Category Archives: Art and Culture

Stories From Tohoku


by Kunio Yamakawa

Gaman – “patience” in Japanese. I watched the documentary film “Stories from Tohoku” on June 25 at the Japan Society in New York City. It is a film about the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster which affected the Tohoku region of Japan on March 11, 2011. I heard and watched the news just after the disaster; however this is the first time I was able to see the current situation in Tohoku.

The viewpoint of the film is that of Japanese-Americans, because one of the directors is a Japanese-American. Many Japanese-Americans, especially those who live in California, not only fundraised after the disaster, but also organized a group of young people to visit Tohoku and help survivors. I was impressed that the survivors, who did had done nothing wrong, nevertheless lost their houses, land, money and clothes. However they never complained to anyone. T

hey have patience – “gaman.” They accept everything as it is. One of survivors had a cooking license which he lost on the day of the disaster. Later someone found his license. After that he volunteered as a chef for residents in temporary houses. He cooked every breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. Another young survivor said “the phase of disaster relief, emergency rice feeding, and removal of rubble is gone.

Many talented volunteers left wonderful ideas. Now it is the time we should realize the ideas.” I remember the words of a middle-aged woman: “I do not want anything, but I really hope that as many people as possible will visit us and see the situation.”

=> This article was reviewed by Brian Zack.



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Christmas Caroling

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Modigliani’s Heads Hoax

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by Giorgio Quochi

Amedeo Modigliani (Modì) was born in Livorno, Italy, 65 years before me and couple of miles from my house. His artworks weren’t appreciated by local artists – he was too far ahead of his time – so he moved, still young, to Paris. It had been said that, before he left Livorno, he threw some sculptures into the canal that crosses part of the city. This article is about a hoax regarding these sculptures that was perpetrated almost 30 years ago by four young men. It demonstrates how trustworthy some famous “art experts” are, as well as the character of some of the people of my city. I chose this article from among many others on the same topic which you can find on the Internet–just google: “Modigliani Heads Hoax.”

=> This article was reviewed by Brian Zack.

The Modigliani Practical Joke of Livorno (text from Internet)

This is the story of a huge practical joke involving one of Livorno’s most famous personalities, Amedeo Modigliani, and four ordinary young men, which took place 29 years ago in one of the nicest areas of the city, the Medici canal which flows in front of the indoor market.

The joke took place back in 1984, however to fully understand how it came about we must first go back to 1909 and discover a bit about the events which led up to it. It was in 1909 that Amedeo Modigliani, a young artist and sculptor who had just turned 25 years old, was hugely disappointed by the negative reviews that he had received from critics about his work and as a result decided to leave his hometown forever. His sculptures, which were completed in a figurative style of the beginning of the 20th century, that he had seen in Paris, and which were inspired by African art, were not to the taste of the local art critics and one critic even told the young artist that he would be better off just throwing them all away.
The general story goes that it was these criticisms which forced Modigliani to leave his town, dumping all of his failed works of art in a ditch in the process. His failed work actually consisted of sculptures of human heads, which were harsh and elongated in style and sculpted into the stone in a style for which his work was to become famous following his death.

The ditch in which he dumped his sculptures (the name of which indicates the canals of Livorno which cross through the historical centre) would have been Fosso Reale, a ditch of the Medici Canal which goes from Piazza della Reppublica to Piazza Cavour.

Now, in 1984, it is 100 years after the birth of Modigliani and Vera Durbé, the manager of  Livorno’s  Progressive Museum of Contemporary Art, decides to organize an exhibition of Modigliani’s sculptures, to celebrate his 100th year. Her idea, however, prompted an interesting challenge: The search for the legendary heads since they had been previously thrown into the canal by a young Modi. The quest was supported by the administrative council, who approved the dredging of the works from the ditch.
The excavation work took place in the sunny month of July, under the watchful eyes of many who stood waiting excitedly for any news of the recovery of these long-awaited works of art. Their wait lasted a week and on the eighth day three stone sculptures, sculpted in the harsh, elongated style for which Modigliani was by now famous for, were successfully excavated, one after the other. They were presented to the many art critics of Livorno, who claimed that the heads were the original work carved by the hands of Modigliani immediately after examining them closely.
At first, it seems that the story has a happy ending: Durbé’s dream was realized and art lovers from all over the world flocked to Livorno… but they were forgetting that Livorno is a city famous for its pranks and practical jokes and here it is always possible that things are not always as they seem. Therefore, after a month of much talk and awards regarding the three newly-recovered sculptures, three Livornese students: Pietro LuridanaPierfrancesco Ferrucci and Michele Guarducci, came forward claiming to have sculpted one of the three heads, in the garden of one of their houses, using drills and other tools bought from a local hardware store. They presented photos of themselves in action and the splinters of stone pertaining to the sculpture in question. Then, on national television they re-enacted the creation of the masterpiece.
Not long after, a sculptor named Angelo Froglia laid claim to the other two heads. Angelo Froglia was, in fact, just an ordinary dockworker who was passionate about art and was a talented sculptor. He claimed that he came up with the idea to pretend to have sculpted these pieces as a way of showing how art critics are led more by market trends rather than their own perceptions and the true worth of each individual piece of work. Both the three students and Froglia achieved their goals as in the end the joke was on the art critics who had previously slammed the work of Modigliani.
Talk of these events lasted a while. Mainly due to the fact that too many acclaimed art critics had already declared the authenticity of the three heads. However, although it was, in fact, the three students and Froglia who had, separately, sculpted the heads which had been excavated from the canal, there were still those who thought that they were liars who had conspired together to pretend to be the true sculptors of the heads, and so continued to believe that the sculptures were the original work of Modigliani. The reality is that only in Livorno could two completely different, unrelated groups of people have come up with exactly the same successful practical joke.


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Blue Jersey Band

Blue Jersey Band will be playing West Windsor Farmer Market on 8/24, 10am to 12:45. Come out for veggies and tunes- and it is supposed to be a beautiful day. Don’t miss this- it will be their last one of the season. Bring friends.

Vaughn Drive (off Alexander Rd) at Princeton Junction train station.

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The Life of π


By Lijie Wang

Life of Pi” is a good movie. I watched it several days ago. It is a very interesting fantasy adventure movie about a youth named Pi.

Pi is a smart youth who was raised in Pondicherry, in India. His full name was very long – Piscine Molitor Patel – which is also the name of a swimming pool in France. Everyone in his school has trouble remembering how to say his name. The teachers call him Pissing. But the other children laugh at him, because it also means going to the restroom. One day, he has an opportunity to show his math teacher and his classmates that he could remember π = 3.1415927…….and writes this down on a blackboard. The teacher is amazed and the students cheer for him, and chant: “Pi, Pi, Pi … … .” And Piscine Molitor Patel announced: “Now, my name is Pi.” That is the story of his name.

Pi’s father is operating a zoo when Pi was very young. Pi sees a Bengal Tiger in the zoo. He tries to make friends with the tiger, who is named Richard Parker. He stares into the tiger’s eyes, talks to him, and also tries to pet him. His father shouts, “What are you doing?” when he sees Pi, almost touching the tiger. His father tells him: “The tiger is an animal, and it is not a friend.”

The peak of the movie is after his family decides to sell their zoo and immigrate to Canada. They embark on a Japanese freighter to Canada carrying some of the animals from their zoo. But the ship sinks during an ocean storm. Pi’s family all dies. Pi escapes in a small lifeboat with a spotted hyena, an injured Grant’s zebra, and an orangutan. Later, the hyena kills the zebra, then the orangutan. At this point, he discovers that Richard Parker had been hiding under the boat’s tarpaulin; it kills and eats the hyena. It is very difficult for Pi to stay in the boat with the tiger, so he makes a raft with some floating devices, and ties it to the boat. Do they all survive or not? You will know when you watch the movie.

“Life of Pi” is a 2012 American 3D live-action/computer-animated adventure drama film based on Yann Martel’s 2001 novel of the same name. Directed by Ang Lee, the film is based on an adapted screenplay by David Magee, and stars Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Gérard Depardieu, Tabu, and Adil Hussain. The movie’s images are very beautiful and spectacular. Some are landscapes. And the movie also tells that Pi tries to understand God through the lens of each religion and comes to recognize benefits in each one.

Resources: Wikipedia.

=> This article was reviewed by Brian Zack


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Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Today we talked about the movie The Wizard of Oz in our conversation class. It’s a very famous movie, however some students have never watched it. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is a famous song of this movie. Let’s watch (and sing) it together?


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Welcome Home, Stranger!

Welcome Home, Stranger (photo)

by Alice Wu (*)

After three years in the US, a German student returned home and was surprised that her friends either seemed disinterested in hearing about her experiences abroad or were jealous of them. An American student returning home from study abroad missed her friends in Spain and played Spanish music constantly until her roommates begged her to turn it off: they told her to “stop wallowing” and “get over it.”

A British student felt confused and had difficulty communicating after two years in Australia and the US: she would mix-up American and British vocabulary and speech patterns. Her friends and family commented “how American” she sounded and teased her about “putting on” an American accent.

After returning to the US, an American woman who spent two years in Japan had difficulty looking people in the eye: her parents told her to stop hunching over and acting in such an embarrassingly modest manner! A Chinese student returned home after a year and a half in the US, and she was criticized by family and friends for being too assertive and for using too many gestures and facial expressions.

An American student returned home after three years in Sweden and was shocked when a complete stranger struck up a conversation with her in a dressing room at Macy’s. A British student felt depressed and restless after returning home from four years in France and Italy. He wondered if something was wrong with him and felt like just going abroad again.

It’s called reentry shock
What do all of these students have in common? They are all experiencing some form of ‘reentry or reverse culture shock,’ a common occurrence in people returning to their own country after living abroad. Reentry or reverse culture shock is similar to the culture shock and cultural adjustment that occur when someone moves to a new place – the difference is that while people generally expect to have to adapt to a new place, most do not expect that going home will also involve adjustment. Perhaps because it comes as a surprise, returning to one’s home culture can often seem more difficult or complicated than moving to a new culture.

Have you been home after living abroad, or are you planning to return to your country? If so, it may be helpful to consider what often happens when people return to their own cultures after living abroad.

You’ve changed
It may be hard to realize how much you may have changed. However, you have had new experiences abroad, met new people, learned new skills, and been exposed to a variety of different attitudes and life styles. You may be very different than you were when you left home, with different tastes, perspectives, and even values than those that you once had. Not only does being abroad give you more of a sense of your home culture, it also allows you to see it from a distance, which may cause you to question some of the values and behavior that you were brought up with. For example, you may have developed different views about your career goals, the roles of men and women, the type of family relationships you prefer, or politics. You may have changed the ways you like to spend your time, your patterns of socializing, or your verbal/nonverbal communication.

Things at home
Although you have probably changed a great deal, in contrast, your family and friends may not have changed very much, and they may expect or want you to be the way you were before leaving home. Your relationships may need to be renegotiated as everyone becomes reacquainted. You may suddenly have difficulty connecting with old friends or family members, and may feel pressure to conform to the norms of your family or society. In addition, those at home have had experiences that you have not shared, and they may have established routines that you are not a part of. In addition, conditions at home may have changed: e.g., there may have been significant changes in the political system, in societal attitudes, or in current trends.

The reentry cycle
While reactions may differ depending on various factors, it is common to have some type of reentry experience when returning home. An estimated 85% of returnees experience some form of reentry shock, and about 15% have a more serious reaction. Similar to the stages of culture shock and cultural adjustment, the reentry cycle usually consists of the following stages: 1) a period of initial happiness and excitement about being home, followed by 2) a realization of differences that may lead to irritation or confusion, then 3) a gradual adjustment, and finally, 4) the synthesis of a more intercultural perspective.

Some typical reactions
Some typical reactions that returnees have may include the following: feelings of restlessness or rootlessness; feelings of isolation, depression or boredom; questions about your identity and values; ‘reverse homesickness’ or nostalgia for the lifestyle or people of the other country; an inability to describe your experiences abroad in a way that can really express them; difficulty or confusion when using your native language; a sense of being an observer instead of a participant in your own culture; negative or critical feelings towards the culture /values of your home country; a desire to return abroad; a more individualistic attitude than you previously had; or difficulty making use of your new knowledge/skills.

Some suggestions

So – what can you do to make your return home easier?

  • Be patient with yourself and others.
  • Don’t expect to instantly be as close to your friends as you were before, or expect your family to immediately and eagerly accept your independence.
  • Realize that it is normal to go through some type of readjustment process, and that it may be helpful to share your feelings with others.
  • Get reacquainted with your home culture and with those living there – and try to be as open and flexible as you were while overseas.
  • Know when to stop talking about your overseas experience and monitor yourself for “foreign behavior.
  • Make an effort to find a balance that incorporates both your “old” and your “new” selves; you are creating a synthesis in your life.
  • Maintain your ties abroad: write, call, e-mail or fax.
  • Plan future trips abroad.
  • Consider internationally related work.
  • Try to get involved with people who have had similar experiences and join activities where you can use your new skills and knowledge.
  • Finally, relax, give yourself time, and enjoy getting to know your home country again while continuing to use your international perspective!

(*) Alice Wu, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, March 1994


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