Teaching In Socks

small rodents and big gorillas.
bridge to a future Robot factory?

bridge to a future Robot factory?

This afternoon I was greeted with a sight that I am less than enthusiastic about. The owner of the prestigious Indian restaurant I frequently dine at, walked by rather swiftly with the head of shopping center security team (Ako’s finest no doubt). In his hand, the head of security was carrying a high-powered flashlight. Not a mag-lite or something you would use to subdue a hooligan, rather the kind of flashlight you would want if you were looking for something small….and perhaps agile.

At this point, any conclusion I come to is pure speculation, but this is not usually a good omen. When I saw the security guard leaving the eatery he had a bit of a hop in his step. It is difficult to interpet what that meant. My thoughts: either something was dropped some place dark and unmentionable, or more likely, they had summoned security to help them secure the kitchen area from an unwanted, and most likely, non-human intruder. Needless to say, I will be going on a short curry fast–for religious purposes, obviously.

I do want to comment that I think this would be one area where Japan’s robot infatuation would be handy.  What’s preventing them from taking the “roomba” a step further and adding some heat sensors, small arms weaponary and a “kitchen sentinle” mode? Certainly not desire or demand…

In other news, it happened today. In my science class the proverbial “bomb was dropped and the bomb was mentioned. I must confess, I asked for it. We were wrapping up the unit on Nuclear Physics and I needed a short activity that was that was highly verbal, featured the original thoughts of the student, and cumulatively covered the unit. Invoking the spirit of Socrates, I went for “Benefits and Detriments of Nuclear Physics and Nuclear Technology”. For purposes of the class, this was titled “Nuclear Phsyics: Pro-Con”.

I had them write five ideas for both “Pro” and “Con” on a sheet and then went over them in a short class discussion, eliciting one idea from them each.  Being the curious idiot that I am, I amd sure I secretly wanted to see how many students it would take before the “a” word was mentioned.For those of your scoring at home, (now is the time get out your “Teaching in Socks” bingo” cards!) the answer was four.

I know for a fact the first three all had “atomic bombs” listed on their sheet but omitted it. I even saw the second student I called on mull over his list, look at me, and decide to dodge that landmine.  Not that he should feel ashamed or afraid to say it, but I appreciated the polite gesture in attempting to avoid something he decided would been uncomfortable for me.

I got to appreciate that sentiment for about 20 seconds. When the words “atomic bomb” were said, I replied, “un-huh” and wrote “nuclear weapons” on the board under the “con” portion of the list. I might have been subconsciously shaking my head, mostly in response to the internal though of “one year ago I never would imagined I’d be doing this” however, the students must have been keen to my body language, or just generally aware of the situation, as they started the ribbing the student who provided the answers with quite whispers of what I imagine translates into, “nice one” or “good going, idiot”. When I got to the next student, he claimed to not have an answer to contribute at all and the following students stuck to more medical aspects of the science. I don’t think it was all that uncomfortable, but I purposely misprounounced some words comically  at the end of class to try and lighten the mood regardless. We’ll see what happens when I teach the class again tomorrow.  I’m holding out for total mutinity.

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?