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Old 06-22-2009, 10:21 PM   #1
Buck
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Nihonjinron

Sometime back, I poked at what PAG said (everyone needs a good poke once in awhile) in another thread and when I poked the concept of Nihonjinron popped out. In that thread, we both felt it was a topic for another thread and some other time is now. I think it is that time unless there is something in your eye. If not the time is now. For me, I choose now because I don't have nuttin' in my eye, not even a Fuji apple is the apple of my eye.

Before getting into Nihonjinron like an old pair of gloves, I think it should be mentioned that the idea of being superior etc. ties into, the result of, and underpinning the idea of Nihonjinron. At this I think of that really extreme Japanese writer Yukio Mishima as an example. I think there is this sense that the Japanese as a result of Nihonjinron they feel they are then superior and unique. So much so that no others can be like them in anyway etc. That kind of stuff, also I think is used by some Japanese to keep the "Daniel-sans" away from annoying them-JMO.

I think all that has to be discussed or known when discussing Nihonjinron.

Before anyone one gets belligerent (and I do have my faithful out of nowhere critics, God lov'em), what I said is just a starter. Don't attack the BBQ before you even put on the steaks. And you have to understand, it is a heck of a countries ego booster to have typhoons supposedly save your country, Japan, from two invading Mongol fleets under the infamous and feared Kublai Khan that attacked Japan in 1274 and again in 1281. And isolate yourself on an island for as long as they did. Com'on you can't not help to think in those times your darn pretty special to have divine winds protect you. That is right up there with stuff in early Judaism and Christianity. In this sense they are no different then that. Now 'nuff said, moving on.

This stuff Gregory Shepard wrote doesn't directly pertain to Aikido, but it does a good job explaining the concept of Nihonjinron. And how many westerner feel about Nihonjinron. After my moment on the ye' ol' soap box, I have included part of what Shepard wrote, and I provide a link to the whole enchilada.

Now my view FWIW, isn't typical. I have never been to Japan or lived there. I do think it would be tough to do so, based on what I know and have understood from many Japanese. My view, and stuff is, is from this regard. Me being white can't understand the black experience, nor can they understand my experience. Replace white and black with Westerner and Japanese, thus my core opinion. I don't want to be accepted liberally by the Japanese, and I respect their view. Even if I think it is a bit extreme. There are somethings we as westerners can't simulate and that kind of thing about the Japanese. Such as what shapes their thoughts and beliefs doesn't shape mine and thus that is an area that I can't travel. And what does it matter anyway.

The following is Shepard's views and they are strong, and damning. Which in fact is can be seen as Western superiority. Isn't fun when we all play the same game and share the same faults. I like Matthew 7:3-5 in the Bible that says, "Why do you alook at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Hey, am just saying.

Any discussion of contemporary Japanese music scholarship must take into account a disturbing movement known as nihonjinron (roughly, 'the question of the Japanese people') which has come to permeate virtually every aspect of modern Japanese culture. Reminiscent of Japan's World War II propaganda, nihonjinron is an attempt on the part of its writers to glorify Japan and Japanese culture, often at the expense of truth. In Japanese musicology, as in other fields [like Aikido], scholars are able to postulate the most absurd theories and find almost unquestioned acceptance of such theories, merely because they portray Japan in favorable light.

Since it does not appear that the Japanese academic community is about to level its aim at nihonjinron, it is incumbent upon Western scholars, not only of music but of all disciplines to abandon their reticence when dealing with shoddy methodology of any culture, particularly when that methodology has a not-so-subtle racism as its motivation.


The complete blog or what ever it is, is here:
Music of Japan Today: Tradition and Innovation

Enjoy the read!

Last edited by Buck : 06-22-2009 at 10:35 PM.
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Old 06-23-2009, 07:54 AM   #2
Rabih Shanshiry
 
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Re: Nihonjinron

Hi Phil,

Interesting topic. I see this as more a human phenomenon than a Japanese one.

I think you may agree that Europeans in general, and (white) Americans, in particular, are guilty of this. To avoid the politics of present day examples (which abound), I think we can all look at our recent history and recognize this - whether it be with respect to legal racial discrimination that existied until the 1960s or the reducation program that we subjected American Indian children a decade before that in an attempt to "civilize" them. That was really not so long ago - certainly not far enough removed that we should adopt think ourselves superior to other societies still struggling with those issues. (Not saying you are Phil, in fact, your post clearly indicates the contrary).

More broadly speaking, I think many/most peoples maintain a sense of superiority in some way. An interesting question to explore would be why this dynamic occurs, what its function is in helping form a cohesive society, and whether it is necessary.

I leave that to the scholars among us.

...rab
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Old 06-23-2009, 02:00 PM   #3
Ketsan
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Re: Nihonjinron

Could be worse. The chinese are taught in school that they're not even homo sapians!
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Old 06-23-2009, 03:27 PM   #4
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Re: Nihonjinron

Peter Dale wrote fascinatingly on Nihonjinron in his The Myth Of Japanese Uniqueness. He speaks of a cycle of inferiority complex followed by intense study, parity, and only then feelings of superiority and arrogance.

It happened with China from the 7-9 centuries and again in medieval times and with Europe in the 19 century.

Don J. Modesto
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Old 06-23-2009, 04:05 PM   #5
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Re: Nihonjinron

It's pretty typical in simple hunting and gathering societies to consider only those in one's own group and/or language as fully human.

In the context of this overarching pattern, the movement towards viewing "humanity" as encompassing all people is a fairly recent development, and one that has never been accepted by all of humanity.
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Old 06-23-2009, 06:27 PM   #6
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Re: Nihonjinron

Quote:
David Henderson wrote: View Post
In the context of this overarching pattern, the movement towards viewing "humanity" as encompassing all people is a fairly recent development, and one that has never been accepted by all of humanity.
And sadly, it tends to fall apart as soon as economic stresses threaten any particular culture.

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 06-23-2009, 08:09 PM   #7
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Re: Nihonjinron

Quote:
David Henderson wrote: View Post
In the context of this overarching pattern, the movement towards viewing "humanity" as encompassing all people is a fairly recent development, and one that has never been accepted by all of humanity.
Well, by gum, if they won't accept our peace and love view of humanity, let's thrash 'em and *make* them believe as we do. After all, it's the right thing to do!
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Old 06-24-2009, 07:58 AM   #8
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Re: Nihonjinron

Quote:
Rabih Shanshiry wrote: View Post
Hi Phil,

Interesting topic. I see this as more a human phenomenon than a Japanese one.

...rab
Thanks, Rab, your post was a good read, and made good points.
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Old 06-24-2009, 08:04 AM   #9
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Re: Nihonjinron

Quote:
Alex Lawrence wrote: View Post
Could be worse. The chinese are taught in school that they're not even homo sapians!
A...Ha! So they think, they are the missing link. Wow, didn't know that.
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Old 06-24-2009, 04:17 PM   #10
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Re: Nihonjinron

Quote:
Mike Sigman wrote: View Post
Well, by gum, if they won't accept our peace and love view of humanity, let's thrash 'em and *make* them believe as we do. After all, it's the right thing to do!
Or not.

I don't think a global concept of humanity entails any particular ideals about peace and love. Just that its not a "tribal" view, overtly at least, and that it is the historic exception, not the rule.

In fact, your quip points to the resiliance of us/them.

regards,

cdh
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Old 06-24-2009, 09:44 PM   #11
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Re: Nihonjinron

Gregory's blog thingy tone doesn't look favorably on Nihonjinron. I have experienced some of us who like Gregory where the apple of their eye is Japan and the Japanese people. But when they run into all the different shades resulting from Nihonjinron, therefore, realizing their love is not returned by the Japanese get a little scorned. Rejection is hard and cold slap in the face to deal with when all you seen was beautiful cherry blossoms, and images of gracious O'Sensei and Mister Miyagi archetypal like senseis. When that "two face" moment happens people direct their dissatisfaction with the Japanese to those who will listen.

Usually, their feelings of dissatisfaction don't put the Japanese in a good light, yet the underpinnings of which the speak is a hope for the rekindling of the love affair. I think Gregory does just that in his blog thingy. I don't think this type of thing is very fair and is one-sided. He and others when they bring it up look at Nihonjinron as a negative thingy from their point of view. But that isn't the only view though the most heard.

Doesn't Nihonjinron have any good stuff connected to it? I say yea. not too many things are one sided. I am not a sociologist or psychologist type, and I haven't read every Nihonjinron ever written, or allot of it. But from where I sit, it seems to motivate and inspire toward a nation bonding closer together to new standards set, and maybe give better focus toward a direction in the modern world, and keep a nation from colasping in that way. And that kind of stuff. So many nations have a similar notion that parallels Nihonjinron. Some nations us it negatively end up in isolation fighting against the world, or positively and compete on a global scale as a 1st world nation.

Is Nihonjinron all that bad, I don't think so. I feel I am an open minded realistic individual who looks at both sides of the coin. I understand those apple of their eye has gone sour. But, that is a band wagon I am not on. I feel each nation, each culture is unique and they have to be respected. If not, then the bear you think is your buddy will end up eating you. And what right do I have to change them? If they don't want to think their poopie doesn't smell, then who am I to change that? And why would I? I don't have a licence to hold up a mirror to them. And again Matthew 7:3-5 does speak a truth.

I am not that involved into the Japanese or Japan where Nihonjinron effects my view of them, my training or matters to me. I would say I am respectful of what they call theirs and what I call mine. And if what they do (Aikido, cars etc ) is prime grade or not then I recognized it as such. It's like I drive a Japanese made car. I choose the Japanese car over American or Korean built models because the Japanese car is a better vehicle than American or Korean made. And so, because of that I am not going to mess with the Japanese car. I am not going to replace its parts with American parts when required- I replaced the old one hundred and ninety thousand mile engine with a used engine from Japan; all some years ago. I call it as I see it. All and all, I am not for or against Nihonjinron, it is what it is. It is part of dealing with and understanding the Japanese in a realistic -warts and all - light.
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Old 06-25-2009, 08:10 AM   #12
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Re: Nihonjinron

Quote:
Philip Burgess wrote: View Post
Gregory's blog thingy tone doesn't look favorably on Nihonjinron. I have experienced some of us who like Gregory where the apple of their eye is Japan and the Japanese people...

I am not that involved into the Japanese or Japan where Nihonjinron effects my view of them, my training or matters to me. I would say I am respectful of what they call theirs and what I call mine.
But you do seem to be making the same mistake that believers in nihonjinron are making: to look on "the Japanese people" as a monolithic entity, to ascribe attitudes and behaviors to "the Japanese".
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Old 06-25-2009, 09:52 PM   #13
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Re: Nihonjinron

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Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
But you do seem to be making the same mistake that believers in nihonjinron are making: to look on "the Japanese people" as a monolithic entity, to ascribe attitudes and behaviors to "the Japanese".
Mary, I am flattered you reference me with such reverence in the area of Nihonjinron which I recognize as something that doesn't effect me, but instead am respectful of and not quick to criticize.

As I said before, "am not that involved into the Japanese or Japan where Nihonjinron effects my view of them, my training or matters to me. I would say I am respectful of what they call theirs and what I call mine. All and all, I am not for or against Nihonjinron, it is what it is. It is part of dealing with and understanding the Japanese in a realistic -warts and all - light."

I find it interesting that Nihonjinron bothers some people. Maybe it would bother me too if I wanted in with the Japanese, simulate, if I lived there or something.

I am open minded and respectful of the Japanese. I can't criticize them beyond my limited experience or out of my vast ignorance of them. I not into thinking my culture is superior thinking I am lord or ruler over them insisting their culture and beliefs are wrong because they are different or because I don't understand them. I don't see them savages, as a result.

There is that old Handy saying that goes, "Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes." Pertaining to the Japanese wouldn't be Getas instead of shoes?

Please don't confuse respect for something as being a mistake.


Back on point, Nihonjinron I read more criticizing it in English then the benefits it may have. Gregory is an example. There are two sides to every coin. Nihonjinron isn't something I am compelled to, or have a great interest. I am not sure if or how much it was effected Aikido or Aikido devleopment. O'Sensei was Japanese and I didn't know him so I don't know if he supported Nihonjinron. If he did to a great deal, does it effect my Aikido, no. But if so, then it brings in focus better O'Sensei personality and thus, Aikido. Which still doesn't effect me.

There are so many threads out there about ego and pride, and the sense of superiority Aikidoka have, I see Nihonjinron in that area for better or worse. That is the only thing I see how Nihonjinron plays in my world. I just wish it would help me improve my skill.
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Old 06-26-2009, 08:26 AM   #14
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Re: Nihonjinron

You're making this much, much, much more complicated than it really is, Buck. My observation was a very simple one: that much as you're making critical observations of Nihonjinron, with its sweeping generalizations of Japanese character, you are pushing your sled down the same slippery slope as you talk about what "the Japanese" think and do.
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Old 06-26-2009, 08:48 AM   #15
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Re: Nihonjinron

Quote:
Before anyone one gets belligerent (and I do have my faithful out of nowhere critics, God lov'em),
http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=16286

An easy way not to have critics, is simply not to speak. But personally, I don't think that would be productive.

Best,
Ron

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Old 06-26-2009, 08:52 AM   #16
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Re: Nihonjinron

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
You're making this much, much, much more complicated than it really is, Buck. My observation was a very simple one: that much as you're making critical observations of Nihonjinron, with its sweeping generalizations of Japanese character, you are pushing your sled down the same slippery slope as you talk about what "the Japanese" think and do.
Mary, honestly, I am confused to what your comments about me have to do with the thread. And what point your trying to make. Personally, I don't think it matters to the discussion of Nihonjinron. Because of that I really can't respond, cause I don't see how me not criticizing the Japanese, because I am not qualified too is a slippery slope? And how that relates to Nihonjinron? You can email and we can work these things out.
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Old 06-26-2009, 10:33 AM   #17
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Re: Nihonjinron

<pop>

there is no such thing as "the Japanese" is the point

</pop>

Alfonso Adriasola
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Old 06-26-2009, 06:20 PM   #18
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Re: Nihonjinron

Of all the dimensions and versions of Nihonjinron takes, it is the sense of cultural purity seen as racism by westerners, gets allot of fault finding attention.

Was O'Sensei guilty of this? Is or were any of his Japanese uchi-deshi and their organizations guilty of this cultural purity for the homogeny of Aikido to any degree. Is Nihonjinron taught to us through them indirectly through the culture and protocol of Aikido?

I think some western Aikidoka who I have read in forums and in discussions feel this to be true and display their dissatisfaction. I think we all compromise and feed into Nihonjinron keeping it alive, by having romantic notions of the Japanese and not realistic perspectives. Buy keeping Aikido traditions, culture, keeping to rules, and stuff we are giving our "yes" vote to Nihonjinron.

Every time, I step into the dojo and bow to the picture of O'Sensei, every time, I call the person teaching me "Sensei" and stuff, I am saying the I will uphold and keep that culture alive over mine. That includes following and upholding O'Sensei's message to the world of peace and love, how ever I translate that to be. By default, when I put that gi on and don that belt, I am to a degree (everyone has a different degree) supporting the idea of Nihonjinron.

We as westerners have our own type of Nihonjinron that I think is more complex, more diverse, more widespread and bigger then the Japanese ever could. For example that is not well known but had a huge impact on millions of people in the modern world was the idea of race purity of Planned Parenthood. Hitler took that and ran with it. A homogenize race isn't new, it is old as man. I think it could have to do with our genetic programming and our gene survival that has been perverted by so many peoples and organizations in so many ways. We as westerners who are disturbed by Nihonjinron only need to look at our cultural which dwarfs Nihonjinron and runs along the line of hypocrisy.

When we join Aikido and put on that gi and white belt and take instruction on protocol, learning humility and stuff; we need to realize what those actions mean, and what we are supporting. This is different from the casual or customary contact with the Japanese, like at a business dinner or that kind of thing. We sign on to Japanese culture often thinking we will be accepted with open arms, treated fairly, justly, and warmly by all as equals. The truth is we aren’t. We are not Japanese in their eyes. We are not capable of being them regardless how many costumes and forms of surface imitation, simulation etc., which we feel are gestures of good will, we try and master, we can never be them, just as they can never be us.

My personal opinion is that has to be respected, that we are different. Sure we are human and share those things and have things in common, but that doesn’t make us them. But, because we don that Aikido gi and are subjected to Japanese Nihonjinron via Aikido, we think we should be respected for our effort in their culture, and get angry when not respected for that effort.

We sometimes because of our views think our views are right, just like most other peoples of the world. That is something we share. We have as westerners have a long history of imposing our culture our ways on others just like other cultures. For me, Nihonjinron isn't something I am bothered by, but it is something I am aware of and respectful of it. Respectful in terms of the respect in knowing I have no right to, generally, mess with them.

Last edited by Buck : 06-26-2009 at 06:33 PM.
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Old 06-26-2009, 08:44 PM   #19
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Re: Nihonjinron

Quote:
Philip Burgess wrote: View Post

I am open minded and respectful of the Japanese. I can't criticize them beyond my limited experience or out of my vast ignorance of them. I not into thinking my culture is superior thinking I am lord or ruler over them insisting their culture and beliefs are wrong because they are different or because I don't understand them. I don't see them savages, as a result.
You talkin' 'bout my wife?
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Old 06-26-2009, 09:23 PM   #20
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Re: Nihonjinron

No, my ex-girl friend.
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Old 06-27-2009, 09:13 PM   #21
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Re: Nihonjinron

Quote:
Alfonso Adriasola wrote: View Post
<pop>

there is no such thing as "the Japanese" is the point

</pop>
Thank you, Alfonso.

Buck, if that still doesn't make sense, then I give up.
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Old 06-27-2009, 10:45 PM   #22
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Re: Nihonjinron

Way too much philosophizing.

David
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Old 06-28-2009, 12:45 AM   #23
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Re: Nihonjinron

Being fair and open minded, I think there are positive things about Nihonjinron for the Japanese as a nation and a people. It pulls people together possibly keeping them from becoming a third world country. Provides a goal, and that kind of stuff.

I doesn't bother me what the Japanese think of themselves, but thinking highly has created a nation whose people are educated and all that. They have developed a strong sense of themselves and have achieved so much in a litttle time. Japane is a modern nation affording its people human rights, and stuff like that. Because of Nihonjinron.

Whether or not I am guilty of falicies in my arguement, Mary, keep in mind I am not arguing. I am observing and providing personal information on the subject.

I think people often don't see the big picture and get hung up seeing things only through a narrow or surface view.

We as humans work really hard to stick with the familiar and when outside of that we make it familiar and comfortable to us. To have things around us fit into our comfort zone, because we can't seem to function otherwise.
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Old 06-28-2009, 07:34 AM   #24
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Re: Nihonjinron

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Philip Burgess wrote: View Post
I doesn't bother me what the Japanese think of themselves, but thinking highly has created a nation whose people are educated and all that. They have developed a strong sense of themselves and have achieved so much in a litttle time. Japane is a modern nation affording its people human rights, and stuff like that. Because of Nihonjinron.

Whether or not I am guilty of falicies in my arguement, Mary, keep in mind I am not arguing. I am observing and providing personal information on the subject.
Buck, "the Japanese" don't think anything. They are not a monolithic entity with a single hive mind. Do you agree or disagree with that?
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Old 06-28-2009, 09:22 AM   #25
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Re: Nihonjinron

Mary, I am confused with your posts. It seems like you are talking to someone else about something else and addressing it to me. With that in mind, I really can't respond because I am not saying or thinking that. I think you are not understanding the thread very well.

All the advice I can give is to try and go back through the thread and re-read it- to get the main idea. Once you've got the main idea / the big picture then comment on that. That might help. I hope that helps. If you need more help I will be happy to try.

Last edited by Buck : 06-28-2009 at 09:27 AM.
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