Japan 3.11

I’m sure that any educated reader of my blog knows that every seven years the human body completely regenerates. From your eyes to your bones, every seven years a completely new you is created from within.

That means every 7 years there's another Kate Beckinsale???

As individuals, we humans are little different from our cells. We group together to build families, societies, and countries. None last forever, but most are not so weak than any little thing will end the line indefinitely.

I’ve seen some tragedy, more than some, much less that so many others. I’ve buried a brother, tagged along to AA meetings with my father, watched the Twin Towers collapse while praying none of my family was in that vicinity, and cleaned away the wreckage of modern civilization left by more than one hurricane.

Katrina was a bitch.

But last year I saw my first tsunami as it raked the north-eastern shores of Japan. People, cars, homes, schools, and entire towns were leveled, crushed, and swept away in mere moments. The survivors watched powerlessly as their homes and neighbors were swallowed whole by the rising black water.

Humanity, like humans, is perhaps more resilient than it should be. Our lives are not calm predictable things. Lots of things change the current of our personal evolution. Loss of a job, substance abuse, crime, accidents, stock markets, tsunamis… catastrophic events might always be just around the corner. And when they come sometimes we survive. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we don’t even have an option. Yet for those that do we have that magical and almost spiritually pure thing that repentant villains in family films covet… a second chance.

There's not much that's more valuable than a 2nd chance.

The human body regenerates after seven years they say. I say, that’s nothing compared with the human spirit.

Thank you for thinking of Japan ~Matt

Moses, Jonah, Elijah… Glenn Beck?

God needs better PR...

I’m a big fan of Glenn Beck. Who isn’t? I mean I loved Fraggle Rock and the Muppets and when I watch Beck it’s like listening to a muppet, there’s just a lot of funny noises modeled after human speech while a puppet that looks vaguely hominoid flails about on screen.

Looking back now, maybe I shouldn’t have done so much meth in preschool…

Beck’s take on the Japan quake is that it could be, maybe possibly, (he’s not saying for certain, but probably yeah), that the quake and tsunami that struck Japan was God’s version of a Facebook poke. Now it’s getting blown way out of proportion by the left media stream. You have to pay attention to Beck’s carefully worded preface:

“I’m not saying God is, you know, causing earthquakes… I’m not not saying that either.”

Yes, he sounds like a nervous virgin apologizing to his date while his jeans are still zipped and buttoned… “I’m not saying I’m gonna rock your world… I’m not not saying that either…but probably not…” But the man has covered his own ass. Beck is actually pretty smart. He makes audacious statements, presents out of context historical analogies, and spits out enough conspiracy theories to fill the next three installments of the National Treasure franchise. But with all his crazy he serves a side of ambiguous tentativeness. He even tells his viewers to do their own fact checking, knowing that the only ones who would bother checking his facts are the people who didn’t agree with him in the first place.

Beck goes on to explain God’s intent, which I imagine is a lot like trying to explain what exactly a Facebook poke means. I don’t know why, but somehow I feel like it’s inappropriate at times…

The Social Network‘s greatest failure was the one question left unanswered. WTF is a poke?

Glenn Beck:

“There’s a message being sent. And that is, ‘Hey, you know that stuff we’re doing? Not really working out real well. Maybe we should stop doing some of it.’ I’m just saying.”

The man is eloquent I’ll give you that. He reminds me of a male Lauren Caitlin Upton, in his vagueness and ability to make Mario Lopez look like the next inductee to the MacArthur Fellowship Program.

In Lauren’s defense… she looks like this.

My father was a bit of scholar. He imparted little philosophical gems with me from time to time:

  • If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything just to say something.
  • Speak only to improve upon silence.
  • Silence is golden.
  • For the love of god stop singing tracks from Newsies and throwing my paper around. Where the hell is the [flipping] sports section?

A lot of my dad’s wisdom was about noise pollution…

Talking about noise pollution, Glenn Beck makes a decent living by just opening his mouth on a regular basis and it’s amazing to me how popular a muppet with Nazi Tourettes is. I had a similar idea back in high school for a Muppets spin off based in a concentration camp with a baby Hitler muppet as the chief warden with a lisp and Miss Piggy as his sadomastic 2nd in command. Production was blocked on all fronts for me though, legally by Disney and PETA, and physically when the one orthodox Jewish student at my school, David Feldman, burned my only script and stole my girlfriend for revenge.

Unluckily for David she’s a republican, and crazy…

My beef is that if and when massive tornadoes strike the midwest, then God’s message isn’t questioned. When flash floods swept across Australia there was no mention of “stuff” that had pissed God off. When Christchurch got hit by a 6.3 magnitude quake Beck and Fox treated it like a natural disaster.

And even if God is using earthquakes now as his special little im’s to mankind, what kind of sad existence is there to be had by standing around and saying, “Told ya so!” to people who have lost friends, families, and homes?

It may make you feel good, but you go up a few levels of douche…

If God is sending messages, someone needs to give him an iphone or something. If he wants to cause massive wanton acts of destruction, then that’s his prerogative. He is God and he does have a history of it. But if it really is God sending us messages about stuff that’s not really working out, then why doesn’t he send us an actual message? I mean, back in the Old Testament he sent Jonah to Nineva and Moses went to Pharaoh a bunch of times with God’s message. Yeah, Pharaoh was a fool. How skeptical do you have to be if water turning to blood and fire raining from the sky can’t convince you to stop messing with the Jews? Moses was basically Gandalf on Red Bull, terrifying. God even sent 3 messengers to Sodom & Gomorrah who went trough the trouble of rescuing Lot, not moments after Lot had just offered his daughters virginity to placate an angry mob.

He offered his daughters to be gang raped; so the mob wouldn’t hurt his guests who were visiting the city to see if it need to be destroyed by fire and brimstone. The bible is frigging awesome sometimes.

If God’s gonna be moving continents and shaking things up, (blame my father for my horrible puns), then the least he could do is drop us an email, a letter, hire a sky writer plane, or just send some of those messengers. But all we get is Glenn Beck who tells us, Stuff isn’t going well. Maybe. Probably. But maybe not. Or not not…

New Math

Don’t be wasteful.

  • 12 rolls of toilet paper is enough for 1000 trips to the bathroom.
  • 10L (2.6gal) of gasoline is enough to transport 4 injured people.
  • 1 loaf of bread is a meal for 1 family.
  • 1 small can of gas cooks enough rice for 10 people.
  • 5kg (11lbs) of rice feeds 120 people.
  • 1 battery powers a radio for 100 people to use.

I’m sure more than 100 people might be able to use the radio, but you get the point.  Re-evaluate how you use supplies from dog food and AAA batteries to the miles you drive and the food you throw away.

There are some amazing stories that are coming out.  Like the baby that was torn from her father’s arms by the tsunami, but was later found alive and reunited with her parents.  A man was rescued on top of a floating roof miles away from shore.  But the stories of joy and happiness only breaks up the sobering reality that thousands of bodies are being found floating along the coast, people are starving, Japan is combating a nuclear disaster.

But we’re helping.  We’re working together to support the people who need to be supported.  Life here in Fukuoka is seemingly business as usual for me.  I go to work, I eat, I sleep.  Someday life in the Tohoku region will go back to normal as well.  But not for a very long time.

Help if you can and if you have already thanks.

Now We Help

There’s not much left to be said that hasn’t been said or thought already. Even as I write this the ground from Tohoku to Tokyo still trembles with aftershocks and the tsunami swept land is still wet with salt water. The ramifications of the largest earthquake to ever strike Japan will reverberate through this island nation for many years to come.

Events like this strip away everything. Politics, religion, class, nationality, and ethnicity, it’s all gone and we stand looking at each other’s naked humanity and suddenly things that seemed complicated are simple, things that were muddled become clear, and we take stock of the binding reality that ties us all together on this shared journey we all make.

I watched the Twin Towers fall not knowing if my cousins had made it home from work that day. I stood on the Mississippi beach after Katrina, amidst the wreckage that the onslaught of wind and water had left behind. There’s a feeling of helplessness, grief, and anger. But more than that, there’s a deep burning desire to do something, anything, to help ease the burden off the shoulders of those who have lost the most.

This is a beautiful thing about the human condition. We may fight fight fight and argue about stupid shit like trickle down market strategies, which side to butter our toast, and fashion. But as this resounding shock hits us all we stop the bickering for a moment, shut up, and listen. Listen to the cries for help, to the strangeness of this eerie silence, and to the voice deep inside us all.

People are dead. People are hurt. People need help. We can sit idly by watching Youtube videos of cars being tossed about like toys or we can roll up our sleeves and pitch in. No matter the gesture, no matter how small, believe that it will be appreciated. We’ve compiled here multiple ways that we all can help even a little. Stand up and be counted along your brothers and sisters, your flesh and blood.

Thank you.

A 4 month old baby girl was ripped from her father’s arms by the water, only to be found days later and reunited with her parents. Thank you world.

Fukuoka Now Lifeline: a new site I’ve helped produce with resources and information for donating, volunteering, and local fundraiser events.

After the Quake and Rising Sea

now comes the hard part

It’s now Sunday…the day after tomorrow.  I never really liked those disaster movies because they seemed like bad karma to me.  Some people were comparing this disaster to the terrorist attacks on September 11th and saying Japan is lucky the death toll at the time was only 1700. To the people trying to strike up comparisons stop…  There’s nothing to be gained.  It’s all terrible.

A girl in quarantine because of the radiation leak.

I remember 9-11 well.  I wrote an article that day that became a chain letter, it was pretty angry and a little uplifting.  I wanted to hurt the people that had hurt America and I wanted to stand up and be counted along with firemen and policemen as a human, as a hero.  I was just an angry and scared 17 year old.

Who do we get angry at now?  Nature?  What can we do?  Flip off a dolphin?  Pour motor oil down a storm drain?  Punt chinchilla?  Go buy an H3?  We’re already doing all those things, but we know that this isn’t nature getting back at us.  This is just the earth doing what comes natural.  I’m sure someone somewhere will find someone or something to be angry with.  The Westboro Church will probably blame gay soldiers and thank their “god” for dead Asian babies.  Scan the comments on Youtube and you’ll still see plenty of hate.  And that is yet another tragedy upon a time of tragedies.

A man looks at what’s left of his home in Soma-shi, Fukushima-ken.

I spent my 21st birthday on the Mississippi coast cleaning up after Hurricane Katrina.  I went there to see with my own eyes true human suffering.  But I got there too late.  It was April, months after the storm had passed.  The people were suffering, but they were spirited and encouraging.  They smiled.  The world around them consisted of toppled buildings, large shards of wood and metal, and dead sea creatures miles away from the ocean.  But they were living, they were more alive than I was most of the time I was in school, they were rebuilding, replacing, while still remembering.  I didn’t come away with what I was looking for there, but I did come away with more than I could handle.  And my Katrina experience still replays through my head from time to time as I try to wrap my head around the conflicting concept of the human condition.

Earthquake, fire, and tsunami all on top of each other.

There are cities gone.  Not just gone, but completely missing.  The only things left are the foundations laid out on the ground like they were stenciled from Google Maps.  And the occupants of those cities are largely missing.  In one city of 17,000 there are 10,000 people whose fates remain unknown.  Some seven thousand made it to safety, but the roads are now gone and the only thing we’ve seen of the city are videos of vast stretches of wreckage shot by helicopters surveying the damage.

Some places got hit by the quake, that then started fires, and then washed away by 10meters of ocean.

What do you say at a time like this?  “We’ll survive”?  Well, some will, some haven’t, some won’t.  What encouraging words can you find for people whose homes and families are gone, claimed by the earth being the earth?  “God works all things for good?”  It’s hard to see much.  There’s an outpouring of sympathy and aid that’s coming from all corners of the world.  What Japan needs right now is money.  Rescue cues and foreign volunteers are hindered by their inability to communicate efficiently, and right now Japan is just asking for financial support to pay for the relief, rescue, and repair of their home.

If you are able please help.

Google Crisis Response Resource

Or donate through your local Japanese government offices.

Still Shaking

The day after tomorrow is still tomorrow, but today Japan is still being rattled by aftershocks and tsunamis are still sweeping inland bringing boats and sea animals and moving buildings, cars, and bridges.


I’ve seen a lot of stuff that isn’t too far from where I live.

There’s a merchant vessel kilometers away from the ocean that’s resting in the middle of a forest.

There are entire buildings floating away.

Giant whirlpools are sucking down ships.

Great fires are burning a long the coast.

A baseball field by an estuary is filled with bits of wood that used to be buildings.

Railroad tracks are hanging off the sides of mountains.

Roads are cracked.

Bridges have fallen apart.

Cars have been crushed and mangled.

Towns are under water.

Stranded people are writing, “HELP” on the rooftops.


A woman was at work when the quakes began.  She managed to make it back home, but there’s nothing there.  Her house is gone.  Her neighbors’ houses are gone.  Actually, the entire small town she lived in is gone.  The only evidence that humans lived there are the bits of buildings and outlines of foundations still visible from the air.    In a matter of moments it was wiped off the map.


A nuclear reactor is leaking.


My friends for the most part are alright.  We’ve lost touch with one who was in Ibaraki.  There were bad tsunamis there.  I’m still worried.


One of my friends lost co workers.


One of my friends walked 14 miles to get home because the trains are down.


What terrible destructive power.





Now that I think about it, Japan is basically a nation of people who decided to colonize a bunch of volcanoes.  A big one just hit in Miyagi, about an 8.0 magnitude.  There are now tsunamis too.

There’s literally nothing good that can come from an earthquake.  At least tsunamis can put out the fires of Isengard before Saruman can join forces with Sauran.  Well, I guess earthquakes could make a tsunami that could keep two evil armies of orcs and uruk hai from ever meeting up and taking over Middle Earth…

a cross between Wolverine and Jason?

Japanese people are kind of used to these massive shiftings of the earth.  It of course surprises them, but they’ve built their cities to withstand this sort of thing.  Practice makes perfect and unless there’s a big change in geological science Japan is gonna keep getting hit, regularly…

Timing really sucks too, not that I think there’s a good time for an earthquake, but this is graduation time, so today, Friday, there are lots of schools with packed gymnasiums full of students, teachers, and parents…

For everyone that was hit by this quake stay safe!  I hope you’re all alright!  This means you, Josh, Sat, Yuko, J, Cliff, Hiroaki, Reiko, Allan, Kana, Waka, Chi, and everyone else.