Monday, June 27, 2011

The Cost

You might have noticed that I was out for a bit. I wonder if something happened over here? I don't remember. In any case, here is an interesting piece about how much it costs to provide air-conditioning in Afghanistan. Reading this, a lot of things seem absurd to me. I feel bad telling a poor soldier serving in Afghanistan to just deal with the heat, but..... I tell hundreds of teenagers to deal with unheated, unair-conditioned schools every day. It isn't Afghanistan though.

One thing that always strikes me about going back to America is the absurd use of air-conditioning. It might just be my mother's house. It probably has a lot to do with the way we build our houses. But it all seems like a bit much to me. My house now in Kyoto, which is notoriously hot in the summer, has two air-conditioners which I never use. Their filters are still sitting out from when I cleaned them. I use a fan and carry a towel around with me. That is about it. When you think about all of the things our world has to go through for power, air-conditioning and dryers and the like start to seem a bit frivolous. Especially when we are cutting the social safety net to threads at home so people can have air-conditioning somewhere where most of the country doesn't think we still need to be.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Kyoto: Fortress of Solitude

Most people who live in Kyoto realize that any tsunami big enough to tackle our city would be big enough to destroy the rest of the earth so there is really no point in fretting over it. However, a lot of our family members and friends don't live here and have been expressing a reasonable amount of concern over the issue. I am making this so that you can pass it on to them.

When the location for the new capital was being scouted in the 700s, court geomancers remarked that the city was well protected in the northwest by Atagosan and in the northeast by Hieizan two mountains that tower over the city today. The mountains are part of several groups of mountains, Higashiyama, Nishiyama and Kitayama, that surround the city on three side creating the Yamashiro Basin which is listed by Wikipedia as having an average elevation of around 1,000 meters. But that is a bit misleading. A good portion of the city itself is at an average elevation of around 86 meters forming a basin known as a 'bonchi.'

Here is a very good map with certain points marked by elevation. My apartment is directly across the street from number 1 on this map.

Two major rivers run through the city and feed into the Yodo River which flows on to Osaka and into Osaka Bay which opens onto the Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

It is roughly 30 miles between Osaka and Kyoto.
Just to speculate, A tsunami would have to come into Osaka Bay, over the city of Osaka-a substantial metropolis-up the Yodo River for 30 miles climbing close to 100 meters in elevation to damage Kyoto. I don't want to tempt fate, but that is highly unlikely. Or, a Tsunami could begin in the Sea of Japan, scale a mountain range and attack from the north. Also highly unlikely.

If you are unfamiliar with the area, please note that the large body of water you sea directly to the east of Kyoto (although not on these maps) is Biwako, the largest lake in Japan. It is not connected to the sea.

Now, all of this is not to say that there is no worry of earthquakes in Kyoto. There are fault lines in the city. But that applies to anywhere in Japan. We also have a lot of green space, a large aquifer, no high rise buildings (not that high rises are dangerous and smaller ones are safe necessarily) and many broad streets.

One further note for those not familiar with Japanese geography.

We live in Kansai. Or, the area on this map labled 'Kinki.' You can stop laughing now. You should see the shirts that say "All Kinki Girl's Softball Tournament." The earthquake happened in Tohoku. Tokyo is in Kanto. We are over 500km away from the damage. Which is the hardest part really.

Thank you for your concern and I hope this makes you feel better.

(if there are any mistakes in my data, please let me know. there were lots of conflicting average elevations)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Update: Limbaugh Still Stupid

Here Rush Limbaugh makes fun of Japanese refugees for recycling in their shelter. His caller thinks it is pretty funny. That conversation doesn't hurt my feelings or anything, it just shows the divide in the world views going on. Not between Japan and America but between the ignorant people who participate in this dialogue. It took me a second to think about why it would seem odd for people in a shelter to divide their garbage. Everyone does it every day in Japan. I imagine it makes life a lot more livable in the shelter. It would make sense to get quickly decaying things like fish bones and orange peels out of an enclosed place packed with people and to take bulkier but non-rotting items like cans and containers out later. But I forgot what I always forget about Rush world, it is for exceptionally lazy people. Where putting one thing in one box and another in the box next to it is oppressive labor.

To understand their further joke about it being ironic that a country making electric cars would have thousands of people killed in a natural disaster- wait I will give you a second to stop laughing at how funny that is- would require slithering into a world view almost too low to penetrate. I would wager that most people that are environmentalists, don't believe in a deity that meets out ironic punishment by angry destruction. I have never met anyone, besides the most borderline kook, who even uses the word Gaia seriously. Whatever. All they have done, as usual, is place their view over a supposed liberal one and then comment on how it seems odd. Yes it does, because we don't think like that. In Sendai there is a large porpoise killing operation and shark fin fishery. I strongly oppose those things but I don't feel any sense of relief that the people involved in it are suffering. That isn't fair. I haven't seen any commentary from the radical left- to the extent that that exists- saying that anyone feels that it is, and I am on their mailing lists.

Until I am re-exposed to him, I often forget who truly stupid and gutless, metaphorically, that Limbaugh is. What an undeserving person of a public voice. What a loser dressed up like he won.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Earthquake Proof Housing-For Poor People

Since most of the world is poor people, this National Geographic piece is filled with useful information. This is actually what I majored in in college and would still like to be doing. Anyway. I think this is how we should be thinking about architecture and urban planning going forwards, as we all get Third Worlded.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It Wasn't Not Capitalism!

Thank you David Cay Johnston for pointing out what anyone with a cursory interest in economics- which we all should have as we are pulled around by it- should understand; that once you pay public workers, be that in benefits or wages, the money is theirs, not still yours.

Is it that hard to understand? If you go to a Yankees game once, you can not forever claim that A-Rod is taking Madonna on dates with your money. Bill Gates isn't giving out vaccinations with your money. You paid for a service they supplied, which they negotiated a contract to work for, it is their money. Is that difficult?

To not understand this simple point is either willful ignorance or a deep misunderstanding of the economic system which you claim to be so strongly allied with.

If you skip the whole article, I will point out what shouldn't need pointing out; health benefits and vacation days are not presents from your boss, they are compensation. Workers negotiate a mixture of salary and benefits and that becomes the conditions that they work under. To pretend that it is the bosses magnanimity that grants vacation and benefits is insulting. But, what really is new there. The new, angry conservative makes their bones in the insulting. They wallow in it like a dog on a rotting corpse and then prance around talking about how good they smell.

If we are to believe that corporate CEO's wages must be kept high to insure interest in the position from qualified people, are we supposed to think that the government wants to discourage qualified teachers and public workers? Almost assuredly, they do. Or just want to roll the dice on getting them on the cheap, which is the situation I am in.

Yet again, there is no internal logic in the conservative position.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Train in Vain

I think this is only 100% correct. I couldn't get George Will's absurd piece about trains being unAmerican, but then again I am so confused on what exactly is unAmerican and what isn't anymore. To me, trains are not only a part of my everyday life, but are much more democratic than flying. Flying to me, feels like being contained in a giant, terrifying pre-school. It seems the exact opposite of freedom.

JR just built a new Shinkansen line direct from Kagoshima to Kansai. It opens next week. My wife's grandfather, a lifelong JR employee, has a ticket on the first run. It is a strangely emotional thing. Think about how wonderful this is though; when I go to Kagoshima for summer break, all I have to do is walk down the street for ten minutes. Get on the subway for Kyoto Station. Ride that for about ten minutes. Buy a $150 ticket for the next train available. Walk on, sit down, read a book, drink a beer, watch the world go by and walk off a few hours later on another island at the bottom of the country. No IDs. No metal detectors. No tiny seat. No terror. No delays (probably.) What is this conservative hang-up about trains? It seems arbitrary, like the whole vindictive styrofoam thing. It probably has bigger meaning though.

Trains. Make them. Build them. Ride them. Please. Florida, I am looking at you here.

Interesting Names Update

Yesterday I was looking back over old school related blog posts. Wow. Anyway, I realized I hadn't done an update of unusual surnames at this school in the two years that I have been here. If you have missed out on it, I have a minor, unexplained obsession with Japanese last names; especially crazy ones.

I'll just give you a brief recap of why Japanese surnames are so varied. With the exception of the very powerful, Japanese didn't have last names until the fall of the feudal system in the 1860s. Under the Meiji they were told to give themselves last names. That hasn't been enough generations for the rarer names to eleminate themselves. That sounds ominous.

One category I am getting stricter on is the combination of a place specifier, i.e. 原、谷、山, plus a qualifier for it. Because, really you could stick any two kanji together and some are going to sound rarer to others.

Under the category of easy to read but strange, we have the all-time champion, now, at this school:

上圡: Uedo. I have never seen another Uedo and was convinced it must have some crazy reading. Nope. Uedo.

We also have: Ryu. But as a last name. Is that odd? It seems so to me. "Hello, my name is dragon. Fuck you."

There are two brothers both named 薬師寺: Yakushiji. Which is a famous temple in Nara. Other teachers say it isn't so rare, but I have yet to find any others.

There is a 2nd year named 島子: Shimako. Very easy to read. I want that last name. 'Island Child.' Not bad.

There is a 征禄: Seiroku. Never seen that before.

There are two sisters with a slightly unfortunate reading of their last name 槍山: Yariyama.

Maybe related, maybe not, we have a young lady named: Tomari.

Outstandingly bad-assed name 三星:  Mitsuboshi. 'Three Stars.' Maybe they can grow up to be a chef.

Possible rare name champion 伝宝:Denpo. Here is the thing; Those aren't even the actual kanji for her name. The real kanji won't come up in any computer or cell phone, even if you look under other readings. They have to be written out by hand, so she just uses these.

There is a 古舘: Furutate. Which you don't see very often.

We have 中条: Chujyo. Whow is as unique as his name.

The 3rd year teachers have my grade book right now, so I will have to come back with more later.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I wanted to talk about how Mike Huckabee's defense that saying that President Obama had grown up in Kenya had been a slip of a tongue had no internal logic, but Media Matters beat me to it. And why not, that's their J-O-B.

Think about it. What if I said, "Mike Huckabee clearly has an issue with white people after growing up in a township in aparthied era South Africa idolizing Nelson Mandela and dreaming of playing rugby. Wait. Did I say South Africa? A slip of the tongue. I meant 'Arkansas.'"

But nothing makes sense if you change it to say Arkansas. Except for the apartheid. Hahahaha. I kid. Nothing about his statement makes sense when you switch Indonesia for Kenya. Also, it leaves out the huge central element of him growing up with his father and grandfather, which he didn't. Isn't it a giant detail of the President's life that he grew up without a father? Doesn't saying that you meant to say that he spent time in Indonesia have to be coupled with the fact that you know he was estranged from his father? Nothing in that argument makes sense.

What does make sense is that Mike Huckabee is a bit more despicable than I thought him to be. I think this indicates that he knows exactly what he is up to and who he is appealing too. He will now run around the Right Wing stupidverse saying how everyone is just blowing this whole thing out of proportion around poor ole Huck. His audience already got what they wanted out of it. The corrections don't matter.

I want to talk about this in more detail at some point. I think FOX caught on to this a while back. It doesn't matter at all what you say. You put out the storyline you want. Lightly correct it later and keep going. No one who wants to believe it will heed the correction.


Here is an even better piece on it describing how thoroughly stupid Huckabee's take is. I find it very hard to see it as anything other than a thinly veiled call to racism. What is this odd conservative obsession with Churchill anyway? I remember it being written about during the Bush presidency but what is there in it? President Obama moved a Churchill bust and installed a Lincoln bust. We all know that he would be criticized for doing the opposite as well. Does Huckabee find something wrong with Lincoln? Does anyone in England really care? Try this headline on:

Democrat Pres. Bows to Europe, Replaces American Hero with Foreign Leader.

Tell me that they wouldn't run that in a heartbeat and that would be the issue of the day. Then if he switched them back they would go on about what a weak flip-flopper he was. As a member of the Left, I think we should just push what children Conservatives are. What little babies. Ignorant, whiny little babies.

Oh. I forgot. Is Huckabee, in his book, saying that the American story isn't one of aligning ourselves with freedom seeking people everywhere? Are we not the City on the Hill. Maybe I misunderstood. Our sympathies should lie with the British Empire. The worst elements of the British Empire. That is 'our story' as Americans. Weird.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hirakata, You're Cut Pat II

This was to be the thrust of the last thing but I got off track when I went to scan pages out of the text book.

Last month Hirakata City, only 40 minutes from my house instead of an hour and 40, had openings for 6 new ALT jobs. Hirakata does direct hire and not dispatch. Direct hire provides a steady salary instead of paying by the day and cuts out the middleman, gaijin wrangling, useless companies. Companies like mine. It would have also been a $300 a month raise and a paycheck for the summer break which I am not paid for. On the downside, I very much love my school now and was not anxious to change.

But these things become a matter of ego don't they? Even if a girl you don't like tells you you are ugly it still ratchets down your confidence. So I went to apply on the last day they were accepting applications, sneaking out of school and returning to the campus where I was an exchange student in 1999, now converted into public buildings.

The process worked like this; One submits an application at the board of education. This office is n the old Kansai Gaidai administration building, which was a nice building. ( It has been Japanese officeized. I would spend time on this but that is not the point of the piece. Just imagine putting a lot of dusty cardboard boxes full of useless paper in random corners, hanging up a lot of public service posters, and carting in busted up old metal office desks. There.) After
this application is received you are given a number. I was N17. I was told that there would be a test at 10am the following Thursday and an interview on the Monday following that at a time that would be specified at the test. Why is when these occur important? As I said earlier, I work dispatch. Most people with my job do. We are paid by the day and get no personal days. At my company if we don't miss any days in a month and aren't late or have to leave early we get a $100 bonus at the end of the month. Taking days off for this process, including dropping off the application, would cost me $460. This is a large barrier to even applying. Who is it not a barrier for? People with irregular work. I think there is probably a pool of good teachers who don't have regular work, but you are limiting the field. How did I get around this? I am brazen. I just left work to drop off the application. On the day of the test I had a full schedule of classes but I met with the teachers and told them the situation and asked them not to mention anything. The day of the interview, I thought I was pushing it a little so I informed the vice-principal and all of the teachers that I would be out in the morning. I sent my work a mail detailing the situation. I will elaborate on this a bit later. (If someone from my company or the school board reads this, this is a work of fantasy. )

I say all of this because all through the process, on both sides; or employers and or prospective employers, we aren't really treated like full humans. Every marathon or grappling competition I have taken part in has been on a Sunday as most people work during the week. he school board doesn't want to work on the weekend so they put the burden, the financial burden on us. Should I point out again how much less money we make than these people?

The weekend before the test, I took the GRE as my 5-year window had expired. As usual with me, I did very well on the verbal- 97%- and barely passable on the quantitative- 30%. I had a total score of 1,200, which isn't terrible. I wanted a 6 on the essay but I got a 5. The Hirakata test was scheduled for an hour in the old reception hall at Kansai Gaidai. I remembered are welcome party there in 1999 when Tanimoto Gakucho sang "Old Susanna" for the Alabama contingent. Odd to be here now hoping for a $300 a month raise. After having took the GRE the test was pedestrian. I finished in about 20 minutes and went back through the whole thing about 3 times. There was very little math and it was basic compared to the GRE. The grammar was so easy as to be laughable. There was an essay section that was remarkable only in its limit to 700 words. I might be guilty of overconfidence but I have the GRE and its very real scores to show me the level I was preforming at.

My interview was scheduled for the following Monday at 10am. We were separated into groups of 6 and told that it would be a group interview. We would need to answer the first question in Japanese and give a 3 minute demonstration lesson on our assigned topic. Our group was assigned the relative clause. The example sentence was "The scientist who wrote 'Silent Spring' was Rachel Carson." I think that this is a terrible example sentence. If you are just introducing this grammar, you have to explain 'scientist', that 'Silent Spring' is a book and that 'Rachel Carson' is someone's name. In 3 minutes.

There is a lot to unpack in this. First, the tendency in Japanese society towards the simplistically maudlin is well documented. I am not saying that to be a jerk. I like it sometimes. However we are given these strange examples all the time because they are thought of as touching, or at least echo something that older teachers knew of when they were younger. As I pointed out in my last post, I don't think you should saddle knew grammar with new words and distracting tidbits. Again, this is to be a 3 minute lesson.

The instructions were vague as to whether we had to teach this sentence or the grammar that it was an example of. I had been through a large teachers office fight about this grammar earlier in the year and had then done a demo lesson of it for the Higashi Osaka Board of Education that had won a (meaningless) first prize. I decided to go with the method that I used there as it brings students to this grammar through language that they already know.

"There are a lot of students at this school. Mia is a girl. Mia plays soccer. Mia is the girl who plays soccer." The sentences in bold I had printed out and laminated. I also had printed out and laminated two pictures of girls. All of my materials were magnetized so I could stick them on the board. One playing soccer, one playing basketball. I then ask "Who is Mia?" Everyone gets it pretty quickly. I don't explain that 'a' becomes 'the' immediately, but I don't think it is that important. Other applicants did. Once the students get this I move on. "Takeshi is a boy. Takeshi plays piano. Takeshi is the boy who plays piano." Again, picture of two boys. "Who is Takeshi?" I don't think mine is the only effective method, but I have decided out it after years of teaching this grammar. It seems the quickest path to being able to understand what this point is trying to get across.

Other candidates taught the Rachel Carson sentence. Not all of them did. I would say that 4 out of the 6 applicants had below average lessons. 3 of them used up their time writing the grammar out long hand on the marker board. I would say that, in my opinion, one other lesson was good. Three other lessons had major, major issues. The remaining lesson was not well conceived but well prepared and presented, if that makes any sense.

I should backtrack for a minute and say that the interview was before the demo lessons. We were asked to give a self-introduction in Japanese. The overall level was pretty low, but whatever. We were then questioned by a panel of people from the board of education and our answers were translated by an older gentleman who did, I must say, an atrocious job. One other person being interviewed is completing his master's degree in education, I believe. That was translated as "He hopes to master teaching." A lot of information was cut out of the answers. I remember thinking it was a little humorous and not being able to tell if he was editing for brevity or out of ignorance. I was asked a question by one other member of the panel whose English pronunciation I couldn't quite get. I had to ask him to repeat himself. He looked disturbed and had already started his stopwatch.

There were two other groups of 6. So 18 people up for 6 jobs. Going just by my group, and I understand that my viewpoint is self-serving and biased, there were 2 people who I would have given the job to. Two that I really wouldn't and two that...whatever. Assuming that applied across all groups, the numbers work out to six jobs. With confidence I sat back and waited for my letter of acceptance to come.

But you already know what happened don't you. On the expected day, I went home early and opened the letter. "You are the 11th out of 18 applicants. You were not selected for employment." Questions abound. I don't think anyone is required to give me a job, but I am curious how the selection worked.

My real concern in all of this is; How are teachers selected?
It is a mystery. There is no standardization and it all seems so random. A lot of garbage teachers have great jobs. A lot of great teachers have to scramble to make a buck. The arbitrariness of it all is a different form of torture. Was I not selected because of my test score? Was my lesson flawed? Did my interview rub someone the wrong way? I won't ever know, but I do know that the people making the selections know very little about how to do the job. That can't be a good process.

I have an idea. I think it is a good idea. It will never be implemented.

Have prospective ALTs for Osaka take the GRE. Have the scores submitted to the BOE to a general pool. Weight verbal and essay scores over math. Have 1,000 be a cutoff, and a 4 on the essay. Have this pool submit a CV and 2 letters of recommendation from former schools. If they have no experience, then from former employers. Then have them come in for interviews and demo lessons. Have these scheduled on evenings or weekends to allow everyone to participate. Have the panel that considers applicants include current English teachers.

Additionally, give this pool of teachers a path to being licensed. Have them take the JLPT. Provide them a way to advance. In the state it is now, the education system is creating a system that is both unstable and stagnating. Teachers don't advance for being good at their jobs and aren't fired for being bad. There is no difference. It is all arbitrary.

I reiterate that I think none of this will happen. If Japan is willing to take any constructive steps, then I hope they decide to get rid of English education entirely at the junior-high level because it is a false promise for everyone and a joke in practice.

Hirakata, You're Cut. Part 1.

I don't think I have made much of a secret of my new (year-old?) decision that the best course for Japan was to give up on English education, at least at the junior high level. My reasoning behind this decision, again for the record, is that it doesn't help to do something half-assed and then rate it and judge the results as if it was being done appropriately. In fact, I think more damage is being done by teaching English than the benefits gained from it.

Let me quickly run through my main points regarding this issue.

1. Most English teachers can't speak English. That is just the reality of the situation and everyone knows it. This situation would not be tolerated for any other subject.

2. English programs are controlled by bureaucrats at city hall, not by English educators. This generally means that they try to get things done on the cheap with more attention paid to appearances than results. This applies to lots of things everywhere, however.

3. The teaching methods are outdated. Most teachers still use the Grammar Translation Method, which went out in Western schools in the 1960's and was being criticized in the 19th century. In fact most text books only really lend themselves to this method. More modern teachers use ESL methods, but ones usually geared towards college students.

4. Whither the ALT? My job is a cipher. Sorry to say it. It doesn't have to be that way. I am reminded of a passage in Jarhead, where the author describes the military having no idea how to use snipers in the First Gulf War, so they would just be told to 'go do something.' I think that I have been able to turn this vagueness into something constructive but it is a bit like needing to build a dam and settling for dropping a boulder in the river.

5. Japanese society is still too immature in its approach to an international society. Again, I am sorry if that sounds vague and general and insulting. Let me tell you a story. I was called in to an impromptu meeting with some very high-ups in the city's education department. They began asking my opinions on different things regarding the English program. I was a little off guard, but thrilled with the opportunity. I began by saying, "As you know, Higashi Osaka has the lowest scores in the country." I was immediately stopped and told, "We don't care about that. Japanese people can't speak English. We were just thinking that maybe on Wednesday afternoons we could have a program were moms came to the school to play with their kids in English. Whadda ya think?" A completely normal answer to a question in English in class is "I don't know what you are saying, I am Japanese!" Television constantly hammers in ideas that the world is divided into Japan and Gaikoku. People in Gaikoku all speak English. To be Japanese is to not be a part of that. I am probably going a little far afield with this one, so I will get back on track.

6. The only text books allowed have to be made by Japanese companies. And they suck. We are not allowed to use the decent ones made by Oxford, or any other company.

7. The high school entrance exams are flawed. Deeply. And that is the endgame of all of junior high.

Let's look at a page from the text book for 2nd years. I won't get sued if I name it will I? It is New Crown. If you make this text book I am here to tell you that, as many hours as you might have put in, your product is garbage.

This page is in some ways an aberration. My objections to it are largely philosophical/political. First: Have a gander.

You can see my notes on the subject. Remark on the lovely handwriting. It would be nice to get some fresh eyes on the subject. What problems do you see? Or is it solid and I am a crank? That is possible.

My large issue with this is the whole "foreign people" angle. Not just because I am a "foreign people" but because what this is trying to convey only really makes sense in Japanese. That is a larger problem with these books, if you don't understand Japanese, it is hard to grasp them. The priority is not to teach speakable English but to reinforce Japanese. Which seems an odd goal for a foreign language textbook.

Of course, the word they want to say is "gaikokujin." The letter writer wants to teach Japanese to "gaikokujin." But how can this be clear to a world that doesn't divide itself into Japan and everyone else? I would contend that there is a large amount of people in Japan who would be very surprised that that isn't how the rest of the world thinks of things.

Scan down to the last sentence. In the future, just thinking about it in English, where does this person want to go? Do they want to go to Korea or Australia? I don't know. Do they want to stay in Japan, which is foreign to 98% of the world? Probably not, but I don't know. What group of people will they be teaching? Will they go to America and teach Japanese to Brazilians? There is no way to know. Usually other teachers' eyes glaze over when I talk about this page, but I can't understand how you don't consider these things. If they want to teach Japanese to foreign people, and they want to go to a foreign country and do this, do they mean the people of that country or non-natives who have come there? It seems peculiarly awkward to me.

The real trouble is that the people who gave the okay to this never had to consider it because they all knew exactly what they meant because they thought about it in Japanese. Japanese is a language that is in no way related to English. This becomes an overarching problem in these books.

On a brief side-note: As an American teaching in Japan I have refused to teach this lesson. I think it is rotten. Of all of the times that I have had to teach Japanese children about their own history and culture to then be forced to put stuff like this into their heads seems insulting. I know that most will take that as an overreaction, but I have to fight for every ounce of respect I get in the schools I teach in and I won't surrender it lightly to text book authors who put very little consideration into the matter from quite a great distance. I had to explain to a Japanese teacher, who has job security and bonuses, what the difference between a temple and a shrine was when he couldn't answer students' questions about it. I had to teach elementary school kids what Setsubun was because they didn't celebrate it at home. I should point out that the Japanese teacher's approach matters a lot in this lesson as well. When I have done this class, some teachers have used me as an example. You have to think about what you are teaching when you are teaching.

In my opinion the lesson would be more effective with the sentence, "I would like to go to another country and teach Japanese." What country they are going to is a little vague, but it is somewhere that is not where they are now and it carries little of the pejorative aftertaste.

If you are new to Japanese textbooks, this will be your introduction to the puzzling practice of beginning an inordinate number of sentences with "So", "And", "But," and other things we are taught to not begin sentences with.

Let's look at another page from the same book.

Certainly I don't object to the subject matter. It was my major in college for Christ's sake. I applaud the effort of discussing environmental issues in junior high. What's my beef then? This is indicative of two other major issues in these books. First, there is a group of social issues that they are compelled to address: Ainu, Okinawa, guide dogs, landmines and the environment, to name a selection. The problem is that they do it in such a ham-handed way. Second, the books introduce way too much superfluous information in a subject that is already overwhelming for kids. It is hard to separate what is important from what is filling. Again, if you are familiar with Japanese, you will recognize the influence.

Let me point out here, when considering these two pages, that most students will struggle to answer the question "How are you?" A good number of them can't write their names in English. The majority of kids doing this chapter right now have trouble with "I play. You play. He/She/It/ plays." What are they supposed to do with this?

Look at this page. What is the focus of the lesson? What grammar is being taught here? Can you figure it out? Any luck? The answer is comparatives. In this case "good, better, best." This is the introduction to the concept. Most new grammar points are taught this way in Japanese schools. This mass of disparate information will be shown to 14 year-olds who haven't mastered any basics. Some rules about the grammar will be quoted to them. These rules might be accurate or they might be something someone told the teacher once. The students will then read the passage out loud and then copy the whole thing in their notebook. Now they will be expected to know it forever.

I have no confidence in this method. I don't think mine is perfect, but here is how I did the lesson. I made a Powerpoint presentation with sets of pictures of three things. "Fuji is tall. Denali is taller. Everest is the tallest." "The dog is big. The cow is bigger. The elephant is the biggest." Once the students got the pattern- and it is the pattern that is important here, not the grammar rule-we changed it into a game. I also made sure they understood why 'the' is used for the superlative. I would show the first slide. "Kamakura." They would guess. "Kamakura is old." "Kyoto is older." "Nara is the oldest." After about 5 minutes even the lower level classes would get it. The game went on for 30-40 minutes. If I went to classes more than once a week, I would come back to this game for 1o minutes or so once a week.

This kind of lesson is known in Japanese schools as "a game." Games are what people like me are in schools to do. Real lessons involve sitting around and copying dialogues out of textbooks. You know, real learning. Our school is lucky to have a ton of laptops, projectors and screens. I would estimate that, including me, about 5 teachers use them. 5 out of 70+. A lot of older teachers are either amazed that someone can use Powerpoint, ashamed that this kind of goofing off is allowed in schools, or both.

As a teacher, another objection I have with this lesson is how many irrelevant things I would have to teach to do this dialogue. Do the authors consider this? I am all for conversations about outside stuff, and going off topic, but this isn't easy for the students. I have to explain: roof, sand,surface, degrees, heat islands, fight, green, and regular, just to get through this page. Again, to kids who can't answer "How are you?"

What did all of this have to do with Hirakata? Let's take a break and I will get there.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The (Red) Welfare State

Back to what I was saying before. I am starting to think that we should let the red states secede. If they did, it certainly appears that they couldn't succeed (thank you) as their policies are failures. Here are conservatives again whining about Wisconisn while failing to smyte the bee what bit them in thou own bonnett. Or something like that.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Good On You Packers

I am constantly going on about pro-athletes having strong unions and expecting fans to understand but not coming out to support other unions. Unions that strengthen the middle class so that they can afford to be fans. I think MLB owes teachers and garbage men a sympathy strike or two. That is why it was great this week to see the Packers, if not as an orginzation than as individuals, come out and support public workers in Wisconsin. It is truly remarkable that Green Bay is a publicly owned team that just won the Super Bowl. I like it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New Banksy

Banksy has some new LA stuff up. Is this his Oscar push?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

All Hail Rail

I am not very happy about the new (Republican) budget that President Obama has proposed. I am excited about the $53 billion plan for high speed rail. I could make a passioned defense for why we need this. But I am going to save us both time. All I will do is point you in the direction of this. As an urban planning major in the New College at UofA I could have told you about this 12 years ago, but why spoil the surprise. If it was up to my master plan we would just ride golf carts through town, drive whatever the f we want on interstates and take sailing ships across oceans. But I am a romantic. Why get laid with a stranger on a train when you can listen to talk radio alone in your car? Right middle age Republican men?

Of course, conservative means never having to plan ahead so most of this plan will probably be torpedoed. Solar power torpedoed. This is the kind of stuff that a future middle class needs.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Crank That Should Be Yanked

By now I am sure you have all seen chief moron and snake-oil salesman Glenn Beck getting the state fair crowd all riled up over Egypt.

I understand it is a bunch of ignorant blather from someone who's personal motto is "them books is wrong." Nevertheless I tried to use it as a jumping off point to figure out if their was any kind of internal logic to this thing as it obviously is untethered from reality. Of course it has been commented on to death and there really isn't much to be added to a long balloon shaped into a floating question mark by a sad clown but....

Let's just examine a tiny bit of his hypothesis. We will leave the part about the Muslim caliphate taking over Europe. We will wait on Russia rushing back from the dead to reclaim all of the satellite countries around it becoming, what exactly? The USSR II? I want to look very narrowly at Beck's contention that Australia will fall under the control of China. Maybe New Zealand. Forgive me if I misquote anything here, I can't seem to find a transcript.

Beck uses the vague word "control." China will control Australia. I hope I am not being racist when I say this is fairly insulting to Australians. How will Australia be controlled? Is this a military form of control? How would that make sense? How would it be done? Australia is a huge country. A continent in fact. It is sparsely populated and spread out. Would the Chinese army come in boats? Would a Chinese army large enough to occupy the continent of Australia, go to Australia in boats? How long would that take? They would need to be fed the whole time as well. Would they sail past Japan and the U.S. bases in Okinawa? Then they would just turn south and have clear sailing? I supposes Australia puts up no fight. That they are no match for hoards of Chinese transport vessels. Maybe there is a vanguard of....? What exactly. And while this giant Chinese invasion fleet is off to capture Australia, what happens back in China? Sure it could probably be kept out of the news, but a force big enough to occupy a continent would have to be replaced or covered for as China has huge, vast borders that need to be protected. Can China make enough food to support this force? Can they be fed while destroying then occupying Australia? What will they do when they have Australia? Govern the Australians? Isn't that, again, a little insulting? Would Paul Hogan and the ghost of Steve Irwin put up with that? Would China use their manpower pursuing rebels through desert and bush? To what end? For what benefit? Who knows?

Beck never bothered to think this through, surely. Maybe he war gamed over a Risk board. I think his next quote gives away that he was just making it up and went. Just after declaring that the continent of Australia would be under control of the Chinese, he adds, "Maybe New Zealand." Why maybe? Why? Really? If they come all the way for Australia. Take it over. Occupy it. What is stopping them from taking New Zealand too? Gandalf? Maori dancing the Haka? Jonah Lomu? Again, I think New Zealand would be a terribly difficult country to take over and then occupy, but if you can do it to Australia then can't you do it there?

I think the real tip-off is he said it because it sounded like the better way to end the sentence. It sounded more like his side-show patter to say, "Maybe New Zealand." Then to say, "If they took over Australia, one would suspect that New Zealand would follow." I think this is the key to the whole thing. He is just making up stuff that is easy to say. In fact, he is just saying it because it is easy. Beck has already made the decision to not be a serious person and to say whatever garbage gets people to look at him. It sounds better, and more threatening in a mysterious way to dangle, "Maybe New Zealand" the to think through what any of this would involve.

Maybe he meant Australia would be under the economic control of China. Ok, but what of it? China is the number two economy in the world and we buy tons of goods from them. Possibly he meant cultural? So what? More Lo Mein. He didn't mean anything except for "Give me your money suckers."

To add onto this vacuous masturbation fest, deeply hurt Glenn Beck came out a few days later and begged for a hug from mommy in this abysmal hissy fit. Again, I don't have the transcript, and I can't turn on the sound at work, but it was another eruption of stupid. Except that this time Beck said that everyone had proved him right because they said he was wrong and then reported on things that he didn't like. I don't watch much Beck, pretty much for the same reason I don't watch Full House or read Nevada prostitution brochures, so I was a little taken a back at what a horrible person he was. Beck who has never had the courage to stand up for anything, certainly never the guts to take it to the streets (for the record I don't find being a privileged millionaire and setting up a sponsored rally while wearing a bullet proof vest to be any sort of valour) ridiculing a Egyptian protester for having the audacity to be misunderstood by Glenn Beck. What a misguided person she must be for knowing that sometimes you have to work with people who don't have all of the same values as you to achieve goals that you mutually desire. How mistaken she is. That would be like Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich both being against the war. Impossible. That would almost be like the Nation of Islam and Jews both being for civil rights. Why do the Jewish people love Elijah Muhammed so much?

John Baez has a list of what constitutes a crank.

Hmmmm. If the shoe fits, take over Australia with the Chinese army.

The Great State of.....

A list of the states with the worst eating habits was released this week. I don't think it means that they let their dogs lick their plates or that they keep their elbows on the table. See the study for the methodology. I would wager that if you guessed the top ten you would not be far off. Seven out of ten probably.

While we are on it, here is a list of states by obesity levels. Again, no real surprises. Although I will make a slight exception for Louisiana because there is so much good food to eat. However, that is probably not the root of the problem. Especially in Baton Rouge or Slidell.

And then there is this: a list of divorce rates by state. This data is from 2009. And here is a ranking of teen pregnancy rates by state. Scroll down to page 13-14.

Here are the 2009 STD rates by state. Here are the 2009 crime rankings.

Here is the chart that I really feel tells an important story.

Here is a map of the states that went Obama/Biden in 2008.

And here is a historical map.

Finally, here is one of my favorite cognitive biases.

I am not going to bother tying together the threads on this one. I think you get it. But then we should ask, who's opinions are overrepresented in the media and in the power structure? Why is that? Why do we have to give in on everything to people who seem to be wrong about everything?

One statistical note: Population is not evenly distributed and we should be careful of that because even when dealing with things on a per capita basis, it doesn't tell the whole story. Smaller states are bound to swing wild sometimes.

Given that, here is a list of states by 2007 population data. And by population density.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Computer Canasta

As all three of you who follow this blog are well aware, I have a bit of a canasta problem. I don't mean my recent problem of losing every hand to DLB, no, a problem that predates that. A problem that began around the family dining table, carted back from somewhere out West on a dare from my Dad, the table, not the problem, and nurtured in many a borrowed dorm room. I have a mild addiction to the game of canasta. Its combination of luck and strategy of braggadocio and humbling retribution. Its symmetry of odd numbers. In Japan, outside of a small group trapped in a house during a typhoon, I have found no one to play canasta with. In comes the iPod. Now, I can play canasta whenever I want.

This brings its own issues however, it isn't the loss of conversation that a real human game brings, although that detracts from the experience, it is the absolute boneheaded way that your partner plays and the fact that their method can't be corrected through personal rebuke.

To be fair, I have noticed the same strategies from human opponents in Internet canasta; the same get the canasta and get out dash to the exit. To me the slowly building deck, the pot of soup that only one person will get to eat, is the fun of the game. Once you meet the challenge of melding and then get that deck, it is your obligation to stretch out the game and milk the other team for everything they have. Not so, says my digital teammate. The real challenge when you get up to melding 120 points is the meld itself. I can't see the logic in being roughly 1,000 points away from a victory, getting the difficult meld, getting a huge deck, having the other team in the position of every discard being a donation to your team fund, but deciding to go out after one canasta. A canasta that doesn't put you over the 5,000 point mark for the win. Now you have to struggle to meld 120 again and have no idea if you will get to pick up the deck.

Maybe it is the rule that you can go out with one canasta, natural or not. I am not a fan of that rule. I say two canastas where one must be natural is the only way to play. It makes for a more strategic game. Maybe it is just flawed programming. My teammate has been known to through a deuce on 6 eights for an unnatural and discard the eight in their hand on the same play. Or two lay down 3 sixes, which the opponent doesn't have, and then discard a Jack, which gives the other side a natural canasta.

Oh, well. That's what happens when you build robot people. Take that science!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Kick Ass

I finally got a chance to see Kick Ass in a tiny, alternative movie theater in an upscale department store in Kyoto. I don't have many deep thoughts on it. I liked it. Natsuki's comment was, "I liked it. It was pretty shallow." I am not sure if those two quotes are connected by anything. What I did like about the movie was that it began with an interesting question and then answered it in a very real and understandable way.

The question was, "If super heroes are so popular, why don't more people try and be a super hero." The question was later answered by saying, and showing, that people don't because they find that they have people they care about and who care about them. That all of us have a responsibility to those people that would generally preclude running around and inviting death. It was no great coincidence that once the hero figured out that he like shagging his (insanely hot) girlfriend that he quickly lost the super hero bug. I thought where the movie succeeded was in showing the desire for super heroes not as a stupid fantasy, or a comical fantasy but, at its very heart, as a juvenile fantasy.

Whither Come the Tides?

I know this has been covered to death. It has been covered like a sore knee with icey hot. It has been covered like a (reference to a Japanese genre of porn film removed by publisher.) However this give me an opportunity to reference one of my favorite blogs, Bad Astronomy, which you might or might not be familiar with, but you should be now.

Bad Astronomy on the ridiculous, ridiculous, O'Reilly argument that the tides prove God's existence. I think the worst part of his contention was how pleased he looked with it. Being content with a thought so incompletely form is a small window into how actually ignorant O'Reilly himself is.

Further, I notice that O'Reilly always uses the construction, "Never any miscommunication." Each time he makes his assertion. Is there an underlying reason for this?

Lower the Retirement Age

If you have missed out on it for the last few months, James Galbraith has been talking up his plan to lower the retirement age. Most headlines that you can find on the subject characterize the plan as "radical." I can't see it as anything other than practical and am left scratching my head over why it is anything other than the prevailing belief. I am no genius economist, but this certainly doesn't fall into the "wow, I never thought of that category."

The central premise here is that lowering the retirement age clears off a section of the job market that young people in need of jobs can move in and fill, while older people, eager to retire can find their way out. It seems elementary to me. I don't know why it is radical and raising the age is a serious consideration. Actually, I do, it is because our dialogue can only function one way in America. Whether conscious or not, if it involves sacrifice and suffering to the middle class and below it is serious. If it requires anything of the upper classes, it is radical.

Something else important to notice in this conversation is that the "Life expectancy keeps rising" meme is only true of the white collar, upper classes. People with hard jobs and little or no medical coverage are not living longer. So they should suck it up and work two more painful years and then shut up and die with sub-standard health coverage and no end of life care discussions with their doctor.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Total Employment

This is something to think on. I am pretty much in agreement on all counts. I think the most telling thing is the owner.manager belief that wages are paid to get you to show up and that is the obligation, not that we are in it together to create a stable society and without solid wages, their businesses will eventually suffer. They just get trained to squeeze the dry rag and complain that it isn't wet like it used to be.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

UFC 126: Storm the Tower

Through a blaring chorus of "Rock the Casbah" played by a rental mariachi band, commissioner Dana White ambled to the podium in a Peace in the Middle East retro t-shirt and $900 jeans. "The show must go on." He declared with all the earnestness of the Israeli delegation at the Munich Olympics.

Kingsbury vs. Romero:

Romero has a great sub record against lesser competition. Kingsbury has been an up and comer for a while but doesn't impress me that much. Could go either way. Kingsbury should out-wrestle Romero, but I would like a crazy leg-lock. So, Romero by sub in the 1st.

Taylor vs. Ruediger:

Ruedigar had a lot of success in lower organizations but has done nothing but make a joke out of himself at this level. If you can't make weight for a fight, it means something is wrong with how you are approaching the game. While it would be fun to see a sub upset, it is hard to get behind a guy who would rather get a colonic than control his eating. Taylor by TKO in the 3rd.

Pierce vs. Robertson:

Pierce is a very good fighter. I don't see him losing this. The end.

Cerrone vs. Kelly

I think this is a bad style/size match-up for Kelly. While he can be a little fireball on the ground- posturing up in guard and whaling on guys- that is the exact wrong technique against Cerrone, who is always happy to triangle somebody. I think this is a good, back-and-forth battle, but I think Cerrone gets a sub in the 3rd.

Yamamoto vs. Johnson

Linearly, Yamamoto Kid should be my compatriot as he is a product of the same Gym. I have never been a big fan, however. What Kid brings, or brought, to the table is incredible athleticism, double plus power and excellent wrestling. But he has been injured and cowed and aged. What does he still have. Kid is always capable of getting the KO, but can he still pull the trigger? I am calling Mighty Mouse for the upset here. Probably on decision with lots of good striking exchanges.

Mendes vs. Omigawa:

What are they trying to do here? I really don't get it. If the goal is to wreck Omigawa on his return then I think they picked the right match-up. The real crucible for most Japanese fighters coming over is the level of wrestling in the U.S. There just isn't a comparable comparison in Japan. Omigawa is good. Very good. He has clean striking and a solid top game. He still has good judo balance. But he can be taken down. He will be taken down. I would love to see him win, but I have to call Mendes by decision.

Torres vs. Banuelos:

I do not hide my love for Miguel Torres. There was a time, not long ago, that I thought he was in the running for best P4P in the world. He fell off, but I hope he is on his way back. Banuelos can be entertaining, but I don't see him doing that much. I think Torres hurts him with the jab and takes advantage for a sub in the 2nd.

Ellenberger vs. Rocha:

I still can't get that interested in Ellenberger. That doesn't mean he is bad. He packs a lot of power, and knocks fools out. Maybe I will change my mind about him. I love Rocha's resume, but, as usual, it is not at this level of competition. I would love for him to bust out a knee-bar, but the positioning required to get to a knee-bar would probably mean that Ellenberger would get a chance to brain him. Ellenberger for 1st round KO.

Bader vs. Jones

Who isn't excited about this one? Jones, who channels Tony Jah, squaring off against the real life Ram-Man. These guys are both for real, they are both undefeated(really) and they can both make just about anything happen. Bader can take Jones down or he can knock him out. Jones could through Bader down on the mat and elbow out his orbital. Who knows? As a fight fan I am geeked. I will call it for Jones by TKO in the 2nd, but I have no clue.

Griffin vs. Franklin:

Another great match-up. Both of these guys are grinders with tons of stamina and a huge amount of fight experience. Franklin is the better striker. The ground game is probably a wash. Griffin has the size and strength. I think they both get pretty beat up. I think this looks a lot like Franklin's Loiseau fight, but with some more time on the ground. I don't know how how to call it. I am going a little more for Griffin, but I see Franklin's striking landing more. I would imagine, Franklin has worked on countering Griffin's kicks, which are effective. Err... Franklin by narrow decision.

Silva vs. Belfort:

There is one factor for me in this fight; Belfort's long layoff. A year out of the ring is just too much. Does he have the kind of striking to put Silva out? Absolutely. Belfort has great hands. One of a kind hands. But when has Silva looked that vulnerable? Against Sonnen? A lot of that, aside from the rib injury, can be explained by Sonnen's excellent take-down ability that was making Silva reticent. People are saying that SilvaBelfort's BJJ or wrestling is at a level to threaten Silva. I think Silva lands accurate strikes and gets the KO late in the 3rd or early in the 4th.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Rush is as Dumb as Usual

You don't need me to tell you that what is happening in Egypt is important. Exceedingly important. You also don't need me to tell you that the conservative press is failing miserably in trying to report on it. Their first issue is that they start from their decided upon storyline and then try to cram everything into it until it works. But it never really does. Sometimes the mismatched corners stand out like a roll of fat under Rush Limbaugh's tight golf shirt. Sometimes it pours out like Glenn Beck's tenuous grip on reality. We have Glenn Beck telling us that the demonstrators are communists. But of course he would. We have Sean Hannity saying that this is a democratic revolution like Iraq. What?

It is hard for the Right. Democracy is a buzz word for them. But that is all it is. The real ground work of democracy is something they don't want anywhere near. So we have a democratic uprising, which should be good. But it is against as US client state. Hmmm. If the president were Republican it would be easy to back the dictator, but with a Democrat in power...hmmmm....The Right enjoys big shows of military power, but they hate Arabs and followers of Islam. Errr... What to do, what to do? Protesters, unless they are fake CIA hires or real American rubes, are stinky and creepy and something less than human, but everyone involved here is a light shade of brown anyway. Confusion.

So Rush gets on-air again today and proves the difference between himself and real journalists; journalists who are being beaten and stabbed and kidnapped and threatened with death right now. Journalists being kidnapped is a joke. Journalists dying is a joke. The next question- why are journalists being targeted- which occurred immediately to real journalist Nicholas Kristoff, was never even contemplated. Given the violence yesterday, I would assume it is because the government and the police plan to violently crush the demonstrators and don't want the story to get out. As a fan of real democracy that terrifies me. Does it terrify Rush Limbaugh. Not as much as the anal cyst that helped him stay out of Vietnam. Or should I say, not as much as fighting in Vietnam. But we shouldn't be surprised, the Right-Wing press is full of cowards who sell their sociopathy as strong will and resolution. They also wouldn't last a second on a rooftop there, even with Anderson Cooper there to hold their hand through it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I Tolds You So

There really isn't much further need for commentary on the failed assassination, accomplished mass murder in Arizona last weekend. So I am just going to put it into a broader list of things that, while in their specifics were unforeseeable, were completely and totally predictable. This is political in the sense that it is acting out a familiar scene of conservatives creating a bad situation and then exclaiming "Who could have known?" While decrying as political any explanation of exactly why they not only could have known, but indeed should have known. I won't even be so esoteric as to include the financial boondoggle in this list, though it certainly belongs.

Let's oversimplify this:

Anti-war people on the Left before the latest Iraq war:

Don't start a war, it will lead to unknown suffering and unacceptable civilian deaths.

Pro-war right and status quo Left:

Stop being silly. Our military is so great no one ever really dies and you just want to rain on our parade.

100,000 plus Civilians die. Thousands of American service men and women die.


See, that is why we don't start wars.


Stop being so naive. Don't you know that you can't have a war without damage. You babies.


That is why we said it was a bad idea.


Stop playing politics.


We have to regulate oil and coal so that accidents won't happen which will endanger lives and the environment.


You jerks, nobody running a company is that heartless. Regulation is overkill and oppressive to business.

Accidents happen. People die.


That is why we want regulation.


Stop playing politics.


It isn't acceptable to couple violent rhetoric with encouragement of personal displays of firearms at public events. It is a dangerous mixture that you can't put the lid back on.


You whiny babies. Why do you hate the American people so much? Why do you slander us like this.

The lid comes off.


You just want to score political points. This is both no one's fault and everyone's fault. Who could have known.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


At some point after Morning Sedition had ridden the mine car off down the tunnel, after I had attempted to call into their last show, talked to their producers and had my phone card run out, after I had struggled to follow one of the amiable Marc's weak signals broadcast from his garage, I stopped paying attention. Iturned back around this weekend to find that Marc Maron, forever not looking for a New England, has the number one rated comedy podcast on iTunes. Good for him, he deserves it. Marc Maron is a good radio broadcaster, and I don't dole that out lightly. I am now hooked on the show and am looking forward to my ride home from work so that I can continue it. For all of us who continue to take our careers out fishing and shoot them in the back so that we can stride the imaginary high road, Marc has already collapsed near the finish line.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Austarlian Floods

I have seen this business happen in both hurricanes and typhoons. That is why peole like homeboy with his umbrella and truck snorkle make me nuts. Don't fuck around with that shit.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Things I Forgot

This was obviously the Song of the Year that I forgot.

Brahman and Ego-Wrappin: Sure Shot

I was about to recommend Bad Science for book of the year, but it came out in 2008. I read a ton of books this year, but I don't think they came out this year. I am partway through both The Big Short and Packing for Mars. Let's go with those.

In replacement for Wave of the Year, I will go with wrecking a large Brazilian guy for an 11-0 win in the first BJJ competition held in Heian Jingu.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

End of the Year

I was in Florida for the holidays with 900 family members so I didn't get a chance to do an end of the year list. The thing is, living in Japan, I am never sure if the things I am exposed to in a year sync up with the American year. Also my memory doesn't conform to a year. I should make a list in real time. Nevertheless.

Songs of the Year

I don't have my ear to the underground anymore, so these are pretty mainstream.

Just a Band- Ha-He

Internet meme, but it couldn't be any better.

Cee Lo Green- Fuck You

I have been critical of Cee Lo in the past, but he killed it with this new album.

La Roux- Bulletproof

When it comes to pop music, I have made my case known: I am a sucker for a good chorus.

That being said, I still haven't listened to the new Big Boi or the Roots or anything else good.

Show of the Year

I went to a lot of good shows this year but none beat Superchunk at the Metro. Surreal seeing them again after 16 years, with their kids and in my neighborhood for an outrageous price.

Wave of the Year

I had no good waves this year, however I spent the morning before my wedding surfing with a bunch of friends, so that was cool.

Movie of the Year

What movies were this year? I am going to go with---

Exit Through the Gift Shop

This movie is so good and also has the best title of all time


Has a movie ever looked this good and been this good? Peerless.

Toy Story 3

I saw it in Japanese and it still ripped my heart out.

I saw The Social Network, Ghost Writer and The Town on planes so I need to call a do over on them.

Book of the Year

I don't know. I read a bunch. Born to Run was written like a magazine article, but it sticks out in my mind.

TV of the Year

Treme. Hands down. No contest. Eat lunch at Lil' Dizzy's Cafe.
Call me crazy.

attempting to silence the voices in my head.