I never knew former sumo grand champion, and current kids TV star Konishiki released an album a while back, until I read this interesting article about pro-athletes turned rappers.
Yesterday I was asked to listen to students as they gave short speeches about "an impressive memory" they have from their childhood. Not surprisingly, most of the speeches were about pets dying, winning the big game or hearing a favorite band for the first time. Most of these speeches didn't leave much of an impression on my memory, but there were two somewhat odd speeches that I can't forget.
One boy told a poignant tale about how he "disappointed a sea lion" once when he visited an aquarium. He was to feed a fish to a sea lion, but he somehow messed up and the sea lion didn't get to eat the fish. He said the sea lion looked very sad and he felt really sorry for it.
Another boy spoke about a time when he was traveling by train with his grandparents. Out of the blue, his grandfather asked the train conductor to stop the train in between two stations and then got off without telling him or his grandmother why. Later that day he was relieved to find his grandfather again at Nagoya station.
I of course had to ask the obvious question afterwards of "Did you ever find out why he got off?", but the boy replied that he still doesn't know the reason. I guess I'll never know either, and perhaps that's why his speech has made such a lasting impression on me.
These speeches got me thinking about my own lasting memories from childhood. Unlike some people, I have a really tough time remembering most events of my childhood. If I had to give a speech about my "impressive childhood memory" it would likely be of the boring variety and relate to the deaths of the family cat 'Paku' or budgie 'Fredrick'. For me the latter death was more traumatic as my recklessness was in part responsible for poor Freddie's untimely demise. I know the former event was more traumatic for my younger brother, mostly due to how I tactlessly broke the news to him with the question "Guess how many cats we have?".
Anyway, I was already in a reflective mood when I came across this post on BoingBoing that really jolted the old memory bone. It's about a 160 year old German children's book called 'Struwwelpeter' that puts the tales of the Brother's Grimm to shame in terms of its gruesomeness. This book was a regular fixture at bedtime in the Patterson household, and its graphic illustrations of children having their thumbs cut off and dying from starvation were shocking enough to stay with me all these years. A new version of the book has been published today, but I think its cutesy Power Puff-esque illustrations undermine the whole point of the original book, namely to scare kids into believing that there are very serious consequences to acting naughty.
There are only a small handful of books I still remember from my childhood, and even though it was in German and impossible for me to read, Struwwelpeter is probably the most memorable of them all. I'd like to think that overall I'm a pretty well adjusted guy. I don't throw kittens down stairs, insult people of other races, go walking in bad weather, and I certainly don't play with matches. Perhaps much of the credit for this should go to the wisdom I gained at an early age from the scary tales of Struwwelpeter.
My car in 2003 when the tape deck still worked and the front passenger side door opened all the way.
So my nice old black/very dark blue Subaru Legacy's shaken is up as of this Saturday and I still don't know what to do about it. The shaken inspection fee, plust the car tax (due in June) would most likely cost me somewhere between $1400-1700 CND, and that's assuming no expensive repairs are needed on the car in order for it to get certified. With the shape my car's in, that's a very big assumption indeed.
Back home I could still probably sell the car for a few hundred bucks, but in Japan it's not that easy. Not only would the new owner have to pay a hefty shaken fee and car tax, but to change ownership of a car takes a disgusting amount of paperwork (which requires running around to many different offices) and several additional ridiculously high fees.
Yesterday I took my car to a dealership in Noheji and inquired about disposing of it. Turns out just simply throwing away my car is going to cost me over $300 in recycling fees! Since I'm sure leaving the keys in the ignition and puting up a "Steal Me" billboard next to it won't get me anywhere, I guess my only options left are to pay the money, or park the car behind one of Aomori's many decorative roadside buses. It's also been suggested to me that I should take it down to the docks and burn it to the ground. While that sounds like the most fun option, it also is the one most likely to land me in prison, so I sadly think I'll have to take a pass.
That means that as of this Friday I shall be without wheels. How am I supposed to impress the ladies now? With my wit and charm? I'm in serious trouble and need a new car ASAP! I thought leasing would be a good option, so I went to the Toyota rental shop in Noheji, but the cheapest car was over $1000 a month! There's gotta be somewhere in Aomori that I can find a better price than that. I've heard rumors of K-cars for lease in Gonohe and Goshogawara for just a few hundred bucks a month, and hopefully I'll get more info on that soon. Hopefully the ladies will be equally impressed by the sleak and sexy curves, and the powerful roaring engine of the Daihatsu Hi-Jet as they are with my old set of wheels. Farewell old car. You've served me well these past three years, but I'm affraid it's just your time to go.
An old buddy of mine in Toronto has a new documentary coming out this week called "Escape to Canada", and I thought I'd give him a little plug here. It's about how lots of Americans have been moving north in the last few years to smoke pot, get married to their same sex partner, or to go AWOL. Here's some short reviews from NOW Magazine and Variety. You can also find the trailer here.
It's mid-March so that means it's time for the release of the February edition of Nore Sore, Aomori's local JET zine. I chose not to subscribe this year, but I heard through the grapevine that the most recent edition features an editorial about a comment left on this post I wrote about an interview I had done with the Hokkaido JET publication 'Polestar'.
It seems that the current editor of Nore Sore (a newsletter put out by Aomori JETs) was a little put off by the following comment made by someone by the handle of 'Kudo':
i knew nore sore sucked, but now that I know its not an across the board JET-incompetence thing and there are JETs out there who compose original articles, and know how to format a page layout AND can publish the whole thing in shiny online format...can I get my lousy 2000 yen back?
I don't blame the editor for getting mad over that remark, and I think his response pretty much says all that needs to be said. Still this mess began here on my site, so I thought that perhaps I should say a little something about it. Here's my two yen:
Sure Nore Sore lacks a professional looking layout, glossy paper and color pictures. Sure it's almost always delivered late, sometimes by several months. Sure the content is oftentimes lacking and ripped from people's blogs(1). Sure the average JET blog has more readers than Nore Sore. This all may be true, but Kudo should remember one thing: Nore Sore is written and published by the best damn group of Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme participans in the world, Aomori JETs! If it's kind of crappy, it's only because that's the way we like it. Nore Sore is the product of your fellow prefecturemen Kudo-san, and if you dump on it then you're dumping on us all. If you like dumping on Aomori JETs so much, then why don't you just move to Hokkaido? As Sunil and I unfortunately discovered one time, that's something that the folks up there seem to enjoy doing(2).
I think it's nice that Aomori JETs take the time to cobble together this little rag every month. There's really no need for anyone to do it, yet our fellow Aomori ALTs and CIRs valiantly press on month after month with new issues that maybe only 40 or 50 people ever read. As more and more JETs turn away from Nore Sore and focus their attention inward on their own blogs I think the local Aomori JET community as a whole loses one of the only things that binds us all together, and that's kind of sad in a way.
I'm glad that Nore Sore is finally online and can be downloaded in PDF format from here. You don't even have to pay for it anymore, so that should hopefully quiet any other critics out there. Maybe it will even get more people a-readin' again and submitting stuff. What I'd like to see are more strongly worded opinion pieces in Nore Sore, so that I can have something interesting to gossip about. Lately the only place I ever see gossip worthy writing by JETs is on the Aomori Email Listserve.
Maybe it would be a good idea for Nore Sore to be published online as a collaborative blog (Like F'ed Gaijin for example) rather than as a PDF file. That kind of format might see a lot more contributions and could even reduce the number of inappropriate letters posted to the Listserve. Of course the downside to that would be that "outsiders" might start learning of our secretive JET society. If living in Japan has taught me anything, it's the importance of keeping outsiders in their place.
Who knows what the future may hold for our much abused local zine? To be honest, I'm guilty of not reading it regularly anymore and I almost never contribute my own original articles. This is likely because most of Aomori's best writers seem to stick exclusively to their own blogs these days, and Nore Sore has suffered as a result. That's why I feel it is my duty as "The Most Famous JET in Japan" to encourage my fellow bloggers to contribute something original once and a while to Nore Sore. Perhaps it might only be read by 40 people, most of whom you don't even know or care too much about, but like it or not they are your peeps and it's nice to show them some love once in a while. For better or for worse I'm glad to know that Nore Sore is still going out each month, crappy layout and all.
1. Editors of Nore Sore: Please feel free to use this post (or any post on this site) in the next issue if you want. I promise to try to write something original for Nore Sore again one of these days.
2. I've met
a writer an editor from the Polestar and he seemed like a good guy, who as far as I know, has never defiled a hotel bathroom with a mysterious brown substance.
Okay I fess up! Those photos I posted the other day weren't 'Tilt-shift' pictures of Noheji, but were in fact just pictures of my train model buildings. While hunting online for more additions to my tiny Noheji town I came across this neat bar in Tokyo's ritzy Ginza district where you can look at model trains while you drink. Ginza must also be one of the only places in the world that is home to a designer model train store, where trains start at around $1000 a piece!
Nobody was more sad to see Paul go than this guy.
Last week my old buddy Paul Je headed home to Canada after spending over 7 years living in Hirosaki. I can only imagine the reverse culture-shock that's in store for him. Two weekends ago, Paul threw a great going away party for himself. Here are the photos:
BoingBoing has been posting a lot about "tilt shift" photos recently. If you haven't heard of it before, it's a kind of camera trick where you can make photos of real life places look like miniature scale models by messing with the camera focus. Well this sounded like fun, so I hit the streets of Noheji to take some tilt shift photos of my own. Enjoy:
Pretty neat eh? It almost doesn't look real!
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