editing at this time sounds more appealing to me. What you said about the infuluence that writing and editing have on each other was an enlightening gem of information. I know my livelihood is important, but the real reason for stepping on this path is to find my voice and better express myself through writing. Only time will tell if I have the talent to write books, poetry, articles, etc for publication. Whether the writing skills I hone are comparable to Hemmingway or not, I want to make writing a large part of my life. I understand if I do want to be a great writer, or even a good writer, that I must constantly practice as well as read alot.

Once again, thank you Michael. Your well expressed words are very helpful to me.

martie said...

Michael, I’ve recently discovered your site and enjoy your writing and your pictures. I also consider myself a wanderer. Currently living in Okinawa, I've lived in mainland Japan, New Zealand, Germany, the UK, Guam and a few states. Japan also holds a special place in my life. In two weeks my youngest daughter and I will spend a week exploring Tokyo and the shrines there, a day to Kamakura and who knows what else.

Michael said...

Hello Martie,

Many thanks for stopping by my blog!
Are you stationed on Okinawa with the military? (Hope you don't mind my asking.)
I'd love to visit Okinawa someday to see the ancestral home of the style of karate I study, and to pay my respects at the grave of its founder. I understand there are still vestiges of traditional Ryukyu culture to be see there, too.
Have fun in Tokyo and Kamakura!

Hello Lone Wolf,
Please, it was my pleasure to answer your questions.
Remember, though, that what I wrote is my opinion only. You should seek out as much advice as possible to help you with your decision -- unless your heart already knows the course you should take.

Jules said...

Nice pix, Michael. It was enjoyable to read your post to Lone Wolf, too (Hi, LW!).
Have you started planning your return to Japan?

Michael said...

Hiya Jules,
Always great to hear from you!
I don't think I'll be going to Japan this year. At least I haven't made plans to do so.
For my vacation this year, I was thinking of walking out my front door and seeing how far I could go in two, perhaps three weeks.

Jules said...

Sounds like fun! I'd love to do something like that on a bicycle -- in the summer. It's still a little chilly for my taste. It would be fun to stick to back roads and trails, and get a new look at the countryside. My mental picture of southern Washington barely extends beyond the I-5 corridor, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. St. Helens.

martie said...

For the first 34 years of my life I was an AF dependent (daughter then wife). I am a career civil servant, and for the past 19 years have been lucky enough to find jobs mostly overseas. I love living in different countries. And yes, you are correct; there are still remnants of the Ryukyu Kingdom. I was surprised to discover how much influence China has had on the island – although in view of the history of the Kingdom I don’t know why I was surprised. Its lovely living here and the people are wonderful. I hope you can visit one day – there are still a handful of old masters teaching karate here. I’m not up on the various flavors, but for those folk who practice the art they all love studying here.

Michael said...

Hi Jules,
From what little I've seen of Washington State, such a ride would be beautiful, I'm sure.

Hi Martie,
That sounds like an excellent lifestyle that you've created for yourself. I'd love to be able to move around and see the world.
I'm sure it has its drawbacks, as does anything. But I guess you can choose when to get off the carousel once the ride no longer is enjoyable.
I've read a little about the pre-Japanese Ryukyu kingdom and its sociopolitical ties with China. As you noticed, the people had far more in common with China in just about every respect than they did with Japan.
The irony is that Okinawa, which has always been treated like a stepchild by the Japanese during their several-hundred-year relationship, is now regarded as chic by the mainland. The music and cuisine have really come into their own -- as if they weren't fantastic all along.
I hear that among older Okinawans, and among many younger ones, it's an insult to call them Japanese. They take great pride in their Ryukyu heritage, I'm told, and justifiably so.

g said...

Hi Michael,

I really enjoy visiting your site so I thought I would take some time with your response/question.

You do write very clearly. You described the hole in the stairway wall the size of a cafeteria tray, and gave us a picture, and the first thing I noticed is that this is one huge hole, and very black.

I commented:

Well, there's a hole in the stairwell wall, but where does it go to? I mean a wall has two sides. When you put a hole in it, you should see through to the other side, right?

I guess I didn't frame this very well. I certainly didn't see this as a demand. More like a koan. I mean a wall is meant to separate or define two spaces, and here you mashed a hole in one, and there's nothing but darkness on the other side. Maybe you didn't see the humor in it, as you were thinking about the repairs.

On the second one, I honestly didn't know what you meant. Maybe the word slam was the wrong word to use. I still don't see what is wrong with cutting and pasting to move your words around as you edit.

Michael said...

Hi g,

Thanks for your explanation. I'm glad you take the time to visit my blog.
Yes, I misinterpreted both your comments.
Without being able to see a person's body language, hear their tone of voice, look into their eyes or "feel their vibe," it's very easy to misinterpret such phrases as "Whatever did you mean by ... " and such words as "slam," which have very specific connotations for me.
As for cutting and pasting to self-edit, there is indeed nothing wrong with that.
However, I find that refraining from doing so, especially with creative writing, is a good way to develop organizational skills. It helps me to become more circumspect and careful about the words I choose and how I use them.
It's the way people wrote for millenia before the advent of word processing.
I never, never said there is anything wrong with cutting and pasting.
It was my advice to a person who asked for it.
You needn't agree with it. He needn't agree with it, either.
As for the hole in the wall, I'm sorry if I took your question in a way you didn't intend. Again, this gets back to some of the limitations of the written word. I've taken out of context things people have written, just as some of my words have been given meanings I didn't intend.
It happens, which is why it's nice to be able to clear the air.