Sunday, 30 August 2009

Digital Scraps #2 - My top ten for the week of August 24-30

Here are some things that caught my eye on the Internet over the past few weeks.


It's always nice to see another Jamaican soaking up life in the Big Mikan. Be sure to check out Marcus' hilarious mountain party episode on his YouTube page here.

9. posted an entry about 10 mind-boggling meat structures. I would like to have a conversation with some of the people who makes things like this:

Personally, the machine gun one is my favourite. View all the others on Gizmodo's website.

8. A friend of mine posted this article on Facebook. I looked at it and wondered, how many people are going to get fired over this:

Okay. So, I guess some people might be ready to justify this by saying that there aren't many black people in Poland and so Microsoft had to adjust the ad to appeal to Poland's majority demographic. Still, that was just cold. Also, the photo-editing job was just horrible - you can still see the black man's hand there, as well as the Apple laptop on the table. Crappy PR campaigns = signs of the recession?

7. R.I.P. Ted Kennedy.

6. This was my favourite newspaper headline this week just because I work with boisterous children on a daily basis and I often get the urge to run away screaming whenever I happen across a noisy group of rugrats on my days off: More people irked by sounds of kids at play

5. I am a huge Mario Kart fan and when I play I usually get really competitive. This video cracked me up to no end:

4. Bye-bye Taro Aso. The Japanese went to the polls today and the Liberal Democrats conceded after some five decades in power. I wonder what that will mean for foreigner registration?

3. Speaking of politics, our own esteemed prime minister admitted that his government "should have taken the fiscal challenges by the scruff of the neck more vigorously." Well then, why didn't you? I guess it takes a big man to admit when he's made a mistake, right? Right.

2. Wow. Mexico waits to find out if they have the Guiness record for the most people dance to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" simultaneously. Check out the story here.

1. This was just brilliant. The woman just goes straight for the cameraman. I hope he made it out unscathed.

I guess she was just not having that.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Digital Scraps (in no particular order)

Here are some of the things my friends and I have been looking at on the Internet over the past week:


Who wants a pair? I know that women often try to select pants that attract attention to their buns, but I don't think this is the way to go about it.

2. This story from The Guardian interrupted my exuberance over the performance of our athletics team in Berlin:

Student Debra Morolong chalks defiantly on a school blackboard. "Caster always is a winner," she writes. "I am very proud about Caster cause is my best friend. Caster is the champion in 2010."

The classroom has cheap wooden desks lining a bare concrete floor. Paint is peeling off the graffiti-strewn walls beneath a corrugated tin roof. Caster Semenya was just another pupil in this impoverished corner of South Africa until her body propelled her to international glory – and very public humiliation.

Semenya, 18, stormed to victory last week in the women's 800 metres at the world athletics championships in Berlin. But her rags-to-riches journey had been called into question even before the starting gun. The athlete's muscular build, deep voice, facial hair and suddenly improved performances led to a frenzy of speculation that the fastest woman in the world over two laps is, in fact, a man.

Read the rest of the story here.

3. This has been circulating for a while. All I will say is that I hope he's not taking himself too seriously. Further comments might land me in court.

4. This bit on CNN about the 12 most annoying Faceboook updaters includes characters such as The Sympathy-Baiter, The Maddening Obscurist and The Self-Promoter. Check it out here.

5. Melanie Walker rides the Berlin 2009 mascot after winning the women's 400m hurdles gold medal. Classic.

6. So, Barney Frank is at a town hall meeting about health care reform when a woman gets up and asks, "Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy?" A proper dressing down ensues. Absolutely great.

7. Why Do Jamaicans Run So Fast? Before I first clicked on this link, I whispered a little prayer saying, "Please, please don't let it be another foreign made documentary set on the beach with half naked Jamaican children running around and void of interviews with people who are actually articulate." Alas, you can't always get what you want.

8. Well, not a this week thing, but I seriously cannot stand these relationship articles, especially the ones with the lists. 10 Ways To Keep Your Girlfriend From Nagging or Five Tips To Keep Him From Straying. The self-satisfied tone with which these writers ooze this garbage is nauseating. Here's an example of some recent barf-worthy shit.

9. I'll dedicate the final two spots to both of our 100m world champions. Unbelievable run from both Usain Bolt and Shelly Ann Fraser. Here they are again, in case you've been on Mars for the past week.


Monday, 17 August 2009

You Remind Me...

For no particular reason, I started thinking a few days ago about how people's perceptions of us often vastly deviate from reality. I remembered a conversation I had with a girlfriend a few months ago. She had been talking about a time her computer had crashed or something like that, to which I had responded in my most condescending why-do-you-not-know-this voice by going off on a number of troubleshooting techniques. My friend then expressed her shock and what she thought to be my adeptness at understanding computers. "Wow. I had no idea you knew so much about computers," and in the very second after she made that utterance, I had two thoughts.

Thought 1: Is this going to be one of these Well, MY uterus precludes me from having any knowledge of machines moments? (Sadly, too many women I know are guilty of harboring this sentiment.)

Thought 2: This surprises you about me? Who are you? What body-snatching alien civilisation are you from and what have you done with my friend?

Rewind to last June. I'm at work, when I hear the mother of one of my students say to the school manager in Japanese that I look like a model. The manager does the obligatory translation of said comment more for show than for my benefit. I do the obligatory shy laugh, also for show. The parent leaves and then the manager tells me that, yes, I do look like someone who belongs on TV, doing English language programmes for children.

Thought 1: No, woman. I do not look like a model. Go and see an eye doctor.

Thought 2: Yes, English language programmes for kids. That's exactly what I need to do with myself. Put on a weird furry costume and get in front of a camera and act silly, for example:

Often (more often since moving to Japan), I find that I usually fall into one neat category in the lives of people around me. I'm either the Party Friend or the Shopping Friend or the Token Gaijin Friend or, more specifically, the Token Black Gaijin Friend as opposed to just being a friend (common letters, no prefixes). This is not to say that is an experience unique to living as an ex-pat in Japan, but since coming to a place so far away from home in distance and culture, a situation in which making meaningful connections is vastly more difficult, the experience of being categorised in this fashion is a bit more pronounced.

Obviously, we make judgements based on what we see. Unless you're visually challenged, sight is the first way you experience new things so, yes, it stands to reason that we react to people based on the way they look. However, sometimes, the assumptions, categorisations and comparisons get ridiculous. More times than I care to try and count, I've been told that I look like Rihanna and/or Janet Jackson.

Okay, this is me:

Here's Janet Jackson:

And here's Rihanna:

Exactly. Absolutely no resemblance and yet, not only do I resemble these two, but because of said resemblance, I'm expected to be able to sing (which I can't, at least, not well). I asked a few folks about their personal experiences and here's a bit of the discussion that ensued:

Colin: I have been told repeatedly that I look like Quentin Tarantino, and it pisses me off. I hate anyone that says that to me forever.

I dare one of you to point out the resemblance here:

Michaela: I have been told I look like almost anybody. People walk up to me all the time and say, don't I know you? Men and women, so it's not a pick up line. I feel I must have a common face or common energy. When I was about 20 lbs lighter I was compared to Jada Pinkett, but I was 20 lbs. lighter.
L'Oreal: I've been told: Whoopi Goldberg -- mainly Celie and Erika Alexander -- Pam from Living Single.
Helen: Someone almost always tells me I look like a cousin, bff, a girl from school, a brother's ex, etc. of theirs. it makes me wonder...perhaps we do have twins in other parts of the world.
Caroline: Like a lot of jobs in Japan, you have to submit a photo of yourself on your resume. So when my old school received the picture and my data before I arrived, I was told (long after) that my head teacher (who is now a good friend of mine) thought because I was overweight and had a Polish last name that she thought I would be lazy and sloppy...
I suppose that's more a stereotype based on my general physique rather than my face in particular, but, as you can imagine, it saddened me a great deal that people would make that assumption about it, as, I think most people would say, it isn't true...
But anyway, everyone fights against some stereotype, so I suppose I shouldn't be any different...
Marcus: My list: ( in no particular order )
1) Brian McKnight
2) Remy Boyanski
3) The 7up Guy
4) Djmon Honsou

1) This surprised me because I look nothing like Brian McKnight, but a Canadian guy I met swore I resembled him.

2) Remy Boyanski is an M1 fighter who my friend who fights (he's training for UFC) told me I looked like. I guess there's a vague resemblance.

3) I definitely resemble this guy, and I have no qualms about people saying it to me. This happened a lot if I went out on Halloween with no costume. People would be like "Dude! It's the seven up guy!"

4) This happened when I was watching the Colbert report in New York. A stand up comedian warms up the crowd and zeroed in on me. I don't look like Honsou at all, but he was saying I look like an actor. But he started out by asking me if I was an actor (that happens with reasonable frequency) so I didn't feel out of sorts.

Wendi: This is not at all insightful but funny: three or four years ago I walked into a class at [work] on a help shift and these college girls shrieked with glee and "kawaii!"s all over and then told me, "You look you know Dakota Fanning?!" Blue eyes, fair skin, but seriously there's like a 20-year age gap there.
And when I tell some Japanese people I'm American, they respond with, "Wow, you're not even that fat!" I love the "that." Thanks, jerks.
Caroline, I'd be totally pissed if someone made that confession to me. I hope she thinks twice before she makes a snap judgment like that again.
Caroline: Wendi: Not pissed, actually, kind of dismayed...
I don't know if I'm alone in having this perception, but as you get to know people and they becoming friends, as they begin to trust and confide in you about things, it sometimes comes out that they actually do hold stereotypes or other biases/prejudices not against you in particular, but of your "group." It's strange and ironic, I think... For one, why are these people your friends if they hold these notions, and two, how could they continue to keep their obviously inaccurate perceptions? Do we become exceptions to the rule? How does that make sense? We represent a stereotype to people, and at the same time, through the growth of friendship, we break it. And yet the stereotype continues to exist, being directed at other people...
My friend that I mentioned before said that she regretted ever thinking that, and I think that she meant it--she realized that she couldn't make a judgement on an entire "type" of people (fat Polish people) based on her experience with one (one of my predecessors at the school I was working at). So I think she did learn from her err in judgement...but, sadly, I don't think everyone does.
Michaela: Caroline you mention a valid point, you are the exception to the rule. Unfortunately, that's how people see it. "They may say, well, she's (in my case) black, but she's not like the black people on Ricki Lake. So she's different. But the rest of black people are like the ones on Ricki Lake." Each person has to end up proving herself against a stereotype. I don't get to skip the proving stage just because someone debunked a stereotype. Just think if you HAD been lazy and didn't want to do anything, she would have believed her prior judgment. So let's say you are a stellar employee (which you are), but the next one isn't. Then guess what, that stereotype pops right back up and we go back to the beginning. Sad, but true.

Maybe Helen's right and we do have twins in other parts of the world. I just wish the celebrity comparisons didn't come with the expectation that I'll spontaneously break out into song and dance.