Saturday, October 21, 2006

I love this lady.

She's constantly going somewhere. Always pushing her basket along.

But the best, the absolute best is when she decides she's just gonna stop by the side of the road for a while, sit down, and have a smoke break. One of these days I'm gonna have my camera with me when I see her do it.


Last weekend my Jr High School had their annual bunkasai, or culture festival. For two weeks the kids prepare plays, dances, displays, and music presentations. It's really pretty cool. I can't think of anything comparable in the states that lets kids tap into their creativity the way they get a chance here. For all the myths of the Japanese school system, regarding oppressiveness and conformity [and make no mistake, sometimes it's a true mythology], the kids are given some opportunities to be stunningly creative and entertaining. We had re-imaginings of Snow White and Cinderella, and a kooky little play where a pair of suicides are put on trial after death, complete with angels and devils taking part.

And the absolute best was the close of the festival, where there was, I kid you not, a Soul Train line to the music of Earth, Wind and Fire. That is about as close to awesome as you can possibly get.

Precision choreography and dance is so popular here amongst the kids it borders on a national mania. They're not bad though, especially considering they're just in Jr High.

Where the sannensei [third graders] put on plays, music and dance performances, the ichinensei and ninensei [1st and 2nd graders] make art displays in their classrooms.

The ninensei [2nd graders], a few weeks ago, had a "career week" where they spent a week working at various businesses around the city. Part of their bunkasai project was making posters detailing all they did.

Sleeping Beauty, post-mortem trial by devils and angels, and Cinderella... in that order.

There was also, oddly, a great deal of cross-dressing in all the plays. Boy to girl, that is. Not bound by traditional western gender roles, obviously. Funny bit was that this poor kid's wig wouldn't stay on at all. He spent most of the play struggling with it falling off. Clearly, blondes don't always have more fun.

The sanensei also decorated a bunch of t-shirts and hung them in the gym. Pretty neat.

Witness the awesome power and majesty of the Soul Train line!

Post-bunkasai you once again realize the role of the ALT in Japan - to be a goofball and entertain the kids, of course. Internationalization at its finest, indeed. Which of course translates to, when they ask you to wear the silly wig, you wear the silly wig. And you be happy about it, dammit.

More pics here, if that's you're kinda thing.

Glory Days...

" looks back at YouTube's brief, copyright-free glory days. We will miss your endless, endless idiocy."

Friday, October 20, 2006

"Disclaimer: If you are unhappy, do not take speed. I am not a doctor."

Scott Adams cures depression forever. Brilliant. And funny.

Optimist Cures Unhappiness – Wins Some Sort of Prize
...I remember reading the wisdom of some fitness expert who said, “Sometimes you think you’re tired but you’re really thirsty.” The idea is that dehydration makes you feel sluggish. For some reason I had never noticed the correlation. Since then I have confirmed that it’s true. Often I can replenish my energy just by drinking water. The funny part is that somehow I had never noticed this on my own. How could I be so ignorant of my own body?

I also used to have a huge problem of getting sleepy in the afternoon. I always assumed it was for the obvious reason – I was tired. I work hard, don’t sleep enough, end of story. But one day I read that carbs make you sleepy. So I started avoiding any serious carbs until dinner time. Result: I almost never get tired in the afternoon. I admit that this seems too easy to be true, especially since I never noticed the correlation until a few years ago. So I test it occasionally just to see if I’m imagining it. Yesterday I couldn’t resist and ate some leftover Indian food with white rice for lunch. By 2 pm I was in a virtual coma.

With those two examples as your context, I give you my insight that will change the world (or get crushed by a manure-scented boot):

Sometimes you think you’re unhappy, but you’re really tired.

...Since I first had this thought I’ve been monitoring my own moods. Sure enough, any time I’m cranky, I’m also feeling low on energy. But if I force myself to work out, hydrate, and eat some protein, my mood always improves. It works every time. Energy = happy.

I often hear people say they can’t get out of bed because they are depressed. They’re stuck in a vicious cycle. Staying in bed saps your energy, which makes you feel bad, which makes you stay in bed. So I wonder what would happen to a clinically depressed person if a doctor just gave him speed. I think he’d get happy(er) fast.

If my splendid idea has any merit, it means that instead of treating mood problems with Prozac and whatnot, you can just treat the energy level with exercise and diet and coffee. And if that doesn’t work, try speed. Once the energy problem is solved, the mood follows.

Disclaimer: If you are unhappy, do not take speed. I am not a doctor.

...Lastly, I think overweight people get their energy (and therefore happiness) from eating. Food always wakes you up, at least while you eat it. Thin, athletic people get energy (and therefore happiness) from exercise. Stay away from any thin people over the age of 35 who don’t exercise and aren’t taking some sort of drug (nicotine, speed, etc.) Those people are probably very unhappy and don’t know why. It’s only a matter of time before they blame you.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bill of Rights, R.I.P.

Bush signs torture bill; Americans lose essential freedom
George W. Bush got what he wanted, ostensibly as a tool in his unfocused "war on terror": By signing into law the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Bush has made it legal for the C.I.A. to continue operating torture facilities in undisclosed, foreign countries, and for the writ of habeas corpus to be suspended for individuals who are designated "enemy combatants" against the U.S. (Designated by whom? That question remains unanswered.) The law also "establishes military tribunals that would allow some use of evidence obtained by coercion [that is, torture], but would give defendants access to classified evidence being used to convict them." (Reuters)

The provisions of Bush's new torture law mean that Americans have lost the key, constitutional right on which Anglo-American criminal law (and criminal-law procedures in true democracies in general) is founded; that's the basic right of an individual to know why he or she is being apprehended and detained. Now, technically, as in Stalin's Soviet Union, Hitler's Germany, Mao's China or Pol Pot's Cambodia, anyone labeled an "enemy combatant" - again, by whom; by Bush? - can be whisked away and never heard from again. That kind of authority, in the hands of corrupt or untruthful politicians, may or may not be an effective tool in some kind of "war on terror," but it certainly can be a useful tool when it comes to silencing their opponents.