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.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Events I'm planning in Shiga for April (Earth Day Month)

If anybody is going to be in the Shiga, Japan area on April 11th or 25th, feel free to come take part in these fundraiser events I'm organizing for BEE Japan.  For more info, you can always check out the site, www.beejapan.org

Sunday, February 22, 2009

常滑 Tokoname

I need to admit it...I have a problem. I can't seem to stop this pottery obsession, and I find my legs carrying me to my wallets doom. No point in resisting. I'm not working for Ikea and Budweiser canned-rewards--I invest in living objects, people and the art they create.

In fact, I think this leg is more animated than the average American. Look at it's versitility--and it doesn't need to be terrorized into action!

Mogake--this is pretty interesting actuualy, the rustic-looking patterns are created by covering those areas with seawead before firing the piece in the kiln. When it melts, the seaweed melts into the clay, and leaves behind the mogake pattern seen here.

Shudei--a red clay used most commonly for teapots such as the one I have here. On the side is a Japanese folk song: 六歌仙(Rokkasen).

Another mogake--this one is a flower holder.

I know he looks trustworhy, but don't believe a word out of his slack-jawed grin!

Kitty getting some love from a Buddha. I like Buddha, he doesn't get angry at people when they use his image profanely, he doesn't condemn anyone, he's like that great-uncle who just seems content making jokes to himself and sitting in the corner with one eyes on past memories, the other on yet conceived futures.

The signature animal of Tokoname--this is Shigaraki's Tanuki, the infamous Maneki-neko. For year the Maneki-neko has viciously beckoned innocents into blood-thirsty halls of consumerism and credit debt. Yet the Maneki-neko beckons on--come, buy things you don't need, throw your money into the bonfire of vanitites.

But I won't buy a cheap porcelain cat any sooner than I'll buy my own coffin.
Tokoname has a history than runs back to beyond Shigarai and other pottery towns of Japan...in fact, Tokoname is said to be the oldest of the 6 ancient kilns of Japan. Yet this 1000 years of history is more often likely to be remembered by it's easy-to-memorize-name--Maneki-neko land.


Max's 穴䆴(Anagama): back to Shigaraki

Last night I visited a friend, Max Hodgetts, to stick out the night shift of his kiln firing. Max is a former JET from Shiga, always has been into ceramics, and from this September he started doing a residency at the Togei no Mori Shigaraki Ceramic Arts Center.

Shigaraki is really well know for it's wood kilns (anagama & noborigama) and natural glazes that come out of them.

Speech Contest Smiles

Every year that I've been at Kusatsu, ECC club members practice hard for several weeks to give a short speech at the Friendship Recitation Cup Speech Contest, held at a Kokusai Joho High School nearby.
On Sunday, February 15th, 5 of my Kusatsu students entered a recitation speech contest.

1st Year, Class 1: Emiko Mizuno
1st Year, Class 5: Motonari Koike
2nd Year, Class 1: Yusuke Masuda
2nd Year, Class 3: Naoki Noine
2nd Year, Class 3: Kenji Naruko

The whole gang after the competition. Ueyama sensei teachest the ECC (English Conversation Club) with me, so she was also there last Sunday
This was the largest group of students we've ever sent to the contest, so our practice sessions after school leading up to the event were pretty busy to say the least. Everyone tried really hard and really improved their English intonation and pronunciation ability throughout that time. And on the day of the contest it paid off.

(left/bottom: Yusuke & right/top: Kenji)
Yusuke and Kenji both made it to the final round for the Experienced Category where Kenji came in a tie for 3rd and Yusuke won Grand Prize. This was actually Yusuke's second consecutive year placing first––he took home the Grand Prize in the Beginner's Category the previous year. I didn't have my camera back then, however, so I was lucky he did it again this year and I was able to take some photos.

I'm really proud of everyone, and especially happy for Yusuke and Kenji. Yusuke got a lot of attention--the newspaper reporter wanted to interview him and other girls from the contest were literally throwing their phone numbers at him afterward! I hope he soaked it all up because next week are Final Exams!

Jon Stewart 愛している!(I love you!)

Jon Stewart has now moved up to demi-god status--I just found a great interview with Bill Moyer. I'm glad to see him able to talk about these issues directly, without humor, saying things that few others in his position have the courage and intelligence to.
Jon Stewart interview with Bill Moyer

News blues

Not that this is going to shock anyone, but the conventional media are the groupthink brain of a system designed to keep people at best consuming, complacent, and distracted. As worst? Distrustful, divided, and bound & shackled.

I saw yet another documentary on this I wanted to share:

It's not terribly long, so I really suggest taking a looksees if you have about 20:59 seconds to spare (and I know you do!:-)
What impacted me most in this documentary was the direct, violent, unapologetic, state-endorsed police retaliation against protesters and independent news agencies. Some of the footage is just haunting. Hordes of police in Italy on camera committing the following crimes against journalists:
1) breaking & entering
2) armed un-aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (billy clubs, etc)
3) excessive damage to private property--destroying computers, windows, doors, etc.
4) conspiracy, destruction of evidence, obstructions of justice--the police officers specifically stripped reporters' computers of their memory cards that held images of previous police brutalities recorded on video during a demonstration against the G8 leaders.
5) ignorance of due process, torture--many journalists were arrested without reason and beaten while in jail by police.

How is it that things like this happen to independent journalists, whose goal is to ethically inform the public? And these kinds of actions go unpunished.

It is clear from instances like these that people with power do not want a knowledgeable citizenry, and will actively pursue violent means of maintaining a mentally handicapped public opinion.

Pardon my French, by fuck that. I am an intelligent human being and I'm going to act like one. There is a dignity to pursuing truth, and I'm going to strive to ask questions with moral curiosity. I'm worth more than the status quo life most blood-sucking corporate CEOs and politicians who sleep on piles of money that should be going to meet their citizens' needs––my life has more intregity to eat the oil-based corn and tripe they're passing off as reality.

This is not a mantra to stroke my own ego--I have better ways of doing that––it's a way of living that if everyone in the world believed in we could be in a much better position than we're currently in. Bent-over, back-broken, killing ourselves to labor for the top 2 percent who don't give a damn about how many people have to die to screw in a light bulb so long as that light bulb stays lit.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The Daily Show is a better news program than CNN, ABC, FOX, NBC--all put together! Jon Stewart is an angel:

Here's one solution: Real News


Even if you don't care for Real News, please at least do yourself (and all of us) a favor: Stop watching TV news, standard, cable, all of it. In fact, go ahead and stop watching TV altogether. You'll find your head feels much lighter and less bogged-down with slogans, empty promises, weak reporting. Go online and find out information for yourself––there's plenty of it to go around if you look for it.

Peace in your search,

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Geothermal: the most efficient and reliable renewable energy sourse

Here are a couple YouTube videos that keep things simple and explain the benefits of Geothermal Heating.

Iceland (still you have to wonder with all their amazing energy advancements why they went bankrupt)

A technological explanation:

A business proposition:

And finally, the kindergarten version that anyone can get:

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

New Year's Resolution

A bit late but still valid nonetheless:

Not to buy anything new.

I pledge to only buy used or post-consumer products, organic, and as-local-as-I-can-get food.

**For any moments of weakness when I find it contradiction inevitable (for example, in buying a cycle that can carry me across Japan for the BEE Ride this summer), I will in exchange reduce my junk pile of accumulated things with a product of equitable value. (for the new touring bike >>> my kyudo bow and arrows which have been sitting unused since I 'retired' from the sport a year ago to pursue music.

Plan B: Bombs Away

In case you don't want to save the world, or are feeling a little fed up with watching people in power piss upstream in our water supply and want to join in the destruction, check out this newest song I posted on myspace:

Bombs Away
(December 2008)

You might think it’s funny, but it ain’t,
ok maybe it’s a smileful, but it’s equally as wrong
that Superman’s locked out fighting the bad guys in his tights
the world went wireless and now he’s got no place to change back

the imagination’s a little biased,
for some reason ghosts can haunt us but we can’t touch them
if I could I’d find my papy’s ghost and give it a kick
for stealing my water, eyes, and right to breathe

do I need a chorus or is this just where you listen closest of all?
any nearer and I’ll bite, I’m full of tricks and quips
but I don’t kid when it comes to writing this song.

I asked my moonshadow for some advice
he said “I ain’t no different from that you/me under the sun,
but that fella hiding behind the light bulb, he’s a son of a gun.”

can’t we reach an understanding?
somewhere where I’m giving less but still looking like I’m on top,
can you really blame a guy for trying to f--- without a condom on?

I was hiding neath the slide til I was called out to play
you tickle me with thorns and call it rapture,
I’m not so sure I like you games
I’m still wearing centuries of scars from our past sandbox battles anyway
and if that’s the way this world works,
I’ll take my chances on the next life, bombs away

so we’re back here again to reflect,
dare I ask what we’ve learned?
basically a day’s a day even if it feels like a year
don’t look for change in a skeeter,
even elephants would be lucky to find a new horizon

whatever else you hear I meant the best and followed through ruthlessly
some tests I passed, some labs blew up
but most of the results are lost and missing to this day

but it’s all good we know the answer’s in our hearts,
we’ll decide for ourselves thank you,
we don’t need your mass-marketing Phizer copywrit fake-organic, sell the planet for a slogan wrapped in cellophane and poverty disease)
and if that’s the way this world works,
I’ll take my chances on the next life,
and you can stand slack-jawed if you want,
but I suggest getting your ass in gear
and start running for hills, bombs away

Just when you thought the story was finished, even more Zeitgeist: Addendum

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
Johann Wolfgang con Goethe

This is the opening quote for part one of this look at our current Monetary/Capitalism system that is tearing apart humanity by priming the worst psychological attributes of Homo sapiens--fears of scarcity, self-interest, brutal competition--and conditioning them into our collective conscience via socialization.
The gist is simple:
1) Governments and money-printing reserves (together, essentially an oligarchy of mutant banker/politician/corporate leaders) create money out of nothing. I stress, this money doesn't actually exist other than by simple means of social contract (i.e. the shared delusion that $1 = $1 when it's actually nothing more than a dead sliver of a tree with ink on it)
2) Govts trade for this money bonds (which as you can probably guess are also worth nothing), with the promise to repay it with interest = DEBT. Of course, because this money never existed in the first place, this means the entire system is incurring a double loss, because they both think they have money that doesn't exist. At this point it's important to note that given this system the govts will always be in debt, because the only way to generate money is to borrow from the reserves, meaning the reserves are always the power. And any attempt to withdraw more money will just put the govts further in debt.
3) Govts in turn loan the money to smaller banks, by law retaining 10% of whatever amount they hand out as insurance. Of course, this original amount the the govts borrowed never exist, so the overall debt of society increases by the 90% they loaned to banks that never existed.
4) Banks loan to other banks and people, further increasing the debt in a way that can never be repayed. Every time they redistribute that original loan, add on another 90% to the overall debt.
5) The more the govts borrow from the reserves, the more the value decreases on the current counterfeit money in people's wallets = inflation. Remember, all that money you borrowed puts an interest price on your head, which you can't possibly repay because not only is the value of your money plummeting due to inflation, but, that's right, it never actually existed in the first place.

In numbers it looks like this:
-The US Govt borrows $1000 from the Federal Reserve.
-The US Govt keeps $100 in it's vaults as insurance, and loans $900.
TOTAL DEBT = $1900
-Banks borrow $900 from US Govt, put $90 in their vaults, loans $810.
TOTAL DEBT = $2710
-Another layer of loaning...TOTAL DEBT = $3439

The end result is that the citizens are forced to carry the burden of the debt, while the people at the top sit up accumulating stacks of invisible money. We could easily pull the rug out from under them at let JP Morgan Chase, City Bank, and all the other f---ups go down with the sinking ship they created, but because the Capitalist system simultaneously breeds insecurity by crippling us with our worst fears––job insecurity, a decrepit public education system, NO NATIONAL HEALTHCARE, TERRORISM on monopolized news networks––and milking our shallow desires for material consumption.

This is not to say that we are not also to blame. There are more than a few hints looming around out there, but it's going to be up to us to decide whether we want to continue contributing to a society governed by fundamentalist fear, inefficiency, insufficiency, religious and political and all other forms of prejudiced ideology.

We have the choice to build stronger communities and relationships with each other, within our circles of friends and families, and to extend these tight borders to begin encompassing more people.
Here's one possible future proposed by a group called The Venus Project. Not sure if I agree with it entirely, but it focuses on maximizing techonological possibilities to create an egalitarian society based on resource management: no human labor enslaved to the $, all renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, even a new one--ocean currents), perfecting magnetic trains and ditching planes, the list goes on.

Ultimately I think it's going to take a massive humanitarian effort. People need to start realizing that in contributing to consumering, energy consumption, the proverbial rat race––we are literally selling ourselves and our future generations short of the chance for awareness and true freedom. There are plenty of opportunities out there, just please keep an open mind to them. Even if you don't like what I'm saying, add to the dialogue and we can figure a better idea out together instead of shit-slinging insults like apes. Until we can start to act like evolved creatures on a conscious level, I'm not sure we should start beating our chests with pride in our accomplishments thus far, despite all the improvements we've made. I've seen more humanity in my two cats Sami and Apollo than I often see by people tragically deranged from maladaptive socialization techniques who end up on the news here in Japan.

Remember that money in your pocket is essentially a blank check--how you spend it reflects on your beliefs and character, and you can make of it whatever you want.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

They have environmental Podcasts! (as usual I'm late on the bandwagon)

It took me about 3 years to get Facebook and Myspace while everyone was raving and saying is was the best thing since Ben Franklin and his loony "library" idea.
So not that this is a surprise to anyone, certainly isn't to me, but I belatedly discovered Podcasts. Since I spend so much time on my bike, pedaling for my health and what's left of everyone's clean air, Podcasts are a great way to keep up on news, history, culture, and the environment! And since most people already know this, I'll leave it at that and just share my instant-favorite Podcasts:

NPR: Environment Podcast
TIME's GreenCast
Nature Podcast
Earth and Environmental Systems Podcast
President Obama's Weekly Address
TERRA: The Nature of Our World
green.TV (climate change & technologies)
Earth and Environmental Systems Podcast

There's no end to the wealth of information available to suit one's hobby on the interet these days, but I strongly encourage people to check these out. Why? Because the people one most of these are dedicated to ameliorate the current environmental decline (and in doing so creating the opportunity to reverse the financial decline as well).

This morning I tuned into to an interview with T. Boone Pickens––oil mogul and billionaire turned staunch environmentalist––on TIME's GreenCast. He has earnest plans and objectives for how to get the US back to the top of the international market by creating a self-sustaining future in renewable energy sources. Definitely worth the 8:38 of your time.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Zeitgeist: Check our where you're culture is taking you

Since coming to Japan I've had several conversations with other JET friends on the concept of American culture. In particular, one buddy of mine who's now back in the US, Tim Hannon, he and I commiserated in feeling a lack of connection to American culture. Over several conversations we discovered the following equation hidden in the vacuum tubes of television sets and theme songs from our childhood:
American culture = money.

Although at first only as an uncertain, peripheral alarm clock ringing––that enters the dream where I've learned to fly around the room by delicately flapping my arms and throws me out of the air onto the floor once I realize that alarm clock is coming from outside the dream––the volume has recently increase as I've entered my second quarter century and the same there songs are still haunting me like that buzzing sleep-breaker.

“(Our) great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is privately concentrated. The growth of the Nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men.. Who necessarily, by very reason of their own limitations, chill and check and destroy economic freedom. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the civilized world-No longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government of conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of small groups of dominant men."
- Woodrow Wilson, lamenting having signed the Federal Reserve Act, creating the same Central Bank that the USA fought against England in the Revolutionary War in order to break away from.

(By the way, the Federal Reserve is a private bank that has the sole authority to print money, and it lends this money to the US Govt with interest, so we are forever in their debt. Of course, if enough people to realize this, we could take back the power and stop funding America's growing Oligarchy currently in control of the Federal Reserve, and stop voluntarily enslaving ourselves to interest rates that our forefathers f***ed us over when they created a loaners nation. This is all the more poignant given the cause of our current situation. Guess who's profiting most on this new multi-billion dollar stimulus package?)

Is it possible to be resentful toward nostalgia? What if that sense of "home comfort" had been so ingeniously cloned and flavored with the pheromones of chicken noodle soup that you could no longer tell the difference between it and a demolition funded by the US govt to fell the Twin Towers in NYC? What if there were people out there whose primary purpose in life was to inflate you with so many chatrooms, video games, talk shows, and the desperate anticipation of new models that you stopped realizing a pall of particulate matter has decreased the sun's rays by up to 15% in the Northern Hemisphere? How would you feel about that?

Let's find out--please watch the documentary Zeitgeist and gauge your own reaction. Here for the official site of Zeitgeist.

Haven't you ever wondered why as a kid you bugged your parents constantly for a Happy Meal (thanks to child psychologists hired by McDemons to brainwash you into the world's best nagger)? Have you hit the sad realization yet that, were the mindless pop culture gossip, commercials, and sitcom reruns you grew up with able to collect on your arterial walls, you would be in need of quadruple by-pass surgery?

This is no lie...as a child, probably around the age of 12, I cried at night hoping that I could get a LEGO set called the Ice Station Oddesy. And I had a fairly normal upbringing, as much as the son of a gay man who tried to become Born Again, but then divorced his incredibly patient wife after starting a family of four (five if you include the dog, Max) to return to a homosexual lifestyle where he contracted HIV and, from which, later died. But on a worldwide scale, at least I knew my father, and still regularly communicate with my mother, and was fortunate enough for them to surround me in art and nature (full of regular camping trips and making natural art crafts from fallen forest debris). Despite the competition with Atari, the Nintendo, then Sega, then Playstation, the XBox, now Wii––their upbringing and devotion to my education has enabled me to be able to ask these kinds of questions and think for myself before jumping on the "false flag" bandwagon that created just about every war American has leaped into for a profit at the cost of civilian lives:

' "An evil exists that threatens every man, woman and child of this great nation," the leader of another country once wrote. "We must take steps to ensure our domestic security and protect our homeland." '

Can you who said this? I first thought Bush, naturally.
If you've already seen Zeitgeist or are an Modern Western European History stud, then you know the correct answer:
Adolf Hitler

He wasn't the first either. Wool has been pulled over the eyes of regular, hopeful and because of that hopeful spirit, gullible, nearly every citizenry as long there have been.
I know I was pretty privileged to be able have the doors to learning opened to me by money, but Zeitgeist reminds me of "The Allegory of the Cave" from Plato's The Republic. Same goes for Bill Hicks.

We need to start making the efforts to see the truth. There are so many people out who are paying millions of dollars to make sure that you don't find it. Do yourself, and everyone else a favor, and start looking into these things and decide for yourself. And if you come across a nuggest of wisdom, like Zeitgeist, please pass it on to other people. Show us your door.