Thursday, March 31, 2005

Trivia - Thursday, March 31st

The fourth installment in this film series starred a young Hilary Swank:

A. Alien
B. The Karate Kid
C. Star Wars
D. Terminator

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Roxy Music

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, March 30th

Before dating Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall was involved with Bryan Ferry and even appeared on one of his band's album covers. What band was Ferry in?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Kim Cattrall in Mannequin.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, March 29th

Which Sex and the City actress starred in the 1987 movie about a department-store dummy that comes to life?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Goin' back to Cali...

So after 8 months here in Japan I'm finally taking a long vacation.

I'll be heading home to San Diego to see my sister and niece.

It'll be nice to relax and hang out with them




I can't wait actually. Getting to Osaka will be a chore, but I should manage.

Getting home is worse. My plane lands in Osaka on Wednesday, April 6th at 6pm, even though I take off from LAX on Tuesday the 5th at 2pm. The time difference can be a killer at times. And then I'll have to take a "night" bus back to Izumo which means getting on at 10pm on the 6th and arriving home at 7am the next morning. The journey doesn't take that long - they actually pull the bus over and just stop for about two hours so they can arrive at 7am instead of at 5am. The Japanese keep to their time schedules - convenience be damned! :)

Everyone thinks the bullet trains are cool here - and they are - but they're also bloody expensive. It would've cost me about $200 ONE-WAY to get to Osaka... ummm, errr... no. I'll take the bus for $50. Still, one day, it would be cool to ride on one.

So all this means I might not update this blog for about two weeks. I know my two dedicated readers are deeply wounded, but I'm sure the rest of you will manage. I might have time in SD to post some pics so check in occasionally.

This also means that when I get back it'll be a Trivia Explosion!!
I don't make up the questions - I get them off a page-a-day calendar I got for Xmas. So they'll be waiting for me when I get back. Although when I get back I have to go right back to work on Friday the 8th. Yes, the first day of the new school year is a Friday. Weird, huh.

If you just gotta have some of that sweet, sweet Jason prose, you can check out my Hitchhiker's guide column at The Black Taxi blog site, which is the Shimane JET monthly publication. I just turned in a big column all about summer movies for the March edition, so we'll see if the editors in charge of that month get it posted. My Feb. column is up there now.

So any of my San Diego peeps reading this - email me so we can hang out.

I hope my Shimane peeps have a good spring break. I hope this country warms up while I'm away and I can put away my kotatsu blanket and my heat fan when I get back.

Hugs and Fishes,

In N Out, Chilis, good pizza, Robertos, movies that cost less than $18 - I'm gonna be a happy man very soon...

Trivia - Thursday, March 22nd

Hugh Jackman starred on Broadway in 2003 as Peter Allen in "The Boy From Oz." Allen was once married to which actress-singer?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Shannen Doherty

Monday, March 21, 2005

Trivia - Monday, March 21st

Rick Solomon, costar of the infamous Paris Hilton tapes, was which TV star's estranged husband?

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):
her bellybutton ( My! - How times have changed! LOL)

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Trivia - Sat & Sun, March 19th & 20th

Which body part was Barbara Eden forbidden to show on I Dream of Jeannie?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
B. Steve Martin

Friday, March 18, 2005

trivia - Friday, March 18th

Who played the pain-obsessed dentist in the 1986 film version of Little Shop of Horrors?

A. John Goodman
B. Steve Martin
C. Nathan Lane
D. Jeff Daniels

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Three daughters

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Viking Style & strange pizza

So two interesting things happened today.

One was I learned a new Japanese idiom - Viking Style.

I'll give you a minute to think what this might refer to.

Hint - It has something to do with eating...

I'll use it in a sentence: My 8th graders were treated today to a school lunch that was served "Viking Stlye."

So basically it means "buffet" stlye or even "a la carte" if you will.

Instead of each student being given identical trays of school lunch, which is the normal way, some of the parents set up large tables with a variety of foods and the kids could go down the line and pick whatever they wanted to eat.

The Japanese call this eating "Viing Style." My JTE asked me if I wanted to go see what the 8th graders were having for Viking lunch today - I paused, asked him to repeat, and then after I confirmed that he said the word Viking ("You know, like pirates." "Yes, I know what a Viking is.") he explained to me what the hell he was talking about. Apparnetly the Vikings would just grab whatever they wanted to eat and start chowing down, so the Japanese have labeled eating with no set plan "Viking Style." Makes perfect sense now. But you know I'm gonna be using that idiom every chance I get.

Another thing happened at dinner. Emily (Happy Bday Em!) drove into town for dinner and she stated a prefernce to eat something Non-Asian, perhaps something that you could eat without chopsticks. I empathize with her on this one - there's just so much rice you can eat before you need something that reminds you on home. So off we went to Izumo, where we met up with English Mark (The Don) and Lifer Dustin (Lifer cuz he's on his 5th year as a JET). We all strolled down the street from their apartment building to a local Italian restaurant. The menu offered up some interesting variants on pasta, including squid ink spaghetti and teriyaki chicken pizza. Dustin decided to go for the teriyaki chicken pizza, but when it came out the chef had drizzled mayonnaise all over the pizza as a decrative garnish. MAYO - on pizza??!! Come on folks! So Dustin didn't want to eat his, so he had some of mine, which wasn't bad. I had ordered the "Spicy Sausage" pizza, and it was OK - but not really pizza either as it didn't have any tomato sauce on it. And we had salad with really tasty dressing - the first time I've had a regualr salad since coming here - so that was cool. Emily was game enough to try some of Dustin's rejected pizza and said it wasn't horrible. Mark had some seafood pasta and he ordered some fried octopus as a starter. But when the octopus came, they were little miniature octopi - deep fried. You just had to see them. Mark proclaimed them "oishii" which means "tasty," but I'll have to take his word on that. Dustin took a picture with his camera phone, so hopefully I'll be able to post the pic of the Octopi Appetizer.

I learn something new everyday I live here, and today was a double treat. I'm either easily amused or I like my life or both.

who craves good Mexican food something terrible

Trivia - Thursday, March 17th

How many children does President Jed Bartlet have on The West Wing?

Aside: There are only 3 American TV shows that are shown regularly on normal, non-cable Japanese TV. They are: ER, Alias, and The West Wing. All are shows I enjoy, so that's cool, but The West Wing is just so good, I don't even care that they're repeats that I've seen before. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights from 10pm til about 10:45, since they're shown without commercials. A little oasis of English among the desert of Nihon-go programming. Japanese TV is strange, bizarre, and by-and-large pretty damn awful, but I still find my self watching it even though I don't understand 90% of what's being said. Just last night I watched a documentary program for at least an hour, all in Japanese, about this young woman who gets pregnant at age 16. She's the oldest child in her family and she has SIX younger brothers and sisters down to the youngest who was 5. So that's 7 kids from 5 to 16, and their Dad (no Mom, so I assume she had died) all living in an apartment that looked to be about the same size as the one I currently live in. She decided to keep the baby and after she had it she brought it home to the same tiny apartment. Utterly compelling stuff despite the language barrier.

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Bananarama, from the show The Banana Splits and the song "Pyjamarama."

Kitty Chan and Ampanman say Congrats!

Kitty Chan and Ampanman say Congrats!
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Across the bottom the board reads "omedetoo gozaimasu," which means Congratulations in Japanese. You can also make out the katakana-ized version of "love" - RABU. The characters on the board are Sanrio's mascot, Hello Kitty, and a Japanese cartoon character made of bread named Ampanman.

I'll post soon about the whole day of Junior High graduation, but for now I'll post a few pics. This is the decorations in one of the 9th grade classrooms. The 9th graders are done with school from today until they start High School on April 8th, so they get a good long rest. Most of them deserve it. My first class of 9th graders was by-and-large a great group and I'll miss many of them. I hope a few come back and visit and let me know how they're doing in High School.

Me and Nonoka

Me and Nonoka
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

One of my coolest and brightest 9th graders, Nonoka, and me at Taisha graduation. Nonoka had cleaning duty in the teacher's room every day this last semester, so we'd chat most days while sweeping or pretending to clean this or that. She wants to learn French, and after I told her I took it for two years in High School, which I tried to explain was a million years ago, she'd write little French phrases for me to read and write English sentences about things in France.
You might remember that Nonoka was one of my speech contest students, so we got to be friends over the course of my first 7 months at Taisha JH, and she gave me a really nice hand-written note in English after the graduation ceremony. Students like her are one of the reasons I wanted to do this job, and they make me think I might just be making an impression on some of my kids regardless of all the evidence to the contrary. I'll miss hanging out with her during cleaning time.
I know she'll do well in High School, but Ganbatte Ne!

Me and Asami

Me and Asami
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Another great and very smart 9th grader, Asami, and I at graduation. It was cold Tuesday, and you can see that I'm wearing a long sleeve undershirt under my button down dress shirt and suit coat. That was mainly cuz I knew we'd be in the gym for a while during the ceremony, and it's FREEZING in there. We'd just had snow the day before, so we were very lucky it was sunny for a short time while the 9th graders paraded out of the school.

Asami tried so hard during English class that she is the type of student I'll really miss - and she in particular was great - always trying to speak to me in English and always very genki. Good Luck in high school Asami!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, March 16th

What 1980s all-girl band got their name by combining the name of a children's television show with a Roxy Music song?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Malcolm in the Middle

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

How I got my digital camera

So here it is March already and I realized I never posted the story about how I got the nifty digital camera I’ve been using to take and post pictures to my blog.

Back in December I was invited to go to my Board of Education’s year-end party, called a bonenkai. The BoE is basically my employer - while I’m here under the auspices of the JET programme, my salary and my daily supervision is taken care of by the city employees at the Taisha Kyooinkuinkai (BoE). I had to spend most of August in their office, so I got to know a few of them, and my supervisor, Utani-san, works there - but I really don’t see them that much anymore as I now spend all my free time at the Jr. High and really only go to the BoE when I have a problem with my living conditions or I have to sign job-related paperwork. But they still invite me to the office parties, which is damn skippy of them, even though only a handful of them speak English.

Getting off track for a minute, I just went to a BoE party last week, celebrating the end of the school/financial year. Very soon, Taisha town is going to be absorbed by Izumo, a larger town to the south west. It’s a process called “gappe” and it’s happening to small towns all over Japan - they get some sort of tax incentive if they combine with a larger city. So it was also a party to celebrate the end of the old group and the welcoming of the new situation.
Anyway, they went to the trouble of having the place where the party was held (a hotel I think) prepare me a special dinner consisting of steak, yaki soba and spaghetti since I don’t eat fish, which is what everybody else ate. So that was cool. Since I’ll probably end up having to pay 5000¥ (about $50) for the party, it’s nice to actually be able to eat the food. They didn’t have cola, but I was able to drink cold tea, which I like better than beer or sake.
I had to sit in seiza, which means sitting with your legs folded up underneath you, so you’re sitting with your butt on the soles of your feet. It’s really hard for me to sit this way for too long, as I start to lose all feeling in my legs. You gotta remember that I weigh about 120 kilos, so after about 10 minutes my legs go numb. I only had to sit in seiza for the opening speeches before the “kanpai” (the toast, kinda like “cheers,” that symbolizes the start of the party and allows all the guests to start eating and drinking), so it wasn’t so bad. I can endure it much longer now than when I first got here.
After the main party, about 15 of us went to the nijikai, or second party, which was at a karaoke bar. I was encouraged to sing somthing, so I chose YMCA by the Village People, as most Japanese know it and will sing along during the requisite parts. Luckily the parties were in Taisha, so I could just scooter home afterwards, unlike when they take place in Izumo and I have to pay $25 or so for a taxi home. (They have zero tolerance here for drinking and driving, so no one drives to these parties - they all take taxis or have their spouse pick them up)

OK - back to December.

I arrived at the party, which would eventually have 50 people in attendance, before anyone else since I hitched a ride with Utani-san, who had to help set up. As people came in the door, they drew random numbers to see where they would be sitting, except for me - I was told where to sit. And when I say sit, I mean cross-legged on the floor on a small, flat cushion with a small table/tray on legs in front of you. I ended up sitting next to two people I didn’t know and who couldn’t speak much English. So the first part of the evening was a bit boring, and added to that my special meal of baked chicken came out way after everybody else had started eating. I’ll admit I wasn’t having the best time, when Togano-san, a great guy at the BoE who helped me set up my in-home internet access, stood up and started speaking to the whole group. He then started to pull a few envelopes from a container, and after their name was read, the people would come forward and receive a gift. That person in turn would pull the next name from the container. The very first woman called got a good gift - a nice and expensive bottle of alcohol - but the next 35 or so people got what I call “gag gifts” - things like dishwashing detergent, tea towels, shampoo, bug spray, etc. It seemed like a Japanese twist on the “white elephant” style of gift exchange I used to take part in with friends in the Bay Area.
With only about 10 names left, my name still hadn’t been called. It occurred to me that my name might not be included, since I’m not really part of the BoE in a strict sense. But the prizes stopped being silly and started to be pretty good. Large bottles of expensive sake, shopping gift certificates, etc. So I was hoping that maybe my name was among the names left to be called. With only 5 people left, Togano-san asked all the people still without a gift to stand up. My supervisor, clearly excited by my chances, had edged over to my seat by this point and when Tagano-san asked the giftless to stand, Utani-san motioned that I should stand up. So I was in the running! The #5 person got a gift basket of nice stuff, and the #4 person got an nice electronic dictionary. Only 3 to go and I still hadn’t been called. The remaining prizes were a digital camera, a “boobie” prize for the 2nd place person (a basket full of all the silly gag gifts) and a portable DVD player. Well, it’s no surprise to you reading this that I was called #3 and got the digital camera, a Nikon Coolpix 4100. But it sure was a surprise to me that night! I got up, with people cheering and clapping and claimed my prize, astonished at my good fortune. Ever since coming to Japan in July, I’ve wanted to get a digital camera to document my experiences here. I even had one picked out online, and was saving to get it. So the fact that I basically “won” one in a random drawing was the coolest Christmas present I could’ve hoped for. The timing was perfect and even with the language barrier my coworkers at the BoE could see how happy I was with my gift. Lots of exclamations of sugoi (great!) and subarashii (wonderful) were exchanged. Everyone wanted to check out the camera and some even jokingly offered to exchange their body soap or insect repellent for my camera. No doing! :)
So what started out as a boring and somewhat tedious evening ended with a completely unexpected bang. And in addition to the excellent camera, which has been great and I take everywhere with me now - my getting it acted as a conversation starter that evening that allowed many of my Japanese coworkers to come over and initiate a conversation with me - something they rarely do - so getting the camera had a delightful side effect.
I should point out that the party cost me 5000¥, the second party at a karaoke place cost me 3000¥ and the taxi ride home cost about 2500¥, so in all the night cost about ichi-man (10,000¥) or about $100. But you’ll hear no complaints from me.

Shimane Shutterbug

Trivia - Tuesday, March 15th

The song "Boss of Me" by They Might Be Giants is the theme song for which TV show?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):

Monday, March 14, 2005


Sunday was March 13th. For many, many years, that was a special day. It was our anniversary. We started going out in March of 1988, when I was a freshman in college and she was still a senior in high school. We broke it off in October of 2003. I got to spend time with a wonderful woman for 15 years. For that, I will always be grateful.

We don't talk so much anymore, and that saddens me, but it's the way of things I guess. Japan can be a very lonely place, and it would be nice to be able to chat with her from time to time. I don't think she reads this blog, but she does know about it, as we still email occasionally.

There are days when I don't think about her at all, but the oddest little thing can trigger a memory - music especially is a powerful reminder of the time we had together.

So here are two songs that will forever be linked to a very special person - these are for you H

She was, and remains, a huge Elvis Costello fan...

by Elvis Costello

Oh it’s so funny to be seeing you after so long, girl.
And with the way you look I understand
That you are not impressed.
But I heard you let that little friend of mine
Take off your party dress.
I’m not going to get too sentimental
Like those other sticky valentines,
’cause I don’t know if you’ve been loving somebody.
I only know it isn’t mine.

Alison, I know this world is killing you.
Oh, Alison, my aim is true.

Well I see you’ve got a husband now.
Did he leave your pretty fingers lying
In the wedding cake?
You used to hold him right in your hand.
I’ll bet he took all he could take.
Sometimes I wish that I could stop you from talking
When I hear the silly things that you say.
I think somebody better put out the big light,
Cause I can’t stand to see you this way.

Alison, I know this world is killing you.
Oh, Alison, my aim is true.
My aim is true.

The other song is by a new Irish singer/songwriter named Damien Rice who I came across during the time of our breakup. I can't recommend his debut album, "O" more highly - it's fantastic stuff and it was a tremendous source of solace during that tough time. You might have heard a snipet of this song in the trailer for the recent film, Closer.

The Blower's Daughter
by Damien Rice

And so it is
Just like you said it would be
Life goes easy on me
Most of the time
And so it is
The shorter story
No love, no glory
No hero in her sky

I can't take my eyes off of you
I can't take my eyes off you
I can't take my eyes off of you
I can't take my eyes off you
I can't take my eyes off you
I can't take my eyes...

And so it is
Just like you said it should be
We'll both forget the breeze
Most of the time
And so it is
The colder water
The blower's daughter
The pupil in denial

I can't take my eyes off of you
I can't take my eyes off you
I can't take my eyes off of you
I can't take my eyes off you
I can't take my eyes off you
I can't take my eyes...

Did I say that I loathe you?
Did I say that I want to
Leave it all behind?

I can't take my mind off of you
I can't take my mind off you
I can't take my mind off of you
I can't take my mind off you
I can't take my mind off you
I can't take my mind...
My mind...
'Til I find somebody new

Hopefully I will "find somebody new" but dating in Japan is going to be tough. I haven't given up hope, but I'm not holding my breath either. Perhaps appropriate given my current locale, but I'm very Zen about my romantic future - I hope to have one, but I'm not worrying about it much.

The Eeyore of Shimane

Trivia - Monday, March 14th

What single word did Elizabeth Taylor utter (as the voice of Maggie's first word) on The Simpsons?

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):
Elvis Presley's stillborn twin brother

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Taisha Sho - Mobbed by the adoring public

Taisha Sho - Mobbed by the adoring public
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

This photo captures what it's like for many JETs when we go to elementary schools. The kids just love having us there, and I often have to wade thru them to get to the door when I leave, etc. I feel like Gulliver in the land of Lilliput at times, but it's so much fun most of the time.

This is a very genki group of 3rd graders at Taisha Elementary.

I ate lunch with the 2nd graders at Taisha Sho the other day and when I was getting ready to leave, the teacher suggested I sign one student's notebook as she had been following me around all day. So I drew her a little Batman sketch and signed my name, and in an instant I had a line of 15 second graders all wanting me to sign various things. It can give you that rock star vibe at times, but it's all in good fun.
The kids that day taught me a Japanese game with a ball on a string attached to a hadle that has 3 cups and a peg (or "ken") on it. Much harder than it looks, but they were all masters. I'll have to get a picture of them playing with one.

Taisha Sho - "Too Cute!"

Taisha Sho - "Too Cute!"
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

One of the uber cute little 3rd graders at Taisha Elementary.
This cutie giggles everytime I get near her, and she loves to jump into any photo I'm taking.
I can get a little burnt out on the cynical nonchalance of my Jr High kids at times, or their apathy regarding English, but seeing my Shoogakkoo kids always recharges my batteries.

Taisha Sho - 3 yon nen sei girls

Taisha Sho - 3 yon nen sei girls
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here are 3 of my 4th grade girls at Taisha Elementary.
Giving the "peace" sign is ubiquitous in Japanese pics. I have to think up some other poses the kids can do, but whip out a camera for a candid or action shot and the kids invariably break out the peace sign.

Taisha - 3 san nen sei boys

Taisha - 3 san nen sei boys
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here's 3 buddies from one of my 3rd grade classes at Taisha Elementary.
This was a fun day playing "island hopping" and learning fruits and vegetables.

The Japanese word for apple is "ringo" which always makes me smile for some reason. The other funny thing this day was the teacher had cards with pictures of the various fruits, but the card with the orange on it was colored yellow - go figure.

Hinomisaki Sho - 1st & 2nd graders

Hinomisaki Sho - 1st & 2nd graders
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Some of the 1st and 2nd graders at Hinomisaki Shoogakkoo. This group walked with me down to the bus stop after school. Hinomisaki is about a 25 minute bus trip from Taisha, and it's famous for its lighthouse.

Trivia - Sat & Sun, March 12th & 13th

Who was Jesse Presley?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
C. The Arsenio Hall Show

Friday, March 11, 2005

Trivia - Friday, March 11th

On whose talk show did Bill Clinton play the sax in 1992?

A. Late Night with David Letterman
B. The Tonight Show
C. The Arsenio Hall Show
D. Politically Incorrect

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Tina Fey

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my niece, Brittany. Have a good one Britt!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Trivia - Thursday, March 10th

Who became Saturday Night Live's first female lead writer in 1999?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, March 9th

The band Ben Folds Five created its unique sound by leaving out one instrument entirely. Which one?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Hattie McDaniel in Gone with the Wind(1939).


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, March 8th

Which actress was the first African American to be nominated for (and to win) an Academy Award?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Sir Bob Geldof starred in The Wall.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Trivia - Monday, March 7th

Which British knight starred in a cult film based on a Pink Floyd album?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Peter Gabriel

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Trivia - Sat & Sun, March 5th & 6th

Who was the original lead singer for Genesis before Phil Collins took over?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Ludwig van Beethoven

Friday, March 04, 2005

Trivia - Friday, March 4th

Who does "Peanuts" character Schroeder idolize?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
David Bowie

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Trivia - Thursday, March 3rd

Which rock star makes a brief appearance as Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
C. Nuclear war

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, March 2nd

What is the Nena song "99 Red Ballons" about?

A. The ozone layer
B. World peace
C. Nuclear war
D. The famine in Ethiopia

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
D. Maurice Chevalier

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, March 1st

Which legendary French performer appears in the multiple Oscar-winning 1958 film Gigi?

A. Jacques Brel
B. Johnny Halliday
C. Edith Piaf
D. Maurice Chevalier

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
C. Robert Smith (lead singer for The Cure)