At the beginning of February I finished up the course I was taking, and then began job-hunting. So far, I haven't been successful. Language schools still don't seem to be doing much hiring, and although it's still early, some people think the industry - like other industries - can anticipate a slow year. Obviously being unemployed is a bit stressful and worrying. It's also boring! Not that I can't find ways to fill up the hours in my day, but I miss going to work. And although I have lots of free time, I don't have money to do anything, so I haven't gone sight-seeing or even been out dancing!
I have one big piece of news. I apparently made it through the first round of the JET application process, because I got called in for an interview in the middle of the month. The fact that I made it that far makes me feel pretty confident of my chances of being accepted, but the interview is still the deciding factor, and I'm really not sure how well I did. It was a half-hour process with three interviewers. I tried to prepare for it, but I couldn't anticipate all the questions they asked, and there were several I had difficulty answering. (ex. "How are you going to represent Canadian culture while you're in Japan?" Er, you mean besides being my lovable Canadian self?) I should find out by mid-April whether I've been accepted or not. I really don't know what to expect, but I'm trying not to worry about it. I did my best, and there's absolutely nothing I can do now that will affect the outcome. Except pray. Prayers are still appreciated!
I'm sufficiently optimistic still to be studying Japanese. I'm progressing very slowly but steadily. To help myself along, I've been borrowing DVDs of Azumanga Diaoh from the library. It's my favourite of the series we used to watch in the anime (Japanese animation) club. Although my Japanese skills are still very limited, it's fun to listen to the characters talk and try to pick out familiar words from their dialogue. A Japanese student was also nice enough to give me a copy of Tokyo Story, an old black and white Japanese movie, so I can practice my listening skills on that, too.
For St. Valentine's Day I went to an AVEN potluck. We ate cake and watched Doctor Who. For Mardi Gras there was a pancake dinner at church with bacon, maple syrup, strawberries, and even whipped cream! (Never had whipped cream on pancakes before.) The next day was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Last year I was in Hong Kong, where vegetarian eating is difficult, so I only gave up eating meat. This year I'm reverting to my usual practice of going completely vegan, meaning no meat, eggs, or milk. It hasn't been that difficult, except that I'm forced to cook pretty much all of my own food. That's cheaper than eating out, though, and healthier than some of the junk I've been eating this year.
Of course the most important day of the month was Sunday the 22nd: Oscar Day! As was the case last year, I hadn't seen any of the top contenders, and treated the ceremony as a preview of movies I should see. Top of the list is apparently Slumdog Millionaire, which I'd already heard good things about. Sean Penn won Best Actor for Milk, which got me thinking about the last time a lead actor got recognised for playing a gay character in a gay-themed movie: Tom Hanks in Philadelphia. That was fifteen years ago, and it feels like we've come a long way since then. Back then, the big issue was AIDS; this time it was same-sex marriage that everyone was talking about. Heath Ledger did indeed pick up the Best Supporting Actor trophy, as everyone'd been predicting for the last thirteen months. I haven't seen any of his competition, but having seen The Dark Knight I can say that he was good, and probably deserved it. Japan got the Best Foreign Language award for a film called Okuribito (Departures). I looked it up: this is the first time Japan's won an award in that category since its creation back in the 1950s. WALL-E, one of the only other films I saw last year, got the Best Animated Film award, which it richly deserves.
Best of the ceremony: I really liked how they handled the acting awards, where they had five previous winners in the category come up on stage and give individual shout-outs to each of the nominees. That was a welcome change for a ceremony that often doesn't give enough air-time to the winners, let alone the nominees! All the acceptance speeches were good; none ran on too long, and nobody got cut off (well, maybe one guy got cut off). Best acceptance speech goes to Dustin Lance Black, who won the Original Screenplay award for Milk. Best moment was Philippe Petit (the Man on Wire) balancing the Oscar on its head, on his chin.
Worst of the ceremony: Usually one of my favourite parts of the ceremony is the live performance of all five nominated songs in full, but this year there were only three nominated songs, so they worked them into a single medley. It wasn't nearly as much fun, although hearing "Down to Earth" mixed with "Jai Ho" was kind of cool. For some reason they didn't list the past achievements of the winners, which seemed like an odd decision to make. The film montages were pretty lame, although it wasn't as bad as three years ago when they practically took over the show! Oh, and someone needs to teach Jennifer Aniston and Jack Black how to say, "La Maison en petits cubes".
In Memoriam: Last year we lost Roy Scheider (actor), Paul Scofield (actor), Sydney Pollack (director, actor), Charlton Heston (actor, N.R.A. president), Paul Newman (actor, salad dressing maker), and Michael Crichton (writer). We also lost Majel Barrett (Mrs Gene Roddenberry), but she got left out of the montage. I was kind of surprised; I know she was mostly famous for her T.V. work, but she was in movies too, right?
Movies I've seen this month:
Tokyo Story - A painfully slow-moving art film of the kind we used to watch in university. I was mostly bored by it, but I did find it beautiful to look at, and I got the point in the end. I also appreciated that, as in old American movies, the characters speak slowly and clearly, making the dialogue easier to understand. (Three stars)