February 28, 2010

Burakumin

Anthropology 1000. I come home to Mayumi with a question about the Burakumin. Japan's lower caste - once descriminated against openly, now a more complex issue, coming up now and then in regards to marriage or work. You only find out someone is a Burakumin, we learned, if you know their family's hometown. Genetically, they are indistinguishable from any other Japanese people. So I asked Mayumi. Nothing judgmental - mostly just curiosity. I said the word.

She giggled and said she'd never heard of it before. She seemed rather confused, surprised. And she giggled. I wonder - did I pronounce it correctly? There's an R in there, so it's possible. Or is it something academics keep beating to death, that a modern young Tokyoite cares and hears nothing about? Is it a dark secret that Mayumi is barely aware of? Is it a dark secret that Mayumi didn't want to talk about? I didn't really know, but I guess I leaned towards the academic explanation.

Studying Nihonjinron, they come up again. And again. In very modern books, that should know better if no one in Japan has heard of them. Curious. I look it up on Wikipedia. Apparently, the term Burakumin is sort of frowned upon in Japan nowadays. They prefer hisabetsu buraku shusshin-sha (被差別部落出身者 "person from a discriminated community / hamlet"), or hisabetsu-burakumin (被差別部落民 "discriminated community (hamlet) people").

Was it my pronunciation?

I say the word quietly to myself, testing out the sounds in my mouth. Burakumin. With that strange Japanese R that's almost an L. With the U's that are sometimes understated. Suddenly, ironically, it comes out as Black-men. And the rest of the Wikipedia page is teasing me with the dark, horrible irony of it all.

"Jiichirō Matsumoto, politician and businessman who was called the "buraku liberation father""

"Japanese government statistics show the number of residents of assimilation districts who claim buraku ancestry, whereas BLL figures are estimates of the total number of descendants of all former and current buraku residents, including current residents with no buraku ancestry."

Oy, and apparently yotsu - meaning four - is somehow used to reference Burakumin in Japan, and it's not good. It's bad enough that a manga cover or some such which seems to show a character with four fingers on one hand have to redraw the cover to make it clear that there are really five.

Examples and Discussion here: http://www.sankakucomplex.com/2009/11/19/fat-princess-banned-in-japan-for-having-only-four-fingers/#comment-359528

February 27, 2010

Educational Lolcats

So, a lot of recent web culture is incredibly stupid. Like Lolcats. I can has Cheezburger? Really?

But a lot of it is also secretly intelligent. Like:



Almost makes me wish I was a teacher so that I could make a bunch of these for random science terms/spanish verbs/etc. XD

My iPod

I have a second generation, 2 GB iPod Nano. It's silver. I've had it since some time in high school, when I got this one and Melissa got a pink iPod Mini. When I take it out, sometimes people think it's kind of funny and old fashioned. I think, really? It's less than four years old! I guess that's old for technology nowadays, but guess what? It still plays music nicely, the display still works, and that despite more abuse than such an electronic should ever be expected to take - mostly from flying around my high school purse along with melted chocolate bars and a dozen double A batteries. And the 2gb of memory? Never wanted or needed more. No, I can't 'sync' with my computer and carry my entire music collection with me. But if I did, I wouldn't want to use the shuffle feature anyway.

Anyway, I've been missing it for about a month. Having music while walking is so nice, even more so when it's cold and miserable. For some reason I often don't think to use my iPod though, at least I didn't freshman year, so when I do use it I tend to appreciate it much more. I was thinking I might have lost it, and then today I finally sat down and thought, where could it be? The Nano is small enough to fit in that little pocket inside of jeans pockets, so it can be easy enough to lose. I'd checked all of my pants and coats, hadn't I? Then I thought, "Well, I did wear that jacket one day..." It didn't seem likely, but I looked in the pockets, and there it was. ^^ Yay

The iPod is engraved with my name and cell phone number on the back. That makes it more special, somehow, knowing my parents ordered it for me. Suddenly I realize that I'm going to lose my phone number when I study abroad. Kind of sad. :S Hopefully I don't lose it...

February 25, 2010

Palindrome Poem

I've loved palindromes since that day in Henry's Gifted program when we first learned about them. (the same day we learned about those purple swans, or the same week at least)

My favorite was "Tara saw Bob was a rat." Teehee.

Now some guy has written a palindrome poem. Yikes.

"Dammit I'm Mad"

Dammit I’m mad.
Evil is a deed as I live.
God, am I reviled? I rise, my bed on a sun, I melt.
To be not one man emanating is sad. I piss.
Alas, it is so late. Who stops to help?
Man, it is hot. I’m in it. I tell.
I am not a devil. I level “Mad Dog”.
Ah, say burning is, as a deified gulp,
In my halo of a mired rum tin.
I erase many men. Oh, to be man, a sin.
Is evil in a clam? In a trap?
No. It is open. On it I was stuck.
Rats peed on hope. Elsewhere dips a web.
Be still if I fill its ebb.
Ew, a spider… eh?
We sleep. Oh no!
Deep, stark cuts saw it in one position.
Part animal, can I live? Sin is a name.
Both, one… my names are in it.
Murder? I’m a fool.
A hymn I plug, deified as a sign in ruby ash,
A Goddam level I lived at.
On mail let it in. I’m it.
Oh, sit in ample hot spots. Oh wet!
A loss it is alas (sip). I’d assign it a name.
Name not one bottle minus an ode by me:
“Sir, I deliver. I’m a dog”
Evil is a deed as I live.
Dammit I’m mad.

- Demetri Martin

February 23, 2010

High Grammar as a Second Language

I'm studying now for my grammar exam - the exam no Journalism student at the University of Missouri is allowed to go into sequence without passing. I'm not too worried - I've taken the practice exam twice and scored about 90% each time, and I've brushed up on the things that do confuse me a bit.

I have a good ear for grammar in general, and it's almost amusing to me that I don't score 100%. After all, English is my native language, I'm a better than average writer, and I study languages. But some of the examples on the test are just silly - horribly written with or without the corrections, just constructions that no native speaker would try to push through. (For example, "The thief was he."

Actually, I'm curious as to how learning foreign languages, and general linguistics, impacts my English grammar. I think it does more good than harm, ultimately, but I also think that, contrary to what any Latin teacher will tell you, it goes both ways. Learning languages teaches me the fancy words and distinctions that many of my classmates are struggling with, for example. My scores on case-identification and voice-identification sections are flawless. On the other hand, learning different languages strips away the sense of objectivity that grammarians try to cloak their subject in.

Take, for example, these two examples: The Dread Double Negative and The Dread Passive Voice. For many grammatical no-no's, Grammarians admit that "it's just the way English works", but for these two they provide more logic than usual. The say that Double Negatives simply make no sense - If you haven't got no cheese, you must have SOME cheese, right? And passive voice makes sentences wordy, weak, and dull. Sounds pretty convincing to me, except that these logical conclusions aren't cross-linguistically applicable.

In many languages, such as Spanish, double negatives are totally acceptable, sometimes even recommended.
Ex. - "No tengo ni idea - I don't have no idea."

In Latin, using passive voice was considered more refined and sophisticated than using active.
Ex. - "Liber Caesari a regina donor - The book was given to Caesar by the Queen."

While some might shift uncomfortably at the first example and scramble to think of a non-racist and non-ethnocentric way to suggest that hispanohablantes might just be a bit ignorant, most people hold Latin up as THE most perfect, most logical literary language, so it's preference for the passive voice doesn't do much to support their claim for the intrinsic superiority of the active.

But what does all this mean for students of languages and linguistics, such as myself? It could go either way, I suppose. We might get so confused by all the possibilities, struggle to remember which rules belong to which language, even be driven into apathy by the subjectivity of it all. But generally, I find, increasing our useful knowledge only gives us an edge.

As for myself, I find the who-whom debate to be silly. People never, or at least very rarely, use whom when speaking. It's dying, if not dead, and there's little use in weeping over it. It'll hardly be the first or the last tragedy of an ever evolving language. I use who 99.9% of the time when speaking, and my knowledge of linguistics and foreign languages has only strengthened my resolve to do so, since I realize that using whom would be useless and a bit confusing at best, and arrogant at worst.

But today I have to take a grammar test, and they're going to test me on who-whom, and they're handing out the grades, those nassstttyyy grammarians, so I'll play their game tonight. And I'll play it well, too, because I know the answers, having taught myself Grammatical English as one of my many secondary languages.

Update: I got 99% on the test. I'm pretty sure the one I got wrong was about politics - whether the word politics is singular or plural. :P

Japanland Headache

Today, I typed Nihonjinron into Google Search and my blog was the third result, after Wikipedia and the Japan Times review of Hegemony of Homogeneity. Whoa...

And:

Today was supposed to be rather relaxing. I got to sleep in, after all, and had a solid 4 hour block between my two classes. Instead, it's 3:20 and I'm in the library with a bad headache. It's not just that I've read about 200 pages in 2 hours. Most of it was pleasant enough, even though I was hunched over the book in a not very vertebra-friendly manner. Even though I'm calling it research for my Anthro-paper, I thought Japanland would be 300 pages of Japan worship. After all, the subtitle is "A Year in the Search of Wa." Surely this was another Bakagaijin travels to the land of geisha, samurai, and matsuri and finds herself somehow. Part of it - a lot of it - is. But Karin also has a host family, in particular a host mother, and their falling our is oddly and painfully familiar, down to certain words and specifics. And this, even though Karin is older, more mature, more patient, and more experienced than I am.

"But I asked if it was okay - twice! You didn't say anything."
I should have known by her expression.
"Maybe it's a cultural misunderstanding -"
"Not culture. Manners. You have none."
- Page 187

I have a headache. Remember the feelings of shame, sadness, guilt, anger, confusion, desperation, and a thousand more that there are probably only words for in Japanese. And the feeling that a weight had been permanently affixed to the word culture, that I could never be so naive and silly and optimistic about it again. Such a headache...

February 22, 2010

Khao Mun Kai


Today for lunch I got Khao Mun Kai, also known as Hainanese Chicken Rice, from my friend Ju. Ju is an amazing cook and I really enjoyed the dish - especially the oily rice. ^^ Of course, after eating something good I can't stop thinking about food... :S It's kind of a problem. Right now I'm not even hungry but all the food in my room looks delicious.

February 21, 2010

Catalan... now in Canada

I've been reading Catalunya - One Nation, Two States, and I'm finally getting some ideas about a paper. Like I said before, I'm interested in how spread out Catalunya is, how it's in Spain and France too, and in Andorra, and even a bit in Italy and in Canada. Yep, apparently there's a small but substantial Catalan community in Quebec. One Nation, Two States is mostly a comparison between two communities in Catalunya - one Spanish (Portbou) and the other French (Cerbère). They are right across the border from one another and are indeed so closely linked that women from Cerbère often get their hair done in Portbou. Both cities have had challenges in maintaining their Catalan language and culture, but Portbou seems to be managing it better than Cerbère, which the author of this book blames the French government for to a large extent. So, that's interesting. The idea of a Catalan state as spread out from Spain to France to Andorra to Sicily to the Balearic Islands to Quebec, how the culture and language have managed in each place, and why. Something like this might work, but of course I need to focus it. It would be very easy to do Spain vs. France, but I'm also intrigued by the others. Especially Andorra - no one talks about Andorra.

February 19, 2010

Catalan Paper

Now that the Nihonjinron idea has come into being, been developed just a bit, and been planted, I can start thinking about Catalan. It's troubling me a bit, not because I'm not interested, but because I've already written a similar paper - the interrelationship between the Basque language and separatist movement in Spain, as compared to that of Catalan. I could write the same paper in reverse, but of course that would be too much double dipping, and even if I were tempted to try it, I'm actually turning this paper in to the same professor.

There are other topics I could write on, yes, but they are less personal. For some reason there are tons of books about Women Writers in Catalunya, for example But what kind of essay can I write about them? I could read one or two books in English, or a few short stories, but reading even one short story in Catalan would be hard, and anyway I feel that I lose the whole point if I'm analyzing literature from a linguistic perspective and it's translated. And anyway I'm not interested in the topic, not in the same way that I'm interested in language and mannerisms and little things. cultura has always been more interesting to me than Cultura - daily life endlessly more fascinating than the arts of high society.

Anyway I went and picked up some books. One of them begins with a foreword that's just quote after quote about the connection between language and identity, and I love each one. Language brings out such emotion in people - more than any other aspect of culture, perhaps. Not that language and culture are the same thing, but that language is perhaps the heart of a culture - anything else is decoration.

I'm just going to start doing research and see where it takes me. That usually works.

The books I picked up:

Catalunya, One Nation, Two States by Alexander Alland
This is the one that starts with all the language quotes.

Catalonia, a Self Portrait, by Sorber
This is a collection of excerpts and short stories from translated Catalan literature that is supposed to build a portrait of the culture.

Escribir la Catalanidad, by Stewart B. King
Basically, why it's impossible to describe the Catalan culture in Spanish. Or something like that. And the book is written in Spanish, about Catalan, by a guy with a rather un-Spanish and un-Catalan name. ??

Hmmm... noticing these titles juxtaposed makes me think of something else. There's so much about Catalan and Catalunya, but Catalan isn't spoken only in Catalunya - also in Andorra, the Balearic Islands, the South of France, even a little slice of Sicily. And this intrigues me too... And I found out that at one point, a few hundred years ago, there was a veritable Catalan empire stretched horizontally across the Mediterranean, and the Catalans at one point held Athens.

Ensayo Informal/Rima LIII

Another informal response-to poetry essay for Spanish literature class. :) This time we're looking at Becquer's Rima LIII

Love Makes Everything a Weapon

Pensamientos sobre Rima LIII - Las Golondrinas y Las Madreselvas

El amor mejora todo, y después, hace toda un arma. Cuando leí el poema “Rima LIII” por Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, reconocí esta idea. En este poema, la voz narrativa dice a una chica con quien está enamorado que la primavera si volverá. Será bellísima. Pero no será tan bella como era – cuando estaban juntos. Y encontrarás el amor otra vez, pero nunca alguien que te ama tanto que te amo yo.

Creo que Bécquer usa los imagines naturales de la primavera, porque quiere decir que la vida si continua después del periódico más duro después de la relación. Si, continúe, y las golondrinas volverán y las madreselvas también, pero hay aspectos que no volverán, y en alguna manera las que si volvieran traen con ellas memorias dolorosas. La primavera no es el invierno - hay vida en primavera, pero no la abundancia de vida que viene en el calor del verano. La primavera es algo más frágil y más vulnerable, como un corazón que todavía se esté recuperando. Por la conexión íntima entre las imágenes de la naturaleza y la relación, parece que el amor, para él, primero ha mejorado y después ha dañado a todos los aspectos de la vida, ya ha convertido todo en un arma que puede causar dolor. Esta es una sensación que he sentido yo también.

La primera vez que leí este poema pensaba de una canción de música del campo un poco tonto. Era “Please Remember Me,” por Tim McGraw. En las dos obras, hay una voz poética que habla con una chica, y usando las imágenes de procesos naturalezas que continúan para hablar del fin de una relación, pero los sentimientos son diferentes. Tim dice a la chica que ella debe continuar con su vida y encontrar más felicidad, un amor mejor y más fuerte, y solo la pide a recordar a él. Su tono apesta al martirio, pero la idea es que él quiere que ella este feliz. En contraste, Bécquer parece un poco amargo cuando dice, “Desengáñate: ¡Así no te querrán!”

Me gustan mucho los dos poemas. Los tonos son completamente diferentes, y a veces puedo entender uno más que el otro, y el próximo día es el opuesto. Pero los dos expresan un sentido que el amor cambia todo – lo hace mejor y también peor que antes.

Me parece cuando estamos enamorados, ponemos nuestro amor en todo que vivimos. Todo se pone más bello a causa de este amor, más bello y también más poderoso. Gritamos más, reímos más, sentimos todo con esfuerza. Entonces, cuando la relación llega al fin, todo está de repente algo doloroso. Hay las sombras y los ecos de nuestras memorias por todas partes.

Erase una vez, estaba enamorado y sentí ese amor poner su proprio color en todo en mi vida. Entonces, por semanas después, la cosa más sencilla y delicada – una camisa cierta rayada, la monotonía de las aspas del ventilador en mi techo, una brisa fría que venía del norte, y no puedo mencionar todas las mil palabras, incluso idiomas enteras – todos eran dolorosos, algo que parecía cortar mis tendones de Aquiles. Aun ahora, años después, no hay ningún día en que ninguna cosa hace que pienso en el.

La primera imagen que usa Bécquer es la de las golondrinas que cuelgan sus nidos en el balcón. Estas líneas, de las golondrinas, son mis favoritas en el poema. La imagen de las golondrinas volviendo a sus nidos es fuerte y también da un sentido de ser colocado y en casa, seguro y feliz. Tal vez la pareja del poema tenía sueños de tener un hogar junto, y ahora nunca realizarán esta idea. Las golondrinas que no volverán, dice Bécquer, son las que “el vuelo refrenaban tu hermosura y mi dicha a contemplar.” La palabra dicha me gusta mucho. Es de alguna manera una palabra llena del sol. Solo en leer estas líneas, sentía que podía ver la pareja, riendo juntos en un cuarto asoleado, con las golondrinas pasando afuera.

Después, habla Bécquer sobre las madreselvas que escalan las tapias en el jardín, y aquí soy menos segura de lo que me hacen sentir las imágenes. Es algo más sombrío, más adulto. También hay hermosura, pero menos sol. Me gustaría saber más sobre estas líneas.

Es difícil para mí también entender los sentimientos exactos de la voz poética hasta la chica con quien habla. Esta triste, ¿pero que mas? ¿Hay amargura también? La línea repetida, “Esas… ¡no volverán!” tiene una esfuerza considerable y parece enfadado. Y la línea final, “Desengáñate: ¡Así no te querrán!” no solo tiene esfuerza pero también un sentido de la mofa. Al mismo tiempo, no hace ningún secreto, ni por su orgullo ni su amargura, de que feliz era, cuando estaba con ella, y como toda la naturaleza ha convertido en un espejo por ver el amor que no tiene ahora.

February 18, 2010

Springtime! :D

Today I had my first final (for a 1 credit natural disasters course, which I thought was going quite well until I got to the last page and realized it was weighted way too heavily on severe weather... and just weather... than it needed to be). It's a beautiful day, warm (40 degrees), brilliantly sunny with a lovely blue sky, and the squirrels are going nuts on the Quad. So, with an hour to kill before News and two-fifty in my pocket, I went down to Yogoluv to celebrate what I decided was the first day of Spring.

The tart dispenser was broken. :( But there were new flavours since the weekend - white chocolate macademia and cheesecake. So I got a bit of chocolate, a bit of cheesecake, a bit of macadamia nut, and a bit of raspberry, with mochi and chocolate chips on top. When I say a bit, I mean it - I needed to come in well under 3 dollars when they weighed it. The final price? Exactly $2.50. I know, how brilliant am I?

I walked back across the Quad eating the yogurt and crunching the snow under my feet. ^^

February 16, 2010

Nihonjinron - Breaking Ground

Palmer liked my idea about Nihonjinron as a religion. We discussed it this morning and he kept apologizing for not knowing more about Japan, while asking so many questions I didn't have the answers too. He's very helpful like that - sort of prods me into exploring new areas without making it obvious that he's doing so. Sunday I went to the library for an hour and picked up some books for research. I came home with 11 that look like a good starting place. I've found out about three-four other books I really want based on Internet Research, so I'll try to get those through inter-library loans as well, and I also want to pick up one or two books on standard Japanese religion, to put things in perspective.

The ones I picked up were:

Rice as Self, by Ohnuki-Tierney
Japan's Minorities (the Illusion of Homogeneity), edited by Michael Weiner
Multiethnic Japan, by John Lie
Wrapping Culture, by Joy Hendry
Unmasking Japan (Myths and Realities about the Emotions of the Japanese), by David Matsumoto
Japanland, by Karin Muller
Cultural Nationalism in Contemporary Japan, by Kosaku Yoshino
The Japanese and the Jews, by Isaiah Ben-Dasan (translated)
Nationalism and Internationalism in Imperial Japan, edited by Dick Stegewerns
Nationalisms of Japan, by Brian McVeigh
The Cambridge Companion to Modern Japanese Culture, edited by Yoshio Sugimoto

I've also still got David Mura's Turning Japanese sitting around, and one or two perhaps marginally useful books at the lakehouse.

I want to get:

Hegemony of Homogeneity, by Harumi Befu
Japan's Modern Myth, by
and
Dogs and Demons, by Alex Kerr.
(I find it odd that this seems to have two choices of titles: Dogs and Demons - The Fall of Modern Japan, and Dogs and Demons - Tales from the Dark Side of Japan. Are these the same book?)
A book or two on more traditional Japanese religion

So far I like my book sources. Hegemony of Homogeneity is going to be of crucial value as it seems like the closest anyone has come to writing about my topic - extremely close, actually. I've got to get my hands on that one, one way or another. As far as the others go, some are going to be more relevant than others, although I think all of them would add something to my understanding. It's just a matter of time and organization. I like that a healthy percentage of the books are written by Japanese authors. (Surprisingly this semi-includes Ben-Dasan, who wrote the Japanese and the Jews - he grew up in Japan and wrote the book in Japanese).

At a surface glance, it seems like the books roughly fall into these categories:

Nihonjinron as Religion:
Hegemony of Homogeneity

Japanese Nationalism:
Cultural Nationalism in Contemporary Japan
Nationalisms of Japan
Nationalism and Internationalism in Imperial Japan

Japan as a Heterogeneous Society:
Japan's Minorities (The Illusion of Homogeneity)
Multiethnic Japan

Japan from Outside Perspective (General):
Japanland
Turning Japanese

Criticism of Japan:
Dogs and Demons
Japan's Modern Myth

Specific Cultural Elements:
Rice as Self
Wrapping Culture
Unmasking Japan (Myths and Realities about the Emotions of the Japanese)
The Taming of the Samurai

General Culture:
The Cambridge Companion to Modern Japanese Culture

---------------------

I'm thinking I need to get Hegemony of Homogeneity ASAP. Some of the cultural books seem like they might not fit the topic super well, but they may surprise me. From what I've read of Rice as Self so far, for example, it surprisingly has a lot of specifics to lend to my research. I'm frankly totally confused about Wrapping Culture but can't wait to read it. Modern Japanese Culture is a pretty dense and frightening book despite it's cheery anime-style cover. Nevertheless I think it might be the second most useful book to me other than Hegemony of Homogeneity, because it is pretty comprehensive.

Unfortunately most of the primary sources, and the Nihonjinron writings, my sacred texts so to speak, are in Japanese, so most of my sources are secondary or from a different angle (aka the foreigner reports like Turning Japanese and Japanland).

I want this book too!

The Roads to Sata: A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan, by Alan Booth
At first I thought I wanted it only for pleasure, then reading reactions I realize that even this would contribute to the project.

I'm not limiting myself to books, either, especially at this point. The topic was born from wikifrolicking and blog crawling, and I'm still messing around with that. I never realized before how much anger towards Japan and Nihonjinron there was on the internet. Anger, and just plain disillusionment as well. There are entire blog and forum communities that I'm finding, full of bilingual expats in Japan who are fighting rather viciously amongst each other about all things Japanese, with opinions all over the spectrum. Of course, these people are choosing to live in Japan, so they don't exactly hate it, but I'm finding that there's one of these people who are eager to reveal the 'dark side of Japan' for every, say, 500 Japan-crazed gaijin.

I wonder suddenly if they'll ever read my paper. It's a funny thought. Actually it freaks me out a little bit. Is this real stuff, more than a school project? A little bit frightening. Anyway, I love Japan and I hope that shows in the final product, however it turns out, and even during the processing stages.

Mutsu, Japan - 7/09

Melissa's Visit

Melissa came up to visit me for the weekend. It was a lot of fun - she met all of my friends and visited most of my favourite places. We made a lot of jokes about being Valentine dates, and ate rediculous amounts of frozen yogurt.

Here we are at Rockbridge! From left: Me, Melissa,, Zahra, Sarah, and Jenny.

Here we are in the Devil's Icebox! :)

<3 you sissie.

February 11, 2010

Self Portraits

I've heard people say that real self portraits are impossible, because humans are far too vain to be objective about themselves. I can certainly see where they're coming from with that, since after all I usually represent myself as either dressed up and made up and perfumed like a little china doll or else ultra stylized and too cool for school looking. Like this:


Still, the other day a friend took a quick and random photo of me while we were out sledding. I'm not doing anything cool. I'm not anywhere astonishing. I'm wearing snow clothes and not a drop of makeup. My hair is gross and all over the place. My squinty eye is pretty squinty. But I'm smiling - and not a photo smile, either. I'm with friends. I look happy. I loved the photo the second I saw it, because the person in it didn't seem like a stranger. I think it's one of the more honest pictures of myself that I have:

Brainstorming - Nihonjinron

I'm thinking about Japan. Just letting the thoughts drift into my mind and float on the surface of my thoughts, letting them come together and apart again. The Anthropology paper is very vague now and still far away.

I'm thinking about 5 yen coins and fortunes that come out of drawers.
About the horrors of giving gifts in 4s and 7s.

http://family.jrank.org/pages/85/Ancestor-Worship-Ancestor-Worship-in-Japan.html

About syncretism.
About Shinto, Buddhism, ancestor worship, and Santa Claus.

http://patrickmccoy.typepad.com/lost_in_translation/2008/03/japan-has-four.html
http://overoften.wordpress.com/articles/myths-in-modern-japan/
http://japanlost.blogspot.com/2007/10/nihonjinron-and-baka-gaijin.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihonjinron

About Kisetsukan and Nihonjinron.

http://blog.japundit.com/archives/2006/09/14/3503/
http://junana.com/CDP/corpus/GLOSSARY18.html
http://www.jstor.org/stable/836924?cookieSet=1
http://www.blogcatalog.com/blog/japan-beyond-the-tamagawa/d55e3578829cf55946c46fc1b49419e9

About Bakagaijin and Nihonjinron.

http://www.blogcatalog.com/blog/japan-beyond-the-tamagawa/8bd8816303d9ecd5fdc77fbf11fc2122
http://www.blogcatalog.com/blog/japan-beyond-the-tamagawa/8223a3d99ca23369344151e7ecdca6bd
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/29/opinion/29tawada.html?_r=2

About Cherry Blossoms and Nihonjinron.

http://quotejapan.wordpress.com/2008/12/27/nihonjinron/
http://blog.digihotaru.com/2005/10/re-evidence-used-to-support.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A571565
http://www.justjapan.org/japan/popculture/japan-nihon.asp
http://www.librarything.com/work/511765

About Nihonjinron.

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fb20010624a3.html

About Nihonjinron...

Interesting...

Takayama, Japan 7/09

Academic Pedicure

This morning I got a pedicure. For Journalism. I swear.

The assignment was to go somewhere that made me feel uncomfortable. I couldn't really think of such a place. Where don't I go?

So I went and got a pedicure, and tried to talk to the stylists. And still, I thought about cultures....

Southeast Asians in Columbia. Men who get Pedicures.

"I didn’t know what I was doing, didn’t know anything about the environment. I was tempted to fall back into my comfort zone - into the realm of culture and language. Their English was native and natural, and I found myself wondering if they were second or third generation, and what it was like to be a Southeast Asian in Columbia. They seemed at once both more and less assimilated than the second generation Asians I was friends with in high school. The stories they told and the slang they used reminded me much more of my school’s cheerleaders than its Asian students, who were mostly superachievers too wrapped up in college applications and national honors society to think about boys, except, maybe, at prom time. (I know because it was my group too.) At the same time, most of them left their cultural identities at home. Other than the occasional joke, or something especially pertinent to a conversation, we scarcely commented on our respective cultures – they didn’t matter much in our class group. On the other hand, this conversation was punctuated by classifications I'd never even heard of before. All of the names involved were foreign, and frequently they’d say, “He’s _____, isn’t he?” – “No, he’s a mix.” The style of assimilation seemed totally different than what I had witnessed in St. Louis."

"
She also said that the male magazines made the few guys who came feel more comfortable being in the store. I thought she meant that there were some guys who actually came in to get their nails done, but then she continued to say that some men come in with their wives and are positively terrified of the whole atmosphere, just feel really uncomfortable being around, and the magazines help them to feel less out of place, which made sense. I was curious, though, so to clarify I asked whether any guys actually got their nails done in the salon. “A few,” answered my stylist. “Not many, but we have a few regulars, and we have a few others who come occasionally.” She didn’t offer more details and I didn’t press, although I was intrigued. What sort of guys came to a nail salon for themselves? If Mississippi Nails had even two regulars and two occasional clients, and they were hardly the only provider in Columbia, then how many men were walking around Mid-Missouri with manicures and pedicures?"

It's not great writing, but the point was to go out in the community and think about possible stories.

February 10, 2010

Tampopo


Ramen and Sex and Gansters. If I had to use five words to describe the movie Tampopo, those would be my choices. Appropriate, I think, for a movie that begins with two truckers reading a rediculous book called Zen and the Art of Noodle Eating and ends with a slow zoom of a Japanese woman (previously unseen) breastfeeding her baby. The main plot is that a 30 somethings widow, named Tampopo (or Dandelion) owns a crappy ramen restaurant and wants to improve. To this end she employs the help of the two truckers in the opening scene, the culinary master of a group of gourmet hobos, a rich man's private chef (who is donated to her cause because she saved the rich man from choking), and her admirer, who happens to be an interior designer of sorts. Sounds simple enough, but this group treats ramen making like an olympic sport, pushing Tampopo through drills in speed, flavour, accuracy, strength, texture, and more. The main plot feels, somehow, like an American Western, complete with tough guys, slow-smiling females, and ramen-tasting scenes with all the intensity of the final shootout. But the main plot only composes roughly half of the movie - the rest is random vignettes. Some of these return to the same gangster, who is obsessed with food, sex, death, and combining the three, whether it's by relatively standard food play with his mistress, or passing an unbroken egg yolk between their mouths, slow kiss by slow kiss, or eating a fresh oyster out of the hand of a young girl, or talking about 'yam sausage' in his last minutes of life. Others are even more random - an etiquette class for young women which emphasizes that the Japanese slurping of noodles is taboo in the west - or a business dinner where a quiet and low-level young man embarrasses his colleagues and superiors with his encyclopedic knowledge of French cuisine. It's a very strange movie.

Study Abroad Update

It's getting closer. 6 months to Spain. 12 months to Germany.

Recommendations. A Resume. A bunch of blahhh forms. A language test. A course proposal. - And that's just the start, and just to apply from my home University - haven't even gotten started on the requirements for my VISA, (Jorge warns that it involves an AIDS test and an intensive background check) nor on the fact that, since I am going through no less than three EXCHANGE programs, I have to directly apply to no less than three Universities. I have to cancel my phone contract, store my stuff and my car, get an International Drivers license, etc...

But it's all going to be so, so worth it.

Plans have changed a bit. Now I'm going to Pamplona, Spain this fall, Germany next Spring, and Norway the Spring after that. Germany's a bit blurry still, because I'm trying to decide which city to study in. My choices are Bonn, Saarbrücken, Stuttgart, and Tübingen, and, if I am patient, which I don't really have the time or inclination to be, possible Leipzig. My finalists are basically Bonn and Tübingen. I'm leaning a bit towards Tübingen right now, based mostly on a google image search and a recommendation from my German professor. I'm about equally in love with the curriculum of Bonn and Tübingen - lots of lovely delicious social sciences, languages, etc - plenty to get my German minor and some other International Studies credits. (I can only get Journalism credit from Spain, so there's no point in even messing with that.)

I've been warned/advised that Tübingen is smaller, sort of Columbia-esque, a traditional college town. Yeah, but, I LOVE Columbia. :P And... it's near mountains, caves, and awesome ruins, has lovely architecture (some classes are taught in a castle), the University is an American-mind-scrambling 500 years old, and so on. So I'm basically waiting for an advising appointment and advice from German friends to help guide me, because Tübingen looks magnificent... but I would also be happy in Bonn. :)

Here's a photo from each place as a sort of summary of awesomeness:


Destination 1 - Pamplona, Spain


Sure. Tons of Americans study in Spain. Madrid, Barcelona, Alicante... but how many study in Pamplona? A lovely city at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains, in the heart of the Basque Country... Okay, still a lot. But not nearly as many! ;) It looks awesome either way. The only downfall I can see is having to say, "No, I didn't see the running of the bulls. It's in the summer." about 1000 times throughout my life, tempting me to try and catch it after my stay in Germany. Why am I excited about Spain and Pamplona?

- Spanish
- Hiking
- The Pyrenees (complete with monasteries and hot springs)
- Pretty much all Spanish food
- Seeing Basque sports like Pelota
- Southern European Location

Destination 2 - Tübingen, Germany


I show Tübingen mostly because it photographs a bit better than Bonn. I would love to study in either and it's still open ended at this point. Why am I excited about Germany?

- German
- Hiking
- Castles
- Chocolate
- Brötchen
- Yummy Soups
- Esther and Damaris
- Awesome Course Offerings
- Central European Location


Destination 3 - Bergen, Norway


Norway. I don't even know what to say here, except that I love it for some reason, even the language and the food which aren't, for some reason, universally popular. I'm actually chosing Bergen because I have no choice, it's my University's only Norway program. But that's fine, really! :) Bergen is an awesome city in so many ways - home to a world heritage site wharf, surrounded by mountains, and known as the "Gateway to the Fjords". It's also known for horrible weather - not cold so much as rain, rain, and more rain. Luckily it seems to be livable, if still rather wet, in the Spring, which is when I plan to go. (Thanks to Lene for that tip. ;)) Why am I excited about Norway, and Bergen?

- Norwegian
- Hiking
- Bergen's Wharf and Seven Mountains
- Shrimp
- Smoked Salmon
- Waffles
- Syttende Mai
- Fjords and Mountains
- Oh, and Norwegian
- I would say Northern European Location to balance things out... but while I'm going to try to sneak out to see Liisa in Finland at some point during my stay, I think I'll lack the funds or motivation to leave Norway much if at all during this semester.


Of course, I'm also excited about more general stuff, like 'expanding my intellectual/academic/personal/cultural/international horizons. ;)

February 09, 2010

Because it Snowed

I was just planning to get a bit of ramen and print a to-do list for study abroad. Yep, that was all. I walked down the hallway to Tina's end of South, down the stairs and across the ten meters that seperates South from Center, where our computer lab and Mizzou market are. Such a short distance that I was wearing sandals and a thin shirt.

And I saw the snow - the fabulous, beautiful snow, wafting down like flakes almost too perfect to be real, almost more like the soapy snowflakes used in all those New York true love chickflicks. It flew fast when I wasn't focused on it's dance through the air - slowed as I turned my gaze to the thousands of tiny flakes, lit up by the lamps they passed mid-flight until they almost resembled sparks, a golden sea of sparks. The wind was blowing them here and there, and the flakes were so light, such dry snow, that they allowed it and formed and unformed drifts with every passing moment.

I ran back to my dorm, across the courtyard even, letting the snow come up over my sandals. Then up to my room and I pulled on proper socks, snowboots, a sweatjacket a scarf, and my coat. Nothing too warm - no hat or gloves - I wasn't planning on an expedition, just a bit of a walk. I set off and called Zahra on the phone. We chatted about random things as I passed Dobbs, Stankowski. Then Ju called and I told her I was walking in the snow. She said she wanted to walk with me, but she was too far away. Too bad.

You're not that far, I said, now you just live off of Hitt Street. I'll meet you at the Physics Building. Come on! :D She agreed. I ran across campus in ten minutes, crunching delightful fresh snow and cautiously fording a road glazed with dark ice over black asphalt, slick and perilous. I passed a crowded bus stop full of miserable people waiting, and two or three other people. It was almost ten thirty, so campus was totally shutting down, and we few stragglers shot each other exasperated, empathetic smiles as we dashed here and there.

I met Ju at Physics Building and we decided to head for the woods near the veterinary school. We got a bit cold and doubted ourselves a bit on the way, but Baja was open so we stopped there and ate a few fish tacos and banana-chocolate quesadillas, felt stronger, and continued. Baja is the last point of true civilization, so from there we were by and large alone. We raced down slippery sidewalks without taking our feet off the ground, spelled our names by dragging feet, took silly pictures, made snow angles, giggled.

At length we reached the woods, decided the normal descent was a bit perilous in the weather, and chose the slippery but shorter and safer route into the little wooded valley. We took a few more pictures there, I enjoyed the familiar sight of the snow covered forest. It's never totally dark there, with the low hanging clouds and the lights of campus reflecting onto it. We could see everything clearly, even take bad pictures without flash if our hands were steady.

As we got quite cold and thought about heading back, Ju got a phone call and spoke in Thai. Ju asked me where we were, and, not knowing who she was talking to, and also forgetting the name of the path, I answered, "In the woods!" Ju laughed and finished her conversation before telling me, "That was Prite. He wanted to join us but he didn't know where we were."

I was embarrassed! We decided to call Prite again, both because we wanted him to join us, and because we wanted rides back home. I called Prite, but his phone ran out of batteries partway through hello. I asked Ju if anyone else was at home, and we called Ju's roommate Kim. Kim didn't answer, so we thought we'd reached a dead-end. Then Kim called us back, and Prite came on the phone, and I explained where we were. Prite said he knew the place, knew the mule barn at least, and would go there but was afraid about meeting up since he wouldn't have a phone.

"We're in the parking lot," I said. "You can't miss us."

Then, thinking he would come quickly in the car and that we were a decent ways down the path into the woods, I told Ju to take her time, and I was going to sprint ahead to intercept Prite. I ran up and out of the woods, across the mule barn lot and to the hill. I decided to go up to the top of the hill, in case Prite was confused about which lot was the lower one. If he drove down to the lower lot, I would see him and be able to run down easily.

I waited a long time. At length Ju emerged from the forest - I could just make out a vague pink shape moving across the lot and gaining substance through the snowfall. I waited at the top of the hill and she at the bottom. The minutes ticked on and I started to feel cold. I tried to take shelter from the wind and snow behind a tree, but the wind seemed to rush at me regardless of my angle. It was beautiful beside the tree, though, with the whole ground seeming to twinkle and change as the wind blew the snow about, and the branches of the tree shook. To stay warm, Ju and I started dancing crazily.

I turned and saw someone running towards me. As the person came closer I realized it was Prite. I laughed at him as soon as he recognized me, and ran down the hill as fast as I could. If the hill had been even a bit steeper I would have tripped and fallen, especially with all the snow, but I knew more or less what I could handle and enjoyed the crazy feeling of running down it with my feet rarely touching the ground, almost flying. Prite ran down too, straight behind me. I threw myself into a turn as I reached the bottom of the hill and Ju, landing fairly gracefully given my history, and Prite yelled, "I can't stop!!" and ran straight into Ju.

Then we greeted each other properly - it had been a while since Prite and I had seen each other. Then Prite said, "I'm so tired! I ran all the way here from Ju's house!"

"What do you mean? You didn't bring your car?"

"No!"

"But that's why we invited you!"

"WHAT?!?!"

Oh well. We walked into the forest again, took a few more pictures and I made fun of Prite for running like a fairy prince and we argued about the appropriateness of the simile. We went mostly downhill and it became apparent that Ju's boots were not up to the task. After she slipped for the fourth time, and we'd gone far enough anyway, we decided to go back. But uphill was much worse, and eventually I took up the lead and occasionally gave Ju a bit of a push, while Prite occasionally took her hand and led her up hill. We took the rockier road back up to the parking lot because it gave more of a foothold. It was midnight by now but we could still see as clear as dawn or dusk.

We walked back to Ju's house on deserted neighborhood roads that were shining white. The only tracks in them were Prite's from running to meet us. We felt we owned the city. We ran ahead and stopped and slid across the slippery streets, took pictures of shadows, made funny faces at the two cars which passed by.

Still it felt good to reach a warm house. We took off our shoes and entered, ate seaweed, and Thai food so spicy that my body protested at the violent changes in temperature I had subjected it to that day, but it was delicious too, and afterwards a strange tea-like beverage that tasted like nothing other than hot, liquified fig - and that was a good thing. We laughed and talked and joked for another half hour.

Prite and I went out to his car but the doors were frozen shut, so we took a kettle of hot water and went back out. I told Prite I felt like we were about to act out a scene from Ranma, carrying that kettle around, and he pretended to pour it exactly right. He asked whether it would turn me into a boy. I said maybe not - maybe a panda or a raccoon or something instead.

I warned Prite that pouring hot water wasn't always the best fix for a frozen shut car, but he poured the kettle over the doors anyway, and sure enough we had just enough time to open the doors before the hot water froze back onto the windows. Prite scraped the front and back windshields just well enough and we drove slowly on the empty roads back to South hall.

I love college.

February 07, 2010

Beginning Again

In Catalan class, you hear the same words echoed again and again, "I'd forgotten how it felt to be a beginner." They're no longer used to not knowing how to say anything, to express basic concepts, to understand and reply. There isn't a person in the class who isn't at least intermediate level in Spanish or French, and now we're all beginning again. And we've forgotten how, apparently.

Except for me, right? After all, I start a new language about every 6 months, most recently Hindi. I'm a certified idiot in about 12 languages. I'm not afraid to sound stupid, I haven't forgotten how to wrestle with the basic building blocks of a language. Except that I have. Or... what? Why is this hard?

Because Catalan is an easy language. With all due respect to the lovely language and culture, it's just that, for an English speaker, especially one who speaks Spanish quite well and knows a bit of Latin and Italian as well, a Romance language, any Romance language, just isn't going to be able to compete with Japanese or Finnish.

And that's my problem right now - I look at the page and I think, "This is easy, I don't need to study this." Because it's so similar. Because I understand. Most of the time.

And then they tell me, "Well, then speak!" and suddenly I realize I don't remember if their word for speak is based on hablar or parlare or loquere, and how it ends, and how it's pronounced... I don't, in fact, know anything at all. And there's no shame in knowing nothing at all in Mandarin or Aramaic, but to know nothing at all in Catalan - it's embarassing, and it makes me nervous, sews my mouth shut.

So I have to study. Right now. I have to force myself to begin again.

February 06, 2010

Netbook

A few weeks ago, when the iPad was released, it got me thinking about my technology needs. After reformatting my hard drive and reinstalling windows, my HP laptop is serviceable once again. I have the internet, I've got most of my programs back, etc. It's really a fine laptop. Not great, but fine. The battery life is nearly nonexistent, though, and I'm not eager to spend 100$ on a replacement when it's too heavy to really be portable anyway. I've long since given up taking it anywhere except to Florida on breaks and sometimes a presentation if there's no other option.

In Europe I want to be lighter, more portable. I had thought about buying a new laptop, especially when my HP was in crisis mode. It just didn't make sense, though - not when I'm probably going to have to buy a fairly expensive mac when I enter advanced Journalism classes in another year and a half. I don't want a $2,000 super-powerful mac to carry around Europe - I want something sleek, portable, and serviceable - and when the iPad came out, I thought, briefly, that it might be the right product.

After a little investigation, I decided it was not. I would have to buy a keyboard extension, I didn't want to pay for a monthly plan, the iPad didn't have flash or USB drives... the list got longer and longer. In the course of my research, however, I found out more about netbooks. What I had been wanting all along, I discovered, was one of those - a mini-laptop, sacrificing the disc drive, some processing power, and, surprisingly enough, very little hard drive space for a tiny, lightweight body, a long lasting battery, and basic functions on the go.

Then I thought - why not buy it now and use it for a few months before Europe too? After a week of comparing models on Amazon, even making a thread in their discussion community where a lot of nice people helped me decide, I picked the model I wanted: The Toshiba Mini NB305.

http://laptops.toshiba.com/laptops/mini-notebook/NB300/NB305-N410BL

Here it is! Isn't it beautiful? :) I got it in the Royal Blue colour, which is a very dark shade of blue. (It looks a little lighter in the pictures but I don't really care.) The design is very nice but I barely looked at that when trying to decide. The only thing I did look at was trying to get everything in matte instead of glossy, since I want to be able to work outdoors, in the sun, etc. The Toshiba has a matte case and a gloss screen, but it's not too glossy - less than my HP's screen for sure.

My main criteria were the same criteria that make netbooks special -I didn't want one that was trying to be a full laptop and reflecting that in the price tag or loss of other features. I wanted something lightweight, something that could take a bit of travel, and, perhaps most importantly, a long battery life. My Toshiba is advertised at 11 hours of battery life, but it seems like with the wifi on, casually browsing and chatting and occasionally watching a video, I'm getting 8 - which is totally okay with me.

I went to the store to try it out and then purchase it. Originally I was a bit concerned about the keyboard. It's chiclet-style, and that's the popular one right now, but I was worried I might have to get used to it since it's rather different than the one on my HP. I'm one day in and I've even fallen in love with that. I have to say, the only thing I'm actually disappointed by are the speakers. I knew they weren't good, but even with the volume as high as it will go the sound seems tinny, cheap, and far away. I'm sure it's fine with headphones though, and even without it's sufficient for watching a video or something in a quiet room - just not an enjoyable media experience. Besides, usually when I'm using my netbook I:

A.) Won't need music (class, library, working hard, etc)
B.) Will have my iPod (if I'm out and about and just really want music)
C.) Will have my laptop or other source of music to turn on at the same time (at home).

So, it's really not a concern for me... but it's worth knowing.

Two other concerns, which I'll be watching closely for the next week or two to make sure they don't worsen (I'm sort of paranoid after the problems with my HP) are fluctuating (sometimes wildly) battery time estimates and wireless connection problems. When I first turned the netbook on, the wireless worked fine. Then it stopped working after I plugged in a landline for a few minutes. I put the landline back in and installed a new driver, and the internet's worked fine since then, but I'm a little confused/worried about it happening again.

I have my quibbles with Windows 7 but I can't bring myself to care too much. I hated Vista on my HP at first too, and now I really don't even care about it.

Overall I'm extremely happy with the netbook and can't wait to bring it to class on Monday. ^^ Surprisingly it's not only a toy, but I think I'm also going to find it extremely useful. The time between my classes can be a lot more productive now. Sure, sometimes I might use it to get on Facebook instead, but now I don't have to wait around for one of the computers in the library to open up to print or do research, I can check my email on the go, I can take notes into the laptop, etc. :D :D

February 04, 2010

Deutsche Reisetrends Presentation

I got an A+ on the German presentation. (The one about Deutsche Reistrends with an emphasis in Jugendreise.) He graded it amazingly fast - I had the summary in my email two hours after giving the presentation. He basically said that my grammar needed a tune up, (hmm, couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that I still haven't learned any genders in German, could it?) but that otherwise I was brilliant, had a good presentational manner, facilitated the discussion well, covered solid and thought-provoking material, and was comfortable with using my German.

I find the whole thing interesting, because most of my grade seemed to be about confidence rather than ability in the language. But then, language is all about communicating, so I guess in the end, confidence, fluency in the raw sense of the word, material, responsiveness to your audience, and a keep-the-ball rolling attitude are more important than adjective endings or articles.

I'm good at giving presentations, I know. I used to get nervous when giving them in foreign languages, at least, but now I think I'm even past that. After all, German is hardly my best language, and I didn't even practice before going in - just had a powerpoint with lots of slides I could resort to reading if I flipped out, and ended up not flipping out and free-speaking a lot, apparently adequately.

Even though the fate of my Germany study-abroad plans are in jeopardy, I am not longer quite as nervous about it. No, my German isn't great, but it's adequate - I understand, I communicate, we keep the ball rolling. I think I could maneuver the country and even pass classes - not that there wouldn't be embarrassing and stressful times, but I think I could do it.

I also had the thought the night before my presentation that I should dress up for it. Nothing crazy - but at least some eyeliner, some foundation, and a cute shirt. Since I'd been too busy for laundry recently I didn't really have any cute long sleeve shirts left, so believe it or not I improvised - mom would be proud - by taking a very plain black shirt and wearing a red and black patterned scarf over it. I'm not saying any of this had an impact for sure, and I'm sure it didn't consciously, but I think it made me look and maybe even feel more confident.

Meeting Professors

This definitely hasn't been one of my easier college weeks. I had a German project, a Spanish paper, a bunch of reslife stuff, and a bunch of other stressful things that popped up to make my life somewhat miserable. Needless to say I wasn't getting my nightly eight hours, and it wasn't by choice.

But things have been getting steadily better since Monday. I'm all set for one of my two honors-by-contracts, and the other is in the works and should go through fine, meaning that I get to stay in the Honors College. I actually met with my Spanish and German teachers to brainstorm and feel better about those projects, and it's amazing how much that helped.

As it's ended up I've now gotten to know four of my six professors reasonably well (aka better than most students). Admittedly one of them was Monica, who I had first semester Freshman year and immediately got along well with. But my Anthropology Professor, Dr. Palmer, is awesome too, very funny, and I'm looking forward to working with him on the honors contract. My German teacher, Franzel, is quite nice as well - not Megan, but who is?

I was also really happy to meet my Spanish teacher during his office hours. He hadn't impressed me overly much in class and I have to admit the possibility that I was holding a grudge against him for being a gringo. It's the truth - I hate fake Spanish accents, and not just the language Spanish, but particularly Spain Spanish, and particularly when spoken by American males. But honestly, what would I prefer? That he spoke with no attempt to disguise a heavy American accent?

What I found out is that he's a pretty cool guy by my standards. He is learning Chinese and apparently at least conversational in it (doing it for his wife, too ^^), has huge German and Italian dictionaries on his shelf (and by huge I mean, no one has a dictionary that big if they're not really doing something with the language), and is obviously familiar with the basics of untranslated Latin poetry. Oh, and he likes Lord of the Rings.

Getting to know professors is really a great idea - It makes me at least feel more responsible for preparing for class and working hard, participating, etc. It might be as simple as not wanting to disappoint someone I've established a personal contact with.

February 03, 2010

Ensayo Informal/Soneto XXIII

The assignment was quite vague, and I may go over this tomorrow after re-rereading the instructions that were given to us. We were basically supposed to write about our feelings and observations from a poem we read in class, and use this writing almost as brainstorming to come up with a good question-topic for a more formal essay to be written later in the semester. I chose Garcilaso de Vega's Soneto XXIII and compared it's interpretation of the Carpe Diem theme with both the original Carpe Diem poem by Horace and modern usage of the term. There was no length specified in the papers, which is mildly unsettling, but this comes in at precisely a page of solid text, slightly over 500 words, and I'm hoping that's about right. Oh, and finally, yes, I had to use that exact structure and style in framing my investigation topic. I'm not happy with that sentence at all but that's what happens when you try to force Miranda to use a rigid format. (bad things)

--------------------------------

Cuando decimos “Carpe Diem”, también decimos “Memento Mori” (Recuerde que morirá). La idea de Carpe Diem, después de todo, es que debemos vivir cuando estamos viviendo, porque en el fin todos vamos a morir. Sin embargo, normalmente este tema de Carpe Diem no es algo espantoso ni macabro, sino una exhortación sencilla a gozar, tomar riesgos, y vivir como si no hay mañana.

La frase Carpe Diem viene originalmente de un poema por Horacio, Carmen XI en Liber I de su Carmina. El hablante trata de convencer su amiga, Lucenoe, a gozar la vida, vivir en el momento sin pensar en el fin de la vida, no importa cuándo viene. Dice “Sé sensata, filtra tus vinos, y adapta al breve espacio de tu vida una esperanza larga… Carpe diem, no te fíes del mañana.” El poema no está espantoso o aún verdaderamente triste - habla de muerte como algo natural, asumido, e inevitable, si viene repentinamente, o como pendiente gradual en vejez. Este poema de Horacio parece algo familiar, porque incorpora el tema de disfrutar de vida antes de que sea demasiado atrasado, y la subestimación de la muerte, que son partes significativos de nuestro uso moderno de la frase Carpe Diem.

Quince siglos después, el poeta español Garcilaso de la Vega utilizó el tema de Carpe Diem en su Soneto XXIII. En contrasto con la poema original de Horacio, el Soneto XXIII tiene un aspecto amenazante y oscuro, una urgencia y una violencia que desarrolla durante las cuatro estrofas. El narrador todavía está hablando a una muchacha, usando imágenes de la naturaleza y de la realidad de la brevedad de la vida para convencerla disfrutar de su juventud, pero del viento que primero disturba el pelo de la muchacha, y luego el sonido áspero del comando, " coged" , y especialmente a la línea, “Marchitará la rosa el viento helado”, con su imagen algo violenta de vientos helados que destruyen la belleza, este soneto todavía tiene la idea de disfrutar de vida, pero añade este miedo de la muerte e incluso de la vejez, que se considera como enemigo violento.

Este poema no parece tan familiar como lo de Horacio. Al principio sentía que su tono oscuro y espantoso eran las resultas de una interpretación única del tema por Garcilaso de Vega. Cuando pensaba más en esto, me parecía que ni el poema original de Horacio ni la interpretación relativamente moderna de Garcilaso de Vega era exactamente igual con cómo utilizamos la expresión “Carpe Diem" hoy. Siento que nuestro uso moderno comparte una urgencia y un sentido de exhortación más fuerte con el poema de Garcilaso de Vega, pero falta su sentido del miedo y de la violencia.

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Pregunta de Investigacion:

Investigo las tres diversas interpretaciones del tema de Carpe Diem en el poema original de Horacio, el soneto de Garcilaso de Vega, y uso de la frase como cliché moderno, porqué quiero saber cómo cada poema expresa su interpretación, y cómo las tres interpretaciones se relacionan el uno al otro, con el fin del comprensión del desarrollo de este frase y concepto a través de su historia y con respecto a otras temas similares.

Quam Minimum Credula Postero

I know, I know, I can't get enough of Carpe Diem, can I? Well, the madness should soon be over. I've ended up doing a Spanish paper on just that topic, and thoroughly investigating the matter academically should put the obsession to rest once and for all.

Right now I'm thinking about what people generally mean when they say "Carpe Diem". They know that the most popular literal translation is "Seize the Day", so often that's what they're saying - "Take this day and use it." Use is the keyword. It wouldn't be strange to hear a teacher saying, "Okay, there's lots to do, so carpe diem!"

But that's really the opposite of what Horace meant the phrase to mean. In his, the original, the full line reads "carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero." - "seize/take the day, trusting as little as possible in tomorrow." This is hardly an exhortation to work hard, and the rest of the poem is no 'better'! Instead of "Take this day and use it," he seems to be saying, "Take this day and enjoy it." instead of spending your whole life preparing for an uncertain future.

This isn't meant to be a judgment on either use of the word Carpe Diem. They're really both legitimate in different situations. Yes, the words were Horace's originally, but it's been a good long time and I think his copyright's run out. Actually I find myself laughing at either interpretation in different moods.

After a bit of research, I made this little cheat sheet of Latin phrases that are used to remind people of their own impending mortality, their literal translations, and their most common interpretations:


Different Latin Philosophies for Considering your Upcoming and Inevitable Death:

Memento Mori
Lit: Remember You Must Die.
Interpretation: Be humble, you are only human, only mortal. (Often used religiously)

Carpe Diem Lit: Seize/Take the Day.
Interpretation I: Don't plan too far ahead, don't take things too seriously, tomorrow may not come, so relax and enjoy life's pleasures. (Horace)
Interpretation II: Make as much use of today as you possibly can. Enjoyment is still a legitimate use, but so is hard work, taking risks, and other ambitious things, largely ignoring Horace's original use. (Popular Modern)

Ubi Sunt Lit: Where Are They (Now)?
Interpretation: Where are they now? They were important, but now they're dead and pushing up daisies. A whole lot of good living did them. (The Least Instructive)

Two Things to Blow Your Mind

1.) I just found out that most of my friends and I say chree, chractor, and chrick instead of tree, tractor, and trick. It's a subtle thing and at first I didn't really believe it. I can definitely pronounce tree, tractor, and trick without the 'sh' sound getting in there, but it feels stilted. The same goes for dry and drive becoming jry and jrive. I'm wondering whether this is a regional thing. See if you or people you know do it. (If you're not sure, say tree, chree, tree, chree, dry, jry, dry, jry) Thanks, Christy.

Update:

2.) Every time I catch a glimpse of a map in a mirror, it freaks me out a bit.



Doesn't it just look wrong? Especially North and South America?

February 02, 2010

Oh, Japan...

Japan has tons of hyper-realistic plastic food models to display outside of restaurants.

It also had lots of cool and weird technology.

Put them together, and you get... Wait, why would you put them together? No one knows but the Japanese. Still, we thought we'd seen it all when we saw these for sale in Tokyo:



We were wrong.



Yes - it's a USB extension inside a plastic dish of noodles, and you can attach little tempura shrimp flash drives to it. I really can't believe this exists.

Picture taken from: http://www.engadget.com/2005/07/25/usb-spaghetti-aka-cable-ga-napolitain/

February 01, 2010

Grrrr Mondays....

8:00 - Try to talk to mom, get ready for class
9:00 - Spanish Literature Class
10:00 - Bookstore to order Catalan textbook, send postcards
11:00 - German Culture Class
12:15 - Lunch!! (And making to do lists)
1:00 - Catalan Class
2:00 - Talk with mom about schedule, talk to Melissa
3:00 - News Lecture
4:00 - Library for German project research
5:00 - Alpha Mu Gamma Meeting
6:00 - South Staff Meeting
7:00 - CET Meeting
8:00 - Writing Incident Reports for conduct, discussing hall issues with Nina
9:00 - Dinner!! (And German club stuff...)
10:00 - Dealing with roommate conflict
11:20 - Start Homework.....................................


The rest of the week is so much easier. After all, there's only:

To Do List:
Copy Catalan Pages (Tuesday Afternoon)
Anthropology Reading (Tuesday Noon)
Geology Reading (Tuesday Afternoon)
News Assignment (Tuesday Evening)
Keep up with current events, lecture reading for News (Thursday Evening)
(!) German Presentation (Wednesday Morning)
Bulletin Board (Friday Morning)
(!) Spanish Paper (Friday Morning)

Schedule:
Meet Sarah for German Club Stuff (Tuesday at 10:20, A&S)
Meet German Professor (Tuesday at 10:30, Strickland)
Meet Bryce (Tuesday at 1:45)
German Club Stuff (Wednesday 10-11)
Meet Spanish Professor (Wednesday at 3:00, A&S)

So....

Tonight:
News Assignment
German Project – powerpoint in german, vocabulary in german
Send German Club and AMG minutes

Tuesday:
Do anything in morning that wasn’t done at night.
Leave South @ 10
Meet Sarah @ 10:20
Meet German Professor @ 10:30
Between German Professor and Anthropology, copy Catalan pages
Anthropology @ 12:30
Meet Bryce and return Catalan book immediately after Anthropology
Eat lunch, do geology reading
Geology @ 3:30
News @ 5:00
Evening: Finish, practice German presentation, do Catalan homework, do German homework

Wednesday:
German Club Stuff (Wednesday 10-11)
Meet Spanish Professor (Wednesday at 3:00, A&S)
Study for News, get bulletin board stuff, Spanish paper

Thursday: (!)Spanish paper, bulletin board