Sporadic Happiness (in Japan!)

(formerly) updated every Wednesday

#13 ASL (Alphabet) – Switched at Birth

Living in Japan I often like to spend my evenings watching American TV shows.  It gives me that feeling of “home” and is the best way to relax after a long day of constantly hearing and interacting in Japanese.

A TV show I’ve gotten interested in and have been watching recently is called Switched at Birth.

Switched at Birth: Volume One

Now this concept is nothing new.  In fact I had started watching a Korean Drama long ago with the same concept.  Actually in trying to research just now what the name of that drama is (I forgot), I found there are MANY Korean dramas with this concept.  And probably many shows worldwide – it’s a common “TV trope.”

Usually this trope has one kid coming from a rich background, and one from a poor background, and at some point the kids (or the families) find out the two kids in question (often girls) had been switched at the hospital when they were born, and ended up being raised in a different family.  Of course once they find out about this “mistake,” the kids (usually teenagers or young adults) want to get to know their biological parents, as well as try to figure out what life would have been like if they’d been raised by their biological parents.  This often brings up questions of opportunity (wealth and many opportunities vs. not having access to as much) as well as other culture and identity issues.

Now the TV show I’ve been watching has these aspects, but it also has another interesting twist.  One of the girls (in her switched family) contracted meningitis at the age of 3 and nearly went deaf.  She has minor hearing, but she relies on reading lips and sign language.

As a lover of languages in general, watching this show is making me more interested in ASL (American Sign Language).  Although the one hard of hearing girl can talk, there are other completely deaf characters on the show who can’t or don’t want to speak and use sign language pretty exclusively.  Of course there are English subtitles to follow what they are saying.

In any case, I’ve found it interesting enough to try and pick up a little bit myself, and my first baby step has been to learn the ASL alphabet.

Here’s a neat video with a song that, for me anyway, is pleasant enough to listen a few times through that teaches the hand signs for each letter at a slow enough speed:

Once I master the alphabet I intend to try and learn more signs; in our internet day and age there seem to be plenty of sites out there.  If anyone has any recommendations though, don’t hesitate to let me know!

Besides the signing aspect and slice of life tidbits in terms of deaf culture, the Switched at Birth show has another thing going for it.

It’s full of beautiful people!  Maybe this sounds vain, but c’mon, who DOESN’T like vicariously watching the lives of gorgeous people?

Plus there’s multicultural aspects to the show, such as one of the moms being Hispanic and one of the biological dads being some Italian/French guy who is pretty adorable:

He also reminds me of a friend back home (Mita-kun that’s you!).

Also side note, I recently found out that Portland Community College (PCC) has ASL classes!  As I will be moving to Portland in September I think I want to try one out. I’m excited for that.

But in the mean time, there is still Japan to explore, and many wonderful internet goodies to enjoy!

Check out this TV show if you get a chance.

A DVD (Volume 1) has now been released. I highly recommend it!
Switched at Birth: Volume One

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#12 My Little Pony (American anime! … aka cartoons)

So, there’s this wonderful thing happening.

If you haven’t heard about it already, it’s time I enlightened you.

I’m sure you’ve heard of “My Little Pony.” If you’re an American girl (or maybe even a boy?) around my age (in your 20s) you probably had some when you were little. They were popular in the late 80s and early 90s. They were little plastic toys that looked something like this:

Apparently, there were even TV shows to go with the toys. Really lame, really generic, really uninteresting shows.

But then recently some spark happened and the series was reborn. A key figure working on this show, Lauren Faust, also worked on Power Puff Girls, by the way!

“My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” is currently flourishing and on it’s second season.

Now if you’ve been under a rock and not heard of this, don’t roll your eyes just yet. This is a fantastic TV show popular among adults and kids alike. It’s popular for a number of reasons:

1) It has really good characters

2) It has pretty good voice acting

3) The world (“continuity”?) is really quite fascinating to learn about, and more and more is revealed about it with each new episode

4) It’s colorful, down-to-earth, entertaining, and worthwhile to watch

Check it out for yourselves!  Episodes are easily available on YouTube. You’ll be hooked before you know it.

And to those of you that were Pony fans to begin with (or Bronies, as the male fandom is often called), kudos to you!

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#11 Anime: Kino’s Journey

Hello everyone.

Sorry this post is happening a day late.  I stayed home from work both yesterday and today because I caught a bad cold.  Yesterday I slept in until 12:30 in the afternoon, and forgot to write this post.  Today I slept in till a whopping 3:30pm.  So now, in my hazy sick state I will write this post.  It’ll be short, and sweet.

One of my favorite anime of all time is Kino’s Journey (or キノの旅 in Japanese)

Anime News Network gives the summary as follows:

“The story follows the travels of Kino, a young adventurer who rides a talking motorcycle named Hermes. They explore the people and cultures of different places throughout their adventures, spending only three days at each location.”

There are many things that appeal to me about this anime.

1) It’s about travel.  Kino (the main character) is constantly going new places, seeing new things, meeting new people.  It’s a very interesting life she lives.

2) It’s about society.  Each of the places she visits has some commentary on society – tendencies within us human beings, ways we live or want to live that may be healthy or unhealthy.  It really makes you think and gain a fresh perspective on a lot of things.

3) It has the feel of a dystopia novel, (ie: Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, The Giver, 1984, etc).  In high school I was a huge fan of dystopian novels and this anime is like a novella of them, since she goes to a new society in each episode.

4)  I really admire Kino.  She’s strong and brave and self-sufficient.  She refers to herself with a male pronoun for “I” indicating that she’s tough and independent.  She’s also of the personality type to let water roll off her back; no matter what she sees or is involved in, she’s always able to keep moving on and not worry about what has been.  Each day she makes a fresh start and is always looking forward to new travels.

There are also 2 short 30-minute movies that have been made, in addition to the 13 episode single-season series.  One of the movies explores Kino’s past and how she started her journeys, and the other is sort of a “climax” to the series.

If you get a chance, check it out!

Amazon has the complete collection (all 13 episodes) available for just $25.57!

Kino’s Journey Complete Collection

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