About Me

I'm Phil! American living in Japan. Teacher. Ex-independent professional wrestler. Student of Japanese. Traveler. Article writer for Mythic Scribes. Also written four manga, novels, and various short stories and poems. For my fantasy-related blog, check out http://www.philipoverbyfantasy.blogspot.jp/.


Drill Bits: random thoughts, bloggy stuff
Japan Hammer: topics about Japan
Story Time: stories I felt like posting

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Story Time: Quetzalcoatl's Apartment

This is for the terribleminds.com Flash Fiction Challenge: Choose Your Own Setting.

The feathered serpent sat in his recliner as the end of the world came, just as the Mayans had predicted. His penthouse apartment was covered in sacrificial blood, hand sanitizer, and bones of mice. The sun shot a narrow beam through the window into Quetzalcoatl's eye just as a crazed man kicked in his door. A vision of leather and spindly limbs.

"I must save the world!" The stranger screamed as he threw off his sunglasses.

Quetzalcoatl squirmed in a pile of used tissues, feathers, and TV Guides. "Just sit here with me and watch it end."

The window cracked. The frame groaned. An unseen hand slowly crushed the apartment under its weight.

"The world can't end this way! It's supposed to be a meteor, dammit!" The stranger held up a copy of some book. Presumably one he wrote. It's Supposed to be a Meteor by Rick Robbins.

The apartment throbbed. The feathered serpent jerked his head back and forth creating a whirlwind of refuse. A laptop computer, coffee cans, and a refrigerator door gave the mini-tornado a bit more heft. Robbins covered his face, but the twister buffeted him back out of the doorway.

A blender struck Quetzalcoatl's head. Shattering into a million pieces. Then a swordfish came harpooning down from above his fireplace, almost piercing right through his face. "What the fu--?"

Robbins appeared back in doorway. "I'm a psychic asshole! You're costing me tons of money!" Putting two fingers to the side of his temple, he blasted a mind wave of invisible energy at the feathered serpent, flipping him over into a bundle of tangled tail and wings.

Quetzalcoatl hissed. He uncoiled, lashing out at Robbins with incredible speed. But he only crunched against a psychic wall of force in front of him. A ripple of dull pain surged down the length of his body. His tail went limp and he sagged to the floor.

"Change it! Stupid Mayan prophecy! This is wrong, wrong, wrong." Robbins prepared another mind blast, but Quetzalcoatl unhinged his jaw and clamped it down on one of the psychic's heavy boots.

The apartment shifted. Glass broke somewhere. A table collapsed. Posters peeled off the walls.

Robbins dragged Quetzalcoatl across the floor. The fangs were deep though. The psychic frantically looked for stuff to mind-hurl at the serpent. A painted vase spiraled from the top of a bookcase, crashing against Quetzalcoatl's coiling form. Nothing. Knives were flung from black marble holder. They cut, but not deep enough. A velvet love seat battered the serpent violently, causing him to gasp but not to release his death grip.

The apartment began to revolt. A wall stud shot out and pinged Robbins in the eyeball. The ceiling fan whirled out of its socket and thwapped him in the side of the head. A fluorescent light tube exploded into his mouth. As he reeled, a wooden beam swung down like a pendulum and uppercutted him into the ceiling. Even with the psychic's head stuck, Quetzalcoatl still hung onto his foot like a tacky key chain.

Then they both fell in a heap. They lie there as the sun seared their skin, gravity slowly collapsing the apartment around them. The sound of dying brick and wood. An inhuman groan.

"Maybe a meteor will still come. You know, afterwards." Quetzalcoatl wrapped around Robbins's abdomen, feeling his ribs crack. "Just relax now."

The psychic doom-sayer screamed silently as the air left his lungs. As the apartment's shadow became smaller. As the sun's heat became hotter.

"But-" Robbins's veins in his face throbbed. He sputtered and placed his fingers gently against the serpent's rainbow-colored scales.

"That's it. Just let it end."

The Mayans were right. About the end. About him. A breeze slid through the broken window, and a heaviness left the room. Quetzalcoatl breathed it all in. And the apartment breathed with him, its last breath as it finally imploded into a folding darkness.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Japan Hammer: Top 5 Ways to Learn Japanese

Thought I would blog a bit about a popular subject: how to learn Japanese. Being a high-level beginner of sorts, I could suggest techniques that have helped me learn Japanese while living in Japan. These are also suggestions that other people have given me or ways that even Japanese have told me help. While these methods may not work for everyone, they worked for me so far.

1. Buy some flashcards

To learn hiragana, katakana, and kanji there is no better way than using flash cards in my opinion. White Rabbit has a good series you can find on Amazon or elsewhere. Use the flash cards daily to keep yourself on the up and up and also write down what you learn in a notebook of sorts. I learned most of the kana (hiragana and katakana) within about a month of studying them everyday.

There are also tons of websites to get flash cards online. I won't list them here as you can find all that pretty easily with a search.

2. Make Japanese friends

I'm not listing these in order, but making Japanese friends would probably be number 1 in my book. In my case, my wife is Japanese so it makes learning certain words and phrases a lot easier for me. However, be careful when learning from people. If you're a man, try not to learn too much Japanese from women because then you'll sound like a woman. Vice versa for women.

This has been one of the top ways friends have said that they've learned tons of Japanese in shorter amounts of time. Plus, it's a good way to learn slang and phrases you won't learn from textbooks. There are resources and such for slang online, but finding a good book couldn't hurt either. I have a book called Dirty Japanese which is helpful for certain things, but I wouldn't recommend using it unless amongst friends you're comfortable with.

3. Buy a good text book

A lot of people say "Japanese for Busy People" and "Genki" are both nice books to use. I personally haven't used either one. I have several books myself, but I can't think of any that have been really mind blowing or that I can recommend. The guy who runs YesJapan.com has a series called Japanese From Zero which I would recommend without even reading it, because his info and videos on his website is excellent in my opinion.

4. Study everyday in some capacity and immerse yourself whenever possible

Watch Japanese shows. Read Japanese books. Talk with Japanese people. And study. At least for 30 minutes to an hour everyday. I fall in and out of my study habits and have had mixed results with my improvement. I don't speak to my wife in Japanese often (not as much as I should) but I do pick up things by constantly going to restaurants, stores, and being around Japanese people at almost all times.

If you can get the ratio of Native Language: Japanese to 50:50 or even higher in the Japanese range, you will see a noticeable improvement in a quick amount of time.

5. Don't give up

Seems simple enough. Just be consistent and steady with your studies and you'll get better over time. A good solution for doing anything.

And below, here are some resources and such I use:

www.livemocha.com (good for language exchange and learning)

www.textfugu.com (good resource for everything)

Youtube videos where they speak Japanese (I like Japanese for Morons channel)

Tae Kim's Japanese Grammer guide (www.guidetojapanese.org)

White Rabbit flash cards

Minna no Nihongo text book

Other books people have recommended: Japanese From Zero, Genki Japanese, Japanese for Busy People, Barron's Japanese Grammar/Barron's Japanese Vocabulary)

Other text recommendations here: http://thejapanesepage.com/w/index.php?title=Selecting_a_Japanese_Textbook

Friday, March 9, 2012

Final Fantasy Memories: West Meets East

This isn't an actual blog, but a link to an article I wrote about blending Western and J-RPG elements together to get a new type of Final Fantasy game. Check it out at Mythic Scribes and give me some feedback. Thanks!

Check it out here!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Japan Hammer: Top 10 Myths About Japan Broken

Here's a picture of the "deadly kirin" that rampages about and destroys Tokyo! Uh, yeah...

So I always see all these videos and blogs about how Japan REALLY is. People have lived here for a bit and maybe that have a bad taste in their mouth. Or people haven't lived here and long to live in the land of rainbows and gumdrops. Well, this blog is going to shatter some illusions and conceptions about Japan. I've lived here for about three years now. I'm by no means an expert about Japan, but my wife is Japanese and I do live here, so I have some perspective on the matter.

Without further ado, I'm going to address the Top 10 myths about Japan and smash them into tiny little micro-myths. Japan Hammer, SMASH!http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

10. Are Japanese people racist?

You see tons of videos of this on Youtube and blogs that discuss it. You can type in RACISM IN JAPAN on Youtube right now and about twenty videos on the subject will pop up.

"Someone called me 'gaijin' in a mean way and now I'm going to pout about it and cry." So what? People get called far worse things everyday.

I don't believe in this idea that Japanese people are racist. I think they're "guarded" which makes sense considering 99 percent of the population is Japanese. Plus, a lot of their guardedness is warranted. Foreigners do have a bad reputation for running on bills, getting too drunk, picking fights, and being generally noisy. Not to say ALL foreigners act this way, but the conception has spread enough that some Japanese are guarded in regards to any foreigner. Does that mean they're racist? Maybe some of them are. But I don't believe in this idea that "OMG Japanese people are so racist!!!"

9. Is Japan like one big anime/manga/video game paradise?

Wrong. With the exception of big cities like Tokyo or Osaka, most of the quirkiness of Japan is widely over-exaggerated. Most places you go are just regular, modern cities with regular people going to work. Rural places have regular farmers. Some people may not even know any anime that you mention to them.

Sure, certain parts of Japan are a bit bizarre, but overall this is a pretty average country as far as people go.

8. Is Japan dangerous because of radiation and earthquakes?

Well, I'm not going to completely "break" this myth. The radiation crisis here is still largely unknown and there is no way of knowing the long-term effects. However, authorities and independent researchers have kept track of radiation in various parts and it has returned to normal mostly. There may be pockets, but nothing that's going to kill you if you step in it.

On the other hand, earthquakes are very prevalent here. Luckily, most modern buildings are built with incredible foundations. Even if a large earthquake hits, you'll more than likely be fine if you're in a newer building. My rule is "watch the Japanese." If they are panicking, then I panic.

7. Does no one speak English in Japan?

I'd suffice to say that if you walk up to a random person between the ages of 12-40 something, they'll be able to speak at least some English. Lots of people I've met in their 20s speak enough English to carry on a basic conversation. Take a shot in the dark if you don't speak Japanese.

However, if you live here, don't be lazy. Learn Japanese.

6. Are all Japanese women cute or hot?


However, there are some very beautiful women here. Hell, I married one! :)
What you see on the internet is not representative of all of Japan. I will say Japan has a very large ratio of beautiful women, much larger than a lot countries. But I guess I'm a bit biased now!

5. Is all sushi in Japan awesome?

Again, no. Some sushi I've had here tastes old and processed. Just because you're in Japan doesn't mean all the sushi will be great. Convenience store sushi, I'm looking at you.

4. Gross, I'm not eating octopus/squid/creature from the deep!

Be adventurous. Octopus actually isn't so bad once you get used to the consistency. And takoyaki is extremely popular here and delicious! Just because something has tentacles, doesn't mean it's gross. Unless it's like Cthulu or something.

3. Oh look, a foreigner, he must teach English!

This has been addressed on other blogs and videos. Just because someone is a foreigner in Japan doesn't mean they teach English. They might not even speak English. Sorry, but I am the walking stereotype at the moment. I'm an English teacher that speaks little Japanese. But give me time. I'll bust out of this mold sooner or later!

2. Is Japan super safe? (the opposite of number 8)

Yes, Japan is pretty safe compared to most countries. I can leave my wallet unattended and come back and it'll still be there. I've walked around all sorts of places at 2 or 3 am and not had anyone harass me.


Certain places in Japan can be dangerous. I had my bike stolen. Theft seems to be the most rampant crime here. Stabbings and fights have happened, but not often. If you go to notorious areas (Roppongi for instance) then you may find trouble more easily. But even Roppongi isn't THAT dangerous. Just have to be careful.

And now, the number 1 myth to break about Japan...

1. Godzilla is not coming

As many stupid jokes people have said to me about Godzilla or some other lame stereotypical Japanese joke, there is no proof that a giant lizard is ever going to attack here. Stop saying it. It's not funny.

So that's my top 10 list! Hope you enjoyed it.

Which myth did you think has the most truth to it? Leave a comment if you have questions for any other myths you may think of.