Sunday, December 30, 2012

After-Meal Thoughts

Hey there people!

I had was at a restaurant the other day, and I'd just finished my meal, and decided to whip out my notebook. With nothing in particular in mind, I started jotting down options for my New Year's Resolution, along with the pros and cons. Among them, I put down "Writing" as a skill I should improve next year.

You may not know this, but back in high school, I had this dream of becoming a writer. I guess it's still there, in the back of my mind somewhere. It all started with a project we had back in 9th grade, I think it was, where we were supposed to write a novel. I thought the one I wrote was awesome (as teenagers are bound to think about their own creations), and my teachers seemed to agree to an extent; they kept asking me for the next chapter, not to meet the deadline but because they were curious of what happened next. Since then I'd write a story or two every month or so, got into writing fanfiction, started up and then expanded my personal book collection.

Thinking about that English assignment reminded me of an essay they had us make in English class, entitled "My Trip to Outer Space." Looking back on it now, I  think it was rather creative, compared to what other kids would have (and indeed did) come up with. It was wildly imaginative, with clever uses of common English idioms and phrases, and somehow managed to keep a coherent flow and structure. It ended up on the school bulletin (which nobody read), which was quite a surprise for me.

As I sat alone in the smoking area of that restaurant (I started smoking again recently, though not nearly as heavily as I used to), notebook on the table, twirling my pen in my fingers, I couldn't help but smile to myself, a mixture of pride and nostalgia in my chest. I thought to myself, I was one crazy kid back then, and wondered when and how it all started. As the question mark barely formed itself, my mind began the process of selecting the appropriate memories to answer. It goes as such:

A little boy sat in his classroom, thinking to himself. The other children had already begun writing their "essays," a term that was still unfamiliar to the boy. Having returned a scant year or two from living overseas, he still hadn't entirely mastered his own mother tongue -- indeed, when he spoke to his friends, English words and phrases would occasionally pop out if he didn't think about it.
What are you writing about?" He heard one of the children ask.
 "I don't know yet." He said, "What are you supposed to write about?"
"I don't know, anything, I guess." said his friend. And with that, he turned back to his paper.
 The little boy turned to his own paper, blank, save for his name and class number. Although he could read perfectly well for his age, writing was still something new to him. His parents had never taught him much on how to write (this, he would find later in life, was the main reason he had horrible penmanship. Or at least that's what he tells himself), or mention what to write in an "essay."
The teacher had told them that they could write about things they liked. He had gotten a Sega earlier that year, and he really liked it, so that's what he decided to write about. In a sense. He wrote about the games he played alone, the games he played with his sister (her presence beside him as he sat in front of the TV, controller in hand, went on to become a treasured experience throughout his gaming life) the games he wanted to play, and the games he wanted to make when he grew up. 
He ended up writing two full pages of the essay sheet handed to them, and was told off by the teacher for adding drawings to a text-only essay. However, the only recollection he would have about the experience years later, with more experience in writing but equally terrible handwriting was that
It was awesome. The feeling of thoughts flowing from your mind to your hand, forming words from images, images from words. Back in elementary school, I had no idea what an essay was, or how to even form one. Looking back on it now, I feel like that was a fortunate thing, because it saved me from the dogmatic view of how normal grade-schoolers would have defined an essay. It freed me from those limitations, allowing me to form my own definition and ideas of it, and have a frickin great time working on it.

I'm not saying I was a particularly good writer, I'm saying I really loved the experience of writing, and thankfully so did some of my friends (to whom I showed my writing). In the end, isn't that what's important? Doing what you love, loving what you do, all that jazz. Along the way, if you can be useful, be helpful to other people, then it's all the better.

What do you guys think? What gets you going in life?


-Zet Valentine

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Last Day of Work! (Happy Holidays!)

Hey there!

I just got back from work this morning, and felt like I should write something.  Something. There, I did it. Now will you quit nagging me, Awkward Inner Voice? Sheesh.

Anyway, terrible jokes aside, I just got home from work today, realizing that tomorrow (or rather, later tonight) is my last day of work this year! Allow me to backtrack a little, since I'm not sure if I've mentioned anything about work before.

I finally scored a part-time job at the start of this month, at a Bento (boxed lunch) factory. My shift starts at 1.00 AM until 6.30 PM (that's right, graveyard shift) every weekday. The factory is in Takaida, about 8 stations away from where I live, and it takes about half an hour with the last train of the day.

Finishing work at 6.30, I eat my breakfast (one of the perks of working in a boxed lunch factory, though they cut a bit off my salary) and get out around 7.00, which means I ride back during the morning rush. School holidays just started yesterday, so it's just a straight shot home. During school days, my morning commute is a little bit more complicated.
School starts at 9.00, so I could take the subway straight there, but then I'd arrive a bit over an hour early, with nothing to do. I usually take the subway halfway, to Morinomiya, and walk the rest of the way to school (about 3.5 km). This method is much more enjoyable, but for obvious reasons I don't do it every day.
Even this method has me at school more than 40 minutes early sometimes, so to kill more time (and save up a little money), I like to take the JR train to Morinomiya instead. It requires me to change lines twice, so it takes a little more time, the trains are slightly less crowded, and to top it off, I get to save 60 Yen this way (subway to Morinomiya costs 230 Yen, JR is 170).

Anyway, after school finishes at 12.30, I either grab some lunch or go straight home (sometimes walking to save train money), after which I go to sleep. Wake up at 9, prepare dinner, then take the train to work, and it starts all over again.

As you can imagine, it's doing quite a number on my body clock, so I don't think I'll hang on to the job for the duration of my stay. Thinking of getting a new job around february, which should give me enough money to save up (graveyard shift pays well). That's the plan, anyway.

Like I said, tomorrow's my last day of work, and incidentally, my first payday. Looking forward to that one. I can only hope I have enough self-control to not spend it all in one day.

After that it's a short winter holiday. I have no plans yet, and nobody to have plans with anyway, so one can only hope that turns up well. Hey, the free time might mean that I could update you on things that happened these past few months since I arrived in Japan. We'll just have to wait and see, then.

Until next time,


Not sure I wished everyone a merry christmas yet, so:


Friday, December 21, 2012

Hangover Updates

Greetings everyone!

It's been months since my last post, and life's been... colorful, to say the least. Living and adjusting to life in Japan has been taking up a lot of my time. A few times I wanted to write something but for whatever reason I didn't (or couldn't), and now here we are, a little over 5 months since my last post, with too much to tell and just barely enough time to tell it. Let's see how much I can get through in this one post.

As I write this, I'm listening to Scotty McCreery's (spell check please?) cover of Lonestar's "Amazed" on the internet while looking up the chords as well, since I've never really had a musically accurate ear.
Playing music on the guitar I borrowed from my friend really helps with this mild hangover-induced headache I have right now. I've never been a drinker, since my family isn't into drinking, and last night's bounenkai (忘年会; Year-End Party or something, it's a thing here in Japan) with my school friends was the first time I got drunk, and this morning's Samba number in my head (which has since receded to a slow waltz) is the result of my first aforementioned hangover. If you read that last sentence without doing a double-take, you're awesome.

I missed work last night because I couldn't catch the last train, and consequently had to walk home. Thankfully I had two of my friends with me, otherwise I dunno if I could've made it home (refer to "first time drunk" above). Oh yeah, I have work now. I work the graveyard shift at a bento factory half an hour by train, along with 3 of my friends. The hours are hell, but the pay's good. It keeps me busy as well, God knows I need that.

Speaking of God, I started going to Church again recently, after years and years. It's really nice, compared to what experiences I had back home. The people (from everywhere!) are all really nice and open, and have really let me be part of the group/team/family. I feel quite fortunate that there are some of my fellow countrymen as well.

On a less happy note, my girlfriend and I decided to end our relationship two months ago. It's been hard, but the main thing is that we still remain good friends (sounds like something you'd hear in celebrity gossip/news).

I think I should get some more sleep, my head's starting to hurt again. Hangovers really are a bitch, huh? The silver lining is that I still remember what happened last night, and that it was real, which is more than I can say about how I (sometimes) feel about the rest of this post.

Until we meet again,
-- Zet Valentine

Thursday, July 12, 2012

At Long Last (#6, 2012)

Whoops, haven't blogged in a while. Been kinda busy with lots of stuff.

Anyway, let's just cut to it.

I'm going to Japan. Finally. Only for a year, but still, you never know, right?
Even now I still find it hard to believe that in twelve hours I'll be in another country, the one I've been dreaming of going to for so long.

Finished packing last night, but I still keep on worrying I forgot something. I woke up suddenly a couple of hours ago, thinking I forgot a housewarming gift. Still feeling a bit antsy, and still haven't managed to get back to sleep.

I'll be posting again when I get to Japan.
Until then,

- Zet

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Bare Truth

I am nothing but a worthless, lowly human being.

Effort means nothing, because that's all I'll ever be.

Just a burden to those around me.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Before Mid-Term Exams (Just random thoughts)

Hello there,

It's been a while since I last did a short-ish post, so I thought I'd give it another go.

Pretty eventful day today, actually. My girlfriend's mother picked us up at campus, then I drove the car back. We went to my place first, saying nobody could pick me up today and I had no money for a cab if I went to J's place. In reality, though, I just needed an excuse to get her to my house so I could give her her birthday gift and surprise cake. As far as I can tell, she was really happy about it, so I'm definitely happy it worked.
Her birthday was a few days ago, and I left her gift at home, so I had no choice but give it when we got back, i.e. today. As for the gift, I got her another book, so as far as I'm concerned, I still owe her another one to make up for the lack of variety. Will figure out what to make/buy later.

After she went back I watched a couple of DVDs: A Scanner Darkly (2006 I think) and Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003). The original Pirates trilogy was much more fun and enjoyable for me than the fourth film. The first movie felt a lot like a throwback to the old romanticised swashbuckling movies and a little throwback to pirate myth and legends. The second and third really delved deeper with the mythology and mysticism, on a much bigger scale. The fourth one kinda did the same thing, but it felt a lot like I was just watching Jack fooling around.

Well, that brings and abrupt end to this letter. Begging your pardon, but I'm feeling a bit sleepy. I have mid-term tests starting next Tuesday, and truth be told I'm not entirely confident about them. But then again nobody normally is..

Until next time,

Zet Valentine

Friday, April 6, 2012

How Time Flies (a.k.a 日本語の手紙)




さっき、Windows Live Messengerにロギンしました。そのメッセンジャーのプローフィール写真が、この一年ぐらい変えていないことは気づいたばかりでした。その写真は僕とJ.yoさんのしゃしんです。去年、千々岩先生と一緒に、初めての観光した時に、先生がその写真を撮ってくれました。






Monday, March 26, 2012

Movie Review (Letter #2, 2012)

Hello there,

Once again, I've been at a loss for a nice-sounding title, so I went to the obvious alternative of... the obvious. (inner voice: Haha, bet you think you're pretty funny with that wordplay now.)

Today's been one hell of a long day, from missing first period of class, to talking more about Japan with our lecturer, to an impromptu visit to the mall with my friends. Which brings us to today's topic of the ever-tricky movie review. Although to be honest, it isn't as much an actual review as it is a highly-opinionated essay by an amateur regarding the movie. By the way, if you just read that sentence without looking twice, that means you're much more awake and aware than I am.

So, the film ran around a good 2 hours, and to me, the first act was too damn long. Right off the bat you have this text describing what the Hunger Games are, which lets anyone who has the slightest capacity for imagination know exactly what to expect from the movie, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of watching it in the first place.
The film goes to great lengths to show you these characters, who they are etc., but for me, it's not really enough time to really invest and care for them. There are points in the storyline that just has me thinking right now, "So what? What was that for?"

Another thing that bothered me early in the movie was the shaky camera work. Or as I say quite cleverly (note the sarcasm), the Un-Steadycam shots. That said, I suppose it's quite a minor thing to dislike anyway and isn't that much of a big deal.

To me, every scene in a movie should serve a function, primarily to evoke certain emotions in the audience. This could mean anything from very strong emotions of anger, excitement, or despair, to such transitory emotions that accompany a sigh of relief. (No, that last sentence didn't make much sense to me either, but I'm really sleepy, so I'm excusing myself for now) And a really good movie would let those emotions flow seamlessly from one scene to the next.
That said, at numerous points in the film, I found myself wondering what the hell was going on. I kept waiting to see what purpose that particular scene served and didn't find much at all. I was constantly feeling detached from the film, feeling very aware that I was watching a film, whereas in my most favorite movies I can just become lost within that world.
At times, it felt like Twilight (yes, I have unfortunately read and watched the first one), where I was aware that most scenes wouldn't really work as well for people who haven't read the novels. Right now, I can't help but feel the same thing may be going on. Maybe the film adaptation of The Hunger Games is better suited for people who have actually read the novel.

Aside from all that, there were some silver linings. The performances by the actors were quite remarkable (in my eyes as a casual viewer, definitely NOT an expert on the matter though). The costumes were everything from inspired to absolutely ridiculous (it's a fictional universe after all, and again I'm no expert). And I'm not sure how many conventional songs are in the film, but the score was subtle enough and definitely helped the viewing experience.

Overall, I think the movie had a great potential in terms of premise/concept, but failed to fulfill that potential to its maximum capacity. It definitely had much to offer, but in the end failed to deliver.
Some movies, either intricately complex or beautifully simplistic, can leave you with a sense of enrichment when the credits roll. A sense that you've just been touched by magic. The Hunger Games, sadly, is not one of those movies for me.

Everything I just said is of course my own personal opinion, with no intention to change anyone else's. Like or hate it, everyone is entitled to their opinions, and if you could enjoy the movie more than I did, then good for you. Creative ventures work best on the personal level anyway.

Until next time,

- Zet Valentine

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Recap (aka Letter #1, 2012)

Greetings, and salutations,
whatever that means.

As always, it's been a long time since my last post, and obviously much has happened since then. That being the case, there are a few things which I would like to mention, or at least attempt to, in somewhat reverse-chronological order.

Back when I was still active here I used to have this thing where I numbered each post (or letter) in the title, as above. Obviously it's been ages since I did that, and frankly I'm too lazy to open my previous posts and do a headcount of which letter this is. Therefore I've decided to restart the numbering based on what year it is. As you can see this is my first letter of 2012, hence the above title. As before, not all posts will be explicitly given a number designation, but I will try and keep track of these things.

I may or may not have mentioned this, but I'm currently attending college (university, whatever you wish to call it. There isn't much distinction in my mind), majoring in Japanese language and culture. Last December, I took the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) along with my girlfriend and one of my best friends.
For those of you who are wondering, The JLPT is basically Japan's TOEFL test. Under the current system, it is divided into 5 different levels, N1-N5, with N5 being the lowest, and N1 the highest. We took the N3 test this time, which, aside from being a formal way of saying you might survive day-to-day life in Japan, is a requisite (am I using that word correctly?) for graduation. Fortunately I passed. Not with flying colors, but I passed. What that means to me as a job-seeker is that if I apply for work in Japan or at a Japanese-owned company, chances are I could get somewhere between entry- and lower mid-level positions, IF I'm deemed good enough. Something like that. I'm just drawing my own conclusions here, so people with more experience on the matter may wish to bash my skull in.

On the subject of Japan, our university has this exchange program (though as far as I know, it's not an 'exchange' per se as we don't really receive students) with a language institute in Japan. The headmaster (I think he was) was kind enough to come here to Indonesia and explain the program for those of us who were interested, which definitely included yours truly. The problem of course being financial in nature. As of this writing I'm still in negotiations with my mother and am keeping my fingers crossed.

I have the preview for this blog open in the next tab, and frankly I wish to do something about the design. However I've never been particularly good in either technology or aesthetics, so I'm not sure how to make that happen. Suggestions, anyone?

I suppose that's it for now; if I go any further I might as well start writing an autobiography. Don't forget to check my friend's blog (for those of you who missed the link it's ). It's in (somewhat broken) Japanese, which really has me thinking about doing a Japanese post as well, for practice.

Hope to see you again soon!

- Zet Valentine

Experimenting with font sizes, tell me how it is in the Blahbox or comments section please.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Letters' Return (aka I'm Back)

Well. I know that in the last post I said I wouldn't be posting anything anymore, but life has a way of changing your priorities and views in such a way that your past decisions and mistakes seem irrelevant. In simpler terms: I grew up.
Go ahead, call me fickle or inconsistent or whatever. I'm not even gonna delete/remove my previous posts and pretend they never existed.

  I've actually been contemplating to revive the Letters sporadically for quite some time now, and after a short conversation with my girlfriend last night, I decided to give it another go. Before I start talking about anything else, let's talk about that a bit more.

I was walking my girlfriend back to her boarding home (or whatever it's called, from here on we shall use the Indonesian term kost), where we had our usual front-gate conversation ritual. Can't really remember why (I was rather sleepy), but she asked me if I keep a journal or diary. The conversation that followed went something like this:

"Why would I?"
"I suppose to keep a record of your own life. How you were, how you used to feel and think, that kinda stuff"
"I don't really see why I'd want to keep a record of my own life. I mean, I hate taking photographs of myself, let alone write about me."

Looking back now, I suppose I was being hypocritical, having kept a blog for some time. In my defense, the Letters had totally slipped from my mind. Anyway:

"I dunno," she said, "I always keep a journal or blog active." At which point this blog floated through my thoughts.
"I had a blog. Once."
She cocked her head in one direction. "Well, then try it. Call it writing practice or something."

During the walk home afterwards I pondered over reviving this blog. By the time I got back I guess my mind was pretty made up on it; I even considered writing that very night. But I was way too sleepy to write anything coherent. In any case, before my mind was carried off into that land we all visit, I had the basic idea for this post already formed.

I'd like to talk about more, but I think it would be better to restrict each post to a single idea, wouldn't it? Besides, my back hurts from yesterday's capoeira training, and I've got a book to finish reading. I'll try to come up with something at least half-decent to post the next time.

Until then, stay out of trouble, people.

-- Zet Valentine

Is it me, or is the font size a bit larger than it used to be?