Thursday, March 30, 2006

Misty Eyed


made the mistakes of showing Grave of the Fireflies in class today. I've shown three WWII- related films--McCarthur's Children, 24 Eyes and Black Rain, so I didn't need to show another one. But I wanted to show at least one animation, and decided on Fireflies.


Spoiler Warning!

The story is about a teenage boy and his four year old sister trying to survive on their own during the air raids of Osaka in WWII. Their father is at war in the navy. In an air raid in the beginning of the film their house is burned down and their mother dies. Seita doesn't tell his sister, and struggles to deal with the death by himself. He takes his sister to their aunts place in the suburbs of Osaka, where they are initially welcomed, but soon treated as a burden--two extra mouths to feed during at time when food is severely rationed. The aunt welcomes the bartering goods that come with taking care of Seita and Setsuko: their connections as the offspring of a naval officer and their mothers silk kimonos. But once rations are depleted and there are no more kimono to trade for food, they are treated as parasites. Seita is a proud boy, willing to try to live by himself and his sister. He is not about to put up with the insults and frigidity of his aunt.

So Seita and Setsuko find an old, deserted storeroom dug into a knoll next to rice fields. There they initially eat the rice they brought and buy what they can with the money left to them by their mother, but they soon start scooping field snails (田螺) from the rice fields and search for nuts and berries in an attempt to survive. But life is hard. Seita even begins to cheer air raids because he can loot the houses of people who have fled to bomb shelters. Still, the food is scarce, and little Setsuko gets weaker and weaker.

I won't spoil the ending, but the story avoids even a tinge of sentimentality. It is hardcore story telling about how difficult it is for children caught in the middle of a war waged by adults. It is a fantastic movie and NONE of my students left the room. There are usually a few who sneak out during the middle, but no one left this time. At the end of the movie, my eyes started tearing up--man, this story is so freakin' sad! Ah shit, I CAN'T let my students see me all misty-eyed! So I started taking deep breaths, trying to hold back the tears. I stretched my arms above me, squeezing some composure back into myself. Damn, I shoulda left and gone to my office! But behind me, I heard a bunch of different people sniffling. When the film ended and I turned on the lights, a number of people had reddish eyes. I had to laugh.

"I'm glad I'm not the only one crying," I squealed, as I whisked away the moisture from the corner of my eyes with my fingers.

They had to laugh, too.

Monday, March 27, 2006

It's Good to be a Bruin



know a lot of you hate sports entries, but I can't help myself. I mean, it's great to be a Bruin right now. Saturday's game was ugly, I mean incredibly ugly. But we beat Memphis 50-45. Woo hoo! We are regional champs and are now headed to the Final Four in Indianapolis. Strangely, we are not the only non-#1 seed to get there. In fact, all #1 seeds lost--Memphis, Duke, Connecticut and Villanova. Of course, this really screwed up my bracket.

I had UCLA (of course), Texas (beating Duke), Connecticut and Villanova. Okay, LSU who beat Duke and Texas is a pretty tough team and Florida who beat Villanova is definitely not chopped liver. But George Mason getting into the Final four is a major shock... Or should I say mid-major shock. But this is cool with me, because GMU is a local team and everyone around here is going nuts, so I feel like I'm party to the celebration, even though people at the bar point out the fact that I am wearing a a UCLA baseball cap and a Bruin sweatshirt.

As for our boys in Blue, it was defense, defense, defense. They just shut them down. Some media people and the Memphis players themselves gave all due respect to UCLA's defense, but they said it was as much Memphis, that they just couldn't knock them down. Memphis All-American Rod Carney said about Afflalo:

"He's a great defender," Carney said. "But it was me more than anything. I couldn't concentrate on knocking down shots. I was just off. Everyone played terrible."

Yeah, right. Carney had only 5 points in the game and the last three came in the final seconds on a three-pointer. If you saw the game, you will have noticed that Afflalo didn't even try to defend him, and it went swish. Before that Afflalo hounded him and it just threw him off tempo, destroyed his rhythm. Yes, Memphis played terrible, but that was because of the Bruin defense. It was awesome!

But we now play LSU, and that Big Baby--Glenn Davis--they have playing the low post is as wide as he is tall. He is going to be hard to stop and UCLA will have to put in an extra effort on defense to stop this guy. But until then, I will enjoy the Bruins run and bask in the sunlight they have released over Bruin Nation. 10-2 football season and now a Final Four appearance.

It's good to be a Bruin.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Elite Eight


am, first and foremost, a football fan... BUT HOW 'BOUT DEM BRUINS! They play Gonzaga, one of the best teams in the nation, and they are down by as many as 17 points in the first half. At half, it was 42-29. In the second half, every time UCLA seemed to creep closer, Adam Morrison--the leading scorer in the NCAA and 70's porn star look-a-like--would make a clutch shot to get some separation again...

Since the game was not shown locally--I hate the fact that CBS, with no cable affiliates, shows the NCAA tournament--we went to our local watering hole, Glory Days. Once Gonzaga was up 9-5, it was all downhill. We couldn't make a bucket if our life depended on it. But the final minutes were pure nirvana. We were down by 9 points at the 3:13 juncture, but the score for these last few minutes was UCLA 11- Gonzaga 0. I was hootin' and hollerin' at the bar. M usually gets embarrassed when I make such a scene, but she was just as excited as I was.

"Shinjirarenai (unbelievable)," was all she could say.

"Un-shinjira-ble" I repeated.

When the game ended UCLA 73 - Gonzaga 71, Morrison was crushed. He had been talking trash at the Bruins all game--C'mon, Afflalo, he said as if he wanted to play a more challenging opponent--literally collapsed on the middle of the floor and cried. [See video here.] Indeed, he had already started crying with 2 seconds left in the game when they lost the ball to UCLA. Even though they had the in bound pass, I wasn't too concerned. If he's crying, he's basically already admitted defeat. But after a few hugs, Bruin players Collins and Afflalo went to center court to help Morrison up and comfort him on a game well played.

That's just a sign of a great program and great people," Morrison said. "They had enough guts as a man in their moment of victory to pick another man up off the floor. That's more than basketball and I would thank them if I could.

If you could? Ahem, I think they were in the locker room next door. Oh well, I think the Bruins showed a lot of class, something that I should maybe pick up on. (>_<)

Anyway, it is now on to the Elite Eight and Memphis, Saturday 7 PM EST. Go Bruins!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Reflecting in a Film


n yeserday's film class, I showed another movie for the first time. This semester, I am trying to introduce more films. I was certainly getting tired of showing the same ol' same ol' for the past eight years--Seven Samurai, Ikiru, Woman of the Dunes. But there were so few new Japanese films available with English subtitles. I mean, there were Anime, but there aren't very many I would show in a Culture Through Film Course. There were also the horror flicks--Ring, Juon (Grudge), Uzumaki, The Cure--and of course, the extremely violent ones like Ichi the Killer, Tokyo Fist, and Suicide Club. If my class were strictly a film course, then I could probably get away with showing some of these films, but the course is supposed to show films that reflect the culture in one or another, so I was stuck.

But 2005 was a banner year for new J films. Some of the old ones that were NOT by Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Imamura or some of the other "internationally acclaimed" directors, have been released like Kill and Matango (Attack of the Mushroom People!). So I have been getting the library to purchase these new films to show in class. I've already shown Kill and Samurai Fiction. Today I showed Black Rain, a film on the struggles of a young woman who was near Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped. The hero, Yasuko, is far away when the blast hits but she as she makes her way to Hiroshima to see if her relatives are okay, she is splattered with black rain--radioactive condensation from the atomic plume. The story follows her trials of being unable to get married after the war because of fears that she is too ill from the radiation. Others in her village also suffer from the effects of the war, psychologically and spiritually as well as physically. It is a sad and moving anti-war statement.

Some may view the film rather skeptically, as the Japanese are portrayed as victims of the war and the atomic bomb. Indeed, there are many elements in Japan who gladly remind the rest of the world that Japan is the only country to be attacked by an atomic bomb, but conveniently forget that Japan colonized and terrorized much of East Asia during the first half of the 20th century.

Still, there are those Japanese, like young Yasuko, who lived lives typical of many East Asian cultures--obedient to a fault, submissive to the dictates of superiors--and they end up paying for there obedience by suffering and ultimately dying. So perhaps we can accept this film as representing the suffering of the many innocent Japanese individuals rather than the suffering of Japan as a whole. Of course, I might be biased here. As many of you might remember, my mother was in Hiroshima back then, as well. I even began to write a bit about her actual experience--although I have yet to finish it. Even more, my mother's name was Yasuko, too, so whenever I watch this movie, I can't help but superimpose her over the character in the movie. Sadly (and I swear I didn't plan it this way), today marks the 4th year since her passing...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

We Have a Tie


ot to dwell too much on this, but I have two people who claim to be number 75,000. Now the first person to claim this is Gokingsgo. He left the following comment:

I AM NUMBER 75,000!!!! I feel like I just won the lottery.
Posted 3/21/2006 at 11:33 PM by gokingsgo - delete - block user

Someone named Lauren also claimed to be number 75,000, 9 minutes later. Now some may say that this is a no brainer, that Gokingsgo clocked in 9 minutes earlier and so is clearly the winner. Indeed, I have no reason to doubt Gokingsgo's claim. I mean, this is a man I shared a beer with. Hell, he bought the beer! (Thanks again, BTW.) But life is not so clear cut. Lauren may have left her comment nine minutes later, but that doesn't necessarily mean she came to this site at that time. She in fact took a screen shot of the number, and taking the shot, opening it, checking it out to make sure it is right could conceivably take NINE minutes. Click here to check the evidence. Leave her a message, too, while you're at it. So we have a tie, folks--always good to be diplomatic, don't you think? Congratulations; not that there's a prize or anything.

As for me, I am humbled and flattered to have gotten this many hits. A few years ago--actually 2 years, 9 months and 5 days ago, but who's counting?--I began this blog as a way to keep in touch with a graduating senior who went to Japan to teach English through the JET program. I truly had no pretenses regarding meeting people online or having total strangers read and sometimes actually enjoy what I write. It really flips me out to think that total strangers come here to read.

Anyway, as usual, I have a stack of papers to grade, but I will try to post a real entry sometime later this week. I got my hands on a few more episodes of Kuitan, the Japanese gourmet detective, from a favorite daughter, and will likely spend what little free time I have watching them--damn these J-doramas. Of course, I have a little more time since Battlestar Galactica is on hiatus until October (What the heck is that all about!), and new episodes of Lost are so infrequent that Wednesdays are now just Wednesdays. So these J-doramas help me relax in between the mountains of papers I have to grade.

The Bruins (UCLA for those still unaware) are in the Sweet Sixteen, and I'm hoping they make it to the Final Four starting Thursday night at 9:55 EST. Can't wait. Beat Gonzaga!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Almost 75,000


ince I did not do the amount of work I should have done over spring break, I am now paying the price. Ugh! Oh well, we academics have as much right to relax during spring break as the students, so I relaxed. I did some work, but it was only a little--bibitaru, as they say in Japanese. So I was up late last night trying to catch up and ended up oversleeping this morning... Bad stuff. I ended up missing my train and was late for class by 20 minutes... In my defense, I missed the 12:11 train but would have made class with only a few minutes late had I taken the 12:23. However, the next train did show up until 12:40. So I blame Metro. Before I got to class, I caught some students heading down the stairwell and dragged them back to class. The others were still at there desk trying to figure out if they should stay or go.

They stayed.

And we had a regular class... sorta...

Anyway, the hit count is almost 75,000. If you are number 75,000, please leave me a comment. You don't have to take a screen shot or anything... I will bvelieve you.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

It's All About Me x 75,000


logging is a narcissistic endeavor, if you ask me. Well, you may not ask me, but I'll tell ya' anyway. Some have a specific agenda, such as expressing opinions on politics or the environment. Some use it to write about a favorite topic, such as music or sports. But most are personal sites where the blogger writes about his own life. So I guess that makes me just one of the kazillion bloggers out there--narcissistic, self-absorbed.

But that's okay. We all need to be self-absorbed to a degree. I don't know anyone who isn't narcissistic in one way or another. Each of us seem to find our niche and focus on developing that one aspect of ourselves. Those who don't blog might manifest their narcissism in the way they apply make-up. Others will get into body building. Some draw images that ultimately seem to be the expression of themselves, while others delve into the technical world of computer hacking. The point is that we all have something that makes us feel good about ourselves. Without it we would end up hating ourselves.

So if someone ever tells you you're narcissistic, just say "Why thank you!" and be glad you have a good self-image.

As for my own narcissistic moment for today, I would like to draw your attention to my hit count. No, I don't get a tremendous number of hits like Shi or Whonose or the Fongster. But I am flattered to get my share of visits, particularly for an old fart like me. And the number of visitors is reaching another milestone: 75,000. It is, as of this writing, 200+ hits away, which normally would be about three days worth of visits. If you come here and you are number 75,000, please leave me a comment telling me so?

Thursday, March 16, 2006



aving watched Densha Otoko (Train Man), I've begun to wonder what I'm doing in this virtual world. For those who are relatively young--say 22 and younger--the Internet is probably something that is taken for granted. I don't mean that you can access it anytime, but that it's been a part of our society for at least half of your lives. For me, however, it is still brand spanking new, and many of my peers look at it with suspicious eyes.

As you might know--spoiler warning!--Train Man is about an Otaku, the Japanese version of a nerd, who tries to protect a beautiful woman from being harassed by a drunk on the way home. She appreciates his acts and he is flattered by the attention she gives him. He immediately logs in on his computer and describes his encounter on a keijiban (bulletin board). Since the incident happens on a train, he becomes known as the Train Man. The story develops as the lovely woman sends him a gift of thanks (a set of cups by Hermes), he calls her, they meet for dinner, he fusses over what to wear and how to act, all the while discussing his situation and getting advice on how to proceed from others posting on the bulletin board. The story can be ludicrous at times, but it is touching and certainly funny as the Nerd finally has his day.

Now as I was watching this with M, she provided a running commentary on the embarrassment and betrayal of the hero who is exposing not only his life, but Hermes life as well, without her knowledge. And of course, she expresses doubt as to what I write here on Xanga. M is old school, older than me. She knows a lot of different things, but she doesn't know the difference between an e-mail and an instant message and a weblog. As you might imagine, she takes a narrow view of things she does not understand--as most of us do--and so worries about the things I post here on my blog. I assure her that I never write anything untoward about her--well, maybe I am now--and I would not write anything embarrassing about her. The blog is about me, and if I'm gonna make fun of anyone, it would be me--and maybe a couple of my students, and an occasional political figure or two.

Any amount of explaining I offer usually sounds like excuses to her, so there is little I can do. I am loathe to do anything that might upset M....

Still, I find blogs much more easier to deal with than bulleting boards and chat rooms. Those places can be totally anonymous. But on Xanga, where only fellow Xangans can comment, I feel more at ease. I may not know your real name, but I get a concrete picture of who you are from your sites. I know that Sammy loves the Cubs. Pajun plays the piano and entered a competition in Rome. I know that No1Watching gives massages and Jerjonji is a great writer who moved halfway across the country. I have gotten to know fellw Bruins such as Marie and others, while I have decided to turn down the rhetoric concerning that other school because of zhuzhu, dan, momo and others. I know that Booyaman hates cats and that Daddylike and enygma go to grad school, and Bareric is studying abroad this year. Hanzo hates the current administration while mmh is learning to deal with her sister. I even saw Jason on the West Wing when he played a Chinese soldier. And I'd like to go have a drink with Paiky--and maybe his cousin kken--in a place I've never been to called Orange. There are many more but too long of a list to mention here. The point is that we all tell each other about ourselves and in that way we get to know each other as blogging colleagues and--dare I say--friends. So it bothers me that I can't convey this fully to M, but I will continue to try to convince her that you guys are not total strangers.

A key way of getting to know you even better, of course, is though commenting. I have been remiss of late--I just don't have the time I once had. but I have done so enough to have developed a kind of rapport with some of you. I am sometimes saddened that I have subscribers who apparently read but rarely, if ever, comment at all. Through comments, a dialogue can develop, although I may not always keep up my side of the bargain. But at least I can visit your sites and know that you are real people with real lives. But there are a few who have me a little scared...

Stalkers... There is a program that allows Xangans to track other Xangans which are referred to as "Xanga stalkers". But this is a misnomer because you know who is stalking you. It's the anonymous visitors that I wonder about. But then the worst are the subscribers who don't even post, let alone not comment. What's that all about?!? I have four subscribers who do not post--they only have an account--and they subscribe to only one person... me. Now THIS is stalking.... Is one my ex-wife? Are they my former students? Are they my colleagues at work? This is probably the worst case scenario. Can you imagine a professor stalking another professor? For what? To gather dirt? To see if I'm talking shit about anyone at school? Ha! I would never do that here. I have another super secret site for that. JUST KIDDING!

Anyway, these are the people who don't post but only read. On there site, they display only one subscription, me. They also receive a digest through e-mail... I wonder who these people are? It kinda makes me nervous...

Still, these are the exceptions, not the rule, here on Xanga. And I've got to figure a way to convince M that this is a good place...

Do any of you have subscribers like this?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Spring Break


ow... It's been a week since I've been here. I have been preoccupied with a number of different things and have neglected to update this record of my life... such as it is. In any event, I have reached a point in my life where there are simply not enough hours in a day to take care of all the things I need to take care. Thank God for Spring Break! Now I can catch up.

Yes, that's right: Catch up. While most of my students have gone home to relax or gone to some exotic locale like Cancun in the hopes to catch a glimpse of the bimbos of Girls Gone Wild, I spend my hours at home... grading. It never seems to end. But at least I don't feel harried as I grade papers at a leisurely pace. Of course, I am doing much more than grading. I am slowly but surely turning my brain into mush by getting involved in two addictions, both of which I thought I had broken...

No, no, no. I'm not talking about sports. That is an addiction that many people will understand, if not totally understand... I mean, they may not really understand why a person will get so involved in watching sports, but will to a degree accept it as something males are wont to do. And indeed, March Madness is upon us and UCLA is a freakin' two seed. Don't worry. If you don't understand what I'm talking about, then you probably don't follow sports and you aren't missing anything. But I am hyped. They have a hell of a defense and I hope to see them to the Elite Eight.

As for my two addictions...

My first addiction--or I should say the resurrection of my first addiction--I lay in the lap of takunishi. He always has music playing on his Xanga and he often allowed people to download them. What a guy! Unfortunately, I once again got sucked into this music, and I have spent hours asking students and searching the Internet for music. While the stumbling back into jpop was not immediate, songs like Dreamland by Bennie K and Haru no Uta by Spitz got me hooked again. *sigh* Now my life is consumed with listening to jpop, everything from 5 Senchi by WaT to Around the World by Monkey Majik. I need kken, Paikey's cousin, to slap me in the face to wake me up... wait, he lives in DC. Never mind...

My other addiction I blame on Hermes--the name of a character in the J-dorama Densha-otoko (Trainman) and a student of mine. I've been slowly watching J TV shows, but most of them were of the samurai/historical category: Yoshitsune, Shinsengumi, you know. While I would rent these tapes, M would also rent the Gekku (譛井ケ・lit. Monday 9 PM) kind of dramas, the ones about friendships, family, romance and other girlie stuff, like

Anyway, back to grading...

Monday, March 06, 2006

Another Week Another Dollar


ork work work. What a weekend. M was much better by Saturday, which was a relief. But I had so much work, that all I've been doing is grading. I'm trying to figure out what I'm doing wrong. I know that I am teaching more classes than before, but that doesn't really explain the dramatic decrease in my own time. I think I'm gonna keel over if I'm not careful.

To comfort myself, I think I need one of these Cuddle Pillows (daki-makura), except one made for guys. Instead of a dress shirt, a nice soft cashmir sweater? Hmmm, and maybe a slight anatomical alteration for extra comfort...


I think I need to get back to grading before I descend any further....

Thursday, March 02, 2006

House Husband


his weekend is gonna be another killer. M has had a fever since Tuesday night. So besides my normal busy weekend of grading--another 50 papers for the Film class and 30 papers for the Lit class--I gotta take care of the family. This means cooking and cleaning and laundry. Cleaning and laundry ain't too bad, and I do like to cook. Tonight, we're having bean sprouts, nappa cabbage, mushroom and pork stir fry. Tomorrow some tofu and salsa--it's similar to my tofu pomadoro but with a slight kick. Saturday? I'll probably be beat with all the gading so I'll just order a couple of pizzas.

Everyone have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I Swear, It's Not Me


t's embarrasing when someone thinks you cut a fart... guilty or not. *sigh* Every morning, I find myself rushing to catch up on things. The alarm goes off--or M nudges me to wake up--and it takes me 15 to 20 minutes to get me to stir out of bed. I trudge on over to the computer, turn it on, go take my morning leak as the computer boots up, and then I plop myself at my desk. What day is it today, and what do I have to do? My schedule pops up and it tells me I have class. No shit, I mumble to myself and start to get together the things I need for work... when it suddenly strikes me. Oh shit! I forgot...

  • To make the bungo quiz... or
  • To grade the last stack of papers... or
  • To go over my notes for class... or
  • To make a hand out for today's lecture... or
  • That there was a meeting today... or

...any number of other things. Everyday it is something. Everyday there is some kind of mini-crisis waiting for me in the recesses of my mind. And my response is to shift gears and go full throttle. After a cup of Joe,

  1. I work on whatever it is I have to work on,
  2. Freak out when the clock tells me I have about an hour left before class,
  3. Jump into the shower,
  4. Change into something appropriate,
  5. Stuff the appropriate things--book, folders, binders--into my backpack and
  6. Rush off to work.

Unfortunately, I'm usually running behind the clock, so even though I live only a seven minute walk from the station, M will give me a ride. I literally make the train with seconds to spare--almost every day, I am embarrassed to say. I step into the train and the door closes before I can even sit down sometimes. Laugh all you want. Make fun of me if you will. Hell, I'd make fun of myself too, if I wasn't always in a rush. I almost feel like Dagwood Bumstead rushing out of the house every morning, but that's probably too old a reference for most of you to grasp.

Anyway, today was no different. I sit in the car as M takes me on my two minute ride.

"Tuna sandwich," I say.


"Tuna sandwich. That's what you made me for lunch, right?" Yes, I'm a lucky guy. M makes me lunch everyday. Sometimes it's riceballs, other times a box lunch of stir-fry. But not today. "It smells like a tuna sandwich," I say pointing to my backpack.

M smiles. "It must be the onions." Then she starts to giggle. "I smelled the same thing too, but I thought you'd farted."

"What? You thought the onions you put into a sandwich was a fart?!?"

M bursts out laughing. Indeed, she is beside herself as I was getting out of the car. "Be sure to sit away from others, in an out-of-the-way spot."

What a loving wife... I wish I'd had a sign that said I was carrying a sandwich with lots of onions in it. Instead, I had to hope that the other passengers could tell the difference between the smell of onions and a fart.