I’m embittered yet happy. It’s an odd feeling.
I just watched Casino Royale – the original Casino Royale, one of the two non-canonical 007 movies. It’s a funny film, and by that I mean ‘odd.’ It’s got a terrific score, high production values, a cornucopia of sexy eye candy, and it sometimes works as a satire, but much of the time it’s just ridiculousness for ridiculousness’ sake. That approach has worked exactly once (as far as I’ve seen, anyway), and even the Holy Grail of meaningless satire unravels towards the end. I laughed out loud a few times during Casino Royale, but it wasn’t compelling and I waited for it to be over.
(The other non-canon 007 movie, Never Say Never Again, is far more satisfying. It’s a worthy instalment – Connery looked old in the tedious Diamonds are Forever, released 12 years earlier, but he looked to be in his prime in this one. It can definitely be called Bond 13a and put on the shelf between Octopussy and A View to a Kill.)
On Wednesday night we saw Hancock. It was OK, but it left me wanting. I could have used at least another half-hour of Will Smith ‘Tude. The main plot was workable, but the subplots (if you can even call them that) were thin and utterly disposable. And the origin story is revealed way too early. It would have been better if Hancock just was. I didn’t even care about where he came from – I just wanted to see him smash stuff around and make wisecracks. Oh, and Charlize Theron is hot.
The best part of Hancock was seeing the trailer for Quantum of Solace. I jumped out of my seat and cheered, thinking I’d be seeing it soon. But a second glance at the release date informed me that it wouldn’t be here until early next year. I go home at Christmas – I hope it will still be playing somewhere. I missed the chance to see the modern Casino Royale on the big screen because my “girlfriend” at the time couldn’t stomach it because her father also liked 007 movies. I saw it at home and when I tried to go to sleep that night I instead sat up handwriting a three-page sycophantic, rapturous “review.” I didn’t type it up and post it, because I feared it would make me look silly – much like these obsessive capsule-reviews probably are. =)
Election stuff: You’ve seen the Harpernomics ads. Those are a start, I guess. Why can’t the Liberals put out something like this, though? It’s so catchy!
Here’s something cute:
Harper Ad Spoof: Room for Everyone
South of the border, the VP debate was reasonably compelling – Biden was a bit restrained, and Palin performed respectably. Good for her, really. I wasn’t satisfied with either of their positions on gay marriage. Palin spoke of “tolerating” same-sex couples and perhaps begrudgingly granting rights such as hospital visits. Biden would grant marriage-equivalent rights, but not under marriage – he proposes what boils down to “separate but equal.” Um, NO. I’m sorry; I don’t find that the slightest bit acceptable. It’s every bit as odious as racial segregation was. Look, nobody’s talking about forcing religious entities to perform or even sanction same-sex marriages. We’re talking about allowing the same kind of social and political recognition that straight spouses are entitled to. There’s a big perception difference between, say, “boyfriend/girlfriend” and “husband/wife,” and we should afford gay couples who want to be married the same perception and recognition – we should extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. Oh, wait, we do. =)
People must like getting married – they do it so often and repeatedly! Allowing gay couples into marriage will hardly destabilize the storied, lifetime commitments made in the straight world. =)
School stuff: The pay discrepancy here is just retarded. I’ve talked about this before, but it’s getting more and more irritating by the day. Now, it’s one thing if novice teacher x gets a modest, liveable salary that’s only half or a third of what experienced teacher y is getting. I don’t categorically object to that. What drives me up the wall is that I’m going to have $5,500 saved for university at the end of this year of living off cup noodles and instant oatmeal. Not only is it a drop in the bucket, but if I were one of the local hires, who this term have one – one! – more class per week than I do, I would have been able to save $17,500 and not have to worry about tuition ever again. (I can thus safely say that the “intern” label is just a way to get people to do the same work for much less money.) Okay, if I were making more money, I’d probably be tempted to spend more, but I’d still make an effort.
When I was talking with one Western parent (which I suppose is a breach of the rules, but I’m almost daring these shysters to fire me), he said, “Oh, you guys can’t go anywhere, can you?” “Well, we have our mama-charis.” “Ha-ha, how quaint.” Stupid parents and their cars. =) Not that I need a car, but I can only dream about affording one, and I love to drive. When I take the children out in the afternoons to cross the street to the parking lot (God, that’s poor design, isn’t it?), I have to work hard to keep the resentment off my face when I see the Mercedes and Volvos and cavernous Toyotas come to pick them up. The whole setup here is a recipe for exploitation, and I am a target. If I could quit without severe consequences, I would. If I were fired, at least I could leave with my head held high. But surviving is not a bad option, either. There’s really not that much time left, and I’m still learning a lot of valuable lessons here.
One thing that sticks in my craw is the lack of congenial, relaxing space at school. Back in Canada, we actually have teacher’s lounges. Staff rooms have comfortable couches and are a place to eat, chat, or maybe do some lightweight work.
Here, if I’m feeling tired, I have to sneak up to the top of the East Building stairs (where the doors are to go out onto the roof) and have a quick nap there.
K. was telling me that some of the public schools here have lounges, and they sound like they could be better than Canada’s. They’re well appointed because they’re used to receive guests and have tea, but they’re also used by the teachers. The same cannot really be said of our well-appointed nook, because it’s the principal’s office. Generally speaking, you need permission to be in there (although right now that’s been relaxed because of the renovations that force us to use the room for utilitarian purposes).
I’m just, you know, getting tired of working under the eye of someone. I feel like I always have to look busy. It’s utterly stupid. Nobody can be effectively busy all the time. I feel like I’m expected to scurry about and look like I’m doing a million things at once. Gah, that’s no way to work!
OK, breathe. I’ve got a lot to be thankful for – yes, mostly in spite of the situation, but that’s still something valuable. And it’s not like the teachers or even the bosses are all bad, it’s mostly just the system that’s screwed up.
I wonder if the late Mr. M. knows how resentfully I eye his portrait that hangs in every room. If there’s clairvoyance in the Great Beyond, he’ll understand. (I say this knowing that I am in need of such clairvoyance myself. But… read on!)
* * *
From a half-drunk Facebook message to Joe:
Oh, it's Japan. A liberal [I forgot the scare quotes] democracy in government, but a more stifling culture I have never lived in. Everyone here allows themselves to be sheep. I'm tired of it.
And then there are the practical considerations [that I miss], like being in a country where your native language is spoken and having access to education / skill building and whatnot. I'd thought that I'd be staying here for the long-term, but that was because I knew nothing about what it was really like here. Japan's a fine country and a dandy place to visit, but most of the foreigners who stay for more than a year or two are disgruntled ex-pats stuck with a wife and kids who can't leave because their wives wouldn't be able to transfer their jobs to the husband's country. (Men being men (in any country), the situation is virtually hopeless for Western women - they're almost guaranteed to be staying in Japan.)
I'm definitely over-generalizing, but I do want to say that this is not the land of milk and honey, and Japanophiles can easily get their fix without having to actually come here. In fact, it's easier - the exported stuff is geared to English-speakers! The Japanese language is worth learning, but it's not exactly a global language, either.
And all everybody does here is work. Work, work, work. Unpaid overtime is definitely the norm, although more progressive businesses are starting to do things like turn the lights off at 9pm to encourage people to leave. Then the salarymen are up at 4am again, off to some train station for breakfast, then to a course to improve their business skills, and then to work for 8.
And teaching! Such a frustrating job I'd never imagined! It's a ball of inefficiency, incompetence, authoritarianism, and shitty resources. Fuck it. Fuck it doubly because I'm in a private school. I thought that would mean quality. What it really means is that they're ridiculously short-sighted and will tell the parents anything to keep their kids enrolled here. We're not allowed to talk to the parents, because they're afraid that they'll find out that we're not real teachers (again) and pull their kids out en masse (again).
I was really stupid to come here. I thought it would be a shortcut to success. Instead I learned that for me there will be no shortcuts, but that is an extremely valuable lesson - I am grateful for coming here, but there's little I could recommend to anyone.
It's not all Japan's fault - it had little hope of living up to our fairy tales, anyway. And now I *really* don't get Japanophiles - yeah, Japan's cool, but so are a lot of other countries. There are good things about living here. It's REALLY safe, for one thing. And the living expenses aren't really that bad (but I'm in the suburbs of a small city, not in the middle of a major city).
* * *
Part of his reply:
Sorry to hear about Japan, although it does sound like a good learning experience. You're a little embittered, but you've grown for it. And now you know.
… I moved in with a stoner drop-out and his ex-cheerleader girlfriend (and 3 cats, later expanding to 8) and somehow expected it to be more than what you'd obviously expect. It was a learning experience; don't give losers the benefit of the doubt.
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"Don't give losers the benefit of the doubt." That's a good rule. I will take it into consideration. The only thing is, at least at some point, haven't most of us been losers? =) I certainly have been, at least in the eyes of a great many of my contemporary peers, and socially that's what counts.
Ha-ha, yeah, I'm going to be moving back into my mom's house, too. And in putting my own future and opportunities at the forefront, I feel like a bit of a selfish ass - I try my best to stick to social symmetry, but I resist being manipulated into doing things that I feel I shouldn't have to do.
You know something, though? Remember when you said "Yes, Will, run away from your problems, that's the answer." Or something like that. Of course you were being sarcastic. But in a way, I've found that it works! You can run away - to another country, another society. You bring your problems with you and discover new ones.
But when you're away from your home society, you get the advantage of looking on it from afar. I've given a lot of thought to where I was, what I'd done, and where I was going, and I'm learning a lot of things about myself and about other people and why they do and say the things they do.
I now see the opportunities I missed, the zigs I should have zagged, and why people have seen me the way they have. I can't correct everything, and I have decided to become unapologetic in pursuing my obsessive, odd interests, as that is the only way I'm going to accomplish anything with my wiring.
I can't wait to get back and apply my newfound knowledge. I had the same experience with Poland and Ukraine - after I returned, I found myself much more aware, and with Japan I think the same thing will happen again.
Sometimes it's good to sit out of things for a year, you know?