Saturday, August 25, 2012

Lost in Translation

Sometimes living a in a certain place can make you a target for "So have you seen X movie?" questions. If the place is Japan, Lost in Translation is as classy a choice as any.

Overall it's a good movie, with talented actors. It's definitely a smart, complex move where you can find a lot of different meanings. It's ambiguous, mostly because everyone seems pretty...lost. The people who know what they want to do are kind of jerks, and the self aware people seem to realize that they aren't really what they want to be. But there no moment of "Now I suddenly know who I am and what I want to do!" or "Now I totally get Japanese culture! Yay!"

So this isn't Ramen Girl. (Which I also really liked.)

But this isn't one of my favorite movies, mostly because the humor was lost on me. Obviously, there's some truth to cultural stereotypes because otherwise there wouldn't be so many movies and jokes about them. But Lost in Translation seemed just mean spirited. Sometimes they're making fun of clueless Americans, sometimes it's weird Japanese people, sometimes it's both, but in none of the cases are the jokes really funny.

Take this exchange: "So why do they mix up the Rs and Ls?" "Oh, just for kicks."

Is it making fun of stupid Americans who expect everyone to sound like them, or stupid Japanese who dare to have Non-American accents in modern society?

It probably sounds really PC to say lines like this make the characters seem like jerks. The "I am too snooty to like any humor that involves people being less than perfectly cultured," attitude.

What bothered me about the movie (besides too many shots of Scarlett Johanson's underwear, and that Bill Murray isn't glamorous) is it didn't seem to allow for the possibility for any non-American person to be sort of, well, normal. It just went for cultural stereotypes (as perceived by ignorant Americans) and stopped there. Maybe that's not the point and there's some other story about finding yourself going on, but it wasn't good enough to make me feel comfortable with the way the setting was portrayed.

Besides that convenience stores are everywhere, I know nothin' 'bout Japan or Tokyo. But I know countries are made up mostly of ordinary people trying to just live their lives. Lost in Translation might have missed it, but there's quite a few normal people in Japan.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Bad Boss Meme #1 and #2

#1 Criticizes everything from your lesson plan to your interaction with students.

Reminds you that you need to have more confidence around the kids.

#2 Lets class run five minutes late while you are TA.

Criticizes you for being late starting your next class, which starts when his was supposed to end.

More to come...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Stuff from 8/22

I've observed a pattern each for conflict in Japanese children. Today I was teaching this really stubborn kid, who pretty much just wanted to goof off instead of doing class (and he was smart so no excuse).

 Anyway, I've found that when they don't want to get their books, or put away they're books, or whatever--if you just keep bugging them, or offer to help them, they just break down and decide it's less effort to do whatever they were supposed to be doing in the first place.

This defeat is signaled by a return to Japanese with the phrase, "Wakatta" (as well as I can spell it), which means, "I got it, I got it already, teacher, so stop hassling me, sheesh." It saves face as they get ready to do what teacher has been telling them to do for the last five mintues.

Kids are weird.

Today almost made teaching worth while when I went to assist with Matt's class, but both his students (little girls) grabbed my arms and dragged me to the chair because decided they wanted me to be sensei instead! It is strangely validating that a few students remember me and apparently like my classes. These were probably the ones I let play an extra game of Uno Stacko last week...

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Today I took an important step to becoming more independent in a different country and got gasoline for my car.

Up until now, Kyle has shared the car with me and he has gotten gasoline for both of us (though never very much because it's expensive). I know this car gets really good mileage and the needle moves very slowly, even when near empty. But I got nervous today and decided to take a crash course in "How to get gasoline from a Japanese pump" rather than risk misjudging the fuel capacity and getting stranded on some back road.

Luckily, the pump attendant (there are some self-service pumps over here, but also some where your gas is pumped for you) was an older guy and he was very nice. After some "wakarimasen," some pointing to the halfway mark on my tank gauge, and some bantering of numbers in both Japanese and English (fifteen liters, juugo liters, nisen hyaku en, etc), we managed to work everything out.

I'm embarrassed that I didn't know where the switch to open my gas tank was. I felt like such a dumb blond (or dumb redhead) standing there with a blank look while the attendants leaned into my car to look for my switch, and then showed me where it was for future reference. If I had enough Japanese skills I would have like to say "It's a new car! I'm not some mechanically challenged woman!"

Gas is pretty expensive here. In the end I think I got about 15 liters for 25 dollars. But the car is an economy car and doesn't use a lot of gas, so it should last a while as long as I don't do any long road trips. Not really planning to go farther than the next island anyway, and if I use the car for work I can hand the gas receipt to my boss Matt.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Story of the Scar

So I returned from camping recently with some good memories and a conspicuous scar on my right foot.
The night of

Day after
I think the burn is healing pretty well now, but it was one of the more memorable moments. We were all sitting around the grill cooking beef, chicken, etc, and my coworker Kenta had just added some more oil and was stirring it around. Suddenly it splattered, and I felt something warm and gooey on my foot.

My first thought was "Ohhhhhhh shit this is going to hurt!" Then I just stood there in stunned shock trying to figure out where the nearest water was. Kenta was in pretty deep shock too but at least he managed to point me to the sink in the ground about fifteen feet away. So I turned on the tap and put my foot underneath. Kenta suggested ice, so for the rest of the evening I was icing my foot.

It didn't hurt for the first twenty minutes, then it got really annoying for an hour or so. I took ibuprofen for the pain, and by bedtime it was only sensitive to hot water and pressure. The next day the burns got a little darker, but so far they've been healing ok.

The most serious damage seems to be Kenta's guilt complex. He has already offered to pay my hospital bills if I end up going. I think what bothered him most was causing someone else a problem and not being able to fix it. But looking at the rate the burns are healing I probably won't be able to tease him with the scar for too long...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Test with picture

New post for my test blog, now renamed something actually appropriate. Seeing if I can put pictures in this:


Yep, looks like this picture of the restaurant uploaded ok, though it wanted to be above the text at first.

Today Colette and I went hiking up in the mountains.  It was pretty cool and at some points we could see out to the water. My legs will be sore tomorrow...

Friday, August 10, 2012

This is a test, trying out a blog post address and format.

Looks like Lisestarlancer is the only address that isn't taken. Forever to be known by a game I played in junior high....