A failing artist dedicates his last song to his mother and rises to stardom

Maekawa Shingo promised his mother that if he couldn’t break through the music scene within a year, he would give up music forever and resume his work as a local truck driver. A few years earlier he had been suspended from high school for punching a bully during his act. The rebel culture of the new high school he moved to had transformed him into a furyou (no-good person). He got in fights with strangers, went on drinking streaks with friends, and left home for days at a time. Through this all, his mother worked tirelesly day and night to support him and his sister.

One day, Shingo came home from one of his drinking streaks and found food prepared for him on the table. He hadn’t been home for a few days, and his mother had no way of knowing when or if he would come home. She had made food for him every day in case he had decided to come back home. This moment of realization left an impact on him. He decided to quit fooling around, save enough money to go to music school, and pursue the only thing left in his life he felt truly passionate about.

Shingo worked as a local truck driver for three years to save enough money. This in itself was a feat that his mother and sister celebrated. But during dinner one day, he made a gut-decision to forsake music school to start his own band. Although his sister vehemently opposed this seemingly rash decision, shouting at him “how much do you plan on making mother cry?” his mother stayed silent. The next day, mother brought home for him a brand new guitar with the little money she had left. And this was where he promised her that he would give it his all for one year, and let it be if things fell through.

He created the band Kariyushi 58 with his friends–Kariyushi meaning “good-fortune” in Okinawa and 58 representing the state highway in Okinawa. His first album “Koibito yo” (to my lover), was good enough to get a contract from a Indies label. They printed 2000 copies, but 1300 of them came back unsold. With the lasckluster performance from the get-go, the label that had just signed them came back and told them that their next album would be their last.

By this time, the band knew that it was the end for them. And so, having left nothing but a trail of disappointments and trouble in his life until now, he used this opportunity as a last chance to leave something more meaningful behind. He dedicates this song “Anma” (word for “Mother” in the Okinawa) to his mother.
——————————

English translation “Anma” (Japanese lyrics below)

I heard I was born in a sunny afternoon of early summer.
I heard my mom was so ecstatic, it was quite a spectacle.

I heard she prayed, “I just want you to live the way you believe”
and after much thought, she gave me this name.

From back then, we were not of the very wealthy.
I always envied my friends’ bicycles and toys,
and I would cry endlessly next to my mother
who would repeatedly say “I’m sorry” with a slightly forlorn face.

Mother, you would always forgive,
believe, and embrace everything I do.
Unsparingly, you would pour everything you had for me
And yet I lived as if I didn’t notice.

I got in fights and did terrible things,
having embraced a mistaken notion of strength.
I fooled around as I wished,
but when I tip-toed home in the middle of the night,
There on the narrow dining table, sat rows of food.

I would turn a blind-eye to my weakness,
and line up pretentious words, living life lazily.
When I came home showered in alcohol,
You would leave town at daybreak,
In the light-darkness of early morning for work.

Mother, I spewed words I should never say,
relentlessly, and stopmped on your heart like it was nothing.
Mother, you continued to show me love, unchangingly.

With warmth like sunlight filtering through trees,
With kindness like the depth of the ocean,
You embraced everything, everything, about me

The sunset I watched with you in Yaese on your back,
still shades the town red to this day.

There was a love that engulfed
everything, my excessive stubbornness, unfair lies, everything.
I am so happy to have been born by your side,
As this stupid me, I have only realized now.

In a calm morning in the beginning of spring,
a new life was born.

A little girl who laughs just like you, a real treasure.

I prayed for her to become a girl,
with braveness lurking behind her kindness.

And so I named her after your favorite flower.

Japanese Lyrics (Anma/アンマー)
初夏の晴れた昼下がり 私は生まれたと聞きました
母親の喜び様は大変だったと聞きました
「ただ真っ直ぐ信じる道を歩んでほしい」と願いこめて
悩み抜いたすえに この名を私に付けたと聞きました
我が家はあの頃からやはり 裕福な方ではなく
友達のオモチャや自転車を羨ましがってばかり
少し困ったような顔で
「ごめんね」と繰り返す母親のとなりで
いつまでもいつまでも泣いたのを覚えてます

アンマーよ アナタは私の全てを許し
全てを信じ全てを包み込んで
惜しみもせずに 何もかもを私の上に注ぎ続けてきたのに
アンマーよ 私はそれでも気付かずに
思いのままに過ごしてきたのでした

「強さ」の意味をはき違えて ケンカや悪さばかりをくり返し
勝手気ままに遊びまわる 本当にロクでもない私が
真夜中の静けさの中 忍び足で家に帰ったときも
狭い食卓の上には 茶碗が並べられていました
自分の弱さに目を背け 言い訳やゴタクを並べ
何もせずにただ毎日をだらだらと過ごし続け
浴びる程に飲んだ私が 明け方眠りに落ちる頃
まだ薄暗い朝の街へ 母は出て行くのでした

アンマーよ 私はアナタに言ってはいけない
決して口にしてはいけない言葉を
加減もせずに投げつけてはアナタの心を踏みにじったのに
アンマーよ アナタはそれでも変わることなく
私を愛してくれました

木漏れ日のようなぬくもりで 深い海の様な優しさで
全部 全部 私の全てを包み込んだ
アナタの背中に負われながら 眺めた八重瀬岳の夕陽は
今日も変わらず 茜色に街を染める yeah

度が過ぎるほどの頑固さも わがままも卑怯な嘘もすべて
すべてを包み込むような愛がそこにはありました
アナタのもとに生れ落ちたことは こんなにも幸せだった
今頃ようやく気付きました こんな馬鹿な私だから

春先の穏やかな朝に新しい命が生まれました
アナタの様に良く笑う宝石みたいな女の子
「優しさの中に凛々しさを秘めた人」になるようにと願い
アナタの一番好きな 花の名前を付けました

After this song was released, the label was flooded with requests from local radio stations to play this song. The calls spread to radio stations around the country, and in the same year the song was released, the band won the Japan Cable Radio Award–a surprise win for an Indies Band. This was in 2006. They continue to play to this day.

*Credit to the Japanese TV show “Unbelievable”.
*The Translations are not perfect, I apologize beforehand for any mistakes or inaccuracies

 

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Japan’s music legend Utada Hikaru sends flowers to her passed mother

On August 22nd, 2013, Utada Hikaru’s mother Utada Junko committed suicide by jumping off of her apartment building in Tokyo. Junko was also a famous singer in the nineties, though she spent the majority of the latter half of her life out of the spotlight. She was known to have been suffering from mental illness in the years prior to her death. Hikaru claims that she only has memories of her mother laughing and looks fondly at the time they spent together.

For those who don’t know, Utada Hikaru is one of the best selling and most influential artist in Japanese music history. She has sold over 50 million albums to date, her second debut album “First Love” which was released in 1999 is still the best selling album in Japan to date, and she has two other albums in the top five best selling albums of all time in Japan. She wrote “First Love” at the age of 16, making her not only one of the most successful artists of her time in Japan, but also one of the youngest. Her new single  “花束を君に” (a bouquet for you) currently tops charts in Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The makeup Hikaru refers to in the beginning of the song is in reference to her mother in a casket with light-makeup on as they do in open-casket funerals.

I do not own rights to this song.
If it gets taken down, search 花束を君に on youtube and it will come up 🙂

English Lyrics (Japanese lyrics below)
You usually don’t wear any at all,
but that morning you wore light makeup.
Between the beginning and the end,
I made a promise to you I couldn’t forget.

I will send you a bouquet of flowers.
Person dear to me, person dear to me
All the words I line up for you,
can’t speak the truth.
So today, I will send you a tear-colored bouquet of flowers.

If the everyday struggles and loneliness never existed behind their backs,
and there was nothing but fun,
maybe we could have gone on without knowing the need for love.

I will send you a bouquet of flowers.
Things I wish to say, things I wish to say,
There is probably a mountain of them.
Only god will know.
Today, I will send you a tear-colored bouquet of flowers.

I can’t even carry them all with both hands,
the countless dazzling sceneries, thank you.
Even on rainy days throughout the world,
your smile was my sun.
Even if my feelings can’t be conveyed today,
The truth remains unchanged.
Please hold me, just once more before goodbye,

I will send you a bouquet of flowers,
Person dear to me, person dear to me,
All the words I line up for you,
Isn’t enough to praise you
So today, I will send you a tear-colored bouquet of flowers.

To you, to you
To you, to you
To you, to you
To you, to you

Japanese Lyrics
普段からメイクしない君が薄化粧した朝
始まりと終わりの狭間で
忘れぬ約束した

花束を君に贈ろう
愛おしい人 愛おしい人
どんな言葉並べても
真実にはならないから
今日は贈ろう 涙色の花束を君に

毎日の 人知れぬ苦労や淋しみも無く ただ
楽しいこと ばかりだったら
愛なんて 知らずに済んだのにな

花束を君に贈ろう
言いたいこと 言いたいこと
きっと山ほどあるけど
神様しか知らないまま
今日は贈ろう 涙色の花束を君に

両手でも抱えきれない
眩い風景の数々を ありがとう
世界中が雨の日も
君の笑顔が僕の太陽だったよ
今は伝わらなくても
真実には変わりないさ
抱きしめてよ たった一度 さよならの前に

花束を君に贈ろう
愛おしい人 愛おしい人
どんな言葉並べても
君を讃えるには 足りないから
今日は贈ろう 涙色の花束を君に

君に 君に
君に 君に
君に 君に
君に 君に

Eminem: Stan (Japanese translation)

グラミーアワード15回受賞者、ラッパーで唯一のオスカーアワード受賞者、アルバムの販売台数は現代2億枚超えるEminem。

そのアーティストのマスターピースと言われる「Stan」を和訳してみた。

この曲は、StanとSlim Shadyの会話である。Stanは精神的に不安定なファンで、Slim ShadyはEminemが自分を表すために作った分身である。実際にEminemはSlim Shadyという面を利用し、過激ながら遠慮せず自由に言いたいことを言えるように作られたキャラである。Stanは自分の不十分の環境からこのSlim Shadyというキャラに親近感を持ってしまい、Slim Shadyの面の裏にある実物のEminemを困惑する。残酷でありながら、リアルで、切ない曲である。

是非聞いてみてください。

Chorus
お茶はとっくに冷めてしまった なぜベッドから出たのだろう
朝の雲が窓を曇らして何も見えない
見えるとしてもすべて灰色、壁に飾るあなたの写真以外
そんなに悪くない、悪くないことに気づかされる

Verse 1
スリム、お前に書いたけど、返信はまだない
携帯、フャックス、自宅の電話番号まで下に書いたよ
秋に二つも手紙を送ったよ
届いていないようだな、郵便局で何かあったんだろ
自分のアドレスを書く時、字が汚すぎて時々読めないからね
まあ、そんなのどうでもいいや、調子はどうだ?
娘はどうだ?
俺の彼女も妊娠してるぜ、俺も父親になりそうだ
娘ができたら何て呼ぶと思う?
ボニーと呼ぶんだ(ボニーはあるスリムの曲の登場人物)

お前の伯父のロニーのことも読んだぜ、ごめんな
俺にも、どこかの女に振られて自殺した友達もいたよ
毎日のように聞いているだろうが、俺はお前の一番のファンだぜ
お前がアンダーグラウンドでスキャムと一緒にやった音楽もあるし
お前の写真とポスターだらけの部屋もあるぜ
ローカスト作った音楽も良かったぜ、あれはなかなかだな
まあ、今回こそ届いたらいいな、また連絡してくれ、
お前の一番のファンより、スタンより

Chorus

Verse 2
スリムへ、まだ手紙も電話もないぞ
機会があったらいいな。
怒ってはないけど、ファンに返信しないのはクズだぞ
コンサートの後、俺と喋りたくなかったら、
別に喋らなくてもいいんだ。
でも、せめてマシューのためにサインくらいしてくれた良かったのに。
マシューは俺の弟だ、まだ6歳だぜ
真冬の中でお前と会うため四時間も外で待って、一瞬で断られた
それはクズだぞ、お前はあいつのアイドルだぜ
あいつはお前みたいになりたいって言ってる、俺以上にお前を好きなんだ
まあ、そんなに怒ってはないさ、ただ嘘をつかれるのが嫌いだけなんだ
デンバーで会った時のことは、覚えてるか?
あの時、手紙を書いたら返信してくるって言ったよな?

俺はお前と似てるんだ。俺も自分の父親を知らなかった
いつも浮気して、母さんをボコボコにしてた
お前が曲で言ってることと共感できるんだ
クソみたいな日があるときは、ボーッとしてお前の曲を聴いていた
俺はそれ以外何もなかったんだ
だからそんなことでも救われていたんだ
胸にお前の名前の入れ墨もあるんだぜ
自分を切ることもあるさ
痛みを一気に感じる、アドレナリンみたいなもの
お前は遠慮せずリアルにすべてを言う
そういうお前に尊敬するよ
お前のことを四六時中喋っているから、彼女が嫉妬してるぜ
でも、俺がお前のことを知っているように、
彼女はお前のことを知らないんだ、スリム、そんなやつはいないよ
俺らみたいなやつがどんなに苦労してきたか彼女は知らないんだ
俺に電話をしてくれ!
お前は一番のファンを失いたくないだろう?
あ、そうだ、俺らは互いを支え合おうぜ

Chorus

Verse 3
「ファンに書くには上等すぎる」さんへ、
もうお前に送るものはこれで最後だ!
半年も経って、何も連絡がないぜ。俺にそんな価値がないって?
前回二つ送った手紙は絶対に届いてるはずだ
完璧な字でアドレスを書いたぜ!
だから、最後にお前にこのカセットを送る、聴いてくれ
今、俺は運転中だ、高速で140キロ出してる
おい、スリム、ウォッカを飲んだぜ、運転してみろって?
“in the air of the night”っていう、フィルコリンズの曲知ってるか?
溺れる友達を救えたけど救わなかったやつがいて、
いずれショーでそいつと会ったんだ
それは今と似ている
お前は、俺を救えたんだ
でももう遅い。俺は薬を飲んで眠たいぜ
くだらない電話か手紙を一つだけ欲しかっただけなのに、、
お前の写真なんか部屋から全部はがした
お前のことを大好きだった、考えてみろ、俺らは互いを支え合えたんだ!
でも、お前はしくじった、お前は眠れないようになれ
俺の夢見て、眠れなくなって、叫べ
罪悪感が、お前の精神を食いちぎることを祈る
俺がいなくて息もできなくなれ
ほら、見てみろ(女性の叫ぶ声)
黙れカス女!今喋ってんだ!
おい、スリム、今のはトランクの中で叫んでいる彼女だ
首を切ったわけはない。縄で縛っただけだ。俺はお前と違う。
縄で縛ったら、息できなくなって、余計苦しいだろう?
で、結局死ぬ。

あっ、もう行かないと。もうすぐ橋だ。
くそ、忘れた!どうやってこのカセットを送ればいいんだ?

(車が橋から海に落下する)

Chorus

Verse 4
スタンへ、前から書こうと思っていたけど、忙しかったんだ。
彼女が妊娠中だって言ったよな?今はどんな調子だ?
聞いてくれ、娘をボニーと呼ぶのは嬉しいぜ、
そして、弟のサインもあげると、スターターキャップに書いたぜ
コンサートで気付かずに済まんな、すれ違ったようだ。
決してわざとやったとは思わないでくれ
でも、自分を切るってなんだ?
俺は冗談で曲でそういうことを言うんだ。
お前はどこまでイカれてんだ?
スタン、お前は病気だ、病む時にケツが飛び回らないようにセラピーが必要だ。
そして、俺らが互いに支え合うってなんだ?
そういうデタラメを言うと、会いたくなくなるだろ。

お前と彼女は互いを必要としてると思うんだ。
それか、お前が彼にもっと優しくするのもいいだろう。
この手紙が間に合ったらいいんだけど。
自分を傷つける前に。
そんなことする前に、少しリラックスしたら問題ないと思うよ。
俺はお前をインスパイアできて嬉しいよ。
でも、スタン、なぜそんなに怒ってるんだ?
わかってくれ、俺はお前にファンでいて欲しいに決まってるだろ
ただ、お前に馬鹿なことだけして欲しくない。

たった数週間前にとんでもないニュースを読んで、吐きそうになったんだ。
あるイカれてる男が飲酒運転していて、橋から落下したんだ。
トランクには彼女もいた。
彼女のお腹に子供もいたんだ。
そして車の中にカセットがあったんだ。
でも、名前は報道されなかった。
そういえば、彼の名前は、、
お前だったのか。
Damn

The distinction between failures of capitalism, and failures of the correct implementation of pure capitalism

At its heart, capitalism is simply a set of guiding principals built upon the fundamental assumptions about human nature. For example, the basic assumption of human nature underlying the system of capitalism is that people are self-interested and rational beings that will act in ways which maximizes their own utility. Adam Smith, considered to be the father of capitalism, assumed that with the right incentives and regulation, these profit-seeking behaviors can be channeled for the betterment of society itself (Smith, 1776). What is important but often forgotten is that there are certain conditions which must be met in order for capitalism to work efficiently. These conditions are that 1) consumers would be rational and would know exactly what price they are willing to pay for a certain good 2) the buyers and sellers would have access to all information pertinent to the transaction 3) the costs of production including externalities are fully accounted for in the transaction 4) income would be fairly distributed with workers getting the exact amount of value they create (referred to as “capitalist conditions” from here onwards). Critiques of capitalism often fall prey to treating the effects of capitalism as inherent in the system itself, rather than as deviations of the system from the aforementioned conditions. Thus, the mistaken notion that capitalism has “failed” is spread around without considering the possibility that the issue may not be with capitalism in itself, but rather, our attempts at implementing pure capitalism. Though not explicitly mentioned, Stephen A. Marglin offers us one example of a compelling critique of capitalism which points to the deviation of the system from condition number three by arguing that society has not placed accurate value on the positive externalities of “love”. In this essay, I will attempt to argue that criticism of capitalism can be institutionalized as being failures to meet the four capitalist conditions.

Few can doubt the positive effects capitalism has had on the world. Even Marglin who presents himself to be an ardent critic of “Western Capitalism” points to numerous feats of this very system in lowering infant mortality rates, growing life expectancy, expanding food production and increasing access to schools and doctors. Although these are only indicators relating to our physical wellbeing, these achievements are not to be underestimated. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs shows us the importance of physical health. In his pyramid, categories of mental well-being, or what he calls “esteem” and “self-actualization”, lies atop of the health of our physical state such as the proper functioning of our “physiology” and the guarantee of “safety” (Psychology Today, 2012). Maslow’s pyramid shines light on the significance of the capitalist system’s ability to fulfill the needs of our wellbeing. These, along with other indicators, are not necessarily proof of the success of capitalism, but rather proof of the potential.

There are two major ways in which pure capitalism contributes to our well-being. One is through the production of a greater array of goods and services, some of which contributes directly to our health. For example, fertilizer, refrigerators, machinery, all have dramatically increased the potential for people to produce and store food, mitigating the fluctuations in our ability to access food. These have unsurprisingly contributed to the potential for us to live healthier lives. The second way in which capitalism helps to ensure our well-being, is through the economic dependency it creates between groups of people, making conflicts amongst market players more and more expensive. Capitalism has created a socio-economic framework in which peoples of different cultures, race, and geographic location, can participate in a common economic market which thrives from the deeper integration of peoples into the system. The bonds created amongst these nations have created an intricate network of relationships which causes an amount of damage and pain to stakeholders when severed, leading to greater incentives for conflict-avoidance. Though one can claim that these relationships could have formed under other socio-economic models such as communism, the level of business and trade under a communistic system can be reasonably assumed to be less than that of the capitalist system where entrepreneurship, risk, and production has far greater benefits for the individual, assuming that the individual responds more strongly to privatized benefits for the self rather than any form of identification with societal benefits at large. The accuracy of this assumption is debatable, but as this forms the basis of the capitalist system we have today, I will treat this assumption as a given. In these ways, the promotion and availability of goods and services which directly contribute to our physical well-being, and the inter-connectedness of markets in the global economy which makes conflicts increasingly costly, have contributed to the increase in our well-being.

Two common criticisms of the above-mentioned benefits are that, certain counter-incentives to the wellbeing of society at large have been created within the capitalist system, causing some actors to induce harm upon others, leading to an unsafe environment. Two examples of this are factory owners who exploit their workers to cut costs, and nations which choose to go to war for resources or access to markets. The poem “I swallowed a moon made of Iron” by worker migrant Xu Lizhi provides a compelling argument for the inhumane exploitation of workers in the workplace, and the lack of consideration for human-rights and human emotions (Lizhi, 2014). The Iraq War serves as an example of a nation going to war for resources such as “oil” which made up a significant part of the factors of production for the United States. These two criticisms do provide evidence against the fairness and morality of modern day capitalism. However, these are not representative of pure capitalism which should be based upon the capitalist conditions mentioned in the introductory paragraph.

The seeming lack of regard for human rights and human emotions are deviations of the modern day capitalism from condition four. If migrant workers were paid fair wages that accounted for the value they produced, there would be no need to work as long, and workers would have a higher purchasing power to increase their standard of living. In order to show that this was a failure in part of capitalism, there must be evidence to show unjust, irrational, and inefficient outcomes even if the capitalist conditions were satisfied. Thus, as the exploitation of workers do not satisfy condition number four, we must blame this not on the capitalist system itself, but rather on the failure of society in correcting this deviation. With government regulation enforcing human rights and fair treatment of laborers, or through promoting awareness of the immorality of labor exploitation, these issues can be mitigated. In this case, as these workers were illegal migrants, the issue becomes one of political nature as well, regarding whether illegal immigrants working in a nation should have similar rights as nationals.

The second example of the Iraq War, highlights the deviation of the capitalist system from condition two and three. If we were to treat the general public as consumers and the government as sellers, we can say that there was imperfect information passed on from the sellers to the consumers regarding the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Furthermore, the consequences of the action in terms of the continuing damages from the severely strained diplomatic relations between the United States and Iraq and the rise of anti-West terrorism was not properly accounted for in the decision making process. Hence, under a perfect capitalist system, it is likely that the public would have denounced the war had they have been better informed of the information relating to the existence of Weapons of Mass Destructions in Iraq and to the ongoing consequences of such a decision (if the government still went on with the decision despite the large public backlash, it becomes a question of democracy as well).

Here, one can make the counter-argument that it is not the irrationality of the actor which matters, but rather the incentives within the capitalist system itself which may propel an individual to act in irrational ways. If it is true that the structure of the capitalist system has—embedded within it—incentive structures that motivates one to act irrationally, one can indeed say that capitalism is a failed model. However, as mentioned before, capitalism in its purest form is simply a socio-economic structure that was built upon the presumed inherent tendency of human beings, and not vice versa. The profit motive is what the capitalist frame-work is based on, but the profit motive is at best channeled and encouraged by the capitalist system; it is not a product of it. The source of the profit motive is not the capitalist system, but rather ourselves, and the capitalist system simply seeks to guide our profit-seeking behavior to overlap with the benefit of society. Thus, questioning the decision-making process of actors within the capitalist framework is fundamentally a question regarding the nature of human beings. If the assumption is that human beings do not assign any value to human rights, or assign higher value to the benefits they receive from lower-priced goods over human rights, it only goes to provide further justification for the capitalist system as the most appropriate socio-economic model. This is because, if humans were so selfish that they gave no genuine care over others, no socio-economic models such as communism—which privatization, selfishness and individual pursuits are suppressed—can hope to survive. The system which flows more with the grain of human nature would still be the capitalist system which is based on the very assumption that humans are inherently selfish. In reality, the nature of human beings likely falls in-between, in that humans do thrive in environments where the pursuit of self-interest is accommodated for, but that societal values are malleable and subject to change. The existence of such diverse political thought is evidence in itself that there are no universal inherent qualities of human beings that can be described in one word. Liberals and Conservatives are worlds apart in their values, and this serves as a glimmer of hope that with education and social awareness, societal values can be shifted to more properly account for the externalities such as the violation of human rights talked about previously.

I read an interesting piece called “Development as Poison” by Stephen A. Marglin which can serve as an example of what I am talking about. Marglin convincingly claims that Western capitalist values erode communal ties and economizes on “Love” which he claims is a “hyper-public good”, or a good which increases in amount the more it is used. Hence, he makes the argument that economizing on such hyper-public good is irrational, and that the positive externalities of Love should be given heavier consideration when making decisions (Marglin, 2003). Marglin does not claim that this is an inherent feature of capitalism, but that this is an irrational deviation away from a more efficient outcome. It is also implicit in his conclusion that it is indeed possible for humans to readjust their decision-making process to take into account the positive externalities of love. Hence, his piece is criticism not of capitalism itself, but of the deviation of the system from condition three of capitalism which promotes the proper consideration of externalities.

The assumption that values are malleable, however, would leave capitalism open to the argument that the very fundamental assumption of capitalism that human beings are inherently selfish, is also subject to criticism. This is correct, but far from evidence that capitalism is a failed system. Although it is possible that another system, such as communism, can become the dominant socio-economic framework, it does not discredit the potential for similarly tweaking the societal values of human beings to fit the capitalist system. Perhaps there are stronger tendencies for human beings to be one way over the other. If the assumption is that human beings are more selfish than they are altruistic, than a capitalist framework would be more natural and most likely sustainable than a communist framework which underplays the selfish desires of human beings. The vice versa also holds true. If all of these claims are taken as given, it is easy to see how difficult it would be to label a certain socio-economic factor as a complete failure. In order to prove a socio-economic framework as incompatible with the world, or severely unjust, one would have to prove the existence of such unjustness even with the complete fulfillment of those conditions necessary to realize the pure form of said model. In other words, in order to prove the capitalist system as unjust, one would have to show that even with the realization of the four conditions of pure capitalism, there would still be significant evidence showing the unjustness of capitalism.

If this is not the case, any criticism of capitalism can not be said to be a criticism of capitalism itself, but rather the deviation of the system we are seeing today with the purest form of capitalism. The immediate solution would therefore be the realignment of modern day capitalism with pure-capitalism, and not alternatives to capitalism. Before we question the socio-economic framework, it is necessary to question the decision-makers within the model–ourselves. What do we value as individuals and what do we value as a society? Are there ways we can shift our values to more accurately account for the negative and positive externalities of our decisions? Can we be more altruistic? It is our answers to these questions which form the basis of the capitalist system, and thus, greater emphasis should be placed on changing ourselves rather than the system.

Works Cited
Lizhi, X. (2014, November 16). I Swallowed a Moon Made of Iron. Retrieved November 4, 2017, from Hummus For Thought: https://hummusforthought.com/2014/11/16/xulizhi/
Marglin, S. A. (2003, April 6). Develpomnet as Poison. Harvard International Review , 24.
Psychology Today. (2012, May 23). Our Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved November 4, 2017, from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201205/our-hierarchy-needs
Smith, A. (1776). An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of Wealth of Nations. London.

The true story behind the Lumineers Tetralogy: Sleep on the Floor, Angela, Cleopatra, Ophelia.

When the Lumineers released their second album called “Cleopatra”, fans immediately picked up no four tunes: Sleep on the Floor, Angela, Cleopatra, and Ophelia. The songs seemed to be connected in some way, but the music videos were released in reverse order which left many fans confused. Not to mention, the videos themselves only made sense when viewed in the correct sequence, and the names used in each song is different. Now that all four songs have been released, and with further interviews of The Lumineers, I was able to piece together the entire story that further solidified my love for these master storytellers. Here is the true story of Angela. The music videos for all four songs can be found at the bottom along with the interviews.

Sleep on the Floor Lyrics
Pack yourself a toothbrush dear
Pack yourself a favorite blouse
Take a withdrawal slip
Take all of your savings out
 
‘Cause if we don’t leave this town
We might never make it out
I was not born to drown
Baby come on
 
Forget what Father Brennan said
We were not born in sin
Leave a note on your bed
Let your mother know you’re safe
And by the time she wakes
We’ll have driven through the state
We’ll have driven through the night
Baby come on
 
If the sun don’t shine on me today
And if the subways flood and bridges break
Will you lay yourself down and dig your grave
Or will you rail against your dying day
 
And when we looked outside
Couldn’t even see the sky
How do you pay the rent
Is it your parents
Or is hard work dear
Holding the atmosphere
I don’t wanna live like that, yeah
 
If the sun don’t shine on me today
If the subways flood and bridges break
Jesus Christ can’t save me tonight
Put on your dress, yes wear something nice
Decide on me, yea decide on us
Oh, oh, oh, Illinois, Illinois
 
Pack yourself a toothbrush dear
Pack yourself a favorite blouse
Take a withdrawal slip
Take all of your savings out
‘Cause if we don’t leave this town
We might never make it out
 
Angela Lyrics
When you left this town, with your windows down
And the wilderness inside
Let the exits pass, all the tar and glass
‘Til the road and sky align
 
The strangers in this town,
They raise you up just to cut you down
Oh Angela it’s a long time coming
 
And your Volvo lights lit up green and white
With the cities on the signs
But you held your course to some distant war
In the corners of your mind
 
From the second time around
The only love I ever found
Oh Angela it’s a long time coming
Home at last
 
Were you safe and warm in your coat of arms
With your fingers in a fist
Did you hear the notes, all those static codes
In the radio abyss?
 
Strangers in this town,
They raise you up just to cut you down
Oh Angela it’s a long time coming
Oh Angela spent your whole life running away
Home at last
Home at last
 
Vacancy, hotel room, lost in me, lost in you
Angela, on my knees, I belong, I believe
 
Home at last
Home at last
Home at last
Home at last
Home at last, hmm
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cleopatra Lyrics
I was Cleopatra, I was young and an actress
When you knelt by my mattress, and asked for my hand
But I was sad you asked it, as I laid in a black dress
With my father in a casket, I had no plans, yeah
 
And I left the footprints, the mud stained on the carpet
And it hardened like my heart did when you left town
But I must admit it, that I would marry you in an instant
Damn your wife, I’d be your mistress just to have you around
 
But I was late for this, late for that, late for the love of my life
And when I die alone, when I die alone, when I die I’ll be on time
 
While the church discouraged, any lust that burned within me
Yes my flesh, it was my currency, but I held true
So I drive a taxi, and the traffic distracts me
From the strangers in my backseat, they remind me of you
 
But I was late for this, late for that, late for the love of my life
And when I die alone, when I die alone, when I die I’ll be on time
 
And the only gifts from my Lord were a birth and a divorce
But I’ve read this script and the costume fits, so I’ll play my part
 
I was Cleopatra, I was taller than the rafters
But that’s all in the past love, gone with the wind
Now a nurse in white shoes leads me back to my guestroom
It’s a bed and a bathroom
And a place for the end
 
I won’t be late for this, late for that, late for the love of my life
And when I die alone, when I die alone, when I die I’ll be on time
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ophelia Lyrics
Ah, ah, when I was younger, ah, ah, should have known better
And I can’t feel no remorse, and you don’t feel nothing back
 
Ah, Ah, got a new girlfriend, he feels like he’s on top
And I don’t feel no remorse, and you can’t see past my blinders
 
Oh, Ophelia, you’ve been on my mind girl since the flood
Oh, Ophelia, heaven help a fool who falls in love
 
Ah, Ah, got a little paycheck, you got big plans and you gotta move
And I don’t feel nothing at all
And you can’t feel nothing small
 
Honey I love you, that’s all she wrote
 
Oh, Ophelia, you’ve been on my mind girl like a drug
Oh, Ophelia, heaven help a fool who falls in love
 
Oh, Ophelia, you’ve been on my mind girl since the flood
Oh, Ophelia, heaven help a fool who falls in love
 
Oh, Ophelia, you’ve been on my mind girl like a drug
Oh, Ophelia, heaven help a fool who falls in love
 

Sleep on the Floor (Analysis)
The story of Angela begins with her true love asking her to make a life-changing decision: pack up all her belongings and leave town with him.
 
What is holding Angela back? In the third stanza, we can see that her father had always been against the idea. “Forget what Father Brennan says!” says the man. “We were not born in sin” meaning, she should be free to make her own decisions and feel no obligations. “Leave a note for your mother to let her know you are safe, and by then we will have gone through the state, through the night.”
 
Furthermore, what makes it even harder is that this seems to be a now or never decision, shown in the second stanza–“If we don’t leave now, we might never make it out”. But from the following lines, “I was not born to drown” we can tell that he no intentions to stay in this town regardless of Angela’s actions.
 
The man continues: “If the sun don’t shine on us. If subways flood and bridges break”, referring to the possibility that the odds may not be on their side, he still wants her to go down trying. “How will you pay the rent? Is it your parents?” he asks. He tells her he doesn’t want to live like that, and it is through hard work that we should live.
 
And with one last effort, he tells her that “Jesus Christ” and “praying” will not save them and he begs her to “decide on me, decide on us.”
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Angela (Analysis)
Angela has decided to leave the town, taking with her the “wilderness”–the lust for freedom and adventure. She drives past the tar and glass of the city “Til the road and sky align”, depicting the open roads of the countryside freeway where there is a clear view of the beautiful horizon. In the music video she is pregnant.
 
Despite being born and raised in the same town, the man tells her in the second stanza: “they raise you up just to cut you down”, perhaps indicating that the town would have offered her nothing but disappointment had she stayed. This decision was a “long time coming” he says.
 
But something is very wrong. In the third stanza, we see that Angela has been fighting some “distant war” in the corners of [her] mind”, as if something had been troubling her deep in her heart. The lines, “From the second time around, the only love I ever found”, is somewhat of an anomaly. Why the second time around? What is he talking about?
 
It is in the fifth and sixth stanza that we realize she has left town, but not when her love asked her to at the beginning of the song. “Were you safe and warm in your coat of arms with your fingers in a fist” refers to her initially making the safe decision to stay in her house (coat of arms), but this was not what she truly wanted to do, hence her “fingers in a fist”. He wonders if she heard the calls of freedom through the static noise in the radio from somewhere far away that eventually pushed her to leave.
 
“Oh Angela, you spent your whole life running away”, perhaps from what her heart tells her to do. But now she has made a decision to leave town, they make love in a hotel, and she is “home at last” on the road.

Cleopatra (Analysis)
Angela has aged and is reflecting on her life–specifically that moment when her true love “knelt by my mattress and asked for my hand”. She felt like Cleopatra, like an actress, taller than the rafters, taller than life itself.
 
But now we are shown the subtle brutality of life. The lines, “But I was sad you asked it, as I laid in a black dress with my father in a casket” shows that her father has just passed away and if she were to leave, her mother would have been all alone. Thus, she could not give her love an answer right away.
 
And with that, her true love disappears feeling rejected. He leaves behind mud footprints on the carpet, and she “left the footprints, the mud stained on the carpet” as a memory of him and that day. He leaves and her heart hardened like the mud. The lines “Damn your wife, I’d be your mistress just to have you around”. shows that he eventually got married to another woman, and the lines in the previous song finally makes sense–“The second time around, the only love I ever found” refers to his second relationship with another woman, but that Angela had always been his one and only love.
 
The church discouraged her love for an already married man, but she held true. She becomes a taxi driver to distract herself from her woes. Or perhaps because it reminds her of that day he had taken the taxi to leave town.
 
Although she deeply loves him, the reality is that she was too “late for that, late for this, late for the love of my life”. And so when the time comes to “die alone” she will be just on time.
 
“The only gifts from my Lord were a birth and a divorce” also reveals in the previous song, that she had made love and become pregnant with a different man whom she eventually divorced. She says in an interview that two of her happiest days were when she had her one and only son and when she got divrced to a man she never loved. And with little time left in her life now, she says, “I read this script and the costume fits”, meaning she knows how this will end up–alone–and she knows she deserves this tragedy for not leaving with her true love when he asked her to. So she simply “plays her part”, accepting her fate and living on.
 
Now a nurse in white shoes leads her to her guestroom in a retirement home. There is a bed and a bathroom–“a place for an end”. And this time, “I won’t be late for this”.
 
Ophelia (Analysis)
 
Ophelia is alternately narrated, almost like a conversation, starting with Angela.
This is the ending of the story. She is well into old age, and she reminisces about the past. She still feels regret over her decision not to go with her true love. “She should have known better”, but she thinks that by now ”you don’t feel nothing back”. And so she tells herself that she also feels no more remorse–empty words to comfort herself.
 
We can see from the second stanza that she still cannot hide her feelings of bitterness. She thinks that because he eventually got a new girlfriend whom he married, he must think he is “above her”. So she puts up barriers between her and her once true love–“you can’t see past my blinders”.
 
But her actions speak the truth. That day he left town, she wrote him a letter that said, “Honey, I love you.” That’s all it said. And with their love intact stronger than ever, they parted ways.
 
No matter what Angela thinks however, the man is still in love with Angela. “Oh Ophelia, you’ve been on my mind girl since the flood”, refers to the fact that Angela never left his mind since their breakup, despite his new marriage.
 

This is a story of life as it is. Two people deeply in love with each other, but torn by the circumstances. It is a story of “ifs” and “could have beens”, making mistakes, immorality, irrationality, and ultimately, seeing through life until the very end with the burdens of decisions past. We can “read the script” all we want, but sometimes the best we can do is to play our part to the fullest until the end. We live by the decisions we make, and we should make the most out of our lives going forth, I think that is what Angela wanted to tell us through this story. My personal favorite song of these four is “Angela”.

Drops of Jupiter–a story of grief, deep fried chicken, and a different perspective on loss.

It’s been more than 16 years, and yet I can still recognize this song played anywhere by listening to its very first key. And then the unforgettable line that follows shortly thereafter. Yes, perhaps one of the most memorable and recognizable lyric in music history—“Now that she’s back in the atmosphere, with drops of Jupiter in her hair” Little did I know that this one line was where everything began for Pat Monahan, singer-song-writer of this timeless masterpiece.

Drops of Jupiter is one of those songs that everyone knows, but very few people know what it’s about. Understandably, you won’t come across many artists that uses the words “Jupiter”, “Fried Chicken”, “Venus”, “Soy-latte” all in the same tune. But this only highlights the genius of this song in my opinion—you know that it is a free-flowing natural. In fact, Monahan claims he wrote this song in less than 30 minutes. Fun fact, the song “Imagine” by John Lennon was also written in less than an hour and it went on to become one of the most inspirational songs of our generation. But where did Monahan’s inspiration come from? How did he manage to write such an artistic, harmonious, beautiful song in 30 minutes; one that would eventually go on to win Train (the band) a Grammy Award over other masterpieces such as “Yellow” by Coldplay?

Space_Journey_Unity3D_AssetStore_Volume.jpgLoss. The common interpretation of a woman who leaves her man to see if they belong together is, in fact, not what Monahan had in mind when he wrote this song. It is actually a song about his mother’s death, and the birth of a new perspective on life that has helped millions cope with the loneliness of seeing off their loved ones as they are left to grieve. The tragic news of his mother’s loss to cancer struck when Train was on tour on December 1998 before their rise to stardom. On top of this grievance, the band was under heavy pressure by their label to produce a smashing hit after two years of only moderate success. It was too much for Monahan, and he retreated to Pennsylvania for inspiration. During this retreat, the seeds to the band’s most beloved song was born.

“I went to bed, and after just a few minutes I woke up and had the words [for the song], ‘back in the atmosphere’. Obviously, the loss of the most important person in my life was heavy on my mind, but I thought, ‘hey what if no one ever really leaves? What if she’s here but different. And the idea was that she’s back, here, in the atmosphere,”

train

He is not referring to reincarnation as some would believe, but more at the possibility that perhaps those we lost are still with us in the atmosphere. Perhaps they only leave us temporarily to go on a liberating journey through the solar system. Or as Monahan would put it, “on a soul vacation tracing her way through the constellation”. Yes, their journey does include a “stay on the moon” and a “sail across the sun”. But in the end, they will always come back to us, to “act like Summer”, “walk like Rain”, “listen like Spring”, and “talk like June”. The lyrics are so playful and mesmerizing, like their journey through space itself. Perhaps the journey is liberation from the shackles of life, to float around weightless in the solar playground that awaits each and every one of us.

Going off of Monahan’s own description of the song, I slowly began seeing the song as a conversation between us and those we love who have parted us. Underlying the slightly silly lyrics at times and the rather upbeat melody is a hint of sadness that Monahan simply cannot hide–the fear that they may never come back, contradicting our feelings of love and joy for them as they go out on their soul-searching journey through space. We want to hear all about their journey, we just want to talk with them again so we bombard them with questions like, “Did the wind sweep you off your feet? Did you make it to the milky way..? And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there?” And as if to jokingly bribe them to stay, we ask “can you imagine no love, pride, deep-fried chicken? No first dance, freeze dried romance, five-hour phone conversations.. The best soy latte that you ever had, and me?” I bet space doesn’t have that! It sounds weird, but perhaps it can be of similar essence to a mother sending off her child to society. Feelings of bittersweetness, worry, love, and acceptance simultanesouly soak through the gravity of its melody–and it’s a strange feeling that makes us feel alive.

17390702_1101595676613841_7116808970167067751_o.jpg

In February 2002, a little less than a year after the song was made, Train was invited onstage at the 44th GRAMMY Award reception where Monahan gave a list of people he wanted to thank. At the very end, he pointed towards the stars and thanked his mother. The song ranked fourth in the 2001 Billboard list of hot singles of the year. It spent over 100 weeks on the Adults Contemporary chart and has entered and re-entered the UK Singles chart every time it was covered by contestants in “The Voice”. Today, people of all ages will recognize this song, a testimonial to its timeless melody and mesmerizing lyrics that I barely touched upon today.

What Monohan produced was a brilliantly lit star out of one of the darkest moments of his life. It is a song about soy-latte’s and shooting stars as much as it is about loss and liberation. And like that, its melody carries us in and out of the atmosphere, from the most mundane of moments like eating fried-chicken with our best friend here on earth, to the most stratospheric of dreams like imagining the souls of our loved ones falling from a shooting star to come see us again. In the end he leaves us this message.

‘Drops of Jupiter’ was as much about me being on a voyage and trying to find out who I am. The best thing we can do about loss of love is to find ourselves through it.”

Perhaps so that we can be our best self when our loved ones come back with drops of Jupiter in their hair to tell us all about their journey.

————————

Here is the Music Video

Below are the full lyrics to the song for those of you who want a glimpse of modern pop’s version of astronomy, art, and poetry.

Now that she’s back in the atmosphere
With drops of Jupiter in her hair, hey, hey
She acts like summer and walks like rain
Reminds me that there’s time to change, hey, hey
Since the return from her stay on the moon
She listens like spring and she talks like June, hey, hey

Tell me did you sail across the sun
Did you make it to the Milky Way to see the lights all faded
And that heaven is overrated

Tell me, did you fall from a shooting star
One without a permanent scar
And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there

Now that she’s back from that soul vacation
Tracing her way through the constellation, hey, hey
She checks out Mozart while she does tae-bo
Reminds me that there’s room to grow, hey, hey

Now that she’s back in the atmosphere
I’m afraid that she might think of me as plain ol‘ Jane
Told a story about a man who is too afraid to fly so he never did land

Tell me did the wind sweep you off your feet
Did you finally get the chance to dance along the light of day
And head back to the milky way
And tell me, did Venus blow your mind
Was it everything you wanted to find
And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there

Can you imagine no love, pride, deep-fried chicken
Your best friend always sticking up for you even when I know you’re wrong
Can you imagine no first dance, freeze dried romance five-hour phone
Conversation
The best soy latte that you ever had, and me

Tell me did the wind sweep you off your feet
Did you finally get the chance to dance along the light of day
And head back toward the Milky Way

And are you lonely looking for yourself out there?

Tell me did you sail across the sun
Did you make it to the milky way to see the lights all faded
And that heaven is overrated

Tell me, did you fall from a shooting star
One without a permanent scar
And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there

3/22/17; What I think about happiness after studying abroad

“I am living life”.

To me, these words have less weight than the words, “I have lived”. Just like in a football game, a team can dominate for 89 minutes, but if they let up a goal in the 90th minute and lose, the winning side will surely call their strategy a success.

Let’s take Winston Churchill for example. He was ranked “The Greatest Briton of all time” in a 2002 poll of Britons by the BBC, above famous names like Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton. However, we know that his life was one of many prominent failures. Though he was known primarily for his achievements during war, he had several embarrassing military defeats such as in the Battle of Singapore against Japan which he called “the worst disaster in British military history” (whether this is true is another story). Furthermore, he also had several outdated and heavily criticized ideologies for his time. In the face of greater calls for freedom, globalization, and independence, he continued to be a grand imperialist until his death, even fighting adamantly against the decolonization of India despite promises to do so otherwise. Yet, we see that in hindsight, he is almost universally loved and revered.

Despite his failures during the process of living, fifty years after his death, we can undoubtedly say that “he has lived”. I know this sounds childish, but I always admired people like Churchill, or rather, I envied his way of life. He said himself before the outbreak of WWII, “I felt that all my past life had been but a preparation for this moment and this trial”. I imagined the moment when I too could one day look back at my life and say, “my life was but a preparation for this moment, and I think I did alright”.

Thus, from an early age, I was committed to preparing myself for that moment. I sacrificed fun, happiness, time, and energy, so that I could leave my mark on this world, rise up the ranks of society and do bigger things. From an early age, I constantly asked myself questions to reassure myself; “should life truly be about fun and happiness? Or should it be about a lifetime of service to a greater cause? Should it be to repay to society what is has invested in you? Is it just about family and friends? Is it about money, fame, and power?” For the time being, I followed the Winstonian model of “work when you’re alive, be satisfied from the grave”.

To be honest, he probably didn’t even think about or endorse this principle, but this is what the disillusioned Kohei created out of reading about him. Anyways, unlike many others around me, I was spending a good majority of my childhood not really thinking about “fun” or “happiness”. All I cared about was good grades, to do well in soccer, and to become a better person. I wanted to invest not in the moment, but in the future. The moment-by-moment mentality of living life didn’t make sense to me, and so I pursued a five-year-down-the-line perspective on life, doing in the present what I thought would be good for me five years later.

IMG_2467
Beer, pub food, and friends

Unfortunately, this robot-like mentality towards life made me simultaneously feel as though there was something terribly amiss with such lifestyle. Why was it that when I’m lying on my bed at night with all the time and freedom in the world to let my mind wander, I would always have flashbacks to these split second images—these very specific, short, and isolated moments of my life? The memories were crystal clear, but they were often spontaneous and spurious, recurring and random. I couldn’t seem to make a logical connection to these memories and what purpose they served in my life. They weren’t particularly meaningful moments of my life–or so I thought at least.

A frequently recurring memory was of a time when I was in grade school. I was a terrible student and I never studied for the tests so I would always read the words wrong. One day, after the usual ordeal, my teacher put down the book, looked into each of our eyes, and confronted the class; “why are you all laughing? He’s your classmate isn’t he?” I remember those words ringing in my ears, “he’s your classmate isn’t he?”, and the sudden rush of tears that welled up in my eyes. I quickly wiped them away so no one would notice I was crying. No, I didn’t start studying harder the next day. Nor did I become kinder to others.

As far as I can tell, this moment did not seem to play any role in my life regarding my personal growth nor the development of my character. Perhaps I was overwhelmed by happiness that even after so many failed tests, someone was willing to stand up for me. Perhaps I was hit by a wave of shame for my previous lack of efforts. Regardless, all of these flashbacks were moments of raw, powerful emotions, from sadness, guilt, happiness, affection, loneliness, etc. In hindsight, I realized I didn’t have as many of these moments as I wanted.

Maybe it is the case that I had a lot of these moments, but I never thought much of them because I was so focused on the future and growth, rather than the present and gratitude. Either way, if I didn’t live in these moments, they did not get saved in my memories. For a long time, I avoided having fun, but now I wanted to start creating more memories and flashback moments; memories my mind will hopefully travel back to and make me smile during my sleep.

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Catz ball with Catz people

This is where Oxford comes in. Though I enjoy the tutorial program here immensely, it is more the non-academic life here that has made the greatest impact on me. Part of the reason why I chose to study abroad at Oxford was because I actually knew the program would offer me the greatest amount of freedom and time over my life.

In the beginning, I was incredibly anxious and slightly lonely because I had no idea what to do with all the free time. I was in my room sitting on the bed wondering what I’m supposed to be doing. But over time, I started to make more friends, try new things, and add more variety in my life. I tried ballroom dancing and met someone who speaks five languages fluently. I made a family of the different football teams at my college. I joined the Japanese Students Society and sang my heart out in Karaoke to Bohemian Rhapsody. I even got drunk and went clubbing for the first time in my life. Every day started to feel shorter because I always had something to look forward to—in the present. The more I focused on enjoying each moment, the more I lost track of time. I would sleep at night thinking back at the ridiculous things that happened during the day, sometimes smiling and even laughing to myself quietly.

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Czech Republic with the Travel Society

I’m not sure how much of it was pure luck, and how much of it was because of my shift in mentality, but since I came to Oxford, there has been a lot of incredible happenings. Two of the football teams I was in made history: the First Catz team won the league and the Second team won the Cuppers tournament, both a first for our college. The Catz Ball which happens every three years happened to be during my stay. I happened to have applied to the coolest, friendliest, most practical, most relaxed, college at Oxford (I love St. Catherine’s College), where we have formals six times a week for just four pounds and an amazing college bar. I met an old High School friend by coincidence where we drank beer together over dinner. I made new friends at a Seven Sisters Colleges get-together that happened to be in London during my time here. I’m now sitting at a hotel-like-hostel in Vienna with other twelve other Oxford students, all of whom are incredibly smart, kind, humorous, and different. Every day, I’m making so many memories, having so many laughs, and feeling so loved and loving.

I know that none of the this will last. I know that I can afford to do these kinds of things because I am studying abroad. But I also realized that, although these moments usually do not come compressed in such short amount of time as they are during my JYA, over a lifetime, a greater commitment towards this “moment-by-moment” mentality may do me well.

Should I have been doing this all along? I don’t think so, as the work I put in the years prior did indeed lead to happiness for me today. Thus, I know that simply pursuing “fun” and “happiness” as an ends in themselves may not actually be what I want with my life. But that moment when the entire team is singing in a clubhouse at night, when I’m shouting into a karaoke machine with friends I just met an hour before, drunkenly hugging and being hugged by every person you know at a party, eating McDonalds at 2AM in the Czech Republic, writing a blog on the top bunk of a hostel in Austria, meeting Vassar friends by coincidence in Prague, listening to live Irish music at an Irish pub, getting to know someone you never really spent the time talking to, these are the moments I know I will forever remember. Maybe not consciously, but I have a feeling that one of these days in the years to come, I will sleep at night and my mind will travel back in time to relive these wonderful experiences.

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Seconds winning the Cuppers Tournament

*End note*

Growth, challenge, money, success, fame, respect, empathy, hardships, these are all factors which I still believe lead to happiness and satisfaction. But I think I finally understand what they meant when those nearing their deaths were asked the question; “what made you happy in life?” and answered, “relationships”. Relationships were the single greatest source of joy and happiness in their lives. Not just romantic relationships, but with family and friends and strangers. I hope that even after I finish my study abroad, I will always make the time and effort to make meaningful memories with more people. Knowing myself, I know that there is a good chance I will end up the way I was before, constantly investing in the future, reminiscing about the past, but never truly living in the moment. All I can hope for is that I never run out of experiences to recall at night so that I will always have something to make me smile. Keep pushing, keep growing, keep challenging yourself and making sacrifices, but don’t forget about those small, short, but everlasting pockets of simple joy, love, and gratitude towards “this moment”–this is what I have taken away from my first semester studying abroad at the University of Oxford.

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The Catz Boyz

3/2/17: Snippets of the Oxford culture and more Clark Quotes

I love England so much at this point, but it may be more that I’m simply loving the Oxford culture. Here are a few things I’ve found fascinating at Oxford..

Crewdates
Crewdates are Oxford’s version of American’s “mixers”. Usually, two teams or organizations get together at a restaurant or a pub and go through a number of rituals that I find both disgusting and hilarious.

  • Pennying; Everyone brings their own wine bottles and fills their glasses. Then, people start chucking pennies in them, but it mostly ends up landing in the food or in someone’s face. If you get one in someone’s wine glass–you guessed it–they have to down it. Oh, and this continues throughout the event.
  • Shoeing; The way this is initiated differs, but essentially, there is a simple task that one must do, and the last person to do so has to drink out of their own shoes. Sometimes, someone just yells “SHOE!” and you have to put your shoes on your head, or someone says “WALL” and the last person to touch the nearest wall loses.
  • Sconce; Essentially, people stand up at random times and says “I sconce someone who—” and anyone who this applies to has to stand up and drink. Unfortunately for the victim, the sconce tends to be very embarrassing or ridiculous or both.

These happen quite often if you are part of multiple sports teams, so be warned.

 

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someone about to Penny

 

Formals
Every college has their own dining service called “formals”, and they consist of three meals. Most colleges require formal attire and a college gown, though St. Catherine’s College (my college) is probably the most laid-back so one can show up in pajamas if they wish and reserve for it on the day. Our formals are also six days a week and only four pounds, whereas I’ve heard of another college that only has it twice a week and charges something like fourteen pounds! Anyways, enough with my Catz Pride. One can invite friends over to their formals as a show of friendship, so students can experience the culture of all 38 colleges at Oxford if they so wish! Formals take an hour as they serve the courses simultaneously, though one can opt for something we call “scaff” which is a normal “queue at the cafeteria” system.

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Formals before the Catz ball hence the formal attire (usually casual)

Bars
Ok, this is less unique but Vassar doesn’t have a subsidized bar so it’s still very chic. Every Oxford college has its own bar, and as with each college, the atmosphere is very different in each one. Some colleges have “specialty” drinks but the one at Catz is essentially grape juice.

Societies
There are countless numbers of societies at Oxford for everyone, some more secretive and infamous than others. The societies usually charge a membership fee and then a fee for each individual event which would not fly at Vassar but works well here. There is even a car society, but they were only into classic cars so I didn’t join 😥 If you’re interested in some of the more notorious ones, look online, and there are some interesting articles..

Sports
Although each college has their own teams, there is a University team AKA the Varsity team that people from any college can try out for. At the college level, there are different leagues for differing levels, along with a single-elimination tournament called the “Cuppers”. Thus, any player in any level can play for virtually any sport!

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The seconds after winning the Semi-finals for Cuppers against Worcester College


Clark moments

1. You know those cheeky one-liners that guys say before they get into a fight about what they’re going to do to each other? So Clark and I try to imitate this and this is what happened..

“Don’t make me come over there and crack your butt, boy”

“Oh yeah, well you’re a cracker butt”

I’ve never been so badly dissed in my life. Needless to say, I lost the battle.

2. Clark and I are in a lot of group chats, but I noticed one day that he never knows what is going on in any of them. So I check the chats to see if he has read the messages, and indeed it says, “read by Clark”. So I ask him, “how come you read the chats but never know what is going on”, and he replies “I saw a meme and I knew it wasn’t important”. My friend, you’re wise beyond your years.

3. Clark and I were meeting some friends, but we thought it’ll be nice to be fashionably late so we left five minutes late. Then our ethics got the better of us, and we decided we shouldn’t be late after all. I was running in my giant winter boots, so I tell him “I feel inadequate running in these shoes”, and he promptly replies, “I feel inadequate running in general”. I think a lot of us can relate to that.

4.
Me: “There’s a spider, but it’s on your side of the room. Maybe it likes you”

Clark: “Ok.. Well, I’ll let you adopt it”

5. Clark: “You’re a Comcast cause you answer all of my needs on demand”

6. This last one is not a Clark quote, but I was with him when it happened. We were sitting outside Hard Rock Cafe with some new friends and there’s an awkward moment of silence. It feels as though time has stopped, until a lady walks up to the restaurant and screams “I SEE FOOD!!”. Time resumed again. For a second, I thought I was in America too.

 

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The Catz ball was more like a massive party in a tuxedo

 

2/22/17: Reminiscing about the phases of my life and some lessons I’ve learned

Reminiscing about the phases of my life and some lessons I’ve learned

Back when I was much younger, I used to look forward in time a lot. I mean, when you’re five there’s really not much to reminisce about anyways, but I never really thought about the connection between the past and present. In a somewhat reluctant admittance however, nowadays, I find myself doing this a lot. Every time I ride a plane somewhere, I think back to my friends, troubles, and legacy that I’m leaving behind. Plane rides have inadvertently become the measurement of my life; something like the markings of each chapter. Here, I simply reminisce about the different phases of my life between each plane ride, and what I got out of each episode.

Planes .jpgJohn F. Kennedy airport on my way to Japan in 2015 (I think)

I’m pretty sure the first time I rode an aeroplane was when I was four, moving from Tokyo to California for my father’s work. We were supposed to stay for two years, but it wasn’t until nine years later that I moved back to Japan. Having spent the good majority of my childhood in California attending a public high school, I was very much a typical Californian kid. I really didn’t care much about school. In fact, I remember we had these “bad behaviour slips” that the teacher sent out to our parents every week, and I broke the record for the most number of slips in the first week with a number that even kids on Santa’s blacklist would gawk at–fourteen. The moment the teacher said, “Kohei, you have fourteen this week”, my friend (who I think had four) kindly made sure I heard correctly by shouting, “FOURTEEN?!” Ever since I was young, I loved the outdoors, and I would spend time with my neighbours almost everyday playing basketball, attempting to catch rabbits (and succeeding once), going to the pool, or playing the “Lava Game” on the playgrounds. In this era, I simply learned the value of Fridays and how to have fun.

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Heading off to a travel trip to meet the team on another island in Japan

When I was thirteen, I moved back to Kobe in what I thought would be the worst day of my life. Within three weeks of moving back, I joined a Japanese soccer team as I have been playing since the age of four. There, I encountered firsthand the strict culture of sports in Japan. During the summer of my first year in Japan, cumulatively, I probably had less than a week off. The following summer was a particularly difficult one for me, becoming somewhat of a turning point in my life. It was a hot summer day around 39C/100F, and we had three consecutive matches scheduled. I had to play in all of them (I won’t go into the details, but I didn’t really have a choice). I somehow managed to get through the games—albeit, just barely standing—but on my way home, I fell in the middle of the street from dehydration. I was carried to the hospital in an ambulance three hours away from home. I remember staring at the ceiling and wondering what I was doing with my life. Then, the realisation suddenly hit me that my days of fun and games were over, and I had to work harder if I wanted to succeed in life. Otherwise, I would end up weak and wounded in the hospital like I did this time. I developed an appreciation for the Hobbesian view of the world; the “survival of the fittest” model.

I flew to America for college when I became 18, with a completely new mindset. My experiences playing football in Japan taught me discipline, time management, self-motivation, and the value of simply working hard. I was what you would call an ambitious teen, itching to push himself to the limits and expand his boundaries. My second year in college, I was on the Varsity football team spending three hours a day six times a week playing soccer, along with a student government role as Dorm President, and also starting up a new organisation dedicated to providing substance-free and interactive programming. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to handle everything, but I promised myself before college that I was going to push myself. My time in college marks the first time in my life that I set out on a journey with an almost insatiable thirst for growth. For a while, nothing went well for me. I was not a starter for soccer, I was criticised as House President, no one came to the events of my organisation, and I was spending most days alone in my room. In hindsight, I now see why many people look back at their adversity in a positive light, attributing the dark days to what made them who they are today. I realised the simplest lesson of all—over time, perseverance and diligence pays off in character at the very least.

14362450_936350639805013_7676937131620141073_o.jpgThe first successful event our organization put on

My plane ride back to Japan from New York the summer of 2016 was the first time I remember thinking more about the past than the future. I’m sitting on the chairs at the gates, staring out the window and thinking about how blessed I am to have had met such incredible people on my journey. I think about how much I have changed since going to college; I used to dislike people who I disagreed with, but I realised that the world can not actually move forward without people who are unwavering in their beliefs. When two people are arguing for long enough, both sides develop followers and spur greater debates and discussions. In the midst of this, people from both sides create enemies, indeed, but also new friends. A lack of discussion leaves people in the dark, and some may say that being disliked is still better than being shunned. It strikes me that most of my life, I have tried pleasing people and avoiding confrontations; the Japanese side in me chooses harmony and peace over creative destruction. This is terrible in the business world and I have changed my attitudes accordingly, but simply as a person, I think this is perhaps something I can call my own. Going to Vassar made me realise that in the end, we get to call our own virtues.

By the time I was flying to England for my study abroad trip, I didn’t have a hint of nervousness or even excitement. Don’t get me wrong, I was ecstatic to be going to England and incredibly grateful for the opportunity, but I already had an idea of what life would be like. I would try to meet new people, make new friends, and try new things. I was calm about the whole ordeal because I had developed this theory about going abroad. I believe that there are certain kinds of people that I will meet no matter where I go. There are people who will remind you of someone you met in the past, and you will instantly recognise that feeling. In this sense, with time, I have overcome the feeling of homesickness, as over time I will meet the same friends over and over again. It’s quite possible that I haven’t explored the world enough to disprove my own theory, but so far I’m sticking to it. It’s strange to think that to someone else, I might actually remind them of yet another person I have never met. This mindset has made me appreciate the various individuals, character, traits, and personalities I encounter throughout the world, and how I’ll never forget the friends I make because there will always be someone who will remind me of them somewhere down the line.

13938597_908341882605889_6165639998503145145_n.jpgTalking about my experiences abroad on a national Radio station!

2/15/17: Random part 1; Embarrassing moments, Clark moments, etc.

Short introduction

When I  write my blog posts, I usually build upon ideas that occur to me randomly throughout the week. This week, I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired, so I decided to try something new; write down everything that pops into mind with no particular structure. I begin with my rather humiliating experiences trying out ballroom dancing, followed by updates on the four Catz Football teams, a very short description of the Japan Society, and to top it all off, some inspirational quotes from my roommate Clark. I believe a “random pictures dispersed throughout post” warning is warranted.

Of course, there were actually several interesting things I did in the periods between this post and my last post, but I’ll save those for items to use in future posts 😉

IMG_2263.jpgThis is actually the path to class Mon and Thu. Morning–I don’t get to cross the bridge, though 😦

A ballroom mishap

Yes, you heard that right, I am trying out Ballroom dancing lessons though I’m on the verge of giving up! So far, I can tell you that football skills and dancing skills are not transferrable. Apparently, you’re NOT supposed to run around like a chicken and kick things as hard as you can.

In what was perhaps one of the most embarrassing moments of our Oxford experience so far, Clark and I had both mistaken an Intermediate Ballroom lesson as a Beginners Salsa lesson. We got a strange feeling the moment we entered the room because people were slow-dancing in leather shoes. I asked Clark..

“Is this salsa dancing?” to which he replied,

“I think it’s a waltz”, and I just said

“Oh, ok makes sense..”,

..when in actuality, it didn’t make sense at all–people were supposed to be Salsa Dancing, not Waltzing to slow music.

To make a long story short, we somehow managed to convince ourselves that perhaps Salsa Dancers danced to slow music as a warm-up prior to the intense hip action. We made a fool of ourselves in front of the entire class just ten minutes into the lesson when we  asked “Is this Salsa Dancing?” to a room full of faces in disbelief. We were kindly led out the door. I admit it, my brain capacity was not at 100% that day. Though we were properly embarrassed, Clark and I laughed our way back to our rooms.

The following week, I went by myself as Clark wasn’t feeling the jibes. This time, I double-checked to see that I got the room correct so I wouldn’t accidentally waltz into an advanced Zumba class or something. I made it to the right lesson and the music started, but at a certain point, I noticed that I was the only one moving like a robot. Soccer is all about breaking the rhythm of the defender, so I just found it incredibly difficult to move to the same beat for prolonged periods.

I would get the order of my footsteps all wrong and inadvertently juke out my partner with  rather spectacular but completely uncalled for movements of the feet. The lesson basically turned out to be me saying to my poor friend, “oh my, wrong foot”, “sorry about tha—sorry, my fault” “left, left, le-right, dribble shoot score—wait, give me a second”.

If you were a spectator, you would see one guy moving robotically to classical music muttering the word “sorry” every 3 beats, and his partner being polite and laughing nervously.

IMG_2334.jpgThe Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford, known for its unique modern architecture

Updates on football

The St. Catz Firsts team is leading the pact in the top division by a comfortable six points. If we win the next two games, we are pretty much guaranteed the title as the strongest team in Oxford for the first time in St. Catz history as far as the records show. LET’S DO THIS LADS!

The St. Catz Seconds team is in the Cuppers semi-finals which will take place Feb. 17th. I still don’t really know what the Cuppers is but apparently, it’s a big deal. LET’S GO MATES!

In perhaps the most impressive feat of them all, however, the St. Catz Thirds team has (drum roll please)—escaped relegations in a mighty 1-1 draw against the invincible Worcester College!! LET’S NOT GET RELEGATED FRIENDS!

Finally, the St. Catz MCR Team is still leading the pact in the MCR division, AND we are still in the Cuppers tournament. LET’S CARRY ON umm.. PARTNERS!

img_2316                     The old St. Catz Uniform that I use though the colors are the same

Japan Society

There is an Oxford Japan Society but they put on relatively few events throughout the term. They do organize a nice trip to a Japanese restaurant called Edamame once every 3 weeks. The food was very expensive but it tasted like authentic Japanese food so that was really exciting! Other than this, the society set-up a “Bar Crawl” event which I went to for the first time in my life. Every Oxford College has its own bar, so we were scheduled to go around to Baliol and Hartford College. I ended up only going to Hartford as I was pretty exhausted already, but I got to meet some incredible Japanese scholars whom I consider friends now 🙂

Great quotes from Clark

For those of you who know him, Clark has a very witty sense of humor which cracks me up at the most unexpected of times. With his permission, I thought I’d share some with you every week. Here are a few of them so far..

  • I ask Clark as a joke, “permission to take a shower?” and he replied very seriously, “yeah but keep the doors closed”. I’ve never showered with them open before.
  • It was a rainy day and we were jogging to the bookstore as it was twenty minutes before closing time. Perhaps a bit agitated with the running, he suddenly mutters to me, “how nerdy do you have to be to jog to the bookstore?” Well, apparently nerdy enough to read Aristotle’s Politics for fun (I’m not joking).
  • In the St. Catz library, there is an area where the lamps are hanging a good ten feet from the ceiling rather than being propped up on a table like regular lamps. I admit it, I thought it was impractical too, but the librarian was kindly explaining to us how to use the computer system so I paid no mind. Then, Clark looks me dead in the eye as if he’s just had an epiphany and says, “I feel like that’s a little excessive for some lamps”. For some reason, I thought the timing of the comment was absolutely genius.

IMG_2396.JPG              Clark lost in a real life maze at Leeds Castle 10 minutes after I reach the goal

Feel free to leave comments or feedback (I know no one will, but it’s worth a shot) as I do this to stay connected with people! Next week, I’ll try to think of something better to write xD