30 April 2005

You have no choice, but to...

Today, in Japanese class, I learned about six different ways to say, *It can't be helped, but...* and *I can't not be not helped, but* or *You have no choice, but to...* or *It's regretable, but you must...* You learn so much about the Japanese when you learn Japanese. You can't help but not be not helped by your study of the native language. Take that to the bank, Ramon.

Also, I lost at bowling after Nadina, my friend from Canada, said before her first frame, *I've never done ten pin bowling before. What do I do?* and I did my best to explain the the-ins-and-outs of our strange, Yankee game. Anyway, she then beat everyone including Lee, the Korean Wonder (who is also, you'll be interested to know, strangely afraid of dogs) and Emiko who did extremely well considering an earlier dislocated shoulder injury. I drank Coke from a glass bottle.

Now, I will go to Hokkaido. And for all the rest, I think I'll take the fifth.

28 April 2005

Perfect weather

The weather today in 新潟 is perfect. Nothing more needed.

It's weird that a third grader can get under your skin so much by making fun of the way you talk.
Tonight, we're all going bowling and I have promised a small prize to whoever beats me. I don't have any prizes yet.

Day Four of polyester and I think I can confidently say, I'm not going back.

27 April 2005

Insurance woes

In related, good news, my insurance woes seem to have been settled for about 50,000 yen less than was previously reported. That is certainly good news for everyone, especially for those who were expecting me to cruise with them to Hokkaido. I will cruise to Hokkaido as planned, though I'm beginning to wonder if 20 hours on a boat will be that relaxing. What do you think, Ramon?

25 April 2005


My friend Neal taught me all about polyester. I am wearing it now.

1. Polyester doesn't need to be ironed.
2. Polyester is basically plastic so it's durable.
3. Polyester looks better than cotton.

I just beat a bunch of fourth graders in soccer. As I was playing, I was doing the play-by-play something like, *And Stephen dribbles past the whole fourth grade class* or *Phenominal. In a foot race with a seven year-old, Stephen buries his competition* or *Stephen, shooting from his off-foot, confounds the best work of the fifth grade geography club president.* I also made my team get in a huddle and sing the Ole, Ole soccer song. One of the kids, after singing, said to his friend, *Why did we do that?*
. . . . . . . .
Yeah, this sucked the life right out of me.

Japanese/ English Translation Sample
Stephen Pihlaja
Expanding the Japanese Sea (East Sea) International Transportation Network and Growing Northeast Asian Economics
The State of China Tumen Area Distribution Development
China Kirin Peoples Government Tumen Area Development Public Message Room
As the new century begins, the Japanese Sea (East Sea) Rim Area Nation scholars meet to research, debate, exchange, and deepen cooperation in and about the Japanese Sea (East Sea) Rim International Transportation Network, as well as accelerate Northeast Asian prosperity and social development. We desire peace and prosperity in the 21st century and again present our strong convictions.
Entering the 21st century, more than global economic changes, trade and investment changes, and world scientific development, goods production and consumption have come to be conducted on a global scale. With regard to the consumption goods that straddle countries, we must overcome a shut out production system and area consumption framework . The process of buying raw materials for manufactured product consumption must become integrated with transportation abilities. A sign of this integration need is the crossing and infiltration of relatively independent development in sea, earth and sky transportation. To satisfy the need for a transportation model that synthesizes transportation demands, many connecting transportation formulas and forming logistics have appeared. In the new century, production power must be distributed in the same way as information dispersion and finance enhancing international competitive power, growing synthesized national foundations, and producing area economic growth. From this, the 21st century will become the century of international distribution growing larger production.

22 April 2005


Well, I'm taking a quick break from my very first stab at translating. That's right, dude is being hit up to do some simple Japanese to English and I couldn't be happier. Except this: Japanese and English are different in just about every way, so even if you can read a sentence in Japanese, it doesn't mean you can translate it. Or even if you know what something means in Japanese, it doesn't mean you can say it in English. Like, おいしく食べてください。A good word-for-word translation of this might be, *Deliciously eat this food, please.* Well, I've been out of the States for a couple months but, best I can tell, we don't ever say that, do we?

Also, I'm busting it to get my Chinese character knowledge up to that of a twleve year-old. It's hard. Real hard. But by the end of June, just call me, Steve-o, the seventh grader. That's right, I'm going back to puberty.

I have a headache too, I think.

18 April 2005


So ohanami has come to Japan and I couldn't be happier. Ohanami happens when all the *cherry* trees get crazy and decide to produce more flowers than you've seen just about ever. The Japanese respond by drinking alcohol and sitting around all day looking at the flowers. I finally figured out why I like it so much: it's like a nation-wide flunk day only everybody is responsible (for the most part). I also like that public alcohol consumption isn't a problem. It's the life.

Other than that, things are going well.

I saw Full Metal Jacket last night after finally folding and getting a DVD player. It was wonderful. Almost as good as t‚ÌײµÝ or March Comes like a Lion which was one of the most beautiful, sexiest little movies I have seen in a long time. If you can find it, get it. There weren't any English subtitles on my DVD, but about 80% of the movie is silent and you can figure out the rest.

Lastly, I'm trying to decide who's being the biggest asshat: Japan, for deciding it was about time to start drilling for oil in a part of the ocean that might or might not be their's or China, for reacting by beating the shit out of a bunch of Japanese stuff in Shanghai. The best shot on the news was this Chinese woman in her car, crying and screaming, *I'm Chinese! I'm Chinese!* while the mob kicked the shit out of her Japanese car. That's a proud moment for a country.

See, this is the problem with Nationalism, kids. Makes everybody stupid.

11 April 2005


So spring has come to Japan and I couldn't be happier. All this warmth and good smell is like a cloud ride through rainbow country with a unicorn.

I'm at work now, but I have my laptop today so everything is great. I can write letters and only spend a couple of minutes on the internet, saving myself the possibility of getting complained about or giving myself a reputation as a computer hog. I hate computer hogs.

I'm also surprised as lately all the teachers have been touting the "new Interac" English curriculum. Wonderful, I thought, except that the company did not A) provide us ALT's who are supposed to teach the new curriculum with copies of the curriculum, B) provide any lesson plans for the curriculum, C) tell the ALT's they were creating new curriculum, D) translate the curriculum into English, or E) give us any of the needs materials to teach a lesson on, say, how to shop in a department store. So I am having meetings all day with teachers trying to pretend like I know what I'm talking about as I stare at this year-long Japanese plan and fumble around in my crappy Japanese (the final kick in the jock). Also, I don't know which Japan the folks at the home office are living in, but here in honto na Japan, no sixth grade student can have a conversation about what her or his favorite subject in school is. They can't even play animal gesture game effectively.

Luckily, I think the teachers realize these lofty goals are unattainable and have allowed me a little lee-way to have the kiddies learn how to write their names in English and play the do you like game, instead of converse on issues of world diplomacy.

You ever get the feeling you will never really understand your parents? I will not.

For those of you who care, my car tax was astronomically high, though not as high as it could have been. I had been secretly hoping to get out for under 70,000 yen which did not happen. Whatever, I say. I have my car.

I'm thinking about my road trip to Fukuoka this summer and may be bringing a couple of missionary kids from the church along with me. They're both in their teens and I think we'd have a blast, Dude teaching them about the world, women, and the best way to hunt with your bare hands, and them reading out loud to me. I've become one of those guys who (and I'm what like, 22 still, but whatever) is always saying stuff like, Ah, when I was your age, I (insert pointless story about rock concert).

See, if you lived in Japan, I could teach you about women too.

No wait, that was wrong.

09 April 2005

Track lists

Anyway, so if you don't like Sufjan Stevens, you're a fool. Here is the tacklist for his new record about Illinois, our little homestate:
01 Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, IL
02 The Black Hawk War, or, How to Demolish an Entire Civilization and Still Feel Good About Yourself in the Morning, or, We Apologize for the Inconvenience But You're Going to Have to Leave Now, or, "I have fought the Big Knives and will continue to fight them until they are off our lands!"
03 Come on! Feel the Illinoise!
-Part I: The World's Columbian Exposition
-Part II: Carl Sandburg Visits Me in a Dream
04 John Wayne Gacy, Jr.
05 Jacksonville
06 A Short Reprise for Mary Todd, Who Went Insane, But for Very Good Reasons
07 Decatur, or, Round of Applause for Your Step Mother!
08 One Last "Woo-hoo!" for the Pullman
09 Chicago
10 Casimir Pulaski Day
11 To the Workers of the Rockford River Valley Region, I have an Idea Concerning Your Predicament, and it involves shoe string, a lavender garland, and twelve strong women
12 The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts
13 Prairie Fire That Wanders About
14 A Conjunction of Drones Simulating the Way in Which Sufjan Stevens Has an Existential Crisis in the Great Godfrey Maze
15 The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us!
16 They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From the Dead!! Ahhhhh!
17 Let's Hear That String Part Again, Because I Don't Think They Heard It All the Way Out in Bushnell
18 In This Temple, as in the Hearts of Man, for Whom He Saved the Earth
19 The Seer's Tower
20 The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders
-Part I: The Great Frontier
-Part II: Come to Me Only With Playthings Now
21 Riffs and Variations on a Single Note for Jelly Roll, Earl Hines, Louis Armstrong, Baby Dodds, and the King of Swing, to Name a Few
22 Out of Egypt, into the Great Laugh of Mankind, and I shake the dirt from my sandals as I run
I mean, how can you not.
Japan is warming up like a turtle in the sun. That's a nice thing. As we speak, my car is going through the rigorous, astronmically expensive car tax/ inspection process. I think I might get out for under 80,000 yen. That would totally make my day.
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