Some holiday cheer :)
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
Just plugging myself here. More good stuff all about me! :)
Seriously, it's kinda funny that I now have so many people watching my videos and reading this here blog. I do the same stuff, just now I get more comments and feedback on it.
I do get asked about my YouTube user name from time to time. My channel name is "Myargonauts." Most people get the reference, but a few are clueless.
Way back in the dark days of AOL, when I got my very first email address, I wanted something that referenced "Logan's Run" - my favorite sci-fi film of all time. But Logan5, the name of the main character, was taken. I tried and tried to think of something, without using my actual name.
Eventually, I came up with "myargonauts," which is a reference to the famous greek myth about Jason and the Argonauts. Jason searched for the Golden Fleece on a ship called the Argo - so the men who sailed with him were called Argonauts. Since I'm Jason, they are "my argonauts." Not very clever, but I liked it. And it's a name that has stuck for over 10 years now.
My buddy, Koichi, was nice enough to give me a great write up over at his blog, called Tofugu.com.
Click Here to go to the page. I wish I had some web design or layout skills and I could make this blog much more presentable.
Anyway, it was really cool of Koichi to give me a nice shoutout - so Thanks Koichi!
He's got a great site, so click around once you're there and check it out. His front page today features an interesting article on the Japanese lyrics to the Xmas song "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer." Good stuff!
Today, December 25th, was the last day of 2nd term at school - just another working day in Japan. I did dress up as Santa for my Jr High kids tho. I stood outside the entrance and said "Good Morning" in my best Santa voice and handed out stickers and shook hands.
From tomorrow I start my winter vacation. I have about 10 days off in a row, but I won't really be doing much. I'm pretty poor at the moment, so no travel for me. So I hope to spend some time updating my Flickr site and all 3 of my YT channels and this blog too. We'll see if the laziness takes hold or I actually get some stuff done.
I do have my Japanese tutor tomorrow. I continue studying even tho I'll most likely be going home next year. It's almost weird to say "going home" since I now consider Taisha and my apt here my "home." By the time I leave next July, I will have been here for 5 full years - that's longer than I've lived anywhere in the same house/apt as an adult.
2009 is gonna mostly be a painful year for me in many ways. I'll rush around trying to get things done before I leave - tasks I want to accomplish, places I want to visit, etc. - and always I'll be thinking in the back of my mind - this is my last graduation/class field trip/Osaka sumo trip, etc.
I'm really excited that I get to go to Tokyo for a few days in early February. I haven't been back to Tokyo since July of 2004, when I first arrived in Japan for JET Orientation. I know February isn't the best time weather wise to be visiting the capital of Japan, but I plan on making the most of my trip. I'd really like to visit Tokyo Disneyland, so hopefully I'll be able to work that in, even tho right now I have no one to go with, and the idea of going to Dland by myself is rather depressing.
I have a Japanese female friend in Osaka/Kyoto who I was going to invite, but she just sent me an email today inviting me to her wedding party that same weekend. Funny world innit? :)
It's 1:20am here and an American Football game is about to start on NHK, so I'm off to watch that. (I don't have work tomorrow so I can sleep in!!) The snow is hitting my windows and the wind is blowing hard. It was almost a white Christmas, but not quite. Hope your holidays are going well.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Enjoy a nice Christmas tale of Santa, read to you by some of my great students and myself with a fairly inconsistent English accent (apologies to my Mom and Dad).
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I recently passed 1000 subscribers to my main YouTube channel.
Thanks to them and others who stop by to watch my vlogs, my videos often end up on the Top 10 most watched or most discussed list for all the people making vids in Japan.
It's pretty cool and if you're a subscriber and you're reading this too, then I thank sincerely for your support.
I have some good stuff planned for 2009, so stay tuned! :)
Saturday, December 20, 2008
This is mostly for my students, many of whom really like the J-pop band, NEWS, that this young actor/singer is from.
The report shows them staging a live version of the first HSM movie in Japanese. And he has to kiss his leading lady on stage.
farewell to summer community concert - 15.jpg
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.
I posted a bunch of pics of me and my kids as we finished our summer vacation and started to prepare for the big event of the year - Sports Day in September.
Above is a picture of some of my local elementary kids - mostly 4th to 6th graders, in a combined band playing in the "farewell to summer" community concert.
I spent the last days of summer at my schools, even tho classes wouldn't start until the first week of September. My 9th graders were at school each day too, preparing for their upcoming Sports Day.
Here you can see one class - the Red Team - taking a break in the quad after working on their group dance and cheer.
some students are assigned to work on the costumes the students will wear during this group dance routine - here you can see one of the more elaborate costumes to be worn by a green team leader:
Some of the kids are assigned the job of making the huge class posters that inspire their teams to victory. This is a cool design from my 2nd Jr High's Red Team - and I helped them come up with their English motto - "Red Fire - Burning to Victory!"
It was hot! You can see all of us in the pic below have sweat towels draped around our necks - they're essential in the 30.C+ heat and humidity of the Japanese summer.
It was great to hang out with my 9th graders in a relaxed atmosphere at school - goofing around and having fun. I get along great with this group - I've been teaching them since they were 5th graders at elementary school, so we're comfortable with each other - comfortable enough for me to allow them to try and tie my hair up above my head - didn't quite work tho... :)
So that's about it for my August update. I had about 375 pics to sort thru to find the best and most appropriate ones to post to my Flickr account.
Looking ahead to my September update - I have an overwhelming 1.362 pictures to choose from. I take a staggering amount of pics on Sports Day every year, and this year I had two Sports Days and I also visited Taisha High School and took pictures there as well.
Hopefully I have time during my winter holiday to get those pics posted.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Monday, December 08, 2008
Jacob & friends
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.
Hey Gang -
Jacob says "Konnichiwa!" Jacob is the green dragon from the Chinese zodiac in the picture above. I've collected Jacob and his friends over the years from a small craft shop in Hinomisaki. Jacob was the last one I needed and now I have all 12.
I spent some time over the weekend updating my Flickr site with a bunch of new pics. I'm going thru my backlog of pics by month, so this batch is from August of 2008.
This update post will highlight some of the pics involving me and school and my students and events I went to during summer vacation.
The next update will be about other ALTs and JETs and some of the fun we had in August. And then update #3 will be about the preparations for Sports Day, which got underway during summer vacation.
Speaking of SD prep, I did upload a few pics from the earliest days of preparations, like this one below of my kids in Taisha working out their team dance routine:
One fun event I went to this past summer was a chorus concert in Izumo featuring both my Jr High schools and also former students who are now at Taisha High School.
Ang's kids, some of whom were once my students:
I also had a great time in Mid-August at the Taisha town festival, the goen matsuri.
I got to see tons of my students dressed up in their summer yukata (casual cotton kimono) and plenty of people turned out in the summer heat to enjoy food stalls and games and entertainment:
(Do I look good in glasses?)
Lastly, I had a great time listening and lending support to both my schools' brass band clubs as they competed in the kentaikai, or prefecture-wide tournament.
I snapped tons of great pics of my genki band kids in Matsue, and I also traveled to Ohda to see my C-Team band (mostly 7th graders) compete in their tournament too.
So that's about it for this first update. I hope to blog about the other two batches of pics later this week.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
If you're curious what kind of things you may be teaching if you get this JET gig to teach in Japan, then here is a peak into my last two days at work this week.
I spent periods 1-4 on Monday and Tuesday interviewing every 7th grader (ichi nen sei) in one of my Jr High schools.
I had to ask each 12 or 13 year old a series of 15 questions, and they had to answer in English.
They had the questions in advance, and I didn't try to trick them or ask them out of order, etc.
Just a straight forward test of their speaking skills. This is why I'm here. So my kids, out here in very rural Japan, have an opportunity to speak with a native speaker, even if it's in this type of scripted format.
The teacher in charge of these 140+ kids is doing a good job with them this year, and most of the students did really well, answering each question as best they could.
The great thing about this for me is that I get a chance to learn a little about each kid - what music they like, if they have siblings, what club they're in at school, etc - so I can start putting a name to the face and more of a personality to each kid. Some are shy, some are super genki, some obviously really like English and study hard, and some could barely answer any of the questions.
I recommend this type of activity highly to any ALT with the time to do it.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Welcome to Jason's Book Club. :)
I talk about 5 books related to my life here in Japan. I provide links to each book at the YouTube page for this video.
I also try out a new Pepsi flavor, Pepsi White, and briefly show my new kotatsu at the end of the video.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Tom is a young guy from Australia. I used to watch his vlogs about being a foreign exchange student at a Japanese high school. after he finished his time there, he decided to stay in Japan.
Watch this cute vid if you've wondered what Disneyland in Tokyo is like.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
A thrilling finale to an exciting end-of-the-year tournament.
watch for my commentary at the beginning, and then we focus on a great match between to fantastic wrestlers.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
This is one of my favorite series on YT.
This type of collaborative video seems like it was invented for YouTube. Friends in different places film themselves playing their part of the song, send it to one person in their group and he edits it all together to make a whole song.
really well done. They have lots of other songs, including some excellent Beatles covers, so click the video itself to be taken to their homepage.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Sumo has started again, but unfortunately I have been so busy that I haven't been able to watch everyday.
I caught this highlight show on NHK late Friday/early Saturday at about 2am. So it's all in Japanese, but I throw in plenty of my own commentary.
I'm sad that I can't travel to Fukuoka and watch this tournament live, but I hope to post more bouts as the tournament goes on.
Enjoy some quick highlights of the last 5 matches from Day 6 - Friday the 14th.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Ever wonder what some basic foods cost in Japan? Or what I feed myself?
Then watch this vid I shot this past week after a trip to my local grocery store.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
A Japanese woman who also posts on YouTube came to my town with her daughter in October to visit my local shrine, IzumoTaisha.
She contacted me thru YT and we decided to meet up so I could show them around for a few hours.
So enjoy this video with more footage of the beautiful IzumoTaisha. I will truly miss this place when I leave next year.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
HY have been one of my favorite J-pop bands for a while now, but recently I've been listening to their album "Street Story" over and over again, which is unusual for me with Japanese music.
But I really like their melodies and that they share lead vocal duties between the main male vocalist and the female keyboardist, who both have interesting voices.
Anyway - I'll have to rent their new CD soon and put it in my iTunes so I have something new of theirs to try.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I've been actively posting to YouTube for just over two years now, so I marked the occasion with the short video above, which I filmed at the local Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo.
I've had a fun time with my YouTube channel, and I plan on posting plenty more vids in the coming months before I leave Japan next year.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
I've been a Beatles fan what seems like all my life.
I had an article I wrote about the way their music has affected my generation published in Rolling Stone magazine.
I've read all the biographies, listened to every album, seen all the films.
And now I have YouTube. It's a great resource to search for interesting Beatles footage, like the montage of clips in the video above. The sound quality is particularly good for a clip like this - the makers must have had access to the sound board for the vocals.
Modern groups, such as The Backstreet Boys, or The Spice Girls, or Britney Spears, and the reaction they evoke from their teenage fans will often be compared to Beatlemania, but it's not the same. There will never be another Beatles. They were of a time and a place and the impact they had is eternal and crosses all borders.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I used to leave a comment on every new subscribers channel page - a quick thank you for subscribing. But I've added so many people in the past few months that I'm now at least three weeks behind.
Having a channel where youu give advice is both good and bad. About once a week now I get a PM over at YT that reads something like this...
you probably get these thankyou emails all the time, heck, you probably get emails that start off saying 'you probably get these thankyou emails all the time' all the time haha.
anyways i have watched all the jet vlogs and im so glad i did because its exactly what i want to do with my life when i get myself a bachelors degree, now i have a good idea of how to prepare and some of the things i should expect to experience.
Id just like to say i think it was a very kind thing of you to do, making all the jet vlog's to help all the people interested.
so thankyou very much.
Hope you have a good life.
And believe me, I appreciate everyone of these emails. It's nice to know that not only are people watching my vlogs, but that they find them helpful or even inspiring.
But I also get a ton of poorly worded or simply unreadable emails. And these from people that want to one day work as English teachers. And I also get asked a lot of silly questions now - about living in Japan mostly, but I get some really wacky questions as well.
I think the most annoying ones for vloggers like me - who have a bunch of vids on our channels - is the type of question that we've answered many times before in previous vids or that could easily be answered with just the simplest Google search.
And my viewership is tiny compared to some of the big YouTube vloggers that have many thousands of subscribers - i can only imagine what there inboxes must be full of.
I'm really happy that YouTube has given me an opportunity to reach out and help potential JETs and people interested in living in Japan. I've met a bunch of interesting people online from all over the world.
So thanks for watching and stay tuned - more to come!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Star Wars toys on Pepsi Nex - 4.jpg
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.
Anyone that's known me for a while will tell you I like to collect things. DVDs, CDs, comics, etc.
I also went thru an action figure phase in my 20s - usually Star Wars and comic-related figures.
I don't really collect any of that anymore, but coming to Japan has opened up a whole new avenue of collecting for me.
Japan makes cool toys. No doubt about it.
And they often attach small version of these toys to food products - mostly beverages - as an incentive for you to buy them.
Over the past 4 years I've collected all kinds of these "omake."
I've got Snoopy figures, The Incredibles figures, Disney dioramas, etc.
Recently, to celebrate the arrival of a big Star Wars fan convention in Tokyo, the makers of Pepsi Nex - a diet Pepsi cola that I really don't drink, attached the kick-ass Star Wars "bearbrick" toys to their 20 oz bottles.
So I dashed around for 3 or 4 days, hitting all the local conbinis (convenience stores) and I was able to get a complete set of 16. Yoo-hoo!
What I'll do with them - I'm not really sure, but they sure are cool! :D
I took two out of their package (gasp!) and one dangles from my key chain, and the other dangles from my daily bag.
The other really cool omake I got into was tied into the World Cup in 2006. Coke came out with these round discs with a soccer ball-style flag of each participating country. So there were 32 to collect. The hardest one to find was Japan - no big surprise there. I was able to get 29 of the 32 before they disappeared from shelves.
I had a few duplicates too.
I kept em, thinking that maybe down the line I would complete the set and then just sell the whole collection on Ebay.
But this past summer I taught a lesson to a group of local Japanese boys going to Ireland to play soccer in an international tournament. And I ended up giving each of them one of the discs.
I still have about 8 discs - I kept all the "big name" countries, cuz they are pretty cool.
They had a great series of metal pins for the Olympics recently, and I got two the first day I saw them, decided I would try to get all 12, and the next day they were GONE. Oh well - at least I drink Coke. Anyway want a Pepsi Nex?
Sunday, October 05, 2008
My last summer festival in Japan in my current location.
I had a great time seeing all my students and having some great "stall food." :)
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
If you're in America and are going to vote in November, please take the time to watch this vid and really consider who you're voting for.
a few wee moments of silliness...
this one really made me laugh out loud!
Monday, September 22, 2008
This is a good example of my Sumo coverage on my YouTube channel.
I tape certain matches off my TV, watching the English play-by-play, and provide my own commentary on the wrestlers and the action.
I've really come to love Sumo over my years here, and will certainly miss it when I leave.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
Richard, the former JET who started his own business promoting English education in Japan, has just posted an hour long seminar he presented on teaching elementary kids on YouTube.
He posted it in six 10-minute segments, and this is part one.
It's worth checking out if you're interested in ESL teaching.
PS - the other five parts can be found on YT by clicking on the YT logo on this vid.
I'm finished with Sports Day.
I went to three this year. The first one was at my main Jr High- Taisha on Friday the 5th.
Then the next day, Saturday the 6th, I went to Taisha High School and got to see my friend, Ang, and a bunch of my former students.
Finally, this past week on Thursday the 11th I had Sports Day at my 2nd Jr High - Hamayama.
It's been an exhausting two weeks, but it's so, so, so much fun that I'll really miss it come this time next year.
Blue was the color to be this year, as the Blue Team won at both my Jr High schools.
I've had a rare experience as an ALT, having been at the same school for 5 years now, and getting to participate in 5 consecutive Sports Days at Taisha JH.
I had a great time this year and I took tons of pictures and many minutes of video.
The above clip was me sitting down in the background, intending to film a little wrap-up tag for something I'll edit together later, and the emotion of this being my last year at TJH just came over me and I got a little choked up.
For the students, especially the 9th graders, this is THE big event of their year, with only bunka sai (culture festival) left ahead of them before it's all about studying for the rest of the year.
Thanks for watching.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Just a text post to let you know what's happening with me these days.
I'm not sure how many "readers" I have left at this blog, since most of my time is now spent on my YouTube channel.
The wind got knocked out of my sails a bit for updating this blog, but I still care about it, and hope to be back more often.
As always, September is a busy time for me. Now that I have two Jr High schools, I have two Sports Days - both of which just took place. They are incredibly fun events, but really exhausting, so I'm very happy that this weekend is a 3-day weekend in Japan, and I have Monday off.
Of course, I don't have any money to do anything, but that's fine, since I just want to rest anyways.
It's weird working at a job where I've been recognzied for doing a good job, yet I haven't gotten a raise in 4 years. I knew this about teaching on JET when I took the job, but it's tough. Also, my tax situtation has changed, and while it's too complicated to explain here, basically I know make about $250 less every month, so my salary has actually gone down. :(
Makes is hard to travel and enjoy my final year here, but I'll manage.
Of course, I really don't have any friends to go off and do things with anyway, so it's always the struggle of "Do I want to go to such-and-such a place by myself."
I have a few friends in Shimane that when I see them, we have fun hanging out, but not the type of friends that just call up to do stuff on the weekends.
Part of the problem of staying 5 years is you outlast the other JETs you arrived with. Of course, I could make new friends, but it's a little tougher for me I think since I'm older, but I don't want this to sound like a pity party. If I wanted to be more connected to the other JETs here, I probably could be with a little effort on my part. But I guess I've gotten used to living alone and being alone, and for the most part it doesn't bother me all that much. I'm not gonna lie and say I'm not lonely, since as a single guy for 4 years now, I am, but my life is my life and I enjoy it for what it is.
A great thing has happened since I've become invloved in the Japan vlogging community - I now get invited to attend functions in other parts of Japan, and just invited to hang out with other Japan vloggers when I'm in their city. It's a really nice community made up of some fine folks, and I hope to take them up on their offers of hospitality before I leave Japan.
The main thing keeping me super busy in the next few weeks will be practicing with my students for upcoming English speech contests.
I have two 9th grade girls at each of my 2 JHs comepting in the Lafcadio Hearn contest that takes place on Sept 28th.
So that means practicing with 2 of them at one school from 4:15 to 5pm and then driving to the other school for practice from 5:15 to 6pm.
This means that I'll miss watching Sumo some days, but I still intend to vlog about watching and I'll be able to see all the matches at the weekends.
This year I had two fantastic sports days at both my schools. It was hot and sunny most days, and I have quite the farmer's tan right now, but I really had a great time. It's such a relaxed way to come back to school after summer vacation - I get to wear shorts to school everyday and we don't have any classes - that it'll be hard to get back into the regular routine this week.
I also went to the Sports Day at my local high school, and saw a bunch of former students who are now HS students. I took so many pictures at all 3 events, and this year, I really shot a ton of video clips. What I'll do with all this footage and pictures, I don't know, but it's nice to have as a reminder of the fun we had.
I'm watching a ton of American TV from iTunes right now - i just subscribed to the new seasons of "Prison Break" and "Terminator - The Sarah Connor Chronicles." And I look forward to the start of "Lost" and "Heroes" and other favorite shows that will begin again soon.
I'm still making my way thru the HBO show "The Wire," and I'm simply amazed at how good a show it is. I'm in the middle of season three right now.
I haven't been to the movies in a while (see above item about having no money), but I hope to go tomorrow since payday was Friday. I'll probably see Hancock, as there isn't much else out here right now.
I go to the movies by myself, and this has never bothered me, as I've been doing that since I was 16.
Anyway - I think that's about enough for now. I hope all is well with you.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Best Tennis Team in All of Japan - 2.jpg
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.
Go Taisha Go!
The boys tennis team at my main Jr High went all the way to the All-Japan finals and won, getting the trophy for best Jr High tennis team in the whole country!
Basically, you start out at the prefecture level - the kentaikai - where you compete against teams from your local area. Taisha won.
Then you move on to the regional competitions - a gathering of teams from 5 or 6 prefectures - in our case, the Chugokutaikai, comprising of teams from Shimane, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Okayama and Tottori. Again, Taisha won.
So then it's on to the zenkokutaikai - the All-Japan finals. And Taisha WON!!
It's kinda like winning "nationals" in America. America has 50 states; Japan has 47 prefectures.
So a big CONGRATS to my boys - four 9th graders and four 8th graders who did Taisha proud! And their coach, Matsumura sensei, who I've known since I arrived. He's a good guy and they all deserve the win!
Picture above is their arrival back at school during summer vacation - a bunch of kids and staff hung around until their bus pulled in at 5:30pm and we had a little celebration ceremony.
Picture below is them after winning the local Shimane competition.
Way to go guys!!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Welcome to my new series of video logs (vlogs).
After all the great feedback I got during my vlogs about being a JET, I've decided to keep making vlogs, mostly about my life here in rural Shimane.
I hope you enjoy these new videos.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Of course, since they mainly cover events involving Japanese athletes, I'm seeing a lot more badminton, judo, archery, and fencing than I would ever see watching in the States.
But I'm also getting my fair share of gymnastics, swimming, track & field, soccer, baseball and other sports I know.
Just today I was home for lunch and I caught the men's swimming 4x100 relay - it was a fantastic race, with an incredible finish and I found myself shouting at the TV, cheering on the American team.
If you missed it, I'm sure you'll see the replays of it forever - it was quite a memorable race.
Here is a great article about it I stole from the MSN homepage:
BEIJING -- The U.S. men's 4x100m free relay team won gold Monday in the most exciting, most record-breaking, most amazing, thrilling, unbelievable relay anyone could ever imagine, evidence of exactly what Jason Lezak, who swam the greatest anchor leg in relay history, had to say when it was all over:
"People always step up and do things out of the ordinary at the Olympics."
This was even so much more. Extraordinary in every regard.
The U.S. men -- Michael Phelps, Garrett Weber-Gale, Cullen Jones and Jason Lezak -- set a world record, finishing in 3:08.24. France took second, Australia third.
The victory gave Michael Phelps his second gold medal here in Beijing -- in a race that had shaped up to be one of the most difficult on his quest for eight. The French and even the Australians had widely been considered prerace favorites.
"He's on a mission to win eight," Jones said of Phelps, "and we're happy to be a part of it."
The French, moreover, had been smack-talking before the race.
Jason Lezak storms from behind as the U.S. men win gold and smash the world record.
Afterward, asked on television who's talking now, Weber-Gale said, "We are. United States of America."
"C'est le sport," one of the French racers, Fabien Gilot, said afterward, which means literally, "It's sport," but which, in this context, really means, "That's why they race the race."
American swimmers had won every edition of this relay in the Olympics from 1964 through 1996. In Sydney in 2000, the Aussies won, the Americans finishing second. In Athens in 2004, the South Africans took gold, the Dutch silver, the Americans bronze.
So this, for the Americans, meant redemption as well.
In particular for Lezak, who had swum the third leg on that 2000 relay, anchor in 2004.
"I had more adrenaline going than I ever had in my life," Lezak said.
"America has a great tradition of winning that relay," he also said, adding just a moment later, "All of us knew what we're capable of, but to actually do it, to get that tradition back -- it's a phenomenal feeling. Still, right now, I'm in disbelief."
Swimming is a sport that translates elegantly into numbers, and the numbers from this one race will be studied and analyzed for years to come:
Before the preliminaries at these Games, the world record in the 4x100 relay stood at 3:12.46. That mark was set by an American team swimming in 2006.
One day ago, during the prelims, a U.S. team broke that record, swimming 3:12.23. (Under Olympic rules, the swimmers in the prelims get gold medals, too. Nathan Adrian, Matt Grevers and Ben Wildman-Tobriner swam with Jones.)
One day later, in the Olympic final, to go and then chop 4 seconds off that mark is -- well, it's not done. It took 20 years for the record to drop 4 seconds to the 3:12 range. In 1988, at the Seoul Olympics, an American team lowered the record to 3:16.53.
But that's not all.
The times in the prelims were so fast that it took 3:13.8 to get into Monday's final. Russia, at 3:14.07, didn't make it -- a second and a half off the world record, and not good enough for the Olympic final. Incredible.
During the final, five teams went under the mark the U.S. team had set in Sunday's prelims -- the Americans, French, Australians, Italians and Swedes. World record-breaking times for the Italians and Swedes -- and no medal.
But that's not all.
Phelps swam the lead-off leg for the Americans. He swam 47.51. The world record, going into the race: 47.50, by France's Alain Bernard, lining up Sunday to swim the French anchor leg in the relay.
Phelps and the Americans swam Sunday in Lane 4, the French in 5, the Australians in 3.
To Phelps' left, in Lane 3, Eamon Sullivan of Australia pulled lead-off duty as well. He touched ahead of Phelps, in 47.24 -- a world record in the 100m (lead-off legs are eligible for national and world records).
Phelps' mark is now the American record. His prior personal best had been 47.92, at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials.
The fastest Olympic lead-off split before Sunday: South Africa's Roland Schoeman, with a 48.17 in 2004.
If swimming translates into numbers, it also is about so much more.
Weber-Gale caught, and passed, the next Australian swimmer, Andrew Lauterstein. At 200 meters, the United States was in first.
Then, though, the French, behind Frederick Bousquet, surged. At 300 meters, it was France, the United States, Australia.
Bernard was off the blocks first.
Then went Lezak.
At 350 meters, Bernard was .18 of a second ahead.
One lap to go.
The noise inside the arena was ferocious.
And at the other end of the pool, the Americans were going berserk.
"I was just pounding on the blocks, saying the f-word, saying, 'Come on!' " Weber-Gale would say later.
"It's not for television," Jones would say of what he was yelling.
"I was going nuts," Phelps said. "You know, as soon as he came off that last wall, I just started going crazy. You know, Jason also said before, 'You know, this isn't a 4 by 100, this is a 400. We're a team.' "
In the pool, Lezak had seen Bernard hit the far wall first.
"I'm not going to lie," Lezak said. "When I flipped at the 50 and I still saw how far ahead he was, and he was the world-record holder 'til about two minutes before that, when Sullivan led off with the world record, I thought, it really crossed my mind for a split second, there's no way.
"Then I changed. I said, you know what, that's ridiculous. This is the Olympics. I'm here for these guys. I'm here for the United States of America. It's more than -- I don't care how bad it hurts, or whatever, I'm just going to go out there and hit it.
"Honestly, in like 5 seconds, I was thinking all these things -- you know, just got like a super charge and took it from there. It was unreal."
Which, indeed, it was.
At 30 meters, Bernard was still ahead.
At 20 meters, Bernard was still ahead.
But Lezak was closing.
At the wall, Lezak got his hand out in front. He touched a mere .08 of a second in front of Bernard.
Before Sunday, the closest finish in the event in the Olympics had been in Sydney, when the Australians beat the Americans by .19 of a second.
With the pressure of all of it on him, Lezak threw down the fastest split of all time, 46.06.
At the Olympics, people step up and do extraordinary things.
Enjoy the Olympics - Go Japan! Go USA! :)
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
While everyone in the States is scrambling to get tickets to see The Dark Knight (I'm very jealous!), this new trailer for perhaps the next great comic-influenced movie will appear over the weekend.
The Watchmen is the greatest comic book series I've ever read. And that's saying something. It's a deconstruction of the superhero mythos that was originally published in 12 issues back in the late 80s.
The author, Alan Moore, is a true genius, who along with artist Dave Gibbons crafted a towering work that redefined comic literature for the next two decades.
I highly, HIGHLY recommend that you seek out the affordable trade paperback of the comic series. It's an amazing read!
And I have high hopes for the film. Director Zach Synder also directed last year's amazing comic adaptation of Frank Miller's "300."
The visuals and costume design and attention to detail evident in this trailer have me hoping for the best.
I always thought Watchmen would be best served by a mini-series on a channel like HBO (it's R-rated material), but I have faith in Synder to pull off a feature film version.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
I shot this footage about 5 weeks ago, after the 3-day CHESS camp had finished.
I was on my way home in the afternoon and driving down from Mt Sanbe, when I was once again struck by how beautiful Shimane is.
Living in the inaka can be boring at times, but Shimane is surrounded by wonderful nature. The mountains, rivers, lakes, and the Japan Sea are all within a hour or less from where I live.
So enjoy the silence and I'll have another vlog up soon.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
This is one of very favorite series of vids on YouTube.
This guy started doing these for fun, got noticed by Marvel, made the rounds at last year's Comic Con and even made some ads for this year's New York Con.
Fun stuff - simple, yet very witty.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Some songs just never get old - I love this song! I still listen to vintage Cure all the time - one of my absolute favorite bands from the 80s.
This video is so Eighties!! :)
This is also one of the happiest "sad" songs I know.
"yesterday I got so old
I felt like I could die
yesterday I got so old
it made me want to cry..."
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Dave is a great YouTuber who does interviews with YouTube's biggest stars.
He decided to give birthday shoutouts to his subscribers, so I sent in a few pics and at about 2:10 into this video, he wishes me a happy birthday. :)
Monday, July 07, 2008
Friday, July 04, 2008
Here is short tour of where I live. My apartment is pretty nice - I like it.
I shot this with my new digital camera, and the quality if pretty good.
Monday, June 30, 2008
Sunday, June 29, 2008
CHESS 2008 Day Two - before dinner - 20.jpg
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.
CHESS is the Camp for High School English Students of Shimane. We have it every year in the early summer. High School students from all over Shimane prefecture come together for 3 days of fun and English activities led by over 40 JETs.
This year we changed things up a bit, having a Super Quiz on the final day instead of the traditional skits. And it was my job to put the quiz together. :)
So I visited each workshop to gather information for the quiz questions and I came up with an idea to have to the students ask the JETs six questions over the first two days and then quiz them about the JET's answers. It worked well as a way to make the kids talk to the JETs during meals and freetime.
I posted over 140 pictures to my Flickr site, so click on this picture to be taken there and enjoy the pics!
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Ms Aki is one of my favorite Japanese pop singers. Unlike the majority of female pop stars here, she isn't image driven, but instead is a true musician, writing and performing her own songs.
This song got famous since it was featured in a very popular video game. You can download it from iTunes in both this Japanese version as well as an English language version.
Angela Aki speaks English and Japanese as she was raised in Japan, but moved to Hawaii at the age of fifteen where she graduated from 'Iolani School. From there she moved on to George Washington University where she graduated with majors in politics and music.
I'm a lazy person. I try not to be, but my desire to just sit around often overwhelms my more productive nature.
What does this have to do with masterful violin playing?
Well, being as lazy as I am most of the time, I have an intense admiration for people that possess skills or talents that must have taken them hour upon hour of dedication and practice to accumulate.
Professional and Olympic athletes, virtuoso musicians and singers, scientists, prolific authors, etc.
I've tried to learn a musical instrument - it's not easy. It takes hard works, hours of practice and diligence, and of course, a smidgen of talent helps.
So I find myself coming across these types of videos on YouTube and just watching with a big smile on my face - I'm glad some people are willing to sacrifice for their art and intellect and give the world what we need - beauty and intelligent information.
Some people ask me if I have faith in anything, and I always say yes - I have faith in other human beings here on this planet right now.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
If you've been a regular reader of my blog here, then perhaps you've noticed small changes that have happened over the past few months.
I stopped blogging like this - pure text - and started posting more and more from my YouTube page and updates from my Flickr picture site.
I kinda miss just typing my thoughts and updates on my life here in Japan. So I hope to do more of these types of posts in the next year.
Also, most of my "blogging" time has been spent recently producing a series of video blogs (vlogs) on my YouTube page aimed at helping new JETs on their upcoming journey to Japan.
I've gotten some great feedback from many soon-to-be ALTs, and I'll continue making these vlogs for the next 6 weeks or so.
If you're reading this post and checking out my blog as a result of seeing the link over at my YouTube page, then WELCOME. I hope you find some of the information here helpful as well.
While I haven't blogged as much in the past year about my life as a JET, if you search thru the archives, I think you'll find lots of interesting posts about what life is like for a rural ALT.
When I logged on tonight, I noticed that I've posted to this blog 777 times, making this post #778. Wow! I started this blog back in August of 2004, and after re-reading some of my older posts, I think it's an interesting time-capsule of my time spent here in Shimane.
The biggest change to my blog (and YouTube page) is the deletion of pictures and videos that feature my great students.
After getting some feedback from some of the teachers I work with regarding Privacy laws here in Japan, I've decided to remove almost all the pictures and videos I have up publically that include my kids.
I hated doing this. My students are the reason I'm here, and they really enjoyed my blog and getting to see themselves, etc. But I want to respect their privacy and keep everyone happy, so the pictures and videos are gone for now.
If that was the main reason you checked out my blog, then I'm sorry, but they won't be coming back.
I will still post pics to my FLICKR account, but I'll be more selective about it. And all my pictures are still on my site as "private" pictures, so if you know me and you've added me as a "friend" on Flickr, then you should still be able to see all my pics. I just can't make them available to the general public anymore. Same goes for my vids on YouTube. If I know who you are and you have a YT account, add me as a friend and you should still be able to see all my vids.
I've gained a bunch of subscribers despite all the videos I had to delete, and I suspect that many are new ALTs, so I'm glad that the videos are helpful. I have plenty of ideas to keep me busy for the next month or so.
My sumo vids are popular too, and I'll be reporting on each tournament this year. Next up is the Nagoya tourney in July.
I'll be busy this summer with the normal stuff - getting my kids ready for speech contests, taking some needed vacation days, etc. But unlike last year, when no new JETs came to Izumo, this year we have 4 new ALTs coming to the Izumo board of education and a few more High School ALTs coming as well. Since I'm the only ALT staying another year in the Izumo BoE, I'm sure I'll be busy showing the newbies around and helping them adjust to their new lives in rural Japan.
I have one more year to go on JET from August 2008 to August 2009. I'm the first ever ALT to stay 5 years at one school. It's been an interesting ride. I still don't like having a 2nd school, but I've come to really love my new kids at Hamayama Chu, and so I am happy that I got the chance to meet them and be their teacher.
Things could change once again as far as what schools I'll have this summer, so I'll keep you posted.
If you've been with me since the first 100 posts back in 2004 or just recently started checking out my blog, I appreciate the time you spend with my thoughts and ramblings. I hope you enjoy your time here. :)
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
Here is the first video in a series I hope to post on my YouTube page about helping new people coming to Japan in the summer for their first year on the JET Programme.
I've gotten some good response to my first two videos in the series, and doing simple searches on YouTube shows that no one else is really offer this type of advice for newbies.
I'm about to post the 3rd video, and I hope to have a new one every 4 or 5 days. If you're a new JET, I hope you find these videos helpful for your preparations. Please feel free to leave a comment or question below.
It's been an exciting Sumo tournament so far, and the last few days are coming up, leading up to the final matches on Sunday.
This video features Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu fighting against Mongolian yokozuna Asashoryu.
Kotooshu is having a great tourney so far - still undefeated after 12 days. And he just beat the other yokozuna, Hakuho, today to put himself firmly in the driver's seat for his first Emperor's Cup.
I make videos about Sumo on my YouTube channel - so check those out if you want some English commentary.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Monday, May 19, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
So this kid made a lot of headlines when he first hit the Japanese music scene.
His grandmother is Japanese, from Okinawa I think. So she used to listen to this style of Japanese ballad, called enka.
It's a popular style still, since about 20% of the Japanese population is over 65 years old.
It's unusual for a younger person to want to sing enka, and even stranger for a foreigner who is not a native Japanese speaker to want to try.
He's pretty good too - if you closed your eyes you wouldn't even know he's not Japanese.
His name is JERO, and this was his first single, called UmiYuki, which was released back in February of this year, where it entered the Japanese charts at #4.
more info here:
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Here is an example of the all-girl version of J-pop that I mentioned in my post about Hey! Say! JUMP.
This group is a bit like latin boy-group Menudo, with an ever-changing line-up of singers.
According to Wikipedia, Morning Musume is Japan's Best Selling Female Group.
Musume (娘) in this context, means girl, although the literal meaning is "daughter." The group is particularly well-known for its ever fluctuating line-up, with "graduations" and auditions occurring nearly each year.
Enjoy the bubbly genkiness. :)
Friday, May 09, 2008
HS kids back at TJH for a visit - 5.jpg
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.
My Thursday (May 8th) was pretty uneventful. Coming back to school on Wednesday after a two day holiday at the beginning of the week, the kids all have standardized tests this week, so very few classes for me to teach.
I taught one class Wednesday, one class Thursday and will teach two classes today.
So I busy myself with studying Japanese and updating my blog. :)
I also work on my English board and prepare some for future lessons.
On Thursday, I noticed the kids were having PE outside, so I grabbed my camera and went outside to snap some pics....
Simple PE class of running laps around the school building and recording their time. The PE teachers are cool with me wandering about, chatting with the kids and snapping pics.
After school, I had planned to workout with the kendo team for the first time in a LONG time. So I brought a change of clothes and a Gatorade and a sweat towel. I keep my kendo sword at Taisha Chu, so I was all set.
The new 7th graders were a bit surprised to see me, but the older kids are used to me hanging out at their practices.
But it's been a while since I last worked out with them - probably 7 or 8 months since the last time.
And boy can I feel it today!
My arms are so sore!! ude - itai!!
We did simple stretches at first, and then moved on to stroke pratice, swinging our swords in rhythm to the team captain's count of ichi-ni-san-shi-go-roku-shichi-hachi (1-8).
This extension of my arms, with a weighted sword in my hands, is what made me sore today. It's been too long since I've done these motions, but it was good to get active again after a long winter of non-activity.
I then went into the training/weight room for some lifting, but didn't last too long - my arms already starting to hurt.
It was about 5pm by this time, but I wanted to walk around a bit before heading home, visiting the other clubs as they practice outdoors, like soccer, track & field and tennis.
So I wandered about, chatting with students here and there.
While walking back to the staff room I saw three of last year's 9th graders walking up to me - it was Yuta, Shota and Kazuto - three great kids from last year back from high school for a visit.
It was nice to see them and catch up, altho it's only been a few months since they graduated.
Yuta has switched from playing tennis in Jr High to playing volleyball at Taisha HS.
Kazuto and Shota are still playing baseball and now go to Shougyou HS over in Izumo.
I was ready to go in and change to head home, when more groups of last year's kids started arriving - I guess it was "visit your old Jr High day" - so I stuck around to chat and take pics for about another hour.
Even tho it's only been a few months since I've seen them, they all look older in their high school uniforms.
It's also interesting what club they choose in HS - some stick with the same sport or activity, like brass band, that they did in Jr High. Others change or stop doing club activities all together to concentrate on studying.
So my Thursday was a boring day that ended well. I went home pretty tired and just made a quick pizza for dinner before watching some YouTube and the BBC version of Robin Hood that I'd downloaded off of iTunes.
This weekend is kinda busy for me - I'll come to Taisha Chu on Saturday morning to watch the baseball team take on Taki Chu, then head out for lunch with some Japanese friends, then I have tutoring in the evening. Sunday I'll watch a kendo tournament here at Taisha Jr High and then relax in the evening. Next week I'm at Hamayama Chu for the week.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
One of my coolest action snaps ever!
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.
A few weeks ago at Taisha Chu we had the annual Sports Test for all three grades - a battery of tests that every students takes to measure their physical fitness.
I was able to head over to the gym on two of the days to snap pics of the 1nen sei and the 3nen sei.
They have to do a variety of things - sit-ups, line sprints, standing broad jump, a grip test, and some kind of flexibility test using a sitting device that looks like this...
My new 7th graders are not shy around me at all - they've all known me since they were 3rd graders in elementary school.
It's great to already have a grasp on their personalities and habits, even if I don't know all their names yet. They should be a great class of kids.
It's a different story over at Hamayama JH, where I only know about half of the new 7th graders, and even the half that I do know, I only just met last September.
So Taisha still feels like "home", but I'm enjoying my time at Hamayama more and more.
We didn't have school lunch the same day the 3nen sei (9th graders) had their sports test, so I walked around at lunch and snapped some pics of the kids eating their bento lunches outside in the nice weather.
So click on any of the above pics for more from these few days. And the pic at the very top of this post was a happy accident - I had changed the setting on my camera and was testing it out when I got this snap of one of the 7th grade boys flying through the air. cool shot! Of course, I wouldn't know how to replicate taking this shot if I tried, but I like the effect of having the background slightly blurry while the subject is in focus.
I've been posting a series of videos on my YouTube channel (in 日本語 or in English )that follow me on my recent trip to Osaka to watch live sumo.
This video is at the beginning of my journey, on the train from Izumo to Okayama.
So check it out, and there are about 8 others to watch if you'd like - me on the streets of Osaka, in my hotel, at the Sumo arena, and on the shinkansen or bullet train.
Monday, May 05, 2008
The whole Taisha team!
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.
I spent Saturday, the 26th, in nearby Matsue and Kashima, watching and cheering for two of the clubs at my schools - Volleyball and Track & Field.
Volleyball was in the morning, and unfortuantely, I only got to watch my Taisha girls play once, and they were eliminated - after having also lost their first match of the day.
The girls from Hamayama JH - seen below....
Did a little better - winning their first match, but losing their second, meaning they were also eliminated from further playing.
Unfortunately, I couldn't stick around to get some pictures of Hamayama's team, since I had to rush off to watch Track & Field over at the Sports Park in Matsue. I had wanted to take a group pic of the HJH girls before their first match, but they asked if I'd wait, since they prefer their red uniforms to the ones they were wearing at the time - their green uniforms. So I'll have to catch them at the next tournament.
I did get some great group pics of my Taisha girls tho, including shots of me with the 9th graders....
and fun shots of the five 8th graders on the team...
I really love cheering at Volleyball matches, as I get to be loud and genki and no one seems to mind. And the girls on each team at both my Jr High schools are great kids - always appreciative of me showing up to cheer them on.
It's great that I can support both schools when I go to their regional tournaments, but tough when they have to play against each other.
Kashima is about 15 minutes north of Matsue, and about an hour by car from Taisha, but they have a nice sports facility there, and I don't mind the driving - I actually enjoy the drive - it's scenic and I can listen to my CDs and just chill out a bit.
After Vball I drove over to watch T&F, but most of it was over by the time I got there. I did get to see the girls and boys 4x100 relay - none of my schools did that well.
It was incredibly windy, and just sitting under the tent with the team was a challenge in the high winds.
So that was basically my Saturday from 9am to about 5pm - but I love spending time like that with my kids - away from the classroom and in their chosen environment, where we can have casual conversations in mostly Japanese with a little English thrown in.
June is the big month for tournaments, with the regional, prefecture-wide competitions happening that will determine which schools go on to the next level. Good luck to all my teams!
Sunday, May 04, 2008
The #1 film I'm looking forward to this year!
Here's a quick rundown of Japanese release dates for some of the big summer movies:
June 21st - Indiana Jones 4
July 5 - Speed Racer
July 12 - The Incredible Hulk
August 9 - The Dark Knight
Sept 20 - Iron Man
can't wait to see each one.
In case you're curious what kind of music is popular in Japan right now, here is a good example.
Of course, groups playing instruments are popular too, as is Japan's version of Hip-Hop, but this style of heavily produced J-pop is VERY popular, especially with my students, who are at that less discerning age of 8-14.
This particular group is very N*Sync like with most of their videos being heavily dance orientated, so this video is a bit of a departure.
The basic formula is repeated over and over again here - gather together a bunch of attractive under-18s and teach them some moves and dress them in the latest styles and have them "sing" some bland song about love or dreams, etc.
It's done with girl groups as well of course, with Morning Musume being one famous example. (MM is a group of about 12 girls, age 10-16 who sing and dance choreographed numbers - Musume means daughter in Japanese)
This music is not to my liking, but I end up listening since my kids like it so much. I'll often ask my students who their favorite singer is, and they'll respond with the name of one of the boys from this group or NEWS or any of the many similar boy-idol groups promoted by Johnny's Jiumsho - a huge talent agency here in Japan.
Anyway - this single comes out in about 3 weeks and I'm sure I'll be hearing it tons at my schools.
Opens June 21st in Japan!
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Drawing Day at Old Taisha Station with 3nen sei - 87.jpg
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.
Hello Everyone -
HUGE picture update! I've uploaded like 9 new pages of pictures, all of them taken last week during an annual event at Taisha Chu - Drawing Day.
I usually go with the 3nen sei (9th graders) to IzumoTaisha shrine, but we'd had bad weather the previous week, meaning that our Drawing Day was delayed, and IzumoTaisha is in the middle of an important festival now (more on that in a minute), so the 9th graders and I went to Old Taisha Station instead. Not quite as nice as spreading out over the grounds of the shrine, but a new backdrop for my pictures, so that's cool.
Click on the above pic to be taken to about 90 more from that afternoon of Drawing Day fun.
I also briefly hung out with the 8th graders (2nen sei)...
and also the brand new 7th graders (1nen sei)...
so there are pics of them as well.
I really couldn't ask for better kids and we had nice weather this day, so a good time was had by all.
As usual, my sunglasses were a big hit, with all the students, both boys and girls, asking to try them on. You'd think that no Japanese adults ever wear sunglasses... Of course, none of the teachers on a school trip will wear sunglasses, but still....
The other thing that happened at the end of the day was related to IzumoTaisha shrine.
Once every 60years, they perform a ritual at the shrine that only takes place every 60 years... err...ummmm... ok - you got me - I have no real idea what all the fuss was about, but it has something to do with the spirits getting a new place to live and transferring their essence to a new building - or something.
Anyway - it's good timing for me, since it only happens every 60 years, which means it won't happen again until 2068.
The main benefit for the public is that they open the very inner sanctum of the shrine to the public for a few days each weekend in April and May - usually you're only allowed to approach the inner hall on the three days following New Year's Day, but for these special days they're actually letting you go inside.
So it's a big deal. The town of Taisha made commemorative hats for EVERY family in the town. And there was a torch relay thru the town - maybe it was sacred fire. I really should know more about this stuff.
Anyway - all the kids in my school put on their commemorative caps and we lined the main road leading to the entrance of the shrine and all clapped as the last leg of the torch passed by.
I have some video of it and I'll post it soon.
I also snapped a few pics....
Lastly - my YouTube channel is chugging along quite nicely. I'm going to start making some Vlogs for the new JETs who will be coming to Japan in July and August.
The video below was shot on Drawing Day. Enjoy!
Monday, April 21, 2008
JETs annual visit to Taisha Sho - 13.jpg
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.
Every year, the new 6th graders at my local elementary school take a school trip in April and visit the Peace Park in Hiroshima (about 4 hours away by bus).
While at the park, they are assigned to talk to any visiting foreigners, speaking English with them and asking for their autograph.
So every year, I invite other ALTs and CIRs from my area to come to Taisha Sho and help the kids practice their English.
This helps cuz these kids are so used to me, I'm not "scary" anymore, so meeting new foreigners, even tho none of my friends are scary, is a better simulation of what they might encounter.
And we had a good range of countries represented - Angelo is from South Africa, Hannah is from Wales, Nicola is from New Zealand and Eric is from Texas, which is big enough to be its own country. :)
My thanks to them from helping me out - I know they kids enjoyed meeting them.
Click on the picture above for more pictures from that day or watch the short video below to see my kids practicing the sample dialog without looking.