Monday, January 14, 2008

A Drama of No Drama

I've come to quite like the show, Grey's Anatomy. For one, it features a number of women in the show, all of which are strong, determined, confident, witty, extremely intelligent and charming in each of her own way (if anything, it's the men who have been portrayed as jerky, self-centered, if not cowardly in a laughable way). For two - it has drama. And a lot of it.

But come to think of it - how could it be a physical drama in series broadcast on screen if it doesn't contain any drama?

And that, is the crux of the problem why no one is going to create a graduate-school-version of Grey's Anatomy or Shaw's Study or some sort.

Why? 'Cuz it would be a drama without any drama.

And that wouldn't be any fun.

I'm serious. I've tried to picture what a grad-school-version of Grey's Anatomy could possibly look like on ABC, NBC, or HBO ...




Nope, not a single clue.


'Cuz drama requires people, and with people there inevitably involve interactions, LOTS of interactions. Fun ones, happy ones, sad ones, teary ones, pathetic ones, exaggerated ones, unrealistic ones ... It matters little whichever type it may be, for whichever type it could be, it is some kind of interaction.

Such as a conversation occurred at the bar across the library, a eye contact over the cafeteria table, a planned or unplanned shoulder bump in the narrow stacks room (as cheesy as it may be), some type of large-group meetings/discussions/debates/arguments, a punch in the eye, a tear drop over an email, etc.

But, walking alone in the streets of bustling Shibuya, sipping coffee alone in the neighboring cafe, studying/reading/take notes alone at a dorm desk, pondering alone about the definition of post-colonialism, post-structuralism, post-modernism (just to name a few), busying oneself alone with some textual analysis exercises, or staying up late alone trying to jam out a report/conference proposal ... None of these constitute "interactions" per se.

Not that a drama doesn't require some of these elements. For they do! But only for a few seconds, usually ... Usually, that moment of one walking down the streets of bustling Shibuya alone, or stressing over a fellowship application due at 5 pm the same day, or staying up late trying to BS through the entire paper, or having an epiphany over how to topple the established discourse of post-colonialism, post-structuralism, or post-modernism -- any of such moment would only appear for as quick as a few seconds or as long (at most) as 1/3 of the theme song ...

'Cuz supposedly, those are the "passing" moments in life. Moments passed in order for greater actions, interactions, and drama to occur.

But what if - all of a sudden - those moments constitute the exact and sole content of the drama? With no further actions, interactions, and drama to occur afterwards? What if, those are the moments, rather than the passing moments?

Nowadays I don't think I've seen any fun or popular dramas (whether the Japanese or American alike) out there that would not have a scene about somebody having a drink with somebody else, over a key thought or an inspiring issue or some moment of revelation (and of course, nowadays, there's quite some other development out there from the moment when they walk out of the bar ...). To put it simply, there cannot be a fun drama without a bar scene of some sort.

(let's just recall the bar across the hospital in Grey's Anatomy and its dear, fatty owner Joe who listens to or overhears everyone's hidden secrets ... or the bar where Elaine in Ally McBeal would always try to flirt with someone on the dance floor or Ally herself wallowing in little gloom or self-pity over a glass of martini ...)

But what if such a bar scene cannot be written into this grad-school-version of Grey's Anatomy b/c there simply is no dear, fatty Joe or the other person to whom one may pour his/her heart over a glass of martini?

No wonder I haven't seen any grad-school-version of anything these days. It simply wouldn't work. There's no juicy detail to show, no interesting characters to boast, no one is going to watch it, the rating is going to plunge, and - most of all - it simply would not be a "drama" to speak of after all.

Even though I am living in one, right now, at this very moment.

梅ちゃん at 11:44:00 AM


Sunday, January 13, 2008

One sec・100 yen

While cooking dinner tonight, I came across this TV show on TBS titled "The World in One Sec - 『一秒の世界』".

And I learned something new:

Each second that the clock ticks by ...

252 tons (= 63 large trucks worth) of fossil fuel is consumed on earth
5100 m2 (= 20 tennis court) of natural forests are disappearing
78 m2 (= 48 tatami mats) of land in China turns into desert
400,000 kwh of electricity used in the world
0.3 person (= 1 person / 4 sec) is dying of hunger

Shocked, I was glued to the TV screen until the program ended. Then I went online and checked the show's website; trying out some of the extended links on that site, I found something even more shocking:

I actually AM - not "could be," but "am" - one of the 12th richest people on earth.

That is, considering if the world suddenly becomes a small village of 100 people.

Sure, most of us have all heard of that story - "If the world were village of 100 people, then ..."

Still, our position within that village hasn't changed. Worst of all, the position of "the others" hasn't changed either.

Such as ...

the 20 of "them" who are hungry (including 1 dying of starvation)
the 43 of "them" who do not have access to sanitation
the 18 of "them" who do not have clean, safe water to drink
the 39 of "them" who lack access to improved sanitation
the 15 of "them" who are unable to read
the 93% of "them" who only have elementary-level education
the 99 of "them" who do not have a college education
the 93 of "them" who have no access to the Internet
as well as the 5 of "them" who do own 59% of the entire world's money, and all 5 are our fellow U.S. citizens

Turning the table around, I could ask myself a different question - What can I do with 100-yen or, to be precise, 83 cents?

Well, I actually can furnish my apartment with 90% of the daily household supplies, thanks very much to the flood of 100-yen shops in this city.

However, I could also use 100-yen to help 5 kids in Myanmar to receive polio vaccine or plant 10 trees in Inner Mongolia to prevent desertification. If I gather 3 friends who each contributes 100 yen, we can clear out 1 m2 of land mines at the Thai-Cambodia border. If I get 30 people to each contribute 100 yen, we can provide enough lamp oil used in the Iraqi refugee camps during the winter.

And so far I've only done the very first one - to stock up 90% of my household supplies from the overflowing 100-yen shops in this city.

There is room to do more.

----- ----- ----- -----

"If the world were a village of 100 people ..." -

We really are all richer than we thought -

梅ちゃん at 3:30:00 AM


Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Much Simpler Question

Having officially moved to Tokyo since June last year (gosh, we again have entered the days when we catch our hand still signing “’07” on paper or saying “last year” when what we really mean is “the year before” ...), over the past few days I finally begin to feel like I have “settled in.”

Not surprising, given that I was away all throughout the month of August and September and, upon returning, fell immediately into the post-Generals syndrome of wondering about where life is going to take me next while physically wandering around Tokyo – this mega mega mega metropolitan city whose magnitude by its sheer population size and the density of subway/train lines still continue to daunt me.

But at last, I’ve settled in.

I can’t pinpoint what exactly has given me this feeling of “settling in.” Perhaps it’s the fact that at last I walked into a church service where I not only see people of multiple cultures, languages, and skin colors but, more importantly, people who are eager to meet others and accept those of different backgrounds, languages, and worship styles.

Or perhaps it’s the fact that I finally got this urge to check myself into the library for a good few hours without feeling suffocated – quite excited, rather – in between the narrow book stacks.

Or perhaps it’s the fact that I finally figured out the exact position to stand on a particular platform in order to make my quickest exit at the next station, the short-cut to Shimokitazawa or Shibuya, the best smoke-free cafes in the area, and the particular vegetable shop that has “time service” (= sales) during rush hours.

Or perhaps it’s the fact that I finally found scandal-free English training service agencies that could offer me a highly professional staff team, decent amount of part-time teaching work without depriving me of the entitled wages/privileges given my credentials/experiences, and freedom from worrying about becoming one of the exploited members of the NOVA union.

A friend asked me a frequently-brought-up question tonight: “May-yi, don’t you ever feel home sick?”

“Well, first of all, you have to figure out where your home is before you could feel home sick, right?”

“Ok, so say that one day you get kidnapped by the aliens, and they finally grant you a wish to go home for a while. Now, where would that place be?” my friend pressed on.

“Well … I guess it’d have to be where my family/loved one is.”

“So, at this stage, that would have to be Taiwan, correct?”

I nodded. However, I made an addendum – “But note that it’s not the ‘place’ where I want to return to, but the people … So at the end of the day, I guess it’d be the people that define home?”

Having said that, I immediately thought of another related question – But would there ever be a day when somebody who too would say that he/she wants to go to whichever unknown earth corner/city that I’m living in, b/c I’m that family/loved one being missed?

So is it about the place, or is it about the people?

Another friend sent me this YouTube file on the new year’s eve countdown fireworks at the Taipei 101 building. Looking at the clip and hearing the little kids/their families making all sorts of exclamatory remarks in the background, my heart somehow grew a bit cloudy.

“Now, why am I looking at this clip again?” I asked myself. Out of all the fireworks clip taken all over the major cities in the world on new year’s eve, why am I looking at this particular one (besides the fact that it was sent by a friend in the first place) and in the meanwhile expecting myself to have some sense of pride, joy, or nostalgia?

What if I felt nothing (besides the fact the fireworks indeed are splendid)? Would that be a horrible thing?

At the end of the day – to me – how is Taipei 101 building any different from the Empire State building or the Seattle Space Needle or the Tokyo Tower or the Sydney Opera House? And why should I embrace any special kind of feeling towards it?

Esp. when the neon lights on the top of the building read – “Love (in a actually heart shape) Taiwan”?

I also wonder if on any skyscraper or landmark building in the world I’d see similar neon lights flashing with messages like “Love USA,” “Love Japan,” or “Love Australia”?

“Love Taipei” maybe … “Love Taiwan”?

I now see why each time when I go to Taiwan, I, in the meanwhile, have this uncanny feeling of being farer and farer away from it …

At least for now, I feel settled. And it has taken quite some time to get here, and before it slips away again, I’m just going to enjoy it as much as I can.

On a side note – I AM getting less and less tolerant of those black, humongous crows in Japan which, though deserving thanks for constantly producing *the* most recognizable sound of Japan which brings much nostalgia to all foreigners at times, now poke into my trash bags left outside on the open corridor in the evening and would not give in until they’ve torn them apart in order to get that last peel of orange or the half-rotten strawberry from the bag. So, between the crows outside and the possible visit of roaches inside, where should I leave my trash tonight? Indoor, or out?

Thank goodness this is a much easier question to figure out than trying to decide where I should feel homesick for.

梅ちゃん at 12:27:00 AM


Monday, January 07, 2008

Word of the Year


Though I didn’t get a chance to have a taste of home-made お雑煮 on new year’s eve, I was fortunate enough to get a feel of what it is like to stand among thousands of Japanese/tourists in a very orderly fashion for a pseudo-初詣 that at 鶴岡八幡宮.

And certainly, loved and enjoyed the Japanese-style Christmas cake – a 6-inch strawberry short cake covered with whip cream and a plastic Santa on top … 2800-yen well spent!

You cannot enjoy yesterday because it is just a memory, and you cannot enjoy tomorrow because it is just a possibility …

One of the most striking lines heard at the church today, and they pretty much summarize the essential state of being that I’ve been in over the past few months – feeling unsettled about various things in the past while being anxious about things yet to come.

This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it– Psalm 118: 24.

So time to march on and focus on the day that is in front and write as life comes along.

At the end of 2007, the 日本漢字検定協会 announced that “偽” (“gi” for “fakeness” or “deceitfulness”) was selected as “the word of 2007” that best summaries how the general public view Japan over the past year, with Abe’s administration turning into a major disappointment and major scandals breaking out in a variety of industries.

“Generals” … “Generals” … “Generals” – that is all that I can think of when I look back and try to find a word that best summaries what occupied my mind the most in the year 2007.

Now, what would the word be for 2008?

“論文” … “ろんぶん” … “lun wen”?


So I too have turned out to be like any other “ABD” Ph.D. candidates out there …


(why not “all but a degree”? …)

So, new year resolution #1 – “ABD” / “論文” shall not the word of the year 2008.

‘Cuz life is beautiful, and life is certainly much more fruitful beyond a single piece of writing (that will likely be read by my advisor only before it never gets touched upon).

So, whichever earth corner you are in and whatever you are doing, my friends – happy new year! Rejoice and be glad!

梅ちゃん at 1:44:00 AM