Saturday, May 12, 2007

My Japanese Name Isn’t Carlos Tevez…

Hairi Ballsishiwa

If it's not bad enough that I get 100 emails a day from Japan asking me if I'd like to upgrade my genitals to a larger model (they never mention supplying the Samsonite suitcase I’d have to carry it in), it turns out that my name when translated into Japanese is Hairi Ballsishiwa. Hattip to Ian at ‘Shades of Grey’ for directing my attention to this meme that’s doing the rounds but I think it goes to show that you can't totally believe the things you read on the web.

Is there any reason why I’d want to know what my name would have been should I have been born Japanese? More pressing is the question: is there a man now living in Japan who is struggling to live up to the name Hairi Ballsishiwa and who wonders what life would be like if he’d been smooth shaved Welshman called Chip Dale? If so, email me Hairi. We might have lots in common. Or not, as the case may be…

Yet I suppose the reason we play these games is that the web makes it easy to be somebody else, though rarely does it make it possible to be somebody better than we already are. Even when we’re trying to be somebody else, we’re really only playing ourselves. Of course some people go even further and play out the fantasy of being themselves, though a more fashionable and exiting version than their everyday life probably allows. MySpace is a seething pit of vanity and ego; barely a person on it looks to have considered why they deserve our acclaim. I know you might level the same accusations at the Chipster but there is Wales’ largest thong collection to my name, as well as two Golden Thong awards…

The MySpace Generation are a odd lot. I see them every day: lads with the Take That haircuts, the fashionably bad clothes, and the aspirations to be on X Factor while they temporarily live out the less fantastic lifestyle of the plaster and decorator in Dagenham. The girls are generally orange. They are constantly taking their own photo with their mobile phone; those head titled smiles displaying big teeth, bigger hair, and a roll or two of fashionable binge-drinking flab peering out from beneath t-shirts adorned with the fashionably pithy sayings declaring their general availability. I'm a man who takes his clothes off for a living and even I don't find 'Bitch in Heat' an attractive pitch.

Their delusions will continue well into adulthood with the inevitable breakdown at some point when, for the men, the hair gel no longer sticks their falling locks to their heads. Then it’s a life of toupees or a ‘different look’ when they decide to shave off what's left of their hair and consider themselves more in the style of Ronan Keating. For the women, the decline is more severe. At some point they will abandon the bottle of fake tan and begin to see the appeal of zip up fur lined boots, wearing woollen hats before roaring fires in the middle of summer and wearing overcoats with the less pithy promise of a 'Bitch With Central Heating' written across the front...

Identity has come to this. We play these games without really considering how important being ourselves is to our self-esteem. It seems faintly ludicrous to have to make the following statement yet it would appear that we have forgotten that we are who we are and we’re not what we’re not.

I’ve been meaning to mention Carlos Tevez for a while now. He’s the heavily scarred striker that has both saved and (possibly) condemned West Ham United from (or to) relegation. Tevez suffered an accident with boiling water when a child. It has left his terribly scarred on his face and upper body. Naturally, in such an image led culture as that which surrounds professional football, he’s been offered plastic surgery to rid him of the terrible scars. He’s refused, claiming that his scars make him who he is.

Tevez is one of the few men in professional sport who I hold up as a man of true insight. He appreciates something about the world that a man of greater literary gifts might turn into a heavyweight classic.

Which leads me to ‘The Bicycle Thieves’. I watched it for the first time. I’ve been meaning to see it for a very long time but I had been waiting for the right moment. It was as stunning as I’d hoped but in ways I didn’t expect. If you’ve not seen it, I recommend that you do so immediately. I think it would be hard not to be moved by Vittorio De Sica's film, which is full of so much warmth between the actors, both amateurs, who play the father and son searching post-war Rome for a stolen bicycle. Yet what struck me most forcibly about this example of neo-realism is that it did not pander to the delusions of fiction we delight in. This was a film about what we are and who we are. The ending hit me physically, as though a certain Romanian had gone at my kneecaps again with her lump hammer. Like Tevez and his scars, it made me despise the notion that I could by anything other than the man sitting here typing out this brief essay wearing only my thong. I won’t pander to fiction. I shall be who I am and nobody else.

All of which is a long way of saying that my Japanese name isn’t Carlos Tevez. Nor do I want to be known as Hairi Ballsishiwa.

I am Chip Dale and you are you.


Ms Baroque said...

Well, you may be Chip Dale and I may be me, whoever that is, but I increasingly think we're occupying some weird sort of parallel space. I too recently saw "The Bicycle Thieves" and was knocked sideways by it.

Not only that, but my long post this morning (as the bishop... never mind) was about this very thing of being one's own self for the purposes of being, or making, one's own art. And life. And art.

"The Bicycle Thieves" is a brilliant film and very apt in this discussion, as it grows straight from the soil of real life: as you say, the life in the film can't be anything but what it is.

I'm not even sure what I felt at the end. Despair, I think. I felt his hopelessness completely, and also the total acceptance of the little boy. One thing that struck me forcibly throughout (after years and years of never letting go of my kids' hands, EVER) was this constant feeling of precariousness, as the kid was always drfting off from his father, or just disappearing from the frame. It was always all right (almost) but that one small element of the film summed up all the danger and insecurity of life.)

Another thing the film reminded me of was once, in a different lifetime of my own, when we were so broke it was no joke at all, and I dropped the teapot. I can remember crying. But you know these people are REALLY in the shit, because they're not even crying.

Sorry - long comment!

Chip Dale said...

Why apologise for a long comment, Ms. Baroque? It put my own thoughts into some context.

I was astonished to discover they weren't professional actors, but my real astonishment was the lack of a sentimental ending. It makes me look to real life and wonder how correct it was. On a small scale, just watching football over the last year, since Italy (quite ironically, I suppose) won the World Cup, I've come to realise that sometimes the good don't always come first. It's the cheaters, the divers, the morally bankrupt who win out. Good guys finish last, no matter how much we romantically believe otherwise. I suppose the conclusion could get all Nietzschean and we begin to doubt Christian virtues such as compassion, though, I agree, in the end the only solace is the boy gripping the father's hand. We can't get beyond nature and the links that can't be broken. Which is what I suppose I was saying at the end. I'm me. You're you. From that limited (and sometimes questioned) basis of truth, everything else is built.

There, a paragraph and not a single mention of a thong. I need to go and sit down...