Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Simple Day

In Japan, I live a very simple life. I travel a lot and see beautiful things and meet interesting people. But that's on the weekends. Most of time in Japan has been spent very simply.

As the long chill of winter is beginning to set in there are still things to look forward to. Simple things. Hot milk tea in the middle of my day during a free period. I enjoyed two cups today (I had a lot of free periods).

After work I went to the 100 yen shop (think: dollar store), the grocery store, and the drug store. I bought props for my Halloween lesson, dinner, and drain unclogger stuff.

I came home and successfully unclogged my bathroom sink drain that's been clogged for maybe 5 months. Now that, wow, that was exciting. Truly. It made me so happy I forgot about the 20 minute trip to the drug store as I searched for what I needed, not knowing the term in Japanese or any brands to be on the lookout for.

I tacked my pre- and post-run stretching routine to my wall. I've been having some trouble with my lower back and I think a healthy dose of stretching might be the answer.

And then I made dinner. Taco salad.

It's 9:33pm on Tuesday. I will turn on some music real low, open up a book about writing (On Writing Well) and then I will fall asleep. Hopefully to wake up and exercise but it's just as likely I'll sleep until the last possible minute and run out of door, pumping my sweet sweet bike as fast as my legs allow.

A simple day, like the ones before it and the ones ahead of it. My simple life.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Watergate in 2009

One year in Japan turned into two. It will not turn into three.

So what now?

I studied English Writing in college, wrote for and then became the Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper there, with the intention of writing for a newspaper one day. (To be honest, no one else wanted to be EiC and so I fell into the position as opposed to fighting for the spot like most other EiCs do. It was still a crazy amount of work and all that jazz. Just sayin. Truth is truth).

But they tell me newspapers are dying. My own beloved Chicago Tribune, the paper I grew-up watching my parents read as I flipped through the comics (skipping Calvin and Hobbes half the time because there were too many words) has been bought up and renovated, to resemble--I assume--a less prestigious form of USA Today.

I'm idealistic, though. I'm a child of the 90's. I don't know economic hardship or world wars or presidential assassinations or the break-up of the Beatles. I know Popples and college education and a car and license at 17 and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the absurd impeachment of a president and the absurd re-election of another (ok, wasn't actually a child for G. W. Part II, but I couldn't resist the parallelism).

My parents raised me on the belief that TV rots your brain but I guess decided it was too cruel to ban the whole thing altogether. Yet, despite the one-hour-a-day-except-on-special-occasions regimen I was on, I would have to say media is one of the greatest sources of inspiration in my life. Specifically movies.

In journalism class during the second year of college we spent a class watching most of "All The President's Men." Not getting to finish the movie (and knowing only the vaguest bits about the scandal that changed American politics and journalism forever) I rented the movie and watched it with my roommate.

It was inspiring. When deadlines bogged me down or budgets didn't line up again threatening printing, I would recall the tenacity of Woodward and Bernstein, the ups and downs, and I was able to press (HaHaHaHa) on. And even though I knew the world journalism was getting a bit more complicated, the energy in the story, in the newsroom, captivated me.

What what the Watergate of 2009? Where's my contemporary inspiration gonna come from?

I just finished watching State of Play a couple hours ago. Starring Russel Crowe and Ben Affleck, it's a story about political scandal surrounding the mysterious death of a Senator's mistress just as said Senator is in the process of conducting hearings regarding allegations of misconduct and extortion by a corporation responsible for sending military contractors to Iraq and Afghanistan.

SPOILER ALERT! read further at your own discretion....



Ok. So this whole complicated, inter-connected story is handled by a veteran journalist played by Crowe and the unlikely side-kick of a blogger for the news paper played by Rachel Adams.

A fascinating story involving the conflict of capitalism and a war effort, public and private lives of politicians, and print vs new media, not to mention how trustworthy friendships become when power is inserted into the mix and perhaps even a slight rebuke against the military and how it handles discharged soldiers. The Senator ends up in the middle of the scandal as a key, though wholly indirect, player in the murder of his mistress as well as clearly having manipulated his friend, the veteran journalist, to tell the story with e favorable bent toward the Senator. In the end, blogger chick smiles to the veteran and says that this story is so big that people should read with with print between there fingers.

Victory for old journalism despite changes in ownership and form as well as for truth and justice in the land of the free and home of the brave. Take that!

Meanwhile in the reality, we're still in Iraq and Afghanistan as the causalities mount. The contractors haven't been rooted out or held accountable in any real way for the lives they've put at risk. Rupert Murdoch owns all of our souls if we watch TV news. Print news can't get it catchy enough and online news can't get it relevant enough, leaving a huge information gap that MTV is all too happy to fill up with utter and addicting garbage.

Like only Hollywood can deliver, it was an intense thriller tied to current events with a melancholy, though chummy ending that left you feeling that "it" (whatever that means to you) was getting taken care of by someone out there.

Devoid of a real enough connection to current events (namely, victories for print journalism or truth and justice), it was simply an entertaining movie. No real meat to it, I suppose.

Though it's got me thinking. And writing. And planning my next step that won't be in Japan.

So maybe like Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, this movie serves as an inspiration for action in the direction I was heading even if it isn't--in itself--connected to anything substantial.

Maybe the point is there is no Watergate in 2009. There is no one big issue. There are hundreds. It's our move. To not tune out. To take small bites and plan our next steps, in faith.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dear IRS...

Dear IRS,

Thank you for my rebate check.

After months of nervously anticipating having to do my taxes from overseas and then days of pouring over forms hoping I was doing SOMETHING right (or at least right enough) it's nice to reap an unexpected, if small, reward.

Now I will promptly send my check back to the States where you sent it from days ago so that it can actually be deposited into my bank.

It's the thought that counts, though.

Claire Brakel