Teaching In Socks

work ethic
January 17, 2009, 1:47 pm
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There’s really not much Japanese (or discernible) about this photo. But just know, that in that van parked outside the convenience store, with it’s engine running, there is a man passed out, sleeping in the driver’s seat. I was going to take a closer, more candid picture but felt that would be cruel, also because some concerned citizen was calling the police on his cellphone, most like to report a potential drunk driver.

gordon srumbers

gordon srumbers

When They Ruled the Lawson Station I Patron….
August 27, 2008, 4:34 pm
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I was going to file a eye-opening expose regarding the Sunday night bicycle police checkpoints here in Ako, but less than an hour ago something shook my foundation so greatly that I am forced to delay that report for another time. Don’t worry though, for those interested in bicycle regulation, as soon as I manage to remember to take a suitable picture of my bike (The Chairman) in broad daylight the aforementioned dispatch will be filed.

As for the earth shattering event:


On my way home from work, I walked into Lawson Station, my local convenience store. It’s not much different than a 7-11. I go this one because it’s across the street from my apartment. Convenient, I know. I go there every night. If I could have managed to conjure up a little basic Japanese on any given night within last month, the counter staff would know be my name and I’m sure we’d be best friends, trading emails, and planning vacations together. That has happened yet, and perhaps there are a number of reasons it’s for the best that we keep our exchanges limited to friendly head nods.

Tonight, I walked in to procure my standard nightly snack item and “Liter Water”. I chose the Volvic brand because when i think of France, I think clean water. As I entered the establishment, I was met with the haunting Banshee, cacophony of the latest Coldplay single playing over the store’s stereo system; you know, the one from the Apple Itunes commercial. From that commercial alone, I heard this song so many times before I left Japan that I was sure that I had built an immunity to it. Honestly, when I initially heard it tonight, it didn’t bother me that much rather I was surprised, realizing that I hadn’t noticed they played music in Lawson’s.

And then it happened. Abruptly, the lead singer’s lyrics switched from English to Japanese. It’s clear, Coldplay is invading Earth and there is nothing we can do about it.

Actually, when I think about it, the language transition just transformed junk into junk that I could now only understand half of. Perhaps this is an improvement, however the language transition reminded me I have yet to convey to you one of the dark secrets of the music industry I have learned from living in Japan.

The “shopping center” my school is located in, broadcasts and constant stream of shopper friendly songs over the loudspeakers. Apparently people require some sort of Pop symphony in order to get in the right state of mind to shop at a dollar store or walk to a movie theater. (This is not the secret, retail shops acorss the planet have this exact same strategy but it’s absurd concept and a major part of the pretext for the secret I am about to reveal.)

The troubling thing about this particular soundtrack is that the majority of the songs on it are popular English songs from a few years ago refurbished with Japanese lyrics and new Japanese singers. It’s the same beat and melody, and I can only I assume the general sentiment of the song is the same, because sometimes they don’t bother to change chorus–often that remains in English, because why ruin the catchy part? I find this strange though, it’s an open confession that the music industry is either that short of ideas, are more likely fears that one cannot form an emotional connection with a song if you can’t understand the lyrics some hack ghost-writer has put together for Mariah. This practice seems to at least partially reject that music is a sufficient language on it’s own. Apparently the masterminds behind this are not big fans of Bach. I don’t mean to sound snooty (I’m saving that for later) but I feel something is fundamentally wrong with that belief.

Furthermore, it messes with my head. As I mentioned before,  they replace the original signer and regenerate the track through a Japanese Pop star. This is not Enrique Iglesias or Beyonce singing in Japanese–he doesn’t have the mental capacity, and she doesn’t have the time. It’s someone else, someone who the Japanese public has forged a relationship with, and thus see this as a modern song, with a modern look and sentiment to it. So while it may be crap, at least it’s new crap to them.  Meanwhile, I’m stuck pedaling around town with some Shakira stuck in my head. And yeah, sometimes I find myself humming it. It’s utterly embarrassing.

Returning to Coldplay– I’m not sure what to think of this blending tactic; in light of the Shakira disaster I’m not sure if it will save me from something worse later. I do know that there’s clearly some grand metaphor to be constructed here, perhaps painting Coldplay as an agent of Globalization and then connecting this language transition with general progress of civilization, but I don’t want build that bridge, nor do I want give Coldplay any sort of credit for anything other than stealing from Radiohead and producing thoughtless trite compositions that degrade the achievements of their predecessors and anyone, man or ape, who has picked up an instrument.

I know this is a tired train of thought but I’m pretty sure that behind their bohemian rags, smarmy British accents, and ultra-proper manners, Coldplay is the devil. Seriously, I heard they hit dogs.

was it worth it?

was it worth it?