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Notes from Teach-in #2

March 22, 2011

Notes and links from Teach-in #2 (March 21, 2011, 1-5:30pm)

Thanks to Brian and Vinci for bringing homemade lemon-cardamom cookies and apple cake to share!

At the first teach-in last Thursday, we started our translation and resource-sharing efforts. Thanks to Brent, Brian, Fu Meng, Julie, Matthew, and Zoe for very quickly translating a bunch of tweets and blog posts.  We reviewed the translations that have been completed thus far, as well as noted how the original authors have responded in some cases.  Click here to see an example from Tomoyuki Hoshino’s Twitter.  Adrienne reported on some other feedback via email.

We have been given a name (“Project east306”) thanks to Illcommonz and Brian.


1.  Talking/thinking in this moment

After we posted our video response to the Apple Eating video, Umi, the person who made the original video with some friends, commented on our post.  In our video and post we used a word (ganbaru, “to work hard, do one’s best, try hard,” etc.) that she refuses.  She modeled a great way to deal with discomfort, frustration, etc. in a situation where solidarity might be possible in spite of vocab that chafes up against us.  She explained why the word is a problem and why she doesn’t like it.  She also indicated an openness to the possibility that we were trying to tell a different story with our ganbaru. She simply asked that we create space for people to see both stories in our post by including the full text of her Japanese commentary on the video.  We discussed this word and what it can sound like/convey in the teach-in today and also why Umi’s response was so instructive for us.  (Thanks, Umi!)

As a somewhat related experiment, we will try referring to one another as senpai next time. Adrienne gave us a story by Tomoyuki Hoshino (“Senpai Densetsu”) that uses this word in an unusual way.  At the next teach-in, people we routinely see as teachers will call us “Senpai,” and we will call them “Senpai.” We will call people younger than us Senpai — everybody at least for one afternoon.  Conventionally, a senpai (先輩 ) can be anyone with relative seniority or more experience yet within a more or less comparable social group as the speaker, whether the distinction is determined by age, grade in school, or number of years in a workplace, etc.  Justin noted this is the case in Korean and Chinese too.

2.  Rants

Many of us continued to convey frustration with news reporting and official statements.

Sumi shared this video interview with Eisaku Satô, a former governor in Fukushima. We will add it to the translation queue.

We discussed various types of offensive, manipulative, nationalist, misleading, racist, and troubling coverage  —  from the ubiquitous “poo” video to frustrations with comparisons to Chernobyl (particularly when used to downplay or minimize the current situation).  We talked about the ways in which images of disaster are used to exact social compliance in some cases.  We also talked about the misleading coverage of the “Fukushima 50.”  Sumi pointed out that while no more than 50 may be there at a given time, there are more like 300 people who are working shifts.  She took issue with the celebratory story of “50 heroes” that deflects attention away from the reality that the workers (particularly those who are subcontracted) may not really have the “choice” they supposedly have to take on such “heroic” work. When job loss is likely if you don’t do it, it may not be much of a choice really.  Our concern over certain kinds of comforting narratives reaffirmed our interest in getting more kinds of material translated.

Lisa noted that there are YouTube contests where people offer to make charitable donations if they receive a certain number of clicks/views on their video.  We discussed concerns with both the way such “contests” work in terms of popularity and with their goals/ends.  Brian shared an “interactive” slide show from the NY Times that essentially puts us in the position of the tsunami, almost like a game.   Although we haven’t discussed responding to such coverage beyond translating alternative perspectives, given the level of concern/interest in problematic and harmful reporting, we can always revisit this subject and discuss possible action plans.

Thanks to everyone who came and participated!

3.  Action items:

We’ll continue to focus on translations, but there’s also interest in resuming the podcast too (although given our numbers, it will have to be mostly DIY as Natalia won’t be able to program and edit everything for everyone).  So do interviews if you want!  Originally scheduled interviews can still be “aired” here, along with new stuff.  It’s up to you how and what you want to prioritize at this point.  If anyone has completed interviews from before, please let Adrienne and Natalia know.  Also, don’t forget to check the “resource-sharing” post for great info and tips in the comments section from Julie and Natalia on DIY interviews and subtitling for video. If you have tips, please share your ideas there too.

4. Coming up Thursday and beyond

The next teach-in will be held on Thursday.  Adrienne will send out an announcement with details via email.

Those of you who volunteered to lead or facilitate a working or reading group should come with some ideas next time, as well as a sign-up sheet for folks who want to join your group.

Next time, we will also talk about peer support and care (what is available, what is helpful, etc.), as well as film screenings.

We discussed creating a separate page on this blog for poetry, songs, and artwork. If anyone is interested in contributing/sharing something, please bring it to the next teach-in or let Adrienne know.

For those who heard Zoe’s interview with Norma Field last month, rest assured we will hold screenings of some of Hitomi Kamanaka’s films (with English subtitles) in the coming weeks.  Click here to learn about Kamanaka’s current projects (in Japanese).

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