Thursday, November 29, 2012

When Japanese People Ruminate: Pt. 2

Welcome back to the segment that endorses the behind-the-back hectoring + humiliation of Japanese children. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please refer to my previous, similarly titled post. Again, these are all authentic quotes provided by actual Japanese students. And again, in italics, I’ve included the rejoinders I always thought but never said.

1)      Classroom Assignment: Explain something you wish someone else would do, using the first-person conjugation of the verb-phrase: to want (D.O.) to…”

“I want my mother to buy clothes.”
(So many things, Yuto. So many things. Firstly; you’re lucky that you, as a 13yr old boy, have already seen a woman naked. The illusion is shattered. Not that big of a deal, right? Flesh and fat and other shadowy, anti-glamorous stuff. You know what I’m talking about and you probably resent that. But don’t. You’re ahead of the proverbial game. The obsession and dumb reverence society feels for the female body is, like, totally snuffed-out. You’ve seen your mother naked. Many times. It doesn’t get any more real than that. Now you can get on with the truly messy part: considering women actual people and figuring out how the hell to deal with them. Secondly; stop being so selfish. Of course you want your own mother to be clothed. Her skin embarrasses you. But have you ever stopped and asked yourself: why doesn’t my mother have any clothes? No, you have not. Which is fine because you’re barely a teenager and very unpopular at school and your naked mom is disturbing and unseemly. The thing is, this isn’t about you. Maybe your mom doesn’t have clothes because she has a grave, irreconcilable personal problem that prevents her from having the sufficient funds to buy clothes. Drugs, online gambling, prostitution, a pagan cult, who knows. I’m just saying. Use some logic. Your mom knows she shouldn’t always be naked. She obviously can’t help it. So maybe you should her help her out. (Apparently your father never did.) Then maybe she can get her life on track and buy some clothes and wear them. Thirdly, you sound like a good person. Whatever your motives, more than anything in the world, you want the woman who birthed you to stay warm forever. Good man. On par with all those dumb, honorable athletes who use their first paycheck to buy moms a mansion. Lastly, I’m really sorry you grew up seeing your own mother nude on the regular. That sucks. I know what it’s like. My mom has been towing me along to her skinny-dipping escapades for as long as I can remember. Stay strong.)

“I want my brother not to come home.”
(Don’t be so dramatic, Yuki. You’re a clever little girl. Okay, so your brother is probably sixteen and really mean. I get that. But think about what you’re saying. If your brother doesn’t come home, where will he go? He’s sixteen. He has zero skills. He’s not smart and he’s not strong. If you don’t like him, there’s a good chance no one else will. He has nowhere to go. Just wait a few years. And god-forbid this brother of yours is a younger brother. You can’t even imagine what the international sex-trade would do to a little Japanese boy.)
“I want my father to stop drinking alcohol.”
(This sucks and now I’m sad. Keep your goddamn problems to yourself, Daiki. But also, if your mother is ever in need of a clandestine consolatory session, e.g. a massage-heavy respite from her mean-drunk husband, let me know. How old is she? 39? 43? It doesn’t matter. Your mom is super cute.)

“I want my grandmother to stop talking.”
(Patience, Mito. Just a couple more years and Grammy will croak. Like, I mean, the type of croak that doesn’t make any noise. Not the frog kind. The forever kind. The Final Croak. Ugh, fuck it. What I’m trying to say is that your grandmother will die soon. Patience.)

“I want my father to wash his face.”
(Oh, Mio. You are so wise. While your Oedipal-Complexy friends are busy whining about death and addiction and sexual confusion, you focus on small challenges with real solutions. Leave that metaphysical stuff to the philosophers and prophets, am I right? The only thing we can control is what we present to this strange, convoluted world. And you are 100% correct; your own face is the perfect starting point. Clean face, clean mind, and ONLY THEN the betterment of mankind. That’s what you’re saying, isn’t it Mio? Begin the day with a grimy, pimply face and the world is definitely not your shellfish. I bet if Yuki and Mito and Daiki washed their faces more often, they wouldn’t be such self-centered jerk-faces. You, Mio, are the wisest.)

“I want my friends to do interesting things.”
(Hate to break it to you, Maya, but that’s not gonna happen. Very few people do genuinely interesting things. My friends don’t. My family doesn’t. I don’t. You don’t. Your friends are not the exception. They will go to school, get a job, get married, have children and die. It isn’t interesting. It’s life. Lower your expectations.)

“I want Hayabo to be thin.”
(That’s not very nice, Yumi. Everyone has the right to live his/her life however he/she wants. If Hayabo wants to pilfer classmates’ lunch and shove it into his disgusting mouth-hole, that’s his prerogative as an autonomous individual. If he wants to devour whole gelatinous cakes during break-time and leave his lips encrusted in a permanent layer of hoary sweetmeat leftovers, it’s not your problem. You Japanese people need to get over the whole weight thing. Yes, exercise and vegetables are good. But if Hayabo wants to be fat, let him be fat in peace. He’ll be fine. He’s actually a pretty droll kid.)

“I want Taiia to steal my dictionary.”
(I’m going to be honest with you, Mami. I have no idea what this means. There are so many logical fallacies in one sentence, I’m almost impressed. How can you want someone to steal something that’s yours? If you own something you don't want, either throw it away or give it to Salvation Army. If you think Taiia needs a dictionary, just lend him yours. And why a dictionary anyway? Dictionaries are so innocuous and ubiquitous. They are at school and at home and in libraries and online and fucking everywhere. No one in the history of the world has ever thought “I need to steal this dictionary because otherwise I can’t read one.” I mean it’s not like Taiia stealing your dictionary would prevent you from possessing a dictionary. Your parents would literally drive to a convenience store that same day and buy you another one for like four dollars. If Taiia wanted/needed a dictionary, he’d already have one. This makes zero goddamn sense. And the kicker is; you writing this ludicrous sentence makes it abundantly clear that YOU NEED YOUR DICTIONARY. Keep your dictionary, Mami. And next time, before you write anything, open your dictionary. Because when you just write stuff without first consulting your dictionary, you sound stupid and it hurts my brain.)

2) Classroom Assignment: Make pairs and together with your partner compose a fictional dialogue between two real or invented people.

Ryota and Atsuki:
George:            I’m so free. I will die.
Paul:                 Will you make a song with me?
George:            OK. Let’s make a song!
Paul:                 What kind of song will we make?
George:            I want to make a cool song.
Paul:                 Oh, that’s nice! Oh no, I must go shopping. So will you wait?
George:            OK. But I will be free.

(Well, I guess that explains what happened to The Beatles. George was cryptic and annoying. Paul was an ADD–afflicted shopaholic. I assume John isn’t included in this conversation because he’s off with Yoko, taking weird performance-art photos and playing dress-up. Poor Ringo. Is he even still alive? Poor Ringo.)

Yuko and Kenji
Emma:              Whose father is this?
Ken:                  It’s yours.
Emma:              Really? It’s mine?
Ken:                 Yes! Here you are.
Emma:              Oh, thank you!
Ken:                 OK.

(Hold on one second. I’ve got to update my list of favorite sentences. Whose father is this? is definitely top ten material. The implications are manifold and pretty eerie. Here’s a brief, chronological catalog of the implications of this whole dialogue.
Implication #1: Apparently there’s an assemblage of fathers in one place at one time. This is already weird.
Implication #2: Emma has seized one of these fathers and dragged him to front-and-center. I guess this makes her the MC of this bizarre ceremony. Anyway, the father obeys Emma in total silence, which makes me wonder about his fathering skills/general ability to assert himself as a sentient adult human. Emma and Ken are both clearly children. In an ideal world, the singled-out father would be able to answer the query himself. You know, say something like “Steve, I’m Steve’s dad. He’s right there. Hi, Steve.” But no. He doesn’t say anything. Which means he’s basically just a fantoccini in Emma’s sicko game. Or maybe he’s muzzled. Maybe this is a parental auction of some sort. Like enslaved moms and dads are chained together on stage and the kids in the audience claim them or something? Whatever. I am so confused/disturbed right now.
Implication #3: Emma can’t recognize her own father and Emma’s father can’t recognize his own daughter. But somehow Ken knows all. He doesn’t miss a beat. What he does do, though, is employ the third-person neutered pronoun “it” instead of the masculine subject pronoun “he” in reference to Emma’s father. Which introduces a new, vaguely sci-fi element to the proceedings. Are these in-vitro offspring searching for their genetic origins in a post-apocalyptic world? And if so, who the hell is Ken? What’s his omniscient role in all this? Who/what is his source? Does Emma’s dad even have a mouth? Is that why he can’t talk? So creepy.
Implication #4: Emma did not see this coming. She had no idea that the laser-handcuffed, front-and-center, mouthless thing was her father. She’s totally shocked. Not a good sign. Never having seen your own father is one of those biographical facts that opens the floodgates for a ton of tragic, dormant childhood feelings. It sounds like Emma was an orphan. A faceless girl raised in brick buildings and always fighting for grub. Probably during The Final World War. But now somehow she’s the director of whatever baleful public transaction is going down. Her life-story is surely a tale of suffering and perseverance and voracious motivation originating from internalized anger/trauma. Good for you, Emma. You met your dad. He’s an it. You scare me.
Implication #5: Ken is handing over Emma’s father to Emma. How did this happen? How did Ken get in possession of Emma’s father? He must be Emma’s muscle. He must have hauled the chained thing to the forefront because, of course, Emma doesn’t do grunt labor. She’s so boss. Ken is big and strong and the clear Number Two. But the question remains; where is he getting his information from?
Implication #6: Emma now owns her father. This makes her happy. Knowing Emma, she probably has plans to manufacture his DNA for some really nefarious, classic-orphan purposes.  
Implication#7: Ken just slinks off without clarifying anything. He’s the consummate professional servant. But there’s something else here. Ken is hiding something dark. And now he’s in a weird position of power when it comes to his supervisor. Emma owes him. And on top of that, he’s already either betrayed her trust and stirred-up a false whirlpool of devastating emotions, or he’s protecting a secret. Regardless, Ken is scheming. There’s a Trojan Horse full of potentially hazardous DNA. There’s a good girl gone power-drunk. There are parent slaves. And this is all happening post-apocalypse. That’s how the dialogue ends. Fucking epic.)

3) Classroom Assignment: An English teacher from another school will be observing a class and participating in brief 1on1 conversations with each student. In preparation, please prepare a small autobiography that includes: things you like, dislike, family information and favorite hobbies.

“It is difficult for me to touch.”
(Well shit, Mitsuko. Don’t feel bad about that. It’s difficult for lots of people to touch lots of things. Humans, especially Japanese ones, are not naturally inclined to touch each other. Touching people is just one of those awkward things. I’m pretty sure that was the whole point off the 2005 Academy Award winning film “Crash.” Touching is hard and racism is bad and snow is rare, or something. God that movie is so unwatchable now. “Good Night, and Good Luck” should have won. But then again “Crash” did give us the chance to see an oily Matt Dillon sexually assault Ludacris on the side of a highway. At least I think that’s what happens. Or am I being racist? Goddamnit. Sexual abuse is bad and racial tolerance is good. I’ve learned so much. Watch “Crash,” Mitsuko. Just watch it.)

“I pet it lovely and love.”
(Riyu, you sound like R. Kelly. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. I’m just saying. You sound like R. Kelly.)

“My father is a truck driver. My mother is on senior citizen care.”
(Initially this struck me as really depressing, but I now realize that I was being judgmental. Feel no shame, Ryotarou. Driving trucks is an important, respectable vocation. Your mother has probably lived a fulfilling life. What I’m really interested in, though, is their love story. If your mom is already in a retirement home, she must be, like, really really old. Japanese people don’t send their elders to homes until they’re basically decomposing lumps. And yet your dad is still working his ass off, performing a job that’s no walk-in-the-park. Sounds like a pretty significant age difference. And the gender roles are inverse to your typical sugar-daddy+bimbo nymphet dynamic. I want to hear the whole thing. Was it a cute-meet? Did your dad drive your mom to bridge/croquet/pie-making parties in his 18-wheeler? Super adorable. Also, I’m looking for tips for when I talk to Daiki’s mom next. Give me details, Ryotarou. Details.)

“I have three balls. They are not soft. They are new. Do you have any balls? Do you often play with balls?”
(Seriously Shinji, whatthefuck. I’m just gonna answer your questions and ignore everything else. Yes and yes. That’s all. God. So gross.)

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