So the most recent attempt at the Happy Biking Dance left me with a lungful of car exhaust and some jerk-off driver oblivious to my first tasting of Ageo pavement. I like sushi better. Don't worry, I'm fine - really, Mom! Nothing broken. But my hands hurt like hell, so I might not post much over the next few days.

A funny thing happened on the way to Tokyowood

So I saw my first movie in Japan last night. "Harry Potter and Chamberpot of Secrets," or some such. As a movie, it was okay. A better film than the previous one, although the book is not as good the story that preceeded it. But you're not here for a movie review, are you? (In case you care, there are movie spoilers below. But come, it's Harry Potter. It 's not like I'm telling you who is Kaiser Szosze.) Perhaps the most surreal experience I've had here so far occurred last night when there was a funny moment on screen. One of the actors delivered, much like a parcel post, a joke about Japanese dolphins. But it was kinda cute, so I chuckled. Except for my gaijin friend, nobody else laughed. So we laughed harder, and louder. This decent-sized theater was about 3/4 full, and two people were laughing. Okay, I thought. Maybe the line about Japanese dolphins didn't translate well. But my roommate had warned me that the Japanese just don't laugh in movie theaters, and sure enough, the next mildly funny moment was turned into a chucklefest because nobody but the gaijin reacted. The only time I heard a peep out of the crowd was when the women - adult women, mind you - started whimpering during the spider scene. It was just... bizarre. And nobody laughed... The rest of the filmic experience was a little better and a little worse than seeing a flick in the States. Tickets were more expensive, but could've been worse. The late show gets 300 - 500 yen off, only paid 1500 yen. (That's around $12.) But the popcorn was not the pre-buttered, soft-and-squishy stale crap you get back home. It was fresh, and hot and crunchy, and I got more for less than it would cost in the U.S. On the whole, a good experience.

Let the flogging begin…

Right, so I just read the last post. Apparently, some evil and overly sentimental twit has gotten ahold of my blog. I'll leave it up, despite my better instincts, but sometimes, I think I just need a shoehorn. The kind with teeth. People should get beat up for stating their beliefs...

After all this navel-gazing, all I can see is lint

I've been doing some severe mind-fucking trying to balance writing and procrastinating. This is nothing new; it's been going for years, and it'll probably be one of my last thoughts before I saunter off this planet. Sometimes, more often now than before - which, between you and me is a good sign - the writing happens. There is little I could do or would want to do to stop myself from sitting down at the keyboard, pen and paper or even typewriter and bashing out a little kernel of an idea. This rant, for example. It wanted to come out, so here it is, covered in blood and needing a good whack on the back to start breathing. But at other times, and I'm ashamed to say they occur more often than the previous example, the procrastinating must come first. Has to come first, like an over-eager teenager getting laid for the first time. Or maybe like a sneeze, it must have its say before I can get to the writing. A new habit of mine is to rationalize away the procrastination. It gives my subconscious a bit of space to cogitate without my overbearing personality mucking up the situation. When that's all done with, then I can get on with scratching away at my little idea. The point behind sharing this is that often times I'll hit the 'net cafe and do everything I can before I write in the blog. Check email, write email, read various news websites. I'm not sure how getting DSL will affect my blog writing habits, but after Dec. 25, the day I move - significant for that and no other reason! - it may be a while before I write here again. On the other hand, the blog has been more boon than burden. It gives me a forum where I know, at the extreme least, my family and friends are checking in every so often to see what I'm up to. It means I don't have to write a bazillion emails every time I hit the cafe, for one thing. Most importantly, it forces me to write. I've felt more energized about writing than ever before, and I suppose that's a good thing. But now, the procrastinating is getting jealous of the writing. This could get ugly...

1980 uber alles

As I commented earlier, not only is fashion and popular music firmly stuck in the 80's here, but so is much of society in general. Only recently, according to newspapers and acquaintances of mine, has the divorce rate begun to rise. The way women are treated in Japan is still extremely traditional. Heck, even big hair is in. This means that, for example, while Nova promotes itself as being the largest employer of women in the country, it isn't employing women out of some forward-thinking, progressive hiring policy. It hires so many Japanese women to staff the front offices of its schools because it's a cost-saving measure. Men, simply put, would have to be paid more. (Yes, I'm sure it's not the only reason they hire women, and I've even seen a male Japanese staff worker in one school, but bear with me here.) This isn't just for the Japanese staff of the various major, private English schools around the country. Women get paid less. Period. Across the board, you never, ever hear of a Japanese woman earning as much as a man with comparable skills, nor will they hold similar positions in any given business. Even if a woman is more talented and qualified than the man she is competing with for a leadership position, the job will more likely go to him than her because the company is expected to hire men for those sorts of jobs. There is no equal opportunity employment act here. (Granted, if things continue heading in the direction the Republicans seem to be driving them, there won't be one in the U.S. much longer, either, but that's dead horse to flog some other time.) It's tough to find a job after you turn 40 because you're expected - expected! - to stay with the company you've worked for after that age. And as hard as it is to believe, many women still quit their jobs to be housewives when they get married, simply because that's what is done. This isn't to say that all Japanese women are like this, or that all Japanese companies espouse such policies. I'm sure somewhere, somehow, there is some middle-sized company that will be called a forerunner 20 years hence. Maybe it'll even be Nova. (Not friggin' likely.) But it seems, six weeks in, that much of Japan is about the clash between modern and traditional values. Where else can you see sumo wrestlers, dressed in their specialized kimonos, walking along a street that has 10 hentai vendors hawking their porn on sidewalk tables set up in front of electronics stores selling goods top-of-the-line stores in the U.S. will never see? Hopefully, as Japan continues to evolve, the best parts of its traditional culture will remain intact as the more noxious and abhorrent aspects are abandoned. Of course, there's no telling what the future holds.

A little bit of Peru in Ageo

Before we begin, if you haven't read the previous post, please scroll down a bit and take a look. Quickly now, it's short and will enhance your understanding of this one. Done? Good. So, guess who taught the Peruvian gentleman his first Nova class? It was, quite possibly, the easiest low-level class I've ever taught in my brief time at Nova. A qualified speech therapist would be able to answer this far better than I, but I think if you grow up speaking the sounds - or similar ones - you hear in English, as you do in Spanish, then it's much easier to learn another language that uses those sounds. Or maybe I'm full of shit and there are magic little elves that help you speak certain languages and make it a bitch and a half to speak others. Whatever the case, Mr. Maruthin (as the Nova staff calls Martin, the poor man) should be a quick study in English. Now if we could only find someone to help his Japanese...

Communication Breakdown

So, Nova - that's the "Intercultural Exchange" company I teach English for; stay with me, folks - teaches not only English, but also Spanish, French and German at it's larger schools. Ageo is not one of these. But the other day, a prospective student showed up. He's a Peruvian chef who has moved to Japan. He speaks Spanish. He does not speak English. He does not speak Japanese. There are two instructors at Ageo who have spent time living in California, me and one other, and that's as close as we got to finding someone capable of explaining in Spanish how Nova works. But the staff begged and pleaded with me, so I tried. I got as far as "Soy..." and then my three semesters of college Spanish went out of my head. Sigh. Not a good day to be speaking Spanish in the boonies near Tokyo.

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