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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Self-talk, love and death

Last night saw a classic example of Joseph reading the wrong thing at bedtime.

I currently have 10 books by the bed to read. All written in English, most of them packed with positivity and wonderfulness. The book that is feeling the pressure of my little stick-on post-it book mark things is “What to say when you talk to yourself” by Shad Helmstetter. It’s really basic stuff, explaining the self-management sequence that plays a large part in determining whether we attain our goals or not. It goes: Programming > Beliefs > Attitudes > Feelings > Behaviour.

It’s terribly exciting to discover that one’s brain is simply a super complex computer that will accept whatever you tell it, if you tell it enough! A bit like an old fashioned cassette tape. Your ‘program for life’ is gradually recorded onto the tape as you grow up – to change that programming later in life you simply need to record over it with a new message. Alas, the original message was so well-recorded that you can hear the original voices in the background! But, if you re-record your new program time and time again, you will no longer be able to hear the original message – you have successfully changed your programming. This then changes your beliefs, which then affect your attitudes, which in turn determine your feelings, and thus ultimately your behaviour. It’s a simple program. It’s just a case of doing it.

I’m going to be putting this theory into practice in January. An experiment, involving this book, messages tailored to my own needs, my darling mac, and my iPod. Might sound a bit daft, but I see no harm in trying. A bit of brainwashing never hurt anyone…

Anyway, there I was, in bed at midnight, reading my Japanese magazines [I tried manga, as suggested by some people, and as encouraged by my discovery in the rubbish shed of a whole series of the huge weekly volume, ‘Jump’, but found the lack of sentences containing over 3 words very frustrating, give me a whole sentence anyday, complete with ha’s, ga’s and te’s etc] …when I decided to read just a bit more of the aforementioned inspirational book. Well, that was it. I was still awake at 3am, having spent two hours trying to make my brain shut down by listening to the lovely music on the Podgy’s Tokyo Talk [podcast] (Enigma on podsafemusic.com, I think not! Took me back though…), whilst playing solitaire on my ipod. I swear it’s programmed to make you lose every time.

Thus, today I am somewhat knackered. I went through the speech I have to do on Friday with my private sensei from St. Paul’s Ladies Club, and discovered that nearly all of what I’m going to say is actually complete bollox. Well, we wouldn’t want to scare the teacher by actually talking sense for once now would we? Had a sort of mock-exam today too. That was funny, in a kind of woops-I’d-better-revise type way. Yesterday’s multiculturalism class was quite satisfying too; I managed to write a whole letter again, and, when requested to do so by the professor, give a mini-speech to the class clarifying the position of the Opium War(s) in the UK’s National Curriculum. Thus my use of Wikipedia the night before…

The Society and Culture class was quite funny, if not hideously embarrassing at times. Not only was my trust in the authenticity of the Durex Global Sex Survey ridiculed by the lecturer, but my lack of research on Disneyland Weddings came under fire, with devastating results. Thing is, I’d found a photo of a Disneyland Wedding (see my Japanese blog for that) , and decided to use it as the theme for my mini-presentation on popular culture. It seemed to fit the criteria – fantasy taking over reality, living in a matrix-esque world where image is everything; look behind the mickey-mouse mask and there’s simply nothing there, no deeper meaning. Anyhow, this was all a bit last minute, so I didn’t really figure out exactly what my argument was beforehand. Instead, I simply put the picture on the OHP and started talking about how sad it was that marriage had come to mean so little that one ended up with Donald Duck reading the vows whilst Pluto yellowed the brides train.

Following a few random comments from the audience I thought I’d managed to get away with it, that is, they’d been so bedazzled by the spectacle of Chip ‘n Dale trying to seduce the bridesmaids that they hadn’t noticed that I actually had nothing to back up my claim that it was a sham marriage. Boy was I wrong. It was at that point that Cameron, a fellow exchange student who I don’t know terribly well (nice guy though!), put his hand up and said,

“I actually work at Disneyland, and I’m afraid you’ve got it a bit wrong…”

The shiver that those words sent down my spine were worthy of belonging to a pod of peas upon their entry into the Findus factory. It could only go downhill from there. And it did. Like Disneyland’s Thunder Mountain ride. My lack of research was revealed to the world. I was shown to be a nikumpoop with no hypothesis and no hope for redemption. Tomatoes and eggs were thrown. I was booed off stage, it was terrible.

Mind you, as soon as I sat down I just had to laugh at how silly I’d been to even attempt to talk about something without having done any research. It was perfectly OK though, this wasn’t being assessed, it was merely meant as a springboard for further class discussion. I must admit I really don’t take my studies here half as seriously as those in Sheffield. Might be something to do with the fact that none of the non-language modules count towards my final grade. It is wonderful though to engage in these discussions, without feeling the weight of academia on one’s shoulders. I shall enjoy it whilst I have the chance.

There followed a fascinating debate about love in Japan – why do Japanese men believe in love, when Japanese women only believe in credit cards? One idea floated was that 2 generations have now grown up with parents who for economic reasons spend little time together. Thus, they have no romantic role models to look to. The men, who still have to go to work to earn money, dream of a Hollywood romance, whilst the women, after 5 decades of peace (i.e. husband always at the office), can think if nothing more fun than spending said money on a new outfit for their flea-sized dog (the latest craze). Controversial, perhaps, but it would explain the survey results. The other theory of course is that all of this is complete rubbish, that people in Japan believe in love just as much as they do anywhere in the world. I mean, they do have TWO valentine’s days after all (one for men to do the giving, one for women to reciprocate. The idea was to avoid those embarrassing situations where you find that both partners have bought each other an identical £5.99 box of Cadbury’s Milk Tray).

Surely that makes them doubly romantic?

We also talked about this ridiculous suicide addiction – 27 out of 100,000 Japanese choose this ‘way out’ (vs., for example, 11 per 100,000 in the UK). It’s been in the news quite a bit recently, with children committing suicide “due to bullying” (n.b. this is the media’s take on events).

It’s hardly surprising that kids think that that’s the way to deal with problems like bullying: what happens when some local government agency is investigated following embezzlement claims, or some school has been found to have been teaching the wrong curriculum for years? Why, the politician or head-teacher in the spotlight commits suicide of course! What a great example to set for children!

When these same children see other children committing suicide, and then witness the full force of the media coming down upon the cause of that child’s suffering, they see a wonderfully effective way to deal with the cause of their own misery. Commit suicide and let the media do the rest!

Then of course there’s the loans companies (booming business at the moment. You even have mini, unmanned “loan booths” in railway stations and motorway service areas. They’re quite private so no-one can see who the poor bugger is…). The bad companies (of which there are many) actively encourage their clients to commit suicide, having (unbeknownst to the client) taken out insurance against such a act. It’s a guaranteed way to get their money back! Thankfully, this year there’s new legislation being introduced to outlaw this practice, nonetheless, shocking stuff.

Then there’s the biggest borrower of the lot – the Japanese government! It’s estimated that their debts amount to a staggering 18% of the entire world’s GDP! I think it must have been Koizumi's weekly session at the barbers that did it.

What am I doing here anyway?

Ah, the sushi, yes, that was it…

[p.s. the negativity will end - when the module does!]

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Amelia said...

Ahem.

There are indeed two Valentine's Days, but I think you'll find that one is for the women to do the giving, while one is for the men to reciprocate, should they remember a month later and actually be bothered.

:p

Consolations on the presentation - what were the odds somebody who actually works at Disneyland would be in attendance at the one presentation you will ever likely make about anything even vaguely relating to Disneyland? Fair enough, lack of research was the root cause, but seriously, what are the odds?

It is nice not to worry about the marks behind every speech we give. I'm really enjoying how little my classes mean academically here, and as a result of this I'm really enjoying my classes in general. Usually by Christmastime I've burnt out and need a spell at home just to recover enough to convince myself to continue. This year, I barely noticed it become December, and don't feel stressed in the slightest. It's really, really pleasant.

Hope your Christmas preparations are going smoothly!

21/12/06 00:12  
Blogger Joseph said...

ah, yes, thanks for setting me straight on that on...!

Yes, it was the kind of classic scenario, where had it been a film the viewing audience would have had prior knowledge that there was a Disneyland employee in the audience, and were just waiting for the glorious climax where the baddy (me) is finally exposed as a fake...

Your Christmas preperations sound glorious, almost more traditional Christmas than a traditional Christmas (if you see what I mean!). Have a great time enjoying the fruits of your labour!

21/12/06 11:28  
Anonymous Amelia said...

And you would have got away with it if it hadn't been for those darn kids! (Tell me you were wearing a mask that day. Or a fake beard. Please. It would make my Christmas.)

24/12/06 12:42  

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