Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Monday, March 05, 2007

Evens and Beginnings

Since its birth in 1997, the Seishin Flying Eggheads has seen its schedule fill up more and more. Of course, there are the annual concerts. Those are always good. However, even better are the invitations we're getting more and more often to play at local events. In other words, we've managed to establish a reputation, and that has led to increased demand. I'd call that a sign that we're doing something right.

Last Saturday was such an occasion. The Eggheads were asked be the main attraction at a PTA "cultural appreciation" event at a local elementary school. It was the first time we'd ever been asked to do such a thing. We received the invitation to play it just over a month ago, and since it wound up falling at a really bad time (the day after final exam week, i.e. two weeks without rehearsal) we weren't sure we could pull it off, but we went for it anyway. It just seemed too good to pass up! Then the 11th grade members of the band asked me to leave the planning up to them. I admit I had my misgivings, but they managed to come up with an interesting program.

Fortunately, last Saturday was an "off day" for the students, which helped a lot. The nearness of the elementary school meant that transportation could be kept to a minimum, which also helped. We had to perform in the gym, as expected, but it had a pretty good stage and risers, so we could set up in staggered levels like we usually do. They also had wireless mikes and a decent-sounding PA system...a surprise considering the kind of budget most public elementary schools (don't) have. Unfortunately, I had completely forgotten to prepare a concert program to hand out to the audience, so I had to whip one up on a computer in the main office. Good enough for government work...and the government is my audience rather than my employer!

The parents came in first, and they greeted us with cold stares. Ye Olde Academy has a bit of a mixed reputation in these parts. Yes, we are the only elite private junior/senior high school in the area, and, yes, we do have reputable academic, cultural, and sports programs. However, we are also known as being something of a haven for rich brats. People see the name of the school, and quite often the first thing that pops into their heads is the word "snob". The fact that the director of this band is a gaijin didn't help, either. The children, however, were excited when they come in, and they entertained us with their amusing banter (and cute attempts to read my name on the program). My only worry was that the first graders were sitting so close to where I'd be directing...with my back to them.

We performed some tunes the 11th graders pulled out of our performance folder, all of which (amazingly) were old swing standards. The 11th graders also formed a combo and performed a Basie-style swing version of "Winnie the Pooh" arranged by yours truly. However, the most entertaining part of the program, amazingly enough, was the little quiz program the 11th graders put on. At the first sight of the word "quiz" on the program I was worried our grade-school audience would quickly fall apart, but our kids managed to keep them entertained till the end. The high point had to have been when they suddenly formed a recorder ensemble (including piccolo, sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, and bass recorders...most of which the grade schoolers had never heard of before, let alone seen), played a "mystery tune", and then asked the audience to "name that tune". I then gave them the correct answer and kicked off the Glenn Miller version of the same song: "Little Brown Jug". We closed with a fast-tempo medley of "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" and "Sing, Sing, Sing" followed by an encore of "In The Mood". Those tunes have been appearing on the TV a lot recently for various reasons, and the children loved it.

In fact, a lot of them hung around and waved at us (with lots of giggling, of course) as we were breaking down our gear to leave (and none of them attacked me, thank God). All and all, it was a lot of fun, and I hope we can do this sort of of thing again soon!

***

My uncle-in-law takes his carpentry work very seriously, and his attitude shows it. for one thing, he doesn't scrimp when it comes to his tools. My father-in-law, on the other hand, believes that cheapness is next to godliness, so his tool cabinet is naturally stocked with bargain-bin fare. That drives my uncle-in-law bananas, and he has been doing a lot of griping about the "cheap junk" he has to use to work on our house. He has also been making frequent trips to the local hardware stores to replace things when his patience runs out.

Yesterday (Sunday) dad-in-law was out, so my uncle-in-law asked me to run him down to the big Honda Home Center in Itako. Apparently the 12-volt impact driver he'd borrowed from dad-in-law just wasn't cutting the mustard (or the cement, as it turned out), so he wanted to get a much better, 14.4-volt model. As soon as we walked into the tool section at HHC the clerk there took one look at us and froze. My uncle-in-law is already a well-known and much-feared figure there. He is a very demanding customer. However, the clerk responded promptly to my uncle-in-law's authoritative wave.

12-volt impact drivers are not so expensive. 14.4-volt ones are. Very. The most reasonably-priced one we saw there was a Bosch model in the sale aisle for 22,000 yen (about $200). My uncle-in-law insisted on seeing more, so the clerk led us to the main power tool aisle. The Mitsubishi and Hitachi power drivers there were 36,000 yen and up. What really bugged me wasn't so much the price as the style of the things. I mean, I've heard of heavy metal tools, but this was ridiculous! Those power drivers were all either bright pink, orange, or yellow and were tricked out with fancy silver and gray ornamentation that I could only call Gothic. They looked like ray guns from a children's sci-fi drama...like Power Rangers or Gundam or something. In fact, I'm sure that's what they were meant to look like. I'd understand if it were a toy, but...a $300 power drill? Or was the look the reason for the price?

Needless to say, my uncle-in-law bought the plain, European-green Bosch, and it seems to work just fine.

***

Today I was looking out the window of the junior high staff room at Ye Olde Academy when I saw a frightening sight. There was a strong wind gusting outside, and I was watching the sugi trees around the parking lot dance when suddenly two or three of them erupted into a thick cloud of smoke. I thought for sure they were on fire until I realized that the "smoke" had a greenish tint. It was a blast of pure pollen. We just hit the peak of the pollen season. I'm thankful for that strong wind helping get rid of it all in one go. I'm also thankful I'm inside.

***

No vegetables today, but I will say with happiness that my 7th grade students did really, really well on their final exam for my class. Considering their dismal performance last term and on the last midterm, it's nothing short of miraculous, especially considering this last exam was longer and far more difficult than any test I'd given them before. I mean, we're talking a jump in average score from fifty-something percent to eighty percent. So what happened? It's hard to say. Maybe the weekly review quizzes I started after last September's disastrous final paid off. Maybe the longer time they had to take my test (fifty minutes instead of fifteen) helped. Maybe they just finally woke up and smelled the tea. I don't know. It's probably better not to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I'll end the discussion here.

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5 Comments:

  • My FIL likes really inexpensive things too... actually all of my in-laws are like that, except for my BIL and Hashim. I find that if I spend any amount of money on anything, they harp on it for ages. I'm of the logic that you get what you pay for and some things just aren't good if they're really cheap.

    As far as the testing and the averages being up... I think it's great. You're a good teacher and their performance is proving that. Hopefully all at the school will notice the big difference in averages!!

    Glad to hear that the performance went so well. Next you guys will start performing at weddings! :)

    By Blogger tooners, at 5:27 AM  

  • I need me a 36,000 yen Power Puff Girls drill. Mail one of those over when you get a change, would you?

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 6:39 AM  

  • I just got rid of a bunch of drills before Christmas. Now I have a really nice drill made by Milwaukie, its a plug in the wall type. The Dewalt drill I want for a cordless sells for about $269. I guess Its not that important right now.

    By Blogger Pa've, at 9:06 AM  

  • Wow. Cram multiple topics into one post - You are getting too efficient.

    Cramming my comments....My kind of music. Some of my best friends use gayly colored power tools! (don't ask, don't tell). Gesundheit. Squash.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 8:02 PM  

  • Oh dear, many topics in one blog, that's my problem!

    Those are some nice numbers the kids played. I like it when your team come out with flying colours.

    Decked-out birthday-cake-coloured power tools: only in Japan!

    By Blogger Olivia, at 11:23 PM  

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