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School. UC, Los Angeles
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We are the sum total of our individual experiences. As a result, everything we think, interpret and say is tainted. While we may try to offer objective "facts", these facts are inevitably arranged and presented through the prism of our own experiences, and as such it is our own subjective perspective of the truth.
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Sunday. 6.15.08 11:17 am
I wrote the other day about how I love to watch political talk shows. One of my favorites was Meet the Press on NBC Sunday mornings. During the 80s, I usually surfed between the shows on the three national broadcast networks--Face the Nation, This Week, and Meet the Press--but after I cam back from Japan in 1996, I watched Meet the Press exclusively because of the moderator, Tim Russert.
Moderators usually have to be pretty sharp about politics and people like David Brinkley were, although their delivery could be a little egg-headed at times. Others, such as the Mclaughlin Group was interesting, but it was often contentious, with everyone yelling at each other. Tim Russert always hit the right note. He was down to earth, and spoke in a way that was always understandable. He was from Buffalo, NY, raised in a family of modest means, and loved sports. He was the average Joe. He was also very tough, especially in his interviews. He would put on the screen a quote attributed to the guest, read out loud, and then confront the guest: "Do you still believe this" or "Could you explain what you meant by this?" But he never yelled or seemed disrespectful. He was simply hardcore, not allowing a politician slide by with non-answers.
Well, this moderator for whom I have much respect died of a heart attack on Friday. This was very hard to believe. I had just seen him last Sunday on the air. He seemed perfectly fine. And he was only 58 years old. By all accounts, he was healthy, and even passed a stress test on his heart this past April with flying colors. Apparently, what happened was that cholesterol plaque that had built up in his artery ruptured and clotted his artery, stopping the flow of blood to his heart completely. From what I heard on TV, this is the worst kind of heart attack possible. Even when witnessed by emergency specialists, this kind of heart attack has only a 5% survival rate. That was an eye opener to me. I mean, you could get this kind of heart attack in a hospital, and your chances of survival would be low.
This reminds me of all the unhealthy things I've done in my lifetime--smoking for 30 years, eating unhealthy snacks and fast food, etc.--and compels me to consider my own mortality. Could I have built up enough plaque in my arteries over the years to kill myself if they ever ruptured? From what I know, there is really no drug to dissolve or reverse the build up already there. Kinda scary.
In any event, I looked forward to Meet the Press every Sunday, as well as to his comments and coverage of the presidential campaign this year almost every Tuesday on MSNBC. I will miss him greatly.
The American who could speak English
Thursday. 4.6.06 3:48 am
I have spent many years in Japan and I fancy myself an adequate teacher of Japanese Language and Lit, but I was born and raised in SoCal, and did not learn to speak Japanese until I was an adult. My first language, my mother tongue is English. But I have worked hard to learn Japanese and depending on who you talk to, my Japanese is considered near native... or not...
I find that the longer I live in the States, the more my linguistic abilities falter. I speak Japanese at home with M, but the topics are usually limited to domestic issues and I have little opportunity to expand my vocab orally, so I read a lot... well, not a lot, but enough. But when I lived in Japan, my speaking was near-native by most accounts. Indeed, when I worked at a think tank in Tokyo, my boss accepted me as another Japanese worker, and occasionally introduced me to others as the American who could speak English.
Anyway, the first time I lived in Japan for an extended period was in 1984. I studied at Waseda for a year under a Mombusho grant and also earned some extra cash teaching English, as many of us foreign students are wont to do. However, jobs were not always easy to get because I did not fit the profile of an English teacher. I did not have blue eyes or blonde hair. Before you rant about the Japanese, remember that the same phenomenon exists here in the US. When I was teaching at UCLA, students who had a white TA would often come to me to confirm what she had taught, because... I looked Japanese, so I guess I would know better. Of course, I didn't. But I digress...
Once, I was going to work at Fujitsu Corp. in Hino City to teach English. I took the train from Waseda--Tozai line--and switched to the Chuo line at Nakano. From there I took the express to Toyoda, a station between Tachikawa and Hachioji. I was standing near a door of a not-so-crowded car staring at the sprawling towns as they pass by: Koenji, Ogikubo, Kichijoji, Mitaka. Next to me, there was an elementary school kid around 9 or 10 years-old, easily identified by his ransel--the leather book bag all elementary school kids carry--staring at the same expanse that is the Tokyo suburbs.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the conductor enter the car to check everyone's ticket to make sure that everyone had the proper fare. Sitting on the bench were two Americans, chatting calmly. They looked like tourists. The conductor asked them for their tickets and he saw them, he tried to explain to them that the fare was insufficient. But the two Americans did not understand. What's wrong? What do we need to do? Do you speak English? The conductor began to get flustered, and resorted to speaking Japanese slower with clear pronunciation, as if this technique would somehow break the language barrier. Of course, the Americans continued to be lost, so I did my civic duty. I walked over and acted as interpretor. I explained the situation, the Americans forked over the money they owed, and the conductor, relieved, thanked me.
I just smiled, bowed my head a little and walked back to where I was standing next to the door. The elementary student was staring at me.
"Wow, your English is really good," he said in awe.
I look down to him and smiled.
"Well, I studied hard. If you study hard, you can do it, too."
He nodded earnestly, and then we resumed gazing at the towns passing by the window. Today, he would be around 30. I wonder if he ever became a Japanese who could speak English?
Tuesday. 3.21.06 8:17 pm
I signed up to NuTang so I could comment on a friends site. but since I'm here, I thought I'd write a bit just to see what kind of house this is...
If I post anything, it'll probably be a rehash of what I've already posted elsewhere...
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