Wednesday, October 31, 2007
I awoke this morning after sleeping a solid 12 hours on cold medicine last night. I wandered down to Omiya station in a flu like daze around 7, chugging on a warm Royal Milk Tea and trying to come to terms with the universe as it revolved.
On the platform I realized that I was standing in the line for the 3-door train when the 2-door train was coming. Losing my place in line, I shook my mucous sodden head and moved to the back. As the line further formed behind me I heard a voice with surprised energy declare questioningly, "America!?!" (everything said by me from this moment on will be in Japanese-as I refuse to entertain these people-everything said by the perpetrator will be in dumb English.) I looked around at the air and subway tiles and the backs of people's heads and settled on the face of a balding man in a boring grey suit next to me. I looked around for a while again and then turned back to him and said, "Japan!?!" "Yes, Yes. America?" He responded with enthusiasm. I pondered for a second. I couldn't think. I couldn't really grasp what was going on. "What do you think.....I don't know.....maybe." Was all I could come up with. "Oh. I don't know. Perhaps." He said, pleased with himself.
At this point, I whipped out the razor blade that I keep tucked between my lip and my gums like a wad of tobacco and sliced both of his cheeks open so his face flapped like a tall ship at the bicentennial. "Happy Halloween motherfucker!" I screamed, did an Indian war whoop and jumped off the platform, running into the darkness of the tunnel screaming.
Now, part of that story is completely false. As for the part that isn't; it might be hard to understand if you don't live in another country. Not so much if you are not white and live in America. You probably know what it is like to have someone remind you every day for no reason that you are not one of them. I am waiting on a 7:18 train to go to work with a cold, and all I exist for is to amuse some yahoo with the fact that I am not him. It gets old. Maybe if he was a hot chick, I would be happy about it. It just works my nerves. Do you know me? It is a weird approach anyway. It isn't, "Oh, I see you in the morning. Do you take the train to work?" Or anything like that. It is just shouting your speculated nationality at you.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Today at school we tried to teach "I like. He/She likes." It went terribly. The underlying problem is that the kids have never been taught subject/verb. They don't understand verbs. I explained "He is. She is. I am. He likes. She likes. I like." So they would write things like "He is likes." I told the teacher that it is hard to go forwards when they can't understand that you can't have two verbs. She said, "Maybe. But this is what we have to teach now." So we have to teach them something they don't understand when they have no structure to fall back on and then we move on from there. That is why no one can speak English here.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
HeHeHe. Damn Right.
I think they should completely legalize them. But they should also allow everyone who wants to to carry a shotgun loaded with rock-salt, or a baseball bat.
Last night they were chasing peoples cars and screaming "Your back door is open!" And then revving their engines. It is so ridiculous.
They broke up after 12 sometime and I tired to get to sleep. Whereupon Alex and Cam decided it would be funny to give me the insistent drunk phone call. I wouldn't answer, but this lasted for about 20 minutes as my keitai played "The Boys are Back in Town" through my dark apartment. I couldn't set the alarm on my keitai because it would answer the phone. With friends like these uh?
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Today I was so sick, I barely made it through class. I slept on the train, straight through Sanjo to Demachiyanagi so I had to get another train back to the subway. In class we did a terrible lesson where we read about Hikozo meeting President Lincoln. The only good part about that class is that one of my students, Ms. Han, is Chinese so I make her teach me Chinese during class. All I can say is "How many sheets of paper?" Sorry Susan.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Japan gets cold like teenagers get pregnant. It seems like an accident. A joke. You are walking around in a t-shirt one day, deciding whether you should wear flip-flops or if you can summon the effort to put on socks, then that evening you are searching franticly for your gloves and jamming your fingers far down into the pockets of a jacket that smells like dust and mold. And then it stays cold until sometime after the last hanami. A deep, wet cold that hangs in every floorboard. That torments every morning shower.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Jorge Gurgel Vs. Alvin Robinson: Gurgel has 3 straight decisions. 2 wins to 1 loss. A decision win over Danny Abaddi does not a legend make. Nevertheless ALvin Robinson submitted to strikes from Kenflo. Gurgel by decision.
Matt Grice Vs. Jason Black: Black is coming of 2 losses. Black by superhero sideburns.
Jason McDonald Vs. Yushin Okami: The smart money is on Okami, but I hate Japanese people. I like Jason McDonald's fighting style (submission submission submission.) McDonald by submission in the 2nd.
Stephan Bonnar Vs. Eric Schafer: Continuing the comeback from his steroid suspension, Bonnar is really fighting against obscurity. It is an uphill fight. I still feel that he has some of the strongest technical skills, especially with his boxing, in the game. Not a brutal athlete however. It should be enough to carry him past Schafer. Bonnar by 3rd round KO.
Demian Maia Vs. Ryan Jensen: Would you like me to pretend I know something about either of these guys? Just call me Arash Markazi. (Booyakasha!) Maia by decision.
Kalib Starnes Vs. Alan Belcher: Kalib Starnes by decision by virtue of saying that the more he read Chomsky the less he cares about the UFC. Word.
Josh Burkman Vs. Forrest Petz: I somehow missed the Burkman train, but everyone seems to be on board. woo-WOOT! I enjoy M. Petz's tasty breaded candies, however, Burkman by decision.
Brandon Vera Vs. Tim Sylvia: I want to be a contrarian and believe that Tim Sylvia is actually likeable and a really decent fighter. I can't summon the vinegar. Sylvia is doo-dootastic. Vera is rad. Vera has the hype machine firmly pressing his amble booty, yet I believe it. Sorry Flavor. I used to think Vera had some of the worst tattoos in MMA until I read that they are ancient Filipino writing. That's cool. If I hear one more commentary about Vera being underweight I will vomit the tasty manju tearing at my belly. Vera weighs almost as much as Fedor or Crocop. Not everyone who can cut weight, has to cut weight. I assume that Vera's plan will be to use his impressive low, mid and high kicks to chop down the doofus tree that is Sylvia. Sylvia's people know this too. Arlovski was attempting this strategy in their uber-boring rematch until he apparently injured his leg. Vera is technically far better than Sylvia, but I will not sell big Tim's power short. He punches well. If Vera slips up he can be out, quick. Ask Andre from Belarus. Vera by 3rd round KO.
Rich Franklin Vs. Anderson Silva: I like Rich Franklin (his absurd advice to Matt Serra not withstanding). I like him as a person. I like how he trains. I like how he fights. Anderson Silva doesn't care about what I like. He is an out of control, born to fight, freak. You look at him and wonder how it is happening, but he punches like a truck and survives on the ground. People complain about his showing against Lutter, but they forget that Lutter's jiu-jitsu top game is world class. I love Silva's use of the body triangle and his lethal clinch. Franklin has never been a one punch KO power guy, even though he is physically bigger and stronger than Silva. He wears people down with well executed combinations. His ground game is solid and rough. All of my respect for Franklin can only help him survive the first. Silva by KO in the 2nd.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Problem: When first year students come in they have a large wheelbarrow of English dumped in their laps and have no idea what to do with it. Over the next two years the wheelbarrow turns into a dumptruck. They are confronted with teachers of various talent levels possibly helping them sort through the mess.
Let me give you an example from the second year text book: Some people believe that when a language disappears that culture disappears also.
As much as I agree with the sentiment, what is a kid who can't manage the difference between "I" and "you" supposed to do with that? That sentence is part of a larger dialogue about Ainu culture. The book is made up of chapters much like that. The kids are expected to learn these dialogues. I believe this was from pressure on the government to increase knowledge of minority groups in Japan, which is all well and good, but what sense does it make when the students can't understand anything being said. The teachers, for the most part, struggle to understand the material, so everyone ends up memorizing words or sentences instead of trying to learn how to speak.
The kids never learn how to diagram a sentence. They don't know what a noun or a verb is. They don't know subject or predicate. They don't know what an object or an adjective is. This is not a plea for "back to basics' education, but to give the kids an underlying structure that they can fall back on when confronted with language they don't understand. Japanese speakers of English largest problem I have seen over the years is an inability to figure out what is the important information in a sentence and what can be put to the side. This is the most important skill in trying to get by in a foreign language, as you will never understand 100% of what is going on.
My solution would be to teach the first years: I am. And then add words on to the end of that and then expand to you and he/she. And so on. That way, when confronted with the example sentence above, they can think "Ok, I don't understand but I see 'people' and 'believe.' There are my subject and a verb." That's all they have to do.
Here is how the system is set up to fail. I am the only person in the school that can speak English. The school has three grade levels of six classes each. I have eighteen English classes, which I am split between. I go to classes like a break for them, like a treat. I have nothing to do with curriculum, or test preparation or anything of that sort. I wish they would give me one grade level for a year. Or even one class for a year. I would do 20 minutes of sentence diagrams and have them read Hop on Pop for the next twenty or so. (The kids can't read either.) Of course, outside of some private schools, foreigners can never be treated as real teachers. Some of that is reasonable. Most of the ALTs I have known aren't qualified to teach macaroni art at the senior center, but if the Japanese government were serious about education they could seek out capable foreigners and capable Japanese speakers for English. But that won't happen, because they aren't serious. Additionally, allowing non-Japanese to occupy actual, substantive role in their society is not going to happen anytime soon.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
As for Al Gore. That is great. Wonderful. But we are still doing absolutely nothing and it is pretty late in the game. It is going to be bad before it gets a chance to get better. I don't think people understand how this will effect crops and increase the rate of desertification. People don't care. So I am glad that Al Gore cares. I am glad the the right wing is in a tizzy. I hope it amounts to something.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Sunday, October 14, 2007
My friend Miho, the kimono enthusiast, invited me to a kimono exhibition. It had some beautiful kimono, which I would like to discuss in-depth here, but they didn't allow photography. One of the designers even took the time to explain how he made this very complicated design that looked like the front of a machiya and had complicated details embroidered into the fabric. He said it took him four months to make. There were some remarkable designs and some that were pretty crap. The fabrics were dyed.
Miho and Mayumi are boycotting my photography as I don't notify them that I am taking a picture and this flusters people. This was the first time I had seen Mayumi in clothes that were not yukata. We ate souffles, I thought mine taste a little heavily of egg, but...
I am watching season three of The Sopranos and it is as good as people make it out to be. I have been eating nothing but Ritz crackers for the last month. I was trying to get around to saying something but i forgot what. Between Uniqlo and the dollar store I would like to say a big thank you to Chinese slave labor. Thank you Chinese slave labor.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Last Saturday at Imaichi Chu the craziness that is an undo kai ensued. I was supposed to run in the relay. I stretched and got warmed up. I was stationed in front of the students. I got them all fired up for my running, even though I am slow and haven't run a relay since grade school. As Kita sensei (the rather hot home ec. lady who is 22 and recently told me she played sweeper on her junior high boys soccer team and tried to in high school until they made her quit) approached with the baton, I realized that she completely didn't notice me and ran right past me. I briefly considered running after her but thought better of it.
Earlier in the day, the teachers played a game versus the PTA in which we were supposed to roll a rugby ball down around a cone with a baseball bat. It was a team relay. Everyone would try to go slow and control the ball. But it is a rugby ball and it will bounce where it wants to. So I said, "Why don't we just nail it?" Everyone kind of thought I was joking. One of the old lady teachers had the turn before me. She ran back and collapsed on her face right in front of me., holding the bat up in the air. I asked if she was okay, took the bat, stepped to the side, pointed up in the air, and nailed the rugby ball. It traveled perfectly to the backside of the cone, bounced once and stopped. I ran down. Trapped with my foot and knocked the crap out of it. It spun perfectly back to the starting point and I ran back pointing at the student section and reveling in my heroism. Oh, undo kai.
Here is some rainy day listening for you.
I am out of the guest house and into my own apartment.
It is small, but it is brand new and has a loft. The stove is electric and garbage and turns itself off whenever the water approaches a boil. The sliding glass door is frosted over so I can't see outside if it is shut. It already had a brand new washing machine, refrigerator, flat screen TV and internet. The internet won't let me download things peer 2 peer. Motherfucker. It is pretty nice. The view out of my window is of Nijo Station. It is a pretty rad area. A little removed, but... It is more like Japan and less Japanesey than Higashiyama. In any case, I should be able to post on the regular and receive mail again, so, dozo.
attempting to silence the voices in my head.