More than a journal this site has become an occasional scrapbook of everything that doesn’t fit elsewhere. Here are some assorted scraps and odds and ends that don’t fit in other places or that I haven’t had time to post lately…
That there, is a very famous cherry tree in Maruyama Park. I was there two weeks ago at my school’s cherry blossom viewing party. Now, after having been back at school for but a week and a half – it seems like a million years ago. This next one is a pic of me and Mr. Yamashita. He was a very nice teacher to work with but sadly I don’t get to teach with him this year…
It was extraordinarily cold that night so I drank hot sake to keep warm. I drank a lot of hot sake to keep warm. Hence the beaming red face.
The blossoms have been particularly tenacious this year, there are still some blossoms peeking out between the leaves even now. When you get cherry blossom and green leaves together it’s called hazakura. “Ha” is 葉 meaning “leaf” and the sakura part is 桜 meaning “cherry blossom”. Don’t say you never learn anything around here.
This next scrap is a preamble to a piece I put up on Deep Kyoto last night… I wrote and then decided it didn’t fit on Deep Kyoto so I’m sticking it here instead. I think it fits quite nicely in here, in my scrapbook…
Why Mewby likes Curry
There was a time when Mewby didn’t like curry. Or she thought she didn’t, because all she knew was Japanese curry – which is hardly representative. To be honest, as it invariably contains meat, I’ve never actually eaten the Japanese variety myself.
A serving of Japanese curry.
However, I have to say it doesn’t look very appetizing.
So I sympathised.
“But,” I told her, “Indian curry, real Indian curry, is something else altogether.”
She didn’t believe me. For her curry held no appeal.
But I was determined to teach her the truth about curry – real Indian curry – a life without which was barely a life lived at all – so I persisted, and finally, she caved, albeit reluctantly, as she’s not too keen on spicy food in general. One night I took her to the Indian restaurant just off Hyakumanben, asked them to go easy on the spice and she gave it a whirl. It was a taste revelation.
And now she is a true believer. Or perhaps addict would be a better word. Because after I moved away from north Kyoto and no longer lived close by that fine Indian establishment, she still had curry cravings but nowhere to sate them. Until she found Thilaga that is. About which you can read more here…
…some music. Some time ago I was in Cafe Kocsi and they were playing some music and I thought to myself “That’s nice” so I asked a waiter what it was. He came back with the CD, so I thanked him, made a note on a piece of paper, lost the paper and promptly forgot all about it. Until the next time I was in Cafe Kocsi – when exactly the same thing happened again. I think this happened three times (that I remember) before I finally resolved to order the album off amazon. It’s Yael Naïm. I’ve been listening to her a lot lately. And she’s lovely.
Hmmm. I watched the Battlestar Galactica two-hour finale today and hmmm…. Well, that was a great show and it had a good finish but still… After wondering for so long just how they were going to wrap everything up and explain away so much that was seemingly inexplicable, it came as a little bit disappointing that they didn’t bother and just left lots of questions unanswered and all mysterious and such… Still no question that it was a superb show.
But what was going on with All Along the Watchtower?
Well, I’ve found my own way out of here. After 5 good years in this apartment – I’m finally moving. Tomorrow in fact. And from tomorrow I will have no internet. For a month (apparently). Not sure how I will manage, addicted as I am to my morning boingboing and my internet TV… (perhaps I’ll read a book!) It does mean though, that I probably won’t be posting here for a while. So, for the time being the comments are off. I can’t be dealing with all the spam I get. If you need me mail me here: firstname.lastname@example.org. Deep Kyoto will be maintained during the interim. But I expect I’ll be too busy with my new job teaching (gasp!) boys to be bothered with anything else.
Oh, and I saw my first cherry tree in bloom tonight, floating all white and ghostlike over a silent little park. Spring has arrived and it’s time for changes. See you in a month and I hope the season treats you well.
For the concerned: my computer is fixed (took it to Sofmap and had the hard-drive replaced) but now I have an enormous backlog of stuff to post both here and on Deep Kyoto, and heaps and heaps of pictures. What have I been doing for the last month? Well, teaching obviously. New classes are going well and they seem like a super-friendly bunch this year, thank goodness. We had a very enjoyable hanami party at the start of April (sadly sans-Kageyama), for which I volunteered my services as 場所取り (which roughly translates as place-guarder-from-the-crack- o’-dawn), hence my sleepy grimace among the pictures below.
Also, Taisho has renovated Joao, making half the counter standing only. I’m not sure I approve of this particular change – some of us prefer sitting, especially those among us in high heels – but we had a party to celebrate anyway. As you can see I have recently started wearing glasses:
And now it’s Golden Week, and I have enough free time at last to write up some reviews for Deep Kyoto. Today’s fresh post is on Bar 探偵 (Detective Bar) which opened up last month and impressed me right away for the playfulness of both its theme and construction. Read more about it here: Bar 探偵
Here are a couple of links I’ve been meaning to post for donkey’s.
First, some good practical advice from a writer that I started following last week and it has worked wonders for me: Link to Neil Gaiman’s Journal.
And here’s a nice post from Yaro Starak, (who is famous for writing a massively successful blog on… um, how to write a massively succesful blog) on how to motivate yourself when you feel like crap and can’t be arsed and would much rather stay in a funk or better yet in bed. Your mind is your greatest asset he says, but it can also be your greatest hindrance:
[The great thing about output is the power it has over your mood. Negative emotion breeds negative actions – lying in your bed or watching TV for example – or a lack of any action at all. If you focus on creating something and just take one little forward step, the physical effort you exert effects your inner emotional state. Your ability to soldier onin the face of emotional dissonance can carry you through the darkness and return you to a state of congruent activity and thought.]
Clearly Yaro Starak is clued-in to the benefits of mindfulness. LINK
Well, here’s my little tip for getting yourself out of bed when it’s dark and cloudy both outside and inside your head. Have something to look forward to right at the start of the day and make yourself an awesome breakfast. Preferably with lots of fruit. For me it’s a bowl of cereal, one of those healthy-yet-tasty crunchy cereals with lots of nuts and dried fruit in it, and then on top of that heaps of chopped fruit: banana, apple, pears, mikan, strawberries, grapes, pineapple, kiwi, whatever you like, and add a bit of yoghurt on top of that too (why not?). These days I’m into Country Farm Fruit Crunch which I buy at Maki but which I think is available in some other Import Stores here in Kyoto. Fruit is of course expensive in Japan but entirely worth it. It’s refreshing and tasty and gives you that much needed energy boost right at the start of the day. I like a nice cup of fresh ground fully-caffeinated coffee to wash it all down with too. Awesome.
Tae-san sent me these pictures from our cherry-blossom viewing party a couple of weeks ago. I think she has a good eye for the big picture… The girl sitting behind me in the picture below is Yoko. For the last two years, I’ve been working every Saturday morning at a mental clinic and she is one of the staff there. But soon she’s moving back to Tokyo and so today was the last day she attended the English Conversation Group… I shall miss that smile brightening up my Saturday mornings. But all things, like the cherry blossom, must pass. (slightly deeper than usualsigh) On my way home from the clinic I stopped by Houzouji for the latest meditation:
Fairly typical Buddhist stock-in-trade this time:
制止するのは____________せいしするのは___________seishi suru no ha
足るを知る心____________たるをしるこころ___________taru wo shiru kokoro
Which can be roughly translated as:
The heart that knows satisfaction Is that which restrains the ceaseless desire of mankind
I say roughly because I’m taking the easy way out of translating it back to front, which sounds more natural in English, but affects the emphasis a tad. Anyway, you get the idea. It’s the basic Buddhist teaching that all suffering comes from desire and in restraining desire we heal oursleves of suffering. No matter how many times I repeat this to myself, I’m still not feeling it though.
Walking by 哲学の道 (The Path of Philiosophy) yesterday, the cherry blossom was falling like a snow-storm, and not a real snow-storm mind you, but how you’d imagine being inside one of those glass paperweights after it’s been given a good shake would be like. I was mesmerised. Beautiful and at the same time heart-wrenching because every one of those petals is waving goodbye… Meanwhile back at Chez Lambe,I’m finally getting down to my “big japanese poetry project” and I’ve had a very productive couple of days, reading and translating. Productive for me that is, but I’ll have to pick up the pace over the coming weeks and months if I really want to get anywhere with it. In theory, the more I do the easier it will get but I’ll keep you posted on that. I’m guessing I’ll be ready to start the new poetry site by mid-summer. Maybe. Perhaps…
As I reported previously, Malcolm Phelps set up a website for ex staff and teachers of the recently deceased Lado International College. I joined it through a feeling of solidarity and am now getting more emails daily than I’ve ever had in my life. What gets me is that sinking the company through a mixture of deceit and mismanagement and robbing people of seven weeks pay not being enough, they (head-office management)are still shafting good people now by not getting them the documentation they need to get on with their life. Until people get this documentation they can’t claim benefits or even get a new job. Some people have other work to fall back on, and others will get by somehow, but those with families are pretty stressed right now. I guess there’s a lesson in there somewhere. Always have a back-up plan maybe. Or, don’t have children. Or maybe it’s time for that global socialist revolution. Whatever, my prayers go out to my ex-companeros.
Here’s a couple of articles that amused me lately. Here’s one from County Durham that I shouldn’t find amusing, but being evil, I do: The Dangers of MySpace
And here’s one about some pioneering technology in my hometown of Middlesbrough, that’s being used (well I never!) to tackle crime: NEW SHOUTY CCTV!
If you click on the video links you can hear some lovely north-eastern accents too.
I’m off out to The Gael tonight for Guinness, Irish music and a possible encounter with DESTINY.
And in that spirit here’s some traditional Irish music from The Pogues (and – ahem – Joe Strummer):
So a new term has started and all the students and teachers seem hopeful, excited and full of anticipation… I wonder how long that will last. Here are some pictures from last Sunday’s wonderful hanami party. It’s been a few years since I’v been to a proper hanami party. I think this one was probably the best. I was there at 7 in the morning to guard the place. The first beer was cracked open at 10 and I somehow didn’t manage to get to bed till 3 a.m. the next day.
The first warm day in a long time today. Hope it lasts. Obviously the cherry trees appreciate it. I saw my first cherry blossom of the season down by the Kamogawa today. It’s one of the earlier varieties so we have yet a while till blossom-viewing party-foolery begins. Here’s a couple of clickable pictures and a couple more of the 雪柳 “yukiyanagi” I like so much.
Here’s a book there’s a bit of a buzz around currently: What is the What by David Eggers and telling the true story of Valentino Achak Deng. It’s had some excellent write-ups and “all of the proceeds from “What is the What” will go to aiding the Sudanese in America and Sudan.” And in case you don’t know about the plight of the Sudanese, or you’ve only been paying (like most of us) half-a-mind to the GENOCIDE going on in the Sudan, here’s more detail of what those funds can do: REBUILDING MARIAL BAI. That aside it is apparently, a fantastic novel in it’s own right, based closely on the real life experiences of one of the child refugees (nicknamed the “Lost Boys”) who somehow survived warfare and starvation and are now trying to build new lives in America. Here’s what the writer of Throughlines has written: “…in all seriousness I can’t think of a more necessary book I’ve encountered in my lifetime. It’s a harrowing story, but it has moments of great beauty and lyricism as well, and I read it with steadily increasing respect both for Valentino Achak Deng and for Dave Eggers.” That’s by a guy who teaches literature for a living. Wow. So it’s both a great book and buying it will contribute to making the world a wee bit better…I’m going to order my copy immediately. The chance to feel morally and intellectually superior is irresistable.
Here’s something really cool too: “In March 2002 the Irish government introduced a PlasTax levy on single-use plastic carrier bags (including biodegradable ones.) The scheme has been an extraordinary success, with consumption down by a staggering 95%. Prior to the introduction of the levy annual carrier bag usage in Ireland stood at 1.2 billion. Although initally viewed with scepticism by retailers and the general public alike the PlasTax has come to be seen as hugely positive step with the investment of the funds raised through the tax in waste recycling and litter initiatives.”
Go Irish! There’s a petition here for the British government to do the same: BRING YOUR OWN BAG PETITION. More information about that here: BRING YOUR OWN BAG CAMPAIGN We could do with one those petitions in Japan, what with it being the UNNECESSARY AND WASTEFUL PACKAGING CAPITAL OF THE UNIVERSE (probably).
As for today’s title, I actually have nothing to say about Elsa Pataky and neither am I interested in her topless frolicking (well I am but I’ve repressed it)– I was just wondering if it would increase the number of pageviews I get if I used an internet buzzword in the title. Just a little (cynical) social experiment of mine.