Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Glimpse of the Future

Many, even most, of you know that I've been writing a weekly column for my employer for a few years now. Called Glimpses of Japan, it started as a column in a company internal news magazine and was intended to introduce or explain Japanese customs, trends, pastimes and the like to non-Japanese employees both here and abroad. Some time after that magazine was phased out, I was asked to revive the column--but this time aimed at English-reading Japanese--as a tool to attract repeat visitors to the company website. Before long it was moved from the company website to a "mail magazine", so people could subscribe to it and have it sent to their PCs or cell phones.

The idea was for me to write a fairly brief piece about whatever I--as a long-term foreign resident--considered worth commenting about regarding Japan, whether observations or opinions. I was billed, with some justice, as being "karakuchi"; when used about wine or sake, that means "dry", but about comments I guess it is best translated as "acerbic" or "caustic". I'm often enough cynical, and I suppose I've been caustic enough to deserve the label.

The column, a blog of sorts, seems to have been fairly popular, and it produced some thoughtful and thought-provoking comments from readers. Now, out of a desire either to economize or to reduce my workload, or both, the column has been discontinued. The last installment is here while it lasts; I'm not sure at the moment whether the archived back numbers will continue to be available.

Except for a few holidays, I had to submit Glimpses by every Friday afternoon to a colleague for formatting and uploading; sometimes work schedules moved the deadline to Thursdays.  Once I started this private Balefire blog as an experiment, I had to be concerned about avoiding duplication, but since my posts here are erratic and rather infrequent, that wasn't really much of an issue. Meeting a weekly deadline, often when other work deadlines were also yapping at my heels, was an issue, and sometimes quite a tricky one. There were times when I just didn't have anything to say offhand by Wednesday night or thereabouts, so I watched a lot of late-night news programs in ambush mode, waiting for something that would provoke a sarcastic comment from me...and a topic for the next column.

I'm not going to miss some of the stress associated with six years' worth of weekly deadlines. On the other hand, I'm something of an excitement junkie so I probably will miss some of the end-of-week pressure and adrenaline. I've also already been told by a few readers that they're going to miss Glimpses, so--tentatively for now, since my work situation is going to be in a state of flux for  awhile--I intend to increase the frequency, and probably the average length, of my posts here. Although I'm not going to be writing specifically for  non-native readers of English, a lot of the posts are likely to be on the sorts of topics I chose for that column, and I'll probably include some expressions and figures of speech chosen with that audience in mind. Rather than explaining what might be obscure to that group, though, I'll solicit questions as comments, and answer any questions there.

At least, that's the plan for now, if one can justify calling  a glimpse into a possible future a plan.

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