Friday, July 4, 2008

Japan Is Sinking

Unfortunately, there is a movie and book. or vice versa, out now called Japan Is Sinking, and why that's unfortunate is I'm trying to look up information on the net regarding the fact that Japan is actually sinking. I wanted to have a bit more to report to you than second hand hearsay from my old Korean students. All that's coming up in the search is pages upon pages of this book or movie. And "Japan apologizes to Taiwan for sinking ship." Always making friends, the Japanese.

So, Japan is sinking. It sinks more and more every year. As many of you know, my last job was teaching South Korean university level students here in the Philippines (don't message me about my time in Korea, because I was only in the airport, which I actually enjoyed very much), and you know that we talked for hours and hours and hours all day long. One of the elentybillion things that I learned was that Koreans, and I'd say most Asian countries have an adversarial relationship with Japan. Many of my students openly expressed disgust with Japan and everything Japanese. Many weren't as extreme and said that their qualms are with the government only. Some said, who cares? Pass the Kimchi.

Japan didn't make any friends over here during WWII. There are still debates that rage to this day about who should apologize for what. In addition, Japan has claimed a Korean island as its own. Japan also calls the East Sea, the Sea of Japan. My students were always disgusted with the maps made in the Philippines, or those that come from publishers connected with the west because that body of water is labeled as The Sea Of Japan, as if that were a fact.

"NO! Who published this!" were common cries about my atlas. Sorry guys.

So one day one of the students, while ranting about Japan, and their Imperialism, which some claim has not stopped, said they have to move other places "because Japan is sinking!" and I accidentally laughed. I think I chuckled because the student was so serious and then he said that, and I didn't expect him to say that... and I laughed.

"Yes! It's true!" During one class, one of the Engineer students drew something on the board that supposedly demonstrated the phenomenon.

I let them know that the islands of Hawaii have been largely bought up by the Japanese, or so I heard once.



I don't know. But I thought that whole thing was interesting.

The Reversal Of Babel: Award a Prize to Mr. Bean

It's hard for me to find a good picture of Mr. Bean, but you know who he is.

Here's what I want to say. I've been to China, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. I've taught South Koreans and interacted with them quite a bit... I've been in places where the cultural barriers are wide, deep and run long.

But everybody loves Mr. Bean.

It doesn't matter what their take is on George W. or what conversation you're able to have or not have due to a language barrier. If I was ever anywhere stumped, I just said..."Hey do you know Mr. Bean?"

"Mr. BEAN!" , yes, big smile, laugh, conversation, and connection.

He's big in Asia, so I'm assuming, everyhwhere. Mr Bean is also shown in North Korea, so I learned from a documentary. Sometimes in North Korea they have special movie festivals where imported films are shown. It's not like he's on their tv there, not that I'm aware of, but they love Mr. Bean reports say.

Here in the Philippines, he's very popular and there is lots of Mr. Bean merchandise everywhere, including kids backpacks, and t-shirts. There is a lot of merchandise from the animated series as well. The cartoon version of Bean is strange and Magooish. It's not nearly as interesting as the live acts.

These film shorts of Mr. Bean are sans spoken language. They are the human experience. So, there's no language barrier.'s the other thing I wanted to bring up. My youngest son is Autistic which is classified as a language disorder. He doesn't communicate in the conventional sense. He uses words, but for his own enjoyment only.

He reminds me of Arnie from What's Eating Gilbert Grape? Although Arnie used language every once in awhile in a traditional sense. That movie really reminds me of my guy, especially when he climbs up that tower and Johnny Depp

(Sorry Rowan, I know this is your entry, but I had to...Who's better than this JD? message me if you know...)

-takes a megaphone and has to sing a song to get him to listen and come down.. Leonardo couldn't have done a better job in that movie, I was astonished.

Anyway, my son is obsessed with Mr. Bean. He's quite particular about what he pays attention to, and he focuses very closely on each episode and knows all the routines by heart. His favorite is "Mind the Baby, Mr. Bean" where Bean gets stuck taking care of a baby at a carnival. It is pretty great, that one.

So Mr. Bean communicates where there may be no communication. He reaches the seemingly unreachable and has helped me make meaningful connections in disconnected circumstances. It's babel in reverse and he should get some kind of Bean Award for making my life easier and more fun.

Thanks, Rowan.