Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, August 31st

The Simpsons first appeared in short cartoons featured in which show in 1987?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Rosemary Harris and Jennifer Ehle. Jennifer won the award.

JLPT application is in the mail

I sent off my application today to take the level 3 test of Japanese language proficiency.

The test is Sunday, December 4th, so I have about 3 months to study and prepare.

All together, with the application fee, paying for a passport photo for the app, special mail delivery fee and the fee for the application form itself I've already paid about 7000yen ($70) to take this test, so I'm determined to make an effort to study for it and not procrastinate as I often did in college.

I also have to drive out to somewhere in Hiroshima ken to take the test that Sunday, but I should have Mark and Rusty with me, as we all decided to try for level 3 together.

So it'll be study, study, study in my free time for the next three months - but the big benefit is that hopefully my Japanese conversational ability will improve and I'll find it easier to talk with my co-workers and Japanese people.


Gemma, Rob, Kayoko, & Mark D. - karaoke

Gemma, Rob, Kayoko, & Mark D. - karaoke
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Sunday night, the 28th, a bunch of the Izumo area JETs gathered for dinner at CoCo Ichi - my favorite curry place and then a night of singing karaoke at Salsa - a local karaoke joint where you rent a private room by the hour and turn it up to 11.

Here is Gemma, Rob, Kayoko, and The Don all enraptured as Gemma and The Don put their UK upbringing to good use belting out a wonderful rendition of Blur's "Parklife."

more karaoke pics on my online photo album at Flickr and I hope to blog the rest soon.

Does a mean verson of "Johnny B. Goode"

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, August 30th

The 2000 Tony Awards featured a unique competition in the Best Actress in a Play category: both a mother and a daughter were nominated for the award. Who were they?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Star Trek - the original series for you Trekkers out there

Monday, August 29, 2005

Taisha JH band girls

Summer band concert with JH and Taisha ELEMs - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Last Sunday, the 21st, I went to the really nice music hall here in Taisha for a concert by my Junior High band and a few of my elementary schools.

Here are the flute players acting silly and asking me to take their picture. Wakiko, in the back left, always makes a funny face everytime I snap a pic with her in it. Her mom, Odagawa sensei, is one of the teachers at one of my elem schools, so I'm always showing her funny pics of her daughter.

My school has a pretty good music program, and the kids in the band have been coming in everyday during their summer break to practice for an upcoming competition.
We also have a pretty good chorus club at my JH, but that club is exclusively girls.

Taisha JH Band - 8th and 9th graders

Summer band concert with JH and Taisha ELEMs - 4
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here is the main Taisha JH band, composed of ni nen sei and san nen sei.

They are really good and recently won a competition where they came in first place in all of Shimane ken - the equivalent of getting first place in a state finals in the US. So now they go off and represent Shimane in a region wide competition against the other kens in the Chugoku region - Okayama, Yamaguchi, Hiroshima and Tottori. Ganbatte!

Sakamoto sensei is their leader and conductor and he's a really cool guy - the only Japanese person I know with an iPod! :)

They played two songs this day - one is a short piece that all the bands in the upcoming competition will have to play and then one of their choosing - the 2nd piece is involved and complicated with starts and stops and many instruments, including those long bells in the foreground on the left and even a harp and a gong.
Funny thing is at the end of the song, it incorporates a bit of an old American song called "This Old Man" - maybe that's the title. You know it tho - "This old man, he play two, he play knick-knack on my shoe, with a knick-knack-paddy-whack give a dog a bone, this old man came rolling home."
So I hum along everytime they play it.

Taisha JH Band - ichi nen sei

Summer band concert with JH and Taisha ELEMs - 5
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here is a shot of the 7th grade band, with one of my JTEs, Moriyama sensei, at the helm.

It's a smaller unit than the main band composed of the 8th and 9th graders, but good practice before they "step up" to the main school band in their 8th grade year.

Unlike in American schools, our school bands don't march or play at school sporting events, altho they do occasionally play at school assemblies. And the bands are strictly Brass Bands - no string instruments like violins, so not an orchestra.

Taisha Sho - band

Summer band concert with JH and Taisha ELEMs - 7
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

In addition to my Junior High band, there were bands from three of my local elementary schools as well.

Here is the band from Taisha Elementary School, which is my largest elem school with about 400 students.

The conductor of their band, who is hard to see in this pic because she is wearing black and bowing, is not a regular teacher at the school, but someone they bring in special to teach the music students.

Only the 4th thru 6th graders are able to join the band and it's a much smaller ensemble than the band they'll join at Taisha Jr High if they continue to study music.

The Taisha Sho band members simply wore their school uniforms onstage, unlike the other two elem schools that follow.

Yokan Sho band

Summer band concert with JH and Taisha ELEMs - 10
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here is the band from Yokan Elementary School. They went for the color coordinated blue t-shirts and looked great. Odagawa sensei, who is band conductor, is also the teacher in charge of the small English club at Yokan - she's a cool lady!
Yokan is my 3rd largest Elem and has about 175 students.

Araki Sho band

Summer band concert with JH and Taisha ELEMs - 8
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

And here is the band from Araki Elementary School. Araki is my 2nd largest elem with about 350 kids.

Araki Sho singing

Summer band concert with JH and Taisha ELEMs - 9
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here are all the kids in the Araki Elementary band singing just before they started to play their song. They look very colorful in their multi-colored t-shirts, which must have been worn by design but not speficially purchased as a "band uniform" per se.

Trivia - Monday, August 29th

Ewoks were to Return of the Jedi what Tribbles were to what TV series?

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Trivia - Saturday & Sunday, August 27th & 28th

Today's trivia question is dedicated to my friend and fellow ALT - Mark D.

Complete this line from The Matrix: "There is no _________."

Friday's Answer (highlight line below):
A. P. Diddy

Friday, August 26, 2005

Trivia - Friday, August 26th

Which controversial rap impresario ran the 2003 New York Marathon and raised $2 million for the city's children?

A. P. Diddy
B. Jay-Z
C. 50 Cent
D. Eminem

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Trivia - Thursday, August 25th

Robert Altman's 2003 film The Company includes professional ballet dancers from which corps?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
His great-great-grand-uncle is Herman Melville, author of Moby-Dick. Moby's real name is Richard Melville Hall.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Taisha Summer Festival

looking down main st.
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

On Monday, the 15th, Taisha - my small town - had its annual summer festival to celebrate the Obon holidays.

Here is a shot looking down the main street from the grounds of IzumoTaisha Shrine. You can see they blocked off the whole street all the way down to the large, gray concrete torii gate at the other end. Lots of people from my community turned out for the event, including many of my students.

I remember briefly stopping by this event after work last year, but I only looked around for about 30 minutes and then went home. I hadn't started teaching at that point last year and I was just an anonymous Westerner at that point.

This year, I stopped and chatted with tons of people and was stopped constantly by students. It was great to see so many of them out and enjoying themselves and not wearing their school uniform. :)

I was showing a new ALT from England around named Anna. She will be teaching at Taisha High School, so it was a good introduction to the community. EVERY student that stopped to chat with us - the first thing out of their mouth was "kanajo?"
Kanajo is Japanese for "girlfriend" - my kids are such gossip hounds!

The group of female JH students across the street in this pic started yelling "Jason-san!" before they even started to cross - I guess they missed seeing me during the summer break.

So many of my female students looked fantastic in their summer kimonos, but I didn't see any of my boys in their summer yukatas.

It was a really fun evening - I hope I get to go again next year.


dancing & music at Taisha summer festival

dancing & music at Taisha summer festival
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

They had food stalls all up and down the main street and on the grounds of IzumoTaisha shrine. They had bands performing and a dance troupe. It was a fun day and a great chance to interact with my community.

4 Taisha JH ichi nen sei

4 Taisha JH ichi nen sei
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here are 4 of my 7th grade girls, two wearing kimonos. The girl on the far right always starts laughing every time I approach and start chatting - really cute and funny.

4 ni nen sei Taisha Chugakusei

4 ni nen sei Taisha Chugakusei
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here are 4 of my 8th grade girls, decked out in their finest kimonos.

4 Taisha JH san nen sei

4 Taisha JH san nen sei
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here are more of my 9th graders, some in kimonos. My 9th grade girls this year are a great bunch of kids and are much more willing to stop and chat with me than my 9th grade boys.

cubscouts & bluebirds?

cubscouts & bluebirds?
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I got to see many of my students pulling floats and participating in the parade. Here are some of my elementary kids dressed up in scouting uniforms - I had no idea that boy scout and girl scout type troupes existed here.

three of my Taisha Elementary kids

three of my Taisha Elementary kids
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Karin, the girl in the middle in the kimono, is the 5th grade student I tutor privately on the weekends.

Can't have a parade in Japan without Ultraman

Can't have a parade in Japan without Ultraman
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Ultraman is a live-action superhero on TV here in Japan. I think he's the one in red, and the guy in blue is his friend. The guy in gray is some kind of lobster villian. The kids were digging it.

Hip-Hop hits Taisha

Hip-Hop hits Taisha
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Most of the dancing in the parade was traditional Japanese dances, but this group of young women were dancing to some hip-hop beats and gyrating up a storm.

4 Taisha HS students

4 Taisha HS students
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here are 4 girls who were 9th graders last year at my JH. Very pretty kimonos.

cool float

cool float
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

lots of cool floats in the parade - I liked the sail on this one

Trivia - Wednesday, August 24th

How did the musician Moby get his nickhame? What is his real name?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, August 23rd

Which one-hit wonder claimed in 1982, "I've been to paradise, but I've never been to me"?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
The Da Vinci Code

Monday, August 22, 2005

Trivia - Monday, August 22nd

Which popular Dan Brown novel from 2003 alluded to purported conspiracies within the Christian church to downplay the importance of Mary Magdalene and other Bibilical-era women?

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):
Sri Lanka

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Trivia - Saturday & Sunday, August 20th & 21st

Where was the Duran Duran video for "Hungry Like the Wolf" shot?

Friday's Answer (highlight line below):
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Six Taisha JH 7th graders & me

6 Taisha 7th graders & me
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here is a little preview of some of the pics coming up. New ALT, Anna, took this photo of me and six of my ichi nen sei students all decked out in their summer kimonos for the local Taisha town summer festival.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Trivia - Friday, August 19th

The TV series Alice was based on what Academy Award-winning film?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Nathan Lane & Matthew Broderick

Thursday, August 18, 2005

on vacation

I'm on vacation this week, but I should have time to post some pictures soon, so check back later this week.

Hope all is well.


Trivia - Thursday, August 18th

Which two actors were so popular in the 2001 revival of the Broadway musical The Producers that they came back to the stage for an additional run in 2004?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
B. Pedro Almodovar

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, August 17th

Before coming to America, Antonio Banderas was already a star in Europe for appearing in numerous films by which director?

A. Jean-Jacques Beineix
B. Pedro Almodovar
C. Fina Torres
D. Alejandro Amenabar

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Dogma 95

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, August 16th

In 1995, a group of Scandinavian filmmakers came up with a "Vow of Chastity" for their future filmmaking endeavors that included strict adherences to on-location shooting, handheld camera work, and natural lighting. What was this manifesto widely known as?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
B. Better Off Dead

Monday, August 15, 2005

Trivia - Monday, August 15th

In which John Cusack film is he dogged by a newspaper boy reclaiming two dollars?

A. Say Anything...
B. Better Off Dead
C. One Crazy Summer
D. The Sure Thing

All of the above films are among my favorites - Cusack's early work is REALLY good, and I think he's gone on to be one of our best adult actors as well. The Sure Thing, directed by Rob Reiner, and Say Anything, directed by Cameron Crowe, are both in my top 25 films of all time.

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):
A gold watch

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Trivia - Sat & Sun, August 13th & 14th

In the Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction, what object does Christopher Walken's character manage to keep hidden while in a POW camp during the Vietnam War?

Friday's Answer (highlight line below):
It was stripped of producer Phil Spector's orchestral flourishes and retitled "Let It Be...Naked."

Friday, August 12, 2005

recent happenings

So much going on lately, that I haven't updated in a while.

My Japanese studying has really kicked into high gear recently, as I've been attacking the vocab and kanji I'll need to know for the level 3 JLPT with a zeal I haven't had since college.
I do feel that my Japanese is getting better and I'm hoping that by the end of the year I'll be able to hold more conversations with my co-workers in Japanese where I use actual complete sentences! :)
Recently, a new ALT who just arrived told me that I really use my hands a lot when I talk - and I realized it's from all the quasi-sign language I employ whenever I speak with Japanese people, hoping that my hand gestures will compensate for my inablilty to adequately express myself in Japanese.

Speaking of new ALTs, we've got a few in my area, including Chris, who's from Georgia and is 23, and Titia, who's from Ohio and also 23, and Angharad, who is from England. I'll post pics soon, as I took Chris & Titia to IzumoTaisha shrine this week and I'm taking Angharad on Monday.

I haven't been able to work out with the kendo team as much this week, due to other morning activities, but I hope to get back on schedule with them soon.

Kendo has reached a bit of a plateau for me, as far as practicing with my Junior High team. I go in, and participate in the warm-up activites, and then go off to the side of the dojo where I work out alone while the team does group or pair activites leading up to small matches. I really can't impose and ask to join in the actual one-on-one fighting for a few reasons:
1 - I'm not really as good as the kids on my team - they've all been doing kendo way longer than me - and I'd most likely be a negative stimulant to their ability. Think of it like this - if I was hanging out with the tennis team or the baseball team, I wouldn' expect to have a turn at bat or play in a match - the kids need to practice against each other and not have to worry about some old guy who wants to play. :)
2 - I still can't understand all the directions the coach is giving in Japanese, so I have to watch the other players for a minute before I understand what the next drill or practice is.

So I practice by myself for about 30 minutes and then usually go lift weights for about 30 minutes. All the solo practice has honed my attacking skills, but my defensive skills are lacking, simply because I rarely get to practice against another living person who will hit me back.

Kendo has been a great experince so far, but I think when my san nen sei "retire" later this year, I may retire as well. Maybe I could find an adult class or kendo club that would take me, and then get more one-on-one instruction and guidance, but I really am not going to learn that much more from my Junior High participation.

All the working out has had its benefits. When I went for a recent medical check up (which is a story in itself), I got to see how much I weigh for the first time since arriving last year. The scale in the nurses office at my JH only goes up to 100 kilos (220 lbs) so I could never see where I was at.
I'm at 120.2 kilos or about 264 lbs. I came to Japan last year weighing around 280, so I've lost about 15 pounds. Feels good and I hope to lose even more. I'm also in better shape due to kendo and bike riding. The other morning at kendo we had to do "500 stroke" practice, which is where we take our sword and pretend to hit our opponents head 100 times in quick succession. We did this 5 times. By the end I was a little sore, because I'd chosen a heavier sword, made of solid wood, as opposed to my regular shinai which is made of bamboo strips bound together by strips of leather. The next day I was really sore - but I have muscle definition for the first time in years, so that's cool.

OK - it's now lunch time and my yummy plate of yakisoba awaits. More soon.


Trivia - Friday, August 12th

How was the Beatles' 2003 rerelease of "Let It Be" different from the original recording?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Trivia - Thursday, August 11th

What was the name of the man-eating plant owned by Morticia Addams on the TV series The Addams Family?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
C. Citizen Kane

The thing about Kane is that I don't think many people in their 20s and 30s have seen it - perhaps because it is in Black & White, or because it was made in the 40s and seems "old" - but it is an amazingly vital and impressive film, even in the 21st century. Rent it soon and watch it if you've never seen it - or rent it and watch it again if it's been a while - it rewards repeat viewings.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, August 10th

Which film did the American Film Institute vote the no. 1 film of all time in 1998?

A. Gone with the Wind
B. The Wizard of Oz
C. Citizen Kane
D. Lawrence of Arabia

You really owe it to yourself to make sure you see ALL of the films listed above -all of them are great films - and I thought they made Casablanca number one, but it's not even one of the choices.

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
C. Wilmington, Delaware

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, August 9th

In what unlikely city does David Fincher's 1999 film Fight Club appear to take place?

A. Phoenix, Arizona
B. Newark, New Jersey
C. Wilmington, Delaware
D. Jacksonville, Florida

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Strictly Ballroom, William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, and Moulin Rouge

Monday, August 08, 2005

Trivia - Monday, August 8th

What three films make up Baz Luhrmann's Red Curtain Trilogy?

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):
They lived on 358 Chauncey Street in Brooklyn; this was actually Jackie Gleason's address while growing up in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, although the show is set in Bensonhurst.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Hiroshima Peace Park (Heiwa Koen)

Hiroshima Peace Park - 8
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Saturday, August 6th, 2005 marks the 60 year anniversary of the day when the American military dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima.

There was a huge gathering of people in Hiroshima today and while I couldn't attend, I watched some footage on the news that showed the huge crowds attending the memorial service and peace concert held at the site of the original epicenter of the blast.

Touring the peace musuem near the park last May was one of the most moving experiences I've had in Japan, one filled with tremendous sadness and anger and at the end a glimmer of hope. Hiroshima has rebuilt itself into a magnificent city and flowers and trees and grass grow at the site where scientists had predicted that nothing would grow for decades.

There will be similar ceremonies happening in Nagasaki on Tuesday the 9th to mark the 60th anniversary of another bomb being dropped on that city.

I haven't been to Nagasaki yet, but I hope to go later this year.

Peace -

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -George Santayana, philosopher (1863-1952)

"No society that feeds its children on tales of successful violence can expect them not to believe that violence in the end is rewarded." -Margaret
Mead, anthropologist (1901-1978)

A-bomb Memorial

Hiroshima Peace Park - 12
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I have a shot of this monument looking straight on in my blog here in the May archive. As you look through it you can see the eternal flame, that will remain lit as long as nuclear wepaons remain in the world and the Atomic Dome in the distance.

It's a small and simple memorial, and the stone box in the center holds the names of all those that have died from the initial blast and the radiation it brought. They add names each year on August 6th of all those elderly Japanese that have passed away in the past year but were in Hiroshima the day of the blast. Not many survivors are left.

Hiroshima - The Atomic Dome

Hiroshima Peace Park - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

One of the few structures near the epicenter of the blast to remain standing, The Atomic Dome is now a national landmark and one of the most visible reminders of the devestation caused by the atomic blast.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Trivia - Saturday & Sunday, August 6th & 7th

Where do Ralph and Alice Kramden live on the TV show The Honeymooners?

Friday's Answer (highlight line below):
He had a severe headache that turned out to be a brain aneurysm.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Trivia - Friday, August 5th

Why did REM drummer Bill Berry leave the stage during a 1995 concert in Switzerland?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
The Tropicana Club

I would have gotten yesterday's answer wrong - I thought the club was called "Club Babaloo."

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Trivia - Thursday, August 4th

On the TV show I Love Lucy, what was the name of the club where Desi Arnaz worked?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Tim Robbins

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, August 3rd

The son of a folk singer from the '60s group the Highwaymen, which actor-director cowrote all the folk songs for his film Bob Roberts with his brother?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, August 2nd

The group Toto had a hit in 1982 with a song celebrating which continent?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
A. "Left Eye"

Monday, August 01, 2005

Trivia - Monday, August 1st

The late Lisa Lopes of the group TLC was better known by what nickname?

A. "Left Eye"
B. "T-Boz"
C. "Lana"
D. "Lil' Lisa"

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):