Brain Cloud, Friday, 25 May: Stanford Impostor, California Pizza Kitchen, Hogs, Ozu

Last night, met up with Sandy P for dinner and a movie. Film we were to watch, Late Autumn, was one of the last by the late, great Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu. Film was showing in Cubberley on the Stanford campus, part of a months-long festival sponsored by the Stanford Society of Fellows in Japanese Studies. Had not seen Sandy since December, when she, I, and her two boys saw The Good Shepherd in Redwood City. Every time I visit her, I see she’s done something new to her house (which she bought over 10 years ago, when she was a new divorcée, her ex-husband living just one street over).

Her house is painted blue. Yesterday, saw she had installed a new picket fence, a new front door (with an oval, cut glass pane in the center), a new trellis, and a sign over the kitchen entrance saying “Welcome.”

Almost the first thing she said when we were on our way to the restaurant was: Did you hear about the Stanford thing-ie?

And I said, oh yeah, the 11 who took over the President’s Office?

No, she wasn’t talking about that. She was referring to an article in the papers this morning about a girl who’d been posing as a Stanford student, attending classes, living in a dorm — when, after all, she hadn’t even been accepted.

Had not heard of that one. We kept coming back to the story over the course of our meal. What Sandy told me in the car was: I wonder how she hid it from her parents? They must have been sending her money for the tuition? (Must have amounted to tens of thousands: Stanford tuition alone is $40,000/year). Stanford authorities apparently showed up in her dorm at 2 AM, unceremoniously bundled her off in a taxi. In less than 30 minutes, they came and sent her packing. Which story, frankly, self found appalling, yet another example of Stanford authorities’ bad taste.

At the restaurant (California Pizza Kitchen), while we munched our way through salad (Sandy) and BLT pizza on honey wheat dough (me; dear blog readers, do not advise you order same: imagine, if you can, a BLT sandwich with mayonnaise over flat bread: that is what my order amounted to), we talked about Sandy’s co-worker, a receptionist, who couldn’t remember the simplest things (such as the names of regular customers), who seemed generally to be falling apart because of a verbally abusive husband.

Then it was back to the Stanford impostor again, courtesy of Blacksburg, Virginia. Sandy’s younger son’s girlfriend is from Blacksburg (probably it’s his ex-girlfriend because Sandy says that for some reason the girl has stopped returning her son’s calls), though claims she knew no one who died in the Virginia Tech massacre. So, we’re back to the Stanford impostor because Sandy chooses this moment to tell me that the girl was Chinese.

Oh, suddenly it all fits: Chinese, the pressure to get into a top school. Though the Stanford case is an extreme example, I think I know students like that.

We talked about how sad and awful the Virginia Tech massacre was, and Sandy opined many more would have died if not for the brave professor who tried to block gunman’s entrance into his classroom with his body (and professor was in his 70s!), or the two students who barricaded the door to their classroom so that gunman, who had already killed several in classroom earlier, could not return to finish the job.

Quite delightful conversation to have over dinner.

Then, on to the Stanford campus. It had turned out to be a beautiful spring day. Isn’t the weather crazy, Sandy said. This morning she thought it was going to be cold. All year, the weather’s been nuts: first we had the freezing weather which lasted for three weeks, and now we have days when it’s blustery, followed by days that are scorching, then back to the blustery.

Auditorium only half full. A grad student (gray-haired already!) stood up to deliver brief introduction. We saw a trailer of the movie next week: Shohei Imamura’s Hogs and Battleships. In black and white, it purports to be a searing picture of post-war Japan. Movie had a lot of yakuza, bar girls, and randy U.S. sailors. Climax of the film appeared to be a horde of pigs running wild through the streets of Tokyo, calligraphic letters over the scene are subtitled: We want freedom! We want freedom! Naturally, self knows pigs cannot talk, but was unaccountably reminded of Babe. Last shot of the trailer is pigs shown overwhelming yakuza. Ye-hey!!

Then, Late Autumn. Was surprised (and pleased) that it was in color. Opening scene (in what I supposed was the Japanese equivalent of a coffee house?): three men discussing a departed friend, his lovely wife, his lovely daughter, and how they must “do something for the daughter” : that is, find her a suitable husband. Talk goes on and on about how beautiful their friend’s widow is, how beautiful the daughter, how they all had a crush on the widow before she got married, how even today she is more beautiful than her daughter, etc.

Film went on for three hours, and these are the things I noticed:

    The Japanese women in the film were nothing like the ones I saw on the streets of Tokyo, when I was an exchange student. These women were thin and tall and gamine. They reminded me a lot of Audrey Hepburn.
    Their clothes (sheer knit sweaters, balloon skirts, high-heeled pumps) were fantastic: would not have been out-of-place in latest Coldwater Creek catalogue
    When the mother and daughter were speaking to each other, they could not refrain from smiling, even when no one else was in the room.
    The actress who played the mother (picture of simplicity, supposedly), had evil-looking talons for nails.
    In Japanese offices, the hallways are apparently always empty.
    If you are a Japanese man, you come home from a night drinking with buddies, start removing your clothes as soon as you step in the door, and your wife will immediately materialize to pick up your clothing for you.

Must confess, copped a few zzzzs (Is this a sign of advancing age, dear blog reader? Simply cannot keep eyes open past 9 PM — !) towards the end, but woke each time I heard Sandy chuckling.

Anyway, was a highly enjoyable evening. Wonder what today has in store . . .

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