Saturday, June 25, 2005

Faces Come Out Of The Rain....

Saturday June 25th 2005
So far like many things in this country..government reforms...the long awaited economic recovery this years rainy season has been a non -event.
I recall my first taste of the rainy season back in 1999.Weeks of grey leaden skies.Monsoonal rainstorms.Puddles drowning poodles and small kids.This year apart from the obligatory showers that force every one to buy or steal umbrellas nothing...nada..zilch.
Its as if the climate control skipped.Switched straight to summer mode .High humidity.Searing sultry temperatures.30degree plus heat.
The rice paddies planted so incongruously between houses and any available space have already begun to dry out.Some areas further south have started to enforce water restrictions.

Checking Out Chekhov
Was given a collection of Anton Chekhovs short stories to read which i noted earlier.My only previous experience of his work was in Phillip Lopates book "Getting Personal" where he tells about trying to teach 10 and 12 year olds 'Uncle Vanya'.
As i stated earlier Chekhovs stories revolve around relationships,failings,longings, and perceptions-the differences between appearance and reality.Though set in 1890s Russia the themes are pretty universal.I found them a little depressing maybe because I read them all at the same time and wasnt reading much else..stories of unhappy people trapped in circumstances in which they have little control or are forced to do things for their family or the sake of their livelihood.
Anyway i thought i would cheer myself up with the latest offering from Ben Elton titled 'Past Mortem'.Probably his darkest effort yet.It begins lightly and entertainingly enough.Then you realize the murder/mystery /love/story is being used as a vehicle to address the issue of bullying and its results upon its victims and others.
Eltons earlier novels dealt with issues such as the environment(Stark) or drugs (High Society) in a light-hearted,satrical manner.Obvivously due to the subject matter Past Mortem is more serious and at times the writing is pretty graphic.While not in Chekhovs league Elton does share his gift of insight into human nature.As with his earlier books there were passages that provoked me to smile and grin in recognition.
It will be interesting to compare this thoughtful book with Nick Hornbys latest centered on suicide.Two advance reviews Ive read dont appear particularly promising but what do critics know..
Still plodding warily through some essays by George Orwell..damn dry some of them.More comment when i finally finish them.More out of a sense of duty than any enthusiasm.I think its his continual Marxist socialist arguments that appear to me outdated.
Bada Bing
Speaking of being outdated.I happened upon the first series of 'The Sopranos' the HBO tv series.Just released here on DVD.Well better late than never.Spent the last 2 Saturday mornings engrossed in the first couple of episodes.Intriguing.Certainly a different New York to that which the women in Sex and the City inhabit.

Random Thoughts
Make Mine a Minke
A fast food chain in Hokkaido began selling whale meat burgers this week.
By coincidence the International Whaling Commission began meeting this week too.The meat comes from so-called research whaling.Surely studying an endangered species by further depleting its surviving numbers is pointless.One company offical is quoted as saying "People in other countries may think eating whale is strange but it is our culture".
Using the "cultural card" in this case is as illogical and ridiculous as trying to justify research whaling.
Just because something is part of ones culture doesnt necessairly make it reasonable or justifiable in principle or even lawful.
Female circumscision is part of some cultures. Can one reasonably condone its continued practice.
Ive noticed some Japanese get very touchy about criticism be it whaling or visits to shrines that contain Class A war criminals.In fact discussion about controversial matters is limited.It seems criticism is taken personally,an affront to ones character and identity.
Rather than deal and discuss issues of friction a defensive mode is adopted.
Rather than seek a compromise a"but its our culture" pose is struck or in the case of educational textbooks a tit for tat position is adopted.
Its interesting watching this countries reaction to international criticism.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Kids Are Alright (well some of them)

Monday 6 June 2005
Had to teach a class of kinder kids (3-5 year olds) at another school last week.Absolute hell.You can have up to 8 rioting,attention deficit,high on food additive kids yelling at 120 decibels for 40 minutes.High frustration.Little in the way of educational value.More like baby-sitting at this age.Think Sartres 'No Exit'.Think Murder.Think Anarchy.Kids karate chopping each other while another rips open the plastic deodarizer container and commences to eat the contents...mmm.

There are 3 categories of kids classes.Kinders 3-5 years,Juniors 5-8 years probably my most least hated age group and the Seniors 8-12 more serious and less extroverted than the juniors.
Actually my favorite kid is a man to man student a 3 year old girl Mii.
Mii is pretty sullen and never cracks a smile.She has a listless,world weary air which for one so young is to be commended.Even encouraged.
She speaks more English than some of the adult students in my regular classes.Obvivously she has things worked out and has decided things cant get much better from now.
What lies ahead for Mii?...An educational system bent on rote learning,six day school weeks punctuated by exams and cramming, graduating to a short pointless career opening supermarket doors bowing and grinning in a banal manner then onto a loveless marriage 1.3 kids and then the obligatory rounds of shopping,coffee mornings with the girls and English conversational school lessons that seem to make up a typical Japanese womens days.
Random Thoughts
1.In 2004 for the first time in Japan there were over 1 million people aged 90 years or over.

2.For the fifth straight year the number of suicides has topped(pun intended) 30,000 people.One expert said if you took into account the number of unsuccessful attempts the number would be nearer 300,000..about the population of my hometown in New Zealand.

3.The rainy season is almost upon Japan again.A month long period of rain and high humidity..not my favorite time of the year.

4.Am currently reading and enjoying a short story collection by Chekhov.Full of doom,bitterness,failed relationships and lost oppurtunities.Must give it to Mii to read...