Monthly Archives: August 2016

Just Because You’re Paranoid

I’ve known for a long portion of my life that the weather is out to get me. I do not know why this is so, but it is so.

On many occasions it has not rained until I was outside. Then, once I was inside our apartment, it stopped raining.

For example, today the weather people (aka paid liars) predicted rain in the morning and sunshine in the afternoon. This worked out for me because I have an evening class and wouldn’t be leaving until four in the afternoon.

Instead, it was cloudy all day and it didn’t start raining until I was getting dressed to go to work. She Who Must Be Obeyed offered me a lift to the station but I said that because it wasn’t raining that hard, I wouldn’t be needing a ride.

By the time I had my socks on, the sky started falling. This meant I had to sheepishly approach She Who Must Be Obeyed and invoke a take back.

As I climbed in the car, we could see the sun starting to emerge from the clouds, which did create a nice rainbow. It was, of course, gone by the time I got to the station.

Having messed with me a bit, the weather let me off with just a warning. Instead of rain, it dumped dreary and humidity. Luckily it didn’t mess with the trains.

Tomorrow I have no plans to go out. I bet it will be sunny and beautiful. We’ll see what happens on Thursday when I have another night class.


Only the Winners Deserve to Eat

One of the fun things about Japanese television is they used to make the losers suffer.

Even in cooking shows.

One of the few Japanese TV shows I miss is the Dotch Cooking Show. “Dotch” is actually “Dotchi” which translates to something like “Which one?”.

The premise of the show was that two comedians would promote a dish that related somehow. For example, they’d pit tacos against spring rolls; or Japanese-style hamburger steak versus American-style hamburgers. Each comedian had a chef to prepare the food and the show spent a lot of time explaining the backgrounds of each secret ingredient.

Also taking part in the show were seven celebrities who had to vote on which dish they preferred. They voted by literally choosing sides. The comedians took turns promoting their dish and trying to persuade the celebrity guests to choose them.

The first choice happened after the dishes were announced. The second choice occurred after a tasting of one of the ingredients. Along the way the comedians would taste ingredients and describe, in dramatic terms, how it was the most delicious thing they’d ever tasted.

The final choice came after the dishes were complete. The comedians made a final pitch and the celebrities participated a secret vote.

After the votes were counted, the celebrities who voted for the winning dish got to eat the dish they chose. The losers got to watch while the winners ate but otherwise got nothing.

To see an example, English subtitle included, with rice porridge versus rice balls, click this link.

I watched this show every chance I got and was kind of sad when it abruptly disappeared.

Now my favorite food related show is a contest where the losers pay for the meal. But that’s fodder for a future post.

And Thus Came the Crash

Short post after a long day.

Spent most of the day teaching. Was shocked at how good some of my students are at lying during an activity that required them to lie. I’ve vowed never to believe any of their homework excuses in the future.

After that spent time gawking at pens with a fellow pen addict who’s managed to finagle his way back to Japan. That was followed by curry, sake, beer and various forms of izakaya food. It was yet more evidence that the pen and stationery community is one of the best communities in the world. (More on that in a future post.)

I’m now falling asleep if I stop writing for even a few moments. I’ll stop writing then, and go to bed.

Either This or That or Neither

Today I took notes, but I couldn’t be bothered to take any pictures.

I’m at the phase of the summer where I can only do one task at once. More specifically, I can only do one type of task at at time, although I can do a bunch of them at once.

For example, I have a couple notebooks and a few pens of various shapes, sizes and types that need reviewing but I find I can only work in phases. On one day I collect notes on the physical details of the items, including size, number of pages, ink capacity and where it was manufactured. However, instead of writing up the notes, I just file them in Evernote.

The next day, I take all the pictures. However, rather than begin editing them, I just email them to myself so that I can eventually upload them and edit them.

Eventually, all the pieces get on the same computer and I get all the pieces together like a chef assembling and preparing all the ingredients before cooking.

Then everything just waits for me to start the actual writing..

Part of this is my way of mulling over the review before I write it. It also gives me a chance to reconsider the photographs.

However, the review does finally get written. Sometimes they get rewritten, too, but that’s another post.

Strangers Get to Enjoy the Stench

Because I have no sense of smell, I tend to be paranoid about how I smell to other people.

Except today. I didn’t really care today.

I had some running to do today, but nothing that would bring me in contact with people I considered terribly important.

Because of that, I headed in to the world with out a shower (or a shave). This included a trip to the post office to send ink and a trip to the next station to get a haircut.

After the haircut, as I left a trail of cut hair, I headed to the “big city” to do some banking. This involved pushing some buttons on an ATM and then walking across the street to a different bank. To summarize: withdraw money, deposit in different bank. Why I have to do this involves Japan’s occasionally goofy banking system. (It says a lot that the most convenient bank is run by the Japanese Post Office.)

Somewhere in there I sent some emails, got rejected for a writing job and ate too much. (Note: the rejection came after the eating too much.)

After I came home I finally found the time to bathe. My family was happy.

Doubts of the Doubtful

One of my new students has his doubts about me, and has expressed them to sales staff.

A complaint after one class is a record, even for me.

His complaint is that he can’t understand me very well. Of course, as I pointed out to the staff, if he could understand me very well, he wouldn’t need the class.

I suspect he won’t complete the course. He runs a small business and is not taking the course as the first step of going to school outside of Japan. If he’s taking it to improve his English, he’s probably in the wrong class as it’s a college prep class designed to help the students pass all necessary exams, not an English class to improve speaking.

He also doesn’t seem to be there to meet people, if you know what I mean, although it is reasonably target rich environment (of women and men) so to speak.

That said, once I explain stuff, he does the work, but I can tell he has his doubts.

If he sticks with the course, he’ll find himself getting used to my in class blather. Everyone has trouble early on, especially as all the teachers push their students to see how well they’ll do.

Until then, I’ll blather on.

Ghostbusters (2016) Review–Some Parts Need Moving

Took our youngest to see the new Ghostbusters today (after she watched the original) and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie as poorly served by its trailer as this one. It’s a much better movie than the trailers, especially the first one, made it seem.

That said, in my movie watching experience, the usual signs of doom for a movie, besides delays, directorial changes, last minute editing, and deliberate lack of preview screenings are usually:

1) The cast talks about how much fun they had making the movie (translation: we all hated each other and the movie is wacky);

2) The cast talks about how amazing an experience it was to work with such great professionals (translation: we really, really fucking hated each other);

3) The cast attempts to pre-disaster the film by condemning those they think won’t like it as too unsophisticated to understand it and/or racist/sexist. (Translation: This sucker is going down in flames and we need a scapegoat and a way to rally some people to see the movie by pretending it’s under attack.) (Note: A related tactic that said haters were unpatriotic was used to promote American Sniper.)

The first Ghostbusters 2016 trailer was terrible. To claim that thinking so makes the viewer sexist is denial and/or projection.

The movie is also badly served by its first 20 minutes which is a shocking compendium of odd timing, odd editing, and unfunny jokes about attitudes toward the Irish, PT Barnum and elephants. There are also fart jokes.

Stake put in the ground: girls can’t do fart jokes right, only boys can.

Second stake put in the ground: this is not necessarily a great thing for boys to be able to do.

Eventually the movie finds its timing and is a lot of fun once it does. I liked the cameos from the original cast, including Slimer, the Stay Puft marshmallow man and the late Harold Ramis. I also forgive the “I will save you, my friend” moment at the climax. That said, a real physicist would know that her arms would rip off if she tried to save someone the way she did.

As a knife guy I liked that one of the problems was solved with a  pocket knife.

I also liked that “Ghostbusters” was a nickname given by the press and that it was only adopted by Chris “Thor” Hemsworth’s Kevin because he could never remember the company’s actual name was “Conductors of the Metaphysical Examination.”

The main problem I have is a feeling that the movie’s miscast. Kristen Wiig should be the mayor (which is already funny: New York City with a female mayor! It’s too sophisticated and progressive for that!). Or she should have been Mayor Bill Murray’s assistant. Either way, her Hugh Grantian/Nathan Thurmian stumbling speech shtick would be funny as she attempted to explain the incidents away by first saying they didn’t actually happen. (What? Slime? What slime? I don’t s-s-s-see, do you see? Is that, slime? Who says that that’s, that that’s slime? Are you a scientist? I know that’s slime. What, what makes you think I don’t know that?)

Melissa McCarthy should have been the villain. She was brilliant in her brief moment of possession. I liked her more in that scene than I did Neil Casey, the actual villain, at any point in the movie.

Hemsworth should have been the tour guide at the haunted mansion at the beginning before becoming receptionist. Since both characters make the same kinds of stupid mistakes, they might as well be the same character. Also, since the job interview scene from the trailer where Kevin says he doesn’t believe in ghosts didn’t actually make it into the movie–a fact even my 11 year old noticed–Kevin could have been recruited because of his experience at the mansion and his shocking good looks.

Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon should have been the core of the ghostbusters as they are the only ones who seemed to understand what kind of movie they were in. They both played six feet off the ground (higher than most of the ghosts) and were the only ones I believed as ghostbusters.  McKinnon is believable as someone who tinkers with unlicensed nuclear lasers and then lets the person with the longest arms test them.

I do wonder if it might be more useful to develop proton packs that fire from the shoulder rather than from the hip as it might save some wear and tear on old theaters.

Jones’ Patty is the practical one who walks into a room filled with mannequins, says “Okay, room full of nightmares,” and then wisely backs the hell out.

I can recommend this version of Ghostbusters, and it’s worth seeing in a theater, but it’s not worth the $18 I spent here in Japan. See it when you can get a discount and you’ll get your money’s worth.

(Note: the popcorn at the theater was only average, which automatically hurts the movie for this writer.)

Every Time Like that First Time

Even after 27 years of teaching, in some form or another, I still get nervous before I meet a class for the first time.

It’s not a debilitating nervousness, and not even half as bad as the jitters I got before I acted in a play when I knew I needed to do something, but couldn’t decide between number one, number two or just puking.

Instead it’s more of a restlessness and periodic fits of self-doubt that manifests as a form of amnesia that causes me to forget everything I’ve learned since I’ve been teaching. I’m especially worried with a Japanese class because the Japanese tend to form permanent first impressions.

I was also warned that the class was fairly quiet and that I might have some trouble getting them to talk.

Once I got in front of the class, my improv skills took over and I started running a series of tests to see how they did.

Verdict: they are mixed levels, which is a pain, but most of them worked hard. The few who didn’t might be an issue eventually, but even they didn’t seem that bad.

I’ll find out more next class when they are supposed to turn in their first homework assignment. That’s when the real fun will start.

Crazy Japan Times Mere Blather Invasion: Summer Olympics 2016 Closing It Out

End of Days Notes:
Brazil’s men’s soccer team earning right to remain alive: A

Drug controversies: C-

Peeing in a cup: D

Peeing near a gas station: D

Angering security guard: D

Lying about it: F

Angering entire country because you lied about it: F+ (but kind of epic, in a way)

Caster Semenya controversy: B

Caster Semenya:  A

Being forced to take drugs to suppress natural advantage: F

Harrison Bergeron: A

As a guidebook for sports and government: F

Kurt Vonnegut: A

National Basketball Association players in Olympics: F

Only US team your humble editor wanted to see lose: US Men’s basketball team.

NBA refusing to do business in North Carolina over gender classification of water closets: push

NBA players participating in event with teams divided only as “men” and “women”: F

Selective outrage: F

Closing Ceremony Notes
Official Score: Automatic F

Flower chicken dancers making landmarks: C-

Complete with moving cable car: C

Almost forming Touchdown Jesus: A

Jesus: A

Couple playing with balls: C-

Jokes that write themselves: A

Not hitting the easy ones: B-

Easy ones: A

Image mapping Brazil’s flag on glowing kids: B

Carmen Miranda dancer: A-

France’s casual cool: A

France’s Olympic uniforms in general: A

US medal ceremony uniforms: A- (hampered only by the day-glo shoes)

Canada’s closing ceremony uniforms: B
Cap bills properly curved: A
All others: F
Wearing mittens at the Summer Olympics: A

Australia: B+

Australian athlete carrying a beer: A

Beer: B+

Japan’s uniforms:
Women: A
Men: B

Return of oiled, mostly naked Pita Taufatofua: A

Topless men: B+

Almost topless women: C-

Unfair gender bias in lack of clothing: F

Shameless exploitation: B+

Sexy samba dancers: A

Being a sexy samba dancer in the Tokyo region:
Last two weeks: A+
After today: D

Your humble editor doing sexy samba:
Self image: B+
Reality: Grandpa’s having a seizure.

Great Britain’s closing ceremony uniforms: B

Great Britain Uniforms in general: A-

British athletes not having umbrellas: C-

Wearing raincoats during the parade: C-

Shoes with built-in flashing lights:
On toddlers: A
On grown ups: C

The communist jerk that invented squeaky shoes for kids: burn in hell

Portugal’s Jean Jackets: B-

US closing ceremony uniforms: A- (blue shirt only; Red B; White C+)

Ukraine’s migraine aura jackets: D

Migraines: F

A mass of “Unity” that makes it hard to see team uniforms: F

Blaming others for own journalistic failures: D-

Showing dancers instead of athletes: F

Robot doll bug-eyed dancers with fake hair: D for creepy and terrifying

Tokyo’s part of the show: A-

Yuriko Koike: A

Prime Minister Super Mario Abe: C

Sour-faced Mario: C

Money spent sending Abe and Koike to Brazil: C

Hours spent playing Super Mario: no comment

Travelling with assist from Doraemon: A

Boring hole through center of Earth: C-

Subsequent volcanoes and destruction of both Rio and Tokyo: A (for excellent movie)

The Core: F

Journey to the Center of the Earth: B-

Having a speech just when everything seems over: D

The speech going on unmercifully long: F

The speech going beyond unmerciful: F-

The speech continuing after that: <expletive deleted>

Content of speech: peace, love, unity, nature, environment, brotherhood, sisterhood, blah, blah, blah, blah blah: D for cliché.

Your humble editor’s reaction to speech:  Shut the <expletive deleted> up already!

Chance your humble editor’s youngest daughter has learned a new expletive laden phrase: push

Having a second speech after first: sigh

Giving up: C

Artistic barf after speeches: C-

Mariene de Castro: A

Song: B-

Putting out Olympic flame with fake rain on a rainy day: push

Whirlygig thing behind Olympic flame: C+

Rio Olympics in General: A-

Well, with no more Olympics to analyze, that’s the end of this little invasion. Your humble editor hopes you enjoyed these updates (and have noticed the donate button around here somewhere).

Hope to see you in 2018 for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Once Again, With Clumsiness and Fear

All of us were kind of dazed. I probably showed the effects more than they did, though. They are a lot younger and care a lot less.

Today was the first day back at my Sunday job after a fortnight’s worth of holidays. Seven out of ten students showed up and I was pleased 1) that I remembered the names of the seven who showed and 2) that I remembered to show up.

The students worked hard, even though they were distracted by a speech that was scheduled for after lunch. (They went through the motions, but their hearts were full of dread for what was going to happen after lunch.)

In my case, it took me an hour or so to get my teaching legs and teaching rhythm back. (It’s not like falling off a bicycle, it takes some warming up. Something like that.)

Eventually speech time came and student confidence evaporated. Although there have been attempts to debunk/update the 1973 Book of Lists survey that ranked public speaking well above death as the number one fear, I still maintain that people fear the public humiliation of a speech more than they fear dying.

Aside: More current surveys offer a choice: Which of these do you fear most “being set on fire and having your eyeballs explode” or “public speaking”? When simply asked what they fear, I’ll bet most people still rank “public speaking” pretty high. 

After the speeches, I gave them an early break and then let them choose the final topics. (Long story.) It was a pretty good day in the end, especially as I didn’t have to give a speech, only mark them.