Andrew Magrath (biggrumpy) wrote,
Andrew Magrath

Casserole Wednesday

It has been a long time since I last updated my blog. I have had some not so pleasant stuff going on that has distracted me from updating. But now I am hoping that updating will distract me from the not so pleasant stuff - symmetry at its finest. So instead of a whole bunch of mini-updates on various topics I am just going with one big casserole Wednesday. Everything has been thrown together:

Media Update:
Battle Royal:
Chris, Kate, Flora and I all rented and watched the Japanese movie Battle Royal. Battle Royal is a very intense movie. It is like Lord of the Flies only with guns and it is government sponsored. The plot is that in the near future children have gotten so out of control that one class from among the worst classes in Japan is taken to an island. There the students are fitted with a bomb around their necks. The bombs go off if they are in special zones, and to assure there is a single winner. They are turned loose on the island with a bag which contains basic supplies and a weapon. The weapon may be a machine gun or a frying pan. It is all luck. The students then have to fight until there is only one student left alive. That student is taken home. The premise is pretty absurd but the movie really isn’t about how this could happen, no more than Lord of the Flies is a how to guide to survive on an island. Like Lord of the Flies, Battle Royal is a rather grim look at violence and the nature of human savagery. It is actually a pretty thought provoking movie, though tough to watch at times. It shows a broad range of human responses. Some students work together to try and fight back at the creators of the system, some refuse to “play,” and some play the game with a psychotic zeal. An interesting element is that kids are most definitively children in your mind at first, then as the game progresses you “forget” they are only junior high school students. But then it is driven home again that they are just 13-15 year olds and all your emotions are churned up again. I am quite convinced that it is at least thematically based on Lord of the Flies the parallels are very strong, though Battle Royal’s ending makes Lord of the Flies’ look like a room full of sunshine and ponies, which is saying a lot.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy “Trilogy”:
Ahh what a fabulous trilogy (of five books.) I miss the silly and fabulous imagination present in Douglas Adam’s work. It is sci-fi wackiness at its finest, and it makes me think I should start carrying around a towel – just in case. Everything in his work is done with such an irreverent greatness. One of my favorite characters is the Rain God who hates rain. He also doesn’t know he is a rain god. A verse that had me giggling at my desk was “He didn’t know he was a rain god, he just knew he hated rain. And all the clouds knew was that he was their god and they would continue to provide him their precious rain in hopes of pleasing him.” This is a brilliant series of books, read them. READ THEM! The movie is coming out soon, which I have mixed feelings about. I have heard it was written largely by Douglas Adams prior to his death, but I have also heard it cut a lot of the jokes present in the novel. The series also got less funny as it progressed so if Adams wrote it after “Mostly Harmless” (the last book) he was probably not in his prime as an author. Don’t get me wrong the entire series was brilliant but the early books were far cleverer than the later books. Based on the previews I am also not impressed with the casting. Arthur Dent looks particularly well cast, but everyone else seems to be horribly cast. There are also some rather annoying problems with consistency – such as Zaphod’s heads are side by side in the book, instead of the strange one on top of the other shown in the movie. Also Trillian is Arabian in appearance in the books. I make a more convincing Arabian woman than the person cast for the film. So, I strongly suggest reading the books and I hold off judgment of the movie, but my hopes are not high (my hopes are high for the new Batman movie and the Fantastic 4 movie)

Metroid Prime 2 Echoes:
I thought the void of entertainment that beating Tales of Symphonia left would be hard to fill, but then there came Metroid Prime 2. I am a HUGE Metroid Prime fan, and Prime 2 delivers very much big time. Everything about Prime, Prime 2 does better. The graphics engine has been improved. Samus has her trademark screw attack now. The weapons are not linear in strength, the ammo system is done well but not annoying. It is an amazing game. I beat the game but I may have to start a new game with a guide to collect all the items in the game (and thus get the “true” ending). Now here is the rant, Metroid Prime is so much better than Halo in every respect. Some people complain about the control system, but I love it. Let me go on a philosophical aside here for a moment, I love it because if I want to play a third person shooter I will load it on my PC. A controller can NEVER simulate a mouse and keyboard experience. Halo tries to do this. Prime does not. That is why Prime is better. Nintendo realizes it can’t be done so why bother? Instead Prime uses a control system that plays more like an action game than a FPS, which is fine because there is only ONE control scheme for FPS games and it isn’t a controller. Prime does not feel like a first person shooter, it feels like an action game played via first person. It is that philosophy of don’t try to be what you can never be that makes Prime great and Halo suck. Prime 2 is just amazing. I also read in the paper a few days back Nintendo is finally going to launch a wireless adapter for internet play. About time, I am looking forward to stepping into the metal boots of Samus Arin in the online world.

After Hitchhicker’s Guide I started the Chronicles of Narnia. n the past, in school, I read “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe” which is actually book 2 of the series. So I have started over properly. I have only completed the first book, “The Magician’s Nephew,” and was impressed with/surprised by two things. One is the book is very funny, book two is looking to be pretty funny too. And the second thing I was amazed at is how closely the first book, which deals with Narnia’s founding, closely models the Christian creation story. I knew Lewis was a very devote and religious man, but I did not realize how much it permeated his work. Book 2 is also shaping up to barrow heavily from religious sources. Reading Lewis is leading up to reading another book I have which chronicles the letters between C. S. Lewis and Arthur C. Clarke about the nature of science and exploration. Clarke is very heavily pro-science and technocratic and I am very familiar with his works, but I have only read an odd thing here or there of Lewis’s work, so I was not sure of his position. I am thinking the Narnia series will fix that, and I will be able to read the Clarke/Lewis letters with deeper insight. As an aside Clarke and Lewis only met once in their long correspondence. It was at a pub in England, and Lewis brought along his good friend J. R. R. Tolkien. So at one table you had Arthur C. Clarke, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien discussing the nature of exploration, science, and god. Wow, just wow.

Paper Mario 2: The Thousand Year Door
I have started to play the RPG, Paper Mario 2. It is done with typical Nintendo humor and style. The game is a lot of fun, but really hard! Expect more updates about it when I have beaten it.

School Daze and Food Craze
School has started anew. To my utter sadness two teachers that I really enjoyed have been culled. Every teacher in Japanese schools is given a number of years (ranging from 4~9) prior to entering a new school. When that time is up, they are shuffled to a new school. The idea behind the system is that by constantly rotating teachers no one school becomes overly dominate in anything. Also by doing so no one school acquires a unjust reputation of excellence (for my Alliance readers, read as Rockhill) while other school acquire a unjust reputation of horrors (read as Liberty – as a further aside Liberty Elementary School was far superior to Rockhill and I feel statistical analysis of my graduating class would verify my claims.) This system also fosters a community among teachers and staff because at the end of any given year you may be transferred to another school. The downside is that a cool science teacher that I really enjoy was shipped away to another school. An art teacher that I thought was also cool has decided to move to Tokyo and so she is leaving too. The flip side is we have a new school nurse and she spent a year in Romania, can speak English, Romanian, and Japanese and is really cool. I also have another new teacher that speaks English exceptionally well and is a lot of fun to talk to.

To welcome the new teachers and see the old off we had an enkai (party). It was at the Osaka Hilton and was really fancy. I didn’t know it would be fancy and dressed in normal clothes (like all our previous enkais) and everyone else dressed up. I felt a little silly, considering I am better dressed than most at work, but the staff at fair Tanigawa Junior High School have come to understand that I don’t typically know what the heck is going on and not to be concerned. It wasn’t a big deal no one said anything to me or anything, I just felt a bit silly. The meal was quite impressive. We had three appetizers: cold cut roast beef wrapped around various herbs and plant things, sashimi (raw fish) with a delightful mustard sauce, and pork cooked and then cooled. It was all very good. Next, we had a cooked fish dish (though it would have been better raw) there were also vegetables with it that the people at my table made me eat. They know I don’t like vegetables (like so much I do, it is a bit of a school joke) so they peer pressured me into eating some lettuce like thing with cries of, “Let’s Try!” Next, we had a very green soup that tasted like potatoes and was very good. After that, we had steak – rare. Tasting a steak again was simply heaven. I am not a big steak fan, on the whole, but this was good steak, and it had been a long time since I had eaten one – making it all the better. I wish it had been cooked more, but who cares it was delicious! The meal ended with a cake with strawberries backed in and a really good vanilla cream sauce on top. I am not a cake person, but it was very good.

Speaking of food, Dan, Anna, Flora, and I ate at a really good sushi place in town. It had several really awesome fish tanks set up, expect pictures on flickr soon. This was a really amazing sushi place and it wasn’t too expensive. I had tuna (duh!) and salmon. The pieces of fish were huge and very fresh. That was some good sushi, and a new place I can take people that come and visit me (hint, hint)

Back to school maters, I am yet to work with the second and third graders, which makes me sad. I miss the old kids, but I am getting to know many new ones. The first graders are all barely civilized – I love them. The only English many of them know is my name so walking down the hall it is a chorus of “An-do-ru!” and high fives. They are funny. My cult seems to grow daily. It is a bit embarrassing to be so well liked and received, but it is also nice to know that if the students ever have a bloody rebellion I will not only be spared but my cult will probably elevate me to leader.

Opening ceremony for school was really formal and intense. The first graders came with their parents and were assigned their classes then they went to their classrooms. The parents came with them and watched as they got all their text books, found their seat, etc. Parents took pictures of the kids while they wrote their name in the text, many parents cried. Outside of the school venders sold extra school uniforms and the official bag of Tanigawa Junior High School. I bought one of the bags, and my faculty laughed at me. I tried to explain that it would make a great keep sake and “it is a nice bag!” but they didn’t get it. The kids thought it was cool that I bought one though, so at least they understand me. Then at the first day of actual school there was an intra-school ceremony and a representative from each grade welcomed the first graders to Tanigawa. They were taught the school song (which I don’t know and mercifully do not need to learn) and presented with flowers for their classrooms. Like witnessing graduation, I feel lucky to have seen such a unique cultural experience.

My parents, my grandparents, and Katie are the greatest!
They sent me packages with Easter candy and other super great stuff. Hurray for the US and Japanese mail! If you would like to be mentioned on this blog, which literally receives dozens and dozens of views per year, thus assuring your assent to super-stardom, send me something cool in the mail or come see me.

Golden Week
Coming up in about 2 weeks is Golden Week. It is a great collection of holidays on Friday 29th there is Green Day, then Tuesday 3rd is Constitution Day, the 4th is National Holiday, and the 5th is Children’s Day. All are holidays I have off. I am taking two vacation days on the 2nd and 6th to give me a 10 day vacation. Very recently I looked into going back to the States for 5 or so days, but I started looking way to late and I just can’t swing $2,000 to come home for such a short time. So I am going to do some travel in Japan. I am thinking I will take the shinkansen (新幹線 – bullet train) to Kyushu island. There I can do some interesting stuff, then while taking the train back I can see Hiroshima, Himaji (with it’s amazing castle), and Kobe (a city completely destroyed in a 1995 earthquake, now rebuilt in a European style) and then wind up back at Osaka. That is the plan right now. I don’t really have an itinerary set in stone. I am going to be taking it easy during Golden Week and looking around at my options.

“Spring is here! Spring is here! Life is Skittles and life is beer. I think the loveliest time of the year is the spring, don’t you? ‘Course you do.” Tom Lehrer
Yes Spring has sprung. In Ohio the clocks have been changed, but Japan does not believe in daylight savings time so now instead of there being a 14 hour difference there is only an 13 hour difference. Which is much more convenient for talking to people state side, so I should call more people, or they should call me, or we should call each other (but not at the same time).
So I should mention the weather. It is nice. It is really nice. It is in the high 60’s low 70’s everyday. The sun is a little oppressively hot for my preferences, but outside is so pleasant. What a great time of the year. But the sakura blossoms have all fallen off so that is causing me sadness. But they will come again.

Working hard at hardly Working
I am teaching again which is really nice. But I still have time to kill at work. So I lugged my Classical Dynamics book into school and am reading and working my way through it. It is slow going, because I am trying to do it right and am not always in the mood to get owned by physics, but I am going. I am also reading a really good book “The Bottomless Well” about how we are never going to run out of Energy – ever. Why using more oil is better for energy, why efficiency just makes us use more oil, and a whole lot of other counter intuitive things. I have to be in the right mood to read it because it is written like a physics article and I have to have my “thermodynamics thinking cap on” but thus far it has been an interesting text.

I guess that about wraps up everything I feel like sending out for general consumption. Expect some fickr updates in the future.

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