10.31.2006

If you're gonna scream, scream with me

As I'm sitting here eating candy corn that my lovely mother was kind enough to send me and listening to the Misfits and, yes, wearing my Reagan mask I think to myself: I love Halloween.

Happy Halloween everyone!

The Pentagon and New Media: Joy

So the Pentagon is unhappy with the way the war in Iraq is being reported, so their answer: monitor weblogs and appoint faux news sources (who would, simply out of coincidance, be "top politicians or lobbyists"). They're bitching that we're only hearing the bad bits and that they want to correct "inaccurate" information. Yeah, and I'd really trust the info I was getting from pentagon.blogspot.com...

Aparently they're championing a "24-hour rolling news outlet" that would seek to change people's minds and assure them that Iraq isn't a disaster. Good call.

I like this bit:
Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said media manipulation by enemies of the US is the only thing keeping him awake at night.

Well at least Rummy and I agree on something, though I doubt we agree that this enemy of the US is Donald Rumsfeld and a newly-created Pentagon propaganda machine, but such is life. But here's the kicker I mentioned before:
A spokesman said the unit would monitor media such as weblogs and would also employ "surrogates", or top politicians or lobbyists who could be interviewed on TV and radio shows.

Rummy: "No no, they're getting it all wrong. We're not losing the war. The Iraqi people don't hate us for killing a signifcant fraction of their population in an unjust invasion. Here...give me the keyboard. I'll fix it."

Yay for propaganda!

(Source: BBC News)

10.29.2006

Halloween Party

The Halloween Party was a lot of work, but it definitely paid off. I had a lot of fun, and the children were so hopped up on sugar that it at least looked like they were having a good time. Picture 40 elementary kids running wild and you get the general feel of the day.

I helped with games and the Halloween drama, but my main job during the day was painting faces. The kids weren't that into it at first, but by the end of the day I had kids drawing all over their own faces with the oil crayons. Good times. I bet some parents in Hamada hate me now...

I have to confess...I forgot my camera. I've been doing this a lot lately and it makes me really mad. I've made people promise to give me their pictures so I can put some up, but it's not the saaaame. I want my own pictures. I need to quit this forgetful business.

10.24.2006

Don't Panic

Okay, hold on a sec. Now I'm going to post something negative on here. DON'T WORRY. One negative thing doesn't mean I'm unhappy or I hate it here in Japan. I just need to balance out all the wine and roses that I've posted since I got here, plus it's about school in general, so it's informative too.

At my one school my JTE is pretty awful. I won't go into all the reasons, I'll just focus on one. On numerous occasions she has come to me asking me to create a worksheet or make a lesson plan. No big deal, right? Well it wouldn't be if this was like a day before the class in question, but usually it's about 20 minutes before the class. Awesome.

So okay. I can deal. I've run off a few crappy worksheets here and there; I've made a sub-standard lesson plan that usually crashes and burns. No biggie.

The bigger problem, however, is that she keeps doing it. And she has the guts to criticize work she's given me almost no time to prepare. She gives me free reign and then says the final product is too hard or the kids won't understand when there's no time to change it.

She also refuses to help me out in these situations. She essentially sticks me up in front of the class and says, "Make them get it." Then she stands back and does nothing when that strategy fails to work.

Now I can't tell if she does it because she's been lazy or if she does it to be mean or what. I would hope it's just her misguided attempts at including me. It's amazing because I sit around literally doing nothing 3 or 4 periods a day and she never thinks to give me work to do unless it's immediately before a class.

The biggest problem (as I see it, and I know I'm crazy) is that this hurts the kids in the long run. They're the ones getting a sub-standard English lesson because my JTE doesn't understand the "team" part of "Team Teaching." Either that or she doesn't understand that she's the default team leader, being that she's actually a teacher and that I'm little more than a goofy foreigner.

People have given me advice on this topic, some of which I've already taken. People have said to talk to her, tell her how I feel. Good idea in theory, however it's hard for me because I don't want to blow up at my JTE and then run through a laundry list of her incompetence. I have a feeling that's what would happen if we "talked it out." Hence this blog post.

Anyway, like I said. Don't panic. I just wanted to let you know that sometimes Japan does suck, but if you know me you'd know that I like being angry, so it's okay. Gives me something to talk about. Plus I'm officially thinking about staying another year...so it can't be all that bad!

This weekend: Halloween Party with elementary kids! We're giving them sugar! Holy shit! There will be pictures of this one!

10.18.2006

My Favorite Things About Japan - Melty Blood

I like 2D fighting games, as anyone who knows me is aware. In Japan, moreso than in America, they are still considered an art form. Here I can wander the halls of innumerable video arcades, slipping coins into glowing machines and watching my 2-dimensional characters beat the snot out of eachother for hours on end. Most games I know on sight, or at least I recognize their franchises...but when I first encountered Melty Blood I became transfixed.

The elegance of the game is hard to deny, and so is the appeal. The excellently rendered characters are mostly rail-thin high school students, but they wail on eachother like it was their job, their unbelievably mannered Japanese appearances only matched by their ferocity. I don't know why, but there's something fantastic about the cute meets gore aesthetic.

Why is Melty Blood so amazing? Well, for one, I'd never heard of it. When I first saw it in Hiroshima it was a discovery for me, and I got to see it in its full arcade glory. Secondly, it's a doujin game, meaning it was completely produced by fans with little or no budget. Why is this amazing? Because it's now one of the most popular fighting games on the PS2.

Take a look:



Ignore the cheesy metal music...the PS2 soundtrack is actually wicked awesome.

Only in Japan could a game like Melty Blood make this transition. Only in Japan are arcades still the forum for excellence in gaming that they once were in the States. Only in Japan does one's prowess on the joystick and things like the 50-hit combo still mean something. Only in Japan could a relatively unknown, fan-produced PC game sweep the nation as an arcade hit and then qualify for release on the most popular gaming platform ever.

I bought a Japanese PS2 so I could play it. I'd say check it out, and you may be able to check an older version if you run a PC, but otherwise it could be hard to come by in America. Either way I think it's a work of art, and worth mentioning as one of my favorite things about Japan.

10.17.2006

Virtual Economics

Well, it had to happen sooner or later, and I guess you could call recent attempts to regulate internet gambling a step in that same direction, but I am blown away by this article for two reasons.

One: This is simply an amazing event in history; we have the US Congress trying to extend their legislative authority into a virtual environment. They want to lay taxes on virtual assets and gains. I'm not arguing whether this is right or wrong, I'm simply in awe that the debate has come up at all.

Two: The reporter who wrote this story, he's technically the Second Life avatar of the actual human being who is in charge of Reuters' in-game Second Life news bureau. That's just so meta I can't even stand it. As Warren Ellis has said, Reuters has embedded a journalist in a virtual environment, in fact they've embedded a whole Reuters bureau. Aside from WoW blogs by staff members of gaming sites, I think this might be a first. Either way it's pretty cool.

Update: The Net at Risk airs Wednesday on PBS at 9:00 PM. That's what I'd be watching if I were in America tonight (or tomorrow...or whatever).
The future of the Internet is up for grabs. Big corporations are lobbying Washington to turn the gateway to the Web into a toll road. Yet the public knows little about what's happening behind closed doors where the future of democracy's newest forum is being decided. If a few mega media giants own the content and control the delivery of radio, television, telephone services and the Internet, they'll make a killing and citizens will pay for it.

10.16.2006

Thank You Patti Smith

On the whole CBGBs thing, I'm happy to have read a quote from an old punk who actually knows what she's talking about. Of course it would be Patti Smith:

"What's going to happen to CBGBs is young kids all over the world are going to have their own clubs and they won't care about CBGBs because they're gonna have the new places and the new places are always the most important," she said.

"I don't feel nostalgic. No, I don't think so. I just feel happy. I feel all the memories of the past and the hopes for the future and all the energy of the present all at the same time." (BBC News)


Thank you Patti.

Update: Well that quote was in the article before...but now they've added a bunch of other bullshit and truncated her quote into a paraphrasing. Glad I caught it when I did.

10.15.2006

Thank You Warren Ellis

I could never have articulated my sentiments about the Google purchase of YouTube better than Edison does here.

He used to have all the Edison Hate Future comics archived...but sadly I can no longer find them. Funny stuff.

10.13.2006

Oh, and this...

I bought this horrifying mask at the 100 yen shop (think dollar store).

The Most Evil Man

Ronald Reagan is the worst.

Elementary School

Today I did my first elementary school visit. It was freaking awesome.

I think it's because the school I visited has a total of 14 kids, but I didn't experience the kind of chaos and disorder I was warned about by other JETs, and I didn't get kancho-ed even once! My kids were really energetic, but they all paid attention and seemed to genuinely have in interest in learning English. Not to mention how damn cute they were.

I had them practice greetings and shaking hands, which ended up being a lot of fun. Then we learned colors and body parts, and what better way to test those skills than to play Twister? I can think of none. After Twister we did numbers, and as the game I had some of the kids make numbers with their bodies on the floor and the other kids had to guess in English what number it was. This created many hilarious situations, as one might expect.

It was an overall enjoyable experience, and I can't wait to go again. The highlight was when all the kids raced out to the school gate and waved to me as I drove away. So cute.

Next time I'll remember my damn camera...

10.12.2006

Sorry for all the posts today...

I couldn't pass up commenting on this gem:
In the face of criticism from leading Republican lawmakers -- including the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, who said the situation in Iraq is moving "sideways" -- the president sought to put the best face on the war.

"I want you to notice what he did say is, if the plan is now not working -- the plan that's in place isn't working, America needs to adjust. I completely agree," he said.
(Washington Times...sorry)

So now it's our fault that the war isn't working? We need to adjust?

To take a phrase from Alex: I call bullshit.

Nooo...really?

"Bush Says No Plans to Attack North Korea" is the headline over at the New York Times, amongst similar headlines other places.
President Bush said that he has “no intention” of attacking North Korea but will push for economic sanctions...

Really?! What a shocker...

I like how the press is treating Bush's newest pronouncement like he actually had another plan of action outside of doing nothing. With the majority of our military resources tied up in two failing conflicts overseas I really doubt we could sustain a third even if we wanted to try.

The key thing to remember here is that there is absolutely no immediate economic gain involved in intervening in North Korea...so yeah, I don't think we'd go there unless they fired an ICBM directly up our asses.

And this is without mentioning how abysmally the Republican party is doing on the popularity front these days. One sure-fire way to lose the House in the upcoming midterms would be to commit to military action in North Korea. Although that's assuming America still has a few brain cells left. Who knows, maybe a new military conflict under the guise of "peace-keeping" is just the thing that would get terrified, xenophobic American voters to vote Republican.

You never can tell these days.

Google Docs and Spreadsheets

Yeah, the name sucks, and I'm not necessarily a Google fanatic, but you have to admit that Google's (sort of) new online word processor is a pretty damn good idea. Any time I can get one step closer to living free of Microsoft is a time for celebration.

You can checkity check it here.

While it is by no means an "Office-killer," it does make some steps in the right direction. It adds to the whole "Google acting as my virtual PC" thing. I can't wait until you can start running applications on your virtual Google PC, or when they cut the crap and officially make your 2.7 gigs of mail space a virtual hard drive. That'll be the day.

Then maybe I can finally play some online Magic, because there's no programs for doing that on Mac. (And I refuse to emulate Windows or dual boot it...I know, I'm whiny today)

10.11.2006

Me and Kuddy, Together Again

This weekend I met Andrew Kudlick in Hiroshima and we proceeded to have a pretty killer time.

First we visited Miyajima, pictures of which can be seen below and over at my Flickr photostream.

Now that's a torii! (and Kud)

Awww

Pagoda!

Mad skillz

We also peeped the A-Bomb dome. Poor some of your 40 on the curb for Hiroshima next time you're drinking one (cause they don't sell 40s here).

The A-Bomb Dome

We slept in a capsule hotel (sorry, no pics) and did some partying. We then proceeded on to visit Matsue, the wonderful capital of Shimane-ken, on Sunday. I played at the JET-organized open mic. Setlist was: Werewolf Love, Lover's Town Revisited, Golden Boy (with the lovely and talented Ashley Nease), Forward All Along the Line, and Redemption Song. It was okay, but I was a little drunk and very nervous. Oh well.

Monday Kuddy and I parted ways, but not for long because I shall be visiting him in Gifu-ken very soon.

10.10.2006

I love Hiroshima

Cat's Cradle

See more here.

(Larger post, more pictures to follow)

Good Riddance

I know I've expressed my feelings on the matter often and violently, but I couldn't be more pleased that CBGBs is finally closing.

While it may serve as some sort of museum for those people who were young when it was the shining beacon of things new and exciting in music, since then it has become nothing more than an amusement park, a tourist trap. And punk rock doesn't need monuments.

Punk rock is not dead, and the passing of CBGBs will have no effect on the punk kids of today. For me punk rock is about youth and rebellion and creation and attitude, not worship of the past. I will take a moment to reflect on what CBGBs meant to the birth of punk, but hopefully I'll never hear its name mentioned again.

10.05.2006

I can't not point this out

Take a gander at this article over at Media Matters. It's about the Foley scandal and the straws that Republicans and Conservatives are grasping at in order to lay the blame somewhere other than where it belongs.

Conservatives never cease to amaze me with their complete lack of any ties to what the rest of us recognize as reality. My favorite excuse is probably the "congressional gay conspiracy." They sound scary!

Sort of reminds me of the International Adult Conspiracy.

10.04.2006

More sports

So yet again school took a backseat to sports; today my school hosted basketball and table tennis tournaments for what is essentially the whole "city." This was pretty fun, and since there was no class I got to do no work.

I watched table tennis in the morning, which I actually really enjoy watching. It's not nearly as fun as playing the XBox game with Tom, but it comes close.

Later on I watched a bunch of basketball. Basketball is already a pretty boring sport, but Japanese style basketball is even more boring. Like in many Japanese team sports, basketball in Japan suffers from the passing paradox. They practice passing and drilling all the time, so when they actually play a game they can't stop passing. I noticed a similar problem while watching the national soccer team play at the World Cup. I mean it's a good skill to learn, but you can't score if you're always passing. My kids lost both their games pretty severely, but it looked like they were having fun.

Another weird thing is that the 3rd Years have to "retire" from sports after the summer. That leaves a whole 6 months or so that they don't get to play. Seemed kinda pointless to me...but I guess they have entrance exams coming up. Oh well.

Implosion

Well, the GoP is officially imploding.

Where to start? Well how about with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's concession that we should give up on the war in Afghanistan and try to make friends with the Taliban...read about it in the Washington Post. I mean...seriously? I don't support the war, but you're going to tell our soldiers (and the American people) that after 5 years of lying to them you're just going to give up? That sounds like a good idea.

Then, on a similar subject, we have Republican Senator Mike DeWine supposedly saying, "We're not in Iraq for the Iraqis; we're there for us" on Meet The Press. Well no shit.

Now we have conservative bloggers jumping ship left and right. Not really a surprise.

I don't even think I have to mention the Foley scandal, but I will anyway.

This isn't that surprising...and honestly it's not even that encouraging. The reason why? Because the Democrats aren't any fucking better. They're the ones who have been sitting on their asses for 6 years letting Bush get away with his Fascism Lite agenda. Lord knows they'll take advantage of this situation though. I'd like to think they can't make things any worse, but can they actually make them better?

10.02.2006

Probably the most important thing written so far this year

This column by Doug Rushkoff in Arthur Magazine is as important as it is scary. Every American should give it a read before our coming mid-terms, because no matter the result, they aren't going to be pretty.

As if I needed more reasons to love Nori

The other day I was walking back from the bathroom when I heard one of my kids yell from upstairs, "Chin-chin mogeru!!!" Translated for comic effect rather than precise grammar this goes something like, "I ripped off my dick!!!" I related this story to my friend and personal savior, Nori, this weekend.

Today Nori sent me a fax, mostly talking business, but with this little drawing attached to the end:

ouch

Now I can't stop giggling and my teachers think I'm a looney toon.

I love Nori.

10.01.2006

Pontificating on my love of cartoon women again...

Amongst the plethora of things that Misato Katsuragi has been dead right about is the following:

Heaven

Instant soup + instant curry = instant heaven

This weekend I threw a little shindig at my place, the results of which can be viewed here. ALT rollcall: Ken, Mario, Donna, Leah, Leif, Lena and Karen. Support personel: Nori and Tom. Mario spilled his weiners and broke Ken's cooler...so I guess he had the most party fouls of the night, which makes him MVP in my book. Regardless, good times were had by all. Ken and Mario stayed over and we played video games until like 3 AM.

The Shimane JETs Welcome Party was also this weekend at Mt. Sanbe, but I forgot to bring my camera. Hopefully I'll be able to lift photos from everyone else who was there. It was a lot of fun; rugby, BBQ, beer, music. All things I love. 'Tis the season.

I think one Andrew Kudlick may be coming to visit this weekend, this should prove to be excellent. There is also an open mic night in Matsue which I plan to ROCK.

Oh, and amongst the plethora of things that Tom Callow has been dead right about...sometimes you just feel like you need to weld your CD player shut with Broken Star inside.

Goodnight.