de(com)pression

Travel. What a fucking drag.

We arrived in Holland, greeted by blue skies, and a three hour wait for a 30 minute flight over the North Sea. Thirty minutes of flying put us under a grey sky and drizzle. Nothing says welcome back to England like 3 degrees, and a light rain!

Fortunately the next week was big, dark blue, Norfolk skies. And despite us both having colds that we haven’t managed to shake until arriving in London, we got out everyday and walked for hours on the coast, through derelict churches, and in the woods. How many people get to go to england on holiday and come back with a suntan?

It would appear that i’d got pretty rundown getting psyched up to come over here. It has taken over a week to get some feeling of calm. Coming to London generally doesn’t do my mood much good, but this time, despite sporting a raging-hate-on as the train pulled into Liverpool St., i’ve woken up feeling remarkably calm and clear headed.

[Walking around near Golbourne Rd. yesterday taking photographs, a girl came out of a shop to tell me that i couldn’t take pictures. Having lowered the camera to make sure that i heard her correctly, i gave a laugh, and took her picture. Was very proud of myself for just laughing and walking off… but WTF?!]

Lacking any commitments, other than a drink with old friends, i’m planning to wander around museums, holding hands, and regularly reminding myself that this is a holiday. This is a holiday. This is a holiday.

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On getting by. On getting out.

There are a bunch of things that i’ve wanted to write down, but events are conspiring to sap me of all clarity of thought. The only way forward is to try and blurt it all out!

On getting by.

Several recent conversations have led me to conclude that in the current environment the best that a foreigner in Japan can hope to do is ‘get by’. There are opportunities for people, but everything looks like a dead-end, a cul de sac, one might say. The prospect of working in Japanese environment, where promotion is based on tenure, where connections are everything, where creativity can be a liability, just really doesn’t appeal. As a cultural experiment it has some charms, but they wear pretty thin when thoughts turn to the future. If i was reliant on a job at a japanese company, it would have to be in a truly remarkable environment to keep me here…

[Last week, in a drunken haze, i nearly got into a fight with an english teacher. Nobody seemed to want to tell me what i said that was so offensive, but given the lubrication, it was likely not particularly charming. The job of ‘english teacher in japan’ is the one that i most closely associate with the malaise described above. What exactly is the career path for an english teacher on a temporary contract? I’m not sure what the answer is to that question. The implication isn’t that teaching isn’t a meaningful profession, just that with japanese turning increasingly inwards, where exactly is it going?]

And there’s the rub, without that pressure, i’m still pretty happy here. That may well be that M and i are pretty happy to live / play in our bubble. Society is, of course, always out there, but we’re as isolated / insulated as we need to be.

On getting out.

Several of my friends have wandered off, out of the sunset that is japanese society. And, as much as i’d like to churlishly sulk about it, i can almost always see their points of view. None of them have been the type to whine, and no one would say they haven’t attempted to make the best of it. They’ve got stuck in, learned the language, hustled for work, given a mile, taken an inch… but in the end there just isn’t enough to keep people here once the novelty of newness wears off.

Maybe it’s just that wanderers wander… although that feels like a trite answer to a much deeper question. What is there to keep people here, if they can never really become integrated into society?

The above is full of generalities. There are of course counter-examples, people who have happily integrated themselves into companies / society. Perhaps they are the role models, and, despite protestations to the contrary, my expectations of how a company / society should deal with outsiders in it’s midsts are not suitable for japan. I’m not really cut out to blend in, to conform, do as expected. I’m watching (sniping?) from the borders of society, not prepared reshape myself to fit the mold. How could i possibly judge those who don’t have the easy out of hunkering down in the suburbs?

Tri-X in Rodinal

The death of Presto has moved my good friend, and mentor, Thomas, onto Tri-X. I was earnestly trying to convince him that if he wanted interesting grain, he should have a go at developing it in Rodinal. It’s something of a struggle to explain the differences, and no doubt, almost entirely subjective.

The easiest thing is an example, so here is an extreme case:

(click to see it a little larger)

Tri-X in Rodinal @ 20ºC for 13mins. Gentle agitation for the first 30s, and for 5s every minute. Taken using a 6×9 back on a 4×5 Pacemaker Speed Graphic, and an 8″ Dallmeyer-Pentac f/2.9 lens.