Saturday, April 30, 2005

Catcher on the Fly

Friday 29April 2005
Todays the start of Golden week the longest period of annual holidays for the local worker drones.Roads are choked,planes ,trains and other forms of public transport are booked to over-capacity as leeming-like the hordes stream back to their home towns and grandparents before literally turning around and heading straight back home again.
Traffic congestion and jams up to 40km in length arent uncommon.Because of the way the calendar falls this year the holiday period is slightly longer..peak congestion is predicted for May 3 or so. If todays weather is any indication it'll be a good time to travel.
Im collecting my thoughts under a shady tree in Shirotori Park,a local Japanese style garden.It has this lovely lush almost unnaturally steroid green that goes down to one of the artifical ponds.The gardens come complete with its own traditional Japanese tea-house,ponds,Japanese bridges and waterfall.the ponds are stocked with ducks and koi or goldfish.Some of them are quite large.In various colors such as pink,orange and yellow.
Its fun feeding the koi though they make these disgusting,urgent sucking noises as they compete for the fish pellets you can purchase at the tearooms.
Today with the temperature around 28degrees, a light zephyr keeping the humidity down its very pleasant.Being a Friday the gardens are virtually deserted..the odd guilty salary man and his furtive looking secretary seeking a few snatched seconds of solace.

Enough babbling...I finished "Faithful" the Bosox book celebrating their 2004 World Series year. A good read though Ive found my thoughts and vocabulary littered with the odd baseball expression such as "double-play" and i wear my 2 pairs of work shoes on a weeks rotation.
Currently reading some short essays and articles by George Orwell who apart from being a novelist also wrote and commented on various issues of his day.Still also being entertained by the exploits of Don Quixote.Its ingenious and totally unbelievable how many coincidences and stories can be linked into one story .The 40 minute odd ride to work seems just long enough to polish off 2 to 3 chapters and marvel at the writing.Im still only about half way through too.
Speaking of coincidences while reading 'Faithful' I happended to glance up and see a Giants/Dragons game on TV.The Tokyo Giants are the Japanese equivalent of the New York Yankees having one of the biggest payrolls and are the most popular team in Japan.The Dragons are the local Nagoyan team who won the Central League last season.I dont follow the local baseball its so slow and with only 6 teams its very repetitive with 160 odd games each year. of the Giant players was none other than Gabe Kapler who played for the Boston Red Sox last year so it was nice to place a face to a name id been reading about over the last 2 or so weeks.
Turn the Page
Another example of life intersecting my reading occurred after Id read a blog article about Jimmy Page of Led Zep fame.The article which described the chance sighting of Page in a London KFC was well-written and funny containing a humorous analysis of Pages order and eating habits.That same afternoon picking up the months edition of Uncut magazine who should adorn the cover but none other than Mr Page complete with a free cd of guitar classics chosen by him....kismet..serendipidity...go figure..
Train in Vain
Pretty horrific train accident occurred near Osaka this week.One of the worst post-war rail accidents.106 people killed over 400 odd injured when a 7 car train derailed and slammed into a nearby apartment building.Seems the 23 year old driver had overshot the previous train platform and was speeding to make up for the 90 seconds he was behind schedule...the crash investigation continues..
Random Thoughts
Ironic that my English language school should have wallpaper in the new kids room covered in French words ..zut alors et merde..whatever next? must have been a cheap job lot...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Hold Me Closer Tony Danza

Friday 15 April 2005
Glorious Friday spring morning.22degrees.A light wind tickling the last of the cherry blossoms."Peachy" as some of my younger colleagues would utter.The blossom front is on the retreat up north to Sendai and Hokkaido.
Abandoned my apartment.It reverberates with drills,grinders,and heavy equipment.Ocassionally the sky darkens.Partial eclipse,no its just one of those elevator things complete with gawking peeping Tom workmen.I cheerily wave back at them.Nothing is going to destroy the good vibes engendered by todays weather.I'm currently sitting in a park under aforementioned fading flora.Brushing away the petals which stipple my pad as I chronicle the events of the last week.Shouldnt take too long.
I`m about halfway through 'Faithful' a book by 2 die-hard Boston Red Sox fans.Its a game by game account of their 2004 World Series season.One of the authors is Stephen "some people have accused me of having an overactive imagination" King and a fellow writer and friend.Both long term fans.Thus far its been highly readable and entertaining .I've put aside Don Quixote and a couple of other tasks as I reach the climax of the book.Yes I know that the Bosox finally erased the so-called Curse and not only beat their foes the Yankees but also won the World Series for the first time in 80 odd years in fairy tale like circumstances.
Think 'Fever Pitch'.Think rip off movie.Think Nick Hornby.Think Drew Barrymore.Think Farrelly Brothers.Think how unoriginal.
Im no baseball fan but im betting any one who has supported a bad luck team will find something in common with these two.The book records their thoughts through diary entries and emails about the team,baseball and related things such as pro sport,terrorism,society and steroids.Some of their superstitions are funny e.g hitting the mute button,turning round or wearing ones cap inside out,or even turning the tv off to provide more mojo.
An interesting feature is that all the Japanese players in the MLB who are mentioned even Matsui who plays for the "Evil Empire" get good wraps.I'll have more to write when i finish it.

Move It On Over
The other event was my place of employment moved .Yesterday.From its cockroach infested location to a more spacious spot across the hall.Decked out in fresh paint and Hello Kitty pink carpet.Its all very clean and smells of paint and carpet glue.We have an enlarged teachers room with its own sink.Luxury.There are however no windows.The existing ones have been covered with signage.The Voice Room where students can (but dont,wont,cant) freely converse and discuss the issues of the day in a friendly ,supportive environment (I jest not) is now a boring sterile space.There are also 2 new Kids rooms.My company seems to think of kids being a new revenue stream or cash cows .The powers that be seem to have forgotten that Japan has an ageing greying society with an almost negative birthrate and increasing marriage age and decreasing family size.Still Im no Thomas Malthus so who am I to question policy.

Speaking of policy.Our company made the paper again.Seems its been avoiding paying almost one billion yen in social and medical insurance to the government.Annually.The government report is due out May or early June or maybe will be swept under the carpet.It may result in multi-billion backpayments to the government.Im crying crocodile tears...

Apart from 'Faithful' i read an insignificant book called "Polite Fictions..Why Japanese and Americans seem rude to each Other".Written by 2 Japanese women who i presume have married Americans.Its a bit dated ..1982..and a little stereotypical.There are also the odd jarring JapEnglish errors e.g "more oftener".Putting these aside there are some interesting bits.
Seems Japanese regard conversation like a bowling lane.Each person takes a turn to bowl a topic.The topic may or may not have anything to do with what went before or even after.Theres a pause while the pins are reset and the next person bowls.Its slow, methodical.Very disconnected and deferential.Unlike"American" conversation which is portrayed as a tennis game if only 2 people participate or a volleyball game if there are more than 2.In the tennis example the server hits a topic which the receiver must return.Conversation is related and linked.If its a team conversation anyone can contribute.No turn taking no deferring.More spontaneous.
In practice its difficult no well nigh impossible to get a natural "American " conversation.Its learned habitual and difficult to change.Usually its one student dominanting .The other students sit silently.Mutely.Meekly.Silence is seen as being polite.Hell of a way to spend 40 minutes in a Voice class .No sense of continuity.No expansion.No initation....
Bugger its my day off and im ranting about for a coffee and a read....

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Trees Company...

Friday 8 April 2005
Well the cherry blossoms have finally made their all too brief annual appearance.They`re at their peak this weekend about 7 days after they first bloom.Prompted by increased temperatures and intense media attention they petulantly put out their pink petals.
The local park, adjacent to my train station where I make my daily pilgrimage to the chalk face will be packed these next few nights in homage to the florid flowering flora.
Crowded with drunken rosy-faced salarymen.Crowded with budding under-aged students with their portable karaoke boxes.Crowded with party people.
At 7a.m these mornings the park is relatively serene,echoing with the sound of crumpling beer cans as the local homeless divide the spoils of the night before and crows scrap over leftover food or greedily swallow the drying deposits of vomit that dot the park.
Oblivious to all this activity one can spy the odd huddled body covered in spent petals lying on the blue tarp sheets that serve as picnic sheets under the trees.Another victim of gross intoxication .
By 8a.m the park is taken over by dogwalkers,commuters and students criss-crossing to work or college.
Random Thoughts
The Aichi 2005 Expo which opened in March has had a few hiccups.The ban prohibiting patrons bringing their own food into the parks has been lifted..ostensibly it was to prevent food poisoning but in reality it was to secure a captive market for the high prices the Expo`s food stalls were charging.Anyway that ban has sensibly been lifted.There remain problems.
One of my students handed me an English version of the Expo site map.It was riddled with Japanese -English errors.You would think with all the money and resources squandered on this project someone would have proof-read the map.Some examples.."the low-ride bus is thoughtful of handicapped people"..even if you disregard the non-pc use of "handicapped" how can an inanimate object like a bus think?...the phrase "wide-ranging tourist " is used.Is this an obese tourist?One can go on an "aerial stroll" when you ride the gondola...sounds kinda risky.
Oh there are more ... should ask assistance from the guides"lightly"mmm like i was going to ask them "heavily"?In the event of an emergency happening you should follow the guides and not use "self-judgement to evacuate"And so the list goes on ..grab that dictionary and find any random word and put it in.Meanwhile "you should not make a dangerous action" nor" ravage" in the park.
Its embarassing and frustrating.Its supposed to be world-class and professional.The Japanese Government wants a permanent seat on the UN Security Council..well until they sort out the teaching of English and proof-reading and bring the standard up I dont think its appropriate even without taking any political or historical considerations into account.
I would more than happily have voluntereed my services to proof read any written material for the Expo.In fact I helped a number of students who were working as volunteers to check their English before they worked.
Im not the only one critical of signage and mispellings..a local monthly magazine included a photo of a sign at the Expo which stated "No Smorking"...sigh
The start of spring apart from signalling the coming cherry blossoms also heralds the start of the annual painting season.Buildings all over the city get a face lift and new paint job before the onset of the rainy season.This year is no exception and my 14 floor apartment building is also undergoing this lenghty process.
There are ropes and pulleys and gantries and scaffolding and cones and flashing lights festooning the sides of the building.It looks like a space shuttle launch site.It means hammering and drilling.
Banging.Dust and noise.For three months.From 8 a.m to 5p.m.7 days a week.Unless it rains.
It means no sleep-ins.It means nosy workmen.It means strange people on my balcony.
Spring also means change.The end of the last financial year March 31 and the start of the new one on 1 April. New jobs, the start of the new school year..the closing of poorly performing businesses and the opening of new ones.
My school will shortly move across the hall and occupy an old opticians offices.We finally get to have our own kids room..this means we can hold our own classes of up to 8 kids..Im over-joyed.
Speaking of failing businesses the KFC outlet which occupied part of the ground floor of my apartment building suddenly closed March 31.
April 1 bye bye Colonel.The life sized replica of the Southern gentleman was loaded unceremoniously loaded onto a truck.I fondly saluted his departure while workmen continued to gut the premises of its equipment.At the time of blogging the retail space remains vacant.