I'm living in Kusatsu-shi, Shiga-ken for an undetermined amount of time and teaching English as a second language at a local high school. This journal is to document my experiences, thoughts, and to stay connected with others at home and abroad.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Road to Freedom?

I want to preface this posting with the warning that I am most genuinely biased in that I believe in my ability to think, and I do not have a problem sounding rude or "opinionated" like a hot-heated little westerner when I believe my ideas have validity. At the same time I am a strong believer that people should things about things for themselves, because when they do think sufficiently enough I have confidence they will find a truth worth listening to. So I am about to go in directions some people would rather stay out of, at least keep at an ignorant arm's length (that's a long arm I haven't found the hand of yet). But I encourage you, if you are still reading, to look into some of these matters for yourself and make an initiative to start caring about some serious issues currently being avoided in polititcs.

In the past six months I have seen a number of documentaries that are so vital to the way we live, I think it should be mandatory that everyone in the world see them. They are ordered from the most recent back to this past summer.

1) Loose Change

  • www.loosechange911.com--The Official Site

  • www.loose-change-911.com--It's similar to the other, not official, but you can download the film here to watch if you want.

  • Although not with absolute factual accuracy, this documentary has been re-edited three times already by 23 year-old Dylan Avery and crew to research serious gaps in the government's perspective of what happened on 9/11. It exposes and explores a number of incongruencies with what happened and what the government reported (false Osama Bin Laden confessions?; What happened to the fusillage from U93 and the plane that hit the Pentagon?), and pointed to a number of unexamined and unexplained facts that were (Why did both Towers fall so perfectly to the ground?; Why were demolition explosions inside of the Towers reported by eye-witnesses, firefighters, and video cameras?) It is clear that more research needs to be done in these areas, because our Bush keep shoving those Towers at us like a bad porn movie to excuse his unlimited extension of power in states of emergency and centralization of the 22 federal security "entities" (an honest quote from the president at http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss/2006/ ) into the Department of Homeland Security. Are we going to spit or swallow these lies? (Yes, I'm asking if you are a moral prostitute.)

    2) Road to Guantanamo
  • Road to Guantanamo film website

  • This one is clearly as much entertainment (I supposed) as propaganda, but again the focus is the same: Bush lies, Americans swallow. He told us many times over that the place didn't exist. It does. He says we don't torture. Bullshit. This is pretty easy. So why aren't we doing anything about it? That brings me to #3...

    3) The Corporation
  • The Corporation film site.

  • Probably the most exciting for me as a psychology nut-job. The film is broken down into three parts:
    1) A Legal "Person" explains how business entrepaneurs abused the Reconstruction Laws (by the way, intended to end slavery––keep that in mind, there is a terrible irony approaching) in order for a group of business investors to gain the collective right of legal citizenship. Meanwhile, these same legal "Persons" have used thei inanimacy to avoid prosecution and responsibilty that a normal human being world endure. And as any viewer of human nature knows (or a social psychology major), people diffuse responsibility in groups like drunk man needs to piss.
    2) The Pathology of Commerce: Case Histories. I'm going to refer to another quote because it's just too hard to stay neutral on this one:
    "To assess the "personality" of the corporate "person," a checklist is employed, using diagnostic criteria of the World Health Organization and the standard diagnostic tool of psychiatrists and psychologists. The operational principles of the corporation give it a highly anti-social "personality": it is self-interested, inherently amoral, callous and deceitful; it breaches social and legal standards to get its way; it does not suffer from guilt, yet it can mimic the human qualities of empathy, caring and altruism. Four case studies, drawn from a universe of corporate activity, clearly demonstrate harm to workers, human health, animals and the biosphere."
    Basically we have been mind-whipped by a non-living "entity" that does not give a flip about our condition as long as we spend our money. In the cases of some industries––the funeral, private medical companies, and any company that tries to warp us into believing we need something we do not in order to survive, which is almost all––they actually thrive on our insanity. The more desperate, deranged, needy, depressed, impotent, incontinent, anxious, sick, unhealthy, stale, veal-like we become the more these "entities" profit. So here's another reason to say FUCK YOU! to economics and Adam Smith because your logic was always backwards and counterintuitive on a human and sincere level and now I can prove. (Honestly, the reason I did well in econimics is because I did the opposite of anything I felt was right. What does that tell you about the moral path our Western-domination globalization is taking?)
    3) Minset dicusses who is going to step up and solve these problems, as well as who is responsible. I hate to be the doubting Salem here, but it is most definately all of us that support the system most. We want these products, we think we needs these trifles, we love our sodas and sitcoms and Hummers and cell phones and microwaves, and we've forgotten how to live without them once they have been introduced. Come to think of it, not one of things existed 100 years ago, most of them not even 60. The two previous generations really made some horrible choices buying into a more convenient society, which has in the last 30 years set us on a pace for destroying all of the Earth's life, if a fatal man-made catastrophe doesn't beat nature. And one thing I've been noticing lately is that the up-and-coming kids don't even know that nature exists. Some of my students would be perfectly contented living in a box with a TV and entertainment system of some kind. When I tell them that I go hiking, 90% cannot even say they've ever even been once. I'm terrified at the increasing velocity of falling objects, and I don't know if Newton's laws can hold up to the rate we're approaching. I breathe this air too goddammit and I want it sans-CO pollutants! The issue at hand is that everyone is linked, everyone is involved, everyone is now responsible, thanks to the trap-like net of technology and money, we are all sharing the consequences. Likewise, does anyone remember how this problem started? Think beer...of course, diffusion of responsibility! Now we have no choice but to own up to some of these issues and start giving a damn. We need to regain some of our potency and use the freedom and power we have as Westerners, since we have almost all of it, to correct a few problems. The movie, albeit more compassionately that yours truly, addresses all of the following:
    Free trade, Human Rights, the need for Living Wages, Biohazards and their effect on Biodiversity and Stability, Natural Resource Conversation (mainly air and water), and Global Warming...

    4) An Inconvenient Truth
  • An Inconvenient Truth's movie website and research center

  • I know Al Gore is probably the dorkiest guy possible to do this film, but he had the money and he cared about doing something important and I hope more people will start to give him some overdue respect. Granted the movie was a bit, personal and ego-compensating for losing the 2000 election––that's another story that should have been left to Michael Moore or someone else. Al Gore is just to smart and cares too much and real issues and not charisma for people to take him seriously, which is unfortunate. He should have been a scientist, not a politician, that is obvious. (A fun point, the words for actor and politician in Japanese have the same root. 役者=yakusha=actor and 役員=yakuin=an official/officer. Isn't that serendipitous?).
    Anyway, I think is the first and most important place we need to focus our energy. Tell all of our petty little sandfights in the Middle East and jungle-gym skirmishes in other parts of the world to just simmer down. A world-wide peace treaty needs to be signed right now, if we are really a "securely" unified global community––UNITED UNDER ENGLISH––in order to make a future worth killing each other. No wonder the world has been turning fundamental over the last 30-40 years. We need a God-like mother now more than ever to say "Stop yelling for one goddamn minute or you're going to be with no Twinkie and no Cheers! Now, let's take a bath."

    That reminds me, according to recent scientific studies, by the year 2050 all of the world's fisheries are predicted to collapse. Take it easy on Moby Dick for a while, please. Just let the over-consumed populations replenish, if they can. Tofu is good and it doesn't hurt anybody. Land animals are already our slaves so there is no worsening that situation, expect for that bird influenza thing that just broke out here in Miyazaki. I'm actually living in the largest fish-consuming country in the world (I believe that is accurate. I read it in a Japanese newspaper yesterday, I don't see why they would lie at their own expense.). I am going to, as my Japanese improves, start promoting campaigns to reduce clear-cutting China's forests for chopstick comsumption, start reducing fish intake, and start sabotaging big trucks that, although at a MPG rate that embarrasses the US, damages my lungs.
    Please comment if you want to add to my army, or if you have any qualms. Either way, I really hope you think about this stuff, and I would love to talk more about it with anyone.


    Monday, January 22, 2007

    Second Time to Tokyo (東京へ行く二回目)

    I went with Katie to Tokyo this weekend to see my cousin Winston. Winston's currently in the middle of a month-long homestay in with a family outside of the city, and he takes Japanese classes every day in the city. We had a good time running around a few parts of the city, taking crazy photos, and such. All of these are centered around Ueno (), one of the heaviest pedestrian traffic centers in Japan. It's nothing compared to Shinjuku () where we stayed during our JET Orientation last August, but I unfortunately have no pictures to back up that claim. Just trust me. Facts are easier to remember that way.

    And we look so trustworthy!

    And we don't joke around! We are serious!

    But on a honest note, at a shrine in Ueno Park we discovered (and now rightfully own because we are Americans and the rest of the world consists of blood-drinking heathens) this memorial to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Apparently several pieces of the flames from those days (August 6th and 9th respectively) were preserved and kindled as a reminder of the damage. Two different flames, one from each city, were combined and continue to burn to this day––albeit with the help of a propane gas line. It was a important for me to see this, to recall exactly what effect human ignorance and fear can have on the course of global civilization. Sober moments are necessary companions to a thoughtful and responsible existence. I wonder how many people hear this on their sitcoms and consumer-driven paths. It's vital to keep this balance, but I see a lot of people skipping out on the bill.

    But with a hug from a tall guy like the one below can make everything seem different. Sorry, I'm rushed for an ending, I will repair this broken maxim.

    Thursday, January 04, 2007

    滋賀県立草津高等学校 = My School! (lit. Shiga Prefecture Estabslihed Kusatsu Academic High School)

    Of all the experiences and travels and photos I've shared with everyone, this is by far the most special place I've found. Regrettably it's taken me half a year to finally get to some the most important and influential people in my Japan life. I came to teach and learn, and I've been fortunate to find a school, students, and teachers, who all support my pursuits and adventures. When I try to express myself in Japanese, everyone encourages me to keep trying and corrects me when my subtitles are turned off and I don't have a clue what I'm saying. With that same poorly spoken Japanese I try to reassure students that making mistakes is normal and necessary for learning a new language, and they give me the same grace to err.

    So here is the beginning of many photos I took during some free periods preceding winter vacation. I'll try and fill in as many details about the photographs as I can so that you can know these people the same as I do.
    ***A quick explanation of the Japanese school system:
    In Japan there are 6 grades of Elementary, 3 of Junior and Senior High School. So 1st-year students are freshmen, 2nd-year = I don't know, and 3rd-years are seniors. Because it's difficult to explain in English, so I will refer to students as 1st, 2nd, or 3rd-years. Also, I teach three different levels: Oral Communication (OC) 1, 2, and 3, each corresponding to the student's grade in school. OC1 consists of all first year students, so I have all 200 split into 10 classes of 20 every week. OC2 and OC3 are electives, so I only have about 15 students out of all 2nd-year students in one class, 3rd-years in the other. But the electives meet twice a week, and they are smaller, so although I am familiar with all of the 1st-years, I know the 2nd and 3rd-years more intimately. I also tutored many students hoping to pass English college entrence examinations between October-December, so there are other 3rd-year students who I only teach one-on-one after school.
    One last thing, English is compulsory for all students, but after their 1st year, OC is not. All students in Japan take English grammar, plus either writing, reading, or OC from Junior High School on. English is a conpulsory, just like Mathematics, Japanese, History, etc.

    This first sections will be the students, followed by the teachers (beauty before age, what can I say?).

    Seito = 生徒 (Students)

    This is a homeroom class of 3rd year students taught by one of my friends, Sagane-sensei. She is an English teacher, and her ability to explain Japanese grammar has been invaluble. She also has a tiny little pink car that would look like a baby pig if I tied a rope on the tail.

    Left to right these are Yuko, Miho, and Masaru, three 3rd-year students. I tutored Yuko for her English exams, and she has become a good friend since. She wants to be a care-worker and assist the elderly. Miho and Yuko are best friends and they come to talk with me sometimes. Masara wants to be a nurse and will go into medical training after he graduates.

    Two 1st-year OC1 students: Miki, left, and Chihiro, right. They are in the soft-tennis club at school. Actually, I'm rather embarassed because Chihiro and another one of my 2nd-year students beat me and another teacher in a soft-tennis game last month. But I will have my revenge!

    Seiko, left, is one of my 3rd-years, and she and her boyfriend, Ryohei, riding home together after school. I see them at least one morning a week on their way to school together. They're so cute! Ryohei's nickname is "Twinkle" because he always says "Twinkle" in place of hellos and goodbyes.

    Sensei, 先生 (Teachers)

    The Kusatsu High School staff (草津高校職員全員)

    Left: Nakao-sensei and I play tennis together sometimes, and he also watches over my shoulder when I am practicing Japanese grammar or kanji to see how I'm doing. Right: Higashi-sensei is the baseball coach and he and I teach four OC1 classes a week together. He's helped me quite a bit with making sure that I have everything I need that the school can offer. Also, he's helped me improve in-class participation––by giving me a ball to throw at students when I want them to answer. There's no escaping the ball, although they try hard.

    Sugimoto-sensei is the second youngest teacher at Kusatsu (he's about two years older than me). I nicknamed him Ta-chan and he's been my older brother to talk and hang-out with at school when we want to take a break. He also studies English very ardently on his own, and his learning pace is amazing.

    Ogawa-sensei, the school nurse, and Mizokawa-sensei, my tantosha/supervisor. Mizokawa-sensei is fun to joke with. We both dread dealing with the contracts, paperwork, etc. that the Prefecture Board of Education hands out weekly. We also teach 6 OC1 classes together a week, as well as OC2. She encourages me to make all of the lesson plans and allows me to introduce new ideas to the classroom. For a Christmas lesson we watched Dr. Seuss' "Grinch", and I want to do more similar activities in the future.