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more catchup

Posted on 2007.07.24 at 11:19
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Another recent development in lab has been the spontaneous fainting of presenters or audience members during early morning group meetings. I call this a recent development, but I seemed to be the only one in whom serious alarm was invoked as a result of witnessing the fainting, so perhaps the activity is actually fairly routine and I had yet to witness it until recently. So, this one kid was giving his early morning presentation. He had obviously stayed up all night the night before. I had too, but I wasn’t so out of it that I couldn’t tell that he was on par with me. Anyway, he made it through the presentation and did a fairly good job, but when someone asked him a question afterwards, he paused, nodded, and then keeled over onto the floor behind his podium. His feet came swinging up, carried by the momentum of his fall, and then they, too, thudded to the floor. A nurse with a wheelchair came rolling in a few minutes later, and the poor guy admitted ashamedly that he’d only had 30 minutes of sleep unintentionally when he fell asleep on his keyboard. That put an end to his presentation.

Likewise, during the next presentation, one of the audience members got up and headed for the door, but slumped against the wall on the way and fainted on the floor. Again, the nurse with the wheel chair sped her off to the infirmery. These two students fianted because they were sleep deprived from overworking. I think I made some good insights during my previous speculations about lab life here with my group at Keio, but perhaps I was a little naïve in tying such a neat little bow and dusting my hands. There’s a lot that I still don’t understand, including what I suspect is a strong social pressure for students to hide their problems, discomforts, and personal needs for the sake of maintaining the crisp appearance of general order and cheerfulness. I’m not saying that everyone is starving and tortured and hasn’t slept in months, but if any are somewhere partially down this path, they refrain from showing it until they can’t help otherwise.

I saw the new Harry Potter movie with Yoko. I don’t know when it comes to the theaters anywhere in the world except in Japan, but in Japan seeing it a full six days in advance was quite a hip thing. For once, I was in the know about something trendy, and not only that: I was ahead of the wave. The movie’s out now for real in Japan (as of July 20th), so I missed my chance to talk criptically about the ending to crowds of googly eyed girls, but perhaps I can still inspire googly eyes elsewhere in the world. Ogwats-hay akithover-tay! That ute-cay one is a rator-tray! Don’t rust-tray er-tay! Entaurs-say are adass-bay!

I need to compare karaoke in Japan with karaoke in China. Doing so can, with all due respect and necessary precaution, be expounded to comparing Japan’s understanding of Americans and American culture with China’s. This is not at all to say that karaoke is American culture, though I wish I didn’t have to drive for 20+ miles when at home in Houston just to find a neighborhood with a machine in the bar. No, karaoke is not American culture. It is, however, popular in Korea, China, Japan, and hopefully some other countries that I plan on visiting more later. At Big Echo, for instance, a friendly place found in many areas of Tokyo and probably other parts of Japan, interested singers can find songs by Bob Dylan, The Talking Heads, Willie Nelson, Harum Scarum, the Misfits, and even Anthrax. In China, at least they have a couple Michael Jackson hits, like “thriller” or “Billie Jean”. I was overwhelmed by the gerth of American songs in the giant catalogue they gave us. Karaoke in Japan is, like most anything else, much more expensive than in China. While I haven’t had the opportunity yet in Japan to attend karaoke with a bunch of middle-aged natives like I havei n China, I can still say that karaoke is, for this particular American, and much funner experience in Japan than in China. Sipping Suntory whisky and shouting along to “blowin in the wind” as drunk business men shout Japanese in the hallway and as pre-recorded welcoming greetings play automaticly with the opening of the Seven Eleven’s sliding doors outside the window is a great feeling. “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind! The answer is blowin’ in the winnnnnd!”

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