Monthly Archives: December 2016

Speech Acting Theory

One of the problems with the way the school where I work conducts its annual speech contest is you pretty much always know who’s going to win. That was especially true today, as the guy6 destined to win performed the speech that sent him to a national speech contest.

I served as head judge for the third year junior high school division of the speech contest. This involves standing up and smiling to random golf claps and then shaking hands and giving a short speech. (More on that in a minute.) My job is also stay awake during 28 speeches.

The speeches went well and the speech chairmen, who put the “chair” back in “chairmen” by almost never standing up, kept the pace up by calling the next speaker before the current speaker had reached his chair after leaving the stage.

A couple students choked, including one who swore under his breath and then panicked after everyone went “Ooooh” when the mic picked up his muttering. One of my students started out well and then panicked when he skipped a couple lines.

The winner had practiced his enough that he didn’t need his paper. He also has some acting training and has the presence, and the hair cut, to stand there looking pretty cool. The only battle, therefore, was for first loser. So to speak.

After all the speeches finished, there was very little time for the awards ceremony, the obligatory photo, and my comments. This was okay as my comments are usually ridiculously short anyway.

After my comments, everyone ran away to make room for the first year junior high division. I probably ran away faster than everyone else.



Rogue One: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

The main problem I have with Rogue One is that I know how it ends. That said, I enjoyed the movie (the popcorn was awesome), but would classify it as good not great.

I like that, for the most part, the movie takes place back stage at a greater play. Like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Tom Stoppard’s terrific play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, who hangout back stage at Hamlet and interact with main characters, the main characters of Rogue One interact with and stumble across main characters from the other movies. (Thanks to unused footage from the original movie you may even recognize  a couple of the pilots.)

Unfortunately, because we know how Star Wars begins, we know what has to happen at the end of Rogue One. If you know Hamlet, you know what happens to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Stoppard’s play, which means, as the saying goes, the journey is more important than the destination. In the case of Rogue One, that journey has to end with a set of Death Star plans jammed in an R2 unit.

This wouldn’t be that much of a problem, except that the lead actors let the movie down.

For all its efforts at assembling a diverse cast (except among the Empire), Rogue One neglected to get two actors who either radiate presence through the screen or have such good chemistry that they generate energy. Unfortunately, either because of direction or acting style, neither Felicity Jones nor Diego Luna have the screen presence to dominate the movie. In fact, even during the film, I kept forgetting their characters’ names. It’s fair to say that CGI Grand Moff Tarkin has better chemistry with Orson Krennic (played by actor Ben Mendelsohn) than Jones and Luna have at any moment.

Jones is good as Jyn Erso, but at no time do I believe that her character has the charisma to inspire a group of rogues and bring them on a dangerous mission. Instead, and I blame the director for this, she spends a lot of time with a “Now listen guys, what we’re doing is REALLY IMPORTANT” look of determination on her face.

In the movie’s defense, her greatest attempt to rally the greatest number of people fails spectacularly so maybe that was all deliberate.

The rest of the cast, with the exception of a wheezing, scenery chewing, air mask sucking Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera/Frank Booth, are also good. The chemistry between Chinese actors Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen (as  Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus, respectively) is excellent and nearly steals the movie. I could easily see one of them replacing Diego Luna as Captain something or other. (I can’t even be bothered to look it up.)

The robot character, K-2SO, voice by Alan Tudyk, looks suspiciously like the robot from Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky and provides most of the comic relief. I especially liked an early sequence where K-2’s disappointed that Jyn gets to carry a blaster but he doesn’t.

The movie does have a couple throwback cameos that make you go “What? How is that possible?” and it suffers from the “You gotta win the war in the cleanest, most ethical, least damage causing way possible or you are evil” attitude that was part of the premise of Captain America: Civil War, but the movie does explain why the Death Star was so easy to destroy in A New Hope, and the space battle sequence, as has been pointed out by other reviewers, is remarkably easy to follow.

I recommend people see Rogue One, I just don’t expect them to rush out and see it twice.


Sunday Delivery and Economic Policy

Because I haven’t transferred money to my US account since 2011, and because the company that used to handle the transfers has been bought out, I suddenly found myself having to reapply to transfer money to the USA.

This, however, was complicated by US law. I won’t go into details but the basic idea behind the law is “don’t trust Americans or we will hurt you because they are all tax-evading bastards”. Because of this, even Swiss banks have been playing ball, so to speak, and I had to fill out a fairly hefty application and copy two forms of ID. Then I had to answer any unanswered questions via phone calls and then wait long enough that I was worried I’d been rejected.

(Note: there are other ways to send money to a US account but they involve a trip to the post office, hefty amounts of paperwork each time, fees, and, on occasion, substantial profane language.)

Yesterday, though, I received notice that I had a registered letter waiting for me at the post office and She Who Must Be Obeyed called and arranged delivery today. The postal worker arrived at the very end of the requested time period–I didn’t complain because Sunday Delivery–and then he spent a full three minutes filling out paperwork. What shocked me was that 1) HE filled out the paperwork and 2) that he accepted a non-photo ID as proof of who I was.

I now have an account and a way to transfer money. That means I’ll have to actually attempt all that tomorrow. That’s when the real swearing will probably begin.

The Dilemma of the Ages

I don’t like it. She either didn’t remember or did it on purpose. Either way I ate it and didn’t say anything.

There are only two foods in Japan, arguably in the world, I don’t like: Sweet omelets which are an everyday abomination served along side sushi, and Oshiruko, a kind of soup made from sweetened red beans and rice cakes. Oshiruko is a Japanese new year’s tradition but it reminds me of manju that’s been eaten and then puked up. (Note: I’m not sure why I don’t like it, but I think it’s because, at first glance, it looks like baked beans. It is not baked beans, though, and I guess my brain can’t handle that.) I’m also not a huge fan of mochi, the rice cakes served in the manju vomit. These are rectangular bits of chewy rice paste that Japanese consider to be a form of food.

Tonight, for reasons I don’t understand, She Who Must Be Obeyed served oshiruko  and mochi for supper. This wouldn’t bother me except it was the main dish. The side dish was a vegetable and sausage stir fry. This left me with a dilemma: do I order pizza and risk the wrath of SWMBO or do I eat it and say it was delicious and then cook something else.

I opted for the latter, sort of, as that is my husbandly duty (In sickness and in health; for better and for crappy food. It’s there; look it up.) I didn’t cook, but I did supplement with some cheese and a banana.

That got some attention, though, which may or may not be a good thing.

Stumble into the Sabbath

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Exodus 20:8

I’m pretty sure that verse doesn’t mean “Do something, but not that thing you meant to do.”

In the grand judgment of “accomplished stuff” versus “wasted entire day” the verdict is “push” because I didn’t waste time effectively.

Although I had a basic plan, being finished with classes and marking for the term at the school where I work caused my body and my psyche to shut down and take a day off. I had stuff set out to do, but all I managed to do was stare at it and go “I should do that some day”.

That said, I managed to write a few things that will eventually appear on this site. Eventually.

I also took some pictures that will, in theory, accompany the things I wrote.

All this surprised me as one of my long term plans is to establish a day where I write and save a couple posts so that I always have something on hand for days I’m busy.

Granted, I wrote it all out by hand which means it’s not in an internet usable form, but tomorrow is another day. Sort of.


This Bluff is Not a Bluff

It started with an excuse, then some panic. Then another student smirked when I told he just failed the term. I’m not sure what he’s thinking, but he seems to have been having a term long teenage moment so perhaps he’s not thinking at all.

Either way, I suspect I’ll have a rather lonely make-up test day unless he realizes I’m not bluffing.

My last class of the term started with a student admitting he was stupid because he’d forgot the pictures he needed for his final project. He thought he’d be able to do the speaking part without the pictures. I told him that was impossible and gave him and his partner some paper and instructions to draw some pictures. In the end they did their presentation and will pass, albeit with a lower score than they could have earned.

A second group did their presentations, but one member hadn’t done the two previous speeches. I told him a bad speech was better than no speech and he grunted a response.

Several minutes later I saw him playing with his phone and told him to come up and do his speeches. (In my world “playing with your phone” equals “I’ve finished my assignment and have nothing else to do”.) He had nothing ready and dismissed me with a smile. I told him he’d just failed with the lowest possible score (alas, I can’t give zeroes) and he smirked as if he thought I was joking.

On Friday he’ll discover I wasn’t joking. Then, next year in early January I’ll be waiting for him at the make-up exam. I doubt I’ll see him though. I may end up just standing in the room by myself.

Not the first time, won’t be the last.

Moment After Moment

Our oldest, being finished with exams (sort of, maybe, long story), went to an event honoring the release of one of her favorite singer’s new singles. While she was there she managed to anger She Who Must Be Obeyed. I, of course, didn’t make things better, but it did get me thinking.

First, our oldest changed clothes and went to the concert but left the parts of her school uniform scattered around the living room. In fact, it was so messy that it’s fair to say that even Project Blue Book would have sent agents to investigate her alien abduction.

While she was away, she texted to inform us that she had lost her Kanji textbook, which meant she couldn’t study for an exam she has tomorrow. She didn’t know where she’d lost it but had a couple possible locations.

(Note: If I’d known she had an exam tomorrow she wouldn’t have gone. That said, I do not understand why both she and She Who Must Be Obeyed refer to the exam as a “mini-exam” that seems both important and not important.)

The revelation of the lost book led to much anger/ranting from SWMBO, whose anger is a lot like a string of firecrackers: once it starts it doesn’t stop until it’s finished and trying to stop it frequently leads to injury.  I contributed by commenting that there was little we could do about it at that moment as we were in a different state and that we should save our anger until our oldest arrived home/I finished what I was working on. (Note: this, as near as I can tell, did not endear me to SWMBO.)

I met our oldest at the station to escort her home as she arrived well after dark (and there’s a creepy guy along the way who’s spoken to her in the past…another long story), she explained that her book had been buried in her backpack the entire time.

This made me mad as it proved she hadn’t actually studied, which is why the book was buried where she couldn’t find it. But then it got me thinking.

Our oldest had clearly had a Teenage Moment. This is like a Senior Moment, but happens to teenagers.

I shudder to think how many Teenage Moments I had when I was a teenager. Then again, it’s fair to say that everything that happened to me from age 12 to age 33 counted as a teenage moment.


Accidental Time Swapping Traditions

It has become a tradition in my daily log that I get a couple days backward.

In both this year’s log and last year’s log, I’ve started to fill out a page only to realize, much too late, that it’s the wrong page. This means that the next day also has to go into the log in the wrong place resulting in a couple pages of swapped time.

This made more sense in last year’s log as it was a blank book and I had to write the dates every morning.

However, my current log has dates already printed. Despite this, for yesterday’s entry, I strarted writing the notes for the 12th on the 13th. Today I had to write the 13th on the 12th.

Tomorrow I hope the 14th is on the 14th, but I can’t guarantee that.

Finishing and Crashing

I had six test pass-back classes today but only about one class worth of things to do. I used the extra time to finish exams.

At the school where I work, for reasons I don’t understand, we are expected to keep students a full 50 minutes on the days we give them back their exams. The trouble is, the best we can hope for is 20-25 minutes of test-related activity and the rest is, more or less, babysitting.

Some teachers show movies, others give assignments, but I’m more prone to allow free time with the admonitions “No fighting. No kissing. No sports.” If the class is in the homeroom and/or the students remember my instructions to always bring something to do in case they finish an assignment early,

When I did this in my early classes, I was able to finish marking the long writing sections on my second year high school (11th grade) exams and tally the marks.

In my third year junior high school classes (9th grade) I was kept busy marking long writing sections. (Note: on some exams, I don’t mark mistakes. Instead I read, give a score, and then mark the section if a student questions his final mark.)

Luckily all that happened after I finished marking my exams. If it hadn’t, I’d probably still be marking exams rather than writing this.



That Long Last Stretch is Oh So Long

Been busy today, which means I got nothing but work to talk about. In fact, today involved three different jobs in various forms.

I was able to close out two of the jobs by sending edited paragraphs and posting final marks. I was also able to complete the class marks for my junior high school classes.

All that seems like an accomplishment, and in many ways it is, but that was the easy stuff and it leaves me with the final section of my final class’ worth of exams and over three days to finish them. The problem is, the way my brain works, those few thousand words (in theory 120 words X 28 exams) somehow manage to stretch out for the entire allotted time.

I like to think that something like that won’t happen this time, but I’m already thinking of ways to waste time. None of them productive, just ways to waste time.