Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Last Post

This will be my last post on I've had a lot of trouble posting on the site from work, which is where I seem to spend most of my time. However, I've started a new blog, The Reluctant Blogger, as part of my homepage, Craig in Japan, at .mac. Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Birthday Musings

iPod morning commute music: The Doors, Perception box set, 2006

It's been awhile since I've posted, so I'll just mention that I've been listening to this box set pretty much exclusively for the past week. Basically, it's all 6 of The Doors studio albums, remixed and including bonus tracks. Each album is accompanied by a DVD with a 5.1 Surround mix of the album, some video content, pictures, etc.

Thus far, I've only listened to the albums. I don't have a 5.1 Surround system in my home, but it's on my shopping list.

The Doors are probably the last of the great 60s bands which I needed to invest in. I've had their 2-disc greatest hits for years, and my brother sent me Morrison Hotel as a Christmas gift some time back. In a way, it was fortunate that I didn't have more of their music, as I would have never bought this terrific box set if I had...Perception is pretty costly.

I turned 53 last week, on the 24th, and feel pretty good about it. I have been reflecting on aging recently. I mentioned to my friend Dave a few weeks ago that I haven't gone down stairs two steps at a time for years. I think it started when I first got bifocals back in my early 40s: I found it hard to focus going down stairs, and slowed way down to avoid disaster. And then there were the two times I dislocated my shoulder running down wet stairs at my local train station, my feet slipping out from under me while I was holding on the the handrail trying to catch a departing train. I honestly can't remember if I was taking two stairs at a time then, but those accidents certainly put a damper on my desire to rush down stairs.
But the more I think about it, the more I realize I don't want to fear this. Maybe this is the same knee-jerk reaction to aging that causes me to want to drive a fast sports car, preferably a convertible. I think we believe that if we can still face danger, we can somehow remain younger. Once we cave in to fear, we cave in to aging.
So I've started practicing, slowly, taking two stairs at a time. It's cheaper than the car.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Japanese Foundation Day

iPod morning commute music: N/A, but on our Costco commute, my wife and I listened to: Lindsey Buckingham, Out of the Cradle (1992), and on the way home his latest, Under the Skin (2006).

I thought it would be fun to compare these two CD's, considering the 14-year hiatus between them. I liked them both, but Kaoru felt his voice was stronger and clearer on Out of the Cradle. I thought this was simply because of the way he chose to record his voice on Under the Skin, which used a lot of echo (something my daughter pointed out the first time she heard the CD). I obviously recommend both of them.

When I first started working at my school 22 years ago, I asked one of the Japanese history teachers how old Japan was. Well, it turns out that he had no idea, or rather, that no one has any idea to the age of Japan. Unlike the States, which we know was founded in 1776, Japan just WAS. It would be as if asking the indigenous Native Americans how old their nation is. So today is Japanese Foundations Day, and we still have no idea how old Japan really is.

The last couple of days have been all about the Senior High Entrance Exam, and all I can say is thank God is over! Friday I arrived at 8:00 a.m. and didn't leave until 7:30 p.m.; Saturday it was 9:30 till 4:00. And we still have to wait to find out how many students actually sign up.

Today was centered around our mythical Trip to Costco, where we really had to buy such essential goods as coffee beans and Listerine. Such is my life. No wonder almost no one reads this blog!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

After the Super Bowl

iPod morning commute music: Prince, Purple Rain (1984)

Actually, I'm cheating here. Today, I didn't listen to music, just slept on the ride in. But I did listen to Purple Rain at the end of last week, on my evening commute, without realizing that Prince was going to play the half-time show at the Super Bowl (here in Japan, I'm lucky to know when the Super Bowl is on...extra details like who provides the half-time entertainment sometimes passes me by). Anyway, he opened the show with Let's Go Crazy, the first track from the CD, and closed with Purple Rain (fitting, given the weather). It was a great show, and Purple Rain remains his finest album.

I watched yesterday's Super Bowl in school, missing the opening kickoff return for a touchdown (I was taking care of a class during our morning service) and the third quarter (teaching my one class of the day). It was a sloppy game, but I enjoyed it. Still, nothing like the Fiesta Bowl over New Years between Boise State and Oklahoma. THAT was a game!

Our senior high entrance exam is being held on this Friday and Saturday. We had to take in too many students after the junior high entrance exam, six full classes instead of the usual five, and I'm hoping that doesn't happen at the senior high level as well. It would be hard to cover the extra class with the part-time foreign staff that we have, and it's pretty late to be looking for someone new. Friday will be a busy day, Saturday not so much but it could be long due to the teachers' meeting concerning who we invite to become students.

I found out last Friday that I'll be one of three escort teachers going to the UK this spring with our students. I'm actually excited about it. Last year I really got to know the British students when they came to visit our school, and am looking forward to seeing them again. Also, it will be my second time to visit the UK with this program (or should I write programme?), so I have the schemata down pat. It will also be great to see my mentor, Evelyn (the missionary who hired me all those years ago) when we visit York, where she's now living.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Feelin' Alright

iPod morning commute music: Gene Pitney, Ultimate Anthology (1995)

1964 was probably the first year I really listened to rock 'n' roll (WABC out of NYC, with Cousin Brucie and Herb Oscar Anderson). I was 10 years old. The Beatles ruled, but Gene Pitney was also way cool with his hit It Hurts to be in Love.

It was sad when he died last April at the age of 66. I'd bought this CD several years before, and well I guess it isn't considered the best collection ("What? Not Ultimate???), it has served me fine. Pitney was graced with a tenor voice and the ability to hit over-the-top emotional peaks, comparable to his peer, Roy Orbison. His talent is missed.

I decided to self-medicate myself with aspirin today, and have felt fine since morning. What this means is not clear, but I will continue to take aspirin for at least tomorrow.

Today we found out our new year groups at school. I'm with the Senior High Two (juniors) year group again next year, which means I get to go on the school trip to Hokkaido again next fall. Joy! Joy!

Sorry for the short entry, but it's late and I'm sleepy. Hopefully I'll have more to say in my next post.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Wednesday and Still Not 100%

iPod morning commute music: America, Here and Now (disc 1); 2007

For years, I have been trashing the band America, primarily because of the lyrical content of their (in)famous song A Horse with No Name. I have refused to even consider that I might be wrong. I have quoted Rolling Stone Album Guide's pans of ALL their albums. Then this album rolled in, highlighted in my All Music Guide weekly e-mail of new releases.

All Music Guide's basic view is that this band has been treated unfairly by critics and people like me, and they wrote a compelling review of this release, produced by James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins) and Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne). Included as a bonus disc is a live performance from 2005 covering all the songs on their 1975 greatest hits release Hits.

Well, I guess I was wrong. The new stuff is good, and the old stuff is good. It is, of course, soft rock, not my favorite genre, but one that I certainly listen to often enough. I'm even considering picking up Rhino's 2006 double CD greatest hits collection The Definitive Pop Collection.

That said, A Horse with No Name still suffers from insipid lyrics.

This has been a bad week for me. Last Thursday, I came down with severe stomach cramps, coupled with a fever. I ended up taking Friday off work and going to the doctor, who had no real idea why I had the cramps since I had none of the other classic accompanying symptoms (vomiting or diarrhea). The medicine he prescribed did take care of the cramps, but not completely: They are still there, lingering like lechers in alleyways. Awful.

Yesterday was our annual high school choral contest. This is a choral competition between the classes in each year group. Each year group is given a hymn which each class must perform, and then the students choose one other, popular song. The students choose conductors and pianists, and practice completely on their own, before and after school, during lunch breaks, and any other time they can find to work together. It actually is a cool competition, one of three between classes in year groups. The first is Sports Day, where classes compete in various races and games against each other. The second is the Cultural Festival, where students create performances. My memory is we didn't have these types of in-school competitions between classes, not individuals.

Tomorrow, we teachers find out which year group we'll be attached to. I should also find out if I will be escorting to England this year. Hopefully, there will be no unpleasant surprises.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


iPod morning commute music: The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stadium Arcadium (disc 1); 2006

This is new music for me. I confess to not really having paid attention to this band, but from what I've heard, I like this double CD. Rolling Stone put it at #2 on their top 50 albums of 2006, after Dylan's Modern Times, but pretty much pans it. This will require further study on my part.

The big news is that my son, Tatsu, was finally granted Washington State residency by The Evergreen State College (where I graduated from back in 1977). We've known since last summer that he would probably be granted residency since I had maintained my Washington State Drivers License and Voter Registration during all the years I've lived in Japan. This meant that I'm considered a Washington State resident, living temporarily abroad (a bit of a stretch, maybe, but thank God I maintained my ties to the state), and therefore my residency passes to my children. However, until yesterday Tatsu's residency status was still labeled "Disputed". No more.

Now he can move forward in his plans to enroll Fall term. Supposidly, the school will be waiving a lot of credits due to his IB Diploma (up to 45), and he's been granted an academic scholarship towards his first year tuition, so things are working out nicely. I'm just sorry we couldn't have resolved the residency problem in time for Fall 2006.