The “This Japanese Life” episode update

Last Friday at the BlogNation Japan shindig, I recorded some interviews with a few of the attendees. As I held the microphone in front of them and listened through my headphones, I kept thinking, “Wow, how am I ever going to be able to chop this up and rearrange it into a coherent story?” But the truth is, every time I start a new project, the same kind of fear and doubt run through my mind. It’s called “anxiety.” I feel it almost all the time, unless I’m doing something that I have 100% confidence in. (Those things include teaching, training, and troubleshooting PCs.)

The way I’m learning to come to terms with anxiety is to ask myself, “Well, if it all goes to hell, what’s the absolute worst thing that can happen, and how will I deal with it?”

If my attempt at creating a professional-sounding audio program to the best of my ability ends up sounding like a junior high school social studies project, I won’t lose any money, friends, or respect from others. I won’t fall over dead of humiliation. The time I spend on it won’t be wasted, because I’ll learn from it. And I’ll do it again on another topic; I’ll keep at it until I improve.

I realize I’m expecting myself to hit it out of the ballpark my first time at bat. I have a life-long tendency to expect too much out of myself, and it prevents me from starting or finishing challenges unless I force myself, kicking and screaming all the way. That’s the main reason why I’m here, blogging, podcasting and videoblogging. Because it scares the bejesus out of me if I let it.

I admire people (like my boss) who can jump into something new without any experience or a detailed plan and risk failure, so all this online stuff is my attempt at becoming more like them. It has never been easy, even after two years of constant practice. Core beliefs don’t change easily, even if on an intellectual level you know they’re false.

Right after I write a post, create a video or release a podcast, that voice tells me, “You’re not good enough.” But lately, something different is happening. I’ve been sampling bits of my old blog posts and podcasts that I have no recollection of creating and they seem like they’re from someone else. And you know what? They’re interesting, and often funny. When enough time passes that I can separate the critical, perfectionist “me” from the creative me, I can actually enjoy my own work. Maybe if I keep reading and listening to my past, I’ll finally catch up to the present and finally be at peace with myself.

Thinking of doing a “This Japanese Life” kinda episode

Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m missing my true calling in life: sharing other peoples’ stories with the rest of the world. (Either that or running a business that does house calls for peoples’ home PC problems. I love helping friends tame their computers.)

I like the formula This American Life has for putting shows together. The mix of voiceovers, mood music and honest, spontaneous-sounding interviews is top notch. Everything except the cadence of Ira Glass’s way of speaking. I can’t put my finger on it, but that’s the only aspect of the best public radio show in existence today that I don’t want to emulate. It’s not as if I have to resist the urge to claw at my ears when I hear him talk, but he has such an idiosyncratic, kind of uppity (but not snarky) tone of voice that I know I have to avoid sounding like I’m imitating him. At the same time, I can’t sound like the barbiturate-addled hosts of NPR programs either.

The topic I want to cover is “Living and Working in Japan as a foreigner.” I want to conduct interviews with people on why they decided to come to Japan, how they found work, their work history, whether or not they feel as if they’re succeeding, and what the experts think are the best ways for people to find the job that’s right for them. And I want to keep my own story out if it, because if I don’t it’ll probably end up sounding like I’m using the microphone as my psychoanalyst.

For those of you who have thought about taking a stab at living in Japan for a while or moving here permanently, what do you want to know from those who are already here? What would you like to hear headhunters and recruiters talk about? I’ve got my list of questions, but I’d like to know if ya’ll can think of a few that might not have crossed my mind.

This is going to be my attempt at getting better at audio production. There’s an entire team of producers, assistant producers, writers, sound engineers, editors and researchers who work together to put out every episode of This American Life, and for a long time I’ve been wondering what I can accomplish on my own, even if it ends up being nowhere near as high quality. As long as the final product is interesting and listenable, I’ll try to be happy with it.

Crazy Japanese podcast

Tell me what you think of this idea.

Last weekend when Oliver was visiting, Tony and I started playing a new game. I’d say something totally insane in English like, “May I please poke your eyes out with my chopsticks?” or “I made you a bracelet from my nosehair. I hope you like it,” and he’d translate it into Japanese. Or he’d say something equally strange in Japanese (usually having to do with poop, because he’s nine years old) and I’d say it in English.

Would this work as a podcast with audience participation? I think it would be a fun way to learn English/Japanese. Of course we’d keep it clean. Believe it or not, Tony still doesn’t know bad words in English, and I want to keep it that way. Although he did say to my mother once when he was about two years old, “You’re a FIRE BITCH!” He was just putting sounds together, and that’s what came out. You should have seen the look on her face. Priceless.

Disemvowelling: I love this idea

Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing fame wrote about ways to prevent trolls from destroying an otherwise tranquil online community in an article for InformationWeek. One of the strategies he mentions is to remove all the vowels from hostile posts. To me this sounds like a good way to let people know you disapprove, without being too heavy-handed.

Every so often–more often when I’m actually putting out content–someone decides to drop by here and leave a steaming pile of bile. Whatever their problem in life is, they had it before they came, so I don’t get too bothered by it. What does bother me though is it feels like having a gathering of good friends in my living room crashed by someone whose attitude problem pollutes the atmosphere. I know how I’ll react, but I don’t know how others will, and that worries me a bit. The next time it happens, I’m going to give disemvowelling a try.

Someone recently had a toxic reaction to the mouthcam video I made while playing frisbee with my kids. I can just picture this teenage kid in his basement, trolling Google for videos of a dick’s eye view of the inside of a scaly crackwhore’s mouth but instead finding frisbee with primary school aged boys and lashing out because his wee little pecker lost its boner. Life’s tough, wanker.