Monday 30 April 2012

In Cold Blood

Truman Capote, 1966
(March 2011)

I started reading this after Jessie Lamb, before realizing I wasn’t quite in the mood and needed something cheerier. Then the film adaptation pops up in 69 as an hilariously self-inflicted cock-block, which I took as a sign not to take too long in getting back to it.

Friday 27 April 2012

Plain Trains and Automobiles

By training I’m a geographer. Geography’s a fairly amorphous subject – if you push it too far in any one direction it becomes something else: ecology, demography, vulcanology, etc. It exists in the blurred, smudged area where dozens of different disciplines overlap. It’s a pretty good fit for me in that respect, in that I’m interested in quite a bit and I know a reasonable amount about a fair number of fields, but I’m certainly not an expert in any one thing. Plus I really like maps.

There's a turtle under there, somewhere

Wednesday 25 April 2012


(March 2012)

I really don’t know what to say about this. The only definite thing is that this book is gorgeous, inside and out. The publishers have given it a very worthy binding and the illustrations are beautiful - stunningly so. I’d love to get some of the original artwork, but it’s probably well out of my reach. As for where I stand on the rest of it, I’m not sure.

Monday 23 April 2012


(March 2012)

I deserved this one. After a Japanese novel in translation – which was dire – and a short book about a teenager – who was suicidal – I end up reading a short Japanese book in translation, about a teenager. Fortunately it isn’t dire and the protagonist actually seems to want to live.

Friday 20 April 2012


On Saturday I’ll have kept this blog going for 6 months, which is about 5 more than I thought I’d achieve when I started. Well done me. After 3 years at my last school, I also got transferred to a new one this month (which is why my comment responses have been a little sporadic, new schedule and all). Given all that, it seems like a good time to take stock, give some thanks, and indulge in a little bit of self-absorbed introspection. Like that’s not what this isn’t all about anyway.

There's something I've been meaning to tell you...

Monday 16 April 2012

The Testament of Jessie Lamb

(March 2012)

So after harping on about the misogyny in the last book I read, this one opens with a teenage girl being kept prisoner in a spare room, with bicycle locks around her ankles and only a bucket to piss in. Plus ça change.

Friday 13 April 2012

Past Future Present Tense

In some fields Japan is years ahead of the rest of the world
Gina Calver/Alamy

Another article about Japan in the Guardian (well, Observer). Another opportunity for a collective facepalm by any and all of us who know anything at all about the country.

Monday 9 April 2012


(March 2012)

A Japanese master to be ranked alongside Haruki Murakami.

This is what it says on the back cover. Tellingly it doesn’t say who this Japanese master is. I have a hard time believing it’s the author of this book, and this is meant to be his ‘masterpiece’. Maybe they weren’t ranking writing ability but some other skill-set. Ballroom dancing perhaps, or maybe speed-eating.

Friday 6 April 2012

Faintly Patronising Advice for New ALTs 3

Episode, Whatever - A New Hope

The end is in sight, people. On Monday you were all eager for the journey. On Wednesday you were starting to get a little fidgety and teasing your brother. Today you’re kicking the back of the driver’s seat and asking, ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ five times a minute.

To which I reply, ‘Almost there. It’s just round the next corner,’ and this time I mean it. I’ll round things up today and recommend some reading you can do for extra credit, then I’ll get you all some ice cream for being so well behaved, I promise.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Faintly Patronising Advice for New ALTs 2

Episode II – Attack of the Drones

Still with me? Well done you. We’ll kick off the second period with a biggie, second only really to Point 1 from Monday, though frankly they’re just two different ways of talking about the same thing. Repetition is not without pedagogic value.

 A good point, well made.

Monday 2 April 2012

Faintly Patronising Advice for New ALTs 1

Episode I – The Tandem Menace

And so it begins. The new school year is upon us, and if you’ll permit me a short break from my usual cavalcade of free-wheeling japes and whimsy, I’m going to do some exclusively didactic posts. A new year means new teachers, and I feel inclined to pass on the benefits of my wisdom. Like Buddha, but with less unsightly fat and more coherent proverbs.

New ALT? Unsure about this whole team-teaching lark? Feel like being talked down to a little by someone who’s been doing it for more time than he ever imagined he would? Good for you. First a bit of background, then some more easily digestible bullet-points. Sit back and stay awake.