Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Trivia for week of May 29th

Alfred Hitchcock, when accepting the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award in 1967, gave one of the shortest acceptance speeches in Oscar history. What was it?

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

side note - Hitchcock is one of the undisputed masters of cinema, and yet he NEVER won an Oscar for Best Director. But many of his films are routinely mentioned in the top ten lists of best films of all time - Vertigo, North by Northwest, Rear Window, Notorious - the list goes on and on. Treat yourself and watch a Hitchcock film soon - you'll be glad you did!

Mr. Rogers

My friend Zach had a link to this 7 minute clip on YouTube and I'm so glad I saw it.

The clip is of Mr. Rogers - a famous American host of children's programming on TV. He's testifying before a senate subcommitee in 1969 (the year I was born) to try and secure funding for what would become PBS - Public Broadcasting - a TV channel in the states with no commercials that shows almost entirely educational programming such as Mr. Rogers Neighboorhood and Sesame Street.

I grew up on these two shows in the 1970s. I have distinct memories of coming home from kindergarten at around noon most days and plopping down on the floor in front of the TV to eat my cheese sandwich and watch an hour of Mr Rogers and Sesame Street. I LOVED these shows.

Watching the clip made me remember how reassuring Mr Rogers and his show were. I know he passed away recently, but I hope his legacy lives on and similar shows on PBS are airing for this and future generations.

After I finished watching the clip I caught myself crying - just out of nowhere welling up. I think I got so emotional because of childhood memories, but mostly I think it was because Mr. Rogers was such a decent guy - I think about how he dedicated his life to making children he never met feel loved and cared for and that is such a special and rare thing. Plus - I'm just a big softie about certain things.

Bring around so many young kids at my 5 elementary schools these past two years has really made it clear to me how important it is to let kids that age know how special they are and how much they can achieve if they work hard and try their best.

Anyway, watch the clip if you have time, and thanx to Zach for the link.


Monday, May 29, 2006

Tag - you're it!

My friend and fellow Izumo area ALT, Titia, "tagged" me on her blog, so now I have to fill out the following survery or be forever shunned by the Shimane Blogger community. :P

I didn't even know you could be tagged in cyberspace - i didn't know what it meant until I saw Titia in person the other day and she explained it to me...

So here we go...

4 Jobs I've Had in My Life:

Comic Book Store manager
Jr League soccer referee
Advertising sales for a cool firm called PRN
Laserdisc/DVD/Video Store guru

4 Movies I Could Watch Over and Over Again:

The Empire Strikes Back
Singin' in the Rain
The Muppet Movie
(and believe me, after all the years working at video stores, I have watched these flicks MANY times)

4 Places I Have Lived:

Dallas, TX, USA
Santa Monica, CA, USA
Berkeley, CA, USA
Taisha, Shimane, JAPAN

4 TV Shows I Love To Watch:

Prison Break
Battlestar Galactica

4 Websites I visit:

4 Places I have Been on Vacaction:

London, England
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Fukuoka, JAPAN
Walt Disney World, Florida, USA (pre-EPCOT)

4 Favorite Foods:

Chicken Fried Steak with mashed potatoes, gravy and biscuits
My Mom's Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding

4 Places I would rather be right now:

in England with my folks
in San Diego with my sister
in Korea seeing fricking X-MEN 3

4 Bands I Can Listen to over and over again:

It has to be a "band"? hmmm...
The Cure
The Police
Men At Work

4 Pet Peeves:

teachers and co-workers who speak at me in rapid-fire Japanese even tho they know I can't understand
smoking in restaurants
constantly being sweaty in the summer here
JETs who do nothing but complain about Japan and then re-contract to stay another year

4 People I am Tagging:


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Star Wars on Robot Chicken

You gotta love - great place to see all kinds of clips you'd otherwise miss.

My friend, Pat, sent me a link to this clip - a parody of Star Wars. Really, REALLY, REALLY FUNNY!


Welcome to new readers!

Hello All,

I just got back from Kobe, where I attended the JET conference for recontracting ALTs.

I had to present a workshop on using Audio & Visual Aids in class. By all accounts it went pretty well - both my workshops were well attended and audience reaction was very positive.

I was able to recommend some of the tools I use to keep my classes interesting and I was also able to plug the new Shimane ALT produced DVD made by the San In Film Project.

So I want to say "Hello" and "Welcome" to any new readers who may have found my little corner of the internet after attending one of the workshops in Kobe.
I was really very appreciative of all the feedback I got - many ALTs came up to me and said how much they enjoyed my presentation or even more important that they liked one or two of my ideas and hope to use them in their own classes.

For those that did attend, here is a list of some of the songs I've used in The Lyrics Game that have worked well:

The Wind by Cat Stevens
For You by Duncan Sheik
Love Me Tender by Elvis Presley
What a Wonderful World by Sam Cooke

All are short with little repeats and are clear and easy to understand.

Also, I can't recommend enough subscribing to the Daily Yomiuri. I use it in my classes all the time to play the newspaper game - a popular & fun activity in my schools. And of course to decorate my class rooms, as mentioned in my workshops. I also like to do the crossword, but be warned it's rather American-centric. :)

Click Here for a special offer from JET Set on subscribing. It's worth the money.

I also realized that in the first session (#2) I mentioned the Whose watch is this? game, but didn't mention Romaji Bingo and vice versa in the afternoon session (#5). If you want to know more about either of these games or anything else in the presentation, feel free to email me.

Thanx again for all the great feedback and I'm so glad so many of you got something good out of the workshops.
Good luck with your teaching and post a comment or send me an email and let me know how your classes are going.

Jason H.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Comix rule!

Comix rule!
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I love American comic books!

All types, including romance stories, suspense, gothic horror, humor, and of course Superheroes.

My kids really don't know American superheroes that well, despite the plethora of recent film adaptations.

So I set up this display in my Language Lab classroom, which is used almost exclusively for English teaching, with some actual comic books in bags pinned up around the two large posters.

I bought the posters on eBay, and they were pretty cheap to send folded - much cheaper than buying a poster in a bookstore here. And I still get comics shipped to me every other month from the fine folks at the Comic Gallery in San Diego, where I used to work long ago.

Most Japanese manga (comics) are in B&W - so my kids are always interested in the full color monthlies and the difference in art styles.

It was just Free Comic Book Day in America, so I have some nifty free comics coming in my next shipment to give away as prizes in my classes.


My kids only watch the best movies!

My kids only watch the best movies!
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

My local video store sells off it's overstock VHS rental tapes for about 300 yen (about $3) after they stop renting as much. I've been able to get some great titles for my kids to watch - all in English with subtitles.

My school is gonna have quite the cool library before I leave.


mmmmm - Food!

mmmmm - Food!
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

My cool stateside friends and my relatives (both in England and America) send me care packages with food I miss.

So I decided to put the packaging to use and created a small display at my JH. The signs say, "These are some of Jason's favorite foods." and "What is your favorite food? Please tell me."

So thanx to Uncle Terry, Michele, my Big Sis and my Mom for sending the packages! I savor every mouthful!


Isogashii desu ne! (So Busy!)

So Busy!
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

This is my schedule board on my desk at my Junior High.

I use it so my 5 JTE (Japanese Teachers of English) can sign up to have me come to their class.

I also write in my visits to Elementary school so they know when I'll be gone and unavailable.

Last week was a drop dead busy week!

There was no 6th period at my JH on Monday or Thursday, so out of 28 possible periods, I taught a class in 22 of them!

1-# means 7th graders
2-# means 8th graders
3-# means 9th graders
san san and iki iki are my special needs classes
Opt means my special elective English classes
and the red entries are my shogakko (elem school) visits

They are getting they money's worth out of this ALT, that's for sure.


But I can't really complain because I talk to ALTs (especially High School ALTs) that teach 5 classes in a whole WEEK! I'd rather be super busy than super bored.

Trivia for week of May 22nd

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

Last Week's Answer (highlight line below):
C. Charlotte Church

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Random thoughts - May 2006

I've been busy lately. School is back in full swing and it seems I have more classes than last year. I'll soon start visiting elementary schools again too, so my days will remain full until the summer break in late July.

July will bring new friends in the form of a new crop of JETs coming to Izumo and Shimane, but it will also see some of my good friends depart. A few have decided to stick around for a third year like me, but it seems two years was enough or just right for many of the JETs that first arrived with me back in 2004.

I've really been trying to come up with new lesson plans and games for my Jr High classes - half to keep myself interested and also to give the kids something new - by now many of them have played some of my more reliable games many times. I also decided to start an English language 4-page newsletter for each grade level - made by me of course. The first issue for my 7th graders was well-received, so I'll try and get the 8th and 9th grade editions out soon.

I've always considered myself pretty handy with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc, but the interface on the school computer is all in Japanese and I have an Apple laptop, so my desktop publishing options are a bit limited.

I've also got two mini-projects going on in May - one is a yearbook/annual for all the Shimane JETs that I'm helping a friend edit. We've been gathering submissions and will soon compile the book - a keepsake for all the leaving JETs and cool memory item for the other JETs.
I've also been selected to give two short presentations at a JET conference in Kobe next week for other ALTs who have decided to stay for a 2nd year. I have to speak on using audio/visual aids in the classroom - not a topic I'm 100% confident I can speak about for 70 minutes, but I'm sure it'll be good. I did a similar thing all through college - worry about a presentation/paper/test right until the last minute and then generally pull it off better than I'd hoped.

And of course I'm coming home everyday to watch the current sumo tournament - good stuff this time as the dominant champion - Asashoryu - is out with an injury, so it's opened up the field a bit and about 6 wrestlers could pull out a victory.

After almost two years of faithful service - my washing machine broke last week - it's developed a leak. So I've been going to a coin-op laundry over in Izumo - not a bad place, but a little pricey. I'll have to talk to my supervisor about getting it fixed, since it's owned by the city - but that means breaking out my dictionary and looking up all the words I'll need for the conversation. One of my car headlights is out too. My mom always said these things come in "threes" so I'm waiting for something else to break.

For my yearbook piece, I'm gonna do a rif on the famous questionaire made popular on Inside the Actor's Studio.

How would you answer these questions?...

01. What is your favorite word?

02. What is your least favorite word?

03. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

04. What turns you off?

05. What is your favorite curse word?

06. What sound or noise do you love?

07. What sound or noise do you hate?

08. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

09. What profession would you not like to do?

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Hope all is well in your corner of heaven.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Trivia for week of May 15th

Which singer's debut album was released when she was just thirteen?

A. Britney Spears
B. Debbie Gibson
C. Charlotte Church
D. Brandy

Last Week's Answer (highlight line below):
Christopher Guest, director of "Best in Show" and "Waiting for Guffman"

Monday, May 08, 2006

Trivia for week of May 8th

Which actor-director is a pioneer in "mockumentary" filmmaking, and relies on a regular group of actors who are gifted at the improvisation his films require?

Last Week's Answer (highlight line below):
B. Tommy Lee Jones

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Clubs at Taisha Chu

Clubs at Taisha Chu
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Last Tuesday, May 2nd, was the last day of school before the Golden Week holidays - a series of 3 national holidays in a row that give many Japanese about a week's vacation each year in early May.

Since I was not going anywhere this year, I went to work on Monday and Tuesday - many JETs take those two days off in order to have about 10 days off in a row (including the weekends).

Tuesday was a mellow day although I taught all 4 classes that day, so I was busy at first. But we ate bento lunch early that day, at about 11:30, and then cleaned the school in preparation for the visiting parents. That's why I'm wearing a tie - I taught 4th period in an ichi nen sei class where the parents could come and watch their students being taught. After 4th period, at about 2pm, the parents and most of the staff went off for various PTA meetings, and the kids either went home early or went off to their clubs for daily practice.

Having nothing to do, I decided to wander around and chat with the various clubs and snap some pics. You can see some more pics by clicking on this one.

This upcoming week I've promised myself that I will start working out with the kendo team again - I had stopped during the very cold winter months, but I need to start getting some decent exercise again. But today is the start of the May Sumo tournament, so my desire to rush home each day to watch sumo for the next two weeks may supercede my desire to get sweaty with a big bamboo sword. We'll see. :)


PS - what do you think of the tie? I just bought it. I'm so fashion-challenged - I need to know if it will go with any other color shirts other than the white one I'm wearing here.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Is Margaret Cho happy?

I'm a big fan of Korean-American comedian Margaret Cho.

Her concert DVDs are really funny, extremely vulgar and quite thoughtful as well.

She was the first Asian-American to have their own TV show - the ill-conceived and ill-fated 1994 ABC sitcom All American Girl.

She describes what it was like to be on the show in her brilliant DVD I'm The One That I Want. A must see!

So I'm curious if she's at all happy with the current state of Asians on American TV. Because it occured to me the other day while watching my current favorite show - Battlestar Galactica - which features the amazing and very hot Grace Park - that THREE of my current favorite shows prominently feature Asian actresses. (Although, ironically, none of them are Asian-American - two are from Canada and one was born in Korea).

Did I mention that Grace Park is really HOT! OK, OK, enough of that.... :)

One of the other two actresses is the phenomenal Sandra Oh, who plays doctor Chritina Yang on the ABC medical drama Grey's Anatomy.
I've been a fan of Sandra's career since her debut in a Canadian indie film called Double Happiness in 1994. Recently she was so perfect in the great comedy, Sideways.
She is so much better utilized on this show than Ming-Na Wen on ER, where they have never known what to do with her character.
And she has some fun confounding stereotypes on the show - she's aggressive instead of demure and she punctures the notion that all Asian are alike, responding on one show to a fellow doctor's request that she help translate for a Chinese
patient - "I grew up in the valley. And besides, I'm Korean, not Chinese."

And the third actress is the graceful and alluring Yunjin Kim, who plays Sun on the best show on TV - ABC's LOST.
Kim was born in South Korea and plays a Korean wife on the show who hides the fact that she's learning English from her traditional husband. Already a big star in Korea, Kim is now turning heads in Hollywood and while she doesn't get that much screen time on LOST, every episode featuring her and her on-screen husband (played very well by Daniel Dae Kim) has been among the series best. And they have the luxury of speaking their native language on the show and having it subtitled for the American audience, a rare occurence for a recurring character on American TV.
I read somewhere that due to his childhood in America, Daniel Kim knew very little Korean before he did Lost. He has said that Yunjin Kim, who is fluent in both English and Korean, has been invaluable in coaching him on his Korean, which has apparently improved. Ironically, to the audience's knowledge, Daniel's character knows nothing but Korean.

So three pretty and talented Asian actresses on some high-profile shows in America. And all of them have Korean heritage! I'll have to wander over to Margaret's blog to see if she's made any comments on this recent trend.

Lastly, I also noticed this year that the much-hyped Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue included a half-Asian model named Aline Nakashima.
Not a common occurence in that magazine either - but it's easy to see why they picked Aline - she's truly stunning.

OK - enough salivating over the hot women - see you later.


I'm not a complete chowder head

8th grade was a longggggggg time ago for me.

Nice to know that I haven't forgotten everything I learned....

You Passed 8th Grade Science

Congratulations, you got 8/8 correct!

Beach BBQ day at Taisha JH

San Nen Sei hiking
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

My Jr High has an annual event each April - the entire school hikes up the coast from Taisha toward Hinomisaki and each grade camps out and BBQs for the day.

Last year it was windy as hell, but this year the weather was slightly better - not great but at least it didn't rain the whole day.

The kids all bike down to the local beach and then we all set out by grade up the coast road to a "beach" (really just a rocky place with lots of trash) where the kids break out all kinds of pots and pans and wood and make fires and cook yakiniku, yakisoba, okonomiyaki and other tasty Japanese foods.

It's a fun day and it's also good exercise.

My kids are always more open to chatting with me in these relaxed situations and it gives me a good opportunity to hang out with them outside of the normal school routine and rules.

This year my desk in the staff room is with the 8th grade teachers, so I'm assigned to them when we do group activities like this. My 8th graders this year are a good group overall - and the 8th grade class is slightly smaller than the 7th and 9th grade classes with only 4 homerooms whereas the other two grades each have 5 homerooms.

Marching home after the BBQ I was teaching some of the kids to chant, kinda like when you march in the military. Silly stuff like "We are Taisha Chu - yes we are! We're gonna walk cuz we can't run far! Sound Off! 1-2. Sound Off! 3-4" that kinda thing.

So they asked me to get up at the end of the day and lead the whole class in the chant - so I just had them say the numbers and clap. It was funny and the head teacher for the whole grade was really happy they all did something together. So it'll be interesting to see if they invite me to go on the 8th grade school field trip to Osaka and Kyoto this year.

Anyway - click on this pic and you can see all 23 pics from that day on my Flickr site.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Trivia for week of May 1st

Al Gore shared a room with which popular actor when they were both students at Harvard?

A. Harrison Ford
B. Tommy Lee Jones
C. Kevin Costner
D. Dennis Quaid

Last Question's Answer (highlight line below):
All My Children