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When celebrities and language collide. In Japan!
August 21, 2008 10:25 PM   Subscribe

Puzzled by sugary J-Pop bands and their eccentric (and failed) TV shows? Frustrated and confused by the complexity of Japanese and want to see what your inchoate blustering looks like from the other side? Then join "perennially unpopular" gaijin celebrity Thane Camus (grand-nephew of Albert Camus), as he walks a class of fellow pop star clichés through an endearingly awkward English conversation class.
posted by Rhaomi (22 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Today, I taught English to some Japanese pop stars. Or yesterday, I don't remember."
posted by Bromius at 10:51 PM on August 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


Thane Camus is a total dick.
posted by nightchrome at 11:09 PM on August 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh god, flashing back now to many, many conversations in Korea where both parties resorted to extremely rudimentary language and awkward, frustrated charades in order to accomplish simple tasks, like ordering dinner and finding the nearest restroom. Cute in retrospect (and when it's someone else), but cringe-inducing still. Embarrass, indeed.
posted by Brittanie at 11:37 PM on August 21, 2008


Never heard of the guy, but he seems decent to the people in the "embarass" videos.
posted by zippy at 11:53 PM on August 21, 2008


Thane Camus is a total dick.

He ain't got nothin on the Thane of Cawdor.

Also, that last link contains a whole lot of cute japanese girls.
posted by Alex404 at 11:59 PM on August 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Did he use this as a textbook? (It's a satirical language guide intended to teach the Japanese to cuss like a Marine in English, and there were two sequels.)
posted by Class Goat at 12:06 AM on August 22, 2008


The first article is absolutely correct about Morning Musume, yet it seems to be the first and sometimes only J-pop band a lot of people encounter. Which is a real shame. Imagine if the only American band most of the rest of the world knew was O-Town.

There are plenty of others I'd recommend first, like my personal favorite, IOSYS (who've often stepped outside of the pop genre), or Halcali (a manufactured band like Morning Musume, but with much better music), or Bennie K, or Albatrosicks, or countless others. Maybe others can make further recommendations.

Also, the classroom video was cute.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:18 AM on August 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


God I hate Thane Camus. I haven't read any of the links yet, and I don't know that much about him. But just seeing him on TV all the time has made me hate him. Although you almost have to be that kind of person to be on TV over here.
posted by donkeymon at 4:28 AM on August 22, 2008


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: "The first article is absolutely correct about Morning Musume, yet it seems to be the first and sometimes only J-pop band a lot of people encounter. Which is a real shame. Imagine if the only American band most of the rest of the world knew was O-Town. "

Yeah, I agree - FTA:"The only problem is that some of their tunes are actually quite catchy."
And I have no problem with that. Even if it's manufactured cute it still puts a smile on my face.

I think Momusu make a good introduction because they're aimed at being non-controversial; a lot of the other Japanese stuff can be quite freaky.
I'd add Ai Otsuka to the list* and maybe Tommy February6.


* I actually have no idea if that's J-pop at all, I usually classify music into "I like it" and "Don't like it", so please don't hit if that isn't the right category.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 5:29 AM on August 22, 2008


"The only problem is that some of their tunes are actually quite catchy." And I have no problem with that. Even if it's manufactured cute it still puts a smile on my face.

Oh, absolutely. I'm not against manufactured bands per se - I really enjoy Halcali a lot, for example - and Morning Musume does have some damned catchy tunes. I'd never heard of Ai Otsuka or Tommy February6, so thanks for the introduction.

a lot of the other Japanese stuff can be quite freaky.

Say, that reminds me ...
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:42 AM on August 22, 2008


I want a kitty.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 5:57 AM on August 22, 2008


why do so many annoying male gaijin talento sound like prissy middle girls? Thane Camus is one of the best/worst examples of this.
They learn Japanese primarily though conversations with fawning Japanese women then speak like them - Japanese has gender differences built into the language so it's pretty funny to hear a guy speaking like a coy schoolgirl.
So many of the gaijin talento reinforce negative stereotypes of the west - that is one of their roles. Camus thinks he is loved; instead he laughed at. Guess it's a win/win for a narcissist and the Japanese.
posted by hooptycritter at 6:38 AM on August 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: set to fight perennially unpopular gaijin Uncle Sam
posted by penduluum at 6:40 AM on August 22, 2008


More "comedy" English lessons involving members of Morning Musume.
posted by Makoto at 7:32 AM on August 22, 2008


That last link is actually pretty neat. Really highlights how just how someone sounds dumb, they aren't necessarily. (Which is easy to say you understand, but harder to experience viscerally like with this video.)
posted by DU at 7:49 AM on August 22, 2008


You know, the thought occurs that maybe the real Camus would have been similar, had he lived in our media-saturated age.
posted by Malor at 7:59 AM on August 22, 2008


Oh god, flashing back now to many, many conversations in Korea where both parties resorted to extremely rudimentary language and awkward, frustrated charades in order to accomplish simple tasks, like ordering dinner and finding the nearest restroom. Cute in retrospect (and when it's someone else), but cringe-inducing still.

The thing is, it works. For me, one of the most difficult things about speaking another language has been learning when not to push too hard. Sticking with simple language or charades is often much better than stammering endlessly and/or falling silent while trying to pull up the "right" word. If you're at least trying to talk, the other half of the conversation can work with you. Also, your speech will sound much more confident and natural if you choose vocabulary words from within your comfort zone, even if they are simple, rather than constantly reaching for words you're not sure of.

For this reason, I thought Camus was way too hard on the elevator/"people people" girl -- if the important part is communication, then I think she made great use of the level of English she has. The story would have been harder to understand without the gestures and repetition, so why should it matter that "most of it was gestures and 'people people'"? She got the point across, so good for her.
posted by vorfeed at 8:59 AM on August 22, 2008


The problem with that is that her English level is essentially zero. Morning Musume is just at the age where they have been studying English 5 times a week for three years, or would have been had they gone to school like normal people. But despite being 15 or 16, these idiots' English level was lower than the average elementary school 6th grader. Pretty much everyone in Japan knows more English than this. That's why this show is so funny to Japanese people. It's true that Japanese students often focus too much on using correct grammar, at the expense of being able to say anything at all, and we try to teach them that using gestures and whatever else it takes to communicate is very important, but there's no way I would have understood what the hell she was trying to say without having heard the Japanese first. They couldn't even string two words together! They would have all failed.

And Camus is a loser.
posted by donkeymon at 4:23 PM on August 22, 2008


I don't know if Thane Camus is a dick or not, but my office had a copy of one of his books and there were quite a few mistakes in the English.

I can't sneer at anyone's taste in j-pop, I like NEWS.
posted by betweenthebars at 4:55 PM on August 22, 2008


My mother-in-law met Thane Camus at a small country train station in Nagahama, Shiga Prefecture. She said he was a very nice young man who spoke with her briefly.

I think his Japanese is rather good. If he sounds effeminate, it's because he speaks the same annoying Tokyo slang that all "tarentos" speak (and that all twentysomethings from Tokyo speak). Tokyo slang is pretty faggy and annoying (unless the people speaking it are actual fags, who are not annoying and have every right to sound faggy).

Thane Camus is really good on Sanma's Karakuri Terebi. Man I loved that show, and loved watching television on Sunday nights while drinking beer.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:08 AM on August 23, 2008


I can't sneer at anyone's taste in j-pop, I like NEWS.
posted by betweenthebars at 9:55 AM on August 23


I'm not so much a fan of NEWS, though I like a couple of songs, but I am down with KanJani8.
posted by emmling at 6:29 AM on August 24, 2008


KokuRyu, do I detect a diehard kansai sentiment in your comment? The worst part of the tokyo-speak to me is "jan" at the end of so many sentences.
posted by thedaniel at 11:08 AM on August 26, 2008


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