Tokyo Damage Report

2008 summer vacation

ok! SO. No updates for a while. Bloggers commenting about their lack of comments is something of a cliche – who am I kidding? It’s a fucking terrible cliche – but I gotta say at least I have an excuse: earlier this summer, I came down with a bad case of Coolio Beard:

. . . The doctor said the only cure was to go to California, where the mild climate would ease out some of the knots (turns out they’re caused by the same nematodes that nest in Coolio’s scalp)

It was interesting. . . and not just because it was just a beard-nesting-nematode therapy vactiaon: because THIS time the vacation was voluntary, instead of me being kicked out by immigration!

I took the time to catch up on some reading:

Best books of the bunch: NIXONLAND and MCMAFIA. get these if you like being not ignorant!

(also, the 3 books on the bottom? New edition D&D! I don’t even have anyone to play with – I just felt like keeping it real)

Also, we saw some rad clouds:


Incidentally, around my folks’ house there is Nature:

Hella critters. A squirrel chases a quail around. Shit gets hectic. Oh and plus the most crazy burgerzzz: Safway buns and home-grown veggies, plus massive beef and obscure mustard.

Below, the view from the folks’ house:

And we also visited the Toilet Graveyard:


Life in the countryside was splendid. . .no live shows, no robots, no Tokyo smog. . .we spent 2 months eating madd watermelons, yelling at herds of wild turkey on my folks’ farm, and incredulously listening to about 200 prog albums. Seriously, I got – somehow- a lot of music I haven’t listened to yet. Shit was accumulating out of control , and this summer I systematically ground my way through it.

Frankly, I don’t even like prog! But the omnipresent "anything is possible if you are smart and evolved" vibe of prog was the perfect stimulus for my other project: working on my how-to-learn-kanji-via-yo-mama-jokes website. . . Right now it’s over 700 fuckin’ pages!! Letter-size. What did I get myself in to this time??? Jesus. . . . I should mention that this project is not only a 2,000 kanji dictionary, but also an entirely new way to study them, using over 3,000 mnemonics i laboriously yanked out of my butt one sunny morning around 10 AM.

It looks like the as-yet-untitled book might get DIY-printed by my homey Franck from Sonore. So I have been woodshedding pretty hard on it all summer.

Anyway, I totally re-wrote the textbook part AGAIN. Now it’s shorter, makes more sense, and has lots of examples (using kanji) to illustrate every point I’m trying to make. Also, I have screen-grabs of parts of the dictonary, showing step-by-step how to read the information in the dictionary entries and use it.

Also, the dictionary got CRAZY re-formatted, double-checked, and cleaned up. It’s still the same 2,000 -odd kanji. But more information has been added to each one:

* Pictures of each individual radical that composes the kanji.

* Mnemonics that help you learn the kanji AND tell it apart from similar ones.

* I corrected hella mistakes, too: things that were out of order, are now IN order.

* Proofreading was attempted. Several weeks alone were spent adding capital letters.

* Mnemonic metaphors that made no sense were re-written.

* Hella new kanji were added.

* Things which were written differently in every entry, are now in a uniform format.

* And, the bigggest bonus of all: I tell you how useful the kanji is! In fact, I made a whole checklist of common kanji problems, and compared each kanji to the checklist. Any kanji that had a weird thing (synonyms, being pronounced funny, only used in formal situations, etc) now has that warning written next to it!

Here’s how it went down: me and my homegirl went out and bought compelte sets of BOTH leading brands of kanji flashcards (the tuttle cards and white rabbit cards) We spent the first week of our summer vacation interlacing the two sets – so that both 食 cards were together, both 水 cards were together, etc – basically it was like doing a jigsaw puzzle with 4,000 pieces!

Once we had the whole set (it was over a meter deep!) we went through each kanji, comparing the good points and bad points of both brands of cards. Also we checked each kanji to see if it had any of the attributes on our checklist of common problems.


The dictionary still isn’t done . . .not by a long shot! There are three main tasks that still remain:

1) The entries for each kanji have a lot of kind of subjective information, such as "how useful is this kanji?" "how often is it written in hiragana?" "how formal is it?" "how is it different than this synonym?" Right now the answers to those questions are based on just 2 people: me and my partner. But clearly both of us are a little insane to even attempt to write a book like this, so our judgement is suspect. I gotta get a pool or 2 or 3 fully bilingual folks to read the whole thing and give their OWN opinions. Then later I can take the average of everyone’s opinions and enter THAT data in the final version.

2) Just to be extra Quixotic, I want to include an appendix of the 600 most-commonly-mixed-up synonyms in Japanese (he Japanese equivalent of fix/repair hurt/harm and every/each). I need someone’s help to explain the nuances of when to use synonym A and when to use synonym B – because I sure as hell don’t know. All I know is, most students WANT a book which does exactly that, and there is none on the market.

3) publicity. After working off-and-on on this mother for over a year, it’s finally to the point where I’m comfortable showing it to folks. Now it occurs to me that I have no idea where to announce its grand opening. I’m sure every university has some anime club which has a website. There’s probably also online communities or facebook or some crap like that. . .

If you want to help with any of these, drop me a line : tokyodamage at

or if you have questions about kanji, join my kanji discussion group at the Sonore site.

Also, this:

From now on, I’ll be updating TDR regularly, though not as often as before.

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