Zen in the staffroom

I am alone. It
stinks of kerosene. Someone
set up us the bomb.

-or, adapted to nihongo-


It's funny how the Japanese is much more grave. No humor there.

FOX News - Doing Anything Possible to Avoid Reporting the Actual News

John Gibson over at FOXNews.com is busting NBC's balls for accurately reporting on the worsening situation in Iraq. He bitches:
Since I used to work over [at NBC] and know Mr. Wright and know how things work somewhat, I am confident I am right when I say Bob Wright decided, or at least approved, NBC's policy to refer to whatever it is that is now going on in Iraq as a civil war.

The Pentagon doesn't think so. The White House doesn't think so. Even CBS Evening News Executive Producer Rome Hartman said he thought NBC's decision wasn't so much a news judgment as a political judgment.

I think Mr. Hartman is correct. And it raises the question: Can an American network decide when the U.S. surrenders in Iraq? Can that network decide when the U.S. leaves Iraq and under what conditions? Is NBC covering the news or creating the news?

The answers to questions one and two are "no." No brainer. They also have absolutely nothing to do with his previous point, that NBC has begun referring to the situation in Iraq as a civil war. So let's get that out of the way.

The answer to question three? I know it may surprise you John, but they actually are covering the news. It may be hard for you to grasp, working for FOX and all, but what the governement says about Iraq, what the Bush administration says, that's not the news my friend.

Insurgency. That's what they've been calling it. A rebellion. Okay, it is a rebellion, that much is certain. They are rebelling against the United States, who happens to be occupying their country unjustly. However, since the US has been trying to hand over more of their power to the "Iraqi government" these rebels are now fighting more and more against that Iraqi administration. This is when a conflict becomes a war against groups of people within a country, or, as we sometimes like to shorten it to, a "civil war."

So don't try to turn your diatribe into a "darned liberal media dictating policy" rant. You know they can't do this. They can influence public opinion, but they sure as hell cannot dictate policy. What this is about is that the US media is actually starting to report the events in Iraq somewhat truthfully and faithfully. Just because this goes against what your buddies in the White House have been telling you doesn't mean it's not true. You ask the fallacious questions about NBCs powers as a news outlet, well then, can the Bush White House decide what the news is? No, they can't. It's a stupid question.

Iraq is in a state of civil war. You can't make this shit up.



I just got a big CD full of photos from the ever-amazing Nori. Photos from the Halloween Party I failed to document and other random Hamada fun are included. Enjoy.


These people are sick

Sorry for two politically-themed posts in a row...I promise I'll post a big photo update soon with pictures of goofy foreigners and cute Japanese kids.

However, I had to point out this: The Center for Perpetual Diversity

These people are sick. Sick, sick, sick.

It may not be immediately obvious how disturbed they are, but please look at the website closely.
Do whatever you can to promote social justice, stop racism and help save white people from extinction. You are not racist for wanting to be with your own people. Don't be afraid to say that white people should survive and have self-determination. We can only celebrate diversity if all racial groups endure perpetually.

Why am I asking the people who read my blog to read this garbage? Because this group of hatemongers is based right in a lot of your own backyards...Gaithersburg, Maryland.

These people are disguising racism and xenophobia as "social justice." Their fluffy-sounding name is great...everyone wants "Perpetual Diversity"...but what it means to this group of wackos is actually to deprive non-white American citizens of their rights.

The reason I call your attention to this group is because they appear to be relatively shrewd, at least in the political sense. I could even see them tricking less-informed citizens into supporting their twisted agenda. I would encourage everyone in the MD/DC area to be vigilant about their activities in the future. Especially if any of the following names come up for local office:

Know your enemies:
James F. Schneider
Robert J. Hoy
Sharity Ross-Petit



No big secret; I ain't a fan of religion, creationism, or creationism's retarded younger brother, intelligent design.

However, I am a HUGE fan of Unintelligent Design. I think at the very least it finally explains why there are PYGMYS AND DWARVES.



International Day

Yesterday I participated in Day 1 of Hamada 1st Junior High School's International Day. Basically the largest JHS in Hamada invited all the local JETs to come and teach short workshops on cultural activities from their home countries. (I taught about Thanksgiving and American football.) In addition the 1st JHS kids also gave us a brief taste of elements of Japanese culture. Well I'd venture to say they gave me a little more than that.

1st JHS has one JET, a hell of a decent guy named Evan. His school is about 3 times the size of both of my schools put together. Being there yesterday made me thankful for how lucky I was in my school placement. However much I may complain about little things, I have an excellent group of kids who are extremely well-behaved. As is to be expected from a larger school, some of Evan's kids are real discipline cases. Apparently a few of them don't even go to class, they just roam the halls and do as they please, as long as they don't hurt anyone. Evan takes this all in stride, and I'm sure I'd get used to it if I were there everyday, but it seems kind of crazy to me.

It all stems from something I talked about in one of my first posts. In Japan education is considered a right, not a privilege. Hence, it cannot be taken away. They don't even give detentions or remove misbehaving kids from class because that would be depriving them of their precious education time. They do "punish" students in extended sessions of browbeating, but these usually take place after school and have almost no consequences outside of imparting a feeling of guilt. And I don't think the guilt thing even works on Evan's kids.

As an aside, the "bad kids" are, in reality, goofy as all hell. They call themselves "Yankees" which is sort of a catch-all term in Japanese for Japanese people who act foreign. They alter their uniforms so that their jackets are cropped high above the waist and their pants look like MC Hammer. A lot of them have extravagant haircuts or dye-jobs. Evan said they may look tough, but if you mess up their clothes or hair they fold like a card table. One of these kids came to the begining of my workshop only to introduce himself in English and tell me what a big penis he had. I told him that must be why he wears the parachute pants. I don't think he got the joke.

So yeah, I'm going back today and I'm actually looking forward to it. I did have a fun time yesterday, but I sure am glad I have my tiny mountain schools to retreat to when it's all over.


Recitation Contest

So for the past month or so I've been coaching one of my 3rd Year boys for an English speaking contest. The contest is held at Gotsu High School (home of the dashing Tom and lovely Ashley), and this is like the 12th year they've held it. These speaking contests exist all over Japan, and apparently the fall semester is the prime time for them.

My guy Naoya appeared at Gotsu yesterday, one of two boys out of 33 entrants. He's a pretty shy kid, and during the practice sessions I kept trying to get him to loosen up, but I think it may require a little more work than speech practice after school for a month. I was very proud of the way he learned his piece (an excerpt from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), and I felt his pronunciation was pretty amazing, especially after I saw the other kids. He didn't place in the contest, which is too bad. I think a lot of it was the way I coached, which was more toward perfection of pronunciation and tone than performance. But hey, I'd never done anything like this before!

However the contest itself kind of surprised me. When I really thought about it I came to realize how strange the whole thing was. It was clear to me that most of the kids had just memorized their pieces based on sound alone and had absolutely no clue what they were saying. While this highlights a theme of performance which I feel is very important for Japanese kids (who are notoriously bad at expressing themselves), it seemed to miss the mark in actually being an excercise in improving their English skills.

I had a wonderful time practicing for and attending the contest. I'm very happy for the winners (one of Rebecca's girls took second and their school won "Best School"), and I definitely hope to participate in this type of activity again. Maybe I'll be able to find the middle ground between actually improving my charge's English and training them for a killer performance.


It's time for the punishment

Okay, so the long awaited debut of the AKs music video for The Punishment is finally here. You're probably saying "I didn't even know there was a video for The Punishment coming out" or "who are the AKs and why should I care?" Well the AKs are simply the best streetpunk/hardcore band in DC. And you should care because I'm in the video. "It's time for the punishment!"

Oh yeah, and this video was directed by Bepstein at the Deathstar. Much respect.


Woodgrain Fronts

Alex has started a group music blog called Woodgrain Fronts to which I am now a contributor. Please check it out. I anticipate that it shall prove to be dope.

My first post over there mentions the new Evens album, which you should have purchased by now.


I was locked away in a seminar all week so I'm only starting to catch up on all the post-Tuesday stuff. I'm smiling though.


Elementary School

I visited Ichigi Elementary School again today...this time I remembered the camera!

I had a great time, but I'm pretty much going to let the pics speak for themselves, click onward to a photo tour here:


I'm sure it's only because I have about 20 kids at that school, but I could do elementary visits every day!

Mmm...mmm good

I made this awesome hot and sour soup the other day:

Hot Sour Soup

I pretty much reverse-engineered it from my personal experience with the stuff. In fact, I've found myself cooking a lot of Chinese food here in Japan. The ingredients are easy to come by and it seems simpler in a lot of ways than Japanese food. It's more intuitive for me anyway, and as I said I cook by trial and error.


Posterchild does something cool

I've linked to this guy's blog before, he's a stencil artist from Toronto. Well I'm linking again, to this stencil and this stencil. Pretty sweet: his quotation from a photographer's picture of his work, a picture which happened to be featured in the Toronto Star newspaper.

Things this clever make me smile. It touches on the controversy over corporate artists quoting and copying street art and using it in ad campaigns.

Very clever indeed.

My kids are funny sometimes

Lunch is one of the better times of day here at school. Every other teacher has an assigned seat, but I get to float around day-to-day and sit wherever I feel like sitting. Usually I just sit with the first kid that invites me over, but sometimes I impose my presence on the more shy kids for fun.

There's one kid who loves to sit with me. Typically he doesn't speak much English...and he definitely doesn't pay attention in English class...but yesterday he decided to only speak English all through lunch. This was awesome for the obvious reasons.

We were having okonomiyaki, a kind of cabbage pancake that's real popular in parts of Japan. He started his goofiness by singing to himself and repeating: "I looove okonomiyaki! I very very love okonomiyaki! Do you like okonomiyaki? I looooove okonomiyaki." However after the first bite I asked him how it was and he said, "So-so."

A little later he accidentally dropped some okonomiyaki in his nasty soup (it was real thin and gross).

Kid: "It fell in the sea!!!"
Me: "What?"
Kid: "Okonomiyaki fell in the sea!"
Me: "Huh?"
Kid: "Oh...oh...soup!"
Me: "Ohhh..."

Then he proceeded to give the bowl of soup (with bits of okonomiyaki) to another kid at the table.

Kid: "Eat this"
Other kid: "Nan de?" [Why?]
Kid: "Eat this! It will make you HAPPY!"
Other kid: "Eh?"
Kid: "HAPPY!"

When the other kid didn't eat his befouled broth the turns to me, head in his hands.

Kid: "I am sick..."
Me: "Oh really?"
Kid: "Yes, very sick."
Me: "In your stomach or your head?"
Kid: *hesitates for a second* "SAD!"
Me: "Huh?"
Kid: "Not SICK...SAD!" *flops his head down on the table*

Today it got even better:

Kid: "Darrell! I'm sic...nono, SAD! I'm sad!" *Rubbing his eyes*
Me: "Oh. Why?"
Kid: *points to the same boy who didn't eat his soup yesterday* "He punched me!"
Other Kid: "Iya...chigaimasu!" [No...not true!]
Me: "Did he really punch you?"
Kid: "Yes! He punched me!" *pantomimes being punched in the face* "I don't know why he punched me! I'm sad."
Other kid: *giving the "X" symbol with crossed arms*
Me: *first kid is still punching himself in the face* "You're weird"

I hope this insane English usage continues.