Today I ended up debating silly things like, “Should I volunteer, or should I spend a day cleaning my filthy apartment so I can find stuff again?”
On the one side, how can I help others if I haven’t got my own stuff in order? On the other, what does it matter if I feel a little out or order when there are people out there doing much worse? I know the proper answer is to fasten your own oxygen mask before aiding those around you, but it’s not fun to watch the kid beside you asphyxiate, even for those few seconds.
More often than not I end up trying to do both simultaneously, and both of us end up with our oxygen masks on our ears. One day I’ll learn.
In the end, I cleaned out half of my closet and prepared information on the volunteer activities of my company’s teachers for our online magazine. I guess that’s a 50-50 solution—except, of course, I’ve still got half of my closet sitting on my floor.
I’ve been doing volunteer editing for AAR JAPAN, an NGO that has been concentrating on getting small-scale relief to centers for people with disabilities and people in their houses who get missed by the big relief drops. The most recent update was about a 20-tonne tank truck they’ve been using to carry hot spring water to evacuees, which was rather cool.
AAR invited me to go up to Tohoku and help with their soup kitchen over Golden Week, but I’ve really got to start devoting time to my play in May. I finally got around to designing an ad for Metamorphosis that will go in the back of the program (some tinkering still left), and I still have to do an illustration for another ad I promised to help with.
One of my company’s teachers has set up a charity called Teachers For Japan, which aims to aid in rebuilding education in parts of Miyagi Prefecture. He’s been taking advantage of the delayed start of school in the area to go out and volunteer, and his group has got photos on Flickr and a YouTube channel as well. When I spoke to him, he was buying goggles and masks to help him in the cleanup effort. It seems that much of the mud has begun to dry out, and it’s getting into the air. The mud is nasty stuff, as the tsunami essentially dredged up all the oil and garbage from the bottom of the ports and threw it up on land.
This week I learned that another of my company's teachers was actually the layout guy for Quakebook. That is beyond cool. Why didn't I know about that thing when it was being put together? We'll be doing a feature on him as well.
All Hands Volunteers has now set up a two-month volunteer session in Tohoku, and a friend of mine is trying to go up with them even though his visa is about to expire. We Care Japan is also working to coordinate requests for relief with companies and organizations capable of providing aid. A bilingual friend had been doing it the old-fashioned way by calling local relief centers and confirming what they needed, so this should be a nice leg-up.
On Wednesday I gave most of my volunteer gear to a friend who’s joining Peace Boat’s next week-long mission to Ishinomaki. Hopefully my 60L backpack, rubber boots, and pile of canned and dehydrated food will be of use. He’s also bought construction-style air filters, as he's heard rumors of people getting tetanus, though I'm not sure if that's been verified anywhere. It seems that they don't need to bring their own water up any more, though, so that makes packing much easier.
Every time I turn around I see another friend going north. While it's wonderful, I'm feeling a litlte like the only kid left sitting on the bench. If only could drive. I could at least do an independent day-trip.
In the last two weeks, much has settled down in Tokyo. I can now wander into my local 7-11 in the evening to find it mostly stocked, and I’ve been able to buy a liter of water on the way to work most mornings.
Last weekend I stopped moving for a few minutes to watch Sucker Punch, or “Angel Wars” as it’s called here. It was exactly what I expected it to be—a series of excuses to cram multigenre anime and video game influences into a single rock-n-roll experience. Steampunk mecha vs. blimps, biplanes, and zombie German soldiers? Tell me more!
My only complaint would be the principal narrative sub-world. While one of the girls could have seen the asylum as a strip club in order to make it liveable for herself—and it was quite a poignant choice, as it immediately implied what was happening to her there—the perspective should have changed after each “dance” sequence to reveal a different girl’s fantasy world. It doesn't make sense that they'd all have the same viewpoint. Some might have seen it as a drab garden, or as an Alice-in-Wonderland magical world, with Donnie Darko creatures appearing out of the corners, or better, an anime sequence, or even something creepily rotoscoped with charcoal.
Baby Doll going into her dance sequence quickly became a predictable device; but if she had gone into that world from a variety of perspectives, and conversely the dances were the only semi-consistent part, the film would have gone from great pulp entertainment to sublime art. Looking for what metaphor the dance would assume in each different world would become the catch—and then when it finally returned to the real world at the end, the shock of everything crashing down would spin the audience’s heads about 720 degrees.
Ah well. One of these days, I'm sure that million-dollar directors like Zack Snyder will consult me before they complete a movie.