A Moldy Oldie


itting the big 5-Oh–I am learning oh so painfully–has its physiological drawbacks. My knees ache. My back hurts. Even my jaws don’t do as I ask. I now have to do jaw stretches. For someone who talks as much as I do, you’d think that this was unnecessary, but that is not the case. I must perform a new pre-meal ritual before I eat: I open my mouth wide, and shift my jaw from left to right as I slowly close my mouth. I do this about three to five times, depending on the time of day. Oh well…

But stiff joints are easy to deal with. A little stretching and I’m good to go. Weight management, on the other hand, is quite a different proposition. Once upon a time, losing weight was just a matter of making up my mind. I gotta lose five pounds by the weekend, I would determine, and after a couple of skipped meals and a few hours of running, Shezam! five pounds gone.

Okay, maybe it didn’t disappear as easily as an Arabian Night-esque exclamation, but it sure feels like it in hindsight. But remember, at my age, I have to squint really hard when I look back on thirty years of hindsight. *sigh*

In any event, I now have to work extra hard to lose weight… ANY weight. I must watch my diet–no more midnight cookies and potato chips and chocolate and peanuts. I usually need energy to finish my grading, y’know? And more work outs. I must run and run and run. Of course, the weight wouldn’t be so bad if it was muscle mass, but such is not the case. So I must also begin lifting weights again. This flabby body is ungainly and unsightly and I am definitely growing what seems to be the beginnings of jowls. Ugh.

This past Memorial Day Weekend, I ran everyday for about 30 to 50 minutes. On Thursday, I lifted some weights as well: bench press, butterflies, shoulder press, high pulley, french press and arm curls. By Friday afternoon, my triceps and pecs were killing me. When I tried to run, the jiggling made them hurt even more. As I pressed my hands against my chest, all I could think was, Do women’s sports bras prevent boobs from jiggling too much? I wonder what the largest size is?

JUST KIDDING! Well, about the second question, at least…

Enough of the physiological part. Psychologically, I am just as old, but perhaps a bit more well adjusted. This is the one part of aging that has its advantages. We grow and we learn and we make better decisions–although as my last post made clear, it still takes me time to have some of the more important revelations. Still, I feel happy to be who I am–minus a few dozen pounds–and I am at hear a man of the 60s as seen in the following quiz I found on Starberri‘s site.

You Belong in 1965
If you scored…

1950 – 1959: You’re fun loving, romantic, and more than a little innocent. See you at the drive in!

1960 – 1969: You are a free spirit with a huge heart. Love, peace, and happiness rule – oh, and drugs too.

1970 – 1979: Bold and brash, you take life by the horns. Whether you’re partying or protesting, you give it your all!

1980 – 1989: Wild, over the top, and just a little bit cheesy. You’re colorful at night – and successful during the day.

1990 – 1999: With you anything goes! You’re grunge one day, ghetto fabulous the next. It’s all good!

Yes, I probably belong in the 60s, smack dab in the middle. Make love not war. Get out of Vietnam. Man, for that matter, let’s get out of Iraq. I’d hate to have to break out my old tie-dyed shirt. Just kidding. I was too young to be involved in the anti-war demonstrations back then. But I’m not too young now. Maybe too old, but not too young…

Peace and Love all!

Confessions of a J-Pop Culture Junkie


kay, exams are over, the academic year has ended, I put up a vacation message on my “official” school e-mail–I am away during break, and will not access my e-mail. Your message regarding $subject$ will be read when I return.–and I am officially free to do… my work. Yes, as an academic, I am expected to do research, expecially when I don’t teach.

But unlike teaching, I can do my research at my own pace so I hope to spend more time on Xanga. It’s been so long… but now I can play! And Merrow Mistral has started me off with a game of tag. The RULES state that:

Once you’ve been tagged, you have to write a blog with 8 facts/things/habits about yourself, saying who tagged you. In the end you need to choose the 6 people to be tagged and list their names. No tag backs.

Okay, that sounds easy enough, but I think most of my readers already know a lot about me. What could I reveal about myself? Maybe some of the more recent things that occupy (monopolize) my time.

  1. Research. I’ve already alluded to this above. Yes, I teach a relatively large number of students. According to friends and colleagues at other major universities, most are responsible for about 30 to 40 students per semester. That would be like two courses with 25 and 15 students repectively. This past spring, I had a total of 94 students. So it is a bit difficult to conduct research during the school year. During the summer, I usually teach as well–instructors in the humanities do not command high salaries–but I decided to forego the extra cash and do research. A colleague finally convinced me that this is better in the long run. The extra dough teaching summer courses is just that–Extra. Succssful publishing can lead to a better salary, which is always a good thing. I guess I am so thick-headed that it took me… oh, 10 years to finally unerstand this. In my defense, this is genetic. My old man was just as thick. But I must confess that I really put a lot of this on myself–Why the hell am I going to tell you guys this?
  2. I am a J-Pop junkie. Okay, I said it… I use the term in its most broadest sense. This allows me to assuage my attitude toward my addiction.
  3. I watch all sorts of J-films. As many of you know, I teach a Japanese film class. As the responsible instructor I am, I make it a point to see as many Japanese films as possible so I have a larger pool of films to draw upon to show my students in class. I watch samurai flicks like Twilight Samurai and Zatoichi. Indeed, I showed Samurai Fiction this past semester. I also watch mainstream dramas as well, such as the Birdmen of China–a very intersting movie. But just to make sure I have a good grasp of the field, I watch horror flicks, including Ring, the wierd Suicide Club–the openning scene deals with a group of junior highs school girls jumping off the platform before an oncoming train–and the insipid Uzumaki. And I also watch animation… because I’m supposed to. It’s my job, okay?
  4. I read Japanese comic books. Now the Japanese are the most literate people in the world, and they love comic books. Coincidence? I think not, although the likes of Reischauer will tell you that this is the sad part of Japanese literacy. Well, much of medieval and Edo literature were a combination of text and pictures, sort of like… graphic novels. Many scholars resarch this as classical literature. Can you imagine Slam Dunk or Dragon Ball being someone’s PhD dissertation in 2098? In any event, you should know that much of the current texts in Japan are based on comic books. Many popular TV shows and films are based on comic books. Indeed, Slam Dunk and Tokyo Love Story were adapted to full length novels. So staying up with comic book stories is necessary, if only to know where some of the films I watch originated from. What can I say? It’s my job.
  5. I listen to a lot of J-Pop music. I used to use some songs to teach Japanese, reading the lyrics like poetry. But living in the US for 10 years, my stock of music was quite outdated. Last year, a student doing a junior year abroad in Japan sent me some current J-Pop. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed listening to songs that were not readily available in the US. Takunishi further piqued my interest by making songs like Bennie K’s “Dreamland” and m-flo’s “Replay” available on his Xanga. Now, I can’t get enough. Students know my interest and freely share their CDs and mp3 files with me.
  6. It is not just J-Pop. In fact, except for some notable exceptions, I stay away from typical fare and listen to either rock or indendent groups. No News or Arashi or Koda Kumi or Do As Infinity or *gag* Utada Hikaru for me. And I also stay away from the Visual-kei groups like L’arc and Glay. I listen to Asian Kungfu Generation and Art School and Merengue and Ego Wrappin’ and Monkey Majik and Bonnie Pink and Sambomasters. Okay, I also listen to the Brilliant Green and Nakashima Mika. But they aren’t exactly mainstream J-Pop either.
  7. I can’t get enough of J-dorama. Another illness I have contracted was begun by an aquaintance of M’s. She kept telling M about how this drama was funny or that drama sad. Well, we went to Lotte, the local Korean market, and lo and behold–J-dorama. We rented “Umizaru” (Sea Monkeys) which was about the Japanese coast guard. I tickled our interest and so we then rented “Brother Beat”, then the Taiga drama “Yoshitsune”. But I was in control. Watch an episode every other night, or if it was interesting maybe once a night. But then a student gave me a copy of D-d-d-d-d-densha otoko (Trainman). Ack! It was so funny that I couldn’t stop watching it. There were 11 episodes and I saw the first nine in one day! Well, this was the beginning of the end for me. J-dorama is crack to Japanese pop culture freaks–Anego, Kiken-na aneki, Dragon-zakura, Las Christmas, Kuitan, Slow Dance, et cetera. I’ve received dorama from students, we’ve rented more from Lotte, M gets some from her acquaintance. It seems like the more I watch it, the more I want to see more.
  8. J-dorama + J-Pop = Geek. I know that this sounds really pathetic. You’re probably thinking that the O-man has gone off the deep end, that he is really sick. Well, it gets worse. Remember I said that I mostly listen to J rock or indies? Well, I sorta lied. I do listen to a significant number of J Pop, as well… if it’s the theme song to a J-dorama. Hahahaha! Def Tech’s “My Way” from Brother Beat, Yama-P’s “Colorful” from Dragon-zakura, Sowelu’s “Dear Friend” from Top Newscaster, Hirai Ken’s “Pop Star” from Kiken-na aneki. My playlist for JUST dorama theme songs and image songs is quite long. I am a freak! I am a geek!

Does anyone have the number to JPA (J-Pop Anonymous)?

Well, I have not been very good at keeping in touch with my readers recently, like for the last year or so. So I feel kinda wierd about tagging them, but I think will try to do something different. I think I will tag some non-Xangans I know through RBJ. Here’s hoping the following six will play tag with me…

aemii pari grace manny carlos sammy

Congratulations Graduates


his is a bit belated, but congratualtions to all the graduates, especially mine! They all graduated on Sunday, and some of us clebrated with a beer at the local watering hole. I’ve been buried with grading this past couple of weeks, but I did manage to help out with our departmental graduation reception–where I posed with graduates and parents alike–go to their college graduations and the final university-wide commencement on the Mall. Yes, our school conducts graduation on the National Mall with the Capitol on one side and the Washington Monument on the other. It’s quite impressive, but mostly for the parents.

Finally finished

Well, I finally finshed grading finals. Woo hoo! It took me an inordinately long time this year, but then that’s because I had other things on my plate. But I’ll talk about them later. For now, I just want to catch my breath.

Slippery Slope


am not fond of the current administration, as many of you probably already know. I don’t think that the president, as a person, is a bad man. Quite the contrary, he seems very likeable. The operative word is “seems”. He manifests a penchant for keeping his close friends close and everyone else at arms length. This suggests that he is either unable or unwilling to either share his thoughts or listen to the opinions of others, or both. Which would explain why his approval rating have fallen below 30% in some polls. He continues on his crusade single-mindedly focused what he believes is right. And rightly or wrongly, he seems convinced that what is right for him is right for everyone else as well.

This is a scary attitude.

Take the most recent revelations of the NSA gathering our private phone records. I believe this is wrong. Certainly, catching terrorists should have a high priority, but not at the expense of one of our civil liberties, the right of privacy.

But that is not the scary part. I fear that justifying one privacy right will lead to other justifications. This is far too slippery a slope to be climbing. If the government can collect our phone numbers, the numbers to which we called and how long we were on the phone, what is to stop them from next collecting our credit card numbers and the vendors with which we transacted? The collection of phone calls is only to match phone numbers with other phone numbers to look for patterns; there is no eaves dropping, no investigation of the content of the calls. But if a terrorist can purchase plane tickets, chemicals, or weapons with a credit card, then would not the NSA be justified in collecting credit card numbers to look for more patterns? No content information, of course, nothing about what was purchased or how much; just the credit card number and the vendors, in an attempt to find a pattern of transactions for certain chemicals, or airline ticket purchases to certain countries. Would the public feel okay about the government compiling a database that might include your transactions with Amazon.com or Frederick’s of Hollywood or Guns ‘R’ Us; or donations to certain religious or political groups?

I fear that justifying one invasion of privacy makes it easier to justify the next one. But our president doesn’t seem to see anything wrong with it, because he is singlemindedly focused on the “war on terror,” the single phrase they throw at us to;keep us at bay.

Okay, break time over. Back to grading….

Climactic Finals


t is that time of season once again… Finals. I am always faced with this dilemma: Is it better to study for finals and take them? Or is it better to give finals and then grade them. Well, as a former student who loved being a student, I must say that taking a final is better than giving one.

In college, finals are the peak of any semester. All term long, you study, you learn. You prepare for a project, get ready for quizzes. You work hard on a paper and cram for the midterm. All this as you work towards finals. During finals week, you brew countless pots of coffee, burn the midnight oil AND the candle at both ends. You stress, you worry, you cram some more cursing at yourself for not having kept up during the semester. Then tense, wired, you sit for an exam. The questions are a blur, and yet your answers explode from your fingertips, all-knowing, confident. And in a couple of hours you are done. Good, bad or ugly, it doesn’t matter. It is over, and the effect is orgasmic. I’m finished, you want to scream.

Sound like hell? Well, believe me–and I speak from experience–it is far better than the other side of finals.

I spend many hours creating an exam that students will finish in just a few. And that’s not the worst of it. When a final exam ends, when students reach their semesters’ climax, I am there to collect and evaluate what they have spewed out. This takes countless more hours, and it is not always a pretty site. It is, in a word, anti-climactic–or is that two words?

But I am not here to complain. I am here to grade, grade… and grade, trying my best to view each student’s work in the best possible light, giving them the benefit of every doubt I may have. And when I am finished with one stack, I will move to the next and grade some more.

Ah, the life of a college professor. I wish I were my students…

Sensei on the Brain


kay, I know that I said that the semester is over, but I still have finals. Worse, I have students who forgot to take a quiz or turn in a paper. I scold them, remind them of the evils of being irresponsible and then accept their work, albeit late. Yes, I accept their excuses and let them get away with murder, the death of a sensei.


I don’t do this to get on their good side, mind you; I’m simply like that ice cream–a softee. As a result, however, some of my students can’t seem to forget me. 🙂 This is a recent IM I received from a former student:

(2006-05-05 00:06:28) ekru:i had a dream last night
(2006-05-05 00:06:31) ekru: that i was in your class
(2006-05-05 00:06:39) ekru: and being the jerk that i usually am
(2006-05-05 00:06:42) ekru: and you got pissed
(2006-05-05 00:06:46) ekru: and called [the university president]
(2006-05-05 00:06:50) ekru: and he came to class
(2006-05-05 00:06:54) ekru: and threw me out of school!
(2006-05-05 00:07:03) ekru: wtf i thought these dreams were supposed to end after graduation!

Oh well, maybe their memories of me aren’t always so good.

Classes Are Ovah!


es, that’s right, Ladies and Gentlemen, classes for Academic Year 2005-6 are over! Yes, I know that I have to grade finals, and that in itself is like a semester’s worth of work, but still….IT’S OVER!

Woo hoo! As I mentioned before, I’ve been working straight for years, YEARS, I tell ya, and I am looking forward to a couple of months and doing what I wanna do… Not that I want to overwork myself with research, ugh, but it will be nice to loll about in the morning without worrying about catching a train to work.

Anyway, gotta make the final exams–that in itself is gonna be a killer… But that’s okay… because it’s over! It’s over! It’s over! Hahahahaahahahah!

*Will someone get ready to dial 9-1-1*

Gasoline Prices


n spite of how robust the economy is going according to Bush, it hasn’t reached my level yet. I swear I am saddened everytime he says the economy is growing to the benefit of ALL Americans, because it seems that he is only referring to that ten percent of the population making six figure salaries AND getting tax breaks from him.

Bush: We do have a strong economy. It’s third quarter growth was great. We’ve added 4.5 million new jobs since April of 2003. Home ownership’s at an all-time high. Small businesses are flourishing. I mean, this economy is good. And it’s strong.

I look at my bank statement. I look at my credit card statement. It is not a pretty site. His statements about employment are rosy, but I already have a job. I have received raises over the years, but it has not kept up with inflation. When adjusted for inflation, I actually make less now than I did ten years ago. President Bush feels the economy is strong, but I don’t feel it at all. I work hard, but my money disappears in higher fuel costs–specifically gasoline and utilities. The food at Safeway or Giant seemt to get more and more expensive. A loaf of bread (multi-grain) 10 years ago was about $1.50. Now it’s over $3.00. That’s double, but my salary has not doubled, that’s for sure. Not even close…

While Bush finds the economy to be strong, I wonder who the beneficiaries are? I know it isn’t me.

Is it you?