Thursday, July 31, 2008

Keio Kids ...

... are precisely this prescient!

One of the challenges of road work, or book tour gigs, or just speaking gigs generated by a specific book, is confronting wildly divergent audiences and attempting to reach them for forty minutes or so--in the absence of a drum kit, a loud guitar and a dazzling vocalist (i.e., a band).

(Yes, that's a piano behind me. But no one played it--even after I begged.)

Last night I gave a presentation to a bi-cultural, partially bilingual group of American and Japanese high schoolers at Keio Academy's spacious campus just north of the city.

I've now spoken at anime conventions, business federations, government agencies, embassies, museums, galleries, universities, radio and TV studios and, of course, bookstores. But an auditorium filled with teens who happened to spend a steamy afternoon beforehand at a 5-hour baseball game at Yankee stadium ... well, this was a first.

Me vs. Matsui = Nolo contendere.

As you might imagine, conventional spiels don't suffice. (Telling moment: one American boy suddenly peered up at me with arched brows while I was mid-blather and asked: "What does otaku mean?")

You're forced to start from scratch, as they say, to revise assumptions and clarify not only to your youthful, more inquisitive, less cliche-seasoned crowd what it is you're actually talking about, but to yourself as well.

I keep thinking of the late Yeats writing about "the smiling public man" the students see when he visits a classroom--or "the tattered coat upon a stick."

Last night they saw both, most likely.

But I also think of Rilke: "Always be a beginner."

Begin again.

(Vast thanks to Miyoshi-san for the photographs.)

Tomorrow: Portland and Seattle.

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