Sunday, January 30, 2011

bfg on the japan challenge a la starbucks

The only one that matters since it is me doing it.

So it is official: I have re-contracted and am staying here at least until August of 2012. We shall see what happens then.

So with all this time left, I want to see everything. Some foreign countries I would love to see like Russia and Korea. But really, I came here for Japan and Japan I will see.

But where to go? Where to start? I told you all before I am a woman run by the power of the list: checking off the box, crossing it off, highlighting them and numbering them - I live by this.

But what theme should I go by for Japan? Literature? Museums? Randomly going places-  I can not do. I needed a list.

When my friend G was here for the holidays we did find time from all our Tokyo travels to shop in Shizuoka. I love Shizuoka more after that holiday in Tokyo. The shops in Big-T may be huge and just MEGA but Shizuoka has pretty much everything you want without the crowds. Not to mention not getting that overwhelming feeling of "So Fucking Much" when you walk into the four floored LOFT in Tokyo. Maddening.
Towards the end of one shopping excursion, we passed by a Starbucks where a mug of Shizuoka caught my eye! It is f-ugly but it says Shizuoka; how could I not buy it? They have all these other mugs but I needed my Shiz.

Then G lifts up one of those pamphlets that showcases all the mugs available. I roll my eyes turning away at how stupid it is to have a mini catalogue of the cups. Did anyone say useless?

But she really opened it and my eye did catch a map of Japan. I looked.
poster is up in my room
There before me was my list.

The map has points all over where Starbucks has their mugs. Not too many. Not too little. Just enough to do in 18 months I have left. Useless to lifeline in a matter of seconds!

And so Mug # 1 Shizuoka has been obtained. And only when I travel to those destinations and get me another mug will the item be checked off my list.

Some may call this the ramblings of a control freak. Others may say this is too anal. I say, hell to it.

Get ready Japan. bfg is acomin'.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

bfg on tarzan moments

I have two posts in my head but this one has been brewing for longer and this ain't soup; if I do not write this soon the magic of the moment will dissipate and I will forget.

Momo means "peach" in Japanese and the student in Class "3Z" who sits in the front row reminds me of one. She is gorgeous: she has a peach coloured blush to her checks, maybe from her Asian toned skin, round manga eyes that are so innocent, a fine figure and plush lips. Basically, she is breathtakingly beautiful though she could use a little height and, too me, still looks so young which means -  she won't lose the look until she is 70. Oh, the horrors of being a white woman.

I digress.

Momo is beautiful and with all that you can just imagine how much I hated teaching her. Whenever Momo walked into my class these past 16 weeks, she has had the look of a civilian entering a lion's den. An untamed lion. With a spike collar. And razor sharp claws. And bad breath. And - you get the picture.

And while teaching- oh the distraction! I would be saying something, "The future tense in English is...." Momo dares to look at me and I meet her eyes. She looks down at her desk and I can feel her panic. I loose my train of thought.

I almost never call on students. I always say sorry when I do and the Japanese teacher's can not understand this. "Just ask the kids that like to talk if you feel bad."

Fuck you! I was a kid that likes to talk (now I am a semi-old person) but I hated it when teacher's called on me. "If I knew the answer I would raise my hand! Leave me alone."

So Momo's fear could not be that... I could not understand. I asked her several times... nothing. She would look away and I honestly felt like a monster. I must be ! I scare peachy girls! bfg was no BFG.

This last semester has been very difficult and odd. The third year students only have three weeks of class whereas I have seven weeks with my first years. So from Day one, I was prepping my third years for their exam while prepping for first year classes. The rhythms do not jive and it has been difficult to keep up.

Considering how successful my Mega Hanko review classes were, where I am basically the Hanko Prostitute giving the kids 5, 10, 15, 50 even! hanko I thought it would be great to do it again.

Then Momo and the other "really shy kids" that stare at me with the Look-of-Terror  came to mind: Mega Hanko is Mega Scary. How could I get them into it...?

Walking into class Tuesday the kids found a POSCA marker and a stack of scrap paper on their desks. "Some questions I will say SPEAK and you have to say the answer. Some questions I say WRITE and you have to write it down and wave it in the air. Ready...."

It took her fifteen minutes but Momo eventually picked up the marker, wrote the answer on the paper and, I still can't believe it, she tried! I almost gave her a thousand hanko on the spot. But it was not fair; she was not the first one to do so and Team Supersonic got the points.

But... three questions later and she was not just trying, she was going at it: writing fast, talking with her team mates, looking things up in the book. I tried my best not to beat my chest and howl - IT WAS WORKING.

And then - even now writing this, I can not express it right... dam you words!! I love you but in this I am failing... I feel so relieved that I am NOT a monster -- And then, she laughed.

Yeah, she was having fun. Looking for the answer, trying to write it down and answer, disappointed when someone else beat her team to the punch, thrilled when her team got their hanko.

I did not say a word to her and I hid everything that was happening inside. Especially my third years, I love them. I feel guilty that it took me this long to find a venue for Momo, my peach girl but I know she will always be my yardstick. Whenever I have a student in a class that I can't reach, no matter what I do, I have to remember Momo - that sometimes something so simple - like changing the way a student express themselves from the spoken to written word - can change everything; make me a better teacher and, more importantly, make the Momo's out there smile.

- and that my friends is my Tarzan moment.

Friday, January 21, 2011

bfg on Suck It: a review of True Blood by an amateur in everything except expressing vulgarity

I am working on my thesis. Which means looking for any form of procrastination.

        Another word for culture.... tradition? No, no. Culture? No that is the word I used 8 million times... Didn't I say I was going to write a blog post on True Blood.

I was pretty sad I wouldn't be able to watch True Blood (and Dexter and Caprica and ...) with the bf but my True Blood party more than made up for it. It was a party for two with me as the third wheel; my friend K and C came over (she a fellow JET, he hopefully will be by this time next year). I had the file on my computer and they the projector. My awesome white walls were baptized with the oh-so-awesome visage of Eric. Yum.

My friend JG hates True Blood. And if you hate the site of blood... this show is not for you. But my deep affection for this show lies in the firm fact that the writers and director have one foot in cheap-stick entertainment and another in a complex social critique; a mixture that has me hooked, addicted, DEDICATED.

Point #1: Do not read the books. Garbage. Mme Harris I am very happy you are a fat rich lady but honestly, learn how to write a sentence. For the love of the English language and out of respect to your peers please try. 

The main character in the books is such a cardboard - boringggg.  And basically so is everything. It is like a soggy cake. The entire time you are eating it, you are thinking of eating something else ( I really could have used a dirtier example which is more moi but I wanted to keep this post as PG13 as possible).

This fact makes the writers and producers at HBO that much more amazing and divine.

Point #2: Setting. One of the charismatic aspects of True Blood for myself is the scenery shots. It isn't dark and creepy in the gothic style one is used to seeing with vampire folklore. Nor is it Twilightesque in the sense that it is set in a high school. With the staple wooden shack bar and pick-up trucks, TB is really set in a place that feels. The setting is so alive and so riveting that it can be considered as one of the great characters in this series.

 The graveyard is my favorite for it reminds me of home: instead of being dark and gloomy it is dark and welcoming... it feels more like a historical site than a danger zone. 

Sookies' house is another example: deceivingly large for the rooms themselves are small but there are so many that connect one after the other... shiver. I want to curl up with a book and be chased by a warewolf all at the same time! The confusion! The contradiction! Adrenaline rush that one can't help but Love it!

Now perhaps this is because I am my mother's daughter but I most point out that the fact that you see the characters rewearing outfits, mixing and matching items increases that sense that this is a living breathing place. That is life - one closet in a town with a graveyard where some dead famous uncle is buried. It makes it so that when the supernatural does occur the imagination is more willing to fall into the beauty of believing it all for the 54 minutes of HBO goodness. 

Point #3: The characters. 
Really. Let us take Jason. Arguably the best-looking of all the male beauties that have graced the TB scene, Sookie's brother is a genius when it comes to being stupid. The Santa line takes it all.

"Warewolves exist?"



Oh my God! Marry Me!

Many a time during these three seasons has Jason brought the audience on a roller-coaster ride. There are moments where he seems to be improving, waking up from his dream state of "D-U-M-B" only to so gracefully fall back to being clueless Jason. He is the Han Solo of the cast: the comic realease and hopefully the constant in this show. The unevolving character who just spins around in circles. Because people like that do exist and it is always nice to have a flatline.

Now to the villian who is.... no body. Or everybody. See, that is just it. The moment we begin to point the finger at anyone TB goes and problematizes this. What is a victim? Perpetrator? Where do we draw these fine lines? These are ideas I face a lot when reading history, especially about Japan, and with TB I love the idea of exploring it on an individual basis because I also begin to ask myself if there are different ethical standards on the micro/macro level. 

Eric probably is the best example of this point. This resent season the audience was given a glimpse to Eric in his earlier vampire days and even as a human. Suddenly, so much of the ruthless actions we have become accustomed to expect from him are ... understandable. And then what? What do we do? Love him for it? Fantasize about him THAT much more because he isn't just hot but a troubled rogue you want to save? What does that say about you!? About us? Fuck, I love this show.

Please someone buy this for me.
Speaking of Eric, I must also make something clear. I totally want to sleep with the man but I am and always will be unless something really stupud happens a Team Bill member. In fact, if you are Team Eric please stop reading, go away and don't come back.

Now that we got rid of unwanted company, I don't think I need to delve into the details of how us Team Billers support the relationship between Sookie and Bill. And though it maybe a little because we want big E for ourselves, the fact remains that lust between Eric and Sookie is natural but just that: lust. Bill and her have their own bucket of worms but the tensions in their relationship relate more to affection. And they have great sex so no complaints.

No, but really. Even Warewolf man is a better option than Eric. Warewolf Boy and Sookie are a team and are attracted to each other... something that was totally building up towards the end of Season Three and hopefully they will continue this storyline. I would like to see if they would explore the triade many of us find ourselves confused by in our love life: extreme lust which can be mistaken for love (Eric); extreme affection which can be mistaken for life-time partner (Bill); and compatibility which can be mistaken as either lust or, more likely, love (Warewolf Boy). It is a story line I would not mind they explore.

That said, I am still Team Bill. Fear not!
So watch the show. Again. And this time, you better like it.

I can't lie though. The whole Eric and Bill thing is crazy awesome. I just wish Bill was allowed to speak in his cute British accent (because let us be honest, Canadian may be the "best" accent but Brits by far have the sexiest) instead of some Southern brawl but maybe there will be a revamped edition when the show actually ends.

 Lafayette. Six Feet whatever - that black dude is one tall mother fucker. And I am very jealous at his make-up application skills. Lafayette continuously explores ideas of genderization and language. The English language, unlike other Latin languages, does not genderdize items (la  /le in French for example) but it does associate social stigmas with objects. The hoop earrings and head scarf on a man who is good in the kitchen, talks with his hands and can kick your ass any second and done so in a way where you don't make the association initially - that is the genius with this character (and speaks to how well he is played). Lafayette wears these items as a part of his person not as a public statement. The character really integrates it well.

To the left is Nelsan Ellis as himself
 and to the right him as Lafayette.
Oscar performance!
And it is wonderful to see him grow as a character. Up until this season, we were never privileged to see the affectionate side of L and it brought out some of his vulnerabilities behind the spatula and fake lashes. Yet, it didn't spill things on a table like the writers are in some hurry to get the ratings to tell a story.
Which comes to the conclusion of this: story telling. True Blood doesn't just tell a story, it shows us slowly, dramatically, rhythmically to the point where you hear the sound of your blood pounding when you discover Bill's dark secret along with Sookie at the end of this last season. True Blood brings the age old art of bonfire storytelling to the modern world. HBO, I love you for it!

PS: HBO, please be as awesome and amazing with Song of Ice and Fire because I will have a hernia if you don't get that right. Like I might come over and protest. Loudly. Violently. Etc. with love xoxo vgg

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

bfg on being the big green alien

So I have many a blog post written and none finished.

Suck it up. (no, am STILL not over suck. or ass. It provides too much entertainment these cold, cold nights for me to let go).

The good news: I finished my draft of my thesis.
The bad news: I rewrote certain sections and though better its not... perfect. Its not exactly whats in my head. Why does it always sound so much better IN my head? Note to self...

There was an anecdote I wanted to use in my conclusion that I ended up cutting because it seemed one too many personal accounts for a Master's thesis. But it is probably one of, if not THE most memorable moment in my short history in Japan (to date! The future is so promising).

At the end of semester, I gave my students a survey in both Japanese and English asking them if they liked me, liked English, wanted to travel, and, most important for me, if my tests were fair and what else they wanted me to teach them the following term.

As to point A, an overwhelming 94.6% said my tests were FAIR! I couldn't believe it since all the teachers comment at how difficult my exams are. This is one of those moments where I fully intend to plastic bind a pie chart with the results and whip it out next English teachers meeting. I need a Law and Order outfit for that.

As to the second point, most of the students wanted me to teach them about television culture. I was very surprised by this as it meant them not understanding the majority of things.

"Oh! You expect captions... right."

I explained to them that if we did this they need to tell me what they like because there are so many choices.

"Sensei, what like you?" G is one of my favourite students. He is toooooo cute. I totally want to adopt him. He wears thick black glasses, has a winning smile which he flashes at me every instant he gets knowing I will shower him with hanko. So much for me not having bias. I totally fail in THAT department.

"I like shows about aliens!"
peaceful alien
"Eh! Nandesuka!" Oh, that familiar chant. How I hate you.

"Aliens. You know..." I went to the board and took a marker. "You know... A...LI...ENS... They are green" I took the green marker, "and they have little antennas, "I drew antennas, "and they have space ships and they are from another planet. Aliens..."

Blank faces. Another talent I lack is drawing. So much for being Italian; I can't cook OR draw.

"Okay. Mimori sensei maybe you can help? How would you say 'alien' in Japanese?"

She looks at me. "Alien." She looks at my picture and says, "Gaikokujin."

Now in case you don't know, gaikokujin means alien in the sense of foreigner.

I stared at her. "I am a green alien?"

"Yes. You are an alien. You are gaikokujin."

In her defence, I was wearing a green dress that day.