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March 2005

taiko, eyebrows

March 31, 2005

This weekend broke previous records for prolonged taiko playing. On Sunday night, the taiko group did a concert / workshop in an elementary school on the mainland. We practiced from 10am until 6pm, with a few half-hour breaks, and then played for an hour. On Monday morning just about every muscle in my body hurt.

Back on the island, the third year Junior High School students graduated a couple of weeks ago, and within days most of them had virtually shaved their eyebrows off. Eyebrows shaved to a needle-fine line is a fashion that goes against school rules, so it seems most of the kids had been waiting for graduation to remove those pesky eyebrows. Ach well, at least this year, unlike last year, none of them have gone for a mullet.

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ecoutez et repetez

March 18, 2005

The other day I decided to try out the CDs that came with one of the Japanese grammar books I’m studying from. I spent an evening repeating phrases that illustrate various if-then constructions. And now I find they’re stuck in my head, like pop songs. I keep muttering to myself phrases like the catchy “if there is an earthquake now, the city will be destroyed”, and the sweet “if you love her, you should tell her how you feel”. It’s doing my head in.

Odd things have been getting stuck in my head lately. A couple of weeks ago I read ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, by Margaret Atwood, and I was whistling that for a couple of days afterwards.

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the corporation

March 13, 2005

Off-topic, but still… When I was back in the UK at Christmas, I picked up a copy of The Corporation by Joel Bakan. I read it last week, and I’d highly, highly recommend it. It’s an interesting, well-written, easy read (I thought), and it’s powerfully argued. The fact that its ultimately optimistic—ending with some very interesting, constructive thoughts about how we might go about protecting democracy and human rights from the profit motive—left me feeling, and hoping, that it might actually prove to be an important book.

While I’m on/off the subject, I also liked Francis Wheen’s How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World. I opened it with fairly low expectations, mainly due to the slightly fuddy-duddy sounding title, half-expecting a collection of spluttering essays on the ridiculousness of the things some people believe. In fact, he puts forward a pretty coherent argument that lots of apparently-unconnected modern trends (from free-market economics to deconstructionism to alternative medicine to the popularity of ‘management gurus’ and self-help books) reflect an underlying turn against the values of the Enlightenment, the implication being that if we’re not careful, we could find ourselves heading for a new Dark Age.

Further and further off-topic… this man’s experiments in information visualisation are the sort of thing that make doing a PhD seem seriously tempting… Following links from that site, I arrived (via here) at this utterly beautiful series of pictures, created through a hi-tech form of time-lapse photography.

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March 10, 2005

Last weekend I had a particularly bizarre and interesting few days on the mainland. On Friday I bought a very cheap djembe drum from someone who’s leaving Okinawa next week, and I stayed with a friend whose labrador has unnervingly human mannerisms – the weirdest being her habit of nudging your arm with her paw if you’re not paying attention to her, and then staring chidingly into your eyes with an expression of utter disappointment in you.

On Saturday, I went to see DJ Kentaro, who I had never heard of, but who it turns out was the best DJ in the actual world in 2002. I nearly didn’t go, on account of my head hurt, but after some peaceful time in a pub, woke up a bit and decided to go along. And was very glad I did, because I have a soft spot for record scratching, and he was a total scratchmaster. I then ended up sharing my hotel room with two girls I met that night (they were JETs from Sendai, in the north of Japan, who’d had no luck finding a hotel room of their own), in a weird, slightly David Lynch ryokan full of aging red linoleum and gently-illuminated fishtanks (and which I was staying in because it was the only place I could find that wasn’t fully booked). In the morning, while looking for the shower, one of them was chased down a dimly-lit laundry corridor by a furious chihuahua dragging one leg in a plaster cast that was almost as big as its tiny body.

On Sunday the ferry wasn’t running due to bad weather, so I couldn’t get back to my island. So I stayed at another JET’s house, and since the school he was teaching at is near the port, I went to school with him the following morning. My ferry doesn’t leave till mid-morning, so the plan was to just sit around the staffroom and have some coffee. In the end, though, the kids thought I was some special guest teacher, so just as we were sitting down with some coffee, one of the English teachers came in and said “Um… you know they’re expecting you to be teaching them…”. So, I ended up doing an impromptu double-act lesson with Mike, the bloke whose flat I’d been staying at. It was the first time I’ve ever taught Senior High School, and the kids were really funny, and I came out wishing I’d put more thought into the possibility of doing a third year in the big city… Ach well.

Better still, going back on the first ferry, there was an announcement over the ferry’s PA system that everyone should please go and have a look off the ferry’s port side, because a whale was going past. A whale! Unfortunately, it was too far off to get a decent photo, but as I stood there watching, the black hump would appear, spout a jet of water, and then disappear again, only to appear, further off, thirty seconds later. I stood watching for it long after it submerged for the last time.

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