A Titanic week

April 17th, 2015

Titanic Items“Titanic, see you again.” was the ironic comment from one first year Junior High school student. I’m sure the irony was intended, though I think my student would have been hard pressed to remember the word ironic from the week before. Ironic being one of the words I introduced when doing the song Fine Fine Fine. I’d been meaning to do the song for over five years but somehow every year the anniversary of the sinking slipped by, possibly because it is so close to the start of the new school year here in Japan. Incidentally, I highly recommend starting every first class of the school year with the salutation, “Happy New Year!”. Well, every school-goers class. It was a great way to lead into quick discussions about new grades, new classes and changes of teachers. Fine Fine Fine indeed. Read the rest of this entry »

Blast Off?

April 11th, 2015

It’s 45 years to the day since Apollo 13 was launched so here’s a video:

First appearing on WHE DVD Volume 3 this went with our “Blast Off” activity for young children. Stand with your hands over your head to make a rocket. Count down slowly from 10 all the while coiling down by bending at the knees. “Blast Off” is the signal for everyone to uncoil, jump up and then run round the room making rocket noises. A variation of this had me holding children by the waist, picking them up and rocketing them around the room. Oh to be young and fit! The question is, how ethical is it to make space travel attractive like this? The answer, not very.

I’ll explain why tomorrow, but right now it’s dinner time!

Back again but it’s almost time for beddy-byes, so here’s a video mentioning some of the problems with current attitudes towards space exploration. More another day!

Charlie No More

April 8th, 2015

The academic Conference International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism has been cancelled. Due to take place at the University of Southampton from April 15th to 17th it was cancelled close to April 1st. This act of censorship is no joke. The University caved to the Israel Lobby’s predictable screams of anti-semitism. The conference organisers, who include Israeli-born law professor Oren Ben-Dor, are ‘shocked and dismayed’. They have lodged an injunction at the High Court in London. Good luck with that. Meanwhile the British media have been eerily silent. A silence that could itself be described as racist or not so far from it. Media Lens counted just three articles in the British press and notes that the Nakba (catastrophe) is largely a taboo subject. Don’t mention that Israel was founded through ethnic cleansing. You can read more here. Please consider signing the petition to protest the University’s decision.

Hard Squawk

April 7th, 2015

In the most recent edition of Hard Talk Neil Woodford, described by host Stephen Sackur as Britain’s most successful investor of recent times puts his finger on a central problem of capitalism: Read the rest of this entry »

Spot The Difference

April 2nd, 2015

How many differences can you find?

See this page at War Is A Crime for more information.

Hardly Talk

March 31st, 2015

Last week Stephen Sackur spoke with Nick Hanauer in the BBC flagship show HARDtalk. This American dotcom billionaire businessman, who apparently only has one suit, had one or two interesting things to say about capitalism:

If you allow wealth and income to concentrate in fewer and fewer hands over time, that in the end can’t be good for anybody, particularly people like me. You show me a highly unequal society and I will show you a police state or a revolution. There are no counter-examples.

Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Fall Of Sauron Day!

March 25th, 2015

Reading Lord of the Rings

It’s March 25th, it’s the second day of my birthday and it’s Fall of Sauron Day – better known as Tolkein Reading Day. In England it’s also Lady Day which used to be the start of the legal year and not nearly as interesting to write about.

I got Lord of the Rings one Christmas in my youth. I read it straight through in three days and after that had no interest to look at it again. In comparison to The Hobbit which I really enjoyed, I can’t say I found it very compelling apart from the Mines of Moria.

The same, too, goes for the movies, won’t grace them with the title films, directed by Peter (I love seesaws) Jackson. The only thing of interest in those is the scenery. I remember actually going to see the first one without knowing it was only the first book. Near the end I was desperate to go to the toilet and was thinking, “God, it’s not even half way through!”. I was relieved when the end credits came up but  felt so short-changed.  The Moria scenes were so unlike those in my mind I ended up snorting my disgust. Dreary me!

Do You (Still) Do Tests?

March 21st, 2015

Recently, there has been discussion on the ETJ owners list about how to deal with mothers – it’s usually always mothers – asking about their offspring doing the EIKEN test. Set by the Society for Testing English Proficiency and deeply ingrained in the Japanese school education system this test comes across as almost mandatory for serious Japanese students of English. Traditionally, Junior High school students would take Grade 5 (the lowest level) at the end of their first year of English study and repeat with Grade 4 and Grade 3 in subsequent years. Further grades could then be pursued in high school.

Perhaps because of the push towards introducing English at elementary level there has been test creep with younger and younger children being propelled into taking it. Five year olds passing Eiken seems to becoming all the rage now with Japanese “Tiger” mothers. One school owner reported a mother wanting her soon to be first grade elementary son to take Eiken Pre-2: “Oh, the only problem is he doesn’t know all the words.” Read the rest of this entry »

Think Like A Champion (Horse Bites Dust)

March 14th, 2015

The Guardian published a long read this Wednesday just gone. The revolution that could change the way your child is taught by Ian Leslie is a kind of infomercial subtly promoting Doug Lemov and his book Think like a Champion.

Whenever I hear the word “Champion” two thoughts invariably gallop roughshod through my mind. Foremost is Champion the Wonder Horse – make that Cha-m-pion! THE Wonder Horse! The opening jingle has permanently scarred my mind. This old clean-cut American black and white (in every sense) 1950s TV show was a staple of Summer holiday mornings when I was a child. Go Champion! Go Ricky! Go Rebel the dog – right the world, or at least your dusty corner of it. More morose is the second thought, the Queen anthem that has no time for losers (though I always heard it as “you are the losers”) – unilateral, unambiguous and uncompromising. Torture for the soul. Read the rest of this entry »

Florence on the Elbe

February 13th, 2015

February 13th, 2015, St Valentine’s eve, Japan. I stumble out of bed and flick the internet on. What has the world got to tell me today? Scientists at SETI think the time is right to go beyond listening for signs of intelligent alien life and start actively seeking it out. A new theory of the Universe maintains that there was no Big Bang and that the Universe has existed forever. President Obama is silent about the murder of three Muslims at Chapel Hill. US drones continue to kill children. Dresden was bombed 70 years ago to the day. The BBC said so.

I will admit to being surprised to see the anniversary of the bombing of Dresden mentioned on the BBC World News. Every year I watch out for what is said about Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Dresden usually passes by without a murmur. This time they mentioned refugees fleeing the Russian advance,  slave workers and POWs . This time they had a graphic interview with a British prisoner of war. He saw people sucked into the air and burnt alive. People stuck in roads that were rivers of melting tar. Bodies that became so hot they exploded. The BBC then went on to assure me that there is no moral equivalence between the war records of the Allies and those of the Nazis. I wonder why. Read the rest of this entry »