Friday, January 29, 2010

Just had my first Hulk. Delicious!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Out Of The Inaka

Alright, I finally made it away from Tsuruta-machi for a weekend. I got in touch with another Oregonian, who works for an eikaiwa school in Aomori City (about 300,000 people), and I took the train on Saturday night. I went to a cool little izakaya called Matchan, and then barhopped all night. The next day we went to eat at an italian restaurant with decent pizza! After that I came back home, and got caught up in my new favorite PS2 game, God Hand. Its a beat-em-up with a difficulty level I describe as Contra meets Demon's Souls. It's also got a great soundtrack and sense of humor in the plotline and dialogue, reminds me of Cowboy Bebop or Samurai Champloo.

I finished three novels in the past few weeks; Natsume Soseki's Botchan was pretty good, it's about a college graduate who has no jobs available in Tokyo, takes a position as a math teacher in a remote area of Japan, and has all sorts of troubles trying to fit in. The kids tease him horribly, some teachers ostracize him. I feel a little like Botchan at times, but I am definitely sure I do better at my job than he. I also read Yasunari Kawabata's short novel "Snow Country", about a Tokyo businessman and his relationship with a geisha in a remote ski/onsen resort town. I thought the plot was OK but the characters annoying, but Kawabata's prose is amazing. I finished up with an oregon classic, One Flew Over the Cuckoo`s Nest, which reminded me of all the crazy people walking the streets of Eugene. I've seen the movie but this was my first time reading the book. The Chief's memories of the Columbia River before the dam made me sad that I was born too late to see Celilo Falls.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tsuruta nightlife

Ken Kesey and a beer by candlelight.

In my igloo!

スパー礼賛 (In Praise of the Japanese Supermarket) The First

Nike and Converse running shoes, but no Chucks? Heresy!
The only American brand of clothing I could find in the Superstore was Grateful Dead branded sweatshirts.. homesick for Eugene.
Whale Bacon? at $11 for maybe 30 grams, I think I will wait until I can find some at a restaurant, or at least until I find some that's not fake pink (however, the fake pink is a delicious necessity in kamaboko).
Tarako EVERYTHING: Mayonnaise, salad dressing, furikake (rice topping) pasta sauce.
Only white bread. And the same sized pack (half a loaf?) is sold as 6, 5 or 3 ENORMOUS slices.
Camo do-rag? Yes, please! I need something to wear with my huge down jacket and boots (bubblegoose and Tims)
Mario Kart arcade cabinet! Also, students telling me "I saw you playing Mario Kart last weekend". I feel like Botchan at the dango or soba shops.
Fresh-made Takoyaki any time I want. That's all that needs to be said.
A hundred kinds of beer/shochu/nihonshu(sake) that all taste the same.
$1.50 for 3 stalks of asparagus, but a bundle of 3 24-inch long, 1/2 inch wide negi (spring onions) for $1.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A New Year

Well, it's finally settling in that I will be here for 20 more months. Wow, this will be the longest I have ever spent at a single job, no pesky school and moving to get in my way. I am looking forward to it, I head that the longer you stay here, the more rewarding the job gets! Not to say that I don't like it now, it's a lot of fun, but I still sometimes feel a little lost; for example if things go wrong usually I am good at improvising a fix but I don't really know what to do. The other day I tried to show the Sesame Street DVD but their player didn't like my disc, and I hadn't brought any materials as backup, so I panicked for a little bit before I finally came up with something.
My teacher-neighbors are back, so I have people to hang out with again! Still struggling to meet the locals though. My co-worker tells me that the adults my age just hang out at each other's houses and don't go out to spend money. Totally different mindset from the US, people are out emptying their wallets in order to have a good time, and then wondering why they have no money left for rent or food. In the US, we even have something called a "Credit card",where people can spend money they don't even have yet!
In other news, I have put my earrings back in! The preschoolers are fascinated by them, I don't know if they have ever seen a guy wearing earrings around here. I am being careful to only wear the solid ones, no tunnels/eyelets.. I want to make it less obvious that my ears are stretched. Hopefully no one at the office complains!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Can You Tell Me How to Get, How to Get to Sesame Street?

Today I showed Tsuruta "Infant School" the Sesame Street DVD "Imagine That!". I bought it from Amazon, so I vaguely remember that it was older, and I watched it for the first time with the kids. I could definitely tell that it was made before I was born, so when I got back to the office, I looked it up, and WOW it was made in 1969, only one year after the first season aired.. No wonder Ernie, the Grouch, and Elmo weren't major stars yet, Big Bird didn't even appear at all! I decided to sit down and read the LONG Wikipedia article on Sesame Street, and I thought I'd share with you some of the more interesting tidbits about Sesame Street

  • As of 2009, the series has received 118 Emmy Awards, more than any other television series

  • An estimated 77 million Americans watched the series as children. (That's almost a quarter of our nation.. CTW had a lot of power in its hands..)

  • It premiered on November 10, 1969, and is the longest running children's program on US television.

  • As author Malcolm Gladwell has stated, "Sesame Street was built around a single, breakthrough insight: that if you can hold the attention of children, you can educate them". Sesame Street was the first children's show that structured each episode and made "small but critical adjustments" to each segment to capture children's attention long enough to teach them something

  • It was decided, by recommendation of child psychologists, that the Street scenes, which CTW researcher Edward Palmer called "the glue" that "pulled the show together", would never feature the human actors and Muppets together because they were concerned it would confuse and mislead young children.

  • The producers went back and reshot the Street segments; Henson and his team created Muppets that could interact with the human actors, specifically "two of Sesame Street's most enduring Muppets: Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird". These test episodes were directly responsible for what writer Malcolm Gladwell calls "the essence of Sesame Street--the artful blend of fluffy monsters and earnest adults".

  • The producers of Sesame Street used laboratory-oriented research to test if what they were producing held children's attention. The researchers involved with the show found that preschoolers are more sophisticated television viewers than originally thought.

  • Fifteen writers a year worked on the show's scripts, but very few lasted longer than one season. Norman Stiles, head writer in 1987, reported that most writers "burn out" after writing about a dozen scripts

  • Entertainment Weekly reported that by 1991, Sesame Street had been honored with eight Grammys.

  • Although the series had been on the air for less than a year, Time Magazine featured Big Bird, who had received more fan mail than any of the show's human hosts, on its cover and declared, " ...It is not only the best children's show in TV history, it is one of the best parents' shows as well"

  • Sesame Street was not without detractors, however. In May 1970, a state commission in Mississippi voted to ban Sesame Street. A member of the commission leaked the vote to the New York Times, stating that "Mississippi was not yet ready" for the show's integrated cast.

  • In 2003, one of Sesame Street's international co-productions, Takalani Sesame, caused some controversy in the US when the first HIV-positive Muppet, Kami, was created in response to South Africa's AIDS epidemic.

  • I don't know why I can't find info about this, but on Imagine That, there was a clay stop-motion short starring "Arnold", later of Hey Arnold! on Nickelodon.

  • Behind the scenes video of Sesame Street was never allowed until 2000 when PBS affiliate WLVT in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, aired, for the very first time, footage of the cast and crew as they rehearsed and recorded an episode

  • On November 10, 2009, Sesame Street celebrated its 40th anniversary that included a segment with First Lady Michelle Obama interacting with the Muppets.

  • Research[citation needed] by Sesame Workshop in 1989 discovered that "many preschool children failed to recognize that Kermit felt happy about being green by the end of "Bein' Green".

  • In 2002, CTW introduced Kami on the South African co-production Takalani Sesame. Kami was the world's first HIV-positive character on a children's show! Despite outcry from US politicians (since CTW is partially funded by the US Government), Kami has been named a UNICEF ambassador for children and has appeared in Takalani segments alongside Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, among others.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

This is it!


Originally uploaded by flashywordz
I haven't updated in two weeks! Things are going well here, I ate a delicious cake for Christmas, and appreciated the presents I got. Over winter break I mostly relaxed at home, watching movies/TV (20th Century Boys, Venture Brothers, Dollhouse, Gurren Lagann), and reading books (The Attention Revolution and Nagarjuna's Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way). On New Year's Eve my supervisor took me to her aunt's house where I ate some amazing food, got drunk on gold-flake sake, and harassed her children relatives (Souta, who is 7 and in one of my classes, is very wild outside of the classroom. I think he liked that I had so much energy too). I also introduced the children to the American tradition of fireworks on New Year's eve, but for some reason none of the bottle rockets actually shot into the sky, they all just exploded right on the ground. Maybe the wind was too strong?
The next morning I nursed my hangover while watching a live stream of Times Square.. So glad that whoever was running the music had some class, John Lennon's "Imagine" was the last song playing before the ball dropped. Sad that more people haven't taken the song to heart.
The next morning I watched the Ducks try their hardest against OSU. Here's to another amazing season for U of O. It's strange but i found that becoming an Alumni made me an even bigger Ducks fan. Maybe hot having football tickets readily available is a part of it ahah!

Happy New Year to everyone out there, may you find whatever you're looking for!