The difference of personal space - June.5th

The other day, I talked with a native about the difference of "personal space"between the U.S. and Japan.
In Japan, every morning people are packed into a small space in a train to commute to workplaces. Though their shoulders touch each other, they say nothing. Of course, it does't mean that we Japanese don't feel uncomfortable for it. We feel uncomfortable. However, we are used to it.

On the other hand, in the U.S., at least in Boston where I'm now staying, when each shoulder bumps into other's shoulder, people say "I'm sorry"or "Excuse me" because people feel uncomfortable for it and it's not common. People in the U.S. usually have more spaces than those of Japanese people.

If you think about this from another perspective, the reason why people in the U.S. prefer to have conversation in public space might be that they want to distract some uncomfortable distance with others. When people are packed in an elevator, when people are staying at a small bus stop, conversations start naturally in the U.S. It's partially because they want to fill the proximity.

That is just my hypothesis, but thinking cultural differecen is very intriguing.

Memorial day - May.25th

Today was Memorial day. Memorial Day is a day when people in the U,S, memoriarize the deceased soldiers who died in wars. Watching the news in which two soldiers in Iraq and Afganistan are talking, I reflected how important the day is for the U.S. people.

In the news, one soldier in Iraq said, "Memorial day is not theoritical, but real and personal". After 2001, more than 4000 troops died in Iraq. More than 4000 soldiers...I can't believe it. For soldiers who are still remaining and fighting in Iraq and Afganistan, today is not a mere national holiday but a day to commemorate their friends having fought and lost lives. It's not theoritical, but real. The words carried considerable weight and moved my heart.

Other news focued on a family who lost their son in the Iraq war. The mother said that she was proud of her son, remembered him every day and missed him so much. I felt very sorry for that, while I felt some contradiction to the policies to the U.S. troops. Something is wrong. No mother sends her son to the battlefield in the expectation of her son's death. She might be proud of her son dying in the battlefield, but her son never comes back home. Next year, even the next year, in the rest of her life, she will miss her son. Something is wrong. I can't explain what it exactly is, but I feel this sicuation is very strange.

In Japan, I never happend to this kind of situation because we don't have any military except defensive forces. The Japanese Self-Defence Forces do not serve offensive actions basically, so we don't usually listen to the news that some troops die in a war.

But outside Japan, wars are closer.
Memorial day was the time to rethink the fact.

Backstreet boys - May 24th

I listen to the songs of Backstreet Boys nowadays. One of my friends recommend listening to them. Actually they are REALLY GREAT. Just listening to several songs, I got to like them.

In particular,

Shape of my heart

As long as you love me

Both the melodies and lyrics are beautful and moving.

I remember that my brother recommended listening to them by saying that they were really great, but I didn't take it seriously... I regret that. I wish I had listened to them earlier...

Recently I've come to derive pleasure from absorbing new things, in particular, art and music. Touching the things I don't know is really intriguing. Until a couple of years ago, what was always in my mind was what kinda I was interested in. I struggle to find my originality and preference. I defined myself as a very boring and typical guy who didn't have any specific edge.

Comparing to myself those days, I found myself changing. I want to welcome this change. Indeed, this change might be very slight. For example, I see a painting. I feel that it is awesome, so I want to see more paintings of the painter, or check the information of the painter on the websites. That's it. No big deal. But, I never do such a thing before. Just see it and I felt nothing. So, I want to cherish this slight change. I want to pay attention to my faint preference.

I want to learn more about what I don't know, and understand more what I have interest in.

Claude Monet - May 16th

Last Wendneday, I went to Museum of Fine Arts in Boston with my school friends. (After 4 PM every Wednesday, the museum is open for free!!) In the museum, I saw the paintings of Impressionis such as Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas etc. They were so much impresssing. In particular, I love Monet's paintings.

Monet3

Monet2

Monet is one of the representatives of Impressionalist. In fact, "Impressionist"was named after the name of his work, "Impression, Sunrise".

Monet0

He described his work like the following way;
"Landscape is nothing but an impression, and an instantaneous one, hense this label that was given us, by the way because of me"

Though he is a very famous painter all over the world, his life was full of hardships. Before his works and his way of drawing were admitted by people, he struggled to make a living. Once he committed suicide by thowing himself into the Seine because of financial pressure. Even after his works started to be admitted, he faced with many misfortune. He lost his beloved wife, Camille. I saw the painting about her in the museum. I thought she must have been very beautiful.

Monet1

In his later years, he suffered cataracts in his eyes. Due to the cataracts, he was able to see certain ultraviolet wavelengths of light that are normally excluded by the lens of the eye.

I heard from my friends that Monet's house still remains in Paris and open to visitors. I'd love to go there someday.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun.

Credit card reform - May 9th

Obama Urges Credit Card Reform



Today, President Obama announced that he pressed lawmakers to make a new law about credit card reform. When I heard this news, I felt weird because debts of credit cards is not responsible for the President but for indivisuals themselves. Nobody asks people to borrow more money from banks or credit card companies. People borrow money depending on their own decisions. I knew the point of the reform legislation was to avoid credit card companies from demanding outragious intereste rates. However, I still feelthat that is not business of the government.

Checking the website of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, I found similar opinions to me.

The Wall Street Journal

However, when I got to know some information about realities on U.S. credit card industry, I had second thought.

- According to analysts' prediction, the credit card defaults will reach more than 75 billion USD this year
- The total credit card debt reached 951 billion USD(!) in 2008
- Half of U.S. college students have more than four credit cards
- Credit card holders in U.S. are expected to 181 million people by 2010

The population in U.S. is 303 million in 2008, so simply speaking, more than half of the population would have credit cards by calculation (if you ignore the fact that most people have more than one credit card.)

A credit card is deeply penetrated into U.S. culture and the debts reach the incredible number. In that sense, it is understandable that SOMEONE has to do SOMETHING to change the situation, though I'm not sure whether SOMEONE is the government or not...
There is another fact here;

- In 2007, lenders collected more than 18 billion in credit-card penalties and fees

This number is from TIME magazine, so I don't know exactly the detail of the number, but anyway this number is not so small. In that sense, is it right that Obama is working on reducing these huge penalties and fees now?

I can't say anything at this point, so let's wait and see...
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