the nikku

reflecting on ESL/EFL and its relation to faith

Monday, February 25, 2008

Toukyo, Tokyo, TOKIO

I just found the most recent TOKIO song on YouTube. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Babel - with Brad Pitt

A very artistic movie. It's very similar to "Crash" in that it's a movie with many seemingly random characters who come together at the end. Unlike "Crash" these characters are almost all from different countries. It covers many current problems of the new "global" age. However, the over all theme seems to be communication or lack there of.

SPOILER: A rich Japanese business man regularly travels for big game hunting. His wife recently committed suicide using a gun. Both the father and his deaf teenage daughter are dealing with the lose in different ways.

Fueled by her anger and handicap, the daughter goes off looking for sexual experience in the Tokyo metropolis.

The father once gave his gun as a present to one of his hunting guides in Morocco. The guide sells it to a goat herder who in turn gives it to his pre-teenage sons who watch the goats. The boys play with the gun, and in an effort to test the gun's range they target a passing tour bus. Brad Pitt and his wife are on the tour bus.

The bullet hits Pitt's wife in a major vein in her upper shoulder / neck. The bus is hours from anywhere and ends up going to a rural village for help. Everyone on the bus is screaming "terror attack". This conclusion eventually spreads through the media and reaches the international audience practically before they arrive in the village.

Pitt calls home telling his Mexican maid to watch the kids for an extra few days and call the embassy in Morocco for him. The maid is very helpful, however her son's wedding in Mexico is coming up and of course she must attend. So her nephew picks her up and drives her and the kids to Mexico. The maid has really raised the children and they understand a little Spanish. But still it's a real shocker of a cultural experience for the kids. After the wedding the nephew is slightly intoxicated and runs through a border patrol inspection. He drops the maid and kids off in the dessert before driving off again in a drunk rush. The maid eventually gets help from a passing border patrol truck although she has to leave the kids under a shade tree to find it. She is deported to Mexico (for negligence?) although she has lived in the USA 16 years and is effectively the children's mother.

...I watched this movie with Japanese subtitles, so that might be a little wrong, but that's about it. (English subtitles weren't available).

END Spoiler

The huge contrasts in the movie were absolutely stunning (and shocking at times). The camera work, transitions and character development was done well.

My take: Since I'm living in Japan, here's my take on it. Since World War II and the "Allied" Occupation of Japan, It's nearly impossible to get guns in Japan. And they're seen as scary things related mostly to crime - and that's true. But the one gun a VERY rare Japanese man happens to own some how gets in the wrong hands and causes all kinds of tragedies.

Also, why is Japan recently seen as such a sexually permisqueous nation in movies? It's true, sexual relations are seen in a slightly different light than the Western view (like the Western view is a good example). But the sort of "Japanese sex life" portrayed here and in other movies like "Lost in Translation" and "Kill Bill" isn't common at all, even in Tokyo. It's like portraying all Americans as if they were stereotypical Las Vegas gamblers.

While this movie makes scattered comments on terrorism, racism, the "global" economy, and immigration, of course it doesn't draw any conclusions.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I went to the "historical documents" section of the local library this
evening and read up on the first missionaries who came to my town -
which was an experience in itself.

What surprised most was how much I had in common with most of them. Most
of them stayed only a few years (not usually more than 10 years). They
were young, they taught English and Bible classes. In group pictures
they look as confused as I do.

I found another book of old pictures of my older church of that I
disdain. I surprised to see pictures of the people I see now "just
sitting" in pews every Sunday. They were twenty years younger, and out
and about doing things. Twenty years is longer than most of the
missionaries stayed.

In their faded portraits on the walls, the old missionaries all look so
old and wise. And some of them were. But some of them were just young
punks like me.

I've been thinking too much of myself. I think no one else has ever had
to deal with the problems I have here. I think I'm so alone here, but
the more I look around, the more I see that everyone in this tradition
of faith has been in the same boat.

Sometime I might try and go to the college and read the actual
missionary reports there. When will I have time for that?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Foreigners! Welcome to Japan!

While I myself don't believe the fingerprinting process is all that intrusive or insecure, I think this pun on the Yokoso Japan! campaign is hilarious. I've gotten like six of these emails by now. If you're out there reading, please stop sending them to me.

...however I am mildly concerned with the general acceptance among Japanese people that foreigners cause crime. And I doubt the fingerprinting will actually do anything to improve "security" in Japan.

Passed the Test!

I now have that little piece of paper that says I can speak Japanese.
The results are:

Writing and Vocab: 96%
Listening: 76%
Grammar: 70%

Overall I passed with about 77%. Not bad.

For those of you saying "I told you you could pass 4th grade JLPT." It
wasn't as easy as it looks. Next year, grade 3?

Next year, ah!