Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Yes or No?

Koo Ja Cheol and Srdjan Lakic got transferred (loaned out) to other squads.  On one hand, with all the new transfers into Wolfsburg, they might have better chances to play and shine on other teams.  On the other, I don't really want to say good-bye to "too kind for his own good" Lakic and "closest teammate of Hasebe" Koo.  [Source]
Source
Source

SMTown put out a new MV, "What is Love" both in Chinese (Exo-M vocalists) and in Korean (Exo-K vocalists).  My sister who speaks Korean likes the Korean version more and I like the Chinese version more.  That means that the songs work in their respective languages.  On the other hand, I can't tell anyone apart.
Chinese version:

Korean version: 

How many distinct people can you see?  (Answer at the end of the videos)  Also, which version do you like more?

**Edit: The dancing in the Korean version is so much cooler.  Having flames and explosions (seen in the Chinese version) in a ballad-style song just doesn't fit.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Words

Words have power.

It's a power that should give me the freedom to express myself.  Instead, I feel a force that presses down on me, threatening to crush me under its weight.

No matter what I say or what I mean, there is always someone there to misunderstand it.

No matter how I try to understand and love the world around me, my words mark me as a close-minded individual.

I continually try to learn languages in hopes of gaining some newer, better way to use words.  But the more I study and the more I learn, the more I realize that words are inadequate.  And yet words, somehow, in their inadequacy, have power to change everything around me, with no way of calling it back.

Tomorrow, I may get up and be excited to teach my English class.  Tomorrow, I may be excited to try to write my resume.  Tomorrow, maybe I'll get the courage to say the things I mean to say and have them understood in the way I hope them to be understood.

But today...

Today, I hate words.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Food for two

This is Frederick
Cute little thing, isn't he?

This little mouse recently decided to come live with my roommates and I.

Our newest friend likes nuts (pecans, almonds, coconut), popcorn, and powdered sugar.  He's tried black-eyed peas and mung beans and decided, "Eh, no thanks."  Fortunately for us, he doesn't like chocolate.

In payment for our generosity for feeding him so well (5 lb bag of almonds), he leaves us little black "treasures" that we don't really quite treasure.

As much as I love Frederick, I will be glad to see him go.  And by "see him go," I mean, "I hope my roommates see him first."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Worth Living

Makoto introduced this song to me today:

No, really, you should listen to this.  Japanese Reggae.


It's a song of gratitude for our parents (and more specifically, mothers) for our lives and for who we are.

As a result, I've spent the day thinking and pondering and remembering.

Definitely grateful...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Vanity Fair

I was recently watching a TV show where a girl who doesn't know much about makeup and skin care walks into her makeup-wearing and fashion-conscious roommate's room, looking for some sort of cream to put on her face in an effort to look nice for a boy who is coming over to go on a walk with her.

She looks at the roommate's vanity and examines all of the many bottles of creams and cleansers and moisturizers and picks up one of them and applies the cream to her face.  She is just finishing rubbing it into her skin, happily patting her cheeks with some satisfaction in herself when her roommate walks in and catches her:

"Did you just put on my foot cream?"

The girl's happy bubble of 'being girly' bursts and she looks at the roommate in shock.

Events transpire and the girl's best guy friend happens to come over.  He is blunt as well.  "Your face is so shiny."

The girl pats her cheeks sadly, "It's foot cream.  Long story."

That's kind of how I feel when it comes to makeup and skincare.  I feel like I'm just playing some sort of pretend and that someone soon is going to walk in and catch my bluff...

Even knowing that I don't actually own any foot cream.

I just found this song today. It incorporates French musician Martin Solveig and the Japan group Idoling. It's hilarious AND addictive.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Innocent

Have you seen the Disney movie Tangled?  You know, how the main character is a little too bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to feel real?  She is a girl who has lived locked in a tower her entire life and so everything and anything she knows about the world is through a few books and her wicked non-mother.  The result is a naive girl with a lot of courage and spunk but no idea about how the real world works.

Take away the tower and the wicked non-mother, the bushy-tails and bright-eyes and for some reason, you end up with me.

Yesterday, I attended church in Richmond.  The bishop spoke and highlighted some of his goals for the ward:  (1) Spiritual nourishment  and (2) A positive social environment where (and I quote) "you don't have to worry about having a roofie slipped in your drink."  I turned to my roommate and quietly whispered, "What is a roofie?"  She turned to look at me straight on, obvious amazement in her eyes.  "You're really naive, aren't you?"

I nodded.  Yes, I am naive.  That was the second time this weekend that I was made blatantly aware of the fact.  On Saturday, I attended a party that one friend from my acapella group invited me to.  It turns out, the party was small and everyone already knew each other fairly well (by fairly well, I mean they finished each other's sentences and related each other's life stories).  It was a fun night complete with Candyland, Uno and a round of Pictionary.  However, Pictionary was a nice wake-up call to how un-American I sometimes am.  I had no idea what/who a "Snooki of Jersey Shore" was.  When it was my turn, I pulled out a piece of paper that read, "Flavor Flav" and I had pretty much no idea what that meant.  (Vague idea that it had to do with music)  The others took pity on me and let me choose another one, "Stuey of Family Guy" (it was actually misspelled).  Although I had heard of it this time, I was ignorant enough not to be able to draw anything that looked like the show at all.  (I drew a family and a guy and a bowl of stew).

As my roommate and I discussed later that a "roofie" was a date rape drug, she and I talked a little about the possible reasons why I was so naive.  I'm not a person who lives in a box.  I read and try to keep up on current events and politics.  I participate in a lot of community groups outside of my church, including an acapella group, intramural soccer, and the International Center.  So why?

We decided it was because I don't consume a lot of American media.

I don't watch a lot of movies (too expensive in theaters and our movie projector in our house is not the best).

I don't watch a lot of TV (no TV at home and no cable which my sister just informed me is how anyone watches TV these days).

I don't listen to a lot of American music

And I never keep up on people in Hollywood (although apparently I have a lot to say about a select number of Germans, Koreans, Japanese and Chinese).

The movies I do watch, the TV I do watch and the music I listen to is usually motivated by the people in my life either introducing it to me or providing some great discussion and conversation.

The result is a girl who really doesn't get pretty much any reference to anything.  Feeling embarrassed on Saturday, I tried to explain myself:

Me: I'm sorry.  I don't know a lot about American culture because <insert really awkward reason here - I don't remember it but I might have said something about my background or where I come from>.
Girl: That's ok.  I've lived here my whole life and I don't know a lot about American culture either.
Me: Lived here?
Girl: In America.
Me: Oh, I've lived in America my whole life too.
Girl: Oh.

Yep.  The story of my life.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sybert Part Deux

The end of Sybert's tale?

He spends a significant amount of his time and energy helping Italy.  As Marcia's uncle related, "He's had almost as much influence as the police in quieting the trouble...He understand [the people] as well as an Italian, and yet he is a foreigner, which gives him, in some ways, a great advantage.  They trust him because they think that, being a foreigner, he has nothing to make out of it." (p 267)

Well, that was the 'foreign' point of view of Sybert's efforts.

The Italians' view?  "You betrayed us!"  Those were the real words of his friend Tarquinio in a murder attempt on Sybert's life (and on Marcia's uncle's life as well).

Sybert himself concluded: "The people no longer trusted him; he could do no more good in Italy; his work was at an end."  (p 323) Sybert decides to return to America, to live in a country he doesn't call home.

Kind of heartbreaking.

Now I realize that this is a book, a fictional one at that, but I feel that there are Syberts all over the world who are trying to do good somewhere and sometimes their work is seen only as the work of an outsider.  It can be discouraging.

In fact, one recent book, White Man's Burden by William Easterly, there is apparently plenty of data to back the idea that foreigners have done more to hurt rather than help in struggling and developing countries.

To further back that claim, I have been impressed by how Japan has started rebuilding and recovering after the earthquake and tsunami prefecture hit the Miyagi prefecture this past March.  From even the small scope of Japanese soccer that I am aware of, there have been multiple charity soccer games as well as multiple charity auctions and events.  Likewise, Hasebe donated all the royalties from his book to the cause aimed at helping children specifically.  His book was the number one selling book in Japan last year (2011) and he managed to raise 95 M yen from his book alone for the cause (1.2 M USD).  One soccer blog website has raised 46 M yen for the cause as well.  This is, almost exclusively, the Japanese giving to the Japanese.  Japan is progressing.  Of course it still has a long way to go but it's on a steady road to recovery, thanks to its own people.

Is the friend correct then?  Can help only be given by those who are not considered outsiders?

I'm not trying to rock the boat.  I'm just trying to get a grip on the situation.  For a girl who dreams of helping people, it's important to know how/when/where help can be given and received.

I guess this post really has no answers.  I was hoping I would get to the root of the answer.  However, each time I try to analyze and examine this issue, I come up short.

Your thoughts?

(It must be noted, from the one comment I got on the first post that I think the United States and its culture is a beast unto itself.  In some sense Americans consider anyone to be American.  I have English students who told me one of their biggest complaints is that Americans just assume they are American as well and so speak in rapid English to them.  To me, that shows how accepting America is of diversity.  Then again, there are entire genres of literature within American literature that are dedicated to how the majority of America struggles to integrate and accept the minority lending idea to the fact that 'being American' is not as simple as choosing to move here.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Problem with Laurence Sybert


I just finished a book called The Wheat Princess by Jean Webster.

A fan of Jean Webster, I read it when I first came to UVa five years ago and decided it was time for another go at it before I left.

If you've ever read any of Jean Webster's other novels - Daddy Long Legs, Dear Enemy, When Patty Went to College or Jerry Junior - this one takes a decidedly serious tone.  It's the story at the turn of the century of a typical American heiress who has spent her life being educated at various places around the world and is now joyously enjoying her stay in Italy.

The problem?  Her father, ever the rich businessman, has cornered the market on wheat and is one of the reasons (among others including the struggling Italian government) for the famine in Italy.

The result?  While she happily lives in a bubble of contentment, viewing the peasants as picturesque in their poverty, everyone around her watches her and judges her.  When she enters the room at dinner parties where the wheat crisis is discussed, the room falls silent.  When she is followed around angrily by Italians, her groomsman, uncle and others come to her aid to berate the locals for their brusque treatment of her while explaining to them in perfect Italian that she is completely unaware of the situation.

It's a simply told story of a girl who learns for herself to open her eyes and see beyond herself, to see the darkness behind the pretty facade and to better understand the sufferings of others.  It's less coming-of-age it is coming-into-consciousness.  I really enjoyed it.

But this post, despite the length thus far, is less about Marcia Copely and more about her greatest critic and, later, her greatest friend, Laurence Sybert.  I have a lot of respect for Sybert.  In my last reading, he was the Mr. Knightley who offers his praise and criticism liberally.  In this reading, I kept finding myself sympathizing with Sybert and his own coming-into-consciousness.

For background, Laurence was born and raised in Italy.  Aside from years away for formal education (college), he has spent his entire 35 years there.  He is also secretary of the American Embassy and nephew of the ambassador.  When it comes down to it, is Laurence American or Italian or is it possible to be both?  What makes us a citizen of a country - does that come from the issue of a passport or the lineage of our parents or is it something more closely aligned to our hearts and interests?  

An excerpt of the issue at hand: This is Laurence and his friend discussing Laurence's recent nomination to chair a committee aimed at using foreign aid to alleviate Italian suffering.  (pp 93-94)
     "An American has no business mixing up in these Italian broils; Italy must work out her own salvation without the help of foreigners.  Garibaldi was right -- 'Italia fara da se'"
     " 'Italia fara da se,' " [Sybert ] repeated gloomily.  "I supposed it's true enough.  Italy must in the end do for herself, and no outsider can be of any help -- but I shall at least have tried."
     "My dear fellow, if you will let me speak plainly, the best thing you can do for yourself and your family, for America and Italy, is, as you say, to resign from the legation -- and go home."
     "Go home!" Sybert raised his head, with a little laugh, but with a flash underneath of the real self he kept so carefully hidden from the world.  "I was born in Italy; I was brought up here...I have lived here all my life, except for half a dozen hears or so while I was being educated.  All my interests, all my sympathies, are in Italy, and you ask me to go home!  I have no other home to go to.  If you take Italy away from me, I'm a man without a country."
     "I'm in earnest, Sybert.  Whether you like it or not, you're an American, and you can't get away from it if you live here a hundred years.  You may talk Italian and look Italian, but you cannot be Italian.  A man's nationality lies deeper than all externals.  You're an American through and through -- in the way you look at things, in the way you do things...The only way in which there's going to be any progress in the world for a good long time to come is for Italians to care for Italy and Americans for America."

According to the friend, it is unthinkable for Laurence to even try to get involved - there is no good for him to do.  However, according to Laurence, because Italy is his home, as much or moreso than America, he can't help but do his part.  Who is right?  And who is wrong?  Can Sybert do good?  If he, who so fully feels Italian, really be Italian?  Or is he forever and always American and should stay far away?

Let's just say, I read this book eagerly, hoping for insight into the questions that I often ask myself regarding the issue.

But first, I want to hear your thoughts:  Can a person who has lived in a country and learned to love its language, culture, and people ever be adopted into that country?  Or will they always and forever remain a forestiere, an outsider?  As a foreigner or not, can this person hope to accomplish good or should that work or rebuilding and reform be left to those who are unequivocally native?

Anxious to find out how the story goes?  You can read it at books.google.com for free here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Just Dance

There are lots of reasons in a day to dance.

Here is one of them!














And here is another:











In fact, life on Monday was so great that after a quick FHE lesson and activity, my friend convinced me to join her in playing Just Dance 2 on her Wii.  We played for a while and then got everyone else involved.  It was a ton of fun.

If only they brought out a Just Dance: Kpop dance version, then I'd be set.  The Shinee Magic Dance would just about do it for every dance.  :)

Now I'm on to Tuesday which has included a day of trying to bring my vacuum chamber down to vacuum.  It's tougher than you may think.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Spontaneity

Despite my busy and irregular schedule, I am actually pretty predictable.  I don't often veer off my beaten path.

For the most part, this doesn't bother me.  Saturday morning though, I woke up restless.  And then some friends that I have been wanting to get together since they first moved into the area texted me and asked me if I wanted to make a trip to Richmond with them for dinner and a movie.  I weighed my other options (none) and decided to go for it.

When I met at my friends' house, I spontaneously decided to text my one recently met Richmond friend and ask him if he wanted to join us.  Due to a server calling in sick, he had to work at the restaurant he owned and couldn't just leave but invited us to eat at his restaurant instead.  My friends agreed and soon I found myself awkwardly socially navigating between some friends from Cville that I knew somewhat well but didn't spend a lot of time with and a man that I had just met.  Then this friend asked if we would be willing to stay until he  and another friend got off work so that we could all meet for dinner (again!) at another restaurant.  My friends embraced the opportunity while I shook my head in bewilderment, thinking I left my comfort zone somewhere back at home.  What had I gotten myself into?  We met the two guys later at another restaurant where we chatted and laughed and flirted over appetizers and dessert.  The hours slipped by all too quickly and we were shocked to find it was pretty late by the time we left.

A completely off the cuff evening that was so completely out of character for me, from beginning to end.

And yet, when it boils down to it my evening consisted of the following:

Eating Chinese hotpot, speaking Chinese and spending time with friends.
Hotpot is one of the world's best foods.

Somehow, my spontaneity is still completely predictable.

I just discovered this song today.  Evan Yo, why are you so stinkin' adorable?
A Demo Song to Tell You I Love You by Evan Yo

Friday, January 6, 2012

Your Words are Like Honey

I found this news clip yesterday while looking through the normal slew of Korean pop culture stuff.  (Good luck getting through this)

The Stars That Overseas Viewers [Outside of South Korea] Wish to Go on a Date With

If I had to pick a few of my favorite lines...

"Celebrities seem unreachable - like distant stars that are far out of reach."  Isn't it against the rules to define a word using the word?  


"His kindness and gentle qualities that's shown on the variety program 'We Got Married' melted away the viewers' hearts and he emerged as one of the most popular male stars."  Melted away the viewers' hearts?  Does that even make sense?  Being number 1 on the music charts in Taiwan for over a year didn't help?


"But what people love about him even more is his eccentric personality that makes it seem like he's living in a completely different world."  Is that a nice way to say, 'he's weird'?


"You'll have to spend hours and hours preparing for your date to look more beautiful than him."  Are you saying I'm not pretty enough?


"We are sure that his bright smile has made countless women faint and collapse to the ground."  I'd like to see the statistics on that one.


"He may not be the most handsome or the sexiest guy in the world..." Is this a real compliment or a back-handed one?  


"He's also a true romantic who would probably write a beautiful song for the leading lady in his life."  Probably is the operative word.  And do you really want that anyway?  One of his last hits was entitled Heartbreaker.  


"His deep mesmerizing eyes make him look like the hero of a romantic comic book."  His greatest aspiration in life, I'm sure.  

"Even the Mokpo dialect would sound charming if he were the one who spoke it."  Another complisult?  


Props to the girl who voiced this news clip.  She deserves an award of some sort for getting through that without laughing.

And now that you know what this is about, go back and watch the whole thing and laugh your head off.

You're welcome.  Have a nice day.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Reality Meets Expectation

Dear 内田さん,

You were always someone I noticed but not really someone I discussed, unless, that is, to tease your coiffure.  (A lot of upkeep or absolutely none at all?)
Image from Tumblr

It's been over a year since you first came to Schalke with a quieter debut season than your colleague Kagawa over who made an impressive 8 goals in his first 16 games for BVB.  Granted, it's harder for defensive backs to make such a splash (unless you're Nagatomo).  But it hasn't ever felt like you've wanted the glory of Kagawa.  You seemed content to play a quieter role that simply included playing your best on the field and spending your off days with your friends.  That best, although often unnoticed, contributed to a best-ever showing in the European Champions League and a German cup title.

Ok, I'll be honest.  It's not like you were completely unnoticed.  You do have the number 2 selling calendar in all of Japan and your teammates all think that you were a Japanese male model before your soccer career thanks to your female fans.  But soccer-wise...

Despite not knowing too much about you or your game, I have to say even I have noticed your growth during your time in the Bundesliga.  When you first came, your coaches mentioned your need to bulk up a little.  I laughed that off since you come from a line of competitors in track and field.  However, over Christmas, I have realized that you are gaining in size and probably are much more effective in vying for the ball.  But not just physical growth, you've shown enough new interest and dedication in the game and in your career that even the fangirls are starting to take note.

It was a pleasant, lazy few weeks off, as I noted your public appearances.  It was fun to watch you take over as line judge during the Christmas charity match, to watch you play miniature foosball and then pat a miniature plastic "Yoshida" on the head after you gained a point, to watch you model the new JNT jerseys and play soccer with some local kids.

The New Year has come and it lay out before you as a clean sheet, a new start.  Nothing would be better than to jump back into your  team with a renewed determination to work even harder and complete the season...except that your team just let you go.  It seems they're in the red from a previous spend-happy coach and have to cut back the team.

It seems your new start is as clean and new as it is a big unknown.  Looking back on your break, how did you do it?  How did you face all those things with a cheerfulness that stuns in retrospect?  What is next up in the life of Uchida?

Good things, let's hope for good things.

Reality may not meet our expectations.  Sometimes, it can surpass it.
The character he wrote reads, "Exceed"
Image from Tumblr

頑張ります!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Cause/Effect

I am extremely bad at playing board and card games.  One Thanksgiving, I spent the entire time addicted to playing Mexican Train dominoes with my family.  I didn't improve as the weekend went on - I simply lost by a larger amount.

However, one time, three years ago, I actually won a card game.  It was a fabulous night where we played over cinnamon rolls and hot cider while listening to U2's concert that was playing from the stadium a mile or two away through our open window.

Two days later, I came down with swine flu.

Last week, on my roommate's birthday, she wanted to play card games.  I fought it with the argument that I always lose and I'm too competitive to be able to handle losing.  But since it was my roommate's birthday, I relented.

I played.  I won.

Now, I'm sick with the flu.

Coincidence?