Monday, November 28, 2005

Happy Warmly Christmas.

happy warmly christmas
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.

Yours Sincerely Waxing Away

Monday 28 November 2005

Strange past week.Punctuated by three notable deaths.
George Best,59, passed away due to major organ failure after 2 months in hospital and what seems decades of news reports of his fight with alcoholism.Hard to believe that, despite this and the fact that he retired at 26 and never appeared at a World Cup he's still held in such high regard.Ironic too,as others less kind already noted, he died in the same week England introduced new drinking laws which in theory could allow 24 hour drinking licences.
Pat Morita,73,"Mr Miyagi" of Karate Kid fame also died this week.He starred with a very young Hilary Swank in one of the series.Ms Swank you may remember had the female lead role in Million Dollar Baby which i saw recently.
Finally Richard Burns,34, former World Rally Champion and the only Englishman to win that title thus far.I recall an interview on NZ television as he had competed in the Rally of New Zealand.He seemed a determined even driven man.I couldnt help but think how young and unfortunate his death was as i read this mornings paper.

Workin Man Blues...
What follows is a rant.....
So I work for an English conversation school company.Have for the last 6 years or so.Been reasonably happy.Met some stupid people.Met far fewer I would willingly spend time with.Seems theres an inverse relationship at work...the people you loathe stay longer and either get promoted,fired,or find better jobs.Not necessairly in that order.
I have to admit I only stay in my present position for purely selfish,mercenary reasons.Money.It used to be good.

Over the past 2 years due to falling work conditions and exchange rate fluctuations this has changed.Any advantage I had has been eroded.Plus if you factor in the intangibles such as lack of fresh air,space and cheap cheese my situation has got grim.
And its getting grimmer.The company introduced a grammar free book with disastrous results.Higher level students can parrot drivel that leads nowhere.I made the mistake of suggesting to the staff at least half of the language in the book native speakers would never use conversationally.Let loose in the real world our higher level students would be lost.Unable to survive.Unable to construct a simple past irregular sentence.Unable to use comparisons."Hes gooder me"...translated "Hes better than me"...maybe.Often incoherent.Usually confusing.Ultimately mind sapping.
Nor is the standard on the other side of the table any better.Most instructors wouldnt know a prefix or suffix from an annex.The most dire example lately was a 25 year old Aussie bimbo who complained students used words like "melancholy" which she had never heard of.Poor mono syllablic thing.
Then again our so-called Education Quality Control is an oxymoron with numerous spelling errors e.g "Fabruary" or "begining".The much vaunted Media Centre sends reports studded with drivel such as "the student made many non-verbal utterances".I defy anyone to define what that is....
Most of the so-called hierarchy have little in the way of English teaching background or the ability to teach.
As previously noted it took an offical complaint to get our boy wonder boss to literally clean up his act.A bit hypocritical of him to tell someone they are unprofessionally dressed when he himself smells like a cross between a gorillas armpit and an Iraqi sewer.
Lately small things have begun to rankle.Maybe its my conscience.Maybe guilt, in taking part knowingly in such a fraud and farce.Take yesterday,for example,I come to work and notice the maps of Canada,New Zealand and Australia have been taken down.Not company material.Part of our company title is inter-cultural exchange just a mockery...The walls are now as blank and empty as the people in charge.Clueless.
I need to find a better job not necessairly better paid but one where extra effort is appreciated and the raw materials such as textbooks have substance, are valid and have some educational worth and value.And I need to find one quickly....
mmm feel slightly better or bitter having written this down damn frustrating tho....

Monday, November 21, 2005

Of Cabbages,Aliens and Bats

Monday 21 November 2005
Been battling a heavy cold.Sore throat.Blocked ears and nose.The works.I think I caught it waiting on an exposed train platform. Late last Monday night.I felt the icy fingers of winter prod and poke at my fragile frame.Switching between express,local and subway trains.The weather has turned decidedly cooler.Down to 2 to 4 degrees at night.Dragged out an extra blanket.Closed the balcony door at night.

Spent the weekend mostly in bed fighting my cold.Watching a mixture of sumo(the last tournament of the year is currently on),dvds and reading the latest in Alex McCall Smiths "The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series.Its good to reimmerse oneself in the well drawn characters and crafted stories.He has a soothing relaxed way of writing.In each book you learn more about the characters,Botswana and Africa.Sure theres some retracing and retelling of previous events to bring new readers up to speed but its done economically and in such a way as to further your knowledge.

I've included a photo of the fruit and veggie shop I visit each Saturday morning to get my supplies for the week.Very cheap and reasonable prices by Japanese standards.While I cant speak much Japanese and get chided for it the staff are very friendly.Its a family run business.I ususally get served by this ancient Yoda like woman.Obvivously the grandmother,mother,mother in law of the couple that run and manage the business.Its always very busy and noisy.As well as the many local residents who frequent the shop it also supplies many restaurants.
Across thed alley theres a ramshackle fishmonger selling a myriad of marine life.Either frozen or swimming around in its small polystyrene prison.

War of The Worlds was released here on dvd a couple of weeks ago.I finally managed to get one of the twenty odd copies available at the video store.
Im in two minds about it.Should it have just focussed on America or just Tom Cruise and his two brats or taken a wider global view as the title of the movie claims?While the special effects were great as you would expect from the director of ET and Close Encounters the plot was a bit limp.
There were loopholes and jumps in logic others have already noted.For example why was a handicam still working when all other electronic products had been disabled?Or how come none of the buried machines hadnt been discovered?
One major problem I had was that I didnt like the characters.Much like Closer I didnt care what happened to them.Tim Robbins turn as a mad survivalist seemed to slow the story down and added nothing.
Another problem was the ending.Lacklustre.No final climatic battle or even a twist like a new improved alien machine hurtling towards Earth.No reasonable explanation for the demise of the aliens.I would have liked a more plausible ending.Not the trite Morgan Freeman voice-over.

Speaking of Morgan Freeman hes featured a lot recently on my DVD player.Not only in War of the Worlds but also in Million Dollar Baby and in a small role in Batman Begins.
I liked this movie.Great cast.Liam Neeson,Michael Caine,Gary Oldman and Chrisian Bale.It also has Katie Holmes as the female lead.Shes not my favorite actress.Here she lacked the weight and presence to pull off the role of a District Attorney.She just wasnt convincing.
The first half of the movie was mainly exposition.Explaining how Batman got to where he was.The second plays out his plan to save Gotham.I think the director Christopher Nolan respects the Batman story unlike say Joel Schumacher and others who took a less than reverent approach and whose efforts degraded the whole franchaise.I also think hes a fan of Bladerunner.Many scenes of the nether regions of Gotham seemed an homage to that classic sci-fi movie.Surely the appearance of Rutger Hauer is further evidence?
Christian Bale, in the title role a million miles from The Machinist, played the character grimly with a mixture of moral superiority and revenge.Not all good not all bad.Not totally likeable but more credible for his faults and failings.
All in all despite my reservations about Katie Holmes I enjoyed Batman Begins as a form of harmless entertainment.,,,

Fruit and Veggie Market Osu Kannon Nagoya Japan

Monday, November 14, 2005

Goldfish(Koi) Shirotori Gardens Nagoya Japan

Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.

Monday 14 November 2005

Shirotori Park.Small Compact.Located in a suburb of Nagoya City.Comfortably walk around it in 5 or so minutes.From the air the ponds created within the gardens are said to resemble a swan in flight.Hence the name.There are some traditional tearooms and other buildings constructed by craftsmen from Kyoto.Think I've blogged about the park before.I visit every 3 months or so.To observe the changing seasons.Baby ducks.Cherry blossoms.Fall leaves.
Last Friday armed with my new digital camera I went again.
Still peaceful.Well kinda.Despite the recent appearance of an overbearing 15 floor building on its fringes.

Despite the increase in the feral cat population.
I stood frozen watching one stalk a seagull.Too slow to photo it pouncing and breaking the unfortunate birds neck.Too slow as it triumphantly dragged the limp corpse into the undergrowth.
Avian atrocities aside,for 50 yen you can purchase a small paper cup of fish food.To feed the piscean predators that populate the ponds.The goldfish or koi seem to hear the vibrations of your feet as you near the steps of the ponds.They begin to flock like bees and greedily fight for any pellet floating their way.
Mouths popping and slurping obscenely.Ive included a photo of aforesaid koi.
Still a bit early for the full glory of autumn to be reflected in the foilage.Evidently its been too warm.Maybe I'll get down to Kyoto late November when the season is at its peak.

Was disappointed with the 2005 Best American Short Stories edition this year.As selected by Michael Chabon.Should have known.Not really a fan.Nothing stood out.Nothing clever,no wordplay,phrase or metaphor to puzzle.All too similiar all too introspective.Each years edition seems dependent on that years guest editor.This years may have been good.Just not my taste.
On the other hand the 2005 Essays edition as chosen by Susan Orlean, ( author of "The Orchid Thief" the basis for the movie "Adaptation") is a much better read.The essays cover a broad range of topics from factual features to some personal memoirs.Much more enjoyable than Chabons offerings.

Briefly.I've watched a few good ones of late.Though I cant see why some gush over "Napoleon Dynamite".Seems to be a movie that tries too hard ,is too earnest.Sometimes bland and mediocre are just that.Bland.Mediocre.Unfunny.The ending was too pat,too contrived and feelgood.
Also watched "Million Dollar Baby" having been impressed with Eastwoods earlier "Unforgiven" and the more recent "Mystic Creek".Simply elegantly shot.Character driven.The use of light in some scenes is very effective and effecting.One shot with the light falling diagonally across Eastwoods characters craggy features conveys more than 10 pages of script could.The fight scenes reminded me of "Raging Bull".Bone crunching,nose breaking shots that made me wince.As with "Mystic Creek" theres a foreboding sense that all will not be well.The end also reminded me of another great movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest" with a release of sorts for the characters.
Lastly but not least I finally got to see "The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind".As with Chabon I'm not a Jim Carrey fan.His hyper drive maniac turns in other movies leave me cold.Like Robin Williams an acquired taste.Pleasantly surprised with his performance here.Almost human.Much pared down.Muted.Sans eye popping gimmicks.Sans facial tics.Sans nervous energy.sans everything really.A good supporting cast to back up Carrey and Kate Winslet the main protaganists.Kirsten Dundst and Elijah Woods among others.Woods played a character light years removed from Frodo Baggins.
Like "Million Dollar Baby" some scenes linger.One where the 2 main characters do "snow angels" or scenes where
Carreys character is desperately fighting to stop his memories disappearing or being erased.
Which got me thinking as most good movies and books do and we just keep the good memories of past relationships,filter out the bad or worse even adjust or reconstruct good ones?......

Monday 14 November 2005

sign of the times
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Spell Check.I had to include this shop sign.The annual shopping splurge and excess is well underway here in Nagoya Japan even if its incorrectly spelt...shogani...loosely translated "shogani" means "what can you do?" or "it cant be helped" in an exasperated manner

Monday, November 07, 2005

Paper Mache Brains Nagoya Foreign Artists Exhibition

Making an Exhibition of Oneself...the sequel

Monday November 7 2005

Well its over.Done.This years Foreign Artists Exhibition in Nagoya ended with a party in the Annex Hall of the International Centre last night.I had a few beers.Ate some food.Talked with some of the assembled artists and their friends.Nodded politely to others.Picked up my certificate acknowledging my participation.

One Mans Porn is Anothers Scorn
The exhibition ran from last Tuesday to Sunday.I went along on Friday for a few hours to mingle with the masses.Glory in my new found fame.Bask in the warmth of adulation....I met some of my fellow exhibitors.
Roy had a few pen and ink sketches,a couple of pieces of sculpture and three nude photo studies of a Vietnamese prostitute in a hotel on show.
One of the other exhibitors had considered the photos "exploitation".He justified the photos to me in a long tirade.Delivered in a loud,strident voice.His arguments heard by all in the display hall.I tried to interupt.Ask technical questions.About lighting
Ask about the hotel where he took the photos.Inquire about Vietnam.Anything to stop him using the words "tits" and "pussy".Repeatedly.
Personally I didnt find the photos pornographic or exploitation or even offensive.The poses so I reliably informed are similiar to those found in Playboy magazine.Nothing explicit.I thought the photos were kind of dated.Vaguely sad.As Roy himself said he'd paid her the equivalent of a nights work "about 10 guys worth" just to pose.Who was exploiting who I thought.
An interesting guy more than ready to share his views on any number of topics.

In contrast to the effusive Roy I also met a rather aloof serious American woman.She bore the name of Tullah May Terrell.Sounds like a Kurt Vonnegut character.She was propped up against a wall near her display.Some mixed media stencilled prints.I managed to prise out of her that she was from upstate Washington.Had a BFA and had been in Nagoya 1.5 years.Short terse answers to personal quetions.I swear I wasnt trying to pick her up.Though I duly noted she was in possession of rather attractive perky nose.A bit more forthcoming and animated when talking about her art and art.
As with Roy an interesting person and character a contrast from those i normally associate with.

Overall I enjoyed the exhibition.A bit scary putting stuff out there for public criticism.Nonetheless a chance to meet new people.An oppurtunity to discuss stuff I wouldnt ordinarily such as the drying times of acrylic paint,the perils of humidity and the rainy season.Or the hierarchy of art and whether photography can be considered an "art".

Now Im One
Started this blog last November.Thought I wouldnt have enough to write about.Not the case.Sometimes the opposite.
Since getting my own connection some two weeks ago Ive randomly sampled blogs on blogger and other hosts.Some are updated daily.Frankly I dont have the time.Besides I dont do enough to warrant a daily update.Im just not that exciting.

If a Picture Paints a Thousand Words....
One thing I noticed while randomly sampling blogs was that the more attractive, eyecatching ones had some pictures or illustrations on them.Not necessary better or well-informed but the photos etc broke up the banks and walls of print.Justified more than a cursory glance.
So to mark the year Im going to try to post some relevant photos on the blog.Relevant to the subject Im writing.Other photos should be accessible at my newly created flickr
I purchased a Sony digital camera on the advice of one of the guys at the exhibition.5.1 pixels.All the bells and whistles.Still trying to work out how to fully utilise its potential.
Being a Luddite of the first order the last few weeks have been a steep learning curve.Almost vertical.First the purchase of an Apple G4.Getting to grips with an entirely new operating system.Then the installation of an internet connection.Trying to master the idiosyncrasies of an Apple non-friendly environment.Finally the purchase and operation of a digital camera.Trying to load photos from the camera to the computer and then importing or is it exporting them???
If nothing else Im trying to conquer my fear of new technology.Putting off mental stagnation.Attempting to arrest atrophy.
Frustrating.Sometimes.Rewarding.Frequently.This blog represents those attempts and efforts.
So the first photo shows my collection of paper mache brains I displayed at the Foreign Artists Exhibition in Nagoya last week.