Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Learning to BowLearning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan, by Bruce Feiler

This is not the book I thought it would be, though I confess to having no preconceived notion of exactly what I thought it would be. It is the account of an American in small town Japan, teaching English to middle-school students. "Mista Burusu" is continually amused to find that the Japanese are amazed that he can eat Japanese food and use chopsticks, and I think I recall having that experience once or twice when I wandered off the beaten path. What's not funny, however, is the description of the stifling education system to which the Japanese are forced to conform. Forced by the government, forced by the elders of the educational system, forced by the parents, and the students themselves. The first half of the book is a sort of acclimatization for both the author and the reader to life in Japan. The second half of the book delves a little deeper into the Japanese psyche, including subjects such as marriage and suicide. Mr. Feiler's experiences took place over 15 years ago, and while I'm tempted to believe that a lot can change in 15 years, I suspect that less has changed than has stayed the same, especially outside of Tokyo. Naturally I would love to read Theic's review of this book, should she ever return from gallivanting husbandless throughout Europe. One of my classes this semester is on the management of multinational organizations and I intend to use this book as a resource in my term paper. As usual, I'll leave you with an excerpt...
One of the most impressive aspects of the Japanese school system is its ability to foster among students an allegiance to the state. In the United States, students learn early about their rights as Americans. "It's a free country," adolescents often say, "I can do whatever I want." But do they learn about their responsibilities? In Japan, this balance is made clear. From cleaning the windows of their classroom to picking up trash in their neighborhood, students learn the importance of serving their community. The essence of citizenship, I believe is the feeling that people value their place in a group to such an extent that they are willing to sacrifice some of themselves so that the group as a whole may prosper. Japanese schools' biggest service to the state is their ability to create among most students this overwhelming sense of belonging.

Two quick music reviews:
The first is another one I can't mention by name, but you'll remember the band from their 1991 hits that were something like "Little Prince Can't Be Wrong" and "Two Misses". The overpopularity of those two songs couldn't be reproduced and their subsequent albums were commercial flops, the last released in 1999. But they're back and I've already heard their first single on the cable music channel. In my opinion, there's a better single on the album, one that sounds more like the band you knew back then without the overwhelming feeling that they're just clinging on. The album on the whole is a decent effort, I just don't think it has the energy that it needs after such an extended absence. They're on such a tiny label now, I don't expect to hear much on the actual radio.

The second album that arrived for review this week is already in stores, so I can tell you that it is Twentythree by Tristan Prettyman. When I click on that link, Amazon pairs the album for sale with Jason Mraz- Not too surprising as they both hail from San Diego and Mraz is featured on track 5, which he co-wrote with Prettyman. Stylistically they're very similar, and if you're a fan of Mraz or fellow breezy-singer-songwriter Jack Johnson (whose buddy G. Love also appears on the album) you'll like Ms. Prettyman's tunesmithing as well. Most of the album has a nice, laid-back, head-bobbing, mid-tempo rhythm that makes nice background music while slaving away at the keyboard. I've heard the first track on the cable music channel already and I would not be surprised to hear it overplayed on the local Mix station. The short answer: I like it.


At 7:17 AM, Blogger Allie#3ga said...

you had me at mraz.

At 7:27 AM, Blogger Zelda said...

Some American schools are like that, but it is by no meand consistent.

At 7:51 PM, Blogger Zelda said...

Oh, and I saw that band play a free concert in Boston. I caught a guitar pick from the drummer. It was cool.


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