Thursday, June 30, 2005

Kiyomizu dera and its 3-story pagoda

Kiyomizu dera and its 3-story pagoda - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

This cool shrine and pagoda is practically in my backyard here in Shimane-ken. Some friends and I stopped by and checked it out on our way out to Tottori-ken to see the new Star Wars movie. Yes, I cross borders to see movies at a decent theatre and pay about $18 for the privilege. (A movie ticket here costs 1800 yen)

That's Trevor, Chris, Emily and Signe climbing the steps to the Pagoda. I joined them after snapping this pic.

Nishinoshima Sports Festival

Nishinoshima Sports Festival - 17
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

3 countries are represented by the people in this picture - Roger (left) is from Australia, Vivek (center) in from Canada and I'm a damn American. Actually, 4 countries if you count the ridiculous Scottish cap that Nigel put on my head.

But in Japan we're all just "gaijin" - the colloquial term for non-Japanese people, but mostly applied to Westerners.

This was at the BBQ party out on Nishinoshima in the Oki islands off the coast of Shimane. Internationalization - grass roots style.

Go nen sei classes at Taisha Sho

Go nen sei classes at Taisha Sho - 1
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I teach awesome kids!

Trivia - Thursday, June 30th

Which actor's first major role was playing Annie Hall's odd brother in the 1977 Woody Allen movie of the same name?

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

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, June 29th

Which dance club was widely considered to be the epicenter of the Manchester music scene in the 1980s?

A. Whiskey Bar
B. Hacienda
C. The Roxy
D. Hammersmith Odeon

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
D. A large loaf of bread

There is a great film from 2002 called 24 Hour Party People that documents the whole Manchester music scene that spawned seminal bands like Joy Division and Happy Mondays. Watching the film would also supply you with the answer to the above question. The film is a good rental.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, June 28th

In the 2002 film About a Boy, Nicholas accidentally kills a duck with:

A. A heavy book
B. His bike
C. A rock
D. A large loaf of bread

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
A. Jazz standards

Monday, June 27, 2005

Go nen sei classes at Taisha Sho

Go nen sei classes at Taisha Sho - 3
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

This was a fun day teaching the two 5th grade classes at Taisha Elementary and then eating lunch with them. The girl I tutor, Karin, is in this picture - she's in the 2nd row - fourth in from the left - and she's wearing suspenders and a skirt. Many of the kids are wearing their gym clothes instead of the normal school uniform.

I've uploaded tons of new pics from the past month - so just click on this pic and you'll be taken to my online photo album at Flickr. I'll hopefully get around to blogging them with descriptions this week.

Trivia - Monday, June 27th

Bjork's "Gling-Glo," recorded in 1993, features her singing:

A. Jazz standards
B. R&B
C. Electronica
D. Classical Music

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):
C. Milk

People often ask me what my favorite film of all time is... While it's hard to pick just one, I often reply that of the movies made before I was born in 1969, my all-time favorite is Singin' in the Rain. I've seen it, beginning to end, literally dozens upon dozens of times, and I enjoy it each and every time. A true classic.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Trivia - Sat & Sun, June 25th & 26th

In the 1952 film Singin' in the Rain, what was added to the rain to make the water stand out better on screen during the famous Gene Kelly title number?

A. Paste
B. Confetti
C. Milk
D. Coffee

Friday's Answer (highlight line below):
Catherine Zeta-Jones

Friday, June 24, 2005

Trivia - Friday, June 24th

Which Best Supporting Actress winner performed at the 2003 Oscars despite the fact that she was about to give birth?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
B. Tori Amos

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Trivia - Thursday, June 23rd

Which pop chanteuse made a cameo appearance singing at a party in the 2003 film Mona Lisa Smile?

A. Sarah McLachlan
B. Tori Amos
C. Madonna
D. Bette Midler

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Mike Post

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Trivia - Wednesday, June 22nd

Which prolific composer is responsible for an impressive number of TV theme songs - everything from The Greatest American Hero to Law & Order to NewsRadio?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Nothing - she simply had nothing better to do that day.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, June 21st

In the 1985 film The Breakfast Club, what did Ally Sheedy's character do to get her assigned to Saturday detention?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
C. "Hazy Shade of Winter"

Monday, June 20, 2005

Trivia - Monday, June 20th

Which Simon and Garfunkel song was covered by the Bangles for the 1987 movie Less than Zero?

A. "Bookends"
B. "Cecilia"
C. "Hazy Shade of Winter"
D. "America"

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):
Ned and Stacey

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Trivia - Sat & Sun, June 18th & 19th

Will and Grace star Debra Messing also costarred in what similarly named mid-'90s sitcom?

Friday's Answer (highlight line below):
Angels in America

Friday, June 17, 2005

Trivia - Friday, June 17th

Which critically lauded early-'90s Broadway play by Tony Kushner was adapted into an HBO miniseries starring Al Pacino and Meryl Streep?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Chorus Club

Chorus Club
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I had the day off from Kendo practice today, so I spent that time after school today wandering around and visiting some of the other clubs at Taisha Junior High.

This is the girls choir - I'm pretty sure we don't have a boys choir, and I'm not sure if a boy could join choir if he wanted to sing or not.

The first row in this picture contains some of my favorite 9th graders - all really friendly and a few, like Haruka in the center, are very good at English.
Today they asked me to help them with the pronunciation of the English words to a song they are learning. It was a very bizarre song about dandelions, written by a Japanese man and translated into English, which is the version they're singing.

Other clubs at my school that girls can join include: gymnastics, track and field, soft tennis, volleyball, art, science, brass band and the only coed sport - Kendo.

Art Club

Art Club
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

In addition to the sports clubs that are shown below, there are non-sports clubs: Art, science, chorus, brass band, and caligraphy.

This is a work in progress by one member of the art club, with other art projects in the background. Since comics ("manga") are EVERYWHERE in Japan, many of the kids seem to have an innate ability to draw, and I'm always amazed at the little sketches I get or the quality of the work if I ask the kids to sketch anything as part of an assignment.

Asuka and Ruriko

Asuka and Reina
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Two of my favorite 9th graders - Ruriko & Asuka. Asuka, on the right, was one of the students I coached last year, when she was an 8th grader, for a speech recitation contest. Her English is pretty good, especially compared to most of her classmates. So when I came around practice today to take some photos, she asked me in English, "Please join us." I thought I might get to hit a ball around a bit, but instead I did line sprints and criss-cross running - not my idea of a good time. :)

The amazing thing about almost all the clubs is that they all practice almost everyday unsupervised. No coach in sight. And they actually do practice - they don't just goof off like American kids would.

Soft Tennis Club

Soft Tennis Club
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

This is the girls team during practice. I like this photo cuz you can really see how scenic it is in my town with the mountains in the background. It was a really nice day - clear and warm with a nice breeze.

The girls practice separate from the boys, and I don't think they have mixed doubles at the JH level.

Soft Tennis Club

Soft Tennis Club
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Sometimes I give my camera to one of the students and let them take a picture of anything they want. This is one taken by another member of the soft tennis team.

Baseball team at Taisha JH

Baseball team at Taisha JH
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Here is the baseball team going thru their warm up exercises in their normal uniform.

Soccer and baseball are the two most popular sports for boys at my Jr. High, followed by Soft Tennis, Track and Field, Kendo, Judo and Gymnastics.

You can see the very large concete torii in the background that is a symbol that the famous IzumoTaisha shrine is nearby.

Soccer club

Soccer club
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

The soccer team practicing. It was hot today, reaching 30 C - which is about 86 F. There is no grass at Taisha JH, so the soccer club makes due on the dirt pitches. That's the main school building in the background.

Taisha Chu soccer ball

Taisha Chu soccer ball
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

The kanji on the ball reads "Taisha Chu" - Taisha is the name of my town and the last kanji means middle, hence chuugakkou - which means middle school or Jr. High.

Trivia - Monday, June 13th

What was the name of the Broadway musical that served as the climax to the 1983 John Travolta vehicle Staying Alive?

Weekend's Answer (highlight line below):
"Unchained Melody"

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Trivia - Sat & Sun, June 11th & 12th

Which Righteous Brothers song had a revival in 1990 thanks to its prominent use in the film Ghost?

BONUS: What other Righteous Brothers song became popular again thanks to its use in Top Gun?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Adidas. The song is called "My Adidas."

Friday, June 10, 2005

Trivia - Friday, June 10th

What footwear did Run-D.M.C. rap about in 1986?

Side note: The album that contains the song that answers the above question was a huge part of my childhood. I remember playing the cassette over and over again that year, and I recently purchased it again on CD. The album is called "Raising Hell" and despite being almost 20 years old now, still holds up pretty well I think. My friend, Chris, and I even paid money at one of those booths they had in the late 80s where you could lip sync to a song and make your own music video - we "sang" the song that answers this question. God - I wonder if he still has that tape??? :)

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
True. She was just made up to appear older.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Trivia - Thursday, June 9th

True or False: Estelle Getty, who played Bea Arthur's mother on The Golden Girls, was actually the youngest of the four main characters.

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
A. Tom's Diner (also made famous by a song by Suzanne Vega)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Pep Rally day at Taisha Chu

Pep Rally day at Taisha Chu - 2
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

After I went to Kobe, I came home with a renewed sense of purpose. I realized that my time here is short, and while I want to learn Japanese and the piano and travel, etc - my focus should be on my kids. And I have such GREAT students! I don't want to get bogged down in the complaining that so many JETs indulge in - can you believe that many of us complain about having too much free time (that we get paid for). While that's an oversimplification, and I understand the frustration of feeling underused, I realized that all that whinging is not helping my kids learn English. And then just today I got a "video letter" from the awesome Japanese-language students at the high school I used to work at in Encinitas, CA. They went around their high school and talked about their classes and their city - in Japanese! I can't wait to show it to my classes!
So I'm posting four pictures of smiles - smiles on my cool kids who make this job a pure joy at times.

This pic is of three of my 9th graders after the Pep Rally on Monday. Left to Right: Risako, Mai & Nobuko. All three are in my elective English class this semester - my favorite class. All three are really cool and friendly, always taking time to say hi or chat a little.

Taisha Jr High had a very Japanese style Pep Rally, with lots of speeches and organized singing. Not too rowdy by American standards, but fun nevertheless. Then Tuesday and Today were day long sports competitions for most of the sports clubs - we did OK in most events, but not stellar. My kids give it their best - which is most important.

So keep smilin' !!!!!

Kendo Tourney at Taisha Chu

Kendo Tourney at Taisha Chu
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

So yesterday Taisha Jr High hosted a city-wide kendo tournament. I spent most of the day in the gym, cheering my team on. They compete in mini-teams of 5 at first then have lunch and then compete individually. My team came in 2nd place in the team competition and one of our boys placed in the top 4 in the individual competition and one of our girls placed in the top 4 as well. Way to go!

Smiling at the camera is my buddy, Hitoshi. All the kendo guys got buzz cuts for the tourney - I didn't join them. :)

The girls Soft Tennis team at the Pep Rally

The girls Soft Tennis team at the Pep Rally
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

These are six of my 9th graders, all on the Soft Tennis team. L to R: Mako, Ruriko, Asuka, Yuuka, Nami, Shiori. Soft tennis is the only kind they play here at school. They play on dirt courts with a special, rubber ball that bounces differently compared to a regular tennis ball. They only play doubles as well. One of the doubles pairs on the boys team did really well and got first place in the competition yesterday. Woo-hoo - go Taisha Chu!

Almost all of these girls are super nice and outgoing - some of my best English students as well. And I like their black and red uniforms way better than the blue and black the boys wear.

Kendo Captain - Tatsuya

Kendo Captain - Testsuya
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

This is Tatsuya. He's a ninth grader and the kendo team captain for the 2nd year in a row. He's really patient with me when I ask him questions in my broken japanese, even suggesting at times that I ask in English, as he understands English pretty well, but is just a bit shy about speaking.

He has to command respect and instill discipline in the team, but he's very friendly and helpful too - a great kid!

Trivia - Wednesday, June 8th

What was the name of the diner where the Seinfeld gang hung out?

A. Tom's Diner
B. Monk's
C. Harry's Cafe
D. Sammy's

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Trivia - Tuesday, June 7th

On The Cosby Show, which kid wasn't around during the first season?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
She left his show to start her own rival talk show on the FOX network.

Batman Begins and Episode III

Here's some news about the new Batman film, Batman Begins, from the IMDB:

The first reviews are emerging for the next blockbuster flick, Batman Begins, and they're likely to bring much cheer to Warner Bros. officials, who are releasing it on June 15. David Edwards in the London Daily Mirror describes it as "a violent and truly scary film and definitely not one for the kids. For grown-ups, though, it could well be the ultimate superhero movie." Mike Goodrich in the British trade publication Screen Daily describes the movie as "a bold new vision of the DC Comics staple and further proof that [director Christopher] Nolan possesses abundant confidence and vision as a mainstream film-maker." And Kirk Honeycutt in the Hollywood Reporter comments that for "Nolan to turn Batman Begins into such a smart, gritty, brooding, visceral experience is astonishing. Truly, Batman does begin again."

I can't tell you how excited I am to see this movie! I'm a huge fan of director Nolan ("Memento") and I think he's cast the film very well. I'm more excited to see this in a way than I am to see the new Star Wars movie.

Speaking of Episode III, here's news about it's great box office performance so far:

Even as it dropped to third place, George Lucas's Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith established another record: fastest movie ever to cross the $300-million mark. It did so on its 17th day of release, one day faster than last year's Shrek 2. Trade reports noted that with $308.8 million Sith has already passed the $307 million taken in by the original Star Wars in 1977. However, using a standard inflation calculator, the original film's take would be worth nearly $1 billion in current dollars. The highest grossing film of the series was The Phantom Menace, which earned $431 million during its run. Sith appeared stronger overseas than in the U.S., earning $38.5 million, a drop of just 37 percent, according to Daily Variety.Its worldwide total now stands at $617 million.

I'm still hoping to go to Korea to see ROTS before it opens in Japan on July 9th, which happens to be my Mom's birthday.


Monday, June 06, 2005

Trivia - Monday, June 6th

How did Joan Rivers invoke Johnny Carson's wrath in 1986?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
C. Jennifer Lopez

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Trivia - Sat & Sun, June 4th & 5th

Who portrayed the slain Tejano singer Selena in the 1997 film Selena?

A. Penelope Cruz
B. Salma Hayek
C. Jennifer Lopez
D. Ariadna Gil

Friday's Answer (highlight line below):
Love! Valour! Compassion!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Me and some of the Shimane Crew in Kobe

Kobe - JET recontracting Conference - 6
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

L to R:
Lisa, ever the lady; Dave, trying hard to be hard; and me, oblivious to it all - maybe it was the super-hot mutton curry we were eating at this cool Sri Lanka restaurant we found down one side street in Kobe.

I'll post more photos from the conference and our nights out soon.


at the Sri Lanka restaurant

Kobe - JET recontracting Conference - 7
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

L to R:
Satoko, who lives in Kobe; Rusty, just happy to be alive; and Emily, whose head is being trampled by the elephant in the mural behind her.

Outside Sannomiya eki in Kobe

Kobe - JET recontracting Conference - 14
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

This is what many of us think of when we think of Japan - lots of hustle and bustle and neon and crowds, etc.

But now when I think of Japan I'll think of lush green mountains and endless rice paddies and rural scenes. So it was nice to be in a big city again. This was taken just outside Sannomiya station in Kobe.

Trivia - Friday, June 3rd

Jason Alexander starred in which film based on a hit Broadway play about eight gay men spending the summer together in the country?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Talk Soup

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Trivia - Thursday, June 2nd

Oscar-nominated actor Greg Kinnear acted as the host of which popular Comedy Central show from 1993 to 1995?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Four: Taxi, Who's the Boss?, Hudson Street, and The Tony Danza Show

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Happy Birthday Dad

My pops, John Harris, is celebrating his birthday today. He's turning Bill & Ted's favorite number this year, so next year will be a big bday for all of us in the family and I'd like to be in England for the party, but it may not happen.

My parents, who were both born in England, now live there enjoying their retirement. They live in a small village near the western border with Wales, called Burnham on Sea. It's in Somerset, if you know England. And I promised my Mom that I would go visit them in England for Christmas this year. Last year I stayed in Taisha for Xmas, mostly to be here for the awesome New Year's celebrations that take place from January 1-3. But it was a lonely time, as almost every other JET I know in Shimane went home or on vacation so there was nobody to hang out with. So this year I decided I would go spend a Christmas in England, something I haven't done since I was 7 or 8 years old.

Anyway - Happy Birthday Dad! Hope it's a good one, and I can't wait to see you and Mom later this year.


Trivia - Wednesday, June 1st

In how many TV series has Tony Danza played a character named Tony?

Yesterday's Answer (highlight line below):
Vic Ferrari